Saturday, July 04, 2009

Beatle People: Jimmy Nicol

James George Nicol, known as Jimmie Nicol or Jimmy Nicol (born August 3, 1939), is a British drummer, best known for being a temporary member of The Beatles.

When Ringo Starr collapsed and was hospitalised on 3 June 1964 with tonsillitis on the eve of The Beatles' 1964 Australasian tour, manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin discussed the possibility of using a stand-in drummer rather than cancel part of the tour. Martin suggested Jimmy Nicol, as he had recently recorded a Tommy Quickly session with him. Nicol had also drummed on a budget label album of Beatle covers called "Beatlemania" and knew the songs. The whole thing happened very quickly, from a phone call to attend a run-through at Abbey Road Studios to packing his bags all in the same day.

Nicol wore Ringo Starr's suit on stage, and apparently needed clothes pegs to make the jacket fit. His first show with The Beatles took place on 4 June in Copenhagen, Denmark. He played a further nine shows, until Starr returned to the group in Melbourne, Australia, on 14 June. Nicol said he was "praying he [Starr] would get well at the same time I was hoping he would not want to come back." He was not able to say goodbye to The Beatles as they were still asleep when he left, and Nicol did not want to disturb them. At the airport, Brian Epstein presented him with a cheque (probably for around £500, although much bolder figures have been quoted) and a gold Eternamatic wrist watch inscribed: "From The Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy - with appreciation and gratitude."

After his time with The Beatles, Nicol and his band, The Shubdubs, released the single "Husky"/"Don't Come Back," followed by "Humpty Dumpty"/"Night Train," neither of which was a commercial success. Nicol was reunited with The Beatles when his band was set down on a bill with The Beatles and The Fourmost. They performed on 12 July 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton.

During Nicol's stay with The Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were constantly questioning him about how he was coming along, and his answer would always be, "It's getting better." A couple of years later, McCartney was walking his dog, Martha, with Hunter Davies, when the sun came out and Paul commented that the weather was "getting better," and began to laugh, remembering Nicol. This event inspired the song "Getting Better" on 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On Let It Be tapes from 12 January 1969, Paul comments, "I think you'll find we're not going abroad. 'Cause Ringo just said he doesn't want to go abroad. You know, he put his foot down. Although Jimmy Nicol might go abroad."

Later career and life

After his brief time with The Beatles, Nicol declared bankruptcy in 1965. That year, he joined numerous bands including Swedish group The Spotnicks, which he left in 1967. In 1975 he returned to England after setting up a button factory in Mexico. Other work in this time included housing renovations and carpentry.

Later in his life, it was rumoured that Nicol had died in 1988, but a report in 2005 by the Daily Mail confirmed that he was still alive and living as a recluse in London.

Nicol's son, Howie, is a BAFTA-winning sound recordist.

Discography and performance history

1950s Choir boy at Honeywell Road School, Wandsworth, in London. The Boys Brigade (percussion). Army Cadet Military Band (percussion and xylophone). For a short time, Nicol also worked as a drum repairer for (UK) musical instrument distributor Boosey & Hawkes

1957/1958 Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys (Colin Hicks is the younger brother of British rock 'n' roll star Tommy Steele). Singles:

* Pye 7N15114 Wild Eyes And Tender Lips / Empty Arms Blues -
* Pye 7N15125 La Dee Dah / Wasteland -
* Pye 7N15163 Little Boy Blue / Jamabalaya

1959/60 Vince Eager and the Quite Three. Jimmy on drums. Kenny Packwood/Colin Green, guitarists. Tex Makins, bass.

1960: Oscar Rabin Band. 1961: Cyril Stapleton Big Band. 1961-1963: session work (including jobs with musicians from the orchestras of Ted Heath and Johnny Dankworth).

1964: The Shubdubs Singles:

* Pye 7N15623 2/1964 Humpty Dumpty / Night Train
* Mar-Mar 313 1964 Humpty Dumpty / Night Train (US)
* Pye 7N15666 6/1964 Husky / Please Come Back
* Pye 7N15699 10/1964 Baby Please Don't Go / Shubdubery

1964 April / May: Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames.

June: The Beatles (temporary stand in for Ringo Starr)

* June 4, 1964: KB Hallen, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark.
* June 5, 1964: Treslong, Hillegom, Holland, (recording TV show, VARA).
* June 6, 1964: Auction Hall (Veilinghal), Blokker, Holland.
* June 9, 1964: Princess Theatre, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
* June 12, 1964: Centennial Hall, Adelaide, Australia.
* June 13, 1964: Centennial Hall, Adelaide, Australia.

1964/1965: Jimmy Nicol & The Shubdubs (touring). Solo single as The Sound of Jimmy Nicol - Decca F12017

1965 (Sept) - 1967 (Feb) : The Spotnicks. In September 1965 joined the well-known Swedish guitar group The Spotnicks. He was also offered the drumming job for the musical West Side Story on the same day which he turned down. The Spotnicks rush-released a single, The Spotnicks Introducing Jimmy Nicol, titled Husky and Drum Diddley.

In 1967, Nicol lived in Mexico working with samba & bossa nova groups. He married and had a son, Howard, who in the 1990s was to win an award as sound engineer for his work on a BBC collection of Beatles recordings.

In 1969, he recorded "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (sung in Spanish) with his own band, "Jimmie Nicol Show." 1969 Discos Orfeon LP-E-12-623 (Mexico) (LP) Era Psicodelica Del A Go Go Jimmie Nicol Show: Jumpin' Jack Flash (Spanish)


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