Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Apple Scruffs come to dinner

As I have mentioned before, I am trying my best to do research on the famous Apple Scruffs. I have learned a lot and debunked a lot of myths that I once believed about them. However, they remain to be a mysterious bunch. (Not that I blame them...) I recently realized that Rolling Stone did an entire article about the Apple Scruffs in the December 24, 1970 issue. I have every issue of Rolling Stone from 1967-2007 on my computer, so I found the R.S. article on the Scruffs and read it. Then I remembered that I had read something in Carol Bedford's book about it. I guess they were misquoted in this article and it isn't that great of an article. But nonetheless, I spend most of my evening typing this all out, so I am posting it. Here is what it says in Carol's book about the article.

In November, George arranged an interview for Apple Scruffs with Rolling Stone magazine. We were surprised, to say the least, but Terry told us George thought the world should know about 'the world's most loyal fans.' Apparently, Rolling Stone were intrigued about us. They had heard George's song about us and wanted to know who or what we were.

Margo, Jill, Lucy, Wendy, Cathy and I went to Andrew Bailey's apartment on a rainy night. We sat on the floor around a coffee table facing Andrew and Richard DiLello., Apple's photographer. We chatted for a couple of hours, trying to explain the Apple Scruffs.

The article came out a couple of weeks later. They took our conversation and either cut it short, so that what appeared seemed out of context, or they simply and bluntly misquoted us.

On Monday, George came out of Apple. He asked me how the interview had gone.

"They misquoted us," I told him.

"Now you know how it feels," George snapped.

Apple Scruffs Come to Dinner

"I’ve watched you sitting there
Seen the passers by all stare
Like you have no place to go
But there’s so much they don’t know
About Apple Scruffs"
From George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass

By Andrew Bailey

London-“We were standing outside Abbey Road Studios at 6 o’clock on a Saturday morning,” Margo said on the night the Apple Scruffs came round for dinner. Not all 16 Scruffs made it through the rain, but the six who did arrive brought wine and looked happy. Margo, who works for Apple as a tea girl, recalled how they first heard George’s dedication to the Scruffs, which appears on his new album. “Mal Evans came out of the studio and told us to come in and listen to something. It was so beautiful. We didn’t know what to do and we cried. After they played the song we filed out into the rain again. I remember that night …. We took an old-fashioned Beatle blanket with us, the sort with pictures in the corners.”

The Apple Scruffs really started ages ago but the dozen and half girls who spend most of their non-working hours keeping an eye on all Beatle activity only organized themselves into an exclusive “freemasonry” about a year ago. Then they started producing their own monthly magazine, The Apple Scruffs Book. Besides hanging around on the steps of Apple headquarters in Savile Row the Scruffs do duty outside any studio where there is a Beatle at work.

Of course there are other dedicated Beatle fans who go through the same motions as the Scuffs. Fans who travel to Savile Row to catch a glimpse of a Beatle on his five-yard dash from the heavy white front door of Apple to the waiting car, or just to soak up the Beatles vibes, pay homage, wonder at it all. But there is only a handful of genuine Apple Scruffs.

Carol, who first caught the bug watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show back home in the States, describes in a breathy rush her first confrontation with her feeling for the cuddly foursome. “Well, you go to their concert when they come to your city, don’t you, and I’m standing there with my brother and he says now Carol you aren’t going to scream are you and I say you’ve gotta be kidding what do you think I am and then it just comes out and kept on getting louder like a snowball growing. And now you just can’t decide one day to throw away all your Beatle photos and everything. Anyway this is what I want. Some girls may be in love and going to get married. Well, right now … maybe it fills a “gap.”

Fills a gap between what, is asked. Another Scruff, Kathy, made of less dreamy stuff than Carol, puts up her defenses. “That’s too easy an explanation of what the Scruffs are about.” Speaking for the first time, Jill says in a small voice, “It’s the thing itself, kin its own way, that’s important.”

The Scruffs are sick of glib explanations. “One paper called us nuns,” says Wendy. A nice idea that in principle; a group of girls “married” to four saints from Liverpool. It fits in with a piece in the Scruffs magazine which listed losing one’s virginity as a reason for quitting the Scruffs. “Some of the original Scruffs have left, to get married, “explained Carol. “Tina, Lizzie, Joan…” She trails off. “Look we know that none of us is ever going to marry a Beatle, so forget that idea.”
“And don’t,” warns Chris, darkly “write any of that crap about ‘mother instinct.’”

Viewed from the steps of Apple the world’s a different place. It’s a good day when you get an unexpected smile from a visitor to Apple. It’s a bad day when the tourist points at you and snidely shouts, “They went out the back door.” It’s a normal day for the Scruffs to work at their regular jobs, maybe manage an hour outside Apple during the lunch break. It’s a special day when one of THEM is in the building. A recording session could mean an all-night sitting.
There are veteran Scruffs of seven years’ standing and some newer recruits. Most have been through the standard fan routine. “We’ve all done the Liverpool pilgrimage bit,” says Wendy.
They are older now, past that sort of thing. Their collection of Beatle goodies – guitar strings, sheets, cigarette ends, toys, cups – are a reminder of those days.

They don’t fully deserve the “scruffy” tag but they are a little proud of not being part of the West End mod-fashion rat race. That’s children. “We used to actually dress up to go to EMI studios but what’s the point. By 7 o’clock the next morning your face has black lines across it form the mascara.”

“It used to be a big thing if you waiting around somewhere for really long periods,” says Margo, “we used to say, ‘Wow it’s been 19 hours and I’m fagged out.’ Like the last day they were doing the White album they went in at teatime and came out the following lunchtime. And I don’t think they even saw us. Paul fell down the steps … they were in the front two rooms and John kept looking out and laughing. We were happy to have done 18 hours, we were so proud of it. And then everyone else got hold of the idea and made a big thing of it. And of course, really it’s just a load of bull.”

Someone wrote that to be a scruff you had to put in a certain number of hours before being eligible. ‘We just said that for a laugh,” says Chris, sounding weary of being misunderstood. “We’re getting a little sick of people now…”

The worst date on the Apple Scruffs calendar was the day Paul got married. “Out of all the Apple Scruffs I’d day that 90 percent were for Paul in the beginning,” says Margo, “it’s still the same now underneath. Everyone like John, but Paul…”

Then what?
“Paul got married. You know, we could sense the end of the Beatles coming. It was obvious form the individual attitudes. We could tell form their expressions as they went in and came out. You could tell.”

They went to Paul’s house the day they heard he was going to get married. They wrote about it in their magazine. Linda arrived at Paul’s house, which was surrounded by photographers and reporters. The Scruffs stood in front of the house, easy targets for the cameras searching for fans weeping at the news of Paul’s forthcoming marriage.

“In a moment of temper we pushed the gates open. They slammed hard. Back and forth. It was very quiet. Linda appeared at the doorstep, “Would you mind closing the gates,” she said, in the most ridiculous London accent. “Yes” we shouted. Then down the steps she came, smiling at the photographers and then closed the gate quietly. The reporters’ faces were a funny sight.
“As soon as she’d gone in we pushed the gates open again and she came out – faster this time – and she slammed them closed; but they sprang open, so embarrassed in front of us, she had to walk back and close them again. She got to the top of the steps and the gate flew wide, but at that moment Mr. Beatle himself arrived in Peter Asher’s car, so what with us trying to close the gate again, Linda on the other side (knowing Paul had just arrived) trying to pull them open, and Paul trying to get to the gates and photographer /reporters asking questions … Paul finally got behind the gates and asked everyone to wait a few minutes. He went in, then came back out again – he’d changed into a pink jumper – there must have been 20 to 30 reporters asking questions plus taking pics, we just stood to one side of the gate and couldn’t hear much of what he was saying, only that everyone would have to get here early to catch him. L.N ran off down to the end of the road, a couple of others followed. C. asked if it was tomorrow. He said, “Not while Bessie’s here (meaning the press), and we were satisfied that he’d see us later. The reporters looked at us puzzled, but they had got what they came for and were happy.

“Half an hour later it was very quiet, except for a few sobs, and then we decided that we had to see him just once more. We opened the gates and walked slowly in. Someone rang the doorbell. Waited, no one came, rang again. Rang again. Paul answered. We just stood there. God what do we say? “Yes, what do you want?” he said, as if we’d just come to borrow sugar. C. ran out. Someone asked if it was tomorrow, and he said, “Tomorrow.” It went quiet again.

“What’s this – Heartbreak Hotel? What do you think I am a 26 year old queer never to get married? Oh, stick around kids!” We just looked at each other. Oh God, Paul, what have we done now. All we wanted to do was stand there and talk awhile. What was the point in shouting at us like that? We stood there, tears falling but there was no sound.

“He reappeared at the door –with his coat on. We were embarrassed now, he could see our tears. He started talking about anything but nobody was listening much. He led us to the gates and talked with us for about an hour. He talked and talked. He said he couldn’t understand women, and how the news would go down in America, how the girls over there would react. Then he proceeded to talk about us and our rival groups and how, whenever he does something we don’t like, he gets the foreman coming up and telling him off. It was all true. He’d cheered us up and we were soon laughing at his jokes and his way of saying things.
“We talked for ages; most of it has been forgotten, small things. He said he loved Yoko, and how he never liked her at first and how different everything seems now, with John and the others – and he also said he’d marry us all – if the law would let him!

“He had to go in. Linda kept looking out of the window. It was obvious she was annoyed. We were much happier now, we learned a great deal that night.”

Linda hasn’t been forgiven. In most issues of the magazine, there are below the belt digs at her. The rest is filled with gossip, press clippings, replies to letters, competitions, cartoons, cracking jokes (Driver to garage mechanic: Have you got a foot pump? Why have you got flat feet?), explanation of Scuff language (I don’t care mean I DO care), a memorium to Mal Evan’s budgie, quotes, popularity polls of the Apple Scruffs.

Derek Taylor, The Beatles press officer (observed by a Scruff to “only come in on Thursdays to pick up his money but more recently coming in early every day”) reckons that the Scruff magazine saved Apple a lot of work. “When the Beatles Monthly packed in, “he explains, “we thought about producing a successor. But the Scruffs have done it for us. Their game is knowledge and expertise. They’ve built up a reservoir of love and malice. I’d hate to see them fall apart by becoming completely respectable. They miss very little of what goes on in Apple. They can polish or demolish your image.”

During the tourist season the front of Apple can become surrounded by a swarm of multi-national Beatle fans. They seem to come in waves. A week of Swedish. A day of Icelandic. A heavy gathering of Italians. Two chicks from the States over to spend a month on the steps, becoming desperate towards the end of their stay for somebody to talk to. Day-Trippers. Temporaries. Then an overdose of noisy French and German kids.

Jill remembers one nasty encounter. “There was this boy called Klaus who decided he wanted to kiss George. George came out of Apple and had to leap back about six feet. The French and Germans get violent. A lot of the blokes who come around are queer.”
But not Tommy, the only official boy Scruff. He’s still talked about. An American who got drafted from Savile Row to Vietnam. There are other male guest Scuffs like Derek Taylor, Mal Evans, Jack Oliver, Peter Brown (the Apple hierarchy) and then there’s Prince Charles and even Prime Minister Edward Heath. Ringo paid their 60c entrance fee.

The Scruffs annoy many of the tourists-fans. “They think we are in the way of them taking photos, “says Kathy. “One time he had an argument. One bloke grabbed an iron bar. We tend to think that everyone else should behave like we do.

“We are trying to protect the Beatles in a way. Like by pointing out to someone about to pop off a flash bulb in Ringo’s face that he has to drive away immediately and his sight might be impaired. But then they turn nasty and act like they are jealous. You’re got to be cool and sincere to be a Scruff. Out of hundreds we’ve whittled the true ones to just the present few.”
The night the Apple Scruffs came round for dinner started to wind up. Some had talked too much. Others said too little. One of them said, “We were dreading coming here tonight for one reason. We thought you were going to turn round and say, “Why do you do it?” Everyone asks that. And you just can’t explain it. They call us nuns, teenyboppers, groupies. Only a few can understand us. Derek and George – and Paul at one time. Paul probably more than anyone else. Most people think we’re frustrated in some sense.”

They aren’t frustrated, abnormal. Just lost their way in time a little perhaps.
“When we see them come out after a hard night at the studio we have sympathy with them. You think ‘Ha (sigh) here he comes.’ We all have the mother instinct but you should hear us swear if they don’t come out.”
Margo said, “To be a good Scruff you have to be two-faced. We call the hell out of them if they are away somewhere and then act all sweet when we see them.”
“It’s like a wife saying to a husband ‘you goddamn bastard, why aren’t you here….”


  1. Yeah, i always thought most of them were Paul girls. Very interesting article.

  2. Tommy was one of the people I met while "Beatling" in London and became a lifelong close friend. We spent a lot of time together while I lived in New York. Sadly, he passed away many years ago. I still miss him! I do remember once one of the Scruffs gave me a hard time because she found out I had a boyfriend. She said I didn't love John.

  3. one of the main things wrong with this article is that they are quoting something that Chris was supposed to have said and she wasn't even there!!! I'm glad I was one of the 16 who couldn't get there!(...and just a little wasn't Mal's budgie who died!) Anon Apple Scruff.

  4. I wondered about that, Anon Scruff. Carol doesn't mention Chris being there, but the article did. So strange that R.S. would quote someone who wasn't even there. I personally found the article confusing to read. It didn't "flow" very well. All of a sudden it goes into this long thing about Paul getting married, which I didn't fit very well.

  5. To be a Scruff though must have been exciting

  6. rather cringed with 'it's like a wife saying to a husband 'you goddamn bastard' why aren't you here'- a bit sick