Meet the Beatles’ Reporter
An English journalist was a witness to musical history when he joined the Beatles on their first U.S. tour in 1964. Read an excerpt from "The Beatles and Me" by Ivor Davis.
The Beatles and Me
By Ivor Davis
It was 1964, and I was the slightly wet-behind-the-ears, twenty-six-year-old West Coast correspondent for one of the biggest newspapers, the London Daily Express—circulation four million daily.
Based in Los Angeles, I had arrived only six months earlier and contracted with David English, the paper’s foreign editor, to cover on a freelance basis, an assortment of major breaking news stories. I was the new Cockney kid on the Beverly Hills block who was beginning to live his dream of being a real foreign correspondent. Except I wouldn’t be covering significant “serious” news like that of my hero, Edward R. Murrow. My job was to chronicle the vagaries of Hollywood, which ranged from the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor to the divorces of Marlon Brando and Cary Grant.
My dogged reporting on actor Peter Sellers’ series of massive heart attacks after marrying the twenty-one-year-old Swedish actress Britt Ekland, as well as my other work on other assignments that dealt with varied British-tinged showbiz shenanigans, impressed David and, after a time, he hired me full time to be the Express man in Hollywood.
So it was in mid-August, 1964, when I received an unexpected call. English was on the line with my first big job: To cover, from start to finish, a hot British rock ’n’ roll group making its first concert tour of North America.
The Beatles had first set foot in America earlier in the year, with two live performances, and one pre-taped, on the country’s most popular variety hour, The Ed Sullivan Show. Their first appearance on February 9, had made them an instant sensation, drawing seventy-four million viewers and changing music history forever.
Now I was to witness the repercussions unfold in a twenty-four-city tour, staged over thirty-four days, to begin August 19, 1964, in San Francisco. But it was more than just a ticket to ride; I was not to become simply a front-row-center observer for every one of their sold-out concerts, but part of their entourage. The Beatles were in stretch limo Number 1, along with their manager Brian Epstein. I traveled in Number 2, along with the Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor and two other press reporters. We were flanked by wailing motorcycle escorts, whizzing through the seas of hysterical fans. On the Beatles’ private jet, we flew from California to Canada, Montreal to Milwaukee, New Orleans to New York.
I lived and ate with the boys. We had adjoining hotel rooms. I drank, kibitzed and played cards and Monopoly with them into the early hours of the morning, seamlessly integrated into their lives. In addition, I was given the job of ghostwriting a weekly newspaper column for the youngest Beatle, George Harrison. My access to them was unfettered—unheard of in today’s pop music world.
The access didn’t end when they returned to their homes across the pond. I was also alongside them part way the following summer, when they made their second U.S. tour.
I was there when they popped pills and talked candidly about their passions and the things and people that they disliked; when they told war stories; when they moaned about the lousy sound systems and the crappy merchandise sold at stadiums, about their fear of flying and about how they coped with the revolving door of women that was the inevitable result of their perch as global sex symbols.
I was there the night when a scandal in Las Vegas threatened to derail their tour and when the gorgeous Hollywood stars came knocking. I was a fly on the wall for their meet-and-greet with the King himself—Elvis Presley—and a wet towel away the night Bob Dylan introduced them to the joys of marijuana.
This book is my very personal invitation to travel back to the way they were, my vivid recollection of life back then, when communication was so much simpler, when John Lennon called people “twits”—and twitter was something only birds did.
It is my personal, inside tale of what happened on that first, weird and wonderful North American tour—of thirty-four manic and memorable days.
It was fifty years ago today.
And I was there.
Excerpted from The Beatles and Me by Ivor Davis. Reprinted with permission of publisher.