Monthly Archives: November 2016

November 9th 1961 – Brian Epstein sees the Beatles at the Cavern Club

On November 9th 1961, Brian Epstein went to the Cavern Club to see the Beatles, initially to ask about where to obtain the record they had made in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan. Accompanying Brian was Alistair Taylor, his personal assistant. In this exclusive interview with the London Beatles Fanclub magazine, conducted in 1995, Alistair told me about that day:

“We had imported the record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (really the Beatles) and it sold like crazy. One day Brian came in and said, “Do you remember that record we sold by the Beatles?” I said ‘Yes, of course’, and he said, ‘Well, they are playing at the Cavern, today, at lunchtime, let’s go to lunch and call in at the Cavern’.

So we went to the Cavern. Ghastly place. We went in suits, like I’m wearing today, and there were these four ghastly youths up on stage, wearing black leather jeans, black jackets, smoking and drinking, and so loud. Brian and I sat at the back, we only heard about four or five numbers and they were just so charismatic and so exciting. What really struck us was the final number, which Paul announced they had written. It was ‘Hello Little Girl’. It was a damned good number. We didn’t like pop music, we just sold records for a living. I was a jazz and classics fan.

We went to lunch, and Brian asked me what I thought of them, and I said, ‘They were bloody awful, but absolutely incredible!’ We talked a bit more, and Brian said ‘I’m thinking of managing them!’. I said, ‘My god, you’re kidding’ – I thought it was great. He said ‘If I do manage them, would you come with me. Who do you work for, me or NEMS?’ I said ‘I work for you’ So he said, ‘If you come with me, I’ll give you 2.5% of the Beatles earnings. I replied, ‘I couldn’t accept that Brian’ I had no money to put up and I knew it would be very expensive. I said all I wanted was a better salary, that’s all.”

So Alistair turned down the chance of getting a very nice share in the Beatles, but remained a big part of their entourage, at NEMS with Brian, and later as general manager of Apple, until he was fired by Allen Klein.

Alistair passed away in June 2004.

 

Blogger Richard Porter, guiding a Beatles tour of London with Alistair Taylor
Blogger Richard Porter, guiding a Beatles tour of London with Alistair Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making of the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ DVD

From the archives of the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine – an exclusive Behind the Scenes view of the making of the A Hard Day’s Night DVD.

In October 2001 a crew from Miramax from the US were in London to interview the original cast and crew of A Hard Day’s Night – and I was lucky enough to be involved. I had three days in the company of the people that made one of my favourite films – and had a great time.

I was first approached at the Chicago Beatlefest to be involved in the DVD by Martin Lewis, the producer of the DVD edition. He wanted help with some of the original film locations and with locating some of the people involved in the film, and with providing archive material from my collection.

Originally, Martin and the film crew were due in London in mid September, but filming had to be postponed due to the tragic events of September 11th.

The film crew finally made it to London in early October, and spent a week interviewing the original cast and crew. Many of the interviews took place in Twickenham Film Studios, where most of the interior scenes of the film were shot.

The interviews were divided in two. On Thursday October 11th the crew of the film were interviewed and the next day the cast. On each occasion the participants had a chance to see the film again. And then they all contributed their reminiscences in a ’roundtable’ setting on audio. Each participant was also interviewed on camera individually by Martin.

I spent much of each day chatting to the participants while the others were being interviewed. At one point Martin discovered that one of the crew members waiting to be interviewed needed to leave soon because of his travel schedule – so Martin asked me to lend a hand and finish off an interview that he’d started with couple of the sound editors. That was something I wasn’t expecting! Martin told me afterwards that he was very pleased with my work.

Disappointing for me personally – Richard Lester, who of course directed the film, was not present with the other members of the crew that re-united at Twickenham Film Studios on the first day. He was unavailable that day – and Martin did a very extensive interview with him on another day.However many other fascinating characters were. These included Gilbert Taylor, who prior to working on A Hard Day’s Night, had been cinematographer on Dr Strangelove, and subsequently went on to be cinematographer on Star Wars and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. He had loads of stories about these great films he worked on.

Other Beatles-connected people present were Roy Benson, who was an assistant editor on A Hard Day’s Night, who, three years later, spent 3 months editing Magical Mystery Tour. Also present was Denis O’Dell, who was assistant producer on A Hard Day’s Night and later was head of Apple Films. I chatted to Denis in the cavernous studio one at Twickenham Film Studios, where The Beatles also filmed much of Let it Be. Denis told me it was really him who produced the film but towards the end of shooting Neil Aspinall asked if he could be credited as the producer and Denis agreed. I heard many stories about the making of the film which I won’t give away here – you’ll have to watch the DVD! I did hear one story that I found very amusing. As most of you know John, George and Ringo all had their solo spots in A Hard Day’s Night, without the other Beatles. The idea was to introduce The Beatles to their audience as individuals. You are probably wondering why Paul McCartney didn’t get a solo spot. Well, he did actually film one, but it got cut. The scene was based in a rehearsal studio for actors with Paul and actress Isla Blair. The official reason given for the scene being cut was that it didn’t fit with the rest of the film. However the version I heard was that Isla was wearing a low-cut period costume and Paul was staring down her cleavage! It wasn’t noticed until it was too late to re-shoot so Paul lost his solo scene!

For lunch Martin took the crew to the nearby pub The Turk’s Head. This too was A Hard Day’s Night location. It was the pub which Ringo enters during his walkabout and disrupts all the pub games. The bar looks remarkably similar to this day. Winchester Hall, the function room of the pub, was used by The Beatles for an end of filming party and it was here the crew enjoyed a grand meal and further reminiscences.

One lady I met that day was Betty Glasow, who was The Beatles hairdresser on both A Hard Day’s Night and Help. She had with her a photo album filled with amazing mementos, including a photo of the Fabs in Help signed by all four with funny captions. I couldn’t help noticing that George signed as George ‘Dandruff’ Harrison! She also had a signed first edition of A Spaniard in the Works, signed with a special message from John, together with a lock of his hair. When I told her how much I thought her collection was worth she was amazed.

The next day it was the turn of the actors in the film. Those present included John Junkin, who played Shake, Anna Quayle, who played Millie -the lady who engages in a conversation with John in the corridor, dancer Lionel Blair, Jeremy Lloyd, who is seen dancing with the Fabs in the nightclub scene. He was the one teaching Ringo the Jumping dance! Another great character I met was David Janson. He played the young boy that Ringo bumps into when walking by the river.

As with the crew – everyone was interviewed both separately and in a roundtable setting. And they all had lunch at the Turk’s Head pub.

I had a wonderful time meeting all these wonderful characters and hearing their stories of how one of my favourite film was made.

You’ll see it all on the DVD!

PS Betty Glasow later sold her collection at auction. The signed copy of a Spaniard in the Works sold for £24,000!

November 9th 1966 – When John met Yoko….?

According to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and most Beatles books, they first met at the Indica Art Gallery on November 9th 1966, at Yoko art exhibition. John and Yoko always asked about how they met, and often told the same story, but did embellish it a bit over time. However, were all the facts correct?

Here is the story, as told by John and Yoko:

 

On 9th November 1966 a Japanese artist Yoko Ono put on an exhibition at the Indica Art Gallery, called Unfinished Paintings and Objects. John Lennon was invited by the Gallery’s co-owner John Dunbar to view the exhibition the day before it opened. Dunbar told John Lennon there would be a happening in a bag – John immediately thought there would be an orgy and gladly went to the gallery. He found lots of strange objects and exhibits, including an apple on a stand. John went over to see the price and was amazed it cost £200! He was amused, but Yoko wasn’t amused when John picked up the apple, and took a big bite out of it!

The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery
The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery

John then saw a piece called Ceiling Painting. It consisted of a step ladder with a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling. He went up the step ladder and looked through the magnifying glass to the ceiling. Printed there was the word ‘Yes’. John said later if it had been something negative he would have left, but it was ‘yes’ and it encouraged him to stay.

Yoko Ono demonstrating 'Ceiling Painting'
Yoko Ono demonstrating ‘Ceiling Painting’

By this time John Dunbar came over and introduced John to Yoko. She said later she did not recognise John that day. In fact, she said the only Beatle name she could remember was Ringo – it means ‘apple’ in Japanese.

John asked where the action was. Yoko just handed John a card which said ‘breathe’. John panted on the card and gave it back. He then saw an exhibit called Painting To Hammer A Nail In. John went to hammer a nail into the board, but Yoko stopped him, saying she did not want any nails in the board before the exhibition opened. After much persuasion by John Dunbar she finally allowed John to hammer one in – if John gave her five shillings. John said, “Here’s an imaginary five shillings and I’ll hammer in an imaginary nail.” John said later that it was then that their eyes met.

Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail
Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail

The Background to the ‘meeting’ 

Barry Miles, Peter Asher and John Dunbar opened the Indica Art Gallery in Mason’s Yard, St James’s in early 1966. They were leading lights in London’s counter-culture, and were regular visitors to the Scotch of St James’s Nightclub in Mason’s Yard. They wanted to start their own art gallery and bookshop, and on a visit to the scotch, noticed that number 6 Mason’s Yard was empty,a and thought it would be an ideal place.

Even though most people thought the gallery was named after one of the first exhibition there, Indications, it was actually called after the plant Cannabis Indica.

A major benefactor to the gallery was Paul McCartney – he was dating Peter Asher’s sister Jane and even lived in their house. Paul donated money to the Indica project, helped move in the furniture and designed the wrapping paper for the gallery. Paul also got John Lennon interested in the gallery.

Is it all True?

John and Yoko told this story, or different versions on the same theme, on many occasions, but is it all true?

Firstly is the date correct? John and Yoko always said they met on the 9th November 1966. The number 9 was always in important in John’s life, and it seemed fitting that John and Yoko met on John’s ‘lucky’ day. Or did they? In all the interviews they gave, they always stated they met the day before Yoko’s exhibition opened to the public. However, the exhibition opened on the 8th November, which means if the date is correct, it was the day AFTER it opened. If they did actually meet the day before the opening, that puts the date at November 7th, not John’s lucky day. However, another problem with the 7th is that was the day John returned from Spain, where he was filming ‘How I Won the War’. Would he really attend an art exhibition the same day?

An ad for Yoko exhibition - showing the start date of November 8th
An ad for Yoko exhibition – showing the start date of November 8th

It seems Yoko and Sean are sticking with the 9th as the date, as on November 9th 2006, Sean did a special concert at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, which is only a few hundred metres from the Indica Art Gallery. Sean made a point in telling the audience it was the 40th anniversary of his Mum and Dad meeting.

Like all good stories, John and Yoko did embellish it over time. It was only at the end of his life that John thought there was going to be a happening in a bag. In earlier versions of the story, this wasn’t mentioned. It’s also in later versions that Yoko said about John picking up the apple and biting it.

However did their first meeting actually take place at Indica at all. When Paul McCartney inducted John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he told a different story. In an ‘open letter’ to John, and in front of Yoko, he said.

“After that there was this girl called Yoko. Yoko Ono. She showed up at my house one day. It was John Cage’s birthday and she said she wanted to get hold of manuscripts of various composers to give to him, and she wanted one from me and you. So I said,” Well it’s OK by me. but you’ll have to go to John. And she did.”

So did Yoko meet Paul before John, and did Yoko go to see John? Well, whatever the case, The attraction between John and Yoko was instant, and controversial. I won’t get into a discussion about Yoko here, or we will be here all day and night. However will say that once John was asked by a journalist ‘Why Yoko?’ John said ‘She’s me in drag!’

Update

A report in ‘International Times’ of which Miles was a founder, lists the dates of Yoko’s exhibition from the 9th to 22nd November, and also mentions ‘Bag wear’ http://www.internationaltimes.it/archive/index.php?year=1966&volume=IT-Volume-1&issue=1&item=IT_1966-10-14_B-IT-Volume-1_Iss-1_003

 

November 4th 1963 -the Beatles By Royal Command!

The Beatles’ famous appearance on the Royal Command Performance took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London, on 4th November 1963. This is an annual charity event, which is always attended by at least one member of the Royal Family. For this concert the Royals were the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. These performances are very high-class occasions with extremely expensive tickets.
It was in front of this distinguished audience that John made his famous comment: “For our next number I’d like to ask for your help. Will those in the cheaper seats clap your hands? The rest of you just rattle your jewellery!”

It sounded like an impromptu joke, but in a later interview John Lennon said that the Beatles actually worked it out the day before the show – so this was a well thought out comment! However, John told Brian he was going to tell the crowd to rattle their f***ing jewellery. If John had used that word in front of the Royals it would have been the end of the Beatles career!

Luckily, John’s comment did not outrage the Royals; after the show the Queen Mother asked Paul McCartney where they were playing next. Paul said they were playing Slough. The Queen Mother was delighted and said, “Ah, that’s near us!” Windsor Castle, a royal residence, is just down the road from Slough. She did not go to the concert though.

You can watch the Beatles performance here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWDFuVRWdn4&feature=youtu.be

The Beatles were asked to perform on the show many times after this – but always refused. As John Lennon said in the Beatles Anthology book:

“We managed to refuse all sorts of things that people don’t know about. We did the Royal Variety Show, and we were asked discreetly to do it every year after that, but we always said, ‘Stuff it.’ So every year there was a story in the newspapers: ‘Why no Beatles for the Queen?’ which was pretty funny, because they didn’t know we’d refused. That show’s a bad gig, anyway. Everybody’s very nervous and uptight and nobody performs well. The time we did do it, I cracked a joke on stage. I was fantastically nervous, but I wanted to say something to rebel a bit, and that was the best i could do.”

The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The commemorative booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance
The speical booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance