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Raiders of the Lost Ark – Story Conference Part 3

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Story Conference Part 3






S — …a double agent, maybe. And I know you don’t like the idea of somebody just tagging along for conversation, but make her someone who wouldn’t have been in this picture, and if she weren’t in this picture, a lot of this stuff wouldn’t have taken place. As the place is crashing, she’s the pilot. They’re going to crash land together. She’s really angry at him. She gets involved in the plot, and is useful. She’s not just somebody to be around for comic relief or romantic relief. Rather than being a kind of quasi… In the Dietrich mold like a double agent.


G — It’s more of a plot thing. I had her a German double agent who was stuck over there. Then we can use her in the plot. She sort of has access to information. She is useful and tied in. It has to be something where they’re sort of tied in together on this thing, where it’s conceivable. Again, she doesn’t have to be German, she could be American, she could be French or whatever. But I don think that we should come up with some reason to keep her from being just a tagalong. The only thing I can come up with is that she’s sort of a mercenary, and she’ somehow involved. Like she has a piece of the puzzle, rather than being forced into the situation. Because if she’s forced into it, you’re constantly fighting to try and keep her there. Every scene you’re going to have to explain why she’s there and why she doesn’t leave. Half of her dialogue is going to end up being “Smokey and the Bandit” dialogue. In this we have to come up with something so we’re not constantly justifying her existence. She has to be there for a reason. I’d say greed.


S — If she’s a double agent, I think it would be interesting. He goes from Washington to where?


G — To Cairo. We can have him go anywhere. The concept is that he’s chasing a puzzle. He’s got one piece of it, and he thinks he knows who has the other pieces. So you can send him to Hong Kong. I was thinking you could do a tiny piece in Hong Kong where people are constantly trying to knife him in the back and shoot poison darts into his ears. You had mentioned that you didn’t want to spend all that time in the desert, so you can condense some of that time by taking the stuff that could happen anywhere, which is the finding pieces of the puzzle, and put it where ever you want.


S — One thing you should do — He’s on this airplane. There are about four or five passengers around him. He’s asleep and these passengers are looking at him. We don’t know why. They they all get up and put on parachutes, and they jump out the door. He wakes up when he hears the door open, and realizes he’s all alone. The door to the cockpit is locked. The airplane begins to go into a spin. He’s trapped in this airplane and it’s going down. The whole thing was a set up. That’s a great cliffhanger, to see how he gets out.


G — That’s great. Then what happens? One sentence further and it’s a great idea.


S — Well, he’s never flown an airplane before, but he kicks in the pilot’s door. That would be interesting, he’s never flown before, but he brings it down. The other thing would be if he knows how to fly, but he’s too late. It’s one of those jungle scenes, you’ve seen where the plane crashes into this dinosaur infested jungle, only now without dinosaurs. He has to bring it down over the tree tops. Either that or he crashes into the Mediterranean, into the water.


G — Part of it is stylistic, but one of the things that works in movies is when the guy gets out of that situation in a unique very bravado sort of way. He has to do something so audacious that you have to say, “I’d never think of anything like that.” And he gets away with it.


S — One of the things he could try, although it takes away from the suspense… If I were him, I’d jump at the last minute with a parachute.


G — The way to do it is to have him… You have seat covers or something. He starts ripping off the seat covers and tying them together. Then he jumps out holding all these seat covers. That’s sort of unbelievable. If you could make something like that believable. He’s over the water. It’s James Bond. Not only do you have to get him out of it, you have to do it in a very colorful way. I’m not saying that you actually have to be clever, just make it believable. Sometimes he does it in a totally outrageous way, but it works and it’s truly great.


S — One thing he can do is wait until it’s almost crashed into the ground and then jump out and land in a tree, or on a roof top.


G — If we take him from Washington, why don’t we take him to Hong Kong or Shanghai. That’s a great place. It’s more exotic than Hong Kong. So he’s crash in the water, with islands and Chinese junks.


S — He does this. Under his seat is a life vest or a life raft. He takes the life vest out from all the seats and he blows them all up and he gets inside, and is completely insulated. Then her jumps out of the airplane. He just surrounds himself with these huge cushioned items.


G — Did they have those things in ’36?


S — They had them in all airplanes.


G — That’s a little research item. They might just have had life preservers. If they had life preservers, you could more or less do the same thing. If he’s over water, the plane could be going down at a steep angle.


S — The other thing he can do that’s more in keeping with the heroic side is, rather than abandon the plane, he could kick down the door and we see the ocean just coming up at him. He’d pull the plane up at just the last moment. That’s the old cliche shot. The plane is bellying on the water. The water bursts through the cockpit. The plane begins to sink, and that would be interesting. He gets out of this sinking airplane and finds a vacuum. He takes a big breath of air. He can’t climb out until the pressure is equal. That means the whole plane has to be under water before he can climb out the window. Then he just climbs out the window and swims to the surface.


G — I like the part where he jumps out. That’s a clever idea.


L — What if he makes himself into a ball with the life preservers and just goes skipping into the water.


G — If he like he ties himself into a ball with these preservers and he jumps out at the last minute.


L — If there were a life raft he could enclose himself in it.


G — That’s a good idea. I’m just worried they didn’t have life rafts then.


S — They had life rafts all through the second world war that were inflatable. I wanted him to be on a clipper. It’s a big plane.


G — Is there one we could use for take off and landing, and use a miniature for the crash.


S — I heard that there’s one left in South America someplace.


G — I just want to send a second unit to shoot it taking off and maybe get some extra stuff. If we send him to Shang Hai we could have him going to see his enemy and we could connect it rather than having it unconnected. The only reason we’re talking about the Orient is that it’s exotic. He’s going to leave Washington and go to three exotic places. He’ll go to the Orient with the crowded streets and dragon ladies. Then we send him to the Himalayas, with the snow. And then we send him to Cairo. Going from the Himalayas to Cairo he would be going over water.


L — He could land in the snow. One thing about landing in the water that bothers me is that we end up in the water on the sub.


G — Actually, he could land in the snow.


S — When he hits, the raft comes open and he has a toboggan ride.


G — It’s even better, because when he thinks of the raft over, well that’s why he thought of it. But if he thinks of it over snow, that’s even more clever. And snow is soft.


S — If the plane gets to crash in the mountains, there would be a huge explosion that we wouldn’t have in the water. The plane is going into a box canyon and the guy has to jump. On top of a mountain he jumps out. The plane hits the mountain and there’s a big fire ball. The pieces go everywhere. He’s on the raft holding onto the ropes, coming down the mountain. And for comic relief he should go right through some sort of village, with a fiesta or something happening, with llamas. He knocks a llama over.


L — There could be a ceremony with monks… (garbled) They’re all looking up.


G — It can be amusing, but at the same time it has to be very realistic. It has to be what would really happen. You have to believe that someone could live through it like that. We have to concentrate on keeping it clean and not go through unnecessary explanations. The fun part of that flight is that it comes out of nowhere. You just don’t expect it. It’s great if it’s the second flight in the movie. We’ll cut to him flying various places. We want to get all that great period stuff. We have all these flights, and then suddenly you cut inside to all this craziness going on. I think he should go to Shang Hai to find this guy, his enemy. We get a little more information about the enemy. Also, maybe he gets a piece of the puzzle that sends him to the Himalayas.


L — (garbled, something about a museum)


G — Right. Sort of the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art.


L — He knows his enemy is in Paris, so he’s on his own protecting the museum, his henchmen are. Is there anything our guy can do to pick up whatever information his enemy already has? Somehow see the information that has already passed through that room?


G — Right. He’s trying to find out what that guy knows.


L — It takes him right to the heart of the other guy’s strength.


G — I like that. We can do that easy. Before I had the girl providing that. We can decide which way. I had the girl get a copy of the drawing. If that guy had it, it would have to be in a safe or something. (not clear, something about an indentation)


L — Exactly how do you see this puzzle?


G — I see it as a tablet, a piece of stone with a map. It’s not really a map. It’s a description of the site. It’s like a plan of the city. It was drawn at that time. And it has hieroglyphics on it telling the legend. It’s an architects drawing that was done in stone, and it shows the placement of various temples, and of the Ark. The tablet was found out in the desert where the Germans are. it has to be the lost city of something.


L — Does it lead you to the Ark?


G — It shouldn’t be something that shows you where the Ark is. It shows you where a certain temple is. If you find this city, and you have the map that shows you where this temple is, then you can find the Ark. Otherwise you have to dig up the whole city. The Germans have found the lost city. And they have two-thirds of the map, which maybe they found when they were digging. Other portions of this map have been found before, antiquities in various museums and other places


L — Let’s say her father is there. Her father may have been his mentor. He has been working on some unrelated project. But it was her father who discovered the first fragment of the map. She has it. Her father dies. That’s why he’s going to Nepal, to get it from her. That’s why they know each other. That’s why she’s reluctant to part with it. Does any of this sound possible?


G — Sounds possible.


L — So they have a previous relationship through her father.


G — The other thing we can do, twisting what you’ve just done with what we’ve already got… My immediate reaction is to shy away from the professor’s daughter goes along. But what if we do it, and since her father dies, he left her broke. He was an archeologist and left her so broke she didn’t have any money to get back. So she’s stuck there. She runs the bar. She’s the local Rick. Sort of the American Rick. She’s sort of goofy…


S — Earning money to get back to the states.


G — Yeah. She wants to get back. She’s sort of made it her hone. She started out maybe singing or being a call girl or whatever. Eventually she bought out the guy who ran the place, or he died. Now she’s got this little tavern, and she’s doing sort of well. She could only sell the place for as much money as it would take to get her back to the states, and then she would be stuck there with nothing, no job. What she’d like to do is really strike it rich. But she doesn’t see any way of doing that. She’s sort of a goofy tough, willing to take care of herself, mercenary type lady who’s really out for herself. She has this piece and he wants it, so what she does is cut herself in on it. “Look, you’re going to have to take me along with you.” “What do you mean?” “Partners. I have one piece. You have the other.” That old story. It’s kind of the thing where she wants to go back to the states in style or something. She doesn’t want to get on a tramp steamer and make her way back, which she could have done a while ago. She really wants to go back as a lady. This is her chance. She says she’ll sell it to him.


L — This is in Cairo.


G — No. This is in Nepal. She’s stuck there.


L — Who are her customers at this Rick’s Place in Nepal?


G — There is actually a Rick’s Place in Nepal. Bill and Gloria know about it. They stayed there. It’s some expatriot American who lives there at the foot of the Himalayas. It’s got this hotel/bar.


S — I like the idea that she’s a heavy drinker and our hero doesn’t drink at all. She gets drunk a lot. She’s beautiful and she gets really sexy when she’s drunk, and silly. And he doesn’t touch the stuff.


L — I don’t want to soften her. I like the fact that it’s greed. I like all the hard stuff, but you’re going to love here.


G — This is good, but she obviously gets into something that’s way over her head as the whole thing goes along.


L — I wonder if someone hasn’t approached her already. The map has heated up considerably in three weeks. They’ve found the town. Does she have some tip off that this is worth while? When he comes to her, “That’s funny. I’ve had this ten years since my father died. Now in this week two people want it.”


G — If the Germans got there, first, they probably would have offered her a lot of money. And she probably would have sold it to them. Maybe no one knew where she is and he finds her through Washington or something. Some way where he would know, but no one else. Or government would know and he gets it from them. Maybe the enemy doesn’t know yet where this professor died. And that would make it interesting, because supposedly she’s secure, and he gets sabotaged on the way there. You know that they know more or less where he’s going. The immediate danger is that they’re racing to get there. She tells him that if he wants this thing so bad it’ll cost him $20,000. “I don’t have that kind of money. I don’t get anything until I get the whole thing, when we get the Ark. Then I get the money.” She says, “Okay, We’re partners.” It forces her to stay with him. If the Germans came and offered her the money right away, she’d take it. And they would give it to her. I think it’s better, at this point, to keep the Germans one step behind them. They’re one step ahead in sabotaging him, but they don’t know where he’s going. They begin to figure it out, and they decide to kill him and go get it. They’re on their way too. There’s another plane that’s flying alongside his that has the bad guys in it. They’re trying to get there first. They just don’t have as specific information as he does. They just know he’s in Nepal someplace. So we slow them down once they get there.


S — She gives him this map right away?


G — It has to be fairly quick.


S — He has to win her confidence.


G — Right.


L — Let’s say the Germans are a half hour behind them, and they’re haggling. She is in immediate jeopardy and he represents some security to her.


G — Since he got there first, it’s too late for them to try and buy it. All they can do is kill them both and take it.


S — How would they know where it is unless they torture her first to find out?


G — They won’t know.


S — They wouldn’t want to kill them until they have their hands on the map.


G — Maybe they’d just want to kill him.


S — She has a rooming house above the cafe. He hears this sound. In the middle of the night he gets up and looks over the banister. There are Germans everywhere. They have her and they’re interrogating her, in the middle of this empty cafe in the middle of the night.


G — He comes in and saves her. You sort of introduce her as a damsel in distress. In the other way she’s sort of a tough girl. Or you could do both. You could have him come and haggle with her, and have her say no way. “No money. No deal.” He gets sort of pissed off and goes out. He comes back later and the place is empty and they’re in there torturing her.


L — The thing hasn’t been worth anything up until now. So she wears it around her neck, or it’s on the mantle. It’s like a joke.


G — Obviously it could be something semi-precious to her because her father gave it to her. We’ll assume that she did love the old coot.


L — He goes off to his room for the night. He gets up; he’s going to steal it. In the interim the Germans have arrived. When he goes down to steal it, he winds up rescuing her. He stumbles into this heroic role. She could doubt his motivation from then on. “You didn’t come down there to save me.”


G — We have to get them cemented into a very strong relationship. A bond.


L — I like it if they already had a relationship at one point. Because then you don’t have to build it.


G — I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.


L — And he was forty-two.


G — He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship.


S — She had better be older than twenty-two.


G — He’s thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve.


G — It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.


S — And promiscuous. She came onto him.


G — Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it’s an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she’s sixteen or seventeen it’s not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he…


S — She has pictures of him.


G — There would be a picture on the mantle of her, her father, and him. She was madly in love with him at the time and he left her because obviously it wouldn’t work out. Now she’s twenty-five and she’s been living in Nepal since she was eighteen. It’s not only that they like each other, it’s a very bizarre thing, it puts a whole new perspective on this whole thing. It gives you lots of stuff to play off of between them. Maybe she still likes him. It’s something he’d rather forget about and not have come up again. This gives her a lot of ammunition to fight with.


S — In a way, she could say, “You’ve made me this hard.”


G — This is a resource that you can either mine or not. It’s not as blatant as we’re talking about. You don’t think about it that much. You don’t immediately realize how old she was at the time. It would be subtle. She could talk about it. “I was jail bait the last time we were together.” She can flaunt it at him, but at the same time she never says, “I was fifteen years old.” Even if we don’t mention it, when we go to cast the part we’re going to end up with a woman who’s about twenty-three and a hero who’s about thirty-five.


S — She is the daughter of the professor who our hero was under the tutelage of. She has this little fragment of the map.


G — He doesn’t have to have the fragment in hand. All he has to do is get a copy of it, make a rubbing of it.


L — (this section is not clear, something about the fragments and how he gets them)


G — His first job is to go to Shanghai, into the lion’s den to get this, which is usually at the end, so this is a twist. In Washington we have the advantage of being able to set up anything we want, in terms of information, what is going on. Say the Germans sent him the tablet to decipher.


L — They wouldn’t do that. They would send him the rubbing.


G — Suppose the rubbing wasn’t articulate enough. They could send a photograph, I guess.


L – Let’s say the arch-enemy is gone now, but it had been there in his lab. Maybe the arch-villain has had a piece or two all along. But it was useless to him. Our guy knows that it’s been kept there. The actual piece is no longer there. But it’s been sitting on felt or in glass, and there’s an impression of it.


G — Well, I like the idea of a sun spot, but then it would be the shape of the broken piece rather than what’s on it. Again, we can design this however we want. It doesn’t have to be a tablet. It could have been a painting on a vase. It can be any antiquity that we come up with. It could be a scroll. Or some kind of a statue or some sort of tall thing with a very strange design that is actually a design of the city. People have various pieces of it, something that’s stacked. It could be a thing with lots of little gizmos in it, very intricately carved. It was the top of a stack that the mayor of the city carried around. This would be the sun, and this would be tie city. The city reached the sun, a symbol. It’s been broken into a lot of pieces. There’s a piece at this museum, which is one of the reasons they would call this guy in. Not only is he a shyster and all that stuff, but he already has a major piece of. Say the Nazis only have half of it, or a third of it. This guy has a third. So with their third and his third, they have two-thirds of it. This other professor has a little piece. Make it quarters, so the Nazis now have half of it.


S — Can they decipher every piece?


L — The design has the sun at the top of it. What if the way to the Ark is when the light hits a certain point on this sculpture it shows the entrance. So if you had the top half it would do you no good because the sun would be hitting nothing.


G — If you have enough pieces you can deduce the exact size. But if the Chinese and the Nazis have two sections, why doesn’t he just go right there and get both of them at once rather than go to where just one piece is?


L — Unless he thinks it’s going to be very difficult, as it turns out to be, to walk into the Nazi camp and get it.


G — Unless he thinks the Chinese guy is still there with both of them. He goes there to see if he can get it, and finds out the guy is gone. He knows exactly where it is because he’s been there before. But now it’s gone. Then he looks at the shadow. He doesn’t know he’s going to be able to get the Nazi piece. Right now he’s going to get all the pieces he can. So he copies the silhouette. Then he goes to get the part the girl has. From that he figures it out.


S — How does the audience…


Hats off to Sir Terry

Hats off to Sir Terry





“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”


“Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.”


“Books must be treated with respect, we feel that in our bones, because words have power. Bring enough words together they can bend space and time.”


“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”


“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”


“People aren’t just people, they are people surrounded by circumstances.”


“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”


“I meant,” said Ipslore bitterly, “what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?”
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”


“Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity over their heads they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.”


“It was like being in a Jane Austen novel, but one with far less clothing.”


“He’d been wrong, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower.”


“Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.”


“It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.”


“The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.”


“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”


“Nanny Ogg knew how to start spelling ‘banana’, but didn’t know how you stopped.”


“You’re not allowed to call them dinosaurs any more,” said Yo-less. “It’s speciesist. You have to call them pre-petroleum persons.”


“Mind you, the Elizabethans had so many words for the female genitals that it is quite hard to speak a sentence of modern English without inadvertently mentioning at least three of them.”


“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.”


“I don’t hold with paddlin’ with the occult,” said Granny firmly. “Once you start paddlin’ with the occult you start believing in spirits, and when you start believing in spirits you start believing in demons, and then before you know where you are you’re believing in gods. And then you’re in trouble.”
“But all them things exist,” said Nanny Ogg.
“That’s no call to go around believing in them. It only encourages ’em.”


“Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.”


“His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools — the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans — and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, ‘You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink.”


“It’s going to look pretty good, then, isn’t it,” said War testily, “the One Horseman and Three Pedestrians of the Apocalypse.”


“You can’t map a sense of humour. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know that There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs. ”


“The trouble was that he was talking in philosophy but they were listening in gibberish.”


“The trouble is you can shut your eyes but you can’t shut your mind.”


“The entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.”


“The purpose of this lectchoor is to let you know where we are. We are in the deep cack. It couldn’t be worse if it was raining arseholes. Any questions?”


“Using a metaphor in front of a man as unimaginative as Ridcully was like a  red flag to a bu… was like putting something very annoying in front of  someone who was annoyed by it.”


“Let’s just say that if complete and utter chaos were lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All Gods are bastards.”


“Everywhere I look, I see something holy.”


“The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.”


“Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off.”


“Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that’d happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn’t a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time…”


“Few religions are definite about the size of Heaven, but on the planet Earth the Book of Revelation (ch. XXI, v.16) gives it as a cube 12,000 furlongs on a side. This is somewhat less than 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic feet. Even allowing that the Heavenly Host and other essential services take up at least two thirds of this space, this leaves about one million cubic feet of space for each human occupant- assuming that every creature that could be called ‘human’ is allowed in, and the the human race eventually totals a thousand times the numbers of humans alive up until now. This is such a generous amount of space that it suggests that room has also been provided for some alien races or – a happy thought – that pets are allowed.”


“This is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it’s all true you’ll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn’t then you’ve lost nothing, right?” When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, “We’re going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts…”


“I’m not the world’s greatest expert, but I would have thought that the wizards, witches, trolls, unicorns, … broomsticks and spells would have given her a clue?’ – when J.K. Rowling insisted she wasn’t writing fantasy.”


“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”


“This I choose to do. If there is a price, this I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.”


“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”


“I commend my soul to any god that can find it.”


“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”


“It is at this point that normal language gives up, and goes and has a drink.”


These quotations from Terry Pratchett are chosen from the enormous collection contributed by grateful readers at




The famous opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night

The famous opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night

George was playing his  Rickenbacker 360 12-string. John was on a Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic. Paul used his Hofner violin bass. The notes they struck simultaneously from these three instruments became one of the most instantly recognisable     sounds   in rock music: the mysterious opening chord   of A Hard Day’s Night..

‘We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch.’ GEORGE MARTIN

A chord struck fifty years ago, and people are still arguing about what it was.

Many quote  Dominic Pedler’s 800 page The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles  which lists   21 possibilities, these being but  a few   of the exotic and extravagant ideas he encountered during  his research. Here’s an attempt to reconstruct some of them. The mistakes are mine, the guitar is a Gittler.

“A dominant 9th of F”?






“C-Bb-D-F-G-C in the key of C”?


“A polytriad ii7/V in Ab major”?


or ??


“G7sus4” (open position)?


or 2nd positionG7sus4-2

“D7sus4 (open position)”?


“G7 with added 9th and suspended 4th”?


“A superimposition of Dm, F, and G”?








“Dm11 with no 9th”?






My own guess (no idea what you’d call it)


Joe’s chord F6/9


Thanks to Joe Atkinson and everyone else who commented and offered suggestions.

Professional musician and educator David Wilkens (,  in a long discussion of the chord, mentions that in 2008  a mathematician, Jason Brown, tried to obtain an accurate transcript of the notes using a   Fourier analysis   (basically a set of waveforms).

However the  frequencies thus obtained  didn’t match the instruments   known to have been played on the song.  Brown hypothesised that   George Martin had  played some notes on   the studio’s Steinway grand, these accounting for the anomalous Fourier frequencies.

According to Brown,  George Harrison’s  12 string contributed  a2, a3, d3, d4, g3, g4, c4, and another c4; Paul McCartney bass added a d3,  George Martin struck  d3, f3, d5, g5, and e6 on the piano, while Lennon ‘played a loud c5′ on his Gibson J-60’.

Wilkens says, ‘For fun I took the pitches in this chord and used them to compose a melody and then wrote a short fugue using that melody as a subject (because composing fugues are what I do for fun). It’s in the style of Hindemith, not a baroque style fugue, so I had some fun with dissonance.   Listen for the Beatles quote near the end.’

[Thanks to Dave Wilkens for this material, for his full account of the magic chord, visit his article.]

Here’s a video which  appears to illustrate Brown’s Fourier analysis:



Why am I not convinced?

Perhaps because Randy Bachman (remember Bachman Turner Overdrive) got a listen to the original sounds. The video below tells his story of being invited to the Abbey Road studio by George Martin’s son, Giles, who offered to play him any Beatles track he wanted to hear.

According to Randy (all this is on the video below) Paul played a D note while John played a Dsus4, and as for George with the all-important 12-string, ‘it’s an F chord but you put a G on top and you put a G on the bottom and you put C next to that G’.

This last chord is  beyond me. As far as I can tell it would be pretty much impossible for anyone with fewer than six fingers, especially on a 12-string. If you know better, please tell me how. (Chord below has   impossible C in  green.)

“Randy Bachman chord”


Randy and his friends try  putting all this together   and  presto, the magic chord hangs   shimmering in the air. But listen   for yourself. 

Finally, here’s what George Harrison himself had to say during an online chat on 15 February 2001:

Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for A Hard Day’s Night?

A: It is F with a G on top, but you’ll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story. (According to The Beatles Bible, ‘Paul added a D note, played on the fifth fret of the A string on his Hofner violin bass. This note is an octave lower than an open D string on a six-string guitar, and had a crucial effect on the overall sound of the chord.’)

Nowhere, note, does he mention Bachman’s bottom G nor the C next to it .


“George’s chord,   Fadd9”


Note added Feb 26:

Just found this video of the Beatles playing the song live in 1964. Very blurry as with most of the surviving footage from those days, but John clearly kicks the song off with the chord described by George, the Fadd9. He is using his thumb to play the bottom F.




The following information is courtesy of The Beatles Bible (Not Quite As Popular As Jesus).

Recorded: 16 April 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
George Harrison: Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar
John Lennon: Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: Hofner violin bass
Ringo Starr: snare drum, cymbal (in there somewhere)
George Martin: Steinway grand piano
Norman Smith: bongos
Released: 10 July 1964 (UK), 26 June 1964 (US)

A Hard Day’s Night was recorded at EMI Studios in a session taking place from 7-10pm. It took nine takes to record, and completed the number of songs needed for the film soundtrack.

The backing track – two rhythm guitars, bass guitar and drums – was recorded onto track one of the four-track tape, and Lennon and McCartney’s lead vocal were recorded live on track two. They added more vocals on three, along with percussion, more drums and acoustic guitar; and George Martin’s piano and the jangling guitar that ended the song were on track four.

Just five of the nine attempts were complete performances. Take one was complete, and had slightly different lyrics (“Feeling you holding me tight/All through the night”). However, it was unusable due to mistakes in the bass guitar part during the second bridge.

Takes two and three were both false starts, but take four – began before engineer Norman Smith could announce it on the talkback – was complete. However, George Harrison’s guitar solo was poor, and it was decided that he would overdub it once the backing track was complete.

Take five, wrongly announced as take four, was also complete, but six broke down during the third verse. Paul McCartney was the culprit, getting some bass notes wrong. Some studio chatter followed in which Ringo Starr was told to tap a beat on the hi-hat between the opening chord and the first verse.

Take seven was complete, but John Lennon broke a guitar string during the performance and McCartney was still having trouble in the middle section.

Lennon counted in take eight, but McCartney put a stop to it in order to practice the middle eight once more. There followed take nine, which was perfect, and became the basis for the released song.

Track three of the four-track tape was filled with acoustic guitar, bongos played by Norman Smith, more vocals by Lennon and McCartney, and cowbell. The recording was finished with a solo, played by George Martin on piano and George Harrison on guitar, on track four, plus an extra bass guitar part after the solo, underneath the line “so why on earth should I moan”.




Gittler Instruments [more on this coming soon]

Rare bird book makes an Abebooks record of $191,000

Rare bird book makes an Abebooks record of $191,000

AbeBooks has sold a rare 1765 ornithology book  for $191,000, making it   the most expensive item in its 19-year history.


The book,  Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo e adornata di figure intagliate in rame e miniate al naturale,  normally translated and shortened to A Natural History of Birds,  was published in Florence in Italian in five volumes. It  contains 600 beautiful hand-colored engraved plates of birds. Commissioned by Maria Luisa, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, the book took ten years to complete. This copy’s fine condition coupled   with the fact that only ten  complete copies have been offered at auction in the past 40 years,  helped assure  a record price.


Here is the bookseller’s description: Together 10 volumes. Folio (19 x 15 inches). 6 plate volumes: 600 EXCEPTIONALLY FINE engraved plates with original hand-colour after Manetti, Lorenzi and Vanni (a few plates loose, one or two marginal stains, top outer corner of plates 100 and 101 affected by damp, plates 197 and 198 torn in upper margin, plates 221 and 225 with repaired tears (without loss), plates 267 and 336 slightly shorter,). 4 (of 5) text volumes: elaborately engraved half-titles by Lorenzi after Giuseppe Zocchi, 2 letterpress title-pages with engraved vignettes, one in Latin and one in Italian in each volume, parallel text in Latin and Italian, engraved allegorical plate by Lorenzi in volume IV, descriptions for 480 birds (small wormhole on first leaf in text volume I without loss, r1 and T1 of text volume I with marginal repairs).


Contemporary speckled calf backed marbled paper boards, the spines in six compartments with five raised bands, red morocco lettering-piece in the second, the others with gilt-ruled borders and small decorations (a bit scuffed, but attractive). Provenance: with the contemporary gilt initials “F.B.” at the foot of each spine; remains of later printed paper shelf labels at the foot of each spine, early shelf-marks to endpapers. First edition of a great 18th-century ornithological book. Manetti was a physician and director of the Florentine Botanical Gardens from 1749-1782.


Manetti worked almost exclusively from real specimens, beginning with the extensive collection of Marquis Giovanni Gerini. The result was one of the largest surveys of ornithology attempted up to that date, a work which became ‘the flamboyant forerunner of the splendid ornithological folios which were to appear in the nineteenth century. The production of its five massive folio volumes must have been one of the most remarkable publishing ventures ever undertaken in Florence. Begun in 1767 and completed ten years later, it was larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous book on birds’, notable for its lively posturing of the specimens which seem to reflect ‘the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society’ (Dance p.70); Nissen IVB 588; Wood p.450; Fine Bird Books p.10; Zimmer I, 241. Bookseller Inventory # 72nhr128


Certainly all of this is worth following up. Feather by feather, leaf by leaf, tome by tome: this is how we discover   the world.


Ornithological flights leave in all directions from this page:

Oiseaux Exotiques
A Walk   Through H:   Reincarnation of an Ornithologist


War on Whores

War on Whores

Collector’s Weekly is never dull. A few weeks ago it gave us an entertaining article about the art of the fairground shooting arcade target. Who would have thought those dismal little bits of tin, so hard to hit with a carefully unsighted airgun, could be so beautiful when their rusting, bullet-battered shapes are   treated as works of art?

In its latest edition CW serves up another dose of the unexpected, this time wartime posters from both the First and Second World Wars, exhorting servicemen to stay away from loose women.


CW had come across a 2014 book, Protect Yourself, by Ryan Mungia, featuring a collection of VD posters found at places like the US National Archives and the National Library of Medicine.  Mungia had been visiting the National Archives looking for photographs of wartime Honolulu when he chanced on a folder marked “VD posters”.


‘Inside,’ says Mungia, ‘I found a stash of 35mm slides of these posters, most of which ended up in the book. I guess you could say the subject chose me, since I didn’t set out to make a book on venereal disease, but became interested in the topic because of the graphic nature of the posters. The designs were really reminiscent of film noir or B-movie posters from the ’40s, those pulpy-style poster designs, and they also reminded me of the Works Progress Administration artwork, which I love.’


‘On any given day during World War I, there were approximately 18,000 men who were taken ill with VD,” Mungia explains. “So when we started gearing up for the next major war, the U.S. military launched a pretty aggressive propaganda campaign including posters, pamphlets, and films to try to curb those numbers and keep soldiers healthy and able to fight.’


Before the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics, syphillis and gonorrhoea were serious illnesses that could kill as could some of the treatments prescribed for them. According to Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523), a German knight who wrote about his trials with syphilis and its treatment with mercury. Patients were shut in a “stew”, a small steam filled chamber, for up to thirty days on end, having first been smeared from head to toe with a mercury-based ointment. Many died, but it was mercury poisoning rather than syphillis that killed them.

stay away

Less extreme but no less dangerous methods of administering mercury to syphillitics was to use the liquid metal stirred into hot chocolate, although one doctor warned that chocolate was too risky. A genius whose ideas today would almost certainly find their way onto crowdfunding websites was the doctor who sold underpants coated on the inside with mercury ointment. These fascinating facts come from a book The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present by Peter Lewis Allen, which I thoroughly recommend.

Pre-sulfonamide Gonorrhoea treatments were scarcely less hazardous, utilising metallic compounds of arsenic, antimony, bismuth, gold, and mercury. Having become less of a threat since the invention of antiobiotics, resistant strains of Gonorrhoea have now emerged and some doctors warn it is now on the verge of becoming incurable.

wrath of god

But we digress. In its efforts to inform servicemen about sexual health, the US government first used advertisements created by the Works Progress Administration, mentioned by Mungia above. But these were easy to ignore, so they turned to comic book styles and realistic public service announcements.

Axis Agents

According to Mungia, ‘In the beginning, around 1941 or ’42, they hired a lot of artists through the WPA who had produced public-health posters a decade earlier,” says Mungia. “But there were several studies done to determine what kind of poster would be the most effective in delivering this message, and they concluded that people really responded to those which were more realistic and struck an emotional chord.


‘The WPA created beautiful posters that used a lot of bold shapes and colors, but they relied on symbolism. These studies showed that some guys were actually confused by the WPA-style posters. The military’s solution was to go to Madison Avenue and consult some successful ad men, and they had those guys produce VD posters. The style of the posters changed over the course of the war from bold and symbolic to more realistic, almost magazine-style advertisements.’

they are waiting



Although venereal diseases affect both men and women, and in general cannot be caught unless a member of one sex passes it to another, in these posters it is usually woman who is depicted as the seductive temptress (misogyny, of course, comes packaged with   Genesis) and sometimes even depicted as an agent of the enemy powers, a toxic handmaiden to Hitler and Hirohito.

Only one ambiguous image, perhaps not daring speak to its message out loud, seems to hint that men can catch VD from other men.


Table 9 wide