Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beatles For Sale: How Everything They Touched Turned to Gold

by John Blaney

Beatles For Sale presents a fresh look at the history of the most important group of the popular-music era. This is a story of naivety and greed, inexperience and luck, gullibility and ingenuity, of the way The Beatles made -- and lost -- money, and how virtually every group since has followed in their footsteps.

You know the songs, the albums, and the films. But how did The Beatles and their mercurial manager, Brian Epstein, end up pioneering so much of what we now recognise as the modern music business?

It certainly wasn't because any of them had a clear vision of the way things should be. Very often the group (or Epstein) were making things up as they went along, simply because nobody else had been there and done it before them.

A work of cultural excavation as much as it is a rock history, this book details the way the group and their inner circle went about promoting advertising, and selling records, playing concerts and selling merchandise, making films and setting up publishing and recording companies. It covers The Beatles' journey from their first gigs as The Quarry Men to 21st century court-battles over the Apple brand -- and everything in between.

Praise for John Blaney's Lennon & McCartney: Together Alone

"An excellent and detailed catalogue of their work, written with all the precision of an academic paper." RECORD COLLECTOR

"Blaney's critical analysis is fair and intelligent, given credence by his extensive research." UGLY THINGS

John Blaney is the author of Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone (Jawbone). He is a passionate Beatles fan who brings to his writing the expertise and rigour of a professional historian. He trained as a graphic designer and studied History Of Art at Camberwell College Of Arts and at Goldsmith College (both in London) before taking up his present post as curator of a museum of technology.


In 1962 the British music industry was parochial and lacking in ambition. If something didn't happen in London, it didn't happen at all. London wasn't yet the swinging capital it would soon become, but it had the venues, the record companies, the recording studios, and the radio and television stations that the rest of the country lacked.

London might have led the way in terms of other British cities but it lagged far behind America. Uncle Sam had drawn up the blueprint that Britain's managers, publishers, agents, and record companies worked to. In 1955 EMI went so far as to buy Capitol Records on the basis that it would sell more records by American stars than by homegrown talent. There seemed little point in grooming British musicians for international stardom when the USA did it so much better -- and little hope for provincial groups such as The Beatles. All Britain had to offer were inferior copies of the American progenitors. Those who didn't fit the American model could forget about making it big in dear old Blighty.

Where America had a range of independent records labels -- among them Sun, Chess, Specialty, and Ace -- Britain was very different. Four major companies controlled the record market; a handful of publishers controlled what songs their acts could record; one radio station controlled what could be heard; and one musicians' union controlled how many records it could play.

Getting a record made and played was almost impossible. There were only a handful of professional recording studios, and there was no way a singer or group could just walk in and cut a record like Elvis Presley once had. And even if a group did get a record deal, they were highly unlikely to be able to persuade their A&R manager to let them record one of their own songs.

The Beatles were big fish in a small pond. They had acquired a manager and built up a strong local following, but what they really needed was a recording contract. Brian Epstein used his influence to secure an audition for the group with Decca records. Everything hinged on them getting a record deal. John Lennon meant every word when he stepped up to the microphone in Decca's London studio on a cold New Year's Day 1962 and pleaded: "Your lovin' gives me a thrill / But your lovin' don't pay my bills / Now give me money."

Back then The Beatles were a struggling beat group earning £50 per night. A record contract would transform them from local heroes to stars, and so it did: within two years, even after rejection by Decca, The Beatles had become the biggest showbiz attraction the world had ever seen.

How did they do it? Talent had a role to play, but so did luck. The Beatles were the right group in the right place at the right time. They made the right connections with the right people and made all the right moves. When George Martin signed The Beatles to a minor subsidiary of EMI, Parlophone Records, he triggered a series of explosions that rocked the music industry. The recording contract led to a publishing deal, which in turn led to national television exposure, international tours, merchandising rights, worldwide record releases, and a contract with United Artists for three feature-length movies.

The Beatles were much more than just 'Parlophone Recording Artists'. They became an industry. Their records, concerts, movies, merchandising, and songwriting made them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Everything about the group was new: the way they looked, the way they sounded, the way they acted. There had been no group like The Beatles before. They wrote their own songs, owned a share in their publishing company, played in giant football stadiums -- earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege -- and sold more merchandising than even Elvis Presley. The scale of their success was unprecedented.

When The Beatles entered EMI's Abbey Road studios in 1962 they would have had no idea of just how much money they would go on to earn. That soon changed. Paul McCartney later admitted that a running joke within the group was: "OK! Today, let's write a swimming pool."

Just how much money The Beatles made is anybody's guess. In 1963, the UK's Daily Mail newspaper estimated that the group had earned $56 million; a year later, after they hit America, the gross income from Beatles-related products must at least have doubled that figure.

How much of that $100 million The Beatles actually saw is also hard to quantify. They might have been making a lot of money, but holding on to it was not easy.

Record companies made fortunes from Beatles records, but paid the group pennies -- literally. Publishers siphoned off 50 per cent of their income from songwriting and 75 per cent for overseas rights. Their manager, Brian Epstein, took another 25 per cent off the top of what was left. Then there was the taxman. In Britain, the Inland Revenue could potentially take up to 98 per cent of a high earner's income. It's no wonder that George Harrison wrote a song bemoaning the situation. Add on touring expenses and accountants' and lawyers' fees and there appeared to be almost as much going out as there was coming in -- and yet The Beatles still managed to become millionaires.

Like Midas, The Beatles soon discovered that the thing they had most desired had its disadvantages.

They tried religion, but that didn't work. They tried being businessmen, but that didn't work either. The Beatles were artists, not businessmen, and when they tried to take charge of their empire it crumbled.

Big business made The Beatles and then proceeded to destroy them. The group's attempts to control their business affairs created a financial black-hole that sucked in cash at an alarming rate. Never mind the stories about how Yoko Ono broke up The Beatles. The real villains were the men in suits.

Once the squabbling started, big business took its chance, moved in, and took control of The Beatles' songs -- forever. The Beatles found it all too much and folded under pressure. The end had been a long time coming, and when it did come it was every bit as sad as the beginning had been triumphant.

And yet, four decades after their acrimonious break-up, The Beatles are as popular as they ever were. Hardly a year goes by without a new CD or DVD being issued or a new line of merchandising appearing. The Beatles are still big business. The lawyers and accountants are still in control and the whole crazy Apple Corps circus continues on its merry litigious way. Apple isn't the same company it was when The Beatles formed it in 1967, but it continues to make deals and keep the Beatles flame burning. The only difference is that now, instead of losing The Beatles money, it's making it -- and lots of it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Private John Lennon: The Untold Story from His Sister

by Julia Baird

In this moving memoir, John Lennon's sister Julia finally reveals the family's painful, difficult and rare happy times. Here is the inside story of their deep tensions and John's troubled upbringing by his aunt--showing the cruel consequences of five-year-old John being taken from his mother's custody.

Often at dramatic odds with the accepted tale, The Private John Lennon offers an unflinching look at the vivid contrast between his aunt's restrictive parenting and his mother's free attitude towards life. Julia tells of John's frequent visits to his mother's home and how they provided him the love and freedom to develop his musical talents. Later, the author holds nothing back as she recounts how she and 17-year-old John confronted their mother's sudden and tragic death in an automobile accident.

The Private John Lennon's portrayal of a torn and lonely upbringing casts new light on the source of John's emotional fragility and musical genius. Poignant, raw and beautifully written, it is an extraordinary story of how John Lennon and his family dealt with the terrible series of tragedies that ultimately culminated in his violent death.

Excerpt: Reflecting Mummy

I must be about seven years old. I am sitting astride my mother's bony hips, with my arms wrapped tightly around her neck, and her arms clench my waist, wrapping me tight, tight. Our faces are pressed together, cheek to cheek. We are smiling at one another in the mirror. Every now and then, my mother has to tug me up, to stop me sliding to the floor. We are holding our faces together. I can feel the warmth, skin on skin, and a tingling sensation. She is singing to me. I must have heard words then, but no matter how hard I try, they evade me now. I can feel the sound as la-la and hmm, hmm. I can feel my mother, I can smell her. She is mine, for this time. For too short a time. Mine.

I am so happy. It is one of those special spaces in your life when you know and understand reality, while knowing and understanding nothing. I want to stay in that place. I want it to be a bottomless chasm, where I can go on and on falling but not falling apart.

I can still call my mother to me. Sometimes, I dream her. When I do, I don't want ot miss anything, not a nuance, not a smile, not a squeeze. I try not to rush it, although I am in a hurry to be there, in the kitchen, looking into the mirror which hangs on a nail, over the sink, in the middle of the long window with the small panes. A window with blue frames and with blue gingham curtains on a wire. We can see the garden, trees blowing in the wind, and sometimes a bird will fly past, which makes us smile. The gas rings are burning on the cooker, keeping the kitchen warm. The sights, smells and sounds mingle with Mummy's. I am breathing my Mummy. It is hauntingly, almost painfully beautiful and then unfailingly, heartbreakingly sad. She fades away, she just fades away. I can't feel the bones in her hips. My arms are holding air. I look and look into the magic mirror with intensity and despair as her cheeks melt away from mine. My lovely Mummy leaves me. My sanity and my insanity. Having her. Not having her. Loving her. Losing her.

Having my mother, loving her so deeply and then losing her has given me my most intense happiness and my most bereft sadness. Like any child who has lost a beloved parent while still very young, the happiness and sadness of her memory are inextricably linked.

When I had her, I wasn't aware that things could change. Like any child I was simply living life, as I had always known it. You don't know that life can be snuffed out in the blink of an eye, until it happens.

I was eleven years old when my world turned inside out; when my mother, after whom I was named, was killed when she was hit by a car on a July evening in 1958. From that moment on my sister and I became problems to be solved in a family that had little room or time for us. In a world empty of the one person we longed for most, we learned that we had little worth; once loved children, we became nuisances to be tolerated by aunts who saw it as a duty to look after us.

I am a middle child. My brother John was seventeen when our mother died, and my sister Jackie was eight. Even when I discovered the existence of another sister I was still a middle child because she was younger than John but older than me. Our mother called her Victoria Elizabeth for the six weeks that she had her, but she was taken away for adoption and grew up as Ingrid. She became one of our family's secrets. Discovering the secret of the other child, the child apart, triggers instability, no matter which child you are and no matter what your age and maturity. It raises feelings hitherto unknown--raw feelings--and leaves you dangling there. It challenges your ideas of who you are and even who you thought you were and who you might be tomorrow and why . . . just as the paint is drying on your self-image, again, a careless brush sweeps across it and makes a mess.

But all that was to come much later. I grew up knowing only that Jackie and I lived with our parents and that my older brother came to see us often and stayed as much as he could. John lived with my mother's older sister Mimi, and we lived in Springwood, Allerton, a suburb of Liverpool, in a three-bedroom house, on a council estate. When John stayed the night, Jackie slept with me in the double bed in my room. That's probably why I had it . . . I spent a lot of time sharing that bed.

We went to live in the Springwood house in 1949, when I was two and a half and not long before Jackie's birth. The story of how we ended up there, and how my mother ended up with two children who lived with her, one who lived there part-time and another who lived in another place completely, secretly, is the story of my mother's struggle against society and family. A tale full of anguish and fear, desperation and helplessness, but also great courage.

My mother's story, and ours, is also the story of the early lief and background of the genius who was John Winston Lennon, who became John Ono Lennon, but who never stopped being just John, my big brother.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Speakeasy Party

The audio pulse on the wall by the record bar blazed red and green as the vibrations from the thumping bluesy discs set its lights flickering into action. Pale faces glided by, eyes penetrating the velvet darkness with difficulty. Musky pink lamps glowed in the gloom at intervals along the walls.

This was the Speakeasy, London's current "in" clubs and favourite haunt of the night people, pop stars and musicians looking for a place to relax after their work is done.

The door of the glass-fronted restaurant at the far end of the club displayed a "closed" sign. It had been booked for a very special party that was to have some very special guests.

At 10.30 p.m. the Speakeasy's customers were few--it was early for the night people. The restaurant was almost deserted but a couple of hours later it was to be overflowing with famous names from the pop world and the Kings of British pop music would be meeting face to face with the King's of America's West Coast musical scene--a meeting between The Beatles and The Monkees.

Around 11.30 p.m. the Speakeasy began to fill up. The Who had arrived and so had dee-jays Kenny Everett, and Rick Dane (who compered one of The Monkees' concerts at Wembley) and singer/writer Jonathan King.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton of Cream arrived dressed entirely in red with a beautiful black, gold-embroidered bolero and close behind came the entire Manfred Mann group. Mann Tom McGuiness greeted Cream Eric and they disappeared into a corner to chat.

Micky Dolenz arrived with his pretty friend and companion Samantha Juste and asked for "Two large iced cokes please". They found two seats opposite Eric Clapton and started to talk about music and anti-gravity!

Mike Nesmith wearing huge pink-lense glasses escorted his pretty blonde wife Phyllis who had only flown in from America a few hours earlier. They, too, both asked for cokes and went to sit by the door.

By now the records had been replaced by a live group on stage and the party people were beginning to sway with the music. Paul McCartney came in with Jane Asher and the hum and noise grew louder. Paul stripped off his green and orange jacket to display a green and red floral shirt. Jane looked cool and beautiful in an apple green skirt and a blouse on which Paul had painted a series of designs.

Beatle John, now minus his moustache, slipped in almost unnoticed and took a seat next to Paul. Picking up a packet of cigarettes from the table he demanded "Whose ciggies are these? Can I pinch one?"

Everyone Was There

Standing room had become very limited. Record producer Mickey Most squeezed through the doorway, greeted Vicki Wickham (of "Ready Steady Go" fame) and made his way to the bar. Frankie Allan of The Searchers, Patsy Ann Noble, Dusty Springfield and Lulu were all chatting happily when Procul Harum in its entirety (and resplendent in their eastern costumes) pushed through the doorway and had difficulty finding space in which to stand.

Kenny Everett and Jonathan King moved over to the Beatles table and sat down, joined by Keith Moon of The Who. The music got louder and fingers began drumming on the table. A blue-shirted Peter Tork slid along the bench to join in the fun.

George Harrison arrived with Patti and two way-out friends, the boy playing a flute and the girl wearing a flower in her hair. The party was really beginning to swing. George removed his sheepskin jacket and made his way across the room greeting people as he went. Patti talked with Jane, and George spoke to Mann Klaus Voormann.

Iced cokes were being passed over bobbing heads, ciggies were passed from hand to hand and Paul took a couple of hot sausages from a passing waitress. Cheese and pickles on sticks were popped into hungry mouths and George was hunting for a vacant chair.

The group had finished playing on stage and music from the record bar bounced out of the speakers. John Lennon and Keith Moon were leading a boisterous chorus on one side of the room and George had found a seat on the other side with Eric Clapton and Procul Harum.

By 3.00 a.m. George was serenading everyone with the help of his ukelele, Peter Tork was playing banjo like he had just invented it, Keith Moon was drumming on the table. Micky Dolenz was chatting quietly to Paul. Mike Nesmith and his wife had slipped quietly away and the crowd had thinned slightly. But the party still had another three hours to run!

But there were two people who missed the fun--Beatle Ringo and Monkee Davy Jones. Both were visiting relatives 'up North'.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Behind the Spotlight

Two Years Ago

by Billy Shepherd and Johnny Dean

John Lennon has always had pretty fixed ideas on what a star owes to other people. Just a couple of years ago, in September of 1965, he had been with the other Beatles to meet Elvis Presley at the EP mansion in Bel Air. An historic occasion, and one which had a big effect on John.

Afterwards, John said: "When you get to the position of being a star, you owe a lot to the fans and to the people who pay you your money. This means that you turn up on time for shows and you work as hard as you possibly can. You treat each show as important as the last one, whether it is for a TV audience of millions or a theatre audience of a few thousand.

"And when it comes to records, you put every bit of effort and enthusiasm into each one. We all owe it to people to keep the standards high. But I feel that when I'm through with work, then my life simply has to be my own. I don't owe twenty-four hours of every day. My family should be protected because they are part of the other me, not the one who gets up there on stage."

Home Life

And this is still John's fervent belief. He appreciates that there must be a lot of interest in his home life but he doesn't encourage it. He was saying recently that the meeting with Elvis had a lot to do with that. He admired the quiet family life that El still had, despite having been a world star for a good five years longer than the Beatles. He had worked for his privacy and he held on to it despite everything.

John also talked about the difference between the public life of a solo singer as compared with a group. He told Elvis that the Beatles were lucky in having four people up there taking control of the barrage of hysteria. He owned up: "If I was shoved up there, all on my own, I think I would just break up." Well, since then John has been to a lot of places on his own--and he has made his film debut as an individual. But he still hasn't gone on stage to put on a whole show by himself. . . and nor have any other of the boys.

Very Aware

But this doesn't stop them appreciating the problems of other people in the big-time show-business. They are all as aware of the difficulties as of the rewards of remaining up there in the glare of about ten million spotlights.

Oddly enough, though, Elvis . . . "a real star" in the opinion of George Harrison . . . doesn't get regular hit records nowadays. While the Beatles bask, at the time of writing, in the luxury of a number one single and a number one LP, Elvis has become rather patchy in terms of success. Of course, filming is his number one priority these days but going back two years ago an interesting point came out in that meeting between the two giant attractions. El was asking Paul and John just how many hits they'd written so far, and saying that he wished he had more time to pursue his writing. John suddenly broke off and asked Elvis why it was that he didn't go back to his old-style record-making--the wild rock 'n' roll which made Presley an international attraction. El wasn't too sure how to answer this at first. But funnily enough he has since come out with wild rockers and they have proved every bit as successful as his ballads.

So lots of side issues came out of that show-business summit meeting. I'll always remember Ringo saying of Elvis: "Fantastic. He was just like one of us. None of the old Hollywood show-off thing."

Incidentally in that September of 1965, "Help" was just starting to move down the charts. A real eye-opening experience is to play that old track over and then compare it with something like "All You Need Is Love". That gives you an idea of how different the Beatle sounds are from record to record. And how they have developed.

There was a big protest scene going two years ago. Songs with arguments against war, like "Universal Soldier", "Eve of Destruction" and so on were all the rage in the charts. Of course, the Beatles don't actually protest . . . but the word "love" figures in a lot of their song titles. Paul has always been strong on this--as he said recently: "We hope to get people thinking more about love, rather than hate. This is a time in history when what is needed is love, not violence."

Some people accuse the Beatles of merely paying lip service to this, but that's not true. Through the years, they have concentrated on getting across the message that love is fine--and not something to hide under a blanket of bravado.

Beatles Double

But enough of that. Back in September 1965, the Beatles were chalking up some more incredible popularity poll results. This time, it was the Melody Maker poll--a paper with a readership that has a strong jazz-musical backbone, though also reflecting pop tastes of the moment. So in came the Beatles to run away with the group department at both British and World levels. The Americans they pipped handsomely in the World Section were the Everlys, the Beach Boys, the Jordanaires, Supremes.

John Lennon was fourth in the British singer section; George Harrison was second favourite musician. Their vocal record "Ticket To Ride" topped that department but "I Feel Fine" was also listed. John Lennon was third top male TV artist--and seventh in the world singer section. George Harrison was fourth in the world musician rating . . . and in the world listing for vocal records the boys came second with "Ticket To Ride" to . . . yep, Elvis Presley cropped up again with "Crying In The Chapel", which happened to be one Presley disc that the boys didn't rate very highly. However in this last section, the Beatles again were the only group or artist to have two records ("I Feel Fine" was the other) in the top ten.

Ringo Hits Top 100

But what amused Ringo most of all was that his vocal on "Act Naturally" actually made the American top hundred.

Actually it was a fitting little celebration present for Ringo, seeing his name up there in the charts. Because in mid-September, the 13th to be exact, he became the extremely proud father of a baby boy. Yes, Zak made his first appearance in front of the world at Queen Charlotte's Hospital. It was a busy day, one way and another. Maureen Starr was rushed into Hospital early in the morning and Ringo went with her, not getting back home until 11 p.m. that day. He phoned his parents in Liverpool, grabbed some shut-eye and then raced back to the hospital early the next day. History repeated itself last month when Ringo's new baby was born.

Most of the month, the boys were on holiday . . . recovering from their hectic American tour and preparing some ideas for the autumn tour which had been lined up for them. There had been theories that the boys were not keen on touring, but as George explained: "We like getting out to the fans but we are doing fewer things now because we think people have seen more than enough of us in the past couple of years."

George also said with great candour: "Wherever you play you're bound to upset someone. It's when you see the situation from the management side that you realise you really can't win."

However there were quite a few things the boys COULD win during that particular autumn. But more about those next month.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

With the Beatles No. 4

Our Visit to Greece

By Mal and Neil

In all our holiday party numbered twelve people. Four flew to Athens on the Thursday--George and Pattie, Ringo and Neil. The remaining eight followed two days later--John, Cynthia and Julian, Paul and Jane, Pattie's 16-year-old sister Paula, Alistair Taylor from the NEMS office and Mal.

Apparently the photographers at the airport in Athens hadn't a clue who Paula was. One newspaper back home in London decided to identify her very vaguely, but they had an idea she was Cynthia Lennon!

There was a 13th man in our group--in fact the whole trip was his idea in the first place. His name is Alexis, a young and very clever electronics man, a Greek who became a close personal friend of the Beatles in London a few months ago. Alex took care of us all in Greece, translating when it was necessary, and we stayed at his house in a suburban part of Athens.

White Yacht

The plan was to move onto a big white motor yacht at the weekend as soon as everyone had settled in. But the rented boat was delayed on another cruise, stuck somewhere near Crete in high winds which prevented her sailing. In the end the boat--named the m.v. Arvi--arrived at Athens on the Monday and we went on board on the Tuesday. Minus Ringo who headed home with Neil that day. Maureen hadn't been able to join us because the baby was nearly due so Ringo didn't want to be away from her too long.

Anyway we made good use of the extra days in Athens before starting the cruise. On Sunday we all piled into a convoy of cars--a big Mercedes and a couple of huge old American taxis! For three hours we drove through the countryside in the blistering hot sunshine. Suddenly the rest of us realised that the taxi carrying Paul, Jane and Neil was missing. Apparently the extreme heat had been too much for it. Thick black smoke poured out as the engine all but caught figure. So Ringo's taxi turned back to look for them--and found the trio walking happily along the dusty road towards the village we'd stopped at for lunch!

Everyone spent an hour or so looking round the village, admiring the tiny shops, buying beads, Greek antiques and odd bits of clothing. Then we were taken to lunch at a lovely house high up in the hills, and while we ate, a guitarist and a clarinet player provided colourful accompaniment with their folk music. We all tried a bit of Greek dancing on the patio to work off some of that marvellous meal!

We left the village loaded down with presents. The girls were given Greek dresses with classical patterns. Julian got a foot-high doll (a Greek soldier) and the boys received long slip-on shirts.


Before going any further we decided it was time we bought something to carry all the gear in. Obviously we were going to do a lot of shopping during the week! So everybody picked up brightly-patterned hand-woven shoulder bags and started filling them with beads, old Turkish and Greek jewellery.

We drove for another hot and sticky hour before coming to rest on a beautiful beach where Paul helped Julian to construct one of the finest sandcastles you ever saw.

The same evening Alex had hoped we'd visit the old Delphi theatre but there were so many people waiting for us when we arrived that we split and headed home to Athens rather than face all those crowds. News of our whereabouts and our plans seemed to spread round like wildfire!

On the Monday George and Paul decided to have a quiet day. They stayed behind and played guitars while the rest of the party went into the shopping centre. John wanted to buy the local equivalent of a guitar. A huge crowd of fans and sightseeing tourists gathered round the instrument shop we tramped into. To our surprise the shop was stocked with a wide range of modern electric equipment--Vox amplifiers and the lot! "It's just like going into Sound City in London" observed John as we looked around. But he found the instrument he wanted in the store's antique department!

Cunning Ringo

Ringo devised a cunning way of by-passing the crowds. He'd wait until John and the rest of us went into one shop, then he'd sneak quietly away into the one next door while the crowds gathered round John. His scheme came unstuck when he spent a bit too long choosing a pair of sandals. Forty photographers and umpteen Americans descended upon him ("Say, isn't that crazy? We travel all the way from Chicago and find Ringo Starr in a Greek shoe shop!").

All the shopkeepers of Athens expert you to argue about the price of everything. The boys got pretty good at this bartering game and managed to pick up a load of bargains from the tiny rows of antique shops in the old part of the city. But whether we wanted to buy or not the shopkeepers urged us in very broken English to "just come in and look around so we can tell people Beatles was here!"

All the time we were in Greece we had wonderful food. One evening we stopped for dinner in a small village and sat down at tables under the trees in the square. Paul, Ringo and Jane decided to test the local cooks by asking for an English meal just for a change. They had one of the best egg and chip meals they'd ever tasted--garnished (like every Greek dish) with tomatoes in olive oil and lashings of cheese. The rest of us had delicious kebabs--skewered chunks of lamb beautifully cooked.

All the while quiet Greek music was pouring out of a little loudspeaker in the tree above our tables. Suddenly they changed the record AND PUT ON "A HARD DAY'S NIGHT" BY THE BEATLES. The owner of the cafe stood at the top of the steps beaming brightly and we all had a good laugh before signing some autographs and heading for home!

Greek Flutes

On Tuesday we set sail in the gleaming white motor yacht Arvi. It had 24 berths and, apart from the captain, a crew of seven including a chef and two stewards. The captain had purchased a brand new red ensign to fly on his mast to show he had a party of Englishmen on board. That evening we gathered up on deck to watch the sun setting over the islands. What a pity Ringo and Neil missed that! It was a fantastic sight. Still, the rest of us took many pictures and our movie cameras whirled away like mad.

At two o'clock in the morning we anchored under a full moon. Beside us was a mighty rock with the Temple of Neptune on top of it. The pillars were outlined in the moonlight--another unforgettable sight.

The days that followed were all swimming and laziness and beautiful sunshine.

Hindu Chants

After sunset each night we'd gather together on the top deck and sing until two or three. George played his ukelele, John got out his Greek guitar and we'd sing strange Hindu chants over and over again for hours on end!

We came home to London in two relays. George and Pattie wanted to go a little early--to pack again and leave for California--so Mal flew home with them on the following Sunday. Then on Monday Paul, Jane, John, Cyn, Julian, Paula and Alexis headed for London. Alexis just about had time to pack a fresh set of clothes in time to leave for Los Angeles on the Tuesday with George, Pattie and Neil!

There's no room here to tell you about the Harrison holiday in Hollywood so that will have to wait till next month.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How I Won The War

Coming Soon! JOHN LENNON's eagerly awaited, long anticipated, solo screen debut in the UNITED ARTISTS picture "HOW I WON THE WAR". This month FREDERICK JAMES gives BEATLES BOOK readers their first exclusive "sneak preview" of the film.

There won't be much longer to wait. The West End premiere of "How I Won The War" is scheduled to take place a month or two from now.

Before I tell you something about the story we ought to clear up a couple of points. First of all DON'T go to see this film expecting to find John in the lead role. John's part--as Private Gripweed of the Third Troop of the Fourth Musketeers--is not a large one. It is small yet important. And DON'T expect "How I Won The War" to be an all-laughter picture. There are loads of laugh lines, lots of hilarious sequences, BUT your smiles may turn to tears in the more serious sequences. Basically this is an anti-war film and to make its message all the more profound you'll see a fair amount of spilled blood. Some scenes showing the death of Fourth Musketeer soldiers are quite gruesome. You'll watch men stabbed through the stomach with bayonets, blown to pieces by shells, damaged beyond repair by bombs and bullets. But balanced against the tragedy you'll get an ample helping of humour--from slapstick farce to pungent satire with subtle jokes set out alongside physical clowning.


The main role in this Eastmancolor production, directed by Richard Lester who worked with The Beatles on "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night", goes to actor Michael Crawford who plays a British army officer named Lieutenant Ernest Goodbody. Goodbody leads his platoon through a series of Second World War battles and special missions set in the Western Desert, Dunkirk, Dieppe, Alamein and Arnhem.

Integrated with each of the battle sequences are actual newsreel shots which were filmed 25 years ago. These sequences are shown not in full colours but a series of deep colour tints--green to identify the Dunkirk fighting, pink for the Dieppe shots, orange for the Alamein campaign and blue for Arnhem. You can imagine the curiously powerful impact of these scenes with the whole screen bathed in a blue or pink.

True to the dreadful facts of war at least one member of Goodbody's platoon is killed in each of these actions. But when a man dies his place is taken by a new faceless soldier whose skin and clothing is tinted from head to foot in the colour used to identify the battle which has just taken place. Are these green and blue people meant to be the ghosts of those who have died or are they unknown new soldiers sent in as replacements? We're never given an answer.

By now you will have realised that this is no ordinary comedy film and no conventional war picture. By the ingenious use of cameras, colour and brilliant directing techniques the whole production puts over the futility of fighting, the nonsense of war.

Apart from John's Private Gripweed you'll meet amongst the other Fourth Musketeers troop members Clapper, Dooley, Drogue and Transom. Clapper is played by Roy Kinnear. At first you'll meet them while they're doing their basic military training--square-bashing on a parade ground, learning their rifle drill. There are riotous moments as you see them negotiating a tricky obstacle course which includes leaping over walls and dangling from high-slung ropes above ponds of muddy water.

Later, in the North African desert, you'll see John learning to drive a truck and a sort of tank. His driving lessons take place prior to a "vital assignment" given to Lieutenant Goodbody's squad--to infiltrate enemy lines, press on far beyond the battlefront and establish a cricket field (yes, a CRICKET FIELD!) for inspection by a senior officer of the British Army. The mission is successful despite Private Gripweed's blunder in letting the platoon's precious water supply (stored in the giant roller used to iron out the cricket pitch!) leak away into the sand.

It would not be fair of me to tell you more about the actual story. You must see for yourself how the war is won and by whom. But I will tell you that this is to be one of the most powerful and moving pictures you've ever seen. It will leave you with hosts of memories--happy and sad--and it will be an experience you'll never regret.

Filmed Last Year

"How I Won The War" was filmed during the autumn of 1966. Indeed John left for the first shooting location in Germany within hours of The Beatles' return from their summer concert tour of America. From Germany the production unit moved to Almeria, a remote spot on the coast of Spain where John and Cynthia set up their temporary home with little Julian in the spacious and beautiful old mansion where John celebrated his 26th birthday last October.

"I'm still not sure about acting" said John when the whole thing was over "I couldn't imagine myself making film after film but I've learnt a lot from it and it was good experience. I've tried a bit of writing and now I've tried a bit of acting. I'll never be able to take either of these things much further but I'm glad I've done them."

How did John Lennon happen to become Private Gripweed?

John Was Right

From director Richard Lester: "When I read the first outline of the story I kept thinking of John for this character. I found that Charles Wood--the man who gave me the first treatments of the story to look at--was thinking the same way although we hadn't discussed the casting. So we wrote the part specially for John. As an actor John has a natural instinct for comedy and his timing is excellent."

And from John: "I did the film because I believed in it. There never has been a war film which showed war as it really is. A man fighting in a battle doesn't see the whole thing. He never meets the enemy until the day a man comes round the corner and sticks a bayonet in him and he can't quite believe it is happening."

The final words are from Richard Lester: "Although I knew John as well as I knew the other Beatles I only got to know him well during the production of this new picture. I was tremendously impressed by John. More than by anyone else I have ever met. Particularly by his ability to cut through all the outside layers and get to the heart of people and matters. Many times when I was setting up a scene John would say something like 'But look . . . that's daft . . . it should be like this' or 'Aren't we supposed to be doing so-and-so in this scene'. Well, I'd stop and think about it and realise John was right. This is not something he has learned--it's instinctive. He tries to be supremely honest, not only with the people he meets but, above all, with himself."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour that Changed the World

by Larry Kane
The only American journalist in the official Beatles press group in '64-'65

Foreword by Dick Clark

Includes CD featuring rare interviews with John, Paul, George & Ringo

"The most detailed description yet of the Beatles' American tours. . . Indispensible." --Publishers Weekly

"Larry Kane has written the definitive book about the Beatles' biggest and most successful North American concert tours. Most of the international media entourage we invited along to travel with 'the boys' on these amazing coast-to-coast trips were radio deejays or writers for teenybopper magazines. By contrast, Larry Kane brought a meticulously professional journalist's approach to the job of reporting daily events, from the ground-breaking to the trivial--some hugely hilarious, some highly dangerous, some verging upon the scandalous, and some almost disastrous. Kane was quickly recognized by the group and the rest of us as a likeable and reliable young newsman who knew his stuff and, as a result, he gained the confidence of each individual Beatle and was given extraordinary access to all areas and at all stages of these white-knuckle ride tours.

Over the years the market has been flooded with far too many second-rate books on aspects of the Beatles' history, but Larry Kane's Ticket to Ride stands out as an honest, informative, comprehensive and entertaining account of the group's summer tours of the USA and Canada in 1964 and 1965. Read and enjoy!"
--TONY BARROW, the Beatles' press officer, 1963-1968

"If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to be at the start of a phenomenon, pick up Ticket to Ride. Larry Kane balances a journalist's curiosity with an insider's access to take us on a wild 'Ride,' one we'll not likely see again in this or any other lifetime."
--AL ROKER, NBC's Today

"If you were there, it will take you back; if you weren't, get ready for a ride through true Beatlemania. Larry's stories take you from the front row to backstage--your collection's not complete without this ticket. It's like being in the Beatles!"
--JOE JOHNSON, host, Beatle Brunch radio program


The door swung open. The sight was baffling. About twenty young women, most of them wearing low-cut dresses, were standing in an informal line. Some of them were smiling; others looked a bit uncomfortable. These women had a different air about them than did the semi-innocent teenagers and young women who would often be hanging around. They had that "I've been there before" look. The truth was that they were on the clock. The room was heavily perfumed. I was stunned and of course, fascinated, especially when one of the women reached down so low to light Paul's cigarette, that most of her bosom, already exposed to daring dimensions, almost fell out.

Paul and Ringo were sitting on a couch, taking in an eyeful. Derek Taylor was there, his arms folded in front of his chest as always, his constantly lit cigarette dangling from his fingers, looking a bit overwhelmed. George was sitting on the floor. Mal Evans had the look of a child on Christmas morning. John, that night at least, was about to play the cheerleader.

Art Schreiber remembers, "At first, I couldn't figure it out. What the hell was the lineup all about?"

Ivor Davis says, "Looked funny to me. But as far as this group was concerned, I always expected the unexpected."

And Long John Wade cut to the chase, saying, "Remember the promoter or whatever he was? I will never forget those words. . . ."

The words astounded me as well: "Take your pick," the man in the suit said.

"Take your pick, you heard him, take your pick," said a happy John Lennon. At that moment John was providing "leadership skills," urging everyone to make a selection. It was like a sexual automat--just point your finger and go on your way.

Hearing those words, it was evident to this clueless reporter and his travel partners that the visitors were not Beatles' fans seeking autographs or pictures. Pictures in this case would have been incriminating, because those women were not on the prowl, but on the job.