Me With Paul McCartney

Over the years as a Beatles fan, I have had the pleasure of meeting Paul McCartney on many occasions. Here are a few pics of me with Paul.

Me with Paul McCartney 1982
Me with Paul McCartney 1982

This pic was taken in May 1982, outside AIR Studios in Oxford Street, London. I had been a Beatles fan for years, but pretty much on my own. After the tragic murder of John Lennon, I wanted to meet other fans, and put an ad in Beatles Monthly for penpals. One guy I wrote to, John Challis, told me he had met Paul McCartney many times in Oxford Street. I didn’t believe him at first, as I had been past the building he’d told me about, and didn’t even know there was a studio there. However, he persuaded me to come up to Oxford Street at about 6pm (the time he said Paul came out the studio) and I would meet him. I thought there was nothing to lose. Sure enough, about 10 minutes after they arrived, Paul McCartney was standing right in front of me!! That night I got a Paul McCartney and Wings book signed by Paul – as someone had told me (wrongly) that Paul didn’t sign Beatles items.

I went up to AIR Studios many times after that, and became friends with the regular fans who would hang out there. I saw Paul many times, and finally got the above picture taken with him. I later went back and got it signed. When Paul saw it, he said, “Oh, aren’t we a lovely couple”!

Me with Paul McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios 1997.
Me with Paul McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios 1997.

This pic was taken in 1997 outside Abbey Road Studios. I was on my Beatles walking tour, standing by the Abbey Road crossing, talking about the Paul is dead rumour. I saw Paul’s car coming up the road, proving beyond doubt he was still alive!

He was filming an interview with VH1 that day. He was in a very good, but reflective mood, and was please to pose with me again.

I have met him many times since. Another memorable occasion was at the memorial service for Victor Spinetti at St Paul’s Church Covent Garden. I hadn’t seen Paul up close for around 10 years. After the service (which was very moving) Paul came up to me, shook my hand, and said ‘Hi Richard, how are you?’ Not only did he recognise me, he remembered my name too! Classy bloke :>)

Tea with the Rutles!

In 1995 I had the great pleasure of interviewing Nasty, Stig and Barry of the Rutles, otherwise known as Neil Innes, Rikki Fataar and John Halsey. Their new album ‘Archeology’ had just come out and I talked to them at the Virgin Records headquarters in London. Here is the article I wrote from that interview – as it first appeared in Off the Beatle Track in 1996.

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 Archeology 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

November 9th 1961 – Brian Epstein sees 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
Blogger Richard Porter, guiding a Beatles tour of London with Alistair Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making of the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ DVD

From the archives of the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine – an exclusive Behind the Scenes view of the making of the A Hard Day’s Night DVD.

In October 2001 a crew from Miramax from the US were in London to interview the original cast and crew of A Hard Day’s Night – and I was lucky enough to be involved. I had three days in the company of the people that made one of my favourite films – and had a great time.

I was first approached at the Chicago Beatlefest to be involved in the DVD by Martin Lewis, the producer of the DVD edition. He wanted help with some of the original film locations and with locating some of the people involved in the film, and with providing archive material from my collection.

Originally, Martin and the film crew were due in London in mid September, but filming had to be postponed due to the tragic events of September 11th.

The film crew finally made it to London in early October, and spent a week interviewing the original cast and crew. Many of the interviews took place in Twickenham Film Studios, where most of the interior scenes of the film were shot.

The interviews were divided in two. On Thursday October 11th the crew of the film were interviewed and the next day the cast. On each occasion the participants had a chance to see the film again. And then they all contributed their reminiscences in a ’roundtable’ setting on audio. Each participant was also interviewed on camera individually by Martin.

I spent much of each day chatting to the participants while the others were being interviewed. At one point Martin discovered that one of the crew members waiting to be interviewed needed to leave soon because of his travel schedule – so Martin asked me to lend a hand and finish off an interview that he’d started with couple of the sound editors. That was something I wasn’t expecting! Martin told me afterwards that he was very pleased with my work.

Disappointing for me personally – Richard Lester, who of course directed the film, was not present with the other members of the crew that re-united at Twickenham Film Studios on the first day. He was unavailable that day – and Martin did a very extensive interview with him on another day.However many other fascinating characters were. These included Gilbert Taylor, who prior to working on A Hard Day’s Night, had been cinematographer on Dr Strangelove, and subsequently went on to be cinematographer on Star Wars and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. He had loads of stories about these great films he worked on.

Other Beatles-connected people present were Roy Benson, who was an assistant editor on A Hard Day’s Night, who, three years later, spent 3 months editing Magical Mystery Tour. Also present was Denis O’Dell, who was assistant producer on A Hard Day’s Night and later was head of Apple Films. I chatted to Denis in the cavernous studio one at Twickenham Film Studios, where The Beatles also filmed much of Let it Be. Denis told me it was really him who produced the film but towards the end of shooting Neil Aspinall asked if he could be credited as the producer and Denis agreed. I heard many stories about the making of the film which I won’t give away here – you’ll have to watch the DVD! I did hear one story that I found very amusing. As most of you know John, George and Ringo all had their solo spots in A Hard Day’s Night, without the other Beatles. The idea was to introduce The Beatles to their audience as individuals. You are probably wondering why Paul McCartney didn’t get a solo spot. Well, he did actually film one, but it got cut. The scene was based in a rehearsal studio for actors with Paul and actress Isla Blair. The official reason given for the scene being cut was that it didn’t fit with the rest of the film. However the version I heard was that Isla was wearing a low-cut period costume and Paul was staring down her cleavage! It wasn’t noticed until it was too late to re-shoot so Paul lost his solo scene!

For lunch Martin took the crew to the nearby pub The Turk’s Head. This too was A Hard Day’s Night location. It was the pub which Ringo enters during his walkabout and disrupts all the pub games. The bar looks remarkably similar to this day. Winchester Hall, the function room of the pub, was used by The Beatles for an end of filming party and it was here the crew enjoyed a grand meal and further reminiscences.

One lady I met that day was Betty Glasow, who was The Beatles hairdresser on both A Hard Day’s Night and Help. She had with her a photo album filled with amazing mementos, including a photo of the Fabs in Help signed by all four with funny captions. I couldn’t help noticing that George signed as George ‘Dandruff’ Harrison! She also had a signed first edition of A Spaniard in the Works, signed with a special message from John, together with a lock of his hair. When I told her how much I thought her collection was worth she was amazed.

The next day it was the turn of the actors in the film. Those present included John Junkin, who played Shake, Anna Quayle, who played Millie -the lady who engages in a conversation with John in the corridor, dancer Lionel Blair, Jeremy Lloyd, who is seen dancing with the Fabs in the nightclub scene. He was the one teaching Ringo the Jumping dance! Another great character I met was David Janson. He played the young boy that Ringo bumps into when walking by the river.

As with the crew – everyone was interviewed both separately and in a roundtable setting. And they all had lunch at the Turk’s Head pub.

I had a wonderful time meeting all these wonderful characters and hearing their stories of how one of my favourite film was made.

You’ll see it all on the DVD!

PS Betty Glasow later sold her collection at auction. The signed copy of a Spaniard in the Works sold for £24,000!

November 9th 1966 – When John met Yoko….?

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!

The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery
The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery

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.

Yoko Ono demonstrating 'Ceiling Painting'
Yoko Ono demonstrating ‘Ceiling Painting’

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.

Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail
Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail

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?

An ad for Yoko exhibition - showing the start date of November 8th
An ad for Yoko exhibition – showing the start date of November 8th

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!’

Update

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

 

November 4th 1963 -the Beatles By Royal Command!

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.”

The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The commemorative booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance
The speical booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance

26th October 1965 – the Beatles Receive their MBE Medals from the Queen

October 26th 1965 – The Beatles receive their MBE medals from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Beatles arrive at the palace in John’s black Rolls Royce. 2 years later, John had it repainted in very bright psychedelic colours. I wonder how that would have looked arriving at Buckingham Palace! 
In this clip below the car is seen leaving from outside Waddon House, William’s Mews, Knightsbridge, where George and Ringo had lived for a time. Paul and Ringo are picked up from Ringo’s flat in Montagu Square, where they are photographed on the steps, waiting for the car to arrive.
The car is driven by Beatles chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

After they left the Palace, the Beatles attended a press conference at the Savile Theatre, which had just been bought by Brian Epstein.

Many years later, John Lennon told a French newspaper journalist that the Beatles had smoked a marijuana joint each in the Buckingham Palace toilets to calm their nerves. This ‘confession’ was probably one of John’s ways of destroying the Beatles ‘nice guy’ image when the Beatles were breaking up, and almost certainly didn’t happen. John then sent his MBE back to the Queen, in protest of Britain’s involvement in the Biafra war and America in Vietnam.

Paul McCartney – Different Decade, Same Jacket!

Much was made about Paul McCartney wearing the same jacket to the premiere of ‘The Beatles 8 Day’s a Week, the Touring Years, than he wore to the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night in 1964.

It is not unusual for Paul to keep his jackets for a long time. Here are 2 pics I took of Paul, the first in 1983, the second in 1997,a and he’s wearing the same Jacket in both!

Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!

34 Montagu Square – Home to Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix!

The ground floor and basement apartment of 34 Montagu Square looks like any other in the area. However, the Chicago Tribune has called it ‘The ultimate rock n roll pad’. That’s because it had associations with three Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Chas Chandler and god knows how many other rock stars who passed though it non-descript front door.

Ringo Starr moved into the apartment in 1965 with new wife Maureen. The area has always been quite hip and Ringo had Mick Jagger and his then girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton as virtual next door neighbours – they lived just around the corner in Bryanston Mews East.

Maureen was heavily pregnant when they moved in and gave birth to her first son, Zak, at Queen Charlotte’s hospital, Hammersmith, on 13th September 1965. Alf Bicknell, the Beatles chauffeur, remembers getting a call from Ringo at 2am that morning to come to collect Maureen from Montagu Square and take her to the hospital.

ringomaureen2

Ringo and Paul, who lived in nearby Wimpole Street, left from 34 Montagu Square to go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE medals, together with John and George.

Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen
Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen

The flat was decorated by Brian Epstein’s interior designer, Ken Partridge, in early 60s camp pop star style with purple watered-silk wallpaper, silk curtains and lead-streaked mirrors.

Ringo moved out of Montagu Square after only a few months and into a large house in Weybridge, but kept hold of the apartment as a London base and also so friends could use it. In 1966 Paul McCartney used the basement of the apartment to build a small recording studio.

In his book Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles recalled that Paul was getting friendly with members of the avant garde and underground art movements. Paul wanted to start a facility for poets and avant garde musicians to record their work. That way a lively exchange of tapes would happen between these people. Paul often let his friends such as author William Burroughs, art gallery owner Robert Fraser, and filmmaker Anthony Balch use the studio to make their weird experimental recordings. Paul also used the studio to work on his own songs such as Eleanor Rigby. The tape perator of the studio was Ian Sommerville, a good friend of Barry Miles. Ian moved into the flat with his boyfriend Alan. In the end the idea for the studio fell through, as Ian got the idea the studio was only for Paul McCartney. The equipment was removed and Ian moved out of the flat.

On 6th December 1966 Ringo let the apartment to Chas Chandler, the former bass player of the Animals. Chas had just discovered a guitarist in a small club in Greenwich Village, New York, and decided to become his manager and bring him to England. His name was Jimi Hendrix. When Chas moved into Montagu Square with his girlfriend, Lotta, Jimi and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, moved in too.

Jimi and Kathy had lots of rock star friends and would invite them to Montagu Square for parties. They also had a rather stormy relationship. After one spectacular row Kathy stormed out and didn’t return until the next day. When she came back she asked Jimi what he’d been doing while she was away. Jimi handed her a piece of paper with the lyrics of a song he’d written called The Wind Cries Mary. Mary was Kathy’s middle name, which she hated and Jimi only used it to annoy her.

After a while the neighbours started complaining about the noise coming from the flat and Jimi and Kathy were asked to leave.

 

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montague Square
Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

After Jimi and Kathy moved out, the apartment was used by Lillian Powell, Cynthia Lennon’s mother. That arrangement changed when Cynthia caught John with Yoko Ono at their house in Weybridge, called ‘Kenwood’. Cynthia briefly moved in with her mother. Cynthia went on holiday to Italy, but was shadowed by a private detective, hired by John. Within five minutes of her arrival back at Montagu Square there was a knock on the door and a solicitor handed her a writ for divorce, citing HER adultery. Cynthia immediately counter-sued.

Finally, John moved out of Kenwood and into the Montagu Square apartment and Cynthia moved briefly back to Kenwood, which was eventually sold as part of the divorce settlement.

Soon after arriving in Montagu Square John and Yoko asked Apple assistant Tony Bramwell to come to the flat with a camera and go away before any pictures were taken. They then photographed themselves naked and put the pictures on the cover of their LP Unfinished Music Volume One, better known as Two Virgins.

A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)
A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)

Nudity on LP covers was certainly not common and when the Chairman of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood, was shown the photos, he was horrified. John and Yoko were summoned to explain themselves. When John was asked about his motives, he said it was artistic – shocking people was an art form. At this Sir Joe got really angry, he said to John, ‘If you were doing this for art you could at least put some better looking bodies on the cover – why not get Paul to do it – or use statues from a park!’

Time Out later lampooned the Two Virgin’s cover picture and drugs bust on one of their famous covers. Over John’s ‘private parts’ is a sticker that says ‘Member of the British Empire’ – the name of the medal the Beatles were given a few years earlier. Coming out of John’s mouth is a speech balloon that says ‘It’s no good officer – it won’t stand up in court!’

A few weeks later the apartment was raided by the police and John and Yoko were arrested for possession of cannabis. Apparently John received a telephone call from a journalist friend to tell him the police were going to come, so he called his old friend Pete Shotton to help him clear the apartment of anything incriminating.

The police still found some cannabis in the apartment. John later said the drugs could have been planted by the police – in fact the leader of the police team Sgt Norman Pilcher was later arrested himself for perverting the course of justice. It was also very suspicious that a press photographer was present to take a picture of John being led out of his flat by the police.

John being led away by the police from Montagu Square
John being led away by the police from Montagu Square

At the time Yoko was heavily pregnant with John’s child. However, in November 1968 Yoko was rushed from the apartment to hospital where she suffered a painful miscarriage.

John decided to plead guilty to the drugs charge to keep Yoko off the charge, as she could have been deported if found guilty of drugs possession. Also the police said they would drop the obstruction charges. John was only fined about £100 and thought it was the end of the matter but, when John and Yoko moved to America in 1971 the conviction came back to haunt him. He wanted to stay in the States, but the Immigration Service tried to deport him because of
the conviction.

Later it emerged that the Nixon administration were illegally trying to get John out of the country, as John was campaigning against the Vietnam war. John’s fight to stay in America lasted for four years until he was finally given his Green Card in 1976.

Regretably, after John’s conviction Ringo was forced by the landlords to sell the apartment, so ending the Beatles’ brief but extremely eventful time here.

In October 2010 Yoko Ono unveiled an English Heritage Blue Plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square. I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling. Hundreds of fans gathered to hear Yoko make a short speech, along with Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, and members of English Heritage, who sponsor the plaques.

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

 

ebookmontagueplaque

The day before the unveiling, I was lucky enough to go into the apartment, and was interviewed about the history of the apartment for a DVD.

Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square
Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square

 

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

The article is adapted from Richard’s book ‘Guide to the Beatles’ London’ which is available from http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter

Ocober 22nd 1999 – Inside Abbey Road Studios

A great memory from 1999. I was asked to do a special Beatles London tour for DJs from MJI. Later, they were broadcasting Live from Studio One at Abbey Road Studios to all over the US. I was invited along and was interviewed live on about 15 US radio stations in 3 hours!!! I started on stations based on the east coast and working my way west – due to time zones :>) I was in illustrious company too!

 

Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios - including me!
Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios – including me!