Wednesday, January 30, 2019

January 30, 1969; the rooftop concert

I didn't realize that this very notable anniversary (the last live performance by The Beatles, fifty years ago today, on the London rooftop of the Apple building) had arrived, until seeing today's Washington Post piece about it, below. (In fact, I thought the event had taken place in 1970.)

The rooftop concert lasted forty-plus minutes. The piece in the Post includes a video of the group performing "Don't Let Me Down." 

Here, too, is a longer version of the concert (twenty-plus minutes), which includes images of Londoners listening from the street, and watching from other buildings.

The Beatles by the way, were accompanied, during the rooftop performance, by the keyboardist Billy Preston.  Preston played with The Beatles near the end of the group's career.  He is heard on various "Let it Be" recordings--such as "I've Got a Feeling," "Get Back," "Dig a Pony," and "Let it Be." He also played on two "Abbey Road" recordings: "Something," and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." 

Preston also played on the recording of "Don't Let Me Down," which was the B-side of the 45 version of "Get Back."  The 45, at the time of the rooftop concert, had not yet been released.  Wikipedia notes:  "In April 1969, [the] single 'Get Back' was credited to 'The Beatles with Billy Preston', the only time such a joint credit had been given on an official Beatles-sanctioned release (as distinct from an unsanctioned reissue of some Hamburg-era recordings on which they were the backing group for Tony Sheridan)."

On February 9th, by the way, it will be fifty-five years since The Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan's Sunday night program.  At the time, in 1964, I was eight.  Watching The Beatles' television appearance, that night, was not simply an exciting experience; it was utterly thrilling.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, of course, has been the holiday honoring the life of Dr. King.

On his birthday, January 15th, he would have turned ninety years old.  When he died, he was thirty-nine.

The following is the conclusion of the last speech he gave, on April 3, 1968, in Memphis; the next day, in Memphis, he was killed.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! 

So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! 

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mary Kay Stearns, and "Mary Kay and Johnny"

In late 1947 (which can be regarded as being not simply part of the period of early television, but very early television; this was the year before Milton Berle came to TV), Mary Kay Stearns, and her husband, Johnny Stearns, became TV stars--through their Mary Kay and Johnny program on the DuMont Network.  The show was a live, weekly situation comedy--"one of the earliest network situation comedies," television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh have noted.

The New York Times wrote, this week: "The show, which at various points in its run was 15 minutes or a half-hour long, told gently humorous tales of the fictional Johnny, a banker, and Mary Kay, a homemaker. Mr. Stearns, who wrote the episodes, often drew from the couple’s lives for inspiration."

The program left the DuMont Network in 1948. It soon became an NBC show,  and then, for a time, aired on CBS. For part of 1949, when it returned to NBC, it was seen five nights a week.  The show remained on the air until 1950.

Johnny Stearns died in California in December of 2001, at age 85.  The New York Times reported this week that Mary Kay Stearns died in November, in California.  She was 93. 

In The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Ballantine Books, several editions), historians Brooks and Marsh wrote about the popularity of the Mary Kay and Johnny show:

"That sponsors were quite uncertain of the effectiveness of TV at this early illustrated by the following.  A few weeks after the program premiered, the sponsor, who had no way of knowing whether anyone was watching (there were no audience ratings), decided to conduct a test by offering a free mirror to the first 200 viewers who wrote in their comments on the program. Just to be safe, the company ordered an extra 200 mirrors so as not to disappoint anyone..." Brooks and Marsh wrote that 8,960 letters were received from TV viewers.