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Interview with Derek Taylor [Part 1 of 4]

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Interview with Derek Taylor [Part 1 of 4]
Topics
Taylor, Derek, 1932-1997, Rock and Roll, Journalist, Beatles
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:
Taylor:
Liverpool in the... Liverpool really ever since I can remember, but anyway in the '50s and '60s was always a place where people were potentially in show business, knew someone who was, would like to be, had been but were now doing something else and there was a general recreational feeling in the air at all times. It didn't... it wasn't just holiday times and weekends and ah, … McCartney, or Paul or... or George or Ringo and John, there was always music in the background there, there was either sing songs at home and... and John's mother had a ukulele. Paul's father had a jazz band. George used to go to lots of family do's where there was singing and Ringo's parents liked to party. All of this on a modest scale, because they were not wealthy people. There were two… there were two good theaters in the town. Three good theaters, two musicals, a repertory theater where people like Rex Harrison would be... put a few years in there, not just passing through but really from here. Many cinemas, acts on BBC radio playing all kinds of music and generally speaking, it's the sort of place where if you didn't get involved in show business, there was something wrong with you. Everyone I knew went to the theater, went to concerts, went to plays or played the Joanna, the trumpet or... so it was not surprising to me that this thing happened here. What was surprising to me was the extent to which this thing spread around the world because it was essentially a local feeling we had. It was... this was a Liverpool... it wasn't... that it was an insular place and inward looking place, but it was... something that went on around here. I don't think the world knew what a wonderful place Liverpool was. Though they knew... they knew a lot of famous people in Liverpool without knowing they were from here, because it wasn't a fashionable place to come from. It's always been a great place. It is tonight as we sit here and it... it would be difficult to say otherwise and come back. We are a proud people.

Interviewer:
Did the seaport play in your role in....
Taylor:
Well the seaport, all seaports in Britain whether it's Glasgow or Newcastle or... or Liverpool, any of the seaports, I've got this kind of knock about, beggar and the Lord will provide feeling about it. Indeed it's... it's just as well because they're all in the … one way or another now, but jobs... but there was the... I think there's always been a myth that sailors brought in records in their knapsacks as if you could … in the local shops. I think that maybe some songs did come in with the sailors and maybe they did whistle some of the things in the streets in sharp ears because... but I think that there was just generally this feeling here that you know, it was not beyond the pale to want to go and live in New York and it was said, you know, fellows would walk down Church Street and say, I'll be in New York next week. Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn't because it was a very great international city when I was growing up. It still had liners and... and big shipyard at Birkenhead, quite a place.
Interviewer:
Were there…?
Taylor:
Yes there were... there were tough parts. The docks were said to be quite tough, but there were pubs you didn't go into if you were a respectable... but um, I never felt a sense of danger in Liverpool. I think there was... there was always a risk if you looked at anyone too long. There was always that kind of a ... Who you looking at, you know, so nobody, certainly not you. And I felt that it was a place where you could be... you could be a dandy, you could be bold, you could be... I think anything except pretentious. You could show off, people do show off here and I find it very enjoyable. I find somehow that I can breathe more easily here and I know these people. These are my people sort of feeling. I mean, don't change. And they do... they do change of course, everybody changes. But they don't... they're... they have still got that regional feeling. I still feel and know I'm in Liverpool. Haven't got drawn into what Eric Idle calls the Southernizing of England. Not part of any London combination and you have to go a long way from London really to... to throw that feeling off. So, it's right and fitting that the Beatles came from Liverpool. If they hadn't, I wouldn't have got involved. It wouldn't have interested me. And they wouldn't have... hired me ...
Interviewer:
Can you talk about I guess the driving forces behind Brian Epstein. Was he a man searching of destiny?
Taylor:
Brian Epstein was like all people who turn out to be of interest, someone who was of interest to himself. I hear this a lot now. There's a feeling of I am different. Nobody knows I'm different. Or they may know, but they don't know how different and they don't know what this thing is that's driving me because I can't... this is... these are charges … which I understand having got two children of my own and having had these mad thoughts myself that you know, I've got to get out there and do something. I don't know what it is, but it's got to be interesting. So he had those thoughts and went to RADA, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to be an actor. Didn't like it. Didn't like mixing with actors terribly, but he liked mixing with famous people and he liked... he impersonated an officer when he was in the army. Got into trouble for it. Something Peter Sellers used to do too. So you can say he lived in a kind of a dream world at which a lot of us do when we're... Ringo would say, they went to... when he went to a pirate film, he came out a pirate. Not everyone does. Some people can go to pirate films and come out the same. … went in. They just saw a pirate film and didn't touch them. So in a sense, Brian was loitering with intent to become a somebody and he happened upon these people and after he died, I remember McCartney saying, you know, he didn't discover us, we discovered him and there's something in that. Now you couldn't have told Brian Epstein...
So....
We have to place Brian Epstein in context with 1961, two because by then he was due to be incorrectly his father's son taking over the local record shop and he eventually he would have done the... I think he had a furniture shop in … where I was brought up and he was a good son to his father, one of two and it would have had to be something that had real potential and was really exciting to get him away from this because he... he was a dutiful son in a good Jewish mercantile family in Liverpool. The interesting thing it the Beatles were obviously this thing and were some firmly in his mind going to make it that he just, you know, burned his nets and came ashore and … a different metaphor now, but anyway, it was whatever brought us to this room today, got him out of the record shop and on the trail to get them to signed to a label.
Interviewer:
Did he have a personal vision for the band that was going to propel them or was …?
Taylor:
Yes he did. He had... what he had a... his vision for the band was the same as theirs, that they should become enormously successful and popular and realize their potential, which was exactly the same aim they had themselves. They hadn't been able to put the presentation together sufficiently to go national as it were, but wherever they'd been, they'd always been a knockout. I mean, he was not involved with them in Hamburg when they were pulling in enormous crowds at the time. All they needed was what all interesting people need, they just need some time to emerge and... but they hadn't quite crystalized the... they hadn't got it together. The phrase was not known then, but that is what they hadn't done. They... he got it together. Enough class and pizzazz himself and kind of presence to convince these maverick people that he was worth trusting…
We're talking about Brian Epstein. So he was able to... he had enough... he also had money and this will be said by them. He had a good car. He had a Zephyr Zodiac and that meant he could give them lifts to ... It was something then to know someone who could give you lifts. So all these things, you have to put them in the part of the time. Not everyone had a car. Not everyone had nice suits. Not everyone had few fivers in their back pocket and Brian had all of these things and also he was an extremely appealing kind of a bloke and crucial in my opinion to this story and so he … then he's in and until death separated them, it was a terrific arrangement through it all.
We're talking about the... it's called the Apollo … now, I believe, but it was the ABC … then and I just... it was one of the greatest cinema … of the second big, it ought to be the second big tour, but it was the second big Manchester visit anyway and I was there, now I really knew I was there. I was there, sort of a wild curiosity in May in the Odeon but by whenever it was, October, November, the mania had really taken a hold and this is when I first met them. I hadn't met them before because I didn't like going backstage and being a pest and doing... that's really like something to do but this time they were presented to us in a kind of a green room situation to a huge number of journalists and they moved among us extremely smoothly and was not then, I think it became a bit of a bore later, it was already a bit of a strain, but I was really interested to see how they handled themselves and can't, oh I had met them, gosh. I met them in Southport, which you know, ... We may have to cut in, but I'd met them in Southport without ah without an invitation, that's right. I had to burst into the dressing room in Southport to get a quote from... it was supposed to be betraying their fans. This is an old horror story by appearing for the Queen, Queen Mother and the Royal show at the Daily Express certainly … said go and get these buggers, they're letting their fans down and they're selling out. They're doing the establishment all this stuff. Get them to admit that and say yes, we know, we know, we've had it. You know, it's all over and so this is my brief, and I didn't want to do that because I thought they were wonderful. So, I had met them and I got Ringo and... and said, what do you think about the Royal show and he said, well I want to play me drums for the Queen Mother so... I had a quote. We were all there. All the press were there … to some... trying to get some story or other. It was not necessarily nasty, but was... had an awkward aspect. The usual stuff. But by November whenever they came to the ABC, I was committed to these people and there was a big press reception backstage and they behaved extremely well, three foolish things mugging and pointing at each other and all that stuff that pop stars were supposed to do and you know, face it and pull each other's hair and so on.
Interviewer:
They didn't invent all that?
Taylor:
Well they invented the witty quips, yes. And they invented, they were anyway interesting people. They... they remain interesting I noticed... some years later we're still talking about them and... and why not. And I remember Paul, that's how I remember Paul saying oh, in that way he had, oh, I thought he remembers Southport, what can he remember? I hope he thinks I'm alright because I knew that I was well motivated but I didn't necessarily expect them to agree yet. So...
Interviewer:
Can you discuss the performance for us.
Taylor:
Oh, the performance was just the usual piece of sheer brilliance. They looked good. Had wonderful clothes on. They by now had complete command of the stage as singers of hits and all that stuff in Hamburg had taught them how to really address an audience with I thought, total fearlessness. They had... I don't want to be corny, but they had an enormous maturity, which although they were very young, looking back I can see how unbelievably young, George was only 20 when I first saw him, but only just stopped being 19. I have... I have a daughter of 26 that I think as a baby so, I would hate her to have to go through what they went through and it was a marvelous show and they were top... top of their game. "She Loves You" had been a hit. Massive. Still number one no doubt and I was an un... unashamed, unafraid Beatlemaniac. I knew that in some way, I got to get a suck into this. I don't think I was then going to write George's column for the Daily Express or help him write it. Maybe I was. But I knew that he was the... probably the one I would like to work with for easy communication because then as now, he had a very patient and interested way of dealing with people one on one. They were excellent up close as they were on stage.
Interviewer:
What was the audience... some of the footage looks like it's all girls. Was that an accurate...
Taylor:
Well pretty well. They were the ones that you could hear, but there were a lot of boys in the audience too. There were boyfriends of girlfriends. They always had and have more than ever now, a male following. People who don't feel threatened, the males who don't feel threatened by these chaps. Now it tends to be, I mean potentially the male following now is American males of a certain age who grew up with the music.
Interviewer:
And the...
Taylor:
Then, I mean it would be... there were screaming... screaming fans. So they were mainly girls. So whatever you see in the footage, you... you'll see. And hails of jelly beans babies. Jelly babies. Made of a softer material than the jellybean. But hailing down on them. And I was so unimaginative as a fan in the audience that I couldn't imagine that this would be painful or in any way difficult trying to play to all this screaming and I didn't know about the fact they had their monitors and I didn't realize that there was a down side to this kind of thing. What I saw was theatrical triumph, which I'd always liked. I... I'd grown up with the idea that this heaven was to be loved by the world in a following spot. So this was it.
Interviewer:
What do you think the success in '63, the massive success in '63 meant in terms of English society for working class lads …?
Taylor:
Well in England, in England by the autumn of '63, they were much more than a pop group. They were now a major topic. George said later, they were on the front page of everybody's lives, which is a nice epithet isn't it and so they were. You could not have a conversation in a pub or anywhere without talking about the Beatles. Somehow they were... this was it. They were like the weather only much more constant. Much more easy... they were just it. They were... they were... it was... life was going to be good now because we have the Beatles. They were alive for all our sins. They could absorb it all and make life seem enormous fun. Even the miserable buggers and England has of them, quite like them. There were detractors, but they were very much a minority and nobody listened. See the politicians liked them and serious broadcasters quite liked them. At least we were interested in them and there was now giving their opinions on all kinds of things. Again Ringo said how could we have thought that what we said was that important. We all wanted to know what the Beatles thought about this. What did you... what is... and if they thought it then, this was worth considering. This was a new way of looking at things. How interesting. Yes. Yes. How... maybe so.
Interviewer:
Was there any significance to the class issue ….
Taylor:
Well yes. There were... the class issue was as usually simplified, four working class lads, four boys next door and it was... the class gradations are more subtle than that. I don't want to go into it because I get my most snobbish and whatnot, I get into class. I am a lower mill class, I say. My mother was a working class, my father's middle class. Put those two together you get, but well the first thing I... the first collective... the first paragraph I wrote trying to collectivize what I said was a gay quartet of grammar school boys. Not entirely true in two respects, they were not gay, you know in a contemporary sense, although it meant cheerful and they didn't all go to grammar school. Ringo didn't, but what I was trying to convey was, these are not urchins. These are human beings with a few O levels and they read books because I wanted to try and you know, place them in a subtler context. Their accents. There was a certain interchangeability, one couldn't come up with an answer there and another one would pick it up from there. The cues were never dropped. So, they were enchanting.
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