In 1961, I was still performing with the Buddy Rich Septet. Although we played the usual circuit in the US, Birdland in NYC, Pep's in Philly, Blue Note in Chicago, et al, Buddy veered from the tried and true and accepted a booking of a State Department tour. The tour included performances in Afghanistan, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Iran. Our home was base Bombay, India where we also performed and included stints in New Delhi, Bangalore and Madras. We returned to NY in 1962, exhausted, but filled with the music from these diverse cultures.
During that year, The Beatles were recording their first hit single "Love Me Do," which I believe became a hit in the US in 1964. I checked them out on The Ed Sullivan Show
, and frankly I didn't see what the fuss was all about. I grew up not only listening to jazz but was a fan of "The King Of The Moondogers," Alan Freed, who played R&B and Rock and Roll on his radio show in New York City on WINS.
As a teenager, I played jazz but danced to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley and the Comets. In the '40s I was hearing live big band jazz at the movie theaters on Broadway, and Diz, Bird and Bags 78s at home; in the '50s, I was attending the Alan Freed shows at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, where we kids were dancing in the aisles to Fats Domino and Little Richard. I also dug that there was always a big band backing up these acts! It was during that time I also got hip to Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and other legendary blues artists from friends who loved the blues. So upon first hearing the Beatles, I thought they sounded like a ripoff of the Everly Bros.
In 1964, I began playing with keyboardist, Warren Bernhardt, drummer Donald MacDonald, flautist Jeremy Steig and bassist Eddie Gomez. They had formed a jazz/rock group called Jeremy and the Satyrs. The band also featured a blues singer and guitarist, Adrian Guillery. The group began performing at the Cafe Au Go Go, Bitter End, Electric Circus, and The Fillmore opposite folk, blues and rock bands. They also became the backup group for the folk-singer Tim Hardin. I joined the band after the Satyrs' first recording on Columbia Records, and suddenly I was exposed to hearing the music of Dylan, Hendrix, Zappa and the many rock and folk artists who played that circuit.
When I first heard "Help" in 1965 I was hooked, and then upon their release Rubber Soul
, I was blown away! By then the Satyrs were heading into a more psychedelic free/jazz-rock band, as were The Beatles on Rubber Soul
. 'Til this day, I'll occasionally play "Yesterdays," "Norwegian Wood" or "Here, There And Everywhere" as a solo piece at one of my group concerts.
Those Beatles albums and all of their later works shifted my musical world off its axis. I recall feeling the same anticipation and excitement from rumors that a forthcoming Beatles album was about to be released, as I did any jazz record during the years the group recorded.
When I first formed my label, NYC Records, the second release was A Guitar Tribute To The BeatlesCome Together
. I wasn't at all surprised by how The Beatles shaped the artistry of the many diverse guitarists who participated in the project. The performances on that first album and the subsequent second CD with another lineup of great guitarists are a testament to the musical magic inspired by The Beatles.
Like a lot of people, I was really influenced by The Beatles. I had been playing the guitar for about six months when they came along. I'd say they impacted my music in several ways, but most importantly that they inspired me to keep going and work harder. It was quickly obvious that guitar playing was "cool" and a pathway to personal success and satisfaction. It never even occurred to me that it might not work out. They were certainly a big part of my early music experience, but not who I was emulating. I was a dork who wanted to play the blues, and looked down at all the other 15 year-olds who didn't know "the real shit." I had Beatle boots but my mother wouldn't let me wear them.
It's funny, as a kid I really didn't like The Beatles. I was into Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, even Elton John (his early stuff is great), but I didn't really didn't dig The Beatles. Maybe it was because they were older or something. But of course, as with anything great, I couldn't ignore them at a certain point in my career and I realized how fantastic they were.
What I learned to appreciate is their unbelievable songwriting. It really doesn't get any better than The Beatles. And then the production. Incredible. Pop music at its best. The Beatles also informed so much of the other music I love. Especially Brazilian pop music like Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, Djavan, etc. And The Beatles influence has only gotten stronger with time, as their sound and ideas are more prevalent in current pop music now than ever.