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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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!’
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
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.”
Remembering Linda McCartney, who was born on September 24th 1941 – 75 years ago today.
I met Linda with Paul on many occasions. I think the nicest was in June 1983 outside MPL. I had a day off work, and it was a lovely summer’s day, and I decided to meet a couple of Beatles friends in Soho Square. We thought Paul might be at MPL, that overlooked the square, but that would have been a bonus, as it was such a nice day to lounge about in the square.
We were in luck though, as Paul and Linda were indeed at MPL, in seemingly in very good spirits. They came to the window a couple of times and Paul saw us, and did silly dances for our benefit. When they were due to leave, Paul and Linda beckoned us over. They were very chatty and relaxed. I had a copy of Mike McCartney’s then new book ‘Thank U Very Much with me and I asked Paul and Linda to sign it, and they gave me huge autographs on the title page. I also had a camera with me, and Linda asked whether I wanted a photo, and called Paul over to pose especially for me :>)
A few months later I met Mike McCartney at the Beatles convention in Liverpool, and got him to sign the book too. When he saw I already had it signed by Paul and Linda, he wrote ‘and well done’ under his autograph.
Linda was very much the love of Paul’s life, and I’m sure he will be thinking of her too today.
On September 20th 1969, the Beatles held a meeting in the boardroom of Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row. The meeting was called to sign a new contract with EMI/Capital that Allen Klein had negotiated. Even though Paul McCartney hated Klein, he was happy to sign the new improved contract.
Things came to a head when the Beatles started talking about their plans for the future. Paul McCartney thought they should go back to basics, and go back to playing in small clubs and pubs. As Paul said said in the Beatles Anthology book: “I’d said ‘I think we should go back to little gigs – I really think we’re a great little band. We should find our basic roots, and then who knows what will happen? We may want to fold after that, or we may really think we’ve still got it.’ John looked at me in the eye and said: ‘Well, I think you’re daft. I wasn’t going to tell you till we signed the Capitol deal’ – Klein was trying to get us to sign a new deal with the record company – ‘but I’m leaving the group!’ We paled visibly and our jaws slackened a bit.”
Everyone knew at that point the the dream was over. Even though both Ringo and George had walked about before, and came back, everyone knew that John wouldn’t change his mind. However, John was persuaded not to make his departure public, as deals were still being done.
After the meeting, Paul went up to his farm in Scotland with Linda, who was heavily pregnant with Mary, and hardly went to 3 Savile Row again. His absence was part of the reason the ‘Paul is dead’ rumour grew so quickly.
In the end Paul announced he was leaving the Beatles on April 10th 1970. As John remarked at the time, there was no Beatles to leave.