Jimmy Nicol Portfolio

In June 1964, the Beatles were to tour Scandanavia, Holland, the Far East and Australia. On June 3, the day before the tour, Ringo Starr collapsed at an early morning photo session for the Saturday Evening Post at a portrait studio in Barnes, London. He had a 102-degree fever and tonsilitis and was rushed to the hospital. Ringo didn't have his tonsils out till the Christmas break later in the year, but this bout with tonisillitis in June necessitated a stay in hospital and then back at home recuperating for a few days.

During this time, Ringo was temporarily replaced for the Denmark and Holland concert dates by shy 24-year-old session drummer Jimmy Nicol. Beatles producer George Martin suggested Jimmy because he had recently recorded at EMI with Tommy Quickly and he'd also recently become familiar with Beatles numbers while drumming on a recording session for an album called Beatlemania.

Jimmy Nicol started his career as a drum repairer for Boosey & Hawkes. He was briefly a member of the Swedish group, the Spotnicks, then Georgie Fame's Blue Flames, and then formed his own band, the Shubdubs.
At first, George Harrison didn't want Ringo to be replaced and refused to go on the tour without him, but Brian Epstein and George Martin convinced him. Paul McCartney thought he was okay for the tour, but that the fans would definately know the difference if he recorded with them. And Brian thought it was a good choice because he thought he "looked like a Beatle and not an outcast".

During the tour, every time one of the Beatles asked Jimmy how he was getting on, if he was liking it and was he managing okay, all he ever replied was "It's Getting Better". The others used to make fun of this, and later in 1967, it inspired Paul to do a song called It's Getting Better on the Sgt. Pepper's album.
Ringo was discharged from the hospital on June 11, and he rejoined the group in Melbourne on June 15, 1964.

For replacing Ringo on the tour, Jimmy received £500 and a gold Eternamatic watch enscribed: "From the Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy -- with appreciation and gratitude."
Upon Jimmy's return, his group the Shubdubs issued the single Husky/Don't Come Back, but it failed to chart. Pictured below is another of their rare singles, Humpty Dumpty/Night Train. The Shubdubs later disbanded, after which Jimmy moved to South America. He also lived in Australia for a time.

In Their Own Words
On fitting in with the Beatles, Jimmy said:
"The boys were very kind but I felt like an intruder. They accepted me but you can't just go into a group like that -- they have their own atmosphere, their own sense of humor. It's a little clique and outsiders just can't break in."
About after the Beatles, Jimmy said:
"I had a band and Brian put us on the same bill with the Beatles and the Formost one night. Backstage, we talked, but the wind had changed since we last saw each other. They were pleasant."
[The Shubdubs played with the Beatles on July 12, 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton.]


Anonymous said...

I always found the Jimmy incident interesting.
I wonder where he is now and what he is doing?


"When I was on the plane back to London, I felt like a bastard child being sent back home from a family that didn't want me," he told an interviewer in 1987, the last time he spoke publicly about his brush with Beatlemania.

He recorded a single, Husky, which went nowhere much. He married and had a son, Howard, who was to win a prestigious award for his work as sound engineer on a BBC collection of Beatles recordings in the 1990s, spent some time in Sweden, Australia, Mexico, and drifted into obscurity. So where is Jimmy Nicol now?

The Weekend Australian this week tracked him down to a ground-floor flat on the fringe of a north London industrial estate, where he lives as a virtual recluse.

Nicol, estranged from his family for years, has virtually made himself disappear. These days he flatly refuses to talk on the subject of his fleeting fame. "I really don't want to talk about it - I can't remember anything," he said.