Friday, 12 April 2013

Jimmie Nicol: The 10 Day Beatle.

Nicol with John, Paul & George rehearsing in 1964.

If you've never heard of Jimmie Nicol, you're probably only a casual fan of the Beatles or just starting to get into them. Who is Jimmie Nicol? well he was the Beatles drummer for 10 days in 1964. Where was Ringo? In hospital, having his tonsils removed. While at a photo session, Ringo collapsed with a fever and it was discovered he had a severe case of tonsillitis and they'd have to operate. Problem was the Beatles had their first major world tour coming up the next day. The other Beatles decided not to do it without Ringo but pressures from promoters and Brian convinced them otherwise but still George Harrison remained loyal to Ringo by saying to Brian and George Martin: "If Ringo's not going, then neither am I. You can find two replacements!" but he eventually relented and George Martin called up a session drummer he knew, Jimmie Nicol. Nicol was a session drummer who was playing with various bands at the time earning a princely sum (in the 1960s) of 40 pounds a week. Nicol came to Abbey Road and met John, Paul & George and ran through a set list of the tour with them. Nicol later recounted: "That night I couldn't sleep a wink, I was a fucking Beatle!".

His first concert with the Beatles was in Denmark. He was given a Beatle haircut and Ringo's suit (on which the trousers were too short) and went on stage to 4500 screaming Beatles fans. Paul amusingly recalled: "He was sitting up on his rostrum just eyeing up all the women. We'd start 'She Loves You' one, two, nothing, one, two, and still nothing!" 

Nicol played a total of eight shows until Starr rejoined the group in Melbourne, Australia, on the 14 June. He was unable to say goodbye to The Beatles as they were still asleep when he left, and he did not want to disturb them. Epstein gave him a cheque for 500 pounds and a gold wrist watch inscribed: "From The Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy - with appreciation and gratitude." Jimmy flew back to London and back into obscurity. Nicol said in a 1987 interview: "After the money ran low I thought of cashing-in in some way or other. But the timing wasn't right. And I didn't want to step on The Beatles' toes. They had been damn good for me and to me." 

Although the fans may have forgotten him, The Beatles never did. During his time with the group, John and Paul would ask him how he was settling in and Nicol's reply would always be "It's getting better" In 1967, Paul, while walking his dog Martha with Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, remarked that the weather was getting better, and began to laugh, remembering Nicol and it inspired him to write 'Getting Better' which was included on the Sergeant Pepper album. Again, during the sessions for Let It Be in 1969 when discussing a possible Beatles tour, McCartney remarked "I think you'll find we're not going abroad 'cause Ringo just said he doesn't want to go abroad. You know, he put his foot down. Although Jimmie Nicol might go abroad." It's also said that McCartney wanted Nicol to be involved in the Beatles Anthology but Nicol wasn't interested. 

It was widely believed that Nicol had died in 1988 but an article in the Daily Mail in 2005 confirmed that he was still alive and living a reclusive life in London.

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