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3rd October 1964 – the Beatles on Shindig

On this day in 1964, the Beatles filmed a special live performance for the American TV show ‘Shindig!’ at the Granville Theatre in Fulham. The songs included Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey and I’m a Loser, from the forthcoming ‘Beatles For Sale’ album, which wouldn’t be released for another month.

The Granville Theatre, in Walham Green, Fulham, was opened in 1898 and designed by Frank Matcham, who designed many other theatres, such as the London Palladium. It was knocked down in 1971.

 

The Granville Theatre, one of Frank Matcham's most gothic designs.
The Granville Theatre, one of Frank Matcham’s most gothic designs.

October 2nd 2012 – Paul McCartney, Victor Spinetti, and a Magical Mystery Tour

October 2nd 2012 – a day I will never forget. A day I attended 2 very memorable events, with Paul McCartney at both!!

The afternoon was the memorial service to Victor Spinetti at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Victor had died a few weeks before. I had got to know Victor quite well through various Beatles conventions, and interviewed him for the British Beatles Fan Club at the City Barge pub, that features in Help! I later found out that my birth mother was born only a mile or so from Victor in South Wales, and used to buy fish and chips in the Spinetti family’s fish and chip shop!

Victor had a profound effect on me, especially when I first met him at the 1981 Beatles Convention in Liverpool. I was very sad to hear about his passing, and was determined to attend his memorial service. I rang the church a few days before and told of my family connection, and was invited along.

I was amazed when I got there to see so many famous faces.

It was a lovely occasion, moving at times, but in the main, a wonderful fun celebration of Victor’s life. The tone was set by Fr. Simon Grigg, who said that during his life, Victor was an atheist – but now he knows different!
The programme was a mixture of song and readings, plus very nice tributes to Victor from Barbara Windsor and Jim Davidson.
The musical highlight was Michael Ball singing ‘In My Life’. As he put it, with one of the composers sitting feet away from him.
Fenella Fielding read John Lennon’s poem, Fat Budgie, to celebrate Victor’s collaboration with John on the play ‘In His Own Write’.
Paul McCartney arrived at the church just before the service started. It seems that he initially didn’t think he was going to make it, and sent a written tribute to be read out. Instead he read it himself.
He remembered at one of the Beatles first meetings with Victor, he told them to look at a cloud in the sky and that he would make it go away – and it did! Paul said that, when thinking of Victor that morning, he tried to do the same thing. However the cloud he got didn’t go away, it just got bigger and bigger. Paul joked that it was actually Victor.

Barbara Windsor, who was one of Victor’s best friends, remembered when they were both in a touring stage show, and due to lack of rooms, had to share a bed in a hotel. Barbara, then the ‘sex bomb’ of the ‘Carry On’ films etc, said she never felt so safe in her life! Of course, Victor was gay.
The service lasted about an 75 minutes and we left the church to a recording of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.
Afterwards I was mingling outside, when Paul McCartney came up to me, shook my hand and said “Hi Richard, how are you going, haven’t seen you for a while.” It’s nice he remembers me :>)

Although everyone was sad about Victor’s passing, the service was very funny in places – and Fr. Grigg said at the end that he’d never heard so many ‘F’ words in a church before!
A lovely service for a lovely man.

A section of the service – including Paul  McCartney’s speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFfsPFkjTEQ&playnext=1&list=PL03C5D18AB9E99DCF&feature=results_video

You can see me in the audience at about 7 mins 4 seconds :>)

A report on the service http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2211815/Actor-Victor-Spinetti-star-Beatles-films-died-aged-82-cancer-battle.html

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Paul McCartney arriving at St Paul's Church
Paul McCartney arriving at St Paul’s Church

Attending the service would have been a highlight of most day’s – but mine didn’t end there. That evening, I attended a special gala screening of Magical Mystery Tour. I was the guest of Jeni Crowley, who was on the original Magical Mystery Tour coach, and appears in the film. Sitting with us were Sylvia Bodhi Hillier, and Leslie Cavendish, who were also on the coach, and Roy Benson, who edited the film.
Amongst the celebrities in the audience were Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller, Neil Innes, David Walliams, Peter Asher, Barry Miles, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, Mark Lewisohn, and Joe Boyd. Paul McCartney was there too, and gave a short speech before the screening. He seemed surprised to see me again so soon :>) I was sitting right in front of Liam Gallagher, and I could hear him singing along to I am the Walrus.
At first we saw the BBC ‘Arena’ programme about the making of Magical Mystery Tour, and after a short break, the film itself. Magical Mystery Tour looked and sounded great on a big screen, and it was wonderful seeing it with so many of the people that appeared in it.

…A Day in the Life!!!

Pic I took of Paul with Liam Gallagher at the screening of Magical Mystery Tour
Pic I took of Paul with Liam Gallagher at the screening of Magical Mystery Tour

 

Records and Rebels of the 60s at the Victoria and Albert Museum

You Say you Want a Revolution? – Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is a fab gear new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum – and a must visit for Beatles fans.

During the years covered by the exhibition, the Beatles wee arguably at their collective peak, and not surprisingly, feature prominently in the exhibition, including many items never seen in public before. A highlight is a display about Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the original Sgt Pepper uniforms worn by John Lennon and George Harrison; the cut outs of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, that are seen on the album cover; the lyrics of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, handwritten by John; and Within You, Without You, Handwritten by George; and one of Georges own sitars. This area of the exhibition is worth the admission money on its own!

The Beatles memorabilia doesn’t end there – Yoko and Olivia have donated lots of their late husband’s mementos, including the jacket worn by John on the ‘Our World’ TV broadcast of ‘All You Need is Love’, and a purple velvet jacket worn by George on the Frost programme. Then right at the end of the exhibition, the jacket John wore on the ‘Imagine’ video. This really got to me.

One item that’s exhibited which isn’t quite what it seems is a white suit, that the exhibition book says was the one worn by John Lennon on the Abbey Road crossing, for the iconic album cover shoot. However, the book says it was designed by Ted Lapidus, when John’s Abbey Road suit was designed by Tommy Nutter in Savile Row. The suit might have belonged to John, but it wasn’t the one he wore that day.

Overall, there must be at least 25 Beatles handwritten lyrics dotted about the exhibition, surely the most ever seen in one place.

But of course, there is much more to the exhibition than just the Beatles. A highlight is certainly the Woodstock Room, where you can watch the film of the iconic festival on a huge screen, lounging on beanbags, and surrounded by loads of mementos from the various bands and artists that took part, including Roger Daltrey’s stage outfit, Pete Townshend’s broken guitar.

As well as all these stage suits and instruments etc, the exhibition includes hundreds of album covers from the period, which are very much works of art in their own right, and great concert posters.

The exhibition is not confined to music by any means. There are sections on fashion, art, politics, early computers, and space travel.

I must have spent at least 2.5 hours in the exhibition, and will definitely go back again. I came out feeling like I’d just smoked a massive joint! A very hippy, trippy, show!

 

George Harrison's Sgt Pepper suit
George Harrison’s Sgt Pepper suit
The Exhibition poster
The Exhibition poster

The Beatles Come to Town!

Here is the original ‘Beatles Come to Town’ film -as made by Pathé News,  shot at the Manchester ABC, Ardwick on November 20th 1963. I was one year old a day later, so unfortunately wasn’t there! Excerpts from the film are used in The Beatles, Eight Day’s A Week, the Touring Years, but rather strangely, the audio has been replaced on some of it by audio from the Beatles Live at the Holywood Bowl! Why??

This was filmed on 35mm, especially to be shown as a short film in a cinema, before the main feature came on. The newsreels gave the audience news and information before television became widely available. However, by the 1960s, it was getting rather out-dated. However, I also love the commentaries by Bob Danvers Walker – a legend of British broadcasting.

 

 

The Beatles Live in Melbourne 1964

Although there was some ‘new’ colour footage from this gig in ‘The Beatles Eight Day’s a Week – the touring years, I think it was a missed opportunity not having more from this amazing show from Melbourne in 1964.

The scenes in Australia were if anything more riotous than in the US. When the Beatles arrived in Adelaide, something like half the population lined a motorcade from the airport to their hotel!

I think this is one of the best filmed Beatles performances. Unlike Shea, the sound has not been ‘doctored’ – ie there have been no overdubs made, yet the Beatles sound great! For me, You Can’t Do That and Long Tall Sally are the stand out songs.

I especially love the end of Long Tall Sally, when a guy looking exactly like John Lennon, manages to get on stage, and shakes John’s hand in the middle of the song!!

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will get an official DVD of The Beatles full concert performances. If we do, this show must be included.

 

London Beatles and Rock Tours this week

Busy week on my Beatles and Rock and Roll tours this week:

Tuesday 11:20am – Beatles In My Life from Marylebone Station
Wednesday 2pm – Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road
Thursday 11am – Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road
Friday 2pm – Rock and Roll London from Tottenham Court Road
Saturday 11:20am – Beatles In My Life from Marylebone Station
Sunday 11am Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road

There is no need to book for tours, just turn up at the meeting points before the times stated

For more details see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

Welcome! About The Awful…

HI all,

Welcome to my new blog. I am Richard Porter. I am a full time Beatles tour guide in London, and also own the Beatles Coffee Shop at St John’s Wood Station, the nearest to Abbey Road.

I really became a fan in 1976 when I was 13 years old. EMI re-released all the Beatles singles and they all reached the top 100 of the British charts at once. Of course, they were played on the radio a lot, and I thought they were great. My first Beatles record was The Red Album and I went on to buy all the singles and albums in 2 years – not bad when I just earned pocket money from my parents.

At first I was very isolated in my Beatle fandom. My interest coincided with the punk rock boom and all the other boys in school were in to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Being a Beatles fan was not regarded as hip! Also I didn’t really realise there were so many other fans around.

All that changed on that awful day in December 1980. John’s death really devastated me and I didn’t have anyone to share my grief with. I therefore put an ad for penpals in Beatles Monthly and was amazed by the number of replies I received. It was through a penpal that I heard about the Beatles convention to be held in Liverpool in August 1981. I was amazed that such a thing existed and arranged to go.

That convention was a real revelation to me. There must have been over 1000 like minded fans there – I was not alone! The abiding memory of that convention is when Victor Spinetti unveiled a statue of John and everyone sang Give Peace a Chance. It was a really moving moment.

A few months later another penpal told me he’d met Paul McCartney regularly outside a recording studio in Oxford Street, London. Now Oxford Street is the busiest shopping street in London, and I didn’t even know there was a studio there. Of course, I later found out it was AIR Studios, which was owned by George Martin.

One weekday evening I arranged to meet my friend and several others outside the studio. I’d only been there 10 minutes when the unmistakable figure of Paul McCartney emerged from the building. Paul chatted to us for several minutes and I got him to sign my Paul McCartney and Wings book. Paul was at AIR for many months during that period and I got to meet him several times.

I started writing for Beatles fanzines and when those fanzines ceased publication I decided to start my own fan club with two old friends. The London Beatles Fanclub was born in November 1988.

As Editor of the magazine I got to meet and interview many Beatles-related people, such as Kenny Everett, Alan Parsons, Alistair Taylor, and Alf Bicknell.

I also started corresponding with Beatles fans around the world. One was Irina Dyomkina, who ran the Moscow Beatles Fanclub. Irina moved to London in the early 1990s and became the secretary of the London Beatles Fanclub. We married in June 2004. Irina is now a fully qualified London ‘Blue Badge’ guide.

After a while members of the club started asking me where various London Beatles landmarks were. Obviously, I knew the major ones, but started researching some more obscure sights. I discovered someone was actually guiding tour of London Beatles sights, so I went along on one. The guide seemed very impressed at my knowledge and asked me to guide the tours for him. Of course, I said yes. I just did Sunday tours to start with, but after leaving University decided to take up guiding full time. I’ve now been guiding tours for well over 20 years.

In those 20 years I’ve met Beatles fans from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how universal the appeal of the Beatles is. Just last year I did a tour for two guys from North Korea. Despite the huge risks involved, they had managed to escape across the border into South Korea. They immediately became Beatles fans and had a dream to come to England to see all the main Beatles places. They were very emotional when I showed them places like the inside of Trident Studios, where the Beatles recorded Hey Jude (normally we don’t go inside on tours, but this was a special occasion!) and the Abbey Road Crossing.

On August 8th 2009, I organised a special tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road for the famous album cover picture. I want to cross exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I asked a Beatles tribute band ‘Sgt Pepper’s Only Dartboard Band to dress as the Beatles were on the album cover and lead us across. Just before the day, a realised that ‘Ripley’s Believe it Or Not’ in London owned a replica of John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce, so we borrowed it for the day for the Band to arrive at the crossing in the car.

Word spread fast what we were planning, and a few days before I started getting calls and emails from TV companies wanting to cover the event. In the end, we had at least 250 people turn up for the tour, (luckily I had a couple of other guides to help!) and there must have been well over 2000 people around the crossing. In the end, the police closed Abbey Road to traffic and there was an impromptu party around the crossing. The event was carried live on BBC News and on stations in the US, Russia, Australia and many, many others.

I have also got to go to some great places. One day a German TV Station rang me to ask me for my help. They were filming in Studio Two at Abbey Road and the roof of 3 Savile Row – and they wanted me to act as technical adviser – and pay me too! Of course I said yes. These places are normally out of bounds for fans and I felt really privileged just being there.

For a long time people kept on asking me when I was going to write a book on The Beatles, and I finally got around to doing it. I found I had so much material on The Beatles’ London haunts, I was only using a fraction of it on the tours. Also I had lots of material from interviews I did for The London Beatles Fanclub, – the book virtually wrote itself. I was very glad when Jeff Jarratt of the Abbey Road Cafe decided to publish it. Jeff worked with The Beatles on the Abbey Road album, and is now a successful producer in his own right.

In 2006, Jeff rang me up, completely out of the blue, and said he was retiring, and would I like to buy the Abbey Road Café! Luckily I had the cash available and Irina and I bought it, and changed its name to the Beatles Coffee Shop. It is situated at St John’s Wood Underground Station, the nearest to Abbey Road Studios and the crossing.

Now I have TWO Beatles-related jobs. It can be very tiring at times – but never boring! Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo, for giving me this Fab life!

For info on Richard’s London Beatles Walks, please see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

For info on the Beatles Coffee Shop, please see http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com

On this blog, I will keep you up to date with news about Beatles-related events in London, and around the world. I will also include some archive material from the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine, that I edited for over 10 years.

If you would like to contribute a news story, or would like to comment about the blog, please email me at richardandirina@tiscali.co.uk

I hope you will enjoy the show!

Richard at Apple

Richard at Apple