Oct. 9, 2009 -- Chris O'Dell sat down for an interview with ABC News' Kate Snow Oct. 7, 2009. The following transcript of their interview has been edited for clarity.
The first thing I wanted to ask you is can you just ... can you just really quickly summarize all of the many, many bands that you have worked for because there are so many I'm not even sure I know the whole list?
OK, and sometimes I forget.
Can you remember how ... how ... do you know how many? Have you ever counted?
No I've never counted.
I just figured that whoever was around at that time I usually have a story connected to so ...
So starting with the Beatles. The Stones, Bob Dylan, um ... George Harrison when he toured with Ravi Shankar, Santana, Earth, Wind and Fire, Phil Collins, um Fleetwood Mac, and I'm sure there are more.
Linda Ronstadt, Jennifer Warnes. Yeah.
It's not a shabby list.
It's a pretty good list.
That was a pretty good list.
How did you break into this world? How did you get into this in the first place? CHRIS O'DELL:
Well I ran away from home sort of. My parents drove me, literally, and ended up in L.A. and I just had to get out of Tucson. I needed to do something different and I loved music. But it was totally by accident that I ended up working at a record company and met Derek Taylor who was The Beatles' press agent and was going back to London at Apple and we became friends and he said why don't you come over? KATE SNOW:
Do you remember that moment? It must have CHRIS O'DELL: Yeah. I do. KATE SNOW:
I mean now looking back it's a pivotal moment in your life, right? If you had said no none of the rest of it would have happened.
absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah I remember thinking oh yeah right, never. That would never happen. I couldn't name but I didn't even believe he really knew them. KATE SNOW:
The Beatles. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah. KATE SNOW:
And then you get there. CHRIS O'DELL:
And then I get there. KATE SNOW:
And I think on your first day at least one if not two Beatles walked in the door. CHRIS O'DELL:
Well two; Paul ... Paul came in and I could hear his voice through a wall and it was like oh my gosh, you know? And then I walked out of the door and there was ... there were John and Yoko sitting there and it was ... was the ... the most fabulous day because they went from being like these magazine photos and .. .and these people I'd seen on TV to being real live people. Yeah. KATE SNOW:
How did you deal with that? That ... were you star struck at first? Were you, you know, shy, anxious around them or did ... or would ... do you think ... do you think maybe ... I'm wondering if maybe some of the reason they always wanted you around from then on out was because you were comfortable around them. CHRIS O'DELL:
Uh ... I have a ... I think I have a really good way of ... of kind of minimizing my anxiety andand my shyness and and covering it up with an ability to seem confident and and to just look at the person for who they are and I think they recognized that. KATE SNOW:
Yeah. The '60s, the '70s; pretty wild time um .. .and your book kind of makes it seem that way. What was it...what was it like just overall? Let's talk big picture first. What was it like to be part of the inner sanctum of that world, of the late '60s early '70s? CHRIS O'DELL:
It was like being let go in Disneyland. That's what it felt like. It's like here are the keys to Disneyland, go and enjoy yourself. And I was constantly aware that I was watching history in the making and that was exciting. So every day had some, or certainly every week, had something, a twist to it that made it really exciting. KATE SNOW:
You didn't have big jobs at first, right? CHRIS O'DELL:
No, no, no I had to start at the bottom. I wa...what was I? I was the paper clipper or the uh ... what's it called? The ...
But it was...it was the place where most of us, I think probably anybody in the world would have thought oh I'd like to be there.
So it was very interesting. KATE SNOW:
Tell me about the concert on the roof because everybody remembers that and I was looking at the pictures. There's that picture in the book of they're on the roof and then there's a blurry face over here and there's...that's Chris O'Dell. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah the blurry face. KATE SNOW:
CHRIS O'DELL: Um ... it was ... well first of all I was lucky to have been there because the roof was actually very weak at the top of Apple and so they told all of us that we couldn't go up there. None of the employees could. And I had gotten to know the camer ... I always got to know the right people so I got to know the cameraman.
I'll say. CHRIS O'DELL:
And he said come up, you can help me. So I went up and I just sat there thinking god I hope nobody realizes that I'm not supposed to be here. But it was ...i t was freezing cold. That is, I mean that I remember more than anything – how cold it was up there. But also it was just so exciting to think originally the idea was that they were going to ... they were doing it so that everybody in the whole West End of London could hear the music and in fact the amps weren't that big. So the people on Saville Row could hear it and it was fun to watch them looking up trying to figure out what was that? KATE SNOW:
ou peered over the edge at one point, right? CHRIS O'DELL:
Yes I did. Uh huh. KATE SNOW:
And what did you see down below? CHRIS O'DELL:
Oh people looking up in bowler hats and...and you know, all kind of people, because this was in a pretty distinguished part of London, trying to figure out where was this music coming from? KATE SNOW:
And what was the music like? CHRIS O'DELL:
Um...well it was very similar to what I had, you know, I'd...I hate to say this, but I'd gotten kind of used to hearing The Beatles . KATE SNOW:
You got kind of over them after a while. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah I kind of got used to it. It wa...but it was very exciting. It was so exciting. KATE SNOW:
Did you know then that it was sort of a magical moment that the...maybe the end of a...of an era? CHRIS O'DELL:
I don't think I knew it was the last time they would ever play together live. Um...I don't think I...I realized that then. I knew that it was getting pretty close to the end of the group though. KATE SNOW:
Because you saw some of the tensions up close over years, right? You were there I think when basically when Paul decided to leave, right? CHRIS O'DELL:
I was living at George's house and um...we found out through the newspaper or at least that's the way I remember it is that they...someone must have called George that morning and said, you know, Paul's quit the band. And so we had all the newspapers there and...and I mean the newspapers literally, not newspaper people. And that's how he found out. KATE SNOW:
How upset was he? CHRIS O'DELL:
I think he was very upset and I say that because he, you know, by that time they'd all quit. Every one of them had quit before Paul and Paul had talked... KATE SNOW:
To go do their own solo things. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah. Well they all said OK I'm out, you know? And I mean George actually one time in a...in a rehearsal they were doing at Friar Park said if you want to leave this band how would you do it and someone said well you just get up and say I quit and so Paul said or Jo...George stood up and said OK I quit and he took off. But then he came back. So Paul kind of talked them into coming back. They talked each other.
So when Paul left it was kind of like they all felt a little, I think um...
Uh ... well we smoked a ... some very good hashish more than likely um ... and were just kind of passing this joint around and suddenly I just got very paranoid and thought for sure the pilot was getting as high as I was and that for some reason my imagination was that his idea would be to just fly straight up. So I was convinced he was going to fly straight up into the sky. And while that was happening the plane started actually hitting some turbulence and then John and Yoko started singing Hari Krishna, the Hari Krishna chant and then I thought oh now we are in trouble.
So we just chanted our way to the earth basically until we landed and it was like oh, OK. And I thought well if I die here at least I'll be on the front page.
Back at that time I was still in awe working for The Beatles particularly.
And then after a while I had a pretty good resume.
You never talked.
No. KATE SNOW:
You didn't go to the press and tell their stories. CHRIS O'DELL:
Mm mm. No. KATE SNOW:
Could you have? CHRIS O'DELL:
I couldn't have. I mean that wouldn't have...that just wouldn't have felt right to me because they were friends and ... and I knew that ... that they ... I knew what their lives were like and that their private time was really their private time. KATE SNOW:
I imagine that's a part of why you kept getting asked to come back because they knew they could trust you. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah. KATE SNOW:
Um ... you also say in the book that you started at the top and climbed down. I think you said that around when you were talking about the Rolling Stones, that you sort of had done The Beatles which is up here and then you so...did...did you sort of feel like you went backwards a little? CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah it was kind of uh ... climbing down the ladder. That's...that's the way I ... I have actually said that more than a few times in my life. And that was from my perspective The Beatles were the top. I believed they were the ... the best band and their music was good ... was the best. And then the Stones kind of were like OK after that and it just kind of felt that way. And I wasn't particularly a Dillon fan as a kid so that, you know, but as I worked for The Beatles I started to admire him because they ... they admired him. KATE SNOW:
You say he always stared right through you, right? CHRIS O'DELL:
Oh yeah. KATE SNOW:
Every time you saw Bob Dylan. CHRIS O'DELL:
He could defi ... that was his defense. He definitely could do that. KATE SNOW:
Tell me about the Rolling Stones though just quickly. Um ... and I have to ask, you were on tour with them, but then you started sleeping with Mick Jagger, right? How did that happen? CHRIS O'DELL:
Um ... well I guess it was part of the job. Um ... KATE SNOW:
At that time. CHRIS O'DELL:
It just ... it just seemed sort of natural to be honest. It was kind of we were very close. We were together every day. I spent every day at his house probably seven days a week, you know, into the evenings, into the studios. You know, I was the person he turned to. I went to parties with him and everything. KATE SNOW:
Everybody wants to know what is he really like. CHRIS O'DELL:
Um ... pretty much like you would imagine. He's...he's got a devilish, impish way about him and it comes across in all aspects of who he is. And, you know, he .. he um ... I always felt like we were just really good friends. You know as I look at my diary ... KATE SNOW:
It wasn't a romantic thing. CHRIS O'DELL:
No, no. There was never anything of oh I could be Mick Jagger ... uh ... no thank you. That wasn't the position I was seeking. KATE SNOW:
His wife. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah. KATE SNOW:
Was he married at the time? I can't remember. CHRIS O'DELL:
He was married to Bianca. KATE SNOW:
Bianca. CHRIS O'DELL:
And she was pretty independent. She spent a lot of time you know, doing dif...other things. Yeah. KATE SNOW:
I don't want to get anybody in trouble, but I would imagine they had a fairly open marriage at that time. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah. KATE SNOW:
Um ... uh ... shoot, I just had a thought and I was ... oh yes, uh ... Keith Richards. CHRIS O'DELL:
Mm hmm. KATE SNOW:
Around that same time when you were on the tour, how long were you on that tour? Was that like a year or ...? CHRIS O'DELL:
Well I worked for them for about a year. KATE SNOW: About a year.
And I was their personal assistant and then the tour was a month, two months. Seemed like a year. KATE SNOW:
There was a time ...t here was a time when Keith Richards asked you to go to Los Angeles just to get him drugs. CHRIS O'DELL:
Mm hmm. KATE SNOW:
You did a drug run for Keith Richards. CHRIS O'DELL:
Yeah, but I ... KATE SNOW:
Does that seem startling now? CHRIS O'DELL:
Today it's a little start ... it's much more startling than it was then. Then it was just kind of oh, OK, you know, this is what I did. I worked for them and they asked me to do a drug run that's where I went, you know? I do know that I was a little nervous about it. KATE SNOW:
What did you get? CHRIS O'DELL:
I think it was cocaine because I believe that we had some when I got back to the tour, you know? But I had already done a run for Mick to New York to get his camera fixed and so these little runs happened. This was the drug run ... first drug run though. KATE SNOW:
But the drugs were so much a part of everyday life, right? CHRIS O'DELL:
Yes. KATE SNOW:
I mean can you describe for me the way you do in the book what a day would have been like? I guess maybe even post-Rolling Stones in that period where you were really...
CHRIS O'DELL: Well the Rolling Stones were kind of my first as they would say in recovery, it was my first bottom because on the tour everything was available so you know, I just like everybody else thought ... I mean Keith once said to me you can do this just like a guy and I thought oh that was such a compliment where today, you know? But ...
MAN: It sounded like you would like take something to take the edge off and then you'd take something else.
So it was always looking for that perfect balance, but never finding it.
But I did try to stop and the people around me were like saying oh, come on you're so boring or come on O'Dell let's, you know, have a little. A lot of that. So the pressure was definitely there.
KATE SNOW: It really was. Um ... you were one of the only female tour managers, jumping ahead a little bit, when you started with I think Crosby, Stills and Nash, right was the first ones you actually managed?
CHRIS O'DELL: Yes, yes. You mean in terms of the work I did?
And in fact one of, Bobby Whitlock who was in Derek and the Dominoes wrote me an email recently when he read that somewhere about me being a groupie and he said I didn't know that. I was really surprised by that. I just thought you were someone who worked and were a friend. And I thought OK that's good. Yeah.