Miss O’Dell: Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton… by Chris O’Dell and Katherine Ketcham

I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s almost like a fantasy book. You are a fan and suddenly you get thrown into the world with The Beatles as friends and co-workers. You move from the Beatles to the Stones, CSNY, Bob Dylan and the list kept growing. 

I will say this… as a Beatle fan, this book gave me insight that I never had before. Chris O’Dell happened to meet Derek Taylor (press officer of the Beatles) in Los Angeles in 1968…she worked for him for a few weeks in LA as a PA. He told her she should come over to London to check out the new company that The Beatles were starting called Apple. He didn’t promise her a job but she took a chance and sold her records and borrowed from her parents to go to London. She was like Alice down the rabbit hole, O’Dell stumbled upon a life even she could not have dreamed of.

She took a chance and went over and that started her career working at The Beatles record company Apple. It took her a few months to get hired full time but after the Beatle’s inner circle knew she could be trusted she was there. She met Paul on her very first day. She said all of them were extremely nice and made her feel welcome. She spent the first few months showing up at the office and making herself useful and securing her place. She was especially close to George as a friend and later Ringo as a little more. 

Chris O'Dell George

After all was said and done…she had 3 songs written about her. Two by Leon Russell called Hummingbird, Pieces Apple Lady, and George Harrison’s Miss O’Dell. She was also the “Mystery Woman” on the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street cover. She was in the Joni Mitchell song “Coyote” with the line He’s got another woman down the hall…the song about Sam Shepard who Chris O’Dell and Joni Mitchell were seeing. She ended up singing on the Hey Jude recording in the final Na Na chorus.

She was one of the first if not the first female tour manager in rock. The tours she worked on were The Rolling Stones, CSNY, Santana, Bob Dylan, Earth Wind and Fire, Jennifer Warnes, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins, Echo and the Bunnymen, ELO, and more.

We also get a glimpse into the personalities of Bob Dylan, Jagger and Richards, CSNY (and the disfunction), Eric Clapton, and more. 

Chris O'Dell's Rockstar Life Revealed

Like all of us through life…she made some cringe-worthy decisions. I’m not trying to play it down but most of the time everything worked out in the end. She was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of that. She remains close friends with Pattie Harrison, Ringo Starr (her son’s Godfather), and many of her old famous acquaintances.

This is not a kiss-and-tell book and she doesn’t trash people which made me happy. The only person to come out of this book bad at all is Eric Clapton who was admittedly jealous of Pattie and Chris’s friendship. After the Stones tour, she got into drugs really bad but managed to quit them only to start up again. She, later on, became a drug counselor and helped people. 

This book is for more than just Beatle fans…it gives you what life was like on the road in the 1970s. Some of the highlights in the book for me were: 

  • How the Apple Office worked including the Hell’s Angels visitors
  • How even the biggest stars had deep insecurities
  • Bob Dylan forgot his harmonicas before the Isle of Wight concert and Chris O’Dell arrived by helicopter to give them to him.
  • Keith Richards sending her to pick up a “package” in LA in the middle of a tour
  • Reading about David Crosby’s complaints of no “cross ventilation in his hotel room”
  • When Roger Taylor of Queen realized that she was Miss O’Dell from George’s song.
  • Insight into Pattie Boyd and Maureen Starkey who is hardly covered in Beatles books
  • Reading about how Bangledesh started and how George got his musician friends to participate. 
  • Being on the roof during Get Back brief concert

Chris O’Dell: I think being a Beatle became very difficult for them. They had a different set of problems than the Stones and CSN&Y.  They didn’t tour that much, they couldn’t go out of their hotel rooms, and they lived in a bubble. I think breaking up for them, and I can only guess, was a relief and very difficult at the same time.

Chris O’Dell:  It was like being let go in Disneyland. That’s what it felt like. It’s like here are the keys to Disneyland, go and enjoy yourself. And I was constantly aware that I was watching history in the making and that was exciting. So every day had some, or certainly every week, had something, a twist to it that made it really exciting

Chris O’Dell now: I am happily remarried to a wonderful man who supports me and accepts me as I am. My twenty-three-year-old son is amazing and gives me some credibility as a parent! I have a private practice in Tucson, specializing in addiction and mental health counseling.  My two dogs are happy and life is just better than I would have expected. 

Excerpt from the book: On being in a room with Mick and Keith before the 72 tour. 

“Listen to this fucking article in Rolling Stone about Harrison’s Bangladesh concert,” Keith said. He started reading from the article.
“The Concert for Bangladesh is rock reaching for its manhood.” Keith raised an eyebrow. “Under the leadership of George Harrison, a group of rock musicians recognized, in a deliberate, self-conscious, and professional way, that they have responsibilities, and went about dealing with them seriously.”
Keith looked at Mick and then at me. “Do you believe this shit? But wait, it gets better. Harrison is “a man with a sense of his own worth, his own role in the place of things… with a few parallels among his peers.”
“Bollocks.” Keith laughed, tossing the magazine on the coffee table. “What a fucking load of shit.”
I knew that Keith wasn’t really amused. He could be terribly insecure.
What a paradox Keith was- a sweet sensitive soul who wrote songs about needing love to be happy and yet he lived his life as if he couldn’t give a shit about anything.
But at that moment I wasn’t too interested in Keith’s feelings. I sat at the far end of the sofa, my legs and arms crossed, smoking a cigarette and drinking my Scotch and Coke as if it were straight Coke. I was pissed. Sure, I knew they were just being competitive, but I couldn’t stand listening to them make fun of George. I wanted to jump into the conversation and tell them to leave him alone. But what could I do? I worked for the Stones now, not the Beatles. This is weird, I know, and particularly strange in the context of the Stone’s remarkable longevity, but at that moment I had a sinking feeling that I was beginning my climb down the ladder. I’d started at the very top with the Beatles and now I was on the rung below. I found myself thinking at that moment that the Stones were sometimes a little too raw, too raunchy, too negative. I liked their music, and I liked each of them individually, but if I had to choose, the Beatles would win.
“You know,” I said, trying to smile but having a hard time of it,
“George is my friend.”
Mick looked over at me as if he had forgotten I was there. “Oh yeah, Chris, you’re a Beatle person, aren’t you? Sorry about that”
We let it go, then, but after I dropped Mick at his house and headed home through the dark canyons, I felt a sudden, intense longing to see Pattie and George. Mick was right. When it came right down to it, I was a Beatle person.”

Miss O’Dell

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to say
About the war
Or the rice
That keeps going astray on its way to Bombay.
That smog that keeps polluting up our shores
Is boring me to tears.
Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to fear
From the waves
Or the rice
That keeps rolling on right up to my front porch.
The record player’s broken on the floor,
And Ben, he can’t restore it.
Miss O’Dell.

I can tell you
Nothing new
Has happened since I last saw you.

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to say
About the hip
Or the dope
Or the cat with most hope to fill the Fillmore.
That pushing, shoving, ringing on my bell
Is not for me tonight.
Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

CSN&Y – Ohio ——— Songs that reference Richard Nixon

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, We’re finally on our own, This summer I hear the drumming, Four dead in Ohio

One of the most famous songs to mention Nixon by name…or at least the one I think of the most. It was inspired by a tragic real event that took place onMay 4, 1970, when the US National Guard shot four unarmed students at Kent State University in Ohio. Neil Young wrote it shortly after seeing a news report on the tragedy. It was released 10 days after the shootings.

This song is extremely powerful…In that time some rock songs were like newspaper articles for the young. The guitar riff is pure Neil Young at his raw best. The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100 in 1970. This was released as a single, but the song did not appear on an album until Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young included it on their live album Four Way Street a year later.

Neil Young considers this the best song he wrote with CSN&Y. He included this on his 1977 Greatest Hits album Decade. After the single’s release, it was banned from some AM radio stations because of the challenge to the Nixon Administration in the lyrics.

The most famous song to mention Nixon or Watergate is probably Sweet Home Alabama… This is a write up from Dave from A Sound Day.

From Songfacts

The Kent State shootings had a profound effect on some of the students who later became prominent musicians. Chrissie Hynde was a student at the time and eventually formed The Pretenders. Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale were also on campus, and after the shootings, they developed the band Devo based on the concept of “De-Evolution,” meaning the human race was regressing. Said Casale, “It refocused me entirely. I don’t think I would have done Devo without it. It was the deciding factor that made me live and breathe this idea and make it happen. In Chrissie Hynde’s case, I’m sure it was a very powerful single event that was traumatic enough to form her sensibility and account for a lot of her anger.” Mothersbaugh added, “It was the first time I’d heard a song about something I’d been a participant in. It affected us. It was part of our life.”

A tin soldier is a toy soldier, mindlessly controlled by its owner. In this song, Young likens the National Guard troops to tin soldiers controlled by Nixon.

It’s likely he got the metaphor from a 1969 song by The Original Caste called “One Tin Soldier,” which went to #1 in Young’s native Canada (it was an American hit two years later for the band Coven). Other songs with the phrase in the title include “The Little Tin Soldier” by Donovan (1965) and “Tin Soldier” by the Small Faces (1967).

Jerry Casale gave Songfacts this account of the shootings:

“I was a student, I was a member of SDS – an antiwar group called Students for a Democratic Society, trying to restore Democracy at a time when LBJ and Nixon were running roughshod over it. There were several antiwar groups. That protest that day where everybody got shot was a protest against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. It was a secret expansion, Nixon had done it the night before and we found out about it the next day – the whole nation did. They did it without an act of Congress, without passing any new law or having any meetings. It was completely unconstitutional.

So we’re out there at noon, about 3,500 students at Kent State were out there. The governor, who certainly was a pro-war kind of guy, Governor Rhodes, he had placed the National Guard inside the heating plant of the school the night before anticipating what would happen when the students found out about Cambodia. Not only did he do that, but he waited until about 9 a.m. on May 4th to declare Martial Law, which suspends all first amendment rights of The Constitution, meaning that any assembly is automatically illegal, you’re automatically committing a crime.

These National Guardsmen poured out of the heating plant, surrounded the protesters, and with a bullhorn announced that Martial Law had been declared and that we were all going to jail. Everybody starts chanting and screaming and they start shooting tear gas and some of the more ballsy protesters, while they’re coughing and choking and puking are trying to throw it back, but most of the kids were anywhere from 50 to 100 yards away from these lines of National Guardsmen with guns.

Nobody believed that the guns were actually loaded with live ammo. They just suddenly formed a row. The first one knelt and the second one stood, and they just shot right into the crowd, shot at all of us, down the hill at all of us. The worst thing about it is that two of the four students killed weren’t part of the demonstration, weren’t part of an antiwar group. They’d just come out of class from the journalism building at that time and come out on their way to their next class and we’re looking at the protest, just seeing what the hell’s going on, and they got killed. The bullets just went everywhere, it was like a scatter-gun approach, like shooting geese. A lot of the bullets went over the heads of the protesters and kept going straight down the hill. One of the kids that’s paralyzed for life was getting into his car to leave campus after his class, and they shot him in the back. He was at least 200 yards away and wanted nothing to do with what was going on. It was shocking. It pretty much knocked any hippie that I had left in me right out of me that day.

I had been a member of the honors college and the only way I went to school was with a scholarship. My family was poor and I got a scholarship to go to school. What I had to do every year to earn my scholarship was work three months in the summer for the university admitting new students to the honors college, the incoming freshman, and helping them arrange their curriculum, taking them through the registration process. The summer before May 4th, I had befriended Jeffery Miller and Allison Krause, two honor students, and they turn out to be two of the four killed on May 4th. So I’d known both of them nine months before this happened, and so when I realized that this girl on her stomach with a huge exit wound in her back with blood running down the sidewalk was Allison, I nearly passed out. I sat down on the grass and kind of swooned around and lied down. I was in shock, I couldn’t move.

The government and the press tried to lie about what happened as well as they could. The fact that anybody knows what happened is amazing because they did such a good job of muddying it up and lying, it was amazing. The final chapter there was that the parents of the students who were shot and killed banded together and went on a class action suit against Governor Rhodes and the state of Ohio and the National Guard, and summarily lost across the board. These kids that were shot were 18 and 19 years old. Two of them were 18 and two of them were 19. They lost because by law, no one was allowed to be having a protest once Martial Law was declared, and they threw it out of the court system. I don’t think anyone wants to know the truth. It ruins the myth of freedom in America to find out how easy it can be gone.” (check out our Devo interview)

This became a protest anthem as Americans became fed up with the war in Vietnam. Providing a firsthand account of the shootings and the effect of this song, Alan Canfora told us: “On May 4, 1970, I was waving a black protest flag as a symbol of my anger and despair 10 days after I attended the funeral of my 19-year-old friend killed in Vietnam. I was about 250 feet away from the kneeling, aiming guardsmen from Troop G – the death squad – minutes before they marched away up a hillside. They fired 67 shots from the hilltop during 13 seconds of deadly gunfire, mostly from powerful M1 rifles. I was shot through my right wrist. I survived because I jumped behind the only tree in the direct line of gunfire. About a week later, I was riding in the Ohio countryside with other Kent State massacre survivors when WMMS radio played the song ‘Ohio’ for the first time. We were deeply moved and inspired by that great anti-war anthem.”

Young was a vocal critic of American foreign policy throughout the Vietnam War and became a voice of dissent during the George W. Bush administration when songs like “Let’s Impeach The President” spoke out against the president and his war in Iraq.

Devo recorded this for the 2002 album When Pigs Fly, Songs You Never Thought You’d Hear. The album was a collection of unlikely covers by various artists. Cevin Soling, who put the album together, met Mark Mothersbaugh’s girlfriend at a film festival, who told Mark about the project and got Devo involved. Says Soling: “I knew about the history, I was nervous about them thinking I was being exploitative of their tie to the tragedy. So I really tried to do that gingerly. That took a little while to get off the ground. They did “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” which I guess they had started working on at one point. And I guess it was just sort of difficult getting everyone together and recording. But then they called me back and they said they listened to it and they didn’t think it was good. So at some point in time, they finally all got motivated and got together. I guess Mark was very nervous about putting out something that might not up to Devo quality, and I think he’s finally let the seer of his legacy kind of loom over doing new stuff.”

Ohio

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know

Ah, la la la la…

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio

Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life

This is Graham Nash’s autobiography.

Graham narrates the audible version and does a good job weaving through his personal history. He starts with his blue-collar family and how Alan Clarke and he knew each other since school and formed The Hollies. The most interesting part to me was the mid-sixties era living in swinging London.

He wrote about his friendship with the Beatles and him getting an advance tape of Sgt Pepper from Brian Epstein. He had a great hi-fi system at his flat and he would show it off to anyone that came over. When the Turtles came over from America they were blown away by Sgt Peppers at top volume. He went on about how Sgt Peppers changed everything and it would eventually lead him to leave the Hollies.

Graham describes being a pop star in the mid-sixties in London. Shouldn’t we all live that life? Paul McCartney calls him up and invites him over to the All You Need Is Love session for the “Our World” program to be broadcast to millions.

He talks about how his friendship with Mama Cass led to meeting David Crosby and eventually CSN being born. Graham covers the CSNY period and his romantic relationships including  Joni Mitchell. He does cover the drama associated with CSNY and the troubled David Crosby. What kind of Rockstar bio would it be without drugs… Graham did his share and Crosby did our share. Graham handled them better than some.

Graham would write simple songs compared to Crosby, Stills, and Young but many times his songs would be the hits that drove some of the later albums…songs like “Just a Song Before I Go” and “Wasted on the Way.”

One thing I can say is he didn’t hold back or pull punches…but he still comes off as a really nice guy but it is his book.

This book helped sever his relationship with Crosby…for now anyway but Nash stressed through the book how much he cared for Crosby.

I would recommend this book to not only Hollies and CSNY fans but fans of 60’s and 70’s music and culture. After reading this I listened to more Hollies songs and I really began to appreciate their psychedelic period with songs like King Midas in Reverse.