Rating: PG-13, but R in certain areas later on
Summary: The elusive fifth Beatle gives a revealing interview about her life before the Hamburg days, joining the band, and all that came in between and after.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Beatles and this is about as AU as you can get. I have taken, many, many liberties, namely which that this involves a fictional "fifth" Beatle (who happens to be a female), so history (and certain dates) will very obviously be fudged with. This was a dream that I had for a week -- this wrote itself.
Go to Part 1
“How did that happen?” And I knew what she was referring to.
“When the lads came back from Hamburg, Stu’d stayed behind. John and Paul had written songs together during the time that Stu was still in the band, so during their jam sessions, it always sounded a bit off without the extra bass, or just guitar in general. Paul’d taken up bass duties, but the majority of the songs they’d written were for two basses and or for two alternating lead or rhythm guitars and a bass. The way that I was brought into the mix is that they were practicing a song and…it just didn’t sound right. I had been playing the guitar for a bit then but wasn’t anywhere near as guitar mad as any of ‘em, so I didn’t feel right telling them that I thought the sound was too heavy and not necessarily in a good way. I was eventually asked and I was straight up. Little did I know that I’d have a guitar shoved into me hands!”
John had taken a drag of his ciggie at my announcement, I remembered. “Will you look at that, Paulie? Little sister telling you that your playing is shit.” John has looked absolutely delighted.
“Come off it, I didn’t say that.”
“Come ‘ead, show us your stuff.” John had shoved his Rickenbacker in my direction, giving me a wide smile all the while. I had wondered in the decades that followed what would have happened if I’d just told him to ‘Sod off and get on with it’ rather than taking the bait like the hot headed fool I could be at times. So I had taken his Rickenbacker, his prized baby, and had started playing the main theme from that arty French film, “Jeux Interdits” that I wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before.
I had assumed at the time that he knew I played music, though it was from composers who’d died almost two hundred years before. I remember that John had looked at me consideringly, thick brows furrowed as he watched me play. Knowing that he’d take the piss, I had stopped half way and had handed the guitar back to him.
“You ain’t too bad, young Liz,” was all he’d said before turning to the lads and motioning for them to continue playing. I hadn’t bothered to try to look at Paul for some sort of reassurance, or even to see if he was furious at me for taking John up on the offer.
A few days later I had been at my instructor’s house and was practicing one of Bach’s Cello Suites. I had considered applying to a musical conservatory in Birmingham or even Manchester, not even wanting to delude myself that I’d be good enough for London. I had played Sarabande so many times that my fingers had moved comfortably over the strings, the bow sliding in that delicious movement that I’d loved so much.
I had known my teacher’s home as well as my own and didn’t think much of it when I heard the door to his music room open, expecting one of his affectionate critiques and not the “What sort of scouser is you playing music like that?” My knees had tightened on either side of the cello, and I’d opened my eyes to find both my brother and John in the doorway.
“A talented one,” I had retorted hotly and John had laughed. I hadn’t asked him why he was there, but later on that evening Paul had told me that he’d been asked by John about what I played and not thinking anything of it had told him that I spent most of my afternoons practicing a few hours at my teacher’s house. I would have expected Paul to tell me to stay out of what they were doing, but he hadn’t.
As it turned out, a few weeks later, as they were practicing a few songs they’d be performing at the Cavern later on that night, Paul had yelled at me to come from the kitchen and when I got there, cuppa in hand, had told that they were going to look for a replacement for Stu but
that in the meantime, I should stick ‘round during rehearsals.
That had been it. They had tried a few fellas out, but it had come down to a conflict of personalities – John could especially be a bit of a snarky wanker who talked out of his arse a lot of the time. In mid-July of ’61, a few days after they’d returned from another visit to Hamburg (and losing another guitarist they’d been trying out, mind you), they’d taken me out for a pint and had laid it out. “Fancy joining the band, young Liz?” John had asked before taking a drag of his cigarette. Even then he was not above letting anyone know that this was his band; he made the final decision about who came and went.
I had finished off my pint before shrugging and adding, “I haven’t the patience to be a typist and I don’t ‘magine any bloke will be makin’ an honest woman out of me anytime soon, so I may as well. I’m not sure who else will put up with you lot of smarmy bastards. You’ve done a fine job of runnin’ them all off, Johnny boy!!” In the back of me head I’d known that if it came down to it that I could take a secretarial course. I’d also been working as a shop assistant at a chemist’s shop an afternoon or two per week since I was fifteen, and had managed to save ‘round 150 quid which I’d originally intended to use to pay for train fare to Manchester in a few months. Obviously that trip hadn’t come about.
“What was it like playing with them at the Cavern for the very first time?” The reporter asked quickly, bringing me out of my revelry.
“Sweaty!” I laughed, remembering how fucking hot the place had been – simply boiling! – bursting at the seams with young kids who were there to watch them play. The Cavern had been a dank, dreary sort of place with shitey ventilation. Walking onto the stage with the lads I remember the hum of the place, and that I’d heard at least five different versions of “What does she think she’s playing at, eh?” while I had slid the strap of one of John’s old guitars over my shoulder.
I remembered how nervous I’d been up there in a pair of Paulie’s old leather trousers and one of Cyn’s snug black turtlenecks. John had let me finish my second pint earlier before he’d turned to me, looking at me with one of his lecherous grin, “Come ‘ead, young Liz. I’ll have Cyn make you look respectable like.” When we had arrived at Mendips he’d told Cyn to “take out her short skirts and tight sweaters” for me to try on, but I had told him to fuck off – if he wanted me to play the guitar in his fucking group I’d dress what I fancied and not be tarted up to look like some dolly bird.
Cynthia had laughed at us and after another five minutes during which I told him that kept telling ‘im “Nicht! I willna be tarted up to look like one of those whores you are so fond of!” to which he had retorted, “We’ll need to distract the audience from your shitey guitar playing” until he had finally let loose a stream of stream of expletives and had told me to get on with it and to not take all night getting ready.
“Do you remember any words of encouragement that they might have had for you before that first performance?” The reporter asked and I saw her move the voice recorder in my direction.
“Errrr, me brother and George both gave me a pat on the back before we went on -- I didn't know what they were expectin', Pete didn't say nothing, not that he would've...just wasn't the talkative type I s'ppose. John did come and tell me to make it howl, and I suppose I did. I imagine he wouldn’t have hesitated to get the fuck off the stage if I was terrible. He was straight up about those things.” I smiled in memory.
“What set did you play?”
“Cannae remember too well. I know that we ripped into ‘Long Tall Sally’ and that was lots o’ fun.” It had been. I still remembered the rush of euphoria I’d felt as George and I had hit the bridge and I watched as the audience seemed to come alive, screaming and dancing along. I remembered the ridiculously big grin on George’s face that night, how we’d both laughed as Pete banged away on the drums, looking like a mad man with his greased black hair and shiny leather jacket.
“I remember watching a taped performance of that song when you guys performed in Washington D.C. during your first visit over. You looked amazing!” I knew that I was too old and had seen a lot in my day to blush anymore, but I did. “Was that the night that George came out and told you that he had feelings for you?”
I quirked an eyebrow that I knew was very, very similar to my famous older sibling’s own. “It was a while yet.” And it had been months before anything like that came up between us, or the thought even crossed either of our heads that either of us might possibly think of each other as more than just…mates. The thing with George and I was that we’d become mates in Hamburg. He was the one who had first suggested that I should play alternating lead and rhythm guitar with either he or John while Paul manned the bass duties. All I’d thought of George until those many weeks later was that he probably knew a lot more than he let on at times…and that he did have really lovely dark brown eyes.
“How did it come up?”
I sighed, knowing that I’d agreed to this in the first place, but feeling that there were a lot of pieces to the puzzle and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give it all away. “It was about a year or so later – not until after we’d signed with Parlophone and pursuing anything with each other would have been a terrible decision.” I laughed, knowing that I probably sounded horribly unromantic and was probably disillusioning Nancy-the-reporter more than she might have anticipated.
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” The reporter exclaimed during my brief pause, I gave her a wide-eyed look before I grinned. “Before you continue – you know that I’m going to keep hounding you about how George came out and confessed his undying love for you --“ I couldn’t help it and burst out laughing, feeling a strange mixture of giddy happiness in my tum. She joined in, “we need to touch on when the group was ‘discovered’ by Brian Epstein. What did all of you think when he approached you and told you that he wanted to be your manager?”
“Err…I think the story goes that after the lads came back from Hamburg, some kid walked into Brian’s shop and was askin’ about the LP they’d made with Tony Sheridan…I think it came out in either September or late October. Regardless, Brian somehow found out that the band that kid was askin’ about wasn’t German, but was actually from the ‘Pool, so he found out about us playing at the Cavern and went to see us.”
I remembered that after one of our packed gigs at the Cavern, that we’d been approached by Brian for the first time. He’d been a very polished looking guy, wearing a suit, and definitely looking out of place filled with us common working class kids. “You were wonderful,” he’d said to the five of us in greeting, extending a hand towards John and then Paul.
“What do you think this toff’s on about?” George had mumbled to me as we finished off our pints. His shirt had been drenched in sweat, brown hair wet against his skull. I imagined that I’d been soaked as well, but having pulled my jacket off – which John and Paulie had handed my way a few days after joining up – about thirty minutes into the set, I knew I hadn’t been as bad as him. He’d still been wearing his leather jacket for one.
“Dunno. Maybe he’s into mucking ‘round with us common folk. That type doesna look like it crosses to this side of the Mersey much.” I had looked on with amusement as John and Paul exchanged brief grins while talking to that fella. At that time I could’ve already imagined what they’d have to say about the meeting afterwards – never short on words, those two.
“Maybe he’s heard tales of the geetarrr-totin’ bird and he wanted to come and see it with his own eyes! See the disgrace o’ it in person.” George had laughed, giving me one of those wide smiles that were all teeth that would set so many girls’ hearts-a-twitter less than two years later. O’course I’d thought nothing of that then – ten minutes later I was letting meself be chatted up by a lovely blue-eyed lad with heavenly teeth, and he was off to the jigger with a dark-haired dolly with sizeable knockers.
A few weeks later, John had come ‘round to my house and said he needed to talk to both me and Paul, George and Pete had come up behind him with seconds. “Youse remember that bloke who came up to us after our gig a few weeks ago and who keeps coming back…you know that rich Jewish bloke who owns that record shop we always skivv off to? He rang me up at me Aunt Mimi’s house to tell me that he wants to be our manager.”
“What’s he know ‘bout rock-n-roll then?” Paul had asked, even then the more business-minded of the bunch. I knew that though Paul hadn’t said anything then that he hadn’t liked not already knowing about this – if John was the leader of the band, then Paul had seen himself as second in command.
“Dunno, Paulie, but he’s rich and he says that he’d go about shopping us ‘round to a few labels in London. He wants us to all go down to his shop day after tomorrow for a chat.”
“Did you sign with him right away?” Nancy-the-Reporter interrupted my almost non-stop rememberings and brought me back to the present.
“It didn’t make a lot of sense to us at first, I think, why Brian would’ve been so keen to take us on, but he was serious. He asked us to come ‘round to his record shop a few weeks after he saw us perform for the first time and after talking to him a bit, and seeing just how serious he was about us – can you imagine, this really well-off record shop owner tryin’ to convince five scruffs that he thought we had the goods to make it big and that he’d start on London right away – we agreed.” My eyes were wide.
“He came through with it pretty quickly?”
“The good thing about Brian in those early days is that he went for it, you know? Before he came into the picture, the best way to describe what was goin’ on is merry chaos.” Giving us lists had worked miracles!
“And then your image changed.”
“Something like that yeah.” I nodded to her. I still remembered Brian taking Paul, John, George, and Pete to his tailor to have their measurements for their new kits.
“Suits, Liz, he wants us to stand ‘round with bloody suits on. What does he think we are, rent collectors?” John had moaned over a jam butty and tea after they’d come back, Paul had been sitting next to him, pen scratching against his pad of paper, chewing a fingernail as he wrote. I’d gathered then that he was writing something for Dot, but I hadn’t asked.
“Did he say anything about me? He’s not taking me off to a dressmaker tomorrow, is he?” I had asked, horrified at the thought. I didn’t have anything against dresses, mind you, but I’d known that I would look more obvious than I already did if I was up on stage with some sort of fancy dress on while they were done up in suits. I had known that Brian had taken it on himself to clean us up, but I’d joined the group wearing trousers and that’s how I’d remain until I decided otherwise.
John had shrugged and I’d continued, “John, if he makes me wear a dress up there, I’m fucking out of the band. Look, give it to ‘im straight, I’ve seen that look in his eye, so you’d better tell him that I’m a guitarist in this group and I won’t do nothin’ else. If you lot have to wear bloody suits, then I should be kitted out as well – I ain’t no Doris Day, alright.” John and my brother had exchanged side-long glances before breaking into a fit of giggles.
“With a mouth like yours, no one’ll confuse you for Doris, Macca Jr.” John had retorted.
“That and that your looking like a skinny dark-haired lad from the back.” Paul had cut in with a laugh, waggling his eyebrows at me as he reached over for my unfinished cup of tea and drank it down before I could complain about it.
“Oh bugger off, angel-face. But seriously John, if you don’t let him know that I’m not going to get dolled up in big poofy dresses on stage, I’ll be done with you lot for good – ‘cept for you Paulie, I’d never hear the end o’ it from Dad!”
“He’d get over it.” Paul had laughed at me and started reaching for the remaining half of jam butty on my plate until I’d swatted the back of his hand with the spoon I’d been holding. “Hey!” he’d exclaimed as he rubbed his red knuckles.
“Keep yer mitts to yourself!”
I had been grateful that I hadn’t had to have a talk with Brian about the dress situation then, because the next day I’d made my first visit ever to the inside of a tailor’s shop and was measured for what would be my first suit – or something like that.
“So Brian’s taken you guys on, he’s cleaned your image up a bit, and then he makes a few connections with record labels in London, and then what?”
I knew that it would continue coming back to it, so it might make the rest of this easier if I was honest about. “As you’ve probably heard, we’d originally auditioned for Decca on New Years’ Eve, but had been passed over –“
“They must’ve considered that the biggest mistake they ever made, passing the group over!”
I shrugged, remembering the audition. I hadn’t been ‘round when the lads had recorded with Tony Sheridan in Germany, so it’d been my first time ever in a studio. We’d left Liverpool on New Year’s Eve and spent that night in Trafalgar Square. When we’d arrived at the Decca offices, I’d seen the look of discomfort on the producer’s face at the sight of me, and I knew that it probably wasn’t going to go to well. I’d come across a recording of our audition, and had been surprised by how good we’d sounded – though as it turned up, we were passed over by that label.
“It happens that way sometimes, I gather,” I said, hoping I sounded polite about it. No use in rubbing salt on old wounds. “Then a few months later we auditioned at EMI for George Martin, and that was it.”
“What did you think of George Martin the first time you met him?”
I paused for a minute or so as I thought about our long-standing producer, the man who’d been there since the first album until present day with the projects that were still continuing to come up with our music. “I know when we met him that the lads didn’t really know what to think of him, but I liked him alright. He reminded me a lot of my music teacher from back home in the Pool.”
“Well he’s a classically trained musician first o’ all; I think that’s what I liked about him. I felt comfortable talkin’ to him about music and playin’ in front of him – he knew what he doing is all I have to say about it. He’s a lovely fella besides that, he’s a really decent sort.” I was reminded of our first proper recording session with him when he’d asked me about my fingering technique – he’d told me later on that he’d known on the spot that I was a trained musician just based on that. The lads hadn’t really known how to responded to him at first, but I’d admired him quite a lot.
“You mentioned that it was around this time that George finally confessed his undying love for you…” The reporter prompted with a smile. She was relentless, that was for sure. I imagined that that was some sort of job requirement for magazine writers: dead pushy.
“Aye, it was ‘round then. A few weeks after we’d signed with EMI, George came ‘round to me house. I was making tea in the kitchen,” I grinned because that was usually the case with George, showing up around tea time, “and he sort of just came out with ‘Liz, would you fancy us giving it a go?’ and though I hadn’t known right away what he meant, I remember the look on his face. He wasna talking about playing a new chord or changing the riffs in a song, he meant us, me ‘n him. I told him no.”
To this day I’d remember how he’d just come out with it, really nervous like. I remembered that I’d stood there, kettle in hand for at least a minute before I’d told ‘im, “Don’t say that George. You know I think the world o’ you, but don’t tell me tha’.” I didn’t want to tell the reporter that the way he’d looked at me after I said that had felt like he’d slit me from nose to gullet and my guts were spewing all over the floor. If I’d been a different type of girl, the kind of girl who was good at talking about her feelings I’d have told him that I was sorry, because I was, but I wasn’t that type of girl and he knew it. ‘Sides, knowing meself then, if I’d said anything more, it would’ve been something along the lines of ‘Fuckin’ hell, George. What’s wrong wi’ you mate, wantin’ to latch on to the first girl who hasna looked at you googly-eyed since we’ve been at the Cavern?! Don’t ya better than tha’?!
That’d been one of those things that had come about being ‘round these blokes day in and out for the past few months, taking on some of their ways. Good and bad, seemed like.
George had shrugged a bit and gave me a bit of a wee smile before telling me, “Alright then. Can I has a cuppa, please?” acting as if what he’d said had been no more important than about us trying a song in a different key. I’d gone along with it, because there was nothing else I would’ve thought of doing. But I still remembered the look in his eye just before he’d done what any of us would’ve done – I’d only seen that look once before and it made me uncomfortable to think of it: Mike’s wounded look when he’d found out that our Mum was dead and wasn’t coming back ever again.
I gave a shake of discomfort thinking ‘bout that. I looked evenly at the reporter who sat across from me, the same look of curiosity and calm like before, but this time there was more curiosity there than calm.
“Did you have no clue? You were together a lot…did the thought never cross your mind that maybe in the time that you’d all spent together that he might feel something like that for you?” I saw the reporter tap the top of her voice recorder with her finger.
I was quiet, giving myself a moment to pause before answering. “No not really. I mean, it wasn’t that the thought hadn’t sort of crossed me mind at some point, but I was too wrapped up in what the band was doing. We’d signed with Parlophone and I knew that we had the goods to make it big – and I couldn’t give that up so I sort of let it go. It really would’ve been a terrible time if we’d taken it further than that.”
“Was it ever awkward between the two of you later on, especially when you were touring the States and as John said in an interview, you would all hit each city you came to really hard? Did all the girls that were around bother you ever?” She leaned forward in her chair.
“There wasn’t anything I could say about it if it had bothered me; I had told him ‘no’. There were lots of girls in the picture during those days. Lots.” It was the Satyricon that John had described once long ago.
“You say that so…matter-of-factly.”
“When we started touring, it came with it. ‘Twas part of the deal, seems like,” I added with a bit of a wry smile, before I took another drink of tea.
“What do you remember anything about the first time that you came to America in February ’64?” She asked, momentarily veering away from the topic of me and George, but I knew we’d come back to it eventually. It was obviously a topic of interest to her.
“I remember that when we flew into New York and we saw all those fans waiting for us that we didn’t know what was going on. We thought that someone really famous was flying in, you know Elizabeth Taylor or Elvis or something. None of us had a clue that all those kids waiting out there were for us. It was kind of mind-blowing!”
I remembered that chilly overcast grey day. We’d flown out of London very early that morning, excited that we we’d be performing in New York, on the Ed Sullivan show of things! I remembered how bloody chuffed we’d all been when Brian had let us know about our invitation, and that feeling had been nothing like what we’d all experienced when we’d gotten off that flight.
“Do you think I might be able to sag off for a few hours to do a little sightseeing?” I had asked out when we were told that we should be arriving at the airport in ten minutes.
“You may as well, luv. There’s no telling if we’ll ever come back. Haven’t you ‘eard that that we’re just a passing fad?” Ringo’d answered from across me with a grin. I knew that he’d believed it then. From what George, who’d been the only one of us to ever go to the States until then, had faithfully reported when he’d returned that he’d been unable to find the record that we’d made with Tony Sherman.
“Where do you wanna be off to, young Liz?” John had asked, leaning back against Cyn’s shoulder.
“I’d fancy seeing the New York Philarmonic while we’re here. Do you think we might be able to get tickets?” I had asked, immediately looking around to find Brian and tell him to arrange for some. Ringo had been right, there was no telling if we’d ever come back and I wanted to take advantage of being here, even if I had to sneak out of the hotel to do it! Though at the time I hadn’t anticipated that being too much of a problem.
“’Cor, you and your bleeding hoity toity music. You’re in a fuckin’ rock and roll band and you want to be off to hob knob with the toffs.” John had shaken his head in fake dismay.
“Is that jealousy I hear in your voice, mate?” I had fired back quickly.
“Not bloody likely.” John had laughed before giving Cyn a kiss on her cheek. I remembered how nice she'd looked and I'd told her so.
“That’s not what you said when you thought you were going to be beheaded for telling them toffs to ‘rattle their jewelry’ at the command performance, Johnny Boy.” That had brought chortles of laughter from Paul and George who had been engaged in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em with Mal and Neil.
“Bloody hell, look out the window, Liz! Do you reckon the Queen flew in as well?” George had called over his shoulder a bit later after we’d descended onto the airport.
“S’not the Queen, son, the crowd’s too young – unless Bonny Prince Charlie flew in and all those birds are auditioning to be his ball and chain.” John had quipped as he too looked out the window onto what seemed to be thousands of girls.
It had been then that Brian had come out of the cockpit where he’d gone off to before we’d landed, and he’d taken one look at us, a milieu of scruffs who had been cleaned up to look nice (I still remembered the look of disbelief that had settled on Brian’s face when I’d shown up at Heathrow in my fitted tweed trousers, white tuxedo shirt and my favourite suit jacket which I’d had specially tailored for me on Saville Row, and told him that if I was expected to fly across the Atlantic, that I would be comfortable) and had exclaimed, “Prepare yourself lads,” I had grown used to being addressed along with the other lads, “all those kids you see outside are waiting for you!”
“Are you having us on, Eppy?”
“They just radioed the pilot to let him know what was going on and to tell him that extra security had been called for.”
When we’d bailed out of that plane, carry-ons in hand, we had been greeted with the deafening roar of what seemed to be a hundred screaming girls. “Who’d have thought that young Mary Elizabeth Macca would be on the receiving end of a thousand screaming birds?” John had laughed as we’d headed down the tarmac. I still remembered to this day the way he’d chortled when he found out that I shared a named with his Aunt Mimi and had gone ‘round calling me ‘Mimi the Second’ until I threatened to ask her to come on tour as my chaperone, which my Dad, bless him hadn't been too fussed over. Trusted me blindly he did.
“Sod off John, you know that this is all for youse and Paulie – George, Ringo and I aren’t the singers here! I just stand in the back and play chords that you you’re too shite to play.” I retorted with a grin as we’d gone through the throng of screaming girls and towards the press conference that awaited.
Later that night, after charming the pants off those reporters, we’d gone out for a taste of New York nightlife. Everyone who was anyone in town had wanted to meet us and we’d had a fab time all ‘round. I’d danced the night the night away with what seemed like an entire army of young guys, as well as with Ringo (he was a terrific dancer), Paul (who’d gotten over his mortification of dancing with his sister after the second time I’d dragged him up), John who had laughingly shown everyone ‘round Cyn’s wedding ring if they came to ask her for a dance and then proceeded to leer at me in his usual dirty old man way and told me that I should wear miniskirts more often when he had his turn, and then George who’d held me lightly and made me laugh. We’d ended the night blitzed out of our minds and high on life.
If we’d arrived to America a bit famous, after playing Sullivan those three dates, and shaking their moptops into the hearts of a hundred thousand young girls, we’d left fucking demigods. There was no one that could touch us when we went back to England. I know I sound bloody big-headed about it, but it was true!
“Did any of you have any idea that it was going to blow up the way that it did?”
“Not at all. Aye, we pissed around and talked a lot of shit, especially John. We knew that we were good, but there was no way of knowing that we’d go from being somewhat famous in Europe to being almost world-famous overnight. No one was prepared for it.”
“Were you at all prepared for the level of attention that you received during that first visit for being the only female in an otherwise all-male rock group? Until you, any females in the music business tended to either be vocalists or involved in the classical world in some regards.”
I shook my head. “There was a bit of it in England, definitely. I remember that in those early interviews that I tended to get a lot of questions about whether I thought I’d give up music once I ‘settled down’ and got married or found a nice guy. I remember being especially irritated by the fact that none of the others got those sorts of questions, but I did my best to be polite about it. After those first few months and a few pretty horrid magazine interview I made up me mind that I wouldn’t bother with too many interviews, especially if all I was to be asked was what I liked to cook or if I had any tips on how to manage a household or something like that.”
“And then you somehow became a fashion icon!”
I laughed. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“When you came on the scene, thousands of girls cut their hair like yours, started wearing those black Ray Bans you had during the first visit and began mixing men’s staples into their outfits.”
“The last came from a bit of necessity actually. Travelling on the road for so long, and sometimes being deathly afraid of losing our laundry – did you know that during the first tour of the States that I lost almost every brassiere I owned?! – we had to do the best that we could given the circumstances. I was not above stealing one of the lads shirts if all mine were going to the wash and they made off with more than a pair or two of my socks.” I grinned, remembering that Paul had been the worst of the lot. Family usually was.
“So Beatlemania has taken over the world and the guys are living it up, but what about you? How did becoming so famous affect your life?”
I considered this for a moment before replying. “Well when you’re the age that I was, you just have to be careful of what you get up, I suppose. The lads and I were lucky because most of the time when we hit a city, the police’d been paid off and we could get up to almost anything we wanted to, but there was still that level of caution that we always had to have. It was pretty rough since when we were on tour we were confined to our hotel rooms a lot of time. During the first trip to the states for example, we were barely let out – we were in bleeding New York the first time ‘round and we had to sneak out with the cleaners so we could see some of the city without being bothered too much.”
“It was like living in a fishbowl?”
“Exactly! We made it big but lost being able to walk down the road to buy cigarettes or to even go to the chippy shop without being surrounded by a dozen screaming kids who wanted to touch your clothes or get a bit of your hair. All of us hated it, not being able to go about our daily life without coming across people who wanted something from us, but you just had to deal with it. It was the price we thought we had to pay in the beginning to making it big in the business.”
“The first movie that you and the guys made, A Hard Day’s Night, was that kind of what your life was like during those early days?”
I laughed, reminded of the start of the film where John, George and Rings were running towards or Paddington Station, what seemed like a hundred fans hot on their heels. “It was a gross exaggeration of those days, but something like that.”
“Did you enjoy making the film?”
“Errr, it was a’right. It wasn’t great actin’ or anything like that, it was really just an exaggerated day in our hypothetical lives.” Remembering me and Paul in our fogey get ups brought a smile to my face. That and the old fella playing our grandfather taking it on hisself to call me his “naughty granddaughter” whenever the mood had hit him.
“Were the characters exaggerated version of each of you, do you think?”
“Yes and no. The fella who wrote the script for the film had only spent a few days with us, to I guess get an idea for what sort of people we were, but you know, it would’ve been impossible for him to know us. I s’ppose the way to look at it is that we all sort of had our individual roles to play in the group.” I concluded, remembering the light-hearted mother hen type person I was in the film. I assumed that Alun Owen had taken my very laissez-faire approach to what the others got up as light-heartedness and my telling whoever was ‘round to put the kettle on as being very mum-like.
“So looking back to when all of this was taking place, making that film, and then making Help a year later, how would you describe yourself during those days? What sort of person was ‘Liz McCartney’, the fifth Beatle?”
“Technically I am the fourth and Ringo’s the fifth.” I knew there was a twinkle in my eye when I said this; that had been one of those sibling-like contention points that had plagued my friendship with Richie since he’d been taken on to replace Pete. “I remember,” I crossed a leg over my knee and I tugged the sides of my sweater tightly together, rubbing the soft cashmere with the roughened pads of my thumbs (an inevitable by-product of playing various string instruments since I was knee high to a grasshopper), “the interview that John had with the editor of this magazine after the band broke up. He said that The Beatles were the biggest bastards in the world, and I think that’s a fairly accurate description of all of us to some regard. In those days when we hit it big, I knew that we were good, and I knew that I was a pretty good guitarist, though I was a better cellist. I wouldn’t say that I was a terribly nice person, because I wasn’t.”
“Why do you believe that you weren’t a very nice person during those days?”
“It wasn’t that I was horrible to people or anything; I had manners, but I wasn’t too good at putting up with bullshit like Paul was. That’s probably why I was one of the quieter ones during interviews, and why I guess I can find thinking about the image that was portrayed of me in the films was right amusin'; I knew that I’d leave during the middle of an interview if I felt I was being insulted, and the boys knew it.”
I still remembered the interview where I’d called the interviewer a wanker when he asked me straight up if I could make a pot roast as well as I played music. It hadn’t been the first time I’d been asked something like that, but the cheek of it had made me fly off my rocker. Knowing that whatever good humour I’ve might’ve had about it was running thin, Paul had cut in with a laugh for my benefit, “Liz is too shy and retirin’ to admit that she makes a mean pot roast, but aye, our girl’s quite good. Her jam butties are ace though!”
“Did it ever come to that?” The reporter asked with an amused chuckle.
“No, but I came close. Having other people there helped to deflect things off of me for a bit.” I was reminded of those dozens of interviews where I’d be exchanging funny sidelong looks with either Ringo or George, completely aware of how mad everything really was.
“So the relationship between all of you was good?”
“Oh yeah, it was great. I guess that’s just a naturally occurring thing when you’re working with the same people; we either took our instruments to the back of another’s heads, or we become good mates.” I was reminded of how it’d been with each of ‘em during those days…breaking into a fit of giggles with John while we’d been filming Help because we were both completely stoned and couldn’t remember our lines; having lunch with Ringo, Mo and baby Zak on warm Sunday afternoons at their house outside London and laughing like a loon when Rings would start flying his boy around in the air like he was an airplane; flying up to Liverpool with Paul to meet our Dad’s new fiancée Ang and her little girl Ruth, and Paul not raising a fuss when I cuddled up next to him to keep warm because his ability to radiate body heat had always been somethin’ I had envied of him from the time we were young and he, me, and Mike having to bundle up in one bed to keep warm in the winter if the radiator was out, with him in the middle; spending hours playing music with George while he’d be strumming away on an old acoustic and seeing as my Stradivarius was too heavy and too precious to mine heart to lug around, I’d join in on the violin if I was of mind.
Despite the shit that came years later, we’d enjoyed each other a lot in those years. I don’t think any of us could’ve denied that, even John at the height of his apathy towards me brother.
“To all of your fans’ benefit, I’m sure!” Nancy-the-reporter added. As if on cue, I heard the hum of the voice recorder stop, and then came the click of the tape inside. She’s been prepared and quickly replaced it with a new one. I had more tea while I waited. “In the close friendship that existed between the five of you, did you ever get the impression that the guys treated you differently than they did each other, other than the obvious thing about you being a woman?”
I think I surprised her when I shook my head. “No, not really. When I joined the band, with John for example, I was no longer one of those girls they could seriously think about or talk about in a sexual way. Yeah you’ll see old concert footage after we made it of John taking the mickey of me during a performance for hanging ‘round the back with Ringo, but by joining up I became what I can only call a lad with tits. There was no reason for him or for the others to watch their gobs with one of their own band mates, even if I was a girl.”
“Was that how it was with George, too? Was no romantic tension between you and George in those early days after the topic had come up and the band was making it big all over the world?” There it was again, the great pink elephant. One of ‘em more like it.
“It wasn’t something we talked about.” That was the simplest way to put it and the truest. He hadn’t brought it up again during those days, and it would’ve been the last thing he probably would’ve expected from me. Even then we’d understood each other well.
“But it was there?” She continued.
I sighed. “If what you’re asking is if there were feelings involved, then aye, there were feelings involved.” I admitted finally. “As I said, we were fond of each other, but when he asked that first time, the timing was shite. When I joined the band, I was serious about it. I’m a musician through and through; I’d wanted to be a cellist from the time I was seven and then somehow began playing the guitar and whatever other instruments were needed in a rock group. I wasn’t too fussed with the idea of stopping any of that, let alone for a bloke.” If the reporter had needed any further convincing that I’d never been a syrupy sweet young girl, I knew that I’d just cemented that for her.
“Do you think if you had taken George up on the offer in ’62 that you would have there as a member when the band took off?”
I stopped to consider this for a moment, having discussed that very thing with George when we finally had decided to give into what had appeared to be inevitable and then every few years during our marriage. “Probably not. There was no way it could have worked during those first few years – it could be a wee bit heavy at times being Paul’s younger sister, let alone, being Paul’s younger sister and then George’s girlfriend or something.”
“Like a conflict of interest?”
“I have to be confident enough in my talent as a musician to know that if I’d been terrible that I wouldn’t have been there when Brian saw us the first time or when he signed us, especially after he fired Pete and we replaced him with Ringo. No matter how great I might have been, if I’d taken up with George, there is no way in hell that I would not have been kicked out of the band; John wouldn’t have had it for one, and I doubt that Paul or Ringo would have been too keen on it either.”
“Do you think that it would’ve been like if John or Ringo had brought their wives on tour?”
“Partly, I guess. Being involved with each other would have brought domesticity too close to home for ‘em. You have to understand, from the time we began to get big in England and then it spreading throughout Europe, and then onto coming to America for the first time until the last tour, the five of us were together a lot. When we weren’t touring, we were recording, and then making films. If George and I had started anything it would have added a lot of unnecessary pressure. ’62 to ’66 were a whirlwind; I can’t really remember too many specific dates during those years because so fucking much was going on.”
“Since you had decided to not pursue anything with George then, were there any special guys in your life?”
“Err, aye, there were a few, but not many that I feel comfortable divulging!” I chuckled, remembering the men that I’d had in my life during those early years. I remembered my first date with Brian Jones from the Stones – he really had been a lovely guy but I was grateful that I’d cut things off with him before the drugs took over. It would have been devastating for me to have been Anita when he’d died. I remembered the sweet pianist from the Royal Philharmonic that I’d dated for a few months while we were making Rubber Soul. He’d fancied me rotten but while I’d liked him very much and had enjoyed the hours we’d spent snogging at his flat, I was I guess a little too good at not taking what we had too seriously. That had been one of the things he’d yelled at me as he’d stormed out of my flat when we finally called it quits – Why can’t you be a normal bird, eh?
I would not tell this reporter about the men that I’d slept with in the early years after bumming a few months’ worth or birth control from Cyn, how I’d gotten off with lads who I’d liked but had not wanted anything from other than a few laughs and a relatively easy time of it. I would not tell her that in ‘65 during one of the many parties that the lads and I would have in our suite in whatever hotel we were in while we were on tour, that I had been in the process of a pleasurable snogging session with a boy whose name I don’t remember and how I’d caught George’s eye from across the room.
A blonde bird had been perched on his lap, pressing kisses along the line of his jaw. I had watched both of his hands tighten on her hips as she kissed the side of his neck. I wouldn’t tell this reporter that my heart had given a weird tug as I watched this, telling myself that I should know better than to give a fuck about what George was doing, or who he was doing it with. We were mates was all, had fallen back into the comfortable pattern of being friends and band mates who could sit around playing music together for hours on end, have a laugh, a drink, a dance, a joint when we got into pot together and whatnot, within a few weeks of his bring it up years ago; I also knew that he’d gotten off with many, many girls along the way.
That time though, I had felt his eyes burn a hole through my forehead and I knew that I wasn’t makin’ anything up when I saw the frown that came over his face and how his eyebrows furrowed. I don’t know how long George and I’d looked at each other but he was the one to break eye contact and without looking at me again, moved the girl on his lap off of him before he’d stood, pulled her up and swung an arm over her shoulder and probably led her off to another room to get a blow job.
George and I wouldn’t talk about what happened that night for almost a year. As expected, the next day we went along like normal, even were able to rip into songs together like we usually did during our performances, volleying different chord patterns while either John and Paul took the lead vocal. His smile had been feigned, not as easy as it usually was, later when I’d taken my violin from one of the stage hands – Paul had been due to perform 'Yesterday' and as the only other person performing during it, the others had kipped off for a cigarette or two.
“There weren’t any juicy affairs that you’d like to tell us about?” She was a right cheeky dolly, this one was. I smiled at the reporter, and you guessed it, had more tea. Quite a tea drinker I am, I drink it by the barrel seems like.
“A woman my age has her memories to keep her company in her old age.” I didn’t know how my four kids would react to hearing all about their mother’s escapades during the sixties. Knowing that their Dad and I had smoked enough pot in the early days to equal Cuba’s GNP had been enough for them. “But yes, in answer to your question, there were a few affairs, but nothing serious. I wouldn’t have allowed it then, I think. I know it sounds unromantic, but at the end of the day, I don’t regret tellin’ George that I’d rather not when he first brought it up, because being the people that we both were when it first came up, it would have imploded horribly. The music we were making would’ve suffered, and when I was nineteen and twenty, nothing was more important to me than making music. The last thing I wanted was to fall in love, set up house, have babies. I don’t think George held it against me really.”
I knew that the reporter had wanted an opening to return to the topic of my beginnings with George and so I’d given it to her because I knew that we’d keep going in circles otherwise. “So when did things finally change with you both?”
I answered after a minute and more tea, “A month before the end of our last American tour. The tour in ’66 was horrible,” my eyes shut tightly as I gave a quick shake of my head in frustration, “we were miserable for most of it. If it had been up to us, we wouldna done it, straight up, but there was a lot of money tied up in the shows and so our hands were tied. As the other lads have said in interviews over the past few decades, the enjoyment of it was gone for the most part. We couldn’t perform barely any of Revolver on stage, we’d been using a lot more sophisticated stuff than on our previous LPs, and even if we had been able to, there was no reason for it – our concerts were just throngs of screaming girls – which you can imagine I had to get used to. It’s so weird to have what feels like a million young girls screaming every single time you, a girl, come on stage. There’d been that entire Philippines thing and earlier that summer, the entire thing with John and that “bigger than Jesus” nonsense happened and it just made it even more unbearable. We were fed up, simple as that.
I think we were spending a few days in New York before heading west to L.A. I remember that I was reading the paper when George came up and sat next to me and just looked at me and said, ‘Liz, I think it’s time that we give us a go. No reason not to anymore’. I’d ended a brief fling with an old boyfriend a few weeks prior and wasn’t in a rush to find anyone else, but any reluctance that I might’ve had at the beginning, wasn’t valid anymore.”
“You were in love with him.” The reporter said quietly, finally getting out of me what I knew she’d wanted all along.
I nodded, having difficulty putting together a proper response that could convey what I was truly feeling. I remembered how nice I’d thought he had looked that morning; he’d been wearing an old pair of blue jeans and an Indian type caftan that he’d gotten as a gift from Ravi Shankar. When he’d sat next to me on the sofa, I had thought nothing of it, quickly skimming the day’s edition of the London Times since I wanted to keep up with news from back home. I’d been a bit taken aback when I’d looked up and caught him looking at me, a soft sort of tender look in his eyes that had made the blood run like molten honey through my veins. It wasn’t the sort of look that I had thought I’d ever see in his eyes, and then he’d laid it out: quickly and matter-of-factly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Ever since I had seen him again during my first visit to Hamburg, I’d thought that he had such lovely eyes, ‘tho they could be unnerving at times. Allow us the chance to be a waffly old woman here. Anyone who has ever based their impression of George off of those two films we made could never fully appreciate the life that simmered in him. True, he could be silly and good-natured, giving as good as he got, but he when he looked at you, really looked at you, it made you feel like he could see all the way to your insides and that that was more than ok. That morning I remembered that he’d looked at me that very same way…but still so uncertain of what I’d say to that, and though I knew I was nowhere near as gifted with a glib tongue like Paulie or John thought themselves to be, I’d felt like sunshine was burstin’ to leave everyone of my fingertips and my heart was poundin’ like I’d just run a race. He’d been so shocked when after a brief pause that felt like forever I’d reached over to touch his face and then just kissed him.
To be continued.
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