Speaking Words of Wisdom
How Mike Berry Introduced Paul McCartney Into the World of Music Publishing

By Bill Harry  

Mike Berry and friend"I was at 94 Baker Street with a big office above Terry's on the second floor. The carpets were all white but the furniture was sparse. At the time there was a psychedelic painting on the side of the building that was later whitewashed out on the orders of Westminster Council.

"Terry and I ran the publishing company entirely with two secretaries and a book-keeper. My duties were to find writers and promote and oversee the promotion of records that we would eventually have released, on whatever label.

"At Apple I always found John Lennon to be a pussy cat as long as I made it clear that he couldn't intimidate me! After all, I had been born in an air-raid shelter in Hull just three months before John, and we really had quite a lot in common, as far as music and humour went.

"The ambience at Apple was total mayhem. There were tentacles of companies under the Apple umbrella and, as Richard DiLello once wrote, 'compared to all the other Apple Companies, the publishing outfit was a model of corporate efficiency.'

"I was and still am, proud of that.

"Apart from Paul, the Beatles were rarely to be seen at the office. Paul took a great interest in Publishing and on many occasions would sit with me to ascertain how it worked, what copyright was, and how royalties were collected from the UK and around the world. I discussed every aspect of our work with Paul regularly, on at least a weekly basis.

"During the early months of 1968 there was complete chaos involving the Apple outlets. Apart from Baker Street there was another office in Wigmore Street and a further one being bought in Savile Row.

"One day Paul sat down with me and asked for my opinion on why this chaos had been created.

"My answer was clear: no-one in the organization knew what anyone else was doing; there was no communication between offices - and worst of all as far as I was concerned, we could not get Agreements signed without the signature of a Beatle. As most of them were traveling the world at any one time, this made business almost impossible.

"For example: I picked up a record on Beacon by the Showstoppers 'Ain't Nothing But A Houseparty,' which I was convinced would be our first hit. I became friends with Milton Samuel who was the label head and we eventually agreed a deal. When it came to signing there were no Beatles in the UK to sign the document and Samuel made arrangements elsewhere.

Maria Elena and Virginia Harry"I told McCartney, who was furious. He immediately arranged a meeting of all staff at Wigmore Street, where during a three-hour meeting everyone was introduced to everyone else and made aware of their duties. It was agreed that someone should be made coordinator and have details of the Beatles' movements. Derek Taylor was duly appointed. All four Beatles were present, with John Lennon throwing paper darts at everyone.

"A week later I required a signature on an Agreement and rang Taylor to find out which Beatle was available. I was told Taylor was in Los Angeles. He'd flown out without telling anyone.

"I left Apple towards the end of 1968 to rejoin Sparta Florida at a greater salary as a Director and to take care of business the only way I knew.....professionally!"

When Mike rejoined Hal Shaper, the company was now the Sparta Florida Music Group. Ten years later he became a shareholder in the company and they had several million-selling recordings with artists as diverse as Dusty Springfield, Blondie, the Kinks, Glen Campbell, the Four Tops, John Holt, Musical Youth and punk outfit, the UK Subs.

Editor's Note: I took these photographs of Mike at a special reception for Maria-Elena Holly, Buddy Holly's wife, which was held in London in September, 2001. It was during Buddy Holly week and Paul McCartney was originally flying from New York and was going to attend the reception. Then 9/11 happened. We all attended the stage show of 'Buddy Holly' and Maria-Elena delighted the cast and audience by appearing on stage. The reception was organized by Kevin Coller, who was to become my business partner.

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