One music exec's spiritual journeySteve Hammer
Not many people can say they were there when the Beatles performed their rooftop concert at the Apple Records headquarters in 1969. Even fewer can talk about their lunches with Paul McCartney, their surreal business meetings with John Lennon and Yoko Ono or their spiritual discussions with George Harrison. Ken Mansfield, left, with Paul McCartney in 1969.
But Ken Mansfield, former U.S. manager of the Beatles' Apple Records, most definitely can. His new book, The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay, traces his three decades in the music business, his association with the Fab Four and his own personal spiritual journey.
As the head of his own ministry, Mansfield travels the country speaking to church congregations about the Beatles and the Bible. He'll be in town Friday, June 4 at the Speedway United Methodist Church, 5065 W. 16th St., for a 5:30 p.m. presentation.
Mansfield was a 20-something promotions manager at Capitol Records in Hollywood when he first encountered the Beatles in 1965. "We just hit it off," he said. "I was a young guy who was starting to let his hair grow, and everybody else they encountered at EMI and Capitol were gray-haired guys in suits. So they were working with a young executive who was kind of like them."
His friendship with the group deepened over the next few years. "So when they decided to set up their record company, Apple Records, they sent for me and I went over to London and helped set it up for them over there," he said.
Mansfield also helped each of the Beatles with personal matters in America. "If Paul wanted to sneak in the country, or George's wife wanted to come to America to do some shopping, I'd take care of it for them," he said.
In that capacity, he was one of about a dozen observers on the Apple Records rooftop during the Beatles' final live performance on Jan. 30, 1969. "We knew something special was happening that day," he said. "Nobody said that this was their last time, or that it's over. But when it started, I felt this very personal sense that it was special. All of us there knew something. It was only later that we realized how historical it was."
He was in the studio with the Beatles during the rest of the Let It Be sessions in London. "The tapes were just stacked from the floor to the ceiling, because tape was rolling the entire time," he said. Mansfield said he cried when he heard Let It Be Naked, the 2003 reissue of songs from those sessions, because "I was thrown back to when this was being done. This was the album as it was intended. It brought me back to the time when I was sitting on the floor of the studio next to Billy Preston."
A discussion Mansfield had with George Harrison about vegetarianism in the early 1970s launched Mansfield into a decade-long exploration of New Age philosophies and practices which ended with him devoting his life and work to Jesus Christ.
"I knew that I wanted the real truth, the final truth and that came to me in the form of Christianity," he said. "God had a purpose for the Beatles and he had a reason for me being with them, and I think that reason was for me to be out there on the road with my ministry right now," he said.
During his talk, Mansfield shows exclusive footage of himself with the Beatles and discusses the group along with his own spiritual beliefs. He said he appreciates the irony of talking in churches about a group whose records were once burned as being anti-Christian.
In 1966, Lennon was quoted as saying the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus," a statement that led to death threats, boycotts and bonfires of Beatles discs. "John was just making a point and I think he was misunderstood on that," Mansfield said. "He was saying there was a problem with the youth at that time because they were worshipping the Beatles instead of Jesus, and that was wrong. He wasn't saying Jesus was the answer, however, just that it was something to think about."
The anti-Beatles sentiment continues to this day among some Christians, he said. "I've had people accuse me of being the reason they were a drug addict for 20 years," he said. "Some people are really mad about the Beatles and what they did and how they were such a bad influence. But others stand up and say what a positive influence the Beatles were on their lives."
For more information on Mansfield and his book, visit www.fabwhitebook.com. For more information on his appearance at Speedway United Methodist Church, call 241-1563.