Empty Garden – From Elton (John) to (John) Lennon

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Of all tribute songs written by a non-Beatle for John Lennon after his senseless killing in December 1980, nothing compares for me to Elton John’s Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).

The song likens John to a worthy garden caretaker that some inconsequential person took away, “A gardener like that one no one can replace…It’s funny how an insect can damage so much grain…” The lyrics are Bernie Taupin’s, Elton’s lifetime collaborator, while the beautiful melody is, of course, his own.

From what I remember, Elton rarely played it live since the song’s release in his 1982 album Jump Up! because it was painful for him to be reminded of John Lennon’s death. Elton was a close friend to John; their relationship was secured by their musical collaboration in the mid-1970s. Elton and John appeared together in a concert and Elton is Sean’s godfather.

A harrowing live version of this song performed at the turn of the century at the Madison Square Garden is in this link. Elton at the beginning explains why he rarely performed the song live.

The lyrics are here:

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain
And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace
And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play
And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name
Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden
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Saddest Beatles Songs

Image result for the beatles images
Source: https://www.google.com.ph/search?q=the+beatles+images&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjP__W4xMLZAhVCtpQKHScAAnAQ7AkIQQ&biw=1242&bih=557#imgrc=DgmFmmKExuMu9M:

http://www.myusyk.com [which cannot be anymore reached] came out five years ago with Top Ten Saddest Beatles Songs, which is quite a good list. Many may agree, but equally many may not. At any rate, the main contention would probably be about the ranking. That is what I also feel. Sad that the six-minuter youtube video is no longer accessible to launch the countdown. Anyway, here is the list with my own description of each song.

10. No Reply from Beatles for Sale is about a partner not being upfront

9. Norwegian Wood from Rubber Soul deals with a one-night affair that would not work

8. I’m A Loser from Beatles for Sale is putting a different face despite a regrettable loss

7. You’ve Got To Hide Your love Away from Help! is purportedly about gays

6. Yes It Is, b-side but compiled in Past Masters is a relationship in transition past a previous one

5. For No One from Revolver is about falling out of love

4. She’s Leaving Home from Sgt. Pepper deals with a daughter who elopes. Verdict “…Fun is something money can’t buy”

3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps from The Beatles aka White Album seems to be the singer silently weeping for everybody for not knowing how to unfold love, perversion, control. (probably!)

2. Eleanor Rigby from Revolver is a very lonely picture cast in a painting. Wow what a great poetry!

1. Yesterday from Help! is longing for a past that is forever gone

My own verdict? I don’t know the basis for the Top Ten whether or not it was the lyrics, song structure, melody, or intent of the writer, or all of the above. But I agree with the Top Two.

Now if you talk about the saddest song of The Beatles, for me it should be Eleanor Rigby. On the other hand, if you talk about the saddest Beatles love song, then it should be Yesterday. There is always something in The Beatles lyrics that hits you hard.

Let’s listen to both again courtesy of youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ntiz-Pmvy4 (Yesterday); (Eleanor Rigby) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wssbIgRh0k

Why Beatles insiders kept silent for years

Another angle.

An executive of the Beatles’ Apple Corps organization, who was present when the band played its final concert on the roof of Apple Records in 1969, explained why he and others kept silent about their time with the Fab Four for many years afterward.

Ken Mansfield looked after the U.S. part of the operation and was responsible for the decision to release “Hey Jude” as a single, despite its nonstandard length for radio play at the time.

“They were trying to figure out whether to release ‘Revolution’ or ‘Hey Jude’ as their first single under Apple,” he told Billboard. “Paul [McCartney] was a businessman, and he was worried stations wouldn’t play it because it was too long. I said I would take it to America … meet the program directors at radio stations and get their opinion if we should break the rules, if it’s strong enough.” He said the directors “fell on the floor when they heard it. I called Paul and said, ‘We have to go with this.’”

Mansfield can be seen during the Beatles’ 40-minute rooftop show on Jan. 30, 1969; he’s the man in the white coat to the band’s left. “No one knew at the time that was going to be their last performance,” he noted. “It turned out to be the most unique, fascinating thing they could have done and all they had to do was walk up a few flights of stairs. It was very raw, real and simple.”

That event is the subject of The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert, Mansfield’s third book about his experiences with the band. “A lot of us who were there never talked about the Beatles much until decades later,” he said. “They never said to us to keep the things we saw to ourselves. But the thing about all of us is that it was such a privilege to have been there that we had to honor them by keeping things to ourselves and not talking about everything.

“There was something about them that the minute you were in their inner circle they treated you like a friend. I never got the impression of, ‘I’m a Beatle and you aren’t.’ You were part of the team, and every day something phenomenal happened. I didn’t realize the importance of it until after about 20 years.”

Source: http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-insiders-silent/

Untold Beatles Stories Emerge As White Album Climbs Charts

 

Paul McCartney during a recording session for The Beatles. Abbey Road Studios. October 1968CREDIT: © APPLE CORPS LTD.

More secrets of the recording of the White Album by the Beatles are emerging as it again climbs charts around the world.

Producer Chris Thomas and engineer Ken Scott have been speaking about the double LP, which has the formal eponymous title of The Beatles. The album has already gone platinum 19 times. On the new 50th-anniversary deluxe box sets released on November 9, the album’s 30 tracks are remastered and joined by 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most previously unreleased, in a process overseen by Giles Martin, son of the record’s main producer George Martin.

Scott and Thomas recall John Lennon’s surprising choice of favorite songs; why Ringo Starr walked out at one point; how George Harrison came into his own and stood up to George Martin; and how Paul McCartney fell asleep on the mixing desk after a hard day’s night finishing the White Album.

Thomas, now 71, was working as an assistant to George Martin at his independent production company AIR at the time of the White Album. He watched the early sessions from May 1968 then took time off on a short vacation, he said in an interview at the Arts Club in London: “I came back at the beginning of September. There was a little handwritten note from George Martin on my desk saying ‘I hope you had a nice holiday, I am off on mine now. Make yourself available to The Beatles. Neil and Mal know you’re coming down.’” (Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans were both assistants to the band.) “Talk about thrown in the deep end!” says Thomas. In the first session, he nervously interrupted the group a few times to point out various mistakes and won them over with his production skills.

Scott, also 71, says he started at EMI Recording Studios at Abbey Road aged 16 and worked with the Beatles for some years before being promoted to a full engineer when Geoff Emerick left the sessions in mid-July.

By the time of the White Album, Scott says “the Beatles had gone through the whole Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band period, which was very heavily produced and orchestral. They came into this wanting to get back to basics, to be a rock and roll band again.”

Ringo Starr during a recording session for The Beatles. Abbey Road Studios. June 1968.CREDIT: © APPLE CORPS LTD.

DON’T MISS “THE STARR WALKOUT”!

Scott says: “Just before starting ‘Back In the U.S.S.R.’ in August, Ringo quit the band, so suddenly there was no drummer. Initially Paul played drums. It wasn’t quite good enough, so then both George and John played drums and we made a composite of all of that. Ringo left because he felt unloved. Within a marriage, in the early stages it is ‘Oh my darling, you look so beautiful tonight’ and then after a couple of years it is ‘you look fine, now carry on.’ The Beatles were going through that. No one was telling the others how great they were. Ringo is one of the best rock and roll drummers I have worked with, he was incredible, but nobody was telling him that. He felt unimportant, so he said ‘why am I here’ and just left. The other three all went around to see him and they were all going through the same thing so he returned to the band again. George filled No. 2 studio with flowers and there was a huge ‘Welcome Back Ringo’ over the drum kit; the smell was incredible.”

LENNON’S FAVORITE BEATLES SONGS

Thomas asked Lennon about his top songs. He named ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ and ‘In My Life.’ Thomas said “I asked him about ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ but he said no. It was really surprised at his choice.”

‘PIGGIES’ AND SOMETHING SPECIAL

George Harrison had demoed his anti-capitalistic rant “Piggies” on acoustic guitar. Thomas, looking for a different instrument, found a harpsichord being used for a classical recording in Abbey Road’s Studio No. 1: “George was playing it and suddenly started on another song. I said, ‘that’s fantastic, it is much better than ‘Piggies.’’ It was ‘Something.’ It was the first time George had played it to anybody and I said: ‘It’s great, we should really do that.’ He said ‘Do you really think it is good? I will give it to Jackie Lomax.’ [Harrison had penned the single ‘Sour Milk Sea’ for Lomax’s first single on the Beatles’ new record label Apple.] Unfortunately I didn’t get my way and only worked on that a bit later.” The song was finally released on the 1969 album Abbey Road.

George Harrison during a recording session for The Beatles. Abbey Road Studios. October 1968.CREDIT: © APPLE CORPS LTD.

THE SESSIONS WERE ‘A CREATIVE FACTORY’

Thomas recalls “we did seven songs in a couple of weeks and it just became a factory. There was one day when I was with George in No. 2 working on ‘Savoy Truffle.’ George Martin was in No. 3 with John and Yoko chopping up bits of ‘Revolution 9,’ and then Paul suddenly appeared and said ‘listen to what I have done’ and he had recorded ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road’ and mixed it.”

CREATIVE FRIENDSHIP AND DIFFICULTIES

Scott says: “Far from the album being the sound of a band breaking up, they got on well.” They had some artistic differences and arguments “but it was always over with and forgotten 15 minutes later.”

Thomas says: “Geoff Emerick’s book said they weren’t getting on. When I read that, I could not believe it, because they were very happy times. Every now and again there might be an argument about something. Paul didn’t like ‘Revolution 9’ and in actual fact that track got wrecked. Very early on it was really quite haunting. But the reason they worked in different studios was not because they weren’t talking to each other or going off in a strop or something like that, it was because they had to get the work done and they were on a deadline.”

Scott says: “There was tension at times between George Martin and the band. We were in No. 2 mixing ‘Savoy Truffle.’ George Harrison wanted it very high-endy, it was almost painful. We recorded the saxes and he wanted them distorted. George Martin came in halfway through and said ‘’Don’t you think it’s a bit toppy?’ and George Harrison turned around and said ‘Yeah, and that’s the way I want it.’ George Martin just went out.”

THE TIME PAUL FELL ASLEEP ON THE DESK

In a 24-hour mixing marathon Scott and Thomas were helping sort the final running order and cross-fades between its songs. Thomas recalls: “At about 9 a.m. Ken walked in and says ‘Chris, can you help me? Paul wants to do a new stereo remix of ‘Helter Skelter’ again and he has fallen asleep on the desk.’ So we remixed it.”

Scott recalls that Paul ordered him to fade out the stereo mix, then fade back up and down and with a final blast before Starr’s line “I’ve got blisters on my fingers.” Scott explained: “Paul said ‘we have had lots of letters from fans about the differences between mono and stereo mixes so we thought if we made lots of differences we would sell twice as many records.’”

John Lennon during a recording session for The Beatles. Abbey Road Studios. June 1968.CREDIT: © APPLE CORPS LTD.

WHERE THE ALBUM STANDS IN THE BEATLES CANON

The last question from this reporter was: How does the White Album compare with other works?

Scott says: “Everyone was expecting Sgt. Pepper 2, including George Martin, but the Beatles wanted to move on. A lot of people, at least initially, didn’t like it but they eventually came around.”

Thomas says: “I was a huge Beatles fan and when you listen to their music it conjures up so many images. When you actually work on it, you go through the looking glass: you know how everything was made and the magic disappears. I can’t really compare the last three, the White Album, Let It Beor Abbey Road with anything that came before them. The things that stick out for me are songs like ‘Dear Prudence,’ because I wasn’t there for that session.”

The Arts Club offered custom-made cocktails, such as Glass Onion and Savoy Truffle, during the private event for the Classic Album Sunday program.