From: firstname.lastname@example.org (saki)
Subject: Re: Unraveling the Raymond Jones Myth
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 19:19:46 GMT
robert young [email@example.com] wrote:
...although my favorite bit in the book is the concrete
description of Raymond Jones: 18-year-old Huyton boy, printer's
apprentice, Carl Perkins fan, always went to Hambleton Hall on Friday
nights with his "mates," wore leather jacket and jeans on 28 Oct. '61, and
disappointed that the Beatles were merely the backing group on "My
I wonder if Alistair Taylor was the source of all this delightful
detail; whoever it was must have had a good laugh upon finding it in the
I had some email from a fellow recently who said he'd been friends with
one of The Dakotas (as in "Billy J. Kramer and"), during the sixties. Ray
Jones of the Dakotas told this gentleman that he *was* *the* Raymond
Jones. Of course, this Ray Jones was from Oldham, near Manchester, not
from Huyton in Liverpool, so that makes the story more complex.
I have no doubt that Ray Jones may have thought he was the official
Raymond Jones; he may even have shopped at Epstein's NEMS (traveling an
hour by train to do so...maybe NEMS was that famous in 1961!).
But thanks to the highly esteemed Steve Carter in England, I now have two
beautiful back issues of the Manchester Evening Standard from last
November. Freeland journalist Bill McCoid interviewed Alistair Taylor,
once Brian's personal assistant and one of the Fabs' "inner circle"
(though bounced out by Allen Klein).
Alistair admits he was Raymond Jones...or that there *was no Raymond
Jones*. He said he kept it secret for so many years because "It's part of
the myth. I've kept the myth going. There are many myths".
Under further questioning, Alistair said "I've kept this hidden for 30
years, truly [actually more like 34 years!]. I made up the name Ray Jones.
He doesn't exist".
McCoid asked Alistair why NEMS ever ordered "My Bonnie", the German Tony
Sheridan single that started the Liverpool disc-buying craze, if Raymond
Jones (or someone like him) didn't request it: "Because we knew they were
big in Liverpool. So Brian and I said: 'OK, yeah, let's find it'."
While Alistair is careful to insist that no one in the Beatles camp---not
Brian, not the Fabs, not even Derek Taylor (no relation to Alistair), who
ghost wrote Brian's "A Cellarful of Noise" in 1964 and who repeated the
story there---knew about the myth of Raymond Jones, this does reveal an
important fact. Clearly Brian and Alistair knew of the Beatles' fame
before that fateful trip to the Cavern on 9 November 1961.
It still boggles the mind that Brian wasn't in on the mythmaking, but
perhaps more will be revealed when (and if) Alistair's own memoirs are
ever released. As of last November, he was supposed to be working on his
Gurzeler [firstname.lastname@example.org] wrote:
I've been reading with great interest the debunking of the Raymond Jones
myth. A few questions come to mind:
1. Has anyone ever tried looking for Raymond Jones? If he was a lad from
Liverpool he shouldn't have been too hard to track down, assuming he
wouldn't have come forward himself. I'm not asking this in hindsight; I
mean, once the world knew about Raymond Jones did anyone try to find him?
Yes, insterestingly, Alistair Taylor tried. :-) No fooling; the man who
made him up used to go on British radio chat shows and beg Raymond to
reveal his presence. All part of keeping the secret, I guess.
2. When, exactly, was the story of Raymond Jones revealed? 1962? 1963?
I don't have access to much British press material prior to 1964, but I
have some, and Raymond Jones isn't mentioned specifically. The first
printed reference I can find is Brian Epstein's "A Cellarful of Noise",
which came out in October 1964. If anyone from our highly esteemed British
contingent has an earlier printed or transcribed reference, I'd be pleased
to hear of it.
3. How long was NEMS in business? Where was the store located? How close
to the Cavern?
North End Music Stores was an offshoot of the Epstein family business,
which was a department/furniture/entertainment store in Liverpool; there
were a couple locations, the most famous of which was in Whitechapel
Street, about 100 steps away from the jazz club (later beat-music club)
called The Cavern, in Mathew Street (actually a cobblestoned alley).
What kind of records did Brian sell and what kind of
clientele did he have? Was it the kind of store tennagers would go to?
Who was his competition?
Brian sold all kinds of records---classical, jazz, pop, rock and roll, and
all age groups shopped there, though after the Merseybeat sound began to
become well known, teens frequented the store more noticeably. I believe
other departments stores (like Lewis') sold records as well, and operhaps
Hessey's, a guitar shop; but maybe some originals from Liverpool would
like to fill us in here.
4. If the attraction to the Beatles (and John in particular?) was
homosexual in nature and, for the sake of argument, the leather jackets
and pants was a catalyst, were the Beatles the only group wearing leather?
No, other groups did as well---Gerry Marsden, for instance, and anyone
attempting to imitate the sultry American motorcycle-bad-boy image a la
Brando and others. Leather gear was not predominant, but some groups did
persist in weaing leather even after it became slightly passe.
Why wouldn't a local group such as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, which
apparently had a larger following, also capture Brian's attention?
An interesting question. Storm and crew wore matching suits rather than
leather; perhaps that's a clue? Or perhaps Storm (for all his energy)
didn't have the same musical and personal charisma that the Beatles had.
5. And, as someone pointed out, how could "My Bonnie" be associated with
the Beatles? It was a Tony Sheridan record. It was recorded in Hamburg.
If the Beatles, on-stage at the Cavern, told their fans that they were on
a record, even as a backing band for another singer, it's still possible
that Beatles fans asked Epstein for a record by the Beatles called "My
Bonnie". The Fabs may not have been precise in telling their followers how
to request the record locally, particularly since they left Hamburg in
July 1961 with only (we surmise) a couple demo or promo copies of the
record. Actual release of the Polydor disc is hard to trace, since
Polydor's release notes no longer exist, but it was probably autumn 1961.
What was the B-side?
Was "Ain't She Sweet" or "Cry for a Shadow" ever
released on a single?
"Ain't She Sweet" in the UK on May 29, 1964, on Polydor; "Cry for a
Shadow" on July 13, 1963 on a Polydor EP.
If the Beatles could be connected to "My Bonnie"
then their reputation was a lot stronger than Alistair or Epstein have
Absolutely! Although to be fair, Alistair says in the Manchester Evening
News article that they both knew the Beatles were big, and that's why
Alistair ordered the record as Jones.
6. If Alistair Taylor is Raymond Jones, how did he learn about the Beatles
and "My Bonnie"?
He doesn't say. I'd be interested in finding out more about this myself!
Any why would Brian suddenly want to
become the manager of a rock and roll band? What was Brian's taste in
Brian had failed in a theatrical career but still had aspirations for the
stage. This may have been a way of being on stage vicariously. Brian wrote
a column for "Mersey Beat" on music; his tastes seem to have been
classical and pop/jazz (he knows opera and big-band names very well); he
mentions bigger rock-and-roll names like Elvis and the like, but mainly
7. Finally, what do the Beatles know about Raymond Jones? I get the
feeling they have (as have we) believed the story to be true. Has anybody
asked them since Alistair's revelation?
Not to my knowledge. I'm not sure what they know. Alistair says they knew
nothing about the Jones myth, since he kept the truth of it from them all
"You gave me the word, I finally heard...."
From: email@example.com (saki)
Subject: Re: Unsolved mysteries: Raymond Jones.
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 06:02:38 GMT
R Lapworth wrote:
firstname.lastname@example.org (saki) wrote:
Davies mentions Jones' leather jacket, but from whom did he get that
information? Both Norman and Brown & Gaines pick up that description
without doing further research to determine whether Epstein saw Jones,
whether Alistair Taylor described Jones to Epstein, or whether anyone
actually saw him at all!
Also from 'A Cellarful of Noise', p.43, "...the store into which, years later, on a Saturday afternoon,
walked leather-jacketed Raymond Jones."
The personification of Jones as a leather-clad boy may be a clue. Let's
keep that in mind for a moment.
A little later Eppy (?Derek Taylor) actually quotes 'Jones': "The
words, of course, were 'Have you got a disc by the Beatles?'".
I think this implies that Eppy actually saw Jones, or at least that
he wanted us to think so.
Perhaps, or that he wanted to leave it passive and non-specific so it
wouldn't be necessary to state an untruth. "The words, of course,
were...." is what Derek has Epstein say---not "I heard Jones ask...." or
"Jones asked me...."
"Brian liked the look of the boy, and instead of letting a saleman help,
he approached the boy himself."--Brown/Gaines (pfui)
If this is correct, and perhaps Brian was attracted to Jones, then it
may explain why a) he remembered the incident so well, and b) he was
so keen to find the unkown record, and thus please Jones.
Or perhaps it was to please someone else!
Perhaps this isn't a minor point after all. The implication of the
above would be that Brian Epstein's first interest with The Beatles
was, indirectly, a result of his homosexuality! (I hasten to add that
I am not suggesting that this is any more than idle speculation.)
(My God, have I come up with an original idea?)
Almost. :-) I hinted at the same idea in a post about a year ago, but
didn't feel I had sufficient evidence to make the case. I still don't, but
it's worth a revisit, based on your bringing it up again.
As background for those who side with Alistair Taylor (no relation to
Derek) and believe there was no Jones, here's what Alistair said in the
Manchester Evening News, November 4, 1995, as journalist Bill McCoid
"'I've never told anyone this before' [Alistair told the journalist], 'but
I ordered My Bonny [sic] -- I am Raymond Jones'. ... Do George, Paul and
Ringo know this? 'Nobody knows it.' Did Brian know? Taylor shakes his
head. 'Nobody knows.' Why have you kept this secret all this time? 'It's
part of the myth. I've kept the myth going. There are many myths.' Why did
you order that Beatles record then? 'Because we knew they were big in
Liverpool. So Brian and I said: OK, yeah, let's find it. I just made it
up. I became Raymond Jones.'" ....
"This is not the account given in Epstein's biography.... According to
Taylor, this was a mythical embroidering.... You ordered the record? [asks
McCoid]. 'Yeah' [replied Taylor]. You told Brian you'd had an order from
Raymond Jones? 'Yeah'. Have you felt you should have got the credit you
deserved for it this last 34 years? 'Yeah, of course I do. Yeah, sure.' So
Brian never saw Raymond Jones? 'No, nobody ever sees Raymond Jones.' The
nearest anyone's ever got to Raymond Jones is you? 'Absolutely. It's a
thing I've kept under my belt. We had to do it'."
(Thanks to the Manchester Evening Standard, 4 Nov 1995, p. 9).
Interesting, isn't it, that at two places in his narrative, Alistair
lapses into the first person plural. "*We* knew they were big in
Liverpool. So *Brian and I* said...." "*We* had to do it".
Who's this "we" all of a sudden? :-) If Brian didn't know...why the
plural? Just a slip of the tongue? Or is it a real clue, an indicator that
someone else knew...possibly Brian after all, and Alistair is hiding it
for reasons unknown?
"We knew they were big in Liverpool" is also a fascinating statement,
since the myth rigorously maintained that Brian knew nothing of the band
till he heard their name via Raymond Jones, and had never seen them till
he and Alistair dropped into the Cavern Club a fortnight later. Brian also
recounted in the autobiography that a total of three people---Jones and
two unspecified girls---were the only people who had asked for "My
Bonnie", that contrary to popular opinion there were not hordes of
Liverpudlians asking at NEMS for the record. Note this fact for later!
In "A Cellarful of Noise", Brian does admit that he recalled dimly seeing
the name "Beatles" from a poster advertising one of their gigs in
Liverpool, and recalling with hindsight that the four scruffy lads who
shopped at NEMS were the Beatles. On the other hand, if Jones (and all
archetypal young men from Merseyside) could be characterized as wearing
leather jackets, why would four in particular (once Brian scrutinized his
memory) stand out in his mind? And if Alistair says he and Brian knew
they were famous...why the prevarication in Brian's account of the tale?
Why downplay local interest if it was really quite significant?
Perhaps the answer rests in the reason the myth was made. And there could
be several sensible reasons. I'll just look at two. Perhaps some of you
have better ideas!
Alistair doesn't really tell us, does he? There's a hint. Alistair and
Brian knew they were big in town, so they went to the trouble of ordering
a pack of 25 copies of "My Bonnie"---the minimal order. Why help out the
lads, though? Did they order the records because the Beatles were big, or
because Raymond Jones asked for it and Brian was adamant about satisfying
every customer's record request, even if there were 24 records left over?
The traditional myth maintains the latter; Alistair reconfigures it in his
new version, suggesting that the motive was to enhance the Beatles'
popularity. Now why do that? If Brian claimed he couldn't even remember at
first that the Boys shopped there...why go out on a limb for fellows he
claimed he didn't even know and who attracted (according to Brian) only
three record requests from NEMS patrons?
Unless he noticed them more keenly than he ever admitted, and wanted to
impress them...well before he ever saw them at the Cavern?
Of course there are several reasons for creating Beatles legends, and the
Fabs themselves were no strangers to inventing their own...most famously,
and very early, was John's biblical-style "history" of the group and its
naming, from 1961, only a year after the group was officially called "The
For Brian and his coterie of pressmen (Derek Taylor, Tony Barrow, Brian
Sommersville), myth was all; and reducing Liverpool's interest in the Fabs
to one common denominator was an elegant and neat solution. Distilled into
Raymond Jones, one could almost trace the genesis of Beatlemania. Ray
Jones started it: the primal fan.
He even had a name, a "look" (leather, just like the Beatles used to
wear), and in at least one fanciful account, a job and a locale...an
earnest Scouse everyman, determined to learn a trade and a persistent fan
of pop in his off-hours. The nascent Merseybeat sound was his playground.
Soon the whisper became a roar as Beatlemania caught fire on the banks of
the Mersey...and in Whitechapel Street, where there was the ever-helpful
staff of NEMS, ready to serve Beatles fans as they clamored for their fave
rave's first record.
So one reason you invent a myth is to make the complex simple, and control
the official tale of historical events. Note that with Brian's emphasis
(in "A Cellarful of Noise") on his own dedication to helping uncover a
local mystery (who were these Beatles? What label? How to procure it?), he
becomes a local hero.
Not undeservedly, of course. The fact that he ordered the disc, in
multiples, and pursued the band to the steps of its fabled local hangout,
and was so moved to offer to be their manager, is worth accolades aplenty.
He may not have been the most acute financial manager, but as a personal
manager he was nonpareil.
There is no question that Brian helped them find fame via radio, TV and
recording gigs...many of which initially happened because of Brian's
unassailable conviction that the Beatles had talent and charm and charisma
fit to beat *any* band. He seemed to be able to convince a number of
people (who might have doubted a less enraptured manager) of his group's
musical potential. And of course, once seen, the group convinced them as
But there's another reason myths are made, and that's to hide a secret.
If I had to put my money on one or the other, I'd bet on this one.
In rereading the interview with Alistair Taylor, I do find it interesting
that he slips from "I" to "We". Alistair himself was not homosexual but he
knew his then-boss was. And he knew how dangerous it was to be a
homosexual in the UK in the sixties. "You must remember" he tells McCoid,
"in those days it wasn't just unacceptable, it was illegal".
Absolutely true, and Brian kept his private life very private for reasons
of legality as well as propriety. Yet, as Brian's own biographer, Ray
Coleman, tells it, Brian did have an interest in the "rough trade" that he
kept well hidden from most people, excepting several trusted friends.
How much did Alistair know of this? Is there a chance that he knew his
boss was interested in the four lads (or any lad wearing leather) because
of their look, and less so because of their fame?
Did Alistair...with or without Brian's tacit request...order the Beatles'
"My Bonnie" to flatter the group, to help them build their local
reputation, to call attention to Mr. Epstein of NEMS? And did Mr. Taylor
and Mr. Epstein pay a business call on the group at the Cavern because
Brian was already intrigued with the Beatles, despite the music, and
wanted---in some desperate way---to be involved with their lives?
If the latter is at all correct, then a legend like the Raymond Jones
story would be a convenient cover for it. Brian and crew oblivious to the
group until Jones called their attention to the Beatles; Brian intent on
professionalism, ferreting out the elusive "My Bonnie" because it was a
source of pride to him to give a customer what he wanted; being intrigued
by the flurry of sales for the single, and wondering what all that fuss
was down at the Cavern....
This would explain why Alistair Taylor kept the secret of Jones'
nonexistence for so many years, and why his account of it *now* is so
curiously unrevelatory and unconvincing. A truly logical motive just isn't
there. It might suggest why he lapses from "It was my idea" into "We
knew...". It could be the reason Taylor's account of their reasoning ("We
knew they were big in Liverpool") has a hollow ring to it.
Something is still missing from the story.
Perhaps it always will be missing. It could be that the principals, who
might have known, would prefer not to reveal what they know (*if* there's
anything to know), out of loyalty to the memory of a still-admired friend.
And it could well be...as Mr. Freud (or was it Groucho Marx?) said...that
sometimes a myth is just a myth.
But it seems a question still worthy of pursuit.
"You gave me the word, I finally heard...."