I wanted to do something special for this blog, because it is my 100th published blog. So I am reprinting an interview with Alistair Taylor which was originally published in the book ESOTERIA-LAND (which is out of print).
Alistair Taylor Reflects on Life with the Fab Four
By Michael McCarty
It was forty years ago this week (namely, Nov. 9, 1961) that a Liverpool furniture salesman/record retailer named Brian Epstein and his assistant, Alistair Taylor, went to a local club called The Cavern to see an unknown band called The Beatles.
Their drummer was Pete Best and the group wore greasy black-leather jackets, but otherwise the famous line-up was – Paul McCartney on bass, John Lennon and George Harrison on guitars.
You know the rest of the story….
Epstein became the manager but Taylor became known as “Mr. Fix-It” – solving all the little problems and generally keeping the Fab Four happy and contented on a daily basis.
Alistair Taylor has written a book called Yesterday: My Life with the Beatles which details his frantic years with and without the band, which includes the time he turned down a chance to own a percentage of The Beatles just before they got a recording contract.
MICHAEL McCARTY: What are your thoughts on Brian Epstein?
ALISTAIR TAYLOR: I loved Brian Epstein very dearly; we had a weird relationship. He was gay, I wasn’t, yet we worked so well together. Brian was the greatest record retailer the world has ever known. The guy could smell a hit a million miles away – even before The Beatles! It’s no wonder what he did with that.
McCARTY: You and Brian Epstein first went to see The Beatles perform on Nov. 9, 1961, at The Cavern club. How do you remember The Cavern?
TAYLOR: Hell on earth was a good description of The Cavern. It was small, smelly … water and condensation dripped down the walls. The stage was like five planks of wood, that’s it. I used to go there when it was a jazz club and a trombone player once told me it was like blowing into a wet blanket.
McCARTY: What did you think of The Beatles the first time you saw them?
TAYLOR: I thought they were absolutely awful. They looked awful, they had no discipline, they weren’t very good musicians and they behaved abominably.
McCARTY: What do you remember about the day that Epstein agreed to manage The Beatles?
TAYLOR: The day we signed, I witnessed the contract with Brian. Brian never signed it so there’s five signatures: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Alistair Taylor. My big claim to fame!
There was great excitement in the office. Everybody sort of patted each other on the back. It quieted down and Paul said, “I don’t know if we’re going to make it as a group but I’ll tell you what, I’m going to make it as a star!”
McCARTY: John Lennon claimed that The Beatles “sold out” when Epstein put them into suits and cleaned up their image. Do you agree or disagree?
TAYLOR: I’ve read the supposed quote from John about “selling out” and I just don’t go with this argument that they resented what Brian did to them – because if he’d have said, “Jump off the pier, it’ll make you a hit record,” they’d have done it.
We put them into suits. We never interfered musically, but we took them to hairdressers. We bought them ties and shirts. I don’t think they’d ever worn ties before, but at the time the boys would have done anything to become successful.
McCARTY: What kept Epstein going on, even after The Beatles had been rejected by every record company in England?
TAYLOR: Belief. We believed they would happen. He’s quoted as saying that “They’ll be bigger than Elvis.” I never heard him say it but he knew they were going places.
McCARTY: Is it true that Epstein threatened to pull all EMI products out of his family’s chain of record shops in England if EMI didn’t sign The Beatles to a recording contract?
TAYLOR: That is my belief. I’m sure he did.
McCARTY: In your work with The Beatles, you were known as “Mr. Fix-It,” the problem-solver. Which Beatle gave you the most trouble?
TAYLOR: In the early days, George used to be the troublemaker. He hated being a Beatle. I’ve been sent off in taxis to find him while they were off on tour and there was no George. Paul was always the guy that cared about image – all the way through, he was a public relations man. John couldn’t give a damn.
McCARTY: What is your recollection of The Beatles’ songwriting?
TAYLOR: When Paul and Jane Asher spilt, we used to sit at Paul’s place on Cavendish Avenue drinking Scotch and Coke. We started chatting about music and Paul asked, “Do you know anything about writing music?” and I said “Good God, no!”
“It’s dead easy, there’s nothing to it!” he said.
In Paul’s dining room, he had this little church organ and he said, “You get on that end, I’ll get on this end and run down the keyboard. I’m going to shout out a word and you shout out the opposite and keep this noise going.”
So we went bang, bang, bang, “Yes!” “No!” “Hello!” “Goodbye!” for half an hour. Two months later he came waltzing in and he’d just cut “Hello Goodbye” and I didn’t dare say, “Hey mate, I wrote that.”
McCARTY: Are The Beatles aware of all the Beatle conventions? What do you suppose they think of all the fuss?
TAYLOR: Yes, they are aware. I would imagine, quite honestly, that Paul would not approve because Paul’s got this thing that everybody’s living on his back. Unless he’s changed dramatically, he would imagine this is just a fast buck-making thing.
McCARTY: Why do you think it took so long for Liverpool to honor The Beatles and what they accomplished?
TAYLOR: My own theory is, they resented the boys moving to London (from Liverpool). I think it’s getting better because Paul took the trouble to add “Let It Be Liverpool” to the World Tour, and he did Liverpool proud. Standing on the banks of the Mersey on a warm June evening with 26,000 people singing “Give Peace a Chance,” I shall never forget it as long as I live.
McCARTY: What have you been doing since leaving The Beatles?
TAYLOR: Basically, a very ordinary job. I had possibly one of the top jobs in pop music. What happened was, everybody disappeared into the woodwork. Everybody had assumed that I had earned such a vast sum of money that they were scared stiff they couldn’t afford me!
I couldn’t get a job. The only job I could get was a pot washer in a big hotel in England. In hotel hierarchy, nothing comes lower than a pot washer. It is the bottom!
I did that for nine months, then I managed to move up. I went back into the hotel business and became an assistant manager. Just recently, I’ve been managing a warehouse for a computer company.
As I say, just routine jobs.
McCARTY: When Brian Epstein first decided to manage The Beatles, he offered you two percent of them but you turned him down. Any regrets?
TAYLOR: Just a little bit, yes! The biggest mistake of my life, looking back on it. At the time it didn’t seem important.
If you like this interview, please check out my mega book of interviews MODERN MYTHMAKERS: 35 Interviews With Horror and Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers:
MODERN MYTHMAKERS by Michael McCarty
The book features 35 interviews with such writers and filmmakers as Elvira, Ray Bradbury, John Carpenter, Dean Koontz, John Saul, The cast & crew of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Joe McKinney, Peter Straub, Linnea Quigley, William F. Nolan, Christopher Moore and many more….