May 10, 2011

Almost Total Obscurity

One of the really nice things about taking the opportunity to read through various magazines and articles on-line is the little “gems” that you pick up from time to time.  Events that may have passed you by, that in themselves, point to other events that you never knew anything about.


Case in point:  A man named David Mason passed away in late April at the age of 85.  That in itself is probably unremarkable, except that in 1967, Mason did something that will live on as long as recorded music is available.

He was the guy who played the trumpet on “Penny Lane”.

In 1967, Paul McCartney was looking for something to embellish the Penny Lane track, when he happened to see Mason on television playing the trumpet on Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 2 in F Major.

The morning after, the Beatles’ producer, George Martin recruited Mason to attend a recording session with the band.  Mason said later that he didn’t even know who the Beatles were when he got the call (so many people say that crap … I call horseshit on it).  To him (so he says) it was just another job.

Mason showed up at the session with nine trumpets and by process of elimination, settled on a B-flat piccolo trumpet for the high-pitched solo.  No music was written ahead of time.  McCartney sang what he wanted to hear, producer Martin wrote the notes and Mason played them.

There were two consecutive takes, overdubbing on top of the existing song … and it was all over very quickly.

For his trouble, Mason was paid a one-time fee of 45 dollars.

Holy crap, the Beatles’ sure were cheap shits, or shrewd businessmen, or thrifty … or all of the above.  Probably just cheap shits mostly, especially that fucking Paul.  I never did like him.

Penny Lane wasn’t the only song Mason did for the Beatles.  He also contributed to other songs made in 1967:  “A Day in the Life”, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “All You Need Is Love”.  I’m really hoping he was paid a little better for those gigs.  Probably not though.

The good news about Mason, is that there was a happy ending.  As is so often the case in stories of this nature, the subject, famous for one point in history, goes on to live a tragic life and dies an early death in obscurity.

Mason went on to play principal trumpet for several distinguished orchestras and was a professor at London’s Royal College of Music.

However, he did hold a lifelong grudge on McCartney and it was reported that he often rang up the aging Beatle late at night, shouting “Where’s the rest of my money, you sodding faggot!”

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