November 24th 1966. The Beatles go to Abbey Road Studios after a long, well-earned break to begin recording what would be their new album. The first track recorded was Strawberry Fields Forever (what a start!) However, it was decided that the song should be left off the album, but released instead as a single, along with Penny Lane. Of course the album became Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I’ve just found out that BBC Radio 2 are broadcasting a special show on Kenny Everett’s relationship with the Beatles. I wonder if they are going to include any of the interview I did with Kenny in 1992, as I believe I am the only person who interviewed him just about the Fabs. You can read the interview below at http://blog.beatlesinlondon.com/an-interview-with-kenny-everett/
The show, presented by Paul Gambaccini, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on the 21st December at 10pm.
Here is a great film about the Abbey Road Crossing – made by Chris Purcell, and narrated by the great Roger McGough, with a little help from me! I narrated a couple of lines too – that’s me saying the line about Neil Armstrong :>)
I love the way the film captures people doing weird things on the crossing. “Somebody spoke, and I went into a dream”
In his new autobiography, Robbie Robertson has revealed how Bob Dylan nearly drowned in his bath when the Beatles visited him at the Mayfair Hotel in London, during his 1966 UK tour.
Dylan was “practically unconscious” when the Beatles came to visit, so to freshen him up, Robertson put him in the bath. Dylan was high on drugs that Robertson “ hurried back into the bathroom, only to find that Bob had sunk down into the water and was starting to bubble.” “My heart stopped for a moment. Damn, I thought, he could really drown here. I pulled him back up in the tub,” Robertson wrote.
It was also during that visit that Dylan and John Lennon shared a car back to the Mayfair hotel, filmed by DA Pennebaker, for his film on Dylan ‘Eat the Document’. Dylan was extremely stoned, and Lennon plays the ‘straight man’, during a rambling conversation, which getting very entertaining when they talk about Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas. To see the film go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5YLdHG83U0
John and George both attended Dylan’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 27th May 1966, at which Dylan was booed by the folk purists, who objected to Dylan going electric with the Band.
A letter from John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney has gone up for auction. The letter, believed to be written circa 1971, seems to be in reply to a letter from Linda. It was around the time that relations between the Lennon’s and McCartney’s were at their lowest.
It begins: “I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it, I resisted looking at the last page to find out—I kept thinking who is it—Queenie? Stuart’s mother?—Clive Epstein’s wife?—Alan Williams?—What the hell—it’s Linda!”
John seems especially bitter about saying to the others he was leaving the Beatles in late 1969 – but asked by the others to keep quiet about it, only for Paul to announce he was leaving. In the letter he says
Yes, things were pretty bad between John and Paul at the time, and really came to a head with John’s song ‘How Do You Sleep’. However, years later, relations thawed, and they hung out together a few times in the mid 70s.
For more on the letter, and to bid, see http://www.rrauction.com/bidtracker_detail.cfm?IN=7015
I’m often asked on my London Beatles Walks where and when the Beatles first played in London. I wish there was an easy answer! It looks like it was in the early hours of December 10th 1961, but how many of the Beatles actually got onstage, and where it was, remains something of a mystery to this day!
The Beatles came down to the south of England on December 9th 1961, to play at the Aldershot Palais. The Beatles were looking to get a recording contract but could not encourage any record company people to travel from London to Liverpool to see them. Therefore, a good friend of theirs, Sam Leach, who was also a concert promoter, decided to book them into a club in the London area and invite some record company people along. Sam’s geography was not very good – the place he booked them into, the Aldershot Palais, was some 30 miles from London. No record company people would even travel that far to see them, so that idea didn’t work.
The Beatles’ problems didn’t end there. Due to a mix up between Sam Leach and the local newspaper, the advert that Sam sent them for the concert was not printed. When the Beatles arrived at the Palais that night, there was no one there at all because no one knew about the show.
To try to get some sort of crowd at the Palais it was decided that all the local clubs and pubs in the area should be visited to persuade people to come along. No one had to pay to get in, but only 18 people showed up – surely the lowest ever attendance for a Beatles concert! After the show the concert hall owner refused to pay the Beatles as no one had paid to get in. They were extremely broke at the time and couldn’t afford a hotel room in Aldershot. They messed around in the concert hall for a few hours until the concert hall owner, keen to go home for the night, called the police, who not only escorted the Beatles out of the hall but out of Aldershot too!
Rather than have an overnight trip back to Liverpool, the Beatles decided to make the far shorter trip into London. According to Sam Leach, they remembered that an old friend of theirs, Brian Cassar, who used to belong to a group called Cass and the Cassanovas, had moved from Liverpool to London and opened a club called the Blue Gardenia. Luckily, the club stayed open all night and so they headed straight there. When they arrived Brian asked them to get on stage and sing a few songs. It was the Beatles’ first performance in London.
Or that is one version of the story. Regrettably, the location of the Blue Gardenia remains a mystery to this day. As the club was illegal it didn’t register with any local authorities, so there are no official records of its location. In fact, there is now some doubt to whether the club even existed, and Sam Leach confused it with another club! In his extensive biography on the Beatles ‘Tune In’, Mark Lewisohn now thinks that the Beatles actually went to the ‘All Nighter’, in Wardour Street, which is the name the Flamingo Club changed it’s name to after midnight. He also states that only John and Paul got onstage, with the band that happened to be playing there that night.
I have been trying to get to the bottom of this story for years, and had no luck. However, a few years ago, a lady came into the Beatles Coffee Shop and said that she knew where the Blue Gardenia was! She said she used to go there, and that it was in Wardour Mews, just off Wardour Street, in the same building as another club, called the ‘Take Five’. I have since found reference to the Take Five club, but still none of the Blue Gardenia, though maybe it did exist after all. There is also a reference to it on Bill Harry website at http://www.triumphpc.com/mersey-beat/a-z/cassanovas-earlymemories2.shtml – though, regettably, no address.
One person who could throw some light on this is Brian Cassar. After the Blue Gardenia club, he changed his name and formed a band called Casey Jones and the Engineers. The lead guitarist was a young man called Eric Clapton (whatever happened to him!). They played a few gigs in Liverpool, at which time Eric saw the great power trio, The Big Three, and though it would be a great model for a band. The Big Three were actually formed when Brian Cassar left Cass and the Cassanovas to come to London, and the rest of band carried on as a trio. Brian Cassar (Casey Jones) then moved to Germany, and then seemed to disappear. However, at the last Beatles Convention in Liverpool, Mark Lewisohn interviewed Johnny Hutch, formerly of Cass and the Cassanovas and the Big Three, who said he knew where Brian Cassar was. Hopefully he can be tracked down, and the mystery forever solved!
Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London. For more details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
His book, Guide to the Beatles London, is available at http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter
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.
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”!
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 :>)
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’.
Blogger Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles Tour Guide. For more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
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.
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!