ON TOUR: Ivor Davis was a 25-year-old Cockney journo in San Francisco in 1964 when his London editor called: Cover the Beatles’ first U.S. tour and stick to them like glue, day and night.
The 34-day, 27-city trip became “one of the craziest adventures of my life,” Davis, now a Ventura resident, recalls in his new book, The Beatles and Me, on Tour, to be published on July 15.
“I was there when they popped pills … moaned about the lousy sound systems and the crappy merchandise sold at stadiums, about their fear of flying and how they coped with the revolving door of women of all shapes, sizes, and ages that came calling.”
When the jet-lagged lads arrived at the San Francisco Hilton on August 18, 1964, Davis, who had never attended a rock concert, found them virtual prisoners on the 15th floor.
“The hotel was under siege. Thousands of people, most of them young girls, and most of them with their teeth encased in metal braces, had surrounded the hotel and were screaming in the wildest mass hysteria I had ever seen (or have seen since).”
Davis, stunned, was greeted by the foursome’s PR man, Derek Taylor. “Welcome to Beatlemania.” Taylor promptly poured Davis a shot of whiskey. “You’ll need it.” The Cow Palace concert was scheduled that night, and the boys were just waking up.
Even from that high you could hear the constant screaming. “Is it always like this?” Davis asked Taylor, who just smiled. “It’s bloody mad,” said John Lennon. “They’ll all die of laryngitis.”
At the Cow Palace, the Beatles launched into “Twist and Shout.” But who could tell? “All around me, girls, some holding binoculars, began what I can only describe as a marathon of unending shrieks,” Davis said. “They jumped out of their seats, their bodies shook and shuddered and became so contorted that it seemed they were in the throes of serious epileptic fits or had been possessed by demons.”
In 29 minutes, the concert was over. “Twelve songs, express delivery: Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. The second they finished their final number, ‘Long Tall Sally,’ they dropped their instruments and raced offstage.”
With their limos draped with girls, “attached to the doors like mindless, human limpets in a horror movie,” the Beatles leaped into a decoy ambulance and raced off.
Nineteen girls required first aid, 50 fans were hurt in scuffles with police, and two were arrested. Police tackled 50 more fans who tried to invade the stage.
And it was pretty much like this for what Davis calls “five weeks of frenzy.” The mild-mannered Cockney had a ticket to ride in the Beatles’ private jet as the boozy entourage cruised America.
From Las Vegas, where Liberace insisted on meeting them, to Seattle, where they fished from their waterside hotel and caught nothing, to L.A., where Groucho Marx crashed the party, to Milwaukee, where “four girls camped out overnight in the hotel boiler room with fruit, cheese, and soft drinks — but were discovered before they could confront their targets.”
At the Milwaukee concert, “A young girl, no more than 15, squirmed onto the stage and attached herself to John as he valiantly played on with this human appendage wrapped around his legs. A smiling John took it all in his stride.”
In Baltimore, “a large cardboard gift box was hauled up to the Beatles’ floor — containing four young girls.” Other women, if they passed the screening, got warm welcomes. “There were always fair maidens in every town who were ready, willing, and able.”
On one memorable night, the lads stuffed towels under the doors lest telltale smoke escape, and their idol, Bob Dylan, arrived to end their pot virginity.
During their hotel imprisonments, the highlight of their late nights — when they weren’t entertaining or being entertained — was Monopoly. “John played Monopoly with a rare passion,” Davis recalled. He made certain to snap up the posh properties “by fair means or foul.”
George Harrison was supposed to be writing a regular newspaper column about the tour, but Davis ended up doing it instead, highly sanitized, of course.
When the tour was over, it had covered 23,000 memorable miles and earned the Beatles a cool $1 million.
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band will play at the S.B. Bowl on Saturday, July 12, and Ivor Davis will be there as a paying customer this time ($100). Will they meet? Ivor hopes to arrange it.