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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 13, 1966

Nothing notable happened on this day 50 years ago.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 12, 1966

Paul McCartney meets Mal Evans in Bordeaux, France

One week after beginning his road trip across France, Paul McCartney had a rendezvous with The Beatles' roadie Mal Evans in Bordeaux.

Prior to meeting Evans, McCartney spent the night in a Bordeaux club. Wearing the moustache and glasses disguise he had prepared to allow him to travel incognito, the club staff wouldn't let him in.

I looked like old jerko. 'No, no, monsieur, non' - you schmuck, we can't let you in! So I thought, Sod this, I might as well go back to the hotel and come as him! So I came back as a normal Beatle, and was welcomed in with open arms. I thought, Well, it doesn't matter if I've blown my cover because I'm going to meet Mal anyway, I don't have to keep the disguise any longer. Actually, by the time of the club I'd sort of had enough of it. Which was good. It was kind of therapeutic but I'd had enough. It was nice because I remembered what it was like to not be famous and it wasn't necessarily any better than being famous.

It made me remember why we all wanted to get famous; to get that thing. Of course, those of us in the Beatles have often thought that, because we wished for this great fame, and then it comes true but it brings with it all these great business pressures or the problems of fame, the problems of money, et cetera. And I just had to check whether I wanted to go back, and I ended up thinking, No, all in all, I'm quite happy with this lot. McCartney met Evans at the Saint-Eloi catholic church, on Rue Saint-James in Bordeaux.

We met up, exactly as planned, under the church clock. He was there. I figured I'd had enough of my own company by then. I had enjoyed it, it had been a nice thing. Then we drove down into Spain but we got to Madrid and we didn't know anyone; the only way would have been to go to a club and start making contacts. So we thought, This is not going to be any fun, and rang the office in London, and booked ourselves a safari trip.

The pair drove from Bordeaux to Spain, making films on their journey. They had hoped to meet John Lennon in Almería, but filming for How I Won The War had ended and he had returned to England.

Instead they decided on a safari holiday and flew to Kenya. McCartney arranged to meet his girlfriend Jane Asher there, and in Seville had someone drive his Aston Martin DB5 back to London.

McCartney and Evans flew from Seville to Madrid, and from there to Nairobi. They had a 10-hour stopover in Rome, during which they did some sightseeing.

Upon their arrival in Kenya they toured Ambosali Park, overlooked by Mount Kilimanjaro, and stayed at the Treetop Hotel, the royal family's Kenyan base. The holiday came to a close on 19 November, when McCartney, Asher and Evans flew from Nairobi back to London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 11, 1966

The Beatles each busy on their own.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 10, 1966

Mixing, editing: This Boy, Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out

Room 65, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Engineer: Peter Bown

This was the last of four mixing sessions to prepare stereo versions of Beatles songs ahead of the UK compilation album A Collection Of Beatles Oldies on December 9, 1966.

Once again George Martin was not present, so the session was led by balance engineer Peter Bown. The first song worked on was "This Boy", which was the result of a misunderstanding. During a telephone call from EMI's headquarters at London's Manchester Square,  Bad Boy was mistakenly called This Boy.

This led to stereo mixes being made from takes 15 and 17, which were edited together towards the end of the session. They were unnecessary, however, and the stereo mix of Bad Boy from May 10, 1965 was used for the album.

Day Tripper was the second song to receive a stereo mix. This replaced an earlier one made on October 26, 1965 for The Beatles' US and Australian record labels.

The third and final song was "We Can Work It Out". A previous stereo mix had been created on November 10, 1965, but was crapped on August 9, 1966.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 9, 1966

The ‘Paul is dead’ myth

 The 'Paul Is Dead' myth began in 1969, and alleged that Paul McCartney. The Beatles are said to have covered up the death, despite inserting a series of clues into their songs and artwork. The story goes that at 5am on Wednesday - 9 November 1966, McCartney stormed out of a session for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, got in to his Austin Healey car, and subsequently crashed and died.

Somewhat improbably, McCartney was said to have been replaced by a lookalike, called variously William Shears Campbell or William Sheppard. William Campbell allegedly became Billy Shears on Sgt Pepper, while William Sheppard was supposedly the inspiration behind "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (actually an American named Richard Cooke III).

In fact, the crash never happened. Between 6 and 19 November 1966, McCartney and his girlfriend Jane Asher were on holiday, travelling through France and Kenya.

However, a couple of relevant incidents did take place. On December 26, 1965 McCartney crashed his moped, resulting in a chipped tooth and a scar on his top lip, which he hid by growing a moustache.

Additionally, on 7 January 1967 McCartney's Mini Cooper was involved in an accident on the M1 motorway outside London, as a result of which it was written off. However, the car was being driven by a Moroccan student named Mohammed Hadjij, and McCartney was not present.

Hadjij was an assistant to London art gallery owner Robert Fraser. The pair turned up at McCartney's house on the evening of 7 January, and were later joined by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs.

The party decided to head to Jagger's home in Hertfordshire, before moving on to Redlands, Richards' Sussex mansion (and scene of his later drugs bust). McCartney travelled with Jagger in the latter's Mini Cooper, while Hadjij drove in McCartney's Mini.

The two cars became separated during the journey. Hadjij crashed McCartney's Mini and was hospitalised with injuries. The heavily customised car was highly recognisable, so rumours began circulating that McCartney had been killed in the incident.

The following month a paragraph appeared in the February 1967 edition of the Beatles Book Monthly magazine, headed "FALSE RUMOUR":

Stories about the Beatles are always flying around Fleet Street. The 7th January was very icy, with dangerous conditions on the M1 motorway, linking London with the Midlands, and towards the end of the day, a rumour swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the M1. But, of course, there was absolutely no truth in it at all, as the Beatles' Press Officer found out when he telephoned Paul's St John's Wood home and was answered by Paul himself who had been at home all day with his black Mini Cooper safely locked up in the garage.

Although the magazine downplayed the incident, and claimed the car was in McCartney's possession.

The origins of the myth

Belief that Paul McCartney may have died in the mid 1960s began in 1969. The first known print reference was in an article written by Tim Harper which appeared in the 17 September edition of the Times-Delphic, the newspaper of the Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Harper later claimed that he wasn't the original source for any of the claims in his articles. He said he was writing for entertainment purposes only, and said he got the information from a fellow student, Dartanyan Brown. Mr Brown is said to have got the story from a musician who had heard it on the Californian west coast, and that he also read the story in an underground newspaper.

The rumours gained momentum on 12 October 1969, after an on-air phone call to radio presenter Russ Gibb, a DJ on WKNR-FM in Michigan. The caller, identified only as 'Tom', claimed that McCartney was dead, and instructed Gibb to play Revolution 9 backwards, where the repeated "number nine" phrase was heard as "turn me on, dead man".

Listening to the show was Fred LaBour, an arts reviewer for student newspaper The Michigan Daily. LaBour used clues from Gibb's programme along with others he had invented himself - including the name of William Campbell, the alleged replacement for McCartney.

I made the guy up. It was originally going to be Glenn Campbell, with two Ns, and then I said 'that's too close, nobody'll buy that'. So I made it William Campbell.

The Michigan Daily published it on 14 October, under the title McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought To Light. Although clearly intended as a joke, it had an impact far wider than the writer and his editor expected.

Shortly afterwards, Russ Gibb co-produced a one-hour special called The Beatle Plot, giving the rumour greater prominence; by then it was well on its way to become a national, then international, talking point, inspiring fans to pore over their albums for further clues.

A British version of the rumour is believed to have existed prior to the American one, with fewer details. The sources are unknown, but the notion of McCartney dying in a road accident appears to have originated there.

The Beatles' responses

Although The Beatles and their press office at Apple were initially bewildered and somewhat annoyed by the story's refusal to die away, there is evidence that the group members themselves found it amusing.

In an edition of Life magazine dated 7 November 1969, McCartney reassured fans that "Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated," paraphrasing Mark Twain. "However," he continued, "if I was dead, I'm sure I'd be the last to know."

The magazine's cover featured Paul and Linda with their children, in a picture taken on their Scottish farm. The cover featured the words "The case of the 'missing' Beatle - Paul is still with us". Shortly after the issue went on sale the rumours started to decline.

In his revealing Rolling Stone interview in 1970, John Lennon was asked about the death story. He responded in a typically forthright fashion:

I don't know where that started, that was barmy. I don't know, you know as much about it as me... No, that was bullshit, the whole thing was made up. We never went for anything like that. We put tit-tit-tit in Girl. It would be things like a beat missing or something like that, see if anyone noticed - I know we used to have a few things, but nothing that could be interpreted like that.

Lennon referred to the myth in 1971's How Do You Sleep?, his vitriolic attack on McCartney from the Imagine album. The song contains the lines: "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead, the one mistake you made was in your head".

McCartney parodied the rumours with the title and cover or his 1993 album Paul Is Live. The artwork was based on the Abbey Road cover photograph; instead of the 28IF number plate, a car shows 51 IS instead. To reinforce the cycle of life, he is pictured being dragged across the famous zebra crossing by one of the offspring of his sheepdog Martha.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 8, 1966

Mixing: She Loves You

Room 53, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

George Martin was not present for this third stereo mixing session for the UK compilation A Collection Of Beatles Oldies compilation, which was released on December 9, 1966, so balance engineer Geoff Emerick oversaw the work.

Two mixes of "She Loves You" were made during a 90-minute session. The original two-track tapes had been destroyed shortly after the song was recorded, so Emerick created a mock stereo version by slashing the treble frequencies from the left channel and removing the bass from the right.
 
The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 7, 1966

John Lennon meets Yoko Ono

On the day before her exhibition Unfinished Paintings And Objects was to open, Japanese artist Yoko Ono was introduced to John Lennon for the first time.

John Lennon - That old gang of mine. That's all over. 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 anymore and you don't go play snooker and billiards. Maybe some guys like to do it every Friday night or something and continue that relationship with the boys, but once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever, other than they were like old friends. You know: 'Hi, how are you? How's your wife?' That kind of thing. You know the song: 'Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.' Well, it didn't hit me till whatever age I was when I met Yoko, which was twenty-six. Nineteen sixty-six we met, but the full impact didn't... we didn't get married till '68, was it? It all blends into one bleeding movie!

But whatever, that was it. The 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 that the boys were well known and weren't just the local guys at the bar.

The exhibition was held at the Indica Gallery, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop in Mason's Yard, just off Duke Street in Mayfair, London. The Indica was co-owned by John Dunbar, Peter Asher and Barry Miles, and was supported in its early years by Paul McCartney.

There was a sort of underground clique in London; John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, had an art gallery in London called Indica, and I'd been going around to galleries a bit on me off days in between records, also to a few exhibitions in different galleries that showed sort of unknown artists or underground artists.

I got the word that this amazing woman was putting on a show the next week, something about people in bags, in black bags, and it was going to be a bit of a happening and all that. So I went to a preview the night before it opened. I went in - she didn't know who I was or anything - and I was wandering around. There were a couple of artsy-type students who had been helping, lying around there in the gallery, and I was looking at it and was astounded. There was an apple on sale there for two hundred quid; I thought it was fantastic - I got the humor in her work immediately. I didn't have to have much knowledge about avant-garde or underground art, the humor got me straightaway. There was a fresh apple on a stand - this was before Apple - and it was two hundred quid to watch the apple decompose. But there was another piece that really decided me for-or-against the artist: a ladder which led to a painting which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says 'yes'. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say 'no' or 'fuck you' or something, it said 'yes'.

I was very impressed and John Dunbar introduced us - neither of us knew who the hell we were, she didn't know who I was, she'd only heard of Ringo, I think, it means apple in Japanese. And Dunbar had sort of been hustling her, saying, 'That's a good patron, you must go and talk to him or do something.' John Dunbar insisted she say hello to the millionaire. And she came up and handed me a card which said 'breathe' on it, one of her instructions, so I just went [pant]. This was our meeting.

Add Colour Painting featured white wood panels covered in cutout perspex, plus brushes and paints on a white chair. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to interact with the piece in whichever way they chose.

Yoko Ono - I call this Add Colour Painting. It is very important to have art which is living and changing. Every phase of life is beautiful; so is every phase of a painting.

Another piece was Play It By Trust aka White Chess Set, which carried the instructions: Play it for as long as you can remember who is your opponent and who is your own self. There was also Painting To Hammer A Nail In, a hammer attached to a block, into which people were invited to hammer nails.

John Lennon - Then I went up to this thing that said, 'Hammer a nail in.' I said, 'Can I hammer a nail in?' and she said no, because the gallery was actually opening the next day. So the owner, Dunbar, says, 'Let him hammer a nail in.' It was, 'He's a millionaire. He might buy it,' you know. She's more interested in it looking nice and pretty and white for the opening. That's why she never made any money on the stuff; she's always too busy protecting it!

So there was this little conference and she finally said, 'OK, you can hammer a nail in for five shillings.' So smart-ass here says, 'Well, I'll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.' And that's when we really met. That's when we locked eyes and she got it and I got it and that was it.

Lennon later recalled the date of their meeting as 9 November 1966, but this was after Ono's exhibition had opened. The most likely date is 7 November.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 6, 1966

John Lennon returns to England from Spain

Having completed his work on the Richard Lester film How I Won The War, John Lennon returned to London on this day.

He had begun filming in West Germany, before flying to southern Spain to complete his scenes. Lennon played the role of Private Gripweed in the film, which was released in 1967.

He had been in Spain for seven weeks, initially staying at a small seafront apartment but later moving to a villa, Santa Isabel, near Almería. Lennon stayed at Santa Isabel with his wife Cynthia, and The Beatles' assistant Neil Aspinall. Also staying in the house was actor Michael Crawford, the star of How I Won The War, and his family.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 5, 1966

Paul McCartney flies to France

On this day Paul McCartney flew to France on a plane-ferry from Lydd airport in Kent, England.

The intention was to take a driving holiday. In order to escape the attention of The Beatles' fans, McCartney wore a disguise, although his brand new dark green Aston Marton DB5 was enough to attract the attention of even the least observant bystander.

I was pretty proud of the car. It was a great motor for a young guy to have, pretty impressive said Paul McCartney

McCartney donned his disguise after passing through French customs. Wig Creations, the film cosmetic company used by The Beatles on A Hard Day's Night, had made him a moustache to wear.
 
"They measure you and match the colour of your hair, so it was like a genuine moustache with real glue. And I had a couple of pairs of glasses made with clear lenses, which just made me look a bit different. I put a long blue overcoat on and slicked my hair back with Vaseline and just wandered around and of course nobody recognised me at all. It was good, it was quite liberating for me." - Paul McCartney

McCartney planned to drive to Paris before heading south to Bordeaux, where he had arranged to meet Mal Evans under the clock on the Saint-Eloi church on November 12, 1966. They then intended to follow the Loire river from Orleans.

It was an echo of the trip John and I made to Paris for 21st birthday, really. I'd cruise, find a hotel and park. I parked away from the hotel and walked to the hotel. I would sit up in my room and write my journal, or take a little bit of movie film. I'd walk around the town and then in the evening go down to dinner, sit on my own at the table, at the height of all this Beatle thing, to ease the pressure, to balance the high-key pressure. Having a holiday and also not be recognised. And re-taste anonymity. Just sit on my own and think all sorts of artistic thoughts like, I'm on my own here, I could be writing a novel, easily. What about these characters here in this room? - Paul McCartney

McCartney's journal was later lost, as was his film of his trip. Some of the reels were stolen by fans who broke into his home on Cavendish Avenue, London.

Kodak 8 mm was the one, because it came on a reel. Once it became Super-8 on a cartridge you couldn't do anything with it, you couldn't control it. I liked to reverse things. I liked to reverse music and I found that you could send a film through the camera backwards. Those very early cameras were great.

If you take a film and run it through a camera once, then you rewind it and run it through again, you get two images, superimposed. But they're very washed out, so I developed this technique where I ran it through once at night and only photographed points of light, like very bright reds, and that would be all that would be on the first pass of the film. It would be like on black velvet, red, very red. I used to do it in my car so it was car headlights and neon signs, the green of a go sign, the red of a stop, the amber.

The next day, when it was daylight, I would go and shoot and I had this film that was a combination of these little points of light that were on a 'black velvet' background and daylight. My favourite was a sequence of a leaning cross in a cemetery. I turned my head and zoomed in on it, so it opened just with a cross, bingo, then as I zoomed back out, you could see the horizon was tilted at a crazy angle. And as I did it, I straightened up. That was the opening shot, then I cut to an old lady, facing away from me, tending the graves. A fat old French peasant who had stockings halfway down her legs and was revealing a lot of her knickers, turning away, so it was a bit funny or a bit gross maybe. She was just tending a grave so, I mean, I didn't need to judge it. I just filmed it. So the beautiful thing that happened was from the previous night's filming. There she is tending a grave and you just see a point of red light appear in between her legs and it just drifts very slowly like a little fart, or a little spirit or something, in the graves. And then these other lights just start to trickle around, and it's like Disney, it's like animation!

One thing I'd learned was that the best thing was to hold one shot. I was a fan of the Andy Warhol idea, not so much of his films but I liked the cheekiness of Empire, the film of the Empire State Building, I liked the nothingness of it. So I would do a bit of that.

There were some sequences I loved: there was a Ferris wheel going round, but you couldn't quite tell what it was. And I was looking out of the hotel window in one French city and there was a gendarme on traffic duty. There was lot of traffic coming this way, then he'd stop 'em, and let them all go. So the action for ten minutes was a gendarme directing the traffic: lots of gestures and getting annoyed. He was a great character, this guy. I ran it all back and filmed all the cars again, it had been raining so there was quite low light in the street. So in the film he was stopping cars but they were just going through his body like ghosts. It was quite funny. Later, as the soundtrack I had Albert Ayler playing the 'Marseillaise'. It was a great little movie but I don't know what happened to it. - Paul McCartney

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 4, 1966

NEMS leaves 13 Monmouth Street, London

Brian Epstein's NEMS company had moved from Liverpool to London in 1963, establishing an office at 13 Monmouth Street in the centre of the capital.

In 1964 the company leased more offices at 5-6 Argyll Street, and gradually moved the operation to the new premises. On this day NEMS finally vacated 13 Monmouth Street.