Rockaway Records is one of these indie record stores in my neighborhood, and this one is a treasure for collectors as it focuses more on nostalgia and the old good stuff. They have an impressive collection of memorabilia items for sale, promo merchandise from old tours such as a Joan Jett flashlight, a Squeeze pot plant holding CDs, a R.E.M. tin can for their 1988 Green album, a John Lee Hooker first aid kit from 1989, a Soundgarden candle from 1991 and I could continue for a long time… the piece de resistance has to be the original Beach Boys’ surfboard pictured on the ‘Surfin’ Safari ‘and ‘Surfer Girl’ covers and owned by Dennis Wilson,… offered at $100,000, but of course they have an incredible selection of Beatles memorabilia.
Anyway, I was there on Sunday afternoon because author and journalist Ivor Davis was signing his new book ‘The Beatles and Me On Tour’, a look back at his memorable tour in North America with the iconic band in 1964! After 50 years, he finally decided to write a book, and I guess he probably took a lot of notes back then, because who can pretend to have reliable 50-year-old memories? Ivor is a very energetic short old guy, and when I say old, he doesn’t look like an old guy at all, he is so full of life, so funny and outgoing that he made these old memories truly alive for a little while. When I arrived, he was acting very busy, checking everything in the store, talking to the manager, and laughing a lot. He gave a short ‘reading-chatting’ about the best moments of his 34 days spent with the Beatles, wandering among customers in the store, still looking totally passionate about his unique experience, and totally selling his book with his warm personality.
It is true that he got incredibly lucky when his editor in London called him to give him a very special assignment: fly to San Francisco and follow the Beatles during their first concert tour of North America. Ivor was a West Coast correspondent of the London newspaper Daily Express and he said he was not at all a rock ‘n’ roll writer, but rather a foreign correspondent charged to report about marriages and divorces in Hollywood. So he embarked in this remarkable journey not even knowing whom the Beatles were, but, at the time ‘nobody had heard of them’, he added. However, things changed drastically after their appearance in the Ed Sullivan show in 1964.
The Beatles at the time were John (Lennon), Paul (McCartney), George Harrison and Pete Best, the original drummer who was soon replaced by Richard Starkey aka Ringo Starr, ‘Pete was a footnote in Beatles history’ he added. Ivor even wrote a column for a newspaper as Harrison’s ghostwriter, and at first, the Beatle was very reluctant to participate, forcing Davis to make up the column, ‘It was totally fabricated!’ he said.
The tour was incredible but ‘the problem is that I couldn’t hear a single word… why? Because there were 50,000 screaming girls!’ So Ivor joked about the fact that he toured with the Beatles without knowing a single song. He told us about the crazy life of these 20-something guys who were prisoners in their hotels, and could not go outside without being torn apart by an army of crazy females. They had to run to their limo as soon as they were done, protected by a police escort, and once Ivor’s Limo got almost turned upside down by the furies, ‘Do I look like a Beatle?’ he said jokingly… Beatlemania was at its peak and it was madness. So Ivor often played Monopoly in the hotel room with John, who was a cheater by the way! Ivor had clearly a favorite Beatle and it was John: ‘I liked John, he was funny, vicious, witty,’ he said, plus Lennon was a brilliant impersonator. ‘Paul was a schmoozer’, he explained, the Beatle even served him drinks in their private jet, ‘Paul knew PR’. What he said about George did not surprise me a bit, as the quiet one ‘was a bit sullen and not confortable with fame’ and ‘wanted to be recognized as an artist in his own rights’… which eventually happened when the Beatles split up. On the other hand, Richard/Ringo didn’t have much to say but enjoyed himself, he was happy, there were a lot of young women willing to follow them everywhere, and he took advantage of that! Who can blame him? However after 3 years on the road, all of them had enough of this circus, they realized that nobody was coming to hear them sing, but to see them, so they simply stopped touring.
Beside the madness of the tour, Ivor said he has a few regrets, first he gave away all his autographs, then he didn’t have a camera, ‘I could have been a photographer! And I would be rich!’ The thing is nobody knew the Beatles would last to become this iconic band, still a legend in 2015, they were selling out places everywhere but who would have guessed they would still be loved five decades later? Nobody knew, not even the Beatles. Ringo wanted to open a hair-dressing salon with the money of the tour and Paul told him he wanted to write music for other people… yeah it happened!
‘94% of the books about the Beatles are written by people who have never met the Beatles,’ added Ivor, insisting he was giving us inside information, ‘I got drunk with them, I saw them with Bob Dylan when they smoke marijuana’, talking about the night the Beatles got stoned after Dylan introduced them to a particularly strong grade of marijuana in their New York hotel, ‘Bob Dylan gave a fat joint to Ringo, and he smoked the whole thing himself, he came back on his knees laughing!’
Ivor was the fly on the wall during so many historic moments, he said several times he just got very lucky, and 50 years later he wants us to relive with him this crazy ride.
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