I peer out the little oval window
into the clouds, searching for the coastline. Still in a state of disbelief,
I try to discern the transitional point in my life that brought me out
of a small town in northern Idaho into this moment and this airplane
as it prepares for the approach to Heathrow Airport, London, England,
than a year after the death of manager Brian Epstein, the Beatles
are masterminding their own business empire, Apple Industries. Ron
Kass, the president of Apple Industries, notified Stanley Gortikov,
the president of Capitol Industries, that he and the "lads" are considering
asking me to become the U.S. manager of their record division, Apple
Records. They asked that I join them in London for a dramatic and
insightful series of Apple-related meetings. It seems that washing
my feet, brushing the potato peels out of my hair, working my way
through college, and then scrambling my way up through the corporate
ranks at Capitol Records, Hollywood, is paying off in a way I never
imagined. I still have a hard time extricating myself from the small-town
country boy within: dusty to above the ankles, dirt roads, rolling
hills, quiet fields, and simple surroundings. This world is precisely
6,071 miles and just as many light years away from my Idaho beginnings
and the Nez Perce Indian reservation lands where I grew up-a world
with no freebies, no frills, no backstage passes, no fish and chips
wrapped in newspaper, no bobbies on horseback, no afternoon teas,
and certainly no Fab Four.
As I continue to
gaze out the window, the airplane becomes a reverse time capsule as
we fall together into my destiny:
traveling with Stanley Gortikov and Capitol's head of Press and
Publicity, Larry Delaney. Apple A & R man Peter Asher (of Peter
and Gordon fame, and an old friend of mine by now), is scheduled
to pick us up at London's Heathrow Airport. Gortikov's straightforward
admonition on the way to L.A.X. (Los Angeles International Airport)-that
the Beatles currently account for approximately 50 percent of
Capitol's business-keeps running through my head. Fifty percent!
As he subtly puts it, "When it has to do with the Beatles-there
is no margin for error."
At the Capitol Tower back in Hollywood
after our trip, Bob York, my immediate superior and the v.p. general
manager of the company, summons me into his office to discuss
my new responsibilities and to let me know in no uncertain terms
that I am to "keep it together" as far as the Beatles and the
Apple staffers are concerned. In order to make my job easier,
he informs me that I do not have to get approvals for my travel,
expenditures, or schedules. In fact, I will not even be required
to explain my whereabouts or what I am doing-as long as I "keep
it together"! At this point I expect Glen Wallichs, the founder
and "chairman of the board" of Capitol, to call me over to his
home next and instruct me to "keep it together" with the Beatles
just to be sure I get the message from the complete executive
hierarchy of the company! I do get the message, but more than
that, Capitol Records has just handed me a first-class ticket
to ride on a long and wonderfully winding road into the most amazing
place and time in musical history.
stop dream-staring out the window and begin straining to see land.
Suddenly I see sparkling lights way off and way down below; I'm seeing
England for the first time! Then I realize that because we have taken
the typical north-southeast approach, we are being blessed with a
night view of portions of Scotland, Ireland, and northern England.
The stewardess shakes me out of my wonderment and asks if I want coffee
or tea with my breakfast. "Coffee please . . . no wait, I'll have
tea." I better get used to it!
twist off the wind tunnel of air above me and pull close the thin
excuse for a blanket. My body remains in an odd angular relationship
to the seat so that I can still search for the coastline. I feel like
a kid: wrapped in a blanket, excited, nervous, and gawking out the
window like I have never been on an airplane before.
As the runway comes
into sight, the view from the oval window looks cold, rainy, and bleak.
God, I am scared.