All posts by Richard Porter

‘I Sang on Hey Jude’!

One of the biggest kicks I get out of doing my London Beatles Walks is meeting people with Beatles connections and hearing their stories. Some highlights include the day some of the original Apple Scruffs turned up. Amongst them was Gayleen Pease, who one day was outside Abbey Road Studios when Paul McCartney came out and said, “Can any of you sing?” Gayleen and her friend Lizzie said yes. Then Paul said, “Would you like to come inside and sing with us?” The Beatles were recording Across The Universe and wanted some female singers to do backing vocals. It was late at night and there were no professionals around. Therefore they asked the fans instead. It was great hearing this story from someone who was actually there.

Another such occasion happened recently. A guy from Sweden on the tour and he told me he sang on the video of Hey Jude in 1968! He kindly sent me an account of his wonderful day, plus the invite he received from Apple. Here is his story.

I was 19 years old travelling in Europe by car, at this time I was staying in my car at a parking place located at Trafalgar Square.

I was invited by a girl from Apple, whom I met on Oxford Street, to perform Hey Jude together with the Beatles on 4th September 1968. Of course my answer was YES!

I had to sign an agreement saying that I’m not going to be paid (See picture)

ebookletterheyjude

 We were a group of ordinary people asked to perform the last part of Hey Jude standing besides The Beatles for the BBC. David Frost was the host. There was a symphony orchestra playing too.

 They recorded the song about five six times for the TV show and in the meantime they sang a lot of classical songs like Tea for Two, Tom Dooley etc. This went on from about 6pm to a couple of hours after midnight. They seemed to have very fun together and played and sang and joked a lot together. They talked to us now and then. Paul was gave a lot of hugs to young girls and George went around talking to people, as did Ringo. John was more quiet and very tight together with Yoko, except when he was performing Hey Jude.

 Earlier they performed Revolution for TV without any audience, but they were watching and discussed the result of the video when we were there. I was standing close to John, watching the video for Revolution. He made many positive comments to us. (I still have my clothes, which have been touched by John. Crazy, but a big thing for me).  George was smoking a lot (Kent).  George gave his phone number to a guy from US who asked for an interview for his schoolwork. George was saying he was very occupied with an album at the moment but told him to call later.

I also met George Martin years later and he have signed the agreement.

Bengt Ahlstrom

Bengt would like to get in touch with any other people that were there that day. Please email bengt.ahlstrom@telia.com

Remembering George Harrison

Today we are remembering George Harrison, who passed away on this day in 2001. I was lucky enough to meet George on a couple of occasions – at the premiere of the ‘Handmade Films’ ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising’ and a few years after that, at a concert by Ravi Shankar. In each case, they were very public events, and I barely got to say ‘hello’ – I would have loved to have the opportunity to sit down and have a long conversation with him, but it was not to be.

Here are some photos I took on those occasions.

 

George and Olivia Harrison at the Premiere of 'How to Get Ahead in Advertising, London 1989
George and Olivia Harrison at the Premiere of ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising, London 1989
George Harrison at a Ravi Shankar Concert at the Barbican, London, 1996.
George Harrison at a Ravi Shankar Concert at the Barbican, London, 1996.

Alistair Taylor – The Beatles ‘Mr Fixit’

Alistair Taylor was Brian Epstein’s personal assistant at NEMS. He accompanied Brian to the Cavern Club when he met the Beatles for the first time. He then became an integral part of ‘NEMS Enterprises’ and after Brian’s death, General Manager of Apple. His time with the Beatles was only ended when he became one of the victims of Allen Klein. In this interview from 1995, Richard Porter talked to the Beatles ‘Mr Fixit’ at the Heroes of Alma pub, just around he corner from Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles used to drink after recording sessions. Before the interview, Alistair had gone to Abbey Road to be reunited with George Martin for the first time in many years. 

What do you remember of your first meeting with the Beatles?

It was on November 9th 1961. He had imported the record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (really the Beatles) and it had sold like crazy. One day, Brian came in and said ‘Do you remember that record we sold by the Beatles?’ I said ‘Of Course’ and he said, ‘Well, they are playing at the Cavern Club today, at lunchtime, let’s go to lunch and call 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 4 or 5 numbers, and they were so charismatic and so exciting. What really struck us was the final number, which Paul announced that they had written. It was ‘Hello Little Girl’. It was a damn good number.

We went to lunch, and Brian asked my what I thought of them, and I said, ‘I thought 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!’ He said, If I do manage them, would you come in 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 two and a half per cent of the Beatles’ earnings’. I replied, ‘I couldn’t possibly 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 and that’s all.

That was my intro into the boys.

In the early days Brian wanted to clean up the Beatles act and put them in suits. Do you remember any friction about this?

Not at all – although it has often been said. I was surprised when John Lennon said about this in his ‘Rolling Stone’ interview. However, at that point, if Brian had said jump off the Liver Building into a bucket of custard, and you will have a hit record, they would have done it. It’s all very well resenting it in hindsight, but at the time they were more than happy.

You went to work for Pye  for about a year and came back to your first taste of ‘Beatlemania’. What do remember about  that day?

I had been back with Brian for about a week, and Brian said, ‘I’ve just spoken to the boys, and they’re thrilled you’re back with us. They’re playing at the East Ham Granada on Saturday night and will you go along because they’d love to see you again.

At the end of the show, they asked me back with them. They had a flat in Green Street at the time. I didn’t know what was going on, and when they closed with ‘Twist and Shout’ they had the limo by the stage door. I got in the front of the car, and Ringo got his foot stuck in the door. There were about 3,000 people lining the route and I could see the line of policeman breaking. Finally, we got Ringo in the car and it shot off and I saw the line had broken, and wondered what I’d let myself into. It was quite a terrifying experience and we hurtled into Green Street with a police car in front, and another behind. I got used to it very quickly though.

Tell us how you one deputised for John Lennon at an awards ceremony. 

Brian had forgotten about it and it was about 10 o’clock in the morning of the ceremony. I rang John, but he refused to go, so then I rang Paul. He was living with the Asher’s and Mrs Asher answered the phone and said they’d been out late the night before, and she could not disturb him. So I rang back a while later and she said she wouldn’t wake Paul. I said it was urgent and I’d take the blame if Paul made a fuss. Paul was the PR man, and I explained the situation, and he asked what time we were due, and I said 5 minutes ago. He told me to pick him up about 20 minutes later. When I arrived he was waiting and looking totally immaculate, shaved, great suit etc. We hurtles down to the Savoy Hotel and took him to the door and said I would arrange to pick him up afterwards. However, he said I was to come in with him, and if I didn’t, he wouldn’t go in either. So I agreed. Everyone in pop was there. There were three empty seats at the top table. I saw Dick James at another table and said I would sit there. But Paul insisted I sit at the top table. I walked up and sat down and everyone was wondering who I was. David Frost gave us a life home in his Merc.

How did you get the nickname ‘Mr Fixit’?

The boys by now could not walk down the street like you and I can. So I became the person who went to get them a packet of fags or whatever. I got the reputation for doing the impossible, things that the Beatles or Brian thought could not be done.

Was Apple really set up for tax reasons?

Brian Epstein didn’t want to know about Apple. The Beatles had vast bank accounts and were advised to reduce the tax burden. We had to submit plans of how to invest this money so we could save three of four shillings in the pound – which of course with their money was a substantial amount. So we set up what was laughingly called ‘the executive board’ to plan how to invest this money. I was on the board along with Neil Aspinall and Pete Shotton, and we just kicked around plans and ideas. The first real idea was to open a chain of greetings card shops. They are now on every street corner, but they were unheard of in those days. So we finally thought this was a good idea and we put it to the Beatles. They just sat there for a moment, and then John said, ‘What a f****g boring idea. We had been weeks on this so one of us asked them to come up with something better. So that’s how ‘Apple’ as it became, evolved from that meeting. Really the whole thing was crazy, but it was their money.

How did Brian Epstein die?

Accidental overdose. He was on two particular tablets, and one was building up in his stomach and one passing through, and that particular night, he took two tablets instead of one.The number of times I’ve had to say to people, no, he did not commit suicide. Apart from me, the only people that we there were the doctor and Joanne Newfield, Brian’s PA. I was with the doctor when we smashed the door down. On the bed was a plate of chocolate digestive biscuits and by the side of the bed was a half empty bottle of bitter lemon. There was no booze around and one the side table were about six of seven bottles of tablets, all had plenty of pills in them and had their lids screwed on. My argument is that if you are going to commit suicide, you don’t take a few pills and take the trouble to screw the lids back on. I’ve read stories ’til I’m blue in the face about how a suicide note was found. I’m the guy that was in the room, and there wasn’t one.

How did the ‘This Man has Talent’ ad come about?

Paul stopped by my flat in Montagu Place, which was an ‘Apple’ flat. He said, ‘I’ve got this great idea. We are going to put an ad in NME to get some tapes of music into Apple’. Finally we hit on this idea of a one man band. We wanted a straight guy in a bowler hat. Paul looked at me and said ‘Well, we’ve got a straight guy, do you have a bowler hat?’ It just so happened I did. We went down to Soho to hire a one man band and did the photo session. I was miming and it wasn’t working, so Paul said, ‘Sing a Beatles song’ So I tried that and he said ‘Forget that!’ – it was a disaster area. So in the end, that picture is of me singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ – badly.

Was ‘Apple’ really as chaotic as people said it was – was it ‘The Longest Cocktail Party?

Yes, that was a wonderful book, incredible. I had nothing to do with music, and certainly not the Beatles, for years, and I went to America, and someone showed the book to me. I just flipped through it and read bits, and just laughed and laughed. It was brilliant.

Tell us about your adventures at High Park, Paul’s farm.

No-one in the office knew that Paul had bought the farm. Then one day he came in and asked if I would go up for the weekend. I It had a clapped out old farmhouse that Paul wanted to knock down and wanted me to find a suitable spot to build a new one. So I went up and plodded around and realised the Scots aren’t stupid because the current location was the only place to build a farmhouse. It was windy even on a calm day. I took some photos and came back and told Paul it was the only place. Paul asked what it was like and after I showed him the photos he thought it was great and said let’s go up. So myself, Jane and Paul flew up. He said he wanted it to be spartan and asked me to organise some second hand furniture. We then built furniture ourselves, and found some potato boxes and asked me to go into town and buy some nails and things and we built a settee and some bedside cabinets.

We flew Martha up, and she was as good as gold. A car met us at the airport and we were driving along. Martha is an old English Sheep Dog, but had lived in London, never been in the country, and never seen a sheep. We turned up the lane to the farm and into a field of sheep, and Martha went spare. We had the window half open and she had her head half way out the window.

What is your abiding memory of Apple?

I was trying to run a sensible business and in a way I shpt myself in the foot again, after turning down the 2.5%. I was getting exasperated as money was flowing out like there was no tomorrow. I managed to get the four lads together and said we need a top business man here. So off they went and three of them got Allen Klein and I was sacked – end of Beatle career. For about 15 years after I was sacked I didn’t want to know about pop music and sold more of my Beatles records.

I believe you had a reunion with Paul McCartney recently?

I went to the ‘Let it Be Liverpool’ concert, which was a bit sensational. To hear 25,000 people on the banks of the Mersey singing ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was an unbelievable memory.

I know Geoff Baker, Paul’s publicist, and he said I should come back and meet him. However, it was too late to organise passes and all the business and so I just went up to the gate and asked for Geoff Baker. The girl came back and said here are two tickets. I asked whether they would get me backstage and she said they were just for the concert. I told her that Geoff Baker was going to organise it for me to meet Paul. I had to explain who I was, and she went off again. There were other people trying to do the same and she came back and out these badges on us. I had a gold one and they got red ones. There were two marquees, one saying ‘press and VIPs and one for family. I just followed the others to the press tent and the girl said ‘No, Mr, Taylor, you go to the other one.’ By now time was running out and there was no sign of Paul but I saw Linda and followed her and there was Paul surrounded by a big circle of people with chains on, like Mayors. I stood at the back and I saw Paul’s eyes flick around, he’s always done that, and he suddenly say me and everybody stopped. I didn’t know what to expect and just walked forward and put out my hand and said ‘Hi fella’. He said ‘Come here’ and there were big hugs and commented on our grey hair, who had the most. It was nice. He said to one of his aides to get hold of my address, but I haven’t heard from him from that day. It is very sad. But it was nice while it lasted.

Alistair Taylor reunited with Paul McCartney in Liverpool
Alistair Taylor reunited with Paul McCartney in Liverpool

 

Note from Richard Porter: I got to know Alistair very well during the 80s and 90s. I even guided some Beatles tours of London with him. One day we went to 24 Chapel Street, where Brian Epstein lived, and died. It was the first time Alistair had been back since that sad day in August 1967, and Alistair was very moved. 

Alistair passed away in 2004, and is much missed by all Beatles fans. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 24th 1966 – 50 Years Ago Today – Strawberry Fields Forever!

November 24th 1966. The Beatles go to Abbey Road Studios after a long, well-earned break to begin recording what would be their new album. The first track recorded was Strawberry Fields Forever (what a start!) However, it was decided that the song should be left off the album, but released instead as a single, along with Penny Lane. Of course the album became Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Kenny Everett and the Beatles – an Update

I’ve just found out that BBC Radio 2 are broadcasting a special show on Kenny Everett’s relationship with the Beatles. I wonder if they are going to include any of the interview I did with Kenny in 1992, as I believe I am the only person who interviewed him just about the Fabs. You can read the interview below at http://blog.beatlesinlondon.com/an-interview-with-kenny-everett/

The show, presented by Paul Gambaccini, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on the 21st December at 10pm. 

Why Don’t We Do it in Abbey Road

Here is a great film about the Abbey Road Crossing – made by Chris Purcell, and narrated by the great Roger McGough, with a little help from me! I narrated a couple of lines too – that’s me saying the line about Neil Armstrong :>)

I love the way the film captures people doing weird things on the crossing. “Somebody spoke, and I went into a dream”

The Beatles meet Bob Dylan in London

In his new autobiography, Robbie Robertson has revealed how Bob Dylan nearly drowned in his bath when the Beatles visited him at the Mayfair Hotel in London, during his 1966 UK tour.

Dylan was “practically unconscious” when the Beatles came to visit, so to freshen him up, Robertson put him in the bath. Dylan was high on drugs that Robertson “ hurried back into the bathroom, only to find that Bob had sunk down into the water and was starting to bubble.” “My heart stopped for a moment. Damn, I thought, he could really drown here. I pulled him back up in the tub,” Robertson wrote.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/culture/music/bob-dylan-nearly-drowned-bath-beatles-visited-london-hotel/

It was also during that visit that Dylan and John Lennon shared a car back to the Mayfair hotel, filmed by DA Pennebaker, for his film on Dylan ‘Eat the Document’. Dylan was extremely stoned, and Lennon plays the ‘straight man’, during a rambling conversation, which getting very entertaining when they talk about Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas. To see the film go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5YLdHG83U0

John and George both attended Dylan’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 27th May 1966, at which Dylan was booed by the folk purists, who objected to Dylan going electric with the Band.

Letter from John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney Goes up for Sale

A letter from John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney has gone up for auction. The letter, believed to be written circa 1971, seems to be in reply to a letter from Linda. It was around the time that relations between the Lennon’s and McCartney’s were at their lowest.

It begins: “I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it, I resisted looking at the last page to find out—I kept thinking who is it—Queenie? Stuart’s mother?—Clive Epstein’s wife?—Alan Williams?—What the hell—it’s Linda!”

John seems especially bitter about saying to the others he was leaving the Beatles in late 1969 – but asked by the others to keep quiet about it, only for Paul to announce he was leaving. In the letter he says

“PAUL and Klein both spent the day persuading me it was better not to say anything—asking me not to say anything because it would ‘hurt the Beatles’—and ‘let’s just let it petre out’—remember? So get that into your petty little perversion of a mind, Mrs. McCartney,”In another part, John lays into Paul for making out that the Beatles are bigger cultural icons than they really are (I must say I’m with Paul on this one!)John says: “Do you really think most of today’s art came about because of the Beatles?—I don’t believe you’re that insane—Paul—do you believe that? When you stop believing it you might wake up! Didn’t we always say we were part of the movement—not all of it?—Of course, we changed the world—but try and follow it through—GET OFF YOUR GOLD DISC AND FLY!”

Yes, things were pretty bad between John and Paul at the time, and really came to a head with John’s song ‘How Do You Sleep’. However, years later, relations thawed, and they hung out together a few times in the mid 70s.

For more on the letter, and to bid, see http://www.rrauction.com/bidtracker_detail.cfm?IN=7015

The Beatles First London Concert?

I’m often asked on my London Beatles Walks where and when the Beatles first played in London. I wish there was an easy answer! It looks like it was in the early hours of December 10th 1961, but how many of the Beatles actually got onstage, and where it was, remains something of a mystery to this day!

The Beatles came down to the south of England on December 9th 1961, to play at the Aldershot Palais. The Beatles were looking to get a recording contract but could not encourage any record company people to travel from London to Liverpool to see them. Therefore, a good friend of theirs, Sam Leach, who was also a concert promoter, decided to book them into a club in the London area and invite some record company people along. Sam’s geography was not very good – the place he booked them into, the Aldershot Palais, was some 30 miles from London. No record company people would even travel that far to see them, so that idea didn’t work.

The Beatles’ problems didn’t end there. Due to a mix up between Sam Leach and the local newspaper, the advert that Sam sent them for the concert was not printed. When the Beatles arrived at the Palais that night, there was no one there at all because no one knew about the show.
To try to get some sort of crowd at the Palais it was decided that all the local clubs and pubs in the area should be visited to persuade people to come along. No one had to pay to get in, but only 18 people showed up – surely the lowest ever attendance for a Beatles concert! After the show the concert hall owner refused to pay the Beatles as no one had paid to get in. They were extremely broke at the time and couldn’t afford a hotel room in Aldershot. They messed around in the concert hall for a few hours until the concert hall owner, keen to go home for the night, called the police, who not only escorted the Beatles out of the hall but out of Aldershot too!

Rather than have an overnight trip back to Liverpool, the Beatles decided to make the far shorter trip into London. According to Sam Leach, they remembered that an old friend of theirs, Brian Cassar, who used to belong to a group called Cass and the Cassanovas, had moved from Liverpool to London and opened a club called the Blue Gardenia. Luckily, the club stayed open all night and so they headed straight there. When they arrived Brian asked them to get on stage and sing a few songs. It was the Beatles’ first performance in London.

Or that is one version of the story. Regrettably, the location of the Blue Gardenia remains a mystery to this day. As the club was illegal it didn’t register with any local authorities, so there are no official records of its location. In fact, there is now some doubt to whether the club even existed, and Sam Leach confused it with another club! In his extensive biography on the Beatles ‘Tune In’, Mark Lewisohn now thinks that the Beatles actually went to the ‘All Nighter’, in Wardour Street, which is the name the Flamingo Club changed it’s name to after midnight. He also states that only John and Paul got onstage, with the band that happened to be playing there that night.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of this story for years, and had no luck. However, a few years ago, a lady came into the Beatles Coffee Shop and said that she knew where the Blue Gardenia was! She said she used to go there, and that it was in Wardour Mews, just off Wardour Street, in the same building as another club, called the ‘Take Five’. I have since found reference to the Take Five club, but still none of the Blue Gardenia, though maybe it did exist after all. There is also a reference to it on Bill Harry website at http://www.triumphpc.com/mersey-beat/a-z/cassanovas-earlymemories2.shtml – though, regettably, no address.

One person who could throw some light on this is Brian Cassar. After the Blue Gardenia club, he changed his name and formed a band called Casey Jones and the Engineers. The lead guitarist was a young man called Eric Clapton (whatever happened to him!). They played a few gigs in Liverpool, at which time Eric saw the great power trio, The Big Three, and though it would be a great model for a band. The Big Three were actually formed when Brian Cassar left Cass and the Cassanovas to come to London, and the rest of band carried on as a trio. Brian Cassar (Casey Jones) then moved to Germany, and then seemed to disappear. However, at the last Beatles Convention in Liverpool, Mark Lewisohn interviewed Johnny Hutch, formerly of Cass and the Cassanovas and the Big Three, who said he knew where Brian Cassar was. Hopefully he can be tracked down, and the mystery forever solved!

The Beatles Onstage at the Aldershot Palais 8th December 1961 - 1/9th of the total audience!
The Beatles Onstage at the Aldershot Palais 9th December 1961 – 1/9th of the total audience!

 

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London. For more 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

 

Me With Paul McCartney

Over the years as a Beatles fan, I have had the pleasure of meeting Paul McCartney on many occasions. Here are a few pics of me with Paul.

Me with Paul McCartney 1982
Me with Paul McCartney 1982

This pic was taken in May 1982, outside AIR Studios in Oxford Street, London. I had been a Beatles fan for years, but pretty much on my own. After the tragic murder of John Lennon, I wanted to meet other fans, and put an ad in Beatles Monthly for penpals. One guy I wrote to, John Challis, told me he had met Paul McCartney many times in Oxford Street. I didn’t believe him at first, as I had been past the building he’d told me about, and didn’t even know there was a studio there. However, he persuaded me to come up to Oxford Street at about 6pm (the time he said Paul came out the studio) and I would meet him. I thought there was nothing to lose. Sure enough, about 10 minutes after they arrived, Paul McCartney was standing right in front of me!! That night I got a Paul McCartney and Wings book signed by Paul – as someone had told me (wrongly) that Paul didn’t sign Beatles items.

I went up to AIR Studios many times after that, and became friends with the regular fans who would hang out there. I saw Paul many times, and finally got the above picture taken with him. I later went back and got it signed. When Paul saw it, he said, “Oh, aren’t we a lovely couple”!

Me with Paul McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios 1997.
Me with Paul McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios 1997.

This pic was taken in 1997 outside Abbey Road Studios. I was on my Beatles walking tour, standing by the Abbey Road crossing, talking about the Paul is dead rumour. I saw Paul’s car coming up the road, proving beyond doubt he was still alive!

He was filming an interview with VH1 that day. He was in a very good, but reflective mood, and was please to pose with me again.

I have met him many times since. Another memorable occasion was at the memorial service for Victor Spinetti at St Paul’s Church Covent Garden. I hadn’t seen Paul up close for around 10 years. After the service (which was very moving) Paul came up to me, shook my hand, and said ‘Hi Richard, how are you?’ Not only did he recognise me, he remembered my name too! Classy bloke :>)