Former Apple Records Exec Ken Mansfield Reflects on His Front Row Seat to the Beatles' Final Years

Former Apple Records Exec Ken Mansfield Reflects on His Front Row Seat to the Beatles' Final Years


The first time Ken Mansfield heard "Hey Jude," it was in an empty house at Apple Music's London headquarters alongside Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. "They introduced in a giant soundsystem into one of many assembly rooms. We didn't have furnishings but, so we had been on the ground on a model new inexperienced carpet." At the time, Mansfield served because the United States director for the Beatles' Apple label, then in its infancy. "They had been attempting to determine whether or not to launch 'Revolution' or 'Hey Jude' as their first single below Apple. Paul was a businessman and he was apprehensive stations wouldn't play it as a result of it was too lengthy." At the time, radio hits had been solely about 2-and-half minutes, in comparison with the huge seven-minute runtime of "Hey Jude."

To allete McCartney's considerations, Mansfield had an thought. "I stated I’d take it to America on my means again residence to Los Angeles and cease in cities like Philadelphia, Miami and St. Louis to fulfill this system administrators at radio stations and get their opinion if we should always break the foundations if it's sturdy sufficient." The reply was apparent. "These are individuals who actually knew what hits had been fabricated from and so they all fell on the ground after they heard it," Mansfield remembers. "I referred to as Paul and stated, 'We must go together with this.'" "Hey Jude" later grew to become lodged at No. 1 on the Streets Talkin Hot 100 for 9 weeks, the longest such stretch for a Beatles document, persevering with their unflappable musical dominance.

How precisely Mansfield wound up in the midst of the Beatles historic musical whirlwind is a confluence of occasions the place he says discovered himself "on the proper place on the proper time." In the mid-60s, Mansfield was the West Coast district promotion supervisor for Capitol Records, a place he discovered himself in shortly after attending San Diego State University armed with a advertising diploma. With an curiosity in music (he was a member of native teams and had managing expertise), Mansfield utilized and was promptly employed, making him one of many youngest on the firm. "My job was that when bands got here to Hollywood I'd work with them," he says, with the fresh-faced school grad working carefully with Capitol's iconic roster, then made up of the likes of the Beach Boys, The Band and Lou Rawls. When the Fab Four ventured stateside for his or her 1965 U.S. tour (a yr after their earth-shattering debut on The Ed Sullivan Show the earlier February), Mansfield was there to information them. "I used to be a younger twentysomething with a suntan, lengthy hair, convertible and a house within the hills," he says. "I believe I used to be the whole lot they thought California was after they had been rising up in England, so that they had been as fascinated with me as I used to be with them." Mansfield hit it off with the group and shortly started hanging out after hours.

Thanks to being shut in age and boosted by a straightforward rapport, it stands to purpose when the Beatles had been trying to launch an organization of their very own two years later, they knew who to name. "They wanted somebody to run the American facet of Apple and so they requested for me as a result of I knew America and so they knew me," he explains. "America was 50 p.c of all document gross sales on the earth, so that you'd attempt to break a track right here first. I used to be the man who did that. They additionally had been very a lot about friendship and loyalty. It was a part of their British upbringing." From there, Mansfield performed an instrumental a part of the act's last two years, having a entrance row seat to the recording and launch of future classics starting from The White Album to Abbey Road and Let It Be. It was in the course of the classes for Let It Be (recorded previous to Abbey Road however launched after it) when Mansfield was actually plopped on the studio ground throughout its creation; a fly on the wall to music immortality. "I used to be invited into the room and was sitting within the studio subsequent to Billy Preston's keyboard," he remembers of being one of many solely outsiders within the studio, alongside Lennon's spouse Yoko Ono. "They had been working down their tracks and I used to be so caught up within the second noticing their musicianship."

Mansfield was additionally there throughout what would change into the group's last dwell efficiency. By 1969, the Beatles had been splintering as they had been on the lookout for a novel dwell house to play tracks from Let It Be to incorporate in a documentary of the identical title. Ideas for places had been spitballed, together with an orphanage and a flour mill. Ono even recommended they carry out on stage in a stadium stuffed with 20,000 empty seats. "They at all times did issues in a novel or totally different means, however not one of the locations we had in thoughts had been hanging a chord and time was working out to resolve," says Mansfield. As a outcome, on Jan. 30 1969, the Beatles went upstairs and converged to carry out a shock set on the roof of Apple Music in London. "No one knew on the time that was going to be their final efficiency," says Mansfield, one of some onlookers on the small roof 5 tales above the streets of the damp and chilly metropolis. (He will be seen in footage sporting a big white coat and would broadly change into generally known as 'The man within the white coat.') "It turned out to be probably the most distinctive, fascinating factor they might have executed and all they needed to do was stroll up a number of flights of stairs. It was very uncooked, actual and easy." Days after that 40 minute efficiency, he flew again residence to Los Angeles. Mansfield by no means noticed all 4 Beatles collectively once more.

After the break-up heard 'around the world and the inevitable gossip that adopted, Mansfield shifted his consideration to different tasks and took jobs at MGM and CBS Records, later changing into a prolific producer for acts starting from Waylon Jennings to Willie Nelson. In his post-Beatles profession, he was astute sufficient to know he was part of one thing wildly distinctive and just about unrepeatable. "They had been totally different than another artist, so it was an expertise I by no means tried to recreate. I figured that was that and nothing else will ever be prefer it once more." In the intervening years, Mansfield saved in contact with all 4 members, whether or not engaged on an album cope with Starr or hobnobbing with Harrison when he was in Los Angeles. The final time Mansfield noticed Lennon was at Starr's home. "I used to be producing Waylon Jennings on the time and Ringo was a giant nation fan, so he referred to as me and stated he heard I simply acquired again from engaged on Waylon's new album in Nashville and wished to know if he may take heed to the tapes." Mansfield fortunately obliged. "I present as much as Ringo's home and John's sitting there on the sofa. This was throughout his misplaced years. It was an odd day. John had dropped by to speak to Ringo about one thing private and he couldn't await us to get executed with our stuff so they might speak."

Despite his shut affiliation with one of the vital acts within the historical past of recent music, Mansfield hardly ever spoke about his time with the lads from Liverpool till comparatively lately. Throughout the previous 15 years, he's collected his ideas in three books concerning the group, the most recent being The Roof: The Beatles' Final Concert (out Nov. 13 from Post Hill Press). It paperwork the group's last years and that fateful afternoon on the roof. "Plenty of us who had been there by no means talked concerning the Beatles a lot till many years later," he notes. "They by no means stated to us to maintain the issues we noticed to ourselves. But the factor about all of us is that it was such a privilege to have been there that we needed to honor them by conserving issues to ourselves and never speaking about the whole lot." Underlying his expertise was a mutual respect. "There was one thing about them that the minute you had been of their interior circle they handled you want a good friend. I by no means acquired the impression of, 'I'm a Beatle and also you aren't.' You had been a part of the group and day-after-day one thing phenomenal occurred."

It was a monumental chunk of a powerful profession Mansfield didn't absolutely grasp the load of till many years later. "I didn't understand the significance of it till after about 20 years," he says. "Before then, it was a part of my life and job. Then it sunk in that I acquired to expertise that and dwell with it. I used to be part of one thing I'll treasure perpetually."