Saturday, July 15, 2006

Here Comes The Sun

"Holidays were precious: they were the only chance John and I had to be together all the time, to slow down and enjoy each other… So, lazing on a beach, walking, talking, making love, sharing a cuddle and splashing together in the sea were idyllic. We felt no pressure to make those holidays perfect, they just were, because we were together and away from it all. At those times John was happy."

[Cynthia Lennon, "John"]

This article takes a look at three of those holidays in the sun: John and Cynthia's trip to Tahiti with George and Pattie in 1964; a winter break in Tobago with Ringo and Maureen in 1966, and a visit to Greece to buy an island in 1967.



An interview by Billy Shepherd, Beatle Book Monthly Issue 12, July 1964:

Off to find the sunshine! Almost everybody likes to do that in the summer. But if you happen to be a Beatle, it's as difficult to find a peaceful place in the sun as it is to find that old needle in a haystack.

For every newspaperman, every photographer, wants to go with you. And from the mass enquiries received by Beatles headquarters, it was clear the boys wouldn't be left alone for even a moment unless...

UNLESS they made special plans and kept them secret, even from their best friends! Which they did very efficiently. First, they split up...Paul going off in a small party with Ringo; George and John whisking themselves away in another!

From London to Amsterdam, across the North Pole to Honolulu. This involved nipping high over Iceland, to Edmonton (in Canada), where they stopped for a show of passports, and then on to Honolulu.

And from there to Tahiti.

Said George: "When we got to Honolulu, we found that all the newspapers had been checking the hotels to find out where we were. So we made up that story about us having to leave right away - it sort of gave the impression that we were off to another part of the world."

John: "Anyway, we went on to Tahiti, where we chartered a yacht and sailed off to the Polynesian Islands. And straight into the sort of scenery that we'd only seen in books. It was incredible, really! Like a series of technicolor pictures, with a great blue sky and tropical seas."

George: "He's right, you know. All those coral gardens and reefs running round the different little islands. I spent a lot of time just fishing off the boat - with nylon lines and hooks...and a lot of hope! But there was plenty of diving and harpooning and all that sort of stuff. Marvellous. You forgot all about the Top Twenty and everything..."

John: "George spent a lot of his time just pulling up tiddlers - and making a lot of fuss about what a good fisherman he was. But he was a witness to the fact that I caught an octopus. There was this dirty great tug on my line and I thought it was an ordinary sort of fish. Anyway, I pulled it in and there it was...all eight legs wriggling like mad."

George: "And then this Tahitian bloke put it in a bucket with a lot of other fish - and those fish started eating its legs. Very strange. We went back to our boat, the three-masted Maylis, and wondered what else was going to happen on the fishing scene."

John: "Of course, George had to overdo some of his deep-sea diving. Like going down too far..."

George: "It was great down there in the water. But I got fed up seeing the bigger fish just scurrying round at the bottom, so I went deeper and deeper. And the atmosphere suddenly gets your ears...they get all blocked up. All I had was a I had to leap up and take a breath!"

John: "We called in at a lot of different islands. Places like Moorea, Phiatea, Taha, Bora Bora, Hiahone - don't worry about the spelling - they're all on the map! All different, all marvellous to look round."

George: "John and I made our own 8mm cine films while we were over there. We put on these great black wigs and strange costumes. John wore five pairs of glasses all at the same time. We tried to make ourselves look as horrible and savage as possible."

John: "Then we had a quick change and dressed up as missionaries. Trouble was we had no sound-track, otherwise we'd probably get an X certificate for showing it. But it was all a crazy sort of humour. You know, everything all off-beat and way-out and weird. Anyway, we understood what it was all about."

George: "We decided later to take it a stage further. On the shore we saw these native blokes - all strange looking characters with no teeth, or just teeth that were mouldy. They were hanging out waiting to catch the tourists, with all the junk they'd made laid out near them. Well, they seemed ideal for us to have a go at...."

John: "So we rushed ashore, looking like madmen, picking up the natives' bits and pieces and chucking them into a bag. They looked pretty mad, but we looked even madder."

George: "I had one bit of trouble. I'd caught a fish and thought I'd just throw it ashore. Well, it had these fins on top and they were very sharp. As I threw it, I gashed my thumb - and cut the top of my fingers. Really, I should have had a couple of stitches in it, but there just weren't any hospitals or doctors around! It bled a lot for a long time, but one of the local wallahs split a lime and squeezed the juice out to clean up the wound."

John: "I think George'll keep the scar for the rest of his life...but the lucky thing was that it was his right thumb so it doesn't interfere with his playing. But George nearly came a very big cropper, in fact he could have been killed!"

George: "Oh, that was when I was water-skiing. The motor-boat sort of swerved while I was making a big swing to one side. There was a lot of coral near me - and, you know, it's very sharp and jagged stuff. I got nearer and nearer, in a wider arc, and suddenly I realised I was going to go over it. I honestly thought I'd had it. But miraculously the skis just bounced over the surface, so I was O.K. There was only about two inches of water over this coral."

John: "Still, the rest went without too much difficulty. On the way back, we went from Tahiti to Los Angeles. Pan Am drove us round the city and we saw Sunset Strip and Dino's restaurant and the other sights. It was a long flight, and I can tell you we were very glad to get back to London."

From an interview on a flight to Wellington (21st June, 1964)

Q: Anybody told you about these tikis that you have souvenirs of?

GEORGE: Yeah, well, we saw some in Tahiti, the tiki gods. And I dunno if these are gonna be the same. Actually, John and I ordered two six-foot high tiki gods made out of wood. Two each.

Q: How are you going to get them home?

GEORGE: Well, we ordered them in Tahiti and asked some fella to post them. So we don't know if they got there yet.



John, Cynthia, Maureen and Ringo flew to Tobago in January 1966. Not much information exists about this holiday, but Trend magazine published a series of photos from the period in their March 1966 issue.



In July 1967, the Beatles decided they would like to live together on a Greek island and build a recording studio there. John sent his friend Alex Mardas (known as Magic Alex) to search for a suitable island.

"Alex flew to Greece and came up with the island of John's dreams: the island of Leslo, about 80 acres surrounded by four habitable islands, one for each Beatle. The island was for sale for £90,000, including a small fishing village, four ideal beaches and 16 acres of olive groves. "
[From "The Beatles Diary" by Barry Miles]

All four Beatles and their wives (apart from Ringo’s wife, Maureen, who was pregnant) flew out to Athens to inspect Leslo.

"We rented a boat and sailed it up and down the coast from Athens, looking at islands. Somebody had said we should invest some money, so we thought: ‘Well, let’s buy an island. We’ll just go there and drop out.’
It was a great trip. John and I were on acid all the time, sitting on the front of the ship playing ukuleles. Greece was on the left; a big island on the right. The sun was shining and we sang ‘Hare Krishna’ for hours and hours."
[George Harrison, Beatles Anthology]

Alistair Taylor was sent back to London to arrange the purchase of the island but by the time he received permission from the government to buy it nobody was interested anymore and the idea was dropped.


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