Tag Archives: May Pang

Early letter and drawings from John Lennon to Cynthia

A TRIBUTE TO CYNTHIA LENNON & MEETING HER

A TRIBUTE TO CYNTHIA LENNON & MEETING HER

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

Cynthia Lennon, John’s 1st. wife, passed away April 1, 2015 at the age of 75 after a battle with cancer.  I’d always wanted to meet her and in 1994, I got my wish. Someone had told me of a Beatles’ Convention in Stamford , Connecticut and she was one of the main guests.

I had never been to a Beatles’ Convention before, but my fellow student and friend, Al Whyte, and I had just completed a course about putting on events and our two’s school project (only a fantasy) had been to do a Beatles’ Convention.  So we had a chance to actually go to one and also meet, as I say, John Lennon’s wife. I had read her book, Twist of Lennon, and could picture what it must have been like before they were very well-known in those early Beatles’ days in Liverpool.

Al and I met her briefly and she was even nicer and lovely than I had hoped. She signed my copy of her book and I nervously asked her some questions. I’d always wanted to see if I could try and see what John had been like past the pop star and media images.  We also ran into her later coming down in the elevator of the hotel where the Convention was being held. She had long blonde hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses like John.

I had read the romantic story in her book about how John had met her at their Liverpool art school in 1958.  But they were complete opposites.  John was the angry, chip-on his shoulder rebel, especially because his mother had been killed by a drunken driver when John was still a teenager. Cynthia Powell was the more middle-class “nice girl”.  But what they had in common was both of them being near-sighted and their love of art.   But she was able to detect underneath the Lennon sneer, a softer side too. They would sneak over to John’s aspiring-painter friend, Stu Sutcliffe’s room to make love.

Cynthia was very supportive of John and his early budding Beatles’ band.  And when Paul, George, Pete Best, and Stu Sutcliffe were sent to Hamburg, John would write back regular funny postcards and letters to her (even though they were playing in some of most decadent bars and temptations in Europe).  When they returned from Germany and first played the Cavern, she was there too. But Cynthia didn’t have it easy.  She was renting a room from John’s sometimes stern Aunt Mimi, while working at Woolworths and the two women didn’t get along.  She then moved to a small bedsitter room.

Cynthia Lennon's own artwork of the Cavern days

Cynthia Lennon’s own artwork of The Cavern days.

When Cynthia became pregnant with their son, Julian, they got married in 1962. (John said later, “it had been the thing to do”).  Even as The Beatles were becoming more and more popular, Cynthia was still stuck alone while The Beatles were on tour, having to put up with her husband being away a lot of the time, and with all the girls throwing themselves at the young men. And Lennon would sometimes take his frustrations out on her, violently even. There’s a scene in The film, Backbeat about the Hamburg days, where Astrid Kirchherr, the German art student who basically created the whole Beatles’ “look” says to Cynthia’s character, ”but John wants the world.”

At their height, as The Beatles were experimenting with drugs, Cynthia never really felt comfortable with their excesses.  Beatle wives were rarely allowed to be in the studio when their husbands were at work.  When their manager, Brian Epstein died, they all went to India to see the Maharishi, but John was secretly writing to this new artist, Yoko Ono.  On the plane home, he admitted to his wife the many affairs he’d had. John advised her to go to Greece for a vacation, the day she returned, she discovered Yoko had spent the night with him at her home.  Lennon and Cynthia soon divorced in 1968.

John had remarried Yoko but Julian had been pretty well ignored by his father ( much as John himself has been deserted by his father).  It wasn’t until Yoko and John had separated for several months in 1973 and John was with May Pang in L.A. that May encouraged John to re-connect with Julian.  Interestingly, I also met May Pang at that same Conn. Convention. I was surprised she was there; she wasn’t a scheduled guest.  But I soon learned she was good friends with Cynthia and had come in to see her.  I was able to meet May Pang too and get her to sign my copy of Lennon’s Walls and Bridges album and get photos of her too.

Meeting Cynthia Lennon & May Pang in 1994  led my friend, Al Whyte and I to put on Beatles' Conventions and meet several others who knew Beatles

Meeting Cynthia Lennon & May Pang in 1994, inspired our doing our own Beatles’ Conventions and meeting several who knew The Beatles

.Al and I were so inspired by meeting Cynthia and May Pang and others at that Conn. Convention that we decided to actually put on our own Beatles’ Conventions.  Also, soon after I got back home, Stu Sutcliffe’s sister, Pauline called me from England (I think Cynthia must have given Pauline my number).  We had presented Cynthia with our “fantasy”.  She seemed interested in our more ‘artistic’ convention than they usually were.  Cynthia was an artist in her own right and she would later have exhibitions of some of her art.  Cynthia Lennon’s own artwork of The Cavern.  Cynthia’s own drawing of The Cavern.

We even thought of having her son, Julian, whom had had a successful album, Valotte, as a guest too (which she liked).  Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it, but we did end up doing our Ottawa Conventions in ‘95 and ’96, with Pete Best and Louise Harrison as main guests, respectively.  Cynthia Lennon would later write a second book simply called John in 2005. She was a lot more critical of John in that book than her first and even said she wished in some ways, she had never met him.  Cynthia would, for years, have trouble getting much money and ran a couple failed restaurants and two of her marriages had ended in divorce before her final third husband died in 2013. When Yoko inherited John’s estate when John was killed in 1980, it still took years until Julian finally got a settlement which he shared with his mother.  Julian has been bitter the way he felt he had been treated, but over time, all the Beatles’ wives and children finally did appear together at certain functions such as the premiere of Cirque de Soleil’s Beatles’ Love show.

Cynthia, despite having been married to one of the most famous people in the world, as I said, didn’t have it easy.  But I was honored to meet her. I have no doubt that if Al and I hadn’t met Cynthia, we would never have actually done our own Beatles’ Conventions and gone on to meet several who knew The Beatles. That’s how much this lovely lady, Cynthia Lennon, had inspired me.

Below Julian Lennon’s video tribute to his mother, Cynthia, with his song:

https://youtu.be/fsyYqJxf9Qk

Cynthia Lennon's 1st book, 1978

Cynthia Lennon’s 1st book ,1978

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

BACKBEAT FILM: HAMBURG BEATLES & INSIDE STORIES

BACKBEAT FILM: BEATLES IN HAMBURG & INSIDE STORIES

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

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.

 

HAMBURG BEATLES AND “STU MEETS ASTRID”, BACKBEAT FILM, 1993:

 

http://youtu.be/JhJBk9YNhwo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJBk9YNhwo

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

JOHN LENNON & PAUL MCcARTNEY, A FINAL RECORDING SESSION?Y

JOHN LENNON/PAUL McCARTNEY’S LITTLE-KNOWN LAST RECORDING SESSION

JOHN LENNON/PAUL McCARTNEY’S LITTLE-KNOWN LAST RECORDING SESSION, 1974      

 &  THE LENNON/MICK JAGGER SESSION

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

John Lennon, Mick Jagger, May Pang, L.A., 1974

John Lennon, Mick Jagger, May Pang, 1974, L.A.

(& HOW I MET MAY PANG & CYNTHIA LENNON)

There had been rumors of John Lennon and Paul McCartney getting secretly together for a recording session in L.A. in 1974Well, last week, May Pang in an interview with the L.A. Examiner, confirmed they did take place.  Pang was John’s girlfriend during his separation from Yoko and his infamous “Lost Weekend” in 1974.  This may well be the last known sessions between John & Paul. This would have been somewhat shocking at the time because, as far as the public knew, since the Beatles split in 1970, Lennon and McCartney were still quite estranged from each other.

She describes the night when Paul and wife, Linda, showed up at the studio.  John played guitar and sang lead, Paul played drums and harmony, Linda, organ, and as well, there were Stevie Wonder on piano, Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, and both Harry Nilsson and Stevie Wonder sang harmonies too.  The group roughly jammed briefly on a couple of rock ‘n’ roll oldies including “Lucille” and “Stand by Me” ( a song which John would have recorded the fall before with legendary producer, Phil Spector, for John’s album of oldies, Rock ‘n’ Roll).  Lennon was there producing his friend, Harry Nilsson’s album, Pussycats and the McCartneys were there the first night of those sessions.

Pang also described another recording session between Lennon and Mick Jagger, around the same time, called the “Too Many Cooks” session, after a cover of a Willie Dixson song, which May says  that Lennon produced.  The back-up band consisted of Jesse Ed Davis on guitar again, keyboardist Al Kooper, who played with Dylan on his Highway 61 Revisited album and founded Blood, Sweat & Tears, Danny Kortchmar, guitar player for James Talyor and on Carol King’ Tapestry album, Jim Keltner on drums, and bassist, Jack Bruce from Cream ( who has just recently passed away-see my previous tribute blog on Bruce).  The story goes that supposedly the recording tape had lain for years under May Pang’s bed!  Jagger said he had forgotten about it for a long time, but it did finally end up on his Very Best of Mick Jagger album in 2007.

Both these artifacts are quite historical, with John and Paul’s last and also a rare Lennon/Jagger recording and worth hearing.

Pang was in Germany recently, promoting her new book for the German market only, John Lennon & May Pang, Another Love.  She had released an earlier book about her life with John, Loving John, in 1983 and a photo book, Instamatic Karma (2008).  She also mentions John’s recording with David Bowie ”Fame” (’75) which John co-wrote, based on his guitar riff, at the beginning, and it became Bowie’s 1st #1 hit in the U.S..

 I actually met May Pang in 1994.  It’s kind of an interesting story. I was attending my first Beatles’ Convention in Stamford, Conn.  I had gone there because I had created a “fantasy” project for a course I had just taken at a local college about putting on events. The fictional event my fellow classmate and friend, Al, both being Beatles fans, had proposed was a Beatles Convention.  A couple weeks after we had presented this fantasy event to our class, someone told me about a Beatles’ Convention in Conn.  We had never been to one before, but we especially wanted to meet one of the guests, Cynthia Lennon, John’s first wife.  I had read her first book about John which came out originally in ’78 , A Twist of Lennon.  That’s the reason I went, so Al and I took the bus from Ottawa, Canada, where we lived.  And there we did get to meet and talk to Cynthia a couple times and she was warm and lovely and autographed several items for us.

As I said, Cynthia was one of the main guests, as well as Paul McCartney’s step-mom, Beatles’ band, Badfinger, and several others.  But at that same convention in Conn. in ’94, to my and everyone else’s surprise May Pang showed up

Al & I meeting Cynthia Lennon & May Pang, Conn. Beatles' Convention'94, inspired us to put on our own

Al & I, meeting May Pang and Cynthia Lennon, Conn. Beatles’ Convention, 94

unannounced.  She wasn’t supposed to be a guest.  In fact, I didn’t know if Cynthia and May even liked each other, as I knew Cynthia and Yoko didn’t, and May had been Yoko’s assistant, before Yoko had “assigned” her to watch John.

But on the final day of the Convention, I was in the dealers’ room, with hardly anybody there, when I noticed this Oriental-looking woman talking to a well-known dealer who’d also written several books on The Beatles. I heard the dealer say,“Oh May, I’ve got my latest book and your personal copy for you”.  I knew right then it must be May Pang.  As I said, there was hardly anyone else in the room, but us.  I asked her if I could get a picture and told my friend, Al, to run up and get our camera ( this was before selfies).  Like Cynthia, she was warm and friendly.  She signed one of my favorite John Lennon albums, Walls and Bridges, recorded shortly after the McCartney and Jagger sessions mentioned above.  May said she even sang on one of the songs on it, one of my favorites, #9 Dream and that other songs were actually about her, such as  “Surprise , Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox), which I had always thought was about Yoko.  Along with May was, to my surprise too, Fred Seaman, John’s assistant at the Dakota, whom Yoko would later accuse of stealing John’s diaries.

In fact, the reason May Pang was there was that she was actually close friends with Cynthia and had come in to see her from New York at the Convention. May, I found out later, had encouraged John , when separated from Yoko, to re-establish his relationship with John’s and Cynthia’s son, Julian, and Cynthia had appreciated it and Cynthia and May had become good friends.

So it was quite a weekend, meeting the lovely Cynthia Lennon and other Beatles’ insiders, and on top of that, meeting unexpectedly John’s girlfriend and confidante, May Pang.  May gave me her business card as well, on it was also Tony Visconti’s (David Bowie’s longtime producer) address, whom she was married to at the time).  My friend, Al and I went home the next day, with dreams of perhaps even putting on our own Beatles’ Conventions back in Ottawa, inspired especially by meeting Cynthia Lennon and May Pang in one weekend!

For now we also had contacts for several Beatles’ guests. And we were to do exactly that-put on our own Beatles’ Conventions.  The story of which, along with meeting several others in the Beatles’ circle, is told in my book, “ It’s A Long Way Home”( & How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life”).

‘LAST’ LENNON/McCARTNEY RECORDING SESSION, L.A. ,1974:

http://youtu.be/Kj-AGEuhcp0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj-AGEuhcp0&feature=youtu.be

LENNON/JAGGER SESSION, 1974, “ TOO MANY COOKS”:

http://youtu.be/etd9Vp15w7Q

 

THE BEATLES’ BEGINNINGS/MEETING PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE

THE BEATLES’ BEGINNINGS/MEETING PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE

By Alan Chrisman, copyright 2012. 

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 book, “It’s A Long Way Home” (& How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life)  Excerpts: 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.