A Hard Day’s Night II?
By Stan Soocher
Stan Soocher is author of the new book Baby You’re a Rich Man: Suing the Beatles for Fun & Profit (ForeEdge/University Press of New England). He is also Associate Professor of Music and Entertainment Industry Studies at the University of Colorado’s Denver campus, an entertainment attorney and the long-time editor-in-chief of the monthly publication Entertainment Law & Finance. Stan is a guest on the November 2015 Beatles Brunch “Meet the Beatles Authors” program special.
The Beatles have always been a band with so many levels and dimensions that even today, years after they broke up, new insights and information still emerge. Like so many who grew up in the early decades of rock music, the Beatles loomed large over so many things I did. I joined a rock band as drummer when I was 14 and, of course, much of our set list was Beatles music—mostly rockers like “You Can’t Do That,” “Ticket to Ride” and “Day Tripper.”
When I became a music journalist in the latter half of the 1970s—and scored my first full-time industry job as an editor and staff reporter at Circus, a national music fanzine—it was a big thrill when we published an issue with the Beatles on the cover. That issue contained an article I wrote about the Who’s drummer Keith Moon, who had just died. I interviewed Keith a month before he passed away and, during our conversation, he told me he recently brought a drum set over to Ringo’s house as a birthday present for Ringo’s son Zak. “When I got there, Zak was playing with the headphones on and I could hear ‘My Generation,’” Keith said. Ironically, Keith claimed to me that Ringo didn’t want Zak, who later became the Who’s drummer, to grow up playing drums.
Talking to Keith Moon about Ringo and Zak certainly offered an unusual perspective on the Beatles. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, after I’d become an entertainment law journalist and attorney, that I really started seeing the Beatles in a different light. Beginning in the mid-1980s, as editor of Entertainment Law & Finance, I began tracking Beatles’ litigations on an ongoing basis. During that time, the Beatles’ chief U.S. litigator Leonard Marks wrote an article for ELF on the band’s epic music royalty battle against Capitol-EMI Records. When the Beatles and the record label finally settled their dispute, I covered the outcome for Rolling Stone in a piece that also was syndicated nationally in U.S. newspapers. The first book I wrote, They Fought the Law: Rock Music Goes to Court, contained a full chapter on the Beatles/Capitol-EMI dispute that I titled “I Should Have Known Better.”
Most importantly, though, out of the fracas of the many lawsuits in which the Beatles and its individual members were involved came enlightening connections between their music, who they were as people and the impact of Beatles business concerns on both. So when I received an inquiry from Steve Hull, the acquisition editor at University Press of New England about whether I had any ideas for a new music business book, focusing fully on the Beatles legal issues seemed a natural one.
Baby You’re a Rich Man: Suing the Beatles for Fun & Profit covers court cases that range from disputes over Beatlemania merchandise, to the Beatles’ relationships with their first fully dedicated manager Brian Epstein and notorious last manager Allen Klein, Paul McCartney’s lawsuit to break up the Beatles, John Lennon’s immigration fight to become a U.S. citizen, and song copyright-infringement suits filed against Lennon over “Come Together” and George Harrison over “My Sweet Lord.”
The Beatles were involved in so many lawsuits that, as noted in Baby You’re a Rich Man, John Lennon said, “Which one of them is which is indistinguishable to me.” But each case had its own story. In one lawsuit during the Beatles solo years, for example, former Beatles manager Allen Klein sued George Harrison in an attempt to take over George’s song rights, including “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” During Klein’s manic attempts to have George served with the lawsuit summons, there was George—surrounded by security—fending off Klein’s process servers at Madison Square Garden (as George hit the stage to close out his first-ever solo concerts tour), then back at the hotel in New York City where the solo Beatle had to bolt from his limo into the hotel’s kitchen elevator up to his room in order to escape Klein’s clutches.
Baby You’re a Rich Man took me 3 ½ years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of research to complete. Yet, with all the complexities and technicalities that can accompany lawsuit filings, the Harrison song rights case and other Beatles litigations made one thing clear: If the Beatles wanted to make the movie A Hard Day’s Night II, the script was written in the court records.