The Beatles are the focal point of a new documentary, "Beatles Stories,"… (Universal )
Lovers of Beatles music and lore have a treat in store at tonight’s screening in Hollywood of singer-songwriter Seth Swirsky’s endearing new documentary “Beatles Stories,” in which he interviewed dozens of people about their interactions with the Fab Four.
The interviewees run from pop and rock stars (Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Graham Nash, Donovan, the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward, Davy Jones of the Monkees, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Jackie DeShannon) to friends, associates and rank-and-file fans who had chance encounters with one or more of the group’s members.
Swirsky, a Beatles-influenced musician whose 2010 album “Watercolor Day” drew a fair amount of critical acclaim for himself, decided several years ago to record stories about the Beatles by as many people as he could round up, including many of his own musical heroes.
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The 85-minute film will be shown at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre and is subtitled “A Fab Four Fan’s Ultimate Road Trip.” A few stand-out moments:
Nash talks about getting a phone call from Paul McCartney early one morning in 1967 to come down to an EMI studio. He arrives to find Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton and a slew of other rock luminaries there as the Beatles were getting ready for the first global television broadcasts with their now-celebrated performance of “All You Need Is Love.” “I still get a real warm feeling about that day,” Nash tells Swirsky.
The Beatles recorded Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ hit “You Really Got a Hold on Me” on their album, “With The Beatles,” as well as several other Motown songs they’d loved. Robinson cites the Beatles as “The first white act of any stature that said … ‘We grew up listening to black music.’ No white act had ever said that before….What greater endorsement can you get?”
DeShannon remembers riding on the Beatles' plane during their first U.S. tour in 1964. As one of the supporting acts, she rode in the rear while the Beatles stayed up front. But at one point, George Harrison came back and asked her to show him the guitar riff on her song “When You Walk in the Room,” which became a hit for the Searchers. She also remembers passing time between shows at hotels playing Monopoly with Harrison.
Noone recalls being 15 and tagging along with John Lennon to a club one night. He said the scene in swinging London was “smaller than a lot of people imagine it was. I got into a lift [elevator] with John to go up to the club. That’s how small it was. Me and John Lennon in a lift together. And Dobie Gray’s ‘The In Crowd’ was playing in the lift. I thought, ‘This is like a movie.’ ”
Jack Oliver, who was president of Apple Records from 1969-1971, recalls phone calls suddenly flooding in one day, “mostly girls sobbing” because a rumor had erupted “like wildfire” in the States that McCartney was dead. “Somebody had played a record backward and it said, ‘Paul is dead.’ " (Actually, the fabled phrase in the notorious backward-tracking episode was "Paul is a dead man; miss him miss him." Oliver says he called McCartney, woke up him and got a none-too-polite retort that he wasn’t dead and wanted to be left alone.
Jimmy Pou of Beatles tribute band 1964 had the surreal experience of playing a show in England and finding that waiting in line outside the theater to buy tickets was George Martin, the Beatles' longtime producer. After the show, Martin came backstage with two young daughters who asked for the faux Fabs' autographs. “We were embarrassed -- what do George Martin’s daughters want with our autographs? We’re just pretending to be the Beatles.”
Wilson recalls being given a private performance by McCartney of “She’s Leaving Home” before it was recorded for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and relates that hearing “Rubber Soul” the first time inspired him to start writing material that would become the Beach Boys’ landmark “Pet Sounds” album.
Other interviewees include Art Garfunkel, the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, the Bangles’ Susannah Hoffs, Rod Davis of the Quarrymen (Lennon and McCartney’s first band), actors Ben Kingsley, Jon Voight, Henry Winkler and Victor Spinetti, President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson, who was 16 when the Beatles arrived in the U.S. on the heels of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Tonight’s 7:30 screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Swirsky to be conducted by Chris Carter, host of the long-running “Breakfast With the Beatles” show on KLOS-FM (95.5). “Beatles Stories” is also out on DVD today, and it includes bonus features and additional interviews.
[For the Record, 12:10 p.m. Oct. 3: This post previously included a photograph distributed by the AFP news agency that had been altered to remove a cigarette from Paul McCartney's hand. The photograph has been replaced with an unaltered image from Universal.]
Here's the official trailer:
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