Sunday, December 9, 2007

Following in the footsteps of the Beatles

The Beatles were quite a world traveling bunch even before they conquered the musical world in 1964. A series of DVDs by Artsmagic retraces those footsteps and gets fans back to where the Beatles once belonged.
The Beatles - Liverpool (Two-Disc Edition), The Beatles London, The Beatles, Hamburg and the Hamburg Sound and John Lennon's New York - A Magical History Tour all focus on Beatles sites in their home country, in Germany where they gained musical experience away from home, and in New York City, where John Lennon spent the final years of his life. Each of the discs features narration by Beatle fans and historians and guest appearances by Beatles associates.
"The Beatles - Liverpool (Two-Disc Edition)," hosted by Liverpool Beatle expert Spencer Leigh and Beatle historian Ray O'Brien, takes you to well-known and little known places in the Beatles hometown and is a pure delight. Along the way, they meet up with Bill Harry, editor of the influential newspaper Mersey Beat, which covered the Beatles early days in print, Allan Williams, better known as the man who gave the Beatles away and Kingsize Taylor, who performed on a Hamburg bill with the band. Harry and Williams have been interviewed numerous times for Beatle history projects, but their stories have an added charm here when coupled with seeing the actual places the Beatles spent their rise to fame. (By the way, all titles reviewed here have been released in two versions, a single "concise" version and a longer expanded. If you're a diehard Beatles fan, go for the longer versions. They're well worth the small extra cost.)

Leigh also hosts "The Beatles, Hamburg and the Hamburg Sound," a special look at the Beatles' sites in Hamburg and their link to British rock 'n' roll. Sites visited include the Indra Club, the Star Club and the Kaiserkeller. The trip concludes with a visit by Kingsize Taylor, now a resident of Hamburg.
In similar fashion, "The Beatles London," takes you around various Beatle-related sites in the British capitol. It's hosted by Richard Porter, whose daily Beatle walking tours take tourists on a magical mystery tour that occasionally have been known to encounter some well-known people. Here, Porter takes viewers to Abbey Road, Decca Studios, where they tried (and failed) to get a pre-EMI record contract, and a few of their earlier homes. He's joined by a host of Beatle experts including Bill Harry, author Keith Badman and special guest Chris Dreja of the Yardbirds. Having led the walking tours, Porter is quite knowledgeable and uses that expertise to guide viewers on the DVD. Lovers of Beatle minutia will love the little-known facts that Porter and friends discuss.
"John Lennon's New York - A Magical History Tour" takes a special trip (over three hours of original footage) around the places in his life that were important to John Lennon during his years in the Big Apple. The Dakota, of course, is included, as is Strawberry Fields in Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, plus many lesser known places. Your tour guides are Trina Yannicos, editor of Daytrippin', and Susan Ryan, editor of the fan fiction webzine Rooftop Sessions. Their guests include photographers Bob Gruen and Allen Tannenbaum, John's Japanese instructor Tamiko Steinberg and musician David Peel, whose interview shows him to be every bit the unique person seen in his music.
Yannicos, in an email to us, commented on the interviews:

Yes, David Peel is quite eccentric. But once you get past that, you see he is a really sincere, nice person and you can see why John and Yoko were friends with him in the early 70s.
All the interviews were fascinating to me. I learned a lot from speaking with each person. The one that stood out was with Tamiko Steinberg. She is a hidden treasure! Here is someone who spent eight hours a day with John Lennon for two straight months. She got to know him quite well and she tells some great stories about her experiences with him.

To sum it up, these are fascinating DVDs. If you've dreamed of getting to Liverpool, London, Hamburg or New York and touring Beatle sites, this is a good way to plan your trip or see what you'll never get to.