Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dave Morrell Part 1: John's butcher album

One  of the first fan stories I recall hearing when  first became a Beatles fan in the 1980's is also one that is hard to believe.   But it did indeed happen!   It is the story of a teenage Beatles collector in the early 1970's named Dave Morrell.   I found this article about Dave's butcher cover album that was once owned by John Lennon, in the September/October 2003 issue of Beatlology magazine.  It was written by Paul Garfunkel.  

The question that comes to my mind is why did Dave make a tape copy of the bootleg album that he bought from the company in California?   I know it was rare, but it couldn't have been THAT rare if he ordered it through a mail order.  Why didn't he just buy a copy for John?   It seems like he was being a tad bit sneaky.  But then again I am insanely jealous of this guy, so I cannot say.

Dave meets Paul in 1986 and asks him to sign the album
John's doodleo n the reverse of the butcher jacket
Yoko Ono with Julian, Sean and Dave

John Lennon’s Butcher Cover
By Paul Garfunkel with Bruce  Spizer

In early 1971, Dave was working in the Paramus Mall for a department store called Bamberger’s in their jewelry department.  It was during this time when he had his first encounter with John Lennon.  After this one particular evening he knew it would be impossible to go back to work the next day and tell his co-workers that he had actually spoken with John Lennon on the radio the night before.  So, he decided not to go back there anymore and quit his job. 

During this time, John and Yoko were regular guests on a popular radio show hosted by Howard Smith on WABC-FM.  One night they were on the radio wit him, but they did not identify themselves as John and Yoko.  They were really “on” and John was being very humorous, using different dialects and really acting it up.  He was in top form that night when he started taking phone calls from listeners.  He wasn’t promoting anything, just acting crazy.

John and Yoko had been on the show a few times by this point, and this particular night they just started talking funny.  John was speaking in his regular Liverpudlian accent though he didn’t talk about anything that identified him as John Lennon.  Anyway, Dave wanted to call the station to try to get on the radio, hoping that John Lennon would pick up the phone and he would get to speak with him.  Dave also wanted to make sure that his friends listening at home would know that it was him if he did get through.  So he came up with a plan.  He would say, “Dave Marrell is the Great White Wonder,” firstly because he wanted to get his name on the radio and, secondly, he wanted a connection with the Bob Dylan bootleg of the same name.  To this day Dave does not know why he chose that phrase, but at the time, it seemed like the right thing to have ready to say if John picked up the phone. When John picked up the phone, he played along beautifully.  He told Dave, “Oh, could you say it a little bit slower please.”  So Dave said it again, “It’s Dave Morrell, the Great White Wonder.”  John again asked, “Could you please say it again, just a little bit slower please.”  This went on several more times, and then John said, “I think we’re almost there, just once more a little slower.”  So he did it again even slower, and John finally said, “Thank you, you’ve won Mayor Lindsey’s leg!”  Hung up the phone and went to another caller.  That was Dave’s first conversation with John Lennon.

Dave had been collecting Beatles records for a long time.  He had recently received a flyer in the mail from Godzilla Records in California.  Inside the flyer was a listing of bootleg albums.  Records featuring the Rolling Stones “Liver Than You’ll Ever Be,” Dylan’s “Great White Wonder” and the Beatles’ “Yellow Matter Custard.”  This album listed fourteen Beatles songs, all of which he had never heard except for “Slow Down.”  Dave ordered the bootleg album.  When it arrived he put it on his turntable and was amazed that it really was The Beatles singing these songs.  Here were more  than a number of songs that few people had ever heard.

Dave then wrote a letter to New York Disc Jockey, Howard Smith, asking him that when he sees John Lennon to ask him about these songs.  When Dave came home from school a few days later, hismom said, “Howard Smith called for you.”  Howard Smith, who also wrong for the Village Voice, was returning Dave’s phone call.  Dave was overwhelmed.  Dave called him back and said, “hi, it’s Dave Morrell.”  Smith answered, “I got your letter.  I showed it to John and he wants to meet you.  Can you come over?”  Dave said “yeah!” and jumped in his car to pick up Howard in front of the Village Voice and they drove to the Record Plant.

Dave brought a chest full of Beatles memorabilia for John to check out.  It was an amazing experience for Dave to go through this wooden door, knowing that John Lennon was on the other side – something most people could only dream of.  John was very warm and friendly, rushed out, put out his hand and said, “Welcome.  How are you doing?  Listen, have a seat.”

Dave sat in front of the board, so he had to watch John Lennon through this glass reflection behind him.  David Peel’s session wasn’t going well.  Peel actually had the sheer audacity to say to John, “I don’t’ have the music for the next song,” and Lennon said, “Oh, for crying out loud, go get it!”  And sent him home in a cab.  John then came into the studio, sat down at the piano and trying his best to play “In my life” while Dave was watching through the glass.

John then came into the booth, sat down by Dave and asked, “What have you got here?”  Dave opened up the chest which was full of Beatles stuff.  The first thing Dave pulled out for him was a bubblegum trading card with a picture of what The Beatles would look like without their hair.  He cracked up when he saw it and said, “Oh, you’ve got to show this to Yoko.  This is so funny; I look just like a Japanese man!”  Dave very enthusiastically leaped out of his chair, ran to the door and went to see Yoko.  He told Yoko, “John wanted me to show this to you,” at which point she said, “Oh, give it to me,” ripped it out of his hand, autographed the front of it and handed it back to Dave very quickly.  She barely even looked at it.  Dave went back into the studio.

Dave then showed John his copy of the album “Best of the Beatles” on Savage Records.  The cover was a picture of the Beatles taken by Astrid Kirchherr in Germany.  The album was not in fact by The Beatles, but rather songs by Pete Best’s band – and Best’s head is circled on the cover.  Upon seeing it, Jon flipped out and whipped it across the room like a Frisbee, where it hit a wall and bend the cover.

At this point John turned to Dave and said, “You know, I really want to get those tapes that Howard said you have.”  Dave had dubbed the “Yellow Matter Custard” album onto a 7 ½ “reel to reel tape, so he would not have to hand John the actual bootleg album.  John offered his Sgt. Pepper costume in trade.  Dave realized that he was just this kid from Kearny, New Jersey, who had no business being with John Lennon in the first place.  He would probably never see John again so it seemed really unlikely to get his Sgt. Pepper outfit, which John would have to retrieve from storage in England.  Dave said to him, “Actually I collect Beatles’ records and the one that I’m missing is the Beatles “butcher” cover.  Dave had remembered an article in the Newark Star Ledger that he had read, in the Arts and Leisure Section of the November 7th edition, in which the contest of John’s apartment were described.  It mentioned that a butcher cover was up on the wall.  “I’d really like to have that.”  Dave said.  John replied, “No problem.”  John picked up the phone and told one of his assistants to bring it over to the studio.  A few minutes later the assistant arrived with the record.  John drew a big cloud on the front of it and signed it, “to Dave from John Lennon December 7, 1971.”

The story of his butcher cover album could have ended with this, but the same ambitious spirit that got Dave and John together persisted in the years to come.  Dave became a fixture at Apple where he met Ringo and got him to sign the butcher cover.  While still in his teens, Dave got into the music business and landed a job at Capitol Records.

In the summer of 1986, Dave was working promotions for Paul McCartney’s Press to Play album marking Paul’s return to Capitol Records.  At a press junket at Radio City Music Hal in New York City, Dave got Paul to sign the butcher cover as well.

This particular record is a blank jacket with a stereo ‘butcher” slick affixed to it.  The cover’s seam has been split almost all the way around – the condition it was in when given to Dave.  The back cover is adorned with a drawing of what appears to be a farmer and his dog standing in the path of the setting sun.  John incorporated tears and stains into the artwork.  The record is a stock east coast mono record with the letters VIP on the left-hand side of side 1.

While it is not known when, how or from whom, John got the cover, it is almost certain that the cover was prepared by a Queens Litho employee. IN 1966, when Capitol recalled the butcher cover, Queens Litho was ordered to destroy all unused butcher slicks it had printed.  Although the company dutifully destroyed hundreds of thousands of slicks, it kept a few hundred.  During the next couple of years, these slicks were given out to employees, customers and friends of employees until one weekend the remaining supply disappeared.

A small number of slicks were attached to blank covers as souvenirs.  These blank back butcher cover jackets were not authorized by Capitol and were not packaged with a record.
As for the tape copy of “Yellow Matter Custard,” John had a few acetates pressed.  John mistakenly thought the songs were from the Decca audition although the recordings were actually BBC radio show performances.  He sent one of the acetate copies to Paul.



  1. Holy smokes, Sara, that's one heck of a typing job you did on these two stories! I totally remember that Rolling Stone article, talk about a blast from the past!

    Also great to see Bruce Spizer helped write this article!

    What a doodle! And what an amazing story! This was no mere transient meeting....this was "let's sit down and look at some Beatle memorablia with John Lennon!!!!" Unbelievable!!!

    1. One heck of a "doodle", indeed.

      Analysis at:

      Audial discussion partly also in last segment of Feb 19 2014 show of "The Real Deal", and will be posted in a few weeks at and already also on Jan 15 2014 at same archives:

    2. "....a farmer and his dog standing in the path of the setting sun. "

      So much for your Paul-is-Dead bullshit.


    3. All you had to do was ask and I would have sent the text (save you retyping).

  2. wow, what a story! i never read it before. thanks for posting this, sara.

  3. John was hilarious on the radio. Love the way he handled Dave's call! All of his stints as a "dee jay" just highlighted that quick wit and charm. Imagine what he would do with today's technology...

  4. Glad to say I am a friend of Dave's, Mike Kulyeshie

    1. Hi Mike, I am doing some research for a friend who is trying to track down her cousin Dave. Would you be able to contact me?

  5. Great coverage of both the Beatlology and RS articles. Now, are you able to track down that article from the Village Voice (as pictured on p. 7 of Beatlology)? That would be a nice piece to add here!

  6. Glad to see this is on the internet. David is doing fine in California. I still have the Copy of Best of the Beatles that John wing across the room.

    Paul Garfunkel

  7. The question that comes to my mind is why did Dave make a tape copy of the bootleg album that he bought from the company in California? I know it was rare, but it couldn't have been THAT rare if he ordered it through a mail order. Why didn't he just buy a copy for John? It seems like he was being a tad bit sneaky. But then again I am insanely jealous of this guy, so I cannot say.

    Well I can answer that. He wanted to give it to John (no strings attached) He was just a kid and had no expectations except to meet John.

  8. I've known Dave for many years and had heard about this great story with John and the album. I've seen it in person and it's amazing..Just read that Dave's putting it up for auction next month!!! Now just imagine what that would fetch?

  9. I don't believe John drew the picture for Dave.He signed it but the drawing was already there. I think the drawing part was added on as a story.

  10. Dave was mentioned on SirusXM this morning on "Breakfast with The Beatles" in reference to his butcher cover.