Derek Taylor (7 May 1932 – 8 September 1997) was an English journalist, writer and publicist, best known for his work as press officer for The Beatles. He had started his career as a local journalist in Liverpool working for the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo - then becoming a North England-based writer for national British newspapers including the News Chronicle, the Sunday Dispatch, the Sunday Express. He also served as a regular columnist and theatre critic for the Daily Express.
Work with the Beatles
Taylor was a national journalist when he was assigned to write a review of a Beatles concert. He had been expected by his editors to write a piece critical of what at that time was considered by the national press as an inconsequential teen fad. However, Taylor was enchanted by the group and he sang their praises. Shortly afterwards, he was invited to meet the group and he soon became a trusted journalist in their circle.
As the Beatles gained national attention in Britain, Taylor's editors conceived of running a column ostensibly written by a Beatle to boost circulation, to be ghostwritten by Taylor. George Harrison was the Beatle eventually decided upon. Initially given only the right to approve or disapprove of the content, Harrison's dissection of the first draft turned the column into an ongoing collaboration between him and Taylor, with Harrison providing the stories and Taylor providing the polish.
In early 1964, Beatles manager Brian Epstein hired Taylor away from his newspaper job, putting him in charge of Beatles press releases, and acting as media liaison for himself and the group. He subsequently became Epstein's personal assistant for a short period. In mid-1964 Taylor assisted Epstein in the writing of Epstein's autobiography A Cellarful of Noise. Taylor conducted interviews with Epstein for the book and then shaped the transcriptions of the audio recordings into a narrative - retaining most of Epstein's basic words.
Taylor served as press officer for the Beatles' first concert tour of the US in the summer of 1964 - resigning from his position at the end of the tour. Taylor then left the UK and moved with his growing family to California. In 1965 he started his own public relations company, providing publicity for groups such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Among Taylor's skilful strategies was the positioning of The Byrds as being a new breed of American band with parallels to the Beatles - and encouraging nascent rock writers to perceive Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson as a musical genius. Taylor was a key participant in the team that produced the historic Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and served as its publicist and spokesman.
George Harrison's song "Blue Jay Way" was written during Harrison's 1967 visit to California, on a foggy night waiting for Taylor and his wife to come visit ("There's a fog upon L.A. / And my friends have lost their way"). Finding a small electric organ in his rented house (on Blue Jay Way), Harrison worked on the song until they arrived.
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