Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Beatles and Me (1965)


The Beatles and Me

By Neil Aspinall


All the way through the Beatles' most recent tour of Great Britain, I kept a special diary of everything that happened. All told, there were 18 concerts in towns all over England, Scotland and Wales. This tour replaced the usual London stage show, which the boys have been in the habit of putting on in London over Christmas and New Year's. They felt that they would rather rest over the holidays, but they asked Brian Epstein to arrange the tour so that they could see something of their fans in different parts of the U.K. It goes without saying that every single concert was a complete sellout -- in fact, most of the tickets were snapped up on the day each theatre's book office opened. 

I know there is plenty of news on any Beatles' tour, but I wanted to jot down all the behind-the scenes' incidents the papers never heard about...

Monday, 6 December-  Today is the only free day of the tour. Conveniently, the boys can stay with relatives in Merseyside instead of checking into a hotel. George is with his parents in their new home located close to the town of Warrington, about ten miles out of Liverpool. Pattie Boyd traveled up from London to see last night's show at the Liverpool Empire. She arrived at the theatre with George's mother and father, and the press photographers spotted those three familiar faces on the sidewalk outside the theater even before fans recognized the party. 

Ringo is staying with his folks in the Liverpool suburb of Gateacre. Last year, John's Aunt Mimi moved away from Liverpool (she's living in Bournemouth, a pleasant seaside resort on England's south coast). So John is staying with Paul.  They are at the McCartney home on the South side of the Mersey in Wirral. 

Ringo made it a quiet family day at home. So did George. John and Paul were more active. They got up very early (for them), at around 10 o'clock. Straight after breakfast, Paul fetched his two Moped bicycles and he and John went off for a ride round the picturesque Wirral countryside. The Mopeds are bikes with small motors fitted to them - cost around $100 each, and Paul has had this pair since last summer. 

One afternoon last July, I remember Paul and a friend trying out his Mopeds for the first time.  They decided to spend the warm summer afternoon exploring the countryside near Paul's father's new home. 

"You'll be recognized right away," joked Paul's dad. 

"That's what you think!" replied Paul. And he put on a shabby old raincoat, a little beret with his hair pulled back beneath it, and a false mustache. Of all the Beatles, Paul has always been the biggest believer in theatrical-type disguises!

"Got an old pair of specs?" Paul asked his father.  The glasses completed his camouflage. 

"How on earth will you be able to see through those?" asked his father, looking at the thick lenses in the spectacles. 

"I needn't wear these all the time, " Paul replied, slipping them into this pocket. "I'll shove them on if I have to stop for petrol or anything." (Petrol is the word the English use for gasoline). 

Inevitably, the Moped ran low on petrol, and Paul had to pull in at a service station. The problem was that he couldn't find the right pump for the special Moped two-stroke fuel mixture because the lenses of his glasses blurred his view. At last, he found the right pump. A girl attendant came over. At once, Paul put on one of his special accents. 

"Fill 'er up, please," he said in a mock American accent. 

"Sure, Paul," the girl replied at once. 

"How did you recognize me?" asked Paul, surprised. 

"I'd know that voice anywhere, luv!" she told him. 

If Paul had used his natural accent and not worn such a fantastic set of old clothes, I guess he would have fooled any service station attendant. He will overdo the disguise bit to such an extent that he sticks out in any crowd and is a suspicioius character from the start. You'd be amazed how different a Beatle looks with his hair brushed back. That's as far as Paul should have gone -- just worn the beret to keep his long hair pulled back from his face. 

As I have said, John and Paul made the most of their day off. In the afternoon, they piled into a car with Paul's dad and drove to Chester, a historic, walled city about thirty miles south of Liverpool. Here, Paul and John invaded an antique shop. The visit was completely unplanned and took the owners by surprised. In no time, schoolgirls crowded the streets outside, and scores of excited Beatle People pressed their noses against the shop window to watch John and Paul hunting through the dealer's fascinating stock. John bought a 16th-century Bible, a beautiful work of art with superb hand-lettering. He also bought books on magic and proverbs, plus three volumes of an old steamship logbook.

Tuesday - 7 December - The second leg of our nationwide tour kicked off today with shows at the ABC Theatre in Andwich, a district of Manchester. As you know, London is renowned for its pea-soup fogs.  Even if you haven't been in one and seen the real thing, you must know what they're like from Doris Day's films. To tell you the truth, London doesn't have many really thick fogs. But today, in Manchester, we were stuck for five hours in the worst smog I've ever seen -- the sort where your handkerchief is covered with black soot every time you blow your nose!

At lunchtime, Alf Bicknell got the big Austin Princess out of its garage in Liverpool, picked me up, and started calling for each of the boys.  There didn't seem to be any reason to hurry because the journey from Liverpool to Manchester is less than forty miles, and George, our last pick-up, was in Warrington, which was right on our route some miles east of Merseyside. In Liverpool, it was a wonderfully clear day, cold, crisp, cloudless, and sunny. When we reached George's, he was ready - a pleasant surprise. 

"Tony Barrow has been on the phone from Manchester," George told us. "According to him, there's thick fog there."  It was hard to believe because the weather was so lovely where we were, so we didn't worry too much about the fog warning.  Suddenly, on the outskirts of Manchester, we drove into a wall of smog.  In seconds, we were plunged into the dark grey mass, and our speed was reduced to less than five miles an hour.  To add to the chaos, it was rush hour in Manchester. Everyone was trying to get home and traffic jams were increasing the confusion. At the ABC in Ardwick, the added ten minutes to the regular intermission to give us extra time. Then, when the Beatles were due to stage, the emcee announced an extra intermission because the Princess was still crawling slowly through fog-bound Manchester. Fifteen minutes later, the boys rushed on stage as the cries of "WE WANT THE BEATLES!" reached an ear-piercing peak!

But for the bad weather, the boys would have driven back to Merseyside, after the Manchester shows.  As it was, the journey would have been hopeless. They had no baggage - not even a toothbrush between them -- but we booked into Manchester's Midland Hotel for the night. The boys posed for press photographers in a set of special smog masks brought along by the London Daily Express. Plans for a proper press conference fell through because of our late arrival, but the boys spent some time chatting with Kathy Fleet, who represented radio station WDRC and the Harford Times.  Kathy had flown all the way from Hartford, Connecticut, for her interview!

The boys stayed up at the Midland until well after three in the morning.  They spent four hours with producer Walter Shenson, discussing plans for their next movie. It was at this meeting that the boys made their final decision not to use the existing script based on the story of "A Talent for Loving." They admitted that they were not totally against the idea of a comedy-type Western, but they wanted something with a less complicated plot. Paul was enthusiastic about trying something involving a big robbery of some sort. In any event, all four Beatles agreed with Walter Shenson that they wanted to lay four individual personalities. They didn't mind keeping the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but they were all for finding a script that would let them play four entirely different parts instead of playing themselves. By two o'clock in the morning, everyone was hungry. George called room service and tried to get cornflakes. 

"They can't do it," he reported. "They say the food is all locked up."

"I'll have a go," said Paul, and he asked for fruit salad. They couldn't do that, either. So all of us finished up with jugs of hot chocolate and plates of butties. 

Tonight we are staying some miles out of Sheffield at a quiet little country club situated in the village of Spinkhill. With us are the Moody Blues, and together, our two parties seem to have taken over the place! As I write, it is nearly three o'clock in the morning, and everyone has just gone off to bed. I have just watched and taken part in the craziest game of billiards in the world! I'm not clear who actually started the game, but in no time, all four Beatles and four Moody Blues were involved. 

Two teams were formed, with four people at each end of the table. One white billiard ball was put in the center of the table. The billiard cues were turned round, and, using the flat end of the cues, the ball was belted up and down the table at high speed. The object was to shoot the ball past the opposing team so that it hit the end of the table. This counted as a goal. The game became fast and furious, with the ball hurtling up and down the table at a while speed, eight cues knocking it to and fro as hard as possible. 

The boys made up extra rules for their new game as they went along. Each game was concluded when one team or the other scored 21 goals. Then the teams switched ends and changed one or two players while exhausted. Beatles or Moodies dropped into chairs to watch the next bout. 

"This is gear," commented John. "We must always stay in country clubs, Nel! You can't do this sort of thing in hotels."

I have seldom seen the Beatles get so much pleasure out of a game around a billiard table. I'm sure the boys will remember tonight for a long time. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Incidentally, this version of billiards turned out to be a little rougher than the regular one. Most of us skinned our knuckles in the excitement of the game, and everyone went off to bed nursing at least one bloody hand. 

Friday 10 December -- Today it was raining and very cold. We drove from Sheffield to Birmingham. The Birmingham police had conducted a special plan whereby we'd meet a pair of escorted vehicles outside the city. We reached the rendezvous ahead of schedule and found ourselves sitting in the Princess with nothing to do but wait. After a while, Ringo suggested that we drive about for a while. We stopped at a shop and the boys suggested that I buy something such as pocket solitaire to pass the time. The shop had all sorts of novelty items, too, and I spotted some brass hand-warmers. Each one worked like a cigarette lighter and was wrapped in a little velvet bag. 

"Give me four of those, please," I said to the salesman.

"These are the last two in the shop," he told me. 

I took them and wondered who would manage to take possession of them once I was back in the car. John and Paul won, but they let Ringo and George have a go every now and again. 

In the dressing room at Birmingham, I found John sitting in one corner with a small, old-fashioned banjo. Propped on the back of a chair in front of him was a book called "Amateur Banjo Tutor."

"It's not mine," replied John, as he picked out the yug-a-dug chords just like it said in the book. 

"You remember, we got Mal to collect some of the stuff we bought in Chester?" He bought this while he was there. It's a sort of antique, I think."

Mal Evans joined us and pointed out the signature on the banjo.

"It's autographed -- if it's genuine," he said proudly. 

The banjo was signed "George Formby" - the name of a great English music hall star who died a few years ago. Formby certainly played the banjo, but we'll never know whether Mal's "find" was really an authentic souvenir or not. In the meantime, it seems to be keeping John happy. You see, what I mean when I say that the Beatles find a lot of pleasure in small things you'd never dream would interest them?

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