JOHN: The Sixties saw a revolution among youth - not just concentrating in small pockets or classes, but a revolution in a whole way of thinking. The youth got it first and the next generation second. The Beatles were part of the revolution, which is really an evolution, and is continuing.69
We were all on this ship in the Sixties. Our generation - a ship going to discover the New World. And The Beatles were in the crow's-nest of that ship. We were part of it and contributed what we contributed; I can't designate what we did and didn't do. It depends on how each individual was impressed by The Beatles, or how shock waves went to different people. We were going through the changes, and all we were saying was, 'It's raining up here!' or, 'There's land!' or, 'There's sun!' or, 'We can see a seagull!' We were just reporting what was happening to us.75
GEORGE: The Sixties was a good period, and in Europe at least it had a lot to do with the fact that we were the generation that hadn't been in the war. We'd been born during the Second World War, and as we grew up we became sick of hearing about it. To this day the newspapers and television love the war and wars in general - they can't get enough of them. They keep putting programmes on about them. There's about fifty-four wars happening right now, and even if there's a lull in one of the fifty-four wars they'll show us the re-runs of the Second World War or Pearl Harbor.
We were the generation who didn't suffer from the war and we didn't want to have to keep being told about Hitler. We were more bright-eyed and hopeful for the future, breaking out of the leftover Victorian mould of attitudes and poverty and hardship. We were the first generation to experience that, so in that respect it was good. And then we had Little Richard and Elvis and Fats Domino and all that music - because up until then it had all been pretty silly music from the Fifties. I was a bit disappointed the way the Seventies seemed to hit a brick wall and turn into headbanging and spitting on each other.
And then we bumped right into Vietnam around that time when we were starting to have had enough experience as The Beatles to have grown up a bit and realised that there's more to life than being noddy-head Beatles.
PAUL: There was a big period of freedom, which I always liken to God opening up the waves for Moses and then closing them again. AIDS has closed down the sexual freedom we had then, just as VD had shut it off for an earlier generation. I remember my dad saying he was quite envious of me because there was no longer any need to fear VD. It had been a major threat when he was a kid. We didn't have to worry about it - you just went down the clinic and got a jab. And all the girls were on the Pill, which removed another traditional worry, so we had an amazing sexual freedom.
JOHN: People are just uptight because the kids are having fun. They didn't have the same freedom because they didn't take it; they just followed the lives laid down by their parents. And they're jealous of the people that didn't do that. It's a simple sexual jealousy.
I don't know what age it was, the Twenties or the Thirties, [when] most of the pop music was about the sort of illusory romantic love that was basically nonexistent. The songs were always about love and a boy/girl relationship, but they just happened to miss out the most important thing, which was sex. I think now the kids sing and want to hear about reality, whether that's love or sex, or whatever it is.
I think the music reflects the state that the society is in. It doesn't suggest the state. I think the poets and musicians and artists are of the age - not only do they lead the age on, but they also reflect that age. And I think that's what the pop music is doing: it's reflecting.
Like The Beatles. We came out of Liverpool and we reflected our background and we reflected our thoughts in what we sang, and that's all people are doing.71
PAUL: I suppose the fashion thing was a kind of eruption. We were erupting anyway, as The Beatles; and it's very difficult to separate The Beatles' eruption from the fashion or the cultural or the mind eruption. It was all happening at once, as a whirlpool. If we got invited to places, generally it was because we were The Beatles; it wouldn't be because of the clothes, which were secondary.
Pot and LSD were the two other major influences. Instead of getting totally out of it and falling over, as we would have done on Scotch, we'd end up talking very seriously and having a good time till three in the morning. Now it's reverted and in many ways it's as though that period didn't happen. It's come full circle: the waters have closed over again and we've got militaristic things in the air instead of people putting flowers down the barrels of guns. When will they ever learn?
RINGO: I feel The Beatles were doing what they wanted to do, and a lot of it was that youthfulness of trying to change ideas. I think it allowed people to do things they wouldn't have done if we hadn't been out there. Because so many people have always said, 'Oh, it's OK for you to dress like that or to do that,' but it's OK for anyone, really.
The Sixties were it for me, but the Forties were best for my dad. For him, no one topped Glenn Miller, including The Beatles. If I play records I don't really play a lot after 1970. I go for blues, some jazz, people who were around in the Sixties. It's Bob from then, Eric from then - some Elton, not a lot. I don't play a lot of Beaky, Beaky, Nosey, Ducky, Dicky and Tich, all that stuff. I'd got it all nailed by 1970.
NEIL ASPINALL: Easing up on their breakneck schedule in early 1966, when they took a couple of months off, meant we all had more time. For them it meant time to hang around with friends, get into other things, have personal lives, even time to go on holiday.
JOHN: We were all at the prime, and we used to go around London in our cars and meet each other and talk about music with The Animals and Eric [Burdon] and all those. It was a really good time. That was the best period, fame-wise. We didn't get mobbed so much. It was like a men's smoking club, a very good scene.70
PAUL: FOR A TIME IT WAS GREAT: WE WERE INTRODUCED TO A WHOLE SET OF PEOPLE WE COULDN'T HAVE EXPECTED TO MEET IN OTHER TIMES OR CIRCUMSTANCES. IT WAS A GOOD SET, TOO; A VERY COSMOPOLITAN GROUP - GAY WOULD MIX WITH HETERO WITHOUT EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT, CERTAINLY AMERICAN WOULD MIX WITH BRITISH. ALL NATIONALITIES WOULD MIX.
JOHN: The main club we all went to was the Ad Lib. The Bag O'Nails was another. There were a couple more but they were never as big. We used to go there and dance and talk music, get drunk, stoned and high. One of the records we always played in the Ad Lib, with all of us sitting there, and dancing, looking superstoned, was 'Daddy Rolling Stone' by Derek Martin, which The Who later did a version of, like the English usually do all these great records: not too good - that's including us. That's all we ever played: American records. There was no such thing as English records in those days.74
PAUL: We're very friendly with all the other groups. When we go to the Ad Lib and The Rolling Stones are there, or The Animals or The Moody Blues, it's good to have a chance to sit down and talk about music and our latest record or their new record.65
JOHN: The thing about clubs like the Ad Lib is that we go there and we meet other people - we meet The Rolling Stones and The Animals and any visiting American artists - and we're not bothered there. I think I've signed one autograph at the Ad Lib and we've been going there a year. No one bothers us, and you can get drunk or you can fall on your face if you like and nobody's going to bother. You know that you're OK and you relax there, even though it's rowdy and heavy.65
PAUL: After recording sessions, at two or three in the morning, we'd be careering through the villages on the way to Weybridge, shouting 'wey-hey' and driving much too fast. George would perhaps be in his Ferrari - he was quite a fast driver - and John and I would be following in his big Rolls Royce or the Princess. John had a mike in the Rolls with a loudspeaker outside and he'd be shouting to George in front: 'It is foolish to resist, it is foolish to resist! Pull over!' It was insane. All the lights would go on the houses as we went past - it must have freaked everybody out.
When John went to make How I Won The War in Spain, he took the same car, which he virtually lived in. It had blacked-out windows and you could never see who was in it, so it was perfect. John didn't come out of it - he just used to talk to the people outside through the microphone: 'Get away from the car! Get away!'
Once we were going through Regent's Park on our way to North London to do a session. We were in John's Rolls and we'd just come from his house in Weybridge. Suddenly we pulled up behind Brian Jones, who was sitting quietly in the back of his Austin Princess. John was a very funny guy, and he shouted through the microphone: 'Brian Jones, do not move! You have been under surveillance - you are under arrest!' Brian leapt up about eight feet and went as white as a sheet, going, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!' Then he saw it was us - 'You bunch of bastards!' It nearly killed him that day, John was so official-sounding.
JOHN: When I first got the original black Rolls, I couldn't drive; I hadn't passed my test. I'd never bothered because I wasn't very interested in driving, but when the others passed I thought I'd better do it or I'd get left. So I got the first Rolls and it used to be embarrassing, sitting in a Rolls. People think they've got black windows to hide. It's partly that, but it's also for when you're coming home late. If it's daylight when you're coming in, it's still dark inside the car - you just shut all the windows and you're still in the club.65
GEORGE: I had a couple of Ferraris and later John suddenly decided that he wanted a Ferrari, too. We used to race together but I always regarded myself as slightly better because, first of all, John was as blind as a bat and, secondly, he was never really very good at driving. But he wanted to drive his Ferrari and I would always be fearing some huge crash. We'd come down Piccadilly at about ninety miles an hour and go under the underpass on Hyde Park Corner like bats out of hell and he'd be right behind me, trying to keep up, with his contact lenses in, or whatever. And all the way home, back down the A3; I remember that a few times. Sometimes I'd slow down, because I was afraid that he was going to have an enormous 'sausage'.
Once John was driving his Ferrari with Terry Doran in the passenger seat. Terry was a car dealer from Liverpool (a 'man from the motor trade'), and an old friend of Brian Epstein; he was with us all the time around that period. He and John were coming down the M1, doing about ninety, when a bird flew across their path and splattered itself on the windscreen. John instinctively ducked and threw up his hands - 'Whoa! - and Terry was forced to grab hold of the steering wheel and steer the car out of a crash. Brian Epstein had a big posh car. Early on it was great because Paul and I had learnt how to drive and we always wanted to drive his car. That's one of the reasons we signed up with him - because he had a good car. Brian was the worst driver. He knocked down the little 'Keep Left' bollard going into Liverpool Airport. He also had a problem with traffic lights. When they were green he'd stop, and when they went to red he'd go. He had a Maserati, which in the early Sixties was a pretty potent car, and as he went down Piccadilly in it one day the light went to red and he went across the junction. A cop was standing at the side and he shouted, 'Hey!' but Brian drove off down to the next green light and stopped. The cop came running almost up to him, but as the light changed to red he pulled away again. The cop ran all the way down Piccadilly, trying to get him, but Brian didn't even know the cop was after him. He was totally on his own agenda.
PAUL: We'd be hanging out with the Stones, working on their sessions; it was a very friendly scene. There must have been a bit of competition because that's only natural, but it was always friendly. We used to say, 'Have you got one coming out?' and if they had we'd say, 'Well, hold it for a couple of weeks, because we've got one.' It made sense, really, to avoid each other's releases. John and I sang on the Stones' song 'We Love You' - Mick had been stuck for an idea and he asked us to come along. So we went down to Olympic Studios and made it up.
We and the Stones were part of the same crowd. We used to go to a flat in Earl's Court, the late-night hangout. Actually there were a few of these - there was Robert Fraser's place, my place, Mick and Keith's place or maybe Brian's. I remember Mick bringing in 'Ruby Tuesday' as a demo; they'd just done it and it was great. We'd get everything hot off the press. They said, 'What do you think of this one?' and we said, 'Yeah, great, "Ruby Tuesday" - lovely.'
When we asked Brian Jones to one of our sessions, to our surprise he brought along a sax. He turned up in a big Afghan coat at Abbey Road. He played sax on a crazy record, 'You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)'. It's a funny sax solo - it isn't amazingly well played but it happened to be exactly what we wanted: a ropey, shaky sax. Brian was very good like that.
GEORGE: I always used to see Brian in the clubs and hang out with him. In the mid-Sixties he used to come out to my house - particularly when he'd got 'the fear', when he'd mixed too many weird things together. I'd hear his voice shouting to me from out in the garden: 'George, George...' I'd let him in - he was a good mate. He would always come round to my house in the sitar period. We talked about 'Paint It Black' and he picked up my sitar and tried to play it - and the next thing was he did that track.
We had a lot in common, when I think about it. We shared the same date of birth, or nearly, so he must have been a Pisces as well. We also shared the same positions in the most prominent bands in the universe: him with Mick and Keith, and me with Paul and John. I think he related to me a lot, and I liked him. Some people didn't have time for him, but I thought he was one of the most interesting ones.
JOHN: He was different over the years as he disintegrated. He ended up the kind of guy that you dread he'd come on the phone because you knew it was trouble. He was in a lot of pain. But in the early days he was all right because he was young and confident. He was one of those guys that disintegrates in front of you. He was all right. Not brilliant or anything, just a nice guy.70
PAUL: Brian was a nervous guy, very shy, quite serious and maybe into drugs a little more than he should have been, because he used to shake a bit. He was lovely, though. We knew he was on heroin. I knew about heroin but I couldn't have been very clear about it because I remember asking Robert Fraser about it. I think it was he who said to me, 'Heroin's no problem as long as you can afford it. There are millions of addicts, man,' and for a second I almost thought that might just be true. But thank goodness something said to me, 'No, that doesn't sound right,' so I didn't get into it. I was lucky.
I was round at John Dunbar's house when one of their friends came round and got out the rubber, tied his arm up, got out the needle and did the whole thing. I was so scared, but I just had to look. I couldn't tell him not to do it because it was his life, but it was frightening to witness. I was told that the guy died the next week, so I could see what they were getting into.
GEORGE: I GOT MARRIED TO PATTIE ON 21ST JANUARY 1966. PAUL WAS THE BEST MAN. WE GOT MARRIED IN EPSOM, AND THEN WENT TO BARBADOS FOR OUR HONEYMOON.
JOHN: MY ORIGINAL IDEA FOR THE COVER WAS BETTER - DECAPITATE PAUL - BUT HE WOULDN'T GO ALONG WITH IT.
GEORGE: The 1966 American album, Yesterday and Today, was the one with the controversial sleeve. I think Brian Epstein had met a photographer in Australia called Robert Whitaker, who came to London where Brian introduced him to us. He was avant-garde and took a lot of photographs. He set up a photo session which I never liked personally at the time.
I thought it was gross, and I also thought it was stupid. Sometimes we all did stupid things, thinking it was cool or hip when it was naïve and dumb; and that was one of them. But again, it was a case of being put in a situation where one is obliged, as part of a unit, to co-operate.
So we put on those butchers' uniforms for that picture. In the photograph we're going, 'Ugh!' That's what I'm doing, isn't it? I'm disgusted, and especially so by the baby dolls with their heads off. What the bloody hell is that all about?
Quite rightly somebody took a look at it and said, 'Do you think you really need this as an album cover?' So the record company said: 'You don't want to do a cover like that. We want to have a nice one with you all sitting in a little box.'
NEIL ASPINALL: The 'butcher' sleeve was Bob Whitaker's idea. He was trying to get across some sort of earthy idea. It was on the American album - Capitol Records issued different versions from the English ones then - and the retailers were horrified. I'm not sure how many copies they pressed, but the reaction to it was: 'What it this?'
Capitol pasted a new cover over the original sleeves they had already pressed, and then the next pressings had only the new image. But people who bought one of the first batch steamed off the new cover to reveal the 'butcher' picture. There are not that many of them out there.
PAUL: In those days you'd turn up at a session and the photographer would normally have an idea. In the very early days Dezo Hoffmann asked us to put glasses on. I said, 'I don't wear glasses, Dezo.' He said, 'Yeah, but I'll be able to sell these to eyeglass magazines all over the world.' We were getting all these little clues of how it was done. So we were used to photographers giving us bizarre ideas; sometimes we'd ask why we should do it, and they'd say, 'It'll be OK,' and we'd agree.
We'd done a few sessions with Bob before this, and he knew our personalities: he knew we liked black humour and sick jokes. It was very prevalent at that time. And he said, 'I've had an idea - stick these white lab coats on.' It didn't seem too offensive to us. It was just dolls and a lot of meat. I don't know really what he was trying to say, but it seemed a little more original than the things the rest of the people were getting us to do - eyeglasses!
He had a little history of doing that kind of shoot. I remember we came in once and he had some polystyrene that he wanted us to break, and he took action photos of us doing it. I suppose when the photos came out, it looked as if we were wrecking everything, but it was only because we were asked to do it as an idea for a photo session; and that's what the 'butcher' cover was. So we liked it - we thought it was stunning and shocking, but we didn't see all the connotations.
It was Capitol Records that didn't want it, but you have to remember the climate then. I remember Sir Edward Lewis, head of Decca, not wanting the Stones' album cover because it had graffiti on a toilet seat on it. Mick came round to talk to us about it, and I actually rang up Sir Edward and said that I thought they should put it out, but he wasn't having any of it. We weren't against a little shock now and then; it was part of our make-up.
RINGO: I don't know how it came about. I don't know how we ended up sitting in butchers' coats with meat all over us. If you look at eyes, you realise none of us really knew what we were doing. It was just one of those things that happened as life went on.
The sleeve was great for us because we were quite a nice bunch of boys and we thought, 'Let's do something like this!' What was crazy about that sleeve was that, because it was banned, they glued paper over it and everyone started steaming it off. They made it into a really heavy collector's item - which, I'm afraid to say, I don't have a copy of, because in those days we never thought, 'We'd better save this.'
JOHN: We took the pictures in London at one of those photo sessions. By then we were really beginning to hate it - a photo session was a big ordeal, and you had to try and look normal and you didn't feel it. The photographer was a bit of a surrealist and he brought along all these babies and pieces of meat and doctors' coats, so we really got into it, and that's how we felt - 'Yeah!'
I don't like being locked in to one game all the time, and there we were supposed to be sort of angels. I wanted to show that we were aware of life, and I really was pushing for that album cover. I would say I was a lot of the force behind it going out and trying to keep it out.
I especially pushed for it to be an album cover, just to break the image. And it got out in America: they printed it and about 60,000 got out, and then there was some kind of fuss, as usual, and they were all sent back in or withdrawn, and they stuck that awful-go-lucky foursome. We tried to do something different. We would design a cover or have control of more of our own covers in England, but America always had more albums so they always needed another picture, another cover. We used to say, 'Why can't we put fourteen [tracks] out in America?' Because we would sequence the albums - how we thought they should sound - and we put a lot of work into the sequencing too. They wouldn't let us put fourteen out; they said there was some rule or something. And so we almost didn't care what happened to the albums in America until we started coming over more, and noticing [for instance that] on the eight tracks they'd have out-takes and mumbling on the beginning - which is interesting now, but it used to drive us crackers. We'd make an album and they'd keep two from two from every album.74
JOHN: One thing's for sure - the next LP is going to be very different. We wanted to have it so that there was no space between the tracks - just continuous. But they wouldn't wear it.
Paul and I are very keen on this electronic music. You make it clinking a couple of glasses together, or with bleeps from the radio, then you loop the tape to repeat the noises at intervals. Some people build up whole symphonies from it. It would have been better than the background music we had for the last film. All those silly bands. Never again!66
GEORGE MARTIN: Their ideas were beginning to become much more potent in the studio. They started telling me what they wanted, and pressing me for more ideas and for more ways of translating those ideas into reality.
With Revolver you can hear that the boys were listening to lots of American records and saying, 'Can we get this effect?' and so on. So they would want us to do radical things, but this time they'd shove in high EQ on mixing, and for the brass they'd want to have a really 'toppy' sound and cut out all the bass. The engineers would sometimes wonder whether there should be that much EQ.
We would go through the complete range of EQ on a disc, and if that wasn't enough we'd put it through another range of EQ again, multiplied, and we'd get the most weird sound, which The Beatles liked and which obviously worked.
GEORGE: EQ is equalisation - when you want to add a bit of top, or roll off a bit of bottom. It's bass, treble and middle, but equalisation is the posh way of saying it.
I have a very high EQ - something like 3,000 hertz. If I think too hard my brain hertz.
PAUL: Originally, George Martin was the Supreme Producer In The Sky and we wouldn't even dare ask to go into the control room. But, as things loosened up, we got invited in and George gave us a bit of the control of the tools; he let us have a go.
GEORGE: George Martin had a strong role in our lives in the studio, but as we got more confidence he and the others in EMI became more relaxed with us. I suppose as time went on they believed more in our ability because it was obvious that we'd had success. They eased off on the schoolteacher approach.
Also, George Martin had become more our friend as well; we socialised with him. We gained more control each time that we got a Number One, and then when we'd go back in the studio we'd claw our way up until we took over the store.
JOHN: We got knowledge of the studio. [At first, I'd] go in there and think, 'It's just like a tape recorder. I'm going to sing and play to you, and you're the one that knows about the tape-recorder - just put it on and I'll sing.' But as soon as you tell me, 'Well, if we do that we can get a little reverb on it,' or if I stand over there it'll sound different than if I stand here, you start learning all that.73
I used to play the first four albums one after the other to see the progression musically, and it was interesting. I got up to about Revolver and it got too many. It would be too much listening time, but you could hear the progression as we learnt about recording and the techniques got refined.72
GEORGE: It was in April 1966 that we started recording Revolver. 'Taxman' was on Revolver. I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you've finally started earning money - and then you find out about tax.
In those days we paid nineteen shillings and sixpence out of every pound (there were twenty shillings in the pound), and with supertax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous - a heavy penalty to pay for making money. That was the big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.
We got twenty-five quid a week in the early Sixties when we were first with Brian Epstein, when we played the clubs. But twenty-five quid a week each was quite good. My dad earned ten pounds a week, so I was earning two and a half times more than my father. Then we started earning much more, but Brian would keep it and pay us wages. He once tried to get us to sign a deal saying he would guarantee us fifty pounds a week forever and he would keep the rest. We thought, 'No, we'll risk it Brian. We'll risk earning a bit more than fifty pounds a week.'
PAUL: 'Taxman' was very George. In business meetings, the solicitors and accountants would be explaining to us how things worked. We were very naive, as you can see by any of our business deals, and George would say, 'Well, I don't want to pay tax,' and they'd say, 'You've got to, like everyone else - and the more you make, the more they take.' And George would reply, 'Well, that's not very fair.'
They said, 'Look, when you're dead you're going to pay taxes.' - 'What?' - 'Death duties.' So he came up with that great line: 'Declare the pennies on your eyes,' which was George's righteous indignation at the whole idea of having got here, made all this money and half of it was about to be removed by force.
RINGO: WE WERE PISSED OFF WITH THE TAX SITUATION. We went into one mad scheme where we paid a guy to go and live-in THE BAHAMAS AND HOLD OUR MONEY FOR US SO IT WOULD BE TAX-FREE. AND IN THE END WE HAD TO BRING ALL THE MONEY BACK, PAY THE TAXES ON IT AND PAY THIS GUY. SO WE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE JUST LEFT IT WHERE IT WAS. IT WAS A SCHEME THAT SOMEONE HAD PUT FORWARD WITH BRIAN AND WE WENT FOR IT.
JOHN: 'Taxman' was an anti-Establishment tax song, where we said, 'If you walk the street, they'll tax your feet.' George wrote it and I helped him with it. At the time, we weren't aware of the whole tax scene. I'm still not really aware of what goes on with taxes. we believe that if you earn it, you may as well keep it, unless there's a communal or Communist or real Christian society. But while we're living in this, I protest against paying the Government what I have to pay them.68
PAUL: I can remember more about writing Revolver than about recording it. I was in Switzerland on my first skiing holiday. I'd done a bit of skiing in Help! and quite liked it, so I went back and ended up in a little bathroom in a Swiss chalet writing 'For No One'. I remember the descending bass-line trick that it's based on, and I remember the character in the song - the girl putting on her make-up.
Occasionally we'd have an idea for some new kind of instrumentation, particularly for solos. On 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' John had wanted a flute. On 'For No One' I was interested in the French horn, because it was an instrument I'd always loved from when I was a kid. It's a beautiful sound, so I went to George Martin and said, 'How can we go about this?' And he said, 'well, let me get the very finest.'
That was one of the great things about George. He knew how to obtain the best musicians and would suggest getting them. On this occasion he suggested Alan Civil, who, like all these great blokes, looks quite ordinary at the session - but plays like an angel.
George asked me, 'Now, what do you want him to play?' I said, 'Something like this,' and sang the solo to him, and he wrote it down. Towards the end of the session, when we were getting the piece down for Alan to play, George explained to me the range of the instrument: 'Well, it goes from here to this top E,' and I said, 'What if we ask him to play an F?' George saw the joke and joined in the conspiracy.
We came to the session and Alan looked up from his bit of paper: 'Eh, George? I think there's a mistake here - you've got a high F written down.' Then George and I said, 'Yeah,' and smiled back at him, and he knew what we were up to and played it. These great players will do it. Even though it's officially off the end of their instrument, they can do it, and they're quite into it occasionally. It's a nice little solo.
GEORGE MARTIN: On 'For No One', the track was laid down on my own clavichord. I brought it in from my home, because I thought it had a nice sound, it was a very strange instrument to record, and Paul played it. But we wanted a very special sound, and French horn was what he chose.
Paul didn't realise how brilliantly Alan Civil was doing. We got the definitive performance, and Paul said, 'Well, OK. I think you can do it better than that, can't you, Alan?' Alan nearly exploded. Of course, he didn't do it better than that, and the way we'd already heard it was the way you hear it now.
PAUL: I DON'T KNOW WHETHER POETS THINK THEY HAVE TO EXPERIENCE THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT THEM, BUT I CAN TELL YOU OUR SONGS ARE NEARLY ALL IMAGINETION - 90% IMAGINATION. I DON'T THINK BEETHOVEN WAS IN A REALLY WICKED MOOD ALL THE TIME.66
PAUL: I was never able to write out music, although I took lots of lessons when I was a kid. First of all I learnt from the old lady who gave me the homework. Then I tried it again when I was sixteen, with a young neighbour. But when he took me back to the five-finger exercises, I became bored because I was already writing little melodies like 'When I'm Sixty-Four'. So I'd got into the fun of it, and having to be pulled back to the discipline of it came too late.
Later, when I'd written 'Eleanor Rigby', I tried learning with a proper bloke from the Guildhall School of Music whom I was put on to by Jane Asher's mum (Margaret Elliot, an oboe teacher). But I didn't get on with him either. I went off him when I showed him 'Eleanor Rigby' because I thought he'd be interested, and he wasn't. I thought he'd be intrigued by the little time jumps.
I wrote 'Eleanor Rigby' when I was living in London and had a piano in the basement. I used to disappear there and have a fiddle around, and while I was fiddling on a chord some words came out: 'Dazzie-de-da-zu picks up the rice in the church where a wedding took it in that poignant direction, into a 'lonely people' direction.
I had a bit of trouble with the name, and I'm always keen to get a name that sounds right. Looking at my old school photographs I remembered the names, and they all work: James Stringfellow, Grace Pendleton. Whereas when you read novels, it's all 'James Turnbury' and it's not real. So I was very keen to get a real-sounding name for that tune and the whole idea.
We were working with Eleanor Bron on Help! and I liked the name Eleanor; it was the first time I'd ever been involved with that name. I saw 'Rigby' on a shop in Bristol when I was walking round the city one evening. I thought, 'Oh, great name, Rigby.' It's real, and yet a little bit exotic. So it became 'Eleanor Rigby'.
I thought, I swear, that I made up the name Eleanor Rigby like that. I remember quite distinctly having the name Eleanor, looking around for a believable surname and then wandering around the docklands in Bristol and seeing the shop there. But it seems that up in Woolton Cemetery, where I used to hang out a lot with John, there's a gravestone to an Eleanor Rigby. Apparently, a few yards to the right there's someone called McKenzie.
It was either complete coincidence or in my subconscious. I suppose it was more likely in my subconscious, because I will have been amongst those graves knocking around with John and wandering through there. It was the sort of place we used to sunbathe, and we probably had a crafty fag in the graveyard. So subconscious it may be - but this is just bigger than me. I don't know the answer to that one. Coincidence is just a word that says two things coincided. We rely on it as an explanation, but it actually just names it - it goes no further than that. But as to why they happen together, there are probably far deeper reasons than our little brains can grasp.
JOHN: 'Eleanor Rigby' was Paul's baby, and I helped with the education of the child.80
PAUL: I remember lying in bed one night, in that moment before you're falling asleep - that little twilight moment when a silly idea comes into your heard - and thinking of 'Yellow Submarine': 'We all live in a yellow submarine...'
I quite like children's things; I like children's minds and imagination. So it didn't seem uncool to me to have a pretty surreal idea that was also a children's idea. I thought also, with Ringo being so good with children - a knockabout uncle type - it might not be a bad idea for him to have a children's song, rather than a very serious song. He wasn't that keen on singing.
JOHN: Donovan helped with the lyrics. I helped with the lyrics, too. We virtually made the track come alive in the studio, but based on Paul's inspiration. Paul's idea, Paul's title - so I count it as a Paul song.80
GEORGE: 'Yellow Submarine' was written by Paul and John, but even in the early days they were writing large portions on their own. Then one would help the other one finish it off; but that became more apparent later on.
RINGO: I don't actually know where they got the idea for it; I just felt it was a really interesting track for me to do. I'd been doing a lot of covers. At that time I did either covers or something they wrote specifically for me.
It usually happened that we'd be well into an album - and we all knew that I'd be doing a number somewhere, usually about three-quarters of the way through - and either I'd say, 'Have you got a song?' or they'd say, 'We've got this for you,' or, 'We haven't got anything - is there anything you want to do?' So through the years we did the Carl Perkins numbers and the Buck Owens numbers, and then it ended up that mainly John and Paul would write songs for me.
At that time it was hard to bring your own songs in when you had Lennon and McCartney. I used to be a bit of a joke, really - I would bring in the songs I'd written and they'd all be rolling on the floor laughing because I'd rewritten an old standard again. I was great at rewriting Jerry Lee Lewis songs. It was me getting my craft together.
At first George went through the same problems presenting his songs that I went through. But that didn't last long, and then he started coming up with great songs. 'Taxman' was great - it's not a bad opening act for Revolver, is it?
GEORGE: I didn't have too many songs. I'd always had a couple of ones I was working on or thinking about, and in the later years I did have a huge backlog. But in the mid-Sixties I didn't have too many.
JOHN: 'She Said She Said' was mine. It's an interesting track. The guitars are great on it. That was written after an acid trip in LA during a break in The Beatles' tour where we were having fun with The Byrds and lots of girls.
'Doctor Robert' was another of mine. Mainly about drugs and pills. It was about myself: I was the one that carried all the pills on tour and always have done. Well, in the early days. Later on the roadies did it, and we just kept them in our pockets loose, in case of trouble.80
PAUL: 'Doctor Robert' is like a joke. There's some fellow in New York, and in the States we'd hear people say, 'You can get everything you want off him - any pills you want.' It was a big racket, but a joke too about this fellow who cured everyone of everything with all these pills and tranquillisers, injections for this and that. He just kept New York high. That's what 'Doctor Robert' is all about, just a pill doctor who sees you all right. It was a joke between ourselves, but they go in in-jokes and come out out-jokes, because everyone listens and puts their own thing on it, which is great. I mean, when I was young I never knew what 'gilly gilly otsen feffer catsa nell a bogen' was all about, but I still enjoyed singing it.67
JOHN: 'Good Day Sunshine' is Paul's. Maybe I threw a line in or something - I don't know. 'For No One' is Paul's. One of my favourites of his - a nice piece of work. 'And Your Bird Can Sing' was another of my throwaways.
'Got To Get You Into My Life' was Paul's again. I think that was one of his best songs, too, because the lyrics are good - and I didn't write them. When I say that he could write lyrics if he took the effort, here's an example. It actually describes his experience taking acid. I think that's what he's talking about. I couldn't swear to it, but I think it was a result of that.80
PAUL: It was a song about pot, actually.
JOHN: 'Here, There and Everywhere' was Paul's song completely, I believe - and one of my favourite songs of The Beatles.80
PAUL: One of my special memories is when we were in Obertauern, Austria, filming for Help!. John and I shared a room and we were taking off our heavy ski boots after a day's filming, ready to have a shower and get ready for the nice bit, the evening meal and the drinks. We were playing a cassette of our new recordings and my song 'Here, There And Everywhere' was on. And I remember John saying, 'You know, I probably like that better than any of my songs on the tape.' Coming from John, that was high praise indeed.
GEORGE: 'I Want To Tell You' is about the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit.
I wrote 'Love You To' on the sitar, because the sitar sounded so nice and my interest was getting deeper all the time. I wanted to write a tune that was specifically for the sitar. Also it had a tabla part, and that was the first time we used a tabla player.
PAUL: The Indian sounds are definitely mainly George. We started off just hearing Indian music and listening to things, and we liked the drone idea because we'd done a bit of that kind of thing in songs before. But George got very interested in it, and went to a couple of Ravi Shankar concerts, and then he met Ravi and said, 'I was knocked out by him!' - just as a person. He's an incredible fellow. He's one of the greatest. He didn't know that George was serious about it, and so when he found out George was serious he was knocked out, too. So the two of them were having a great time! And that's how we brought Indian sounds on. It's nice to start bridging the two kinds of music, because we've just started off in a very simple way, and then this album's got a bit better. It's a little bit more like Indian music. And it helps people to understand it, too - because it's very hard to understand. But once you get into it, it's the greatest.66
JOHN: It's amazing, this - so cool. Don't the Indians appear cool to you? This music is thousands of years old; it makes me laugh, the British going over there and telling them what to do. Quite amazing.66
GEORGE: To me it is the only really great music now, and it makes Western three-or-four-beat type stuff seem somehow dead. You can get so much more out of it if you are prepared really to concentrate and listen. I hope more people will try to dig it.66
PAUL: The final track on Revolver, 'Tomorrow Never Knows', was definitely John's. Round about this time people were starting to experiment with drugs, including LSD. John had got hold of Timothy Leary's adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is a pretty interesting book. For the first time we got the idea that, as with ancient Egyptian practice, when you die you lie in state for a few days, and then some of your handmaidens come and prepare you for a huge voyage. Rather than the British version, in which you just pop your clogs. With LSD, this theme was all the more interesting.
JOHN: Leary was the one going round saying, take it, take it, take it. And we followed his instructions in his 'how to take a trip' book. I did it just like he said in the book, and then I wrote 'Tomorrow Never Knows', which was almost the first acid song: 'Lay down all thoughts surrender to the void,' and all that shit which Leary had pinched from The Book of the Dead.
I read George Martin was saying that John was into The Book of the Dead. I'd never seen it in my life. I just saw Leary's psychedelic handout - it was very nice in them days.
We'd had acid on Revolver. Everybody is under this illusion - even George Martin was saying, 'Pepper was their acid album.' But we'd had acid, including Paul, by the time Revolver was finished.72
The expression 'tomorrow never knows' was another of Ringo's. I gave it a throwaway title because I was a bit self-conscious about the lyrics. So I took one of Ringo's malapropisms, which was like 'a hard day's night', to take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics.80
GEORGE: I've been wondering lately why it was supposed to be from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was, I think, based more upon the book by Timothy Leary called The Psychedelic Experience. The lyrics are the essence of Transcendentalism.
You can hear (and I am sure most Beatles fans have) 'Tomorrow Never Knows' a lot and not know really what it is about. Basically it is saying what meditation is all about. The goal of meditation is to go beyond (that is, transcend) waking, sleeping and dreaming. So the song starts out by saying, 'Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, it is not dying.'
Then it says, 'Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void - it is shining. That you may see the meaning of within - it is being.' From birth to death all we ever do is think: we have one thought, we have another thought, another thought, another thought. Even when you are asleep you are having dreams, so there is never a time from birth to death when the mind isn't always active with thoughts. But you can turn off your mind, and go to the part which Maharishi described as: 'Where was your last thought before you thought it?'
The whole point is that we are the song. The self is coming from a state of pure awareness, from the state of being. All the rest that comes about in the outward manifestation of the physical world (including all the fluctuations which end up as thoughts and actions is just clutter. The true nature of each soul is pure consciousness. So the song is really about transcending and about the quality of the transcendent.
I am not too sure if John actually fully understood what he was saying. He knew he was onto something when he saw those words and turned them into a song. But to have experienced what the lyrics in that song are actually about? I don't know if he fully understood it.
Indian music doesn't modulate; it just stays. You pick what key you're in, and it stays in that key. I think 'Tomorrow never Knows' was the first one that stayed there; the whole song was on one chord. But there is a chord that is superimposed on top that does change: if it was in C, it changes down to B flat. That was like an overdub, but the basic sound all hangs on the one drone.
PAUL: John showed up with a song after we'd had a couple of days off. I remember being in Brian Epstein's house in Chapel Street in Belgravia. We met up and John had a song that was all on the chord of C, which in our minds was a perfectly good idea.
I was wondering how George Martin was going to take it, because it was a radical departure; we'd always had at least three chords, and maybe a change for the middle eight. Suddenly this was John just strumming on C rather earnestly - 'Lay down your mind...' And the words were all very deep and meaningful - certainly not 'Thank You Girl'; a bit of a change from all that.
George martin took it very well. He said, 'Rather interesting, John. Jolly interesting!' So we got in and recorded it as a fairly straightforward rock'n'roll band thing.
We needed a solo, and I was into tape loops at the time. I had two Brennell machines and I could create tape loops with them. So I brought in a little plastic bag with about twenty tape loops, and we got machines from all the other studios, and with pencils and the aid of glasses got all the loops to run. We might have had twelve recording machines where we normally only needed one to make a record. We were running with these loops all fed through the recording desk.
JOHN: He [Paul] made them at home of his tape, in whatever the key was, and we had six fellows with pencils holding them on, on six machines. Very desirable, the whole effect, I thought.66
GEORGE: Everybody went home and made up a spool, a loop: 'OK, class, now I want you all to go home and come back in the morning with your own loop.' We were touching on the Stockhausen kind of 'avant garde a clue' music.
So we made up our little loops and brought them to the studio. They were put through the board, on to a different fader, and mixed. You always get a slightly different mix - a spontaneous thing - and those 'seagulls' are just weird noises.
I don't exactly recall what was on my loop; I think it was a grandfather clock, but at a different speed. You could do it with anything: pick a little piece and then edit it, connect it up to itself and play it at a different speed.
RINGO: I had my own little set-up to record them. As George says, we were 'drinking a lot of tea' in those days, and on all my tapes you can hear, 'Oh, I hope I've switched it on.' I'd get so deranged from strong tea. I'd sit there for hours making those noises.
GEORGE MARTIN: 'Tomorrow Never Knows' was a great innovation. John wanted a very spooky kind of track, a very ethereal sound. When we constructed the original version of the tape, we started off with just the tamboura drone and Ringo's very characteristic drumming.
RINGO: I was proud of my drumming on 'Tomorrow Never Knows', but I was quite proud of my drumming all the way through really.
GEORGE MARTIN: Paul at that time was probably more avant garde than the other boys. We always think of John as being the avant-garde one, with Yoko and so on; but at that time Paul was heavily into Stockhausen and John Cage and all the avant-garde artists, while John was living a comfortable suburban life in Weybridge.
PAUL: I don't want to sound like Jonathan Miller going on, but I'm trying to cram everything in, all the things that I've missed. People are saying things and painting things and writing things and composing things that are great, and I must know what people are doing. I vaguely mind people knowing anything I don't know.66
JOHN: Weybridge won't do at all. I'm just stopping at it, like a bus stop bankers and stockbrokers live there; they can add figures, and Weybridge is what they live in and they think it's the end, they really do. I think of it every day - me in my Hansel and Gretel house. I'll take my time; I'll get my real house when I know what I want.
You see there's something else I'm going to do, something I must do - only I don't know what it is. That's why I go round painting and taping and drawing and writing and that, because it may be one of them. All I know is, this isn't it for me.66
GEORGE MARTIN: It was Paul, actually, who experimented with his tape machine at home, taking the erase-head off and putting on loops, saturating the tape with weird sounds. He explained to the other boys how he had done this, and Ringo and George would do the same and bring me different loops of sounds, and I would listen to them at various speeds, backwards and forwards, and select some.
That was a weird track, because once we'd made it we could never reproduce it. All over the EMI studios were tape machines with loops on them, and people holding the loops at the right distance with a bit of pencil. The machines were going all the time, the loops being fed to different faders on our control panel, on which we could bring up the sound at any time, as on an organ. So the mix we did then was a random thing that could never be done again. Nobody else was doing records like that at that time - not as far as I knew.
John never liked his voice. I don't know why, because he had the greatest of voices. I guess it's the same problem you have when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, 'What an awful face!' It's a self-destructive thing. He was always wanting to distort his vocal, asking me to do things to it: double-track it, or artificially double-track it, or whatever: 'Don't give me that thing again, George, give me another one.' He was always wanting something different.
For 'Tomorrow Never Knows' he said to me he wanted his voice to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a hilltop, and I said, 'It's a bit expensive, going to Tibet. Can we make do with it here?' I knew perfectly well that ordinary echo or reverb wouldn't work, because it would just put a very distant voice on. We needed to have something a bit weird and metallic. When I thought of the Dalai Lama, I thought of alpenhorns and those people with funny things on their heads; I'd never been to Tibet, but I imagined what the voice would sound like, coming out of one of those horns. I spoke to Geoff Emerick, the engineer, and he had a good idea. He said, 'Let's try putting his voice through a Leslie speaker and back again and re-recording it.' A Leslie speaker is a rotating speaker, a Hammond console, and the speed at which it rotates can be varied according to a knob on the control. By putting his voice through that and then recording it again, you got a kind of intermittent vibrato effect, which is what we hear on 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. I don't think anyone had done that before. It was quite a revolutionary track for Revolver.
Geoff Emerick used to do things for The Beatles and he scared that the people above would find out. Engineers then weren't supposed to play about with microphones and things like that. But he used to do really weird things that were slightly illegitimate, with our support and approval.
JOHN: Often the backing I think of early on never comes off. With 'Tomorrow Never Knows' I'd imagined in my head that in the background you would hear thousands of monks chanting. That was impractical, of course, and we did something different. I should have tried to get near my original idea, the monks singing. I realise now that was what it wanted.67
We were always asking George Martin, 'Please give us double tracking without having to track it - save time.' And then one of the engineers who was working with us [Ken Townsend] came in the next day with this machine. We'd got ADT - and that was beautiful.73
GEORGE MARTIN: Artificial Double Tracking is taking an image of the sound and delaying it slightly, or advancing it slightly, so that it forms double. If you think in photographic terms, it's like having two negatives: when you get one negative exactly on top of the other there's just one picture. So if you have one sound image on top of the other exactly, then it becomes only one image. But move it slightly, by a few milliseconds, and around eight or nine milliseconds it gives you a boxy telephone - like quality. Below that, depending on the frequency you are signalling, it will give you a phasing effect, rather like the broadcasts that used to come from Australia - a kind of 'in-and -out' effect. If you take the image even further away, to about twenty-seven milliseconds, you get what we call Artificial Double Tracking - two definite voices.
JOHN: Phasing is great! 'Double-flanging', we call it.67
JOHN: I DON'T MIND WRITING OR RIDING OR WATCHING OR SPEAKING, BUT SEX IS THE ONLY PHYSICAL THING I CAN BE BOTHERED WITH ANY MORE.66
PAUL: People were starting to lose their pure-pop mentality and mingle with artists. We knew a few actors, a few painters; we'd go to galleries because we were living in London now. A kind of cross-fertilisation was starting to happen.
While the others had got married and moved out to suburbia, I had stayed in London and got into the arts scene through friends like Robert Fraser and Barry Miles and papers like the International Times. We opened the Indica gallery with John Dunbar, Peter Asher and people like that. I heard about people like John Cage, and that he'd just performed a piece of music called 4'33'' (which is completely silent) during which if someone in the audience coughed he would say, 'See?' Or someone would boo and he'd say, 'See?' It's not silence - it's music.
I was intrigued by all of that. So those things started to be part of my life. I was listening to Stockhausen; one piece was all little plink-plonks and interesting ideas. Perhaps our audience wouldn't mind a bit of change, we thought, and anyway, tough if they do! We only ever followed our own noses - most of the time, anyway. 'Tomorrow Never Knows' was one example of developing an idea.
I always contend that I had quite a big period of this before John really got into it, because he was married to Cynthia at that time. It was only later when he went out with Yoko that he got back into London and visited all the galleries.
GEORGE: For the Revolver sleeve we moved away from Robert Freeman, who prepared the original artwork (not used on the album, but pictured here), to Klaus Voormann. Klaus was a good artist and a really good friend of ours. I can't remember how we arrived at Klaus, but he did a good job and it became quite a classic album cover.
Revolver was accepted well. I don't see too much different between Rubber Soul and Revolver. To me, they could be Volume One and Volume Two.
PAUL: Klaus had been a great friend since Hamburg days - he'd been one of the 'exi's', the existentialists whom we'd got to know then. We knew he drew and he'd been involved in graphic design; I must admit we didn't really know what he did, but he'd been to college. We knew he must be all right and so we said, 'Why don't you come up with something for the album cover?'
He did, and we were all very pleased with it. We liked the way there were little things coming out of people's ears, and how he'd collaged things on a small scale while the drawings were on a big scale. He also knew us well enough to capture us rather beautifully in the drawings. We were flattered.
RINGO: Revolver has that quality of Rubber Soul because it's the follow-on. We were really starting to find ourselves in the studio. We were finding what we could do, just being the four of us and playing our instruments. The overdubbing got better, even though it was always pretty tricky because of the lack of tracks. The songs got more interesting, so with that the effects got more interesting.
I think the drugs were kicking in a little more heavily on this album. I don't think we were on anything major yet; just the old usual - the grass and the acid. I feel to this day that though we did take certain substances, we never did it to a great extent at the session. We were really hard workers. That'' another thing about The Beatles - we worked like dogs to get it right.
NEIL ASPINALL: Quite a bit of marijuana was being smoked. I guess it made recording a bit slower, but it didn't affect the quality of the work.
At this time I was in the studio with them when they were making records, and the pattern changed over the years. At the time of Revolver it was getting so that sessions would start at about two or three in the afternoon and go on until they finished, whatever the time was.
At the beginning of the session, if there was a new song, whoever had written it would play the chords to George Martin on either guitar or piano, or they'd all be around a piano, playing it, learning the chords. If they were halfway through a song, they'd go straight in and do harmonies, or double-tracking, or a guitar solo or whatever. Sometimes, because it was all on four-track, they would have to mix down on to one track to give a bit of space to do the rest of it.
The critics thought Revolver was a step forward in some ways, breaking new ground. I think they all listen to critics. They'd pretend not to take notice - but they did.
JOHN: Like anything, people go in trends, and the trend now is to think that it [Revolver] was the change. And the trend before was to think Rubber Soul was the change, and then the other trend was Sgt Pepper. But the whole thing was a gradual change. We were conscious that there was some formula or something - it was moving ahead. That was for sure, that we were on the road - not physically; I mean 'on the road' in the studio - and the weather was clear.74
PAUL: In this period 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' were also recorded. John and I wrote together. I remember showing up at his house with the idea for 'Paperback Writer'. Because I had a long drive to get there. I would often start thinking away and writing on my way out, and I developed the whole idea in the car. I came in, had my bowl of cornflakes, and said, 'How's about if we write a letter: "Dear Sir or Madam," next line, next paragraph, etc?' I wrote it all out and John said, 'Yeah, that's good.' It just flowed.
JOHN: 'Paperback Writer' is son of 'Day Tripper' - meaning a rock'n'roll song with a guitar lick on a fuzzy, loud guitar - but it is Paul's song.80
GEORGE MARTIN: 'Paperback Writer' had a heavier sound than some earlier work - and very good vocal work, too. I think that was just the way it worked out, that the rhythm was the most important part of their make-up by this time.
RINGO: The drumming on 'Rain' stands out for me because I feel as thought that was someone else playing - I was possessed!
PAUL: I don't think 'Rain' was just John's. We sat down and wrote it together. It was John's vocal and John's feel on the song, but what gave it its character was collaboration. I think it's all too easily said: 'It's a John song. It's a Paul song. Paul does ballads - John does rockers. John's the hard one - Paul's the soft one.' That's a fallacy.
There were certain songs that were very much mine and others that were definite collaborations with John, where we'd actually sit down and spend three hours. Then there were ones that were very much John's I think it roughly splits somewhere down the middle.
On 'Rain', I remember we couldn't get a backing track and we decided to play it fast and slow it down, which is why it's so 'goo goo goo' and ploddy. We had to play it fast and accurately, but I don't think that was John's idea. I don't remember whose it was, but it was very collaborative.
I suppose the way things did go was that each of us would say, 'Mine's 'Strawberry Fields", yours is "Penny Lane".' That did start to happen, but before then, on things like 'Rain', it was that we all wanted to do it. It wasn't only John who wanted to make that kind of record. It was probably just that we'd all get an excuse to do it on his track.
JOHN: People ask me what music I listen to. I listen to traffic and birds singing and people breathing. And fire engines. I always used to listen to the water pipes at night when the lights were off, and they played tunes.
Half the musical ideas I've had have been accidental. The first time I discovered backwards guitar was when we made 'Rain'. This was a song I wrote about people moaning about the weather all the time. I took the tracks home to see what gimmicks I could add, because the song wasn't quite right.69
I got home from the studio stoned out of my mind on marijuana, and, as I usually do, I listened to what I'd recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, 'I know what to do with it, I know... Listen to this!' So I made them all play it backwards.80
I wanted to do the whole song backwards. We ended up with a bit of the voice at the end backwards and half the guitar backwards.69
That one was the gift of God - of Jah, actually, the god of marijuana. Jah gave me that one. The first backwards tape on my record anywhere. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before any fucker. Maybe there was that record about 'They're coming to take me away, ha ha'; maybe that came out before 'Rain', but it's not the same thing. 'I'm Only Sleeping' has got backwards guitars, too.80
GEORGE: Usually if we were working on a song we'd take a little rough mix of it home. In those days you never used cassettes; it was always on reel-to-reel. John, Paul and I each had little reel-to-reel tape machines at home. They were quite good machines, with three speeds. We were halfway through 'Rain' when we left the studio at night, so John said, 'Can I have a rough mix of that?'
In those days they made a three- or four-inch spool, the copy tape. That means they would play the rough mix onto a little spool, and when they finished they would cut the tape off and hand it to you in a box so the tail was sticking out - it's called 'tails out'. John didn't know that at the time (I don't think I knew it, either), so when he got home he threaded it on his machine as if it were 'heads out', and played it. He heard the song backwards, and heard enough to think, 'Wow, amazing!'
It obviously gave him a buzz because he came in raving about it the next morning, and so we experimented. We turned the tape over and put it on backwards, and then played some guitar notes to it. I think he and I both plugged in guitars, just playing little bits, guessing, hoping it fitted in. George Martin turned the master upside down and played it back. We were excited to hear what it sounded like, and it was magic - the backwards guitarist! The way the note sounded, because of the attack and the decay, was brilliant. We got very excited and started doing that on overdub. And then there was a bit of backwards singing as well, which came out sounding like Indian singing.
As time went by, the technology we were now using on records didn't allow us to play a lot of songs live on tour. In those days there was no technology on stage as there is now. There were two guitars, bass and drums, and that was it. If we couldn't reproduce them on tour.
You could do it now. You could do 'Tomorrow Never Knows' - have all the loops up there on the keyboards and emulators. You can have as many piano players and drummers and orchestras and whatever as you want; but back then, that was it.
We were just a little dance-hall band and we never really thought of augmenting ourselves. We thought, 'Well, we can't. We'll do it to the best of our ability until the point where we can't really do it, and then we'll miss it out.' So around this time we were starting to miss out a lot of record tracks on live shows.
'Paperback Writer', for instance, was all double-tracked, and it sounded pretty crummy on stage. So what we did with it (in the American tour at least) was get to the point where it was particularly bad, and then we'd do our 'Elvis legs' and wave to the crowd, and they'd all scream and it would cover that. As Paul has said, the screaming did cover a lot of worrying moments.
RINGO: The idea of making promotional films for 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' was that we didn't have to go out. We felt it was a great idea to send the film out there. I don't think we even thought of calling them 'videos'. They were just going to be on TV.
It was really exciting with 'Rain' - with Klaus Voormann, who did that whole set-up. It was a lot of fun. The 'Penny Lane' one on the horses wasn't quite that exciting for me; it was a bit real!
GEORGE: The mania made it pretty difficult to get around, and out of convenience we decided we were not going to go into the TV studios to promote our records so much because it was too much of a hassle. We thought we'd go and make our own little films and put them on TV.
So we started getting a film crew and shooting. There are a number of those films. I think the first proper ones we did were 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' in Chiswick House. They were the forerunner of videos.
The idea was that we'd use them in America as well as the UK, because we thought, 'We can't go everywhere. We're stopping touring and we'll send these films out to promote the record.' It was too much trouble to go and fight our way through all the screaming hordes of people to mime the latest single on Ready, Steady, Go!. Also, in America, they never saw the footage anyway.
Once we actually went on an Ed Sullivan show with just a clip. I think Ed Sullivan came on and said, 'The Beatles were here, as you know, and they were wonderful boys, but they can't be here now so they've sent us this clip.' It was great, because really we conned the Sullivan show into promoting our new single by sending in the film clip. These days obviously everybody does that - it's part of the promotion for a single - so I suppose in a way we invented MTV.
GEORGE: We went back to Hamburg in June 1966, for the first time since 1962. We played concerts in Munich and Essen first, and then got on a train to Hamburg. It was the train that was used when the royal party toured Germany, and it was very nice; we each had marble bathtubs, really luxuriously decorated.
Hamburg had a good and bad feeling for me. The good side was that we were coming back to play after all our fame and fortune, and when we'd been there before we'd been playing dirty nightclubs to work our way up. The bad bit was that a lot of ghosts materialised out of the wood-work - people you didn't necessarily want to see again, who had been your best friend one drunken Preludin night back in 1960. It's 1966, you've been through a million changes, and suddenly one of those ghosts jumps out on you.
PAUL: We had an old booking that had to be honoured. It was strange to see all our old friends in Hamburg. It was as if we'd mutated into something different and yet we were still just the boys. But we knew and they knew that we'd got famous in the meantime, and that we shouldn't really be playing that sort of gig.
It was good, though. I remember it being a very crazy evening, very steamy. There was a lot of crying from our German gangster friends, nostalgia for the old days. I'm not sure how good a gig it was from a musical point of view, but it was quite nice to go back one last time.
RINGO: To this day Hamburg doesn't seem to have changed. In q992 I played there and it feels just the same. Every year or two I've always gone back, and the Reeperbahn still has that feel about it; it's still thrilling for me. It was the most exciting place a twenty-year-old could go - the red-light district of Germany - to play the nightclubs, with all the booze and the pills, the hookers and the atmosphere. It was pretty incredible, and great to be back in 1966.
NEIL ASPINALL: I wasn't there in 1962, so it was the first time for me. There were all the Germans who'd been in the Reeperbahn and in the clubs, people like Bettina who had worked behind the bar or in the cloakroom. People like that were there, old friends of theirs whom I didn't know.
GEORGE: John enjoyed going back. It was still hit-and-run, though; everything was hit-and-run in those days. The day after the Hamburg concert we had a flight to Tokyo, so we were driven straight out of the concert, out of Hamburg to a schloss - a big castle of a hotel - where we stayed the night, and then we were flown to Heathrow and put on the plane to Japan. Unfortunately there was a hurricane hitting Tokyo and our plane got diverted to Alaska.
RINGO: Anchorage, Alaska, was like a cowboy town to us; it was really like a backwater. My only great memory of Alaska is that at the airport they have a huge, magnificent white bear in a glass case.
GEORGE: I remember looking out of the window on the flight in, and Alaska was incredible: mountains, lush green pine forests, wonderful lakes and rivers. As we were coming lower and lower, the lakes and the trees were thinning out a bit, but when we landed suddenly there was a huge, bulldozed mess that Man had made in the middle of the lush beauty.
I thought, 'Oh, here we are again.' Mankind keeps giving us real tacky things until eventually the planet's covered in them. The nasty little hotels that they throw up - boxes made out of concrete. It was so obvious there in Alaska. Normally they are absorbed into the city, but in the middle of a million acres of pristine forest they stick out a bit.
For me caring about the planet probably began in a previous life. When I was a kid, I used to walk around on my own and I was very much in touch with nature and the sky and the trees and the plants and the insects.
We were there for about twelve hours. I've never been back, but I'd like to some day. We went on to Tokyo. When we came off the plane, we were put in little 1940s-type cars along with policeman dressed in metal helmets, like Second World War American soldiers' helmets. We were driven in convoy into town and taken to the Tokyo Hilton where we were put in our upstairs suite --and that was it. We were only allowed out of the room when it was time for the concert.
To get our own back on the people who weren't letting us out, we used to get them to bring tradesmen up to our suite. They would bring big boxes and trunks full of golden kimonos, jade, incense-holders and little carved objects, which we would buy: 'We'll show them!' We wanted to go shopping.
The promoter was very generous. He gave movie cameras to Mal and Neil, and he gave us Nikons (and in those days a Nikon was a pretty good toy to have).
Everywhere we were going, there was a demonstration about one thing or another. In America the race riots were going on when Beatlemania had come to town. In Japan there were student riots, plus people were demonstrating because the Budokan (where we were playing) was supposed to be a special spiritual hall reserved for martial arts. So in the Budokan only violence and spirituality were approved of, not pop music.
PAUL: We were locked up in the hotel for a long time, with various merchants coming around and showing us ivory and various gifts. People go to Tokyo to go shopping, but we couldn't get out of the hotel. I once tried and a policeman came running after me. I did actually manage it, but he organised half the Tokyo police force to come with us. I had wanted to go see the Emperor's palace, but the policeman wasn't too keen on the idea.
NEIL ASPINALL: John and I sneaked out of the hotel - and Paul and Mal, too. I think the security got Paul and Mal, but John and I made it down to the local market, and it was great. It was such a relief to get out. We were looking around and buying things, but then the police got us and said, 'Naughty boys - come back with us.'
PAUL: In the hotel room we did a communal painting; we all started a corner of the piece of paper and drew in towards the middle the paintings met. This was just to pass the time away. I've seen it recently: it's a psychedelic whirl of coloured doodles.
The way the Japanese had organised going to the gig was very efficient. They all had walkie-talkies, at a time when you didn't often see those. They came for us at exactly the time on the schedule.
RINGO: The fun in Tokyo was the timing. The Japanese have a dedication to time. They would like us to leave the room at 7:14, get to the elevator by 7:15 and a half, and the elevator took one minute eight seconds to get us down to the car, and so on. We were expected to be prompt. But when they knocked on the door, we would never come out. We'd totally wreck their timings, and we'd see all these guys going absolutely barmy because we hadn't walked down the corridor at 7:14 and a third!
We knew we were doing that to them. It was the way we had fun on the road, by having our own little side trips going on. We could only leave the hotel room when we played a gig.
PAUL: They had the seating exactly arranged in all the cars. Amazing efficiency, that we'd never seen the like of in Britain. When we went to the gig they had the fans organised with police patrols on each corner, so there weren't any fans haphazardly waving along the streets. They had been gathered up and herded into a place where they were allowed to wave, so we'd go along the street and there'd be a little 'eeeeek!' and then we'd go a few more hundred yards and there'd be another 'eeeeek!'
At the Budokan we were shown the old Samurai warriors' costumes, which we marvelled at dutifully in a touristy kind of way: 'Very good! Very old!'
We were more amazed to see the women leaping up out of the seats for the promoter, because we'd never seen that in the West. The subservience of the women was amazing. They'd say, 'Oh God, I'm sorry - was I in your seat?' I remember us getting back to Britain and saying to our wives and girlfriends, 'I wouldn't want you to do that, but maybe it's a direction worth considering?' Promptly rejected.
We got into our yellow shirts and natty bottle green suits. The thing about suits was that they always made us feel part of a team. When we arrived we were in our civvies, but once we put those on we were The Beatles! - the four-headed monster. It was good for me that we all wore the same, in that I really felt part of a unit.
Peeping from behind the stage to watch the place fill up, we saw police walk in from either side and fill the whole of the front row, upstairs and downstairs. After them, the crowd was allowed to come in. They were very well behaved compared to what we'd seen of Western crowds, but they seemed to enjoy it.
There was a funny local group on stage before us. This was in the days when the Japanese didn't really know how to do rock'n'roll, although they've now got the hang of it pretty well. They sang a song that went, 'Hello Beatles! Welcome Beatles!' - something pretty naff in rock'n'roll terms, but it was very nice of them to do it. Our show went down quite well.
NEIL ASPINALL: The show was a bit weird! There were the jujitsu people who used the Budokan, so they felt it was their temple. This was the first time they'd had a rock band in there, and they didn't like it. There were threats from them, and so there were a lot of police around. The Japanese were very disciplined. There were 3,000 police for 10,000 fans. The police were all over the place, keeping them under control.
GEORGE MARTIN: It was upsetting. I remember when George was in Germany he got a letter saying, 'You won't live beyond the next month.' And when they went to Japan they had such heavy guards that they couldn't move anywhere. The Japanese took those death threats very seriously.
RINGO: The audience was very subdued. If you look at the footage from the shows you'll see a cop on every row. They'd all get excited in their seats as we were playing, but they couldn't express it.
NEIL ASPINALL: For the first time in a long while the audience could hear. There was no loud screaming, which came as a surprise: the band suddenly realised they were out of tune and they had to get their act together. The second show was pretty good - they had got it together by then - but the first one, in the afternoon, was a bit of a shock.
GEORGE: The audience were reserved, but they were up on their feet - or they tried to be, but there were police all around the stadium with cameras with telephoto lenses, and anybody who stood up and looked like they were going to run toward the stage was photographed. The people were very restricted as to what they could do and how they could respond to us. It was a warm reception - but a bit clinical, as Japan is.
Getting back to the hotel was the same procedure in reverse: do the show, back to our room and that was it. It was worked out like a military manoeuvre.
RINGO: I hated the Philippines. We arrived there with thousands upon thousands of kids, with hundreds upon hundreds of policemen - and it was a little dodgy. Everyone had guns and it was really like that hot/Catholic/gun/Spanish Inquisition attitude.
GEORGE: As soon as we got there it was bad news. There were tough gorillas - little men - who had short-sleeved shirts and acted very menacingly.
The normal proceedings in those days were that, because the mania was everywhere, we didn't pull up at an airport and get off the plane like normal people. The plane would land and it would go to the far end of the airfield where we would get off, usually with Neil and our 'diplomatic bags' (we carried our shaving gear - and whatever - in little bags), get in a car, bypass passport control and go to the gig. Mal Evans with Brian Epstein and the rest would go and do our passports and all that scene.
But when we got to Manila, a fellow was screaming at us, 'Leave those bags there! Get in this car!' We were being bullied for the first time. It wasn't respectful. Everywhere else - America, Sweden, Germany, wherever - even though there was a mania, there was always a lot of respect because we were famous showbiz personalities; but in Manila it was a very negative vibe from the moment we got off the plane, so we were a bit frightened.
We got in the car, and the guy drove off with us four, leaving Neil behind. Our bags were on the runway and I was thinking, 'This is it - we're going to get busted.'
NEIL ASPINALL: The army was there, and also some thugs in short-sleeved shirts over their trousers, and they all had guns; you could see the bulges. These guys got the four Beatles and stuck them in a limo and drove off, and wouldn't let them take their briefcases with them. They left them on the runway --and those little briefcases had the marijuana in them. So while the confusion was going on, I put them in the boot of the limo that I was going in, and said, 'Take me to wherever you've taken The Beatles.'
GEORGE: They took us away and drove us down to Manila harbour, put us on a boat, took us out to a motor yacht that was anchored out in the harbour and they put us in this room.
It was really humid, it was Mosquito City, and we were all sweating and frightened. For the first time ever in our Beatle existence, we were cut off from Neil, Mal and Brian Epstein. There was not one of them around, and not only that, but we had a whole row of cops with guns lining the deck around this cabin that we were in on the boat. We were really gloomy, very brought down by the whole thing. We wished we hadn't come here. We should have missed it out.
RINGO: THE PHILIPPINES VISIT WAS REALLY FRIGHTENING. IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT'S HAPPENED TO ME.
GEORGE: AS SOON AS WE GOT THERE IT WAS BAD NEWS.
NEIL ASPINALL: They drove me to the end of a pier, and I got out of the car and said, 'Where are they?' They pointed: 'There they are,' and there was a big boat miles away, in the middle of the harbour. There were what seemed to be rival militia gangs. One gang had taken them and put them on this boat to meet some people who weren't the people putting on the show. It was all very strange. I never really understood why they got on a boat.
GEORGE: We've no idea why they took us to the boat; I still don't know to this day. An hour or two later, Brian Epstein arrived, really flustered, with the Philippine promoter, and he was yelling and shouting. Everyone was shouting and then they took us off the boat, put us in a car and drove us to a hotel suite.
The next morning we were woken up by bangs on the door of the hotel, and there was a lot of panic going on outside. Somebody came into the room and said, 'Came on! You're supposed to be at the palace.' We said, 'What are you talking about? We're not going to any palace.' - 'You're supposed to be at the palace! Turn on the television.'
We did, and there it was, live from the palace. There was a huge line of people either side of the long marble corridor, with kids in their best clothing, and the TV commentator saying, 'And they're still not here yet. The Beatles are supposed to be here.'
We sat there in amazement. We couldn't believe it, and we just had to watch ourselves not arriving at the presidential palace.
PAUL: I went out on my own in the morning, down to the kind of 'Wall Street' area. I remember taking a lot of photographs because right up against it was the shanty-town area. There were cardboard dwellings right up against this 'Wall Street', which I'd never seen so well juxtaposed. I got the camera out: 'Wow, this is good stuff!' And I bought a couple of paintings from the shanty town as presents to go back home, and went back to the hotel to have lunch.
Everyone was up and about then, and we were in our hotel room when they started saying, 'You've got to go to the President's Palace now! Remember that engagement?' We said, 'No, no, no.' The promoters, with those white shirts with lace that everyone in Manila seemed to wear, looked a little heavy to us. A couple of them carried guns, so it was a bit difficult.
We were used to each different country doing it their own way. They were starting to bang on the door: 'They will come! They must come!' But we were saying, 'Look, just lock bloody door.' We were used to it: 'It's our day off.'
We found out later that it was Imelda Marcos (with her shoes and her bras) waiting for us. Somebody had invited us and we (gracefully, we thought) had declined the offer. But there was the TV announcer - their equivalent of Richard Dimbley - saying, 'And the First Lady is waiting with the Blue Ladies...' (it was like America - they had Pink Ladies and Blue Ladies and First Ladies - and they were all waiting there) '... and pretty soon the famous pop group will be arriving.' And we're going, 'Shoot - nobody's told them!' and the promoters are saying, 'Well, you've got to go now. It's only a limo to get there.' And we said, 'We can't.' We stuck to our guns and sat the rest of the day out in the hotel. We turned the telly off and got on with our day off.
RINGO: Personally I didn't know anything about Madame Marcos having invited us to dinner. But we'd said 'no' and Brian Epstein had told her 'no'. John and I were sharing a room, and we woke up in the morning and phoned down for eggs and bacon (or whatever we were eating in those days) and all the newspapers, because we always liked to read about ourselves.
WE WERE JUST HANGING OUT IN OUR BEDS, CHATTING AND DOING WHATEVER WE WERE DOING, AND TIME WENT BY SO WE CALLED DOWN AGAIN: 'EXCUSE ME, CAN WE HAVE THE BREAKFAST?' STILL NOTHING HAPPENED, SO WE PUT THE TV ON, AND THERE WAS A HORRIFIC TV SHOW OF MADAME MARCOS SCREAMING, 'THEY'VE LET ME DOWN!' THERE WERE ALL THESE SHOTS WITH THE CAMERAMAN FOCUSING ON EMPTY PLATES AND UP INTO THE LITTLE KIDS' FACES, ALL CRYING BECAUSE THE BEATLES HADN'T TURNED UP. WE VERY NICELY HAD SAID 'NO' TO THE INVITATION.
NEIL ASPINALL: I think they'd been invited and Brian had telexed them or sent a telegram saying 'no' - The Beatles didn't do that sort of stuff for anybody. They wouldn't get involved in politics and they wouldn't go to the palace. But it was ignored as if he hadn't said it.
I remember waking up in the morning and having breakfast, and the television was on with the news that The Beatles were about to turn up at Imelda Marcos's party for a lot of children. It was saying, 'What are they talking about?' They didn't turn up.
After it was all over, and they hadn't turned up, and people were going barmy, we asked Brian what had happened, and he said, 'I cancelled it. You weren't supposed to go there.'
It turned nasty in the Philippines. I didn't eat for three days. They would bring up food that was terrible. Even if it was cornflakes for breakfast, you'd pour the milk out and it would come out in lumps. They had given you sour milk. I remember once ordering dinner and it came up on one of those big trays with the rolled lid on it, and I rolled back the lid, and - 'Ohhhhh!' - just by the smell of it I knew we couldn't eat it.
Paul and I sneaked out there as well, we must have been very brave or very naive. We got in a car and drove for miles - it was like Manhattan for five minutes and then a dreadful shanty town for a long way out - to some sand dunes. We bought a couple of pictures, sat in the sand dunes and had a smoke, and then drove back to the hotel with everybody freaking out (especially the security): 'Where have you been? How did you get out?'
Although people kept saying it was a failure in the Philippines, The Beatles did two gigs to a total of about 100,000 people (after the Marcos thing), and all the fans had a really good time. They really enjoyed it. There were still thugs about, organising things (nothing to do with the army), but they seemed to be organising the fans rather than us. The cars were going the wrong way and the dressing room was in a mess.
GEORGE: Again, we had a big problem with the concert. Brian Epstein had made a contract for a stadium of so many thousand people, but when we got there it was like the Monterey Pop Festival. There were about 200,000 people on the site, and we were thinking, 'Well, the promoter is probably making a bit on the side out of this.' We went back to the hotel really tired and jet-lagged and pretty cheesed off. I don't recall much of what happened after that, until the newspapers arrived and we saw the TV news.
PAUL: The next morning someone brought in a newspaper, and on the front it just said in massive letters: 'Beatles Snub President'. Oh dear! 'Well, we didn't mean to,' we thought. We'll just say we're sorry.
We were scheduled to leave Manila that morning, and as we were leaving the hotel everyone was a bit nasty at reception, so we had to scuffle out as if we hadn't paid our bill.
RINGO: Things started to get really weird. 'Come on! Get out of bed! Get packed - we're getting out of here.' And as we got downstairs and started to get to the car - we really had no help - there was only one motorbike compared to the huge motorcade that had brought us in.
GEORGE: It was 'Beatles Snub First Family' - that's how they decided to present it. Nobody ever said, 'Well, they were never asked.' It was quite likely it was the promoter or the agent who had done a deal; brown-nosing Mrs Marcos, probably. She was later quoted as saying, 'Oh, I never liked them anyway - their music is horrible!'
THE WHOLE PLACE TURNED ON US. WE HAD PEOPLE YELLING AND SCREAMING WHEN WE TRIED TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. NOBODY WOULD GIVE US A RIDE. WE COULDN'T GET ANY CARS; THERE WAS NOTHING AVAILABLE.
Finally somebody managed to get a car or two and they put our baggage in one and we got in the other. We were driven to the airport. Two things were happening simultaneously: there were all the government officials or police, who were trying to punch us and yelling and waving fists at us, and then underneath that were the young kids who were still around doing the mania.
NEIL ASPINALL: They were really putting obstacles in our way. When we were on the way to the airport, a soldier kept sending us round and round the roundabout until in the end I told the driver to pull over.
PAUL: We got down to the airport and found they'd turned the escalators off. So we had to walk up the escalators. 'What's wrong?' - 'We don't know - we're not sure.' 'Would someone take the luggage, then? There don't appear to be any luggage people around.' It was a case of, 'Carry your own luggage.' All right - let's get out of here, then, if that's what it's going to be.
Behind a huge plate-glass window, the sort they have in airports, and on the taxi rank outside there were all the Filipino taxi guys banging on the window - and we're all going 'gibber, gibber'.
NEIL ASPINALL: Nobody would help us with all this equipment and so we started using the escalators and then they stopped. So we had to lug all the stuff up the stairs, and once we got it all up the stairs the escalators started to work again. The Beatles were going to Delhi and the equipment was going back to England. So at the check-in desk we kept saying, 'OK, that's going to Delhi,' and they kept putting it on the pile that was going to England. In the end Mal jumped over the counter and sorted it all out for us because nobody was going to do it.
GEORGE: We were all carrying amplifiers and suitcases - nobody was helping us to do anything - but the mania was going on with people trying to grab us, and other people trying to hit us, and we finally got checked in.
It seemed like forever at the check-in desk. We eventually got into the departure lounge, which was a huge room, but then the thugs appeared again - the same people with the short-sleeved shirts who had been shouting at us as soon as we had got off the plane when we arrived in Manila. As well as Mal and Neil, we had Alf Bicknell with us, helping out, and I saw him get punched by one of the thugs.
There were a number of them coming up to us, pushing, and screaming, 'Get over there!' They forced us back, and then another one would come around the other way, doing it again: 'Get over there!' I was trying to keep my eye on all the people, keep moving ahead of them to stay out of their way. I was all really negative. I saw a couple of Buddhist monks, and went and hid behind them.
RINGO: There was chanting, with people hating us all the way - and now at the airport they started spitting at us, spitting on us, and there's the famous story of John and me hiding behind these nuns, because we thought, 'It's a Catholic country - they won't beat up the nuns.'
JOHN: All along the route to the airport there were people waving at us, but I could see a few old men booing us. When they started on us at the airport, I was petrified. I thought I was going to get hit, so I headed for three nuns and two monks, thinking that might stop them. As far as I know I was just pushed around, but I could have been kicked and not known it.
'You treat like ordinary passenger! Ordinary passenger!' they were saying. We were saying" 'Ordinary passenger? He doesn't get kicked, does he?' I saw five in sort of outfits who were doing it, all the kicking and booing and shouting. I was petrified, and pushed a lot. I was very delicate, and moved every time they touched me.66
That was Brian's cock-up. Because he'd had the invitation given to him, and declined it, and never told us. And the next day they wouldn't accept that we'd declined it, and were hustling and pushing us around at the airport, and wouldn't help us with our bags. It was terryfying.72
PAUL: We were quite frightened. Most of the aggression (luckily for us) was directed towards our people. I think Alf got thrown down the stairs violently by one of them. But mostly it wasn't overt - thought they were annoyed.
We felt a bit guilty, but we didn't feel it was our cock-up. Now, knowing more about the regime, what I think is that they had ignored our telling them we weren't coming: 'Let them just try and not come - we'll make it difficult for them.'
There was a group of nuns in the corner of the airport, and when all the fisticuffs broke out, and with the taxi drivers behind the plate-glass window, we went over to the nuns. (It was rather a nice little shot - nuns and Beatles in the corner. We had a lot in common in many ways: black outfits, and little groups obviously in the same mould.) We stood behind them: 'You'll have to get through them to get to us. You'll have to get through them, mate.'
They didn't actually protect us; they just stood there looking a bit bemused. Whenever they moved, we moved the other side of them.
NEIL ASPINALL: All the thugs in their Hawaiian shirts were pushing and shoving and punching. It was dreadful. I'm sure nobody got badly hurt, but that was because we didn't fight back, so we got pushed and shoved. We knew not to fight back.
If we had fought back it could have been very bad. It was very, very scary, and nothing like this had ever happened before - and nothing like it has ever happened since.
GEORGE: Finally they announced the flight and we boarded the plane - and that was the greatest feeling, just to be on that plane. It was a sense of relief. Then the plane sat there.
Eventually, there was an announcement on the speaker saying, 'Will Mr Epstein and Mr Evans and Mr Borrow...' (Tony, who was our press agent at that time) '... get off the plane.' They all had to get off, and they looked terrified.
Mal went past me down the aside of the plane breaking out in tears, and he turned to me and said, 'Tell Lil I love her.' (Lil was his wife.) He thought that was it: the plane was going to go and he would be stuck in Manila. The whole feeling was, 'Fucking hell, what's going to happen?'
PAUL: When we got on the plane, we were all kissing the seats. It was feeling as if we'd found sanctuary. We had definitely been in a foreign country where all the rules had changed and they carried guns. So we weren't too gung-ho about it at all.
Then the announcement came over. Tony Barrow had to go back into the lion's den, and they made him pay an amazing airport-leaving Manila tax that I think they just dreamed up. Strangely enough, I think it came to the same amount as the receipts for the trip. I think that was the story.
GEORGE: We sat there for what seemed like a couple of hours. It was probably only thirty minutes or an hour, but it was humid and hot. Finally they reboarded, the front door was closed and the plane was allowed to leave. They took the money that we had earned at the concert and that was it; we got out of there and it was such a relief. I felt such resentment against those people.
PAUL: I remember when we got back home a journalist asked George, 'Did you enjoy it?' And he said, 'If I had an atomic bomb I'd go over there and drop it on them.'
It was an unfortunate little trip, but the nice thing about it was that in the end (when we found out what Marcos and Imelda had been doing to the people, and the rip-off that the whole thing allegedly was) we were glad to have done what we did. Great! We must have been the only people who'd ever dared to snub Marcos. But we didn't really know what we were doing politically until many years later.
RINGO: We had fantasies that we were going to be put in jail, because it was a dictatorship there in those days, not a democracy. You lose your rights in a dictatorship, no matter who you are. So we weren't going to get off the plane. Our people were allowed back on, and that was my first and last time in Manila.
NEIL ASPINALL: I'm sure it made the band think hard about touring. It might have been one of the last nails in the touring coffin.
GEORGE MARTIN: When they got out of the country they said, 'Never again. This is it.' They said to Brian then that they would not tour again. Brian said, 'Sorry, lads, we have got something fixed up for Shea Stadium. If we cancel it you are going to lose a million dollars...' Oops - and they did do Shea Stadium.
JOHN: NO PLANE'S GOING TO GO THROUGH THE PHILIPPINES WITH ME ON IT. I WOULDN'T EVEN FLY OVER IT. WE'LL JUST NEVER GO TO ANY NUT-HOUSES AGAIN.66
GEORGE: Before the tour was planned, I had an arrangement made that on the return journey from the Philippines to London I would stop off in India, because I wanted to go and check it out and buy a good sitar. I had asked Neil if he would come with me, because I didn't want to be in India on my own. He agreed, and we had booked for the two of us to get off in Delhi.
Somewhere between leaving London and going through Germany and Japan to the Philippines, one by one the others had all sad, 'I think I'll come, too.' But we got to Delhi and, after the experience in the Philippines, the others didn't want to know. They didn't want another foreign country - they wanted to go home.
I was feeling a little bit like that myself; I could have gone home. But I was in Delhi, and as I had made the decision to get off there I thought, 'Well, it will be OK. At least in India they don'' know The Beatles. We'll slip in to this nice ancient country, and have a bit of peace and quiet.'
The others were saying, 'See you around , then - we're going straight home.' Then the stewardess came down the plane and said, 'Sorry, you've got to get off. We've sold your seats on to London,' and she made them all leave the plane.
So we got off. It was night-time, and we were standing there waiting for our baggage, and then the biggest disappointment I had was a realisation of the extent of the fame of The Beatles - because there were so many dark faces in the night behind a wire mesh fence, all shouting, 'Beatles! Beatles!' and following us.
We got in the car and drove off, and they were all on little scooters, with the Sikhs in turbans all going, ''h, Beatles, Beatles!' I thought, 'Oh, no! Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but Beatles have nowhere to lay their heads.'
Delhi was a really funny feeling. I'm sure a lot of people have had this experience when they go there. In the parts of New Delhi that were built by the British, it isn't the little streets you might expect: we were on big wide roads, dual carriageways with roundabouts.
The amazing thing was that there were so many people out there. All the roundabouts had hundreds and hundreds of people sitting in the dark, a lot of them squatting in groups, including old guys with pipes. There were crowds of people everywhere. I was thinking, 'God! What's happened?' It was as if the Superbowl was on, or there'd been a big disaster, with all the people milling around. Then you get to realise that's how it is - there are a lot of people there.
The next day I bought a sitar. I had a guy bring them over - again, we couldn't really get out easily. I bought a sitar off a man called Rikhi Ram, whose shop is still there in Delhi to this day.
We got in cars and had a ride out of Delhi to see what it looked like. That was quite an eye-opener. We were in enormous old late-1950s Cadillacs, and we went to a little village and got out of the cars. We all had Nikon cameras, and that was when it first sunk into me about the poverty. There were little kids coming up to us with flies all over them and asking for money: 'Baksheesh! Baksheesh!' Our cameras were worth more money than the whole village would earn in a lifetime. It was a very strange feeling seeing this: Cadillacs and poverty.
RINGO: That was our first time in India, and it was quite interesting; but we had a bad day when the guys from British Airways took us out to see a camel drawing water - they go round in circles to work the pump where the water comes out. You could always tell the people who worked for BA in Delhi, because they all wore ties even though it was about 300 degrees in the shade. One guy thought it would be a bit of fun to jump on the poor animal that was walking round - probably that was all it would ever do in its life, drag this harness and draw the water. It was crazy, so we all got a bit angry with him.
But then we went shopping, and going around looking at the shops is probably the biggest memory of that time in Delhi. We were offered huge pieces of ivory carvings, and we thought it was all too expensive - huge chess pieces, which would now be antiques and worth fortunes. But I'm glad we didn't buy it; even in those days we were thinking not to buy ivory.
JOHN: CHRISTIANITY WILL GO. IT WILL VANISH AND SHRINK. I NEEDN'T ARGUE ABOUT THAT; I'M RIGHT AND I WILL BE PROVED RIGHT. WE'RE MORE POPULAR THAN JESUS NOW; I DON'T KNOW WHICH WILL GO FIRST - ROCK'N'ROLL OR CHRISTIANITY. JESUS WAS ALL RIGHT, BUT HIS DISCIPLES WERE THICK AND ORDINARY. IT'S THEM TWISTING IT THAT RUINS IT FOR ME.66
GEORGE: Why can't we bring all this out in the open? Why is there all this stuff about blasphemy? If Christianity's as good as they say it is, it should stand up to a bit of discussion. [MARCH 1966]
PAUL: John used to know Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard quite well. We'd gravitate to any journalists who were a little better than the average, because we could talk to them. We felt we weren't stupid rock'n'rolls stars. We were interested in other things, and were seen as spokesmen for youth. So Maureen Cleave's article with John touched on religion, and he started to say something that we'd all felt quite keenly: that the Anglican Church had been going downhill for years. They themselves had been complaining about lack of congregations.
Maureen was interesting and easy to talk to. We all did an in-depth interview with her. In his, John happened to be talking about religion because, although we were not religious, it was something we were interested in.
We used to get a number of Catholic priests showing up at our gigs, and we'd do a lot of debating backstage, about things like the church's wealth relative to world poverty. We'd say, 'You should have gospel singing - that'll pull them in. You should be more lively, instead of singing hackneyed old hymns. Everyone's heard them and they're not getting off on them any more.'
So we felt quite strongly that the church should get its act together. We were actually very pro-church; it wasn't any sort of demonic, anti-religion point of view that John was trying to express. If you read the whole article, what he was trying to say was something that we all believed in: 'I don't know what's wrong with the church. At the moment The Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ. They're not building Jesus enough; they ought to do more.' But he made the unfortunate mistake of talking very freely because Maureen was someone we knew very well, to whom we would just talk straight from the shoulder. Was it a mistake? I don't know. In the short term, yes. Maybe not in the long term.
JOHN: When the bad news comes they shoot the messenger and they don't listen to the message. Whether it be Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Marxism, Maoism, everything. It's always about the person and never about what they said.80
DEREK TAYLOR: The Maureen Cleave article was first printed in the London Evening Standard back in March, but it appeared in America just before the American tour in August that year. John's comment about The Beatles being bigger than Christ was turned into a big headline in a teen magazine called Datebook. Brian was in North Wales recuperating from Manila, among other things - because it had made him ill - and he got the message that the Americans were going bananas about John's comment, which was only one line in a two-page spread.
GEORGE MARTIN: It got picked up in America, and reported on various radio stations and magnified, and a storm of protest hit The Beatles hard: 'Who do they think they are, comparing themselves to the Lord?' Records were burned in public bonfires and banned by radio stations, and it reached such a pitch that Brian had to prevail upon John to make a statement and an apology.
GEORGE: The 'bigger than Jesus' quote wasn't really said the way it came out in America, where they took that one thing and blew it out of context. But the repercussions were big, particularly in the Bible Belt. In the South they were having a field day. There's footage of the disc jockey who started all the uproar saying, 'Come and bring your Beatle trash and deposit it here! We will have different sites all around the States to deposit this rash and we'll be burning it.' And the Ku Klux Klan were out there saying, 'We're going to get them.'
NEIL ASPINALL: As the Americans had taken exception to the comment, Brian suggested to John that he record a taped statement explaining what he had meant and regretting all the fuss. Studio time was booked with George Martin, but then there was a change of plan.
Brian went over to the States prior to the tour and made apologies, and in a press conference told promoters that if they wanted to cancel a show they could do so. Nobody did.
BRIAN EPSTEIN'S PRESS STATEMENT: The quote which John Lennon made more than three months ago to a London columnist has been quoted and misrepresented entirely out of context. Lennon is deeply interested in religion, and was at the time having serious talks with Maureen Cleave, who is both a friend of The Beatles and a representative for the London Evening Standard.
What he said, and meant, was that he was astonished that in the last fifty years the Church in England, and therefore Christ, had suffered a decline in interest. He did not mean to boast about The Beatles' fame. He meant to point out that The Beatles' effect appeared to be, to him, a more immediate one upon certain of the younger generation.
RINGO: It was a real mess in America because they took it the wrong way. We read it and it passed us by. It wasn't blasphemous - it was a point of view. If we took it on a worldwide view the church would still be winning. There weren't more people coming to see us than going to church.
It was a valid point. We were punks and said a few things, but not to cause what it caused. It only did so in America because someone took that one line and shot it to the moon.
JOHN: In England nobody took any notice: they know this guy's blabbing off - who is he? But over here some lunatic gets his Klan mask on and starts running round burning crosses.74
GEORGE: Although there was a big palaver, we got to America and held a press conference where John apologised. Under the pressure of the cameras and the press, despite the stress of having to deal with what he'd caused, he gave his apology or explanation. He got through it and we decided, 'We'll go and do the gig.'
RINGO: WE ALL HAD TO PAY FOR IT AND IT WAS A PRETTY SCARY TIME. JOHN HAD TO APOLOGISE, NOT BECAUSE OF WHAT HE'D SAID, BUT TO SAVE OUR LIVES BECAUSE THERE WERE A LOT OF VERY HEAVY THREATS - NOT ONLY TO HIM, BUT TO THE WHOLE BAND. SOMETIMES YOU'VE GOT TO TAKE YOUR CAP IN YOUR HAND AND SAY, 'EXCUSE ME.'
JOHN: I didn't want to talk because I thought they'd kill me, because they take things so seriously here. I mean, they shoot you and then they realise that it wasn't that important. So I didn't want to go, but Brian and Paul and the other Beatles persuaded me to come. I was scared stiff. I saw a couple of press conferences on film where I'm saying, 'Well what I really meant was I wasn't condoning that we were bigger than Jesus. I was just saying the fact that kids follow us and not Jesus.' Going through all this hypocrisy - and terrified. I was really scared.74
Even I doubted how much sense the whole article meant because I'd forgotten. It was that unimportant - it had been and gone. I had to reread the whole article to make sure I hadn't said anything I didn't mean.
I said we were more popular than Jesus, which is a fact. I believe Jesus was right, Buddha was right and all of those people are right. They're all saying the same thing - and I believe it. I believe what Jesus actually said - the basic things he laid down about love and goodness - and not what people say he said. If Jesus being more popular means more control, I don't want that. I'd sooner they all follow us, even if it's just to dance and sing for the rest of their lives. If they took more interest in what Jesus - or any of them - said, if they did that, we'd all be there with them.66
RINGO: John did not want to apologise, because he didn't say what they said. But what was happening around us was getting too violent, and so Brian asked him and kept asking him to say something, and in the end John realised that he'd have to go out and do it.
JOHN: I don't need to go to church. I respect churches because of the sacredness that's been put on them over the years by people who do believe. But I think a lot of bad things have happened in the name of the church and in the name of Christ. Therefore I shy away from church, and as Donovan once said, 'I go to my own church in my own temple once a day.' And I think people who need a church is in your own head should visit that temple because that's where the source is. We're all God. Christ said, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.' And the Indians say that and the Zen people say that. We're all God. I'm not a god or the God, but we're all God and we're all potentially divine - and potentially evil. We all have everything within us and the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh and within us, and if you look hard enough you'll see it.69
PAUL: We all discussed it. We knew it wasn't really a big issue for us, but because it had become so big we couldn't deny it.
I've never seen John so nervous. He realised the full import of what had happened. So he had to say, 'I didn't mean it like that. I meant I'm actually quite supportive...' - which people were able to accept as an answer, except in the Bible Belt.
JOHN: If I'd have said, 'Television is more popular than Jesus,' I might have got away with it. I am sorry I opened my mouth. I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the word 'Beatles' as a remote thing - 'Beatles', like other people see us. I said they are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. I said it in that way, which was the wrong way. I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I was not knocking it. I was not saying we are great or better. I think it's a bit silly. If they don't like us, why don't they just not buy the records?
It was part of an in-depth series she was doing, and so I wasn't really thinking in terms of PR or translating what I was saying. It was going on for a couple of hours, and I said it just to cover the subject. It's so complicated, and it got out of hand.
When I first heard about the repercussions I thought, 'It can't be true - it's just one of those things.' And then when I realised it was serious, I was worried stiff because I knew how it would go on, and the things that would get said about it, and all those miserable pictures of me looking like a cynic, and it would go on and on and on and get out of hand, and I couldn't control it. I can't answer for it when it gets that big, because it's nothing to do with me then.
I'm sorry I said it for the mess it's made, but I never meant it as an anti-religious thing. My views are from what I've read or observed of Christianity, and what it was, and what it has been, and what it could be. I'm not knocking it or saying it's bad. I'm just saying it seems to be shrinking and losing context. Nothing seems to be replacing it. It's no good going on and saying, 'Yes, it's all fine, we're all Christians and we're all doing this,' and we're not doing it!
I don't profess to be a practising Christian. I think Christ was what he was, and if anyone says anything great about him, I believe, but I'm not a practising Christian like I was brought up to be.
I got away with it in England inasmuch as nobody took offence and saw through me, but in America it went the other was. We forget we're Beatles sometimes. You can't help it, and if you say something like 'Britain's becoming a police state,' you say it exactly the same as two friends in a pub across the bar.
I don't like supposing that somebody like Jesus was alive now and pretending and imagining what he'd do. But if he was Jesus and he held that he was the real Jesus that had the same views as before -well, 'Eleanor Rigby' wouldn't mean that much to him. [CHICAGO PRESS CONFERENCE, 11TH AUGUST 1966]
PAUL: We don't care about those who don't like us because of the statement. We'd rather perform for people who do like us. We found out that the guy who started it did it purely as an unashamed publicity stunt.66
JOHN: It doesn't matter about people not liking our records or not liking the way we look or what we say. There're entitled to not like us - and we're entitled not to have anything to do with them if we don't want to, or not to regard them. We've all got our rights... Harold.64
RINGO: It shows us where people are at, because they love you and love you, but then when something like that happens millions of kids start burning their Beatles records. There were bonfires of them - which was OK for us because later they rebought them! But we knew it was getting pretty rough.
The repercussions were that we played a lot of places where people were getting really angry. The Ku Klux Klan were out in force, which was pretty frightening. There was always that edge in America - we knew that they did have guns.
I don't think we contemplated cancelling the tour. We never cancelled anything. Brian would say, 'Here you go,' and we would say, 'Oh, we're off again.' I think we just moaned: 'This is enough.' But it was a routine: 'It's autumn, you make a record and get it out for Christmas.' There were all these strange rules, and we'd keep on going. But it was starting to get too much. It was building up to us saying, 'This is it.'
GEORGE: With the stress and all the things we had to go through anyway, it was something we could have done without. There was a consideration that we might not bother with the tour because we felt we were going to get threatened.
We thought we could actually pull out of one concert in the South, in Memphis - and in Memphis there was film of a guy from the Ku Klux Klan with his shades on, saying, 'We have ways of dealing with this...' But apparently the members of the Klan who were outside the stadium got chased away by the fans. So although we were feeling quite frightened (I remember sitting in a little minibus on the way to the gig, feeling a bit scared) we did the show. Nothing happened. We got out there and that was it.
PAUL: By the time we got to the Bible Belt, down South, there were people banging on our windows. I particularly remember a young boy, maybe eleven or twelve years old, banging on the window of our coach. If he could have got to us, I think he would have killed us; he was fired up with the Spirit of the Lord. And we were saying, 'No, we love you. It's OK.'
It made us wonder about touring. It was a case of how much of a good thing can you have? How long can you sustain things? Every tour had gone great, marvellous, but we were becoming a bit fed up anyway because we'd been at it so long - and it gets gruelling: one Holiday Inn after another. Now other things were starting to happen: Manila and threats - and people thinking we're anti-Christ!
GEORGE: IF EVERYBODY WHO HAD A GUN JUST SHOT THEMSELVES THERE WOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM.
PAUL: Threats were hard for us to comprehend. We weren't into prejudice. We were always very keen on mixed-race audiences. I remember a woman coming to our school once, giving a lecture on South Africa, saying, 'It's marvellous - you can get a boy to do the tea, and we have boys cleaning up, and boys in the cricket nets...' We said, 'Don't you feel a little embarrassed? It's like slaves, isn't it?' - 'No, no, no. They love it, the little boys.'
GEORGE: I think we were offered gigs in South Africa but we wouldn't go, and because of that they banned our records there.
JOHN: Musicians don't usually have this thing about what street you live on. They get that scene sorted out as soon as they meet other musicians. It's the music that counts. But there's no common denominator for society like in music.68
PAUL: With that being our attitude, shared by all the group, we never wanted to play South Africa or any places where blacks would be separated. People said to us later that even if you let everybody in, all the black people tended to stick together and all the white people. You don't integrate just because. Someone says it's nice - you sit with your mates. That was all right, but we didn't want any segregation. We were very keen on people's rights. It wasn't out of any goody-goody thing, we just thought, 'Why should you separate black people from white? That's stupid, isn't it?'
JOHN: We dare not go out on the streets. We just stay in the hotel room until the car or coach calls to take us to the show. We miss an awful lot, but I suppose we will see it one day.
We seem to have gone back every August, as far as I can see. Like our annual trip. The longest tour we ever do is three weeks, and it's usually America where we do the longest tours. Three weeks - if you're busy, it's all over before you know what's happened, and you're back home.66
NEIL ASPINALL: The American tour was a repetition of what they'd done the year before, and therefore it was boring, really. It was the same good old exciting America, but it's like anything else - if you've done it once or twice, the third time is a bit old hat.
When they played Shea Stadium again, for me it blended in with the first one, though it was said there were slightly fewer people there than the year before. For some reason I missed the police van that was taking us. I had gone back for something, and before I could get in the van, they slammed the doors and of it went. I was left at the hotel, so I got a cab, but that broke down in Harlem. Another cab took me to the stadium, but there were thousands of people, and I thought: 'Oh God, they're really going to let me in! I'm going to just knock on the door and say, "I'm with The Beatles?"' Then I saw the four of them banging out of a window, and they saw me wandering round the car park. It was like magic; they were shouting, 'There he is! Let him in!'
In the Washington gig there had been a Ku Klux Klan demonstration, but it turned out to be six guys in white sheets and conical hats walking round with a placard. It really didn't amount to much. But the assassination threats in Memphis were more scary.
JOHN: One night on a show in the South somewhere [Memphis] somebody let off a firecracker while we were on stage. There had been threats to shoot us, the Klan were burning Beatle records outside and a lot of the crew-cut kids were joining in with them. Somebody let off a firecracker and every one of us - I think it's on film - look at each other, because each thought it was the other that had been shot. It was that bad.74
GEORGE: Cincinnati was an open-air venue, and they had a bandstand in the centre of the ballpark, with a canvas top on it. It was really bad weather, pouring with rain, and when Mal got there to set up the equipment he said, 'Where's the electricity power feed?' And the fella said, 'What do you mean, electricity? I thought they played guitars.' He didn't even know we played electric guitars.
It was so went that we couldn't play. They'd brought in the electricity, but the stage was soaking and we would have been electrocuted, so we cancelled - the only gig we ever missed. But we did it the next morning. We had to get up early and get on and play the concert at midday, then take all the gear apart and go to the airport, fly to St Louis, set up and play the gig originally planned for that day. In those days all we had were three amps, three guitars, and a set of drums. Imagine trying to do it now!
MAL EVANS: Open-air concerts in the States were terrible. When it looked like rain in the open air, I used to be scared stiff. Rain on the wires and everybody would have been blown up; yet if they'd stopped the show, the kids would have stampeded.
PAUL: When we played one place it rained quite heavily, and they put bits of corrugated iron over the stage, so it felt like the worst little gig we'd ever played at even before we'd started as a band. We were having to worry about the rain getting in the amps and this took us right back to the Cavern days - it was worse than those early days. And I don't even think the house was full.
After the gig I remember us getting in a big, empty steel-lined wagon, like a removal van. There was no furniture in there - nothing. We were sliding around trying to old on to something, and at that moment everyone said, 'Oh, this loody touring lark - I've had it up to here, man.'
I finally agreed. I'd been trying to say, 'Ah, touring's good and it keeps us sharp. We need touring, and musicians need to play. Keep music live.' I had held on that attitude when there were doubts, but finally I agreed with them.
George and John were the ones most against touring; they got particularly fed up. So we agreed to say nothing, but never to tour again. We thought we'd get into recording, and say nothing until some journalist asked, 'Are you going out on tour?' - 'Not yet.' We wouldn't make The Big Announcement that we'd finished touring forever, but it would gradually dawn on people: 'They don't appear to be going on tour, do they? How long was that? Ten years? Maybe they've given it up.'
That was the main point: we'd always tried to keep some fun in it for ourselves. In anything you do you have to do that, and we'd been pretty good at it. But now even America was beginning to pall because of the conditions of touring and because we'd done it so many times.
RINGO: In 1966 the road was getting pretty boring and it was also coming to the end for me. Nobody was listening at the shows. That was OK at the beginning, but it got that we were playing really bad, and the reason I joined The Beatles was because they were the best band in Liverpool. I always wanted to play with good players. That was what it was all about. First and foremost, we were musicians: singers, writers, performers. Where we ended up on a huge crazy pedestal was not really in my plan. My plan was to keep playing great music. But it was obvious to us that the touring had to end soon, because it wasn't working any more.
On the last tour of America the most exciting thing was meeting people who came to the shows, not the shows themselves. We'd played the stadiums, we'd played to the big crowds, and still we were only doing our thirty-minute show!
JOHN: The Beatles were famous for doing fifteen-minute shows; we could speed it up to fifteen minutes over in America. Fifty thousand people, and we'd be off. That was our record. We got our kicks from seeing how fast we could do the whole show. And if we were really counting them in too fast, or were too speedy to deal with it, we'd run off and realise we'd only been on fifteen minutes.
There were times when your voice was so bad (through losing your voice) you virtually wouldn't be singing at all, and nobody would notice because there'd be so much noise going on. You could never hear what we were doing. It would just become a sort of happening - like Shea Stadium was a happening. You couldn't hear any music at all. That got boring; that's why we stopped it.71
PAUL: BY CANDLESTICK PARK IT WAS LIKE, DON'T TELL ANYONE, BUT THIS IS PROBABLY OUR LAST GIG.
RINGO: There was big talk at Candlestick Park that this had got to end. At the San Francisco gig it seemed that this could possibly be the last time, but I never felt 100% certain till we got back to London.
John wanted to give up more than the others. He said that he'd had enough.
JOHN: I didn't want to tour again, especially after having been accused of crucifying Jesus when all I'd made was a flippant remark, and having to stand with the Klan outside and firecrackers going on inside. I couldn't take any more.80
RINGO: I don't think anyone didn't want to stop touring, but Paul would have gone on longer than George and I. I was feeling such a bad musician and I was fed up playing the way I was playing. That was my criteria for ending it. I just wasn't working on the road any more because i couldn't play.
I don't think any of the decisions were made quickly. We'd all expressed them and moaned about them, laughed about them and cried about them. Then it had got to a head where it was 'yes' or 'no' time - and we seemed to do that with the touring, with the recording and with the breaking-up. None of those things ended with someone turning round and saying it without talking about it first. We didn't make a formal announcement that we were going to stop touring, because it was just something we decided and then we let it go away.
GEORGE: When we got to Candlestick Park we placed our cameras on the amplifiers and put them on the timer. We stopped between tunes, Ringo got down off the drums, and we stood facing the amplifiers with our back to the audience and took photographs. We knew. 'This is it - we're not going to do this again. This is the last concert.' It was a unanimous decision.
It was too much, with all those riots and hurricanes. Beatlemania took its toll, and we were no longer on the buzz of fame and success. 'The Dental Experience' had made us see life in a different light, and touring was no longer fun.
We'd done about 1,400 live shows and I certainly felt that was it. I never really projected into the future; I was thinking, 'This is going to be sure a relief - not to have to go through that madness any more.'
It was nice to be popular, but when you saw the size of it, it was ridiculous, and it felt dangerous because everybody was out of hand and out of line. Even the cops were out of line. They were all caught up in the mania. It was as if they were all in a big movie and we were the ones trapped in the middle of it. It was a very strange feeling. For a year or so I'd been saying, 'Let's not do this any more.' And then it played itself out, so that by 1966 everybody was feeling, 'We've got to stop this.' I don't know exactly where in 1966, but obviously after the Philippines we thought, 'Hey, we've got to pack this in.'
We were all still pretty friendly; we were just tired. It had been four years of legging around in a screaming mania. We'd had a couple of small vacations, but we'd only had one big holiday during that whole four years. We needed a rest. I don't think anybody was regretting it, thinking, 'This is the end of an era.' I think we welcomed it.
JOHN: I reckon we could send out four waxwork dummies of ourselves and that would satisfy the crowds. Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music any more. They're just bloody tribal rites.66
GEORGE: WHILE EVERYBODY ELSE WAS GOING MAD, WE WERE ACTUALLY THE SANEST PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE THING.
NEIL ASPINALL: It was in India that I heard for the first time that they might not tour in 1967. We were all in a hotel suite with Brian, talking about going to America. It was George who asked Brian, 'Is this touring becoming an annual event?' because he wasn't prepared to do it again. Probably they'd all spoken about it among themselves and decided that it wasn't a good idea. And they decided then and there that they weren't going to do America the next year.
So when we got to Candlestick Park we knew that was the last gig. For me that wasn't The Last Gig Ever; it was just that they weren't going to tour for a while. I never knew what my role was, so I figured their not touring wouldn't affect me.
I'm not sure whether or not Brian was at the last show. Maybe he was trying to find his briefcase. It was reported that money and other personal items had been stolen from his room. Brian was robbed on occasions.
With no more live shows planned, the idea was that they could make more records. All The Beatles' albums, with the possible exception of Revolver, had been fitted in between coming off the road and getting back on. They would have to make an album in two or three weeks, including the cover and everything. Then they were back on the road with no real time to concentrate on it.
GEORGE MARTIN: Curiously enough the second Shea Stadium concert had about 11,000 seats unsold. So it was a pretty unsettling time. And it was against this background that they said, 'Right, we definitely won't do any more. We are going to have a break and then we are going into the studio to make a record.'
PAUL: I don't remember having a negative feeling about the band. I did about touring. But you always forget the bad bits. It's like a holiday when it rains all the time; you just remember the fine days.
George has said, 'We weren't musicians any more. We were just moptops and rag dolls,' and I think that was true. We were getting fed up with that aspect, but I think I could have handled it. I expect that when you become famous.
But the quality of the music wasn't good, and it wasn't getting any better with the touring. We all agreed that maybe going into recording would be the new thing to turn us all on.
JOHN: We are not goody-goody boys. We are not possessed of limitless patience. One has to have the quality of an angel to cheerfully submit to the demands of some fans. We're not trying to pass off as kids, and we're human as the next fellow. Whether we look our age or not, very often we feel a lot older than we really are.
We can't go on holding hands forever. We have been Beatles as best we ever will be - those four jolly lads. But we're not those people any more. We are old men. We can't go on hopping on Top of the Pops forever. We still enjoy it, but sometimes we feel silly. We can't develop the singing because none of us can sing the tune. We've got to find something else to do. Paul says it's like leaving school and finding a job. It's just like school, actually, because you have the group to lean on, and then suddenly you find you're on your own.
I shouldn't worry if I was rejected by the public. It's rejection on the part of me that would get me. Suppose I suddenly found out I was a useless bum. What I have done is fine - I know I wasn't a useless bum, but now I have to do something else. We sort of half hope for The Downfall - a nice downfall. Then we would just be a pleasant old memory.66
RINGO: For Brian Epstein, our not touring sure left a void, because part of his gig was to get us out there, and that was a huge management thing for him. That's when he was 'Big Bri' on the road. Once we hit all those towns, it was 'Mr Epstein: The Beatles Manager'.
I think Brian (like the rest of us) was getting tired of doing the same old thing. What fun could it have been for him to rebook us at Candlestick Park or Shea Stadium?
After deciding not to tour I don't think we cared a damn. We'd been having more fun in the studio, as you can hear from Revolver and Rubber Soul. As it was building up, it was getting more experimental. We were starting to spend more time there, and the songs were getting better and more interesting. Instead of being pulled out of the studio to go on the road, we could now spend time there and relax.
JOHN: We've had enough of performing forever. I can't imagine any reason which would make us do any sort of tour again. We're all really tired. It does nothing for us any more - which is really unfair to the fans, we know, but we've got to think of ourselves.67
I'm just sorry for the people that can't see us live. Sometimes you haven't missed anything because you wouldn't have heard us, but sometimes I think you might have enjoyed it. I'm sorry for them.64
When we were away from it for a while, it was like the school holidays. You hadn't done any work for a bit and you'd just remember the laughs. You'd quite look forward to it again. Until you got back and were fed up. It's like the army. One big sameness which you have to go through. One big mass. I can'' remember any tours.67
THE MUSIC WASN'T BEING HEARD. IT WAS JUST A SORT OF A FREAK SHOW: THE BEATLES WERE THE SHOW, AND THE MUSIC HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.69
NEIL ASPINALL: I went with John to make How I Won the War in the autumn of 1966. While John was filming I was dressed up as a dead soldier, coloured orange in the convention of the film.
We went back to Hamburg again, because we did some filming on location near there. That was really nice because it was just John and me in Hamburg, without fans or shows or Beatles, and we went round to all their old places and shops. We did it for a day or so, then we got the train to Paris.
We also filmed in Spain. During the time there, John wrote 'Strawberry Fields Forever' on a beach and played it to me.
JOHN: We were in Almeria, and it took me six weeks to write the song. I was writing it all the time I was making the film. (And as anybody knows about film work, there's a lot of hanging around.) I have an original tape of it somewhere - of how it sounded before it became the psychedelic-sounding song it became on record.80
As an artist, I always, in the most real moments, try to express myself, and to show myself and not somebody else. If I knew myself less I could express it less, that's all.
In 'Strawberry Fields' I'm saying, 'No, always think it's me,' and all that bit, and, 'Help!' I was trying to describe myself, how I felt, but I wasn't sure how I felt. So I'd be saying, 'Sometimes, no always, think it's real but...' but I'm expressing it haltingly because I'm not sure what I'm feeling. But now I was sure: 'Yeah, that was what I'm feeling - it hurts, that's what it's about.' So then I could express myself.70
The second line goes, 'No one I think is in my tree.' Well, what I was trying to say in that line is, 'Nobody seems to be as hip as me, therefore I must be crazy or a genius.' It's the same problem as I had when I was five.80
'Strawberry Fields' was psychoanalysis set to music, really. I think most analysis is just symptomatic, where you just talk about yourself. I don't need to do that because I've done a lot of it with reporters. I never had time for time for psychiatrists and those people, they're all cracked.
Instead of penting up emotion or pain, feel it - rather than putting it away for a rainy day. I think everyone's blocked. I haven't met anybody that isn't a complete blockage of pain, from childhood, from birth on. Why shouldn't we cry? They tell us to stop crying about twelve: 'Be a man.' What the hell's that? Men hurt.70
NEIL ASPINALL: There had been a big storm during one night. Everything had been washed out to sea, and all the roads were really muddy. Then they had all become rutted when it dried. We were coming back from location in John's black Rolls Royce and we had Dylan on the car stereo, but switched it over to the tannoy so the song played outside. We were going down the road with Dylan blaring out all over the place. (We found out later that everyone called it the 'Carriage of Death' - for them the car was like a hearse.) As we went over a narrow bridge, a motorbike came round the corner, and the rider saw a big black object looming with music coming out of it. There was a gap between a mountain and the little wall over the bridge, and the motorbike went straight through it - the guy just took off!
While John had been in Spain, the others had all been doing their own things. Paul was working on the soundtrack of The Family Way. George was in India.
Ringo came to Spain when John and I were there. So did another guy, with a box of chocolates full of marijuana. He opened it and said, 'Brian and I really packed this well for you.' The contents then erupted and went all over the floor into a thick pile carpet: 'Oh, thank you!'
RINGO: Towards the end of 1966, with John being in Spain filming How I Won the War, I went and hung out with him because he was lonely. We really supported each other a lot.
Maureen and I decided to go out and stay with Michael Crawford, who was with John in the film, and every five or six days we would move house. All of us were living in the same house and there was always something wrong with it - that was the most boring part about it, and it was damn hot.
In 1965 Maureen and I had bought a house in Weybridge. John lived out there and George lived in Esher, which was five miles away, so we all ended up in the same area, which was dynamite for me. We had had Zak by then, and when we were living in London we couldn't put him outside; and also we were a family now, so it was time to move on.
We had a building firm decorating and remodelling it, and we thought, 'We'll buy the building firm - that way they'll really work! And so I went into partnership and we called the company Brickey Building, and did all the work on my house, thinking it would be less expensive. The foreman used to cook us dinner every night because he was the only one who could cook; Maureen couldn't in those days.
That's how we got the building - but buying the house and doing it up was probably the daftest thing I ever did. I bought it for Ј37,000, which was quite a fortune in those days, but it had cost me Ј90,000 by the time we'd finished it, and we sold it for Ј47,000. And the other part about the building firm was that we did some work for George Harrison - who still hasn't paid the bloody bill! (Joke.)
I really enjoyed having time off in 1966, getting used to the idea: 'OK, that's it for touring - let's have fun with my wife and child.' I now had time to do other things.
JOHN: I was always waiting for a reason to get out of The Beatles from the day I made How I Won the War in 1966. I just didn't have the guts to do it, you see. Because I didn't know where to go. I remember why I made the movie. I did it because The Beatles had stopped touring and I didn't know what to do. Instead of going home and being with the family, I immediately went to Spain with Dick Lester because I couldn't deal with not being continually onstage. That was the first time I though, 'My God, what do you do if this isn't going on? What is there? There's no life without it.' And that's when the seed was planted that I had to somehow get out of this, without being thrown out by the others. But I could never step out of the palace because it was too frightening.
I was really too scared to walk away. I was thinking, 'Well, this is the end, really. There's no more touring. That means there's going to be a blank space in the future.' At some time or other that's when I started considering life without The Beatles - what would it be? And I spent that six weeks thinking about that: 'What am I going to do? Am I going to be doing Vegas? But cabaret?' I mean, where do you go? So that's when I started thinking about it. But I could not think what it would be, or how I could do it. I didn't even consider forming my own group or anything, because it didn't enter my mind. Just what would I do when it stopped?80
PAUL: John's now trying acting again, and George has got his passion for the sitar and all the Indian stuff. He's lucky. Like somebody's luck who's got religion. I'm just looking for something I enjoy doing. There's no hurry. I have the time and the money.66
GEORGE: I went to India in September 1966. When I had first come across a record of Ravi Shankar's I had a feeling that, somewhere, I was going to meet him. It happened that I met him in London in June, at the house of Ayana Deva Angadi, founder of the Asian Music Circle. An Indian man had called me up and said that Ravi was going to be there. The press had been trying to put me and him together since I used the sitar on 'Norwegian Wood'. They started thinking: 'A photo opportunity - a Beatle with an Indian.' So they kept trying to put us together, and I said 'no', because I knew I'd meet him under the proper circumstances, which I did. He also came round to my house, and I had a couple of lessons from him on how to sit and hold the sitar.
So in September, after touring and while John was making How I Won the War, I went to India for about six weeks. First I flew to Bombay and hung out there. Again, because of the mania, people soon found out I was there.
I stayed in a Victorian hotel, the Taj Mahal, and was starting to learn the sitar. Ravi would give me lessons, and he'd also have one of his students sit with me. My hips were killing me from sitting on the floor, and so Ravi brought a yoga teacher to start showing me the physical yoga exercises.
It was a fantastic time. I would go out and look at temples and go shopping. We travelled all over and eventually went up to Kashmir and stayed on a houseboat in the middle of the Himalayas. It was incredible. I'd wake up in the morning and a little Kashmiri fellow, Mr Butt, would bring us tea and biscuits and I could hear Ravi in the next room, practising.
(After I'd had LSD a lingering thought stayed with me, and the thought was 'the yogis of the Himalayas'. I don't know why it stuck. I had never thought about them before, but suddenly this thought was in the back of my consciousness: it was as if somebody was whispering to me, 'Yogis of the Himalayas.' That was part of the reason I went to India. Ravi and the sitar were excuses; although they were a very important part of it, it was a search for a spiritual connection.)
Ravi had a really sweet brother called Raju, who gave me a lot of books by wise men, and one of the books, which was by Swami Vivekananda, said: 'If there's a God you must see him and if there's a soul we must perceive it - otherwise it's better not to believe. It's better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite.'
All my early life they'd tried to bring me up as a Catholic, but I wasn't really into that. The whole 'Christian' attitude (and I say 'Christian' in inverted commas, because there are a lot of people who represent themselves as Christians who aren't - who don't really, to my mind, have the franchise on Christ, and are not necessarily representative of what He was trying to say) seemed to be telling you to believe what they're telling you and not to have the direct experience.
For me, going to India and reading somebody saying, 'No, you can't believe anything until you have direct perception of it' - which was obvious, really - made me think, 'Wow! Fantastic! At last I've found somebody who makes some sense.' So I wanted to go deeper and deeper into that. That's how it affected me - I read books by various holy men and swamis and mystics, and went around and looked for them and tried to meet some.
You can see them in India. It's unbelievable: you can go down the street and there's somebody driving a bus or a taxi, or riding a bicycle, and there's a chicken and a cow, and someone in a business suit with a briefcase - and an old sannyasi with a saffron robe. All mixed together. It's an incredible place, with layers and layers and layers of sounds and colours and noises, and it all bombards your senses. It was amazing then. I felt as if I was back in time.
It was the first feeling I'd ever had of being liberated from being a Beatle or a number. It comes back to The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan: 'I am not a number.' In our society we tend, in a subtle way, to number ourselves and each other, and the government does so, too. 'What's your Social Security number?' is one of the first things they ask you in America. To suddenly find yourself in a place where it feels like 5000 BC is wonderful.
I went to the city of Benares, where there was a religious festival going on, called the Ramila. It was out on a site of 300 to 500 acres, and there were thousands of holy men there for a month-long festival. During this festival the Maharajah feeds everybody and there are camps of different people, including the sadhus --renunciates. In England, in Europe or the West, these holy men would be called vagrants and be arrested, but in a place like India they roam around. They don't have a job, they don't have a Social Security number, they don't even have a name other than collectively - they're called sannyasis, and some of them look like Christ. They're really spiritual; and there are also a lot of loonies who look like Allen Ginsberg. That's where he got his whole trip from - with the frizzy hair, and smoking little pipes called chillums, and smoking hashish. The British tried for years to stop Indians smoking hashish, but they'd been smoking it for too long for it to be stopped.
I saw all kinds of groups of people, a lot of them chanting, and it was a mixture of unbelievable things, with the Maharajah coming through the crowd on the back of an elephant, with the dust rising. It gave me a great buzz.
PAUL: If you are blessed with the ability to write music, you can turn your hand to various forms. I've always admired people for whom it's a craft - the great songwriting partners of the past, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Cole Porter. I've admired the fact that they can write a musical and they can do a film score.
So film scores were an interesting diversion for me, and with George Martin being able to write and orchestrate - and being pretty good at it - I got an offer through the Boulting Brothers for him and me to do some film music for The Family Way.
I had a look at the film and though it was great. I still do. It's very powerful and emotional - soppy, but good for its time. I wanted brass-band music; because with The Beatles we got into a lot of different kinds of music, but maybe brass band was a little too Northern and 'Hovis'. I still loved it. My dad had played trumpet and his dad had been in a brass band, so I had those leanings. For the film I got something together that was sort of 'brassy bandy', to echo the Northernness of the story, and I had a great time.
We got an Ivor Novello Award for the score - for the best film song that year, a piece called 'Love In The Open Air', which Johnny Mercer was nearly going to put lyrics to, but I didn't know who he was. Later I realised, 'Oh, that Johnny Mercer! You mean the greatest lyricist on the planet!' I should have done that. Never mind - it fell through - but it was good fun doing the music.
JOHN: Yoko had been invited to London by some group of artists called Destruction in Art Symposium. They had some big thing going on in London. She had an exhibitin put on by Indica Gallery, by John Dunbar - Marianne Faithfull's ex-husband. I used to go down there occasionally to see things like Takis, who'd made flashing lights and sold them for a fortune. It would be garbage. But they sent me this pamphlet, or he called me - I don't know which - about this Japanese girl from New York, who was going to be in a bag, doing this event or happening. I thought, 'Hmm,' you know, 'sex.' So I went down.80
I was in a highly unshaved and tatty state. I was up three nights. I was always up in those days, tripping. I was stoned.69
I walked in and there was nobody there. It turns out that it was the night before the opening night. The place wasn't really opened, but John Dunbar was all nervous, like: 'The millionaire's come to buy something!' He's flittering around like crazy. Now I'm looking at this stuff. There's a couple of nails on a plastic box. Then I look over and see an apple on a stand with a note saying 'apple'. I thought, 'This is a joke, this is pretty funny.' I was beginning to see the humour of it. I said, 'How much is the apple?' - 'Ј200.' - 'Really? Oh, I see. So how much are the bent nails?'80
I wasn't quite sure what it was about. I knew there was some sort of con game going on somewhere. She calls herself a concept artist, but with the 'cept' off it's a con artist. I saw that side of it, and that was interesting.72
So I was wandering around having a good time and I went downstairs and there's just a couple of scruffy people sitting around in jeans. I was feeling a bit defensive, thinking, 'They must be the hip ones.' It turns out they were just assistants putting all this stuff together for her, but I was like, 'I'm the famous, rich pop star and these must be the ones that know what those nails and apples are about.' I took it humorously, which turned out to be fine, but I was reacting like a lot of people react to her humour, which is they get angry at her and say she's got no sense of humour. Actually, she's hysterically funny.
Then Dunbar brings her over because The Millionaire is here, right? And I'm waiting for the bag. Where's the people in the bag? All the time I was thinking about whether I'd have the nerve to get in the bag with whoever. You don't know who's gonna be in the bag!
So he introduced me, and of course there was supposed to be this event happening, so I asked, 'Well, what's the event?' She gives me a little card. It just says 'breathe' on it. And I said, 'You mean [panting]?' She says, 'That's it. You've got it.' And I'm thinking, 'I've got it!' But I'm all geared up to do something. I did the breathing, but I wanted more than putting my consciousness on my breathing, which is an intellectual way of looking at it. I saw the nails and I got the humour - maybe I didn't get the depth of it, but I got a warm feeling from it. I thought, 'Fuck, I can make that. I can put an apple on a stand. I want more.'
Then I saw this ladder on a painting leading up to the ceiling where there was a spyglass hanging down. It's what made me stay. I went up the ladder and I got the spyglass and there was tiny little writing there. You really have to stand on the top of the ladder - you feel like a fool, you could fall any minute - and you look through and it just says 'yes'.
Well, all the so-called avant-garde art at the time and everything that was supposedly interesting was all negative, this smash-the-piano-with-a-hammer, break-the sculpture, boring, negative crap. It was all anti, anti, anti. Anti-art, anti-establishment. And just that 'yes' made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails instead of walking out saying, 'I'm not gonna buy any of this crap.'
Then I went up to this thing that said, 'Hammer a nail in.' I said, 'Can I hammer a nail in?' and she said 'no', because the gallery was actually opening the next day. So the owner, Dunbar, says, 'Let him hammer a nail in.' It was, 'He's a millionaire. He might buy it.' She's more interested in it looking nice and pretty and white for the opening. That's why she never made any money on the stuff - she's always too busy protecting it. There was this little conference and she finally said, 'OK, you can hammer a nail in for five shillings.' So smart-arse here says, 'Well, I'll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.' And that's when we really met. That's when we locked eyes and she got it and I got it and that was it.
It took a long time. We were both very shy. The next time we met was a Claes Oldenburg opening with a lot of soft objects like cheeseburgers made out of rubber and garbage like that. And we met again and made eye contact. But it was eighteen months or two years before we really got it together.
The rest, as they say in all the interviews we do, is history.80
RINGO: THESE LITTLE SLUGS WERE GONNA TURN INTO BUTTERFLIES.
PAUL: I had an accident when I came off a moped in Wirral, near Liverpool. I had a very good friend who lived in London called Tara Browne, a Guinness heir - a nice Irish guy, very sensitive bloke. I'd see him from time to time, and enjoyed being around him. He came up to visit me in Liverpool once when I was there seeing my dad and brother. I had a couple of mopeds on hire, so we hit upon the bright idea of going to my cousin Bett's house.
We were riding along on the mopeds. I was showing Tara the scenery. He was behind me, and it was an incredible full moon; it really was huge. I said something about the moon and he said 'yeah', and I suddenly had a freeze-frame image of myself at that angle to the ground when it's too late to pull back up again: I was still looking at the moon and then I looked at the ground, and it seemed to take a few minutes to think, 'Ah, too bad - I'm going to smack that pavement with my face!' Bang!
There I was, chipped tooth and all. it came through my lip and split it. But I got up and we went along to my cousin's house. When I said, 'Don't worry, Bett, but I've had a bit of an accident,' she thought I was joking. She creased up laughing at first, but then she went 'Holy...!' I'd really given my face a good old smack; it looked like I'd been in the ring with Tyson for a few rounds. So she rang a friend of hers who was a doctor.
He came round on the spot, took a needle out and, after great difficulty threading it, put it in the first half of the wound. He was shaking a bit, but got it all the way through, and then he said, ''h, the thread's just come out - I'll have to do it again!' No anaesthetic. I was standing there while he rethreaded it and pulled it through again.
In fact that was why I started to grow a moustache. It was pretty embarrassing, because around that time you knew your pictures would get winged off to teeny-boppery magazines like 16, and it was pretty difficult to have a new picture taken with a big fat lip. So I started to grow a moustache - a sort of Sancho Panza - mainly to cover where my lip had been sewn.
It caught on with the guys in the group: if one of us did something like growing his hair long and we liked the idea, we'd all tend to do it. And then it became seen as a kind of revolutionary idea, that young men of our age definitely ought to grow a moustache! And it all fell in with the Sgt Pepper thing, because he had a droopy moustache.
I was originally trying to grow a long Chinese one, but it was very difficult. You have to do a lot of work waxing it, and it takes about sixty years - I never did get one of them.
John had a moustache cup. It had a little hole underneath the lip so you could drink tea from it without getting your moustache in it --rather fetching!
RINGO: Growing moustaches was just part of being a hippy: you grow your hair, you grow a moustache, and in my case you grow a beard. That was the Sixties coming to the fore.
I always hated shaving anyway, but the moustache was not special for me. The moustache was growing and the beard was growing - hair was growing. It was just part of the set. We were gradually turning into Sgt Peppers. It was as if we were going through a metamorphosis.
NEIL ASPINALL: Their appearance was still changing - moustaches and so on - but it was nobody's decision. It was just everybody influencing everybody else. Somebody would come in with something new and the others would go 'That's nice. Where did you get that?' It was like that.
Occasionally Paul used to disguise himself when we were on the road. He and I would go out into the audience, up the stairs and into the gallery or the circle with all the fans, watching the other acts that were on the show. Paul would have his hair back and a moustache, glasses, and an overcoat on, and nobody would expect him to be there so nobody took any notice.
When he was in the Wirral, Paul had a moped accident and he grew a moustache to hide his split lip and, because he had a moustache, the next thing everybody's got one. That's how it happened for me, anyway. That's my story. I had a moustache, too.
GEORGE: Moustaches were part of the synchronicity and the collective consciousness. What happened to me was that Ravi Shankar wrote to me before I went out to Bombay, and in the letter said, 'Try to disguise yourself - couldn't you grow a moustache?' I thought, 'OK, I'll grow a moustache. Not that it's going to disguise me, but I've never had a moustache before, so I'll grow it.'
If you see the photographs of the Sgt Pepper sessions, we've all got funny things happening and hair breaking out on the face. And then everybody had a moustache; I think even Engelbert Humperdinck got one.
NEIL ASPINALL: The band at this time started to appeal to a more turned-on audience, because they themselves were turned on. Brain loved it all. He had great faith in The Beatles and what they were doing, and loved them as a band, as musicians and as artists. Brian was a fan.
They influenced people right from the very early days, when everybody suddenly seemed to have collarless jackets and Cuban-heeled boots and Beatle haircuts. That influence always seemed to be there.
JOHN: That bit about 'we changed everybody's hairstyles' - something influenced us, whatever was in the air. Pinpointing who did what first doesn't work. We were part of whatever the Sixties was. It was happening itself. We were the ones chosen to represent what was going on 'on the street'. It could have been somebody else but it wasn't: it was us and the Stones and people like that.74
RINGO: The Beatles were the influence on other bands in 1966/67. It is interesting that when we got to LA and relaxed more and started hanging out with people like David Crosby, Jim Keltner, Jim McGuinn, we realised how much people were trying to be like us. Not those particular people, but they were telling us about other bands. We heard that producers were telling everyone to sound like The Beatles.
GEORGE: I came back to England towards the end of October and John got back from Spain. It was all predetermined when we'd meet again. Then we went in the studio and recorded 'Strawberry Fields'. I think at that point there was a more profound ambience to the band.
JOHN: Lots of people ask me what will be the new sound. I personally haven't a clue as to how the scene will progress - what, if anything, will replace it. In any case, I don't like predictions; they are always vague, and invariably wrong. If I knew, I could make a fortune.66
PAUL: WE COULDN'T DO ANY BETTER THAN WE'VE DONE ALREADY, COULD WE?66
GEORGE MARTIN: In November The Beatles returned to the studio for the first time after they had decided to stop touring. They were generally fed up with their lives. They'd had a lot of aggro in that past year, coupled with Brian Epstein worrying that they were going down the pan. He thought that it was the end of The Beatles, and there were all sorts of signs of that in 1966. There was the Philippines disaster, and the falling attendance in some of their shows, and they were fed up with being prisoners of their fame.
We started off with 'Strawberry Fields', and then we recorded 'When I'm Sixty-Four' and 'Penny Lane'. They were all intended for the next album. We didn't know it was Sgt Pepper then - they were just going to be tracks on The New Album - but it was going to be a record created in the studio, and there were going to be songs that couldn't be performed live.
NEIL ASPINALL: As with Revolver, or any of the other albums, they just went into a studio and started recording, and the album title and the artwork for the cover came later.
RINGO: Every time we went back into the studios there was a period of wondering whose song we would start with. Nobody wanted to submit the first song, because by then it was 'Lennon or McCartney' more than 'Lennon and McCartney'. So they'd say, 'What have you got?' - Well, what have you got?!'
It was up to about 80% separately written songs. I could tell which were John's songs. I always preferred to play on them; they always had a bit more rock'n'roll to them.
PAUL: I don't think we were very worried about our musical ability. The world was a problem, but we weren't. That was the best thing about The Beatles: I don't think any of us worried musically. I think we were itching to get going.
Now we were off the road and in the studio with new songs. 'Strawberry Fields' is the song that John had, about the old Salvation Army home for kids he used to live next door to in Liverpool. We related it to youth, golden summers and fields of strawberry. I knew what he was talking about.
The nice thing is that a lot of our songs were starting to get a little bit more surreal. I remember John having a book at home called Bizarre, about all sorts of weird thoings. We were opening up artistically and taking the blinkers off.
We used a mellotron on 'Strawberry Fields'. I didn't think it would get past the Musicians' Union, so we didn't advertise it; we just had it on the sessions. It had what would now be called 'samples' of flute, which are actually tapes that play and then rewind. We had eleven seconds on each tape, which could be played on each key.
GEORGE MARTIN: When John sang 'Strawberry Fields' for the first time, just with an acoustic guitar accompaniment, it was magic. It was absolutely lovely. I love John's voice anyway, and it was a great privilege listening to it.
PAUL: We did a few versions of it. John wasn't totally happy with the first couple of takes that we did, so we remade the whole track, and in the end John and George Martin stitched two different versions together. We could hardly hear the join, but it's one of those edits where the pace changes slightly: it goes a bit more manic for the second half of the song.
'Penny Lane' was a little more surreal, too, although in a cleaner way. I remember saying to George Martin, 'I want a very clean recording.' I was into clean sounds - maybe a Beach Boy influence at that point.
The 'fireman with his hourglass' and all that imagery was us trying to get into a bit of art. The lyrics were all based on real things. There was a barber called something like Bioletti (I think he's actually still there in Penny Lane) who, like all barbers, had pictures of the haircuts you could choose. But instead of saying, 'The barber with pictures of haircuts in his windows,' it was changed round to: 'Every head he's had the pleasure to have known.' A barber showing photographs - like an exhibition.
It was twisting it to a slightly more artsy angle, more like a play. Like the nurse who's selling poppies from a tray (which some Americans thought was 'selling puppies from a tray') for Remembrance Day. Then she feels as if she's in a play' - which 'she is anyway'. These were all the trippy little ideas that we were trying to get in.
They're both songs about Liverpool as well. It was always a good thing for us, because we were a group that had been together for a long time, that we could do that: 'Strawberry Fields' and 'Penny Lane' - wow! A lot of our formative years were spent walking around those places. Penny Lane was the depot I had to change buses at to get from my house to John's and to a lot of my friends. It was a big bus terminal which we all knew very well. I sang in the choir at St Barnabas Church opposite.
Those two songs were the lead singles. They were the first things we tried in the batch of new recordings.
PAUL: IT'S PART FACT, PART NOSTALGIA FOR A GREAT PLACE - BLUE SUBURBAN SKIES, AS WE REMEMBER IT, AND IT'S STILL THERE. AND WE PUT IN A JOKE OR TWO: 'FOUR OF FISH AND FINGER PIE'. THE WOMEN WOULD NEVER DARE SAY THAT, EXCEPT TO THEMSELVES. MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T HEAR IT, BUT 'FINGER PIE' IS JUST A NICE LITTLE JOKE FOR THE LIVERPOOL LADS WHO LIKE A BIT OF SMUT.67
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