Monday, January 16, 2017

Interview with Sid Bernstein

I found this interview with Sid Bernstein tucked away in a fanzine for Beatles and Rolling Stones fans.   The editor of the fanzine conducted this interview himself and so this little fanzine was the only place to read it.    I found it really interesting because it was from before John's death and it sort of helps me grasp what was going on with all of the Beatles reunion stories.   

Paul and Sid in the 1990's--long after this interview 
Interview—Sid Bernstein
All Things must pass fanzine  August 1980

On May 25, we visited Sid Bernstein in his midtown Manhattan office.  The following is the complete transcript of our interview with him.

ATMP:  What can you tell us about the advertisement you placed in the New York Times about two years ago, imploring the Beatles to reunite?

Sid:  No, it was eight or nine months ago.  There was a second ad that appeared in the Times last September.

ATMP:  Are you continuing in your effort to reunite the Beatles?

Sid:  Well, let me say this…That last ad in September 1979 cost $18,000 to place in the New York Times.  So it’s not easy to do this kind of thing all the time.  However, I felt this was the only effective way to get the guys to consider getting together one more time.  Whether they did it collectively or individually, doing their own thing on stage, but all of them in one place at one time.   I didn’t hear from Ringo, didn’t hear from George, didn’t hear from Paul, but I did hear from John Lennon.  Lennon called and asked for more details of my plan.  I gave it to him on the phone and he said, “Sid, why don’t you write it all down in great length and send it to me.”  This was about two weeks after the ad appeared around October first of last year.  I then wrote all the details down.  It took a lot of time but it gave a complete picture of what it could accomplish in terms of saving lives, particularly young peoples’ lives, the kids who were on the boats at that time, who had no homes and couldn’t find a haven:  the boat people.  It centered on the children of the boat people.  I delivered the letter personally, because I wanted to be sure that it didn’t have to go through a messenger, and I would have to worry whether the messenger gave it to the right doorman.  So I delivered it personally to the Dakota on 72nd Street, which is just a few blocks from here.  That is where John and Yoko live.  I waited for an answer but I never received one, so it seems almost hopeless.  My first two attempted go get them together for humanity have been fruitless.  However, when I have the mans and the ability I will try it again, because I think it’s worth a number of tries for the slim chance that they might get together, because of the good the four guys can do for a lot of kids who are not as fortunate as the kids we know.

ATMP:  Can you give our readers some of the details of your plan?

Sid:  I believe it can raise a half a billion dollars.  I think it could clothe, feed and educate for their lifetime one hundred thousand children, if they were to get together and do this benefit appearance.

ATMP:  Which of the Beatles do you  think are responsible for preventing a reunion?

Sid:  It’s my feeling that if Paul and John were convinced, then the other two might join in.  That’s my feeling---I have no real knowledge of their problems.  I can only guess at their problems.  When I ran my first ad in 1976, I didn’t get a response from anyone.  However, three months after the ad appeared, at the end of ’76 or the beginning of ’77, Paul was asked about the ad in Venice, where he was doing a benefit to save the city of Venice from sinking.  He was asked by a reporter from the Paris Herald-Tribune, which is a daily English newspaper that goes throughout Europe, “What do you think of Sid Bernstein’s plan for you four to get together?”  Paul’s reply appeared in the paper three months later.  He said, “Sid places too heavy a responsibility on our shoulders.  We can’t save the world.”

ATMP:  Have you ever tried to call them directly?

Sid:  Yes.  It’s hopeless.  There were no results.  You can’t get at them, and what’s why the ad appeared.  I figured they would read the ad, which they did.

ATMP:  Didn’t you know the Beatles when they first came to America?

Sid: Yes.

ATMO: Can you explain exactly how you were involved in their arrival in the U.S.?
Sid:  I was taking a course, as I still do, at the New School for Social Research.  I was in about my fifteenth year at the New School.  All the courses have to do with history and civilization.  Part of the requirements of my course consisted, in addition to books, of reading English newspapers once a week.  I learned about the Beatles in Liverpool way back in 1962.  I watched their progress from Liverpool to London and decided they might be right for America.  Being a showman and promoter, I looked up, after great difficulty, their manager, Brian Epstein’s home phone number.  I called him at home in Liverpool, made a deal with him in that first call to bring the Beatles to America for the first time a year later.  They arrived February 12, 1964 {sic}.  The following year I brought them to Shea Stadium, and the year after to Shea Stadium again.  My contacts with them were not frequent, but the few times we were together were highly interesting, dramatic.  We got to know each other very well.  This was because we were on the verge of history, breaking the Beatles in America.  So we became particularly close, especially Brian Epstein and myself.

ATMP:  So you knew them fairly well, especially John Lennon.  How would you say he’s changed from the Beatles you brought to America in 1964 as opposed to the man who called you about the ad six months ago?

Sid:  I guess we all change. It’s been fifteen years since I first met them.  He’s a mature individual, a very serious individual.  He’s approaching middle age.  John’s not the kid I met at twenty-one or twenty-two.  I’m sure he has a different outlook on things now than he did then.  I don’t know him intimately.  I bump into him once in a while.  I’m with my children and he’s with his wife and child.  We talk, and it’s a warm embrace and good memories.  But we aren’t intimate, and I really don’t know what he’s thinking about, except that he’s into children, and so am I, and that all we talk about.

ATMP:  Are you still promoting any groups now?

Sid:  Yes, I do.

ATMP:  so you haven’t been able to stop since then?

Sid:  No, I haven’t.

ATMP:  Obviously if the Beatles reunited it would be a huge financial success.  But do you think it would succeed musically and socially?  Do you think they’d put aside their differences and not embarrass themselves on stage?

Sid:  I don’t know whether it would succeed musically, because their voices have changed, and they haven’t played together.  They’ve also gone in different directions  musically.  But it would be successful historically, it also would be socially successful.  The fact that they’re together again and the world sees four guys who have had some deep differences forget about them for a day and do a thing for humanity.  They might teach the world a lesson; that people who’ve had deep differences can put them aside and band together to do something important.  Economically, it would be tremendously successful.  The whole world would tune in, the whole world who likes music and who likes the Beatles and thinks about the Beatles, especially the new world which never had a chance to see them will tune in.  they probably wouldn’t even play together.  John might recite poetry or introduce the others.  Since Paul is still actively playing and George and Ringo occasionally play, they might play together or do their own thing with their own friends.  But the whole world might tune in to see the four guys at the end of the program put their arms around each other and give whatever message they have to give, explaining why they are doing the benefit concert.

ATMP:  On final note for our American Beatle fans.  Under your plan would they play in the U.S. or some neutral spot, like Geneva?

Sid:  If it were my choice, but the ad doesn’t say I have to do the concert, it’s just that someone should do it.  But if the choice were mine, I would say America,  probably somewhere in the Middle East, and somewhere in Africa.  I would like to do three days and perform wherever people are in the most trouble.  It is in those areas that I would like to see the concerts done.


  1. Isn't the second photograph with Paul, Ringo and George with their photographer Harry Benson?(MarkZapp)

  2. Yes, I do believe so. If I'm not mistaken, that's Harry when he was visiting (and photographing) the band at the George V Hotel in Paris, January '64.

  3. That's definitely Harry Benson. No question about it. Not sure I've ever seen a photo of Sid with the Beatles in any year, let alone 1964.

  4. Sid was the part of the Beatle history that will forever be remembered -rip sir