Sometimes tall tales have to be believed, just because they are so ridiculous.
This adventure really happened to me, sometime in late 1979 or early 1980.
My brother, Phil, was doing some session work with a London musician called Mick Dorey. He had a single out called Paranoia Station by Mick Dorey and The Sirens and Phil was adding guitar to some new songs for an album which I don’t think ever saw the light of day.
The single and album were being produced by a friend of ours (who later had some good production success in the States) and this friend was also doing some engineering work at a studio in Ascot, Berkshire. I knew nothing about this last bit at the time.
One night, Phil rang to ask me to pick him up.
“I’m blagging some free studio time in Ascot, while everyone is away. Can you come and drop me back at the station?” I agreed and wrote down the address.
This was in the days before sat-nav and mobile phones so I had to get a map out and plan a route from where I lived, in Surrey, about ten miles away.
I remember that it was chucking it down and, unfamiliar with the area, it took me a while to find the address. I turned in off the main road, through the open gates, and pulled up in front of the house. At this point, I still hadn’t made the connection with the address.
I knocked on the front door – and nothing happened. I knocked again and saw a light come on in the hallway. The door was opened by a long-haired bloke wearing a tie-dye t-shirt and jeans.
“Yeah?” he said.
“Hi, I’m picking up my brother, Phil.”
“Phil. He’s a guitar player. He’s working in the studio.” There was a long pause whilst, let’s call him Roadie 1, digested this information.
“Oh, yeah.” He stood aside and pointed to an open door, on the left of the hall.
“Wait in there, mate.” I nodded, wiped my feet on the mat and walked across the hallway, into a dark room lit only by a huge, flickering television. I could see, in the shadows, another long-haired guy in a tie-dye t-shirt and jeans, sitting at one end of a large sofa, in front of the television. I sat down at the other end of the sofa. I had no idea if I should speak (I was a spotty, nervous 22 year old who had no idea what he had walked into) or not.
Roadie 1 came back into the room and sat in a chair near the door.
“He says ten minutes,” Roadie 1 grunted. I looked over at him, to see if he was talking to me but he was staring at the TV. Now that my eyes had got used to the light I could see that the TV was in the corner of a large room, in front of some floor to ceiling curtains. I still didn’t realise where I was.
Then, the door opened again. Framed in the doorway was a man with shoulder length hair. He looked straight at me and then at Roadie 1. He gestured to Roadie 1 to come out into the hallway. As he stepped back I could see that he had strawberry blonde hair and wore a burgundy corduroy jacket, a white shirt and blue jeans. But the most striking thing about him was the huge, multi-coloured, knitted scarf he had wrapped round his neck and hanging down to his knees.
What looked like a fairly heated, but whispered exchange, was now taking place. Scarf Man kept pointing at me and then pointing at Roadie 1. I began to feel even more uncomfortable.
Roadie 1 came back into the room and Scarf Man disappeared.
“Sorry, man. You’ve got to go.” I looked at him and he shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head back towards the door.
“Can I wait out in the car?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said as he hustled me to the front door. I saw a flash of colour and looked up the staircase to see Scarf Man peering down. He disappeared as soon as he saw me looking up.
I sat in the car, the rain pounding on the roof of the rusty Mk II Cortina, for another 20 minutes, staring at the name of the house on the wall next to me. Tittenhurst Park.
Then, just as Phil banged on the back door, slung his guitar case onto the back seat and jumped in the front, it came to me.
“ Fuck me,” I said, “This was Lennon’s house, the one in Imagine.”
“’Course it is,” Phil said. “It’s Ringo’s now.” I turned to my brother,
“Is he here? Now?” I said, grabbing his arm.
“Nah, they’ve all buggered off up to London. That’s how we got some free time.”
I drove towards Ascot Station, exchanging family chit-chat with Phil. As he got his guitar case out of the back of the car I said,
“Who was the bloke with the scarf?” Phil grinned, as he began to close the door.
“The Producer, Terry Melcher. Bit of a knob.”
As I drove home, the enormity of the various drops of information began to dawn on me.
So, I was thrown out of Ringo Starr’s house, from the room where Lennon played the white piano in the Imagine video, by the son of Doris Day, a man who was convinced that he had been the original target for the Charles Manson killings, because he had been the previous tenant of the house where Sharon Tate was murdered.
40 years later, that still makes me grin.