By Terry Miller
Several months back I received a book from publicist Kathleen Kaiser. The non-fiction piece written by British author Ivor Davis immediately grabbed my attention.
Aside from being a huge Beatles fan (who isn’t?), the author’s name rang a familiar bell in this reporter’s somewhat aging memory bank.
I seem to recall my late father, Henry Miller, talking fondly of a colleague in the business, one Ivor Davis. Could it be the same bloke? A British journalist writing about my favorite band of all time, the Beatles?
I contacted the publicist, who in turn contacted Ivor, and within a few minutes I was on the ‘phone to one of my dad’s journalist friends from back in the 1960s. Neither of us could believe after all these years that a simple email could bring back so many incredible memories.
Ivor Davis worked for the Daily Express and my dad for The Daily Telegraph, London. Both were transferred as foreign correspondents for their skills at their respective newspapers. Ivor arrived in 1964, literally with the Beatles and my dad (and his family, including me) arrived the following year in New York, 1965 on The Queen Mary.
The two young journalists from Fleet Street were assigned to many big stories in the 1960s including Patty Hearst; the Charles Manson trial; Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s assassinations; among many others. The two men got to know each other well over the years and became fast friends.
But for Ivor Davis, his biggest story of all time was his tour with the Beatles in 1964 – the thesis for his new book: The Beatles and Me On Tour.
Ivor’s publicist immediately sent me a copy of the book and within two days I was reading perhaps one of the most personal and poignant books I had ever read on the Fab Four. It sounds trite, but I really couldn’t put the book down.
Ivor’s sense of humor comes through with a colorful cast of characters, brilliant wit and insight as he unlocks his proverbial memory bank from all those years ago to reveal the real Beatles and the madness that was Beatlemania.
The book really is one of the most engrossing pieces of non-fiction you’ll ever read about the mop tops … if ever there was a “page turner” this is most certainly it.
When he gets to the second tour of America, the lads meet Elvis …. I’m not going to ruin the book for you … but you’ll be undoubtedly flabbergasted when you read the real story.
The meeting of the two biggest names in music was in the works for over a year. Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, and Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, had met, communicated and finally came up with a day and place when the Fab Four could meet their idol, Elvis.
The “Summit” as it was called, would allow no photographers or recorders. Actually no press was to attend but the Beatles brought along a writer the (NME) New Musical Express and British journalist Ivor Davis, at the time covering the Beatles American Tour for a second year. Davis was the west coast reporter for the London Daily Express. He’d spent summer 1964 traveling and living with the Beatles during the maelstrom that was their first American tour.
Now back for round two crisscrossing America, Beatles manager Epstein invited Davis to join the group as they dodged fans, sped around in limos, partied and played to the biggest crowd ever at New York’s Shea Stadium. (As an aside – yours truly, my bother Colin, and my dad were supposed to be there for that historic gig. He had press credentials, but alas, my father gave away the tickets, saying, “I didn’t know you boys were big fans of the Beatles.” We didn’t talk to him for years after this declaration of guilt.)
Back to Elvis:
What Ivor didn’t expect was walking into Elvis’ home one hot summer night with the Fab Four, their crew of three roadies, publicist and Epstein. August 1965 was a rough time in Los Angeles. The Watts Riots had destroyed much of South LA. Davis had been covering them 24/7, grabbing sleep when he could. Then the madness that was the Beatles arrived and he was off to document their second conquering of the States.
“By 1965, I was covering major stories across the U.S. for the Daily Express,” said Davis. “When I was assigned to travel with the Beatles for a second time, I was much more prepared for what lie ahead—screaming girls, very late nights, racing around in limos and on private planes. The only good thing was the length of the tour, just two weeks instead of the long 34 days I’d traveled with them in 1964.
“When Brian (Epstein) finally ironed out the details of an Elvis meeting with Colonel Parker, I had few expectations. I was called over to the Beatles rental home on St. Pierre and told that the “Summit” was on. I arrived to only learn things were on hold. Elvis wasn’t ready. We all waited, especially the boys. John and Paul were huge fans of Elvis, buying of his records as teenagers in Liverpool. Elvis was a major influence according to John.”
Davis also was the official ghost writer for George Harrison during the tour. Music magazines in the UK like New Musical Express, Melody Maker, and hundreds of smaller publications were eager to get first-hand stories from the four lads from Liverpool. Ivor Davis had to convince a reticent Harrison to go along with the plan.
Go buy this book and inwardly digest a slice of magical musical history.