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  • Black Jacket Symphony Performing Abbey Road – 2015

    February 21, 2015

    Bijou Theater

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    Photo courtesy of JamesPattersonsGallery.com

         

    When I first saw Black Jacket Symphony perform the Led Zeppelin IV album last October, I wrote (here) many glowing superlatives about their amazing talent and delivery of a musically difficult album. 

    Last night, I saw one of the BJS bands (fronted by vocalist/guitarist, J. Willoughby) deliver an equally accurate and crowd pleasing treatment of the Beatles’ historic “Abbey Road” album.

    Like one of those “fade-to-the-past” methods used on TV shows like “Cold Case,” I watched a crowd be taken back to their teens or young adult days as they remembered key events of their past set against this particular soundtrack. 

    From the opening chords of “Come Together” to the closing notes of the crowd pleasing encore, “Hey Jude,” BJS had the capacity crowd and the beautiful and intimate Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville. A crowd, I might add, that braved slushy streets and cold rain to catch this show and BJS did not disappoint.

    In between those historic, musical bookends were fun and memorable deliveries of the entire Abbey Road song list during the first half of the evening and other hits from the Beatles catalog during the second half of the evening. 

    Most of the vocals were performed by Willoughby with significant contributions by Oak Ridge’s Mark Lanter on drums and lead vocals. Between the two, they wowed the crowds.

    Rounding out the band was Aaron Branson on bass, Allen Barlow on guitar, Andres Berrios on violin, Bob Taylor on keyboards and vocals, Brad Wolfe on guitar, Nathan LeFevre on Cello and Peyton Grant on keyboards and guitar.  Corporately, they delivered a performance that was as tight as it was fun  - and they looked like they were enjoying it as much as the crowds.

    If you want a great night of musical nostalgia, catch a Black Jacket Symphony performance. You won't be disappointed.

  • Posted September, 2009

    At some time or another, have you ever fantasized about being on a first name basis with a certain celebrity?  During your youth, did you ever dream about hanging out with your favorite movie, sports or music star?

    Admit it.  You would have loved to wow your friends and family with a celebrity knowing who you are and calling you by your first name or inviting you over to their place for dinner, wouldn’t you?

    Well, if you are Ken Mansfield, you would have experienced just such a life many times over.  At one time, Mansfield was considered good friends with three of the four Beatles.  No, really, he was.  Not only that, he was head of the U.S. arm of their record label, Apple Records and was present during the much bootlegged video shoot of their last concert on the rooftop of Apple Records in London (viewable here on YouTube. Ken is the one in the white jacket).

    As the old Ronco commercials of the seventies use to say, “But, wait!  There’s more!”

    Mansfield was a high flying executive and producer for, among other companies, Capitol Records and on first name basis with many artists such as Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Andy Williams, David Cassidy, Don Ho, among many, many more.

    Kinda makes one want to put away those old fantasies for good, doesn’t it?

    Ken Mansfield shares what amounts to 30 years of his life in three books.  They are (in order of publication), “The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay”, “The White Book” and, the recently released, “Between Wyomings”.  All three tomes shed light on Mansfield’s illustrious career in the music industry. 

    With sales of “Between Wyomings” already doing well, this promises to be a very successful conclusion to Mansfield’s trilogy of life in the very fast lane of the music business.  It was to discuss Ken’s new book that a recent phone conversation took place between the legendary producer and I.  We also managed to talk about the music industry today and how it compares to how it was in the 60’s and 70’s.

    I start off by asking Ken what the response has been like regarding his new book.

    “It’s very, very strange.  Like in ‘The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay’, it got three kinds of responses.  I’ve heard from people who loved the whole thing and the whole idea.  And then I have people that really like the show business-travelogue part and don’t really care that much about the spiritual chapters.  And others that just think the spiritual chapters are the whole thing and not that excited about the show business stuff.

    Concluding the thought with a chuckle he says, “So, it’s been three ways and it shows where their true interests lie.  And, so what I’m e-mailing my agent about is that I really feel that this is meant to be a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) book that would cross back over into the secular field, more or less like Donald Miller’s, “Blue Like Jazz” and “A Same Kind as Different As Me”. I fear that, because of my previous books, it more or less, landed more to the secular side, which I think is not the side to get its initial acceptance.  So I do have a good basis because of the readers of the previous books.  I just think that we really need to concentrate more on the CBA.”  He also lamented the back-of-the-store placement of his books in the large bookselling chains that create obstacles to sales of his book.

    There is an especially poignant story in the book that involves Mansfield hopping a plane to London and, miraculously getting access to the famous roof top of the former Apple Records building.  I posit the observation that “Between Wyomings” comes across that he is now trading what the roof top Beatles concert represents for new, more spiritual “roof top experiences”.

    His answer just might disappoint the segment of his readers who only like the music industry travelogue portions of his writings.

    “I have to say that’s basically what the idea is.  In going to the roof and wrapping everything up there is me saying good-bye to these kinds of memoirs and that portion of my life and the struggle of back and forth with that.  I’m an ordained minister.  I’m what I’d like to consider to be a Christian author.  I speak at churches and that’s really where I’m heading.

    Ken goes on to describe that the book he’s currently working on is going to be in the in the style of “The Shack” or “Tuesday’s With Morrie”, concluding that “it’s going to be more in that direction and just totally leave anything to do with my background and business.  I’m moving myself out of those (kinds of) books.”

    I had to wonder, though, if his readers would even allow him to leave his past behind.  His answer is refreshingly honest, forthright and delivered with a chuckle.  “Well, I think so, because, if I was one of them, I would think that I was kind of tired hearing about me.  And, I’m tired of talking about me and I’m already on the edge of repeating stories, you know.

    Turning to a more introspective tone, he continues:  “I think what I had to say – basically, what the books are, they are three books that are testimonies.  And I’m moving from testimonies to story-telling and preaching, that kind of thing.  I’m an evangelist.  That’s what I am and so the purpose of the first book and the third book was really an evangelistic tool where I could draw people in for other reasons, you know? “  He concludes his thoughts by adding that it is his hope that he can hold the reader’s attention with the stories of his past while conveying the message of his spiritual journey and insights.  Mansfield illustrates what he’s talking about with a story from his days as a sought after record producer and song writer.

    “The reason I was successful as a record producer is I could never make a record that was just exactly on with what everybody else was doing.  I always tried to make a record where I could grab more than one audience.  That’s why I was starting to do the crossover records, you know, to where it would go into both the country market and the pop market, that kind of thing.  I was looking for – especially with this last book, “Between Wyomings”, I’m looking at three markets.  People that like to get into the travel type books.  If you get me to read a travel type book – even if it’s bad, I just want to know what’s next.  So, it’s got that aspect in it and it’s got the spiritual aspect and it’s got the show business/inside story thing.”

    Furthermore, Ken relays that he has come to learn a lot about his writing style from the feedback he has received from his readers.  He learned that he wrote books like he wrote songs.  He is, in fact, a very lyrical writer, which he acknowledges.  He has also come to realize that each sentence had a unique structure that was then mimicked in the resulting paragraphs, with the paragraphs arranged in a deliberate structure and story.  He concludes, “I used to do arrangements, and write songs.  I would write a good intro.  Then a verse would bump into a chorus and then back to a verse.  Then, two choruses and then out to a tag ending.  People will always write in dichotomies.  I think I always do that.  I like to juxtapose things against each other.  Like wearing an overcoat in warm weather, it’s just doesn’t make sense but there’s a reason for it. “Later, he states that “I write like a Christian on acid.  “

    In “Between Wyomings”, Mansfield relays details of the crash of his legendary career, where he landed, and the lessons that he gleaned from the experience.  To the latter point, he unashamedly states that the lessons in humility were both necessary and priceless.  My favorite of the stories involves an event that took place during a Whitney Houston concert.  This and two other related stories can be helpful and instructive to any of us who have found ourselves un-, or under, employed.  I asked him if he found that the stories resonate with his readers as well as listeners during his speaking engagements.

    “I tell that story from the platform.  It just blows everybody away.  I’m really able to tell the story.  I’m standing up there, usually with monitors and stuff, so I’m really able to tell the story because I have the props with me.  It’s very natural because I’m telling the story from the stage, looking into the front row and audience, with stage monitors in front of them.  I think THAT is probably one of the biggest points in the book, is the willingness to get down on your knees and not only in front of God Almighty, but in front of people and to have the humility and guts to be able to say, “Okay, here I am.  I lay it down before you, Lord.”  I’m not doing it in private because I didn’t do the other things in private.   I did all of my decadence in front of thousands of people, so I’m laying it down in front of thousands of people, too.   I think that’s a major point. “

    With self-effacing humor, Mansfield ties in two similar stories that involve Julian Lennon and James Taylor.  “I had three real biggies there.  It was God saying, ‘I’m going to prick this thing about your pride.  Okay, here’s a one punch.  Here’s a two punch and a knock-out punch.’  The Julian thing was behind the amphitheater in the afternoon.  The James Taylor thing was on stage with him and his band and few other people around. And then the Whitney thing was in front of ten or twenty thousand people.  So, He (God) kinda ratched it up!  So I thought, ‘Okay, duh!’”.

    With Mansfield’s incredible experience in the music business, I just knew that he had to miss being “behind the glass” of the recording studio or hob-knobbing with the rich and famous.  When I asked him if this was the case, his response was equally surprising, thoughtful, humorous and realistic.

    “I did if it for 30 years.  I’m done.  Maybe, if Clapton called, I MIGHT do it.  But, I got to thinking about it the other day and I don’t even think if Clapton called that I would want to do it.  I’m just so focused on my ministry and my writing.  I feel it’s like being like a pitcher in the major leagues.  They can only throw so long and so hard before their arm starts giving out and I think I did that.  I don’t think I have the “speed on the ball” that I use to have.”

    I couldn’t resist referring to a comment he made towards the end of “The White Book” regarding Ringo Starr, I asked him if he and the former Beatle ever rekindled their close friendship.

    “No, I’m afraid not.  I was a bit surprised by the atmosphere when we last met.  When we first met each other in 1965, we were young guys in our twenties and were together on so many different levels.  We spent time together and our lives even fell apart together.  And, obviously, we were part of the inner circle after the Beatles.  I represented him in the 90’s and we went through our drug thing and mutual marriage ups and downs together.  “We had so much history with each other and because he was a very common person, in a way, it made a friendship with him very easy.”

    Ken also thinks that the passage of time coupled with the dichotomy of Ringo still performing and Mansfield now in the ministry has prevented the two from re-establishing any kind of relationship.  That said, he laments, “I thought our history was something that we’d always have in common and be very close.  We both felt awkward and I really didn’t feel like I had a desire to continue it.  I think it was almost a known good-bye, in a way.”

    Continuing on that thought, he goes on to say, “It’s very strange.  I’ve written before that, when I worked for the Beatles, it was so cool.  It wasn’t like, “I’m a Beatle and you’re not”, you know?  It was just so easy.  But when we met up, I’m standing there and I almost felt like, ‘He’s a Beatle and I’m not’, you know?  It was a strange feeling because, in the beginning, I think, in some ways, he was more enamored with me than I was with him.  So, I don’t know.  It’s very strange.”

    Ken then concludes the “Ringo Story” with this introspective thought: “And I felt that was . . . one of the many little pieces of the severance from the past.  I don’t care anymore.  I don’t care if I go backstage anymore.  I don’t care if they go, “Hey, Ken!  How ya doin’?”  I don’t care anymore.”

    I move the topic of conversation to the state of music and the music industry.  I lead off by telling Ken that some of my other interview subjects have said to me that they prefer going “analog” versus “digital.

    Mansfield jumps right on the question.  “Yeah, and I think that it’s more than the technology being analog.  I think the emphasis of what they’re saying is really on the environment of how we use to record.  It was very real.  It was very natural.  I think that’s what they mean by the analog experience.  I totally understand that.

    “I have been approached recently by a Christian project that is probably the only thing that I would consider.  And the reason I would consider it is because it would done in that manner, like we use to do in the old days.  I mean, it’s not that we’re not going to use the technology and all that is available to us.  But I really want to go back to the “analog” atmosphere.  That’s what I’m comfortable with.

    This subject then leads me to the more routine questions that I ask in my interviews.  I start off by asking Ken if he agrees with the line of thinking that the 60’s and 70’s generated music with more meat and substance than is produced today.  His answer is quite thought provoking and is sure to step on the toes of artists and industry executives alike.

    “I would agree to that and I think there’s an absolute reason for it.  I don’t think that I’m even second guessing this.  I think it’s because we worked harder at it.  I think it meant more to us, and I think the music is what drove us and not the fame and finances.

    “We got to pick our own band mates and these were people we got along with, who we had history with and spent five years in the back of the van with.  Kind of like how the Beatles were playing 10 shows a night in the Cavern – that little stinky, dark, dirty, smoky place, all that time.  I think in those days, bands earned their stripes and put themselves together.  I think if you had a band mate that wasn’t holding his own, he was out.  It was a very strong work ethic.

    “So many people that I’ve talked to have the same feelings.  I got into music because I was into music.  I was actually embarrassed the first time somebody paid me money for making music because I’d do that anyway!  Give me a paycheck and then let me be on an expense account and let me hang out with famous people and let me hear all this music and travel?  I get PAID for this?

    “But, anyway, I think that’s why any time you look at the five biggest concert grosses of the year – every year – it’s all guys in their sixties and fifties these days.  It’s the Bruce Springsteen’s and the Rolling Stones, the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s, those kind of acts.  Pink Floyd coming back out and stuff.  It’s the bands. “

    The fuse is lit and so he continues, “I asked my youngest son, ‘Why are you buying Iron Butterfly and Doors and records like that?’  He said, ‘Dad, you have better music than we do.’ The producer of the Doors told me – this was many years ago – he made much more money on re-releases from young people coming to the music than when he did when the Doors were famous and on the charts.”

    Becoming a little more pensive, he states, “I think, maybe, if you had to put it down in three words, it would be, ‘We had heart.’   We weren’t run by a group of accountants, lawyers, and investors who picked a guy from Cincinnati and that guy from Ft. Lauderdale because he has curly hair and this guy has a high voice.   We just came together and made it happen.”

    With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock this year, I asked him where he thought, back then, society would be 40 years later and did we make it there.

    “Well, I didn’t think any of us were going to be past 30 so I never thought that far ahead.  Until we got to 30 we thought we were invincible and that the whole dream was going to go on forever.  I knew (Woodstock creator and promoter) Artie Kornfeld through all of that stuff.  I was supposed to be there and wasn’t because I was involved in a Beatles thing and I had to make my choice.  But I think that there is a current and a revolution, a revitalization of the music out of that era in both secular and Christian genres. “

    Mansfield latches on to that latter genre, which I get the impression is his new, real musical passion.

    “This Friday, I’m going to have the experience of my life.  Love Song (a Christian rock group popular in the early 70’s) is reuniting at Chuck Smith’s church in Costa Mesa.  That’s where the whole thing started, in part, because of Chuck Smith and the whole Calvary Chapel thing came about.  They (Love Song) were the Beatles of Christian music.  They’re getting back together and I think something’s going to come out of that.”

    Ken wraps up his thoughts about the 70’s Christian music business by expressing his love and admiration for stalwarts like Chuck Girard, Randy Stonehill and a mutual favorite of ours, guitar phenomena, Phil Keaggy.

    I wrap up our conversation with a couple of more questions, starting with, “What do you see as the single, most positive change in the music, or music business, since you were involved in it?”

    Mansfield is ready to answer.  “ Well, there’s a couple of things and they’re things I don’t understand.  I think the fact that the record company is no longer king and people do have – if they’re turned down or rejected - they’re not dependent on the record company signing them.  And they’re also not dependent on finances.  These kids can get back in their bedroom with ProTools and start making these (CD’s).   

    “And ,I think also, hand in hand in with that is, the electronics and the ease can really be – “  Stopping mid-sentence, Ken drills in to the meat of his point.  “You know, if a guy isn’t really a string arranger, he can still hear something and still accomplish it on his own through technology.  All the toys he has to use allow somebody to really be fully creative beyond their physical abilities.”

    Still on a roll, Mansfield reveals a little secret about his days in the studio.  “I use to arrange all my own records.  I can’t write music.  On string arrangements, what I would do is sing them in somebody else’s ear that could write it down.”

    I then asked Ken the converse question:  What are the negatives that he sees in music, and the music business, today compared to his days in the business?

    “I’m really going to get into something here.  I just think that the morality and the greed of our society with the young people . . . they’re different now. They want something and they want it right now and they want it to shine and they want it to go fast and then they’ll forget about it.  It doesn’t mean as much to them.

    “I think, the corporations have ruined themselves.  When I was in the music business, people had heart. They had an idea.  People would just go with something.  The record companies were music people and they would go, “I see something in this kid.”  The kid didn’t have to have a full management team with agents, a record already made, a concert tour in effect, or whatever.

    “As a producer, independent producer, I was able to walk in to (former Capitol Records executive) Al Coury’s office and say, ‘I got this guy and I have been looking at him and here’s what he brings to the table and here’s what I think I can do with him.’ And we would make an album deal on the artist based on my conversation because Al Coury trusted me and he knew and liked the concept I had.  I validated the artists.  I played a couple of his tapes so he could hear what the artist sounded like and make a deal on that.”

    We close our conversation by talking about some of the artists today that commands his attention.  Not surprisingly, he’s on top of a lot that’s going on, especially in the fields of Alternative and Country music.

    “What’s happened to me is I love alternative radio.  I love the bands I’m hearing and their creativity.  Sometimes, I’ll hear a new band, and I’ll hear the intro and I’ll hear Led Zeppelin, the Beatles or, I don’t know, Waylon Jennings in there.  I just see this creativity.

    “And the problem is, maybe they’ll ‘back announce’ it on the radio sometimes they don’t so I don’t even know who it is.  I try and track it down online and I can’t find it.  And the problem is, even though it’s a great band, they’re not consistent and it’s to the point where they don’t have success that keeps it ongoing to where you can stand back, getting into the band.  But, I just love what’s happening with all the alternative music.

    “There’s a group called Amos in Ohio, and I cannot find anything out about them.  I heard probably the best alternative record I’ve ever heard as I was going across the country one day when we were on tour.  I tried everything to find that record.”

    Are you hearing this, Amos in Ohio?  You heard it here first.

    He wraps up by chatting briefly about current country guitarists Brad Paisley and Keith Urban and then tying a nice little bow around it by invoking the band, Foreigner.

    Mansfield says that “he (Paisley) is one of the best guitarist around.  Keith Urban and him got together on one of these shows recently and it was just super.  They play their guitars without looking at the frets.  I like that!  They really know their instrument, you know?  Both Keith and Paisley have that special thing and so does Keaggy.

    “Get the album, The Best of Foreigner, and you’re going to be floored when you put their hits together, how good they were (chuckles).  I didn’t realize how good they were when they were big and it, just in retrospect, I go, ‘Whoa!  These guys had powerful production and songs and performance.’  Amazing!”

    Talking with Ken Mansfield is a treat for those of us who get off on hearing the people behind the scenes share their thoughts and insights about what was, what is and what should be.  There’s a lot more where this interview came from.  To learn more, I would highly recommend reading all three of Ken’s books and in order of publication.  However, if you must pick one, I would strongly suggest reading “Between Wyomings”. 

  • Posted December 2018

     

    RoofTopBookCoverBeatles fans the world over – even if they’re just a nominal fan – is aware of the bands iconic performance which became known as the “rooftop concert”.

    Only a handful of people were on that roof with the band and very few people have written directly about – and certainly not from an insider’s perspective.

    Ken Mansfield – who is no stranger to Boomerocity or Everything Knoxville Magazine – is one of those handful of people on the roof that day. As the U.S. manager for the lad’s record label, Apple, he was on the inside, literally, of what led up to that iconic musical event. While he’s written about it in previous books, his new book, The Roof: The Beatles’ Final Concert, combines the stories and the details of that performance and shares it from a very personal (and not so academic) perspective.

    For the second time this year, I called Ken at his California home to chat about “Rooftop”. To help set up the backdrop for what he was about to share, I started by asking which of the Fab Four he was closest to.

    “I was probably more with Ringo because he and I had spent the longest time together. I think there was a closeness with George that I didn’t have with the others just because our natures were so similar, and we spent some really close, personal time together. But Ringo and I, we went through everything. We went through being crazy and having to go away and get well. Ha! Ha! Coming back together afterwards. I represented him, again, in the nineties. He moved to L.A. right away, so he was really an L.A. guy after a while. We were a small group that just hung out together; an isolated group of people from either Apple or just in the business and stuff like that.”

    When I asked Mansfield if he sees either Ringo or Paul since the nineties, he said:

    “The last time I saw him (Ringo), he was playing at an Indian casino at Indianland up in Northern California – in Santa Rosa, actually. It was in Santa Rosa. That’s the last time. It was funny because, as close as we were and as much time as we spent (together) and went through so much together . . . when we got together, we were backstage, ‘How’s Barbara?’ ‘Oh, she’s fine. How you doin’, Ken?’ ‘Well, I’m doing okay.’ Then, pretty soon we’re just looking at each other because we just didn’t have much to talk about because we weren’t involved in each other’s lives anymore. That was the last time I saw him. That was probably four years ago.”

    Asking Ken to lay out the premise of “Rooftop”, he shared:

    “First of all, the point I’m really making with this book is that I really wanted to separate myself from other people and the EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedother books. It’s a personal book. Since Kevin Harrington forty years ago when he wrote that really small book on the roof, I’m the only person right now that’s written a book about being on the roof. I was there. There’s only a few of us that were there. There’s not many of us alive anymore.

    “So, it’s a very personal, in-person look at putting together Apple. A personal look at the guys. There’s not a lot of facts and not a lot of detail and research and all of that. I really wanted the people to have an understanding of what it was like. It really concentrates on putting Apple together and all the things surrounding that and everything leading up to the roof. Basically, me walking up to the roof with the band and this moment happening that none of us really realized what it was going to be.

    “There was an emotion up there; a closeness of all of us that were up there. Nobody else can describe it. I was standing four feet away part of the time from George; sitting just a few feet from Yoko; six feet away from the guys. There’s very small space on top of the roof that day. Everybody that was up there, we’re just bound to each other like two guys in a foxhole. Its’ something that’s with us forever. Something we’ll never forget.

    “I wanted people to get that inside look at it and to make sure that I was also taking care of business. I had some of the greatest authorities like Mark Lewisohn, Bruce Spizer, Robert Rodriquez, Stefan Granados. Even Ben Stoker and Marshall Terrill. I invited a lot of people to go through this to make sure that my facts were right as they went by, I had to deal with facts, also, and I wanted to make sure I wrote this book for two specific groups of people.

    “I wrote it for the aficionados – the people that know everything about the Beatles; knows everything that’s ever been about the Beatles. I wanted to give them a little different look; a little insight, softer look. I felt they deserved it as I wrote in the forward on it. I felt they deserved it. They’ve never met a Beatle or been with them or anything like that; to give them a feel for what they’ve been writing about for all these years. They know everything about them. Just that kind of a thing.

    “Then, I wrote it, also, for the everyday people that’s just been a fan their whole lives. ‘Yesterday’ is their song they heard when they met their girlfriend. I wanted the people who haven’t been reading all this stuff, I wanted them to get a clear picture. So, I wrote it for two audiences and being very respectful to both audiences; to make sure that I gave them what I wanted them to know.

    “I did go back to the White Book and The Beatles, Bible, and Bodega Bay a little bit because I needed to pull things out of there, update them, and re-write them to tell the whole story. I couldn’t leave out what I’d written before. I couldn’t tie things together if I didn’t. The Beatles, Bible, and Bodega Bay was eighteen years ago.

    “I’ve got some pictures in there. Some of the Beatles guys – you probably know some of these guys – like Steve Marinucci and Ken Michaels – one of them said they couldn’t believe it when they saw the pictures I have of inside the building. They’re not exciting pictures. George is leaning against the wall while Derek Taylor is typing a letter, or Peter Asher on the phone. It shows them in their offices. It shows what it looks like in the building. The building was just a bunch of ordinary, working people. I wanted the people to get a personal feel for the Beatles. I’ve never seen a book like this before.”

    I commended Mansfield on the stellar list of people like Alan Parsons, Peter Asher, and Andrew Loog Oldham, who contributed comments at the beginning of the book and what that says about his work. He replied:

    “You need to make sure that you got the cred because, otherwise, people won’t believe you. Peter was there. We became friends. And Jack Oliver who went on to being president of Apple. And Alan (Parsons). Alan and I were on the roof together. We didn’t know that. I don’t remember him and didn’t remember me. He was a nineteen-year-old kid making his bones pulling cable and doing the stuff on the roof. I was the guy in the suit. We met, maybe, ten years ago and we got to talking. ‘Wait! You were on the roof?’ No! We couldn’t believe it; that we were on the roof. I always wanted to meet him. At that moment, we’re, like, ‘Yeah. Okay. We’re pals. We were on the roof together.’ That’s all we needed to know.”

    Ken then told me that he hoped the book didn’t come across too “fluffy”.

    “It’s a very ‘soft’ approach. I’m wondering if it’s going to be too fluffy for some people. That’s how I remember things. The funny thing about the whole time with Apple and the Beatles was that I have nothing but good memories. Nothing but that. Nothing in my time with the guys – no bad memories there. People accuse me of sort of soft-pedaling everything about the Beatles. I know there were times and I know they weren’t perfect, and they weren’t angels. They weren’t always the nicest guys, maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t see that part.”

    Concluding those remarks, Mansfield added:

    “The thing I’ve never tried to say was, ‘Hey, I’m the big man that was the Beatles. I’m the big authority on the Beatles.’ I’m not. I had about – other than small things during the years – I had two years where I was very involved with them. I’m talking about what I know and what I’ve seen. But the time I’m talking about is – maybe you could separate the beginning when all this madness started and all that. That would be one area.

    “This is another encapsulated time in their lives; when the whole Apple thing and the roof thing; the White Album, Let It Be and all these things. This was a pretty amazing time. I think it was a time – maybe the most remarkable time of their lives in a way for them; when people really followed them. It was an amazing time. And I was there. I was there on the roof. That’s why I feel I’m the person that can talk about that. Not because I’m smart. I just happened to be there. I could've been at Apple a week later or a week earlier. I just had to be working in Apple and that was happening in London. ‘Hey! We’re going up on the roof!’”

    In recent times, I’ve watched the footage of the rooftop concert and in my mind, I see a lot of symbolism. I asked Ken if, a) he saw any symbolism during that event; and, b) if so, what does that whole event symbolize to him? I asked him that question having not yet read the book.

    “Because you used those words, so I can tell you like those things. You’re going to read a lot of that when I come to talk about that. I think it was kind of ironic that it was their final moment and they were on top. They were still on top. They were on top of the building. They’d been on top of the world. I’ve said this before. In our meetings they said, ‘Well, we’ve got nothing else to accomplish. We’ve accomplished everything.’

    “I think they did one more thing with going up there. It was a cold, dirty roof. Everything was in kind of a mess. They were having problems. But when they broke through that door and got up in front of the mics; when they started signing – the whole thing, for me, that touched me the most – to remember the most – is when either Paul looked over at John or John looked over at Paul and they just had this look like, ‘Yeah. Yeah. This is us. This is who we are. This is who we’ve been. We’re a great band. We’ve been great friends for a long time and this is who we are.’

    “I think that this is symbolic way for them to walk back out of that building and leave it that way. That’s what they were: A great band and old friends. They gelled that day up on the roof.”

    Yoko Ono was on the roof with Ken and the others on that historic day. Lots has been written about the alleged negative impact and influence she supposedly had on the band. Her and John’s good friend and photographer, Bob Gruen, valiantly defended her against those allegations in my last interview with him (here). I asked Mansfield if he sensed any negativity directed to or from Yoko that day.

    “Not that day because I didn’t see Yoko that day other than when we were up on the roof. She came in with John and she left with John and I think they swapped coats before they got up there or afterwards.

    “I said this before: She did more with being quiet than anyone I’d ever met. You knew she was observing. You knew everything you said, really, went through her to John and then back to you. You knew that she filtered everything and that she had a great influence on him. I mentioned that the Beatles never gave me the sense that, ‘Well, I’m a Beatle and you’re not.’ They were always just so open.

    “Yoko always just felt a little elevated against the rest of us commoners. But, in the end, she was always great to me. She approved things for me after John died. Everything I ever needed or asked her for, she did. She treated me very, very good.”

    Circling back to the symbolism of that day, Ken said:

    “Here’s something for you to mull over in your mind. It just came to me recently. The Beatles, you never knew what to ontheroofexpect next from them. Every album was like a complete, ‘Oh my gosh! They didn’t do the same thing.’ They always did something fresh and something new and something different.

    “Here’s a band who came through Sgt. Pepper and the White Album and all these things, but that thing on the roof – nobody expected that. I would expect that, at that point, they would’ve come up with something really exciting and really different. Now, I realize how different that was. You’d have to go a long way to think about, ‘Well, okay, our final thing will be on a roof.’ I realize that they did it again. They did another Sgt. Pepper, it’s just different music and a different set. They did something as unusual as Sgt. Pepper was.

    “Then I realized when I looked, that’s where they were at at that time. There’s all the talk about going to Tunisia or going to the coliseum doing all these giant, extravagant things which were more of the Sgt. Pepper mindset. But with the music they were making at that time was Let It Be. You’ve heard the Let It Be Naked and stuff like that. That’s where they were at at that time. That was very representative of their mindset. That gave me a lot of insight when I started thinking about that day.”

    And what does Ken Mansfield think is the biggest misconception about that event?

    “I’ve never had anyone ask me that. I’m not sure what the conceptions were from a lot of people. Maybe that they knew it was their final concert; that they knew that they were doing this and that was it. They were pulling the plug. I don’t think anybody knew that. I think everybody felt it and I think everybody sensed something like that. But I don’t think it was written down. I don’t think it was a plan or anything. It just happened, and it wasn’t organized like that. It was organized in a couple days. Organizing: all that meant was putting some planks up there because that roof would have never held us. They put timbers up on the fifth floor where Peter Asher’s office was to make sure the roof didn’t cave in. It was just something that happened. That’s what it was. Something happened.

    “As you probably know, that couldn’t also not have happened at the last minute because they weren’t sure before they came out through that door that they were all going to go up there. There were discussions and, finally, I think John said, ‘Screw it. Let’s do it.’ Maybe like, ‘Let’s quit trying to think it through. Let’s just go do it. Get the footage and get out of here.’”

    Was there anybody else who hasn’t been identified as being there on that day that Ken feels has not been highlighted according to their presence and significance?

    “Chris O’Dell. Nobody ever mentions her. She was sitting there. Yoko and I, Marie and Chris. Chris was from Arizona. Her story is fascinating how she ended up at Apple anyway. She was a dynamo in the building. She got things done. Chris was just a worker. When you talk to Chris, things got done. A lot of the girls maybe didn’t care a lot for Chris because Chris was in there to get stuff done. She was used to working like that. She came out of L.A. She was a fireball and she was really trusted by the Beatles. Very trusted by them. In their homes. With them. Just somebody who they could turn around and say, ‘Hey, Chris, go do this.’ Or, ‘Hey, Chris, I need this.’ “Chris, will you go with me to here.’ She is Miss O’Dell and she did the big booklet. I’ve never seen her much associated with the roof. That’s why I put a chapter on her and Jack Oliver, who became president. He was a worker-bee in the company. He’s a guy who got things done. He’s a guy who hung out and he’s a guy that was this little dynamo in there, too, so there’s a chapter on him.

    “There’s a chapter on Kevin. He didn’t work for Apple. He worked for the Beatles. I didn’t know that until I talked to Kevin (Harrington) recently. I thought he was an Apple employee and just took care of instruments and stuff. No. He actually worked for the Beatles individually. He got a whole chapter in there. Alan got a chapter. Of course, Mal (Evans) got a chapter.”

    Does Ken feel that it’s possible for an up-and-coming talent to structure things and do things today the way the Beatles were able to do so back then?

    “No, because it’s not the same mindset. It’s not the same situation. It’s not the same culture. It’s not the same anything. Today, your bands are big business. They’re manufactured, a lot of them. They’re quick, one hit wonders. This is a band that worked together for a long time. Struggled together. Worked together. This had never been done before because people today could never do something for the first time. It’s already been done. The Beatles did it. That’s what separates them from everybody. All they can do is copy or work off of it. This was a soul thing with these guys.

    “I wrote something in the book – one sentence that I’m most proud of. It refers back to that which you asked earlier about the emotion up there. I think I closed a chapter with it. I said, ‘They went up there without a sound check. They came back with a soul check.’

    “When we all left, nobody talked with each other. I think we all – we knew something happened, but we didn’t quite understand it, so we didn’t talk about it. I don’t remember them huddling afterward. I don’t remember them talking to anybody afterward. I think, I like when I was telling you that Paul looked at John, I think, yeah, that they realized that, too. That they had something really special and knew that it was going to be going away. I think it made them look inside a little bit because there had been a lot of disagreements and I think they realized who they were and who they’d been and what they were together.”

    When the 50th anniversary of the roof top concert taking place next year, does Ken have any idea if his book will factor into any of the acknowledgements?

    “I have no idea. Apple hasn’t said what they’re going to do. They’ve not said a word. They wouldn’t approve my pictures of me in them; pictures that I had taken – my staff and stuff. They wouldn’t let me use them in this book. They said, ‘We’re going to do something. Or, maybe we’re going to do something.’ They didn’t want to give me rights to use those just in case they did something. I don’t know if they’ve got something up their sleeve or maybe they’ll do what they’ve done with the White Album and do a re-mastering of the rooftop thing or re-editing of the film. Right now, I ask everybody I talk to and nobody seems to know the answer to that. Nobody’s really heard. There’s rumors that they are re-editing the film to make it more friendly and not concentrate on the bad time during that film. The good times kinda soften it up a little bit is the only thing I’ve heard.”

    I then asked a question that I should’ve known the answer to: Who controls Apple now?

    “There’s a staff there. A guy named Jeff Jones is the head of it. They have a board that, of course, Ringo, Yoko, and Paul are a part of. The board approves everything and directs everything and the company day-to-day approving of things. It’s a business now. It’s a business of re-packaging, taking an asset and getting more out of it. It’s an asset now. Before, it was a passion.”

    KenMansfield2018ReducedWith so there have been so many changes in the music business since those idyllic days on the rooftop, I asked Ken if he thinks the business will come back around full-circle.

    “I don’t know if that’s possible. The only thing I do know is when the record companies were so powerful, that’s what created independent producers and independent production companies and small subsidiary labels, and that kind of stuff is the people at the ground level having a way to come up and get involved in something. Maybe it will come back around to that a little bit. When I was in the business, it was all about heart and the crazy people around the companies. When things started getting big, now it’s accountants and lawyers. It became a business instead of an entertainment thing.”

    Whether or not the music business comes back around full-circle, one thing is for certain: There’ll never be another ground-breaking group like the Beatles and the people who helped make them the iconic group that they were are gradually departing this earth. Being able to hear about historic events like the rooftop concert from one of the few attendees like Ken Mansfield is truly a treasure to avail ourselves to.

    Keep up with Ken at KMansfield.com.

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    Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles  

    Tennessee Theatre – Knoxville, Tennessee

    March 01, 2016

     

    Let me just say from the git-go that I went to Tuesday nights performance by Rain expecting some sort of lame treatment of Beatles tunes. Of course, I thought that not

         

    Photo by Richard Lovrich

    ever having heard them or anyone’s take on the tribute band.

    Boy, was I ever wrong!

    As their press packet says, “RAIN - A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES is a live multi-media spectacular that takes you on a musical journey through the life and times of the world’s most celebrated band.”

    I’ll add that RAIN just might be the next best thing to seeing the Beatles that one will ever experience. These guys are just downright amazing!

    This amazing tribute band covers the Fab Four’s work and performances from their touchdown in the U.S. through their last work together. Whether as suited, clean cut kids, Sgt. Pepperians, or looking “hippyish,” they did so to audio and visual perfection. 

    The current configuration of RAIN’s homage to the Beatles apparently adds more hits than they did in the past. Whether cranking out “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” “Come Together,” “Hey Jude,” or many of the other iconic hits, the sold out crowd at Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theatre was on their feet and singing along – even dancing. 

    If you’re a baby boomer, a Beatles fan or just love a great performance, I strongly encourage you to catch RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. If you do, I can just about guarantee that you’ll want to see them again. I know I do.

    Follow RAIN at: www.raintribute.com.

     

  • Ringo And His All-Starr Band

    The Peace Center – Greenville, SC

    February 17, 2015

    Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

         

    Regular Boomerocity readers know that, when we review a show, we focus on the music and what takes place on the stage. That certainly is the case during the recent performance by Ringo Starr and his merry men he calls The All-Starr Band.

    However, what I want to focus on first is something that I witnessed backstage before the show began. 

    My business partner/cousin and I were guests of Ringo’s guitarist, Steve Lukather of Toto.  While visiting with Luke, there were four others there, including a pre-teen young man and his dad.  After greeting everybody, Luke started sharing stories of his younger life – stories that reflected some of the craziness and “youthful behavior” that he probably shouldn’t have done. 

    He turned to the boy and said something to the affect of, “I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did.” Right after that, Todd Rundgren walks in, looking for his invited guests. He couldn’t find them and was expressing his concern that he had goofed up in some way.

    At that point, Luke pipes up and says, “Do you guys want to meet the boss?”  He and Todd then lead us down the hall to a reception area. Gregg Rolie and Richard Page were hanging out there as we came in. Right after we came in, Ringo Starr walks in. He and Luke’s attention was immediately focused on the young man that was part of our small group. He was kind, gracious and asked him if he wanted to have a picture taken.  His concern and attention was genuine and heart felt. It was peace and love in action and it touched me deeply to watch it take place.

    That, my friends, is what made this show very special. Sure, it was a major item on my bucket list to be able to meet Ringo. However, what made it incredibly cool was to see Ringo actually walk his talk. Not only that, but to see that same message personified in the band members. Each and every one of those men showed themselves to be first class all the way and has made an incredible impression on me that I’ll never forget.

    Oh, and the show?  AMAZING!  

    Ringo delivered his signature hits throughout his show. As in past All-Starr tours, the band – stars in their own right – each performed three of their hits that they’re known for. Lukather did three Toto tunes and joined Gregg Rolie teamed up to perform three Santana hits to perfection (Rolie played for Santana before joining Neal Schon’s then-new group, Journey). Richard Page offered up a couple of Mister Mister hits along with a new composition of his that was phenomenal. Rundgren enthusiatstically delivered three of his crowd pleasing monster hits, too. Gregg Bissonette and Warren Ham (both have played for God and everybody) played in the background with their oh-so-noticeable drum and sax work, respectively. Each of the band members are a real treat to watch perform and worth the price of admission by themselves. Ringo being with them makes it a memorable and historic bargain and all while demonstrating true peace and love towards each other.

    If you have the chance to catch Ringo and His All-Starr Band, do. It will prove to be one of the most enjoyable and memorable shows you will ever have attended.

  • Y Not
    Ringo Starr
    Label: Hip-O Records
    Reviewed: June, 2010

    Y Not.  It’s the title of Ringo Starr’s 15th solo album and the project is as interesting and intriguing as the title.  As you listen through the album with a discriminating ear, you’ll soon note its autobiographical, philosophical, happy and sad vibe, depending on the song.

    Some of the old friends that work with Starr on this album are Joe Walsh, Ben Harper, Gary Wright, Edgar Winter, Dave Stewart, and Billy Squier, to name a few.  Oh, and some guy named Paul McCartney joins him on a song or two.

    Ever hear of him?  Just asking.

    Y Not opens with a catchy tune called Fill In The Blanks Ringo and Joe Walsh wrote together.  This song has all the makings of an irresistible earworm the unmistakable guitar work of Joe Walsh that drips from every pore of this song.  I’d pay good money to watch Walsh perform this cut with Ringo.  

    Next in the mix is Peace Dream, which was co-written with Gary Wright and Gary Nicholson.  With Sir Paul delivering smooth, steady support on bass, this song is one of those songs that conjures up images of peace and an end to hunger in the world.  If you listen to the lyrics very closely, you’ll recognize some snippets of lyrics to some other songs by certain friends of his.  It’s very artfully and tastefully done.  You’ll love it. Trust me.

    The Other Side Of Liverpool is an autobiographical tune with skillfully written lyrics that melodically tells part of Ringo’s upbringing in his home town.  While Liverpool has great hooks, I especially liked the subtle organ work supplied by Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).  You’ll like the song just for the insight of Ringo’s early years from his perspective.

    What I consider to be the best song on the project, by far, is Walk With You.  I’ve researched other interviews to see if there’s any indication by Ringo as to what the story behind the song might be but I couldn’t find any.  So, here’s my take on it:  As the words are sung (with the great back-up vocals provided by Paul McCartney), I just get this feeling that the song is about love and future reconciliation between Ringo and someone who has passed away – maybe  John Lennon?  I dunno. That’s what makes music fun and universal: everyone interprets it in ways that are meaningful to the listener. All I know is that, once you’ve listened to this song once, the earworm is in you for days.

    Time has a positive message and was co-written by Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics) who also happened to provide the guitar work.  Whoever is walking the bass on this tune (maybe it’s Bruce Sugar’s keyboard work), delivers is as smoothly as I’ve ever heard bass delivered as is Tench’s tickling of the ivories. The violin towards the end of the song is perfectly delivered by Ann Marie Calhoun.  Right behind Time is the philosophical Everyone Wins which, again, features the signature guitar work of Joe Walsh.

    Mystery of the Night launches with sounds of Steve Dudas’s guitar that conjures up memories of Mott the Hoople. While you’re listening closely to the song, you might pick out Richard Marx in the background vocals. Can’t Do It Wrong is classic Ringo, putting me in mind a little bit of You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine). 

    As always, I don’t want to spill all of the beans about this album.  There are other great songs on it that you’re just going to have to buy and listen for yourself.  I will say, though, that Joss Stone gives an incredible performance on the last cut.

    To say that this album is the “feel good album of the year” may sound corny but it’s true.  If you like to fill you mind with positive thoughts, Y Not will help you do exactly that.

    You can order or download Y Not by clicking on the images at the top of the page.