MAGICAL MYSTERY TOURS: My Life With The Beatles
Interview with author Tony Bramwell (4-13-05)
Right: Tony Bramwell today
Talking with Tony Bramwell was truly amazing. The only quandary was how many questions could I fit in my allotted 20 minutes of interview time? (We actually went over to almost 30 minutes!) When you can't talk to a Beatle, why not talk to the next best thing - someone who was there? And Tony was there from the beginning, in fact knowing George Harrison before he was a Beatle and going on to become their roadie before Mal & Neil were on the scene. He also has the unique perspective of not only working for N.E.M.S. during Beatlemania, but then also working for Apple. So Tony's story covers the entire Beatles story.
While several of the questions were related to his new book, Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with The Beatles, I still had a few non-book questions. Tony was very personable and it is a pity that we had to conduct the interview over the phone instead of a pub!
One final observation - while Tony imitated Paul McCartney in a radio interview during the "Paul is dead" hoax, I found his voice to be closer to a mix between Ringo's and George's.
E.C.: First, what took you so long to write a book, the stories are incredible?
Tony Bramwell: Well, I had a big hit record with a girl called Eva Cassidy from Washington, who died about 8 or 9 years ago. I was putting these records out privately on my own, sort of label. We finished up with 4 number 1 albums and sold 9 million records in England. I did a lot of radio and TV shows to tell a story, and people kept saying, “You should write a book” (laughs). Eventually I had some time to write a book, or start on a book – and I thought I’d write a book about the music business. But I wanted to tell also what it was like being a kid in Liverpool post-war. And I told how the Beatles were involved in all of that. So, it sort of just turned into a Beatles book. That carried on and on and I finished up with a book that was about 1,700 pages long. When the publishers eventually picked it up, they got it down to what it is now. (deadpans) But, if you can’t read it, it will make a great doorstopper. We do have volumes two and three almost ready to go. (laughs)
E.C.: Your book reads like a who's who of rock 'n roll, Hollywood elite and music. I mean, from meeting Buddy Holly, to of course the Beatles, the Stones, The Who, Bobby Darin, Jayne Mansfield, Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Burt & Liz, Springsteen, etc. Will you consider writing a second book of all your memories? Or maybe an expose on the music biz?
Tony Bramwell: That’s what I set out to do in the first place. ‘Cause The Beatles were such a big part of my life…and still are… it turned into ‘my life with The Beatles’.
E.C.: Where did you get all those incredible photos for your book? Usually when a "new" Beatles book comes along you just see the same old photos. How did these escape the burglary and the loss of your Beatles memorabilia?
Tony Bramwell: Well, I had all my photos, nobody would touch those. There’s a lot more photos, but Apple has them and they wouldn’t let me have them back. All those ones you see on t-shirts and things nowadays are mainly mine! (laughs)
E.C.: Usually when you open a “new” Beatles book you see old photos – and it was great seeing all the incredible photos in your book, mostly ones we hadn’t seen before.
Tony Bramwell: There are more…, which will be in the other editions – the publishers want to put out further editions. There’ll be more photos…, which still belong to me.
E.C.: From your book, I get the feeling that you feel that Brian Epstein has been extremely shortchanged within the Beatles story.
Tony Bramwell: Well I think so because Brian…when he became their manager he devoted his life to being their manager and doing the best that he could do at the time. There was no blueprint of how to manage the world’s most successful act. Even Colonel Parker didn’t manufacture Elvis worldwide in the same was as Brian did [with the Beatles]. He’s been criticized because some of the deals might not have been that great. But he was a lovely man, devoted to being the Beatles manager.
E.C.: I was also impressed that Brian was such a gentleman and kept his word in business dealings.
Tony Bramwell: Brian did everything on a handshake…he was a gentleman.
E.C.: Do you think you'll be asked to be an advisor of any sort on the proposed Brian Epstein film bio currently in the development stages (supposedly starring Jude Law)? Do you know anything about this Brian Epstein project?
Tony Bramwell: Well I’ve read about it. Presumably when it gets further into production, somebody will get in touch with me about it.
E.C.: Have you been asked to be an ‘advisor’ of any sort for the film?
Tony Bramwell: No, no…I’m the forgotten person (laughs)…nobody ever mentions me at all. At least I’m still alive. (laughs).
E.C.: I just finished reading a book about the "Paul Is Dead" phenomena (TURN ME ON DEAD MAN- which we are reviewing in EAR CANDY). And this book mentions the phone call that you made to the radio station pretending to be Paul.
Tony Bramwell: Oh do they?
E.C.: It was great find reading your confession that it was YOU who called the radio station imitating Paul and that they used it for some kind of voice analysis to "prove" that there was indeed another Paul. I know that Paul told you to deal with it, and you discussed it with Derek Taylor (who seemed just annoyed at all the calls coming in to Apple). How exactly did that come about?
Tony Bramwell: It just got so tiresome, the phone calls and the constant harassment from the press and radio and media. I just got fed up with it. So I just put me Paul voice on and said, “No, me? I’m sitting here drinking a cup of tea” or whatever. Because Paul wasn’t being helpful because he was up in Scotland…and the Beatles had folded. When it became 24 hours a day, 24-7 or whatever you call it, just denying that Paul is dead, I just thought, “I can’t take any more of this” – so I pretended I was him. I can’t remember which disc jockey I even did it with, I think it was one in Canada or Miami or whatever.
E.C.: Did Derek agree with you about the call?
Tony Bramwell: I mean it was disrupting the entire Apple industry Just 24-7 of “Paul’s dead, who’s the imposter? Billy Shears of Billy Campbell?”
It was quite fun for a while, then it just too much. I just had to try and stop it because nothing else was getting done.
E.C.: Did you "script" out what you were going to say? (They put some of the transcript into the book).
Tony Bramwell: No, no, I just answered the phone and though, “I’m gonna be Paul” and did that.
E.C.: And they fell for it?
Tony Bramwell: Well, I suppose so.
Right: Brian Epstein and Tony Bramwell in 1967
E.C.: With the drug busts starting in 1968, I was curious about one thing - your book mentions all the drugs going around at the Apple building. And in the other books you read all the accounts of the drugs going on…
Tony Bramwell: That was on the 2nd floor. That was Derek’s room. (laughs)
E.C.: Was there ever any "plan" on what to do if Apple was busted?
Tony Bramwell: Ron Cass ran a very serious record company and music publishing company and we didn’t…apart from having the odd scotch and coke or whatever, we didn’t get involved in that sort of hippydom, which was encouraged by the John and Yoko thing.
We were such a respectable building in a respectable area - they went after The Beatles at home.
E.C.: Well, there were those rumors that George and Patti were at Redlands before the bust [Redlands bust at Keith Richards home in 1967 in which the police raided the estate after George and Patti Harrison left].
Tony Bramwell: Yes they were and so was I! Well, I left as well.
I never took any drugs, just the occasional drink. I was in terror of losing my visas & passports and freedom and things. And if you were busted for drugs in England, or anywhere at the time, you lost your visas. Sort of semi incarcerated. I didn’t like the idea of that so I stayed away from that abuse.
E.C.: Well, that’s probably why you have such a good memory!
Tony Bramwell: (laughs)
E.C.: Also, there is a rumor that the Beatles heard some of the advance tapes of Smile and this is what influenced Sgt. Pepper. There is one writer who has put forth this accusation as well as Van Dyke Parks himself. Since you were THERE, is there ANY truth to this?
Tony Bramwell: The advance tapes of Smile? No.
It was a combination of Paul and George Martin’s whims that turned it into that sort of running order, which made it into a “concept”. When you hear them out of order it doesn’t make any sense at all.
The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” album was just one of those things – a group of 12 songs or however many – when programmed together turned into what it was. Have you ever heard…in the days when they did those 8-track cassettes and when they did the “Sgt. Pepper” one they changed the running order. (laughs) It just sounds like rubbish! It doesn’t flow at all.
I mean, Paul did do some stuff with Brian…”Vegetables”. Was that Smile?
E.C.: Yes, that was part of Smile and that was in 1967 AFTER “Sgt. Pepper” was finished.
Tony Bramwell: We weren’t particularly aware of The Beach Boys at the time. There wasn’t a battle against the Beach Boys. They were a surfing band and The Beatles were a pop-rock band.
E.C.: I know that Paul was influenced by Pet Sounds, but I never see any interview quotes by John that mention his feelings on the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. Since you hung out with the Beatles a lot, did John ever mention the Beach Boys to you?