RINGO: I MARRIED MAUREEN IN FEBRUARY 1965.
We had met in the Cavern. She was in the audience and I had taken her home (and her friend). There was always that Liverpool thing: 'I'll take you home, love.' - 'Sure, can you take my friend too?' - 'Er, all right.' Then one day you'd ask, 'Can we go out alone?'
We started going steady; more or less. How could you go steady in my job? I kept leaving and going on tour. In the early days we didn't have much time off, but any time we did have off I spent with her. We'd have Mondays, because nobody booked gigs for a Monday, so I'd dash up to Liverpool and we'd go to a pub, to the movies or see a show, and then go to a restaurant. Just fill up that whole time.
When I came back from the States and went into hospital to have my tonsils out, Maureen stayed with my mother in my London flat. It was then I said, 'Do you want to get married?' and she said 'yes'. It was a gradual build-up; but we married and had three kids. I was with Maureen fight through till 1975.
JOHN: I don't think the two of us being married has had any bad results on our popularity. Remember that when it was announced Ringo and I were both married there hadn't been anybody in such a position as us who had got married. Before us, it was silver-disc people (as opposed to gold-disc people) who'd married - people who relied mainly on the fact that they wiggled, all sexy, in their acts. We didn't rely on wiggling and we still don't. We were never dependent on fans being in love with us so much.65
GEORGE: In February we started filming our second film, Help!. It was shot in the Bahamas, Austria and England. It was real fun doing the movie on location. We started off in the Bahamas and, as with most filming, we spent a lot of time hanging about; but there we could hang about on the beach.
We shot some incredible scenes that were never used. We've been trying to get hold of some of the out-takes. We rented sports cars which we used to drive around the island; I think they were Triumph Spitfires and MGBs. And as the police were all in the movie, we never had any trouble with speeding.
One day we found a disused quarry and started driving madly around it; skidding, doing doughnuts, going up the sides and spinning out. We made Dick Lester come and set up the camera so he could film us. He shot it with a fish-eye lens and it looked amazing: a big golden quarry with blue and red cars - like little toys - going round the bottom and up the sides. It was never used in the film, but we could sure use it now.
We've since found that they destroyed all that footage. People were so short-sighted in the old days; it was that 'they'll never last' concept.
RINGO: The problem was that we went to the Bahamas to film all the hot scenes, and it was freezing. We had to ride around and run around in shirts and trousers, and it was absolutely bloody cold.
NEIL ASPINALL: And they couldn't get tanned, because afterwards they had to go to Europe to shoot scenes that would appear earlier in the movie. They always had to sit in the shade or wear hats.
We found in the Apple archives Brian's note about the Bahamas trip, dictated at the time.
BRIAN EPSTEIN: I travelled out from London with Paul and Ringo. John and George had arrived at Heathrow airport a couple of minutes before us. As our car approached the back of Queens' Building, we saw a packed group of fans on its roof. When we turned the corner and walked onto the tarmac, there it was: an unbelievable crowd of wonderful fans; cheering, waving and holding banners. A thrilled Paul and Ringo joined up with an equally-amazed John and George, who were already acknowledging the crowd.
The group posed for the mass of photographers, continuing to wave to the fans as long as the airline would allow them. It was the most wonderfully loyal demonstration the group could receive of their fans' affection.
Our unit travelling to the Bahamas numbered seventy-eight, making for a full load. Amongst these were: Eleanor Bron; actors Victor Spinetti, John Bluthal and Patrick Cargill; producer and director duo Walter Shenson and Dick Lester; and fave photographer Robert Freeman. Also present were Beatles' road managers Neil Aspinall and Malcolm Evans, suitably equipped with the usual stack of photos, throat sweets, ciggies and other touring Beatle gear.
The cold air of New York gusted in as we touched down to refuel. Then, about eleven hours after leaving England - seven o'clock local time - our chartered Boeing touched down in Nassau. We disembarked to receive the warm welcome and weather. The Beatles and I were then whisked off by the authorities to a press conference without so much as the option to get a bit nearer to the waiting crowd - this is usually the true story when you read of artists 'ignoring their fans'.
The group started shooting the morning following their arrival. Among the first scenes shot were those of the group cycling on a public thoroughfare, chatting away. Personally, I was greatly impressed with what seemed to be improved naturalness of speech and movement. Ringo proved as good an actor as was apparent in the first film. Another day, the four enjoyed a swim fully clothed (well, shirt, jeans and shoes). John said he'd always wanted to try this and thought it might be even better to bathe in a suit, with tie and all.
Before leaving Nassau on Friday, I took a speedboat out to a tiny island where the boys were working. I arrived just in time to get a boxed lunch, used on these occasions, and to join up with the group for a break. No doubt about it, I thought, they're enjoying making this film very much, relaxed, inventive and effervescent as ever. I left the Bahamas with no doubts that my clients are being well looked after by the gentle and brilliant Mr Lester and the efficient and understanding Mr Shenson, not forgetting the people of Nassau, their sea and sun.
RINGO: The storyline to Help! was written around me and the theme of the ring, and of course, Kaili. I had the central part. I think it helped that I'd been enthusiastic about the first film.
JOHN: He comes in possession of this ring, and whoever wears it has to be sacrificed by this big mob. We're trying to save him and get the ring off his finger, and there's other people trying to get it off for various reasons. It's very complicated, but that's basically what it is - to stop him being sacrificed.65
PAUL: While we'd really tried to get involved and learn the script for A Hard Day's Night, by the time Help! came along we were taking it as a bit of a joke. I'm not sure anyone ever knew the script, I think we used to learn it on the way to the set.
JOHN: The movie was out of our control. With A Hard Day's Night, we had a lot of input, and it was semi-realistic. But with Help!, Dick Lester didn't tell us what it was about. I realise, looking back, how advanced it was. It was a precursor for the Batman 'Pow! Wow!' on TV - that kind of stuff. But he never explained it to us. Partly, maybe, because we hadn't spent a lot of time together between A Hard Day's Night and Help!, and partly because we were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period. Nobody could communicate with us; it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time. In our own world.80 It's like doing nothing most of the time, but still having to rise at 7am; so we became bored.70
RINGO: A hell of a lot of pot was being smoked while we were making the film. It was great. That helped make it a lot of fun.
GEORGE: Brandon De Wilde was an actor, a James Dean type. (He died in a car crash in 1972.) He liked The Beatles' music and he heard we were going to film in the Bahamas, so he came over from the States with a big bag of reefer. We smoked on the plane, all the way to the Bahamas. It was a charter flight, with all the film people - the actors and the crew - and we thought, 'No, nobody will notice.' We had Mal smoking cigars to drown out the smell.
GEORGE: Austria was next. It was the first and last time on skis for me. It was really dangerous. Nowadays when people make movies, everybody's got to be insured and you're not supposed to do this, that and the other in case you get injured and hold up the budget of the movie. And yet they took us to Austria, took us up a mountain, gave us our boots (that nobody even laced up), gave us our skis, said, 'Turn over, take one. Action!' - and gave us a push.
RINGO: It was the first time we'd been to Austria - first time I'd been on skis. I loved that.
In one of the scenes, Victor Spinetti and Roy Kinner are playing curling; sliding along those big stones. One of the stones has a bomb in it and we find out that it's going to blow up,, and have to run away. Well, Paul and I ran about seven miles, we ran and ran, just so we could stop and have a joint before we came back. We could have run all the way to Switzerland.
If you look at pictures of us you can see a lot of red-eyed shots; they were red from the dope we were smoking. And these were those clean-cut boys!
Dick Lester knew that very little would get done after lunch. In the afternoon we very seldom got past the first line of the script. We had such hysterics that no one could do anything. Dick Lester would say, 'No, boys, could we do it again?' It was just that we had a lot of fun - a lot of fun in those days.
JOHN: All the best stuff is on the cutting-room floor, with us breaking up and falling about all over the place, lying on the floor, incapable of saying a word.70
PAUL: We showed up a bit stoned, smiled a lot and hoped we'd get through it. We giggled a lot.
I remember one time at Cliveden (Lord Astor's place, where the Christine Keeler/Profumo scandal went on): we were filming the Buckingham Palace scene where we were all supposed to have our hands up. It was after lunch, which was fatal because someone might have brought out a glass of wine as well. We were all a bit merry and all had our backs to the camera and the giggles set in. All we had to do was turn around and look amazed, or something. But every time we'd turn round to the camera there were tears streaming down our faces. It's OK to get the giggles anywhere else but in films, because the technicians get pissed off with you. They think, 'They're not very professional.' Then you start thinking, 'This isn't very professional - but we're having a great laugh!'
GEORGE: We were filming that scene for days. There is a pipe with red smoke coming through and we have the window open and all the guards fall over. That scene just went on forever. We were in stitches - in hysterics laughing - and I think we pushed Dick Lester to the limit of his patience. And he was very, very easygoing; a pleasure to work with.
JOHN: We went wrong with the picture somehow. I enjoyed filming it; I'm sort of satisfied, but not smug about it. It'll do. There's good photography in it. There's some good actors - not us, because we don't act, we just do what we can. Leo McKern is exceptional; and Victor Spinetti and Roy Kinner - the thin and the fat fella - they're good together. The first half of the film is much better than the end, and it's a bit of a let-down when it gets to the Bahamas.
I think there is a lot of scope for us in films which hasn't been exploited. It took us three or four records before we really got our sound. I suppose it will be the same with films. We do feel that if we prove ourselves we'll stay with it. If Elvis Presley could do it, we don't mind following him to the screen. The main point is to keep our films different. We'll always have a shock in store for the audience; this is where we stray from the Presley plan. But I wouldn't want to concentrate on films. It isn't our speed; we like to move. I still prefer playing for a live audience to anything else.
One final thing, you may as well discount Hollywood - we've all decided that if we win Oscars for this film, we're all going to send them back!65
JOHN: The first time that we were aware of anything Indian was when we were making Help!. There was an odd thing about an Indian and that Eastern sect that had the ring and the sacrifice; and on the set in one place they had sitars and things - they were the Indian band playing in the background, and George was looking at them.
We recorded that bit in London, in a restaurant. And then we were in the Bahamas filming a section and a little yogi runs over to us. We didn't know what they were in those days, and this little Indian guy comes legging over and gives us a book each, signed to us, on yoga. We didn't look at it, we just stuck it along with all the other things people would give us.
Then, about two years later, George had started getting into hatha yoga. He'd got involved in Indian music from looking at the instruments in the set. All from that crazy movie. Years later he met this yogi who gave us each that book; I've forgotten what his name was because they all have that 'Baram Baram Badoolabam', and all that jazz. All of the Indian involvement came out of the film Help!.72
GEORGE: I suppose that was the start of it all for me. It was a chance meeting - the guy had a little place on Paradise Island, and somebody just have whispered in his inner ear to give us his book, The Illustrated Book of Yoga. We were on our bikes on the road, waiting to do a shoot, when up walked a swami in orange robes: Swami Vishnu Devananda, the foremost hatha yoga exponent. It was on my birthday.
Later, when I got involved with Indian philosophy and got the desire to go to Rishikesh, I picked up the book again and couldn't believe that that was where he was from - the Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. His main place was in Montreal, but he had a little aeroplane and flew himself in and around different countries, getting arrested and put in jail; gaining publicity for what he called his 'Boundary-Breaking Tour'. He opposed the whole idea of having borders between countries, and even issued us all with Planet Earth passports. Peter Max, the pop artist who became famous by copying the Yellow Submarine-type pictures, painted Vishnu Devananda's aeroplane.
I read his book after I became vegetarian. The thing that repelled me about eating meat was the idea of killing animals. But the main issue is that meat-eating is not healthy and it's not natural. In the book he says things like: monkeys don't get headaches; all human ailments and diseases come from an unnatural diet.
Also in his book, he illustrates things like how to cleanse the nasal passage, where he threads a string up his nose and pulls it out of his throat.
There's another one which involves swallowing a bandage that's been soaked in salt and water. You swallow it all the way down, and then you pull it back out. It's all to do with getting the body perfect. John had the idea of combining the two: the nasal-passage one, pulling on each end, with swallowing the bandage - and pulling it out of your arse! John was very funny, he was brilliant.
PAUL: The songwriting for the album was done mainly at John's place in Weybridge. With A Hard Day's Night John went home and came back with a lot of it, but with Help! we sat down and wrote it together. I remember us all sitting round trying to think, and John getting the idea for the title track. I helped with the structure of it and put in little counter melodies. When we'd finished, we went downstairs and played it to Cynthia and Maureen Cleve, and they thought it was good. We'd got it then; that was it.
From something he said later, I think 'Help!' reflected John's state of mind. He was feeling a bit constricted by the Beatle thing.
JOHN: Most people think it's just a fast rock'n'roll song. I didn't realise it at the time - I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie - but later I knew, really I was crying out for help. 'Help!' was about me, although it was a bit poetic.71 I think everything comes out in the songs.
THE WHOLE BEATLE THING WAS JUST BEYOND COMPREHENSION. I WAS EATING AND DRINKING LIKE A PIG, AND I WAS FAT AS A PIG, DISSATISFIED WITH MYSELF, AND SUBCONSCIOUSLY I WAS CRYING FOR HELP. IT WAS MY FAT ELVIS PERIOD.
You see the movie: he - I - is very fat, very insecure, and he's completely lost himself. And I am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was; but then things got more difficult.80
Happiness is just how you feel when you don't feel miserable. There's nothing guaranteed to make me happy. There's no one thing I can think of that would go 'click' and I'd be happy.66 Now I may be very positive, but I also go through deep depressions where I would like to jump out of the window. It becomes easier to deal with as I get older; I don't know whether you learn control or, when you grow up, you calm down a little. Anyway, I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for help. It's real.80
GEORGE: John never said that when he wrote it; he said it retrospectively. That was how he was feeling. He was plump and he had his glasses. He just didn't feel right. He looked like Michael Caine with horn-rimmed glasses.
He was paranoid about being short-sighted and we'd have to take him into a club and lead him to his seat, so that he could go in without his glasses on and look cool. It was funny when Cynthia was out with him: they'd sit outside in the car, arguing as to whose turn it was to put the glasses on to go in and see where we were sitting. So he did go through that period when he was feeling, 'I was younger than today...'
JOHN: The lyric is as good now. It makes me feel secure to know I was that sensible; not sensible - aware of myself. That was with no acid, no nothing (well, pot).
I don't like the recording that much. The real feeling of the song was lost because it was a single; we did it too fast, to try and be commercial. I've thought of doing it again sometime and slowing it down. I remember I got very emotional at the time, singing the lyrics. Whatever I'm singing, I really mean it. I don't mess about. Even it I'm singing 'awop-bop-alooma-awop-bam-boom' I really mean it. And then there's always that very emotional music going on at the same time.71
I remember Maureen Cleave - a writer, the one who did the famous 'Jesus' story in the Evening Standard - said to me, 'Why don't you ever write songs with more than one syllable in the words?' I never considered it before, so after that I put a few three-syllable words in, but she didn't think much when I played the song for her, anyway. I was insecure then, and things like that happened more than once.80
PAUL: THE THING ABOUT JOHN WAS THAT HE WAS ALL UPFRONT. YOU NEVER SAW JOHN. ONLY THROUGH A FEW CHINKS IN HIS ARMOUR DID I EVER SEE HIM, BECAUSE THE ARMOUR WAS SO TOUGH. JOHN WAS ALWAYS, ON THE SURFACE, TOUGH, TOUGH, TOUGH.
Unfortunately, I think the world has to have a false impression of John. I think John was a really nice guy - covering up. He didn't dare let you see that nice side. So it was always rock'n'roll... till you actually caught him in the right moment.
JOHN: I really don't want to be labelled a cynic. They [the press] are getting my character out of some of the things I write or say. I hate tags. I'm slightly cynical, but I'm not a cynic. One can be wry one day and cynical the next and ironic the next. I'm a cynic about things that are taken for granted: society, politics, newspapers, government; but I'm not cynical about life, love, goodness, death.66
Paul can be very cynical and much more biting than me when he's driven to it. Of course, he's got more patience, but he can carve people up in no time at all, when he's pushed. He hits the nail right on the head and doesn't beat about the bush, does Paul.80
PAUL: One of my great memories of John is from when we were having some argument. I was disagreeing and we were calling each other names. We let it settle for a second and then he lowered his glasses and he said, 'It's only me...' and then he put his glasses back on again. To me, that was John. Those were the moments when I actually saw him without the façade, the armour, which I loved as well, like anyone else. It was a beautiful suit of armour. But it was wonderful when he let the visor down and you'd just see the John Lennon that he was frightened to reveal to the world.
GEORGE MARTIN: I produced all the tracks for the film, but I wasn't asked to do the scoring - another guy was offered the job. Dick Lester and I didn't hit it off well on A Hard Day's Night, and the fact that I got an Academy Award nomination for musical direction probably didn't help either.
JOHN: I do think the songs in the film are better. One I do which I like is 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' - but it's not commercial. 'The Night Before' that Paul does' is good.65
I used to like guitars; I didn't want anything else on the album but guitars and jangling piano, or whatever, and it's all happening. 'Ticket To Ride' was slightly a new sound at the time. It was pretty fucking heavy for then, if you go and look in the charts for what other music people were making. You hear it now and it doesn't sound too bad; but it'd make me cringe. If you give me the A track and I remix it, I'll show you what it is really, but you can hear it there. It's a heavy record and the drums are heavy too. That's why I like it.70
RINGO: I recorded a song for the Help! album that was never released - 'If You've Got Trouble'. George Martin found it in the vaults of EMI studios.
GEORGE: We've just come across that, and it's the most weird song. I've no recollections of ever recording it. It's got stupid words and is the naffest song. No wonder it didn't make it onto anything.
RINGO: I sang 'Act Naturally' in Help! I found it on a Buck Owens record and I said, 'This is the one I am going to be doing,' and they said 'OK'. We were listening to all kinds of things. John sang 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy'. We were all listening to that, too. Paul, of course, had written his 'Yesterday'; the most recorded song in history. What a guy!
JOHN: Help! as a film was like 'Eight Days A Week' as a record for us. A lot of people liked the film, and a lot of people liked that record. But neither was what we really wanted - we knew they weren't really us. We weren't ashamed of the film, but close friends know that the picture and 'Eight Days' weren't our best. They were both a bit manufactured.
The 'Help!' single sold much better than the two before it: 'I Feel Fine' and 'Ticket To Ride.'65 But there were still a lot of fans who didn't like Help!. They said, 'Ah, The Beatles are dropping us. This isn't as good as A Hard Day's Night.' So you can't win. Trying to please everybody is impossible - if you did that, you'd end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You've just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.
People think of us as machines. They pay 6s 8d for a record and we have to do what they say - like a jack-in-the-box. I don't like that side of it much. Some people have got it all wrong. We produce something a record, and if they like it, they get it. The onus isn't on us to produce something great every time. The onus is on the public to decide whether they like it or not. It's annoying when people turn round and say, 'But we made you, you ungrateful swines.' I know they did, in a way, but there's a limit to what we're bound to live up to, as if it's a duty.
I don't want to sound as if we don't like being dictated to. We make a record, and if you like it you buy it. If you don't, you don't buy it. It's up to the public to decide.
JOHN: WE KNOW ALL ABOUT 'YESTERDAY'. I HAVE HAD SO MUCH ACCOLADE FOR 'YESTERDAY'. THAT'S PAUL'S SONG AND PAUL'S BABY. WELL DONE. BEAUTIFUL AND I NEVER WISHED I'D WRITTEN IT.80
PAUL: I was living in a little flat at the top of a house and I had a piano by my bed. I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, 'Hey, I don't know this tune - or do I?' It was like a jazz melody. My dad used to know a lot of old jazz tunes, I thought maybe I'd just remembered it from the past. I went to the piano and found the chords to it (a G, F#minor7 and a B), made sure I remembered it and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: 'Do you know this? It's a good little tune, but I couldn't have written it because I dream it.' I took it round to Alma Cogan, a friend of ours (I think she may have thought I was writing it for her), and she said, 'I don't know it, but it is rather nice.'
It didn't have any words at first so I blocked it out with 'scrambled eggs': 'Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs - diddle diddle - I believe in scrambled eggs.' Over the next couple of weeks I started to put in the words. I liked the tune and I thought I'd like to take some time over the words, get something that fitted like 'scrambled eggs'. And then, one day, I had the idea of 'Yesterday'.
JOHN: This song was around for months and months before we finally completed it. Every time we got together to write songs for a recording session, this would come up. We almost had it finished. Paul wrote nearly all of it, but we just couldn't find the right title. We called it 'Scrambled Egg' and it became a joke between us.
We had made up our minds that only a one-word title would suit, we just couldn't find the right one. Then one morning Paul woke up and the song and the title were both there; completed. I was sorry in a way, we'd had so many laughs about it. And it has been issued in America as an orchestral piece by George Martin - called 'Scrambled Egg'! Now we are getting letters from fans telling us they've heard a number called 'Scrambled Egg' that's a dead copy of 'Yesterday'.65
PAUL: I remember thinking that people liked sad tunes; they like to wallow a bit when they're alone, to put a record on and go, 'Ahh.' So I put the first verse together, then all the words fitted and that was it.
It was my most successful song. It's amazing that it just came to me in a dream. That's why I don't profess to know anything; I think music is all very mystical. You hear people saying, 'I'm a vehicle; it just passes through me.' Well, you're dead lucky if something like that passes through you.
I brought the song into the studio for the first time and played it on the guitar, but soon Ringo said, 'I can't really put any drums on - it wouldn't make sense.' And John and George said, 'There's no point in having another guitar.' So George Martin suggested, 'Why don't you just try it by yourself and see how it works?' I looked at all the others: 'Oops. You mean a solo record?' They said, 'Yeah, it doesn't matter, there's nothing we can add to it - do it.'
GEORGE MARTIN: Paul went down to No. 2 Studio at EMI, sat on a high stool with his acoustic guitar and sang 'Yesterday'. That was the master to begin with. Then I said, 'Well, what we can do with it? The only thing I can think of is adding strings, but I know what you think about that.' And Paul said, 'I don't want Mantovani.' I said, 'What about a very small number of string players, a quartet?' He thought that was interesting, and I went and worked on it with him and made suggestions for the score. He had ideas too, and we booked a string quartet and overdubbed the strings - and that was the record.
PAUL: Writing a song out with George Martin was nearly always the same process. For 'Yesterday' he had said, 'Look, why don't you come round to my house tomorrow? I've got a piano, and I've got the manuscript paper. We'll sit down for an hour or so, and you can let me know what you're looking for.' We'd sit down and it would be quite straightforward because I'd have a good idea of how I wanted to voice it. Or George would show me possibilities: very wide apart or very gungy and very close, and we'd choose. He would say, 'This is the way to do the harmony, technically.' And I'd often try to go against that. I'd think, 'Well, why should there be a proper way to do it?'
'Yesterday' was typical. I remember suggesting the 7th that appears on the cello. George said, 'You definitely wouldn't have that in there. That would be very un-string-quartet.' I said, 'Well? Whack it in, George, I've got to have it.'
That was the way the process worked. He'd show me how to write the song 'correctly' and I'd try to sabotage the correct method and move towards the way I like music; make it original. I still think that's a good way to work.
Once, when George Martin was figuring out what a particular note was in 'A Hard Day's Night' (not for one of our arrangements; this was later, when he was writing out our songs to record them himself, orchestrally), I remember his saying to John: 'It's been a hard day's night and I've been working... Is that a 7th, or another note, or is it somewhere in-between?' John would say, 'It's between those two.' And George would have to put down 'blue note' or something.
It was great fun. I'm still fascinated by that. I don't have any desire to learn. I feel it's like a voodoo, that it would spoil things if I actually learnt how things are done.
GEORGE MARTIN: 'Yesterday' was a breakthrough: it was recorded by just Paul and a group of other musicians. No other Beatle was on that recording and no other Beatle heard the song until we played it back. John listened to it, and there's a particular bit where the cello moves into a bluesy note which he thought was terrific, so it was applauded.
But it wasn't really a Beatles record and I discussed this with Brian Epstein: 'You know, this is Paul's song... Shall we call it Paul McCartney?' He said, 'No, whatever we do we are not splitting up The Beatles.' So even though none of the others appeared on the record, it was still The Beatles - that was the creed of the day.
PAUL: I wouldn't have put it out as a solo 'Paul McCartney' record. We never entertained those ideas. It was sometimes tempting; people would flatter us: 'Oh, you know you should get out front,' or, 'You should put a solo record out.' But we always said 'no'. In fact, we didn't release 'Yesterday' as a single in England at all, because we were a little embarrassed about it - we were a rock'n'roll band.
I am proud of it. I get made fun of because of it a bit. I remember George saying, 'Blimey, he's always talking about "Yesterday", you'd think he was Beethoven or somebody.' But it is, I reckon, the most complete thing I've ever written.
JOHN: I sat in a restaurant in Spain and the violinist insisted on playing 'Yesterday' right in my ear. Then he asked me to sign the violin. I didn't know what to say so I said, 'OK,' and I signed it, and Yoko signed it. One day he's going to find out that Paul wrote it.71 But I guess he couldn't have gone from table to table playing 'I Am The Walrus'.80
JOHN: The second book was more disciplined because it was started from scratch. They said, 'You've got so many months to write a book in.'65 I wrote In His Own Write - at least some of it - while I was still at school, and it came spontaneously. But once it became: 'We want another book from you, Mr Lennon,' I could only loosen up to it with a bottle of Johnnie Walker, and I thought, 'If it takes a bottle every night to get me to write...' That's why I didn't write any more.80 I'm not very keen on being disciplined. (It seems odd, being a Beatle; we're disciplined but we don't feel as though we are. I don't mind being disciplined and not realising it.)
The longest thing I've written is in this book. It's one about Sherlock Holmes and it seemed like a novel to me, but it turned out to be about six pages. Most of A Spaniard in the Works is longer than the bits in the first book. But my mind won't stay on the same thing. I forget who I've brought in, I get lost and I get fed up and bored. That's why I usually kill the lot off. I killed them off in the first book, but with the second book I tried not to; I tried to progress.65
I'd done most of it and they needed a bit more, so the publisher sent along a funny little dictionary of Italian. He said, 'See if you get any ideas from this.' I looked in, and it was just a howl on its own. So I changed a few words (which is what I used to do at school with Keats or anything; I'd write it out almost the same and change a few words) but then they put in the reviews: 'He's pinched the whole book!'67
I hardly ever alter anything because I'm selfish about what I write, or big-headed about it. Once I've written it, I like it. And the publisher sometimes says, 'Should we leave this out, or change that?' and I fight like mad, because once I've done it I like to keep it. But I always write it straight off. I might add things when I go over it before it's published, but I seldom take anything out. So it is spontaneous.65
One of the reviews of In His Own Write tried to put me in this satire boom with Peter Cook and those people that came out of Cambridge, saying, 'Well, he's just satirising the normal things, like the Church and the State,' which is what I did. Those are the things that keep you satirising, because they're the only things.70 I'm not a do-gooder about things: I won't go around marching, I'm not that type.65
PAUL: John was irreligious. He had a drawing that he'd done when he was younger of Jesus on the cross with a hard-on, which was brilliant. It was very hard-hitting teenage stuff, which at the time we all took just as black comedy. There was always an edge to John's stuff.
JOHN: I always set out to write a children's book; I always wanted to write Alice in Wonderland.80 I was determined to be Lewis Carroll with a hint of Ronald Searle.63 I think I still have that as a secret ambition.80 Lewis Carroll I always admit to, because I love Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass.
I read a lot; things that you should read that everybody's reading. Dickens I don't like much; I've got to be in a certain mood. I'm too near school to read Dickens or Shakespeare. I hate Shakespeare; I don't care whether you should like him or not. I don't know if it's because of school or because it doesn't mean anything to me.
I was ignorant. I'd heard the name of Lear somewhere, but we didn't do him at school. The only classic or highbrow things I'd read or I knew of were at school.65 I must have come across James Joyce at school, but we hadn't done him like I remember doing Shakespeare. The first thing they say is, 'Oh, he's read James Joyce,' but I hadn't. So I thought the thing to do would be to buy Finnegans Wake and read a chapter. And it was great, and I dug it and felt as though he was an old friend, but I couldn't make it right through the book.
I bought one book on Edward Lear, and a big book on Chaucer - so now I know what they [the reviewers] are talking about.68 But I couldn't see any resemblance [in my own work] to any of them. A little bit of Finnegans Wake. But Finnegans Wake was so way-out and so different - a few word changes, and anyone who changes words has got to be compared; but his stuff is something else.
Ringo hasn't read anything I've written. Paul and George have. They were more interested in the first book, obviously. Paul was, because at the time a lot of people were beginning to say, 'Is that all they do?' Paul was dead keen, and that keen to write the intro, even - and he helped with a couple of stories, but was only mentioned on one because they forgot.
There's nothing to stop them doing something. I was doing this kind of thing before I was a Beatle, or before I had a guitar. When they met me I was already doing it. After a week of friendship with them or after a couple of weeks, I probably brought out things and said, 'Read this.' So this came before the other: the guitars came second. Now the guitars come first because this is still a hobby.
A Spaniard in the Works gave me another personal boost. OK, it didn't do as well as the first, but then what follow-up book ever does? In any case, I had a lot of the stories in the book bottled up in my system and it did me good to get rid of them - 'better out than in'. The book is more complicated; there are some stories and bits in it that even I don't understand, but once I've written something what's the point of letting it hang around in a drawer when I know I can get it published? The plain unvarnished fact is that I like writing, and I'd go on writing even if there wasn't any publisher daft enough to publish them.65
GEORGE: The first time we took LSD was an accident. It happened sometime in 1965, between albums and tours. We were innocent victims of the wicked dentist whom we'd met and had dinner with a few times. There'd been discos and similar events; everybody knew each other.
One night John, Cynthia, Pattie and I were having dinner at the dentist's house. Later that night we were going to a London nightclub called the Pickwick Club. It was a little restaurant with a small stage where some friends of ours were playing. Klaus Voormann, Gibson Kemp (who became Rory Storm's drummer after we stole Ringo) and a guy called Paddy. They had a little trio.
After dinner I said to John, 'Let's go - they're going to be on soon,' and John said 'OK', but the dentist was saying, 'Don't go; you should stay here.' And then he said, 'Well, at least finish your coffee first.' So we finished our coffee and after a while I said again, 'Come on, it's getting late - we'd better go.' The dentist said something to John and John turned to me and said, 'WE'VE HAD LSD.'
I just thought, 'Well, what's that? So what? Let's go!'
This fella was still asking us to stay and it all became a bit seedy - it felt as if he was trying to get something happening in his house; that there was some reason he didn't want us to go. In fact, he had obtained some lysergic acid diethylamide 25. It was, at the time, an unrestricted medication - I seem to recall that I'd heard vaguely about it, but I didn't really know what it was, and we didn't know we were taking it. The bloke had put it in our coffee: mine, John's, Cynthia's and Pattie's. He didn't take it. He had never had it himself. I'm sure he thought it was an aphrodisiac. I remember his girlfriend had enormous breasts and I think he thought that there was going to be a big gang-bang and that he was going to get to shag everybody. I really think that was his motive.
So the dentist said, 'OK, leave your car here. I'll drive you and then you can come back later.' I said 'No, no. We'll drive.' And we all got in my car and he came as well, in his car. We got to the nightclub, parked and went in.
We'd just sat down and ordered our drinks when SUDDENLY I FEEL THE MOST INCREDIBLE FEELING COME OVER ME. It was something like a very concentrated version of the best feeling I'd ever had in my whole life.
It was FANTASTIC. I felt in love, not with anything or anybody in particular, but with everything. Everything was perfect, in a perfect light, and I had an overwhelming desire to go round the club telling everybody how much I loved them - people I'd never seen before.
One thing led to another, then suddenly it felt as if a bomb had made a direct hit on the nightclub and the roof had been blown off: 'What's going on here?' I pulled my senses together and I realised that the club had actually closed - all the people had gone, they'd put the lights on, and the waiters were going round bashing the tables and putting the chairs on top of them. We thought, 'Oops, we'd better get out of here!'
We got out and went to go to another disco, the Ad Lib Club. It was just a short distance so we walked, but things weren't the same now as they had been. It's difficult to explain: it was very Alice in Wonderland - many strange things. I remember Pattie, half playfully but also half crazy, trying to smash a shop window and I felt: 'Come on now, don't be silly...' Then we got round the corner and saw just all lights and taxis. It looked as if there was a big film première going on, but it was probably just the usual doorway to the nightclub. It seemed very bright; with all the people in thick make-up, like masks. VERY STRANGE. We went up into the nightclub and it felt as though the elevator was on fire and we were going into hell (and it was and we were), but at the same time we were all in hysterics and crazy. Eventually we got out at the Ad Lib, on the top floor, and sat there, probably for hours and hours.
Then it was daylight and I drove everyone home - I was driving a Mini with John and Cynthia and Pattie in it. I seem to remember we were doing eighteen miles an hour and I was really concentrating - because some of the time I just felt normal and then, before I knew where I was, it was all crazy again. Anyway, we got home safe and sound, and somewhere down the line John and Cynthia got home. I went to bed and lay there for, like, three years.
That is what became known as 'The Dental Experience'.
JOHN: A dentist in London laid acid on George, me and our wives. HE JUST PUT IT IN OUR COFFEE OR SOMETHING. [It was] all the thing with the middle-class London swingers who'd heard all about it and didn't know it was any different from pot and pills. He gave us it, and he was saying, 'I advise you not to leave.' We thought he was trying to keep us for an orgy in his house, and we didn't want to know. We went out to the Ad Lib and these discotheques, and there were incredible things going on.
We got out and the guy came with us, and he was nervous and we didn't know what was going on, and that we were going crackers. It was insane, going around London on it. We thought when we went to the club that it was on fire, and then we thought there was a première and it was just an ordinary light outside. We thought, 'Shit, what's going on here?' And we were cackling in the streets, and then people were shouting, 'Let's break a window.' We were just insane. We were out of our heads.
We finally got on the lift. We all thought there was a fire on the lift: it was just a little red light; we were all screaming, 'AAAAAAAARGH!' all hot and hysterical. And we all arrived on the floor (because this was a discotheque that was up a building), and the lift stops and the door opens, and we were all, 'AAAAAAAARGH!' and we just see that it's the club, and we walk in and sit down and the table's elongating. I think we went to eat before that and it was like the thing I read, describing the effects of opium in the old days, where the table... I suddenly realised it was only a table, with four of us around it, but it went long, just like I had read, and I thought, 'Fuck! It's happening.' Then we went to the Ad Lib and all of that, and some singer came up to me and said, 'Can I sit next to you?' I said, 'Only if you don't talk,' because I just couldn't think.
It seemed to go on all night. I can't remember the details; it just went on.70
And George somehow or other managed to drive us home in his Mini, but we were going about the miles an hour and it seemed like a thousand. And Pattie was saying, 'Let's jump out and play football' - there were these big rugby poles and things. And I was getting all these hysterical jokes coming out, like [I did on] speed, because I was always on that, too. George was going, 'Don't make me laugh. Oh, God!'
IT WAS TERRIFYING, but it was fantastic. I did some drawings at the time (I've got them somewhere) of four faces saying, 'We all agree with you!' - things like that. I gave them to Ringo, the originals. I did a lot of drawing that night. They all went to bed, and then George's house seemed to be just like a big submarine I was driving.70
RINGO: I was actually there in the club when John and George got there shouting, 'THE LIFT'S ON FIRE!' Acid was the best thing we could take after that!
GEORGE: That first time I had acid, a light-bulb went on in my head and I began to have realisations which were not simply, 'I think I'll do this,' or, 'I think that must be because of that.' The question and answer disappeared into each other. An illumination goes on inside: in ten minutes I lived a thousand years. My brain and my consciousness and my awareness were pushed so far out that the only way I could begin to describe it is like an astronaut on the moon, or in his spaceship, looking back at the Earth. I was looking back to the Earth from my awareness.
Because acid wasn't illegal back then and nobody really knew much about it, there wasn't the big panic about 'heaven and hell' that people talk about - we didn't conjure up heaven and hell. But everything in the physical world is governed by duality: everything is heaven and hell. Life is heaven and it is hell; that's the nature of it. And so all that acid does is shoot you into space, where everything is so much greater. The hell is more hell, if that's what you want to experience, or the heaven is more heaven.
JOHN: We must always remember to thank the CIA and the army for LSD, by the way. Everything is the opposite of what it is, isn't it? They brought out LSD to control people, and what they did was give us freedom. Sometimes it works in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.
But it sure as hell performs them. If you look at the Government report book on acid, the only ones who jumped out of windows because of it were the ones in the army. I never knew anybody who jumped out of a window or killed themselves because of it.80
GEORGE: I can't say how this experience has affected others. We are all individuals, and it's become more apparent to me over the years that while we may all experience a certain thing, we don't actually know if we have experienced it in the same way as each other. I made the mistake of assuming that my experience with LSD would be the same as anybody else's. Prior to that, I'd known that if you all drink whisky, you all get drunk, you all feel dizzy and you all start slipping around. So I presumed, mistakenly, that everybody who took LSD was a most illuminated being. And then I started finding that there were people who were just as stupid as they'd been before, or people who hadn't really got any enlightenment except a lot of colours and lights and an Alice in Wonderland type of experience.
The thing is, after you're had it a couple of times there doesn't seem to be any point to taking it again. Although the tablecloth might keep moving or the chairs get small, the basic thing that I first experienced was the thought: 'You shouldn't need this, because it's a state of awareness.' To change consciousness with a chemical obviously isn't a path to self-realisation. I think in some cases it can have a positive effect, but it is also dangerous. People later didn't have the ability to cope with it - the bogeyman within them would have the 'hell', and the 'hell' would come out. There were always reports of people jumping under cars and out of buildings. I can understand that, because you do suddenly experience the soul as free and unbound. You can have that feeling, that consciousness of what it must be like to leave your body, like experiencing death - but you have to remember that you're still in your body.
In 1966, I was in India on the day that they all worship Shiva. Amongst the little items being sold in the street I came across a small cactus covered with little hooks, the size of the top of a big poppy. I said to Ravi Shankar, who I was with, 'What's that?' and he said, 'Shiva would eat that, in mythology.' I thought, 'Ah, it's mescaline, peyote or something like that,' and I said, 'I'll try one of them.' But Ravi said, 'No, no, don't eat it - people who've eaten it have gone mad.' Well, that fits the bill for a psychedelic, because the down side of it can be that you go so far out in your mind that you think you've lost your grip and that you're never going to get back to the normal state of consciousness. And, in a way, you don't ever really return to how you were before.
The great thing about it for me was that, whereas with other drugs and alcohol you're under an influence and you feel intoxicated, with psychedelics you don't. It has an effect on your system but you're not feeling intoxicated; you're straight, with a twist - taken out of focus. Suddenly you can see through walls and you can see your body as if it isn't a solid. Like when you peel a slice of orange and you take the skin off the slice, you see tiny droplets that all just fit together, but are separate pieces. You can look at your body like that - I can almost see it now, just by recall - and you can see it's all moving; it's all pulsating with energy. It's amazing. Or, you know how it is when you can see a heat haze? It's like that - you can actually see heat. I tried sunbathing on acid once, at the house in LA, and after about ten seconds I could hear my skin frying, a sound like bacon sizzling in a pan. People will say, 'Well, he was under the influence of a drug,' but I believe it is actually the senses getting heightened to such a degree.
It must be like that for people who have attained a 'cosmic consciousness'. All the time, they can see through the trees and see the roots of the trees in the ground and see the sap flowing up through the ground and through the tree - as Superman can see through walls. Because the essence and the cause of everything in the physical world is that pure intelligence that is manifested externally as all these different parts. It's the ego identity that fools us into thinking, 'I am this body.' LSD gave me the experience of: 'I am not this body. I am pure energy soaring about everywhere, that happens to be in a body for a temporary period of time.'
This was something that I didn't know about back then. I just got born and did what I was doing, and I came along just as The Beatles were coming along and as acid and everything else was coming along; so you could call it karma. And, although it has a down side, I see my acid experience more as a blessing because it saved me many years of indifference. It was the awakening and the realisation that the important thing in life is to ask: 'Who am I?', 'Where am I going?' and 'Where have I come from?' All the rest is, as John said, 'just a little rock'n'roll band'. It wasn't that important. All the other bullshit - that was just bullshit. All the governments and all the people running round the planet doing whatever they're doing - all just a waste of time. They're all chasing their tails in some big illusion. If you can live by an inner rule and become centred on some kind of cosmic law, you don't need governments or policemen or anybody laying down rules. If I had half a chance, I'd put acid in the Government's tea.
RINGO: I think LSD changes everybody. It certainly makes you look at things differently. It makes you look at yourself and your feelings and emotions. And it brought me closer to nature, in a way - the force of nature and its beauty. You realise it's not just a tree; it's a living thing. My outlook certainly changed - and you dress differently, too!
JOHN: I must have had a thousand trips. I just used to eat it all the time. I stopped taking it because of bad trips. I just couldn't stand it. I dropped it for I don't know how long, and I started taking it again just before I met Yoko.
I got a message on acid that you should destroy your ego, and I did. I was reading that stupid book of Leary's [The Psychedelic Experience], all that shit. We were going through the whole game that everybody went through, and I destroyed myself. I destroyed my ego and I didn't believe I could do anything, and I let people do and say what they wanted, and I was nothing; I was shit. Then Derek tripped me out at his house after he got back from LA. He said, 'You're all right,' and he pointed out songs I had written and said, 'You wrote this, and you said this, and you are intelligent; don't be frightened.' And then next week I went down with Yoko and we tripped again, and she filled me completely to realise that I was me, and that it was all right. That was it, and I started fighting again and being a loudmouth again, and saying, 'Well, I do this,' and, 'Fuck you, this is what I want. I want it and don't put me down.'70
[I haven't taken LSD] in years. A little mushroom or peyote is not beyond my scope; maybe twice a year or something. But acid is a chemical. People are taking it, though, even though you don't hear about it any more. People are still visiting the cosmos. It's just that nobody talks about it; you get sent to prison.
I've never met anybody who's had a flashback in my life and I took millions of trips in the Sixties, and I've never met anybody who had any problem. I've had bad trips, but I've had bad trips in real life. I've had a bad trip on a joint. I can get paranoid just sitting in a restaurant; I don't have to take anything.
Acid is only real life in CinemaScope. Whatever experience you had is what you would have had anyway. I'm not promoting, all you committees out there, and I don't use it because it's a chemical, but all the garbage about what it did to people is garbage.80
GEORGE: I don't think John had a thousand trips; that's a slight exaggeration. But there was a period when we took acid a lot - the year we stopped touring, the year of the Monterey Pop Festival, we stayed home all the time, or went to each others' houses.
In a way, like psychiatry, acid could undo a lot - it was so powerful you could just see. But I think we didn't really realise the extent to which John was screwed up. For instance, you wouldn't think he could get bitter, because he was so friendly and loving; but he could also be really nasty and scathing. As a kid, I didn't think, 'Oh well, it's because his dad left home and his mother died,' which in reality probably did leave an incredible scar. It wasn't until he made that album about Janov, primal screaming, that I realised he was even more screwed up than I thought.
After taking acid together, John and I had a very interesting relationship. That I was younger or I was smaller was no longer any kind of embarrassment with John. Paul still says, 'I suppose we looked down on George because he was younger.' That is an illusion people are under. It's nothing to do with how many years old you are, or how big your body is. It's down to what your greater consciousness is and if you can live in harmony with what's going on in creation. John and I spent a lot of time together from then on and I felt closer to him than all the others, right through until his death. As Yoko came into the picture, I lost a lot of personal contract with John; but on the odd occasion I did see him, just by the look in his eyes I felt we were connected.
JOHN: I never knew my father. I saw him twice in my life till I was twenty-two, when he turned up after I'd had a few hit records. I saw him and spoke to him and decided I still didn't want to know him.66
He turned up after I was famous, which I wasn't very pleased about. He knew where I was all my life - I'd lived in the same house in the same place for most of my childhood, and he knew where. I thought it was a bit suspicious, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt after he'd put a lot of pressure on me in the press. I opened up the paper - the front page news is: 'John's dad is washing dishes, why isn't John looking after him?' I said, 'Because he never looked after me.' So I looked after him for the same period he'd looked after me; about four years.71
I started supporting him, then I went to therapy and re-remembered how furious I was in the depths of my soul about being left as a child. (I understand about people leaving their children because they can't cope or whatever happens, the reasons, when you're feeling your own misery.) So I came out of the therapy and told him to get the hell out, and he did get the hell out, and I wish I hadn't really because everyone has their problems - including wayward fathers. I'm a bit older now and I understand the pressure of having children or divorces and reasons why people can't cope with their responsibility.70
He died a few years later of cancer. But at sixty-five he married a 22-year-old secretary that had been working for me or The Beatles, and had a child, which I thought was hopeful for a man who had lived a life of a drunk and almost a Bowery bum.80
PAUL: We were at Twickenham Film Studios one afternoon when Brian showed up and took us to the dressing room rather secretively. We wondered what that was all about. He said, 'I've got some news for you - the Prime Minister and the Queen have awarded you an MBE,' and we said, 'What's that?' - 'It's a medal!'
RINGO: He said, 'What do you think, boys?' I had no problem with it - none of us had any problems with it in the beginning. We all thought it was really thrilling: 'WE'RE GOING TO MEET THE QUEEN AND SHE'S GOING TO GIVE US A BADGE. i THOUGHT, THIS IS COOL.'
PAUL: At first we were very impressed, but we asked, 'What will it mean?' Someone said, 'You become a Member of the British Empire,' and we were genuinely honoured. Then the cynicism started to creep in a little and we asked, 'What do you get for it?' They said, 'Well, Ј40 a year, and you get to go into St Paul's Whispering Gallery for nothing.' So we said, 'How much does that cost, anyway?' and were told, 'About a shilling.' There are two ways to look at it: either it's a great honour that's being bestowed on you - and I think to some degree we did believe that - or (if you want to be cynical) it's a very cheap way to reward people.
JOHN: When my envelope arrived marked OHMS, I thought I was being called up!
Before you get an MBE, the Palace writes to ask if you're going to accept it - because you're not supposed to reject it publicly, and they sound you out first. I chucked the letter in with all the fan mail, until Brian asked me if I had it. He and a few other people persuaded me that it was in our interests to take it.66
I was embarrassed. Brian said, 'If you don't take it, nobody will ever know you refused.' The same as nobody ever knows the people that have refused every Royal Variety Performance since the one we did. Every year they asked us and every year Brian went through hell telling Lew Grade we wouldn't do it. (Brian was on his knees, saying, 'Please do the Royal Variety Show,' after getting so much pressure from Lew and the rest of them. We said, 'We've done them all.' We only did one of everything, once was enough.)67
It was hypocritical of me to accept it, but I'm glad, really, that I did - because it meant that four years later I could use it to make a gesture.70
GEORGE: It's as if a bit of bargaining goes on behind the scenes before they issue it to the press. We were sworn to secrecy, but the press knew something was on; they were on to it before it was announced.
Probably it was Harold Wilson that put us up for it. He was Prime Minister and was from Liverpool, Huyton - 'two dogs fightin', one is black and the other's a white un'.
JOHN: We had to do a lot of selling-out then. Taking the MBE was a sell-out for me.70 We thought being offered the MBE was as funny as everybody else thought it was. Why? What for? It was a part we didn't want. We all met and agreed it was daft. 'What do you think?' we all said. 'Let's not.' Then it all just seemed part of the game we'd agreed to play, like getting the Ivor Novello awards. We'd nothing to lose, except that bit of you which said you didn't believe in it.67
Although we didn't believe in the Royal Family, you can't help being impressed when you're in the palace, when you know you're standing in front of the Queen. It was like in a dream. It was beautiful. People were playing music, I was looking at the ceiling - not bad the ceiling. It was historical. It was like being in a museum.70 There was this Guardsman telling us how to much, how many steps, and how to curtsey when you met the Queen. Left foot forward. Every time he was reading out the names and he got to Ringo Starr he kept cracking up. We knew in our hearts she was just some woman, yet we were going through with it. We'd agreed to it.67
To start with, we wanted to laugh. But when it happens to you, when you are being decorated, you don't laugh any more. We, however, were giggling like crazy because we had just smoked a joint in the loos of Buckingham Palace; we were so nervous. We had nothing to say. The Queen was planted on a big thing. She said something like 'ooh, ah, blah, blah' we didn't quite understand. She's much nicer than she is in the photos.70
I must have looked shattered. She said to me, 'Have you been working hard lately?' I couldn't think what we had been doing, so I said, 'No, we've been having a holiday.' We'd been recording, but I couldn't remember that.65
GEORGE: We never smoked marijuana at the investiture. What happened was we were waiting to go through, standing in an enormous line with hundreds of people, and we were so nervous that we went to the toilet. And in there we smoked a cigarette - we were all smokers in those days.
Years later, I'm sure John was thinking back and remembering, 'Oh yes, we went in the toilet and smoked,' and it turned into a reefer. Because what could be the worst thing you could do before you meet the Queen? Smoke a reefer! But we never did.
PAUL: Some equerry to the Queen, a Guards officer, took us to one side and showed us what we had to do: 'Approach Her Majesty like this and never turn your back on her, and don't talk to her unless she talks to you.' All of those things. For four Liverpool lads it was, 'Wow, hey man!' It was quite funny. But she was sweet. I think she seemed a bit mumsy to us because we were young boys and she was a bit older.
JOHN: I SHALL KEEP IT IN THE SMALLEST ROOM IN THE HOUSE - MY STUDY.65
RINGO: I went up and the Queen said to me, 'You started the group, did you?' and I said, 'No, I was the last to join.' And then she asked, 'Well, how long have you been together as a band?' and without the blink of an eye, Paul and I said, 'We've been together now for forty years and it don't seem a day too much.' She had this strange, quizzical look on her face, like either she wanted to laugh or she was thinking, 'Off with their heads!'
I'm not sure if we had a joint or not. It's such a strange place to be, anyway, the palace.
JOHN: I really think the Queen believes in it all. She must. I don't believe in John Lennon, Beatle, being any different from anyone else, because I know he's not. I'm just a fella. But I'm sure the Queen thinks she's different.67 Imagine being brought up like that for 2,000 years! It must be pretty freaky. They must have a hard time trying to be human beings. I don't know if any of them ever make it, because I don't know much about them, but you feel sorry for people like that, because it's like us - only worse. If they believe they're royal, that's the joke.68
I always hated all the social things. All the horrible events and presentations we had to go to. All false. You could see right through them all, and all the people there. I despised them. Perhaps it was partly from class. No, it wasn't. It was because they really were all false.67
RINGO: Our families loved it. Some old soldiers sent their medals back, I don't know why! I think a lot of Australian soldiers sent theirs back. They just thought that it was too much that we should get the MBE: loud-mouthed rock'n'rollers.
JOHN: Lots of people who complained about us getting the MBE received theirs for heroism in the war. Ours were civil awards. They got them for killing people. We deserve ours for not killing people. If you get a medal for killing, you should certainly get a medal for singing and keeping Britain's economics in good nick! And we signed autographs for everybody waiting to get their MBEs and OBEs.65
PAUL: There was only one fella who said, 'I want your autograph for my daughter. I don't know what she sees in you.' Most other people were pleased about us getting the award. There were one or two old blokes from the RAF who felt it had slightly devalued their MBEs - these long-haired twits getting one. But most people seemed to feel that we were a great export and ambassadors for Britain. At least people were taking notice of Britain; cars like Minis and Jaguars, and British clothes were selling. Mary Quant and all the other fashions were selling, and in some ways we'd become super salesman for Britain.
GEORGE: After all we did for Great Britain, selling all that corduroy and making it swing, they gave us that bloody old leather medal with wooden string through it. But my initial reaction was, 'Oh, how nice, how nice.' And John's was, 'How nice, how nice.'
I brought it home and put it in the drawer, and later I wore it on the Sgt Pepper album-cover picture session. So did Paul. It then remained pinned onto my 'Pepper' jacket for a year or so before I put it back in the box and back in the drawer.
RINGO: When they gave us the MBE, they gave us a certificate, and also a little note to say that you can't wear this one in public but you can buy a dress MBE, if you want to go out in your bow-tie. Which I thought was real strange. I never did wear it going out, but you would have thought that they would have thrown in the little one as well.
I wondered whether Brian minded not getting the MBE. But he was always happy for what we got, really. I suppose if he'd hung on, he'd have been going for a knighthood.
GEORGE: Brian didn't even go to the palace or get invited. I think you could invite somebody from your family. So he was probably very annoyed, secretly. But he didn't show any signs of it.
PAUL: Having grown up with this whole idea of the Queen as monarch, from when she flew back from Kenya to take to take over in 1952, we were always pretty keen on her.
'HER MAJESTY'S A PRETTY NICE GIRL, BUT SHE DOESN'T HAVE A LOT TO SAY' - WELL, THAT'S WHAT I'D SAY.
DEREK TAYLOR: Four years later, in November 1969, John sent his MBE back to attract attention to his causes.
RINGO: I was never going to send mine back, I knew that. John did, he had his reasons, but not me. At the time, I was very proud. It meant a lot to me - not that it gave me anything, but it gave Harold Wilson the election. It was a groove meeting the Queen, and it was far out - now she meets anybody!
JOHN: I had been mulling it over for a few years. Even as I received it, I was mulling it over. I gave it to my auntie who proudly had it over the mantelpiece, which is understandable - she was very proud of it. She won't understand this move I've made probably, but I can't not do it because of my auntie's feelings. So I took it a few months back and didn't tell her what I was going to do with it - no doubt she knows now - and I'm sorry Mimi, but that's the way it goes.
Anyway, I sold out, so it was always worrying me, and then the last few years I'd been thinking, 'I must get rid of that, must get rid of that.' I was thinking how to do it, and I thought if I did it privately the press would know anyway, and it would come out; so instead of hiding it, just make an event of the whole situation. So I did it with the MBE. I was waiting for some event to tie it up with, but I realise that this is the event, this is the next peace event going on now.
Neither of us [Yoko and I] want to make the mistake that Gandhi and Martin Luther King did, which is get killed one way or the other. Because people only like dead saints, and I refuse to be a saint or a martyr. So I'm just protesting as a British citizen with his wife against British involvement in Biafra, and voicing the protest in the loudest way I can.69
JOHN: THE QUEEN'S INTELLIGENT. IT WON'T SPOIL HER CORNFLAKES.69
GEORGE: At one time, all we wanted to do was make a record and that would have done us. People always think you go about dreaming that you're going to be a star - well, I think that's daft.64
JOHN: We wanted to be bigger than Elvis. At first we wanted to be Coffin and King, then we wanted to be Eddie Cochran, then Buddy Holly, but finally we arrived at wanting to be bigger than the biggest - Elvis Presley.
It was making it big in Liverpool, and then being the best group in the country, then being the best group in England. The goal was always just a few yards ahead rather than right up there. Our goal was to be as big as Elvis, but we didn't believe we were going to do it.72
PAUL: We knew something would happen sooner or later; we always had this little blind Bethlehem star ahead of us. Fame is what everyone wants, in some form or another; there must be millions of people all over the world annoyed that people haven't discovered them.
The things is, we never believed in Beatlemania, never took the whole thing that seriously, I suppose. That way, we managed to stay sane.
JOHN: When I see old friends of mine, they keep laughing. The ones who knew me at school just keep looking at me and saying: 'Is it really you?'64
When people meet you in a restaurant, or anywhere, and you're trying to order something, you find they are so struck by, 'Is it really you?' that they don't really hear you order. So when I'm talking to them I'm saying, 'I'd like a steak, medium, and two elephants came and a policeman bit my head off, and a cup of tea please,' and they're saying, 'Yes, thank you.'71
RINGO: We very seldom get one waiter, because they all seem to queue up to give you a different portion of the meal so they can all have a look.
GEORGE: That is the main problem with fame - that people forget how to act normally. They are not in awe of you, but in awe of the thing that they think you've become. It's a concept that they have of stardom and notoriety. So they act crazy. All you have to do is go on the radio or television once, and when people see you down the street, they act differently. And The Beatles had been the front page of the papers every day for a year or so. Everybody changes; they are so impressed by it.
It was difficult going to the same places we'd been before. People were starting to 'hey man' us a lot. We went back to Liverpool and we were in the same club, where we used to be a year earlier. We just went in for a drink, and now suddenly there was a lot of: 'Hey man, hey man,' and we couldn't get a minute's peace.
JOHN: We were always pretty aware of what our effect was on people. (You learn about audience reaction in your early days of playing. You either get to be able to play an audience or the public, or you don't.) So we were always pretty aware in a way of what we were doing, although it was pretty hard to keep up when you're going at 2,000 miles an hour. Sometimes you get dizzy. But we usually hung together somehow. There'd always be somebody to lean on when there's four of you. There'd always be somebody that would be together enough to pull you through the difficult phases.71
RINGO: Elvis went downhill because he seemed to have no friends, just a load of sycophants. Whereas with us, individually we all went mad, but the other three always brought us back. That's what saved us. I remember being totally bananas thinking I am the one and the other three would look at me and say, ''Scuse me, what are you doing?' I remember each of us getting into that state.
PAUL: FAME, IN THE END, IS GETTING OFF YOUR PARKING FINE BECAUSE THE ATTENDANT WANTS YOUR AUTHOGRAPH, AND FAME IS BEING INTERRUPTED WHEN YOU'RE EATING BY A 50-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN LADY WITH A PONY-TAIL. THE FOUR OF US ARE KNOWN TO ALMOST EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD, BUT WE DON'T FEEL THAT FAMOUS.65
RINGO: We'd get in the car. I'd look over at John and say, 'Christ. Look at you. You're a bloody phenomenon!' and just laugh - because it was only him.65
JOHN: When I feel my head start to swell I look at Ringo - then I know we're not superhuman!64
JOHN: WE TOUR THE PLACES OUR MANAGER WANTS TO SEE - HE TAKES HIS CAMERA.65
PAUL: I remember playing a big bullring in Barcelona, the Plaza de Toros, where the Lord Mayor had great seats and all the rich people had seats but the kids, our real audience, were outside. We used to get upset about that: 'Why are we playing to all these bloody officials? We should be playing to the people outside. Let them in...' But of course they wouldn't.
JOHN: I couldn't stand it if the audiences were too old. If that's what it looks like our front, I reckon I'll be off. It doesn't really seem natural to see older people out there looking at us like that. It's nice to see anybody, but I always think old people should be at home doing the knitting or something.65
RINGO: The thing I remember about Madrid, where we played another bullring, was that the police were so violent. It was the first time I'd really seen police beating kids up.
I went to a bullfight there, and it was the saddest thing I ever saw. It was really sorrowful to see the bull just getting weakened and weakened. And then, when they finally kill the bugger, they wrap a chain round its leg and bring in a couple of cart-horses and drag the corpse away. I always thought it was such a miserable end. That's the only bullfight I ever went to, and I've never been interested in seeing one again.
NEIL ASPINALL: They toured France, Italy and Spain. All I remember about Italy is some rally drivers taking us to Milan. The next tour after the European tour was America, where they played their first gig at Shea Stadium.
JOHN: If we're playing to audiences of 55,000 - which is the size of the crowd in the opening show in New York - there are bound to be some wild scenes. Even if the crowd was watching ping-pong, there'd be a scene because of the size of the crowd. It's still amazing to hear the row they make.
It's a drag going away from home, but if you have got to go anywhere, it might as well be America. It's one of the best places there is. I'd sooner be off there than go to Indonesia.65
GEORGE: Shea Stadium was an enormous place. In those days, people were still playing the Astoria Cinema at Finsbury Park. This was the first time that one of those stadiums was used for a rock concert. Vox made special big 100-wat amplifiers for that tour. We went up from the 30-watt amp to the 100-watt amp and it obviously wasn't enough; we just had the house PA.
RINGO: Now we were playing stadiums! There were all those people and just a tiny PA system - they couldn't get a bigger one. We always used to use the house PA. That was good enough for us, even at Shea Stadium. I never felt people came to hear our show - I felt they came to see us. From the count-in on the first number, the volume of screams drowned everything else out.
PAUL: Now it's quite commonplace for people to play Shea Stadium or Giants Stadium and all those big places, but this was the first time. It seemed like millions of people, but we were ready for it. They obviously felt we were popular enough to fill it.
Once you go on stage and you know you've filled a place that size, it's magic; just walls of people. Half the fun was being involved in this gigantic event ourselves. I don't think we were heard much by the audience. The normal baseball-stadium PA was intended for: 'Ladies and gentlemen, the next player is...' But that was handy in that if we were a bit out of tune or didn't play the right note, nobody noticed. It was just the spirit of the moment. We just did our thing, cheap and cheerful, ran to a waiting limo and sped off.
NEIL ASPINALL: In the States the venues had their own lights and sound, and Mal was taking care of the equipment. Now it was just me and a briefcase. Circumstances had changed. In England, because we didn't go on the coach, we'd drive ourselves around, and in some places I still had to plot the lights. In America it was more security and press, and taking care of the general madness. I'd be talking to the chief of police, working out how The Beatles were going to get in and out, and taking care of whatever else came down the pike.
GEORGE: We went by helicopter, but they wouldn't allow us to drop right into the arena so we had to land on the roof of the World's Fair. From there we went into the stadium in a Wells Fargo armoured truck. (I didn't think Wells Fargo were still going; I thought the Indians had got them all years ago.) When we got into the helicopter at Wall Street, instead of going right to the show the fella started zooming round the stadium, saying, 'Look at that, isn't it great?' And we were hanging on by the skin of our teeth, thinking, 'Let's get out of here!'
PAUL: We got changed into our semi-military gear: beige outfits with high collars. Then, rather nervously, we ran out onto the field. We just went through the paces and did our act. We sweated up a lot.
JOHN: We'd get dead nervous before we'd go on stage, and nine times out of ten we suddenly get tired about half an hour before we have to get changed. All of a sudden, everybody's tired. Changing into suits and putting the shirts on, you feel, 'Oh, no,' but as soon as we get on it's all right.64
GEORGE: They weren't really military jackets, it was just that they were beige-coloured and we had sheriff's badges on them.
We were in and out of the place in no time. As always. I watched the film of us at Shea Stadium, and suddenly the King Curtis band came on, and I thought, 'Wow! That's a good band.' King Curtis was travelling in our aeroplane on the tour, but I never even saw him play. We never saw anyone play because we were always stuck inside the basement of one of the stadiums.
PAUL: IT'S LIKE THIS: YOU MAKE A NOISE AND THEY MAKE A NOISE, AND IT'S THE NOISE TOGETHER THAT COUNTS. IT'S THE BIBLE, REALLY, WITH CECIL B. DE MILLE AND 60,000 EXTRAS.65
RINGO: If you look at the film footage you can see how we reacted to the place. It was very big and very strange. I feel that on that show John cracked up. He went mad; not mentally ill, but he just got crazy. He was playing the piano with his elbows and it was really strange.
JOHN: I was putting my foot on it and George couldn't play for laughing. I was doing it for a laugh. The kids didn't know what I was doing.
Because I did the organ on 'I'm Down', I decided to play it on stage for the first time. I didn't really know what to do, because I felt naked without a guitar, so I was doing all Jerry Lee - I was jumping about and I only played about two bars of it.
It was marvellous. It was the biggest crowd we ever played to, anywhere in the world. It was the biggest live show anybody's ever done, they told us. And it was fantastic, the most exciting we've done. They could almost hear us as well, even though they were making a lot of noise, because the amplification was tremendous.
Nothing really reached us because we were so far away, but we could see all the posters. It's still the same: up there with the mike, you don't try to work out what it all means, you forget who you are. Once you plug in and the noise starts, you're just a group playing anywhere again and you forget that you're Beatles or what your records are; you're just singing.65
PAUL: John was having a good time at Shea. He was into his comedy, which was great. That was one of the great things about John. If there was ever one of those tense shows, which this undoubtedly was (You can't play in front of that many people for the first time and not be tense), his comedy routines would always come out. He'd start the faces, and the shoulders would start going, and it was very encouraging: 'OK, that's good - at least we're not taking it seriously.' He kept us jolly.
NEIL ASPINALL: John was very good at doing that; whether it was a comment, a remark or an action. The others were aware of it. When he was bowing, his hand would be flapping about; but other people tended not to notice.
RINGO: What I remember most about the concert was that we were so far away from the audience. They were all across the field, all wired in. When I tour now, I like the audience right in my face. I like to have some reaction, something going on together between me and them. It was just very distant at Shea. Sure, we were big-time, and it was the first time we'd played to thousands and thousands of people, and we were the first band to do it; but it was totally against what we had started out to achieve, which was to entertain, right there, up close. And screaming had just become the thing to do. We didn't say, 'OK, don't forget, at this concert - everybody scream!' Everybody just screamed.
One interesting point is that Barbara, now my wife, was at that show with her sister Marjorie. Marjorie had a Beatle wig and Barbara was a Rolling Stones fan.
PAUL: Linda was also there - but as she was a real music fan she was quite pissed off with everyone screaming. I think she enjoyed the experience but she genuinely wanted to hear the show. That wasn't the deal, though. Not then.
JOHN: We played for four or five years being completely heard and it was good fun. And it's just as good fun to play being not heard and being more popular. They pay the money, if they want to scream - scream. We scream, literally; we're just screaming at them, only with guitars. Everybody's screaming - there's no harm in it.64
NEIL ASPINALL: I remember my ears ringing for a while after, with the high-pitched sound of the screaming going on for an hour. It was a good experience, though. I didn't realise until later that it was the first really big open-air show that had happened. It was the most spectacular gig that The Beatles played on that tour.
JOHN: It [the San Francisco show] was wild. Some little lad got my hat. Somebody like him doesn't really care about the show anyway, or the kids there - he just grabbed my hat from behind and dived full-length onto some kids at the front. He could have killed one of them. That kind of fool nobody needs.
I don't think it would have been as bad if the photographers hadn't been standing in the front so that the kids had to stand up to see. And the photographers got higher so as to photograph the kids standing up and that's when it started.
At the beginning I was nervous, because I get nervous thinking, 'Well, the show's going to be no good, anyway.' I could tell that. For us it was just a drag - we knew they wouldn't hear anything and the guitars were knocked out of tune by our own people running in and saving us, amplifiers were pulled out.65
RINGO: America always had something for me. California ended up like it was our base. I've always loved it in California.
The first time in America had been absolutely marvellous. Our personal road crew then was Neil, Mal and Brian, with Derek to look after the press. Brian was the manager, but he didn't actually do anything. Neil would get us a cup of tea, and Mal would fix the instruments. There were four people with us. Now when I go out on tour there are forty-eight people with me.
But the shows were just the shows - you went on and you got off. You'd arrive just before, and do it. It was a great way to tour; I wish I could do that now. It's so much now; you carry so much luggage with you. The Beatles used to just run on, do their stuff and get off and then boogie. It was silly: the actual things we were there to do, the shows, were breaking up our day, because we were having a lot of fun outside.
NEIL ASPINALL: When we got to California at the end of the tour, they rented a house in LA where we stayed for a week. We met Peter Fonda there. He had a trick in the swimming pool that we'd never seen anybody do before. He went in at the deep end, down to the bottom of the pool, and walked across the bottom to the other side. 'Wow! Could you do that again?' he could.
GEORGE: We stayed in the house that Hendrix later stayed in. It was a horseshoe-shaped house on a hill off Mulholland. It had a little gatehouse, which Mal and Neil stayed in, decorated by Arabian-type things draped on the walls.
There was one very important day at that house. John and I had decided that Paul and Ringo had to have acid, because we couldn't relate to them any more. Not just on the one level - we couldn't relate to them on any level, because acid had changed us so much. It was such a mammoth experience that it was unexplainable: it was something that had to be experienced, because you could spend the rest of your life trying to explain what it made you feel and think. It was all too important to John and me. So the plan was that when we got to Hollywood, on our day off we were going to get them to take acid. We got some in New York; it was on sugar cubes wrapped in tinfoil and we'd been carrying these around all through the tour until we got to LA.
Paul wouldn't have LSD; he didn't want it. So Ringo and Neil took it, while Mal stayed straight in order to take care of everything. Dave Crosby and Jim McGuinn of The Byrds had also come up to the house, and I don't know how, but Peter Fonda was there. He kept saying, 'I know what it's like to be dead, because I shot myself.' He'd accidentally shot himself at some time and he was showing us his bullet wound. He was very uncool.
RINGO: I'd take anything. John and George didn't give LSD to me. A couple of guys came to visit us in LA, and it was them that said, 'Man, you've got to try this.' They had it in a bottle with an eye-dropper, and they dropped it on sugar cubes and gave it to us. That was my first trip. It was with John and George and Neil and Mal. Neil had to deal with Don Short while I was swimming in jelly in the pool. It was a fabulous day. The night wasn't so great, because it felt like it was never going to wear off. Twelve hours later and it was: 'Give us a break now, Lord.'
JOHN: The second time we had it was different. Then we took it deliberately - we just decided to take it again, in California. We were in one of those houses like Doris Day's house, and the three of us took it, Ringo, George and I - and maybe Neil. Paul felt very out of it, because we are all slightly cruel: 'We're all taking it and you're not.' It was a long time before Paul took it.
We couldn't eat our food, I couldn't manage it, just picking it up with our hands. There were all these people serving us in the house and we were knocking food on the floor and all of that. There was a reporter, Don Short, when we were in the garden. It was only our second [trip] - we still didn't know anything about doing it in a nice place, and to cool it and that - we just took it. Then suddenly we saw the reporter and thought, 'How do we act normal?' We imagined we were acting extraordinarily, which we weren't. We thought surely somebody could see. We were terrified, waiting for him to go, and he wondered why he couldn't come over. Neil, who had never had acid either, had taken it and he still had to play road manager. We said, 'Get rid of Dan Short,' and he didn't know what to do; he just sort of sat with it.70
Peter Fonda came in when we were on acid and kept coming up and sitting next to me, and whispering, 'I know what it's like to be dead.' We didn't want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip, and the sun was shining, and the girls were dancing (some from Playboy, I believe) and the whole thing was really beautiful and Sixties. And this guy - who I didn't really know, he hadn't made Easy Rider or anything - kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, 'I know what it's like to be dead,' and we kept leaving him, because he was so boring. It was scary, when you're flying high: 'Don't tell me about it. I don't want to know what it's like to be dead!'
I used it for the song 'She Said, She Said'. But I changed it to 'she' instead of 'he'.80 That's how I wrote, 'She said, she said, I know what it's like to be dead.' It was an acidy song.70
PAUL: Peter Fonda seemed to us to be a bit wasted; he was a little out of it. I don't know if we'd expected a bit more of Henry's son, but he was certainly of our generation, and he was all right. I don't think there were many people we hated - we just got on with them. If we didn't get on with them that much, we didn't see them again.
GEORGE: I had a concept of what had happened the first time I took LSD, but the concept is nowhere near as big as the reality, when it actually happens. So as it kicked in again, I thought, 'Jesus, I remember!' I was trying to play the guitar, and then I got in the swimming pool and it was a great feeling; the water felt good. I was swimming across the pool when I heard a noise (because it makes your senses so acute - you can almost see out of the back of your head). I felt this bad vibe and I turned around and it was Don Short from the Daily Mirror. He'd been hounding us all through the tour, pretending in his phoney-baloney way to be friendly but, really, trying to nail us.
Neil had to go and start talking to him. The thing about LSD is that it distorts your perception of things. We were in one spot, John and me and Jim McGuinn, and Don Short was probably only about twenty yards away, talking. But it was as though we were looking through the wrong end of a telescope. He seemed to be in the very far distance, and we were saying, 'Oh fuck, there's that guy over there.' Neil had to take him to play pool, trying to keep him away. And you have to remember that on acid just a minute can seem like a thousand years. A thousand years can go down in that minute. It was definitely not the kind of drug which you'd want to be playing pool with Don Short on.
Later on that day, we were all tripping out and they brought several starlets in and set up a movie for us to watch in the house. By the evening, there were all these strangers sitting around with their make-up on - and acid just cuts through all that bullshit. The movie was put on, and - of all things - it was a drive-in print of Cat Ballou. The drive-in print has the audience response already dubbed onto it, because you're all sitting in your cars and don't hear everybody laugh. Instead, they tell you when to laugh and when not to. It was bizarre, watching this on acid. I've always hated Lee Marvin, and listening on acid to that other little dwarf bloke with a bowler hat on, I thought it was the biggest load of baloney shite I'd ever seen in my life; it was too much to stand. But you just trip out. I noticed that I'd go 'out there'; I'd be gone somewhere, and then - bang! - I'd land back in my body. I'd look around and see that John had just done the same thing. You go in tandem, you're out there for a while and then - boing! whoa! - 'What happened? Oh, it's still Cat Ballou.' That is another thing: when two people take it at the same time; words become redundant. One can see what the other is thinking. You look at each other and know.
PAUL: We met Elvis Presley at the end of our stay in LA. We'd tried for years to, but we could never get to him. We used to think we were a bit of a threat to him and Colonel Tom Parker, which ultimately we were. So although we tried many times, Colonel Tom would just show up with a few souvenirs and that would have to do us for a while. We didn't feel brushed off; we felt we deserved to be brushed off. After all, he was Elvis, and who were we to dare to want to meet him? But we finally received an invitation to go round and see him when he was making a film in Hollywood.
JOHN: We were always in the wrong place at the wrong time to meet him, and we would have just gone round or something, but there was a whole lot of palaver about where we were going and how many people should go and everything, with the managers Colonel Tom and Brian working everything out.65
GEORGE: Meeting Elvis was one of the highlights of the tour. It was funny, because by the time we got near his house we'd forgotten where we were going. We were in a Cadillac limousine, going round and round along Mulholland, and we'd had a couple of 'cups of tea' in the back of the car. It didn't really matter where we were going: it's like the comedian Lord Buckley says, 'We go into a native village and take a couple of peyote buds; we might not find out where we is, but we'll sure find out who we is.'
Anyway, we were just having fun, we were all in hysterics. (We laughed a lot. That's one thing we forgot about for a few years - laughing. When we went through all the lawsuits, it looked as if everything was bleak; but when I think back to before that, I remember we used to laugh all the time.) We pulled up at some big gates and someone said, 'Oh yeah, we're going to see Elvis,' and we all fell out of the car laughing, trying to pretend we weren't silly: just like a Beatles cartoon.
JOHN: It was very exciting, we were all nervous as hell, and we met him in his big house in LA - probably as big as the one we were staying in, but it still felt like, 'Big house, big Elvis.' He had lots of guys around him, all these guys that used to live near him (like we did from Liverpool; we always had thousands of Liverpool people around us, so I guess he was the same). And he had pool tables! Maybe a lot of American houses are like that, but it seemed amazing to us; it was like a mightclub.76
NEIL ASPINALL: The Colonel was there and all of Elvis's buddies, the so-called 'Memphis Mafia', and Priscilla. The first thing they did was show us their pool table that swivelled and became a craps table.
We went into this other room with a television set that seemed to be twenty foot by twenty foot. Then Brian walked in and the Colonel said, 'A chair for Mr Epstein,' and about fifteen people came with chairs.
Everybody was sitting around talking. Elvis was drinking water and I think a couple of The Beatles played guitar with him. I was up the other end of the room with Mal, talking to a couple of the other guys.
RINGO: I was pretty excited about it all, and we were lucky because it was the four of us and we had each other to be with. The house was very big and drank. We walked in and Elvis was sitting down on a settee in front of the TV. He was playing a bass guitar, which even to this day I find very strange. He had all his guys around him and we said, 'Hi Elvis.' He was pretty shy and we were a little shy; but between the five of us, we kept it rolling. I felt I was more thrilled to meet him than he was to meet me.
PAUL: He showed us in, and he was great. I mean, it was Elvis. He just looked like Elvis - we were all major fans, so it was hero worship of a high degree. he said, 'Hello lads - do you want a drink?' We sat down and we were watching telly and he had the first remote switcher any of us had ever seen. You just aimed it at the telly and - wow! That's Elvis! He was playing 'Mohair Sam' all evening - he had it on a jukebox.
JOHN: He had his TV going all the time, which is what I do; we always have TV on. We never watch it - it's just there with no sound on, and we listen to records. In front of the TV he had a massive big bass amplifier, with a bass plugged into it, and he was up playing bass all the time with the picture up on the TV. So we just got in there and played with him. We all plugged in whatever was around and we played and sang and he had a jukebox, like I do, but I think he had all his hits on it - but if I'd made as many as him, maybe I'd have all mine on.76
PAUL: That was the great thing for me, that he was into the bass. So there I was: 'Well, let me show you a thing or two, El...' Suddenly he was a mate. It was a great conversation piece for me: I could actually talk about the bass, and we sat around and just enjoyed ourselves. He was great - talkative and friendly, and a little bit shy. But that was his image: we expected that; we hoped for that.
MAL EVANS: It was a thrill, but it was the biggest disappointment of my life in one way. I really am a big Elvis fan - at six foot three I'm one of the biggest. So I prepare my outfit to go and meet Elvis - send the suit to the cleaners, nice white shirt and tie - really ponce myself up. But when the suit came back from the cleaners, they'd sewn the pockets up. Now, I always carry plectrums - picks, they call them in the States. It's just a habit. I'm not even working for them now and I've still got a pick in my pocket at the moment.
So when we get there, Elvis asks, 'Has anybody got a pick?' and Paul turns round and says, 'Yeah, Mal's got a pick. He's always got a pick. He carries them on holiday with him!' I went to go in my pocket for one - and there they were, all sewn up.
I ended up in the kitchen breaking plastic spoons, making picks for Elvis!
That was a disappointment: I'd have loved to have given Elvis a pick, have him play it, then got it back and had it framed.
Charlie Rich was there. I loved Charlie Rich, and so did Elvis. They had a record-player with the arm up the middle, and Muddy Waters just seemed to be playing all night. And the colour TV in one corner with the sound off, and there was Elvis playing bass. Paul and John on guitars - and I was just sat there with my mouth open all night.
JOHN: At first we couldn't make him out. I asked him if he was preparing new ideas for his next film and he drawled, 'Ah sure am. Ah play a country boy with a guitar who meets a few gals along the way, and ah sing a few songs.' We all looked at one another. Finally Presley and Colonel Parker laughed and explained that the only time they departed from that formula - for Wild in the Country - they lost money.65
PAUL: We played a bit of pool with a few of his motorcycle mates, and at about ten o'clock Priscilla was brought in. To demonstrate the respect that country-and-western people have for their wives? Sometimes it's a bit on the surface - as maybe their situation was shown to be later. I was like, 'Here's Priscilla.'
She came in and I got this picture of her as a sort of Barbie doll - with a purple gingham dress, and a gingham bow in her very beehive hair, with lots of make-up. We all said 'hello' and then it was, 'Right lads, hands off - she's going.' She didn't stay long.
I can't blame him, although I don't think any of us would have made a pass at her. That was definitely not on - Elvis's wife, you know! That was unthinkable - she didn't need to be put away quite so quickly, we thought.
GEORGE: I don't remember even seeing Priscilla. I spent most of the party trying to suss out from his gang if anybody had any reefers. But they were 'uppers and whisky' people. They weren't really into reefers smoking in the South.
RINGO: I don't remember seeing Priscilla there at all. I think it wouldn't have mattered to me if she was there, because it was him I came to see. I don't really remember the boys he had with him either.
NEIL ASPINALL: I thought Priscilla had a long dress on, and a tiara. I remember that when Brian told the Colonel that he managed bands other than The Beatles, the Colonel was quite shocked. He said he didn't understand how Brian could handle more than The Beatles, because it took him all his time to handle Elvis.
JOHN: It was nice meeting Elvis. He was just Elvis, you know? He played a few songs, and we were all playing guitars. It was great. We never talked about anything - we just played music. He wasn't bigger than us, but he was 'the thing'. He just wasn't articulate, that's all.72
He seemed normal to us, and we were asking about his making movies and not doing any personal appearances or TV. I think he enjoys making movies so much. We couldn't stand not doing personal appearances: we'd get bored - we get bored quickly. He says he misses it a bit. He's just normal. He was great, just as I expected him.65
PAUL: It was one of the great meetings of my life. I think he liked us. I think at that time he may have felt a little bit threatened, but he didn't say anything. We certainly didn't feel any antagonism.
I only met him that once, and then I think the success of our career started to push him out a little; which we were very sad about, because we wanted to co-exist with him. He was our greatest idol, but the styles were changing in favour of us. He was a pretty powerful image to British people. You'' look at photos of him doing American concerts and the audience would not even be jumping up and down. We used to be amazed, seeing them sitting in the front row - not even dancing.
RINGO: The saddest part is that, years and years later, we found out that he tried to have us banished from America, because he was very big with the FBI. That's very sad to me, that he felt so threatened that he thought, like a lot of people, that we were bad for American Youth. This is Mr Hips, the man, and he felt we were a danger. I think that the danger was mainly to him and his career.
I saw him again. I remember one time I got really angry with him because he just wasn't making any music. He'd stopped everything and was just playing football with his guys. So I said, 'Why don't you go into a studio and give us some music here? What are you doing?' I can't remember what he said - he probably just walked away and started playing football again.
PAUL: I've seen those famous Nixon transcripts where Elvis actually starts to try to shop us - The Beatles! He's in the transcript saying - to Richard Nixon, of all people - 'Well, sir, these Beatles: they're very un-American and they take drugs.'
I felt a bit betrayed by that, I must say. The great joke was that we were taking drugs, and look what happened to him. He was caught on the toilet full of them! It was sad; but I still love him, particularly in his early period. He was very influential on me.
JOHN: When I first heard 'Heartbreak Hotel' I could hardly make out what was being said. It was just the experience of hearing it and having my hair stand on end. We'd never heard American voices singing like that. They'd always sung like Sinatra or enunciated very well. Suddenly there's this hillbilly hiccuping on tape echo and all this bluesy background going on. And we didn't know what the hell Presley was singing about, or Little Richard or Chuck Berry. It took a long time to work out what was going on. To us, it just sounded like a noise that was great.71
Up until Elvis joined the army I thought it was beautiful music, and Elvis was for me and my generation what The Beatles were to the Sixties.77 But after he went into the army, I think they cut 'les bollocks' off. They not only shaved his hair off, but I think they shaved between his legs, too. He played some good stuff after the army, but it was never quite the same. It was like something happened to him psychologically.75
Elvis really died the day he joined the army. That's when they killed him, and the rest was a living death.77
PAUL: These were great times, so even if you didn't enjoy all of the events that much you could still go home to Liverpool and say, 'Well, you know who I met?' I mean, to meet Elvis, or anybody like that, or to say you've been to Sunset Strip - it was very impressive.
JOHN: It sort of dawned on me that love was the answer, when I was younger, on the Rubber Soul album. My first expression of it was a song called 'The Word'. The word is 'love'. 'In the good and the bad books that I have read,' whatever, wherever, the word is 'love'. It seems like the underlying theme to the universe. Everything that was worthwhile got down to this love, love, love thing. And it is the struggle to love, be loved and express that (just something about love) that's fantastic.
I think that whatever else love is - and it's many, many things - it is constant. It's been the same forever. I don't think it will ever change. Even though I'm not always a loving person, I want to be that; I want to be as loving as possible.
PAUL: 'THE WORD' COULD BE A SALVATION ARMY SONG. THE WORD IS 'LOVE' BUT IT COULD BE 'JESUS'. (IT ISN'T, MIND YOU, BUT IT COULD BE.)65
JOHN: We were getting better, technically and musically. We finally took over the studio. In the early days, we had to take what we were given; we had to make it in two hours, and one or three takes was enough and we didn't know how you could get more bass - we were learning the techniques.70 Then we got contemporary. I think Rubber Soul was about when it started happening.
Everything I, any of us, do is influenced, but it began to take its own form. Rubber Soul was a matter of having all experienced the recording studio; having grown musically as well, but [getting] the knowledge of the place, of the studio.71 We were more precise about making the album, that's all, and we took over the cover and everything.
It was Paul's title. It was like 'Yer Blues', I suppose, meaning English soul, 'Rubber soul'. Just a pun.70
PAUL: I think the title Rubber Soul came from a comment an old blues guy had said of Jagger. I've heard some out-takes of us doing 'I'm Down' and at the front of it I'm chatting on about Mick. I'm saying how I'd just read about an old bloke in the States who said, 'Mick Jagger, man. Well you know they're good - but it's plastic soul.' So 'plastic soul' was the germ of the Rubber Soul idea.
In October 1965, we started to record the album. Things were changing. The direction was moving away from the poppy stuff like 'Thank You Girl', 'From Me To You' and 'She Loves You'. The early material was directly relating to our fans, saying, 'Please buy this record,' but now we'd come to a point where we thought, 'We've done that. Now we can branch out into songs that are more surreal, a little more entertaining.' And other people were starting to arrive on the scene who were influential. Dylan was influencing us quite heavily at that point.
GEORGE MARTIN: By the time of Rubber Soul they were ready for new musical directions. In the early days they were very influenced by American rhythm-and-blues. I think that the so-called 'Beatles sound' had something to do with Liverpool being a port. Maybe they heard the records before we did. They certainly knew much more about Motown and black music than anybody else did, and that was a tremendous influence on them.
And then, as time went on, other influences became apparent: classical influences and modern music. That was from 1965 and beyond.
RINGO: There was a lot of experimentation on Rubber Soul, influenced, I think, by the substances. George Martin knew about it and used to get annoyed; well, not really annoyed, he would just go, 'Oh God,' because things would take a little longer.
He was very good. In the early days he'd had an assistant who'd go through rehearsals with us and George would just come in for the take, to press the tape button. That changed and he was there all the time; and then, as we went on, we would just be playing, and playing great, and we'd say, 'Did you get that, George?' I believe we taught George Martin how to keep the tape rolling. He lost that old attitude that you only press the button when you are going to do the take. We began to have the tape rolling all the time and we got a lot of good takes that way.
PAUL: George Martin was very understanding, even though we were going to change style and get more psychedelic or surreal. It never seemed to throw him, even though sometimes it was not quite his taste in music.
We did occasionally get pissed off with him. As time went by, things crept in. In an out-take I heard recently - recording 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' - John is saying, 'What's wrong with that?' and George Martin says, 'Erm... it wasn't exciting enough, John,' and John mumbles, 'Bloody hell,' - that kind of thing was creeping in a bit - 'it wasn't exciting enough, eh? Well, you come here and sing it, then!' I think that's just pressure of work. When you've been working hard for a long time, you really start to need a break.
RINGO: Like everyone else, we get a bit edgy, but it never goes too far. None of us have ever gone to hit each other or anything like that.65
JOHN: We have plenty of arguments, but we're all so attuned to each other, and we know each other so well through the years, that an argument never reaches a climax. It's like mind-reading. If an argument's building up between Ringo and I, say, it comes to a point where we know what's going to come next and everybody packs in. So we have arguments, like other people, but there's no conflict. All the people that have conflict in showbusiness either get married about nineteen times, or they leave the group and go solo.65
RINGO: When we did take too many substances, the music was shit, absolute shit. At the time we'd think it was great, but when we came to record the next day we'd all look at each other and say, 'We'll have to do that again.' It didn't work for The Beatles to be too deranged when making music. There's very little material where we were out to lunch. It was good to take it the day before - then you'd have that creative memory - but you couldn't function while under the influence.
GEORGE: It used to make us feel ill as well. John would pick us up in his big Rolls Royce with blacked-out windows when we were living out in the stockbroker belt. (Ringo, John and I had all moved out of town to Surrey.) He'd pick up Ringo and then me and we'd head into town. Because a Rolls Royce doesn't have the proper springs, it just rolls around; and the black windows would be shut, so we'd be getting double doses of reefers. By the time we got to Hammersmith, we were loaded and feeling ill. we would pull up at the Abbey Road studios and fall out of the car.
Reefers are hard to avoid in The Beatles' story. All the time, Mal and Neil would sit in Studio No. 2 behind the sound baffles while we were working, rolling them up and smoking. You can hear on one of the tapes from the sessions: a song starts and John goes, 'Hang on, 'ang on...' And Paul starts filling in for him. Then John comes back: 'Ahhhh. OK, OK.' And by the time the engineers have rewound the tape you're thinking, 'I'll just go and have another hit...'
But Rubber Soul was my favourite album, even at that time. I think that it was the best one we made; we certainly knew we were making a good album. We did spend a bit more time on it and tried new things. But the most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds that we weren't able to hear before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people's music and everything was blossoming at that time; including us, because we were still growing.
RINGO: Grass was really influential in a lot of our changes, especially with the writers. And because they were writing different material, we were playing differently. We were expanding in all areas of our lives, opening up to a lot of different attitudes. I feel that we made it on love songs (all the initial songs were love songs). Now we get to Rubber Soul and begin stretching the writing and the playing a lot more. This was the departure record. A lot of other influences were coming down and going on the record.
'Nowhere man' was good. 'Girl' was great - weird breathy sounds on it. 'The Word', another great track - George Martin on harmonium, Mal 'Organ' Evans on Hammond. We were really getting into a lot of different sounds and I think the lyrics were changing, too, with songs like 'drive My Car', 'Norwegian Wood', 'You Won't See Me', 'Nowhere Man' and, of course, 'Michelle'.
JOHN: Rubber Soul was the pot album, and Revolver was the acid. It was like pills influenced us in Hamburg, drink influenced us in so and so, I mean, we weren't all stoned making Rubber Soul, because in those days we couldn't work on pot. We never recorded under acid.
It's like saying, 'Did Dylan Thomas write Under Milk Wood on beer?' What does that have to do with it? The beer is to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. The drugs are to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. They don't make you write any better. I never wrote any better stuff because I was on acid or not on acid.71
GEORGE: Songwriting for me, at the time of Rubber Soul, was a bit frightening because John and Paul had been writing since they were three years old. It was hard to come in suddenly and write songs. They'd had a lot of practice. They'd written most of their bad songs before we'd even got into the recording studio. I had to come from nowhere and start writing, and have something with at least enough quality to put on the record alongside all the wondrous hits. It was very hard.
PAUL: John and I were writing quite well by 1965. For a while we didn't really have enough home-made material, but we did start to around the time of Rubber Soul.
Most of the time we wrote together. We'd go and lock ourselves away and say, 'OK, what have we got?' John might have half an idea, something like for 'In My Life': 'There are places I remember...' (I think he had that first as a lyric - like a poem, 'Places I Remember') and we'd work out the extra melody needed, and the main theme, and by the end of three or four hours we nearly always had it cracked! I can't remember coming away from one of those sessions not having finished a song.
One of the stickiest was 'Drive My Car', because we couldn't get past one phrase that we had: 'You can buy me golden rings.' We struggled for hours; I think we struggled too long. Then we had a break and suddenly it came: 'Wait a minute: "Drive my car!"' Then we got into the fun of that scenario: 'Oh, you can drive my car.' What is it? What's he doing? Is he offering a job as a chauffeur, or what? And then it became much more ambiguous, which we liked, instead of golden rings which was a bit poofy. 'Golden rings' became 'beep beep, yeah'. We both came up with that. Suddenly we were in LA: cars, chauffeurs, open-top Cadillacs, and it was a whole other thing.
GEORGE: I played the bassline on 'Drive My Car'. It was like the line from 'Respect' by Otis Redding.
PAUL: SONGWRITING IS A THING WE CAN'T STOP - IT'S A HABIT, ALMOST.65
JOHN: 'Girl' is real. There is no such thing as the girl; she was a dream, but the words are all right. It wasn't just a song, and it was about that girl - that turned out to be Yoko, in the end - the one that a lot of us were looking for.
It's about, 'Was she taught when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure, did she understand it?' Sort of philosophy quotes I was thinking about when I wrote it. I was trying to say something or other about Christianity, which I was opposed to at the time because I was brought up in the Church.
I was pretty heavy on the Church in both books, but it was never picked up, although it was obviously there. I was talking about Christianity, in that you have to be tortured to attain heaven. That was the Catholic Christian concept: be tortured and then it'll be all right; which seems to be true, but not in their concept of it. I didn't believe in that: that you have to be tortured to attain anything; it just so happens that you are.70
WE'VE ALWAYS DONE DIRTY LITTLE THINGS ON RECORDS. IN 'GIRL' THE BEATLES WERE SINGING 'TIT-TIT-TIT-TIT' IN THE BACKGROUND AND NOBODY NOTICED.71
PAUL: 'Nowhere Man' was one of John's, coming from a big night the night before and getting to bed about five in the morning. That was a great one. He said, 'I started one last night.' It turned out later that it was about me: 'He's a real nowhere man...' I maybe helped him with a word here or there, but he'd already got most of it.
Nobody ever had any notes written down; we just used to sing a tune and it would come out good. Part of the secret collaboration was that we liked each other. We liked singing at each other. He'd sing something and I'd say, 'Yeah,' and trade off on that. He'd say, 'Nowhere land,' and I'd say, 'For nobody.' It was a two-way thing.
JOHN: I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good.80 I was just sitting, trying to think, and I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and going nowhere. Once I'' thought of that, it was easy, it all came out. No - I remember now; I'd actually stopped trying to think of something. Nothing would come. I was cheesed off and went for a lie down, having given up. Then I thought of myself as Nowhere Man - sitting in this Nowhere Land.67
'Nowhere Man' came, words and music, the whole damn thing. The same with 'In My Life'. I'd struggled for days and hours, trying to write clever lyrics. Then I gave up, and 'In My Life' came to me - letting it go is the whole game.80
GEORGE: In Studio No. 2 there is a steep staircase that goes up to the control room. Underneath is a cupboard where they used to keep all kinds of different equipment. Most of it has gone now, but there is still a wind machine where you wind the handle. There were strange tambourines and Moroccan drums and all kinds of little things. The studio itself was full of instruments: pedal harmoniums, tack (jangly) pianos, a celeste and a Hammond organ. That's why we used all those different sounds on our records - because they were there. So when we'd get to an overdub we'd look around the cupboard and see if there was something that would fit, like the funny drum sound on 'Don't Bother Me'.
Paul used a fuzz box on the bass on 'Think For Yourself'. When Phil Spector was making 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah', the engineer who'd set up the track overloaded the microphone on the guitar player and it became very distorted. Phil Spector said, 'Leave it like that, it'' great.' Some years later everyone started to try to copy that sound and so they invented the fuzz box. We had one and tried the bass through it and it sounded really good.
GEORGE MARTIN: The Beatles were always looking for new sounds, always looking to a new horizon and it was a continual but happy strain to try and provide new things for them. They were always waiting to try new instruments even when they didn't know much about them.
GEORGE: 'Norwegian Wood' was the first use of sitar on one of our records, though during the filming of Help! there were some Indian musicians in a restaurant scene and I first messed around with one then.
Towards the end of the year I'd kept hearing the name of Ravi Shankar. I heard it several times, and about the third time it was a friend of mine who said, 'Have you heard this person Ravi Shankar? You may like the music.' So I went out and bought a record and that was it: I thought it was incredible.
When I first consciously heard Indian music, it was as if I already knew it. When I was a child we had a crystal radio with long and short wave bands and so it's possible I might have already heard some Indian classical music. There was something about it that was very familiar, but at the same time, intellectually, I didn't know what was happening at all.
So I went and bought a sitar from a little shop at the top of Oxford Street called Indiacraft - it stocked little carvings, and incense. It was a real crummy-quality one, actually, but I bought it and mucked about with it a bit. Anyway, we were at the point where we'd recorded the 'Norwegian Wood' backing track (twelve-string and six-string acoustic, bass and drums) and it needed something. We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up - it was just lying around; I hadn't really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked.
JOHN: 'Norwegian Wood' was about an affair I was having. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn't want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside the household I'd always had some kind of affairs going, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, but in such a smokescreen way that you couldn't tell. I can't remember any specific woman it had to do with.80 I was writing from my experiences; girl's flats, things like that.70
George had just the sitar and I said, 'Could you play this piece?' We went through many different versions of the song. It was never right and I was getting very angry about it; it wasn't coming out like I said. They said, 'Just do it how you want,' and I did the guitar very loudly into the mike and sang it at the same time. And then George had the sitar and I asked him could he play the piece that I/d written. He was not sure whether he could play it yet because he hadn't done much on the sitar, but he was willing to have a go, as is his wont, and he learnt the bit and dubbed it on after.
RINGO: It was such a mind-blower that we had this strange instrument on a record. We were all open to anything when George introduced the sitar: you could walk in with an elephant, as long as it was going to make a musical note. Anything was viable. Our whole attitude was changing. We'd grown up a little, I think.
JOHN: I wrote the middle eight of 'Michelle', one of Paul's songs. He and I were staying somewhere and he walked in and hummed the first few bars, with the words, and he says, 'Where do I go from here?' I had been listening to Nina Simone - I think it was 'I Put A Spell On You'. There was a line in it that went: 'I love you, I love you, I love you.' That's what made me think of the middle eight: 'I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove you.'
My contribution to Paul's songs was always to add a little bluesy edge to them. Otherwise 'Michelle' is a straight ballad. He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. There was a period when I thought I didn't write melodies; that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock'n'roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs - 'In My Life', or some of the early stuff, 'This Boy' - I was writing melody with the best of them.80
PAUL: We'd just put out 'Michelle' and I remember one night at the Ad Lib club David Bailey hearing it and saying, 'You've got to be joking - it is tongue in cheek, isn't it?' My reaction was: 'Piss off! That's a real tune,' and was quite surprised that he'd think that. Looking at the Sixties now, I can see why he did, because everything was very 'Needles And Pins', 'Please Please Me', and suddenly - 'Michelle'. It came a bit out of left field, but those are often my favourites. I mean, one of Cliff Richard's best ones was 'Living Doll'. When he came out with that it was quite a shock, with its acoustics; but it was a well-formed little song.
JOHN: We did a lot of learning together. George Martin had a very great musical knowledge and background, and he could translate for us and suggest a lot of things. He'd come up with amazing technical things, slowing down the piano and things like that. we'd be saying, 'We want it to go un, un and ee, ee,' and he'd say, 'Well, look, chaps, I thought of this, this afternoon, and last night I was talking to... whoever, and I came up with this.' And we'd say, 'Great, great, come on, put it on here.' He'd also come up with things like, 'Have you heard an oboe?' and we'd say, 'Which one's that?' and he'd say, 'This one.'75
In 'In My Life' there's an Elizabethan piano solo - we'd do things like that. We'd say, 'Play it like Bach,' or, 'Could you put twelve bars in there?' He helped us to develop a language a little, to talk to musicians. Because I'm very shy and for many, many reasons I didn't much go for musicians, I didn't like to have to go and see twenty guys and try and tell them what to do. They're all so lousy, anyway.70
GEORGE MARTIN: 'In My Life' is one of my favourite songs because it is so much John. A super track and such a simple song. There's a bit where John couldn't decide what to do in the middle and, while they were having their tea-break, I put down a baroque piano solo which John didn't hear until he came back. What I wanted was too intricate for me to do live, so I did it with a half-speed piano, then sped it up, and he liked it.
JOHN: 'In My Life' was, I think, my first real, major piece of work. Up until then it had all been glib and throw-away. I had one mind that wrote books and another mind that churned out things about 'I love you' and 'you love me', because that's how Paul and I did it. I'd always tried to make some sense of the words, but I never really cared.
It was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously, about my life. It was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after In His Own Write came out. He said to me, 'Why don't you put some of the way you write in the book in the songs? Or why don't you put something about your childhood into the songs?'80
I wrote the lyrics first and then sang it. That was usually the case with things like 'In My Life' and 'Across The Universe' and some of the ones that stand out a bit. I wrote it in Kenwood, upstairs, where I had about ten tape recorders, all linked up. I'd mastered them over the period of a year or two - I could never make a rock'n'roll record, but I could make some far-out stuff.70
It started out as a bus Journey from my house on 251 Menlove Avenue to town. I had a complete set of lyrics, naming every sight. It became 'In My Life', a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped with the middle eight, musically.80
PAUL: Funnily enough, this is one of the only songs John and I disagree on. I remember writing the melody on a mellotron that was parked on his half-landing.
JOHN: Most of my good songs are in the first person.71 'In My Life', 'I'm A Loser', 'Help!', 'Strawberry Fields' - they're all personal records. I always wrote about me when I could. I didn't really enjoy writing third-person songs about people who lived in concrete flats and things like that. I like first-person music. But because of my hang-ups, and many other things, I would only now and then write specifically about me.
From the same period, same time, I never liked 'Run For Your Life', because it was a song I just knocked off. It was inspired from - this is a very vague connection - 'Baby Let's Play House'. There was a line on it: 'I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man,' so I wrote it around that. I didn't think it was all that important, but it was always a favourite of George's.70
GEORGE: I wouldn't say that my songs are autobiographical. 'Taxman' is, perhaps. Some of them were later on, after The Beatles. The early ones were just any words I could think of.
GEORGE MARTIN: They had a great time in the studio and, in the main, they were enormously happy times. They would fool around a lot and have a laugh, particularly when overdubbing voices. John was funny; they all were. My memory is of a very joyful time.
PAUL: Later, when we made Sgt Pepper, I remember taking it round to Dylan at the Mayfair Hotel in London; I went round as if I were going on a pilgrimage. Keith Richards was in the outer room and we had to hang around and then went in to meet Dylan. It was a little bit like an audience with the Pope. I remember playing him some of Sgt Pepper and he said, 'Oh, I get it - you don't want to be cute any more.' That was the feeling about Rubber Soul, too. We'd had our cute period and now it was time to expand.
The album cover is another example of our branching out: the stretched photo. That was actually one of those little exciting random things that happen. The photographer Robert Freeman had taken some pictures round at John's house in Weybridge. We had our new gear on - the polo necks - and we were doing straight mug shots; the four of us all posing. Back in London Robert was showing us the slides; he had a piece of cardboard that was the album-cover size and he was projecting the photographs exactly onto it so we could see how it would look as an album cover. We had just chosen the photograph when the card that the picture was projected onto fell backwards a little, elongating the photograph. It was stretched and we went, 'That's it, Rubber So-o-oul, hey hey! Can you do it like that?' And he said, 'well, yeah. I can print it that way.' And that was it.
GEORGE: I liked the way we got our faces to be longer on the album cover. We lost the 'little innocents' tag, the naivety, and Rubber Soul was the first one where we were fully-fledged potheads.
PAUL: We did a television programme in November: The Music of Lennon and McCartney. It was planned as a kind of tribute, a showcase of starts singing songs that John and I had written. The idea had come from the director, Johnny Hamp; a mate. (We knew a lot of people at his company, Granada; the first TV show we did was with them. The Granada studios were only half an hour away from us in Liverpool, so we would just go up the road.)
We weren't really that keen, but Johnny was very persuasive and a nice bloke, so we were happy to do it for him. He'd told us he had Cilla Black doing one of the songs - Cilla was an old mate - and that Henry Mancini was to be another on the show. It was a great honour that someone as good as Henry would be doing our songs; so, altogether, we couldn't really turn it down.
It was great to meet hank Mancini, because like most people we'd loved 'Moon River'. The line 'My huckleberry friend' had done us in: after Breakfast at Tiffany's he was a hero.
Fritz Spiegl was on the show. He did a baroque version of one of our tunes. People were doing a lot of that at the time: dressing in white wigs and pretending they were a baroque string quartet. Baroque and Roll! We'd actually met Fritz quite a few years earlier, at a party; which is something of a story.
John was at art school then, and the only people at that time who had parties were the art-school people. (Our school didn't have parties - you just went home after school.) I remember this party was at John's tutor's house. It was very sophisticated for me and George, so we were trying to hang in there and pretend we knew what was going on. The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra had finished a concert and some of the musicians had come to the party in full evening dress from the concert. They were all a bit grand for us. There we were, looking as suave as we could and a guy walked over and it was Fritz Spiegl. He came over and was putting a record on the record-player: Liszt's 'Hungarian Rhapsodies', and I remember George looking over to him and saying, 'Hey, Geraldo - got any Elvis?' Fritz was not amused...
Also in the TV show was Peter Sellers. I didn't know him too well. (Ringo got to know him; Ringo hung out with the showbiz people a bit more. He has been to dinner with Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor - he could hold his own with all of them.) But I met Peter later: a very nice bloke, pretty hung up, and, like a lot of comedians, he wanted to be a musician. He was a drummer, as I recall, but on this show he did a very funny impression of Larry Oliver doing 'A Hard Day's Night'.
Then there was Ella Fitzgerald. She was at the opposite end of the spectrum from us. That was another honour - Ella Fitzgerald singing 'Can't Buy Me Love'. I'd been a fan of hers for years; she had such a great voice.
Before the show, Johnny Hamp had asked us if we had any real favourites of the Lennon/McCartney cover versions out at the time. Esther Phillips was my big favourite. She'd changed our 'And I Love Her' to 'And I Love Him' and did a great version of it. The sort of people we were listening to then were on Stax and Motown; black American, mainly. George used to have a great collection of Stax records on his jukebox. I liked Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, people like that. The Miracles were a big influence on us, where Little Richard had been earlier. Now, for us, Motown artists were taking the place of Richard. We loved the black artists so much; and it was the greatest accolade to have somebody with one of those real voices, as we saw it, sing our own songs (we'd certainly been doing theirs). So I turned Johnny on to Esther Phillips, and he got her over for the show.
A lot of people covered our songs. If you've written something, it's good to be covered. It doesn't matter if Pinky and Perky do it, it shows someone liked it enough in the first place. So I'm amused rather than annoyed - I've never been annoyed with any cover version. Obviously some of them are more successful than others - like Ray Charles or Esther Phillips. Roy Redmond did a really brilliant version of 'Good Day Sunshine'. And Count Basie Plays The Beatles, too. Those are the ones we really got serious about and loved, and the others we just put up with and enjoyed.
JOHN: Sinatra's not for me; it just doesn't do it, you know? Some of his things I have liked, some of the arrangements of the bands. But Peggy Lee I could listen to all day, as much as I can to rock'n'roll. Ella Fitzgerald is great. I couldn't understand what people liked about her for years and then I heard something of hers and I said, 'That's great,' and they said, 'That's Ella Fitzgerald.' I didn't believe them; I thought it was some R&B singer.64
NEIL ASPINALL: It was good that they could still get involved in shows like this, and those funny little sketches at Christmas. For a rock'n'roll band, it was amazing. That came from art-school days and the rag night. They could still joint in that sort of fun in 1965.
PAUL: In December we did the last tour of Britain we would ever do. We'd worked nearly every day for a long time doing live sets, so after a few years of that we were now much more intrigued with recording.
It's as if we were painters who had never really been allowed to paint - we'd just had to go selling our paintings up and down the country. Then, suddenly, we had somebody telling us, 'You can have a studio and you can paint and you can take your time.' So, obviously, being in a recording studio became much more attractive to us than going on the road again.
JOHN: I always was a record man. I always liked the studio best, once I got the hang of it and the control. I like it because it's complete control.71
NEIL ASPINALL: As time went by, they began to find that, technically, they couldn't produce on stage what they could do in the studio. I think the guys were getting pissed off with just churning out performances and tracks, however good, as thought they were on some sort of conveyor belt. They didn't want that any more.
JOHN: 'Day Tripper' was [written] under complete pressure, based on an old folk song I wrote about a month previous. It was very hard going, that, and it sounds it.69 It wasn't a serious message song. It was a drug song. In a way, it was a day tripper - I just liked the word.70
'We Can Work It Out': Paul wrote that chorus, I wrote the middle bit. You've got Paul writing 'we can work it out', real optimistic; and me, impatient: 'Life is very short and there's no time for fussing...'80
RINGO: By the end of 1965 the touring started to hit everybody. I remember we had a meeting during which we all talked about how the musicianship was going downhill, never mind the boredom of doing it; going away and hitting all those hotels.
Bands go on the road nowadays and do a press conference one day and shows for the next four days. But, for The Beatles, it was always the press and those sorts of people: there was so much pressure. From the minute we opened our eyes people were trying to get at us.
The pressure was on. I don't remember having any time off, except when we rented the house in LA and spent a week or so there; but even then we'd had to put the barriers up - that is, Neil and Mal and whoever else they had around them. It was, 'OK, lock the door; let's just have a break here.'
JOHN: I enjoy playing, really, but in America it was spoiled for me because of the crap there - meeting people we don't want to meet. I suppose I'm a bit intolerant. But is it any wonder I got fed up when they kept sending in autograph books and we signed them only to find they belonged to officials - promoters, police and the rest of that lot. The real fans, they'd waited for hours, days. They were treated like half-wits because they wanted our autographs - but the cops made sure they got theirs. I bet every policeman's daughter in Britain has got our autographs. Half of them aren't our fans. It's bloody unfair on the kids who really want them.64
It would hurt me; I would go insane, swearing, whatever. I'd always do something. I couldn't take it; it was awful, all that business was awful. One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what The Beatles were, and that's what I resent. I mean, I did it, I didn't know, I didn't foresee; it just happens bit by bit, gradually, until this complete craziness is surrounding you and you're doing exactly what you don't want to do with people you can't stand; the people you hated when you were ten.70
NEIL ASPINALL: Anybody near to the band at that time could sense their dissatisfaction with touring life, which is why they'd made a little holiday of their visit to LA this time.
GEORGE: In LA there'd been a lot of people and a lot of things to dodge - stars' sons wanting to hang out with us, journalists wanting to know what we were on, parties to attend, the whole showbiz thing. But we had friends there, too; people like David Crosby and Jim McGuinn, whom we liked to spend time with. So there were pros and cons to that lifestyle; but mainly cons.
1963-65 was ridiculous. It was: make a movie, tour Europe, tour England twice, make four singles, three EPs and a couple of albums, tour America, tour the Far East... it was unbelievable. We were going all the time. And as Paul points out, on his one day off he would be judging a beauty competition or something.
We'd been everywhere, Australia and Tokyo and America and Europe, and yet the biggest tour we ever did at the top was only six weeks long, including travel time. It was always hit and run. We nipped about very quickly and then we were back home. Only then were we able to have personal lives, and we liked that, and wanted more of that.
The studio was where it was all going on. And we were still very close. We'd all ride to London together - this was the period when I got a Ferrari - and we'd go to the studio, be at the studio together, go out to dinner, go to the clubs and drive home, all together. We'd work all day and then go home and change and then all meet each other back at the club at about 10.30. From around 1964 I had given up whisky and Coke and started drinking red wine, and out had come the 'jazz Woodbines'. But still we were going to the clubs.
RINGO: A lot was changing - our attitudes, our lives - at this time, and the Rubber Soul sessions were the start of the built-up to the end, in a way. We were doing great stuff and it was really a joy in the studio and the results were great; but the time was getting longer and longer, taking up a lot of space, and as it built up, over five or six years, I was getting fed up with the studios, too.
I'd just got married in 1965 and was driving up to Abbey Road every day. I think that's where I started the resentment for the studio. We would go in there and it would be a beautiful day, and we'd come out and days had gone by.
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