A Beatles Fantasia: John Lennon In Leather
September 25, 2016
A Beatles Fantasia:
John Lennon In Leather
R. E. Prindle
Dizzy Dez, a fellow Beatles researcher and internet friend, recently wrote a piece ( https://thenumbernineblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/taking-the-world-by-hurricane/ ) about the strange story of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Rory Storm led the most popular Liverpool band of the period. He was more important in Liverpool and Frankfurt than the Beatles. Yet, as Diz points out, when all the shouting was over and the dust had settled, the Beatles went unto worldwide fame pulling the best of the Liverpool bands after them, Rory Storm was left out in the cold. He never knew other than Liverpool success.
Just an inconsequential odd fact (except to Rory) that I found interesting but also significant. It was good of Diz to dig this story up, but then, Diz left me with a thought: What if the Beatles’ success had nothing to do with their talent; what if the only reason they found success was a fact that had nothing to do with their musical skills; what if their success depended on a queer’s fascination with one John Lennon?
Consider that Liverpool was an English backwater, a tough , gritty town with little sophistication and small hopes. If you have ever been in the Liverpool/Bristol area you really know what depression is. I was never so happy to leave an area since. I had become acquainted with a bottom surpassing Philadelphia and that is saying a lot.
So, in 1960-62 what you had was a city full of louts, what the English call Yobboes, desperately trying to find some distinction for their lives by playing in rock bands. In 1960 that was a desperate hope indeed. The hope was so desperate that the bands ended up playing before a bunch of rowdies and prostitutes, the underbelly of civilization, in Hamburg’s red light district on the Reeperbahn. Not the place for refined cultured manners. More like changing you from a lout or Yobbo into a super Yobbo. The indications are that the Beatles became very rough. What the homosexuals call ‘rough trade.’
In any event the Beatles went to Hamburg where they refined their rock n’ roll skills coming back to Liverpool to take their place in the hierarchy of Liverpool bands where they were a sensation although lower in the hierarchy than Rory Storm and his Hurricanes. Still in their locality and in their age and social set they were prominent.
Now, the local record store, NEMS, was managed for the family firm by a young homosexual Jew, Brian Epstein. At the time it was a punishable offence to public morals to be a homosexual so Brian Epstein was quite repressed. Raised on all the Jewish holocaust nonsense he felt like a powerless oppressed Jew. Therefore as a homosexual Jew he favored the rough trade.
Probably having heard the Beatles talked about along their outrageous leader John Lennon, dressed all in black leather, Brian made it down to the local rock emporium, the Cavern, to have a look.
What he saw made his dick throb. There on stage was God’s own Yobbo, John Lennon resplendent in his leather while projecting confidence and totally outrageous. Rough trade on a stick. Gimme dat ding. So, totally smitten Brian has to figure out a way to realize his dream.
It is clear that Brian wasn’t on the make to find a band to promote; for Christ’s sake he had a city full of rock bands to choose from including Liverpool’s number one, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and he made no effort to sign any. But, suppose he heard of Lennon’s desire to be the toppermost of the poppermost. Perhaps, Brian thought, I’m in the record business, I know execs at the London labels, perhaps if I gave John what he wants he would let me make him mine. Sounded good.
Now, let’s be clear, when Brian approached the London labels there was no interest in the Beatles or any other Liverpool band. There was no reason for any exec to ever even visit Liverpool and perhaps none ever had. Regardless of any talent, that had not yet been demonstrated, the Beatles were not going anywhere. The execs even considered the name stupid; what in the hell does beatle mean? Can’t even spell it right. Brian persisted and if he hadn’t the Beatles would never have had a shot at the bigtime. They would have disappeared the way they came in, unnoticed. The Beatles were going nowhere.
But, and this is the important fact here, Brian had a hard on for John. Bear this in mind, Brian had a tin ear, he could have cared less about the Beatles as a band; he had a hard on for John. And hopefully by making John the toppermost of the poppermost, and this meant only the small market of England, it was inconceivable that any band, let alone an English band, could become a worldwide phenomenon. Whatever happened next was totally serendipitous. Who could have dreamed of worldwide fame and hundreds of millions of dollars.
So Brian signed his Boys, as they say in the managerial parlance, and left for London to put them in a recording contract. Of course NEMS was a major account in the retail record world so Brian got a polite hearing but no real enthusiasm. Probably to get rid of a pest who wouldn’t quit he was allowed an audition. But this was only after making the rounds.
The Beatle’s ended up at EMI’s sub-label Parlophone and had George Martin assigned to them as a producer. While the Beatles had been all the rage on the Reeperbahn of ill fame and the backwater burg of Liverpool, what set the four aflame in those two locations was not so evident in the London recording studio. It was like someone from Poughkeepsie showing up on the Great White Way. George Martin found their musicianship flimsy but something apparently appealed to him about them. Everything about them was off, they still had the aroma of the Reeperbahn, but, the story goes, George was a technical wizard, so somewhat in the way David Seville created Alvin and the Chipmunks George’s wizardry created the Beatles. This is the legend.
The label thought they were hopeless so perhaps as a joke they allowed the Beatles to make ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ as a first record. And as with Alvin and the Chipmunks they probably viewed the disc as a novelty record; something along the lines of Mrs. Miller the off key virtuoso.
They were surprised when the record took off. No less surprised than I was when the record was a success in the US. Why the hell does anyone like that I wondered. But I and we were witnessing several seemingly unrelated things: First the song was the first true teenybopper, bubble gum song that soon inspired groups like the Ohio Express and the Lemon Pipers. ‘Yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy.’ Remember that inspired tune? A step up from, I Want To Hold Your Hand.
The social conditions were right for the Beatles innocent, probably tongue in cheek, song. The Fifties had been tense what with the Cold War and the Bomb and things were getting more tense. Nerves were frayed. Perhaps a return to innocent pleasures of the young were in order. At any rate after becoming the rage in England Brian had actually jockeyed the Beatles and John into the toppermost of the poppermost in that small sceptered island but after a terrific promo campaign in the US when their plane landed, they hit exactly the right insouciant note at the exact right psychological moment in time. You can’t plan this. Nobody, nobody, could have forecast that. Brian and the Beatle’s ship had come in.
John Lennon had realized his dream in a Spade Royal Flush. The Beatles, words fail me, were on top of the world. The planet’s first globally successful band. They were bigger than Jesus. Oops, when John said that all hell broke loose. Abashed, John announced they would tour no more. When it came to business sense John was lacking but he and the band were only musicians, a ‘hot little band’ as McCartney recently characterized them.
But what about Brian?’ What about Brians’s reward. He had little business sense too and hadn’t been working for the success that came or was prepared for it. Of course John and the rest knew Brian was a poof. Who didn’t except for those who chose not to see. Brian had always been attentive to John in that peculiar way, certainly that hadn’t escaped he leader of the band. He joked about how Brian and the whole record industry was Jewish and queer.
According to Peter Brown in his ‘The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story Of The Beatles’, Brian did get his reward. Brown says that Brian invited John on a holiday in Spain and there John gave him the reward he wanted.
What if the story of the Beatles success had nothing to do with their musicianship, their songwriting, their personalities or anything else but Brian Epstein getting a hard on for a bit of rough trade: John Lennon in leather.
Wouldn’t that make a fabulous movie? Wouldn’t that be as ironical as all get out? It might not be literally true but it can’t be too far from the truth. Forget about poor old Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, history’s forgotten band. Once again, what a movie.