Home » Beatles » JEAN SHEPHERD-Travel-JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, RINGO, SHEP part 2



I’ll tell you, the sense of unreality I think that these four people feel—nothing is real out there anymore.   They have to drive at three o’clock in the morning through secret roads that are guarded by police so people will not attack out of the bushes.  You’re seated in the back seat of the car and the Beatles are hiding down on the floor at three o’clock in the morning going god-knows-where, being protected from god-knows what!  You begin to have a slight realization of what mankind is about.  And you don’t really quite like it.  And at the same time you can’t help it because you’re part of it.

It’s like being in the army.  You know the sense of being in the army and you’ve got a uniform on, you’re walking around like other people—and yet, you’re not part of them.  I wonder whether or not anyone has ever recorded that one facet of army life—that when you’re in the army, the other people are totally unreal—the civilians seem like another race.  And that’s the way it is with the Beatles.  Today the world is like Mars to the Beatles.  They’re the only real thing.  Just four of them sitting there.  eating a steak, drinking a beer—and it’s all brought to them.  They’re never allowed to walk on the street—like normal people.  They’re never allowed to even look out of the window—it’ll cause riots.  How would you like that fantastic sense of power that all you had to do is go to the window and say “Kill each other,” and the knives would come out!  That’s exactly what they do, and they do it often.

Once in a while, sitting around there in their T-shirts, they will get a little bored, and outside you hear the rock and roll roaring around, and suddenly Lennon, or maybe Paul, will get up:  “Ya like a li’l excitement?”

And Ringo says, “Uh!”  That’s Ringo’s total vocabulary.  Not one of the brighter people.  But he’s sweet, girls.  I wish I could tell you the real story of the Beatles.  Ringo goes “Uh!”

And then Paul goes up to the window.  He says, “Watch this.”   He has maybe, a potato chip—anything that’s just an ordinary little piece of nothing—a cigar butt—he’s got a paper cup.  He says, “Watch this.”  He looks out of the window, he just peeks out a little bit—they have drawn shades, and everybody is out there, the whole city of Glasgow is out there.  Millions of them.

And just five minutes before—you have any idea the kind of madness this thing is?  Because we’re sitting in this tiny little dressing room, sweaty, hot, show-biz, these are rock and roll performers you know, and they’re very simple, very earthy, basic people, just like show-biz people everywhere.  They don’t read, they just sit there and there’s a little knock on the door.  And one of them looks up and says, “’o’s there?”

The door opens just a crack and it’s one of their managers.  He says, “Excuse me, Paul.  The Lord Mayor of Glasgow is here.  The Lord Mayor.”

Ringo turns to Paul.

John spits—ptooi!

Then somebody says, “Let ‘im in!”

The little Lord Mayor comes in.  Remember, this is the Lord Mayor of the city of Glasgow.  He comes in with his hat in his hand.  “Are you the Beatles?”

And they say, “Ay, we’re the Beatles.  Who are you?”

In a whisper, in a trembling voice, he says, “I’m the Lord Mayor of Glasgow.”

“Ah, politician, ay?”

“Yes, yes.”

“We’ve got to get back to work.”

He says, “Thank you for letting me in.”  And the door closes.

What kind of madness is this!


And then we’re in Dundee, which is a town on the coast of Scotland, and it’s a hard, rough, fisherman’s town.  I’m not in town five minutes when I’m walking past this little store and the window is filled with knives, millions of tough, rough-looking knives, and I’m curious.  It didn’t impress me as a juvenile delinquent-sort of town, it looked like 42nd Street.  But these are really big, bone-handled knives.  Real toad-stickers, so I go into this place.  I figure I’m going to get myself a real souvenir of this town.  Something that I can use back home.

I go in and there’s this little lady and her daughter and they are totally unused to seeing an American.  Americans do not come to Dundee, especially in the off-season, and especially they don’t come to what appears to be a little second-rate army and navy store where they have a collection of old maces from the Crusades left over.  That’s the way with the British Isles—you can find some great surplus there.

I asked her what the knives in the window are for.  “I’d like to look at the knives.”

“For killing sharks.  The fishermen here use them for sharks.”

So I bought myself a knife, a great big toad-sticker that comes with a leather sheath, and I walked out of the store and I was a little embarrassed by this thing.  They hardly wrap anything here.  Walking down the street, I didn’t go twenty feet and a man came running right at me wearing high rubber boots and he had a toad-sticker that went down to his kneecap..clunk, clunk, clunk, he walked past me.  Great big Scottish shark fisherman.  They fish for shark livers here.  You could smell them a mile away.  He walked past and my eyes clouded up.

You ought to hear a Scotsman swear.  It honest-to-god sounds like a fantastic symphony.  I’ve never hear creative swearing like you hear a Scotsman.  I sat in the back of a Scottish taxi in Glasgow, which is one of the toughest cities in the Western world and we were going through side streets and this guy kept up a steady stream of stuff, all in Scottish, and somehow, when it came out with those rolling “r”s it sounded cute.  That’s the way you drive a cab in that town.

So now you’ve got an idea of what Dundee is like.  Rough, tough, you see.  And I’m here with the Beatles.  They’re playing this little theater with about three-thousand seats in it that’s bigger than the town.  The Beatles have arrived.  The fishermen are coming in, big guys with boots and funny hats, with the knives and stuff.  They’re clomping in.

And now we’re in the dressing room in Dundee.  A very strange thing for an American to get inside of this life.  Most of us Americans are rarely admitted to this kind of a world.  The Beatles are sitting in their dressing room, waiting for their dinner, you can hear millions of Scottish kids screaming outside, just where the sea begins.  Just a steady beat, you can just hear it coming in, the rain coming down, you can hear the toad-stickers clanking out there.  All of the strange, surrealistic world, and I just wondered what it was all about.  Have you ever had these moments when everything seems so unreal, that if you were to walk across the room and to float six inches over the carpet, it wouldn’t surprise you?  I couldn’t put anything together.

I had only been out of America about three days and now I’m in the back room of a ramshackle old theater in Dundee, Scotland.  And you can smell the oatmeal.  The Scots live on oatmeal and they drink Scotch whiskey.  They really do drink it!  When you walk through the streets, you can smell it everywhere.  You’re stepping over it all the time.  They really put it away and the Beatles are sitting there and they’re passing it around in paper cups.  We’re in Scotland.  I’m trying to get my bearings and there’s a knock at the door.

Now get this scene.  This is the Beatles in Dundee, Scotland.  This is an ancient part of the British Empire.  There’s a knock at the door and one of the Beatles says, “’o’s there?”

And I hear another little knock, and it’s the secret knock, which says it’s okay, open up.

Lennon goes over and he takes the door and he just sort of peaks out and there is one of their managers, who says, “A countess is here.”

And Lennon turns to the other Beatles and he says, “A countess.”

And Ringo says, “Let ‘er in.  Let’s take a look at her.”

I’m thinking, “A countess is coming to see this!“  And sure enough, the door opens and in comes this magnificent woman—she really looks exactly the way you think a regal countess should look.  She’s dressed in furs, she’s tall, thin, she has a peculiar kind of ring on.  And she walks in, and behind her are two ladies-in-waiting and a tiny chauffer wearing a little black hat and black puttees.

I’m standing there watching this.  My god!  I had the terrible feeling of being an eavesdropper on something I shouldn’t have seen.

The countess comes in—and here are the Beatles all with their shirts off.  One is sitting there with his shoes off, picking his toes.  I’m telling you the truth.  I’m not inventing it.

They’re all sitting and not one of them gets up as the countess comes in with her furs trailing behind her, and you could just hear the sound of the medieval trumpets rising—it was the British Empire!  She stands in the middle of the room.

Nobody says a word until finally, Paul says, “I ‘ear you’re a countess.”

She says, “Yes, I am a countess, yes, yes.  Are you the Beatles?”

Ringo belts John in the short ribs, “Get this—are we the Beatles?  Is she putting ya on?”  With their hair all Beatle-style, like asking Santa if he’s Santa Claus.

I wonder, “When are they going to ask her to sit down or something?”  Here they are, they’re shoving potato chips in their mouths, one guy’s got a piece of fish hanging out, they’re belting down the Scotch, and she finally says, “We have driven all the way over from the castle to see you, and I’m so delighted that you’ve allowed us to come by today.  I love your work.”

Ringo says, “Uh?”

She says, “Yes, we play your records at the castle all the time.”

And I could hear it—rock and roll booming out through the castle!  You just don’t want to think these things.

There’s a long, pregnant pause and Lennon, who is the most civilized of the Beatles, suddenly comes to and says, “Sit down, sit down, countess, sit down.”

And she sits down.  You ever see a countess sit?  All the Beatles are watching her sit down, and her furs go down and they see her special ring displayed.

She says, “Which Beatle are you?”

The Beatle in question says, “George, like in King….”

She laughs.  She says, “Yes, how funny!”

Then Lennon says to her, “Are you a real countess?”

She says, “Yes, I am.”

Paul says, “Where’s the count?”

“Well, he didn’t come tonight.”

We wait for a moment.  It is one of those great moments of classical human behavior.  It sort of hangs there for a second.

Then Lennon says to her, “What kind of castle do ya live in?”

“Well, it’s a very big one.  It’s called Glamis Castle.”

glamis castle 1

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle is the oldest of all the great castles in the British Isles—and she’s talking to four Englishmen, remember that.

One of them says, “Glamis?  Where’s that?”

She says, “Well, you turn left at the road out here and turn at Route 7 and you continue—you can’t miss it, you know.  It’s a big castle.”

McCartney says, “How many rooms does it have?”

She turns to her lady-in-waiting and says, “Lady Barbara, that would be in your department.  How many rooms do we have?”

Lady Barbara thinks for a second and she says, “I believe, two-hundred thirty-eight.”

Paul says, “You got plenty of room for your relatives, haven’t ya?”

She says, “Yes, we have lots of rooms.”

Lennon then comes back with a question that is a pure American question.  “When was it built?  How old is it?”

She says, “I believe it was started in ten-sixty-seven.”

Ten-sixty-seven!  And I’m listening to this fantastic story of the British Empire unfolding, right out here before me.

The countess finally speaks.  You can see she is the master of all difficult situations.  This is the thing that sets the aristocracy apart and above us.  She doesn’t know how to end the conversation, but she finally says, “You’ll have to come and visit me.   Why don’t all of you come to the castle?”

Paul said, “That ain’t a bad idea!  We’re staying in a motel tonight.”

Immediately the poor countess can see four drunken Beatles arriving at four in the morning with eight million fans in Glamis Castle.  She says, “That would be lovely.  May I have your autographs?”

beatles autogrphs

And one after another they sign their names.  That’s the end of it.  She walks to the door and the Beatles, not once getting up with their fish and chips, their gin going, slugging away their Scotch, as she gets to the door, one of them says, “Countess, have you eaten?  Would you like something to eat?”


Glamis Castle Dining Room

She says, “It looks very good.”  And out she goes to the sound of more trumpets.

I sit there and I’m an American and I shouldn’t have seen this.  Somehow it doesn’t seem right that I should see a thing like this.

Was she slumming—or were the Beatles slumming?  It is very hard to tell.  She went out and walked down the hallway.  And Paul said to John, “You know, you guys, that was a real countess!”  And John said, “Yes, I’ve seen countesses before.  They always wear coats like that.”  And Ringo went “Uh!”  And that was the total discussion of the countess and her life.

End of Part 2




  1. Tom says:

    The Beatles episodes rank among my all-time favorite Shep programs. Wonderful insights and re-enacted dialogue; and of course Shep works the subtle sarcasm like a Stradivarius. Can’t wait to hear about the Whoopie Club!

  2. Steve says:

    Now docked at Hoorn. Today’s fun (but obscure) Shepherd fact: Shep’s friend Flick (whose actual nickname was Jackie) raised two daughters, who had been given the same names as the boyhood pals, Jean and Jackie.

  3. Steve says:

    Now docked at Arnhem (as in “A Bridge Too Far”). Today’s fun (but obscure) Shepherd fact: The second wife of Shep’s Old Man was a much younger woman who had been employed by the New Deal’s National Youth Administration (“NYA”).

  4. Steve says:

    Now docked at Amsterdam. Today’s fun (but obscure) Shepherd fact: Although Shep never served overseas during WWII, his brother Randy served in the Pacific theater.

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