Neil and Pete Best were the closest of friends and when Brian Epstein called Pete in for a meeting and then announced that he had been sacked, Neil was waiting for him downstairs in the Nems shop. Neil was furious when he heard. He phoned Mona to tell her what had happened, and then joined Pete for a few beers at the Grapes pub. Disgusted with the situation, Neil told Pete he’d quit – but Pete told him he must stay, that the Beatles were going places.
When Neil turned up at the group’s next gig, Brian Epstein asked him why Pete hadn’t turned up. ‘Well, what did you expect,’ he told him. Neil asked Paul and John what had happened and was told, ‘It’s got nothing to do with you. You’re only the driver.’
Pete’s prediction that the Beatles were going places was exceeded beyond expectations…and wherever the Beatles went, Neil was with them. Mal Evans was brought in to help out as Assistant Road Manager and Neil became much more of a Personal Assistant to the group.
Paul McCartney dubbed him ‘Nell,’ and the Beatles always called him Nell rather than Neil. He was to play tambura on the ‘Within You Without You’ track and harmonica on ‘Being for The Benefit of Mr Kite.’
When the Beatles launched their Apple Corps company, they appointed Neil as Managing Director.
On 30 August 1968, he married Suzy Ornstein at Chelsea Registry Office. Paul, Ringo and Maureen attended and Alexis Mardas was Best Man.
Neil survived the appearance of Allen Klein in the Beatles’ affairs and after the Apple building in Savile Row was sold, he continued to administer their affairs from offices in Mayfair, a post that he still holds.
There has probably been no one closer to the Beatles than Nell and no one privy to the most private aspects of their lives. He has always been discreet, utterly loyal, and would keep everything in complete confidence. If ever he wrote a book about his experiences, he has mused, he would arrange for it to be published after his death.
Neil remains the Managing Director of Apple Corps, although he and his American wife Suzy are the sole directors of Standby Films Ltd, which is based in their large house in Twickenham, Middlesex. In 1994 Apple paid Standby £408,000, from which Neil paid himself a salary of £62,000, and he and his wife are able to enjoy the trappings of a much-deserved success, including transportation by Rolls Royce.
Incidentally, Suzy is the daughter of Bud Ornstein, who was responsible for the launch of the Beatles United Artists film career.
Following a heart attack, Neil had to restrict his attendances at the Apple offices to three days a week. However, 1995 finally saw the release of ‘The Beatles Anthology’, a television series on the Beatles, which Neil had first started working on in 1969, when he had called it ‘The Long And Winding Road’.
In 2006 he became involved in some legal matters and court cases when Apple took action against Apple Computers and EMI Records.