SUE’S SUNDAY SOJOURN: Each week Sue will showcase a particular artist or band during her entire two hour set. Each week, prior to the set, there will be a blog post where she will write about her memories, favorite stories or share other interesting tidbits about the artist. The idea here is not to tell the story of the band or play two hours of their greatest hits. The idea behind Sue’s Sunday Sojourn will be to spend time with Sue, down in her music vault. As she puts together the set, she will reminisce and share special memories. “I remember when this came out,” or, “I recall hearing this for the first time and I thought…” She might share little known facts, favorite memories, fun stories or maybe even some personal experiences.
The sets will have plenty of the big hits but be ready for a few obscure tunes that may be her personal favorites. She will probably include a few rarities or possibly unreleased material, along with other assorted curios. So join her every Sunday night from 7-9 PM SLT as she lets you into her world.
Gosh! Entire books have been written on the Beatles and many would argue that they don’t even begin to scratch the surface. So, how do I cover them in a single blog post? I don’t. But I will share some memories and cover a few interesting subjects like the “Paul is dead” rumor along with backmasking and secret messages.
I was a little kid when the Beatles came to America in February 1964. I don’t recall seeing them on the Sullivan show per se, but I’m sure I did as my family watched it every Sunday night religiously. However, the following year the Beatles had a cartoon series that aired every Saturday morning. This I fondly recall watching every week. It wasn’t their voices but each cartoon ended with a real Beatles song. Below is an episode.
Beatles fans were unlike any other either before or since. First off, the fan base gave each Beatle a nickname as follows. John was the “Smart One,” Paul was the “Cute One,” George was the “Quiet One” and Ringo was the “Funny One.” I recall seeing Ringo occasionally being referred to as the “Sad One,” but that wasn’t really common.
You also weren’t a true Beatles fan unless you had a favorite Beatle. Fans would always be asking each other, “Which is your favorite.” For the record, my favorite Beatle was (and still is) George. My favorite Beatles song is Here Comes the Sun, written and sung by my favorite Beatle, the Quiet One, George Harrison.
It was the Beatles who really created the concept of marketing all sorts of merchandise to fans. There were the typical tee shirts and lunchboxes but there was so much more, many of them seemed as ridiculous back then as they do today. Things like Beatles shampoo, Beatles gum, Beatles dresses, even Beatles record players. What else would you play your Beatles records on? There was actually a Beatles board game called “Flip Your Wig” too.
|Beatles Shampoo... Believe it or not!|
Then there were the movies, each one a fun farcical romp and escape from reality. They never lasted more than 90 minutes but as fans we watched each as it was released. Both the Yellow Submarine and the Magical Mystery Tour are better watched when stoned. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
In 1966, John Lennon found himself in a bit of hot water when it was widely reported that he had told a reporter that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” There were several versions but it was taken totally out of context. The original quote was reported by Journalist, Maureen Cleave, in an article in the London Evening Standard. Let me quote the entire paragraph, which has been seldom ever done.
“Experience has sown few seeds of doubt in him: not that his mind is closed, but it's closed round whatever he believes at the time. ‘Christianity will go,’ he said. ‘It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.’ He is reading extensively about religion.”
While he did say it, when you read the entire paragraph, it’s not quite the shocking quote the press used to sell papers and magazines. Either way, it was out there and soon fans could be seen burning Beatles’ records in big bonfires. Furthermore, my mom started getting on my case. “You’re not listening to those sacrilegious Beatles anymore, are you?” Or maybe she’d ask, “Do you have any Beatles records?” It eventually blew over, but it was damn inconvenient for a prepubescent kid living at home.
In 1968, I got my copy of The Beatles, a double album usually referred to as the “White Album.” This was a clandestine purchase since mom still thought that they were sacrilegious heathens and they, along with anyone who listened to their music, were destined to burn in Hell. A couple of years later, I got brave and hung the four portraits (shown below) that came with the album on my bedroom wall. I don’t think she ever put together who those four men were so prominently displayed in my room. Those four pictures followed me to college and many moves until they finally fell apart.
It was in 1969 that rumors began to spread that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident and instead of risking damage to the Beatle Gravy Train, the record company decided to replace him with a double and move forward. Rumor led to full blown conspiracy theory, which took on a mind of its own. I could sort through the details of who said what in which paper but in the end it doesn’t really matter. After it started, fans began looking for clues that Paul was dead both on the records and their jackets. Would a corporate conspiracy really publish clues all over the place?
The car accident supposedly took place in 1966, about the same time as the Beatles were being bigger than God or Jesus. The clues are first seen on the Sgt. Pepper album of 1967. It is a fact that the cover, seen above, depicts a funeral scene complete with flower arrangements and mourners. The four Beatles shown as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band stand next to their younger selves. These younger Beatles appear to be mourning and it has always been assumed they were mourning their old selves. After all, they weren’t the same band anymore.
Clue hunters first focused on the yellow flower arrangement in the shape of a guitar (blow-up #1 above). If it is looked at from the perspective of where the Beatles are standing, the neck points to their right, like it would for someone playing it left handed. It also has only four strings, making it a bass. Paul was the only left handed Beatle and played the bass. Blow-up #2 shows a detail on the far right of the album cover. Many see this as a model car plunging off of a cliff on fire. Remember, Paul supposedly died in a car accident. Finally, the guy standing behind Paul (blow-up #3) has his hand raised over Paul’s head. I’ve heard all sorts of interpretations for this from it being a sign of someone who has passed, to a blessing, even a depiction of a halo, proving Paul is in Heaven. Let us next open up the gatefold album jacket to see the picture below.
The patch on Paul’s arm is somewhat obscured by wrinkles but many clue hunters saw the initials as “O.P.D.” This almost had to stand for “officially pronounced dead.” What else can it stand for? It is a real patch and it is shown next to blow-up #4 below. It is actually the patch of the Ontario Provincial Police. Maybe it should stand for, “officially pronounced /pȯl/,” the phonetic pronunciation of his name.
|Blow-up #4 and the original patch|
The final clue can be found on the back of the album, shown below. Paul is standing back to the camera, shown below.
The next cover we must look to in order to find clues of Paul’s premature demise is Abbey Road. This album came out the year that the rumor started, 1969. Clue hunters will tell you that the picture on the front (shown below) again depicts a funeral. John symbolizes angels and heaven dressed in white. Ringo is dressed like a funeral director and George, in denim, is the grave digger. Paul is obviously dressed as if he is being laid out, complete with bare feet. In his hand is a final cigarette before he moves on to the next world. He is also out of step with the other three. They all have their left foot forward; Paul has his right.
Finally, if you look closely at the license plate on the Volkswagen, the second line of print reads, “28IF.” (See blow-up #5 below.) That supposedly stands for, “IF Paul was alive, he’d be 28 years old.” The fact is that when Abbey Road came out, Paul was 29 years old, not 28.
There were also clues to be found in the music itself. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, off of the Magical Mystery Tour (1967), John mumbles what is supposed to be the words, “cranberry sauce.” The clue hunters say he is saying, “I buried Paul.”
The clue hunters still weren’t satisfied so they began playing Beatles records backwards looking for further clues and of course they found them. On the White Album (1968) there is a song, Revolution 9. The entire song in an avant-garde discordant cacophony of music, sound and words, and some of the music is backmasked, recorded onto the record backwards. (More on backmasking later.) All of the words are recorded forward with none of them backwards. The song opens with John Lennon repeatedly saying, “Number 9… Number 9… Number 9…” It is clean, distinct and with no mumbling or slurring of the words. When played backwards, it does sound remarkably close to, “Turn me on dead man… Turn me on dead man… Turn me on dead man…” It is just unnatural enough to leave no doubt that it is just a coincidence and not an intentionally backmasked vocal track.
There is another song off of this album that holds a supposed backwards message, I’m So Tired. At the end is a bit of mumbling that when played backwards (maybe after smoking a joint) some say sounds like, “Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.” I’ll play all of these songs during my show Sunday night. When I get to the parts in question, I’ll play them backwards and forwards a few times so you can hear. I’ll only play the first bit of Revolution 9 backwards and forwards and not the whole song. I really have no desire to submit you or myself to over eight minutes of torture.
Both of these examples are coincidental and were not put their intentionally. There is an unnaturalness to speech played backwards that is present in the above examples when they are played backwards. When played forward, even the mumbling, does not possess that unnaturalness. I must point out however, that members of the DJ Maya Fan Club have found that if you play a portion of the refrain backwards from We Are Family, by Sister Sledge, it states, “Ashra Lang is Maya’s and Sue’s lovechild, really she is, really, really, really.”
Unlike the coincidental messages I spoke of above, backmasking is intentional. Lyrics, music or speech is recorded and then added to the song in the studio backwards. The speech has that unnaturalness when the song is played forward but when it is played backwards becomes clear, intelligible speech. The Beatles were the first major artists to experiment with this.
I’ve already mentioned that Revolution 9 had backmasked instrumentation alongside forward instrumentation and voice. This was like many of their efforts, which usually only involved music and never voice when backmasking, with one exception below.
The first album on which they experimented with backmasking was Revolver (1966), which just happens to be my favorite Beatles album. (Remember, an important part of Beatles fandom was sharing all of your “favorites.”) The first song they did this on is the only time they did it to lyrics. The song, Rain, is a fun song and one I like very much. At the end, you can hear some lyrics that clearly have that unnatural backwards sound. When you play the song backwards from the end the music then has that unnatural sound but the lyrics can be heard clearly heard. They are taken from the regular portion of the song and here’s the kicker. Even though the music is distorted backwards, the lyrics still musically fit. The Beatles are showing off the fact that the song is a sort of musical palindrome. When I play this song on Sunday, I’ll play the end backwards and forwards a few times so you can hear this.
The other song from that album to feature backmasking is my second favorite Beatles tune, Tomorrow Never Knows. This is a psychedelic journey with both forward and backwards instrumentation. This song was my favorite Beatles song to listen to high. I won’t play this one backwards and forwards since no lyrics are backwards.
There is one other song that I feel is worth mentioning here and it is off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). The song, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, was partially constructed using recordings of steam calliope. These were cut into short sections and literally tossed into the air to mix them up. They were then spliced together into whatever random order. While not backmasking per se, some were spliced into the mix backwards and this was all random. I will play this song during my show Sunday night along with all the others I’ve mentioned in this post.
In 1986, the B-52’s on the album, Bouncing off the Satellites, hid a backmasked message at the end of the song, Detour Thru Your Mind. The song ends with that familiar unnaturalness of backwards speech. When played backwards from the end, lead singer, Fred Schneider, can be heard saying, "I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you're playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle." This was an obvious joking stab at the whole subject of backwards messages.
DJ Sue’s Vault…
Pictured above is a rather rare Beatles bootleg record containing never released material and other items, like a couple of official hard to get Fan Club releases. I obtained it sometime in the 70’s.
Most people believe that the Beatles broke up on 10 April 1970 (47 years ago today!), the day that Paul publicly announce he had quit the band and a month before the album, Let It Be, was released. What most people don’t know is that John had left the band after the completion of the Abbey Road sessions back in August 1969. This was kept secret in order to not affect sales of their upcoming release of Abbey Road. What is also mostly unknown is that Let It Be (1970), their last album released, was actually recorded in 1968. It was after the release of Let It Be that John was going to announce his departure but Paul beat him to the punch. Most people think the Beatles remain intact until their last album was finished in what they thought was 1970. The true timetable would remain secret for some time and is today still known only to the most diehard of Beatles experts.
While the Beatles were no longer recording, the band hadn’t dissolved and remained a band until 29 December 1974, almost five years later. This was the date when the final lawsuit was settled and the dissolution of the Beatles made final. This has also remained a relatively unknown fact.
Regardless of which Beatle is your favorite, join me at AWT Sunday Night as I take you on a Magical Mystery Tour through time with the Beatles from 7-9 PM SL time.
|A picture from their final photo shoot together in 1969.|
“Stig, meanwhile, had hidden in the background so much that in 1969, a rumor went around that he was dead. He was supposed to have been killed in a flash fire at a waterbed shop and replaced by a plastic and wax replica from Madame Tusseaud's. Several so-called "facts" helped the emergence of this rumor. One: he never said anything publicly. Even as the "quiet one," he'd not said a word since 1966. Two: on the cover of their latest album, "Shabby Road," he is wearing no trousers, an Italian way of indicating death. Three: Nasty supposedly sings "I buried Stig" on "I Am The Waitress." In fact, he sings, "E burres stigano," which is very bad Spanish for "Have you a water buffalo?" Four: On the cover of the "Sergeant Rutter" album, Stig is leaning in the exact position of a dying Yeti, from the Rutland Book of the Dead. Five: If you sing the title of "Sergeant Rutter's Only Darts Club Band" backwards, it's supposed to sound very like "Stig has been dead for ages, honestly." In fact, it sounds uncannily like "Dnab Bulc Ylno S'rettur Tnaegres." Palpable nonsense.”
From the movie, The Ruttles [a Beatles parody] (1978)