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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the names which have made the news this week. Above are NEIL ASPINALL (main picture), with RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, NATALLIE EVANS, CRISTIANO RONALDO and DAVE ROWNTREE.

NEIL ASPINALL

Neil Aspinall, the man who has, for nearly 40 years, administered the Beatles' cultural legacy, has stepped down as chief executive of Apple Corps.

Though there has been much media speculation that he had become disillusioned with the Board's supposedly new "cash cow" attitude, Apple spokesman, Jonathan Clyde, has told BBC News, "Neil Aspinall's departure is amicable and he decided to go in his own time."

Neil Aspinall has been a part of the Beatles story since its inception all those years ago at the Liverpool Institute Grammar School where he and a couple of friends called Paul McCartney and George Harrison used to hang out together.

He was to end up ensuring that his schoolmates, and a couple of buddies called John and Ringo, became the highest-earning band in the world, largely after The Beatles had split up.

The Casbah coffee club in Liverpool where the Beatles first played.
The Casbah coffee club in Liverpool where the Beatles first played.
Aspinall never had any musical prowess. His job, initially, was to ferry the band from gig to gig in a beat-up Commer van.

Pete Best was the drummer then. As an 18-year-old, Aspinall began an eight-year relationship with Pete's mother Mona, some 20 years his senior. Mona ran the Casbah club in Liverpool where The Beatles first performed under that name.

The couple had a child, Roag, although it wasn't until many years later that Neil Aspinall publicly acknowledged he was the father.

After Best was fired from The Beatles and replaced with Ringo Starr, the drummer never spoke to the Fab Four again. It placed Neil Aspinall in a somewhat invidious position but he remained friends with both sides.

Apple Corps

In fact, he became the Beatles' chief confidant: the man the Fab Four trusted the most. For his part, Aspinall showed unswerving loyalty and discretion. Even today, he never gives interviews and remains tight-lipped on every issue concerning Apple.

After progressing to becoming their road manager, a job which included helping to keep at bay all the screaming girls as Beatlemania took hold, Aspinall, in 1968, took over Apple Corps, the company the Beatles had set up to manage their business interests.

He inherited a shambles. The group members had embarked on hopelessly unprofitable ventures; the Apple office became a haven for drop-outs and drug addicts, and the business was haemorrhaging money.

The Beatles with manager Brian Epstein in 1964 on plane steps in the USA
The Beatles with manager Brian Epstein in 1964
With his sharp accountant's brain, Aspinall began to steady the ship. It was hard going at first. the Beatles' back catalogue was never properly marketed by EMI apart from the blue and red double compilation albums.

It was not until Aspinall renegotiated the contract with the record company in the late 1980s that he was able to take control of the Beatles output by obtaining a veto on all releases.

What's more, Aspinall began collecting a mass of Beatles ephemera and buying up the rights to vast amounts of film and TV footage of the band.

By the 1990s when bands like Oasis were having hits with songs so clearly influenced by the work of Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles were back in favour. The time was ripe for Aspinall to open up the archive.

Downloads

He talked Paul and Ringo into collaborating on the 1995 Anthology albums and TV series. The greatest hits, Beatles 1, which has sold 30 million copies since its release in 2000, was his idea too.

Alongside these commercial ventures, Aspinall embarked on a series of courtroom battles with EMI. In several judgements, including one announced this week, the Apple board members - McCartney, Starr, and Lennon's and Harrison's widows (Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison) received hundreds of millions of pounds in previously unpaid royalties.

The route is now open for even more to come their way with the expected availability of Beatles songs as downloads from the internet.

Neil Aspinall arrives at court for the Apple v Apple case
Neil Aspinall arrives at court for the Apple v Apple case
This is because of the settlement reached with Apple Inc - makers of the ubiquitous iPod - earlier this year over the use of the apple logo which dragged on for several years and was one action which Neil Aspinall didn't win.

Control of the Beatles heritage has always been at the centre of Aspinall's commercial strategy.

Unlike with artists such as Elvis Presley, whose record company Sony/BMG re-package his greatest hits seemingly annually, the Beatles' releases, such as Live at the BBC, and the recent Love album, are much more selective and often featured previously unreleased material or re-workings of old output.

It could be that Aspinall feels that The Beatles may go the way of Elvis, though Apple vigorously denies this. His successor, Jeff Jones, is a former executive vice-president at Sony/BMG.

On the other hand, Neil Aspinall's retirement has been hinted at for several weeks. With the court cases settled, his departure seems well-managed. And at 64, it seems a reasonable time to leave the long and winding road to spend more time with his family - wife Suzy, five children and seven grandchildren - at their plush Twickenham home.

Whatever the reason for Aspinall's departure, it is the end of yet another era for the Beatles.


Ralph Vaughan Williams
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS

The Lark Ascending, by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, is Britain's favourite piece of classical music according to a poll conducted by Classic FM. The homage to the English countryside, with its fluttering violin representing the flight of the lark, was written at the start of World War I. It was inspired by a poem of the same name by George Meredith. Another work by Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, came 10th.

Natallie Evans
NATALLIE EVANS

Natallie Evans, the British woman who has fought for the right to use frozen embryos created with her ex-fiance, says she's distraught after hearing the embryos must now be destroyed. A European Court has ruled Ms Evans, who became infertile after cancer treatment, can't use the embryos because her ex-partner, Howard Johnston, won't give his consent. The landmark case has ended a five-year campaign by Ms Evans.

Cristiano Ronaldo
CRISTIANO RONALDO

The Portuguese winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, lived up to his billing as the current world's greatest footballer, by scoring twice for his club Manchester United in their 7-1 drubbing of Roma in the Champions League quarter-final. The 22-year-old, famous for his speed, dribbling and "stepovers", is being sought by Real Madrid who, reportedly, are prepared to pay more than 50m for the player. But the winger has now signed a new five-year deal with United.

Dave Rowntree
DAVE ROWNTREE

The former drummer with Blur, Dave Rowntree, is to fight for a seat on Westminster council in the forthcoming by-election. The musician, who is a former computer engineer and owner of an animation company, has been a long-standing member of the Labour Party and is chairman of his local branch. He says he wants to address the extreme deprivation that afflicts parts of London's most affluent area. Standing against Rowntree in the 3 May by-election will be Stuart Bonar for the Liberal Democrats, Colin Merton for the UK Independence Party and Ian Rowley for the Conservatives.


Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy




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