Back in 2008, The Official Ferrari Magazine interviewed Eric Clapton. Despite being widely regarded as God by music fans in the 1960s, Clapton was still in awe of The Beatles, and one in particular.
‘My mate George Harrison came round to my house, Hurtwood Edge, not long after I moved there,’ Clapton remembered. ‘Around 1969, I guess. He was a man with a great sense of style, he was good to watch; you know, what’s he going to buy next? Up till then, he’d been buying Mercedes Pullmans.
‘And then he pulled up in this sports car and I’d never seen one in the flesh. It was a Ferrari 365 GTC. Dark blue, with a tan interior. And it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.’
The Beatles were all car enthusiasts. Your correspondent once had a whole weekend in an Aston Martin DB6 previously owned by Paul McCartney: the story was that he’d begun humming the melody for Hey Jude while driving it. Ringo Starr had a Mini converted by an English coachbuilder called Radford, so that he could load his drum kit into the back. He also owned a rather more imperious Facel Vega, but it’s unlikely he used that to ferry his kit about.
The so-called “quiet Beatle”, Harrison wasn’t the only member of the quartet to own a Ferrari. In fact, the 330 GT, owned from new by John Lennon, was sold at the Bonham’s Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in 2013 for £359,900 (€420,700).
There’s a good story attached to that one, too. Lennon passed his driving test at the height of Beatlemania, whereupon his home in Weybridge, Surrey was besieged by every luxury car dealer in England. The gentleman from Ferrari demonstrated the greatest amount of initiative by turning up in the 330 GT, a relatively recent addition to the model range and one, crucially for a new father, that featured 2+2 seating.
In other words, Lennon could justify it as family transport for wife Cynthia and infant son Julian. However, he was also swayed by the blu azzurro paint, and duly took delivery of the car in February 1965. The 330 GT remained in his possession until October 1967, which raises the tantalising prospect of the Ferrari being one of Lennon’s primary modes of transport during the recording of the group’s most celebrated album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Widely regarded as the first ‘concept’ album in music history, Sgt Pepper’s was released on 1 June 1967, and is being re-released in a variety of intriguing forms to tie in with its 50th anniversary. This includes the addition of two of the most loved songs in The Beatles’ canon, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane; both were recorded in November 1966, as part of the album sessions, but EMI pressured The Beatles into releasing the songs as a standalone double A-side single, in February 1967.
Brian Epstein, the group’s manager, was startled when the release failed to top the chart, the first Beatles single in four years not to manage the feat, and the songs were dropped from the Pepper running order. Producer George Martin later admitted this was ‘the biggest mistake of my professional life’.
It’s a “mistake” his son Giles has now sought to rectify, with new stereo mixes of the original album and previously unheard mixes drawn from the sessions.