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?

Derek and The Dominos – Bell Bottom Blues

I like this song just as much as Layla. The song was written by Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock. This song and “I Looked Away” are my favorites on the album. This song peaked at only #91 in the Billboard 100 in 1971.

Yet another song that was written about Pattie Boyd.

From the American Blues Scene site

In 1970, Eric Clapton was experiencing emotional anguish at the hands of lover Pattie Boyd. His romantic agony inspired an entire album worth of songs, “Bell Bottom Blues” being one of them. In Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, he recounts writing the song for Boyd after she asked him to get her a pair of bell-bottom jeans while he visited the US.

Bell Bottom Blues

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry
I don’t want to lose this feeling
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

It’s all wrong, but it’s all right
The way that you treat me baby
Once I was strong but I lost the fight
You won’t find a better loser

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it ’cause
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Bell bottom blues, don’t say goodbye
I’m sure we’re gonna meet again
And if we do, don’t you be surprised
If you find me with another lover

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it ’cause
I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day, please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

I don’t want to fade away
Give me one more day please
I don’t want to fade away
In your heart I want to stay

Pattie Boyd…The Muse

Pattie Boyd is a beautiful woman who was the inspiration for many great songs. She was married to George Harrison and then to Eric Clapton.  The three most well-known songs were Something (Beatles), Layla (Derek and the Dominos…Eric Clapton) and Wonderful Tonight. 
Other songs include

I Need You (Beatles)
She’s Waiting (Eric Clapton)
For You Blue (Beatles)
It’s All Too Much (Beatles)
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad ((Derek and the Dominos…Eric Clapton)
So Sad (George Harrison)
If I Needed Someone (Beatles)

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She worked in London, New York, and Paris, side by side with the world’s top models. Boyd appeared in the UK and Italian editions of Vogue magazine, as well as in several commercials. George Harrison met Pattie while filming “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and they married in 1966. George and Patti were a hip couple in 1960’s Swinging London.

pattie hdn.jpgpatgeor.jpg

By the early seventies, George and Pattie were having problems and it didn’t help that Eric Clapton was pursuing Pattie and that is when Layla was written.

In 1974 Pattie ran off with Eric with George’s blessings. George and Eric remained friends and would visit and work with each other in the future. A quote from Pattie “The first Christmas after I’d left him, in 1974, just as Eric and I were sitting down to lunch, George burst in, uninvited,” Boyd says in her autobiography. “He had some wine and Christmas pudding with us. I couldn’t believe how friendly he and Eric were towards each other.” Pattie and George’s divorce was final in 1977 and George married Olivia Trinidad Arias. They would stay married until George’s death.

George stayed friends with Pattie till the end.

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Pattie and Eric were married in 1979. At the reception, Paul, George, and Ringo played together but there is confusion on why John Lennon was not invited other than he lived in America at the time. Later it was reported that John did say he would have loved to be there.

pattie and eric.jpg

The marriage was a painful one for both. Clapton had a drinking problem through most of the marriage. Pattie left Eric in 1986 after Lory Del Santo had Clapton’s child. Ironically, it was Clapton who once said that his marriage had suffered because he and Boyd couldn’t have children. Practicing with others was clearly not a solution.

Pattie Boyd’s autobiography is an interesting read. 

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Pattie would say that being married during the Beatles years was not an easy thing. If she went to the concerts she and the other wives and girlfriends would sometimes be chased, kicked, and pushed by jealous fans.

This is part of an interview with Taylor Swift interviewing Pattie Boyd. Read the full interview here.

Taylor Swift: I remember seeing a picture of the house, and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull had spray-painted their names on the wall with the words mick and marianne were here. I read a book about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor recently, and how there was this crazy frenzy surrounding them. In the book, Elizabeth is quoted as saying, “It could be worse, we could be the Beatles.” You are one of the only people who can say they experienced what Beatlemania was like from the inside. How did that feel for you?

Pattie BoydIn my first experience, I found it absolutely terrifying. I got to see the Beatles play at a theater in London, and George told me that I should leave with my friends before the last number. So before the last song, we got up from our seats and walked toward the nearest exit door, and there were these girls behind me. They followed us out, and they were kicking me and pulling my hair and pushing us all the way down this long passageway.