By RAY CONNOLLY FOR THE DAILY MAIL
One morning in 1968, I was sitting at my desk at the London Evening Standard when we got a tip-off that John Lennon had been arrested on a drugs charge.
My job at the time was — among much else — to cover everything Beatles. So, I telephoned their friendly press officer, Derek Taylor, at their Apple headquarters.
‘I said this would happen,’ I pointed out. ‘John’s a fool, isn’t he?’
Taylor’s response was not what I expected. In an angry and increasingly loud voice, he said: ‘We never take drugs, Ray. It is most improper of you to say so ON THE TELEPHONE. HOW DARE YOU LIBEL US!’
I thought he must have gone mad. Of course, the Beatles took drugs and Derek was himself no stranger to mind-altering substances.
But, at that moment, as I have now read in this reissue of his memoirs, he was paranoid his phone was being tapped by the police. The last thing he wanted was the ‘very straight Ray Connolly’, as he described me, to be confirming his employers’ drug use on the phone.
Other than on that day, he was the most gentlemanly and welcoming of press officers. Rare was the week in the late Sixties that I wouldn’t wander into his office where he sat in a large, white wicker chair and, between taking calls from journalists around the world about every aspect of the Beatles’ lives, he would chat.
Intelligent, erudite and articulate, he was possessed of a very hip kind of class. Having learned his journalism in Liverpool and then Manchester, before being tempted away to handle the Press on The Beatles’ American tours, he juggled the constant pressure that people such as me put on him with the need to promote, and yet protect, his bosses.
It was, as he recounts, a job that called for unlimited diplomacy, as evidenced in one U.S. city when the wife of the mayor insisted he fetch The Beatles for her daughter to see — as though they were simply waxwork models.
He told her he couldn’t do that because they were sleeping.
‘Wake them,’ she replied.
‘Get them up . . . They have no business to be asleep at this time of day.’
Of course, he didn’t wake them. But, as the hysteria continued, he must sometimes have thought he, too, was asleep and dreaming, so absurd were some of the situations in which he found himself.
When the four young men he represented were treated as though they were living gods, he knew better than most that they weren’t even saints.
The demands on him were unrelenting as The Beatles phenomenon kept growing and the Fab Four’s behaviour became increasingly erratic.
‘We were all frightened,’ he writes of the Apple staff. ‘We were frightened of them and we were frightened of each other and we were frightened of the Press.’
Years later, he told me that he developed a serious alcohol problem at that time, so great was the pressure as John, Paul, Ringo and George began to fall out. But, with his wonderful way with words, this father of six never let it show.
Derek Taylor had lots of other jobs during his life, some of which also make funny chapters in this book, notably his meeting with Mae West who, in her dotage, considered reinventing herself as a rock and roll star who would need a PR.
That turned out to be a short engagement, but she did bequeath him a couple of useful tips — one being never to pick up your clothes off the floor because, if you left them, there would always be someone to do it for you.
The Beatles, of course, had learned that particular lesson very early in their careers — something Taylor was not afraid to divulge when he wrote about them and his own part in their myth-making.
They were, he said, generous, but ‘very tough, too, and working for them has made us all very uneasy . . . because they are four very hard, tight men, not callous, but calloused. Us Beatles aides, we come and we go and we are mostly unmourned when we have gone.’
He was wrong about that. When Derek Taylor died, aged 65, in 1997, he was most definitely mourned . . . not least by the journalists who had once besieged him.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-5609697/The-Beatles-Not-Fab-Four-all.html#ixzz5CZfExGwW
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