The other week I read As Time Goes By, the recently reissued autobiography of Derek Taylor, press officer to the most famous musical group in history. Originally published in 1973, it is – in the words of Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys – “An authentic account of the psychedelic ’60s and the Beatles from one of the coolest guys in the business.” It is a very cool read, perhaps notably the bit recalling a car journey back to London from Bradford in 1968 when Taylor asked Peter Asher to “pick the most beautiful name in Bedfordshire”. (Drugs had been taken, but we assume the chauffeur wasn’t on them.) They duly ended up in a place called Harrold, where Paul McCartney played piano in a packed pub for four hours, finishing at 3 in the morning with a woman from the village singing The Fool on the Hill. Who wouldn’t have loved to be there?
So to the golf. Taylor wrote: “One of the first famous men I ever had anything to do with was Dai Rees [captain of the last GB&I team to win the Ryder Cup, in 1957]. My father also got me Sam King’s autograph and he said I was lucky getting both Dai Rees’s and Sam King’s, which was true enough but I didn’t really dig Sam King’s because he wasn’t famous and there is something very freaky about having the autograph of someone you’ve never heard of.” A fair point.
“That was the beginning of what I grew to understand about stars,” Taylor wrote, “that there are stars and there aren’t and there isn’t really any disputing it by pointing out qualities or specifics or saying that Billy Bronze is a better guitarist than John Lennon but he didn’t get the breaks.” He continued: “Britain’s biggest-ever star mania in those days centred on Danny Kaye, and when he came to Hoylake to play golf, the star chasing was tense. The girl reporter and me, we both ran like lunatics to borrow box cameras from the chemists.” She won the contest to snap Kaye but you’d have to agree that Taylor won the race, if that’s what it was, to handle the press relations for the biggest stars in the star-spangled ’60s.
There can be a downside to stardom, of course. If Lucas Glover had not won the US Open in 2009, maybe the news that his wife had been arrested for assaulting him after his poor play at the Players Championship last month might not have made the news. On the other hand, even though he did not win a golf tournament last year, Rory McIlroy’s fame, as well as his talent, helped to establish him as Britain’s highest-earning sports star in 2017, with an estimated worth of £110 million. (Andy Murray was second and Gareth Bale third.)
That’s an awful lot of money, even if it is a long and winding road short Sir Paul’s earnings. I wonder if the good folk of Harrold still talk about that night?
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