Monday, 10 August 2015

Beryl Bryden meets the Beatles in Barcelona

Paul McCartney and unknown lady at the Beatles' hotel room in Barcelona. Photo: Juana Biarnés
Beryl Audley Bryden (11 May 1920 – 14 July 1998) was an English jazz singer and washboard player, who played with Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Ella Fitzgerald once said of Bryden that she was "Britain's queen of the blues". Bryden joined the Chris Barber band on washboard, and played on the group's gold disc earning, "Rock Island Line" in 1955 with Lonnie Donegan on vocals. She made her last recording in 1998, shortly before her death. Beryl Bryden died in 1998 at the age of 78.
In August 1965, she wrote a piece in British music paper New Musical Express (issue # 970, August 13, 1965) about her encounter with the Beatles in Barcelona on July 3, 1965:

The clipping also included a photo of Beryl with the Beatles in their hotel room in Barcelona.
Beatles remembered Beryl's washboard.
«The Beatles may be off to America this week, but it'll be a long long time before I forget the time I met them on another part of their world travels!»
«I was appearing in Barcelona, when I was invited to the press conference before their recent show at the main bull ring. I was sure I hadn't met the Beatles before, so you can imagine how amazed I was when they saw me and shouted: "Hi Beryl, where's your washboard?" Seems they remembered me from their old days in Hamburg, when I dropped in to see their show after a jazz concert.»

«It really was fun, that press conference. A lady journalist was trying to interview Paul even though she didn't speak English, so he was using Spanish! He seems to know it quite well.»
John and Paul
«The boys just seem to live music – it was going all the time, what with John, Paul or George playing the guitar – or Nina Simone or the Byrds on the record player.»

«At their hotel after the evening show, John got me to sing "Movin' On" to his guitar accompaniment, then Paul played some flamenco. But they kept asking me to play my washboard and after a while I made a 20-minute dash to my hotel just to get it. It was a session too good to miss!»

«It kind of worked out skiffle and blues, with George and Paul on guitars, John on the harmonica and Ringo playing maracas. I played the washboard, and an unknown spectator worked out on the spoons!»

«I guess it was about 5am when I left – nine and a half hours in which the marvellous Beatles really warmed my heart and I left thinking what charming, natural, humourous and down-to-earth people they are.»

According to a Spanish news report, the party was broken up by Brian Epstein, who had received complaints from the hotel's management about the noise coming from the Beatles' living room.  The Beatles shared three rooms at the Hotel Avenida Palace, with two Beatles sharing bedrooms, occupying rooms 109 and 110. These were both adjacent to room 111, which served as a living room, accessible from both bedrooms.

The Beatles Suite, room 111 at Hotel Avenida Palace. Photo: Marcel·Lí Sàenz
Room 111 is now "The Beatles Suite", decorated with about fifty photographs, magazine covers, articles, posters, reports and official documents and even a replica of the bass guitar that Paul McCartney used,  a Höfner 500/1 model. You may book the room for between 200 and 450 euros, depending on the hotel season.

Juana Biarnés
Photographer Juana Biarnés was Spain's first female photo journalist. She first took photos of the Beatles during the flight from Madrid to Barcelona, where she had been hiding in the plane's toilet. When she knocked on the hotel room door in Barcelona, Ringo opened and quipped: "You again?", before letting her in. The pictures she took of the Beatles secured her a contract with People magazine.

Barcelona has always been a Beatlesfriendly city. When I, as editor for the Norwegian Wood Beatles fanzine, corresponded with Beatles fan clubs around the world back in the eighties, I was surprised to find that the city of Barcelona had no less than two Beatles fan clubs. I subscribed to a magazine published by one of these clubs for a while, and was astonished by the quality of the full colour magazine "The Beatles' Garden" and the pins they produced for their members. Today, they run a Facebook page.

There's also a Beatles themed bar in Barcelona, "La Garrafa dels Beatles", partly a bar and partly a museum, which opened in 1976.

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