Sunday, November 29, 2009

i can tell you nothing new has happened since i last saw you, won't you call me miss o'dell?

"I wasn't famous. I wasn't even almost famous. But I was there." And so begins Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved. Phew, quite a title. But it's really only the microscopic tip of the iceberg in Chris O'Dell's rock 'n roll life. I swear, O’Dell was literally there for every major thing in rock and roll during the late sixties through the early eighties. She was far beyond just being “with the band,” she was part of the family, an insider who was trusted more than just an employee but also as a friend.
In 1968, after a chance dinner with Derek Taylor, O'Dell packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to London to work at the Beatles' Apple offices. She palled around with the infamous Francie Schwartz and other Beatle regulars (like Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall), and hung out with some of the Hell’s Angels before becoming best friends with Pattie Boyd and eventually Maureen Starkey, who were both cold to her initially because of their jaded and untrusting view of women entering the Beatle circle after years of infidelity (Pattie recalled in her memoir Wonderful Tonight that she worried "when Chris walked in through the front door, looking like Goldie Hawn and chatting confidently with George ... I guessed he had brought her home because he intended to sleep with her"). 
She worked for Peter Asher, who was employed at Apple as the A&R manager (but by that time Paul and Jane had broken up and in only a few months would Paul marry Linda), was in the studio for recording sessions of the White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be, even singing backup for the chorus of “Hey Jude.” She was present for the Beatles rooftop concert and had a romance with Leon Russell, a “friend” of Bonnie and Delaney, for who he wrote the song “Pisces Apple Lady.” She delivered Bob Dylan’s harmonicas by helicopter for his comeback concert in ’69 Isle of Wight, and recalls on the flight back with John and Yoko that they were afraid they were going to crash so they all chanted Hare Krishna over and over again.
After the Beatles broke up, she lived with Pattie and George at Friar Park, helping to decorate the mammoth house, typing the lyrics for George’s album All Things Must Pass, and aiding in the organization of the Concert for Bangladesh. She was also there when Harrison had to read in the newspaper that the Beatles were kaput, over his cup of morning tea. Harrison wrote the wonderful (and greatly underrated, if I might add) song “Miss O’Dell” for her after she was supposed to hang out with him in Malibu one night but then blew him off. The song became a B-side for “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” and is where the book’s title comes from.
After that, she worked as a P.A. for the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour, where she became good friends with Bill Wyman’s wife Astrid, slept with Mick Jagger, and did a drug run for Keith Richards, who she fondly remembers as a sweetheart with a bad boy exterior. In Stones circles, she is the “mystery woman” on the cover of Exile on Main Street.
She worked as a tour manager, working with Bob Dylan on his Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, and became entangled in yet another love triangle with filmmaker Sam Sheppard and Joni Mitchell (becoming immortalized as the “woman down the hall” in Mitchell’s song “Coyote”) before having an affair with Bob Dylan himself. After working with who she called “The Big Three” – The Beatles, The Stones, and Dylan – O’Dell continued her work as one of the only female tour managers out there by working with (to name a few) Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Fleetwood Mac; Earth, Wind and Fire; Queen; Linda Ronstadt; Santana; Phil Collins; and ELO.
She ended her legendary career in the eighties after working with Echo and the Bunnymen, whom she doesn’t really have much to say about. At the point in her life when rock music was only a shadow of what it once was, Chris decided to find something else. She attended a party given by her very good friend Astrid Wyman in the south of France, and met the man that would become her husband, the Honourable Anthony John Mark Russell, a nobleman who was the son in an eccentric British family belonging to the House of Lords. She had a son, William, whose godparents were Ringo Starr and Pattie Boyd (natch…) and who is now in his early twenties. She gave up alcohol and drugs, and eventually moved back to Tucson after divorcing her first husband, becoming a counselor and hypnotherapist specializing in addiction and recovery. Her story comes full circle with her move back to Tucson. O’Dell spent much of her life after moving away from Arizona gravitating back and forth between London, Los Angeles, New York City, and Germany, finding homes in all those places but never truly settling down. Well O’Dell got back to where she once belonged, so to speak, when she moved back to her childhood home, and set up a life for herself there for nearly 20 years.
I prefer this book almost more than others from the same era because it is real. O'Dell has no reason to lie - she doesn't have a mythic persona or reputation to uphold, she's just a person who was lucky enough to experience all of these things and has no reason to lie or hold back on any account. This book is more relatable for a simple gal like me than say Wonderful Tonight or Faithfull, where even though the lifestyle and fame that Boyd and Faithfull achieved was unexpected by them when they first began their respective relationships with Harrison and Jagger, they garnered certain levels of fame and exposure in their careers prior to that. Chris O'Dell was a young girl (only 20 years old when her entire life changed) working in Los Angeles with no designs of fame and no reason to believe she would become intimately closer to rock stars than what her daydreams allowed.
Whereas Wonderful Tonight treated certain events (like excessive cocaine use and infidelity), as something best not relived in too much detail, Miss O'Dell gives equal treatment to every event in her life. The long-lasting pain of the George-Maureen-Ringo love triangle and the Eric-Pattie-George love triangle, (and also reveals the Maureen-Ringo-and herself triangle) are discussed and it is reveals that they merged together to create some sort of love ... rhombus, consisting of George, Maureen, Ringo, Pattie, Eric, and Chris herself. She writes of the moment in Ringo’s kitchen when in the middle of conversation with Mo and Pattie, George casually turned to Ringo and said, “You know, Ringo, I’m in love with your wife.” Ringo responded after a pause, “Better you than someone we don’t know.” After that admission, Starr took solace in Los Angeles with O’Dell for several months. A time later, Maureen confronted Chris about their affair and after she came clean (much to Ringo’s dismay) they managed to salvage their friendship and remained close until Maureen’s death in 1994.
Part of the book chronicles the demise of the Harrison marriage, as O’Dell was witness to Pattie’s affairs with Clapton and Ronnie Wood, and George’s affair with Mo Starkey and his rapidly changing mood swings (she writes of a joke that Pattie and her shared during that time that they didn’t know each day if George would have his hand in the prayer bag or the coke bag) and his deep preoccupation with religion and discovering purpose. Her chronicling of it is almost more in-depth than Boyd’s and Clapton’s combined as she was not as romantically entangled and was able to see all parties affected.
O'Dell also doesn't hold back about her drug usage and writes about it for what it was - addiction. She writes casually of snorting lines with George and Pattie at Friar Park in between billiard games, and remarks of her excitement when Keith Richards sent her from Dallas to LA to get some "really great" coke while on tour. Several times throughout her life, O’Dell worried that she was hitting rock bottom, but she found that once you hit the bottom there was always a trap door there waiting to take you lower. Substance abuse is a common thread throughout the book, both in the people she worked for and in her own life.
She gives equal treatment to characters in her life as well. Instead of indulging into salacious details of her romantic relationships with Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Jim Gordon, Leon Russell, and Bob Dylan, she treats the bedroom happenings with a certain level of ambivalence, instead focusing on the backstage conversations she had with them. Also, she writes a lot about the people in her life that another person maybe wouldn't remember or give more than a few sentences about. She talks openly and unabashedly about the crushes she had on tours, and there is a darling scene between her and a young Cameron Crowe, whose wide-eyed innocence and honest love of music captured O'Dell's appreciation. She gives more treatment to her relationships with the wives of rock stars, with whom she was best friends with. She writes at length of the turmoil she was in when she thought that one of her actions would offend Pattie or Mo, as she knew that it took a lot for these women to trust people around them. A lot is written about her friendship with Pattie, and how with George she was welcomed as a member of the family but with Clapton she was treated as a competitor for Pattie’s attention and affection.
Miss O’Dell is a really remarkable book, one so interesting it’s almost hard to believe this all happened to a little girl from Tucson. It’s honest and real, the only thing we can ever really ask for in a memoir. She doesn’t sugarcoat, sensationalize, romanticize, or demonize (or any other –ize, for that matter) fame and fortune. She presents it for what it was in that moment in time. Miss O’Dell is the ultimate backstage pass into a world of rock and roll that most of us can only see in magazines and on vinyls.

Monday, November 23, 2009

actually, before i go...

I literally (in the Rachel Zoe sense of the word) just died laughing while watching this. We all knew that George Harrison was an awesome actor in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" but check out this scene in the Rutles' "All You Need Is Cash." The scene is an obvious satire on the fall of Apple Corps nearly a decade earlier, George acting as a television reporter interviewing Rutles' press agent Eric Manchester (a play on Derek Taylor, portrayed by Michael Palin of Monty Python fame). Keep your eyes and ears open for all the Beatle-y allusions...

a wee bit early...

I will be out of town for the next few days (hopefully with internet access, but I'm not quite sure), so in case I don't get to post - happy thanksgiving to every and all!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

i smell sex and candy here

I hope enjoy this picture half as much as I do. John during "How I Won the War" is hands-down the sexiest thing ever.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

never had communism looked so sexy...

Here's the lovely Sharon Tate posing for the December 1967 issue of Esquire Magazine. Her film, Valley of the Dolls, had only just been released that same month on December 15th, 1967. It was not the first time that She had posed for Esquire, as she had posed for them a few years earlier when she was a model, and also appeared in the June issue earlier in 1967.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

the world is at your command

Here's a look at the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, which is about his early years in Liverpool, his aunt Mimi, mum Julia, and the band that would eventually become The Beatles. Usually I hate these kinds of movies (Backbeat, anyone?) but this one looks pretty decent. From the looks of the trailer, its pretty spot on (except for the chick who I assume is supposed to be Cynthia - all we see is 'John' nuzzling her neck and she's spazzing out about it. Our Hoylake gal would never do that). Anyone else excited for this movie?

those freaks was right when they said you was dead

Okay this freaked me the fuck out when I saw this. Look at Paul's feet in the first photo, and compare to the second photo. Haha all you Faul theorists! Our boy was wearing shoes for the first part of the photo shoot, but then obviously just wanted to walk barefoot on hot asphalt instead. Duh.

Friday, November 13, 2009

'cause you're working, building a mystery, holding on and holding it in

So my friend emailed this old WWII-era poster to me earlier today, with the subject line: "Do you think Hitler is the little spoon or the big spoon?" I honestly don't know what this poster is trying to prove. I'm familiar with this poster of pretty much the same theme, but what is this trying to get across to middle America? I can just imagine someone with a very authoritative James Earl Jones-type voice, announcing to 1940s women across America, "Ladies, instead of sleeping alone in your bed while your husband is across seas fighting Nazis, go out to your nearest bar/church/grocery store and invite the first fella you see to nude up with you for the evening. It's what your husband - and more importantly, it's what your country - wants of you."
Please, if anyone can enlighten me as to what this poster is about, I will owe you ten thousand scooby snacks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

there's a little bird that somebody sends down to the earth to live on the wind

When I was younger more na├»ve, I used to believe I was Ruby Tuesday from the eponymous Rolling Stones song. I don’t know why – after all, I was a teenager from the 21st century city, not a swingin’ sixties groupie who got busy one time with Keith Richards (no matter how much I wish my life was otherwise). Well, I guess if Anne Hathaway can believe that Blackbird is about her, than I can be forgiven for thinking Ruby Tuesday was about me.

She would never say where she came from

Yesterday don’t matter if its gone

That’s the only bit of the song I don’t really agree with. But then again, its so freaking gorgeous that I love it anyways. I understand the whole “you can never go home again” thing, so not talking about your past is not only the best solution, but the only solution. The lyric that follows, "yesterday don't matter if its gone," is the one that really has kept me from being Ruby Tuesday. I can't embrace it into my life, I can't make myself believe it. If I agreed with the sentiment that whatever happened in the past doesn't really count for anything, I wouldn't have a blog which celebrates decades past, now would I? Not only does the past matter to me, its everything to me. I am not a full-functioning 21st century gal - I need the past to give me a little help in my boring hum-drum life. Vintage Vogues and Sixties memoirs are my kind of heroin - daily doses of the retro help me to get by. I need my fix.

And now for your fix, here are some lovely ladies from the sixties:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'tis then when the hurdy gurdy man comes singing songs of love

I love these trippy-dippy, hurdy-gurdy photos of Donovan. The girl on the right is Jenny Boyd (Pattie's sister), who Donovan was in love with for a time in the late 1960s. He wrote "Jennifer Juniper" for her, and she was one of the main reasons why he decided to join the Beatles in Rishikesh in 1968.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beatlesology, Part One

There are a lot of people who equate listening to The Beatles as some sort of religious experience. I am one of those people. I am the nerdy girl of my group of friends who can talk for hours about the significance of any of their songs, from "It Won't Be Long" to "The Inner Light." I owe those four lads from Liddypool - they helped me through my darkest days and kept me company during my happiest highs. I owe them a lot. In a way I worship them – in the complete textbook definition of the word, in that I pay adoring reverence and honor to them. I am a huge “fan” of theirs – the reverence extends far beyond owning/knowing the tune of every song in their catalogue, I love and appreciate those men not just as musicians but as men themselves.
For me – a convent girl, of sorts – I have been well-hearsed in Catholic faith since I was very young. My relationship with The Beatles is very much similar to that. Enlightenment (a word I'll use if I'm going to get really hokey about this now) comes to each of us through many different mediums – and maybe the Beatles are my medium. I don’t know. And maybe the Beatles are bigger than Jesus. I don’t know. But it seems to me that if John, Paul, George, and Ringo can help get you through the night, then it’s alright.
We all have something different – whether it’s Transcendental Meditation, Primal Scream Therapy, or the Fab Four – we all need something to get us through the day, otherwise what’s keeping us keepin’ on? This may seem like blasphemy to any of those actively in an organized religion – and believe me, I could never tell any of this to anyone in my family because they’d probably send someone to exorcise the shit out of me – but I’m really not intending it to be like that. I get that I’m really weird for feeling this way. I would never subscribe to a Beatles religion in hopes of achieving my “Inner Beatle” or anything like that, because I don’t believe that that’s what these guys and their music is about. But still, what I personally have with this band is pretty fucking special. They are my religion. Jimi Hendrix once said that “music is my religion.” Well Jimi (because I possess the ability to speak directly to celebrities beyond the grave, lucky me) that is true, because it’s not like I only listen to the Beatles. But I do believe that there is something more there with them. I have my rituals, my experiences with one band in particular that I’ve never had with another band before. Like the Holy Spirit visiting Mary at night, I often have dreams about the Beatles (unfortunately the spirit of George Harrison never pops into my bedroom to tell me I am carrying his child).
So against John Lennon’s warning, I do believe in Beatles. And I'm trying to believe in me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

so basically yoko and i are best friends now...

Check out the article recently posted on Yoko Ono's website, entitled "25 Things Even My Best Friends Didn't Know Until Now." Even though she's got a lot of slack over the years, but I think she's become one of the most ardent peace-lovers out there, and reading this article just puts a smile on my face. She talks a lot about her feet and her shoes - but really what woman doesn't? - and calls out all of her imperfections and insecurities. One of my favorites: "My head was unusually large for my small bod. So John called me a "Martian" ... I look to the sky and feel like my home is somewhere far away - so I thought I might really be a Martian - a result of cross-breeding thousands of years ago." Another one I thought was nice was "When I daydream, I go all the way to the end of the Earth, and come back. It's a nice exercise." It's nice to get glimpses of the real Yoko - the one apart from the edited histories created by the press and the ones created by herself. I for one love following her Twitter account - it's full of fun Yoko-isms, like "Give up meat one day and then two days maybe. It's a very, very intelligent idea" and "We know that our thinking and our actions, no matter how small they are, affect the whole world."
Click on these links and fall in love!