Monday, January 24, 2011

Magic Alex

Magic Alex, born Yanni Alex Mardas on May 5, 1942 in Athens, Greece, became a close friend of the Beatles. According to many, he made extravagant claims about his electronic inventions, although others who knew Mardas and the Beatles have asserted that he was nothing more than a glorified TV repairman who used his influence with powerful people for his own gains.

John Lennon was introduced to Mardas in 1965 by Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Mardas, who was exhibiting a work called Kinetic Light Sculptures at the Indica gallery at the time, showed Lennon his Nothing Box, a cube with randomly blinking lights. Lennon was fascinated with the simple device and supposedly stared at it during many of his acid trips.

Mardas allegedly claimed he could build several devices, such as force fields to protect the Beatles from their screaming fans, automobile paint that could change colors, and even a flying saucer (to name just a few), although he has in recent years he has challenged such allegations, verbally and in court. One claim that seems to be solid is that he said he could make a seventy-two track recording studio to improve upon what he regarded as the archaic facilities at Abbey Road Studios (a claim that annoyed producer George Martin considerably). While the Beatles were recording Let It Be at Twickenham, Mardas was therefore commissioned to build a new studio in the basement of Apple headquarters at 3 Savile Row in London. When the recording environment became unbearable at Twickenham, the Beatles moved the project to Savile Row, only to find that Mardas' equipment was a completely unusable sound system with barely any working parts. (Beatles manager Allan Klein would later close Apple Electronics, which Mardas had been chosen to run). Meanwhile, longtime engineering associate Geoff Emerick brought two portable four-track recorders into Savile Row studios, which satisfied the Beatles.

Mardas also played a part in the Beatles' personal lives as well. He accompanied the Beatles to Rishikesh, India, where he planted doubts in the minds of John Lennon and George Harrison about the sincerity of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Mardas said that the Maharishi was taking advantage of a young girl (as well as Mia Farrow, who later denied this claim). He also claimed that the Maharishi was greedy for money and fame. Lennon and Harrison confronted their guru, and after failing to receive satisfactory answers, Mardas convinced them to leave, even arranging their transportation.

In 1968, during the White Album sessions, Lennon urged his wife Cynthia to take a vacation in Greece with Mardas, Pattie Boyd, and her sister Jenny. When Mardas and Cynthia returned home to the Lennon home at Kenwood, they found John and Yoko sitting cross-legged on the floor, with Lennon seemingly unapologetic. Cynthia was shocked, and after climbing into bed, Mardas (according to several sources, including Cynthia Lennon) nudged beside her and tried to kiss her. She quickly rebuffed him.

Shortly thereafter, when Lennon and McCartney went to New York City to promote the newly formed Apple Corps, Ltd., Cynthia went on holiday to Italy with her mother. Mardas showed up uninvited to tell Cynthia that John was divorcing her and was going to have Cynthia charged with adultery. Some sources allege that Mardas said he had volunteered to be named correspondent as Cynthia's lover. Regardless, Lennon was making a preemptive strike against his wife as he himself committed adultery with Yoko, using Mardas as a messenger at the very least.

Mardas has legally challenged many papers, such as the New York Times and the Independent for asserting that he could build force fields, paint that changed colors, flying saucers, and other devices listed in many Beatles' biographies. The Independent printed a retraction, while the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune are contesting a decision to allow Mardas to sue the papers for claiming that he was nothing more than "a charlatan." Readers here are encouraged to research articles and books on the Beatles, as well as The Beatles Anthology, in order to reach their own conclusions about a man who played a distinctive role in Beatles history.

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