Recently we stumbled upon a few of these "Bring Back The Beatles" t-shirts (update: now this t-shirt available on our site in orange, blue and yellow!) with an incredibly charming design featuring cartoon insect versions of the fab four. We knew all of you Beatle fans would go ga-ga over these, but we had no idea they told such an interesting story of the years just following The Beatles' break-up.
Turns out our "Bring Back the Beatles" t-shirts were likely made to promote David Peel's 1977 album Bring back The Beatles (and song by the same name), a heartfelt tribute to one of the most beloved, popular and influential musical groups in history. Though I've only just been acquainted with Peel, musician, fixture at counterculture marches and demonstrations in New York City since the late 1960s, and famous friend to and collaborator with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, I've been a Beatles fan all of my life. And, any friend of The Beatles is a friend of mine.
The break-up of The Beatles, a cumulative process throughout 1968-70, has become almost as much of a legend as the band itself or the music they created while together. There were numerous causes for the Beatles' break-up. It was not a single event but a long transition, including the cessation of touring in 1966, and the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in 1967, meaning the Beatles were personally involved in financial and legal conflicts. Conflicts arose due to differences in artistic vision, all four band members had begun working on solo projects, and by 1970 they all realized the likelihood the band would not regroup. On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced that he was quitting the band with the press release of his album McCartney. Fans took it hard, per this rare footage.
Peel, born David Rosario in Midwood, Brooklyn, began living in downtown New York City and playing the guitar in parks and on the street in the late 1960s. John Lennon moved to Manhattan in 1971 and, that very year, saw Peel playing in Washington Square Park and was introduced to him by the founders of the Yippie movement, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. They all immediately began singing along to Peel’s song The Pope Smokes Dope, until the scene was broken up by the police.
David Peel (left front, with guitar) & The Lower East Side perform "The Hippie From New York City" from "The Pope Smokes Dope" with John & Yoko in Dec' 1971.
David Peel, Yoko & John, c. 1972. Possibly the photo on Peel's business card today.
Lennon began performing with Peel and signed him to Apple Records for the album The Pope Smokes Dope which Peel said was widely banned, largely for its title. At the time, Lennon was quoted as saying that Peel “writes beautiful songs” and that if he ever wanted to write non-controversial music, he could write hits as “easy as pie.” He acknowledged the criticism that Peel “can’t sing, or he can’t really play,” and called Mr. Peel’s music simple, but added, “Picasso spent 40 years trying to get as simple as that.”
Today Peel is quick to invoke his friendship with John Lennon. His business card even bears a picture of him with Lennon and Yoko Ono, and he still wears his Lennon-style sunglasses. At 71, he is past conventional rock ’n’ roll retirement age, but why retire if you can rock? He still has his acoustic guitar, his three chords and his festive, irreverent marijuana shout-music.
“If you want to win the movement, you must have music, the way John Lennon gave us ‘Give Peace a Chance’ for the hippie movement,” he said as the drum circle banged away. (from NY Times interview in 2012)
(Sources: Wiki, http://www.nytimes.com/, http://peelnyc.tripod.com/, http://beatlesnumber9.com/, http://www.brazilcult.com/)