Magic Alex hits back
Acclaimed as a science prodigy from his teens, Yannis Alexis Mardas moved from his native Greece to England in the early 1960s. He met Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones around 1963, and was subsequently commissioned to design a revolutionary new system of linking lights with sound for the band’s stage performances.
In 1966, he met John Lennon, who was so impressed by his scientific skills that he dubbed him ‘Magic Alex’, and often referred to him as “my guru”. The Beatles were in the early stages of forming their Apple empire, and Mardas was installed as the head of Apple Electronics. He continued his experiments with audio-visual technology until the company fell foul of Apple’s cost-cutting crusade in 1969.
During this period, he was arguably one of Lennon’s closest friends outside the Beatles. Lennon was the best man at his weddding; and Mardas accompanied the group on many of their global adventures, including their trips to Greece and India, and the filming of their Magical Mystery Tour. Even after Apple Electronics was closed, he remained friends with both Lennon and George Harrison, and John and Yoko continued to travel to Greece to holiday with him. Since leaving the Beatles’ employment, Mardas has continued to work in many different fields, not least as a security consultant to many of the crowned heads of Europe.
Many books and publications have been discrediting Alexis over the years, blaming him for Lennon’s estrangement from the Maharishi, for promising to invent stuff that never got off the ground and for installing inadequate recording equipment in the Apple Studio.
Yannis Alexis Mardas has finally given his version of the events. As a response to statements in an article by Allan Kozinn in the New York Times in 2008, Alexis felt compelled to dispute some of these paragraphs:
In the years since Lennon’s death, in 1980, Harrison and Mr. McCartney reconsidered the accusations against the Maharishi. Mr. McCartney has noted that the rumors of sexual impropriety were raised by Alexis Mardas, a supposed inventor and charlatan who had become a Beatles insider. “Magic Alex,” as he was known, had agendas of his own, and may have fabricated (or at least exaggerated) the story. (Mr. Mardas has never commented on the incident.) During the 1990s both Harrison and Mr. McCartney were suitably convinced of the maharishi’s innocence that they reconciled with him and offered apologies.
Meanwhile you have to wonder whether the Beatles’ future might have played out differently if Magic Alex hadn’t been in Rishikesh to spread rumors about the Maharishi.
Here’s Alexis’ story:
About the Maharishi incident, Mardas has made the following remarks:
“In early 1968 I received a written note from Apple Corps that the Beatles, who were in India attending the Maharishi’s Ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills, wanted me to join them forthwith. The next day, I got on a plane and flew to India.
When I arrived, John Lennon was there with his wife, Cynthia, George Harrison was there with his wife, Patti Boyd and there were other people from the pop music world, including Mike Love of the Beach Boys. Neither Paul McCartney nor Ringo Starr were there. Nor for that matter were Donovan, Mia Farrow or her sister Prudence. Neither Paul nor Ringo joined the group at any time that I was there. I have never met Mia Farrow.
I was in Rishikesh for several months. Every afternoon, the Maharishi would give us lectures and I listened to them with interest. Frankly, there was very little else to do there. I should also mention that no alcohol was permitted in the Ashram, let alone drugs, and, so far as I was aware, nobody consumed either of these. Further, we were not allowed to go out of the Ashram.
There came a point where the Maharishi approached me. He told me that he had had a discussion with the Beatles about setting up a station to broadcast his teachings round the world. He asked me whether this was a good idea. I said that it was technically possible if that was what he wanted to do. That was the end of our conversation.
About three to four months after I had arrived at the retreat, we were attending a lecture given by the Maharishi. Also present was an American teacher, whose name is now know to have been Rosalyn Bonas. I remember the Maharishi saying that this lady had an “iceberg” in her brain and was unable to understand what he was saying. In the presence of everyone there, he told her that she should come to his villa after the lecture for private tuition.
On the evening of the following day or the day after (I do not remember which) John Lennon and I were sitting outside John Lennon’s little house. The teacher came up to us and told us that the Maharishi had made sexual advances to her while she was in his villa. She also told us that, despite the fact that we were all supposed to be strictly vegetarian, the Maharishi had offered her chicken to eat. She told us that she had been invited back to the Maharishi’s villa the next evening.
During the next evening, John Lennon, George Harrison and I were curious and went to the window of the Maharishi’s villa at the time that the nurse was supposed to be there. We looked inside and saw that the Maharishi was trying to hug the teacher. Both of them were fully clothed.
All of us were very upset about what had seen. We had complete confidence and trust in the Maharishi and this confidence had now been severely dented.
On the next morning, John Lennon and I went to see the Maharishi about what had happened. John was our spokesman. He asked the Maharishi to explain himself, I remember the exact words that the Maharishi used when answering, namely: “I am only human”. John said that he was disgusted with what had happened.
The Beatles had to go back to London anyway because there was a contract which required them to record there. I also know for a fact, because they told me, that both Cynthia Lennon and Patti Boyd were getting bored and wanted to leave anyway. We needed the Maharishi’s assistance to leave, because of the isolated nature of the Ashram. He tried to persuade us to stay, no doubt because of publicity and the money which the attendance of the Beatles was producing. In the end, however, we did leave a few days later. We left for New Delhi, where John and George gave a press conference. At the press conference, John told the press what he thought about the Maharishi. It was mainly negative. By this time he had also written a song called “Sexy Sadie”, which was a thinly veiled reference to the Maharishi’s activities.
I wish to make it clear, that, until the issues with the American teacher, I was totally neutral about the Maharishi. I meditated, I followed all his lessons and I had private discussions with him, which were all of a friendly nature. It is simply untrue that I was in any way the catalyst for John and George falling out the Maharishi. There is also no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that I was concerned about the influence which the Maharishi had over the Beatles. Quite the contrary: I was pleased with the influence which the Maharishi had over the Beatles, because he managed to wean them off their drug addiction.
As for the allegation that, had it not been for their break up from the Maharishi, the Beatles would have been more prolific in their creative output and remained as a group for longer. I am not an expert musician, but I do note that some of the best music ever composed by them was composed after their return from the Ashram, for example their most famous songs, “Imagine” and “Hey Jude”.”
“My first job as a partner and director of Apple Electronics was to manufacture light machines similar to the one which I had developed for use on a previous Rolling Stones tour. The company bought a small property in Boston Place, Marylebone, for the purpose of manufacturing equipment We started manufacturing these light machines in those premises. At the same time. I was given a large office in the Apple building in Savile Row.
The whole idea of the workshop at Boston Place was to conduct research. The Beatles arranged for a US patent attorney, Alfred Crotti, to move to England, The idea was that he and I would discuss the development and patenting of electronic devices.
I invented a large number of electronic devices, none of which had anything to do with music of the business of the Beatles, i refer to an article in the Daily Mail dated 2nd November 1968 in which some of my inventions have been listed. It must be remembered that none of these had even been thought about by others at the time, although most of them are now in common use. For example, an electronic camera is now commonly used, as is the “memory phone” and what was then called “the composing typewriter” and is now known as voice recognition. All these products were invented by me and we were in the process of patenting most of them in the United States.
My research was, however, brought to an abrupt end when, in May 1968, John Lennon told me that I was to drop all further work on such research for and build a recording studio in the basement of the Savile Row building. John Lennon promised me that, once this was completed, I could go back to my electronics research.
I told John that, although I thought that I was capable of building a recording studio, the first step would have to be a design. It was agreed that I would construct a mock up recording studio at Boston Place with all the appropriate equipment, to see whether it was suitable for moving into the Savile Row premises.
I prepared the drawings and finished the design. We built a bread board to which we connected the equipment. It was a 72-track recording studio which worked well and was in my opinion what one might call “state of the art” at the time. I stress that, at this time, I had never started to build a studio in Savile Row. I only went there occasionally because I had an office there on the second floor. I have never in my life been in the basement of the Savile Row building.
In the summer of 1969, I took a two-week vacation in Greece with Cynthia (John Lennon’s former wife) Patti Boyd, George Harrison’s wife and Donovan Leitch. When I returned two weeks later at about 1 p.m. on a weekday, I found to my surprise that the building at Boston Place had been sealed with two padlocks. I broke the locks and went in. I thought that there had been a burglary. None of my engineers were there. I therefore went straight to the Savile Row offices. When I walked in, the receptionist told me that Allan Klein had fired all the staff of all the Apple companies. She told me that I had been fired as well. I asked for John Lennon. He was not there, so I telephoned him in Weybridge. I said that all the equipment was missing and that I had been told that I had been fired. John Lennon replied: “Bullshit, no one can fire you. You are not an employee, you are a partner.”
Boston Place was ruined. They had removed all the equipment. I refused to have anything more to do with the venture.
At John Lennon’s request, Allan Klein telephoned me. He told me that his job had been to clean out the whole of Apple Corporation. He said that the equipment which had installed was now in the basement of Boston Place. I said that I wanted to have nothing more to do with it and I left Apple permanently.
The suggestion that I constructed a studio which was “unusable and of hopelessly poor quality” is a complete fabrication. I never got round to constructing a studio in Savile Row. I was designing and had actually finished a mock up studio in Boston 2 Place which, when ready, would be moved into the Savile Row premises. This was destroyed and the equipment taken away. What happened after I left is none of my concern.”
Mardas also counters other allegations made over the years. For instance, the following “inventions” have wrongly been associated with his work at Apple Electronics, all of which Mardas denies having ever promised nor discussed, let alone tried to invent:
1. An X-ray camera which could see through walls
2. A force field which would surround a building with coloured air so that no one could see in
3. A force field of compressed air which could stop anyone driving into one’s car
4. A house which could hover in the air suspended on an invisible beam
5. Wall paper which could plug into a stereo system and operate as a “loudspeaker”
6. An artificial sun which was intended to hover over Baker Street and light up the sky during the gala opening of the Beatles clothes shop, the “Apple Boutique” on 4th December 1967.
7. Magic paint which would make objects it was painted on invisible
8. Electrical paint which could be plugged into a wall and would light up the room
9. A flying saucer made from the V12 engines from George Harrison’s Ferrari and John Lennon’s Rolls Royce
10. A force field around Ringo Starr’s drums that would isolate the drum sounds from the rest of the microphones in the studio.
In this connection, Mardas said that he once had a discussion with John Lennon about this topic. Mardas said that it was possible, theoretically, to create an ultrasonic barrier generated by ultrasonic transfusers. This would prevent sound travelling over a certain field. Mardas claims that he never suggested that he would make such a barrier.
Mardas’ full statement is available from the New York Times website as a PDF file at the bottom of this page.