Category Archives: Day in History

December 14th 1963 – The Beatles at Wimbledon Palais

This was one of the most bizarre Beatles concerts. On 14th December 1963 the Beatles came to the Wimbledon Palais in Merton for an event billed as the ‘Southern Area Fan Club Convention’ of the Beatles Fan club. The Beatles Fan club now had over 80,000 paid up members and Beatles PR man Tony Barrow was worried that the Club wasn’t offering value for money. He therefore decided it would be good to turn this already booked one off gig into something special.

A week before the concert the Wimbledon News announced that all police leave at Tootingand Mitcham had been cancelled and that some policemen would have to work 12-hour shifts.

St Helier Hospital informed other local hospitals of the Beatles’ visit and warned that they wouldn’t be able to recruit extra staff. The Palais itself was making its own security arrangements and taking on extra people. St John’s ambulance brigade were also on standby.

For the first part of the day the Beatles sat behind the bar of the Palais as all the 3000 fans present filed past to shake their hand and get autographs. Most of the fans were well behaved, but some started screaming when meeting their heroes became too much.

After everyone had filed passed, the Beatles were to play a concert, but were amazed and angry when they saw they had to play in a huge steel cage – similar to those used to protect audiences from wild animals! Apparently the management were worried that the crowd might storm the stage and harm the Beatles – the very same fans that had been only inches from the group an hour earlier. They were also worried about the possible damage to their famous sprung dance floor.

At one point the fans were jammed up so hard against the steel cage that John Lennon quipped ‘If they push any harder they’ll come through as chips!’

In fact, the cage did begin to buckle under the strain. Police managed to push the crowd back as one brave man with a spanner and bodyguards did his best to tighten up the structure.

The Beatles themselves were outraged at the thought of playing in a cage – especially in front of their most loyal fans, some who had travelled over 100 miles for the event. In the end though the Beatles agreed to go on after apologising to the audience and the show finished without incident.

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

 

The Beatles at the Wimbledon Palais 1963
The Beatles at the Wimbledon Palais 1963

Raw footage of the Beatles at Wimbledon Palais https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmdHaMl9Irs

John Lennon RIP – How I Heard the News

The history books will tell you that John Lennon was murdered on December 8th 1980 – but in the the UK it was early in the morning on the 9th.

I woke up late that morning, and didn’t put the radio on before going to school. I cycled to school as usual, not knowing anything had happened, only to be met by my best friend, and fellow Beatles fan, Dalton, who looked really angry, and was muttering about what some bastard had done to John Lennon. The then told me that John had been murdered. My first reaction was that it was another ‘Paul is dead’ type rumour, and that really he was OK.

However, that morning, the school assembly was taken by students, and they played ‘In My Life’ as a tribute to John. It’s there that the horrible fact really sank in. I also noticed that a lot of fellow students, and also staff, were moved by the announcement too.

After school, I went home and bought the evening newspapers, which had John on the front cover, and played Beatles/John songs for the rest of the day – only to stop to watch the many tributes to John on TV.

At the time, I had never been that affected by anyone’s death before.

Fast forward to 2007. My daughter Lilia, was born at approx 6am on December 9th. John Lennon was shot around 4am London time on December 9th 1980, and died about 2 hours later.

Take a sad song and make it better :>)

PS It certainly, wasn’t planned that Lilia was born at that time!

 

John Lennon at Kenwood. Photo - Marilyn Demmen
John Lennon at Kenwood.
Photo – Marilyn Demmen

Remembering John Lennon

I wrote this piece for the British Beatles Fanclub a few years ago. It still holds true today…

Like Beatles fans everywhere, we look back on the events of 8th December 1980 with much sadness. John Lennon, a brilliant musician, songwriter and man of peace, was needlessly gunned down in front of his wife, outside his own home. We all know where we were when we heard the terrible news.

However, we would rather remember and celebrate the remarkable life of John Lennon, than dwell on his senseless death. We condemn those media outlets that are featuring interviews with John’s killer, who carried out the act to become famous himself. Giving him publicity now gives him exactly what he wanted. It says something about our society, that a man who was a nobody for most of his life, should become famous for killing someone who gave pleasure to millions of people throughout the world.

John Lennon said in an interview shortly before he died, “It’s hard to be Gandhi or Martin Luther King or to follow them. I don’t admire politicians particularly, I think they’re showbiz people, but people who put their thing on the line, like Gandhi, and threw the British out by not shooting anybody… those are the political people I admire. But I don’t want to be shot for it like Gandhi, and I don’t want to be shot for it like Martin Luther King. I don’t want to be a martyr, I don’t believe in martyrs, but I admire their stance.”

John Lennon was not a saint, he was a flawed human being like all of us. However, he lived his life to the full, and used his fame to send a message of peace and love. On 8th December we will be commemorating a great life, not a senseless death.

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

John Lennon at Kenwood. Photo: Marilyn Demmen
John Lennon at Kenwood. Photo: Marilyn Demmen

December 5th 1967 – the Beatles Apple Shop Opening Party

December 5th 1967 – John Lennon and George Harrison, along with their wives, attended  the party to celebrate the opening of the Beatles ‘Apple’ store on Baker Street. Paul was apparently ‘on holiday’ in Scotland, and Ringo was filming ‘Candy’.

As the store didn’t have an alcohol license, party goers were given Apple juice to drink :>)

Not surprisingly, the party was covered extensively in the media, including Pathe News, and in colour, though silent, by AP. Much of the media interest centred on the shop’s psychedelic mural, which was designed by ‘The Fool’ – who also designed the clothes sold inside.

ebookappleshoppostcard

 

 

 

 

The shop opened to the public 2 days later.

4th December 1968 – Hell’s Angels at Apple!

December 4th 1968. Memo sent by George Harrison to staff at Apple about the arrival of a group of Hell’s Angels to 3 Savile Row.
George had encountered the Hell’s Angels a year before, when he visited Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. George and wife Pattie had been mobbed by Beatles fans and hippies and the Hell’s Angels helped George escape. In thanking them for their help, George said to them ‘next time you’re in London, call us up’  – not thinking for one moment that they would!
However, word reached George that they were due to arrive, hence the memo.
George's memo to the staff at Apple
George’s memo to the staff at Apple

The mention of Czechoslovakia refers to the invasion of the country by the Russian Red Army. It seem the Hell’s Angel’s were going to take the whole army on!

 Luckily, only 2 arrived at 3 Savile Row, but with an entourage of hangers on, and their bikes, which Apple paid to get shipped over!

Frisco Pete and Billy Tumbleweed made an impression at the Apple Christmas party when they stole the Christmas turkey and decided eat it themselves, rather than share it with the other guests. Peter Brown suggested to them that this was unfair – and was given a bloody nose by one of them.

At another point in the party, Neil Innes  realised his five year old child was missing, and discovered him sitting on the knee of a hell’s angel being given a can of beer!

Eventually, the Hell’s Angels were persuaded to vacate 3 Savile Row, and one of them went to stay with Beatles hairdresser, Leslie Cavendish.
It’s not known whether they made it to Czechoslovakia!

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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