Beatles Browser 2 (cont.)

The Beatles in 1965 (Parlophone)Roger Hutchinson, former editor of British underground papers such as Oz and International Times, provided us with some insight into John Lennon’s generosity in his book ‘High Sixties.’

He recalled, “Lennon’s support of the British insurgency was consistent and mostly anonymous. Many years later, in 1974, when I was editing the last issue of International Times, I received one day a telephone call from the Beatles’ London promotional centre, Apple (which was also on its last legs), asking me to call down to their office. On arrival, I was given a cheque for £1,000, told that it was a gift from Lennon and that it was given on the understanding that no publicity would be attached. I agreed and kept my word until the morning after his assassination in December 1980.

I was working then on a newspaper in the northwest of Scotland and when the news of Lennon’s death came in, I told a friend of his unprompted generosity six years earlier. That friend looked startled, and confided that when he had been a student in the early 1970s, he had taken part in a demonstration against the South African rugby tourists in Edinburgh, which had resulted in several hundreds of students being arrested. Their massive total of fines looked set to bankrupt the student’s unions which had organized the demonstration, until a cheque which covered the entire amount arrived in the post from John Lennon, along with an insistence that no publicity be afforded the gift.”

Sir Richard Branson created the Virgin empire. His rise began with the launch of a magazine called Student.

When the Beatles announced that Apple would support the arts, the 18-year-old Branson took himself to their Savile Row office and met up with Derek Taylor. His proposal was that a forthcoming issue of Student should include a recording of an interview with John and Yoko, which could be put on a flexidisc and distributed with his magazine.

Taylor thought it was a good idea and introduced Branson to Apple Records head Ron Kass and also to a manufacturer of flexidiscs. An agreement was made.

However, that seemed to be as far as it went because Branson kept phoning Derek almost daily to see what was happening, but nothing transpired. He began visiting Apple regularly and would aid Taylor in addressing envelopes and generally help out. While Derek was putting Christmas cards in the envelopes, Branson asked about the record and Derek scribbled a note and gave it to him:

It read, “Trust me. Derek.”

However, Yoko had lost the baby she was expecting, John had been convicted of possessing cannabis, and the couple became unavailable and stayed in their Weybridge house amid rumours that they were not well.

Taylor couldn’t get them to commit to anything. As a man of his word, Derek didn’t like letting anyone down, but in late January 1969 he was handed a writ: Connaught Publications Vs John and Yoko Lennon and Derek Taylor. This was for breach of promise and the evidence included the note Derek had scribbled at Christmas.

From Branson’s point of view, he was getting desperate. He had doubled the print run of the issue to 100,000 copies, had commissioned Alan Aldridge to design a cover at great expense, which allowed for a white space in the middle for the Lennon flexi to be stuck.
When Derek received the writ, he sent a memo to Lennon. Being sued for breach of promise by a student magazine would have been bad publicity, particularly as the Lennons were intending to publicize their peace campaign. Derek was even willing to pay the £10,000 claimed for damages himself.

In April, a meeting was arranged between Derek, Branson and their respective lawyers. They got together in the basement of the Savile Row building to hear the tape, which John had delivered. When played, the room was filled with the sound: ‘ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom…..”

The Beatles in 1968 (Parlophone)Branson asked what the noise was.

“It’s the heartbeat of Yoko’s baby,” Derek told him.

The sound then stopped.

“Is that all there is?” Branson asked.

“That’s when it died,” he was told.

There was an awkward silence.

“Its reality,” said Derek. “It’s conceptual art. It’s something that belonged to John and Yoko. And anyway, it’s all we’ve got.”

Branson left, the tape wasn’t used as a flexidisc on Student magazine, and Branson withdrew his writ.

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