By Alan L. Chrisman
This is in tribute to Neil Aspinall who died on Mar. 24, 2008. No one was more trusted by The Beatles than Neil Aspinall. He was the manager of their Apple Records for 30 years after Brian Epstein and Allan Klein. He had started out in Liverpool at their very beginnings, driving them around in his van to their early shows and was their road manager. He had been in the same class as Paul McCartney and knew George Harrison at Liverpool Institute and met John Lennon attending his first term at the Liverpool College of Art next door.
He became very good friends with Pete Best, original Beatles’ drummer and stayed at his house, where the Beatles first played Pete’s mother’s club, The Casbah, before The Cavern. And when The Beatles replaced Best with Ringo, Pete advised him to continue working with The Beatles, despite their close friendship.
Aspinall travelled with them to America and when George became sick, he stood in for him at rehearsals for the Ed Sullivan Show. He would also accompany them to promote the founding of their Apple Corp. in 1968. It was his idea to have a Sgt. Pepper as the narrator of their land-breaking album. He also participated in the recording of “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”, “Within You, Without You”, on “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Yellow Submarine.”
Neil Aspinall’s Van in which he drove early Beatles (including above, Pete Best) to their shows, outside The Cavern.
But his main role besides being their personal assistant along with Mal Evans, was their confidant and protector. When Klein tried to “clean house” to save money at Apple and even let go of Aspinall, all the Beatles came to his rescue. After Klein and The Beatles parted ways, Aspinall, who was trained as an accountant, was asked by them to take over the running of Apple. Even during this period when The Beatles had split up and were suing each other, he was always able to maintain an impartiality with each of them, which couldn’t have been easy at times. He would be instrumental in fighting for several lawsuits for them against Apple Computers and their EMI Record Company.
It was Neil Aspinall’s idea for the later very successful Beatles’ Anthologies in the early 90’s. He had started working on compiling their official history as early as 1970 under the original title, “The Long and Winding Road.”
Although he had many lucrative offers to reveal inside secrets about The Beatles, he never did, maintaining their loyalty and trust until his death of lung cancer in 2008 (like George Harrison, whom he had first met sharing smokes behind a schoolyard shed).
A couple things which some people may not know: While Neil Aspinall was staying at Pete Best’s place, the 19 year-old had a relationship with Pete’s mother, who ran The Casbah. The result was the birth of Roag Best, Pete’s half-brother . Pete and his brother, Roag, were musical guests at 1st. first Ottawa Beatles Convention which I organized in 1995. It was there where I learned of this, for a long time, little-known connection between the two and this was during the release of the 1st Beatles Anthology. By the next year, when Pete came back to play during my second Convention week, Pete had become a millionaire “overnight” (30 years having been dismissed by The Beatles, with no explanation), because he was on several songs on the Anthology. I’ve always wondered if Neil Aspinall hadn’t had something to do with Pete finally getting his due, since it had been his idea, as I said, for The Anthologies. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, as Aspinall seemed to always strive for fairness for everyone.
Pete Best Band (Including Neil Aspinall’s son and Pete’s half-brother, Roag, left); musical guests at the 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention.
Another interesting story is that my friend, Yury Pelyushonok, actually got to know Neil Aspinall a bit. Neil had taken a liking to my Russ. Cdn. friend, Yury Pelyushonok and Yury’s book, Strings for A Beatle Bass, about how The Beatles helped bring down communism and Yury had been to see Aspinall in London at Apple headquarters a few times. This is an excerpt from my previous blog about how that originally came about: “Yury was going to London, in April, 2000, and I suggested he leave a copy of his book with the Beatles’ manager, Neil Aspinall (the BBC lady had given me his contact at the Connecticut convention in’94, because I had alerted her about a dealer that was trying to sell a rare BBC film, which she got back). Yury did leave a book there and upon returning, he called me one morning and said he’d had a dream, that Neil Aspinall had called me. I’d always wanted to meet Aspinall because he had been there since the beginning and was their closest confidant. And the very next day Yury calls me back and says, “Guess who just called?” I said “Who?” He says, “Paul McCartney’s personal assistant, Geoff Baker!”
The Beatles’ record company, Apple, would also later call back for more copies for George and Ringo. Yury went back to the Beatles’ headquarters a couple more times to discuss the possibility they would publish his book. Neil Aspinall told him in advance that Paul McCartney was to play in Red Square in May, 2003; it was to be a world event. Yury had taken a lot of flak for suggesting that the Beatles could have helped bring down Communism. But Yury was interviewed in N.Y. on ABC- TV “BEATLES REVOLUTION” in 2000 with several celebrities who agreed, including Czech director Milos Forman and Keith Richards (“What brought it down, in the end, was blues jeans and Rock N’ Roll”). And there was soon to be growing evidence that what Yury had first said, was indeed true.
Yury’s book and experiences were to partly inspire BBC film director, Leslie Woodhead’s film, HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN. Finally in 2009, the film was completed and shown on PBS in the States and CBC in Canada, in conjunction with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in ’89. The film and idea got write-ups in the L.A. Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, etc. Yury was interviewed again by the Ottawa Citizen. And the film has since been repeated several times on both PBS and the CBC. In 2013, Mr. Woodhead released a book of the same title, chronicling the making of his film, including a whole chapter on Yury and the visit to Ottawa in 2007 (including about the day we shot the video and both Tony Copple of The Ottawa Beatles Site and I, are described in it) to film an interview with Yury and the video shooting of his song, “Yeah Yeah Virus”. It is used as a theme throughout the film. Yury had also told me about a call he received from Aspinall around the time of the premiere of The Beatles’ Love show and by Cirque du Soleil in 2006. Aspinall put on the phone briefly an oriental woman (Yoko?), as Aspinall was still working on helping Yury get his book known up until close to his death. As I said, he seemed to have taken a liking to my friend, Yury, and that was the kind of gentleman, Aspinall was.
It was my friend, Yury, which first described Neil Aspinall as The Beatles’ earthly Guardian Angel.
Below video of those special few, including Neil Aspinall, who helped The Beatles:
Below Pete Best Band (Including Neil Aspinall’s son and Pete’s half-brother, Roag, left); musical guests at the 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention. And Neil Aspinall's van which he used to drive original Beatles (including his friend, Pete) to shows.