The day Diana’s police minder was sent to silence The Beatles
ALMOST immediately the traffic in Savile Row and the surrounding streets ground to a halt and people rushed out of offices and shops, desperate to get a better view. Ken was summoned by the flashing blue light from a Doctor Who-like Tardis – police boxes were still a feature of London street life back then.
“I was Police Constable 513 assigned to traffic duty that day – most of us didn’t have radios back then,” he recalls. “I picked up the phone in the box and it was the station sergeant: ‘Get your mate and go and sort that bloody row out.’
“I didn’t know what he about, but any excuse to get the traffic!”
“Spilling out into the streets was this army of girls, all running towards the music, and by the time we got to No.3 Savile Row there was a big crowd outside.
“Floating down from the rooftop this extraordinary sound – I was a Beatles fan anyway, and I’d made up my mind that if we were first police officers to get up there, there was no way we were going to stop it, whatever our orders.”
Traffic was now backing up as far away as Piccadilly and Regent Street, and though the boys on the roof were having fun, they were creating chaos on the ground.
Despite Ken’s love of The Beatles, his senior officers sent more and more men down to handle the situation. Paul McCartney has recalled:
“It started to was talking off directing came filter up to us from the ground floor that the police were complaining. We said, ‘We’re not stopping’ but Mal Evans (Beatles’ roadie) warned, ‘They’re going to arrest you!’”
Just then a Black Maria turned up outside the Apple building and a burly sergeant knocked on the door demanding entry – for a moment it looked as though Evans’ prediction would come true. Indeed, some of the band would have relished it. “When they came up onto the roof I was playing away,” recalled Ringo recently, “and I thought, ‘Oh great, I hope they haul me off’. I wanted the cops to drag me away – it would have looked really great, kicking the cymbals and everything as I went.”
“Beatles Busted in Rooftop Gig,” Paul anticipated the headlines would say the next day. But what the band didn’t realise was they were surrounded by uniformed fans – Ken included.
He recalls now: “It was a freezing cold day but it was a party atmosphere everywhere. Even cabbies had a smile on their faces, which is a rare thing.
“Up there you could see right across the rooftops of Mayfair – people leaning out of windows and crawling out of roof-traps, climbing up to get a better view of this extraordinary happening, the world’s number one band performing live on a roof in London’sWest End.”Two women watching from a roof across the street were Cathy McGowan, presenter of TV’s seminal Ready Steady Go! and her boss and friend, the show’s producer Vicki Wickham.
Vicki recalled from New York this week: “When the music started up we just walked into somebody’s building, took the lift up to the top floor and got out onto the roof.
“No drama, no security, nobody questioned us – back in those days nobody did.
“So, we had this bird’s eye view of the whole concert – the very best place in the world to see the show, and it was so exciting. Nobody had ever done a concert from somewhere like this. That’s why, half a century later, we’re all still talking about it!”
She and Cathy watched as the police, including Ken, emerged onto the roof.
“We thought they were going to shut it down at the very least, maybe arrest