19th January 1967 – A Day in the Life….

On January 19th 1967, the Beatles began work on a new song for their forthcoming new album. The working title was ‘In the Life of…’, but a day later became ‘A Day in the Life’

On this day, The Beatles began work on John Lennon’s segment. John was an avid reader of newspapers since childhood, and used three separate stories for this song. The first part was about his friend, Tara Browne, who had been killed in a car crash. The second was about the film he’d been in ‘How I Won the War’ and the third was a small piece about potholes in the road in Blackburn. At this point, it seemed that nothing had been planned for the middle eight, so Mal Evans counted to 24 to fill in the gaps, to record over at a future session. On other days. Paul’s contribution would be added, and of course the amazing orchestral build-up.

This day, just bongos, maracas, piano and guitar were recorded, plus John’s vocals. As usual with John, where most singers would just put down a ‘guide vocal’, without really trying to get it perfect, John recorded every vocal as it was going to be the one on the record.

The song went through many recording stages in the next month or so, but A Day in the Life was magnificent right from the start…

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

 

 

RIP ‘Magic Alex’ the Beatles Electronics ‘Guru’

We’ve lost yet another important person in the Beatles story – Yanni Alexis Mardas, or as he was nicknamed by John Lennon, ‘Magic Alex’.

It is fair to say that the reaction on social media to his passing has been rather mixed – with many calling him a ‘charlatan’ and even one calling him a ‘c**t’! Certainly, he was a character, and very much part of the Beatles ‘inner circle’ for around 2 years – until he was dumped.

Mardas first came to England, from his home country of Greece, in 1965. It has been said his first job in the UK was as a TV repair man. However, he quickly starting mixing with people in the art and music scenes. Mardas befriended John Dunbar, one of the co-owners of the Indica Art Gallery, where John Lennon met Yoko Ono. It was either Dunbar, or Rolling Stone Brian Jones, who introduced Mardas to John Lennon. Lennon was immediately taken with Mardas’s electronic inventions, including a ‘nothing box’ and christened him ‘Magic Alex’. Lennon introduced Mardas to the other Beatles as ‘my guru’.

On 15th June 1967, a meeting was held was held by Clive Epstein (Brian’s brother) and the Beatles’ accountant, Stephen Maltz, with Mardas, to see whether he could work in some capacity for the Beatles new company ‘Apple’. ‘Magic Alex’ was put in charge of what became ‘Apple Electronics’

Before this though, Mardas had the idea that the Beatles should buy a Greek Island and relocate to it. At the time the Beatles were paying 95% tax, and that buying the island would save them lots of money. In July 1967, the Beatles and their entourage, including Mardas, went to Greece to track down a suitable island. However, Alistair Taylor, the general manager of NEMS (Brian Epstein’s company) said that everywhere the Beatles went, the press were there too, and put the blame firmly onto Mardas for tipping them off. Eventually, the Greek Island idea was dropped.

However, Mardas’s influence with the Beatles was growing ever stronger. He was involved in the setting up of the Beatles ‘Apple’ shop on Baker Street, and also was on the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ coach, during which, he took part in a singalong, which was featured as an extra on the MMT DVD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE93Xwf85Rg

It was around this time that building was bought at 34 Boston Place, by the side of Marylebone Station, to be converted to be the headquarters of ‘Apple Electronics’  – that Mardas would run. He was given a salary of £40 per week, and a share of any profits his inventions would make. Ironically, the Beatles ran past the building during the opening scenes of A Hard Day’s Night, some four years earlier. Mardas was seen in his new lab for Apple Electronics in a promotional film for Apple, part of which was seen in the Beatles Anthology. Although much money was spent to develop Mardas’s inventions, no, or little money was ever made on them. It has been said by many that ‘Magic Alex’ wasn’t so magic after all. It’s interesting that during an outtake of ‘Hey Jude’ (included on the Beatles Anthology), Paul McCartney says ‘I was a robber in Boston Place!’ – was this a reference to ‘Magic Alex’ and the money being spent by him?

Mardas also got involved in the Beatles personal relationships. In May 1968, he was told to stop work at Apple, and join the Beatles in  Rishikesh, India, where they were studying meditation with the Maharish. It was alleged that Mardas made suggestions to the Beatles that the Maharishi was making unwanted advances to a member of entourage, and the Beatles left immediately.

Soon after their return to the UK, Mardas went on holiday to Green with Cynthia Lennon, Jenny Boyd and Donovan. On return to the Lennon’s family home, Kenwood, on May 22nd 1968, Mardas and Cynthia Lennon discovered John Lennon with Yoko Ono, and promptly left. It has been said the Mardas slept with Cynthia around this time.

In January 1969, the Beatles began work on what was originally called ‘Get Back’ at Twickenham Film Studios, but work was abandoned there after a few days, when George Harrison walked out. It was therefore decided to leave Twickenham and instead record in the Beatles new Apple Studio at 3 Savile Row, that ‘Magic Alex’ had built for them. Alex has alleged since that the Studio wasn’t finished, and was still being worked on in Boston Place, but was taken, without his permission, to be used in Savile Row. Whatever the case, the studio didn’t work, and equipment has to be hired from EMI at Abbey Road Studios, for the Beatles to use their own studio space.

It was around the time of the recording of ‘Get Back’ that John Lennon met Allen Klein about saving Apple, as it was haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Klein immediately shut down Apple Electronics and fired Mardas.

After the Beatles episode, Mardas became a security consultant, and even worked with many royal families around the world. He was again in the press when he was said to be having a relationship with Joan Collins in the 1980s. He had first met her when Collins was married to Ron Kass, head of Apple Records.

In 2004, Mardas sold many of his Beatles souvenirs at Christies Auction House in London. Probably the most interesting piece was the leather Hindu charm that John Lennon had worn non stop for a year or more in 1967-68. He was even wearing it on the ‘Two Virgins’ album cover.

Mardas had said many times that this days with the Beatles had been misrepresented, and sued many publications to put his side of the story. In 2010, he wrote a long document to the New York Times, in reply to allegations made by journalist Allan Kozinn. You can read it at http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/arts/Mardas.pdf  Unfortunately, Mardas’s memory had rather dimmed by then, and many errors were made in his account.

RIP ‘Magic Alex’ – certainly an interesting character in the Beatles story.

 

'Magic Alex' at Apple Electronics
‘Magic Alex’ at Apple Electronics

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

 

 

January 12th 1964 The Beatles at the London Palladium – Take 2

On January 12th, 1964, the Beatles made their second appearance on the top TV show ‘Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

They had first appeared on the show on October 13th 1963. The scenes inside and outside the theatre that day has been seen as the start of ‘Beatlemania’ – though it had actually just taken the media a long time to catch on to the scenes that had been surrounding the Beatles for many months.

If anything, the crowds outside the Palladium for their second appearance were greater than the first. As usual the show was compered by Bruce Forsyth. The Beatles sang ‘I Want to Hold You Hand’, ‘This Boy’, ‘All My Loving’ ‘Money (That’s What I want) and Twist and Shout’  As with the fist Palladium show, there is no video in existence of the Beatles performance, but there is audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwDYy3bwyCo

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles London tour guide. For more details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The Beatles singing 'This Boy' at the London Palladium 1964
The Beatles singing ‘This Boy’ at the London Palladium 1964

 

Fans crowd Argyll Street waiting to see the Beatles
Fans crowd Argyll Street waiting to see the Beatles

10th January 1969 ‘See You around the Clubs!’ George Walks Out on the Beatles

January 10th 1969. The Beatles were rehearsing at Twickenham Film Studios for their ‘Get Back’ project. At lunchtime a row broke out and George got up, said ‘See you around the clubs’ and left!

John suggested The Beatles bring in Eric Clapton to take Georges place. That afternoon The Beatles carried on rehearsing, sometimes backing Yoko doing her screaching.

Sessions were then abandoned at Twickenham, and a few days later, a meeting was held with George at Savile Row. He agreed to come back only if the proposed big concert was dropped and session continued in their own Apple Studio, rather than Twickenham. The others agreed, and the project, eventually retitled ‘Let it Be’ was completed.

A Hard Day’s Star Wars!

Ever wondered why A Hard Day’s Night looks so good as a film?  Well, maybe one reason was the the head of photography was Gilbert Taylor, one of the UK’s top film men. He had just done a similar job on ‘Dr Stangelove’ with Stanley Kubrik, The cult horror film ‘The Omen’ – and later on a well known sci-fi film called  – ‘Star Wars’!

I was lucky enough to meet Gilbert in 2001 when the original cast and crew of A Hard Day’s Night reunited to contribute to the bonus disc of he DVD. He was a very nice man, and also hero-worshiped by the other members of the crew. Gilbert died in 2013, aged 99.

Here he is with Alfred Hitchcock, during the making of ‘Frenzy’

Gilbert Taylor with Alfred Hitchcock
Gilbert Taylor with Alfred Hitchcock

5th January 1967 Carnival of Light – a Legendary unreleased Beatles Track

On January 5th 1967 the Beatles recorded one of their strangest pieces of music, and to this day, it hasn’t been released. It was called Carnival of Light.

It was ‘written’ by Paul McCartney, for a an event at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London called  “The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave” Paul was asked to contribute a piece by David Vaughan, part of designer trio, Binder, Edwards & Vaughan. Carnival of Light was premiered at the event, and has never been heard in public again since! Playing live at the event were Unit Delta Plus, featuring Delia Derbyshire from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who previously had recorded the theme tune to ‘Dr Who’.

One of the few people to hear Carnival of Light is Mark Lewisohn, who was given access to it during the preparation for his book ‘The Complete Beatles Recording Session’. He describes it as  including “distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds, a distorted lead guitar, the sound of a church organ, various effects (water gargling was one) and, perhaps most intimidating of all, John Lennon and McCartney screaming dementedly and bawling aloud random phrases like ‘Are you alright?’ and ‘Barcelona!’

Paul McCartney has talked about the track many times since, but it still hasn’t been released. It was considered for the Beatles Anthology, but was vetoed by George Harrison. The ‘versions’ on youtube are sadly fake.

A poster the The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave - where Carnival of Light was premiered
A poster the The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave – where Carnival of Light was premiered

3rd January 1970 I Me Mine – the last Beatles Recording Session at Abbey Road

On January 3rd 1970, the Beatles returned to Abbey Road Studios for the first time since August 1969 to record ‘I Me Mine’ for the ‘Let it Be’ album. It was to become the last Beatles song to be recorded (well, at least until ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’ for the ‘Beatles Anthology’)

Only Paul, George and Ringo were present. The official reason that John wasn’t there was that he was on holiday in Denmark, but actually he had left the Beatles some months earlier, but it hadn’t been officially announced. During the recording session, George said ‘You will all have read that Dave Dee is no longer with us, but Mickey and Titch and I would just like to carry on the good work that’s always gone down in number two’.

I Me Mine actually dated back to the ‘Get Back’ sessions in January 1969, almost exactly a year earlier. It had been rehearsed during the first part of the sessions at Twickenham Film Studios, with great footage of John and Yoko waltzing to it. That clip was chosen to be in the film, but the song wasn’t recorded during the subsequent sessions at the Beatles’ Apple Studio. Therefore a recording had to be made to go on the album.

The original version of I Me Mine was only just over 1.5 minutes long. It was the last song they recorded.

But not the last recording session. The next day, Paul, George and Ringo returned to Abbey Road to record overdubs onto the January 1969 recording of ‘Let it Be’  So much for ‘Get Back’ – or ‘Let it Be’ as it became, being recorded ‘as nature intended’ – without overdubs!

However, that still not the end of the story! In March 1970, Phil Spector was brought in by John, George and Ringo to ‘reproduce’ the ‘Get Back’ tapes to make a new album, which had it’s title changed to ‘Let it Be’.Phil Spector ‘reproduced’ it to a  longer 2 minutes 25 seconds.

I Me Mine was finally released on the ‘Let it Be’ album on 8th May 1970.

Here is an outtake from the January 3rd 1970 recording session. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNYuaEluUgQ

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For details of Richard’s tours, please see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

 

 

26th December 1966 Follow Your Nose! John Lennon on Not Only But Also

On 26th December 1966, the Christmas Special of ‘Not Only….. But Also….’ starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore was broadcast. The show was a send up of an American TV reporter, played by Peter Cook, sent to the UK to find ‘Swinging London’

Peter Cook encounters the hippest toilets in London, the ‘Ad Lav’ and the commissionaire ‘Dan’ played by John Lennon.

Lennon is seen saluting to ‘visitors’ to the toilets, above him is a sign saying ‘Members Only’ – very bad English toilet humour! John greets Peter Cook and tells him there is a £5 ‘waiting list’ for entering the toilets. He then tells Peter Cook to ‘follow your nose’ when entering!

The sketch was filmed on 27th November 1966, in Broadwick Street in Soho, London. John is seen wearing his famous small round glasses for the first time. He was given them to wear in the film ‘How I Won the War’, which he had just completed. John liked the glasses so much he was rarely without them until he died. Before they were known as ‘granny glasses’ and were normally worn by old ladies. After John started wearing them they became the height of fashion.

The toilets in Broadwick Street are still there! We go past there (but not inside!) on my ‘Beatles Magical Mystery Tour’ London walking tour. For more info see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

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