Ken Mansfield, who served as the U.S. manager of the Beatles‘ Apple Records, died at the age of 85 on Nov. 17, a former colleague reported.
Fellow Apple employee Chris O’Dell described Mansfield as a “dear, darling friend,” adding: “Now there are only two of us left from the roof audience!” That was a reference to the last-ever Beatles live show, which took place on the roof of their Apple HQ in London on Jan. 30, 1969.
Born in Idaho, he secured a degree in marketing at San Diego State University, which led him to a job with Capitol Records in 1965. Starting as one of the label’s youngest-ever executives, he quickly rose through the ranks and befriended the Beatles, with the small age gap making it easier to connect. “We just hit it off,” he said later. “I was a young guy in my twenties with a suntan, a Cadillac convertible, a house up in Hollywood Hills, everything that they had grown up reading about in Liverpool. In a way they were just as fascinated with me as I was with them.”
He joined Apple at its formation, becoming U.S. label manager in 1968, and was personally responsible for the release of “Hey Jude” as a single. Its length meant most executives thought it couldn’t work on radio, but Mansfield recalled: “I said I would take it to America…meet the program directors at radio stations and get their opinion if we should break the rules if it’s strong enough.” He added that the execs “fell on the floor when they heard it. I called Paul and said, ‘We have to go with this.'”
Watch the Beatles on the Roof in 1969
Looking back, he recalled being impressed with the band’s professionalism. “When we were setting up Apple Records, they were the most famous rock ‘n’ roll band of all time and you expect them to be crazy,” he said. “But we would have a meeting at one o’clock and they would all show up on time. They would all be prepared with notebooks in hand. They were there to have meetings. They really liked the fact that they were going to be businessmen and were going to set up a major corporation. They were very astute. …They were probably easier to work with than any other band I’ve ever worked with.”
He insisted he hadn’t seen many examples of rock ‘n’ roll excess. “I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” he reported. “I even teased them and said, ‘You guys want me to think that you are such good businessmen that you hid a lot of stuff from me.’ And Ringo just looked at me and laughed, and said, ‘When we were the Beatles, we didn’t really have that much to do, so we would sit around and think of ways of how we were going to impress you, Ken!’ They were so into their music and so into setting up their company. … It wasn’t all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – more rock ‘n’ roll than anything else.”
During the ’60s, Mansfield also worked with the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Glenn Campbell and many others. His talents extended to performing folk music and producing records. Later in life he became a public speaker and author, writing a series of books about his experiences, including 2000’s The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay – then the only authorized Beatles book except for Anthology.
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