Bill Harry has a very unique perspective on Beatles history. He not only witnessed it first-hand, he helped shape it from the very beginning. He introduced John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, setting the stage for what would become The Beatles. He, along with his wife Virginia, founded Liverpool's legendary 'Mersey Beat', the music newspaper that chronicled the Mersey sound of the early to mid-sixties and gave The Beatles their first major publicity. Contrary to popular lore, he also brought the group to the attention of Brian Epstein.

Bill's recent projects include the online version of Mersey Beat, featuring many of the articles from the original publication as well as new articles written especially for the site.

In the third and final installment of our interview, Bill discusses his post-Mersey Beat career as a P.R. person to many rock and roll artists




Q: When did 'Mersey Beat' cease publication and why?

Brian Epstein wanted me to run a national pop music paper. He made me a lot of promises and assurances and said I'd have a rosy future with him. I thought up the name Music Echo, dropped Mersey Beat and thought the new publication would be a music paper with a difference.
Mersey Beat had been innovative from the first issue. It was also, I believe, the first 'what's on' publication in Britain. Instead of the standard posed studio shots of the national pop papers, I encouraged my photographers to take photos of the groups on stage and on location. I encouraged the artists to write their own stories to convey the atmosphere of their world. I introduced the first gig guide, the first weekly list of record releases, the first Top 100 record chart and promoted artists on their talent and not on their chart position. The music papers only deal with artists who were actually in the charts. I was encouraging talent from all over Britain - the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Herman's Hermits, the Hollies were all getting their first consistent promotion and covers in Mersey Beat.


Epstein had assured me that I had cart blanche and full editorial control and would have no interference - but he went back on his word and interfered continually, changing the concept into a tired, old formulaic pop paper that had no chance to compete with the established national pop papers. Without consulting me he hired a London D.J. to write a gossip column, a London p.r. girl to write a fashion column and commissioned photo sessions of Kathy Kirby playing golf, Twinkle at home with her mum, things that actually made me cringe. Then he hired an advertising man from Record Mirror and his wife to act as managing editor, once again assuring me there would be no interference with me, but this man was having his wife taking my mail and opening it without letting me know. I later discovered that there was a letter from Record World in America asking me to write a column. He wrote to them saying that I couldn't do it, but he would, and then he copied all my material. When I discovered this I confronted Epstein, who sided with his crony, so I just told him to piss off and I walked out. I don't think he expected me to do that. That weekend the Sunday People knocked on my door and asked if I'd write a series on the Beatles for a large five figure sum. I could have bought a house and had security for years with that, but they said they wanted me to put some scandal into it, which I refused to do and I turned them down. On the Monday morning I received a call from Clive Epstein who said that Brian wanted me to go to London and work for him, but I said 'no.' I got a call offering me a job in Manchester at double the money I'd been getting, so Virginia and I moved to a lovely flat in Altrincham and I worked as a p.r. for the Four Pennies, the Peddlers and other acts. The Four Pennies asked me to be their manager and I agreed, so Virginia and I moved down to London with them and that's when I began writing for the other music papers and also became a p.r. man.

Q: What was the general atmosphere like around Apple during the final year of the Beatles? Were you surprised when the end finally came or did it seem inevitable?

Apple seemed a lot of fun when I used to go there. In the 'Swinging London' of the Sixties we all had a feeling that anything could be achieved, that the world and everything in it was getting better, that life was really lots of fun and the future seemed incredibly bright.

The times I dropped into Apple were enjoyable, but I didn't experience the behind the scenes problems with the advent of Allen Klein. The Beatles weren't down to their last £50,000 like John said. They had lots of money and it kept rolling in. John could talk poverty but it was Yoko who would be ordering expensive caviar and running up big bills at Apple, like everyone else. There was no common sense about business or curtailing the extravagances - like getting a house for Magic Alex, letting people charge for expensive meals every day and there was no sense of purpose because people were just stealing from the offices and no one seemed to care.

The end was inevitable because of the strong objections Paul had to Klein which produced the noticeable split with Paul on one side and the other three on the other. Yoko was now John's partner, not Paul and he wanted to move on and Yoko did irk Paul, George and George Martin in particular. George was pissed off with the Beatles and wanted to do his own thing, Ringo didn't have much say in anything and there was no strong figure to advise them. It wasn't anything to do with the fact that Brian Epstein had died - he had long since lost any control over their career.

Q: During several visits to London, I have been by 3 Savile Row, which most Beatles fans are aware was the headquarters of Apple in the late sixties. It's difficult to imagine now what went on so many years ago in this quiet, ordinary building. Could you give us a sense of what it was like to stop by and visit the Beatles, and others, at Apple during that period?

Initially Derek Taylor would contact me to drop in and listen to a preview of a forthcoming Beatles release. We'd sit in his office while he wrote out bizarre memos! There was always plenty of lager and I'd have maybe a few bottles, but the press office always seemed to smell of pot. I got into the habit of just dropping in. I took Mike Moorcock along. Mike had been an early pen pal of mine and was now editing a groundbreaking science-fiction magazine New Worlds. The Beatles were intrigued and he received £1,000 to help with the publication. Mike went on to be a best-selling science-fiction author with notable creations such as Jerry Cornelius, Elric of Melnibone and Hawkmoon and, of course, became part and inspiration of Hawkwind. I also took along Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys. I'd earlier taken him down Charing Cross Road to show him a book shop specializing in psychic books. I was particularly interested in books such as 'The Morning of the Magicians' and gave my copy to Mike Love.

I was also invited to the Apple Christmas party. Very colourful - going into a room which was a mass of psychedelic colour in the clothes the gals and girls were wearing. The Fool, some Hell's Angels, a girl squatting on the floor breast feeding her baby, tarot card readings and various pop celebrities around. I drifted to the next floor and entered one of the rooms, empty but for two figures squatting in the middle of the room - Mother and Father Christmas. It was John and Yoko dressed in the appropriate outfits. That was when John first introduced me to her.

Apple was anarchic then in the days before Klein took over and it was particularly enjoyable to sit with Derek Taylor, who, despite drink and drugs, could be marvelously entertaining company.

Q: What are some of your recollections of the artists you were personal P.R. to:

I did represent a number of really great girl singers.

I'd been associated with female artists right from the early Mersey days when I accidentally dubbed Priscilla White as Cilla Black in the first issue of Mersey Beat. Cilla asked me to manage her, but I was too busy with the paper.

In September 1963 I was down in the Blue Angel with Virginia and saw Brian Epstein at the bar with Andrew Loog Oldham. Cilla was standing at the bottom of the stairs with her mate Pat Davis. I went up to Brian and asked him if he'd do me a favour and listen to a girl singer. He said yes. I went up to Cilla and asked her if she'd sing 'Boys' with the group. She agreed. The group was the Masterminds. I asked them if they'd back Cilla on 'Boys' and she performed the number. I then took her over to Epstein and introduced her and left them to it. She came over to me and said that Brian had asked her to come to his office in the morning. She phoned me the next day to say he was going to manage her.

Interestingly enough, because both Brian and Andrew listened while Cilla performed, Andrew then signed up the Masterminds and personally recorded them performing Bob Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me.' Joey Molland was a member of the group and later joined Badfinger.

In Cilla's biography she states that she sang 'Bye Bye Blackbird' with a jazz group at the Angel when Brian saw her. Complete rubbish. I contacted Andrew Loog Oldham who confirmed that he remembered me approaching Brian to listen to Cilla sing. I also contacted a member of the group, who also confirmed it.

Cilla also cites that Brian Epstein first saw her when John Lennon asked him to listen to her at the Majestic Ballroom, but he didn't think much of her. That might well have happened, but when I introduced her to Brian, he didn't even know who she was.

There were lots of other girl singers in Liverpool but my favourite was Beryl Marsden. Her real name was Beryl Hogg but when Virginia and I were in the Majestic Ballroom office with Joe Flannery, her manager and the ballroom manager, we suggested that Hogg wasn't a suitable enough surname for a singer. The ballroom manager was called Bill Marsden, so we suggested she call herself Marsden, which she did - and, coincidentally, the leader of Gerry & the Pacemakers was called Gerry Marsden and people often mistakenly believed she was his sister.

Virginia & Bill Harry with Cynthia LennonWhen I was having a drink in the Blue Angel with John Lennon I asked him if he had a number to give to Beryl. He suggested a song called 'Love of the Loved.' I told Beryl. Then, when I was with John at the Angel another time he apologised and said that Epstein wouldn't allow them to give the number to Beryl as he was their manager and he was the one who would decide which artists to give Lennon/McCartney numbers to. Ironically, it became Cilla's debut disc!

The first female artist I represented in London was Christine Perfect, when she was a member of Chicken Shack. They were a fabulous group, one of my favourites, and I loved working with them, especially Stan 'the man' Webb. Christine won the Melody Maker award as female singer of the year and was presented with a huge cup. We went back to her manager Harry Simmonds' place in Battersea and all drank champagne from her cup. At a later time Christine came round to our house and asked if I'd become her manager, but I said no. She married John McVie and left Chicken Shack to join Fleetwood Mac.

I also acted as press officer to Stone the Crows, a brilliant Scottish band led by Les Harvey, younger brother of Alex Harvey. Their lead singer was Les's girlfriend Maggie Bell, a powerful and distinctive singer who should have become world famous. Tragically, Les was electrocuted on stage in May 1972 and the group broke up. Maggie was heartbroken and moved back to Scotland.

The artist I represented for the longest time was Suzi Quatro: almost ten years. She is my all time favourite and there are many stories there. When Chrissie Hynde worked for the NME I arranged for Chrissie to interview Suzi and Chrissie related her own interest in becoming a rock and roll singer. Suzi comes from Grosse Point in Detroit, but has now lived most of her life in England. She was sensational as Leather Tuscadero in 'Happy Days' and I was surprised when she turned down the office of a regular spot in the series.

Kim Wilde and Bill HarryThe final female artist was Kim Wilde, certainly one of the most beautiful of the British singers. I remember I got a call from a French film company who wanted her to appear in a feature film, but she turned them down. Kim was very shy and I don't think she liked show-business all that much. She was the daughter of a former idol of mine, Marty Wilde, the British rock singer who'd had several hits in the late Fifties and early Sixties.

Suzi and Kim still perform, although Kim only makes occasional appearances as she is a full-time gardening designer and appears of various television gardening programmes.

It would take up too much time to describe my adventures with David Bowie, the Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and all the other artists I handled the press for, but there were many interesting stories of those times. I must admit we all drank a lot, socialised constantly and I couldn't count the number of events which Virginia and I attended which included the Isle of Wight festivals, the Reading festivals, the Bath festivals, the Lyceum events, the Savile Theatre gigs, the Marquee was a regular haunt, as were the Ready, Steady, Go! and Top of the Pops shows and there were always performances at the clubs
such as the Speakeasy, Revoltion and Blaises - seeing Jimi Hendrix on his first-ever appearance in London, having Derek Taylor invite us along to the Byrds first British appearance, it was virtually attending gigs several nights a week for eighteen years! Apart from the artists I represented as P.R. there were numerous other gigs we went to, generally to also go backstage and meet the artists. We took actor Geoff Hughes with us to see the Beatles at their NME concert in Wembley, were at John Lennon's show at the Lyceum, the Beach Boys at the Palladium, performances by the Rolling Stones, Bobby Darin - you name it, any artist performing in Britain probably had Virginia and I at one of their shows.

It was the best of times!