Beatles’ headphones could make Fab Four figure

Iconic headphones from The Beatles’ recording sessions are set for auction thanks to a former record company office boy. 

In November 1970, Murray Macaulay started his dream job working for ‘The Fab Four’: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison – at the band’s very own Apple Records in London. 

A month later, the starstruck teenager found himself sitting next to his favourite Beatle, George Harrison, at Apple’s 1970 Christmas party. Various errands bought him into close contact with the musical megastars. He bought whisky and cigarettes for Ringo, guitar strings for George and delivered legal papers to John Lennon – a task which started badly but ended with him sharing food with the legend. 

Vintage headphones from The Beatles' Apple studios in London
Vintage headphones from The Beatles’ Apple studios in London – Credit Hansons Richmond

Murray also witnessed the end of the road for the biggest band of all time. His memorabilia includes a legal document – found in a bin – relating to dissolving the band’s partnership. In 1970, Paul McCartney sued Apple Corps Ltd as he felt his financial interests were not protected. The band split in 1974. 

Murray Macaulay with his Apple Contract of Employment
Murray Macaulay with his Apple Contract of Employment – Credit Hansons Richmond

However, The Beatles’ impact has never dimmed, and nor have Murray’s memories. At the age of 71 he’s decided to part with his mementos. After gathering dust under his bed for more than 50 years, they will go under the hammer at the Hansons Richmond saleroom in London on April 27. 

The star lot, headphones from The Beatles’ recording studio, are guided at £2,000-£3,000. 

Murray, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: “They were unforgettable days. My dealings with the individual Beatles were far more intimate than most other people involved in the business side of things at Apple HQ in Savile Row. 

“At 17 I was working as an office clerk for London theatrical wig company Wig Creations. It supplied anything hairy, including Frank Sinatra’s toupee, for West End shows and TV. However I dreamed of working for The Beatles at Apple Records. I heard they had a party every day! I took myself off to Apple HQ and boldly asked for a job. The receptionist sent me packing with a flea in my ear! 

“Soon after I was looking through the Evening Standard jobs section when I saw a tiny, nondescript advert,  RECORD COMPANY looking for an office boy. I rang and it was Apple. I couldn’t believe it. I bagged my dream job but couldn’t start until I turned 18 on November 21, 1970.   

A collection of Beatles and Apple memorabilia
Murray’s Beatles and Apple memorabilia – Credit Hansons Richmond

There were always three office boys. I worked with Bobby Irwin (Van Morrison session drummer), Joe Partridge (Kiki Dee band) and Elton John’s nephew, Paul, among others. The duties were varied to say the least! We had sacks of Beatle fan mail arriving but only opened the more interesting packages. There was a room where Ringo’s Beatles drum kit was stored, not locked away or anything. I found that absolutely amazing 

When a new record was released it was our job to mail them to radio stations, DJs and the music media. My first experience of this was George’s All Things Must Pass triple album. Lugging a sack of those to the Post office was no mean feat!  

We  looked after individual Beatlesrequirements, whatever that entailed. Shopping for Ringo was almost a weekly event. I’d take a taxi to Harrods to collect his groceries. We would then drive to Ringo’s house and I would take the box in for Maureen, his wife. She was very nice as were the children 

I sometimes saw Ringo, George, John and Yoko at the office. Paul was already estranged due to all the legal stuff going on with The Beatles separation.  

My first Apple Christmas party in December 1970 was amazing. I was placed on a table for three with George Harrison! I couldn’t believe it, sitting next to my favourite Beatle having just started the job I asked him if the Beatles would ever get back together and he said No way’. He was happy doing his own stuff. Such a nice guy.  

“Errands included taking a cheque from George to the Radha-Krishna movement’s London temple. I also delivered a cheque from John Lennon to Oz magazine to help towards legal costs in their 1971 obscenity trial. Oz magazine was a mouthpiece for political dissent. 

Murray Macaulay wearing his Beatles headphones
Murray Macaulay wearing his Beatles headphones – Credit Hansons Richmond

“One day I was asked to clear out Boston Place where Apple Electronics had a small studio/storeEverything had to be binned. I found a copy of  Mal Evans (Beatles friend, roadie and PA) handwritten Bathroom Window lyrics from the Beatles’ Abbey Road recording sessions. Also in the socalled rubbish was a Bob Dylan Highway 61 song book with notations (chord letters) written by Paul McCartney in red ink. These seemed amazing to me and, as they were destined for the bin, I kept them. 

“In  1971, I got to know Nigel Oliver (tape operator) and George ‘Porky’ Peckham (record engineer) from Apple’s recording studios. George gave me a pair of broken AKG K60 headphones destined for the bin. They came from the period when The Beatles were recording Let it Be, their swansong album, at the Apple studios in 1969. The original standard grey jack lead has been replaced with longer white cabling for studio use 

“With John’s obvious liking of this AKG K60 model of headphones, as demonstrated by the number of images he is seen wearing them, it’s likely my headphones were used in the recording sessions The Beatles did in Apple studios between January 2229, 1969 prior to their rooftop concert at the building. 

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about my experiences. Ringo had an office at Apple HQ and I was delivering some cigarettes and a bottle of whisky to him one afternoon when he sat me down and played his new single, Back of Boogaloo. He strummed along on acoustic guitar. He asked me, the office boy, what I thought. I told him it was great. 

“Other duties included buying George’s guitar strings, his jeans (Levi, orange tab) and Pattie Harrisons tights from Miss Selfridge, which was a bit embarrassing. 

“One day I had to take legal papers to John Lennon and he said, “Who the f**k are you?”, I  explained I was from Apple HQ and everything calmed down. Steve Brendell, John’s PA, showed me round the studio. John had just finished recording Imagine. I was totally blown away. His collection of guitars looked so impressive on the studio walls. Another room, painted in white,  housed John’s white grand piano. I also saw the Sgt Peppers outfits and umpteen leather jackets from his early Beatles days. 

In the evening we all sat in the kitchen, Steve Brendell, May Pang, (Lennon’s assistant), Phil McDonald (recording engineer), John and Yoko and enjoyed food and drink. 

The 1971 Christmas party was another impressive event. The theme was glitter and it was held aboard an old steam ship on the River Thames. I remember a food fight breaking out at some point. George Harrison and his friends Jimmy Page and Donovan were there. 

“Another memory was snapping up a chance to process paperwork at George’s mansion in Henley-on-Thames. He was away but I was given a tour of the mansion which even had an underground lake.  

“Some people may not know this but Ringo ran an interior design company called ROR (Ringo or Robin) with business partner Robin Cruikshank. I acquired two 1970s ROR mirrors and they’re in the auction too. 

“The early 70s was the beginning of the end for The Beatles. John moved to New York, George was setting up his Dark Horse record label and Paul was doing his own thing. My dream was over. I left Apple in the summer of 1973 and joined Rank Advertising Films followed by Disney in 1976 and finally Fox in 1986 until retirement. But I will never forget those incredible Beatles days.”