Category Archives: Day in History

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 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.

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

 

The view from the roof

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

January 21st 1966 – George Marries Pattie Boyd – but Where?

On 21st January 1966, George Harrison married Pattie Boyd – but where? There is so much confusion on the internet and in books. Some say Esher Register Office (including Mark Lewisohn’s book ‘The Beatles London’, some say Leatherhead, and some Epsom. Esher is the most commonly quoted as it is just down the road from Kinfauns – George and Pattie’s home.

However it seems Epsom is correct. Here is a first hand account of the wedding from Tony Barrow, one of the guests:

 

George, Pattie and guests emerging after the wedding.

This is how Ashley House looked just after it was built. The house has now been divided into flats.

 

Beatles haircuts ‘unsightly, unsafe, unruly, and unclean’ – fashion archive, 1963

6 December 1963 Young engineer back at work after suspension for sporting a Beatles-style haircut

Thomas Charnock (16) returns to work as an apprentice at a Birkenhead factory today after a two-week suspension imposed because he had a Beatles-style haircut.

Thomas, of Pasture Road, Moreton, a first year apprentice at the K.W.K. engineering factory, at Park Street, Birkenhead, was told along with other apprentices by the managing director, Mr William Kaminski, to get his hair cut properly. Mr Kaminski said Beatles haircuts were unsightly, unsafe, unruly, and unclean. For more see https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/dec/06/beatles-hair-cut-fashion-archive-1963

The Story of The Beatles ‘Apple’ Shop

To mark the 50th anniversary of it’s opening, blogger Richard Porter tells the story of the Beatles ‘Apple’ Shop on Baker Street. This is an extract of his book, ‘Guide to the Beatles London. To order the book, go to http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter

It is also available at Helter Skelter and the London Beatles Store in London, and the Beatles Story Shop in Liverpool. 

The Apple shop was the first of the Beatles major Apple projects. They started the company because they were advised to spend money quickly, or be taxed on it at the rate of 95%! Hence the George Harrison song Taxman, in which he sang, “There’s one for you, 19 for me”. Alistair Taylor remembers: “We had to submit plans of how to save three or 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. Brian Epstein did not want to know about it. I was on the board along with Neil Aspinall, Pete Shotton and Brian’s brother Clive. We just kicked around plans and ideas. The first real idea was to open a chain of card shops. They are now on every street corner, but they were unheard of in those days. So we finally thought that his was a good idea and we put it to the Beatles. They sat there for a minute, and then John said, “What a f*** boring idea!!”

Instead they let their friends, a group of designers from Holland called the Fool, open a clothes shop with hippy accessories. In fact, everything in the shop was for sale – even the fixtures and fittings!

The staff of the boutique, led by Jenny Boyd (Pattie Harrison’s sister and inspiration behind Donovan’s song Jennifer, Juniper) and Pete Shotton, John’s old friend from Quarrybank, were young and inexperienced.

On the outside wall the Fool painted a huge multi-coloured mural. It was not liked by local shop owners. Also, they did not have a planning permission and the local council demanded that the mural be removed or they would do it themselves – and send the bill to Apple! Pete Shotton therefore had no choice and the mural was whitewashed over. A pity, as it certainly brightened up the area!

‘The Fool’s mural on the Apple Shop

The Beatles attitude to Apple was summed up by a meeting between John and Pete Shotton. Pete had gone to John to tell him that the Fool had wanted all the labels in the clothes to be made of pure silk. Pete argued that if this went ahead, the labels would cost more to produce than the clothes. John retorted, “We are not business freaks – we are artists”. The labels were duly made of silk. 

Even the Beatles themselves could not agree on everything about the shop. One day Paul went in and asked the staff to put in a partition. Next day John went in and told them in no uncertain terms to remove it immediately.

The shop was launched by a huge opening party on 5th December 1967. It was attended by hundreds of ‘beautiful people’, but not, bizarrely, half of the Beatles. Only John and George attended. Everyone was given apple juice to toast the opening of the Beatles new venture.  The shop opened to the public on the 7th. 

To promote the shop, The Beatles wives, Cynthia Lennon, Patti Harrison and Maureen Starkey, along with Jenny Boyd, posed for a photo, wearing clothes the shop sold. Even though it looked rather nice, the black and white photo didn’t really show off the psychedelic clothes too well!

Unfortunately, the shop was not a success. Even though the clothes were certainly psychedelic and very much of their time, they were not well produced and were liable to fall apart rather quickly. The psychedelic lighting designed by ‘magic’ Alex Mardas, made adequate security impossible and the shop was a shoplifter’s paradise. John met Alex a year or so before at the Indica Art Gallery (where, of course, he had also met Yoko) and had been dazzled by his electronic wizardry. Pete Shotton remembers, “Things were flying off the shelves as fast as we could replenish our stocks – the trouble was that a lot of it was flying off without the benefit of a cash transaction. Our tuned in, turned on staff were loath to apprehend shop-lifters – and they had few scruples about helping themselves to stuff that caught their fancy.”

After Jenny Boyd left, Jeni Crowley, one of the Beatles Fan Club secretaries, took her place. She told me, “George had asked me a few times what I was doing and I said I was still at school. He said ‘what do want to be at school for? He said to me why don’t I come to work at Apple? They had opened the shop, and Jenny Boyd was leaving, so by this time I said Oh, all right then, so I went to work in the Apple shop. It was a strange place. There was Caleb – the manager of the shop, and a few people who I wondered whether they should be there or not! The Fool came in quite regularly and made me a coat. They had a basement flat where they made some wonderful creations. The flat was at 30 Montagu Square.

To get into the shop you had to hold a handle in the shape of a hand. George and Ringo came in a lot, and Yoko, and Kyoko, with her nanny. One day I was in the shop when Ringo came in. We were walking down the stairs and we realised it was like Your Mother Should Know – we both starting singing it, and he danced me down the stairs. Pattie and Jeni used to come in regularly. To me, though, it was just a job, not particularly out of the ordinary. It was the inside looking out thing again. The outside world looked freaky to us and we were protected.”

Finally, only eight months after it opened, the Beatles got fed up with the shop and closed it down.
Jeni remembers it was all very sudden. She remembers “We didn’t know a thing! Though I’d had bad vibes – I was having my lunch break one day, when I felt that I must go home. I had this feeling that something awful was going to happen, but we had no idea. As I went out the door, John, Yoko and some others came in and ransacked the place, taking anything they wanted.”

This was when the Beatles and their close friends and associates raided the shop the night before it closed down and took all the best stuff. Pete Shotton thinks that John Lennon seemed unaware “that it was his own property that he was so gleefully absconding with.”

On the last day the doors were left open, and anyone could come in and take what they liked without paying for it. People had been doing this for a long time anyway, but hundreds turned up to the mass give-away hoping to get some of the clothes. The police had to be called to restore order.

Jeni Crowley remembers: “I got up to serve someone and they took my chair! They said we could take anything before it goes.”

The crowds outside Apple for the mass give-away

Even after the shop closed, the premises continued to bring the Beatles problems. Paul realised that the now empty building had large windows – perfect to advertise the Beatles new single. One night Paul and some friends went around to the building to paint the titles of the songs on the windows. These were Hey Jude and Revolution. Little did they realise that Jude is German for Jew. A Jewish passer-by saw this as a return to the days of the Nazis and put a brick through the window. The highly embarrassed Beatles did not press charges.

Above the shop were the first offices of Apple Music Publishing. To promote the company, Paul got Alistair Taylor to dress up as a one-man band. Alistair remembers: “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 the NME (New Musical Express, a well known British music paper), to get some tapes into Apple. What Paul wanted was to get people to send in tapes, demos, etc. We must have kicked around so many ideas to God knows what time in the morning. Finally, we hit on the idea of a one-man band. So then we talked about how we were going to do it. We thought we wanted a straight guy in a bowler hat. Paul looked at me and said, “Well, you are a straight guy – do you have a bowler hat?” It just so happened I did. Paul and I went down to Soho and hired a one-man band and did the photo session. I was miming, so Paul said, “Sing a Beatles song”. So I tried, 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!!”

The blurb of the ad read, “This man has talent! One day he sang his songs into a tape recorder (borrowed from the man next door.) In his neatest handwriting he wrote an explanatory note (giving his name and address) and, remembering to enclose a picture of himself, sent the tape, letter and photograph to Apple Music, 94 Baker Street. If you were thinking of doing the same thing yourself – do it now! This man now owns a Bentley!”

When the ad appeared in the NME, the Beatles received thousands of tapes – most of which were dreadful, and no new writers were found.

The first band signed to Apple Publishing was Grapefruit. Geoff Sweetenham of Grapefruit remembers clearly the first time they went to Baker Street to meet the head of Apple Publishing, Terry Doran. “We had go to up some rickety old steps, but when we arrived, no one was there. Sometime later, a lunatic with a mop of curly hair came bouncing up the stairs, jumped the last four and landed on his knees. This was our first sight of Terry Doran.”

The group still did not have a name. Pete Sweetenham of Grapefruit remembers, “Terry got a call from John Lennon saying he’d thought of the name “Grapefruit”. He’d got it from the title of Yoko Ono’s book. At the time John was still with Cynthia, so they had to change the story for our publicity handouts.”

Soon it became obvious that the Baker Street offices were too small for the fast expanding company, and Apple took new offices in Wigmore Street.

In March 2013, a Blue Plaque to John Lennon and George Harrison was unveiled at 94 Baker Street. Amongst those present at the ceremony were former Apple Shop worker Jeni Crowley, Tony Bramwell of Apple, and Quarryman Rod Davis.

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.

November 9th 1961 – Brian Epstein Meets 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

23 October 2010 – Yoko Unveils a Plaque to John at 34 Montagu Square

October 23rd 2010. Pics I took of Yoko Ono unveiling the English Heritage blue plaque to John Lennon, at their former apartment, 34 Montagu Square. The apartment was actually owned by Ringo, and he lived there for a time with wife Maureen and son Zak. He later let Paul McCartney use it as a recording studio, and after that, Jimi Hendrix lived there. It was then John and Yoko’s first place together.

We go to Montagu Square on my London Beatles Walks. For full details see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The full story of 34 Montagu Square is in my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ for full details see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com/#guideanddvd

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

 

It was 60 Years Ago Today! Paul McCartney Debuts with the Quarrymen

On October 18th 1957. Paul McCartney played his first ever gig with the Quarrymen at New Clubmoor Hall in Norris Green, Liverpool. He had met band leader John Lennon, at St Peter’s Church in Woolton on July 6th, and soon after was asked to join the band. However, Paul’s debut with the band was delayed due to him going to a boy scout camp!

Paul’s big moment at the the gig was to play a solo, but nerves got the better of him.

“For my first gig, I was given a guitar solo on Guitar Boogie. I could play it easily in rehearsal so they elected that I should do it as my solo. Things were going fine, but when the moment came in the performance I got sticky fingers; I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ I was just too frightened; it was too big a moment with everyone looking at the guitar player. I couldn’t do it. That’s why George was brought in.” Paul McCartney. 

The Quarrymen at Clubmoor Hall – a month after Paul’s Debut