When I initially began this Beatles Journey series of blog posts back in 2009, it was to share my personal road to discovery about The Beatles. I’d always been intrigued by how one band of musicians could have left such a large and lasting footprint on popular music. Along the way – as journeys often go – I found myself discovering more than I’d ever expected to as I peeled away layer after layer, through interviews, books, experiences, and of course, listening to the music itself. A few times, I’ve shed light on such interesting factoids that I felt compelled to share them, which is what brings me to James Taylor.
I’ve loved James Taylor’s music for a very long time, and I’ve always associated him with artists like Carole King, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a significant and somewhat charming connection between James and The Beatles.
Although accounts vary, it was sometime in 1967 that a young nineteen year old James Taylor brought his demo tapes to Peter Asher, who was the head of A&R for Apple Records, a new record label established by none other than… The Beatles. As legend has it, Taylor came in, sat on the floor and sang and played guitar. Paul McCartney listened, liked what he heard, and James Taylor was signed to Apple Records.
Taylor recorded two songs of note with Apple Records in 1968, “Carolina in My Mind” and “Something in the Way She Moves”, the latter being the undisputed lyrical starting point for George Harrison’s Beatles hit “Something” (the title of Taylor’s is the first verse in Harrison’s). Although an interesting tidbit, it is perhaps more intriguing that the verse in Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind” that sings “With a holy host of others standing around me now” is a direct reference to the fact that both Paul McCartney and George Harrison played uncredited backup on the original recording. A holy host of others… quite a compliment to his uncredited yet epic session players.
“Carolina in My Mind” was released as a single, to fail miserably only reaching #118 on the U.S. Billboard charts. The song would later be re-recorded and re-released in a recording without the two Beatles which is the more widely recognizable version today, but with a little digging online, the original can easily be found. Shortly after, Apple Records fell into chaos with an impending Beatles break-up, but as if the holy host were looking out for the Taylor kid, they released him from his contract before all hell broke loose, sparing him from the clutches of their new manager and soon-to-be arch-villain Allen Klein, and a five million dollar lawsuit.
As we all know, James Taylor went on to a hugely successful recording career in his own right, with Peter Asher leaving Apple Records with him and becoming his manager.
A decade later, on December 8 of 1980, while living in the building next to The Dakota where John Lennon lived with Yoko Ono in New York City, James Taylor heard five chilling gunshots.
For other thoughts and suggested reading on The Beatles, click here