Derek Taylor was always one of the most beloved figures in the Beatles’ inner circle. The Apple press officer was famous for his superhuman levels of charm and wit, both badly needed in the band’s dark final days. When John, Paul, George and Ringo fell apart, Taylor wrote his 1973 memoir As Time Goes By, one of the very best books written about the Beatles – but strangely little-known, just because it was impossible to find a copy for so many years. So it’s great news for fans that Faber & Faber is finally bringing Taylor’s lost classic back into print, with a new introduction by Jon Savage. Taylor chronicles the 1964 world tour, the chaos of American Beatlemania, the L.A. scene of the Byrds and Beach Boys, the utopian Summer of Love, the bitter end. Taylor is candid; at one point, he admits, “I don’t think I ever hated anyone as much as I hated Paul in the summer of 1968.” But he also captures the unique warmth and optimism the Beatles embodied. In this chapter, he joins Paul and his sheepdog for a spontaneous road trip in 1968, as they make a surprise stop in the English countryside. It’s an unforgettable moment from an unforgettable book. –Rob Sheffield
On 22 March 1969, Annabel Lucie Taylor was born.
It happened like this.
In April 1968, Neil Aspinall and John Lennon and Paul McCartney and I were sitting in Nat Weiss’s apartment in New York talking about nothing at all. On Nat’s record player Paul played a brass band-style version of “Thingumybob,” a tune he had written for a television series of the same name which was one of the magnificent line-up programmes with which the new London Weekend Television company was planning to open its first season and justify its manifesto of great promise.
The version was very ordinary. I was very stoned. I said: “Seems to me the only way to get a brass band sound on a gramophone record, is to use a brass band.” The best band in the land,” said Paul. Yes.
Now in those days there was never a long wait between the musical will and the recorded deed and by phone the best band in the land was swiftly found, hired and asked to report to the Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Bradford, a fine Northern location for a brass band, at ten o’clock on Sunday morning, a fine Northern time of day for a brass band. We flew back to England.
Joan and I lived then in Newdigate, Surrey. “Laudate” was a beautiful little Japanese house overlooking a lake on eleven acres of land; house and land owned and leased to us by Peter Asher. It was an acid-head”s dream down there and many dreams we had in the twilight of that long psychedelic idyll of the late sixties.
The house had the strangest vibrations. I don’t think there was a day we didn’t feel we knew for sure without actually knowing anything for sure, that we were being watched by odd men and funny women.
The only others on the land were the monocled man who cared for the estate, his wife and their children. They lived in a caravan nearby, in two caravans in fact. She communed with animals and birds and was further out than she knew. At 4.15 a.m. in a thunderstorm she walked into a trip involving John, Neil, and Pete Shotton, Joan and me. When I say walked in, I mean walked in out of the darkness, sliding open the glass door on the lakeside of the house, pulling aside the curtain and bang! there she stood on our trip with an enormous armful of damp washing. “Nearly got soaked,” she said, laughing like a maniac.
John was very taken with her. She said she too sang. It was now four-thirty in the morning, and we were getting higher and higher. The suspension of disbelief: she said she would write a song there and then about what was going on. She did too: John gazed at her in wonder. He told her she could make an album and paint the cover herself.
At 5 a.m. she left and the vibration changed and we became afraid. Who else was out there? Terror. Just terror.
No need to worry. It was only Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler and his avengers waiting for Bruce Reynolds (remember the train robbers?) to come back. (This we learned but not till much later in 1968 long after we had left the house and come to the Gables, safe in golfing Surrey, away from the bats and owls of Newdigate. Only a manhunt for Bruce Reynolds. The Japanese house where we dared to explore our madness was where he had dared to explore his freedom before moving to Torquay where Chief Superintendent Butler nabbed him not long before he himself was nabbed by cancer and taken off in a wooden overcoat by the Reaper to do the sort of Bird that God stores up for career-coppers who live with their mothers.)
Laudate had always been very freaky. Aristocratic homosexuals had romped there drinking gin and lacing the lake with toilet rolls and getting their naughty names in the News of the World. At other times Peter Scott had come to watch wildfowl, and in grimmer days Peter Louis Alphon had told all to Jean Justice, the lawyer who still fights to prove Hanratty didn’t do it.
At Laudate in Newdigate I decided that Saturday to take a very modest 250 milligrams of LSD in a final cup of tea with Joan before setting off for St John”s Wood to pick up Paul McCartney and Peter Asher and Tony Bramwell, the Apple team due next day at Bradford.
A fine black Rolls arrived and I was packed and ready for a rolling trip of medium duration, minimal strength and maximum visuals for there is nothing like a ride in a Rolls on a little acid on a Saturday afternoon in June in the lanes of Surrey.
And so it turned out. Paul seemed very positive and played us some rare recordings; “dubs” he had made of songs, writ- ten by him for others, dubs on which he was singing for the first and last time. Maybe one day they will make an album of them, but maybe it will have to be over his dead body for I don’t see him wishing to complete that particular symphony in his lifetime.
I said I had taken a dollop of the dreaded heaven-and-hell, and Paul said it should be an interesting journey, and it was. We stopped at a pub on the way up and I astonished myself by coping remarkably well up until the point where I asked the barman if I could buy a filthy table which stood in a corner covered in cigarette burns and the stains of long-dead pints.
He said, “What would you want with an old thing like that, better to get a new one.” It hadn’t been anything special even when it was new, he told us. “You may not believe this,” I replied, “but it is the cigarette burns and the stains I am really buying. They are so incredibly far out.”
“Drink up,” said Paul, seeing the signs and playing Dad. “Write your name here please, Paul,” said the barman and we left.
We arrived in Bradford after dark. Some crippled people were operating rowing machines in a charity marathon in a local showroom. We wandered in and looked, leaving some silver in the collecting boxes, neither the first nor the last of the small spenders.
It was midnight as we checked into the hotel. There wasn’t a soul or a sound except for the red-nosed night porter, as old as Moses. Paul had brought Martha (My Dear) with him – the sheepdog of the same name. “Can you shampoo her?” he asked the porter who recoiled in terror. “It’s her arse,” said Paul, and he put his fingers in the thick curls around Martha’s back passage and pulled off a cluster of clinkers.
“Look!” I nearly fainted. “I’m afraid not,” said the porter. It was very late after all.
Next morning, another lovely day. I felt very nice and clean around the brain, always have a lovely morning after acid. A few months earlier Paul and I had gone shopping for suits; he had told me navy blue pinstripe was already on the way back (meaning that he wore it) and I fell for it – and ordered one.
I had taken it with me to Bradford; just right for Bradford I said. I wore it down to breakfast and then we went off to the Victoria Hall where the Black Dyke Mills Band were waiting on hard wooden chairs, looking bloody marvellous and real and solid and honourable and stocky and lots of other words like that. Paul had on a magenta shirt and a white jacket, double breasted, with black trousers (no one had ever told him they were on the way back), and the Black Dyke Mills Band was quite stunned by his charm and by the way he handled the music.
Marvellous recordings were made, indoors and later in the street, of both “Thingumybob” and “Yellow Submarine”. It was a good morning for everyone because the portable recording unit worked, the band and McCartney worked, and the press worked out beautifully – I saw dozens of old friends and we had a few pints and then lunch.
At around three o’clock, as we filmed the last TV interview (“How do you like Bradford?” “It”s great . . .”; fast-moving stuff like that) I decided to off the suit and black shoes, put on a pair of red corduroys and a white Mexican cotton shirt from Olvera Street, Los Angeles, a couple of beads, an Indian scarf and down my throat went another 250 milligrams of the dreaded heaven-and-hell drug. What a day for a daydream.
“Should be an interesting journey,” said Paul.
The chauffeur said: “Back to London?” and we said “yes,” not sure that it was the right answer.
Alan Smith of the New Musical Express, Alan who had been on the Birkenhead News when I was on the Liverpool Daily Post, was travelling back with us and was taping interviews; so lively the journey became and, asked about Biafra, Paul said he had to confess, he didn’t really care about Biafra, if he had he would have gone there, wouldn’t he?
McCartney: “Own up! Who really cares about anyone else?” And so on.
As we rolled away from the South Midlands and approached the Northern Home Counties the acid really started to bounce. It was late afternoon and if there was a heaven to be found on this soil, then I reckoned it would be found this evening, in the green and gold of this divine countryside.
“Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar?” “Yes,” said Peter Asher. “Where would you like to go?” I asked. “AA Book,” said Paul. “Pick the most beautiful name in Bedfordshire,” I said, “that’s where we should go.”
Peter looked at the map for what seemed like two hours or more.
“Harrold,” he said, after fifteen seconds.
“Harrold?” said the driver, naturally knocked out with delight to leave the M1 and crawl down B, C and D roads to a village no one in the car, including himself, had ever heard of. We wound through Bedfordshire checking off the signs steadily until we reached the village sign: Harrold. Oh, it was a joyful Sunday sight.
It was the village we were supposed to have fought the world wars to defend, for which we would be expected to fight the third when told to, but won”t. It was a Miniver hamlet on the Ouse and there were notices telling of the fete next Saturday, and a war memorial which made me weep. Thrushes and blackbirds sang and swallows dived into thatches and a little old mower wheezed as we walked down the only street there was past the inn which was closed, past the church which was open, nodding to a sandy man with a 1930s moustache and khaki shorts as he clipped his hedge and stared at these city people with funny hair and clothes.
It was seven o’clock and acid or no acid, it was opening time and I steered us into the most beautiful village inn the world has ever known and there were three or four people in there, or more or less; magical antique villagers with smocks and shepherd’s crooks and also there was a fruit machine offering Jolly Joker tokens. Through the dancing lights, past the sparkle of the green and tawny bottles, I saw the sandy man with the khaki shorts.
I went to the Jolly Joker and stared at him as he spun past, parallel lines of leering jokers circling the globe, mocking my greed, never stopping at the same time, matching with lemons, cherries, apples, half a striped plum, never the Jokers met to jackpot me into the problem of cashing twenty jokers behind a bar which now seemed a thousand miles away behind the sandy man and his knowing smile.
“Welcome to Harrold, Paul,” said the sandy man, the local dentist, downing the rich gold beer he had earned with his shears. “I can hardly believe it, in fact I think I”m dreaming.” We next found ourselves in his house, below dipping oak beams, a banquet provided for us, hams and pies and multi-jewelled salads, new bread and cakes, chicken and fruit and wine; and the dentist’s wife, a jolly lady, still young beyond her maddest fantasies, bringing out her finest fare. Paul McCartney was at her table in the village of Harrold.
Hiding at a turn on the crooked staircase stood a little girl, shy and disbelieving. But she had brought a right-handed guitar and landed it in Paul’s (left-handed) hands but the wizards were producing this play by now and floating with the splendour of this, the strangest Happening since Harrold was born, the dentist and his wife, and the neighbours as they crowded the windows and the parlour, and the children, all caught their breath as Paul McCartney began to play the song he had written that week: “Hey, Jude” it began.
I sat peacefully, full of the goodness you can find within yourself when goodness is all around and the dentist’s wife picked up on it and asked why life couldn’t always be like this and I told her there was nothing to fear, nothing at all and the dentist brought out the wine he had been saving for the raffle at the fete next Saturday and we drank that to celebrate the death of fear and the coming of music to Harrold and then, and gradually, the dentist was freaking and he asked me what I thought I was talking about and for a moment it was very tough, very. Ah, but Dr Leary’s medicine was good that day and we came back to a good position again, but I didn’t feel quite right about the dentist after that, and I don’t think he felt quite right about me, but how was he to know and what was I to do? You don’t just tell strangers you’ve been taking that naughty old heaven’n’hell drug.
It was now eleven o’clock and we were still in the house and the inn was closed but a winged messenger came to say that as this was the night of nights, never to return, the inn was to be re-opened. “In your honour, Paul.”
It was 11 p.m. Paul had The Look on his face, the “do we don’t we?” I nodded: tonight we should. The pub was absolutely full. The whole village was here. Paul played the piano until at three o’clock a woman stood and sang “The Fool on the Hill” and he left the piano to dance with her and kiss her on the cheek and then I went and sat in the little garden and cried for joy that we had come to Harrold. It was a most beautiful garden, with hundreds of old-fashioned flowers, lupins, foxgloves – that sort of thing, and Alan Smith came out, pissed as a newt and said, “Why so sad, old friend, why so sad on such a night?” “Not sad,” I said, “not sad, old pal, just happy to be alive.”
We left then, waved away by the Harrolds, by all of them, and we never went back and I never looked at the map again, not even to see if Harrold was there.
It was full of day and birds and dancing daisies at Laudate as I tiptoed over the rush matting in the little Japanese house, into the bedroom as Joan opened her eyes and smiled. “Hello, darling,” full of sleep, “had a good time?”
As best I could, I told her what I have told you and because she has been somewhere like that herself, she understood and put out her arms and I slipped into bed and what with one thing and another, Annabel Lucie Taylor was born on 22 March in the following year.
And it happened like that.
Excerpted from As Time Goes By by Derek Taylor, published by Faber & Faber. Copyright © 1973, 2018 The Estate of Derek Taylor. Used with permission.