©2024 By Legs McNeil

On the 61st Anniversary of The Beatles coming to America on February 7, 1964, in Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London’s Heathrow Airport, landing at New York’s Kennedy Airport to play The Ed Sullivan Show– we present the oral history of the event that changed the world. But if it wasn’t for Jane Asher, and her eccentric family’s home on Wimpole Street, where Paul McCartney lived for years, and John and Paul wrote many of their early hit records, the story might have had a different beginning.


John Lennon: I didn’t miss Liverpool when The Beatles moved to London.

Barry Miles: The Beatles had all moved down to London; they were spending so much time there, TV studios and everything were all located there. So instead of this trek up and down the roads to Liverpool three times a week, you know, in the end, it makes sense to get yourself an apartment in London.

So Brian Epstein hired a big apartment on Green Street in Mayfair, but the other guys got there first, and Paul MacCartney didn’t get a room. Jane Asher simply said, “There’s a spare room in our house,” so, her parents were quite happy for Paul to move in. Even though Jane was only 17.

Paul McCartney: I met Jane Asher when she was sent by the Radio Times to cover a concert we were in at the Royal Albert Hall [April 18th, 1963]– we had a photo taken with her for the magazine and we all fancied her. We’d thought she was blonde, because we had only ever seen her on black-and-white telly doing Juke Box Jury, but she turned out to be a redhead. So it was: ‘Wow, you’re a redhead!’

Jane Asher: When I first met them, I liked them all. Then, when I found out I liked Paul more, the others became angry with me.

Hannah Wigandt [Showbiz Cheat Sheet]: Paul claims Ashers’ parents must have heard him complaining about the living arrangements and offered him the attic room of their posh Wimpole Street home instead.

Peter Asher: Our parents took pity on [Paul] and offered him the guest room. We both sang and played guitar, him much better than me.

Paul McCartney: This gesture was in the long tradition of giving a garret room to a starving artist. So, I had a little room up at the top, next to Jane’s brother Peter’s room.

Barry Miles: Peter Asher lived at home because he had a very nice room on the top floor there, an L-shaped room, with Norwegian wood shelving, and on the floor below lived Jane Asher and her sister, Clare. Jane was an actress.

Jane Asher: I’ve always been frightened of the dark. I sometimes wonder whether it stems from being away filming from the age of five. I can remember being devastatingly homesick and having a little nightlight I used to look at to reassure myself things were all right.

Barry Miles: So Paul moved in next to Peter’s room on the top floor in one of the maid’s rooms. It was this tiny little room. Paul lived there for 3 ½ years. And he had a little cabaret piano, which is where he wrote, “Yesterday” and all these great songs. There’s a big brown wardrobe in the corner, the toilet was outside, and they shared the kitchen. And the bathroom downstairs with a bath. And, I mean there was just no room for anything. And all these gold records were under the bed, stuff was spilling out. The only indication that there was a Beatle living in there was his bass, you know, which he had in a black case that just had “Beatles” stenciled on the side in white lettering… and he had a bit of a notice board. I remember, pinned up, literally, with thumbtacks was a drawing by Jean Cocteau that he bought. It wasn’t even framed; it was just pinned there.

It was pretty basic. There was no room in there for his records or anything; those were all stored in Peter’s room, because Peter had this big L-shaped room. So, everything he had to do, he just tape-recorded stuff all in Peter’s room.

Peter Asher: It was fascinating to get to hear the songs they wrote as they wrote them. In the basement of our house was a little music room that just had a small upright piano, a sofa and a music stand and Paul would go down there to write.

Barry Miles: Dr. Asher was a consulting psychiatrist in Harley Street, and his wife, Mrs. Asher taught oboe at the Royal College of Music. She taught oboe to George Martin, in fact. Mrs. Asher had her floor, and Dr. Asher had his floor, with a big grand piano in it. And then in the, the basement – well, the ground floor had a big dining room, big kitchen and family area. And then there were all these rooms in the basement, like a music room with music stands and pianos and instruments.

Peter Asher: I remember one particular day when John [Lennon] came over and they were down there together for a couple of hours and Paul said, “Did I want to come down and hear the song we just did?” That was the early days when they were actively, physically writing together.

John Lennon: We usually [wrote] together on songs that were less interesting. Now and then we’d write together from scratch. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ things like that were done like that. But we’d been working apart ever since we were working together. It was only news to the public that a lot of Lennon-McCartney songs weren’t Lennon-McCartney. That was something we’d agreed on years ago.

Paul McCartney: All our early songs contained “me” or “you.” We were completely direct and shameless to the fans: “Love Me Do;” “Please Please Me;” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.’”

Peter Asher: I came down sat on the sofa and they sat side-by-side at the piano, no guitars, and played “I Want To Hold Your Hand” for the first time to anyone and asked me what I thought. I said I thought it was very good. It was hard to know what to say. One doesn’t want to be pretentious– it’s only a pop song– but there was something of an epiphany, hearing something that good for the first time. And you ask to hear it again, which is what makes for a hit record – ‘God, that’s good! Could I hear it again?’ I thought either I’m going completely mad or that’s the best pop song I’ve heard in my life!

Matthew Trzcinski [Showbiz Cheat Sheet]: One of these “shameless songs,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” helped the Fab Four go to America but only after it hit No. 1.

Rob Tannenbaum [Billboard]: After [Brian] Epstein convinced Ed Sullivan to book The Beatles on his top-viewed primetime CBS show, Capitol Records U.S. stopped ignoring the band and agreed to put out “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the States, to coincide with its American TV debut– but then had to rush the release in December 1963 after a Washington, D.C., DJ began to play an import single ahead of schedule.

The Ed Sullivan show [Universal Music Group]: When attorneys for Capitol Records were unable to stop American DJs from spinning the tune, the record label relented and, on December 26, 1963, dropped the album ahead of schedule. The record sold 250,000 copies in the first three days. By January 10, 1964, it had sold over one million units and, “I want to Hold Your Hand” was the number one song on the Billboard charts by month’s end.

Barry Miles: Paul had a secret way to get out of the Asher’s Wimpole Street house, because there were all these fans outside. I mean, if you went to visit Wimpole Street, there were always about 20 or 30 girls outside. And poor old Peter Asher; he did have number-one hits; you know? And he’d arrive in a taxi and the girls would say, “Oh, it’s only Peter…”

In any other circumstance, he’d be fine, you know. But if you’ve got a Beatle living with you, forget it!

Because of all the girls hanging out in front of their house, Dr. Asher had arranged a way to get out of the house for Paul. He knocked on the next-door neighbor’s house, and it was just an old English colonel, and Dr. Asher said, “We have this chap, you know, who’s hiding out from the fans, and is it possible to arrange an escape route using this man’s balcony at the back of the house?’

And he says, “Oh, yes!” You know, a terribly English fellow who apparently had a big mustache, and they arranged this route. Paul would get out of a window on the second floor, or third floor, and walk along this guy’s balcony, go down into his backyard, and then over a wall, and there was a young couple living in a mews house above what used to be the stables, and Paul would go in there, and then down their stairs and out into the mews, where his Aston Martin would be parked, and in there and out, you know, and avoiding the girls at the front.

And I guess Paul could get back into the house the same way. Or maybe he could make a dash for it coming in without too much trouble….

Paul McCartney: There was not a second that wasn’t accounted for. Jane would go off to her agent, then read for a play, then meet someone for lunch, then have a vocal coach teaching her a Norfolk accent for her next thing. So I was quite infatuated with all this. It was like a story, like a novel I was living in.

John Lennon: I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d married Jane [Asher] because it had been going on for a long time and they went through a whole ordinary love scene.

Barry Miles: It was really hard being a Beatle. I mean, there was just no privacy, they were so famous.

Paul McCartney: The big story about “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” I’d said to Brian [Epstein, the band’s manager], “We don’t want to go to America until we have a No. 1 record. A lot of British artists went there and came back with the audience having been slightly underwhelmed by them. I said, “We don’t want to be like that. If we go, we want to go on top.”

We were playing in Paris, an engagement at the Olympia Theatre, a famous old theater Edith Piaf played at, and we got a telegram– as you did in those days– saying, ‘Congratulations, No. 1 in U.S. charts. We jumped on each other’s backs. It was late at night after a show, and we just partied. That was the record that allowed us to come to America.

Ringo Starr: On the airplane, I felt New York. It was like an octopus grabbing the plane– I could feel tentacles coming up to the plane– it was so exciting– the first time in New York!

Paul McCartney: We heard about the crowds in mid-air. There were journalists on the plane, and the pilot rang ahead and said, “Tell the boys there’s a big crowd waiting for them…”

We thought, “Wow! God, we have really made it!”

 John Lennon: I know on the plane over I was thinking, “Oh, we won’t make it,” but that’s that side of me. We knew we could wipe them out if we could just get a grip.

Stewardess Jillian Kellogg: Nobody was rowdy, I didn’t know who they were, I was new, so I served them. They were nice passengers. My favorite one? Paul.

Paul McCartney: President Kennedy had been murdered only a little over two months before our arrival in the United States, and his assassination had ricocheted throughout the world, so we figured the atmosphere might still be subdued. But the minute we landed in New York, we knew instantly that we were not in store for any kind of funereal time. It was a Friday in early February when we touched down, and it felt like thousands….

George Harrison: We heard that our records were selling well in America, but it wasn’t until we stepped off the plane, that we understood what was going on….

Ringo Starr: It must have been four billion people out there. I mean, it was just crazy!

George Harrison: The world used us as an excuse to go mad.   



Paul McCartney: 1964: Eyes of the Storm, Liveright Publishers, by Paul McCartney (Author) And “Anthology.”

George Harrison: Time Magazine, By Bob Spitz Feb. 07, 2014

Ringo Starr: The chat between Ringo and Elliot Mintz was recorded in Starr’s own home in the Hollywood hills, originally broadcast on August 29th, 1977, on American radio in two parts on the program ‘Inner-view.’

John Lennon: Just Backdated, A Blog by Chris Charlesworth, John Lennon Interview, October 1973. And John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview (Part Two) Part Two: Life with the lions, by Jann S. Wenner, 1971. And John Lennon, interview w/ Peter McCabe and Robert Schonfeld. (September, 1971)

Peter Asher: Variety, Feb 3, 2014, Peter Asher: Eyewitness to the Birth of Beatlemania

Jane Asher: Jane Asher: ‘What scares me about getting older? Becoming irritating to other people’ Rosanna Greenstreet The Guardian, Sat 6 May 2023 04.30 EDT And Love Me Do! The Beatles’ Progress, by Michael Braun, PENGUIN BOOKS LTD

Stewardess Jillian Kellogg: Long Island Press, 50th Anniversary of Beatles Invasion Celebrated Throughout New York By Christopher Twarowski and Spencer Rumsey Posted on February 9, 2014

Barry Miles: More commonly known as “Miles,” was co-owner with John Dunbar of the Indica, a bookstore, gallery and performance venue. Original interview by Legs McNeil.