Graham Reid | | 5 min read
It is widely accepted that the Beatles changed the course of popular culture: their upbeat pop captured the optimistic spirit of a new generation, when they matured and explored Indian philosophy and music they exemplified Western youth's rejection of organised Christian religion in favour of a more spiritual approach.
Here businessman and property developer Leonard Houseman writes about how his life was affected by the Beatles and the different, more profitable, direction it took. *
Actually I was quite artistic at school and won a couple of drawing prizes and decent one for painting. So I was always going to go to art school and further that as my career.
But then in late 1963 I heard With the Beatles and I was just struck by their inventiveness and the great songs. My final year before university was 1964 and I played that album incessantly.
Actually I played just one song over and over.
I always thought John Lennon had this wonderfully truthful and authentic voice, when he sang he meant every word of it. The song that got to me me wasn't actually written by them but Lennon just kind of sold it.
It was Money with those great lines, “money don't get everything it true, what it don't get I can't use, so give me money . . .”
Money, by the Beatles
When I heard that over and over it made me realise that I could waste my life being creative at art school or I could do something different.
So I enrolled for courses in tax analysis and property law.
Best thing I ever did.
Within a couple of years I had a small portfolio of modest properties bought when the market was depressed and then I started to cash them up when it rose. Barely paid a penny in tax either!
I didn't have much time for relationships – as Lennon said," you're love gives me such thrill, but your love don't pay my bills” – but the rush I got was from making money.
But you had to be clever, of course. Not like the Beatles with their Apple endeavour which I watched closely. You had to think laterally, like my friend Allen Klein.
I wasn't really following them in that flower power period when they were all smoking marijuana. I didn't disapprove of that, in fact I made a pretty tidy sum flying the stuff straight from Mexico to Washington DC on private charter jets.
No one asks any questions when you've got a five-star general or the president's daughter on the manifest.
The one song I did like at that time was Baby You're a Rich Man, a really great song defending corporate capitalism I thought.
But my interests were elsewhere.
One time I saw this lovely property in Surrey, big house, nice garden, lots of rooms and a pool, but it was pitched a bit high I thought.
However the land next door was available so I negotiated a three year lease and then, out of the goodness of my heart because they were being given a hard time by the local police, I had one of my people invite a bunch of travellers to move onto the site and camp there.
Unfortunately that drove the value of the house next door right down and so when it dropped by a million I got it and used the saving to buy the land I'd leased.
Sadly that meant the travellers would have to be moved on, but the police were only too happy to oblige.
A nice bit of property in the country.
I also picked up a five storey townhouse in New York on the Upper West Side which had been renovated into stylish apartments. I secured the ground floor and then invited some builders from Chechnya – at the least they said they were builders – to move in and they could conduct their business from there.
I think the number of men their beautiful wives and girlfriends attracted upset some of the other occupants who had to run the gauntlet of them in the lobby every day.
As those tenants moved out I managed to pick up their apartments too.
I never knew what happened to those builders after the shooting. They just fled.
I've had a few wives, each of them younger and better than the other one. I've got some kids with the first couple and in fact one of the boys is a very good artist.
Nothing I'd collect or invest in, but you know, decent enough.
I tried to get him to paint all that big abstract shit that insurance companies and banks need in their entry halls, but he seemed a bit attached to small portraits. You can't help them sometimes.
One of the girls is a midwife but we haven't spoken much since I told her she wasting her life with that sort of thing.
My current wife is a former Miss Barbados and she keeps an eye out for properties in the Caribbean.
I still like a bit of art but everyone's got a Picasso drawing or two so I went the Monet and Cezanne route which has proven to be profitable, by coincidence.
Funnily enough the things I most value are my Beatles' objects.
Above my desk I have a copy of With the Beatles signed by them . . . I had it authenticated, it's the real deal.
Because I'd donated something to one her peace charities or something I negotiated a deal with Yoko for a few of Lennon's original drawings. So I have those, picked them up for a song in fact because we could write off the donation anyway.
I bought three recent McCartney paintings which frankly aren't up to much but, you know, he's pretty old and so they'll go up in value when that happens.
But the thing I perhaps prize the most are the handwritten lyrics of Money by Barrett Strong.
We tracked him down a couple of years ago in California and asked him to write out those words. The deal was we'd get the original copy and would reproduce a limited print run of 100 copies for him to sell, conditional that we would get the unsold ones back in the event of his death.
Sadly he only sold about three before he passed away – he was 81 – so now I have all of those too. I'll just flick those through auction houses on a drip-feed.
But the original is right there on my desk and I see it every day.
It reminds of how the Beatles changed the direction of my life when I heard John Lennon sing, “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to birds and bees, I need money, that's what I want”.
Never a truer word was spoken.
Thank you Beatles and Barrett Strong. You made me the man I am today.
* This absurdity was prompted by remembering a photo of me — wearing a black cape with red lining — taken in London in late '69 standing next to Lennon’s psychedelic roller and everyone in the background being monochromatic men in what looked like demob suits and hats, women in Fifties coats like my mum used to wear after the war. A lot hadn't changed in Britain, despite the best efforts of Swinging London.
For other articles along these lines, but more humorous, check out Absurd Elsewhere here