November 15, 2008
When my new pal, Kent Kotal, at “Forgotten Hits” http://forgottenhits.com, said he he was putting together a tribute to the Beatles “White Album”, I was eager to take part. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since “The White Album” was released. Like many singers, songwriters and producers of my generation, I was influenced by the Beatles. In 1962 Jerry Landis, who later becomes known as Paul Simon, is the first one to turn me on to them. About a year before their first single is released in the US, Jerry (Paul) who just got back from a folk club tour of the UK tells me about me the band, the look, and the sound that’s sweeping Europe.
He plays me a few Beatle records, and shows me their pictures in an English newspaper. Aquarian that I am, I identify with them immediately and it isn’t long before their influence starts creeping into my songs. I even started dressing “Mod” and wearing my hair like Paul McCartney (which is odd at the time for an American, not to mention an African-American!).
When they come to the US for the first time in 1964, I’m in the third row at Carnegie Hall to see them. When the Beatles come back to tour, I become friendly with Bess Coleman, who’s one of their press officers.
It’s when I travel to the UK for the first time, and go on part of “The Beatles For Sale” promotion tour that I find out that John and Paul haven’t collaborated on writing songs for some time, and are starting to develop their own individual styles. George is also starting to come into his own as a writer. This evolves into quite a competition when it’s time to choose songs for a new album.
By the time the “White Album” comes out, the transition is complete. The album is exploding with so much individual creativity, going in so many directions; it takes on a life of its own. The first time I hear cuts from the album is at Freddie Gershon’s (“Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey”), apartment. Freddie’s throwing a party to celebrate Apple Record’s, “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin, hitting #1 on the charts!
This is the first time I go out in public as Shadow Mann, my new alter ego. I had just finished recording my first album for my own label, distributed by the legendary, Morris Levy (Roulette Records). Not only did my producer Ronnie Haffkine (Shel Silverstein, Doctor Hook), produce a great record, we created a unique, look and persona for my mysterious character.
I had a black suede jacket made for me with a giant red eagle on the back, whose wing opened every time I lifted my arm. I also have a big black floppy hat, black leather pants and boots.
But when it comes time to get ready for the Apple party, I put on my brown mohair suit and Ronnie gets pissed off at me! He wants me to wear my new Shadow outfit, but I tell him that I know a lot of lawyers and publishers who are going to be there, and I don’t want to look like a fool. Haffkine says, “This Shadow thing, is your idea, you’ve got a chance to make a big impression tonight, but you’ve got to pull it off with confidence and flair.”
He continues, “No buts, if you can’t do it tonight, you’re just wasting your time,. But worse than that, you’re just wasting mine!”
I reluctantly change into my black suede jacket, tilt my floppy hat at a jaunty angle and off we go to the party. As we walk in, “Back in the USSR” from an advance copy of the Beatles White album is playing.
Mary Hopkins seems like a sweet unaffected girl and makes us feel very comfortable. Very few of the people I know recognize me in my attire and pretty strangers keep coming over to talk to me. Now I start to think it’s a good idea that I had to wear my Shadow outfit tonight!
Ronnie and I stand at the bar and talk to producer Peter Schekeryk, who married his artist Melanie (“Candles In The Wind”, “Brand New Key”) that afternoon. Everyone in the room seems to be half-listening to own their conversations and grooving to the new incredible tracks that surrealistically float around the room. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Rocky Raccoon”, unleashes a whimsical feeling in all of us. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, makes us smile and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” gives us all new respect for George Harrison.
After a while, I notice that they keep playing the same songs over and over, and I say to Nat Weiss, the head of the Beatles American company, “I thought there were two albums worth of material”. He explains that George is expected any minute with the rest of the tracks.
Before he arrives, however, the latest darling of the gossip columns sweeps into the room surrounded by her “Jet Set” entourage. This Rock and Roll Goddess is wearing an outfit that’s similar to mine, including a floppy black hat. Although I’ll miss saying hello to George Harrison, when this beautiful stranger puts her arm around me and asks me to come with her, I can’t resist. I’m sure George will understand. Ronnie Haffkine, on the other hand, doesn’t look very happy when I wave goodbye.”
From the forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
“If you don’t like the music of the ’60s, ‘70s and ’80s…you can kiss my past”
Copyright 2008 by Artie Wayne
Here are the best videos by the Beatles, individually and collectively…in no particular order.
“BACK IN THE USSR” Paul McCartney Video
“WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS” George Harrison Video
“HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN” John Lennon Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qE2Vdcv9Q_o
“OBLA DI OBLA DA (LIFE GOES ON)” BEATLES Video
“BLACKBIRD” Paul McCartney solo accoustic 1975
“ROCKY RACOON” Paul McCartney Video
“HELTER SKELTER” BEATLES Video
“REVOLOUTION #9” BEATLES Video
“BIRTHDAY” BEATLES Video
“GOODNIGHT” BEATLES Video
For more of the story LEGENDARY MUSIC MAN MORRIS LEVY MEETS SHADOW MANN, A LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND!
To hear “Come and Live With Me” by Shadow Mann