excerpt from the new book HORSE-DOGGIN’ – the morrell archives volume 1, available at amazon:
“JOHN WANTS TO MEET YOU”
I got home from horsing around and there was a message for me. It said a man named Howard Smith from the Village VOICE called you, call him back. I was dazed. I was a fan who read his “scenes” column and listened to his radio show. To me, Howard was a star and this was the most important call I ever got. I didn’t even ask permission to call New York City from New Jersey, I just called the number.
A woman answered and said, “The Village VOICE, may I help you?” I asked for Howard and he immediately picked up and was full of excitement. “Dave, it’s Howard. I showed your letter to John and he wants to meet you! When can you come in?” I told him I was free anytime. He suggested the following evening.
It was time to do some heavy thinking. What will this be like? What should I bring? Should I bring a camera and take pictures? Will I be able to ask for an autograph? Is this a quick in and out? My mind was relentless thinking up dumb stuff. I grabbed a suitcase that was small and compact and could hold some memorabilia.
Howard said to pick him up at the Village VOICE office and we’d drive over to the studio and get to know each other. I got to the city, parked the car, and told the receptionist I was here. Howard came down and shook my hand. We hit it off immediately. He said, “I want you to know, I feel comfortable bringing you to meet John. He meets many people and they all hang on him, but I think this is gonna work out fine.”
He directed me up Eighth Avenue to 44th Street, home of Record Plant East, one of the great recording studios. We arrived, parked, walked in and opened a thick, large door on the first floor and before I could watch my step, I saw John Lennon standing there to greet us. He was the first to extend his hand and say, “Hello, come on in.” My first thought was how much bigger I was standing next to him. When did I get so tall? He said, “We’re recording now, sit yourself down, and we’ll talk at the break.” So I sat down in front of the recording console and peered into the studio.
Inside were David Peel and his band, the Lower East Side. They were working on a song called “The Ballad Of New York City/John Lennon-Yoko Ono.” I must have heard it ten times, repeatedly, and each time John was trying his best to nail down the sound that he heard when he first saw them playing in Washington Square Park. John loved their busking sound and he said it reminded him of his Quarrymen group when he first got started in Liverpool. John would even be playing with Peel and his gang the following week on the David Frost TV show. He was committed to producing a great record for David.
While sitting there, a joint was being passed around and everyone shared it. They worked for half and hour and then something unusual happened.
John pushed the button to talk to David in the studio, “That’s it, we got it, what’s next?” At that moment, Peel said, “We can’t start the next one yet, I forgot the words at home.” John said, “All right, go get them and hurry, we’ll wait.”
Peel said he’d grab a cab and be right back.
Everyone behind the console stood up to stretch and that’s when John said to me, “What have you got tonight?” With both hands and a little bow, I graciously handed him the Yellow Matter Custard bootleg and gave him the Godzilla catalog and told him it was where I found the record and some other great bootlegs. I was hoping he wouldn’t be mad and start screaming about people who rip off artists this way, but he was the opposite, and wanted to know all about the Dylan and Rolling Stones bootlegs. I told him Godzilla was in California so he ought a think about ordering them.
John was now holding the bootleg in his hand and looking over the song titles I had written out. Without hearing it, he said he couldn’t be sure, but he knew the songs and said they were from 10 years ago and looked like they could be the Decca audition tape. I asked him about “Glad All Over” since I was only aware of it at the time by the Dave Clark Five. He laughed and said it was a song George found and brought to the group. When he saw “To Know Him Is To Love Him” he flipped. “PHIL SPECTOR!” he yelled and asked me if I’d heard the Teddy Bears version.
We spoke about the Beatles doing their version of “Slow Down” and John went bonkers teaching me all about Larry Williams, one of the greatest rock & roll singers, who he loved as much as Chuck Berry. John even told me to listen very close to the way Larry cries out some of his lines with a gravelly grind just like he did on “This Boy” at the part when he sings “’til he sees you cry-y-y-y.” John said that was pure Larry Williams’ influence on him.
John was really lit up talking about the titles and was hoping we could play them, but the engineer said there was no record player. As we were talking, I pulled out the “Savage Young Beatles” album and he screamed, “WE WERE SAVAGES!” I told him that ‘SAVAGE’ was the name of the record company. So it was like saying THE VEE-JAY YOUNG BEATLES. He shrugged and said he loved it and wanted it, so I gave him the album.
Next up, I yanked out “Best of the Beatles” the Pete Best album with the old Hamburg photo of the Beatles with Pete. At first John looked at it and said he knew nothing about it. I told him, “Look, they circled Pete’s head, so it’s ‘(Pete) Best of the Beatles.” He howled while we all laughed.
John was in such a playful mood. He was sarcastic and witty and enjoyed seeing all the Beatle goodies. He looked great too. He was wearing a white shirt, blue jeans and brown boots. He was very comfortable and stoned.
This was the same week Capitol Records released “Happy Christmas (War is Over).” At first he said he was miffed Capitol got it out so late, but was relieved it was finally on the radio.
Early in my collecting days I knew a place in the Village that sold the English music papers, Sounds and Melody Maker, but the newspapers had to come by boat and were always six weeks behind, but it was still a good rock & roll read with super photographs.
One day, I came upon a classified ad that some girl posted. She said she was selling two pictures of the Beatles ‘taken’ at the Cavern Club, and one later photograph that was autographed by all of them. The price was expensive. A whopping 90 bucks! That was like nine grand to me! A few things crossed my mind. Were they photos someone took at the Cavern that no one had ever seen? Were the autographs real? Since the newspaper was six weeks old, were they still available?
I took a shot and sent her the money. When the stuff came, I was blown away. Yes, the two photos were taken from the Cavern. I mean taken, like stolen. These were professional shots with the photographer’s name stamped on the back. It’s the Beatles rehearsing at the Cavern Club with Ringo on drums and his name on the drumhead in black masking tape. They were from August of 1962.
The photo with the autograph on the back was a picture from late 1964 and was signed by all of them, but not to anyone, just four generic signatures and was beautiful to look at. I brought these to show John.
When I took out the Cavern pictures he fell in love with them and asked me if I brought them for him. I had to gulp and tell him that I just bought them and wanted to know if he’d ever seen them. He said he loved seeing these old photographs when they were just a great rock & roll band. I told him I’d give him the originals, but I’d like to make myself copies first and he was cool with that.
Then I showed him the autographs and asked him if he thought they were real and he said yes. Then I took out the Beatles Bubblegum card that shows the boys with no hair. John went ape and he laughed out loud, “I LOOK JAPANESE!” You’ve got to show this to Yoko. Yoko had been sitting outside on a hard chair reading a book. I walked over, she looked up, and I said, “John wanted me to show this to you.” She grabbed it from my hand and took her pen and quickly autographed it without looking at it. I retreated back inside the studio.
I had a can of Pepsi from Japan with a picture of the Beatles from 1968 on it. It was rare to see the Beatles image on a soda brand so I wanted to show John. He knew nothing about it and had never seen it. I also had a can of the Beatles Talc from England and he loved the smell and opened it and ran around putting in down everyone’s back. In the room was Howard, John, the engineer, and me.
I also had some very piss poor photos I had taken of the Beatles at Shea Stadium and wanted to show him and talk to him about that show. Did the Beatles ever rehearse for an upcoming tour? Did they ever think to change the set list? Did they think about dropping some of their biggest hits in favor of the new material?
In 1965 and 1966 when I saw them, they didn’t do “I Want To Hold Your Hand” or “She Loves You.” In 1966, “Yellow Submarine” was the big hit at the time but they didn’t play that either. Could they perform something new that we hadn’t heard? The Revolver album was 90 days away.
John said they were always busy and couldn’t rehearse, and it was too hard to include the newer songs because he couldn’t remember the words and besides, they were too complicated to play live.
John then asked me what I was looking for and I told him the Beatle Butcher album cover. I told him I read that he had one at his apartment. Howard Smith wanted to know what I was talking about as he wasn’t a Beatles fan and never heard of it. John began to talk about it and Howard was getting more interested and began asking more questions. John picked up the phone, called his apartment and spoke to someone and told him where to find it and to bring it over to the studio. The guy brought it over and John showed us. He handed it to me to look at. I held it in my hands for a moment and gazed at it. The very record I read about a month ago was in my hands. I handed it back to John who saw how turned on we all were.
John was a Beatle fan and encouraged me to look for more rarities. He egged me on. He told me to be looking for “What a Shame Mary Jane.” He said it was a happening and a must hear! I asked him what else was in the can, and he shouted “She Loves You” in German. I told him Capitol released it already and we laughed. He told me the only unreleased tapes he knew of were the Hollywood Bowl shows, Shea Stadium and something from Italy. I said thanks, and that I’d be on the lookout.
Peel had returned and it was time to pack up the show & tell. Honestly, I didn’t want to ask for a photograph or an autograph. Things went so well, I just had a feeling we’d meet again and we did.
As I packed up and got ready to leave, John took a pen to the Butcher cover. He drew a big bubble above his head and wrote: To Dave, From John Lennon, Dec. 7, ‘71, then he smiled and handed me his own personal copy of the Beatles Butcher cover.