Jim Berkenstadt, author of “The Beatle Who Vanished” (now available as a digital download) wrote this update on the search for onetime Fab Four substitute drummer Jimmy Nicol exclusively for SOMETHING NEW: The Beatlefan Blog.
Where is Jimmie Nicol?
That is probably the No. 1 question I have been asked in the past year since I first published my book, “The Beatle Who Vanished,” in paperback and now as a digital download.
The answer to this question is actually the reason I decided to spend so many years researching and traveling the world in the footsteps of temporary Beatles drummer Nicol.
“The Beatle Who Vanished” really started out as a challenge to see if I could find enough information to write an article about Jimmie Nicol’s career. He only ever merits one sentence in Beatles history books and no mention in British music histories. I got lucky early on, discovering the general chronology of his career by locating bands he had played with, and then finding members of those bands to talk to me about their time spent with Jimmie. I found that, almost universally, his friends loved him very much and found him to be generous and highly talented. They all seemed to be rooting for him to succeed.
After a while, I connected to various band members from Nicol’s pre- and post- Beatles career: Colin Hicks & His Cabin Boys, Vince Eager & the Quiet Three, The Shubdubs, The Spotnicks, Peter & Gordon, Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames and even an obscure Mexican band, Abraxas. This led to my compiling Nicol’s amazing discography, and helped piece together the chronology of his career. The recordings I found all over the world helped me to learn about Nicol’s amazing and creative gift as a drummer, composer, arranger and producer. I also found that Nicol plied his talents as a music theory teacher, a radio host, movie soundtrack writer, button manufacturer and even a carpenter.
The years of writing and research were an amazing journey and challenge. Nicol was an enigmatic character. He always seemed to erase his trail when he moved on, rather than preserve it. The best way to describe my years of research is like a treasure hunt to find thousands of pieces to a giant puzzle. Then, after finding all the pieces, I had to use interviews, photos, articles, newsreels, recordings and memorabilia (like handbills and ticket stubs), to fit the pieces together to put in writing the portrait of Jimmie Nicol that readers will enjoy in the book.
It is clear to me that Jimmie’s brief time with The Beatles had a huge impact on him in a very compressed time period. A large part of the book goes into the daily detail of The Beatles’ every move on their first world tour with Jimmie. This is meant to make the reader feel as if they are along with Jimmie, experiencing the amazing daily life of Beatlemania from the inside. Over 120 photos are included in the book, to illustrate this amazing story.
Nicol resented Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s rules on tour and rebelled against captivity in hotel and backstage “boxes.” Yet he drank in the adulation of being showered with love from 300,000 fans in an open car parade in Adelaide. Fame became a hard drug for Nicol; one that he could never shake. In this cautionary tale, Nicol spent his life trying to recapture his experience with The Beatles at the top of the entertainment world. It was not a healthy pursuit. His life was riddled with betrayal, bankruptcy, divorce, drugs and an eventual disappearance as a result of creating his own death hoax in the mid-1990s.
This past year, promoting the book online and around the country at book festivals, has allowed me to meet so many interesting people who have wanted to learn more about the mysterious temp-Beatle, as well as many casual or non-Beatles fans, who just want to understand how Nicol chose to handle his 13 days of fame.
Some new events have even come to light this year. Jimmie is still vanished or dead. His son, Howie, dedicated a statue to his father and said he has “not seen or heard from” his dad in over 10 years! Howie told reporters in Blokker, Holland, that he has heard of “The Beatle Who Vanished” and didn’t like the idea of the book. The reason he gave, was that my book “only covers The Beatles.” Obviously, Howie has only read as far as the front cover, since the book is about Nicol’s entire musical career and more.
Finally, a reporter has come forward and informed me that Jimmie Nicol gave away the famous gold engraved watch that he received from The Beatles and Brian Epstein as a gift for helping on the tour. Stay tuned for more on that development…