Monthly Archives: October 2016

26th October 1965 – the Beatles Receive their MBE Medals from the Queen

October 26th 1965 – The Beatles receive their MBE medals from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Beatles arrive at the palace in John’s black Rolls Royce. 2 years later, John had it repainted in very bright psychedelic colours. I wonder how that would have looked arriving at Buckingham Palace! 
In this clip below the car is seen leaving from outside Waddon House, William’s Mews, Knightsbridge, where George and Ringo had lived for a time. Paul and Ringo are picked up from Ringo’s flat in Montagu Square, where they are photographed on the steps, waiting for the car to arrive.
The car is driven by Beatles chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

After they left the Palace, the Beatles attended a press conference at the Savile Theatre, which had just been bought by Brian Epstein.

Many years later, John Lennon told a French newspaper journalist that the Beatles had smoked a marijuana joint each in the Buckingham Palace toilets to calm their nerves. This ‘confession’ was probably one of John’s ways of destroying the Beatles ‘nice guy’ image when the Beatles were breaking up, and almost certainly didn’t happen. John then sent his MBE back to the Queen, in protest of Britain’s involvement in the Biafra war and America in Vietnam.

Paul McCartney – Different Decade, Same Jacket!

Much was made about Paul McCartney wearing the same jacket to the premiere of ‘The Beatles 8 Day’s a Week, the Touring Years, than he wore to the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night in 1964.

It is not unusual for Paul to keep his jackets for a long time. Here are 2 pics I took of Paul, the first in 1983, the second in 1997,a and he’s wearing the same Jacket in both!

Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!

34 Montagu Square – Home to Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix!

The ground floor and basement apartment of 34 Montagu Square looks like any other in the area. However, the Chicago Tribune has called it ‘The ultimate rock n roll pad’. That’s because it had associations with three Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Chas Chandler and god knows how many other rock stars who passed though it non-descript front door.

Ringo Starr moved into the apartment in 1965 with new wife Maureen. The area has always been quite hip and Ringo had Mick Jagger and his then girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton as virtual next door neighbours – they lived just around the corner in Bryanston Mews East.

Maureen was heavily pregnant when they moved in and gave birth to her first son, Zak, at Queen Charlotte’s hospital, Hammersmith, on 13th September 1965. Alf Bicknell, the Beatles chauffeur, remembers getting a call from Ringo at 2am that morning to come to collect Maureen from Montagu Square and take her to the hospital.

ringomaureen2

Ringo and Paul, who lived in nearby Wimpole Street, left from 34 Montagu Square to go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE medals, together with John and George.

Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen
Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen

The flat was decorated by Brian Epstein’s interior designer, Ken Partridge, in early 60s camp pop star style with purple watered-silk wallpaper, silk curtains and lead-streaked mirrors.

Ringo moved out of Montagu Square after only a few months and into a large house in Weybridge, but kept hold of the apartment as a London base and also so friends could use it. In 1966 Paul McCartney used the basement of the apartment to build a small recording studio.

In his book Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles recalled that Paul was getting friendly with members of the avant garde and underground art movements. Paul wanted to start a facility for poets and avant garde musicians to record their work. That way a lively exchange of tapes would happen between these people. Paul often let his friends such as author William Burroughs, art gallery owner Robert Fraser, and filmmaker Anthony Balch use the studio to make their weird experimental recordings. Paul also used the studio to work on his own songs such as Eleanor Rigby. The tape perator of the studio was Ian Sommerville, a good friend of Barry Miles. Ian moved into the flat with his boyfriend Alan. In the end the idea for the studio fell through, as Ian got the idea the studio was only for Paul McCartney. The equipment was removed and Ian moved out of the flat.

On 6th December 1966 Ringo let the apartment to Chas Chandler, the former bass player of the Animals. Chas had just discovered a guitarist in a small club in Greenwich Village, New York, and decided to become his manager and bring him to England. His name was Jimi Hendrix. When Chas moved into Montagu Square with his girlfriend, Lotta, Jimi and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, moved in too.

Jimi and Kathy had lots of rock star friends and would invite them to Montagu Square for parties. They also had a rather stormy relationship. After one spectacular row Kathy stormed out and didn’t return until the next day. When she came back she asked Jimi what he’d been doing while she was away. Jimi handed her a piece of paper with the lyrics of a song he’d written called The Wind Cries Mary. Mary was Kathy’s middle name, which she hated and Jimi only used it to annoy her.

After a while the neighbours started complaining about the noise coming from the flat and Jimi and Kathy were asked to leave.

 

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montague Square
Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

After Jimi and Kathy moved out, the apartment was used by Lillian Powell, Cynthia Lennon’s mother. That arrangement changed when Cynthia caught John with Yoko Ono at their house in Weybridge, called ‘Kenwood’. Cynthia briefly moved in with her mother. Cynthia went on holiday to Italy, but was shadowed by a private detective, hired by John. Within five minutes of her arrival back at Montagu Square there was a knock on the door and a solicitor handed her a writ for divorce, citing HER adultery. Cynthia immediately counter-sued.

Finally, John moved out of Kenwood and into the Montagu Square apartment and Cynthia moved briefly back to Kenwood, which was eventually sold as part of the divorce settlement.

Soon after arriving in Montagu Square John and Yoko asked Apple assistant Tony Bramwell to come to the flat with a camera and go away before any pictures were taken. They then photographed themselves naked and put the pictures on the cover of their LP Unfinished Music Volume One, better known as Two Virgins.

A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)
A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)

Nudity on LP covers was certainly not common and when the Chairman of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood, was shown the photos, he was horrified. John and Yoko were summoned to explain themselves. When John was asked about his motives, he said it was artistic – shocking people was an art form. At this Sir Joe got really angry, he said to John, ‘If you were doing this for art you could at least put some better looking bodies on the cover – why not get Paul to do it – or use statues from a park!’

Time Out later lampooned the Two Virgin’s cover picture and drugs bust on one of their famous covers. Over John’s ‘private parts’ is a sticker that says ‘Member of the British Empire’ – the name of the medal the Beatles were given a few years earlier. Coming out of John’s mouth is a speech balloon that says ‘It’s no good officer – it won’t stand up in court!’

A few weeks later the apartment was raided by the police and John and Yoko were arrested for possession of cannabis. Apparently John received a telephone call from a journalist friend to tell him the police were going to come, so he called his old friend Pete Shotton to help him clear the apartment of anything incriminating.

The police still found some cannabis in the apartment. John later said the drugs could have been planted by the police – in fact the leader of the police team Sgt Norman Pilcher was later arrested himself for perverting the course of justice. It was also very suspicious that a press photographer was present to take a picture of John being led out of his flat by the police.

John being led away by the police from Montagu Square
John being led away by the police from Montagu Square

At the time Yoko was heavily pregnant with John’s child. However, in November 1968 Yoko was rushed from the apartment to hospital where she suffered a painful miscarriage.

John decided to plead guilty to the drugs charge to keep Yoko off the charge, as she could have been deported if found guilty of drugs possession. Also the police said they would drop the obstruction charges. John was only fined about £100 and thought it was the end of the matter but, when John and Yoko moved to America in 1971 the conviction came back to haunt him. He wanted to stay in the States, but the Immigration Service tried to deport him because of
the conviction.

Later it emerged that the Nixon administration were illegally trying to get John out of the country, as John was campaigning against the Vietnam war. John’s fight to stay in America lasted for four years until he was finally given his Green Card in 1976.

Regretably, after John’s conviction Ringo was forced by the landlords to sell the apartment, so ending the Beatles’ brief but extremely eventful time here.

In October 2010 Yoko Ono unveiled an English Heritage Blue Plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square. I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling. Hundreds of fans gathered to hear Yoko make a short speech, along with Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, and members of English Heritage, who sponsor the plaques.

Yoko Ono unveiling the plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square
Yoko Ono unveiling the plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square

 

ebookmontagueplaque

The day before the unveiling, I was lucky enough to go into the apartment, and was interviewed about the history of the apartment for a DVD.

Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square
Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square

 

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London and owns the Beatles Coffee Shop. For more details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The article is adapted from Richard’s book ‘Guide to the Beatles’ London’ which is available from http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter

Ocober 22nd 1999 – Inside Abbey Road Studios

A great memory from 1999. I was asked to do a special Beatles London tour for DJs from MJI. Later, they were broadcasting Live from Studio One at Abbey Road Studios to all over the US. I was invited along and was interviewed live on about 15 US radio stations in 3 hours!!! I started on stations based on the east coast and working my way west – due to time zones :>) I was in illustrious company too!

 

Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios - including me!
Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios – including me!

October 17th 1963 – A Busy Day at Abbey Road

October 15th 1963 was a busy day for the Beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. They recorded both sides of their new single, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and it’s B Side ‘This Boy’

If that wasn’t enough, they also recorded a Christmas message to be sent to members of the Beatles Fan Club. They would continue to record these discs for the Fan Club for the next 7 years.

I Want to Hold Your Hand was written in the basement of 57 Wimpole Street, where Margaret Elliott, the mother of Jane Asher, had her music room. Paul McCartney had recently moved into the Asher’s house, as he was dated their daughter, Jane. John Lennon visited Paul here on a few occasions, and as he told ‘Playboy’ magazine in 1980:

We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that — both playing into each other’s noses.

Of course I Want to Hold Your Hand became the Beatles first number one hit in the USA.

I Want to Hold Your Hand on the Ed Sullivan Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jenWdylTtzs

The Beatles 1963 Christmas Record https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZLYO0H65E0

The Beatles 1963 Christmas record
The Beatles 1963 Christmas record

The Abbey Road Crossing

On 8th August 1969, at 11.35am, four men walked across a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood. Hardly an earth-shattering event, but since then millions of people have come to the very same crossing to imitate those four men.

Of course, the four men in question were the Beatles, and the crossing is in Abbey Road. The ‘Fab Four’ were posing for the photo that was to be used on their last album to be recorded. Abbey Road has never been the same since.

Every day, fans from around the world come to the crossing to walk in the footsteps of their heroes and to see the studios where they recorded most of their songs.

The Beatles had been coming to Abbey Road for many years to record at the EMI Studios. Their die-hard fans often visited the studios in the hope of catching a glimpse of them coming or going. A select few even camped in the car park to see their heroes come out after a late night recording session. However, it wasn’t until after the Beatles named their album after the street it was recorded in that it became world famous and a shrine for fans.

Things could have been very different. Originally the LP was going to be called Everest – after the favourite brand of cigarettes smoked by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles’ recording engineer. Someone had the bright idea that the Beatles should go to the mountain of the same name to shoot the album cover! The Beatles reaction to that idea can’t be repeated here without offence! Finally, it was decided to call the album Abbey Road. Incidentally the album was NOT named after the studio, but the road where the studio is situated. The studio was then called EMI and didn’t change its’ name until after the album came out.

The famous pose of the Beatles on the Abbey Road crossing endures as one of the most memorable LP covers of all time, and one of the easiest for fans to replicate. The idea for the picture was probably Paul McCartney’s. A sketch drawn by Paul showing how the picture should look still exists. The photographer was Iain MacMillan, a long time friend of John and Yoko. MacMillan had known Yoko before she met John, and it is quite possible that John’s first site of Yoko might have been on one of MacMillan’s photos. His photos illustrated the catalogue for Yoko’s exhibition Unfinished Paintings and Objects, at which the couple first met.

For the photo shoot, the Beatles congregated by the crossing at around 11.35am. This was an early start for them, as normally recording sessions didn’t start until around 5pm. This was done deliberately to ensure fans would not interrupt the photo session. The day was gloriously sunny and Iain MacMillan stood on a stepladder in the middle of the road to get the required angle. The Beatles were asked to cross the road in procession, while MacMillan attempted to get the best shot. In the end six photographs were taken, and the whole session only took about 10 minutes.

Shot one shows them walking from left to right, with a Mercedes car coming out of the car park of the studios. Shot two has them walking the other way across, towards the studios. In both shots Paul has his head bowed and is seemingly preoccupied with his feet. By shot three Paul has removed the open top sandals he was wearing and is now barefoot – an historic decision! Shot three was probably the best so far, but has traffic too near to the crossing to be perfect.

Shot four again shows them going from right to left. Like shot two, the Beatles don’t seem to be concentrating on getting the right pose. Maybe they already had it in mind that the shot would look better going the other way across. Shot five was the best by far and the one used on the album cover. Another shot was taken but this was far inferior.

The first Abbey Road photo
The first Abbey Road photo

2nd

The 3rd Pic taken
The 3rd Pic taken
The 4th Pic
The 4th Pic

 

The 5th pic taken - the one used on the album cover
The 5th pic taken – the one used on the album cover

 

The last pic taken
The last pic taken

After the session on the crossing Iain MacMillan got in a car with Anthony Fawcett, John and Yoko’s assistant, to find a suitable road sign for the back cover. They found one on the junction of Abbey Road and Alexandra Road. As MacMillan was about to take a photograph of the sign a girl in a blue dress walked through the shot. Fawcett remembers that Iain MacMillan was angry the girl had got in the way – but other accounts said it was planned. Unfortunately, the Abbey Road sign no longer exists. This part of Abbey Road was redeveloped in the 1970s and the wall and sign demolished.

The session on the crossing only lasted about 10 minutes – leaving the Beatles over three hours to kill before they were due to start recording. According to Mal Evans in his personal diaries, Paul, John and Ringo went to Paul’s home nearby to relax while George and Mal went to “Regents Park Zoo to meditate in the sun. To Krishna Temple for lunch and studio for 3pm”.

Since the famous Abbey Road picture was taken, several million people have crossed the street to imitate their heroes. In 2005 Abbey Road Studios estimated 150,000 come to Abbey Road every year.

Just after the album came out, the Abbey Road cover became the central part in a bizarre rumour and conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was dead! It is hard to pinpoint where the rumour started, but it seemed to begin almost simultaneously in different universities in America. Word went around that Paul had died in a car accident in 1966 and that the Beatles had replaced him with an imposter, to ensure their fame wasn’t affected. However, the Beatles felt guilty about doing this, so they put ‘clues’ on various album covers and songs to tell the truth. Many of these clues can be found on the Abbey Road album cover.

The picture is supposed to be of Paul’s funeral procession, with George Harrison dressed as the gravedigger, Ringo Starr the undertaker, and John Lennon the preacher. Paul McCartney is supposedly wearing an old suit, and is barefoot – how bodies are buried! Paul is holding his cigarette in his right hand – fans pointed out the ‘real’ Paul McCartney is left handed, so the man in the picture isn’t Paul, but an imposter. Some even named the imposter as William Campbell, who had won a Paul lookalike competition. Paul is also out of step with the others, drawing attention to himself.

By the side of the crossing is a white Volkeswagen car. The first part of the car’s license plate is LMW – this is supposed to stand for ‘Linda McCartney – widowed.’ The second part is 281F – this is supposed to signify that Paul McCartney would have been 28 years old – IF he was still alive! Actually, he was 27 in 1969.

There are even clues on the back cover. The ‘Beatles’ sign has a crack through it – to show that the band are no longer complete. Also the sun has shone though the shadows to create a shape that is supposed to resemble Paul McCartney’s skull!

Rumours of Paul McCartney’s demise spread like wildfire, especially when Russ Gibb, a DJ on a radio station WKNR in Detroit, received a telephone call from a student telling him to look for clues. From there the whole thing became an international pastime. The Beatles’ offices received many calls from distraught fans wanting to know the truth.

The rumour only started dying down when a reporter from Life magazine went up to Scotland, where Paul was staying, to obtain an interview to prove that Paul was still alive.

The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour
The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour

Since 1969 the rumour has refused to go away. There have been many books and TV shows on the subject. Paul himself lampooned the rumour on his 1993 album Paul is Live. He returned to the Abbey Road crossing with Iain MacMillan to pose with his old English sheepdog, Arrow. For the cover Paul is superimposed on an original Abbey Road picture – with the Beatles taken out. However, the VW license plate has been changed, to 51 IS – Paul’s age when the Paul is Live picture was taken.

The cover of 'Paul is Live'
The cover of ‘Paul is Live’

On 8th August 2009 I organised a mass crossing of Abbey Road, exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I arranged for a Beatles lookalike band, Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band, to lead fans across wearing the same styled clothes as the Beatles wore 40 years earlier. I thought we may get some media interest, as we’d organised similar crossings on the 25th and 30th anniversaries. However, I was totally shocked by the scenes around the crossing. There were at least 15 TV crews around the crossing, representing over 100 countries. The event was featured in countries like the USA, Russia, India, Greece, Italy, Australia with many covering it live! There were also scores of press photographers and many hundreds of fans. Eventually the police closed Abbey Road for over an hour and fans held an impromptu street party.

Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 - 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 – 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed

In December 2010 the Abbey Road Crossing was given ‘Grade 2 Listed Status’ by English Heritage. This means that the crossing cannot by moved or altered without specific Government permission. In its’ report English Heritage said, “The Abbey Road zebra crossing is of undisputed interest as a late C20 iconic cultural site”. It also states in the English Heritage document that they believe the crossing has moved since 1969. This isn’t the case. Linda McCartney was also present on the day of the Abbey Road photo shoot, and took many pictures. Her shots show the side of the road, and shows things like the drain by the crossing on one side, and the manhole cover on the other are still in the same place now as they were in 1969.

Linda McCartney's photo - showing the location of the crossing.
Linda McCartney’s photo – showing the location of the crossing.

 

Author and blogger Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles tour guide. For more details on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The Beatles at the London Palladium, October 13th 1963

On 13th October 1963, the Beatles appeared on a TV show called Val Parnel’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The Palladium was, and still is, London’s most famous theatre, and it was regarded as a highlight of a ‘showbiz’ career to play there. Sunday Night at the London Palladium had been going for several years, and was one of the most watched TV shows in the the UK. On March 2nd 1958, Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared on the show – and very much influenced the youth of the UK, including John, Paul, George and Ringo, who were all glued to the TV that night!

The Beatles appearance on the show was very popular – about 18 million people watched this show. By then, the Beatles already had 3 number one hits, and been on TV many times, but all on shows geared towards teenagers. The Palladium show was the first time they had been on an ‘family’ show. They topped the bill on the show, which was presented by Bruce Forsyth. Forsyth whipped the audience into a frenzy by counting down to the Beatles appearance. They sang From Me To You, I’ll Get You, She Loves You and Twist and Shout. They also appeared, together with the rest of the cast, right at the end of the show, to wave goodbye to the audience on the Palladium’s revolving podium.

No film of the show remains, as TV bosses at the time did not think anyone would want to watch this performance of the Beatles after it was first shown. There is audio of the show though – which you can listen to here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6C_f9lvyFg

There is, however, footage of the Beatles coming out of the theatre. You can see that the street was packed with people. The Beatles come out, and there is no car waiting for them. They rush towards what they think is a taxi, but it turns out to be a police car, and policemen would not let them in. Ringo comes out first, then the other three follow, and there is nowhere for them to go. This confusion was probably because the stage door is around the back, and they came out of the front entrance. Maybe, that was deliberate, as all the press were outside here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNYXilEvSo4

Throughout the day the theatre was besieged by several hundred Beatles fans. Next day all the UK newspapers were full of stories of the mayhem. Although screaming girls were a regular occurrence around the Beatles by then, the national newspapers had virtually ignored the Beatles and their fans up to this point. The Palladium show changed that; from now on the Beatles were hardly ever out of the newspapers. A couple of weeks after the Palladium show the term ‘Beatlemania’ was used for the first time to describe the scenes that now greeted the Beatles wherever they went.

Beatles books have often misstated that their famous 1963 appearance on the Royal Command Performance was held at the London Palladium, when it fact it was held at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a month after the Palladium concert. This confusion was no doubt brought about by a poster that was released at the time, of the Beatles standing in a doorway. The poster said: “The Beatles, Royal Command Performance 1963, London Palladium”. This is a mistake, and a strange one, as the poster was officially licensed by NEMS – Brian Epstein’s company! You would have thought someone would notice such an error!

The Beatles made a second appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in January 1964, and, if anything, were greeted by more mayhem than their first appearance. They returned to the Palladium for the last time in July 1964 for a charity concert called The Night of a Hundred Stars.

 

The Beatles at the Lonon Paladium, October 13th 1963
The Beatles at the Lonon Palladium, October 13th 1963

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com His book, Guide to the Beatles London, is available at http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter

An Interview with Rod Davis of the Quarrymen

From the archives of the London Beatles Fan Club Magazine: Rod Davis of the Quarry Men remembers the day that John Lennon met Paul McCartney

  • How did you meet John Lennon for the first time

I met John when I was about four or five years old – I lived in Woolton and if you were church of England you would go to St Peter’s Sunday School. In the same class was Pete Shotton, Nigel Whalley, Ivan Vaughan, Geoff Rhind – about 15 or 20 kids. John and Shotton were always the ones chewing gum or doing something

 

  • They were the bad boys from the beginning?

 

Yes they were pushing the limits right from the word go. I lived on the lower part of the hill and they lived on the other side so we weren’t playmates by any means. –

 

  • Did you always regard John and Pete to be the bad boys?

 

Quarry Bank was fairly academically oriented so any boy that didn’t pull in the same way as the others stood out a bit. In a comprehensive they wouldn’t have stood out at all. They weren’t desperately wicked but in the context of Quarry Bank they were rebels. To get on in this society you have to conform but John was very lucky that in later life his non-conformity was rewarded.

 

  • How did you get started in music?

 

When I was 4 my mother (who I think wanted a daughter) enrolled me in dance classes doing tap and ballet – which is why I’m such a lovely mover now! In the same class was Rita Tushingham. When I was about 6 my sister was born, thank god! – so I hung up ballet shoes. I started playing the piano but it never really inspired me. My brother and I gave up lessons when I sat my 11 plus. I also played the recorder. Then it came to skiffle and my mother and father played the violin and when Rock Island Line came out I tried to find an instrument and they weren’t cheap and I had an uncle that played a fiddle and saw and his brother played the banjo and guitar. Unfortunately for me and maybe fortunately for The Beatles he’d sold the guitar by the time I got there. I came back with a banjo that cost £5 in 1957 which was a lot of money then. I bought it on Sunday and on the Monday morning I went into school and saw Eric Griffiths. I told him about the banjo and he asked me if I wanted to be in a skiffle group. I said yes and that was it!

 

  • This was the early Quarry Men?.

Yes. I asked who was in it. Eric said ‘well it’s John Lennon, Pete Shotton on the washboard and Bill Smith on the bass. I knew Lennon Shotton and Eric Griffiths very well because Quarry Bank was divided into ‘houses’ and although I wasn’t in the same class we were in the same house. We were together half an hour a day. We think it might have been in march. My dad had a book he kept his mileage in. Eric used to shout out to me which chords to play and eventually some musical talent somewhere took over and I could do it. We went down to John’s mother’s place to practise she would say ‘A banjo! a real banjo – give me that – its better than a blinking guitar’ and she would grab my banjo and show us how to play things. We had great tuition.

 

  • What did you think of Julia?

Well, my mum and dad were positive towards the music, but she was nice friendly happy person. Especially when we went to Julia’s we used to practise standing in the bath because you can hear yourself in the bathroom better.

 

  • Do you remember your first gig?

One of the first gigs was at Childwell Golf Club but we may have played at St Peter’s before. I remember it well because our stage uniform was supposed to be white shirts and black jeans – which was where the Black jacks name came from – but lot of parents didn’t allow Jeans -including mine. I went to my friend Mike Rice and he sold me a pair. Zip flies were just coming in and as we were tuning up the zip split so I hung the banjo extremely low and hoped for the best!! I don’t remember anything else about it. The club still have some records from those days so I’m hoping to find out the date. I don’t know how long we were the Black Jacks for. Nigel Whalley’s dad was a member of the club and Nigel became a golf professional. We were asked to play and we changed to the Quarry Men came from the Woolton quarry and from the fact we were from Quarry Bank.

 

  • Is Quarry Men one word or two?

 

I was never quite sure – I write it as one word and John Lowe writes it as two. I tend to err on the side as one. The problem with a band is that promoters often get it wrong anyway

 

  • The Quarry Men had been going a few months before St Peters Church.

 

Yes. I also want to get in touch with people who have the Quarry Bank school magazine because it would record the dates we played there.

 

  • On to St Peter’s did you regard it as a big thing?

 

Yes, it was a different audience you were playing to. Normally we’d only play for a youth audience and its always a difficult thing to play for an audience that you don’t know whether there going to be receptive to what you are doing. We were a bit concerned by it because it was in front of our friends and relations but I don’t remember agonising over it

 

  • Do you remember much about the day itself?

 

I remember going around the village on the back of a lorry. I was reading Jim O’Donnell’s book and it came back to me that when the lorry started moving down the hill the lorry jerked and that feeling came back to me. We went down Church Road and Kings Drive and the real problem was we didn’t have a microphone so I don’t know how much we put into the performance on the back of the lorry. The real thing that saddens me is that nobody anywhere seems to have pictures of us on the back of the lorry. I find it astounding because my father later took the official photos for the fete. I’ve got loads of photos from 1958 and 1959 and nothing from 1957. My own dad who photographed every tree, every blade of grass never took a single photograph. I’ve been looking through the negatives I have but there is nothing!

 

  • Then you went to the church hall where the historic meeting took place.

 

Well, I have a problem with this. I gather that sometime during the day McCartney saw us playing and Colin Hanton remembers 2 guys turning up. Eric also remembers someone turning up too. Then in the evening we went over to the hall. All of us, was the exception of Len Garry, lived within ten minutes so its quite likely that between the end of the afternoon and the start of the evening I might have gone home for my dinner. I don’t remember anything about the meeting so I’ve starting saying to people for a laugh that I must have gone for a pee! However being more serious I might have gone for my dinner. Also ultimately I was going to out and McCartney in so I might have been the last one to be told. The only thing I’ve got is negative conjecture. That is John and Eric both played guitars right handed with banjo tuning. The idea of Paul showing John things on Eric’s guitar is difficult as that even if he picked up Eric’s guitar and retuned it the problem is he couldn’t have played anything on it as you were either left handed or right handed. You had to be a great musical talent to do that. I asked Eric and he recalled the meeting where Paul impressed them with his guitar playing took place later at Paul’s house – that makes sense to me but it ruins a beautiful story!

 

  • Many different dates have been put forward for the St Peter’s Church Fete…

 

The first time I knew what was happening was 1983, I think, when an ad appeared in the Liverpool Echo saying ‘Where are John Lennon’s Quarry Men?’ My aunt sent me this and said ‘Why don’t you get in touch?’ As a result we went to the Beatles Convention at the Adelphi – Colin Hanton went, Len Garry was there but Pete Shotton was in the States promoting his book. We were talking amongst ourselves and Colin was convinced we played at St Peter’s twice. A guy was standing a foot or two behind us and came over and said ‘It was once – on July 6 1957 – my name is Mark Lewisohn and I’ve got all the newspaper cuttings.’ We thought ‘Oh my god – somebody else tells you what you ought to know!’ Mark was an absolute revelation.

 

  • You also played at the Cavern Club…

 

I played at the Cavern three or four times. I had an argument on stage with John about playing rock.

 

  • Was it because you were a ‘folk purist?’

 

No, its like playing heavy metal to a group of new romantic fans. It was the fact that you’d be torn limb from limb for playing the wrong music to the wrong crowd. Rock music and trad jazz were poles apart and the Cavern was a jazz cellar. I don’t know why John was so keen to be torn apart! We’d had a few narrow escapes before this. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a purist – I wanted to save my skin!

 

  • Paul McCartney is always telling the story of being told to stop playing rock at the Cavern..

 

He wasn’t there! It was a rock venue when Paul first played there. When the Quarry Men played he was away at scout camp. I remember arguing with John and Colin remembers about the note coming. John thought he had a request >from the audience but it was a note from the manager saying ‘Cut out the bloody rock!’ John was keen on rock music and every time he was there he wanted to play it. I will admit I was probably less keen on rock than John. Later on I became more interested in folk and country.

 

  • What did you do when you left the Quarry Men?

 

My brother and I bought guitars and in Sept 57 there was a jazz pianist at school called Gerald Greenwood and another called Les Brough who had a snare drum and we had a jazz trio.

 

I’ve known Rod for many years, and met up with him at the 40th Anniversary Celebrations for the Cavern Club. Rod told me all the original Quarrymen were coming, and that I should stick around. I therefore got the first pictures of the Quarrymen together for 40 years!!

Rod Davis, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, Pete Shotton, Colin Hanton and John 'Duff Lowe' at the Cavern Club
Rod Davis, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, Pete Shotton, Colin Hanton and John ‘Duff Lowe’ at the Cavern Club

 

Author Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles Tour Guide – for more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

Me with Gene Simmons in Abbey Road Studios

I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on TV a number of times on my Beatles Walks. The best time though was very special, when I did a tour INSIDE Abbey Road Studios for Gene Simmons and his family, for their TV show ‘Gene Simmons Family Jewels’.

For the show they are ‘on holiday’ in the UK and I gave them a tour of Studio Two at Abbey Road – where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs. Normally it is impossible to get into the Studios – but Gene’s crew hired Studio Two for the morning. Even though I’d been in Studio Two many times I still get a thrill being inside the place where The Beatles recorded so many songs. I’d also never done a tour inside the Studio, so I knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience.

I was expecting the family to be rather weird and the whole experience very daunting. In Kiss, Gene was known as ‘Demon’ and supposedly spitting blood on stage, however, in real life he is a real gentleman. He is also an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable Beatles fan – something that surprised me as Kiss are know for their heavy rock.

The day of the tour saw London’s first snow of the winter and was freezing cold. I was glad most of the morning was going to be spent inside.

I left for the studios early as I was worried transport would be affected but luckily the buses weren’t too bad and I arrived in good time. When Gene and his family arrived I was asked by their TV crew to meet them on the famous steps of the Studios and lead them inside. They greeted me very courteously and any nerves I had about the occasion disappeared.

We first entered the control room in Studio Two where I told them a bit about The Beatles recording history in the Studios. I was surprised that Gene knew the name of Andy White, the session drummer that played on Love Me Do. Gene told the story of how he met Ringo at a party at literally picked him up. He then demonstrated on me!

We then went down into the Studio itself and I pointed out the various instruments in there which the Beatles used on their sessions, including the piano used on Lady Madonna. Nick played some very nice tunes on the piano. We were amazed to see that the piano had cigarette burns all over it – including on the piano keys! Gene expressed surprise that smoking was allowed in the studios – it seems the whole family are against smoking (another surprise!)

The two hours went by much too quickly. Gene and his family were some of the nicest people I’ve had on a tour. The experience obviously meant more to Gene than the rest of the family, but they all treated me with great respect and listened with interest. They were also just as nice when the cameras were switched off. I told Gene about my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ and Gene asked me for a copy, and for me to sign it for him! I was going to ask for his autograph. 

Here is that episode: http://www.aetv.com/shows/gene-simmons-family-jewels/videos/25-british-invasion

For more details on my London Beatles Walks see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

Me with Gene Simmons and his family in the control room of Studio Two, Abbey Road Studios
Me with Gene Simmons and his family in the control room of Studio Two, Abbey Road Studios