Author Mark Lewisohn, author of “Tune In,” which hits the streets next week in the U.S., discussed his book on a panel at the Paley Center in New York Oct. 25. Lewisohn appeared with filmmaker Albert Maysles (“What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.”) and the panel's moderator, fellow Beatles book author and New York Times reporter Allan Kozinn (“The Beatles: From Cavern to Rooftop”).
“The focus of the presentation,” Jennie Swenton, who attended, said, “was the influence of America on the Beatles and included Allan interviewing Mark and Albert as well as film clips of American rock n' roll stars who influenced the Beatles. There were also clips from the Maysles brothers film of “The First U.S.Visit” that show Beatles' reactions to America. This was followed by a Q&A session.”
“We arrived at the store pretty close to the 12:30 start time,” wrote Kris Tash. “The place is enormous, and we asked at least half a dozen store employees where the signing was taking place before one lady finally walked us to the spot, just inside the Third Ave entrance. Inside the entrance, there was a glass case with Ringo’s drum kit from the Shea concert, along with its packing case. It also contained the replica of George’s guitar from the 'Cloud 9' cover. Behind it, there was another case with a replica of one of John’s guitars.
“Mark’s display was set up on the first aisle inside this entrance, where he had a table set up for signing, and shelves of the book were adjacent to it. Behind him was a replica London phone box. Above him and to his right (if you were facing him) was a screen with a 1962 photo of the Fabs, which I believe is the final photo in the book, where they’re standing in front of the Liverpool warehouse.
“Mark’s wife was also there with him, greeting and speaking to the fans. We each took a book, and had to walk further down the aisle to pay for it, then bring it back for Mark to sign. It was a little difficult because he was right on the main aisle at the store entrance, so a lot of customer traffic back and forth. After he had signed for a bit, he presented a slide show of the photos in the book, with a detailed explanation and story about each of them, all of which are in the book.
“After the slide show, Mark continued to sign and speak to fans until about 2 p.m. We stayed taking photos, and speaking with our old friend, Beatles historian Joel Glazier, who’d come up from Delaware.
“The event at the Paley Center went on at 6:30 p.m. that evening. The topic for the discussion was how America influenced the Beatles. Mark and Allan Kozinn were on stage, and Allan led the discussion. Allan opened by saying that Mark was such a thorough researcher, he could even tell us when each of the Beatles had gotten their first TVs! (All were rentals. Paul’s family got a small nine-inch black and white in 1953 for the Queen’s coronation, and all the neighbors came in and watched! George’s family got theirs in 1956, Aunt Mimi in 1957 and Ringo’s family, not until 1961.)
“The discussion then followed with Mark, prompted by questions from Allan, about how big of an influence all things American were on John, Paul, George and Ringo from a very early age. Film clips were shown of Elvis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Eddie Cochran, and how John, Paul and George would study their movements, their songs on record, and how they held their fingers on their guitars. Mark also stated how John and Paul wanted to be the British Goffin and King!
Lewisohn said it’s a myth that they got records from the sailors coming off the ships. They actually did all of their listening in record shops, with John, Paul and George squeezing together into the little listening booths to listen to, and dissect any of the American records they could find. They would look at the labels, and recognize the names of the songwriters like Goffin and King. (A few of them they “nicked!”)
He said that on their first trip to America, the Beatles found our TV commercials to be very funny and “in your face.” There were no commercials on most of BBC, and they couldn’t get over, for example, a newscasters saying, for example, “things are very bad in China,” and then segueing into “…and for your smoking pleasure, try such and such a cigarette!” That was an influence on them in not tying their name to any brand or product.
Another story he told was that the last photo in the book, which is of the four of them in 1962 just after Ringo joined. “It was taken on a desolate street in Liverpool in front of these big warehouses and Mark said, it was ironic and something he is sure John never knew, (is that) they were standing on the street where John's family lived when they arrived from Ireland around 1830!
He also said he researched through microfiche records to prove that when the Beatles performed “Please Mr Postman” on BBC, it was the first time a Tamla Motown song was performed on the BBC. And he said when they were to perform “Some Other Guy” for Granada TV, both Paul and John wanted to sing the lead, and then both decided to do it together. Apparently on the original, the singer whistles through his teeth in the beginning, but neither of them were able to replicate that, and were envious of Cliff Bennett’s ability to do so!
“Mark said that he felt that as a British citizen and author, he was much better able to present or filter how they saw or viewed things and were very surprised by many of the things they saw and learned in America, as opposed to American authors that have written books about them,” Kris Tash said. “I thought that was a very valid and interesting statement. Since he grew up at about the same time as they did, and had similar experiences growing up, he could see and understand things from their point of view.
About 45 minutes in, Albert Mayles joined Mark and Allan on stage, and clips from 'What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA' were shown and discussed.
“At the end, there was time only for about five or six questions. The most memorable to me was what Mark thought about Paul’s track 'Early Days.' (on Paul's “NEW” album). Mark said he thought Paul was 'having a go at me' and all the other authors of Beatles books who’ve put out their own version of events and 'tampered' with his memories. But he was very emphatic that their story must be told in an honest and very factual way, and that he didn’t want Paul and Ringo to authorize his book, and therefore, have a say in what could or could not be said.
“The last question was, why was Pete Best really booted out of the band, and Mark said, while Pete has said he doesn’t know, he really does know, and the rest of us can find out the story in the book!
“After the Q&A session, Mark then did a book signing up in the main lobby of the Paley Center. It was truly an amazing and memorable day!
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