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The Beatles and Me On Tour Paperback – June 15, 2014
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About the Author
London born Ivor Davis was the only national daily newspaper correspondent to travel with the Beatles on their first 1964 American concert tour from start to finish. He has written widely about movies, murder and medicine for the London Daily Express, The Times of London, The New York Times Syndicate, and Los Angeles Magazine for over four decades. He can be reached at IvorDavisBeatles.com
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Top customer reviews
Davis uses the story of the opening tour that took the Beatles from the Cow Palace in San Francisco to the Paramount Theater in New York - with big loops in between through Canada and down to New Orleans and Jacksonville - as a matrix to tell pretty much the whole story of the Beatles. For instance, Beatles manager Brian Epstein's dependence on prescription drugs, his sensitivity about his homosexuality, and his ambivalence about his Jewishness are all in evidence in episodes from the tour, and these are depicted well by Davis in his straight ahead, take-no-prisoners, call 'em as you saw 'em journalistic style. Epstein, for instance, asked Davis to arrange a ticket for him to Yom Kippur services in New Orleans. Davis did so, but then Epstein failed to show. Then Davis, in the book, delves deeply into his own library of over 300 books on the Beatles plus other sources, to fill in the rest of the story of Epstein's downward spiral to suicide.
Not that there's any shortage of interesting little factoids from the Beatles early days in the US. This reader, for instance, didn't know Ed Sullivan had never heard the Beatles sing before they performed on his show. (He had however, heard the shrieking of a mob of teenage girls who were welcoming the Beatles at Heathrow Airport, and that was apparently good enough for him.) Nor did I know (though many more serious fans probably do) that Capitol Records didn't even release the first Beatles record it had the rights to because an executive didn't think the Beatles had what it took to sell records in America. Indeed, one of the interesting aspects of the book is the fact that no one at the time really understood that the Beatles were to become legends in their own time. John Lennon thought their period of popularity might last four years. Ringo Starr was planning to open a hair dressing shop when fame faded. Davis, then a brash young ex-pat British journalist in his mid-20s who had more or less talked his way into a job as the bureau chief of the London Daily Express' (one-man) "West Coast Bureau," admits he had no idea what lay ahead for the Beatles. (Davis himself has an interesting story to tell in the epilogue. He left his job as a PR guy for a chain of lower-priced vacation resorts in England - having decided to become a Hollywood reporter - and arrived in the US with a suitcase and $100. He knew very little about the Beatles when he was assigned to join their entourage as a permanent traveling member.)
Sorting out what the Beatles' appeal was (and remains) is as challenging for Davis as it has been down through the years to other chroniclers. To many back then it just seemed like refried American rock `n' roll. However, Davis makes it very clear that it was NOT the music they played in the stadiums and arenas on the tour that set the world afire -- because no one could hear it. Not only was the shrieking of the teenage virgins earsplitting from start to finish - drowning out most of the music - but the sound systems in the venues were uniformly horrid, something the Beatles constantly complained about. They couldn't even hear themselves. Ringo Starr, on at least one occasion, had to lip read the singers to figure out which song they were playing.
He really should have known. The Beatles played the same 12-song, 27-minute set at every concert, always concluding with ¨Long, Tall Sally," at which point Davis and the other members of the traveling party would leave their front row seats, slog through the gooey detritus of melting jelly beans flung by the bushel at the musicians during the concert, in an effort to get out ahead of the stampede. The Beatles themselves often made their escape in an ambulance, siren shrieking, lights flashing. One of the Beatles finally puts the beam of an insight on all that is happening: The fans didn't come to hear them sing; they came just to see them. It was more of a pilgrimage than a cultural experience. Its meaning more than snappy melodies or catchy lyrics. A joyous release, perhaps, from the tragedy of the contemporaneous Kennedy assassination.
Davis also displays a real gift as an anecdotist. One of my favorites is an exchange between an actor and Zsa Zsa Gabor at a Hollywood celebrity party. The actor asked Zsa Zsa if the Beatles were going to sing. ¨Do they sing?" Zsa Zsa asked, her grip on events on popular culture apparently slipping badly. And Davis doesn't skimp on the sex and drugs and booze, and believes he has added some clarification to previous accounts of how Bob Dylan introduced the Britishers to marijuana (subsequently a staple of their medication diet). But he doesn't dwell on the seamier episodes. For example, he tells about the mother who was paid $10,000 to keep her mouth shut about the (consensual, not to say eager) attendance of her daughters at a party in the Beatles Las Vegas suite, but doesn't get into what exactly the sisters were up to at the party. He alludes to the goings-on indirectly, in more well told anecdotes. On one memorable "morning after," for instance, Davis asked Ringo why he looked so melancholy and glum. The drummer, grimacing visibly, explained in clear, earthy language that it's because of the acute soreness of his sexual member.
All in all, "The Beatles and Me On Tour" is a rollicking recounting of a world gone mad - all except for a small island of intermittent quasi-sanity that existed from time to time on the floor of hotels occupied by the Beatles and their traveling party -- including Ivor Davis.
As I am sure Mr. Davis knows, there just isn't much out there that hasn't already been uncovered.
Congrats on sticking to your principles, sir.