Book chronicles Beatles' American tour
Rick Bentley The Fresno Bee (MCT)
Aug 29, 2014
Ivor Davis knows exactly where he was 50 years ago today—hanging out with The Beatles.
As the West Coast bureau chief for the London Daily Express, Davis was assigned to cover the first U.S. tour by the Fab Four that started with a performance at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 1964 and ended Sept. 20, 1964 at the Paramount Theater in New York.
From young women bargaining with him to get near John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison or Ringo Starr to the late night Monopoly games (where Lennon was known to cheat), Davis recounts his ticket to ride along with the band on that cross-country trek in his new book “The Beatles and Me On Tour” (Cockney Kid Publishing, $15.99).
Davis never planned to write a book on the experience.
“When you are a reporter on a daily paper, you do a story and then you forget about it. That’s what happened for years and years,” Davis says. “I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but I would go to a dinner party and people would find out that I toured with The Beatles and they wanted to talk about it.”
In the book, he talks about the 34 days where he had unrestricted access to the lads from Liverpool. He was there when The Beatles couldn’t leave their hotel rooms because of the rabid fans outside. He watched when slot machines were placed in their rooms in Las Vegas because they couldn’t go into a casino without causing a riot. Davis was there when Bob Dylan introduced the band to pot.
Davis also spent a lot of time ghostwriting for Harrison, who gave a first-person account of what was happening on tour for a newspaper column in the Express. Things started poorly because Davis had a noon deadline and Harrison often didn’t get out of bed until 3 p.m.
“I made up the column the first week, and I wrote a lot of rubbish. Harrison finally told me that the column was (expletive deleted). I told him that if he woke up earlier and talked to me the column would get better. He did and the column did get better,” Davis says.
The craziness started the moment The Beatles arrived in America. Davis recalls going to the Hilton Hotel and fighting his way through the mobs of fans who stayed outside all night.
Because Davis had a British accent, he would get asked by fans to help get access to The Beatles.
“The most I ever did was help a few people get autographs. But I never kept any autographs for myself,” Davis says. “I was 24 at the time and none of us had a sense of history about what The Beatles would become. None of them ever thought we would still be talking about them after 50 years.”
After the tour, Davis returned to covering news and entertainment. Along with interviewing the likes of Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Cruise and Muhammad Ali, Davis was in the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
Today, Davis lives in Southern California and is working on two new books: one about movies and the other a true crime story.
“The Beatles and Me On Tour” is available at www.amazon.com and at www.ivordavisbeatles.com .
PHOTOS: Ivor Davis has written a book “The Beatles and Me on Tour”
Posted Aug 26, 2014
Longtime entertainment reporter Ivor Davis has written a book, "The Beatles and Me on Tour," about his adventures with the lads while he was covering their 1964 summer tour of America. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)
Copy photo of George Harrison with Ivor Davis, from Davis' book, "The Beatles and Me on Tour." Tuesday, August 26, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)
A framed and autographed Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album in Ivor Davis' Ventura home. Davis has written a book, "The Beatles and Me on Tour," about his adventures with the lads while he was covering their 1964 summer tour of America. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)
It was 1964, and I was the slightly wet-behind-the-ears, 25-year-old West Coast correspondent for one of Britain’s biggest newspapers, the London Daily Express—circulation four million daily.
Based in Los Angeles, I had arrived only six months earlier and contracted with the paper’s foreign editor David English to cover, on a freelance basis, an assortment of major breaking news stories. I was the new cockney kid on the Beverly Hills block who was beginning to live his dream of being a real foreign correspondent. Except I wouldn’t be covering significant “serious” news like that of my hero, Edward R. Murrow. My job was to chronicle the vagaries of Hollywood, which ranged from the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor to the divorces of Marlon Brando and Cary Grant.
My dogged reporting on actor Peter Sellers’ series of massive heart attacks after marrying the nubile 21-year-old Swedish starlet Britt Ekland, as well as my work on other assignments that dealt with other British-tinged showbiz shenanigans, impressed David and, after a time, he hired me full-time to be the Express’ man in Hollywood.
So it was in mid-August 1964, when I received an unexpected call. English was on the line with my first big job: To cover, from start to finish, a hot, British rock ’n’ roll group making its first concert tour of North America.
The Beatles had first set foot in America earlier in the year, with two live performances on the country’s most popular variety hour, The Ed Sullivan Show. Their first appearance, on February 9, had made them an instant sensation, drawing 74 million viewers and changing music history forever.
Now I was to witness the repercussions unfold at a 24-city tour, staged over 34 days, to begin that very evening in San Francisco. But it was more than just a ticket to ride; I was to become, not just front row and center for every one of their sold-out concerts, but part of their entourage. The Beatles were in stretch limo Number 1, along with their manager Brian Epstein. I traveled in Number 2, along with press officer Derek Taylor, a reporter from a Liverpool daily newspaper and a writer from one of England’s top musical weeklies. We were flanked by wailing motorcycle escorts, whizzing through the hordes of hysterical fans. On the Beatles’ private jet, we flew from California to Canada, Montreal to Milwaukee, New Orleans to New York.
I lived and ate with the boys. We had adjoining hotel rooms drank, kibitzed and played cards and Monopoly with them into the early hours of the morning, seamlessly integrated into their lives. In addition, I was given the job of ghostwriting a weekly newspaper column for the youngest Beatle, George Harrison. My access to them was unfettered—unheard of in today’s pop music world.
The access didn’t end when they returned to their homes across the Pond. I was also alongside them part of the way the following summer, when they made their second U.S. tour.
I was there when they popped pills and talked candidly about their passions and the things and people that they disliked; when they told war stories; when they moaned about the lousy sound systems and the crappy merchandise sold at stadiums, about their fear of flying and about how they coped with the revolving door of women of all shapes, sizes and ages that came calling.
I was there the night when a scandal in Las Vegas threatened to derail their tour and when gorgeous Hollywood stars came knocking. I was a fly on the wall for their meet-and-greet with the King himself—Elvis Presley—and a wet towel away the night Bob Dylan introduced them to the joys of marijuana.
This book is my very personal invitation to travel back to the Way They Were, my vivid recollection of life back then, when communication was so much simpler, when John Lennon called people “twits”—and twitter was something that only birds did.
It’s my personal, inside tale of what happened on that first, weird and wonderful North American tour—of 34 manic and memorable days.
It was 50 years ago today.
And I was there.
The book includes forty pictures from some of the world’s leading Beatles photographers
Photo: Harry Benson
With Ed Sullivan.
Photo: Express Newspapers
Brits invade America.
Photo: Express Newspapers
The untalkative George with his ghostwriter: me.
Photo: Ron Joy-Belle Schwartz Estate
Don’t fence me in.
Photo: Curt Gunther-Steven Gunther estate
All together, in Chicago.
Photo: Ivor Davis Collection
George backs up a solo by Paul.
Photo: Curt Gunther-Steven Gunther Estate
Having a haircut on A Hard Day’s Night
Photo: United Artists Pictures
Lennon in LA 1973
Photo: Cyril Maitland