The Beatles 50th anniversary - Review
2/9/2014 11:58:00 PM
When it comes to Classic Rock events, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Beatles 50th anniversary of their arrival in America and that’s what WMGK commemorated this weekend. No other radio station in Philadelphia gave this band the props they deserve – we dropped everything (and everyone) and played nothing but the Beatles all weekend long. “The Beatles Essential A to Z” was the theme, and boy, did it sound good.
I fell in love with the Beatles all over again listening to their music this way. And then to top it off, CBS-TV aired a knock-out/home run/A+ program tonight, exactly 50 years after their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
“The Beatles: The Night That Changed America – A Grammy Salute” included footage from the Sullivan show interspersed with live performances by various artists doing Beatles songs, and a walk onto the Sullivan stage with David Letterman, who broadcasts from that studio every weeknight, talking to Ringo and Paul about their memories of that night 50 years ago.
LL Cool J, who hosted the Grammys the past two years, (and this was a Grammys production), introduced the show but we didn’t see him many more times after that. The first band on stage was Maroon 5 who dressed like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with black suits and ties and white shirts. They kicked the show off with "All My Loving" and "Ticket to Ride," a perfect way to begin the show.
The house band put together by producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, etc) included: Steve Lukather on guitar best known for his work with Toto, Kenny Aronoff, a very in-demand drummer who has played with Bob Seger and John Mellencamp among others, and Peter Frampton on guitar sporting his short hair. Don Was also played bass in addition to putting the houseband together and working out all of their parts to accompany the A-list artists who interpreted the Beatles' songs.
"I worked very hard to get the bass parts right, and to learn them properly, said Don Was in an interview with Brian Ives of Radio.com "Even to the point of going back to the original multi-track tapes and isolating his bass parts. Some of them, like the bass parts to 'Something' - that's like Mozart. Paul McCartney is a genius bass player." To read more about the making of this special, see Brian's article.
Stevie Wonder played “We Can Work it Out,” Keith Urban and John Mayer traded off on guitar licks on “ Don’t Let Me Down,” Katy Perry sang a beautiful rendition of “Yesterday,” Dave Grohl led a rocked out version of “Hey Bulldog.”
Annie Lenox and Dave Stewart reunited as Eurhythmics for “Fool on the Hill’ that was a real show stopper complete with three violinists.
John Legend and Alicia Keys did “Let it Be” by introducing it: “this masterpiece we’re about to play was written by Paul.” All of the performers clearly gave it their all and showed great respect for the material.
Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich said the tribute event was more than a decade in the making and was produced at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
There were many glimpses of the audience throughout as well, and there in the front row next to Paul and Ringo were their wives, Joe Walsh and his wife (sister of Barbara Bach, Ringo’s wife) and on the other side of Paul McCartney’s wife was Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, two of the only actors present who stayed in the audience seats.
Also in the front row was Yoko Ono wearing black and her signature sunglasses, sitting with Sean Lennon who donned black framed glasses and very long hair. Olivia Harrison, George’s wife, looked very happy and engaged. Her only child with George, Dhani, who looks remarkably like his father, was on stage playing guitar for a nice version of his father's “Something“ with Joe Walsh and Jeff Lynne (ELO).
Many people wondered why Julian Lennon wasn't there. When I filled in for Ray Koob Friday night during the A to Z, I mentioned that Julian had opted out of participating in any of the musical tributes to his father’s band. Instead he paid his respects by curating a photography exhibit from the Beatles’ career. It is showing at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York and Los Angeles.
Guitarists Gary Clark Jr, and Joe Walsh along with Dave Grohl on drums really rocked the stage with “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.” Joe Walsh sang too – he’s become sort of rock ‘n roll royalty now that he’s married into the Beatles – his wife is Ringo’s wife’s sister. You might wonder if he’d be a part of this show if that weren’t the case until you see him play, and then all bets are off - he nailed it.
George Harrison’s contributions are so vast – to see these guitar wizards take on this song that Eric Clapton played on the record. This was the most rockin’ performance with Grohl pounding on the drums!
In the final 20 minutes, we were treated to Paul and Ringo getting on stage. Jeff Daniels introduced Ringo first, and he sang out front of the band starting with “Matchbox,” then he played drums to “Boys” – then back out front for “Yellow Submarine.” The audience were on their feet, clapping along.
Sean Penn introduced Paul McCartney. His was a rockin’ set! Started with “Birthday” and afterwards, Paul said “Yes, the 50th birthday - okay!” Then he went into “Get Back” – took his jacket off and had on a black vest with white shirt. The audience was on their feet groovin’ along.
“This is one of the first songs John and I wrote together,” he announced, and launched into “I Saw Her Standing There.”
At one point, Paul McCartney said: "What can I say about this evening, it's just amazing," he said. "At first when I was asked to do the show, I was wondering if it was the right thing to do. Was it seemly to tribute yourself? But I saw a couple of American guys who said to me, 'You don't understand the impact of that appearance on the show on America.' I didn't realize that."
When Paul sang “Sgt Pepper," Ringo came on to join him on “With a little help from my friends.” After that song, Ringo said, "Whenever we play, John and George are always with us" and a picture of the two came up on the backdrop.
Then Paul went to the piano and played “Hey Jude” and Ringo was on drums, and the rest of the guest musicians were on the stage singing and dancing while the Cirque du Soleil acrobats suspended from the ceiling rotating around.
What a show!!!