Oct 052016
 

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On this date in 1962 “Love Me Do,” the Beatles’ first single (backed by “P.S. I Love You”), was released in Britain, peaking in the charts at No. 17. The song was written several years before it was recorded, and prior to the existence of the Beatles.  It was primarily written by Paul McCartney in 1958–1959 while playing truant from school at age 16 and later credited to Lennon–McCartney; John Lennon contributed the middle eight. Lennon later said,

Paul wrote the main structure of this when he was 16, or even earlier. I think I had something to do with the middle … ‘Love Me Do’ is Paul’s song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters.

McCartney differed somewhat:

‘Love Me Do’ was completely co-written. It might have been my original idea but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea. We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters. I think why we eventually got so strong was we wrote so much through our formative period. ‘Love Me Do’ was our first hit, which ironically is one of the two songs that we control, because when we first signed to EMI they had a publishing company called Ardmore and Beechwood which took the two songs, ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’, and in doing a deal somewhere along the way we were able to get them back.

Their practice at the time was to scribble songs in a school notebook, dreaming of stardom, always writing “Another Lennon–McCartney Original” at the top of the page. ‘Love Me Do’ is based on two simple chords: G7 and C, before moving to D for its middle eight. It begins with Lennon playing a bluesy dry “dockside harmonica” riff, then features Lennon and McCartney on joint lead vocals, including Everly Brothers-style harmonizing during the beseeching “please” before McCartney sings the unaccompanied vocal line on the song’s title phrase. Lennon had previously sung the title sections, but this change in arrangement was made in the studio under the direction of producer George Martin when he realized that the harmonica part encroached on the vocal (Lennon needed to begin playing the harmonica again on the same beat as the “do” of “love me do”).

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‘Love Me Do’ was recorded by the Beatles on three different occasions with three different drummers at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London:

  1. EMI Artist Test on 6 June 1962 with Pete Best on drums. This version (previously thought to be lost) is available on Anthology 1.
  2. First proper recording session 4 September 1962. In August, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin did not approve of Best’s drumming for studio work. It was the norm at that time to have a specialist studio drummer who knew the ways of studio work. The decision to fire Best was not Martin’s. The Beatles with Starr recorded a version at EMI Studios. They recorded Love Me Do in 15 takes. This version with Starr is available on Past Masters.
  3. Second recording session 11 September 1962. A week later, The Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording of ‘Love Me Do’ with session drummer Andy White on drums. Starr was relegated to playing tambourine. As tambourine is not present on the 4 September recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.


First issues of the single, released on Parlophone in the UK on 5 October 1962, featured the Ringo Starr version, prompting Mark Lewisohn to later write: “Clearly, the 11 September version was not regarded as having been a significant improvement after all.”

The Andy White version of the track was included on The Beatles’ debut UK album, Please Please Me, The Beatles’ Hits EP, and subsequent album releases on which “Love Me Do” was included (except as noted below), as well as on the first US single release in April 1964. For the 1976 single re-issue and the 1982 “20th Anniversary” re-issue, the Andy White version was again used. The Ringo Starr version was included on the albums Rarities (American version) and Past Masters, Volume One. The CD single issued on 2 October 1992 contains both versions. The Pete Best version remained unreleased until 1995, when it was included on the Anthology 1 album.

‘Love Me Do,’ featuring Starr drumming, was also recorded eight times at the BBC and played on the BBC radio programs Here We Go, Talent Spot, Saturday Club, Side By Side, Pop Go The Beatles, and Easy Beat between October 1962 and October 1963. The version of ‘Love Me Do’ recorded on 10 July 1963 at the BBC and broadcast on the 23 July 1963 Pop Go the Beatles program can be heard on The Beatles’ album Live at the BBC. The Beatles also performed the song live on the 20 February 1963 Parade of the Pops BBC radio broadcast.

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On 4 September 1962, Brian Epstein paid for the Beatles—with Ringo Starr as new drummer—to fly down from Liverpool to London. After first checking into their Chelsea hotel, they arrived at EMI Studios early in the afternoon where they set up their equipment in Studio 3 and began rehearsing six songs including: “Please Please Me”, “Love Me Do” and a song originally composed for Adam Faith by Mitch Murray called “How Do You Do It?” which George Martin “was insisting, in the apparent absence of any stronger original material, would be the group’s first single.” Lennon and McCartney had yet to impress Martin with their songwriting ability, and the Beatles had been signed as recording artists on the basis of their charismatic appeal: “It wasn’t a question of what they could do as they hadn’t written anything great at that time. But what impressed me most was their personalities. Sparks flew off them when you talked to them.” During the course of an evening session that then followed (7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in Studio 2) they recorded “How Do You Do It” and “Love Me Do.” An attempt at “Please Please Me” was made, but at this stage it was quite different from its eventual treatment and it was dropped by Martin. This was a disappointment for the group as they had hoped it would be the B-side to “Love Me Do.”

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The Beatles were keen to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time, and it is generally accepted that it is to George Martin’s credit that they were allowed to float their own ideas. But Martin insisted that unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?” then the Tin Pan Alley practice of having the group record songs by professional songwriters (which was standard procedure then, and is still common today) would be followed. Ian MacDonald points out, however: “It’s almost certainly true that there was no other producer on either side of the Atlantic then capable of handling the Beatles without damaging them—let alone of cultivating and catering to them with the gracious, open-minded adeptness for which George Martin is universally respected in the British pop industry.” Martin rejects however the view that he was the “genius” behind the group: “I was purely an interpreter. The genius was theirs: no doubt about that.”

Martin came very close to issuing “How Do You Do It?” as the Beatles’ first single (it would also re-appear as a contender for their second single) before settling instead on “Love Me Do”, as a mastered version of it was made ready for release and which still exists in EMI’s archives. Martin commented later: “I looked very hard at ‘How Do You Do It?’, but in the end I went with ‘Love Me Do’, it was quite a good record.” McCartney remarked later, “We knew that the peer pressure back in Liverpool would not allow us to do ‘How Do You Do It’.” This is a reminder that back then the Beatles were very much a Liverpool group with their fan base in their home town. They remained popular favorites at the Cavern for some time before they achieved national recognition in Britain due to relentless radio and concert promotion by Brian Epstein.

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I was not aware of the Beatles until they surfaced on South Australian television in 1963. By then Epstein was pushing for an international audience and they eventually came to Adelaide in 1964. I had no idea who they were when they first came on television, but my mum and sisters did. I was 12 and not interested in pop music at all. But we all gathered around the telly one evening to see this new pop marvel. The video set was a crude mockup of the Liverpool Cavern and they appeared in their, now legendary, Beatle suits, boots, and haircuts. I can’t say that I was impressed by the music, but I did like the hair style, and next time I went to the barber’s I asked to have mine cut like theirs – a scandal. It’s laughable now to look at them and realize that they were considered to be long-haired hooligans back then. They look so clean cut. But at that time boys of my generation always had a military “short back and sides,” that is, a little outcrop of hair on top (hidden by an army beret or cap) and razored over the rest. I felt very mod, and somewhat rebellious, when I first appeared at school with a “mop top.” Those were the days.

The obvious choice for a recipe today is lobscouse, or simply scouse, because the dish is a perennial favorite in Liverpool to the point that people from Liverpool are still known as “scousers.” Nineteenth-century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions and pepper, with ship’s biscuit used to thicken the dish, and it became common as a cheap dish in ports such as Liverpool. The shore version of scouse is a stew that is not especially distinctive, and quite similar to Lancashire hotpot and Irish stew, usually of mutton, lamb (often neck) or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots and onions. In Liverpool it is often served with pickles of some sort, onions, beetroot, or cabbage, and bread. This version is a mix of beef and mutton which is quite common. This is my own version, and since I am not from Liverpool I cannot claim that it is truly authentic. But I am sure my scouser friends will approve. Note that there are 6 pounds of vegetables to 1 pound of meat. This is meant to be a very cheap meal. I have no doubt that the Beatles ate a ton of it as growing lads.

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Scouse

Ingredients

½ lb stewing steak, cut into large cubes
½lb lamb breast (or neck), cut into large cubes
1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
4 lb of potatoes, peeled and cubed
beef stock
vegetable oil
Worcester sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat some vegetable oil over high heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot and brown the meat. Add enough beef stock to cover and simmer gently, covered, for an hour or more. Keep simmering until the meat is tender.

Add the vegetables and more stock as needed so that the stew is fully covered. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Timing here is dependent on how soft you want the vegetables. I err on the al dente side.

Serve in deep bowls with pickled onions and beetroot, and crusty bread.

Jun 072014
 

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Today is the birthday (1778) of George Bryan “Beau” Brummell  an iconic figure in Regency England, the arbiter of men’s fashion, and a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. He established a mode of dress for men that rejected overly ornate fashions for one of understated, but perfectly fitted and tailored garments. This look was based on dark coats, full-length trousers rather than knee breeches and stockings, and, above all, immaculate shirt linen and an elaborately knotted cravat. Brummell is credited with introducing, and establishing as fashion, the forerunner of the modern men’s suit, worn with a tie. He claimed he took five hours a day to dress, and recommended that boots be polished with champagne. His general lifestyle became known as “dandyism.”

Brummell was born in London, the younger son of William Brummell, a politician, of Donnington Grove in Berkshire. The family was middle class, but the elder Brummell was ambitious for his son to become a gentleman, and young George was raised with that understanding. Brummell was educated at Eton and made his precocious mark on fashion there when he not only modernized the white stock, or cravat, that was the mark of the Eton boy, but added a gold buckle to it. He went from Eton to Oxford University, where, by his own example, he made cotton stockings and dingy cravats a thing of the past. While an undergraduate at Oriel College in 1793, he competed for the Chancellor’s Prize for Latin Verse, coming second to Edward Copleston, who was later to become provost of his college. He left the university after only a year at the age of sixteen.

In June 1794 Brummell joined the illustrious Tenth Royal Hussars as a cornet, or lowest rank of commissioned officer, and soon after had his nose broken by a kick from a horse. His father died in 1795, by which time George had been promoted to lieutenant. His father had left an inheritance of £65,000, of which Brummell was entitled to a third. Although under normal circumstances this would be a substantial sum, it was inadequate for the expenses of an aspiring officer in the personal regiment of the Prince of Wales. The officers, many of whom would be inheriting noble titles and lands “wore their estates upon their backs – some of them before they had inherited the paternal acres.” Officers in any cavalry regiment were required to provide their own mounts and uniforms and be responsible for mess bills, but the 10th in particular had elaborate and almost unending variations of uniform. In addition, their mess expenses were enormous as the regiment did not stint itself on either banquets or entertainment.

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Although a junior officer, Brummell took the regiment by storm, fascinating the prince by the force of his personality. He was allowed to miss parade, shirk his duties, and in essence, do exactly as he pleased. Within three years, by 1796, he was made a captain, to the combined envy and disgust of the older officers, who felt that: “our general’s friend was now the general.” When his regiment was sent from London to Manchester he immediately resigned his commission, citing the city’s poor reputation, lack of atmosphere, and an absence of culture and civility.

Although he was now a civilian, Brummell’s friendship with, and influence over, the Prince continued. His simple yet elegant and understated manner of dress, coupled with his natural wit, gained him entry to the Regent’s royal society. The life and the daily routine of most aristocratic men of the time included making one’s toilette and shopping in the morning; riding in Hyde Park or making the round of gentlemen’s clubs in the afternoon; followed by the theater, gambling at Almack’s or a private party, or visiting the brothels in the evening. He took a house on Chesterfield Street in Mayfair and for a time managed to avoid the nightly gaming and other extravagances needed to move in such elevated circles. Where he refused to economize was on his dress: When asked how much it would cost to keep a single man in clothes, he was said to have replied: “Why, with tolerable economy, I think it might be done with £800.” That amount is approximately £103,000 ($173,000) in today’s currency; the average wage for a craftsman at that time was £1 a week.

Brummell put into practice the principles of harmony of shape and contrast of colors with such a pleasing result that men of superior rank sought his professional opinion on their dress. The Duke of Bedford once did this concerning a coat. Brummell examined his Grace with his accustomed cool impertinence, turned him about, scanned him with scrutinizing, contemptuous eye, and then taking the lapel between his dainty finger and thumb, he exclaimed in a tone of pitying wonder, “Bedford do you call this thing a coat?”

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His personal habits, such as a fastidious attention to cleaning his teeth, shaving, and daily bathing exerted an influence on the upper echelons of polite society, who began to do likewise. Previously people bathed only a few times per year, and used heavy colognes and perfumes to hide body odors. He also insisted upon freshly laundered shirts and linens. Enthralled, the Prince would spend hours in Brummell’s dressing room, witnessing the progress of his friend’s lengthy morning toilette.

Unfortunately, Brummell’s wealthy friends had a less than commendable influence on him. He soon began spending and gambling as though his fortunes were as extensive as theirs. Such liberal outlay began to deplete his capital rapidly, and he found it increasingly difficult to maintain his prestige, although he could still float a line of credit on account of his connexions. This changed on July 1813 at a masquerade ball at Watier’s private club, when Brummell, who was one of the hosts, openly antagonized the Prince Regent, thereby forcing society to choose between them.

Brummell, Lord Alvanley, Henry Mildmay and Henry Pierrepoint were considered the prime movers of Watier’s, dubbed “the Dandy Club” by Byron. All four were hosts at a ball where the Prince Regent greeted Alvanley and Pierrepoint but then “cut” Brummell and Mildmay by staring them in the face without speaking to them. This provoked Brummell’s most famous remark, “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?” The incident, finalizing the long-developing rift between them, is generally dated to 1811, the year the Prince became Regent and began abandoning all his old Whig friends. Normally, the loss of royal favor was doom, but Brummell ran as much on the approval and friendship of other rulers of the several fashion circles. He became the anomaly of a society favorite flourishing without a patron, still in charge of fashion and courted by large segments of society.

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In 1816 Brummell fled to France to escape debtor’s prison, owing thousands of pounds. Usually Brummell’s gambling obligations, as “debts of honor,” were paid immediately. The one exception to this was the final wager, dated March 1815 in White’s betting book, which was marked “not paid, 20th January, 1816”

He lived the remainder of his life in French exile, spending ten years in Calais without an official passport before acquiring an appointment to the consulate at Caen via the influence of Lord Alvanley and the Marquess of Worcester, only in the reign of William IV. This provided him with a small annuity. This appointment lasted for two years before Brummell recommended that the Foreign Office abolish the consulate at Caen in the hope of being moved to a more profitable position elsewhere. The consulate was abolished but no new position was granted. Brummell rapidly ran out of money and was forced into debtors’ prison by his creditors. It was only after the charitable intervention of his friends in England that he was able to secure release. Brummell died penniless and mentally impaired from syphilis at Le Bon Sauveur Asylum on the outskirts of Caen in 1840 (sadly, I note, on my birthday).

In literature, Brummell left a mark. Scarcely had he left England than a collection of witticisms ascribed to him and of anecdotes about him appeared under the title “Brummelliana” and was republished many times in the following decades. This began with the notorious story of his enquiring the identity of his companion’s ‘fat friend.’ William Hazlitt borrowed the same title of “Brummelliana” for an unsympathetic essay published in 1828, referring to some of these stories and repeating others uncollected there. Dandyism also came under attack in George Robert Wythen Baxter’s satirical essay “Kiddyism,” published in humorous journals from 1832 onwards, which culminates in a set of satirical aphorisms purporting to be yet more “Brummelliana”.

Further fictitious aphorisms were published in France by Honoré de Balzac in the course of a series of articles published under the title “Traité de la vie élégante” (1830). These sayings were supposed to have arisen during an interview with Brummell in Bologna, rather than Calais, and epitomize his view of ‘the elegant life’. In the following decade two more books were dedicated to confirming Brummell as a cult figure. In England there was Captain Jesse’s two volume Life of George Brummell (1844), the first biography devoted to him. In France there was the influential essay of Barbey d’Aurevilly, “Du dandysme et de George Brummell” (1845), which seeks to define the essence of dandyism through a study of his career and opinions.

Brummell was to appear as a character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1896 historical novel Rodney Stone. In this, the title character’s uncle, Charles Tregellis, is the center of the London fashion world, until Brummell ultimately supplants him. Tregellis’s subsequent death from mortification serves as a deus ex machina in that it resolves Rodney Stone’s family poverty.

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In the United States, Brummell’s life was dramatized in an 1890 stage play in four acts by Clyde Fitch with Richard Mansfield as the ‘Beau’. This in turn was adapted for the 1924 silent movie with John Barrymore and Mary Astor. Another play about him, authored by Bertram P Matthews, is only remembered because it had incidental music written for it by Edward Elgar. It was staged at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham in November 1928, with Elgar himself conducting the orchestra on its first night. Only the minuet from this is now performed. Brummell’s later years were the setting for Ron Hutchinson’s 2001 two-handed play The Beau (originally Beau Brummell), which following a UK national tour played for one month at Theatre Royal Haymarket, starring Peter Bowles as Brummell.

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Earlier films included a 10-minute movie by the Vitagraph Company of America (1913), based on a Booth Tarkington story, and the 1913 “Beau Brummell and his Bride,” a short comedy made by the Edison Company. Brummell’s life was also made the subject of a 1931 three-act operetta by Reynaldo Hahn, later broadcast by Radio-Lille (1963). In 1937 there was a radio drama on Lux Radio Theater with Robert Montgomery as Brummell. Another film, “Beau Brummell,” was made in 1954 with Stewart Granger playing the title role and Elizabeth Taylor as Lady Patricia Belham. There were also two television dramas: the sixty-minute “So war Herr Brummell” (Süddeutscher Rundfunk, 1967) and the UK “Beau Brummell: This Charming Man” (2006).

Georgette Heyer, author of a number of Regency romance novels, included Brummell as a character in her 1935 novel Regency Buck. He is also referred to, or figures as a minor character, in the work of later writers of this genre. More recently, Brummell was made the detective-hero of a series of period mysteries by Californian novelist Rosemary Stevens, starting with Death on a Silver Tray in 2000. These are written as if related by their hero. Another American reinterpretation of his character appears in Cecilia Ryan’s homoerotic novella The Sartorialist (2012).

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Brummell’s name became associated with style and good looks and was therefore borrowed for a variety of products or alluded to in songs and poetry. One example was the paint color Beau Brummel Brown, used exclusively on the 1931 Oldsmobile. In 1934 a rhododendron hybridized by Lionel de Rothschild was named after the dandy. Then during the 1940s and 1950s watchmaker LeCoultre marketed a Beau Brummel watch with a minimalist design and no numbers.

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T. S. Eliot’s poem about “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town” refers to him as the “Brummell of Cats,” an allusion taken up in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the 1981 musical based on Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939). Around that time other allusions to Brummell appeared in pop and rock lyrics, such as Billy Joel’s 1980 hit, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” but the name had already been adopted by rock bands in the 1960s: the faux-British Invasion band The Beau Brummels, and Beau Brummell Esquire and His Noble Men, the name used by South African born Michael Bush for his English rock group.

“Fashions come and go; bad taste is timeless.” — Beau Brummel

Hannah Glasse’s 1747 volume The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy is the classic Georgian cookbook. I note that she appears to be the first cookbook author to include a recipe for “something in a hole” – now usually toad in a hole (sausages baked in an egg batter). I have already dealt with Isabella Beeton’s kidneys in a hole and mutton in a hole (St George, 23 April 2014). Glasse’s recipe is for pigeons in a hole.

A lady at dinner, observing that Brummel did not take any vegetables, asked him whether such was his general habit, and if he never ate any. He replied, “Yes, madam, I once ate a pea.” Brummell was once asked why a matrimonial prospect had failed. “Why what could I do, my good fellow, but cut the connexion? I discovered that Lady Mary actually ate cabbage!” So, I won’t give you a recipe with vegetables.

Here is a recipe for ragout of oysters. I don’t think you need a modern interpretation. You just need to know that “?” is not an “f” as many people now mistakenly believe, but the so-called “long s” – it has no cross bar. It was eventually replaced by the short “s” in typography (originally used only as a final), to avoid the confusion especially in blotchy printing. Raspings are toasted breadcrumbs.

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A ragoo of oy?ters

OPEN twenty large oy?ters, take them out of their liquor, ?ave the liquor, and dip the oy?ters in a batter made thus : take two eggs, beat them well, a little lemon-peel grated, a little nutmeg grated, a blade of mace pounded fine, a little par?ley chopped fine ; beat all together with a little flour, have ready ?ome butter or dripping in a ?tew-pan ; when it boils, dip in your oy?ters, one by one, into the batter, and fry them of a fine brown ; then with an egg-?lice take them out, and lay them in a di?h before the fire. Pour the fat out of the pan, and ?hake a little flour over the bottom of the pan, then rub a little piece of butter, as big as a ?mall wallnut, all over with your knife, whil?t it is over the fire; then pour in three ?poonfuls of the oy?ter liquor ?trained, one ?poonful of white wine, and a quarter of a pint of gravy ; grate a little nutmeg, ?tir all together, throw in the oy?ters, give the pan a to?s round, and when the ?auce is of a good thickne?s; pour all into the di?h, and garni?h with raspings.