On this day in history….24th April 1906

On this day in history : 24th April 1906 – The birth of Mimi Smith – the maternal aunt and parental guardian of Beatle John Lennon – and who thought his music would never amount to much….

Mimi Smith – Fair use

Mary Elizabeth ‘Mimi’ Smith (nee Stanley) was the eldest of five sisters and from an early age had to help look after her younger siblings…. The family lived in a small terraced house in Newcastle Road, Liverpool – not far from Penny Lane…. On leaving school Mimi trained as a nurse (later in her working life she was to become the private secretary of businessman Ernest Vickers)…. When her mother died Mimi took on the matriarchal role in the family….

She met George Smith, a milkman who delivered milk to the hospital she worked at, in 1932…. He and his brother ran the family dairy and shop – Mimi would have considered him a good catch…. After a seven year courtship the pair finally married on the 15th of September 1939 and bought a semi-detached house – ‘Mendips’ – in Menlove Avenue, a middle-class area of Liverpool….

‘Mendips’ – Image credit : Havaska – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

Mimi’s sister, Julia – younger than her by eight years – had married Alf Lennon on the 3rd of December 1938 and baby John was born on the 9th of October 1940…. Julia phoned her sister from the hospital and Mimi rushed to see her and the new arrival in the midst of an air raid….

Not long after Julia and Alf separated – Julia took John with her and moved in with her new lover…. Mimi undoubtedly would have been appalled by her sister’s behaviour – and even more so about the living arrangements…. Twice she contacted social services because the child was sleeping in the same bed as the adults…. Eventually Julia was persuaded to hand John over to Mimi and George – who incidentally were never to have any children of their own….

In July 1946 Alf Lennon took his son on an extended holiday to Blackpool – only his real intention was to emigrate to New Zealand with him…. It was Julia who managed to get John back and return him to Mimi…. After that he was to spend the rest of his childhood at ‘Mendips’….

John Lennon at home with Aunt Mimi at Menlove Avenue – Image credit : Eliodue via Flickr

As a guardian Mimi was strict…. She could be stubborn, impatient, unforgiving and didn’t suffer fools lightly…. Money and keeping up appearances were important to her…. That said she had a good sense of humour…. Often when she was chastising John he would crack a joke and the two would end up in fits of giggles…. He thought the world of her – even so she was a little jealous of the relationship he had with his Uncle George….

With Uncle George – Image credit : Eliodue via Flickr

John’s mother bought him his first guitar, although Mimi was to claim it was her…. She and Julia saw him first perform with The Quarrymen – who over time evolved into The Beatles…. Mimi gave the impression of being shocked by his performance – but secretly she was probably quite proud….

George died of a liver haemorrhage in 1955…. Not long after Julia was killed on Menlove Avenue, after being knocked down by a car being driven by an off duty police officer….

John was to attend Liverpool College of Art – as Mimi insisted that he get some academic qualifications…. “Music’s all right John, but you’ll never make a living out of it”…. She was dismissive of his friends – calling Paul McCartney ‘John’s little friend’ – and disapproving of him because he was working-class…. Mimi was never ashamed of showing her snobbery…. She was equally disapproving of John’s girlfriends – and later even more so of his wives….

When John married Cynthia on the 23rd of August 1962 Mimi refused to go to the wedding and pulled out all the stops to prevent the rest of the family from attending either…. She blamed Cynthia for falling pregnant and trapping John into marriage – but when Cynthia nearly lost the baby she agreed to rent them a downstairs room at ‘Mendips’…. By this time John’s career with The Beatles was taking off, which meant he was often away – leaving Mimi and Cynthia alone…. Mimi made her life unbearable – and shortly after the birth of Julian she could stand it no more and so in November 1963 she went to live with her mother….

Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 1963 – Public domain

In 1965 John bought Mimi a £25k bungalow in Poole, Dorset…. He also gave her a weekly allowance of £30…. However, on discovering Cynthia’s mother also received the same allowance she was furious…. John, Cynthia and Julian visited her at the bungalow in the summer of 1965 – it was the last time she would see the three of them together….

John and Yoko Ono married on the 20th of March 1969…. Mimi happened to bump in to Cynthia at a funeral – she criticised her strongly, for divorcing John and letting him start a relationship with Yoko….”making a fool of himself”…. But she was later to admit Yoko was a good wife and mother….

Yoko Ono and John Lennon, March 1969 – CC0

After John’s death Yoko took their son, Sean, to visit Mimi – who said “Sean is like John in every way – looks and manner – and he has got John’s sense of humour. As long as he keeps away from music he will be alright”….

Yoko was later to buy ‘Mendips’ and donate it to the National Trust…. Mimi died at her bungalow in Poole on the 6th of December 1991….

Image credit : Eliodue via Flickr

On this day in history….29th November 1963

On this day in history : 29th November 1963 – The Beatles release ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – which goes on to reach No.1 in the charts….knocking another of their own singles from the top position….

United Press International (UPI Telephoto) – Public domain

By knocking ‘She Loves You’ from the top spot, this gave the Beatles reign of the charts with both the No.1 and No.2 positions…. Very few acts have managed to do this…. The Beatles did it again in December 1967 when ‘Hello, Goodbye’ reached top with ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ at No.2….

The Beatles arriving at John F Kennedy International Airport, 7 February 1964 – United Press International, photographer unknown – Public domain

In 1978, following the huge success of the film ‘Grease’, two songs from the soundtrack album achieved it…. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made No.1 with ‘Summer Nights’ with a solo John Travolta taking the No.2 position with ‘Sandy’….

John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ shot to No.1 after his death in December 1980 and was joined by ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ at No.2…. Three weeks later ‘Imagine’ still held top position and ‘Woman’ rose to No.2….

Others have followed since…. Frankie Goes to Hollywood with ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘Relax’ and Madonna with ‘Into The Groove’ and her re-released debut single ‘Holiday’…. In January 2016 Justin Bieber went one better by holding the top 3 positions….but a year later this was equalled by Ed Sheehan with ‘Shape of You’, ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Galway Girl’….

Ed Sheeran – Eva Rinaldi CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….12th March 1969

On this day in history : 12th March 1969 – Paul McCartney marries US photographer Linda Eastman at Marylebone Registry Office….

Linda McCartney – Image courtesy: Kristine via Flickr

Paul and Linda had first met on the 15th of May 1967, in Soho nightclub ‘Bag O’ Nails’…. Linda was in the UK to take photographs for a book called ‘Rock and Other Four-Letter Words’…. A few days later she met him again at a photo shoot of the Beatles….but was soon afterwards to return home to the States and her own life with young daughter, Heather – from a previous marriage…. Paul, meanwhile, was to become engaged to long-term girlfriend, Jane Asher…. However, a year later, in May 1968 the pair met up again in New York – and Paul invited Linda and her daughter to London…. A romance was to blossom….

Photo credit: Spudgun67 CC BY-SA 4.0

The wedding was supposed to be a secret – but these things have a habit of leaking out…. Even though the registry office had only been booked the day before reporters and photographers were waiting outside it, in the rain, from 7am…. So were the fans….hundreds of them, many visibly distraught…. Paul was the last bachelor Beatle….their teenage dreams of becoming Mrs Paul McCartney shattered forever….img_2552

The couple arrived at 10am, entering the building via a side door to avoid the crowds; the other members of the Beatles did not attend…. Paul wore a dark suit, with a floral shirt and yellow kipper tie….whilst Linda wore a fawn coloured dress with a yellow coat…. Heather carried a posy of freesias….

The ceremony was delayed for an hour…. Paul’s brother, Michael, who was best man and acting as a witness, was travelling down from Birmingham – but his train had broken down…. On arriving in London he headed to the registry office assuming he was too late – but the wedding party had waited for him…. The other witness was the Beatles’ assistant, Mal Evans….

After the ceremony the newly wed Mr and Mrs McCartney made their way down the steps to their waiting car….throwing freesias to the crowd as they went….

On this day in history….4th March 1966

On this day in history : 4th March 1966 – John Lennon gives an interview in which he states the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ – it causes outrage in the United States….

Image : YouTube

The interview was for the Evening Standard….it was the first in a series of articles entitled “How Does a Beatle Live?” Each member of the group was individually interviewed – starting with John Lennon at his home in Weybridge….

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me”….

His words provoked no reaction from the public in the UK…. However, in July 1966 it was quoted in a US teen magazine and was received in America in a very different manner….

The publication that had been granted rights to all four interviews was a magazine called ‘Datebook’. Being broad minded – covering topics such as the legalisation of marijuana and inter-racial relationships – it was considered the most suitable for publishing the interviews…. Datebook teased its readers with the snippet “I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity” printed on the front cover….

Tommy Charles a DJ for WAQY, a radio station in Birmingham, Alabama heard of the comments – and was furious…. “That does it for me. I am not going to play the Beatles any more”…. The listeners were asked for their opinions – and they were less than favourable….the people were beginning to show their contempt….

The ball started to roll….more than twenty other radio stations followed suit and banned Beatles music…. The public were keen to show their anger – in the South especially – demonstrations were held, bonfires lit, Beatles memorabilia and records burned…. Soon the protests crossed over to Mexico and on to other particularly religious countries – such as Spain and South Africa…. The Vatican issued a public denouncement of Lennon’s comments….

Unfortunately the controversy coincided with the upcoming US tour scheduled for August and the recent release of the album ‘Revolver’….

Fair use

Lennon apologised for his comments, cheekily saying “If I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it”…. The Press were somewhat sympathetic….

However, it was touch and go as to whether the tour would go ahead – but it was decided that it should…. Overshadowed by disturbances and protests – even being picketed by the Ku Klux Klan – some dates were cancelled, such as Memphis – because the Beatles were not welcome in town….

There was some support for the Beatles though…. One Kentucky radio station said it would play Beatles music in order to show its “contempt for hypocrisy personified”…. And a Jesuit magazine – ‘America’ – wrote that “Lennon was simply stating what many a Christian educator would readily admit”….

On this day in history….30th January 1969

On this day in history : 30th January 1969 – The Beatles play an impromptu concert on the rooftop of Apple Records in London…. It is to be their last public performance….

Via Photo Community Site

It was a bitterly cold Thursday lunchtime, many were on their lunch break when they were surprised by the loud music coming from the rooftop of No.3 Savile Row – the home of Apple Records…. At first there was some confusion – but then as word spread crowds gathered in the street, five storeys below….and people climbed out on to the rooftops of neighbouring buildings….

The Beatles had been recording their album ‘Let it Be’ in the basement studio at Apple Records and had been planning a live performance since earlier in the month….but the idea of performing on the roof had only come about a couple of days before….

Image credit: Jan via Flickr

George, Ringo, John and Paul – accompanied by a young Billy Preston on keyboards – treated their delighted audience to a 42 minute set which included songs such as “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Get Back”…. It was their first ‘gig’ since they had stopped touring in 1965 – and it was to be their last, as by September 1969 the Beatles had unofficially disbanded….

Unfortunately, not everybody was happy about the unexpected entertainment…. The Metropolitan police were concerned about safety, traffic issues and noise disturbance…. Policeman Ken Wharfe later said that he had been ordered by his superiors to “turn that noise off”….

3, Savile Row, London, the location of the concert – public domain – Misterweiss via English Wikipedia

On arriving at Apple Records the police were initially refused entry into the building by staff – but when threatened with arrest they had to back down…. As the police reached the rooftop the Beatles realised their concert was about to be brought to an end – but managed to carry on for several more minutes. Paul McCartney changed the lyrics to “Get Back” to something more fitting for the situation….

“You’ve been playing on the roofs again, and you know your momma doesn’t like it, she’s gonna have you arrested”….

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John Lennon finished up by saying…. “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition”….