Cavendish didn’t actually enter the Beatles’ orbit personally until 1966, so like the rest of we teenagers in Britain in the first half of the 1960s it was through radio, television and the newspapers that he experienced such early milestones as their Royal Variety Performance (rattle your jewellery”, 1963), wild Beatllemania (1963-66), A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) and the MBEs (1965).

He did get to see them play live once though, at a small venue called the Pigalle Club near Piccadilly, London, on April 21, 1963. The show was only advertised in the “Jewish Chronicle”, and Cavendish, a 16-year-old, was already a devoted fan. The performance was to fulfil a contract: the booking had been made for a low fee before the band broke big, and their manager Brian Epstein, a man of principle and, like Cavendish, a Jew, insisted they honour all their earlier commitments even though they had become famous and were now worth a far higher price.

Cavendish became a trusted member of The Beatles’ tight inner circle from 1966, directly entering the Beatles scene through an introduction to an in-need-of-a-haircut Paul McCartney. So Cavendish earns our envy for his coach trip on their Magical Mystery Tour (1967), his presence at several Abbey Road recording sessions, including for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967) and his attendance inside the Savile Row Apple headquarters during the famed rooftop concert (1969).

“Sgt. Pepper”, widely considered to be the most important rock album ever made, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and it is presumably this event that provided the spark for Cavendish to share his priceless memories in print half a century later.


The young man’s memorable journey via hairdressing into the pop and rock world began with his birth in 1947 into a Jewish family in the poor East End of London. Eventually the large, loud family made the step up to Burnt Oak, which was more prosperous but still an unremarkable north London suburban backwater.

Wisely, we think, Cavendish takes us through this first decade-and-a-bit of his life in a couple of pages, thus avoiding the biographical trap of researching the family tree (commonly back to the Middle Ages). Quickly, we discover that, as the 1960s dawned, the young fellow’s interests were football, music and girls.

A 15-year-old school dropout with no particular artistic or footballing talent, he became interested in hairdressing after going to meet his mum one day at the local Burnt Oak stylist. Outside the shop was the owner’s flashy American Buick, and inside, the man was surrounded by assorted women, both staff and clients. For the libidinous Cavendish, a penny dropped.

Following the example of his best friend, who was going to do an apprenticeship as a hairdresser, Cavendish applied to join legendary stylist Vidal Sassoon, so popular he had become a celebrity in his own right. The teenager unwittingly made himself look such a clown at the interview – taking along a misshapen wooden bowl that he had made at school, to show how artistic he was – that they took him on anyway.

This was 1962. He started as a junior at Sassoon’s salon in London’s exclusive Bond Street at the age of 15. It catered for stars and more stars. Shirley Bassey was big-headed. Diana Dors, whose astounding figure turned men to jelly, considered Cavendish too young to invite to her rumoured orgies. One day Dors brought in the equally pneumatic Jayne Mansfield, and Cavendish accompanied them up in the tiny lift, wedged between two of the most glorious bosoms in the Western Hemisphere.

Two other women clients, mentioned only as “Mandy” and “Christine”, were unknown to Cavendish when they were spruced up in the salon before being taken by Rolls-Royce to the Old Bailey criminal courts. Next day he read in the papers that they were the “high-class” call girls Christine Keeler and her associate Mandy Rice-Davies. Keeler was found to have slept with both a British government minister and a Soviet naval attaché, creating the “Profumo affair”, one of the greatest political scandals of the 1960s.

And then came the day in September 1966 when English actress Jane Asher walked in to Sassoon’s with her magnificent mane of strawberry-blonde hair. Her regular stylist couldn’t see her, so a nervous Cavendish filled in. Asher wasn’t entirely pleased with the situation but remained polite and Cavendish did well enough for her to ask if he could visit “her boyfriend” who needed a trim. Enter Paul McCartney.

As any Beatlemaniac knows, the world-famous Fab Four had their “mop-top” haircut created by photographer and art student Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg in 1960. The cut, which replaced The Beatles’ greasy teddy-boy hair, was inspired by German art students who followed the French existentialist movement.

When Cavendish appeared on the scene, the Beatles had given up touring and were maturing. The “Beatle haircut” was fading away in favour of a more natural look. The “Fab Four” could barely appear in public without creating a frenzy, and Cavendish was soon regularly visiting McCartney’s home to look after the Beatle locks, smoking strong dope with him and occasionally being asked his opinion on a new song in progress.

Cavendish started to trim some Apple staff in the office and eventually looked after George and John too, but not Ringo so much because his wife Maureen was a hairdresser. Soon, he had risen to become one of London’s most sought-after celebrity hairdressers.

And so we have this book, with lots of celebrities and anecdotes. One thing Vidal Sassoon taught his stylists was the value of discretion, and not to gossip in public about their famous clients. Cavendish doesn’t cross the line: his autobiography is a great read for an inside look at The Beatles and the rapidly evolving music, fashion and cultural landscape of the extraordinary decade known as the Swinging Sixties, without exploiting private matters that should stay that way.

Loading Conversation

Château Béla in Slovakia, a Heritage Hotel of Europe

Raring to go, heading for the horizon

Three months of coronavirus lockdown is enough to make anyone stir-crazy. We're desperate to get out…

Initiative to safeguard guests during pandemic

Kempinski hotels debut White Glove Service

From luggage cleaning to bespoke face masks, luxury hotel brand Kempinski has unveiled a new "white…

Introducing Oleksandr Kachura, A War Correspondent and Refugee from Donetsk

Extracts from the Donbas War Zone

Geschrieben von Alexander Stemp

Oleksandr Kachura, 30, news reporter, photographer and frontline volunteer, originally comes from…