Playing The Drums For The British Stars Of The Sixties

British Studio Drummer Bobby Graham

British Studio Drummer Bobby Graham

No, British studio drummer Bobby Graham didn’t join the Beatles. When The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein asked him in 1962, if he was in interested in joining the band, Bobby Graham answered: “Why would I want to join a band in Liverpool that nobody has ever heard of?”. Had he joined The Beatles the British music scene would have lost one of its most versatile drummers.

Like many studio musicians, Bobby Graham is a jazz drummer at heart. But he lent his drumming skills to every kind of music. He played the drums for many great British acts of the nineteen-sixties. It’s him on You Really Got Me by The Kinks, for example. You can also hear him on records by Them, Pretty Things, The Walker Brothers, Lulu, and Dusty Springfield. If you’d like to know more about the records he played on, than check Bobby Graham’s discography.

On many recording dates Bobby Graham played together with guitarist Jimmy Page who later would join Led Zeppelin. Like in the music studios in the USA, also British producers relied on experienced and skilled musicians who could record fast and in any style. Studio time was too expensive to take any risks. Back then still most of the music was recorded live and you had maybe four tracks on an analogue tape machine. If somebody messed up it meant doing it all over again.There’s was now software that could edit mistakes easily.

Visit Bobby Graham’s website to get more insight into the hard working life of a British studio drummer.

Please Don’t Sing With The Dead

Natalie Cole did it again – on her latest album “Still Unforgettable” she sings a duet with her late father Nat King Cole. Thanks to refined audio techniques it is possible to combine a voice from old tapes with newly recorded voices and instruments. She has used this little gimmick before on her 1991 album “Unforgettable”. I just hope there won’t be any more of these eerie duets.

I don’t think it’s eerie because the singer Nat King Cole is dead. I listen to the voices of dead singer all the time. It’s eerie because the dead singer can’t control what’s happening to his work and it’s eerie that people don’t show any respect. It’s alright to re-issue material of dead artists, but there’s no point in cobbling together “new” songs. Unfortunately Natalie Cole is not the only one who loves to unearth the dead.

A similar thing happened to the late Buddy Holly. His record company managed to release several albums after his death. They took demonstration recordings and overdubbed them with additional instruments and backing vocals.

Even the Beatles couldn’t resist to jump on the “let’s-tinker-with-the-voice-of-the-dead-train”. In 1995 Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr took the song “Free As A Bird” that John Lennon had recorded at home in poor sound quality on a cassette. It’s just him singing and playing piano and it’s probably one of the weakest songs that John Lennon ever wrote.

Beatles, Free As A Bird That his singing is uninspired doesn’t make the song better. It’s not John Lennon’s fault, he was killed in 1980 and couldn’t prevent damage. The surviving Beatles added instruments to the home-recording and audio engineers managed to bring everything together. In the case of the Beatles greed is probably not the motive for committing this musical crime. Maybe it’s just bad taste.

Also soul singer Sam Cooke was not spared. Someone had the idea to violate his songs “Ain’t That Good News” and “Somebody Ease My Troublin’ Mind” on the Les Paul album “American Made World Played”. This album that claims to be a Les Paul album would be bad enough even without the overdubbed Sam Cooke songs, because there’s hardly any playing by guitarist legend Les Paul on it. I wonder how the producers managed to talk Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck into adding their guitars to the two Sam Cooke songs. And I wonder even more what Sam Cooke has to do with Les Paul.

Here’s my appeal to musicians, relatives of musicians and music producers: please don’t sing with the dead.

Beatles Drum Skin Sold For $1Million

BBC News feature about Beatles drum skin auction

BBC News feature about Beatles drum skin auction

According to the Australian news site National Nine News the iconic bass drum skin used on the front cover of The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has sold for 541,250 pounds (approx. $ 1 million) at an auction in London.

Wigs And Cheap Guitars – German Girl Group “Die Sweetles” Want A Beatle For Birthday

“Die Sweetles” single cover

The German girl group the Sweetles was a short-lived Beatles tribute band that cashed in on the Beatles boom. In 1964 they had a top forty hit in Germany with the single “Ich wünsch’ mir zum Geburtstag einen Beatle” (I Want A Beatle For My Birthday).

The Sweetles were the brainchild of German songwriter Christian Bruhn, who also co-wrote the tribute song. On the cover you can see four girls – check out the fancy wigs and guitars – to make the Beatles tribute idea complete. But on the song there are only three singers: Peggy Peters (real name Christina Zakewski), Charlotte Marian (real name Charlotte Bischoff), and actress-singer Monika Grimm.

Charlotte Marian was married to songwriter Christian Bruhn. Peggy Peters later continued her singing career under the name Tina Rainford.
You can find more facts about the Sweetles and other girl groups on the recommendable Ready Steady Girls page.

Jazz Musicians On The Beatles Song ‘Lady Madonna’

In the evening of February the 6th, Paul McCartney decided that he needed saxes for “Lady Madonna”. Phone calls were made immediately to find four sax players. Soon Harry Klein (baritone sax), Bill Jackman (baritone sax), Ronnie Scott (tenor sax) and Bill Povey (tenor sax) arrived at Abbey Road studios in London. According to Harry Klein there was no written music. They invented some riffs, wrote down a few notes, then they had to record their part 101 times. These musicians are all jazz musicians. It was typical for pop and rock recordings in the sixties to call in well trained jazz musicians, because they could invent interesting lines on the spot and were absolutely in command of their instruments. Ronnie Scott (1927-1996) is the co-founder of the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, by the way.

Source: Mark Lewisohn, “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”, 1988, page 133