SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


The night Elvis shook up the world 


I was not exactly all shook up but reasonably shook up reading the accounts of the reaction to the death of Elvis at the Express in August 1977. 

History records that The King left the building for the last time on August 16th 1977. In fact Mark Wesley at Radio Luxembourg told listeners to wait for an important announcement at around 10.50pm. I assume that the tape machines on the Express editorial handling AP, Reuters etc had already delivered the story.

Incredibly, CBS decided not to have the Presley news as their headline preferring to lead with an item about the Panama Canal! It's like the death of Micheal Jackson taking second place to a report from the TUC Conference!

An intruiging aspect of Presley's death concerns the timeline of when the press first got wind that anything was amiss at Graceland. Family members and staff who had worked for Elvis couldn't understand how the National Enquirer had got the story of Elvis' death before anyone else knew anything was wrong. 

So they decided to carry out their own investigation. It seems that after finding Elvis dead, his girlfriend Ginger Alden made some phone calls. The first to her mother, I think we can safely say that this call was of the "He's dead what do I do?!" variety. She then called a guy who was a stringer at the Enquirer and did a deal for $105,000. 

After having secured her filthy lucre she finally alerted people at Graceland that something terrible had happened. Not surprisingly, Ginger Alden denied this, however it was established that she already knew the guy since some items about her and Elvis had appeared in the Enquirer and staff and friends were mystified at how these stories had reached the press. 

The stringer was interviewed at Graceland and after some cajoling admitted that he'd been tipped off by a female caller and finally confirmed the caller as Ginger Alden. Incidentally, Ginger rather screwed her Enquirer exclusive by talking to a newspaper and as a result her fee was reduced to $35,000 — that's nearly forty pieces of silver.

If all of this sounds rather implausible, consider that Ginger Alden's mother Jo sued the Presley estate over money that she said Elvis had promised her. Nice! So Ginger wasn't the only Alden to feed off the body, although she was the first.

Is it any wonder Elvis used to retreat to his bedroom for weeks at a time?!

Yeah baby.

The day Yoko took the biscuit
and upset George Harrison


I read with interest the story behind Christopher Wilson's exclusive interview with Yoko Ono. Certainly quite a coup, despite the rather acute cash flow problem.

Contrast his, for the most part, positive experience with that of author Philp Norman whose own recollections of Yoko Ono were detailed in a recent Daily Mail article. Norman interviewed Ono many times with a view to writing a definitive biography of John Lennon. The understanding was that if she approved the manuscript she would contribute a foreword. 

All seemed well until the final visit with Yoko at the Dakota apartment. The Yoko he encountered was completely different from the woman, (he thought) he'd come to know over the past 3 years. Flanked by a couple of attack lawyers she announced that she was withdrawing her co-operation on the basis that Norman had been 'mean to John'. Without producing any evidence of this meanness she demanded he hand over all of his research, he did not comply with this demand. One of her lawyers Peter Shukat saw Norman to the door and actually apologised for Ono's behaviour.

It's worth remembering that when Yoko Ono first visited Abbey Road studios she sat in the studio control room without saying a word. Shortly thereafter she was in the studio itself and offering her opinions, (encouraged by totally enamoured Lennon) of The Beatles work. Needless to say all of this went down like the proverbial Led Zeppelin with the stone faced Paul, George and Ringo.

One of the most bizarre episodes during the latter part of The Beatles’ career occurred during the recording of the Abbey Road album. John and Yoko had been involved in a car crash which delayed John's participation in recording. When he was able to return to the studio everyone was stunned to behold a bed being delivered (from Harrods) which was installed in a corner of the studio. Over the next few weeks Yoko lived in this bed while The Beatles worked on the new album. Decked out in a series of nighties and sporting a tiara, Yoko was provided with a microphone so she could continue to comment on their progress. An audacious piece of performance art.

But the best was still to come. The Beatles were in the studio control room listening to a playback when something happening in the studio caught the eye of George Harrison. Yoko had risen from her sick bed and walked over to where Harrison was positioned in the studio and helped herself to a biscuit from a packet that George had placed on a speaker cabinet. "THAT BITCH!" he howled, "she's just taken one of my biscuits!" Being blissfully unaware of her crime Yoko munched on.

As for Yoko's legendary business acumen, I recall a Paul McCartney interview in which he recounted his failed bid to buy back the Lennon - McCartney song catalogue. He was on the verge of submitting his bid when he was contacted by his old friend Yoko who advised him not to pay all of those millions because she could secure ownership at a far lower price. She couldn't.

Yoko Ono, misunderstood or all too well understood?

May we all shine on.