George Harrison’s 21st birthday

Following their recording session at EMI Studios, The Beatles helped George Harrison celebrate his 21st birthday.

George Harrison celebrates his 21st birthday, 25 February 1964

Harrison received 52 mail sacks containing around 30,000 birthday cards. Two fans even sent him a door for the thousands of 21st birthday keys he received.

In the evening a private party was held in an upstairs room at the Ivy restaurant in London. Brian Epstein presented Harrison with a gold cigarette lighter. The Beatles and their guests, which included George Martin, Dick James, Jane Asher and Cilla Black, dined on turtle soup, smoked salmon and Chateaubriand steak.

We dug around all day and found little. Finally, in early evening, we got some handout material from [press officer] Brian Sommerville and from that and what we had scratched up earlier we cobbled together something that passed for a fair cover of one of the Most Important Days in Modern History. It went thus:

‘Beatle George Harrison’s 21st birthday featured smoked salmon, turtle soup, Chateau-briand steak. He received a gold lighter from manager Brian Epstein. Among the dozen other guests were singer Cilla Black, John Lennon’s wife Cynthia, Jane Asher and of course John, Paul and Ringo. George, who’s the youngest Beatle, didn’t get a card from the other three. “We’re not sentimental people,” he said.

‘The first greeting came from his mother, Mrs Louise Harrison, who rang from Liverpool at 12.10am, the exact time he was born and sang: “Happy Birthday to You.” How did George respond? “I had a good laugh,” he said. “In America they have birthday operators singing to you and for a minute when my mother came on, I thought it was the operator.”

‘After that it was just like any other working day. George went to the recording studio at 10am, where the group rehearsed numbers for their film: Beatlemania (sic). Then he found the strangest gift of all – six-foot high double doors which had been delivered by seven girls from Hove. What of yesterday’s new records at the studio? One is called “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”. The name of the other is a close secret. John Lennon commented: “This ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ is completely different.”‘

There was a photograph from the EMI studio session but nothing special, nothing from the party itself. Nevertheless, the report was considered a success because we had scooped everybody else on the title of the new single (though in fact I had the title wrong, having prefaced it with ‘Money’), and the story made the front page. George Martin and Brian Epstein were quite cross about my ‘betrayal of a confidence’. George Fab was embarrassed that his ‘ghost’ had given away a secret but wasn’t personally all that concerned. I pleaded, truthfully enough, that I hadn’t known the title was to remain a secret and hadn’t in any case given the title of the ‘B-side’. ‘You didn’t know it, that’s why you didn’t give it,’ said Brian, at his most peevish. Paul was not best pleased because ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ was his song and therefore his secret. ‘Press cunt,’ he said, not without humour. ‘You got the title wrong, anyway – there’s no “Money” in it.’ But no real harm had been done to The Boys and after an apology the thing blew away.

Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift
Last updated: 6 November 2020
Recording: Can't Buy Me Love, You Can't Do That, And I Love Her, I Should Have Known Better
Recording, mixing: You Can't Do That, Can't Buy Me Love, I Should Have Known Better, And I Love Her
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