There’s an interesting article about a recent release, The Smith Tapes, on the Mojo site.
JOHN LENNON WAS constantly bugged by fans congratulating him for writing The Beatles’ Yesterday , a song he had nothing to do with.
“Yesterday drove him crazy,” veteran New York journo/broadcaster Howard Smith told MOJO. “People would say, ‘Thank you for writing Yesterday , I got married to it, what a beautiful song…’ He was always civil. But it drove him nuts.”
Smith’s intimacy with the Lennons began in 1969, when he first interviewed the couple for the ABC-syndicated radio show he hosted in New York. He was to conduct a number of major interviews between 1969 and 1972. All have been retrieved, collected and made available to buy on CD or download from iTunes and Amazon as The Smith Tapes.
“Once we were in a Mexican restaurant, in a back room,” Smith recalled. “We’d just been to see the musical Lenny, about Lenny Bruce. In the main room John spotted this strolling guitar player, which used to be standard in Mexican restaurants. He turned to me and said, “Howard, in five minutes that guitar player is gonna come in, stand next to me and play Yesterday . And sure enough, it wasn’t even three minutes. We had hardly settled down, and the guy came in and played Yesterday , a ridiculous over-the-top version. And I said, ‘John, that really does happen to you everywhere…’ And he said: ‘Everywhere.’
And Smith was also in attendance when Lennon first unveiled his rejoinder to McCartney’s whistle-test classic.
“John came over to my loft one day and he was all excited,” Smith recalls. “He said, ‘I think I finally wrote a song with as good a melody as Yesterday .”
Sat at Smith’s piano, Lennon revealed he had a title – Imagine – but only a smattering of lyrics. For the rest he sang ‘scrambled eggs’.
“He played it through and asked me what I thought. ‘It’s beautiful.’ ‘But is it as good as Yesterday ?’ ‘They’re impossible to compare.’ So he played it again. And again. And he said, ‘You’ll see, it’s just as good as Yesterday .'”
I’d not heard of The Smith Tapes before. There’s a website here, but it’s not all that informative. But the interview mp3s are a bit of a bargain on Amazon (here are the direct .com and .co.uk links) – lengthy interviews for $.99/89p each. (You can buy them on CD through the official site’s store as well, as well as interviews with many other non-Beatles musicians.)
8 November 2012
Oh, these are the Lennon/Harrison tapes I posted about in the news thread a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for elaborating, Joe.
Sorry! I missed the earlier post.
I’d heard Lennon complain about being told by fans how much they loved Yesterday , but it was funny to read an account of it actually happening. In the 1980 Playboy interview he said this:
I’m always proud and pleased when people do my songs. It gives me pleasure that they even attempt them, because a lot of my songs aren’t that doable. I go to restaurants and the groups always play “Yesterday .” I even signed a guy’s violin in Spain after he played us “Yesterday .” He couldn’t understand that I didn’t write the song. But I guess he couldn’t have gone from table to table playing “I Am The Walrus .”
As for the interviews, one thing I liked was that you can buy interviews lasting over an hour for less than a $/£. They could have broken them up into multiple parts with each one sold for that price. I paid £7 for the collection, but it’s even cheaper in the US ($7.92, about £5.30) for over seven hours of audio. Bargain.
9 July 2013