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?

Beatles – She’s Leaving Home

I got this album when I was 10 years old and they even included the cutouts 10 years after it was released.

This song was on the Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The album was probably the most influential rock album ever released. Other bands followed with psychedelic albums with varying results. The Zombie’s Odessey and Oracle was a great one but the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request disappointed many fans. Sgt Pepper worked well but The Beatles would completely move on after their next EP – Album Magical Mystery Tour.

Not only were the songs different but the sound was different than their last albums. The two that stood out were Ringo’s drums and his use of toms on songs like A Day In The Life. Paul’s bass playing was brilliant. His bass on the album and especially Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds stands up to anything today…the sound of the bass also was crystal clear.

She’s Leaving Home took me a while to appreciate but when I got older I was blown away. This song was inspired by a real runaway named Melonie Coe. She had been on the television show, Ready, Steady Go, and won a prize for a miming and dancing contest. The Beatles were performing on the program and it was Paul who presented her with her prize.

Fast forward a couple of years and Melanie ran away from home in the afternoon leaving a note for her mother to find when she returned.  Melanie was running away with her boyfriend because she was in the early stages of pregnancy. She ended up breaking up with the guy.

The story of her disappearance was reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Mirror, and when Paul McCartney read it, he began to write the song She’s Leaving Home. The headline read: A-Level Girl Dumps Car and Vanishes.

It’s doubtful if Paul remembered Melanie from their brief encounter.

In the article, her father said “I cannot imagine why she should run away, she has everything here … even her fur coat.” And Lennon and McCartney turned that into “We gave her everything money could buy.”
Melanie moved to Los Angeles, having decided to become an actress. She didn’t make it and her only claim to fame was that she dated Burt Ward…a.k.a Robin in the television series Batman. She moved back to England and then on to Southern Spain where she became a real estate agent.

Melanie Coe 3

Paul was excited about this song and rang George Martin up to do it NOW. George couldn’t record when Paul wanted to so Paul recruited  Mike Leander…another producer. That didn’t sit well with Martin and he was hurt but there wasn’t much he could do.

George Martin: “It was the song that got away, It was the song I wanted to do…It was just one of those silly things. He was so damned impatient and I was up to my eyes with other work and I just couldn’t cope. But Paul realizes now, though he was surprised that I was upset.”

Melanie Coe: “The amazing thing about the song was how much it got right about my life, It quoted the parents as saying ‘we gave her everything money could buy’ which was true in my case. I had two diamond rings, a mink coat, hand-made clothes in silk and cashmere and even my own car. Then there was the line ‘after living alone for so many years,’ which really struck home to me because I was an only child and I always felt alone…I heard the song when it came out and thought it was about someone like me but never dreamed it was actually about me…I must have been in my twenties when my mother said she’d seen Paul on television and he’d said that the song was based on a story in a newspaper. That’s when I started telling my friends it was about me.”

Melanie Coe: “I first heard the song when it came out and I didn’t realize it was about me, but I remember thinking it could have been about me….I found the song to be extremely sad. It obviously struck a chord somewhere. It wasn’t until later, when I was in my twenties, that my mother said, ‘You know, that song was about you!’ She had seen an interview with Paul [McCartney] on television and he said he’d based the song on this newspaper article. She put two and two together.”

Paul McCartney: “We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who had left home and not been found. There were a lot of those at the time, That was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up and then…It was rather poignant. I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the Greek chorus, long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our songwriting we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.”

“Greek chorus” entails by adding: “While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view: ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’ I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents.”

John Lennon: “Paul had the basic theme for this song, but all those lines like ‘We sacrificed most of our life…we gave her everything money could buy,’ those were the things Mimi used to say to me. It was easy to write.”

She’s Leaving Home

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free

She (We gave her most of our lives)
Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
Home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years (Bye bye)

Father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that’s lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband “Daddy our baby’s gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly?
How could she do this to me?”

She (We never thought of ourselves)
Is leaving (Never a thought for ourselves)
Home (We struggled hard all our lives to get by)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years (Bye bye)

Friday morning at nine o’clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the appointment she made
Meeting a man from the motor trade

She (What did we do that was wrong)
Is having (We didn’t know it was wrong)
Fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)
Something inside that was always denied
For so many years (Bye bye)

She’s leaving home
Bye bye

George Harrison – All Those Years Ago

I remember this George Harrison song well in 1981. This song was tribute to John Lennon, who was shot and killed the year before. The song had a bouncy melody and it was originally wrote for Ringo. After Lennon was murdered George re-wrote the lyrics to show is feelings for John.

Ringo did end up playing on the track with Paul and Linda McCartney, and Denny Laine from McCartney’s band Wings. Long time Beatle producer George Martin produced this for Harrison. Geoff Emerick, one of The Beatles sound engineers, also had a hand in this tune.

This appeared on the album Somewhere In England. I bought the single and then the album. The album peaked at #11 in the Billboard Album Charts, #13 in the UK, and #14 in Canada. The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard Album Charts, #13 in the UK, and #3 in Canada in 1981.

Al Kooper: “George was in the kitchen, white as a sheet, real shook up. We all had breakfast. He took calls from Paul and Yoko, which actually seemed to help his spirit, and then we went into the studio and started the day’s work. Ray and I kept George’s wine glass full all day…”

All Those Years Ago

I’m shouting all about love
While they treated you like a dog
When you were the one who had made it so clear
All those years ago

I’m talking all about how to give
They don’t act with much honesty
But you point the way to the truth when you say
All you need is love

Living with good and bad
I always looked up to you
Now we’re left cold and sad
By someone the devil’s best friend
Someone who offended all

We’re living in a bad dream
They’ve forgotten all about mankind
And you were the one they backed up to the wall
All those years ago
You were the one who imagined it all
All those years ago

All those years ago
All those years ago

Deep in the darkest night
I send out a prayer to you
Now in the world of light
Where the spirit free of lies
And all else that we despised

They’ve forgotten all about God
He’s the only reason we exist
Yet you were the one that they said was so weird
All those years ago
You said it all though not many had ears
All those years ago
You had control of our smiles and our tears
All those years ago

All those years ago

All those years ago

All those years ago

Beatles – If I Needed Someone

This has that Rickenbacker sound. This song was written by George Harrison, who was influenced by The Byrds song “The Bells of Rhymney.” This one has always been a favorite of mine by George.

If I Needed Someone was one of four songs Capitol Records held off of the American release of Rubber Soul. US audiences hadn’t heard the song until June 20th, 1966, which was the date of release for the American album Yesterday…And Today.

If I Needed Someone was the only George Harrison composition to have been performed live by The Beatles. The other songs that featured George on vocals were covers but this was the only original song before they stopped touring.

The Hollies received an early recording of “If I Needed Someone.” They proceeded to quickly record their own rendition of the song and release it as their next British single on December 3rd, 1965, the exact day that The Beatles’ released Rubber Soul.

The Hollies took the song to #20 on the British charts, and it became the first George Harrison composition to make the charts.

Roger McGuinn: “George Harrison wrote that song after hearing the Byrds’ recording of “Bells of Rhymney.” He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes the Beatles.”

From Songfacts

 It was not Ravi Shankar that introduced George to the wonderment of sitar, but Byrd traveler David Crosby shortly after Shawn Phillips had shown him the basic steps. In 1965 The Beatles toured the US and visited Ravi at World Pacific Studios where The Byrds had permanent residency. It was also here that Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker jingle jangle influenced Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” In turn, The Byrds were influenced by Harrison’s 12-string guitar work. 

If I Needed Someone

If I needed someone to love
You’re the one that I’d be thinking of
If I needed someone

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah, ah, ah

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah