Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer of '69 Remembered

Starr outside Apple. Photo: Barb Fenick

McCartney leaving sessions. Photo: Barb Fenick

Harrison dashing past fans. Photo: Lynn Berr

Outside EMI in August '69 Photo: Pat Mancuso

Outside EMi in August '69 Photo: Pat Simmons

Today I have a Beatles fan story by the well-known fanzine editor, Barb Fenick. I copied this story out of the Aug/Sept 1984 issue of Beatlefan magazine. But parts of it also have appeared in Beatles Rule, The Mess and The Write Thing (Aug/Sept 1978).

What I find interesting about Barb's story is that it tell about hanging around EMI as a tourist-fan in 1969. We have heard from the stories of the regulars about how they disliked the tourists, but I think this might be the first time I have heard the story from a tourists point of view. I do not like what she has to say about the Apple Scruffs. I don't know. Obviously I wasn't there for what happened, but I just think there has to be more to her story about when she talked to them.

Anyhow....some of the photos that were with this story I already had in color. So the colored ones I am going to use and the black and white ones I scanned from the magazine.

Fifteen years ago this summer I was 18and had just graduated from high school. My only ambition at that point was to meet the Beatles. No ifs, and or butts about it. The day after the first man walked on the moon, I was setting foot on British soil. My girlfriend Richie and I did, however, carry a poster of the UK flag all the way over there, and then had the pilot of our BOAC plane take out picture with it immediately upon our arrival. We stood there with the Union Jack unfurled, the English sun beating down upon us – quite mad from the word go! (We did not kiss the ground, however).

It was July 23rd before we got over the jet lag. We’d never been to England or even out of the country before, but our first visit wasn’t to Big Ben, nor Buckingham Palace. No, we found our way to Piccadilly Circus, and then around the corner to 3 Savile Row. The address for The Beatles own company, Apple corps Ltd. was a familiar one to all fans who read the teen magazines or subscribed to any fanzines.

We didn’t have any wait at all: Ringo was disappearing into the building just as we approached. A dozen or so fans were hanging around, trying to look cool. The English fans – the famous Apple Scruffs – at the time always tried to look cool. The American fans always looked anything but. That was how you told the difference! Being uncool, Richie and I just marched into the building like we had an appointment. We didn’t even think about it. Ringo was in there, why should we wait out here? (We had a lot to learn) We sat down in the waiting room/lobby. The bored receptionist barely glanced up from her fashion magazine. She’d seen it all – two more uncool American fans is nothing. So I took photos: a painting of John on the wall, framed photographs of an apple, even of the receptionist, and eavesdropped on a conversation she was having with Maureen on the phone.

A few minutes later Mal Evans came and sat down next to me and started “chatting me up” as th English might say. What did I know? Richie ran into Ringo’s chauffeur in the bathroom there. We thought it was a pretty good day so far! A whole mob of people arrived and started to sing “Give Peace a Chance” in Dutch. We tried to join this bunch and fake the Dutch, hoping we’d get an audition, and maybe meet of the Beatles or something (This was the days of big dreams for the “little guy” at Apple, remember). We were asked to wait outside.

Ringo finally did emerge, shaking his head no to all the fans who wanted him to pose for a picture and jumping into this waiting car. Richie shouted to him, “We’ve come 7,000 miles to see you!” Ringo looked at her with that world-weary, heavy-eyed, straight face and said, “7,000 miles, eh?” An eyebrow went up.

When he left, so did all the fans. They seemed to know something we didn’t. We followed a couple of American girls and jumped into a taxi with them. They gave the driver an address we were unfamiliar with, but one we’d never forget: #3 Abbey road, St. John ’s Wood.

Ringo was the last of the four to arrive at the EMI recording studio. The others were already inside working on a new album. We soon were clued in to all the pertinent details: they worked every weekday, Paul came first sometimes as early as noon, and Ringo left the earliest at about 8 pm while Paul didn’t usually leave until midnight. The fans were expected to stay behind the gates on the sidewalk and try not o disturb the peace of the neighborhood. Thus started our three week career of “hanging around.” We soon called the red-barred fence there “San Quentin” because it so effectively kept us locked out. “Us” was 100 or so fans from all over the globe. 90% female and mostly teenagers 15-19.

I made the mistake of telling some of the English girls about the independent Beatles fan club I ran back home, and offered them a “Beatles Rule” button. The “regulars” as everyone called them turned from “cool” to hostile. Three of them came up to me and said menacingly, “we’re going to get you!” And they three a crumpled button at my feet. I guess they liked American fanzine editors least of all. It was a great introduction to the state of Anglo-American relations at that point. We stayed in our own camp after that, and huddled through the cool evening hours with other American fans. We made from with our own kind: Kris from NYC, Mar and Fern from LA, Pat Rush (one of the few males around) from Kennesaw, GA and even a fellow Minnesotan, Becky from Minneapolis.

And that is how we spent our summer vacation! Clustered around the low wall and wrought iron fence that surrounds EMI. Inside The Beatles were putting the finishing touches to their legend with the “Abbey Road” album. Outside, a hundred fans fulfilled some personal dreams of their own.

In July 24th “Here comes the Sun” was recorded, Paul arrived at about 2pm in his pink suit and someone in the crowd handed him three pink rosebuds. He didn’t talk to anyone, rarely smiled that summer and would sign autographs without comment. One tall fellow from Germany pushed a microphone in his face and said “Say something”. Paul said, “something” quite tonelessly and pushed on past. He often looked unkempt, tired, saddened and burdened with a lot on his mind. There was determination and pride in his step, too, and you knew he’d keep on trying and pushing forward.

John arrived about 40 minutes later in his white Rolls, in his white suit coat, with his white tennis shoes arrogantly propped up on the seat ahead. His brown hair was almost golden when the sun shone on it, and his beard was just beginning to cover his face. Nearly 100 fans were waiting by this time – all trying to outrun each other for the best position on the EMI steps. When one of the Four arrived, the gates would be opened, and the fans could then rush in. Unlike Paul, who drove himself in his little green mini and always parked against the side wall, John would have his chauffeur pull right up to the steps and then he would leap out and bound in. He seemed so tall and so proud and he would always look straight ahead, arrogant almost. He barely noticed the hordes of fans jostling to get close to him, trying to take his picture, trying to hand him a present, just trying to see him at all. But if some fan seemed ot get too close to Yoko, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to “fuck off” in no uncertain terms.

The fans had a reverence almost for John and the reaction he caused surprised me. The sea (of fans) parted for him when he went up those steps. I think that Paul, George and Ringo got the love and John got the awe.

Yoko was always there by his side. A short-statured woman, she seemed in fear of getting lost in the crowd, except for John’s protectiveness. Perhaps, because she could look the fans in the eye, she noticed a lot more than John, and would pull on his white suit jacket and call his name, and then signal with her eyes that he should stop for a moment and acknowledge some fan’s request to take a flower or look at a camera or whatever.

Geroge was like a man possessed by some inner fury that summer. He’d bought himself a new navy blue Jaguar which would literally race down quite Abbey Road, careening into the driveway and missing by a hair one or two uncautious fans. I saw a girl get knocked right onto the hood of his car one day. Fortunately she was in a “loose” condition (if you know what I mean) and wasn’t hurt. Then he would throw open his door and woe be to anyone who got in his way, because he was known literally to walk right over fans if he had to. He actually stepped on my friend Becky’s foot once and as she sat sprawled on the driveway, another fan offered her $20 for the shoe George had touched.

He had extra long hair that summer and would take to wearing it pulled up in a ponytail coming from the top of his head on hot days. One day it was tied with an orange ribbon and he was wearing bright orange sunglasses as well. Even the most jaded fan was taken aback, but no one wanted to laugh until he was inside the studio!

George never signed autographs, but Ringo was much more obliging. He usually stopped for the first few fans who asked, posed for pictures and took flowers and gifts from the fans. He won a lot of hearts that summer. He was always driven by a sweet man named Allen in a luxurious Rolls, but he never seemed to take himself and his fame and the hubbub too seriously. He was still Ritchie Starkey at heart.

Once they were all in the studio, we would all leave for a few hours – eat lunch, sightsee the rest of London or hang out in the neighborhood having Scotch and cokes at the St. John’s Wood underground station or a lager and lime at the nearby pub. We had to try it all.

Pat Rush and I decided to walk down Cavendish Avenue one afternoon, just to see what Paul’s home was like. In previous years, #7 Cavendish had been the real Mecca – the hangout for the fans – sometimes even more than EMi, and more that Apple. But the “baddies” as we called a certain type of (former) fan were causing problems there. Scrawling gutter-style graffiti on Paul’s gates, breaking milk bottles in his driveway, and disturbing his neighbors with a lot of noise pollution. His home had even been robbed earlier that summer as he related in “She came in Through the Bathroom window” (and Apple Scruff Carol Bedford confesses in her book). Prints form rock star slides stolen from Linda were being sold like underground records by certain sleazy sorts in front of the EMI gates.

Pat and I were very quietly standing around neither disturbing the peace nor disfiguring Paul’s yard when a few of the “baddies” showed up and began to bang a garbage can lid and play a loud flute. Very shortly, a Bobbie showed up and chased them away – he ignored Pat and me. A few seconds later though, the gates flew open and Linda McCartney appeared screaming at us to go away. It was futile for us to explain anything and the Bobbie came back to escort us off the block anyway. He told us he didn’t enjoy the job of chasing fans away, but that Linda was constantly calling the police. He walked us all the way back to EMI, and we had quite an interesting discussion about the paranoia level on Cavendish Avenue. Because of the robbery, some fans were even being searched if they went on that block!

Being persistent hardcore types, we continued to linger somewhere in the neighborhood. Later that week I had a close encounter accidentally-on-purpose with Linda again just a few blocks from their home. I was with Sarah Nolte and she probably still laughs remembering how we stood on the corner pretending to be so nonchalant and inconspicuous –reading a crumpled piece of newspaper pulled form a trash bin, and reading it upside down to boot! My intelligent, meaningful and certainly enlightening discussion with Linda consisted of asking for directions to the Regent Park Zoo and then inquiring in all seriousness whether they had elephants there. Even I had no idea how that ended up coming out of my mouth. But I am not very good at ad-lib conversation under pressure. Linda cordially gave us directions and did not laugh about the elephants.

A few days later I took a present to the house, something I’d brought from the U.S. just to give them. I gave it to Mal, who was just going into the gates. A little bit later, Linda came out and shouted at us to go away, “you were here yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the day before that…” I was rather hurt by her hostility.

One day I did try to meet John … Thought he’d like a chance to have a civilized conversation with a true believer in peace and acorns, and everything decent John was espousing that summer. Sarah and I knocked on his Weybridge front door (he was living in Ringo’s former house on St. George’s hill). But it seemed no one was home. We sat down in his front yard (or garden as the English say), which consisted totally of weeds, and watched them grow for some time. I finally saw Yoko go by an open window and we decided to ring the doorbell this time. Our timing was poor. Some of the rowdy bunch from London had just shown up and were making more of their habitual noise. John leaned out of an upstairs window and our meaningful encounter went like this: “Piss off already!” Surely he didn’t mean us? But the noisemakers had already disappeared, and John was gesturing none too politely at us, indeed, in our na├»ve, youthful innocence we were insulted. Now, I just laugh.

We decided that as long as we were on a roll, we might as well take the train over to Esher and at least take a peak at George’s house. We’d seen pictures of the psychedelic paint job done to his home and the pool area but we wanted to get a firsthand look for ourselves. We kind of hoped we wouldn’t’ run into George himself. We were a little young to die.

Our friends Richie and Jeri were already there and we joined them. Terry Doran told us Patti and George weren’t in. So we took a few photos and just as we walked down his long driveway back to the road, his speeding blue Jaguar was gunning for us. It pulled up with a screech and George rolled down a window. “What are you doing here?” He demanded. We took that literally and told him we were just talking to Terry. “He’s not here”, said George and ended the conversation (such as it was). He and Patti appeared to be having an argument and when they got up to the house, she slammed the car door behind her and slammed the house door as well. Richie ran after George, who was standing by his car, and said, “Wait a minute. We just wanted to show you these pictures.” And she pulled a stack of Polaroids of Patti posing at Trafalgar Square for us the week before during a peace march. Perhaps our timing wasn’t the greatest (again!). George did look through them, mumbled something unintelligible and went back into the house.
Ringo was the only one we had any real luck with. Richie and I didn’t have any idea where he’d moved after he gave up his Weybridge house to John. But one day at EMI we chanced (ahem) to see a letter on the front seat of his car. A second glance gave us an address in Elstead, Surrey. No easy place to find – we had to take a train, then walk a mile or two and finally hitchhike. Mind you, we were wearing dresses and high heels. So in that attire, some local residents mistook us for “somebodies” and deposited us right at Ringo’s doorway. When he saw we didn’t have the guts to just go up to the door and knock, he drove away in a huff. The gate was locked though, and hey, there were bones in the front yard.

Finally, we found an open gate, braved the “graveyard” and actually rang the bell. Expecting a housekeeper or something, we almost didn’t recognize Mauren in her bathrobe and just-washed hair. She talked to us like we were normal, harmless fans and she seemed ot realize we’d come a long way out of love and respect just ot meet them. We talked about the current issue of the Beatles Monthly (August 1969), in which quite a few pictures of Mo were printed – pictures she hadn’t yet seen and didn’t care too much for!

It was Aug 4th, her birthday, so we had a card for her and wished her a good day. She told us that she and Rich were getting ready to go into London for the Hank Snow concert. We asked about the possibility of saying hi to Ringo before we left. She said he was just taking a bath, but she’d check with him. When we saw him go by a window, wearing nothing but a bathrobe (a pink one!) we were sure he wouldn’t come out.

It was quite a shock when he did. We ended up talking quite casually for about 20 minutes. Ringo had a way of making us comfortable – he really listened. He remembered Richie from EMI and he recited to her all the many things she’d given him there (flowers, scotch and so on). Then we got on the subject of country-western music and talked about how old some of the greats were getting to be, including old Hank who “must be 90 and ready to fall over.” Ringo joked. He even demonstrated a country polka for us!

I don’t’ remember much else, except that we hitched our way back to London as fast as we could and made it there in time to buy a ticket to the Hank Snow concert. We waved to Ringo and Mo as they left the theatre that night.

Paul was the one that I most wanted to at least say something personal to, away form all the masses. Hut his home was out of bounds. My friends and I plotted many an impractical plan, but finally I “violated” the code of honor and snuck into the EMI parking lot and waited by Paul’s car in the dark. Not many fans were left; it was nearly midnight. When he did come out, I put a hand on his shoulder and looked him right in the eye. I never even noticed Linda on the other side of the car until afterwards. I only got to say a few words before Mal reached out and took my hand and led be back to the fence.

The next morning when he arrived I was standing on the bottom step of the studio. I rarely ever got that close. It was probably my last chance and, of course, I was paralyzed into inaction. Richie came to my rescue and pushed me into him. I kissed his cheek as he walked right up the steps past me. I’m sure he never even knew it. My friends led me back to the curb where I must have sat shaking for some time. A few people even came around to congratulate me on my bravery!

So did I meet the Beatles? Not really, but I came to know them just a little bit better. I started to understand what their world was really like. I know I made no dent in their lives, but they sure made a hell of an impression on mine.


  1. Great little story. Strikes me though how vulnerable they seem, even in their homes.

  2. Amazing to hear about the hostility between english and american fans - what´s the deal?
    Also quite strange to read about those "baddie"-fans, they seem to try to both get close to their idols as well as annoy the hell out of them at the same time - what were they thinking? Closest thing to stalking I guess.
    Anyway, great read and with a lot of humour too!

  3. To the author: you were obviously bothering them. I don't know how much you knew about what was actually going on in the group at that point, but regardless - you essentially stalked them. Couldn't you see that they were in desperate need of some privacy? I love this band as much as the next person, but they ate/were just people who need their privacy as much as you and I do. How would you like people hanging around your house and workplace day in and day out? At the risk of sounding too harsh, it's people like you who made George feel that he had to become a hermit in relation to the rest of the world. So thank you for that.

  4. 4headedmoster: you do realize that this blog is about the photos and stories of the people who have met the Beatles in person, right?

  5. Yes, I do. Does that make it inappropriate for me to comment on the story?

  6. This story is just similar to many of the stories I post here. You are free to comment on them. I obviously find them fascinating. From most of the stories that have been shared, George himself was the most supportive of those who stood outside of his house and studios. I saw that you your blog, which I enjoyed looking at you do not want any idol worship. Whereas this blog is basically all about idol worship.

  7. Alright, I understand Sara. Thanks for reading my blog. I do know that George was quite supportive of fans; of course, he wrote Apple Scruffs about them.

    I was just a bit disturbed by the lengths to which this woman went to be near them. It seemed intrusive to me. Perhaps my comments were a bit too harsh; after all, everyone's entitled to relate to the group in their own way.

  8. When I said "closest thing to stalking" I was talking about those fans the author is writing about (those that would break in Paul´s house, write on his gate, do the trash bin noise etc.
    Just to make sure. Sure the author herself was cheeky enough to try to get as close to her idols as possible too but she does not display this strange mix of agressiveness and admiration that she seems to have noticed in some of the fans she writes about.

  9. Well one thing I kept in mind while reading this story was that she had just graduated from high school and left her mid-west town to go to England and meet the Beatles. She was very naive in her thinking that it could be that simple. And 4headedmonster, as you pointed out, the Beatles were going through a break up during this time, but she would not have known that. She just thought she could go into Apple and say "Hi I am here to meet the Beatles" and they would let her on in. She went on to publish one of the most well-loved Beatles fanzines as well as a great price guide to Beatles collecting. So I think her experience helped her to realize that The Beatles were real people.

  10. I met someone years ago at a Beatle gathering who had met Paul 3 times. He would tell the stories to the group, but when I first heard them, I got kind of a creepy feeling. Paul was so nice to him, but he was so out of bounds with his enthusiasm (not letting Paul's hand go, etc.) that I realized that it must be a very difficult life...that people relate to the Beatles in such intense ways. Not judging Barb or that guy or anyone, but I do reflect on that.

  11. Whitney: I agree. I was totally psyched when Paul acknowledged my sign at one of his Chicago concerts this summer, and I'd love to meet him up close, but there's a certain point when it becomes creepy, in my opinion.

    I almost feel like it's never enough for some people, and that's the impression I got of the Apple Scruffs. Once you've met them, told them you love the music and whatnot, and gotten their autographs, what more can you expect? Sure, I'd love to have been buddies with George (I think we would've gotten along pretty well ... similar personalities and interests), but obviously that wouldn't have happened, even when he was alive.

    Anyway, just my opinion, of course.

    Sara: It does seem like she was naive; I agree with that. Honestly, I'd probably have been way too intimidated to actually approach them, especially as a teenager, much less go to their houses. Though who knows - my mom said that she flirted her way backstage at a Stones concert in the 70s, and got an invitation to an afterparty. She was too scared to actually go (she was only 16), but my mom isn't exactly the "groupie" type (and I have a similar personality to her), so maybe I would've been braver than I think.

  12. 4headedmonster, i believe you should think twice before making remarks about people and situations you know nothing about, as you are bound to offend someone. as george said himself "but there's so much they don't know about apple scruffs".
    lizzie bravo
    apple scruff
    rio de janeiro

  13. Totally agree Lizzie!!!You had to be there at the time to experience it! Things were different then and we did have a good rapport with them as we saw them almost daily for a long time. As for trying to look 'cool' well....we were! :)

  14. Lizzie, I'm sorry if I offended you. I was responding most directly to the woman who wrote the story that was posted. I know you had a basically good rapport with them, and I know George wrote a very affectionate song about you. He was also completely paranoid about stalkers, so I was only trying to acknowledge the darker side of the entire musician-fan relationship. Again, I'm sorry if I offended you.

  15. The Beatles are such a common focal point for all kinds of people, people who might not share anything else in common. So it's no surprise there was some conflict and squabbling among fans. That's teenage girls for you I guess, all fighting over an object of desire they can never have to themselves.

    As for hanging around for days on end trying to actually meet a Beatle. I don't know if I personally could. If I somehow met Paul, I guess I would say something like 'love your work, it's made me happy over the years', etc. But then what? This man might seem so familiar, but I don't know him in the slightest, and couldn't really picture a situation where a natural friendship could occur. Sadly, I think a fan is the last person a Beatle is going to become close friends with! They're are in public-mode with the fans, even if you've met Paul 200 times, you still aren't 'friends'. How could you be?

    It's just the music you love----and all the good feeling, fascination, worship, hanging around, etc springs from that.

    When you are such public property that people who probably wouldn't normally think to write a book can make money writing a book about you, solely because you are a common ground for absolutely everyone, then you are going to keep the real you, really really private. It's only human to keep somethings private. Like your home.

  16. db - has any fan ever said they became 'friends' with any Beatle, no, I've never seen that and and wouldn't dream of even thinking that we were. We were well aware that they are/were in public mode as you say. We knew our place! As to the squabbling, yes it did go on but the author saying that the UK fans didn't like the Americans is rubbish because we made good friends with a lot of American fans (and Brazilian/Italian etc)and are still friends to this day....and not every person who waited to see the Beatles was an Apple Scruff or a Regular - the Apple Scruffs did not exist at the time the author was there!

  17. Couldn't have put it better one who was there at the same time!!

  18. totally agree with both anonymous.

  19. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble but from personal experience - truth is that certain fans in London and NYC felt that the lads were "theirs" and resented anybody else waiting to see them. No one owned the lads.

  20. Just finished reading this & it brought back so many memories. Barb's simply written recollections are honest ones of those days for the fans who might be wondering what it was like then. I enjoyed all these interesting comments having been around myself in the 60's & 70's and agree that everyone should be entitled to their opinion.