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Craig Browns portrait of the band recaptures their heyday in a series of shimmering vignettes

Fifty years since their dissolution in April 1970 the Beatles live on. The bands music, their significance and their individual personalities exert a hold on the cultural consciousness that seems to tighten as their heyday recedes. But is there anything new to say? Craig Browns One Two Three Four, the latest to enter the crowded library of Beatles books, is not a biography so much as a group portrait in vignettes, a rearrangement of stories and legends whose trick is to make them gleam anew.

The subtitle, The Beatles in Time, marks out the books difference from the rest. Brown goes on Beatles jaunts around Liverpool and Hamburg, visits fan festivals, tests the strength of the industry that has agglomerated around them. So many of the clubs where they played are now lost or changed beyond recognition a memory of a memory and the fans who do the pilgrimages are simply chasing shadows.

Brown, the arch-satirist, is wry about the 1,000-plus Beatles tribute acts worldwide. At times, the slightly desperate nostalgia of International Beatle Week in Liverpool reminds him of his parents watching The Good Old Days in the 1970s, a collective delusion that the dead can be revived. But then he watches tribute band the Fab Four play She Loves You and hes transported. A double fantasy is at work for as long as they play, we are all 50 years younger, gazing in wonder at the Beatles in their prime.

The book is a social history as well as a musical one. Success came slowly at first, and then quickly, as a landslide, flattening those ahead. Cliff Richard, once the golden boy of British pop, sounds (even decades later) mightily miffed about the way the Beatles displaced him. Prime ministers were as susceptible as teenagers: Harold Wilson sought an audience with them and later arranged their MBEs.

In the US, their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show had a seismic effect: it seemed nobody could talk about anything else. Some responded in bemusement. Cassius Clay, after a jokey photo session with the boys, asked a reporter: Who were those little sissies? The actor Eleanor Bron recalls girls screaming like starlings as the Beatles landed at Heathrow a high sighing hopeless poignant sound, unrequitable. You can almost feel the 1960s bloom from monochrome into colour as the band plays irresistibly on.

Brown is an able memoirist, with an instinct for selection that quite eludes the Beatles most exhaustive chronicler, Mark Lewisohn, whose basic principle is to include everything he knows. One Two Three Four hasnt the authority or the insight of Ian MacDonalds sacred Revolution in the Head, and lacking an index it isnt as useful as Philip Normans 1981 biography Shout! But it does an intriguing sideline in characters who were tangential to the Beatles story such as Richard and Margaret Asher, who welcomed Paul as one of the family into their Wimpole Street home when he was going out with their daughter, Jane. Or the drummer Jimmie Nicol, a Beatle-surrogate for 10 days when Ringo had tonsilitis and whose life thereafter fell through the cracks. Or the sad figure of Eric Clague, former police constable, who discovered by chance that the woman he had accidentally run down and killed years before was Julia Lennon, Johns mum.

The Beatles in Washington DC, 1964. Photograph: Copyright Apple Corps

This is the strange paradox of the Beatles. Listening to the sound that John, Paul, George and Ringo created still plugs us right into the happiness and exhilaration that their producer, the gentlemanly George Martin, talked of. Reading about them, conversely, is quite a melancholy experience, because the end seems always in sight.

Its noticeable in this book how, once they are famous, they become prey to the most outrageous hangers-on. This vulnerability is most evident in John, the prickliest of the four, and also the neediest. He was first seduced by Magic Alex, a Greek conman whom he appointed his guru and electronics expert. Then he and George fell under the spell of the Maharishi.

Finally, and fatefully, came Yoko Ono, who John initially assured his wife Cynthia was crackers, just a weirdo artist who wants me to sponsor her. Brown reserves a particular scorn for Yoko, not because she broke up the Beatles that was inevitable but because her narcissism egged Lennon on to painful extremes of silliness and self-importance.

The saddest irony was that the Beatles once did have someone to take care of them. The Hamlets Ghost of this book is Brian Epstein, whose story Brown plots in reverse from the eclipse of his lonely suicide to the bright-eyed overtures as manager and impresario. It makes a poignant epilogue. Of course that story is nothing without the Beatles talent, but here is the reminder of how Epstein discovered it, packaged it, and sold it. Had he not taken himself down the steps of the Cavern Club one lunchtime in November 1961, the world might never have heard of the Beatles. As Lennon once admitted: Brian made it all seem real. We were in a daydream til he came along We stopped chomping at cheese rolls and jam butties onstage.

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Timeby Craig Brownis published by Fourth Estate (20). To order a copy go to Free UK p&p over 15

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Council workers take advantage of the empty streets to spruce up the crossing featured on the cover of the Beatles 1969 album

The iconic Abbey Road zebra crossing made famous by the 1969 Beatles album of the same name has been repainted while the streets of London are empty because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A highways maintenance crew quietly repainted the normally busy zebra crossing on 24 March, the day after the prime minister ordered Britain to go on lockdown in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

A spokesperson for Westminster City Council said: This is a very busy zebra crossing and we repainted the line markings to ensure visibility and increased safety for drivers and pedestrians. Our contractors follow government advice on limiting the spread of covid-19, including social distancing and hand washing.

A site of national importance … the album cover for Abbey Road. Photograph: Pictorial Press/Alamy Stock Photo

The brightened markings can be seen in action on the Abbey Road webcam.

The government designated the crossing a site of national importance in 2010 and it can be altered only with the approval of local authorities. This London zebra crossing is no castle or cathedral but, thanks to the Beatles and a 10-minute photoshoot one August morning in 1969, it has just as strong a claim as any to be seen as part of our heritage, John Penrose, minister for tourism and heritage said at the time.

The remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Abbey Road album with a deluxe reissue last September. In January, it was announced as the biggest selling vinyl record of the 2010s in the US. It came eighth in the UK, with British Beatles fans apparently preferring Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The cover for Abbey Road was shot at 11.35am on 8 August 1969, as John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr took a break from completing I Want You (Shes So Heavy) and The End, and Paul McCartney paused work on Oh! Darling. Standing on a step ladder in the middle of the road, photographer Iain Macmillan only had time to shoot six photographs on his Hasselblad camera given the oncoming traffic. McCartney selected the fourth image as the cover shot.

Repainting the famous crossing. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

On the albums release, fans became convinced that McCartneys barefoot appearance related to the conspiracy theory that he had died two years earlier and been replaced by a ringer. He had in fact kicked off his sandals because it was hot.

On Abbey Road we were wearing our ordinary clothes. I was walking barefoot because it was a hot day, McCartney told Life magazine later that year. Can you spread it around that I am just an ordinary person and want to live in peace?

He parodied the theory on the cover of his 1993 live album, Paul Is Live, posing with a dog on the crossing. Pop cultural figures from the Simpsons to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Doctor Who have also re-enacted the image.

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Mark Lewisohn knows the Fab Four better than they knew themselves. The experts tapes of their tense final meetings shed new light on Abbey Road and inspired a new stage show

The Beatles werent a group much given to squabbling, says Mark Lewisohn, who probably knows more about them than they knew about themselves. But then he plays me the tape of a meeting held 50 years ago this month on 8 September 1969 containing a disagreement that sheds new light on their breakup.

Theyve wrapped up the recording of Abbey Road, which would turn out to be their last studio album, and are awaiting its release in two weeks time. Ringo Starr is in hospital, undergoing tests for an intestinal complaint. In his absence, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison convene at Apples HQ in Savile Row. John has brought a portable tape recorder. He puts it on the table, switches it on and says: Ringo you cant be here, but this is so you can hear what were discussing.

Challenging conventional wisdom Fab Four writer-historian Mark Lewisohn

What they talk about is the plan to make another album and perhaps a single for release in time for Christmas, a commercial strategy going back to the earliest days of Beatlemania. Its a revelation, Lewisohn says. The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album and they wanted to go out on an artistic high. But no theyre discussing the next album. And you think that John is the one who wanted to break them up but, when you hear this, he isnt. Doesnt that rewrite pretty much everything we thought we knew?

Lewisohn turns the tape back on, and we hear John suggesting that each of them should bring in songs as candidates for the single. He also proposes a new formula for assembling their next album: four songs apiece from Paul, George and himself, and two from Ringo If he wants them. John refers to the Lennon-and-McCartney myth, clearly indicating that the authorship of their songs, hitherto presented to the public as a sacrosanct partnership, should at last be individually credited.

Then Paul sounding, shall we say, relaxed responds to the news that George now has equal standing as a composer with John and himself by muttering something mildly provocative. I thought until this album that Georges songs werent that good, he says, which is a pretty double-edged compliment since the earlier compositions hes implicitly disparaging include Taxman and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Theres a nettled rejoinder from George: Thats a matter of taste. All down the line, people have liked my songs.

The Beatles Abbey Road album Photograph: Pictorial Press/Alamy

John reacts by telling Paul that nobody else in the group dug his Maxwells Silver Hammer, a song theyve just recorded for Abbey Road, and that it might be a good idea if he gave songs of that kind which, John suggests, he probably didnt even dig himself to outside artists in whom he had an interest, such as Mary Hopkin, the Welsh folk singer. I recorded it, a drowsy Paul says, because I liked it.

A mapping of the tensions that would lead to the dissolution of the most famous and influential pop group in history is part of Hornsey Road, a teasingly titled stage show in which Lewisohn uses tape, film, photographs, new audio mixes of the music and his own matchless fund of anecdotes and memorabilia to tell the story of Abbey Road, that final burst of collective invention.

The album is now so mythologised that the humdrum zebra crossing featured on its celebrated cover picture is now officially listed as site of special historic interest; a webcam is trained on it 24 hours a day, observing the comings and goings of fans from every corner of the world, infuriating passing motorists as these visitors pause to take selfies, often in groups of four, some going barefoot in imitation of Pauls enigmatic gesture that August morning in 1969.

George Harrison and John Lennon recording Let It Be. Photograph: Daily Sketch/Rex/Shutterstock

Its a story of the people, the art, the people around them, the lives they were leading, and the break-up, Lewisohn says. The show comes midway through his writing of The Beatles: All These Years, a magnum opus aiming to tell the whole story in its definitive version. The first volume, Tune In, was published six years ago, its mammoth 390,000-word narrative ending just before their first hit. (All the heft of the Old Testament, the Observers Kitty Empire wrote, with greater forensic rigour.)

Constant demands to know when Turn On (covering 1963-66) and Drop Out (1967-69) might appear are met with a sigh: Im 61, and Ive got 14 or 15 years left on these books. Ill be in my mid-70s when I finish. Time is of the essence, he adds, perhaps thinking of the late John Richardsons uncompleted multi-volume Picasso biography. This two-hour show is a way of buying the time for him to dive back into the project.

For 30 years, Lewisohn has been the man to call when you needed to know what any of the Fab Four was doing on almost any day of their lives, and with whom they were doing it. His books include a history of their sessions at what were then known as the EMI Recording Studios in Abbey Road, and he worked on the vast Anthology project in the 90s.

The idea for a stage show was inspired by an invitation from a university in New Jersey to be the keynote speaker at a three-day symposium on the Beatles White Album, then celebrating its golden jubilee. His presentation, called Double Lives, juxtaposed the making of the album and the lives they were leading as individuals outside the studio. It took several weeks to put together, and I thought, This is mad I should be doing this more than once to get more people to see it.

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in the studio. Photograph: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy

The next anniversary to present itself was that of Abbey Road, which took place during a crowded year in which Paul married Linda Eastman, John and Yoko went off on their bed-ins for peace, Georges marriage to Pattie Boyd was breaking up, and they were all involved in side projects. John had released Give Peace a Chance as the Plastic Ono Band and George had been spending time in Woodstock with Bob Dylan.

John also took Yoko and their two children, Kyoko and Julian, on a sentimental road trip to childhood haunts in Liverpool, Wales and the north of Scotland, ending when he drove their Austin Maxi into a ditch while trying to avoid another car. Brian Epstein, their manager, had died the previous year and the idealism that had fuelled the founding of their Apple company Its like a top, John said. We set it going and hope for the best was starting to fray badly. Other business concerns such as their song-publishing copyrights, which had been sold without their knowledge led to a war between Allen Klein, the hard-boiled New York record industry veteran invited by John to sort it out, and John Eastman, Lindas father, a top lawyer brought in by Paul to safeguard his interests.

Lewisohn has the minutes of another business meeting, this time at Olympic Studios, where the decision to ratify Kleins appointment was approved by three votes to one (Paul), the first time the Beatles had not spoken with unanimity. It was the crack in the Liberty Bell, Paul said. It never came back together after that one. Ringo and George just said, whatever John does, were going with. I was actually trying, in my mind, to save our future.

And yet Lewisohn challenges the conventional wisdom that 1969 was the year in which they were at each others throats, storming out of the recording sessions filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the verit-style movie Let It Be, and barely on speaking terms. During the making of Abbey Road, says Lewisohn, they were in an almost entirely positive frame of mind. They had this uncanny ability to leave their problems at the studio door not entirely, but almost.

In fact, Abbey Road was not the only recording location for the album: earlier sessions were held at Olympic in Barnes and Trident in Soho. And Lewisohns creation is called Hornsey Road because that, in other circumstances, is what the album might have been titled, had EMI not abandoned its plans to turn a converted cinema in that rather grittier part of north London into its venue for pop recording.

The show, Lewisohn believes, is the first time an album has been treated to this format. People will be able to listen with more layers and levels of understanding, he says. When you go to an art gallery, you hope that someone, an expert, will tell you what was happening when the artist painted a particular picture. With these songs, Im going to show the stories behind them and the people who made them, and what they were going through at the time. Certainly, no one who sees this show will ever hear Abbey Road in the same way again.

Hornsey Road is at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, on 18 September and touring until 4 December.

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The fashion designer talks about her latest collection, the creative frustrations of eco sequins and why shes not a fan of washing her bra

I am standing in the Old Bond Street headquarters of Stella McCartneys fashion empire, waiting to interview the designer and wondering why there are massive wet rocks surrounded by moss on the shopfloor. I ask the publicity assistant and it is surely a coincidence that the fictional character Bubble from Absolutely Fabulous pops into my mind after she replies, in a voice imbued with significance and reverence: Nature.

Alongside the luxury clothing, there is also special clean air piped into every room to combat the pollution of central London, a ballpit for rich children to play in (at least, I dont think any other kind come in here) and a three-hour jamming session of original Paul McCartney music playing on repeat, as Stella explains when I meet her in a private room on the top floor. Limited-edition versions of her clothes hang all around us, saved for favoured customers who make it into this locked zone.

Inspired by the Beatles: highlights from Stella McCartneys new All Together Now collection. Photograph: Daniel Benson/The Observer

Indeed, it turns out that the rocks have been shipped down from Pauls farm on the Mull of Kintyre, where mist rolls in from the sea the mist now rolls into his daughters garments, apparently. I was like, Dad, this is weird she explains, but can I have some rocks?

Stella is bright-eyed and perky, quite frank, open and has the manner of someone not put on this earth to waste time. I ask if we are in a VIP room, but she groans and says that when somebody called it that during the planning stages she responded that they would not be working with her for very long if they used that word again. I think it is politically important to Stella to be seen as egalitarian, which must be hard when youre selling fluffy jumpers for a grand.

Moss doesnt really want to live on Bond Street. In a store: the flagship shop in Old Bond Street. Photograph: Hufton & Crow

Anyway, the award-winning designer, 47, is dressed in layers of matching beige neutrals today, of her own design, of course. We are here to discuss a new collection she has created, called All Together Now, which is inspired by the 1968 Yellow Submarine film based on music by her father and his fellow Beatles. She has always been a proud bearer of her mother Lindas vegetarian credentials, going to great lengths to avoid any use of leather and fur. But diving right into the Beatles legacy is something new.

But first we need to talk about the shop itself, of which Stella is equally proud. She was really specific about the rocks, she says, after her dad agreed to liberate them. We had to reinforce the floors, to weight-bear them and all that sort of stuff, for my rock passion. And then, you know, they werent quite the right colour, so now we spray them. Stella also wanted moss on them, but the problem with keeping that going, as she explains, sadly, is that moss doesnt really want to live on Bond Street. In a store.

Kate Moss does though. She is living happily above us on the wall, in a framed photo with her arm around Stella, taken soon after they began working together as designer and muse, when Moss walked in McCartneys graduating fashion show from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1998. Their friendship has continued, with Kate even cutting the ribbon to open this very shop in 2018 it now being one of 56 stand-alone Stella McCartney stores around the world, which all stay true to their founders environmentalist roots by using only LED lighting, saving 75% of the power of traditional bulbs, and sustainable wood and paper. The UK shops are all fuelled by wind power.

Oh yes the Moss is here, in many ways, the McCartney agrees. When I put it to her that her friend is now a national treasure, she says Moss would never accept such a role, because you probably wouldnt like her so much if she did. Youd be like, Oh, bummer, shes not as cool as we thought she was. But Ill tell her, says Stella, clearly proud of her friendship. Ill say, Sophie says youre amazing. We both know she will do no such thing, but still.

We all live in a yellow submarine: baby Stella and the McCartney family, 1974. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

The new Beatles-inspired range includes knitwear with ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE embroidered on it in various languages and Savile Row tailored jackets inspired by the marching-band suits in the film. There is a long, psychedelic Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds dress, and plenty of yellow submarine motifs throughout the collection, which is for women, men and children. Look at that fucking Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band bag for kids, how cool is that? she says as she shows me her inventions.

The idea came to her after the film was remastered last year and her dad held a family screening. Just a little one, but it was literally like all of the Beatles children and grandchildren there. Influenced by the kids enjoyment of the film, she says she saw it through completely fresh eyes. It just hit me really hard. I went far too deep into all the meanings. Even the line All together now I thought, that is so incredible that these four kids from Liverpool, at such a young age, came up with something so inclusive, which feels very contemporary to everything that were talking about today, in the now. I came away feeling really inspired, like I had to do something with it.

Models wearing clothes from the All Together Now collection Photograph: Daniel Benson/The Observer

I tell her that I recently showed it to my fascinated seven-year-old and it reawakened childhood memories of having my mind blown at a similar age, as if you could almost get drunk on the psychedelic imagery.

I agree completely. Its a gift. All hand-drawn with individual gels and, you know, who today in the world of music is going to create an animated film like that? Who on earth has created a body of work like that? I cant name anyone.

McCartney lives in west London (as well as in the countryside, where she rides horses) and is married to Alasdhair Willis, with whom she has four children. Her unwavering moral commitments have put her in an interesting position as an activist in the fashion business, which she describes as the second most harmful industry to the planet. Its my intention to stand shoulder to shoulder with the conventional houses and show that you can actually be respectful in your supply chain and manufacture.

To which end, shes created alternatives not just to leather and fur, but also to all sorts of other materials, such as PVC, because its chemical production is so harmful, and they say its cancerous to the people who work with it, and then the residue runs into the rivers because the factories are built on rivers. It has taken her 10 years of innovation to make a clear shoe without using it.

Is it satisfying to have to work hard on the invention side of things? No. Its not like I go, Oh, Im not going to use PVC because the challenge will make me more creative. Its like, Well, that fucking sucks, and Ive also only got three sequins that I can use in two colourways as opposed to 5,000 that everyone else will use. If everyone else was sustainable, we could have a level playing field, so it does feel unfair but its my choice and I believe very much in my reasons for working in that way. You know what? Its not like Im here for an easy life.

She says recent changes in the industry, with other designers waking up to the planet, are led by people power. These recent changes are consumer-driven. I dont think our industry would be doing that if the customers werent demanding it.

Dress to impress: Stella McCartney with her husband Alasdhair Willis. Photograph: Mike Marsland/WireImage

So its simply a capitalist response to the market? I think so, yeah, and thats OK, because thats capitalism, you know, thats what happens. But now is the time, as a consumer, to really understand. Were going to have to push the people in power. And how fucking amazing is it that its 15, 16-year-olds who are doing that? Thank God for them.

She recently bought back her brand in its entirety, having previously sold a 50% stake to French investors Kering. I wonder if she stays at work late into the night. Oh fuck no. Im very passionate about my art. And when youre in it, youre in it. But if somebody says, Hey you could stay here until 2am, or you could go and ride your horse with your kids, bareback, Id take option two. Any day of the week. Eating a bag of chips. She found her own buyout reinvigorating and did it to protect my name, my history it was kind of about heritage and family and continuation.

Does this mean that her two daughters and two sons, who are aged between eight and 14, will take over the business one day? I dont know. Of course one side of me is like, I want the kids to do this. But then its like, is that my ego? I dont want to put that pressure on them. My mum and dad didnt go, Right, youre going to be writing all the next albums. The kids should just do what they want to do. Indeed, she recently watched Succession, a TV drama about a media dynasty that battles over who will inherit the family business, and found it a bit depressing, actually.

Fashion means everything to her, though. She even wants to analyse my outfit. Psychologically, she says, I find it incredibly interesting that you chose a vintage-esque, ethnic, quilted cotton coat to wear today. Its a very feminine piece, probably women made it. It says you probably celebrate some kind of hand touch, heritage, some kind of travel. The gold cuffs on my shirt, also tells a lot about you, that little bit of Lurex peeping out.

The kids should just do what they want to do. Stella with models at Milan mens fashion week SS20. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Shes not so keen on my leather boots, oops, (People dont bring leather into me, generally) but, tragically, its my face that says most about me, which will teach me not to make such an effort next time.

And then youve got your red lip and you know, youve got a lot of makeup on, Stella McCartney notes, staring at my head. A pettier person than I might respond that she is wearing exactly as much makeup herself, only its all in neutral shades just like her outfit but Im not, so I wont.

Kidswear featured in the All Together Now collection Photograph: Daniel Benson/The Observer

The publicist tells me there is time for me to ask one last question, so I use my precious minute to ask what she thinks of dry cleaning. Do we actually need it in the world today? Stella bursts out laughing, almost barking with amusement that I would use my precious last moments on this topic.

I love you, she says, this is such a great, random question. OK, so I went to St Martins when I was a baby and in my free time I studied on Savile Row to be a bespoke tailor. It was a very masculine world, incredible, obsessed.

Were you the only girl in the room? I was the only girl who had ever been in the room. I was there for three years and I barely learned how to set a sleeve head in a sleeve. Its like architecture. Its amazing. And the rule on a bespoke suit is you do not clean it. You do not touch it. You let the dirt dry and you brush it off. Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you dont absolutely have to clean anything, dont clean it. I wouldnt change my bra every day and I dont just chuck stuff into a washing machine because its been worn. I am incredibly hygienic myself, but Im not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really.

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Seven months after Jones insulted the Beatles musicianship, McCartney finally claps back

The musician-on-musician public tiff, sometimes referred to as a rap beef, has become something of an art form in recent years. Drake and Pusha T, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B: these are epic battles in which artists use social media and the worlds greatest producers to release devastating diss tracks about each other, often responding to the latest slur within hours.

For older artists, it can be hard to muster that kind of animosity. But Quincy Jones and Paul McCartney, with 161 years and 45 Grammys between them, are giving it a go albeit without quite as much malice as their hip-hop counterparts.

It began in February, when Quincy Jones gave a wildly unguarded interview with New York magazine in which as well as claiming that Marlon Brando had sex with Richard Pryor, that he knew the true identity of who killed JFK and that he had dated Ivanka Trump Jones cast aspersions about the Beatles musicianship.

Jones said: They were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Dont even talk about it.

I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and Ringo had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song. He couldnt get it. We said, Mate, why dont you get some lager and lime, some shepherds pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit.

So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer. Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, George, can you play it back for me one more time? So George did, and Ringo says, That didnt sound so bad. And I said, Yeah, motherfucker, because it aint you. Great guy, though.

The interview was well received many cheered Joness honesty but Jones felt bad about what was said, and later apologised, saying it had been a case of word vomit and that bad-mouthing is inexcusable.

Now, seven months later, McCartney has responded, not via a YouTube diss video, but via another lengthy profile with a legacy media title, this time GQ magazine. In the piece, McCartney recounts the apology call from Quincy.

So he rang me, and Im at home on my own. And Id finished work, so I had a drink, and now Im grooving at home, Im cooking, Ive got a little bit of wine going, Im in a good mood, and I dont give a shit. So I get a phone call: Is this Mr McCartney? Yes. Quincy would like to speak with you. Because hes always worked through security guys.

I said, Hey, Quince! Paul, how you doing, man? Im doing great how are you, you motherfucker! Im just jiving with him. Paul, I didnt really say that thing I dont know what happened, man. I never said that. You know I love you guys!

I said, If you had said that, you know what I would have said? Fuck you, Quincy Jones! And he laughed. I said, You know I would say to that: Fuck you, Quincy Jones, you fucking crazy motherfucker! So actually we just had a laugh. And he was like, Oh, Paul, you know I love you so much. Yeah, I know you do, Quince.

McCartneys rejoinder is not exactly a knockout blow, and it seems the two men have buriedwhat was already quite a blunt hatchet. Still, McCartney was at pains to point out that hes actually quite good at the bass guitar.

I dont think Im the worst bass player hes ever heard, he said. Or maybe hes never heard bad bass players.

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Record producer takes swipes at the Beatles, the machiavellian Michael Jackson, U2 and more

Quincy Jones: ‘The Beatles were the worst musicians in the world’

Record producer takes swipes at the Beatles, the machiavellian Michael Jackson, U2 and more

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Sir Paul McCartney says photo of woman breastfeeding inspired him to write song

Sir Paul McCartney has spoken of his inspiration for the Beatles song Lady Madonna: a photograph of a woman breastfeeding her child in National Geographic.

McCartney said he was inspired to write the song, which reached the top of the charts in 1968, after seeing then image in the magazine in the 1960s.

National Geographics January 1965 issue included a photograph entitled Mountain Madonna, of a woman whose way of life was threatened, with one child at her breast and another laughing up at her.

She looked very proud and she had a baby … And I saw that as a kind of Madonna thing, mother and child, McCartney said.

Sometimes you see pictures of mothers and you go: shes a good mother. You could just tell theres a bond and it just affected me, that photo. So I was inspired to write Lady Madonna, my song, from that photo.

Sir Paul McCartney performs in in Tinley Park, Illinois, as part of his latest tour. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

The musician also spoke of not getting tired after a long live performance, even at 75.

I think I feel very healthy and I do shows three hours long and I dont feel knackered at the end of it. I still feel strong, he said.

The singer, a vegetarian for decades, was speaking to National Geographics editor in chief, Susan Goldberg, about his Meat Free Monday campaign and new documentary short.

The film features daughters Mary and Stella McCartney, as well as actors Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson.

McCartney, discussing the effect of livestock agriculture on climate change, said: Were on this incredible planet and there doesnt appear to be another one within sight.

One Day A Week is released on Friday on YouTube.

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Via his cult compilations, Lance Barresi has dug up rare and oddball hard rock and heavy psych cuts that provided the soundtrack to the hippy comedown

In the age of music overload, when its possible to access millions of songs via YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, is it really possible to find something new? Something unheard, from rocks recesses? Lance Barresi, the man behind the Brown Acid compilations, claims that not only has he dug up undiscovered gems, but that they sat under the noses of collectors and collators for decades.

Starting in 2015, Barresi, along with Daniel Halls RidingEasy Records, began pulling together five collections of rare and weird tracks from rocks past. The music all comes under Barresis umbrella term Brown Acid, with the tracks loosely fitting into three sub-genres: hard rock, heavy psych and proto-metal. Theyre labels that have confused the snobbiest of musos.

When I go to record shows, even guys who have been selling records for decades you start mentioning these three sub-genres and theyre like: What, what do you mean? Its befuddling that these records exist but theyre also virtually unknown even to people who have been dealing with records their whole life.

As the compilations came together, Barresi began to notice a pattern. The tracks all fell between 1968 and 1975, as garage rock began to give way to a harder, darker sound. Very rarely is something we include on Brown Acid heavy enough to come before 1968 and rarely is anything that comes later than 1975 or 1976 in the right ballpark either, says Barresi.

Sometimes there are things like Blown Frees The Wizard, which is from 1980. It just hits that sweet spot because its from a rural town in Texas that was just behind the times and the band werent trying to be contemporary. They were just playing the same music that was popular a decade before that.

Brown Acid started out of necessity. Barresi, who set up the Permanent Records store in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles where he opened more branches, was playing hard rock at his weekly DJ gig in Eagle Rock on the outskirts of east LA. The problem was that he couldnt find enough of the sounds he was looking for: rough and ready hard rock with a fuzzy psych or soul edge. He began asking friends for tips on similar music and mining YouTube for potential songs to play out.

That led to unearthing tracks via a network of hardcore collectors, often going off scarce information found on record sleeves or on online forums. Once he found the band members and got their authorisation, he put out The First Trip in 2015. But finding them was the hardest part.

Barresi says one typical case was Captain Foams Richard Bertrand, the front man of a little known Ohio two-piece who released one sought-after 7-inch in the late 60s. Anyone I called in Ohio named Richard Bertrand was not him, he remembers. I was hitting wall after wall for a long time. Id been looking for someone in Ohio when he was actually in California. Eventually I found him on LinkedIn, of all places.

Altamont signaled the end of the 60s and ushered in a darker period in American life. Photograph: Ronald Grant

Similar amateur detective work was necessary to find nearly all the bands on Brown Acid. Barresi describes the compilations as a set of unknown hits you cant believe failed to connect back in their heyday due to various unfortunate circumstances. Most of the bands on the compilations arent one-hit wonders, but one-record wonders who made just one 7-inch that might never have been sold or made it beyond a DJs promo bag.

A lot of the records were used by bands to showcase their abilities, so the B-side will be a really terrible ballad or a bad cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash or something, says Barresi. Generally speaking, these bands only had one crack at it and it didnt go well, and then they called it quits and moved on to something else.

That element of misfortune, as well as the quest for more of the music he loved, fueled Barresis search as he wanted to give these musicians another chance to have their tracks heard. You can be amazing and be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have anything take off, he says. Im just happy to give these guys who I think deserved more than they got another chance at success. However little that might be, at least their music will be able to be heard by a new generation of people.

Its phenomenal at all that some of these 45s even exist, because they dont need to exist they just happened to be created, he says.

Theres been a glut of deep-dive compilations over the last five years that have shone light on the darkest recesses of rocks back catalog. Now Agains Function Underground: The Black & Brown American Rock Sound 1969 to 1974 focused on African American rock musicians whose music wasnt defined as rock and operated in a world between nascent soul, funk and heavy rock. Numero Group have collated two collections that overlap with Brown Acid. The brilliantly named Darkscorch Canticles feature wizard rock bands who replaced hippie pastoralism with mythology, armored conflict, sorcery, and doom (not to be confused with Harry Potter-inspired wizard rock). Acid Nightmares, meanwhile, touched on some of the same heavy psych and short-lived stoner bands that also found their way on to the Liverpool Psych festivals collections.

Axas Composite: Sam Morris/RidingEasy

Barresi says the compilations are mining a transitional phase of rock created during a time when the hippy optimism gave way to a post-trip hangover that Joan Didion captured in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Its not all pot smoke and love, he says of the period. In 1969 you have the Manson murders, you have [the disastrous Rolling Stones gig at] Altamont, while Vietnam is ruining everyones good vibes and the music starts to get a little bit heavier and less flowery.

The music got real dark, real quickly during that era. When everyone was first discovering the Beatles and garage rock and weed and LSD its all fun and games, and then you start to realise the dark side of that and it gets ugly.

Barresi hopes that Brown Acid will do for hard rock, proto-metal and heavy psych, what Nuggets did for garage rock, and bring it to a wider audience of collectors and music fans. He sees it as plugging a gaping hole in rock history. It perfectly fits the void between [the garage compilations] Nuggets, Pebbles, Boulders and [the punk compilations] Bloodstains and Killed By Death, which seems really natural to me, but obviously no one thought of it.

Its like a bastard child of rock music that no one really paid attention to. There are all these amazing records from the late 60s to the early 70s that exist that really didnt have a place to be filed under.

Whether proto-metal or heavy psych or even wizard rock become the next genre to see a wider scale resurgence is debatable, but Barresi plans to continue with the compilations and believes theres a lot more music to be unearthed. Weve only just discovered the tip of the iceberg, says Barresi. You keep digging that hole thinking youre going to hit the bottom and all that happens is the dirt underneath you just gets weirder and weirder.

Brown Acid: The Fifth Trip is out now on Riding Easy Records

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He may have lacked precision and showmanship and he did write Octopuss Garden. But those who dismiss Ringo as a journeyman who got lucky wildly underestimate a rhythmic powerhouse

In 1983, the British comedian Jasper Carrott made an unhelpful contribution to Beatles legend when he coined a joke that would go down in history: Ringo isnt the best drummer in the world, he quipped. He isnt even the best drummer in the Beatles.

It resonated, to the extent that it entered into Beatles lore as the wisdom of John Lennon. That was eventually debunked by Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn but the misrepresentation says a great deal about the publics perception of Ringo Starr: a non-musician who got lucky, a journeyman alongside three musical geniuses.

This is total nonsense. Ringo, whose new album Give More Love has just come out, wasnt just the funniest Beatle, the life and soul of those early press conferences; and he wasnt just the best drummer in the Beatles. He was the best drummer for the Beatles.

This is a vital distinction to make. His beats may not have had the furious technical clarity of Led Zeppelins John Bonham, say, or the phenomenal precision of James Browns drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. But what he had was perfect for the Beatles, where Bonham would have been too showy and Stubblefield too tight.

Ringo Starr, centre, with the Beatles. Photograph: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Most drummers recognise this. Define best drummer in the world, Dave Grohl said in a tribute video for Starrs Rock & Roll Hall of Fame presentation. Is it someone thats technically proficient? Or is it someone that sits in the song with their own feel? Ringo was the king of feel.

What this means is that many of Ringos best performances go unnoticed. These are beats designed to enhance the song rather than show off the drummers abilities. Take She Loves You, the song that kicked off Beatlemania. Ringos brief introductory tom roll is the shot of adrenaline that gets the heart of the song thumping; it is teen mania in sound, and one of the most important drum rolls in recorded music history.

On Cant Buy Me Love, Ringos drumming is the primal force that drives the songs hormonal energy, all whipcrack snare and floor-tom bombast, wrapped up in Ringos signature sound: a wall-of-sound hi-hat thrash that sounds like five drummers at once. His drumming here is not complicated but as numerous live versions of the song attest it is lethally exact with not a note out of place, giving the lie to the notion, repeated by John Lennon in a 1980 Playboy interview, that Ringo was not technically good as a drummer.

Another criticism of Ringo is that he wasnt a creative god like the other Beatles. He didnt write the songs and he wasnt a studio genius like producer George Martin, who helped to mould Lennon, McCartney and Harrisons tunes into something spectacular. Again, this is nonsense. Octopuss Garden may not put Ringo into the songwriters hall of fame, but his drumming helped to shape countless Beatles classics, bringing personality and life to them.

Consider Tomorrow Never Knows, one of the most influential Beatles songs. How would it sound without Ringos beautifully lopsided breakbeat, his unexpected twitching snare pattern emphasising the songs feel of psychedelic discombobulation? How would Strawberry Fields Forever feel without Ringos fantastically weary tom fills, which seems to drag the listener down into Lennons nostalgia?

Some people consider Ringo to be a terrible drummer because he doesnt play solos. But who, apart from other drummers, really enjoys a solo? Ringo knew this and for years resisted all attempts to get him to play them, eventually giving in for the 15-second break on Abbey Roads The End. Its not flashy or difficult, but it has an understated funky charm and when it turned up on Beastie Boys The Sounds of Science 20 years later, it was hard to resist a smile.

In fact The Sounds of Science, which also borrows Ringos strident drum beat from Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), shows just how funky Ringos drums could be when recontextualised. One producer who understood this well was Danger Mouse, whose 2004 release The Grey Album married Jay-Zs The Black Album to the Beatles LP The Beatles to wonderful effect. Ringos breakbeats are a key tool in making the album fly, whether chopped up for their unique timbre or used straight for their head-down funk.

The Chemical Brothers also borrowed the shape of the Tomorrow Never Knows beat for both Setting Sun and Let Forever Be, while J Dilla sampled Starrs 1974 solo song Occapella on In the Streets. Other Ringo solo songs that prove the funk didnt end when the Beatles split include the lolling glam funk of Back Off Boogaloo, the irresistible disco-ish stomp of Oh My My and the rolling percussive waves of It Dont Come Easy, which has the added bonus of supporting an absolutely fantastic tune.

At 77, being the butt of drumming jokes is certainly not going to faze the famously phlegmatic Ringo Starr. But underestimate him at your peril. Because if you dont get Ringo Starr, then youre only getting three quarters of the Beatles and thats no laughing matter.

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No buyer for papers on claimed inspiration for hit but George Harrison recording goes under hammer for 14,000

Poor old Eleanor Rigby. Nobody came to her funeral and now nobody wants to pay enough for her grave, after the deeds to her Liverpool burial plot failed to sell at a Beatles auction.

Whether she was actually the inspiration for the Beatles song is hotly contested, which is perhaps why the papers for her grave failed to reach the 2,000 reserve price on Monday.

The auctioneers had better luck with an unreleased George Harrison recording, which sold for 14,000.

The reel-to-reel tape features an Indian-influenced track called Hello Miss Mary Bee, which was written especially for the vendor in early 1968. It was sent to her, along with a six-page letter from Harrisons wife, Patti Boyd, which was included in the lot, as well as postcards sent by the Beatles guitarist.

A pair of John Lennons glasses went for 5,600 cheap compared with the 19,500 a Canadian dentist paid for one of his teeth back in 2011.

A set of autographs gathered by a schoolchild extra on the Magical Mystery Tour film went for 7,000 at the Omega Beatles auction on Monday in Warrington, Cheshire, while the likely first draft of the screenplay for A Hard Days Night sold for 2,200.

Rigby was buried in St Peters churchyard in Woolton, Liverpool, where Paul McCartney first met John Lennon at a church fete.

A certificate of purchase and a receipt for the grave space went under the hammer, along with a miniature bible, dated 1899 and with the name Eleanor Rigby written inside. They were expected to sell for between 2,000 and 4,000.

Eleanor Rigbys name was immortalised in the song that was released as the B-side of Yellow Submarine in 1966.

McCartney, who wrote the lyrics about a woman who is wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, reportedly said it was simply a name that came to him. But it later emerged that it was inscribed on a headstone in the graveyard which he and Lennon used to regularly use as a shortcut.

About 250 items of Beatles memorabilia were up for auction on Monday. A number of other lots failed to sell, including a picture of the band painted by comedians Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson.

A handwritten score for Eleanor Rigby, expected to go for at least 20,000, was withdrawn from the auction shortly before it began because of an ownership dispute.

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