This was one of the most bizarre Beatles concerts. On 14th December 1963 the Beatles came to the Wimbledon Palais in Merton for an event billed as the ‘Southern Area Fan Club Convention’ of the Beatles Fan club. The Beatles Fan club now had over 80,000 paid up members and Beatles PR man Tony Barrow was worried that the Club wasn’t offering value for money. He therefore decided it would be good to turn this already booked one off gig into something special.
St Helier Hospital informed other local hospitals of the Beatles’ visit and warned that they wouldn’t be able to recruit extra staff. The Palais itself was making its own security arrangements and taking on extra people. St John’s ambulance brigade were also on standby.
For the first part of the day the Beatles sat behind the bar of the Palais as all the 3000 fans present filed past to shake their hand and get autographs. Most of the fans were well behaved, but some started screaming when meeting their heroes became too much.
After everyone had filed passed, the Beatles were to play a concert, but were amazed and angry when they saw they had to play in a huge steel cage – similar to those used to protect audiences from wild animals! Apparently the management were worried that the crowd might storm the stage and harm the Beatles – the very same fans that had been only inches from the group an hour earlier. They were also worried about the possible damage to their famous sprung dance floor.
At one point the fans were jammed up so hard against the steel cage that John Lennon quipped ‘If they push any harder they’ll come through as chips!’
In fact, the cage did begin to buckle under the strain. Police managed to push the crowd back as one brave man with a spanner and bodyguards did his best to tighten up the structure.
The Beatles themselves were outraged at the thought of playing in a cage – especially in front of their most loyal fans, some who had travelled over 100 miles for the event. In the end though the Beatles agreed to go on after apologising to the audience and the show finished without incident.
Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Raw footage of the Beatles at Wimbledon Palais https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmdHaMl9Irs
The history books will tell you that John Lennon was murdered on December 8th 1980 – but in the the UK it was early in the morning on the 9th.
I woke up late that morning, and didn’t put the radio on before going to school. I cycled to school as usual, not knowing anything had happened, only to be met by my best friend, and fellow Beatles fan, Dalton, who looked really angry, and was muttering about what some bastard had done to John Lennon. The then told me that John had been murdered. My first reaction was that it was another ‘Paul is dead’ type rumour, and that really he was OK.
However, that morning, the school assembly was taken by students, and they played ‘In My Life’ as a tribute to John. It’s there that the horrible fact really sank in. I also noticed that a lot of fellow students, and also staff, were moved by the announcement too.
After school, I went home and bought the evening newspapers, which had John on the front cover, and played Beatles/John songs for the rest of the day – only to stop to watch the many tributes to John on TV.
At the time, I had never been that affected by anyone’s death before.
Fast forward to 2007. My daughter Lilia, was born at approx 6am on December 9th. John Lennon was shot around 4am London time on December 9th 1980, and died about 2 hours later.
Take a sad song and make it better :>)
PS It certainly, wasn’t planned that Lilia was born at that time!
I wrote this piece for the British Beatles Fanclub a few years ago. It still holds true today…
Like Beatles fans everywhere, we look back on the events of 8th December 1980 with much sadness. John Lennon, a brilliant musician, songwriter and man of peace, was needlessly gunned down in front of his wife, outside his own home. We all know where we were when we heard the terrible news.
However, we would rather remember and celebrate the remarkable life of John Lennon, than dwell on his senseless death. We condemn those media outlets that are featuring interviews with John’s killer, who carried out the act to become famous himself. Giving him publicity now gives him exactly what he wanted. It says something about our society, that a man who was a nobody for most of his life, should become famous for killing someone who gave pleasure to millions of people throughout the world.
John Lennon said in an interview shortly before he died, “It’s hard to be Gandhi or Martin Luther King or to follow them. I don’t admire politicians particularly, I think they’re showbiz people, but people who put their thing on the line, like Gandhi, and threw the British out by not shooting anybody… those are the political people I admire. But I don’t want to be shot for it like Gandhi, and I don’t want to be shot for it like Martin Luther King. I don’t want to be a martyr, I don’t believe in martyrs, but I admire their stance.”
John Lennon was not a saint, he was a flawed human being like all of us. However, he lived his life to the full, and used his fame to send a message of peace and love. On 8th December we will be commemorating a great life, not a senseless death.
Blogger Richard Porter is a full time Beatles tour guide in London. For more details on his tours, see http://wwww.beatlesinlondon.com
In an article originally written for the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine, Esther Shafer writes about the Beatles Classic album, which they began recording 50 years ago….
An Appreciation of a Classic Album
Believe it or not, I got into a conversation with three Beatle fans who told me they don’t think Sgt. Pepper is a very good album. Now, this is as incomprehensible to me as someone saying they don’t like ice cream, chocolate, or blue skies. Totally blown away by this revelation, I was unable to come up with much more than ‘Why not’. got two basic reasons:
1) The songs on Sgt.Pepper aren’t as good as those on Revolver.
2) Being second generation fans, they were born too late to appreciate the mood of the times, and Sgt. Pepper is to them very much tied to the 60′ s.
I wentaway to collect my thoughts. Okay, so maybe there is such a thing as a generation gap. My mind drifted back to my youth, the summer of 67 when I was sixteen and Sgt. Pepper became permanently imprinted on my consciousness. If they don’t get the meaning of Sgt. Pepper, then I will try to help them.
So, for all of you poor lost souls, I am prescribing three exercises.
Exercise one Make believe it’s your first time.
Make absolutely sure you will be totally uninterrupted for 39 minutes and 52 seconds. Unplug the telephone, lock yourself in a room if you have to. Arrange your body in your best listening to albums position. It might be lying on your bed, on your couch, on the floor. Just make sure you have no limits to how loud you can play the music. If you have nervous parents, roommates, or neighbors, headphones are recommended. A CD would prevent you from having to turn the record over, but purists will want to listen to the album (a slightly scratched model from the 60’s is best with pops and clicks from well listened to tracks). Anyway, you will need an actual album for exercise three.
Choose a time of day when you are at your best. If it’s a nice day, open the windows, lie in a patch of sunlight, burn some incense, or surround yourself with flowers. Clear your mind of all thoughts, close your eyes, and just listen. Pay special attention to the way the instruments, sound effects and background vocals blend together. Relax and breathe deeply.
When you are finished listening to the entire album, stand up, stretch, and go outside. You should be in a somewhat sobered mood, after listening to A Day in the Life. Experience your surroundings, whatever they may be. You’re taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday. Really look at a flower or a tree. Look at the clouds in the sky. Watch a bird, or a squirrel. Even if your front door leads out to a busy street, that’s okay too. Listen to the traffic sounds, other peoples’ voices. Watch the people walking here and there. Imagine all the human dramas that are being played out around you. Watch an old couple, two young people flirting. Stay out as long as the mood maintains. You are finished. Good work.
Exercise Two Awakening the Unconscious
For the next few days, play the album as background music. Pretend it’s 1967. Anywhere you went, you could hear the sounds wafting out of windows, on car radios. Your friends are playing it on their stereo. They turn the record over and over, all day long. Your mind will tune out the parts you don’t really care for. Then all of a sudden, while doing something totally irrelevant, you will find yourself humming a tune, or remembering a guitar riff. Then you know you have accomplished your goal. Bonus points for remembering how one song blends into another. You’ve really made it when you can imagine the order of the songs without thinking too long about it.
Exercise Three – Traveling Through Space and Time.
It’s 1967. For months you have heard about the revolutionary design of the Beatles’ new album cover. Start with the front. Your eyes glance from one figure to another. You won’t be able to identify them all. Notice the lower half of the cover. You keep noticing more and more detail. Some of it looks very strange to you. Now open the cover. The Beatles look very different to you now. Their eyes look rounder, and you can see far, far into them. With their moustaches, they don’t look quite the same.
Now your eyes rest on their costumes. The shiny material, the decorations. Look how much they have changed since 1963. Thrown off the old dark suits, the same uniform. Now they are all wearing different colors. Let your mind wander back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up? A policeman with shiny brass buttons? A fireman in a big red hat? A meter maid? An Indian princess? Superman? How would you really like to present yourself to the world? Express the real you. Braid flowers in your hair. Grow your hair as long as you want. Embroider flowers and sew patches on your jeans. Wear slogans on your shirts. Throw away those uniforms of conformity and be yourself. The Beatles say it’s ok.
Now look at the back cover. Let your eyes wander over the lyrics. Think of the range of human emotion that is played out on this album. Things are getting better all the time – hard times are over. The heady excitement of flirtation Lovely Rita, Meter Maid. The kind of love our gradparents have – no passion, just contentment – When I’m 64. A bit lacking in self–confidence? – I Get by with Little Help From my Friends. The heartbreak of broken relationships – She’s Leaving Home. The mania that comes from living in a rat race – Good Morning, Good Morning – and then it all comes crashing down on your head with the realization that it’s all futile because it’ll all end anyway – A Day in the Life.
I could get really heavy now, and tell you how the album is a microcosm of life – or remind you that this was the first “theme” album, and therefore it can’t possibly be compared to Revolver. The songs on Revolver are precious and rare jewels – each stands alone and shines in it’s own perfection. But Sgt. Pepper is rather like a novel – you can’t just pick up the book, open it randomly, and read one chapter, expecting to grasp the story in it’s entirety. But by this time, you should be making profound statements and having mind-blowing revelations of your own. And if not – well, I’d love to turn you on . . .
December 5th 1967 – John Lennon and George Harrison, along with their wives, attended the party to celebrate the opening of the Beatles ‘Apple’ store on Baker Street. Paul was apparently ‘on holiday’ in Scotland, and Ringo was filming ‘Candy’.
As the store didn’t have an alcohol license, party goers were given Apple juice to drink :>)
Not surprisingly, the party was covered extensively in the media, including Pathe News, and in colour, though silent, by AP. Much of the media interest centred on the shop’s psychedelic mural, which was designed by ‘The Fool’ – who also designed the clothes sold inside.
The shop opened to the public 2 days later.
The mention of Czechoslovakia refers to the invasion of the country by the Russian Red Army. It seem the Hell’s Angel’s were going to take the whole army on!
Luckily, only 2 arrived at 3 Savile Row, but with an entourage of hangers on, and their bikes, which Apple paid to get shipped over!
Frisco Pete and Billy Tumbleweed made an impression at the Apple Christmas party when they stole the Christmas turkey and decided eat it themselves, rather than share it with the other guests. Peter Brown suggested to them that this was unfair – and was given a bloody nose by one of them.
At another point in the party, Neil Innes realised his five year old child was missing, and discovered him sitting on the knee of a hell’s angel being given a can of beer!
One of the biggest kicks I get out of doing my London Beatles Walks is meeting people with Beatles connections and hearing their stories. Some highlights include the day some of the original Apple Scruffs turned up. Amongst them was Gayleen Pease, who one day was outside Abbey Road Studios when Paul McCartney came out and said, “Can any of you sing?” Gayleen and her friend Lizzie said yes. Then Paul said, “Would you like to come inside and sing with us?” The Beatles were recording Across The Universe and wanted some female singers to do backing vocals. It was late at night and there were no professionals around. Therefore they asked the fans instead. It was great hearing this story from someone who was actually there.
Another such occasion happened recently. A guy from Sweden on the tour and he told me he sang on the video of Hey Jude in 1968! He kindly sent me an account of his wonderful day, plus the invite he received from Apple. Here is his story.
“I was 19 years old travelling in Europe by car, at this time I was staying in my car at a parking place located at Trafalgar Square.
I was invited by a girl from Apple, whom I met on Oxford Street, to perform Hey Jude together with the Beatles on 4th September 1968. Of course my answer was YES!
I had to sign an agreement saying that I’m not going to be paid (See picture)
We were a group of ordinary people asked to perform the last part of Hey Jude standing besides The Beatles for the BBC. David Frost was the host. There was a symphony orchestra playing too.
They recorded the song about five six times for the TV show and in the meantime they sang a lot of classical songs like Tea for Two, Tom Dooley etc. This went on from about 6pm to a couple of hours after midnight. They seemed to have very fun together and played and sang and joked a lot together. They talked to us now and then. Paul was gave a lot of hugs to young girls and George went around talking to people, as did Ringo. John was more quiet and very tight together with Yoko, except when he was performing Hey Jude.
Earlier they performed Revolution for TV without any audience, but they were watching and discussed the result of the video when we were there. I was standing close to John, watching the video for Revolution. He made many positive comments to us. (I still have my clothes, which have been touched by John. Crazy, but a big thing for me). George was smoking a lot (Kent). George gave his phone number to a guy from US who asked for an interview for his schoolwork. George was saying he was very occupied with an album at the moment but told him to call later.
I also met George Martin years later and he have signed the agreement.
Bengt would like to get in touch with any other people that were there that day. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Today we are remembering George Harrison, who passed away on this day in 2001. I was lucky enough to meet George on a couple of occasions – at the premiere of the ‘Handmade Films’ ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising’ and a few years after that, at a concert by Ravi Shankar. In each case, they were very public events, and I barely got to say ‘hello’ – I would have loved to have the opportunity to sit down and have a long conversation with him, but it was not to be.
Here are some photos I took on those occasions.
Alistair Taylor was Brian Epstein’s personal assistant at NEMS. He accompanied Brian to the Cavern Club when he met the Beatles for the first time. He then became an integral part of ‘NEMS Enterprises’ and after Brian’s death, General Manager of Apple. His time with the Beatles was only ended when he became one of the victims of Allen Klein. In this interview from 1995, Richard Porter talked to the Beatles ‘Mr Fixit’ at the Heroes of Alma pub, just around he corner from Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles used to drink after recording sessions. Before the interview, Alistair had gone to Abbey Road to be reunited with George Martin for the first time in many years.
What do you remember of your first meeting with the Beatles?
It was on November 9th 1961. He had imported the record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (really the Beatles) and it had sold like crazy. One day, Brian came in and said ‘Do you remember that record we sold by the Beatles?’ I said ‘Of Course’ and he said, ‘Well, they are playing at the Cavern Club today, at lunchtime, let’s go to lunch and call 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 4 or 5 numbers, and they were so charismatic and so exciting. What really struck us was the final number, which Paul announced that they had written. It was ‘Hello Little Girl’. It was a damn good number.
We went to lunch, and Brian asked my what I thought of them, and I said, ‘I thought 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!’ He said, If I do manage them, would you come in 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 two and a half per cent of the Beatles’ earnings’. I replied, ‘I couldn’t possibly 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 and that’s all.
That was my intro into the boys.
In the early days Brian wanted to clean up the Beatles act and put them in suits. Do you remember any friction about this?
Not at all – although it has often been said. I was surprised when John Lennon said about this in his ‘Rolling Stone’ interview. However, at that point, if Brian had said jump off the Liver Building into a bucket of custard, and you will have a hit record, they would have done it. It’s all very well resenting it in hindsight, but at the time they were more than happy.
You went to work for Pye for about a year and came back to your first taste of ‘Beatlemania’. What do remember about that day?
I had been back with Brian for about a week, and Brian said, ‘I’ve just spoken to the boys, and they’re thrilled you’re back with us. They’re playing at the East Ham Granada on Saturday night and will you go along because they’d love to see you again.
At the end of the show, they asked me back with them. They had a flat in Green Street at the time. I didn’t know what was going on, and when they closed with ‘Twist and Shout’ they had the limo by the stage door. I got in the front of the car, and Ringo got his foot stuck in the door. There were about 3,000 people lining the route and I could see the line of policeman breaking. Finally, we got Ringo in the car and it shot off and I saw the line had broken, and wondered what I’d let myself into. It was quite a terrifying experience and we hurtled into Green Street with a police car in front, and another behind. I got used to it very quickly though.
Tell us how you one deputised for John Lennon at an awards ceremony.
Brian had forgotten about it and it was about 10 o’clock in the morning of the ceremony. I rang John, but he refused to go, so then I rang Paul. He was living with the Asher’s and Mrs Asher answered the phone and said they’d been out late the night before, and she could not disturb him. So I rang back a while later and she said she wouldn’t wake Paul. I said it was urgent and I’d take the blame if Paul made a fuss. Paul was the PR man, and I explained the situation, and he asked what time we were due, and I said 5 minutes ago. He told me to pick him up about 20 minutes later. When I arrived he was waiting and looking totally immaculate, shaved, great suit etc. We hurtles down to the Savoy Hotel and took him to the door and said I would arrange to pick him up afterwards. However, he said I was to come in with him, and if I didn’t, he wouldn’t go in either. So I agreed. Everyone in pop was there. There were three empty seats at the top table. I saw Dick James at another table and said I would sit there. But Paul insisted I sit at the top table. I walked up and sat down and everyone was wondering who I was. David Frost gave us a life home in his Merc.
How did you get the nickname ‘Mr Fixit’?
The boys by now could not walk down the street like you and I can. So I became the person who went to get them a packet of fags or whatever. I got the reputation for doing the impossible, things that the Beatles or Brian thought could not be done.
Was Apple really set up for tax reasons?
Brian Epstein didn’t want to know about Apple. The Beatles had vast bank accounts and were advised to reduce the tax burden. We had to submit plans of how to invest this money so we could save three of four shillings in the pound – which of course with their money was a substantial amount. So we set up what was laughingly called ‘the executive board’ to plan how to invest this money. I was on the board along with Neil Aspinall and Pete Shotton, and we just kicked around plans and ideas. The first real idea was to open a chain of greetings card shops. They are now on every street corner, but they were unheard of in those days. So we finally thought this was a good idea and we put it to the Beatles. They just sat there for a moment, and then John said, ‘What a f****g boring idea. We had been weeks on this so one of us asked them to come up with something better. So that’s how ‘Apple’ as it became, evolved from that meeting. Really the whole thing was crazy, but it was their money.
How did Brian Epstein die?
Accidental overdose. He was on two particular tablets, and one was building up in his stomach and one passing through, and that particular night, he took two tablets instead of one.The number of times I’ve had to say to people, no, he did not commit suicide. Apart from me, the only people that we there were the doctor and Joanne Newfield, Brian’s PA. I was with the doctor when we smashed the door down. On the bed was a plate of chocolate digestive biscuits and by the side of the bed was a half empty bottle of bitter lemon. There was no booze around and one the side table were about six of seven bottles of tablets, all had plenty of pills in them and had their lids screwed on. My argument is that if you are going to commit suicide, you don’t take a few pills and take the trouble to screw the lids back on. I’ve read stories ’til I’m blue in the face about how a suicide note was found. I’m the guy that was in the room, and there wasn’t one.
How did the ‘This Man has Talent’ ad come about?
Paul stopped by my flat in Montagu Place, which was an ‘Apple’ flat. He said, ‘I’ve got this great idea. We are going to put an ad in NME to get some tapes of music into Apple’. Finally we hit on this idea of a one man band. We wanted a straight guy in a bowler hat. Paul looked at me and said ‘Well, we’ve got a straight guy, do you have a bowler hat?’ It just so happened I did. We went down to Soho to hire a one man band and did the photo session. I was miming and it wasn’t working, so Paul said, ‘Sing a Beatles song’ So I tried that and he said ‘Forget that!’ – it was a disaster area. So in the end, that picture is of me singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ – badly.
Was ‘Apple’ really as chaotic as people said it was – was it ‘The Longest Cocktail Party?
Yes, that was a wonderful book, incredible. I had nothing to do with music, and certainly not the Beatles, for years, and I went to America, and someone showed the book to me. I just flipped through it and read bits, and just laughed and laughed. It was brilliant.
Tell us about your adventures at High Park, Paul’s farm.
No-one in the office knew that Paul had bought the farm. Then one day he came in and asked if I would go up for the weekend. I It had a clapped out old farmhouse that Paul wanted to knock down and wanted me to find a suitable spot to build a new one. So I went up and plodded around and realised the Scots aren’t stupid because the current location was the only place to build a farmhouse. It was windy even on a calm day. I took some photos and came back and told Paul it was the only place. Paul asked what it was like and after I showed him the photos he thought it was great and said let’s go up. So myself, Jane and Paul flew up. He said he wanted it to be spartan and asked me to organise some second hand furniture. We then built furniture ourselves, and found some potato boxes and asked me to go into town and buy some nails and things and we built a settee and some bedside cabinets.
We flew Martha up, and she was as good as gold. A car met us at the airport and we were driving along. Martha is an old English Sheep Dog, but had lived in London, never been in the country, and never seen a sheep. We turned up the lane to the farm and into a field of sheep, and Martha went spare. We had the window half open and she had her head half way out the window.
What is your abiding memory of Apple?
I was trying to run a sensible business and in a way I shpt myself in the foot again, after turning down the 2.5%. I was getting exasperated as money was flowing out like there was no tomorrow. I managed to get the four lads together and said we need a top business man here. So off they went and three of them got Allen Klein and I was sacked – end of Beatle career. For about 15 years after I was sacked I didn’t want to know about pop music and sold more of my Beatles records.
I believe you had a reunion with Paul McCartney recently?
I went to the ‘Let it Be Liverpool’ concert, which was a bit sensational. To hear 25,000 people on the banks of the Mersey singing ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was an unbelievable memory.
I know Geoff Baker, Paul’s publicist, and he said I should come back and meet him. However, it was too late to organise passes and all the business and so I just went up to the gate and asked for Geoff Baker. The girl came back and said here are two tickets. I asked whether they would get me backstage and she said they were just for the concert. I told her that Geoff Baker was going to organise it for me to meet Paul. I had to explain who I was, and she went off again. There were other people trying to do the same and she came back and out these badges on us. I had a gold one and they got red ones. There were two marquees, one saying ‘press and VIPs and one for family. I just followed the others to the press tent and the girl said ‘No, Mr, Taylor, you go to the other one.’ By now time was running out and there was no sign of Paul but I saw Linda and followed her and there was Paul surrounded by a big circle of people with chains on, like Mayors. I stood at the back and I saw Paul’s eyes flick around, he’s always done that, and he suddenly say me and everybody stopped. I didn’t know what to expect and just walked forward and put out my hand and said ‘Hi fella’. He said ‘Come here’ and there were big hugs and commented on our grey hair, who had the most. It was nice. He said to one of his aides to get hold of my address, but I haven’t heard from him from that day. It is very sad. But it was nice while it lasted.
Note from Richard Porter: I got to know Alistair very well during the 80s and 90s. I even guided some Beatles tours of London with him. One day we went to 24 Chapel Street, where Brian Epstein lived, and died. It was the first time Alistair had been back since that sad day in August 1967, and Alistair was very moved.
Alistair passed away in 2004, and is much missed by all Beatles fans.