Exhuming Bob 31c
Another Side Of Bob Dylan
It becomes clear at this point in Victor’s memoir, Chaps. 4 & 5, that he has such great admiration for the ‘genius’ of Dylan that he begins to meld his personality into Dylan’s person and persona. Being six years older and considering himself more worldly wise thus a guide to the younger more naïve Dylan he feels actually superior to Bob, or at least compensate for his felt inferiority. He thus becomes protective and paternalistic. Dylan must have found the attitude annoying.
In Chapter 4 that concerns Dylan’s 8/22/64 meeting with the Beatles in New York City, he actually does displace Dylan assuming his role.
This meeting is perhaps the most famous incident in rock and roll history. This ‘summit’ meeting arranged by the journalist Al Aronowitz of whom more below is when Dylan is said to have introduced the Beatles to marijuana. The below is Victor’s gloss on the story.
Victor’s relationship with Dylan has almost supernatural aspects. While he realizes that Bob has the gift and he doesn’t his admiration and perhaps envy is so great that as time goes by he seems to be melding his persona into Bob’s almost to the extent that he becomes an incubus attempting to inhabit Bob’s mind and body almost like an internal double.
Aronowitz arranged the meeting between Dylan and the Beatles but his account is truncated on the website. The Blacklisted Journalist offers only a teaser of the story referring you to his book Bob Dylan And The Beatles, now out of print. A used copy is costing me 75.00 and it had better be worth it. I will probably rewrite this section when I receive it; but for now Victor’s version and, really, this is Victor’s story.
This is a great moment for Victor and he does it justice in the telling. He borrowed Bob’s muse to write it. You should probably read Victor’s account for the full flavor. It will suffice here to show how Victor elbowed Bob out of the story.
His account begins with their arrival at the Delmonico Hotel where there is an immense crowd blocking the entire street and gathered beneath the windows of the Beatles’ suite. If you were checking in as a guest at that time it would have been one of the major events of your life, if the police had allowed you through to check in. The roar as Victor describes it begins as persistent white noise like the ocean surf as Dylan’s group approaches mounting in volume to a tremendous roar at the hotel door.
On the Beatles’ floor, which is sealed off, the glitterati being more privileged than the hoi polloi replicate the scene below as they crowd the hallway. PP&M, the Kingstons, everybody is there, everybody. Probably Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. It staggers the mind that four unknown musicians could create such an uproar. One imagines the glow of importance on Victor’s brow as he surpasses all the glitterati to enter the Beatle’s suite with Bob and Al. One of the chosen.
Introductions finished, the pot comes out. This is the first time the Beatles were to get high on pot although with a knowing wink Victor explains that they have smoked some inferior stuff before with little TCP content.
Bob undertakes to roll a joint but bungles the job. Now here’s were Victor takes over Bob’s role. He reaches over and takes the papers and weed from Bob’s hands. I would have fired him on the spot. Victor then rolls perfect numbers for all concerned. Bob takes a couple swigs from a bottle and then passes out on the floor. From that point on in Victor’s account he is the show; he has become Bob or Bob has become him. The Beatles are suitably impressed becoming Victor’s great friends.
For a brief moment Victor and Bob were one in Victor’s mind.
His account is a fully detailed extended account well worth reading. I will compare it later with that of Aronowitz.
Aronowitz himself was a journalist, the music and entertainment reviewer with the New York Post. He seems to have had Victor’s need to become those he reviewed. He had a long and illustrious career breaking Billie Holliday among others in music and the movies as he says. When the Beatles landed, recognizing the next big thing he moved in on rock and roll. Being able to deliver Dylan to the Beatles was his big coup hopefully establishing him with the two biggest pop acts ever.
After the Beatles-Dylan encounter however his career went into decline. As he says on the Blacklisted Journalist neither Bob nor Victor would talk to him anymore. It seems as though the whole rock world rejected him. Perhaps he appeared to be an opportunist from another era or generation and wasn’t wanted. And then he did something to cause him to be blacklisted as a journalist.
Chapter 5 concerns Bob, Victor, Paul Clayton and Pete Karman’s cross country tour from New York, down through the South and out to San Francisco.
Victor gives a very nice sketch of Paul Clayton one of the premier folk musicians and musicologists of the period. I will highlight the visit to Carl Sandburg here as Victor gives the fullest and best account that I have read.
Carl Sandburg was of course the Chicago poet- Chicago, Hog butcher to the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads…city of big shoulders, etc. etc. as well as the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Abraham Lincoln. Also he was the compiler of the American Song Book, published in 1927, a collection of songs roughly from the turn of the twentieth century that contains nearly the whole of the sixties’ repertoire- Midnight Special, Stack-o-lee, alternate versions of St. James Infirmary, Nearly everything that has been attributed to Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter. I think most people think Ledbetter wrote The Midnight Special. I did until acquiring a copy of the Son Book at an estate sale. Apparently he must have had an early copy of the Song Book.
Bob says that he wanted to talk to Carl about the collection.
Victor gives the fullest and best account of the encounter. Bearing in mind that this gang of four burst upon the Sandburg’s unannounced they sprang on the Sandburgs’ like a summer squall. Mrs. Sandburg who was sitting on her porch greeted them graciously going in to get her husband. Remember this is 1964 and this rag tag bunch with wild hair, manners disordered by drugs, sort of exploded from the car onto the lawn. Perhaps Mrs. Sandburg was terrified.
Sandburg himself being an old trooper from the hog butchering capitol of the world rose to meet the challenge. According to Victor Sandburg spent an hour with them. In this scene Victor hung back while the bumptious Pete Karman shouldered Bob aside trying to monopolize Sandburg.
Sandburg, pushing ninety, tired, excused himself and returned to his nap or whatever, perhaps practicing banjo licks.
Victor’s account clarified this situation that has always puzzled me. Sounds about right.
Victor gives a good account of Bob in New Orleans and the trip West through Colorado to San Francisco.
Altogether two very worthwhile chapters. Good enough for general reading in my opinion.
Exhuming Bob 3d follows.
June 30, 2014
1964- The Beatles Have Landed
The mystery of the Sixties explosion is a troubling one. Why would a simplistic musical group touch off the post-war changing of the guard and why at that time? How could a mere recording group of four very young men have such a profound effect on culture for, really, the century?
The detonators of the Sixties bomb came from a narrow time span of two or three years on either side of 1942-43. And they happened in England. The fuse was in that country while the explosion took place in the United States.
The English age cohort born in the center of the world war missed the war but grew up in the privations of 1945 to 1954 and the slow recovery of the fifties. This had a profound effect on their psyches.
The extreme Cold War tensions of the period from 1945 to 1960 also had their effect. The ending of the draft or what the English called National Service in 1960 meant that those born in ‘42 and ‘43 were relieved of duty. The could get on with their lives.
In the US the use of the Atomic Bomb against ‘the little yellow people’ of Japan had a racially devastating effect. Never mind that the Japanese started the war with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The big bad White Americans had used the ultimate weapon against the defenseless little colored people. It wasn’t an act of war; it has been characterized as racist.
Then in 1949 the Soviet Union got the Bomb. This fact alone touched off a low grade hysteria. Americans were in panic mode for the next ten years. School kids were taught to get under their desks and cover their heads as though that were some sort of defense against atomic annihilation. Imagine the lesson that entered their minds. Everyone’s nerves were quivering constantly. The great panic, the persistent latent hysteria was epitomized by the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. By some strange trick of memory I am convinced I saw the movie in 1958 when I was in the Navy. I can ‘remember’ the guys I saw it with and I have to convince myself that imdB isn’t wrong.
And then one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the United States hit: John F. Kennedy was elected president. Three years of torture followed. Three long years of sitting on the edge of our chairs wondering not if but when the idiot was going to pull the plug. His assassination was almost guaranteed the day he was elected.
Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Just Like Him
Like some few others I have wondered if the extraordinary success of the blasting cap of the explosion, that is the Beatles, wasn’t some sort of conspiracy. I just couldn’t figure out how such an amazing thing as four dips from Liverpool England could become earth shakers without plotters involved somewhere and making it happen. Then after writing my essay The Beatles: An Attempt To Explain The Paul Is Dead Controversy an explanation occurred to me.
The Beatles were the perfect storm caused by the tense nerve wracking eighteen years from 1955. People were wound too tight and needed release.
All of the storm elements were there waiting to come together. They didn’t have to but if one or two was missing the Beatles would never have happened. It has been said that in life there is a tide that if caught ensures success but if missed all fails. The Beatles caught that tide and rode it before imploding in the late Sixties.
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were the right age, complementing each other perfectly. Jettisoning Best and Sutcliffe, then replacing Best with Starr was a master move. Ringo did not clash with the front line.
Then the war had created a situation in Hamburg Germany that provided a tough, hard proving ground for aspiring British bands. The Beatles learned to play and please a diverse audience.
Returning to England without direction or management that might lead to a career the perfect manager in the form of Brian Epstein appeared. He himself knew nothing of managing bands but perhaps believing he had a tiger by the tail he threw himself into it battering down the doors until a reluctant EMI sent the group over to their perfect producer who knew what to do with them- George Martin.
Epstein got them touring and the public liked their records. They were a phenom in England but England is a small place. Of course no one realized that Lennon and McCartney would be the greatest song writing team of the century, who could have predicted it? No one could have planned that. The question for Epstein was how to capitalize the English fame.
The final element of the storm fell into place. Epstein booked the band for a Swedish tour. While the girls were storming the boys at the Swedish airport an amazed American TV producer who happened to be in Sweden at that airport watched in amazement. Always on the qui vive for an astonishing new act Ed Sullivan walked over to chat up the boys. He liked what he saw and booked the band for the beginning of 1964. How probable was that?
How probable was it that Kennedy would be assassinated toward the end of 1963 to validate their arrival?
Ed was convinced but in the US if we had heard of the Beatles it was with a shrugged, so what. Big in England? Who cared? The closest the English had come to rock was Tommy Steele and what a laugh he was. Not that funny though. No need for a repeat.
Actually the Beatles had been offered around the US record companies with no takers other than the small obscure VeeJay label. In 1963 the JV record had disappeared without a trace. Nothing there was there? I didn’t think so. I Want To Hold Your Hand? Right. Some sexual revolution, hey?
Ed Sullivan was a master showman no doubt about that. Plus he remembered the sensational ratings Elvis had given him. When the news of the Sullivan booking reached EMI they notified their US subsidiary Capitol Records. Capitol tried to retrieve the VJ recordings but failing that they just rode over them.
Now the big promotion began: The Beatles Are Coming, The Beatles Are Coming. Well, OK, we’re waiting. The big 707 jet plane was still new. There weren’t even docking facilities yet, the plane just parked out on the tarmac and passengers debarked down stairs walking to the terminal.
It is said that Capitol recruited a bunch of girls for the arrival and set them screaming. Probably so. Some genius got the TV cameras to record the Beatles’ arrival on what must have been a slow news day. No English band had ever made it in the US. Even the Rolling Stones arriving a few months after the Beatles flopped on their tour.
The Beatles apparently expected nothing but were greeted by batteries of newsmen with microphones and a thousand screaming girls. Hey ho! Welcome to America boys. You can see the bewildered, amazed, bemused expressions on their faces. Very cool. Just the right effect. Even if you didn’t like their music, it failed to impress me, you did like John, Paul and Ringo, George not so much. General nods of approval next morning.
And the screaming girls on the Sullivan show! What the hell was going on? Who’d ever seen that before? Something was happening here but we didn’t know what it was, did we? And so history was made. The tide was rolling in. the Beatles became the cynosure of the world. The first world wide band. This particular transition to a new world was made. But why?
I think that when Kennedy was assassinated it broke the continuity between the post-WWII world and the new. After Kennedy’s death there was a sort of void, a period of dithering. Quo vadis?
When the Beatles landed it broke the spell, released the pent up hysteria of eighteen years that spilled out all over the Sixties. The tide came in and washed our sins away.
It need never have happened but it could and did. The perfect storm raged. All the elements of the storm had come together in the proper order.
A precursor storm may have been the Twist phenomenon but most of the elements were missing for it to release the pent up emotions although a part of the hysteria yearning for release flashed through.
While the notion of a conspiracy is attractive, we all love a good conspiracy, perhaps even desirable, I don’t think it’s there. It was just the possible that coagulated and happened. No one was prepared it was all improvisation after the Sullivan show.
Resolving The Paul Is Dead Controversy
Sometime around or after the death of Tara Browne in an automobile accident in 1966 the rumor that Paul McCartney of the Beatles had died being replaced by a double began to circulate. The rumor itself, of course, is a fact that has been a center of controversy since 1966 although it didn‘t bloom in full until 1969 when a Detroit DJ spread the rumor through the colleges via UofM.
For my part I dismiss the notion that Paul did die and can find no solid evidence that the post-accident Paul is a double. Still the rumor calls for explanation especially in connection with the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s that depicts the demise of the whole group while it is reborn as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The reborn group is surrounded by the pictures of, one presumes, the lonely hearts.
I can’t say that I have the solution for the rumor to be sure. What I offer here is a plausible explanation based on an interpretation of the social situation created by the phenomenal success of the Beatles. That success was too great a burden for the band members to bear. If anything caused the breakup of the band that overwhelming success was a principal cause. The success far exceeded the capability of any one of the members, in other words the whole was greater than its parts. But, to recreate the environment to some extent let us consider the members of the whole entourage.
At the base we find, I think, the notorious London criminals the Kray Twins,. Ronnie and Reggie. Their gang that they called The Firm terrorized the London of the Sixties.
The Kray twins were born in 1933 making them seven to twelve during the war years. They experienced all the bombing and hardship of the war years as well as the post-war deprivation of rationing through 1954. They came from London’s East End rising through the crime ranks in the fifties to finally come into their own from 1960 to 1968. A short reign but one that coincided with the golden age of English rock and roll. The rockers were born mainly in 1942-43 making them nine or ten years younger than the Krays but still close enough in age. The rockers missed the war but faced the deprivations of the post-war years. These were character forming years for both the Krays and the rockers, primarily for us the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The Krays were heavy handed protection racketeers moving into gambling. They, especially Ronnie, were enamored of the NYC and Philadelphia Mafia families. The Mafia families had many singers and performers under their control most notably at this time Judy Garland. When Garland performed in England the Mafia used the Krays for protection. Thus the Krays got used to associating with certain celebrities which they found exhilarating.
It was suggested to Ronnie by the Mafia that the Krays suborn English acts much as the Mafia had done with the US performers. For a good visualization of the process the 1958 film The Girl Can’t Help It is an accurate fictionalized account. The movie even features a couple of Mafia groups such as Teddy Randazzo And The Gumdrops. Right! We’d never heard of them either. Even the Mafia couldn’t promote them to fame.
Who better for the Krays to begin to build their stable than the premier English group, the Beatles?
The front line protecting the performers is always their management. The groups or singers themselves are artists not businessmen. As artists their concern is their art. They have to concentrate on their art to be successful. To realize the benefits of their art is a business. Hence managers who are businessmen enter in. The artists must trust the businessmen who are nearly all crooks so the artists were born to be fleeced. In the case of the Beatles producing all those millions and millions, they were a manager’s dream. Plus the hangers on.
Enter Brian Epstein, the manager and Robert Fraser, art dealer and hanger on.
Just as background the English managerial caste, as well as the US, were with very few exceptions Jewish and homosexual. In the late fifties and early sixties there were no groups, there were solo singer acts. These guys in most cases were not artists they were just kids off the street. Managers like Larry Parnes cast their eyes over good looking guys on the street and selected the ones that appealed to them such as Cliff Richard and the various Furys and Storms. They taught them a little stage presence, got them a good song, usually from a Jewish homosexual songwriter, put a band behind them and ballyhooed them into stardom.
Being Jewish they looked at the goi boys as so many cash cows and so they were. As Bob Dylan famously sang in Ballad Of Thin Man, ‘Give me some milk or go home.‘ However much was made from the singers efforts most went to the managers and pittances to the boys. But, then they were only created creatures, mere employees anyway.
The Beatles were dedicated artists who had a fairly long apprenticeship learning their craft in a tough environment in the red light district of Hamburg Germany. They not only developed a sound but Lennon and McCartney became a most prolifically successful songwriting team. That’s where the real money in records is and that’s where the Beatles got skinned the worst.
So they had talent but without management the talent would die on the vine. Enter manager Brian Epstein who saw their potential and acted. He was a Jewish homosexual flake but without him the Beatles would probably have become unemployed layabouts rather than wealthy rock and rollers. Brian Epstein’s rock and roll empire was born on the Beatles backs.
Brian had a couple weaknesses, drugs and gambling, other than his homosexuality that was then illegal, a crime, hence to be carefully concealed. Combined with the temptation of all those millions, there’s a recipe you’ll never find again.
Another character in the story is the avant garde art dealer Robert Fraser, also known as Groovy Bob, impeccably English but homosexual and a drug addict and, sure enough, an inveterate gambler. Fraser spent the first couple of years of the Sixties in the NYC art scene. There he was heavily influenced by Andy Warhol, less impeccably American, homosexual, but as far as we know free of the vices of gambling and drugs.
Fraser was also involved in the burgeoning Satanist scene that would take prominence beginning in 1966. He was involved with the American Satanist Kenneth Anger and through Anger the literary influence of the English Satanist Aleister Crowley and San Francisco’s Anton La Vey.
Wanting to be with it, Groovy Bob created a sort of salon for the young rock and rollers. Apparently the whole crowd, Beatles, Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Jimmy Page and the rest all hung out at Groovy Bob Fraser’s. Bob always had a plentiful supply of the best drugs.
To supply him with those drugs enter the young ambitious criminal, Spanish Tony Sanchez. Tony worked the gambling joints of the West End for the early fifties criminal Albert Dimes, an Italian. Dimes was a huge man, a fearsome enforcer, who successfully weathered his times until he died in his nineties. Either no or little jail time too.
Spanish Tony recorded his life in the Sixties in his two books, Up And Down With The Rolling Stones and I Was Keith Richards’ Drug Dealer. The latter is an updated edition of the former with additional material so the two are similar but not identical.
Tony met Groovy Bob in a bar before going to work his shift. The friendship developed and Tony began to hang at Fraser’s becoming acquainted with the Beatles, Stones and Marianne. Tony had access to drug suppliers.
Groovy Bob Fraser was the frivolous sort who found the minor details irrelevant. Thus while losing heavily in the Kray’s West End gambling joint, Esmeralda’s Barn, he paid for his losses with checks drawn on air. Any check may bounce once but Groovy Bob’s were the super balls of checks, they just kept bouncing.
I don’t have to tell you this irritated the Krays. They threatened grievous bodily harm. Bob appealed to the incipient criminal Spanish Tony to try to straighten things out. Dimes was Tony’s introduction to the Krays and according to him he worked out an agreement but Groovy Bob, well, honestly, just couldn’t find the money.
At the same time Brian Epstein had gambled and lost, gambled and lost, gambled and lost. One surmises that he made inroads into those Beatles millions that would have been difficult to explain in court. His contract with the group would expire in 1967 at which time it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for the Boys to call for an audit of the books. Not being businessmen and trusting Brian implicitly they probably wouldn’t have but the guilty Brian couldn’t count on it. Under pressure from the Krays to turn the Beatles over to them, probably suffering the pangs of guilt and befuddled by drugs, Brian either committed suicide in the summer of ‘67 or he was erased by other interested parties.
In the interim the Krays were increasing the pressure to get the Beatles from him. They had a sit down with Brian in a homosexual bar to force the issue. Brian patiently tried to explain to them that management was no bed of roses; there were a million nagging little details, heartbreaks and frustrations.
Maybe so. The Krays had earlier broached the subject of taking over the Beatles to the UK crime kingpin Arthur Thompson of Glasgow. He had advised them against it pointing out they were criminals who as a caste gave little thought to business details as did Groovy Bob Fraser and besides when it got out that the Beatles were criminally controlled it might kill their popularity. The Krays brushed the latter objection aside but paid attention to the former.
Now, the Krays had an associate named Laurie O’ Leary who had a clean record and could therefore function above ground and obtain licenses to manage clubs and an older brother Charlie who also had a clear record who could learn the management skills and establish a talent agency. That should take care of both of Arthur’s objections.
Bear in mind that part of the deal Tony worked out was that Groovy Bob was to work to bring the Beatles over to the Krays. There was a large homosexual ring recruiting young boys from orphanages for their criminal pleasure. This ring involved some notorious people of the period. One was the homosexual Tom Driberg. Driberg had made himself familiar with Mick Jagger who he tried to recruit as a politician. A fellow called Lord Boothby seemed to be the guiding light of this group. The group also included Ronnie Kray and members of the so-called Music Mafia including disc jockeys and many of those presiding over the music scene. As events have recently shown those involved in the music industry were heavily into pedophilia. How they link up to the Krays’ invasion of group management isn’t clear but I’m sure there is a connection.
At this point a group including Kevin MacDonald and Tara Browne along with George Harrison decided to open a club for the ‘hipoisie’ that was called Sibylla’s. It doesn’t seem like it was a coincidence that the club was located on Swallow St. in Piccadilly. On this same street were three clubs patronized by the mob figures and an infamous clip joint so that the Krays would be rubbing shoulders with the rockers. Furthermore the club was managed by Kray associate Laurie O’ Leary fresh from managing the bars of the Krays’ gambling joint, Esmeralda’s Barn. The opening night crowd of the club is said to have been attended by many mob figures using aliases.
Thus the club MacDonald conceived was called Sybilla’s named after the socialite Sibylla Edmonstone. That’s the way she spelled her first name. Kevin MacDonald and Associates comprised himself and George Harrison’s photographer Terry Howard and a guy named Bruce Higham. While this area is still a bit sketchy one assumes that Howard brought in Harrison.
As the Associates had no money their principal investor was a Sir William Piggott-Browne. Amember of the aristocracy, as a youth he had declassed himself enough be a jockey. He contributed 60% of the approximately 150K pounds. A disc jockey named Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman also invested. I imagine there were a few other small investors.
MacDonald was interviewed by a reporter for the Evening Standard apparently in the club. The interview appeared in the 7/23/66 edition. Macdonald’s picture and news clip were provided by email from a former girl friend of Kevins. I quote from the article.
But the ultimate fascination of Sibylla’s lied in its interest to the amateur sociologist. The three founders Terry Howard, Kevin MacDonald and Bruce Higham, all young professional men in their twenties who arranged bankers and backers to support their dream, claim that their club symbolizes a social revolution personified by the linkup between Marshall Field’s great grand daughter, Miss Sibylla Edmonstone and Beatle George Harrison whose respective spheres of fashionability assured the club’s success, if it needs an explanation it gets one from the most eloquent of the founders, 28 year old advertising executive Kevin MacDonald, a great nephew of Lord Northcliffe, who was lyrically evangelical on what Sibylla’s is doing for Britain when he told me using finger clicking [snaps in US] for punctuation:
“Sibylla’s is the meeting ground for the new aristocracy of Britain (click) And by the new aristocracy I mean the current young meritocracy of style, taste and sensibility (click) We’ve got everyone here (click) The top creative people (click) The top exporters (click) The top brains (click) The top artists (click) The top social people (click) and the best of the PYPs (swingingese for pretty young people). We’re completely classless (click We are completely integrated (click) We dig the spades man. (click)
Relationships here go off like firecrackers. Everyone here’s got the message (click) Can you read it, Man?
I confess to having originally looked upon the above as complete gibberish. However, although it may be due to the heady atmosphere of Swallow St., after three nights of Sibylla’s I now admit to being converted to something near to Mr. MacDonald’s doctrine.
So Kevin considers himself a revolutionary. The concept of a new meritocracy was shared by the fashion photog David Bailey who in a collection of portraits of the movers and shakers dismayed the more staid by including Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
The Kray twins did consider themselves as part of Swinging London along with the rest of the glitterati. That may partially explain why the club was located on a notoriously Firm street with three clubs they frequented. Just as Bailey was fascinated by the Kray Firm so were a lot of the fashionistas. Still, the fact that Laurie O’ Leary was named manager points to a larger Kray involvement along with the whole Boothby homosexual clique Ronnie was involved with.
While O’ Leary professes a sort of innocence in regards to his connection to the Krays he quite clearly was functioning under the Kray umbrella. It It seems probable that the club was formed and the ownership group was gotten together to put pressure on the Beatles through Harrison who was drawn in by MacDonald and Browne. Further research is necessary to discover how Browne became involved.
Probably pressure was put on both to force them to work on Harrison to bring the Beatles in. MacDonald took the quick way down from the 10th floor. The fact of the matter is that Kevin was precipitated from the 10th floor of the King Charles House on Wanda Road eighty feet down to the carapace over the entrance.
Scotland Yard’s finger printers found only Kevin’s and those at the top of an open window to which he had obviously been clinging.
There were obviously no witnesses so one is reduced to speculation. There were alternate entrances that
allowed Kevin and his conductors to enter unobserved. It seems equally obvious that Kevin was defenestrated. A favorite trick of the Krays was to dangle their victims out the window held by the ankles
That seems like the most obvious solution to the problem to me, else why would O’ Leary be advised to keep mum over the incident. When that warning was ignored Tara Browne died in an equally suspicious way in a late night car crash. This is important because Lennon and McCartney wrote A Day In The Life included on their Sgt. Pepper’s album to describe it. It was probably this song that gave some sort of credence for Browne replacing a dead McCartney.
The only witness to the crash was Browne’s companion in the car, a tiny Lotus, a girl named Suki Potier. While there are a plethora of details circulating about the accident such as Browne was racing McCartney down the street at 106 miles an hour, there would have been no witnesses to confirm this save McCartney and Potier and neither have anything substantial to say.
The Lotus is said to have hit a van. The wreck of the Lotus certainly indicates a very high speed yet we have no picture of the van to indicate how the crash occurred. By van is meant I suppose what we USers would call a panel truck or something equivalent to a SUV.
While Browne was killed Miss Potier escaped the really horrendous looking crash with nothing but a few bruises. This seems incredible. As the picture shows the roof is torn off the car while the hood or bonnet is driven up. The window on her side is intact. At the very least her head should have broken the windshield. It would seem probable that she would have been thrown through it or over it. The timing of the roof ripping off would have been important there.
The question is, was there an accident or was Browne killed and the accident staged. The intent of his death may have been meant as a second warning to the Beatles to surrender. So, now, why was the Paul Is Dead rumor circulated. Perhaps the first two warnings having failed Paul was targeted as next. Of course that would have been counter productive.
But if one connects the Paul Is Dead rumor to the Sgt. Pepper’s cover a possible Kray involvement through Groovy Bob Fraser is possible. The cover of Sgt. Peppers had been assigned to a Dutch commune called The Fool and had actually been completed, but Fraser persuaded the ‘Boys’ to switch to a group of his friends who then came up with a cover depicting the whole group as dead and buried.
The symbolism of the cover had never really engaged my attention till recently. On the lower right corner is a rag doll wearing a Rolling Stones sweater. The aspiring gangster and Fraser friend Spanish Tony Sanchez now indebted to the Krays through his association with Fraser had been hired by Keith Richards of the Stones as his factotum and drug procurer at a salary of 250 pounds a week as recorded in his Up And Down With The Rolling Stones and I Was Keith Richards Drug Dealer thus putting a Kray agent in the Stones. A coincidence perhaps but a mighty good paying job. I have no evidence but it is likely that Tony was forced on Keith by the Krays.
At any rate on this bizarre, less than hip cover, the Beatles are dressed in their Sgt. Pepper’s garb standing looking down at a grave labeled Beatles. Surrounding them are pictures of a band of lonely hearts, mostly dead people. So, what is the message? Join up or your group will be dead for real? In fact Paul’s Mini was involved in a crash but it was being driven by his factotum while bringing drugs to a party Paul was attending. It was likely thought that Paul was driving.
What is clear is that Fraser was unable to pay his gambling debts and had to make some move to show he was cooperating. The cover could be a very discreet attempt to show the Krays he was working on it. As he was involved in the Redlands bust of 1967 and sent to prison that at least got him off the street for a period of time. Then the Krays were busted in May of 1968 perhaps removing an immediate threat. Fraser chose the time after his release to vanish in India perhaps to avoid punishment.
Brian Epstein, dazed and confused, by his drug taking, continuing to rack up gambling debts was making his situation worse. He was probably deep into money that contractually belonged to the Beatles. In other words he had embezzled or misappropriated vast sums.
In a desperate move to generate more cash, perhaps, he had opened a Fillmore type rock emporium that would be competing with the Roundhouse. He also apparently attempted to sell his firm NEMS to RSO the Robert Stigwood Organization. As he was giving NEMS up for the fire sale price of 500,000 pounds it would seem that he was desperate for a way out.
Post-Sgt. Peppers the Krays seem to have been no closer to annexing the Beatles than before. Epstein died on August 27, 1967 from an apparent drug overdose. He intended to spend that weekend with friends at his home but suddenly changed his mind and left to return to London. No one knows what happened in London or who he may have met. It’s possible the Krays called him and commanded a meeting. A sort of now or never thing. He returned home, locked himself in his room and died in bed. Never. The door was broken down the next morning when he was found dead in his bed.
The Krays themselves were arrested in May of 1968 and never released spending the rest of their lives in prison, or, in Ronnie’s case, Bedlam.
Prior to the Krays’ arrest in May the Beatles chose February of that year to visit the Maharishi in India thus out of the country for those months.
Spanish Tony continued with Keith Richards after the Krays were sentenced although his relationship became more strained. The Krays are said to have had influence in the underworld from prison so Keith may not have thought it wise to dismiss Tony at that time. The relationship was ended in 1976 when Tony was refused backstage entry at a concert.
When Reggie Kray died at the end of the century thus leaving Tony without any protection Tony is said to have died in 2000 also.
There is a chance his death was merely rumored. There are people who think he is still alive. I have comments from a T. at the end of my essay Who Is Spanish Tony Sanchez. The email address purports to be from Spanish Tony. My email to the address went unanswered. You may read T.’s comments and see what you think. I think it is likely that Tony is still out there. Maybe actually in Spain where all good English criminals seem to go.
If anyone has definite proof of Tony’s demise don’t hesitate to communicate the fact.
There you have it. To my mind there is no question that the man killed in the car crash was Tara Browne. I find it improbable to impossible that McCartney died somehow or was killed with his being replaced by Browne after plastic surgery while the Paul Is Dead story didn’t actually gain credence until 1969.
The murders of MacDonald and Browne have to be explained. The above is my attempt to do it. More information is certainly a desideratum.
The Last Days Of John Lennon
Review by R.E. Prindle
How The Fifties Became The Sixties
The sixties seem to have erupted by some process of autogenesis. They seem to be a decade unrelated to the fifties but nothing could be further from the truth. The sixties were very carefully structured in the fifties, that supposedly somnolent decade. The fifties themselves evolved from the fantasy notion of The United States Of America- the American Dream. In truth there had never been a united America and an American Dream only in the mind of certain immigrants who believed they had reached the Promised Land of their dreams. The country has always been one of conflict with conflicting peoples. There was no mythological age as in distant times so no mythopoeic era preceded the scientific one. America was born in science.
The warfare against the aboriginal peoples to clear the land for the European invaders created the first layer of conflict. The second layer of conflict was the importation of Africans as slave labor. This created a second irreconcilable conflict that erupted in 1954 when the Black revolution began in earnest and began to accelerate in the sixties. This was what Eric Foner described as America’s unfinished revolution in his writings.
Each succeeding group of immigrants created its own friction but assimilation did go on with most peoples. In the fifties the sort of ethnic identities in song and humor that makes the talkies of the thirties now seem quaint was coun
teracted. While visibly subdued ethnicism simmered below the surface until the sixties when it burst out again in a new form and triumphed.
I am unable to tell the education received in schools of the twenties and thirties but by the time I was in high school from 1953-56 the whole concept of revolutiuon was romanticized and this continued through my college years in the sixties. It was iterated over and over again that revolution was an absolute virtue. To be revolutionary was to be a person in full. Kids in the walls ran around saying are you revolutionary, I’m revolutionary. Thus they embraced any idea that was the opposite of the status quo. This notion of revolution was combined with the notion of the absolute virtue of being an American. This would result in Kennedy’s idiotic Peace Corps begun in the sixties. Raw American youths were supposed to be able to tell the less favored peoples how to run their lives. The war in Europe was treated as a crusade against Germans, a war of absolute black and white, no shades of grey. I truly believed that no American in either the European or Pacific war ever committed an act of wanton brutality no matter what the provocation. I would have dismissed out of hand that as a matter of policy millions of Germans were exposed to Winter weather in the years following the war unprotected while being denied any kind of nourishment and, yet, it was so. In subsequent years this would have been described as ‘American’ brutality while in fact it was instigated by revolutionary American Jews seeking vengeance. Americanism was not involved.
At the same time the new medium of television exposed us to unprecedented doses of propaganda disguised as the truth, doses far in excess of anything the hated Nazis devised. Chief among those TV shows was a cartoon called Crusader Rabbit. Now, Crusader Rabbit in reality is a vigilante dispensing vigilante justice. He acted on his own ‘righting’ what he perceived as wrongs. Of course those of us who read comic books in the late forties had already been exposed to vigilantism in the form of comic book heroes like the Blackhawks. Or, for that matter Batman and Robin and Superman among many others, Plastic Man. I sort of thought of myself as Plastic Man.
So this whole age cadre was stoked up on revolution and vigilantism with no venues to express it. The sixties then was a god send as the existing revolutions- the Undermen, the Jews, the Blacks, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists had merely to whisper the word REVOLUTION to get a positive response for their ideologies. The generation was primed for revolution of any sort- a revolution in bubble gum for instance.
Thus at Berkeley in ’64’s so-called Free Speech Movement you had the spectacle of the most advantaged members of the generation participating in what was a part of the Jewish Revolution in the guise of voluntary Undermen.
Thus as the sixties dawned the way was cleared of any resistance to revolutionary schemes as hordes of self-righteous vigilantes confident that their perception and judgment was received from god himself began to act on their assumptions taken from their misguided elders.
The center of this maelstrom in the sixties was New York City. The Bohemian life style stewing in Lower Manhattan since the Armory Show of 1913 was about to conquer the mind of the country. Perhaps the leader of the sixties Bohos was Andy Warhol. Certainly with a kind of genius he made himself the center of the storm.
This most influential Bohemian attitude toward life was both stratified and diverse. The first out of the box were the uptown Beats. These men seized the attention of the country in the mid-fifties when Allen Ginsberg, a leader of the Jewish, Homosexual and Underman revolutions, gained prominence with his so-called poem, Howl. He then dragged Jack Kerouac through with his On The Road and William S. Burroughs with his Naked Lunch. All three works have been incredibly influential in creating a new Underclass of Undermen, in thought if not in fact.
The Beats hung out in upper Manhattan around Kerouac’s alma mater, Columbia, although Ginsberg gravitated downtown in an effort to pair up with the Beat musical epigone, Bob Dylan. As Ginsberg represented four revolutions it could be said of him- Il est partout, a very important if disgusting figure. Burroughs also gravitated to lower Manhattan before departing for the corn fields of Kansas.
The well-to-do or rich Bohos, to which John and Yoko would belong, sometimes known as Cafe Society, were the upper crust of Bohemia. And then there was the middle Bohemia and it Lower Depths.
Running through all was the old avant garde which excluded the Beats who were not avant garde.
Warhol, John Cage, La Monte Young and a host of artists and writers including Yoko Ono were part of the old garde. Yoko dragged Lennon in but he was not constitutionally avant garde and probably not even a real Boho. Fred Seaman seems to have had no affinity for Bohemia or revolution.
As the sixties dawned Lennon coming from then obscure Liverpool was of the lower middle class but of the English art school background. He spent a couple years in the German underworld before skyrocketing to super world fame with the Beatles so that while he and the Beatles were instrumental in forming the sixties and subsuming the avant garde they were not actually of it. Thus when Lennon came to earth around 1970 he was virtually a Rip Van Winkle who had slept through the decade. The new reolutionary world he and Yoko entered in New York could have been barely understood by them. It wasn’t even really understood by those in the thick of it. Dylan’s ‘Something’s happening here but you don’t know what it is do you Mr. Jones’ could have applied to himself and everyone else.
Yoko Ono was a committed Feminist and key member of that revolution. In a world of eccentric and unusual characters she was a standout. Her career as an avant gardist began as a ‘performance artist’. Essentially a stunt man. Back in the twenties and thirties would be celebrities used their bodies to gain fame performing stunts. One going by the name of The Mighty Atom attached ropes to his hair holding back an airplane. This is essentially what Yoko was doing as a ‘performance artist.’ Her ‘Cut Piece’ urged viewers to come up on stage and cut away a piece of her clothing. She and Tony Cox crawling into a black bag? Whew!
But she was thereby connected to the avant garde. She knew John Cage, Andy Warhol, Sam Green and the lot as early as 1960. The friendships remained enduring as she maintained them throughout the seventies and eighties.
As a performing artist Yoko was a sort of chameleon forming her art to suit the circumstances. Having once captured John Lennon she first became a peacenik as peace was the prevailing notion- love and peace- returning to New York amid the wreckage of the peace, love and happiness bit she got up from her bed of peace and strapped a fully loaded bandolier of bullets around her hips and became a sullen revolutionary a la Bernardine Dorhn. It all art and art is holy, isn’t it?
The Ono-Lennon’s very serious looking revolutionary activities quite naturally brought the Heat down on them. It should be clear that these were not lightweight posturings but she and John were financing the disruption of the Republican National Convention forcing a move of the site from San Diego to Miami. There is small wonder the elected Nixon administration sought to deport them. Neither John nor Yoko were American citizens but essentially part of an international conspiracy, she being a Japanese and he an English national. Thus in addition to being a leader in the Feminist and Sexual revolutions she lent herself to the Judaeo-Communist revolution. Nearly all her revolutionary associates were of the Jewish revolution. Plus John essentially represented the Undermen. Thus Fred Seaman was employed by not only a celebrity household but a notorious one. Nor was Fred an American but a German national. No Americans involved.
Warhol And Bob Dylan
Down below the subway’s screamin’
As I lay here halfway dreamin’
And face the long evenin’
Layin’ close beside my radio
Imaginin’ the kisses of the girl who sings the song
Lookin’ at the ceiling
Wonderin’ where the dream went wrong.
Last Morning- Shel Silverstein
As sung by Ray Sawyer and Dr. Hook.
New York City was indeed a tough cold city. It was enough to make you crazy as you ‘fought the crowds, avoided the traffic and watched the world turn grey.’ Coming from Pittsburgh Andy Warhol had no trouble with the skies turning grey, he was used to much worse. For Dylan coming from Hibbing, Minnesota way, way out on the edge of civilization the change must have been traumatic. Both men, however, were uniquely equipped to succeed in such a tough environment although it turned both crazy, cruel and mean. Both became paragons of the revolutions.
Warhol, the older of the two, forged the revolution of the Undermen and the Homosexuals while acquiring great wealth. Dylan, too, made his appeal to the undermen (the confused, abused, strung out ones and worse) basing his career on the misfits and malcontents. At the same time he was a key player in fundamental Jewish revolution. Both men affected innocent harmless personas so as to deflect attention from what they were really up to. As both had complementary strategies it is quite possible that each saw through the other. Warhol certainly saw through Dylan but I’m not sure if the reverse was true. Both were heavily into drugs which altered their perceptions.
Warhol preceded Dylan on the scene by a decade arriving in NYC in 1950. His homosexual agenda was clear to him from the start even if its implementation wasn’t. He was immediately successful upon his arrival easily gaining entry into the commerical art field. Dylan too would have no trouble gaining both entry and prominence within a year, phenomenal success in two and preeminence in three.
Warhol commanded a large perhaps even great income within a matter of four or five years. He spent madly but invested wisely.
He was always interested in mass production techniques where the original was merely a prototype like a car model. His original drawings were mass replicated by the newspaper ads. Amazingly, new in New York, he sent a letter to CBS asking if he could design record covers and received assignments by return mail. While his record covers are not among his best known works he did design at least fifty while perhaps more remain to be discovered. While his designs were for very low selling jazz and classical records they are obviously the work of a homosexual or, as they are described- fey.
Thus they advance the Homosexual revolution. True, they are tiny drops but by the time he designed the Sticky Fingers cover for the Rolling Stones his design, it can be confidently asserted, was seen by every single member of two generations while selling in the millions. The title and cover are an ode to masturbation, one of the favorite thems of both the Homosexual and Sexual revolutions. The illustration was of a male crotch clothed in blue jeans with a workable zipper. It was a retailing nightmare but effective in sexually conditioning the minds of his audience. The zipper was irresistible to record fans who broke the plastic on every single cover making them nearly unsaleable. Success actually unimaginable to Warhol in 1950.
In addition Warhol designed ‘fey’ book covers, frequently for homosexually oriented titles thus adding a few additional drops, pushing toward 9cc. Andy had his sticky fingers in everywhere- stationery, wrapping paper…all with his fey designs.
While he gained great success as a commercial artist he had his eye on the fine arts; about 1960 he made his move into ‘serious’ art- painting. He called his style Pop Art. Pop Art had its antecedents in the fifties of which Warhol would have been aware. Here are a couple examples by Ray Johnson from the mid-fifties. Johnson is described as proto-Pop.
Having made his splash in Pop Art, becoming a major celebrity, Warhol was ready to move into his next phase in the subversion of art and society. In 1964 he established his famous atelier known as the Factory. There he continued his paintings while beginning an influential if unremunerative secondary career as a film auteur.
There seem to be revolutionary motives in the founding of the Factory. Warhol gathered about him a collection of the Undermen. These were all Homosexuals, druggies, hustlers and prostitutes.
There is an interesting passage in the Weathermen founder’s autobiography Fugitive Days where the author, Bill Ayers, says:
…the most interesting alliance to me was struck in the first months underground, and it was with a kind of eccentric shadowy group that would become fast and reliable friends for decades to come.
The group was without a name, contained hundreds of members in half a dozen cities, and was organized by a charismatic leader and psychologist who called himself Kaz. They were all former heroin addicts, former beatniks, former hustlers, and prostitutes, five, ten, twenty years older than us, now living in luxury and working downtown but thinking of themselves primarily as deep, deep underground, a kind of fifth column waiting patiently for the revolution.
What Ayers appears to be describing is the Haut Boheme Cafe Society of New York. Now, Warhol with the Factory created a place where all Bohemia, high and low, could gather under the reasonable pretext of partying which is what happened. Many attendees would be innocents of course providing even better cover for the revos. To get some idea of what the scene was like review the lyrics to Shel Silverstein’s Freakin’ At The Freakers Ball appended. Silverstein seems to be describing the Factory exactly.
The police had the Factory under surveillance as well as one supposes, the FBI. The deep underground wasn’t deep enough to conceal these characters. The Factory would be forced out by ’68 giving it a four year run. Bereft of a gathering place Bohemia would have to wait until 1977 for another when Rubell and Schrager put together Studio 54. 54 was better than the Factory because attendance could be monitored allowing only the Haut Boheme and other chosen in; the undesirables could be left out. 54 was run in contempt of all existing laws and moral codes. Suspicious from the beginning it took the Feds only eighteen months to shut it down. Like The Factory however Studio 54 had its revolutionary effect especially along sexual lines- unisex toilets for instance.
The multi-talented Warhol, a perfect Prince of Bohemia added authorship to his achievements with his novel ‘a’ while moving into publishing in the seventies when he established the successful magazine Interview.
He added several notable record covers, while forming in ’66 the immensely influential Exploding Plastic Inevitable centered around ‘his’ rock band The Velvet Underground.
So, in promoting several different revolutions- the Undermen, the drug culture, the so-called sexual revolution and undoubtedly many others Warhol was one of the most successful and important revolutionary figures of the decade.
Along the way he formed a close relationship with the Feminist revolutionary, the Japanese citizen, Yoko Ono. As a bona fide member of the avant garde she tried to enter Warhol’s entourage before she left for England in ’66. However at the time she was outspokenly antipathetic to homosexuality which probably necessitated her retreating to London to think things over before returning in 1971.
She returned in grand style leading the founder of the Beatles, John Lennon, as though by a rope around the neck. She and Lennon immediately threw themselves into the revolutionary movement associating themselves with various members of the Jewish revolution. they apparently gave large sums of money while lending their personas and prestige to raise much larger sums. It was the fear of their popularity being used to rouse young Americans in this first election in which eighteen year olds could participate that put him under surveillance, quite justifiably so, by the FBI and the Nixon White House. Thus for the next several years they were harassed by deportation threats as undesirable aliens.
Having achieved her goal of reentry into New York avant garde society even becoming an intimate of Andy Warhol Yoko lost interest in Lennon. The two split up for eighteen months or so from 1973 to 1975 then reuniting. Yoko had employed her Tarot reader John Green in 1974 while Fred Seaman was added to the entourage as Lennon’s personal assistant in 1979.
While the memoirs of Green and Seaman have been disparaged by the faithful I see little reason to do so on an objective basis although Yoko Ono may find them offensive for personal reasons.
Part III follows
Freakin’ At The Freaker’s Ball
As Performed By Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Well, there’s gonna be a freaker’s ball
Tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
And you know you’re invited one and all.
Come on Babys grease your lips
And don’t forget to bring your whips
We’re goin’ to the Freaker’s Ball.
Blow your whistle and bang your gong
Roll up something to take along
It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Well, all the fags and dykes they’re boogie’n together
The leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights swingin’ with the funkies
Across the floor and up the wall
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Everybody’s kissing each other
Brother with sister, son with mother
Smear my body up with butter
And take me to the freaker’s ball.
Pass that roach please and pour the wine
I’ll kiss yours if you kiss mine
I’m gonna boogie ’til I’m cold blind
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
White ones, black ones, yellow ones, red ones
Necrophiliacs lookin’ for dead ones
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
Everybody ballin’ in batches
Pyromaniacs strikin’ matches
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball, y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
May 18, 2010
The Last Days Of John Lennon
Review by R.E. Prindle
Seaman Fred: The Last Days Of John Lennon, A Personal Memoir. Citadel Press, 1991.
The Ghost Of Elvis Presley
In order to understand the zeitgeist of the sixties one has to go back to the fifties. The central event of the fifties was the annunciation of Elvis Presley. The post-war world was a grey world of fear. The country and the world had emerged from the greatest of all catastrophes, the Second World War. WWII itself was fought in the shadow of the Great War of 1914-18, afterwards known as WWI.
Most of the older generation had lived through both wars which was a terrifically horrifying experience. In 1950 those who were seventy or older had memories of the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century also. In addition perhaps the most terrifying memory of the pre-WWII generations was that of the Great Depression of the thirties. From 1945 to 1960 they lived in terror that the Depression would return. There was thus a great generational divide between them and those of us who had no memory of the Depression and only vague memories of the second world cataclysm.
The older generations were struggling to restore the normalcy of the period between the wars as they wished it might have been. Technology had made this impossible. Not only had the Atomic Bomb come into existence but almost immediately after the war the sky was filled with the most extraordinary of phenomena- the faster than the speed of sound jet plane. The pilots of this wondrous piece of technology delighted in flying low over cities breaking the sound barrier as they did and sending a sonic boom shimmering down. If you’ve never experienced a sonic boom you have yet to be there.
The miracle of the age however was television. (Some people call it the boring fifties but they obviously weren’t there.) Television made the greatest threat to civilization yet known to man possible. That threat was Elvis Presley. Elvis simple announced by his presence that the pre-war world would not be returning- ever. The younger generation would fashion the world in his image.
More than that Presley wasn’t an image of the upper class college youth like Pat Boone but the avatar of the downtrodden and suppressed not unlike Jesus the Christ himself. They took one look at Elvis and realized that he was the Atomic Bomb that would blow up their world. And he did.
Every move Elvis made was an insult to them. Things that had no relevance to them they took as a personal insult. One such was the innocuous anthem by the songwriters Leiber and Stoller originally written as a Negro ghetto sex anthem, Hound Dog. When Elvis sang You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, for some reason they projected it as a reference to themselves and they deeply resented it.
Of course every attempt to suppress Elvis deepened the generational divide. Not only did Elvis himself exist but it seemed as though every upcoming rock n’ roll singer wanted to be Elvis. Before the Presley clones of Vegas there were the Elvis imitators in every family’s living room like Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, Eddie Cochran and nearly the whole roster of Sun Records, plus, plus, plus….
For most of the old folks rock n’ roll itself was a mystery. They thought it was a Communist plot, might have been I don’t rule it out, but if so we were not conspirators but dupes. We just reveled in it. They almost succeeded in destroying it. Elvis got drafted, in his absence the great rock n’ rollers were driven out, discredited and in some cases killed. When Presley returned in 1960 he was different from when he went in. He had been contained.
John Lennon famously said in 1977 after Elvis died that he died the day he went into the army. While a relevant statement it was not quite true. The first stage in Elvis long immolation was when he fell under the control of his manager Col. Tom Parker, the second stage in his demise was when Parker delivered him to RCA Records, the third stage in his death was when RCA assigned Steve Sholes as his producer.
For those of us who were there the real Elvis Presley ceased to exist when he left the Sun record label. RCA was in no position to understand rock n’ roll values. It wasn’t that they willfully sabotaged Elvis it was just that they didn’t know how to rock. Their idea of rock was Neil Sedaka. Sholes himself was antipathetic to rock ‘n roll no less than his crosstown rival Mitch Miller over at Columbia Records. Both men hated the concept. This was made evident in Sholes arrangement of Gene Austin’s Are You Lonesome Tonight with its plodding guitar riff and Elvis’ imitation of the thirties crooner. Sholes failed to ruin Elvis’ career but it took Mitch Miller one LP to trash the career of the great Dion of the Belmonts.
Very few if any of the great rock records were produced by the majors. Nearly everything of value was produced by independent labels, many of them one shot efforts. Gene Vincent and his Be-Bop-A-Lula was a notable exception although his label, Capitol, soon had him singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
After the first run of actual imitators Elvis and rock worked their way into the subconscious of the next wave that included Lennon and the Beatles to produce an extension of rock.
Upon Presley’s return from the army his manager, Parker, removed him from recording and put Elvis into the movies almost exclusively. The movie Elvis was an extension of the personality of Tom Parker. Elvis was Elvis and his appearance was always galvanic. His charisma could be diminished but it couldn’t be destroyed. I was as disappointed by his movies as much as anyone dropping in only occasionally over the sixties to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t.
Thus as we all moved into the sixties while Presley still lived it was only as the ghost of the Sun Records innovator.
The Ghost of Elvis Presley was captured by the artist Andy Warhol in a number of renderings.
He presented Elvis in various single screens or multiples of two, three and up to the eight as in the image above. He ignored the musical Elvis in favor of an image taken from a Western movie. As Warhol was a homosexual he rendered Elvis as a gay cowboy. In truth Elvis had an ambiguous persona. Many people thought he was queer. Any male fan felt himself under the accusation. Elements of his persona indicate a severely emasculated personality that lend credence to at least a latent feeling of homosexuality. Elvis’ fellow students called him ‘squirrel.’ Indeed, the use of eye shadow, pants with a stripe down the leg and pink shirts in 1951-52 and ’53 would have led to open accusations of homosexuality. And yet, even though I identified with his obvious emasculation when I was only sixteen and seventeen it never occurred to me that he might have been one. I don’t think he ever was. Had he been his more than macho entourage would have had nothing to do with him. Nevertheless his portraitist Warhol perfectly captured his ambivalence and androgyny.
The number of portraits by the artist clearly betrays Warhol’s own hero worship. Perhaps his own gay cowboy movie owed some reverence to his idol. Oddly enough Warhol never designed a record cover for Presley even though he designed over fifty during a career from 1949 to 1987.
Andy had always been a pop music fan. This was very unusual for a man born in 1928. This would have made him 26 if one assumes ’54 as the birth of rock and 28 in ’56 when Presley exploded onto the scene. Anyone older than 18 in ’56 rejected rock. It is true that Warhol was dualistic, capabhle of listening to opera and rock at the same time, I mean simultaneously, so he may have had his personality split by the times. At any rate Warhol who apparently wished to excel in all the arts attempted to enter the music field by managing a band, while establishing a rock venue. In 1965 he took The Velvet Underground in as his house band while setting up a venue called The Dom. Not stopping there he also created an ambient experience, or light show, he called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The combination of music and light was innovative and widely imitated. Unfortunately Warhol didn’t have a secure lease and the venue got away from him. Perhaps realzing he was spreading himself too thin he never followed up letting the Velvets go their own way.
Warhol nevertheless established close bonds with other musicians. His attempted connection to Bob Dylan failed. Whether sour grapes or not he comitted this thought to his diary in July of 1985:
Watched the Live-Aid thing on TV. Bobby Zaren’s office had been calling, wanting me to go down there, but with that many big celebrities you never get any publicity. Later on that night Jack Nicholson introduced Bob Dylan and called him “transcendental.” But to me, Dylan was never really real- he was just mimicking real people and the amphetamine made it come out magic. With amphetamine he could copy words and make it all sound right. But that boy never felt a thing- (laughs) I just never bought it.
Warhol did succeed with Mick and Bianca Jagger and the Rolling Stones. While his cover for the first Velvet Underground album was considered innovative (read: weird) his cover for the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album with its functional zipper was as the term of the time went, mindblowing.
While Warhol never established contact with the Beatles, when his fellow artist Yoko Ono led her trophy husband, John Lennon, from London to New York in 1970 another firm connection to musicians and the inheritor of Elvis Presley’s mantle as the Savior was formed. Over all floated the Ghost of Elvis Presley.
Part II: John & Yoko In New York follows.