Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to really meet the Beatles. This is a delightfully gory retelling of the Beatles' U.S. tour that reimagines the Liverpool foursome as bloodthirsty zombies who take over the world. . . literally!
For John Lennon, a young, idealistic zombie guitarist with dreams of global domination, Liverpool seems the ideal place to form a band that could take over the world. In an inspired act, Lennon kills and reanimates local rocker Paul McCartney, kicking off an unstoppable partnership. With the addition of newly zombified guitarist George Harrison and drummer/Seventh Level Ninja Lord Ringo Starr, the Beatles soon cut a swath of bloody good music and bloody violent mayhem across Europe, America, and the entire planet.
In this searing oral history, discover how the Fab Four climbed to the Toppermost of the Poppermost while stealing the hearts, ears, and brains of smitten teenage girls. Learn the tale behind a spiritual journey that resulted in the dismemberment of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Marvel at the seemingly indestructible quartet's survival of a fierce attack by Eighth Level Ninja Lord Yoko Ono. And find out how the boys escaped eternal death at the hands of England's greatest zombie hunter, Mick Jagger.
Through all this, one mystery remains: Can the Beatles sublimate their hunger for gray matter, remain on top of the charts, and stay together for all eternity? After all, three of the Fab Four are zombies, and zombies live forever.
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ALAN GOLDSHER has contributed to such music magazines as Bass Player and Drum. He is the author of the music-themed novels Jam and The Record Haüs, as well as a history of the jazz legend Art Blakey. As a ghostwriter, he has collaborated on projects with Bernie Mac, as well as other actors and comedians, and he has also contributed to ESPN and NBA.com as a sportswriter.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
John Lennon is an easy man to track down, but he’s a hard man to pin down. He hasn’t released a record of new music since 1980, thus he’s not affiliated with a label, so there isn’t a publicity manager you can call to set up an interview. He doesn’t give a damn what people say about him in the press, so he has no need or desire for a PR person. He’s a hermit who doesn’t answer his phone, return emails, or leave the house. The only difference between him and fellow zombie recluse J. D. Salinger is that everybody knows where Lennon lives: The Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West, Apartment 72, New York City, America.
But if you make nice with the Dakota’s concierge, and slip him a few sawbucks, he might deliver John a package. If you load the package with several boxes of Corn Flakes and ten pounds of Kopi Luwak—a painfully bitter coffee from Indonesia that costs almost six hundred bucks a pound—John might ring you on your cell. If you can persuade John that you don’t have an agenda other than finding out the story behind the Beatles, and you don’t have an axe to grind, and you’ve never touched a diamond bullet in your life, John might invite you over to share a bit of that Kopi. And then maybe, just maybe, after a while, he’ll talk to you on the record about his life and career.
It took me two years of rambling cell chats, bottomless bowls of Corn Flakes, and horrible java to get John to submit to a formal taped interview, but once I fired up the recorder, the guy was an open book. For the first two weeks in November 2005—while his wife, Yoko Ono, was out of town, natch—John talked. And talked. And talked some more. He was sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes infuriating, and sometimes violent (my doctor told me that with regular physical therapy, I will someday regain full motion in my left shoulder), but for those fourteen days, John Lennon was There. And thank God for it.
JOHN LENNON: At this point, nobody wants to hear about my childhood. I don’t even want to hear about my childhood. My mum died, I brought her back to life, I went to Quarry Bank High, I drew cartoons, I mucked about with rock ’n’ roll, I killed a bunch of people, and zombified eight of ’em. Big fookin’ deal.
People probably don’t want to hear about the skiffle days either, but sod ’em. If there’s no skiffle, there’s no Beatles.
Me and my mate Eric Griffiths took guitar lessons out in Hunts Cross, but the teacher wasn’t teaching us anything we couldn’t have taught ourselves. And the teacher—I forget his name—treated me like a leper. In retrospect, I can understand his reaction, because during my first lesson, my left pinkie fell off while I was trying to shift from an F chord to a D sus 4, but that doesn’t give him the right to look at me sideways, for fook’s sake. That’s racism, pure and simple. I bet if Big Bill Broonzy or some other black man walked into his studio, he wouldn’t have said a damn thing, but show him a zombie, and ooooooh, we’ve got an international panic. He was a right bastard, that one.
Anyhow, I got fed up with his attitude by the seventh lesson, so that night, after I packed up my guitar, I ate the teacher’s brain, then threw his body into the River Mersey. The man weighed twelve stone, and getting him from his studio to Wirral Line and all the way down to the river was rough. If Eric hadn’t helped, I would’ve had to leave the corpse on the train.
I started my first band in 1957, and I suppose my initial concern was our name. The biggest skiffle unit around was called Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group, and musically, we weren’t nearly as good as they were, so we had to do something to make ourselves stand out until we learned how to play our instruments ... like come up with a better name than Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group, which I figured wouldn’t be that difficult, because Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group is a fookin’ boring name.
First, we were the Blackjacks, but Pete Shotton, who was our washboard player for a while, didn’t like it, and wanted us to change to the Quarrymen, which, of course, referred to our school, Quarry Bank. I pushed for the Maggots, but Eric nixed that because he thought it would draw too much attention to what he called my “situation.” Then good old Lenny Garry piped up and said he thought calling ourselves the Maggots would frighten people—but Len was scared of his own shadow, so he wasn’t the best gauge. I did see Eric and Len’s point, however, so the Quarrymen it was. But I wasn’t happy about it. I thought the Maggots was a brilliant name. Still do, actually.
The two Quarrymen gigs everybody talks about were in ’57, at the end of June and the beginning of July, but the one that I personally remember the best—and the most important one, as far as I’m concerned—was that May, I think the fifteenth. It wasn’t a gig, really, just me and the guys muckin’ about on the street in front of Mendips, which is what we used to call my aunt Mimi’s house over on Menlove Avenue. But that’s when the brilliant stuff happens, when you’re muckin’ about.
I knew none of the local mortals would want to spend a beautiful spring day listening to a batch of local rugrats stumble through “Rock Island Line,” so I telepathically summoned all the undead within brain-shot to come to Mendips and watch us do our thing. Even though they were only a few dozen meters away, those bloody shufflers took a good half hour to arrive. I know for certain they could’ve moved faster, because they were zombies of the higher-functioning variety (I guess they weren’t motivated enough) but that was fine, ’cause it took me a while to figure out how to keep my left pinkie attached. Shotten suggested I tie the finger to my hand with some twine. It worked, and off we went. Cheers, Pete.
Our first tune was “Worried Man Blues,” not exactly a number you can dance to, but that didn’t stop our audience from trying. It was the first time I’d seen a gathering of undead try to dance, and it wasn’t an impressive display—only about half of them could bend their knees, which made it tough for them to do the Mashed Potato. I will say they were an appreciative crowd, though; so much so that they begged to turn our bass player Bill Smith into one of their own. I told them no way, he was my friend, and if anybody was gonna transform him, it would be me.
But it wasn’t.
I don’t know who turned Bill, but if I ever find out, that arsehole’ll get a diamond bullet right up his bum. See, I hated it when my mates got turned by somebody other than me—still do, matter of fact. Think about it: it was me who started the modern Liverpool zombie movement, and if a friend of mine needs to be finished, then restarted, I deserve to do the finishing and the restarting, d’you know what I mean?
Bill left the band soon after his transformation, and I never saw him again. I remember in ’61, Paulie told me he’d heard some bollocks that Bill was living underground. Even though I despised being anywhere near the sewers, I went looking for him. No luck; all I got out of the trip was a load of cack under my fingernails. I hated the fookin’ sewers, and I wouldn’t go underground for just anybody, but Bill was a good man, the kind of guy you’d walk through filth for.
Bill’s gone now, mate. You’ll never find him. I tried hard, man. Really, really hard.
Considering Lennon’s swift and horrifyingly violent attack upon my person—a shockingly fast attack that I’ll always consider myself lucky to have survived more or less intact—after I contended that George Martin was just as important to the musical success of the Beatles’ final three albums as George Harrison was, I hesitate to question to his face the veracity of any of his claims, for fear of my life. That said, thanks to a tip from one James Paul McCartney, it took me a grand total of three minutes to track down Bill Smith, so one has to wonder how hard Lennon really looked. According to Paul, Smitty’s always been an accessible zombie, always armed with smiles and jokes, always eager to gossip about his days as a Quarryman.
A cheerful sewer dweller who doesn’t like to come aboveground for any reason other than to dine, Smitty would speak to me only on his home turf, so on August 3, 2007, I donned a biohazard suit and made the first of my three forays into the Liverpool sewers.
The local undead populous has done wonders with the place—there’s a lovely Internet cafe, a well-stocked trading post/general store, and velveteen sofas and soft recliners wherever you turn—and if the ground wasn’t covered with a two-inch layer of liquidized shit, decades-old piss, clotted blood, and chunky brain matter, it would be quite an enjoyable place to visit.
Like the majority of those who’ve undergone the Liverpool Process, Smitty is a gracious, gregarious sort and was more than happy to spend several hours regaling me with tales about what he called, “Me first band, me first life, and me first death.”
BILL SMITH: Me mate Pete Shotten brought me into the Quarrymen, and Johnny and I got on right away. Even though Johnny was smarter and more popular than I was, we clicked. He was funny, and I was funny, and he liked the blues, and I liked the blues, and when you’re a kid, sometimes a mutual love for music and similar senses of humor are enough to form a solid friendship, regardless of social status. Over the years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t always happen that way. The cool kids gravitate toward the cool kids, the uncool kids be damned; that’s certainly the way it is down in the sewers. The irony is that now, because of my association with the Quarrymen, I’m just about the coolest kid in the sewers ... or, at this point, the coolest old wanker, I suppose. But none of your readers give an arse about my philosophy of life; they want to know the good stuff about me and John Lennon.
Okay, I remember in the summer of 1957—right after that first Mendips concert—Johnny and I were messin’ about in Calderstones Park, eating sandwiches, watching the girls, and working out vocal harmonies on some Buddy Holly songs. Then out of nowhere, right while I’m singin’, “Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Peggy Sue,” he turns to me, smiling, and says, “Smitty, you’re me best mate.”
Back then, not too many sixteen-year-old males would show such affection for a mate, so I was a bit of surprised. But this was, oh, four years before he became prone to random bouts of violence, and the Johnny Lennon of 1957 was a sweet sort, the kind of guy who was so talented and funny that, well, let me just say, when a guy like that tells you you’re special, you have to be flattered. So I told him he was my best mate, too.
Then he says, “I want to be best mates forever, Smitty.”
Again, I was surprised, but remember, this was Johnny Lennon, man, Johnny fookin’ Lennon, and when he gave you a certain look, you couldn’t help agreeing with everything he said. Everything. If he gave me that look, then told me to climb to the top of St. Saviour’s Church over on Breckfield Road and jump off, I’d have said, “You bet, mate. Shall I go headfirst?” (I now realize that’s less of a charisma thing and more of a hypnosis thing.) So naturally, I told him I wanted to be his best friend forever, too.
I remember exactly what he said then: “I’m gonna do it. Right here. Right now. In Calderstones.”
Those thin eyes of his were making me feel squiffy. I said, “Do what, Johnny?” My tongue had become thick, and I could barely get the words out.
He looked down, and when he broke eye contact, I snapped back to myself. I still think it was very gentlemanly for him to have stopped hypnotizing me and let me make my own decision. “Your brain, man,” he said. “I’m gonna eat a bit of your brain. Just a bit. What d’you think about that?”
I didn’t think much of it. See, I’d always wanted to find a wife and raise me a houseful of kids, and reproducin’ would’ve been a difficult proposition if me Jolly Roger could produce only dustmen, so I told him, “I don’t think that’ll work for me, mate.” He looked like he was gonna burst out crying then, so I said, “It has nothing to do with you. If I wanted to be undead, there’s nobody I’d want to kill me more than you. You know that.”
He said, “Yeah, I do know that,” then started picking individual blades of grass from the ground and throwing them over his shoulder, one by one. We were both silent for a while, then, after a few minutes, he finally said something like, “Who’s gonna help me get to the Toppermost of the Poppermost?” I asked him what the hell he was talking about, and he said, “Nothin’, nothin’, don’t worry about it. Listen, Smitty, if I’m gonna be on this fookin’ planet forever, I need to have people whose company I like, and that means transforming blokes, and how’m I gonna make that happen without gettin’ all of England in an uproar? And if folks start thinking of me as, I dunno, the Killer from Menlove Avenue, or John the Ripper, nobody’ll come to our shows. And how’m I gonna take over the world?”
Johnny was prone to exaggeration, so I let the comment about taking over the world pass. I told him, “I guess when you transform somebody, you’re gonna have to pick your spots carefully. And it’d probably make more sense, instead of asking people, to just do it.” The second that left my mouth, I realized I might’ve pulled a cock-up. John’s eyes flashed red, and there was a small part of me that thought he’d consider just doing it to yours truly. He was a zombie, after all, and even if an undead individual has good intentions, they sometimes can’t help being irrational. They get hungry, after all.
But he was a top geezer, Johnny was. He nodded and said, “You’re right, Smitty.” That’s all. Just, “You’re right, Smitty.” Johnny Lennon, if you’re reading this, you were the best. I suppose you think I’m a liar and an arsehole, but I think you’re aces. Always have, always will.
Listen, don’t get me wrong: I know and understand why Johnny wants bugger-all to do with me. See, I got turned in the fall of ’57, a mere three months after those Quarrymen gigs, and he didn’t do it. Her name was Lydia. If you’d have gotten one look at her back then, you’d have let her turn you, too. I’d introduce you, but she’s hideous now, simply hideous. She oozes some kind of green shite from her ears, mate, and it ain’t pretty.
Anyhow, long story short, I feel like I planted the seed. I was the guy who suggested Johnny take who he wanted, when he wanted. It probably would’ve happened sooner or later anyhow; there’s no way a guy like Johnny Lennon would’ve gone through his life politely asking if he could turn you instead of just doing it ... especially after he got famous. So yeah, wasn’t all my fault, but I still feel bad.
A dapper gent who perfectly illustrates the Liverpool Process’s “stop physically aging at fifty” axiom, Paul McCartney was sixty-four during our interview sessions in May 2003, but he could’ve easily passed for thirty. The guy was the Cute Beatle, is the Cute Beatle, and always
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