Frieda Kelly: My life with the Beatles


But instead of a thankless desk job, she took a trip with the biggest and most transformative band in the history of rock music, at the right hand of the band’s manager. She had just turned 18.

“We didn’t have Beatlemania in England in the beginning, and when it hit we were amazed. I remember we were all on edge in the office, we didn’t know how America was going to take them, we didn’t have mobile phones then and we were waiting on the call.
“Then Eppy rang the office and just said, ‘They’ve gone mad over here, they love them.’”

The whole world had gone crazy for The Beatles, but Kelly was not going to lose the run of herself.

“There were people in the inner circle they knew they could trust who didn’t worship them. We were there in the beginning,” Kelly said.

“It was probably my Irish upbringing too. We’re don’t get over-awed. These are four human beings, they’re not gods. They tried to have normal lives. I kept that in mind.

“And when they were getting slaughtered over John’s ‘We’re bigger than Jesus’ remark and people started burning their records and the KKK threatened to kill them, we couldn’t believe the way the Americans reacted to that. It was taken out of context, but the comment was true.

“You weren’t getting kids going to Mass on Sunday, but they were in love with The Beatles and writing to them, and that was the way John meant it. He was wondering what was wrong with the world.”

To keep her father happy Kelly remained in Liverpool where she ran the Beatles fan club, traveling to London every six weeks for meetings at their headquarters, Apple.

One of the amazing perks of the job was hearing The Beatles record and getting to listen to the albums long before the public.

“I got them all before they were released. Even the demo discs. I took in my stride because I was in it from the beginning and they understood that,” Kelly says.

Being a good Catholic girl, she found a good use for all of the foreign stamps that arrived with the fan mail.

“I used to collect all the foreign stamps and pack them off to The Irish Messenger (a Catholic publication, who recycled them for cash). They were located in Cumberland Street in Marble Arch in London. How’s about that for devotion?”

Kelly was one of the few people who got close to John Lennon’s aunt and guardian, (and the subject of the recent film Nowhere Boy) Mimi because, she says, she understood her.

“Mimi was like my father, she was old school and strict. John needed controlling. He was rebellious and she was a widow who was trying to do her best to bring him up right. She was a lovely person but didn’t suffer fools gladly,” recalls Kelly.

“You wouldn’t get around Mimi. She wasn’t warm in that way. He was always looking for something wasn’t he? Having no mother affects people.

“Paul’s mother died when he was 14. My mother died when I was 18 months and I was shipped around backwards and forwards between Ireland and England. It affects your character. It made me more independent. I could understand John because you develop a shell around you to protect yourself.”

When the cast of Rain traveled to Liverpool to visit Lennon’s old house they were thrilled when Kelly pulled some strings to give them a private tour. But what she didn’t tell them was that she hadn’t been in Lennon’s house, a place she knew intimately, since 1965.

“It was quite an experience for me, walking into John’s house after so long. I just stood in one of the rooms and it all flowed back – John and Mimi, it was good and bad.

“It was my own life. I just had to take breaths and tell myself to get over it. It happened a long time ago.”

And how do you follow 10 years with The Beatles once it ends? For Kelly the choice was to keep her mouth shut and have a private life. For decades she didn’t mention another word about it.

Then one day she was asked to share some of her memories on BBC 4.

“After the show broadcast I get an email on my screen from a young trainee solicitor at my office. He wrote, ‘I can’t believe what you did in your youth.’ I wrote back, ‘And what do you think I did?’

“He replied, ‘I nearly crashed my bloody car when I realized it was you who was talking. That’s got to be our Frieda in the office.

You’re talking about going to John Lennon’s house! What the hell is Richard’s secretary doing on Radio 4?’”

Kelly had worked at the solicitor’s office for 17 years before almost any of them had a clue about her past.

“I was extremely lucky, I was in the right place at the right time, I lived where they lived and I happened to know them. And I actually got paid for it.

“I am so glad I was a teenager in the 1960s because we had a ball! The world opened for us. I just loved that era.”