The Stars on 45 keep on turning in your mind like 'We Can Work it Out'
Remember 'Twist and Shout' you still don't 'Tell Me Why' and 'No Reply'
Song 'Medley: Intro · Venus · Sugar, Sugar · No Reply · I'll Be Back · Drive My Car · Do You Want to Know a Secret? · We Can Work It Out · I Should Have Known Better · Nowhere Man · You're Going to Lose That Girl · Stars on 45' - which for sanity's sake will henceforth be referred to as 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' - is a surprisingly influential song released in early 1981. It is the song with by far the longest song title to ever enter the charts, yet alone get to number one. Despite having virtually nothing unique about it, it was surprisingly influential and started a trend for medleys in the early 1980s which affected even established artists like the Hollies and Beach Boys, as well as the Beatles themselves. The title itself comes from the standard single format, which was known as both the 7" or 451
Venus and Stars
'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' was conceived by Willem van Kooten, managing
director of Dutch publishing company Red Bullet. In mid-1979 he was in a record shop when he heard them playing a medley2 of Beatles and other 1960s songs, including 'Venus' by Shocking Blue3, which as he owned the publishing rights to and hadn't granted permission for its use, decided to investigate further. He learnt not only was the medley he had heard an illegal pirate record4, as he suspected, but that a legal loophole at the time prevented him from taking legal action. This was titled 'Let's Do It in the 80s' and was created by two Canadian DJs called Passion who spliced recordings from different songs together.
Inspired to take advantage of what he had learnt and 'pirate the pirates', he decided to steal their idea and release a medley openly. He teamed up with experienced producer Jacobus 'Jaap' Eggermont, who in the 1960s had been the drummer of Dutch band Golden Earrings, later renamed Golden Earring. Rather than using the original recordings, which would result in the attention of the Beatles' lawyers and prevent it from being played, they hired soundalike singers to sing the Beatles songs. All the song would be recorded against a clap track, which as an experienced drummer Eggermont easily created.
During 1980 Eggermont was soon able to use his contacts to create the right sound. John Lennon's vocals were sung by Bas Muys of 70s Dutch group Smyle, Paul McCartney was performed by Hans Vermeulen of Sandy Coast and Rainbow Train and George Harrison was played by Okkie Huijsdens who had also been in Rainbow Train. The new part of the song, the Stars on 45 chorus, was written by Eggermont and sung by Jody Pijper, a session musician. Each song was recorded separately and then manually pieced together with the drumloop clap track to segue the separate song segments into a single medley.
In the end the finished song was 11½-minutes long and contained a mixture of Beatles and non-Beatles tracks that was remarkably identical to the inspiration. This was ready to be released on Dutch label CNR Records on 9 December. Yet immediately before its release unforeseen disaster struck on the opposite side of the world; John Lennon was murdered in New York on 8 December 1980.
(Just Like) Starting Over: Lennon's Murder
Following the death of John Lennon the music-buying public were determined to show their respects by rushing into shops and buying records. '(Just Like) Starting Over', the Lennon song that had topped earlier that year at 6 in the US and 8 in the UK shot up to be number one both sides of the Atlantic. On 4 January there were three Lennon songs in the UK top 5, when 'Imagine' finally reached number One in the UK charts, having previously managed 6 in 1975, with 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' at number two and '(Just Like) Starting Over' down to number five 5. Biopic Birth of the Beatles was quickly scheduled to be shown on BBC1 on New Year's Eve and demand for Lennon and Beatles albums skyrocketed, from EMI normally selling 2,000 copies of 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' a week over Christmas but now getting orders for over 100,000 a day. Song 'Woman' was released on 12 January followed by a live recording of John Lennon duetting with Elton John on 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Whatever Gets You Through The Night' from their Madison Square Garden November 1974 performance, with 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds', followed by 'Watching the Wheels'.
Meanwhile Yoko Ono released 'Walking On Thin Ice', the song that Lennon had been holding a master tape of when he was shot, and album 'Season of Glass' with a cover photo showing John Lennon's blood-covered glasses that he had worn when he died.
Followed by the constant doom and gloom reminder that Lennon was dead, the public were very much in the mood for something much more light-hearted to celebrate the fact that he had lived in the first place. 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' was perfect for that.
Stars in their Eyes
Record company CBS records acquired the rights to the song. The song was edited down from the 12-inch6 11:30 minute version to a 5-minute version, concentrating almost exclusively on the Beatles material. It was released in the UK under the group name 'Starsound' on 2nd April, 19817, and in a month had shot up the UK singles chart to peak at number 2 on 3rd May8. Released in the US, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 on 20th June. In the US it still holds the record for the being the longest titled song to both ever to enter the billboard charts as well as be number one, was because of copyright laws which meant that every Beatles song in the medley had to be named separately.
The record buying public desperately bought this record, which was something Beatles-related that was happy, cheesy and well and truly 'Sugar, Sugar' coated. Curiously enough George Harrison's 'All Those Years Ago' – the first song to involve all three surviving Beatles to perform on since the Beatles break up in 1970 and until 'Free As A Bird' in 1995, and released in May 1981 - only reached number 13 in the UK and number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
When Paul was interviewed in 1982 for SFX Cassette Magazine9 and the medley was mentioned in a derogative sense, he replied,
The way I look at it, who cares? The Beatles was it. There it was, there it is. There's the music, you don't like it you don't like it, if you like it that's all there is, it stands there it is, you know? Starsounds, when you hear them doing it, sounds fun. I like it, sounds great, you know? Tunes sounds so good when they medley them like that. I mean it doesn't sound to me as good as John really singing it, but um, yeah, I think.
Medleying With Forces Beyond Their Control
The songs' success led to a brief craze in the early 1980s for medleys. In July 1981 'The Beach Boys Medley' was released, comprising snippets of 'Good Vibrations · Help Me, Rhonda · I Get Around · Shut Down · Surfin' Safari · Barbara Ann · Surfin' USA · Fun, Fun, Fun', unreleased in the UK and reaching 12 in the US, their biggest hit for over five years. The Hollies reformed to release their 'Holliedaze' medley, which reached 28. Chas 'n' Dave released 'Stars Over 45' in December 1981, there were spoof such as 'Star Turn on 45 (Pints)' and Squeeze released a medley as a B-side titled 'Squabs on 45'. 'The Elvis Medley' was released in early 1982. Perhaps the most heavily influenced artists are 'Weird Al' Yankovic, who has regularly released polka medleys since 'Polkas on 45' in 1984, and master medley act Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, who enjoyed three UK number ones with medleys in 1989.
The Beatles Movie Medley
The success of 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' led to an official Beatles Medley release from Capitol Records, the notoriously money-grabbing US subsidiary of record company EMI. It was Capitol Records' butchering treatment of the Beatles' American Beatles Albums that had led to the Beatles selecting the notorious 'Butcher Cover' in protest. In the late 1970s Capitol Records had begun releasing tacky themed cheap and cheerful compilations of Beatles records against the Beatles' will, including Rock 'n' Roll Music (1976) and Love Songs (1977), much to the disgust of the Beatles themselves, especially John Lennon. They now viewed the Beatles as a golden goose grown now too old to lay golden eggs, so they may as well try to sell off all its droppings. With the interest generated by Lennon's death, Capitol Records decided to cash in with another of the type of albums that Lennon hated. This was to be called Reel Music and would consist of songs from the Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine and Let It Be.
In order to promote this cash-in Capitol decided to release a medley single, having been inspired by the success of 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley'. They hired John Palladino to create this. He had been behind editing 'I Am the Walrus' for Capitol's Beatles album Rarities in 1980 and he had previously worked with Paul McCartney and Wings' on editing 'Band on the Run' and 'Silly Love Songs', which themselves are multi-part songs sharing similarities with medleys, but more important to Capitol, he had produced 'The Beach Boys' Medley'. 'The Beatles Movie Medley' consisted of 'Magical Mystery Tour · All You Need Is Love · You've Got to Hide Your Love Away · I Should Have Known Better · A Hard Day's Night · Ticket to Ride · Get Back'.
'The Beatles' Movie Medley' single was released two in the US on 22 March, 1982, two days before album Reel Music. In the UK EMI initially decided that this single was far too tacky to release and refused, however this led to numerous imports of the single coming in from America, so reluctantly two months later on 24 May EMI released 'The Beatles' Movie Medley' in the UK, having first dramatically improved the record's sound quality. In the UK the single peaked at number 10 on 5 June and a promotional film was shown on Top of the Pops, with the single charting in at least 20 countries. Yet 'The Beatles Movie Medley' remains officially disapproved of, and has never been released again and is the only Beatles release not to be available on anything since the original 45.
Following the success of 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' an album was released, known variously as Long Play Album, Stars on Long Play and Stars On 45: The Album depending on the different countries it was released in, which reportedly even included the USSR and other Soviet-controlled countries. For the album the Beatles medley was completely separated from the songs by other artists (except for the 'Stars on 45' intro), so that Side A consisted of a 16-minute Beatles medley while Side B consisted of three other medleys containing numerous other songs, titled 'Boogie Nights and Other Hits', 'Do You Remember' and 'Golden Years of Rock & Roll'. The Beatles medley now consisted of: Stars on 45 · No Reply · I'll Be Back · Drive My Car · Do You Want to Know a Secret · We Can Work It Out · I Should Have Known Better · Nowhere Man · You're Going to Lose That Girl · Ticket to Ride · The Word · Eleanor Rigby · Every Little Thing · And Your Bird Can Sing · Get Back · Eight Days a Week · It Won't Be Long · Day Tripper · Wait · Stars on 45 ·
Good Day Sunshine · My Sweet Lord10 Here Comes the Sun · While My Guitar Gently Weeps ·
Taxman · A Hard Day's Night · Things We Said Today · If I Fell · You Can't Do That · Please Please Me · From Me to You · I Want to Hold Your Hand · Stars on 45'.
This album track was used as the basis for a second single, released in North America alone. This consisted of the last four minutes of the album track, and was 'Good Day Sunshine · My Sweet Lord · Here Comes the Sun · While My Guitar Gently Weeps · Taxman · A Hard Day's Night · Things We Said Today · If I Fell · You Can't Do That · Please Please Me · I Want to Hold Your Hand · Stars on 45'. This fortunately was released as 'Stars on 45 Medley 2' but as it only peaked at 67 on the Billboard chart, was not released elsewhere.
Differences Between the Bootleg and 'Stars On 45'
The songs that formed the inspiration bootleg medley and the resulting 'Stars On 45' song:
|Let's Do It In The 80's Great Hits||Stars On 45 Medley 12"||Stars on 45 7"|
|Length: 16:20||Length: 11:30||Length: 4:48|
Rock The House: Stars on '89 Remix
After 1981 the song often appeared on compilation cassettes and CDs with names such as Ultimate Party Animal and in 1989 it was re-released across Europe in a modified form, now titled 'Stars on '89 Remix'. Now remixed by Danny van Passel and Rutti Kroese, who co-wrote a new recurring segue titled 'Rock the House', they replaced the clap trap with a drum machine and various 80s techno noises. This was available in both a 4-minute 7" (45rpm) single as well as 6-minute 12" version. These contained the following tracks:
|Stars On '89 Remix 7"||Stars on 45 12"|
Taking Their Medleycation
It should be noted that the Beatles were a band that, throughout their career, often experimented with the Medley format. Paul and John would often have written half a song each, with one a chorus and the other verses, which would be combined to form medleys, such as 'Baby You're A Rich Man' and 'I've Got a Feeling'. The Anthology albums contain medleys of other people's songs that they sang when rehearsing and most notably the Beatles' final recorded album, Abbey Road, consists of a long medley on Side B. The album Love also contains many medleys created from various Beatles songs, which was released with the Beatles' blessing.
Startling: The Legacy
It would be fair to say that 'The Stars on 45 Beatles Medley' is not well regarded among Beatles fans. In many ways it is perceived as a cash-grab and there is no denying that there was nothing original about it, as the medley merely copied an illegal idea that had occurred to two Canadian DJs and had released an identical product that, through the use of soundalikes, 'Stars on 45' now made legal. That said, it cannot be denied that the song has had a surprisingly high impact on the music world.
While undeniably the song is extremely cheesy, on the whole it is mostly harmless and fun. For many, particularly those behind the iron curtain, it has been a gateway song into the Beatles work, introducing their songs to new generations and those for whom listening to the Beatles was previously illegal. While not the song that many would have chosen to represent Western culture and music in the late 20th century to those living in oppressive Communist societies, inexplicably that was a role it found itself playing.