GEORGE: In January 1968 I was in Bombay, working on the soundtrack for the film Wonderwall – a Sixties hippy movie directed by Joe Massot. He asked me if I would do the music, but I told him I didn’t write music for films. Then he said that whatever I gave him I thought: ‘I’ll give them an Indian music anthology, and who knows, maybe a few hippies will get turned on to Indian music.’
I worked with Indian musicians at the EMI/HMV studios in Bombay. Mr Bhaskar Menon (later to become the head of EMI worldwide) brought a two-track stereo machine all the way from Calcutta on the train for me, because all they had in Bombay was a mono machine. It was the same kind of huge machine we used in Abbey Road; they’re called STEEDs. I’ve got one in the kitchen now – the one that we recorded ‘Paperback Writer’ on. I came back and added a lot more in Abbey Road, and put the music on the film.
Wonderwall came out some time later, and probably died a death. Ringo came with me to the première in Cannes. (I know this because they’ve put out the CD and I’ve read Derek’s liner notes. I didn’t remember it until I saw the photos of us with a rather nice young lady called Jane Birkin who was in the movie.)
JOHN: We’re all going to India for a couple of months to study Transcendental Meditation properly. We want to learn properly so we can propagate it and sell the whole idea to everyone. This is how we plan to use our power now – they’ve always called us leaders of youth, and we believe that this is a good way to give a lead.
The whole world will know what we mean, and all the people who are worried about youth and drugs and that scene – all these people with the short back and sides – they can all come along and dig it too.
It’s no gospel, Bible-thumping, singalong thing, and it needn’t be religion if people don’t want to connect it with religion. It’s all in the mind. It strengthens understanding and makes people more relaxed. It’s not just a fad or a gimmick, but the way to calm down tensions.67
PAUL: I think by 1968 we were all a bit exhausted, spiritually. We’d been The Beatles, which was marvellous. We’d tried for it not to go to our heads and we were doing quite well – we weren’t getting too space out or big-headed – but I think generally there was a feeling of: ‘Yeah, well, it’s great to be famous, it’s great to be rich – but what’s it all for?’
So we were enquired into all sorts of various things, and because George was into Indian music, the natural thing was to ask: ‘Well, what is this meditation lark? Do they levitate? Can they really fly? Can the snake-charmer really climb up the rope?’ It was really just pure enquiry, and after we met Maharishi and thought about it all, we went out to Rishikesh.
GEORGE: Each year, Maharishi had a course for Westerners who wanted to become Transcendental Meditation instructors. Although I wasn’t going to become an instructor, I wanted to go and have a heavy dose of meditation.
John came, and Paul came after him, and then Richard followed with fifteen Sherpas carrying Heinz baked beans. There was also the world’s press; I pretended to be asleep all the way to Delhi so I didn’t have to talk to them.
It was a long drive from the airport to Rishikesh, and at that time they only had 1950s cars – Morris Cowleys or Morris Oxfords – so the journey took four or five hours.
Rishikesh is an incredible place, situated where the Ganges flows out of the Himalayas into the plains between the mountains and Delhi. There is quite a hefty flow of water coming out of the Himalayas, and we had to cross the river by a big swing suspension bridge.
Maharishi’s place was perched up on a hill overlooking the town and the river. It was comprised of Maharishi’s little bungalow and lots of little huts that he’d had built quickly for the Westerners coming out there, in a compound of about eight or ten acres. There was a kitchen with some outdoor seating and tables where we would all have our breakfast together. Nearby there was a large covered area with a platform where he'’ give the lectures.
If you go to India you can’t wear Western clothes. That’s one of the best bits about India – having these cool clothes: big baggy shirts and pajama trousers. They also have tight trousers that look like drainpipes.
JOHN: The way George is going he will be flying on a magic carpet by the time he’s forty. I am here to find out what kind of role I am now to play. I would like to know how far I can progress with it. George is a few inches ahead of us.68
RINGO: It was great; a lot of fun and a lot of meditation. It was pretty exciting. We were in a very spiritual place, meditating and attending seminars with Maharishi.
JOHN: We were really getting away from everything. It was a sort of recluse holiday camp right at the foot of the Himalayas. It was like being up a mountain, but it was in the foothills hanging over the Ganges, with baboons stealing your breakfast and everybody flowing round in robes and sitting in their rooms for hours meditating. It was quite a trip.
I was in a room for five days meditating. I wrote hundreds of songs. I couldn’t sleep and I was hallucinating like crazy, having dreams where you could smell. I’d do a few hours and then you’d trip off; three- or four-hour stretches. It was just a way of getting there, and you could go on amazing trips.74
RINGO: We had breakfast outside and monkeys used to come and steal the bread. After breakfast, we’d usually have a morning of meditation in groups, on the roof. Then after lunch we’d do the same.
We did a lot of shopping. We all had Indian clothes made because they could do it right there: huge silly pants with very tight legs and a big body that you’d tie up tight, Nehru collars. We got right into it.
You’d have to fight off the scorpions and tarantulas to try to get in a bath, so there used to be amazing noise in the bathroom. To have a bath you’d start shouting – ‘Oh yes, well, I think I’ll be having a bath now’ – and banging your feet. You’d keep shouting in the bath: ‘Oh, what a time I’m having, yes it’s wonderful!’ Then you’d get out of the bath, get dry and get out of the room before all the insects came back in. At the time I was married to Maureen, who had a phobia of moths and flying things. It was pretty far out.
GEORGE: I BELIEVE I HAVE ALREADY EXTENDED MY LIFE BY TWENTY YEARS. I BELIEVE THERE ARE BODS UP HERE IN THE HIMALAYAS WHO HAVE LIVED FOR CENTURIES. THERE IS ONE SOMEWHERE AROUND WHO WAS BORN BEFORE CHRIST AND IS STILL LIVING NOW.68
RINGO: We had a big party for George’s birthday. It was crowded with people and we all got dressed up and had red and yellow paint on our foreheads.
GEORGE: I had my twenty-fifth birthday in Rishikesh (a lot of people had birthdays while we were there), and they had lots of flowers and garlands and things like that. Maharishi made me play my sitar.
PAUL: An average day there was very much like a summer camp. You would get up in the morning and go down to a communal breakfast. Food was vegetarian (which is good for me now), and I think we probably had cornflakes for breakfast.
After breakfast you would go back to your chalet, meditate for a little while, have a bit of lunch and then there might be a talk or a little musical event. Basically it was just eating, sleeping, and meditating – with the occasional little lecture from Maharishi thrown in.
There were probably about a hundred of us. There would be a lot of flowers on the stage and then Maharishi would come in. It was almost magical. He would say: ‘This is only a system of meditation. I’m not asking you to believe in any great God or any great myth. It’s merely a system to help you to be calmer in your own life.’
I still think it’s good for that exact reason. I don’t buy any of those other stories about flying and levitation, although it interests me now because you can actually take courses where you learn these ‘siddhis’, as they call them, and you fly – you bounce off the ground a bit. I well remember a little chat we had with Maharishi when we asked him if levitation was possible. He said, ‘Well, I can’t do it, but I know a fellow in the next village who can.’ And we said, ‘Can we get him here? We’d love to see it.’ That would have been something to write home about, but we never did get to meet him.
There were question and answer sessions in the evenings. In one of these sessions a guy from America stood up and said: ‘Maharishi, I’ve been having some trouble, but I’ve been listening to your advice. I was meditating the other day and a big snake was coming towards me. I’m from New York and I’m really scared of snakes, but I remembered what you told me and I looked at it – in my mind – I looked it straight in the eye and it turned into a bit of wiggly string.’ I felt that was really symbolic: face your dangers and then you will see that they’re not what you thought they were.
I learnt how to meditate. I don’t meditate as much now, but I say to my kids that it’s not a bad thing to learn, because if you’re stuck somewhere or if you’re a bit disturbed, it is a great thing to do.
Maharishi was very up with modern technology because he thought it would help him get round the world and get his message over quicker. Once he had to get into New Delhi, and a helicopter came to the camp and landed on the beach down by the river. We all traipsed down in our kaftans and then it was: ‘One of you can go up for a quick ride with Maharishi. Who’s it going to be?’ And, of course, it was John. I asked him later, ‘Why were you so keen to get up with Maharishi?’ – ‘To tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘I thought he might slip me the Answer.’ That was very John!
JOHN: Regardless of what I was supposed to be doing, I did write some of my best songs while I was there. It was a nice scene. Nice and secure and everyone was always smiling. The experience was worth it if only for the songs that came out, but it could have been the desert or Ben Nevis.
The funny thing about the camp was that although it was very beautiful and I was meditating about eight hours a day. I was writing the most miserable songs on earth. In ‘Yer Blues’, when I wrote, ‘I’m so lonely I want to die,’ I’m not kidding. That’s how I felt.71 Up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.80
When you’re born, you’re in the pram and you smile when you feel like smiling. But the first game that you learn is to smile before you get touched. Most mothers actually torture the kid in the pram – make it smile when it doesn’t want to: smile and you get fed. That isn’t joy. You cannot be joyful unless you feel joyful, otherwise it’s phoney. Mummy makes you smile or say ‘Hare Krishna’ before you feel good; then you’ve gone through a process, a falsification of your feelings. If you feel good you feel good, if you feel bad you feel bad. There’s no way out. You can take drugs or get drunk, do whatever, but you’re just suppressing the feelings. I haven’t met anybody full of joy; neither the Maharishi nor any Swami or Hare Krishna singer. There is no constant. There’s this dream of constant joy – it’s bullshit as far as I’m concerned. There’s no status, there’s no absolute.
Pain is something like food in a way, or life; pain and joy. They go into your body and unless you feel it or express it, it remains there like constipation. You can’t get away from the pain. There’s no escape from it, it’s there, in your body somewhere. It’ll come out in your nerves or how many cigarettes you smoke or what you do, it’ll make you go bald, or whatever. It expresses itself in some form. There’s no getting rid of it.
I think we all go through heaven and hell every day; just accept that. To feel is to live. Life is made up of feeling all sorts of things. Every day’s the same: there’s some heaven and some hell. There’s no complete joyful day. There’s better days, worse days, and I think every day contains both. It’s like the Yin and Yang or whatever you want to call it. It’s both.70
PAUL: Mike Love was in Rishikesh. Donovan was there. I can remember people like that. Mia Farrow was there, and her sister, Prudence. John wrote the song ‘Dear Prudence’ for her because she had a panic attack and couldn’t come out of her chalet.
RINGO: Prudence meditated and hibernared. We saw her twice in the two weeks I was there. Everyone would be banging on the door: ‘Are you still alive?’
JOHN: No one was to know that sooner or later she was to go completely berserk under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. All the people around her were very worried about the girl because she was going insane. So we sang to her.79
They selected me and George to try and bring her out because she would trust us. She went completely mental. If she’d been in the West they would have put her away. We got her out of the house. She’d been locked in for three weeks and wouldn’t come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first. (What I didn’t know was I was already cosmic.)80
PAUL: I wrote a couple of little things while I was there. I had a song called ‘I Will’, but I didn’t have any words for it. And I wrote a bit of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. We went to a cinema show in a village where a guy put up a mobile screen and all the villagers came along and loved it. I remember walking down a little jungle path with my guitar to get to the village from the camp. I was playing: ‘Desmond has a barrow in the market place…’
JOHN: ‘The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill’ was written about a guy who took a short break to go shoot a few poor tigers, and then came back to commune with God. There used to be a character called Jungle Jim, and I combined him with Buffalo Bill. It’s a sort of teenage social-comment song and a bit of a joke.80
PAUL: RINGO CAME HOME EARLY; HE COULDN’T STAND THE FOOD AND HIS WIFE COULDN’T STAND THE FLIES. It was understandable; he was a very British lad. There were curries and spicy food – and he has a stomach that gets upset easily (probably due to the peritonitis when he was a kid). Maureen didn’t like the flies – if there was one fly in the room, she would know exactly where it was at any given time. I remember her once being trapped in a room because there was a fly over the door. So obviously conditions in Rishikesh were not ideal for them.
RINGO: It’s all a bit hard to remember now. I was only there for two weeks, then I left. I wasn’t getting what I thought I would out of it.
The food was impossible for me because I’m allergic to so many different things. I took two suitcases with me, one of clothes and the other full of Heinz beans (there’s a plug for you). Then one morning the guys who were dealing with the food said, ‘Would you like some eggs?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ and the next morning they said it again. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, great – things are looking up.’
Then I saw them burying the shells. That was the first of several incidents that made me think that it was not what I thought it would be. You weren’t supposed to have eggs inside this religious and spiritual ashram. I thought: ‘What do you mean, you’re burying the shells? Can’t God see that too?’
We came home because we missed the children. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we didn’t like it there. I said it was like Butlins holiday camp, we had learnt by then that you could say anything and they’d print it. It was a good experience – it just didn’t last as long for me as it did for them.
PAUL: Being fairly practical, I had set a period for staying in Rishikesh. To start with I thought, ‘Whoa, this could be it, man. I could never come back if this works.’ Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I’ll go for a month. Even if it’s incredible I’ll still come back after a month.’ If it had turned out to be something we really had to go back for, I would have gone back. But at the end of my month I was quite happy to leave. Nobody got any blinding enlightenment. I thought: ‘This will do me. If I want to get into it heavily, I can do it anywhere.’ That’s one of the nice things about meditation – you don’t have to go to church to do it.
By saying I was only going to be there a month, I had to risk that the others would say that I wasn’t into it. And George did; he was quite strict. I remember talking about the next album and he would say: ‘We’re not here to talk music – we’re here to meditate.’ Oh yeah, all right Georgie Boy. Calm down, man. Sense of humour needed here, you know. In fact, I loved it there.
JOHN: Cut to Maharishi’s health farm on the tip of the Himalayas. Eye-ing, eye-ing, eye-ing. He picked the right mantra for me. OK, he’s a lot balder now than when I knew him. How come God picks on these holi-men? Ulcers, etc. ‘He’s taking on someone else’s karma.’ I bet that’s what all the little sheep are bleating. He’s got a nice smile, though. This is turning into The Autobiography of a Yogurt, but isn’t everything? I ask myself. He made us live in separate huts from our wives… Can’t say it was too much of a strain.71
GEORGE: Ringo only went for a couple of weeks – maybe just to put his toe in the water and see what it was like. Paul just came and went. I don’t think he got much out of the trip because there’s a bit of footage from Let It Be where he’s grinning, and saying to John, ‘Oh, and it was like being at school, you know: “Oh tell me, oh master”.’ Retrospectively, twenty years later, he may think back and the penny might have dropped as to what it was about, but I don’t think it did at the time.
The idea of the course was that it lasted however many weeks in Rishikesh, and then at the end of that period they shifted the camp up to Kashmir. This was something they did every year. But I’d planned to go just for the Rishikesh trip and then go down to the South of India to do some filming with Ravi Shankar. He was making a movie called Raga.
I kept telling Maharishi, ‘No, I’m not going to Kashmir – I went there last year.’ And he was saying, ‘No, no, you coming to Kashmir.’ I told him I was going south, and that’s when John and I left. It was only really John and I who were there from the beginning up until the end of the segment at Rishikesh, and I think John wanted to get back because – you can see it historically now – he had just started his relationship with Yoko before we went out to India.
JOHN: Yoko and me, we met around then. I was going to take her. I lost my nerve because I was going to take my ex-wife and Yoko, and I didn’t know how to work it. So I didn’t quite do it.70
PAUL: I was quite happy. I was wondering how the others were going to get out of it, though, and then they arrived back with a story that Maharishi had made a pass at an attractive blonde American girl with short hair (not Mia Farrow).
JOHN: There was a big hullabaloo about him trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women, things like that. We’d stayed up all night discussing was it true or not true. And when George started thinking it might be true, I thought it must be true because if George is doubting him there must be something in it. So we went to see Maharishi. The whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut; his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. As usual, when the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader. Whatever the scene was, when it came to the nitty-gritty, I had to do the speaking.
I said, ‘We’re leaving.’ – ‘Why?’ – Well, if you’re so cosmic, you’ll know why.’ Because all his right-hand men were always intimating that he did miracles. And I was saying, ‘You know why.’ He said, ‘I don’t know why, you must tell me.’ And I just kept saying, ‘You ought to know.’ And he gave me a look like ‘I’ll kill you, you bastard’. He gave me such a look. And I knew then when he looked at me, because I’d called his bluff. I was a bit rough to him. I always expect too much – I’m always expecting my mother and I don’t get her, that’s what it is.70
GEORGE: Someone started the nasty rumour about Maharishi, a rumour that swept the media for years. There were many stories about how Maharishi was not on the level or whatever, but that was just jealousy about Maharishi. We’d need analysts to get into it. I don’t know what goes through these people’s minds, but this whole piece of bullshit was invented. It’s probably even in the history books that Maharishi ‘tried to attack Mia Farrow’ – but it’s bullshit, total bullshit. Just go and ask Mia Farrow.
There were a lot of flakes there; the whole place was full of flaky people. Some of them were us.
The story stirred up a situation. John had wanted to leave anyway, so that forced him into the position of thinking: ‘OK, now we’ve got a good reason to get out of here.’ We went to Maharishi, and I said, ‘Look, I told you I was going. I’m going to the South of India.’ He couldn’t really accept that we were leaving, and he said, ‘What’s wrong?’ That’s when John said something like: ‘Well, you’re supposed to be the mystic, you should know.’
We took some cars that had been driven up there. Loads of film crews kept coming because it was the world-famous ‘Beatles in the Himalayas’ sketch, and it was one of these film crews’ cars we took to get back to Delhi.
We drove for hours. John had a song he had started to write which he was singing: ‘Maharishi, what have you done?’ and I said, ‘You can’t say that, it’s ridiculous.’ I came up with the title of ‘Sexy Sadie’ and John changed ‘Maharishi’ to ‘Sexy Sadie’. John flew back to Yoko in England and I went to Madras and the South of India and spent another few weeks there.
The story was put around about our leaving and, of course, the newspapers jumped on that. As it says in The Rutles, ‘The press got hold of the wrong end of the stick and started beating about the bush with it.’ Now, historically, there’s the story that something went on that shouldn’t have done – but nothing did.
JOHN: I coped out and wouldn’t write: ‘Maharishi, what have you done, you’ve made a fool of everyone.’70
That was written just as we were leaving, waiting for our bags to be packed in the taxi that never seemed to come. We thought: ‘They’re deliberately keeping the taxi back so as we can’t escape from this madman’s camp.’ And we had the mad Greek with us who was paranoid as hell. He kept saying, ‘It’s black magic, black magic. They’re gonna keep you here forever.’ I must have got away because I’m here.74
GEORGE MARTIN: I don’t go in for those kinds of things too much myself. Whether it’s Maharishi, or dianetics, or whatever – I think it’s a load of codswallop. But whatever you believe in is probably a good idea for you. And they did seem to believe in the Maharishi, and it seemed to work all right for them. Today, George still defends the Maharishi, even though the others were later disillusioned with his behaviour.
PAUL: When people say, ‘wasn’t he stashing it away in a Swiss bank?’ I always say that I only ever saw him in one piece of cheesecloth. I never saw him in a decent suit in his life. You would have thought if he was doing it for the money you would catch him bombing off to a New Delhi nightclub in a Rolls. But he always appeared to be in his hut meditation, in a piece of cheesecloth, and I thought: ‘You can’t knock him for that.’
I remember us all sitting around and him asking us what would be a good make of car to buy. We said, ‘Well, a Merc, Maharishi. Mercedes very good car.’ – ‘Practical? long running? Good works?’ – ‘yes.’ – ‘Well, we should get a Mercedes, then.’ It was only one, it wasn’t millions, and we were in on the discussions. He didn’t say, ‘What’s the flashiest car that will pull all the birds?’ he asked, ‘what is practical?’ He was very like that.
In my mind I was saying: ‘What’s the problem? He’s not a god, he’s not a priest. There are no rules in his religion that say he’s not supposed to make a pass. He’s only human, after all, and he’s only given us a meditation system.’
John wrote ‘Sexy Sadie’ to get it off his chest. That was a veiled comment on it all, but personally I don’t think Maharishi ever did make a pass. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would. I’ve since wondered, ‘How would a maharishi go about making a pass?’ It’s not to easy. I don’t think any of that happened. Rishikesh was a good experience. I enjoyed it.
NEIL ASPINALL: I visited them out in Rishikesh, but only to stop them making a movie, really. There was a suggestion they would make a movie with the Maharishi. I’m not quite sure what it was supposed to consist of, but they did have a three-picture deal with United Artists and they’d only made Help! and A Hard Day’s Night.
I went in with Denis O’Dell. I stayed for a week, then I came home with Paul and Jane Asher, leaving John and George and their wives in Rishikesh. They came back later.
PAUL: We thought there was more to him than there was, but he’s human, and for a while we thought he wasn’t.68
JOHN: We made a mistake there. We believe in meditation, but not the Maharishi and his scene. But that’s a personal mistake we made in public. I think we had a false impression of Maharishi, like people do of us. What we do happens in public, so it’s a different scene, slightly.
We thought he was something other than he was. But we were looking for it and we probably superimposed it on him. We were waiting for a guru, and along he came. But he was creating the same kind of situation for which he’s giving recipes out to cure.
It was India, the meditation is good and it does what they say. It’s like exercise or cleaning your teeth – it works. But we finished with that bit of it then. I think we’re seeing him a bit more in perspective because we’re as naive as the next person. I wouldn’t say, ‘Don’t meditate.’
We’re still a hundred per cent in favour of meditation, but we’re not going to go potty and build a golden temple in the Himalayas. We will help where and when we can – we can’t do everything overnight. But we’re not going to empty the gold out of our pockets; there are other ways of helping.69
RINGO: WHEN I’M DRIVING I SOMETIMES CLOSE MY EYES AND MEDITATE – MY CHAUFFEUR DRIVES ME!
JOHN: I don’t regret anything [about] meditation, I still believe in and occasionally use it. I don’t regret any of that. I don’t regret taking drugs, because they helped me. I don’t advocate them for everybody because I don’t think I should. But for me it was good, India was good for me, and I met Yoko just before I went to India and had a lot of time to think things out there. Three months just meditating and thinking, and I came home and fell in love with Yoko and that was the end of it. And it’s beautiful.69
I DON’T KNOW WHAT LEVEL HE’S ON, BUT WE HAD A NICE HOLIDAY IN INDIA AND CAME BACK RESTED TO PLAY BUSINESSMAN.68
JOHN: WE’D NEVER START OUR OWN LABEL, IT’S TOO MUCH TROUBLE.69
DEREK TAYLOR: At the end of 1967 I got a call from all of The Beatles; a conference call from Hille House. That was where they had the big Apple launch meeting and they said, ‘Come and join us, and you can run Apple Records.’ It sounded like a wonderful treat. We had all changed. We’d been at a big housewarming party at Brian Epstein’s house in Sussex in May, Sgt Pepper time. I had been given LSD by George, and John had given me a dose separately and earlier, so I had a big double dose and we did see wonderful things. We became hippies, really. And The Beatles had changed a lot from being rather charming but world-weary pop starts into being extremely nice, gentle, huggable souls. They really were very sweet in 1967, and we believed we were going to make everything very beautiful and that it was going to be, now a wonderful world. So the idea of going back to England from California after having had three good years there was, I thought, like going to the Holy Land.
When all the stuff on the phone was over and done with – about what I was actually going to do, it was said: ‘Well, you don’t have to do anything, man. We don’t believe in labels or structures or anything. Just come and be’ – that sort of thing – ‘and we’ll pay your fare.’ So I came over in April 1968. Work structures were still slightly important, but not very. ‘The Lord will provide’ was the idea.
NEIL ASPINALL: I didn’t stay in Rishikesh because I was supposed to be running the Apple companies. We’d just taken some temporary offices in Wigmore Street, but we still didn’t have a single piece of paper, not one contract. We didn’t have anything about anything, and I was just trying to get all the information we needed – copies of the contracts and files – to find out what had happened in the past, so we could work out where we were going in the future.
PAUL: In May, John and I went to New York to announce that Apple was starting: ‘Send us your huddled talent.’ We wanted a grand launch, but I had a strange feeling and I was very nervous. I had a real personal paranoia. I don’t know if it was what I was smoking at the time, but it was very strange for me.
I remember sitting up there and being interviewed. John was wearing a bus driver’s or a prefect’s badge, and he was doing well. Linda was there taking photos, and afterwards I said, ‘Couldn’t you tell I was nervous?’ but she said it was fine. For some reason I just felt very uneasy about the whole thing; maybe it was because we were out of our depth. We were talking to media like Fortune magazine, and they were interviewing us as a serious economic force – which we weren’t. We hadn’t done the business planning; we were just goofing off and having a lot of fun.
JOHN: We were just tripping off, having a joint and saying, ‘Well we could have films, and we could help young artists so they wouldn’t have the trouble we had with all the tramping around being undiscovered.’72
George said, ‘I’m sick of being told to stay out of the park,’ so we’re trying to make a park for people to come in and do what they want. That’s what it’s all about. You can’t usually get through the door because of the colour of your shoes.68
PAUL: We’re in the happy position of not really needing any more money, so for the first time the bosses aren’t in it for the profit. We’ve already bought all our dreams, so now we want to share that possibility with others.68
JOHN: It’s a business concerning records, films and electronics and, as a sideline, manufacturing or whatever. We want to set up a system whereby people who just want to make a film about anything don’t have to go down on their knees in somebody’s office (probably yours).
The aim of this company isn’t really a stack of gold teeth in the bank. We’ve done that bit. It’s more of a trick to see if we can actually get artistic freedom within a business structure, and to see if we can create nice things and sell them without charging three times our cost.68
NEIL ASPINALL: I was in New York with them and it was a bit weird. We sailed round and round the Statue of Liberty on a Chinese junk, trying to figure out what we were going to do with Apple.
Then they appeared on The Tonight Show, but Johnny Carson was on holiday so it was hosted by Joe Garagiola. I think one of the things John said around that time was: ‘We’ll just spin it like a top and see where it goes,’ and that’s pretty much what actually happened at Apple.
JOHN: It was terrible. There was a baseball player hosting the show, and they didn’t tell us. He was asking, ‘And which one’s Ringo?’ and all that shit. You’d expect to go on the Johnny Carson show… and then you’d get there, and there’s this sort of football player, who doesn’t know anything about you, and Tallulah Bankhead saying how beautiful we were. It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever been on.72
RINGO: We had a publishing company and a record company. The idea was that artists would come and see us and tell us their ideas and their schemes, and if any one of us felt it was OK, we’d give them the money and they could go and do it. We should have had a big sign saying: ‘You don’t have to beg.’ I think we always felt that we’d had to beg a little in the early Sixties, and so we didn’t want people begging from us.
GEORGE: I had very little to do with Apple. I was still in India when it started. I think it was basically John and Paul’s madness – their egos running away with themselves or with each other. There were a lot of ideas, but when it came down to it, the only thing we could do successfully was write songs, make records and the Beatles.
By the time I came back they’d opened the offices in Wigmore Street. I went into the office and there were rooms full of lunatics: people throwing I Ching and all kinds of hangers-on trying to get a gig. And, because it was the hippy period, everybody was super-friendly. Basically it was chaos.
JOHN: I tried to see everyone. I saw everyone day in, day out; and there wasn’t anybody with anything to offer to society or me. There was just ‘I want, I want’ and ‘why not?’ – terrible scenes going on in the office, with hippies and all different people getting very wild with me.69
NEIL ASPINALL: In July, Apple moved to No. 3 Savile Row. It was a big building. The record division was on the ground floor and the studio was in the basement. On the first floor there was a room for me and each of The Beatles. The next floor up from me was the press office, and after that I can’t remember.
It might have been exciting for everybody else, and for people that came in from the outside, but for me it was hard work setting it up and there was always a lot of chaos.
Before we went to New York for the official launch, we’d put an ad in the paper, saying: ‘Send us your tapes and they will not be thrown straight into the wastepaper basket. We will answer.’ We dot inundated with tapes and poetry and scripts. We were overwhelmed by it all, in actual fact.
PAUL: We never really got much from the sent-in tapes, but at least people knew we were interested. So we got, for instance, James Taylor, who was brought in by Peter Asher.
Mary Hopkin was the main artist whom I produced at Apple, although I didn’t really bring her in. She was on a big British television talent show, Opportunity Knocks. Twiggy, the model, was a friend of ours and she rang me up and said: ‘There’s a great girl who’s just won Opportunity Knocks – you’ve got to watch her next week. She’s fabulous, with a beautiful voice.’ So I watched her, and I thought she really had got a lovely Welsh voice; it was very well pitched. And she looked nice with a folky guitar.
I had heard the song ‘Those Were The Days’ at a nightclub once, sung by an American couple who had a kind of Nina and Frederick act. The song had really stuck in my mind, and I’d always thought it could be a hit. It was a Russian folk tune that they’d done up, and they’d just played it as their finale and gone home. I said to someone in the office, ‘Get hold of that song if you can.’ They found the people and found the song. We recorded it with Mary and it was a very big hit.
I was also asked to write a theme tune for a London Weekend Television series that Stanley Holloway was going to be in, called Thingumybob. I’ve always loved brass bands, so I wrote and produced a song for the Black Dyke Mills Band. We went up North to Saltaire, near Bradford, where we recorded the B side (a version of ‘Yellow Submarine’) in a big echoey hall. For the A side, I wanted a really different sound so we went out and played it on the street. It was lovely, with very dead, trumpety-sounding cornets.
Later on, I also worked with Badfinger. I’d written the song ‘Come And Get It’, and I’d made a fairly decent demo. Because I lived locally, I could get in half an hour before a Beatles session at Abbey Road – knowing it would be empty and all the stuff would be set up – and I’d use Ringo’s equipment to put a drum track down, put some piano down, quickly put some bass down, do the vocal, and double-track it. I said a great feeling on it. They actually wanted to put their own variations on, but I said, ‘No, this really is the right way.’ They listened to me (I was producing, after all), and they were good. The song was a hit in 1970.
Pete Ham in the group was a very good writer. He wrote the Nilsson song ‘Without You’, which is a seriously good song. But the poor fellow topped himself. He was a lovely bloke, I can see him now. It was a terrible loss.
John wanted to do more of the avant-garde work with Apple – things like Zapple, a funky label that he could do crazy stuff on. So that eventually became his area.
JOHN: In the old days at Apple we used to try and listen to everything, but then you find yourself spending your whole time listening to other people’s stuff, and never doing any of your own.71
RINGO: The records Apple made were exciting. It started with Mary Hopkin, and then George brought Jackie Lomax and later Billy Preston. I put John Tavener on the label. His brother was working for me as a builder with a firm in Hampstead. He came to me and said, ‘Would you like to hear my brother’s tape?’ I loved it. We were very open to all different kinds of music, so we thought we’d put it on Apple. That was my contribution.
Paul produced Badfinger. I later made the movie The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, and Badfinger did the title track. How they got there I don’t know; it wasn’t through me.
PAUL: Anyone in The Beatles who wanted to show up and produce as much as he wanted was welcome to do so. Everyone was involved, but people didn’t all do the same amount. I lived in London so I was there more. I probably did a little bit more production than Ringo, for instance. I’m not sure what Ringo actually did, but it was no sweat. He didn’t have to do anything, it wasn’t compulsory. But if you came up with an idea, you could carry it out.
Apple was quite a nice little record company, if that had been what we wanted to do. But, once the business hassles came in, we thought, ‘Who needs a record company? I’d rather just have my freedom.’
DEREK TAYLOR: They took on a lot with Apple. They took on business and pleasure and funding the arts, and did try to live up to some of their promises in person. There was a high quotient of sincerity in there, as well as a bit of madness.
But, after their promise to save mankind and to give people a start in show business, The Beatles tended to withdraw more or less from the front line. It was then a case of: ‘Where are they? They’ve gone!’ and there was only me. I had to make my place, my office, available to these supplicants, whatever, who came to the front office. And it just evolved that you’d come upstairs, I’d give you a drink – because I usually had a drink on the go – and a couple of jokes. ‘There are the seats over there, make yourselves at home.’
I introduced people to other people, and inside six months we had quite a salon: a self-propagating, self-perpetuating salon of fun and games in the press office. The Beatles were making the ‘White’ album.
We’d get all the pests in our office. They’d call the reception, they’d ring Neil, but in the long run if people were actually in the building or there was something complex or somebody really barmy, I would get them (or the folk who worked with me would have to deal with them).
We had a very big staff in there – I had about four secretaries and an American assistant called Richard DiLello, and another press officer called Mavis Smith. It was a packed room – not a big room, but there were about eleven people in there. If anybody had been fired form another department, I’d bring them in, it was a kind of ark. Maybe forty people were in the whole building working there. Maybe fewer, but middle double-figures.
We could assimilate people. Frankie Hart (who was later the girlfriend of Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead) came in, and subsequently became a secretary in my office and then became George Harrison’s assistant. And then there would be the press, and James Taylor, and Mary Hopkin would be in with her father and her sister and journalists covering her. Really, it was like an Altman film – where all over the place things are happening.
PAUL: We were trying to get things under our own control. A lot of people do that now; they have their own companies and take lawyers to meetings and get good deals. It was the start of all of that but it was pretty haphazard and, because we hadn’t ever really carefully budgeted in the background, most things fell through.
I once tried to sort it out. I remember checking out Derek’s floor, and thinking: ‘Derek’s our publicist, but he doesn’t really need four secretaries. He can lose one of them. We’ve got to make some sense out of this.’ But, of course, it’s never a popular guy who goes round trying to make that kind of sense. I was trying to save us money, so I felt justified and said: ‘One secretary’s got to go, Derek.’ Derek told all the other guys and they came down to my office and said. ‘If you sack her, we’ll reinstate her.’ So I said, ‘OK, all right. We won’t have any cutbacks, then.’ I was put in my place there, you know.
I know now, from having my own company, that all that stuff isn’t easy. It’s the horrible bit. We were trying to make sense of it, and in the end we couldn’t.
RINGO: I wasn’t as involved as the others, but it was fun. A lot of what Apple did related to the four of us, but I wasn’t hanging out there every day. At that time, I didn’t really want to be in an office – I liked to be in the country. The problem was that we were giving out all that money and the cameras and equipment, and half of the people we never saw again – they just went off with it.
GEORGE: What it turned out to be was that we just gave away huge quantities of money. It was a lesson to anybody not to have a partnership, because when you’re in a partnership with other people you can’t do anything about it (or it’s very difficult to), and at that point we were naive. Basically, I think John and Paul got carried away with the idea and blew millions, and Ringo and I just had to go along with it.
Some things made money, but very little compared to what was spent. That’s been a problem all our lives: everything to do with The Beatles was always locked up in that partnership situation, and I don’t recommend it. Other people have weird ideas and suddenly you find that you have to go along with it, or at least the part of it that rubs off on you. You get caught up in everybody else’s trip and it’s a pain in the arse. It works both ways, of course, and I suppose there’s an upside and a downside to it. But it took me a while to get into Apple, and we were probably bankrupt by then.
Things were getting worse in 1968. We were heading for the big one. It was chaos. Brian Epstein used to manage us, and he had died. Even if he didn’t really keep it together (because later we found out all the deals were bad and we were in a mess), at least he was the person we’d grown up with who was taking care of the shop. Suddenly Apple was a free-for-all, with every weirdo in the country heading into Savile Row and being given office space by John and Yoko. The Hare Krishnas, the Hell's Angels, the Diggers – everybody was in there. We had Paul and John going around Manhattan on a boat saying what they were going to do, and it was getting crazier and crazier with no management.
JOHN: It could never make sense to me to have money and yet think the way I thought. I had to give it away or lose it. I gave a lot of money away, which is one way of losing it; and the other way is disregarding it and not paying attention to it; not taking responsibility for what I really was, which is a guy with a lot of money.
DEREK TAYLOR: It was frightfully busy. I mean, apart from the madness and the fact that we were smoking reefers and whatnot, it was a very, very active office because The Beatles were still red hot. They were all over the papers, and the press had started to turn against them very, very much by the middle of 1968: ‘What’s Happened To Our Boys?’ Where have they gone? Why are they looking like this? They’re freaking out – there’s a broken marriage here, and there’s all this Maharishi stuff and Indians. These aren’t our boys any more. What’s happened to them? What’s happened to you, Derek? I mean, you’re wearing dresses and things!
I wasn’t wearing dresses, but I was wearing hippy things – not kaftans (I hated that word) but smocks, yes, with braid and jewels and bells on me. Bear in mind I was a man with five children by now, and people in the press world knew me from before. I met a fellow from the Daily Mirror at the Yellow Submarine party – the crime reporter Eddie Laxton. I’d got a particularly exotic suit on from Apple Boutique – a frock-coat, black-and-white shoes, a big ruffled shirt and scarves and, no doubt, badges. I didn’t want Eddie to think I was being stand-offish because I was in this exotic company (of The Beatles) so I went over and said: ‘Hello Eddie, you know me.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t. I don’t know this new guy at all.’ I felt terrible, suddenly like Adam; you’re naked, you haven’t got any clothes on. ‘Wow! He’s right,’ I thought, and I did feel weird – I’m not sure I’ve ever felt quite as free as I had until I met Eddie Laxton from the real world, so-called. But it was the spirit of the age. A lot of us who’d got free of grey suits (which I’m now happy to wear again) welcomed this freedom.
NEIL ASPINALL: I was running Apple, but I have no idea what my position was – probably the lotus position. Running Apple at that time was hard work, in the sense that there were so many different ideas coming in, and people had different criteria for how Apple should be run and what it should represent, and who should be on the label and what colour the room should be decorated… On that level it was pretty difficult. Talking about colours is maybe a bit superficial, but it’s a symptom. There were big rooms at Savile Row, and somebody would say: ‘Why don’t you put a partition across the room so you can be here and the secretary can be in the other room.’ So you would get a partition built, and then the next day somebody else (a different Beatle) would come in and say: ‘What’s this partition doing here?’ and kick it down.
Someone would ask: ‘Do we need a press office?’ – ‘Yes, we do.’ – ‘Well, maybe we don’t…’ – ‘should we sign this artist or shouldn’t we?’ Somebody would be signed because one person liked them, and then somebody else would be signed because somebody else liked them. It was anarchy, really. Some of my memories are happy; some are not. I can’t say that I really enjoyed Savile Row that much.
DEREK TAYLOR: There’s no doubt that by the end of 1968 (although I thought I was living for others; always martyring myself for the boys and all that). I was in my own egocentric way having an enormous amount of fun – ringmastering this circus for my own personal satisfaction, if you like. I was in a job that really suited me because it was chaotic. It was unmanageable, and yet it had a real press focus and the work was getting done. But, had I been one of the boys, coming in as they did now again looking in on it, I’d have been shocked.
Sometimes (you had intercoms in those days in offices and anyone could flick through) people could hear what sounded like bedlam, because there was always a record-player playing, and a light show on the ceiling from a machine which we bought from the Hare Krishnas. But if anyone ever came in and said, ‘God, this is a confusing place,’ I would hit the roof. ‘What do you mean, confusing? We know exactly what’s going on in here!’ And, in a way, we did.
Lots of people came in from the press and wrote long feature articles, and not all critical by any means. Careers were launched there – not only recording careers, but journalistic careers.
JOHN: AND THEN I BROUGHT IN MAGIC ALEX, AND IT JUST WENT FROM BAD TO WORSE.72
PAUL: ‘Magic’ Alex was a Greek bloke who was a friend of John’s originally. I remember John coming to my house one day and saying: ‘This is my new guru – Magic Alex.’ And I said ‘Oh, OK.’
It’s a funny way to introduce anyone, it’s very final. I thought, ‘Oh yeah? What does he do, then?’ He had a lot of knowledge about electronics. Other people disputed his ideas and said that they couldn’t be done, but Alex said they could. We sat around expounding a lot of theories at the time – particularly late at night – and he had some great ones.
He thought of using wallpaper which would act as loudspeakers: you would paper your room with speakers. There is a lot of technology coming in now, but I don’t think it existed then. It was just talked about in scientific journals that we didn’t read, but Alex did. He was a nice bloke and we got on.
Alex became our man of Apple Electronics, because we thought if he could make loudspeakers out of wallpaper it would be great. But he never came up with it. He had a little laboratory and he did one or two fun things, but it didn’t end up as he’d said it would. He’s around still. He uses his proper name now.
RINGO: Magic Alex invented electrical paint. You paint your living room, plug it in, and the walls light up! We saw small pieces of metal as samples, but then we realised you’d have to put steel sheets on your living-room wall and paint them. Also, he had the ‘talking telephone’ (remember this is 1968) – a speaker-phone, which compensated so the volume always stayed at the same level as you walked round the room.
He had an idea to stop people taping our records off the radio – you’d have to have a decoder to get the signal. And then we thought we could sell the time and put commercials on instead. We brought EMI and Capitol in from America to look at it, but they weren’t interested at all.
God knows what else he invented. He had this one idea that we all should have our heads drilled. It’s called trepanning. Magic Alex said that if we had it done our inner third eye would be able to see, and we’d get cosmic instantly.
GEORGE: Magic Alex impressed John, and because John was impressed with him, Alex came into our lives. He was a charming fellow – for a while.
One invention he had was amazing, though. It was a small square of metal, like stainless steel, with two wires coming out of it to a flashlight battery. If you held the metal and connected the wires one way, it would very quickly become so hot you had to drop it. Then, if you reversed the wires, it got as cold as ice.
Another invention consisted of a thin piece of metal with something on it like a thick enamel paint, and it too had wires coming out of it. When it was connected, it lit up in a bright luminous greeny-yellow colour. Alex said, ‘Imagine if that was the back end of the car and you’d just stepped on the brake.’ So that’s what I wanted him to do. The Ferrari was going to be rubbed down to the bare metal and Alex was going to apply the magic coating. We asked, ‘Can you do other colours too?’ – ‘Sure, whatever you want.’
We decided he was going to connect a colour scheme for the whole body of the car. The back of the car would be red – but only when you stepped on the brake! The rest of the time the whole car would be connected to the revs on the gearbox – so the car would start off quite dull, and as you shifted through the gears it would become brighter. You could go down the A3 and the pass somebody and it would look like a flying saucer. (And that’s another thing: I was going to give him the V12 engine out of my Ferrari Berlinetta and John was going to give him his, and Alex reckoned that with those two engines he could make a flying saucer.)
But he didn’t do anything (except he made a toilet with a radio in it, or something). When we finally got him to make a recording studio, we walked in and it was chaos. It was the biggest disaster of all time. He was walking round with a white coat on like some sort of chemist, but didn’t have a clue what he was doing. It was a sixteen-track system, and he had sixteen little speakers all around the walls. You only need two speakers for stereo sound. It was awful. The whole thing was a disaster and had to be ripped out.
PAUL: APPLE WILL PRODUCE ELECTRONICS; NOT GIMMICKS BUT GREAT INVENTIONS. WE HAVE A FRIEND CALLED ALEXIS MARDAS WHO IS A GENIUS AT INVENTING THINGS.68
RINGO: Originally, the studio was going to be seventy-two track, which was pretty far out in 1968. We bought some huge computers from British Aerospace in Weybridge, and put them in my barn in St George’s Hill. Birds lived in them, mice lived in them – but they never left that barn. It was a far-out idea, but once again Alex never came through. We’d just graduated to eight track – God knows what we thought we were going to do with seventy-two.
JOHN: I think some of his stuff has actually come true. They just haven’t manufactured it. Maybe one of the whole midst is a saleable object. He was just another guy. That comes and goes around people like us. He’s all right, but he’s cracked. He means well.70
JOHN: THERE’S NO SUCH THINGS AS A GENIUS, BUT IF THERE ARE ANY, HE’S ONE. THE THINGS HE PRODUCES ARE FANTASTIC. I WISH I COULD TELL YOU ABOUT THEM, BUT WE’VE LEARNT IN THIS HAPPY BUSINESS-WORLD THAT SPIES IN BROWN RAINCOATS AND SUNGLASSES GO AROUND, AND SO YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT A PRODUCT UNTIL IT’S OUT.68
GEORGE: Yellow Submarine came out in July. I remember meeting Heinz Edelmann and the main artists involved; they sketched some ideas and we talked about the characters in the cartoon. But we only had one or two meetings, maximum, with them and the producer, Al Broads – basically there was very little involvement from us.
PAUL: Erich Segal, the author of Love Story, was one of the writers of the screenplay. It was good fun having a chat with him and seeing where he was going to go, but I was surprised when they took the psychedelic option. I thought that the producers were after something a little bit more commercial, which would have been OK by me. I wanted Yellow Submarine to be more of a classic cartoon. I thought they should have just had a man who sailed to sea and went to the land of submarines. He could have gone under the water, seen everything and met all the people – it sounds like a pretty good story.
I love the Disney films, so I thought this could be the greatest Disney movie ever – only with our music. That would be a lovely mix. They didn’t want that, though, and luckily it wasn’t my decision. Looking back on the film, I do like it now. It’s really quite interesting. They felt they ought to pick up on where we had been up to, which was Sgt Pepper – but a Bambi would have been better for me at the time.
We told them we weren’t going to get too heavily involved, and that we didn’t want to do the voices – it was too much work. So instead, people like Lance Percival (a cabaret artist and voice-over man) did them. They could do a pretty good Ringo, but that’s also where all that terrible fake Liverpool accent came from. It’s like Americans trying to do Cockney: ‘Wotcher, all right mate?’ – the Dick Van Dyke syndrome.
GEORGE: Towards the end of the production we filmed the segment at the end of the film where I’ve got a hole in my pocket and all that stuff. Blue Meanies were seen leaving the theatre.
I liked the film. I think it’s a classic. I’m not sure why we never did our own voices, but the actors probably did it better because they needed to be more cartoon-like. Our voices were pretty cartoon-like anyway, but the exaggeration that you’ve got with the actors’ voices suits it. That film works for every generation – every baby, three or four years old, goes through Yellow Submarine.
RINGO: Eddie Yates from Coronation Street did the voices for John and me. They sound the same to me, I can’t see any difference between them.
PAUL: At the end they wanted a bit where we came on and said: ‘Hi, this is The Beatles here, we hope you’ve enjoyed the film.’ We had to go and have it filmed in January 1968, which we weren’t keen to do; but once we’d got ourselves involved we had to give them something.
I think if it had gone Disneyesque and they’d wanted a ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ I would have been very keen to do it, but because they were going more in the Pepper direction, we said to use songs we’d already recorded, like ‘All You Need Is Love’. They also wanted some new songs from us, so we recorded ‘Only A Northern Song’ in Abbey Road. I remember playing a silly trumpet. My dad used to play. I can’t but I can mess around a lot – and that song gave me the perfect framework. It was very tongue in cheek.
GEORGE: ‘Only A Northern Song’ was a joke relating to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England. In addition, the song was copyrighted Northern Songs Ltd., which I don’t own, so: ‘It doesn’t really matter what chords I play… as it’s only a Northern Song.’
RINGO: I loved Yellow Submarine. I thought it was really innovative, with great animation. The Sea of Holes, the Blue Meanie syndrome – it’s still great and I’m glad we were involved with it.
The thing with the film that still blows me away is that in the first year it was out I had all these kids coming up to me, saying: ‘Why did you press the button?’ In the film I press a button and get shot out of the submarine – and kids from all over the whole bloody world kept shouting, ‘Why did you press the button?’ at me as if it was real. They actually thought it was me.
JOHN: Brodax got half of Yellow Submarine out of my mouth. The idea for the Hoover, the machine that sucks people up – all those were my ideas. They used to come to the studio and chat: ‘Hi, John, old bean. Got any ideas for the film?’ And I’d just spout out this stuff, and they went off and did it.72
It was the third movie that we owed United Artists. Brian had set it up and we had nothing to do with it. But I liked the movie: the artwork. They wanted another song, so I knocked off ‘Hey Bulldog’. It’s a good-sounding record that means nothing.80
RINGO: WE WERE JUST HANGING OUT. JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE PARK FOR THE BEATLE BOYS.
GEORGE: The painting on the side of the Baker Street shop looked amazing, but everything went wrong. A couple of nearby shopkeepers decided they didn’t like the tone of the building, although others liked it because it brought a lot of attention and Baker Street suddenly became somewhere worth talking about. Before that, other than Sherlock Holmes, Baker Street was nothing – nobody went there except to catch a bus. Now, suddenly, it was really happening. But because of the complaints, the landlord or whoever owned the lease made us paint it out and get rid of it.
PAUL: The council got their knickers in a twist and said that we had to get rid of the mural. We said, ‘Oh, you’re kidding, it’s beautiful – everyone loves it.’ Some residents probably objected. Then we were going to paint the shop white and project the painting from the opposite side of the road. We were full of good ideas. Some of them we never got round to, but it was a great time for ideas.
GEORGE: If they’d protected it and the painted wall was there now, they would be saying, ‘Wow, look at this. We’ve got to stop it chipping off.’ But that’s just typical of the narrow minds we were trying to fight against. That’s what the whole Sixties Flower-Power thing was about: ‘Go away, you bunch of boring people.’ The whole government, the police, the public – everybody was so boring, and then suddenly people realised they could have fun.
Once we were told we had to get rid of the painting, the whole thing started to lose its appeal. The whole tone of the events around the Apple shop was going sour, and – as it was not working out – we decided to sell it. We ended up giving the contents away. We put an ad in the paper and we filmed people coming in and grabbing everything.
JOHN: It was a big event and all the kids came and just took everything that was in the shop. That was the best thing about the whole shop, when we gave it all away. But the night before, we all went in and took what we wanted. It wasn’t much, T-shirts… it was great, it was like robbing. We took everything we wanted home.
And the next day we were watching, and there were thousands of kids all going in and getting their freebies. It was great. Of course, Derek and the others hated it but it so happened that I was running the office at that time, so we were in control. Paul had called me up one day and said, ‘I’m going away. You take over.’ It was as stupid as that.72 We came up with the idea to give it all away and stop fucking about with a psychedelic clothes shop.70
PAUL: WE CAME INTO SHOPS BY THE TRADESMAN’S ENTRANCE, BUT WE’RE LEAVING BY THE FRONT DOOR. APPLE IS MAINLY CONCERNED WITH FUN, NOT FROCKS.68
RINGO: We went in the night before and took everything we wanted. We had loads of shirts and jackets – we cleaned a lot of the stuff out. It wasn’t a sale, we just gave it all away, and that was the best idea. In the end, of course, people were coming with wheelbarrows. It was silly, but we had wanted to open a shop and dress everyone like us.
NEIL ASPINALL: I think they got to the point where they didn’t want it any more. It wasn’t that it was losing money, it was just that the guys decided, for whatever reasons, that they didn’t want to be in the retail business. They weren’t retailers and it was taking up a lot of time.
PAUL: The nice thing was that we weren’t too fussed when it didn’t work out. We suddenly realised we’d better cut our losses. It was great: giving the clothes to the people who showed up on the day. Michael J. Pollard, the actor, got a jacket (which Linda took a photograph of – it’s in her book). The idea was that you could have one item each: ‘You mustn’t take two – stay in the spirit of the thing.’
Well, they cleaned out the shop. Personally, I think it was a good way to do it because it showed we weren’t seriously trying to be in the rag trade: ‘Look, it didn’t work out so you can have the schmutter!’
DEREK TAYLOR: The giving away of the clothing brought out that worst in people that I dread to see. Cabbies were grabbing kaftans and capes and silk ruffled shirts off rails: ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that’. I thought it was one of the ugliest things I had ever heard of, this giving away of the clothes. It was awful and vulgar.
I didn’t want them to close the shop at all, really, and I wrote an impassioned open letter: ‘Dear boys, please don’t…’ I dreaded to see the thing falling apart.
PAUL: WE FELT IT WAS TIME TO STEP BACK BECAUSE THAT WAS WHAT WE WANTED TO DO. YOU CAN STILL MAKE GOOD MUSIC WITHOUT GOING FORWARD. SOME PEOPLE WANT US TO GO ON UNTIL WE VANISH UP OUR OWN B SIDES.68
GEORGE: The Apple shop was now empty, and it was suggested that we advertise the new single in the window. So somebody went with whitewash and wrote ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’ in big letters. The next day the shop window was smashed, apparently because somebody thought it was like ‘Juden’ in the Nazi campaign before the war.
PAUL: I went into the Apple shop just before ‘Hey Jude’ was being released. The windows were whited-out, and I thought: ‘Great opportunity. Baker Street, millions of buses going around…’ So, before anyone knew what it meant, I scraped ‘Hey Jude’ out of the whitewash.
A guy who had a delicatessen in Marylebone rang me up, and he was furious: ‘I’m going to send one of my sons round to beat you up. I said, ‘Hang on, hang on – what’s this about?’ and he said: ‘You’ve written “Jude” in the shop window.’ I had no idea it meant ‘Jew’, but if you look at footage of Nazi Germany. ‘Juden Raus’ was written in whitewashed windows with a Star of David. I swear it never occurred to me.
I said: ‘I’m really sorry,’ and on and on… ‘some of my best friends are Jewish, really. It’s just a song we’ve got coming out. If you listen to the song you’ll see it’s nothing to do with any of that – it’s a complete coincidence.’ He was just about pacified in the end.
GEORGE: ‘Hey Jude’ was actually about Julian Lennon. It was written by Paul at the time John was splitting up with Cynthia. Julian was just a little boy – probably five years old – and Paul had gone out to John’s house and been affected by seeing Julian, the innocent bystander in a divorce situation.
PAUL: When John and Cynthia got married it didn’t really work. There was a beautiful kid, and they were quite happy for a while, but my estimation of it was that Cynthia wanted to tie John down to the pipe-and-slippers nice life. Pf course, John was never ready for that.
John was a great jumper-off of cliffs. I often remember him saying, ‘Look, you’ve come to a cliff. Why don’t you jump off it?’ I would say, ‘You would probably get dead, John.’ He was always coming up with hare-brained schemes, and so I developed a defence against them: ‘I’ll tell you what, you do it first and give us a shout. If it’s OK, I’m jumping. If I hear nothing, I’m staying here.’
He came up to me once at a dinner and said, ‘Have you ever thought about trepanning? It’s an ancient Roman thing – you have a hole drilled in your skull.’ And we talked about it a lot, as you did in the Sixties. I said, ‘No, not really.’ He said, ‘I think we should all have it done.’ I was still saying, ‘I don’t know about that. You have it done, and if it’s fine we’ll all have it done as well.’ That was the only way to get rid of John’s madcap schemes, otherwise he would have had us all with holes in our heads the next morning.
So, John and Cynthia were splitting up and I felt particularly sorry for Julian. I had known them for so long. We had hung out since John’s art school days when I had a girlfriend called Dot and John had Cynthia, and we used to foursome it a lot and go to parties together. Since then, I’d seen them get married and seen them have Julian.
I thought, as a friend of the family, I would motor out to Weybridge and tell them that everything was all right: to try and cheer them up, basically, and see how they were. I had about an hour’s drive. I would always turn the radio off and try and make up songs, just in case… I started singing: ‘Hey Jools – don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better…’ It was optimistic, a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be OK.’
I eventually changed ‘Jools’ to ‘Jude’. One of the characters in Oklahoma is called Jud, and I like the name. I played the song to John when I’d finished it – although I thought there might be a little more to do because there was one passage which went ‘the movement you need is on your shoulder’. As I was playing it I looked at John and said, ‘I’ll fix that bit.’ – ‘What?’ – ‘I’ve used the word “shoulder” once already, and anyway, it’s a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot. I’ll change it.’ John said, ‘You won’t, you know. That’s the best line in the song. I know what it means – it’s great.’ That was the good thing about John: whereas I’d definitely have knocked that line out, he would say it was great. Then I could see it through his eyes. So when I play that song, that’s the line when I think of John; and I sometimes get a little emotional during that moment.
JOHN: ‘Hey Jude’ is one of his masterpieces. He said it was written about Julian, my child. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian. He was driving over to say ‘hi’ to Julian. He’d been like an uncle to him. Paul was always good with kids. And so he came up with ‘Hey Jude’.
But I always heard it as a song to me. If you think about it, Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying: ‘Hey, Jude – hey, John.’ I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me. The words ‘go out and get her’ – subconsciously he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ But on a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel inside him was saying, ‘Bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all, because he didn’t want to lose his partner.80
GEORGE MARTIN: We recorded ‘hey Jude’ in Trident Studious. It was a long song. In fact, after I timed it I actually said, ‘You can’t make a single that long.’ I was shouted down by the boys – not for the first time in my life – and John asked: ‘Why not?’ I couldn’t think of a good answer, really – except the pathetic one that disc jockeys wouldn’t play it. He said, ‘They will if it’s us.’ And, of course, he was absolutely right.
PAUL: It was longer than any single had been, but we had a good bunch of engineers. We asked how long a 45 could be. They said that four minutes was about all you could squeeze into the grooves before it seriously started to lose volume and everyone had to turn the sound up. But they did some very clever stuff, squeezing the bit that didn’t have to be loud, then allowing the rest more room. Somehow, they got seven minutes on there – which was quite an engineering feat.
I remember taking an acetate down to the Vesuvio, a three-in-the-morning-dossing-round-on-beanbags type club in Tottenham Court Road. As it was a suitable time in the evening, I got the DJ to put it on. I remember Mick Jagger coming up to me and saying: ‘It’s Like two songs, man. It’s got the song and then the whole “na na na” at the end. Yeah.’
I was always a bit in limbo with a new single; your heart’s in your mouth when you first hear it played on the radio, for instance. I knew it was a lot to expect people to swallow the whole thing. Maybe they would want to fade it… but they didn’t I remember Stuart Henry on the Beeb saying: ‘There you are my friends – either you like it or you don’t.’ Then he went on to the next record. I thought: ‘Thank you! Couldn’t you have thought of anything else, Stu?’
RINGO: ‘Hey Jude’ has become a classic. It felt good recording it. We put it down a couple of times – trying to get it right – and, like everything else, it just clicked. That’s how it should be.
NEIL ASPINALL: David Frost came down to Twickenham Film Studious where they were filming a performance of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’ and introduced it; like it was done for his show or something. It was filmed with an invited audience, and they all got up on stage and sang the chorus repeat for ‘Hey Jude’.
GEORGE: We made a film in front of an audience. They had brought people in for ‘Hey Jude’. it wasn’t done just for David Frost, but it was shown on his show and he was actually there when we filmed it.
GEORGE MARTIN: The other side of ‘Hey Jude’ was ‘Revolution’. We got into distortion on that, which we had a lot of complaints from the technical people about. But that was the idea: it was John’s song and the idea was to push it right to the limit. Well, we went to the limit and beyond.
GEORGE: The thing about ‘Revolution’ (and you could get into a debate about this), is that it’s not so much the song but the attitude in which it was done. I think ‘Revolution’ is pretty good and it grooves along, but I don’t particularly like the noise that it makes; and I say ‘noise’ because I didn’t like the distorted sound of John’s guitar.
I think that ‘Revolution’ – as with all the different styles of song – has its own merit. It’s a good tune, but I don’t think it is one of John’s best songs. The only thing that may make it important is what it’s actually saying, but at the same time there was a lot of other politically-aware music going around the world.
PAUL: I liked the sound on ‘Revolution’.
JOHN: When George and Paul and all of them were on holiday, I made ‘Revolution’ which is on the LP. I wanted to put it out as a single, but they said it wasn’t good enough. We put out ‘Hey Jude’, which was worthy – but we could have had both.70
We recorded the song twice. The Beatles were getting real tense with each other. The first take, George and Paul were resentful and said it wasn’t fast enough. Now, if you go into the details of what a hit record is and isn’t, maybe. But The Beatles could have afforded to put out the slow, understandable version of ‘Revolution’ as a single, whether it was a gold record or a wooden record. But, because they were so upset over the Yoko thing and the fact that I was again becoming as creative and dominating as I was in the early days (after lying fallow for a couple of years), it upset the applecart. I was awake again and they weren’t used to it.80
I wanted to put out what I felt about revolution. I thought it was about time we spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war.
I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it: ‘It’s going to be all right.’ That’s why I did it: I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolutions. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say, ‘What do you say? This is what I say.’70
There were two versions of that song, but the underground left only picked up on the one that said ‘count me out’. The original version which ends up on the LP said ‘count me in’ too; I put in both because I wasn’t sure.
I didn’t want to get killed. I didn’t really know much about the Maoists, but I just knew that they seemed to be so few and yet they painted themselves green and stood in front of the police waiting to get picked off. I just thought it was unsubtle. I thought the original Communist revolutionaries coordinated themselves a bit better and didn’t go around shouting about it.71
RINGO: I never felt we’d gone too far, ever. Not musically and not in life, really. We didn’t really do anything heavy in life. We didn’t get radical. We were a little radical in our music, so it seems, with the backwards tapes and things like that, but we were not violent people.
JOHN: The statement in ‘Revolution’ was mine. The lyrics stand today. They’re still my feeling about politics. I want to see the plan. That’s what I used to say to Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Count me out if it’s for violence. Don’t expect me on the barricades unless it’s with flowers. As far as overthrowing something in the name of Marxism or Christianity, I want to know what you’re going to do after you’ve knocked it down. I mean, can’t we use some of it? What’s the point of bombing Wall Street? If you want to change the system, change the system. It’s no good shooting people.80
I know how I felt when I was at college at nineteen and twenty – I would have been for complete destruction. I always hoped for it anyway, just as a happening, just to go on the loot, to destroy it. I would have done then, but I don’t know whether I would now – I still like stealing things; but I don’t, because I can’t be bothered. That’s how I felt then, but if there was somebody like me I might listen.
If you want peace, you won’t get it with violence. Please tell me one militant revolution that worked. Sure, a few of them took over, but what happened? Status quo. And if they smash it down, who do they think is going to build it up again? And then when they’ve built it up again, who do they think is going to run it? And how are they going to run it? They don’t look further than their noises.70 If someone showed me one that worked, then it might turn me a bit. I’d say, ‘All right, that’s the way to do it,’ then turn the place upside down. But there isn’t one.
The system-smashing scene has been going on forever. What’s it done? The Irish did it, the Russians did it and the French did it – and where has it got them? it’s got them nowhere. It’s the same old game. Who’s going to run this smashing-up? Who’s going to take over? It’ll be the biggest smashers. They’ll be the ones to get in first and they’ll be the ones to take over. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it’s down to people.72
What I said in ‘Revolution’ – in all the versions – is ‘change your head’. These people that are trying to change the world can’t even get it all together. They’re attacking and biting each others’ faces, and all the time they’re all pushing the same way. And if they keep going on like that, it’s going to kill it before it’s even moved.
It’s silly to bitch about each other and be trivial. They’ve got to think in terms of at least the world or the universe, and stop thinking in terms of factories and one country.
The point is that the Establishment doesn’t really exist, and if it does exist, it’s old people. The only people that want to change it are young, and they’re going to beat the Establishment. If they want to smash it all down, and have to be labourers as well to build it up again, then that’s what they’re going to get. It they’d just realise the Establishment can’t last forever. The only reason it has lasted forever is that the only way people have ever tried to change it is by revolution. And the idea is just to move in on the scene, so they can take over the universities, do all the things that are practically feasible at the time. But not try and take over the state, or smash the state, or slow down the works. All they’ve got to do is get through and change it, because they will be it.68
If you think of the Establishment or whoever ‘they’ are, the Blue Meanies, you’ve got to remember that they’re the sick ones. And if you’ve got a sick child in the family you don’t kick it out the door – you’ve got to try and look after it or extend a hand to it. So somewhere along the line we’ve got to make a meeting point with whoever ‘they’ are, because even amongst them there are some human beings. In fact they’re all human, but there’s some that even look like it and respond like it. So it’s up to us, if we’re the aware generation, to extend a hand to the retarded child, and not just kick its teeth in because it happens to be a very big child.72
The only way to ensure a lasting peace of any kind is to change people’s minds. There’s no other way. The Government can do it with propaganda, Coca-Cola can do it with propaganda – why can’t we? We are the hip generation.69
These left-wing people talk about giving the power to the people. That’s nonsense – the people have the power. All we’re trying to do is make people aware that they have the power themselves, and the violent way of revolution doesn’t justify the ends.
All we’re trying to say to people is to expose politicians and expose the people themselves who are hypocritical and sitting back and saying, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything about it, it’s up to somebody else. Give us the answer, John.’ People have to organise. Students have to organise voting. We have to be the Monday Club, only in a different way.71
They’ll get peaceful revolution now if they put as much effort into that. The marching protests, where have they got us? The Grosvenor Square marches against Vietnam – the whole news was violence, the result of the marches.
CND were asking us: ‘Well, what other ways can we promote peace? The marches seem to be going by the wind now and we have no result.’ So I was saying: ‘You’ve got a lot of sexy birds in the CND. The Daily Mirror, the biggest newspaper in Britain, has some bikini’d bird in every day. So when it says: “Pretty Polly for Peace” they’ll stick it in so long as there’s tits and arses on it. Promote peace any way – we’ve all got gimmicks in us.’ Let them use sex for a change.70
EVENTUALLY IT WILL HAPPEN… IT HAS TO HAPPEN. IT MIGHT HAPPEN NOW, OR IT MIGHT HAPPEN IN FIFTY OR A HUNDRED YEARS.70
JOHN: You say, ‘In order to change the world, we’ve got to understand what’s wrong with the world and then destroy it. Ruthlessly.’ You’re obviously on a destruction kick. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it – people. So, do you want to destroy them? Ruthlessly? Until you/we change your/our heads, there’s no chance. Who fucked up Communism, Christianity, Capitalism, Buddhism, etc.? Sick heads and nothing else. Do you think all the enemy wear capitalist badges so you can shoot them?68
JOHN: SHE FORCED ME TO BECOME AVANT-GARDE AND TAKE MY CLOTHES OFF, WHEN ALL I WANTED WAS TO BECOME TOM JONES.69
PAUL: There was this girl called Yoko, Yoko Ono. She showed up at my house one day. It was John Cage’s birthday, and she said she wanted to get hold of some manuscripts of various composers to give to him. She wanted one from me and John, so I said, ‘Well, it’s OK by me, but you’ll have to go and see John.’ And she did…
DEREK TAYLOR: I went into Wigmore Street – and Yoko was in the office with John. I think they had been up all night. I didn’t know of her and I hadn’t seen her before, but she looked nice and John said: ‘This is Yoko.’ And: ‘This is Derek, one of our friends.’
I went over and, for some reason or other, kissed her on top of the head, saying: ‘Welcome to Apple,’ and, ‘How are you?’ and so on. John said, ‘I’ll be with her now…’ – one of those John things. Then he wandered off – he was always doing wanderings off – he put his hands on his hips, wandered off, and then came back: ‘What do you think?’ I said I was sure it would be fine.
JOHN: I was too scared to break away from The Beatles, which I’d been looking to do since we stopped touring. I was vaguely looking for somewhere to go, but didn’t have the nerve to really step out into the boat by myself, so I hung around. And when I met Yoko and fell in love: ‘My God! This is different than anything before. This is more than a hit record. It’s more than gold. It’s more than everything…’80
Whatever I went through was worth it to meet Yoko. So, if I had to do all the things I did in my life – which is have a troubled childhood, a troubled teenage and an amazing whirlwind life with The Beatles, and then finally coming to land meeting Yoko – it was worth it.
I’ve never known love like this before, and it hit me so hard that I had to halt my marriage to Cyn. And don’t think that was a reckless decision, because I felt very deeply about it and all the implications that would be involved. Some may say my decision was selfish. Well, I don’t think it is. Are your children going to thank you when they are eighteen? Isn’t it better to avoid rearing children in the atmosphere of a strained relationship?
My marriage to Cyn was not unhappy. But it was just a normal marital state where nothing happened and which we continued to sustain. You sustain it until you meet someone who suddenly sets you alight. With Yoko I really knew love for the first time. Our attraction was a mental one, but it happened physically too. Both are essential in the union.68
Being with Yoko makes me free. Being with Yoko makes me whole. I’m a half without her. Male is half without a female.80 Before Yoko and I met, we were half a person. There’s an old myth about people being half, and the other half being in the sky or in heaven or on the other side of the universe or a mirror image. But we are two halves, and together we’re a whole.69
Yoko taught me about women. I was used to being served, like Elvis and a lot of the stars were. Always just being served by women, whether it was my Aunt Mimi, Got bless you, or whoever – served by females, wives, girlfriends. You just flop in drunk and expect some girlfriend at college to make the breakfast the next morning. You know she’d been drunk as a dog too, with you at party, but the female is supposed suddenly to get on the other side of the counter. It was quite an experience, and I appreciated what women have done for me all my life. I’d never even thought about it.
Yoko didn’t buy that. She didn’t give a shit about Beatles: ‘What the fuck are The Beatles? I’m Yoko Ono! Treat me as me.’ From the day I met her, she demanded equal time, equal space, equal rights. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I said, ‘What do you want, a contract? You can have whatever you want – but don’t expect anything from me, or for me to change in any way.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘the answer to that is that I can’t be here. Because there is no space where you are. Everything revolves around you, and I can’t breathe in that atmosphere.’ I’m thankful to her for the education.
I was used to a situation where the newspaper was there for me to read, and after I’d read it, somebody else could have it. It didn’t occur to me that somebody else might want to look at it first. I think that’s what kills people like Presley and others of that ilk. The king is always killed by his courtiers, not by his enemies. The king is over-fed, over-drugged, over-indulged; anything to keep the king tied to his throne. Most people in that position never wake up. They either die mentally or physically, or both. And what Yoko did for me was to liberate me from that situation.
And that’s how The Beatles ended. Not because Yoko split The Beatles, but because she showed me what it was to be Elvis Beatle and to be surrounded by sycophants and slaves who were only interested in keeping the situation as it was. She said to me, ‘You’ve got no clothes on.’ Nobody had dared tell me that before.
With us, it’s a teacher-pupil relationship. That’s what people don’t understand. She’s the teacher and I’m the pupil. I’m the famous one, I’m supposed to know everything – but she taught me everything I fucking know.
When I met Yoko is when you meet your first woman and you leave the guys at the bar, and you don’t go play football any more, and you don’t go play snooker and billiards. Once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever, other than they were like old friends. You know the song: ‘Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.’ It didn’t hit me until whatever age I was when I met Yoko, twenty-six. That was it. That old gang of mine was over the moment I met her. I didn’t consciously know it at the time, but that’s what was going on. As soon as I met her, that was the end of the boys. But it so happened the boys were well known and weren’t just the local guys at the bar.
Yoko really woke me up to myself. She didn’t fall in love with the Beatle, she didn’t fall in love with my fame. She fell in love with me for myself, and through that brought out the best in me. She was the ultimate trip.80
Freedom is in the mind. It seems that as soon as a couple gets together, the man’s supposed to go somewhere and work and the woman’s supposed to be somewhere else, and I don’t think that’s very good for a relationship. It just so happens that’s the way we all live. Maybe in the past they worked together or within sight of each other. She’d be digging the potatoes and he’d be cutting the hay or something, or they’d split for hunting, something like that. But I don’t see why we should be apart, especially as we can work together and we have the same interests. It’s not like I’m a mountain climber and she’s an archaeologist. Our interests are the same, so that helps.
Nothing is more important than what goes on between two people, because it’s two people that produce children, two people that fall in love. You don’t generally fall in love with two people at once. I’ve never experienced it. Promiscuity is something else – it’s for kids, really. I feel as though I went through it, and what’s the point? It often isn’t that satisfactory as an end product to living. It’s like eating, you can’t survive on it alone. You need something else.70
After Yoko And I met, I didn’t realise I was in love with her. I was still thinking it was an artistic collaboration, as it were – producer and artist. We’d known each other for a couple of years. My ex-wife was away in Italy, and Yoko came to visit me and we took some acid. I was always shy with her, and she was shy, so instead of making love we went upstairs and made tapes. I had this room where I would write and make strange loops and things, like that for The Beatles’ stuff. So we made a tape all night. She was doing her funny voices as I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects. And then as the sun rose we made love, and that was Two Virgins. That was the first time.
Two Virgins happened by accident. I realised somebody else was as barmy as me – a wife with freaky sounds – and could equally enjoy non-dance music or non-pop music that was… they call it avant-garde.
That’s the only word you can use for it, but I think a label like avant-garde defeats itself. You learnt to have avant-garde exhibitions. The very fact that avant-garde can have an exhibition defeats the purpose of avant-garde, because it’s already formalised and ritualised. I didn’t think anything of it other than variations on a theme of sound.80
JOHN: Wonsaponatime there were two balloons called Jock and Yono. They were strictly in love-bound to happen in a million years. They were together, man. Unfortunatimetable they both seemed to have previous experience – which kept calling them one way oranother (you know howitis). But they bettled on against overwhelming oddities, includo some of their beast friends. Being in love they cloong even the more together, man – but some of the poisonessmonster of outrated buslodedshithrowers did stick slightly and they occasionally had to resort to the drycleaners. Luckily this did not kill them and they weren’t banned from the Olympic Games. They lived hopefully ever after, and who could blame them.76
DEREK TAYLOR: Another morning in Apple (there was never a dull moment, and this was such a moment – not dull) and Jeremy Banks who worked with me said: ‘There’s something in your drawer – a mind-bending thing.’ So I opened it up and there was a picture of John and Yoko with no clothes on.
NEIL ASPINALL: John had just given Jeremy a roll of film and said, ‘Get that developed, please.’ And when he got it back and saw the nude pictures he said: ‘This is mind-blowing.’ Everything was always ‘mind-blowing’ to Jeremy, but – just that one time – he was actually right. He couldn’t believe it.
JOHN: We were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture, so I took it myself with a delayed-action shutter. The picture was to prove that we are not a couple of demented freaks, that we are not deformed in any way and that our minds are healthy. If we can make society accept these kind of things without offence, without sniggering, then we shall be achieving our purpose.68
What we did purposely is not have a pretty photograph; not have it lighted so as we looked sexy or good. There were a couple of other takes from that session where we looked rather nice, hid the little bits that aren’t that beautiful; we looked good. We used the straightest, most unflattering picture just to show that we were human.74
PAUL: It wasn’t a glamorous pictures; it wasn’t a nudie model with elastoplast and clear sellotape holding them up and stuff. It was the real thing: them baring it all to the world. But that was the whole idea with Two Virgins.
I know it was shocking, but I’m not sure whether us lot were too shocked by it - we just knew he’d have a bit of flack. Obviously, the minute the newspapers saw a shot like that, they were going to be on the phone. I knew John was inviting a lot of that. In the end, he’d invited a lot more than they wanted and they started to get busted and things. Quite an oppressive campaign started against them and it probably began with that cover. It'’ weird, isn’t it? Our mothers and fathers all had to get naked to conceive us, and yet we’re still very prudish about nudity, even in this day and age. But John and Yoko were looking at nudity as artists.
JOHN: We felt like two virgins because we were in love, just met, and we were trying to make something. And we thought to show everything. People are always looking at people like me, trying to see some secret: ‘What do they do? Do they go to the bathroom? Do they eat?’ So we just said, ‘Here.’75
GEORGE: What I thought of the sleeve then was the same as I think now: it’s just two not-very-nice-looking bodies, two flabby bodies naked. It’s harmless, really – different strokes for different folks.
RINGO: The cover was the mind-blower – I remember to this day the moment when they came in and showed me. I don’t really remember the music, I’d have to play it now. But he showed me the cover and I pointed to the Times: ‘Oh, you’ve even got the Times in it…’ as if he didn’t have his dick hanging out.
I said, ‘Ah, come on, John. You’re doing all this stuff and it may be cool for you, but you know we all have to answer. It doesn’t matter; whichever one of us does something, we all have to answer for it.’ He said, ‘Oh, Ringo, you only have to answer the phone.’ I said, ‘OK, fine,’ because it was true. The press would be calling up, and just at that point I didn’t want to be bothered – but in the end that’s all I had to do: answer the phone. It was fine. Two or three people phoned and I said: ‘See, he’s got the Times on the cover.’
JOHN: George and Paul were a little shocked, that was weird. That really shocked me, the fact that they were prudish. You can’t imagine – it was so uptight in those days. It’s not that long ago, and people are uptight about nude bodies.74 We didn’t create nudity, we just put it out. Somebody else had been nude before.72
PAUL: I was slightly shocked but, seeing as I wrote a liner note for the sleeve, I obviously wasn’t too uptight.
DEREK TAYLOR: I said: ‘Right. OK. Fine. Let’s get on with things. Let’s do something about this.’ It was very interesting and exciting, and I thought that here was a monumental problem with which we could deal. Life there was such an ‘action-reaction’ situation that this was just one more thrilling thing.
And, of course, the Sunday papers were at us, and at this photograph. This filthy thing! ‘Look at These Filthy People!’ and there was a big circle over the naughty part and an arrow: ‘This is where the naughty part would be if people like us were not so decent. We wouldn’t dream of showing it to you – but aren’t they awful!’
So I found something – I got a Bible. There’s always something to hand, isn’t there? And there was a bit in the book of Genesis which said: ‘The man and his wife were naked and not ashamed,’ or something like that, which I thought was suitable. John and Yoko were not married – but hey! This was life and… ‘Here’s this thing in the Bible – now what are you press going to do about it?’
JOHN: It was insane! People got so upset about it – the fact that two people were naked.80 I didn’t think there’d be sure a fuss. I guess the world thinks we’re an ugly couple.69
NEIL ASPINALL: At the time, I don’t think the public liked Yoko very much – I don’t know why, but they didn’t seem to. It might have been because of the press, but also think because of the avant-garde stuff. The public just didn’t understand it, and I tend to find that if you don’t understand something you’re likely to be prejudiced against it.
PAUL: The Two Virgins record itself I didn’t find that interesting; the music wasn’t shocking to me because I’d made a lot like that myself. I think John may have got some ideas from when I had a couple of Brennell tape recorders. I used to bounce sounds between them and multi-track to make crazy tapes for friends late at night. It was just ambient music.
I had a nice line in tape loops and crazy little classical things. I made a record for the guys called ‘Unforgettable’ after the Nat King Cole song; like a little radio show. I’d go down to the publishers and get a big 78 acetate made of it and send it round to the guys: ‘Here’s a little bit of music if you’re feeling crazy.’
John asked me how I did it, so I showed him how to plug the machines up. John got two at his house in Weybridge, with exactly the same set-up, and I showed him how to use it all. If you take the superimposer out, you can multi-track it all and keep going endlessly – just bouncing it back and forth. You can make crazy records using relatively few tracks (as long as you don’t need good-quality sound, because it loses quality each time).
GEORGE: I don’t think I actually heard all of Two Virgins; just bits of it. I wasn’t particularly into that kind of thing. That was his and her affair; their trip. They got involved with each other and were obviously into each other to such a degree that they thought everything they said or did was of world importance, and so they made it into records and films. (I was getting fed up with The Beatles by that time, let alone anything else around it. I was getting into all the other stuff, the Indian music.)
It was an Apple album, but Apple was distributed by EMI and they refused to handle it, so it was put out by Tetragrammaton in the USA.
JOHN: Two Virgins was a big fight. It was held up for nine months. Joseph Lockwood was a nice, nice guy; but he sat down on a big table at the top of EMI with John and Yoko and told me he will do everything he can to help us, because we explained what it meant and why we were doing it. And he got me to sign him one – he’s got a signed edition of the very first one. Then, when we tried to put it out, he sent a personal note to everybody saying: ‘Don’t print it. Don’t put it out.’ So we couldn’t get the cover printed anywhere.80
Actually, the first record that would have been out on Apple would been Two Virgins if they hadn’t help it up. They stalled and they said this, that and the other. Being naive in lots of ways, I had no idea I was going to get slagging from the immediate family. I thought maybe somebody out there will say something, but I was making a statement. It was as good as a song, it was better, you couldn’t say it better – pictures speak louder than words. There it was: beautiful statement.74
RINGO: JOHN’S DRUG BUST WAS A REMINDER THAT A COP WAS LYING IN WAIT IF ANYONE HAD A PARTY – AND I’M AFRAID, IN THOSE DAYS, YOU COULD HAVE BUSTED ANY PARTY…
JOHN: I was got for possession. It wasn’t on my body, but it was in the house. Possession means you could be a pusher. You can just see John Lennon pushing drugs for a living!
In the late Sixties there was a head-hunting cop (who was not very high up in the drug department in London – which was pretty new anyway, they had two dogs for the whole department). And he went round and bust every pop star he could get his hands on, and he got famous. Some of the pop stars had dope in their house and some of them didn’t.75
GEORGE: John and Yoko were busted for cannabis in October, while they were staying at the flat they rented from Ringo. Jimi Hendrix rented it as well; it has a history, that flat. They were busted by a policeman named Sgt Pilcher who, as Derek would say, saw himself as Oliver Cromwell. He thought he was doing society a favour.
The Drug Squad must have had a list of people. It’s easy to see it clearly now, because they went down the list. They busted Donovan first because he was easier. It wasn’t difficult to attract their attention, and after they busted Donovan they worked their way up to The Rolling Stones and busted them, and then they thought they’d get The Beatles.
JOHN: We were lying in bed, feeling very clean and drugless, because we’d heard three weeks before that they were coming to get us – and we’d have been silly to have had drugs in the house. All of a sudden a woman comes to the front door, and rings the bell and says, ‘I’ve got a message for you.’ We said, ‘Who is it? You’re not the postman.’ And she said, ‘No, it’s very personal,’ and suddenly this woman starts pushing the door. She [Yoko] thinks it’s the press or some fans, and we ran back in and hid. Neither of us was dressed, really; we just had vests on and our lower parts were showing.
We shut the door and i was saying, ‘What is it? What is it?’ I thought it was the Mafia or something. Then there was a big banging at the bedroom window, and a big super-policeman was there, growling and saying, ‘Let me in, let me in!’ And I said, ‘You’re not allowed in like this, are you?’ I was so frightened. I said, ‘Come round the front door. Just let me get dressed.’ And he said, ‘No, open the window, I’m going to fall off.’
There were some [police] at the front and some at the back. Yoko held the window while I got dressed – half-leaning out of the bathroom so they could see we weren’t hiding anything. Then they started charging the door. I had a big dialogue with the policeman, saying, ‘It’s bad publicity if you come through the window.’ And he was saying, ‘Just open the window, you’ll only make it worse for yourself.’ I was saying, ‘I want to see the warrant.’ Another guy comes on the roof and they showed me this paper, and I pretended to read it – just to try and think what to do. Then I said, ‘Call the lawyer, call the lawyer,’ but [Yoko] called our office instead. And I was saying, ‘No, not the office – the lawyer.’
Then there was a heave on the door, so I ran and opened it, and said, ‘OK. OK. I’m clean anyway,’ thinking I was clean. And he says, ‘Ah-ha, got you for obstruction!’ And I said, ‘Oh, yeah,’ because I felt confident that I had no drugs.
They all came in, lots of them and a woman. I said, ‘Well, what happens now? Can I call the office? I’ve got an interview in two hours, can I tell them that I can’t come?’ And he said, ‘No, you’re not allowed to make a phone call… Can I use your phone?’ Then our lawyer came.
They [the police] brought some dogs. They couldn’t find the dogs at first – and they kept ringing up, saying, ‘Hello, Charlie, where are the dogs? We’ve been here half an hour.’ And the dogs came.
I’d had all my stuff moved into the flat from my house, and I’d never looked at it. It had just been there for years. I’d ordered cameras and clothes – but my driver brought binoculars (which I didn’t need in my little flat). And inside the binoculars was some hash from last year. Somewhere else in an envelope was another piece of hash. So that was it.68
NEIL ASPINALL: I heard about it right away. John called me and said, ‘Neil, think about all your worst paranoias – because they’re here.’ And I said, ‘OK. I’ll get somebody over there.’ I asked Peter Brown to go. Peter had been Brian Epstein’s personal assistant, but he was now working for Apple. He was looking after all their personal business, and I thought John being busted was quite personal. Peter organised legal advice and got the lawyers there, it was taken care off.
JOHN: To cut a long story short, I’d just had everything moved from my other apartment – it was all over the place. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is a bit of hash that was left over, and I’d forgotten all about it.’ And I just copped a plea. He said, ‘I won’t get you for obstruction if you cop a plea.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a hundred dollars or whatever, it’s no skin off my nose,’ little thinking it would reverberate. And he said, ‘I’ll let your missus go.’75
DEREK TAYLOR: I thought people were out to get us. Being busted was a very serious thing then, and everyone was very frightened of it. It was even paranoia, if you like. It was the event we were all waiting for, all our lives; and for one of The Beatles to be busted was very, very serious because they were more or less used to being untouchable. They’d been going through Immigration without passports and living the life of Riley for donkey’s years (two clichés there), and now things were going wrong. John’s marriage was over, and now we’ve got drugs and we’ve got nudity. And it had been, I felt, manageable until 1968.
Neil told me about the call from John saying: ‘Imagine your worst paranoia, because it’s here.’ And then he told me what had happened, and that the press knew.
The phone calls started to come in very quickly from Fleet Street – the Evening Standard and the Mail, the Mirror; all of them. I think Don Short rang and said, ‘Oh, it’s happened, has it? And I have another couple of dodgy ones: I think John’s father is getting married, and we hear Yoko’s pregnant.’ So it was a case that nothing happened on its own. Everything was happening all the time, really; like the Royal Family’s annus horribilis.
We believed in cannabis as a way of life. I was only concerned about the effects if anything unjust happened. I was very hot for injustice, having been brought up on Ealing comedies and all that; where the little man always won, and if you had a passion for something and you thought it was a good thing, then, in the end, stiff-necked people in suits and things would come round to your way of thinking.
Alas, it was not like that, and people kept clobbering us. I wasn’t really worried about the bust, and we saw John as a martyr. Other people who’d been busted (like Donovan, and Mick, and Brian Jones) rang up with commiserations, and it was very much a gathering of the clans. Paul came into Apple that afternoon, John was there, and Ringo was phoned in Sardinia. Paul brought Ivan Vaughan with him (he who introduced John to Paul and Paul to John), and so it was very much everyone hanging in there with John.
So that was how I saw it, and by the end of 1968 I thought things were looking up. But I always felt things were looking up – I still do.
PAUL: Being busted was something that we were all at risk of at that time – us and half of London; half of the world, in fact. That’s what people were doing then instead of going out and getting crazy with drink – people were sitting at home until very late with wine and cannabis. We didn’t really feel it was very wrong. I still believe alcohol is worse for you and has led to many more deaths – I’ve never heard of a cannabis-related death (although people won’t like to hear that). So what happened to John and Yoko was shocking, and we felt sad for them. And it was a nuisance.
A lot of people were being busted around that time. In fact, it was put down to an actual officer – called something like ‘Sgt Pilchard’, I believe. He had it in for these drug-crazed hippies: ‘I’ll show them.’ So he’d bust them on every occasion. OK, it was illegal – he had the right to do it, so you can’t blame him. It was the idea of ‘breaking the butterfly on the wheel’ (that’s what Rees-Mogg had said about the Stones in 1967). Most of us knew it wasn’t that harmful. We weren’t going round trying to make millions of converts, but we didn’t believe all the rubbish spoken about it.
There are still people around who blame all our ills now on the Sixties, and I don’t think that’s right. They think we all went mad, and God and Country got forgotten. I don't think it was like that at all. I think you can go back to the last war to look for the beginning of those rumblings, when the soldiers got home and ditched Churchill. That was when I think the irreverence started to set in; I don’t think it was anything to do with us.
GEORGE: They got John and Yoko, and later they busted me, too – and they chose Paul’s wedding day to bust me on. Pilcher later emigrated to Australia, but then they extradited him and brought him back. He was charged with perjury and went to prison, but we still had trouble with our visas for years.
JOHN: It happened after I left, and he was caught in Australia, trying to escape (the English always run to Australia, thinking they’re going to vanish there).75
GEORGE: It was certainly an Establishment plot against us. We were outspoken, and the Cromwell figures in the Establishment were trying to get their own back on us. This was the period when everything was going up and up and up getting rosier, and suddenly it reached that point where it started to go down. Everything goes in a cycle, and once it starts going down and you get knocked to the ground, they start kicking you. What you have to realise with the press is that their whole thing is to build people up (and usually that’s by putting somebody else down). They get people to be famous enough so they can make money out of them, and then they put them down. The Royal Family is the greatest case of that, but they did it with The Beatles too. It was only because The Beatles’ popularity was so spread around the world and so many generations of people liked us that they couldn’t put the nail in our coffin.
Brian Epstein had died, so they tried to say: ‘OK, well everything they’ve done since he died is crap,’ meaning, for instance, Magical Mystery Tour. Then it was: ‘Now they have gone mad – they’ve gone to India with some mystic.’ It was the typical silly gossipy stuff that newspaper get into and that people love to attach themselves to. Then we started getting busted! John and Yoko were a great focal point for the negative ‘let’s beat them while they’re down’ attitude.
JOHN: I was frightened. I’m paranoiac, anyway – we both are, especially about people coming to the door. [But] it was better when it happened. It’s been building up for years – thinking something would happen. Now, the fear has gone a bit. Now you know what it’s like, it’s a bit different. And it’s not too bad; a £150 fine.
I think they should make some differentiation between hard and soft drugs. I think maybe they should have pot bars, if they’re going to have alcohol. But I don’t know – I’d sooner ban sugar.
I knew what Britain’s Establishment were. I’d been around it a long time. It’s just the same as anywhere else, only with a stiff upper lip. They don’t show any happiness or sadness.69
It’s strange when you hear people are snorting in the White House, after the misery they put a lot of people through, and the night they bust us in England. I have a record for life because the cop who bust mw and Yoko was scalp-hunting and making a name for himself.
I’ve never denied having been involved with drugs. There was a question raised in the Houses of Parliament: ‘Why do they need forty cops to arrest John and Yoko?’ I mean, that thing was set up. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express were there before the cops came – he’d called the press. In fact, Don Short had told us ‘they’re coming to get you’ three weeks before.80 I guess they didn’t like the way the image was looking. The Beatles thing was over. No reason to protect us for being soft cuddly any more – so bust us! That’s what happened.71
RINGO: SGT PEPPER DID ITS THING – IT WAS THE ALBUM OF THE DECADE, OF THE CENTURY MAYBE. IT WAS VERY INNOVATIVE WITH GREAT SONGS, IT WAS A REAL PLEASURE AND I’M GLAD I WAS ON IT, BUT THE ‘WHITE’ ALBUM ENDED UP A BETTER ALBUM FOR ME.
GEORGE: When we started, I don’t think we thought about whether the ‘White’ album would do as well as Sgt Pepper – I don’t think we ever really concerned ourselves with the previous record and how many it had sold. In the early Sixties, whoever had a hit single would try to make the next record sound as close to it as possible – but we always tried to make things different. Things were always different, anyway – in just a matter of months we’d changed in so many ways there was no chance of a new record ever being like the previous one.
After Sgt Pepper, the new album felt more like a band recording together. There were a lot of tracks where we just played live, and then there were a lot of tracks that we’d recorded and that would need finishing together. There was also a lot more individual stuff and, for the first time, people were accepting that it was individual. I remember having three studios operating at the same time: Paul was doing some overdubs in one, John was in another and I was recording some horns or something in a third. Maybe it was because EMI had set a release date and time was running out.
JOHN: All the stuff on the ‘White’ album was written in India when we were supposedly giving our money to Maharishi, which we never did. We got our mantra, we sat in the in the mountains eating lousy vegetarian food and writing all those songs.80
We wrote about thirty new songs between us. Paul must have done about a dozen. George says he’s got six, and I wrote fifteen. And look what meditation did for Ringo – after all this time he wrote his first song.68
GEORGE MARTIN: They came in with a whole welter of songs – I think there were over thirty, actually – and I was a bit overwhelmed by them, and yet underwhelmed at the same time because some of them weren’t great.
For the first time I had to split myself three ways because at any one time we were recording in different studios. It became very fragmented, and that was where my assistant Chris Thomas did a lot of work (which made him into a very good producer).
GEORGE: The experience of India and everything since Sgt Pepper was all embodied in the new album. Most of the songs that were written in Rishikesh were the result of what Maharishi had said.
When we came back, it became apparent that there were more songs than would make up a single album, and so the ‘White’ album became a double album. What else do you do when you’ve got so many songs and you want to get rid of them so that you can write more? There was a lot of ego in the band, and there were a lot of songs that maybe should have been elbowed or made into B side. Having said that, there would just have been more bootlegs today because all of those that weren’t put on the album would be out there.
JOHN: That [the ‘White’ album] was just saying: ‘This is my song, we’ll do it this way. That’s your song, you do it that way.’ It’s pretty hard trying to fit three guy’s music onto one album – that’s why we did a double.69
After getting into electronics and heavy arrangements, I finally shook all that off and my songs on the double album were fairly simple and basic. It was a complete reversal from Sgt Pepper, and I preferred a lot of the music.71
GEORGE MARTIN: During Magical Mystery Tour I became conscious that the freedom that we’d achieved in Pepper was getting a little bit over the top, and they weren’t really exerting enough mental discipline in a lot of the recordings. They would have a basic idea and then they would have a jam session to end it, which sometimes didn’t sound too good. I complained a little about their writing during the later ‘White’ album, but it was fairly small criticism.
I thought we should probably have made a very, very good single album rather than a double. But they insisted. I think it could have been made fantastically good if it had been compressed a bit and condensed. A lot of people I know think it’s still the best album they made. I later learnt that by recording all those songs they were getting rid of their contract with EMI more quickly.
RINGO: There was a lot of information on the double album, but I agree that we should have put it out as two separate albums: the ‘White’ and the ‘Whiter’ albums.
PAUL: People seem to think that everything we say and do and sing is a political statement, but it isn’t. In the end it is always only a song. One or two of the tracks will make some people wonder what we are doing – but what we are doing is just singing songs.68
GEORGE: I wrote ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ at my mother’s house in Warrington (the spiritual home of George Formby). I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, ‘The Book of Changes’. In the West we think of coincidence as being something that just happens – it just happens that I am sitting here and the wind is blowing my hair, and so on. But the Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence – every little item that’s going down has a purpose.
‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.
We tried to record it, but Paul and John were so used to just cranking out their tunes that it was very difficult at times to get serious and record one of mine. It wasn’t happening. They weren’t taking it seriously and I don’t think they were even all playing on it, and so I went home that night thinking, ‘Well, that’s a shame,’ because I knew the song was pretty good.
The next day I was driving into London with Eric Clapton, and I said, ‘What are you doing today? Why don’t you come to the studio and play on this song for me?’ He said, ‘Oh, no – I can’t do that. Nobody’s ever played on a Beatles’ record and the others wouldn’t like it.’ I said ‘Look, it’s my song and I’d like you to play on it.’
So he came in. I said, ‘Eric’s going to play on this one,’ and It was good because that then made everyone act better. Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro and they all took it more seriously. (It was a similar situation when Billy Preston came later to play on Let It Be and everybody was arguing. Just bringing a stranger in amongst us made everybody cool out.)
PAUL: We’d had guest instrumentalists before – Brian Jones had played some crazy stuff on sax (for ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’), and we’d used a flute and other instruments – but we’d never actually had someone other than George (or occasionally John or me) playing the guitar.
Eric showed up and he was very nice, very accommodating and humble and a good player. He got wound up and we all did it. It was good fun actually. His style fitted very well with the song and I think George was keen to have him play it – which was nice of George because he could have played it himself and then it would have been him on the big hit.
JOHN: ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ was another one which was banned on the radio – they said it was about shooting up drugs. But they were advertising guns and I thought it was so crazy that I made a song out of it. It wasn’t about ‘H’ at all. George Martin showed me the cover of a magazine that said: ‘Happiness is a warm gun.’ I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you’ve just shot something.71
I love it. I think it’s a beautiful song. I like all the different things that are happening in it. I had put together three sections of different songs, it seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music.70
JOHN: We’ve just done two tracks. The second one is Ringo’s first song. He composed it himself in a fit of lethargy.68
RINGO: I wrote ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ when I was sitting round at home. I only play three chords on the guitar and three on the piano. I was fiddling with the piano – I just bang away – and then if a melody comes and some words, I just have to keep going. That’s how it happened: I was just sitting at home alone and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ arrived. We played it with a country attitude. It was great to get my first song down, one that I had written. It was a very exciting time for me and everyone was really helpful, and recording that crazy violinist was a thrilling moment.
I also sang John’s song ‘Good Night’. I’ve just heard it for the first time in years and it’s not bad at all, although I think I sound very nervous. It was something for me to do.
JOHN: [‘Glass Onion’] That’s me, just doing a throwaway song, à la ‘Walrus’, à la everything I’ve ever written. I threw the line in – ‘the Walrus was Paul’ – just to confuse everybody a bit more. It could have been: ‘The fox terrier is Paul.’ I mean, it’s just a bit of poetry.80 I was having a laugh because there’d been so much gobbledegook about Pepper – play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.
At that time I was still in my love cloud with Yoko. I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just say something nice to Paul, that it’s all right and you did a good job over these few years, holding us together.’ He was trying to organise the group and all that, so I wanted to say something to him. I thought, ‘Well, he can have it, I’ve got Yoko. And thank you, you can have the credit.’70
The line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko and I was leaving Paul. It’s a very perverse way of saying to Paul: ‘Here, have this crumb, this illusion, this stroke – because I’m leaving.’80
JOHN: I spent more time on ‘Revolution 9’ than I did on half the other songs I ever wrote.
The slow version of ‘Revolution’ on the album went on and on and on, and I took the fade-out part and just layered all this stuff over it. It has the basic rhythm of the original ‘Revolution’ going on with some twenty loops we put on; things from the archives of EMI. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping it and making it backwards and things like that to get the sound effects.
There were about ten machines with people holding pencils on the loops – some only inches long and some a yard long. I fed them all in and mixed them live. I did a few mixes until I got one I liked. Yoko was there for the whole thing and she made decisions about which loops to use. It was somewhat under her influence, I suppose.80
‘Revolution 9’ was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of revolution. It was just abstract, musique concrète, loops, people screaming… I thought I was painting in sound a picture of revolution – but I made a mistake. The mistake was that it was anti-revolution.70
It’s like an action painting. The ‘number nine, number nine, number nine’ was an engineer’s voice. They have test tapes to see that the tapes are all right, and the voice was saying: ‘This is number nine megacycles…’ I just liked the way he said ‘number nine’ so I made a loop and brought it in whenever I felt like it.74 It was just so funny, the voice saying ‘number nine’, it was like a joke, bringing number nine in it all the time, that’s all it was. There are many symbolic things about it, but it just happened.70
In June 1952, I drew four guys playing football and number nine is the number on the guy’s back, and that was pure coincidence. I was born on 9th October. I lived at 9 Newcastle Road. Nine seems to be my number so I’ve stuck with it, and it’s the highest number in the universe; after that you go back to one.74 It’s just a number that follows me around but numerologically, apparently I’m a number six or a three or something; but it’s all part of nine).80
PAUL: ‘Revolution 9’ was quite similar to some stuff I’d been doing myself for fun. I didn’t think that mine was suitable for release, but John always encouraged me.
JOHN: I DON’T KNOW WHAT INFLUENCE ‘REVOLUTION NO.9’ HAD ON THE TEENY-BOPPER FANS. BUT MOST OF THEM DIDN’T DIG IT; SO WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?69
PAUL: A nice thing about the album was the cover. I had a lot of friends in the art business, and with Sgt Pepper I had been involved with Robert Fraser. I knew a lot of artists through him, and one of his people at the time was Richard Hamilton.
I’d been to a couple of exhibitions and I liked Richard’s work, so I rung him up and said: ‘We’ve got a new album coming out. Would you be interested in doing the cover?’ He said he would, so I asked everyone. They said ‘yes’ and then they let me get on with it, really. I used to go out to his house in Highgate and chat about it, and one day he said: ‘OK. Get lots of snapshots: go back to all your baby photos, get photos of yourselves – any kind – and I’ll make a collage.’
It was very exciting for me because I’m into art, and I could be his assistant for the week – liaising between the guys; getting the photographs and having them copied. Then I just sat round for the week watching him put the collage together. It’s lovely just watching someone paint. The great thing at the end of it was that when he’d filled the whole collage with photos, his final move was to take pieces of white paper and place them strategically to give space through the whole thing, so that it wasn’t just crammed with pictures. He explained that this was so the whole picture could breathe. You could see through the density, which was a great idea and gave me my education about negative space (which apparently is what it was called). I think I would have just left it as it was, because it looked great anyway; but if you look at that poster now, the white areas are very clever.
Then in the end he said: ‘What are we going to do for the cover now that we’ve got the poster? What’s the album called?’ And he asked, ‘Have you ever had an album called The Beatles?’ I said ‘no’ and checked back because I wasn’t sure. It had always been: Beatles For Sale, Meet The Beatles, With The Beatles. There had always been something similar, but never just The Beatles. So Richard said that was what we should call it, and everyone agreed.
Richard was very minimalist, and he wanted to have a completely white cover and emboss the word ‘Beatles’ on it. At that time he had a friend who always smudged things, like a bit of chocolate or whatever, so Richard wanted to put an ‘apple smudge’ on a bit of paper. That proved hard to do, so we said: ‘Look, let’s just leave it at the white cover.’
Then he had the idea to number each album, which I thought was brilliant for collectors. You’d have 000001,000002, 000003, and so on. If you got, for example, 000200 then that would be an early copy – it was a great idea for sales. EMI weren’t easy to persuade and they said they couldn’t do it. I said: ‘Look, if a milometer can turn over, you must be able to do that with every record that goes out.’ And they found a way. I think they stopped at some point, so not all ‘White’ albums have the numbers on them. But it was a good idea and we got the first four. John, I think, got the first one. He shouted loudest!
RINGO: I got number one – because I’m lovely! John was actually the kindest and most loving overall, when he could be. And he wasn’t quite as cynical as everyone expects. I got number one here and number four in America.
GEORGE MARTIN: I can recall Yoko spending a lot of time with John in the studio whilst we were recording the ‘White’ album – so much, in fact, that when at one time she was actually ill, John would not let her be ill at home so she had a bed in the studio. While we recorded, there was Yoko lying in bed.
There was a huge bond between John and Yoko. There’s no doubt about it: they were completely together mentally and I think that as that bond grew, so John lessened his bond with Paul and the others – which obviously caused problems. It was no longer the happy-go-lucky foursome – fivesome, with me – that it used to be.
GEORGE: Yoko just moved in. Well, John moved in with Yoko – or she moved in with him – and from that point on they were never to be seen without each other (for the next few years at least). So she was suddenly in the band; she didn’t start singing or playing, but she was there. Just as Neil and Mal were there, or George Martin was there, Yoko was there. She had a bed wheeled into the studio, so while we were all trying to make a record she would be in the bed, or under the piano on a mattress.
At first it was a novelty, but after a while it become apparent that she was always going to be there and it was very uncomfortable, because this was us at work and we were used to doing it in a certain way. Maybe it was just a habit that we’d got into, but there were just the four of us and George Martin. Occasionally people would come in and visit; Brian Epstein or the odd girlfriend or wife or whatever would come and go, but we never actually had somebody who was a stranger to all of us except John.
It was very odd, her sitting there all the time. It wasn’t just that it was Yoko or that we were opposed to the idea of having a stranger sitting there; there was a definite vibe, and that’s what bothered me. It was a weird vibe.
JOHN: Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love. Everything is clear and open when you’re in love. Everybody was tense around us: ‘What is she doing here at the session?’ All this madness is going on around us because we just happened to want to be together all the time.80
PAUL: Yoko was in the studio a lot. John and she had a very intense romance when they got together. She’s a very strong woman, a very independent woman, and I think John always liked strong women. If you think about it, his Aunt Mimi was rather a strong woman and so was his mother, but Cynthia wasn’t; and maybe that was why they divorced. Cynthia is a nice woman, but she was not able to dominate; whereas Yoko, I think, was.
She was a conceptual artist and John was very fascinated by her. She was into a lot of other topics. She would say things like: ‘I do not know Beatles,’ so it was like: ‘Wow! Here is the one person who doesn’t know about The Beatles.’ That was very attractive to John.
JOHN: THE ONLY NAME YOKO KNEW BEFORE WAS RINGO, BECAUSE IT MEANS ‘APPLE’ IN JAPANESE.71
PAUL: She would say, ‘Oh, I love guys in leather jackets,’ so he’d get back into his leather and start acting like a teenage hoodlum again. It was a good excuse to get into all that stuff that he hadn’t done for a long time, and I think she opened a lot of artistic avenues for him. The trouble, for us, was that it encroached on the framework that we’d had going for us.
NEIL ASPINALL: This was the first album that I wasn’t in the studio for. I was at Savile Row, taking care of the business and all the rest of it. I remember going over there once and John said to me, ‘What are you doing here? You should be in the office.’ Which felt a bit bad, you know. I didn’t like being in the office; it wasn’t my gig.
Yoko went everywhere with John; it wasn’t just that she was in the studio all the time – it was that the two of them went everywhere together, so if he was in the studio, then she was.
RINGO: Yoko being in the studio a lot was a new thing. It was all new. We’re very Northern: the wives stayed at home and we went to work – we dug coal and they cooked dinner. It was one of those flat-cap attitudes which we were losing by then. I think if Maureen came to the studio five or six times that would be about it, and in all the years Pattie came several times at the most. I don’t remember Cynthia coming much when she was married to John. It was just something that didn’t happen. And suddenly we had Yoko in bed in the studio.
It created tension because most of the time the four of us were very close, and very possessive of each other in a way; we didn’t like strangers coming in too much. And that’s what Yoko was (not to John, but to the three of us). That was where we were together, and that’s why we worked so well. We were all trying to be cool and not mention it, but inside we were all feeling it and talking in corners.
I used to ask John: ‘What’s this about, what’s happening here? Yoko’s at all the sessions!’ He told me straight, ‘Well, when you go home to Maureen and tell her how your day was, it takes you two lines: “Oh, we had a good day in the studio…” Well, we know exactly what’s going on. And that’s how they started to live – every moment together. (That was something Barbara and I took up when we got married; we were absolutely moment by moment together for the first eight years of our marriage.) I was fine after that, and relaxed a lot around Yoko.
PAUL: Now John had to have Yoko there. I can’t blame him, they were intensely in love – in the first throes of the first passions- but it was fairly off-putting having her sitting on one of the amps. You wanted to say, ‘Excuse me, love – can I turn the volume up?’ We were always wondering how to say: ‘Could you get off my amp?’ without interfering with their relationship.
It was a very difficult time. I felt that when John finally left the group he did it to clear the decks for his relationship. Anything prior to that meant the decks weren’t clear – he had all his Beatle baggage; all his having to relate to us. He just wanted to go off into the corner and look into Yoko’s eyes for hours, saying to each other, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ It was pretty freaky when we were trying to make a track.
Looking at it now you can be amused by it, and it was quite a laugh, really. But at the time, this was us and it was our careers. We were The Beatles, after all, and here was this girl… It was like we were her courtiers, and it was very embarrassing. The ‘White’ album was a very tense one to make.
JOHN: Paul was always gently coming up to Yoko and saying, ‘Why don’t you keep in the background a bit more?’ I didn’t know what was going on. It was going on behind my back.72
GEORGE: Maybe now if you talk to Yoko she may say she likes The Beatles or that she liked The Beatles. But she didn’t really like us because she saw The Beatles as something that was between that was trying to drive itself deeper and deeper between him and us, and it actually happened.
It may be unfair to blame Yoko totally for any break-up because we’d all had enough by then, anyway. We were all going our own ways and she might have become the catalyst for speeding up that situation, whatever it was. I don’t really regret any of that, but at that time I was definitely uncomfortable about her being there.
JOHN: If it is Yoko and Linda’s fault for breaking up The Beatles, can they have the credit for all the great music that each of us have made individually? Linda and Yoko never had an argument ever. How can two women split up four strong men? It’s impossible.71
Looking back, I understand there’d been four guys very close together, and the women that were with them, wives or girlfriends, had been the old-fashioned type of female that we all know and love. The one that was in the kitchen the whole time with the baby – she never came to the sessions even. You never saw the wives, only for openings and when they did their hair. And suddenly we were together all the time; in a corner mumbling and giggling. And there were Paul, George and Ringo saying, ‘What the hell are they doing? What’s happened to him?’ And my attention completely went off them. Now it wasn’t deliberate, it was just I was so involved and intrigued with what we were doing… And then we’d look round and see that we weren’t being approved. But I understand how they felt, because if it had been Paul or George or Ringo that had fallen in love with somebody and got totally involved…80
I always preferred it to all the other albums, including Pepper, because I thought the music was better. The Pepper myth is bigger, but the music on the ‘White’ album is far superior.
I wrote a lot of good shit on that. I like all the stuff I did, and the other stuff as well. I like the whole album. I haven’t heard it in a long time, but I know there’s a lot of good songs on it.72
PAUL: I think it was a very good album. It stood up, but it wasn’t a pleasant one to make. Then again, sometimes those things work for your art. The fact that it’s got so much on it is one of the things that’s cool about it. The songs are very varied. I think it’s a fine album.
I don’t remember the reaction. Now I release records and I watch to see who likes it and how it does. But with The Beatles, I can’t ever remember scouring the charts to see what number it had come in at. I assume we hoped that people would like it. We just put it out and got on with life. A lot of our friends liked it and that was mainly what we were concerned with. If your mates liked it, the boutiques played it and it was played wherever you went – that was a sign of success for us.
I was in Scotland and I read in Melody Maker that Pete Townshend has said: ‘We’ve just made the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock’n’roll record you’ve ever heard.’ I never actually found out what track it was that The Who had made, but that got me going; just hearing him talk about it. So I said to the guys, ‘I think we should do a song like that; something really wild.’ And I wrote ‘Helter Skelter’.
You can hear the voices cracking, and we played it so long and so often that by the end of it you can hear Ringo saying, ‘I’ve got blisters on my fingers.’ We just tried to get it louder: ‘Can’t we make the drums sound louder?’ That was really all I wanted to do- to make a very loud, raunchy rock’n’roll record with The Beatles. And I think it’s a pretty good one. (That’s why I get annoyed when people say: ‘You just do the ballads; you’re the soppy one.’ I say: ‘Have you checked? Have you listened?’ Not that I like justifying myself, but there is the other side of me.)
RINGO: ‘Helter Skelter’ was a track we did in total madness and hysterics in the studio. Sometimes you just had to shake out the jams, and with that song – Paul’s bass line and my drums – Paul started screaming and shouting and made it up on the spot.
PAUL: Then it got over to America – the land of interpretive people. And as a DJ later would ‘interpret’ the fact that I had no shoes on the Abbey Road cover, Charles Manson interpreted that ‘Helter Skelter’ was something to do with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. I still don’t know what all that stuff is; it’s from the Bible, ‘Revelations’ – I haven’t read it so I wouldn’t know. But he interpreted the whole thing – that we were the four horsemen, ‘Helter Skelter’ the song – and arrived at having to go out and kill everyone.
It was terrible. You can’t associate yourself with a thing like that. Some guy in the States had done it – but I’ve no idea why. It was frightening, because you don’t write songs for those reasons. Maybe some heavy metal groups do nowadays, but we certainly never did.
Bob Dylan thought that the line in ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was ‘I get high, I get high, I get high.’ So there had been some funny little misinterpretations, but they were all harmless and just a bit of a laugh. Jake Rivera, Elvis Costello’s manager, thought that ‘living it easy with eyes closed’ was ‘living is easy with nice clothes’. But after all those little interpretations there was finally this horrific interpretation of it all. It all went wrong at that point, but it was nothing to do with us. What can you do?
JOHN: All that Manson stuff was built around George’s song about pigs and Paul’s song about an English fairground. It has nothing to do with anything, and least of all to do with me.80
He’s barmy, he’s like any other Beatle fan who reads mysticism into it. I mean, we used to have a laugh putting this, that or the other in, in a light-hearted way. Some intellectual would read us, some symbolic youth generation wants it, but we also took seriously some parts of the role. But, I don’t know, what’s ‘Helter Skelter’ got to do with knifing somebody?70
RINGO: It was upsetting. I mean, I knew Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, and –God! – it was a rough time. It stopped everyone in their tracks because suddenly all this violence came out in the midst of all this love and peace and psychedelia. It was pretty miserable, actually, and everyone got really insecure – not just us, not just the rockers, but everyone in LA felt: ‘Oh, God, it can happen to anybody.’ Thank God they caught the bugger.
GEORGE: We had incredible things happening in our lives. We had wonderful clothes, psychedelic motor cars, houses; everything. All our songs were about ‘All You Need Is Love’, and ‘Revolution’, and so on. It was a ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ mentality, and even nowadays a lot of people feel threatened. There is no flower-power revolution going on now, but people still feel threatened when they don’t understand something, or if they feel that their lifestyle – the little rut that they’ve got it – is threatened by what you’re saying. They will dismiss you or they’ll think you’re a crank, or even that you’re crazy.
They’ve just about said everything by now, they’ve said how wonderful we are and how horrible we are, and they’ve been through up/down/up/down so many times that it doesn’t make any difference. In some way we went beyond it all. We transcended the tabloids; they still have their field day now and again – still write their silly little things – but it doesn’t really have any effect on us. Yet they don’t like to hear something that’s a deviation from that cosy little safe routine that people have for their lives.
Everybody was getting on the big Beatle bandwagon. The police and the promoters and the Lord Mayors – and murderers, too. The Beatles were topical and they were the main thing that was written about in the world, so everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not. It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson.
Another thing I found offensive was that Manson suddenly portrayed the long hair, beard and moustache kind if image, as well as that of a murderer. Up until then, the long hair and the beard were more to do with not having your hair cut and not having a shave – a case of just being a scruff or something.
RINGO: While we were recording the ‘White’ album we ended up being more of a band again, and that’s what I always love. I love being in a hand. Of course, I must have moments of turmoil, because I left the group for a while that summer.
I left because I felt two things: I felt I wasn’t playing great, and I also felt that the other three were really happy and I was an outsider. I went to see John, who had been living in my apartment in Montagu Square with Yoko since he moved out of Kenwood. I said, ‘I’m Leaving the group because I’m not playing well and I feel unloved and out of it, and you three are really close.’ And John said, ‘I thought it was you three!’
So then I went over to Paul’s and knocked on his door. I said the same thing: ‘I’m leaving the band. I feel you three guys are really close and I’m out of it.’ And Paul said, ‘I thought it was you three!’
I didn’t even bother going to George then. I said, ‘I’m going on holiday.’ I took the kids and we went to Sardinia.
GEORGE: I can’t remember exactly why Ringo left. Suddenly one day somebody said, ‘Oh, Ringo’s gone on holiday.’ Then we found out that he thought that the three of us all got on so well and he didn’t. It was just one of those things. Everybody felt the same, we were all getting cheesed off. I felt: ‘What’s the point in me being around here? They all seem so cool and groovy and I just don’t fit.’ And I actually left on the next album.
PAUL: I think Ringo was always paranoid that he wasn’t a great drummer because he never used to solo. He hated those guys who went on and on, incessantly banging while the band goes off and has a cup of tea or something. Until Abbey Road, there was never a drum solo in The Beatles’ act, and consequently other drummers would say that although they liked his style, Ringo wasn’t technically a very good drummer. It was a bit condescending and I think we let it go too far.
I think his feel and soul and the way he was rock solid with his tempo was a great attribute. I always say if you can leave a drummer and turn your back on him, then you’re very lucky. You could just tell Ringo how it went and leave him – there was always this great noise and very steady tempo coming from behind you. Rock’n’roll is all about feel really, and sound. So at that time we had to reassure him that we did think he was great.
That’s what it’s like in life. You go through life and you never stop and say: ‘Hey, you know what? I think you’re great.’ You don’t always tell your favourite drummer that he’s your favourite. Ringo felt insecure and he left, so we told him, ‘Look, man, you are the best drummer in the world for us.’ (I still think that.) He said ‘thank you’, and I think he was pleased to hear it. We ordered millions of flowers and there was a big celebration to welcome him back to the studio.
JOHN: I love his drumming. Ringo us still one of the best drummers in rock.72
GEORGE MARTIN: I think they were all feeling a little paranoid. When you have a rift between people – if you go to a party and the husband and wife have been having a row – there’s a tension, an atmosphere. And you wonder whether you are making things worse by being there. I think that was the kind of situation we found with Ringo. He was probably feeling a little bit odd because of the mental strangeness with John and Yoko and Paul, and none of them having quite the buddiness they used to have. He might have said to himself, ‘Am I the cause?’
RINGO: I wrote ‘Octopus’s Garden’ in Sardinia. Peter Sellers had lent us his yacht and we went out for the day. We told the captain we wanted fish and chips for lunch (because that’s all we ever ate, being from Liverpool). And so when lunchtime came around we had the french fries, but then there was this other stuff on the plate. He said: ‘Here’s your fish and chips.’ – ‘Well, what’s this?’ – ‘It’s squid.’ – ‘We don’t eat squid, where’s the cod?’ Anyway, we ate it for the first time and it was OK; a bit rubbery. It tasted like chicken.
I stayed out on deck with him and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang out in their caves and they go around the seabed finding shiny stones and tin cans bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden. I thought this was fabulous, because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. A couple of tokes later with the guitar – and we had ‘Octopus’s Garden’!
I had a rest and the holiday was great. I knew we were all in a messed-up stage. It wasn’t just me; the whole thing was going down. I had definitely left, I couldn’t take it any more. There was no magic and the relationships were terrible. I’d come to a bad spot in life. It could have been paranoia, but I just didn’t feel good – I felt like an outsider. But then I realised that we were all feeling like outsiders, and it just needed me to go around knocking to bring it to a head.
I got a telegram saying, ‘You’re the best rock’n’roll drummer in the world. Come on home, we love you.’ And so I came back. We all needed that little shake-up. When I got back to the studio I found George had had it decked out with flowers – there were flowers everywhere. I felt good about myself again, we’d got through that little crisis and it was great. And then the ‘White’ album really took off – we all left the studio and went to a little room so there was no separation and lots of group activity going down.
George went to California to do some filming with Ravi Shankar in June, and Maureen and I went along with him. We were always going places with each other. If someone was going somewhere we’d go with them – we usually went in twos. Paul and I went to the Virgin Islands, John and I went to Trinidad. Every time we went on holiday it would be with one of the others. That’s how close we were.
We got to Pebble Beach, where we were staying, and it was beautiful. We went to Esalen and saw what that was about: free love and fabulous ideas. Alan Watts and people like that were hanging out there. Then George went to San Francisco. He even invited the Hells Angels to come and stay with us – that’s how much love was around.
GEORGE: Derek got a phone call one morning from Customs and Excise, saying: ‘Is this right: we’ve got seventeen Harley Davidsons that you’re going to pay the freight duty on?’ I’d warned Apple about this because in New York I’d heard a guy saying: ‘We may be coming over to England sometime, and we’ll look you up.’ I thought, ‘That’s all we need, isn’t it?’
So this day arrived. The Hell’s Angels came from San Francisco complete with their Harley Davidsons, checked in at Heatrow Airport and drove straight over to No. 3 Savile Row. I quickly put a memo out to everybody, saying: ‘Watch out, don’t let them take over. You have to keep doing what you’re doing, but just be nice to them. And don’t upset them because they could kill you.’ It was a joke, but they were mean.
NEIL ASPINALL: George had said: ‘Oh, if you ever come to England, look us up,’ or something. A couple of months later the motorbikes were outside Savile Row with these guys saying, ‘Well, George said it was OK.’ They ended up living at Apple and terrifying everybody.
We had the Hell’s Angels’ Christmas Party. I can remember that everybody was getting hungry, and then a huge turkey came in on a big tray with four people carrying it. It was about ten Yards from the door to the table where they were going to put the turkey down, but it never made it.
The Hell’s Angels just went ‘woof’, and everything disappeared: arms, legs, breast, everything. By the time it got to the table there was nothing there. They just ripped the turkey to pieces, trampling young children underfoot to get to it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
RINGO: They proceeded to ruin the kids’ party – and then we couldn’t get rid of them. They wouldn’t leave and we had bailiffs and everything to try to get them out. It was miserable and everyone was terrified, including the grown-ups. It was like the edgy Christmas party.
GEORGE: John and Yoko were dressed up as Father Christmas. I didn’t go because I knew there was going to be trouble. I just heard that it was terrible and how everybody got beaten up.
NEIL ASPINALL: They did get asked to leave Apple. I asked them, but they got into that hippy language: ‘Well, you didn’t invite us, so you can’t ask us to leave…’ In other words, as George had invited them, so George was going to have to ask them to go. I think George did it very well – I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was like: ‘Yes/no – Yin/Yang – in/out/ - stay/go. You know – BUGGER OFF!’ And they said, ‘Well, if you put it that way, George, of course,’ and left.
DEREK TAYLOR: George, in essence, had encouraged the Hell’s Angels to come to Apple if they were ever in town. But many others came as well. A homeless family from California moved into Apple and did actually live in one of the office – a mother and father and several children, with the San Francisco Hell’s Angels weaving in and out.
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Ken Kesey was in, borrowing a typewriter and tape recorder and doing poetry readings in my office in the morning. I would arrive and find the hell’s Angels sitting around on the floor doing those physical things they did – a lot of scratching and farting and generally being awful, and saying, ‘Hey Ken, read some more, man.’ They would assemble for the great man to speak to them in my working office: Billy Tumbleweed and Frisco Pete (who will be known to our American readers) and other men.