In 1975 in New York I spent many a night at Ashley’s Bar & Restaurant on 5th Avenue and 13th Street which was run by my pal Ashley Pandel, who’d had a music biz PR company called The Image Group and who before that worked for Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper’s manager. In the mid-70s, Ashley’s was THE music industry hang-out in NY, its regular customers including Alice, Lou Reed, members of Kiss (unmasked) and every visiting Brit rocker in town for a few days. Ash ran the joint with his brother Carl (who turned me on to the genius of Edward Hopper’s art) and third partner Ed, there was a restaurant and bar downstairs and a members-only club upstairs. I spent many happy hours there – the food was great and the waitresses were gorgeous too.
One night I was there I went upstairs to find (and excuse the name dropping) John Lennon with his friend Peter Boyle, the actor, and Boyle’s companion Lorraine Alterman, whom I knew well as she wrote for Rolling Stone and also contributed occasionally to Melody Maker. John invited me to join their table and was on good form, cracking jokes and graciously signing autographs for anyone who asked. At one point in the evening he turned to me and said: “Have you noticed it’s always men with moustaches and beards that ask me for my autograph?” I said I hadn’t but that I’d watch out in future and, sure enough, it seemed he was right. Only men with moustaches and beards asked John for his autograph. “It was always the same,” he said. “Me and George got the guys with beards wanting to know the meaning of life, while Paul and Ringo got the girls!”
Inevitably, perhaps, a short while later a girl came to ask John for his autograph. Much to our amusement, though doubtless to her amazement, John grabbed her around the waist and sat her down on his knee. ”Where are you now McCartney?” he shouted. “I’ve got a girl at last.”
It was a long night. I recall John and I discussing reggae music and the emergence of Bob Marley as a world superstar. John insisted that The Beatles had recorded reggae music long before ‘Obla Di Obla Da’ on the White album, citing the solo in ‘I Call Your Name’ on the Long Tall Sally EP as an example. When I listened to it later I realised he was dead right.
We closed the place and, because John took a fancy to a waitress who’d been serving us, stayed for an after-hours drink which turned into several. The waitress joined us, as did my friend Ashley. Peter Boyle did some wonderful impersonations, including absolutely stunning portrayals of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in The Godfather. We even persuaded John to sing a Beatles song – unaccompanied – and he chose ‘You Can’t Do That’. Eventually we all left together in John’s silver limousine and headed for the waitress’ apartment in Greenwich Village. While John remained closeted with her in the bedroom the rest of us helped ourselves to her coffee and gradually filtered away. It was 6 am when I left, daylight outside, and John was still there.