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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Louise Harrison Interview, Part 3 of 4

Midwest Tape marketing specialist Chris Shope recently interviewed Louise Harrison, sister of Beatle George Harrison, and two-time Grammy Award-winning producer Dennis Scott about their new Grammy-nominated album, Fab Fan Memories, as well as their Help Keep Music Alive organization, George Harrison, and the Beatles.

Broken into four parts, below is the third portion of our interview. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Chris: The world is getting smaller. Technology is making Do-It-Yourself so much easier for talented musicians. All these people that wouldn’t have connections otherwise, that wouldn’t be able to be heard. It would have been interesting to see how the Beatles would have come up in a world like today.

Louise: Yeah, well, it would be rather different.

Dennis: I’m sure Louise agrees that it was the coming together of so many different elements that made the Beatles what they were. They were immersed in all these sounds from America that were coming over with the servicemen landing in Liverpool, and they just absorbed it like sponges. And when they put it out, it became their own signature way of making music. The rest is history.

Chris: In my research, I didn’t realize that the Beatles had gotten so immensely popular in Great Britain before anyone had even heard of them in the United States.

Louise: That’s true. They were number one. They had their first album put out, which in England was called Please Please Me, and it was number one. It stayed at number one for about twelve months until their second album [With the Beatles] came out and knocked it down to number two.

So, well that was the thing you know, I lived over here from the beginning of March 1963, and I was running around all the radio stations that I could with the singles that my mum was sending me. I was saying “hey, this is my kid brother’s band, and they’re number one in England, and you should be playing them.” I was really trying like crazy to get them some airplay in this country. And then eventually it happened.

Chris: You laid the groundwork. It must have been wonderful to finally hear every radio station playing it.

Louise: Oh yeah, it was.

Dennis: Louise, was there a lot of resistance at first from the radio stations? Were they ambivalent at first or…?

Louise: Well, I discovered later it wasn’t so much that there was ambivalence, so much as back in those days there was what was called Payola. It was more that the DJs and the Program Directors back then were accustomed to being given across their palms with silver, kind of idea, before they actually accepted something. So this was why I, when I found out all of this stuff was going on, I let Brian [Epstein] know that we needed to have a major record label behind us, somebody that had some clout in order to get anywhere with the radio stations. And of course back then there were about 6,000 independent radio stations, I know there’s more than that now, but of course there’s a different way of distributing now.

Dennis: Those were the days.

Chris: As you may know Midwest Tape is a vendor of media products and services to public libraries. What is your favorite part of your local library?

Louise: When I was a kid in Liverpool, I was six years old when I joined the library. I’d be there two or three times a week getting out all of those Andrew Lang fairy tales, back in those days. You know because I was a little girl, looking for the happily ever after and princes and princesses and everything.

But more recently the kinds of things I’m into are things like quantum physics. I have a tremendous library—in my own bedroom, in fact. I can’t even remember half of the things. Things about the planet, about the environment, again quantum physics and people like Senator Paul Simon. He gave me some of his books. Tom Haden, he gave me one of his books. Actually a lot of the books that I have were given to me by the authors. People like Al Gore, and Joshua Greene who wrote a book about my brother. So I have a very, very varied library at home. I don’t read fiction or spy stories or horror stories or anything like that, it’s mostly I would say non-fiction, and possibly slightly a little intellectual stuff.

Chris: How about you, Dennis? What do you like to read?

Dennis: Well, I’m still going through my Archie comic book collection. Like Louise, it’s very difficult to find time to read, but of course, my leanings are towards music-oriented publications and books. I like the histories and stories about artists I’m impressed by. I have a pretty good collection now of books about the Beatles.

And we have a wonderful public library in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s not that old; it was rebuilt a couple of years ago. And aside from the collections of books, they have a concert series and a courtyard square where I’ve had a chance to play with my tribute band [the WannaBeatles]. And they also have world-class puppet and marionette shows. It’s just a treasure to go there.

Chris: Excellent.

Louise: I too, of course, have all of the books that people have written about the Beatles. They mostly send them to me. I haven’t really read many of them because too many of them are fabricated from my point of view. That’s one of the reasons why I’m writing my own book—to give a little bit of truth to all of the myths that are out there.

Chris: Definitely. You’re in an extremely unique position to tell it the way it is.

Louise: And people have been saying to me for years, “isn’t it about time for you to write a book about the Beatles?” For years I’ve resisted but finally I said okay. Enough is enough with all of the garbage that’s out there. That’s what I was working on when you called me.

Chris: Excellent. Is there any music you are into these days, aside from the Beatles, of course?

Dennis: You mean there’s something else other than the Beatles? (sarcasm)

Chris: Any new favorite bands?

Louise: My favorite bands in the ‘60s were the Moody Blues, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, and that was about it. Those were the ones that I liked.

Dennis: I have to agree with Louise 100 percent— the Beach Boys. Of course, the Beatles and the Beach Boys influenced each other.

Louise: Yes, yeah. That’s one of the stories I’m telling in my book about when I was invited to the memorial for Carl Wilson in California, you know with the Beach Boys.

Dennis: Believe it or not, I stay abreast of children’s recordings because the other hat that I wear is as a producer and writer of children’s material. I’ve worked with Sesame Street and Disney and folks like that, so I really have to keep on top of what’s going out there. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the children’s music is becoming much more sophisticated at an earlier age. While in my heart I wish things would stay a little more sedate, the kids are becoming more attuned to rap and other kinds of music at an earlier age. So I do have to keep on top of contemporary music a little bit.

Chris: We should have another conversation sometime about children’s music because our customers enjoy the children’s content that we provide for them.

Dennis: Definitely. Let’s talk. Check out that Mr. Rogers album, unless you already have. It’s kind of neat because it features artists we all know and love like Roberta Flack and BJ Thomas doing their versions of songs written by Fred Rogers.

Chris: Alright. He was from the Cleveland area.

Dennis: Actually Pittsburgh.

Chris: Pittsburgh, that’s what it was. I used to work with a guy who was family friends with him.

Louise: I can remember when my grandchildren were babies. They’re now 21 and 23, but when they were babies we used to sit and watch that every morning. They really loved Mr. Rogers.

Chris: I did, too. So do you guys watch any movies? Anything you like?

Louise: I tend to watch more what’s going on in the news, and again things like [National] Geographic and stuff like that. That is the kind of thing that would appeal to me. So I’m not really into current movies. I guess I’m kind of a fuddy-duddy when it comes to what’s going on in pop culture.

Chris: That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Dennis: Well I would love to go to movies more often because I have an extreme love affair with buttered popcorn.

Louise: I can’t stand that stuff.

Dennis: I’m a popcorn fan. But I have an eleven year old son who, believe it or not, is not a movie-goer. So we don’t get to go to the movies as often as I would like and when we do go, I think the top of the movie list is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. We’ve been to that three times. So, I don’t get to see as many adult movies as I would like, but that’s probably a good thing anyway.

Louise: Watch out when you say adult movies, Dennis. That has a different connotation.

Chris: Yeah, can I quote you on that Dennis?

Louise: That’s not what you mean is it?

Dennis: No that was not what I meant. (laughing)

This has been part three of our four-part interview with Louise Harrison and Dennis Scott. Be sure to visit News & Views Thursday to read the fourth and final part of our interview.

In the meantime, shop Fab Fan Memories and Beatles music and DVDs. You can also learn more about Louise's organization, Help Keep Music Alive, by visiting their website or Facebook page.

>>Read part one now.
>>Read part two now.

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