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The Beatles’ first visit to EMI, part 2

By Gordon Thompson
For the Beatles first visit to EMI, George Martin (the director of Parlophone Records) asked his associate Ron Richards to serve as the artist-and-repertoire manager, which involved rehearsing the band and running their session. Pop groups represented a normal part of Richards’ portfolio and clearly the Beatles didn’t rank high enough on Martin’s list of responsibilities to warrant his presence. That would eventually change, but on 6 June 1962, the Beatles presented only a blip on his radar.

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The Beatles Get a Second Chance, 9 May 1962

By Gordon Thompson
On this spring morning fifty years ago, Brian Epstein climbed the front steps and passed through the simple entrance of the EMI Recording Studios in St. John’s Wood, London, placing him on the other side of the looking glass. As a retailer, he had sold recordings made in these studios by Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Thomas Beecham, and, more recently, Cliff Richard and the Shadows. The neophyte manager of the Beatles now eagerly anticipated the possibility of watching through the control room window as his “boys” joined that exclusive club.

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The Beatles’ first visit to EMI, part 1

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles recorded for the first time in a building that would eventually bear the name of their last venture. On Wednesday, 6 June 1962, the most important rock band of the twentieth century auditioned at the EMI Recording Studios in Abbey Road, London.

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“The Start of a Solo Career”: Paul McCartney, 10 April 1970

By Gordon Thompson


Even in the storm’s dawning, both fans and defamers alike recognized magic in the Beatles’ ability to collaborate and to adapt in pursuit of a shared vision, and at the heart of this quest lay the desire to make great recordings. In the beginning of their career with EMI, their willingness to subvert their individual identities to a common cause (and the joy with which they did so) contributed to their success. In the

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John Winston Ono Lennon, Everyman

By Gordon Thompson
On 9 October, many in the world will remember John Winston Ono Lennon, born on this date in 1940. He, of course, would have been amused, although part of him (the part that self-identified as “genius”) would have anticipated the attention. However, he might also have questioned why the Beatles and their music, and this Beatle in particular, would remain so current in our cultural thinking. When Lennon described the Beatles as just a band that made it very, very big, why did we doubt him?

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George Martin Goes Independent, 2 Sept 1965

By Gordon Thompson
When George Martin first entered the recording industry in the early 1950s, assisting Oscar Preuss at EMI’s Parlophone, he encountered the end of the mechanical era. The company’s facilities on Abbey Road in genteel St. John’s Wood still used lathes to record sound by cutting grooves in warm wax with energy provided by weights and pulleys, like a child of Big Ben. The sheer mechanics of this kind of professional recording demanded large…

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The Beatles Arrive in Hamburg, August 1960

By Gordon Thompson
Although Americans often talk about a “British Invasion” that started in February 1964, the groundwork for that cultural phenomenon may actually have begun fifty years ago this month when, on 17 August 1960, the Beatles began performing at the Indra, a small club in red-light district of the West German city of Hamburg. The van and ferry ride to Hamburg with manager Allan Williams had the Beatles arriving at night in one of Europe’s most decadent enclaves. The St. Pauli district thrived on sex

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The Beatles, Orientalism, and Help!

By Gordon Thompson
At the July 29, 1965 premiere of the Beatles’ second film, Help!, most viewers understood the farce as a send-up of British flicks that played on the exoticism of India, while at the same time spoofing the popularity of James Bond. Parallel with this cinematic escapism, a post-colonial discourse began that questioned how colonial powers justified their economic exploitation of the world. Eventually, Edward Said’s Orientalism would describe the purpose of this objectification as “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (1978: 3). In effect, Said and others argued that portrayals of the non-Western other

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The Who and “My Generation,” November 1965

Tweet By Gordon Thompson Forty-five years ago, in the anarchic world of mid-sixties British rock—with every major British act releasing records and storming the world—a unique record bullied its way into British consciousness that turned the conventions of the pop disk end-for-end.  Pete Townsend had penned a song that cut to the core of rock’s […]

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December 1960: A wild time for the Beatles

By Gordon Thompson

The Beatles reinvented themselves several times over their career, from comic mop-tops to psychedelic gurus to post-modern self-directed artistes; but perhaps one of their most remarkable transformations occurred before most of Britain or the world even knew they existed.

Fifty years ago, as the winter 1960 seeped into Britain, the Beatles returned from a little over three months on the stage boards of Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller where they had put in hundreds of hours of performance. Back in August, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stu Sutcliffe had recruited Pete Best (and his relatively new drum kit) at the last minute for their very first club residency in the St. Pauli District of West Germany’s busiest port.

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“Tomorrow Never Knows”: The Beatles sample the future, April 1966

By Gordon Thompson

Forty-five years ago, at the beginning of April 1966, on the almost anniversary of a London dentist surreptitiously spiking his and George Harrison’s coffees with Lysergic acid diethylamide, John Lennon visited Barry Miles’ Indica Books and picked up a copy of Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In its pseudo-mystical prose, Lennon found partial inspiration for one of the most audacious recordings the Beatles would ever attempt.

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John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966

By Gordon Thompson

Forty-five years ago, in the spring of 1966, as swinging London and its colorful denizens attracted the attention of Time, the publishers of an American teen magazine found part of a recent interview with John Lennon to be of particular interest. A rapid disintegration ensued of the complex identity that the Beatles management, the media, the fans, and even the musicians themselves had constructed, setting in motion a number of dark forces.

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The Beatles at the Cavern Club, 9 February 1961

By Gordon Thompson

Fifty years ago, one of the great stories in pop music began when the Beatles debuted in a dank arched subterranean Liverpool club dedicated to music. Located in the narrow lane called Mathew Street, just of North John Street, the Cavern Club had opened as a jazz haven that enfolded blues and skiffle, which was how the Quarry Men, John Lennon’s precursor to the Beatles, had first descended the steps and climbed the tiny stage in August 1957. Three-and-a-half years later, the Beatles had evolved into a

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Sixties British Pop in the Classroom

By Gordon Thompson

Baby boomers have not only fundamentally shaped our modern world, but also how their children (and grandchildren) perceive that world. The generation that gyrated with hula hoops and rock ‘n’ roll also embraced British pop music (among other things) and have bequeathed this aesthetic to today’s college students. On campuses across North America, students amble to classes with “Beatles” patches on their book bags while their college radio programs often include music by the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks. At Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York a few years ago, a Facebook survey identified the Beatles as the favorite campus musical artists, followed closely by Bob Dylan. Given the continuing importance of a band that dissolved in acrimony over forty years ago, a question arises: does this subject merit inclusion in the college curriculum? The answer is clearly, yes.

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