Derek Taylor threw a cablegram across the neatly piled clutter of his desk top.
"Here!" he said with a smile that would've been broader except that his face was too thin. "Here! Have a look at this!"
Through the window behind him, five stories below, were the brisk, lunch-hour sidewalks of Argyll Street, one of the throbbing capillaries of London's Soho district. Just two doors away was the Palladium, Britain's legendary show business temple, where a crowd had mobbed the Beatles after their first appearance there, occasioning the Beatles' first appearance on the front pages of the country's national newspapers. The address on the cablegram was simply, "JOHN LENNON, THE BEATLES, LONDON." But Her Majesty's civil servants had knowingly delivered it to the offices of the Beatles' personal manager, Brian Epstein, who did business out of the offices of a firm called NEMS Enterprises Ltd. There is where the thirty-two-year-old Derek, as handsome a man as you can find with dark hair and a veddy English face, was sitting in a seat recently vacated by one Brian Sommerville, who'd resigned as the Beatles' press officer. The cablegram said:
"UNDERSTAND THROUGH WEST COAST SOURCE THAT YOU PLAN TO LEAVE BEATLES. CAN UNDERSTAND TRAVELING MOST TIRING AND YOUR DESIRE TO SETTLE DOWN. WHILE WE HAVE NO IMMEDIATE OPENINGS ON KLIF DEEJAY STAFF, WE OFFER YOU THE MUSIC CRITIC'S POSITION ON NUMBER ONE STATION IN DALLAS. SUGGEST YOU REMAIN WITH GROUP UNTIL BEATLES APPEAR HERE IN SEPTEMBER. IT WILL SAVE YOU TRAVEL MOVING EXPENSES. PLEASE ADVISE. CHARLES F. PAYNE, MANAGER, KLIF, DALLAS, TEXAS"
"It's a lot of rubbish, of course," chuckled Derek, as immaculately dressed as a model in a Sunday Times advert. Like the Beatles themselves, Derek had been born in Liverpool, that brooding seaport which is the metropolis of what England calls its North. But Liverpool, once a thriving harbor for slave ships and more recently for trans-Atlantic ocean liners, thrived no longer. The docks were all but deserted and Derek, too, had long ago abandoned the city to make it to London as a newspaperman. Now the picture of charm and suavity, Derek, who weighed only a hundred and twenty-six pounds, had succeeded in confining his Liverpool slugfest temper within the irony of his irresistible wit.
"John hasn't the slightest intention of quitting," he said. "Why should he? The one who quit, of course, was Mr. Brian Sommerville---you know, the 'genius' behind the Beatles' success. I think his official reasons, according to an announcement in the press, were that he had done all he could for the Beatles, that they didn't need him any more. He said they were ready to fly on their own, ready to fly like birds."
In the days following Brian Sommerville's departure from their employment, the Beatles had flown far beyond even their own wildest fancies. It was now July of 1964 and since the previous February, when the Beatles had first visited America, they had vacationed in the South Seas and in the West Indies, where, the British press reported with customary gleeful cattiness, Paul was accompanied by his eighteen-year-old girl friend, actress Jane Asher, while Ringo traveled unchaperoned with a seventeen-year-old girl he described as his secretary-to-be, a hairdresser named Maureen Cox. Ringo and Maureen were not yet engaged to be married at this time.
The Beatles had completed the filming of their first movie, A Hard Day's Night, a low-budget production, which, their twenty-nine-year-old manager blithely predicted, would earn the largest profit in box-office history, certainly enough to ensure that each of the Fab Four would retire a millionaire. At the same time, the sales forecast of Beatles-licensed merchandise was being revised upwards by many millions of dollars for 1964.
The Beatles had toured New Zealand and Australia, where howling mobs of three hundred thousand at a time had greeted them in the down-under winter, trampling one another underfoot. Those collapsing in the thick of the screaming crowd had to be lifted above the heads of everybody and then passed by upstretched arms to mounted policemen at the edge of this seething sea of humanity. In Australia alone, the Beatles had left an estimated one thousand casualties, including a man who had an epileptic fit, a girl who burst a blood vessel in her throat from shrieking too loud and a dozen more who were kicked by the horses' hooves while trying to crawl beneath the mounted police to get to the Beatles' car. Still another girl suffered carbon monoxide poisoning when the mob knocked her down next to the exhaust pipe of an automobile that had been hemmed in by the crowd and forced to a stop with its motor still running. The girl knew the exhaust pipe blowing in her face might asphyxiate her but she couldn't get up because as soon as she'd been knocked down, a bunch of other girls had climbed on top of her to get a better view of the Beatles. Meanwhile, fan letters declaring eternal love and asking for signed photographs continued to pour into the offices of NEMS Enterprises Ltd. at a rate of several thousand a day.
When the Beatles had arrived in the States the previous February, I'd written a cover story about them for the Saturday Evening Post which'd sold more copies than any issue since Benjamin Franklin had founded the magazine. Now, only a few months later, the editors were hungry for a second cover story about the Beatles and they'd sent me to England, where the Royal Premiere of A Hard Day's Night was going to be social event of the season. Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowden, were scheduled to attend and scalpers were charging as much as a hundred and fifty bucks a seat.
"I must say," Derek continued, "that working with the Beatles is an experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world. It's incredible, absolutely incredible! Here are these four boys from Liverpool. They're rude, they're profane, they're vulgar, and they've taken over the world. It's as if they've founded a new religion. They're completely anti-Christ. I mean, I'm anti-Christ as well, but they're so anti-Christ that they shock me, which isn't an easy thing. But I'm obsessed with them. Isn't everybody? I'm obsessed with their honesty. And the people who like them most are the people who should be outraged most. In Australia, for example, each time we'd arrive at an airport, it was as if De Gaulle had landed, or, better yet, the Messiah. The routes were lined solid with people. Cripples threw away their sticks. Sick people rushed up to the car as if a touch from one of the boys would make them well again. Old women stood watching with their grandchildren, and, as we'd pass by, I could see the look on their faces. It was as if some saviour had arrived and people were happy and relieved as if things somehow were going to be better now."
The telephone rang. It was a newspaper reporter asking for tickets to the Royal Premiere.
"Utterly out of the question!" Derek exploded, trying to sound apologetic and reaching for a pack of cigarettes, "I'm sorry!"
Putting a cigarette into his mouth and turning toward me, he said:
"If I were a Beatle, this would be the ultimate. The Royal Premiere would be the ultimate----except for the Sermon on the Mount. The only thing left for them is to go on a healing tour."
Derek lit the cigarette and took a drag. After the Royal Premiere, the next big event
on the Beatles' agenda was to fly to Liverpool for the opening of A Hard Day's Night
in their home town, which was going to hold a civic reception for them in the Town Hall.
After that, beginning August 19, they would be back in the U.S. again for a five-week tour
of concerts in twenty-five cities. The concerts already had been sold out for months. In
some cases, they had been sold out within hours after the tickets were delivered to the
"Tell me," Derek asked, blowing smoke through his nose, "how do you think they'll be received when they go to the States again?"
To find out what happens next... Read Al Aronowitz's book "Bob Dylan And The Beatles, Volume One of the Best of the Blacklisted Journalist".
LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK!
the man who introduced Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan to the Beatles and
the Beatles to marijuana, Aronowitz---acclaimed as the "Godfather of rock
journalism"---has been known to boast: "The '60s wouldn't have been
the same without me."
NEXT:THE FIFTH BEATLE or EVERYBODY HATED MURRAY
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