John Lennon’s Gypsy Caravan

The caravan was initially bought by Lennon as a gift for his son Julian’s fourth birthday. He hired the pop art designing trio from Amsterdam who called themselves ‘The Fool’ to paint his son’s extravagant present with the famous Sgt Pepper motif and the art designs that were so popular amongst travelers at that time.

Lennon also had “The Fool” paint his Rolls Royce in a Sgt Pepper era motif.

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In 1967 John bought a small 21-acre island called Dorinish. He at first planned to build a house on it but never did. He did stay at the island some and had the caravan floated out to it for a while. Through the years he would take the caravan out some.

After John was murdered, Ringo Starr took ownership as part of the late Beatles estate.  In 1982, he called in Cookham-based vintage caravan restorer John Pockett to restore it. In September 1983 it was restored to its former glory from Mr. Pockett’s Cookham workshop and was placed beside Ringo’s swimming pool.

In 2013 it was found at Ringo Starr’s former Surrey home under a tarp. A charitable trust, the Ascot Lawyers Foundation, has taken ownership of the piece of Sgt Pepper memorabilia. They working on restoring it.

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http://delightmakers.com/project/john-lennon-gypsy-caravan/

December 8, 1980

I wrote this back in May but since it’s December 8th I thought I would repost it…I can’t believe it’s been 38 years ago… Seeing that date depresses me…this was not the way to start the decade that was my teens.

Since second grade, I’d been listening to the Beatles. While a lot of kids I knew listened and talked about modern music …I just couldn’t relate as much. By the time I was ten I had read every book about The Beatles I could get my hands on. In a small middle TN town…it wasn’t too many. I was after their generation but I knew the importance of what they did…plus just great music. The more I got into them the more I learned about the Who, Stones, and the Kinks. I wanted to get my hands on every book about the music of the 1960s. Just listening to the music wasn’t enough…I wanted to know the history.

I spent that Monday night playing albums in my room. Monday night I didn’t turn the radio on…I’m glad I didn’t…The next morning I got up to go to school and the CBS morning news was on. The sound was turned down but the news was showing Beatle video clips. I was wondering why they were showing them but didn’t think much of it.

Curious, I walked over to the television and turned it up and found out that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I was very angry and shocked. The bus ride to school was quiet, at school, it was quiet as well. Some teachers were affected because John was their generation. Some of my friends were shocked but some really didn’t get the significance at the time and some didn’t care. A few but not many kids acted almost gleeful which pissed me off…It was obvious their parents were talking through them.

I went out and bought the White Album, Abbey Road and Double Fantasy in late December of 1980…I can’t believe I didn’t have the two Beatle albums already…now whenever I hear any song from those albums they remind me of the winter of 80-81. I remember the call-in shows on the radio then…pre-internet… people calling to share their feelings for John or hatred for the killer.

The next few weeks I saw footage of the Beatles on specials that I had never seen before. Famous and non-famous people pouring their heart out over the grief. Planned tributes from bands and everyone asking the same question…why?

My young mind could not process why a person would want to do this to a musician. A politician yea…I could see that…not that it’s right but this? A musician? Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK were before my time.  By the mid-1970s John had pretty much dropped out of sight…John and Yoko released Double Fantasy on November 17, 1980, and suddenly they were everywhere…Less than a month later John was murdered. The catchwords were Catcher in the Rye, Hawaii, handgun and insane. The next day we were duly informed on who killed John in the First, Middle, and Last name format they assign to murderers.

I didn’t want to know his name, his career, his wife’s name, his childhood…I just wanted to know why… he says now…”attention”

I noticed a change happened after that Monday night. John Lennon was instantly turned into a saint, something he would have said was preposterous. Paul suddenly became the square and the uncool one and George and Ringo turned into just mere sidemen. Death has a way of elevating you in life. After the Anthology came out in the 90s that started to change back a little.

I called my dad a few days after it happened and he said that people were more concerned that The Beatles would never play again than the fact a man, father, and husband was shot and killed. He was right and I was among those people until he said that. Dad was never a fan but he made his point.

Birth of the Beatles 1979

As a 12-year-old, I waited for this and couldn’t wait to watch it. The film started out with The Beatles about to take off to America…and then flashed back to 1961 and followed them until their Ed Sullivan appearance. It was made by Dick Clark Productions. There is a Pete Best slant to the film…with good reason. They used Pete as an advisor and you can tell. Many things slant his way.

For a fan like me, some things bother me about it…like The Beatles in Hamburg playing “Don’t Bother Me” which wasn’t written until at least 2 years later (I just looked up trivia in IMDB and this was listed…so others noticed). They mixed some facts around and left some out but with the length of the movie, they could not include everything. When making a movie about someone, events will get exaggerated and some things made up.

The movie I would make would be around 10 hours long and heavily detailed…in other words unwatchable by the general public.

I did like the spirit of this film and the actor playing John Lennon (Stephen MacKenna) I thought did a good job.

Overall it was a good try for the time and the film did do the early Beatle highlights… Stuart Sutcliffe, Astrid Kirchherr, Hamburg, Brian Epstein, Cynthia telling John she was pregnant, Paul and Pete lighting the Cinema (though heavily exaggerated), the comedy of the Beatles, George Martin, Rory Storm, Aunt Mimi and more. The group “Rain” did the soundtrack and that is maybe the highlight of the film

It was the only movie about the Beatles made when John was still alive. John, Paul, George, and Ringo…the real ones…tried to get the movie stopped but were obviously unsuccessful. The film was released to theatres in Europe but on television in America.

There are wince moments throughout the film…when in 1961 Hamburg, you see a little of seventies clothing and hairstyles plus some rushed acting. It’s full of flaws but they were on a budget and they tried to highlight the big moments. It’s a fun watch anyway even though they did get some of the story wrong.

From Wikipedia, these are the songs that were performed in the movie. Below these songs is the movie from youtube.

  1. She Loves You – Opening titles version
  2. My Bonnie (Lies Over the Ocean)
  3. Oh Baby Doll – Performed by a different group at the Liverpool audition and not by the Beatles themselves.
  4. Dizzy Miss Lizzy
  5. Blue Suede Shoes – Performed by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
  6. I Saw Her Standing There – featuring Pete Best on drums
  7. Don’t Bother Me
  8. Johnny B. Goode
  9. Lawdy Miss Clawdy – Performed by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
  10. Roll Over Beethoven
  11. Kansas City
  12. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
  13. Shake, Rattle and Roll!
  14. Ask Me Why
  15. Love Me Tender
  16. Twist and Shout
  17. P.S. I Love You
  18. Dizzy Miss Lizzy – Reprise, a different recording featuring heavier drums and a more raw-sounding guitar
  19. Cry for a Shadow
  20. Please Mr. Postman
  21. Long Tall Sally
  22. Love Me Do
  23. Rock and Roll Music
  24. I Saw Her Standing There – Reprise, featuring Ringo Starr on drums. The drumming styles differ between versions for story reasons
  25. Please Please Me
  26. Thank You Girl
  27. I Want to Hold Your Hand
  28. She Loves You – Ending titles version

The quality is not great but here is the movie on youtube.

 

The Beatles Forever

I bought this book 1978 when I was 11 and it changed me. I recommend anyone picking this book up anywhere you can. Any beginning Beatles fan or an older one will like this book. Nicholas Schaffner touches on their history without treating them like Saints. The photos of the collectibles are worth the book.

He covers how the Beatles impacted our culture and some of the changes that took place. He covers the craziness of Beatlemania to the gradual maturing of The Beatles. Nicholas highlights each Beatle along with following the band as a whole.

It’s fun to see the many collectibles that flooded the market during Beatlemania. It has great pictures and enough content to keep you coming back to it. This book was updated after John Lennon was killed but any version is worth buying.

I’ve been rereading it recently and it holds up today well. Of course, history doesn’t change but more details have come out but overall the book is good. He follows their solo careers with honesty.

One thing to remember it’s not a straight history of the Beatles (it starts with Beatlemania) or a strict discography but more about the impact they had on the world with history and a highlighted discography on the way.

For a casual Beatle fan, you can’t go wrong with Nicholas Schaffner’s The Beatles Forever.

In 1979 my Jr. High School librarian knew I would read anything on baseball or the Beatles so she had me paged to the library and showed me this…theboysfromliverpool.jpg

again by Nicholas Schaffner and it’s great for a beginning Beatles fan. This would be a good starter book on The Beatles for a young teen.

 

 

Beatlemania Show In 1983

My cousin Mark won tickets in 1983 on the radio to a show called Beatlemania. He called me up because he knew I was a huge Beatles fan and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him…well yes.

I was excited but I had no clue about what to expect. In the back of my mind, I thought they would cover 1964 and maybe the early part of 1965…nothing but the early period. I only had read about this show a little in the past where the Beatles took Beatlemania to court… Never read on how good or bad it was…

We got there and went to the lobby before the show. The actual band was in the lobby talking to some people. We went over to get something to drink and I heard a couple of people talking “hey they are going to try Lady Madonna tonight for the first time”, that surprised me. That is the second I started to get really excited about the show…I thought hmmm they might play more than just the early songs. The Beatles stopped touring after 1966 and so many of the songs from and after Revolver were never played live.

They came out in the suits and started off with Twist and Shout and sounded really good. Those early songs work well live.

After playing several songs an intermission was announced. They came back out dressed in Sgt Pepper outfits and started to play Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour songs. I kept thinking that these songs could not have been pulled off in the era they were released in live. I didn’t think I would ever hear these songs live…if I closed my eyes a little…it was as close to the real thing as I could get.

Another intermission and out they came dressed like the Abbey Road period and covered songs from the White Album, Let It Be, and Abbey Road.

To hear these songs live was incredible. They were very good musicians and did a good job emulating the Beatles. I’ve since seen other Beatle cover bands in Disneyworld and Opryland and they have been decent…but never as good as this show.

It’s odd giving a review of a show that happened 35 years ago but it was really enjoyable. In 2010 I saw Paul McCartney do many of the songs live that I had not heard since that night in 1983…but this time I didn’t have to pretend as much. The giant sound McCartney had was better than I ever could expect.

But as a 16-year-old Beatle fan on September 13, 1983, these pretend Beatles were a great experience.

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John Lennon – Rock and Roll Album

This album originated because of a lawsuit against John Lennon. On ‘Come Together’, John sings, “Here come old flattop”, a line that was originally in Chuck Berry’s 1956 hit, ‘You Can’t Catch Me’. When it was used, music publisher Morris Levy filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement against John.

To settle out of court John agreed to cover three songs that Morris Levy had publishing rights on. John started to work on this when he separated from Yoko in the early seventies. John picked songs that influenced him before the Beatles.

Phil Spector agreed to produce the album and the album started in October of 1973.  The sessions dragged on. Phil Spector, as he often does, acted erratically during the sessions which included shooting a gun through the studio ceiling… Phil then disappeared with the tapes. Lennon could not get the tapes back. After that Spector was involved in a car wreck in March of 74 and was in a coma.

This should have been an easy thing to do… record some covers right? No, John couldn’t get the tapes back so he started on an album of mostly original material called Walls and Bridges which would include the #1 hit “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.” He would come back to the covers album afterward.

Now Lennon was getting sued by Levy because Levy already expected the Rock and Roll album to be out. Lennon explained what was going on and John did record one of the three songs on Walls and Bridges called Ya Ya with his son Julian.

John finally got the tapes back from Spector and started the album with the same musicians. He gave Levy some demos to show him the progress that was being made…Levy turns around and has the demos pressed and released them as a record called “Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits.” They were sold on TV for 3 days before EMI filed an injunction and stopped the record.

Lennon_Roots.jpg

Lennon then finished the real album in 5 days with John himself producing. It was released in February 1975. Only four songs are used on the album that was produced with Spector. I will say this about the record. This isn’t just some star singing old hits…you can tell John loved the songs and treated all of them with reverence.

The album made it to #6 in the Billboard 200, #6 in the UK, and #5 in Canada. Stand By Me made it to #20 in the Billboard 100. John Lennon did not make another album until Double Fantasy in 1980.

The cover features a young John Lennon while in Hamburg.

I’m taking nothing away from the Ben E King’s version of Stand By Me because I love it… but for me, this is my go-to version. Lennon’s voice cuts through the song like a knife.

Jimmie Nicol – The Fill-In Beatle

You would think this would be a dream come true…but having sudden fame thrown on you without acclimating could be a bad thing.

In June of 1964, Ringo Starr collapsed with tonsillitis with a tour coming up. Ringo had to go to the hospital. The Beatles wanted to cancel the tour rather than go out without their drummer. Brian Epstein and George Martin did not want the momentum they help create to stop and disappoint all of the fans.

George Harrison said it would not be the Beatles without Ringo. As Brian and George Martin tried to reason with them all, George Harrison said that they would have to find two replacements because he would not go without Ringo.

Epstein and Martin pleaded with them and told them about all the fans they would disappoint. It would only be until Ringo was well again.

Someone actually brought up Pete Best’s name. John Lennon said no because that would be bad for him because he would think he was back in the band. George Martin looked up drummers and finally found Jimmie Nicol. He was the drummer for an unknown group called The Shubdubs and also did some studio work. Martin thought he was a good fit so they rang him up.

Jimmie came over to Abbeyroad for the rehearsal. He had played Beatle songs before so he knew the arrangements. The Beatles were welcoming to Jimmie knowing he was in a tough spot. A little over 20 hours later he as playing his first concert with them in Copenhagen. Denmark. He was given the Beatle haircut and he even wore Ringo’s suit. He as reportedly paid 2500 a show…which was a huge amount in 1964.

Sudden fame can be a hard thing to handle. Jimmie said that before he played with the Beatles no girls were interested in him but while he was with them that girls were everywhere. Supposedly Jimmie and John spent a night in a brothel.

Jimmie played eight shows altogether with The Beatles and thirteen days altogether with them… before arriving in Melbourne. Austrailia where Ringo was well enough to play again. During his time with The Beatles, he did help inspire a song 3 years later. Every time John and Paul asked him how he was doing he would always answer “Getting Better.” Paul thought of this in 1967 while walking his dog and ended up with John writing “Getting Better” for Sgt Pepper.

After it was over he declared bankruptcy in 1965 but he eventually joined a band that had some success called The Spotnicks and they did two world tours. He eventually moved to Mexico and then got out of music. Here are a couple of his quotes.

“The day before I was a Beatle, not one girl would look me over. The day after … they were dying just to get a touch of me. Strange and scary all at once. It’s hard to describe the feeling but I can tell you it can go to your head. I see why so many famous people kill themselves.” 

The last quote is telling of his character.

“After the money ran low, I thought of cashing-in in some way or other. But the timing wasn’t right. And I didn’t want to step on The Beatles’ toes. They had been damn good for me and to me.”

The Beatles with Jimmie

 

Two sites where I got info

https://www.beatlesbible.com/people/jimmie-nicol/2/

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/meet-jimmy-nicol-the-forgotten-beatle-standin-drummer-for-ringo/news-story/0f79dd8eda8adc579d3c35c6bfb32f1f

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I had to add this quote…

 “I thought I could drink and lay women with the best of them until I caught up with these guys.”