Category Archives: newspapers

1966 ➤ The interview that made John Lennon US public enemy number one

Evening Standard,Maureen Cleave, Lennon, interview, More popular than Jesus, How does a Beatle live?

First published in the London Evening Standard, March 4, 1966

Maureen Cleave, 1964, Evening Standard❚ MAUREEN CLEAVE [left] died this week aged 87. She was a long-time colleague and friend who was refreshing to know and a perfectionist at work. She was the author of this landmark piece of journalism in 1966 in which Beatle John Lennon said ironically: “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” Bang in the middle of the Swinging 60s, at the height of Beatlemania, the most successful pop group in history became possibly the most hated. In America’s Bible Belt, outrage sent fans out to burn The Beatles’ records and radio stations round the world banned their music. The Fab Four never played live concerts again.

Maureen had written the first significant critique of the band in the London Evening Standard in February 1963, headlined “Why The Beatles create all that frenzy”. What she identified was the band’s unique stage presence while acknowledging the Liverpudlian scallywags as fresh young jokers in the Max Miller cheeky-chappie mould. This kick-started her career as probably the most clear-sighted interviewer of her generation and her survey in 1966, “How does a Beatle live?” still makes a riveting read as John Lennon guides her through his 22-room home deep in the Surrey banker-cum-oligarch belt…

➢ Read on at Shapers of the 80s:
1966, More popular than Jesus – Maureen Cleave’s full Lennon interview from the Evening Standard in 1966

Beatles, bonfires,More popular than Jesus, 1966

Christian outrage in 1966: public bonfires were organised in Alabama, Texas and Florida to burn The Beatles’ records

➢ If ever a journalist had a quote taken out of context and rehashed evermore, it was Maureen Cleave – The Times obituary, Nov 2021

➢ Once the Beatles had become the most famous entertainers in the world, Cleave witnessed at first hand the destructive force of modern celebrity – Daily Telegraph obituary, Nov 2021

➢ Journalist who was close to the Beatles and known as one of Fleet Street’s most exacting interviewers – Guardian obituary, Nov 2021

MAUREEN FILMED MEETING
BOB DYLAN IN 1965…

…DISCUSSED HERE IN 2000…

Maureen Cleave elaborates on 1965’s interview with Bob Dylan (above), filmed by D A Pennebaker for his documentary Don’t Look Back. The discussion below is extracted from The Bridge, Number 6, Spring 2000 (courtesy of @bob_notes). Click on image to enlarge…

Maureen Cleave, Bob Dylan, Don't Look Back, interview, DA Pennebaker, Matt Tempest, TheBridge

…AND AGAIN IN 2011

Blogger Stephen McCarthy explored this filmed interview with Bob Dylan in the light of his conversion to Christianity in 1978. We see Maureen Cleave ask Dylan: “Do you ever read the Bible?” because she hears echoes of its ideas in so many Dylan songs. Yet Dylan seemed uneager to follow that line of questioning.

McCarthy writes: “Remember now, this was prior to the recording of songs like Highway 61 Revisited which begins with the lines, “Oh God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son’. Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on’” … Granted there were allusions to The Bible in earlier songs, such as Gates of Eden etc, but in my opinion, it was fairly perceptive of Maureen Cleave to have discerned the religious thread that could be found woven into many of Dylan’s earliest songs. And it also begs the question, did she somehow instinctively suspect that times they were a-changin’ for Bob Dylan in some sort of spiritual sense?”

MAUREEN RECALLS JOHN AND PAUL IN 2013

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➤ The day Harry Evans answered his interview question for me

Harry Evans, Sunday Times, newspapers, tributes

Harry Evans “on the stone”: pictured by Sally Soames in the days of hot metal production at The Sunday Times

❚ SIR HAROLD EVANS, who has died aged 92 and known to all as Harry, was not only a legendary crusader for investigative journalism but, along with Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, one of the two greatest newspaper editors of modern times. Crucially he embodied the editor as a lightning rod through which a savvy team can channel their expertise.

I have personal reasons to be grateful to him after seeking a job interview when badly needing a change of direction in 1978. At his office at The Sunday Times in Gray’s Inn Road Harry was armed with a checklist of newspaper know-how on his clipboard which I seemed to be ticking copiously as an all-rounder used to multi-tasking on a variety of projects in print. (Most people in this business tended to do one thing only: Columnist, or Reporter, or Commissioning editor, or Designer etc.) So eventually he asked: “What exactly is it that you do?” – “A bit of everything,” said I. – “Ah,” he replied, “you do what I do.” – “Do I?” (deeply flattered). – “Yes, you’ve got the impresario skills – able to execute every stage from bright idea through to printed page.” Well that put a spring in my step and from there on, my career flew!

books, journalismVisual flair was an ingredient as important to Harry as the words themselves – wisdom he spelt out in five definitive manuals published in the 1970s under the series title of Editing and Design. Here he shared with the rest of Fleet Street how his dramatic impresario skills were key to defining the rigour and astuteness which quality journalism demanded in each of its presentational crafts: Newsman’s English, Newspaper Text, News Headlines, Pictures on a Page, and Newspaper Design.

Easily the best account of journalism’s cut-and-thrust is his 1983 book Good Times Bad Times which nails the pitiless manners and mores of British newspaper execs and the proprietors they serve. Written in anger after his falling-out with Rupert Murdoch, it also reads like a racy thriller.

➢ Tony Allen-Mills in The Sunday Times on the man
who changed the way we tell the news

➢ Columnist Hunter Davies on “the best journalist
I ever came across”

➢ Observer editorial on the formidable career and
legacy of Sir Harold Evans – plus Donald Trelford’s
personal tribute to his “rival without peer”

➢ The master craftsman – obituary in the Financial Times
by Lionel Barber, its editor for 15 years

➢ The most admired newspaper editor of his generation –
obituary by Godfrey Hodgson in the Guardian

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2012, Sir Harold’s memories of Fleet Street:
cut and thrust, or be cut dead

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