Yanni (‘John’) Alexis Mardas, better known as Magic Alex, became a close friend of The Beatles in the mid 1960s.
…and then I brought in Magic Alex and it just went from bad to worse.
Alexis Mardas was born on 5 May 1942 in Athens, Greece. A former teenage science prodigy, he moved from Greece to England in the early 1960s, and met The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones in around 1963. The group went on to commission him to design a way to link sounds to lights for the group’s live shows.
He befriended John Dunbar, owner of the Indica art gallery in London, and the pair shared a flat on Bentinck Street. It was there in 1966 that Mardas first met John Lennon.
Lennon nicknamed him Magic Alex because of his impressive technological and scientific knowledge. Lennon often called him his “guru”, and he became part of The Beatles’ extended entourage after they stopped touring.
The charismatic Mardas impressed Lennon with his “nothing box”, a small plastic box with a dozen randomly blinking lights, which enthralled Lennon during his more contemplative moods.
Because John had introduced him as a guru, there was perhaps a little pressure on him to try and behave as a guru. I didn’t treat him that way, I thought he was just some guy with interesting ideas.
In 1967 The Beatles briefly considered buying a Greek island to escape the pressures of fame, and as a place where they could take drugs undisturbed. They were seemingly unaware that Greece had recently been taken over by a military junta.
Mardas promised to use his family connections to help broker the deal with the Greek government. They chose an island – often cited as Leslo, although no island of that name appears to exist – which was to have a series of houses built for The Beatles and their close associates, linked together by a series of tunnels.
The group’s assistant Alistair Taylor was given the task of purchasing the land from the Greek government. However, The Beatles soon lost interest in the notion of an island retreat, although they did make a profit on the failed deal, estimated at £11,400.
It was about the only time The Beatles ever made any money on a business venture. To make the purchase, we’d changed the money into international dollars or some currency. Then, when they changed the money back, the exchange rate had gone up and so we made about 20 shillings or so.
Magic Alex appeared briefly in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and went with The Beatles to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It has been claimed that this was because he saw his influence with the group waning in favour of the Maharishi.
It was Mardas whom allegedly told Lennon and Harrison that the Maharishi had been making advances towards Mia Farrow, the catalyst which led to their departure from India.
It was Magic Alex who made the original accusation and I think that it was completely untrue.
Following their return to England, Lennon’s wife Cynthia went with Mardas, his flatmate Jenny Boyd (sister of Pattie Harrison) and the singer Donovan, on holiday to Greece. When Cynthia returned to the Lennons’ house in Weybridge, she found John having breakfast with Yoko Ono, the pair clearly having begun a relationship.
Cynthia left the house with Mardas and Boyd. He is said to have got Cynthia drunk and tried to persuade her that they should run away together. Cynthia was sick in the bathroom and went to bed in the spare room, but Mardas joined her and attempted to kiss her until she pushed him away.
The following day Cynthia returned to her house, and Lennon appeared completely normal. Soon after he travelled to New York with Paul McCartney, and Cynthia went on holiday with her mother to Italy.
During the Italian holiday Mardas appeared unexpectedly and told Cynthia that Lennon was suing her for divorce on grounds of custody and seeking sole custody of their son Julian.
The mere fact that ‘Magic Alex’ arrived in Italy in the middle of the night without any prior knowledge of where I was staying made me extremely suspicious. I was being coerced into making it easy for Lennon and Yoko to accuse me of doing something that would make them not look so bad.