October 03, 2012

The Aerovons - Say Georgia (1969)

Today marks day number three in the five-part series brought to us by Tom Hartman of The Aerovons.

Recorded in 1969 and released in 2003, this song appears as the third track on The Aerovons' only record, Resurrection. The group clearly found their inspiration in the song "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles, which appeared on their 1969 album Abbey Road.

A Special Edition post with Tom Hartman from The Aerovons!
Part 3 of 5

It just keeps getting better, doesn't it? These stories are wonderful. Let's not waste any more time. Here's Tom!
What a Week!
(or, "Excuse Me, Is That...GEORGE?")

A few days after experiencing unbelievable luck by meeting Paul McCartney at London's Speakeasy club, EMI asked us if we would like to “see where you will be recording,” and of course we were thrilled. Abbey Road Studios back then was simply “EMI Studios” and probably only hardcore fans realized it was where The Beatles (and many others) recorded; but, of course, we knew.

So one afternoon, all of us hopped into a taxi and found ourselves entering the famous front doorway at #3 Abbey Road. Upon entering, there is a front desk with a guard up front, and we checked in and told him we were there to “get the tour,” per Roy Featherstone at EMI. Another elder studio technician came out and greeted us and all of us began to follow him down the main hallway that took one into where the studios were accessed. We didn't get far when we were taken aback by the sight of tall man with a warm and hearty voice who came out of nowhere and said something to our guide.

“Oh, I'm just taking them for a studio tour, they'll be recording here soon” our guide told the man.

“Oh okay. Well, if you want, I'll tag along!” said the big man.

We were so very impressed because, as Beatles fans, we instantly recognized him as Mal Evans, their long time road manager. He was also featured in several comical scenes in Help!.

“Wow, you're Mal!” I said.

He instantly smiled. “Yep, that's me.”

“Wow Mal, can I ask you a question about Help!?” I asked.


“Were you really under the ice in that water? How did you keep from freezing?”

“Oh yes, really there. Just lots of coffee,” he laughed. You could tell Mal, relegated to being basically a “go for” for the most famous group in the world, was very pleased at being recognized and everyone was instantly at ease.

We followed Mal and our guide down the hall as they pointed out doors to either side and mentioned where they led: storage areas, mix rooms, etc. About halfway down the long corridor, steps led downward.

“This goes down to the canteen area and to Studio 2,” Mal said. Studio 2 is where perhaps easily over half of The Beatles’ records were recorded, so it was going to be amazing to see it in person. We had only seen photos of it in The Beatles Monthly magazines and were really excited. Later, it would be where we recorded “World of You” and most of our album, as well. We wound down the steps and before you know it, were in front of two large doors that opened into the huge studio. Immediately as we walked in, our guide and Mal began pointing things out: microphone storage areas, baffles (sound deadening devices), etc. But their voices began to fade as all of us locked on to a familiar site far off into the back of the studio. There sat a black pearl set of Ludwig drums with a bass drum cover, in color, which said “LOVE.” It was Ringo's drum set as seen on the “Magical Mystery Tour” sessions.

“Wow! Is that Ringo's drum set?” Mike asked.

Mal kind of nodded and just kept on talking about the studio, continuing to point more things out as we walked deeper into the enormous room. When we got about three quarters of the way into the room, we found ourselves even with a long flight of steps which led up to the control room. We all stopped there momentarily to continue listening to Mal. I remember saying to him, for no particular reason, “Do The Beatles mind it when they hear groups like The Bee Gees, that kind of sound like them, or do their style?” Mal smiled slightly and said, “Not if they do it well, you know.” We made some more small talk as our guide began pointing some things and took some questions from others in the group.

Suddenly, Bob, our rhythm guitarist, whispered into my ear, “Hey look up there. It looks like Harrison…”

I turned toward Bob and he slightly motioned his head upwards. My eyes followed. At the top of the steps, standing and looking through the control room glass window, was indeed a figure that resembled George. Tough call though, as the control room was darkened and only a general outline could be seen. Mal was still talking when I turned to him and said, “Excuse me Mal. Is that....George up there?”

Mal looked up, then back at me and nodded, as if to say, “Well, yes...”

You could hear all of us take a quick breath inward and I immediately said, “Do you think he would come down?” Unfortunately, the answer was not what we wanted to hear. “Oh, well, probably not. He's very busy mixing a personal project.” Mal then started talking again about the studio, but his voice just became another sound in the room. My mind was racing.

I looked at Bob and then looked up again at the control room window high above. The figure was still standing there, looking down. Suddenly, I just said to myself, “Oh, what the heck.” With a large waving motion of my arm, I pointed to the figure and made a swooping motion as if to say “C'MON DOWN!”

The figure immediately turned away and disappeared from view.

Bob immediately said, “Oh man, why'd you do that?”. The others hadn't noticed, as they were still talking or being spoken to by Mal and the tour guide. Then, a new sound filled our ears. It was a metallic “clanking” sound, that of a large door opening. We looked up, and at the top of the steps, the studio door was open and standing at the top of the steps was George Harrison. We all looked up and the room went silent.

“Are you all with a magazine?” George started.

We were dressed in our best Carnaby Street outfits and my mom was holding a rather large camera, so the question wasn't too farfetched.

“Oh no, we're a group. We're going to be recording here and Mal is giving us a tour!” I shouted.

“Oh, okay,” said George nonchalantly. He began walking down the long steps, toward us. Under his breath, Bob whispered to me in my ear, “He's comin', he's comin' down!” We stood frozen in time as George Harrison got closer and closer, finally walking right up to me and extending his hand.

“Hi, I'm George.”

“Hi, I'm…Tom...”

We all kind of laughed at that and everyone shook his hand. “George, do you think you could answer just a few guitar questions?” I asked like a kid on Christmas morning.

“Sure, sure,” he said.

“George, do you mind if…” my mother said as she held her camera up slightly.

“Yeah, it's okay.”

“George, do you remember how you got the guitar sound in 'Nowhere Man'?” I asked.

“Yeah, two Fenders, I believe.”

“Stratocasters? With the toggle switch jammed in the in-between spot?”

“Yeah. John and I played it together and they compressed it a bit (understatement of the century) up in the box (meaning the control room).”

“We met Paul the other night and he said it was a Gretsch,” I smiled.

“No, two Fenders. So where you all from?”

We told him St. Louis and that we had all seen The Beatles when they played there in 1966. Did he remember?

“Vaguely, yeah. I tried to go to St. Louis once and I ended up in some kind of little hick town somewhere,” George laughed. “My sister lives near there.”

I continued, “George, in ‘Got to Get You Into My Life,’ your guitar seems to hold out so long. Do you remember what you did to get that to happen?”

“Was there brass in that one?”

“Oh, yeah. Lots of brass.”

“Ah, yeah, well, you see, that was probably the brass holding things out underneath. You know, it's funny because people always ask us how we do things and we cop as many things from others as they do us,” he said laughing. “Do you guys know of Eric Clapton?” (CREAM was rather new at the time.)

Mike and Nolan jumped in, “Oh yeah , he's great!”

“Yeah, well, you know he practices like twelve hours a day and then they call me a guitarist,” he laughed.

“Yeah, well, you're just fine,” I said and laughed. “Is that just guitar or guitar and electric piano in the very beginning of ‘Getting Better’?”

To answer, George suddenly took a step back and began strumming an imaginary air guitar. “You mean, 'It's getting better all the time,” quasi-singing. We all laughed. “No, just guitar; the electric piano comes in a bit later.” Suddenly, he reached over to a circular button I was wearing on my jacket which said “ALL YOU NEED IS TEA.”

“Ah, all you need is tea, eh? I'll remember that...”

We all laughed again. He was so much funnier and easy going than I ever would have expected- so very down to earth and with such a great sense of humor. I asked him, “George, did Paul really play those lead bits in ‘Ticket to Ride’?”

“Yeah, on an Epiphone that was, I believe.” (He was right, of course.)

“But then what do you do when you're not playing lead?”

“Oh there's always something to do,” he laughed and, for some reason, Mal laughed too.

And so the questions went, many of them resulting in George not remembering exactly what was done or how it was done. But he was always pleasant and patient throughout. In total, he probably spent about twenty minutes with us. Finally, he said, “Well, I better get back up there to work.” We all began thanking him at the same time. Again, he shook everyone's hands, even smiled over at mom, and said bye to her. He turned, was quickly back up the steps, and the clanking sound of the studio door echoed in the room once more.

I looked up at Mal. Mal looked back with a look as if to say, “Good one. That turned out very well for you!” Indeed it had.

When we got back to the States, we were all in shock to find that my mom, who was operating a fairly involved, new camera at the time, had set the exposure wrong and all of her pictures were washed out and hardly recognizable. Nowadays it's pretty simple to fix something like that, or at least go a long way toward salvaging it with Photoshop, etc., but back then, it was a nightmare. She finally found a photo lab that did reconstructive work and managed to salvage one picture from that day. It's the picture that forever freezes the moment when George first walked up and started answering my questions.

Meeting a Beatle and getting to ask him questions was akin to winning the Lotto, to me. Meeting two in one week's time, well that's altogether a horse of a different color, as they say. The only thing more amazing than that would be stumbling upon all of The Beatles at once and seeing them play live from a few feet away. Who can say they've ever seen anything like that?

Stay tuned... ;)

Tom Hartman

Nolan, Tom, Mike, George, and Bob

Another wonderful story! We've just gone by the halfway point, but there's still two more stories to be heard. Come back tomorrow for another great exclusive from Tom before we wrap things up on Friday. Thanks again to Tom Hartman for the time he took to share his memories with all of us.

Update: Continue with Part 4 of 5.

album art

The Aerovons - Say Georgia (1969)

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Say Georgia
You’ve been down
Say Georgia
Can’t you see?

That I’m not one to change you badly
The word for my love is “madly”
Say, say Georgia
You’ve been down about me

Say Georgia
I’ve been thinkin’
About the feelin’ that I have
Well, it’s not much for famous Sunday
It’s gonna make you stop

Someday, someday Georgia
They’ll be a way
Oh, yeah

I’ve got somethin’ for someday
It’s not enough, but
Baby, baby, baby, baby
I’m not the one to treat you badly

Say Georgia
You’ve been down
Say Georgia
Can’t you see?

That I’m not one to treat you badly
The word for my love is “madly”

Say Georgia
Oh Georgia
There'll be a way

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