"Royston had a particularly powerful impact on me when I first read Gone Man Squared. It was nothing like I had ever read before and it conjured the essence and energy of its time."
- Jimmy Page
ROYSTON ELLIS TO IGNITE LONDON MAY 29
Royston Ellis arrives in London to read and greet big beat fans old and new on May 29th with two chances to celebrate the new edition of his hip pocket mod marvel BIG TIME, the latest edition from the Royston Ellis Monthly Book series from Kicks Books. Royston will also be reading his iconic early beat writings collected in GONE MAN SQUARED. He last read in London at the Mermaid Theatre 54 years ago, with Jimmy Page in tow on guitar! Join the man who inspired the Beatles "Paperback Writer"-- they backed his inventive rock and roll "rocketry" back when they were leather boys!
• THE RETURN OF THE PAPERBACK WRITER •
KICKS BOOKS poet and novelistROYSTON ELLIS, the inspiration for the Beatles’ hit Paperback Writer, is returning to London for a one-night stand 54 years after his performance reading his rock and roll poetry to guitar playing by 16 year-old Jimmy Page at London’s Mermaid Theatre. Acknowledged as Britain’s first beat poet after the publication of his selection of poems, Jiving To Gyp, in 1959, when he was 18, Royston Ellis was also the spokesman for Britain’s teenagers on television programmes like Living For Kicks. In 2014, Time Out named Ellis as No.4 of London’s Top Ten Teenage Rebels of the past. Ellis retired from performing in 1962 and left England for a life of writing and travel, eventually settling in 1980 in Sri Lanka. His collected poems, Gone Man Squared, was published by Kicks Books of New York in December 2013. Ellis will be reading from that book on Friday 29 May 2015 at 8.30pm at The Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX, admission £8.00. On the same day, Friday 29 May, he will make a pre-reading appearance organised by Tales From The Woods magazine(www.tftw.org.uk) from 5.00pm at Kings Head Private Theatre Bar, Westmorland Street, near Oxford Circus, speaking about his days as a beat poet with Cliff Richard, The Beatles and Jimmy Page, and signing copies of his books.
• LONDON EVENT INFORMATION MAY 29 •
Friday May 29 5pm-7.30pm Kings Head Private Theatre Bar, Westmorland Street, Off New Cavendish Street, Nearest Tube Station: Oxford Circus (10 min walk). This is a Tales From The Woods function (www.tftw.org.uk).
Friday May 29 8.30pm The first British Beat Poet reads at The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX. Admission £8.00. www.poetrysociety.org.uk
TOP TEENAGE REBEL RETURNS TO LONDON
GONE MAN SQUARED • THE ORIGINATOR
BIG TIME • LAUNCH USA MAY 1 • UK MAY 28
ROYSTON ELLIS MONTHLY BOOK SERIES
KICKS BOOKS PROMOTIONAL FRAGRANCES
Rave perfume… the world's only BEAT perfume!
Royston's second book circa 1960, inspired this beaty fragrance, infused with the uncanny ability to transport the possessor directly onto the Benzedrine backstreets of Soho. Suitable for beat girl or beat lad alike.
Incredible footage of Royston interviewing 19 year old Jimmy Page!
"Living For Kicks" 1960
Neil Christian & The Crusaders With Jimmy Page - I Like It
ROYSTON ELLIS KING OF THE REBEL BREED
Royston ranked in the Top Ten Teenaage London Rebels of all time in TIME OUT -- click image to read!
Mark Lewisohn on Royston and the Beatles
Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn on Royston and the Beatles: Also dropping into the Gambier Terrace pit was a special guest, Royston Ellis, “King of the Beatniks.” The bearded bard, who featured in TV documentaries and press articles whenever an offbeat teenage angle was needed, was in Liverpool to read his poetry at the University on June 24/25, and he swiftly found himself drawn into the Beatles’ company. The conduit was George, who (with nothing else to do while John, Stu and Paul were in school) was hanging around the Jac when the wandering coffee-bar poet traipsed in, drawn by hip radar to “the happening place.” Avowedly “trying everything,” Ellis was an active bisexual in this period of his life and he took an immediate fancy to George: “He looked fabulous with his long hair and matelot-style striped T-shirt, very modern, which is why I deliberately spoke to him. I was nineteen and he was seventeen and we clicked right away.” George took Ellis, his typewriter and his duffel bag back to Gambier Terrace to meet John and Stu. A rapport was quickly established and Ellis was invited to “crash” for a few days - yet another occupant for the filthy back room.
Born in February 1941, Ellis was younger than John and Stu but had broader life experience, having grooved around the country, appeared on TV and radio, been published as a poet and writer, and experimented with sex and drugs. To the Daily Mirror he was “a weirdie from weirdsville” but to John Lennon he was “England’s answer to Allen Ginsberg,” speaking something like their language. He’d said young people not seeking work weren’t layabouts but “prospectors,” and that no self-respecting teenager should marry a virgin. (“That remark alone generated fees to keep me comfortable for a year,” he recalls.) Also, he was friendly with Cliff Richard and, in particular, with Cliff’s backing group the Shadows (formerly the Drifters). They provided a rock soundtrack when Ellis recited his poetry at occasional public readings, sessions he called “Rocketry.”
His Liverpool University audience didn’t dig him at all. The Beatles were much more his kind of people, and - in an unadvertised appearance down the Jac - they stepped into the Shadows’ shoes and backed him in a spot of Rocketry. Paul really enjoyed the experience but was taken aback by some of the words, like this stanza from the poem “Julian”:
Easy, easy, break me in easy.
Sure I’m big time, cock-sure and brash, but easy, easy, break me in easy.
Surely this was queer sex he was talking about! Paul worried it was about “shagging sailors” while attempting to find the right guitar notes to set it off.
Ellis’s bisexuality was an eye-opener for the Beatles, as he remembers: “There was an expression, ‘Do you still love me?,’ and I think I must have said it to John because all the eyebrows went up ‘What?!’ And I gave them a lecture about the Soho scene and said they shouldn’t worry, because one in four men were queer although they mightn’t know it.” The remark bit deep. As Paul says, “We looked at each other and wondered which one it was. ‘It must be one of us, because there’s four of us…Oh fucking hell, it’s not me, is it?’”
Most memorably of all, Royston Ellis gave the Beatles their first drugs experience. Not long afterward, he would write of his amazement that they didn’t know of the Benzedrine-impregnated cardboard strip curled inside a Vicks nasal inhaler, and how it produced a high when chewed. Several were present in the flat, including John, Stu, George, Paul, Rod Murray and Bill Harry, but the idea of taking something to feel euphoric, or in some way altered, appealed most especially to John. He was the closest to Ellis in outlook: he wanted to try everything life could offer, and maybe, only maybe, ask questions later. His art school friend Jon Hague vividly remembers a night in the Cracke when John poured pint after pint down his throat and remarked, “If only we didn’t have to drink all this liquid” - in other words, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a quicker way to get out of your head?”
John always recalled the Benzedrine event with enthusiasm: “Everybody talked their mouths off for a night and thought, ‘Wow, what’s this?’” George was keen too: “We cracked open a Vicks inhaler, ate it and sat up all night until about nine o'clock the next morning, rapping and burping up the taste.” But Paul was reticent. “Probably they didn’t give me that much, probably they kept it for themselves,” he says, indicating he passed up the opportunity…not entirely, but more or less. He was by nature more cautious than George and considerably more so than John, the great experimentalist who always tried everything with complete abandon. (Something’ll happen.) Paul knew a little about drugs because his mum had been a nurse, and again he was also mindful of his age in this company. Ellis, although just sixteen months older, seemed far more mature; Stu was no longer a teenager, having turned 20 the week before; and John was on the cusp. George was never concerned by his youth but Paul was. “I was…thinking 'I’m really hanging out with a slightly older crowd here.’ So I was always cautious.”
The night passed in a blur of banter. Ellis says he developed a particular rapport with John and Stuart and that they discussed poetry, art and London. When he left, they spoke of doing it again sometime: “We were talking about how I wanted a band to come to London and back me on my Rocketry performances, and they were thrilled at the idea.” Art school studies finished the following Friday, July 1, marking the end of Stu’s fourth year and John’s third and last because the college was waving him goodbye. […] As for Ellis, so much was he enthused by the possibility of appearing with them again that he soon got the Beatles their first mention in a music paper. It was the July 9 edition of Record and Show Mirror, where a supercilious little article about “the bearded sage of the coffee bars” ended “he’s thinking of bringing down to London a Liverpool group which he considers is most in accord with his poetry. Name of the group? 'The Beetles’!”
▪ Mark Lewisohn, “1960”, The Beatles - All These Years: Tune In