Former Apple Records Exec Offers Must Have Book For Fab Four Fans
By Jeff Walker
In the history of rock n’ roll there have been only a few artists and or bands that have reached iconic categories. Entertainers such as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Michael Jackson, are a select few of the industry icons that have transcended the music world. Perhaps no band in the 60 plus year history of rock n’ roll has impacted more followers than The Beatles.
I dare to say less than a fraction of one percent of those around during The Beatles heyday, or still living today have taken part in the inner circle of The Beatles. Former record company executive slash producer, songwriter, and author Ken Mansfield is among that group who got to experience the Fab Four’s from the inside out. From taking over the world to the breakup heard around the world, Mansfield watched it all unfold while hanging with the Liverpool Lads.
“I guess because I was in the business I didn’t look at the guys like the fans did. I recognized their talent but to me they were just guys I hung out with.” Just 27 when he took a job with Capitol Records Mansfield met up with The Beatles early on. “I was maybe with the label eight months and I had been given the title of District Promotions Manager with Capitol. It was my job to work directly with the band here in America and set up press conferences.”
Living in southern California Mansfield admits the band took a quick liking to him. “I was only a few years older than the guys. My hair was growing longer, I had a tan, a convertible, and a place in the Hollywood Hills. Initially I was living the dream they no doubt imagined America was all about, the land of sunshine, fast cars, and pretty girls.”
Born in rural Pennsylvania and raised in northern Idaho, Mansfield discovered sunny California when he went to college in San Diego. Although the 81 year old is semi-retired and dwelling in the Florida panhandle, he says the Golden State is where his heart lies. “There is that one place where God takes you and you automatically know it’s home, that’s what it was like for me in my many years in Los Angeles and southern California.”
It was in his adopted state that he first heard The Beatles. “It had to be 1964 and I was driving from LA to San Diego and I heard them on the radio. I think it was ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, one of their early hits. After it was done playing I recall thinking to myself. Is this what all the fuss is about. I’m not sure myself, or anyone in the industry could have predicted all that was about to unfold.”
Over the next several years Mansfied would become a confidant to each band member. “I was close to them all, but some confided in me more.” When The Beatles decided to start their own record label, 29 year old Ken Mansfield was the ideal choice as VP for the American division. “At the time there was no bigger band on the planet. The guys wanted more control and no one was going to say anything negative to them. They had a business sense about them.”
Now into what he calls his second or third retirement Mansfield just released ‘The Roof – The Beatles Final Concert’. There were just a handful of people in the immediate area where the Beatles played as a live band for the last time, and Ken Mansfield was one of the privileged who enjoyed a impromptu concert high above the London streets below.
“It was 42 minutes that became a pivotal moment in time for the rock n’ roll era.” Mansfield explains how it all unfolded. “The guys had been working on the ‘Let It Be’ album and wanted a location for a concert to coincide with a documentary they were filming. They couldn’t decide on where to shoot the piece, and they were running short on time. Last minute they just decided to go up on the roof of the Apple Records building and perform.”
Mansfield had no idea he was seeing The Beatles perform for the final time. “There was just a few of us on the rooftop, aside from the camera crew and Billy Preston, there was Yoko and Ringo’s wife Maureen. Of course there were people filling up the streets and watching from adjacent buildings. It created quite a stir.” In video clips and the now famous short film Mansfield is the one in the white jacket.
According to Mansfield even though the rooftop concert turned out to be their final live show, there was something magical in the air that day. “You have to remember until that day in January of 1969, the guys hadn’t played together in over two and a half years. I believe the concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco was the last time they performed on stage before the rooftop concert.”
History would later reveal the The Beatles had been quarreling for some time, and their demise was imminent, but still Mansfield says the rooftop show didn’t reflect it. “When they got on stage and picked up their instruments, I think they had a sense of ‘this is who we are’. The Beatles had been together as a band for nearly eight years. They turned the music industry and the world upside down. When they performed or made music they had a real sense of comraderie. For a brief 42 minute period in time on that rooftop in January of 1969, the guys came together and enjoyed each other and the music they created. I feel blessed to have had a front row seat to watch it all unfold.”
‘The Roof’ is not Mansfield’s first foray as a book author. His seventh and latest book follows several that chronicle his life in the music business including his transformation in the late 1980’s, becoming a born again Christian. His first book published in 2000 ‘The Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay’ subtitled ‘My Long & Winding Road’ describes the journey of a young industry executive witnessing the rise and fall of The Beatles from a London rooftop, to an older gentleman enjoying talks with the Creator from a serenic California beach community.
Mansfield says work and life kept him from penning any books on The Beatles until he was older. “When I was with the band everything I did was about my job. It wasn’t until 20 years after the breakup that I began to realize all I had been privy to with The Beatles.” A seasoned record executive Mansfield moved on, becoming a producer and songwriter for the likes of MGM and CBS Records. He would help define what would become ‘Outlaw Country’. “I worked with artists such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. I wanted to help define another genre of music.”
Throughout the 1970’s he kept tabs on The Beatles. “When George came to town (LA) we’d hang out. And I helped Ringo with his record deal.” The last time Mansfield saw John Lennon was at Ringo’s house. “Everyone knows by now Ringo was and still is a huge country music fan. I had been working with Waylon on some new music, and Ringo called me up and asked if he could listen to the early tapes. So I show up at his house and there is John sitting on the couch. It’s so tragic the way his life ended.”
Mansfield’s work would take him to Nashville in the 1980’s where he would eventually discover the saving grace of Jesus Christ. That lead him to produce albums for some the contemporary Christian rock and gospel artist of the day. “After all it was my calling.” The Imperials, The Gaither Vocal Band, and The Gatlin Brothers, are a few of the many country and spiritual artists Mansfield produced during that time of his life.
It wasn’t until after the turn of the century Mansfield began writing books. “The Beatles, the Bible, and Bodega Bay’ was something I felt I could offer readers with a clear perspective. I knew it would appeal to Beatles’ fans and yet have something to offer those seeking more out of life.” ‘Bodega Bay’ is considered one of the top three best Beatles books of all time, according to the rock editor’s list on Amazon.com.
He intended his first book to be his last. “After it came out I had a pastor and several others say ‘you are an author now’. It was never my intention to write anything after the first book. But God might have different plans for your life than you realize. Writing has been a spiritual journey for me. Writing about my time in the industry, my time with The Beatles, and my spiritual awakening offsets two totally different worlds. That makes for some interesting and challenging stories.”
Now the author or co-author of seven books Mansfield says he was especially fond of “Rock and a Heart Place : Rock ‘n’ Roller-coaster Ride from Rebellion to Sweet Salvation’. According to Mansfield’s website the book is a behind the scenes look at some of the biggest stars in rock n’ roll, and how they too found sweet salvation in Jesus Christ. “I didn’t have to labor as much with that one. It’s more a collection of stories from the artists who experienced salvation. I interject my own experiences in between. It’s nice to know artists like Chris Hillman (Byrds) and Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) came to the realization there is more out there than just rock n’ roll.”
Now 81 and living in Florida, Mansfield reflects through personal testimony and his writings on his life. “God definitely had a plan for me. I feel blessed to be able to share all I’ve experienced with people who will listen.” Since finding Jesus Christ as his savior Mansfield has shared his testimony on the 700 Club and the Christian network TBN as well as speaking at various churches around the country, including Rick Warren’s super church.
Looking back Mansfield feels privileged to be able to share in the life blood of The Beatles, and he understands their appeal. “In the 1960’s you had the assassination of the Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King. Combine that with the negativity of the Vietnam War and the world needed something positive. Oddly enough for America it came out of England. The Beatles came along when society needed something different. They walked on the scene and automatically they were counter-culture. The young kids loved their music and the older generation were just in awe of them. So at times it kept people from thinking about all the bad that was happening around them.”
In recent years Mansfield has met up with Ringo Starr. “He provided me a ticket and pass to one of his All-Starr shows. Ringo is smart touring the way he has for the past several decades. Bring other artists on tour with you, with hits fans recognize and then he (Starr) doesn’t have to work as hard. That’s how I would do it.” He remembers something simple Starr told him many years ago. “Ringo said the reason The Beatles were so popular is because when we made music or sang on stage, we were a really good band.”
Mansfield isn’t certain he’s done when it comes to writing. “I do enjoy it even the times I labor over it.” His one true novel ‘Philco’ took a long time to get to the publisher. “I worked on and off on that book for 15 years. As a writer you go through days when everything is flowing and you can write non-stop, and then there are those dry periods for months at a time when nothing comes to mind. My wife can usually tell when the juices are flowing. She’ll walk in my office and right away she’ll exit, knowing it’s not time to bother me now.”
Today Mansfield has a unique traveling outreach ministry with a message that draws heavily from his record industry days. You can find Ken Mansfield’s latest book ‘The Roof – The Beatles Final Concert’ in bookstores or purchase any of his writings through Amazon or his website http://mainmansfield.com/. Be sure to check out ‘The White Book’, a riveting memoir that delves into his life in the 1960s and ’70s, and Mansfield’s unique partnership with The Beatles as well as other musicians who orbited their world. Any of his books make an ideal gift for The Beatles fan in your family.
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