Monthly Archives: January 2017

January 30th 1969 Up on the Roof – The Beatles Last Live Performance

The Beatles last ever live performance took place on the roof of 3 Savile Row, the Beatles’ ‘Apple’ HQ, on January 30th 1969. However, things could have been very different, and almost didn’t take place at all!

The Beatles were in the middle of a project initially called ‘Get Back’. Paul McCartney wanted the Beatles to do a huge live performance of their new album, which would be heard for the first time at the gig. The Beatles were to film the rehearsal for the concert, the took place at Twickenham Film Studios. That location was chosen as the head of Apple Films, Dennis O’Dell, was about the start work there on the film ‘Magic Christian with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr.

However, things went badly from the start when the Beatles convened at Twickenham on January 2nd 1969. Twickenham was a large, very cold film studio, and not great for playing music. The main problem, however, was the tension in the Beatles, which got worse as time went on. There was no agreement on where to do the big concert. One suggestion was a Roman Ampitheatre in the middle of the desert in Tunisia. So many bizarre suggestions were made, that John Lennon was heard to mutter, ‘I think we should do it in a lunatic asylum’,

Finally the tension got too much for George Harrison. Over lunch on January 10th, he walked out of the session and said to the others ‘See you ’round the clubs!’

Finally, after days of negotiations, George agreed to return to the Beatles, but only if the sessions ended at Twickenham, and instead continued at their own Apple Studio at Savile Row.

The recording sessions certainly went better than at Twickenham, even though the film crew still followed their every move. However, the film didn’t have a climax, and Paul McCartney was determined to play live somewhere. It was decided to play a few songs on the roof of their own building – this took place on 30th January 1969.

An hour before the session technicians were testing the mikes and having real problems, as the strong wind was making a horrendous noise. Therefore Alan Parsons was sent around to a local branch of Marks and Spencers to buy some stockings to put over the mikes to stop the wind getting in. As Alan remembers, “It was very strange walking into the lingerie department and the assistant asking ‘what size?’ – and me answering ‘doesn’t matter’, ‘what colour?’ ‘doesn’t matter’ – they thought I was really odd.”

Even though they couldn’t be seen from the street, the Beatles could be heard for miles around and lots of people started gathering in the street below. Of course, the Beatles knew this was going to happen, so they had cameras placed all around and many passers-by were interviewed about their reactions. Beatles fans loved it – the group hadn’t played live in the UK for nearly 3 years. However, the local tailors were not amused by their business being disrupted by the concert. They called the police to get the Beatles to stop.

The Beatles on the roof of 3 Savile Row, January 30th 1969
The Beatles on the roof of 3 Savile Row, January 30th 1969

The nearest police station, West End Central, is only 150 yards from 3 Savile Row, at the other end of the street. However, the first policemen that arrived actually came from a police box in Piccadilly Circus, about three times the distance to 3 Savile Row than the police station! Ken Wharfe, then a young police officer, got a call on his radio saying that the Beatles were making too much noise and to tell them to turn it down. Ken and his colleague were huge Beatles fans and couldn’t believe their luck when they arrived on the roof and saw the Beatles playing live. They had no intention of stopping them.

This was a disappointment to the Beatles as they actually wanted to be arrested as it would have been a great climax for the film. They were allowed to finish the last song they were playing – which was ironically Get Back. The ‘rooftop session’ ended when John came to the microphone and said, “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition.” It was to be the Beatles’ last ever live performance.

The Beatles on the roof of 3 Savile Row - looking down from above
The Beatles on the roof of 3 Savile Row – looking down from above

 

On the 40th anniversary of the rooftop concert, I managed to get my Beatles tour group up on the roof for the first and only time. The event was covered by CNN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfvy1gQnkuM

Blogger Richard Porter on the roof of 3 Savile Row - 30th January 2009
Blogger Richard Porter on the roof of 3 Savile Row – 30th January 2009

 

Blogger Richard Porter is a full time Beatles Tour guide in London. For more details on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

USA Today….

King of the Street Walkers

When it comes to possessing a thorough knowledge of the movements of the Beatles, there are few who can surpass Richard Porter. Dubbed the “Beatles Brain of Britain,” his personal kinship with John, Paul, George and Ringo makes the London tours he conducts for London Walks some of the most popular in the city. After more than 20 years and guiding around 150,000 visitors, Richard’s lead is the one to heed. His personal knowledge adds an element of credibility that is unavailable elsewhere. – USA Today

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

Beatles Coffee Shop

After 10 years of ownership, Irina and I are selling the Beatles Coffee Shop. Our last day will be February 5th. I will be making a formal announcement about the new owners when we have signed the sales contract, but I’m glad to say I will be a consultant on Beatles related matters for the new owners.
We have really enjoyed our time as owners of the shop, but changing circumstances in the area mean it’s time for us to pass on the baton, and go to on to pastures new. Of course, I will still be doing the London Beatles Walks…. http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
In the meantime, we have a massive sale on Beatles Merchandise in the shop, with T Shirts costing no more than £12 (half the price in the Abbey Road Studios shop) so come in and grab a bargain while you can!
Many thanks to all our customers, past and present, for a great 10 years.

The Beatles Coffee Shop
The Beatles Coffee Shop

An Abbey Road Reunion

September 26th 1994 was the 25th anniversary of the release of the Abbey Road Album, and to celebrate, Abbey Road Studios invited all the producers and engineers that worked on the album to attend a gathering in Studio to celebrate. Also, all day there were TV and radio broadcasts from inside Abbey Road too.

As I had organised the 25th anniversary crossing of Abbey Road, I was invited by Martin Benge, then the managing director of the Studios, to spent the day inside the Studios, and meet all these incredible people. Here are some of my pics from that day:

This first pic is a gathering of all the producers and engineers. From left to right, Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Eddie Klein, Ken Townsend, Jeff Jarratt, and George Martin.

An Abbey Road Reunion
An Abbey Road Reunion

And here is Sir George Martin – love his smile :>)

sirgeorge

19th January 1967 – A Day in the Life….

On January 19th 1967, the Beatles began work on a new song for their forthcoming new album. The working title was ‘In the Life of…’, but a day later became ‘A Day in the Life’

On this day, The Beatles began work on John Lennon’s segment. John was an avid reader of newspapers since childhood, and used three separate stories for this song. The first part was about his friend, Tara Browne, who had been killed in a car crash. The second was about the film he’d been in ‘How I Won the War’ and the third was a small piece about potholes in the road in Blackburn. At this point, it seemed that nothing had been planned for the middle eight, so Mal Evans counted to 24 to fill in the gaps, to record over at a future session. On other days. Paul’s contribution would be added, and of course the amazing orchestral build-up.

This day, just bongos, maracas, piano and guitar were recorded, plus John’s vocals. As usual with John, where most singers would just put down a ‘guide vocal’, without really trying to get it perfect, John recorded every vocal as it was going to be the one on the record.

The song went through many recording stages in the next month or so, but A Day in the Life was magnificent right from the start…

Blogger Richard Porter is a full time Beatles tour guide in London. For more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

 

 

RIP ‘Magic Alex’ the Beatles Electronics ‘Guru’

We’ve lost yet another important person in the Beatles story – Yanni Alexis Mardas, or as he was nicknamed by John Lennon, ‘Magic Alex’.

It is fair to say that the reaction on social media to his passing has been rather mixed – with many calling him a ‘charlatan’ and even one calling him a ‘c**t’! Certainly, he was a character, and very much part of the Beatles ‘inner circle’ for around 2 years – until he was dumped.

Mardas first came to England, from his home country of Greece, in 1965. It has been said his first job in the UK was as a TV repair man. However, he quickly starting mixing with people in the art and music scenes. Mardas befriended John Dunbar, one of the co-owners of the Indica Art Gallery, where John Lennon met Yoko Ono. It was either Dunbar, or Rolling Stone Brian Jones, who introduced Mardas to John Lennon. Lennon was immediately taken with Mardas’s electronic inventions, including a ‘nothing box’ and christened him ‘Magic Alex’. Lennon introduced Mardas to the other Beatles as ‘my guru’.

On 15th June 1967, a meeting was held was held by Clive Epstein (Brian’s brother) and the Beatles’ accountant, Stephen Maltz, with Mardas, to see whether he could work in some capacity for the Beatles new company ‘Apple’. ‘Magic Alex’ was put in charge of what became ‘Apple Electronics’

Before this though, Mardas had the idea that the Beatles should buy a Greek Island and relocate to it. At the time the Beatles were paying 95% tax, and that buying the island would save them lots of money. In July 1967, the Beatles and their entourage, including Mardas, went to Greece to track down a suitable island. However, Alistair Taylor, the general manager of NEMS (Brian Epstein’s company) said that everywhere the Beatles went, the press were there too, and put the blame firmly onto Mardas for tipping them off. Eventually, the Greek Island idea was dropped.

However, Mardas’s influence with the Beatles was growing ever stronger. He was involved in the setting up of the Beatles ‘Apple’ shop on Baker Street, and also was on the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ coach, during which, he took part in a singalong, which was featured as an extra on the MMT DVD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE93Xwf85Rg

It was around this time that building was bought at 34 Boston Place, by the side of Marylebone Station, to be converted to be the headquarters of ‘Apple Electronics’  – that Mardas would run. He was given a salary of £40 per week, and a share of any profits his inventions would make. Ironically, the Beatles ran past the building during the opening scenes of A Hard Day’s Night, some four years earlier. Mardas was seen in his new lab for Apple Electronics in a promotional film for Apple, part of which was seen in the Beatles Anthology. Although much money was spent to develop Mardas’s inventions, no, or little money was ever made on them. It has been said by many that ‘Magic Alex’ wasn’t so magic after all. It’s interesting that during an outtake of ‘Hey Jude’ (included on the Beatles Anthology), Paul McCartney says ‘I was a robber in Boston Place!’ – was this a reference to ‘Magic Alex’ and the money being spent by him?

Mardas also got involved in the Beatles personal relationships. In May 1968, he was told to stop work at Apple, and join the Beatles in  Rishikesh, India, where they were studying meditation with the Maharish. It was alleged that Mardas made suggestions to the Beatles that the Maharishi was making unwanted advances to a member of entourage, and the Beatles left immediately.

Soon after their return to the UK, Mardas went on holiday to Green with Cynthia Lennon, Jenny Boyd and Donovan. On return to the Lennon’s family home, Kenwood, on May 22nd 1968, Mardas and Cynthia Lennon discovered John Lennon with Yoko Ono, and promptly left. It has been said the Mardas slept with Cynthia around this time.

In January 1969, the Beatles began work on what was originally called ‘Get Back’ at Twickenham Film Studios, but work was abandoned there after a few days, when George Harrison walked out. It was therefore decided to leave Twickenham and instead record in the Beatles new Apple Studio at 3 Savile Row, that ‘Magic Alex’ had built for them. Alex has alleged since that the Studio wasn’t finished, and was still being worked on in Boston Place, but was taken, without his permission, to be used in Savile Row. Whatever the case, the studio didn’t work, and equipment has to be hired from EMI at Abbey Road Studios, for the Beatles to use their own studio space.

It was around the time of the recording of ‘Get Back’ that John Lennon met Allen Klein about saving Apple, as it was haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Klein immediately shut down Apple Electronics and fired Mardas.

After the Beatles episode, Mardas became a security consultant, and even worked with many royal families around the world. He was again in the press when he was said to be having a relationship with Joan Collins in the 1980s. He had first met her when Collins was married to Ron Kass, head of Apple Records.

In 2004, Mardas sold many of his Beatles souvenirs at Christies Auction House in London. Probably the most interesting piece was the leather Hindu charm that John Lennon had worn non stop for a year or more in 1967-68. He was even wearing it on the ‘Two Virgins’ album cover.

Mardas had said many times that this days with the Beatles had been misrepresented, and sued many publications to put his side of the story. In 2010, he wrote a long document to the New York Times, in reply to allegations made by journalist Allan Kozinn. You can read it at http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/arts/Mardas.pdf  Unfortunately, Mardas’s memory had rather dimmed by then, and many errors were made in his account.

RIP ‘Magic Alex’ – certainly an interesting character in the Beatles story.

 

'Magic Alex' at Apple Electronics
‘Magic Alex’ at Apple Electronics

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London. For more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

 

 

January 12th 1964 The Beatles at the London Palladium – Take 2

On January 12th, 1964, the Beatles made their second appearance on the top TV show ‘Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

They had first appeared on the show on October 13th 1963. The scenes inside and outside the theatre that day has been seen as the start of ‘Beatlemania’ – though it had actually just taken the media a long time to catch on to the scenes that had been surrounding the Beatles for many months.

If anything, the crowds outside the Palladium for their second appearance were greater than the first. As usual the show was compered by Bruce Forsyth. The Beatles sang ‘I Want to Hold You Hand’, ‘This Boy’, ‘All My Loving’ ‘Money (That’s What I want) and Twist and Shout’  As with the fist Palladium show, there is no video in existence of the Beatles performance, but there is audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwDYy3bwyCo

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

The Beatles singing 'This Boy' at the London Palladium 1964
The Beatles singing ‘This Boy’ at the London Palladium 1964

 

Fans crowd Argyll Street waiting to see the Beatles
Fans crowd Argyll Street waiting to see the Beatles

10th January 1969 ‘See You around the Clubs!’ George Walks Out on the Beatles

January 10th 1969. The Beatles were rehearsing at Twickenham Film Studios for their ‘Get Back’ project. At lunchtime a row broke out and George got up, said ‘See you around the clubs’ and left!

John suggested The Beatles bring in Eric Clapton to take Georges place. That afternoon The Beatles carried on rehearsing, sometimes backing Yoko doing her screaching.

Sessions were then abandoned at Twickenham, and a few days later, a meeting was held with George at Savile Row. He agreed to come back only if the proposed big concert was dropped and session continued in their own Apple Studio, rather than Twickenham. The others agreed, and the project, eventually retitled ‘Let it Be’ was completed.

A Hard Day’s Star Wars!

Ever wondered why A Hard Day’s Night looks so good as a film?  Well, maybe one reason was the the head of photography was Gilbert Taylor, one of the UK’s top film men. He had just done a similar job on ‘Dr Stangelove’ with Stanley Kubrik, The cult horror film ‘The Omen’ – and later on a well known sci-fi film called  – ‘Star Wars’!

I was lucky enough to meet Gilbert in 2001 when the original cast and crew of A Hard Day’s Night reunited to contribute to the bonus disc of he DVD. He was a very nice man, and also hero-worshiped by the other members of the crew. Gilbert died in 2013, aged 99.

Here he is with Alfred Hitchcock, during the making of ‘Frenzy’

Gilbert Taylor with Alfred Hitchcock
Gilbert Taylor with Alfred Hitchcock