RIP Terry Dolan, 1936-2020

I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the course of this young century focused on the year 1967. My fascination has ebbed and flowed, and there have been stretches where I just let it go and focused on other things. Living, travel, Japan, making money, current events.

But 1967 has always drawn me back, and the deeper I have gotten into the details, the more I enjoy it. Likewise, the further away it has gotten – 53 years now, and ever-counting – the more its allure increases. Like anything else that is receding in the rear view mirror, its very distance becomes its appeal.

I love history, and I love music, and this is, for me, where they meet. And the result is my week-by-week history of that crucial year, music1967.com. I’m adding to it every Wednesday of this year, and will continue to tend to it for years to come. That’s the plan, anyway.

One reason this particular continues to appeal to me is that people keep dying. Not of COVID-19, but simply of that great killer, time. Many of the people who populated 1967 are dead already – one look at the portraits that signify each of the 16 weeks I’ve posted so far proves that: Of those 16 people (18 actually, there are two duos pictured), eight are dead: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Lou Reed (Andy Warhol) and Otis Redding are gone, some of them long-gone.

Now that I actually count them out, that’s not bad, really. We’ve still got the others: Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Ray Davies are still, bless their souls, still with us. For a bit longer.

But they are old men, and soon, they too will be gone. Their music will remain for long after, even after I, and you, follow them to the grave. And that’s something to be grateful for. It was always about the music.

But the history helps keep that music alive, and music1967.com is, most of all, about context: Putting each of those artists, and hundreds more, in relation to each other, making clear the connections between them. That is what has made doing this project so thrilling and compelling to me.

Yesterday, we learned of the passing of someone who was, admittedly, a minor piece of grand jigsaw puzzle, Terry Doran. You will be excused if you’ve never heard of him, but the fact is, I just posted about him in my most recent post, Week 16: April 16-22 (London). The post is about the transition from pop groups to rock groups in the work of The Beatles, The Kinks, The Move and Jimi Hendrix Experience.

I focused for a bit on John Lennon’s 1967, which was taken up with the creation of Sgt. Pepper’s, for sure, as well as songs like “Baby, You’re A Rich Man,” “All You Need Is Love” and “I Am the Walrus.” But Lennon was also struggling with depression, a failing marriage, his new friendship with avant garde artist Yoko Ono and, of course, drugs. LSD, to be exact. Lennon was one of the first and biggest acid-eaters, and he was lucky to escape the fates that lay in store for other stars of 1967, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Moby Grape’s Skip Spence, The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, and ultimately, Hendrix himself.

Doran was many things, one of The Beatles’ close fix-it men, who also included the late Mal Evans (McCartney’s aide de camp), Peter Brown (mostly associated with Beatles manager Brian Epstein), and faithful Neil Aspinal – all now deceased.

Doran was said by some to be “the man from the motor trade” in “She’s Leaving Home,” because among other things, he procured The Beatles’ cars, but McCartney has denied this, saying, plausibly, that “the man” was a fictional creation – the sort of logical explanation that Beatles fanatics have always resisted. But Doran was real, and in 1967, his best-documented function was as Lennon’s drug buddy, spending days at Lennon’s estate tripping on acid.

The most expansive description of Doran was in Phillip Norman’s terrific 2008 biography, John Lennon: The Life, in which he describes Doran thus:

Terry Doran was his [Lennon’s] other main companion through these Thousand-and-One Acid Nights. A curly-haired Liverpudlian, easy-going and charming, Doran had come into the Beatles’ circle as Brian’ partner in a luxury car retail business…he would later be George’s personal assistant, but in this period belonged mainly to the Lennon camp, acting as driver-protector to John and, equally, a friend, ego booster – even occasional escort – to [Lennon’s wife] Cynthia. So much a fixture was he at Kenwood that, even if John happened to be around, Julian [Lennon’s three-year-old son] would often prefer Terry to put him to bed.

Such people are nearly as important to the history of 1967 as their more famous friends and employers, for it was they who, as can be seen above, allowed the famous to live their lives and make their enduring art. Lennon was in a moment of such self-absorption – whether in indulging his vices, plumbing his emotions or creating great art – that such simple things as driving, taking his wife out to dinner and putting his child to bed were bothersome details someone else could, and should, handle.

He also took over managing The Beatles’ music publishing upon the death of Brian Epstein later in 1967 (in Week 35, still to come). He would go on to work with George Harrison on the latter’s solo career.

Terry Doran may not have been the legendary “man from the motor trade,” but he is said to have gained one word of immortality when he suggested to Lennon that the word missing in the line “Now we know how many holes it takes to ____ the Albert Hall” in “A Day in the Life.”

But in reality, where we all live, he was a significant part of the story of rock’s greatest group, and he should be mourned appropriately.

RIP, Terry Doran, 1936-2020.

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Thank you for checking out my blog - it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I am working on projects regarding music history, Japanese culture and my songwriting.

- A week-by-week music history website, music1967.com
- An upcoming book on Japanese culture, Japan from Anime to Zen
- A YouTube channel, featuring random songs and thoughts for the pandemic
- Original music on Spotify, with links to Patreon and Amazon 

David Watts Barton

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