Jimmie Nicol – Not Getting Better all the Time

Jimmie Nicol at the airport
Jimmie Nicol at the airport

Some photographs don’t need much of an explanation. The above photo of Jimmie Nicol says everything; 300,000 people screaming to sitting alone in a matter of days.

On their last few hours together, the five Beatles headed back inside for their next interview with the waiting journalists. As with the first interview, the banter between John, Paul, George and Ringo was as funny as ever, with Ringo prominent throughout. It was as if Nicol was the invisible Beatle; Ringo was back and all was good, except for Jimmie Nicol. At one point, a reporter asks him about his plans while the other Beatles are still being interviewed. He is quickly shut down.

On reflection, Nicol was asked about how he was treated and how he felt sitting in for Ringo in the biggest group on the planet. “After Ringo returned, they changed. It was like welcoming a close member of the family back. They treated me with nothing but respect as a musician. And I think they thought I was very good. John once told me I was better than Ringo but that I just missed the ship. When I was on the plane back to London, I felt like a bastard child being sent back home from a family that didn’t want me. When you have had the best, you can’t accept anything else.”

Interview with Jimmie Nicol
Interview with Jimmie Nicol

Under Curfew

The Beatles were under curfew, instigated by Brian, and overseen by Derek Taylor and Mal Evans. However, it was Nicol’s last night in Australia, and he wasn’t going to abide by any curfew. After all, he had sneaked out before and had fun, going mostly unrecognised. This time, it was different. He had only been out for a short time when Taylor and Evans turned up at the bar, grabbed Nicol and took him back to the hotel. After all, he was still a Beatle! Everything had changed, because not only had Ringo arrived, but Brian Epstein as well. Nicol’s short career with The Beatles ended not in a blaze of glory, but a mild whimper. 

Back Home – Hello, Goodbye

On 15th June 1964, Brian took Jimmie to the airport before he could even say goodbye to the Fab Four, who were still in bed. If ever there was a photograph that needed no caption, it was the one of Jimmie sitting all alone in a near empty airport with nobody paying any attention to him. How things had changed in just a matter of days. When asked about that photograph, and if he felt lonely, Nicol said: “That’s a beautiful picture. Well, if you look at that photograph, that answers your question.” (Evert Vermeer) No words were needed.

However, a TV reporter spotted him, and Nicol gave his final interview as a Beatle, reflecting on his exploits in Australia. He was asked, in a different way, the same question about what he would do next. “Well I hope to do something that I want to do. Now there might be a possibility that I might be able to do something….maybe earn enough money to study in America. That is what I want to do, is study drums in America and American music. And learn to arrange.” (The Beatle Who Vanished)

With Brian sitting nearby, the television interviewer brings him into shot to say an awkward ‘thank you’ on camera to Nicol. “I’d just like to say to you Jimmie that The Beatles and I are very, very grateful for everything you have done. You carried out a fine job for us and we’re very, very pleased. We hope you have a great trip back to London and every success to you in the future.” Jimmie’s response? “Thank you very much Brian.” It looked and sounded staged, broadcasting an obvious lack of emotion between the two men. In front of the camera, they were both professional, but Nicol, like so many people who featured in the story of The Beatles, had his part to play and then retired to virtual anonymity.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

In his interview with Teutsch, Nicol reflected on his time with The Beatles.

T: “Did you ever see them after the tour?”

JN: “I had a band (The Shubdubs) and Brian put us on the same bill with The Beatles and the Fourmost one night (12 July 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton). Backstage, we talked, but the wind had changed since we last saw each other. They were pleasant.”

T: “Why do you think you were forgotten after all this?”

JN: “When the fans forget, they forget forever. After the Beatles thing was over for me, I played around for a few years then got away from the music scene. I mean, when you’ve played with the best, the rest is just, well, the rest.”

T: “Any regrets?”

JN: “None. Oh, after the money ran low, I thought of cashing in in some way to other. But the timing wasn’t right. And I didn’t want to step on The Beatles’ toes. They had been damn good for me and to me.”  

SHUBDUBS, LIVERPOOL, SPOTNIKS, MEXICO………

When he returned home, he formed a band, The Shubdubs, who had a couple of singles, but not much success. He joined Swedish group The Spotniks, who had international hit albums and tours, when he ended up, after a disagreement, stranded in Mexico, where he stayed for a while, working on a number of projects, before coming out of hiding in 1984 in a Beatles Unlimited show in Holland. It was 20 years since Jimmie had played there with The Beatles. Nicol got up on stage with a local group, and promised a book would follow. It never did.

Jimmy Nicol in 1984
Jimmy Nicol in 1984 copyright Guus Kok

This is an excerpt from “Finding the Fourth Beatle”

How did The Beatles remember Jimmie? His phrase on tour with them, when they asked how he was doing, replied; “Getting Better”, as commemorated in the Beatles song.

And Jimmie has disappeared. Jim Berkenstadt, author of The Beatle Who Vanished, is now taking Jimmie’s story to the big screen, which is some story; looking forward to that!

However, if you know where Jimmie Nicol is, let us all know please??????

David Bedford

Get your copy of Finding the Fourth Beatle at www.thefourthbeatle.com

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Author: David Bedford

David Bedford grew up in The Dingle, attended the primary school that Ringo Starr did, before moving to Penny Lane, where his three daughters attended Dovedale Primary School, where John Lennon and George Harrison had previously attended.His first book, "Liddypool" was published in 2009, now in its third edition. His second book, "The Fab one hundred and Four" was published in 2013, and his third book, "Finding the Fourth Beatle" was published in 2018. He was also the Associate Producer and Beatles historian for the documentary feature film, "Looking for Lennon".He is working on several other projects at the moment,

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