One night, sometime during the divisive recording sessions for what would become The Beatles’ White Album, Ken Mansfield recalls George Harrison saying, “This thing is just killing us.” And it did.
From his front-row seat as manager of the U.S. branch of Apple Records in the ‘60s, and as The Beatles’ personal liaison in America, Mansfield, a Grammy-award winning producer in his own right, was privy to the inner workings of the Fab Four and could only watch as the band fell apart. In fact, he was one of only 12 people on the Apple building rooftop on Jan. 30, 1969, when The Beatles gave their final public performance.
His memories of those heady times are recounted in a new book, appropriately titled “The White Book.” Available from www.thomasnelson.com for $22.99, the book is loaded with never-before-told stories of The Beatles and other big-name acts of that era, such as The Beach Boys.
No scandalous tell-all, “The White Book” is, instead, an unvarnished, yet heartfelt, tribute to John, Paul, George and Ringo, and a revealing insider’s look at their personalities.
GM: Why come out with the book now?
KM: You know, what’s interesting about this, Peter, is, I can’t answer that exactly, but I think it’s ironic that a whole bunch of us are now finally speaking in terms of, you know Pattie [Boyd] and Geoff Emerick doing his book and Tony Bramwell a year or two coming out with his. I think for me personally it’s like a time has passed. I think I had so much respect for them that I was never going to write a book until one night Ringo, over dinner, had said, "Go ahead." And I think what he told me was, "I trust you to go ahead and do something." But I feel after 40 years, we soften, I think, our look back on those times. I think we see more of the good times, and I think the time has passed so you don’t stand the chance of really being disrespectful — that’s not quite the right word, but I think you know waht I mean. I think you look back with much more maturity and really see it more for what it was.
GM: Was it tough to wait so long?
KM: No, you know, what’s funny about this, and other people like Jack Oliver, who headed up Apple Records in London, is you could not even get me in a conversation about it for about 20 years. And I’m not quite sure why. The Beatles never told us, "OK, now we’re going to let you inside, and you’re going to see the private side, and all that, so you can’t write about it or talk about it." I think we all felt so honored to be there that it was just a given that we didn’t really … and that’s where I thought some of the early books I felt were betrayals — Peter Brown’s in particular. But, yeah, I just feel … I forgot the question (laughs)?
GM: Was it tough to wait so long?
KM: Not at all, in fact it was tough to start talking.
GM: In the first chapter, you talk about having a head-in-the-sand approach to the Beatles and their fame. How important was it to shrug off the mania surrounding the Beatles and keep a level head in order to get the job done?
KM: I think the reason they eventually invited me to come over and set up the company with them and run it for them in America is because I wasn’t like a giant fan, and so I wasn’t in awe or gawking or asking a bunch of questions or getting my picture taken or asking them to sign things. I had a pretty heavy job at Capitol Records, and when I was given the Beatles, when they asked me to join them, there was so much responsibility in that that I couldn’t just go, "Hey I’m a big deal, and these are big artists