Aretha – Let it Be

So sad to hear about the passing of the iconic Aretha Franklin. Tributes are pouring in from all over, so anything I can add is of little consequence. I just wanted to post this video of Aretha’s version of the Beatles, Let it Be. A huge fan of Franklin’s, Paul McCartney sent a demo to Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records in hopes he would pass it on to Aretha.  Like many, The Beatles were big admirers of the Queen of Soul and were thrilled when she recorded many of their songs.

Here is a link to the Rolling Stone article, Why Nobody Sang The Beatles like Aretha. 

Burn, Baby Burn: America and The Burning of Books and Ideas

fahrenheitresizedI recently watched HBO’s remake of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 starring Michael Jordan and Michael Shannon. The film got me thinking about our political climate today and the suppression of ideas that do not coincide with the company line. It made me think about how close we are from this incendiary topic becoming a reality.

Fahrenheit 451 was written in the early 1950’s during the McCarthy witch hunts, a point in time when the author feared America reached a point where the burning of ‘subversive’ literature was more than a slight possibility.  The book focuses on an American society in the near future where owning a book is a crime. ‘Firemen’ are employed to burn any books found.

When I came across the book cover of the edition pictured above, I thought how simple, yet powerfully effective it was. The title with the ‘1′ replaced by a matchstick. That one degree, stressing the point where paper burns.

Book burning or other materials has a history going a long way back to before Christ. In America, the first book burning occurred during the War of 1812, when the British, not the Canadians, in 1814 burned down the U.S. Capital and other facilities of the Government including most of the 3,000 books housed in the Library of Congress.

In 1935, Government officials of Warsaw, Indiana where author Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy, Sister Carrie) was born and attended high school, demanded that all library copies of Dreiser’s inflammatory books be burned.

After World War II, with the defeat of Germany and the Japanese, some Americans needed to find a new battle. A German-born psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham who treated delinquent children discovered during his hospital work in Harlem that most of thee troubled kids he worked with read comic books. He came up with his own formula equating kids times comic books = juvenile delinquency. By 1948, Wertham was on a crusade attacking comic books in some very prestigious magazines. His attacks on the comic book industry continued for years including presenting himself to the 1954 U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Juvenile Delinquency wherein part he stated, “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.” Pressure was put on comic book publishers to stem the tide of this dreaded menace. Parental concerns mounted. On October 26, 1948, in the town of Spencer, West Virginia, religious leaders, teachers, and parents oversaw the collection and burning of hundreds and hundreds of evil comic books. It wasn’t just the South that was in an uproar. Shortly after that Binghamton, New York conducted their own public barn book fire. In light of the publicity by the news media, other cities followed including Rumson, New Jersey, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Chicago. The fever even spread across to the Canadian border when a group called the JayCee Youth Leadership collected and burned more than 8,000 comic books. It was in this heated climate that Ray Bradbury wrote his dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451.

datebook_july_1966For baby-boomers, the most famous book burning was the 1966 Beatles controversy. Religious conservatives in the South’s Bible Belt were up in arms after John Lennon’s quote “we are more popular than Jesus” was taken out of context from an interview with journalist Maureen Cleave that originally appeared in London’s Evening Standard some five months earlier.  When the U.S. teen magazine, Datebook published the interview, Lennon’s quote “I don’t know which will go first – Rock ‘n’ Roll or Christianity!” was on the front cover. In Birmingham, Alabama, always a hotbed of progressive thinking. DJ’s banned the playing of Beatles records. As the British rock group’s tour in the U.S. began protests rocked all over the South: Beatles records, magazines and books were tossed into large piles by fired up parents and teens and burned.

Most recently (2006) J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books attracted attention due to claims that the magic in the Potter book series struck a strong resemblance to practices of the occult. Incidents of Potter book burning occurred in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and Charlotte, South Carolina. Protestant, Catholic and mostly from Evangelical Christian groups flamed the claims.

Like other classic novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World and It Can’t Happen Here, Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about suppression, control of people and ideas. With the political climate we face today it seemed to be a timely move by HBO to remake Bradbury’s novel into a movie. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Montag, a rising star in the ranks of ‘fireman’ who starts to develop doubts about the mission of suppressing books after meeting a rebelling young woman. Michael Shannon is Captain Beatty.  In the world of the future, people need not bother themselves with unpleasant thoughts or feelings. Books are the culprit. They bring up depressing subject matter, sadness and most frightening to the government, independent thinking. Subsequently, the government sanctions drugs, emotionally free relationships and numbing mass media. Those who disobey are eliminated.

While Jordan and Michael Shannon as Captain Beatty are very good, the film, though not bad, is a disappointment. An even bigger disappointment when compared to Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film which though it moves at a slower pace definitely captures the feel and beliefs behind Bradbury totalitarian tale.

Ten Days Ten Album Covers

On Facebook I was recently tagged on a meme called Ten Days, Ten Album Covers. You only needed to list the albums with no explanation. But, I just could not do that and had to write an explanation. About halfway through, I realized I had a post for my blog.

Remember, it about the covers, I focused on the photography and art design, and not necessarily the music. Two albums on the list I never listened to, then some of the others (Beatles, Springsteen, Dylan, Lennon and The Rolling Stones) are favorites.

Starting with number ten and working my to number one.

Number 10

Psyical Grafitti

The album’s art designer for Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was a man named Peter Corriston. He wanted to use a New York City tenement for the cover, but needed one that had no distractions like lamp posts or street signs. The layout would also have to fit the square design of an album cover. He found what he needed at St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. The resulting cover actually consists of two buildings, 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place. While they were close in appearance they were  not as identical as your see in the final photograph. The original photos were shot by Eliott Erwitt, B.P. Fallen and Roy Harper (no mention is made of which photographer shot the various photos in the album). There was a lot of pre-photoshop doctoring to make the two buildings look as a close as possible. Below is what the two buildings look like at the time.

Number 9

Exile

The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street. Photographer Robert Frank’s photograph of a collage of photographs, supposedly taken at New York tattoo parlor, was used for the cover. Frank was born in Switzerland. After coming to America, he became part of the Beat Generation. Like the other members on the Beats, Frank with his photography was searching for the forgotten Americans, those exiled to the edge of nowhere. Mick Jagger, familiar with the photographer’s work, contacted Frank. The Stones were working on Exile on Main Street, an album that featured a lot of raw outlaw style blues. They wanted the same outsider feel for the album cover. Originally, Frank was going to use photos he took of the Stones on the seedier streets of L.A. But after art director John Van Hamersveld saw the tattoo parlor photo, he knew he had his front cover. Many of Frank’s other photos of the Stones were used on the back cover and inside.
Number 8

Janis-Joplin-Pearl-photographer Barry Feinstein

Janis Joplin’s Pearl was released posthumously. It contained some of her finest work including the classic Me and Bobby McGee. The photograph was by Barry Feinstein. It’s beautifully lit with the light falling perfectly on Joplin’s face. The Victoria style chair, her clothes and the drink in hand (most likely Southern Comfort) add to the atmosphere.

Number 7

Robert Mapplethrope

Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses, was photographed by her close friend/lover/artistic cohort photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The photograph, taken in an apartment in Greenwich Village, is from the mid-1970’s. During the session, Mapplethorpe took about a dozen photos of Smith with a jacket slung over her shoulder and skinny tie flung around her neck before he caught the perfect image. It’s a delicate depiction of the singer off-setting the punk rock image she embraced at the time. Mapplethorpe died in 1989 from complications from aids. Patti Smith would write about their life, per Mapplethorpe’s request, in the excellent memoir Just Kids winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010.
Number 6
Henry Ditz
The Doors Morrison Hotel – The album cover was by photographer Henry Diltz (art direction Gary Burden).  Two years ago my wife and I attended a presentation titled Behind the Lens. The guests were Henry Diltz and Patti Boyd, aka Patti Harrison. Diltz part of the talk was the more interesting, as were his photographs. Boyd’s photos, she admitted were snapshots she took over the years of ex-husband George and other celebrities. Diltz though is a professional photographer who has many album covers to his credit. His stories were fascinating. The Morrison Hotel was an actual hotel in a seedy part of Los Angeles. Ray Manzarek and his wife were riding around looking for potential locations to shoot the album cover. He recommended the third rate Morrison Hotel. The day of the shoot, the desk clerk told Diltz and company they could not come inside and shoot. The group set up outside and began to take a series of photographs hoping for that one special shot. Then came a moment when the desk clerk left for a break and the grungy lobby was empty. Diltz got the group to run inside and pose in front of the window. He shot about a roll of film and then they all got out before the desk clerk returned. They got their cover shot.
Number 5

Daniel Kramer1Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home is one of rock’s true classics. The cover photo was by Daniel Kramer. The photo shoot was done at the home of Albert Grossman, then Dylan’s manager. The lady in red, seductively lounging in the background, is Grossman’s wife, Sally. Note Dylan’s previous album (Another Side of Bob Dylan) behind her. When asked why this photo was selected, Kramer responded, it was the only one where the cat sitting on Dylan’s lap was looking at the camera.

Number 4

john-lennon-rock-n-roll-960x960

The cover photo of John Lennon’s 1975 Rock ‘n’ Roll album goes back to the Beatles Hamburg days when they played in the city’s red light district. The photograph is by Jürgen Vollmer, an old friend of the group from those wild early days playing in clubs like the Kaiserkeller. Vollmer captures Lennon’s early rebel without a cause persona. He’s framed in an entrance way of an old brick building somewhere in Hamburg, wearing a leather jacket, hands in pocket and one foot casually over the other, a combination of early Brando and a young Dylan. The three blurred figures passing by are Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stu Sutcliffe.

Number 3

220px-Born_to_Run_(Front_Cover) Eric Meola Photographer

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s third album, Born to Run, has become one of the most iconic shots in the history of rock. It was Springsteen’s third album and his big breakout, selling more than 6 million copies in the U.S. alone.  The photograph was taken by Eric Meola who during a three hour photo shoot shot more than 900 photos. Meola, a self-taught photographer opened up his own studio in 1971. Four years later he was photographing Springsteen leaning on the big man, Clarence Clemons, for the cover of Born to Run. The cover photo has been often imitated, from Cheap Trick to the Muppets, but never duplicated.

Number 2

Joni-Mitchell-Hejira-album-covers-billboard-1000x1000

In the 1976 Joni Mitchell released Hejira, a fusion of folk and jazz; the album cover, like the music, was a mix. Three photographs: Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota, a superimposed image of the artist staring directly at you, and a second superimposed image of a long empty highway layered over the artist’s coat. The final blended image suggests the creative never ending journey Mitchell has been traveling. It’s self reflective, seductive and elusive.

Number 1

sgt_pepper

Like the music inside, the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover was revolutionary. The art designer was Peter Blake. Each of the four Beatles were asked to compile a list of people they admired and would want on the cover. The concept was that the group performed a concert and all these people were in the audience. Using cardboard cutouts of their selections, all would all be featured in a group photo. Permission needed to be obtained from the chosen before using their likeness. Some folks, like Leo Gorcey, demanded too much money and were axed. Not surprisingly, Bob Dylan made the cover. Just as surprisingly Elvis Presley, a significant influence on the group, did not.  Michael Cooper was the photographer of the final image. While this photograph would be his most famous, Cooper worked with many other musicians of the day, notably with the Rolling Stones. In 1973, Michael Cooper’s life spiraled out of control. Addicted to drugs and with bouts of depression, at the age of 31 he committed suicide.

From Real to Reel: Still Photographers at the Movies Astrid Kirchherr

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Astrid Kirchherr

This is the 5th installment in this series.

Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr knew each other since their days at art school in Hamburg. It was there they met Jürgen Vollmer, a photographer. Voormann and Kirchherr were lovers, though their relationship was heading toward an end. After an argument one evening, Klaus wandered into the Kaiserkeller a club in a nasty section of Hamburg called the Reeperbahn filled with drunken sailors, prostitutes, gangsters and other sorts. The artsy/beatnik crowd that Voormann, Kirchherr, and Vollmer were part of were more into jazz and coffeehouses that the raucous rock and roll or the Reeperbahn. They wore their hair long, for the times, and leaned toward wearing black clothes. Voormann’s crowd were part of a group known as exis, short for existentialists who read Camus and Sartre.

Klaus Astrid

Klaus Voormann – Photo by Astrid Kirchherr

Depending on what biography you read, on stage at the time were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes whose drummer was Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, or a leather-clad group called the Beatles (the two groups’ alternated sets). Most bios lean toward the Beatles. Either way, the music was loud and raw.

Klaus found the music exciting and the band wild. He could not wait to go and tell Astrid and Vollmer what he experienced.  Astrid Kirchherr was already working as an assistant to photographer Reinhard Wolf and was on the cusp of having a great career of her own. Born in 1938 in Hamburg, Germany to a middle-class family. Astrid’s father was an executive officer in the German branch of the Ford Motor Company. When World War II broke, Astrid and her family evacuated to the Baltic Sea. After the war, they returned to a bombed out Hamburg, but still managed to live comfortably. [1]  She attended Meisterschule für Mode, Textil, Graphik und Werbung in Hamburg to study fashion design. During this period, she also displayed a talent for photography and was convinced by the school’s top photographic instructor Reinhard Wolf to switch courses. After graduating, Wolf hired Kirchherr as an assistant where she still worked when Klaus brought her to the club where she would meet the Beatles.

At first, Astrid did not want to go to the seedy red-light district. Sometime between Klaus’ first visit and the time he got Astrid to join him (timing again differs depending on the biographer), Klaus, who spoke decent English, and was a wannabe guitarist and a graphic designer, just completed a commission to do the cover of the Ventures’ Walk Don’t Run album. [2] He approached John one night showing him the album. John brushed him off, telling him he should talk to Stu, he was the arty one.

Astrid-Kirchherr Stu

Stu Sutcliffe – Photo by Astrid Kirchherr

Eventually, after tireless insistence on Klaus’ part, Astrid, along Vollmer, went to the club. The three were blown away by the wild, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Little Richard songs played by the group. Astrid was as captivated as Klaus by the group, and by John in particular, but it was the sunglass-wearing diminutive Stu, the bass player who stood quietly near Lennon on stage that really attracted the young woman and the others in the arty group. Astrid, Klaus, and Vollmer kept coming back to the club, enthralled by the music. At first, Astrid hid her attraction to Stu by using her professional photographer status as a front. She asked to photograph them. The Beatles were flattered, to say the least, that a professional photographer, a beautiful professional photographer, wanted to take their pictures.

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Astrid Kirchherr and Stu Sutcliffe – Photograph by Astrid Kirchherr

Using a Rolleicord medium format camera and black and white film, Astrid brought the boys to a local amusement park called the Dom. The park had only a few people roaming around that day due to inclement weather. Astrid did not speak much English at the time, so she and the group communicated mostly through various gestures and her positioning the boys the way she wanted them to pose. In those first photos, the Beatles still had their hair combed back in the standard 1950’s-60’s Teddy Boy style of the day. Stu would be the first to change his hair with the help of Astrid. She did not invent the Beatles hairstyle as so often is incorrectly reported. At the time it was a familiar style among their arty/exis crowd including Klaus. The others, except for Pete Best, eventually would follow.

Beatles_AstridKirccherr

The Beatles in Hamburg – Photo by Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid’s photos captured the rawness, the innocence, the attitude, the tough guy exterior, behind their insecurities, as well as the beauty of the group. The  for these boys, rock and roll was all there was in life. The boys loved the photographs and posed for Astrid on various occasions. The images from this period, along with photos taken by Jürgen Vollmer[3] have become part of the Beatles legend, in their own way historical documents capturing a moment in time.

 

 

Lennon and Sutcliffe (left) George Harrison (right)- photos by Astrid Kirchherr 

In 1964, while on assignment with photojournalist Max Scheler, for Stern magazine and using a 35mm film, Astrid photographed the Beatles once again during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night. She would also do the album cover for George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music. A couple of years later Astrid gave up her photographic career. She did stay friends with all the Beatles over the years though she lost touch with John Lennon after he moved to the United States. For many years, Astrid sadly saw no income from her Beatles photos though they were used over and over in many publications and bootleg albums.  It was in the 1980’s when she managed to get her original negatives back and her copyright.

John Lennon Foto-Ausstellung

Astrid Kirchherr on Film

Astrid Kirchherr made it to the movie screen in the 1994 film Backbeat which as you would expect is the story of the Beatles during their early days, before fame, playing in the sleazy sections of Hamburg. Kirchherr is played nicely by Sheryl Lee who bears an uncanny resemblance to the photographer. Astrid was a consultant on the film and was interviewed by screenwriter/director Iain Softley as part of his research.

I wrote an article about Backbeat on my film blog, Twenty Four Frames. Instead of repeating much of the information, please jump over to read by clicking right here.

 

Footnotes:

[1] An Interview with Astrid Kirchherr  

[2] Klaus Voormann would later design the covers for both  Revolver and The White Album. He also would play on many of the Beatles solo album including John Lennon’s Imagine, Plastic Ono Band, Sometime in New York City, Walls, and Bridges, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Living in the Material World, Extra Texture and Ringo Starr’s Ringo, Sentimental Journey and Goodnight Vienna. He also was in Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band for the Toronto concert and played at the Concert for Bangladesh.

[3] The cover of John Lennon’s 1975 Rock and Roll album features a photograph by Jürgen Vollmer taken during one of the Beatles later trips to Germany. Vollmer nicely captures Lennon’s early rebel image. Wearing a leather jacket, hands in pocket and one foot casually over the other; a combination of early Brando and a young Dylan, framed in an entrance way of an old brick building somewhere in Hamburg. The three blurred figures passing by are Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stu Sutcliffe.

 

 

From Real to Reel: Real Life Photographers in the Movies – Linda McCartney

rectangle

This is my third in a series on real life photographers as portrayed in the movies. Here we take a look at Linda McCartney.

For a short period after high school, Linda Eastman attended the University of Arizona. However, she spent more time out in the Arizona countryside horseback riding, a passion since her youth, than in school. In 1962, her mother, Louise Eastman died in an airplane crash, and she came back to New York for a short period. The pressures of her mother’s death on her family sent her escaping back to Arizona. Upon her return, she soon became pregnant by her boyfriend, Melville See. They quickly married, and Heather was born. During this time, Eastman’s experience with photography was limited. While married to See, she took classes in photography at the Tucson Arts Center under the guidance of Hazel Archer. Her photographs at this point consisted mostly of her beloved horses as well as the Arizona landscape. The marriage didn’t last long. See, a geologist took a position that would send him to Africa. Linda declined to follow along. The marriage quickly dissolved. Linda and Heather went back east.

jones

Brian Jones – Photograph by Linda Eastman McCartney

Linda got an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She took a low-level job working as an editorial assistant for Town and Country magazine. She met David Dalton, a photographer, and writer, one day while both were waiting for the elevator in the same building where they both worked, though for different magazines. Dalton had a Pentax camera slung over his shoulder, and she began asking questions. They became friends and even dated. He taught her about lighting and other aspects of photography which she eagerly soaked in.

Among Linda’s functions at Town and Country were bill checking, calendar managing and opening the mail. On one occasion there came a press invitation for a reception aboard a yacht that would be cruising up the Hudson River. The guests of honor were the Rolling Stones. With the invite in one hand and a 35mm camera in the other, Linda, and her co-worker/best friend Christine Berlin were allowed on the yacht. [1]

Aboard the invitation-only yacht, Linda was both nervous and excited.  On deck, she photographed Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richard, et al. She hoped the photos would come out good enough to sell. They did. Eastman’s success was due to a couple of factors. She had a natural eye and sensitivity. Her pictures were different; they were informal portraits, unlike the regular press photographers who wanted more standard shots. For example, a photo of Brian Jones had him sitting there with his legs wide apart; this was never seen before. It helped that she had a talent for being sociable and was a bit of a flirt with the boys managing to get uncooperative rockers to pose and work with her. After the reception, Linda sold some of her photos to both Hullabaloo, where Dalton was now working, and Datebook teen magazines; this was her big break. Her career as a photographer began. Over the next few years, Linda would photograph rock and roll luminaries like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Morrison, the Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who and many others. In May of 1968, Linda became the first female photographer whose work, a photo of Eric Clapton, would grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Ever the black sheep of the Eastman family, her father Lee Eastman, never approved of her rebellious lifestyle or her photography career.

Eric Clapton – Photo by Linda  Eastman McCartney

During these days, Linda gained an unfair reputation for being a groupie. It’s a sexist term. After all, if guys had sex with many women, he’s a stud. And unlike most so-called groupies, Linda wasn’t a hanger-on, she had a job, and as a single working woman, she came into contact with famous and rich men who saw her as attractive and exciting as she found them. Why shouldn’t she spend a night with some of the men she came into contact with?

A photo assignment in 1967 brought her to London. One night while hanging out at The Bag o’ Nails, a well-known and popular club at the time, she met Paul McCartney. There was an immediate chemistry between the two even though Paul was still seeing Jane Asher at the time. Linda was invited to photograph The Beatles launch party of their groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. She photographed the event getting shots of all The Beatles for the first time.

Launch

Linda Eastman’s photo of The Beatles launch party for St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Paul and Linda would meet again in New York in May of 1968. Four months later he asked her to come to London and move in with him; they married on March 12th, 1969. Linda continued to photograph, but her devotion over the years the couple were together was split between family, photography, animal rights and vegetarianism. Family was number one.

From those early rock n’ roll photographs to the last years of The Beatles, Paul’s solo career, the raising of their kids, Linda’s camera was always there to capture the beauty and the spontaneity of their lives. Her work was fresh, self-effacing and warm. When she died at the age of 56, she left behind a visual rock n’ roll history of some of the most significant artists of our time.

One of her proudest moments in her photographic career happened in 1982 after a coffee table size book of her work called Photographs was published followed by an exhibit that traveled across Europe. The high point for Linda though happened when the great French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, then 88 years old, requested a print of Linda’s shot of a young Scottish boy running across a field. At the time, Lartigue did not know who the photographer was.

***

Despite the many films made about The Beatles, Backbeat, The Two of Us, Nowhere Boy, Birth of the Beatles to name a few, Linda McCartney was portrayed only in one film. Two years after her untimely death in 1998 at the age of 56, CBS came out with The Linda McCartney Story. Based on Danny Fields book, Linda McCartney: A Portrait, the film tries to have it all by attempting to appeal to Beatles fans, always hungry for another “inside look,” baby boomers, the tearjerker crowd, and the romantic audiences who love a good love story. The film has it all. But as it flashes back and forth between the early days where we see Linda’s beginnings as a photographer, her success, even before meeting Paul, then jumping ahead to her final years, and her fight against the cancer that took her life. You get the feeling none of the targeted audiences will be completely satisfied.

McCartney

Elizabeth Mitchell and Gary Blakewell as Linda and Paul

Elizabeth Mitchell was a particularly good choice to play Linda. She manages to make Linda come across as frank, aggressive as well as charming and endearing. The script lets her down toward the second half of the film as it focuses more on the breakup of The Beatles and her health issues effects on Paul with Linda fading into the background of her own life.

Paul is decently played by Gary Blakewell who previously portrayed him six years earlier in the 1994 film Backbeat. George Segal plays, Lee Eastman, Linda’s hard-ass father who before her marriage to Paul saw Linda’s photography career as nothing more than shooting a bunch of long-haired freaks. Tim Piper[2] plays John Lennon in one of the creepiest portrayals of the rocker ever who at one point burst into the McCartney home like a madman, screaming and ranting, finally breaking a framed drawing he did that he previously gave to Paul.

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The Linda McCartney Story

In the beginning, Beatles fans hated Linda. She wasn’t pretty enough for the cutest Beatle, she, along with Yoko, was accused of breaking up world’s most famous band. Then she had the nerve to go on stage and perform with Paul in his new band Wings. Hell, she couldn’t sing or play an instrument, yet there she was. She looked uncomfortable on stage, but Paul wanted her in the group, and what Paul wanted, he got.

Except for the week, Paul spent in a Japanese jail for pot possession; the couple never spent a night apart. Their love for each other and their family was real. Real enough for a wild rocker who slept with an infinite number of women to give it all up for a family and a farm in Scotland. McCartney, always the romantic in his work proved it works offstage too.

In the end, The Linda McCartney Story is mostly a tearjerker overshadowing the photography story, The Beatles, and the love story.  For me, it’s best to remember Linda McCartney as a talented photographer, an animal activist, and vegetarian who brought peace and love to her husband and family and not as a victim of a horrible decease.

Footnotes:

[1] Some Beatles and Paul McCartney biographies have stated that Linda was the only photographer on board the yacht. This was not only untrue, but ridiculous if you think about it. The reception was a press junket and to have had no photographers on board would have defeated the purpose.

[2] Tim Piper has made a career out of playing John Lennon. In 2002, a one night only tribute show called ‘Just Imagine’ premiered at the Stella Alder Theater. The critics liked it so much, the William Morris Agency took it on and put the show on tour across the United State and the world. It still tours to this day.

 

 

 

Sources:

Linda McCartney: A Portrait – Danny Fields,  2000, Renaissance Books

Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2010, Howard Sounes

 

 

Going to the Movies with John Lennon – Sorta Of…

john-lennon-yoko-ono_650It happened on September 30, 1976. Martin Ritt’s film, The Front, starring Woody Allen, opened that day at the Coronet theater in New York. I have been, and still am, a huge Woody Allen fan since his standup days when I first saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show.

coronet44At the time,  I was living and  working in New York. Being the Woody fan that I was, I took a half day off from work to go see The Front. The Coronet theater was located on Manhattan’s Eastside. The Coronet, its sister theater, the Baronet along with the Cinema I and Cinema II were high end  theaters. All the studios and distributors wanted their big films to be booked into these theaters.  Foreign films like Bergman’s Cries and Whispers and Antonioni’s Blow-Up to domestic works like The Exorcist and The Graduate had their premiere engagements at one of these fours theaters located on the Upper East Side. The four theaters filled the entire block, between 59th and 60th streets, except for  a Bookmasters store in between.

baronet-coronet-theatres_cr1The theater was fairly crowded for a weekday afternoon. In New York, Woody was always a big draw. After the film ended,  everyone began filing out. It was at this time, I suddenly noticed walking out right in front of me among the crowd were John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Growing up in the 60’s, and a Beatles fan, I pretty much stood there stunned. In truth, while I saw the both of them, it was Yoko who I first recognized. I had to take a second look at who was standing next to her. Of course,  it was Lennon.

They and everyone continued to slowly leave the theater.  A few folks said hello and he returned the acknowledge. Most people just looked and gawked, like I did. Some, I am sure didn’t even recognize them, though they are hard to miss. New Yorker’s can be a jaded bunch and seeing famous people in the street is not an uncommon experience. A few famous people though can even shake up the jaded New Yorker. Lennon was one of those.

 I purposely stayed a few steps behind them all the way out of the theater until we all were out in the street. For those who are unaware, that block of theaters were located directly across the street from Bloomingdales. That was John and Yoko’s next destination. They crossed over 3rd avenue and disappeared in the department store. I stood by the theater watching them, cursing to myself that I did not have my camera with me. This naturally was in the days long before cellphones.

I never saw The Beatles in concert, but over the years I did get to see Paul, George and Ringo separately in concerts. Never did with John, however, I did get to go to the movies with him. Sorta…