Sunday, March 8, 2015

When Michael met the three Beatles

I am sure most (if not all) of you have see the photos and read the story of Michael Herring in the Daily Mail online this weekend.   And while it has been everywhere, the story really needs to be housed here at Meet the Beatles...for real, don't you think?  First I am going to share it for what it truly is...a wonderful story of a fan who met three of the Beatles (for real) and had a once in a lifetime experience.   And then I will have a response after it.  

Same photo without watermark, but blurry and small

Autograph of Ringo and John that Michael obtained that day.  Is that supposed to be a swastika under John's name?  oh John!

They are extraordinary pictures of the Beatles in their heyday, images never published before. 

And, it is claimed, these photographs reveal for the first time a bombshell moment in the band’s history that has left Beatles experts baffled.

It is 1968 and John Lennon coolly stares into the camera. Alongside him, George Harrison has in his shirt pocket a resignation letter from Paul McCartney – apparently written a full two years before he would eventually quit.

That is the claim of Michael Herring, who took the pictures as a 19-year-old art student during a magical day other Beatles fans could only dream about.

Mr Herring says he took these intimate pictures of the Beatles after turning up uninvited on John’s doorstep, later sharing a car ride with him to George Harrison’s house to see the Beatles recording – and witnessing the opening of a letter said to announce McCartney’s resignation.

US-born Mr Herring’s adventure began when he ‘doorstepped’ Lennon at his Surrey mansion, Kenwood, on May 28, 1968, after getting the star’s address through a friend. 

Mr Herring, who at the time was studying art in Kensington, West London, said that to his surprise he was invited in.

‘John opened the door and said exactly these words: “Well then, what’s it about?”,’ he recalled.

Mr Herring said he won Lennon over by joking: ‘John, I wish you could be me so that you know what it feels like to meet you.’ He was promptly invited in for breakfast.

Mr Herring sat down to eat with the singer and Yoko Ono – who ‘never spoke a word and was just mumbling into a cassette recorder’ – and then his luck got even better.

Impressed with Mr Herring’s knowledge of Yoko’s artwork, Lennon invited him to the band’s rehearsals for the White Album, which would be released later that year. 

They jumped into Lennon’s Mini and drove to Harrison’s Surrey bungalow, Kinfauns – adorned with psychedelic murals – to find George sitting on his lawn, playing the guitar. It was here that Mr Herring captured his series of evocative images.

‘George looked up and said, “Who’s this, then?”’ Mr Herring, 67, recalled. ‘John said, “This is Michael. He’s an artist. I found him in me garden.” They were chatting and the topic they were talking about was Paul. It appeared there was some question over whether Paul was going to show up for the rehearsal.’

In the house, Mr Herring was introduced to Ringo Starr and Harrison’s girlfriend Pattie Boyd.

And then came the arrival of a hand-delivered letter.

Mr Herring said: ‘There was a knock on the door. George opened it and there was a personal delivery guy. He handed him this pale blue letter. George read it and passed it to John.

‘I understood it was a letter from Paul’s attorney saying Paul wanted to quit the band. It was as if they were expecting he wasn’t coming that day. They didn’t seem that surprised. I can only paraphrase, but I recall George saying, “It’s from Eastmans and he’s not coming. Paul is quitting.” ’

Eastmans may have been a reference to the New York law firm Eastman & Eastman, the family business of Lee Eastman, father of the future Linda McCartney, who Paul had met in 1967. Linda’s brother John would later play a central role in steering 
Paul’s exit from the band.

The Beatles spent the rest of the day rehearsing in a small room and only broke to enjoy vegetarian curries. Mr Herring said he saw no drugs or alcohol.
Later, Lennon gave Mr Herring a lift back to the station, Mr Herring capturing one final iconic photograph as Lennon glanced into the car’s rear-view mirror.
Mr Herring kept his day with the Beatles under wraps for 47 years, only going public when he contacted a Manchester auction house, Omega Auctions, to enquire about selling his photographs and other memorabilia. The rare items are expected to fetch in excess of £10,000 when they go on sale on March 24.

Last night, Mark Lewisohn, a leading authority on the Beatles, said Mr Herring’s photographs were ‘fantastic because they capture a moment in history’.
But he cast doubt on the revelations about Paul’s resignation letter, saying: ‘There’s no way that can be accurate because the Eastmans had no part in Paul’s life until his relationship with Linda began in October 1968, and there was no way Paul was quitting at this point. They had a number of sessions at George’s house and Paul was certainly at most of them – maybe not this one – because we have the recordings.’
But he added: ‘This does not undermine the general story, which I do believe.
Mr Herring, a retired illustrator now living in Australia, insists his memories of events at Harrison’s house are correct.

A spokesman for Paul McCartney did not comment last night.

Alright so there is Michael's incredibly wonderful story.    And yes---it has some surface errors.   Pattie was George's wife in 1968, and not his girlfriend.   I believe that this s Michael Herring's memory of what happened in May 1968 and I believe that most of it is true and that all of it is true to him.  As with all fan stories, there is often more there that meets the eye (as they say in Help!)

Hunter Davies gave a response to Michael's story that I want to look at.   I truly respect Hunter Davies and I admire him for digging into this story and looking at it deeply.   That is what Beatle historians do.  We sift through the stories and dig down into the truth by asking questions.   Davies asked some great questions, although I do not agree totally with him. 

Questions 1:   Would John Lennon invite an unknown fan into his home just 9 days after he and Yoko got together?

I have to say that this isn't very far-fetched to me.   We have seen on this blog that John would from time-to-time invite fans into Kenwood.   This story is very, very similar to that of David Goggin in that he was an American in at Kenwood to meet John, John invited him in for a meal and then drove him to get George and to attend a Beatles recording session.    He even referred to Michael as someone he "met in the garden" just as he did David.    I am not sure what just getting together with Yoko would have to do with anything, really.   John didn't have plans with Yoko that day--he had plans with the Beatles.   I have no problems with this part of the story.

Question 2:  Would George have invited a fan in his home in 1968?   Here is a quote from Davies, "George would not have invited strangers into his house. By 1968, he hated being a Beatle and hated even more being asked about being a Beatle. Fans would get short shrift."    Before I began this blog, I would have read that statement and said, "Yeah...that's George totally."   However, I have to kindly disagree with Hunter Davies on this point.    We have seen time and time again that George Harrison was the most willing of the four Beatles in invite a fan inside of his home.    There are stories from 1968 and 1969 (Pat Kinzer and Sue B comes to mind) of fans coming to Kinfauns and George spends time with them and in some cases inviting them inside of Kinfauns!    I think a lot of it had to do with George's upbringing with his parents.   They were so super kind to the fans, that I think George felt like it was his duty to be the same way.   I really think that George disliked fans in large groups, but really liked getting to talk to fans on an individual basis.    
Question 3:  Did the Beatles allow strangers in on recording sessions?   I agree with Davies on his point that it was an extreme rarity for the Beatles to allow an outsider to sit in while they were recording anything.   It was done very, very rarely.    We know that David Goggin sat in during the recording of "I am the Walrus."    Yoko sat in during the recording of "Fool on the Hill."   There must have been something about Michael Herring that John, George and Ringo trusted to allow him to sit in while they were working on the White album demos.
Question 4:  Did Paul really resign from the Beatles on May 28, 1968?    I think we all agree that there is no way that Paul resigned from the Beatles.    Wouldn't he have said something about it in the Anthology?   Wouldn't it have been mentioned way before 2015?    So what was that letter business all about?   Here is my theory:    Between May 20-29, 1968 the Beatles met at Kinfauns and made demos of the White album (if you haven't heard the full bootleg sessions you need to...amazing!).  Paul was there prior to the 28th and said to others that he might not be able to make it on the 28th for the next session.    Paul was extremely busy in May of 1968.  He and John had just returned from New York to announce Apple, Paul was working with the band Grapefruit on their promotional film (filmed on the 26th), and he was sort of juggling three women (Jane, Francie and Linda).   So the three didn't think Paul was going to show up.  He might have said that he would try to make it.    The letter comes from Paul saying that he wasn't going to be able to make it and George makes a joke saying that Paul has quit the band.   He says the Eastmans bit because it was a joke.   Paul had just spent time with Linda Eastman in New York.   John had probably given Paul a hard time about Linda's dad being a lawyer.   It was a joke between the three of them.   However, Michael didn't know that.  He took what was said at face value.  Paul had quit the Beatles.   There were always rumors about one of the Beatles quitting.    Paul wouldn't have been involved with the Eastmans in May of 1968---he barely was in a relationship with Linda.   
Question 5:  Why did Michael Herring wait so long to share his story and photos?    Well---the photos have been out there.   They just haven't been so crisp and detailed.   But I had seen some of them before.   Sometimes Beatle fans do not wish to share their stories.   They want to keep them private and to themselves because they like to hang onto it.    I personally don't understand it, but I do respect it.   


  1. Nice this story. Why cant the letter bit be true.

  2. Sara I agree with you completely on every one of your points. I'm really impressed with your theory on this so called 'resignation' letter ' from the Eastmans'. I can't think of any other reason that this fellow would make this claim except as a misconstrued, inside joke, that he as an outsider could not possibly have understood. Of course we all know the Beatles' laconic sense of humor and way of talking in short hand to each other. However someone meeting them for the first time in 1968 may not have known, and could easily misinterpret something they said to each other. One of the things that raises a red flag is as you mentioned, the fact that Paul was not yet involved with Linda much less her family. He hadn't even met her family at this point and had only met her a few times. He was still very much with Jane Asher in May of 1968. He wasn't even with Francie Schwartz yet, let alone Linda Eastman. So how could he have retained the Eastmans as his lawyers at this early date?

  3. pics of john and george together are worth their weight in gold

  4. George has a quite a fierce look in these photos ("What re you doing here?")

  5. Remember too that this is many many years before the invention of internet / e-mails / cell phones etc. So it was probably quite common to use an assistant to deliver a hand written note to and from the Beatles - amoungst other chores .

  6. That is a good point. Today Paul might have sent George a text or an email saying "I won't make it today." But in 1968 a hand delivered letter was probably common, especially if Paul didn't have easy access to a telephone.