Hardback Writer – “NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the U.S. 1964-1966” By Terry Crain (A Review)

Every once in a while a new Beatles book comes along that just knocks my socks off, so to speak.

This happened to me just this past week when the book “NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the U.S. 1964-1966” By Terry Crain arrived at my door step last Friday from Amazon.

You see as a die-hard Beatles fan it’s getting tougher and tougher to find a book about the group that covers anything new or interesting that hasn’t been done to death or been done better in a previous book.

By now it seems as if every conceivable angle or story has been written about The Beatles be it their life, music or whatever that whomever decides to jump into the murky waters of publishing a Beatles book must really bring the goods.

Well my dear blog readers and fellow Beatles fans out there “NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the U.S. 1964-1966” really does deliver the goods – in every possible way!

(Note: Even before I opened the book I was impressed as even the shipping box the book came in was full of Beatles stickers – see above)

I knew that the book was being worked on as a few months ago the author had contacted me on Facebook about a flyer that I found last year in an antique store that highlighted some cool Beatles memorabilia from the 1960’s.

I posted a photo of the flyer on a Facebook Beatles group and Terry Crain asked if he could use it in a new book he was writing about U.S. Beatles memorabilia and of course he would credit me in the book as well.

I had never heard of Terry before and didn’t really know what kind of book he was going to write but since this Beatles flyer I found was so fun I thought it might be nice to share it with other Beatles fans.

I had never seen the flyer myself and possibly many others may have never seen it either so what better way to share it than in a nice book  about Beatles memorabilia.

Terry did use the photo of my flyer (see above) and boy am I glad he did! Terry’s book, I can honestly say, is one of the best designed and most entertaining Beatles books I’ve ever seen and believe me I own quite a few.

“NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the U.S. 1964-1966” is a feast for the eyes with page after page of wonderful photos of not only Beatles U.S. memorabilia but photos from the time as well.

The book is also well written and gives the reader a nice overview of how The Beatles’ manager Brain Epstein, through is company NEMS Enterprises Ltd., made the deals for the sale of Beatles U.S. merchandise.

The Beatles U.S. memorabilia is so iconic and so tied into Beatlemania of the early 1960’s that this book really is a wonderful window into that far away world and the prefect way to experience (or re-experience) it without having to have shelves full of Beatles memorabilia yourself.

Really if you’re a fan of The Beatles, were there at the time or just want a glimpse into Beatlemania in the United States from 1964 to 1966, “NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the U.S. 1964-1966” is a must read and something you’ll treasure for years to come as it’s a great book to read over and over again.

In the front of my book it said the book was limited to 1000 copies, or at least this hardback version, so if you’re at all interested in seeing it for yourself grab one quickly. I can’t recommend the book enough!

As I said I found my copy through Amazon but you can also buy it online through: https://www.fabgear.company/nems-enterprises-ltd

Pardon me while I pull out a mono copy of “Meet the Beatles” and peruse this book one more time. In this Internet, social media driven world it feels like the perfect time to step back into 1964.

As usual take a peek at some photos of the book above.

And until next time, be well!!!

 

 

 

 

Oh My My – HQCD’s on Tour (Express)/Ringo Starr and George Harrison on UHQCD

 

“UHQCD”? Hi-Res CD? Oh no, run, it’s another CD format.

Seriously, you may ask? (And rightly so). Aren’t CDs dead and on their way out?

Well, yes and no.

Yes CDs are in a death spiral in the U.S. but in Japan they are still a viable music format and sell quite well thank you.

Just what exactly is an UHQCD anyway and why should I care? Well my dear friends, I’m glad you brought that up.

According to the CDJapan Website (CDJapan is one of the top online sellers of Japanese CDs) the UHQCD was developed:

“… through an effort to improve audio quality by simply upgrading the materials used in ordinary CD discs to higher quality materials … these improvements made it possible for mass-produced CD discs to reproduce audio with greater precision.”

“Hi-Res CD is a high-fidelity CD which combines MQA technology and UHQCD format (currently available exclusively in Japan only) together for the first time in the world. With this combination, Hi-Res CD realizes the high-resolution and compatibility at the same time.”

(Note: From WhatHiFi.com: MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated. It’s a method of digitally storing recorded music as a file that’s small and convenient enough to download, or even stream, without the sonic sacrifices traditionally associated with compressed files.)

Got all that lol?

The addition of the MQA technology supposedly allows the true sound of the master tape by using equipment that decodes it. I gather MQA was mainly developed for streaming but somehow these new UHQCD discs use the technology as well. (Don’t ask me how, I’m not quite sure).

Honestly even my head spins spitting out all this tech speak and I’m not that well-versed in it but this new format is intriguing to me, so obviously I bought a few samples. (I can never get enough CDs apparently!).

Anyway, UHQCD discs will also play in any CD player so naturally I thought why not buy a few? So I dipped my toes in the water so to speak and four of these beauties are now sitting on the coffee table in front of me courtesy of some Amazon gift cards.

(Note 2: I should never dip my toes in as I really like the sound of these CDs and that’s a good but mostly bad thing as I’m tempted to buy more!)

Last December several Ringo Starr and George Harrison titles were released in the UHQCD format in Japan and until now I was pretty much unaware of them as it was only in the past month I even learned of their existence.

The four titles I bought include Ringo Starr’s “Ringo” and “Goodnight Vienna” as well as George Harrison’s “Living in the Material World” and “Dark Horse”. These are all Japanese imports and not made anywhere but in Japan.

Now it’s not like I needed more copies of these albums but I’m always on the quest for “the best” sounding versions of my favorite albums and damned if I might not have hit the jackpot.

After listening to these UHQCDs they really sound very similar to the SHM-CD format. There’s a presence to the bass and drums especially that just doesn’t seem to come across on the regular CD pressings of these albums.

For comparison sake I played the songs “So Sad” and “Dark Horse” from the “Dark Horse” album from the 1992 Capitol CD, the 2014 regular CD version, the 2017 SHM-CD and the new UHQCD version.

For me the clear winner was the new UHQCD. As I said above there’s just a presence to the bass and drums and a warmth that seems to be missing from the other CDs I tested.

Actually the 1992 CD and the 2017 SHM-CD sound very similar. They seem to share the same mastering as the new UHQCD is taken from the 2014 George Harrison remasters as it has the same sound and the same bonus tracks.

The newer 2014 mastering is the clear winner for this album and the UHQCD just sounds better than even the 2014 regular CD which does come close but still lacks some of the presence on the new UHQCD. version.

The same thing goes for the songs from the other three albums especially “Living in the Material World” which sounds much better on the new UHQCD than even the SHM-CD though it’s very close to the 2014 CD version but still sounds better.

As for the Ringo CDs I’m not sure if these are new masterings or not but they are certainly better sounding than the regular CD versions on Capitol Records though the DCC version of the “Ringo” album may still be the best version out there though this CD sure sounds terrific and is very close in sound to that wonderful CD.

Again as I’ve said before when comparing these new CD formats the difference isn’t  night or day and may be as some have said a willful sonic hallucination but playing these CDs one after another sure does seem to highlight the sound of the UHQCD for me anyway.

Now of course you have to be somewhat of a rabid fan, or freak as the case my be, to even care about such comparisons but for the fellow freaks out there in Webland if you have a favorite album by either Harrison or Starr and are curious about how they sound give one a try and see for yourself.

As I said they’re available through Amazon, at the moment anyway, and can be ordered quite easily.

As always there’s photos above of the four UHQCDs. Notice the groovy plastic outer cover slip that goes over the CD case. It’s certainly something I’ve never seen before and must be common to the UHQCD format.

Until next time be well and enjoy spring and daylight savings time!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CDs Over North America – Paul McCartney on Columbia Compact Disc

 

Welcome back my friends to the blog that never ends!

Tonight I thought it might be fun to take a look back. To readers of this blog that’s a shocker I know.

Anyway, with all the news lately about the impending death of CDs (and DVDs and Blu-Rays for that matter) and all the talk of how much money record and film companies are making from streaming, I wanted to go back and take a look at the very first CDs I ever purchased.

To do that I’ll have to turn the way back machine dial to January, 1986. I remember it well for you see it was in January of 1986 that I bought my very first CD player. It was a refurbished Magnavox CD player that I bought from the Maganvox employee store at a very good price.

(My dad had been a Magnavox employee and we could still get discounts there even though he had died seven years previously.)

Of course I had been drooling over CDs for over a couple of years but it wasn’t until 1986 that I could get one that was decent priced and boy do I remember being excited!

My older brother had bought a CD player in 1985 and I remember being amazed at how there were no cracks or pops in the music, you could program the songs and best of all they just sounded so nice.

Anyway, over the next few months I slowly acquired my first few CDs and all of them were by Paul McCartney. (I  know, another shocker lol).

I remember starting with the Paul McCartney CDs that were released on the Columbia label as by that time he had re-signed with Capitol Records and I knew those CDs wouldn’t stay on the shelves forever.

(Note: Paul McCartney was signed to the Columbia Records label only in North America from 1979 to 1984. In 1985 he returned to Capitol Records as did his catalog of music.)

The first three CDs that I bought were all from Musicland (remember that chain in malls across America?) and they were all in bubble packs hanging on the wall in the then small section of CDs. Those CDs included “Band on the Run”, “Venus and Mars” and “Wings Over America”.

Even then I knew that the “Wings Over America” CD wasn’t that common as I didn’t see it in any other store at the time. Because of its cost and the fact that it was released at the end of McCartney’s Columbia contract make it the rarest of the six Columbia McCartney CDs to find these days.

As time went on over a five week period I managed to buy all six of the Columbia Records McCartney CDs (And in those days that was quite a feat as CDs were really expensive!). For years these pressings were the only versions I owned on Compact Disc of these albums even after they were reissued in better sounding versions by other reissue labels.

To this day I think the best sounding digital versions of the “Tug of War” and “Pipes of Peace” albums are these original Columbia CDs but the others, while having been improved upon sound wise in later CD issue, are all nice sounding CDs which I still play every so often as they’re really easy on the ears and sound nice and warm and have all their dynamic range intact.

The Columbia McCartney CDs I have in my collection were manufactured in a mixture of locations – some were made in Japan and some were made in the U.S.A. Just last year though I stumbled on a U.S. pressing of the “Pipes of Peace” CD (see above) as the copy I bought in 1986 was made in Japan. That CD is the only Paul McCartney Columbia CD I own two copies of pressed from different countries.

As usual you can gander at the photos of my small Paul McCartney Columbia CD collection.

As we reach ever more into the streaming age where you just rent your music it’s a bit comforting to have these shiny silver discs full of not only some of my all-time favorite music but also some of my all-time favorite memories of collecting them.

I hope you are sitting down somewhere about now listening to some of your favorite music. I am. Can you hear it?

“Sitting in the stand of the sports arena, waiting for the show to begin …

 

 

Sticker Love … Time Traveling into a 1970’s/Early ’80’s Record Store

 

Sometimes you find the darndest things at thrift stores.

Today since I have the day off, I thought it might be nice to venture over to a few thrift stores just to see what I could find.

Low and behold, wouldn’t you know it but at the last of three stores I discovered something really groovy – I found the ’70’s!

Now I usually don’t buy many records at thrift stores. One because they’re usually this side of junk and beat to death and two I never really find any albums I want to add to my collection.

Thrift stores are notorious for tattered covers and unplayable vinyl but since I love the thrill of the hunt I thought ‘what the heck, why not?’

Well today I went into a local thrift/Goodwill type store and stumbled upon a small stash of records all in the shrink wrap, all in excellent condition and all by some of my favorite easy listening acts.

I can hear the cynical out there smacking their lips – Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond! – but hey I really like ’70’s pop music. I loved it on AM radio in the 1970’s and I love it now.

Nothing takes me back more than the music from 1975 to 1980 which was a time I really kept a close eye on the charts and lived for Top Forty radio.

These albums also contain some of my favorite songs from that period too like “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “Songbird”, “My Heart Belongs to Me”, “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again”, “Copacabana”,”Even Now”, “Love on the Rocks” and “Hello Again” – just to name a few.

Plus these albums sound sooo good on vinyl – warm and dynamic and and dare I say it just the right kind of mellow .. or should I say Manilow (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

The weird thing is that as I went through this small stack of records, I had the funniest sense of deja vu.

Not only did I find a stack of records I was interested in but all them still had their hype stickers still on the shrink wrap (I love hype stickers so sue me!) but they also had their original price stickers; three of them from the now defunct Turtles Records chain.

Even though Turtles Record stores were based in the South I remember seeing their logo and it was such a blast to see their price sticker and it just added that extra bit of nostalgia that I love. (I know, I know, weird but true!).

Seeing the five records I bought for the princely sum of $2 a piece – of course I wasn’t going to leave them there! – it looks like I went out shopping in the 1970’s for the afternoon and just got home to sit down and relax in a chair on my green shag carpet!

Anyway, for those who were there this blog post may bring back some happy memories of record stores in the ’70’s and or malls, etc.

For those who weren’t there, this is how music looked back then – no streaming, no computers – just cardboard, vinyl and plastic!

Feast your eyes (above) on my pristine vinyl catch of the day and grab a soft drink and relax, chill, listen to some music.

Until next time, be well and as always … Have a Nice Day!

 

Monkees Extended Plays Are Here to Stay or Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day

Welcome to the first day of March!

Not only does that mean that Spring is just around the corner but that the dreaded month of February, which I call the armpit month of the year, is finally OVER!

For you see February (at least in my part of the world) not only means snow, cold and the beginning of tax season but in the last few years it’s also taken on a much darker tone as it’s now the month in which two Monkees have died!

With last week’s sad news that Peter Tork succumbed to cancer and yesterday’s 7th anniversary of the passing of Davy Jones, February will now officially be known, to me anyway, as the worst month of the year!

BUT instead of feeling sad that Peter Tork and Davy Jones have passed, from now on I’m going to celebrate that they were here. And what better way to celebrate them than to celebrate the music they made when they were alive!

Today I’m going to turn the way back machine and take a look at three fairly uncommon Monkees Extended Play releases from Japan and England.

(Extended Plays, for those who are too young to know, are 45’s that have four songs on them instead of two. Extended Plays are also known as E.P.s and were much more popular around the world at least for pop music and never really caught on in the U.S. market like they did in England and Japan.)

The first E.P. from my collection I’m featuring (see above), and my favorite, is a Japanese E.P. called “Last Train to Clarksville” which features that song along with “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day”, “Let’s Dance On” and “Saturday’s Child” all from The Monkees first album titled simply “The Monkees“.

Call  me strange, a lot of people do lol, but I love the miniature sleeve that features the artwork from The Monkees’ first album on the front and the songs and their accompanying lyrics on the back.

This E.P. actually plays at 33 and 1/3 but is the same size as a 45 and sounds pretty darn good! I must say the Japanese knew and know how to press records and this record is pretty quite and plays just great.

The other two E.P.s above both come from the U.K. and I believe, though don’t quote me as I my memory is getting faulty, came out I’d say around 1980 and 1981 or there about.

You don’t see these E.P.’s much these days if at all, here in the States anyway, but I remember mail ordering both of them in the early ’80’s. I also remember just being thrilled that any new Monkees product was being produced somewhere in the world because there was nothing, I mean NADA, being produced at that time in the U.S.

Both of these U.K. E.P’s also have those weird pressed labels on them instead of paper labels like U.S. 45’s so that was also an interesting thing I remember when they arrived in the mail.

I must say the U.K. E.P.’s don’t have the most original song selections but I love the covers and have always been a fan of E.P.s especially British ones because I just love the look of them and they take me back to the ’60’s era more so than even the regular 45’s.

From time to time when nostalgia comes a knockin’, which admittedly is more and more frequently, I pull these babies out and give them a spin. There’s no better feeling than dipping my toes back in time while looking at these groovy covers!

Anyway, here’s to Peter and Davy and here’s to the Monkees music!!! May it live long and prosper – oops wrong show.

Until next time be well and think Spring – it’s almost here!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Peter (Tork) Percival’s Pet Pig Picture is Worth a Thousand Words … Memories of Meeting Auntie Grizelda’s nephew

 

On the eve of such a melancholy day I thought I would share one more post about Peter Tork and show some fun and joyous photos I took of him over the years.

Above are a few photos I  shot at Monkees concerts in 2011 (at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, IN where I met and took a photo with Peter) and 2013 (San Diego, CA). And below from the way back machine of November 1986 (Fort Wayne Memorial  Coliseum).

 

As you can see Monkees concerts were definitely joyous occasions. I’ve seen the group 17, yes 17!, times between 1986 and 2018. I know, I know it seems like a lot but every one of those concerts were filled with great music and performances and each one also contained a large sampling of Peter Tork’s humor as well as musicianship.

I didn’t have a camera with me the very first time I met Peter Tork which happened in November 1986 at a local Marriott hotel right after The Monkees sold-out performance here in Fort Wayne.

I knew where the group was staying, I had seen their tour buses lined up earlier in the day in front of the Marriott which was just down the road from where I lived, and decided to get to meet as many Monkees that day as possible.

As luck would have it I met both Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork – I missed out on Davy Jones as I never ran into him at the hotel.

It’s funny the things that stick in your mind all these years later. I remember both Micky and Peter being very gracious but when I ran into Micky earlier in the day he was just getting off his tour bus with his family and didn’t want to chit chat.

Micky signed my copy of “The Monkees” album (see below) and I remember asking where Davy and Peter were and him saying that it wasn’t his day to watch them and walking off. I learned later that that was one of his standard lines but I was still thrilled to meet him nonetheless.

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Peter Tork on the other hand was in an upbeat and talkative mood and I happened to catch him, and his girlfriend at the time, after the concert as they were going off to eat dinner at a local Japanese restaurant just down the road.

Peter was very friendly and approachable and asked how I liked the show. I was surprised at how completely down to earth he was and how he made me and the two other fans in the hall feel like contemporaries and even asked if the food was good at the Japanese restaurant.

The only request he made was that if any photos were taken to please not use flash as his eyes were sensitive to flash close up. I didn’t have a camera and just asked him for an autograph and he was more than happy to sign my album and noticed I had Micky’s signature as well.

I also remember feeling great as I walked away while noticing another group of fans run up to him. One fan, a tall obnoxious guy, then proceeded to use a flash camera several times even though Tork pleaded with him to stop.

Peter then angrily walked away, which I don’t blame him as the guy with the flash was a royal jerk, and off he went into the night.

I thought of that encounter today and of meeting Peter again over twenty years later in 2011 this time after having interviewed him on the phone a few weeks prior for a newspaper article I wrote for my local paper.

Just a few more random thoughts about Peter Tork as they filter through my mind tonight.

Well,  I hope Mr. Tork is peacefully off into the night wind once again this evening. I treasure those memories of meeting and talking with him and just wanted to say one final goodbye. I also may just pop in a Monkees episode in his honor as I say good night.

With that I bid adieu.

Good night Peter, it was nice knowing you …

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Pete’s Sake – Reflections on Peter Tork, R.I.P.

 

“We were born to love one another
This is something we all need
We were born to love one another
We must be what we’re goin’ to be
And what we have to be is free”

– “For Pete’s Sake” written by Peter Tork/Joey Richards and recorded by The Monkees

It’s with a heavy heart that I type this blog post as I have just heard the news that Peter Tork of The Monkees passed away today at the age of 77.

Readers of this blog will know that I have been a fan of The Monkees and Peter Tork since practically the womb. I was born in 1966 the same year that The Monkees premiered and I have loved their music since I could walk, even BEFORE I could walk to tell you the truth.

I also as it happens that I have had the great honor and pleasure of interviewing Peter Tork not once but twice so it’s really strange to be writing about his death. He was such a gracious and fun guy to interview and one of the favorite performers I had the pleasure of writing about as a freelance entertainment writer.

Truth be told I’m not too surprised about his death as I was waiting for this day to come.

Peter Tork’s not being a part of The Monkees touring in the last year or so seemed totally out of character for him. And the fact that he appeared on only one song from last years “Christmas Party” Monkees album plus his electronically altered voice pretty much gave away the fact that he was battling some pretty heavy heath issues.

But I’m not going to be too sad or morbid today. One of the things I really admired about Peter after interviewing him was his graciousness, wit, charm and frankness. Of all The Monkees he seemed to be able to access the group and his work in a totally philosophical and practical way and that’s how I shall remember him.

His battles with alcohol plus his basic view of life gave him a very philosophical approach to the world around him and one of the things that struck me last October when the last Monkees album came out was him posting he was taking time to be with family and said to readers to take care of yourself and love one another. Words to live by and pretty much the sentiment of his most iconic Monkees song “For Pete’s Sake” from “Headquarters”, my favorite Monkees albums.

It’s a minor miracle that one of the last songs he recorded with The Monkees, “Wasn’t Born to Follow”, from their 2016 album “Good Times!” not only seemed to sum up his life perfectly but was the best vocal performance he ever gave as a part of the group.

I won’t ramble on. Rest in Peace dear Peter Tork and thanks for your kindness to me in your interviews and thanks for the music!!! I will remember your spirit always with love and a smile.

These two interviews (below) are how I will remember Peter Tork and I will always be grateful that I had the chance to connect with him in some small way. The first interview was for the The Monkees 50th Anniversary Tour and the second is from 2011.

Peter Tork interview 2016

Peter Tork interview 2011

Take care and God Bless!