Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for The Beatles

Dr. Bob Prescribes: The Beatles 1

In Six, Short Years! Yesterday’s Music History monday post concluded by observing that in the six short years between 1964 and 1970, the Beatles amassed a total of 20 number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, a number that here, 53 years later, remains a record.   As a public service, here are the top 10 top ten performers with the most #1 hits: In addition to those songs that charted #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Beatles had an additional seven (further) number one songs on the UK Singles Record Retailer Chart, giving them a total of 27 number one songs on the combined US and UK charts.  When we consider that The Beatles, as a group, were together for not quite eight years – from August 18, 1962, to May 8, 1970, when the album Let it Be was released – that’s a level of popular and artistic success that’s just a bit insane.   What makes that 27 number one hits so difficult to fathom – something that separates the Beatles entirely from the competition – is that they were all originals, songs written by three members of the band: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, […]

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Music History Monday: Worst. Timing. Ever

On August 14, 1962 – 61 years ago today – the manager of the Beatles Brian Epstein made a phone call to the drummer Ringo Starr, inviting him to join the band.  As I suspect we are all aware, Starr said “yes.”   Two days later, on August 16, Epstein had the unenviable task of firing the band’s present drummer, Randolph Peter “Pete” Best (born Randolph Peter Scanland, 1941), who had been the Beatles’ drummer for almost exactly two years, since August 1960.  Best’s firing, effective on August 18, 1962, was, for Best, the worst timing ever.  17 days later, on September 4, 1962, a reconfigured Beatles with Ringo Starr as drummer recorded their first #1 hit and went from nobodies to superstars in the span of a few weeks. Pete Best (Born 1941) Peter Best was born on November 24, 1941, in Madras, which was then part of British India.  His father, a marine engineer named Donald Peter Scanland, died during World War Two.  Pete’s mother Mona went on to marry a British officer from Liverpool named Johnny Best, with whom she had a second son, this one named Rory.  In 1945, the Best family returned to Britain on […]

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Music History Monday: Why All the Hate?

We mark the wedding on March 20, 1969 – 54 years ago today – between the Liverpool-born Beatle John Lennon (1940-1980) and the Tokyo-born artist and musician Yoko Ono (born 1933).  Their wedding took place in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.  At the time of their marriage, Lennon was 28 years old, and Ono was 36. Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll as a Geriatric Phenomenon Given their seminal, world-wide cultural impact, the brevity of The Beatles’ tenure remains, for me, nothing short of mind-boggling. Let us consider.  The Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which cemented their world-wide fame, occurred on February 9, 1964.  The band’s final paid concert occurred on August 29, 1966, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, just thirty months later.  The Beatles’ final album to be recorded, Abbey Road, was released three years after that, on September 26, 1969.  (For our information, the album Let it Be, which had been recorded prior to Abbey Road, was released in May 1970.) The Beatles, then, was strictly a 1960s band.  The last time they were together as a quartet was on August 22, 1969, when they attended a photo […]

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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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