Saturday, 8 February 2014
The band we know as The Beatles evolved out of a skiffle and rock 'n' roll group formed in Liverpool by John Lennon and Eric Griffiths called The Quarrymen in 1957. Paul McCartney joined the band later in the year, making his debut with them on 18 October 1957. The following year George Harrison joined The Quarrymen. Through the years the band would go through several membership changes. They would also undergo changes in their name. In January 1960 they became "The Beatals". In May 1960 they changed the name of the band again, this time to "The Silver Beatles". By the middle of August 1960 they would be using the name under which they would become famous. They were simply "The Beatles".
At the same time that "The Silver Beatles" became "The Beatles" they played in Hamburg for the first time. For much of the rest of 1960 and a good portion of 1961 the band played on and off in Germany, and it would be there that The Beatles as we know them would largely take shape. Following their return to Liverpool in July 1961 the band would see their popularity grow. Starting in late 1961 The Beatles would be helped a good deal by a young music columnist and record shop owner named Brian Epstein. The band attempted to get recording contracts with EMI and then Decca, but to no avail. Indeed, not only did Decca Records inform them that "guitar groups are on the way out", but the label also stated, "The Beatles have no future in show business." No greater understatement could ever have been made.
The growing craze for Beatles would be reflected in the success of their next two singles. Their third single, "From Me To You" (released on 22 March 1963), went all the way to #1; however, it would be their fourth single that proved once and for all that The Beatles had become a phenomenon in the United Kingdom. Released 23 August 1963 "She Loves You" not only went to #1 on the British charts, but it became the biggest selling song for the year of 1963 in Britain. Indeed, for fourteen years it was the biggest selling single of any artist in the UK, until it was surpassed by "Mull of Kintyre" by Wings (ironically another song co-written by Paul McCartney).
If it had not been obvious before, the success of "She Loves You" made it clear that the era of Beatlemania had begun (the term "Beatlemania" having been coined by journalist Andi Lothian in a story printed in The Daily Mirror in 15 October 1963). When The Beatles returned from a successful five day tour of Sweden on 31 October 1963 they were greeted by over 1500 fans, some 50 reporters and photographers, and a BBC Television crew. So great was the furore over The Beatles that the current Miss World went totally ignored by the press at the airport. When The Beatles started on their fourth nation-wide tour the following day at the Odeon in Cheltenham, the screams from the crowds were so loud that it drowned out The Beatles' instruments.
All the while The Beatles were failing to chart in the United States, there were Americans who had taken notice of the Beatlemania that had overtaken Britain. Among the first Americans to take notice of Beatlemania was Sid Bernstein, a talent agent with General Artists Corporation. Mr. Bernstein had long been interested in British culture and regularly read British newspapers. Quite naturally, then, he knew about Beatlemania long before most Americans. By early 1963 he had become convinced that The Beatles could be a success in the Untied States. He was unable to interest the General Artists Corporation in The Beatles and even the agency's London representative doubted The Beatles could be a success. Sid Bernstein then took it upon himself to bring The Beatles to America.
It took Sid Bernstein quite some time to contact Brian Epstein. When Mr. Bernstein did, Mr. Epstein was quite naturally sceptical given The Beatles' lack of success in the United States. Eventually the two men reached an agreement. For the sum of $6500 The Beatles would play two shows at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Bernstein's choice of the date for the first of the shows would be fortuitous. He chose 12 February 1964, then Lincoln's Birthday. As a national holiday children would be out of school, making chances for a good audience all the better. It was then in August 1963 that Sid Bernstein booked The Beatles at Carnegie Hall for 12 February 1963.
All of this would change as Beatlemania grew throughout the rest of 1963. It was then on 31 October 1963 that Ed Sullivan found himself in Heathrow Airport in London awaiting a flight back to New York after a talent search of Europe. At the same time The Beatles were returning from their successful five day tour of Sweden.With around 1500 fans, 50 members of the press, and a BBC Television crew there to greet the band, Mr. Sullivan could not help but notice the furore over The Beatles.
It was a few days later, on 4 November 1963, that The Beatles performed at the the Royal Command Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. This would bring The Beatles even more attention from the international press. Brian Epstein planned the following day to travel to New York City to promote another one of his artists Billy J. Kramer. Before he left Peter Prichard got in touch with him and the two put into motion getting The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was Peter Prichard who convinced Ed Sullivan to think about booking The Beatles, largely using their performance at the Royal Command Performance as an argument to do so. It was then that Brian Epstein met with Ed Sullivan on 11 November 1963. It was at this first meeting that a tentative agreement was reached that The Beatles would appear on the 9 February 1964 programme and on the following 16 February 1964 programme, which would be broadcast live from Miami, Florida. A second meeting between Ed Sullivan was held on 12 November 1963 at the Delmonico Hotel. It was agreed that The Beatles would be paid $3500 for each of their live appearances, and $3000 for a taped appearance that would be broadcast on the 23 February 1963 show.
Even as steps were being taken for The Beatles to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show the band began receiving more coverage from the American press. On 4 November 1963 The New York Times published a story on The Beatles' return from Sweden. Time published a story on The Beatles in their 16 November 1963 issue, with Newsweek publishing their own story on the band in their 18 November 1963.
Both NBC and CBS sent television crews to cover The Bealtes' performance at the Winter Garden Theatre in Bournemouth, England on 16 November 1963. NBC aired their report first, on their evening news programme The Huntley-Brinkley Report, on 18 November 1963. It would be the first appearance of The Beatles on American television. The CBS Evening News was set to air their report on 22 November 1963, but it was pre-empted by coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It ultimately aired on 10 December 1963.
By mid-November 1963 The Beatles were set to appear on the United States' biggest variety programme, The Ed Sullivan Show, and to play one of the United States' most prestigious concert halls, Carnegie Hall, both in February 1964. Starting in November the American press began devoting more coverage to The Beatles and Beatlemania. It would not be The Ed Sullivan Show or Carnegie Hall that would spark Beatlemania in the United States, however, but an entirely unexpected turn of events beyond the control of Brian Epstein or even The Beatles themselves.
Friday, 7 February 2014
It was fifty years ago today that The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport on Pan Am flight 101. Around 5000 fans and some 200 reporters, photographers and cameramen from newspapers, TV, and radio news outlets were there to greet them.
Although to many today it might seem as if The Beatles became an overnight sensation in the United States, in truth their conquest of America was a long time in coming. By 1964 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison had been performing together for six years, first as The Quarrymen and then as The Beatles. They would spend quite some time performing in Hamburg, Germany before they became regular performers at The Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1961. Their first single "Love Me Do" (released on 5 October 1962) did well on the British charts, but it only went to #17--hardly what one would expect of what would become the most popular rock band of all time. Fortunately their second single, "Please Please Me" would do much better, going all the way to #2 on the British charts. Their third single, "From Me to You", would go all the way to #1 on the British charts.
It was arguably their fourth single, "She Loves You" (released 23 August 1963), that sparked Beatlemania in the United Kingdom. The song not only went to #1 on the British charts, but became the biggest selling record of 1963 in the UK. For fourteen years it was the biggest selling single of any artist in the UK, until it was surpassed by "Mull of Kintyre" by Wings (ironically another song co-written by Paul McCartney). The Beatles craze in Britain grew so large that journalist Andi Lothian coined the term "Beatlemania" in a story printed in the 15 October 1963 of The Daily Mirror to describe it.
While The Beatles had become an outright phenomenon in the United Kingdom, however, it seemed they still had little impact on the United States. The Beatles were signed to EMI and EMI's American division, Capitol, showed little interest in releasing any of The Beatles' records in the United States. "Please Please Me" was released on the minor label Vee-Jay. Records (ironically on 7 February 1963, one year exactly before the band's arrival in America). With little promotion it did not even chart. "From Me to You" was not even offered to Capitol, and as a result Vee-Jay released it. It only reached 116 on the Billboard singles chart. Not even "She Loves You", The Beatles' first mega-hit, seemed to be able to crack the American market. Since Vee-Jay had not paid the band's royalties in a timely matter, "She Loves You" was released on Swan Records in the United States. Amazingly the song failed to chart. Indeed, American rock star Del Shannon couldn't even have a hit with a Beatles song. He covered "From Me to You" to help the band get noticed in the America. Unfortunately Del Shannon's version of "From Me to You" (released in June 1963) only peaked at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While The Beatles had found little success in the United States as of mid-1963, signs that Beatlemania could sweep America started to appear later in the year. Indeed, according to Vince Calandra, then a production assistant on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan's radar even as Beatlemania was unfolding in the United Kingdom. It was on 31 October 1963 that Ed Sullivan had finished a tour of Europe looking for new talent, just as The Beatles were returning from a successful tour of Sweden. It was then while waiting for his flight back to New York, at Heathrow Airport in London, that Ed Sullivan was able to witness Beatlemania first hand. Once Ed Sullivan returned to New York City he immediately took the necessary steps to book The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was in November 1963 that everything began to fall in place for The Beatles where the United States were concerned. The American press finally took notice of The Beatles. Both NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report and The CBS Evening News did stories on The Beatles in mid-November, although CBS's story would not air until December (it was pre-empted by coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy). Variety and other publications ran articles on the band. While The Beatles were receiving widespread coverage in the United States for the first time, the pivotal moment may have came when The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein and their producer George Martin finally convinced Capitol Records to release a Beatles song. That song was "I Want to Hold Your Hand".
Capitol Records scheduled "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (with "I Saw Her Standing There" as its B-side) for a January release in advance of The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. As it turned out a young girl would change Capitol's plans. In early December 1963 Marsha Albert, then 15 at the time, wrote WWDC DJ Carroll James and asked if he would play one of The Beatles' records. Mr James then imported a copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand". He got young Miss Albert to introduce the single when it was played for the first time on WWDC. The response to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" proved enormous in the Washington D. C. area, so much so that WWDC played the single in heavy rotation. Soon stations in both Chicago and St. Louis were playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as well.
Unable to ignore the record's success at various stations about the country, Capitol Records then released "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the United States on 26 December 1963. Not only did "I Want to Hold Your Hand" prove to be a hit in the United States, it proved to be an outright phenomenon. Demand was so great for the song that Capitol had to contract Columbia Records and RCA to press copies of the record. It was on 18 January 1964 that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #45, The Beatles' first appearance on the chart. A week later it had hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. By 1 February 1964 it was the #1 record in the Untied States, a position it maintained for 7 weeks. It was replaced in the #1 spot by another Beatles record, "She Loves You".
Even as Pan Am 101 touched down at JFK Airport on 7 January 1963 The Beatles were the biggest selling music artists in the United States. Not only did they have the #1 record in the land, but "She Loves You", "Please Please Me", and "I Saw Her Standing There" were all rapidly moving up the chart as well. After years of struggle The Beatles had done what no other British artist had ever done. They had conquered America.
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on 23 July 1967 in Fairport, New York. He showed promise at both wrestling and baseball while in high school. Unfortunately a neck injury would end any pursuit of athletics. He was 15 years old when he began acting. When he was 17 he attended the 1984 Theatre School at at the New York State Summer School of the Arts in Saratoga Springs. He studied acting at New York University and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1989.
Philip Seymour Hoffman made his television debut in an episode of Law & Order in 1991. He appeared in the mini-series Liberty! The American Revolution. He made his film debut in Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole (1991). In the Nineties he appeared in such films as Leap of Faith (1992), My Boyfriend's Back (1993), Money for Nothing (1993), The Getaway (1994), When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), Nobody's Fool (1994), Twister (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Montana (1998), The Big Lebowski (1998), Happiness (1998), Patch Addams (1998), Magnolia (1999), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), State and Main (2000), and Almost Famous (2000). He made his debut on Broadway in 2003 in True West.
From the Naughts into the Teens he appeared in such films as Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Red Dragon (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), Along Came Polly (2004), Capote (2005), Mission: Impossible III (2006), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), Doubt (2008), The Boat That Rocked (2009), The Invention of Lying (2009), The Ides of March (2011), Moneyball (2011), The Master (2012), and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). He is set to appear in A Most Wanted Man (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014), and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015). He appeared on Broadway in Long Day's Journey Into Night in 2003 and Death of a Salesman in 2012.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was about as close as one could get to the character actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He could play nearly anything, often transforming himself physically to do so. He played a nearly Bondian villain in Mission: Impossible III. He played a homosexual boom operator in Boogie Nights. He played the cocky, American DJ, The Count, in The Boat That Rocked. Mr. Hoffman played at least two historical figures. He made a brief appearance as rock journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous and he played writer Truman Capote in Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman could play a wide array of roles. from neurotic nebbishs to wily schemers to outright villains. While he was probably best known for playing offbeat characters, he had such range that he could play nearly anything. What is more, nearly every performance he gave was well done. He had a talent for acting that only few other actors have today.
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Maximilian Schell was born on 8 December 1930 in Vienna, Austria. His father was poet, playwright, and writer Hermann Ferdinand Schell. His mother, Margarethe, ran a drama school. One of his grandfathers was a composer in the Austrian court who knew both Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. Maximilian Schell's sisters, Maria and Immy, and his brother, Carl, would all go into acting.
In 1938, upon the Nazi's annexation of Austria, Hermann Ferdinand Schell and his family fled Vienna for Zurich, Switzerland. It was at age 11 that Maximilian Schell first performed professionally as an actor. Mr. Schell attended the University of Zurich and the University of Munich, where he studied Philosophy and the History of Art. While at university he continued to appear in stage productions. He also played football professionally and even served as a sports reporter for one of the Zurich newspapers. He left university before completing his doctoral thesis and served in the Swiss Army. After his service he returned to the University of Munich and later attended the University of Basel, Switzerland. He eventually abandoned his studies altogether to pursue acting. He began acting at the Basel Theatre.
Maximilian Schell made his film debut in Kinder, Mütter und ein General in 1955. In the late Fifties he appeared in such films as Der 20. Juli (1955), Reifende Jugend (1955), Ein Mädchen aus Flandern (1956), Die Ehe des Dr. med. Danwitz (1956), Die Letzten werden die Ersten sein (1957), and Kinder der Berge (1958). He made his English language film debut in Young Lions (1958). He made his television debut in th3 1958 telefilm Die Bernauerin. On television in the late Fifties he appeared on Playhouse 90, Desilu Westinghouse Playhouse, Buick-Electra Playhouse, and Alcoa Theatre. He made his debut on Broadway in 1958 in Interlock.
In 1961 Maximilian Schell appeared in his breakthrough role as Hans Rolfe in Judgement at Nuremberg. In the Sixties he appeared in such films as Five Finger Exercise (1962), Isequestrati di Altona (1962), The Reluctant Saint (1962), Topkapi (1964), Return from the Ashes (1965), The Deadly Affair (1966), Beyond the Mountains (1967), Counterpoint (1967), Das Schloß (1968), and Simón Bolívar (1969). On television he appeared on Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre and a 1968 TV adaptation of Heidi. On Broadway he appeared in the play A Patriot for Me.
In the Seventies he appeared in such films as Pope Joan (1972), Paulina 1880 (1972), Der Fußgänger (1973), The Odessa File (1974), The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), The Day That Shook the World (1975), Cross of Iron (1977), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Julia (1977), Avalanche Express (1979), and The Black Hole (1979). In the Eighties he appeared in such films as The Chosen (1981), Les îles (1983), Morgen in Alabama (1984), The Rose Garden (1989), and The Freshman (1990). On television he appeared in the miniseries Peter the Great, the TV series Wiseguy, and a television adaptation of Phantom of the Opera.
In the Nineties Mr. Schell appeared in such films as A Far Off Place (1993), Justiz (1993), Little Odessa (1994), The Song of the Lark (1997), Through Roses (1997), Telling Lies in America (1997), The Eighteenth Angel (1998), Vampires (1998), Wer liebt, dem wachsen Flügel (1999), and I Love You, Baby (2000). He appeared on television on The Hallmark Hall of Fame ("Miss Rose White"), and the telefilms Stalin, The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years, Young Catherine, and Joan of Arc.
From the Naughts into the Teens Mr. Schell appeared in such films as Festival in Cannes (2001), Das Haus der schlafenden Schönen (2006), and The Brothers Bloom (2008). His last film, Les Brigands, will be released later this year. He appeared on television as Fürst Thorwald in the series Der Fürst und das Mädchen. He played Albert Einstein in an episode of Giganten. He appeared on Broadway in 2001 in Judgement at Nuremberg.
There can be no doubt that Maximilian Schell was an incredible actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor playing German Defence attorney Hans Rolfe in Judgement at Nuremberg with good reason. He took a difficult role and gave a bravura performance playing it, possibly one of the best performances in film history. He would give equally impressive performances in The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), Julia (1977), and the TV movie Stalin. Maximilian Schell could be impressive even when the material he was performing was not. The 1980 sci-fi film The Black Hole was hampered by a poor script, yet Maximilian Schell still shined as Dr. Hans Reinhardt (perhaps best described as a latter day Captain Nemo). What is more, Maximilian Schell was very adaptable as an actor. While he is best known for his dramas, he could be quite adept at comedy. He was excellent as master criminal William Harper in Topkapi (1964). Other actors might have a limit to the genres they might play or might be at the mercy of the films in which they were cast, but Maximilian Schell never was. If he ever gave a bad performance, I never saw it.
Monday, 3 February 2014
Sadly, I thought this year's batch of
Indeed, for once there were no Super Bowl commercials that I would even describe as offensive. Amazingly enough, this did not mean that there wasn't controversy over a particular commercial. Coca-Cola's spot "It's Beautiful" depicted scenes of various American families having fun set to "America the Beautiful" sung in multiple languages. Now given one of the families included two gay fathers I knew there would be some controversy over the commercial. That having been said, I was shocked to learn that there was actually a controversy over "America the Beautiful" being sung in languages other than English. Apparently some right-wingers were upset that the song (which is not our national anthem--that's "The Star Spangled Banner") was sung in multiple languages. To say I cannot understand the controversy over "America the Beautiful" being sung in various languages would be an understatement.
A commercial one company apparently hoped would create an uproar turned out to be a non-event. Sodastream's initial commercial starring Scarlett Johansson was rejected by Fox, not because it was too "sexy" or "hot" as many past adverts have been, but simply because it mentioned "Coke" and "Pepsi". It really wasn't that different from the commercial that actually aired, which simply omits the references to Coke and Pepsi. In both cases, many critics (myself included) thought the spot was wholly unremarkable and not particularly hot, sexy, or even mildly interesting. Apparently, while Sodastream generated no controversy over their ad, the Israeli company has seen its share of controversy over having located their primary factory in Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement in the West Bank.
As I said earlier, most of this year's commercials seemed to be a bit bland. Much of this may have been due to many advertisers trying to be "inspiring" and simply falling on their face doing so. The automobile manufacturers were the most guilty of this. Chevy and Masatrai both had ads that were supposed to be uplifting. Chrysler even employed the legendary Bob Dylan in their ad. Sadly, it seemed to me that most of these ads were more dull than uplifting. I do have to give kudos for Honda in their spot with Bruce Willis and Fred Armisen, which was funny as well as touching.
I also have to say that I found the movies advertised during this Super Bowl to be a disappointing lot. There was a time when the studios would advertise the "must see" movies of the year during the Super Bowl. I'm guessing the studios have abandoned this practice or perhaps no longer realise what a "must see" movie is. Of the films advertised during yesterday's game, the only one I want to see is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I have absolutely no desire to see Transformers 4 (indeed, the words "Michael Bay" and "Transformers" are enough to turn me off any film), Need for Speed, or Amazing Spider-Man 2. I guess the days when films such as The Dark Knight and Marvel's The Avengers were advertised during the Super Bowl are long past....
Anyhow, while I found the commercials aired during this year's Super Bowl to be bland over all, there were a few that I really liked. Without further ado, then, here are my favourite adverts from the 2014 Super Bowl.
This is my favourite commercial from the 2014 Super Bowl. I mean, how much better can one do than a commercial that features Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Strong? "Rendezvous" explains why so many movie villains are British.
Doritos: "Cowboy Kid"
For the past several years Doritos has held their "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, in which amateur commercial makers compete for a spot during the Super Bowl and a cash prize. And through the years many of the Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" spots have proven better than many made by the professionals on Madison Avenue. "Cowboy Kid" was the first runner up in this year's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, but I actually think it was better than the winner ("Time Machine", which is also quite good.
Budweiser: "Puppy Love"
I have always loved dogs and horses, so naturally this advert would be one of my favourites. It features a friendship between a puppy and the legendary Budweiser Clydesdales.
I am not a huge fan of Toyota's products, but I really loved this Super Bowl spot. Of course, it's hard to resist a spot that features Terry Crews finding his SUV taken over by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem of The Muppets!
Radio Shack: "The Phone Call"
If you grew up in the Eighties (or were an adult then) you'll probably recognise a lot of that decade's icons who appear in this spot.
Aside from Jaguar's "Rendezvous", this could be the most cinematic commercial aired this Super Bowl. I won't spoil it for you, but let's say Yellow has found himself in a tight spot....