An interview with Alistair Taylor

This interview, conducted by Alan Heath, who runs the King of The Universe ELO website, was done on Feb. 26th, 2000 at Tamworth Assembly Rooms in the UK. Taylor had just seen a performance of the Eleanor Rigby Experience, who we've raved about in the past. Taylor discusses the Beatles as well as the Eleanor Rigby Experience. Thanks very much to Tina McBain for allowing us to use this interview, which is also contained on the Eleanor Rigby Experience website. It's great that a guy such as Alistair Taylor is praising a group we've been raving about.

Alan Heath:- Alistair, welcome to Tamworth and thank you for finding the time for this interview for the Eleanor Rigby Experience website.

Alistair Taylor:- Thank you it's my pleasure.

AH:- Well let's start at the very beginning of your music career, what do you remember about your own job interview for NEMS with Brian Epstein?

Alistair Taylor:- It was very civilised, very charming. It was just as a shop assistant for NEMS and bare in mind long before The Beatles. I wanted to get back into retailing and I had always loved records and had also been a record collector. I knew of NEMS of course, it was the best record shop in the North of England. I saw this job advertised - 'Young Man Wanted As A Shop Assistant In A Record Store'. So I wrote and got a letter back saying would I like to go for an interview. And I had about a two hour interview with Brian. Typical Brian, the funny thing is, looking back on it now that I did not know what I was letting myself in for at the time. Brian said "I can't afford to pay you as an assistant but I am thinking of getting a PA would you like that?" I think it was £10 a week which was phenomenal, so I said "Yes", and as I was leaving the office, and this should have warned me, he said, "By the way, as you are joining me, to start with there are some posters on the window ledge, can you go and get them framed for me?" And that was it! I hadn't left my old job then and that really set the tone for what was the next ten years.

AH:- On a personal level what was Brian like to work for?

AT:- A bugger to put it bluntly!! I loved the man, he was difficult, temperamental, could be very awkward, incredibly kind, he was just a great guy, and of course to me, the greatest manager, which is a subject too long for me to go into. Why I say that is he created a new form of management, he managed people like they were people, like they were human beings. I can never remember now if he sacked me four times or I resigned twice, or the other way round, but it usually lasted about a quarter of an hour! Then we were back to being friends again. It was great, we had very strange relationship because I knew that he was gay, and he knew I wasn't, and he knew I knew he was, so we were just damn good pals. I had some great times, some brilliant times and I still miss him. I still think he is sometimes looking over my shoulder even now, he's not helping me much but he's still there!

AH:- During the early days it seems Brian had a difficult time getting a recording contract for The Beatles, what is the story behind that?

AT:- Well nobody wanted to know. You have to bear in mind that in fact that in those days the boys were extremely rough. I remember joking with Paul once, that I was telling someone the story about their early days at the Cavern and their early gigs. I said, "If you realise these guys", and Paul was sitting there, "These guys only knew five chords", and Paul said, "Alistair if you are going to tell stories get them right, we only knew three!" So they were bad, they really were, they were awful but there was something there. I can never settle for charisma or the beat or the rythmn. The only way I can refer to it is ingredient X, and people always ask me what do you mean ingredient X? The standard answer is if I knew that I would have found a few more, and I would be a multi-millionaire!

AH:- Do you think Brian Epstein was the only manager who could have made the Beatles as huge as they were?

AT:- That's a hard one, we will never know the answer to that. I think there was only one fifth Beatles and that was Brian. He did a brilliant job, a brilliant job. I like to think that no-one else would have done as good a job but whether any one would I don't know. There were some good managers about but Brian just turned management on it's ears and brought a new complexion to management, it's as simple as that. I would like to think that no-one else could have done the job.

AH:- What are your best memories about the Cavern and other clubs like the Jacaranda where the Beatles played in their early days?

AT:- The Cavern? Getting out of it because it stank it was awful. I only went to the Jac about once I think. I wasn't a pop fan, I knew the Cavern when it was a jazz club and it was horrible. I once asked a very famous trombonist what's it like playing at the Cavern. He paused for a minute before saying, it's like blowing into a wet blanket, which just about sums up the atmosphere in the old Cavern. It was all rather grotty, nothing like we know clubs today, but happy memories we had some good gigs. I've got more memories of places like Litherland Town Hall and the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, the boys were really spreading their wings then and playing Odeon's and Granada's. By the time we started to hit the road on one nighters, those are the really happy memories. The Cavern is a bit of a blur actually because we were so busy trying to get them off the ground. At that stage, although basically I was with them, Brian hadn't set up the separate company then, he was still trying to run the record shop and pretend to his father that that's all he was doing. Half the time I was running it and he was down in London trying to get a recording contract, so those days were not a blur, but to me they were not as important as when they made it. I left for about nine or ten months by which time they had broken. I went back and I had a big reunion with Brian because I had left after a big row, that was a serious one. I walked out, well he threw me out, and we met up eight or nine months later, and both of us were full of apologies. He asked me if I would like to go back as general manager because the company was in a mess. So I didn't want asking twice and that's when all hell broke out with Beatlemania.

AH:-All four Beatles had a great sense of humour, do you have a favourite story you can tell us about them.

AT:- How long have we got?

AH:- Not long enough unfortunately!

AT:- There were so many. George Martin, he put it beautifully, he said "They were just fun to be around". I do have my very favourite story which sums up Beatle humour and in particular Lennon's humour. Lennon was unique he was a one off, they broke the mould when they created John. We had been out in Greece on this yacht and I had been sent out to buy this island, and we all went out to look at it. It was in the middle of the night and on the front of this yacht, a beautiful millionaires yacht, was a little walkway. There I was, sitting down and on one side was big Mal Evans the Beatles roadie. On the other side was Lennon, and George was on the end of all of us. We were all sitting in the lotus position which was compulsory in those days. George had a little ukulele and he was playing Hari Kristna and we all went off into a trance. The captain, who was sailing the boat up the reflection of the moon in the water, it was like a sheet of glass and it just seemed like we were sailing on this moonbeam up to the moon. We had all gone off, it was a good hour or more, I don't remember how long. George stopped playing and stopped singing and we stopped chanting and the moon was gone and there was dead silence. We'd been sailing up this moonbeam for an hour or two and I just said, "Just look at that moon", and Lennon's voice came into my right ear and said, "Well spotted Alistair". That was my perfect Lennon put down, send up, call it what you want. Lennon humour and my favourite story about Lennon, I have many others but most of them are unrepeatable!

AH:- You were known as 'Mr Fixit' in Beatles circles doing all manner of things for the Fab Four, I have often wondered how did you get the Beatles in and out of concerts, it must have been a nightmare for you.

AT:- With difficulty! A lot of planning it was really like a military operation they were planned weeks ahead. We got blasť about theatres actually. Far worse than theatres. Theatres were easy, we had all sorts of little tricks we used, we sent the crowd one way and we'd go the other way, they always fell for it every time. The big headaches were airports and railway stations when they used to go off on a big tour to America. I would spend three weeks down at Heathrow with the police, and the whole thing was timed like a military operation. You would often see on film footage, although I wasn't supposed to be seen, nobody was supposed to know who I was, but you will see me in great crowds scenes, 10,000 screaming kids at the airport. If you watch the films, I know where to look, but you will see me in the background making sure the cars are in the right place and we used to have it all arranged with customs, immigration and air traffic control we had a brilliant relationship with them. I never conned them, I never took the micky out of them and they appreciated it. I used to lecture the boys, all my artists that I would kill them if they tried anything silly but they still did if they thought they could get away with it but they never got caught. We had a brilliant relationship, it didn't just happen, it was all planned literally to the minute. We would have them in a car and to a police station beyond Heathrow at 10.03, and there would be a van, a plain white van waiting for them and they would go straight out of the car into the van and leave at 10.05 to the airport. It was not to come through the main gate before 10.09 then it was like bang, bang, bang and everybody's looking over there where we would create a diversion, and then bang, we would close the metal gates and that was it. It was all very brilliantly done and very exhausting! But we did it, that's what always amuses me when I see things going wrong now, like trying to get someone from a prison to another prison, and all the press knows. We managed it, you would be amazed where the boys went, nobody knew. Some of them did, but they never bothered us. We could move them around, the biggest thing since sliced bread, but we didn't often get caught, very rarely just now and again. AH:-What can you remember about your time at Apple Corps?

AT:- I'd rather not, I try and forget my time at Apple Corps! For my sins I was one of the founder members of Apple. It wasn't a happy experience, it was extremely difficult, some fun, a lot of fun, I mean things like MMT and some of the crazy things we did but it was an unhappy time. The four boys were pulling in separate directions, and you know you would go into the office and Paul might say, "Let's put that over there", and George would walk in and say, "Who the hell put that there?" and say "Move that" and then Paul would say "I don't want it there" and John would come in the next day and say "What's that doing there?" and say "We are not having that, we'll do this", and you had got four, well three because Ringo just did what he was asked he never bothered. They were just throwing money around like it was going out of fashion, it was just open house, everything except in my direction. It was crazy, it was not a happy period and they would not listen. I was instrumental in the evil Mr Klein being brought in because I finally got them together, all four of them and Neil Aspinall. I just laid the law down and said "This is crazy you are going to be bankrupt", and said "What you need is, well look what you have got?" A managing director Neil Aspinall, a dropped out accountant, a great guy but he was the Beatles roadie, he dropped out of accountancy training and he was managing director.
I was general manager and I was a glorified shop assistant with a few years experience with just a few years of looking after them. And Peter Brown, who was one of Brian's boyfriends and who was the social secretary, and we are running a multi-million pound company! It was bananas, it was crazy, and I said, "We need a top business man, this is a big multi-million pound business", and they said "Oh"! I said "You need someone like a Beeching, meaning Dr Beeching as was he was then, not a Lord. Dr Beeching came into British Railways, and whatever anyone thinks, put it back on an even keel. He straightened it out and got it running as a business. The next thing I knew was that John and Yoko, and I think it was in the Daily Mirror, John and Yoko had turned up at Dr Beeching's office and asked him to come and run Apple!! They had taken it literally and gone to see Dr Beeching. I said 'a Dr Beeching'! And he told them where to go of course! And then they had at least cottoned on to the idea and got Allen Klein, and that's when the split began. It was Paul wanting the Eastmans and the others wanting Klein. And in the end they all ending up suing him for millions, which we could have told them about if they had listened to us, so Apple wasn't a happy time

AH:- You have seen The Eleanor Rigby Experience live tonight, what is your opinion of the band?

AT:- Fantastic, seriously one of the very best. I can't call them a soundalike band as that would be most unfair. They have knocked me sideways. They are brilliant so original, talented every man jack of them. When I saw them at the interval I said to them, and I meant it, that the boys would be very proud of them, the boys would love it. The band are just something very special, great. I'm only sorry I have not seen them before and I hope to goodness I'm going to see them again I thought they were great.