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MARCH 24, 2008: Neil Aspinall, a close friend of the Beatles and the man who ran the Apple music empire died at 66 years old.

Aspinall, born Oct. 23, 1942, was a childhood friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, first meeting them when they were all students at the Liverpool Institute. He was hired as the road manager for The Beatles, and was also The Beatles' assistant after they stopped touring in 1966. He is now best known as the manager of Apple Corps Ltd. Schooled as an accountant he was appointed director of Apple in it's chaotic early years as The Beatles were in the process of breaking up. (He was briefly fired and reinstated by Allen Klein when he was brought in to "clean house." He's spent more time with the band than about anyone else not in the band.

Neil even contributed to a few Beatles recordings, by playing tambura on "Within You Without You", harmonica on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", and backup vocals on "Yellow Submarine". I have heard that Billy Shears may have been a reference to Neil Aspinall.

In the early 1990s, Aspinall was the executive producer for The Beatles Anthology. It seems that the break up hasn't slowed down Neil Aspinall at all, probably quite the opposite as he is as of this writing (April 2006) busy re-mastering the entire Beatles catalog and preparing the Beatles' music for legal Internet downloading (The Beatles have been notoriously unavailable for downloading via the net).

This quote by Neil Aspinall is about a recent law suit against EMI, and shows how involved Neil still is in The Beatles' affairs:
“We have tried to reach a settlement through good faith negotiations and regret that our efforts have been in vain. Despite very clear provision in our contracts, EMI persist in ignoring their obligations and duty to account fairly and with transparency. Apple and the Beatles are, once again, left with no choice but to sue EMI.”

This was after an audit proved that EMI, which owns the copyright to the Beatles recordings, was not fulfilling its contract and allegedly owed The Beatles over $30 million in royalties.

Apple and EMI previously battled for ten years over contract disputes, ending in an out-of-court settlement in 1989. The Beatles had claimed that EMI sold or gave away millions of records without their knowledge.

Recently Apple Records has taken Apple Computers to court over the launch of the iTunes online music store, claiming that the use of the Apple trademark for music-related business violated a 1991 agreement.

Neil is a busy man, over seeing the release of The Beatles' "1" (greatest hits CD containing 27 songs that hit number 1 in the charts), a future re-release of Let It Be on DVD, and as mentioned The Anthology (first called The Long and Winding Road) TV series, book, video and DVD releases and hints at many more upcoming Beatle projects (with a 'major DVD release' in 2006, (could this be Let It Be)?

All this started, in a strange twist of fate, when Pete Best approached Neil to ask him to be their (Beatles) driver, and Neil bought a battered old van for the job. Neil decided in July 1962 to become the group's official road manager (as he was earning more money than he was an as an accountant). He was actually best of friends with Pete Best (living with him and helping to run the Casbah Club), and was quite angry when Pete was fired as the Beatles drummer. He confronted John and Paul demanding to know what happened and was told, "It's got nothing to do with you. You're only the driver."

In anger he told Pete he'd quit, but at the urging of Pete (who told Neil "The Beatles are going places"), he stayed with the band and when Mal Evans was hired as assistant road manager Neil became more of a personal assistance. No one has been closer to The Beatles than Neil Aspinall, being through the most private aspects of their lives, though he has never been anything but discreet and loyal and has kept everything he knows in total confidence. He has joked that if he ever wrote a book he would arrange for it to be released after his death. I hope he's not completely joking, because that would make one hell of a book. He knows it all, if there's anything to the Paul is dead hoax, he knows. Could you imagine such a book?

Following a heart attack he had to restrict his work at Apple to 3 days a week, though you'd never know it by the amount of work he does. He is also sole director of Standup Films Ltd. with his wife, Suzy (who is the daughter of Bud Ornstien, who was responsible for The Beatles film career at United Artists).

© david holmes Beatlesnumber9

The Beatles' friend quits top job at Apple Corps

(Tuesday April 10, 2007 05:14 PM)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of the Beatles' company Apple Corps, Neil Aspinall, who started out as the band's road manager, is leaving after 40 years with music executive Jeff Jones to become chief executive. Aspinall, who was a close friend of the Beatles since their formation in Liverpool, will be replaced by Jones, who has served as executive vice president, Legacy Recordings/Sony BMG Worldwide since 1995. Jones will become Apple chief executive. Sony BMG is equally owned by Japan's Sony and Germany's Bertelsmann. Apple said Aspinall had played an indispensable role to the four Beatles -- Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon.

"He was there since the inception of the band in Liverpool and has meant so much to the Beatles' family for all these years and still does," said a company statement. However, he has decided to move on. "

No further reasons were given for his departure from Apple Corps, which is owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison. Aspinall's departure comes just two months after Apple Corps settled a trademark squabble with Apple, a deal that could finally pave the way for the Fab Four's songs to be sold on the iTunes music store. At the time, Aspinall said it was great to put the dispute behind them, with the years ahead expected to be very exciting. The Beatles have been high-profile holdouts from Internet music services such as iTunes, but it emerged during the trial of the trademark dispute that Apple Corps was preparing the band's catalogue to be sold online for the first time.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: (A London tabloid claims he quit the company over fears the legendary band was being turned into a "cash cow.")

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