Taylor joined Epstein’s NEMS company in April 1964, working initially as his personal assistant. However, he was soon put in charge of The Beatles’ press releases, and worked as a point of contact for the world’s press at a time when the group was the world’s hottest property. His effectiveness in handling the many demands from the media made him an invaluable member of the group’s inner circle.
His tenure with NEMS wasn’t always a happy one. The demands from the media were unceasing, and Epstein was often cruel in his possessive behaviour towards The Beatles.
I’d been told he could be cruel. I only realised it when I came to organise a Fab Four press conference. Brian didn’t want it to work. If I made a mess of it, even though the Beatles would be in that mess, he’d be happy – because I’d gained no control over them. He said, ‘Go ahead – but this is doomed. I look forward to speaking to you about it afterwards.’ I joined in April; here he as in May, treating me with massive cruelty.
Shout!, Philip Norman
Taylor resigned from NEMS in September 1964, but Epstein demanded he served out his notice until the end of the year.
I left in New York. I resigned at the end of the tour, in September, but Brian made me work three months’ notice, though, until just before Christmas. He tortured me by sending me to America on tour with Tommy Quickly and a song called The Wild Side Of Life.
He made me work out my time, but he also asked me to stay, with, ‘Derek, you and I, we do get along, when we get along.’ – ‘Well, we do, Brian, but…’ And it was such a relief to leave, I couldn’t imagine why I’d ever wanted to join them. As long as we could still be friends, that was fine, let’s get out of here and go back to newspapers.
So I went on to the Daily Mirror as a reporter, almost as just an ordinary reporter: happy, too.
In 1965 Taylor and his family moved to California, where he started his own public relations company. Among his new charges were The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Captain Beefheart, and he co-founded the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
That year George Harrison wrote ‘Blue Jay Way’ during a visit to California. The song was inspired as Harrison waited for Taylor and his wife, who had become lost in fog, to arrive at the rented house Harrison was staying in Los Angeles.
Taylor was also present during the same trip when Harrison visited San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. The pair, plus Pattie Harrison, Neil Aspinall and Alexis Mardas were visiting Pattie’s sister Jenny Boyd, who was living in the city.
Harrison’s presence quickly drew large crowds of people, one of whom handed Harrison an acoustic guitar. He performed ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’, flanked by Taylor and Mardas.
Photographs tell the story of this great visit by one of the Fab Pied Pipers; it is one of the best-known moments in The Great Novel. The crowds that gathered, well-meaning though they were, pressed upon the English visitors and made life difficult and a little dangerous. George didn’t enjoy Haight-Ashbury, yet it was right and inevitable that one of Them should have been there in those times.
In 1968 Taylor returned to England, to take up the position of press officer at The Beatles’ newly-created Apple Corps. He enjoyed a key role at the company, holding court at the offices at 3 Savile Row, London, and helping to shape the character of the organisation. His shadow looms large across The Longest Cocktail Party, Richard DiLello’s highly-regarded memoir of the Apple years.
Taylor was mentioned in the lyrics of the Plastic Ono Band’s 1969 single Give Peace A Chance. He was present at the song’s recording at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada.
It was Derek Taylor who wrote the famous Apple press release in the wake of Paul McCartney’s announcement that The Beatles were no more. It was issued to the world’s press on 10 April 1970.
Spring is here and Leeds play Chelsea tomorrow and Ringo and John and George and Paul are alive and well and full of hope.
The world is still spinning and so are we and so are you.
When the spinning stops – that’ll be the time to worry, not before.
Until then, the Beatles are alive and well and the beat goes on, the beat goes on.
After Allen Klein overhauled the structure of Apple in 1970, Taylor found himself a free agent once more. In 1973 he published As Time Goes By, his first memoir of his time with The Beatles. The same year he co-produced Harry Nilsson’s album of standards A Little Tough Of Schmilsson In The Night; Taylor had introduced Nilsson’s music to The Beatles in 1967, and wrote the liner notes for his second album Aerial Ballet the following year.
In later years he worked with British jazz musicians George Melly and John Chilton. He became director of special projects at WEA Records rising to vice president of Warner Brothers by 1977.
Taylor left Warner in 1978 to return to writing. He worked on numerous books including George Harrison’s 1980 autobiography I Me Mine, and Michelle Phillips’ memoir California Dreaming. Taylor’s own autobiography, Fifty Years Adrift (In An Open Necked Shirt), was published by Genesis in December 1983. Harrison wrote the introduction to a signed edition, which was limited to 2,000 copies.
His 1987 book It Was Twenty Years Ago Today documented the 1967 release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the wider cultural and social events surrounding it. Three years later his As Time Goes By: Living In The Sixties was published in the US, and in the UK his books What You Cannot Finish and Take A Sad Song followed in 1995.
In the 1980s Taylor worked with George Harrison at Handmade Films before returning to Apple Corps. There he helped mastermind the hugely successful Live At The BBC album, and The Beatles’ Anthology project.
Derek Taylor died of cancer on 8 September 1997. His funeral was held in Suffolk four days later. He left a wife, Joan, and grown-up children Timothy, Dominic, Gerard, Abigail, Vanessa and Annabel.
I absolutely did believe – as millions of others did – that the friendship The Beatles had for each other was a lifesaver for all of us. I believed that if these people were happy with each other and could get together and could be seen about the place, no matter what else was going on, life was worth living. But we expected too much of them.