David Bacon Interview
(The Beatles Back on the Charts Again
Twenty years after its first release, "Love Me Do", the Beatles
very first record, has climbed into the Top Five of the British charts.
It's almost like Beatle mania all over again.
Writers David Bacon and Norman Maslov have put together a highly interesting
book on the group, titled "The Beatles England". What makes it
so interesting is the concept of the book. The authors have detailed both
in words and pictures all the places in England that played an important
part in the Beatles' songs and their lives.
"The Beatles England" is available from 910 Press, P.O. Box
22361, San Francisco, California 94122 for $12.95. We strongly suggest you
add this book to your collection, it's well worth it.
Recently we had the opportunity to speak with David Bacon about "The
Beatles England" and about four guys who shook the world with their
Q. Where did you get the idea for this book of yours?
A. Well, first of all Norman and I are Beatle fans. We're not writers.
We call ourselves Beatleologists. We have all the books and all the records.
After college, I went to Europe, England, to Abbey Road, up to Liverpool,
the whole thing. At that time, four or five years ago, there was no guidebook.
I went to the Liverpool Tourist Office and asked where are the Beatle slides
and they said, well, there aren't any, and there was no sort of official
recognition of them, even though it's probably their main tourist attraction.
Norman made a similar trip and we compared notes, and were both very struck
by the visuals. After going there we sort of learned a little bit extra
about the Beatles, that you don't get from reading about the places. So
we put together a book, 'cause no one else had.
Q. Has Liverpool, England honored the Beatles in any way, since you made
the trip there?
A. This past year the whole concept of Beatle Tourism has finally come
alive. Actually, there are a number of chartered tours specializing in Beatle
sites, specifically the city of Liverpool, has finally started to exploit
the Beatles as a tourist attraction. They've named four streets after The
Beatles..........In fact, the city of, Liverpool put out their own little
guidebook, of the Liverpool sites. There's a big Beatle revival in England
right now. Parlophone re-issued the Beatles' "Love Me Do", and
the last time I heard, it was Number Five on the Melody Maker Charts.
Q. How much did it cost to research and put this book together?
A. The whole project cost about $40,000. We took 3,000 photographs for
the book. Then we tried to get a publisher, and sent out nine proposals,
and got nine rejections. We were very discouraged. Then John was killed.
We were at sort of the low point. In fact, the book got sort of put away
for awhile. One thing led to another and the idea of maybe you can do it
yourself came about. We started asking a lot of different questions, and
talked to a lot of different people, publishers, a graphic designer, a lawyer.
Our parents financed the book. They took out a second mortgage on their
houses, and away we ran. We just let our imaginations run and did everything
the best we could. We had it printed in Japan, that's why it has nice coated
stock and color, and crisp printing. It turned out very well. I think it
turned out better than it would have if a publisher had picked it up.
Q. What was Liverpool like?
A. I found it to be a very nice city, in many ways prettier than London.
A lot of parks, green parks. Friendly people. A nice downtown section. And
the Beatles neighborhoods, with the exception of Ringo's, they all lived
in very, sort of normal, middle class neighborhoods. I very much enjoyed
Q. Did you ever get to speak with anybody who was close to the Beatles?
A. Yes we did. We kept running into people who were left behind. We stayed
with Allan Williams, who was sort of their first manager. He's the man who
arranged to take them to Hamburg, Germany the first time. He's a very nice
guy. He gave us a lot of help. Talked to Bob Wooler, who was the disc jockey
at the Cavern Club. We saw Tony Sheridan. He still plays clubs in Hamburg,
surprisingly enough. We ran into Jane Asher, who's a top notch actress in
London's West End.
Q. Why haven't we seen the same outpouring of grief for John Lennon's
death as we did for Elvis Presley's death?
A. It's a sort of different reaction. I think Elvis' fans are a little
bit less sophisticated than Beatles' fans, judging by the amount of merchandise
and the type of things that sell about Elvis, all this ridiculous stuff,
all these bad taste items. In fact, across the street from Graceland, there's
this shopping mall dedicated to Elvis memorabilia. The same people, who
put that out, instantly put out all this stuff on John Lennon and it didn't
sell. Nobody bought it. I think that's a compliment to Beatles and John
Lennon fans, there's some sort of taste. But life goes on. You can't mourn
death forever. I think there's a great deal of reverence and respect for
John Lennon still. The worldwide reaction to his death hasn't been equal
to anything since John Kennedy's, whereas Elvis' death turned into a circus.
And the circumstances were much different. Elvis' death was his best career
move really, 'cause he killed himself. And John Lennon was killed at a peak.
He was just beginning a new renaissance. It numbs people. Someone wanted
us to do a radio show on the second anniversary of his death. Norman and
I turned it down 'cause it still hurts, it still hurts very much. We'll
do his birthday, but not his death day. Elvis has never been bigger. The
best thing he did was kill himself. I don't mean to belittle Elvis, he was
the king. There's a great John Lennon statement about Elvis, when Elvis
died, and John said "Elvis died when he went into the Army," which
is really true.
Q. What came over you when you visited some of the Hamburg clubs and realized
the Beatles had played on that stage twenty years ago?
A. Hamburg is a whole story in itself. It was so interesting going there,
because it lives up to its legend, in fact, it almost surpasses its legend.
The town of Hamburg is very normal, but there's an area known as Reeperbahn,
it's about four or six square blocks. It's very well defined. It's the Red
Light district. Neon. The place where The Star Club was, advertises "Zombie
Sex Orgies". There are prostitutes literally every ten feet lining
up the wall. They come up and grab you by the arm and try to encourage you
to follow them.
The impression I got...can you imagine The Beatles who had been living
at home (George was seventeen at the time, John was twenty) and had never
really been away from Liverpool...away for the first time. They were children
really, in this city working eight hours a night in this bar, the diseases
they must've caught. That's what sort of neat about going to all of these
places, a reality sort of becomes clear to you. It's one thing reading about
them and reading the stories, but when you're there, you can just imagine
them walking down the street, and sort of see things as they saw them. Those
were the motions.
Q. Did the times make the Beatles or did The Beatles make the times?
A. I don't think that can be answered. Certainly the times helped. They
were the right people at the right time at the right place. What The Beatles
were able to do was not so much lead the times but sort of be at the forefront
and pick up on whatever's new, and show it to the world. I don't think the
Beatles were that much innovators, but they picked up on ideas and sounds,
and were able to churn them through their own machine and present them to
the world in a very commercial way. And that's what they did. So, The Beatles
were not the Sixties and the Sixties were not The Beatles, but they were
© Gary James All Rights Reserved