November 27, 2012

Magical Mysteries Revisited

Rolling Stones

The Beatles

New Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and the Band DVD Releases

By Harvey Kubernik  If you dig watching films of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan & the Band, then there are a few new DVD releases of their classic work with rare and unreleased film features out for the last quarter of 2012. The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour restored for DVD & Blu-ray was issued October 8th. Apple Films fully restored the long out-of-print, classic feature film for worldwide DVD and Blu-ray with a remixed soundtrack (5.1 and stereo). Songs you’ll never forget, a movie you’ve never seen in full theatrical distribution, and a backstory that’s never really been heard, let alone fully told. In the wake of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP and the One World satellite broadcast of “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles devised, wrote and directed their third movie— a dreamlike story about a coach day trip to the seaside. In September 1967, the Beatles loaded a film crew onto a bus along with friends, family and cast, select music media and photographers and headed west on the A30 out of London to make their third film, this time birthed and directed by the Beatles themselves. “Paul said, ‘Look, I’ve got this idea,’ and we said ‘Great!’ and all he had was this circle and a little dot on the top — that’s where we started,” explains Ringo. “It wasn’t the kind of thing where you could say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to see is the product of our imaginations and believe me, at this point they are quite vivid’,” says Paul. The film follows a loose narrative and showcased six new songs: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool On The Hill,” “I Am The Walrus,” “Flying,” “Blue Jay Way,” and “Your Mother Should Know.” The October 2012 EMI/CAP communication touting the Magical Mystery Tourcampaign this fall partially details the history and the mystery around this initial 1968 Beatles’ product.

Richard Bosworth

Beatles’ expert, record producer and engineer, Richard Bosworth recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

“Although the 53-minute film was shot in glorious color, it premiered on U.K. television in black and white. Broadcast by BBC1 at 8:35pm on Boxing Day, the film immediately attracted widespread controversy as middle England and the establishment media erupted with indignation. How dare they?’ They cried. ‘They’re not film directors! Who do they think they are? They howled. Where were the four loveable mop tops of Help! and A Hard Day’s Night? Those Beatles were out of control!” Partly as an upshot of this adverse reaction, the film never had a U.S. broadcast and very limited distribution in the rest of the world.” The 2012 MMT configuration incorporates a Director’s Commentary by Paul McCartney, and The Making of Magical Mystery Tour that has feature interviews with Paul and Ringo, along with other cast members and crew. There is also unseen footage and three new edits of “Your Mother Should Know,” “Blue Jay Way,” and “The Fool On The Hill.” All with footage not viewed in the original print of the film. The visual artist collective known as the Fool, who were resident Apple fixtures, designed the costumes for the film. Visit Fool member Marijke Koger-Dunham’s website at: In addition, one unearthed sequence now integrated into this DVD is the band Traffic acting out their 1967 hit single, “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.” The segment was commissioned by the Beatles for possible inclusion in Magical Mystery Tour, but was not used in the final edit. Magical Mystery Tour is available in DVD and Blu-ray packages, and in a special 10”x10” boxed deluxe edition. The deluxe edition includes both the DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a 60-page book with background information, photographs and documentation from the production, and a faithful reproduction of the mono double 7” vinyl EP of the film’s six new Beatles songs, originally out in the UK to complement the film’s 1967 release. The restoration of Magical Mystery Tour has been overseen by Paul Rutan Jr. of Eque Inc., the same company that handled the much acclaimed restoration of Yellow Submarine. Giles Martin and Sam Okell did the soundtrack work at Abbey Road Studios. THE ALBUM This new Magical Mystery Tour DVD should also trigger a listening to the terrific soundtrack album that first accom-panied the restricted theatrical release of the movie. Record producer and engineer, Richard Bosworth, who has done recording sessions with the original Hollies inside Abbey Road Studios, is a Beatles’ expert based in Los Angeles and provides some never revealed sonic insights about the Magical Mystery Tour sessions and soundtrack. “I think when one looks at the American Magical Mystery Tour, it really is quite an album. Other than ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane,’ all the recordings are new songs done during the same series of sessions. To me, ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ is one of the best Beatle songs of this period. “‘Baby’ is the first Beatle record started and completed at a recording studio other than Abbey Road. Olympic Studios was the first independent London recording studio to start cranking out a lot of hits with the Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Traffic. The Beatles had of course heard these records and probably said, ‘Hey, we want to record at Olympic too,’ which they did one evening in 1967. “I got to talk in depth to my friend Eddie Kramer (staff engineer at Olympic at that time) about his role on ‘Baby’ and ‘All You Need Is Love.’ ‘Baby’ was recorded and mixed entirely during that session, engineered by late great Keith Grant who passed away June of 2012. Grant was the creative and technical genius behind Olympic Studios in its first location, in central London, and it’s final location south of the river in bucolic Barnes, where ‘Baby’ was recorded. Kramer assisted. “As usual with a John Lennon song things went fast and furious. ‘Baby’ has a cutting edge production with unusual new sonic textures. Kramer confirmed that the unique counterpoint instrument to the vocals in the verses is the Clavoline, an early French synthesizer with its own proprietary sounds. Paraphrasing what Eddie told me, ‘John saw the keyboard lying around the studio after a daytime film soundtrack session, started playing around with it and said let’s get this on our record.’ Lennon then overdubbed the iconic performance. I know I speak for all Beatle aficionados when I say after hearing ‘Baby’ for the first time, ‘What the hell is that sound?’ “It has a distinctly far eastern quality about it and continues the trend of the Beatles introducing ‘world music’ to their recordings and to contemporary western pop culture of the day. Later during the session while listening to a playback Kramer (a musician himself) drifted over to a Vibraphone, a large percussive chromatic keyboard instrument. Eddie also mentioned to me, ‘I was playing along on the Vibraphone. John was listening and liked the part I had come up with. I offered him the mallets and he said he liked what I was doing and insisted that I play the part!’ “Later in the month the Beatles returned to Olympic to record the basic track for ‘All You Need Is Love,’ they planned to use for the worldwide broadcast ‘One World.’ On this session Grant gave up the main chair and Kramer took over as engineer. While watching the broadcast what one sees is the Beatles doing overdubs to the basic track Kramer recorded at Olympic. “I’ve had the opportunity to record sessions at Abbey Road Studios and Olympic Studios and one can feel the tremendous energy of all the great music that was performed in those hallowed halls.” MORE BEATLES There are three other related Beatles-themed documen-taries now out from MVD Entertainment Group. The newly released DVD, The Beatles: Their Golden Age commemorates the 50th anniversary of when the Beatles, as we know them now, became complete on August 18, 1962-the day Ringo Starr formally joined John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, who started the group in 1960. The Beatles: Their Golden Age, tells the story of the Beatles from their beginning in 1960s, thru Ringo joining the group in 1962, to the very end in 1970 when the Beatles broke up. In addition to their world tours, the documentary has highlights of their movies, all five of them. You’ll witness them dancing and singing their way across the screen, including a portion on the making of their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. Also exhibited are scenes from Help!, Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour, and Let it Be. Not every scene in the Beatles documentary is as familiar as the boys’ movies. Rare footage in Krantz’s documentary include John Lennon reading his from his poetry book; Paul McCartney angrily lecturing a newsman about revealing his LSD usage; George Harrison batting his eyes at his new wife Pattie Boyd, and Ringo clowning around in the Irish countryside with the other Beatles. “We liked to show a side of the boys that was seldom very public,” Krantz said. The famous scenes are here too: a repentant John explaining his remark that the group was “bigger than Jesus;” the Beatles arriving in London as they returned from their world tour and their triumphant return to their hometown, Liverpool. MVD Entertainment earlier this year shipped Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records. In 1968, under a haze of publicity, The Beatles opened their collective door to all manner of musicians, writers, artists, film-makers, inventors, poets, designers, freaks and more than a fair share of struggling and would be artists and hustlers. But, despite a hefty investment, little of substance was forthcoming from these assorted misfits outside of the music that emerged from one division of the potential empire; Apple Records. The MVD Entertainment media release proclaims, Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records is the story of a record label which came to exist under extraordinary circumstances, produced extraordinary records and was operated under extraordinary guidelines.” The DVD has new interviews with former label M.D. Tony Bramwell, members of Badfinger, the Iveys and Elephant’s Memory, Jackie Lomax, Brute Force and David Peel, plus musician and Beatles expert Chris Ingham, author and journalist Mark Paytress and Apple biographer Stefan Granados. There is archive footage of Apple artists and the organization for which they recorded as well as interviews from the vaults, location film, rare photographs and of course, the music upon which the label made its name. THE GREATEST Also in distribution via MVD is Ali: The Man, The Moves, The Mouth, a documentary narrated by one of boxing’s most-acclaimed sportscasters, Bert Sugar, and is one of his last works before his death in March. “You can’t imagine what a thrill it was for me,” stated producer Les Krantz, “To work on back-to-back documentaries of the heroes of my youth, Ali and the Beatles.” The Rolling Stones THE STONES Then there is the long-await-ed official retail release from ABKCO Films of the Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965, the cinematic debut of the band that arrives in November. This 2012 cut of the film features newly discovered, never-before-seen or heard performances. The director’s cut, the producer’s cut and this new 2012 version will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and as part of a Super Deluxe Box Set. The 1965 version of Charlie was produced by the Stones’ 1963-1967 manager/record producer and music publisher, Andrew Loog Oldham. He enlisted director Peter Whitehead. Whitehead, who would later capture “swinging London” in Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, crafted a 35-minute version of the film (director’s cut) that would surface, from time to time over the years, usually seen with grainy visuals and out of phase music. Later, Oldham put together a 50-minute producer’s cut that was first seen in the 1980s. As noted, both the director’s and producer’s cut are part of the DVD, Blu-ray and Super Deluxe Charlie is my Darling release. The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965 was shot on a quick weekend tour of Ireland just weeks after “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” hit #1 on the charts and became the international anthem for an entire generation. Charlie is my Darling is an intimate, behind-the-scenes diary of life on the road with the young Rolling Stones featuring the first professionally filmed concert performances of the band’s long and storied touring career, documenting the early frenzy of their fans and the riots their live performances incited. Producer Robin Klein and director Mick Gochanaur developed the new 65-minute version after researching and locating additional film footage shot by Whitehead and uncovering a source of first generation audio recordings of the band’s concert performances. Both individual Blu-ray and DVD editions of the package mirror the discs featured in the Super Deluxe Box comprising the 2012 version, the director’s cut and the producer’s cut. Simultaneously, there will also be a digital-only release of the 2012 edition of The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965. Speaking to Record Collector News from New York, Andrew Loog Oldham, who hosted a October premiere screening and question and answer Charlie is my Darling event with Steven Van Zandt at New York’s 92 Street Y, emailed me some memories about his movie. “Sean Kenny, the maverick Irish stage designer, who worked closely with Lionel Bart on many of Bart’s musicals like Oliver! Sean was the resident art director at the Mermaid Theatre. Sean recommended the director Peter Whitehead to me. It never received a theatrical showing. The director screened it in Germany. You know, there were none of the places where everybody was hungry for average product. I’m not saying this is average product, you know what I mean. The BBC, if they had been interested, which they wouldn’t be, because the Rolling Stones were still persona non grata, even in 1965, on that level, you might have been able to get 500 pounds for it, or something like that. They weren’t going to devote an hour of prime time. “I have always embraced and enjoyed the world of black and white film because it ages better. Can you imagine how pasty they might look if it was in color? There’s also my love for French and Germany cinema. “I have often shown a print of this movie for charitable events earlier this century. Things in Vancouver, Glasgow, Ireland and for film festivals. The film was never meant to go out, even though I had to tell the director that we were going to put it out to get him to feel good about the whole thing. “The film was done as an audition to see which one of the Rolling Stones the camera actually loved off stage. We knew who the focus was on stage. The concept was to see who was telegenic off stage. Like an MGM screen test or how studio heads would view talent at RKO. Who could handle a lead part, and Charlie (Watts) was the lead. I, in my dreams, thought a director like Jean-Pierre Melville would call to cast Charlie in a role since Alain Delon and Charles Bronson can’t make this flick. ‘Could Charlie do it?’ That’s why, you know, the combination of the fact that we were everybody’s darlings. Everyone then in show business was called darling. And I called it Charlie Is My Darling. Because he was just wonderful. It was him that the camera loved. Ironically, Harvey, is it not the same camera that loved Ringo? There you go.” Painstaking work was done on restoring the footage to come up with the new film that offers a coherent narrative and gives the viewer unprecedented access to the Rolling Stones’ original line-up — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman — on stage live and captured, literally, in trains, planes and automobiles as well as backstage and in smoky hotel rooms where they candidly discuss their future. Never-before-seen footage of the band’s early songwriting process is also included as motel rooms host impromptu songwriting sessions and familiar classics are heard in their infancy as riff and lyric are united. The Rolling Stones Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965 Super Deluxe Box Set includes both DVD and Blu-ray discs that incorporate the new 2012 version of the film as well as the director’s cut and producer’s cut, plus significant unseen additional performance and other footage shot in Dublin and Belfast in September of 1965, bonus content, two audio CDs, one of which is the film’s soundtrack album and the other a compilation of 13 live recordings the band made over the course of their 1965 UK tour. A 10” vinyl record of the live material is also part of the package, as well as a replica poster heralding the September 4, 1965 date they played in Belfast. BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND In late September, MVD Entertainment heralded another interesting doc-umentary, The Story Of Bob Dylan & The Band on DVD format. During 1966 Bob Dylan began his first electric world tour. It was a landmark moment, both for Dylan and for the history of rock music, and it bitterly divided his existing audience. Backing Dylan on stage was an obscure group of Canadian musicians and a drummer from Arkansas, collectively known as The Hawks. In the months following the tour they would join Dylan during a lengthy convalescence in New York’s Catskill Mountains; when both parties re-emerged, Dylan had undergone an artistic transformation that sent ripples across American music and the Hawks had become simply the Band, one of the most influential and important recording groups of their generation. This DVD is the story of the relationship between Dylan and The Band. Their journey examined and the amateur the Basement Tapes recordings that they made together in Woodstock, their re-invention of American music and their sporadic relationship during the 1970s. This release has rare footage, archive interviews, seldom seen photographs and the music that changed the world, all at once making for this in depth filmic study of Bob Dylan and the Band’s respective and communal careers yet to emerge. Seen on camera for new interviews are Garth Hudson; Band producer John Simon; The Hawks’ 66 tour drummer, Mickey Jones; the man who assembled and tutored the Hawks and from whom they took their name, Ronnie Hawkins; Dylan guitarist, Charlie McCoy; and Band biographer Barney Hoskyns. Hoskyns is the author of Across The Great Divide – The Band and America and the recent biography on Led Zeppelin, Trampled Underfoot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin. After a recent 2012 keynote speech in England on the theme of place and community in music, Hoskyns emailed comments about the The Story of Bob Dylan & The Band DVD and The Basement Tapes. “I’ll never forget the pilgri-mage I made to Big Pink, the unprepossessing and in fact rather small house occupied in the summer of 1967 by Dylan and the Band, and standing in the adjacent fields with The Basement Tapes playing in my ears on a Sony Walkman. I longed to go back in time and peep through Big Pink’s windows, to watch Bob singing ‘Lo and Behold’ and ‘Million Dollar Bash’ as Rick Danko and Richard Manuel yelped along behind him. “For me, this was the perfect picture of musical brotherhood, of songs being organically made by men who’d pulled back from the sadness of fame and the sapping demands of the industry they served. Ironically, the ripples of those private recordings – first heard on the Great White Wonder bootleg in 1969 – were felt way beyond the woods of West Saugerties in the Catskill Mountains. They changed the course of rock music, inspiring countless groups to — in the groovy parlance of the day — ‘get it together in the country.’ “When Music From Big Pink album duly appeared in 1968, it prompted Eric Clapton to abandon the proto-heavy-metal of Cream and saddle up with the rambling rock ‘n’ soul gang that was Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Music From Big Pink’s long-term influence on the music we now call Americana is incalculable.” Dr. James Cushing. A DJ on KCPR-FM who hosts a weekly radio program, “Bob Dylan’s Lunch,” offered his own reflections about this Dylan/Band DVD item. “For me the parts that were most revealing had to do with the sound of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks and the way Levon and his friends were sounding in the very late 1950s and early ‘60s. A period that is examined. And to see it and hear it brings back to life a period of rhythm in music that is almost entirely lost now. A period in rock before anyone thought that rock would be art. Or before anyone thought it would be cultural history. Or before anyone would think a rock ‘n’ roll singer would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. To hear this joyful, innocent, simple music, with girls dancing on screen at go-go clubs really gives you a sense how miraculous that this whole rock as art thing happened. It’s an example how the Fifties ended and the Sixties slowly came in. It’s nice to see the Fifties slowly starting to end with the presence of these people whom we know are going to have a very different destiny that has nothing to do with doing Little Richard or Bo Diddley covers before they teamed with Bob Dylan. “On screen it was nice to see Big Pink again, the archive footage of the Band. And engineer/producer John Simon. But part of the essence of The Basement Tapes is that there isn’t any real visual documentation of it. That they happened in a kind of veiled secrecy. One of the reasons some of the songs were done was to make them available for other recording artists to cover them. That’s easy to say after the fact. As to what actually went into the creation of those songs and recordings I don’t think anyone really knows. Although Griel Marcus’ book on the Basement Tapes seems to put his finger on the heart of it. It is an example that once again, Bob Dylan collaborates with the folk tradition. “If the full 5-CD 5-hour each disc set of the complete recordings was commercially released it would be an item to get completely lost in. It really does become a kind of an equivalent of the Harry Smith Anthology. In the sense that there are all these terrific songs. Each song is terrific in itself and each song has a terrific relationship with every other song on it. Some are old. Some are brand new. Some are serious. Some are funny. Some are sort of silly and some are excuses to crack up. But you get the sense these are real human beings making real human music in a real human situation making real human music for real human purposes. The Basement Tapes are like a whole shadowy subterranean alternative career for Bob Dylan. It’s as though somebody discovered that while James Joyce was writing Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake he also wrote two other novels that were completely finished but then put in a trunk.” The Basement Tapes were wholly concealed from public hearing in ‘67. On June 26 1975 an official double LP collection of The Basement Tapes compiled by Robbie Robertson for Columbia Records was released as Bob Dylan and the Band. In a 1976 interview for Crawdaddy! I conducted with Robertson, I asked him about “The Basement Tapes” album and the songs that he selected for the sanctioned label product. “All of a sudden it seemed like a good idea,” Robertson claimed. “I can’t tell you why or anything. It just popped up one day. We thought we’d see what we had. I started going through the stuff and sorting it out, trying to make it stand up for a record that wasn’t recorded professionally. I also tried to include some things that people haven’t heard before, if possible. Whether it went top ten or not didn’t concern me. I just wanted to document a period rather than let them rot away on the shelves somewhere. It was an unusual time which caused all those songs to be written and it was better it be put on disc some way than be lost in an attic.” Los Angeles native Harvey Kubernik has been an active music journalist for 40 years and the author of five books, including “This Is Rebel Music” (2002) and “Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music In Film and On Your Screen” (2004) published by the University of New Mexico Press. In 2009 Kubernik wrote the critically acclaimed “Canyon of Dreams The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon” published by Sterling, in summer 2012, the title is now out in paperback edition. With his brother Kenneth, he co-authored the highly regarded “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival” published in 2011 by Santa Monica Press).


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