Co-Author of Controversial Beatles Book Wants Unheard Interview Tapes Released
In 1983, Peter Brown and Steven Gaines’ The Love You Make hit bookstores and caused a huge commotion among Beatles fans. In an interview with Billboard, Gaines said he and Brown conducted somewhere between 60 and 80 hours of interviews for the book they co-authored. Though all have been archived and digitized, none of the audio has been heard by the public, and Gaines says now he would like the tapes to be available publicly for whoever wants to hear them, either via sale (such as an auction) or donation (likely to a university). He also says Brown once told him he'd never sell the tapes.
Those interviewed for The Love You Make -- mostly in 1980 -- include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Yoko Ono, Harrison's first wife Pattie Boyd, Starr's first wife Maureen Starkey, Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, Apple Corps head Neil Aspinall, John Lennon's first wife Cynthia, Linda McCartney's brother and later McCartney legal representative John Eastman, Allen Klein, who took on the Beatles’ business affairs after manager Brian Epstein’s death, and Beatles authorized biographer Hunter Davies, among many others. John Lennon was not interviewed for it.
“It's all of these people on a human level,” says Gaines about the interview tapes. “All of these people... had their guard down. This is the human side of the story, including the business side. A lot of emotions that are talked about they just wouldn't [have done] if Peter Brown hadn't asked them to talk to me.”
Many of the taped interviews were conducted by Brown, but Gaines says he handled quite a few himself. “Sometimes I was there alone because I had to ask certain questions, and Peter didn't want to be embarrassed,” Gaines told Billboard.
Brown, who was immortalized in The Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (“Peter Brown called to say / You can make it OK / You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain”), became a founding director of their Apple Corps Ltd. company after the death of Epstein, who was also his longtime friend. “When Brian died, [Brown] kind of took over,” Gaines says. “He didn't really manage [the Beatles], but he became an officer of Apple Corps. He was best man at John and Yoko's wedding, and he knew all those people.” Brown would later move to the Robert Stigwood Organization, and these days he is chairman/CEO of BLJ Worldwide, an international consulting company he founded.
Gaines has been the "Top of the Pops" columnist for the New York Sunday News, editor of Circus magazine, contributing editor of New York magazine, and the American correspondent for the British pop newspaper Melody Maker. He is also the author of numerous books, including Heroes and Villains, about the Beach Boys.
Gaines first met up with Brown when he was president of the Robert Stigwood Organization at a press event for a “terrible,” short-lived stage musical of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. After it was over, Brown offered him a lift. “On the way to dropping me off at my house, I said, ‘If you ever want to write a book about the Beatles, please call me,’” Gaines recalls. A year later, Brown accepted his offer and Gaines drafted a book proposal. They sold hardcover rights of The Love You Make in the U.S. for $250,000 and $200,000 in the UK; the paperback rights garnered $750,000, he says.
Gaines left some of the interviews on the cutting room floor, using only as much as was necessary to “tell the narrative.” “The idea for this book, my idea for this book, was to tell the story of The Beatles through the eyes of the women who were with them, and that's pretty much what happens," he says. "The major part of the book is definitely about relationships. The book is very, very light on music analysis intentionally."
For example: Gaines says Brian Epstein’s mother, Queenie, couldn't accept his homosexuality. On another tape, Gaines talks to Maureen Starkey about being married to a Beatle. “This is just a manicurist from Liverpool, and within a matter of weeks, she was married to one of the most famous men in the world,” he says.
Brown recently wrote “A Beatles Confidant Explores the Myth of the Fab Four,” a 50th anniversary essay on The Beatles’ final show, the rooftop concert, for the Financial Times. According to Gaines, the article had several inaccuracies, including that the Beatles collaborated on the book. They only gave interviews, he says. Gaines adds that Brown's assertion that they had “thousands of hours of interviews” was also vastly overstated.
When contacted by Billboard for this story, Brown wrote in an email, “I’m sorry but I have made it a policy to not discuss Beatles matters. I feel I have said all I need to.”
Gaines says he'd really like something to happen with the tapes. “I'm going to be 73,” he says. "What's going to happen to these things?”
Below are select transcripts provided by Gaines from his interviews.
On playing Sgt. Pepper for Brian Epstein for the first time:
Paul McCartney: "We were all sitting out in George's place and we played Pepper through. And Brian's remark was, 'Put it out in a brown paper wrapper.' That was his thing. He said because it was so good."
Yoko Ono on The Beatles’ relationship with Lennon’s children:
Yoko Ono: "I think that Paul was always very kind to Julian and Cynthia. And also George and Ringo too. They were never not civilized to Cynthia and Julian. And also when I came into the picture they resisted that much because they saw John and Cynthia and Julian as a family all the time to them. It's nice, really."
Harrison’s thoughts about the 1960s:
Steve Gaines: “This is just a philosophical question -- when did the ‘60s end?”
George Harrison: “When did the ‘60s end? I don’t know if they ever began, really. I think we were still living in the ‘50s, is what we were trying to do. We were still in the ‘50s ‘cause that’s when it was starting -- all our influences in popular music and clothes. We started out just trying to get enough money so that we could buy James Dean jeans and so we were just fulfilling our dream to be just like our heroes from the ‘50s. So the ‘60s is only handy as a thing to call it. It’s like subdividing the day into hours."
SG: "The energy didn’t dissipate at some point? It didn’t just all go away?"
GH: "Well, the energy dissipated as much as our brains... You see, the energy dissipated because we grew and we fulfilled the certain desires that we must have had. Like I said, the ‘50s could be the heroes of rock and roll sort of thing. Just to be up there with guitars. Those desires that were probably to make a lot of money, that must have been in the mix. I remember being a kid of about 12, dreaming of big motorboats and tropical islands and things which had nothing to do with Liverpool, which was dark and cold. I remember going to see Cliff Richard on 'Lyrical Empire' and thinking 'Fuck it, I could do better than that.' You know, things which really happened.
I didn’t know why I liked Indian music or any of that. Now I do. It’s the karma thing, you know, the only answer is to get to the spiritual side... As Krishna says, it was inevitable -- there never was a time when you weren’t, and there’ll never be a time when you cease to be. The only thing that changes is bodily condition. As you can see when a baby’s born, and it goes through childhood into a young man -- like we all are -- and we’re getting it being a man -- an old man -- and then we die. And it’s the same soul leaving the body at death as it was in the body at birth. The only thing that changed, really, is the bodily condition. And that is still only a few minutes out of the 24 hours of lifespan. And so to understand it fully is to say, when we die it’s like, you know, having whatever credit and debit in your bank account counting as a kind of karma reaction, and when you get into your next body you pick up whatever credit and debit you had. You know, karma is such that it has to be worked out.”