Tales from Abbey Road – The American girl
The sixties was a great time. There was revolution in the air – not that I ever saw or heard anybody talking guns or armed insurrection. People seemed to feel we were building a new and better society, dumping all the baggage like wars, racism, sexism, hypocrisy, greed and consumerism and creating something less conformist, simpler and more real. People were more open. They were investigating religions, cults, politics and talking about dropping out, giving up being the master’s right-hand nose and getting back to the land. It’s hard to explain. They, for a short period of time, were idealistic times of great friendship and camaraderie. When you saw someone with the hair you knew you had something in common. We shared what we had. There were usually sacraments involved! A joint would be passed around. We’d sit up talking, playing music and laughing through the night.
I do find myself nostalgic for the feel of those days.
We used to hitch-hike a lot. I would sometimes hitch to Roy’s out of town gigs and Roy was known to hitch to his own gigs. Hitching was interesting. You met all manner of people.
Anyway, enough of this preamble.
It was not unusual to put strangers up for a while. Our little two-room bedsit in Manor House often had an array of sleeping bags and new friends. You’d go to a gig and someone would want a floor for the night. One time we accrued an American girl – the reason for this strange acquisition is lost in the depths of time. She was not your typical 60s freak – far from it. I can’t imagine her going to the type of clubs I frequented, but, none-the-less we ended up with her. Unlike most of our guests she definitely overstayed her welcome. She was from a rich privileged background, contributed to nothing, and had a grating, shrill whiney, voice that never seemed to stop. Consequently she tended to dominate everything and was exceedingly annoying.
After a week or two Liz had definitely had enough of her. Goodwill had gone out the window. I was heading off to Abbey Road and Liz suggested I should take her with me to give her a bit of peace. I weighed it up and figured she’d most probably be quiet and a bit overawed. Foolishly I agreed, suggested it to our American ‘friend’ and she jumped at the chance. She liked the Beatles.
I whisked her off on my trusty orange steed, giving her a thrill or two round a few tight bends.
At the studio I explained to Roy what the situation was. He’d already sussed out the general lay of the land. It did not take too long to see what she was really about. She was not one to take a back seat or keep quiet. Being overawed was not in her vocabulary and she proceeded to wander around and get in the way. At one time she went off down the corridor and actually walked in the studio where Paul was working, with the red light on, and interrupted a recording. They were far from amused. Somewhere in the archives she’s probably on tape!
Roy was recording East of the Sun which used this quite complex and evocative high-pitched harmonica. He was having difficulty because the harmonica kept playing up and giving false notes or breaking up. They’d searched round but couldn’t find a replacement in the right key, and being the middle of the night they could not purchase one. They tried soaking the thing in water but it still would not perform and everyone was getting a bit uptight and frustrated.
The American girl was not helping matters. At one point they were telling her to shut up or they’d take her into the studio and sort her out. I think she was quite up for that. I was a bit concerned that it might actually happen.
Eventually Roy got the harmonica to last through the take and they got the track completed. In a mixture of relief and frustration Roy smashed the offending harmonica with the heavy studio door. The American girl eagerly picked up the mangled instrument as a memento.
Well, she eventually got Mummy and Daddy to send her air-fare through and disappeared leaving all her rucksack of possessions behind. That mangled harmonica sat on our shelf for quite a while but eventually disappeared too!