In the centre of the photo, Derek Taylor. On the
Dr. Timothy Leary, grinning back at John and Yoko. This photo
was culled from Derek's excellent book entitled: "As Time Goes By --
Living in the Sixties".
The following article appeared in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, May 31, 1969 and was located on page 45 of their edition.
At the core of the Apple with Derek Taylor
By David Bist
Most entertainers' press agents have to work very hard to convince newspaper, television and radio men their clients are worth publicity.
Derek Taylor is The Beatles' press agent.
His, then, should have been an easy job. The Beatles, after all, are known here and there.
But a few hours in John and Yoko Lennon's suite of rooms at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel shoot that logic into a pile of pillow feathers.
A bed-in for peace it is. A peaceful, restful place it isn't.
While John and Yoko lie under hot film lights answering questions from reporters in the room and from the radio men telephoning from all over the continent, Derek Taylor coordinates everything form arranging the interviews to making sure that everybody's laundry isn't lost.
His job, he says isn't so much being a press agent as being a "filter" -- determining who should speak to Lennon, and when. Sometimes the problem is speaking to Derek Taylor. That is accomplished only in short bursts.
Ask him a question: "Tell me a bit about Derek Taylor."
"Well, he was born in Liverpool in 1937, May 7. Of middle-class parents. I have a brother who sells..."
The phone rings, Taylor answers. He listens for a minute then breaks in: "You're young and just want to speak to John Lennon, don't you?" The reply, apparently, is affirmative. A teenybopper's carefully-laid plans have crumbled.
Taylor: "You should have just said so instead of giving me a pack of lies." He then politely explains that Mr. Lennon doesn't have time to speak to everyone, but perhaps tomorrow...
"Brandy and wine. He goes hunting, with his beagles, on weekends and is in the Territorial Army, a major, on other weekends."
That's how the interview went. Taylor would leave for five minutes in the middle of a sentence and return five minutes later to finish -- without dropping a word -- his thought.
Taylor has 15 years' experience with newspapers in Liverpool, Manchester and London, separated by a two-year stint in the Army. In Manchester he worked for three papers. The first was closed by a strike and he didn't return; the second folded after 10 months, the third after eight.
His next stop was the Daily Express where he joined their theatres-entertainment department. Early in 1963 he first saw The Beatles, was very impressed and faithfully reported their every move to the growing army of Beatlemaniacs.
That Beatlemania also spread to Taylor, who began to get "panicky" that Paul McCartney might wed Jane Asher without being the first reporter to know. The only solution, obviously, was to become the group's press agent -- which he managed in short order.
"But as it turned out," he adds, "it was worse when Paul did marry." (He wed U.S. divorcee Linda Eastman on March 13, 1969.)
He left The Beatles at the end of 1964 -- a press agent to a group that he didn't really feel needed a press agent -- and, after another stint with a newspaper, went to California.
He established himself as a publicist in Hollywood and soon began working with such well-known groups as The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and the Mamas and Papas.
It was an exciting time, Taylor says, the time when the West Coast Pop Explosion first began to flower.
And he had a lot to do with it. He was one of three original people behind the Monterrey Pop Festival -- with Ben Shapiro and Allan Pariser -- which really opened up the West Coast scene and in fact, although it's been tried many times, has not yet been equaled.
Taylor's success in California, he says, was due to the fact that "I was English and had a reasonable narrative flow." But it was more than that. People who have worked with him say it was because he could mix with the people he was publicizing, unlike many press agents, who stay at arms length. And, because he knew them, could do much more than just write biographies.
He started with a small office and before too long had an entire floor in a Hollywood office. He had 11 clients and began to think it was time he put in wall-to-wall carpets and suggested to his wife -- a Merseyside girl he married in 1958 -- it was time that he bought a Jaguar.
"It hit me like a flash," Taylor says, "I'd join the rat race without even knowing it." The solution was to get out of it and the route he took was to drop out of it and join the Haight-Ashbury crowd.
At that point he was making about $900 a week. A few months after dropping out he headed back to the U.K., disgusted by the growing repression in California and the plasticization of Hashbury. He flew on the fly-now-pay-later plan.
The Beatles welcomed him back to Apple Corp. and today he lives in a London suburb with his wife, six kids, a donkey and three dogs.
"What Derek really has," an associate mentioned last week when Taylor had gone to answer yet another 'phone call, "is grace." And that shows.
Copyright by The Montreal Gazette, May 21, 1969. All rights reserved.
* Technical note: The word "Hashbury" in the third-last paragraph is deliberately written that way by the journalist, perhaps a play on words by combining the illicit drug "Hash" and hippie communal "Ashbury" together to form "Hashbury".
MORE ON DEREK TAYLOR...
Montreal Gazette reporter David Bist also had his own music column. The following article entitled, "Notes on Canadiana and Beatlemania" contained additional highlights of his interview with Derek Taylor not found in the above article. David Bist's report was found three pages later -- on page 48 to be exact -- in the same May 31, 1969 edition. The musical contents of the article jumped around randomly, back and forth as the author compared the Canadian and British music beat scene.
Since there is a lot of irrelevant information to a Beatle reader, I have presented here the best relevant parts of Mr. David Bist's excellent report. The article opens up discussing The Guess Who's hit, "These Eyes", and how the single rocketed up to No. 5 position with Record World and No. 4 position in Cashbox with big U.S. companies casting their "green tinted eyes northward looking for what else they can pull out of the Canadian talent freezer." The reporter continues to expand on his write-up concerning Canadian artists such as Robert Charlebois and a group called Mother Lode who just released "When I Die" and "Life's Hands of the Clock" before he starts presenting more information on his visit to Derek Taylor at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal...
Excerpts from "Notes on Canadiana and Beatlemania":
Anyone who: 1) doesn't think that John Lennon is serious, or 2) thinks he is on a holiday, can forget about those notions right now.
John and Yoko's bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth is no gimmick. They believe fervently in peace and the value of human life and they're working hard at spreading the message. They are, in the true sense of the word, beautiful people. They're in love and it is such a marvelous feeling they think everybody should be that way.
This is The Beatles "holiday" period -- a period when John and Yoko could be almost anywhere in the world -- U.S. points excepted -- relaxing. Instead they're lying in a bed under glaring TV lights, repeating the same message over and over -- without ever a trace of impatience or boredom -- with a radio station set up in the room, the telephone almost constantly ringing and people trooping in and out. A holiday it's not. These people believe, and if you'll take the time to listen to them -- there's an extensive interview elsewhere in this section of the paper -- you will too.
An unreal moment: Watching A Hard Day's Night on the TV sitting in John Lennon's hotel room with Derek Taylor, the groups press officer. John and Yoko were in the next room with Kyoko, but the atmosphere was there, fuelled by Derek -- he's been with the group since '64 -- dropping lines about incidents that happened during the filming and like that. Sounds hokey, but I grooved out on it.
Derek, by the way, is one of the most remarkable people I've ever met. He's at the same time businesslike and friendly, brisk and tactful, organized and unorganized. He's a wealth of information about The Beatles, naturally, but he's also real, down-to-earth and in fact a helluva a nice guy.
John Lennon, when asked this week if he'd think up a new name for the Don Juan nightclub's new room downtown, christened it "The Peace Bag."
End of excerpts. Copyright by The Montreal Gazette, May 31, 1969. All rights reserved.
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