I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on TV a number of times on my Beatles Walks. The best time though was very special, when I did a tour INSIDE Abbey Road Studios for Gene Simmons and his family, for their TV show ‘Gene Simmons Family Jewels’.
For the show they are ‘on holiday’ in the UK and I gave them a tour of Studio Two at Abbey Road – where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs. Normally it is impossible to get into the Studios – but Gene’s crew hired Studio Two for the morning. Even though I’d been in Studio Two many times I still get a thrill being inside the place where The Beatles recorded so many songs. I’d also never done a tour inside the Studio, so I knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience.
I was expecting the family to be rather weird and the whole experience very daunting. In Kiss, Gene was known as ‘Demon’ and supposedly spitting blood on stage, however, in real life he is a real gentleman. He is also an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable Beatles fan – something that surprised me as Kiss are know for their heavy rock.
The day of the tour saw London’s first snow of the winter and was freezing cold. I was glad most of the morning was going to be spent inside.
I left for the studios early as I was worried transport would be affected but luckily the buses weren’t too bad and I arrived in good time. When Gene and his family arrived I was asked by their TV crew to meet them on the famous steps of the Studios and lead them inside. They greeted me very courteously and any nerves I had about the occasion disappeared.
We first entered the control room in Studio Two where I told them a bit about The Beatles recording history in the Studios. I was surprised that Gene knew the name of Andy White, the session drummer that played on Love Me Do. Gene told the story of how he met Ringo at a party at literally picked him up. He then demonstrated on me!
We then went down into the Studio itself and I pointed out the various instruments in there which the Beatles used on their sessions, including the piano used on Lady Madonna. Nick played some very nice tunes on the piano. We were amazed to see that the piano had cigarette burns all over it – including on the piano keys! Gene expressed surprise that smoking was allowed in the studios – it seems the whole family are against smoking (another surprise!)
The two hours went by much too quickly. Gene and his family were some of the nicest people I’ve had on a tour. The experience obviously meant more to Gene than the rest of the family, but they all treated me with great respect and listened with interest. They were also just as nice when the cameras were switched off. I told Gene about my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ and Gene asked me for a copy, and for me to sign it for him! I was going to ask for his autograph.
Here is that episode: http://www.aetv.com/shows/gene-simmons-family-jewels/videos/25-british-invasion
For more details on my London Beatles Walks see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Give My Regards to Wimpole St
In an extract from his book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ Richard Porter tells of the London street where Paul McCartney lived with the Asher Family, and dreamed the tune of ‘Yesterday’
Wimpole Street is a very quiet street in the centre of the medical quarter of London, close to Harley Street – most of the houses are divided into consulting rooms for specialist doctors. It also has literary connections – Elizabeth Barrett lived at number 50 Wimpole Street. She married fellow poet Robert Browning at St Marylebone Church after being kept virtual prisoner in the house for most of her life.
John and Yoko were big fans of the Brownings. Yoko wrote Let Me Count the Ways based on a poem by Elizabeth and John wrote Grow Old With Me, based on a poem by Robert. John apparently saw him and Yoko as re-incarnations of the Brownings. For Christmas 1980 John bought Yoko an original handwriting of Elizabeth Barrett with a portrait framed next to it – he was never able to give them personally to her though…
The quietness of Wimpole Street was interrupted in 1962 when gun shots rang out in nearby Wimpole Mews. 17 Wimpole Mews was the home of Dr Stephen Ward, a society osteopath. Ward had many female friends he liked to introduce to his high society male friends. For instance, he introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo, Minister of War and also to Major Ivanov of the Russian KGB. Keeler had simultaneous affairs with these two men – at the height of the cold war.
On 14 December 1962 a spurned lover of Keeler, Johnny Edgecombe, arrived at Wimpole Mews with a gun and started shooting. The story was all over the press the next day and finally led to the uncovering of the ‘Profumo Affair’ which led to the resignation of Profumo, the ultimate downfall of the Government and the suicide of Steven Ward. It was alleged by Philip Norman, in his book ‘Shout!’ that the press saw Beatlemania as an antidote to the revelations around the Profumo affair.
Number 57 Wimpole Street is now a private clinic. It just also happens to be where Lennon/McCartney wrote their first US number one and Paul dreamt the tune of the most covered song of all time. The house was bought by the Asher family in 1957 when they moved from a flat in Great Portland Street. Dr Richard Asher was an eminent doctor who specialised in mental health. His wife Margaret was professor of music at Guildhall School of music. She taught a young man called George Martin how to play the oboe. They had three children: Claire and Jane were both actresses and son Peter was a singer.
Jane Asher started acting when only 5 years old and made her film debut soon afterwards. Later, at aged 14, she was the youngest actress to play Wendy in Peter Pan. By 1963 she was a regular on the TV show Juke Box Jury – where celebrities reviewed the records of the week.
On 18 April 1963 Jane did a photographic assignment for Radio Times at a concert called ‘Swinging Sounds ’63’ at the Albert Hall. She sat in the audience with a reporter and a photographer who recorded her reactions. When the Beatles came on stage she screamed. Jane met all four Beatles backstage – apparently all four were very impressed by her – especially George, it was alleged later – but she got on better with Paul. They were seen in public together for the first time shortly afterwards and from then on Paul was continually asked whether he was going to marry Jane. Paul even made fun of this in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ when answered ‘No, we’re just good friends’ even before the question was asked.
Paul got on very well with the Asher family and jumped at the chance when the Ashers asked him if he would like to make their family home his London base. Paul was given a room at the top of house at the back – it was almost a self contained apartment with its own bathroom. Paul once compared it to an artist’s garret. It had a bed, easy chair, record player and small piano. Under the bed Paul kept his gold records and his MBE! Peter Asher had the room next door and Claire and Jane’s rooms were below. Even though Paul and Jane had separate rooms they regularly slept together – the Asher’s were a very liberal family.
Paul and Jane were often apart. Paul, of course, was often on tour with The Beatles and Jane was often away on acting assignments. Paul seemed to resent that Jane wasn’t there all the time. Jane certainly inspired Paul to write songs: Here There and Everywhere, And I Love Her and Every Little Thing were all about Jane. However, the relationship wasn’t all champagne and roses, he also wrote I’m Looking Through You, For No One and You Won’t See Me about her.
Mr and Mrs Asher were very protective of Paul. Paul’s fans heard where he was living soon after he moved in, and fans camped outside the house almost continually. To help Paul get in and out of the house Dr Asher devised an elaborate escape route for Paul. He had to climb onto a foot wide parapet along to the right and into the flat of a retired colonel at No. 56. He then went right down to the basement flat of a young couple who used to let him through their kitchen window and into their garage. Then Paul went out of the street door by 10 Browning Mews and did a left through an archway into New Cavendish St.
Mrs Asher offered to teach Paul how to read and write music notation but after a few lessons Paul gave up. He still can’t read music notation to this day. However, Mrs Asher did succeed is teaching Paul how to play the recorder. Paul can be heard playing the instrament on Fool on the Hill.
When the nearby Post Office Tower was being built Dr. Asher watched the building’s progress from his bedroom window. Just before it opened he wrote to the owners, the GPO, asking if he could visit the tower with his family. He turned up with Peter and Jane and Paul McCartney! The owners were amazed to see two world famous pop stars and a world famous actress in their new building.
Paul immediately struck up a friendship with Peter and his friend Gordon Waller who sang under the name Peter and Gordon and wrote A World Without Love especially for them. It reached number one in the UK charts. Peter also became involved in a project to start an art gallery and bookshop with two friends Barry Miles and John Dunbar. Paul was also very interested in the project and donated money so it could open. It was called the Indica Art Gallery and was where John met Yoko in November 1966.
Mrs Asher’s music room was in the basement of the house. John Lennon was a regular visitor to the house and he and Paul regularly used the music room to write songs. It was not long after Paul moved in that they wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand down there. Gordon Waller remembers that John was on a pedal organ and Paul on a piano. John later remembered they wrote the song ‘eyeball to eyeball’. They had the ‘you’ve got that something’ line when Paul hit a key on the piano and John looked up and said ‘That’s It!’ – they had the link that made the song.
Early one morning Paul woke up in his bedroom with a tune in his head. He went straight over to the piano he had by the bed to play it. He called the tune Scrambled Eggs. Paul initially thought he was remembering the tune from someone else’s and went around his friends asking if they recognised it. No-one did so Paul finally realised that he had dreamt the tune and wrote some proper words to it. He called it Yesterday.
When Paul actually had this dream seems to confuse him; in two different authorised biographies Paul gives different dates. In Yesterday and Today he said it was late 1963 – in Many Years From Now he states it was 1965.
In 1965 Paul bought a house in Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, just around the corner from Abbey Road. Paul took some time to do it up, with Jane’s help, and they both moved in a few months later. However, they started to drift apart – especially when Jane went on tour to America with the Bristol Old Vic touring company. When Jane came back, Paul was heavily into drugs and Jane didn’t join in.
Paul and Jane announced their engagement on Christmas Day 1967, but broke up in May 1968. Paul wanted Jane to give up her acting career and start a family but she refused.
Tragically, Dr Asher committed suicide at 57 Wimpole Street in 1969. Not surprisingly, the Asher family moved out soon afterwards.
Jane is continuing her very successful acting career and also had her own lifestyle TV programme on the BBC called ‘Good Living’. She is married to cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who made a satirical papier mache model of The Beatles that was shown on the front cover of Time magazine in 1967.
Peter Asher worked for a time as A and R man of Apple records. Allegedly, when Paul broke up with Jane he stormed into Apple the next morning to sack Peter as an act of revenge – Paul later changed his mind but soon after Peter left Apple with his discovery James Taylor and masterminded his career, along with that of Linda Rondstadt. Peter is now a top record company executive in America.
A few years ago I had the unique opportunity of visiting the house with a reporter from the Times newspaper, who was writing an article on it. The house, at the time, was owned by John Carlotta, who was the former manager of Deep Purple. Throughout the house were many gold records for songs like ‘Smoke on the Water’.
57 Wimpole Street was sold for about two million pounds in the early 2000’s and is now a private clinic.
57 Wimpole Street is one of the places visited on Richard Porter’s London Beatles Walks. For more information see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Richard’s book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ is available at the Beatles Coffee Shop, St John’s Wood.
Robert Whitaker was the official photographer of The Beatles from 1964-1966 and went on many tours with them. His most notorious picture appeared on the US Album ‘Yesterday and Today’ – the infamous ‘Butcher’ cover.
Here, Bob tells Richard and Irina Porter about touring with the Beatles, and how the ‘Butcher’ cover came about.
I believe you first met the Beatles in Australia on their 1964 tour. How did that come about?
I had to photograph Brian Epstein for a newspaper. There weren’t that many photographers who wanted to photograph Brian Epstein. So all of a sudden I am in the hotel, all of a sudden I met the Beatles.
In Australia they had thousands of people outside the hotel.
Two hundred thousand people.
What was it like getting into the hotel?
I cannot remember now, but I think there was a barrier, there was access to the hotel for the guests. You had to have a permission to go. The concierge would know that you had things to do. They knew we were coming, so we got in.
You met the Beatles soon after you met Brian, did you?
Yes, the same day. No, the next day.
Then Brian employed you as a photographer after that.
– He wanted to manage me. I said, ‘I don’t want to be managed’. Then six months later I thought, maybe, I do. So I came to England.
You were with them for nearly 2 years.
1964 to 66. Two and a half years.
You went on quite a few tours, did you?
Yeah, I went to America round England, I photographed them in studios here. Then we went to Germany and Japan. That was the end.
This exhibition is on the Japan tour. How different that was compared to, say, America, the year before? Was it more restrained?
I think it was the most elegantly promoted exhibition of their work, their music, that was prepared for them. America’s pretty rough and ready – ‘You are here, sing!’ Japan, they really seem to have great respect, so they had a beautiful hotel, nice cars to drive to and from the hotel. Budokan was a nice place. The promoters were very good. And the concerts were fairly restrained because I do not think Beatles fans in Japan knew quite how to scream like in Europe and America. So the Beatles could hear themselves singing. And they realised they were not singing in tune.
They were not used to it, were they?
No, they were not.
Were you aware, although the security was very tight because of the death threats, playing in the Budokan, the big martial arts place.
Yes, I’ve just been told it was a judo place, not sumo. I always thought it was sumo.
The Beatles were not allowed out of their hotel.
It was not so much a question of not being allowed. I think what the promoter and the security had thought, which is probably bullshit, that they might be mobbed, they might have somebody walk up and blast them
As they did eventually, kill John.
In the Anthology they talked about how the Beatles were regimented, how they had to be at a certain place at the certain time to the minute. Were you aware of that at the time?
It is evident in some of the photographs around the corner and in the window. They had to be there by the second. Of course, they did not adhere to that. They had to go on stage at a certain time, and it did not actually matter what time they arrived. They knew they were going on stage. I cannot really answer all these questions because I am not a Beatle, in fairness to them.
Was it evident to you at the time that they were fed up with touring?
When we got to The Philippines. Then again the whole thing changed again. They’d never been spat at or shoved around, – ‘pick up your own amplifiers, who the hell are you?’. I remember being in the aeroplane and them being very upset what had happened – and it wasn’t really their fault.
You had exclusive access to them in their hotel rooms. Did you become good friends of theirs?
With John – we’d see each other before and after – we were always good friends. Paul in Anthology I thought wrote very well about the ‘butcher sleeve’. George was always a bit against it. Ringo was always good fun. We all got on – we were all close in age. I was about 6 months older than John.
There are some very good photos in your book of The Beatles painting together. Was that their idea?
Pretty well, yes, what happened was that because they were impounded in their hotel, Paul had asked for some paints and started painting all sorts of things. The promoter suggested they all did a piece of artwork together that could be given away to charity. He provided all the paint all the brushes beautiful paper and we stuck a lamp in the middle of this paper – it was the only source of light I had to work with. It took two nights and days to do it. Whilst they were doing it they were playing an acetate of Revolver and deciding on the order of the tracks.
I wanted to ask you about two people who passed away recently that I’m sure you knew – Alf Bicknell and Alistair Taylor.
Alistair’s dead? I saw Alistair in Liverpool last year and he was very sad he wasn’t mentioned once in Anthology even though he did do a great deal of work for The Beatles. He was in Brian’s office and they didn’t see what output that Alistair put in.
Alf and I were in a car together in Manila and I’m screaming away and I’ve got a gun stuck in my neck. Guns don’t bother me and they weren’t going to shoot me – but Alf was panicking. I was very fond of Alf and I saw him last year and spoke to him about 3 weeks before he died because he asked me for some photos of him with The Beatles and they are not that easy to find. I’ve got one or two with him. There’s one of him on a plane with them.
I’m very sad to hear of Alistair – really liked him.
Do you ever see Paul and Ringo?
I haven’t seen Paul since 1966. I saw Ringo at the Genesis book launch recently. I hope to see Paul one day as I hope to congratulate on all the good things he’s done since.
I wanted to ask about the infamous ‘Butcher Cover’. The picture was your idea, to show they were human….
To show they were flesh and blood – which is what they are. Some people would saw them as saints, which they weren’t. I also found that every time we got off the stage girls would have ripped them to bits, had they got the chance, torn them to pieces – that was something to do with the meat. The dolls are really little girls screaming away. There are a lot of false things there like false teeth, false dolls eyes. It was never meant to be the cover.
What is John’s idea to have it as the cover?
No, the images were snatched as soon as I had finished them and sent to America without asking me how I wanted to see it. The sausages are meant to be an umbilical chord coming out of a woman and the whole thing would be put inside the womb of a woman. All you would have had on the record cover was a breast, nipple and big tummy. Inside the tummy is The Beatles holding the umbilical chord. Around all of that would have been transfers of little people blowing trumpets, as they do in frescos. There is another picture of George banging nails into John’s head – he would have had wood grain put over his head so he would be a piece of wood – George would be banging nails into a piece of wood. Another of Ringo being unpacked from a box. Written on the box is ‘2 million’. He would have been a piece of alabaster plaster. The whole thing would have been falseness, dummies, unreality. The back cover would have been the butcher picture, about 2 inches square and the rest of it would have been gold, like a Russian icon that canonises them. I was thinking of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and finding people worshipping the golden calves – like people did to The Beatles, treating them like gods, but they are not.
What was your reaction to the furore around the sleeve?
I thought it was not my fault! If they had asked me what the artwork was I don’t think it would have been that frightening. I don’t blame people for being upset about it. But as it turns out it actually released John to say that they were pissed off looking like pretty little boys all the time and that they were human beings. It gave them a release.
There is a lot written about the ‘butcher’ sleeve and very little I’ve said about it. I’ve never written anything by hand. It’s nearly 40 years ago since I did it and it’s hard to recreate the train of thought when I did it.
You were involved in Oz magazine later
Yes, I knew Martin Sharpe and we did the D’Isreali Gears cover together. Martin came to England and we lived together in a studio. Richard Neville then came over and we all knew each other and we decided to start Oz here. It was a whole new episode, but a great one – it was great fun, pioneering satire, taking the piss out of the British Empire.
From 1966 to 1970 I went around the world about 15 times doing various assignments, like Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly. I lived with Salvador Dali. The Beatles were a strong 2 ½ years out of 10 years of work. They fill up a third of my archive.
How do you feel about being associated with The Beatles and your other work not so well known.
I did an exhibition where we put some Vietnam pictures next to Beatles ones, Cream, Jagger etc. For the first time I was actually asked questions about being a photographer and not about The Beatles. I get very upset when I give an interview and all I’m asked is what did The Beatles think – as I am not a historian or a Beatle.
What was the most memorable thing about working with The Beatles.
To be able to answer that and pick out one thing I like is difficult as I’ve never done anything I didn’t like. To say is this picture better than another one is hard. I enjoyed photographing Salvador Dali better than The Beatles because he was more humorous. Although I learnt about photo journalism because of my time with The Beatles and recording what they did.
Richard Porter is author of the book ‘Guide to the Beatles’ London’ conducts regular Beatles tours of London. For more information please see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
On October 5th 1962, the Beatles first single ‘Love Me Do’ was released. On the Parlophone ‘red label’, it featured the Beatles recording made on September 4th 1962, with Ringo Starr on drums. This was significant, as originally, the Beatles producer George Martin wasn’t happy with Ringo’s drumming that day, and had the Beatles remake ‘Love Me Do’ on September 11th with session drummer Andy White on drums. Ringo was given a tambourine to bang, much to his ever lasting chagrin. When it came to the original release though, Ringo’s version was chosen.
Things became confusing months later when Parlophone changed its record label to a black one, and at the same time, substituted the Andy White version of ‘Love Me Do’ as the single. This led to a big mistake decades later. On October 5th 2012, EMI were due to re-release ‘Love Me Do’ on its 50th anniversary, in an identical packaging and recording to the original release. We were sent copies of the new single to sell in the Beatles Coffee Shop. However, just 2 days before the release date, we were send an email from EMI to say the release had been cancelled to a ‘production problem’ and that we should send the singles back. Curious to what the problem was, I took a copy home and played it. The ‘problem’ was obvious right from the first few seconds – it was the wrong version of ‘Love Me Do’! They had used the September 11th with Andy White on drums.
Because of the problem, the re-release of ‘Love Me Do’ was delayed for several weeks, so missed the 50th anniversary. Rather than send all the copies we had of the rejected version back, I kept a couple. (shhh, don’t tell anyone!)
There have been some more succesful celebrations of the release of ‘Love Me Do’ on its anniversaries. On the 30th anniversary, I was invited to a special party in Studio Two at Abbey Road. As well as celebrating the anniversary, the British Council launched its new Beatles exhibition, including a video that included a section of me and members of the London Beatles Fanclub having a meeting at the Liverpool Beatles convention.
At the party, Apple MD Neil Aspinall, and reps from EMI, cut the 30th anniversary cake, which had been baked by Paul McCartney’s ex, Jane Asher!
October 4th 1963 – The Beatles made their debut appearance on Ready, Steady, Go!
Broadcast on the ITV network, initially just in London, RSG! was British television’s leading pop music show at the time. The 4 October 1963 episode was broadcast live, with the performers miming to their hits, a typical situation for the time.
The show was recorded at Television House on London’s Kingsway. During the afternoon The Beatles rehearsed for the cameras, and recording took place from 6.15pm onwards. The Beatles mimed to Twist and Shout, She Loves You, and I’ll Get Tou and were interviewed by guest host, Dusty Springfield, and host Keith Fordyce. Also, Paul McCartney judged four teenage girls miming to Brenda Lee’s ‘Let’s Jump the Broomstick, choosing 13-year-old Melanie Coe as winner. Three years later, after Coe’s disappearance from her family made the front page of the Daily Mirror. McCartney used the article as the basis for ‘She’s Leaving Home’.
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.
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 :>)
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!!!
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!
A few years ago, I was privileged to meet Jeni Crowley. She worked for the Beatles Fan Club in London, was on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour coach, and worked at the Beatles Apple Shop on Baker Street. Jeni agreed to give me an interview about her time with the Fabs, the first time she had been interviewed by anyone about this incredible time in her life. Here it is below:
Were you a Beatles fan from an early age?
The first time I heard them was Love me Do. I lived in London. A friend of mine went down to the fan club and told me they needed help at any time. I used to go after school or in the school holidays. We used to go to the top floor and there would be sacks and sacks of mail and my job was to sort it out into different areas. Later on I was promoted and came down to the main floor and was answering the phones etc. As you know there are a lot of forged autographs around, done by the fan club people, and I became John Lennon! I was doing it since I was around 13 years old.
Who was the boss?
There was a lady know as Anne Collingham, Who was really a lady called mary Cochran, and Bettina Rose. They were given names. I don’t know why. When I came along my real name was Jean, but when the vacancy came along, there was already a lady called Maureen, and they said you can’t have Jean and Maureen, is there another name you go by? An aunt of mine used to call me Jennifer, so I became Jeni.
We ran the Fan Club as Maureen and Jeni. We used to write the newsletters. The offices in Monmouth Street were above a dirty bookshop and that’s where I used to go in my school uniform and change in the ladies loo on the first floor.
It closed and went to Argyle Street, then went back to Liverpool with Freda Kelly, so the actual fanclub in London folded, and Freda took it back over, and the only London area club was the one I was running with Maureen. In 1967 I suddenly got a message that Brian Epstein wanted to see me. I’d been told you don’t cross Brian Epstein. I didn’t know what I’d done. Maureen had given an interview to the press. It was around the time The Beatles had said they weren’t going to tour any more. The press had come to my house to ask me what I thought about this – and I said it was up to the Beatles. Maureen had been really irate about it though. Brian called me in to say ‘ What about this article? And I said I didn’t know anything about it. I said that I didn’t say anything to the press but the press said I was devastated and was weeping etc. Brian was brilliant, he told me how to handle the press, what to say and that if anything came up in the future I was to go to him. However, he called Maureen in and sacked her!
Brian was very protective of the Beatles.
Within a few weeks Brian had died and Magical Mystery Tour came up. I had been doing some publicity for the Bee Gees with Tony Barrow. Tony sent a telegram to the fan club area secretaries, including me, asking if we’d like to be in this film! We didn’t have a phone at the time. I ran to the phone box and said ‘No I can’t – I’m going back to school on Monday!’ I was 16 and was going to go to art college. But my dad came in from work and read the telegram, and said if you want to go, you should go. He was a big music fan. I ran back to the phone box to ask if anyone had taken my place. They said no, so on the Monday we just met up. Of course we had no mobile phones, noone knew where we were going or who with. They could have lost their daughter, but didn’t seem too bothered!
I had wanted to be a journalist and above the fan club was Disc and Music Echo, and there was a journalist there called Christine, who gave me a press pass. I used to go to Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops and interview various people. So I had met various pop stars and was quite blasé about it. My autograph book is chocker! So to meet the Beatles wasn’t such a big deal. When I did meet them Paul was the first one – we were waiting for the coach in Alsop Place, he just said Hello. The other 3 got on at Virginia Water and we just struck up conversations. The first thing I really remember was going to a restaurant, just after we picked them up. It seemed really posh to me. The four fan club secretaries sat apart in a corner by the door. I ordered a cheese sandwich. I waited and waited for it to come and it didn’t. On the way out George came along and said ‘Have you eaten?’ and I said no, my sandwich didn’t come. George went through the doors to the kitchen and brought the chef out and said ‘She ordered a cheese sandwich!’ – as if I was someone very special. I didn’t forget that. The next day we sat in different places on the coach and he came and sat next to me and we started talking about philosophy, India etc. That was me on the inside looking out. He said ‘I’ll show you what my life is like’ We were coming into the hotel in Newquay, and as we were coming along I saw a few people, and looked the other way and saw more people. As I turned back it was as if the pavement had opened up and people emerged hitting the side of the coach and banging in a frenzy. George looked at me and I was absolutely shocked and he said ‘Now do you see and that really hit me. I thought my goodness, this is their life, and in some ways I am responsible for this life as a fan. It was a strange way of living, but all they knew. I felt very honoured, looking out and being a part of this little set.
They made it up as they went along didn’t they?
We didn’t know what we were doing! Paul was in charge. Sylvia stayed behind at one stage with John and George to film on the beach, and I went off with Paul and Ringo, and there is a scene where I am sitting behind Ringo and his Aunt Jessie. Ringo was ad-libbing, and we were all laughing and Paul said ‘I don’t want you laughing! I had to sit there deadpan.
Paul was very professional and without any doubt was the leader. That really showed. I went to see Backbeat at your recommendation, and thought it was absolutely brilliant, and I could see then where Paul stood in the scheme of things and that’s how it was – Paul saying I want this to be a success, this is what we are going to do.
We saw two previews of Magical Mystery Tour, one just for the fan club secretaries, at which John and George came along too. A couple of days later there was a fancy dress party with everyone there, where it was shown again. I remember that at the party I really felt like a drink of water, and grabbed a glass, and it turned out to be vodka! I spent the first part of the party on the floor of the ladies loo! George’s mum took me under her wing and said ‘OK, I’m going to look after you now. She wrote letters to me later and said she was going to adopt me! The party was great, I got to dance with Lulu, Robert Morley played Father Christmas. He was a famous actor and I had to go and sit on his lap!
The first time to see Magical Mystery Tour on my own with my family around me, we were waiting for something like A Hard Day’s Night and it didn’t happen, and I remember feeling quite embarrassed as I didn’t know what it was about.
We had an open invitation to Abbey Road. On the last day of filming at West Malling, John said they were recording and we should come along whenever we liked! I checked it out with George and he said it was OK too. That was the first time I was in there watching and hearing them sing – I sat there and thought – ‘Wow – it the Beatles!
They were recording I Am the Walrus. I went in with John Lennon, and as I walked in I saw Cliff Richard and shouted at John ‘There’s Cliff!’ like a crazed fan.
I was sitting behind a soundproof screen and some girls came in. A little while later George came up to me, and asked if it was OK if your friends leave. I said ‘What friends?’ And they said those girls over there. I said I didn’t know them. They’d come in and said they were with me!
I fell asleep in the studio as it was very late at night – I heard someone say ‘She’s asleep!’ And it was Ringo. George came along with a cup of tea and some biscuits. It was 3 o’clock in the morning! George got me a taxi to make sure I got home. He gave me a kiss goodbye as I got into the taxi. The taxi driver got down to Trafalgar Square without saying a word, and he then said ‘Do you know that was one of the Beatles?’ I said ‘really? I thought it was the milkman!’
George used to talk to me about getting hold of a book called ‘Autobiography of a yogi. This was while we were still on Magical Mystery Tour.
There was one occasion when we were in Abbey Road and they were passing around joints. It was passed to me, but George took it out of my hands and said, “She doesn’t need it, she’s the only person who’s got the philosophy without the drugs. I was very touched he saw that in me. That’s a great memory carry with me.
George had asked me a few times what I was doing and I said I was still at school. He said ‘what do want to be at school for? He said to me why don’t I come to work at Apple? They had opened the shop, and Jenni Boyd was leaving, so by this time I said Oh, all right then, so I went to work in the Apple shop. I stayed there until the ‘great giveaway’. I went to Savile Row a few times too, and got given the ‘Two Virgins’ album for my 18th birthday. I left it on the train as I was too embarrassed to take it home! I gradually lost touch with the Beatles after that.
What was the Apple shop like?
‘Magic Alex’ was around with his ‘dream machine’ in the back room. It was a strange place. There was Caleb – The manager of the shop, and a few people who I wondered whether they should be there or not! The Fool came in quite regularly and made me a coat. They had a basement flat where they made some wonderful creations. The flat was in Montagu Square.
To get into the shop you had to hold a handle in the shape of a hand. George and Ringo came in a lot, and Yoko, and Kyoko, with her nanny. One day I was in the shop when Ringo came in. We were walking down the stairs and we realised it was like ‘Your Mother Should Know’ – we both starting singing it and he danced me down the stairs. Pattie and Jenni used to come in regularly. To me, though, it was just a job, not particularly out of the ordinary. It was the inside looking out thing again. The outside world looked freaky to us and we were protected.
Was it sudden when it closed down?
Yes, we didn’t know a thing! Though I’d had bad vibes – I was having my lunch break one day, when I felt that I must go home. I had this feeling that something awful was going to happen, but we had no idea. As I went out the door, John, Yoko and some others came in and ransacked the place, taking anything they wanted. The next day they just said to give everything away. I got up to serve someone and they took my chair! They said we could take anything before it goes. I got the doll. They were called Clarence and Clarissa, for some reason, and there was a baby Clarence and baby Clarissa. I had all four, but gave three of them away. Clarissa had red hair, like Jane Asher, they were based on the Beatles partners. I’ve still got Clarence. He’s a bit grubby now though.
I have one of the labels. It used to have clothes attached.
After the shop closed, I could have got a job at 3 Savile Row, but I wasn’t pushy and thought it was time to move on.