Chapter 1: Beatlemaniacs Addiction Recovery Group
OK, let’s start with an introduction and tell you what this blog is going to be about. My name is Woody Lifton and I’m a Beatlemaniac. Wheeeew, glad to get that off my chest. I’ve been this way for over 44 years now and there does not seem to be anything that can cure this addiction (not that I would want to do anything about it).
Like millions of other Americans, it started for me on February 9th 1964 when the Beatles made their 1st U.S. appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Some 73 million of us watched that show (it still ranks as one of the most watched TV shows in American TV history) and fell in love with those 4 boys from Liverpool. This addiction has taken me on a different path than most fans. Sure I collected the Beatles records (cost thousands of dollars I could have used for more important things, like most addicts- still have a very valuable collection), magazines, books, movies, CDs, concerts, CDs filled with alternate studio takes or mixes, interviews, press conferences, video tapes, movies and DVDs…you name it and if it was a Beatle thingy I collected it. It overtook my home (I’ve run out of space to display all this stuff), my spare time (listening to radio shows, watching their movies, listening to their records and all the rare music I had), my thoughts (I was always looking for my next fix of Beatles stuff). Finally I had to find a way to get it out of my head. So I put together the best Beatles radio show ever created.
That’s what this blog will be about: Pop Go the Beatles, my radio show. Sometimes you’ve just got to learn to turn lemons into lemonade. Anyway, back to the show: it’s a show that explores the creation of the Beatles music and the stories behind the making of the music and records. The reason I say it’s the best Beatles radio show ever (later on you’ll see that I’m not the only one that thinks so) is that I took all that rare musical stuff I told you that I bought during my addiction and used it in the show. As a matter of fact, I never had to play an album track to explore the creation of the Beatles music. I used all those alternate studio takes and mixes, the live in-concert and BBC radio performances plus the mostly unheard interviews and press conferences to create the show. This completely set my show apart from the hundreds of other Beatles shows created through out the years. Here an excerpt from a review of the show that appeared in Ear Candy Magazine last summer:
“Not only was there LOTS of stuff I hadn’t heard before (both the versions of the songs and the interviews played), but it was factually correct, with meticulous attention paid to each detail. As I listened to more and more episodes, I became aware of what a stupendous project Pop Go the Beatles is. Although there have been great Beatles radio series in the past, I can honestly say that Pop Go the Beatles is THE BEST Beatles radio series I have ever heard- especially from a Beatles fans perspective and what they would expect from a Beatles show.”
Pretty heady stuff, huh? Now you have to understand I’m not a radio DJ, or even a musician, I’m just a regular Beatles fan with an appetite for anything having to do with the Beatles and their music. So, the story of how this show was put together, broadcast and and then basically BANNED FROM US AIRWAYS and is currently being revived by the internet is pretty interesting.
So let’s start with the inspiration for the show: I had always been a big fan of Beatles radio shows like Scott Muni’s “Ticket To Ride” in NY and Joe Johnson’s “Beatlebrunch” orignally here in South Florida, they had both become appointment radio for me. I had a little bit of radio experience, I had my own show in college and had been a guest programmer on Jim Kerr’s “Saturday Morning Beatle Hour”. I also bought time on a local radio station and did a weekly one hour show for my business on insurance. So as I would listen to these shows I was constantly working on ways to make them better. “If they played the verison of “I’m Looking Through You” that I had as an alternate take, in that spot, instead of the LP cut, it would be much more interesting”. I was basically reprogramming these shows, albeit in my head, as I was listening. That is where the idea 1st started to grow. Finally, after listening to “Beatlebrunch” one Sunday morning and hearing that the show was going to be nationally syndicated, I decided OK, if you think you can do a better job than it’s time to shut up and do it. Besides, if I could get my own show syndicated I might make a few dollars or maybe get to interview some famous people (like Paul McCartney or George Martin or Ringo…well you get the idea).
I started stacking all the different media formats with Beatles stuff on it (albums, 45s, CDS, video tapes, cassettes, movies & DVDs) together because they would all have to be transferred to my home compter and organized. I had just hooked up my stereo to my computer in order to transfer my albums to CDs and found that since my DVD combo VCR was also hooked into the stereo I could transfer the sound off anything to the computer. This process took almost 2 years, which was a good thing because I had no way to get the show on the air at that time. As luck would have it during this time frame my business decided to try a radio show as a way to advertise itself. As the marketing person and someone with radio experience I got to host the show. It was at the station that I would meet the person who would give me the final kick in the pants to take the risk and go ahead with the show. What risk you say? Well, in order to get the show syndicated I guessed that I would need to air twenty shows. At $500 per two hour show that was over $10,000 not including more the money needed for music and books for research and my own time.
Well, there’s a storm kicking up here, happens almost every afternoon here is South Florida, so before the power goes out I’m going to publish this and turn off the computer. I’ll pick up the story later…I promise…don’t worry you won’t miss a single thrilling detail.
Back soon- Woody
Chapter 2: Beatlemaniacs Recovery Group
I’m a little shaky today, it’s hard to recover from an addiction when stuff happens. This time Beatlology Magazine reviewed the show and Good Gollie Miss Mollie, they really liked it too. Here is an excerpt from their review:
Review in the May/June, 2008 Edition
“I’ve wanted to feature this amazing collection, in our review section, for about a year, now. A single column review cannot truly do justice to Pop Go the Beatles- a very impressive set.”
“Not only do you get a history of the Beatles, listeners are treated to scores of rare alternate and live tracks. For the most part, Mr. Lifton has used the best sources for his material,…”
“As someone who regularly collects Beatles interviews, conversations and comments, I am most impressed with the superb sound quality of those presented here. WOW!”
It’s pretty cool to see my show reviewed in a magazine that I subscribe to and respect. OK, back to the story of the show. Now I had most of the music (alternate studio takes and mixes plus live in-concert and BBC radio performances), interviews, press conferences, commercials (the shows are commercial free but I was able to find clips of the boys doing radio commercials) organized in my computer. Next was a host, a radio station, sponsors, a producer and 20 shows to be written. I was doing a radio show for my insurance business during this time. My producer told me that of all the brokered shows (this station sold time to many different Insurance and Mortgage brokers, Health food stores…etc) on this station mine was the most interesting and entertaining and that if i could make insurance this much fun that the Beatles show would be great. Well, after such excellent sucking up he had to the producer for the show. At this time I met the station’s top DJ, Joyce Kaufman. We had alot in common, we were both from NY , the same age and crazy about the Beatles and the NBA. We went to a few Heat games together, talked alot about the Beatles and their music. After playing a lot of the alternate takes for her I told her about my idea for the show and she though it was a great idea. Then I dropped the bomb, did she want to be the host? When she said yes (under the condition that all she had to do was her vocal portion…I would do everything else) it spurred me into action. I spoke with my representative at the station and negotiated a price for a 2-hour time slot (we were paying $600 for one weekday hour for my business). I got him to sell me 2-hour slot on the weekend for $500 and I signed on for 20 weeks (OMG…i had just committed myself to spending $10,000 out of my own pocket!). So, I had a place to air the show, I had a nationally known host and a producer, but I had not written a single word and I was going to need 20 2-hour scripts. Talk about pressure.
So, now I was ready to create the all-time best Beatles radio show. I started by outlining all the different ideas I had for shows. I hadn’t written anything but shows for my business for over 20 years. My business shows were easy, pick a topic, write an outline, including all the issues I needed to cover, gather the research material and then just let it flow. This was very different.
There was music to interject (the focus of the whole show) and research to do on each song, interviews to edit and splice, and 20 coherent scripts to write. I would need to script almost every word for these shows and make it interesting and fun.
I had been working on the first show (in my head) for quite a while. It would be based on one of the Beatles biggest achievements, during the first week in April, 1964 the boys held the Top 5 positions on Billboard’s chart simultaneously. They were
- 5. Please, Please Me: Veejay Records
- 4. I Want to Hold Your Hand: Capitol Records
- 3. She Loves You: Swan
- 2. Twist & Shout: Tollie Records
- 1. Can’t Buy Me Love: Capitol
I had great live or alternate studio takes for all of these songs, Please, Please Me from the Beatles first US Concert 2/22/64 in Washington D.C., I Want To Hold Your Hand from the Ed Sullivan Show, She Loves You from the Beatles 1/30/64 show in Paris Twist & Shout from the same show and 2 alternate studio takes of Can’t Buy Me Love (one with Paul flubbing a few lines and both with background vocals that when removed for the final cut made Can’t Buy Me Love the first Beatles song with just one singer, Paul).
But this was just 5 songs and I wanted to create a 60’s type of atmosphere for my debut hour. So I pulled a few interviews from the Beatles first US visit and inserted Joyce and myself as the interviewers and added another alternate studio take for This Boy, on the US charts that week as well.
The boys had a total of 14 songs on the chart that week, another achievement that will never be topped. We added a few 60’s type commercials and Joyce and I studied the way the DJs talked back then and created an atmosphere in the studio using posters, records and music to get us in the right frame of mind. And we did it.
The show was fun, nostalgic and like nothing that has ever been heard on the radio before. Plus not one LP cut anywhere. Of course, in all the excitement I almost forgot that this was a 2-hour show.
I then created a fantasy 1964 Beatles concert. We would play all 18 songs that the Beatles played live in 1964. Now to find cuts that were of high enough quality to play on the air, that was a challenge. Remember, in 1964, Beatles concerts consisted of mostly ear shattering screaming and occasional music.
Luckily I had found a super high quality copy of the Beatles concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 1964 (Capitol was thinking that they would release a live concert LP of the Beatles for Christmas and recorded the show. They deemed it not good enough to release but it was by far the highest quality live concert recording of the boys I had ever heard). I also had a copy of the Beatles 1/30/64 show in Paris which was very high quality due to the fact that the audience was about 75% boys instead of the normal 75% screaming at the top of their lungs girls.
I mixed some cuts from Australia , Washington DC and Philadelphia and it turned out to be one great fantasy concert. And a phenomenal way to kick off my first Pop Go The Beatles Show
Back soon with more stories from a Beatlemaniac.