‘Rebel Without A Cause’
meets ‘A Hard Day’s Night’
Liverpool 1961. A city about to explode with the sound of raw-edged rock 'n' roll—reborn. Beat groups outnumber street gangs. Gangs of Teddy Boys terrorise dance halls and clubs with flick-knives and bicycle-chains. Gangsters demand protection money and firebomb clubs that don't pay. But nothing can stop the beat. The beat goes on. The demand for drink, cigarettes, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll just keeps growing.
But The Beatles are going nowhere fast—and they know it. Liverpool's grown much too small. Hamburg has become a drag. It’s the same old grind—day in, night out. The big question: Who can get them a recording contract down in London—get them to ‘the toppermost of the poppermost’?
Only two men have vision enough to do it. Sam Leach—a pushy, local, rock 'n' roll mad promoter with towering dreams way beyond his means. And Brian Epstein—the sophisticated, urbane owner of a local record store.
A group of rival promoters are plotting to push Sam Leach out of the business for good. The man convicted of beating, robbing, and blackmailing Brian Epstein has not only vowed to kill him, but is about to be released from prison. Everyone, it seems, wants to spoil the party.
Into the swelling scene steps art student Raymond Jones, an angry young man desperate to find something—someone—to believe in after the death of his dad in a road accident. Picasso, Pollock, and de Kooning don't have the answers. Neither do Kerouac, Camus, or Sartre. So, just maybe, he'll find his salvation in rock 'n' roll.
A DISAFFECTED LIVERPOOL TEENAGER BECOMES INVOLVED WITH THE BEATLES WHEN HE’S HIRED TO HELP PREVENT THE MURDER OF THE GROUP’S MANAGER, BRIAN EPSTEIN.
History tells us that an 18-year-old boy named Raymond Jones, walked into a store in Liverpool, around three o'clock on Saturday, 28th October 1961, and asked Brian Epstein, head of the record department, for a disc called 'My Bonnie'.
"I'm afraid not," said Epstein, shaking his head. "Who's the record by?"
"A group called The Beatles," said Jones.
The fabled meeting is said to be what first prompted Brian Epstein to seek out the then relatively unknown Liverpool beat group, become their manager, and steer them on to worldwide fame and fortune.
However, an increasing number of people now say the meeting never took place and that Raymond Jones never even existed.
What's incontestable is that it was Brian Epstein who first recounted the story in his autobiography—A Cellarful of Noise—published in 1964 at the very height of 'Beatlemania'.
Brian Epstein's influence on The Beatles was paramount and it's highly unlikely we would have ever heard of the 'Fab Four' were it not for him and all that he did for the group.
So what really did happen all those years ago?
And why would Brian Epstein base the legend of The Beatles upon a lie?
Much of what follows is true...
“How many did you say?”
“There’s well over a thousand inside the club, Sam. But there must be another two hundred or so, outside, all still hoping to get in. Jim, in the box-office, is tearing his hair out…what’s left of it that is…as the legal limit of the club’s nine hundred and we passed that ages ago. Says he’s also run out of tickets. Asks if he can use your business cards with a number rubber-stamped on them, instead. But as that was half an hour ago, he’s probably gone and done it, anyway, knowing him.”
“I think that’s what they call initiative, Tel. I must remember to get myself some next time I go shopping.”
“Er…excuse me, Sam, but I just heard John Lennon’s got a problem he wants fixed, like, and quick.”
“Hell, that’s all I need. It’s never anything trivial with him. Okay, lead on, Spike. Got any idea what it’s about?”
Spike pushed a way through the crowds. Blue smoke hung everywhere. Rivers of condensation ran down damp shiny walls to mix at floor level with greasy hot dog wrappers, cigarette stubs, and sticky spilled puddles of coffee and Coke. “Not sure, Sam. Something to do with the electrics, I think.”
“Great! It’s like Frankenstein’s bloody castle inside here, as it is. All we need now is a flash of lightning and we’d all go up in smoke.”
Spike pushed open the door to the Ladies toilets, pressed into service as a dressing room, and held it open. Sam, not knowing what he was about to receive, but knowing attack was always the best defence, started talking loudly before he was even halfway through the door. “Missed me that much did you, you idle lot. Last Monday and Tuesday nights’ money not enough for you, is that it? So now you’re back, asking for more. And to think that I’ve already booked you ungrateful swines for tomorrow, as well as next Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I don’t know. The sooner you lot just sod off back to Hamburg, next weekend, and leave Liverpool in peace, the better for us all.” He sniffed his defiance and, as an afterthought, nodded a tardy acknowledgement of Spike’s display of courtesy. “Thanks, there, Spike.”
“There’s posh, Sam. You going in for your very own private serfs, now?” John Lennon, sat in a chair by the door, burst out laughing. “And just look at the state of your shoes, Leachy! You could’ve made a bloody effort to tidy yourself up knowing we were coming.”
Sam looked down at his brand new pair of brown suede Hush Puppies, the very latest in fashion and now very much the worse for wear. “Oh, heck, and they were new on today, as well.”
“They’re dead disgusting, they are, Sam. Me? I wouldn’t have let you in looking like that. It definitely lowers the tone of the establishment.”
“You can shurrup, too, George Harrison,” Sam growled. “Or I might have the Mean Machine tread all over them flash new cowboy boots of yours.”
Pete Best patted George on the shoulder. “He didn’t mean anything by it, Sam. It’s just he’s the sartorial one of the group.”
“The sarky one, more like it,” chipped in John.
“Yeah, we heard about the Mean Machine going into action earlier, Sam. Fearsome, they are. You should send them on a tour of all the Hamburg clubs, around St. Pauli. They’d clean up there, they would.”
“Not a bad idea, Mr McCartney, if they could only sing and play, like you lads. But as long as they look after you and the fans outside, and deal with any trouble, I’m happy. So what’s the big problem? You’re not expecting to get paid in cash money or anything like that, are you?”
John thrust out his hands, begging. “Ohhhh, please don’t scold us, Mr Sam, sir. Your bountiful munificence has always been enough for us poor Scousers to keep our humbly homes together.” The quavering voice suddenly grew hard. “But now you mention it, you swine, some real pound notes to stuff in our pockets would work bloody wonders.”
“It’s you that should get stuffed, Lennon. Don’t I always look after you boys and always pay you way more than anyone else?”
“Don’t lose your wiggie, Sam,” said John, waving a finger. “We were only just saying how well things go, when you’re running them.”
“So, I repeat, ‘whistling Jock’ Lennon, what’s yer big problem?”
John pulled a face. “You tell him, Pauly, you can explain it better than the rest of us.”
“Thing is, Sam, we use a lot of American equipment now. We’ve got a Gibson amp and a Fender amp and the wiring’s different to what we have here at home. Normally, we’d have a go at sorting it out ourselves, like. But there’d be bare wires all over the place. And well, with no proper earth wire and with all the condensation running down the walls…if any of it touched any of our leads and shorted out, like…we’d all be…”
“We’d all be bloody dead, Sam. Burned to a bloody crisp,” snorted John. “So, what you gonna do about it, Sam? What you gonna do?”
“I heard you the first time, John. I haven’t got cloth ears. But as everyone’s here to see you lot play, there’d be a full-scale riot if you didn’t go on tonight. So just let me think a minute, will yers?” Sam scratched his head and chewed his lip and tried to ignore the growing knot in his stomach.
“Yeah, and silence reigned and we all got wet.”
“Guten Abend, Herr Sutcliffe. I was wondering when you’d pipe up from behind your dark glasses and funny haircut.” Sam gave the group’s bass player a dirty look and continued scratching his chin.
“Shurrup, Stu, can’t you see the man’s trying?”
“Yeah, he’s very trying.”
George Harrison piped in. “I’d have had a go myself, Sam, having once been an apprentice electrician, like. But I decided not to, as I was never any good at it.”
Sam, lost in thought, looked up at George, and stared. “And what do you call that funny looking haircut when it’s at home? You and Sutcliffe look like a right pair of puddings.”
“Well, I don’t know what Stu calls his, Sam,” said George, good-naturedly. “But I call mine, Ingrid, after a girl I met in Hamburg.”
“You’re a great help, I must say.” Sam shook his head, his frustration growing by the second. “I know, why don’t I just clap my hands or something and conjure up an electrician out of thin air? Or better yet, wait for a bolt of lightning to put us all out of our miseries. If only you daft sods had thought to think about all this beforehand.”
“Well, I don’t know if it’s of any help, Mr Leach, but I do know a bit about electric motors and step-down transformers. Only, before I managed to get into the Art College, I did a couple of terms at night school doing an electrical engineering course.”
All eyes in the room swivelled towards Spike, who’d been totally ignored up until that point. Sam looked at him in amazement and, quick as a flash, spread out his arms ready for acclaim. “How do I do it? It’s truly amazing, it is. Er, fellas, this is my new personal assistant, Spike Jones.”
“Goodness gracious me, a wild Welsh Goon, ‘Jones the Spark’. So speak up, serf Spike,” said John. “If you can speak English, that is?”
Spike nodded. “Well, both amplifiers look as if they’ve got single, twelve-inch speakers, so they’ll each put out about 20 watts, I should think. Of course, I’d need to take a look in the back to see how they’ve been wired up. And as you probably got the amps in Germany, I need to see if any sort of step transformer has been added into the sequence anywhere. After that, it’s a question of determining which circuits carry what voltage, matching up their polarities, and making doubly sure everything’s earthed properly. The one thing you've got to avoid is any chance of live current earthing between your guitars and the club’s microphones. As that could kill you stone dead.”
“Leachy, give the man a carrot, and quick.”
“My only thought,” said Sam, “was you could all stand on your rubber amplifier covers and pray. What about it, Paul, will he do?”
“Looks like it, Sam. Yeah. Good one. Pleased to meet you, Spike. I’m Paul, this is George, and that’s Stuart and Pete over there. The one pulling those horrible faces, over in the corner, is John. But you probably knew that already.”
“Yeah, I saw you the first time you played Hambleton Hall, last January. None of us had ever heard anything like it. The sound hit you right smack in the chest, like a soddin’ howitzer. It was dead amazing. The whole place went wild. Absolutely bloody wild.”
Paul McCartney and George Harrison threw wary looks at one another—then at Stu. They’d each of them been beaten-up by Teddy Boys after playing Hambleton Hall—they hated the bloody place.
“He’ll do, Leachy,” said John Lennon, not catching the exchange. “Anyone that loves Beatles that much, is definitely okay with us.”
Spike bubbled on, unaware of the pecking order or the rules of engagement. “I always thought I wanted to be an artist, like. But after I saw you play, then heard round the Art College as how you and Stuart Sutcliffe, here, had just sagged off, for good. I did, too. Now all I want to do is be in a group and play rock ‘n’ roll, like you fellas.”
The light banter suddenly turned heavy. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” snapped John Lennon. “Not another failed bloody artist blaming us for his poor, misguided life. Next, he’ll be telling us he’s as sensitive as shite. Throw him back in the Mersey, Sam. Just get rid of him quick, will yer?”
Spike—startled, surprised, stung—shot back. “You might think you’re cock of the walk, Mr Lennon, sir, but you’ll still fry yer balls off with 240 volts of alternating current going up yer trouser leg.”
“Wooah, Johnno, he’s got some lip.”
“Yuck, fried Lennon balls. That’s dead disgusting, that is.”
“I dunno, though,” mused Paul. “Shuffling off this mortal coil while singing yer balls off sounds dead poetic, if you ask me.”
“And just one more thing there, Mr Lennon, sir. If I can pry your shiny new guitar from out of your dead blackened hands, can I keep it, like?” Spike swallowed hard, but stood defiant.
“Bloody hell, all I said was…” But John didn’t finish.
“Hey, Johnno, he’s okay,” shouted Stu Sutcliffe. “Hey, tell us, young Spike, what did old Ballard say to you when you said you were leaving?”
“He told me I was a daft sod for quitting me art studies just to go play rock ‘n’ roll, especially as I was showing such promise.”
“Yeah, well he might be right there, an’ all,” said a suddenly reflective Stu. “I mean he’s a damn good painter, himself, he is, so he knows real talent when he sees it. You know, you should really listen to…”
“Oh, don’t start up with all that again, Stu. You’ve made up your mind to stay in Hamburg with Astrid and do your painting. And bloody good luck to you. As for us, it’s grand to have you sitting in with us one last time. Then that’s it. Finished.” He blinked and turned his head like a gun turret and pointed it straight at Spike. “As for you, Neddy-Spike-Seagoon-Jones, you just do your job for nice Mr Leachy here. And if you even breathe on my lovely little Ricky ‘Three-Two-Five’, like. I’ll bloody cripple you. Have you got that, have you?” John tilted his head back, peered at Spike through half-closed eyes, and gave a slow, sly wink.
Spike swallowed, nodded, tried not to look too relieved.
“Yeah, Sam, he’ll do just fine,” continued John. “Especially if he stops his gabbin’ and gets on with helping our Pauly fix our amps. Because it’s soon gonna be time for us to Mach some bloody Schau.”
“Hallelujah,” shouted Sam. “Hey, Spike, stop scratching yer arse and go get a screwdriver from somewhere, will yer. And be quick about it, too. You’re not a bloody art student, now, you know.”
More about the author's other works:
CHAPTER TWO - LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
THE BEATLES first appear in Chapter Two. Although they pretty much pop up throughout all 33⅓ Chapters of THE ONE AFTER 9:09