Thursday, 18 June 2020

Ivy

Ivan Vaughan
Vega
84 Vale Road, 
Liverpool 25

A classic scholar he,
A rocking roller me,
As firm as friends could be.
Ivan, by Paul McCartney.


On the day Paul McCartney celebrates his 78th birthday I pay tribute to his great friend Charles Ivan Vaughan.

Jan Vaughan (JV), lecturer in the French Department at Homerton College, Cambridge University (1975-85), remembers her husband, Ivan, and his connection to one of the most famous bands in the world: The Beatles.

(JV) One day, when Ivan was a young boy in Liverpool, there was a knock at the door. It was John Lennon, asking if he could come round to play. His garden was directly behind Ivan’s and they were close friends from then on. 

Mimi had sent him. John had not long started living at Mendips with his aunt and her husband George, and having decided that the little boy who played in the garden directly behind their own looked like a suitable playmate she encouraged her nephew to go and introduce himself, ensuring he took his house slippers with him in case Ivan wanted to play ‘in’. But ‘John always wanted to play out, whatever the weather’ Ivan would later recall.  


Ivan was four but he already had a group of friends where he lived on Vale Road; Nigel Walley who lived a couple of doors away and Pete Shotton who lived opposite a little further along. On Sunday afternoons the three boys would cycle to St. Peter’s Church in the centre of Woolton Village to attend Sunday School. When John Lennon moved into the area Mimi enrolled him in the same class and he soon began accompanying them on the weekly journey.


Ivan with Pete Shotton

Until then, Pete had seen himself as the leader of this rowdy little group but quickly the sandy haired kid with the ridiculous round glasses infiltrated the gang. Not only was he larger, stronger, and more aggressive that the rest of them, he seemed a lot wiser in the ways of the big bad world, perhaps unsurprisingly given his chaotic upbringing prior to moving in with Mimi. Shotton notes that almost from the start, John was what most parents would have labelled a disruptive influence. He quickly took over the gang.

John was six years old but even at this early age an important trait in his personality was evident. If you were intelligent, had an offbeat sense of humour, and brought something interesting to the table that made you stand out from the crowd then John wasn’t particularly bothered about how old you were. This was true not only of the boys he chose as his closest childhood friends but also his band members in later years. His Vale Road friends were the first group he ever formed.

John might have been the leader but he was unquestionably loyal to them and extremely generous. Ivan recalled that on their second get together, this time at Mendips, John willingly shared his sweets (remember this was during post-war rationing when sugary treats were still limited) and toy Dinky cars, even allowing Ivan to take some of them home. 

Ivan would later write: There was an immediate bond between us.

They shared a crazy sense of humour and when Ivan moved from Lidderdale Infants School (off Smithdown Road) to Dovedale Primary School at the age of eight he and John saw even more of each other.

Ivan at Lidderdale Infants School


The Dovedale School trip to the Isle of Man in 1951 :  

John front, second from left, future comedian Jimmy Tarbuck in boxer stance third from left with Ivan Vaughan next to him. Another mutual friend, Michael Hill stands behind with his hand on Ivan’s shoulder. The fair haired boy next to John on the left is sometimes claimed to be the renowned TV newsreader and journalist Peter Sissons but this is disputed (although he was on the trip) More on Sissons shortly....

John Lennon of course, was notorious around the village* and many parents would warn their children to stay away from ‘that Lennon’. Naturally, to some kids that made hanging around with John even more attractive, Ivan included and the little group would be willing accomplices in all sorts of misdemeanours around Woolton including shoplifting, trespassing and petty vandalism.

Ivan was a promising academic and while his parents couldn’t continually monitor who he mixed with outside of school they were adamant that their son’s education would not be ruined by Lennon’s disruptive influence. 

For this reason, while John was schooled at Quarry Bank, a short distance from their Woolton homes, by contrast Ivy was sent to the Liverpool Institute in the city centre. Nigel Walley, was sent to the Blue Coat Grammar school in Wavertree for similar parental concerns.

Pete Shotton, the fourth member of their group, went to Quarry Bank with John, and his secondary education suffered accordingly.


Ivan started at the Liverpool Institute on 9 September 1953.

One of the first people Ivy met at the Institute was Len Garry. They became firm friends and recognising something in Len that he thought John would find appealing introduced them. Len and John hit it off at their first meeting, as Ivy had hoped, and he became another regular member of the gang cycling over to Woolton from his home in Wavertree throughout the summer of 1955 and beyond.    


Pete Shotton, Ivan Vaughan and his Institute friend Len Garry. 

Another friend at the Institute was Peter Sissons who had known Ivan at Dovedale School.

We had a strict uniform code at Liverpool Institute but it hardly mattered to Ivan. His blazer badge wasn’t sewn on, but held in place with a paper clip so after school he could whip it off and be in “civvies” to chat up the girls.”

He remembered Ivan fondly as a complete original with an entirely distinctive sense of humour.

Peter Sissons and Ivan

Perhaps it was this sense of humour which caught the attention of Paul McCartney. They found they shared the same birthday – 18 June 1942 – something Paul would never forget and became great mates at school even though (they) weren’t in the same class.   

Paul McCartney: Ivan Vaughan was one of my best friends at school, who was born on exactly the same day as I was, in Liverpool. So when we discovered this fact, in the playground chatting, we became instant good mates. He was a really lovely man, he turned out to be a classic scholar, he went to Cambridge to study Greek and Latin. 

In 1956 John and his friends formed a skiffle group called the Quarry Men. 

Paul McCartney:  In those days they had these things called skiffle groups, which was the beginning of the rock 'n' roll craze for us. 

None of us could afford real instruments so one or two guys would have these guitars which were 'guaranteed not to crack' that you found in the back of magazines, very cheap, but most of us couldn't afford that kind of thing and so Ivan had a tea chest, the sort of thing that tea used to arrive in at the docks,  and these things, once they'd taken the tea out of them they were going spare so people used to use them for storage and things like that, and our crowd used to attach a broom handle and a piece of string and knot the string through the top of the tea chest bass and then stand the broom on the top, and then with the tension on the string you could get various notes.

Ivan loved music but wasn’t particularly musical, for a time playing a tea chest bass inscribed with ‘Jive With Ive, the Ace on the Bass’ before Len Garry took over on a more permanent basis.


Paul McCartney: So an 'ace' bass player would have his tea chest  and Ivan had drawn on the side of it 'Jive with Ive, the Ace on the Bass' and he would play it. You didn't have to be very musical do that but it was in the spirit of things. Of course it didn't last long, once we'd got professional equipment I'm afraid he was out. 

The other important thing [about Ivan] was that he actually introduced me one day to John Lennon, cos he  was very good friends with John,  part of John's crowd. 

Ivan had sensed Len Garry would get along with John and successfully introduced them. Now he had another introduction in mind, Paul McCartney, his friend from the Institute who was already showing considerable musical talent.  

(JV) Ivan knew that Paul would be a great addition to their little amateur group but the problem, he knew, would be John. He knew John pretty well [but] how would John, who was almost seventeen react to a mere fifteen year old who was a vastly superior musician?

Paul McCartney:  Ivan said to me, 'Come along to this village fair.' That was in the village of Woolton where John and Ivan lived, and he said, 'Why don't you come along? It'll be a good place to meet girls, a bit of fun, you know, and my friend's playing in one of the bands.

I remember coming into the fete; there was a coconut shy over here and the hoopla over there, and all the usual things-and there was a band playing on a platform with a small audience in front of them. We headed to the stage first because as teenagers we were interested in music. 

There was a guy up on the platform with curly, blondish hair, wearing a chequered shirt-looking pretty good and quite fashionable - singing a song that I loved: the Del-Vikings ‘Come Go With Me’. He didn’t know the words, but it didn’t matter as none of us knew the words either. There’s a little refrain that goes ‘Come little darlin', come and go with me, I love you darling.’ John was singing ‘Down, down, down to the penitentiary.’ He was filling in with blues lines, I thought that was good, and he was singing well. (Paul McCartney) 

Paul and John already knew each other by sight, as their homes were only a quarter of a mile apart. But at nearly 17 years of age John was like a grown-up, with his Elvis-style quiff whereas Paul was still baby-faced and had only turned 15 the previous month. 

After the group had played their first set the Quarry Men retired to the scout hut on the field where they left their equipment. It was here that the first introductions were made according to the Quarry Men's drummer Colin Hanton who recalls John entering the hut in discussion with one of the scouts. Shortly afterwards Ivan came in accompanied by this dark haired lad whom I’d never seen before....the three of them stood talking for about 5 minutes after which John, Ivy and the stranger left the scout hut together.. (Colin Hanton)    

Paul McCartney: I wandered around the fair and then Ivan and I went ‘backstage’. The band was getting ready to move indoors, into the church hall for the evening show. 


John, Pete, Len and Colin were hanging around by the stage when Ivy brought Paul in to meet them. A couple of discreet bottles of beer were passed about, Paul taking a swig so as not to lose face amongst his elders.  

Paul McCartney:  There was some beer being drunk....John was a little afternoon-pissed, leaning over my shoulder breathing boozily. We were all a little sloshed. I thought ‘Bloody hell, who’s this?’ 

The talk turned to music. Perhaps with some encouragement from Ivy to 'show them what you can do' Paul asked John if he could borrow his guitar. John decided to humour him and the Quarry Men probably raised an eyebrow or two when Paul, a left hander, turned the instrument upside down and began tuning it. But then he suddenly burst into song:

Paul McCartney: I played guitar-upside down. I did ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, and knew all the words. The Quarry Men were so knocked out that I actually knew and could sing ‘Twenty Flight Rock’. 

He didn't stop there, he sang Be Bop A Lula and one of two other songs and showed the Quarry men a few new guitar chords before moving over to the church piano and belting out some Little Richard numbers. John couldn't help but be impressed by Ivy's little mate.  

Paul McCartney: That’s what got me into the Beatles. 

Rod Davis (Quarry Man): It’s possible they’d never have met… and The Beatles would never have been, without Ivan 

After the fete, some of the Quarry Men, reportedly Pete and John, went to a local pub, most likely the White Horse, accompanied by Ivan and a very nervous Paul McCartney,  the latter two praying that nobody noticed that they didn’t look 18. Paul remembers that when word got around that a rival gang were coming up to the village to cause trouble he took that as the sign to leave and made his way back to Ivan’s to collect his bike.

Paul McCartney: I often pedalled around Woolton at that time, going to see Ivan. I lived a bike ride away in Allerton. 

About ten days after the fete Paul cycled up to see Ivan. Ivan wasn’t in but he bumped into Pete Shotton on the corner of Linkstor Road and Vale Road.

Paul McCartney: Pete Shotton, who was in The Quarry Men, was cycling around too, and we met by chance. Pete was a close friend of John’s. He said, ‘Hey, Paul, it was good the other day, and we’ve been having a talk, would you like to join the group?’ I said ‘I’ll have to think about it.’ But I was quite excited by the offer, so - through Ivan - I agreed to join.


Ivan outside 'Vega' with Paul and George Harrison.

(JV) As the Beatles rose to fame, Ivan continued his studies in Classics at University College London, and married me, but never lost touch with his friends.

Vaughan studied classics at University College, London, married in 1966 and settled down to family life with a son and daughter, and became a teacher.

(JV) We lived in London and often met up with the Beatles – at their houses, at concerts, clubs, restaurants, parties – very different from our everyday lives. During this period came my only claim to fame. We were having supper at Jane Asher’s and Paul began to talk of a song he was writing. He wanted a French first name and an adjective that rhymed with it. My answer became ‘Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble’ – the chorus of the Grammy award winning song ‘Michelle’. When I was in hospital after the birth of our son, Paul visited and left a pile of bank notes on my bed, much to the surprise of the nurses!

Jan Vaughan recalled how Ivan, Paul and John used to speak in some crazy made-up language that they’d used as kids – no-one else could understand it.

Paul McCartney: We knew each other for a long time, and we had a sort of mad sense of humour ... 'Cranlock naval, Cranlock pie', that would be the kind of thing Ivan would say, and wouldn't explain it, that was his sense of humour.


On Tuesday 21 March 1967 Ivan was a visitor to EMI Studio 2 in Abbey Road where the Beatles were working on ‘Getting Better’.  Also present was the journalist Hunter Davies who was in the process of writing the Beatles’ biography:
   
George Harrison and Ivan [Vaughan] went off to chat in a corner, but Paul and John listened carefully. Paul instructed the technician on which levers to press, telling him what he wanted, how it should be done, which bits he liked best. George Martin looked on, giving advice where necessary. John stared into space…

Davis probably didn’t realise that John was experiencing the effects of a tab of LSD he’d accidentally taken (mistaking it for an upper to keep him awake). 

John Lennon: I never took it in the studio. Once I did accidentally. I thought I was taking some uppers, and I was not in a state of handling it. I can’t remember what album it was but I took it and then [whispers] I just noticed all of a sudden I got so scared on the mike. I said, ‘What was it?’ I thought I felt ill. I thought I was going cracked. Then I said, ‘I must get some air.’ They all took me upstairs on the roof, and George Martin was looking at me funny. And then it dawned on me, I must have taken acid. And I said, ‘Well, I can’t go on, I have to go.’ So I just said, ‘You’ll have to do it and I’ll just stay and watch.’  

In reality this ended the session and Paul took John home and took some acid as well, to keep him company. Ivan’s thoughts on the evening are sadly unrecorded.

On 14 May 1968 John and Paul held a press conference in New York to announce the formation of Apple Corps and its subsidiary companies.

They put Ivan on a £10,000 retainer, in charge of a plan that never got off the ground: The Apple School, intended to be a progressive education establishment for the Beatles’ own children and those of the Apple staff. Ivan was going to be he Head teacher but reportedly the Beatles were advised to shelve the idea of a school until Apple started making money elsewhere. The project was quickly forgotten about. 


On the 18 May 1968 Paul took Ivan to Wembley Stadium to watch Everton play West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup Final.  West Brom beat Everton 1-0 in extra time.


On 21 June 1968 Paul flew to Los Angeles to address a sales conference attended by Capitol Records executives. He was accompanied on the trip by head of Apple Ron Kass, employee and old Liverpool buddy Tony Bramwell, and Ivan.

The conference took place at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel where they stayed for the duration of the trip. Paul had met Linda Eastman for the second time in May when he was in New York with John, and he hooked up with her again during this stay. Their final full day in the states, Monday 24 June was a day off and the party were invited to sail on a yacht belonging to Warner Brothers executive John Calley around Santa Catalina.






Linda Eastman, Paul and Ivan during the trip around Santa Catalina (photo by Tony Bramwell).

A few months later Ivan and his family were photographed during a visit to Paul's home in Cavendish Avenue, London.





Ivan taught Psychology at Homerton College, Cambridge from 1973 to 1983 when he had to take early retirement on the grounds of ill health.
 
(JV) In 1977 Ivan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at a very young age. While the Principal of Homerton College, Alison Shrubsole, and his colleagues in the Education Department were all very supportive, eventually he had to take early retirement. When John Lennon heard that Ivan was ill he sent him several inspirational books from New York to help him cope with the illness.


In the staff photo (1981), Jan and Ivan are second and fourth from the left (respectively), top row.

Paul McCartney: So he was a lovely friend of mine and he actually contracted Parkinson's Disease, at a very early age, in his thirties, which was quite unusual, and because he so bright and so intelligent, he understood exactly what was going on, he could keep up with all the research on it.

Following his retirement, Ivan featured in a documentary for the BBC series Horizon produced in 1984 by Jonathan Miller about his search for a cure. In 1986 his book, Ivan: Living with Parkinson’s Disease was published.  


Portrait of Ivan Vaughan, by Tom Miller  

A copy of Ivan's book, addressed ‘To the staff of Homerton College, with thanks for all your support’, is held in the College Library.



Ivan died on 16 August 1993. He was only 51.

(JV) At his funeral we listened to Paul singing ‘Blackbird’. This was appropriate for their friendship and there was also a tame blackbird in our garden that used to eat from Ivan’s hand.

Paul was deeply upset about Ivan’s passing. Working through his grief he found himself writing a kind of elegy to him.

Paul McCartney: It was particularly sad that he died at an early age so I was then moved to write a poem, and that really started me on the path of writing poems.

(JV) From New York, Paul sent me a poem that he had written for Ivan – a poem which echoes with memories of their friendship and the crazy invented words that used to make them fall about with laughter.

"Ivan" *

Two doors open
On the eighteenth of June
Two babies born
On the same day
In Liverpool
One was Ivan
The other---me

We met in adolescence
And did the deeds
They dared us do
Jive with Ive
The ace on the bass

He introduced to me
At Woolton fete
A pal or two
And so we did
A classic scholar he
A rocking roller me
As firm as friends could be

Cranlock naval
Cranlock pie
A tear is rolling
Down my eye

On the sixteenth of August
Nineteen ninety-three
One door closed
Bye bye Ivy

Later, it was published as part of Blackbird Singing, a collection of Paul’s poetry and lyrics.

Jan Vaughan immediately recognised the reference to Cranlock naval, Cranlock pie as part of the secret language that Paul and Ivan had spoken since their childhood. In later life whenever the two men got together one of them was bound to mention Cranlock naval, Cranlock pie, and it would set them off into fits of laughter.

What does it mean? Despite extensive research I’ve not found anything. Unless Paul wants to reveal the secret, I guess we’ll never know.

Paul McCartney celebrates his 78th birthday today. Sadly Ivan never made his.

But consider this, without Ivan Vaughan making what was probably the most important introduction in the history of music you wouldn’t be reading this blog because in all likelihood, the Beatles would never have existed. 

Imagine not having all those fantastic moments the Beatles have given us over the years.

We have a lot to thank him for.

Happy Birthday Ivy. The Ace on the Bass.


* John Lennon had namechecked Ivy many years earlier in one of his own short stories entitled "Treasure Ivan".


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