Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Generation Gap

The holiday season stirs up memories of friends and family. My friend and guest blogger, Katy Brandes, shares a poignant story about a meaningful gift she received and how The Beatles gave her strength.


Katy and The White Album
When I began working full-time right out of high school, I met someone who became my mentor. Bill had his own daughter but served as a father-figure to me. Bill and I last spoke as he lay in a hospital bed before his death in 2001. I can almost see his warm smile in my mind’s eye, albeit an unfocused past memory, greeting me from such a cold and sterile placement beneath bleached white hospital sheets.
Although not my boss, I had assisted Bill and other insurance claim adjusters over those past years and worked particularly closely with him. His special interest in me, at 19-years-old, was something I sorely needed at an impressionable time.

Maybe I wasn’t very perceptive at that point, not quite as insightful as I’ve grown to become. At Research Medical Center in Kansas City, where I lived, I visited him one last time but was clueless as to how soon he’d be gone. It wasn’t obvious to me then how Bill’s illness from cancer meant his death was imminent and only later would I look back and see what an impact he had on me. 

He asked me, “So do you still like The Beatles?” 
“Well, of course I do,” I laughed in reply.

Though they were no longer in the favored spot I once held for them, they still rated right up there with the Stones, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison (all the greats without whom we would have modern rock-and-roll). Stuck in my alt/grunge phase, I grooved more on Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam around then but still felt my old rock roots. 

Bill said, “Well, Vicky has something for you. It used to be mine, and I want you to have it.” Little did I know he owned the White album by The Beatles and gifted it to me for college graduation. 

It was an original copy released in 1968 when I was yet a baby, maybe bought when he was a college student himself. Although I knew that was his era, he’d never openly shared about his love of music. Bill grew up in a farming community, but I always considered him more of a “corporate” type person, and never would’ve dreamed him being a rocker back in his day. All the stereotypes I’d used to categorize him, all the ways I mentally pre-supposed him, crumbled. We became more than former co-workers at that moment.

Sure, I’d gone on claims with him, and he’d told me Mafioso legends about cars with bodies stuffed in trunks amidst Kansas City’s underground storage. I always felt a kinship with Bill and took off work specially to travel to his retirement party. Though I thought he held me in similar regard, I never knew us as such kindred spirits musically until receiving that present.

To Katy (From Bill)
The Lp came complete with poster inserts, a genuine collector’s item. One of the first things I noticed, though, was an inscription inked on the cover. Bill’s wife made it personal to me, destroying its monetary value. No matter, though, as my gift from my surrogate dad meant more than that to me. He could have done anything with that album but wanted me to have it.  

Bill was part of the reason I actually finished my degree. Maybe knowing I wanted more than a secretary job, he went with me to visit a university admissions counselor. Who does that for somebody who’s not their own kid? 

My parents never went to college. Small town blue-collar workers want better for their children but may not know how to help them move up the proverbial ladder. I wanted to break through the glass ceiling but needed someone to nudge me in the right direction. Bill even offered to help me find somewhere a full-time student could afford to live. Remember, I was not his kid. He personified the cliché of someone who would give you the shirt off his back. That was just him. I typed many student reference letters at his request for scholarship or admission applications on which he scrawled a very physician-like signature. I can’t imagine how many he, as a school board member, wrote over the years or the number of kids he helped besides me and his own daughter. 

The irony strikes me of how I used the song “Blackbird” of the epic Fab album years later. I’d forever worried about never having any children. Being within a few hours of delivery and scared out of my wits, I needed to calm down en route to the hospital. Listening to that steady intro tap like a metronome helped slow my shaky heart. The music settled my nerves, and the diminutive 2:18 cut played on repeat the entire drive.  

The chorus soothed me. “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” That was me. I could only hope to be someone like Bill, a mentor to my child, readying my child to go out into the world one day, and I could hear his voice in those lyrics.

My son, growing into an admirable young man himself, already happens to be a lot like him.  

Listen to "Blackbird" Here

Katy Brandes is a self-professed pop culture genius/nerd, sometime wordsmith, independent writer and yogini, eco-warrior, and reluctant-but-frequent user of air quotes. She’s a multi-tasking Mother Quoter with short-term memory issues but no problem remembering song lyrics from 40 years ago. She enjoys correcting other people’s grammar and spelling with a mental red pen whether she’s right or not. 

@onlyintheozarks (Twitter & IG)

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays to you and yours! I highly recommend following Katy @onlyintheozarks - she has some of the best posts about hillbilly country!

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Recent Interviews:
"Tomorrow Never Knows" - great chat with Bob Wilson and Carol Brown: on this YouTube show:


Marilou Regan, award-winning professional journalist and author, interviewed me about "The Rolling Scones-Let's Spend the Bite Together." Stones fans will love her site - check it out here:

"Would you let your daughter eat a Rolling Scone?" 



The Authors of "The Rolling Scones"
Annie Jones, Abby Ritterling, Lanea Stagg

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Beatles at the Ridge Update

Jude, Lanea, Bruce Spizer (top left), Rande Kessler & Coral Schmidt (top center),
Student artists painting the best Beatle of all time (top right),
Bud Loveall (bottom left), BC the Beatles: Erika White & Allison Boron (bottom center),
Cameron, Andrea & Dwayne Hicks with Susan Ryan (bottom right)

If you did not make it to Beatles at the Ridge in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, have no fear! A lovely time was had by all, and the photos below document that fact. The guests for the Authors and Artists Symposium were outstanding! You can find links below to their websites, etc. This is a wonderful opportunity to shop early for holiday gifts - you will be the hit of the party by doing so.
Sara Schmidt (top left), Terry Crain (center), Patti Gallo-Stenman,
Bruce Spizer, Jim Berkenstadt (top right), Susan Ryan (bottom left)

The Kansas City Star posted an informative article about The Beatles' brief visit in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, read all about it here:

KC Star


Jim Berkenstadt, The Rock and Roll 

Detective: Jim's Website HERE

Bruce Spizer:   Bruce's Website HERE

Jude Southerland Kessler:

Patti Gallo-Stenman:    Patti's Amazon page HERE

Terry Crain:   Terry's Website HERE

Susan Ryan and her Fab 4 NYC Tours:
Susan's Website HERE

Jim Ryan and his new book "Alt Together Now"

BC the Beatles Podcast: Erika White & Allison Boron:
BC the Beatles Podcast HERE

Rande Kessler:
Rande's Website HERE

Terri Whitney, poet and author:
Terri's FB page HERE

Sara Schmidt, her book and site:
Sara's Website HERE

Cameron Hicks, teen musician:

Tammy Chambers jewelry:

Rita Lokerson has beautiful Beatles items for sale. You can reach her via email:  rromm25@gmail.com

Bud Loveall is a regular Beatles vendor at notable Beatles conventions across the country. 

Melanie and Mike Bowman, tech committee (top left), Gretchen Hunt, newspaper/
media specialist (bottom left), Mayor and Mrs. Charles Snapp (right)

Tammy Chambers, jewelry vendor (top left), Coral and Sara Schmidt, Susan Ryan,
 Lanea Stagg, Jude Kessler (top right), Rita Lokerson (bottom right)

Susan and Jim Ryan (top left), Terri Whitney (right)
Vendors inside The Studio, which is owned by Fran Cavanaugh

Liverpool Legends performance

Please sign up for my newsletter by going to my website: Lanea's Website HERE

Peace & Love!
Lanea Stagg

Monday, March 18, 2019

I Gotta New Drug....

Rabid fans never quite quench their thirst for more Beatles. Everyone wants to intimately connect with the musicians, and the only channel for us mere mortals would be via audio. 
A new drug hit the streets last November, and it is called the Esher Demos.
This brilliantly raw acoustic compilation, (remember MTV's "Unplugged"?) is your channel to The Beatles. Finely-tuned ears will recognize the impromptu hand-claps, the banter, the intimate chatter, the guitar-picking, alternate lyrics and so much more. The brilliance of the disc will give you goosebumps and, sadly, leave you wanting more.

Included with last November's release of the remastered album "The Beatles," aka "The White Album," the Esher Demos is a bonus disc. This separate disc contains 27 tracks that were recorded informally at the end of May, 1968, at George Harrison's bungalow, which was named Kinfauns, in Esher, England. The band decided to play their individual songs for each other, in a private environment, prior to heading to EMI Studios to record. The venue chosen for this event was George's home, simply because he owned a professional-grade four-track tape recorder that they would use to capture their work. 

A little backstory:  In early 1968, The Beatles had been studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in Rishikesh, India, at the suggestion of George. The Beatles were pretty stressed at this moment with the unwavering madness of Beatlemania, marriages, impending divorce, babies, drugs, affairs, and the loss of their beloved manager, Brian Epstein. The band was in the process of starting Apple Corps Ltd and, oh yeah, they had to keep producing music for the record company. So in an effort to "find the answer" and have a reprieve, the four packed their wives/girlfriends and went to Rishikesh. In some stolen (and not stolen) moments at Rishikesh, John and Paul wrote a number of songs. It's been reported that George frowned upon this, as he felt that focus should be upon spiritual awareness. Regardless, the three songwriters returned with a thick file of songs.

What will you hear?  As usual, Paul McCartney, the always prepared student, came to class ready to crank out pop-ish contributions, such as "Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Blackbird," etc. The songs were very organized and succinctly performed. Finely tweaked, light, airy and sunny, Paul sets his sugary-sweet candy-bar pretty high. But my favorite tune from the session was a song which did not make it onto the White: "Junk." And it is hardly "junk;" though the lyrics are not complete, the melody is a beautiful product which Paul eventually releases on a solo album years later.

Conversely, the main course, the meat if you will, is provided by John Lennon and George Harrison. Meaningful, substantive work by the two Beatles who were using their music as the conduit for a wide range of emotions. 

One of The Beatles' finest recordings, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," begins in infancy at Esher. Sans the driving urgency of Eric Clapton's lead guitar, fans can detect a few altered lyrics, but mostly felt in this track is George Harrison's heartache and grief...you can almost taste the salt of George's tears.  Stripped of the wall of sound, George's words are passionate and moving. Additionally, George unveiled three songs at Esher which were not chosen for the White. "Circles," "Sour Milk Sea," and "Not Guilty" are dripping with George's venom and admonition. At this moment in the world of Beatle, George was increasingly frustrated. He was the little brother who was pooh-poohed and not taken seriously. But George had real advice for his brothers:  
"Get out of Sour Milk Sea - You don't belong there," 
and:  "I'm really sorry that you've been misled, but like you heard me said - I'm Not Guilty."

Knowing the chaos that John was experiencing, it's no surprise that John's songs were the most direct and expressive. John's songs on the Esher tapes were well thought out, but not as tightly bound as Paul's songs. And does that matter? Of course not. John's raw lyrics and performance exposes a wide range of emotions: confusion, depression, anticipation and desire in a new love, grief and loss of his marriage and relationship with his son, and the lingering loss of his mother. John transfers his multiple sentiments into each song. 

The song I find the most intriguing on the demo is a track that once again did not make it onto "The White Album." Paul and John penned similar songs while they were in India, resulting from a lecture by the Maharishi about man's relationship with nature. "Mother Nature's Son" was written by Paul; "Child of Nature" was written by John. As John Lennon expert, Jude Southerland Kessler points out: "John was no child of nature and his performance of this song indicates his lack of seriousness on the topic." Interestingly, (and thankfully) John later transforms this song into a completely different message, a topic that Kessler adds, "John had more experience with" - "Jealous Guy." Listening to "Child of Nature," you will be mesmerized by the "Jealous Guy" melody which lies beneath John's playful words about a concept to which he was not particularly drawn.

I've read a lot of opinions which point "The White Album" as an "individual" project. Even though each member brought his own work to Esher, the demo is proof that they were still a family working together to create another masterpiece. Almost like, I must say, a band of brothers.

There is so much more about this disc that I'd love to uncover for you, but only so much time. I have been giving presentations on the topic - if you would like to schedule a presentation, send an email to my publicist: Nicole@910pr.com   

You can purchase the remastered White Album which includes the Esher Demos, here:

Enjoy my tribute pages to George Harrison found in my cookbook, "Recipe Records-A Culinary Tribute to The Beatles." 
Get your copy here:

Jude Southerland Kessler and I have a new radio show format at podbean.com. Check out our interview with Beatle fan and rock star, Elliot Easton. Elliot was the lead guitarist for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band, The Cars. 


Author Terry Crain has published a spectacular book about the merchandise that was manufactured by NEMS Enterprises in the U.S. during 1964-66. I had the pleasure of editing this wonderful book and I highly recommend this beauty on your coffee table! Get it here:

Please sign up for my newsletter by going to my website:  www.laneastagg.com

Peace & Love!
Lanea Stagg