Thursday, August 24, 2023

From sorting fan mail to seeing Abbey Road being made: my life as a teenage Beatles employee

Merele sitting at John's desk in his Apple Office on Savile Row in 1969.

I briefly spoke to the author of this artile, Merele Frimark when I was writing my current book "Dear Beatle People:  The Story of the Beatles North American Fan Club."  I thought her story was extremely interesting and I am happy to see that she has written some of her story for The Guardian and also publish some of the photos she took for the Official Beatles Fan Club in the United States.   Only 2 of her photos (2 of John Lennon) were sold through the club.   Other photos she has taken have been leaked over the years (incorrectly said to have been taken from Yoko Ono's stolen camera).  So few photos are available of The Beatles recording Abbey Road, so these are amazing.   

Merele had a very interesting story in the Official Beatles Fan Club in the United States.   If this story interests you, then you might be interested in buying a copy of my book.   I currently have hardcopies and paperbacks available directly from me.   Let me know if you are interested in buying one.

Photos are taken and belong to Merle Frimark

From sorting fan mail to seeing Abbey Road being made:  my life as a teenage Beatles employee

Written by Merele Frimark

The Guardian

August 24, 2023

On the afternoon of 23 July 1969, I was a nervous 18-year-old American on my way to EMI Recording Studios on Abbey Road in St John’s Wood. Inside, the Beatles were putting the finishing touches on the song Come Together which would end up on Abbey Road . An endless stream of pilgrims would soon arrive at the pedestrian crossing on the cover, and the studios would be renamed to match.

As I entered, I heard voices and wailing guitars. Their assistant Mal Evans greeted me and put me at ease. John, Paul, George and Ringo were scattered around the studio. The place was bustling, with crew setting up, moving equipment and microphones, placing towels over the drum heads. Then came the introduction. The boys – as everyone seemed to refer to them – were reminded that I was from the New York office. They all smiled; I felt warmly welcomed. Then they got down to business. Not wanting to be intrusive, I took some candid photos; I was by no means a professional photographer, and this is the first time they’ve been published.

How did I get here? Two years earlier, I was a young fearless teen growing up in Queens, New York, who wanted to be Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.  I had been to both Beatles concerts at Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966, and was totally enamoured the minute their songs began playing on the radio and their now historic February 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Mine and so many other lives changed forever in that moment.

In high school, I heard the Beatles had an office in Manhattan. I took the subway to the office building in the heart of Times Square and took the elevator to the 18th floor. The sign on the door read Beatles (USA) Limited and Nemperor Artists, Ltd. I knocked and went inside. “Hi, are you here to be interviewed?” asked the woman at reception and I immediately said yes, having no idea what I would be interviewed for.

They were looking for teens to help sort the sacks of fan mail and hired me immediately. Each day after school I would hop on the subway and go to the office, and after graduating high school in 1968, they offered me a full-time job. I will never forget the excitement the day the demo of Back in the USSR arrived in the office before it was released – we were all so thrilled and played it immediately, over and over, blasting it out.

In July 1969, I paid to take a two-week vacation to London. I spent time in the Savile Row HQ of Apple Corps, with fans waiting outside for a glimpse of any Beatle that might pop in. I watched the moon landing on a small black and white TV at the office alongside Donovan.

Then Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ press officer and a great mentor to me, arranged for me to go to EMI Studios, and in I wandered. Bearded George, dressed in blue jeans and matching shirt sat atop the organ; John in all white, with beard and beads, sat in front of the drum kit area; Paul was dressed casually in a white T-shirt and barefoot, constantly moving around the studio, with Ringo in bright red trousers at his drums. George Martin was there too, checking just about everything.

As they began to rehearse sections of Come Together, Paul seemed to be taking the lead. At certain points he would stop, suggesting “it’s four beats, Ringo,” and walk over for a pow-wow: “All good.” Paul and George harmonised together as George worked on his wailing guitar solos. John ran his fingers along the neck of his guitar as he tuned up.

Paul was the most animated that day; John was rather quiet as he had recently returned to the studio following a car accident in Scotland. I brought some white flowers for him and he placed one on the amp next to him. George remained rather pensive, while Ringo had great patience and calm.

I continued to tiptoe around. Trying to take it all in, listen to what they were playing while being invisible. I made eye contact with John and Paul a few times. I remained cool and smiled. Time stood still.

It was time to leave. I waved goodbye and ventured out and down those famed steps.

At that time, I had no idea what was to come: Within a year the band would split up.

In 1970, with the breakup imminent, I left the New York office (though I remain in touch with my former office mates to this day). Fate continued to shine on me, as my maternal grandfather predicted. A Russian immigrant and musician in the early 1900s, he would tell fortunes and read tea leaves, and my mother asked him if her very active little girl would be a musician. He replied: “No, she’ll be involved in show business, but behind the scenes.” Not wanting to influence me, my mother hadn’t told me this. I then took a job at one of the city’s top theatrical PR firms, working on the original Broadway production of the musical Hair and more – the start of a successful career in entertainment marketing and PR.

Later, in August 1980 while biking in Central Park, I happened upon John sitting on a bench with his baby son, Sean. I approached, said hello and chatted for a bit. He was so very happy. Four months later he was gone. What a privilege and honour to have come together with him and his bandmates for that brief, momentous time in history.


  1. Why do the Beatles always appear to be sweaty in all the known session photos for the Abbey Road album?

  2. Have noticed that too. Did they keep the AC off to prevent the mics from picking up extraneous noise? Or since EMI had a reputation for being cheap I wonder if they had the AC turned off most days, especially since British summer days have highs only in the lower 70s....and unrelated to all that, since the cover shoot on 8/8 was late in the morning, the temp outside then was probably only in the 60s. So I doubt Paul took off his sandals because of the "heat". I lean more on John's theory: Paul loved to wear things to bring attention to himself in photo sessions. Or not wear things in this case.

    1. 'Paul loved to wear things to bring attention to himself". A bit rich from John, lol, considering he whipped out his willy for the cover of The Two Virgins. That's when John wasn't wearing his sporran of course, like he did at the Pepper photo ops, or his Amish hat for the last ever group photo, lol.

    2. They don't look sweaty in any other photos, from 1962 to 1970, except for the "Abbey Road" period. So I doubt the A/C was off to prevent noise. Most studios are cold because the gear can get overheated, especially in the hermetic-like conditions of a recording facility.

  3. High temp in London was 84 the day Merele took these session pics. And 85 on the day of the AR cover shoot. Ahh who knows.

  4. I'd be surprised if more than a handful of buildings in London had air conditioning in 1969. There is no chance it was in the EMI building at that time. They were still getting used to eight-track recording equipment.

    1. I assumed EMI had AC then, in lieu of the faders picking up the AC noise during the end of Day In The Life. Although who knows some say that was the sound of a creaky piano bench.

    2. EMI did have an AC system then. In the Making of Sgt Pepper book, Geo Martin refers to the noisy AC system heard at the end of Day In The Life.