07th July, 2017

Interview: Leslie Cavendish Beatles hairdresser

From Moptops to Psychedelic shags, The Beatles were famed not only for their music but also for their style and influence on 60s fashions. We catch up with former Beatles hairdresser Leslie Cavendish about his time sculpting the heads of the Fab Four and his upcoming book release.

When did you start cutting hair for The Beatles?

The first time I met a Beatle was Paul McCartney after Jane Asher asked if I would cut her boyfriend’s hair in October 1966. After two home visits, I cut his hair very short so he could go on safari without being recognised. The press said I was “The barber who made a Beatle a skinhead”. I met the other Beatles at the Baker Street and Wigmore Street offices in 1967 and started cutting their hair at Apple.

 

 

You used to run a salon financed by Apple Corps in London. How did this come about and who were your regular customers?

I was cutting Pauls hair at his home in November 1967 and he mentioned to me that they would be taking over Dandie fashions on the King's Road and would I like to have the basement of the shop to cut hair. We opened the shop on the 23rd May 1968.

My clients included George Harrison, Ringo Starr, The Bee Gees, Keith Moon, DC5, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) James Hunt (F1 world champion), Peter Asher, James Taylor, Jackie Lomax, Graham Nash, Emperor Rosko, as well as many other DJs, Apple artists and the general public.

 

 

The Fab Four’s hairstyles evolved throughout their careers, as did their music. How much influence did you have on their hairstyles or did The Beatles decide on their look?

There were never any discussions about styling their hair just like their music, the hair evolved but their hair was always trimmed. John’s hair wasn’t as thick as the others, it needed trimming otherwise the ends would break off. From Sgt. Pepper his hair was shorter, he had sideburns and started to let it grow longer.

 

 

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ this year, and you were cutting the band’s hair at that time. Did you know it would become so iconic?

You knew that this was going to be a special album because of the amount of detail that Lennon and McCartney put into it. When you knew that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were recording with The Beatles it had to be special. As I said in my book, off came the ties and now let the music play.

 

 

You were with the band during their Magical Mystery Tour, rooftop concert and several Abbey Road recording sessions. How was it to experience these things first hand?

Firstly, I am a Beatles fan so to be able to cut their hair was like winning the lottery and the bonus was being able to watch them record at Abbey Road and Trident studios, it was like watching musical gods at work. To be able to see them at work, being themselves and having conversations with them, especially on the MMT, was very special.

 

 

Please tell us about your new book and when will it be available?

First, it is the story of a fifteen-year-old boy who came from a North London suburb, having left school with no qualifications save for a healthy belief in his own potential and who, within five years, rose to become one of London’s most sought-after celebrity hairdressers. It is the tale of one day in 1966 when he styled the hair of a young actress whose boyfriend was Paul McCartney.

Second, it is the story of what life was like on the inside at Apple Corps, as The Beatles moved from being just a successful pop band to becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Finally, it is the story of the music, fashion and Cultural Revolution that was the sixties and early seventies. I was there, living it, observing it and now I’m telling the readers what it was like.

 

 

How did you find your visit to The Beatles Story, for someone who was there, do you feel it captures the ‘essence’ of the times?

This is an amazing place and The Beatles Story has captured everything that happened during the beginning of The Beatles to the end of The Beatles. At times I was going through my youth and it is fantastic that other people around the world can share this experience as they use to say in the sixties "I'll give it 5, it's a hit".

 

 

Did you have a favourite Beatle to work with or a favourite song perhaps?

A favourite I don’t think so, but going over to Paul's house a lot of times became a much more personal experience than cutting the hair of the other two at Apple.

I did enjoy George coming to the salon when he came from his house in Surrey to Apple Savile row via 161 Kings Road. He always wanted to have a chat. We would wash his hair then blow dry it with his eyes closed and listen to the music I liked to play such as Nina Simone, the Doors and Fleetwood Mac.

I always liked The Beatles’ song "Things We Said Today" but everytime I hear "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" I think of the night at Trident when Paul played an early draft of this to me at about 1am in the morning; I went home singing the chorus line.

______________________

Leslie will be launching his book The Cutting Edge: The Story of the Beatles’ Hairdresser Who Defined an Era as guest speaker at this year’s International Beatleweek Festival. The book will also be available to purchase from The Beatles Story’s Fab4 Store shortly afterwards. For more information visit beatleshairdresser.com.

Dave Milner

Dave is Marketing and PR Executive at The Beatles Story and holds an MA in 'Music Since 1900'.

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