Saturday, 14 December 2013

My Old Friend

Carl Perkins, pioneer of the "rockabilly" hybrid of rock'n'roll and country & western was a major influence on the Beatles in the early days. The group used to perform a number of songs from Perkins' "Dance album" from 1957. During their audition for Decca on New Years' Day 1962, they chose to perform "Sure To Fall" from the album.

June 1, 1964, after a tour of Britain, Carl Perkins was invited to attend a recording session by the Beatles. In the session, the group recorded Perkins' song "Matchbox".  Carl Perkins claimed on several occasions that he and the Beatles recorded in the studio together this day. The songs they did varied according to the account, but they might have included "Blue Suede Shoes," "Honey Don't," "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," "Your True Love," "Sawdust Dance Floor," and others. No tape has surfaced, however, and it seems possible that if such a session took place, it might not have even been taped. For while Perkins remembered staying in the studio until almost three in the morning, no Beatles recording session officially ran past midnight until October 13, 1965.

The Beatles also recorded Perkins' songs "Honey Don't," and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," and during the Plastic Ono Band concert at the Toronto rock festival in 1969, John Lennon performed Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" and he also recorded an unreleased version of "Honey Don't" during his recording sessions for the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in 1970.

Allegedly, Parkins' economic situation benefitted greatly from incoming royalties of the Beatles' recordings of his songs.

Early in 1980, following his release from prison in Japan, Paul McCartney produced a number of songs for Ringo Starr's upcoming album, this included revisiting "Sure To Fall". It was finally released on Ringo's 1981 album, "Stop and Smell the Roses".

In 1981, just after John Lennon died, Paul McCartney flew to Montserrat, where producer George Martin had installed a state-of-the-art studio, to begin work on his solo album, "Tug Of War". Martin suggested to Paul that he shouldn't have to use his regular band Wings for the sessions, instead he should invite guest musicians he admired. One such guest at the sessions was Carl Perkins, who was invited by Paul to perform on a duet, the rockabilly flavoured McCartney composition "Get It".

On the last day of his stay in Montserrat, Perkins played McCartney a song he had just written while he was there, entitled ‘My Old Friend’. "
After I finished," Perkins recalled, "Paul was crying, tears were rolling down his pretty cheeks, and Linda said, ‘Carl, thank you so much.’ I said, ‘Linda, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry.’ She said, ‘But he’s crying, and he needed to. He hasn’t been able to really break down since that happened to John.’ And she put her arm around me and said, ‘But how did you know?’ I said, ‘Know what?’ She said, ‘There’s two people in the world that know what John Lennon said to Paul, the last thing he said to him. But now there’s three, and one of them’s you, you know it.’ I said, ‘Girl, you’re freaking me out! I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ She said that the last words that John Lennon said to Paul had been ‘Think about me every now and then, old friend.’"

Beatles fans who heard the story had to wait a long time before they finally got to hear the song. I remember hearing about an imminent release of it over the years, but it didn't happen until Perkins' last album, Go Cat Go!, which was released during 1996.

Meanwhile, in October 1985, George Harrison and Ringo Starr appeared with Carl on stage for a television special that was taped live at the Limehouse Studios in London called Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session. The show was later shown on Channel 4 on the 1st January 1986, and led to a revival of his career.
Harrison and Perkins' shared the stage again at a Hand Made Films 10th anniversary party in October 1988, and teamed up once more in 1992 at the Hard Rock Cafe in London.

In 1993, Paul was on his world tour and before his concert in Memphis, he and Carl Perkins met up to jam and chat backstage at the Liberty Bowl. Their meeting was filmed, and later formed the basis for two VHS cassette releases by Perkins, "Go Cat Go" (1997) and "My Old Friend" (posthumously released in 1998).

These video cassettes have yet to be released on DVD

The 1996 Go Cat Go album by Carl Perkins somehow reunited Carl and the Beatles, because John, Paul, George and Ringo were all on the album. Paul participated on the recording of "My Old Friend", George was on a track called "Distance Makes No Difference With Love", whereas Ringo was on "Honey Don't". John's "Blue Suede Shoes" performance from 1969 was the final track on the album.

While recording an interview for the Go Cat Go video, Carl was telling the story of the "My Old Friend" song and playing it, when his wife came on the intercom to inform him that Paul McCartney had just called. "Well if you're telling me that that boy isn't somehow connected with the spirit world....", Perkins chuckled. The moment was captured on film.

In early 1997, a major volcanic eruption by the Soufrière Hills volcano left the island of Montserrat, including George Martin's recording studio, devastated. Carl Perkins last major concert performance was to be together with McCartney at the Music for Montserrat all-star charity concert at London's Royal Albert Hall on September 15, 1997.
Perkins died on January 19, 1998 at the age of 65 at Jackson-Madison County Hospital in Jackson, Tennessee from throat cancer after suffering several strokes.
George Harrison attended Perkins' funeral, where he performed "Your True Love".
It was to be George's final performance in front of an audience.

The Perkins family still owns his songs, which are now administered by Paul McCartney's company MPL Communications. Paul also recorded another song from Perkins' "Dance Album", "Movie Magg" on his 1999 "Run Devil Run" album. Paul usually performs a number of Carl Perkins' songs at his soundchecks. Paul's BBC performance with the Beatles of "Lend Me Your Comb" was recently released on "On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2".

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