Author Ivor Davis tells all on Beatles sex and drugs lifestyle during band's first U.S. tour
WHEN Ivor Davis was invited join The Beatles on their first American tour over 50 years ago, nothing prepared him for the wild adventure that lay ahead.
The young Los Angeles-based British showbiz journalist briefly became the fifth member of the band, documenting their U.S. escapades and ghost-writing George Harrison’s column for his London newspaper.
A goggle-eyed Davis spent five weeks jet-setting across the States as the Fab Four fought their way through hordes of screaming fans, bedded an endless supply of groupies and hookers, got high on marijuana with Bob Dylan, sparred with Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and had their one and only encounter with ‘The King’ Elvis Presley.
Ivor was also on the scene during a night in Las Vegas when John Lennon was interrogated by police after a mother complained that her two underage daughters were being detained in his suite.
Our man Eddie with Ivor
Lennon and the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, were questioned through the night before the authorities decided that there was no case to answer.
However, Davis later learned that after the mother threatened to take the matter further by going to the American media and insisting on a more thorough police investigation, she was paid $10,000 hush money by the band’s management.
Davis has now written a book, The Beatles and Me, giving the full inside story of his five incredible weeks with the world’s most famous band back in 1964.
“The road managers working with The Beatles on the tour were supposed to vet the girls before letting them in, and they did for the most part,” Ivor tells the Sunday World as recalls the major incident in Vegas involving two young sisters.
“But when a pretty girl came along nobody asked, ‘do you have a passport?’ So these underage girls were allowed through with the mother’s consent.
“She came back a bit drunk from a casino sometime later, and demanded to be let up to the suite. When she was refused by security, the woman got royally pi**ed off, called the cops and said, ‘my daughters are being held against their will in The Beatles’ suite.’ The cops came to investigate and they did find the underage girls with John Lennon.
“John insisted to them that nothing untoward had happened. Brian Epstein, who had been asleep in his own room, had a fit when he was called and told what was happening.
“Epstein was scared sh*tless because this had the potential to destroy The Beatles. Apart from putting a big important tour in jeopardy, the reputation of the band could have been ruined forever.
“That Las Vegas incident was a dangerous wake-up call and, although it didn’t put a stop to their interactions with the girls, from then on greater care was taken to vet women who were ushered into the Beatles’ company.”
As he recalls those heady times, Davis, who was then a single guy in his 20s, admits that he too took advantage of the sex that was on offer. “Female fans, looking to forge a Beatle connection, even a remote one, were not shy about offering sexual favours,” he reveals.
“Despite America’s puritanical backbone, wherever the Beatles went there were legions of women willing to oblige the boys’ every desire. From San Francisco to New York, innumerable teenage girls buzzed around the band.
“It was not uncommon for the younger girls to recruit their mothers to help accomplish their mission. Girls jammed hotel lobbies zeroing in on anyone who had an English accent.
“One woman, hearing me speak, brazenly cornered me as I booked into Seattle’s Edgewater Inn on the third day of the tour. ‘I need to meet The Beatles,’ she said to me. ‘I just want to make my daughters happy. What can you do for me? What can I do to make you happy?’ For once, words failed me.”
Although Davis says that all four Beatles were “like kids in a candy store”, he said Paul McCartney was the number one hammer man.
“Paul’s appetite for female companionship was no big secret,” Ivor says. “Cynthia Lennon once crudely described him as ‘the town bull,’ and John labelled him ‘a sexual gladiator.’ As such, he glided through the U.S. tour with consummate ease.”
The advent of the pill, McCartney recounted later, led to an easy freedom when it came to sexual encounters. “All hell broke loose, or all heaven broke loose in our case,” the Beatle declared.
The great Ali with The Beatles
Writer Davis also reveals that The Beatles were introduced to a parade of hookers in Atlantic City and told by the local promoter: ‘These gorgeous ladies are here for your pleasure and entertainment. Take your pick.’
He says: “Each of the selected girls took the arm of a Beatle, and headed off to more appropriate quarters.”
The Beatles also hooked up with other celebrities on the trip. Ivor recalls in his book that Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, publicly humiliated the group when they met him for a series of set-up pictures.
They had no pre-warning that the boxer was going to pull a series of stunts. Davis says: “Ali embarrassed them. He made them lie on their backs in the ring. He ruled them and bossed them around. And they took it. He tapped Ringo and they all went down like dominoes.”
The hilarious pictures of Ali and The Beatles flew around the world – but the Fab Four found them embarrassing and were furious.
Davis says that Ali later claimed to have had no idea who The Beatles were, afterwards asking, ‘so who were those little sissies?’
Although Ivor insists that The Beatles weren’t star-struck by the celebrities they encountered in the States, Bob Dylan was the exception. “He’s an idol…our hero,” Ringo had declared.
They finally hooked up with him for a bonding session in New York at the end of the tour, where Ivor remembers his first impression of Dylan was that of “an unsavoury looking fella with a tall shock of unruly dark hair, scruffy black jeans and a long-sleeved black sweater that looked like it was picked up at a thrift store.”
Dylan had brought along a stash of pot and passed it around The Beatles, who weren’t familiar with the drug at the time, although they were taking uppers and downers to cope with their hectic life on the road.
At the end of the night, Ivor recalls that Ringo looked the worse for wear. He could barely stand up straight, couldn’t string a few words together and giggled a lot. When Dylan handed him the cigarette that he’d rolled, Ringo, unfamiliar with weed ritual (one puff, or two, then pass it along), finished the entire joint himself.”
One of the most disappointing encounters on the trip for Davis was the historic private meeting between local hero Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Other than Dylan, Elvis was the only celebrity they had a real interest in meeting face to face.
That famous hook-up took place the following summer, 1965, with Davis in the room to tell the tale, although no recorders or cameras were allowed to capture the iconic music stars together.
“It had taken a year to set up the meeting, and John really wanted it to happen because he was a big fan,” Ivor tells me. “But when it did take place it was a very uncomfortable situation. Elvis was jealous of The Beatles and he didn’t have great people skills. I had interviewed Elvis before that meeting and found him that he had nothing much to say.”
When The Beatles entered Presley’s home, he was lounging on a sofa surrounded by his entourage and hangers-on. “The Beatles sat on the ground and for a while there was no talk between them and Elvis,” Ivor remembers.
“Elvis was not friendly or gregarious. He was alright with his ‘Memphis Mafia’ because they all came from the same neighbourhood. But he was so uncomfortable with people he didn’t know.
“Eventually Elvis said, ‘if you guys are gonna just sit around, I’m goin’ to bed.’ Everyone laughed and Elvis’ demeanour visibly eased. ‘Didn’t you guys show up to jam?’ he asked. That was the signal The Beatles had been waiting for.
Afterwards the chat flowed more freely between Elvis and the boys, with the main topic being the dangers of flying. “It should have been an exciting, joyous get-together, but The Beatles agreed that Elvis was a boring guy to meet,” Ivor adds.
• Ivor Davis’s book, The Beatles and Me, is out now.