The Appletree Theatre – “Hightower Square” (1968)

Front Cover

In a 1968 interview, John Lennon named The Appletree Theatre’s concept masterpiece Playback as one of his favorite new albums at the time. It’s not surprising, as much of the album taps directly into that same style of twisted sunshine pop that we love dear ol’ John for. You can be sure that if that interview had taken place in the age of the internet, Playback would likely have been eaten up by millions. But how many fans actually came across that interview? Probably not too many. Like many of the great albums of that era, the album was a commercial failure, and following its release founding members Terry and John Boylan went off to become session musicians. Playback is a concept album, divided into three acts, an overture, and an epilogue, that sounds as though its rolling through the radio dial in a late 60s episode of the Twilight Zone. The album moves between full songs and snippest of music that range from sunshine pop to jazz, to soul, all sewn together with a series of strange vocal narratives. It’s an album that demands to be listened to as a whole, and those who do will enjoy a rather interesting trip.

Sidenote: Woods covered The Appletree Theatre’s “Who Do I Think I Am” on their 2011 album Sun & Shade.

The Appletree Theatre – Hightower Square

John Lennon, In His Own Write: No Flies on Frank

To honor the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s passing, I have selected two excerpts from the much-beloved book of poems and short stories written by John Lennon himself (click here to purchase the book from Amazon). In the first excerpt, John describes a bit about the book. The second, my personal favorite, is a story about flies and a man named Frank.

About The Awful
I was bored on the 9th of Octover 1940 when, I believe, the Nasties were still booming us led by Madolf Heatlump (who only had one). Anyway they didn’t get me. I attended to varicous schools in Liddypol. And still didn’t pass — much to my Aunties supplies. As a member of the most publified Beatles my (P, G, and R’s) records might seem funnier to some of you than this book, but as far as I’m conceived this correction of short writty is the most wonderfoul larf I’ve every ready.

No Flies On Frank
There were no flies on Frank that morning – after all why not? He was a responsible citizen with a wife and child, wasn’t he? It was a typical Frank morning and with an agility that defies description he leapt into the bathroom onto the scales. To his great harold he discovered he was twelve inches more tall heavy! He couldn’t believe it and his blood raised to his head, causing a mighty red colouring.
‘I carn’t not believe this incredible fact of truth about my very body which has not gained fat since mother begat me at childburn. Yea, though I wart through the valet of thy shadowy hut I will feed no norman. What grate qualmsy hath taken me thus into such a fatty hardbuckle.’ Again Frank looked down at the awful vision which clouded his eyes with fearful weight. ‘Twelve inches more heavy, Lo!, but am I not more fatty than my brother Geoffery whise father Alec came from Kenneth — through Leslies, who begat Arthur, son of Eric, by the house of Ronald and April — keepers of James of Newcastle who ran Madeline at 2-1 by Silver Flower, (10-2) past Wot-ro-Wot at 4/3d a pound?’

He journeyed downstairs crestfallen and defective — a great wait on his boulders — not even his wife’s battered face could raise a smile on poor Frank’s head — who as you know had no flies on him. His wife, a former beauty queer, regarded him with a strange but burly look. ‘What ails thee, Frank? she asked stretching her prune. ‘You look dejected if not informal,’ she addled.

“Tis nothing but wart I have gained but twelve inches more tall heavy than at the very clock of yesterday at this time — am I not the most miserable of men? Suffer ye not to spake to me or I might thrust you a mortal injury; I must traddle this trial alone.’ ‘Lo! Frank — thous hast smote me harshly with such grave talk — am I to blame for this vast burton?’

Frank looked sadly at his wife — forgetting for a moment the cause of his misery. Walking slowly but slowly toward her, he took his head in his hands and with a few swift blows gad clubbed her mercifully to the ground dead. ‘She shouldn’t see me like this,’ he mubbled, ‘not all fat and on her thirtysecond birthday.’

Frank had to het his own breakfast that morning and also on the following mornings.

Two, (or was it three?) weeks later Frank awake again to find that there were still no flies on him.

‘No flies on this Frank boy,’ he thought; but to his amazement there seemed to be a lot of flies on his wife — who was still lying about the kitchen floor. ‘I carn’t not partake of bread and that with her lying about the place,’ he thought allowed, writing as he spoke. ‘I must deliver her to her home whore she will be made welcome.’

He gathered her in a small sack (for she was only four foot three) and headed for her rightful home. Frank knocked on the door of his wife’s mothers house. She opened the door.

‘I’ve brought Marian home, Mrs. Sutherskill’ (he could never call her Mum). He opened the sack and placed Marian on the doorstep.

‘I’m not having all those flies in my home,’ shouted Mrs. Sutherskill (who was very houseproud), shutting the door. ‘She could have at least offered me a cup of tea,’ thought Frank lifting the problem back on his boulders

Looking Back: Live Peace In Toronto 1969

Album cover

Forty-one years ago today, a very significant musical event took place. Following a three year hiatus from live performances, John Lennon and his very newly formed Plastic Ono Band took the stage at Varsity Stadium in Toronto as part of the Toronto Rock & Roll Festival. The show has since been officially released (CD & DVD) as Live Peace In Toronto 1969. Today we take a look back on this legendary performance which featured John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman (Manfred Mann), and Alan White (future Yes drummer) – an impressive lineup, to say the least. Here’s the story, with the help of some quotes from John himself:

“Well, it was late, about 11 o’clock one Friday night, I was in my office at Apple, when we got a phone call from this guy saying, ‘Come to Toronto’. They really were inviting us as King and Queen to preside over the concert and not to play. But I didn’t hear that part and I said, ‘OK. OK. Just give me time to get a band together.’ So, I thought, ‘Who could I get to come and play with me?’ So it all happened like. We left the next morning.”

So, at the last minute John rounded up the finest musicians he could gather and headed off for Toronto on a commercial jet. With the band tucked into the first-class cabin for the extended plane ride, they started to kick around their acoustics to get the chemistry flowing for the show that lay ahead. Lennon had actually used Clapton in a previous band called Dirty Mack (which featured Keith Richards on bass!), so the two had already developed a musical relationship. The legend holds that a magical jam session occurred on that flight between Clapton and Lennon that inspired much of the music that would unfold later that evening. However, following the flight John became very ill which is noticeable throughout the video of the performance.

“My God, I haven’t performed before a large audience for four years. I mean, I did the Rolling Stones’ Circus film with a small audience, and I did the Cambridge ’69 gig; but they didn’t even know I was coming. So we didn’t sleep at all on Friday night, and I was nervous all the way across…I threw up for hours until I went on.”

But, much like Michael Jordan in the 1997 playoffs (battling a 103 degree fever) versus the Jazz, John Lennon rose to the occasion wearing a white suit with a Gretsch in hand. The band instantly connected, taking on new and old tunes from various artists including one of my favorite Beatles tunes “Yer Blues”. Clapton can be heard laying down fierce guitar lines all throughout the show, and John is simply pouring with a new-found sense of creativity that would inspire some of his great later work. If you can just get around Yoko’s incessant shrieking (which is actually, as Clapton put it in his book, rather amusing) there is some very raw, but magical music underneath.

Yer Blues” (Live Peace In Toronto 1969)

“I can’t remember when I had such a good time. Yoko was holding a piece of paper with the words to the songs in front of me. But then she suddenly disappeared into her bag in the middle of the performance and I had to make them up because it’s so long since I sang them that I’ve forgotten most of them. It didn’t seem to matter…The ridiculous thing was that I didn’t know any of the lyrics. When we did Money and Dizzy, I just made up the words as I went along. The band was bashing it out like hell behind me…Then after Money there was a stop, and I turned to Eric and said, ‘What’s next?’ He didn’t know either, so I just screamed out ‘C’mon!’ and started into something else.”

The show also featured the first ever performance of “Cold Turkey,” a song that opens the door to John’s heroin addiction. This was significant as this show was not long after John had beat heroin, and in this debut performance the struggle he had been through is painfully apparent.

“It gave me a great feeling, a feeling I haven’t had for a long time. It convinced me to do more appearances, either with or without the rest of the Beatles. Everything went down so well.”

Cold Turkey


Blue Suede Shoes

You Make Me Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Celebrating the Life of John Lennon

John Lennon (1940-1980)

It was on this day, 29 years ago, that John Winston Lennon was taken from us. His death left a hole in the heart of music, one which will never be healed . John’s impact on music can not be expressed in words. Most people are familiar with the history of John’s life, and so, rather than write a biographical sketch (which can be found here), we figured it would be better to show you John’s greatness through a series of videos that pay tribute to his music.

“I am eatting eggs, they are eatting eggs, I’m John Lennon, Goo goo ga joob”
-John Lennon, “I am the Walrus”

“I Saw Her Standing There”

“Don’t Let me Down” (Rooftop Concert, 1.30.69)

“Yer Blues” (Dirty Mac – featuring: Clapton, Mitch Mitchell, Keef Richards & Lennon) + Mick Jagger Interview

“Nowhere Man”

“Jealous Guy”

“Give Peace a Chance”

“Cold Turkey” (Willowbrook Benefit, 8.30.72)

“Happiness is a Warm Gun”

“I will”, “Julia”, “Birthday Jam”, “Yer Blues” (Phish 10.31.94)