Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jimmie Nicol, The Beatle Who Vanished, Reviewed by Ugly Things Magazine

Ugly Things magazine is a really cool music periodical that covers the "wild sounds from past dimensions." The current summer 2015 issue #39 features a review of my book, The Beatle Who Vanished. The Beatle Who Vanished is the story of an unknown drummer, Jimmie Nicol, whose journey from humble beginnings to saving The Beatles' first world tour from disaster, was only one part of his legend. Though his 13 days of fame made headlines, the true mystery of Nicol's story is riddled with blacklisting, betrayal, drugs, divorce, bankruptcy and an eventual disappearance that led many to question whether he is dead or alive.

Jimmie Nicol in front seat with The Beatles on tour in June, 1964

British Beatles historian, Alan Clayson, has written an enlightening review of the book for the current issue of Ugly Things magazine. Clayson is well known for his books on each of the four Beatles: John, Paul, George & Ringo, as well as books on Roy Orbison and Brian Jones.

(C) 2015 Mike Stax / Ugly Things.

Ugly Things is a really cool magazine. I encourage you to subscribe and to visit their website: 

For a Free Excerpt of The Beatle Who Vanished follow the link. And to purchase either the paperback or eBook of The Beatle Who Vanished, check out: Amazon at this link.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Birth of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins And Garbage at Smart Studios in Madison

How did Nirvana end up in Madison, WI? How did they find Butch Vig? Could the noise-rock band Killdozer be the Midwest's link to the biggest genre shift in rock music history?

Smart Studios was started by Butch Vig and Steve Marker.

Steve, Duke, Shirley & Butch = Garbage

The Smart Studios Story covers the Midwest's post-hardcore scene, the early relationships of now-legendary indie labels (Touch and Go, Caroline, Frontier, Sub Pop, Slash, SST, Alternative Tentacles), and the circulation and broadcast of local music. Butch and Steve helped promote the bands and the shows with community radio airtime and cassette compilations that paralleled those of other regional, indie music disseminators like the Seattle-based Sub Pop Singles Club.

Smart weathered - literally - fires, floods and the foibles of a generation of rockers. The film captures what the space meant to the people who worked there and celebrates the recordings and experiences that, in the words of an interviewee who grew up in Indonesia, made Smart “hallowed ground.”

Check out the new documentary film about Smart Studios, directed by Wendy Schneider and learn how Smart became the "Abbey Road" of the Midwest for Nineties Rock and Roll.

The Madison sound
A selection of albums recorded, or mixed, or both at Smart Studios
Tar Babies: Honey Bubble (1989)
Killdozer: Twelve Point Buck (1989)
Nirvana: Nevermind (1990)
King Snake Roost: Ground Into the Dirt (1990)
Laughing Hyenas: Life of Crime (1990)
Smashing Pumpkins: Gish (1991)
The Young Fresh Fellows: Electric Bird Digest (1991)
L7: Bricks Are Heavy (1992)
Freedy Johnston: This Perfect World (1994)
Everclear: Sparkle and Fade (1994)
Soul Asylum: Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995)
Garbage: Garbage (1995)
The Promise Ring: 30° Everywhere (1996)
Fall Out Boy: Take This to Your Grave (2003)
Death Cab for Cutie: Plans (2005)
Sparklehorse: Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (2006)
Jimmy Eat World: Chase This Light (2007)
Hotel Lights: Firecracker People (2007)


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Beatles 50th Anniversary: How Did Jimmie Nicol Know Ringo Starr's Drum Parts ?

It was 50 years ago this month, that a little known record label named Top Six put out an album of sound-alike Beatles hits to take advantage of England's Beatlemania. The songs were recorded quickly and cheaply at Pye Studios in London. The vocals did not sound much like The Beatles' singing, but that didn't stop the producer from siphoning off a few dollars from unsuspecting teenagers, who thought the album was the real Beatles.

What made this album special was the presence of an excellent drummer named Jimmie Nicol, who had to learn Ringo Starr's drum parts in order to record these songs. At the time, it was just another studio gig that paid well.  However, Nicol grew to respect Starr's drumming technique after learning his parts. He recalls, "I though he was good, innovative, and Ringo was making the drums an interesting instrument for inspiring musicians.  He was probably the first drummer known by name, and to have girls cry their eyes out, to get a touch of!"

Little did Jimmie Nicol know that he would get the chance to step into Ringo Starr's shoes in a few months. He would experience the moments of girls crying and screaming over him and would actually get to put his knowledge of Ringo's drum parts to good use, as he took over in The Beatles at the start of their first world tour in June, 1964.

Read more in: The Beatle Who Vanished, by Jim Berkenstadt (Free Excerpt/ Signed First Editions)
Amazon (Paperback and eBook)
2014 (c) Rock And Roll Detective(r).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jimmie Nicol and the day Kennedy Died

         Jimmie Nicol was a fast rising drummer in late 1963 London. He would soon be recruited by his trumpet-playing friend Johnny Harris into the elite "club" of recording session work. However, on November 22, 1963, Nicol and Harris were taking a cigarette break from a Big Band show in London when their world was turned upside down...

         This is an excerpt from the Amazon Best Seller The Beatle Who Vanished, now available at Amazon in Paperback and as a digital eBook download to any Tablet, Smartphone or PC.

Harris was intrigued by a Rock and Roll drummer who could also play Jazz and Big Band as well as read music. At the time, this was quite uncommon, for players usually picked a field of expertise and stayed within the genre they had chosen. “He was so good,” says Harris of Nicol’s drumming. “And he was as good at Rock and Roll as he was with the jazz music.”[i]  “The songs we played were live with Cyril’s band. They were songs the band had recorded earlier in the 1950s. We just toured around England.”[ii]
By 1963, Nicol had played so many gigs on his old Trixon drum set that it was time to upgrade to a new one. With the steady earnings he was pulling in, Jimmie was comfortable springing for a new, flashier Trixon Luxus set in blue “croco”.  It featured a shiny blue set of drums with a crocodile skin-type design that was an instant eye-catcher.  
Jimmie not only wanted his playing to be the center of attention, but he also wanted the eyes of the audience on his kit![iii]

An event, not easily forgotten, happened one night between Nicol and his trumpet playing pal Johnny Harris. Harris relates the story:
"I’ll never forget one night we were playing at the Lyceum Ballroom
near Covent Garden. It was November 22, 1963. The room was a converted movie theatre they had turned into a ballroom in those big band days. And it still had a back stage door. Jimmie and I walked out during a break in the show to have a cigarette and this stage door man said, ‘Hey, have you heard the news?’ And we said, ‘No, what?’ And he said, ‘President Kennedy has been shot dead.’ We just stood there in silence. We were dumbfounded. It was a terrible shock. So we just wandered around the street hardly talking to each other. We’d just look at each other and shrug our shoulders. It was awful. But you know, that night we just went back and did the job and continued on. But I will never forget how we shared that moment together."[iv]

The moment of sadness and regret shared by these two Big Band musicians created an even greater mutual bond that night. The tragedy in America had deeply impacted these two young British players.  Many Brits and Americans at the time had high hopes that the Kennedy presidency would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. The friendship between Harris and Nicol was solidified as they shared this trauma together, and wondered about the future. Their professional collaborations would soon become even more intertwined, for both musicians were hurtling ahead at light speed toward new career opportunities looming in 1964; a year that would prove to be Jimmie Nicol’s watershed moment as a drummer.

Excerpt from The Beatle Who Vanished (c) 2013 Rock And Roll Detective(r) LLC. All rights of reproduction reserved.

[i] Ibid
[ii] Ibid
[iii] Ingo Winterberg, The Trixon Collection of Ingo Winterberg,  ( publishing 2010), 64
[iv] Harris Interview

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Book About The Beatles Reveals Clues Of Jimmie Nicol On Cover

The Beatle Who Vanished – All About the Book The Cover

Many people have asked Author Jim Berkenstadt about the design origin on the cover of his new Beatles book, The Beatle Who Vanished. Berkenstadt says he wanted to create a visual sense of the urgency of The Beatles having to replace their regular drummer Ringo Starr and find a replacement before leaving on their first world tour in less than 24 hours.

“I started with an idea of using Ringo Starr’s actual 1960s Tom-Tom tour case that traveled-the- world with The Beatles on tour. We took a photo of the case by itself to start,” says Berkenstadt.

Then the author digitally “slapped” a licensed news photo of Jimmie Nicol’s first tryout with The Beatles at EMI Studios, on the front of the tour case. Berkenstadt says, “We used this photo to partially cover Ringo’s stenciled name on the front, and placed masking tape on it, to create the rushed feeling of having to find a replacement drummer - quickly getting him up to speed with The Beatles.” People with a sharp eye for detail will also notice that Berkenstadt digitally moved the TWA luggage sticker to the front of the case to add some color.


“It was a fun visual project”, says Berkenstadt. “I just wanted to create a sense of the pressure in the story and show how Nicol got his ‘15 minutes of fame’.”

The photo of the drum case was taken by Madison, Wisconsin photographer Brian Ebner. The Beatles with Nicol photo is from the archives of © Mirrorpix. And the digital layout was created by Elizabeth Neely Designs in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim Berkenstadt will be appearing along with former Beatles bass player Chas Newby (who wrote the Foreword for the book) at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago August 9-11, 2013.

The Beatle Who Vanished is available at: and Amazon .

(c)2012 Rock And Roll Detective(r) LLC
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Five Things You Didn't Know About Jimmie Nicol and The Beatles

George, Paul, John and Jimmie

1.      Within one year of playing drums with The Beatles, Jimmie Nicol was bankrupt, divorced, unemployed and vanished for the first, but not last, time.
2.      Jimmie Nicol was not just a drummer. He was also a composer, arranger, producer, piano player, singer, A & R man for RCA, a teacher, a carpenter, a badge manufacturer and a radio host.
3.      Jimmie Nicol remarried in Mexico City and toured that country with his wife Julia, who would perform dance interpretations of their music.
4.      In May, 1960, Jimmie Nicol toured Scotland with Vince Eager & the Quiet Three at the exact same time The Silver Beatles toured Scotland backing up Johnny Gentle. But The Beatles and Nicol never met during this tour. Nicol also played with Tony Sheridan in England, the same musician who played and recorded with The Beatles.
1959 Autograph of Jimmie Nicol playing with Tony Sheridan
5.      Is Jimmie Nicol dead? Is Jimmie Nicol alive? Did Jimmie Nicol fake his death? If you play “Night Train” by Jimmie Nicol and the Shubdubs backward you might just hear, “I buried Jimmie, miss him, miss him, miss him”. Just kidding. You will have to read the book, The Beatle Who Vanished to find out what happened to Nicol. Available at , and .
For a free download excerpt of the book, click this link:
(c) 2013 Rock And Roll Detective (r) All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Beatles Book Covers Jimmie Nicol & The Beatles' 49th Anniversary

The Beatles with Jimmie Nicol on drums June 6, 1964 at Blokker, near Amsterdam.
(c) Azing, Foundation for Beatles Fans.
June 3, 2014, marks the 49th Anniversary of Jimmie Nicol’s rehearsal with The Beatles at EMI Studios (later renamed Abbey Road) in London. Nicol had been called by Beatles’ producer George Martin to come down to the studio. Martin had never met or worked with Nicol at this point, contrary to inaccurate online reports like Wiki.

When he got to the studio, Nicol was bombarded by media photographers and newsreel cameras that had been tipped off by Georgie Fame’s publicist. Nicol was the drummer in Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames at the time.  After the media got their photos and a brief film clip of Nicol bashing out a beat, surrounded by John, Paul and George, they were ushered out of Studio 2.
Jimmie Nicol poses with Paul, John and George just before the tryout.
(c) Mirrorpix
John Hodkinson, a friend of Nicol’s, came along and witnessed the session which was not recorded on tape by Martin. He recalls, “I basically sat in a corner and watched The Beatles rehearse each song with Jimmie.  Even though I was a fellow musician, I was excited to be there.  It was absolutely tremendous – I actually witnessed a private little show… where they just got a feel for each other musically.”
The details of the day that changed Jimmie Nicol’s life forever, can be found in the new Beatles book, The Beatle Who Vanished by Jim Berkenstadt, available at . Signed copies are available via Paypal and links to worldwide are also at the author site.
2013 (c) Rock And Roll Detective (r)
All rights reserved.