Tag Archives: The Times

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

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 piece about the band in the London Evening Standard in January 1963, headlined “Why The Beatles create all that frenzy”. She acknowledged 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 and persistent interviewer of her generation and her 1966 report, “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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1981 ➤ The day they sold The Times, both Timeses

❚ ON THIS DAY 30 YEARS AGO… “Australian newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch has agreed to buy The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. But the deal will only go ahead if Mr Murdoch can reach a deal with the print unions within the next three weeks over the introduction of new technology. Mr Murdoch will be expected to meet a number of conditions aimed at preserving the editorial integrity of the papers.”

➢ Read Murdoch bids to take over Times
— On This Day at BBC online

Rupert Murdoch, 1981,Harold Evans, Sunday Times, William Rees-Mogg, The Times

In media circles this was the “sale of the century”, and it is captured here in what the photographer Sally Soames calls her “best shot” … Rupert Murdoch announcing his purchase of Times Newspapers on Jan 22, 1981, to a press conference at the Portman hotel. He is flanked by Harold Evans, editor of The Sunday Times, and William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times. © Sally Soames

This picture of two doomed gazelles at the feet of the tiger is the one photographer Sally Soames last year nominated as her Best Shot ever. I had the pleasure of working with her shortly before her retirement and a print of this historic photo adorns my bathroom wall. Sally’s back catalogue has been a who’s who of political and artistic giants since her first assignment for The Observer in 1963. She works exclusively in black and white and her photographs are instantly recognisable for the richness and depth of her blacks. She told The Guardian last year:

“I WAS WORKING FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES IN 1981, and there was a rumour that Rupert Murdoch was buying the paper, along with The Times. I was sent to a packed press conference given by Murdoch and the two editors. When the purchase was announced, I knew it was the end of The Sunday Times. My newspaper was going down the tubes. I had tears pouring down my face as I worked.

“As always, I went down the front. I was the littlest, always “the girl”. The three of them sat down, and it was everybody’s first sight of Murdoch. I had brought three cameras, one of them with a wide-angle lens. Everyone started shooting Murdoch – except me. I photographed all three: Harold Evans, the Sunday Times editor, on the left; William Rees-Mogg, the Times editor, on the right. They all had name plates, and I knew I had to get Murdoch’s in there, to identify him. I had to tell the story: two papers were going to change completely…”

➢ Update 2019: Read “fearless” Sally Soames’s
obituary at The Guardian

Universal Daily Register, 1785, newspapers, The Times

First issue of the Universal Daily Register in 1785, later to become The Times

❚ THE ROMANCE OF THE BRITISH PRESS has always derived from its being simultaneously glorious and wretched, from its earliest days when kings would jail upstart editors to the decade of continual strife throughout British industry, the 1970s. So powerful were the trade unions that, as former Times editor Simon Jenkins wrote in his 1979 book Newspapers, The Power and the Money: “Action taken… has brought one paper after another to the brink of financial ruin.” Mind you, rich proprietors also made pretty ineffectual managers. One of the more enlightened was the Canadian Roy Thomson, who flexed his muscle by shutting down for a whole year both of the world-renowned newspapers he owned and published in London — The Times (founded 1785, and 200 years later broadening its appeal from its historic role as the “Top People’s paper”) and The Sunday Times (founded 1821, which under Harry Evans had set benchmarks with its hugely influential investigative journalism). In 1980 the papers ran up a £15m loss (equivalent to £50m today) and by then Thomson had reached the end of his tether, so put them up for sale.

Those were the days when ten nationally distributed daily newspapers and nine Sundays averaged 13m paid-for sales every day of the week (serving a UK population of 56m). Seven millionaire contenders sprang into the marketplace to bid for the two Timeses, yet Harry Evans thought none was worthy to own the world’s most prestigious titles. His book Good Times Bad Times is the rippingmost yarn about real newspaper life — “Who were these seven dwarves, I asked a staff meeting, to seek the hand of Snow White?” It was the Australian wot won it. The deal led to 563 redundancies.

 Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch in his computerised offices and printing plant newly built at Wapping, 1986 © by Sally Soames, National Portrait Gallery collection

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