Monday, April 4, 2022

Interview with Jimmie Nicol (1984)


Jimmie Nichol has always been quite a mystery.  Jim Birkenstadt unraveled much of the Jimmie mystery in his book, The Beatle Who Vanished.    Jimmie was only heard from a handful of times since he departed from the Beatles in 1964.   One of those times was when he appeared at a Beatles convention in 1984.   I found an interview Jimmie did with Evert Vermeer (EV) for Beatles Unlimited and was published in April 1985.   I am going to just share the part of the interview that is Beatles-related.

EV:  It has been said that technically you were a better drummer than Ringo Starr. 

JN:  Without being unkind, Ringo Starr isn't really a drummer.   On some of the recordings he played really well, he's got a good feel when they get together.  But the Beatles weren't  the greatest band.  In fact, as a group, they were pretty bad.  

EV:  Well, some of the live appearances may have been appalling, but the atmosphere was there. 

JN:  Well, they didn't really care about live concerts.  And the equipment didn't match the acoustics.  Nowadays you can hire a company to handle just the sound acoustics, but they didn't have that. 

EV:  Are you doing anything at all in music now?

JN:  Oh yes, I'm composing and recording my own music now, but just as a hobby, because I'm mainly concentrating on my company.  I have to be able to create the right environment to make music. 

EV:  Would you say those days with The Beatles helped you on in your career, or do you see them as  a disadvantage?

JN: No, nothing in life has been a disadvantage to me.  And if it has, I've always turned it into an adventure. 

EV:  How did you feel you fitted into the act with the other three Beatles, who had been a close unit for eight years or so?

JN:  As I said at the convention, I'm not prepared to disclose that now.  But that will come out in the book, because I think that's very interesting. 

EV:  But you must have had the feeling you were more or less the odd man out. 

JN:  In retrospect, analyzing what actually happened, I get that impression as well. 

EV:  It must have been a fascinating experience to be inside that circle for a while. 

JN:  It was disappointing.  Not fascinating, because I had been used to it before.  When rock n roll first hit I was touring with screaming kids.  That was another reason why they chose me.  They knew how I would act as a person coming into a pre-made image. 

EV:  But you had to be a bit of an actor playing a Beatle?

JN:  They didn't want to admit, even though it was written in black and white, that there was anybody else playing the drums except Ringo.  They wanted to present The Beatles as The Beatles, as a whole.  Obviously, they were extremely afraid of a failure on the tour, of an outsider coming in. 

EV:  There is a photo of you leaving Australia after Ringo got back, on which you're waiting for your plane.  You look awfully lonely on that. 

JN:  Oh yes, that's a beautiful picture.  Well, if you look at that photograph, that answers your question.

EV:  Did you feel you were being dropped at that point?  And afterward, did you ever hear from Epstein or any of The Beatles?

JN:  No, not at all.  Ringo came back one day and I left the following morning.  I will include my suppositions in the book.  Obviously, because I was part of the internal politics, I saw and heard many things, but I never commented on them.

EV:  Were you contracted for the whole tour?

JN:  No.  It was on a daily basis, actually.   I never knew from one day to another whether I would be going onto these different countries.  Probably, that put a lot of pressure on me, this situation makes you uneasy, and I wasn't as mature as I am now. 

EV:  How were you received by the fans?  Did they accept you as a Beatle, or did they really make you feel like a stand-in?

JN: Basically, the fans had no choice. It was either The Beatles with me or no Beatles at all.  But of course, no one is indispensable.  If I hadn't been the right person in the right place at the right time and with the right background, obviously someone wise would have done the job.

EV:  Was there any audition?

JN:  Just one rehearsal in the studio with George Martin.

EV:  After you went back to England, did you ever meet anyone?

JN:  No.  Never. One time I was playing in a club in London, and George happened to come in one evening with a lady friend, and he sent the waiter with a drink.  But I declined the offer.

EV:  ....??

JN:  My dear sir, I have my self-respect.  I will not be bought by anyone, even if it's to my disadvantage.

EV:  Did you feel George wanted to make up for something?

JN:  Ooooh yes, of course.  We both knew what had happened.  It was one of those situations where no words have to be spoken.

EV:  Do you have any fixed ideas about your book yet?

JN:  No.  There's a lot of work to be done.  We want to be in complete control of everything.  The book does have potential and distribution possibilities worldwide but won't have a bad publisher.  It will not be a Beatles book, although commercially speaking, the Beatles will be the selling point. 

EV:  Aren't you afraid that some fans will be offended by any negative remarks in the book like some of them were by things in Peter Brown's book that harmed their idea of The Beatles?

JN:  I think negativeness can be taken by rational people.  Of course, the dirty bits will be good for the sales, but it would be pretty sensationalism.  But my intention is not to do an expose-the-Beatles type of book.  That's all been done before. 


  1. He sounds like a real cocky schmuck. Without his Beatles association, we would not of even heard of this footnote. (MarkZapp)

    1. As a fan, the 2 weeks or whatever it was that Nicols was with The Beatles is 2 weeks I ignore. But I have to disagree: we did get "Getting Better" out of that association. He eventually went bankrupt, but to his credit he never made a penny by selling his story.

      As far as his comments about The Beatles musicianship...they are pretty coarse, but George pretty much said the same thing.

      In the end, I don't think we'll ever know all of the behind the scenes bits between Nicol and the lads.

    2. I wonder what stopped him from writing that book. From watching the Get Back film, it is obvious that Jimmie was the source of a lot of jokes and stories for the guys.

    3. I think he is pretty cocky also. If he agreed to be hired on a day to day basis as temporary replacement for Ringo, what right does he have to cry foul now?

    4. I have always wondered what ever happened to Mr. Nicol. He seems like a JERK. He should be happy he had this happen to him. I consider my cousin who gave me a Beatles 45 (Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out) more of a Beatle than Jimmy Nickol. He's the very much offensive "N" word in Beatle Land.

  2. "Without being unkind, Ringo Starr isn't really a drummer. On some of the recordings he played really well, he's got a good feel when they get together. But the Beatles were the greatest band. In fact, as a group, they were pretty bad."
    ???? Doesn't make any sense. Should it read: 'weren't the greatest band'? And did the book ever come out? Thanks.

    1. Oops -- you are right. My type-o. I fixed it. No, his book never did come out.

  3. Oh boy...
    It's pretty clear that it wasn't a happy experience for him.


  5. Kinda snotty, no? I'd never send back a drink George sent ME.

    1. No kidding! I don't even drink, but if George sent me something, you better believe I'd accept it and drink it!

    2. I agree Sara! I’d drink whatever George sent me! BTW, my last name is spelled Berkenstadt! Thanks Jim

  6. George apparently was livid about doing a tour without Ringo, to the point where both Brian and George Martin had to persuade him to do it -- so who knows, maybe there was tension between Jimmie and GH.

    Read somewhere that in exchange for being a Beatle for only 13 days, Jimmie got a check for 22,000 pounds (probably = to $35,000 to 40,000 dollars) -- pretty good work if you can find it.

    1. £500 and a gold watch. Google tells me that is $11,400 today. Not bad for ten days work, plus what an experience.

    2. The question I have is , how do we know this was really an interview with Jimmie Nichol ? Were any then current photos taken ? Since he hasn't seemed to be seen anywhere before or after this much , how can we be sure this were his words? . Or how can we be sure his words weren't twisted or added to ? Nobody in their right mind would want to come off looking how this makes him look . And whatever happened to this mysterious book ? The stage play is out now . And how is someone buying you a drink to kind of make amends about something buying you ? I'd take this interview with a grain of salt without further proof . He seemed like a nice guy in the footage with the group and was paid well and given a bonus and parting token of appreciation by Brian Epstein

    3. There are photos of him at the convention in 1984. This interview was published in Beatles Unlimited magazine and I just shared what it said. I don't know why the editors of that magazine would publish things that weren't true because what purpose would it serve? A Beatles focused magazine has a very small readership. But since none of us were there we don't know if this interview is what Jimmie really said or if his words were twisted in any way.

    4. If someone wants to pay me $11,400 and treat me "badly" in the way Jimmie claims, please contact me. Cash is fine. Checks have to clear first.

  7. no comparison to the talented Ringo Starr

  8. All I can see here is a man with an intense amount of entitlement. Sad.

  9. Nicol was a 2 week faux Beatle. Not even at the same level as Billy Preston. Who never complained about his hiring status. In similar case, Darryl Jones replaced Bill Wyman in the Stones 30 years ago -- to this day The Stones still do not let Jones appear with them in most press junkets, interviews, etc (The Beatles allowed Nicol, however). Nicol says they hired him because he was used to touring with screaming kids. What? Please correct me but I see no evidence of this in his early career. He lives in an alternate reality.