|Alf and Mal on the plane to Japan in 1966--photo by Robert Whitaker|
Alf was the Beatles' chauffeur beginning in October 1964. At first his job was just to drive the Beatles places and to get the Beatles meals and things. He hit it off pretty well with the boys and John Lennon asked him to go on tour with them. He wasn't the chauffeur on tour, but was a roadie along with Mal and Neil and helped with the equipment. He was with the Beatles on tour in Europe, United States, Japan, Germany and the Philippians. He was right there in the thick of Beatlemania and survived it all. He was there during some of the making of the film Help. He was with the Beatles in the recording studio and played chess with Ringo as well as dropped the anchor in the song "Yellow Submarine." Alf was one of those background guys that say a lot while he was with the guys. He took them to nightclubs and concerts and plays. He also sat with them in their homes.
The book is in the format of a diary. Not every single date has an entry, but most dates from October 1964-August 1966 have something to say. I have to question if Alf didn't go back when this book was being put together and "pad" his diary entries. There are some little things in there that made me go, "really??" For example, Alf talks in detail about how he thinks George Harrison felt scared to present songs he had written to Lennon and McCartney. I am not sure if Alf really had that foresight to see that way back in 1965, as we know it was a concern of George's later in the Beatles career. There are other things as well that makes me think Alf went back to add to some of the entries to make it a more exciting book to read. However, no one will ever know for sure.
One thing I was surprised in the book was how devoted to his wife and child Alf was during all of this. I guess you sort of have this mindset that to be with the Beatles, your wife and children are on the backburner, but throughout the book Alf is talking about how he misses his wife and how he bought presents for his son. Apparently his wife, Jean and Maureen Starkey became quite good friends and Jean even helped Maureen when Zak was born (which concerned Alf that it would give his wife ideas of having another child).
This book left me with a big question. Alf states that after Candlestick park, he knew it was the Beatles' last concert and that he would have to find another job. Why?? Mal and Neil didn't have to find other jobs and Alf's main job was as a chauffeur. By 1966, John had his own private chauffeur, but the other three didn't. Why couldn't Alf just stay on and be a private chauffeur for say Ringo? It just didn't make sense to me and made me wonder if Alf quit or was fired under bad terms.
It was lovely that in 1990 Alf and met up with Paul when he was touring . And there are reproductions of letters sent from George Harrison, Cynthia Lennon and Paul McCartney giving the book their stamp of approval.
This is a good book---it wasn't shocking or anything, but it is one of the few places where I found information about the 1965 European tour and the 1965 UK Winter tour, so for that alone makes it invaluable for Beatle fans.