Category Archives: Interviews

The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine world premiere, July 17th 1968

How a north London schoolboy managed to gatecrash the Beatles’ glitzy film gala to end up sitting directly behind the Fab Four, with a bit of help from a Rolling Stone…

In 1968 David Stark (top left) was a 15 year old schoolboy, novice drummer and a huge Beatles fan ever since the group shot to fame in 1963. Despite only seeing them play live on one occasion (at Another Christmas Show at Hammersmith Odeon in January 1965) he was lucky to meet them all individually on various memorable occasions, and has some fascinating personal stories which he’s currently compiling for a forthcoming book. However his most remarkable encounter with the Fab Four was when he gatecrashed the world premiere of the legendary Yellow Submarine animated film and ended up sitting directly behind Paul and the entire group thanks to an incredible series of events, as he explains below.

Half a century on, David is a music biz veteran and has been Editor/Publisher of acclaimed industry resource SongLink International for the past 25 years. Later this month he’ll be presenting the annual SongLink Prizes for songwriting at LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) in the presence of lead patron Sir Paul McCartney, who inducted David as a Companion of LIPA back in July 2006. “It’s an incredible accolade,” says David, “and I always enjoy meeting Paul at least once a year to chat about the high standard of songwriting and musicianship at LIPA. Over the past dozen years I’ve presented SongLink Prizes to a fantastic bunch of talented students, many of whom have gone on to make their mark in the music industry.”

Meanwhile Yellow Submarine is being re-issued in cinemas for one day only on July 8th and David will be attending an 11am screening at Picturehouse Central on Piccadilly Circus, situated next to the site of the old London Pavilion where the world premiere was held on July 17th 1968. These days the cinema is better known as popular tourist attraction ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’, but luckily the building’s imposing facade dating from 1885 still exists, being the place where all three of the Beatles’ other movies had their London premieres – A Hard Days Night (1964), Help! (1965) and Let It Be (1970), the latter being the only one that David was actually invited to – but that’s another story…

In fact the Yellow Submarine premiere was the last major public event that the Fab Four all attended together, also marking what turned out to be London’s last-ever mass outpouring of Beatlemania with an estimated crowd of over 60,000 squashed into Piccadilly Circus to see the group and their guests arrive and depart. And David would have remained just one of the crowd if it hadn’t been for his spotting a conveniently unlocked door at the side of the cinema, as he recalls:

“It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon in mid-July 1968 when I arrived at Piccadilly Circus at around 3pm with my pal David Harris, who wasn’t especially a massive fan like myself but quite happy to come along for the occasion. A sizeable crowd was already gathering by the time we arrived and barriers were being put in place outside the London Pavilion, which looked very impressive with an enormous display announcing “The Beatles Yellow Submarine”, along with huge cut-outs of their cartoon characters. The excitement was beginning to build even though the big event was a few hours away, and as I surveyed the scene from our vantage point by the statue of Eros I suddenly spotted someone entering a side door situated next to the main cinema entrance.

“Let’s go and see where that leads,” I said, and off we strolled to the door in question to find it unlocked, quite amazingly. A few seconds later we found ourselves in an old lift whizzing up to the top floor, where we immediately ascended a small flight of stairs leading to the cinema roof. We then opened the door to find a few assorted youngsters like ourselves, mostly French for some reason, who all had the same idea and somehow found their way up to the top.

The view from the roof was quite extraordinary, watching hordes of people gathering below to become what would eventually be a huge crowd waiting for the stars to arrive. And there we were, looking down on it all, chatting to the Frenchies and wondering what the hell we were going to do next. Eventually, from around 7pm, limousines and taxis started arriving to drop off the guests, and after looking at all the action below us for a few minutes, I told David that we should try our luck and get into the cinema itself.

On reflection, I must have had some kind of an inkling that I was going to try something, as I was smartly dressed in a Regency-style Lord John suit and long-collared turquoise shirt plus colourful kipper tie. David was more modestly attired in a regular blazer, but we both looked the part. Which was extremely lucky, as no sooner had we stepped down from the roof into the cinema’s upper circle then we were immediately accosted by an usherette who asked to see our tickets.

“Er, I’m sorry but we left them downstairs when we came in”, I hastily explained. “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that, you need to keep your ticket with you at all times”, replied the young usherette, probably not believing a word of it, “I’ll have to call the manager over to sort this out.”

A minute or two later her superior arrived and asked how we came to be there. I said the first thing that came into my head: “We were invited by Clive Epstein (the late Brian’s brother) who I’m sure will vouch for us if we can find him.” Gulp! This was a real long-shot, I’d dropped Clive’s name as he was my only tenuous Beatles connection, having actually met him and his wife Barbara during a family holiday in Torquay four years earlier. It surely meant possible eviction if we found him and the same if we didn’t. “Ok then”, said the manager, “let’s go and see if we can find him”.

He then took us down one floor to the dress circle where all the stars and VIP’s were gathering, and into the main bar where, amongst others, I recognised members of Status Quo but no sign of Clive. However, as we continued walking around I suddenly spotted a familiar-looking rotund figure with a prominent bald head and heavy-rimmed glasses. It was Dick James, the Beatles’ music publisher and partner with Brian Epstein in Northern Songs which looked after the prized Lennon-McCartney catalogue.

I’d never met him before, but knew exactly who he was so approached him to ask, “Have you seen Clive Epstein here tonight by any chance?” Dick immediately replied, “No, he rang me this afternoon and said he was stuck in Liverpool on business and couldn’t make it tonight.” On hearing this, the manager turned to me and said, “I can see you know people here so that’s ok, enjoy the film.” Bingo! I thanked Dick and we moved off, not knowing then that he was to become my first boss in the music business at Dick James Music just a few years later.

So we were in and safe with management approval, but of course didn’t actually have any seats. We stood at the back of the dress circle where quite a few others were doing the same, so luckily didn’t feel at all conspicuous. We’d only been standing there a few minutes before a sudden barrage of flashing lights and noise erupted as Ringo and wife Maureen walked in first, followed shortly by John, Yoko and Paul who were all being trailed by numerous photographers and TV crews. Last to arrive were George and Patti who walked straight past us standing against the back wall, a clip of which can be seen in old ITV news footage of the event with me pulling a totally ridiculous face.  Eventually all four Beatles and their partners had taken their seats in the front row, while David and I looked on and considered ourselves amazingly lucky to be standing at the back.

However, as the lights started going down and the paparazzi gradually retired, I spotted two empty aisle seats in the second row directly behind Paul and his guest, Patti’s sister Jenny Boyd (Paul had just split up from Jane Asher that week). We quickly walked down the aisle and discovered that the third seat along was occupied by a flamboyantly-dressed Keith Richards, with girlfriend Anita Pallenberg on his other side. I asked him if anyone was sitting in the two empty seats and he replied, “Nah, they’re Mick and Marianne’s but they’re away in New York right now so you’re ok there.” Very nice of him indeed! So we sat down to watch the film premiere courtesy of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, with Keef on my immediate right, Paul directly in front of me and John to his right, with Yoko next to him while George, Patti, Ringo and Maureen were further along the front row.

Of course the whole situation was completely surreal – I was half-expecting us to be turfed out of our seats at any moment, but once the lights went down we were fine. Curiously the programme started with a Pink Panther animated short which gave us time to take stock of the situation and realise how incredibly lucky we were. To be honest it was hard take my eyes off John who was directly in my sight-line. He had always been my favourite Beatle, the one who I sketched doodles of and the one whose surreal sense of humour and outspoken attitude were a huge influence, as it was to so many countless others. And there he was sitting just inches in from of me in his eye-cathing all-white suit, black shirt and Indian-style Talisman necklace that he’d been wearing on and off for the past year or so (years later bought by Noel Gallagher at auction as a present for brother Liam).

Then the big moment came when all eyes were glued to the screen for the world premiere of Yellow Submarine, and what a uniquely original experience it proved to be. Dazzlingly colourful, witty, brilliantly animated and rich with Beatles songs old and new, it was totally unlike any other cartoon feature seen before, save for a distinct nod to Disney’s Fantasia. I was completely blown away by it, particularly with the Liverpool-based Eleanor Rigby opening sequence and also the Lucy In The Sky section with its sensational mix of pop-art, random brush-strokes and vivid colours. As George’s intriguing new song stated, it certainly was “All Too Much” and I found myself being totally enraptured by what I was seeing on screen, especially as I was half-watching John and the others taking it all in. I loved the new songs too, and at one point leant over to inform Paul quietly “that was a good one” (think it was ‘Hey Bulldog’) to which he replied with a quick ‘oh, thanks”.

Eventually the nasty Blue Meanies and the evil Flying Glove were all transformed into peace-loving music fans by the sheer power of Sgt. Pepper Lonely Heart’s Club band and the film drew to a close – but not before the final live-action sequence with Ringo finding “a hole in my pocket” and John informing us that “newer and bluer Meanies have been sighted within the vicinity of this theatre.” The audience gave it a huge ovation which went on for several minutes, while it was an incredible feeling to be sitting directly behind the four mega-stars who had inspired the whole magical experience.

As the applause slowly died down, I realised that we were completely people-locked as virtually everyone in the vicinity wanted to speak to the Beatles and pay their compliments on the film. I ended up chatting with John and George for a few moments, I can’t remember a word of what was said but can just about recall George being politely attentive to my high opinion of the movie. We then pretty much followed him to the dress circle’s foyer area, where he was surrounded by more TV cameras and reporters wanting to get a quick word with him with Patti looking on too.

So that was it.. but not quite. David and I hung around the foyer for as long we could while the Fab Four and all the other VIP’s left for the after-show party at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater. We would have loved to have gone on to it but a) didn’t know exactly where it was, and b) we both had to get to our respective homes (mine in Edgware, David’s in Dollis Hill) before the tubes stopped. However we did experience the ultimate feeling of being a part of the whole event as we stepped outside to see and hear thousands of fans being held back by police all singing “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” in deafening unison, an unbelievable experience. Of course we realised that without a little bit of luck (and chutzpah) we would have ended up doing exactly the same thing had not events gone our way in such an unexpected way.

And throughout it all we pretty much kept our cool by not asking for a single autograph (we probably had no pens on us) or a selfie, hardly surprising as I didn’t carry my faithful old Kodak Brownie around with me too often at that time, although I did actually snap George Martin going into Abbey Road Studios in 1966. It was all rather different from how things are fifty years on, and as the lovely Mary Hopkin famously sang during that seminal summer of ’68, those were the days my friend, indeed they were…

Extracted from “It’s All Too Much – Adventures of a Teenage Beatles Fan in the ’60s And Beyond” by David Stark. Publication date TBC. All rights reserved © 2018 David Stark.

Beatles fans give Liverpool pensioner a wave on Penny Lane – unaware he was once part of the band

It’s not Ringo, the fourth member of the legendary band. It’s Colin Hanton who quit the group after a bust-up at a gig

Loads of Beatles fans trundle along Penny Lane and get a wave from the man who played drums with John, Paul and George.

They wave back – blissfully unaware the Liverpool pensioner they have just encountered could have been a really big Starr.

This isn’t Ringo, the fourth member of the legendary band. It’s Colin… Colin Hanton – the man who turned his back on the group after a bust-up at a gig.

He is 79, lives just a few long and winding roads from Penny Lane and says of greeting the daytrippers: “To them I’m just a grey-haired old bloke on his way to get the morning paper – but they’ll give me a wave back.”

Colin left the Beatles – then called the Quarrymen – after a fallout with George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

For more click here

 

PAUL MCCARTNEY ON NEW ALBUM ‘EGYPT STATION’

AND COLLABORATING WITH THE NEXT GENERATION: “I FEEL LUCKY THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH ME”

It’s 3pm on a sunny Monday afternoon and we’re sat in Paul McCartney’s countryside studio, listening to the most successful musician in the entire world (a quantifiable fact) make cow puns. In an almost comically-in-character turn up for the books, the famed animal rights campaigner just been told that his petition to help save a pregnant cow unfairly earmarked for death row has been successful. Visibly chuffed, Paul spends the next few moments riffing on potential headlines: “Love Me Moo?”

If these particular scenes are about as surreal as they come, then that’s just what it’s like spending time in the company of a bona fide legend. The bookshelves that stand near him hold the same texts as thousands all over the world – a hefty copy of The Beatles’ Anthology; a Linda McCartney recipe book – except in this house… well, it’s a bit different isn’t it. And as the endlessly charming 75-year-old flits between apologising for the 3D-printed version of his own face that also sits on the shelf (“It’s a bit strange having this in here…”), excitably showing us around his studio (yes, we did lose our minds a little), and throwing out anecdotes about his tenure in the greatest band of all time, you can’t help but feel that everything here comes imbued with an extra dash of magic, just by association.

For more click here

[bloggers note – interview includes links to audio to new single.]

Pete Best interview: ‘Let’s have it out – just me, Paul McCartney and a bottle of Scotch’

As he stars in a new play about The Beatles, sacked drummer Pete Best tells James Hall there is still unfinished business between him and Paul McCartney

Pete Best leads me into a cupboard under the stairs of his family’s former home in the West Derby suburb of Liverpool. We descend a narrow staircase and arrive at a warren of dark vaults. Beatles posters cover the walls. In one corner, the word “John” is crudely carved into the wooden panelling. A stretch of ceiling is painted in multicoloured strips, the handiwork of a teenage Paul McCartney.

For more click here

The Rutles – It was 40 Years Ago Today!

40 Years ago today – ‘The Rutles – all You Need is Cash’ was first broadcast on US television.

To commemorate the anniversary here is an interview I did with the Rutles when they release their Archaeology LP.

The Rutles – Mythology

For those who weren’t around in those heady days of the 60s, here is a brief history of the Rutles – as told by Gilda Radner in ‘All You Need is Cash’

‘The Rutles were an English pop quartet of the 60s who set the foot of the world a tapping with their catchy melodies, wacky Liverpool humour and zany off the wall antics, epitomised by their films ‘A Hard Day’s Rut’ and ‘Ouch!’ Dirk and Nasty, the acknowledged leaders of the group were perfectly complemented by Stig, the quiet one, and Barry, the noisy one, to form a heart warming, cheeky, loveable, talented, non-Jewish group who gladdened the hearts of the world. In 1962 they played the Cavern, after that they spent several months in Hamburg. Then in 1962 they released their first single, ‘Twist and Rut”.

The Rutles went on to be a legend in their own lunchtime but things started badly when they started their own business, Rutle Corps. The idea was for people to help themselves. Unfortunately people helped themselves to Rutle Corps’ money for years. In the end things got so bad within the group that Dirk and Nasty got married. Rutle Corps started losing more money than the British Government. At the last meeting of Rutle Corps 134 legal people and accountants filed into a small 8 by 10 room. At the end only 87 came out alive. Savile Row had taken its toll on the best merchant banking brains of a generation. Luckily that’s not too serious. However during the legal wrangling and public bickering ‘Let it Rot’ was released as a film, record and a lawsuit. In December 1970 Dirk sued Stig and Nasty; Barry sued Dirk; Nasty sued Stig and Barry; and Stig sued himself accidentally. It was the end of an era. However, amid squabbles and lawsuits, the band were recording a new album. The project was abandoned and the master tapes were buried. Literally.

As was widely reported at the time, all of the tapes were placed in a time capsule and buried in a secret location. Announcing that action, a spokesman for The Rutles stated that this was “to thwart bootleggers. And tax authorities.” Furthermore, the capsule would “stay buried for a thousand years.” He added that the album wouldn’t be released unless it was “discovered by archaeologists or whoever digs these things up.” This led to Rutles fans dubbing the interred recordings the ‘Archaeology’ tapes.

Asked why the legendary tapes have been dug up by The Rutles themselves, a mere 26 years later, Rutles member Ron Nasty stated simply, “Things change.” All further queries have been referred to the band’s accountants.

The new Archaeology album comes at a time when interest in The Rutles is at an all-time high. Many of today’s hottest bands, including Oasis, Pulp, Blur, Smashing Pumpkins, Gin Blossoms, and Soul Asylum, cite The Rutles as a major influence.

Not addressed in The Rutles announcement is whether the band will reunite to record any new tracks or perform live. Apart from their famous rooftop concert, seen in the ‘All You Need Is Cash ‘ documentary, the band has not given a public performance since 1966.

The Rutles Reunion – the Real Story

In September 1994 there was an official celebration of Monty Python’s 25th anniversary held in Los Angeles. It took the shape of a film and TV festival – and included the presentation of various spin-off projects – including the Rutles film.

As an adjunct to the festival Neil Innes performed a show of Rutles music – in character of Ron Nasty. Teaming up with local Beatles Tribute band, The MopTops, the concert was jokingly billed as a performance by Ron Nasty and the New Rutles. The show, held at the legendary Troubadour club in Los Angeles, was an immediate sell out, and a second show was added – which also sold out.

Critical and public acclaim was glowing – and was a major factor in inspiring this first-ever reunion of the original performing Rutles. (the Los Angeles Times Review of the show described the concert as ‘Fabulous! Beatles music from a parallel universe! Among the stars in attendance at the shows were new Beatles producer Jeff Lynne, Julian Lennon, Seal and Spinal Tap member Harry Shearer. Long time Neil Innes friend and Rutles fan George Harrison was unable to attend the shows – but sent a special greeting to be read to the audiences – and insisted on Innes giving him a first hand account of the shows when he returned to England.

In Rutles mythology, the ‘Archaeology’ album consists of disinterred tapes of the group’s abandoned last album – which had been buried in a time capsule. In reality the album was freshly created in the spring and summer of 1996. Neil Innes reassembled all of the original team responsible for creating the original Rutles music.

Multi-instrumentalist Ricky Fataar, who in recent years has been the studio and touring drummer for many top musicians, including Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, returned to reprise his Stig O’Hara role. On the new album, he contributes lead and backing vocals, guitars and drums. Drummer John Halsey returned to perform as the Rutles own Barry Wom -and contributes both drumming and his distinctive Barry Wom vocals. Neil Innes, who again wrote all of the words and music of the 16 new Rutles songs, contributes lead and backing vocals, guitars and keyboards.

Interestingly the ‘Archaeology’ album has a genuine parallel with The Beatles ‘Anthology’ albums it affectionately lampoons. Original ‘4th Rutle’ – guitarist/singer Ollie Halsall, who was the key fourth musician in the recording of the original album, passed away tragically at the age of 43 – in 1992. In preparing material for this new album, Neil Innes uncovered master tapes of the rehearsal sessions he had organised in 1977 to prepare the Rutles for their album. Buried within these tapes he discovered two complete songs which had been fully rehearsed and performed – but which were not subsequently recorded for the album. He also discovered a backing track to a third song – which had not been completed.

Since all the tracks were very in line with the new material he was writing and assembling for the new album – and, with added poignancy, featured the original Rutles line-up – he decided to incorporate the tracks in the new album. The two completed songs – We’ve arrived! (And to Prove it We’re Here) and Now She’s Left You were left intact – including humorous false starts – and were simply restored. The uncompleted backing track was used as the basis for a new song entitled Unfinished Words.

The Archaeology LP

The ‘Archaeology’ is a very enjoyable album. Neil Innes’ personal style is a lot more evident on the Archaeology than on the original LP – especially in the lyrics. In fact Neil wrote a number of the songs long before the second Rutles LP was thought of – he even sung a few (i.e. Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Music) on his 1980s TV show ‘Innes Book of Records’. However in those days the songs didn’t have a Beatlesque backing. The LP opens with perhaps the most obvious Beatles ‘copy’ – Major Happy, which is based on Sgt Pepper. It even starts with an orchestra warming up. Major Happy segues into the Barry Wom sang tune called Rendezvous. Not surprisingly it is based on With a Little Help from my Friends but with a few piano bits similar to Good Day Sunshine. The harmonies on Rendezvous are spot on – certainly a feature of the entire album. The call and response section here is funny. When the backing singers start answering Barry sings ‘who invited you to sing along?’ and when they sing ‘We were only trying to help’ Barry sings ‘I don’t want any help!’

The next song Questionnaire strongly resembles I am the Walrus musically – but here is where the similarities end – the song is very Innesesque song -sung from the point of view of a questionnaire.

We’ve Arrived (and to Prove it We’re Here) was one of the outakes from the first LP. It’s based around Back in the USSR (complete with airplane noise). It’s obvious this version wasn’t meant to be the final take as there is a false start and the ‘ooos’ are incredibly out of tune. However if anything the fun the band are having more than makes up for this. The atmosphere on the track is very similar to And Your Bird Can Sing on ‘Anthology 2’.

Lonely Phobia is an acoustic based track and one of my favourite tracks on the ‘Archaeology’. The musical style isn’t so easy to pin down to one Beatles song as others – in fact it sounds almost Wilburyish. The backing tracks for Unfinished Works were recorded by the original Rutles and Neil Innes built this new song around them. It has nonsense lyrics and mentions legendary unreleased Beatles songs like Colliding Circles and Pink Litmus Paper Shirt..Incidently, these song titles were made up by Martin Lewis, a Beatles afficionado who is also great friends with the Rutles.

Easy Listening is a classic Ringo/Barry Wom song -a bit like Act Naturally. It’s an incredibly catchy song and you’ll be singing the chorus for days after hearing it.

Now She’s Left You was the second complete song from the original sessions -it’s an early period Beatles pastiche and very catchy. Knicker Elastic King has a classic Neil Innes lyric with a backing similar to Penny Lane, and I Love You is early period Beatles. Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Music is an old Innes song which he sang at the Liverpool Beatles Convention a few years ago – as is Joe Public. Here Eine Kleine sounds like Come Together and Joe Public like Tomorrow Never Knows. Shangri-La is the first single from the LP and an obvious one at that. An incredibly catchy song with a backing that is almost a condensed version of the whole of the ‘Sgt Pepper’ LP. The long singalong fadeout at the end is a cross between Hey Jude and All You Need is Love (or should that be Love Life. This song deserves to be a hit but whether it will get the necessary airplay remains to be seen.

The last two tracks I Don’t Know Why and Back in 64 are a bit of an anti-climax but overall the LP is great and highly recommended. The Pre-Fab Four are back with a vengeance.

Tea With the Rutles

It was a great honour to meet the ‘prefab three’ over tea and biscuits at Virgin Records recently. Stig, Nasty and Barry (alias Neil Innes, John Halsey and Rikki Faatar) chatted about the old days of the Rutles and the new ‘Archeaology’ LP. It was a very amusing half hour with the three guys and with them regularly going in and out of character it was like interviewing six people.

I first asked the Rutles how they got together. Nasty said ‘according to Eric Idle we bumped into each other at a quayside and discussed haircuts’
‘We still do’ added Barry, ‘especially from my salon days’
‘We spend too much time talking about hair which is why we’ve taken so long to put out another album’ said Nasty.
I asked them whether they had something to say to Brian Thigh, the guy that turned down the Rutles.
‘Yeh, thanks for the pizza – keep the change’ said Nasty.
‘Don’t forget to set your runner bean flowers in cold weather’ said Barry.

I then asked the Rutles about what they’d been doing since the Rutles. Barry said ‘I had a hair dressing Empire, the Hackney Empire. However after a berserk lady customer run amok with hot curling tongs and I suffered a terrible injury I sold the empire.

Stig said ‘I’ve been with lots of airlines since ‘Air India’ When asked whether he was still with Arthur Sultan, the Surrey Mystic, Barry butted in ‘No, he’s mainly under the influence of red wine!’

Nasty is no longer with Chastity but they became firm friends after she gave up the Nazi stuff. She changed he name to Gwen Taylor and went on to become a famous and very talented actress.

Neil Innes (as himself) told me that George Harrison was a big influence on the original Rutles film. ‘He was in on it up to his neck!’ said Neil. ‘George thought of all the Fabs it would be great idea to have a jokey biography because pressures on them at that time to get back together were emormous and unbearable – it wasn’t a very pleasant time for them. The others also saw the fun of it and agreed to let us have footage’. George also arranged them to see the original ‘Long and Winding Road’ film. ‘It was a great help’, said Neil, ‘ because the true story makes you very depressed – so that’s why it needed a silly band to tell the story’.

George has also been supported of the Rutles comeback. ‘Like all The Beatles’,said Neil, ‘they want to get everything out of the cupboard and say ‘that’s it,that’s us!’ We we said to him about the Rutles, because lots people were asking me about us doing something, he said ‘It’s all part of the soup’.

Of course it is no coincidence the ‘Archaeology’ is coming out close to the Beatles ‘Anthology’. However as Neil remembers, ‘The last Rutles LP came out the same day as Paul’s ‘London Town’. At the press conference he gave they were just asking him about the Rutles. I did apologise to him about it. This time it doesn’t matter though as we’re all cleaning out our cupboards’.

The similarity between the Rutles and The Beatles is no coincidence, but led to a strange thing happening. ‘A guy from NME rang me up one day and said, ‘Mr Innes, we’ve got in our possession a Beatles bootleg and there’s a Rutles song on it. What have you got to say?’ I said ‘What’s it like?’ They played it to me over the phone and it was the version of Cheese and Onions I did for ‘Saturday Night Live’

Both John Halsey and Neil Innes had encounters with the Fabs before the Rutles. ‘I met Paul McCartney once in a Wimpey Bar in Piccadilly in 1964’ remembered Barry. ‘I was a teenager then. It was a Sunday night and the bar was packed. Paul walked in and was looking around for somewhere to sit and saw 2 chairs at our table at came over. We chatted for a while and he said it was nice to meet us and paid for our burgers and shakes. When we left we got as many funny looks has he did. As soon as we walked out a stranger came up to us and said ‘I’ve got two tickets to the London Paladium for tonight to see Sammy Davis, would you like them?’ So I saw met Paul McCartney and saw Sammy Davis in the same night. I’ve been up to Piccadilly every week since but nothing’s happened!’

Neil Innes was part of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. He remembers how they got to appear in ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. ‘It was through Mike McCartney’ said Neil, ‘The Bonzos and Mike’s group ‘The Scaffold’ used to bump in to each other a lot at gigs and became friends. Mike suggested to Paul that this silly band would be good for the film so we went along. Viv used to hang out with John Lennon a lot in clubs. It was at a club that Viv was moaning to Paul that our producer only let us spend two hours on each track and they weren’t finished. So Paul came down and produced ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’ for us and did a great job.’

We finally got around to talking about the ‘Archeaology’ LP. Neil said the main inspiration to do it was from Rutles fans. ‘It was nice that people kept the Rutles music alive’ he said. ‘Because the Fabs were putting out the Anthology people asked us if we were going to do anything. This time around though we have have to acknowldege The Beatles did exist – the first time we didn’t to tell the story’.

Some of the tracks on the ‘Archeaology’ were written some time ago. ‘Shangri-la is as old as Cheese and Onions ‘ said Neil. Knicker Elastic King. was in ‘The Innes Book of Records’ and part of Rendevous was written when I was in the Bonzos – but I didn’t finish it then.’ This time the songs are more in Neil’s style than before. ‘You’ve got to remember that the first time we had to be accurate to the story. There were obvious musical signposts in the Beatles career. This time we had more freedom and we didn’t spent so much time trying to sound like old fashioned recordings.’

‘We really missed Ollie Halsall who sang on the first one, but we’ve got him on the archive tracks. We’ve done the best we can singing wise between us but he had the best singing voice of all of us. Though it’s widely tipped that Barry Wom is going to be made male vocalist of 1997’ ‘I’ve been nominated for a Granny!’ Inturrupts Barry.

When asked about the possibility of live performances Neil said ‘It depends on how the LP goes – but we could certainly do the songs live’. ‘Its been 20 years since the last LP’ said John, ‘If we wait any longer we’ll be making dead appearances! Here they are – the Rutles dead on stage!’

The video for Shangri-la was recently done in the US. However Neil said ‘Its a bit of a mess but hopefully there’s something there in the edit. Lots of people said they’d like to be in the video and we thought it would be nice to have some lookalikes too. We had Columbo, Madonna, Woopie Goldberg, Rod Stewart, Pat Boone…’ ‘No he was real!’ added John. There is a possibility of Rutles TV appearances in the UK and US.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. While the interview was going on Rikki Faatar (alias Stig) was living up to his ‘quiet one’ image by laying on a sofa. he was suffering from jet lag. When I asked for some pictures, rather than Rikki having to get up John and Neil joined him on the sofa!

Neil’s final message was ‘We’re very happy to be together again’ while John said ‘This LP is dedicated to John, Paul, George and Ringo’.

The Rutles after a long tea session
The Rutles after a long tea session

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

Kenny Everett on Sgt Pepper

In an exclusive interview for the London Beatles Fanclub magazine, Kenny Everett told me about the first time he heard ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

“I first heard Sergeant Pepper in George’s house. He had a low slung white goes-on- forever house in Esher. And a bunch of us including Tony Hall from Deram records was invited to George’s place to hear this new album. He had an acetate of it. He put it on the gramophone, and we all sat around and this thing started and blew us away, we were completely gone and on another planet, it was a quantum leap, and we thought, ‘music can stop right here, nobody is ever going to produce anything better than this, so all musicians can go back to bed now’, it was the best thing we’d ever heard ! And George said ‘It’s quite good isn’t it ?’ The night before they’d all had a party, and they’d decided to get spray cans of coloured paint and spray ‘God is Love’ and other things all over the walls of the house, this wonderful million dollar house,and they sprayed flowers, and words all over it in a stoned orgy the night before. He’d woken up the next morning to get the milk in and had horror written all over his face at what they’d done.”

Happy 50th birthday, Sgt Pepper!

Jann Haworth: The forgotten creator of the Sgt. Pepper cover

Peter Blake is celebrated as the creator of the sleeve art of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. But his collaborator has been forgotten. As Sgt Pepper turns 50, ALASTAIR McKAY talks to American Pop artist Jann Haworth about art, celebrity, sexism, and her role in a modern design classic.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3TZbNn59V1tMCx3dXXlf2BK/jann-haworth-the-forgotten-creator-of-the-sgt-pepper-cover?intc_type=singletheme&intc_location=bbcarts&intc_campaign=iplayerfooter&intc_linkname=article_sgtpepper_contentcard12

With Alan Parsons Inside Abbey Road Studios

From the Archives of the London Beatles Fanclub  Magazine.

In September 1991, I was asked to do an interview with a Japanese satellite TV channel about my London Beatles Walks. I had only been doing them for a few years, and was delighted and flattered to be asked. I was even more delighted when I was told that the interview would take place INSIDE Studio 2 at Abbey Road, and that I would be interviewed the same time as Alan Parsons!

After we gave our interviews to the TV station, I rather cheekily asked Alan if I could interview him for the London Beatles Fanclub magazine, and he agreed! Here is that interview:

I believe you first met the Beatles at Saville Row, during ‘Let it Be’. Can you tell me how that came about?

I must have originally been sent down the day ‘Magic Alex’s’ console was put in. Glyn Johns was trying to get some noise ouyt of it! Everybody was waiting to start filming but basically, as we all know, the whole thing was a complete farce, nothing worked.

What was basically wrong with it?

It looked like it had been made by a 12 year old. All the holes had been roughly filed out, things were held together with one screw and nothing was on a straight line and it was banged together with bits of wood and chewing gum – it was an horrendous looking object!  It was advanced in its concept, but the execution of the concept left a great deal to be desired. It was two days later that I was brought in to work with Glyn Johns with the Abbey Road equipment.

Was Glyn Johns producing?

No, he was engineering. George Martin was very much in attendance, though he didn’t show his face every day. As often happens, he had other records to make as well. It must be emphasised, however, that it was very much a recording of an event at Apple, there was little in the way of production tricks. It was just the group in front of their instruments and record what happens, although when Phil Spector got his hands on it, it was far from that.

What was your actual role?

Tape operator – also coffee maker and cigarette buyer!

Just a few days after you became involved,t he famous rooftop session occurred – when did you first know about that?

The night before! They said ‘Let’s play in front of an audience’. ‘OK, when and where?’ ‘Why not play on the roof tomorrow!’ In normal circumstances, of course, it would have been crazy, but this was the Beatles.

An hour before, we were testing the mikes and it was a very windy day and the mikes were making a horrendous noise. I had to run out to Marks and Spencer to buy some stockings to hang on the mikes to stop the wind getting in. It was very strange walking into the lingerie department and them saying ‘What size do you want’ and me saying,  ‘Doesn’t matter’ ‘What colour?’ ‘Doesn’t matter’. I think they thought I was about to rob a bank!

Did you have any problems recording the roof top session?

Well, I was actually up on the roof. I was just on the other end of a communications system to sort out any problems. I had a wale of a time. I didn’t really have anything to do once everything was up and running and so I was just watching them play – it was brilliant. Everyone was buzzing.

I believe you did a lot of work on the Abbey Road LP. What was the atmosphere on that like?

Tense. There were various personal incompatilities between certain parties and their wives.

I think everyone was amazed the ‘Abbey Road’ LP was so good, considering the atmosphere it was recorded under. Was that down to George Martin?

I think it was a lot down to the individual writers. As you know, Paul sang on songs by Paul, John sang on songs by John…. However, the most noticeable things about the Abbey Road album is that they weren’t working together very much. They tended to come in and do their bits individually. But I was more involved in the later stages, John Kurlander did the early tracks.

Was the medley on side 2 recorded to fit together, or was that done afterwards?

A bit of both. It was just called ‘The Long One’ at the time. I wasn’t there at the conversation which led to the piecing together of it, but it was very much considered as one piece. It was worked one and always listened to as one piece. We were always running off rough mixes of it as a whole piece as it had developed to the end of that day and everyone would take it home to listen to it.

I believe you were present in the studio the last day all four Beatles were in the studio together?

What actually happened that day?

The banding of the album.

Oh yes, I remember it distinctly. Tony Hicks of the Hollies was also there to hear it. I was also present the day the Abbey Road cover was taken.

Have you worked with a Beatle since?

Yes, ‘Red Rose Speedway’ was the main time, and I went on tour with Wings on the European tour in 1972 – I was recording it. I’m not sure what happened to that. There were very interesting versions of ‘Hi Hi Hi’ on that with a different rhythm. I always preferred the live version and told Paul he should have recorded it like that.

When was the last time you worked with a Beatle? 

A year and a half ago [circa 1993] with Paul at my own studio. which came to nothing. We were just experimenting together in the studio to see if anything came out of it, but nothing did.

A few years later, Alan Parson took over as Managing Director of Abbey Road Studios, and I had a meeting with him about the possibility of setting up a shop for the studios. It didn’t happen until much later….

Then in late 2015, I attended a lecture that Alan gave in Studio 2, mainly about his work with Pink Floyd on ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. It was nice to meet him again. 

Blogger Richard Porter with Alan Parsons in the control room of Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, November 2015.

 

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