SHE SAID SHE SAID: Joanne Petersen was Brian Epstein's personal assistant during the heyday of the Beatles.
SHE SAID SHE SAID: Joanne Petersen was Brian Epstein's personal assistant during the heyday of the Beatles. Christian Morrow

Roll up for Beatles stories

BEATLES fans are in for a treat with one of those close to the band during the heady Swinging Sixties in conversation at an evening of Beatles Songs and Stories from 7.30pm on September 23 at the Byron Theatre.

Byron shire resident Joanne Petersen was personal assistant to the band's manager Brian Epstein in the years spanning from the release of Rubber Soul through to Sgt Pepper.

The event is a fundraiser for the Steinway grand piano at the theatre and Joanne will be in conversation with journalist David Leser.

It's the first time Joanne has spoken of these years in public. She also has original, rarely seen photos of the band that will be projected on the big screen as she tells her extraordinary story of the times and the bands, including how she first met The Beatles.

"I hassled Derek, my hairdresser in Hampstead, to take me to this very exclusive members-only club called the Ad Lib where I knew The Beatles were members,” she said.

"The night we went Jean Shrimpton was there with David Bailey. Derek went off to network and after dancing and having a few drinks, I plonked myself down on a seat and a voice next to me said, 'Where did you learn to dance like that?'.

"And there was George and Ringo. They asked me my name and being a lairy North London girl I fired back, what's yours? They introduced themselves as John and Paul.

"We got chatting and they asked what I did. I said I had a really boring job and they suggested that I call Brian Epstein.” After landing the job with Epstein in early 1965, Joanne worked in an office on the top floor of his home in Belgravia.

"The Beatles used to come to the office separately and together and I got to know them quite well. They we friendly and cheeky,” she said. Joanne also recalls one instance where John and Paul sat in the corner of her office writing songs together, scrawling down lyrics as they went. "There were screwed-up pieces of paper on the floor with abandoned ideas written on them and when they left I can't believe I simply threw them in the waste paper basket,” she said.

Joanne organised the Sgt Pepper's launch party at Epstein's Belgravia home and went, with her close friend, singer Lulu, to the Sgt Pepper's party at Epstein's country house in Sussex, where she found John Lennon and friends tripping inside his psychedelic Rolls Royce.

It all came to screeching halt when Epstein died in August 1967 at the age of 32.

"It was the end for me, in some ways the end for The Beatles and also for the whole era,” Joanne said.

She then went on to a successful career in the music industry in England and later Australia.

Either side of Joanne's talk there will be two sets of The Beatles tunes performed in different genres by artists including Phil Emmanuel, Tim Gaze, Gyan, Steve Russell and Claes Pierce.

For tickets go to: www.byroncentre.com.au.


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