Magic Alex, one of the most colourful and mysteryious characters in the Beatles’ story, has died at the age of 74.
Born Yanni (‘John’) Alexis Mardas, he became a close friend of The Beatles in the mid 1960s, eventually becoming head of Apple Electronics in London.
In 1965 Mardas exhibited his Kinetic Light Sculptures at London’s Indica Gallery, and the following year met John Lennon. The pair formed a close friendship, and Lennon nicknamed him Magic Alex.
Mardas made a number of electronic devices which amused Lennon and the other Beatles, and invented and researched a number of other concepts involving light and sound. Shortly after the formation of Apple, The Beatles set up Apple Electronics, for which Mardas was a partner and director. Apple bought premises on Boston Place, London, where Mardas worked on the development of light machines.
He accompanied The Beatles at their request to Rishikesh, India, where they studied Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Upon their return he was asked to stop work at Boston Place and work on a recording studio in the basement of Apple at 3 Savile Row, London.
In the summer of 1969, after holidaying in Greece with Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Harrison and Donovan Leitch, Mardas returned to Boston Place to find the doors padlocked and his equipment missing. A receptionist at Apple told him he had been fired, along with much of the other staff, by Allen Klein. This marked the end of his association with The Beatles.
In the 1970s, Mardas ran a number of companies offering security and anti-terrorism measures, including bullet-proof cars and bugging devices, for VIPs and former heads of state.
In 2004 he put 15 items of Beatles memorabilia up for sale at Christie’s auction house in London, including the leather collar worn (with nothing else) by Lennon on the cover of Two Virgins, and a custom-made Vox Kensington guitar.
Alexis Mardas died at the age of 74, in his apartment in the Kolonaki neighbourhood of Athens, Greece in January 2017. His body was discovered on 13 January, but early reports suggested he had been deceased for several more days. He had reportedly been suffering from pneumonia.
Also on this day...
- 1969: Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day eight
- 1969: US album release: Yellow Submarine
- 1968: Recording: Wonderwall Music by George Harrison
- 1966: George Harrison and Mick Jagger visit Dolly’s nightclub, London
- 1965: Live: Another Beatles Christmas Show
- 1963: Television: Thank Your Lucky Stars
- 1962: Live: Hambleton Hall, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.