QUESTION: John Lennon once said that, as a band, as players, he considered the Beatles to be "just average." What do you think?
JACKIE LOMAX: No, he was wrong. Before the Beatles were writing original material, of course, they were playing other people's material. They were the first band I ever heard onstage that sounded like a record. They used to do Buddy Holly tunes, for instance, and they would have the harmonies down I great and this was very hard to do, early on. The concept of harmony wasn't really the thing. It was sing "Hound Dog" at the top of your range, or something like that. But they would have great harmony and george Harrison - who was the youngster at the time - would learn the guitar solo exactly. And it really did sound like the record. People thought it was incredible and they liked to dance to it. It was all dancing in those days, see? People didn't sit around so much and watch the band. They danced all the time and if they liked it and enjoyed themselves, they clapped. If they didn't, they's just stand there and stare at you and maybe throw things. Because Liverpool was a rough time, a rough town to play.
QUESTION: When Brian Epstein took over managing the Beatles and they later had their first hit with "Love Me Do" and they became a national sensation, did the other Liverpool groups like the Undertakers believe the same or should happen for them too?
LOMAX: I thought that was great for them, but I'm not sure we felt that was going to have a trickle-down effect. Yet we would be offered more money to go play somewhere just because we were a Liverpool band. And people thought that there was some special kind of music, something new, coming out of there. But it wasn't new, really. The German promoters came over to check out what we were doing and said, "The Beatles have got a record coming out. We're not going to be able to get them as many times as we'd like. Could you come over and play?" This was a direct result to the Beatles putting out a record. In four and a half years of touring, we covered the whole of England, Scotland, and Wales. We did every gig there was to do. We had some great times, did some great gigs. Certain nights we can be remembered forever. That's the important part of music. We had no idea about business. It came to us having a chance to go to New York in 1965, and by doing that we kind of broke up the band. Because the guy who made us the offer asked us not to get any gigs. We stopped giggling for awhile and our manager was paying us a wage each month. We had no concept of what we were doing, I don't think anybody did in those days. We went to our manager and asked him to split up the money among us that we's made over the past four and a half years and, of course, he said, "Well, there isn't any."
QUESTION: How did you become a solo artist and how did your association with Apple records come about?
LOMAX: I met Cilla Black at a party and she said, "Brian Epstein's looking for you." Well, Brian was a big name, this was 1966. I said, "Well, where is he?" She told me and I got in touch with him. He said, "I'm looking for a solo singer. Are you interested?" You got to be a fool to say no! The was the biggest guy in the world right now. So I said, "I have a band here right now. Come down and see us rehearse. If you like the band, take the band. And if you don't like the band, I'll go with you anyway. No problem." We were rehearing in some cheesy, funky dance studio on Eighth Avenue in New York and he actually agreed to come down and hear us. When I think about it now, to get Brian Epstein to come hear a band rehearse, it was like impossible. Why I didn't think it was impossible, I don't know. Anyway, he came and he liked us. We went back to London and started doing gigs there. we were called the Lomax Alliance. That's when Epstein had the Saville Theatre, we played it. That's where Hendrix made his debut, Cream, all this stuff going on. It was a great time. But then, of course, Brian died. We had recorded an album, produced by John Simon, with all original songs, but it was never released. I don't think it was a great album, but we had all started writing.
QUESTION: What happened after Brian died? As far as you were concerned?
LOMAX: He left me as a legacy to NEMS Enterprises, his company which was run by Robert Stigwood. And Stigwood wasn't particularly impressed with me. So I couldn't get an album out. He gave me a chance for a single, provided I record a Bee Gees song on the B-side, which I did. I put out a single, written by an American, called "Genuine Imitation Life." And the other side was "One Minute Woman" by the Bee Gees, my version. Nobody knew what to do with it. I don't think it was released over here. So I was kind of hanging around, waiting for something to happen.
QUESTION: That was when George Harrison suggested you do a solo album, with him producing?
LOMAX: Right, but he told me he just wanted to produce it, not talk to the press about it or anything. We came to Los Angeles and stayed in Zsa Zsa Gabor's house in Beverly Hills, which was great for me. We recorded seven tracks here with great musicians. Hal Blaine played drums, Joe Osbourne played bass, and then there was me and George messing about as well. I played guitar on all of them, but George would play the significant guitar and overdub all the lead stuff. The title cut was "Is This What You Want," and Larry Knetchtel's piano is great on that. We did some stuff back in London, too. Clapton did five tracks with us. Which was, to me, incredibly generous. I knew Eric quite well, but I could not have used my influence to get him into the studio to record with me. George could, of course. So it was a great opportunity for me and I'm still very appreciative of that. Eric was great, he worked for hours. We had Ringo on drums, Paul played bass on one thing, this was going on during the same time the Beatles were recording the White Album. So George might say, "We'll work on your songs." Well, of course, it would run over and I'd be sitting there hearing stuff that was blowing my mind. The White Album is very special to me because I was at a lot of those sessions. I was there for "Revolution" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and I actually sing on "Dear Prudence." When the Beatles say to you, "why don't you come out here and sing?" it's like, all of a sudden, you ain't got no voice! I ended up singing really low, which is unusual for me. I've got a high voice. It works good on the record. We were trying to get a single to break out for me. "Sour Milk Tea" was released at the same time as "Hey Jude" and the Mary Hopkin song, "Those Were the Days," so mine didn't get much notice. I did a song with Mal Evans called "New Day Dawning." It was added to the album later on a second release. I was quite proud of that. George came back from India and put some great guitar work on it. I even did a session with Paul as a producer when George was away. He picked the Drifters song "Thumbin' a Ride" for me. But that song was never released. George also came up with this tune written by Mickey Most's brother : "How the Web Was Woven." We had Leon Russell involved in that, who I was quite fond of. He played almost all the instruments on that. Later on Elvis Presley recorded it and he must have used my record for the demo, because I don't think anybody else did it but me.
QUESTION: How did things wind up with Apple?
LOMAX: Allen Klein had taken over and nobody knew what the hell was going on. I tried to get in to see him three times, but each time it was canceled. So I joined a blues band called Heavy Jelly. We went on the road and I wrote up a bunch of new tunes in the blues vein. And it was fun! During that period I received a letter from Jackie Simon and he said, "I'm living in Woodstock and I have all these musicians, but no singers. Can you get over here?" Well, that's a big question, right? So, I ended up in Woodstock with Jackie Simon and this record deal with Warner Brothers cropped up. I met the Band, Bob Dylan, all those people. I ended up producing the first Warners album myself, which was a heavy responsibility at the time. Simon worked on the second one. I felt good because I was touring nationally, mostly clubs. But I really like clubs, it's much more of an intimate atmosphere than theaters. Touring was good for me, because it gave me a perspective of this country.
QUESTION: Why did you choose the life of musician when you surely knew that unless success happened for you that was something like what happened with the Beatles, your life would be full of uncertainties and insecurities?
LOMAX: My life has always been insecure. But I come from a very poor background. But even in that, there is a kind of security, maybe not a monetary security, but more of a spiritual one. Do you know what I'm saying? You know that's what you're supposed to be doing. That sometimes frightens people. Especially your old lady, who's telling you to get a job. If it's not your mother, it's your old lady. You've got to have a sense of humor, it's very important to keep laughing.
© THE LOST BEATLES INTERVIEWS