Tuesday, 27 September 2011

"George Harrison: Living in the Material World"

The book and DVD of George Harrison: Living in the Material World is available from Amazon, and you can use these links to order your copy now!

A full review of Martin Scorsese's documentary, by Allisa Owen, will appear in the next edition of the BBFC magazine, but here's a taste of what she had to say: "I would strongly recommend watching this portrayal of George’s life as “Living In the Material World” serves to be an informative and poignant tribute to someone who is dearly missed, reminding us that sadly – ‘all things must pass’."

New Website -- Get in Touch!

The new website has been live now for a couple of months and we'd like your views on the format, the content, the layout ... and anything else!

Also, we'd love you to contribute. For example, if you attend any Beatles-related event (a concert by a tribute band for instance), or visit a Beatles attraction, please share your experiences with other BBFC members and Beatle fans.

The website is currently enabled to allow comments, or you can send any comments, suggestions, criticisms and contributions by clicking here.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Backbeat Review

On Saturday the 24th of September 2011 ‘Backbeat’ debuted in London’s West end, having originally been performed in 2010 at Glasgow’s Citizen Theatre.

Based on the 1994 film of the same name by director Ian Softley, it tells the story of Fifth Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe and his love affair with Astrid Kirchherr, against the backdrop of The Beatles’ early days spent in the clubs of Germany’s infamous Red Light district of Hamburg.

On this opening night the impressive Duke of York Theatre was full to capacity with a mixed age audience eagerly waiting to be transported back to the beginnings of Beatlemania. I noticed a fair amount of young under twenties in the audience and wondered what they already knew about the early days of The Fab Four. The cast itself was a young collection of actors, but all the main parts were suitably cast especially the roles of Lennon and McCartney. John and Paul were played by Andrew Knott and Daniel Healy respectively, reunited from the Glasgow production, alongside new cast members Nick Bold as Stuart and Ruta Gedmintas as Astrid, Will Payne as George Harrison and Oliver Bennett as Pete Best. They all provided great characterisations not only in their acting abilities but also with each providing accurate vocalisations of both Liverpudlian and German accents.

The show opened with the loud beat of a bass drum which certainly got the audience ready for the Rock and Roll assault that was to come. This of course was The Beatles before Brian Epstein – the embryo Beatles right at the start – and the music played live by the cast effectively demonstrated their musical development.

The show began by setting out the relationship between John and Stuart and made it clear that Stuart was not a musician of the same standard as John, Paul and George, but a gifted artist. The opening scene showed Stuart, paint brush in hand, air painting a huge canvas with bold brush strokes in time to the beating drum as images of Stuarts original paintings were quickly projected onto screens on the stage, vivid Reds and Blacks showing Stuarts work as abstract expressionist. Then John entered carrying a guitar case and it was here that the first of a few deviations from the official story take place. I could understand the need for some of these – time restrictions, for instance – but others seemed unnecessary. For example, in the guitar case is a bass guitar that, in the play, John has bought for Stuart as John wants him to join the band and he thinks that the bass, with only four strings, will be easier for Stuart to learn. A scene, a few minutes later, showed Stuart selling a painting for £60 – the event that, in actuality, allowed Stuart to buy his bass.

Why this part of the story was changed for the play I don’t know, and this wasn’t the only time when the real story was changed seemingly without reasons. The strangest of these was when Astrid gave a copy of ‘Love me Do’ to Stuart; an event that did not happen at all as Stuart died several months before the record was made. I don’t want to be negative about the production as it was a fantastic show, but for non Beatles fans who may not know the real story I feel a lot of damage can be done by bending the truth.

The show moved along at a fast pace, interspersed with musical numbers. The story takes you from Liverpool to Hamburg, from the Cavern club to the Indra Club and the Star Club, from the roof tops of Hamburg to the Abbey Road recording studios.

The play invoked the period of the early Sixties. The stage set had black brick walls with little arches in the stage wings, a steel staircase to one side, and an overhead walkway gantry crossing the whole stage. Together with neon lighting and the use of audio and back screen projected images, it really set the mood of Liverpool’s backstreets and the seedy alleyways of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn.

As well as the set invoking the period special praise must go the costume designers. The whole cast were attired in accurate period costumes from the early Beatles Leather jackets with knitted cuffs, to the bohemian clothes of the patrons of Germany’s Red Light district.

The instruments used by the cast were also in keeping with those used by The Beatles at the time: John’s Rickenbacker 325 in a natural wood finish, (switching in the second half to the famous repainted Black version), George’s Futurama and then Gretsch Duo Jet, Paul’s Rosetti solid Severn electric guitar then Hofner violin Bass, and of course Stuart’s Hofner 333 Bass guitar as well as the proper amplifiers used at the time – Elpico ac 55, Truevoice and Fender amps.
This brings me on to the music in the show, all played live by the cast. The music was raw, loud and vibrant and special mention must go to Daniel Healy as ‘Paul McCartney’ who played some fantastic acoustics numbers including a great solo version of ‘A Taste of Honey’.

The show was well-acted and well performed, and the cast received a standing ovation at the end of the show. Despite the occasional inaccuracies, I would recommend seeing this production. For a fun night out hearing some classic Rock and Roll songs played live and loud, and seeing The Birth of The Beatles at the same time, you can’t go wrong.

BackBeat is on at the Duke of York's Theatre, St Martins Lane, London, Tel: 08448 717 623
For more information and to buy tickets, visit the show’s website:

Review by Glenn Mitchell, September 26th, 2011

Glenn is a member of the four-piece 60s tribute band, The Cavernites. 
Visit The Cavernites website  for more information.
He is also organising the First North Wales Beatles Festival -- Day Tripper Weekender -- taking place from June 22-24, 2012.  More details on this great event can be found here

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Backbeat, Live in the West End!

Duke of Yorks Theatre, London
0844 871 7623
From 24 September, 2011

Backbeat – the adaptation of the 1994 film by Iain Softley on the birth of The Beatles – is rock 'n' rolling its way to London's Duke of York Theatre for its West End premiere.

Backbeat is the story of how the Beatles 'became' the Beatles – when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe embarked on their journey from the famous docks of Liverpool to search for success in the seedy red light district of Hamburg.

The compelling triangular relationship between the band's original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, the striking German photographer Astrid Kirchherr with whom he fell in love, and his best friend John Lennon, became an intrinsic part of The Beatles' story – and put them on an unstoppable trajectory onto the world stage.

Directed by the award-winning David Leveaux, Backbeat features the all-time rock 'n' roll classics that the Beatles cut their teeth with Twist & Shout, Rock 'N' Roll Music, Long Tall Sally, Please Mr Postman and Money - live on stage as performed by 'The Beatles'.

For further information and tickets for Backbeat visit www.backbeatlondon.com

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Robert Whitaker 1939-2011

by Ernie Sutton

BBFC Chairman and Magazine Editor, Pete Nash, with Bob
                    at an exhbition of Bob's photographs
Norwich, September 2009

The BBFC were very sad to learn of the passing of Robert Whitaker this week.

To Beatle fans the name needs no introduction- a photographer who took some of the finest photographs of The Beatles between 1964 and 1966.

Bob was born in 1939 and began his photographic career in the late 1950s, before moving to Australia in 1961. Bob’s father and grandfather were both Australian, and his time in Australia is said to have laid the foundations for his future career.

Bob was working as a freelance when in June 1964 he had a chance meeting with Brian Epstein and subsequently The Beatles during their Australian tour in 1964.

One of his first pictures of The Beatles he took was of Paul McCartney and George Harrison holding boomerangs.

From there Bob came to England in August 1964 and began to take photos of artists managed by Epstein including Billy J Kramer, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Cilla Black.

Bob famously photographed the “Beatles for Sale” album sleeve, and went on to photograph the cover for Gerry’s album “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, as well as a number of other albums of the period.

He accompanied The Beatles on the US tour of 1965 and their final world tour in 1966, but his most famous shot is probably the infamous “Butcher” cover for the “Yesterday and Today” album which was taken in Bob’s Chelsea studio.

The sleeve was banned in the US and is now a huge collector’s item. However, the eventual photograph for the sleeve was one of Bob’s also.

The tour of 1966 was recently depicted in his book “Eight Days a Week” published in 2008. Some of Bob’s other photographs have been published in books previously including “The Unseen Beatles”.

Apart from the Mersey artists, Bob also worked with many other artists including the Australian group, The Seekers.

In 1967 he produced one of the best album covers ever, in my opinion, that of the classic Cream album “Disraeli Gears”.

With The Beatles having finished touring, Bob gradually moved into photography in the art world, one of his famous subjects being Salvador Dali.

He went on to work for Oz magazine, Time and Life.

It was a privilege to meet Bob at his book signing in Liverpool in 2008, shortly after the release of his book “Eight Days a Week”, and his photographs, not just of The Beatles, will live on and are a fitting tribute to one of our finest ever photographers.

Marcus Hearn & Robert Whitaker at Beatle Week, 25th August 2008
Photo by Sharon Ankin

Friday, 23 September 2011

New Novel -- Rather See You Dead

Rick Shefchik contacted us and asked us to tell you about his new book. 

“Rather See You Dead”, Rick Shefchik, is a thriller involving an imagined early meeting between John Lennon and Elvis Presley when Elvis was in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1960. The novel takes place in the present, but with numerous flashbacks to the early days of rock, when John idolized Elvis.

The book is available as an e-book only at Amazon.com for $2.99, and will soon be available for Nook and iPad.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Mersey Beatles in Southport - End Polio Now Charity Event

The Mersey Beatles

All-Era Spectacular

Friday October 21, 2011
Show starts at 9pm

Southport Theatre and Convention Centre

in aid of the

End Polio Now Campaign

Tickets Only £7.00

On Friday October 21, the Cavern's resident Beatles tribute band, the Mersey Beatles, will perform an All-Era Spectacular at this special charity event in association with the Rotary Club of Great Britain. 

All profits from the event will be donated to the END POLIO NOW campaign!

Rotary has pledged to raise $200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting $555 million supports immunization campaigns in developing countries where polio continues to infect and paralyze children, robbing them of their futures and compounding the hardships faced by their families.

As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high. By supporting this event, you can help Rotary achieve a polio-free world.

For more information on the End Polio Now campaign, click here

Tickets for this special event are available online from ATG Tickets , or at the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre Box Office (open Monday - Saturday from 11am to 4pm)

More information:

Friday, 16 September 2011

Imagine This - Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon

In 2007, Julia Baird published a book called Imagine This - Growing up with my brother John Lennon, describing her childhood and her memories of John.  She also spoke with the BBFC's David Bedford about her book, and her memories of her family.

Interview and editorial comments by David Bedford

Tell me about your mother, Julia

"Wonderful - what would you expect me to say? I remember her going everyday to the hospital to see Jackie, who had been born premature. I wonder how much the stress of not seeing John affected her. I've not put it in the book because it's a medical question, but she'd had John, she'd had a baby taken away, and then me, and then with all the problems of arguing with Mimi and Pop and then moving house; Pop died, my father had to find a house, and physically doing the move - I remember carrying things out of the house, and my father carrying everything. They moved all the furniture out and the baby was due at Christmas and maybe it was not a surprise that she was born two months early.

"Mum was a great wordsmith extraordinaire. She would have you rolling in the aisles about anything: she was very clever. She's had to be dismissed by so many writers as a nincompoop who gave her children away so how can you then say she was a highly intelligent, articulate woman who was witty, dry, funny, everything. How can you then say she gave her children away?"

This is why it has never seemed consistent for me. The affection that the other lads in the Quarry Men had for her, and have been happy to retell isn't consistent with Aunt Mimi's stories. Why is that?"She lived long after John had died. Mimi reinvented herself, but after John had died she could say anything she liked, without anyone to contradict her. She sideswiped Jackie and I for years."

How did you first hear about Victoria/Ingrid"That was Bill Smithies from the Liverpool Echo, the features editor then. He was trying to set the story straight, and within a short time he mentioned about the four children, and I just looked at him, and straight away he said, "you don't know, do you?" I said "No, what are you talking about, are you saying there are four of us?" He said, "Julia, your mother had four children, and I can see you don't know. I'm going." He was a lovely man, and gave me his number to ring him when I was ready to talk. I went straight out of the house, grabbed the little fella and had to do three visits to Nanny in Rock Ferry. I said, "Nanny, I'm going to come again and again until you tell me the truth. I've been told by a complete stranger."

You met Ingrid, didn't you?"It was so strange when she turned up. Stan (Julia's cousin) and I were at Mendips putting up the Blue Heritage Plaque. It was a really nice day and he turned round and quietly spoke - we were concerned he was going to fall off the ladder - "I think I can see Ingrid". "What?", I said. "Ingrid, she's over there". We got down the ladder and there she was walking up the road with a friend. The first thing I did was look at her. John and I look alike, my sister and I look alike - some people even think we're twins - so the genes are really strong. Green or brown eyes: my father and mother had brown eyes - I don't know about Alf - and we're a redheaded family, and we also look like John. I thoroughly and absolutely expected Ingrid to look like me John and Jackie, but she looks nothing like us. She has pale blue eyes and fair hair, so I was scrutinising her right off, and I was in a state of shock: she doesn't look like me, she doesn't look like John. You build up a mental image, because of the "halfness" of John and Jackie and I, and yet we look the same, the strong gene. Obviously, Ingrid must favour her father more. Our father was very dark, so different."

John started school in November 1945 at Mosspits on Woolton Road. Julia took a job at a café near the school, working around school times, so she could take John to school and pick him up again. A regular visitor to this café was John Albert Dykins. He was a salesman who lived at home with his family. They began a love affair which was to last. The Stanley family would not accept this relationship, and would have nothing to do with John Dykins. Julia was open with him and had told him about her son John and her baby Victoria who had been adopted. This only attracted him more - he was her knight in shining armour!

Julia called John Dykins "Bobby" - there could only be one John in her life. It was her term of affection, and for a while, their daughter Julia thought that he was actually called Bobby - short for Robert. Bobby found a flat in Gateacre, a small place, but at least it was home. It was a big house, of which they only had a small part. There was a small kitchen, bathroom, living room and one small bedroom. Julia, Bobby and John moved in.

Julia, tell me about John's childhood"One of my older cousins says, "John was as happy as the day is long". Rubbish! John once called himself a "social and psychological cripple" because he was torn away from his mother to live with Mimi. John's own words. When I heard that I was in tears. This family! Where are these people mentally? They're in cloud cuckoo land. All that too-ing and fro-ing. It is unimaginable to these people because it didn't happen to them so it must have been ok. You can't go though all that and not be affected. All those things that he wasn't supposed to know or notice. Kids don't talk to the oppressor. I know that from my own history and children I have worked with because if you tell the oppressor they oppress you even more. You tell anybody that's not close.

"My father managed to find this flat in Gateacre, probably on Gateacre Brow that were always to rent, and when my mother died my father was the manager of the Gateacre Hall Hotel and they had been talking about moving us in there, and John would have come with us. There was a huge space, because we used to eat where he was working, and there was a big conversation because he now had the managership of this place so we could move in and we would have all lived there."

The steps Mimi took to get John are almost beyond belief. What did she do?"She saw a window of opportunity, and if she'd have let that go, there wouldn't be another chance. She was like a bulldog, wasn't she? Like a mastiff or a rottweiler? The first time she came round my father put her out. The second time she came with a social worker who said, "No, it was fine." She then took the director of Public Services - as far as I know - and brought Pop. She was determined. He agreed with Pop and Mimi that John should go and live with George and Mimi at Mendips.

"My 'family' say that she loved 'Judy' (Julia Lennon's family nickname). Did she? I don't call that love. I call that jealousy, spite, and opportunism. I don't call that love, when you take them at their weakest point. Talk about kicking a dog when it's down!"

Mimi changed John's school to Dovedale from Mosspits, and took over running his life, or should that be ruining his life?

It was obvious that Julia and Bobby needed a bigger place, where John would have his own bedroom. Julia and Bobby moved back with Pop at Newcastle Road, where there was enough room for John to have his own room. That would solve the problem, so Julia went to Mimi to get John back. Mimi turned her away at the door.

How would you describe Mimi?"Hypocrite. To the core, flawed. Unbelievable what she put my mum through. I mention in the book that she had set her heart on having John, no matter what the price to pay, no matter what my mother thought, she was just swatted away. This was her opportunity to have a child."

The big surprise was that her marriage to George Smith was not consummated."I've not long found out. We knew she hadn't had a child but never knew this."

And then Michael Fishwick turned up (Michael had been a lodger at Mendips). Tell me about him and his story."The hypocrisy is too big to take on board, and I've known now for 2 years and can still go into shock. I had it in my head that Mimi had had an affair after what Nanny had suggested. She thought it was 'George' and 'New Zealand', but that's all I had. There is an expression that "all the world loves a lover." She'd picked up that something was going on and only started to tell me about it in her last 18 months - 1996/7. She knew that Mimi had talked about New Zealand - I don't know how she knew all this, as I never questioned Nanny: you didn't question her. You asked questions: conversations happened and I used to try to move it in one direction, but she often wasn't having that, because she wasn't really talking to me, she was talking to the sky, I was just the one that triggered it. Not just me, but I was the one that was interested and I knew this was it, so when she said something was going on; Mary was going to New Zealand with George. The actual facts were wrong but the feelings were right.

"When I was getting in touch with Michael Fishwick, it was to find out: what did he know, did he see anything? At that time, the flats hadn't been built (at the end of Menlove Avenue), the other semis hadn't been added on, and there were about 12 houses and the tip. There was wasteland next to Mendips - and then this bungalow appeared belonging to one of George Smith's family - another Smith who Mimi didn't get on with - surprise, surprise!

"So it can't be there, and I looked next door and there was Mr. and Mrs. Caplan. She didn't like Mrs. Caplan, but Mimi was not a woman's woman, she was a man's woman. She didn't like the female race! I thought it must have been Louis Caplan, who was once Lord Mayor of Liverpool, but everything is possible. You see, Mimi didn't go out, she never went anywhere, so it had to be close to home because you could go round, any day or evening and she was there. The only place she went was to Woolton village to get the cat some fish. Where was she? It had to be within walking distance. I might have put it the other side of Calderstones Park, maybe.

"He didn't have to tell me anything; it was his decision. I tracked him down. I wanted to talk to him because we were just visitors to Mendips but if anyone could unlock the secrets, he could. It would have to be one of the students who were there through thick and thin. That's why I set out to contact him, never thinking that it would be him. Never in a million years would it have entered my head that it was him.

"When I spoke to Michael Fishwick, I just said, "Who was Mimi's boyfriend?" I didn't say did she have one. If he'd have said to me, "good grief, Mimi didn't have a boyfriend, what are you talking about?" I would have thought, "Nanny was wrong on that one". She wasn't wrong on much: she'd picked up some feelings but that was all. I would have left it.

"He said, "What made you think Mimi had a boyfriend?"

"I knew right away that Nanny was right, as it wasn't a denial. We met the very next week. He must have made a decision during that week. Maybe this was to size me up first, I don't know. Within 5 minutes I knew it was him. He had made that decision to tell me because I would never have guessed because of the age difference and knowing what Mimi was like. It was his decision, and I don't know why he made that decision. I am very grateful to him for it.

"They began an affair that started in 1956. Michael had lived at Mendips since September 1951 and finally left in 1960. He had originally left, but came back after George had died in 1955. Mimi at this point was 50 years of age, and Michael was 24. And, it turns out, Mimi was a virgin: her marriage was never consummated. At the Christmas of 1956, Mimi had taken John to Scotland to see her sister's family. Michael telephoned to say that he was ill, and was staying at Mendips. Mimi left Scotland early without John and went straight back to Mendips to be with Michael. Michael was offered the chance to go to New Zealand on a project and he and Mimi considered leaving Liverpool and moving to New Zealand with him to get married. Michael was worried about "Living in Sin" in Mendips with John in the next room. How ironic is that? How hypocritical!

"However, the funding for the trip fell through, and Michael had to stay here. He was soon called up for national service and in 1960 the relationship was at an end, and Michael married another girl."

It has helped me to understand Mimi more. Tell me about "The House of Correction.""Mimi called Mendips, 'The House of Correction' and when John was going back there he said, "I've got to go back to the House of Correction" and we were the 'House of Sin'. Society has changed a lot since then, but the hypocrisy hasn't.

She destroyed my mum's life, and the rest of our family, just to get the child that she never had. Here was a ready-made child. I think she was an opportunist. I don't think by any means that she had planned it, but as it became more obvious, it was an opportunity not to be missed. Leila, my cousin told me that when they (John's mum Julia and Bobby Dykins) had moved back to Penny Lane - Newcastle Road - that Julia went to Mimi to ask to take John home where he would have had his own bedroom, Mimi flung John behind her and said to my mother, "Get Away" - it's a lot stronger than I put in the book - "Get out of here, you're not having him, you're not fit to have him, get out of my house". Leila was at the back of the room and witnessed it all.

When I think of Mendips, I always think of it as an unhappy house, and people go round there on the tour and say, "Isn't this wonderful, isn't this lovely", but it's not a happy house. After Ernest died - the owner of Mendips who was a lovely man - Cynthia said, "Do you want it?" I said, "No Cynthia, what are you suggesting?" "I'll put it to Julian, do you and Jackie want the house?" I said, "Cyn, thank you, but no thank you." Cynthia knows what type of house it was, and I know before I knew the whole story that John was living in that house as a child because he had to live there, not by choice or that my mother had given him away. It was the house where my mother was turned away from."

Your mum must have been distraught?"We now know she had post-natal depression. Mimi couldn't have children for whatever reason, but one thing I've tried not to do in the book is surmise anything. To say I think this, I think that. We always knew that there was something wrong inside Mimi all her life; I've never tried to write about it before because I couldn't prove it. Once I knew about the student, then everything fell into place. She ruined my mother's life."

When I was with May Pang recently, she said that she had a sense that John had been told that Julia was dead, when clearly she was living close by. Do you know anything about that?"I don't know that, but it's entirely possible. I know for a fact that Mimi said to John that she didn't know where his mum was, because Nanny told me this and also John told me in his conversations. He said, "I didn't know where you were, I was told that mummy had gone away with Bobby, and Mimi didn't know where." At the same time, she told my mother, "You keep away, he is really unhappy when he sees you, and he has to settle into his new life.

"Mimi lived for 11 years after John and she reinvented herself. She said, "I knew I wanted John from the moment I first saw him." We all like our sister's children, but she made all that up! Give her another 50 years and she'd have claimed she had John herself!

"There had always been an atmosphere between Mimi and me that never ever went away. Though, at the end of her life, it was me that she sent for."

I was surprised by that. Why did she do it? "I don't know, but I never didn't go. When she came out of hospital after the operation that she should never have had, but Mimi wasn't in good health. I don't know how she had that operation; she was told that someone from the family had to be there so she phoned me. Why me? I think already Mimi had realised that she had to talk to me, and I am surmising here because she never said anything.

Mimi died in December 1991. Her last words were, "I'm terrified of dying, I've been so wicked". Did she want to apologise and heal the wounds?"I wish she had have done years ago because I would have said to her, "It's alright Mimi, I don't think you're going to be judged anywhere and I'm not going to judge you. Be happy. It's totally forgiven." Do I have the right to forgive on behalf of my mother? Maybe I do. I would have told her, "It's alright, no one is going to judge you, be happy, and be peaceful now." I would have said it to her without a shadow of a doubt, but she didn't give me the opportunity to, and we were too frightened of her, even at this stage, to say anything. She was an absolute figure of fear to me."

What happened after your mum was killed?"It was nothing short of child abuse. The family fobbed me off and they're annoyed that I've done this book. "That's how it was in those days". That is their justification! What about me and Jackie? Are we not allowed to have an opinion? It's not how it was?"

How long were they planning to keep your mum's death a secret?"Forever? We came back to Liverpool, the first week in September. My mother died on 15th July, and we were sent away on the 16th July, so we were away for about 8 weeks, and even when we came back they still didn't tell us! Were we not to ever mention our mother again? They were mad if they thought that we were never going to talk about her. They were mad, empty-headed nitwits."

It's like there is a conspiracy between the whole family: you're not part of the family."We heard that forever. If they were alive we'd still be hearing it now."

It must have affected you and Jackie and still does for your whole life?"It still affects us. They didn't care, that is the truth. It was a duty to look after us. There was talk of an orphanage but my father went ballistic. My father kept us the whole time. I don't know what the agreement was, but he kept the family, as he should have done, but it wasn't a duty, he paid for everything and more for us. He bought the beds, the washing machine, and the school shoes: he bought everything. He was never a father who decided not to pay. There was money going into the house all the time for us."

You were made wards of court, weren't you?"We knew nothing about this. When I was 21, I just got this letter, which had been opened, and I said, "What's this"? I was told to go down to this place in Water Street (Liverpool City Centre) and they'll explain it to you. So I went down and I said, "What's this?" My mother apparently had an insurance policy that was bought from the man at the door, and it was worth £300 when she died, to be paid out when we were 21, split between her 3 children. John got £100 when he was 21."

(This must have been the money that John and Paul used to go to Paris. They left Liverpool in October 1961, just as John was reaching his 21st Birthday. It was always said that it was a present from an aunt, but it was from his mum. I wonder if he was told?)"When I was 21, I went and I got £200, and when Jackie went it was about £320, because of the interest that had built up. I just said, "What is this about the ward of court, I don't know anything about this." I was told, "Sign this, and you're not a ward of court any more." But I said, "What does it mean?" "It means that you're uncle and aunt became your guardians." But my father was keeping us. We knew nothing about it."

It's something else from your childhood that's been taken away from you?"Exactly. When we had our school reports, my uncle always signed them as guardian. My father could have done that. Why did they do that? We were raging inside but you daren't ask any questions."

Norman and Harrie became their guardians. Their father, Bobby, was not married to Julia, and so had little or no rights. Some books have portrayed him as a drunk, an incompetent father incapable of looking after his daughters. This was not true. He was not allowed to look after his daughters, and legally could do nothing about it. He was allowed to visit them once or twice a week. Bobby couldn't cope with living in Springwood, and so he found a new house near Woolton Woods, close to the cottage. Unbeknown to Harrie and Mimi, Julia and Jackie found the house and would go to see their father for quick visits in secret.

I really get a sense of feeling so bad for your father. How did he cope?"He was weak in the opposition of the family, caught in the teeth of the tiger. There was no respect for his feelings. Because they weren't married, he had no rights. They didn't have the right to do what they did, but they did it. They were like bulldozers. We lost our mother, and they took us away from our father and our grandmother because she was too "common" to be allowed to visit."

In the summer of 1959, Julia and Jackie were told they could go and spend a week with their father, whose mother had come to live with him too. "Nana" was able to take care of them when their dad had to go to work. This one-week became two weeks and then the whole of the summer holiday. Bobby had a new job in the New Bears Paw pub in town, and arranged a part-time job for John there with him. It was all going well, when, in the summer of 1960, Nana was ill, and it became clear that she couldn't continue to look after the girls, and they moved back in with their Aunt Harrie.

In December 1965, further tragedy struck when their father, Bobby, was killed in a car crash at the bottom of Penny Lane. John didn't know for months: he didn't need to be told, as it was nothing to do with "the family".

John by now was a Beatle and the contact between him and his 2 sisters became more rare, and they didn't hear from him. They made contact again in the 1970s, and had many conversations. Julia would talk to John about their mum and they would laugh and cry. John said that, "You had her, I didn't", a lyric reflected in his song "Mother": "Mother, you had me, but I never had you". He became nostalgic, and asked Julia to send over lots of his old things over to America. Julia sent lots of photos, his school tie from Quarry Bank, and the clock that was in the living room at Mendips, with his uncle's name on it, "George Toogood Smith".

John talked of wanting to come home to Liverpool to see everyone, and surprised Nanny by ringing her up on her birthday and told her how he planned to come to Liverpool in the New Year. He never did, because as we know, he was murdered in December 1980.

John bought a 4-bedroom house in Gateacre Park Drive, which was intended for his two half-sisters, Julia and Jackie. John's Aunt Harriet and Uncle Norman had assumed the responsibility for John's half-sisters after their mother Julia had been killed, and it was they who moved in to live there. After John's death and Harriet died, with it being still in John's name, Yoko planned to evict them. However, following a protest, she allowed Norman to stay. The house according to John's wishes should have been passed on to Julia and Jackie, John's sisters. This house became an important place to Julia and Jackie - this was John's gift for them. In a letter, John wrote, "I always thought of the house he's in (Norman) as my contribution towards looking after Julia and Jackie. I would prefer the girls to use it."

After some letters and phone calls between Julia Baird and Yoko, it became clear that the house was not going to be given to the girls, though Yoko did offer them money if they needed some. That was not the issue: it wasn't about money.

The house was handed over to the Salvation Army on 2nd November 1993 as a gift from Yoko. After being empty for a number of years, the Salvation Army has now used it as a retirement home for their officers.

This house in Gateacre Park Drive became very important to you, didn't it?"That house is a symbol of John's love and care for Jackie and me, and it was taken away from us. It's like it didn't finish, and it will never finish. When Norman died after being knocked down by a car in October 1991 - a horrible reoccurring theme with car accidents - his son David was asked to clear the house within weeks. He emptied it in a weekend. It was special to us. Yoko then donated it to the Salvation Army, so it was never ours.

"Mimi then found out that the house John had bought for her in Poole, Dorset, was not hers, but also owned by Apple. Mimi became ill, and Yoko paid for private nursing care for Mimi. At the funeral, Cynthia was there with Yoko and Sean in attendance also: not Julian. Cynthia spoke to Yoko about Mimi's house, as apparently John had intended for it to be used as a family retreat too, as well as being Mimi's home. However, the house had already been sold."

I now say, "Forget what you've heard about Mimi from those early books, like Hunter Davies' authorised Beatles biography." People keep repeating untruths, don't they?"Why didn't he come and see me? I was an adult and I could have told him that Springwood (where Julia and her family lived) was where it all happened. Why wasn't that in?"

All these books with myths and stories must hurt you?"I've been quoted in books as contributing when I haven't given interviews, like Goldman's book! I could have sued, but I don't let it bother me because I know its rubbish. That's why I say at the beginning of my book that these so called "experts" are someone who knew someone who knew someone else or maybe they didn't, so here's the truth. I don't read these books, but I do read newspaper articles. This was one of the reasons I started this book. I challenged Philip Norman over what he had written in an article when he contacted me and after initially denying it he rang back and to his credit apologised. That article left me searing and it was just a bunch of rubbish but written by the well-respected author Phillip Norman, so people accept it. He has now said that he accepts he was wrong and now knows the truth and will correct this in his book.

"So I said, I'm going to do this; I'm going to write this book. This was one of the reasons - there were many reasons - that I decided to write this book."

It must be so strange, directly or indirectly, to have people writing about you and your family constantly?"All the time. When the "family" don't gainsay it, that's almost a taciturn acknowledgement that it is true. When I speak to my cousin Leila she says, "You know it's not true.

"That is not good enough. When we go, it will become the truth."

Your mum has been described as this happy go lucky girl who gave John away and it didn't matter.

"That's why I've done this book, to put my mother back where she belongs. One of my cousins said that its an assassination of Mimi, but believe me it could have been a lot worse. I've done the bare minimum because there is enough in there."

It could have been a tabloid-style sensationalist book, couldn't it?"It was never my intention to do that, even though there was enough scandal to do that. It's a serious book about really serious matters. People have written these accounts without speaking to me or to Jackie and then these researchers just look at the research done before and refer to that without doing their own investigation. As an academic I know that won't do. Go back to source. You wouldn't get away with it in school. I've been to see the house where my mother was born, the plot at 8, Head Street - now demolished. I've seen them all with Stan, and I've been to see the farm in North Wales.

"My mother's house has been torn down, and I don't know if I'm pleased about that because I'd have had to go and buy it and live in it as a tangible association with her."

You mention about your mother's grave. "I've been looking to do this for some time, and it turned out that my Uncle Norman had paid about 13 shillings for the plot. I don't know where the money came from or whether they clubbed together or how it happened, but he paid for it. Therefore, my mother's plot belonged to him. It's just that they didn't care, and what did it matter to us? After all, she wasn't there and we weren't at the funeral and were never told where she was buried. So that passed, when Norman died, to my cousin David. He has been really great in going through the paperwork and probate so very soon we can look at a proper headstone. He's now phoned me to say that it is all sorted and I can go ahead. It's going to be for us, and not the public, and I hope it never will be."

How do you deal with it?"The last two and half years have been consumed with the book, and it has been a cathartic exercise for me. I will be promoting the book for the near future to get the truth out there. After that, I don't know. We still don't have an American publisher, and I don't know why, it is very strange.

I'm thinking of putting my book into poems. This is about the tenth draft, and when I started writing it - Hodder (the publisher) might not be interested, I don't know - but when I first wrote it, because it was an affair of the heart, I was researching and making notes and when I started writing it, it came out like modern poetry. I've done one about John. My mother wanted John to know that he was the one and only John, and why she called my father Bobby."

Julia Baird is an extraordinary woman who has faced unbelievable torture from a family in the name of morality. Through Mimi, Julia and Jackie were disowned, dismissed. They were not considered part of the family. Over 50 years later, she has found out that Mimi, the moral voice of the Stanley family who destroyed Julia Lennon's life, who forcibly took John away from his mother out of some misplaced moral crusade, was herself having an affair with a student half her age in her House of Correction! Hypocrisy at its worst!

What makes it worse still is that her life has been constantly paraded in the public eye for the last 40 years, and totally misrepresented. Her precious mother who was not alive to defend herself has been reviled and ridiculed for too long. I for one was too prepared to believe what I had read from so-called reliable sources, for which I feel ashamed.

I have had the privilege of meeting many people during the research for my book, but I have never felt such anger as I felt, and still feel, after hearing this story. The way the lives of Julia Lennon and Bobby Dykins, Julia and Jackie and John have been destroyed by an uncaring family is heart breaking and has to stop. The truth has to be told, now.

Now I know why John had so many demons, and I understand the man more than ever before. Julia Lennon was an inspiration to her son and daughters, and should now be given the credit for what she was able to achieve, in spite of a conspiracy by Mimi and her family to tear the family apart.

© Copyright David Bedford - taken from his book Liddypool, Birthplace of The Beatles

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beatles stay in Roman Camp Hotel, Callender, Scotland

This article was kindly sent to us by Michelle Nelson. The Roman Camp Hotel in Callender is still a functioning hotel -- and you can stay in the Beatles' room!For more information please contact: Michelle Nelson, Crimson Edge PR, 11 Dean Park Mews, Edinburgh, EH4 1EE, Tel: 0131 311 7050, Fax: 0131 311 7051, Email: michelle@crimsonedge.co.uk

The Beatles stayed at Roman Camp Hotel, Callander for two nights on 29 April 1964. They were rising stars – signed in by their road manager at that time Neil Aspinall – but they didn't escape the glare of the camera or popularity of fans because news of their arrival to what they called the 'hideaway hotel' soon spread. Scores of school children poured out down the private drive to Roman Camp from the local school and stood patiently outside the boys' hotel room window until the Beatles appeared at their window. Several villagers in Callander still proudly hold a momento from this day in the form of a photo of the crowds outside gathering as the Beatles greeted them from the window.

Hotel owner Eric Brown remembers it well as it was the year he came to live in Callander and he says it caused quite a stir in the village. Eventually the head master came and dispersed the crowd of about 100 children back to school.

Since the passing of John Lennon a relative of John's – Stan Parkes, a retired garage owner, living in Largs on the West Coast of Scotland - has visited Roman Camp to retrace the footsteps of his famous cousin on a number of occasions. Eric met him first about 10 years ago when he visited and stayed at the hotel and he has kept in touch over the years. Interestingly Stan has shown Eric a hand drawn invitation he received from the Fab Four – which features a caricature of each of them drawn by their own hands and directions for Stan to come and visit them at Roman Camp.

Roman Camp Hotel, Callander
When the Beatles stayed at Roman Camp they were not yet at the high of their fame – they had just played at ABC Edinburgh – which is on Lothian Road in the city – and was a very fine building with an original cinema frontage, but is now an Odeon Cinema. They therefore all stayed in one room and this room is now called the Star Suite in their honour.

Their stay was featured in the Sunday Times and features a photo, the original of which is believed to still be in Stan Parkes's private collection. Eric also keeps a record of guests who have stayed at the hotel since it was transformed from a hunting lodge owned by the Earls of Moray and Viscount Esher in 1935. The visitor book shows the entry for the Beatles arriving.

Other famous people who have also stayed or dined there include JM Barrie (who wrote part of Peter Pan there and used it as his focus for Neverland), Ken Stott (the actor and presently Ian Rankin's Rebus, Monty Python – who dined there 10 years later in 1974, when they were filming at nearby Doune – coincidentally the entry is also for 29 April – and is mentioned in Michael Palin's diaries 1969-1979.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Save the Clubmoor Conny Club -- How You Can Help!

The Clubmoor Conny Club is arguably as important in the story of Lennon-McCartney and the Beatles as St Peter's Church Hall, the Casbah or the Cavern. For anyone who doesn't know, it was there, on October 18th, 1957, that Paul officially performed with the Quarrymen for the first time. (As with many events in history, there are often arguments about historic 'firsts', but this gig was the first time that the Quarrymen including Paul, were paid for performing, so, for me, this is the first official gig.)

The club back then was called the New Clubmoor Hall. A framed poster in the hall tells the story this way:
"One of the most important dates played by The Quarrymen was on July 6, 1957. This was the day that Paul and John met. On July 20, 1957 Paul was asked to join the Quarrymen as a member. He started rehearsing with the group but didn't appear with them until October 18, 1957, at the New Clubmoor Hall, Norris Green, Liverpool. Paul played lead guitar on this one occasion and because of nerves flubbed his solo while performing Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie Shuffle." It was after this performance that the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership was born. Paul was upset by how badly he played and to impress John, he showed John a song he had written, "I Lost My Little Girl". John then showed Paul a few songs he'd written and it was then that John and Paul started writing songs together."

The people at the Clubmoor Conny are really, really fabulous, and always make Beatle fans very welcome when they visit.  The club has live music every weekend (non-members can attend for just £1.00 entry fee), and so (with a bit of imagination!), there's a chance to relive that magical night of 1957.

The bad news is that the Clubmoor Conny is in financial trouble and under serious threat of closure -- which, for many Beatles fans would be an absolute tragedy.  Unless the Club can raise £20,000 in a very short period of time, another piece of Beatles history will be lost forever.

Jackie Spencer, one of the best and most passionate tour guides in Liverpool, is leading a campaign to Save the Clubmoor Conny.  She says, "Beatle people are amongst the most generous Across The Universe. If you can donate anything to help save Clubmoor Hall, then please visit my website, or please join a new annual Worldwide Membership Scheme to become a member of the elite club where Lennon and McCartney first played together."

Click here to visit Jackie's website, where you can find out more about the campaign to Save the Clubmoor Conny and donate to this very worthy cause.

A donation of as little as £1.00 could be enough to save a vital part of Beatles history!

Please help if you can.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Interview with Lynn Varcoe

Lynne Varcoe was the auxiliary nurse who cared for John Lennon's Aunt Mimi in her final years between 1991-1992. Ernie Sutton of the British Beatles Fan Club spoke to her about her time caring for Mimi.

How did you come to care for John Lennon's Aunt Mimi?
"My mother was the owner of the Varcoe Nursing Agency, located in Poole. She was approached by a representative of Yoko Ono to supply auxiliary nurses during the day to care for Mimi Smith. During the night, caregivers from the Cheshire Trust watched Mimi. I had worked for my mother on and off over the years. At that time, I was working as a mathematics teacher and I helped care for Mimi as a second income."

When did you realise she was the aunt who raised John Lennon?
"As soon as my mother received the 'phone call to assist with Mimi's care it was made clear to us who she was. I think we always knew that John Lennon's Aunt lived in Poole; we just did not where exactly."

How long did you look after Mimi?
"I looked after Mimi on and off for two years during 1991 and 1992. "

How did you feel when you realised who Mimi was?
"I did not start as a huge Beatles fan (not having been born until 1963). However, one of my closest friends at Grammar School loved all things Beatle so I was well educated! When I realized who Mimi was, it was interesting to hear her talk about John and the other Beatles; also to see the memorabilia that she had in her house. She had a picture that was painted by John (which she later gave to her doctor), a Radio Caroline bell that had been presented to the Beatles, a plaque that John had made for his Uncle that read "the guitar is all right as a hobby, John, but you'll never make a living at it", as well as many photographs and cards, etc."

What were her memories of George (her husband?)
"Mimi really did not talk about George. When asked she always changed the subject."

When she spoke about John, how do you think she felt (proud?)- or did it vary .
"When Mimi spoke about John she was occasionally proud but more often than not, she found fault! She was very upset at John when he returned his MBE. John gave it to Mimi after he got it and she thought of it as hers. She said that he came to see her one day and asked to borrow it. Then she heard on the news that he had returned it and she was very upset. She also said many times that John was not raised to speak with a Liverpudlian accent and that he 'put it on' so that he would 'sound like the other boys'. (I don't know if that was true or not!!). She was very upset that John had gone to live in America (understandably under the circumstances) - and she did not speak fondly of Yoko. I think she felt that if John had not met Yoko he would have stayed in England and would still be alive."

Did she speak to John while she was in your care?
"John, of course, was already dead when I cared for Mimi. However, she did have Paul's phone number and rang him occasionally."

Did she ever talk about Yoko & Sean, and what did she felt about them?
"I do not recall Mimi mentioning Sean except in passing. As I said before, she was not fond of Yoko. She did not like being beholden to her for her. Yoko owned her house and paid for all Mimi's needs. Mimi was a very strong person and liked to be in charge. Actually, she always referred to her as that 'Yoko Poko' person. However, Mimi's bark was always worse than her bite and I have a feeling that she may not have truly had as much animosity as she pretended."

What were her thoughts on the other Beatles?
"Mimi seemed to be very fond of the other Beatles. She was still in touch with them from time to time. She talked about when she went on tour with them. She also talked about how they used to come and see her."

Who came to visit Mimi in her last years and where were they spent?
"Yoko would visit Mimi when she was in England. The only other family member that I remember coming down was Jackie. She would visit Mimi on occasional weekends. She would spend time with Mimi and walk on the beach. Mimi, I think, would give her money for her fare."

Why do you think Julia Baird got her facts wrong in her books regarding her visiting Mimi during these final years?
"I do not know if Julia was there at any point during Mimi's last year (if she was, it was not often). However, she was definitely not there when Mimi died. Mimi never mentioned being afraid of anything. Also, Mimi's last words were actually 'Hello, John'. I never told Yoko that - being older and wiser now - I wish that I had! (and if you have any way of doing so, I feel that she should know - I know I would like to)"

Yoko came to the funeral as I recall, did you ever get the chance to meet her or Sean and if so how did they come across to you?
"Yoko and Sean were at the funeral and so was Cynthia. I remember Cynthia being very upset and crying throughout. During the funeral (a cremation), they played the music of Imagine. I still can't hear that song without thinking of Mimi and the funeral. There were flower arrangements sent from Paul, Ringo, and George. After the funeral, we all went to lunch at the Harbour Lights Hotel in Sandbanks. Yoko was very gracious and thanked all the people that helped care for Mimi. She thanked me for being there when Mimi died. Sean was also very polite and attentive to his mother."

Did Cynthia or Julian ever get in touch with Mimi as far as you know during this period and if so how did Mimi feel about it?
"I do not remember Cynthia or Julian getting in touch with Mimi during this period. Mimi always spoke well of Cynthia."

What were Mimi's interests in these last years?
"Mimi's main interests were the squirrels and the seagulls. She fed them both and watched them from her window. My mother (with permission) found Mimi a cat for company during the last year. He was a big black animal called Thomas and was good company for her - he came from a rescue shelter. Mimi was very fond of cats - I later found out that she had kept cats in Liverpool. After she died, I found Thomas a new home."

What happened to you after Mimi's passing?
"After Mimi's passing I decided that I would like to become a 'real' nurse. I got a degree in nursing, and have worked as a nurse ever since. Yoko gave some items to my mother and myself that had belonged to her (the plaque, the Radio Caroline Bell, some photographs, a duvet that was John's as a child). I sold these at Auction (Sothebys) and they paid for my nursing education. (I still have the duvet!)"

What are you doing now?
"I moved the USA in the 1990s. I now work for a Hospice, taking care of terminally ill patients in Western West Virginia and Southern Ohio."

British Beatles Fan Club would like to thank Lynne for speaking to us here.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

New Book From Barry Miles

In The Seventies: Adventures in the Counterculture
Barry Miles

ISBN 9781846686900

A new book from one of our favourite authors on the Beatles!

In The Seventies tells the story of London and New York during the decade that is often written off as one long hangover after the exuberance of the sixties. Miles remembers a fascinating period in which many of the hippie dreams became realities, and others came back in shiny new clothes at the advent of the punk revolution.Beginning with Allen Ginsberg's hippie commune in upstate New York and moving on to his time cataloguing William Burroughs'archives in London, Miles remembers the decade that began with David Bowie in drag and ended with Grace Jones naked at Studio 54. Writing forNME, he reported on both the CBGBs scene and was the first to review and interview The Clash, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Patti Smith. Engaging and idealistic,In the Seventies is a memoir that challenges modern perceptions of the decade with great anecdotes featuring an extraordinary cast of characters, from Allen Ginsberg to Richard Hell, Leonard Cohen to Brian Eno.

Barry Miles is an English writer, luminary of the sixties underground and businessman. In the 1960s, he was co-owner of the Indica Gallery and helped start theInternational Times. Miles has written biographies of McCartney, Lennon, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Allen Ginsberg, in addition to books on The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Clash as well as a general history of London's counter-culture since 1945London Calling.


'Praize for'Zappa''This is rock biography at its best *****', Mojo
'An engrossing portrait of the troubled musical genius', Publishers Weekly
'A fresh perspective on the seventies', Alex Heminsley, Elle
'An excellent new book of reminiscences by the counter-culture-mover-and-shaker Barry Miles... a reliable commentator on the hippie lore of that period... candid behind-the-scenes revelation and madcap humour... highly entertaining.', Andrew Perry, Daily Telegraph
'Miles was pivotal in London counterculture from the 1960s onwards... his extensive memories of Burroughs captivatingly recreate the author's temporary life as a gentleman of St James's in London...', Ben Felsenburg, Metro

Read the full review from the Daily Telegraph here.
For more details, click here to visit the publisher's website.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Beatlemania Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Star Club, Hamburg!

Sir Paul McCartney's Ocean Kingdom

New York City Ballet Presents
the Premiere of

Sir Paul McCartney’s
Ocean’s Kingdom

at NYCB’s Fall Gala on Thursday, September 22

New York City Ballet will open its 2011-2012 season at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, September 13, with four weeks of fall performances through October 9, featuring 16 ballets including works by George Balanchine, Peter Martins, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon.

The four-week fall season opens with the return of Peter Martins’ full-length staging of Swan Lake, set to Tschaikovsky’s beloved score, and featuring sets and costumes designed by the acclaimed Danish artist Per Kirkeby. The Company will present six performances of Swan Lake, which was last performed to sold-out houses during NYCB’s 2011 winter season.

The highlight of the fall season will be the September 22 Fall Gala, which will feature the World Premiere of Ocean’s Kingdom, a collaboration between Sir Paul McCartney and NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins. The production will mark the first time that Sir Paul has written an original orchestral score for dance, and will also feature costumes designed by the acclaimed fashion designer Stella McCartney, who will be designing costumes for the theater for the first time ever. Ocean’s Kingdom will also feature projections designed by S. Katy Tucker, and lighting designed by Mark Stanley.

The September 22 gala performance will also include a special “See the Music…” presentation featuring NYCB Music Director Fayçal Karoui and the New York City Ballet Orchestra, which will open the evening with a unique exploration of the Ocean’s Kingdom score.

Following the World Premiere performance, Ocean’s Kingdom will be performed four additional times during the fall season on September 24, 25, 27, and 29 (as well as five additional performances during the 2012 winter season on January 19, 21, 24, 27, and 29).
For tickets, contact the David H. Koch Theater box office, by phone at 212-496-0600, and online at nycballet.com