Yanni “John” Alexis Mardas, or “Magic Alex” as he was known in the Beatles universe when he was among Apple Corps’ earliest employees, died Friday at the age of 74.
John Lennon was first introduced to Mardas, an Athens-born artist who had exhibits at the Beatles-frequented Indica Gallery in London, through the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones; Mardas had created a psychedelic light show for the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties’ Request tour.
Lennon soon became enthralled with Mardas’ “Nothing Box” – a blinking light box that stimulated Lennon’s LSD trips – and recruited the Greek expatriate, now dubbed “Magic Alex,” into the Beatles’ inner circle, employing Mardas as the head of Apple Electronics.
“I invented a large number of electronic devices, none of which had anything to do with music of the business of the Beatles,” Mardas said in a 2010 statement after suing the New York Times for defamation after the newspaper called him a charlatan.
“It must be remembered that none of these had even been thought about by others at the time, although most of them are now in common use,” citing the “memory phone” and “the composing typewriter,” which worked off voice recognition.
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In 1968, Mardas, who previously claimed to have the technological wherewithal to construct a 72-track tape machine, was placed in charge of building the Beatles a new recording studio in the basement of Apple’s Savile Row headquarters; that project was scrapped soon after Beatles manager Allen Klein was brought in to straighten out the hemorrhaging Apple Corps. Following that incident, Mardas and Apple Corps parted ways.
“Magic Alex” accompanied the Beatles on their visit to India to study transcendental meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Mardas also served a pivotal role when Lennon attempted to leave then-wife Cynthia Lennon for Yoko Ono.
“I’ve come with a message from John,” Mardas told Cynthia Lennon after John and Ono departed together for New York. “He is going to divorce you, take Julian away from you and send you back to Hoylake.”
Lennon recognized Mardas as the co-writer of the Beatles outtake “What’s the New Mary Jane,” although “Magic Alex” was not officially given a songwriting credit on the Lennon/McCartney track. Mardas also made an appearance in the band’s Magical Mystery Tour film.