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M y Beatles Hell

The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams

by Lew Baxter


My Beatles Hell

My Beatles Hell

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In collaboration with Barge Pole Press www.cities500.com www.bargepolepress.com


My Beatles Hell The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams by

Lew Baxter

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away Coming to take you away The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away Dying to take you away – take you today Lennon & McCartney, 1967

A Barge Pole Press Collaboration – 2004


This book is dedicated to the fond memory of Beryl Adams First edition published in Great Britain 2004 by cities500 in association with Guy Woodland. (71 Prenton Road West, Wirral CH42 9PZ, England, UK) www.cities500.com www.bargepolepress.com copyright Š Lew Baxter 2004 The right of Lew Baxter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. A catalogue for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 0-9531995-4-1 Production and design: Tynwald Creative Design Thanks to the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo for permission to use photographs where depicted. Printed and bound by Bookprint SL, Barcelona, Spain


Contents

Acknowledgements

Foreword by Pete Best

Prologue

I All Hell Breaks Loose

page 1 page 5

2 Wild, Reckless and Fancy Free

page 19

3 Fun With Brian Epstein But Beryl Loathed NEMS

page 35

4 The Warning Bell Begins To Toll

page 43

5 After Epstein, The Cavern Beckoned

page 49

6 Death Whispers A Call For Beryl Again

page 63

7 The Very (Pete) Best Of Men And Others Not So

page 67

8 Epstein – The Ruthless Gentpage

page 71

9 The Nowhere Men, Their Lies And Fantasies

page 77

10 Beryl On Beatles’ Myths And True Stories

page 93

11 Bob Wooler – Friend, Husband, Bully And Substitute Dad

page 109

12 There Are Places I Remember All My Life... Though Some Have changed...

page 127


13 Beryl’s Bizarre Last Pitch For Showbiz Glory

page 157

14 The Continuing Story Of Battering The Booze…

page 171

15 The Desperate Last Hours Of Bob Wooler’s Demise

page 177

16 The Tempestuous Years Loving Allan Williams

page 191

17 Fate Deals Beryl A Final Cruel Blow

page 215

page 221

Epilogue Beryl’s Funeral Dateline: Friday, March 14th 2003 – 2.45pm, West Derby, Liverpool, England


Acknowledgements It is regrettable that Beryl Adams is no longer with us to chuckle in her own inimitable way at the probable furore many of the remarks in this book will stir up. She always up for a laugh and believed that those who randomly peddled so much tosh about their involvement with the Beatles and the heady days of Mersey Beat should be taken down a peg or two. Beryl had no illusions or aggrandisement about her part in the seemingly endless mythology that surrounds the Fab Four – she was just a tiny piece of the jigsaw, an insignificant cog in Brian Epstein’s empire. She may have been just a footnote in history, but ordinary people are the very essence of what constitutes history. A few curmudgeonly souls will be annoyed at many of the references, anecdotes and observations. Beryl would have scoffed at them. Her once husband Bob Wooler has also passed away and we will miss his sharply acerbic ripostes at Beryl’s ‘impertinence’. Amongst those who carried a torch for Beryl is her friend and lover Allan Williams who was so devastated at her death. I hope he finds a little solace in these pages, although Beryl didn’t pull any punches when describing the turbulent relationship they shared. Thanks to Beryl’s sister Dot who has been supportive and helpful, Beryl’s son Simon, her twin brother Ken and others who confided personal details, particularly Pete Best and the lads from the Kirkbys, the band that Beryl managed briefly. Thanks also to journalist Peter Grant for his insightful strap line for the title and June Lornie whose Beatles Art Exhibitions inspired the book’s cover; and to Beryl’s legion of chums in Liverpool who consistently encouraged her. And finally all those who might feel slighted at not getting a mention. Lew Baxter Llangollen Wales, UK November 2004


Foreword by Pete Best erstwhile drummer with the Beatles Beryl was always a dear friend to me. I knew her from long before my Beatles days as we both grew up in the same neighbourhood of Liverpool. We were really quite close neighbours for many years and kept in touch as our lives moved on and changed. Of course I knew her when she worked for Brian Epstein and I was with the Beatles. She was so sympathetic after I left the band and remained one of those who stayed faithful to my dreams. Over the ensuing years I would see her regularly and she never once upset me, even with a chance or catty remark. Beryl was always there with a big warm smile and often a big hug. She was a kind and thoughtful person and was so supportive of my own band. Her passing away so suddenly was such a shock. For years Beryl kept out of the spotlight, much like I did. But I am glad that her story of those early Mersey Beat days and how they affected her is now being told, even if it is quite a sad tale in many ways. I miss her ready grin, as do many in the music scene who liked her and loved her. Pete Best Liverpool, UK November 2004

Pete and brother Roag, centre, with the Pete Best Band


My Beatles Hell

Prologue

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solitary tear smeared the corner of Beryl Adams’ left eye and trickled down her sunken cheek. Her frail body was wasted. Languishing in a cloistered ward for the terminally ill in a Liverpool hospital, she was technically a vegetable; so the supportive nursing staff confided ruefully. We stared, stunned at the unexpected, as the teardrop slowly streaked a wet track down her pallid, blank face. There, standing by her bed in that hushed room, we shuddered at the thought that she might be aware of her fate. It is thought that hearing is the last sense to leave us when we are about to depart the mortal coil. It was a horror we refused to discuss or even acknowledge openly, then or ever. Perhaps Beryl did hear the whispered anxieties, and the subdued yet anguished wails of her friend and lover Allan Williams. He stood head bowed and grief-stricken watching her fade away. Less than a day later Beryl Adams died. And in a most dreadful way, from variant CJD, the chillingly disgusting human form of what is described as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. It was a wickedly cruel, grim death that swiftly embraced this pleasant woman long before what should have been her natural time. Beryl was reduced to a shell and shadow of her former self after a savagely short period of sickness. It came like a bolt out of the blue and lasted only six weeks. She was 66. Half way through this unforeseen illness she had deteriorated into a gibbering, trembling physical and mental wreck of the vibrant, lively person she had become again after years in the emotional, and to an extent social, wilderness. Sadly, this is not the way she would want to be remembered. Rather, it was for her apparently glamorous close involvement with Brian Epstein – the man who single-handedly steered the Beatles to global fame. She was his first secretary during those early, heady days of the Fab Four in the 1960s. Yet, instead of being fun, in reality what should have been a dream job almost destroyed her, both in body and soul. In the eyes of the friends who knew and loved her, Beryl was an ordinary yet remarkable individual whose life was shaped and frequently shattered by forces out of her control or even understanding. To others she didn’t stand out in a crowd. It didn’t bother her, though, as she didn’t hanker after renown. Even as the years swept by, intermittently she was

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affected by the commotion of madcap adventures that were sprinkled with celebrity stardust scattered from the whirlwind of the Beatles, the band she had watched blaze forth like a bright, burning super nova. Decades rolled on and no one apart from a small coterie of those encased in that magical inner circle remembered who she was; and largely even they had forgotten about Beryl. Most Beatles fans weren’t aware of her existence although she is particularly singled out in the Beatles Anthology – the definitive annals published by the surviving Beatles in 2000. And she was, despite the claims of others, the only official witness to that momentous first business contract between Epstein and the four lads; her signature scrawled there alongside those of John, Paul, George, Ringo and Brian: undeniably the deal of the century. Yet, she didn’t share in the glory and certainly not the fortune. Instead, hers is a heartbreaking story. Usually such stories about maniacal lifestyles in thrall to showbiz and entertainment, almost invariably scrabbling on the edge of a precipice, focus on the famous, the stars, or at the very least the well known. Beryl was none of these things, and her own story all the more poignant because of that. She was just an ordinary girl in many ways, brushed along by a tornado shaped into a savage force by fate and events. Eventually she couldn’t cope and ran away to hide. For more than 25 years after she fled from the turmoil of that life, abandoning her job with Brian Epstein, Beryl worked quietly and anonymously as a receptionist in a suburban doctor’s surgery. It helped her regain a sanity of sorts. For decades she was steadfast in refusing to talk about the era that saw her as witness to a musical and social revolution. Beryl married driving instructor Peter Mullins, partly as a bid to escape the grip of her bad memories, partly for the security and quiet domesticity he could offer. During that match she had a son, Simon, whom she adored and who became a Beatles fan without knowing much about his mum’s connections. She was, for a while at least, an everyday kind of housewife and mother, yet with a remarkable stash of stories about the formative years of the most famous band in the world. I met her a few years ago while researching a book on the anarchic and frequently wayward antics – albeit charmed existence – of Allan Williams, the man who famously lost the Beatles to Brian Epstein. In his own cryptic words, Allan ‘sacked’ what was to become the biggest band in history. Sceptics would – and do – muse that this was a fanciful notion, merely his vivid imagination working overtime. Others stand by the claim. Beryl did, but only to an extent. Music folklore has it that Allan warned Epstein not to ‘touch them (the Beatles) with a fucking barge pole’. Serendipity clanged its mellow bell when, after years out of the influence of the global Beatles

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circus, Beryl became personally and deeply involved with Allan Williams in a relationship that was at times confrontational yet oddly loving and affectionate. It was all the more remarkable for its unplanned sequential circumstance. She was timid to the extent of wariness when invited to talk of those incredible days in her younger life when she shuffled in the same shadows as Brian Epstein and arguably the most popular bunch of musicians ever to caress a plectrum. It took months to persuade her that the story was of interest to people; what matter that it is just a footnote, one small part of the magical mystery tour of the Beatles; another tiny piece in the giant jigsaw that seems destined never to be completed. Now the esteemed Beatles chronicler Phillip Norman has embarked on what should be an epic biography of John Lennon, a man Beryl despised. Despite the harrowing experiences, as Beryl sashayed towards her seventh decade this dainty woman looked to have come out on top. She became again bright and breezy and regained the confidence she had lost after many difficult periods in her life. Even with this upswing in her mood she was tortured by her past, and friends and family were worried at regular intervals that she was on the verge of the nervous breakdown she had succumbed to periodically in her life. Well, she didn’t have a mental melt. It turned out far worse. Her story can be a salutary lesson about the pitfalls of show business, even for those on the periphery; the dark flip side of the effects of fame and fortune on everyone those demons touch. Or then again, if circumstances had allowed, it could have been regarded as one anchored by that of the undefined, yet indomitable human spirit winning through in the face of adversity. Regrettably that was not to be, for just as Beryl was seemingly coming to terms with the reality of her topsy-turvy life, she was snatched away. As she finally felt there was some hope to hang on to, and maybe her existence and experience was something she could be proud about, that life force was snuffed out suddenly and dreadfully. She fell cruel victim to the peculiar, terminal disease that effectively dissolves the brain’s structure, turning it into a sopping sponge, the infected patient nothing more than a ‘living corpse’: a one in a million chance. Fate chose Beryl. Early in January 2003 she was so excited about the prospect of this book. She was looking forward to its possible launch at the prestigious Estrel Beatles Festival in Berlin in the summer. Then she was thrilled that the following month – August – she would be a star turn at the annual Beatles Convention ‘cultural bun fight’ in her beloved hometown of Liverpool; where the legendary Mersey Sound was spawned so many years ago. She

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would chatter animatedly about the prospect of being on stage at both events – where thousands of Beatle fans could hear her tale – and about finally laying old ghosts. She never made either of those dates. In what can only be considered the ultimate ironic misfortune Beryl Adams became one of a relative handful people a year in Britain – and the world for that matter – who develop the untreatable and always fatal symptoms of the baffling disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Usually referred to these days as variant CJD, in the UK it killed nine people in 2002. It is the human strand of BSE – bovine spongiform encephalopathy – often hysterically referred to by the slang term ‘mad cow disease’. And certainly it appears to have its origins in the ingestion of contaminated meat products. But doctors and scientists are still striving to find out more, to understand how and why it can flare up. The gestation period is anything from 15 years to maybe even 30 or more. The medical world simply does not know the answer. Neither has it devised any treatment nor cure, although there have been recent indications of a possible breakthrough. Beryl’s family and friends can only fervently hope that in her final days and hours she didn’t know what was happening to her. Thus, hers really is a ‘Tragical History Tour’; this book’s strapline so presciently conjured up by Liverpool Echo journalist and accredited Beatles pundit Peter Grant. This book is not really, in essence, a detailed biography but more a piece of observational journalism; and now, unfortunately, a tribute to Beryl rather than her own celebration. Despite Beryl’s passing, part of it is still in the present tense, reflecting the hours and days we spent together chatting as she remembered events and reflected on her life. It is peppered with vignettes and cameos of the men she knew and loved: Brian Epstein; all of the Beatles; Pete Best, the band’s ignominiously sacked early drummer; Gerry Marsden MBE, who was a lifelong pal; her first husband, the former Cavern Club disc jockey Bob Wooler; Cavern Club owner Ray McFall; the lads in the Kirkbys, the band she managed briefly and in truth rather badly; her second husband Peter Mullins and, of course, the irascible Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager and her latter day lover. These are just a few who are joined by others she loathed, mostly those who have consistently and parasitically clung like limpets to the coat tails of the Beatles’ legend.

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I – All Hell Breaks Loose

P

erhaps the most pertinent time to begin delving into the life of Beryl Adams is when she first had to face up to the satanic creatures that had begun to jabber away in her mind since the onset of puberty, maybe even earlier. The toll of the frantic pace of life in the early days of Mersey Beat, the Beatles and her job with Brian Epstein and later the now famous Cavern Club finally exploded in her head like a psychedelic, psychotic blitzkrieg. After years of mingling and prancing with pop music’s blue bloods, life had turned harrowingly bleak for Beryl Adams in the autumn of 1965. Everything was falling apart. That exotic, erratic period with Epstein’s growing empire was fading into a dim parallel memory. And she had just acrimoniously – or so she thought – wound up her management contract with a promising young Liverpool band. Some thought this outfit – the Kirkbys – could have become a future star turn and her management of them set in train a certain global recognition for Beryl as a showbiz impresario whiz kid, much Beryl as a young girl before like the former boss she never ceased to it all fell apart adore. She would have been one of the few women to achieve that goal. But instead her life at that time was turning into a bloody awful mess. She was careful never to let on publicly but wailed inwardly, wracked by mental agony. Only her capricious, difficult moods offered a clue, an insight to the inner confusions. Beryl bleakly argued with herself that suicide seemed an easy if drastic and dastardly way out of what appeared a pointless existence. What the hell did it matter that she’d worked as Brian Epstein’s personal secretary and ‘right hand maiden’ at the time he discovered the Beatles, watching in awe as he began to map out their fabulous future. Now the boys were on the cusp of becoming living legends and Epstein was a big hitter in London.

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Beryl was stuck back in a remote, rebellious Liverpool, a harsh industrial seaport on the outer edges of Western Europe, and desperate to end her mental anguish. So mangled were her thoughts that one melancholy, wretched night in the bohemian quarter of Liverpool’s city centre – within the heart of the gorgeous Georgian style area of imposing grand houses and wide, tree lined avenues – she finally snapped. Exhausted and forlorn in the spacious two bedroom flat she shared with the now much missed Bob Wooler who died only months before Beryl – she reached for a razor blade and slashed her wrists to shreds of skin. And she committed the deed in the very apartment where a few short years earlier she’d been at a party lolling around like everyone else as the Rolling Stones, amongst other rock and roll royalty, cavorted and got drunk with a loud, boisterous John Lennon, all roistering until dawn. Thankfully she survived that violent attempt to kill herself – just – but the ribbed white scars remained visible throughout her life, as a grim disfiguring reminder, as well as the psychological torture of a further two failed suicide bids over the ensuing years. The more recent of her ‘little lapses’ – as she disparagingly referred to them – was less than ten years ago, an incident she puts down to the irrational jealousies of Allan Williams. He had become her latter day lover in the early 1990s, another peculiar twist in her life, and his for that matter. In the formative years of Mersey Beat Beryl only knew the diminutive Bootle-born ‘small time’ impresario cum promoter, and Jacaranda coffee bar founder and owner, by sight. Yet for sure he was a well known figure on the Liverpool social circuit, mainly through his Blue Angel nightclub, at the time a ‘must be seen in’ drinking den for celebrities, wannabes and hangerson alike. It was located – still is, although not under his hospitality, so to speak – in Liverpool’s Slater Street, which just butts neatly onto the oldest Chinatown in Europe. In another quirk of life’s wondrous coincidences he was her almost constant companion – some could argue her eminence grise – and confidante for more than a decade; his own mercurial existence in the shadow and wake of the Beatles a similar mélange of terrific farce, foolishness and calamity. It seems that once, in a jealous, drunken tantrum, Williams had accused Beryl of canoodling with a mutual friend at a weekend music jamboree at the Pontin’s holiday camp in the typically English ‘Victoriana style’ seaside town of Southport, some 30 miles north of Liverpool. His rage tipped her over the edge again and once more only the dexterity of the local doctors ‘saved her bacon’ after she’d swallowed scores of pills. She would grimace, recalling the horrible stomach pumping that followed. She was also

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subjected to the understandable ranting of her younger sister Dot, angry at yet another stupidly pointless action, which Beryl preferred to consider was rather a cry for help. Tears were never far from suffusing Beryl’s cheeks as she churned up memories. There was one particular incident that encouraged a torrent of weeping a year before her own demise, and nearly 40 years after Brian Epstein’s death had left her weary from crying. Now Beryl fell to sobbing uncontrollably again over a Beatles-related death. She was gutted, her emotions tangled and torn as she struggled to take in the news that George Harrison had finally succumbed to the cancer that had riven him. Her grief was shared by millions of fans but few even of her friends knew how far back she and Harrison and the other Beatles went. She shuddered with distress, as the floodgates of her damned up memory banks were unleashed. We were sipping cups of tea in her neat but compact living room as those salty rivulets and once secreted nuggets of information began to flow from her. Eyes misty Beryl heard radio and television presenters worldwide solemnly announce the news of Harrison’s demise in late November 2001, a lowering morning redolent with the damp tang of rotting leaves, and laced with a chill breeze whipping in from the grey-brown waters of the turgid, fast-flowing river Mersey. Beryl could smell the ozone infused whiff of the world-famous river from where she lived in a small, one bedroom first floor apartment in the Dingle area of Liverpool. It was a hop and a jump from where Ringo Starr was raised in a cramped terraced house in a typical working class stonecobble street; now largely rundown, with regeneration plans seemingly on hold. George Harrison had died of cancer in Los Angeles, his beloved second wife Olivia and 24-year-old son Dhani at his bedside; the quiet Beatle, the thoughtful Beatle was gone. Sitting pensively on her cushion strewn, two-seater sofa Beryl suddenly opened up and began talking, babbling even, about her affections for the majority of the Beatles, and also her early and ongoing distaste for John Lennon; an individual she had found utterly disagreeable. The trigger that loosened her tongue was poor old George (Harrison), the diffident one so many felt sorry for, reckoning that he’d had his ‘nose pushed out’ by the dynamic duo of Lennon and McCartney; although Beryl thought that those who felt this were a little misguided about his personality, in her humble opinion. After all, she knew Harrison throughout the formative days of the group and genuinely liked him. She knew he was

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a lot stronger than people realised, while acknowledging that the extent of his talents was somewhat stifled by his ‘pals’ in the band. When a year before cancer took him Harrison was viciously attacked in his home, frantically defended by his wife, Beryl’s reluctant memory of her past life was rekindled and she was dragged back to focus on all those years ago when they were young men, and she a young woman just a few years their senior. Beryl had waxed lyrical – if rather simplistically – on that fateful day about how it is possible to live in a great big mansion, be wealthy and famous and still be nearly murdered inside your own house. It was dreadful, she railed, because she had known the lads when they were poor and reckless...when they had absolutely nothing and yet, she observed, were lovable rogues...very funny and witty. For Beryl, George was always the quiet one, respectful but good fun as well. He could enjoy himself, she was fully aware of that side of his character. But she reckoned he had always appeared resentful about the way Lennon and McCartney treated him...that he was never pushy enough...just wasn’t his manner. And she told how he would always be the last in the queue to pick up his wage packet from her office, which wasn’t that much in those early days, she had laughed girlishly, the fading memories slipping back into focus. Maybe about £15, she recalled, and always paid in cash. But Beryl delighted that he was always ready with a friendly quip and was ever so polite and softly spoken. She felt he did write some tremendous songs – as was soon demonstrated, her own favourite ‘Here Comes the Sun’ – but was convinced he was kept out of the limelight to a large extent by the other two – Lennon and McCartney. She thought it obvious, even as the Beatles were just beginning their roller coaster ride into the history books. And when Paul McCartney in recent years began insisting that some of the songs that are jointly attributed with Lennon were really all his, Beryl was one of those who sighed with exasperation She couldn’t understand why he wanted his name first on the titles. She was dismissive of McCartney’s inability – as she put it – to let go of the publicity machine. She scoffed at the endless stories about him in the newspapers almost every day. She accepted that the press pursued him relentlessly, but felt that some of the stories were so lightweight that she couldn’t imagine the press being that keen; that maybe it was McCartney and his own publicity machine that was the organ grinder and not the monkey. She loved that expression, using it a lot to refer to Beatles’ mishaps and she honestly believed that McCartney just didn’t need the hype...not any more. Beryl was convinced that ultimately this attitude would do him more harm than good...this overkill and over-

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exposure. Surely, she mused, he’d wallowed in enough media coverage over the years. She sighed that in one way she didn’t understand the man, yet when they were starting off she was fairly certain that he more than any of them – even Lennon – had the staying power. Somehow she knew that Paul would end up the dominant ‘Beatle’, the one with his eye fixed on the main chance. He had that certain glint and carried around a confidence, he would be okay, a survivor. And so it has proved with him constantly in the glare of the spotlight 40 years later. Although, to be fair, his music stands a mighty force in its own right, as Beryl agreed, admitting that she did like his music enormously but was persuaded that he doesn’t need to talk the talk so much. He’s made his mark, she’d said. Her opinion of McCartney hadn’t changed since she would hear him bounding up the stairs to Epstein’s office. Oh yes, yes, she laughed. He could go mad and enjoy himself, and often did, but there was more equilibrium about him than the others. He had a game plan. And kept a careful eye on his wallet, even then. But that was McCartney, whom Beryl knew could handle life with ease and an increasing panache. Now her mind was in turmoil because George Harrison was dead. And once again Beryl had heard the news of a Beatle-connected death from the anonymous tones of the ‘wireless’ – the old fashioned term for a radio she still rather quaintly used – as she had with the wicked murder of John Lennon, ironically almost at exactly the same time of year some 21 years earlier. She glanced up, tears welling in her eyes. In the same bloody impersonal way, casually watching television, she had learned that Brian (Epstein) had died suddenly. It was only four years after she had stupidly spurned his offer to stay on as his secretary. He was building up his music empire, sweeping it to London and away from its spawning ground of Liverpool. And Beryl claimed she couldn’t handle the idea of moving with him. There are those – in anonymity for some reason – who plead another explanation; that Beryl – always difficult to handle, as many on that scene and her own close family would happily testify – had clashed repeatedly with Epstein. One day they had a furious, blazing row and she stormed out, never to return. Beryl isn’t around to confirm or deny the accusation, or rather the claim. She certainly never even alluded to any conflict with Epstein, except over Pete Best’s sacking. Yet she was known for a fiery, often shrieking, temper. There was little doubt, though, that Epstein’s death shocked her to the core, and she endured an emotional storm of a day. Beryl had strained and leaned forward, half slumped on a large couch to watch the shocking

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news bulletin on the lunchtime television programme in her mother’s semidetached house in the quiet, leafy West Derby suburb of Liverpool. Brian Epstein was dead; her old boss and mentor, and Beryl was stunned to distraction. The urbane, elegant young man who had singlehandedly almost overnight turned the once scruffy, ragamuffin Beatles into sleek, international celebrities, conquering America less than a handful of years previously, had been found cold and lifeless and alone in his bed in the mansion he was only just beginning to enjoy. It was late summer 1967 – the 27th August – and that morning Beryl had just returned with her new husband Bob Wooler – yes, that very same disc jockey who introduced Epstein to the Beatles, and who was also homosexual like the unfortunate and sad impresario – from a week-long honeymoon. They’d chosen the genteel if peeling and shabby Edwardianinfluenced seaside town of Colwyn Bay on the North Wales coast, facing the often wildly unpredictable Irish Sea. Wooler had also known Brian Epstein relatively well as a ‘friend’ and in a working capacity in the music business locally. History relates how it was that same Bob, the quipster mein host in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, who persuaded Epstein to take that momentous stroll down the club’s narrow stone steps to first see the Beatles perform. He was also distraught at the news of Epstein’s unexpected passing. They were visiting Beryl’s mum Kathleen – who keenly disapproved of Wooler – because they’d not been in touch while they were away, staying in a little hotel which Beryl scoffed was just a gesture to a honeymoon. She was under no illusions about Wooler, although confiding she loved him deeply in one way. If they hadn’t called in to visit Kathleen, it is doubtful if they would have heard about the tragedy until much later, certainly not just as the news was breaking. As she struggled to take in the words, pain shot through her and she gasped, clutching at Wooler’s comforting arm as the broadcasting voice warbled on. Brian Epstein was dead. Those ghastly, almost eerie words stabbed into her brain like an ice pick. She stifled a scream, just as her mother glanced through the door and caught sight of her ashen face. “What’s up love?” Beryl’s mum had asked, full of concern, the white china teapot in her hand drooping and dripping dregs onto her creamcoloured carpet. Beryl could only splutter the words...”Brian... Brian’s dead. Brian Epstein. He’s dead, mum.” She was shaking because it made no sense to her, she recalled. Bob Wooler put his arms around Beryl’s shoulder but he too was rocking back and forth silently in shock, and she swayed with him. They both sat

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transfixed at the information spilling out of the television set: a glitter-filled life of promise, cut tragically short by the very success he craved, that was Wooler’s only comment to Beryl. In a daze, Beryl stretched out to whip up the volume on the television news, the sound coming as though from a long, dark tunnel, the suddenly emerging pictures of Epstein on the small screen almost spectral. She had jerked to her feet after a while and had been pacing the floor, flexing her fingers. But as the pictures flowed trauma soon set in and, trembling, she slumped on the edge of an armchair with clammy hands clasped in her lap, mouth gaping open as the cold, impersonal announcer continued the item in clipped tones. ‘The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was found dead this morning,’ the presenter intoned gravely. To Beryl it sounded so unreal. Surely it wasn’t true: the lovely, lovely Brian, that generous and warm-hearted boss. Dead? He was only 33. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, or seeing. He had it all. Wooler, in Beryl’s recollections, just sat there in numbed stupefaction. He couldn’t speak or move for a long time. He was staring at the screen, gulping. Then tears began to flow down his cheeks, streaming down his face. Beryl too began to cry, the low-pitched sighs turning into gasping sobs as the truth dawned on them. Disbelieving, their first reaction was to do nothing...just sit there, not capable of words. Those of the small tribe who’d known and loved Brian back in his Liverpool days just a few years before could barely face the facts that were being blared across the airwaves. Beryl recalled that day with a shudder, telling the story for the first time in decades, probably even to herself. She and Wooler and a gang of other friends all met later on that day in the Grapes pub in Mathew Street, the famous drinking den where Lennon and McCartney used to fill up on beer before, after and during a Cavern gig. They milled around in small groups, shattered and dazed. That night, Beryl confessed, she did go out into town and got absolutely hammered on drink. She and Wooler met a lot of people who’d known Brian in Liverpool, but that whole evening became for her a blur. Everywhere they staggered – much drink had been consumed even early in the evening – people were huddled in knots murmuring, upset and in utter disbelief. A lot of Liverpudlians had criticised Epstein and the Beatles – accusing them of deserting the city – but despite the abstract feeling of betrayal, he was still a local hero, one of their lads done good. And now he was dead all bets were off. No one in Liverpool really disliked him, and certainly no one hated him. It all seemed such a tragic waste to most.

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Beryl was part of a regiment of people whose lives were inevitably and inexorably linked – often to their detriment and distress – with the astonishing phenomenon that was and is the Beatles; all forlornly wishing Epstein’s death wasn’t true, but knowing it was and that it heralded the end of an era. Bob Wooler’s smooth, baby-face was puckered in a frown. He’d urged Brian to see the boys play in the dank cellar club convinced they had a magical ingredient. A handful of years later he was to become Beryl’s first husband; both their needs for companionship outweighing the social and sexual incongruity of the liaison – their lives and lifetimes intertwined in a desperate dance of destiny, even into their flickering twilights. Wooler, like Beryl and everyone else present in the pubs of Liverpool that night, was weeping copiously but silently. Hardly anyone spoke in the crowded yet hushed bar of the Grapes, then still a rough and ready joint; the focal point for the music groups that had sprung from nowhere in this tough, northern seaport. Today that very same pub is a tourist honey trap and a Mecca for global Beatles fans. Allan Williams still frequents it, holding court and slurping goblets of red wine or gulping down Brian Epstein at the height of his large vodkas, usually musical fame and fortune bought by innocent foreign tourists in awe of his background and Beatles links; and often abused by him as the booze kicks in to fuel his fiery tongue. Even though they had been sort of pals, Epstein hadn’t attended Beryl and Bob’s wedding. In fact, hardly anyone from that early music circle came to the ceremony or the reception. Beryl reckoned that if she had asked Epstein, had laid it on a bit thicker, he might just have agreed and history

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might have been different. She fondly liked to imagine that it might have brought him briefly back into the bosom of people who loved him. Maybe, but that was more probably just wishful thinking on her part, and with hindsight she should have known better. He had long outgrown Liverpool, unlike Beryl and Bob, Allan Williams and others of their ilk, who were trapped in a time warp of their own making. There was – and is – amongst the survivors a slightly deranged aura that emanates from those gripped by a madness conceived by those magical moments. Beryl at the time was working at the Cavern, as secretary for its owner Ray McFall. This was contrary to her insistence that she had wanted out of the music business for the good of her mental health; that job was another fateful turn in her tale. Her face fell as she recalled that the whole of that ‘scene’ was wiped out emotionally by Brian’s sudden death. But she at least grasped that he must have been under enormous pressure, explaining that it had already begun in Liverpool when she worked for him. Epstein used to work very hard and then liked to play hard – in a quixotic kind of way – to counteract it all. It was something he had tried largely to keep, even hide, from his family. His mum Queenie was the apple of his eye and she was equally proud of him. It was transparent in those early days that Queenie still regarded Brian as her baby boy. There was rumour piling up in Liverpool, as much as in London, of course, about the cause of his death; and even today there are those who ‘own to the truth’ yet contrive a mystery. But most still reckon it was a total accident. Beryl concurred with the consensus that Epstein wouldn’t have upset his mother in such a hurtful fashion. Like others in his inner circle, Beryl was aware that he regularly swallowed a large handful of pills. She often saw him stuffing them into his mouth in the old NEMS office days, when he didn’t think anyone was watching. Then, on that fateful night, perhaps even began slugging back the booze, little concerned about any possible dire consequence. The excesses were just an escape from the exacting pressures of the day and maybe his growing intolerance to the massive empire he’d created. Beryl lamented that Epstein was very much alone in those dark days of his still young life. Beryl smiled wanly when one day, as we chatted, she recalled that her husband Bob Wooler – or Robert, as she would address him formally and sternly when roused to anger – never even bothered to get in touch with any of the Beatles at the time to offer his condolences and sympathy. Oddly Beryl rarely used the moniker Mrs Wooler except – peculiarly and rather gratuitously, much to his enraged chagrin – when later calling herself the ‘former Mrs Wooler’ at a Beatles convention in Canada, when she tootled off on the arm of Allan Williams, Wooler’s arch antagonist. She’d

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remembered that there wasn’t even a flicker of a suggestion from Bob to haul off to London when Epstein died; such an idea didn’t seem to enter Wooler’s head despite his later endless paean to Epstein. But then it didn’t enter Beryl’s head either, of course, and in truth she did think she had more reason and obligation Beryl with twin Ken, right, and sister Dot as a baby to pay her respects. She admitted that in later years it filled her with guilt and not a little shame. But like the rest of the crowd in Liverpool, no one thought that it mattered, as they were all upset and mourning in their own peculiar, private ways. At that time Beryl did know vaguely of Allan Williams, naturally she agreed, everyone knew that he’d told the Beatles to get lost. But strangely she never knew what Williams felt about Epstein’s death, the man who had been the nemesis of his own impresario career in many ways. Williams was never a part of the ‘in crowd’ in the Grapes pub and certainly wasn’t there the day the news broke of Epstein’s death; it wasn’t one of his haunts and nor was the Cavern, although it has subsequently figured large in Allan’s latter day tall tales. In fact Beryl never ever found out what Williams thought of Brian’s death. She revealed this only a few months before her own passing away. She’d looked a trifle enigmatic as that reality hit her. Even as a couple they’d never discussed it and yet Brian was effectively the man who took the Beatles away from Allan, or so he would have people believe. At this point a knowing smile had played across Beryl’s face; she’d harboured her own strident views on the claims and tales that the roguish Allan Williams spins yet about his involvement with the band. She had paused, staring over the rim of the teacup, and looked up, puzzled. She suddenly found it funny that she’d never asked Allan. And at the time of Epstein’s death no one ever called her to ask how she felt. Indeed no one ever asked her to the day she died. Her scattered, ruptured memories for this book were the first time she had ever talked about that horrible day,

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and she was truly upset for weeks after. After all those years Beryl still had an ache of affection for Brian Epstein and often thought about what his last few days were like: the torment, the pain, the pressure. She certainly couldn’t remember the details of why neither Robert nor herself, nor any of their friends, went to London to meet up with anyone there involved with Epstein when it happened. She agreed that they might have wanted to share a few things, and reckoned it strange and, decades on, incomprehensible. She did feel a sense of guilt, regret. Yet again, neither did Beryl nor Wooler attend Epstein’s funeral in Liverpool. It was a typical Jewish family funeral and only close family was invited to the synagogue in Broad Green, in the heart of Liverpool’s Jewish community. Epstein is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Long Lane, Aintree, not far from the famous Grand National steeplechase ground. He rests in Section A in a grave marked H12, close to his beloved mum and dad. Out of the old crew only Gerry Marsden and Peter Brown attended the ceremony in the synagogue. A tearful Cilla Black joined the two men, even though women are not encouraged to mourn at Jewish funerals. It must have appeared odd to other mourners but she carried a rolled-up newspaper. Inside was a single white chrysanthemum that George Harrison had asked her to throw on Brian’s coffin as a tribute from all of the Beatles. The secrecy? Flowers are not encouraged at a Jewish funeral either. As Brian’s coffin was lowered Cilla flung the flower on top. Considering the way celebrity deaths are mourned to the point of morbid absurdity and spectacle these days, there wasn’t even an informal event or service or commemoration amongst Epstein’s former friends, pals and colleagues in Liverpool. Nothing. No one bothered. Epstein died and, despite his huge influence on the local music set, not one of the hundreds of people who knew him and claimed allegiance or affection thought of organising a memorial service, or even a gathering of the like-minded. He just passed on, ironically unsung then in his hometown. Beryl mused in her last months that this was all so very sad and unfortunate. With hindsight – again – she believed something should have been done. Perhaps, though, that inability to ‘get their acts together’ is a reflection of their whole lives. A weird and amorphous bunch of people who are simply obsessed with treading gingerly in the more spangled footsteps of others and seeking to garnish their petty lives with a peppering of that ephemeral spice. When Lennon was shot Allan Williams and a handful of others like Sam Leach did organise memorials and the like. They continue to relate how they spent endless hours on the telephone talking about their grief and loss to journalists or looking angst-ridden in front of microphones and cameras,

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Beryl, far right, in the bosom of her family

Swarms of hurriedly dispatched media folk from radio and television stations from all over the UK, America, New York especially, or Japan, amongst myriad news agencies who hunger to this day for Beatles-related copy. Leach is another charming who has made a fair, if opportunist, living out of the fact that he did book the boys into a handful of gigs, was in effect a kind of agent, much like Allan Williams if the truth be told. But it (the truth) seldom is the guiding light these days, and Beatles fans don’t seem to care either way; they prefer the myths by all accounts. Beryl Adams certainly didn’t, though. In Liverpool the ceremony hastily pulled together by Leach to mark John Lennon’s death attracted thousands to stand, sway and sing ‘Imagine’, Lennon’s own hymn for a generation, which is bizarrely played in churches these days despite its fierce anti-religious rant. All the fans huddled, on the grandiose granite steps of the imposing St George’s Hall to share their outpouring of grief. The hall is one of the UK’s finest neo-classical buildings yet located in the city’s Lime Street, ironically made famous in the raunchy sailors’ ditty ‘Maggie May’, a song about a prostitute. In the sixties the hall had been used for social and civic functions; Allan Williams had even staged several of his infamous, frequently memorable and often disastrous New Year’s Eve balls within its elegant portals. The Beatles, though, had never performed there although Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, as art students, had

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helped design several floats for one of the balls. Indeed, they had done so for Allan Williams before he recognised their other talents. Beryl was simply ignored on every one of these occasions, forgotten in everyone else’s personal gallop to be observed in public grief, and certainly nobody contacted her when Brian Epstein had died years earlier. When Lennon was murdered few in the maniacal circus of media and music pundits remembered her or even knew her background or connections. Even when George Harrison died she was left largely alone, the researchers unaware of her role or background – and she’d been around publicly a bit by then, even speaking, if ever so briefly, at several Beatles-related events and on television. It was only BBC Television North West in England that latched onto her. In a broadcast of a mere few moments she almost stole Allan Williams’ thunder when they were interviewed together for a news clip about George Harrison’s death. Beryl chattered away like a small screen natural, as though this was second nature and not the emotional torture she later claimed. She felt, she said often, as if she’d been hidden away in a dark cupboard. And for many years that was true, as nobody really knew where she was. She was married for the second time when John died and her reaction was shock, even though she held no fond feelings for the man; to the contrary it verged on loathing. Frankly Beryl couldn’t believe Lennon’s murder. It was so unfair she thought but, being honest, confessed that she hadn’t really liked John that much, had even found him very tiresome. But she was conscious that he always had a lot going for him even in the early days. Beryl was living above the doctor’s surgery where she had worked quietly for years when the news of Lennon’s death stirred up all her bad memories. She was saddened and yet confused that no one has ever asked her what she felt emotionally about both of those Beatles-related deaths. The odd local person would come into the doctor’s surgery and ask her how she was, some at least aware that she had been involved in that bizarre pageant, but not quite sure how she fitted in. Beryl found that imposed anonymity weird right to the end. The few people who did talk to her in an abstract sort of way about John Lennon when they visited the doctor’s surgery were usually old family friends who knew she’d worked for Brian Epstein. But Beryl was constantly bemused that these people would look a bit embarrassed and sort of casually just mention it as she was organising their appointments or prescriptions. She would tell them, even rant, that she was appalled at the murder and all without exception would shuffle off, uncomfortable at the unexpected explosion of emotion.

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One of those patients was the celebrated Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd, ranked as one of Britain’s wackiest funny men, who was recently handed the accolade of the ‘Greatest Scouser of all Time’ by BBC Radio Merseyside. He is a veteran of the old style Music Halls, who knew the Beatles well. On his infrequent visits to the doctor – Dodd lived and still does only a hop and a jump from the surgery – he would throw a quip Beryl’s way about her past life. There was no more than that cursory interest. Yet for all her disdain for the man, Beryl was utterly devastated at Lennon’s murder. It just brought up the memories about Brian and the old days rushing back to the fore again. She thought it funny the way people reacted in the latter days when she met them and they didn’t know her or who she was. Their reaction was always priceless when they did find out or it came out in conversation. Maybe Allan Williams would introduce her at Beatles conventions and the others in the company would be surprised, even agog. And she would wonder what it was all about. Why did they think it so amazing? Beryl never really understood what all the fuss was about. She found the whole sham celebrity lark hugely amusing, even distasteful. She couldn’t get a handle on the way people slavered in lustful throes of a peculiar manic fling with a new cult. For years she was just on the sidelines and shunned the shallow preening of others. In truth she didn’t care that much, it wasn’t important and she would stress this again and again. She had led a completely full, if insane, life a lot of it way over the top. But so have lots of other people, she would shoot an inquiring glance. When Lennon was shot and murdered, naturally Beryl was upset and shocked – yet she didn’t go to any of the memorial services. She convinced herself she couldn’t because she was working in the surgery and was very busy as the receptionist-cum-housekeeper for the doctors. Of course, she admits she could have gone but was petrified of arousing those sleeping dragons.

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2 – Wild, Reckless and Fancy Free

I

t was a spring morning, the sun was shining and Beryl was up for a natter about her past. She snorted and a broad grin spread across her pleasant features as she confessed with a giggle that her youth was utterly wild and rootless. She laughed gaily that, yeh, for her sins, she was Brian Epstein’s first secretary and the only legal witness to his contract with the Beatles, despite others chalking up the credit and ensuing kudos. Her signature can be clearly seen on that contract alongside that of Epstein and the four Beatles. It is reproduced in the Beatles Anthology tome. Beryl smiled enigmatically again and glanced up, peering through her spectacles. After more than 40 years in the dips and shades of society Beryl reckoned it was time to break her personal vow not to talk about the secrets, the sleaze, the fibs and the fun of those hedonistic days. The problem was her memory; could she sink into the past and assemble the facts from fiction? She was living ‘mostly’ alone after two remarkably different marriages, and regularly mulled over how her existence had been shaped and often shattered by those experiences in the Beatles haze. She wasn’t that sure she could remember much, though, and would grin nervously at the prospect. Beryl was petite, occasionally a bit shaky on her feet, although usually only after a few too many vodkas and orange – and tended surprisingly towards the shy side of nervous – but by no stretch of the imagination was she a wilting wallflower, like some thought who only knew her fleetingly in her later years. She often breathed hard through her nose when hurling out the fiery expletives that could embarrass a trooper: “A real shower of bastards!” She was referring in such colourful terms to many of those she dubbed liars and cheats who circulated on the Swinging Sixties music scene in Liverpool and, later, as pathetic camp followers in the Beatles nostalgia merry-go-round. All have touted tales of insider gossip. “Bollocks,” Beryl would rail forcibly, looking a bit sheepish at the vulgarity of her swearing, but always on a roll on this pet subject. Scowling and scathing she would rave that it was all “bogus bollocks and fabrication, sheer make-believe for most of them”. Even her lifelong friend the sacked drummer Pete Best didn’t escape the ribbing, but he came in for only mild rebuffs. She was very fond of the man. She scoffed, though,

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at his understanding that the Casbah Club, opened and run by his mother Mona, was the centre of Liverpool’s early sixties beat scene. Beryl never denied that it was an early venue for the fledgling Beatles and they did sing there, but maybe just to rehearse a bit she mused. She was around that area then, and lived in the same neighbourhood. Sure she thought it a nice little place but set up by his mum to keep the lads out of mischief and happy. Beryl declared that it was just patent nonsense to say it was a seminal influence. It was too far out of town. How would many people have got to it, or found it? It’s in the middle of a drab suburban area, she would laugh uproariously. But she generously conceded that Best has never been a grabber; he never really exploited his time with the Beatles and Beryl retained an affection for this quietly spoken, even modest, drummer man. She described him always as a real gentleman. Back on the hustings again, Beryl would rail and roar against the sycophantic battalions who’ve made a vicarious but precarious living out of once knowing the world’s most famous group or even “banging on about it” because of a spurious link or loose circumstance. And recently the London public relations guru Max Clifford has – after a forty year gap suddenly announced that it was HE in the mid sixties who first handled the media spin for the Beatles when they were signed to EMI: it was his skilful manipulation of the press that apparently polished the band’s profile. Indeed. While so many lapped up a life of luxury thanks to the extraordinary behemoth that became the Beatles’ hurtling bandwagon, others were left puffing in its wake scrabbling for scraps of related fame and a handful of gold. Beryl wasn’t even that lucky, and she even counted her memories, what was left of them, a mixed blessing. In later life she lived, insecurely to an extent, on a state pension – although there was also a mysterious small fund that resulted from the termination of her employment in the doctor’s surgery, an issue she refused categorically ever to discuss. She was happy enough in many ways, but it wasn’t always so. Pausing with lips pursed and eyes blinking furiously, peering cautiously unsure from behind thickly bevelled spectacle lenses, Beryl would catch her breath. She shuddered for a brief moment, murmuring about how the ghosts of dead bloody Beatles and their mentor Brian Epstein disturbed her. Then she would shake her whole body and giggle uncontrollably; the very pretentiousness of all that mumbo-jumbo sending her into fits of almost hysterical guffaws. She would laugh that the ghost thing wasn’t that stupid spiritual world type of thing. Then she would impishly glance up at the bookcase in her tiny living room. Alongside her few books were stored the ashes of her once

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husband Bob Wooler, who died in January 2002. Those ashes disappeared once Beryl had gone. Several unkind persons spread awful rumours that Allan Williams was spied trying to auction them off in the pubs of Mathew Street. But even the wheeler-dealing Mr Williams wouldn’t stoop that low. He was genuinely hurt at the suggestion. Soon after Wooler’s death Beryl at first placed the cheap, grey, anonymous cardboard box – which she complained was surprisingly heavy, maybe five pounds in weight – squatting on the top shelf. It is “out of harm’s way” she would cackle. She chuckled that the box was up there high so Wooler could keep his beady eye on her and she could shout at him whenever she liked without getting one of his acerbic remarks fired back. Then, in a fit of pique or childhood spark, she would suddenly remember the religious stuff and go surprisingly mute. She didn’t believe that any of them – the dead Beatles, Wooler or Epstein – were pounding around in Heaven or Hell or wherever, singing songs and being their cheery or sarcastic selves. No, it was just the spooky and very vivid reminiscences of them as young people that scratched her own present. Heading her own personal chart of rascals was always John Lennon and she never ceased to insist that she didn’t really like the guy, reckoning him

Early day Beatles - before global fame

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an arrogant bully. After a while this could become a tad tedious and there was a nagging feeling that she had created a lot of this angst to suit some strange agenda of her own. But there was no denying she maintained a soft spot for the late – the lovable as she calls him – George Harrison. She would describe him as that dear, witty boy and the funniest of all four in his own sweet way. Even that became boring as it turned into a daily hymn. And, for Beryl, Stuart Sutcliffe was – ironically even when he was alive – a mere wraith hovering in the distance. But the anguished, unquiet spirit of the long deceased Brian Epstein – once her own highly respected former boss whom she considered also a kind of Beatle – stalked even her waking hours. She believed he would never find peace and that both history and so-called friends have treated him unfairly, even shabbily. Then there’s the wandering, shivering soul of Bob Wooler, the gay disc jockey and music promoter who died only weeks after his 76th birthday. Sadly, despite what his acolytes might contend, in his own later years he transmuted into a parody of himself. Affectionately tagged the Father of Mersey Beat, he is famed mostly for giving the Fab Four their first break in Liverpool’s legendary but smelly, sweaty Cavern Club, where he compered beat music nights. Later he introduced Epstein to them and – largely losing the plot of his own life – ended up a lowly bingo caller and record spinner in a failing ice rink of all places in a rundown area of Liverpool during the years that saw his protégés acrimoniously bust up themselves. He watched in anguish from the sidelines – along with Beryl, who by then had abandoned the imploding Mersey Beat scene, working in the doctor’s surgery – as the four lads from heaped scorn and bile on each other. This was, as everyone knows, mostly McCartney and Lennon engaging in mudslinging over money and lyric credits – amongst other more personal things – a matter to this day in dispute. The rest is enshrined in the lexicon of showbiz, social and perhaps even world history. The reality is that Beryl Adams hurtled through a tumultuous hellish helter-skelter life as Brian Epstein’s secretary. It was a chaotic often-joyous time sprinkled in showbiz stardust yet wracked by booze, bulldozed relationships, emotional pain and scarred by attempted suicides as she has scraped, scrapped and scuttled through life. Only now is her own close family aware of the horrors, mental and physical, that she suffered. Her younger sister Dot is astonished at the latter day confessions. “I cannot believe a lot of what I am hearing and reading about. I knew she was wild but these revelations...well I am both shocked and amazed,” muttered Dot as finally Beryl’s tale unfolded in full, at least the bits she remembered.

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Over the four long, winding often desolate decades that have elapsed since Beryl gave up her exotic, unbearably exciting job with Brian Epstein, she remained mostly tight-lipped and barely muttered a word in public about the bacchanalian, clearly unpredictable and often dangerous lifestyle. Sure, she admitted with an indifferent shrug, she had tried to kill herself several times because of the topsy-turvy and tormented emotions. For years Beryl bottled up all her jagged memories of being a part of those terrific, heady days. It was desperation that persuaded her to throw up the glamour and razzmatazz of rubbing shoulders with showbiz notoriety and seek security and peace of mind in the safety of an ordinary – what she called boring – marriage to driving instructor Peter Mullins. A decent man, she declared ruefully; admitting that he didn’t deserve the way he was treated by her as their own marriage later crumbled. She wasn’t, however, weighted down by any deep-seated regrets or guilt over the end of the partnership that didn’t last much over a dozen of what she dismisses as screamingly – and paradoxically – dull years; the call of the tumult was too strong. Then she found the will and energy to relive those heady days, to look back into the recesses of her mind and to maybe spill a few beans and hopefully prick a bit of pomposity. Too many of those involved at the time have spun yarns that they even believe the stories themselves. Beryl never really cared that much about telling people, didn’t think anyone was interested. Why should they? It’s only a life, she would say dismissively. And she was pretty certain that the public in general probably still aren’t interested, the real people. She would complain that it was what she called ‘just the sad bastards’ who delude themselves that they were important. Beryl would mutter that, of course they weren’t and aren’t. Pausing in this frequent tirade, Beryl would recall those vividly pulsating days and nights when she sat in the same room working for the man – Brian Epstein – whose flawed abilities helped to transform the very essence of modern music. He was the chap who became a living legend before, and an icon after, his untimely death only a few years into the unstoppable rise of the Beatles. His ‘babies’ as Beryl would still call them and the band that gave birth to a musical colossus and his own eventual crash into the abyss. That man was whom she still referred to as her ‘own’ Brian Epstein. Sure she was envied by scores of contemporaries, swishing about as Epstein’s secretary in Liverpool at the time when he launched his traditionsmashing music business empire in the early 1960s; privy to the daily comings, goings and whinges of the teams of not so innocent teen beat boys. She observed at close quarters the angst, the bitter rows, the joys and the

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fervour of just being there, alive at a time when history was being shaped and rewritten. Beryl was a constant, a sympathetic shoulder as Epstein planned his strategies and moulded his daydreams into reality. She could recall sitting in his office, quietly drafting out a customer reply letter, on the day when his interest in the tearaway, rag-tag-and bobtail group that went under the strange name of The Beatles was abruptly awakened. He even asked her what she thought about them long before he’d ever dreamed of signing them up. Bursting loose from that self-imposed restraint – and the drag of her own self-destructive demons – that lasted well over a quarter of a century, was maybe a cathartic exercise for Beryl. She always insisted she felt balanced enough – although others within her family or social circle have disputed this – to talk freely about those wacko days of non-stop drinking, drugs and several attempted suicides. Yet her juddering memory illuminated flashes of how unable she was to cope with the thought-scrambling bedlam; how she grabbed a razorblade to slash her tender, still young, flesh and arteries in an idiotic attempt to take her own life. It’s as if she had buried a lot of the memories. Only when others casually mentioned an incident did she suddenly jerk to life, shouting out as though in joy that, yes, she did remember that story, but often only after she had been prodded. Then she would ramble on for a while before slowing down and looking puzzled, striving to flesh out the bare bones and then, with an apologetic shrug, confess she couldn’t actually recall the event in detail. There was that other breakdown in personal tolerance a mere ten years or so ago, resulting in a near fatal overdose of sleeping tablets, a folly which made her quiver. She continued to blame that ‘little lapse’ on the irrational jealousies of Allan Williams. She would glance at the scarred, ribbed skin on her wrists and arms caused by the woes of 30 years before when she slashed them to shreds of flesh with a wickedly sharp razor blade in an uncontrollable rage. Even then, she grimaced at the flashbacks, there didn’t seem to be a reason, maybe just a pleading for help, something to let her come to grips with what many would have rated a fantastic lifestyle in the scorching comet trail of the Beatles. But, for her at least, it was frequently diabolical. Indeed the 1960s for Beryl and so many other young people was a chance to taste freedom, although she was convinced that the period also hurtled many to their physical and psychological doom; others trapped forever in a time capsule of Purgatory of what might, should, or could have been; at least until death called them and maybe not even then.

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In earlier centuries Liverpool had been an important maritime axis, the essential Western seaboard route to the New Worlds – America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada – and ostensibly the second city in the British Empire, despite Glasgow’s counter claim. The city was bloated with the ill-gotten riches of unscrupulous merchants whose commerce often involved human misery and even death: folk who’d built their family wealth on despicable connections to the slave trade or, contrary to official British government policy, support for the Southern Confederacy in the American Civil War because of the valuable cotton trade. The port and its environs throbbed with the ebb and flow of cargoes and the trudge of emigrant peoples. In the best-selling biographical and photo tribute to the city, ‘Liverpool – The First 1,000 Years’, journalist and author Arabella McIntyre Brown said that in the 1960s Liverpool was one of the ‘coolest’ cities on the planet; home of the Beatles. It was THE place to be. The reality was that, by the end of the 19th century, Liverpool was one of the greatest trading cities on earth, the gateway between the Old and New Worlds, noted Arabella. And Liverpool had stronger connections with America than any other British town. It was, after all, a Liverpool man, Robert Morris, who was the financial brains behind the American Revolution and a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. And it seems that the first and last acts of the economically ruinous but morally assertive American Civil War had Liverpool connections. How this history impacted on the Mersey music scene is also superbly reported in Liverpool-born music journalist and author Paul Du Noyer’s fascinating and insightful book enthusiastically titled, ‘Liverpool: Wondrous Place – Music From Cavern to Cream’. Sir Paul McCartney wrote in the foreword, ‘the story of Liverpool music is incredibly rich’. The concept for this book was given an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ – and how the ironies keep cropping up – by Stuart Slater, today senior commissioning editor for Virgin Books. For Stuart had been a member of the Mojos, one of the successful second ‘generation’ of beat bands in the sixties, along with the Merseybeats, Swinging Blue Jeans and the Searchers; those just within the scorching tail of the comet trail left by the Beatles and Gerry et al who’d led the field a year or so before. Slater was another ‘soon to be famous’ pupil at the Liverpool Institute – McCartney’s old school – and a school pal contemporary of the now London-based showbiz impresario Bill Kenwright, and doyen of Everton Football club. Kenwright was even the drummer in the first band that Slater assembled.

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Stuart says he vaguely remembers Beryl being around but only as a shadowy figure in the Cavern and amidst the hangers-on there. He wasn’t that aware of her links to Epstein. In the 1980s Bill Kenwright plunged in with cash and enthusiasm to save Liverpool’s Playhouse theatre from permanent closure. Ironically one of Beryl’s first jobs after being effectively thrown out of school was as an administration assistant in that very theatre; at one time in the not-so-distant past the oldest working repertory space in Britain. It was less than two decades after the end of the Second World War, Liverpool was buzzing again, certainly for young folk, but for widely different if no less resonant reasons than its commercial clout. The austere, soul-destroying rationing of the post-war period was merely a page in history as a new optimistic mood swept Britain, the USA and most of the western hemisphere. Jobs were relatively easy to get and unlike gaggles of their browbeaten forebears, who’d endured poverty-level living and wars, the young had money to spend on louche pleasures: drink, soft drugs such as cannabis or ‘grass’, and ‘uppers and downers’ like purple hearts or ‘speed’. Amphetamines ruled the roost. For those really in the loop, heroin then was axiomatically considered almost romantic, the very sustenance of the creative inner mind, up there on a par with acid, the mind-bending chemical LSD that frequently sent people off their chumps. Beryl would shudder and insist she never touched heroin. She may well have been on the edge but was too frightened to risk addiction with the ‘hard stuff’, although she had no hesitation in admitting that in the matters of booze and boys she gleefully indulged. Visible changes were being wrought as the decade kicked in amongst the brigades of ‘Brylcream Boys’ – this was a gungy, sickly-sweet smelling, hair gel used for slicking back hair, a trend now back in favour – whose hormones were rampaging. The lasses, too, were discarding the oldfashioned twin-set and pearls, cardigans and pleats in favour of more informal scruff-bag garb such as leggings, black polo necks, jeans and duffle coats. It’s a fashion that has stayed constant. Notably, to the horror of the older generation, more open, explicit sexual antics were the staples of fun as easy-going liberal attitudes swept away the stuffy, stifling social mores that had gripped Britain for decades, at least on the surface. As a fancy-free girl in her early 20s, for the fresh-faced Beryl Adams those ‘hellish helter skelter’ years, as she cheerfully described them, dawned at a turning point in history, as they did for so many flippity brigades of bright-eyed and feckless young women and men. Beryl would frequently demur that sexual favours and experimentation were always a part of the

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main ‘entertainment’ menu. A new era was taking root, promising unheard of liberties and opportunities. Beryl and her pals found it just so fabulous, amazing and nerve tingling to be in the thick of the lashings of fun and dizzy excitement of the early 1960s, when the world really did feel and act like it was on the brink of a social revolution, but one that was fed by hedonism rather than political zeal. It was a Britain scrambling eagerly out of a glum post-war depression – the conflicts that had embroiled the world still loomed large in the public psyche – and it was only months since enforced National Service was scrapped. Beryl liked to imbibe, loved the booze, really enjoyed a drink...lots and lots of drink...and was not averse to the occasional ‘tablet’ or two – purple hearts and speed were the popular choice to keep the body functioning through the long nights, which in fact went on for days; in reality the hard day’s night of one of the Beatles’ memorable ditties. As for men, boys really: she loved them as well, often and many, in all sizes. She goes so far as to hint she might have been called ‘a loose woman’. And, eyes staring into the misty well of the past would defiantly ask, ‘well, so what?’ and giggle. Musical taste, too, was inexorably warping with the age as the influences of the American blues, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz singers were increasingly available in bustling British seaports like Liverpool. Such towns that had enjoyed long-term historical links and relations with other nations – and in particular the North American continent – through the crews of swaggering matelots and saucy sailors. Ships of every hue and provenance steamed relentlessly back and forth between the US cities of New York, Boston and Baltimore with links even to Chicago and the Great Lakes or further to San Francisco and other parts of California. An international maritime hub, Liverpool was well-placed to nourish and foster that growing frenzy for foreign tastes in music and food; and was awash with Chinese, Poles, Greeks, and others from the Caribbean or Africa – many of the latter descendants of transported slaves – and a stream of other immigrants; a Diaspora that had been created out of its indigenous reputation and traditions as a seaport. Liverpool seemed to represent the eye of the whirlpool of this young persons’ world; even more so than London, although that too was to mutate into ‘swinging’ with Carnaby Street the Mecca of the new age, arguably because of the Beatles and their ilk: thus perhaps it should have been called The Macca. The influence was so pervasive that the bizarre beatnik American poet Allen Ginsberg was soon persuaded to pen a homily – in one of his more lucid moments – that Liverpool was the world’s focal point: the

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‘center of consciousness of the human universe’. Or, as the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung rather over sentimentally described it: ‘The Pool of Life’. Such declamations were perhaps confirmed by the works of the fabled Mersey performance poets Roger McGough, Brian Patten and the late Adrian Henri – the unsung founding fathers of the late 20th century’s Alternative Comedy on both sides of the Atlantic. They were poetry’s answer to the Beatles – a trio of literary Scousers who proved that the finest rhymes don’t need musical accompaniment, although frequently they did pull in the talents of guitarist Andy Roberts. Their triple masterpiece, The Merseysound anthology of poetry, was the Sergeant Pepper of its genre, dripping with dry wit and spiky barbs. It remains the best selling poetry book ever, selling a million copies in its first year. A few years later the Liverpool Scene band of poets and musicians tried to capitalise on the notoriety and pull of the city and for a while was hugely successful, led by Adrian Henri, Andy Roberts, Mike Evans – now an accomplished and acclaimed music historian apart from his saxophone skills – and the dolorous Mike Hart, who trawled along a bunch of poets and pals in their wake. Incredible as it sounds, no one scoffed at the crass waffle of Ginsberg’s rhetoric: even when numerous pundits derided him as a peddler of daft pap. As a tribute to this risible tosh, for years in the 1970s and 1980s people of varied convictions – Ginsberg’s disciples leading the charge – would metaphorically genuflect in hallowed deference to the sculpted bust of that pseudo philosopher Carl Jung framed in a rounded alcove cut into a wall in Mathew Street; installed at the instigation, so folklore has it, of Ginsberg and his followers in Liverpool’s arty enclave. This was outside Flanagan’s Apple, probably the first Irish themed bar in Britain. The dark, dusty and purposefully down-at-heel former warehouse became one of the city’s great drinking joints, packed to the gunnels with boozers or just fun seeking folk out for the ‘craic’. They got it in spades at Flanagan’s as its owner and founder Bob Burns, another gritty Liverpool character, encouraged the performance of live music; be it Irish jigs and reels or the plethora of local rock ‘n’ roll bands that kept the pulses throbbing. In another of those weird synchronicities the building had been used previously as one of the first Beatles’ museums – although it fell into disuse, born too early for the anoraks that followed – and as the fabled trendy Armadillo café and restaurant. The mottled green statue of Jung’s head with that homily underneath is still there, largely ignored today, directly opposite the Grapes pub where the Beatles and others supped warm beers during their breaks in belting out the tunes at the Cavern mere yards away.

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Beryl and her ‘mob’ thought Ginsberg was spot on and that their city was simply the best in the world. They bragged about it to everyone they met from outside, Beryl recalled, but – adhering to the accepted restrictions of the day – she never drank in the Grapes then. It just wasn’t the sort of place a woman would go. It was full of frequently abrasive fruit warehouse workers and the floors were smothered in sawdust and spittle. It was a real, smoke-choked drinking den. Flower power and free love might have been writ large but some social niceties couldn’t be busted even in a Liverpool bursting at the seams with energy and zap. At the time even the mighty American Ford Motor Company picked up the Merseyside muse and enthusiastically decided to build a new, stateof-the-art UK car assembly plant towards the south of the city; some were convinced this was an economic miracle, a sort of industrial honeymoon in the making. The reality was, though, that Ford – hardly a philanthropic outfit – had been wooed and won with a very tasty financial ‘dowry’ of its own by the local councils in terms of special deals on rent or rates for the vast acres it required; along with huge subsidies to invest in Merseyside where there was a ready and willing labour force. For a while though Halewood – the site was named after a little rural village that grew into a huge dormitory town for the workforce – became for Ford, and its horrified bosses in Detroit, more like an ante-room for Hell, a manufacturing outpost for ‘chariots of fire’ rather than the Anglia and Cortina cars they pinned their hopes on. The assembly and transmission plants – and perhaps even more so what was known as the ‘stamping plant’ where the sheets of raw metal were shaped into recognisable body parts – were regularly turned into industrial and political battle fields. The less than subservient workforce, culled largely from the wild, reckless Celtic mélange that made up Liverpool’s ethnic jam, spread mayhem and militant rebellion, spilling over into other Ford plants in the UK and beyond. For years the industrial relations turbulence ebbed and flowed. And the docksides, ever the heartbeat of trade union passions, weren’t left out of the chaos as the Port of Liverpool underwent dramatic and painful changes as it clawed its way into a new mechanised age; although the patrician figures who loped around the corridors and boardrooms of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board were themselves hell bent on maintaining their own status quo. The National Dock Labour Board strove to end the vile practice of the casual pen for dockers (longshoremen in the USA), but it was still rife in those heady sixties; men chosen arbitrarily for work on the fluctuating whims of a ‘boss’. No wonder there was the whiff of anarchy in the air.

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It was a reflection, too, of the musical revolution that was exploding in Liverpool at the same time. With screams and yells it was loudly giving birth to a new sound, the Mersey Beat. There was just something in the mood according to those who gorged on the apparent chaos. For Beryl, already in her early 20s when the century swung into the memorable decade of the 1960s, it really felt as though things were happening with a bang. She was just able to hang in by her fingernails with the pubescent teenage crowd. But her close pal and later husband Bob Wooler’s lifetime secret was that he was actually – in the youthful zest of the day – an old man at 36. Desperate to appear trendy and a part of the pack, he knocked at least six years of his age, even sometimes as much as 10 or 11. That information was kept closely under wraps from most of his contemporaries – and certainly the press – until his death 40-odd years later. Beryl knew, of course, even before they were married but held her own counsel out of respect for Bob’s sensitivities. So it was that a little over four decades ago began the global phenomenon that has become the brash business beast that translates as the Beatles, epitomised by the auctioning of endless memorabilia by such eminent organisations as Christie’s and Sotheby’s and – even considering much of it is tack – for many thousands of pounds and dollars; all stirring amidst the perspiring bodies gyrating with their own trademark dance the Stomp. They sweated lumps and gasped for air in the noisy, damp cellar club tagged by its original creator Alan Sytner as the Cavern – named after a Left Bank Paris jazz café – in the heart of that port city of Liverpool. The city fans out towards seven hills – much like ancient Rome – along the banks of the then murky, heavily polluted river Mersey. It’s cleaned up its act so much today that salmon have been spotted, and caught, heading from the Irish Sea up river to almost long forgotten spawning grounds. The Cavern, that dark subterranean den, was itself to become a source of fable for many desperate to trail in the slipstream and perhaps share in the fortune of the earth-shattering foursome. Beryl latterly declared with venom that she always hated the club’s stench and feral feel, even more so when she was secretary to Ray McFall – who owned the Cavern throughout its boom and fall and then oversaw its reckless demolition. This was shortly after she had forsaken Epstein, leaving him and his cohorts to find fortune and fate. Yet its dank, gloomy tomb-like ambience embodied for many just a temple for lost opportunities, with scores, even hundreds, of lives frittered away in frustration and rage at missing the fabulous fame train. The Nowhere Men – rarely women, although a handful desperately clutch at the

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last bright shreds of Mersey Beats’ winding shroud – who today continue to live vicariously off that era. This is usually bolted on to the reputations of the city’s most famous four musicians – now down to two – who probably wouldn’t even recognise most – if any – of them if they crashed headlong into them in any Liverpool street. In the cold, dark November winter days of 1960 the ending of National Service in Britain meant that the birth, survival and burgeoning of rock ‘n’ roll groups became a real possibility. Previously, just as a band was beginning to get somewhere its members would be whisked off unceremoniously to serve two years’ parade ground bashing in Her Majesty’s Forces. Had National Service continued, given their age differences, the Beatles could never have existed; they would simply not have been flung together by circumstance. Paul McCartney has admitted that if that scenario had existed there wouldn’t have been any Beatles. Most of the lads Beryl knew had joined the Forces, many reluctantly, and were obliged to serve for the requisite two years, come what may. She and her pals just expected the lads to be whisked away. And for sure many loved it. It was an adventure. Epstein was, of course, conscripted into the army for his bout of ‘Queen and Country. He hated and despised the harsh unrelenting discipline of the military and just couldn’t fit in. He described himself in the late Ray Coleman’s critically assessed biography Epstein – the Man Who Made the Beatles as the lousiest soldier in the world. He managed to secure a medical discharge after only nine months and hardly ever mentioned the experience again. Later Paul McCartney was to declare in his own autobiography Many Years From Now that essentially the ending of that ‘military draft’ enabled the Beatles to blossom. “We’d have been a little group in Liverpool but if we’d had any success, just as we were getting going somewhere, Ringo and John – the two oldest – would have had to go into the armed forces followed shortly by me and then a year later by George. I always thought it ruined Elvis Presley. It just seemed after that he became establishment and his records weren’t so good.” When the government ended the statutory service throughout the UK, the boys and their contemporaries were able to take full advantage of the freedom that swept in the sixties, rolling in relentlessly before a billowing gale of change and challenge. Meanwhile, Beryl, at 24 years of age, was enjoying life’s pleasures to the full, grafting and playing hard as hell. She was a tad older than the teenagers – that kind of lingua franca, too, was brand new – thrashing their guitars

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and drum kits. But she was blithely unaware that she was a spoke in what was to become a fast revolving wheel in an unforgettable era of the music industry’s folklore. It rumbled increasingly fast and furiously into a social, money-spinning avalanche, fuelling political rebellion and protest that reflected the sixties’ mood. This was epitomised by Bob Dylan in his prophetic ‘Times They Are A Changin’’, an unusual nasal polemic – amongst a string of others from fawning UK acolytes like Glasgow-born Donovan – that struck a chime with the zeitgeist of his generation. It is a period in history that is studied intensely to this day by music fans, and the more ephemeral scholars still trying to get a handle on it. Dylan also performed in Liverpool – was even booed at a concert in 1965 in the city’s Odeon cinema by aficionados who hated the new-fangled electrification of his act, even though that very metropolis was home to the hammering guitars that embodied Mersey Beat and the UIK music world per se. Dylan contemptuously mocked his critics and was indifferent to their intolerance; after all he was a pal of the Beatles, so what was all the hassle? Just like in Manchester and other UK cities he taunted his tormentors, mostly the ragged-arsed folkie and beatnik brigades, who were stalking out of the concerts in impotent rage. At Liverpool’s London Road Odeon cinema, he glanced with scorn at the departing backs and launched into a whining yet fiery version of ‘The Times They Are A Changin’’, to tumultuous applause from those who reckoned they better understood the nuances of the very changes that were welling over them. Mind you, during that same visit Dylan was refused admission to the celebrated Blue Angel club for being too scruffy and dirty. This was the hotspot for hip young people in the very early sixties; owned then – and for a few more years – by Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager, who had ‘lost’ the group to Brian Epstein only a few years earlier. He has been forever tagged ‘The Man Who Gave Away The Beatles’, and to be honest revels in the infamy of that blunder. At the time he and Beryl Adams were barely even on nodding acquaintance terms, but in their later years – in another of life’s glorious little japes of fate – he and Beryl became partners, lovers even. Well they were for some time, admitted Beryl grudgingly, although she said at one point after a blazing row that he was banned from her bed. Not for long, it seemed. Williams told Beryl that the Blue Angel’s bouncers had turned Bob Dylan away because he looked like a tramp. Then when he recognised the singer poet he ran after him, begging him to come back. She wasn’t

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convinced that he did and yet it’s become just another Allan Williams’ folk tale, embellished as the years pass. Before Dylan had deliberately taken the piss in a Liverpool already slipping back to its peculiar Celtic-influenced moribund former self – and honing its skills at delivering ‘chip on the shoulder’ wisecracks – we reach back to the dawning of the big beat boom. Beryl Adams was merely a young, albeit very attractive, lass in the employ of a seriously respectable, low-key local ‘old Jewish’ family firm in their busy yet largely unimportant and less than dynamic department store called NEMS (North End Music Stores). She was clearly oblivious to the coming rent in the social fabric, the seismic shift in musical taste. NEMS, mostly concentrating on home furnishings, had also, by a weird accident of happenchance, carved out a reputation in Liverpool as one of the few outlets for the latest incarnation of popular recordings, the vinyl 45s and LPs of the day, which were replacing the old acrylic 78s. Bundles of them were the hugely sought-after and exotic American imports, in particular rhythm and blues with its vibrant frequently caustic lyrics that were capturing the imagination of the young. Beryl stood firm with music historians on disputing the mythology that these records were brought in by sailors. Her twin brother Ken worked on trans Atlantic cruise liners and he hadn’t picked up on this and she knew from personal experience at NEMS that the stories were nonsense. Brian Epstein simply imported them from America. He ordered and bought them in the usual way. There was no great underground movement pushing this stuff. Beryl was a regular at the Cavern and other clubs and insisted she had never heard that romantic tale of the origins of the records until decades later. As a result of Epstein’s foresight – even if he was less inclined to savour the vogue – this tiny NEMS store attracted hordes of teenagers. They slouched around mulling over the album covers or playing sample tracks in primitive, grey-painted and wall-mounted acoustic, but extremely basic, sound booths where records could be heard for free. Amongst them was the untidy bunch of lads – although this was mostly by personal choice than circumstance – who within a few short years would rouse and rattle the world with their music and humour. Yet at that time the Beatles were merely metaphorically ‘mewling and puking infants’ on the scene; there was only the hint of the magnificent musical ‘birds of prey’ that would emerge. They were a ‘local’ provincial outfit, largely insignificant in the UK, albeit with a huge following in Liverpool and Hamburg, thanks to the mercurial, mercenary tactics of their first manager, Allan Williams.

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Beryl could afford to smile at the irony of that, especially when she and Williams were finally accepted as an ‘item’, their latter day, often stormy, relationship a regular talking point amongst friends and foes alike. In pubs and bars like the Grapes, or the Post House and even occasionally the White Star just off Mathew Street. Williams, though, was – and for that matter is – still married to his first wife, also called Beryl. He calls her Beryl Number One; apparently neither a derogatory nor affectionate term; an appendage neither Beryl Adams nor others in their coterie of pals could quite agree about. Williams, as ever, remained enigmatic at criticism. Naturally, with a cheeky smirk at the sheer effrontery of the moniker, he referred to Beryl Adams as Beryl Number Two.

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3 – Fun With Brian Epstein But Beryl Loathed NEMS

I

n the rather sterile surroundings of the Epstein shop Beryl Adams first met the suave, and unashamedly svelte, on so many levels, Brian Epstein. For years previously she had flitted aimlessly from menial clerical to lowly secretarial job amidst the countless shipping firms that abounded in Liverpool – home to the mighty Cunard (her brother was a steward on the QE2 for most of his working life) and the sadly now defunct Elder Dempster lines that serviced the mighty continents of Africa and India, or the Orient from the China berths of the bustling quaysides on the Mersey. Epstein was the enigmatic yet ill-fated and emotionally-flagellated genius who was to grab the fledgling but strutting Beatles and propel them to worldwide fame and fortune; and himself to an early grave through that lethal cocktail of drink, drugs and disaster a mere six years later. A legion of snooty critics has since pompously argued that he was no such thing, that his business acumen and insight was negligible and that a gnat had more of an intuitive grasp of the financial ‘bottom line’; that’s still a moot point. After handling the boring daily correspondence, filing and accounts for the firm, Beryl was to become – infamously as it now turns out – the first of Epstein’s secretarial ‘little helpers’, and perhaps the only one who, in rapt fascination, was a witness as the adrenaline flowed through his body like a flash-flood as a result of the daily hype, changing his character so radically and visibly. She thought him full of a raging torrent, gripped by the momentous sweep and swirl of what was happening, and barely sensible some mornings. Beryl was an early and relatively important paper-pushing cog in Epstein’s booming – if relatively short-lived – showbiz kingdom when he set up NEMS Enterprises; the vehicle that was to handle and manage his expanding circus of bands and singers. The likes of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer, and the today ubiquitous, glitzy Cilla Black, now an icon in British showbiz circles, largely for the banal – Beryl’s own view of it at least – television show Blind Date, which was a huge hit for years and aped in the USA, Australia and even Turkey where it was, bizarrely, a firm favourite in Istanbul. Cilla is a survivor from amongst a beat battalion of others long since faded from

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view. Beryl got to know them all, some intimately, liked many and loathed others. “Just creeps,” she says waspishly. “Perhaps not Cilla, though,” she winks. Beryl reckoned that people like Kramer were nice enough, but just a bit too slick for his own good, and that he didn’t quite possess the charisma that Brian reckoned was there in spades. He was a handsome lad and Brian fancied him. Full stop. Once Brian had gone Kramer faded from view. Beryl stated that with a deft verbal sideswipe. Initially sceptical, Beryl was concerned that all this music malarkey was merely a passing whim – whipped up by Epstein’s private, sensuously nocturnal passions for other chaps, this predilection no real surprise amongst the NEMS office gossips – and that her safe wee clerical-cum-secretarial job with the Epstein family firm might be on the line. She was finally persuaded by his loquacious, winsome manner – in similar fashion to the way Brian wove his spell on his doting parents, although not so much on his brother Clive it has since transpired. A short while before his own death a few years ago Clive Epstein revealed his utter distaste for and distrust of the groups, yet Beryl claimed she knew from the start that he despised most of them and reckoned Brian a fool to be involved. She reckoned that Clive was a misguided, if gentle soul. Quite simply, in her view of the situation, Brian Epstein had cultivated from nowhere this quiet burning passion for a pop group, and he was convinced it was the start of something truly awesome. She confirmed that at first he couldn’t put a finger on it, but told how his eyes glowed, how he seemed be consumed. Breathlessly he had banged on and on to her about believing it was the start of something big. He constantly urged her to join him, excitedly talking up the prospect and offering a few pounds a week pay rise – a smidgeon above the very reasonable £20 she earned – as an extra incentive, insisting he needed someone he could rely on and trust. Her first job with NEMS was accidental. Fed up with dreary office life in Liverpool, Beryl had been working in the personnel department of the hugely popular if rather downmarket Butlin’s holiday camp in the coastal tourist town of Pwhelli, North Wales. She spent a season there, whooping it up. Then, in late September of 1960, she returned to her home town, bored – as usual after the thrill of the new had paled – with the routine of having limited fun in the close confines of the camp, although Beryl impishly agreed that it did deserve its reputation for wayward behaviour amongst its staff. She took complete advantage of that licentiousness, although she was never sure if her light-hearted acceptance of those morals portrayed her as a ‘loose’ girl, or a ‘strumpet’ as the Irish might say. Then she would burst out

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into what can only be described as a dirty cackle, not really giving a hoot that it mattered anymore in her life. Back in Liverpool jobs were plentiful and Beryl, like so many of her pals, had never needed to push for work. A few days after getting back home she just flipped through the local paper and saw a secretarial and typing job advertised in the Liverpool Echo for Rushworth and Draper, a rather upmarket music and furniture department store, and reckoned it was for her. The store was the domain of the late James Rushworth OBE, whose firm was even then famous for its pianos and organs – and wore its classical connotations rather snootily, unlike NEMS – yet in basic terms it was just another local Liverpool music store. James Rushworth’s niece, Lesley Reith, who herself is acquainted with a wide circle of the old Mersey Beat bands, in particular she is chums with the Undertakers, says she would never have known Beryl. But her uncle was certainly in the same social – if not religious – scene as the Epstein family. Saucy and sassy, Beryl easily wafted through the interview with the ‘stuffed shirts’ at Rushworth’s, although naturally that wasn’t her first job by a long chalk. Young people could leap in and out of jobs in those days like jumpin’ jack flashes, and with hardly a care for the future. Beryl would laugh delightedly that she had the confidence and cheek to charm any would-be employer, and her sister acknowledges that she could apparently turn her hand, and clever brain, to anything, even though she’d left school at 16, tarred as a troublemaker. Rated amongst the brightest of her contemporaries she’d been a fairly conscientious pupil at the Broad Square primary school in West Derby, a strangely soulless and dreary suburb to the north east of Liverpool’s city centre. With apparent ease she passed the tough 11-plus scholarship examination, then one of the major gateways for the selective grammar schools in the UK. She won a coveted place at the extremely exclusive Liverpool College in the posh area of Mossley Hill, where they were churning out gals for high-flying careers and society positions. Yet it was from that lofty perch that, paradoxically, Beryl began her slide down the slippery social slope. She had endured two years of ill health with scarlet fever and diphtheria and her dad didn’t want her to travel on the public transport system, catching buses and trams. So he wrote to the city’s Education Department and, because Beryl had such high marks, there was no hesitation in transferring her to the more accessible Holly Lodge, equally as prestigious in its own way.

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That school revelled in a superb academic track record and reputation. Beryl was, therefore, roll-called among an elite of her generation. But instead of knuckling down Beryl merely admitted, with a crestfallen grimace, that she wasted the chance and was nothing but a scamp ... something of a rebel ... with her own little gang strutting around on petty deeds of derring-do. In her own words she didn’t so much terrorise other girls as annoy them, but certainly she just didn’t like work and with her pals in tow would bunk off, disappear to parks to meet boys and smoke illicit cigarettes. On reflection, says sister Dot, Beryl could really have achieved distinction academically if she’d tried or shifted her undisputed brainpower into gear. But the teachers finally despaired and gave up on her, mostly because she was such a handful. She was too much trouble for them and, much to her father’s dismay, left school at 16 while other, less talented, girls went on to certain academic glory. Beryl would often ponder that stupidity and wished she’d paid attention to her father and teachers. Wistfully she would reflect that she might well have properly discovered herself and abilities within even the lax disciplines of university. Her life would have been so different. She would sigh and her puny shoulders would droop as she nodded that maybe it might not have been better, but certainly more challenging. Then she would shrug, drain the dregs of her teacup and, with a tone of resignation, declare it was all of no consequence in the end. But you could detect the hollow regret in her voice. Indeed, her sudden leaving of Holly Lodge went under something of a cloud, as it happens, with angst and ill humour on the agenda when she stamped into the adult world. Her father, Sam, was decidedly not happy. But not keen to start work right away Beryl took a course at Machin and Harpers commercial college in Colquitt Street in Liverpool’s city centre. It was only for about eight or nine months, for half a day a week, but with her sharp mind she quickly learned shorthand and typing, acquiring and honing the secretarial skills that would one day ensure her that job in Epstein’s coming empire. Even then she didn’t take it seriously and on the days that she was expected to work she would sneak off to the Collegiate (boys’) school playing field, adjacent to the field where the girls from her old alma mater of Holly Lodge would preen and flirt with the lads. In a way, she agreed this was clinging to that past, the school where she’d been an extremely promising pupil. Sadly, to the long-term despair of a handful of her teachers, who had held the faith in the face of her rebellious nature, she didn’t realise the potential they saw in her.

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On the rebel treadmill, Beryl oddly wasn’t persuaded to take an interest in the lads at another high-flying grammar school in Liverpool: the famous Institute, where Paul McCartney was tutored and is now the home to his Liverpool School for Performing Arts (LIPA); his UK-based response to the fabled New York School of Fame. It was a short hop around the corner from John Lennon’s old stomping ground, the Liverpool Art College, the building now an integral part of Sir Paul’s LIPA music educational emporium, the college itself part of the feisty Liverpool John Moores University. It seems Beryl and her girlie gang didn’t rate the lads from the Institute, reckoning a lot of them as ‘nancy’ boys, oddballs. As for Beryl, she was just after ogling the boys at the Collegiate. She would laugh and giggle about this, but then her mood would change swiftly as, with a doleful look, she reflected on wasted opportunities. She didn’t even take her ‘O’ levels – the first stage of examinations that shaped folk for university entrance in Britain at the time – because, in her wayward mind, she thought it was pointless. The only reason her irate father would tolerate her leaving – even though by then the school authorities were rather keen to get shut of this ‘bad apple’ – was if she agreed to attend the Machin Harpers establishment; and, as a carrot, he was going to pay for that course. While she just laughed about having no qualifications whatsoever from her school days, there was a definite tinge of regret to her voice and her brow would beetle as she mulled over an issue she clearly often thought about in the bleak, dark hours before dawn. At the time it was ‘to blazes with school’ and, undeterred, with the brashness of youth spurring her on, after the commercial college adventure she snaffled a job almost immediately with the world-famous shipping group Bibby Line. The firm was located in the city centre’s King Edward Street; the work was nothing grand, she was an invoice checker, but it paid her first wage packet of nine pounds for a week. It didn’t last long, though, once the inevitable boredom threshold was breached. Beryl soon shuffled off for a pay rise to join an insurance brokers in Derby Square, in the heart of the city’s financial district. Music, or rather the links to it, was still a distant trumpet in her life. The only thing on her mind all the time was gearing up to have fun. And when brother Kenneth came home on leave from his adventures at sea – they were always very close and he was in ‘bits’ at her funeral – he would take Beryl out on the town. Ken had gone off to travel across the briny early, when he was only 16. In the fashion of the day he almost ran away to sea as boys did then, especially in major maritime towns like Liverpool. Even when he retired, living in a lovely terraced house back home in the city of his birth, Beryl had a suspicion – that sixth sense often experienced by

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twins – that getting back to sea, even at his age, was something he yearned after. Ken’s wife died some time ago and he’s got two daughters and three grandchildren. But the sea still called him. That nagging wanderer’s gene was similar to Beryl’s own penchant for wrecking her life, triggered off by forces she was unable to control or direct. Once again the low self-esteem that had snaggled her life and conviction that she was the ‘lesser’ twin most definitely had a detrimental impact on the way she handled personal problems. She would curl her lip and blink rapidly at this suggestion; but agreed it was true. There she was, earning a handy crust in Liverpool, but within two weeks Beryl had wearied of the Rushworth’s experience – ironically another family-run outfit with a distinguished name – and spotted this other job with NEMS Ltd. This firm sold records and furniture on the first floor and boasted a fully stocked record department where Brian Epstein hung out, although at that time she’d never heard of him. By then Beryl had never kept a job for more than a year, yet equally had never been out of work, notching up lots of jobs for her short span of years, which was indicative of her restless soul. She had quite a wide experience of meeting people and enjoyed a varied social life, having already met up with people like Bob Wooler. She smugly reckoned herself quite the hip young thing long before she went to work for Epstein; she could afford the fashions of the day and imagined she cut a fine dash. Despite her age – many thought her much younger because of her sassy dress sense – she was already a regular at the cosy, mock-classically styled White Star pub in Button Street around the corner from Mathew Street. Today it boasts a plaque claiming that Allan Williams drank there with the Beatles in the early 1960s. Beryl would snort again with derision, laughing that she never saw him there, that it was just another bloody myth about his Beatles connections. But at the time she was already turning heads and was a well-known part of the burgeoning social and music milieu with her saucy mini skirts and blousy hairdos that frequently changed colour and shade. From blonde, to red, to black and even striped, Beryl experimented every way she could. In her indifference to the daily grind, going to work for the likes of Brian Epstein was merely an extension of her social life in a way. Trying to recall her attitudes and take on life then she would frown, searching feverishly through the mental jumble into her past. Of course, she knew it was his father’s business, a family business, and in her eyes Brian seemed quite content, was obviously a nice young man, just a bit older than her. She wasn’t actually called a secretary at that time, just a typist who spent large parts of the day taking phone calls. The truth

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is she actually hated it, but as she was expected to handle all of Brian’s correspondence as well, that lifted the tempo a bit. It gave her the chance to express some individuality. Brian’s brother Clive came into the shop a lot, especially once Brian started showing interest in the music side, although he was ever the more cautious one over these matters. There was no denying that Beryl eventually found the work odious in NEMS and she decided to quit; and perhaps here was the origins of those alleged verbal tussles with Epstein. One day in the run-up to her leaving, she was quietly filing away at her nails – she was always keen about her looks and appearance – when Epstein startled her: “Well it’s a shame you’re going because you know Beryl, Clive and I are starting this new company NEMS Enterprises. We think it will be big. You like the groups and music. Why don’t you stay with us?” She’d heard of their plans but the word in the firm was that they weren’t totally sure themselves because they had to get the old man’s approval (the father and inspiration behind NEMS) and young Brian was nervous about that. His father was a stickler for tradition and wasn’t up for much change, if not so much a challenge. Brian and Clive also wanted to use the offices in the NEMS shop for their project. It was to manage bands and Beryl was pretty sure the patriarch Epstein would have frowned at that idea, certainly at first. Beryl had worked for the brothers for nine months and everyone was on good terms, even though it was clear Brian was the boss. As ever he was quite forceful and said he wanted to take Beryl over to the new company as his secretary. In a most courteous manner she asked if she could please give some serious thought to the offer. Once the ice was broken Epstein wouldn’t give up on that notion. It seems that every day he would mention it at least two or three times. He was becoming a bloody pain in the ass. Beryl conceded that, overall, it was a good working life at NEMS. She was paid very well, considering that production line workers out at the Ford Motor Company car plant in Halewood, a super modern factory carved out of the rural greenbelt that then surrounded Liverpool, toiled on grinding shifts for a mere £16 a week. She was earning more money, most certainly, than the dockers battling all weathers in the stinking holds of the ships that then clogged the Mersey and the port for even less; and for work much more gruelling and monotonous than looking after what those hardened ‘sons of toil’ might regard as the frivolous daily needs of Brian Epstein. She pondered a moment when asked, but reckoned she was paid almost £20 a week at one point, allowing her a lot of spending power. Succumbing to the vanity of Epstein’s words of praise, she was flattered and finally capitulated, much to Brian’s apparent delight; although her

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hunch that it might just turn out to be a memorable experience became devastatingly true as the pages of history turned. Yeh, okay Brian, she had finally told him, but was still sceptical. Then, as she got involved with the brass tacks of the job she realised it was going to be fine. She told a delighted Epstein that she would have a go full-time. She confessed actually that it was far more fascinating than simply writing to record companies about orders and sales and that sort of thing, as she had expected. At that juncture, she little appreciated or foresaw the terrible strain it would put on her own life, almost ruining and nearly ending it abruptly in a squalid suicide attempt, followed by another two bids in later years. She blamed all this erratic behaviour on that disruptive era. Her personal life rapidly deteriorated into emotional and physical wreckage, and just how bloody awful it all was made her tremble even as she looked back in her mid-60s. Even Brian Epstein didn’t really have a clue at just how massive a juggernaut – or out of control – it was to become, never mind the girl who’d been hurled out of Holly Lodge school for being a scamp. She was astonished to the end of her days at how quickly it became the focal gathering for the growing number of groups on the bustling music scene in Liverpool, and then beyond. As she grew older, Beryl did become more reflective and drugs-free – apart from a fondness for wine or large vodkas or gins diluted with a dash of orange squash – but she was never completely clear of the nervous disposition that for so long clouded her mind and sent her senses reeling. She remarked, with a sly grin, that it was like riding a bucking bronco – the sexual allegory not lost on her – and there were moments when she could barely stay awake through the long all-night sessions in the clubs; although the ‘purple hearts’ helped in this respect, she giggled, adding that it had been bloody good fun all the same. And Epstein was also frequently spaced out himself. He had to be sometimes, she said in his defence, just to keep at it 24 hours a day.

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4 – The Warning Bell Begins To Toll

O

ne overcast miserable October day Beryl was pensive in the neat living room of her one-bed roomed flat in the ‘managed’ Alfred Stocks housing unit in south Liverpool; a complex designed to cater for the elderly or incapacitated. However, her eyes would flash a warning at any suggestion she fitted that description. That day, for the first time, she unloaded some of the mental baggage that had weighed her down for decades and murmured that being in Brian Epstein’s circle – even as a mere wage slave, even on the periphery – was like being sucked into a tornado. There were moments when she had to pinch herself in disbelief at the debilitating craziness of it all. Her own rather staid, conservative family, were largely unaware of their eldest daughter’s wayward existence. They lived in the solidly middle class sounding Endbutt Lane in a sturdy but common or garden semi-detached home in the quiet, humdrum, leafy suburb of West Derby. Beryl considered herself lower middle-class, thus explaining in some way her lippy, some would say dippy, antipathy to John Lennon and the falsehoods of his later invented working-class origins; and his oft bragged about ‘lower order’ credentials. She insisted they hailed from similar backgrounds and that, of course, he wasn’t working-class. He just thought it would give him a tougher image. She thought him just a softie lower middle-class boy who fancied his chances. This is well known now, but for many years Beryl believes Lennon got away with and traded on this working-class loutish lad tag. As she battered her body with substances and booze, even Beryl’s concerned twin Ken was blind to and largely ignorant of the excesses she indulged in. As a linen and cabin steward on cruise ships – especially the luxury QE2 – steaming the stormy Atlantic routes to New York, Ken had an acute observer’s and insider’s grasp of the ropes when it came to drug abuse, of any kind. Her younger sister Dorothy had placed Beryl on a pedestal but was far too young, at 10 years the twins’ junior, to grasp just what extremes of need drove her sibling to burn candles at both ends and in the middle. Part of the answer is that Beryl had never really come to terms with the cancer-ridden death of the father she revered. This distressing event happened when she was only 20. But, even before Samuel’s death, Beryl’s

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reputation as an outlaw – and without any particular cause to fight – had pursued her through school days into the workplace. But, close to tears, she insisted her beloved dad had at least helped keep a kind of loose lid on her pent-up emotions and frustrations. But the shock of losing that ‘rock’ sent her over the edge into a harum-scarum frenzy of permissiveness. She abandoned old school pals and, in her own admission, went berserk and every week – almost daily – blistering rows broke out between Beryl and her mother, incensed when her eldest daughter fell into the house in the wee hours of the morning, obviously the worse for drink and frequently incapable of speech. Often she didn’t come home at all. Her mum died, aged 86, in the early 1990s and Beryl had long reconciled with her and they were very close. But it was a completely different situation 30 years or so earlier. She soon fled the confines of what she later regretted saying was her mumsy-dominated domesticity at home. She had moved into a tiny flat in Liverpool’s once elegant if rundown and increasingly dilapidated Georgianstyle quarter. It was close to the bustle of the largely bohemian – then called Beatnik – world that formed the music and arts ensemble of Liverpool. Soon she was a regular at the popular La Busola and Masque coffee bars, where the young, stylish folk of Liverpool would strut and preen. Or the Green Moose that was a competitor and rival to the Jacaranda owned by Allan Williams; although, rather than an affection for pop music, the young regulars at ‘the Moose’ were more inclined to political affectation and an interest in the polemic folk music of Pete Seeger and the new wave of protest singers like Dylan and Joan Baez. Influences such as CND and other peace movements were a growing force as the decade shifted towards the memorable, now historic, anti-Vietnam protest outside the American Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square in 1968. Beryl did not frequent the Green Moose, her own political leanings somewhere to the right, but never fully crystallised. She was more inclined to mingle with the flighty and the hedonistic. At the time, Beryl lived within spitting distance of where Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe snuffled about in a shabby set of rooms in Gambier Terrace, overlooking the mock Gothic splendour of Liverpool’s majestic Anglican cathedral. Her mum and younger sister Dorothy would have been horrified, appalled, at even half of what she was getting up to. Even her beloved brother would have baulked at the extent of the intake of booze and other stimulants she and her ‘gang’ soaked up. In her own words she was wildness personified, utterly reckless, demanding and wallowing in huge quantities of fun, fun, fun. She would chortle – as all older generations are persuaded to do – that today’s kids

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really don’t have a clue what it was like as she and her cohorts relished the sudden freedom that plentiful jobs and easy money gave then; allowing them to indulge in excesses unheard of for decades and certainly almost never in the society she grew up in as a child. When it came to taking drugs like purple hearts and other tablets, which a lot of young people did then, Beryl simply had no choice – she claimed – if they wanted to keep going and awake for the endless partying. They were mostly all working by day and going out every night, often all night. It was non-stop. She and her mates could buy drugs very easily in the coffee bars, pubs and clubs. They were thrown around and eaten like sweets; thus nothing changes and nothing is really new. Beryl confided that even Peter Brown who worked on the sales floor in NEMS was selling them, almost as a dealer. And naturally Epstein knew that because he was also buying them from him, and taking them. Like the others, it appears this was essential, just to maintain equilibrium in his increasingly frantic life. Beryl respected Epstein’s very serious-minded conservative side, as a close family boy who loved his mum and dad and brother, who’d enjoyed privileges throughout his life. But there was this other dark aspect of his personality, rapidly surfacing, where he dabbled in illicit, illegal homosexual sex – which he must have known deep down was the texture of his psyche from an early age – and then drugs, even if they were just uppers as everyone tagged them. She was convinced that they might well have caused him mental and emotional turmoil as this drugs habit conflicted – came head to head – with his strict Jewish upbringing, although she didn’t think Queenie or Harry Epstein were ever that orthodox. Hard drugs were not that prominently available at the time, apart from the perennial heroin. Yet, few of the people Beryl hung around with bothered that much with it, it was just too volatile. It was mainly on the jazz circuit and largely a secret society of addicts. She would marvel at how the drugs scene has changed, much for the worse. Yet she didn’t deny that, if the sort of drugs like crack cocaine, ecstasy tablets, heroin and even marijuana had been as freely available as they are today, many of her circle might well have succumbed and be long dead. In truth, a lot did – in both senses – as they were all up for taking everything to the edge: sex, excitement and alcohol, very much like kids of any generation. Beryl believed that the sale and use of ‘hard’ drugs would have been a considerable social issue if they’d been freely available, as it proved just a few short years later when so many of the groups began to hit the mainlining trail, like Ronnie Wood and Brian Jones in the Stones, or Jim Morrison of the Doors, perhaps even Janice Joplin. Many people died because of their habits. In fact, when she met the Rolling Stones in the early days Beryl

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reckoned they were all heavy-duty regular druggies anyway; they certainly seemed spaced-out. And, of course, all the Beatles took purple hearts, maybe apart from Pete Best who never seemed to need a boost; he got high on other ‘skins’... drums. But the bottom line for Beryl and her pals was largely alcohol in those days ... vast quantities of it. Yet she couldn’t recall ever seeing Brian Epstein drunk and he never came into the office looking the worse for wear. And, no matter where he’d been or how late he’d been out, he was always sartorially well dressed. She thought it was a very sad day when Brian died, ironically as it turns out, from an excess of drink and drugs She found it amusing that to her own folks – and other ordinary families like them – the term ‘drugs’ was just a silly American word, meaning medicines, stuff prescribed by the doctor. How she used to laugh at that naivety, and later wished she hadn’t. As the Beatles and the other bands began to hit the mark Brian had begged Beryl on more than one occasion to stay with him as his musical empire began to bust out all over. After the Beatles’ first record ‘Love Me Do’ bounced into the charts and ‘Please, Please Me’ was storming towards number one, Brian Epstein, in his quixotic fashion, announced his long-awaited plans to up sticks and move the headquarters of his music fiefdom to London. In the interim he had already left the family firm’s premises in Liverpool’s Whitechapel. Soon, as the magic of the music struck a chord with the public, Brian was desperate to set up a spanking new office in Liverpool, but in a grander, more flashy building than the drab, anonymous concrete one owned by his father and housing the NEMS furniture emporium. He wanted to branch out on his own and really drive forward the music business he was creating. Then it would soon be London; he was craving for that big break. Beryl remembered the air of excitement that filled NEMS every day. For Epstein it was time to take giant steps. He often mentioned this to Beryl and, while he was excited by it all, his brother Clive was far more circumspect. Beryl reckoned Clive a bit of a ‘stick in the mud’, and nervous of all the family money that was being risked. He didn’t have a head for the bands but he nor did he have the wherewithal to challenge Brian. This was his dream and he was going to see it through and bugger the consequences. Ah, but for all her bravado Beryl was growing increasingly apprehensive about where all this was taking her. She’d always been highly-strung and the last couple of years had been out of control. She’d visited London and was overawed by the pace. She simply didn’t think she could cope and

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desperately needed an escape from endless partying and excesses. She was thoroughly worn-out physically and emotionally. Epstein wanted to be supreme boss of his own outfit, and felt that moving to nearby Moorfields in Liverpool’s then bustling business quarter would spur that ambition on, taking him out of the grasp and limited realm of the furniture store. But, it was London that really fired him up and that was where he planned to stamp his mark, and ultimately did. Naturally he took it for granted that Beryl, along with others in the team he had nurtured, would accompany him as he rolled his wagon train out of the NEMs shop to a bright new future. Beryl felt that the pressures had become too much and, to the shock and horror of her friends, turned down the chance of a lifetime. Bafflingly, she refused to move to the new office in Moorfields. There was ample opportunity here for that supposed bust-up with Epstein. In a bid to help her come to terms with what she’d done, she went on a fierce bender for a full week the day after she parted company with Brian. Most of that time was a complete alcoholic blur, she would mutter, and perhaps it was her way of pretending she’d made the right choice. With Epstein heading south to London – and his own demons – Beryl chose deliberately to stay put in Liverpool, where she thought she was safe and where she remained, mostly, to her tragic end. She’d been to London a few times and it terrified her. She was convinced she would have been dead in a year or so from an overdose or drink, yet the contradictions of her later suicide attempts were clearly part of a temporary, if selective, memory blank. But she remained Brian’s friend right up to his death, and was partially shored up by a pride in that knowledge.

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5 – After Epstein, The Cavern Beckoned

A

s Epstein was setting up swish offices in London’s Pall Mall, in a singularly unexpected form of synchronicity, Beryl was seduced into taking a job which kept her right at the core of the still buzzing Mersey Sound. She began work as secretary and general ‘dogsbody’ to the hugely amiable but erratic Ray McFall, the then owner of the Cavern Club. Once again, almost without a break, she was in the thick of all the action. He was a man with an assortment of somewhat unusual habits, she claimed: like ironing the notes of money from the previous night’s takings, which he kept stacked in a back room of his terraced home. This was, she recalled, in a dreary district of the city, so reminiscent of the artist LS Lowry’s stark paintings of northern British grime with serried ranks of glistening but miserable cobbled streets. She was incapable, she confessed in mitigation of the decision to work for McFall, of totally giving up the rush of hot blood that was a part of associating with endless streams of handsome young musicians: a number on the threshold of fame and thus doubly attractive. Boys were always at her beck and call. She chuckled as the memories flooded back, almost blushing. Whilst other girls desperately hurled themselves at the young lads, eagerly offering themselves – and sex – just to be with the boys who were in the public eye, Beryl essentially had her pick. Although most were too young for her – she was focusing more on men in their late 20s and older – she coyly recalled wild flings and passion-filled, one-night stands with a catalogue of musicians and singers whose oncefamous names are long fading into the distant past; although quite a few are still hawking their stuff and are well-known in certain showbiz circles. Her favourite bands were the Mersybeats and the Escorts, who were acknowledged as very good musicians and who oozed charisma in shedloads. Everyone was ‘playing around’ at the time, she argued. It was a hotbed of sexual frisson and Beryl with her ‘set’ felt somewhat liberated. The whole scene was a real turn-on. But her coyness – or loyalty – about band members she might – or not – have dallied with quickly returned when it came to the minutiae of names and ‘pack-drills’. On the cusp of blurting out an identity of a paramour, she would pause, grin and, with a lowering of her voice, insist she couldn’t reveal

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any more. Although she once whispered that Robert (Wooler) was after a lot of them as well. Wooler knew Beryl had her eye on a certain number of the boys and it didn’t bother him. She had shrugged this off because there were certainly enough of them to share around, and willingly. She swore she would never reveal who they were and now those secrets have gone to the grave with her. She felt it wouldn’t have been fair after all those years, but there was a gleam in her eyes as she talked about them. These lads came in handsome waves and Beryl admits she eagerly rode those waves like a surfboard rider; always casting around, dipping in but never making too much of a commitment. Years later she would also indulge in a torrid, secret affair with Brian Epstein’s biographer, the late Ray Coleman, a respected music journalist and friend of the Beatles, as he researched the life and times of Epstein for his book. Although extremely well written and researched, many thought it failed to hit the mark, frequently expressing too much sympathy for Epstein’s plight, especially when others reckoned him a financial clown. For over 18 months Beryl and Coleman, who also later wrote Lennon’s biography, conducted their passionate liaison behind closed doors, in cheap Liverpool hotel rooms that resembled bordellos. It was clandestine as both were married – on the surface happily – she to her second husband, Peter Mullins. By then she’d discarded and divorced the extrovert and homosexual Cavern Club disc jockey Bob Wooler following three years of an often-violent marriage and almost a decade of friendship, during which she tried to kill herself, twice. Many of his acolytes from the old Mersey Beat days will contest this, warned Beryl, but her sister Dot confirms that Wooler was an unpredictable and often violent man in drink. “Beryl was often covered in raw bruises from where he had hammered her,” she says. Coleman, to all intents and purposes an honourable man, was swept along by Beryl’s pliant charms Pete Best, George Harrison, Paul McCartney & John and thus consistently Lennon - before the drummer’s cruel sacking betrayed his own wife and family, and there are others still living in the legion of journalists and showbiz hangers-on

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who might have felt the cold fear of panic if she had revealed her secrets before she passed away: names that were confided but never confirmed for publication. So, as a mark of respect for Beryl, you can rest easy chaps. Wooler certainly knew of her fling with Coleman – amongst many lovers – and in later years, as they supped wine and spirits in bars built like barracks, he reduced her coyness about it to a few pithy lines: “The word was always about when you and Coleman had snuck off to batter the headboards at the Lord Nelson Hotel. Your ‘hell for leather’ lovemaking could be heard a mile away in Mathew Street,” he would smirk distastefully, his voice rising to a bellow to attract listeners as Beryl blushed a beetrootred. On her part, in general there were no real regrets over what many considered the insane, inane resolve not to follow Brian Epstein to London and continue living her life on the edge. A life in the capital, by that period a magnet for established and aspirant bands from all over Britain, America and countless other countries, was not on her agenda. Beryl continually stressed that she never had sleepless nights wondering what might have been. And that she didn’t hanker after the past, well not too much. Then, with a woebegone smile Beryl one morning let rip as a sort of self-vindication for staying put in the ‘small pond’ of Liverpool, a decision that had staggered her pals and the lads in the groups: “Look, it had been a couple of years of non-stop, heavy-duty and high-profile pressure. It was really hard work and it all became too much for me. “I was so tired and this job came up with Ray McFall, who’d never had a secretary before but was obviously struggling,” said Beryl. “Bob had told him I wanted to get away from NEMS and oddly Ray just accepted that. But I did want to keep on the scene and in the area.” She confided to McFall, who tried himself on several occasions over the years – and failed – to capitalise on his Beatles’ connections, that she thought it would be a bit quieter, less frenetic there in the familiar club than with Brian Epstein in uncharted territory. Beryl paused in her recollections, a light suddenly dawning. Out of the blue – and virtually no one, she muttered, knew or probably cared – but prior to taking up McFall’s offer of work in the Cavern she had actually been persuaded to take a job with another opportunist showbiz operator. Thus, in complete conflict with the whole raison d’etre for not following Epstein to London, she revealed that she had bumped into a chap called Alan Watts, the then oddball manager of outrageous Liverpool-born comedian Freddie Starr, in the days when the acknowledged wild man comic had his own band.

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Indeed, so now out-of-touch is the usually sharp as a razor Starr that, early in 2000, the man who denied that he ever really did ‘eat a hamster’, as the racy British Sun tabloid once splashed on its front page, agreed to be the subject of a bizarre television documentary about his fall from grace. In an astonishing diatribe he lashed out at his critics from the poolside of his luxury villa in Marbella. Beryl saw the programme and said she felt Starr was ‘always crackers’. In fact, Freddie Starr is still touring the UK circuit with his own wacky blend of off-the-wall humour, although effectively ignored by television because of his errant and erratic ways. Amazingly – and even to this day not many of her friends know this – Beryl did actually accept the offer to join Alan Watts. But the job wasn’t in Britain. Despite her phobias and insistence that she needed to say in Liverpool, Watts was actually heading for Italy as he strived to create a music empire of his own, in the likeness of Epstein and the earlier Larry Parnes. She knew it sounded ridiculous and didn’t tell many people at the time, as they would have thought she’d finally had a complete breakdown, gone bonkers, especially in the light of the long forgotten and subconsciously buried tacky details. It seems this fellow Watts was by all accounts as funny an old coot as Starr and Beryl was never sure if he was gay or not. Of course, he was a pal of Bob Wooler’s and all the others in that underground homosexual scene, so that might have been a hint. But, frankly she just couldn’t put her finger on it. Not that it mattered, as she didn’t care a jot about his sexual predilections. One morning, trying to shoo away a thumping hangover with strong coffee in Liverpool’s long demolished Kardomah café in North John Street – a part of the city’s cultural folklore, the first of its kind, certainly out of London – Beryl sat chatting with Watts. He was, without doubt, she recalled, a gabbling, demonstrative character, oozing panache but perhaps overly gauche for the Britain of the early sixties. He didn’t seem to be making any sense, just babbling on about going to live abroad for tax purposes. Beryl rubbed her eyes and nodded dutifully as he rambled on hoping he would bugger off, leave her alone to suffer. She was totally ‘knackered’ after a night on the town, busting her brains until dawn, as she colourfully put it, and just wished Watts would shut up twittering. Suddenly, through the painful haze of her headache, she heard the word Italy and looked blearily over the rim of the cup. Watts told her he was going to Italy because he wanted to manage and book groups there. Through the alcohol-infused mists swirling in front of her eyes, she realised abruptly that Watts was offering her a job. And in Italy, of all

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places, not even in England. Now, at the time, Beryl was at her wits’ end and suspected she wasn’t making rational decisions, which was clearly the truth. But just for the hell of it, she agreed. Her mother was aghast, convinced it would be her eldest daughter’s ultimate ruination. Of course, she didn’t have a clue what Beryl had really been up to for years, only a few short miles from her apron-strings. Despite Beryl’s mental confusion, once in Milan she soon picked up that Watts was something of a blagger, a great man for the blether and little else. There were no groups and no one much interested in signing up with Watts, even though he was using the Liverpool connection as a sales pitch. Apart from that small problem he didn’t seem to have any real contacts, according to Beryl, and was floundering around the city and other parts of Italy without purpose. Watts did try a bit, but there was also the delicate issue of the language problem – neither Watts nor Beryl could speak a word of Italian – which didn’t help and she got sick of it all after a couple of weeks. In a fit of pique, one afternoon she Beryl and her old Cavern boss Ray McFall just packed her bag, booked at Bob Wooler’s funeral a flight and returned to the UK. She never met Alan Watts again. Apropos of insight, Epstein had also considered managing Starr, but found him too volatile and unpredictable. That supposed fear of leaving Liverpool was obviously an excuse for another, deeper psychosis, because a few months into the Cavern job – not long after the Beatles appeared to an ecstatic reception on the Ed Sullivan Show in the US – Beryl flew off to Hamburg. That trip was with Bob Wooler and a gaggle of chums to sample the fun in the St Pauli clubs and bars; the very spot where the Beatles had frolicked the nights away honing their act several years before, thanks largely to the insight of Allan Williams, who had first packed them off to Germany.

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It was there one dark, rainy night, in a tacky hotel room off the Reeperbahn that Bob Wooler beat her up mercilessly until she was senseless. The story came out as Beryl unleashed some of the truth she had kept hidden for years about her relationship with the publicly urbane Cavern disc jockey. He bashed the living daylights out her, gashing her eye and leaving her bloodied and bruised. His many arch defenders in Liverpool will, no doubt, rage that this account is all lies. Not according to Beryl, or her sister Dot, who had little time for Wooler knowing his persuasion for brutish violence against her sister. In Hamburg, on that occasion, Wooler was blind drunk – not an unusual state – and got into a terrible fury with Beryl over something utterly innocuous. He lashed out at her with his bare fists, the knuckles smashing into her cheekbone. She was knocked unconscious and battered black and blue. As she recounted that horrible story Beryl almost blushed at the shame of the beating, as though it had been her fault and, once again, the victim in her personality took the blame for the vile, inexcusable actions of others. Ever after, to the day of his death, Wooler would be sycophantically penitent about that lapse in his temper and, with admirable loyalty Beryl insisted the incident was never repeated, at least not as ferociously. She long ago forgave Wooler and generously put his anger down to her own volatile reaction to the mad, mad world she had been enduring since taking Epstein’s shilling. Her sister Dot, though, recalls other occasions when Beryl was punched and bloodied by Wooler. “He once threw her down the stairs of their house and she was in a right mess,” said Dot, who was never a fan of Wooler and most definitely held little affection for her last beau Allan Williams, although admitting that she felt sorry for him as Beryl lay dying. Indeed, Beryl preferred to gloss over the reality of Wooler’s domestic violence tendencies, but reluctantly agreed that ‘Robert’ could be a tad fractious at times and then quickly changed the subject. She would try to justify these beatings by explaining that she had always been highly strung and working with Brian Epstein was really like being on a dizzy slide into darkness. She not only had the office to run, but most of those involved in the scene were out most nights at clubs or venues. It was go, go, go. She was a great party girl but eventually it wore her down. She felt as if she was being torn apart and was thoroughly worn out and exhausted. And, you know, she would exclaim, even Brian fell victim in the end. Beryl is one of a large bunch of folk who were severely sceptical about that ‘willing’ suicide verdict on Epstein, which is generally dismissed these days as nonsense.

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Her lovely, gentle Brian – often talking about him this way she adopted a cloying, maternal manner – would never have subjected his beloved mother Queenie to the pain – or even disgrace – of taking his own life. Such a selfish act would have been unthinkable; such was his devotion to this archetypal Jewish momma. He hailed from a wealthy, closely focused, middle-class social structure in the heart of south Liverpool, where his family lived on Queen’s Drive, in not inconsiderable grace and comfort. And she smiled over the contradiction in Epstein about music: he was far more interested in the classical genre as he grew up and a regular figure at concerts by the celebrated Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Crap; it was not suicide, declared Beryl defiantly – and many, if not most, pundits support this assertion, despite a small number of nutters who continue to mutter mysteriously about underworld conspiracies and Brian recklessly crossing words, and swords, with London’s mafia-like gangland thugs who wanted to muscle in on his acts. Beryl adhered to the theory that it was an accidental overdose of painkillers and anti-depressants mixed with alcohol. Paul McCartney’s own biographer, Barry Miles, drew the same conclusion in his 1997 tome Many Years From Now. Beryl sighed that the real truth remains with Brian, but that she had always kept faith in his integrity to the Epstein family. None of the Beatles thought it was suicide. Paul McCartney is quite adamant, both in the Anthology and his own biography, that there was nothing sinister in his death. Sure, there were rumours of very strange circumstances, but like others in the loop Macca takes the view that it was a drink and sleeping pills overdose. He admits there is no real evidence, but Beryl thought he always had the right take on the tragedy: that Brian was going down to his house in the country. It was a Friday night, and there were going to be friends there. There was fun on offer. The story has been retold countless times, about Brian Epstein being gay and assuming there were going to be young men at his house that night, for whatever nefarious purposes. He travelled down with one of his friends, but no one showed up so he might well have thought: ‘Ugh – it’s Friday night! I’ve got time to get back to London if I rush. Then I can get back to the clubs.’ McCartney, knowing Brian well, has always claimed it seemed a feasible explanation. Then he went off to London and various clubs but they were all closing. Shrugging it off would have been in his nature, Beryl agreed, and he would have had a few drinks to round off a boring night, then slipped in a couple of sleeping pills on going to bed. She knew that Epstein was taking sleeping pills, as his insomnia was common knowledge. He might well have woken in the middle of the night, forgotten he’d already taken some pills

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and hurled some more down his throat in a desperate measure to get some sleep. It was most definitely an accident, Beryl averred passionately, but was pretty certain in her own mind that, if he’d been properly looked after by those supposed to be his friends at the time, it probably wouldn’t have happened, at least then. She would sport a steely stare as she accused. She didn’t blame any of the Beatles for anything but others in Epstein’s circle could have taken more care of him, she believed. As she pointed out all those years later, Epstein at the time was in emotional turmoil and subjected to terrific mental stress; his allegedly unrequited love for John Lennon – and there are those who are convinced to this day of a sensual summer holiday tryst in Spain – was still a crushing burden. His often tempestuous and hugely secret private life was a shambles; a complete mess of furtive meetings with frequently sleazy – and sometimes chancy – characters for cheap and nasty sexual thrills with no meaningful purpose. All these factors she would murmur, were instrumental in his demise. Sure, she said, she was perfectly aware that Brian had a burning desire for John. And she reckoned Bob Wooler did too, but after Lennon gave him a ‘good hiding’ for talking out of turn about him and ‘Eppy’ that flame was soon extinguished. Wooler would never deign to enter into discussion about the incident or his feelings for Lennon, considering that episode the ‘historical badlands’ of his life. But Epstein couldn’t disguise his lust; his eyes, commented Beryl, would follow John’s languid figure as he lolled and strolled around the NEMS office in Liverpool. Yet Lennon could be a wicked, conniving sod and knew that Epstein had the ‘hots’ for him. Beryl was convinced he played on Brian’s sensitivities, almost mocking him. It was happening even in those early days when they came to see him in his functional yet austere office at NEMS, or on payday. There, Beryl would hand over their wage packet stuffed with pound notes and coins: maybe at first a small sum, but soon spilling into hundreds in cash. This was before Brian opened bank accounts for them. In a devilish way it was always as though Lennon was taunting Brian, drawing him into an emotional trap, toying with him. Beryl found it disgusting that Lennon should behave in such an unkind way. And she was upset that Epstein just took this ‘abuse’ mostly without reacting, although sometimes blushing and lowering his eyes. He was such a softie, but Beryl never said anything to him about it, never even referred to it, but Epstein knew that she knew. She didn’t think it bothered him overly and, in a way, she supposed she was his confidante in these matters.

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Beryl was fairly certain they – Brian and Lennon – had experienced something much closer when they flew off on holiday to Spain together. They enjoyed a 12-day sojourn in the sun from 28th April 1963. It was never spoken of openly but Brian had a bloom about him when he returned. It seems he waltzed around the office for days and was in a really terrific mood, joking and making light of things he’d normally consider quite important. Beryl would shake her head and mutter that she was convinced there was a physical relationship – even if brief – because Lennon used to be so defensive, so aggressively defensive, whenever it was brought up in later years. She took it as gospel that it was the main, if only, reason Lennon viciously punched Wooler in a widely reported scrap – or rather Lennon gave Bob a jolly good thrashing – and, unlike so many others who’ve speculated over the years, Beryl has her own insider understanding of the celebrated incident. Frankly she thought it was all blown out of proportion and that certain people were – and still are – trying to make more out of it than there is. It was just a bloody barney, a fight. So what? People fight all the time, she would mock. Of course Lennon beat Bob up. There was no argument about it. Wooler returned home to the flat he shared with Beryl in Canning Street in the early hours of the morning drenched in blood. He’d been to the hospital. He told her with a sheepish grin: ‘John Lennon did this.’ And Beryl’s response was to accept that Wooler had been spouting off again. She understood that Lennon had reacted to a typical jibe from Bob about the Spanish holiday with Brian. In a fury Lennon turned suddenly very nasty, lashing out and hurling abuse, which proved to her that it was all probably true. Beryl was pretty certain that Lennon was well clued-up about the secretive – sexual circles – Brian moved in; of course he knew. And he had also dabbled, she was sure of that, in certain homosexual practices. He was a rebel in his own eyes, but she was pretty confident that even Lennon, with his reckless ‘devil may care’ attitude, realized this was dangerous territory. That’s why Wooler said what he did, she would argue. He was always playing the devil’s advocate. He wallowed in the pleasure of making others squirm socially. That time it just backfired badly, as it often did for him. Years later Wooler revealed to her what he had actually said to Lennon during that incident: ‘Well, John, my dear boy. How much did you ‘enjoy’ Brian on your intimate vacation, I wonder? In fact, we all wonder.’ And, as he laid stress on the word ‘enjoy’ with a lisping smooch, Bob had roared with laughter.

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That, asserted Beryl, would certainly have incensed Lennon, who had probably asked Brian to keep it quiet, even though the holiday was common knowledge. Wooler was just being his usual sneering self, throwing in a one-liner. He never expected Lennon to go berserk, battering him to the ground. But this time his nonchalant way with nasty words turned well and truly sour for him. Later it was Epstein who instigated the ‘hush money’ to keep Wooler’s mouth well and truly shut. And it was Epstein who paid it. He knew that a scandal like that involving him and Lennon could have sunk them all before he’d even got the bloody ship properly launched, that was Beryl’s take on the scenario. Wooler had been drinking copiously when, sarcastically – it was always a gentle sarcasm with Wooler, the most vicious kind – he brought up the holiday tryst. It was at a party for Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday in Huskisson Street, not far from the flat Wooler shared with Beryl. Whap! Almost without warning John Lennon lashed out. He turned on Wooler like a banshee, knocking him flat. That attack made the British national newspaper headlines and was widely reported abroad as the Beatles were already hitting the big time. Unfortunately for Lennon there was a journalist who used to hang around the scene at the time; this was Bill Marshall, who later crafted in the record time of three weeks Allan Williams’ book The Man Who Gave Away The Beatles. The later tabloid tales didn’t have Marshall’s by-line on for some reason, but the story was certainly sourced from him. Wooler was reticent about the incident, but Beryl saw at close quarters his cuts and bruises, and the blood. Epstein never ever mentioned it to her, though, most probably embarrassed about the violence and the overreaction. It was his idea for Lennon to apologise and it was Brian who sent Wooler a cheque for £100 as compensation. Beryl always dismissed it as hush money, and only a trifle at that. Lennon never did say sorry to Bob’s face and Brian Epstein didn’t push him, while Wooler, ever the public gentleman, gracefully forgot about it – at least on the surface – with Epstein presumably thankful. For years, rumours circulated of secret diaries kept by Brian Epstein and many pundits allude there might have been something in them about the alleged affair with Lennon in Spain. A Beatles memorabilia dealer in Lancashire has a collection of 14 diaries kept by Epstein from what he termed his time as ‘an unhappy’ 15year-old to early Beatlemania. But none of them really sheds any light on his innermost thoughts. The main historical reference is marked down at 4.30pm, December 3rd 1961. This was Epstein’s first ‘official’ meeting with

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the Beatles – seemingly with Bob Wooler in tow – at the NEMS record store. As for those secret notations, nothing has ever been found written down – they remain speculation and no one knows the real story. Beryl would rant that truth rests with Brian and John and neither of them can come up with the answers because they are dead. All the rest have been spinning yarns. Beryl was adamant on that front, yet nevertheless she reckoned that the ‘Praetorian Guard’ around Epstein knew what went on and kept it a closely guarded secret for years. She never demonstrated any homophobic tendencies, everyone knew that, Wooler in particular of course. But there remains, she asserted, a ring of silence around the music scene on Merseyside at that time, and since, involving the male gay community. Beryl felt that certain people like McCartney knew of it but would have nothing to do with it. Then, latterly, Pauline Sutcliffe has claimed in her book about her brother Stuart that he and Lennon had a homosexual fling. It was universally derided and laughed out of court by many, but there is no argument that Stuart was a very attractive boy. Beryl had vivid memories of him. And Wooler was intrigued and attracted by the young artist, even though he had left the band by the time they were strutting around the Cavern. Wooler still knew him and thought him sweet and lovely, as he was such a gentle person, although conversely reckoned him a mere irrelevance in the Beatles’ rise. It was – and Beryl would snarl this – Lennon who was such a devilish git at times and she didn’t doubt that he dabbled in bisexuality. But because of Cynthia, and Julian on the way, he wouldn’t have wanted that broadcast, for bloody sure he wouldn’t, she would rage. If the Lennon fling remains a mystery, the low-key propositioning of Pete Best by Epstein certainly isn’t. Best wrote about it candidly in his 1985 book: Beatle – The Pete Best Story. Beryl insisted she believed Best, who rarely discusses the matter now. Beryl’s views was that when Epstein first took over the Beatles he was quite calculatingly using Pete Best for support, as a ‘leaning post’ which he declared led to a friendship with him; and a much closer relationship than Epstein apparently enjoyed with the other three at the time. Best says that Epstein would sometimes join him and Bob Wooler for drinks at the Grapes pub where – he suggests – their usual drink was ‘brown mixed’, a combination of mild and brown ale, or Guinness and cider, known as Black Velvet. Wooler, in all his glorious snobbishness, would have run a mile from such a vulgarian drink as brown mix but there is an element of truth in Best’s memory that Epstein preferred brandy. Yet for all

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her insider knowledge, Beryl never recognized the nickname ‘Brandyman’ that Best insists Epstein was called along with Eppy. Best revealed that they – the Beatles – had begun to hear stories that Epstein was homosexual and had been the Mr X in a homosexual court case. This has a certain provenance as Epstein was discharged from the army, after only ten months of his two-year National Service stint, with the excuse that he was mentally and emotionally unfit. In 1952 this could well have been the metaphor used in military circles for suggesting he was homosexual and a no-no in the ranks. At the time homosexuality was illegal in the UK and remained so until ironically the year of Epstein’s death in 1967. It transpires that while he was stationed in London – at the Albany Barracks in Regent’s Park – Epstein was inclined to cruise the clubs in the West End. It was his sartorial dash that helped speed up his army downfall, as he would stride out for Piccadilly dressed in pin-stripe suit and bowler hat, casually wielding an umbrella. Beryl laughed that it may well have rankled the officer class that this private could outdo their own perceived superior fashion sense. He’d also left RADA suddenly in the summer of 1957, less than a year after he’d excitedly started his first term, with high hopes of tackling such roles as Shakespeare’s Henry V. This was around the time of the celebrated court case, when he’d tried to pick up an undercover policeman in a public toilet. According to Best his friendship with Epstein continued to flourish, yet to Beryl this was largely hyperbole and she can’t recall him visiting Brian in the office. Best insists he went out to the Epstein family home to meet Harry and Queenie and found it all very pleasant. But there was no hint of what was to come. One evening, after drinking with Epstein in the Cavern after a Beatles lunchtime session, Best went off for a drive, in the rather luxurious Ford Zodiac that Brian was so proud of, to talk about business. They were approaching the northern seaside town of Blackpool when Epstein apparently declared: ‘I have a fond admiration for you.’ Startled, Best asked if he meant the band or himself. ‘You,’ retorted Epstein bluntly. They were on the outskirts of the resort when Epstein very pointedly asked Best if it would be embarrassing if he asked the drummer to stay the night with him in a hotel. Best says he didn’t realise at first that he was being propositioned and said that he would prefer to go home. Epstein didn’t flinch, they turned for home without a scene or a bust-up or even a mild row. That car ride was never, apparently, referred to or mentioned again.

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Beryl smiled conspiratorially. Wooler knew so much and did threaten for years to hurl it all into the limelight. ‘Once I am dead it will all come to light ... and remember only I know the real truth’, he would often say. Wooler was referring to plans for a book about his life by the respected rock and pop music historian, Spencer Leigh, whose ‘On the Beat’ programme has enjoyed almost a cult following for 20 years on BBC Radio Merseyside. Leigh co-wrote the definitive history of the Cavern club Let’s Go Down the Cavern (with Pete Frame) and a string of other critically acclaimed books such as Drummed Out – The Sacking of Pete Best. Beryl was never fully persuaded that ‘her’ Robert had really gone into the grit and gutter stuff with Spencer Leigh, although she did think the tome would rattle a few cages, that there would be panic in certain quarters. But in the end, in her view, Spencer Leigh’s book doesn’t really get to grips with that aspect of things. Instead it is largely a tribute to Wooler and a report of Spencer’s frustration as he tried to nail down the facts. Wooler had apparently no intention of spilling the beans to Spencer Leigh. His secrets have also gone to the grave with him and there must be a shoal of relieved people around Liverpool and the music Mafiosi. That made Beryl chuckle venomously. In fact Spencer Leigh’s book The Best of Fellas – the Story of Bob Wooler is actually rather revealing in its own way. It is choc-a-bloc with the famous ‘Woolerisms’, displaying the astonishing diversity of the old curmudgeon’s wordplay. Spencer spent many long months with a tape recorder patiently interviewing Wooler, who repeatedly grizzled and grumped about it. He was finally able to publish the transcripts only after Wooler’s death. They certainly allow a whimsical reflection on the sadness of Wooler’s conviction that his life was wasted. There aren’t, though, the expected grubby revelations of Epstein’s alleged fumblings with Lennon, as Wooler, who was also inclined to tar Lennon with the brush of the bully, had often hinted. He liked to imagine there was empathy between them, as both he and Epstein had suffered Lennon’s wrath. Beryl would jeer that Bob Wooler didn’t really have a clue about Epstein’s feelings or moods. But she did and was there as a shoulder for him to weep over, feeling sorry for him on those difficult days. At other times, she asserted, Epstein suddenly found a smidgeon of inner strength where Lennon was concerned and spoke harshly to the mean-mouthed John when he was being cruelly tongue-lashed for no reason. As an observer, Beryl would often cringe at Lennon’s acerbic attitude to Brian. If the others (Beatles) were present they would also pile in and hurl – mostly friendly but still hurtful – jibes at Epstein, cracking jokes and

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dancing round calling out: “Yeh, yeh, yeh yeh, yeh Brian’s got a cob on,” even George, who was by far the nicest and genuinely the wittiest. Beryl was always more fond of him than the others. And Epstein also had a soft spot for him, although nothing more; Beryl swore that was the truth. She was sure the Beatles loved and respected Epstein but they were young lads, and younger than he was by aeons if social attitudes are taken into account. And it was all still just a game to them. Fame hadn’t turned their heads or their pockets by then. Long before his death Beryl had heard whispers and rumours that since moving to London Epstein’s personal life was falling apart. His often turbulent and hugely secret private life was a shambles and gave him no meaningful purpose. He would really have hated the grubbiness of it all. But couldn’t help himself. All of these factors were instrumental in his demise, Beryl was sure of that. But Beryl couldn’t contemplate that Epstein had killed himself, maybe because she couldn’t envisage that he was as weak as her.

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6 – Death Whispers A Call For Beryl Again

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erhaps Beryl wasn’t cut out to handle the limelight, although as a young woman she adored it, there’s no denying that. Along with the chance to frolic with some of the most gorgeous young musicians of the day, even if a lot of them were a few years younger. What young, healthy, hormonedriven girl wouldn’t crave it all? The first time she wanted to cut short her life was only weeks after Epstein’s death. She was carrying so much emotional pain and baggage. She was distraught at the way her life had become a ruin, even more so after she’d made what even she thought was the insane decision not to continue working as Brian’s secretary. After he’d moved to bigger and plusher offices in Liverpool’s Moorfields, Epstein had taken on Joanne Newfield to do his everyday secretarial work and it was she who accompanied him on the golden road to greater glory in London early in March 1964. It was Joanne – accompanied by Alistair Taylor and Peter Brown – who found Epstein dead. Although few women rose to any positions of power in NEMS, Epstein was also to be in thrall to another woman who tried to calm his raging soul: Wendy Hanson, the super efficient aide – and cousin to financier Lord Hanson – who helped orchestrate his latter day business dealings. She couldn’t finish the course with him either and commented when she finally quit as his personal assistant – after many pleadings to stay – that there was something very lost about him. Beryl shrugged, understanding the pathos in those words. In retrospect, she liked to think there would always have been a place for her in Epstein’s entourage, even if she’d changed her mind later. But Beryl didn’t see it like that at the time. Others did. She needed to abandon the high rolling lifestyle: to run like hell and find some peace and quiet away from the circus her life had become. What an irony that turned out to be. After Beryl turned down Brian’s imploring offers and chose to stay safe, as she thought, in her hometown of Liverpool, her life continued to thunder along at a reckless pace. Drink, drugs and men. Non-stop. Even she thought it utterly ludicrous that she had agreed to work as secretary at the Cavern club. Rather than the quiet life she craved, Beryl was pitched back into the

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fray, a madcap musical mélange, which turned her head and more so to drink and drugs. It was the winter of 1967 and she was staring at the stained off-white ceiling in the small flat she shared in Liverpool’s beatnik quarter with Bob Wooler. Beryl had twigged that her husband, the gregarious Cavern disc jockey – who had coined the catch phrase ‘Hi, All You Cave Dwellers’ amongst multitudinous wordplays – was blatantly homosexual. Of course, as everyone knows, he’d been one of the first to champion the Beatles and other Mersey Beat bands. But he was also later to coin the derogatory phrase ‘Mythew Street’ to deride the parasites that bobbed to the surface to make money out of their loose connections with the Fab Four. That flat of theirs had been the scene of such action. The Rolling Stones amongst dozens of other young pop musicians were the couple’s guests when they had their first show in Liverpool. Wooler, as generous spirited as ever, had invited them all round and John Lennon was cavorting about with his usual high jinks. The night was full of drink and drugs. But that had been several years earlier and now Beryl was feeling numb, the past was crowding in. Shaking and disorientated she reached for the razor blades that were kept on the kitchen shelf; this strange domestic arrangement was never explained. She fumbled with the paper packaging, flinching as she cut a finger on the first one. It fell to the floor. Beryl’s finger hurt a bit and burned. She was crying, sobbing as the tears streamed down her cheeks, eyes wet and blurred. What the hell was going on in her life, her mind? She grabbed for another blade. This awful train of events had been triggered earlier that night because Wooler had been out somewhere, gallivanting as usual around the night clubs and bars, no doubt bagging boys from the bands, as he did regularly. Beryl deftly traced the blade across the inside of her wrists and quickly pressed down and cut into the veins. Then in frenzy – once she’d started – she slashed at her lower arms, slicing skin and severing arteries. The blood spurted like a jet, spattering everywhere. But she felt no pain, overwhelmed by the sheer misery of what she considered her shallow life. The room was a mess, blood was everywhere and Beryl was crying, screaming hysterically. She had flipped. Suddenly, through the mists enveloping her Wooler was wailing in the far distance and she was aware of a huge commotion. But she was slipping away into unconsciousness by then. Wooler, unable to handle either the sight of blood or the emotional tangle, was a jabbering jelly, in hysterics. The blood went all over the walls. In her frenzy Beryl had slashed a main

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artery. The scars remained throughout her life, narrow white trails of disfigured furrowed lumps of flesh like rivulets in sand dunes. In a blind panic Wooler didn’t have a clue what to do. He ran full-pelt out of the flat, crashing into the hallway walls, shouting for neighbours to help. He was in a mess himself. Chaos had rained down on him, and not for the first or last time in his relationship with Beryl. As it turned out Beryl did less damage than expected because she’d used her left hand to slash at herself, even though she was right-handed. She didn’t have a proper grip on the wickedly sharp razor blade. If she’d done it the other way there is little doubt she would have died that night. Even so, later she needed numerous operations because she had also cut the tendons. She was back and forth to the hospital for months on end, telling everyone she met that she was ashamed. At the time it was touch and go if she would make the night. But the surgeons who worked on her at Liverpool’s now closed down Smithdown Road Hospital were, she declared, absolutely marvellous. Their skill and fast reactions undoubtedly saved Beryl’s life, but it didn’t stop her trying again ... and again only a few years ago. That damnable, unbreakable bond with the Beatles and the past once again troubled her life to the point where death was preferable. In what to many turned out to be yet another of life’s incredible twists of fate after her second marriage collapsed Beryl shacked up with Allan Williams. In moments of levity she laughed at that so much: her living with the man who had bloody well given the Beatles away all those years ago. No one could have predicted that. The world knows that, after quitting Liverpool, Epstein went on in spectacular manner to establish the Beatles and his other show business ‘finds’ as household names; the Fab Four, in particular, becoming not only his golden nest egg but also tragically his own road to the ultimate Babylon. This is a theme to which Beryl subscribed wholeheartedly, even though she learned to love the boys as they bounded around the cluttered NEMS offices week after week. Early on they were only paid small sums in comparison to the fortunes they milked from their tunes later: a laughable 15 pounds rising to maybe 20 pounds when the gigs were flowing fast and furious. They were soon earning as much as Beryl, which was a real hoot in her eyes. As the pot-ridden 1960s, with its flower power philosophies and love-ins, peppered with anti-establishment street scraps like the violent Grosvenor Square anti-Vietnam War demo in summer 1968, paled into the more sanguine 1970s, Beryl Adams made a fateful decision. Her fragile nerves stretched to breaking point – two ridiculous, she acknowledged later, attempted suicides already notched up – she finally

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abandoned the frantic music jamboree for good. She unobtrusively married driving instructor Peter Mullins, a quiet, domesticated man with no interest in the indulgent life she’d so relished. She met him at another low point in her life, on her first and only driving lesson. She never did pass a test or drive a car. They had a son, Simon, now in his 30s, whom she doted on, disclosing with a chuckle how he used to play Beatles records endlessly as a boy. He little appreciated his adoring mum’s previous involvement or connections with the music belting out of his gramophone. For 30 years she worked almost anonymously, in a sort of selective seclusion, hidden away as a doctor’s receptionist in the village-like huddle of houses and aspiring ‘aspidistra ambitions’ of West Derby. She worked only streets away from her close-knit family, and ironically the family of her friend, Pete Best. It is remarkable that, by 2001, there were only six British acts in the US top Billboard 100 annual chart, tellingly headed by the first compilation CD of the Beatles’ number one hits.

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7 – The Very (Pete) Best Of Men And Others Not So

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t the time of his betrayal by the Beatles, Beryl knew Pete Best well, as he wallowed in the baffling, hurtful knowledge that he was surplus to the band he loved. Right up to her death she still knew – and liked – the man very much, and passionately believed he was treated dreadfully. Later in life, now resigned – almost Daoist in his stoicism – to the fate that would have destroyed others, Pete Best is nevertheless determined to fight his corner at last. Beryl thought him brave over this, if not so sure his memory was serving him that well. Grasping the hand of friendship with old ghosts has never really been part of Best’s agenda and yet he, probably above anyone alive, has most reason to feel aggrieved at the loss of celebrity and fortune, ignominiously ousted as he was as a Beatle 40 years ago, in the summer of 1962. Yet he continues to tell all and sundry that it wasn’t – and isn’t – about the money or fame. Few believe him but, as he apparently and endearingly lacks any self-pity about the event, it’s largely irrelevant. A year or so back, the now 60-year-old Pete and his brothers Roag and Rory made a peaceful if determined pact to conjure up the past a bit and tell their side of the story, or rather their mother Mona’s. They declare – along with a legion of other knowledgeable folk – that she was arguably one of the most influential persons in kick-starting the Beatles legend. Beryl would always respond gimlet-eyed at the claim. In their lavishly illustrated tome The Beatles – the True Beginnings, the lads lay out their family’s stall for historical eminence and relate the story of the fabled Casbah Club. This was the venue that their mother established in the basement of their rambling Victorian home in West Derby, close to Beryl’s own home; though she insists it was really too far out of town to be the centre of anything. But it is indisputable that there Best and his pals the Beatles first relished the taste of success, even on such a localised scale. And it was Mona – insist her devoted sons – who lavished encouragement on the early Quarrymen and then the Fab Four, long before Allan Williams, their irascible first manager, or Brian Epstein had come within an ass’s roar of the band. “It’s the missing link, the untold story,” comments the elder Best, without rancour or angst, clearly delighted that at last the tale could be

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made public. For he insists that the book – largely the brainchild of 40-yearold Roag – is not an expose as such or aimed at upsetting anyone. “We just wanted to tell the truth as it happened, for the first time,” declared a mildly mannered Pete, known for his calm demeanour and lack of bitterness. In fact his own band, formed some 15 years ago and featuring his brother Roag on drums as well, has won a huge international following, wowing sell-out audiences in America, Germany and Japan. And, whilst he does acknowledge the relevance of the Beatles in this latter day success he is obviously overjoyed at the recognition of his own – and the band’s – musical abilities. The music is, he quickly remarks, a reflection of his own era: “Good old rock ‘n’ roll stuff, a really big sound. Everyone tells us it’s fabulous,” adds Pete, now a four times granddad and still loyal to Liverpool, where he vows to end his days. “But not just yet, as there’s years to catch up,” he grins. Roag – the son of the Beatles’ road manager Neil Aspinall, at one stage an important cog in the Apple organisation in London – is a tad feistier about the tawdry way he feels both his brother and mother have been regarded in the pantheon of pop. He reveals that, once he got stuck into researching the background, his ire was roused at the hangers-on who’d jumped on the bandwagon over the years. He is much like Beryl Adams in this regard. “Our mother had a huge influence on the Beatles and effectively put them on the map. All that reality got lost over the years and it really got under my skin when I would listen to all these other people banging on. This is a tribute to our mother Mona and the truth,” declares Roag. The boys re-opened the Casbah in August 2002 with a wingding of a bash where they performed with fellow musos Chris Cavanagh, Phil Melia, Dave Deavey and Mark Hay. And over four days of that summer’s annual Beatles Convention in Liverpool – with more than 400,000 fans and music lovers cramming the hotspots off the cobbles of Mathew Street – the Best brothers signed countless copies of the book both at the Cavern Club, their own Casbah, and the Beatles Story museum at the Albert Dock. Even a luxurious bound £70 (US$100) special ‘cased’ edition was in demand. Pete was very proud when, for the first time in real terms, he publicly talked about the ‘true events’ and the ‘Casbah effect’. He joined the likes of Louise Harrison, over from America as a mark of respect for her late brother George and also making her Cavern debut, and Allan Williams, with even Beryl pitching in her occasional tuppence worth, all on a platform for a public forum on the past.

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Beryl remained Pete Best’s chum over the years – and grew up within a spit of his house in Hayman’s Green – and remembered vividly the week when Eppy fired the drummer. She had found out after returning from a holiday and was astounded, thinking then – as she did throughout her life – that it was a shabby trick. For decades Best kept his head down and raised a family in simple obscurity. “I think people did respect my privacy and I was grateful for that,” he comments. When he was first persuaded to take part in a Beatles convention in 1988 his mother – who sadly passed away later that same year – remarked that it was his return to showbiz. “I made light of it a bit but she’s been proved right,” adds Best. The Casbah closed on June 24th 1966 – for various reasons now clouded in the mists of time and Best seems reluctant to discuss – and then less than two months later Best found himself kicked out of the Beatles by Epstein. “It was an emotional time, opening it up again for the public and it’s hardly been touched over all these years. It is almost eerie; it looks and smells the same,” says Best, who also admitted to a rare touch of the butterflies at the prospect of an open air gig on the main stage at the Liverpool event: apparently, he said, the first time a ‘Beatle’ had actually performed at a Beatles convention anywhere in the world. One-time Liverpool tourism boss Ron Jones disputes this, revealing that Best had played at one of the first Beatles conventions that he had organised on behalf of the local, now disbanded, Merseyside County Council in the early 1980s. “He was definitely there, but not with this latest band line-up. It was a very poignant and even sad occasion, as I recall,” says Jones, who is still acknowledged as something of a Beatle expert and historian himself, having published several books on the subject. As he strode purposefully onto the outdoor city centre stage in that summer of 2002 with his brothers, knowing that George Harrison’s sister was in the audience, there was a lot of heavy duty angst and painful memories for Pete Best to cope with. Beryl Adams saw him before he walked out, hugged him for luck and reckoned he was terribly, and unexpectedly, strung out that day. Later he admitted in a murmur: “Sure, the adrenaline flowed and the emotions were running high at this particular show, even though we have played the Cavern many times in recent years. It was an important event for me.” The book also reveals how the Best family in general had much more impact on Liverpool’s social life than hitherto recognised Their grandfather and father Johnny were big noises in the now demolished Stadium sporting

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venue, where they would stage the now fabled boxing and wrestling bouts that were to become the very stuff of ‘Scouser’ sporting legend. Later that same Stadium was also the focus of the early rock ‘n’ roll concerts, where Best recalls he and the Beatles would trundle along to gawp in awe at the likes of Gene Vincent and other stars. These were shows put on by Allan Williams in collaboration with Larry Parnes, the London impresario who had auditioned the Beatles as a backing band for Billy Fury, another Liverpudlian who was one of the hot shots of the Parnes stable. The Beatles didn’t get that gig because Fury and Parnes didn’t rate Stuart Sutcliffe as a bass player, an accurate assessment in reality. Although Parnes did reject the band in one way he did employ them to trawl around Scotland on a week-long tour as the lowly – and pissed-off – backing band for yet another Liverpool crooner, Johnny Gentle, whose own career nose-dived soon after. Best’s book is the literary handiwork of all three brothers and is crammed with photographs and memorabilia, with wonderful illustrations from an award-winning graphic artist, Sandro Sodano, a graduate of St Martin’s College of Art & Design in London, – whose clients have included Polydor records, Calvin Klein and Diet Coke. “We don’t want to blow our own trumpet over this,” says Best modestly, then stops and adds with a laugh: “Well, hang on. We do. It’s a marvellous book, I think. It tells the real story of the beginning of the Beatles.” Beryl wasn’t so sure and commented rather cattily – considering her fondness for Best and the whole family – that the Casbah wasn’t as influential as Best and his siblings reckon. “It was just a place for local kids to hang around and people from the city centre would have had difficulty both getting to it and finding it,” she said gently, not wanting to upset her pal, but hugely tickled at what she genuinely thought was his self-delusion. Best remains phlegmatic about such scepticism.

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8 – Epstein – The Ruthless Gent

B

ack when that hammer blow first landed Pete Best’s his shoulders, Beryl Adams was shocked at Epstein’s savage axing of the young drummer. She witnessed at first hand Best’s distress and desolation as Epstein metaphorically, and practically come to that, hurled him on the scrap heap for apparently being better looking than McCartney. From her vantage point Beryl considered that it was a little more complex; and that because Best didn’t really get on with Lennon, Epstein was clearing the decks in case of future rifts and rows. He reckoned Ringo Starr more affable, less moody, and certainly more pliable, she concluded. Astonishingly, Beryl had been the first within the tight circle around the Beatles to see Ringo Starr play with the group after Best’s dismissal. This was at Epstein’s invitation, because he was keen to get her insider views on how the new drummer was ‘cutting the mustard’. He was more than anxious to feel justified, salving his conscience over Pete Best, she mused. As she played with an empty teacup, gazing into the tatty scrapbook of her life, Beryl revealed how that memorable evening began at dinner just before this particular show, in the Lever Brothers Wirral Peninsula based historical, industrial village of Port Sunlight; a workers’ paradise (sic). It all happened very quickly when she was back in the NEMS office after a week’s holiday in the Isle of Man. She had gone on her own to get some peace and quiet, just to get away from the mayhem already stressing her. As she entered the office Epstein stood in her path, his lips pursed and brow furrowed, as though pondering something of great import. He had heard she was back and rang down asking her to call in and see him, as there was something on his mind he needed to discuss. Ringo Starr and Pete Best as it turned out, and he well knew of Beryl’s fondness for the handsome drummer. He was about to test the water. “Look, Ringo’s playing with the Beatles for the first time tonight at Hulme Hall, Beryl,” Epstein gruffly told her, glancing up for any reaction. He looked a little uneasy as he went on: “Are you doing anything ... would you like to come over with me? We can have dinner in the Bridge Inn restaurant and then on to the show and get the reaction of the crowd.” It was the first time he’d asked Beryl to join him at such an event, indeed any outing. And by golly, she wasn’t going to refuse that invitation. She was

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as high as a kite. It was all so exotic as she’d never been to a place quite like it and Brian just fitted in naturally. She was overawed; the dismissal of her pal Pete Best secondary to her own varied appetites, and vanities. As they wandered into the restaurant Beryl recalled being impressed that there were even candles on some of the tables. She could remember gasping inwardly, a trifle nervous. There she was, supposedly right in with the really trendy gang in Liverpool, right there in the so-called scene, but almost out of her depth in the upper middle-class environment so alien to her. Oddly, even though her memory was often flimsy, she could recall vividly what the couple tucked into that evening. They began with prawn cocktails served in a glass dish, to Beryl another world of cuisine. And then Epstein casually ordered a bottle of red wine, French as well, which Beryl thought terribly posh. She was wearing a black mini-skirt and black stockings – which she’d reckoned on the way was awfully ‘with-it’ but once there thought in fact looked a little out of kilter, almost dowdy and dull, in the plush surroundings. Her companion was decked out in his usual immaculate suit and tie; a gorgeous red silk effort complementing the fine, steel grey mohair of the well-cut suit. He looked like a million dollars, remembered Beryl mistily, and the waiters and the maitre d’ all knew him and kept smiling and nodding, very discreetly. They were zipping about like bees around honey at a picnic party, attending his every whim. She was by her own admission mightily impressed, even though she was long aware of his social finesse and sophistication. Epstein ordered himself a fillet of sole, which Beryl knew was very expensive, especially when he asked for it off the bone – fish was his favourite food – and she chose a medium rare steak tartare. It was a magnificent meal to the gal from West Derby and Brian, ever the gentleman, would refill Beryl’s glass at regular intervals. Ever a connoisseur of fine wines, Epstein hadn’t stinted that evening and Beryl was in seventh heaven as the delicious French wine kept flowing and turned her giddy. She could barely accept that she was in such place and her hunches told her that he and the Beatles were going to be massive one day; it was inevitable, the wine whispered it. There was success, determination, savoir-faire and an air of complete control about Epstein’s destiny, and it seemed to surround him like a silver aura that night. They were relaxing after finishing the sumptuous dinner. And Beryl was most certainly ‘full-on bonhomie’ after all the glasses of strong wine when she suddenly blurted out that it was a bloody pity about Pete Best. “It was very cruel to sack him that way, Brian. Awful,” she said. The comment had burst from her lips, surprising her in its directness.

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Flushing scarlet almost instantly Brian shamefacedly quickly looked away and just mumbled ... Hmmm. He hadn’t expected Beryl of all people to mention the situation at all. He was hoping she would see Ringo play and just accept the decision. He changed the subject and pointed out they were running a little late for watching the gig. Dinner over, they went off to do just that, but Beryl muttered to herself – overheard by Epstein – that she still rated Pete Best a better drummer, and surely the best-looking kid in the band. That subject was never, ever raised between Epstein and Beryl again, as he knew she found it distasteful. He was sensitive enough to be aware that it was a horrible thing to do, but he had his plans and Pete Best wasn’t part of them. Indeed, she reluctantly confessed that Ringo fitted in very well with the band on that first showing, but was damned if she would let Brian know how she felt about that. As they were driving back through the Mersey Tunnel later that night, mostly without a word spoken, Epstein coughed and staring straight ahead asked: “What do you think of Ringo, then?” Beryl retorted bluntly that he was ‘okay’ but quickly realised that her clipped tone had upset Brian and the journey continued in an uncomfortable silence. Epstein dropped her off home and his dark mood lifted suddenly as he bid a cheery goodnight. Personally, he was delighted at the way Ringo had just slotted into the group and didn’t give a fig what she thought, really. That wasn’t the last time Beryl dined with her boss, though. Epstein, aware that Beryl was distinctly cool over the Ringo Starr situation, didn’t really hold grudges and didn’t blame her for asking about her friend Pete. He just wasn’t prepared to discuss it or argue his case, certainly not with Beryl. Those outings with Brian – however few – were part of Beryl’s growing up, of becoming an adult, she later appreciated. With a nostalgic sigh she ruminated at length over the first time that she nervously stepped over the threshold of the popular Jung Wah Chinese restaurant. It was highly rated for its Cantonese cuisine at the time, located in the bustling Nelson Street in the city’s Chinatown. Its bright lights shone on the fabled Nook pub across the street, a haunt of prostitutes, pimps, gaggles of amusing characters, along with groups of Chinese seafarers and locals who bantered the night away or played the clattering game of mah jong. Today Liverpool is twinned with Shanghai and Beryl and Allan Williams regularly ate in Chinese restaurants – indeed his wife, also Beryl, (is half Chinese, her father from Shanghai. In those days with Epstein Beryl was a fey young girl and hadn’t a clue where to start with the menu as this was her first time ever in a Chinese restaurant. It was so foreign and exotic. She glanced at Brian helplessly

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and he laughed, gently taking the gold-embossed red menu card out of her hands. Then he read out the dishes, explaining patiently in his sotto voce manner so as not to embarrass her – he was often that way, although he could just as easily switch to a brittle-edged, business-like voice – about every dish until she agreed to one without even listening properly, lulled and caressed by the sound of his voice. Beryl was soaking up the atmosphere, the piquant smells and mouthwatering aromas wafting around from the dozens of tables throbbing with conversation from the Chinese and British diners. And in the end he ordered for her with aplomb and discretion, a slight smile playing over his face. He had such grand social graces. It was the first time she had ever tasted that well-known Cantonese dish of sweet and sour pork, or even eaten rice that wasn’t in a milk pudding. She felt on another planet from ordinary folk. Her life seemed to be so different from old school friends and family ... so distant and dreamlike. Epstein, of course, used chopsticks, to Beryl mind-bogglingly hard, and she had to resort to using a knife and fork. In later years she would learn to handle chopsticks rather well. Beryl went out a few more times for dinner with Epstein, maybe after a hard week. He was always generous in that way with his staff, who considered him lovely to work for as he treated them as human beings, not plebs. In fairness, though, it was also a fairly strict working environment. There are many now who claim that the NEMS staff hated him, were frightened of his moods and mannerisms. Rubbish. Beryl thought him fine. Unless there was an unknown dark side to him, but she very much doubted it. With the Beatles parading their new line-up it was Brian and Beryl who were to be the first witnesses – and judges – of the almost magical chemistry that was suddenly bubbling up between them. She was ever reluctant to admit it, but was actually very proud that she was the first in Epstein’s circle to see Ringo play with the Beatles in public, and one of the first to know that he was actually going to replace Pete Best, the defining moment in the band’s early folklore. Oddly Ringo Starr had played on a Beatles recording in Hamburg organised by Allan Williams when they were still under his wing. It was to highlight a singer called Lou Walters who sang with Rory Storm. Ringo was Storm’s drummer at the time but Williams wanted him on the record with the Beatles backing because he knew the songs that Walters sang. There were only ever five copies made and all have long since been lost. But they would be worth a fortune today. Certainly that evening with Epstein in Port Sunlight was historic because Pete had been sacked only the week before while Beryl was on holiday. But

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she’d known there was something in the air. There was idle talk in the office and what she thought was uncalled for ill will about Pete; and yet no one ever mentioned it directly or discussed it with her, aware of her fondness for him. She would always say it was a very dirty little operation, conducted behind closed doors. Her view was that he was too quiet and didn’t fit in and he was the better-looking one no doubt about it. He was very quiet overall and the girls went for him because there was an air of mystery about him ... whereas Lennon and the others were a bit wild ... and McCartney? He was just a boy: but with ambitions of his own. Beryl reckoned he and Brian cooked up Pete’s demise between them, with a bit of a push from Lennon. Weeks before Ringo joined the Beatles, Beryl had heard on the office and local club grapevine that it was maybe going to happen. Rumour was rife all over the city and Starr was actually quite well liked and respected in his own right. He had a fair pedigree as a local personality and musician with Rory Storm’s band the Hurricanes, despite what later cranky critics might say. Beryl and her pals were still surprised and shocked that it was all cut and dried so quickly while she was away and she remained taken aback 40-odd years on. “It was so damn quick that hardly anyone knew anything about it until it was a done deed,” she would rant. Today Pete Best lives close to Beryl’s sister in the same street in Crosby Green in West Derby, about five or six doors around the corner. He’s lived there since his children were little and he’s got grandchildren now. Beryl’s family knew him well and kept in touch when he became a civil servant, the job he took after Epstein’s fateful decision smashed his dreams of stardom. Like all his friends they hated what had happened to him; hat Brian Epstein and the Beatles did to him. It was despicable, railed Beryl, as Best had been a family friend for 25 years, maybe longer. A songbird’s whistle from her own house was where the first mewling and puking of the Beatles welled up; maybe Beryl had been fated to be a part of Epstein’s scene after all.

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9 – The Nowhere Men, Their Lies And Fantasies

A

fter that first dinner date and the show with Ringo Beryl never mentioned anything further to Epstein about Pete Best’s sacking. There was no point even though she was genuinely upset. Epstein was determined that it was going to happen and did it. He wanted Ringo and that was it. He’d decided then how he was going to mould them. The slick suits came very early on yet all sorts of people have claimed they were the influence; folk such as Joe Flannery. Beryl would transform into a banshee with a mention of the likes of Flannery, shouting that people like him were just ‘full of wind and piss’. Mind you, he turned up at her funeral, looking mournful and sad, as though they’d been bosom buddies. She would rant and rave on the subject of ‘Beatles Parasites’ – a phrase that Allan Williams claims to have coined, with not a little sense of cheek and irony, and abbreviated to BPs, although there is more than a hint of Woolerism in the expression. She would insist that they are full of halftruths – even downright lies and make-believe – like Sam Leach, Bill Harry, the late Alistair Taylor and others. Even her lover Allan Williams came in the firing line to an extent. Beryl could often hardly contain her fury at how so many have fabricated their stories, and now believe them to be the truth. Many of the ‘Nowhere Men’, as she enjoyed dubbing them, would say she didn’t remember, that she was wrong and that anyway ‘she was merely a woman’. But the fact is, she was there. She was Brian’s right hand when it was all beginning. No matter how fickle her memory or mood essentially she knew what was true and what has been made up by those who have traded on mythology for years. Paul McCartney goes along with this theme in the Anthology, one of the reasons he and the others agreed to put it together: to expose the tissues of lies that exist in volumes. Beryl divorced Peter Mullins about 20 years ago – telling him harshly that he bored her to tears – and then a dozen or so years ago unexpectedly met up with Allan Williams, the man with the claim to being the Beatles’ first manager and whom both Lennon and McCartney have admitted helped sharpen their musical identity in the grim nightclubs of Hamburg’s St Pauli red-light quarter, along the city docksides. In terms of her relationship with the roguish Williams, Beryl’s attitude would be shaded by whatever misdemeanours he had become embroiled

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in that week. Yet she was always fond of him, the hint of a strangely shy smile tinged with truculence at his frequently outrageous behaviour. There was a mutual attraction, and that peculiar association with the past they shared but oddly didn’t in so many ways. Mind you, on occasions she was not so sure about the attraction. She had, she said, endured years of verbal abuse from Williams who is still overly fond of a daily tipple, gargling with wine or vodka even at 74 years of age and after a quadruple by-pass in the summer of his 71st year. Beryl had known of Allan Williams in the sixties when he cut a swathe through the regional music business. He was famous for his flashy Jaguar cars and acid-tongue – once telling Lennon that he and the Beatles were a useless bunch of ‘fucking n’er do wells’ – but their paths had barely crossed, even though he was, and is, one of Liverpool’s irrepressible characters. Her closest pal and confidante throughout the early Cavern period was the legendary disc jockey and bon viveur Bob Wooler, who also had an explosive ‘friendship’ and working collaboration with Williams. Beryl’s relationship with Wooler was an extraordinarily giddy confection of sparks and spats. They were married for a number of years, even though she knew he was a ‘closet’ homosexual who had eyes on all the boys in the bands. And she knew he shared Epstein’s dark sexual secrets and anguishes, often cavorting in the same clubs and bars. Beryl accepted all this behaviour, explaining – mostly for her own gratification – that it was essentially a marriage of convenience, affection and mutual support; after all, she was virtually his rival for the affections and favours of the boys in the bands. She recalled that remarkable day in 1961 when Brian Epstein first mentioned the Beatles and asked her about them. A number of people had been into the shop asking about the record ‘My Bonnie’ – the disc that the Beatles recorded in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan – and it fired Brian’s imagination. He was always one with vision, she would retort. In the Beatles’ Anthology Epstein vividly recalled that portentous day: “On Saturday 28th October 1961 I was asked by a young boy (this was Raymond Jones) for a record by a group called the Beatles. It had always been our policy in records to look after whatever request was made. I wrote on a pad: ‘My Bonnie’ by the Beatles. Check on Monday. “I had never given a thought to any of the Liverpool beat groups then up-and-coming in cellar clubs. They were not part of my life because I was out of the age group and also because I had been too busy. The name ‘Beatle’ meant nothing to me, though I vaguely recalled seeing it on a poster advertising a dance at New Brighton Tower and I remembered thinking it was an odd and purposeless spelling.

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“Before I had had time to check on Monday, two girls came in the store and they too asked for a disc by this group. This, contrary to legend, was the sum total of the demand for the Beatles’ disc at the time in Liverpool. But I was sure there was something very significant in three queries in two days for one unknown disc. “I talked to contacts (in all probability Bob Wooler or Bill Harry, whose Mersey Beat newspaper was sold in the NEMS shop) and found out what I hadn’t realised, that the Beatles were in fact a Liverpool group, that they had just returned from playing clubs in the seedy end of Hamburg, A girl I know said: ‘The Beatles? They’re the greatest. They’re at the Cavern this week ... ‘.” Beryl smiled knowingly at those comments recorded for posterity, pretty sure she was the girl referred to by Epstein, as she remembered the excitement in Brian’s eyes. He hadn’t even visited the Cavern then, but Beryl knew it well. She told Epstein that, of course, she knew of the Beatles, describing them in detail – the rasping sound and the flash gear they wore – and that they were a great band. She told how Epstein’s eyes widened and Beryl intuitively knew he could easily be hooked. She’d already seen the Beatles many times by then and hadn’t even mentioned them to Epstein. It never entered her head that he would be interested in the slightest. Epstein made that crucial journey down the narrow, stone steps of the Cavern Club a few days later, but Beryl sniggered that he must have appeared terribly incongruous to the bopping kids crammed in there with his sombre suits and ties, standing out like a zebra amongst grubby pit ponies. The rest of the story is enshrined in the annals of rock music history, although Beryl explained it was some time before Epstein took the band under his wing. “He was ever cautious and rarely rushed into things in those days.” She called to mind his mood of jubilation on that day of revelation when he came back from a lunchtime session at the Cavern very excited. He was still sweating – his smart grey pinstriped suit a little crumpled and damp – his eyes were glassy and it was as though he had gorged on drink or drugs, although at that time he was a cautious imbiber. He told Beryl in a throaty whisper how very impressed he was with the Beatles. He was going to give this some great thought, but that he had a gut feeling that they could be world-beaters. Beryl thought he was nuts. They were okay, but worldbeaters? No way. And she quietly laughed at Brian’s impression, reckoning Gerry and the Pacemakers far superior. Soon after that history-making customer had inquired about ‘My Bonnie’ an exasperated Epstein pointed out that he hadn’t got it in stock but

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would definitely try and find copies. This was his way, commented Beryl. If he said he would do something he bloody well would. In his later, so called definitive, book on the Beatles Yesterday – the Beatles Remembered (Sidgwick & Jackson 1988), Alistair Taylor, who had worked in NEMS and was later Epstein’s press officer for years – reckons this wasn’t true, that it was all exaggeration, and that he was the young man in question, the alleged Raymond Jones. Even on the TV Arena special about Epstein, Taylor said that because Epstein was so wary about ordering records unless he was sure they would sell, that was the reason he put the Raymond Jones name forward, that he had invented it. Taylor up to his recent death was still part of the worldwide Beatles memorabilia circus and occasionally turned up at conventions. He was even MC at the Beatles Festival in Liverpool in the summer of 2003, where he launched the ‘talkfest’ event at the Adelphi Hotel, featuring the likes of Allan Williams and others such as Howie Casey and former Wings guitarist Denny Laine. Meanwhile, the former promoter Sam Leach claimed that Jones was a figment of Epstein’s imagination; half suggesting and believing that it was he – Leach – who persuaded Epstein to first go and see the group, another distorted fact. But Beryl isn’t the only one who insists that there was a real-life Raymond Jones, it did actually happen and even Paul McCartney in the Anthology mentions it. Epstein really put himself out to try and get the record as others were also asking about it and told Beryl that if it was causing such a stir he wanted to hear these people – these Beatles – to find out what all the fuss was about. For those who looked to Bob Wooler as the font of all Beatles’ truths he came up trumps with this tale, for he knew the young 18-year-old lad’s name and address. Ever the pedant in his own way, he’d recorded it in a 1963 contact book, although just why he had kept this information is a bit baffling; but certainly an indication of his meticulous phobia for trivia. According to Wooler, Jones worked at a print shop in Liverpool. Later that same Raymond Jones appeared as a guest at the first Beatles Convention organised by Liz and Jim Hughes in Liverpool in the early 1980s. Wooler declared before he died that Jones was the first to spur Epstein’s interest in the Beatles, long before he raved about them in his regular column in Mersey Beat, his reputation as a disc jockey of note ensuring a wide readership amongst the groups. Later Spencer Leigh in his book about Wooler confirms this and reveals that he also invited Raymond Jones onto his popular BBC Radio Merseyside music programme. “He told me he wasn’t interested in taking part in Beatles’ conventions but was unhappy

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that Alistair Taylor was claiming the glory,” declared the exemplar of pop trivia Spencer Leigh, whose own accreditations as a pop historian are indisputable. Indeed, Leigh goes on to reveal that Epstein’s new secretary, Diana Vero, wrote to a friend of Jones in September 1964 asking for his address as Brian wanted to send him a copy of his recently published book A Cellarful of Noise. It is certainly true that Epstein called Bill Harry at Mersey Beat to facilitate a visit to the club, which he did through Ray McFall for 9th November 1961 with Alistair Taylor going along for support. Wooler was the disc jockey that lunchtime. Beryl couldn’t quite remember how Epstein knew Bob Wooler but knew him he did. And then he visited the Cavern. Cautiously Beryl suggested that their knowing each other might well have been because of their particular ‘sexual leanings’, still illegal at that time in the UK. In her opinion Epstein wasn’t overtly homosexual, although it was fairly obvious to her. It wasn’t general knowledge and in those days it would have been tricky socially; even Bob Wooler, who became what he would himself laughingly describe as a ‘raging old queen’ in his later years, wasn’t ‘out’ to anybody then. “Good God no, not at all,” grimaced Beryl at the prospect, shuddering at the ramifications for Epstein’s family at the time. Before the Beatles there is no disputing that Epstein was very much interested in Gerry and Pacemakers, but not in any sexual way, insisted Beryl. Then he got very interested in the young lilting crooner Billy J Kramer. “Obviously because he was a very good singer but I think because he was also a very good-looking boy. Nothing new in that, it’s been said a lot of times,” she would smirk. But to the NEMS staff it was then becoming very obvious that Brian had this inclination, and certainly to Beryl. Other people had an idea but she was convinced because of her friendship with Bob. Apart from Wooler, Beryl was fairly switched on to such matters; her brother had gone to sea from when he was very young and she’d often met people ‘so inclined’ in his company when he was on leave, even though Ken was apparently quite homophobic. Beryl claimed she tended to know who was gay – or homosexual – but that it didn’t bother her at all, that she always got on well with them and never had a problem about it. “Well, I married Bob, didn’t I?” she would parry. “There were no hang-ups or qualms and Brian could be fairly open with me, not secretive like he was forced to be the rest of the time. We just got on really well and I think he was grateful that he could relax in my presence.”

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Perhaps it was as a cover, but it is well documented that for a year prior to the Beatles Epstein carted around a girlfriend, a friend of his family. She’d been a friend of Brian’s for a long time and she did a great job for him, pretending that they were going out together, an ‘item’ in the modern parlance. She would go with him to concerts at the Philharmonic Hall and other events where it was important to be seen. In reality, Sonia Seligson has insisted she was unaware of Epstein’s disposition to chaps during their relationship, even once lambasting malicious rumours put about by a handful of girls she knew disputing Brian’s sexual leanings. They had met at the Adelphi Hotel one afternoon when both were taking tea, and Sonia came from a similar upper middle-class Jewish family. Years later Sonia commented to Ray Coleman about Epstein that he was quite passionate with her, not at all effeminate. However, she confessed that they were never intimate; her explanation being that in those days sleeping with each other outside of marriage was out of the question. Yet later when they split, just before he went to RADA, she waspishly jibed that he was ‘probably going off with one of his boyfriends’. He had finally told her that they would have to stop seeing each other. When asked if it was another woman, Epstein bravely told her “No” that it was a man. The celebrity Liverpool solicitor, and Liverpool Echo columnist, Rex Makin – who was a neighbour of the Epstein’s – confirms that Sonia was a close confidante of Epstein’s and publicly and regularly on his arm. Sonia and Epstein kept in touch for a short while but the last time she saw him was, once again, at a brief, and accidental, meeting in the Adelphi. In much the same way that Beryl Adams felt about Epstein, Sonia told Ray Coleman after his death, “Brian never actually left me. It’s very strange. I feel his presence all the time.” One of the constants in the Epstein tale – and throughout the celebrity life of Liverpool is Rex Makin, but he became something of a nemesis for Beryl following the death of Bob Wooler. He admits that he found her tiresome and his opinion of Allan Williams is almost unprintable. In his own right, Makin is without doubt a flamboyant if irascible character and a doyen of the arts and highbrow music scene in Liverpool, as well as being a long-term Liverpool Echo contributor. His weekly picture by-lined column, initially graced with the witty Makin His Point strapline attracts those in high and low places for news and gossip. It has lasted over ten years, more than the expected life span of such opinionated columns, which gives an indication of his associations in the city that feed his paragraphs.

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As he strides towards 80 years of age Makin continues to revel in intrigue and still has his finger on the pulse of Liverpool life. Everyone in the city knows of him – if they don’t know him at first hand – and he has probably represented almost every personality or been involved in every major case or news event of note in the city over the last 20, 30 and even 40 years, in show business, politics, commerce and the media. Makin says: “I think it is so interesting that close on forty years after Brian’s death the Beatles myth remains so very, very potent,” and he smiles enigmatically about the rumour that he was originally involved in signing Epstein’s deal with the Beatles. “Well, I was asked. Look, you must remember that Brian Epstein lived next door to me on Queen’s Drive and I’d seen him through a variety of vicissitudes. “When he was an unhappy fellow at NEMS he used to come in to flog LPs – records as they later came to be called – which were then the vogue and any other electrical appliances he could. He kept me up to date with all of his activities, which included the discovery of the group. He said to me at the time, which has been repeated often, that he had discovered this group that were going to break the mould.” Makin, ever forthright, thought Epstein was potty – completely crazy – especially as he wanted him to draw up what he referred to as an ‘unbreakable’ contract for the Beatles. Well, Makin declared, there was no such thing as an unbreakable contract; people break contracts all the time and he told Epstein this in no uncertain terms, recommending that as an alternative he should go to the legal stationers or the music trade people and get a ready-made contract off the shelf. “He didn’t listen to me and went to some solicitor in Liverpool about whom I shall say nothing (it was the rival firm of Silverman and Livermore, and the solicitor Epstein chose was David Harris) who may have drawn up a contract but I was still kept up to date about all of Brian’s activities in the early stages, until he left home. “I was involved in lots of things then – as now – but I had two young children and an ailing father to look after and it (the popular music scene) wasn’t of interest to me. It wasn’t then and it certainly isn’t now. He described the Beatles as earth shattering to me. I looked askance at that, still do.” Yet, when Epstein died, Makin reveals that NEMS Enterprises – the then Beatles’ management company – was left with a dilemma. Clive Epstein insisted they needed a nominee member of the board, or as Makin prefers to regard it: “a stooge”.

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“They – the ‘Boys’ – thought I was acceptable, so I agreed, attending no meetings, did no work and when the time arrived I was asked to resign. In return I got a nominal sum for my services (or lack of them),” explains Makin with his artful cackle echoing around his chambers in Whitechapel, ironically almost above the old NEMS empire. But he insists it was a different ‘kettle of fish’ with the music paper Mersey Beat, edited by Bill Harry, who subsequently published a best-selling Beatles Encyclopaedia, amongst other similarly slanted literary works. He has also published an encyclopaedia of Paul McCartney for Virgin Books, once again under the willing guidance and mentoring of commissioning editor Stuart Slater. Makin continued: “One Saturday, Brian rang to say he was buying Mersey Beat from Ray McFall who had bought the Cavern from Alan Sytner, and then also owned the newspaper. I was asked to draw up the contract and was surprised to be asked to manage it in Brian’s absence, and did so for some two years,” explained Mr Makin, who says he was never paid for the job because Brian Epstein died before arrangements could be made. He also suggests that the lack of remuneration was also for a variety of tax purposes (sic). In fact Makin has also consistently claimed that it was he who later coined the term ‘Beatlemania’ when being interviewed by a Daily Mirror journalist about Epstein. In all likelihood he did, as he has a reputation for inventive expressions. As for his ‘acquaintanceship’ with Epstein, Makin shrugs: “I had met Brian regularly at the Philharmonic because he was a classical concert follower, and we also used to meet him and his girlfriend in the then grand lounge of the Adelphi Hotel, which was the social centre of Liverpool in the evening. There was a three-piece string orchestra and after the theatre or concerts people met there. When I was going out with my wife Shirley he’d pop around the pillar and confront us for a lark.” Beryl Adams, quizzical about all such latter day claims, said that Brian never, ever mentioned asking Makin to draw up a contract but didn’t dismiss it as total fantasy. She was always in awe of Makin anyway and shrugged that at the time he was making a name for himself, and he did know Brian and the family well. It might well have been true, she’d mused. Matters were pressing and Epstein was adamant that he wanted the Beatles to be his number one outfit, as opposed to young Gerry whom he was also managing. It’s often forgotten that he had snapped up Gerry first and most people involved in the business reckoned this was his road to success.

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As for this sudden obsession with the Beatles – Gerry’s main rivals – many have claimed this was because he fancied John Lennon. “I suppose it could’ve been that but I don’t remember the two of them ever meeting alone even privately in his office, certainly not when I was working there,” said Beryl, although as explained earlier, she fully subscribed to the Spanish holiday tryst. However, she never recalled Epstein describing the boys as characters of any note, just a fascinating musical group, although he did wonder if it was hard for them to keep up the momentum or cope with the lifestyle. And, although he was a cultured man, it was certainly that moody, carefully crafted ‘James Dean’ image nurtured by Lennon and even McCartney that grabbed him. It was, Beryl supposed, the leathers and the teeny hint of danger. It was something of a counterbalance to the very structured and cloistered life he usually led. Yet, ironically, despite her initial reservations and obvious favouritism for Pete Best, when Epstein finally steeled himself to sign the Beatles a few months later it was to Beryl that he turned for the only witness signature; this despite the common misunderstanding that it was Alistair Taylor, who also consistently made the claim. Sure, Taylor did attend a contract-signing session with Epstein and the Beatles on 24th January 1962. That was in Pete Best’s mother Mona’s 14roomed Victorian pile in Hayman’s Green, West Derby. On that particular day, though, Beryl was hard at work in the NEMS office in Whitechapel. Epstein produced a contract drawn up by solicitor David Harris and the four Beatles signed it along with Alistair Taylor as witness. But Epstein did not add his signature on that occasion, later citing a warning from Allan Williams about getting into such a deal in writing with the group. Williams had told Epstein they weren’t to be trusted. His pithy phrase “Don’t touch them with a fucking barge pole” is now carved forever in music and Beatles’ folklore. Taylor maintained that he was the first witness and signatory, even turning down a lucrative offer of the two and a half percent of the Beatles’ income suggested by Epstein. Beryl begged to differ. “It’s all there in the Anthology. There’s my name on the bloody contract. I can’t figure out where all the other crap came from,” she would say, shrugging. Just the six of them: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian and Beryl. Of course, as history tells, Epstein did finally get his legal eagle to prepare a detailed five-year contract, his astute business sense winning out over the caution proffered by Williams, who after all had blown his own chances to smithereens after a row with Lennon over fees. On 1st October

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1962 Epstein invited the Beatles into his Liverpool city office, lit by a bare light bulb, and they all signed the deal, this time with Beryl Adams as the only witness. Epstein had called her in to perform the historic job. Ironically the award-winning Liverpool playwright and author Willy Russell was years later to hit the headlines with his musical stage show ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert’; same initial but just a simple gender switch away from Beryl, but uncanny because few knew in the early 1980s that she’d been the official witness to the document. She remembered that moment as if it were yesterday. It only took about ten minutes and that was it: inked and sealed, the deed done, in Epstein’s small, antiseptic office. There was a lot of laughter and banter, with Lennon especially taking the ‘piss’, as he always did, although George Harrison also had a rapier wit. Even at that point they were losing their awe of Brian and beginning to call him Eppy. Beryl thought this a bit cheeky but Brian loved the intimacy of it. She reckoned also that he was a bit agog at them, maybe even a little scared at their rough and ready manner. Obviously turned on sexually, she thought. Yet, the Beatles as a group didn’t do anything for Beryl at all. She liked the lads enormously and always had lots of laughs and fun when they came to be paid. But she was a dyed-in-the-wool Gerry Marsden fan and thought that he had much more about him than the Beatles, whom she reckoned would be a flash in the pan. Even Epstein was aware she was never a fan of the Beatles, despite her raving to him about them. It sounded crazy, she supposed, but she truly did prefer Gerry and the Pacemakers. She was so friendly with them that later she joined the gang – with Bob Wooler – that was following them around as they made the song and film that became Gerry’s, and Liverpool’s, own anthem ‘Ferry ‘cross the Mersey’. No doubt about it, she loved being a part of that film and song. She was there all the time rooting for them and right up to her death had kept in touch with Marsden. Sadly he couldn’t make her funeral as he was away on tour. Gerry’s ‘Ferry’ song became a rallying call for Liverpool’s attempts to boost its international tourism image and is now world-renowned. Marsden drew on childhood memories of taking the ferry to New Brighton – where he now lives – when he wrote the song, which he says took him only five minutes once he came up with the melody. For years it was played over the public address system on the Mersey ferries – that plough back and forth across the river – to amuse and entertain the growing number of tourists. But the crews became hugely irritated at the endless, repetitive refrains of Gerry’s nasal twang as it was played hour after

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hour, day after interminable day. It was played six times a day during the week on heritage cruises and a further 18 times over a weekend. It was driving ferry crews mad and, in the summer of 1999, their bosses were persuaded to ban it. Tourists and Gerry Marsden fans were outraged and demanded that the song be reinstated, claiming that no trip across the Mersey was complete without it. The outcry was so successful that, after 18 months of what one ferryman said was ‘bliss’, the operators of the Mersey Ferries were forced to bring it back, much to the chagrin of its employees but the delight of the author and his supporters. Beryl thought it a lovely song and was very annoyed when it was taken off the ferries. Mind you, she confessed that she hadn’t actually taken a ferry trip Beryl’s favourite band, Gerry Marsden and the since the day the filming Pacemakers during their heyday in the 1960s ended all those years ago. She even agreed that maybe it could have become a bit wearing, listening to its anthem-like drone all day long. Marsden says that, wherever he goes around the world, ‘Ferry ‘cross the Mersey’ is the second most requested song after ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the original Rodgers and Hart song from the musical South Pacific. That was taken up by hordes of Liverpool Football Club fans, and soon became a hypnotic rhythm for virtually every football club and their fans in Britain. Marsden is also one of only two people ever made ‘Freemen of the Ferries’,

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an honour that allows him and his family to travel free for life back and forth across the river. In a gesture of acknowledgement to the ferry, Gerry has also waived all royalties from the playing of that song aboard the famous vessels. Oddly, a lavishly illustrated book tracing the history of the ferries ‘Cross the Mersey, (published by Garlic Press) – fails to provide a solitary mention of Marsden’s influence and effect on ferry tourism; he was apparently away on tour when the book was compiled in the early months of 2003 and the ferry operators overlooked his inclusion. Marsden himself might be forgiven for feeling insulted, but is so self-deprecating for a celebrity that he apparently never even raised an eyebrow. But it was a different matter over his music. Beryl Adams confided that Marsden was privately bitterly hurt about Brian choosing the Beatles over him. They became Epstein’s preference and she says it smarted for the Dingleborn lad, raised almost in the shadows of Ringo Starr’s old homestead in the cobbled, terraced streets. After all, Beryl reminded, he was big – the kingpin of the music scene in Liverpool – at the time. There are those who would argue bigger than the Beatles, with a right to feel snubbed. Perversely Marsden was very chummy with Epstein and often the ‘new Svengali’ – as he was tagged – would enjoy the company of the singer over drinks in London, where he would confide his fears and try to shake off his growing despair. Beryl agrees that this seems rather at odds with the suggestion of a chap spurned, but commented: “Gerry hid away all those screwed-up, bad feelings for years and has acted like a gentleman throughout. As far as I know he’s fine now and even recorded a song, which Joe Flannery has written as a tribute to Lennon – ‘Much Missed Man’ – which Flannery reckons he wrote 20 years ago. Beryl’s response to this claim was volcanic, describing it as “all bollocks”, and Flannery another latter-day chancer. He lives up to his name, she would splutter. She was appalled at the extent of what she regarded as the man’s parasitical take on life, reluctantly conceding that, if Marsden felt it okay, then she wouldn’t argue the point further. Yet paradoxically – and contrary to Beryl’s firm conviction – ever the ‘gent’, Marsden comments bizarrely that he was happy to “play second fiddle to the Beatles” and was delighted to record the tribute to Lennon, an element of martyrdom unusual in a pop star ego, especially as he was the first ever to hit number one with his first three records. Cheerily – his ‘happy-go- lucky’ demeanour is now a trademark – Marsden announced that he was “honouring his best pal’”(Lennon) with

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the song, although he admits candidly that it “wasn’t love at first sight” for them when they first met: but won’t be drawn on detail. “We knew each other from being in rival bands and we said ‘hello’ when we met but, over time, we kept banging into each other at the clubs and we did become close pals. “John and I shared the same sense of humour, both loved Spike Milligan and the Goon Show, and had a similar taste in music. Forget the politics and all that nonsense, that wasn’t the real John. Basically he was about fun and rock and roll. “I think half the time John was taking the mickey and nobody guessed it,” chuckled Gerry, his own memories flooding back. “Joe Flannery showed me the song about 20 years ago but it seemed too soon to record it then. When we finally agreed to do it a few years ago I reckoned it was fine to pay tribute to an influential musician and a very dear friend.” Beryl acknowledged Gerry Marsden’s warm and affectionate reflections on Lennon, but maintained that it wasn’t all a bed of roses and that Lennon was still a calculating opportunist, suggesting that perhaps Gerry was being somewhat selective with his memories. These days few dare, like Beryl, to challenge the iconic image of Lennon – aka his elevation to number eight in the Top Ten of ‘Great Britons’ in the popular British television competition in summer 2002 that eventually picked Winston Churchill as number one; ironically Lennon’s middle name was Winston, his mother’s tribute to the war-time leader, until he changed it to Ono in later years. But the controversial British newspaper columnist and author Julie Burchill has – to Beryl’s delight – railed in print about him being a phoney and decried his assumed working-class antecedents. “Working-class hero? My arse! He was about as working-class as a Wilmslow dentist,” spouted Burchill, in her once upon a time weekly Guardian diatribe around the time of the 20th anniversary of Lennon’s brutal murder early in December 1980. “Was one human being ever such an all-weather compendium of lies, boasts and eye-watering phoniness? And who was it insisted that the original Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best, be sacked because he was too goodlooking and all the girls screamed at him? Right, first time. “If he (Lennon) was anything like as unattractive, whiny and boring as a child as he was as an adult, I’m not surprised his mother – Julia, by all accounts an attractive, intelligent, high-spirited woman who must have felt she’d given birth to a switched baby – ran away and left him with his Aunt Mimi.

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“The young adult Lennon was an appealing chap too: this is the man, remember, who, in front of a packed dressing room, shouted QUEER JEW in response to Brian Epstein fussing: “Now what shall I call this autobiography of mine?” and stunned the others,” Burchill banged on. Beryl roared her appreciation of Burchill’s demolition of the Lennon myth when she read that piece. She was so delighted she cut it out and pasted it in a photo album. Beryl had often pointed out that Lennon, for all his self-proclaimed feeling for the poor people of the world, kept a whole apartment in the Dakota Building in New York, just below the one he lived in with Yoko Ono, for the ‘exclusive occupation of the couple’s fur coats’, just to keep them at the right temperature. She leaped into the fray and declared that Julie Burchill was right, no matter how the fans might have elevated him to deity status. When Epstein – who had been stung to tears by Lennon’s vicious and unexpected outburst over his own book title Cellarful of Noise – started promoting and managing the groups, which took some time to get going, his first proper gig was in the Queens Hall in Widnes, a traditional industrial town to the south of Liverpool dominated by smelly chemical and fertiliser factories. Oddly, Widnes – even the name resonates and clunks with a sad clang – doesn’t actually trade on that historical link at all unlike scores of places with less authority. There were also shows at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, the faded Victorian seaside resort across the river Mersey in Wirral, where all the groups would jostle for a spot. Beryl found this very exciting, and was unusually fond of the Majestic Theatre in Birkenhead – also across the river – where Epstein booked the bands a lot. In fact, as a rule, he hardly ever used Liverpool venues – certainly not in a big way – in the early days. He would promote Gerry and the Pacemakers and a band called the Dakotas as well as others and he showed a tremendous interest in them but wasn’t terribly bothered by the smaller outfits. In his own way he was ambitious and, even in those early stages, Beryl thought he imagined himself as a big showbiz impresario. But there were times when he got a bit out of his depth. She understood that for all his poise he was just a local boy and an extremely nice person, but far more an introvert than an extrovert. It seems, she pondered, to have been a strange industry for a man like that to go into, although at one point he was keen to take up a career in the theatre. Epstein had always craved to be a thespian and was really into classical music. Maybe, mused Beryl giving it real thought for the first time,

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this pop music lark was the next best thing. He must have thought: “I’ll just give this a go” and was then totally caught up in it. And so his life became a slice of theatre itself. “But when I was with Brian as a secretary I never in my wildest dreams thought anything like that would happen; the bizarre never-ending phenomenon of the bloody Beatles,” Beryl would blink, puzzled still. Because she saw it all as transitory she never kept any mementoes of those days: photographs, records, or other memorabilia, even letters from friends of the period. She was astonishingly naïve, unlike others who have hoarded the most obscure paraphernalia, from scraps of tickets to posters, albums and sundry tacky rubbish. Even though her own life took off on a trajectory akin to a fiery asteroid hurtling through space, and with such dire consequences in the short term, to the end of her days Beryl had absolutely nothing of substance to remind her of that era, not even a snap of Epstein or any of the Beatles. Or, for that matter a decent photo of her pal Gerry Marsden, apart from a tattered, fading black and white photograph of him and the band that she found in a drawer, and one taken way back as a promo shot. She looked on in horror watching all the ‘phonies’ – as she dismissively tagged them – jump on the bandwagon. “Chrissakes, I knew that John Lennon was married secretly to Cynthia, of course I did. We had to keep it quiet, under wraps, as Brian reckoned it would damage the band’s growing image. I think Lennon was a bit pissed-off at that and certainly Cynthia wasn’t happy. But that’s the way it was. And no one would’ve dreamed about telling tales then. There was a kind of loyalty.” Beryl believed firmly that Brian sowed the seeds of his own destruction because he jumped headlong into the burning fire, the volcano ... swamped by an ocean of flame fuelled by the music industry and the neon lights of London. Rather innocently she reckoned that if he’d stayed locally he might still be alive, running a record store. So, in some ways she saw Epstein heading for a fall, but was relieved that he did manage to carry things off as well as only he could, but he was certainly swimming into uncharted waters. She was worried that he got a lot of things wrong such as the business deals and negotiations when they went to London. He was a bit out of his depth and the Beatles, both as a band and as individuals, suffered as a result. She had no time for the people who have since invented their own stories about him and what happened in those days. Strangely it was always others, never the Beatles themselves, the only ones who know. They’ve never really disparaged Brian, and that made her proud.

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10 – Beryl On Beatles’ Myths And True Stories

I

n the summer of 2001 Beryl shared some of those memories and secrets publicly for the first time with the crowds of Beatles fans who thronged Liverpool for one of the city’s biggest ever Beatles Conventions. More than 50,000 aficionados flocked to the home of the group from all over the world: Japan, America, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Canada and Mexico. They came to pay homage to the hometown of their heroes, many teenagers or young students not even born – or even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes – when the band broke up, such is the ongoing pull of the magical mystery tour that was the Beatles. She had tried to speak in public once before about her life with Brian, about five years ago in Canada, at a Beatles Convention in Edmonton. But she simply lost her nerve, dried up and went numb with shock. To the consternation of the audience she stumbled off the stage in a daze as people watched, entranced. Strangely, she explained, it was still too painful to even talk about. Then as the years took their toll, she suddenly found a well of confidence, enough to face the world and to tell the truth, which a lot of people who claim to have been involved rarely do. Her partner Allan Williams – for all his idiosyncrasies – had warmed her to the idea that she should join him at Liverpool’s celebrated Adelphi Hotel to answer questions about her time with Epstein. It was time once again for Allan to spin his yarns – good-naturedly until the booze swills over his personality and he becomes a horned devil. He simply loves trawling over ‘the biggest mistake of anyone’s life’ – telling the Beatles to get stuffed, or words to that effect. In fact he’d told John Lennon in a fury that the Beatles would never work again once he had done with them. As it turned out Allan was the one whose career took a hearty nosedive; a turn of events he happily accedes was largely his own fault, with a few rivets of pure bad luck hammered in for good measure. On that memorable occasion in Liverpool Beryl joined Bob Wooler and people like Klaus Voormann, who designed the Revolver album cover and sang with the Plastic Ono Band and Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer and girlfriend of Stuart Sutcliffe. Astrid was really the first to shine the media spotlight on the four lads from Liverpool and Beryl had met her often in the early days.

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Astrid was famous, too, for creating that ‘Mop Top’ look despite the ridiculous claims of Joe Flannery that it was his mother, Beryl would exclaim. Astrid, though, was growing tired of the endless touting of the same tales, especially the haircut episodes. Yet Astrid’s love affair with the ill-fated Sutcliffe is the stuff of legend. He had stayed in Hamburg to pursue his artistic career and died in her arms of a brain haemorrhage in April 1962, only a short time before the band became really, really big. There is also the unconfirmed rumour that she had a fling with Lennon; at least according to Allan Williams, who was at least there in Hamburg when the Beatles were kicking up a storm. In fact, as he continues to burble on, everything that ever happened involving the Beatles was apparently all thanks to him anyway. Beryl regularly sniggered at Allan’s anecdotes. When Bob Dylan hit Liverpool in the mid-60s for his critically mauled electric gig – a row that came to a head at the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert – the Beatles – who’d become his pals – where off pitching in his neck o’ the woods in the USA, but his visit had put a heck of a lot of people in the city into a flat spin. Dylan is still the icon he was as a young man and he was back appearing in the same city in the summer of 2001 with the likes of Paul Simon and the Beach Boys – with many believing that Paul McCartney was to make a surprise appearance at the Summer Pops event on the banks of the Mersey. Macca didn’t show, but Dylan was met by a throbbing sell-out throng; he sharing the overall gig with the New York classical composer and conductor Carl Davis who had collaborated with Paul McCartney on his critically received Oratorio. Yet, unknown to almost anyone baying for Bob, his show coincided with the unobtrusive arrival of the elegant, urbane Astrid Kirchherr whose evocative photographs of the boyish Beatles first swept the group into the public eye in the early 60s. And she reckons she was even in Allan Williams’ Blue Angel club the night Dylan had been refused admission for being too scruffy, only hours after his Odeon theatre gig in Liverpool. Later, in the summer of 2002, Astrid Kirchherr had flown from her home in Hamburg into Liverpool, a city she embraces as still dear to her heart, to exhibit for the first time in Britain the classic images of the musicians who shook the world. She was there also to talk at the Beatles Convention about that wonderful era in her life. The event was specifically paying tribute to another late, lamented Beatle, George Harrison, who had died the previous November. Astrid has since publicly declared her affection for Harrison, describing him as a truly lovely man.

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With a twinkle sparkling behind her neat, metal-rimmed spectacles and a carefree shrug, Astrid, who fell for and tragically lost ‘fifth’ Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe 40 years earlier, sneaked away from the small but besotted group of fans gathered to greet her in the Mathew Street Art Gallery, where the famous black and white pictures were on display. She stood quietly in the now touristy, cobbled back alley, puffing away on a cigarette and smiling philosophically as the crowds milled around the Grapes pub only yards away from the Cavern. Few recognised the diminutive, still elfin figure. Now in her 60s, Astrid lives in a small, city centre apartment in Hamburg, barely a twist and shout from the home she once shared with Sutcliffe, who was paradoxically born in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. He wasn’t a Scouser at all, but a Scot. That quick visit to Liverpool was also to mark the end of Astrid’s career as a full-time, professional photographer. She has since publicly announced that she has grown weary of the merry-go-round, the endless travelling around the world touting those Beatles pictures as well as hundreds of other fascinating snaps totally unconnected with that period, many very highly rated as works of art in their own right. She likes to convey she is not emotionally troubled by the past, but her eyes betrayed a flicker as she admitted privately that she still feels that Stuart is with her. She recalled with a grin advising on the set of the cult film ‘Backbeat’, which traced those early, frantic days. It starred Liverpool actor Ian Hart, who had created quite a stir in Ken Loach’s earlier film about a Liverpool lad who ‘joins the International Brigade in Spain in the mid-1930s, fighting against Franco’s fascist hordes. Many might ponder if Lennon, with all his frequent calls for peace, would have displayed the guts to take part in that arena. Actress Sheryl Lee played Astrid’s part and the still attractive photographer is mostly diplomatic when mulling over the factual accuracy of the movie, merely suggesting there was a tinge of dramatic leeway. And for the first time she also confirmed that it was Lennon who badgered – even bullied – Sutcliffe into joining the group when he much preferred the paintbrush to the plectrum. So, smirked Beryl, who had always got on with the German girl, there is no doubt that it was most definitely Astrid Kirchherr who came up with the famous floppy hairstyle which helped establish the Beatles’ future image. Modestly Kirchherr concurs that the story is true, then, pressed further, says: “Yes – of course – it was me,” in that, clipped, direct Germanic manner which is just a puzzled declaration of fact; a bafflement at the need for the question rather than an assertion.

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Beryl in front of the Beatles for Sail, the painting by Tess Strofe and the photograph by Frank Loughin, courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Beryl had been friends with Astrid for years and in a tearful reunion met her in Mathew Street that summer. They hugged and laughed about the old times that affected both of their lives, lives that were never really shared apart from those tenuous connections with the men – the Beatles and their acolytes – who dipped in and out, now and then. That haircut? She’d first tried it out on her lover Stuart Sutcliffe and the others thought it terrific, a complete switch from the swept-back ‘Teddy Boy’ look. Only Pete Best refused to adopt it, another black mark against him as far as McCartney and Epstein were concerned, said Beryl acidly. Strangely, over the ensuing years Joe Flannery had laid the foundations of a claim that his mother invented the haircuts. “There you are then, the bloody truth from the bloody horse’s mouth so to speak,” ranted Beryl, flaring up and shouting that the smooth talking Flannery utters rubbish. How Beryl would laugh at Flannery’s claims that he went to Brian’s house and was given a tie as a present, as a mark of friendship. All fairy tales, as solicitor Rex Makin who lived next door will confirm. He also dismisses these stories as sheer fantasy.

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There’s also the bloody Beatles suits saga, a style Flannery also claimed he invented. He didn’t. Brian did, fumed Beryl. If you read the Anthology it is perfectly clear. In Lennon’s own words it was Epstein who put them in neat suits and shirts. He warned that if they – or he – got a huge offer they wouldn’t – kitted out in leathers – be taken on by the corporate, and conservative, showbiz bosses. Epstein contacted a little Jewish tailor he knew – well known for his well-cut mohair suits – in Wallasey on the Wirral, a chap called Ben Adorn. The round collarless jackets were all Epstein’s idea, although few knew what was in his mind. No one else had anything to do with what they wore in those days, only Epstein. He was the sartorial one and Beryl was inflamed that anyone should claim otherwise, insisting that ‘her’ Brian was solely responsible for shaping their image. She knew this for a fact. According to Beryl, Epstein never mentioned Flannery from one day to the next and his name isn’t listed in the Anthology, which she admitted, if he’d really been there at the invention of these fashions, would be a disgraceful omission. “They all have these fantasies, which they now believe, but it doesn’t take a hair out of Flannery’s head when he is challenged about these tales. This is the make-believe world he lives in. He’s even written a book about it. I’m just flabbergasted,” snooted Beryl. She was scathing about the legions of folk – mostly men – although the recently published “ramblings” of Pauline Sutcliffe on her newly “exotic” brother caused incandescent ire in Beryl. These are people, she ranted, who’ve relentlessly jumped on the Beatles’ bandwagon over the last four decades; many touting mythical tales of links with the Fab Four or fabricating stories to make themselves look good or to savour some vicarious pleasure. “Many of them flog off bits of memorabilia to make money,” muttered Beryl with a scowl of disdain, aware that accusing, wagging fingers could also be pointed at her for telling her story at last. The truth was she didn’t agree to it for any pecuniary reward, she really didn’t care that much about money, just the truth. And, as she defiantly pointed out, she didn’t possess any memorabilia she could have sold on to top up her often bare coffers. Like Beryl, Cynthia Lennon – former wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian – had been one of the fiercest critics of this exploitation. For years she had showered abuse on the heads of people so inclined to line their pockets from Beatles’s connections, describing such activities as “indecent”. So, when Cynthia, too, fell for the charms of Mammon she came in for a barrage of flak from Beryl for her hypocrisy. Her ire was further aroused in the summer of 1991 when Cynthia – whom Beryl knew well and even joined at various Beatles’ conventions

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across the globe – casually parted with a revealing array of personal possessions she’d kept from her own Beatles’ years. She raked in what now seems like the paltry amount of around £30,000. Five years before she’d described the trade that cashed in on the Fab Four as “raping” her memories for a few thousand pounds. Thus, the London sale of Cynthia’s treasured belongings – handled by the aristocratic Christie’s auction house in London – was a particularly poignant affair because of the intimate nature of the bits and bobs on offer. They included diaries, clothes, furniture and a Christmas card handmade by John Lennon for Cynthia in 1958 and a letter telling her of his “joy” about their baby son. Yet in 1986 a demonstrably furious Cynthia told how she thought the Beatles’ memorabilia trade was indecent. “This whole industry has grown on the back of someone who had died. It is like taking the pennies off the eyes of a dead man,” she commented bitterly in press reports. “There is no way that anything that belongs to me will ever be sold.” It is nothing short of startling that three decades and more after they bust up the Beatles name translates as bigger bucks than ever and it’s not just the music but the most obscure paraphernalia and memorabilia that might have been pitched out as junk years ago. Staggering sums are forked out for frequently lacklustre merchandise: signed posters, photographs and records, not counting the items that were – gasp – actually owned or worn by one of the Fab Four, McCartney or Lennon in particular. The whole merry-go-round began around 20 years ago in the early 1980s with dedicated fans snapping up mementoes of their heroes, but quickly the more commercially minded jumped on the bandwagon with so-called respectable auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s now leading the field. Five years or so ago – in the late 1990s – Sotheby’s auctioneer Hilary Kay was dumbfounded as the handwritten lyrics, scribbled on a scrap of paper, for ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite’ from the Sergeant Pepper album sold for a record-breaking £66,400 at a sale in London’s Hard Rock café. The boom goes on and it seems original lyrics of Beatles’ songs are at a premium across the world. In Los Angeles Christie’s put up the words for ‘If I Fell In Love With You’ by Lennon and McCartney and they raised more than £100,000 (US$150,000). But even those sums pale against the world record still held by Sotheby’s New York office for a Beatles connected sale when John Lennon’s

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1965 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Touring Limousine fetched £1,768,362 (US$2.7million) on June 29 in 1985. In 2000, that was almost beaten when George Michael paid £1.4 million for the piano that John Lennon used to compose the music for ‘Imagine’. Yet, according to Stephen Bailey who runs the Beatles Shop in Liverpool’s Mathew Street, itself a magnet for fans across the globe, it was just a ‘bogstandard’, upright piano. “It was certainly nothing special or out of the ordinary,” commented Stephen who during the international music festival linked to the official Beatles Convention holds popular auctions of Beatles’ memorabilia, usually at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). “We sell records and other items within the pocket range of the ordinary fan, although the most expensive piece we handled was a rather tatty John Lennon black suede jacket which he wore occasionally in the early 1970s. “An American paid £5,000 for it some years ago,” revealed Stephen who gasps that a signed copy of the Beatles’ first album ‘Please, Please Me’ was bought for over £3,500. “And there are even fans who will bid for bizarre items such as an ‘original’ bubble-gum wrapper printed with the band’s name.” Even the grand Apple Corporation, set up to handle Beatles affairs, quickly realised the potential and today aggressively markets what it tags as ‘collectibles’: specially made toy figures of the boys, or Corgi made models of the Yellow Submarine and other artefacts. Many pop pundits are disturbed at the way this music industry version of the holy relic has spun out of hand. They complain that prices have been forced up by US and Japanese corporations buying material as investments and hoarding it in vaults; or by outfits like the Hard Rock Café, which admits to owning millions of pounds worth of rock memorabilia, including the four original beige Beatle suits that Brian Epstein had tailor-made for the group’s first ever television appearance with ‘Love Me Do’. According to Beatles chronicler Bill Harry, who was editor of the early Mersey Beat newspaper and remains a prolific music author and historian, hardly any of the memorabilia is today accessible to the genuine fan. Bill – who has compiled two comprehensive and weighty encyclopaedias about the Beatles amongst other books – is scathing of the industry that has grown beyond belief in recent years. He says: “Many of these big buyers have muscled in and pushed out the general public to a large extent. Some are very secretive and are simply forcing the prices higher and higher. “Now you are expected to fork out £10 just for a catalogue; it’s a right scam, a real racket,” he ranted, insisting that despite his close links to the

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band he has never bought any memorabilia and only ever sold one item, a Mersey Beat shield, to raise funds to launch another pop music paper. And the apparently cold-hearted deals roll on, with Christies auctioning off John Lennon’s six-page private – and vitriolic – letter about what he thought of the rest of the band’s treatment of Yoko Ono. It was sent to Paul McCartney more 30-odd years ago and no one knows how it surfaced but it fetched £70,000. Other less poignant memorabilia has attracted global attention, such as the almost £112,000 paid a few years back by the father of former ‘Hollyoaks’ (the Channel Four, Mersey Television-produced, teenage hit soap) star Davinia Murphy – as a 21st birthday gift – for a notebook in which Paul McCartney drafted out the words to ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Several years ago Sotheby’s sold Lennon’s Gallotone ‘Champion’ acoustic guitar, the earliest Beatles guitar to be auctioned, for £155,000. At the other end of the scale, Liverpool’s Beatles Shop picked up £80 for a nondescript plastic comb featuring the band’s name; yet not a hair of any of the Beatles’ once thick thatches has been anywhere near it. For a while discredited and shamed for the admitted ‘fixing’ of the international auction market with its rival Christies, Sotheby’s actually takes the credit – and maybe that should be blame – for kick-starting the memorabilia phenomenon when in 1980 its music department was selling off an old, battered piano, hoping for £300 or £400. Once auctioneer, Kay Hilary, realised it had been previously owned by Paul McCartney and advertised the fact; the response was overwhelming, and it eventually went for more than £10,000. Sotheby’s were astonished. And thus began what has blown up into a frenzy for rock and pop memorabilia as others have latched onto the lucrative trade. The best known are Mick Fleetwood – from the esteemed Fleetwood Mac – and his partner Ted Owen, who a few years ago set up a business dedicated to buying and flogging off at vastly inflated prices anything connected to the music industry. Many of their auctions, like Sotheby’s and Christies, take place in the evocative surroundings of the Hard Rock Cafés in London or New York, and it was in the former rather cramped venue that they sold Lennon’s old piano to George Michael. Indeed the Café, which has 109 outlets in 38 countries, has the largest collection of rock memorabilia in the world. For more than a decade there’s been one in the Chinese capital of Beijing, adorned with flighty pop paraphernalia that would have enraged the Communists under Mao, and certainly his Red Guards would have gone berserk at the flaunting of this Western tat. Paradoxically, the Beatles

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were at the height of their fame and popularity just as the destructive and misnamed Cultural Revolution was engulfing China. No one in the China of that era would have heard a note of the Beatles music. Back in the capitalist arena others make a very fine living out of trawling the world for Beatles’ memorabilia. Businessman Paul Wayne, based in the small, Lancashire town of Chorley, has transformed his hobby of collecting Fab Four items into a profitable venture. He began by selling off a set of unpublished Lennon lyrics for £18,000 and saw a collection of original posters advertising Beatles’ gigs pick up almost £60,000. “We are essentially a mail order shop and our customers are mostly US buyers who have the ready cash for the high end stuff,” explains Paul who believes that the interest in the Beatles is as strong as ever, if not stronger. In the not so distant past, Sotheby’s in New York launched its own online Beatles auction, selling off 64 lots of memorabilia, including a set of autographs on a Christmas card from 1964, which realised – to their shock – more than US$20,000 (£15,000). The sale featured, along with material from other rock and roll celebrities, a selection of original and rare posters from the popular Beatles’ promotional videos and films such as ‘Help’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Let It Be’. It is unlikely, though, that the final, haunting refrains of ‘Let It Be’ will ever halt the ringing cash tills of a business built on legend and, unfortunately, greed. Christies certainly wasn’t sure why Cynthia Lennon was keen to rid herself of those once-cherished memories, although it was hinted at the time that she hadn’t done too well out of being married to John Lennon. In fact, Cynthia picked up a neat £100,000 divorce package – not bad in the early 1960s – and £50,000 for Julian. And despite her earlier distress at the exploitation of the Beatles name, in 1979 Cynthia did write an autobiography entitled A Twist of Lennon and 11 years later set up a restaurant called Lennon’s in London’s fashionable West End; in a very lazy haute cuisine fashion it even offered ‘sergeant pepper steaks’ on the menu. It subsequently closed but was probably the forerunner to all the celebrity owned eating-houses that have erupted like a rash in the UK capital and major cities worldwide come to that, while clogging up the punters’ arteries into the bargain. Beryl chose not to hit out too harshly at Cynthia, arguing perversely that perhaps she deserved some financial gain from her liaison with Lennon. And she liked to think they – she and Cynthia – were still pals, to an extent. She was less than generous, however, in her assessment of Pauline Sutcliffe, whose book about her onetime famous brother – Stuart Sutcliffe

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– the Beatles’ Shadow and His Lonely Hearts Club – she dismissed as pure opportunism and for the most part a confection of invention. Pauline Sutcliffe reckons that Stuart’s fatal illness was because Lennon had once given him a hammering, a bloody good hiding. That was sheer crap, Beryl howled on reading it. “She’s another that’s just latterly leaped aboard this moneymaking machine. The stories in her book are mostly pure tosh,” declared Beryl angrily. Perhaps so, but when Pauline Sutcliffe was touting her book on a publicity tour not long before George Harrison died, she expressed considerable irritation about the way it had been reviewed, complaining that sections such as the tales of homosexuality, brutal beatings and jealousies were the elements sensationalised by the media. It was as if she, an experienced social worker who has lived in London’s Notting Hill – now a celebrity haunt – for 30 years, was surprised at the angles pursued. Yet there is little doubt that amongst a library of unauthorised Beatles’ biographies this one claimed a number of quite fascinating – and shocking – claims about her brother and John Lennon; not the least that Sutcliffe and Lennon indulged in a gay affair. “I have known in my heart for many years that they had a sexual relationship,” she tells, but insists that she kept this knowledge to her bosom, holding her own counsel to protect their mother who died in the early 1980s. “It was also out of an old-fashioned sense of propriety,” she declares, but her observations that in her mid-teens she was able to pick up on nuances in the boys’ relationship mean she must have been, for the time and her age, precociously mature, never mind well-informed about sexual behaviour that was, remember, still against the law. She stresses that any encounter was a brief caper rather than anything of meaning, thus diluting the potency of her convictions although they still sent many Beatles’ fans and chums into a paroxysm of rage. “Well, there have always been homophobic people,” she countered bafflingly. “Just look at their level of intimacy, their personalities. One of Stuart’s last letters actually said “I’m not homosexual”; that proves it was certainly on his mind assumes Pauline, with a baffling grasp of the contradictory. Beryl Adams could hardly control her guffaws at Pauline Sutcliffe’s statements about her brother’s affair with Lennon. It was the first time she’d ever heard of anything like that in all those years, never a hint from any quarter. Now, she wondered derisively, why would Pauline Sutcliffe come up with something like that about her brother? She couldn’t possibly have any real evidence. Like everyone else at the heart of the Beatles’ history Beryl had never heard so much as a whisper of this apparently startling scandal. Lennon and

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Sutcliffe were very good friends, of course, but there was never any hint of any hanky panky at the level Ms Sutcliffe suggests. Beryl was disgusted at the claim, dismissing it as just another cheap, moneymaking flyer. And, although she had little time for Lennon, and wasn’t averse to thinking that he might have had a little dabble at homosexual pranks she was pretty much convinced that John Lennon wasn’t that way inclined. And Stuart certainly wasn’t gay at all, talk to Astrid Kirchherr about that. She’ll just laugh her head off. As Beryl adroitly intoned, Pauline Sutcliffe would have been about 15 when all this was supposed to be going on and in the sixties at the very least it wouldn’t have been common for a girl that age to know what her 20-yearold brother was up to. Beryl explained that she even had a twin brother and he didn’t know what she was doing or her him, never mind their younger sister. In one part of her book Pauline Sutcliffe says she could tell by a glance ... “well she must have been a bloody witch then,” cackled Beryl. Beryl reckoned the author was also completely off the mark when she splutters into print about a hitherto uncharted explanation for Sutcliffe’s brain haemorrhage; Sutcliffe insists Lennon dealt ‘death blow’. “I believe the cerebral haemorrhage that cost Stuart his life was caused by an injury inflicted by John in a jealous rage,” she writes, about an ‘alleged’ attack in the spring of 1961. It seems, according to Pauline, that the later ‘peacenik’ slammed out at Stuart again and again and kicked him in the head. Stuart was covered in blood by the time Lennon came to his senses. “A post-mortem revealed Stuart had a dent in his skull, as though from a blow or kick. A few months earlier John had viciously kicked my brother in the head in a sustained, unprovoked attack. John was often gripped by uncontrollable urges and could erupt like a volcano into instantaneous violence, even against those he loved.” Beryl Adams believed she would surely have heard, even vaguely, about this incident, or someone would surely have mentioned it, the gossipmongers would have had a field day. Yet this is the first time this angle on Sutcliffe’s life-threatening injuries has surfaced. Naturally, Beryl didn’t disagree that Lennon could be a violent bastard, citing the way he battered Bob Wooler. But she had serious doubts about the Stuart Sutcliffe attack, even if Lennon was a bit riled about him wanting to leave the band. And Allan Williams – who was certainly around at the time doesn’t recall even a hint of any of this or anyone ever talking about it. In fact, the cause of Sutcliffe’s brain damage has been historically put down to an attack by a bunch of yobo teddy boys after a gig the Beatles

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Can’t Buy Me Love - perhaps a youthful John Lennon, right, was thinking of this song’s lyrics as a young Macca belted out a rocker in their very early days...

played in Seaforth, a rough and tumble area around the north docks of Liverpool. Pauline Sutcliffe accepts that the attack took place but dismisses it as the definitive cause of her brother’s later death. She wrote the book at the suggestion of her pal Cynthia Lennon – who oddly has never ever hinted at any of this astonishing revelation herself over the years – and says she hopes it will help her finally achieve ‘closure’, especially now that her brother has some posthumous, belated fame, certainly after the ‘Backbeat’ movie based on the early Hamburg days. Even here, though, Pauline’s bitterness wells up and, while she collaborated on the book of the same name, she says she was unhappy that her voice was not heard and now has little time for what she almost contemptuously describes as ‘Astrid’s film’. Over the years there have been legal wrangles between the two women concerning ownership of letters and other belongings. Pauline intends to auction all of Stuart’s paintings, drawings and letters – as well as his personal chattels – and they are expected to fetch around £5 million.

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“Yet another Beatle for Sale,” scorned Beryl, muttering that maybe Pauline took her lead from Cynthia. Pauline Sutcliffe states she knew the Beatles well and yet Beryl says she wasn’t even aware of her existence until 1997 when they met at a Beatles’ convention in Canada. She hadn’t read all of her claims, or really wanted to. Beryl never knew her or of her, even though Pauline Sutcliffe says she lived in Liverpool. Indeed, few of the ‘characters’ who have trawled around for years with ‘memories for sale’ are mentioned in the official Beatles Anthology, published in the millennium year by the Apple Corporation under the close editorial control of Paul McCartney and the other surviving group members, including George Harrison. Beatles fans and others seem to have these liggers on a pedestal, and god only knows why, Beryl would complain. “They think people like Bob Wooler, Allan Williams, Alistair Taylor, Sam Leach and even Bill Harry et al are gods. The truth is they were and are not. And the Beatles later never really made an effort to get in touch with any of them, ever.” It would appear, though, that Beryl was held in fond regard by all former Beatles and is mentioned on several occasions in the Anthology’s early pages. And in a personal message from his Apple headquarters, Paul McCartney says that he remembers her well. “She was always there to dish out our wages, and they were never late, but she put up with all our awful jokes and quips. She was great and Brian relied on her.” Beryl held her own counsel for years because she didn’t think it was important and didn’t want to be involved. She’d heard so much bunk, so much drivel, being spouted about that period by people on the periphery, and some never there at all, it made her really, really mad. She would shout that she was there on the scene and a lot of these people were just onlookers who’ve been milking this for decades and more. Epstein would be so mortified and Beryl could never understand why everyone had to live off lies. Paradoxically, though, she was just as integral a part of that roundabout as Williams or Wooler. In a fit of rage she would quote the bizarre claims of New York writer Hal Fein who says that he managed the Beatles ... and that he made a record with the Beatles with Bert Kampfert in 1961, the year that Brian signed them up. Beryl had never come across Fein’s name or a recording before she heard this claim in the early 1990s. Sure, she was fully aware like everyone else that Allan Williams did make a record with the Beatles in Hamburg. But she was pretty certain no one had ever mentioned another, and nothing like this. “This guy says that Brian took them over after he’d been working with them and Bert Kampfert. Surely that is ridiculous, because they were only

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kids around Liverpool in those days, he day that Brian took them over – and remember I was there, I witnessed the bloody contract, the agreement.” At the time that Fein reckons he had the boys under contract they had no worldwide fame or standing whatsoever, just ordinary lads from Liverpool in a band. Fein reckons incredibly that Eppy was just a ‘record’ merchant in Liverpool, which is fair enough, but even a dolt would know that he was a bit more than that. According to his own reports Fein insists that Epstein found out that the Beatles had made this record with Kampfert – and about Hal Fein being their manager – and heard they were playing in a local pub in Liverpool. Epstein then contacted Kampfert about taking them over. Bemused, Beryl said she had never heard anything like that; it was just plain nonsense. In her view, if it was true surely Bob Wooler would have known as well but he never mentioned it either. There wasn’t any contact with Germany at all. Fein claims that Kampfert gave Epstein the contract with the Beatles with no strings attached – the first Beryl had heard of this – and the reason he did it was because he knew the boys were living in England and he couldn’t look after his own affairs and their at the same time ... so he asked Epstein to look after them. Fein, presumably latching onto vicious gossip, also says that Epstein was shrewdly manipulating the group ... and Beryl found that a terrible thing to say – then, admitting that he never met Epstein, proceeded to ‘slag him off’ using the words: “essentially he was a real prick”. Beryl thought this particularly outrageous because Epstein naturally can’t answer back or defend himself. Fein says that when he signed the boys he made a deal that they got 10% of their earnings and he got 60% and paid their expenses. This, he says, went on until Epstein died and the reason they broke up was because they were dissatisfied with the financial arrangements. This, he claims, is what Paul McCartney told him: “Epstein was a big fag and a junkie and now the true story is being told.” As for the suggestion that Brian Epstein kept secret confidential diaries, Beryl reckoned he might have done but didn’t think he would have written anything down that might have upset his family if they were found. She knew for certain he had diaries but they were usually just day-to-day events. And she was 100 per cent sure that he never wrote anything personal down. “I think I can say I knew him that well, but he was extremely cautious and concerned about his relationship with his family and especially his mother, it was so important to him. “Now all these people years later are saying things about him and calling him names that are most unfair. He can’t answer for himself. They

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were licking his boots when he was alive – if they ever got near him anyway – and now he’s dead they can say what they like. People like Alistair Taylor are as bad. He was like a little lap dog in the old days and now he thinks he’s the bloody ‘bees’ knees’ and he simply is not. It’s astonishing.” She would almost cry with rage: “They just make it up, the whole gang of them, and there is this ludicrous circus around the Beatles’ myth which might even astonish the two who are still alive: McCartney and Ringo Starr. They probably don’t give a jot, but I bet they would be gob-smacked if they knew the extent of it all.” As Beryl slowly picked over the reality of what it was really like: the silly secrets, the sleaze and lies of those defining, trail-blazing days, it was obviously painful for her, especially the recent years hauling around in thrall of Allan Williams as he continued to make a crust or two from his long ago Beatles’ connections.

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11 – Bob Wooler – Friend, Husband, Bully And Substitute Dad

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n all probability Bob Wooler was a terribly unhappy homosexual, his sexual antics performed largely in secret. He would take part, Beryl would mutter, in grimy same sex sessions during his earlier years when it was still against the law in Britain. Beryl admits she assumed this for she never really witnessed anything at first hand. But he was also paradoxically her first husband and she insisted they maintained a long-standing affection for each other over the years. He was, though, bitter and twisted by her later liaison with Allan Williams, accusing her of hiding it from him. And she admitted she was initially frightened of how he would react. When Wooler died Beryl was devastated and continued to mourn his passing right up to her own death, talking most every day to the cheap cardboard box containing his ashes, which for weeks after his funeral was perched precariously atop a bookcase in her living room looking down on her. Subsequently she stuffed it in a drawer, nervous that he might just be listening in. “He’s still with me, the old bastard,” she would roar with laughter pointing at the cupboard. Yet she readily opined that the gloriously articulate Wooler was tortured by a deeply constrained despair, torn by his perceived – and real – lack of achievement. That mysterious spiritual element which steers people’s destinies ensured that both Beryl and Bob’s lives were moulded and endlessly tormented by their involvement with the fledgling Beatles and Brian Epstein. And, without a doubt, one another, as their regularly volatile relationship demonstrated. Oh, and on another level by Allan Williams, the still brash character that let the group slip through his grasp just as the golden thread was being spun into haloes. He formed the third side in this tragic triumvirate, the three of them left on the sidelines of fame and fortune. But Beryl and Bob are now dead like Epstein, Lennon, George Harrison and, of course, Stuart Sutcliffe; the seams of that ‘magical mystery tour’ musical era swiftly untangling as time’s bell inexorably tolls.

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F

or months, if not years a disconsolate Bob Wooler had wanted to die. In his last weeks he had actually begged for an end to his misery. Towards the end of his days he could barely walk unaided and was prone to asthmatic attacks. Finally, in his own pithy words he ‘popped his clogs’ or ‘bought the farm’ as the Americans are wont to say, and Wooler used all these expressions himself with a bitter sense of irony. “That’s how I want to be regarded. He bought the farm,” mused Wooler in what was becoming his usual melancholy manner one bleak winter morning as he sipped tea in his favoured Keith’s wine bar around the corner from his home in Lark Lane. It is the kind of neighbourhood he believed the Beatles would have written a song about if they’d hung around in Liverpool. When his demise finally came, after a humiliating period in hospital, in the early hours of a wintry Sunday morning, Bob was lying alone in that hushed, half spectral gloom just before dawn, huddled in a cheerless hospital bed. His funeral service was of a different hue and cry altogether and the clashing of cymbals wouldn’t have been as discordant as the humbug babbled by many as they blubbed in grief. At least, that was Beryl’s take on the day and she sat through the ceremony inscrutably; hardly an eyelash flickering as she watched the weeping, wailing performances of the ‘phonies’ – as she and Wooler oft referred to them – echoing around ‘her Robert’s’ coffin. The melodrama would have been equally as repugnant to this very private man as the indignity of his very public demise. Beryl insists she still loved him in an altruistic, kindly way even though they had divorced more than 30 years ago. “He would have railed at the absolute shite that was bellowed by some of the hypocrites who flocked to his funeral,” she said. He was her surrogate dad, she admitted, although rarely a rock or mentor, as he was far too fragile a personality himself to offer real succour. The day the living world put him to rest the experience for the sensitive observer was verging on the weird. Something happened, a howling, scuffing wind blew in from off the river Mersey and over the church. Those ruffled by the flurries reckoned they had a spiritual feel, but the cynics regarded it as just a peculiar quirk of the sea breeze. Pragmatic as ever Beryl was inclined to call the incident piffle, but there surely was an odd atmosphere drifting about. As Bob Wooler’s polished mahogany coffin was carried gently swaying by a team of pasty-faced funeral bearers they struggled across the ancient, stone-flagged quadrangle of Liverpool Parish Church overlooking the

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city’s Pier Head. A few mourners glanced around mesmerised. What was that sound? That music? They were sure they heard the haunting refrains of what could easily have been the faint, taunting sounds of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band wafting in from over the world-famous panorama of the river Mersey. It was naturally just the wind, skittering around the copingstones. Or maybe, reflected Beryl impishly, it was George Harrison and John Lennon cackling at the impertinence of some of the loons gathered in the House of God: certain grasping, shallow folk Wooler couldn’t stand the sight of, never mind shed a tear over. Beryl retorted gruffly that alive he would have sent them scattering, lacerated by his bile. The spectres of the dead Beatles – including Stuart Sutcliffe whom Wooler never rated even as an artist, contemptuous of the cloak of mystery and genius that “eternity has wrought around the lad” – knew that Bob Wooler would have vociferously eschewed the formal funeral ceremony that was laid on for his farewell. For Bob was a hugely diffident if terrifically erudite character. And, as it happens, to the chagrin of the pastors present if they’d permitted a brief heathen pause to their ramblings on the glories of God, a staunchly resolute atheist. His limpid eyes would have glistened and raised a contemptuous gaze to the ‘heaven’ he despised in a withering display of disdain at the very notion of a religious service to mark his death. Lennon too, Beryl later commented, would have guffawed at the false posturing of the spectacle. Even the then Lord Mayor of Liverpool – the amiable former printer turned politico Cllr Gerry Scott – and his lovely wife – were present, sporting glittering gold chains and appropriately glum dispositions. Their attendance marked the city’s suddenly burnished respect and admiration for Bob’s prescience at almost single-handedly providing a launch pad for the 1960s’ Mersey Beat boom – and thus the subsequent tourism bandwagon that has fed the city’s paranoia and delusions to this day. Perhaps they were justified to an extent as the city won the European Capital of Culture badge for 2008, a surprise victory that helped drag it out of the doldrums of past glories; and it has subsequently even been awarded the accolade of a World Heritage site by UNESCO for its admittedly glorious waterfront. How Wooler would have chortled, mused Beryl, in dismissive derision at the presence of the Lord Mayor, transparently far too late an honour: when in his lifetime the city fathers, and mothers – amongst battalions of others – barely acknowledged his existence. Often he was to be found living hand to mouth, shuffling back and forth to buy morsels of food from cheap local shops. The riddle is, though, that when his bank account was examined after his intestate death it supposedly contained around £20,000

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– some say a lot, lot more, but certainly enough to have at least made his last days bearable. Now a long lost brother has been found, who will inherit the cash. Wooler was also convinced that his jumbled collection of Beatles memorabilia was worth a king’s ransom. The truth believed Beryl is that it is mostly tat. Presently it is being archived by the School of Popular Music in the University of Liverpool. But on the day his flesh and blood departed this mortal coil for good Beryl conceded that Bob would have choked to death in fury if he’d known that the presence of the Lord Mayor was largely due to the machinations of one of his arch rivals. That very same Joe Flannery who lays claim to intimate Beatles friendships who was a onetime, small time showbiz promoter in that far distant era of Liverpool’s finest musical hour. “A very petty person considerably lacking in any substance” was Bob’s usually acidic aside when referring to Flannery. Indeed, Flannery – whose brother’s claim to fame was as Earl Curtis, fronting the All Stars – was consistently and regularly publicly dismissed as a liar by Bob Wooler: a fraud and a weaver of falsehood about his own involvement with the Beatles. “He knew this, doesn’t care a jot – and has even penned his own tome about Beryl and Bob Wooler on these tenuous connections, suggesting that their wedding day Lennon even composed a number of song lyrics in his (Flannery’s) mother’s parlour,” growled Beryl, as she glanced around the packed church. Insensitively – and oblivious to criticism or the feelings of those close to Bob – he had blithely taken it upon himself to invite Liverpool’s ‘first citizen’ to attend Wooler’s funeral. This, mark you, without a by-your-leave to Bob’s true friends such as Beryl Adams – and his former wife into the bargain – who had worn herself ragged in the preceding week helping to organise the emotional event. With a wide grin Beryl guffawed that Bob would have been apoplectic with rage, the spittle lashing down his chin – as it so often did when he was wound up – as he ground his teeth in anger at the mere mention of Flannery’s name. Moreover, in another pathetic example of the insecurities these myopic ‘Nowhere Men’ exhibit in truck loads Flannery was even

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flaunting around the acceptance letter – strangely addressed to himself – from the Lord Mayor’s office; no doubt as his own personal submission for a mention in the history books of that day. “For all that they might be worth tuppence,” scoffed Beryl. Perhaps Bob would have been a trifle sniffy, though, at the more significant ‘no show’ by the usually publicity keen McCartney brothers. Despite Sir Paul McCartney’s insistence in recent years that he was always fond of Bob Wooler there were no words of condolence from him or his brother Mike – who lives a few miles away from the church across the river Mersey in the leafy lanes of the Wirral peninsula, Liverpool’s posh and pushy neighbour. No sign of either of them even though they had sent a bunch of flowers to Bob in hospital before he died 12 days previous. “Get well soon, you lovely man” Sir Paul McCartney had allegedly written on the accompanying card: but everyone knew it was more than likely his brother Mike’s handiwork. But ever the pragmatist, a characteristic conflicting strangely with his fertile brain, Bob would have smiled wryly and shrugged; he was never apparently that fond of McCartney anyway – and neither was Macca’s sibling ever a pal or confidante – as he would often gurgle to drinking buddies once the slurping of the wine gripped him in its wavering, wispy domain. A couple of weeks later Paul McCartney did show up in Liverpool, as a surprise guest in a sell-out tribute concert at the Empire theatre for George Harrison, who died two months earlier. Beryl muttered sarcastically that there were probably more column inches to be gleaned by making that appearance. Close on 500 of Wooler’s true friends and acquaintances metaphorically linked arms with shuffling squads of those he loathed with a passion, packing the pews and the aisles of the 700-year-old church of Our Lady and St Nicholas. The service was led by Canon Nicholas Frayling, the bespectacled, piously intense then Rector of Liverpool whose gushing propensity to link Bob with God and the angels would have drawn a curledlipped snarl from deep within the old raconteur. As it was, Bob Wooler’s body lay cold as clay in his casket a few feet away on an altar bedecked with banks of flowers and ranks of colourful ribbons, unable to respond with one of his well-crafted, stiletto-like ripostes. A significant number of those present, though, were the ‘long past sell by date’ musicians Bob had ardently encouraged during his tenure as the inimitable Cavern Club disc jockey between 1961 and 1967, when he and Beryl were arm in arm while simultaneously engaged in verbal clashes.

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And there jammed at the back of the church in a crowd craning their necks for a final peek at the coffin of their chum and mentor, stood Ray McFall with white-haired head bowed. The former Cavern Club owner was wearing an old-fashioned, khaki coloured ‘car coat’ of late sixties provenance and he looked innocuous and vaguely lost. Ray had travelled up from the stockbroker belt of Surrey, where he now lives in what is referred to by those with a scorn for hornier northern climes as the Home Counties of England. He was there to say cheerio to his pal and one-time employee whose deathbed he had missed by a whisker, it is reported. “But he told me he was too busy when I asked him if it was possible for him to visit Bob in hospital. Too busy,” commented Beryl acidly, although later at the wake it was observed that she and McFall clung warmly together, enjoying banter and shared jokes. No signs of frayed tempers or a chill in the air. Banging around, too, was a troop of the former ‘stomping’ Cavernites – the tail-end survivors of those teenagers and young beat music fans who were obsessed with the dingy, dank club and for some peculiar reasons are as obsessed with its clone – many who’d endured long journeys to pay their respects. A weeping Linda Shepherd from the island of Jersey in the English Channel was sharing her grief with Dave Crook from Kent in England’s far south. A decent man by all accounts, Crook had kept contact with Wooler as the years rolled by, calling him every Saturday morning by telephone; always when he knew Bob would be listening to evergreen disc jockey Brian Mathew’s nostalgic look back at sixties and seventies pop in his BBC Radio 2 show; a programme less than subtly aimed at those whose lives were limited to hanging on to mere hooks to the past. Wooler had steered a young Dave Crook into a career as a disc jockey and he had remained a loyal chum even though that era was a dim memory and he now worked in shipping. Beryl Adams knew them all probably as well as Wooler himself, although perhaps not displaying the phenomenal photographic memory which meant he could instantly whistle up the name of someone he hadn’t seen in donkey’s years as though they’d met the day before. “It was a truly staggering, often unnerving, feat and I used to marvel at it,” Beryl mused as the admittedly talented but fervently bright-eyed Christian choir at the back of the church burst into a high-pitched warbling of ‘Abide With Me’, a paean to the God of their saints, but certainly not

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with any connivance from Mr Wooler, even from the reaches of the regions of the ether. His face would surely have crumpled in disgust at the stanzas in these high cant religious homilies: Thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever Till all thy creatures own thy sway Then Beryl reflected that maybe a smirk would have creased his often welcoming round face as a wicked enlightenment dawned and he would sneer: “Ah, they are singing about the Beatles, my dear.” The mourners, those once clean limbed young things, weary faces now creased with age and flesh like soggy lumps of dough, all recalled in their own way those far distant days when Bob’s now legendary chime: “Hi There Cave Dwellers, Welcome to the Best of Cellars”, would echo around the stinky confines of the club, in what he would disdainfully mock as Mythew Street. In later years Bob was also utterly disillusioned by the ragbag camp followers he regarded as ‘chancers’ who clambered on the Beatles bandwagon just to tiptoe through the sprinkle of stardust. But then again let’s pause to consider, for as Beryl concurred, he was the ever-consummate showman ready for a curtain call at the drop of a hint. He would surely secretly have delighted in certain rakish elements of the ludicrous pomp and sentiment that demonstrated the warmth so many did really feel for him. Bucketfuls of affection were so evident in ‘St Nick’s’ church that afternoon as the tributes and the tears flowed for Bob, who in his declining years thought himself so much alone. Here in massive portions was a public demonstration of the metaphorical hugs he so desperately needed in times of woe, but didn’t get. Beryl Adams ruefully reckoned this so terribly unfortunate. “All too much, all too late,” she sighed. As his long time pal Billy Butler, the ebullient local BBC Radio Merseyside broadcaster whom Bob also took under his wing as a Cavern disc jockey in 1964 – and who also led a band called the Tuxedos – commented during the service: “This former little railway clerk had the amazing vision to see the potential of the Liverpool music scene. He was the true Father of Mersey Beat and we, his sons, will miss him.” Amidst the muffled murmurings of grief bubbling up from ranks of now grizzled musos and silver-haired show business acquaintances, Beryl Adams, who had remained the occasionally avuncular rascal’s chum and confidante, quietly set the mood of contemplation with a short reading from the Bible’s Book of Revelations. She later agreed with a cheeky giggle that Bob would have skinned her alive if he’d known.

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Then, as the lilting harmonies of Billy Kinsley and Tony Crane, two of the original Merseybeats whom Bob nurtured, swept into a haunting rendition of the Everley Brothers’ evocative hit ‘Let It Be Me’ – one of Bob’s favourite tunes – the day’s emotions for some were too much. The hankies fluttered and snuffles filled the air. It was left to rock historian Spencer Leigh to lighten the tone with his witty revelations about Bob’s planned biography he was helping – and hoping – to write; a project that finally hit the rails when Bob blew hot and cold over its contents. And then simply said: “No, I don’t want anything to go into print” ... ostensibly because Spencer Leigh wanted a warts and all kiss and tell tale of the Cellarful of Boys that Wooler jokingly bragged about. After 18 months of research it ground to a halt, although Bob perversely continued to incite Leigh not to give up on the book, that sly twist of his mouth, just short of a sneer, urging patience. It has since been published as a tribute to Wooler, asserts Leigh: The Best of Fellas is a sort of take on Wooler’s crack about the Cavern being the “best of cellars”. There are those – and Beryl jokingly claimed to be one – who believe that Wooler’s own story – like Epstein’s – should have indeed been called A Cellar Full of Boys, a waggish if snide turn on Eppy’s own woeful first autobiography: A Cellar Full of Noise, a hastily scribbled work that gave neither insight nor substance to his motivation or success. “He was forced to write it by so-called friends and I suspect they weren’t his own words,” commented Beryl. As Wooler’s funeral rambled on, in a series of snappy vignettes Spencer Leigh revealed a sampler of juicy titbits from his draft book to the congregation gathered to pay their respects; not the least being that Bob’s pet hate was reserved for the people who made up tales about their Beatles’ connections. There was much scuffing of feet and awkward glances, as Leigh had no doubt anticipated, and the nervous soon had their hunches confirmed when he launched into a short diatribe plucked from Wooler’s own words, hurtling ‘grenades and boiling oil’ at what he waspishly had classified as the cheats and pranksters. “He called them the ‘Death Watch Beatles’ and liked to include Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager, in that band,” added Leigh, laughing joyously at the discomfort he was sowing, knowing that Wooler would be spurring him on; this succulent revenge wreaked on them from the depths of everlasting darkness. He revealed that Bob had warned in his usual excoriating manner, his eyes shimmering one last time at the pathetic pantomime of it all: “I am

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the Ghost of Mersey Beat Past and will come back to haunt them all. They know who they are.” Beryl sat immobile, features – at least to onlookers – set grim and forlorn in the church pew at the front of the congregation. Her head was bowed but secretly she was stifling her laughter; her lowered, flashing eyes and a slight smirk giving away her glee at Robert’s barbs delivered by his locum messenger. Next to her, a forced, narrow smile playing around his mouth – although genuinely sad at the loss of his old sparring partner – Allan Williams muttered under his breath but heard by all within 30 paces: “Ha, he’s even managed to have a go at me from the grave. The bastard. But I have the last laugh because we couldn’t find his best clothes. He’s in that coffin dressed in my favourite shirt and bow tie and I bet I don’t fucking get them back now.” There are those who contest that this comic aside never took place, others that it rudely and irreverently interrupted the proceedings, protesting that such a suggestion sullied Wooler’s memory and the very service. Those who know Allan Williams will vouch for both its veracity. How Wooler would have ribbed the complainers over their precious, precocious nonsense. Outside, braving the biting wind that whistled around the stone flanges of the church wall, a bunch of Japanese tourists – presumably some of them Beatles fans as Japan seems to consider the band akin to the Sons of Heaven – were being given a short pep talk about the old church and its environs by a Mersey Tour guide. By their blank stares all were apparently oblivious to the drama unfolding of the passing of a small town legend. The church bells pealed their tintinnabulation, a richly languorous description of the sound that Wooler – a man who embraced intricate word play – would have relished and rolled around his tongue like a flavoursome, heady wine. Later, dear friends of Wooler such as Les Maguire and Freddy Marsden from Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freda Kelly, the Beatles’ enthusiastic onetime Fan Club secretary and imaginative Fab Four website creator, Ian Edwards, leader of the Zodiacs and Dave Jameson from the ill-fated Rory Storm band mingled with scores of others whose fames and names were intertwined with that of the man whose handle was eponymous with the Cavern. Beryl openly revelled in her newly found role as focus of attention for many, leaving Williams scowling and trailing in her backwash. Bill Heckle – producer/director of the world-renowned Mathew Street Festival and annual Beatles Convention musical rave in Liverpool – commented that without Bob, the event – that attracts hundreds of

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thousands of Beatles mad, almost obsessive, aficionados and that rivals the mighty Rio Fiesta in Brazil amongst others – would probably never have started. “He began the conventions with Allan Williams in the mid-1970s,” Heckle generously conceded. “Although they never really took off then.” Well, perhaps it needed shrewder business brains and Heckle, Dave Jones and their crew have certainly injected that element. In the year after the beginning of the new Millennium more than 150,000 jostled around Mathew Street and Liverpool for the weeklong jamboree. In the summer of 2002, the Liverpool Echo was incredibly recording that nearly 600,000 people – sceptics and non-Beatle folk kept their heads well below the parapet – had trekked to the city for the annual Mathew Street party and associated Beatles Convention. It was an undisputed smash hit, especially as it featured Pete Best and his band; but no Wooler, of course. Even more were to invade the city the following year, to mark the 20th anniversary of Beatles Conventions in Liverpool. Beryl was booked to make a guest appearance for the first time in her own right; but she never made it: she and Wooler just ghosts at the festivities. At Wooler’s wake, the Cavern Club – although these days only a mockup venue as the real one was demolished in a fit of bureaucratic vandalism in the late 1960s – erupted to the thump of earthy rock ‘n’ roll. Dozens of groups and musicians including the Kirkbys – once managed in the sixties by Beryl Adams; another of her quaint little ‘secrets’ that is explored later – took it in turns to perform a final musical homage to the man who was indeed the very Father of Mersey Beat. How he would have openly sobbed at such recognition. Instead, Beryl wept for him. Ah, but then Bob Wooler’s funeral turned into a burlesque that he would have gagged over, especially with such a bunch of strange bedfellows engaged in unexpected, unlikely alliances. How Wooler would have gurgled and fumed at some of those tap dancing on his grave that night. Before that event, though, it had been a bloody awful, disastrous couple of weeks for Beryl Adams. This diminutive, often nervy woman whose volatile life has been peppered with a string of largely unsuitable, rascally men including even Brian Epstein, her one-time boss; although unlike others caught in her web, he was never her husband or lover or part of her string of outrageous and ill-managed flings. Chaps such as the celebrated Guardian journalist Stanley Reynolds, married at the time to the equally well-known fellow scribe Gillian Reynolds; Ray Coleman, the writer and John Lennon – and Epstein’s

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– biographer – and her quiet second husband Peter, the driving instructor whom she left after a decade. There was a brigade of others, she admits with a cheeky grin, but two in particular were the cause of her then current grief, she would moan. Allan Williams, the Beatles’ original mentor, her current paramour, and his long time sparring buddy and Beryl’s first spouse Bob Wooler. Oh Christ, she groaned, her face cracking into a resigned grimace. “What an absolutely crap time the last few months have been, never mind weeks!” The words tumbled from her mouth as she complained that she was gutted and totally knackered, worn out by emotional stress and ongoing scrapes and verbal ding-dongs with her previous live-in lover and still to all extents and purposes partner, Allan Williams, his foul-mouthed abuse in drink wearing her down. But the biggest strain on that cold but bright early February Sunday was that her husband from the heady days of the sixties, Bob Wooler – the other link in this bizarre, weird ‘trinity’ – was patently dying. His most fervent and oft-repeated wish during his bad-health plagued life over the last few years was about to be finally and irrevocably realised. He was seriously ill in hospital. He was to die less than a week later, all alone trapped in a hospital bed that he hated. Worried yet helpless, Beryl had visited him almost daily-, an arduous journey without a car, using public transport buses mainly as she was hardly well off enough to afford taxis every trip. She sighed and stared into space, features set waxen. She was sitting drinking tea, bemused but intense, in her tidy living room of her first floor apartment in the grandly named Sir Alfred Stocks Memorial Home, a ‘sheltered’ housing scheme for the elderly, although at only 65, and still extremely lively and sociable, she would ceaselessly rail against the implied stigma, even though no one else thought it. She had seen Bob only the previous evening and was shattered at his condition. The memory of that two-hour visit obviously troubled her. It was awful, Beryl said. When she arrived at his bedside she gazed anxiously at Bob, hardly daring to recall that he was her former spouse. He was like a stranger, but also a close friend because she knew his foibles and what made him tick. She snorted a laugh and says that in the sixties, Bob was a man most definitely out for canoodling with young boys and there is no dispute about it. That’s what drew him to the Cavern and the Beatles, no point pretending otherwise. Like Brian Epstein who came back to the office still flushed after seeing them that defining lunchtime. Wooler was clearly turned on by their kinky leather gear, tight trousers and hugely sexy personas. And so was Epstein. Beryl knew all about Bob’s predilections and it suited her purpose, she said, but equally confessing

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rather ardently that she did love him, in her own strange way. She would look up for approbation at this revelation, her eyes pools of liquid pain. The gaunt, ugly concrete block that houses the massive Royal Liverpool Hospital – an establishment that has at least some credit as a teaching environment – doesn’t enjoy a good reputation amongst the public as a place to be ill, much less to die in. Even the employees are reportedly repulsed by the ‘sick building syndrome’ which pervades the endless canyons of corridors. Like most National Health hospitals in the Britain of Tony Blair’s ‘Bright New Labour’ it is still under resourced and rough and ready in terms of décor. The walkways and trolley routes reek of a combination of anaesthetic, stale sweat, cheap polish and that unique ‘institution-like’ boiled cabbage smell that harks back to an age when such fayre was dished up. Risibly the American television celebrity and gourmet chef Loyd Grosman ‘advises’ on tastier and more exotic grub for the sick in Britain’s hospitals, as if people gave a damn when facing the surgeon’s scalpel. And here’s another twist, for Bob had met Grosman (OBE) – and now the chairman of the National Museums Liverpool – when he popped up at McCartney’s old south Liverpool council home for a television documentary. As he lay there pondering his life, the witty Wooler was still able to purse his lips at the unsavoury aroma that wafts around hospitals, despite Grosman’s gourmet menus. “He’s better off spying in people’s houses,” he forced out the crack. Beryl’s nose would crinkle in disgust as she made the daily trawl to visit Bob. Up on the second floor in Ward X, Bob Wooler looked sad and pathetic, dressed in washed-out – almost threadbare – pale greenish cotton hospital pyjamas. Over them was flung a tattered maroon dressing gown, fringed with an unnecessary cheap gold braid, but lacking a belt. The garment hung around Bob’s gaunt bird-like frame like a thin blanket, open from the chest down, exposing his scant pyjama bottoms, barely covering his ‘decency’, as he called it. This distressed him even further. Beryl, with yet another of her girlish giggles, blurted out that she had borrowed the well-worn robe from a friend because Bob didn’t own one, or pyjamas for that matter. Head bowed, he was scowling, slumped in a manky green armchair. His feet and lower legs terribly swollen – turned to a mottled dark brown and blue-black in patches, his untended yellowing toenails cracked and broken. The bruised limbs were stretched out in front of his emaciated yet bloated body, supported on a stool. It was, Beryl recalled with a tremor, simply horrible to look at, his legs blown up like balloons, with chronic water retention despite the medication, obviously not working as his condition had deteriorated over the days of his incarceration.

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Blinding sunshine streamed into the south-facing hospital ward. The glare was only partially relieved by a ragged pale blue cotton curtain, nowhere near adequate to span the picture windows, with their glorious vista across the Mersey and the Irish Sea to the Welsh hills, but of little interest to those stricken in the wards. Bob had lain for nearly a month in this same barren bed, a television blaring day and night less than a metre away in the very public ward. He had been found – after police had broken down his front door – collapsed at his dank ground floor flat in south Liverpool. It is a locale largely populated with third and fourth division actors and artists who hang out amidst the wine bars and trendy restaurants that make up the poetic sounding but rather neglected Lark Lane. There, Bob cut something of an eccentric dash as a minor celebrity himself. Before he became too ill he was often spotted shuffling along the Lane, carrying a crumpled, white plastic carrier bag crammed with newspaper cuttings and odd bits of mementoes of his once ‘glory days’. Waving this tattered collection of bits and bobs he would attempt to regale anyone interested – frequently to the threshold of boredom. He could be a cantankerous old git when roused by the obvious disinterest in his past – as he sat sipping tea poured from a white china pot, or alternatively gulping glasses of wine in Keith’s wine bar. He made a sad figure really, his gait unsteady, leaning against shop windows for support, taking ages to cover short distances. But he was ever eager to chat to passers-by or acquaintances and his distinctive voice would boom around the bustling thoroughfare. Some would try to keep out of his way, his reputation for capricious tempers or cloying bonhomie persuading those only on nodding terms to steer well clear. The hospital ward was stiflingly hot and over bright from the stark neon strip-lights. To most of his pals, and certainly to Beryl, Bob was obviously dying – or at least at an advanced stage of ‘giving up the ghost’ – and was desperate to let go. There was no quality of life whatsoever in this existence and he knew it. His face, only half-shaved, leaving sporadic silver stubble, contorted in that particular screwed-up fashion he adopted when playing his ‘drama queen’ role: “Just let me die. Why won’t they let me die?” He turned to Beryl with a whimper: “Please, Beryl, ask them to let me die,” his elongation of the ‘r’ in her name letting it roll around his mouth. The voice was weak but whingeing and rising to a high pitch, the usual flash of sharp intellect and wit faded from his glacier grey-blue eyes.

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On a table at the end of his rumpled bed stood a bright bunch of flowers in a simple glass vase. On a plain white card, embossed with an orange rose and two butterflies, the good tidings, scrawled in blue Biro, were impressive: “Get well soon, you lovely man. Paul McCartney”, read the motif. Of course, Bob knew – as everyone did, especially Beryl – that McCartney hadn’t actually written the greeting card himself; more than likely it was the consideration of his brother Mike, always a more generous and humane character. As for Bob, even in his parlous state of health he just loved the attention and the kudos that sort of thing brought. He didn’t give a jot about its true provenance. There were no other flowers in the ward of six patients; all looking pale, grim and post-op drugged. None caring the slightest that they were in the company of the man who introduced Brian Epstein to the Beatles; more than likely a tad cheesed off that there was always this gaggle of chattering folk hanging around the end of the ward. Not that many though, and not many laughs in those worrisome days. “A lot of the self-styled friends Bob had picked up along the way never actually got round to visiting him. It hurt him a lot,” said Beryl. She suddenly let rip a snort: The former owner of the Cavern, Ray McFall – and once her boss when she worked as his secretary after quitting her job with Brian Epstein – did ring up and say he had intended to pop in but complained: “I’m so busy at present ... you know how it is. But give him my best.” Beryl spat this out with a bitter, dismissive tone of voice. “Too busy, my arse,” she continued, reiterating the phrase that has become colloquial in Liverpool after actor Ricky Tomlinson’s endless use of it in TV’s hit sitcom ‘The Royle Family’. Tomlinson was on vague chatting terms with Bob, it seems, but his rather vulgar speech patterns would – said Beryl – be repugnant to the other working-class lad, who had lost his Scouse accent very early on in his army national service days as a sergeant on posting to one of Britain’s last bastions of Empire, Singapore. “Oh, how Bob would have relished being a part of that society,” smiled Beryl. Sure enough, his dulcet, well-rounded vowels would be emphasised by pursed lips and a gimlet eye as he perused people, assessing their ranking of ‘bullshit’, as was his wont. “Hmm, there’s a right bunch of nobodies who have hung around for years,” Beryl continued to fume, but softened and revealed that his real pals like Billy Kinsley from the Merseybeats – the band Bob founded – did come to see him, along with disc jockey Billy Butler, an ebullient chap who was a lively member of that music scene 40 years ago.

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Butler was extremely fond of Wooler, regularly mentioning him on his radio show, and very concerned for his welfare. A motley bunch of others made their way in, but Beryl suspected many did it for their own ends. She was willing to be persuaded otherwise but certain people had sprung forth from the woodwork to become ‘close’ to Bob again; some admittedly had known him a long time but she had a hunch there were ulterior motives within certain circles. She suggested impishly that perhaps Bob’s not insubstantial, and he reckoned valuable, collection of memorabilia – hoarded for years and kept stacked in his flat could have been the inspiration for this latter day ‘Nurse Nightingale’ reincarnation. But many more whom Bob thought of as friends never actually got round to paying their respects as he lay day after day with only his innermost thoughts for company; reflections interrupted by the endless background racket from asinine television soaps or football commentaries – a game he considered passé – that intruded from the ward television that was rarely switched off. “They know who they are and shame on them,” Beryl bellowed, and then overcome by tears again, she slumped and wept. She was worn out after visiting Wooler virtually every day for a month and was, once again, in the uninvited role of surrogate mother to the man who had led her a merry dance for years in the early sixties. Their marriage of three years ended in rancour, although not real enmity, in June 1970, and was completely artificial. Beryl glanced at Wooler in his dotage, in such pain and angst, looking so sorry for his plight. She displayed the affection that first drew her to Wooler when he was bright and bubbly in the nightclubs or grubby bars of back street Liverpool. She sobbed that she had never hated him or really lost that warmth towards him – even though they lost touch for years – and there with his shoulders rounded, his eyes rheumy, all those maternal-like feelings began to well up in her again. Tears were brimming as she held his hand, the softly, translucent skin showing up the blue veins like soft ridges of velvet running under her own fingers. He was like a child, but even then Beryl was unsure, knowing that he had always fallen back on this ploy when hurt or seeking solace. But this time it felt different, needy. His end was so undignified and humiliating for such a very private person. His illness made him virtually incontinent, and Bob was forced to struggle and scrabble to his swollen feet to grasp a grey cardboard jug – those items euphemistically called ‘bed-pans’. There was no hanging drape to draw around his bed to shield him from the gaze of strangers. And the handful of friends clustered around him that bright early February Sunday

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afternoon turned their faces away to save his embarrassment further. His pride was vanquished and his head shook sadly from side to side as he repeatedly whispered his apologies for this behaviour. “I’m so sorry. I can’t help it. There’s no one to ask. Oh, I wish I could die,” was his plaintive cry. Beryl was clearly shaking with distress and fighting back the tears. It was terribly emotional and wretched. That Bob Wooler’s final days should see him suffering these venalities was beyond the pale for many of his pals. Beryl was convinced that, if he’d been able, he would have ended it himself. He was literally and publicly begging for death to release him from what he described as “this truly dreadful torture and mental cruelty”. Then Allan Williams trundled – maybe pranced is a fitter description – into the ward, his ruddy complexion contrasting sharply with Bob’s wan features, despite his quadruple by-pass only the previous summer. Age certainly hasn’t withered Williams, who is now 74. Bob’s closelycropped, silvery hair was matted to his skull. He glanced up at Allan. “Where have you been these last two days?” he inquired, clearly piqued as Williams lumbered towards the bed. Suddenly alert, their old bickering relationship sparked into a temporary verbal firecracker. He barked: “Why haven’t you been in to see me?” Williams laughed easily in his staccato way, although there was a ragged edge to his voice and he shrugged: “Business matters.” “Absolute fucking bullshit,” responded Bob, displaying shards of his former spirited self, before relapsing into his semi-comatose state. But his eyes conveyed almost a gratitude that his old sparring partner was by his side. Despite their spats over the years the two canvassed a certain mutual admiration, yet their symbiotic relationship was not much appreciated by those who only saw them during their ‘vicious war of words’ performances in public. “Of course, Allan was also my ‘partner’ in a personal sense and had been for about a decade, even though he was still married to his wife,” ranted Beryl. Bob had never really taken to this affair, frequently being quite acerbic in his views, but the irony of it continued to amuse him in a crotchety sort of fashion. Indeed, he had been royally pissed off when he first found out by accident from casual acquaintances that Beryl had taken up with his one-time business associate and ‘social’ counterpoise. He considered Williams the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Mersey Beat scene and had unfailingly, unflinchingly contradicted, with a viperous snarl, most of Allan’s claims of Beatles’ associations as utter fabrication. “Pure myth and the progeny of his very fertile – and febrile – imagination,” was his unwavering assertion, which he would promulgate at

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every opportunity. Often it would turn really nasty with him and Williams locking horns in vile and bitter rows ending – usually fuelled by copious quantities of booze – with one or the other storming out. Weeks could go by without them speaking and then they would be flung together at some Beatles-related or music event or other, or a chance meeting in the street, pub or wine bar. And – hey presto – they’d be side-by-side in friendly, false bonhomie until about the third or fourth glass of wine, or often vodka in Allan’s case, when all hell would be unleashed again. Those in their company would sigh with a resigned patience, and ignore them.

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12 – There Are Places I Remember All My Life... Though Some Have changed... The following is a verbatim report of a typical interaction between Beryl, Bob Wooler and Allan Williams. The author observed and witnessed such antics on several occasions, this particular verbal joust – a pantomime of petulance – taking place in Keith’s wine bar, Lark Lane, Liverpool one lunchtime in mid-September 2001.

F

orlorn in the shadows of a dimly-lit corner Bob Wooler, cloaked in his favourite if somewhat tatty bluey-grey tweed jacket, is sitting with his hunched back to the wine bar door when Beryl slinks in and sits alongside him, lightly pressing his right arm as a welcome. “So, you made it at last, late as usual. And where, pray, is your lover, that conniving swine Williams,” rasps Wooler, his lips narrowing and drawing back over his teeth into a mock snarl. He winks to no one in particular, as though already playing to the crowd, his piercing eyes sweeping the room. With a resigned sigh she leans over to pour herself a glass of white wine from the half-filled bottle that Bob had bought earlier; he knowing but uncaring that his diabetes would set alarm bells clanging the day after drinking alcohol, and that it would make him nauseously ill for a while. After some persuasion from Beryl he had reluctantly agreed to talk about their life together: as man and wife and as friends, lovers – perhaps even as enemies. He always assumed arrogantly that only his personal recollections of the Beatles days were of any influence or merit, and yet he was merely a disc jockey and largely on the periphery of it all. Few would risk engaging Wooler with this rebuff, though. He wears a pained expression as though he regrets agreeing to the meeting already and is primed for either flight or a ‘take no prisoners’ skirmish. His hooded eyelids flickering half closed as though tendering a warning as he strops his tongue. He was ever persuaded that he didn’t suffer fools but the reality was they swamped him. Maybe he knew. Twitching, Wooler grunts, hurls the dregs of wine left in the glass down his throat and slides it across the table for Beryl to refill. She obeys without complaint and he speaks out loud, head thrown back as if to an expectant audience.

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“Oh, I do warn people to beware of the false charisma of that man. Allan Williams. Pah. Under that smooth skin is the black heart of the con man. I knew him long before you Beryl. You – Beryl – only surfaced from the depths of somewhere much later in this drama. “Now, don’t you dare dispute this dahhling ... the voice ... the VOICE is talking ... at least your friend Ray Coleman, who bedded you ... remember ... oh, do let me talk ... he knew. “But shall we mention Boyd and that other fellow? Turner. I did not. I have NEVER mentioned their names in public before. Oh, come on my dear, the Lord Nelson Hotel was rocking on a regular basis with you and your paramours.” He is rambling and agitated as he wags his finger at Beryl, his eyes rolling like a man possessed by fiends. Almost struck dumb by the diatribe, Beryl hasn’t even uttered so much as one word yet. She is clearly cowed by his sudden, and early, inexplicable rage. It is barely past noon but Wooler would often use nautical terminology to justify his late morning imbibing: “The sun, dear boy, is over the yard arm,” he would gloat, and then glower as he raised the glass to his bluetinged lips, a by-product of his medical conditions. Thus the hobgoblin in the drink is already set loose on his tongue and self-control. Nerves rattling, Beryl frets that this could turn into a mammoth argybargy session with Williams already on his way, although Bob is unaware of this; and it would surely have soured his temper further. He’s in one of his deeply sceptical, ever cautionary moods and remarks with a sneer that his ‘appointed biographer’ Spencer Leigh has all the facts. He squeezes his eyes even tighter and, contradicting himself, he chortles: “But not all of them, not the ones he really wanted. He wanted the dirt on the Beatles. Ha, dirt on the Beatles. As if I would allow that,” and his voice breaks into a cackle. The wine flows, the conversation switches to a local BBC Radio Merseyside concert by Johnny Gentle, another largely nondescript Liverpoolborn singer whom the Beatles once supported on a minor and mostly disastrous tour of Scotland in 1960. “Yeessss,” drawls Wooler. “This guy Gentle, the Beatles backed him on a fortnight tour of Scotland and – because he didn’t like them – he tried to get rid of them and asked Larry Parnes – the London impresario – who’d booked them for a replacement group. “But an exasperated Parnes found Gentle a pain in the ass and said as it was only for two weeks (in fact it was eight days) he’d have to put up with them. Parnes once told me he had no intention of replacing them for a week,” he begins to get angry and bangs the table with his hand. Beryl

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looks startled, glances around at the other customers enjoying lunch who are now staring at the raised voice emanating from this elderly figure. She hushes him to calm down but he’s on a verbal swagger. “After they became famous – and I’ve heard him on the radio exclaiming: ‘I knew, of course I knew,’ Bob’s voice swoops up and down like a crow in flight. ‘Just knew they were going to be great.’ And this really annoys me as I know he was just one of lots of people I’ve met who didn’t rate the Beatles. Oh, how they were terrible and all that ... then as soon as they made it, the tune changes ... when 1963 came along ... I knew they would all start their eulogies and ... ‘Golly, I knew them in the Grapes, Bob’, they would insist. ‘I knew they were going to be famous Bob. Honest ‘ It’s all bollocks.” He quietens down and then roars with laughter about Gentle’s book – The Beatles – The First Ever Tour. He denigrates the innocuous paperback as an atrocious piece of work, a shambles of illiterate gabbling. “Ah yes ... well I’ve written a book under my own steam ... apart from Spencer Leigh’s fond plans to besmirch my name ... it’s a list of all the books that have been churned out about the time and the Beatles. Of course I haven’t read them all ... but this is about how atrocious their references are ... I’ve rated the books ... and as for The Man Who Gave Away the Beatles, the first one by Allan Williams and his old drinking pal Bill Marshall ... such rubbish.” Beryl butts in, trying to smooth Bob’s ruffled feathers, the drink often acting as a catalyst to his bitter memories. “I’ve always been very kind about you and those early days,” she murmurs. “Oh yes ... the early days but maybe later on, not now ... hmmmm? I can ruin you, darling.” He is glaringly spiteful, his venom biting sharp. Beryl suddenly blurts out that Allan Williams had called her earlier that morning wanting to know what was going on with her and Bob that lunchtime. She laughs nervously explaining further that he was seething with jealousy... desperate to be a fly on the wall, and even admitted so. “He could have come along to this winsome gathering but all the time he would be thinking of the bottle,” spits out Wooler, as he sits there holding court, himself a little hung over from his previous evening’s libations, and this increasing intake of wine is gagging him already. “I was invited out. You can’t refuse a drink. It would be rude,” he smirks. He lurches across the table and hurls a photograph of Beryl taken outside the Cavern in the early 1960s, from his own collection. He brags that he’s got a box full of photographs. “And I just want it to be known that I gave it to you. I did, me! And you won’t invent that it was your own, will you?” He snarls. She recoils in horror at the intense fury in his voice.

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“These photos of her are so rare. She certainly didn’t want to be photographed with any of her lovers. Ha, ha Stanley Reynolds and his ilk.” His voice breaks and his eyes become oddly moist. Turning he grits his teeth and snarls again to Beryl: “He was MY friend that you stole away. You took him away from me, to bed him, to fuck him. You did,” he bellows, as though expecting her to dispute his accusations. Beryl is shockingly and visibly bowed by this verbal intimidation – even though haltingly and intermittently he breaks off to pretend it’s in jest – and aggressive manner and it is easy to understand how he and Williams have dominated this woman in turn over the years. She has swapped one emotional bully for the other, each keeping her entrapped in the invisible but vice-like grip of obligation and surrender. “Look, I have this very important notation that must be added to this photograph: ‘Taken from the Bob Wooler Collection’. Make sure you do that. Don’t you dare use it in anything like that proposed lying tome of yours without giving ME the credit,” he shouts but then slumps, as though exhausted. He is becoming morose and swivels towards Beryl: “And, even though I was imbibing with you the other night, I keep a watch on things and as soon as I pulled out these bits of paper from my bag you and Allan Williams leapt on them, thinking it was something you could use for your own benefit, your own monetary gain. “Hello? I could see your mind working overtime. ‘What goodies have we here?’ And I thought ... aye, aye you’re not going to be taken for a sucker again Wooler,” his words are slurring slightly now. Beryl is crestfallen and tries to interrupt, explaining that he’s got it all wrong. Then he stoops to the stained, half-crushed and dirty white plastic carrier bag at his feet. Pulling out a sheaf of papers he brandishes a grubby cutting from an already faded Liverpool Echo letters page of 1997. In this he dispute the facts about the new Cavern, the number of steps and what he calls desperately stupid inaccuracies – as if it mattered, yet this so typical of his obsession with the minutiae on matters of no consequence, especially those of that long ago era of Mersey Beat. “I’ve given this to Spencer already. The architect was wrong and I thought I can’t let this go,” he turns to airily wave Beryl down as she tries to speak. “Shut up. Be quiet. You know nothing about this. You didn’t have the wit or interest to make such observations.” Amongst the other paper debris he carts around is a ragged cutting from a Liverpool Weekly News of 1957 in which he is mentioned giving publicity to a young teen band when he was still working on the railway as a clerk, while striving to be a part-time music agent.

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“Oh, this was a band from Garston where I lived for a while. Oh, but I didn’t know it was going on the front page,” he gasps ingenuously. But clearly he is oozing with pride all these years later as he shakes this keepsake around regularly. He affects to looks sheepish and then draws himself up: “I carry it because this is what those other stupid people do not do. Allan Williams, Sam Leach, all the rest. They do not carry any proof that they were there. I’ve got proof that I WAS around in 1957, not professionally of course ... but I show this ... That’s it ... you see. “I have written a rhyme,” he fumbles in his pocket, preoccupied, and pulls out a scrunched-up, stained sheet that he roughly smoothes out on the table. He fixes his glasses on his nose and portentously begins to read: ‘At the very start of things At the very heart of things Playing an active part of things’ ... he trails off, glowering over the scrappy piece of paper. “But Allan wasn’t, Sam Leach wasn’t ... do you know that Sam Leach in that awful book of his claims the Beatles played a concert at Aldershot at a dance hall in 1961 as if he’d organised the fucking thing,” snarls Wooler. However, despite Wooler’s snootiness it must be acknowledged that Leach was a recognised promoter in the early 1960s and did engage the Beatles on several occasions. He did also organise beat music events at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. And he set up a recording company called Troubadour and Gerry and the Pacemakers cut their first disc there, although it never surfaced commercially. Leach says that Lennon once said: “Sam Leach was the pulse of the Mersey Beat movement. What he did, everyone else copied.” “There are many,” snarled Wooler “who would take issue with that statement and few can recall Lennon making it; suggesting that if he did it was a ‘piss take’.” Like so many contemporaries of that era Sam Leach has published his own version of events in a biography that in the USA was called The Birth of the Beatles. That was reckoned to be rather too definitive for Britain and it was renamed The Rocking City for home distribution. “They were paid £15. He was writing about ME and never asked me about that incident. How could he know all this?” Wooler bellows in sheer rage. “I got this gig for them and they managed to arrive for the last 15 minutes, very late because they’d been doing something else. Epstein was there but still in the process of getting to know them.

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“I really went to town on them, gave them a proper dressing down. How dare they treat me in such a despicable way? They got paid in full, £15 for 15 minutes.” In Sam Leach’s book he recounts this ... and says “Much to Bob Wooler’s annoyance they arrived very late for the booking he had for them that Sunday night but you had to admit folks that it caused some amusement ... and it certainly gave me a lot of amusement.” “I read this and I thought that fucking bastard Leach, he hasn’t got stories of his own. And that’s just one example,” Wooler’s fury is rising. “He would book advertisements in the Liverpool Echo and often double-booked acts that were already appearing somewhere else, I think maybe even to spite me. “I’d booked a band for a show in New Brighton and they’d also been booked by Leach to appear an hour or so later in Southport. Look, it just couldn’t be done in those days; the distance of 30 miles was too great. “And I stormed along to the Echo and told them but they wouldn’t do anything. I shouted that the advertisement was wrong but they wanted it all in writing from the groups, they didn’t care you see. But the bloody bands didn’t care either, because Bob Wooler was paying them and Sam Leach was paying them. “That’s when I coined it the Mercenary Beat. And I told Allan that I had a new name for the scene, but also told him that whenever I use it I always think of him as well.” He glances at Beryl, who is wringing her hands but relaxing more as the drink takes hold of her, acting as an anaesthetic on her nervous system, mellowing her increasingly distraught emotions. “Hello, Beryl! Remember I’m Mr Memory,” then he shouts out to all who would listen in the now busy wine bar, the showman once more: “Look, you see Epstein started managing the Beatles in January 1962, but in the period November to December the previous year he had hung around with them. And he told me why. Oh, yes. I knew. Simply getting to know them. And let’s face facts here darling, you hadn’t surfaced on the scene by then. NEMS Enterprises hadn’t come about by then “Okay, now stop looking at me in that disparaging way,” he snarls at her again and Beryl remarks that, of course, she knew that Epstein had done all this early on. “Hold on! Shut up Beryl, now look here, darling, you said you knew in such a way that hinted that maybe I was wrong. Now listen, you weren’t there then ... there was no reason for you to be there.

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“For Chrissakes, I am telling the truth. I can’t imagine for the life of me that Beryl – or any decent woman at least – would visit a place like the Grapes pub at the time. “If you’d seen the state of the floor, sloppy with spit and strewn with cigarette ends. The joint was full of rough, tough, hairy-arsed market guys. None of you has any idea. Fruit market guys and postmen haunted it from the Victoria Street GPO (the General Post Office in the UK, as it was then known) and sorting office. A person like Beryl would never go to a place like this. “Now, listen to me. Everyone! When I started at the Cavern in January 1961 the Grapes was still not a place that someone like Beryl would even dream of going near. Aha, but a year later, oh dear what a difference. It was attracting other people because of the groups and I even took Brian Epstein there. He sniffed a bit about it because it was still terribly rough. But secretly he revelled in it. Oh, yes. The sweat, the dirt, the hard men.” Today the Grapes in Mathew Street has all but been ruined by brewery refurbishment freaks; corporate suits, who in a fit of madness decided about ten years ago to redecorate it. They stripped out all of the original woodwork and décor. Then they tried to make it look ‘olde worlde’ with a technique called distressing. Wooler guffaws. “But it had been like that, prior to their ridiculous efforts. And for real, mark you. What clowns they are. My view is that they reckoned that it needed ‘tarting’ up – or rather ‘tarting’ down – for all the stupid Beatles’ fans that come tumbling along ‘Mythew Street’ trying to get a glimpse of the past. “Of course, they never can. It wasn’t like it is today. This is just a tourist honey pot full of memorabilia nonsense, Beatles theme bars, Beatles souvenir shops and bloody art galleries showing that dreadful bastard Lennon’s rubbishy artworks. I wouldn’t use most of them for toilet paper.” He is waving his arms around his head, almost out of control now. This provokes Beryl into a fit of the giggles. Bob shouts: “Now listen, this is all coming from the horse’s mouth and not the other end. You don’t get horse shit from ME!” There is a long silence – seconds tick into minutes and no one speaks – as more wine is poured and Beryl sits quietly, shrugging and occasionally laughing fitfully. Wooler is breathing hard through his nose, an old trick he used to distract listeners. It is clear that he holds Beryl still in his psychological fist; this man whom she liked to imagine replaced her dead dad. “I met Beryl through her visiting the Cavern with Epstein, because he always went with a girl to cover up his ... you know ... predilections.”

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Wooler sniggers, yet admits that in those times it would never have been wise to ‘blow the gaff’, as he calls it with mirth. Beryl interrupts and insists she had been visiting the Cavern long before Epstein went along and that she never went with him for that reason; and that she had met Bob before too. “Rubbish!” bellows Wooler. “You did, you are so stupid and he went with that Jewish girl Rita several times. Then finally these smokescreens – you in particular Beryl – didn’t seem to matter. And in fact a lot of people thought he owned the Cavern because he imperiously swept into the place,” he chuckles and his pale, watery blue eyes grow misty. “Yeh, he was good at doing that,” Beryl pipes up again. “Do you think that’s where Ray McFall learned his pompousness and attitude from?” “Indeed, dahhling. I wouldn’t doubt it.” His harsh voice has softened for Beryl suddenly, a clash of his many personalities surfacing, a trait that confused some people. “Brian had a great influence on McFall, and others, but Ray had always been that way because in 1961 when I was handling the Beatles,” he looks towards the window impassively, and with a wave of his hand theatrically says: “I hope you are listening out there somewhere Allan (Williams) because you weren’t ... your mind has played tricks on you too.” Wooler lapses into a monologue aimed at no one in particular – maybe even himself – while Beryl sits shaking her head, grinning. It is a fascinating and astonishing statement, and surely made only with drink taken. Wooler argues vehemently that this is not the case. “When I was the manager of the Beatles. And at the very least their booking agent,” Wooler roars, seemingly by now a tad mad, certainly unstable because this is probably the first time that many will have heard this revelatory slice of music history. But who could tell? Wooler was prone to taking the rise out of his listeners, with a devilish twinkle in his eye. There was no twinkle this time. His eyes were glazed with the gargle and the orange haze of anger. He half turned as though to an audience and bellowed: “When I was the manager – have you all got THAT? I was THE manager! When I was their manager, I used to be subjected to these huge lectures from Ray McFall. “I’ll never forget one lunchtime, the Beatles were on stage and I’d gone to the snack bar for a tea or coffee and he came sidling up to me and said in a hectoring, belligerent mood – and he wouldn’t allow anyone to interrupt – and pointed to the four boys on stage. “In a censorious, snotty manner he turned on me with a whine: ‘We can’t have that, just look at the state of them.’ And I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. ‘You know I have a policy not to allow people

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into the Cavern wearing jeans ... and they are on stage in jeans ... tell them ... get changed!’ “Of course, I was flabbergasted, but he went on in a moaning voice: ‘It’s your band, tell them.’ I thought, well fuck you Ray, I’m not gonna tell them at the interval because they won’t go back on again, I was pretty sure of that. So I told them at the end. But they all ganged up on me, even Pete Best, the so-called quiet one. “They all chipped in with choice language. It was quite terrible really. They were not being kind to me in any way and they were firing four letter words at me and I thought, fuck this ...! I tended to agree with them anyway so I thought, right, I’m gonna go straight to Ray and speak my mind. “I marched into his tiny office and told him that I thought he should tell them as it was his fucking club. He refused outright and ordered me to do the bloody job or else. Then, in a whine because I was glaring at him, he said: ‘Oh God, Bob why? Me?’ And I repeated in a soft manner: ‘Please Ray, it is your club after all.’ But naturally he didn’t have the courage, the fucking bottle, to do that. Oh, no. Get other people to do the dirty work. The bastard.” Beryl chips in: “Well he wouldn’t want to do it. He was above all that, or thought he was. Not his job to speak to minions.” Wooler is obviously sporting old scars that have never healed about this bizarre and largely insignificant incident and spits out that the Beatles were really mean to him over that particular scenario. It appears Lennon and McCartney were almost as bad as one another, pouring out a torrent of four letter words, harsh, unrelenting invective all directed at Wooler. “But it was that bastard Lennon who demolished me terribly. Tried to make me look so foolish. And he never forgot it either. I think when he battered me a year or so later because of a remark I made about his stupid affair with Brian, that was his revenge wrought cold but bloody. “There we all were in the band room: me, Ray and the Beatles,” he breathes deeply. “And McFall finds this teeny bit of spunk, this ounce of courage, and in almost a whisper asks them to pay attention. “Right lads, you are gonna hear this from the piper, I told them, and waved McFall in. After all he’s the guy who pays you, and I sat back waiting for the four letter words to come pouring out, for the barrage of abuse directed at McFall. Nothing. I glared at them and shouted that I was waiting. Waiting for them to get angry and belittle him, put him through what I had to put up with from you bastards. Aha, but not a bloody whimper from Lennon, no four letter words.

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“He even tried to appear humble and muttered, almost in a pleading voice, to McFall: ‘Look at it this way, we are used to wearing jeans. It’s our style, Ray.’ It was a smarmy thing to say, certainly from Lennon. “And I was flabbergasted when George joined in with his smarmy manner because McFall really liked him and George never shouted. In fact he almost always got his way because of that, but naturally McCartney and Lennon metaphorically shouted him down throughout their careers. They never gave him a chance. “Suddenly I was gobsmacked as I realised with a jolt that Ray was backing down BECAUSE it had dawned on him that they were big box office. Oh, God they were big in the Cavern and elsewhere. And I thought this is ridiculous they are all kowtowing to each other and gushing. Yet I’d been subjected to this awful abuse. “Now then all you make-believe merchants. This is where I say I can tell you all the truth about those days. There’s a story to be told about all those bastards, which is reserved for ME, not for YOU!” he screams, staring wide-eyed at Beryl, the umpteenth glass of wine kicking in. Emboldened by slurping more juice of the grape – they are well into quaffing bottle three by now – Beryl tries to explain how she came into Wooler’s life when she began going to the Cavern with Epstein, oblivious to the contradiction of her earlier statement. But it was obvious the piercingly shrewd Mr Wooler had quietly picked up on the error but was reserving it as a weapon for later, such was his devious nature. “We got on and got to know each other well and I used to go into the band room because I couldn’t stand the crowds outside. Sure, I would occasionally go to the Cavern with Brian at lunchtimes and then early evenings.” Bob blurts out: “There’s something I want to say here, it’s important. Yessss, that’s how I met Beryl but, of course, I knew all the groups then but she certainly didn’t. And neither did Epstein. Beryl and I didn’t talk groups then. We talked about many things well away from beat music, many subjects. She didn’t really know the groups at all! He spurts out this statement with a twisted snarl. “So now after several drinks you can admit – and remember – that you went down to the Cavern as one of Brian’s covers? Helping to hide his big secret, eh darling?” Beryl actually blushes as he continually interrupts her flow: “Er, yes, that is very true, but then I began to get involved with Bob – with YOU Bob. I would visit him in the band room and go straight there, because I didn’t particularly want to stand in the club itself. There was a terrible smell and it was hot and sweaty.”

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Wooler is in full flushed flow by now and bursts in again, giving Beryl no space or time to continue or speak. “I was famed for saying on the microphone, ‘Hi there all you Cave Dwellers welcome to the Best of Smells ... and she would gulp and cry out ‘Oh Bob, I wish you hadn’t said that ...ha ... ha.’ She loved, craved that entire third-rate celebrity guff. It was 1962 and she was quite regularly down at the Cavern and by then Brian was smitten with the Beatles and couldn’t let them go, never. He wanted them, and Lennon especially, of course. I knew all along. And Lennon was very much aware of that.” Wooler glances at Beryl and proffers a conspiratorial wink. “By the way that item that Spencer Leigh got me to reveal; that story about George Harrison ... and I said afterwards to myself ‘Why have I done that?’” He is becoming incoherent but is obviously distressed at some indiscretion or other he’s let slip. “And, erm ... I’m talking about when you were at the recent Beatles Convention ... and erm,” he babbles on. “Look, we were all in the Albert – a pub in Lark Lane close to Wooler’s former home, me, Allan Williams, Joe Riley – the celebrated Liverpool Echo arts editor – and journalist Peter Grant. Remember, Joe (Riley) said to me ‘Do your Epstein impersonation, you are so good at it’. I wasn’t actually ... but he then told me to tell them all about that George Harrison incident. And I said, ‘but I can’t tell you about that with Allan here’. “And I’ll tell you why, because Allan has used my reminiscences.” Beryl butts in and agrees: “Yes, yes, I know that for certain.” Wooler continues: “He used my Mythew Street line – Beryl, on song now with the wine – jumps in again: ‘He doesn’t give a shit, he uses anything’ – and even George Melley (a famous British jazz singer) said on his BBC Radio Four series to mark his 75th birthday anniversary: ‘As Allan Williams says ‘I’m off to Mythew Street.’ Jesus, that’s my fucking line. Stolen. “I was blazing and I tackled Williams and asked him what all this stuff with Melley was about and he stuttered about giving me full credit. I laughed that off. So you see, everyone, Allan takes the kudos for all this stuff. So you can all sod off about the Harrison story. I take it to my grave.” This was sadly prescient. Wooler insists that at the last Liverpool Beatles convention he attended – in the summer before his death – they were still stealing his material from under his nose: Beryl and Allan Williams. She looks startled at this but he carries on ignoring her stare of puzzlement. “You two – he glares at Beryl again and scowls – were taking notes. I say it; come out with an original remark, a piece of true history. Then I find it’s being regurgitated by you ... you always do, use my material.” He growls and wraps his hammy, clammy hand around the wine glass.

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Beryl dismisses this claim as another of his outlandish attacks and says he’s imagining things again. He laughs sardonically. “My dear, we’ve had this lovely sort of banter type relationship all along. Indeed we have.” And she chuckles as well. This is surely life becoming farce. They are both – and others like them – jammed in a dark recess of a time warp, like a needle stuck in the groove of an old vinyl record replaying the same phrase over and over and over; groundhog day writ large. They begin to reminisce about their lives together, the ups and downs of their strange relationship. “In the beginning of our time together we had a meal at a café in Lime Street and then we went to the Forum (cinema) to see a film. Was this a date?” He looks bemused, asking her. “Erm ... I don’t know. It just happened ... we’d been around together for a while,” she mutters. Suddenly the Hyde rather than the Jekyll character in Wooler, each vying for supremacy on a daily basis, surfaces and slithers forth and he is Mr Silky Smooth, Mr Nice Guy: “Of course, Beryl always accused me of never taking her anywhere ... that with me it was the Cavern, Cavern, Cavern. But I did, you know. I did.” And his mouth contorts into an improbably lopsided, ingratiating smile. During our ‘friendship period’ we went to other places apart from the Cavern: the Mayfair, pubs such as Gregson’s Well and we’d have lots of lock-ins.” This latter pub was where the nationally famous – but Liverpool-born – British folk music band the Spinners had forged their reputations. The ‘boys’, who some wags tagged as the folkie equivalent of the Beatles, were good friends with Bob and had sung many times at the Cavern before ironically they were turfed out to accommodate the Mersey Beat bands. The term ‘lock-in’ was the accepted parlance, along with ‘stay back’, for drinking after hours in bars, in essence illegally. This was when draconian licensing laws still held sway in Britain and pubs closed on the dot at certain times; a throwback to the First World War when the government and factories reckoned they needed to have munitions workers sober to carry on the war effort. The archaic system was still imposed throughout the 1960s and only loosened its grip towards the late 1980s. Today, of course, Britain’s liberal licensing laws, vigorously supported by the major breweries, virtually encourage young people to drink to the point of oblivion at any time of the day and night; often with special ‘cheapo’ price deals unheard of in the sixties. In Bob and Beryl’s period of ‘youthful’ revelry some notorious pub managers and owners, very conscious of the extra rich pickings that they

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could make by breaking the law, would invite regular customers and pals – and quite frequently police officers who would collude in the scam for their own ‘free’ enjoyment – to stay behind after closing to continue the ‘sessions’; and these would invariably be the hard drinkers, the proper boozers, as obviously Beryl and Bob had become. Affably they begin to disagree about the essence of that ‘date’ and whether it could reasonably be described as the start of their ‘affair’. Bob turns to Beryl and says abruptly, his eyes turning piggy porky and glinting: “Let’s forget that,” and she quietly concurs with a brief “Oh, OK, if you like”. As though that interlude had never occurred, Wooler lurches back on the memory trail wittering on in a baleful manner about unnamed actresses who took to the bottle and thus became obsessed with drink and relationships. “As indeed YOU are when with AW. You are a Mrs Cork Head,” he splutters unkindly, referring to Beryl’s admitted liking for a glass of wine – and harder stuff – and Allan Williams in the abbreviated coda of initials he used often when dismissively referring to him. Beryl is clearly not impressed with this description at all, even though it can hardly have been sprung on her as new. Aware of her discomfort in front of others, Wooler repeats it several times until it begins to echo with a resonating jar on the senses. “So we went for this meal and what I’m getting at is that it was the beginning of the obsessive relationship with the ‘cork’ for Beryl,” he says once more with unnecessary venom, considering that he is swilling the wine himself with some gusto as he rails. “YOU, were a real one,” he points and snarls, although there is a semblance of a humorous twinkle in his eye. It is becoming utterly surreal – this encounter. Beryl adds with a laugh: “Oh, yes, those days of wine and roses. Ah, wine and roses.” His mouth droops, slipping into its typical skewed twist, as he interrupts: “So, I suppose, yes, I did introduce Beryl to fine wines and good living although she likes to fantasise it was Epstein. Rubbish, she was merely playing a game with herself and him. Pretending to be impressed. Hmm, but then again, good living? I don’t think so,” he mutters, shaking his head, lips pouting. She bursts in: “Well, we’d be out late, if there were promotions on (‘Ah, yes, we had jobs then,’ says Wooler with a smirk) and I’d be back in work early in the morning. Oh, it was horrendous at times ... the way I felt.” “But you were resilient, then, my dear”, he chides playfully in that sleek, nauseous manner he adopted when patronising his prey. “Yes, I was then,

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I suppose,” she says, seemingly oblivious to his tone, and unexpectedly, almost in an absent-minded fashion, fondly stroking his hand, the crazy and alternating interplay mesmerising to any observer; the swift change between rage and affection almost imperceptible, bringing up the watcher with a jolt as the tempo of their verbal tango alters from brittle to blasé. The ‘conversation’ switches to their marriage and Wooler gibes: “Don’t ask me why we did that (he looks directly at Beryl with his penetrating, unwavering stare). Sorry darling ... now cool it, cool it,” he urges, noticing her flush rising to a flash of impatience. She retorts indignantly: “It was because you wanted to be looked after. Why can’t you ever admit that?” “Oh that’s true,” he admits gallantly, a wry smile playing on his lips. “Hmmm but whether I was, looked after, I don’t know; I think she despaired of me. You see, I could say Beryl that you left it too late really. A leopard can’t change its spots. “And I don’t mind telling about true ages now. But I was in my 30s then and no one knew, really. It’s all too late to matter now. But I wasn’t a great drinker at one time in my life. You know, I even went through the army without taking a single drink.” Voice rising with a caring, almost motherly emotion, Beryl leaps in and confirms this is true: “I know you didn’t always drink, Robert. Maybe then you didn’t need it as a prop. But this idea of us getting married was because of friendship, maybe?” She asks this as though pleading for affirmation, yet this has already long been established. Once again, her insecurities trample over reality. Beryl remarks that their friendship had gone on for about six years – Wooler interjects that, yes friendship is important. He then begins to tell – babble even – of his lonely life, the words frequently unintelligible, sentences not formed, significantly peculiar for Wooler whose precise and gloriously expansive use of language and its poetic pentameter was regarded as a gift by his chums and foes alike. “Oh, friends for six years, without a doubt ... but it’s slightly different with Beryl. Her view of it all is of a different hue than mine. You know, I had a brother who was a couple of years older than me – very strange – and he did disappearing acts and then went to Australia. I hardly ever heard from him again, certainly haven’t for years. He’s probably dead now.” (sic) His eyes fill up with tears: “My mother died when I was 15 and my father when I was four ... so that was all in the past ... so I was really alone, all alone. And, yes, I appreciated Beryl. I relished her company and her warm affection. Of course I did my dear.

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“How old were you when your father died Beryl?” He asks this, but knows anyway that she was in her early 20s; the question was rhetorical and somewhat cruel, merely to allow him a vehicle to wallow in his own remorse. “So she’d had him quite some time, you see, but she also had a mother. Mind you, she was frankly – and you’ll have to come clean on this Beryl my dear – a bit of a martinet. And my, oh my, but didn’t she try to keep her eye on Beryl. But it didn’t work, did it? “And then she met ME. ME, the great man about town! Ha, I imagine her mother must have yelled ‘I don’t like him ... I do not approve of you getting entangled with that person, he’s very strange and I don’t think it should go any further’. And I was more than ten years older than Beryl, as well. Her mother must have been mortified,” and he gleefully snorts back a notch of throaty spittle. A frown creases his forehead as he juggles with memory files: “Here’s an amusing thing, Peter Heffer and Nigel,” his eyes glaze over as he struggles to remember the rest of their names from the distant past but fails and changes tack. He then waffles on further with the marriage tale, this part naturally involving the taking of strong drink, which apparently dominated their lives, and his recollections spark memories of buying regular supplies in the Victoria Wine store which he insists was on Castle Street in Liverpool, a spit from the Cavern. He thinks, maybe, he was there even on the day of their marriage. It seems it opened early – although this doesn’t completely tally with the social mores of the time – and they weren’t due at the Brougham Terrace Register Office until 11.00am. “Ha, yes I’d been out and got wine and there was banter with the preachers, or so Beryl tells me,” he chuckles, but perhaps memory is playing tricks for Wooler, as Brougham Terrace – located on one of Liverpool’s main arterial roads, ironically the route to Beryl’s family home – was a civic centre for conducting marriages; religious persons rarely broached its broad oak doors and sterile environs. “We were married at Brougham Terrace, a cold antiseptic dump of a place. Our friends didn’t say anything to our faces but we think behind our backs they must have said: ‘What’s happened to Wooler, he’s turned very odd hasn’t he’ ... although they’ve always said I was strange,” he laughs fitfully. “Nah, we didn’t have a reception ... Beryl organised a coach to somewhere like Colwyn Bay in Wales for the honeymoon.” He is scowling at the memory so Beryl, with surprising enthusiasm, takes up the tale.

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“After the ceremony we went back to my mother’s house and you, you great big hypocrite, were all over her, giving her big hugs. Yes. And do you remember bellowing: ‘Right, okay, now who’s organising the wifeswapping?’ and mother certainly didn’t approve of that, I can tell you. And neither did my aunts and uncles.” Wooler accedes the provenance of the story with a wild laugh: “I’d met ‘mum’ a few times by then and she must surely have told Beryl not to get too involved with me. I can see her complaining: ‘Oh, he’s too Sharing a drink, as usual, two of the main men in Beryl’s life: precarious and Allan Williams and Bob Wooler unpredictable. Ha, she never knew I was gay, a raging homosexual, though. That would have set the cat amongst the pigeons. Mind you, Beryl wasn’t in the loop properly then, either. But her mother was very cautious about this marriage. It seems I upset her with a cutting remark that I then completely forgot. I had to apologise profusely. “But I like to think that I always got on with Beryl’s sister Dorothy ... and the rest of the family. Ah, maybe not Kenneth. He had this ‘thing’ about homosexuals. I think he guessed. He was terribly homophobic, although that term hadn’t been coined then, I don’t think. “We lived in Canning Street in a flat and they were the palmy days. Or rather I like to think of them as the ‘napalmy days’ as the Vietnam War was raging on at the time. “We’d been friend for years ... and all the more reason, I asked myself – and still do – why did you do it? And now I have to agree with Beryl ... it was for companionship.

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“Then all of a sudden that came apart at the seams. It began to happen as it always did and does for me ... my dreams come apart at the seams,” he sighs, looking terribly sad. Beryl interrupts his reverie: “Remember at the Cavern when you promised to take me for a meal and promised faithfully not to let me down?” She is cautiously looking askance in Wooler’s direction. Alert again, he turns and snaps angrily: “You’re not talking about the time when you were with Stanley Reynolds are you?” There was silence ... a strained silence ... suddenly the mood changes swiftly back to black and threatening and they are cat fighting again. Beryl erupts: “You threw me to Stanley Reynolds, didn’t you?” He pitches in mysteriously: “Yes. Because I was involved and you should’ve made allowances for that, but, oh no, you’ve got to be the centre of attraction ... like Williams ... “ Beryl bristles and declares, unusually strongly for her: “I am not like that.” “Oh yes, oh no,” chants Wooler, and there is obviously an element of jealousy still lingering at Beryl wooing Reynolds with his own carefully nurtured friendship of the man maybe involving other undercurrents. It is hugely improbable that Reynolds would ever have countered those thoughts, never mind a forbidden passionate liaison of the kind that Wooler perhaps hankered after. Beryl glares defiantly: “Look, you and Williams used to always put me down – still bloody do – and I had no confidence in my life ... I’ve got it now but certainly didn’t have it before because of YOU!” She is shouting at Wooler. Oblivious – or perhaps for this very reason – of the watching, listening clientele in the wine bar Wooler smarms and gushes loudly: “Hmmm ... this is because of the promise of a hardback book no doubt. You think you will have an audience for your sordid tales. But I am telling ... nay giving ... it like it was ... but I am choosing my words here and I’d like to tell you how brittle and hateful it was, that relationship of ours.” Beryl shakes her head and moans, her face slips into a sagging cushion shape. “Your suicide attempt. How about that? I was shocked to find Beryl in that state, you know. Are you all listening? Shocked! That was absolutely dreadful and I remember it was in the kitchen, in our basement flat. Look, my dear, my dear, I’m only repeating the details for your silly book’s benefit, people will want to know.” Beryl tries to bicker, he waves her down: “Look, I went into the kitchen and there you were, slumped in this chair. Well, not exactly slumped but

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the demons were there and so were the two damaged wrists ... and you proudly held them up and you know those wrists were pumping blood out like mad ... and I’ll never forget this, all the blood went all over the ceiling, everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. “And we’d been drinking and I asked if you needed me, I tried to stay but I’m not very good at these things, or first aid, so I rushed out and I knew there were two nurses in Beryl’s old flat upstairs, and I rushed up and hammered on their door ... which again was very wrong to hammer like that, they might have thought they were being broken into. “At last, after what seemed like eternity, they answered and I said: ‘Will you please help me ... there’s someone down below in the flat who’s, erm ... cut herself or something. I don’t know what they expected, but they came down and saw the blood was pumping everywhere and the two slashed wrists. But I suspected for some reason that they were used to this sort of malarkey. I certainly was NOT. “And so it was off to Sefton General hospital to the psycho ward,” he grimaces and pulls a face at Beryl who is sitting there unblinking and motionless. This hurts her. She doesn’t want to explore this path at all, certainly not that day. But it is clear that Wooler is up for a scrap. Suddenly she laughs in a dismissive way: “I remember that so well ... I was not taken to a psycho ward ... I was not ... “ Bob interrupts, trying to shout her down: “Ward 28 ... why won’t you admit it?” “Because I never went there ... I remember Dr White came over from the psychiatric ward to see me, yes ... but I was not put in a psychiatric ward. No way, I was in orthopaedic because I needed so many operations ... “ “Looook. Beryl,” Wooler drops into a half whisper, in his wily, slinky way, drawling out the words in an effort to persuade and cajole. “You were in ward 28 darling, don’t try and cover it up ... “ “I was not!” She yells, tears forming. “Hmmm, you see you are shouting now and I always back down because I don’t like arguing, but it makes no difference to the fact that it was ward 28,” he says defiantly, always desperate for the last word, the final denouement. “Now listen to MEEE ... I’d had a terrible night and I’d been at the Cavern at lunchtime that day and there I was in the hospital and the doctor came to me and told me you would be there for a while ... And then he turned to me and said softly: ‘Leave her ... my advice to you is to leave her.’ And that was devastating news to me ... and he just quietly walked out. I left that hospital like a zombie ...

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“My honest view is she tried to commit suicide to be noticed, no doubt about it,” he says bluntly, as if Beryl wasn’t sitting opposite. “Now I can concede certain things ... (turning to Beryl) ... and now I want you to concede ... you did that ... “Yes, well it was in my head. It’s rather bloody obvious. I did it, full stop. But we weren’t married then. You had no rights ... “ Bob goes on: “I’ve always said in regards to Beryl, and I don’t think she’s ever approved of this, that you are a twin and they are precarious people, the relationships, and Kenneth was always so much more organised than you ... of course, you are an organised person as well but he held the whip hand and you never liked that ... that caused a lot of friction within you. And you were obsessed with father ... weren’t you, my dear. Obsessed with a father figure ... “ Meekly Beryl agrees ... the drama and counter play in their relationship exposed as raw control. She even admitted that it was true shortly after Wooler had died. He is in full flow, scathing of her: “Look we have a wonderful love-hate relationship ... probably always been that way ... now and again it’s a love ... aaahh but a real hate relationship. True or not, Beryl?” “I wouldn’t say it was or is hate, Robert. But you have sure been hateful on many occasions.” “This young, worried doctor at the hospital tells me to leave Beryl. I was in a way bereft at that advice,” Wooler then murmurs, but with another flash of indignation Beryl blurts out: “Well, just for the record, he told me this as well about Bob. Explain that. He came to me and said that, for my own safety and future, I must get away from you. Ha, you didn’t know that until now.” She turns to smirk at him. It is singularly astonishing but they weren’t even married at that time, just living together. And already the pattern of turmoil was set in concrete. It was actually several years after this horrendous incident that they decided to commit to wedding vows. A bizarre decision that has often perplexed friends and acquaintances who can’t figure out what persuaded Beryl to embark on what was a peculiar marriage of convenience, and to a man who’d already caused her to harm herself. As for Wooler, he was by his own admission active in the underground homosexual society that was an integral part of his life. Why marry Beryl? “Well, let’s look at reality, it was a few years after that horrendous time and I was a spent force, a burned-out case as Graham Greene would say,” he explains with a shrug, looking at Beryl for affirmation.

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“Circumstances had changed somewhat and I became, not so much domesticated, as desperate. I needed more of an orderly life. I was always craving that even during the beat music days.” His head droops and he launches into his favoured sotto voce, conspiratorial, almost self-pitying manner: “Look, Beryl, tell the truth. You never encouraged me one jot over my song-writing aspirations – and Allan Williams hasn’t either, ever – I talk about that and it obsessed my life and I see your eyes glaze over.” Beryl shifts guiltily in her seat. The truth is that Wooler was indeed a prolific, if mostly unrecognised, songwriter and one of his compositions ‘I Know’ was on the B-side of Billy J Kramer’s hit single ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’, arranged by George Martin. And he cheekily penned a lyrical jibe to the Beatles’ own song-writing abilities with his ‘Are You Going To Strawberry Field?’. A ditty he suggested should be sung to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic ‘Strawberry Fair’ hit. “I’ve always wanted to be a songwriter and that’s why – and actually how – I got into this business. Lionel Bart had written some songs for Tommy Steele, you see, but he wasn’t really a rock and roll person, more Oliver. So, I thought no one else will or can help with you stuck 200 miles away from London. I will just have to try it locally, in Liverpool. “I knew that Richard Rogers had lived around the corner from Larry Hart and I thought that I could find a similar role, as I felt the pop groups here in Liverpool needed a composer. That was my view. And I was on their doorstep. But I rapidly learned that they were not interested at all in an old fogey – I’m hoping, though, that they didn’t really think of me as an old fogey. They didn’t have the slightest interest in me offering them a lyric, not even a completed song. “Jesus, there weren’t that many of them who could compose even a letter, some barely a sentence. I offered songs to people, to groups and singers but they didn’t want to know.” He glances around, the pain swithering in the pained reflection of his eyes, piercing deep into his psyche. Agitated, Beryl jumps in: “Yes, I did know that he wanted to be a songwriter and was extremely knowledgeable about the business. I just didn’t know how I could help him. What could I do? He is not being fair.” Wooler blinks furiously: “Look, the real truth is that there was no such thing as the Mersey Sound you see because it was all cover versions. They – the groups – learned a song from a record exactly as it was laid down: the arrangements, the tune. That was it. They all learned parrot fashion. “When people began banging on later about the Mersey Sound I told them it wasn’t like that. I was very insistent. But they wouldn’t believe me

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even though I was in the throes of it and listening to it all day, every day until I was wearied out. Hardly anyone wrote his or her own songs then. Few had the wit or the talent. “I wanted to be a songwriter but Beryl never encouraged me. You never even put it out about my hopes and Allan never helped.” He scoffs: “Beryl only ever thought of going to the Isle of Man and basking on the beach and returning to NEMS with a suntan. Sure we went together to the Isle of Man but I certainly never sunbathed ... I wrote bloody songs. I would spend all day writing song after song. “When we lived together ... well, we just compromised all the time about the enormous differences in our interests, we just got by. “Hmmm and I despised the way you dealt with Jim Turner (a London agent who was after stealing the Beatles away from Epstein and pursued Beryl for her insider knowledge) – the snake – and he was all over you, buttering you up. He was a creep. “He was managing Cliff Richard at one time and he came up here to find out what was going on. He wined and dined her. Took her to the Lord Nelson Hotel for you know what. I knew this, sure I did,” he shrugs. “Well knew it afterwards, certainly. Hmm I was at a Beatles convention next door once and there on the door was the sign ‘Beryl Adams slept here with ... ‘ and there was a gap to fill in the name, any name. That was her reputation.” She screeches that he is lying. “There were no signs. You bastard. There were no signs.” And her shoulders slump dejectedly. Wooler smugly comments: “Beryl has already mentioned her interest in chaps. Well, look here, it didn’t affect me at all ... it was a very liberal sort of marriage. We never thought about it or tested it.” She stops griping, suddenly and inexplicably cheers up, playfully punching his arm, and breaks out into uncontrollable snickering giggles. And he laughs with her; that unconscious bond that wired them together is there with them still. “We had problems over flats,” she takes up the story. “I contacted the bank about buying a place – this was before the Cavern collapsed – and went to estate agents. I curse myself that we didn’t properly settle down at the time, as a couple.” Wooler looks quizzically at Beryl: “Pray, tell me. How would we? Could we? Tell me ... you would have ... but how would I ... well, you would still have had some social life ... but I certainly couldn’t. Think about that.” His eyes go all cloudy and he mumbles on a propos of getting off the embarrassing subject of his sexuality and marriage: “I was devastated at the closing of the Cavern, when it went bankrupt. I used to sit in the pub on my

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own. Wondering that the hell was happening. I was told the Cavern was in the red ... in 1965.” Beryl tells how she believes that Ray McFall was at fault because he never put any more money into the club, more investment, to help it carry on and struggle through the difficult times. “Look that’s your story, Beryl. If you must tell it that way but in 1965, let’s face the facts, the Beatles had gone and Gerry had gone and we were left in essence with the dross, they – Epstein and the London big shots – had taken the gloss,” Wooler looks up, gritting and grinding his teeth, another of his traits, which many people recognised and recoiled from. “McFall said to me that I must have noticed from the attendances that things were bad and I said, well sure, Ray, they haven’t been like they were. He was looking desperate and commented: ‘Well, I’ll tell you and show you’ and showed me the bank statements. “Chrissakes, the world-famous Cavern was deeply in the red in 1965. It was going bust. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” gasps Wooler, his face looking as though it would explode as even the memory of that astonishing disaster can still send his blood pressure soaring. “But I knew it needed a lot of money to upgrade it. The bloody drains were buggered. It was primitive and stank like a Turkish bath or a Third World latrine. “Go on Beryl, you know about this because you were his lackey, his little helper, laughably described as Ray’s secretary.” She glances around nervously: “Yeh, as soon as he got hold of the accounts ... even though he was an ex-accountant ... he hadn’t got a clue ... he had this business, but no proper staff and no proper office or secretary, and he took me on when I left Brian, but said I would have to work from his home if that was okay. I thought it was bloody odd. Bob was still working in the Cavern as a disc jockey then. “But Ray never ever put the money back into the Cavern ... he just took it out. And it just wasn’t the happening place it had been.” There is a thumping on the table and Wooler, eyes blazing, shouts: “I don’t want to subscribe to this ... I do see Ray now and again and I don’t want my name associated with this claim. Him coming at me over these things ... LOOK, I don’t want to know,” he is curiously on edge. “Beryl you have to admit to learning things ... I know it costs a lot to admit you are wrong,” he veers off on another tack. “Over Allan ... I admit that it’s a problem ... you could always say goodbye ... I can’t, I’m trapped ... phew, Beryl ... stop it,” he is rambling incoherently and Beryl is laughing at him, teasing him.

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“Shut up yourself, Robert. It doesn’t matter now. Who cares? Who ever cared? Only the small circle of people involved gave a damn. Do you think the Beatles were bothered? Do you think that McCartney was upset, or even knew? Bloody hell, and Lennon always said that it was Hamburg and not the bloody Cavern that made them. “And the truth of that is that it was Allan (Williams) who got that off the ground. Stuff the Cavern. Stuff all of you. You’ve all lived with this crap of thinking you were – and are – important in this story. You are only a footnote. Like me.” She begins to chuckle about those days in the Cavern, but with his bottom lip quivering in disapproval, Wooler starts to rattle on, completely contradicting his earlier insistence that he wanted no part of this revelation about the Cavern’s dire straits: “Ray lived in Willerdale Road by Aintree Hospital in Liverpool. I can remember going along to his house because I wanted to talk about a booking. I asked him where was the phone. “He pointed to another room and there, in all its ludicrous glory, was his counting house ... so to speak ... the money was just lying all over the table ... in great bloody piles.” Annoyed, Beryl tries to stop his flow but he hisses: “Look, I’m telling the story. I said ‘Good God, Ray, your counting house needs cleaning’... and I looked at the windows to see if they were barred or even if the curtains were drawn. They weren’t. He did clear it up but he was most reluctant. He did pay the wages regularly, though. He wasn’t mean. And he certainly wasn’t crooked. Basically he wasn’t a good businessman and that was the top and bottom of it. “Ha, ha, he used to iron the bloody banknotes ... I mean we all have peculiarities ... but he would iron them ... what was that little weird fetish about? We never talked about it. But, later, it all came out when our relationship was a bit sore, he told me about it and I thought why is he telling me this ... it’s a very odd thing. Frankly anyone who irons banknotes has to be a bit loopy.” Beryl adds: “But we both got on with him at the time ... sure ... oh yeh. He was a nice enough guy. And I suppose his training as an accountant did help sometimes ‘cause he’d have sheets every day for the takings at the Cavern, for every session. He’d take out the wages, the costs of the snack bar and the money he gave to Bob for his dee-jaying. But he did pay everything out in cash; chequebooks were not part of the agenda. But in the end it got too much for him ... and it all collapsed.” With a sly smile Wooler says he is about to break a confidence. “It was off the record for years. And it should also be NOW. But it doesn’t matter,

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does it?” He begins to relate a curious tale about Ray McFall’s fascination with celebrity, and his publicity-seeking urges. “Okay, are you ALL paying attention? In 1964 the Beatles went off to the States and they were becoming very big, conquering all of America and they were staying at the Plaza Hotel, a very swish hotel in New York. Capitol Records were paying for all of this ... not the Beatles or Epstein. “And for some mad reason Ray stayed at the same place – Bob slips into his whispering mode – but Capitol didn’t pick up his tab. He thought he had to be there ... went off on his own ... had big ideas.” Beryl shrugs and says she didn’t book his flight but nods that the story ‘has legs’, while Bob reveals that McFall had rung Tony Barrow at NEMS and told him that he was thinking of going to New York with the Beatles. “I know they are on the VIP deck of the plane, can you get me a seat on that?” He asked Barrow direct and Barrow said bluntly, “No, sorry, everything’s booked up, it’s impossible” and Ray, who was still determined to go, to be a part of that caravan, had to take an ordinary tourist class seat and was seething. “Anyway, he arrived at the Plaza and he was ensconced in a small bedroom ... and the Beatles had a whole floor for all their entourage, all the people associated with the tour. Of course, Ray wasn’t with them but endeavoured to meet them and say hello. I know this because he told me this that very same night and I’ve never talked about this before. He probably won’t either. He may well try to deny it but why would he have told me this story if it weren’t true? “There he is on his way to join the Beatles when the bouncers, the burly minders who have become an integral element of the package – stopped him. He said to them: ‘Look I’m Ray McFall, I own the Cavern club in Liverpool where the Beatles played.’ In that surly way bouncers have, they asked him for a ticket or a pass which he didn’t have ... because Epstein hadn’t given him one. Frankly, he didn’t want Ray to be there. He wanted the focus of attention to be on the Beatles and not Ray McFall. The bouncers told Ray to fuck off. He was incandescent with rage.” Beryl throws in her tuppence worth: “No doubt about it, Ray was something of a publicity seeker.” Wooler is relishing the telling by this point, slurping his lips and downing another goblet of wine, now a rich, ruby red which should have doused the acid of the white but obviously hasn’t: “But he didn’t have the sort of guile to get him through and he was demolished by this. He told me this on the very same night because he phoned me at midnight at the Cavern. Told me he was thinking of coming back to Liverpool. I knew full well why,”

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says Bob, chuckling, and points out jubilantly that McFall had known the Beatles well. “Of course he had. Bloody hell, he paid them for years! “It’s worth remembering that Ray took over the Cavern in October 1959 and the whole point is that the Beatles first played the Cavern at the lunchtime session in February 1961. And the last appearance was August 1963. He was there throughout their tenure. He technically employed them. It was savage, the way he was treated so dismissively in New York, but he should have known better. “Hah. Let’s examine the facts about Ray’s involvement. He and I were after press coverage from the guttersnipes of Fleet Street and we were asked how many times the Beatles had played at the Cavern. We arrived at a figure of 292 but the truth is we hadn’t really kept a proper record of everything, even though we claimed we had. “And Ray helped me on this wee bit of creative accounting – he was, after all, an accountant, tee hee, and I’m not shifting any blame here – then later Mark Lewis investigated this and included in a book all the gigs the Beatles ever did and he arrived at 274 which wasn’t too far out from our guesstimate. “But, look here, Ray even sang with the Beatles in the Cavern, for God’s sake ... an Elvis number and a Vic Damone number and so it’s not as if they weren’t aware of him. Sure they knew him very, very well, the bastards,” Bob is roaring but veers off that line again, looking sly and even mean as he glances at Beryl. Such was the state of affairs in the Cavern, Wooler believed it was almost inevitable – vital even – that Beryl would agree to work there as the paperwork was in such a mess. “Late in 1962 and early 1963 things were crazy. Ray couldn’t cope properly and needed someone to take a grip of the administration, and by the end of that manic year it was clear that it was becoming urgent,” says Wooler. Beryl ponders for a few moments, a wine haze fogging her brain, and tells how she eventually joined McFall in the Cavern late in 1963, a few months after the Beatles had their first number one hit. “The club was already becoming a hub for fans from outside the city and I was there for about nine months, maybe even a year. But I left because it was all falling apart,” she says, but suddenly Wooler blurts out: “Well, hang on there, Beryl. No, it wasn’t and hadn’t, not then. Your memory is playing tricks again, dahhhling.” “Oh, okay then, it was because I went off sick.” “Hang on Beryl, I see a degree of snobbishness, I see the bitch about you now. Look, Beryl,” his voice rises in anger. “The Cavern didn’t hit the rocks in 1964 and it was okay in 1965 for the first six months. Half way through

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that year and then it started. People had got tired of it and were going to Manchester clubs. A lot of the problems stemmed from the fact that there were coachloads of people coming in, but the local people – who should’ve made up the main membership – didn’t like it. They were sick and tired of strangers flocking there. It was no longer our place. We had lost our club to fame’s fickle fortune.” Beryl explains that she was sick at the time because of the operations on her arm following complications after her first suicide attempt, but this is like a red rag to Wooler, who feels some responsibility still for her mental anguish at the time. He snaps out: “Look, you weren’t there so how can you stick your oar in? How the Hell could you know what was going on? You were ill, Beryl.” This sparks off a completely unconnected – and surreal – row about Beryl’s involvement with Gerry Marsden’s film ‘Ferry ‘cross the Mersey’. Bob says she wasn’t there. Beryl most decidedly disagrees. This is one of her clearer memories and Bob is raving. She merely mocks him, making him even angrier. The banter and bile continues in anarchic fashion, sweeping across time schedules, weaving in and out of any historical reference. A bickering that is reminiscent of an old, world-weary married couple arguing moot points, almost in the modus operandi of the famous Maurice Chevalier song ‘I Remember It Well’. “This was not the wrist-slashing period says Bob. “Yes, it bloody well was,” splutters Beryl. “Okay, we need to go and check the records of ward 28 again,” snarls Wooler. Suddenly she crackles at him: “It was only a bloody joke.” The veracity of any of their claims, memories and stories is sometimes hard to confirm. The interweaving of fantasy throughout the fellowship of people involved with both the Beatles and Mersey Beat at the time has created its own vortex, its own shaky take on reality; even discussing the trivia sets these folk at odds with each other. “Well, we were married in August 1967 after living together for years in various flats, the first in Canning Street where it was such a social whirl. “But it was a different relationship to other people and we both had other relationships within the framework of the marriage. I think you might call it playing around. And being blunt, yes, I did ... I’m not ashamed of that,” snorts Beryl, defiant again. “As for me, I was still the same old worn-out boot, although I was doing a bit of promoting,” murmurs Wooler, strangely hushed for the moment. “The last was with the Walker Brothers in 1965 but after that it petered out largely. I didn’t do anything after that.

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“And I must admit that our relationship was very flexible; really, really flexible,” he added, throwing a disdainful – if hypocritical – look at Beryl. By the time the marriage disintegrated Wooler was working, almost as an odd job man, at an ice rink in the Kensington area of Liverpool as a disc jockey and bingo caller. It was a real come down from his earlier comparatively high life – well, certainly for a provincial city like Liverpool – but he was desperate to pay off unpaid taxes and needed the work. He was mostly forgotten and forlorn. Beryl was also out of a job and would trundle most days down to the rink – now long gone and in an area desperate for regeneration, as it was then. She would just hang around listening languidly, even forlornly, to his session as he played records for young kids on outings from schools, or teenagers and adults slouching around and probably all on the dole. It was a soul-destroying, pitiful life for Wooler, a very sociable man who’d known so much better, graceful and exciting times. There, in that cold, unwelcoming environment, where the music sounded tinny from cheap and nasty loudspeakers, he and Beryl were anonymous and cut pathetic figures, clinging to each other for support emotionally and spiritually. “She would come in for the afternoon and there wouldn’t be many people there. We’d finish at five and go drinking. That was the height of our ambitions. We were great drinking companions then, on the bottle regularly. It was a very bad time or so it seemed,” he pauses for reflection. “But it wasn’t all that bad, at least we were alive.” Wooler’s poorly paid job at the dismal ice rink ended after three grim years, even his charismatic personality couldn’t inject any verve and vitality into the dire venue; though by then he was utterly ‘burned out’ and a shadow of his former witty self. When the rink finally closed in the May of 1970, a new musical decade was on the move, yet it was to be not just a fallow one for Wooler and Beryl. It transmuted into a social shift away from the earthy vibrancy of the sixties to a contrived and thus more banal age; although there are those who say that Abba also helped shape that era along with the likes of Pink Floyd. Wooler hated them all, preferring the richer big band sounds of Glen Miller or Frank Sinatra. And he was a classical music buff, as he always secretly had been in the confines of his rooms. “Our relationship had begun to fall apart before the ice rink closed, about 18 months earlier. I suppose it was really my fault, but there didn’t seem to be anything on the horizon for us as a couple,” mutters Beryl. Bob nods vigorously – and rather ungallantly for him – that it was indeed her fault. “She was just drinking, drinking – like me – and there was nothing else to life, even though Beryl does even now swear that there was something special between us.” She declared she loved him, in her own

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quirky way, very much; and he, her. Wooler merely grunts, but doesn’t deny this. “But effectively she had come to the conclusion that she was wasting her time with me and there was only one way out: that was to finish with me and, in truth, I felt the same way, empty and hollow. “Asking me about love is a difficult question, as over the years I’ve never known what love is, real love. And there wasn’t lust with us, well not that much that it mattered,” he laughs. “In her old movies that marvellous actress Bette Davis used to say ‘Make Love To Me’. But she didn’t really mean get me into bed ... she meant belong to me, look after me. “These days it’s much more direct. And infidelity is always more intense when it’s mental – in the very depths of the soul – rather than all that physical fumbling and squelching. A mental and emotional relationship is often more powerful than a physical one, as the physical side of things can soon become pointless and even boring.” Wooler adored lapsing into philosophical polemic and was often difficult to rein in once on the verbal ski slope. “Our relationship was not physical, anything like that was completely dissipated early on. There is, though, a remarkable intensity in a mental closeness that nurtures the soul. We had that for a while, I think. “Sadly, we had reached this period together when we felt we were looking into an abyss. I was looking for something that Beryl couldn’t give me and I wasn’t giving her, obviously. We had to part.” When he was compiling his biography of Wooler, author and broadcaster Spencer Leigh wanted him to go into all of this in detail. But, with one of his typical, off-hand quips, Wooler merely growled that “this love tale with Beryl just didn’t dove-tail”. “Sure during my ‘chats’ with Spen, our marriage inevitably came up, but I didn’t think it important, it is merely a headline. Ah, that’s just me and my sound bites very neatly and tidily dismissed. That’s the way I like it.” “Frankly, I wasn’t rankled at Beryl’s interest in the young boys in the bands, no matter what she smugly might think now,” declared Bob Wooler defiantly, although his cross-looking, scowling face indicated different emotions. “Let’s look at the facts. We knew all the groups. Of course we did. We were right in the thick of it, Beryl and I. So, there came this time when we lived in the basement of the flat in Canning Street and Beryl was managing that promising young outfit the Kirkbys.

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“You see they all came down to see US, you know. They all thought we had the influence and that magic touch. What a fucking joke, eh? “And do you know who gave that band the name? The Kirkbys? Who found them and encouraged them? ME! They were called the Panthers, for God’s sake, but as soon as I found out they all came from Kirkby, I told them ‘that’s the name to put you in lights, lads’. I told them they’d get huge amounts of publicity and they agreed. “I was the one who put Beryl in charge of them. MEEE! “So I was astonished when, a few years later, I bumped into them and they had changed the bloody name to 23rd Turn Off. Baffled I asked what in tarnation that was all about and they explained that it was the number on the motorway for the turn-off to Kirkby. It was utterly ludicrous. “I had given them a great name – the Kirkbys – and if things had turned out right they could have really made it big. And I was the one who got them the bookings, not Beryl,” he rants, waving his arms around.

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13 – Beryl’s Bizarre Last Pitch For Showbiz Glory

H

owever, Beryl and Bob’s ‘fond’ memories of her days as the manager of the Kirkbys don’t exactly tally with the facts the boys themselves remember. Neither Beryl nor Bob can now argue moot points – and Beryl wouldn’t have given two hoots anyway – but the gist of it is that the band reckoned that, quite frankly, they didn’t get the best out of the deal. Lead guitarist, John Lloyd, is sanguine about the old days, shrugging that sure enough he enjoyed the time enormously. He was clearly delighted to meet up with Beryl again in recent years. She had strolled into one of their gigs in Liverpool’s Dock Road Atlantic pub one rainy November night only six months before she was to die unexpectedly. They hadn’t all met together for decades and it was to be a night of tears and few recriminations, just regrets at lost opportunities. “Sure we are all very fond of her and as far as I can remember back to those days Beryl and Bob were very keen to take on the management of a Liverpool band. They thought they had the know-how and the clout, which I suppose at the time would have seemed obvious. With hindsight – and knowing them – perhaps we should have guessed the way it would turn out,” smiles John. The fact is that throughout the early part of 1964 Wooler and Beryl had been discussing the idea of taking a group under their wing, also convinced that they could weave the spells that others seemed to do with ease; to simply copy Brian Epstein’s style. Originally they had declared an interest in the Escorts, who were a very good band according to most who had heard them. And they looked and sounded like they were going to make it. If anyone was going to, they were in the frame for fame and success. That bid to take over the Escorts failed, for whatever reason, and John Lloyd thinks without any rancour that the Kirkbys were a sort of secondbest. So it was that, at 24 years of age, Beryl became the youngest woman in Britain – possibly even Europe and America – to manage a beat group. At the time, high on the prospects, Beryl remarked with confidence to newspaper and music magazine inquiries: “I learned a lot about the world of pop music while working for Brian Epstein and Ray McFall.

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“At first I do expect to run at a loss, but I have so much faith in the Kirkbys that I’m sure they’ll make the grade.” John Lloyd echoes that refrain: “They reckoned we were doing quite well and thought they’d have a go with us. In turn, we thought Beryl’s music business associations wouldn’t do us any harm, because, sure, we knew about her connections to Epstein and were pretty sure it would boost our careers. “And it did start off really well. Beryl had great contacts and she seemed to have it sorted out.” Beryl quickly got the boys fixed up on the circuit by getting the band accepted in Manchester by the esteemed McKeenan Agency who had the Merseybeats and the Hollies, amongst others, in their stable. “We reckoned we had it just about made by then and it was only a matter of time. What impressed us was that Beryl had worked in an office and all the paperwork was done without any fuss. We were getting pay slips and wage packets every week ... it was fantastic. And we were getting bookings all over the North through the Manchester agency,” exclaimed Lloyd. Indeed, there were all sorts of exciting things going on for the boys. They hurtled down to London for a dream photo shoot with Dezo Hoffman, who’d done the first really fabulous Beatles pictures. Beryl organised all of this. “Yeh, we had group shots and solo individual shots ... the lighting was great, we were all on a high. That was it. We were on our way.” Singer, Joe Marooth, who is now a globetrotting export director for a UK manufacturing firm says: “I can remember rehearsing in Beryl and Bob’s basement in their flat in Canning Street. It was Bob who said we should change our name from the Panthers and as we all came from Kirkby ... that was it.” Grinning widely, John Lloyd recalls that their first-ever – serious – dance gig as the Panthers was in 1962 at Hambleton Hall in the Page Moss area of Liverpool when, as it happened, the Beatles were also on the bill. “I’ve still got a poster from that booking. And I remember George Harrison arrived at the gig on a scooter wearing one of those silly crash helmets with the peaks. He looked daft.” One other night when they played with the Beatles they were judging a fashion competition and suddenly there was blue murder as a vicious fight broke out amongst the crowd. They were all locked in the band room, and the boys contend that even the tough guy, John Lennon, was cowering while all hell was unleashed outside.

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“They weren’t managed by Epstein then and we hadn’t heard of Beryl. In fact, we weren’t all that good really. We didn’t even have a bass guitar, which is where Bob Wooler comes into the story,” explains John. “There was me and Jimmy Campbell and Albie Power, with Kenny Goodlass on drums who had joined us by then. Joe wasn’t in the band at that time. We had a lead singer called Billy Riley who lived opposite the school where we rehearsed. He was a good singer and a fabulous Billy Fury impersonator.” As young teenagers the band started playing at a youth club, St Marley’s church, in the Northwood part of Kirkby, a huge sprawling council estate to the north of Liverpool which was a post-World War Two overspill from the slums of the inner city. “We used to play on a Monday night and had a great following of girls,” chuckles John. “When we got this great booking at the Hambleton Hall, naturally we didn’t have a van then so we all piled on the 92 bus. It was a big doubledecker, but we filled it, as all the girls from the club came as well. “We turned up at the hall and we couldn’t believe our eyes because Bob Wooler was the compere and he’d booked us on word of mouth from some friends of ours. “He was mightily impressed because all these girls were lined up at the front of the stage when we came on, more than for the Beatles. In reality, I think he was more impressed with our following than the music, because our standard then was between mediocre and crap,” he laughs with selfdeprecation. “Me and Jimmy Campbell were at school together, in the same class at Brookfield, one of the first comprehensives on Merseyside. In fact, four out of the five of us went to the same school, apart from Joe. We all got together after discovering our liking for the same kind of music in our last year in 1960.” During the first few months as a group the boys went under the name of the Tuxedos, when they were just 17 and mostly all apprentices. They rather riskily gave up their trades to find fame. Soon they’d changed their name to the Panthers as it sounded much more earthy and animal-like (sic). The lads thought they were really cool and launch their act with Elvis songs. The curtains opened to reveal them lined up with their backs to the audience, all sporting the hugely popular sky blue jeans that were replacing the drainpipes of the Teddy Boys. “Within minutes everyone had started dancing around and jumping about and all the girls in the front from the church youth club were shouting and screaming.

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The Kirkbys, Beryl’s proteges, in their early days as the Panthers

“Bob Wooler looked startled and was clearly wondering what the hell was going on. The girls obviously didn’t see through our musical limitations, and maybe even Bob didn’t,” John laughs again. “Well, we did a couple of gigs at Hambleton Hall but ultimately our big ambition was to play at the Aintree Institute club, which was big time for local bands then. In fact, I’d first seen the Beatles there when Jimmy had taken me because he was a fan.” The impressionable young Kirkby band was desperate to be announced at the venue by none other than Bob Wooler, who was to become their mentor, as he did for so many of the groups flooding the scene. “He had such a great voice for that sort of thing and when we did this Hambleton Hall show, Wooler said, ‘Yeh, lads that was great, but you’ve got to get a bass player. Get one and I’ll put you on at the Aintree Institute.’ “So that’s what we did and soon drafted Albie in. We taught him how to play bass in about three nights. His dad used to drive us around to gigs in a TV delivery van because he worked for Tommy Banner Televisions, a local Liverpool firm.

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“We’d arrive at gigs in this peculiar looking van. And he even took us to our first gig in Germany in that bloody television van.” Every Liverpool band – every British band – wanted to play in Germany after the lurid tales of Hamburg, the Beatles and the other Mersey Beat outfits. And the German fans were just as desperate to welcome the longhaired boyos from Liverpool, much like the music mad youngsters from towns and cities all over Britain. The Kirkby boys were riding on the crest of the Liverpool wave. Their debut was a double-edged sword. They arrived excitedly in a forgettable and miserable German industrial town to perform at what turned out to be a cavernous, cold, unappealing ballroom. The look of the place didn’t matter a jot though, as there, facing the gob-smacked band, was this huge sign plastered all over the wall outside in 20-foot letters: ‘FROM LIVERPOOL’. They did force out the chuckles, though, as their own name, ‘The Kirkbys’, was so tiny it was almost indecipherable. The Kirkbys took over a short residency from a band called Carl Wayne and the Vikings, a Cliff Richard-style outfit. But it was really slave labour – just like the Beatles had endured in Hamburg – and they found themselves playing non-stop six hours a night.

The Kirkbys after a photo shoot with the famous photographer Dezo Hoffman, who shot the Beatles in the same striking pose

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“Then, on Saturdays and Sundays, we did matinees as well! It was Hell!” John Lloyd frowns at the memory. “I think all we got for endless hours of playing was about £20 a week each. Mind you, I think Beryl paid us less than that!” As it turned out the Kirkbys did play the Aintree Institute, and many times. Wooler’s advice about a bass player paid off. And then the Cavern beckoned, again thanks to Wooler’s influence. “Yeh, I remember the first time we played there the Tornadoes were on and their ‘Telstar’ was number one in the charts. We had to use the Tornadoes’ equipment. After that we played the Cavern lots of times as the Panthers.” Then Bob decided they needed a name change and persuaded the boys to become the Kirkbys. They kept that ‘handle’ until 1967 – long after Beryl had gone her own way – when, in a casual last throw of the dice for fame and fortune, they changed the name again. It almost worked. Joe Marooth had left in 1966 to get married and the Kirkbys were struggling for a while. They ended up as the backing band for the Merseys – the outfit that emerged during one of the splits of the Merseybeats – with Billy Kinsley and Tony Crane as stand-up singers like the Walker Brothers. Their first backing group was the weird-sounding Fruit Eating Bears but they soon parted company; Kinsley was not that taken with their style. The Kirkbys replaced them and toured with the Merseys for about a year. “It was a truly great experience mixing it with all the top bands,” recalls John. One day they were with Jimmy Campbell in the van after a gig and coming back towards Kirkby, off the M6 motorway. The turn-off for home on the East Lancashire Road was the 23rd. Out of the blue Albie said, ‘Why don’t we call ourselves the 23rd Turn Off?’ “Well, there was nothing to lose and we agreed because it sounded like an ‘in’ sort of name for that period. We laughed that people might think it was something to do with drugs, you know psychedelic.” It was almost the right turn-off for the band because they made the seminal ‘Michelangelo’ record, written by Campbell, which picked up terrific write-ups in the music press. It even sneaked into the Top 100. After hammering out the rock ‘n’ roll for years and failing to make the mark with Beryl and Wooler, the Decca Dion label had noticed the newly renamed band. It specialised in the unusual and had enjoyed recent and tremendous success with the likes of Procul Harum; their ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ had struck gold with the zeitgeist of that hippy age. Campbell’s song was in the same mould and deserved to hurtle to the top. It didn’t. Maybe it wasn’t marketed properly but it slipped out of the charts and out of sight.

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“I think we were the record company’s first flop,” laughs John Lloyd again, ostensibly reconciled to the situation but he must secretly over the years have yearned for that lost fame. “Our song sold quite well but it never really made it big. And that was it for us. The end.” But he brightens up again and confides that the band did have some success as the Kirkbys. It wasn’t downhill all the way. Their first taste of fame was to come shortly after Beryl Adams had let the reins slip from her fingers; almost a parallel with Allan Williams, if not of the same magnitude in either success or sorrow. The Kirkbys’ manager at that time was from Birmingham, an individual they’d met casually at the students’ union in Manchester University. He secured the band stacks of work in the universities across the country, as a support to all the big acts. They were amazed to find themselves booked to play even in Finland, on what was ostensibly a one-off gig. But that Finnish connection became almost their launch pad to international glory. And later it paid off rather handsomely, in a way. Eventually, they cut a record – and in Liverpool’s Moorfields, where Epstein had his first big office. However, even with the mellow reflection of time John Lloyd can’t hide his wry smile, reckoning it was a pretty poor job: not a good record in anyone’s book. Beryl Adams was half convinced that she might have helped organise that recording, but in reality it was shortly after she and the band had parted company. But that ‘awful’ single ‘My Baby’s Gone’ wasn’t just going to lie down and die. To their surprise it was released just before they headed off to Finland on another short tour. It changed their lives for a brief spell and gave them a taste of the promised celebrity land. “To our utter astonishment it got into the charts in Finland. We were only the second British band ever to play there and we were treated like huge stars, eventually touring the whole country,” gasps Lloyd, all these years on still bemused at the freakish turn of events. Well, the boys continued to be astonished, as towards the end of 1965 that record stormed into the Finnish Top Ten. They were the toast of the towns and isolated hamlets, communities starved of live music and certainly appearances by foreign outfits. They were in demand for television shows and live concerts. By chance they had become the most unlikely stars in the twilight zone of the pop world. But the Kirkbys’ association with Beryl Adams – through late 1964 and into 1965 – was, according to John Lloyd and Albie Power, only a short one. And there is no doubt that towards the end it was a little fraught, to say the least.

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Beryl and the reformed and older Kirkbys at the fabled Atlantic pub on Liverpool’s dock road where she saw them perform for the first time in 30 years

John Lloyd often mulls over the Dezo Hoffman photographs – he’s kept a scrapbook of pictures and posters and is still very ‘chuffed’ with those images. “But I’ve often wondered if Dezo Hoffman was ever paid for them,” and he slips into a light laugh again. Certainly the band’s business partnership with Beryl didn’t last long after those pictures were taken. “I don’t know what happened really, there wasn’t any real bad feeling. I think we simply got disillusioned. Albie reckons we stuck it out with Beryl for maybe nine months, but I thought it was less. “Sure, she did open a number of doors for us and early on did help us considerably, but she was very volatile and unpredictable. “Yet I was most impressed, for example, that we had a picture in a very popular little magazine ‘On the Scene at the Cavern’ that’s been reissued several times over the years. I’ve got one of the originals that cost 2/6d. That was her doing. “Look, in the scale of things we were only small-time compared to lots of the bands. And in this magazine there were only four colour pictures in

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the centre pages: The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans and then ... US ... the Kirkbys ... pride of place in the middle. “That was the sort of thing that happened during our time with her, when she was keen in the early days and Wooler was in the background as well.” For a while in the sixties the band were seemingly on the rise and had picked up a nice wee following, even carting around chart singer Clodah Rogers’ husband, John Mains, as their roadie. A record deal was in the offing with the mainstream outfit Fontana – the label that signed and pushed the Merseybeats and other Liverpool bands – and the boys expectantly trundled off to London for a session in the studio. John Lloyd grimaces ever so slightly: “Thinking back it was a bit of a shambles really, because I have to admit that musically we had never progressed from that ‘never, never land’ between mediocre and pretty naff. “We could do ‘sort of’ rock and roll stuff. All the bands were doing that. But the Beatles were doing other things than rock and roll, like McCartney with Peggy Lee numbers. “So, we went down to Fontana and tried to sing the Marlene Dietrich song ‘Falling In Love Again’, which we’d heard McCartney sing. Well, we were just an ordinary rock and roll band and tackling that was clearly a mistake. We were way out of our league. I think there was a recording tape of it but Fontana weren’t interested after that effort.” It was from that point that their collaboration with Beryl began to deteriorate and it began to dawn on the group that maybe she and Wooler weren’t all they were cracked up to be. “I don’t think Beryl was too happy about us hassling her really. We were after the big time, I suppose. I think, too, Beryl had perhaps a little bit of a breakdown at that time,” he looks pensive and querulous. “She lost touch with a lot of things. Yeh, she was a highly strung girl,” says John diplomatically, if a trifle sadly. Indeed, there are those who argue that, maybe if she’d been able to keep a handle on things, the Kirkbys might well have made it – certainly there was a huge talent in Jimmy Campbell – and she could have gone on with them. Who knows? Really, though, Beryl – and Bob Wooler for that matter – weren’t the material to become whizz-bang impresarios. They lacked the zip and zap, even if Wooler did possess a snappy way with words. Within weeks the Kirkbys and Beryl drifted apart. The band even ended up going to celebrity solicitor, Rex Makin, to see how they might legally squirm out of this contract. Ever blunt and to the point, Makin told them it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

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“Ha, ha. So, there was nothing to contest. We left and that was it,” gurgles John Lloyd. “If we’d gone on to become famous she might well have chased us, but she had obviously lost interest in a lot of things by then. And she and Bob were always battering the booze, so it wasn’t going to work out,” said John, agreeing that now any speculation about what might have been is pointless. They half-heartedly carried on under their own steam until 1968 and finally packed in, lasting nine months as 23rd Turn Off. By then, Jimmy Campbell was keen to break away and go solo as a writer and performer. “It all came to a head really after we’d had two quite serious road accidents in a short period of time. We were lucky to be alive,” explains John Lloyd. The final straw for the boys as a working band was a near fatal incident in Finland. It was October and winter in Scandinavia, with all the ferocious implications. They drove the tour van over a ridge in the road to be faced with a four-foot deep snowdrift. Without warning the van went into a side skid, terrifying its occupants. The vehicle banged and tumbled over the hill in an uncontrollable slide, crashing on its side into a gully before turning upside down. “All the gear was in the van, but fortunately for us there was a partition that stopped it caving our heads in. But we couldn’t get out on our own as it had sliding doors. Rescuers managed to pull us to safety. It ended up okay, even though we were all rather badly shaken up. Kind local people put us up in a lovely chalet to recuperate.” But that accident marked the end of the dream for the Kirkbys. Of course, these working-class, decent lads from Liverpool lost out on two levels. Almost all had thrown up secure apprenticeships and jobs to try and make the grade as pop stars. “When it all folded five years later I did call in to the factory where I’d worked and they offered to take me on again as a sheet metal worker. But the factory was noisy and smelly and I thought, nah,” recalls John Lloyd. He was scratching around looking for a job and found that National Girobank – the state bank in the UK that was set up by the Labour Government in the late 1960s – was opening in Bootle, to the north of Liverpool, and hungry for staff. Forsaking showbiz Lloyd plumped for a safe and cosy job in computer operations, where he remained for 26 years. Joe Marooth went into sales, while Albie Power embarked on all sorts of odd jobs. Kenny Goodlass, like the mercurial but immensely talented Jimmy Campbell, also stuck with the music business and continued to earn a crust beating the skins.

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In a lovely twist, just before Beryl took them over, he’d actually left the Kirkbys to join the Escorts, who were seemingly making it at the time. “We got another lad in to replace him called Mervyn Sharp, a good drummer who was with us until near the end in 1967.” Kenny returned to the Kirkbys’ drumming stool when the Escorts folded, another casualty in the hostile world of showbiz. A handful of years ago the band – now men in their late 50s – got back together almost by chance. Albie’s son had formed a group and they were short of a guitarist. Albie – now in later life the reformed Kirkbys’ leader and manager – asked John Lloyd if he fancied playing with them, just for a giggle. “I thought what a wheeze it would be and then Albie got up a few times, and then before we knew it we were all there, the band was back in action.” No one really knew of the whereabouts of Kenny Goodlass until one night he turned up out of the blue after hearing about the gigs. He’d been working with Carl Terry and the Cruisers and been on the scene for a long spell. He’d played with the Merseybeats and the Swinging Blue Jeans for a number of years. And the band is given an injection of pure adrenaline when Jimmy Campbell -almost a shadowy figure by choice, but iconic in certain circles – somehow manages to turn up now and then, almost a caricature of himself and the classic wrecked image of excess by pop. These days, too, the clearly soon-to-be-legendary Undertakers’ saxophonist, Brian Jones, an accomplished and respected musician, is also part of the line-up. A further addition is Ritchie Routledge, the former singer with the Crying Shames, yet one more short-term hit band of the sixties that was a reluctant victim to fickle fate. Today the Kirkbys are winning new squadrons of fans with an exciting, well-honed sound that throbs with vital rhythm & blues, enhanced by Routledge’s wailing mouth organ and the howling, sexy saxophone pitched in by Jones. Happily – and with a striking confidence and high standard far removed from their early incarnation as a ‘naff’ band – they can tackle anything from Bob Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ through to the Beatles’ ‘Honey Don’t’. Today Joey Marooth sounds and vaguely looks like his hero Van Morrison, even to the too tightly buttoned up jacket and the sunglasses when singing. That cold, rainy November night – only a few months before her untimely death – Beryl sat squarely and proudly right in front of the tiny stage, a podium really, watching misty-eyed as the boys sauntered forward.

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As he launched into Van the Man’s ‘Dark Side of the Road’ Joey’s massive blues voice bounced off the richly tobacco-stained yellowing walls and old-time music hall posters and pictures of the fabled Atlantic pub’s large, scruffy public room, a venue that still echoes to the salty tales of long-dead seafarers. Beryl looked on in awe, stunned at the sound bursting forth from her ‘boys’, as she regarded them possessively to the last. Suddenly she was shocked out of this reverie as John Lloyd lets rip on Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ before the whole band shifted into a crackling version of the Merseybeats’ hit ‘Bring It Back Home’. From the corner of the stage John Lloyd winked at her and launched in to Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ before Ritchie almost brought the house down with an emotional rendition of the Crying Shames’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame’, the song that should have catapulted the band to international stardom. The small audience, including a handful hunched at the bar who twisted round to watch, was hushed as Brian Jones grappled his saxophone, wet his lips and then enthralled all with a solo sax blaster of the Ray Charles’ classic ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’. Beryl sat bright-eyed, soaking up the atmosphere and somehow half believing that she was the catalyst for this cracking sound. That revelatory night wound up with a reeling and rocking medley that involved a haunting take on ‘Blueberry Hill’ with a rip-roaring ‘Johnny B Good’ as the wrap. Ah, as Bob Wooler once famously remarked: “The stuff that screams are made of ... “ There is no disputing that the Kirkbys did have a certain, if fleeting, influence on the Mersey music scene and their troubled bluesy lead singer, Jimmy Campbell, carved – some would say croaked – out a reputation that still resonates; but largely outwith his hometown environs, the usual ‘prophet discarded in his own city’ sketch. In showbiz writer Paul Du Noyer’s highly lauded book on Liverpool’s musical heritage he sympathetically deals with Campbell, yet describes him thus: ‘Of all the unrecognised talents who fell as anonymous foot soldiers in the sixties’ beat campaign, Campbell was the best’. Du Noyer acknowledges Campbell’s remarkable song-writing abilities and believes that ‘Michelangelo’ should have been one of the greatest hits of 1967. “Instead it was ignored, but there is some posthumous justice in the fact that it is now regarded as a psychedelic classic by fans of the genre,” commented Du Noyer. Meanwhile, he further explains that over the course of four or five albums – some with Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley’s early 70s band Rockin’ Horse, with whom he played for a while – Campbell wrote ‘perhaps a dozen

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classics, maybe more’. Du Noyer reveals that the sixties pop star Billy Fury – who also died tragically early – covered several of Campbell’s songs and then laments how sadly Campbell’s talent was largely by-passed. Occasionally these days, when not wracked with pain, Campbell sallies, or rather struggles, forth to sing with the reformed Kirkbys. Ah, such emotive songs of tortured blues, and poetic polemics fuelled by his perceptions of rejection, angst and insecurities that are invariably a rare treat for the audiences; his voice now even more ‘golden virginia’ smoked; croaky hoarse and bloodily raw as a slab of butcher’s beef. Beryl had met him in the flesh only once after she parted with the Kirkbys, a brief hello close on 20 years before. She barely recognised his gaunt figure when she landed at the Atlantic pub without warning that dank, wintry Sunday night. Campbell was sitting hunched in the corner, hand-rolling a cigarette, almost wizened. He nodded to her. She paused to dart him a wan, almost puzzled, smile. But when he lurched onto the tiny corner stage to sing, she wept full sore, finally aware of the powerful potential she had let slip, and that the world too had just as casually breezed away. While we are chalking up credits, it is also true that Bob Wooler was generous and did secure the Kirkbys bookings whenever he could, even though Beryl was their official manager, no matter how briefly. Before he died, Wooler found it a source of great amusement that just like his beloved Merseybeats – who’ve also gone back to the name that he originally suggested for them – the Kirkbys have reformed, albeit parttime.

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14 – The Continuing Story Of Battering The Booze…

A

ccording to Bob Wooler The Kirkbys were quite a decent little outfit and Jimmy Campbell – now rarely venturing out because of illness, but with a blues voice that is etched with pain and experience – was good as a songwriter, quite talented and Bob used to encourage him, he bragged one lazy, hazy afternoon engaging with the grape again. He must surely have known of Campbell’s considerable repute amongst aficionados and fellow musicians, yet in his own stubborn way Wooler could never bring himself to admit that in the distant past he had lifted his own finger off the pulse, had basically blown his chances. Oblivious to the harshness of reality, he favoured the image of himself as a musical mentor, the one with superior tastes. “Ah, well, just because I let it be known that I liked Noel Coward and Cole Porter and all those great singers and writers, Jimmy Campbell would grimace and cry, ‘Oh my God we aren’t like that, we are on a different level’, just like McCartney would intone in those early days. Ha, I considered them mere Philistines. “I can remember chatting to McCartney in the Cavern band room at lunchtimes – which was the best time to mull over these things – about Noel Coward and that gang and, although he wouldn’t exactly look away bored, he gave the impression that he thought, ‘Oh this guy’s a real bloody pain...’ and NOWWWW, there is so much of Noel Coward in McCartney’s lyrics. Maybe he did listen to my ramblings, but he would never admit it was my influence. “I’ve never been able to understand these young guys – and this is relevant today as well – who seem to think that pop music ... popular music ... only began with rock and roll in 1955 or thereabouts. Heck, it began decades before then. You know, I brought some sheet music down to show the Beatles ... ‘Thanks for the Memory’ etc. I said to them, ‘Please, lads, look at these lyrics to ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. Isn’t this marvellous? But no, they’d sooner listen – his voice swoops up several octaves in frustration – to Elvis singing his rubbish. That man was so overrated.” Wooler shakes his head in despair, snarling. He is scuffling along on one of his meandering, interminable rambles about the past and surprisingly willing to discuss his drinking binges when the Cavern involvement was strong and the Beryl relationship was ongoing

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and relatively stable. They both had an urgent need to drink heavily. Beryl puts it down to her not having a proper job at the time. It was just wild, she pleads, in a bid for justification. Wooler, naturally, disagrees with another airy wave of his arm. “No, it wasn’t all that wild. People have the wrong impression of the 1960s ... when you narrow it down ... people think it was absolutely wild day in and day out but frankly it wasn’t.” Beryl pitches in that it was certainly lively though – at least energetic. Bob interrupts: “You know this for a fact, Beryl, that there would often be times when I would be down in that Cavern talking to a hundred people who didn’t divest themselves even of their coats. They’d stand around sipping cups of tea – tea for Chrissakes – or munching on vile hot dogs or even a bloody bowl of soup. That says much about the mythical rampant scene. “That was sure interesting, the soup. I once said to Ray, ‘There’s something very special about your soups Ray ... you are a good Catholic lad aren’t you ... you make sure that on a Friday you only serve tomato soup don’t you ... no meat?’ There you go; that was the fun of it. Meatless fucking soup.” Wooler guffaws at his jest. “Ray never understood what the Hell I was talking about.” His eyes fill up when he admits that getting divorced from Beryl was extremely traumatic. “She organised it all, initiated everything ... but we didn’t fall out over it ... just went through phases of not speaking.” There are strange anomalies that neither Beryl nor Wooler usually addressed, such as the Allan Williams part of their tale. When Williams and Wooler set up in business together in the mid-1970s to peddle their own twaddle about their Beatles’ connections to make a few shekels, he must have known of the earlier marriage. “I never discussed it with him, but of course he knew,” muttered Wooler “which is why,” he spluttered while gritting his teeth, “I was so thoroughly annoyed about Beryl and Williams ‘getting it together’. “I didn’t manifest my feelings at first,” and, glugging at his wine, he glowers at Beryl confrontationally as she tries to disagree. “Beryl please. Stop that. Sorry it’s the Yorkshire in me, I do try to confront people, I know. So, I said to her bluntly: What’s this with you and Allan? Not resenting it but only the fact that I hadn’t been told. “Why wasn’t I told, I asked. As for you, Beryl, YOU said that you felt that if I knew I’d have made it awkward for you both. God, I said, but I wouldn’t have. Good God, Beryl, it was over and done with, US! That was 1971 or something,” yet he was smarting still years later, unable to rationalise or compromise with fiction and fact.

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Beryl jumps in and says that she knew he would react like that. Snottily, he waves her away: “Beryl don’t try to justify things ... no ... you must speak the truth. Yes, I really resented that I learned the news from a guy I call the Town Crier – a friend called Eddy Porter – and from Bill Harry’s book ... his bloody Beatles encyclopaedia. Someone showed me this entry applicable to me. How the hell Bill Harry found this out I don’t know. So I read that Beryl had been consorting with AW for a while and had trundled off to Cuba ... but not to see Fidel Castro,” he winks with his rascally twinkle. “Oh no, but to attend a Beatles convention. And who was on this bill? Well it was AW ... folks ... and Mrs Bob Wooler! MRS BOB WOOLER! I was gob-smacked. How dare you use my name after so long.” His voice lowers menacingly and his jaw juts: “As it happens, when I did eventually calm down I quietly asked AW what it was like – that convention – and how Beryl had performed. Well, ever the gentleman, he wasn’t very complimentary about Beryl and said he had to rescue her. I lapped up that bit of news.” “Listen, Robert, it wasn’t my idea, honest.” Beryl sheepishly lowers her head. Bob snarls back, the copious glasses of Argentine red wine beginning to swirl the bile into a whirlpool within him: “Now listen here, Beryl, you are trying to shift the blame to him now – Beryl whines ‘No I’m not, I’m blaming no-one’ – but listen dear, everything’s different now, calm down’. His face goes bright red and dangerously blotched: “Bloody hell!! Of course I vexed, finding out about Beryl and Williams like that. It was as though we didn’t know each other (his voice takes on a self-pitying cadence once more) but you kept it all so quiet I had to find out second-hand. Surely that’s one of the worst ways of learning anything.” He suddenly lunges verbally: “Don’t dare shrug it off as you are trying to do,” he mumbles away, glowering at the blank wall like a petulant child. “And, naturally, Williams didn’t tell me either. Oh, no ... oh, no ... (voice rising again to a furious crescendo, finger wagging) he’s in the frame for it as much as you Beryl. His petty little excuse was that he thought I’d be annoyed. Why should I be annoyed? I wouldn’t have been bothered at all, if I’d been told. But, you see, this (little subterfuge) enabled Allan Williams (he fair spits out the surname in emphasis) to get airfares and hotel accommodation and all the rest of it for Mrs Bob Wooler. For Mrs Bob Wooler. Not Beryl Adams whom no one had EVER heard of before. The conniving, double-crossing beast,” he snarls. Beryl murmurs that she thought they’d struck a deal so they could be friends now, the three of them. Without warning, like a stabbed siren she

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rips out of control, goaded by Wooler’s snide remarks: “Of course. I own up!” she shrieks. “But I wasn’t there when it happened, when he ... you ... found out.” “Well then, my dear let me tell you when I first heard about it. In the bloody pub in Lark Lane, the Parkfield ... that drinking den you and Williams like so much. I was quite hurt by it. Well, I thought, that’s it. Throughout our marriage I didn’t begrudge her relationships ... she could go her separate way ... it didn’t matter then. It was a Cole Porter relationship. But this was totally different, very much like that disgusting Stanley Reynolds time.” Although entertaining, this verbal jousting is singularly grotesque as it zips along on several, parallel levels. “It wasn’t really a relationship with Stan,” retorts Beryl. “He – she points to Wooler disdainfully – threw him at me.” Wooler is instantly on the attack, ‘Now come off it’, and they are bickering wildly, anyone and everyone else ignored in this intoxicating, enraged skirmish. Beryl points at him and reveals: “After the end of the meal I had once with Stanley Reynolds, I threw a bottle of Cinzano at Bob’s head down the steps of the Cavern ... it missed him and Ray McFall will back that up...” “NO. It didn’t,” yells Wooler. “Shall I call Ray? He’ll tell the truth. It bloody well hit me. It hit ME! This is you all over, stop it Beryl, you make things up as you choose to ... this does annoy me with you. I never made an issue about that, it was Ray who was going on about it ... and it happened at the bottom of the Cavern steps. Oh, you’ve suddenly gone all sulky,” he ripostes, eyes flashing as he senses a victory, although it is simply Pyrrhic, as ever with this bunch of people who seem intent on forever damaging each other emotionally, as well as physically. “It really hurt. It knocked my tooth out ... come off it Beryl ... I’ve kept quiet for years.” Beryl mumbles: “I don’t like you pointing at me.” No one wonders – or bothers to explain – why Beryl was carrying around a bottle of Cinzano into the Cavern club, though – a venue that was ‘dry’ and didn’t sell or allow alcohol to be consumed in the early 1960s. “Pointing? You don’t like me pointing? What? Surely you are used to AW pointing at you?” Bob blasts out the remark. “No, I’m not,” she blurts out tearfully, once again the intimidating aspect of their relationship from Bob’s side comes to the fore and she is subservient, compliant even. “I know he devastates you at times with his language. I recall recently when we were talking about his wife ... still his wife, as you very well know ... Beryl Williams ... and he blazed up at you ... and I realised ... aha ... that old feeling is not dead within him, the old ember is still glowing. Now there’s a good line ... the old ember still glowing, the old member still

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growing,” spouts Wooler, falling back on his penchant for poetic – if vulgar – prose. He was fond of using words to shock. Beryl adds: “He vowed he wouldn’t go back there for Christmas again but it seems he was on that occasion; so he said he would pay for a birthday present for me. We’d go to Portugal for a week to compensate. “And I asked him did it mean we were having Christmas at home and he said it would have to be Grove Park (Beryl Williams’ home) for him. He muttered something about the new baby, his grandchild.” Bob leaps in “You put up with this ... you cling to this guy.” Beryl shouts angrily: “I don’t cling to him ... I’m doing my best to get rid of him but I can’t” – so Wooler quickly suggests changing the locks on her flat. She yells, clearly losing this little scrimmage: “He hasn’t got my bloody keys, he can’t get into my flat.” Wooler smirks, recalling working with Allan Williams in the early 1980s at Beatles conventions. “In the end I said to myself ... look, you are wearing yourself out while he gallivants about. It had to end, too. As for Allan and Beryl, no, I don’t think they are suited because AW only believes what he sees in the mirror. When Beryl first took up with him she used to ring me, to ask if I needed any shopping and naively I thought it was for me. But she was sneaking around to see her lover who lived around the corner from me.” Beryl squeaks in protest. “No I don’t think they are suited. AW got out from the apron strings of his wife ... only too pleased to get away ... and then, as you know Beryl, he was asserting himself with Jean, that Loretta creature in Spain and God knows who he’s met in between ... and now you of course,” he grunts, pointing to Beryl airily. There was a strange counter-point to Beryl’s relationship with these two men that meant she was incapable of shaking them off, no matter the emotional and mental chaos they wreaked on her. Bob dismisses Allan Williams thus: “If I were secure enough I’d just tell everyone ... that guy is nothing but a con merchant. I can give one instance about the White Star (pub) in Button Street just off Mathew Street. The landlord became friendly with Allan of late and with the connivance of AW put up a ‘Wall of Shame’, as I call it ... pictures of various people around in the 1960s. And there is Williams pictured in the back room – and he’s allocated only one space to me in the corner. One space! The truth is, AW never even went there in the 1960s!” His voice becomes outraged and agitated – Beryl adds, “No, Allan didn’t like it then.” Bob carries on: “And now Allan is telling everyone that he used to drink in there with the

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Beatles. Did he like SHITE! He was never down there at all in the 1960s. It’s all lies. “I told the new landlord at the Grapes pub that he would be infested with a lot of phonies coming along, claiming all sorts of connections with the Beatles and other groups. And I told him that there is one person who is the biggest phoney on the scene. You must beware of them and most of all beware of him ... that Allan Williams. “I drank in the White Star from 1961 to 1967 – Beryl would come as well – and AW was never there. I was also a regular in the Grapes but there was never a trace of Allan Williams anywhere around there in the 1960s. He tells people he was there simply because he doesn’t like me having any glory. He just can’t stand not being the main man.” Incoherent in parts, as the drink has now kicked in good style, he burbles: “And then ... hmmmm, and what he used to say about Beryl in the 1960s.” She squawks again: “Me? What do you mean? I didn’t know him then.” “Aha ... I am unable to go any further ... and you’ll dispute everything I say anyway – I won’t – oh, so you want me to talk. Well, I’m afraid the masquerade is over for now,” and Wooler puts a finger to his lips and whispers drunkenly: “Shooosh.” Beryl skits him: “Well, there’ll be another day for you to spill whatever beans you think you can cook up.” But there never was such a gathering as that drunken revelry and bitter bickering in Keith’s wine bar was the last time the couple met together socially. And on that day Allan Williams failed to turn up: again the ghost at his own beggars’ banquet of abuse. The next time Bob and Beryl enjoyed any kind of emotional intimacies she was sitting at his bedside consoling him as he prepared in full knowledge to approach his death.

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15 – The Desperate Last Hours Of Bob Wooler’s Demise

B

ob Wooler finally gave up the ‘ghost’ of what was left of the shards of his broken life and died at 4.30am on Friday morning February 8th 2002. Beryl was woken from a fitful sleep to be told the sad, bleak news 15 minutes after it happened in what Wooler would have regarded as the ultimate irony, by Allan Williams. For some unknown reason the hospital staff had only Allan’s telephone number for Wooler’s ‘next of kin’ and called him. In fact, Beryl and Williams were the closest people Bob had in terms of ‘family’, his brother hadn’t been found by then. Beryl was devastated at Bob’s demise but also quite relieved. It had pained her to watch the awful way his last few days had panned out. But she was still very hurt by his errant behaviour when he gave written authority to a chap called Pat Clooney – someone she insisted was a mere acquaintance – to look after his belongings. Wooler had no intention of allowing his ex-wife access to pore over the tawdry remnants of his life. Once again drawn into the semi-drama, Liverpool solicitor Rex Makin had been asked to draw up Wooler’s Last Will and Testament but Bob had fallen too ill for it to progress. At the time there were no apparent living family or heirs so he died intestate and Pat Clooney – presumably at Mr Makin’s instructions Beryl bitterly recounted – shifted his much adored collection of Beatles and Mersey Beat memorabilia to a garage for safe-keeping. It is currently being sifted for the archives of the Liverpool Institute of Popular Music, at the University of Liverpool. This was in fact Wooler’s particular wish, conveyed to Beryl and at least three or four others verbally. The situation deteriorated rapidly for Beryl as, to cap everything else, it looked like Bob would endure the further ignominy of a pauper’s funeral. He had no money that any of them knew of and his treasured ‘bits and pieces’ couldn’t be sold. Even as his ex-wife, Beryl wasn’t considered his legal next of kin. That also felt like a stab in the heart to her, knowing that some people were revelling in and joyous about the mess that Wooler’s life had become at the final cut.

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There was an elder brother but Bob hadn’t clapped eyes on or heard from him in over 35 years and the accepted understanding was that he was most probably dead himself. Allan Williams had instigated a search through BBC Radio Merseyside for this long-lost blood relative but it came to nought, at first. But months later that sibling suddenly surfaced in London. He hadn’t really wanted to know anything about his brother’s death until it was revealed that there might be money involved, albeit a small legacy. But that was later. Neither Beryl nor her friends could afford to pay for Bob’s funeral and certainly not a ‘wake’ party. As far as she was aware journalist and avid Beatles fan Peter Grant from the Liverpool Echo – who had interviewed Sir Paul McCartney on many occasions and knew his then press chief, Geoff Baker, very well – had made inquiries to see if Paul would cough up for Wooler’s coffin. But despite his warm greetings to Bob when he was ill, no such luck. Then Bill Heckle, now owner of the new Cavern, – came up trumps. He rang and offered to cover the costs of a funeral and a gathering of friends and mourners, up to a very generous sum of £5,000. Probably because Beryl was the nearest thing Bob had left alive to a relative, she was given ‘permission’ by Rex Makin to be the recipient of the death certificate from the hospital, necessary to ensure that Wooler had a proper funeral. Makin – who of course had known Brian Epstein and his family well – in the weeks leading to Bob’s demise had adopted some kind of proprietary role over Bob’s life and death, describing him as a client. According to Beryl there was only one occasion when Bob turned to him for real help, and indeed Mr Makin – in his rapier-like manner – lashed out about an article in the Liverpool Daily Post in the early part of the week before Bob’s death highlighting his dire plight in hospital. He said it was in bad taste and that it took cheap advantage of his condition. The truth was that Wooler felt he was being treated appallingly by the medical staff – wrongly or rightly – and firmly requested that the article be published. Beryl knew that he was so flustered and just wanted somewhere peaceful to die, where his last needs could be met in some comfort. Displaying her paranoia again Beryl obsessed that Rex Makin had a grudge against her and she believed he’d even told Bill Heckle that she was thrown out of the Royal Liverpool Hospital – along with Allan Williams – for trying to coerce Bob into completing his Will. It was suggested that this move was at Wooler’s instigation. Beryl refuted it hotly and took great exception to the allegations, persuaded they were inspired by one of the ‘parasites’, as she denounced them, who had resurfaced in the latter few weeks of Bob’s life to take an interest in him.

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There was little doubt that Wooler had really upset her a few days before his death when she discovered that he had agreed to let a friend of his, John Seddon, look after his affairs. He had known Wooler for many years but in Beryl’s opinion was hardly a regular pal. Added to the Pat Clooney situation – the chap who had the key to Wooler’s flat, which Beryl had been refused – this meant she was in quite a state of emotional distress as the weeks progressed. Despite this there was no doubt in her own mind that Beryl was lamenting another father figure and one that was just as painful as when she lost her real dad. She groaned that she would miss Wooler terribly and just hoped that people wouldn’t think too badly of him because he was weak and lonely and very despondent at the end of his life. He had wrapped up all of those early years in a time warp, and ended, as he genuinely imagined, just nobody: forgotten and a failure. But he wasn’t, his funeral proved that as the mourners arrived in droves to attend or sent letters and e-mails from all over the world. Beryl had been much comforted at the overwhelming demonstration of affection at Wooler’s final farewell. And now there is even a plaque to his memory pinned to the Cavern wall. There were close on 400 messages of condolence either at Beryl’s home, at the church or sent to other locations such as BBC Radio Merseyside or the Liverpool Echo. But, of course, Wooler never knew. Yet there was not a peep from the two surviving Beatles, Ringo or Paul, not even a comment in any of the press reports, and Bob’s obituary was carried with lengthy tributes in all the major British broadsheets such as the Times, Guardian and Independent – the latter by Bob’s ‘biographer’ Spencer Leigh – as well as numerous news items in the tabloid newspapers. George Harrison would have had the decency to say something, to send a note, Beryl believed, but she seriously doubted if Lennon would; it seems that he never really spoke to Wooler again after that famous fight and Bob often referred to him as ‘a right prick’. Beryl had always defiantly insisted that in those far-off days when first tinkering with each other’s affections, she didn’t know anything about Wooler’s homosexual predilections, that he didn’t need to let on, there was no reason to tell her. That was soon to alter when Wooler – seemingly confused about his sexuality and trying to keep a lid on it – suddenly one evening as they were trawling the bars asked Beryl to stay out with him, all night. He was making what he – and she – took for a pass at her.

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She was taken aback but readily agreed because she did like him enormously. And she was certainly no virgin. He glanced at her in a shy way and said he wanted to stay with her in a hotel in Mount Pleasant, one of Liverpool’s thoroughfares. He explained, breathlessly, that he felt he had to come clean with her and tell the truth, about his real feelings. Startled, as the request was totally unexpected, she was still embarrassed discussing the event all those years later, but thought that the simple explanation was that he wanted to try ... “to try have sex with me”. For Wooler it was perhaps a form of experimentation and maybe even an attempt to cover up the fact that she was basically a front for his homosexuality. Clearly she did think a lot of him, as she consistently agreed. Their evening of congress began innocently enough in an old pub called the Clock, which was then a haunt for those who were euphemistically called – by Wooler – ‘queers and homos’ but was also a place where theatre staff and visiting actors at the nearby Playhouse theatre would drift in. It was a regular haunt of Brian Epstein, who was also a great lover of the theatre, his failed RADA adventures merely confirming his love of the muse, and a regular at the Playhouse, although Beryl didn’t know him by sight or reputation, despite the proximity of their shared drinking dens. Beryl knew the Clock well because she’d worked at the theatre – the oldest repertory theatre in Britain and boasting a formidable reputation – for a couple of years. In her late teens she was employed as secretary to the theatre’s much loved and respected artistic director Maud Carpenter, who helped shape the Playhouse into an iconic venue in that era. And so another piece of Beryl’s jigsaw-like life slotted into place as she confirmed this was the first time she’d associated with celebrities and the world of entertainment on a daily basis. Household-name stars flocked to the Playhouse. This was around the mid-1950s and she vaguely recalled bumping into a very young Anthony Hopkins – even sharing a sandwich backstage with the man who was to carve out an international career and win an Oscar – but then a gauche, nervous fledgling star stepping on the much-hallowed Playhouse boards. Hopkins played the ingénue Christie in the UK premiere production of the Irish writer J M Synge’s controversial ‘Playboy of the Western World’, and has confessed that it was the boost his acting career needed. Ironically it was performed for the first time in 40 years recently at the same theatre and Beryl was in the audience. She had loved it but admitted that she never saw that original Hopkins version, had been too busy back stage. Frankly, she had grinned, theatre didn’t really interest her that much as a young girl and she took it for granted that these actors came and went on a regular basis.

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She wasn’t star-struck in the slightest. In truth she wasn’t all that grabbed by the job and astonishingly left out of boredom with the world of show business and all the theatre luvvies, a sweet irony in the circumstances that followed. There was another irony that she wasn’t to appreciate for many, many decades and found sublime on reflection. Beryl Williams, the wife of Liverpool’s own playboy ingénue Allan Williams, was deeply involved with the theatre scene in the city, and indeed still remains so. Her home was a regular dropping-off point as ‘digs’ (accommodation) or for parties where the main guests and frequent partygoers were actors, directors and production crews. The two Beryls must have known of each other but never exchanged words. And it is unlikely that Beryl Williams would have twigged, as years later her estranged husband was to embark on an affair with Beryl ‘Number Two’. Beryl Adams was genuinely staggered when she fell in with Allan to discover that this very same Beryl was the wife he constantly talked about. She’d seen her wandering around the theatre and had probably been to parties at her house. Beryl tried hard to recall but was sure that the two had never actually spoken, but it was obvious that Mrs Williams – Beryl ‘Number One’ – didn’t rate Beryl ‘Number Two’ as a person of any note. She will, presumably, be astonished to learn that they’d been padding around each other’s lives for so long. Beryl loved the Clock pub – and its near neighbour the Basnett Bar, owned by another Jewish homosexual, Alan Swerdlow, and fabled for its marble-topped bar, oysters and the tingle of folk tackling life at the edge. They both throbbed of a musky daring. It was in the Clock that another of Liverpool’s ‘characters’ honed his ‘act’. Barman John Meakin – now another also down on his luck – was to become besotted with the urbane, sophisticated dress code of the ‘clientele’. So much so that in his later life, as one of the most high profile publicans in the city, he adopted a foppish fashion style, wearing spats and bowlers and carrying a cane. He once even sported a traditional Nelson-style admiral’s uniform when he ran the hugely popular Baltic Fleet pub on the Liverpool waterfront. Beryl struggled to remember Wooler’s rather naughty suggestion of going to bed. They were slugging back a few drinks and Wooler was building up his courage, although she wasn’t aware of it at that point. Suddenly he blurted out that they should try sleeping together. Beryl was astounded but in a strange way delighted. With barely a few seconds to think it over she shrugged and agreed.

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That very night, they ‘did it’, using the particular vernacular she preferred. Made love. But Wooler didn’t confess fully to Beryl until afterwards that he was homosexual and she commented that it wasn’t an issue that crossed her mind as they were writhing in passion. She would smile coyly at the memory. Then, as they lay together in the early dawn, the sound of the stirring city and clanking mail trains in Lime Street railway station rumbling outside the window, Wooler murmured quietly that he had something to tell her. What followed might have rocked other women, and would most certainly have unsettled them. Wooler told Beryl bluntly, as she rested on his naked chest, that he’d always preferred to look at men, boys actually. He had never admitted this to anybody but felt he had to come clean and tell her, felt it was important. To his surprise she wasn’t shocked. Even though he thought it had come like a bolt out of the blue after they’d just had sex. Beryl reckoned she knew intuitively and had some inkling, some hunch. Wooler told her that he had wanted to see her overall reaction. She had shrugged again and responded – much to his delight – that maybe they should just see how it went as a couple. Wooler then began to cry gently and she gave him a hug. Beryl didn’t think it cruel but basically it suited her. And she must have thought about it, especially working for Epstein and knowing that he was gay. She knew, too, that Bob was kind of friendly with Brian, or at least an acquaintance. Epstein had his girlfriends, and other women, as a social cover – Beryl was one for starters – but it was obvious where his sexual interests were directed. He didn’t disguise it and his mannerisms were becoming slightly effeminate, certainly noticeable, at least to a woman. Wooler on the other hand was merely edgy, petrified that he might be caught out and forced into an admission that he wasn’t prepared for at that time. When Beryl later agreed to marry Wooler she knew full well that he was gay but she explained that a lot of water had flowed under the bridge by then. They’d had countless ups and downs and, as she pointed out, she’d already ‘done her wrists in’ once, and that was long before the marriage vows were taken. It didn’t seem strange to Beryl that she was told at that first suicide attempt to get Wooler out of her life; or he was told to get shut of her at the same time. Medical advisors had warned that each needed to be out of the other’s way; that the relationship was mutually damaging. Her sister Dorothy, and certainly homophobic inclined twin Kenneth – as Wooler was wont to describe him – complained that he was no good for her. But when she came out of hospital she didn’t leave him, inexplicably the self-destruct button was pushed again and the relationship trundled on and

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off for years. They got married, much to the astonishment of her siblings and many friends, and for that matter his. And now and then they did – she admitted – continue to sleep together. For Beryl this was an indication that to a certain extent Wooler was bisexual, or at least pretending to be so. But she was under no illusions he still much hankered after the boys. Oh, for sure, she confessed, they did occasionally have sex and he tried very hard to be heterosexual but failed. He wanted to be ‘normal’ as he put it. And Beryl knew that as far as he was capable he did love her. She declared with a fierce loyalty that he “really did try very, very hard”, and she respected and loved him for that. In his defence, she was adamant that Wooler didn’t sneak off when he was with her to have secret flings with the lads. But often they did go their separate ways socially, and sexually both were driven by powerful needs. She viewed this as no great shakes and they certainly didn’t hide anything from each other. Once they had split up Beryl didn’t have an inkling what Wooler was up to, or for that matter care. They lost touch for a long time. There was, though, something on her mind troubling her about that sham marriage. It took Beryl weeks to pluck up the courage to reveal that, in fact, Wooler would invite boys around to their home for hanky panky, as she called it, but not many. There was one in particular ... a regular ... but he wasn’t a musician ... he wasn’t on the scene ... just a young lad, it seems. He would come around to their home to stay the night. Beryl was also there and didn’t object to any of this. It was obviously very hard for her to talk about but she regained her composure and muttered that it didn’t matter much anymore, it was a long time ago and of no consequence. The once tightly snapped lid on the Pandora’s box was sliding open and Beryl soon spilled out the information that at one stage, not long after she and Wooler were married, she used to see a young fellow – as she quaintly puts it – quite a lot. She was horrified to discover after a while that she was pregnant. She decided there was no point in having the baby and she wasn’t exactly a naive slip of a girl. She couldn’t remember if she told Wooler before or after the abortion. Much later on, after they were divorced, Wooler confided in her with much sorrow that he wished they’d have kept the baby and brought it up as their own. He imagined that if they’d kept the child it might just have kept them together. Beryl didn’t think it was worth the risk at the time ... not to her anyway. As she discussed what was clearly a painful subject her voice took on a thickness, she went silent and a few uncontrolled tears rolled down her cheek.

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Wooler knew about all her extramarital affairs and as far as she knew he was carrying on with as many boys. She certainly got out and about and when they were both hitting the drink hard after the Cavern closed down Beryl worked in a bar in Prescot – a gloomy satellite town on the southern outskirts of Liverpool – and was out drinking and on the prowl for men every night. As she told these tales she would look up, eyes begging for approbation. She liked to use the excuse that she was a total, complete and utter rebel because she was a twin, but there was a hollow, hoarse echo to her voice, aware that really that justification carried no weight; and in any case it didn’t matter. Their troubled marriage bumbled along until in the end they were just drinking so much, out of their heads all the time, and it wasn’t going anywhere. And it wasn’t anything to do with Wooler’s homosexuality, argued Beryl defensively and protectively. Going off at a tangent she launched into a tirade about most of their strife being to do with the rubbish he had collected over the years ... his Beatles and Mersey Beat memorabilia. She couldn’t cope with the mess ... the junk ... couldn’t have a normal life. That’s what she craved. As a result of their intransigence with each other, the clammy fear of real commitment, there were lots of opportunities for the one-off relationships for both herself and Wooler. She knew which musicians he favoured and yet, oddly and perversely, claimed to have never been totally convinced that he was having a wild time with many of them ... if any. He was the kind of person, Beryl would intone, that didn’t particularly want to push it too far. He was nervous about that ... he was never overtly homosexual in public. In fact he hated it. Hated the idea of being gay, it was a tragedy as he’d known from an early age. It turned him into a very doleful, lugubrious person. After Beryl, she suspected he’d never struck up a deep, meaningful or long relationship with anyone, not even a man and certainly no other woman. He’d lost his mother at an impressionable age and had no one he could really talk to or confide in, except Beryl. Therein lay the nub of their relationship, the anvil to beat them both psychologically senseless; Beryl was probably as much a mother figure to him as he a father to her. Paradoxically, she concurred that at the Cavern it was generally open season for Wooler to cavort amongst the young men in the groups, but she was sure a lot of them led him on because they found it amusing to tease and tantalise him. As John Lennon most certainly did, with his often sharp and cutting manner, episodes that hurt Bob Wooler deeply.

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Their marriage was very free and open with no ground rules. That’s what they had both tacitly agreed. Wooler accepted the way she was. As a result she was able to do what she liked. After the Cavern folded, and before she met her second husband, Beryl had found a poorly paid bar job in a rather seedy drinking den called The Embassy. The fellow who owned that also owned the Gorsey Kop club in Gateacre – another suburb of Liverpool – and after they’d finished one working shift serving drinks the disconsolate couple would travel on to the Kop club about 3.00pm or so on Sunday afternoons. There they would drink until oblivion flayed them, supping and roistering with footballers from Liverpool and Everton football clubs. Neither was particularly interested in them being football stars, for Beryl – and Wooler for that matter – they were just good-looking ‘fellers’. And she was still able to pull them. When she was working in the Cavern with Ray McFall the boys in the band were mostly too young for her. Not that it stopped her having flings with the odd one or three, maybe more she was to cautious to explain further. She would never reveal names, claiming they are well known. For all her disorderly existence Beryl had no inclination to cause upsets in the lives of people she had brushed against. She was in contact regularly with some of them, anyway. That was another part of her ‘tragical history tour’, this inability to cut a swathe through her own emotions, to grab what she wanted willy-nilly in terms of gratification. But in the end it didn’t satisfy her desperate longing to be needed and wanted. In many ways she was cast adrift on a tempest of her own making. Her relationship with Wooler was a very strange love affair indeed. Very different to any social mores that others could portray. It crossed the boundaries of normality, perhaps even decency at times. Beryl never denied that. Wooler held a very great affection for her as she did for him. It was, she would declare, much stronger than with Allan Williams. And totally different, as she confessed in the confines of her living room that she never felt that same depth for Allan, that sharing of broken spirits and lost souls clinging to each other. And, frankly, Allan Williams is far too pragmatic to wallow in that kind of destructive self- indulgence; his demons are carefully crafted. Certainly Wooler didn’t want their peculiar marriage to end. He was devastated when it broke down. He held Beryl in such high esteem – at least on occasions when he wasn’t pillorying her unmercifully, or thumping her black and blue. He was terribly upset and broken hearted at the collapse of the ‘arrangement’, but Beryl was convinced but she couldn’t cope with the mood swings and irrationalities. She told him so bluntly and impulsively

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one night. Even as the instigator of that end she felt it was very sad and unfortunate the way the relationship simply smashed to smithereens. The final straw came one particular night when Beryl had been out on the town, ricocheting from one bar to the next. Wooler was also out, on his own, pursuing whatever antics took his fancy. They were living in Scholar Street in a small terraced house off Smithdown Road in south Liverpool. Beryl had gone to bed, drunk as usual, and Bob was still out cavorting. It was very late. There was a loud knock at the door. It was the police. They told her that Wooler was locked up in the police cells. He’d been arrested for loitering in a doorway. He probably wasn’t doing anything untoward, asserted Beryl, merely stumbling home in his usual inebriated state. Nevertheless, nothing like this had ever happened to her before and she didn’t have a clue what was going on, or what to do. Guilt continued to wrack her years later at her reaction to this incident. She looked at the police officers blankly. She didn’t stand up for Wooler, didn’t speak out on his behalf. After a few moments of silence, the two police officers merely shrugged and left her standing mute on the step. She made no attempt to follow and perhaps bail Wooler out. He was released the next morning and was utterly disgusted with her for not rushing to his aid that night. That really was the turning point for Beryl. They’d only been married a year and as early as that she decided there was no future. She told him then that she was thinking of leaving but it didn’t happen right away and he didn’t take it in. It was maybe 18 months or two years later that the inevitable happened. Beryl had allowed the relationship to drift along in its weird way. And that’s how she met the kindly Peter Mullins, who was to become her second husband. It struck Beryl that she needed independence and owning a car was the way forward. Again compulsively – because she didn’t own a vehicle – she had booked driving lessons and had also set in train her intention to get a divorce. One day, when Wooler had left to meet a herd of his drinking buddies, she packed her belongings and moved out. Secretly she had found a little flat in Chestnut Grove in Liverpool 8, the oddly defined, shabby Bohemian quarter of the city where folk fondly imagined they were at the cutting edge of culture. In her usual direct, impulsive way she had confided in this friendly driving instructor the depth of her unhappiness. He was smitten with her, and there is no doubt she was a striking looking woman, vivacious and sparky, despite the harrowing existence she led with booze and other excesses. He uncorked all her hoped for plans about the quiet life, even though she’d just met him. He was clearly a good chap, quietly spoken and certainly not a man of the world, Beryl could tell. It was Peter Mullins who

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drove Beryl to the marital home she shared with Wooler and helped her drag out her old battered suitcase. She told him the rest of her things could be picked up at another time. She was worried Wooler might suddenly appear and fall into a wild rage at her departure. Mullins dropped her off at the new flat. As he left he turned and, in a low voice, said if she needed help to call him. Beryl could see he was attracted to her and smiled back at him. Here was another mild-mannered, father figure who had suddenly appeared in her life like a dashing knight of old. Beryl was seduced by the prospect of an ordinary life; Mullins, she knew, could certainly offer that. Almost callously, in a way, she determined the future path she would follow. But even that wouldn’t hammer down the mind monsters forever, as she was to find. Throughout this latest turmoil in their lives Beryl and Wooler remained friends, of sorts. He didn’t create that rowdy scene she expected, on the contrary he had reluctantly and despondently accepted the turn of events. He was clearly upset, though, that she had appointed a solicitor in Liverpool to handle the divorce proceedings. But with his phlegmatic grasp of life he realised there was nothing he could do. He wasn’t a fighter in that way, perhaps in any way, preferring compromise to conflict. Even the incident of leaving Wooler, moving into a flat and organising a solicitor to wrap up her marriage was tinged with pathos and absurdity. Beryl spluttered in disbelief as she recalled the fellow who was appointed to handle the litigation. He came to the flat. Within moments, to Beryl’s horror and disgust, he had tried it on, made a pass at her, pawing her thigh. She was incensed and screamed at him to get out. She was literally shaking with rage. Without thinking she rang Peter Mullins and told him. He was on the scene in less than ten minutes and after that it was inevitable they would become partners. Finally her divorce came through and she and Peter planned to move to a flat in Allerton Road in south Liverpool, miles from the focus of her anarchic circle. But once again her perversity took a firm grim and she insisted that she wouldn’t move in unless he married her; all of a sudden social prerequisites became her coda and the previous bedlam and immoral lifestyle were filed to the back of her mind. “I just wasn’t having it,” she declared, and Mullins was no match for her temper or determination. She requested the decree absolute on 21st June 1971 and married Mullins four days later. She pushed all thoughts of Wooler away; they had drifted apart and his life was pretty awful by then. His ambitions had turned septic and he was gradually transforming from the witty, wily Wooler, the master wordsmith, into a bitter, twisted shadow of himself. Penniless and living alone he’d earlier managed to

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find a menial job as a bingo caller in a converted cinema in a rundown part of Liverpool. It had humiliated him and broke his heart and spirit in many ways, acknowledged Beryl. But there was no way for them to move forward together. They’d been on a downward spiral to self-destruction. The marriage to Peter Mullins was Beryl’s only escape route and she cloaked her stormy past in silence and secrecy. Years drifted by and it was only when her son Simon was eight that she took him to meet Wooler, introducing him as an old friend. She grimaced, steeling her resolve and continued to chat, knowing how much it would have destroyed Wooler if he’d had even an inkling of her true thoughts, and fears. “I would never have left Simon with Robert ... I wouldn’t have put such temptation in his way. I knew he had this inclination for much younger boys. I wouldn’t risk it with my own son. I know it sounds awful, and there will be many who will pillory me for this. “I had talked to Bob about this many times in the past and I know he didn’t like the way he was ... but that was just a fact of life and he never did anything desperately wrong in front of me ... but I knew he liked the boys and liked their company... It wouldn’t have been fair to Bob to have left my young son with him ... Simon was a very good-looking child and Bob was very tactile.” It was only years later that Simon was to discover that the ‘Uncle Bob’ he occasionally met with his mum was her first husband. After Beryl left him Wooler led a very down-at-heel life for so long, nothing had gone right for him. He was almost on the breadline and by the early 1990s seriously ill. That’s when Allan Williams, for so long a rival but compatriot in his own inimitable gregarious way, generously took him in to live for a while in his family home in Grove Park, just off Lodge Lane in Liverpool’s once infamous Toxteth district, close to where, in the early 1980s, some of the worst inner city riots in Britain’s history flared up. Williams and Wooler had set up a company in the early 1970s – in fact they tried several business schemes, such as Nostalgia Promotions and W & W (Williams and Wooler) Promotions, amongst others – in an attempt to hawk their related Beatles tales. But they never really took off, needing more astute business hands and brains on both the till and the tiller. Mind you, it was still registered in 1990, even if neither had made a proper penny out of it. After that first chance meeting with Beryl, Wooler became desperately ill and it was a further five years before young Simon clapped eyes on him again.

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Wooler moved to a pokey apartment in an unadopted road called Pelham Grove – a pothole-ridden track and dangerous for one so unsteady on his feet – off Lark Lane, amidst a collection of once grand Georgian town houses that had run to neglect. In his dire days Beryl tried to keep in touch on and off to make sure he was okay but he was ever, and increasingly, mournful and pensive and only a skinful of drink would lighten his mood. Well, up to a point, and then he would get maudlin and downright nasty. Life was so awful for him, he grizzled and complained endlessly, to anyone who would give him half an ear. When he’d moved to Pelham Grove Wooler asked Allan Williams to call Beryl, although she barely knew him, she claimed. Wooler lived in such a squalid mess and was quite sick. He needed her feminine touch, it was obvious. His poor health was fairly common knowledge and Paul McCartney sent him a bunch of flowers and he was so proud of it, yet Beryl thought it a pathetic gesture from a man worth tens of millions. “He couldn’t eat the bloody flowers, could he?” she howled and ranted at the hypocrisy of the gesture. Whenever Beatles conventions came around in Liverpool Wooler did tend to rally round and seemed to rejoice in his third-rate fame, the ‘prima donna’ seeping out of him. But searing through all this public bonhomie was the deep, wounded psyche of a man convinced his life was a waste. Wooler was incandescent with anger when he found out about Allan and Beryl. He was cut to the quick because in his own way he still carried a torch for her. If ever they went out he would still call her dahhling – with his trademark elongated consonants and vowels rolling together – amongst other endearments. She knew that Wooler never spilled all the beans about those early days together. He wasn’t that kind of guy. She was convinced that he could’ve have been quite famous in his own right, but he didn’t have the confidence to go out into the big, wide world. He was happy and secure in Liverpool, he knew everyone and he was well known, and of course he had his gay coterie to prance amidst. But he had singularly lacked the courage or the conviction to take chances even with his own talent, which was never nurtured or recognised. From the start of their turbulent relationship Beryl was Wooler’s lifeline to normality and even that was bloody chaotic. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities: the Rolling Stones at the flat in Huskisson Street and all sorts of other ‘odds and sods’, the outrageous Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and the Hideaways. Wooler mixed easily with them. He was very erudite and wanted to be a songwriter but rock and roll wasn’t really his scene. It was just the attraction of the good-looking lads; that was always his bottom line

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he would suggest. Yet he did hanker after recognition as a songwriter, there is no doubting that; but he couldn’t even come clean to himself on that issue. For all the rumour Beryl didn’t think that Wooler knew Epstein that well. It probably rankled with him in those days that she was closer to Epstein in many ways. He did socialise with him on the odd occasion, but not as often as he liked to think or subsequently claim. Ultimately, Bob Wooler’s life really was a great tragedy ... like Allan Williams in a way although Allan in his mercenary, mercurial fashion impishly still reckons it’s all just a lark, thus allowing a metaphorical escape route. Perhaps Wooler needed to lighten his load with a similar dose of the good-natured self-deprecation that keeps Mr Williams afloat, full of quips and a rascal to boot.

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16 – The Tempestuous Years Loving Allan Williams

B

eryl’s involvement with Allan Williams was not the ‘sweetness and light’ she might have expected, and wanted – in a way it was just another riotous jungle-like barney in her rumbustious life. Her first meeting with him was very briefly in Liverpool’s Blue Angel nightclub one drunken night when she went with Wooler in the early sixties. In the eyes of the law Allan is still married to his first wife – they’re separated yet to all intents and purposes friends still – and his hard-drinking exploits are legendary, as is his caustic, vituperative tongue when drunk, which is often. Beryl Adams’ last suicide attempt came a few years back, marshalled by the seemingly irrational rages and jealousies that drive Allan Williams. In the early 1960s she certainly didn’t know him as a friend, but knew he’d managed the Beatles when she was working for Brian Epstein. She couldn’t recall Epstein really mentioning his name or ever seeing him in the NEMS office. Come to that, she never saw him in the Cavern either. But there was no denying he was a colourful character on the scene. He was extremely charismatic but Beryl couldn’t remember anything significant about that night she was first introduced to him by Wooler. It was years later that Beryl was to be fatefully flung together with Williams because of their shared concern for Wooler’s failing health after a heart attack in the early 1990s. He was very ill at the time – under the watchful eye of a geriatric consultant as it was thought he wouldn’t last that long – and living in that scruffy little flat. There was no one to look after him and Williams had called around to visit his former business partner and pal. Wooler had pleaded with Williams to contact Beryl as he wanted desperately to see her, he assumed for the last time. They hadn’t met or even spoken for long in almost 15 years. Naturally, as ever, there was a personal, selfish motive for Bob’s wheezing plea for Beryl’s company. She did occasionally bump into him in Liverpool town centre when Simon was with her when he was only a kid. She remembered always saying quickly “get behind me Simon”. At that she would laugh hoarsely, and conspiratorially. When an older Simon found out about Wooler, to Beryl’s relief he didn’t react badly at all, he was fine about Wooler’s

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earlier involvement with his mother. It was another issue altogether with Allan Williams; Simon had little patience with him and thought him a bad influence on his mother. After Wooler came out of hospital he had massive cardiac problems. His legs were particularly bad with water retention. By early 1993 he was suffering greatly and remembered that Beryl worked for a doctor. He thought she could get him an introduction to a private cardiac consultant. Williams called her at Wooler’s instigation and explained that he knew patients could see a private consultant for one session and then go back to the National Health. It was possible that the consultant could get Bob back into hospital. She was surprised and nonplussed at the call but did know a very good heart surgeon at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. She felt sorry for Wooler’s plight and, caring as ever, rang up to fix an appointment right away with the consultant. It was natural for her to go along with Wooler, because they were then still good if distant friends. She had this sympathy for and empathy with him. However, the consultant Allan Williams and Beryl at a Beatles nostalgia was shocked at his function in Canada condition and insisted he had to go into hospital the very next day. In his usual way Bob ‘hummed and parried’ and said he had things to do and it wasn’t possible. Beryl frowned that he seemed awfully fearful of his belongings being looked through or ransacked. She refused point blank to be drawn on the implications of Wooler’s concerns, but would just throw a knowing look. The medic insisted. “I’m sorry but you’ll have to be admitted tomorrow or I fear you will die.” Wooler reluctantly went in and was incarcerated for about two weeks.

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Staring into space with an enigmatic smile Beryl commented: “I think he might have had time to stash any incriminating material, or at least get a friend to do that. You know, his dirty videos and magazines. Ah, everyone knew he had them, even though he didn’t realise. Well, they must have been his only source of comfort. Oh, I don’t want to think this but he was so fired up and anxious about going into hospital then, even though he knew it was for his own good. There had to be another agenda, and I reckon that was it. He was essentially a private man and wouldn’t have liked people prying into his little secrets.” By this juncture she was also divorced from Peter Mullins and living in a flat over a doctor’s surgery in West Derby, close to her old family home. Her only recreation – and she would giggle at this – was to trawl up to the local Conservative Club and, in her own words, “bum drinks off people”. She knew it sounded terrible but didn’t care. Her life had turned into one long, tedious stretch of boredom. The plain and simple life had soon paled for the gal so used to the high life and chaos. There was, though, nothing to fill that vacuum. She had lost contact with the old crowd. It all changed just as dramatically and as rapidly as when she had sought the anonymous world of a suburban housewife all those years earlier. One evening Allan Williams happened to be going to a special revival memorial party at the Casbah Club, an event hosted by Pete and Roag Best, whose mother Mona had owned the venue. This was only a few days after he’d contacted her to visit Wooler. They had met at Wooler’s flat and Williams, ever the ladies’ man, admits now that he was ‘quite smitten’ with Beryl. He asked her outright, without so much as a by your leave, if she wanted to go with him to this bash. Without so much as a slight blush she didn’t falter for one second in her response. She was surprised, though, at the instant need to get back into the ‘fray’. Williams told her he and his friends were all meeting in the nearby Jolly Miller pub later that day. So that’s where she went to begin another remarkable chapter in her life. She found it hard to believe that she’d never actually been to the Casbah before, even though it was round the corner from the family home all those years ago, and considering her lifelong friendship with the Bests. Indeed, for a short spell Beryl had worked in West Derby village for an estate agent and knew Mona Best well, not just by sight. Later Mona would even be a patient at the doctor’s surgery that had become Beryl’s sanctuary. And she’d also known the younger Best, Roag, long before she swept back onto the ‘scene’ on the arm of Allan Williams. Roag, too, used to attend the doctor, as did Pete Best and his family, his two girls. There was an uncanny, ongoing link with the Bests, as though it was fated.

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There was Beryl that night in the Casbah, hurling down the drinks with Allan Williams and gabbling away about those early Beatles days. She did find him very attractive and interesting. To her delight she discovered his wife had thrown him out after finally confronting him over a 30-odd year affair with a woman called Jean McQueen, a relationship that had begun at the Blue Angel club in the sixties. It seems that this lady Jean had then promptly also ditched Allan and gone off with a rich old Chinese chap: another of those synchronicities, as Beryl Williams’ father was also Chinese. It turns out that Williams had been living alone for about three years. Beryl gave him the once over but ‘tutted’ that frankly by then he was a bit of a tat-bag. “He’d let himself go a bit. He was grubby and unkempt. So I took him in hand. People would stop us and say “God, you’ve done wonders for him, he’s a different man, so smart and clean.” Bloody hell, I’ve had lots of laughs over that,” she would snort. They were drinking and having a laugh in the Casbah and it was obvious to Beryl that Williams would stay the night at Heaton Road, where she still lived. Her son Simon was staying with his father that night and she didn’t hesitate about dragging Williams back. It went on from that moment. The next thing Beryl knew they had become an item, socially. Everyone in Beryl’s and Allan’s separate and hugely different societies had contrasting views on this; his thinking it was most appropriate. Beryl’s pals and family were not that convinced. In any case, Allan never moved into Heaton Road with her. He remained in what Beryl described as his ‘stinking, godawful’ flat in Alexandra Drive, near to Lark Lane and Liverpool’s glorious Sefton Park, the city’s frequently neglected legacy from Victorian patrician philanthropy. When she began the affair with Allan Williams Beryl was living above the surgery. It was her second home with the doctors’ practice, which had two surgeries. She’d only been there a couple of years after many years in Deysbrook Lane, close to a Territorial Army barracks. Beryl recalls with another naughty giggle that when she moved into the flat in Heaton Road she was able to fit it out with new furniture and other gifts because she had a fling with a widower who lived opposite her mother. This was another revelation that she loved to talk about. He was her mother’s neighbour and they had to be a bit discreet even though his wife had died years before and they had no children. Beryl would troop along with him to the local Conservative Club every week. This had been the start of their friendship and with him being a widower she reckoned it would be

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okay to have some fun as well. She regarded it as just a little fling to keep the boredom at bay. It was that sort of relationship where he’d ask her out, nothing too heavy. And he was surprisingly generous, showering Beryl with gifts and presents. She was aware it sounded mercenary but didn’t give a fig. Within two years, though, she was seeing Allan Williams regularly and everyone knew, including the widower. He realised that she would be staying at Allan’s place although, punctilious as ever, Beryl would always make it back to Heaton Road to start answering the surgery reception telephone phone calls by 7.00am. She was mightily tickled that the doctors’ practice was called Edwards, Mintz, Walker and Eccles. She thought it sounded like an advertising agency rather than a medical centre. Then Mr Edwards retired. Beryl was sure he was after enticing her into having an affair with him but she didn’t comply, that was one ‘bridge over troubled waters’ too far, in her view. One day, though, his replacement, Dr Welsh, was sitting there and, completely out of the blue, asked about her relationship with Allan Williams, wondering if there were wedding bells in the offing. Beryl was surprised. He appeared crestfallen when she replied in the negative. Beryl rightly figured this behaviour very peculiar. Then he asked if she had any ideas about living with Allan. By this time she was extremely puzzled until it became clear that they wanted the flat back, wanted her out, and quickly. It was upsetting as she’d been there for years and she found the attitude of the doctors callous in the extreme. There was clearly something between them, though, and Beryl refused to discuss the ‘pension’ she was offered; it was a very generous amount, a sort of redundancy package. Perhaps she had a hold over them. Maybe she did have a brief dabble with one of the GPs. It was all very mysterious and a no-go land in talking of her past. She’d lived in virtually the whole house in Deysbrook Lane since Simon was two and then a few years in the Heaton Road accommodation. The understood excuse for pitching her out was that they wanted to expand the surgery and she didn’t fit in to that plan. Then came the bombshell about the job. The doctors revealed that they also wanted to upgrade the facilities and use computers for the practice. Beryl was hardly computer literate, in fact had a mental block about technology of any kind. She was for the axe and no mistake. Even though he had the decency to look embarrassed, Dr Welsh was quite direct, Beryl would have to learn or they would be forced to ‘let her go’; that lovely euphemism for ‘the sack’.

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Frankly Beryl had no intention of being intimidated and was really rather glad to get out. She would regularly allude to the ‘very good disability pension’ that they awarded her, but in steadfast fashion refused to go into details. Apart that is from confiding with a sly smirk that she earned more after her departure than when she was working for them. But she was obliged to leave the comfort of her home above the surgery and rented an attic flat in another old Victorian pile in Belvedere Road close to Princes Park, another fine example of Liverpool’s early Victorian and Edwardian patronage. Yet she loathed that flat. It was cold and lonely. And rather than return there at night she chose to spend a lot of time with Allan Williams. Their relationship blossomed as a result. He had a small place in a big, towering old house in Alexandra Drive and she stayed there often, eventually almost all the time. That too was awful, the state of it, she would wail, and Williams hated her attempts to clean it or tidy up. That was how it began for them and they never really parted until her death, even though they had agreed to live separately again. Coyly she would agree that she liked him enormously, had maybe even fallen in love with him and his roguish ways. She was determined, though, that they would never marry, even if Williams did ever get a divorce. Beryl would often muse when depressed or hacked off with Allan’s antics that it was patently not on the cards. She could never figure out why. Then, as she was despairing of the filthy flat in Alexandra Drive, Williams was offered a nice new abode in yet another converted Victorian manse in Mannering Drive, again off Lark Lane. Here Williams liked to cut a dash in the local bars and hostelries when not shuffling around the tourist and Beatles haunts in Liverpool city centre. Beryl soon shifted in to live with him for a few years until – and here’s the great irony – the daily routine of Allan’s boozing began to pale. In fact, they were an accepted double act, embarking on mammoth drinking sessions together, frequently in Liverpool’s seedier bars. Invariably they would end up hurling abuse at each other. Beryl considered Williams a very untidy man and she eventually tired of fetching and carrying for him. Williams had this eccentric penchant for buying crates of fresh fruit from a wholesale market; he still does it to an extent. He would stack the wooden boxes of oranges and grapefruits in the hallway of their flat, all higgledy-piggledy, clogging up the entrance. Some were half-empty and a lot of the fruit was going bad. He would set off for the fruit market at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings when he would also buy fresh fish. His strange explanation for this erratic trait was that he

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needed the vitamins to counteract the hammering his system received from his heavy duty boozing. Beryl ranted that the flat was an absolute disgrace. But she refused point blank to clean it up on her own. It was the first time in her life that she had said she wouldn’t do this for somebody else. It was a milestone, she recalled. “I said ‘No’ for the first time and it felt good.” However, she believed Allan would simply go to seed if left on his own. She knew he had no concept of domesticity but was determined not to do it for him any more. He wouldn’t even buy bedding or any of the necessities of life, an eccentricity that incensed her. Fortunately, she had kept the other attic flat on; keen to go ‘home’ some nights when Williams turned really obnoxious in drink, as he could, did and can. He never got physically violent, she confirmed, but she would shake her head as she related how he would become verbally ‘out of hand’. “He is Allan Williams and Beryl outside Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club where she once worked and the Beatles played appalling when he is having one of his turns. It was horrible, absolutely horrible, violence from the mouth, the stuff that would spill out. He could turn on a sip ... and you would know when it was coming.” It made Beryl recoil though when she thought back: “There was only once when he went for me physically, and his ring caught me, but that was nothing really and I retaliated by hitting him with a brush.” She reckoned he got the worst of the encounter.

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Beryl stayed with Williams at Mannering Drive for about four years but had quietly put her name down for a residential flat in a sheltered housing complex, which she felt was vital for her sanity. She needed the space – in every sense of the word – so badly. “I couldn’t make a move when he was around, even if I got out of a chair he’d be demanding to know where I was going. It was incredible, especially considering what he is like about his own bloody time. He is so possessive, terribly so, dreadful. I can sit here and laugh now because he needs me and I don’t particularly need him, I can survive without him now. But he can’t survive without me.” Her lip quivered and it was pretty certain she was trying to convince herself of this. In truth, she was as much dependent on Allan Williams as he on her. As she related the tyranny of living with and loving Allan Williams – because even if she pretended she didn’t, she did – Beryl told of a massive row one particular night and how she hadn’t heard from him for two days. She expected him back, explaining that he would have been ‘on the rampage’. Once she had moved into her new compact flat Beryl swore she had no intention of asking Allan to move in with her. And she didn’t, but he still managed to follow her. From the start of shacking up with Williams the relationship was never really over, at least for any length of time. They had rows but soon made up. Within weeks of Beryl moving into the Alfred Stocks complex Williams had slammed his name down on the waiting list. He was waiting for vital heart by-pass surgery at the time and news came that he had finally been given the go-ahead to move in as he lay in a hospital bed after a dangerous operation that nearly went wrong. Throughout his hospitalisation Beryl was on edge. Pale, weak and recovering after a difficult quadruple by-pass turned nasty, Williams told Beryl – and Beatles fans across the world in a newspaper article, ever the self-publicist that he is – how the surgery had been the most frightening experience of his life, and that he feared he might die. He was still being fed intravenously when describing the experience as a huge nightmare, but then brightened up and told how he had been overwhelmed by the flood of well-wishers who had contacted his hospital ward from all over Britain and the world. Yet, oddly, he was convinced that a telephone call from a concerned Mike McCartney was a hoax. “I sort of fell out with the Beatles as everyone knows, and certainly Paul won’t talk to me, so I didn’t really think it was true,” he said from a

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bedside chair in Broad Green hospital’s cardio-thoracic centre as Beryl sat quietly next to him. But Mike McCartney later confirmed that he had indeed made that mercy call adding: “We go back a long, long way and have so many shared memories. It was only good manners to check on Allan’s condition. We’ve been through thick and thin and I know Our Kid (as McCartney refers to his brother Paul) will also wish him a speedy recovery.” Such is the rascally reputation of Allan Williams that Beryl and other friends were also forced to furiously deny false media reports that claimed he was still hitting the bottle hard just days before the life-saving operation. As Williams was due to have the surgery, after months of agonised waiting, often in severe pain, a few hours before he was due to be admitted to undergo the operation at Liverpool’s Broad Green hospital, it was unexpectedly postponed, leaving him devastated at the delay. Newspapers reported that he then went on a day-long drunken binge. Beryl angrily hit out at the press reports as she sat by his bedside every day watching, as the man who has made a living out of letting the Beatles slip through his grasp – but looked to outlive them all in a two-fingered salute – battled to recover. “Doctors were pleased with the heart operation but he had developed a problem with his breathing which meant he was given a tracheotomy,” explained Beryl. For weeks before Allan went into hospital he was a bit apprehensive, but had been reassured it was basically a simple procedure. He was very much aware that he had to be fit to cope with the stress of it and he certainly did not carry on drinking as was reported. Beryl was adamant about that. The press story, compiled by a local news agency, told that despite dire warnings from his doctors Williams refused to abandon his drinking. He had reputedly said, with a glass of malt whisky in his hand: “If I could not have a glass of Scotch, life wouldn’t be worth living.” It’s the sort of waggish comment familiar to those who are on the receiving end of Allan’s wacky sense of humour. Many would believe it. But Beryl scoffed at the quote, commenting: “As far we know no-one had spoken to Allan about this operation and he’d been unconscious for over a week. And anyway, he has always hated whisky. I have never seen him even take a sip of it.” Williams was first told he needed by-pass surgery more than a year before the operation, but a long National Health waiting list meant he had to hang on while his breathing becoming increasingly laboured. It certainly didn’t seem to interfere that much with his zany lifestyle and, despite his health problems, he continued to prepare for the planned Beatles Festival in Liverpool later that year, where he intended to talk – yet again – to

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hundreds of fans about his disastrous decision to send the Fab Four on their way, out of his life and on to fame and glory under the wing of Brian Epstein. Folklore tells how Williams told Epstein “not to touch the Beatles with a fucking barge pole”, although remarkably he quietly concedes now that this might have been rather apocryphal. Williams was 71 when he went under the surgeon’s scalpel for what is considered a routine operation these days but – and in his life nothing is simple – complications set in and he was kept in intensive care for 14 days. He almost died twice, he thinks, but the nursing staff rallied him round. Desperately worried Beryl joined his close family and friends in keeping a vigil at the hospital as Allan struggled with a lung infection that could so easily have extinguished his life. His condition was so serious that he didn’t regain consciousness for over a week. Later he was to confide to pals, and then publicly, that he had an out-of-body experience, that he’d seen what could have been an angel at the foot of the bed. “But it might have also been a devil.” That is typical of the irrepressible irreverence that Allan Williams has bestowed on every one of his misfortunes. Beryl was worried witless, despite protestations that Williams was the bane of her life: “Although the doctors considered the heart operation a success, Allan developed a problem with his breathing and had to undergo a tracheotomy. I was in a terrible state.” Thankfully, Williams pulled through and was finally moved from intensive care, where he had almost died in the middle of one night, to a general surgical ward. There he was quickly back in banter mood with the nursing staff, joshing and cracking jokes even though in considerable pain. He says he is indebted to their professionalism and skill, but the reality is that within a couple of weeks he was back on the red wine with a vengeance and within a month or so was tippling vodka like lemonade. Beryl worried that he liked to dice with death. “But I know he was terrified of dying and having that operation, so maybe its just stupidity.” Over the years Williams has earned a reputation as a wayward if witty maverick who has made a rather precarious living out of a number of business schemes, some incredible, like the rock factory in Spain, and most of which have failed. Alongside this he has travelled the world blagging and bragging about his disastrous decision to ditch the Beatles. As he recovered and his wounds healed, his children, his wife and Beryl Adams kept their distance from each other but obeyed an unspoken pact of support – along with a phalanx of friends who rallied round. They cleaned out his old flat, moving what they considered the decent stuff to his new abode.

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It was at this time, Beryl chuckled, that his daughter Leah threw out the tattered pair of leather pants that Williams claimed had once belonged to Paul McCartney and he’d bought off a dealer. A convoluted argument had embroiled him in a lengthy court case against Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, to define ownership. They had been offered them for sale by an acquaintance of Allan’s, who, he claims, had stolen them. McCartney wanted them back as well. Williams eventually won, thanks to solicitor Rex Makin’s litigation skills. Allan was convinced the trousers might fetch more than £5,000 at a Beatles auction, possibly even as much as £15,000. Collecting his few, sparse belongings, Leah found the leather trousers heaped in a wardrobe amongst other crumpled, smelly clothing. Alarmed at their condition she pitched them out in disgust. “Allan pretended to be furious but, in his usual upbeat way, was more bemused when he found out,” revealed Beryl. Truth is, though, that Williams seems to accept misfortune as part of his life’s package and was quickly more focused on getting his strength back in time to appear at that year’s Mathew Street Festival in late August. “I can’t let the thousands of Beatles fans down who will be coming once more to hear my tale of woe,” he guffawed. At the time Beryl admitted she harboured a slight resentment that she was largely kept out of the picture when he was incarcerated in the hospital, his wife and children regular visitors. She had to carefully plan her timing to avoid them. “I did feel as if I’d had my nose pushed out a little, but it doesn’t matter really. He spends a lot of time with his family, especially at birthdays and Christmas.” For once Lady Luck shined on Williams and, after only a few short months of waiting, he was out of the impersonal bed-sit land and into a much more comfortable, community-style existence in the quite luxurious surroundings of the Alfred Stocks Memorial Home, where he could come and go at ease. But there is no doubt that without Beryl this wouldn’t have happened, even though she wasn’t that happy about him moving in. He too found himself ensconced in a delightful, self-contained, one-bedroom flat. Beryl’s own home was on the same floor and only a short meander down the corridor. But Beryl was certain she didn’t want to live with him again as cohabitees, that he had to learn to live on his own again. He was too hard to manage, she would laugh, even while agreeing that he couldn’t look after himself. Bloody hell, she would wail, I even do his washing and ironing. “Sure, we’ve had our rows but I can’t get rid of him and I’ve done my best,” she laughed. “Every time I say bugger off he says pleadingly, ‘You

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don’t really mean that do you?’... and I screech back, ‘What, you don’t think I mean it ... GO!’ But dammit, he never does.” Beryl did find it amusingly ironic how the ‘full circle’ approach to life had unfolded since she met Williams again. Suddenly she was catapulted back into the aura of the Beatles after years in the wilderness. Williams was as usual cheekily flogging off his stories and bits and pieces of memorabilia without shame or regret. He would and does latch onto any money-spinning scam connected to the Beatles and is much sought out by worldwide television crews and journalists for his lively views and comments. Once they became a ‘couple’ she joined him at lots of Beatles conventions, in Canada especially as well as all over Europe and America and, of course, Liverpool. In the summer of 2001 Beryl was planning to speak in public for the first time properly about her years with Epstein. Williams had half-heartedly suggested it a few times in the past. She did try in Canada, in the February of 1997, but it didn’t work. She froze up, intimidated she claimed by Allan Williams who was banging on alongside her in his usual scatty, wacky way. She didn’t have the confidence. It had been Williams’ idea and she went on a stage with him, as he told her it would be a piece of cake. It was a very busy event where thousands of people all converged on a little town called Burlington outside Toronto. Beryl clambered onto the stage but no one asked her any questions. She sat there as dumb as a dummy and getting increasingly nervous as Williams wittered on and on. When, after about 20 minutes someone in the audience did finally fire a question at Beryl, she was too petrified with nerves and dried up. Everyone there was very understanding but she reckoned that actually Allan was rather glad. He hated being upstaged. Nevertheless, Beryl rated it a super trip apart from the fact that Len Garry, one of the Quarrymen and his wife Sue were there. It seems Sue was quite horrible to Beryl, to the point of arrogance. Beryl reckoned that this ‘rival’ had heard about the idea for a new book about the Quarrymen and was preening. That book by Hunter Davies – a prolific showbiz writer and author, who’s also written the definitive profile of the Beatles – entitled The Quarrymen – The Skiffle Group That Started The Beatles was published in 2001 to varied reviews. Beryl dismissively thought it a very tenuous connection. It was the first time she had been abroad to a Beatles event and she and Allan were there for a quite a long time. The organisers paid all fares and provided accommodation. Beryl thought this was a terrific wheeze. Then Allan, always out for the main chance, thought it would be a great idea

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before they went back to boring old Britain to fly to Mexico for a short break. They’d been paid well for attending the Convention as ‘celebrities’ and Allan spotted this three-week holiday offer in Vera Cruz and went for it. Beryl admitted it was a wonderfully idyllic time with Williams, for once behaving himself because he really liked it too. As Beryl recalled, Cynthia Lennon was also at that event and they got on well. Lennon’s first wife even encouraged Beryl to get up and speak in public but it just didn’t work. Allan Williams, she explained, kept putting her down. She also tried taking to the stage at an earlier Liverpool Beatles event but couldn’t manage that either. But in her later years she was determined to stand up for herself, finally. She had a different outlook on life, defiantly telling everyone who would listen that it was her story and that she didn’t regret anything. Emerging was a totally different Beryl who had found once more the confidence that she had in abundance in the early days of the Cavern. “Yes, I do think I’m up to it now, more so than ever,” she said, only months before tragedy struck and she became so ill. She resented that all the guys could get up on their hindquarters and prattle on, mostly – she would snarl – telling fibs. They could do it with apparent ease because at least they were used to it, and had honed the tales to perfection. Those were her constant refrains: that so much was made up, sheer invention. And she thought that most of Bob Wooler’s stories were basically very, very boring. She could never understand how anyone would be interested in the flim and flam he would spew forth. “He would never talk about the good stuff. I knew about the real gritty tales but he would always insist those insights were for his planned semi-autobiography. Of course, it never happened. Well not in the way he envisaged. Spencer Leigh’s book is more of a tribute. It’s probably just as well. Mind you, once again in my view, he was never really in the loop. Bob, for all his fantasies, didn’t actually have a lot of insider nuts and bolts. But he had a lot more than the rest of them think they have. In a way it’s a pity Bob took the real tales to his grave, but there’s no doubting that his death saved certain people considerable embarrassment.” With Wooler, Beryl’s life was always at a reckless pace on the edge of sanity. Then, she would hoot, she wound up with another man who is a bloody rogue, a rascal and, as she depicted, a temperamental bastard – an impoverished one to boot. How she would laugh at that situation. “Allan’s got no real money. He gets nothing, hardly any state pension because he didn’t pay the National Insurance stamp. I’ve worked hard all

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my life and paid a full stamp yet, basically, he is almost penniless apart from the odd things he does related to the Beatles.” But she would say partly in his defence that Williams did have some cash in the past and that they’d enjoyed a number of good holidays together. Yet she also revealed that Williams certainly isn’t considered generous when he has money. “No way! He doesn’t throw it around. Strangely, even though he doesn’t have any, he’s a very cautious individual with money. I think he has about £700 saved from nothing and I can’t save a penny. Every now and again he gets a stash but it doesn’t last. He never saved anything and he doesn’t have much memorabilia left, even if anyone had the inclination to buy it. I think his stuff is very marginal. The only thing he’s got is his story and it has to be done properly, warts and all. “There was someone who rang him from London a few years ago wanting to republish the 1970s Bill Marshall book The Man Who Gave Away The Beatles with some updates ... some woman friend of Bill’s, but I know he said no. He wants the story told properly and it will be. That first book was put together in a hotel bar in a matter of weeks. Even Allan says it was a licence to lie. “Over the years we’ve been together we have been a partnership and sure I am very fond of him,” she murmured softly with a chuckle ... sometimes. “But I do find it all very strange that I’ve ended up with Allan in this way ... very strange. It’s so ironic when you look back on it all. When touching on Beryl Williams, Beryl Adams would scowl and pull a face. “She doesn’t like me and I don’t like her. I did know her but not that well and wouldn’t want anything to do with her. I may have spoken to her a few times ... but she can’t really say anything about Allan and me. He was essentially a free agent when we met and so was I. “She can’t blame me or anyone except, of course, that they are not divorced. And I don’t know what the set-up is with that ... just can’t work it out. Allan says she won’t divorce him. “I get on okay with his kids – Justin and Leah – although we haven’t met very often and I suppose they are old enough to have come to terms with his life and the situation. He is even a granddad now. “Over the years though I’ve had what can only be described as tempestuous times with Allan and my son Simon goes mad over some of the ways I’ve been treated. At the same time, he’s the first to say that I’ve done more with my life since I met Allan than I’ve done with the rest of it, although he’s not aware of what a wild card I was in my younger days,” she giggles again.

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“Oh, Allan and I go abroad on holiday regularly, Spain or the Canaries as often as we can whenever one of us can get a few bob together. We’ve done the lot there, in the south: Torremolinos, Marbella and Portugal as well. “That’s the thing about Allan, he’s a man for the fine life but as cheap as possible ... we’d stay in pensions and inexpensive boarding houses. “Before we got it together I’d rarely been abroad much. I was never really that bothered apart from once with Bob, oh and that disastrous Italian music business venture in Milan. “Apart from Canada I’ve also been with Allan to a Beatles Convention in Norway organised by a young impresario called Rune Lund. He is a great friend, but together they are a lethal combination let me tell you. They drink so much. When we were in Norway they were never sober and both would roll home blind drunk. Great drinking buddies they might be, but Rune and Allan are such a pain when they are drunk and Rune repeats endlessly, ‘I lurve you ... I lurve you all’ ... that sort of annoying thing. They were constantly drunk and in terrible states. “And Rune idolises Allan, who thinks him a great chum and uses all this nonsense of describing him as an adopted son. We only went to stay with him once and that was enough. I mean he’s a lovely guy really, but lead him to drink and Allan’s company and they both become fired with bloody insanity. I just hated it. Their outrageous behaviour was too much, even for me. “Drink has played such a large part in Allan’s life, very much so. But actually we did have a bit of a good time in Norway on our own. And I think Pete Best was there and Paul McCartney was also in concert. There is a story that does the rounds of Beatles’ fans about Allan and that event. “We went to that concert and I couldn’t believe it when later Allan was boasting how McCartney had shouted a big hello from the stage: ‘I know you’re out there Allan, hi ...’. “Well, that improved Allan’s image tenfold in Norway according to Rune. That’s the way the tale is told in amidst the Beatles’ camp followers, and certainly by Allan Williams and Rune.” Suddenly her voice slips into a whisper, the truth rearing its ugly head again. “Actually he didn’t. McCartney didn’t utter a word about Allan. I don’t think so. I didn’t hear him say anything from the stage. It’s just one more invention to beef up the image. Not that it matters much. It was just Rune trying to be important and backing Allan. He’s another who has craved celebrity all his life.

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“He told us he’d interviewed McCartney and told him Allan would be in the audience and Macca promised to say hello. Well, this didn’t happen, and if pushed I don’t think Allan would deny it.” There are countless instances of Williams ‘losing it’ and Beryl would shudder at the memory of Paul McCartney’s press spinmeister Geoff Baker shooing him away. During McCartney’s appearance at the Cavern Club in September 2000, to promote his new album, Williams was once more in disgrace. “He got so drunk before the show and was asked quite forcibly to leave by Baker. In fact Baker’s comments about Allan are not printable after his antics during that McCartney visit. Allan was ‘fucking and blinding’ and,” added Beryl with a grimace “generally acting like a complete arse-hole. “Although I wasn’t invited to attend either the show or the party later I could have gone with Robert (Wooler) as his guest, which would have been a marvellous scam. “But we both knew that Allan would have a hissy fit, as he wasn’t invited either. So I decided to watch it on a big screen in a bar/restaurant around the corner from Mathew Street, in fact De Coubertins sports bar where Bob’s wake was held a year later. It didn’t bother me either way. But Allan – drunk in the afternoon – was determined to go and just blagged his way in, and then ranting and raving, naturally ‘shouted’ his way out.” Baker by all accounts was in a blue funk at the antics of Williams and certainly Paul McCartney wouldn’t have spared Williams a second, or even a glance, in the state he was in. Beryl was quite content to watch the ‘performance’ as usual from the sidelines, and laughs as she recalls the similar frenzy when McCartney was at WH Smith in Liverpool signing his poetry book Blackbird. “I certainly had no intention of going to that either and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed going to the poetry reading at the Everyman theatre.” McCartney had made a ‘surprise’ appearance at a poetry reading supposedly featuring only Liverpool playwright and author Willy Russell and acclaimed Newcastle poet Adrian Mitchell, in a live performance with a few pals. In fact, it was largely a ruse for McCartney to launch the book internationally. It was actually in Liverpool’s famous theatre where Willy Russell once staged his own Beatles musical with Barbara Dickson, ‘John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert’, that kick-started the Scottish singing star’s mainstream career. Such is the duplicity of the McCartney publicity machine, everyone in the media knew he would be turning up and there were even journalists flown in from New York for this supposed ‘hush hush’ event. Both the performance reading and the book received mixed reviews.

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Beryl was philosophical. “I suppose it might have been interesting to sit there and listen to him waffle on, but I doubt if I’d have liked it. Paul is very egotistical and I don’t understand why he’s still jumping on all these bandwagons. Yet again, it’s totally unnecessary, in my view.” She then launched into a critical flaying of McCartney’s paean to himself in the herogram television documentary ‘Wingspan’ in which he actually suggested that Pete Best was thrown out of the Beatles because he didn’t have the same sense of humour as the others. Beryl pulled a face. “I think that says it all. What bollocks. He was quieter, yes. But quietly witty as well.” In the last five years or so Beryl helped Allan Williams out at other Beatles conventions in Liverpool, along with a series of conferences where he’s tried to sell a CD telling the story of his life. “These events, and certainly the Beatles conventions, are a mixed bag really. One year they can be flat and then the next it’s fantastic ... you can’t tell. “I was at one event in Bradford three years ago which was a total disaster. It hadn’t been publicised and hardly anyone came, or knew of it. It was a truly awful time and Allan just got drunk to cover up all the embarrassment of it being a flop.” Yet, for all his faults, and she smiled warmly, he does cut a swathe through life; nothing deters him and he always has a go ... let’s face facts here. “He’s had so many knock-backs and if he’d had the breaks he could’ve been hugely successful and wealthy. I think the flaw in his character was brought on by his father refusing to tell him anything about his mother, who died when he was a toddler. He never knew her, or even where she was buried. That’s all I got out of him when we first met. “It’s the recurring theme in his life that has had a debilitating, devastating effect on his character. When I first met him it was always in the foreground ... even that late in life. He just wanted to know where she was buried, but his father for some peculiar reason wouldn’t tell him. Even on his deathbed five or six years ago he refused. Allan has never found it to this day. It has affected him tremendously. He just can’t figure out – and neither can I – why no one in his family would tell him where his mother was buried. Bizarre. “It’s a very peculiar set-up, very weird. He gets emotionally distraught over it and it’s bound to have had an impact on the way he’s behaved, I’m certain of that. I understand where he is with this as I also had a trauma when my dad died when I was only 20. But in an odd sort of way, over the ten years we’ve been together – and I don’t want to sound big-headed – I

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think I’ve been good for him. I think Allan would have been dead if it wasn’t for me. And I hope he’s sort of got a fair bit of respect for me. I think he loves me – she giggled – and I did love him with a passion at one point and today I’m happy enough to be with him. “We’ve had some really super times and when he’s being good he’s tremendous company. And I am very fond of him, most of the time.” She would confirm that, when required, Williams can behave well, “almost like a normal human being”, like he did at the retirement party in Liverpool for journalist Frank Corless. He was a long-standing Daily Mirror hack who was a friend of Bill Marshall, the man who’d ghostwritten Allan’s own early tale and knew Allan throughout the Beatles period of his life and later. “Allan was fine for most of the day. Then I saw that glint in his eye as the drink took a hold and knew that he would be ‘turning on that goddam sixpence’ soon. I realised we had to get away quickly and said ‘let’s leave’ and he admitted it was time to go. It would have been a really bad scene in front of all the media and he knew it and a sixth sense told him to get out in time. He’d have started giving people stick and turning nasty. He’s done it so often. So maybe he is learning at last.” Williams was also unusually well-behaved – in the early stages – when Beryl accompanied him to what was billed by organisers BAFTA as the ‘glittering’ UK premiere of the digitally re-mastered and re-released ‘Hard Day’s Night’ film at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. “Yeh, that was a marvellous evening up to a point,” exclaimed Beryl who, for almost the first time, shared the headlines with Williams, as they were virtually the only ‘celebrities’ to attend. The 1964 film catapulted the Beatles onto the big screen as it tracked a music-crammed day in the life of the four popsters playing themselves. It featured amongst the cast Wilfred Brambell – as Paul’s granddad – from the once top 1960s television sitcom ‘Steptoe and Son’, along with then-famous Liverpool actors Norman Rossington and Deryck Guyler. All three are now dead. Planned to precede a nationwide release by Buena Vista International, it was supposed to be a star-studded, high profile charity screening of the Beatles’ first wacky film effort, with all funds raised in aid of the Linda McCartney Cancer Centre in Liverpool. But instead of the invited big names, including television and movie personality Ricky Tomlinson (‘The Royle Family’, ‘Big Ed’ and ‘The 51st State’ with American star Samuel L Jackson), playwrights Jimmy McGovern and Alan Bleasdale and the film’s original director Dick Lester, only a handful of the cast of television’s youthful daytime soap ‘Hollyoaks’ bothered

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Beryl and Allan Williams having a laugh at the ‘new’

to turn up, injecting what remastered Hard Days Night movie premiere in pundits scoffed as thirdLiverpool, as guests of honour rate celebrity status. The hoped for appearances by Paul McCartney’s brother Mike and Phil Redmond, the creator of the TV show and boss of Mersey Television failed to materialise, leaving a squad of media photographers and film crews from all over the UK and further afield, scrambling around the theatre’s foyer desperate to spot a star. Even the Beatles’ erstwhile drummer Pete Best had been invited but failed to show and the closest thing to a Mop Top was the presence of Paul McCartney look-alike Paul Cooper from the Bootleg Beatles, now hailed as the group’s leading tribute band, who’ve actually been together longer than the originals and have even performed more live shows. In a delightful twist of revenge for Williams, he and Beryl were the only real connections to the Beatles. And he wasn’t even invited to the original premiere 38 years earlier at Liverpool’s Odeon cinema; neither was Beryl, who was working at the Cavern when the film first came out.

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So, with the shortage of ‘famous faces’ Beryl and Allan, a close friend of the film’s scriptwriter Alun Owen, found themselves pitched into the spotlight and sought out by fans and press alike. Williams revealed that it was Alun Owen who had ‘smuggled’ him into the original premiere back in the mid-1960s and found him a seat at the back where he kept the writer’s dad company. He was later snubbed further on that occasion when hundreds of personalities and people linked to the Beatles attended a slap-up reception at Liverpool’s Town Hall. “I stood in the rain and watched them all pile in for a lavish nosh,” exclaimed Williams, while Beryl piped up that she didn’t even know it was on. “No one even bothered to tell me. So I was really looking forward to the evening at the Philharmonic. Indeed, it marked her first proper stepping out of the shadows into the limelight and BAFTA had commented that her presence with Allan would ‘certainly add a gloss to the event’. Disappointed that she wasn’t thus in the midst of the stars, Beryl was surprised to find she was the one the photographers focused on, as they ignored all the flighty young actresses desperate for publicity. “But most of them weren’t even born when the Beatles broke up, never mind when they were together,” sniggered Beryl, as she posed alongside the film’s poster. The next day Beryl and Allan Williams were the ones featured in the newspapers and Beryl had even been interviewed for television. One newspaper headline summed up the event succinctly: ‘Yesterday, All The Celebrities Seemed So Far Away’. Beryl thought this hilarious. Many people were amazed how well she came across on Granada TV when interviewed about the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ event. Williams was a bit taken aback at her upfront attitude, convinced he was the only natural performer in the interminable Beatles leftovers club; and largely because he’s been doing it for so long. But that was really the first time Beryl had been involved in any proper publicity stunt in 40 years. When prompted, Beryl could almost remember doing a very short minute or so on a television documentary about the Cavern club some years earlier. But she dismissed that as of no consequence as no one had a clue who she was then. At the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ bash, both Beryl and Williams reckoned gleefully that John Lennon would have been looking on from wherever he is with George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon swigging back his favourite whisky and Coke; all having a great laugh at the poor turn-out for the movie. Beryl just regarded it as another ludicrous element of the ongoing farce that surrounds the Beatles’ legend. In the last year or so Beryl and Allan Williams lived separately – if together – in their secure, residential apartments, a warm comfortable

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environment run by one of the UK’s leading independent housing associations, Riverside Housing. It takes its name from one of Liverpool’s former housing committee chiefs: The Alfred Stocks Memorial Home. When Beryl first moved in she used to ‘smuggle’ Allan in after hours so he could have a warm bed for the night. He would then have to scarper back to his own cold, dreary flat in the early dawn before the warden, usually very discreet and unobtrusive, or the assistants discovered him. Visiting lovers are rare in such accommodation for the elderly, Beryl confided with a smarmy, cheeky grin. Once Allan had shifted in to the same complex life became oddly more complicated for Beryl and her paramour. They lived apart yet shared their lives. Beryl was determined that in her mid-60s she would have no future hesitation in strutting her stuff at Beatles conventions with Williams – or alone – and was intent on travelling all over the UK with him. Indeed she first began to trawl down to London with him – to the capital’s famous Camden Lock market – to visit the numerous friends he’d made while involved in another of his great business scams before they’d met. Williams once sold old and antique furniture and bric-a-brac at the market there in the 1980s. He would pack it on a train in Liverpool Lime Street every Friday and haul it to the London market, not far from Euston station. Over a period of five or six years he became one of the local characters, even though he only went for the weekends. There are stallholders to this day who recall his cheery countenance and cheeky manner as he flogged off gear he’d bought for buttons in Liverpool. He was without doubt the Scouse equivalent of Delboy from the UK television hit sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’, declares writer and journalist Arabella McIntyre Brown, now living in Liverpool. Arabella – her late sister Ginny was married to the polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes – first met Williams at the Lock when she too lived in London and was a regular at the famous market. “He was simply irrepressible and I can see what Beryl found captivating, if annoying, about him.” Beryl would snort in derision at such praise, but remarked that the good times with Williams certainly did outweigh the bad times. She would ruminate: “Yeh, he is a character and isn’t bitter about what’s happened to him. His friend Rune Lund in Norway – his ‘adopted son’ – is convinced that he gets drunk to forget and that he’s utterly regretful about losing the Beatles. But I honestly don’t think that’s the case. Frankly, from what I can gather he couldn’t really care less. “Out of all of them he’s the one who’s come out of it okay, and as he says he’s still alive. He takes all the knocks with a pinch of salt and is a bit

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of an unruly character. He’s also managed to ferret bits and bobs of money out of it over the years. Of course, he’s not rich the way he bloody well should’ve been, yet essentially he’s managed to live off the back of that short Beatles’ relationship. Chrissakes, all the others are so intense about it. Allan just takes the falls and comes bouncing back.” And yet, and yet ... her family and friends wondered about their relationship. The last time Beryl tried to commit suicide was a mere handful of years ago. Williams had gone berserk; accusing her of having sex with a guy at the music festival they were attending, staying in the cheap and cheerful chalets at Pontins’ holiday camp outside the seaside resort of Southport on the north west coast of England. It was a big Mersey Beat band revival and get-together weekend with many of the old groups that Beryl knew taking part; radio disc jockey and former musician Billy Butler and his band the Tuxedos were headlining. It transpires that Beryl had gone back to the chalet with this guy from Radio City in Liverpool. He was something to do with the entertainment. And sure, she agreed, she’d had a few drinks and they were on the hunt for a few more bottles of this and that. But when they returned to the party Williams apparently went completely nuts, bellowing at Beryl and demanding to know what she’d been doing. “When we got back to the chalet he just laid into me verbally about what I’d been doing with this fellow. I hadn’t done anything; it was just drink, I screamed at him. He wouldn’t shut up or let it go.” In desperation, for escape from his ceaseless hectoring and vocal abuse she turned to a bottle of sleeping tablets and grabbed the half-full litre of vodka that lay on a table. As Williams carried on ranting he watched in disbelief as Beryl, still screeching at him, quickly downed the alcohol and pills in alternate gulps. She screwed up her eyes at the memory: “I thought, fuck this you bastard. So I grabbed a bottle of sleeping tablets right in front of him and hurled them down my neck in a temper, just swallowed them.” Again, oddly, no one seems to have queried why she was carrying such a large quantity of sleeping tablets, considering her track record. “Bloody hell, but Allan immediately panicked and ran out of the chalet yelling for help from our friends.” Within half an hour Beryl was semi-comatose and was whisked by ambulance, siren wailing, to Southport Hospital to have her stomach pumped in the intensive care emergency unit. Allan sat by her side, thunderstruck. He is not the sort of person to even consider such a drastic way out of life’s vicissitudes.

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When she did – finally – revive, her sister Dorothy was on the scene and angrily told her she must get rid of Williams, that he would destroy her. She found these echoes of her relationship with Bob Wooler hugely amusing. Dot didn’t; still doesn’t. Beryl had glanced up as the rubber pipe was slowly withdrawn from her insides. She muttered, largely to herself: “Hmmm ... not good that ... horrible. “I know it looks bad, but I tried to do myself in because Allan acted so jealously and was a horrible bastard. Everything just got on top of me again, just crowded in and I couldn’t cope; and I was drunk,” she spluttered, the howling dogs of long ago obviously just skittering in her subconscious, waiting for the chance to let rip on her psyche once more. “Okay, it was a spare of the moment thing, maybe even like the first time, when I was living with Bob and used razor blades. When my sister came in to the hospital ward she shouted crazily, telling me what an idiot I was again. “Of course, she was right and she was generally just being kind. She has given me shit in the past though for being so stupid and getting involved with mad people.” All her life Beryl stepped in the shade of the men in her life. They dominated her, or bullied her, and she became largely oblivious to the essential truth – that time has reshaped reality so much that she was, finally, a kind of puppeteer in the great dramas of her life. She had the power, then, but it was too late. It was late afternoon and the sun had slipped away early, leaving a lowering grey sky. Beryl sipped a cup of tea – a small, fragile figure sunk into a comfy couch – and she chuckled wryly as she mentioned that Allan Williams had been mugged again a week earlier, outside a pub in Mathew Street – one of the assorted gaggle of dreary drinking dens named in tribute to the Beatles. He was drunk as usual and, she declared, a perfect target. But even Allan Williams was somewhat bemused at the facts behind the incident. The story goes that three teenage girls had attacked him and stolen his money. Young girls. They had leaped out flailing at Allan, punching and scratching his cheeks, leaving his raincoat and face splattered with blood. But, typical of Allan, instead of reporting it to the police, in a daze he wandered back into the pub for another drink. “He just won’t be told and so we just carry on together in our confrontational way,” Beryl glanced up and with a raucous, rattling laugh declared: “But I think, at last, I am getting the measure of these men.” And

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17 – Fate Deals Beryl A Final Cruel Blow

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fter several interminable weeks of suffering Beryl Adams passed away quietly – hopefully oblivious to her condition – early on the Saturday afternoon of March 1st 2003 after a savagely short illness that surprised everyone. When, only two or three months before, she fell ill with mysterious symptoms her baffled doctors were inclined to conjecture that they might well incorporate elements of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the rare condition that kills about 120 people a year worldwide. But this was merely unsubstantiated speculation and rumour. At the time of her death, her younger sister Dot Ash said it was impossible to confirm the condition – known in its animal incarnation as ‘mad cow disease’ – but the family agreed to allow medical analysis on Beryl’s body. It was flown to a specialist medical research unit in Edinburgh later that week. Beryl had been confined to the palliative care unit in Liverpool’s Royal Hospital – the same city centre hospital where, just over a year previously, her once-husband Bob Wooler had also died fearfully alone. She had been transferred only a few weeks previously from an observation ward in Broadgreen Hospital, in the east of the city. Every day Allan Williams had made a hugely tiring trawl by public transport to be by her side, just to talk comfortingly in her ear. Towards the end he tearfully admitted that he didn’t know if she could hear him. He didn’t know if she recognised him. He was distraught and a man cast adrift. Her friends and family had also maintained a daily vigil as Beryl’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the weeks. She began to develop the symptoms – confusion, memory loss and speech impairment – only in late January of that year, but according to medical experts the gestation period for the disease is considerable. Then it strikes without warning. It acts fast and there is no known cure at present. In mid-February the Liverpool Echo ran a splash (front page) story with banner headlines ‘shouting’ that Beryl was stricken with CJD and fighting for her life. The news shocked her friends and others who had known her in the past, delighted at the latter day bright and breezy personality she had become again. Her son Simon and sister Dorothy were upset and hurt that

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the story had broken in such a brutally public way, especially as they had been told the disease could only be confirmed after a post-mortem. Two weeks before the Echo had picked up on the tale, Beryl’s disorientation and difficulty in stringing words together worsened. Allan Williams was deeply concerned and called Beryl’s sister. He told her how Beryl was now forgetting things regularly. He recalled one significant instance, when she had been travelling home on a bus but couldn’t remember where she lived. Clearly aware that there was something wrong with her, Beryl was upset and puzzled by her erratic behaviour. Her own doctor realised the situation was serious and Beryl was admitted to the city’s Broadgreen Hospital for tests. Within days the staff became increasingly worried as she continued to display regular confusion and the onset of physical disabilities. She was rushed to the Royal Liverpool Hospital’s intensive care unit for further tests and observations. She never left the building. Within ten days she was a mere shadow of her former self and was moved into the hospicestyle palliative care ward, into an isolation room. By the end of the month – to everyone’s astonishment and dismay – she was dead. There was a suggestion broached that the reason might have harked back to a spinal operation she had undergone some 18 years previously. Then little was understood of the fatal consequences or appearance of sporadic CJD, as it became known. First diagnosed in 1986, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a chronic, degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system of cattle. Although 96% of cases have occurred in the UK, the disease has been confirmed in native-born cattle in other European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. And a case was recently diagnosed in the USA, causing panic in the farming communities as well as amongst US economists and government leaders. When variantCJD first surfaced in 1996, estimates of the number of people who might be infected ranged as high as 500,000. But the number of cases has risen slowly and projections were later revised to somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand. There is little doubt that BSE has caused a harrowing fatal disease for humans after almost wrecking the UK’s farming world. In the mid-1990s it dealt a devastating blow to the British livestock industry with over 170,000 animals dying or destroyed, and the precautionary slaughter within the United Kingdom of very many more. BSE developed into an epidemic as a consequence of an intensive farming practice – the recycling of animal protein in feed supplies. This practice, unchallenged over decades, proved a recipe for disaster. The British CJD Surveillance Unit identified cases of a new variant of CJD (vCJD) and the conclusion that they were probably

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linked to BSE was reached at an early stage. The link between BSE and vCJD is now clearly established, though the manner of infection is still not totally clear. Indeed, the prospect of a hidden epidemic of vCJD – a timebomb waiting to explode – was suggested in a report in the May of 2004, published in the esteemed Journal of Pathology. In the largest study yet into the potential effects of vCJD scientists predicted that up to 4,000 people in the UK alone may be infected, far more than the 146 who have died so far. And there are fears that some may even be passing it on through blood transfusions and contaminated surgical instruments so that the disease may continue to kill for decades. People may be unwittingly carrying vCJD infection without contracting the disease, which has alarming implications for surgery and blood transfusions. Carriers might pass on the infectious rogue prion protein responsible for vCJD to those who are more susceptible, through contaminated instruments. A senior pathologist at the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh – where Beryl’s body was sent for examination – said the findings have to be taken seriously; that there are indications that people who are not infected in the normal way could represent a source of infection. The risk of contracting this awful disease purely by accident was highlighted as recently as late September 2004, when 6,000 British sufferers from haemophilia and other bleeding disorders – as well as a few dozen others with rare conditions – were alerted that they may have received contaminated blood plasma. The UK government’s chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, explained that the health department was taking a ‘highly precautionary approach’ to ensure that the public was properly protected. The alert was sparked by the discovery of two cases of vCJD in the previous six months in people who may have contracted it from blood transfusions. As the warning went out, the British government also announced a ban on people who had received blood transfusions since 1980 from giving blood in the future. Sir Liam stressed though that the patients involved were at a small increased risk of developing vCJD compared with those of the population who ate beef during the 1980s and 1990s. The CJD Incidents Panel in Britain said that no transmission of vCJD via surgical instruments or the use of blood products had yet been recorded. Yet in the November of 2003, some months after Beryl’s demise, scientists claimed they had found rogue proteins, implicated in the fatal brain condition, in the muscles of patients who had died from the disease. Perhaps even the post-death tests on Beryl had helped in this research. The work of a group of Swiss researchers – published in the distinguished USA based New England Journal of Medicine – raised the possibility that the

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theoretical risk of transferring the disease through surgical instruments contaminated in operations involving the spleen or skeletal muscle could no longer be ruled out. This accorded with speculation on the part of medics treating Beryl, who mused that there may well have been ‘contaminated’ instruments involved during her operation years earlier. Who would have known of the danger then? No one could be blamed. It was just another disaster to befall Beryl: this time, though, the ultimate stroke of ill fortune. All over that sad seemingly protracted weekend of Beryl’s death Allan Williams bravely struggled to hold back the tears as tributes flowed to mark the unusual, if ill-starred, life of his lover and friend. Grieving, her sister Dot and son Simon Mullins still managed to express their gratitude for the wonderful care Beryl had received from the medical teams, both at the Royal and Broadgreen hospitals in Liverpool; staff who had been largely working in the dark, baffled and frustrated at not being able to help properly. “They displayed enormous patience and consideration, especially as no one really knew what was wrong with Beryl. It was just theory,” added Dot. Earlier that week I had agreed to travel into the hospital with Allan to visit Beryl. By then she couldn’t recognise anyone, or at least show any indication that she knew they were in the room with her. It was pitiful to watch as Allan Williams, sitting by the bed gently holding her hand, murmured softly to Beryl lying helplessly prone. She had lost an enormous amount of weight and resembled a waif, her frail body a mere ruffle under the blankets, her breathing shallow and laboured. As we stood disconsolately looking at her rigid form, her staring, unblinking eyes seemed oddly filled with a melancholy. Then, almost imperturbably, a single tear formed in the corner of one eye and slowly rolled down her cheek. We stood dumbfounded for a moment or two. It was too much for Allan Williams to handle; he was sobbing as we stumbled out of the hushed, shuttered room into the bustling hospital corridors. As we left in silence neither of us dared to voice the unthinkable, the possible horror. Did Beryl know we were there? Was she aware of what was happening to her after all? It doesn’t bear contemplation. No one will ever know. Barely able to contain his emotions, Allan Williams telephoned me a few days later, on that fateful Saturday lunchtime, to blurt out, his voice cracking in distress, that Beryl had finally given up and passed away five minutes earlier at 1.25pm.

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“She’s gone. Beryl has just died,” he cried, his voice rising to almost a howl of despair: two agonisingly short, pathos-ridden sentences, delivering the desperate news that had unravelled his own life again. The hospital had called him first, leaving him to contact her sister Dot and other relatives and friends. For weeks after, Allan was to tell everyone and anyone who would listen of his devastation at the loss of Beryl. “Oh, I know people will dismissively say it was a stormy relationship. Yes, it was. We rowed and bickered constantly. But the years with her were truly the best of my life. “We always made up. And often after an argument, which was usually down to my behaviour, Beryl would call me and say: ‘Allan, I’ve got a nice bottle of wine here. Come on round and we can share it.” “That’s what it was like. And we had just enjoyed a marvellous holiday in Portugal before Christmas. We were planning to do so much this year and in the future. I have lost a rock and a dear friend and companion.” Peter Grant, who helped set up the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo’s imaginative website dedicated to the Beatles and Mersey Beat music, believes that Beryl’s story as part of that fantastic musical revolution is one that has never been properly told. He agrees with a shrug that it may not be a major or critical part of the band’s history. “But she was loyal to the Beatles and Brian Epstein for years and was truly there right at the beginning. She was a terrific lady,” added Peter. At her funeral, Pete Best and his brother Roag stood heads bowed, amongst the other desolate mourners. Later, as people chatted and reflected on the times and stories in their lives which had overlapped with Beryl’s, Pete Best commented: “You know, she was always a friend to me. I knew her from even before my Beatles days. She stayed faithful to my dream and never once upset me about that incident.” And so life must continue. Allan Williams is carrying on, still bouncing around the world telling the tales of his early Beatles links, the stories and quips that Beryl so loved, despite her joking with him that she didn’t believe most of it. But the truth is she did, you see, or at least wanted to. She relished every anecdote and witty aside he unleashed about the Beatles she knew, told so adroitly and peppered with a wry wit, often enlivened by a wink – and occasionally a snarl – by the man she loved. She had actually found a sort of peace with Allan. For all her calling him names when he was a scoundrel, she loved him deeply in her own way. Thanks to him – and she admitted this many times – Beryl had learned to love life again. Finally, she had found a kind of equilibrium in her tumultuous existence. But sadly it was too late. Beryl

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Adams is now merely a few inky and fading paragraphs on an early page in the history of the Beatles.

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Epilogue Dateline: Friday, March 14th 2003 – 2.45pm, West Derby, Liverpool, England – Beryl’s Funeral

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small throng of close on 200 mourners stood heads bowed, pallid and grim-faced, as Beryl Adams’ cortege slowly swung through the giant black and gold wrought-iron gates that guarded the ancient church of St Mary the Virgin in the bustling village of West Derby, a few miles to the east of Liverpool city centre. Amongst them huddled former Beatles’ drummer Pete Best and his brother Roag, long-time friends of Beryl, and Joe Flannery, whom she had little time for but who was there to pay his respects nevertheless. A keen, sharp breeze tingled smarting cheeks, yet the first early pink blossoms of the year had burst forth, seemingly overnight, and dotted the trees with a pretty bloom around the mellow brownstone-clad square at the entrance to the church. Five long, sleek jet-black limousines swished by in convoy, with the car carrying Beryl’s coffin in the lead and behind the s vehicle holding her son Simon, sister Dot, twin brother Ken, her second husband Peter Mullins and her partner and friend for the last 12 years, Allan Williams, who was subdued and red-eyed with grief. Beryl was born and raised in this now sprawling village-like suburb, which butts onto the vast, rolling acres of Lord Derby’s estate, skirting the eastern sprawl of Liverpool’s hinterland. She had been baptised and confirmed in the church and it was the natural choice for friends and family who gathered to pay their respects and express unexpected farewells. Deacon Jenny Bowen, whose eulogy to Beryl was short but eloquent, looked on as the coffin was raised on a plinth close to the altar, a single white candle burning bright at its foot. On top of the burnished lid a bright bouquet of flowers nestled alongside a gilt-framed photograph of a younger Beryl, smiling down the aisle, helping to dispel the anguished mood. Those waiting outside for Beryl’s last public appearance had scuffled into the church to join almost 100 who were already sitting and contemplating silently in the wooden oak pews for the arrival of their late friend’s casket. It was mid-afternoon and the ancient, centuries old, church was cold, the unyielding granite slabs absorbing and reflecting the chill that forced

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shivers from some mourners. Outside the sky was a cloudless, brilliant blue and the sun, in a watery, hazy way, shone for the first time in weeks. The service was simple: a few kind words, a few favoured hymns, and a few stifled coughs. But emotions were released amid muted sobs when one of Beryl’s favourite songs echoed around the stone canyons of the cavernous interior of the house of her God – for Beryl did have a belief in the afterlife. In the cool stillness the air was filled with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and chanteuse Sarah Brightman in a haunting, echoing rendition of ‘Time To Say Goodbye’. There was a collective sigh. And then the religious element ended. A close contingent of grieving pals and family travelled to the Anfield Crematorium, a mere hand’s-span from Liverpool Football Club’s famous ground, to privately weep a wee bit more and murmur their final personal goodbyes to Beryl. In that sanitised, bleak room the soaring refrains of the Celine Dion hit ‘My Heart Will Go On’, from the movie ‘Titanic’, caused many a hankie to flutter and tears to flow as her coffin slid silently from view. There were no Beatles’ songs.

end

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The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams • Beryl Adams was Brian Epstein’s first secretary as he forged his musical dynasty and moulded the Beatles into the world’s most successful pop band ever. • She was once married to the homosexual Cavern disc jockey Bob Wooler and counted amongst her string of lovers Epstein’s biographer Ray Coleman. • Every week she handed over the then measly pay packets – in cash – to the young Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and for a while to the handsome drummer Pete Best, until he was ignominiously sacked in favour of Ringo Starr. • She was outraged at the ousting of Best and stayed his loyal and lifelong friend. • Beryl disliked John Lennon intensely, regarding him as an overbearing bully and always knew that Paul McCartney was a much smarter cookie, the guy with the staying power. • She was arguably the first woman to manage a pop band – the Kirkbys, who could have hit the big time if handled right. They weren’t and didn’t. • In another twist of fate in later life Beryl was also the live in lover of Allan Williams, the Beatles first manager. • She died horribly and unexpectedly of Mad Cow’s Disease. This is the untold, fascinating account of Beryl’s chaotic life on the edge, a tale that even many of her friends and family knew little about.

My Beatles Hell - The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams  

Beryl Adams was Brian Epstein’s secretary when he ‘found’ the Beatles and began to shape them into a global phenomenon. But the boisterous l...

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