A Candid Conversation with England's Mop-Topped Millionaire Minstrels
Our interviewer this month is the inimitable Jean Shepard, whose nostalgically comic boyhood reminiscences and acerbic social commentary have earned him not only the applause of Playboy's readers, but also a loyal audience of three-million for the free-form one-man radio talkathon which he wings weekly over New York's WOR from the stage of the Limelight in Greenwich Village. A nimble-witted and resourceful broadcast reporter who's tilted verbal lances with such formidable subjects as Malcom X and Harry S. Truman, he debuts herein as an interviewer for the printed page. Shepherd writes of his subjects:
"I joined the Beatles in Edinburgh in the midst of a wild, swinging personal-appearance tour they were making throughout the British Isles. The first glimpse I had of them was in a tiny, overheated, totally disorganized dressing room backstage between their first and second shows. I had taken the night flight up from London and suddenly found myself face to face with one, or rather four, of the 20th Century's major living legends. All of them looked up suspiciously as I walked in, then went back to eating, drinking, and tuning guitars as though I didn't exist. Legends have a way of ignoring mere mortals. I looked hard at them through the cigarette smoke, and they began to come into focus, sprawling half-dressed and self-involved amid the continuous uproar that surrounds their lives.
"They had been playing one-night stands in Glasgow and Dundee, and I went along with them from Edinburgh to Plymouth, Bournemouth and half a dozen other towns. They were all the same: wild, ravening multitudes, hundreds of policemen, mad rushes through the night in a black Austin Princess to a carefully guarded inn or chalet for a few fitful hours of sleep. And then the cycle started all over again.
"It became impossible to tell one town from another, since to us they were just a succession of dressing rooms and hotel suites. The screams were the same. The music was the same. It all assumed the ritual quality of a fertility rite. Latter-day Druids, the Beatles sat in their dressing room - a plywood Stonehenge - surrounded by sweaty T-shirts, trays of french fries, steak, pots of tea, and the inevitable TV set; while from somewhere off beyond the walls of the theatre came the faint, eerie wailing of their worshipers, like the sea or the wind. But the Beatles no more heard it than a New York cop hears traffic. Totally oblivious to the mob - and to the honks and plunks of other Liverpudlian rock 'n' rollers warming up down the hall - they sat sipping scotch from paper cups and watching 'Dr. Kildare' on the telly.
"I, meanwhile, sat and watched them - and wondered why, in two years they had become a phenomenon that had somehow transcended stardom - or even showbiz. They were mythical beings, inspiring a fanaticism bordering on religious ecstasy among millions all over the world. I began to have the uncomfortable feeling that all this fervor had nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, or with talent, or even with the Beatles themselves. I began to feel that they were the catalyst of a sudden world madness that would have burst upon us whether they had come on the scene or not. If the Beatles had never existed, we would have had to invent them. They are not prodigious talents by any yardstick, but like hula hoops and yo-yos, they are at the right place at the right time, and whatever it is that triggers the mass hysteria of fads has made them walking myths.
"Everywhere we went, people stared in openmouthed astonishment that there were actually flesh-and-boned human beings who looked just like the Beatle dolls they had at home. It was as though Santa Claus had suddenly shown up at a Christmas party, Night after night, phalanxes of journalists would stand grinning, groveling, obsequious, jotting down the Beatles' every word. In city after city the local mayor, countess, duke, earl and prelate would be led in, bowing and scraping, to bask for a few fleeting moments in their ineffable aura. They don't give interviews; they grant audiences, which is the way the world wants its legends to behave.
"All around them, wherever they go, shimmers a strange, filmy, translucent pall of palpable unreality, so thick that you can almost taste it. And at the very center of this vast cloud of fantasy are the four young men themselves, by far the most real and least enchanted of them all. They have managed somehow to remain remarkably human, totally unlike the kewpies created by fandom and the press. In real life, the Beatles don't make Beatle noises. Nor are they the precocious teenagers. They are grown-up, scotch-drinking men who know what the world expects of them - which is to be Beatles and to wear long hair, funny clothes and be cute. But all that stops when the curtain falls and the high-heeled shoes come off and the drums are put away.
"Their unimaginable success - which has made them world figures important enough for the Prime Minister and the Queen's consort to discuss in news conferences, and has made them without a doubt the most successful money machine in recent times - has left them faintly bemused, but also extremely guarded in their day-to-day life, almost as though they're afraid that an extraloud sneeze will burst the bubble and they'll be back in reality like the rest of us.
"Of the four, George Harrison seems to be the one most amused and least unsettled by it all. The truest swinger among them, he is also the most sarcastic, and unquestionably the most egotistical; he fingers his hair a lot, and has a marked tendency to pause meaningfully and frequently before mirrors. Even so, he's a very likeable chap - if he happens to like you. John Lennon, on the other hand, is a rather cool customer, and far less hip than he's made out to be. He does radiate a kind of on-the-top-of-it kind of confidence, however, and is the unacknowledged leader of the group. Equally poised, but far more articulate and outgoing, Paul McCartney (sometimes known as 'the cute Beatle') reminded me of Ned, the fun-loving Rover Boy: He's bright, open-faced and friendly - the friendliest of the lot; but unlike Ned, he also has a keen eye for a well-turned figure, and he worries a lot about the future. Ringo, the smallest Beatle - even smaller in person than he appears to be on the screen - is a curious contrast with the others. Taciturn, even a bit sullen, he spends a good deal of his time sitting in corners staring moodily at the Venetian blinds. Perhaps because he wasn't their original drummer, he seems slightly apart from the rest, a loner. Still, he has a way of growing on you - if he doesn't grow away from you.
"But they all find it difficult to make any real contact with anybody outside of their immediate circle. And vice versa. As they appear unreal to their maniacal fams, so their fans appear to them, And an incessant infestation of interviewers has erected a wall of hackneyed wisecracks and ghostwritten ripostes between them and the press. So getting to know the Beatles, and to draw them out, was a discouraging task at first. I traveled and lived with them for three days before the first crack appeared in the invisable shield that surrounds them. Paul suddenly asked me about my cold - which I had been nursing since my arrival - and I knew that real life had reared its unexpected head.
"We began to become friends. And a week or so and what felt like 10,000 miles and 10,000,000 sceams later, we found ourselves ensconced in a hotel room in Torquay in southwest England, on the gray shores of the English Channel. They had just played two shows before a raging throng of subteen girls in nearby Exeter. Within seconds after the final curtain, like a gang of convicts executing a well-rehearsed and perfectly synchronized prison break, they had eluded a gimlet-eyed army of idolators outside the stage door and careened off in anonymous vehicles, with coat collars up and hats pulled low - four hunted fugatives and one terrified hostage (me) - into the wintery night. Pseudonymously registered and safely padlocked in their suite at the hotel - the identity and whereabouts of which were a more closely guarded secret than SAC's fail-safe recall code - they slipped out of their Beatle suits and into some comfortable sportswear, ordered up a goodly supply of Coke, tea and booze, and began to unwind. We found ourselves talking quietly - and all of a sudden, almost communicating. Somewhere along the line I turned on my tape machine. Here's what it recorded." - Jean Shepard
PLAYBOY: "OK, we're on. Why don't we begin by..."
JOHN: "Doing Hamlet."
RINGO: "Yeah, yeah, let's do that."
PLAYBOY: "That sounds fun, but just for laughs, why don't we do an interview instead?"
GEORGE: "Say, that's a fine idea. I wish I'd thought of that."
PAUL: "What shall we ask you for a first question?"
RINGO: "About those Bunny girls..."
PLAYBOY: "No comment. Let's start over. Ringo, you're the last Beatle to join the group, aren't you?"
JOHN: "A few years probably... sort of off and on, really... for three years or so."
PAUL: "Yeah, but really amateur."
GEORGE: "The local pub, you know. And in each other's uncle's houses."
JOHN: "And at George's brother's wedding. Things like that. Ringo used to fill in sometimes if our drummer was ill. With his periodic illness."
RINGO: "He took little pills to make him ill."
PLAYBOY: "When you joined the others Ringo, they weren't quite as big as they are now, were they?"
RINGO: "They were the biggest thing in Liverpool. In them days that was big enough."
PAUL: "This is a point we've made before. Some people say a man is made of muscle and blood... No they don't... they say, 'How come you've suddenly been able to adjust to fame,' you know, to nationwide fame and things. It all started quite nicely with us, you see, in our own sphere where we used to play, in Liverpool. We never used to play outside it, except when we went to Hamburg. Just those two circles. And in each of them, I think we were 'round the highest paid, and probably at the time the most popular. So in actual fact we had the same feeling of being famous then as we do now."
GEORGE: "We were recognized then, too, only people didn't chase us about."
PAUL: "But it just grew. The quantity grew; not the quality of the feeling."
PLAYBOY: "When did you know that you had really hit it big? There must have been one night when you knew it really had begun."
JOHN: "Well, we'd been playing 'round in Liverpool for a bit without getting anywhere, trying to get work, and the other groups kept telling us, 'You'll do alright, you'll get work someday.' And then we went back to Hamburg, and when we came back, suddenly we were a 'Wow.' Mind you, 70 percent of the audience thought we were a 'German Wow,' but we didn't care about that."
PAUL: "We were billed in the paper: 'From Hamburg-- The Beatles.'"
JOHN: "In Liverpool, people didn't even know we were from Liverpool. They thought we were from Hamburg. They said, 'Christ, they speak good English!' Which we did, of course, being English. But that's when we first, you know, stood there being cheered for the first time."
PAUL: "That was when we felt we were..."
JOHN: "...on the way up."
PAUL: "...gonna make it in Liverpool."
PLAYBOY: "How much were you earning then?"
JOHN: "For that particular night, 20 dollars."
JOHN: "For the group! Hell, we used to work for less than that."
PAUL: "We used to work for about three or four dollars a night."
RINGO: "Plus all the Coke we could drink. And we drank alot."
PLAYBOY: "Do you remember the first journalist who came to see you and said, 'I want to write about you'?"
RINGO "We went 'round to them at first, didn't we?"
JOHN: "We went and said, 'We're a group and we've got this record out. Will you...'"
GEORGE: "And the door would slam."
PLAYBOY: "We've heard it said that when you first went to America you were doubtful that you'd make it over there."
JOHN: "That's true. We didn't think we were going to make it at all. It was only Brian telling us we were gonna make it. Brian Epstein our manager, and George Harrison."
GEORGE: "I knew we had a good chance... because of the record sales over there."
JOHN: "The thing is, in America it just seemed ridiculous... I mean, the idea of having a hit record over there. It was just, you know, something you could never do. That's what I thought anyhow. But then I realized that it's just the same as here, that kids everywhere all go for the same stuff. And seeing we'd done it in England and all, there's no reason why we couldn't do it in America, too. But the American disc jockeys didn't know about British records; they didn't play them; nobody promoted them, and so you didn't have hits."
GEORGE: "Well, there were one or two doing it as a novelty."
JOHN: "But it wasn't until 'Time' and "Life' and "Newsweek' came over and wrote articles and created an interest in us that American disc jockeys started playing our records. And Capitol said, 'Well, can we have their records?' You know, they had been offered our records years ago, and they didn't want them. But when they heard we were big over here they said, 'Can we have 'em now?' So we said, 'As long as you promote them.' So Capitol promoted, and with them and all these articles on us, the records just took off."
PLAYBOY: "There's been some dispute among your fans and critics, about whether you're primarily entertainers or musicians... or perhaps neither. What's your own opinion?"
JOHN: "We're money-makers first; then we're entertainers."
RINGO: "No, we're not."
JOHN: "What are we, then?"
RINGO: "Dunno. Entertainers first."
RINGO: "'Cuz we were entertainers before we were money-makers."
JOHN: "That's right, of course. It's just that the press drivels it into you, so you say it 'cuz they like to hear it, you know."
PAUL: "Still, we'd be idiots to say that it isn't a constant inspiration to be making alot of money. It always is, to anyone. I mean, why do big business tycoons stay big business tycoons? It's not because they're inspired at the greatness of big business; they're in it because they're making alot of money at it. We'd be idiots if we pretended we were in it solely for kicks. In the beginning we were, but at the same time we were hoping to make a bit of cash. it's a switch around now, though, from what it used to be. We used to be doing it mainly for kicks and not making alot of money, and now we're making alot of money without too many kicks... except that we happen to like the money we're making. But we still enjoy making records, going on-stage, making films, and all that business."
JOHN: "We love every minute of it, Beatle people!"
PLAYBOY: "As hard-bitten refugees from the Liverpool slums-- according to heart-rending fan magazine biographies-- do you feel prepared to cope with all this sudden wealth?"
PAUL: "We've managed to make the adjustment. Contrary to rumor, you see, none of us was brought up in any slums or in great degrees of poverty. We've always had enough; we've never been starving."
JOHN: "Yeah, we saw those articles in the American fan mags that said, 'Those boys struggled up from the slums..."
GEORGE: "We never starved. Even Ringo hasn't."
RINGO: "Even I."
PLAYBOY: "What kind of families do you come from?"
GEORGE: "Well, you know, not rich. Just workin' class. They've got jobs... just work."
PLAYBOY: "What does your father do?"
GEORGE: "Well, he doesn't do anything now. He used to be a bus driver..."
JOHN: "In the Merchant Navy."
PLAYBOY: "Do you have any brothers or sisters, George?"
GEORGE: "I've got two brothers."
JOHN: "And no sisters to speak of."
PLAYBOY: "How about you, Paul?"
PAUL: "I've got one brother, and a father who used to be a cotton salesman down in New Orleans, you know. That's probably why I look a bit tanned... But seriously folks.... he occasionally had trouble paying the bills, but it was never, you know, never 'Go out and pick blackberries, son; we're a bit short this week.'"
PLAYBOY: "How about you, John?"
JOHN: "Oh, just the same. I used to have an auntie. And I had a dad whom I couldn't quite find."
RINGO: "John lived with the Mounties."
JOHN: "Yeah, the Mounties. They fed me well. No starvation."
PLAYBOY: "How about your family, Ringo, old man?"
RINGO: "Just workin' class. I was brought up with my mother and me grandparents. And then she married me stepfather when I was 13. All the time she was working. I never starved. I used to get most things."
GEORGE: "Never starved?"
RINGO: "No. I never starved. She always fed me. I was an only child, so it wasn't amazing."
PLAYBOY: "It's quite fashionable in some circles in America to hate your parents. But none of you seem to."
RINGO: "We're probably just as against the things our parents liked or stood for as they are in America. But we don't hate our parents for it."
PLAYBOY: "It's often exactly the opposite in America."
PAUL: "Well, you know, alot of Americans are unbalanced. I don't care what you say. No, really. Alot of them are quite normal, of course, but we've met many unbalanced ones. You know the type of person, like the political Whig."
PLAYBOY: "How do you mean?"
PAUL: "You know... the professional politcal type; in authority sort of thing. Some of them are just mad! And I've met some really maniac American girls! Like this one girl who walked up to me in a press conference and said, 'I'm Lily.' I said, 'Hello, how do you do?' and she said, 'Doesn't my name mean anything to you?' I said, 'Ah, no...' and I thought, 'Oh god, it's one of these people that you've met and you should know.' And so Derek, our press agant, who happened to be there at the time, hanging over my shoulder, giving me quotes, which happens at every press conference..."
GEORGE: "You'd better not say that."
PAUL: "Oh yes, that's not true, Beatle people! But he was sort of hanging about, and he said, 'Well did you ring, or did you write, or something?' And she said, 'No.' And he said, 'Well, how did you get in touch with Paul? How do you know him?' And she said, 'Through God.' Well, there was sort of a ghastly silence. I mean, we both sort of gulped and blushed. I said, 'Well, that's very nice, Lily. Thanks very much. I must be off now.'"
PLAYBOY: "There wasn't a big lightening bolt from the sky?"
PAUL: "No, there wasn't. But I talked to her afterward, and she said she'd got a vision from God, and God had said to her..."
JOHN: "It's been a hard day's night."
PAUL: "No, God had said, 'Listen Lil, Paul is waiting for you; he's in love with you and he wants to marry you, so go down and meet him, and he'll know you right away. It's very funny, you know. I was trying to persuade her that she didn't in actual fact have a vision from God, that it was..."
GEORGE: "It was probably somebody disguised as God."
PAUL: "You wouldn't hardly ever meet somebody like that in England, but there seemed to be alot like her in America."
JOHN: "Well, there's alot of people in America, so you've got a much bigger group to get nutters from."
PLAYBOY: "Speaking of nutters, do you ever wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, 'My god, I'm a Beatle?'"
PAUL: "No, not quite."
JOHN: "Actually, we only do it in each other's company. I know I never do it alone."
RINGO: "We used to do it more. We'd get in the car. I'd look over at John and say, 'Christ, look at you; you're a bloody phenomenon!' and just laugh... 'cuz it was only him, you know. And a few old friends of ours done it, from Liverpool. I'd catch 'em looking at me, and I'd say, 'What's the matter with you?' It's just daft, them just screaming and laughing, thinking I'm one of them people."
PLAYBOY: "A Beatle?"
PAUL: "The thing that makes me know we've made it is like tonight, when we slipped into a sweetshop. In the old days we could have just walked into a sweetshop and nobody would have noticed us. We would have just got our sweets and gone out. But tonight we just walked in... it took a couple of seconds... and the people there just dropped their sweets. Before, you see, there would have been no reaction at all. Except possibly, 'Look at that fellow with the long hair. Doesn't he look daft?' But nowadays they're just amazed; they can't believe it. But actually we're no different."
PLAYBOY: "The problem is that you don't seem to be like real people. You're Beatles."
PAUL: "I know. It's funny, that."
GEORGE: "It's all the publicity."
PAUL: "We're taken in by it too. Because we react exactly the same way to the stars we meet. When we meet people we've seen on the telly or in films, we still think, 'Wow!'"
JOHN: "It's a good thing, because we get just as tickled."
PAUL: "The thing is that people, when they see you on TV and in magazines and up in a film, and hear you on the radio, they never expect to meet you, you know, even our fans. Their wish is to meet you, but in the back of their mind they never think they're actually gonna meet us. And so, when they do meet us, they just don't believe it."
PLAYBOY: "Where do they find you-- hiding in your hotel rooms?"
JOHN: "No, on the street usually."
PLAYBOY: "You mean you're brave enough to venture out into the streets without a bodyguard?"
GEORGE: "We're always on the street. Staggering about."
RINGO: "Flogging our bodies."
GEORGE: "You catch John sleeping in the gutter occasionally."
PLAYBOY: "When people see you in the street, do you ever have any action?"
GEORGE: "Well, not really, because when you're walking about, you don't bump into groups of people as a rule. People don't walk 'round in gangs, as a rule."
PLAYBOY: "Can you even go out shopping without getting mobbed by them, individually or collectively?"
JOHN: "We avoid that."
PAUL: "The mountain comes to Mohammed."
GEORGE: "The shop comes to us, as he says. But sometimes we just roll into a store and buy stuff and leg out again."
PLAYBOY: "Isn't that like looking for trouble?"
PAUL: "No, we walk four times faster than the average person."
PLAYBOY: "Can you eat safely in restaurants?"
GEORGE: "Sure we can. I was there the other night."
PAUL: "Of course we're known in the restaurants we go in."
GEORGE: "And usually it's only Americans that'll bother you."
GEORGE: "Really. If we go into a restaurant in London, there's always going to be a couple of them eating there; you just tell the waiter to hold them off if they try to come over. If they come over anyway you just sign."
RINGO: "But you know, the restaurants I go to, probably if I wasn't famous I wouldn't go to them. Even if I had the same money and wasn't famous I wouldn't go to them, because the people that go to them are drags. The good thing when you go to a place where the people are such drags, such snobs, you see, is that they won't bother to come over to your table. They pretend they don't even know who you are, and you get away with an easy night."
GEORGE: "And they think they are laughing at us, but really we're laughing at them... 'cuz we know they know who we are."
RINGO: "How's that?"
GEORGE: "They're not going to be like the rest and ask for autographs."
RINGO: "And if they do, we just swear at them."
GEORGE: "Well, I don't, Beatle people. I sign the autograph and thank them profusely for coming over, and offer them a piece of my chop."
JOHN: "If we're in the middle of a meal, I usually say, 'Do you mind waiting till I'm finished?'"
GEORGE: "And then we keep eating until they give up and leave."
JOHN: "That's not true, Beatle people!"
PLAYBOY: "Apart from these occupational hazards, are you happy in your work? Do you really enjoy getting pelted by jellybeans and being drowned out by thousands of screaming subteenagers?"
GEORGE: "We still find it exciting."
JOHN: "Well, you know..."
PAUL: "After a while, actually, you begin to get used to it, you know."
PLAYBOY: "Can you really get used to this?"
PAUL: "Well, you still get excited when you go onto a stage and the audience is great, you know. But obviously you're not as excited as you were when you first heard that one of your records had reached number one. I mean, you really do go wild with excitement then; you go out drinking and celebrating and things."
RINGO: "Now we just go out drinkin' anyway."
PLAYBOY: "Do you stick pretty much together off-stage?"
JOHN: "Well, yes and no. Groups like this are normally not friends, you know. They're just four people out there thrown together to make an act. There may be two of them who sort of go off and are friends, you know, but..."
GEORGE: "Just what do you mean by that?"
JOHN: "Strictly platonic, of course. But we're all rather good friends, as it happens."
PLAYBOY: "Then do you see a good deal of one another when you're not working?"
PAUL: "Well, you know, it depends. We needn't always go to the same places together. In earlier days, of course, when we didn't know London, and we didn't know anybody in London, then we really did stick together, and it would really be just like four fellows down from the north for a coach trip. But nowadays, you know, we've got our own girlfriends... they're in London... so that we each normally go out with our girlfriends on our days off. Except for John, of course, who's married."
PLAYBOY: "Do any of the rest of you have any plans to settle down?"
PAUL: "I haven't got any."
GEORGE: "Ringo and I are getting married."
RINGO: "Oh? To whom?"
GEORGE: "To each other. But that's a thing you'd better keep a secret."
RINGO: "You better not tell anybody."
GEORGE: I mean, if we said something like that, people'd probably think we're queers. After all, that's not the sort of thing you can put in a reputable magazine like PLAYBOY. And anyway, we don't want to start the rumor going."
PLAYBOY: "We'd better change the subject, then. Do you remember the other night when this girl came backstage..."
PLAYBOY: "Unfortunately not. And she said..."
GEORGE: "It's been a hard day's night."
PLAYBOY: "No. She pointed at you, George, and said, 'There's a Beatle!' And you others said, 'That's George.' And she said, 'No, it's a Beatle!'
JOHN: "And you said, 'This way to the bedroom.'"
PLAYBOY: "No, it was, 'Would you like us to introduce you to him?'"
JOHN: "I like my line better."
PLAYBOY: "Well, the point is that she didn't believe that there was such a thing as an actual Beatle 'person.'"
JOHN: "She's right, you know."
PLAYBOY: "Do you run across many like her?"
GEORGE: "Is there any other kind?"
PLAYBOY: "In America, too?"
PLAYBOY: "With no exceptions?"
JOHN: "In America, you mean?
JOHN: "A few."
PAUL: "Yeah, Some of those American girls have been great."
JOHN: "Like Joan Baez."
PAUL: "Joan Baez is good, yeah, very good."
JOHN: "She's the only one I like."
GEORGE: "And Jayne Mansfield. PLAYBOY made her."
PAUL: "She's a bit different, isn't she? Different."
RINGO: "She's soft."
GEORGE: "Soft and warm."
PAUL: "Actually, she's a clot."
RINGO: "...says Paul, the god of the Beatles."
PAUL: "I didn't mean it, Beatle People! Actually, I haven't even met her. But you won't print that anyway, of course, because PLAYBOY is very pro-Mansfield. They think she's a rave. But she really is an old bag."
PLAYBOY: "By the way, what are Beatle people?"
JOHN: "It's something they use in the fan mags in America. They all start out, 'Hi there, Beatle people, 'spect you're wondering what the Fab Foursome are doing these days!' Now we use it all the time, too."
PAUL: "It's low-level journalese."
JOHN: "But I mean, you know, there's nothing wrong with that, It's harmless."
PLAYBOY: "Speaking of low-level journalese, there was a comment in one of the London papers the other day that paralleled you guys with Hitler. Seriously! It said that you have the same technique of drawing cheers from the crowd..."
PAUL: "That power isn't so much us being like Hitler; it's that the audiences and the show have got a sort of, you know, Hitler feel about them, because the audience will shout when their told to. That's what the critic was talking about. Actually, that article was one which I really got annoyed about, 'cuz she's never even met us."
PAUL: "The woman who wrote it. She's never met us, but she was dead against us. Like that Hitler bit. And she said we were very boring people. 'The Boresome Foursome,' she called us. You know, really, this woman was really just shouting her mouth off about us... as people, I mean."
RINGO: "Oh, come on."
PAUL: "No, you come on. I rang up the newspaper, you know, but they wouldn't let me speak to her. In actual fact, they said, 'Well, I'll tell you, the reason we don't give out her phone number is because she never likes to speak to people on the phone because she's got a terrible stutter. So I never did actually follow it up. Felt sorry for her. But I mean, the cheek of her, writing this damn article about us. And telling everybody how we're starting riots, and how we're such bores... and she's never even met us, mind you! I mean, we could turn around and say the same about her! I could go and thump her!"
GEORGE: "Bastard fascist!"
RINGO: "Yes, PLAYBOY, sir?"
PLAYBOY: "How do you feel about the press? Has your attitude changed in the last year or so?"
PLAYBOY: "In what way?"
RINGO: "I hate 'em more now than I did before."
PLAYBOY: "Did you hear about the riot in Glasgow on the night of your last show there?"
JOHN: "We heard about it after."
PLAYBOY: "Did you know that the next day there was a letter in one of the Glasgow papers that accused you of directly 'inciting' the violence?"
RINGO: "How can they say that about us We don't even wiggle. It's not bloody fair."
PAUL: "Glasgow is like Belfast. There'll probably be a bit of a skirmish there, too. But not because of us. It's because people in certain cities just hate the cops more than in other cities."
PAUL: "There were ridiculous riots last time we were there... but it wasn't riots for us. The crowd was there for us, but the riots after the show..."
RINGO: "All the drunks come out, out of the pubs."
PAUL: "...it was just beatin' up coppers."
PLAYBOY: "They just used the occasion as a pretext to get at the cops?"
PAUL: "In Dublin this trip, did you see where the crowd sort of stopped all the traffic? They even pulled a driver out of a bus."
JOHN: "They also called out the fire brigade. We had four fire engines this time."
PLAYBOY: "People were also overturning cars and breaking shop windows. But all this had nothing to do with your show?"
PAUL: "Well, it's vaguely related, I suppose. It's got something to do with us, inasmuch as the crowds happen to be there because of our show."
JOHN: "But nobody who's got a bit of common sense would seriously think that 15-year-old girls are going around smashing shop windows on account of us."
GEORGE: "Certainly not. Those girls are 'eight' years old."
PLAYBOY: "This talk of violence leads to a related question. Do you guys think there'll be a war soon?"
GEORGE: "Yeah. Friday."
RINGO: "I hope not. Not just after we've got our money through the taxes."
JOHN: "The trouble is, if they do start another war, then everybody goes with you."
PLAYBOY: "Do you think the Rolling Stones will be the first to go?"
PAUL: "It won't matter, 'cuz we'll probably be in London or Liverpool at the time, and when they drop the bomb, it'll be in the middle of the city. So we probably won't even know it when it happens."
PLAYBOY: "We brought this up for a reason, fellows. There was an essay not long ago in a very serious commentary magazine, saying that before every major war in this century, there had been a major wave of public hysteria over certain specific entertainers. There was the Irene Castle craze before World War One..."
PAUL: "Oh yes."
GEORGE: "I remember that well."
PLAYBOY: "And then, before World War Two, there was the swing craze with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, and all the dancing in the aisles. And now you--- before...."
JOHN: "Hold on! It's not our fault!"
PLAYBOY: "We're not saying you may have anything to do with inciting a war..."
PLAYBOY: "But don't you think you may be a symptom of the times, part of an undercurrent that's building up?"
PAUL: "That sort of comparison just falls down when you look at it, really. It's just like saying that this morning a fly landed on my bed and that I looked at my watch and it was eight o'clock, and that therefore every morning at eight o'clock flies land on the bed. It doesn't prove anything just 'cuz it happens a few times."
PLAYBOY: "Let's move on to another observation about you. Did you know that the Duke of Edinburgh was recently quoted as saying that he thought you were on the way out?"
JOHN: "Good luck, Duke."
GEORGE: "No comment. See my manager."
PAUL: "He didn't say it, though. There was a retraction, wasn't there?"
JOHN: "Yeah, we got a telegram. Wonderful news."
PAUL: "We sent one back. Addressed to 'Liz and Phil.'"
PLAYBOY: "Have you ever met the Queen?"
JOHN: "No. She's the only one we haven't met. We've met all the others."
PAUL: "All the mainstays."
PLAYBOY: "Winston Chirchill?"
RINGO: "No, not him."
JOHN: "He's a good lad, though."
PLAYBOY: "Would you like to meet him?"
GEORGE:" Not really. Not more than anybody else."
PAUL: "I dunno. Somebody like that you wish you could have met when he was at his peak, you know, and sort of doing things and being great. But there wouldn't be alot of point now, because he's sort of gone into retirement and doesn't do alot of things anymore."
PLAYBOY: "Is there any celebrity you would like to meet?"
PAUL: "I wouldn't mind meeting Adolf Hitler."
GEROGE: "You could have every room in your house papered."
PLAYBOY: "Would you like to meet Princess Margaret?"
PAUL: "We have."
PLAYBOY: "How do you like her?"
RINGO: " "OK. And Philip's OK, too."
PLAYBOY: "Even after what he supposedly said about you?"
RINGO: "I don't care what he said, I still think he's OK. He didn't say nothing about me personally."
PAUL: "Even if he had said things about us, it doesn't make him worse, you know."
PLAYBOY: "Speaking of royalty..."
PAUL: "Royalty never condemns anything unless it's something that they know everybody else condemns."
RINGO: "If I was royal..."
PAUL: "If I was royal, I would crack long jokes and get a mighty laugh... if I was royal."
GEORGE: "What would 'we' do with Buckingham Palace? Royalty's stupid."
PLAYBOY: "You guys seem to be pretty irreverent characters. Are any of you churchgoers?"
PAUL: "Not particularly. But we're not antireligious. We probably seem antireligious because of the fact that none of us believe in God."
JOHN: "If you say you don't believe in God, everybody assumes you're antireligious, and you probably think that's what we mean by that. We're not quite sure 'what' we are, but I know that we're more agnostic than atheistic."
PLAYBOY: "Are you speaking for the group, or just for yourself."
JOHN: "For the group."
GEORGE: "John's our official religious spokesman."
PAUL: "We all feel roughly the same. We're all agnostics."
JOHN: "Most people are, anyway."
RINGO: "It's better to admit it than to be a hypocrite."
JOHN: "The only thing we've got against religion is the hypocritical side of it, which I can't stand. Like the clergy is always moaning about people being poor, while they themselves are all going around with millions of quid worth of robes on. That's the stuff I can't stand."
PAUL: "A new bronze door stuck on the Vatican."
RINGO: "Must have cost a mighty penny."
PAUL: "But believe it or not, we're not anti-Christ."
RINGO: "Just anti-Pope and anti-christian."
PAUL: "But you know, in America..."
GEORGE: "They were more shocked by us saying we were agnostics."
JOHN: "Then they went potty; they couldn't take it. Same as in Australia, where they couldn't stand us not liking sports."
PAUL: "In America, they're fanatical about God. I know somebody over there who said he was an atheist. The papers nearly refused to print it because it was such shocking news that somebody could actually be an atheist... yeah... and admit it."
RINGO: "He speaks for all of us."
PLAYBOY: "To bring up another topic that's shocking to some, how do you feel about the homosexual problem?"
GEORGE: "Oh yeah, well, we're all homosexuals, too."
RINGO: "Yeah, we're all queer."
PAUL: "But don't tell anyone."
PLAYBOY: "Seriously, is there more homosexuality in England than elsewhere?"
JOHN: "Are you saying there's more over here than in America?"
PLAYBOY: "We're just asking."
GEORGE: "It's just that they've got crewcuts in America. You can't spot 'em."
PAUL: "There's probably a million more queers in America than in England. England may have it's scandals... like Profumo and all... but at least they're heterosexual."
JOHN: "Still, we do have more than our share of queers, don't you think?"
PAUL: "It just seems that way because there's more printed about them over here."
RINGO: "If they find out somebody is a bit bent, the press will always splash it about."
PAUL: "Right. Take Profumo, for example. He's just an ordinary..."
RINGO: "...sex maniac."
PAUL: "...just an ordinary fellow who sleeps with women. Yet it's adultery in the eyes of the law, and it's an international incident. But in actual fact, if you check up on the statistics, you find that there are hardly any married men who've been completely faithful to their wives."
JOHN: "I have! Listen, Beatle people..."
PAUL: "Alright, we all know John's spotless. But when a thing like that gets into the newspapers, everybody goes very, very Puritan, and they pretend that they don't know what sex is about."
GEORGE: "They get so bloody virtuous all of a sudden."
PAUL: "Yes, and some poor heel has got to take the brunt of the whole thing. But in actual fact, If you ask the average Briton what they really think of the Profumo case, they'd probably say, 'He was knockin' off some bird. So what?'"
PLAYBOY: "Incidentally, you've met Mandy Rice-Davies haven't you?"
GEORGE: "What are you looking at 'me' for?"
PLAYBOY: "Because we hear she was looking at you."
JOHN: "We did meet Christine Keeler."
RINGO: "I'll tell you who I met. I met whats-her-name... April Ashley."
JOHN: "I met her, too, the other night."
PLAYBOY: "Isn't she the one who used to be a man, changed her sex and married into nobility?"
JOHN: "That's the one."
RINGO: "She swears at me, you know. But when she sobers up she apologizes."
JOHN: "Actually, I quite like her. Him. It. That."
PAUL: "The problem with saying something like, 'Profumo was just a victim of circumstances' or 'April Ashley isn't so bad, even though she's changed sex' -- saying things like that in print to most people seems so shocking; whereas in actual fact, if you really think about it, it isn't. Just saying things like that sounds much more shocking than it is."
RINGO: "I got up in the Ad Lib the other night and a big handbag hit me in the gut. I thought it was somebody I knew; I didn't have my glasses on. I said, 'Hello,' and a bloody big worker went 'Arrgghhh.' So I just ran into the bog... because I'd heard about things like that."
PLAYBOY: "What are you talking about?"
GEORGE: "He doesn't know."
PLAYBOY: "Do you?"
GEORGE: "Haven't the slightest."
PLAYBOY: "Can you give us a hint, Ringo? What's the Ad Lib, for example?"
RINGO: "It's a club."
GEORGE: "Like your Peppermint Lounge and the Whiskey-a-Go-go. It's the same thing."
PAUL: " No, the English version is a little different."
JOHN: "The Whiskey-a-Go-go is exactly the same, isn't it? ...only they have someone dancing on the ceiling, don't they?"
GEORGE: "Don't be ridiculous. They have 'two' girls dancing on the roof. In the Ad Lib they have a colored chap. That's the difference."
PLAYBOY: "We heard a rumor that one of you was thinking about opening a club."
JOHN: "I wonder who that was, Ringo."
RINGO: "I don't know, John. There was a rumor, yes. I heard that one, too."
PLAYBOY: "Is there any truth to it?"
RINGO: "Well, yes. We were going to open one in Hollywood, but it fell through."
JOHN: "Dino wouldn't let you take the place over."
PAUL: "And we decided it's not worth it. So we decided to sit tight for six months, and then buy..."
PLAYBOY: "Have you heard about the Playboy Club that's opening in London?"
RINGO: "Yes. I've heard about it."
PLAYBOY: "What do you think of our Clubs?"
RINGO: "They're for dirty old men, not for the likes of us-- dirty young men. They're for businessmen that sneak out without their wives knowing, or if their wives sneak out first, or those who go out openly."
GEORGE: "There's no real fun in a Bunny's fluffy tail."
PLAYBOY: "Then you don't think a Club will make it here?"
GEORGE: "Oh yes, 'course it will."
RINGO: "There's enough dirty old men here."
PLAYBOY: "Have you ever read the magazine?"
RINGO: "I get my copy every month. Tits."
PLAYBOY: "Do you read any of the philosophy, any of you?"
PAUL: "Some of it. When the journey's really long and you can't last out the pictures, you start reading it. It's OK."
PLAYBOY: "How about Playboy's Jazz Poll? Do you read it, too?"
PLAYBOY: "Do you enjoy jazz, any of you?"
GEORGE: "What kind?"
PLAYBOY: "American jazz."
JOHN: "Who, for example?"
PLAYBOY: "You tell us."
PAUL: "We only dig those who dig us."
PLAYBOY: "Seriously, who? Anyone?"
JOHN: "Getz. But only because somebody gave me an album of his... with him and somebody called Iguana, or something like that."
PLAYBOY: "You mean Joao Gilberto?"
JOHN: "I don't know. Some Mexican."
PLAYBOY: "He's Brazilian."
PLAYBOY: "Are you guys getting tired of talking?"
PAUL: "No. Let's order some drinks. Scotch or Coke?"
JOHN: "I'll have chocolate."
GEORGE: "Scotch for me and Paul... and chocolate for the Beatle teenager."
JOHN: "Scotch is bad for your kidneys."
PAUL: "How about you, Ringo? Don't you want someting to keep you awake while you're listening to all this rubbish?"
RINGO: "I'll have a Coke."
JOHN: "How about you, PLAYBOY? Are you a man or a woman?"
PAUL: "It's a Beatle people!"
GEORGE: "Who's your fave rave?"
PAUL: "I love 'you!'"
GEORGE: "How gear."
PLAYBOY: "Speaking of fave raves, why do you think the rock 'n roll phenomenon is bigger in England than in America?"
JOHN: "Is it?"
PAUL: "Yes. You see, in England... after us... you have thousands of groups coming out everywhere, but in America they've just sort of had the same groups going for ages. Some have made it and some haven't, but there aren't really any new ones. If we'd been over there instead of over here, there probably would have been the same upsurge over there. Our road manager made an interesting point the other day about this difference in America. In America the people who are big stars are not our age. There's nobody who's really a big star around our age. Possibly it may seem like a small point, but there's no conscription... no draft... here. In America, we used to hear about somebody like Elvis, who was a very big star and then suddenly he was off to the Army."
JOHN: "And the Everly Brothers."
PAUL: "Yes, the Everly Brothers as well went into the Army at the height of their fame. And the Army seems to do something to singers. It may make them think that what they're playing is stupid and childish. Or it may make them want to change their style, and consequently they may not be as popular when they come out of the Army. It may also make people forget them, and consequently they may have a harder job getting back on top when they get out. But here, of course, we don't have that problem."
JOHN: "Except those who go to prison."
PAUL: "It's become so easy to form a group nowadays, and to make a record, that hundreds are doing it-- and making a good living at it. Whereas when we started, it took us a couple of years before record companies would even listen to us, never mind give us a contract. But now, you just walk in and if they think you're OK, you're on."
PLAYBOY: "Do you think you had anything to do with bringing all this about?"
JOHN: "It's a damn fact."
PAUL: "Not only us. Us and people who followed us. But we were the first really to get national coverage because of some big shows that we did, and because of alot of public interest in us."
PLAYBOY: "What do you think is the most important element of your success... the personal appearances, or the records?"
JOHN: "Records. Records have always been the main thing. P.A.'s follow records. Our first records were made, and then we appeared."
PLAYBOY: "Followed closely by Beatle Dolls. Have you seen them?"
GEORGE: They're actually life size, you know."
PLAYBOY: "The ones we've seen are only about five inches high."
PAUL: "Well, we're midgets, you see."
PLAYBOY: "How does it make you feel to have millions of effigies of yourselves decorating bedsides all over the world? Don't you feel honored to have been immortalized in plastic? After all, there's no such thing as a Frank Sinatra doll, or an Elvis Presley doll."
GEORGE: "Who'd want an ugly old crap doll like that?"
PLAYBOY: "Would you prefer a George doll, George?"
GEORGE: "No, but I've got a Ringo doll at home."
PLAYBOY: "Did you know that you're probably the first public figures to have dolls made of them... except maybe Yogi Berra?"
JOHN: "In Jellystone Park. Do you mean the cartoon?"
PLAYBOY: "No. Didn't you know that the cartoon character is based on a real person... Yogi Berra, the baseball player?"
PLAYBOY: "Didn't you know that?"
JOHN: "I didn't know that."
PAUL: "Well, they're making 'us' into a cartoon, too, in the states. It's a series."
JOHN: "The highest achievement you could ever get."
PAUL: "We feel proud and humble."
PLAYBOY: "Did you know, George, that at the corner of 47th Street and Broadway in New York, there is a giant cutout of you on display?"
GEORGE: "Of me?"
PLAYBOY: "Life size."
PLAYBOY: "No... but the reason we mention it is that this is really a signal honor. For years on that corner, there's been a big store with life-size cutouts of Marilyn Monroe, Anita Ekberg, or Jayne Mansfield in the window."
JOHN: "And now it's George."
PAUL: "The only difference is that they've got bigger tits."
RINGO: "I suppose that's one way of putting it."
GEORGE: "The party's getting rough. I'm going to bed. You carry on, though. I'll just stop my ears with cotton... so as not to hear the insults and smutty language."
PLAYBOY: "We've just about run out of steam, anyway."
JOHN: "Do you have all you need?"
PLAYBOY: "Enough. Many thanks, fellows."
JOHN: "'Course alot of it you won't be able to use-- 'crap' and 'bloody' and 'tit' and 'bastard' and all."
PLAYBOY: "Wait and see."
RINGO: "Finish your scotch before you go."
JOHN: "You don't mind if I climb into bed, do you? I'm frazzled."
PLAYBOY: "Not at all. Good night."
RINGO: "Good night, PLAYBOY."
GEORGE: "It's been a hard day's night."
(Playboy's interview with the Beatles, in Torquay following their performance in Exeter, was conducted on October 28th 1964, and was published in the magazine's February 1965 issue.
Copyright © 1965/2002 Playboy Magazine