Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes (2010)
PART ONE. WITH THE BEATLES
Chapter 6. AMERICA
NEW YORK, BEATLE TIME
For Christmas 1963, Beatles fan club members received the first of what became an annual yuletide gift, a giveaway record on which Paul and the boys thanked everybody for their support and sang seasonal songs in silly voices. Then came a London Christmas show in which the boys and other NEMS acts performed songs and took part in pantomime-style skits before sold-out audiences of screaming, jelly-baby-hurling young ladies. The screaming had become ridiculous. These were not screams of anguish, but girls enjoying the catharsis of yelling until their faces went red and tears streamed down their cheeks, some screaming until they wet themselves, or fainted, or both. Girls had screamed at music acts before the Beatles, and acts contemporaneous with them, Gerry and the Pacemakers for one, but it was more pronounced and on a bigger scale with the Beatles, who entertained 100,000 fans in this hysterical fashion by mid-January 1964, when their run of London Christmas shows ended.
After the briefest of breaks, the group flew to France for a three-week residency at L’Olympia, a Parisian music hall associated with the can-can and Edith Piaf. Les Beatles shared the bill with nine acts including the Texan singer Trini Lopez, who’d scored a hit with ‘If I Had a Hammer’, and local ‘yé-yé’ chanteuse Sylvie Vartan. The Beatles fared badly. Their amplifiers failed on the first night, and audience reaction was muted. The boys grumbled about the screamers back home, but at least English audiences were enthusiastic. Olympia drew an older, more laid-back crowd, who clapped politely at the end. There were some fans at the stage door, but sur le continent the lads attracted the attention of effeminate boys, rather than over-excited girls. On top of which, the reviews were bad. Not that the Beatles seemed to care. ‘They were not upset that the reception in Paris was a little bit cool. They were still just young kids out there having fun,’ says Trini Lopez drummer Mickey Jones, who hung out with the boys at the luxurious Georges V hotel, a sign of how much money was suddenly flowing their way. ‘They were having parties [with] girls from the Lido [club].’
The Lido girls were ushered away when Jane Asher visited from England, along with Paul’s father and brother, Mike McCartney noting that Paul was listening to Bob Dylan’s new LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, in his suite, having previously dismissed folk music as ‘rubbish’. Dylan would become an increasingly important influence. George Martin also came to Paris to record the boys singing German-language versions of ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, a chore they didn’t want to fulfil. When they failed to make their appointment at the studio in Rue de Sèvres, Martin called the Georges V to be told by Neil Aspinall that the band had decided not to do the German record - the first time they’d defied their producer so directly, and an intimation of trouble ahead. ‘You just tell them I’m coming right over to let them know exactly what I think of them!’ stormed Martin. He arrived at the Georges V shortly thereafter to find a scene akin to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland.
Around a long table sat John, Paul, George, Ringo, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, his assistant. In the centre, pouring tea, was Jane Asher, a beautiful Alice with long golden [sic] hair. At my appearance the whole tableau exploded. Beatles ran in all directions, hiding behind sofas, cushions, the piano - anything that gave them cover.
‘You bastards,’ Martin yelled at the boys, who emerged one by one to apologise to their producer and invite him to join them for tea. They did the German-language recordings on 29 January.
These high jinks were as nothing compared to the excitement in the Georges V caused by a telegram from the USA. ‘One night we arrived back at the hotel from the Olympia when a telegram came through to Brian from Capitol Records of America,’ Paul recalled. ‘He came running into the room saying, “Hey, look. You are number one in America!” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had gone to number one.’ Ecstatic, the boys rode the obliging Mal Evans around the suite like cowboys yelling: Ya-hoo! America, here we come!
A few days later, on 7 February 1964, the Beatles flew to New York, with a large entourage that included Brian Epstein, Cynthia Lennon, Neil Aspinall and photographer Robert Freeman. The American record producer Phil Spector also latched onto the Beatles party, which was trailed by a contingent of Fleet Street reporters and cameramen. The mood on the long, time-cheating flight across the Atlantic was apprehensive. ‘They’ve got everything over there, will they want us, too?’ Ringo asked the pressmen rhetorically.
The drummer’s gloom reflected what a struggle it had been to generate interest in the band in the USA. Despite the fact Capitol Records was owned by EMI, the American label declined repeated suggestions from George Martin that they should release the Beatles’ early singles, Americans having little interest in foreign practitioners of what was, after all, their music. Martin recalls a curt message from Alan Livingston, President of Capitol: ‘We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.’ Livingston’s comment was based on the historical fact that few British pop stars had enjoyed success in the US, a recent example being Cliff Richard who discovered that his considerable popularity in the UK counted for nought in Poughkeepsie. Desperate to get their music out in America in some form, Brian Epstein cut deals with two minor US labels, Vee Jay and Swan, who released ‘Please Please Me’, ‘From Me to You’ and ‘She Loves You’, without much initial success. Epstein also hired an American song plugger to promote the records. Radio stations proved resistant, but slowly things started to change. Curiously, the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 may have had some bearing on America taking the Beatles to its heart. In the depressing aftermath of the murder young Americans looked beyond their country for something new and innocent to cheer them up, and heard a fresh, joyful sound coming from England. American disc jockeys began to play imported copies of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ prior to Christmas 1963, the popularity of the song spreading across the States and into Canada. Alan Livingston woke up to the fact that there was now US interest in the Beatles. Capitol released ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’/‘I Saw Her Standing There’ on 26 December, with plans for an LP in the new year. Vee Jay re-released ‘Please Please Me’ in January 1964. Suddenly American airwaves were crackling with the happy English sound.
A number of other factors fell into place. A theatrical agent in New York named Sid Bernstein, who’d kept up with news from Britain since being stationed there during the war, had been reading about the Beatles with growing interest, to the point that he struck a deal with Brian Epstein to present the Beatles at Carnegie Hall in New York on 12 February 1964. Even more significantly, Ed Sullivan, who’d witnessed fan reaction to the Beatles at Heathrow Airport, arranged to have the band appear on his syndicated television show. Brian accepted a modest fee from Sullivan’s people, but insisted shrewdly that his boys get top billing. Furthermore, it was agreed that the Beatles would appear on three consecutive editions of this important show - on 9, 16 and 23 February - the first two appearances live, the third pre-recorded. This was good work on Epstein’s part, counterbalanced by an example of his ineptitude.
In recent months, manufacturers in Britain and North America had been approaching NEMS asking permission to produce Beatles merchandise. A small range of novelty goods had been sanctioned and were already selling strongly, not least plastic Beatles wigs, which enjoyed a popularity in Britain not seen since the 1954 craze for Davy Crockett hats (sparked by a Disney TV series). Not everything was authorised, however. When Blackpool confectioners started to manufacture Beatles rock without permission, NEMS sued. It soon became too much for Brian Epstein to deal with, on top of his other responsibilities, so he delegated merchandising to his lawyer, David Jacobs, known as the ‘stars’ lawyer’ for his celebrity clientele. Jacobs sold the rights to merchandise any and all items under the Beatles imprimatur to a couple of young British hustlers named Nicky Byrne and John Fenton. There being little precedent for such a deal, Jacobs agreed that Byrne and Fenton could sub-license to manufacturers in Britain and abroad on a 90-10 split - in the entrepreneurs’ favour. ‘It was an inequitable deal. I knew that when it was done,’ comments Fenton, who expected NEMS to renegotiate once they realised their blunder, but they didn’t seem to see what a mistake they’d made, and for the next few months Fenton and Byrne were free to make a fortune.
The young men set up a US licensing operation named Seltaeb - Beatles spelt backwards - to capitalise on the new American interest in the band. To raise start-up capital, Fenton and Byrne went to friends in the Chelsea Set, fashionable, often wealthy young people living in and around London’s King’s Road. These gadabouts were the progenitors of swinging London, though many preferred jazz to pop in 1964. ‘I didn’t like the Beatles’ music,’ says Fenton, not untypically. ‘The “She loves you Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” stuff to me was like my worst nightmare. That was the only way I could justify selling Beatles toilet paper to people. I felt there was a similarity there.’ An Old Etonian friend of Byrne’s, Simon Miller Mundy, invested £1,000 ($1,530) in Seltaeb and got his friend, Lord Eliot, to invest the same. By coincidence, Eliot was Jane Asher’s cousin. ‘London in those days was very, very small,’ notes His Lordship (who became Lord St Germans on the death of his father). ‘Her mother’s father was [an earlier] Lord St Germans.’ In advance of the Beatles’ visit to the USA, Nicky Byrne booked himself into a suite at the Drake Hotel in New York and began fielding offers from US manufacturers who wanted to produce Beatles products. Within days Seltaeb had signed licences for everything from Beatles golf bags to toothpaste, bringing in a revenue of $3.5 million (£2.2 m). ‘It was absolutely astonishing,’ comments St Germans.
As the Beatles’ first visit to America approached, Seltaeb and their manufacturing partners became concerned that Capitol Records wasn’t doing enough to promote the band. So they took independent action. ‘We had every lift boy in New York saying, “The Beatles are coming - which floor do you want? ”’ remembers John Fenton. Disc jockeys such as B. Mitchel Reed began counting off the days, hours and minutes to the Beatles’ arrival. Rival DJs, notably the irrepressible Murray ‘the K’ Kaufman on WINS, joined in, using Beatle as an adjective. 7 February 1964 became Beatle-Day or B-Day:
It is now 6:30 a.m., Beatle time … They left London 30 minutes ago … They’re out over the Atlantic Ocean, headed for New York … The temperature is 32 Beatle degrees …
Announcements went out over the air in the New York area that any girl who made it to the newly renamed Kennedy Airport in time to greet the boys would receive a buck and Beatles T-shirt. The T-shirt manufacturer bussed girls to the airport to make sure of a success. By the time Pan Am Flight 101 landed there were thousands of fans at Kennedy screaming for the Beatles. ‘Without Seltaeb the Beatles would have found it a lot harder to conquer America. We really whipped up hysteria there,’ says Fenton with a touch of exaggeration. After a slow start, Capitol Records had started to push the Beatles, spending upwards of $50,000 on promotion [£76,500], promising to make 1964 ‘the year of the Beatles’. It all helped to create the day the Beatles arrived in America; the ‘turning point’, Brian always called it.
When the door of the Pan Am jet opened, and the Beatles emerged onto the steps, clutching Beatle bags, a heaving mob surged forward to greet them, held back by gum-chewing New York cops. The ensuing airport press conference was a bear pit. Paul, George and Ringo appeared nervous. Lennon exuded more confidence, telling the squabbling press pack to ‘shut up’, which made them laugh. While some reporters were evidently intent on deflating this Beatles bubble, their tricky questions served as a foil for the Beatles’ wit. After a hesitant start, everyone got off a good line, including Paul. Told by a reporter that Detroit had a ‘Stamp Out the Beatles’ campaign, he rejoined: ‘We’re bringing out a “Stamp Out Detroit” campaign.’
A fleet of Cadillacs conveyed the band into Manhattan, where they booked into the venerable Plaza Hotel. Impresario Sid Bernstein watched the limousines pull up at the Fifth Avenue entrance amidst a scrimmage of fans. Paul paused on the threshold, turned and waved. ‘I said, “Wow! He’s a good-looking kid and he’s got the smarts.” The girls were screaming for Paul. There was a lot [more] screaming for him than the other boys.’ A little later Brian took Bernstein through to meet the lads in their suite on the twelfth floor. ‘They had the shades drawn, and they are looking out the window and waving to the kids downstairs. “Mr Bernstein, this is crazier than where we live. These kids are mad!”’
The trip could have ended in disaster right there. Brian consorted with male escorts and cruised for rough trade in Central Park during his stay at the Plaza, according to former NEMS employee Geoffrey Ellis. The Beatles’ manager may even have been photographed in a compromising situation in his suite. A story that a press photographer, lowered outside the hotel in a bosun’s chair to shoot pictures in through the windows, got a snap of Epstein with a rent boy was later reported in a book by Ross Benson. Unlikely though the story sounds, John Fenton says Seltaeb hushed up a scandal by buying an item that would have incriminated somebody involved with the Beatles on the trip. He won’t say who, other than it wasn’t a member of the band, but states: ‘If it hadn’t been for us there would have been no Beatles in America because they’d have been killed stoned dead by the federal rape law.’ It was only because of their connections with ‘Italian gentlemen’ in the New York merchandising business that they managed to take the evidence out of circulation. ‘It was a huge indiscretion which could have got them into a lot of trouble.’
It is hard to appreciate how unusual the Beatles looked to a mainstream American television audience when they appeared live on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday 9 February 1964. ‘We came out of nowhere with funny hair, looking like marionettes or something,’ Paul has reflected. ‘Up until then there were jugglers and comedians like Jerry Lewis [on the show], and then suddenly, The Beatles!’ When Sullivan - a grim-faced man with an awkward manner - had introduced them, the camera first found Paul, who sang lead on ‘All My Loving’, the first of five songs divided between two spots. The 700-strong studio audience squealed with pleasure throughout, while an estimated 73 million people across the United States watched on TV, the highest Nielsen rating yet recorded. For many young Americans this was the moment that ushered in the 1960s as we have come to perceive the decade - a time of exploration, modernity and increased personal freedom. The Beatles would become the soundtrack to their young lives, ensuring that all four band members, not least Paul, would command attention and affection in the US for the rest of their careers.
Two days later, when the Eastern Seaboard was blanketed in snow, the Beatles took a train from Penn Station to Washington DC to play a show at the Washington Coliseum. During the southbound journey the press were able to hang out with the Beatles in the Pullman car, finding the Englishmen relaxed and playful. By the time they pulled into the capital they were all friends, though Al Aronowitz of the Saturday Evening Post detected evidence that Paul was letting the attention go to his head. The others were calling him ‘the star’ sarcastically. Another journalist on the train had a ticklish question for the star. David English of London’s Daily Mail took Paul aside and told him his office had information that a Hamburg barmaid was claiming to have given birth to his daughter. What did he have to say to that?
The woman in question was Erika Wohlers, one of the girls the Beatles apparently hung out with in Hamburg, though Paul’s German barmaid friends have only a dim memory of Erika and no recollection of her dating Paul. ‘Maybe he went with her one day, I don’t know. But she definitely wasn’t his girlfriend, because I was going out with him every day,’ says Paul’s regular Hamburg girlfriend Ruth Lallemann. In any event, Erika claims that she had an affair with Paul in Hamburg and that the daughter she gave birth to at Hamburg’s Barmbeck Hospital in December 1962, a month shy of her 20th birthday, was Paul’s.
In July 1962 my doctor informed me that I was pregnant. There was a lot of arguing with Paul because he was of the opinion that we were still too young to have a baby. Paul and the owner of the Star-Club wanted me to have an abortion, but I refused, and on 19 December 1962 my daughter Bettina was born.
Here is the first problem with Erika’s story. Working back nine months places conception in March 1962, when the Beatles were in England. Erika’s explanation: ‘Bettina was born prematurely, in the seventh month.’ (The Beatles were in Hamburg from 13 April to 2 June 1962.) Erika claims that Paul’s ‘less than favourable reaction’ to the pregnancy ended their relationship. After her daughter was born, she placed Bettina in care, and went to work as a barmaid. By the time of the Beatles’ first US adventure Bettina was 14 months. When David English tried to confront Paul with this story on the train to Washington, McCartney avoided the reporter. When English persisted, PaulI exclaimed: ‘Oh fuck, why did you have to say that now?’ This was less than an admission and, lacking hard evidence that Erika’s story was true, the Daily Mail didn’t publish. But that wasn’t the end of the matter.
‘THE BEATLES IN THEIR FIRST FULL LENGTH, HILARIOUS ACTION-PACKED FILM!’
A week after returning from the USA, the Beatles began work on their first feature film. Paul and his band mates had grown up with the cinema, and had great affection for jukebox movies such as The Girl Can’t Help It. In their career to date there had been an element of play-acting, while their contract with Brian made explicit reference to their ambition to make pictures together. Epstein now cut a deal with the American company United Artists for the Beatles to star in a movie named after a Ringoism. ‘It’s been a hard day …’ the drummer sighed at the end of another gruelling day, only to notice it was already night, causing him to correct himself mid-sentence, ‘… day’s night.’ Playwright Alun Owen wrote the script, having had the benefit of spending time with the band on the road, while the director was 32-year-old American Richard Lester, who would shoot quickly in black and white on a low budget, United Artists wanting the movie in theatres before the Beatles craze passed.
A Hard Day’s Night was a musical, essentially, featuring tracks George Martin had in the can, plus new songs written especially. But the cinema-verité style in which Lester shot the picture gave it the feel of a documentary, one in which four cheeky but nice youngsters are pitched against their own over-excited female fans (most of them mere children, as can be seen from the crowd scenes in which Lester used real fans) and adult authority figures who are depicted as comically inept, creepy, or out of touch and pompous, the latter exemplified by an advertising executive into whose office George Harrison stumbles. ‘Now, you’ll like these. You’ll really dig them. They’re fab and all the other pimply hyperboles, ’ the advertising executive tells the Beatle, whom he assumes has come to help them promote a new range of shirts.
‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in them,’ replies George. ‘They’re dead grotty.’
Spending time with the Beatles, Alun Owen had picked up on slang expressions like grotty and fab commonly used by and, in at least one instance, coined by the boys. The first usage of grotty in English was by George in the film, according to the Oxford English Dictionary; while fab - simply an abbreviation of fabulous - had been in common usage among young British people since 1961, but came to be associated primarily with the Beatles who, in their early days, were sometimes billed as ’the fabulous Beatles’. The Beatles’ PR man Tony Barrow wrote about the ‘fabulous foursome’ in his press releases, shortening this to the ‘fab four’. More than any other trendy term, fab suited them.
The Beatles acquitted themselves adequately in A Hard Day’s Night, though Richard Lester thought Paul tried too hard:
Paul was the most theatrical of them all. He had a girlfriend who was an actress. She and her parents and her brother went to the theatre a lot and Paul went with her. He loved the theatre. He loved show business, as it were, in a way that the others didn’t care. I think this was a disadvantage to him, that in a way Paul sometimes tried too hard to act … Had he been less enamoured of the trappings of cinema and the theatre he might have been a bit more relaxed.
It would be hard for Paul to be truly relaxed. He was under too much pressure. While making the movie, the Beatles were also recording an original soundtrack album, for which he and John had to come up with new songs. They rose to the challenge, with Paul largely responsible for the stand-out tracks, such as ‘Things We Said Today’, the lyric of which had a new maturity. Paul was also responsible for ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, a 12-bar blues rearranged by George Martin as the band’s next single, going to number one virtually simultaneously in the UK and the USA. The success of the song in the United States was proof that American fans hadn’t forsaken them after their flying visit. Indeed, plans were being finalised for a full-scale US tour. Before this took place the Beatles were committed to play shows in Denmark and Holland, after which they had to schlep halfway round the world to Hong Kong and Australia. When Ritchie fell ill with tonsillitis the day before departure, stand-in drummer Jimmy Nicol was despatched in his place, clear evidence that not all Beatles were equal. It is inconceivable that the tour could have gone ahead without Paul or John.
The mania followed the band on tour abroad, with scenes equally if not more excessive than seen in Britain and America. Young Dutchmen and women leapt into the canals of Amsterdam in a desperate attempt to reach the Beatles on a boat trip they took through the city. A girl caller got through to the Beatles’ Copenhagen hotel suite saying she was dying and her last wish was to speak to a Beatle. Journalist Derek Taylor, who had recently joined the Beatles’ entourage as an additional PR man, was taken in, but Paul had seen and heard enough of the mania to guess it was a ruse, taking the phone and ticking off the caller, as Taylor recalls: ‘“Now Mary Sue,” he said, lofty, dry and mildly admonishing, “you know you shouldn’t go around telling lies …”’ When they got to Australia, so many people gathered around the Beatles’ Melbourne hotel that the city centre was brought to a standstill, while one fan reportedly burst a blood vessel screaming. It was at this frenzied stage in the tour that Ritchie rejoined the band, continuing with them for shows in Sydney, where Paul celebrated his 22nd birthday with a party attended, at his own suggestion, by the winners of a beauty competition.
All these foreign concerts were triumphs. Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Australia had fallen to the Beatles, to paraphrase Brian Epstein. Only Paris held out, but France would fall. Two and a half years earlier, Brian had been the manager of a provincial record shop. Now he saw himself as the Napoleon of Pop, and his next campaign would be his biggest: the Beatles’ invasion of the United States.
Before going back to the USA there were two British premières for A Hard Day’s Night, the first at the Pavilion in London on 6 July 1964, Jim McCartney bringing a delegation of ‘relies’ down from Liverpool to support ‘our Paul’. The film opened with the resounding first chord of the theme song - CHUNNNNG! - sending John, George and Ringo running helter-skelter towards a train station, pursued by their fans and the press. The lads meet Paul, dressed in disguise, and board a train where they bump into some schoolgirls (one of whom, a pretty young model named Patricia ‘Pattie’ Boyd, became George’s girlfriend, later his wife). The subsequent plot was simply the process of the Beatles coming to London to perform on a TV show, which gave them an excuse to perform their songs. Over and above the musical sequences, which were excellent, the Beatles came across as likeable and natural lads with aspects of a comedy troupe, almost cartoonish in appearance, while the picture itself was clean and sharp. As the credits rolled, you wanted more.
Afterwards everybody repaired in a celebratory mood to the Dorchester Hotel where Paul introduced his father to Princess Margaret, a hitherto unimaginable situation for the Liverpool cotton merchant. At the end of a long meal, with the ‘relies’ lounging around the table, full to bursting, Paul presented Dad with another surprise: a picture of a racehorse. ‘Thank you, son. It’s very nice,’ said Jim, who was to celebrate his 62nd birthday the following day. ‘It’s a horse,’ Paul told his old man, with the exasperation of youth.
‘I can see that, son.’
‘It’s not just a painting … I’ve bought you a bloody horse.’ So Jim McCartney came into possession of Drake’s Drum, a £1,000 gelding. The affection between father and son represented by this gift is a contrast to John Lennon’s unhappy relationship with his father, the ne’er-do-well Freddie Lennon, who’d made himself known to his son recently after years of estrangement, only to be greeted with icy indifference. Later John slammed a door in his father’s face.
Still, the McCartney family was not without their disagreements. At 22, Paul found himself an exceedingly rich young man in a family who’d never had much. Though careful with his money, Paul felt compelled to share his good fortune around. He handed out gifts, notably Dad’s racehorse, and helped family members financially. Brother Mike told Paul he couldn’t support himself on the bits of money he was earning as a member of Scaffold; at least he couldn’t live the way Paul was. ‘Sometimes my brother is rather slow in catching on but when eventually he does, he soon makes up for it,’ Mike would write in his memoirs. ‘On seeing the impossible situation I was in, being a Beatle brother with very little personal money … he arranged for me to receive a weekly tax-free “covenant” of ten pounds from his accountant till I was on my feet.’ Several other family members became financially dependent on Paul, who helped them buy houses, and in some cases put them on what became known as the McCartney Pension, so they never had to work again. This didn’t necessarily engender harmony.
These were mostly problems for the future, however. Four days after the London première of A Hard Day’s Night, Paul and his fellow Beatles returned home for the northern première of their picture at the Liverpool Odeon. There was a holiday feeling on Merseyside on Friday 10 July as the Beatles’ British Eagle Airways plane touched down at Liverpool Airport, where 1,500 people had gathered to greet them. The boys were driven in triumph into Liverpool City Centre, via Speke, where Paul had lived, his old neighbours standing at the kerb waving. ‘Me mum, me dad, me auntie, me uncle, all the family, everybody was there,’ recalls resident Frank Foy, who had typically been given the day off school for the occasion. Like many children, Frank wore a plastic Beatles wig, which became uncomfortably hot in the sunshine. The Beatles entered the Town Hall on Dale Street to a fanfare of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, played by the Liverpool Police Band. Ringo danced up the stairs in joy. They stepped out onto the balcony to a rapturous reception from 20,000 of their people. There had been many high points recently - number one records, playing for the Queen Mother, the Ed Sullivan Show, mobbed in London, Amsterdam, New York and Melbourne - but this was home. The boys beamed with pride.
Yet down among the crowd, trampled underfoot in Dale Street and blowing down the back alleys, were pieces of paper that threatened to blacken the name of James Paul McCartney. Just months after a Mail reporter confronted Paul with the story of a German barmaid who claimed to have borne his child, a Liverpool man had papered Liverpool with fliers claiming Paul had got his ‘niece’ pregnant. The girl in question was a typist named Anita Cochrane, who claims she met Paul just prior to her 16th birthday in 1961, going to see the Beatles play the Tower Ballroom on Friday 1 December that year.
‘It was my sixteenth birthday that day,’ Anita told the Daily Mail in 1997. (In fact, her 16th birthday was the next day, one of two factual inconsistencies in her story.) Anita claims she and Paul went to bed that night, and that she slept with him twice more over the ensuing 16 months. ‘We used to go back to John Lennon’s flat in Gambier Terrace …’ she told the Mail. (Here is the second problem with Anita’s story: John didn’t live at Gambier Terrace at this stage.) When Anita found herself pregnant, in the summer of 1963, she decided that Paul had to be the father and told her family as much. ‘When my mum and grandmother found out I was pregnant, I thought I’d write to Paul and tell him what had happened. I was that sure the baby was his.’ When Anita didn’t receive a reply, her mother Violet went to see Jim McCartney, who said his Paul didn’t know her Anita. On 10 February 1964, Anita gave birth at Billinge Hospital, Merseyside, to a boy named Philip Paul. No father’s name was entered on the birth certificate. Anita’s family then took her to a lawyer, who contacted NEMS.
In truth neither Paul nor Brian Epstein had the slightest idea whether this typist, or the German barmaid, had a genuine claim. The boys had been such libertines, especially in Hamburg, that it wouldn’t have been surprising if they had fathered some illegitimate children. While Paul did not, and never would, accept the paternity claims of the barmaid or the typist, the decision was made to pay off any such claimants for the sake of expediency. ‘Brian Epstein, on behalf of the Beatles, took the stance that, unless they were talking vast sums, it was better to buy off people who were threatening to expose small things about the Beatles, and that included paternity [claims],’ explains Tony Barrow.
I think Brian was particularly sensitive about sex, because of his own sexuality, and at all costs wanted to avoid intrusion upon his own private life, because what he was at the time was not just gay, but doing illegal things.13And I think he realised that anything about him would brush off on the boys … The policy was pay ’em off, get rid of them, move on.
Anita Cochrane claims to have been offered two pounds ten shillings ($3.82) a week by NEMS: ‘The solicitor put in a request for more money and we got this offer of a one-off payment of £5,000 ($7,650). That was more than a house in those days.’ An agreement was drawn up, dated 23 April 1964, on the basis that Anita wouldn’t go public. But her ‘uncle’ (actually her mother’s boyfriend) took issue with what had happened and distributed leaflets around Liverpool describing Paul as a ‘cad’. Epstein heard about this the morning of the Liverpool première. Leaflets had been left at the Press Club in Bold Street. ‘They were [also] given out in Castle Street, round the Town Hall, saying Paul give a girl a baby in Waterloo, and I think it named her,’ recalls Anita’s brother, Ian, who believed the story. A poem parodying ‘All My Loving’ was sent to newspapers:
My name is Philip Paul Cochrane, I’m just a little boy …
In spite of all her lovin’ we got no thanks from him,
It seems he loved my mother, just long enough to sin …
Brian Epstein asked Derek Taylor to break the news to Paul. ‘He shrugged with astonishing nonchalance, said “OK” and that was that,’ Taylor later wrote. The trip to Liverpool went ahead and the press - in love with the Beatles, and wary of unsubstantiated, defamatory allegations - didn’t touch the story, while Anita’s ‘uncle’ was warned by the police he could face charges if he wasn’t careful. Like the German claim, however, this tale had a long way to run.
NORTH COUNTRY BOYS
Paul returned to North America with the Beatles in August 1964 to give a series of concerts in the USA and Canada, starting at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, an indoor livestock pavilion. Something strange had happened in America since their first visit. The Beatles were now not only screamed at by their fans, but a focus for nutcases and extremists. ‘Beatle worship is idolatry,’ read a placard wielded by a picket of the ultra-religious at the San Francisco show. The boys moved on to play under equally trying circumstances in Las Vegas and Vancouver, where Republican Canadians, who wanted to sever the nation’s constitutional links with Britain, protested against the Beatles as emissaries of the Queen. Even more alarmingly, Ringo received death threats in Quebec from anti-Semites who mistook him for a Jew. For their concerts at the Montral Forum, Ritchie had a bodyguard sitting beside him on stage. What with the screaming fans, the inadequate sound systems, and now the fear that there might even be assassins in the audience, the Beatles’ brief set got shorter by the night. They rushed through their shows, wanting them over with as soon as possible.
It was the sound quality that bothered George Martin most when he came out to record the boys playing the Hollywood Bowl on 23 August for a live LP. The producer found the challenge of getting a decent recording insuperable. ‘It was like putting a microphone at the end of a 747 jet - just a continual screaming sound.’14 The following afternoon the boss of Capitol Records, Alan Livingston, completely uninterested in the Beatles just recently, hosted a garden party in their honour at his Beverly Hills home. Wherever the band went these days, hotel managers, record executives and mayors wanted to meet them and introduce their family members, especially their children, and Livingston was no different. He sat the lads under a tree in his garden so friends and associates could parade their daughters down the line, each Beatle expected to say a word to the girls, who were too young to raise more than a polite smile from the musicians, until a rather more mature young lady thrust herself forward.
‘My God, you’re beautiful,’ remarked Paul, as he took her hand.
‘You’re not so bad yourself,’ replied Peggy Lipton.
At 19, Peggy was an actress under contract to Universal Studios, more or less unknown, though she later achieved celebrity in the TV show Mod Squad. Like many American teens, Peggy was enamoured of the Beatles, and had papered her bedroom walls with their pictures. Unlike most of her contemporaries, Peggy also had the chutzpah and contacts to engineer a meeting with her idols, her sights set firmly on Paul, whose name she had screamed at the Las Vegas Convention Center the previous week. After the show Peggy and a girlfriend inveigled themselves into a party the boys were due to attend. ‘I affected the schoolgirl nymphomaniac look,’ Peggy recalled in her autobiography, Breathing Out. Unfortunately, the Beatles didn’t show. Alan Livingston’s garden party was Peggy’s second attempt to meet Paul, and this time she managed to speak to him and slip her phone number to a member of his entourage. Peggy was summoned that evening to the Bel Air house where the Beatles were staying.
I arrived almost sick to my stomach with butterflies. I had lost my virginity only six months earlier and I’d been thinking about Paul day-in, day-out for a year. He greeted me sweetly and checked me out with a quick once-over. He liked what he saw. We sat downstairs. He played the piano. The next thing I knew we were on our way upstairs [where] he took me in his arms and kissed me … I took a shower to slow things down and when I came out wrapped in a towel, he caressed me in front of the window and let the towel fall to the floor. This to me was an utterly romantic gesture. Paul was a romantic.
Afterwards Peggy left the house feeling cheap. She returned the next day, though, clear evidence of Paul’s unfaithfulness to Jane Asher, who remained his steady girlfriend in London.
After shows in Denver and Cincinnati the Beatles returned to New York, where they booked into the Hotel Delmonico, the manager of the Plaza being unwilling to accommodate them after the mayhem of their first visit. The Beatles were to play two shows at Forest Hills tennis stadium. The second night they met Bob Dylan.
The meeting and subsequent relationship between the American musician and the Beatles is significant. Along with Elvis Presley, Dylan and the Beatles form the great triumvirate of rock, interconnected on different levels. Like the Beatles, Dylan was a young man in his twenties from a provincial, working-class, northern town, in his case Hibbing, Minnesota, where he was a high school rock ’n’ roller before he discovered folk music, sharing Paul’s passions for Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis. Dylan’s musical path diverged when he discovered the folk troubadour Woody Guthrie and joined the New York-based folk revival whereby emphasis was put on reconnecting with the roots of American vernacular music, singing songs with a strong narrative, often a moral or otherwise instructive story, framed with poetic language. Dylan was a folk star before the Beatles found fame, his début album released on CBS when the boys were still playing Merseyside dance halls with Pete Best. By the time CBS released Dylan’s second album, the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Dylan and the Beatles were both stars, though of a different order. Girls screamed at the Beatles. Dylan’s audiences listened to him in respectful silence, as to a poet with important things to say. ‘He was proud of that,’ notes Bob’s journalist friend Al Aronowitz, who also knew the Beatles and helped effect their historic meeting.
Dylan and the Beatles were also singer-songwriters, at a time when few artists wrote and performed their own material, extremely fecund writers who were rapidly creating fat song books with ample material for themselves and other artists to perform. As Brian Epstein bestowed Lennon & McCartney songs on acts he managed, Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman gave Bob’s compositions to his own stable of artists, notably ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ to Peter, Paul and Mary, who had a big hit with it in 1963. Initially suspicious of folk music, Paul had been very impressed by The Freewheelin’; hard on the boot-heels of which came The Times They Are A-Changin’, then Another Side of Bob Dylan, albums that featured lyrics more sophisticated than anything John and Paul had so far written. At the same time the Beatles had something Dylan didn’t have, and wanted, which was chart success. For all these reasons, Bob and the Beatles were curious about one another. A summit meeting had been on the cards for some time when John Lennon asked their mutual friend Al Aronowitz to set it up.
Bob drove down from his digs in Woodstock for the occasion, with his roadie Victor Maymudes, a tall, saturnine hipster who rarely left Dylan’s side. They picked up Aronowitz at home in New Jersey en route to the Delmonico in Manhattan, where Big Mal Evans escorted the Americans up to the Beatles’ suite. In an anteroom, a number of celebrities were waiting to be admitted to the presence, including Peter, Paul and Mary. Dylan was ushered past them, Aronowitz making the introductions, ‘a proud and happy shadchen, a Jewish matchmaker’, as he wrote. Drinks were poured. The Beatles offered Bobby and his friends pills, which they’d been guzzling since Hamburg days. Aronowitz suggested they smoke dope, he and Bob assuming - having misheard the phrase ‘I can’t hide’ in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as ‘I get high’ - that the Beatles were fellow pot-heads. As it turned out, the Beatles hadn’t smoked pot before - at least not good pot, as Victor Maymudes was careful to qualify: ‘They actually had smoked pot before, but they hadn’t smoked good pot. They didn’t know the power of pot.’ Dylan himself rolled the first joint, which was given to John, who handed it to Ritchie, who proceeded to smoke it like a cigarette, not passing it around. More joints were rolled so every Beatle had his own herbal ciggie, with another for their normally strait-laced manager.
A few hours earlier Brian had ticked off Derek Taylor in his usual tight-ass way for drinking Courvoisier cognac in the hotel. ‘You’ll pay for that bottle, Derek. That is to go on your bill.’ Under the influence of dope, Brian was transformed into a totally different person, reeling around the Beatles’ suite like a happy child. He said he felt like he was on the ceiling and, pointing at his refection in a mirror, repeatedly said: ‘Jew!’ The others thought this and everything else hilarious and profound. ‘I remember [Paul] saying that he was thinking for the first time,’ said Aronowitz. ‘He told Mal Evans to follow him around and write down everything he said.’ Mal couldn’t find a piece of paper, so Paul noted down his revelations. The next day when he read his notes he saw that he’d written, ‘There are seven levels.’
Dylan and the Beatles bonded that night, Bob later taking the boys on a tour of New York. In turn, the Beatles entertained Dylan when he came to England. Both influenced the other. Dylan began to set his poetic songs to rock ’n’ roll music, partly because of the success of the Beatles, thus ‘going electric’, which was a turning point in his career. Conversely, Dylan’s influence was heard in the Beatles’ lyrics, which became more story-based and at the same time lyrical and mysterious in Dylanesque style. Lennon and McCartney’s debt to the American was deep. ‘At the time they all loved Bob,’ noted Victor Maymudes, pointing out, however, that his boss could be a difficult guy to love: a fast-living, egocentric loner who could be cold, even cruel, to those around him. The Beatles weren’t immune from Dylan’s sharp tongue. ‘Bob was out of his mind in those years. I remember him screaming at Paul: “No one writes like me!”’ There was an elemental truth to this. Try though he might, Paul would never equal Dylan’s consistent ability to write lyrics that are poetic and seem to contain original insight into what it is to be a human being. Dylan at his best is profound. McCartney at his best is a brilliant tunesmith. In time he also became a great showman. But he is a mediocre lyricist for the most part, which makes him seem less important.
Still, that first night together in New York had been an uproarious, hilarious evening, a truly historic meeting: the night Dylan and his friends turned the Beatles on to pot. They were all pot-heads forthwith, Paul becoming a habitual grass smoker, which would get him into a lot of trouble.