Through the keyhole – Colin meets The Beatles

03/08/2011

Around 1970, I was working for Ruffler and Walker when I was asked to deliver four jukeboxes to some very special customers.

I dressed in a smart suit and took our driver Neville with me to the first address on the list, which was Tittenhurst Park House in Ascot. It turned out this was the home of John Lennon, who was living there at the time with his second wife Yoko Ono.

As we swept into the amazing grounds of the house, complete with ornamental lake (which caused some controversy as Lennon hadn’t got planning permission) the first thing I saw was a psychedelic painted hearse sat outside the house!

It was at this stage that Lennon and Ono had taken to wearing bags over their entire bodies, as a peace statement, so I was unsure what to expect. But I was pretty certain I was going to be overdressed in my suit!

Sure enough, the door was opened by a young girl wearing ripped jeans and Neville and I were taken through to a lovely kitchen. The girl told us she was a Cordon Bleu chef and she was busy making cooked breakfasts for all the people in the house. We soon had a wonderful plate of food in front of us and we watched in astonishment as an odd assortment of people kept on coming in and out of the kitchen to eat or fetch things from the cupboards, such as cigarettes. But not in packets, in cartons of 200…

Eventually we were told to go through to the front of the house where we were let into the hall by Yoko Ono herself. The house was filled with strange objects, which were like wind chimes; Yoko’s artworks. Some of them were really very attractive, others were a little strange for my taste.

I had to get the delivery note signed by John Lennon, so I was led up to a living room on the first floor, which had the most amazing view of the park. The first thing I noticed was that there were four televisions in the room – each showing a different channel. They were round, white TVs, which looked a bit like robot heads! The whole room was white and in the middle sat John Lennon, thankfully not in a bag, but wearing a pair of jeans.

He invited me to sit down and I did, sweating in my blasted suit! We chatted for a while, but I can’t remember a lot of what I said. I do remember that he was very polite, perhaps a bit formal. He thanked me for bringing the jukebox and said he was resting. He asked me if I would like to take a look around the house and the recording studios, which I did. I saw the piano where he and Paul McCartney wrote some of their best music. And I saw masses of gold and platinum records on the walls.

The billiards room in the house

After that Neville and I were given some tea but to my eternal disappointment, John Lennon didn’t sign the delivery note. Someone else did and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for an autograph! Somehow it didn’t seem right when I was there for work.

The next jukebox we had to deliver was to a beautiful big house in Highgate. It turned out to be the house of Ringo Starr. It was certainly impressive but didn’t have the massive grounds of the place in Ascot. He let us into his home himself and showed us around. Neville was even more impressed with Ringo, I recall, because he had ambitions to be a drummer!

I remember that he had a games room and a fruit machine already. But the strange thing was that it had aircraft seats in it – that could recline. He said it was because aircraft seats were very comfortable! Between the aisles of the seats was a huge cardboard cutout of the singer Marc Bolan. Ringo said he was a huge fan of Bolan.

The house in Highgate

I was a bit less formal this time – I think I wore a sports jacket and trousers, but Ringo was much less formal than John Lennon. In fact, I can remember he was telling us about all the other famous people who lived in his street. He seemed very impressed with his neighbours!

Finally we went to George Harrison’s house in Weybridge in Surrey. It was on the St George’s estate and unfortunately he was not there. The only funny thing I can report from that was that we looked into one of his rooms and it was full of lovely furniture – but every piece was cut in half. I think it was meant to be like that, as though it was some kind of art project!

As for Paul McCartney – well I was off the day that jukebox was delivered, so I can’t offer any insights into his home or interior décor. I can’t even remember whose jukeboxes it was that we delivered. Perhaps someone reading this can tell me. But what an experience for a young man in the industry to meet 2 of the Fab Four at the height of their fame…

 

 

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