From the Daily Mail, Saturday, October 1, 2005.
Paul Harris reports
John, Paul, George and.............Jimmie!
The names are as unforgettable now as they were more than four decades ago - John, Paul, George and Ringo. But for ten frantic days in the summer of 1964, there was a somewhat different Beatles line-up. And even if the name of Jimmie Nicol might sound familiar to Beatle historians or devoted fans, few will recognise the face today.
As a 26-year-old unknown session musician, he was drafted in to play drums on the Fab Four's first world tour after Ringo collapsed with tonsillitis. Days before they flew out, he was signed up as a temporary replacement and was launched instantly into the whirlwind of 1960s Beatlemania. Fans called out his name and teenagle girls broke through security cordons to try to touch the new face, which had been hastily crowned with a mop-top haircut. He joked with the lads at a press conference in Australia and toured Europe and the Far East. His picture appeared in newspapers across the globe.
But then Ringo recovered to reclaim his place. Beatles manager Brian Epstein paid Nicol off at Adelaide airport, and - somewhat prophetically - gave him a retirement-style gold watch. Despite this unique link with the world's most successful pop group, Nicol slowly disappeared from the music scene.
Now a new book, The Beatles Unseen, recalls the phenomenon of the Fab Four and rekindles Jimmie Nicol's long forgotten contribuition to their story. Unfortunately, it is a memory he would rather keep buried. For, while the Beatles went on to riches, he eventually dropped out of the music scene and struggled to make a living. He was declared bankrupt within a year of saying goodbye to the group, and after a succession of appearances with outher bands, faded into obsurity.
Today he is a real Nowhere Man, talking to no one about his Beatles days and living in a flat in a quiet London suburb, a sharp contrast to those heady times of limousines, police escorts and faraway places. He refuses to answer his door to unannounced callers and poignantly has all but lost contact with the son who, as a boy in 1964. was able to tell his infant mates: "My dad's a Beatle!"
At 66, his square-jawed looks have given way to grey jowls, the smile oblieterated by missing teeth. Anything that might remain of his Beatle haircut is tied back in a scruffy ponytail. But he still has his principles. Despite the lucrative rewards of today's Beatlemania industry, he staunchly refuses to cash in. It was probably the same stubborn principle that led him into conflict with Brian Epstein on that 1964 tour. Nicol refused to mime to a recording of Ringo's drumming and insisted on playing live, in his own style. It might explain why, after Epstein reportedly spread the word among his music business associates that Nicol was a troublemaker; the drummer found it so difficult to get work.
To look at photos of him with the Beatles, it is hard to imagine the obscurity that followed. He seemed to cope easily with the limelight and all of the band, particularly John, treated him decently. George, who initially refused to tour without Ringo, later called Nicol "a lovely guy". But he was never destined to be a full-time Beatle. He had no Merseyside background or sharp Scouse wit, being born in August 1939 not in Liverpool, but in Battersea, South London, son of an Inland Revenue messenger.
By the time he joined the Beatles he had a marriage behind him (in 1957 to Patricia), a son, (Howie, born in 1958) and was approaching his 25th birthday. He had already worked with Joe Brown, Billy Fury and Georgie Fane wgeb Epstein asked him to play with the Beatles. Beatles producer George Martin told him to get to London for a rehearsal, where he was introduced to John, Paul and George. Just over 24 hours later, he was performing live in Copenhagen.
Then, as suddenly as it began, it was over. On June 13, 1964 - ten days after leaving England - he played his last performance with the Beatles. His new band, the Shubdubs, bombed. Declare bankrupt in 1965, he was said to have assets of