‘British Invasion’ music insider Chris O’Dell to speak at SUNY Fredonia
Chris O’Dell was on the rooftop of Apple Records in 1969 when the Beatles played live for the last time, served as a personal assistant to the Rolling Stones on their 1972 United States tour that coincided with release of the now revered “Exile on Main St.” album, and became one of rock’s first female tour managers when she climbed aboard the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunion tour in 1974.
Fast forward several decades, and O’Dell – author of the tell-all “Miss O’Dell: My Long Days and Hard Nights with the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the Women They Love” – will speak at SUNY Fredonia on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 6:30 p.m. in 105 Fenton Hall. The talk, offering insight into that rock era, is sponsored by the Applied Professional Studies Music Industry program and is free and open to the public.
A member of rock’s trusted inner circle in the 1960s and ’70s, O’Dell reportedly had affairs with Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr and Dylan, among others. She was at many iconic moments, such as studio sessions when the Beatles’ recorded “The White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be.” O’Dell also sang in the backing chorus in the final cut of “Hey Jude.”
“This is a rare opportunity to have someone here who worked directly not only with the Beatles, but all the important people surrounding them in the business,” said Armand Petri, director of SUNY Fredonia’s Music Industry program. “She was there because she was invited, everyone in the industry respected her,” he added. “Most of the business people who were at Apple are no longer with us. I can’t think of another person at Apple, besides Terry Doran, that’s alive, and he hasn’t written a book or given an interview since he left Apple.”
The title of the 2009 autobiography was inspired by “Miss O’Dell,” the song on the B-side of George Harrison’s 1973 hit single “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” Beatle magazine “Daytrippin'” described O’Dell’s book as a backstage pass to some of the momentous events in rock history and refers to it as the ultimate fly-on-the-wall rock memoir.
Petri calls the book “fantastic, a great read and very entertaining that captures the person who Chris really is. I think anybody who reads this book can identify with what she went through, which was feeling very awkward around rock stars.”
He also notes that Beatles’ music remains popular with college-age students.
“Anything to do with the Beatles still resonates with them,” he said.
O’Dell references turn up in several songs. She was the focus of “Pisces Apple Lady,” a song Leon Russell wrote to draw her affection, and was the “woman down the hall” in Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote.” And the “mystery woman” pictured on the “Exile on Main St.” back cover is O’Dell.
Petri said O’Dell’s visit coincides with material that his History of Music Business class is studying. More than a phenomenally successful musical group, the Beatles were also entrepreneurs who started their own record company at a time when major labels dominated the industry.
Now in her 60s, O’Dell candidly acknowledges to participating in the drug/alcohol culture, but she’s also a survivor. Sober for more than 20 years, O’Dell founded her own counseling practice, specializing in addiction and mental health counseling, in Arizona.
A question-answer session will follow O’Dell’s talk.