A Happy Crimble! – from The Beatles Monthly Book

We thought this holiday season we’d take a look at some of the Christmas issues of the British Beatle fan magazine, The Beatles Book.

A little while back we were very kindly gifted a big box full of these great little magazines. They were mostly the re-issues of the originals – practically a full set containing the re-issued originals plus some extras – so thank you again Michael!

The publication history of these gems is a bit convoluted, so here’s a potted history:

The original The Beatles Book was first issued in Britain just as Beatlemania was taking off. Issue No. 1 came out in August, 1963. It’s was a small-format magazine (5.9 inches x 8.1 inches or 15 cm x 20.7cm), and it cost one shilling and sixpence:

There were 77 editions in all until publication stopped in December, 1969 (when it then cost a princely two shillings and sixpence!):

The magazine then went into hibernation for a few years until it was revived in May, 1976 as The Beatles Appreciation Society Magazine Book. The same editor and publisher, Johnny Dean (a.k.a. Sean O’Mahoney), resuscitated the brand by faithfully reproducing the original magazine starting with issue No. 1. He included an 8-page outer wrap (later to become 16 pages) containing more current Beatle and solo news, but the core of the magazine was the reproduced originals.

The magazine continued in this form, still released monthly, until September, 1982 when all 77 original editions had been reprinted.

However, such was the renewed interest in The Beatles at the time, the very next month (October, 1982) the magazine continued on from where it left off with issue No.78. This time though it came with all-new content throughout. The price, by the way, had risen to 80 pence:

Publication continued in this form up January, 2003 (which by then was issue No. 321) when it ceased once again – this time for good. Note the price had risen to £3.00!

These magazines stand as a terrific archive, a real treasure trove of information and images, many not seen elsewhere as editor Johnny Dean had a lot of access to the band and inside information about their activities that others never had. Reading them now they give a great sense the context around their output and plans – some of which came to pass, and some (as we’ll see) which didn’t.

So, as it’s Christmas time, let’s take a look inside an early Christmas Issue of The Beatles Book. It is No.17 from December, 1964:

The Editorial page by Johnny Dean contains some interesting comments and observations:

He’s talking about the Beatles For Sale LP being out just in time to “….make a perfect Christmas present for a host of Beatle people everywhere”, and stating that despite all the band’s success things haven’t changed much backstage. Road Manager, Neil Aspinall and Equipment Manager Mal Evans “….organise everything very smoothly so that the boys can relax comfortably between shows.”

And what of plans for the future? “John, Paul, George and Ringo all feel that recording and films are going to be more important because their fans all over the world can share them equally. Personal appearances can’t be continued at the same hectic rate….”

And “….there’s a Christmas Card to you – from “them” and everyone else on your Beatles Book who would like to wish you all the very best for the coming Christmas.”

Let’s jump ahead four years to issue No. 65, which came out in December, 1968:

This one is very interesting, but not so much for its Christmas content. Actually there’s very little Christmas cheer in it at all, apart from then Beatle Fan Club National Secretary, Freda Kelly, telling members to expect their personal copies of the 1968 Christmas Record soon. She says: “Produced by Kenny Everett, this year’s disc is different from any previous one as it was recorded basically in the boys’ own homes.”

No, this issue is fascinating because, as you can see on the front cover, it heralds the return of the band performing live – and even offers a give-away where readers can win tickets go and see them.

This is all about a planned TV special to be recorded in front of a live audience. It’s about the rehearsals for that performance that will take place in early 1969 at Twickenham Film Studios, and later at their own Apple studio. It is about the famous rooftop concert and what we now know as the Let It Be album and film, and the 2021 Peter Jackson Get Back opus on Disney+.

But here, in December, 1968, all that is in the future.

Editor Johnny Dean writes “Isn’t it marvelous to hear that the Beatles are going to appear on stage once again. It seems a very long time ago since they last stood together and performed for a live audience. At long last I will be able to give a positive answer to all those readers of The Beatles Book who have asked me over the past two years: “When are the Beatles going to appear on stage again?””

Then further into the magazine there’s an article headlined FIRST LIVE PERFORMANCES FOR OVER TWO YEARS. It says: “Their intention is to put on a series of shows which will culminate in a final performance which will be filmed for transmission in this country and overseas. Apple Corps managing director, Neil Aspinall, has already been negotiating for the sale of the programme to one of the major companies in the United States.”

“The New Year concerts will also do many things. Firstly, it will give the Beatles an opportunity to perform in front of their fans once again. Not a very large number admittedly, only a few thousand – but, nevertheless, it will have happened. Secondly, the performance, by being shown all over the world, will enable their fans in all those overseas countries to see them probably much better than they would if they were sitting in the back row of a local stadium.”

“But, there’s still a lot of work to do before they get on stage. Firstly, they will have to rehearse the numbers and work them up into an act once again. Performing their songs in the recording studio will not enable them to perform equally well on the stage. The two are not the same and the boys have always accepted this.”

The article goes on the predict the songs in the concert will consist mostly of material from their recently released double LP The White Album, “….with several oldies thrown in for good measure.”

Then, a few pages on, comes a further article headlined BEATLE NEWS – BEATLES TV SHOW. “The Beatles are shortly to finalise details of their own one-hour colour television show. It will NOT take place at the Roundhouse as announced. After rehearsals they will give a set of separate “live” performances before invited audiences. All three shows will be recorded on colour videotape and the final programme will be made up from the best parts of the three.”

There’s talk of an initial plan to sell audience tickets and donate the money to charity, but this had to be dropped (the magazine says) because seats for TV shows cannot be sold – they must be given away for free. It then points readers to The Beatles Book Lucky Dip where 100 seats will be allocated to “regular readers”:

(click on any image to see larger versions)

“At press time it is not possible to tell you the exact dates of the performances….neither the Beatles themselves nor their Apple helpers have sorted that out. But the dates will be some time during January….On January 1st all your applications will go into a drum. The first 50 pulled out will get A PAIR OF TICKETS. The tickets will show the date and time of the performance.”

Well, history proved that big concert never eventuated. We wonder if they ever pulled those 50 entries from the drum? It might be nice to know that at least you were on the shortlist to see The Beatles perform live again for the first time in over two years!

Once again, a big thank you to Michael for gifting us these amazing The Beatles Monthly magazines.

Sadly, publisher and editor Sean O’Mahoney (a.k.a. Johnny Dean) passed away in July, 2020. He leaves behind him a wonderful legacy not only in The Beatles Book but also Record Collector magazine. You should keep an eye out for two books: one by O’Mahoney called The Best of The Beatles Book (2005), and Looking Through You: The Beatles Book Monthly Photo Archive (2016), compiled by Jo Adams and Andy Neill from the immense archives.

We wish all our readers a very happy and safe holiday season and we’ll see you again in 2023.

Paul McCartney Cover Story on ‘The Big Issue’

The Big Issue is a fortnightly, independent magazine that is sold on the streets of Australian capital cities by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. It is very good reading and contains some high-quality journalism. The idea is you give them $7 bucks, they give you a great magazine, and they get to keep $3.50. Everybody wins.

This month, on the eve of his Australian tour, their cover story features Paul McCartney

Issue 550 of The Big Issue contains a very personal ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ where Paul reflects on his teenage years, the music, the girls and an amazing dream he shared with John Lennon.

The magazine also invites three Beatle tragics – Yon from the band Tripod, Davey Lane from You Am I, and former Big Issue editor, Alan Attwood – to write about the Paul McCartney song that most inspired and impacted them.

So, if you are out and about and spy one of the sellers on the streets, why not grab yourself a copy.

The Beatles in the News

Stumbled across a blog site that takes an interesting approach to Beatle history.

The Beatles in the News is just that – a site where multiple, random articles from across the decades and from all over the world are aggregated and re-published daily.

There are newspaper and magazine articles, concert reviews, TV news, and advertisements. It’s not only about the Beatles as a group but also as solo artists. Around 500 items from the past are uploaded every month.

One of the posts from January 23 this year caught our attention. It features – in full – a special colour supplement produced by the iconic Australian Women’s Weekly magazine in March, 1964 at the very height of Beatlemania:australia womans march 18 1964 bOf course, being a “women’s magazine” from the day meant you had to have a section dedicated to what to cook for that special Beatles party:australia womans march 18 1964 f

Just love those mop-top muffins with the chocolate hairdo’s! And also how to dress in Beatle fashion:

australia womans march 18 1964 g

Fantastic stuff.

With this site you never know from day-to-day just what gems might pop up.

For anyone interested in the Beatles The Beatles in the News is well worth visiting regularly. You never know what you might find.

The Beatles – The Uncut Ultimate Music Guide

I know. I’m always a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to getting on top of the latest Beatle magazines.

I literally stumbled across this one today on the shelf at one of my local newsagent stores. I genuinely hadn’t seen it before, but it looked pretty impressive and so I bought it.

I get home, look it up, and it turns out it was actually released back in January…. Uncut Beatles

It’s a 148-page Beatles special edition, published by the UK’s highly respected Uncut magazine. The magazine traces the rise of the band, its massive success, and then the eventual demise. It features interviews from the archives of Uncut, NME and Melody Maker. Looking back, the levels of access and revelation contained in the archives of these three journals is quite impressive. Their journalists sat in on meetings with Elvis Presley, travel round the United States with the Beatle touring party during the first tour, and are there as the band starts to fall apart. Alongside all these features Uncut’s current team of writers contribute in-depth new analyses of every Beatles album.

Here are some page scans from the mag, which includes unusual photos and great information on the band and their releases:

Uncut Beatles 1Uncut Beatles 2Uncut Beatles 3Uncut Beatles 4And this great photo of Beatle manager Brian Epstein – which should qualify for our Beatles With Records series of posts as well:

Uncut Beatles 2a

Three Old (But Interesting) Magazines

Had to take another driving trip to Canberra – Australia’s national capitol – and so I called into the country town of Goulburn, which is along the way. There’s a big old second-hand book and record store there called the Argyle Book Emporium. I wrote about this shop once before when I discovered three copies of “Q” magazine there which were of interest.

When I got to the Argyle Emporium I headed straight to the room the owner uses to store his records, music books, and music magazines. As I said in the previous post, searching here is pretty frustrating as everything is just a free-for-all, with masses of unsorted discs on shelves and in boxes all over the place. There is so much that it is difficult to know where to start, and it’s one of those places where you get the distinct impression that the whole collection has already been picked over very thoroughly by collectors….Not surprisingly after pretty solid search I didn’t find anything of much interest amongst the records, and so I turned my attention to some boxes of magazines in one corner. There I found three items – two “Q” magazines from way back in 1993, and an “Uncut” magazine from a relatively recent 2010.

Both “Q” mags had info of interest to the Beatles collector. The June 1993 edition had and article about Irish photographer Kieron Murphy who in April 1971 was sent to cover John Lennon recording what would become the “Imagine” album:

Ummm…if you can get past the rather striking cover photo of Terence Trent D’Arby (and yes, there is more of the same, only more, inside the magazine) you can see on the left-hand side a reference to a legendary and historic lost photo session for “Imagine”. It took place just outside London at John Lennon’s home, Tittenhurst Park. Of this very special assignment Kieron Murphy says “Meeting him was the high point of my life. I’d never met anyone so famous and I suppose I still haven’t. When I got there it was five o’clock in the afternoon and he was having breakfast…..More people began to arrive, like Klaus Voorman (bass player), and Alan White (drummer), and Nicky Hopkins who was playing the piano; then George Harrison came along, and there they were, all having a cup of tea.”

Kieron Murphy captured some great images for “Sounds”, the magazine he was working for at the time. If anyone has seen the documentary “Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine Album” (released in 2000) then these black-and-white photographs will look familiar. Like that film, Murphy has captured a unique point in musical history – being played out amongst scenes of very ordinary domesticity. There are only six photographs in the magazine but they are special.

The other “Q” magazine comes from December 1993:

Kate Bush adorns the cover but what caught my eye was the heading:  BEATLES EXCLUSIVE – John, Paul, George, Ringo and Nicola?!

It’s a neat little four-page article and photo essay, a where are they now piece on the whereabouts of the little girl called Nicola who appears in the Beatles 1967 film “Magical Mystery Tour” and who is name-checked and immortalised on the track-listing on both the album and the original EP cover. You can see this in the printed title for the song “I Am the Walrus”, which has the hand-written subtitle  (“No you’re not!” said Little Nicola):

Well, in 1993 “Q” magazine tracked Nicola down and told the story of how she and her mum, Pam, ended up appearing in the MMT film. They found Nicola Hale, then aged 30, living in Forest Park on the outskirts of Chicago. She was working at a drop-in centre for young people with substance abuse problems. The article has some great photographs of Nicola in scenes with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and this one mucking around with a soccer ball on the bus with Ringo Starr:

That’s her mum Pam on the right, and the carefully preserved dresses they wear in the scene are shown in colour in an insert at top right. All the pictures, newspaper clippings and memorabilia shown in the article come from the collection of Nicola’s father, Dave Hale.

Its a great little article and well worth having. I wonder where Little Nicola Hale is today?  She would be 48 years old. Does anyone have any information? Please let us know.

The final magazine is much more recent – an “Uncut” from the UK, dated August 2010:

Basically this is Part One in a four-part series where the magazine looks at what each Beatle did following the break-up of the band. The first in the series was John Lennon:

“Confidants, band members and therapists reveal all about the cold turkey and primal scream therapy, the relationship meltdowns, the battles between pacifism and revolution – and the extraordinary music of the Plastic Ono Band.”

With great photographs throughout this article ranges over 10 pages. It features the reminiscences of a range of people including Andy Stephens who was a tape operator at EMI’s Abbey Road studios during the rush recording of the song “Instant Karma” in 1970. (We learn in the article that Stephens is now the manager of Susan Boyle!). He relates a revealing story of Lennon enjoying a rare moment of privacy at Abbey Road in 1970:

“It was about two in the morning. He asked me to have a look out the front. There were always fans hanging around….I told him the fans had gone. John got hold of Yoko and they turned left and walked up Abbey Road. They came back 15 minutes later. John had a wonderful grin on his face. I mean, just a wonderful wonderful grin. He said, ‘You’ve no idea what it’s like to go for all that time without getting hassled.’ It was such a buzz for him. He’d gone 15 whole minutes without getting stopped.”

Footnote:  Interestingly, in looking up the “Uncut” magazine site I discovered that the Beatles are in fact this month’s cover story as well:

It’s all about the Beatles time in Hamburg. The issue comes with a free CD called “Sounds of the Star Club” with 16 tracks of songs covered by the Beatles, including tracks by Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Fats Waller, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Ray Charles and Elvis Presley.

And editor, Allan Jones, says that this is the last printed edition of Uncut in it’s present format: “From next month, the magazine will have a cool new look and there will be changes to what’s in it and how it’s presented….the new-look Uncut goes on sale on February 28.”