Saturday, 3 September 2016

The 5th Anniversary of TCM Party

It was five years ago today that the first TCM Party took place on Twitter. For those of you who are wondering what a TCM Party is, it is a collective live tweeting of movies aired on Turner Classic Movies using the hashtag #tcmparty. TCM Parties often, although not always, have hosts who tweet trivia about the specific movie on at the time and essentially curate the whole event. Since that first TCM Party on September 3 2011 TCM Party has grown to the point that TCM Parties are going on 24 hours a day. TCM Party has become an established part of TCM fandom, to where even the official TCM Twitter account and such guest TCM hosts as Illeana Douglas have taken part in TCM Parties.

Here it should be pointed out that TCM Party was not the first such organised live-tweeting of a movie airing on Turner Classic Movies to take place. It was in June 2011 that Turner Classic Movies dedicated each Thursday of that month to classic drive-in movies. It was then on June 9 2011 that a group of TCM fans live tweeted to the classic giant ant movie Them! (1954) using the hashtag #TCMBugout (I participated a little bit in that particular live tweet, but unfortunately I did not realise there was a hashtag until after the fact). That night TCM also aired Tarantula (1955), The Cosmic Monsters (1958), The Black Scorpion (1957), and The Wasp Woman (1959), so the #TCMBugout hashtag got quite of bit of use that night.

The following Thursday that June 2011 TCM was not airing any movies featuring monster insects or arachnids, so the hashtag #TCMDriveIn was created. #TCMDriveIn would survive after a fashion following the end of June 11, evolving into #DriveInMob, an organised live tweeting every Thursday to a classic drive-in movie (not just those aired on TCM) that survives to this day.

That brings us to TCM Party. It was Kathleen Callaway, then using the Twitter handle hockmangirl who conceived TCM Party. Like many Turner Classic Movies fans at the time, she would live tweet to films shown on TCM with her friends. She figured this would be made easier if there was a hashtag tweets fans could use to keep track of everyone's tweets. Kathleen Callaway was the first TCM Party host, choosing a specific movie from the schedule and then letting everyone know that there would be a TCM Party for that particular film. During the film she would tweet trivia about it. It was then on September 3 2011 that the first TCM Party was held.  The film that was live tweeted that night was one of the greatest classics of all time, Casablanca (1942).

It was in October 2011 that the name probably now most associated with TCM Party began hosting: Paula Guthat. It was not long after Paula began hosting that it was decided that TCM Party should have its own Twitter account. It was then that the TCM_Party account was born. TCM_Party was chosen because tcmparty was already taken. It was shortly after that Tumblr and Facebook pages were created for TCM Party.

Over time TCM Party would see changes in its hosts. In March 2012 Kathleen Callaway left TCM Party to concentrate on her handicrafts and animal rescue work. Paula had convinced silent film expert Trevor Jost to guest host  F. W. Murnau's classic Sunrise (1927). Afterwards Trevor joined as a regular TCM Party host. Still later Joel Williams would join as a regular TCM Party host. Of course, since then there have been a number of guest hosts (myself among them). What is more, TCM Party has changed a bit from the beginning. While films from the Turner Classic Movies schedule are still chosen for "official" TCM Parties, at any given time of day there is almost always an informal TCM Party going on. And generally during those informal TCM Parties there is someone (often more than one) who will act as a host, tweeting trivia about the particular film being live tweeted.

Here I have to point out that TCM Party has had one minor problem over the years. As the #TCMParty hashtag grew in popularity, spammers started using it. In the summer of 2012 there was a rash of porn sites misusing #tcmparty. We spent about two days constantly reporting them before it stopped. In 2013 there was an odd sort of spam where fake accounts would steal tweets and tweet them. Many of these tweets were from TCM Parties. To this day no one really knows why these spammers took this approach, but we reported them nonetheless. Eventually that too stopped. Since then TCM Party has not had much problem with spammers, and with any luck it never will again. 

Even though TCM Party had been around since September 2011, I would not take part in my first TCM Party until December 22 2011. That night I live tweeted to The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), and Another Thin Man (1939). The first TCM Party I officially hosted was for Bedazzled (1967) on May 11 2012. Since then I have served as host of many TCM Parties. In March 2012 I was the TCM Party host (and translator as well) for the British New Wave movies aired on TCM each Monday night. And I think I am the default TCM Party host for every time Turner Classic Movies shows A Hard Day's Night (1964).

While I have enjoyed hosting TCM Parties, I think the real fun is simply being one of the participants in a TCM Party. My all time favourite TCM Party was on May 24 2013 when Turner Classic Movies aired The Loved One (1965) as part of their Second Looks series. Illeana Douglas, who hosted Second Looks, tweeted along with us and The Loved One is a fun movie to which to live tweet. It also happens to one of my favourite comedies of all time. I also have found memories of February 1 2014. In honour of the 75h anniversary of 1939, widely regarded as the greatest year in the history of American film, Turner Classic Movies showed Oscar nominees from the year all day long, including Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind. I think it was the most I have ever live tweeted in one day! I also enjoy live tweeting A Hard Day's Night every time it is on. It was especially fun when I was the Fan Favourite who got to introduce the film with Ben Mankiewicz.

Of course, the best thing about TCM Party is not so much being to live tweet favourite and not-so-favourite films with others, but the many friendships that develop through TCM Party. Through TCM Party I have made a number of friends, many of whom I feel closer to than people I have known in person. I know for a fact that I am not an exception. Not only have many TCM Partiers found close friends among other TCM Partiers, but I do believe a few marriages have even resulted from TCM Party! Anyway I want to thank everyone who has participated in TCM Parties over the years, and in particular the many friends I have made. I especially want to thank Paula, Trevor, and Joel for all their great work over the years!

On this fifth anniversary of TCM Party, I only have to say that I hope there will be TCM Parties going on for years and years to come. TCM Parties are among the most fun a classic film buff can have. Even when a particular film may not be that enjoyable, taking part in a TCM Party always is.

(special thanks to Paula Guthat and Will McKinley, whose chronicling of TCM collective live tweeting made this post possible)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

When NBC Joined Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory "In Progress"

Today when a NFL game airing on one of the American broadcast networks runs over time, the network usually airs its prime-time programming in its entirety after the game. Unfortunately for television viewers this wasn't always the case. From the very late Sixties to around the mid-Eighties when a NFL game ran over time the networks simply joined the regular programming in progress. This meant that viewers might miss several minutes of any show or movie that was scheduled to air after the game. Sometimes it meant that a show might be entirely pre-empted. As might be expected, viewers were often outraged at missing several minutes of the programming they wanted to watch. That was certainly the case on November 23 1975 when a game between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins ran over time and NBC joined Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in progress in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.

As to why the networks adopted this policy of joining prime-time programmes "in progress" following over-time NFL games, that can be blamed on an incident that occurred in 1968: the notorious "Heidi Game". On November 17 1968 NBC planned to air a television movie adaption of the classic Heidi following a game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, two teams in the American Football League (which had not yet completed its merger with the NFL).  Through a series of circumstances, some of which were very much beyond NBC's control, the network left the game at 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central in order to show Heidi in its entirety. When NBC left the game, the Jets were leading 32 points to 29 points with 65 seconds to go. After NBC left the game the Raiders would come from behind with 14 points, to win the game 43 to 32. Angry American football fans not only flooded NBC with calls, but they also called their local NBC affiliates, various newspapers, and even the telephone company.

It was following the "Heidi Game" that the NFL would insert a clause requiring the networks to show games in their entirety into their contracts with them. The broadcast networks' solution was then to simply air games that ran over time in full and join whatever programming was scheduled afterwards in progress. As pointed out above, this sometimes resulted in angry viewers. That having been said, the outrage on the part of viewers who missed the first 45 minutes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in November 1975 nearly matched the outrage of American football fans over missing the last several minutes of the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders game in November 1968.

Today it is quite understandable why viewers would be angry at missing the first several minutes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. When Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released on June 23 1971 it did not perform particularly well at the box office. That having been said, in the following years, events would unfold that make Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory more popular than it had been in its initial release. For one thing, its star, Gene Wilder, would experience his first major successes in 1974 with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. For another, in the years following its release Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory became a favourite at children's matinees at theatres around the country. With the film's newfound popularity, then, NBC quite naturally promoted its broadcast network premiere quite heavily. In late 1975 there was little way that someone would not know that Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was scheduled to air on NBC at 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central on Sunday, November 23.

Unfortunately when 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central arrived, the Raiders and Redskins were tied at 23-23. The game then went into overtime and it was nearly 45 minutes before the Raiders won the game 26-23. This meant that viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones missed the first 45 minutes or so of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Fortunately viewers in the Mountain and Pacific time zones got to see the film in its entirety.

The reaction of angry parents and children was swift and immediate. At 7:45 PM, when NBC joined Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in progress, and again at 9:30 PM the network received over 1000 phone calls from people angry at having missed the first 45 minutes of the movie. As to NBC, their explanation as to why they did not show the film in its entirety was simply that if they had it would have ended at 9:40 PM Eastern/8:40 Central, which they thought was a little late for children to be up.

Fortunately for those viewers who had missed the first 45 minutes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on November 23 1975, NBC re-aired the film on May 2 1976. Fortunately there were no NFL games to run over-time that evening. As might be expected, NBC once more promoted this airing of Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory very heavily.

Unfortunately the outrage viewers expressed at missing the first 45 minutes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory would not change the networks' policy regarding programming that followed overtime games for literally years. It would not be until the Eighties that the networks would start airing their prime-time programming in its entirety after a game had run over time. In the mean time, one has to suspect they received yet more angry phone calls from people more concerned with watching their favourite shows than a NFL game.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Trailer for Start the Revolution Without Me

Like many people, Gene Wilder's death has reminded me of the many wonderful movies he made. I don't know if Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) was the first Gene Wilder film I saw (it could well have been Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), but it certainly was among the first Gene Wilder films I ever saw. And I even remember the first time I saw it. NBC aired it as a special on the afternoon of January 1 1976, which means that it was most likely the first movie I saw that year. I loved the movie as a boy and I must confess I love it still. To me it is one of the most underrated comedies of the late Sixties. I do think both Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland were brilliant in the film.

For those of you who are curious about the film, but may have never seen it, here is the trailer for one of my favourite films of the Sixties.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Late Great Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, the comic actor who starred in such classic films as The Producers (1968), Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Young Frankenstein (1974), died yesterday at the age of 83. The the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman  on June 11 1923 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He developed an interest in acting when he was eight years old when his mother developed rheumatic fever. The doctor advised young Jerry Silberman to make his mother laugh. His sister was studying acting and at age 11 young Mr. Silberman asked his sister's acting teacher if he would teach him as well. The acting teacher told him to wait until he was 13 and he would teach him if he was still interested. Young Jerry Silberman contacted the teacher the day after he turned 13. He taught him for two years.

It was also when he was around 13 years old that his mother decided to send him to the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood. The experience would prove to be very unpleasant for young Mr. Silberman, as he was bullied for being Jewish. He left Black-Foxe Military Institute after only one semester. Once home he began acting in community theatre and made his professional debut in a production of Romeo and Juliet when he was 15.

He studied theatre at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and was then accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. He studied fencing there and became the first freshman to ever win the All-School Fencing Championship. Upon his return to the United States he enrolled at  HB Studio. About the same time he was drafted into the United States Army. He ultimately served for two years an aide at he Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Valley Forge Army Hospital. While in the Army he continued to study at the HB Studio. 

After being discharged in 1958 he became a full time student at the HB Studio. His first professional job as an adult actor was playing the Second Officer and serving as fencing choreographer on Herbert Berghof's production of Twelfth Night in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He continued to study at the HB Studio and then began studying he Actors Studio. It was at this point in his career that he adopted the stage name "Gene Wilder". "Gene" was taken from the protagonist of Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward, Angel, Eugene Gant. "Wilder" was taken from playwright Thornton Wilder. It was not long before Gene Wilder began appearing various productions. He appeared off-Broadway in  Sir Arnold Wesker's Roots.  He made his debut on Broadway in 1962 in Graham Greene's The Complaisant Lover, for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Nonfeatured Role".

During the Sixties Gene Wilder appeared several more times on Broadway. He appeared in the productions Mother Courage and Her Children (1963), The White House (1964), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1964), and Luv (1967). He made his television debut in 1961 in an episode of Play of the Week. In the Sixties he guest starred on such shows as Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Defenders, and The DuPont Show of the Week. In 1966 he appeared in a CBS TV movie adaption of Death of a Salesman.

While Gene Wilder saw some success on stage and on television in the Sixties, his greatest successes during the decade were arguably in film. He made his film debut in 1967 in Bonnie and Clyde playing Eugene Grizzard, a hapless undertaker taken hostage by the criminals of the title. The following year he made his debut in a leading role in The Producers (1968). It was the first of three films that Gene Wilder made with director Mel Brooks. The two had met when Gene Wilder was working with Mel Brooks's then girlfriend (and later wife) on Broadway in Mother Courage and Her Children. In The Producers Mr. Wilder played Leo Bloom, an accountant who figures out a way to make more money on Broadway by producing a play that bombs than one that becomes a hit. While The Producers was not a hit at the box office upon its initial release, it did win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Since then its reputation has grown and it has become regarded as a classic.

Gene Wilder followed The Producers with Start the Revolution Without Me (1970), a parody of period pieces ranging from The Corsican Brothers to A Tale of Two Cities. It was directed by Bud Yorkin, now best known for producing such shows as All in the Family and Sanford and Son. In Start the Revolution Without Me, Gene Wilder played one set of identical twins (Pierre and Charles) who had been switched at birth with another set of identical twins ( Phillipe and Claude, played by Donald Sutherland). Start the Revolution Without Me was nominated for the Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. Unfortunately, it did not do particularly well at the box office, although it has developed a cult following over the years and is now regarded by many as a classic. Gene Wilder then played the title role in Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970). Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx was also nominated for  Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. Unfortunately it also performed poorly at the box office, although it has developed a cult following as well.

The Seventies were arguably the height of Gene Wilder's career. He began the decade starring in the title role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Based on the book Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, the musical fantasy did not do particularly well at the box office upon its initial release. That having been said, the film developed a cult following and is now regarded as a classic. In fact, Willy Wonka is now one of the roles most identified with Gene Wilder. The year 1974 would see Gene Wilder appear in two of his most popular movies. The first was Mel Brooks' film Blazing Saddles (1974), in which he played Jim, the Waco Kid. The film proved wildly successful at the box office, making $119.5 million. This made Blazing Saddles only the 10th film ever to surpass the $100 million. The second film released in 1974 was another film directed by Mel Brooks, although it was co-written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. Like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein also proved to be a success at the box office.

It was with The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) that Gene Wilder made his directorial debut. He also played the title character and also wrote the screenplay. While The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother was not a success at the box office, like many of his earlier films it would develop a cult following. In the Seventies Gene Wilder also directed The World's Greatest Lover (1977--in which he also starred as well as wrote the screenplay) and the segment "Skippy" in the film Sunday Lovers (1980).  Throughout the decade Gene Wilder starred in several films, including Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) , Rhinoceros (1974), The Little Prince (1974), Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), and Stir Crazy (1980). In both Silver Streak and Stir Crazy he co-starred with legendary comic Richard Pryor. Both films proved very successful at the box office.

In the Eighties Gene Wilder directed and starred in The Woman in Red (1984). He also wrote the story for the film (the screenplay was written by Yves Robert).  He also directed and starred in Haunted Honeymoon (1986), as well as co-wrote the screen play with Terence Marsh. He was reunited with Richard Pryor in the film See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), which he co-wrote with several others. He also appeared in the films Hanky Panky (1982) and Funny About Love (1990).

In the Nineties Gene Wilder appeared in his final feature film, Another You (1991). He starred in the short lived TV series Something Wilder. He starred in the TV movies Eligible Dentist (1993) and Alice in Wonderland (1999). He starred in the TV movies Murder in a Small Town (1999) and The Lady in Question (1999), which he co-wrote with Gilbert Pearlman. In the Naughts Gene Wilder guest starred twice on Will & Grace as Mr. Stein. In 2015 he was a guest voice on the children's series Yo Gabba Gabba!.

Later in his life Gene Wilder turned to writing. His novel  My French Whore was published in 2007. It was followed by the novel The Woman Who Wouldn't in 2008, a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love?, in 2010, and  the novel Something to Remember You By in 2013. He published his memoirs, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, in 2005.

I have to admit that even though Gene Wilder was not exactly young, I have been greatly saddened by his death. The fact is that Gene Wilder played a big part in my childhood. I'm not sure what the first Gene Wilder film I ever saw was. It might have been Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which made its television debut on NBC in 1975. Of course, it is possible that instead it was Start the Revolution Without Me, of which I have fond memories of watching when NBC aired it New Years Day afternoon in 1976. Regardless, I would soon see many others of his films: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, and yet others. Gene Wilder was one of my favourite performers as a tween and teen, and he remained one of my favourites throughout my adult life.

I rather suspect that Gene Wilder was a favourite of many people from their childhoods into their adulthoods. He was a very talented actor and played a diverse number of roles throughout his career. He was both the aristocratic Phillipe and the dim witted Claude in Start the Revolution Without Me. He was the mysterious, yet slightly sarcastic Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He was the ultra-cool Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. While he was best known for his comedies, Gene Wilder could and did act in dramas. Indeed, he appeared in a television adaption of Death of a Salesman, as well as the TV movie The Scarecrow. Of course, it would seem Gene Wilder's greatest gift was for making people laugh. It should be no surprise that many of his films would develop cult followings, even after they had initially failed at the box office. Gene Wilder was just so funny in so many films that any of his given movies could not remain unappreciated for long.

Monday, 29 August 2016

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Final Paid Concert

It was 50 years ago that The Beatles performed at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Although none of the Fab Four probably knew it at the time (although it is almost certain they suspected it), it would the last concert they would perform before a paying audience. Afterwards they would perform in public only one more time: the famous free concert atop the roof of Apple headquarters on January 30 1969.

Several factors led to The Beatles' decision to stop touring, chief among them the fact that with the large number of screaming fans they could not even hear themselves playing. This had been a problem since The Beatles had become a phenomenon in 1963 and 1964. Originally The Beatles had used Vox AC30 amplifiers, but in 1964 they switched to specially designed Vox 100-watt amplifiers in the hope that they and their audience might actually be able to hear them play. Unfortunately, even the 100-watt amplifiers proved inadequate in drowning out the crowds of screaming fans. Because they could not hear themselves, The Beatles felt their musicianship had begun to decline.

If the fact that The Beatles could not even hear themselves sing and play at their concerts was not enough to make them dislike touring, the fact that much of their set list on the final tour consisted of older songs probably would. Over the years The Beatles' music had grown considerably more sophisticated. Not only did many of their more recent songs feature backing musicians (such as the violin, viola, and cello players on "Eleanor Rigby"), but many of them utilised some very advanced recording techniques that would be impossible to reproduce in a concert setting. Even though it had just been released that August 5, The Beatles performed none of the songs from the album Revolver during their final North American tour. Indeed, The Beatles never performed any of songs from Revolver live. The most recent songs performed on the tour were all from Rubber Soul ("If I Needed Someone" and "Nowhere Man") and the singles "Yesterday",  "Day Tripper", and "Paperback Writer".

Worse than not being able to hear themselves or having to play songs that were several years old was the fact that touring for The Beatles had become dangerous. In a March 1966 interview with British journalist Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Standard, John Lennon commented on the decline of Christianity in the United Kingdom, including the offhand remark, "We're more popular than Jesus now...." In the United Kingdom John Lennon's comments on Christianity drew no reaction at all. Unfortunately for The Beatles, that would not be the case in the United States. It  was in its late July that the American teen magazine Datebook reprinted Maureen Cleave's interviews. Worse yet, they displayed one of John Lennon's quotes from the interview ("I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity.") prominently on the cover. The Beatles soon found themselves embroiled in controversy. Around two dozen radio stations stopped playing The Beatles' records. A few communities, mostly in the Bible Belt, even held Beatles records and memorabilia burnings  The controversy grew so intense that The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, even considered cancelling their upcoming tour of the United States.  Prior to the tour Brian Epstein held a press conference at which he condemned Datebook for taking John Lennon's remarks out of context.

The controversy was still very much alive when The Beatles left for their tour on August 11 1966. It was at a press conference that John Lennon explained his comments and emphasised that he was not trying to compare The Beatles to Jesus, but merely remarking on the decline of Christianity in the United Kingdom. When pressed for an apology, he said, "...if you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry." While John Lennon's explanation of his comments found some sympathy with journalists, unfortunately the controversy continued to some degree in many parts of the country. The KKK protested at some venues, and death threats were even received. Given the circumstances, no one could blame Brian Epstein for worrying about possible snipers with high powered rifles.

Even without the ongoing controversy over John Lennon's comments, The Beatles' final tour of the United States would not have been an enjoyable one. On August 20, when The Beatles were scheduled to perform at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, there were torrential rains. The band ultimately postponed the concert until August 21. That same day they went to St. Louis to perform at Busch Stadium and were again met with rain. A jury-rigged, rather ramshackle structure was created to protect the band from the rain, but The Beatles still worried about possible electrocution. On August 28 at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles fans rushed the field and were met by police. It took around two hours for the police to get control of the situation. The Beatles actually worried that they might have to spend the night at Dodgers Stadium.

By the time The Beatles played Candlestick Park in San Francisco, then, they were worn out from the tour. Fortunately for The Beatles, the only real hitch was that when they arrived they found the gates of Candlestick Park locked. The band and their entourage then found themselves driving around until such time as the gates were open.

Interestingly enough, The Beatles' concert at Candlestick Park would herald the coming of another band, albeit one manufactured for a TV show. NBC arranged to have thousands of promotional flyers boasting "The Monkees Are Here" distributed at the concert to promote their upcoming new TV show, The Monkees. The Monkees debuted on September 12 1966, and the band that grew out of the show became very much a phenomenon themselves. 

The opening act for the concert were The Remains, a Boston based band that broke up later in 1966. The Remains were followed by Bobby Hebb, whose song "Sunny" was still on the charts. Bobby Hebb was followed by The Cyrkle, another band managed by Brian Epstein. Earlier in 1966 The Cyrkle had a hit with "Red Rubber Ball", which went to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band disbanded in late 1967. The final opening act was also the most famous. The Ronettes had a string of hits from 1963 to 1964, beginning with "Be My Baby". While they continued to perform live and appear on television, their recording career was in decline by the time they opened for The Beatles. Their last top forty hit had been "Walking in the Rain" in 1964, which had peaked at no. 20. Their current single, "I Can Hear Music", barely broke the Billboard Hot 100 by reaching no. 100. Sadly, Ronnie Spector was not present for any of The Ronettes' performances during The Beatles tour, as the increasingly jealous Phil Spector forbade her to go on the tour. Her place was filled by her cousin,  Elaine Mayes. With their records failing on the charts, The Ronettes would only remain together a short time following the end of The Beatles' tour.

It was at 9:27 PM that The Beatles took the stage. Prior to taking the stage Paul McCartney, perhaps knowing this could be their last performance, asked The Beatles' press officer Tony Barrow to record the show. Tony Barrow then stood near the stage with his tape recorder and was able to capture nearly the entire concert. Unfortunately, his tape recorder cut out in the middle of the final song, The Beatles' cover of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally". Sadly there would be very little in the way of film footage of what would be The Beatles' final paid concert. Barry Hood, a 15 year old fan, was able to catch a portion of the concert on colour film. A local TV news crew shot a little footage in black and white.

The Beatles' set during their final tour, and the one that they played at Candlestick Park on August 29 1966, was a mixture of songs they had performed since their days at the Cavern Club and more recent material. The set list was as follows: their cover of Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music"; "She's a Woman"; "If I Needed Someone"; "Day Tripper"; "Baby's In Black"; "I Feel Fine"; "Yesterday"; "I Wanna Be Your Man"; "Nowhere Man"; "Paperback Writer"; and "Long Tall Sally".

While their manager Brian Epstein wanted The Beatles to continue to tour, after the 1966 American tour the Fab Four had decided that they were tired of it. It would be later in the year that The Beatles would announce that they were no longer touring, which led to rumours in November 1966 that the band was actually breaking up. Of course, nothing was further from the truth, and The Beatles denied the rumours. Indeed, it was on November 24 1966 that they would begin recording their next album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It would take longer than any other Beatles album to record, a full five months.

While the general public did not realise it at the time, the concert at Candlestick Park on August 29 1966 would prove pivotal in the history of The Beatles, their final paid concert. Except for their famous free concert atop Apple Headquarters in 1969 all four Beatles never performed together live again. In the meantime Tony Barrow's recording of the Candlestick Park concert would pop up as a bootleg album. Although very little remains to document The Beatles' final concert, we should perhaps be thankful for what little we have.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

"California Girls" by The Beach Boys

It was today in 1965 that The Beach Boys' song "California Girls" peaked at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite not having reached no. 1, it remains one of their most iconic songs. In fact, aside from "Good Vibrations", it seems possible that it is the song with which the band is identified the most.

Although "California Girls" sounds like an innocent ode to, well, girls, Brian Wilson has said that he conceived song when he first took LSD. Initially his trip was not a good one. He was in his apartment in his bed with a pillow over his head, and his mind was filled with fear. Fortunately he was eventually able to pull himself together. He thought about writing a song about girls. The song's opening chords came to him when he began thinking about "music from cowboy movies".  He took inspiration for the melody from Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring".  The next day Mike Love visited him and together they finished the song. That having been said, for many years Brian Wilson was credited as the song's only writer. That changed in the Nineties after Mike Love sued Brian Wilson for 35 songs which he had co-written, but never received credit. Since then Mike Love has received a songwriting credit on "California Girls", as well as several other Beach Boys songs originally credited only to Brian Wilson.

"California Girls" was recorded from April 6 to June 4 1965 at United Western Recorders and CBS Columbia Square, both in Hollywood. It was released on July 12 1965. Today it must seem odd that a song as iconic as "California Girls" peaked at only no. 3, but then it was kept from the no. 1 spot by two other iconic songs. For the Billboard Hot 100 chart of August 28 1965, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher was at no. 1, its last week in the top spot. At no. 2 was The Beatles' song "Help!", which would become the new no. 1 song the following week. That following week another iconic song, "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, would take over the no. 2 spot. With such stiff competition, "California Girls" really didn't have much of a chance at hitting no. 1. That having been said, "California Girls" ultimately spent 11 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, most of it in the top forty and much of it in the top ten. It has since become one of The Beach Boys' most famous songs.

And now, without further ado, here is "California Girls" by The Beach Boys.