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  • Alf Bicknell

    United Kingdom

    Art Brokerage: Alf Bicknell British Artist:(1928-2004): While it's a fool's errand to argue the case of Alf Bicknell as the so-called "fifth Beatle," it's equally nonsensical to ignore his role in the Fab Four's mythology -- their chauffeur and confidante, he was also the inspiration for the classic "Drive My Car" and a member of the chorus on "Yellow Submarine." Alfred George Bicknell was born in Haslemere, Surrey, on October 28, 1928 -- after stints as a butcher and a circus clown, he became a professional driver, often chauffeuring dignitaries for a private firm that regularly worked for the U.K.'s foreign embassies. He was eventually recommended to the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, and in October 1964 was hired as the band's private driver in the midst of filming on their second feature, Help! With the Beatles at the frenzied peak of their fame, Bicknell's job required not only that he safely deliver his charges to and from concert dates, film sets, and the famed Abbey Road recording studio, but also that he navigate the massive throng of screaming fans who trailed the group everywhere -- he once ran over a policeman's foot, but otherwise maintained a spotless safety record. During the two years he was on the Beatles' payroll, Bicknell first drove the band in an Austin Princess with the windows completely blacked out; he was later handed the keys to John Lennon's Rolls Royce Phantom V -- he later recounted that Lennon once threw his chauffeur's cap out the car window, proclaiming "You're one of us now." During sessions for the classic Rubber Soul, Bicknell was a fixture at Abbey Road, also arranging delivery of food to the studio -- "Drive My Car," the Lennon/McCartney classic that opened the album, was in part an homage to his dedication to the band. During sessions for the classic follow-up, Revolver, Bicknell was also recruited to sing backing vocals on "Yellow Submarine," even contributing the anchor-like sound effect that in actuality was no more than a piece of chain and an old tin bath. After the Beatles quit touring, Bicknell resigned his post in August of 1966, briefly relocating to the U.S. to drive the New Christy Minstrels -- he later chauffeured Sir Robert McAlpine before an injury to his right arm forced him to retire from driving in 1980. In 1989 he published an autobiography, Baby, You Can Drive My Car! (later reissued as the book and video package Alf Bicknell's Beatles Diary), and also toured lecture circuits speaking about his experiences, although he steadfastly rejected all offers to dish the dirt on the more seedy aspects of his Beatle experience -- he did, however, auction five tapes of the group rehearsing "If I Fell" and reading Biblical passages in comical voices. A fixture at Beatles conventions in the last years of his life, Bicknell died of a heart attack in Oxfordshire on March 9, 2004. Listings wanted by Art Brokerage.

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