Tag Archives: the Beatles

Beatles Came Out And Played With Young Westporter

The Beatles may or may not have visited famed disc jockey Murray the K at his Westport home in the 1960s. No evidence exists that they did, though several folks who grew up here then insist it’s true.

But — 50 years after the release of the ground-breaking “White Album” — one fact is not in dispute: One of the songs was written about a Westporter.

In 1963, 15-year-old Prudence Farrow was living in Los Angeles. Her father — director John Farrow — died suddenly.

So Prudence’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan — an actress, then starring in a Broadway show — brought Prudence, her older sister Mia and other siblings to New York.

Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow with their children in 1950. From left: Mia, Patrick, Maureen, John holding Stephanie, Prudence and Johnny. Michael is in front.

But Maureen thought it would be best for Prudence and the other kids to live outside the city. She rented a house in Westport, with a cook/caretaker.

The 157 Easton Road house was well known: It was owned by Leopold Godowsky Jr. — a concert violinist and photographer who helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome — and his wife Frankie Gershwin, George and Ira’s younger sister who was a noted painter and singer.

It was a beautiful house: 7 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms on 2.75 acres, with a boathouse, indoor pool, 2 bars, a wine-tasting room, guest quarters, tennis court, waterfalls, walking paths, and stone bridges. The Aspetuck River flows through the back yard.

There was a lot of room to play. In her memoir, Prudence describes hiking in the woods, canoeing and skating on the pond, and playing with neighborhood kids.

157 Easton Road

But apparently the caretaker did little taking care of her charges. “We briefly saw Sue for a few minutes daily” when she drove them to the bus stop, Prudence writes. But when her brother Johnny got his license — and a Porsche convertible — she rode with him the short distance up North Avenue to Staples.

Prudence calls the school “impersonal and empty.” She told a guidance counselor she was not interested in college, so he put her in classes like “typing, homemaking, art, sewing, home economics and general math.”

However, she adds, “School was irrelevant. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of going. I thought I knew everything.”

She quickly learned Staples’ social structure, which include “creeps” (now called nerds), “High Y’s” (today’s jocks) and “greasers.” She was a “beatnik.”

Prudence writes: “They seemed so much more interesting than the others. They loved good music, art and philosophy, and I learned a lot about these disciplines from them. But overall, they were self-destructive, spoiled, and using way too many drugs.”

Prudence’s house — with the caretaker not taking much care — became the hangout. It was the place to go, on weekends, evenings, even during school. People helped themselves to food and sofas. There was always plenty of alcohol and drugs.

It was in Westport that Prudence was first exposed to Eastern thought. Her friend Tom — “a quiet soul, very sensitive” — inspired her to read Siddhartha. She thought that Buddhist principles encompassed “the most beautiful, simple, universal and most profound philosophy of life.”

She no longer drank, but continued using drugs and taking pills. The parties continued. Finally, in late spring of 1964, the police told her mother that “we could no longer remain in Connecticut unattended.” Maureen took her brood back to New York.

But the actress soon departed on a national tour. Prudence and her siblings were once again left with a caretaker — this time in a Manhattan apartment. She dropped out of a private school, and got even more deeply into drugs.

Finally — after a bad experience with LSD — Prudence found Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his Rishikesh ashram in the Himalayan foothills. She studied transcendental meditation.

In early 1968, the Beatles were there too. John Lennon and George Harrison were assigned to be her “team buddies.” They too had experimented with acid before learning about TM.

2 images of Prudence Farrow — including in India, with Ringo Starr.

Deep in meditation, Farrow refused to leave her bungalow. The 2 Beatles tried to coax her out.

And while they were at it, Lennon wrote a song. It began:

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?

Though Harrison told her about the song, she did not think much of it. And she did not hear it until the “White Album” came out.

When she did, she was “flattered.” She was also glad it was not a negative song about Rishikesh, like Lennon’s “Sexy Sadie” and “Bungalow Bill.”

Prudence had another brush with fame. In 1981 she was near the end of a 3-year affair with New York real estate heir Robert Durst, when suddenly his wife went missing.

Prudence taught TM for several decades. One of her pupils was comedian Andy Kaufman.

She went on to earn a BA, MA and Ph.D. from the University of California, majoring in Asian studies.

She worked in theater and film — including as a production assistant on The Muppets Take Manhattan. 

Using her married name — Prudence Bruns — she has written magazine stories on Asia, world religions and healthy living. She published her memoir (Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song) in 2015.

Prudence Bruns today.

And in 2012 she established the non-profit Dear Prudence Foundation. It raised funds for a documentary film about an Indian festival.

There is no record that the Beatles ever visited Westport. And there’s no reason to believe Prudence Farrow ever returned here, after moving in 1964.

But the song imploring her to open up her eyes and smile — well, that’s one more great example of where Westport meets the world.

FUN FACT: Mia Farrow has her own claim to fame: In 1966, when she was 21 and Frank Sinatra was 50, they spent time on his yacht, anchored off Compo Beach. Their marriage lasted 2 years.

(Click here for more information on Prudence Farrow’s memoir, Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Paul Ferrante: “The Beatles Must Die!”

Paul Ferrante was in 2nd grade when President Kennedy was killed. That’s his first real memory.

The second is from a few months later: The Beatles performing on “Ed Sullivan.”

More than 50 years later, Ferrante is a 7th grade language arts teacher at Coleytown Middle School. His students are only a few years older than he was then, huddled around a black-and-white TV “like the rest of America,” he says.

Kids today have gazillions of channels to choose from. Rock ‘n’ roll has given way to rap, hip hop, EDM, emo and more.

Paul Ferrante

But, Ferrante says, kids still love the Beatles.

He includes the band in his poetry curriculum. His students look at lyrics. They watch videos. They talk about the American culture, then and now.

When graduates come back to say hi, they ask if Ferrante still teaches the Beatles.

So it’s no surprise that the Fab Four are the subject of Ferrante’s most recent book. In addition to teaching, he’s a noted young adult author. His T.J. Jackson Mysteries series follow the paranormal investigations of 3 ghost-hunting teenagers from Gettysburg to New Orleans (with a stop in Fairfield County).

His 7th book — “The Beatles Must Die” — is as different from those mysteries as John, Paul, George and Ringo are from the Andrews Sisters.

The novel follows Marnie, a fan in Memphis who must make a choice between the group and her conservative community, after John Lennon’s famous “We’re more popular than Jesus” remark results in banned and burned records, even death threats.

John Lennon’s 1966 “Beatles are more popular than Jesus” quote drew a belated — but fierce — backlash.

As Ferrante notes, there are countless books about the Beatles’ music and lives. His is a rare piece of historical fiction, aimed at teens and older readers.

Why are kids still interested in the group, whose 2 surviving members are both well over 64?

“The music holds up,” Ferrante says. “They hear it from their parents. They still think it’s great stuff.”

Plus, he says, “they’re fascinated by the videos of all the girls going crazy.”

His students are intrigued to hear about a time before the internet, when most families had only one television and music came through transistor radios.

That’s why Ferrante — in his 19th year at Coleytown — sees kids in class wearing Beatles t-shirts.

He researched his book well. He read books, and watched the “8 Days a Week” video about their tours.

He built his story around real events — like the actual KKK death threat against the Beatles at their Memphis show. (They played anyway.)

Ferrante also gave his protagonist a strong character. She understands the importance of free speech, and the value of sticking up for herself.

“I’m a teacher, after all,” Ferrante says with a smile.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Beatles’ Final Tour Remains In Westport’s Memory

Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.

Also, the Remains’.

For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.

Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.

By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).

Untitled

Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.

They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.

Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”

But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)

Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.

Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.

The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.

Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”

Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:

“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.

“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”

What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.

He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.

The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.

The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.


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Tim Jackson, The Beatles, And The Nixon Girls

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here’s one more Beatles-50th-anniversary-with-a-Westport-twist tale.

Today, Tim Jackson is an assistant professor at the New England Institute of Art’s digital film and video department. He’s a musician, actor and film director.

But on Sunday, February 9, 1964 he was a 14-year-old taking the train from Westport to New York, to watch this new, wildly popular British band perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Tim got his tickets from the father of his best friend’s girlfriend, who was in advertising. “While hysteria was in the air, and lots of jealousy among our classmates, it didn’t actually dawn on us until decades later that we had witnessed a pivotal moment in American culture,” he writes this month in The ArtsFuse, a Boston online magazine.

When Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to America, it was a really big show. (Photo/The ArtsFuse)

When Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to America, it was a really big show. (Photo/The ArtsFuse)

It’s a remarkable story. Tim roams from duck-and-cover drills at Burr Farms Elementary School and an 8mm film he made called ‘The End of the World,” to being kicked out of the Long Lots orchestra for not being serious enough (he was a drummer).

He “barely” remembers the other acts on the Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” — which included the Broadway cast of “Oliver!” with future Monkee Davy Jones (who knew?), singer Tessie O’Shea, the usual Ed Sullivan acrobats, and actor Frank Gorshin (who later moved to Westport).

But he does remember the stage as “vivid shades of blue and black and gray” (and “smaller than our school auditorium”). Ringo “looked precarious on that tiny riser.”

And there, sitting right in front of Tim, were 2 teenage girls, screaming just like all the others. Their names: Julie and Tricia Nixon.

Tim Jackson playing drums with Abraxis, in Ithaca, NY.

Tim Jackson playing drums with Abraxis, in Ithaca, NY.

Tim went on to have more memorable experiences. In 1965 he was at the Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan plugged in his electric guitar. At Staples, his band opened for the Rascals. When the Yardbirds (with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) played Staples, they and the Chain Reaction (with Steve Talerico, who later changed his name to Steve Tyler) used Tim’s band’s sound system.

Over the next 10 years Tim played in bands that opened for BB King, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Iggy and the Stooges, the Chambers Brothers, Aerosmith, J. Geils, Manfred Mann, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat and Grand Funk Railroad.

Tim still plays drums at occasional gigs. Music has influenced his life in countless ways, he says.

And it all started when he bought that ticket to ride a train from Westport to New York, 50 years ago today.

(To read Tim Jackson’s entire story in The ArtsFuse, click here.)

Tim Jackson today.

Tim Jackson today.

Andrea Tebbetts’ 15 Minutes Of Beatles Fame

Tonight’s final story on the “CBS Evening News” was a feel-good look back at the Beatles’ 1st television appearance — 50 years ago this Sunday — on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” (It was also a subtle promo for CBS’ continuing coverage of that historic event, but what the hell.)

The hook was Andrea Tebbetts. Half a century ago, thanks to her grandfather’s connections, she scored tickets to the live TV appearance. There were 50,000 requests, for only 700 seats.

Tonight, CBS took Andrea back to that studio. David Letterman uses it (and it’s now named for Ed Sullivan).

Andrea Tebbetts, in the Ed Sullivan Theater. Today, she's a tax attorney with the Justice Department, in Washington DC.

Andrea Tebbetts, in the Ed Sullivan Theater. Today she’s a Justice Department tax attorney in Washington, DC.

She described how the camera zoomed in on Ringo. Then — suddenly — it cut to her. Screaming, like every other girl in the theater (and in America).

73 million viewers — at that time, a US record — watched her scream.

Andrea Tebbetts, mid-scream.

Andrea Tebbetts, mid-scream.

It was Andrea’s 15 minutes of fame. Up to then, she said, she was known in school only for being “clumsy, a Girl Scout, president of the Science Club.”

And what school was that?

Long Lots Junior High, right here in 06880.

The Beatles Visit Westport

More than 45 years after it supposedly happened, whether the Beatles actually visited Murray the K* at his Bluewater Hill home is up for debate.

But no one can deny that without Westporter Al Brodax, “Yellow Submarine” would never have left the dock.

In the late 1960s, Brodax was head of King Features’ motion picture/TV division. He pitched the idea of a full-length film based on the song of the same name to the Beatles. (I’m sure he knew someone who knew someone who…)

The Beatles agreed to provide music for the animated film. (It was also a way to fulfill their contractual obligation to United Artists.) With Brodax serving as producer, “Yellow Submarine” was released to critical acclaim in 1968.

(Full disclosure: I always thought “Yellow Submarine” was the worst song in the entire Beatles discography. I had no desire to see the film, then or now.)

Brodax went on to produce, write and direct several Emmy-winning TV shows, including “Make a Wish” and “Animals, Animals, Animals.”

Al Brodax (Photo/Carol King)

In 2004 he wrote Up Periscope Yellow: The Making of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. (Full disclosure: I have not read it, nor do I plan to.)

But Brodax is a great guy. He’s still around — though he’s migrated north, to Weston — and this Friday, April 13 (Westport Arts Center, 7 p.m.), the Westport Youth Film Festival will sponsor a fundraiser: the film, followed by a discussion with Brodax.

There’s also music by local bands, and (yeah, yeah, yeah) food.

The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for students. Because it’s a benefit for the WYFF (with live music), I’m guessing there will be lots of teenagers in the crowd.

As in, “kids who are Beatles fans, even if they were born 30 years after the Beatles may or may not have visited Murray the K* in Westport.”

*Murray the K was a famous DJ.**

**DJ as in “radio disc jockey,” not “someone who plays music at proms, weddings and bar mitzvahs.”

Jon Gailmor Joins The Beatles

What do the Beatles and Jon Gailmor have in common?

You can finally get their music on iTunes.

Jon Gailmor

The Fab Four caved in November.  It took Jon — the fabulous Westport-bred singer (and former Staples Orphenian), now an official Vermont “state treasure” — a bit longer.

But his catalog is now available with the click of a mouse.

My favorite album — “Gonna Die With a Smile if it Kills Me” — includes the joyful “Woody,” the wistful “Ae Fond Kiss” (perhaps the only folk song ever written by Scottish poet Robert Burns), and the lovely “Long Ago Lady,” Jon’s elegant tribute to his adopted state of Vermont.

I know — it’s still January 1.  But Jon finally joining the 21st (iTunes) century is the best news I’ve heard all year.