Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for The Beatles

Music History Monday: Abbey Road, and This and That

August 8 is a great day, a signal day, an epic day for both good and bad reasons in the history of popular, rock, and jazz music.  We’d observe a few of today’s date-related events before moving on to our featured story. First, with heads respectfully bowed, we would note some of those who have passed away on this date.  On August 8, 1940 – 82 years ago today – the jazz clarinetist and alto saxophonist Johnny Dodds died of a heart attack in Chicago, all-too-young at the age of 48.  I have known Dodds’ wonderful, blues-inspired playing since I was a teenager, because that’s when I fell under the spell of two of the greatest jazz ensembles of all time: Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven, groups in which Dodds played and recorded. I wrote about Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven in Dr. Bob Prescribes on July 7, 2020. On this date in 1975 – 47 years ago today – the jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley also died all-too-young at the age of 46 in Gary Indiana, from a stroke.  Talk about being a member of an all-time great band and making all-time […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes The Beatles

The Beatles made their first studio recordings – with George Martin at the helm as their producer – on September 4, 1962, at London’s Abbey Road studios. Out of the six songs they rehearsed and recorded, Martin chose two for their first 45-rpm “single”: an original, Love Me Do, and How Do You Do It, by Mitch Murray, which Martin intended to put on side “A” of the single. In those days, British record producers chose the material for their bands, and George Martin was convinced that How Do You Do It was going to be a hit. As for the other song on the single, writes the Beatles biographer Bob Spitz: “Love Me Do was a concession to the band, who practically begged Martin to consider their own material.” (At this point in time, George Martin and the Parlophone label he managed considered the Beatles to be performers, and certainly not songwriters. Martin later claimed that at this early date, he hadn’t heard: “Any evidence of what was to come in the way of songwriting.”) The Beatles collectively hated Mitch Murray’s How Do You Do It, and in the end, to his great credit, Martin relented. That first single […]

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Music History Monday: The Fifth Beatle

We mark the birth on January 3, 1926 – 96 years ago today – of the English record producer, arranger, conductor, composer, audio engineer, and musician Sir George Martin, the putative “Fifth Beatle.”  Martin produced 13 albums and 22 singles for the Beatles between 1962 and 1970.  All told, it’s a body of work that adds up to less than 10 hours of music.   But here’s a case where numbers do not tell the story, because thanks to George Martin, those 9 hours-plus of recorded music revolutionized the world of popular music. Today’s post will observe just how George Martin became the Beatles’ record producer.  Tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post will explore the impact Martin had on the Beatles’ recordings and what is, in my humble opinion, his masterwork: the Love album of 2006. But first: a dinner conversation that I believe you will find most interesting.  What Makes a Song “Last”? My neighbor across the street is a big, smart, outspoken man named John McGleenan. I love John.   He came to the United States from Dublin, Ireland, in 1992 at the age of 24, here to make his fame and fortune.  He has done both.  He founded […]

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Music History Monday: A Rockin’ Day

What July 4th is for Americans; what Bastille Day on July 14th is for the French; what St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th is for the Irish, and what the Black-Necked Crane Festival on November 11th is for the Bhutanese, so January 4th is for fans of rock ‘n’ roll: a day when so much stuff happened as to enshrine it as a major, rock ‘n’ roll holiday! What, pray tell, happened on this day? Thank you for asking. Elvis Presley and Sam Philips It was on January 4, 1954 – 67 years ago today – that Elvis Presley, four days short of his 20th birthday (on January 8), came to the attention of the record producer and founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips (1923-2003). It was the singular event that vaulted Elvis to stardom. Here’s what happened. On this day in 1954, Elvis made his second visit to the studios of the Memphis Recording Studio, which shared an office with Sun Records. On his first visit – six months before, on July 18, 1953 – Presley had recorded two songs (at his expense) on a two-sided, 10-inch acetate disc, claiming that the recording was a “gift for his mother.” […]

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Music History Monday: Whoa

When it comes to a date-oriented blog like this one, there are days and then there are days.  Over the two-plus years since I began this post, I have found that most days offer up one or two major (or semi-major) events in music history. These are the good days, the easy days to write about. Some days are harder as events of any note are few and far between. There are days – more frequent than you might think – during which virtually nothing of interest occurred; when that happens I’ve either juked forward or back by a day or just taken the opportunity to bloviate.  Finally, every now and then, there is a day so filled with notable musical anniversaries that the mind reels and the bladder weakens at the thought of choosing just one, two, or even three events to write about. For reasons coincidental, astrological, or just whatever, October 1 is just such a day in music history: the wealth of events – major and minor – that occurred on this date is crazy. I cannot and will not choose; let’s just wallow, in chronological order. On October 1, 1708 – 310 years ago today – […]

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Music History Monday: Still Number One in Our Hearts

I was just two years old – and therefore too young to notice or remember – when Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956. More that sixty million people tuned in to watch, a number that dazzles to this day. (In fact, they saw neither Elvis nor Ed Sullivan in Sullivan’s New York Studio. Presley was filming his first movie in Hollywood, so he performed from a local CBS studio. Ed Sullivan was on medical leave, recovering from a head-on collision suffered a few weeks earlier. It was the Oscar-winning English actor and director Charles Laughton who subbed for Ed Sullivan that evening. He introduced Elvis by saying, “Away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley.” The scene shifted to Elvis, wearing an absurd plaid jacket that made him look like a used car salesman. After acknowledging that being on the Sullivan show was “probably the greatest honor I have ever had in my life,” he began his mini-set with a performance of “Don’t Be Cruel”.)  So I missed out on Elvis’ spectacular national premiere. But I was old enough to watch and remember the next epochal event to occur on the Ed […]

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