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17 Colorful Facts About The Beatles' White Album

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"TheBeatles68LP" by Beat 768 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

“The White Album”—its official title is the decidedly simple The Beatles—was released on November 22, 1968 to an eager audience. Released almost 18 months after the seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the 30-song collection captured John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr indulging in a variety of musical styles. While the songwriting was evolving, and most of the songs were composed while attending a Transcendental Meditation course, the relationships between the four continued to dissolve during the recording; The Beatles officially broke up in April 1970. Here are some facts about one of the most polarizing, enigmatic records ever made.

1. A BEACH BOY HELPED WITH THE BEACH BOY PARODY "BACK IN THE USSR."

Mike Love was a fellow attendee of the Maharishi’s course in Rishikesh, India. He recalled McCartney and his acoustic guitar at breakfast one morning playing what would become the first song on the 'White Album." Love suggested putting something in the song about “all the girls around Russia.” McCartney listened.

2. RINGO STARR QUIT THE BAND FOR TWO WEEKS.

Starr never felt like more of an outsider within the band than during the recording of the album, and told his bandmates so. He borrowed actor Peter Sellers’ yacht and went to Sardinia. Because he wasn’t around, McCartney played the drums on "Back In The USSR” and “Dear Prudence.” Eventually the group sent him a telegram that said he was the best rock 'n' roll drummer in the world, that they all loved him, and asked if he would please return. When he came back, he was greeted with the words “Welcome Back, Ringo” spelled out in flowers on his drum kit.

3. THE PRUDENCE IN "DEAR PRUDENCE" WAS MIA FARROW’S SISTER.

Another student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in early 1968 was then-20-year-old Prudence Farrow. She locked herself in her hut for three weeks because, as Lennon put it, she “was trying to find God quicker than anyone else.” The song is Lennon imploring her to come out of the hut.

4. THE MARTHA IN "MARTHA MY DEAR" WAS PAUL MCCARTNEY’S DOG.

The bass player’s pet was an Old English sheepdog. She passed away in 1981. When McCartney revealed the real subject of the song in 1997, he said his relationship with Martha was “platonic.”

5. THE "JULIA" WAS JOHN LENNON’S MOTHER.

Julia Lennon left five-year-old John behind and had him live with her sister, Mimi. Mother and son got to know each other better by the time he was 17, but soon after she was fatally hit by a car. The song is for both her and Yoko Ono—the “ocean child” in “Julia” is in reference to Ono’s name, Japanese for “child of the ocean.” “Julia” is the only Beatles song that featured just Lennon on guitar and vocals.

6. HARRISON’S MOTHER HELPED HIM WRITE "PIGGIES."

Harrison had trouble coming up with a lyric in the middle section of his song. Mrs. Harrison was the one who came up with, "What they need is a damn good whacking." After Charles Manson’s interpretation of the song, George claimed the line was not talking about the police, and the lyric was kept in because it rhymed with what he already had.

7. MCCARTNEY GOT THE PHRASE "OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA" FROM A NIGERIAN CONGA PLAYER.

Jimmy Scott moved to England in the 1950s and became a working musician; at one point in his career he backed Stevie Wonder on a tour of Great Britain. One of his expressions was “Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra,” which McCartney loved. The Beatle claimed he sent Scott a check as acknowledgement for using his expression as the basis of his song. Scott played congas on the track. According to a 2004 online poll conducted by the BBC, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is the worst song in history.

8. THE INSPIRATION FOR "THE CONTINUING STORY OF BUNGALOW BILL" SAID HE WOULD NEVER KILL AN ANIMAL AGAIN.

Richard A. Cooke III was visiting his mother Nancy in Rishikesh, when he shot a tiger while hidden in a tree on a wooden platform. Richard told his mother he felt bad and didn’t think he would ever kill again. He became a photographer. Lennon got the name "Bungalow Bill" by combining "Buffalo Bill" with the bungalows in the camp.

9. ERIC CLAPTON PLAYS GUITAR ON "WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS."

George Harrison wrote the song, and found that Lennon and McCartney weren’t taking the recording of it seriously enough. The next day Harrison convinced his friend Eric Clapton to come in and play on the track. Clapton was hesitant because no outside musicians had played on a Beatles song before, but Harrison insisted. His presence made Lennon and McCartney give it the proper amount of thought and practice. Clapton’s work isn’t officially credited on the album.

10. "SAVOY TRUFFLE" WAS HARRISON MAKING FUN OF CLAPTON’S LOVE OF CHOCOLATE.

Clapton ate a lot of chocolates at the time, so much so that after he received the dental work needed from his many resulting cavities, his dentist told him to stop eating candy entirely. Harrison wrote the song to “tease” him.

11. "HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN" IS A PLAY ON A PEANUTS BOOK.

The 1962 Charles Schulz collection was titled Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. A headline in a gun magazine was a variation of that. When producer George Martin showed the headline “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” to Lennon, Lennon’s wheels started turning.

12. "BLACKBIRD" WAS ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS.

“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird,” McCartney said. “Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: 'Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.'” The music was inspired by “Bourrée in E Minor” from Bach's Suite in E Minor for Lute.

13. "SEXY SADIE" WAS ABOUT LENNON’S FRUSTRATIONS WITH THE MAHARISHI.

According to John Lennon, he and George—the last two Beatles that were in India—left the TM course in disgust after Mia Farrow claimed the Maharishi made sexual advances toward her. According to Deepak Chopra, the Maharishi told him that he kicked the band out for using drugs. Either way, Lennon rechristened the Maharishi "Sexy Sadie," admonishing him for making a fool of everyone.

14. "HELTER SKELTER" WAS MEANT TO OUTROCK THE WHO.

McCartney read that The Who had made a song that was loud, raucous, and dirty (“I Can See For Miles”), and then decided he wanted to top them. A "Helter Skelter" is a British amusement park slide, and the song was about the rise and fall of the Roman empire.

15. "REVOLUTION 9" FEATURED THE ORCHESTRAL MUSIC FROM "A DAY IN THE LIFE."

Among the various audio snippets heard on the penultimate track was the final chord from Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, and Lennon and Harrison whispering “There ain’t no rule for the company freaks” six times. The voice saying "Number nine" came from an examination tape made for the Royal Academy of Music.

16. THERE WAS A 24-HOUR RUSH TO GET THE ALBUM FINISHED.

With Harrison set to fly out to Los Angeles with the master tapes, which he planned to hand over to Capitol Records, the group suddenly found themselves needing to work 24 hours straight to put the final mixes on songs and figure out a track listing. At 4 a.m., McCartney fell asleep on the mixing board while trying to get “Helter Skelter” just right.

17. THE COVER WAS DESIGNED BY POP ARTIST RICHARD HAMILTON.

McCartney instructed him to make a design that was as different as the busy, bright Sgt. Pepper cover as possible. Hamilton came up with the stark white cover with the band’s name embossed in small, black lettering. Originally he wanted the white record sleeve to include a coffee cup stain, and a light green smudge of an apple (the Beatles had just created their own company, Apple Corps).

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15 Fun Facts About Yo Gabba Gabba!
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Since its debut on August 20, 2007 on Nick Jr., Yo Gabba Gabba!—a kids’ show featuring a red cyclops, a magic robot, a pink flower girl, a green-striped guy, a blue cat-dragon, and a host wearing orange spandex and a fluffy hat—became one of the biggest draws for the preschool crowd. But thanks to the show's hipster-friendly musical performances and celebrity guest stars, Yo Gabba Gabba! managed to transcend its kiddie roots to become a hit with fans of all ages. On the 10th anniversary of its debut, let's go behind the scenes of the beloved series.

1. THE CREATOR OF NAPOLEON DYNAMITE HAD A HAND IN GETTING YO GABBA GABBA! ON THE AIR.

Longtime friends Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz got the idea for Yo Gabba Gabba! when, as two dads in their mid-30s, they were less-than-enthusiastic about the television shows their kids were watching. It wasn't that the other shows were bad; they were just boring and sanitized.

With their experience as musicians and videographers, Jacobs and Schultz thought they could do something different. So they scraped together about $150,000 and began writing, animating, and shooting demo episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba! in their garage. They posted these videos online and Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, happened to see them. Impressed, Hess passed the link onto Brown Johnson, an executive at Nickelodeon, who said, “Lordy. Nothing else looks like this on television.” She quickly contacted the duo and, in a risky move that obviously paid off, gave them complete creative control of their own show on Nick Jr.

2. THE TITLE IS MEANT TO BE MIMIC BABY TALK.

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According to Jacobs, the name of the show is a nonsense phrase meant to be reminiscent of the first words spoken by a baby. However, that doesn't mean Jacobs and Schultz aren't happy the name also pays homage to The Ramones, who used the phrase “Gabba Gabba Hey!” in their song “Pinhead.” But that actually makes it an homage of an homage, as The Ramones were paying tribute to the original source of the phrase, the 1932 cult classic film Freaks. In the film, “Gabba Gabba Hey!” is part of a chant uttered by a group of circus freaks as they welcome a new member into the fold.

3. ITS THEME SONG IS REMINISCENT OF PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.

The show's intro music seems suspiciously like the intro music from another kinetic kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. Pay close attention to when the trees part on Pee-wee's intro and you'll hear a lot of similarities between the two.

4. THE SHOW BECAME A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON.

Yo Gabba Gabba! became a worldwide phenomenon, and was broadcast all over the world, including in Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada.

5. DJ LANCE ROCK REALLY IS A DJ.

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DJ Lance Rock is actually Lance Robertson—and he really is a DJ. Robertson grew up in St. Louis, where he started spinning records in the early '90s before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 29. While in L.A., he played with a band, The Ray Makers, who played a few gigs with a group called Majestic, which counted future Yo Gabba Gabba! co-creator Scott Schultz as a member. When the Yo Gabba Gabba! guys were looking for a host, Schultz thought of Robertson. After Robertson signed on, one of the first things he did was suggest they change DJ Lance's look to the now-iconic orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat. The original costume included a waistcoat similar to the one worn by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

6. MUNO AND BROBEE EXISTED BEFORE YO GABBA GABBA!.

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While the other characters were created exclusively for Yo Gabba Gabba!, Muno and Brobee were already around as part of the live show for Christian Jacobs's kid-friendly ska/punk band, The Aquabats. Since shortly after their founding in 1994, The Aquabats have dressed in matching superhero costumes, fighting evil under aliases like The MC Bat Commander (Jacobs), Crash McLarson, Jimmy the Robot, Ricky Fitness, and Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk. The lineup has changed frequently over the years (Travis Barker of Blink-182 was briefly their drummer under the name “The Baron von Tito”), but the band still performs live and releases the occasional studio album. Naturally, they made a handful of appearances on Yo Gabba Gabba!, as well.

7. THE SHOW HAS A CONNECTION TO DEVO.

While most kids only know him as the kookie art teacher on the show, Mark Mothersbaugh was one of the founding members and lead singer of the New Wave band Devo. Even when he’s not wearing a red terraced “Energy Dome” hat, Mothersbaugh’s career has been prolific as a composer for dozens of TV shows, films, video games, and commercials, including Apple’s famous “I’m a Mac” ads starring Justin Long and John Hodgman.

8. BIZ MARKIE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO DANCE ON THE SHOW.

Yo Gabba Gabba! fans learned how to beatbox thanks to rapper Biz Markie (born Marcel Theo Hall) and his “Beat of the Day” segment. Biz was initially asked to do a Dancey Dance routine for the show, but he has a bad back, so he offered to teach the kids how to do a beat instead. The producers loved it and it became a staple on the show. Parents knew Biz best from his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” which featured his unique brand of rapping and “singing.” 

9. SUPER MARTIAN ROBOT GIRL IS THE PRODUCT OF TWO GROUNDBREAKING COMIC BOOK ARTISTS.

The comic book the Gabba gang often reads, Super Martian Robot Girl, is the creation of married underground comic book celebrities Sarah Dyer and Evan Dorkin. Dorkin is the genius behind the small press comic Milk and Cheese about “dairy products gone bad”—a milk carton and a wedge of cheese who love to drink gin and beat people up. Dyer was an influential creator in the '90s zine scene, where she was one of the few people giving female zinesters a voice with her Action Girl Newsletter, which later paved the way for the similarly-themed Action Girl Comics.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR SEVEN EMMYS, BUT NEVER WON.

Yo Gabba Gabba!  received numerous Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Costume Design, as well as for Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series, but a win eluded the show. In addition, the series was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming by the Television Critics Association Awards five times (and won twice). Internationally, the show was awarded a BAFTA in 2008. And DJ Lance received two NAACP Image Award nominations.      

11. THE SHOW GOT ITS OWN LINE OF SNEAKERS.

Ever wanted to see Foofa pop a wheelie? How about Toodee ride a surfboard? In 2011, the Gabba gang shot a series of videos to promote their line of Vans shoe, a brand popular among the extreme sports crowd. The characters shared the screen with some of the biggest names in the X Games, including surfers Alex Knost and Jared Mell, skateboarders Bucky Lasek and Christian Hosoi, BMXers Alistair Whitton and Coco Zurita, and motocross stars Dean Wilson and Ryan Villopoto. You can check out the videos at Yo Gabba Gabba's official YouTube channel.

12. THEY PLAYED COACHELLA.

The gang invaded the Coachella Music Festival in 2010, where they performed, hung out with celebrity fans backstage, and even showed up to dance with the audience at other musical performances.

13. THE SHOW HAD A LOT OF CELEBRITY FANS.

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For Halloween 2009, Brad Pitt donned DJ Lance's orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat when he took his kids trick-or-treating. Lance was later quoted as saying that Pitt looked “Awesome.”

14. IT FEATURED A LOT OF GUEST STARS.

While most celebrities only come on the show to do a Dancey Dance or Cool Tricks segment, there have been a handful of guests that played a bigger role in an episode. The first was Jack Black, who had an entire episode dedicated to his adventures in Gabbaland after his flying motorbike ran out of gas. He got the gig after his wife emailed the show and practically begged them to let Jack come on because he was such a big fan. Other celebrities who popped in: Angela Kinsey from The Office played a teacher, the Tooth Fairy was played by Amy Sedaris, Mos Def saved the day as Super Mr. Superhero, Anthony Bourdain cameoed as a doctor, Jason Bateman played an evil spy, Lost’s Josh Holloway played a helpful farmer, and Weird Al Yankovic guested as a circus ringmaster.

15. A YO GABBA GABBA! DOLL WILL COST YOU A PRETTY PENNY.

The Gabba action figures that DJ Lance brought to life at the beginning of each episode were produced by Kidrobot, one of the leading names in the vinyl toy movement. The figures are no longer produced, so when one pops up on eBay, it often commands a high price. But if you’re not willing to spend that kind of money on an action figure, there are plenty of other Gabba-themed toys, books, DVDs, comics, smartphone apps, and clothes to keep your kids happy.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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