Day 13: Beatles Trivia
Yesterday completed the densest stretch of my June tour - 11 programs in 12 days. For the rest of the month, the schedule is substantially lighter: 9 programs in 18 days.
Today, being a Friday, is another off-day since no libraries are open late on Fridays. Instead, we're hosting a Beatles Trivia Night, inviting several friends over for pizza and a round or two of Beatles Trivial Pursuit.
Day 12: "The Beatles: Band of the Sixties" at the Prospect Heights Public Library
Every once in a while when delivering a presentation I get the feeling of hitting a home run - that the program and its delivery are so authoritative that I simply cannot do them any better. Up until yesterday, I had that feeling for just one of my 18 Beatles programs: "The Beatles: Band of the Sixties", as will be delivered tonight at 7pm in the Prospect Heights Public Library, 12 N. Elm Street, Prospect Heights, IL. (I've also felt it a few times while teaching my Just Once Piano seminars.) And although I didn't actually get that feeling at the premier of "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" last night, I did get the feeling of that potential. A few revisions and one or two more bookings to hone the delivery and "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" will likely rival "Band of the Sixties" as my best work.
Curiously, the program is also the least musical of all my Beatles presentations. I pride myself on focusing my research and analysis efforts on the Beatles' music itself (as opposed to most Beatles experts who focus on biography or history), and yet my Let it Be program does not deal with explicitly musical aspects at all. The reason for this is because of the nature of the topic under consideration: Where The White Album features ensemble musicality surpassed only by that on Abbey Road, the album recorded in between those two (Let it Be) is distinctly less musically sophisticated and is consequently of less musical interest than historical interest. "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" examines and explains how and why the Beatles disbanded, and the answers to those inquiries have much more to do with the deterioration of personal relationships between the band members, and emphasis on individual ideas and development than with any specifically musical characteristics.
Day 11: "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" at the Cook Memorial Public Library
I sure earned my paycheck yesterday. 45 minutes before start time, I was in my first ever car accident when leaving a parking lot a guy backed into me, denting the right rear bumper and putting a slight tear in the metal. If you have to be in a car accident, though, this was one to be in - both vehicles were only going about 2 mph and no one was injured, but it did delay me about half an hour, and the program was pushed back to a 7:15 start rather than 7:00. That problem then combined with problems with the projector not recognizing my laptop, even though my laptop recognized the projector, and audio difficulties because the audio clips and microphone went through the same channel, so volume level couldn't be set individually which meant the mic volume was a bit too loud and the audio clips were a bit too soft. I ended up not using the mic and just speaking loudly, and using two different laptops - one of the library's computers for the visuals, and my own computer to play the audio. 'Twas tricky to switch back and forth, but fortunately the program was "Band of the Sixties", which I've now done 25 times and could probably do it from memory if it really came down to it. Those are the kinds of things that separate the professional from the amateur - had the same problems occurred a year prior, they would have frazzled me and thrown me off my game and my performance would have suffered as a result. But given the experience, I was able to remain calm and focused, and deliver the program without compromising the quality of that program. And I'm quite proud of myself for that!
A question I'm often asked is "To what extent was Yoko Ono responsible for breaking up the Beatles?" Last night I was asked just that. The inquiry provides a perfect transition to this evening's program, "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" at the Cook Memorial Public Library (413 N Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, IL), in which I discuss Yoko's influence on the band in considerable detail. Given, however, that there is a waiting list 25 deep for this evening's program, I don't feel like I'll be giving anything away if I go ahead and address that here:
The recording studio was holy ground for the early Beatles. The only people regularly allowed into that sanctuary were the four band members themselves and the EMI staff (producer George Martin, and engineers like Geoff Emerick). Not even the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein was not welcome. Once, when Epstein offered opinions during a recording session, John Lennon reportedly told him, "You stick to your percentages and we’ll look after the music."
By late 1968, Lennon was completely wrapped up in his relationship with Yoko and consequently withdrew from the Beatles. Had all four Beatles been committed to the band, nothing Yoko Ono could have done (short of physical harm) could have broken up the band. Lennon, however, because of his relationship with Yoko, was progressively losing interest in maintaining the Beatles, but he didn't want the responsibility or blame of breaking up the most popular band ever - that would make him "the bad guy" in the eyes of the Beatles' millions of fans. Lennon, then, used Yoko to drive a wedge between the band members. When he invited Yoko to not only attend, but actually contribute to the band's recordings, that explicitly violated the sanctity of the studio. And Lennon knew exactly what he was doing - this wasn't an innocent gesture.
Although Lennon never addressed the matter, it very strongly appears that Lennon wanted the other three Beatles to offer up an ultimatum: either Lennon chooses The Beatles, or he chooses Yoko Ono. That way, the responsibility for "the break-up heard round the world" (as I've sometimes heard it described) wouldn't be on Lennon's shoulders but rather on Paul's, George's, and Ringo's - that way they would be the bad guys instead of John. The result, then, is a very passive/aggressive atmosphere in which Lennon is trying to break up the band without actually doing so, while the other three (realizing what's going on) refuse to present that ultimatum to Lennon because they know if they do he'll choose Yoko over the Beatles, which in turn makes Lennon try that much harder to involve Yoko even more. It's a malicious and unsustainable cycle, of which Let it Be is the ultimate casualty.
So did Yoko Ono break up the Beatles? No, she didn't. But John Lennon did use her in a failed attempt to break up the band.
Last night saw the very successful premier of "Before They Were Fab: The Beatles Prior to Beatlemania" at the Wauconda Area Library to an audience of around 22. One of the questions asked afterwards was about who was the biggest influence on the Beatles. This ties in with a program I'll be delivering on Saturday, 12 July 2014, from 5:00-6:30 p.m. at the Pequot Library (720 Pequot Ave, Southport, CT) titled "The Influence of American Rock 'n' Roll on The Beatles". While such a ranking is inevitably subject to much debate and personal opinions because it's not really possibly to quantitatively define 'influence', I have to give the following top 10:
1. Elvis Presley
2 & 3. Buddy Holly & Chuck Berry (tie)
4. Little Richard
5. Lonnie Donnegan
6. Carl Perkins
7. Gene Vincent
8. Jerry Lee Lewis
9. Eddie Cochran
10. The Everly Brothers
Today's program is another round of "Band of the Sixties" at the Ela Area Public Library (275 Mohawk Trail, Lake Zurich, IL). The last two times I've done this presentation I set both high and low attendance records with 92 and 0. How many will we get today?
Day 9: "Before They Were Fab: The Beatles Prior to Beatlemania" at the Wauconda Area Library
About 28 people attended yesterday's program on A Hard Day's Night at the Evanston Public Library, and although it started off a little slow (I'm still trying to figure out a good hook for the introduction to grab the audience's attention but have not been able to come up with anything I really like) by the end everyone was engaged and actively listening. The best way of determining how engaged an audience is, however, is by the questions asked afterwards - and one woman asked about the similarities between "When the Saints go Marching In" and "I Saw Her Standing There". While neither of those songs figure into A Hard Day's Night at all, it does provide a nice transition to today's program, "Before They Were Fab: The Beatles Prior to Beatlemania", scheduled for 7:00-8:30pm at the Wauconda Area Library (801 N. Main St, Wauconda, IL), which concludes with a musical analysis and explanation of "I Saw Her Standing There" - including a comparison with "When the Saints go Marching In".
The Beatles recorded "When the Saints go Marching In" with Tony Sheridan (titling their version "The Saints") in June 1961, and the song was in their stage repertoire for some time in the early 60's. Paul then wrote "I Saw Her Standing There" in October of the following year, and recorded it twice with the Beatles: once live at the Star Club in Hamburg, then again at EMI studios (the recording that would be released on the band's first album, Please Please Me) on 11 February 1963.
Although "The Saints" is in C major and "I Saw Her Standing There" is in E major, they do share nearly identical chord progressions. To illustrate that similarity, the examples below are both transposed to D, with the lyrics and chords of "The Saints" colored blue and the lyrics and chords to "I Saw Her Standing There" colored red.
Well when the saints go marching,
Well she was just seventeen, You know what I mean,
D G D
yeah when the saints go marching in,
and the way she looked was way beyond compare.
D D7 G g D A D
I'ma gonna be in that number, yeah, when the saints go marching in.
So how could I dance with another, oh, when I saw her standing there?
D D7 G Bb D A D
Comparing the two songs side-by-side like this, you can easily see that there are only two differences: the G on the word "know" in the first line of "I Saw Her Standing There" is missing in "The Saints", and in the last line "The Saints" uses a g chord where "I Saw Her Standing There" uses a Bb. But even there, g minor consists of three notes (g, b-flat, and d) and Bb consists of three notes (b-flat, d, f), so the two chords share two of their three notes (b-flat and d), meaning they are very closely related.
Bottom line: You have to conclude that "The Saints" influenced "I Saw Her Standing There" because while not perfectly identical, their chords are very, very, very similar.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Three days after setting a new record high for attendance at the Fremont Public Library with 92, I set a record low with the same program at the Lake Bluff Public Library with zero. We agreed to try again next year, tentatively booking an after-school origami children's program and either a baseball or Star Wars program for the same evening for adults.
I suspect I won't have the same problem at this afternoon's program, A Hard Day's Night: The Music & The Movie, from 3-4:30pm at the Evanston Public Library (1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL). I have been informed that the EPL's monthly digital newsletter received more clicks for my program than any other!
Yesterday's baseball game between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field lasted 13 innings before Anthony Rizzo launched a 2-run walk-off homer to right that ended up quite literally out of the park and on Sheffield Ave. Curiously, the songs "Y.M.C.A." by the Village People and "Every Breath you Take" by Sting were played during breaks in the action, both of which use "The Doo Wop Progression" of I-vi-IV-V which I will discuss at some length during my program on A Hard Day's Night at the Evanston Public Library tomorrow afternoon to open up week 2 of this month's lecture tour.
Week 1 of the lecture tour concludes today with a program at the Lake Bluff Public Library (123 E Scranton Ave, Lake Bluff, IL) from noon to 1:30pm. I have no idea how many people to expect, and there seems to be a wide spread of opinion. So far my programs in the Northern Chicago suburbs have drawn very large crowds, but I've also been told that 10-15 is a great turnout for programs at this particular library. But regardless of number of attendees, what makes a good audience is less size of audience than enthusiasm and engagement of audience. The smallest audience I've ever had for a Beatles program was three, but all three were actively engaged in the presentation so it actually came off quite well. At other times, I've spoken to several dozen audience members who appeared quite sedate and un-engaged. I guess there's only one way to find out...
During the summer months, when not Beatle-ing I'm likely to be watching baseball. And today, being a Friday (i.e. no libraries are open in the evening), means an off-day from the Beatles and an on-day for going to my first game at Wrigley Field since the mid-90's. Nathan Eovaldi throws against Jason Hammel in what on paper should be a terrific pitcher's duel (but it seems like every time I say that the score ends up around 13-9). While I certainly enjoy watching pitching duels on TV, I must confess I prefer more active viewing while at the park. Here's hoping for a 13-9 Cubs victory this afternoon!
Day 5: "Let Me Take You Down: The History of 'Strawberry Fields Forever'" at the Kenosha Public Library
The Franklin Public Library held the record of most attendees at a Krerowicz program for about 24 hours, only to be broken by last night's program at the Fremont Public Library, which had 92 attendees, 18 more than attended at Franklin.
After 37 Beatles presentations (including last night's), I find I'm usually asked the same questions afterwards: How did you get interested in the Beatles? How musically educated were the band members? What's your favorite album/song? But every once in a while I get a new question that nobody had previously asked. Yesterday a woman asked if I ever listen to the Beatles music just for fun. And while that's certainly how I got started with my Beatles research and analysis, I can't say I listen for pleasure much any more. I've listened to all of their songs so many times that it's like I have their complete recorded output in my head already. If I want to hear the song, I just think it. Of course, when analyzing the music I need to hear the actual sounds to make sure I have things correctly, but in terms of casual listening I'm much more likely to turn the radio to the local country or rap station than the oldies station - and I'm more like to play a Fun. [yes, their name officially contains the period at the end] album than a Beatles one.
I also got a back stage glimpse at the Fremont Public Library's expansion wing after the program concluded, which will eventually house part of the library's permanent circulating collection but at present is set up for their book sale on the weekend of June 14-15. Thousands of items - including many baseball books that particularly interested me - are set up and ready for the sale, in addition to a rather large model train display. I wish I could make it down there for the sale!
Today's program will be "Let Me Take You Down: The History of 'Strawberry Fields Forever'" at the Kenosha Public Library's Southwest Branch (7979 38th Avenue, Kenosha, WI). The program will trace the development of the iconic Beatles song from John Lennon's conception in September 1966 through commercial release in February 1967. Unlike other Beatles tracks, the growth of 'Strawberry' is particularly well documented. From very rough early drafts, Lennon's demo for the other three Beatles, and through the band's official takes in the recording studio, this documentation provides a clear and fascinating step-by-step process of evolution culminating in what is certainly one of the best songs the Beatles (or any band) ever recorded.
A new record for attendance at one of my Beatles programs was set last night at the Franklin Public Library. Last year, 64 people attended a program at the Kenosha Public Library on 26 August 2013, a figure matched at the Guilford Free Library in Guilford Connecticut on January 15 of this year. But last night had 72 attendees - including a couple of die-hard Beatles fans who brought in some of their collectibles and set up a display at the entrance, and a guy who plays in the Beatles tribute band Liverpool '64.
The new record, however, is unlikely to stand for long as today's program is a repeat of "The Beatles: Band of the Sixties" at the Fremont Public Library (1170 N Midlothian Rd, Mundelein, IL), for which there are at least 95 registrations. I even noticed on their website that registrations are now at maximum (I assume for fire hazard legal reasons) and there is actually a waiting list!
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.