by Alan L. Chrisman
I just re-read Chris O’Dell’s book, Miss O’Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, & The Women They Loved, about working for many of rock’s greatest artists. It’s been out a few years now, but you know how sometimes you don’t always fully get an album or book the first time. But as Patti Boyd, says on the cover, “It’s a riveting, honest, brave account and I couldn’t put the book down”. She would know because she was George Harrison’s first wife and O’Dell became one of her best friends.
Miss O’Dell, a girl from small-town Oklahoma, through a chance meeting with Derek Taylor, one of their close associates, gets a job possibility to come to London and work for the Beatles’ new company, Apple Corps., 1968. Just the right amount of smarts and assertiveness leads her to become one of their most trusted inner-circle. She stays at their homes and becomes good friends with their wives. She does many things, especially, for George and Patti, including the typing of George’s lyrics for his break-through solo album, All Things Must Pass and he writes a song for her,” Pisces Apple Lady”. She attends Beatles’ recording session (something that even Beatle wives weren’t supposed to do, until Yoko) and sings behind “Hey Jude”. She also meets many of their rock star friends like Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and was briefly intimate with them as well as Ringo, even, at one point. For she becomes their confidante, as well, something that rock idols seemed to need, as they have to live in often isolated worlds.
She tells these amazing inside stories and gives us a glimpse at what these larger than life personalities were really like and is especially good at capturing the complexities of each. Miss O’Dell shows us what it’s like to be Rock Royalty. We think their lives are so glamorous and they are, and they can indulge their excesses-drink, drugs, and egos more because they have the power and money to do so. But it seems it’s just one less thing to worry about perhaps, for as human beings, there’s always something else wanted. So each Beatle tried to find his own peace, in different ways. At one point, George tells Miss O’Dell, that she’s “the lucky one”, a less complicated life perhaps and without all the increased expectations. Many of them would also pay a price for their fast lives in the 60’s, as a list of their relatively-early deaths, at the end of her book reveals.
But when The Beatles fall apart and she has to find another job, she misses being in on the action, and becomes increasingly involved in heavier drugs herself. She then becomes the tour manager for some of the top other rock acts, Stones, Dylan, CSNY, and many others. Her organizational skills and abilities at satisfying rock star’s demands and egos come in handy. It’s no wonder she later went back to school and became a Professional Personal and Abuse Counselor. She remained friends with The Beatles and their wives and ex-wives and many others she knew closely. So, Miss O’Dell is a fascinating and rare inside story of The Beatles and her own life.
You Never Give Me Your Money & The Beatles After the Break-up by Peter Doggett
Reviewed by A. Chrisman
I’ve always been most fascinated with two periods of The Beatles, especially, their beginnings in Liverpool and Hamburg and in their later years 1968-70, before their break-up. The irony is that I think they made some of their most interesting music at those times. Besides many of us being affected by them, The Beatles Story is, I think so intriguing, because it really encompasses a bit of everything-from rags to riches beginnings, youthful ideals, artistic success, love, later in-fighting, and perhaps even, eventually a kind of redemption. In other words, all the things, that all of us, as human beings probably go through in our own relationships and lives. But their journey happens at a much higher profile and speeded-up rate. After all, they as a group, The Beatles, only lasted about 10 years. It’s hard to believe because so much happened in that time. It truly was at a special time in history, “The Sixties: The Decade That Changed the World’, as some have called it.
They were a big part of that, for they revolutionized not only pop music and culture, but so much more. I think that is why The Beatles continue to fascinate us, not only the Baby boomers who grew up with them, but also generations to come.
Peter Doggett points out in his book, You Never Give Me Your Money & The Beatles After the Break-up that their own company, Apple Corps. began in 1968 originally as a way, suggested by their financial advisors, to protect their money from the British tax system. But The Beatles, being artists and not businessmen, saw it also as a way to help other up-and-coming artists. They never forgot how they themselves had been pretty well ignored by the music industry, until a little-respected branch of Britain’s EMI record label and a potential-seeing producer, George Martin, finally gave them a chance.
They had this idealistic and youthful 60’s ideal that they could perhaps offer that chance to others at the same time. But pretty soon, as with the excesses of the sixties, a lot of freeloaders started taking advantage of them and Apple. And it was fast becoming a financial mess. On top of that, The Beatles were going in different directions themselves, personally and creatively. Always before they had, despite the differences between members, especially John and Paul, the creative-opposites and main songwriters on which they revolved, been able to come together. There was always a bit of rivalry between John and Paul, as anyone who’s has had an older sibling can understand, and they needed the others’ approval, and it made for a balance in their song writing. But now George too, was coming into his own as a songwriter, and felt unrecognized by the other two. They were also, at the same time, fighting just to keep control of their song publishing, for which they had had to made deals in the beginning. They had left all the business decisions to their manager, Brian Epstein, but he was no longer there to protect them and the businessmen and lawyers saw their chance. So it was the perfect storm. Soon The Beatles were divided into different camps. There was street-wise, Allan Klein, that John & Yoko admired (and George and Ringo went along with) on one side and McCartney and his wife, Linda Eastman’s more refined lawyer family on the other. Doggett documents, step by step, the long drawn out battle. The interesting thing though is, it seemed nobody really did totally want to end their fruitful partnership, but like in a torn marriage, no one also wants to admit they’re wrong. And the divorce proceeds.
So it comes to an end, tellingly, at the same time as the 60’s decade ends. The split, especially in such acrimony, sends shockwaves throughout the pop culture. For, as I say, The Beatles had become more than just a pop band. They represented the hope of the Woodstock generation that we could all get along on just love and peace. Then John Lennon, in one of his first Beatles-split solo albums sang, “ The dream is over” and that he didn’t believe in Beatles as well as all the other icons we had looked up to. He said he just believed in “Yoko and me and that’s reality”. He was no longer the Elvis-inspired, teenage wannabe rocker that had gotten him to start The Beatles.
Many fans still hoped, for years after, that somehow they (or our idealized vision of them) would somehow hold time at a standstill and re-unite. But it was not to be. Times had changed and so had they. They had grown up and so would we. They continued in their solo albums and lives, Paul with Linda and Wings, John with Yoko, George fulfilled his acceptance as a songwriter, and Ringo just being himself. But The Beatles were always more than the sum of their individual parts, as became apparent. Ironically, they were still to compete with each other throughout their solo careers (and secretly meet with each other) and even came close a couple times to, possibly, re-forming. By 1973, Klein was replaced as head of Apple by their long time loyal Liverpool assistant and got it back on track, Neil Aspinall (whom my Russ/Cdn. friend, Yury Pelyushonok, got to know a bit when they were discussing possibly publishing his book about the Beatles’ effect on the Soviet Union and he described Aspinall as their “guardian angel”). But then John was assassinated by a fan and later George was stabbed by another mentally ill fan and then died of cancer.
So The Beatles’ Story, took on almost Shakespearian proportions. As I said, it had everything-innocence, great achievement, even sadly, tragedy. It also paralleled our own lives and journeys as many of us also went through our own innocence, loves and perhaps relationship break-ups. But of course, there are the magnificent songs that have remained timeless. True artists articulate a society’s and people’s feelings, often in advance, and perhaps when we hear or see them, we see our own reflections. The Beatles were able in their songs, more than any other group, perhaps, to capture a range of emotions with which a wide cross-section of us could identify. The energy, hope and innocence of their early “Yeah Yeah” songs to the experimental albums and songs of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Peppers, White Album, to the bittersweet/ break-up Let it Be and yet they were somehow to end with the beautiful harmonies of Abbey Road. And their solo albums also reflected their and our more coming to grips with our maturity. The Beatles were always able to affect people on many different levels at the same time. “ I am he as you are he and we are all together”, as John Lennon sang on, “I Am The Walrus”. “Imagine” is played every New Year’s Eve in Times Square and John Lennon is respected for his ideals and music and Harrison for his songs and his spirituality. The Beatles finally released the documentary & The Anthologies in the mid-90’s, which Neil Aspinall had first conceived and had been compiling since 1970 and it sold 30 million copies and were the top selling albums in the world those years and showed their longevity. 50 years later and counting, Paul and Ringo are still performing and able to bask in their well–earned legacy. And there’s even a kind of redemption in that.
I ‘m still amazed myself, how new generations are still affected by them, all these years later, a half-century later now since their North American Invasion. I was at a family get-together, recently, and a grand- nephew of mine came up to me to introduce his high school girlfriend to me. Evidently he had told her that I knew some things about The Beatles. She was all ga-ga (and not for Lady Ga-Ga evidently), but for The Beatles. So I told her a couple of my own Beatles’ experiences and gave her a copy of my book, “It’s A Long Way Home” (& How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life). I noticed that she was like those young awe-struck first Beatles’ fans or like we were when we first saw them on the Ed Sullivan show. She could relate just as much to them, even all these decades later. Somehow their songs were able to still capture all those moments in time and the emotions. And it wasn’t just the Babyboomers, like me who had grown up with them, but for new generations to come too, it seemed. The girl insisted on giving me a hug after, and I knew some things would always feel the same. “Yeah Yeah Yeah”