Paul McCartney records Thingumybob by Black Dyke Mills Band

12.00pm, Sunday 30 June 1968 (45 years ago)

The Black Dyke Mills Band, a brass band from Yorkshire, England, was nne of Apple Records’ first signings. On this day Paul McCartney recorded them performing the Lennon-McCartney composition Thingumybob, which became their first single for the label.

The recording took place in Saltaire near Bradford, with McCartney producing the session. As well as Thingumybob, the group recorded Yellow Submarine for the single’s b-side. While in Yorkshire McCartney was interviewed by Tony Cliff for the BBC Television programme Look North.

Thingumybob was written as the theme tune to the Yorkshire Television comedy of the same name, which was transmitted from August 1968. The single, credited to John Foster & Sons Ltd Black Dyke Mills Band, was released as Apple 1800 in the US on 26 August, and in the UK as Apple 4 on 6 September.

He was also accompanied to Yorkshire by Apple employees Derek Taylor, Peter Asher and Tony Bramwell, and New Musical Express reporter Alan Smith.

On their return to London they sought to break their journey, and after consulting a map decided to take a detour off the M1 motorway to Harrold, a small village in Bedfordshire which they liked the name of. They visited two pubs in the village – the Oakley Arms and the Magpie – where McCartney premiered The Beatles’ Hey Jude.

While walking through the village they encountered Gordon Mitchell, a resident who was in his garden at Mulberry Lodge in the High Street. They asked Mitchell the way to the river but, having received directions, saw a sign for the Magpie pub and went there instead.

We wound through Bedfordshire checking off the signs steadily until we reached the village sign. Harrold. Oh it was a joyful sight.

It was the village we were supposed to have fought the world wars to defend, for which we would be expected to fight the third when told to, but won’t. It was a Miniver hamlet on the Ouse and there were notices telling of the fete next Saturday and a war memorial which made me weep.

Thrushes and blackbirds sang and swallows dived into thatches and a little old mower wheezed as we walked down the only street there was past the inn which was closed and the church which was open nodding to a sandy man with 1930s moustache and khaki shorts as he clipped his hedge and stared at these city people with funny hair and clothes.

Derek Taylor
As Time Goes By: Living In The Sixties

Having recognised McCartney, Mitchell and his wife Pat decided to also pay a visit to the pub. There they were greeted warmly by the Apple group, and fell into conversation.

After a while, thoughts were on something to eat. In those days few pubs served food. Pat suggested that she could provide something, so we trooped back to Mulberry Lodge, where she managed to produce a sumptuous meal. Paul showed his humanity by visiting Pat’s father, at that time an invalid in bed, and had a long chat with him. He also played a pink piano which was in the room, commenting that he had never seen one which was pink before!

We had a lovely evening of conversation and music and food and wine. Our younger daughter, Shuna, produced a child-size guitar, which Paul tuned by putting two coins under the bridge and then proceeded to play in his normal left-handed manner. He played and sang throughout the evening and then told us he had a new song- not yet recorded – called Hey Jude, which he sang several times. Shayne, our other daughter, was so unfazed by what was happening that she retired to bed to read a book!

We had long chats about his life as a pop star and what it was like to be so famous and so well off so early in one’s life, and he related some of the difficulties it was creating for him.

They all were the nicest people one could wish to meet, and great fun, and it was a very special evening. Pat, in particular, always felt great respect and affection for Paul and took great interest in his career and life, until her death in 2002.

Gordon Mitchell, March 2008

It was after midnight when the group decided to return to London. Not knowing where their chauffeur had parked their Rolls-Royce, however, they wandered up the High Street, where the car was parked outside the Oakley Arms.

After many hours, and well after midnight, they suggested that perhaps they should think of returning to London, so, not having any idea where their Rolls Royce and chauffeur were, we walked back up the High Street and there outside the Oakley Arms was their car.

The landlord of the Oakley, Frank Evans, had been told by the chauffeur who the travellers were, and the pub was kept open for their return. Sure enough, the party did decide to call in for drinks, and while there McCartney took to the piano to sing a number of Beatles songs. They stayed until around three o’clock in the morning before beginning the final leg of their journey to London.

A few days later, we received a letter of thanks signed by them all (except Alan Smith) and also received a gift of two bottles of champagne for the bottle stall at our Playing Fields Association fair on the following Saturday, which were duly raffled.
Gordon Mitchell

The weekend was reported by Alan Smith in two issues of the NME, published on 6 July and 10 August 1968. It was also mentioned in memoirs by Smith, Derek Taylor and Tony Bramwell.

It was also the best drink-up and general night out I’ve had since sliced bread, and my heartfelt thanks for a nice piece of living go out to Paul, Derek Taylor and Co (for the lift), the villagers of Harrold (for being real people) and to Gordon, the Irish dentist and his wife,Pat (for feeding us all at 3am with such pleasant meat and rice).
Alan Smith
New Musical Express, 6 July 1968

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