Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Greek Street Gang (part 1)

signing book for the Write thing contest.  Jo looks on laughing.  March 10th.  Photo by Silvia Purbs

Denny accepts roses from Jo March 10 at EMI.  Photo by Shelia Holder

Putting on the charm March 10th at EMI photos by Silvia Purbs

Somebody tells a bad joke.  photo by Silvia Purbs

Denny poses with Sheila March 9th
In March of 1977, a group of Paul McCartney fans went to London to wait around EMI studios while Paul was recording with Wings.   In true Beatle-fan tradition they hung around and greet Paul as he arrived for the day.   Cameras in hand, they snapped plenty of photos and shared the story and photos with the Write Thing Magazine in the May/June  1977 issue of the fanzine.   I have split the story up into two parts.   The first part covers March 8-10 and was written by Barb Fenick

On March 8th we went back to work and made our way to St. John’s Wood once again.  It’s been eight years since I spent the summer of ’69 loitering daily on the sidewalk in front of #3 Abbey Road, EMI recording studios.  I can’t say the place hadn’t changed, because it certainly had.  The sidewalk that used to be so crammed with over a hundred expectant fans was bare and silent.  There used to be such an air of nervous excitement about the place, without the mob it didn’t seem half as consequential.  There wasn’t much left to keep the studios form fading into the obscurity of the neighborhood; even the “abbey Road” street signs were no longer there, they’d been stolen so many times by overly-eager fans that the city had finally quit replacing them.  But despite its low profile these days, Abbey Road still draws its fair share of pilgrims.  Almost every day some one appeared to gawk at the street and photograph for themselves the zebra crossing at the corner that the Beatles “immortalized” on the album cover.

But Jo and I had a larger purpose in mind and a bigger objective than just photographing the empty street.  With a little more patience than that we could confront face-to-face at least one-fourth of the famous foursome who had made such a mecca out of this street.

Silvia and Sheila met up with us there and casually mentioned that Jimmy and Denny were imbibing just around the corner in the nearest pub.  Jo had thought she’d seen Denny whiz past the studios in that direction, but wrote it off as a hallucination.  Seems they all check the place out to see if El Boss has arrived yet, if not the mice can play.  We got into the same habit, if Paul’s car wasn’t in the lot when we first went by then there was probably time to sit down, keep warm and relax.  And a little dutch courage couldn’t hurt at a time like this.

But this first time we came in and nearly bumped right into Jimmy and Denny who were standing by the entrance, engrossed in their own conversation.  Waiting patiently for a lull in this tête-à-tête, in order to ask them a few questions, I went up to the bar for a drink and when I turned around they were both gone already.

There was only one reason they’d leave mid-swallow like that and we guessed what it was.  Predictably, we’d only been back at EMI a few minutes when a silver Rolls Royce came bearing down on us.

Paul was driving and when he saw all of us waiting there so expectantly, he raised his eyebrows and grinned.  He got out to open the parking lot gates and Linda slid over to drive the car in, but Paul stayed to “greet” us.  Frist he looked over at Linda with an expression of “well they except it don’t they, and what else can I do?”  He wasn’t exactly ill at ease, but acting as if he felt he owed her an explanation for stopping to talk.  He kept throwing Linda these wide-eyed innocent looks but she stayed at the other end of the lot.

He looked at the five of us girls and pretending casualness asked, “How did you know we were going ot be here?”  Big silence, no one was going to answer him.  So finally trying to sound nonchalant I said, “Oh, the grapevine.”  “And which grapevine is this?” he pressed, a hard edge creeping into his voice.  Tired of the inquisition I tried to lighten the atmosphere, “What are you going to do if I tell you, beat someone up?”  (That was getting a little too close to old raw spots for comfort), but Paul took the cue and made an effort to joke back, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that!” in a real pseudo-innocent voice.

He was wearing jeans and a light spring jacket that could have passed for a Portobello Road flea-market special, his hair was brushed back off his forehead and he was pretty tan for an Englishman.  He would have looked really good if his cheeks hadn’t been so puffy, it added years to his looks.  We worried that he might be sick.  But I really didn’t notice details that much at this first meeting with him.  I haven’t yet become so blasé that I can see Paul McCartney after many months and coolly appraise his appearance.  I was so out of it I didn’t even remember to take a picture.  He stood there leaning against the gates calmly patience in dealing with “mutes” and other exotic breeds of fans has prepared him for these eventualities, but still he doesn’t offer information or start the conversation himself.  He waits to see what you’re going to say to him.  So finally we asked what they were recording, and he told us it was a new album for Wings, they’d be in and out of the studio for a few weeks, and there wouldn’t be any late night sessions.

Our brief encounter with his only had whet our appetite for more of the same.  The old junkie syndrome repeating itself.  Just as in ’69 when we became so hooked on seeing the Beatles at EMI and couldn’t bear to stay away and here again we knew we’d be back every chance we could as long as Paul was recording.

Wednesday the 9th we were in our positions and waiting and scanning the street for the Rolls.  Suddenly, Silvia calls out, “Here he comes!” I didn’t see any car approaching form the directions of his house, so I looked up the street from the other direction.  Nothing there either.  By the time I turned back, Paul was already nearly at the gate.  He was alone, and he had caught us off-guard by walking the few blocks from his house to the studio. We were all excited about having him all to ourselves.  Eagerly we encircled him and he turned towards us ready to stop and talk.  And then Mr. Assistant-to-the-Head-Ogre, Trevor (Road Manager) Jones appeared from whatever depths he usually hides in and maliciously spirited Paul away.  Same old harassment techniques there.  I took one picture of Paul as he looked back at us rather wistfully I thought.  He hates to blow a good entrance ya know.  And a rare opportunity to have him to ourselves unhindered by Linda’s interruptions was fouled again.

Our usual little clique of five or six expanded on Thursday to a dozen or more.  Besides Sheila, Silvia, Jo and I, other regulars were there, Kathy Gethin, Valerie Prechner and Linda Butcher (one of our club members who was originally from Michigan).  This time I was keeping my eyes peeled for silver Rolls while simultaneously checking out every lone figure walking down the street.  At about 2:45 Silvia gives out her by now familiar announcement, “Here he comes!”  I didn’t see either his Rolls or any man walking that could even pass as Paul.  Turning in circles, I kept saying, “Where?  Where?”  But Silvia was already focusing her camera on the occupants of a little inconsequential pink Mini.  Tricky Man!  He was grinning.  Perhaps he thought we’d called in reinforcements! A ham to the end though, he seemed quite pleased and enjoyed the attention.  Val told him he looked good with his Jamaica tan and that brought on a smile.  He signed quite a few autographs including one for Joanna on “Facts about Pop Groups.”  He opened it up to the introduction that was supposed to be from him and pointed to his signature saying, “But you already have my autograph.”  “But that’s not the real one,” Jo told him, meaning a freshly signed personalized one is worth all the pre-printed ones in the world.  Mumbling, “that’s not the real one,” he signed his name and also wrote, “Which one is real?” and drew an arrow to the printed name.  Joanna is laughing in all the pictures, but she says she doesn’t know why, he wasn’t that amusing!  Linda wasn’t at all amusing.  I asked her if she remembered us form the U.S. tour and she replied, “How could I forget?”  Valerie congratulated her on th expected baby and said, “I bet you hope it’s a boy.”   “Everybody’s hoping that,” Linda said, “but I won’t mind if it’s a girl.  Everybody will probably feel sorry for us if it’s a girl though.”  She was patting her stomach as she said this.

Paul meanwhile was really getting off flirting with two pretty German girls who hadn’t been around before (Ahh, fresh blood!).  He was practicing his extensive German on them.  “Ya Wohl,” he kept saying.  They said something to him about Hamburg, and he replied in German that he was coming back to Hamburg someday.  Also vying for his attention was Linda Butcher’s little daughter Nicole who handed him a red rose.  Paul, ever a sucker for little kids accepted it gracefully and gave her all his best expressions (You notice such things when you’re trying to get some good pictures, and I took about a dozen).  It was one of the better days and everyone felt really up about it.  Paul and Linda said their goodbyes and started up the studio steps, arms wrapped around each other.  But that can sometimes be a health hazard as Paul proved by tripping on the stairs.  Without meaning to be malicious all of us watching, spontaneously started to laugh.  He looked so klutzy, his arm all entwined with Linda’s.  Paul got in the last word though, he raised his arm and made a fish and cheered for himself!

1 comment:

  1. I used to be a friend of Sheila Holder,who can tell me how to get in touch with her again????
    Menno Schaap from Holland