Host of "Breakfast with the Beatles," Sundays at 8 a.m. on
Chris Carter took over as host of "Breakfast With the Beatles" at
KLSX-FM in Los
Angeles after the tragically early passing of longtime host Deirdre O'Donohue in 2001.
Carter, a former member of the band, Dramarama,
is a dedicated lifelong student of things Beatle, and brings his expertise to the
show each Sunday morning---with whimsy, fun, and without dryness. The show is more or less
in the spontaneous and somewhat goofball spirit of The Beatles, what with Beatles music
interspersed with absurdist snippets of sound ranging from Bela Lugosi to '60s commercials for the Electric Prunes. But Carter, 44, the father of
an infant daughter, also brings a craftiness to carefully planned sets that he maps out
each week---that can be surprisingly revealing and thought-provoking when it comes to
considering The Beatles' creative process. This is good radio. Chris can claim among his
listeners two fellows named Paul and Ringo, each of whom have phoned in to the program
several times. He is also a filmmaker, having produced the critically acclaimed (really) "Mayor of Sunset Strip,"
the story of L.A. deejay fixture and pop impresario Rodney Bingenheimer. You may e-mail
Chris at email@example.com
Rense: Chris, how the hell are you?
CARTER: "'Life is good, life is earnest/ If you're cold, turn up the furnace.'
Rense: I get the idea that you have an encyclopedic memory for such important information.
CARTER: (laughing) That, of course, was from the episode where The Standells visited the
Munster household. Remember that one?
Rense: Er. . .No.
CARTER: Oh, it was great.
Rense: Did they sing "Dirty Water?"
CARTER: They did another song, actually, but it was good nonetheless.
Rense: Do The Standells really sing "lovers, f----rs, and thieves" in that?
CARTER: You know, I don't think they do.
Rense: Now on to important matters. Brian Wilson ate exactly what when you interviewed him
on the air?
CARTER: Oh, he ate quite a few breakfast treats. You know, I've known Brian for a long
time, but I've always noticed that whenever he walks into any room to do virtually
anything, his eyes scan for snacks or any kind of food. We took it upon ourselves to beat
him to the punch. And when he got down here, we had every kind of donut and croissant. And
sure enough, he was double-handed. Went for three donuts at once. That's just the way he
is. But I know it put him in a good mood!
The Beatles, 1967, never dreaming they would one day be
the subject of a radio program hosted by Chris Carter.
Brian Wilson, 1965, never
dreaming that he would one day receive free donuts from Chris Carter.
Donuts, never dreaming they would one day be con- sumed by Brian Wilson on Chris Carter's
Rense: You've known him for a long time?
CARTER: Well, I manage his band. I have for about six years. They're an L.A. band called The Wondermints. They were big
fans of Brian's. He saw them at a Beach Boys tribute show that they were doing, and he was
so knocked out by them, he said 'if I had that band, I would have put 'Smile' on the
road.' And sure enough, that's what he's doing now---with them! Pretty cool.
Rense: How did the interview go?
CARTER: It went well. We covered the obvious, but he has a new record out. You know, if
anybody, Brian Wilson is kind of linked to The Beatles more than most---inspiring
"Sgt. Pepper" and that whole thing, and Paul liking "God Only Knows."
Over the past few years, they've (Paul and Brian) performed a couple of times live---or
one time for sure at that landmine benefit in Beverly Hills. They performed "God Only
Knows" and"Let it Be" together---which we played yesterday. And he talked
about that---hearing, "Rubber Soul" for the first time, inspiring him to do
"Pet Sounds,"and in turn The Beatles hearing "Pet Sounds," and that
inspiring them to do "Sgt. Pepper." And we asked him the thing no one ever asks
him about, which is "Revolver!" Which came out in between all that, and you never
hear Brian discuss "Revolver." It's always "Rubber Soul" and
"Sgt. Pepper." I always wanted to know what he thought of "Revolver."
I knew he would say he liked it. He basically just said "it was a good album---I
liked it too"---but I know his feelings for the American "Rubber Soul"
anyway. I'm not a big fan of the American releases, because they're so scattered and don't
make sense. But for whatever reason, the American "Rubber Soul" to me is the
perfect Beatles album. Brian feels the same way.
Rense: "I've Just Seen a Face" is a great opening track.
CARTER: Yeah, and as a kid, we didn't even know those other songs were on that record. (Note
to Beatle novices: the British releases were configured by the band, while the American
albums were sliced and diced by Capitol Records. Tracks were withheld and compiled into
other albums, notably "Yesterday. . .and Today.") I got that when I was
seven---it was the first record I ever owned. I remember we bought it at Stern's (New
Jersey), which was like a clothes store! All stores had little record sections, you know.
And my mom, for some reason, allowed it into the house, and that's where it all started.
Rense: Right. I bought Country Joe and the Fish's second album at Builder's Emporium.
CARTER: Whoah! Shop-Right had a nice record section. This was in Wayne, which is North
Jersey. Real "Sopranos" territory.
Rense: How did you become steeped in things Beatle through the years?
CARTER: It's like anything else. I was drawn to them, like everybody else in the '60s. I
was born in 1959, so like I said my first long player was "Rubber Soul." I was
about seven and a half. It just progressed. Every time a holiday came, or any kind of
gift-giving event, I would always ask for the latest Beatle album. And I got "Magical
Mystery Tour" and the "white" album when I was about nine, and then
"Abbey Road" came out, and they just knocked me out. In the 70's, I started
going off in different directions, but always kept the solo albums. I guess it was about
'73 that I kind of shied away a bit as I was getting into more "serious" music
with my Mott the Hoople records, and my Bowie records. But I always loved the Beatles. I
guess it was like in the early to mid-80s, we were just starting out with my band,
Dramarama, but I had a little run there where I had my own record store called Looney
Tunez Records in Wayne. It was a great record store, kind of modeled after this shop
called Bleeker Bob's in New York, one of those places where you can get all the
hard-to-find records. I had this kind of Jersey suburban version of Bleeker Bob's. That's
when I got into vinyl and we sold a lot of live stuff and unreleased stuff, and it sparked
my interest again in the Beatles, because there was all this (unreleased) stuff floating
around. All the outtakes and different versions of songs that I'd never heard before. This
was around '79 to '83. I had the opportunity to buy things for the store and nick 'em for
myself (laughing), so that kind of started it again.
From then on, that was my hobby. And it wasn't just the Beatles. I have a handful of acts
I collect to this day. That's what really kept it going---the record store. I was always
on the lookout for things. You know how it is---you don't take a course or anything, you
know. You just kind of read everything. I'm a big fan of getting every book, and knowing
which books to get, and knowing which books are good, and which ones really inform you.
It's a self education, but over the years, decade in, decade out, you sort of become an
expert if you keep paying attention. Life takes over and you end up getting a family or a
job or something, and really spending so much time---lucky for me I never went down that
road! So there was always time.
Rense: In the early '80s, there was a second wave of Beatles bootlegs at that time. It had
stagnated around the mid-70s, it seems, and then a lot of new material surfaced: the
"Sessions" album material, the BBC, etc.
Rense: By the way, who else do you collect?
CARTER: Basically that early '70s stuff: T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music. Anything
between '68 and '73 I'm into---even artists I wouldn't normally be into. I'll take Jethro
Tull. Everybody seemed to be at the top of their game in that era. It was really a great
time for music. Outside of The Ramones and a few other things, you got everything that
happened in that little five-year period there. After that, everything seemed to be people
imitating that stuff, and putting a new twist on it.
Rense: You said you never were unlucky enough to get diverted into a job, and yet of
course, you have a job---
CARTER: (Laughing) I've had a lot of jobs, but they've been jobs that I've created for
myself. To me, it's all about the quality of life. I can wake up in the morning right now,
and I'm working on my next film, and I think it's going to be about Tiny Tim.
Rense: Great. (Note: Tiny Tim is
featured in one of the Beatles' late Christmas messages.)
CARTER: Just to wake up in the morning and say, okay, what kind of Tiny Tim stuff am I
gong to find today? It's so much more exciting for me, and it just keeps you going. It
took me six years to do this Rodney Binginheimer film, and I loved every minute of it,
because even though I wasn't earning any money from it in the process, it just kind of
drives you and inspires you, and all sorts of things happen as a result of doing
it---little offshoot things. I really enjoy that! I find having two or three things going
at once is the way to go. A lot of times you'll be doing two or three things and there
will be absolutely no money. You see down the end of the road where you might be able to
profit from it. That's why it's good to have a couple of things going. At least you have
some sort of income coming in from some place. That's what's good about the radio show.
That's a constant. I can depend on that weekly.
Rense: I haven't heard other versions of 'Breakfast With the Beatles' around the country,
but I must believe that your show is the Rolls-Royce of the bunch. You manage to be fresh
and original each week, with news, trivia, contests, great guests with substantial Beatles
history, not the least of which are Paul and Ringo, and you are very, very on top of
Beatles history and current developments. You seem to have all the solo songs, official
and unreleased, and you seem to have all the data. You know Deirdre O'Donahue was a lovely
person and she did a splendid job for many years, but she kept to a very limited format of
mostly official releases and not a great deal of solo material. You've blown the whole
thing wide open, and fulfilled the potential of what it could be. Do you work on it all
CARTER: Well first of all, thank you. I do it fresh every week. I never look back at a
playlist. Let me see what I did last week. I know in the back of my head what we have
played, and haven't played. Yeah, I'm all about sets. To me, a kid who grew up with FM
radio, listening to enough good and bad radio---the more awful radio you hear inspires you
to do better things; it's like watching bad TV after a while. I'm sure Larry David has
watched enough bad TV to know how to make good TV. How many people do you know who say,
'Oh God I could do better than that'? And that's really what inspired me. I had nothing
against Deirdre or any of the Beatles shows. I had heard a lot of Beatles shows over the
years---we had one in New York, I think predating Deirdre, with Scott Muni, on WNEW. It
may have been called "Breakfast with the Beatles," I'm not sure. And you'd
listen to these things, and they were just so bland and obvious. And like you said, and
this is no offense against anybody, but they really never stuck their foot in the water to
play anything outside of the released material. That was the first thing I wanted to do
when I took over this show---to show the listeners not only the bootlegs, unreleased
stuff, but the stuff that was available that they may have never heard. For instance, the
mono releases, which I think was really key, as these were the recordings that The Beatles
wanted you to hear. Those were the mixing sessions that The Beatles actually showed up to
do! When they were doing the mix, for instance, for "Sgt. Pepper," they were
there for that. They had just recorded this record, they had put on these overdubs and
parts, and they wanted you to hear them this specific way. When they mixed the stereo
version of "Sgt. Pepper," there were no Beatles to be found, which tells you a
lot. And of course stereo became the norm after the late '60s. At the time, they thought
of stereo as a joke, the way we looked at quadrophonic in the '70s. It was like, oh, okay,
that lasted a weekend, and no one really went for it. So just to introduce the listeners
to different versions of songs they had drilled into their heads for so long. . .To hear
"Helter Skelter" in mono is a completely different listening experience than
Rense: Yes, I'd never heard the mono version until you played it, and it sounds like a
band playing live, as opposed to the very studio-sounding stereo version, where the vocals
are sort of squashed off to the side, etc.
CARTER: Oh, you can hear the backing vocals; this is a
completely different mix. Not that the stereo version has anything wrong with it, but, a)
we've all heard it umpteen times, and b) it really wasn't the way that they laid it down.
So that's where I started opening the door, with the mono recordings, and again, they're
not easy to find. All the CDs that are out there are in stereo, with the exception of the
first four albums. To get a good clean copy and present it right was important to me, and
"Sgt. Pepper"---same thing.
So the unreleased stuff. . .well (laughing), I know we have Capitol Records in the back
yard here, so let's see what happens if I play this stuff. I was waiting for the Beatle
police to come. And it dawned on me that we're not selling this stuff. That's really the
part where the legal aspect comes into play. If I sell you something and charge you $15
for it, I can understand. That's illegal, it's not your material, there's no copyright
law, etc. But if you're playing it like for historical reasons, trying to show the history
of the band, you know. . .This is take three of this song before the final take that we
all know---listen to this solo during the verse that's not there. I found that to be
extremely interesting. Not breaking any laws by playing it. And I think The Lost Lennon
Tapes, when that series went out in the '80s, they really opened the door for that.
Because here was all that unreleased John stuff that Yoko had unearthed, and was playing.
No one was saying a word about it. All the albums came out after that of those radio
shows, and I figured hey, we could do the same thing.
"Yes, Chris, nice to see you. I've read all your books." Just kidding! Here
Carter comes face-to-face with the Chief of Beatle Police, the great George Martin.
"Well, first of all George, I don't like your tie. . ."
Rense: Yet your tone is hardly worshipful or
fanatical. A lot of collectors will talk about this stuff like it's all incredibly
important---like that so-called version of "Love Me Do" from the "Get
Back" sessions. They get very excited talking about the unreleased
version of "Love Me Do!" And it's just a sloppy little nothing
run-through jam. And you keep perspective on this type of thing. I noticed the other day,
when you played the "Anthology" version of "Hello Goodbye" with all
the guitar lines by George running through it, you said afterward, "I'm not sure
whether all the extra guitar stuff helps or not." Which is true. It's pretty nice,
but the released version, with the violas, sounds awfully good.
CARTER: Well, one thing about The Beatles is that 99 percent of the time, they made the
right move at the end of the day. They knew that the guitar bit didn't fit in there right.
You know, we had Ken Scott on the show, real early in the game, who was an engineer for
the Beatles when he was about 17 years old. On air once, he said to me, (Carter, a good
mimic, does Scott's accent) "Chris, I love your show---it's very good. But I'm not a
fan of playing the bootlegs or the unreleased stuff, because we didn't them out." And
he tried to put me in my place, you know (laughing), and I said, "Well, you know, I
agree---we're not saying these are the best versions of the song, but week-in, week-out,
when you're going to do a Beatles show, especially a five-hour Beatles show, I open up
that can of worms sometimes. We're going to be talking about those songs and sessions. And
if you play "Eight Days a Week," the same version, year-in, year-out, it can
become dull. Prior to the "Anthology" series, I think there was about
ten-and-a-half hours of Beatle music available. That's it. If you have a five-hour show,
it's going to get stale very quickly! And the other thing I like to do is play the solo
stuff, and try to find a good balance---even if it's kind of a 70/30 kind of a
split---where we insert a couple of solo things with Beatles stuff. Because it widens the
whole thing. Now you've got 78 solo albums to contend with. A lot more music.
CARTER: Yeah, of course, McCartney probably has about thirty, or something like that
Rense: Another thing you do which I find interesting and even instructive is the way you
put together sets. There are many examples, but there is one that sticks in my mind. It
seemed to consist of piano-driven Lennon songs, and "Hey Bulldog" was one and
"Remember" (solo) was the next one. And I had never thought of those two songs
in the same context. I had never really thought of such a sub-genre existing: piano-driven
Lennon rockers. That was interesting. And listening to "Remember," in that
context, it suddenly struck me as a Beatles song missing two other members (Ringo plays
drums.) And "Hey Bulldog" sounded like a solo Lennon song that happened to have
a few Beatles on it.
CARTER: Well, you know, being a musician helps in that you're kind of hip to what's being
played. I mean, it's a combination. When I'm putting a set together, I know we've got
basically three sets per hour. And I also keep in mind the time of the day. So when I do
the first hour of the show, the first set is usually fairly mellow. We don't want to bowl
everybody over at the crack of 8 o'clock. That's a given. And then, I look at who's
writing the songs. I do a John and a Paul set, then the George set will follow. Then there
is the era, and I have to be very careful because Beatle fans are funny. They're kind of
split down the middle. There are the real early yeah-yeah-yeah fans, where everything has
got to be '63 and '64, and quite a lot of albums were released in that period up to '65.
And there are people who just love that sound and that part of the Beatles. I am a
"Rubber Soul"-onward Beatles fan, when they got to be serious musicians, and I
got to be serious about them. Not that I don't dig "Please Please Me" and stuff.
But it's not my favorite, not at the top of my list. So I have to keep that in mind,
because a lot of times---and I know I did this when I started the show---I just wanted to
play what I wanted to hear. So I try to keep everybody in mind when I put the sets
together. So we'll have our early mop-top set here, and our psychedelic set. I really try
to spread it out so we cover everything every show. And then I get a little more detailed
as I go along. Maybe I pick a mid-period set where everything is '65-'66, and I key in
songs in particular and say, okay, we're going to play a "Paperback Writer,"
"Day Tripper," and "We Can Work it Out." Let's see what versions we're
going to play. There is one series called "Every Little Thing," which is
brilliant. Three CDs---nothing bootlegged, nothing unreleased, but just every version of
the official releases. So if you want "I'm Looking Through You," they'll have it
in mono, stereo, with the false start on the U.S. version, on the Spanish EP which had a
slightly different reverb on the vocals. And then you think, that's a great set! That's a
set I would like to hear, and I think that's the set the listeners are going to find
interesting. A lot of times they don't realize it's a different version until the very
end, and they'll say, wow, the song didn't end cold. You hear banter. So I get a kick out
of that sometimes, throwing a curve to the listeners.
And the third and last thing I look at is I have a Calendar
on my wall. I painstakingly went through every book about three years ago, every
chronological Beatle book that had everything they did on every day. And if I look up at
my calendar, well, for instance, I see, July 6, John and Paul meet for the first time in
St. Peter's Church. The next day is Ringo's birthday, and "All You Need is Love"
came out in the UK on that day. So then I look at my calendar, and I figure we've got to
include those things, and by the end of the show, it comes out to be a really interesting,
fresh, unique show to that week. And I think that's the answer to your question. I never
really think about (the show) until usually Wednesday of the week Because on Monday and
Tuesday I kind of zone out anything Beatles, just to clear my head. And then usually that
Wednesday night, I start putting it together, and by the time I get to Friday, I usually
have the show done. And then I fine tune it, print it out, and I'm ready to go.
Rense: You do some witty things with the themes of sets. Well, this isn't a good example,
because it isn't that witty, but you'll have, for instance, The Beatles' "sun"
songs. . .
CARTER: That's kind of where your personality comes in. I'm a fairly funny guy, as a rule,
to my friends. I have a definite sarcastic streak. The Beatles were funny guys. They loved
a laugh. And you can't get really too serious about this Beatle music, you know? Like
treating like some great classical piece, although our generation almost does view it with
the same respect. But at the same time, we're talkin' about "Hey Bulldog," you
know, so it's nothing to get all. . .So I try to inject a little humor. And if we can put
together a set that has a little angle, and it can be humorous, why not? Like yourself, I
can't think of any off the top of my head, but there's definitely so much to choose from.
For instance, on Father's Day, I think to myself, you've got the obvious. But if you just
dig a little deeper, oh man, we have that version of Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright
doing "This Boy." We have a lot of fun with Paul's pot stuff. Saturday Night
Live used to do all these send-ups, with Jane Curtin saying "it's day 157" (that
Paul had not smoked pot), and Father Guido Sarducci is outside of Paul's window. That's
the National Lampoon look at The Beatles, which is really fun because there is so much of
that stuff (to play on the air), and little clips from TV shows, or something off The
Rense: What is that Lugosi quote that pops up occasionally? "Supernatural? Perhaps.
Baloney? Perhaps not?" You do that kind of thing too early to me on a Sunday, and I'm
done for the day.
CARTER: Actually, that's from the Monkees' movie, "Head," and I love that one.
And I try not to beat that stuff to death. I'll play that little thing for a couple weeks,
and then not play it for a while. I just got a bunch of cool sixties commercials. Rodney
Binginheimer and I had a couple of records. . . "You'll never know what'll happen
when The Doors and The Staples Singers get together!" To me, that's so funny, and it
can fit in our show. Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with The Beatles. These
are people that are fans of the sixties, fans of pop culture, fans of that era, so what
the hell, thrown an Electric Prunes commercial in there. Throw in a Paul Revere and the
Raiders commercial. Not that we don't have enough commercials! I do think it makes the
show fun to listen to.
Fab Four: (l to r) Victor Spinetti, star of "A Hard Day's Night," Carter,
Beatles authority/political commentator Martin Lewis, and John Junkin, star of "A
Hard Day's Night." All guested on "Breakfast With the Beatles." Said
Spinetti of Carter, "He's very clean." (Okay, but he should have.)
Rense: The set-starter gimmick is a great
CARTER: Yeah, that's something that just came naturally. There were a couple of times that
I was either out of town or was sick, and I type out my playlist every week. I bring in
copies to my engineer and to Mike The Producer. (Mike Walusko.) And Mike pulls the music
for me. He looks at the set. He knows our catalogue now. If I put "007 Help
Intro," he knows where to find that. Couple of times, I had no set lists, and I was
like, how am I going to do this? I'm never going to be able to put these together with the
same creativity that I'm used to, and people will notice if I'm doing it on the fly. I'm
all about the set. Again, no disrespect to the other Beatles shows, but I listen back to
some of those shows, or some of the other Beatles shows here in town, and you'll hear
"We Can Work it Out" into "Old Brown Shoe," and "Octopus's
Garden." And I think, what is that? A monkey could have
picked that set out, and I don't mean Mickey Dolenz. And I can't get behind that; there's
no thought process. Which is always the problem with a lot of FM radio---you'll hear three
or four songs with absolutely no vibe whatsoever.
Rense: It's all demographic b.s. across the dial nowadays. . .
CARTER: Yeah. And I'm to the point where I know, like, how the song ends. Like
"Lovely Rita." (Imitates ending.) And I'll make sure that that next song has a
cold, perfect beginning that will butt up against that last song. To me, that's so
important. Most people are driving when they're listening to the radio, and there is
something to be said about a good set that works musicall well. And I think people notice
it, and it keeps them locked in. So the set-starter, well, it was like we have no
set---let's see what we can do. And the listeners get a kick out of it. They get a prize
if they get their song picked. That's where the instinct comes in. It's the obvious
sometimes. Somebody wants to hear "Rocky Raccoon." Okay, (it's followed by)
"Hey Bulldog," "Blackbird," "Bluebird"---got the animals!
Sometimes you get a little deeper, but it's fun nonetheless.
Rense: McCartney and Ringo phoning in must have been the highlight since you've been
CARTER: Oh, it was great. It was also my first year there, so I liked it as it was great
timing. (Last September marked the beginning of his fourth year hosting the show.) I was
really happy. It kind of made it a little bit more official, you know? Just having The
Beatles---who's left of The Beatles---phone in. And prior to that I got hired by Capitol
to work on the "All Things Must Pass" package. I interviewed George (Harrison),
and they put that CD out, and it was really great as well. I felt as if it upped my
credibility a little bit, because I'm a lone wolf out there---you have no manager, no
agent, you're all on your own. And you've got convince a whole city that you're going to
be their Beatle host, and who the hell are you to be my Beatle host? That's the way I
feel. We're all fans of radio and so was I, and I listened to that show every Sunday just
like you did, we all did. And I felt that this was a great honor and a large
responsibility to do it.
Rense: You had to compete for the job.
CARTER: They had four other deejays in there. That was another really trying time for me.
I know what it must be like to run for president! My wife said I was completely---it was
hard to live with me. Because the way they did, there was this voting thing (where the
public was to vote for their favorite candidate.) The month of August, they were going to
decide it, and Labor Day weekend would have been the kickoff. And you know, Deirdre's best
friend and protégé, Tricia Halloran---sort of the way I am with Rodney
Bingenheimer---was to me going to be the obvious choice. Here was this girl who was
basically Deirdre, Jr. And I'd listen to them, all through their shows. And I'm a
sarcastic, hard-core Beatle fan, so the minute someone would say one thing wrong. So the
minute someone would say one thing wrong, I'd be---Oh my God! And I'm sure everybody felt
the same way. And I felt this was such an important gig, that how can someone not be doing
their homework. At the end of the day, it worked out well. I'm not even sure how much it
meant to a couple of the others. A friend of mine, Jim, who worked over at Rhino, was one
of the other guys up for it, and at one point, I got a call at 8 a.m., and it was his
Sunday. They called and said, "He's not in! He's not here! Can you come in?" So
I thought, this is like, perfect. Guy didn't show for his Sunday! This was Jim Neal. And I
bolt down to the station with my big box of Beatles stuff, and the guy comes in about
10:30. . ."Oh, forgot I was on, uh. . ." I'm spending my five weeks off getting
my sets perfect, and he forgot! And I thought, that'll show the program director how
interested he is. And then, I was there and started the show, and he asked, "Can I
take over?" And I'm like, "I'm here, man---you missed your Sunday." It was
kind of weird. You know, they were all good, and they all did a great job, and they're all
nice people, and I have no problems with anybody. But to me, The Beatles were bigger than
all that, and I wanted the job.
Rense: Well, they got the right guy. When McCartney called, well, how did that come about?
CARTER: Like all radio, and all show business, you have to give the illusion that what
you're hearing is real. Nothing lamer than prefabricating some sort of a stunt. For all
intents and purposes it was a real thing. What happened was Paul was in town. He was
playing shows at the Staples Center here. All that occurred the afternoon prior to that
Sunday. Yeah, it was spontaneous, and it was a shock to me. I was home getting ready for
my show, and McCartney's people called me and said Paul wants to do something on your
show, but he's going to be traveling Sunday morning and he's not going to be able to do
it, so he wants to do something this afternoon. I said fine---we're just going to make
believe that this is Sunday morning. He knew that and I knew that. He knew the show as on
Sunday morning. So what I did was, I didn't tell Paul what we were doing. I went down to
the station and into the B-studio, and I told his manager that we're going to be doing the
show like we (normally) do the show. And he called in, and we had a contest going, a quiz
question: what Beach Boys track can Paul McCartney be found eating a carrot on? And the
answer was "Vegetables." So Paul didn't know what to expect, and I was just
doing a radio show. You know, "we're back, 97.1 Breakfast With the Beatles," and
he heard the end of a commercial, and it was just like being live on the radio. We did the
interview, did the quiz question, I talked to him about the show, and played it the next
||Paul and Ringo, circa 1995 (left) and circa1964 (right), never dreaming
that they would one day phone in to Chris Carter's radio program.
Rense: You asked him that quiz question?
CARTER: Yeah, I had him hear the quiz question while he was on hold. He said, "I know
the answer to that!" So it was really very spontaneous, really live. It really wasn't
"Okay, Paul, here's what we're going to do!" So we did it right. The great thing
was that Paul liked the bit so much that he included it in his TV special and his DVD,
"Back in the U.S." So this is the only part that was staged---Paul told the guys
doing his film, "I want that bit in my movie, I liked it." So that following
Sunday, the next day, his film crew came in and filmed me doing the show, and during the
commercial, they had me just read back my bit like I was doing it live. And it was great.
Ringo actually called in twice. They were both live and right off the cuff.
Rense: He lives in town---
CARTER: He actually called from England both times, on Easter, and on his birthday, which
were both cool.
Rense: I remember one time he called in, you had Mark Hudson in the studio with you.
CARTER: That was on Easter, and his new album, "Ringo-Rama," had just come out.
And you know, even though they're Beatles, these guys still have to go out there and
promote their stuff. It doesn't matter who you are. I think Mark Hudson, who was the
connection to Ringo at the time and still is, well, we said, "Mark, come on
down." He produced the record, and really gets into these Ringo recordings. And
really, you know, to be honest, has made Ringo a much more listenable artist. The music is
Rense: No doubt about it.
CARTER: I know Mark and Ringo are very wary of being too Beatlesque, if you will. Ringo
likes to be his own guy, and he doesn't want to become Mr. Beatle Clone on his solo
records. At the same time, Mark walks the line, and you do get that melodic sound that you
want to hear. Let's face it: you don't want Ringo to sound like Deep Purple. You want him
to sound like Ringo. And Mark does a great job. It was good having him in the studio, and
it made Ringo comfortable, I think.
Rense: You've mentioned on the air that George is your favorite Beatle.
CARTER: He's my favorite Beatle as a person. Obviously, he didn't have enough songs
(laughing) to become musically my favorite Beatle. But I do love all his songs with the
Beatles. I just liked George as a person, as a human being. I thought he was really cool,
whereas Paul and John tried to be cool. George was really the cool one. You know, you
watch "A Hard Day's Night," and he's the coolest! When he's in that office with
those birds trying to pick him out to be the new young teen, his delivery and his whole
demeanor is. . .I always thought he was the Beatle voice. When he spoke. He was a
combination. John was too nasal, Paul was too deep, Ringo was Ringo. But George was the
perfect combination of all of them. He spoke with almost that kind of cartoon Beatle
voice. And I thought he really depicted The Beatles. I always thought he dressed well,
looked cool, played cool. He was just definitely the guy I would probably hang around
with, if I could.
Rense: I think some of the reviewers of the most recently released version of "A Hard
Day's Night" observed that George steals the movie with that scene you mentioned.
CARTER: Yeah! The other thing with those guys, especially in that film, more so than
"Help!", that was really them. You can't get actors to do that without years and
years of training, to be these people. Those were those guys, that was their persona,
those were their personalities. And yet, while they had some lines fed to them, it didn't
matter. There are a lot of actors that way---it's the way they are. And you can't do much
with their characters because their own personalities are so strong.
Rense: What do we need to see in terms of new Beatles releases, and why have there not
been more frequent new releases in recent years?
CARTER: Well, that's the $64,000 Question. It's funny, when you look at the rock 'n' roll
landscape out there, with the advent of the CD and the digital process, you have Elvis
Costello and David Bowie, both having their complete catalogue revamped three times each,
right? And here you have the greatest rock 'n' roll band in history still with the same
sorry-ass CDs that came out in 1985 or '87, and put them out one at a time or however they
did it. That have never been remastered, never repackaged, and the big question is why? I
suppose, and this is just an opinion, because they are The Beatles, it takes twice as long
to get rights, to get everybody on board. It's such a precious catalogue that they want to
do it properly and do it right, and because of that, it never gets done! So many people
have to okay it, or get involved, that it just never happens. Here it is, 2004, and the
Stones catalogue is out, and it's great, and they give you the mono and the stereo and the
SACD and the regular, whatever. And The Beatles, you've still got this crappy version of
"Please Please Me" and the versions that a lot of fans aren't even aware
of---"Rubber Soul" and "Help!" were remixed in '87 by George Martin!
Okay, it's George Martin, so who else, but still it's not even the proper mix of this
classic album. [Martin and The Beatles were long dissatisfied with the mix of those
albums, especially "Rubber Soul," as being particularly lacking in bass and drum
resonance, so it was decided to correct this for the CD release, and the difference is
spectacular.---RR.] Obviously, the fans want to know why. We've all had to resort to
bootlegs to get mono versions of these things or the American copies of these records [the
interview predated the recent release of early American versions of the Beatles
catalogue], and again, I'm not a big fan of the American releases. But you can't negate
history. Everybody knows that "Yesterday and Today" is an album that came out in
America, and I'm sure everybody would like to have those songs that they grew up with, in
that order, as they remember them. Americans had those records. Unless you were a really
hard-core Beatle fan in the '60s and '70s, you didn't have "Revolver" with
"I'm Only Sleeping" or "Rubber Soul" with "Drive My Car."
When the CDs came out, that was a nice way to introduce the American fans to the original
Now I do know pretty much for a fact (as part of the new American re-release campaign),
and again I don't want to tip my hand too much, because I'm friends with a couple of these
A&R guys at Capitol, the question of "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver"
came up, and what I heard was that they were almost considering not putting out the
American version of "Rubber Soul" because all of those tracks have been
available on CD already. Which really defeats the entire purpose. If you're going to put
out the American records, you've got to put out the American records. Those records were
so damn short, for starters. You can get 80 minutes on a CD, so you could very easily put
out a mono and stereo version of each one. An American/U.K. version. I'd love to get a
"Revolver" and say, "okay, the first bunch of songs is from the U.S., the
next batch from the U.K.---it's a no-brainer." . . .For people who read Beatle
magazines and fans out there, you know, I know, we all know you can go on to eBay and type
in "Revolver mono" and get a beautiful mono "Revolver" CD for $17.50.
So who really cares at the end of the day what Capitol does, if they're not going to do it
right. You can make your own.
Rense: True. I guess I'm more interested in the things that Derek Taylor was talking about
when the "Anthologies" were coming out, including the so-called
"unplugged" white album, the Christmas album, etc. He was talking about possibly
a new release of new music every year---not repackages of existing tracks.
CARTER: That's a good point that you bring up. There's something that you wonder about.
Wouldn't that just be a yearly seller that would never stop? Probably a bit tedious to
listen to for some people. The Christmas records were available to fans. They're not
illegal. They're not something that The Beatles didn't want you to hear. They were put
out. Why not? Again, I think the answer to all these questions revolves around the fact
that you have Yoko Ono, and Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, and Olivia Harrison---and all
these people have to be on board. And you know, with the whole McCartney/Lennon,
Lennon/McCartney (business), everything takes time, everything is a big production,
everything is a big soap opera. When you get down to it, I'm sure that these are all
issues, too. . .But I guess they are going to do something. "Let it Be" is
apparently going to be released on DVD, in a two-DVD set---one, the movie, and one some
Rense: Supposedly 80 minutes' worth of outtakes.
CARTER: Yeah, that's what I hear. And again, we all know that you can go on eBay right
now, and pop in "Let it Be," and you'll find twenty different DVD's of exactly
that. Of course, it's not going to be as good as the real one, because they're going to do
a great job on it. They're going to get the original footage, and all those Nagra
sessions, and all those versions of songs from the "Let it Be" sessions, and
we'll see them clear and nice. But they're still out there, and we can get 'em already.
We'll see how that all works. But you brought up the best one, and that's the Christmas
one, and I've never been able to figure that out, ever, why they couldn't just put that
Rense: You could argue that it was the last official Beatles album, even though it was
distributed only to fan club members. Pressed on Apple in 1970. You mentioned ongoing
projects, the Tiny Tim movie. Dramarama is still playing?
CARTER: We hadn't been. We broke up in '93 or '94, but VH-1 tricked us into being in one
of their new shows called "Bands Reunited." They get hold of the leaders of the
band, and say hey, we're gonna do a show called "Most Influential Bands of the
'80's!" And of course, you're all "Really? We're influential? Oh wow!" So
they bait you with that, and of course you're giving up everything. "We were
wondering---do you have any old footage, and can you find the other guys?" You're
into it because you're influential! And you give out all this information. Then they throw
a curve. I'll never forget that morning. I was on the radio, and two CD players had
broken. There was no air conditioning. It was the middle of August. It ws 105 in the
studio. I was really pissed off. I was angry because nothing was working. And in come
these eleven guys with cameras---"Hey, how ya doin'? Are you Chris Carter?" And
I'm like what? I'm wearing cutoff shorts and a Davey Jones shirt from 1967. I look like an
idiot. And this is my big VH-1 moment. So I was a little bit soured by the whole thing.
And they got our singer cleaning his garage with his shirt off, and a guy driving a
tractor in the rain. Perfect for what they wanted. But I was a little, and I still am a
little miffed at the whole thing.
Once that happened, the singer, who just lost his job at Album Network, and has four kids,
well, he came to me and said we should put Dramarama back on the road. And I'm like
rolling my eyes, because I'm 44 years old, I've got all this other stuff going on, and I
don't want to be in a van going to San Jose on a Tuesday night. I said, if you want to put
Dramarama back together, you should. He was the head songwriter and everything. So go
ahead. So they're out there playing some shows now. I passed on it.
And the "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" is on DVD, and did very well as a
documentary. At the time, next to Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," we
sold our documentary as the second highest sale in the history of documentaries. So that
was great for me. My first movie, the first film I produced. We got raving reviews.
Rense: Great subject matter.
CARTER: Yeah, it's really a rock 'n' roll story. It's about Rodney, but it's also about
fame and Hollywood and why people come to Hollywood. I was very proud of it, and the
director, George Hickenlooper, is a great friend and great director. So we're going to
follow it up. I actually had a guy who believes he is Charles Manson's son come to me with
all this very interesting stuff. It's either going to be Charles Manson's son or Tiny Tim.
Rense: I vote for Tiny Tim.
CARTER: Yeah, me too, I think it will a lot more fun! Anybody who takes thirteen showers a
day is going to be a good subject.
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