Tag Archives: Liverpool

“EIGHT DAYS A WEEK”; Impressions of Ron Howard’s Beatles Film

I just saw the new Beatles film, “Eight Days a Week” and these are some of my impressions. I didn’t think I would actually like it that much. The Beatlemania years, frankly, don’t interest me as much as their more interesting Liverpool and Hamburg beginnings or their more creative period in the studio. The usual story is that, most of the time, they were just going through the motions, unable to hear themselves play, with all the screaming fans’ madness (especially near the end of their “Touring Years”, as the movie’s subtitle is called).

I thought director Ron (“Happy Days”) Howard might only cover the nice parts of Beatlemania. He does in the first half of the film and captures the pure energy of their early performances. He has assembled some not usually-seen footage and photos of their early concerts and appearances in Liverpool and Europe. These sometimes black and white images give it an almost old newsreel and historical feel. The film does seem primarily aimed at the North American market though.  There were only a couple Liverpool interviewees included in the theatre version, except for some trusted Beatles-insiders like roadie and later Apple director, Neil Aspinall (although I understand the later-to-be-released Deluxe 2 DVD version will  include more of these and lots more).

Howard also puts the Beatles Invasion into context with the tumultuous events the U.S.A. was going through in the mid-60’s with the Vietman War, Civil Rights demonstrations, and the assassination of JFK, which had only happened a few months before. The American people, especially its teenagers, were certainly ready for something to lift them out of their depression.  Along come these 4 English lads with the funny Liverpool accents and humor and it’s just the right medicine.  The Fab Four did so with its own version of the, ironically, America’s export, rock and roll, and the simple but catchy words and rhythms of their early original songs.  But what struck me again, upon seeing the film, is just how young and mainly female so many of their fans were.  For by this time, The Beatles themselves were already grown men in their early 20’s, playing to some only half their age.  Some of the most interesting and humorous moments for the movie audience, I was with anyway, was seeing again the complete hysteria they created in their fans (remember early attendees to their performances in the Cavern and Hamburg, evidently, didn’t originally scream).

But by ’66 and for most of the rest of the film, the whole atmosphere begins to change around The Beatles and they themselves could do little to contain it. Of course, there was the infamous “we’re more popular than Jesus” Lennon remark and the reaction it caused.  But it wasn’t only in America that they began to feel a backlash; there were death threats in Japan and, in the Philippines, they barely escaped when its First Lady Imelda Marcos felt snubbed. Howard has said in interviews promoting the film, that he didn’t want to go intodark corners.  But I have to give him credit for also not shying away from this part of their story too. For it seemed the once innocent teen hysteria had indeed turned into a far more dangerous form of madness. Howard includes excerpts from John and George’s recorded comments and also present day interviews with Paul and Ringo on both, the good and bad, aspects of this period.

The pall of these later more disturbing times toward the end of their touring years, which somewhat descends on the last half of the movie, is fortunately broken by his choice to also include their famous last public appearance on their Apple company’s rooftop in 1969.  What this reveals once again, is that even to the end (which they would also demonstrate on their last recorded album, Abbey Road) these were first and foremost musicians and original songwriters. Once they decided to finally get off the road because of the mounting pressures they were feeling, it would also allow them more time to spend in the studio and become more and more creative artists and not just entertainers.

Also shown in the movie theater after, was a half-hour film of their ’65 Shea Stadium concert. With improved color footage and remixed sound for this project by George Martin’s son, Gilles (although some in the particular theater I was in, said the sound wasn’t that good-but it may be fine in the movie and DVD itself), it shows just how good of performers they could be, even in often chaotic conditions. Ringo says that they really did try to always give their best-all four of them.  You can tell by their on-stage jokes that they are still having fun-most of the time. In the Shae Stadium show, Paul does one of his best, but perhaps underrated  rockers, “I’m Down”, with which they often ended their concerts, but for some reason was never released on a regular Beatles album(it was the B-side of the “Help” single).  John seems to be his old self, mugging and delivering gobbledigook asides and Paul is always the consummate showman. George is the musician, making sure he doesn’t miss a single guitar note and Ringo is driving the beat and shaking his hair. They alone were in the eye of the hurricane, but the film does seem to capture what it must have been like.  Howard’s title for his film is appropriate, for it really was “8 Days a Week.” As I said, the DVD will be released later this fall with some interesting extras.  But I would recommend, if you can, going to see this film still in the movie theater, and getting that feeling of enjoying it with other fans, which is what the best of Beatlemania was all about.

The Quarry men, July6, 1957: the day john Lennon met Paul McCartney



By Alan Chrisman

Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the 1st time on July 6, 1957. Lennon and his teenage skiffle band, The Quarrymen, were playing a Liverpool church social. After Paul’s friend introduced him to the band. The 15-year old McCartney was able to show John guitar chords (John had only learned banjo chords from his mother.) Later, the band discussed if they should let this new kid join. But it wasn’t until two weeks later when Pete Shotten, John’s best friend, and Quarryman, ran into McCartney on his bike and approached him. The way Len Garry (another original Quarryman who was at their original meeting and I met) described it to me: Paul replied, ”Well, all right”, and then just nonchalantly rode away. Neither John nor Paul wanted to admit to the other directly, they liked and needed each other. And that was the beginning of one of the most fruitful songwriting and musical partnerships in history and would go on to change popular music and  the whole culture.

The Quarrymen on truck in parade the fateful day John met Paul

The Quarrymen on truck in parade on fateful day John Met Paul

Paul MccArtney would later join and perform with John's teenage band, The Quarrymen

Paul McCartney would soon join and perform with John’s teenage band, The Quarrymen

Below:John & Paul both describe that day they met:

Neil Aspinall was one of The Beatles' longest and most trusted friends and laster head of their Apple Corp.

Tribute To Neil Aspinall: The Beatles’ Guardian Angel

Tribute to Neil Aspinall: The Beatles’ Guardian Angel by Alan Chrisman, copyright.  

No one was more trusted by The Beatles than Neil Aspinall( who died on Mar. 24, 2008).  .  He was director 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.

Neil Aspinall's van with original Beatles, including his friend, Pete Best

Neil Aspinall’s van which he drove early Beatles to shows with original Beatles, including his friend, Pete Best

Aspinall traveled 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 Pete's half-brother, Roag( and Neil Aspinall's son), guest at 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention

Pete Best Band, including Pete’s half-brother, Roag, (and Neil Aspinall’s son)

Pete Best Band (Including Neil Aspinall’s son and Pete’s half-brother, Roag, left) were  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 Pelyushonok's book,

Yury Pelyushonok’s book, ” Strings For A Beatle Bass’, about how Beatles helped bring down communism

Yury Pelyushonok’s book above, about how Beatles helped bring down communism.

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.

My friend, Yury with Neil Aspinall at Beatles headquarters, London

My friend, Yury with Neil Aspinall at Beatles’ Apple Corp. , London

It was my friend, Yury, above with Neil Aspinall at The Beatles’ Apple Corp. London, which first described him as The Beatles’ Earthly Guardian Angel.

Below video of those special few, including Neil Aspinall, who helped The Beatles, behind the scenes:


Original Hamburg Beatles: John, Paul, George, Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe



By Alan Chrisman, copyright. 

BACKBEAT is a film that tells the story of The Beatles first playing in Hamburg Germany, in the early 60’s, before they were well-known. But until the film came out in 1993, the general public didn’t know that much about this crucial period in their development. George Harrison said Hamburg was where they learned to become a band.

The Beatles were first sent there by Allan Williams, owner of what was basically a strip club, where the early Beatles first played in Liverpool, before they became regulars at the Cavern and met manager, Brian Epstein. The Beatles, at that time, consisted of besides John, Paul, and George, drummer Pete Best (whose mother, Mona, also owned one of the first places they played, The Casbah in the basement of her house), and John’s close friend, Stu Sutcliffe, on bass.

While in Hamburg The Beatles performed in seedy bars in the “sin” part of  Hamburg, with prostitutes and drugs all around them. They lived in squalid conditions, once even in a tiny room behind a movie screen.  They played for hours and hours a night, with few breaks, speeded-up on pep pills, to keep up the grueling schedule.

Thus, this is a far cry from the later image of The Beatles as the clean-cut pop group in tailored suits which Brian Epstein would present to the world and for Beatlemania.

And this is the story that BACKBEAT, the film, reveals.  But it is also a love story. Because The Beatles were to meet in one of those sleazy bars one night, some  German arts students, especially Astrid Kirchherr.   Astrid and her friends were in a group of art students who called themselves “Exi’s” (existentialists). They dressed in black and copied the then unusual French swept-forward hair style. These German arts students were to have a profound effect on the still quite-young and impressionable Beatles.  Astrid took the first artistic, black and white photos of the Beatles.  And it was her that first convinced Stu and then the others to try out this new hairstyle, which would later be called the distinctive Beatles haircut.

Stu, a talented, promising painter and big artistic influence on John, fell in love with Astrid, and decided to leave the band.  He wasn’t very good on bass anyway and would often attempt to play, with his back to the audience; his main asset to the band being his cool James Dean look, with his dark sunglasses.

The film, BackBeat, tells these two stories then, the creative beginnings of The Beatles and the poignant love story between Stu and Astrid.  Poignant even more because their romance was tragically short-lived because Stu was to die shortly after, of a brain hemorrhage,  at the age of only 21 in 1960.   When Stu left the band it also necessitated McCartney moving over to bass, which would have a deep effect on The Beatles’ music with his melodic bass lines. The Beatles would soon after be discovered by Brian Epstein at the Cavern and the rest is history

But I’ve always thought this is the real story of The Beatles and BACKBEAT does a pretty good job of telling it.  It’s a bit stereotyped with John as the angry, sarcastic one and Paul the more people-pleasing pop singer (McCartney disputed that he wasn’t shown much as an also-rocker).  But Paul said he was astonished by the portrayal of Stu by actor Stephen Dorff.  The actress, Sheryl Lee, who portrays Astrid, looks like and captures the artistic photographer perfectly.  The director, Ian Softley, spent ten years interviewing Astrid and several others (Astrid was a consultant on the film), before he finally got it made.  Interestingly, real Beatles’ recordings weren’t used on the soundtrack, but instead several well-respected musicians, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, etc., from alternative bands were used to re-create Beatles songs and it works. The movie captures the hyped-up energy and stamina required the forming Beatles learned in those trying circumstances, which would come in handy later for their screaming Beatlemania touring days.

As I said, I’ve always been most fascinated especially, with this early period of The Beatles. And I was to fortunately later meet several who were there at their beginnings.  For example I was with George Harrison’s sister, Louise, when she actually saw BACKBEAT film, for the first time. She was a guest at the 2nd Ottawa, Canada Beatles’ Convention I organized in ‘96.  I remember her saying as she sat next to me at the screening, “George would never have cussed like that”.  But of course,The Beatles did a lot more than cuss in Hamburg.  They were even “adopted” by some of the prostitutes and protected by some of the tough bouncers in the bars, where often thugs in the drunken audiences carried weapons.  As I say, a far cry from the cuddy Beatles-image later created.

I mentioned before in my recent blog (“Little-known Last Lennon and McCartney Recording Session in ’74) which  May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend in L.A., recently revealed, that I met May and Cynthia Lennon as well as Paul McCartney’s step-mom at the Conn. Beatles Convention in ’94.

Well shortly after I returned from there, I received a call from Pauline Sutcliffe, sister of Stuart Sutcliffe, original Hamburg Beatle and painter and John’s friend,  described in the Backbeat film.  I’m not sure how she got my number, but suspect that it was given to her by Cynthia Lennon, whom I had just met at the Convention in ’94.  For there, I had presented Cynthia with what was then only a school fantasy-project for a proposal to put on a possibly more-artistic Beatles Convention.  Cynthia, an artist herself, evidently liked the idea and perhaps mentioned it to her friend, Pauline.   Anyway, I had hoped to bring some of Stu’s paintings over to Canada as part of our now hoped for 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention but alas, wasn’t able to because of insurance reasons.  But a few months later I found out, there would be an exhibition of Stu’s paintings at a gallery in Toronto. I arrived at the exhibit early and no one was there yet, when a woman came over and offered me a tea. This turned out to be Pauline Sutcliffe, the English woman I had talked to on the phone a few months earlier. She was kind and showed me some of Stu’s magnificent mainly-abstract paintings.  I also discovered some rare Beatles’ photos tucked away around the corner.

We did do our first Ottawa Beatles Convention in 1995, although I had hoped to have Cynthia as a guest, she couldn’t come, and we got original Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best.  He had been with them for two years in Hamburg and Liverpool, before being replaced by Ringo, who was also playing in Hamburg as part of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.  In fact, in keeping with Pete Best and his Liverpool band, as guests, we called our first Beatles’ Convention, “Cavern Days”.  Our poster for it featured a collage of images from photographer, Astrid Kirchherr of the original Hamburg Beatles, with Pete, and Stu Sutcliffe and even of Astrid.  I later wrote to Astrid in Germany and received a special signed postcard from her agent.

And in 1996, I was to meet some more from this period and the Beatles’ beginnings. I attended a Beatles’ dealer’s get-together in southern Ontario. The guests there included Allan Williams, the Beatles first “manager”, who had first booked them into Hamburg.  Williams had written one of the best books on the early Beatles books in 1975, The Man Who Gave Away the Beatles, called that because The Beatles, once in Germany, stiffed Williams of his booking fees and he dropped them.  Williams had advised future manager, Brian Epstein, “not to touch them with a F’ ing 10 foot barge pole!”

Williams was a real character, full of raunchy stories of the Beatles. In fact, he held up Paul McCartney’s actual leather pants (he said he had gotten from one of the other Liverpool groups as supposedly Paul had just left them at the Cavern) which Epstein had gotten them to change out of into the suits. He said he wanted to sell back to McCartney for $10,000!  That’s the kind of character he was:  I liked him and he signed my copy of his book.  With Williams was Beryl Wooler, Epstein’s assistant at his Liverpool record store, Nems, and later married to Bob Wooler, the Cavern D.J. who was one of their early supporters.   At that same get-together was a member of Lennon’s early Liverpool teenaged band, The Quarrymen, Len Garry.  He was very friendly and told of the story of the fated day John Lennon met Paul McCartney at a Liverpool church,  July 6, 1957. Garry knows because he was there.

He also described both Lennon and McCartney’s characters, when he said, Lennon didn’t want to share band leadership with Paul, but knew he needed him because Paul knew more chords and songs, but Lennon didn’t want to admit it.  Later, he had his childhood friend, Pete Shotten, approach McCartney.  And the way, Garry told it, the next time Shotten ran into Paul, he asked him to join the fledgling band, and Paul just nonchalantly replied, “OK”.  Also a part of that early Lennon-McCartney connection was that they had both lost their mothers as teens around the same time.  Lennon wrote about it for years after in several of his songs, but McCartney rarely did, except she’s the “ Mother Mary” in “Let It Be”, again revealing of their different characters.  Shotten, by the way, also wrote one of the best Beatles’ books, The Beatles, John Lennon and Me in ’84.  Pauline Sutcliffe with Alan Clayson, wrote Backbeat, Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle in ’94.

Pauline and Astrid both approved of the Backbeat film and I also recommend you seeing it and read the above books, from people who actually were there at the Beatles’ beginnings and I was privileged to meet several of them and hear their personal stories first hand.






Photographer& designer Beatles' haircut, Astrid Kirchherr, Stu Sutcliffe

Self-portrait: Photographer, Astrid Kirchherr & Stu Sutcliffe

1st Ottawa Beatles Convention poster with Astrid Kirchherr's Hamburg Beatles' images

Poster from 1st Ottawa Beatles’ Convention, using Astrid Kirchherr’s images of original Hamburg Beatles

Pauline Sutcliffes signed card from brother Stu's painting exhibit , Toronto & Astrid Kirchherr's postcard

Pauline Sutcliffe signed card from brother, Stu’s Sutcliffe’s painting exhibit & postcard from Astrid Kirchherr, Beatles’ photographer and creator of Beatles’ haircut

RINGO STARR 'acting naturally' in THE DAY film, 1973



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

That’ll be the Day is a 1973 British film starring Ringo Starr and actor/singer David Essex (“Rock On”).  It takes place in England in the late 50’s and early 60’s and captures what it must have been like growing up there, right before The Beatles were to take over.  Ringo almost steals the movie, although Essex does strong acting too.

In fact, it’s partly based on the times of the early Liverpool days of the pre-Beatles and their teenage band, The Quarrymen.  Essex’s Jim MacLaine, the main character, is a cross between Paul McCartney and John Lennon.  Like Lennon, he comes from a fatherless home, but he manages to land a job at a sea-side Holiday camp, where British working-class families would escape to for their summer holidays. There, Essex, meets Ringo’s character, Mike, an old hand at working the carnival circuit, and takes the handsome, but innocent at first, Jim, under his wing and shows him the ropes, the scams, and how to pick up “birds”, in dealing with the crowds.

The whole movie just looks and feels authentic (it was shot partly on the Isle of Wight.)  Ringo especially, just fits the role, playing someone he could have actually been.  Before The Beatles, Ringo was in a band called Rory Storm & the Hurricanes and until The Beatles, they were the most popular band in Liverpool.  In fact, one of the characters, Stormy Tempest is a play on the name Rory Storm and is played by British singer Billy Fury and The Who’s Keith Moon  is also in the film.  Ringo actually played similar holiday camps when he was with Rory Storm.

The film was written by Ray Connolly, from Liverpool and later a London journalist, who knew The Beatles well and their story.  He would later write the respected book, John Lennon 1940-80.  As I said, his screenplay and the movie evokes the era and characters perfectly.   And Ringo especially, dressed up in his stove-pipe “drainies” and slicked back hair-do, looks and acts the part.  Essex expresses the growing ambition to become a rocker by the end of the picture.  The soundtrack is made up of some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs of the 50’s and early 60’s.

That’ll be The Day did so well in England, especially, that it led to a follow-up film in ’74 called Stardust.   Essex’s character, carries on to become the rock star he yearned to be in the first film, but he also gets caught up in its trappings.  Stardust, the sequel also has more British rock musicians playing roles in it, like Adam Faith and Dave Edmunds (but not Ringo).   David Essex, besides his big worldwide hit, “Rock On” in 1973 would go on to remain popular in the U.K., both as a singer and actor.

That’ll be the Day and Stardust are considered by some to be among the best films about the dream to become a rocker and especially that fertile time in pop music, when The Beatles were about to shake up the world.  

I recommend you seeing these films, if you haven’t.

See Ringo & David Essex in That’ll Be the Day film, 1973:


POster for film,

POSTER FOR “THAT’LL BE THE DAY” film with Ringo and David Essex, 1973

David Essex's worldwide hit,

David Essex ‘s worldwide hit, “Rock On”, 1973

Poster for STARDUST, 1974 sequel to

STARDUST, 1974,sequel to “That’ll be The Day” film, with David Essex, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds

Photo from, STARDUST, w/David Essex, dave Edmunds, Keith Moon

Photo from STARDUST band, David Essex, Dave Edmunds, Keith Moon



By Alan Chrisman, copyright. 

I’ve always been most fascinated by the Beatles’ beginnings.  I was fortunate over the years to meet several whom were there before they were so well known. I’d read most of the books, seen the films, heard the legends, but I wanted to know what perhaps had really happened.  And the only way to do that was to meet some of the people who had known them first and ask them to describe the same incidents and people and places.  And if they described it basically the same ways, then probably there was truth to it.

It all started with meeting Cynthia Lennon, John‘s first wife, 1962-’68.   She had met John at art school in Liverpool.  They were quite opposites really; John the tough, sarcastic teen-age wannabe rocker, and she the more middle-class, nice girl.  What they had in common was their poor eyesight and artistic sensitivity.  But she also had the ability to ground him in those early years (especially after he had lost his mother, Julia, to a drunk driver, while being raised by his, more strict, Aunt Mimi). “Nowhere Boy” film (2010) captures the time. I had read her Twist of Lennon book (’78), and I wanted to meet her. So I attended my first Beatles’ Convention in Connecticut in ’94, where she was a guest. I met her and she signed my copy of her book and we talked a bit. She was lovely still and warm and artistic, as I’d hoped.  And meeting her inspired me to organize my own Beatles’ Conventions and pursue my goal of meeting others who had known The Beatles.

Also at that same convention, to my surprise, as she wasn’t supposed to be a guest, was May Pang.  She was John Lennon’s girlfriend, for 18 months, which Yoko had “assigned” to keep an eye on John and actually have a relationship with him, during his infamous “ Lost Weekend” in California, ’73-’74.  I was in the dealers room with very few people when an Oriental woman was talking to a author whom had written several Beatles’ books and he had a copy of his latest book for her and called her “May”.  I knew immediately, who she must be.  She signed my John Lennon ”Walls And Bridges” LP on the song lyrics for one of my favorite songs on it, “# 9 Dream”(where she whispers “John” in the background) and told me another song “Sweet Bird of Paradox” was about her. Again, I was surprised to see her there, because I didn’t know then if Cynthia and May would have gotten along.  I knew that Yoko and Cynthia didn’t and May had originally been Yoko’s assistant. Also along with May was Fred Seaman whom Yoko would later accuse of stealing John’s diaries, when he was their assistant at the Dakota.  But May was actually there to see Cynthia, because they were good friends, since May had encouraged John to re-connect with Cynthia’s son, Julian, when he was separated from Yoko in California.  May gave me her business card, and she was then married to Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s producer.  She wrote a book about her time with John called Loving John (’83).

My friend, Al Whyte, and I had taken a course about putting on events (for which we had created a fantasy Beatles’ Convention as a school project) and he was there with me. After the Conn. Convention, Al and I  discussed seriously for the first time, to put on our own Beatles Convention back in Ottawa.  After all, we now had several contact numbers for Cynthia, May, and several others around The Beatles, we had met that amazing weekend. I had even given Cynthia a copy of our fantasy Beatles Convention (but had changed the fantasy guest from Yoko to Cynthia and her son Julian who had had a big hit with his first album, Valotte.

Shortly after arriving back in Ottawa, I got a call on my answering machine from Pauline Sutcliffe from England (I don’t know for sure, but Cynthia Lennon must have given her my number). Stu Sutcliffe was with the early Beatles when they went to Hamburg, Germany in 1960.  He wasn’t very good on bass, but he was a promising painter and a big influence on and a close friend of John in Liverpool.  But Stu had fallen in love with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg and he had left them to pursue painting and be with her. Astrid had a big influence on them taking very artful black and white photographs and getting them to wear their distinctive haircuts. Unfortunately, Stu was to die in Germany, of a brain hemorrhage, shortly before they became known.

I discussed with Pauline the possibility of bringing in some of Stu’s paintings for our proposed Beatles Convention, but we couldn’t afford the insurance necessary.  But I was soon to meet her in person at an exhibition of his artwork in Toronto.  I arrived early at the exhibition, and this very nice British woman offered me a tea and tour of the exhibit and it was Pauline, whom I had communicated with earlier. She helped write the book, later made into the film, Backbeat (’94) that told the story of her brother, Stu, and Astrid and The Beatles in Hamburg. I had wanted to have Cynthia Lennon as our guest at our Convention, but it was her birthday, the weekend we planned to do it, and she wanted to be with her family.  We had timed it to be the anniversary of the first time The Beatles had played Canada in September, 1964.

We heard though that there was someone from Liverpool who lived in Ottawa and knew Pete Best and was his friend and agent.  His name was Barrie Naylor and had played The Cavern with his band, the very last time the Beatles had played there on August 3, 1963.  Barrie contacted Pete and he was interested.  He’d actually been to Ottawa with little fanfare before, as had Tony Sheridan, with whom they had played and had backed up on their first early recordings like “My Bonnie”. Legend goes that that was the song that a Liverpool teenager would request from Brian Epstein’s record store that would alert him to see them at the Cavern and become their manager (although more than likely, Epstein would have known about them before, because Brian prided himself on keeping up with his young customers).

Pete had been their first drummer in Liverpool and Hamburg.  Pete’s mother, Mona, ran one the first clubs, in her basement, The Casbah, they had played before The Cavern after they returned from Germany in 1961.  But right before The Beatles had signed their contract with George Martin and EMI, he had been replaced by Ringo (Pete had played with them for over two years).  Supposedly, Martin had said his drumming wasn’t up to par for recording.  In those days they often used professional session drummers in the recording studio (In fact, Ringo didn’t play drums on the The Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do”).  But other people like Cynthia Lennon had said, Pete just didn’t have the ego to compete with John and Paul’s, as George was later to find out when they ignored his own song writing for years.  But The Beatles never did tell Pete to his face why he had been cut out, right before they made it.  They left the dirty work to their manager, Epstein.

We held the first Ottawa Beatles Convention on September 7, 8 , 1995 (there’d only been one other one in Canada in Toronto), with Pete and his Liverpool band, as guests, signing autographs and performing.  Also drumming there with him was his half-brother, Roag ( who, not many people knew, was actually the son of Neil Aspinall, the Beatles old Liverpool friend and road manager and who later became the head of The Beatles’ own label, Apple Records).  Neil and Pete’s much older mother, Mona, had had an affair and Roag was the result.  Now we had purposely timed our first convention with the release, right at that time, of the first volume of The Beatles Anthologies.  The Anthologies had originally been Neil’s idea and he had been working on it since 1970.  And with the remaining Beatles also recording two songs by John and The Anthologies selling over 30 million copies and accompanying videos and TV specials, it helped make The Beatles popular with a whole new generation again.  It also helped us with an original Beatle as a guest, to make our first convention a success.   With Pete playing on several of the old songs (and perhaps with Neil Aspinall being Roag’s dad and whose idea it originally had been), Pete received shortly after our Convention, a check from The Anthologies and, after 30 years of being teased as the Beatle who had just missed out, became a millionaire overnight.  As Cynthia Lennon had said, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

But now everybody wanted us to do a 2nd Ottawa Beatles Conventiion. So we went looking for possible guests. The next year, at a Beatles dealers show in Burlington, Ontario, I got to meet a few more from the Beatles’ early days,. First there was Len Garry, one of the original Quarrymen, John Lennon’s teen-aged band before The Beatles.  He told the story (he was there) of The Day John Met Paul, July 6, 1957 at a Liverpool church social.  A chubby Paul McCartney got up and played “20 Flight Rock” and John was impressed because John only knew a few banjo chords his often-absent mother had taught him.  And the way Len Garry told it, John, not wanting to admit he wanted Paul in the band, had his friend, Pete Shotten, who also wrote one of my favorite books on the early Beatles,  The Beatles, John Lennon, and Me (’83), to approach Paul later. Evidently. Paul rode his bike up and coolly replied, “Ok” and The Beatles were formed, as George was soon invited along by Paul to play guitar.

Also at that Ontario show was Beryl Wooler, who’d been Brian Epstein’s secretary and later married to Bob Wooler who’d been The Cavern D.J. and an early Beatles supporter.  But the next guest there was a real character; Allan Williams, who had run a strip joint in Liverpool called the Jacaranda the Beatles had played early on, and had been the one to actually send them to Hamburg. He had advised Epstein not to touch them with a “F’ 10 foot barge pole”, after they stiffed him on his  booking fees for Germany. And thus the title to his book, “The Man Who Gave Away The Beatles” (’75), also one of the best books about early Beatles.  He told outrageous stories; he even held up there McCartney’s leather pants they had worn at The Cavern, until Epstein had got them to change to the special Beatle suits. Williams said he was trying to get McCartney to buy back his leather outfit for $10,000!  I liked the guy, but I felt he’d be too wild for our family-friendly convention (for now young people were just as enthralled with the Beatles as we who had grown up with them).

Our 2nd Ottawa Beatles Convention, was again timed with the release of the next Beatles Anthologies in September,1996.  Our special guest. along with John Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce, was George’s  sister, Louise Harrison, at the Canadian Museum Of Science and Technology.  Louise told stories of growing up with George and accompanying The Beatles to Washington, D.C. on their first North American tour. And she revealed a little-known tale about how George had visited  her in a small town in Illinois,  where she was then living in ’63, and how unknown-in-America George got up and jammed with a local band there and someone had said, “ Keep it up and you might go somewhere”.  This was just a few months before everyone would know The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in Feb. 1964.  With her as a guest (we also had Indian dancers and music as a tribute to George) and Lennon’s car and The Anthologies, we tripled our attendance from the year before.  Also Pete Best agreed to come back to Ottawa and play a club, in conjunction with our convention. Even though he was now a millionaire, he was still the same down-to-earth guy.

Another person connected with the early Beatles I was to meet was BBC director, Leslie Woodhead.  He had filmed the only known footage of The Beatles at the Cavern in 1962. I met him because he came to Ottawa to interview and film my Russ/Cdn. friend, Yury Pelyushonok, about his book about growing up in the Soviet Union and trying to play banned Beatles’ music.  Yury had written of his personal experiences in his book, Strings for a Beatle Bass (’98 & 2004).  Mr. Woodhead used Yury’s song, “Yeah Yeah Virus” as a theme throughout for his 2009 film and 2013 book, How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin, which backed Yury’s claim that Beatles’ music helped bring down Communism.  Yury had gotten to know a bit, The Beatles’ friend and manager for the past 30 years, Neil Aspinall, because Yury had left a copy of his book at Apple headquarters in London, as I had suggested, in 2000.  Paul McCartney’s assistant had called back for more copies for George and Ringo!  Imagine Yury growing up in Russia, playing banned Beatles music,

Stu Sutcliffe's Paintings & Astrid Kirchherr Postcard

Stu Sutcliffe’s (original Beatle in Liverpool and Hamburg) Painting ,Toronto, where I met, Stu’s sister, Pauline. Postcard from Astrid Kirchherr, Hamburg photographer, and Beatle haircut designer.

Yury Pelyushonok's book, Strings for a Beatle Bass

Yury Pelyushonok’s book. “Strings for a Beatle Bass”(’98 and 2004 editions), about how Beatles’ music helped bring down communism!

and The Beatles being interested in your book!

As for me, as I had set out to do, I had met many who had known them, especially from their beginnings.  And by meeting and talking to them and others, I felt I really did have a better idea of their amazing journey and how they had changed my life and millions of others.

Alan L. Chrisman’s 1st book, a musical memoir: “It’s A Long Way Home” (& How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life). Currently working on new Beatles book for  (2020).  Excerpts from 1st book and more Beatles stories, etc.:  http://www.rockthistownproductions.com

Cynthia Lennon, May Pang

May Pang & Al Whyte at Conn. Beatles Convention’ 94,
Cynthia Lennon & Alan Chrisman, Conn. Beatles Convention ’94

Pete Best , original Beatles Drummer, guest, Ottawa Beatles Convention'95

Pete Best and brother Roag, signing autographs and playing Ottawa Beatles Convention’ 95.
The Casbah, Liverpool, owned by Pete Best’s mother, The Beatles played there first.


“IT’S A LONG WAY HOME”( & HOW BEATLES’ MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE), A Musical Memoir, Book Description

“CAVERN DAYS”, THE 1st. OTTAWA BEATLES CONVENTION Sept ’95, anniversary of THE BEATLES playing Canada

Original Beatles Drummer, Pete Best & his Band from Liverpool, Guest.

Original Beatles Drummer, Pete Best & his Band from Liverpool, Guest.


By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them). 

Alan Chrisman, grew up in the innocence of a small U.S. Midwestern town.  But that was soon to change with two world-shaking events, The Vietnam War and The Beatles.  The 60’s were a tumultuous time and their music was a large part of its soundtrack.

Propelled by both events, he moved to a cold but welcoming land and its capitol, Ottawa, Canada, a place with similarities and differences from where he was raised.  There, inspired especially by The Beatles’ founder and co-writer, John Lennon, he became involved in various aspects of music, setting up one of its first used record stores, ”IMAGINE”, organizing The Ottawa Beatles Conventions and meeting many whom were there from the Beatles’ beginnings.  Several of the chapters are named after Beatles’ and Lennon’s songs and parallel his own experiences.  Later, he would also learn of an intriguing story how this revolutionary music even helped change a repressive system half way around the world.  

It was to be a Long and Winding Road with many curves and he describes some of the characters he met along the way and their sometimes trying, but humorous stories.   He also writes about the joys and pains of relationships and how pop music and culture affects our views of them and with some of his own song lyrics.

Ottawa, which one of its well-respected musicians called the“Liverpool of the North”, had more direct connections to England and felt the British Invasion earlier than the U.S. and he includes its 60’s and 70’s scene as well as his own involvement with musicians for the next several years. 

So come along for the journey and see how Beatles’ music influenced him and millions of others and why it still resonates decades later.


                                                  BOOK, CD, AUDIO CD, & ebook:  COVER BELOW




Chapter 1:  Crossing the Borderline (“Paul is Dead” rumour)

Chapter 2:   Midwestern Childhood (“Thank God For The Beatles” lyrics)
Chapter 3:  University Days (“Woman the Muse”)
Chapter 4:   Ottawa,Canada
Chapter 5:  “IMAGINE”, (John & Yoko in Ottawa)

Chapter 6:  Vancouver (J. Lennon shot, Dec, 8, 1980)
Chapter 7:  Back in Ottawa

Chapter 8:  Walls and Bridges
Chapter 9:  Rock This Town! Prods. (’85-’93)

Chapter10: Birthday and NY Dakota Visit (Strawberry Fields Memorial)
Chapter 11:  Connecticut Beatles Convention (Cynthia Lennon, May Pang)
Chapter 12; #9 Dream (Stu Sutcliffe Art, Astrid K.)

Chapter 13:  Ottawa Beatles Convention, ‘95 ( Pete Best, Cavern, Liverpool)
Chapter 14:  Ottawa Beatles Convention, ‘96( L. Harrison, Lennon car, Day John Met Paul)
Chapter 15:  Long Lost Weekend (“Real Good Woman” lyrics)
Chapter 16    Lady In Red ( P. Best Gets His Due)

Chapter 17:   ‘Get Back’ Records
Chapter 18:  Clean-up Time(Never Knew Who’d Drop In)

Chapter 19:   Lady in Red 2 ( “Annie Hall”)
Chapter 20:  Lister in L.A. ( “So You Want to be a R’ n ‘R Star”)

Chapter 21:  Time for a Change (G. Harrison passes)

Chapter 22:  “Back in the U.S.S.R.”(The Beatles Help Bring Down Communism!)
Chapter 23:   Music Never Dies (“Al & THE G-MEN”, Still Rockin’)

Chapter 24: Long and Winding Road ( P. McCartney Plays Ottawa, 2013)
Chapter 25: “Liverpool of the North” (Ottawa music 60’s/70’s)



(This book published by Alan L. Chrisman © 2013; All Alan Chrisman lyrics © 2012, 2013; Cover graphic by ‘G-Man’): eBook version c.2014


FOR COMPLETE BOOK on CD(MSWord), AUDIO DVD(narrated), e book,(2014) or Original SONGS CD To Accompany Book, CONTACT: Alan L. Chrisman     www.rockthistownproductions.com  

Link To ebook(2014) version:

                                                                             ALAN L. CHRISMAN—BIOGRAPHY:

Alan L. Chrisman ( http://www.RockThisTownProductions.com) ran the used vinyl stores (Imagine, Get Back, Rock This Town!) for several years in Ottawa, Canada, and a coffeehouse, an alternative newspaper, promoted musicians, put on concerts and organized the two Ottawa Beatles Conventions ‘95 & ‘96. and met several in The Beatles’ circle.  He wrote a  memoir/book and an original songs CD, “It’s A Long Way Home”, about his life, and his influences, including “LIVERPOOL OF THE NORTH”: The Story Of Ottawa 60’s/70’s Music, in 2013.

Today, he continues to be involved in music: writing and recording songs (for AL & The G-Men), helping local musicians, shooting videos ( Youtube alanchrisman1), and organizing shows.   He also writes short stories, reviews and articles and blogs on a wide variety of subjects.  Several of his songs have been played on and he has been interviewed by CKCU-FM and CBC Radio.  And some of his artifacts have been on display at the “Ottawa Rocks” City Hall archives exhibit.