Life moves to a slower beat for Beatles' forgotten drummer
By Jonathan Este in London
May 29, 2004
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/co ... 47,00.html
YOU could say the music stopped for Jimmy Nicol on June 15, 1964.
Just 24 hours earlier he had been on stage with the group destined to become the most successful act in the history of pop music trying to hear himself play the drums above the screams of thousands of teenage girls. Now, with pound stg. 500 and a gold watch in his pocket and a souvenir tour bag on his lap, he was heading home, alone.
For 10 heady days across Europe, Hong Kong and Australia, Nicol had been in the eye of the storm that was Beatlemania, riding in limousines with John, Paul and George, soaking up the adulation, the girls and the parties.
Nicol was the drummer called in at the last minute to replace Ringo Starr, who had come down with tonsilitis days before the Beatles were due to leave London on a tour of Denmark, Holland, Hong Kong and Australia.
If you dig around, you'll find some fragmentary evidence of Nicol's walk-on part in the group's Australian triumph: newsreel of the four arriving in Darwin in the rain on June 11; an interview with disc jockey Bob Rogers at Adelaide Town Hall, during which John says the group's reception in Australia dwarfed even the US.
But several days into the tour, Ringo was getting off a flight in Melbourne ready to rejoin his bandmates for the remainder of their gruelling itinerary: a fortnight of two shows a day in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch and Brisbane.
Nicol, meanwhile, headed home. "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," he told an interviewer in 1987, the last time he spoke publicly about his brush with Beatlemania.
He recorded a single, Husky, which went nowhere much. He married and had a son, Howard, who was to win a prestigious award for his work as sound engineer on a BBC collection of Beatles recordings in the 1990s, spent some time in Sweden, Australia, Mexico, and drifted into obscurity. So where is Jimmy Nicol now?
The Weekend Australian this week tracked him down to a ground-floor flat on the fringe of a north London industrial estate, where he lives as a virtual recluse.
Nicol, estranged from his family for years, has virtually made himself disappear. These days he flatly refuses to talk on the subject of his fleeting fame. "I really don't want to talk about it - I can't remember anything," he said.
Take another look at the photograph of young Nicol, preparing to board the flight and you get a flavour of a comment he was to make more than 20 years later.
"The day before I was a Beatle, not one girl would look me over. The day after ... they were dying just to get a touch of me. Strange and scary all at once. It's hard to describe the feeling but I can tell you it can go to your head. I see why so many famous people kill themselves."