Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Beatlemania is Back. Beatlemania Never Left.

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

“It was 20 years ago today..” Actually, more like 50 years plus a couple of days.  February 9, 1964. The Beatles took to the Ed Sullivan stage, and music history was made.  Getting on the Ed Sullivan show was surreal in itself; the whole deal was sealed with a handshake between Ed Suillivan and Brian Epstein (The Beatles manager) that guaranteed three performances, top billing and a monetary compensation of $10,000. Hard to image a current artist agreeing to that contract.  So, the question to ask is just how big were the 1964 Beatles and could they hold a candle to the stars of today?

Let’s look at the numbers: By the early 1960’s, Beatlemania had already spread through Europe with the release of The Beatles first album, Please Please Me.  However, it was only with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that they scored an American number one hit.  With a promotion budget of $40,000, the single sold 250,000 copies in the first 3 days; in New York City alone, 10,000 copies were sold every hour. That’s without Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and iTunes.

Compare that to Justin Timberlake’s (JT) long awaited musical comeback.  After a 6 year hiatus, “Suit & Tie” was the first single off his album, 20/20 Experience. The song debuted at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 based on two days of airplay and was number four on the Billboard Hot 100 with 315,000 first-week downloads sold.  That’s 45,000 singles/day versus the Beatles’ 83,000/day.

And what about TV ratings?  The Beatles scored a record-setting 45.3, meaning that 45.3% of households with televisions were watching. That figure reflected an audience of 73 million viewers, all on one night. Within two months of the performance, the Beatles had the top five songs on the American charts, and 63 percent of records released in America were Beatles records. And what about JT?   If you do a search for the official “Suit & Tie” video on YouTube, it received just under 63 million views (and that’s almost a year after it was released).

Leiber and Stoller Wrote America’s Songbook

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

 

Jerry Leiber, far right, and Mike Stoller, left, with Elvis Presley

The recent death of Jerry Leiber at age 78, the lyricist who, with partner, Mike Stoller, wrote some of the most memorable classics in the history of rock ’n’ roll, including “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me” and “On Broadway” marks a time to think about the duo’s enduring impact on American music since the 1950s.  Their contributions to music during past decades reads like the nation’s playlist of the 1950s and 1960s in particular.

Leiber and Stoller teamed up in 1950, when Leiber, a talented lyricist joined forces with Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic.  Leiber contributed catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Stoller, a pianist, composed infectious, bluesy tunes.  They wrote songs with black singers and groups.  In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton.  The song became a huge hit when Elvis Presley recorded it in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the most sought-after songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll.  They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their distaste for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

“Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have written some of the most spirited and enduring rock ’n’ roll songs,” according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  “Leiber and Stoller advanced rock ’n’ roll to new heights of wit and musical sophistication.”

“He was my friend, my buddy, my writing partner for 61 years,” Stoller said. “We met when we were 17 years old. He had a way with words.  There was nobody better.  I am going to miss him.”

According to the Los Angeles Times’ “Pop and Hiss” Music blog, “It would be easy to fill an ode to lyricist Jerry Leiber, entirely with stories culled from his and longtime writing partner Mike Stoller’s songs.  The volume of American classics that the team created over the years is astounding, but more impressive is the inventiveness, vision and laugh-out-loud love of language of the team’s best work, as anyone who’s ever sung along to the words ‘You’re going to need an ocean of calamine lotion’ understands.  There are few means of better capturing pop culture at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll than examining the lyrics of Jerry Leiber.  The best of his story-songs captured life with a poet’s eye for detail and a short fiction writer’s precision — and suggested a generational shift without clumsily calling for social upheaval, but by questioning authority and advancing social mores one seemingly innocuous line and internal rhyme at a time.  Among the high points: A slice-of-life moment about the heartless snubbing of three cool cats by three cool chicks that inspired the Beatles on their first 1962 demo; ‘Smokey Joe’s Café,’ a classic tale of geeky cowardice that became the namesake of a hit Broadway musical.”

“When they wrote ‘Hound Dog’ for Big Mama Thornton, they had to have their contract co-signed by their parents,” according to their publicist, Bobbi Marcus.  The song’s inspiration came when Leiber started beating a rhythm on the roof of Stoller’s 1937 Plymouth with one hand and tapped on the dashboard with the other.  “I kinda liked the beat and it felt good,” Leiber said.  “I started yelling, ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog!’ Stoller said,  ‘I like that.'”  Leiber and Stoller worked quickly when the spirit moved.  In just one day, they wrote four songs that ended up on the soundtrack to the 1957 Presley movie “Jailhouse Rock” — the title track, its B-side single “Treat Me Nice,” “I Want to be Free” and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.”

Despite Elvis’ resounding success with “Hound Dog,” Leiber was unhappy with changes to the lyrics.  “I didn’t like the way he did.  The song isn’t about a dog, it’s about a man, a freeloading gigolo.  Elvis just played with the song; Big Mama nailed it.”  Leiber later admitted that sales of seven million records “took the sting out of” the lyric changes.

Writing in the Rolling Stone, Andy Greene says that “Leiber was extremely irritated by the changes that Presley made to the original lyrics.  ‘To this day I have no idea what that rabbit business is about,’ he said.  Despite their success with Presley, most of the acts that Leiber and Stoller worked with were black. ‘I felt black,’ Leiber said in 1990.  ‘I was as far as I was concerned.  And I wanted to be black for lots of reasons.  They were better musicians, they were better athletes, they were not uptight about sex, and they knew how to enjoy life better than most people.’”

Leiber and Stoller wrote about their lifelong partnership, which Leiber termed “the longest running argument in show business,” in their 2009 memoir, Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography.  The duo’s writing skills and influence over the recording industry as ground-breaking independent producers earned them induction into the non-performer category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  “The music world lost today one of its greatest poet laureates,” said Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “Jerry not only wrote the words that everyone was singing, he led the way in how we verbalized our feelings about the societal changes we were living with in post-World War II life.  Appropriately, his vehicles of choice were the emerging populist musical genres of rhythm and blues and then rock and roll.”

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that Leiber and Stoller shaped the music of the 1950s and ‘60s.  “Together, they were an extraordinary team that generated a rich and diverse musical catalog that leaves an indelible imprint on our cultural history,” he said.

Steve Jobs Exits Apple

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The abrupt departure of Steve Jobs from Apple marks the end of an era, although his leaving is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the company’s product line, according to analysts.  Jobs, 56, submitted his resignation to the Cupertino, CA-based Apple board of directors and asked that they name chief operating officer Tim Cook as his successor.  In announcing his resignation, Jobs said he wanted to stay on as chairman and an Apple employee.  “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said.  “Unfortunately, that day has come.  I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.  And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”  Jobs has been on medical leave from the company since early this year. 

Jobs, who has been treated for pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant, rocked Silicon Valley with his decision.  Recently, Hewlett-Packard said it was exploring options to sell or spin off its multi-billion-dollar PC division just as the PC industry was celebrating its 30th anniversary.  Jobs played a key role in creating that industry.  “Hewlett-Packard has given up because of what Apple has done,” said Jay Elliot, a former Apple senior vice president who worked closely with Jobs from 1980 to 1985.  “The reality is this guy was so committed to making the best products in the world.”  Perhaps no tech figure in recent history carries as much power as or has made a greater imprint on his company than Jobs.  Since returning to Apple 14 years ago, he almost single-handedly has resurrected the company from near-extinction to a company worth more than $330 billion. 

Apple is expected to unveil its iPhone 5 over the next few months and a new version of its popular iPad 2 tablet. Nevertheless, a smooth transition is likely.  Cook, 50, has earned praise for his steady leadership at Apple, acting as temporary CEO, while Jobs was on medical leave.  Apple is also renowned for its impressive group of engineers, marketers and other executives.

“The next wave of Apple products are well into the product-development cycle,” said Charles Golvin, analyst at Forrester Research.  “The next iPhone is certainly done.  The next iPad is certainly along the way.” 

Writing in Computerworld, Jason Snell says that “The greatest fallacy in the story of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO, the one you’ll find in endless media reports, is this: In 1985 after Steve Jobs left Apple, the company went on a downhill slide that led it to the brink of bankruptcy.  Therefore, the Apple of 2011 is at risk of doing the same.  But the flaw in the History Repeats Itself storyline being promoted in some corners as Jobs steps down as CEO is that the Apple of today is nothing like the Apple of 1985.  By 1997, Jobs ran Apple with absolute power, the kind of power he had never had during his first go-round at Apple.  Jobs was a co-founder, yes, and his time working with the original Macintosh team is the stuff of legend. But the Apple of 1985 wasn’t Steve Jobs’ company, not hardly.  When he took the interim CEO job more than a decade later, Jobs didn’t make that mistake again.  Older and wiser, and with the complete support of Apples board of directors, Jobs remade the company to his specifications.

“The iMac was a first quick sign of the turnaround.  The original iPod and the decision to open retail stores began the real momentum.  The release of the iPhone and the iPad marked Apple’s ascendance to what it is today:  The most important technology company in the world.  The Apple of today is hugely profitable, with tens of billions of cash, a 90 percent share of the tablet market, a rapidly growing smart phone business around the world, and the only truly profitable personal-computer franchise left.  This is where Steve Jobs leaves Apple as CEO: on top, with momentum to carry it further up.” 

“The Macintosh turned out so well,” once told the New York Times, “because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists.”  The people who bought the first Apple Mac computers tended to be architects, designers and journalists.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who created the Apple Macintosh computers in the 1970s, came up with a line of products that – though initially clunky –appealed to buyers, and continue to excite those engaged in design and the media; those who were optimally placed to sow the Apple seed. 

Bob Boilen of NPR’s “All Songs Considered, offers this perspective. “I find the news of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO particularly sad.  In some ways, I feel something like I felt when The Beatles broke up.  Sure, I’d always have the band’s music, but damn, what a special time.  What special chemistry.  It will never be the same.  We listen to music in the 21st century in a profoundly different way than we did in the 20th century.  And, though Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, the vision of Steve Jobs (a music geek himself) and his company of designers and engineers changed our listening landscape dramatically in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.  Some of those ways are wonderful: Portability of huge libraries, shuffling, quick access to millions of songs, and custom playlists are a few of the upsides.  For some, shuffling may be a bittersweet downside, like compressed sound files or isolated listening, but I think the good far outweighs the bad.  Of course, Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but they sure made it work.  The creation of iTunes in January 2001, and later that year the release of the iPod, made organizing music, making playlists, and happy random accidents a listening joy.”