The Beatles - Interview with Jimmy Nicol (1964)
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Uploaded on Dec 2, 2010
James George "Jimmie"/"Jimmy" Nicol (born 3 August 1939, 93 Silverthorne Road, Battersea, London), is a British drummer, best known for temporarily replacing Ringo Starr in The Beatles for a series of concerts during the height of Beatlemania in 1964, elevating him from relative obscurity to worldwide fame and then back again in the space of a fortnight. Nicol had hoped that his association with The Beatles would greatly boost his career, but instead found that the spotlight moved away from him once Starr returned to the group. His subsequent lack of commercial success led him into bankruptcy in 1965. After then working with a number of different bands, which included a successful phase with The Spotnicks, he left the music business in 1967 to pursue a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. Later in his life he became a recluse preferring not to discuss his connection to The Beatles and refusing to seek financial gain from it. He has a son, Howard, who is a BAFTA award-winning sound engineer.
When Ringo Starr collapsed and was hospitalised on 3 June 1964 with tonsillitis on the eve of The Beatles' 1964 Australasian tour the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein and their record producer George Martin urgently discussed the feasibility of using a stand-in drummer rather than cancelling part of the tour. Martin suggested Jimmie Nicol as he had recently used him on a Tommy Quickly recording session. Nicol had also, as part of an un-credited session band, drummed on a Top Six budget label album and an extended play single (two tracks on each side) of Beatle cover versions (marketed as "Teenagers Choice and entitled Beatlemania) which meant that he already knew the songs and their arrangements. Producer Bill Wellings and the aforementioned Shubdubs member Johnny Harris (freelancing as an arranger and composer) were responsible for putting together alternative budget cover versions of songs taken from the British Hit Parade aimed at cash-strapped teenagers: "The idea was for me to try and guess which six songs would be topping the charts about a month ahead. I would do the arrangements and then go into the studio and record "sound a-like's"; the first EP (extended play) released got to number 30 in the charts. Jimmie was on drums and, as you can imagine, we covered a lot of the Beatles' songs" Harris said. Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney quickly accepted the idea of using an understudy, George Harrison threatened to pull out of the tour, telling Epstein and Martin: "If Ringo's not going, then neither am I. You can find two replacements". George Martin: "They nearly didn't do the Australia tour. George is a very loyal person. It took all of Brian's and my persuasion to tell George that if he didn't do it he was letting everybody down". Tony Barrow, who was the Beatles' press officer at the time, later commented: "Brian saw it as the lesser of two evils; cancel the tour and upset thousands of fans or continue and upset the Beatles." Ringo Starr: "It was very strange, them going off without me. They'd taken Jimmy Nicol and I thought they didn't love me any more -- all that stuff went through my head". The arrangements were made very quickly, from a telephone call to Nicol at his home in west London inviting him to attend an audition-cum-rehearsal at Abbey Road Studios to packing his bags, all in the same day. At a press conference a reporter asked John Lennon why Pete Best, who had been The Beatles' original drummer, was not given the opportunity of replacing Ringo, to which Lennon replied: "He's got his own group [Pete Best & the All Stars], and it might have looked as if we were taking him back, which is not good for him." Later, on the subject of remuneration, Nicol recalled: "When Brian [Epstein] talked of money in front of them [Lennon, McCartney and Harrison] I got very, very nervous. They paid me £2,500 per gig and a £2,500 signing bonus. Now, that floored me. When John spoke up in a protest by saying 'Good God, Brian, you'll make the chap crazy!', I thought it was over. But no sooner had he said that when he said, 'Give him ten thousand!' Everyone laughed and I felt a hell of a lot better. That night I couldn't sleep a wink. I was a fucking Beatle!" These sums of money, which were vast in 1964, are unverified.
Nicol's first concert with The Beatles took place just 27 hours later on 4 June at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was given the distinctive Beatle moptop hairstyle, put on Ringo Starr's suit (despite the trousers being too short) and went on stage to an audience of 4,500 Beatles fans. Paul McCartney amusingly recalled: "He was sitting up on this rostrum just eyeing up all the women. We'd start "She Loves You": [counting in] one, two, nothing, one, two, and still nothing!"
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