- Magic Alex
Alexis Yanni Born 2 May 1942
Nationality Greek Other names Magic Alex Occupation Electronics engineer, security consultant Spouse Eufrosyne Mardas (nee Doxiades)
Yanni (later John) Alexis Mardas (born May 5, 1942, Athens, Greece), better known as Magic Alex, the name given him by The Beatles when he knew the group between 1965 and 1969, is a self-styled electronics wizard and one-time head of The Beatles' Apple Electronics.
Mardas arrived in England in 1965, exhibiting his Kinetic Light Sculptures at the Indica Gallery. Mardas impressed John Lennon with his Nothing Box; a small plastic box with randomly blinking lights, and boasted that he could build a 72-track tape machine, so was given the job of designing the new Apple Studio in Savile Row. Mardas failed to live up to his promises of new inventions, which also included electric paint, wallpaper loudspeakers, a flying saucer, and a "sonic force field", although Mardas later denied he had promised to build the inventions. He was involved in the hasty departure of Lennon and George Harrison from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in India, and Lennon's divorce of his first wife, Cynthia Lennon.
In the 1970s, the anti-terrorism industry offered bullet-proof vehicles, bugging devices and security hardware, and Mardas set up various companies offering these products to royalty and VIPs. King Hussein of Jordan bought a fleet of cars that Mardas had customised, but the cars proved to be more life-threatening than ordinary cars, as bullets easily pierced the supposed armour-plating, and the glass splintered. In 1987, Mardas was a managing director of Alcom Ltd, which specialised in electronic communications and security. He now lives in Greece.
London and The Beatles
The 21-year-old Yanni Alexis Mardas first arrived in England on a student visa in 1965, befriending John Dunbar of the Indica Gallery in London, and later moving in with him in a flat on Bentinck Street, which was where Mardas first met Lennon. Shortening his name to Yanni Mardas, he found employment as a television repairman. Dunbar later introduced Mardas to Brian Jones, after Mardas exhibited his Kinetic Light Sculptures at the Indica Gallery. Dunbar worked with Mardas on the “psychedelic light box” for The Rolling Stones' three-week tour of Europe in 1967, although they were not impressed with the results. Dunbar later said: "He was quite cunning in the way he pitched his thing. He knew enough to know how to wind people up and to what extent. He was a fucking TV repairman: Yanni Mardas, none of this 'Magic Alex' shit!"
Jones introduced Mardas to Lennon, and it was at this point that Mardas impressed Lennon with his Nothing Box; a small plastic box with randomly blinking lights that Lennon would stare at for hours while under the influence of LSD. Lennon later introduced the renamed John Alexis Mardas as his "new guru", calling him "Magic Alex". Mardas told Lennon about his ideas for futuristic electronic devices he was "working on", such as a telephone that responded to its owner's voice and could identify who was calling, a force field that would surround The Beatles' homes, an X-ray camera, paint that would make anything invisible, car paint that would change colour by flicking a switch, and wallpaper speakers, which would actually be a part of the wallpaper. Mardas later asked for the V-12 engines from Lennon's Rolls-Royce and Harrison's Ferrari Berlinetta car, so he could build a flying saucer. The Beatles set up a company for Mardas called Fiftyshapes Ltd., in September 1967, and Mardas later became one of the first employees of the newly formed Apple Corps, earning £40 a week and receiving 10% of any profits made from his inventions.
The Beatles often called Mardas the "Greek wizard", and Paul McCartney remembered being interested in his ideas: “Well, if you [Mardas] could do that, we’d like one". It was always, 'We’d like one'”. Mardas' ideas were not confined to the realms of electronic wizardry, but included songwriting involvement, with a Lennon-Mardas composition, "What's the New Mary Jane", originally meant for inclusion on The White Album.
Mardas was given his own laboratory called Apple Electronics, at 34 Boston Place, Westminster, London, and was helped to obtain a British work visa. On The Beatles Anthology DVD, Mardas is shown wearing a white laboratory assistant's coat in Apple Electronics (with loud oscillating noises in the background) saying, "Hello, I’m Alexis, from Apple Electronics. I would like to say ‘Hello’ to all my brothers around the world, and to all the girls around the world, and to all the electronic people around the world. That is Apple Electronics." Mardas then turns and points back to a collection of two portable 2-track recorders in wooden boxes, a 2-track studio recording machine, voltage meters, a hi-fi amplifier, an oscilloscope and a TV screen showing pulsating psychedelic balloon shapes. A mysterious fire at the laboratory prevented Mardas from presenting his inventions, but he later said: "I’m a rock gardener, and now I’m doing electronics. Maybe next year, I make films or poems. I have no formal training in any of these, but this is irrelevant".
The Beatles had tried in 1964 to buy the 14-acre (57,000 m2) Trinity Island, off the coast of the Greek island of Euboea (resembling a guitar in shape) but the owners were not interested in a sale. Lennon was still interested in buying or leasing an island to live on together, and discussed it with the other Beatles on 19 July 1967. Mardas' father was a major in the Greek secret police, and Mardas explained that through him The Beatles would have access to Greek government connections, which would speed the acquisition of an island, as many islands did have the right certificates of ownership and were subject to government restrictions. On 22 July 1967, Harrison and his wife, Pattie Boyd, Ringo Starr and Neil Aspinall flew to Athens, where they stayed in Mardas' parents' house overnight until Lennon, his wife and son, McCartney and Jane Asher, Pattie Boyd's 16-year-old sister, Paula, Mal Evans and Alistair Taylor set off for Athens.
Their chartered yacht, the MV Arvi, was detained in Crete because of bad weather, so the party had to wait in Athens for three days. Taylor complained that on a trip to a small hill village, "We came round a corner of the peaceful road only to find hundreds of photographers clicking away at us", which Mardas had organised. McCartney later said that while sailing around Greek islands, everybody just sat around and took LSD. They eventually found the 80-acre (320,000 m2) island of Leslo, which had a small fishing village, four beaches and a large olive grove. Four small neighbouring islands surrounded it (which were planned as one for each Beatle) so the island was bought for £95,000 (with a 25% premium) but was sold for a modest profit a few months later, after all four Beatles lost interest in the idea.
Apple Boutique and marriage
On 1 August 1967, Mardas, Aspinall and Derek Taylor, were invited by Harrison to stay at the home of Robert Fitzpatrick, on Blue Jay Way, and on 7 August 1967, Harrison and his wife visited San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district with Mardas. The Apple Boutique, at 94 Baker Street, London, was one of the first business ventures made by The Beatles' fledgling Apple Corps, and Mardas (at great expense) was commissioned to create one of his ideas; an "artificial sun" which would light up the night-time sky, for the opening on 7 December 1967. When the time came for Mardas to produce his artificial sun, he claimed that there was not a strong enough energy supply to power it, which was accepted by The Beatles. Mardas appeared (uncredited) in the Beatles' TV movie Magical Mystery Tour, which was first broadcast on BBC1 on Boxing Day in 1967. On 11 July 1968, 26-year-old Mardas married 22-year-old Eufrosyne Doxiades (the daughter of a respected Greek architect) at St Sophia's Church, London. Harrison and his wife attended, and Lennon (who was there with Yoko Ono) was joint best man, along with Donovan.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and India
Mardas and Aspinall joined Lennon and Harrison in India, where they were studying meditation under the tutelage of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, although Starr had flown back to England—complaining the Indian food did not agree with him—and McCartney had left on 24 March 1968. When Mardas first met the Maharishi, he said sarcastically, "I know you! Didn’t I meet you in Greece years ago?"
Mardas was jealous about the control the Maharishi had over Lennon, and during one of their frequent walks through the woods he asked Lennon why the Maharishi always had an accountant by his side. Lennon replied that The Beatles (or Lennon and Harrison) were considering donating a large part of their income to the Maharishi's bank accounts in Switzerland. When Mardas questioned the Maharishi about this, he offered money to Mardas to build a high-powered radio station, so he could broadcast his teachings to the whole of India.
Alcohol was not allowed in the Maharishi's ashram, but Mardas smuggled some in from Dehra Dun, and later reported to Lennon and Harrison that the Maharishi had sex with a young American student, and had made a sexual advance toward Mia Farrow. This was not fully supported in Farrow's autobiography, What Falls Away (1997) writing that she may have misinterpreted the supposed sexual advance. Mardas continued to insist the Maharishi was not what he said he was; even making Harrison unsure. Lennon thought at the time: "Well, it must be true, because if George [Harrison] is doubting him, there must be something in it". Lennon and Harrison confronted the Maharishi, but the startled Maharishi's answers did not satisfy them, and they decided to leave the camp. Mardas insisted that they (Lennon, Harrison and their respective wives) must leave the camp at once, or the Maharishi might send down some "black magic" on them. Mardas then went down to Dehra Dun to organise taxis for the next morning to take them all to Delhi.
Cynthia Lennon personally believed that Mardas invented the story about sexual impropriety to undermine the Maharishi's influence on The Beatles, as Mardas was always jealous of anyone having Lennon's attention. Harrison and McCartney later offered their apologies to the Maharishi (McCartney said that he did not believe the accusation at all). In 2010, Mardas issued a statement denying that he had spread rumours.
After returning to England in May 1968, Lennon suggested that Cynthia take a holiday in Greece with Mardas, Donovan, Boyd, and her sister. Lennon said that he would be very busy recording The White Album and that it would do her some good to take a break with Mardas, his girlfriend Jenny Boyd, and others. Cynthia arrived home one day early from Greece on 22 May 1968. She and Mardas discovered Lennon and Ono sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring into each others eyes, and found Ono's slippers outside the Lennons' marital bedroom door. Cynthia asked Boyd and Mardas if she could spend the night at their apartment. At the apartment Boyd went straight to bed, but Mardas got Cynthia drunk and tried to convince her that they should both run away together. After Cynthia had been sick in the bathroom she collapsed on a bed in the spare bedroom, but Mardas joined her and tried to kiss her until she (in her words) "pushed him away". Brian Epstein's personal assistant, Peter Brown, maintains that Cynthia did sleep with Mardas, saying: "She knew it was a mistake the moment it happened, especially with Alex [Mardas], whom she had never trusted, nor even liked".
Lennon went to New York with McCartney shortly after and told Cynthia she could not go with them, so Cynthia went on a trip to Italy with her mother. During Cynthia's holiday in Italy, an "agitated" Mardas unexpectedly arrived (pacing up and down outside Cynthia's hotel until she returned), giving the news that Lennon was planning to sue Cynthia for divorce on grounds of adultery, seek sole custody of Julian, and send Cynthia "back to Hoylake". Mardas also said that he intended to testify in court that Cynthia had committed adultery with him. She said in 2005: "The mere fact that Magic Alex [Mardas] arrived in Italy in the middle of the night without any prior knowledge of where I was staying made me extremely suspicious. I was being coerced into making it easy for John [Lennon] and Yoko to accuse me of doing something that would make them not look so bad".
Mardas often said that the Abbey Road studio was "no good", much to producer George Martin's annoyance: "The trouble was that Alex was always coming to the studios to see what we were doing and to learn from it, while at the same time saying ‘These people are so out of date.’ But I found it very difficult to chuck him out, because the boys liked him so much. Since it was very obvious that I didn’t, a minor schism developed". Mardas boasted that he could build a much better studio, with a 72-track tape machine, instead of the 4-track at Abbey Road—which was being updated at the time to an 8-track—so he was given the job of designing the new Apple Studio in the basement of Apple headquarters in Savile Row. One of Mardas' more outrageous plans was to replace the acoustic baffles around Starr's drums with an invisible sonic force field. Starr remembered that Mardas bought some "huge" computers from British Aerospace, which were stored in his barn, but "they never left the barn", and were later sold as scrap metal.
Mardas gave the Beatles regular reports of his progress, but when they required their new studio in January 1969, during the Get Back project that became Let It Be, they discovered an unusable studio: no 72-track tape deck (Mardas had reduced it to 16 tracks), no soundproofing, no talkback (intercom) system, and not even a patch bay to run the wiring between the control room and the 16 speakers that Mardas had fixed haphazardly to the walls. The only new piece of sound equipment present was a crude mixing console which Mardas had built, which looked (in the words of Martin's assistant, Dave Harries) like "bits of wood and an old oscilloscope". The console was scrapped after just one session. Harrison said it was "chaos", and that they had to "rip it all out and start again," calling it, "the biggest disaster of all time." Harrison's suspicions of Mardas' competence had been raised when he saw him wandering around in a white coat with a clipboard, and considered the possibility that Mardas had "just read the latest version of Science Weekly, and used its ideas". Mardas later stated that he had never been in the basement of Savile Row, as the studio equipment he was building was being tested in Apple Electronics, at Boston Place, Marylebone.
The Beatles asked producer Martin to come to the rescue, so he borrowed two four-track recorders from EMI, and long-time Beatles' engineer, Geoff Emerick, was given the task of building and setting up a studio with portable equipment. After Allen Klein was brought in to be The Beatles' manager in 1969, he closed Apple Electronics, and Mardas left the company. It was later estimated that Mardas' ideas and projects had cost The Beatles at least £300,000 (3 million British pounds today). Starr once approved of one of Mardas’ ideas that is relevant today: "He [Mardas] had an idea to stop people taping our records off the radio – you’d have to have a decoder to get the signal, and then we thought we could sell the time and put commercials on instead. We brought EMI and Capitol in from America to look at it, but they weren’t interested at all".
In the 1970s, the anti-terrorism industry offered bullet-proof vehicles, bugging devices and security hardware. Mardas set up various companies offering these products to royalty and VIPs, using the former King of Greece as his principal salesman. Ex-King Constantine II of Greece (then exiled in Britain) provided contacts to a half a dozen royal families for Mardas, and had close contact with the deposed Shah of Iran, who had moved to Mexico. The Shah was one of the first customers for the customised bullet-proof cars that Mardas was offering, and was believed to have financially assisted Mardas’ companies.
In 1974, Mardas held an expensive party for the then Spanish heir, Prince Juan Carlos, which secured Mardas a contract. After the assassination of Admiral Carrero Blanco the Spanish royal family thought it should acquire more bullet-proof cars, although one car was shipped to England, where it was parked in Chobham for almost a year as nobody knew how to do the work needed to upgrade it. The second contract (worth over £1/2 million) allowed Mardas to set up new security companies: Alcom Devices Ltd, and Night Vision Systems Ltd (under the collective name of "Project Alcom") in St Albans Mews off Edgware Road, London, to provide a sophisticated communications system for Juan Carlos, so he could be in constant contact with his security services. Mardas employed Arthur Johnson (known as Johnny Johnson), a former M.O.D. official.
The Sultan of Oman ordered six Mercedes 450 limousines in 1977, but quickly discovered that they were not as safe as he had been led to believe. His ex-SAS bodyguards tested one of the cars in the desert in July 1977, by firing at them, but a bullet hit an emergency air cylinder, which led to the gas tank blowing up, burning the whole car. The remaining cars were immediately sent back, with a demand to refund the money spent. King Hussein of Jordan had a fleet of cars that Mardas customised, but carried out a safety test on them with live ammunition in November 1977. One eyewitness reported that the cars could be more life-threatening than ordinary vehicles, as bullets easily pierced the armour-plating, and the thick armoured glass broke into jagged splinters when broken. Hussein ordered that the cars be reverted to their previous state. These failures convinced Mardas and Constantine to look at the growing European market for anti-terrorist protection, setting up a factory in London to produce “bullet-proof” cars in 1978. This was financed by an investment of over £1 million through anonymous Monaco and Swiss bank accounts, which were believed to be controlled by the Shah.
Later years and present
Mardas put 15 items from his collection of Lennon memorabilia up for sale on 5 May 2004, at Christie's in South Kensington, London. Among the sale was Lennon’s leather collar, worn during 1967 and 1968 (at the launch party for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, and on the cover of Lennon and Ono’s Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins) as well as a custom Vox Kensington guitar, a coloured felt pen drawing, called "Strong", and a pen and ink drawing by Lennon, entitled “Happy Fish”. Mardas said he planned to donate the money to a charity in Greece.
The Independent newspaper apologised on 21 August 2006, writing that on 14 June 2006, the paper had wrongly reported Mardas' involvement with Apple Electronics Ltd. They corrected the earlier piece by writing that Mardas had not been a company employee, but a director and shareholder of Apple Electronics, and was not sacked, but resigned his directorship in May 1971, while still retaining his shareholding, until giving it to Apple Corps some years later. The paper accepted that Mardas “did not claim to have invented electric paint, a flying saucer or a recording studio with a ‘sonic force field’ or cause his employers to waste money on such ideas. We apologise to Mr. Mardas for these errors".
In 2008, Mardas won the right to sue the New York Times about an online article which said he was a charlatan. In a story about the Maharishi, Allan Kozinn had written: "Alexis Mardas, a supposed inventor and charlatan who had become a Beatles’ insider". The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune are contesting the allegations and will report the result.
- ^ Miles 1997, p. 373.
- ^ a b Spitz 2005, p. 704.
- ^ a b c Barnes, Anthony (2 May 2004). "Apple's 'Magic Alex' sends John Lennon's acid artwork to auction". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/apples-magic-alex-sends-john-lennons-acid-artwork-to-auction-561935.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Brown & Gaines 1983, p. 205.
- ^ Miles 1997, pp. 373-374.
- ^ Jacob, Sam (30 April 2009). "Just what do designers believe in?". The Architects' Journal. http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/the-critics/columnists/just-what-do-designers-believe-in?/5201279.article. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD (2003) (Episode 8 - 0:29:53) George Martin talking about the toys that Mardas gave Lennon.
- ^ a b c d Spitz 2005, p. 705.
- ^ Miles 1997, pp. 442-443.
- ^ Brown & Gaines 1983, p. 206.
- ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 159.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 728.
- ^ "Meet the Kings (and Queens) of excess". The Daily Mail. 16 June 2006. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-390967/Meet-Kings-Queens-excess.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ 16 Magazine, September 1968. p48
- ^ Miles 1997, p. 376.
- ^ Turner 1999, p. 264.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD (2003) (Episode 8 - 0:30:02) Mardas in the Apple Electronics studio.
- ^ Miles 1997, pp. 531-532.
- ^ a b "Greek islands for sale". Country Life (magazine). http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/guidesinternational/article/149163/Greek_islands_for_sale.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ a b Miles & Badman 2001, p. 272.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j Campbell, Duncan, New Statesman, 3 August 1979. pp. 158–160
- ^ Miles 1997, pp. 379-380.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD (2003) (Episode 6 - 1:06:18) Harrison talking about the trip to Greece to buy an island.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD (2003) (Episode 7 - 0:06:42) Harrison talking about visiting Haight-Ashbury, with photos of Mardas sitting/standing next to him.
- ^ Shotton & Schaffner 1983, p. 150.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 730.
- ^ Harry 2000, p. 717.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 732.
- ^ a b 16 Magazine, November 1968. p64
- ^ a b Spitz 2005, p. 755.
- ^ Badman & Bacon 2004, p. 214.
- ^ "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: Spiritual leader who introduced millions, including the Beatles, to transcendental meditation". The Independent. 7 February 2008. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/maharishi-mahesh-yogi-spiritual-leader-who-introduced-millions-including-the-beatles-to-transcendental-meditation-779109.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Spitz 2005, pp. 755-756.
- ^ Brown & Gaines 1983, p. 261.
- ^ Lennon, Cynthia (10 February 2008). "The Beatles, the Maharishi and me". The Sunday Times. Times Newspapers. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article3340963.ece. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ a b c d e Spitz 2005, p. 756.
- ^ Brown & Gaines 1983, p. 264.
- ^ Miles 1997, p. 429.
- ^ Musician magazine, September 1992, p. 43 "There was nothing that ever happened except that there was a fella who was supposedly a friend of ours who stirred up and created this big fantasy. There was never anything that took place".
- ^ Lozinn, Allan (7 February 2007). "Meditation on the Man Who Saved The Beatles". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/arts/music/07yogi.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/S/Starr,%20Ringo. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ "Corrections". New York Times. 4 March 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/pageoneplus/corrections.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Hunt, Chris (Uncut) December 2005
- ^ Lennon 2005, pp. 281-282.
- ^ a b Spitz 2005, p. 772.
- ^ Lennon 2005, pp. 288-289.
- ^ Lennon 2005, pp. 292-293.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 773.
- ^ Coleman 1995, p. 464.
- ^ The Loves Of John Lennon by Chris Hunt, Uncut, John Lennon Special, 2005.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD, (2003) (Episode 8 - 0:29:56) George Martin talking about Mardas saying that Abbey Road was "No good".
- ^ Martin 1994, p. 173.
- ^ Lewisohn 1990, p. 164.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 768.
- ^ a b c d e f Spitz 2005, p. 810.
- ^ The Beatles Anthology DVD (2003) (Episode 8 - 0:30:32) Harrison talking about the chaos in the studio, and having to rip it all out.
- ^ a b Anthology (book) 2000, p. 290.
- ^ a b "Statement by John Alexis Mardas". New York Times. February 2010. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/arts/Mardas.pdf. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Spitz 2005, p. 811.
- ^ Robinson, John (2 November 2003). "Get Back and other setbacks". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2003/nov/22/popandrock.thebeatles. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ a b "John Alexis Mardas". The Independent. 21 August 2006. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/john-alexis-mardas-412809.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Miles 1997, p. 546.
- ^ "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1264 to 2007". Measuring Worth. http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ "Lot 251 : John Lennon". Invaluable. http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/john-lennon-1-c-4g22cnup0t. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ "Magic Beatles Collection At Christie’s". Christie’s. 26 March 2004. http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:RDeG0n7dnEUJ:www.christies.com/presscenter/pdf/03262004/pop_may04.pdf+Mardas+%2B+Lennon&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=11&gl=uk. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ "Beatle associate can sue over 'charlatan' claim, says High Court". Out-Law. 18 December 2008. http://www.out-law.com/page-9673. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- ^ Meditation on the Man Who Saved the Beatles
- ^ Barnes, Anthony (2004-05-02). "Apple's 'Magic Alex' sends John Lennon's acid artwork to auction". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/apples-magic-alex-sends-john-lennons-acid-artwork-to-auction-561935.html. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
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