Monday, 26 July 2010

Heroes & Villains No. 3: Magic Alex

It was John Lennon who coined the nickname 'Magic Alex'; Lennon who described the Greek science prodigy as "my guru"; Lennon who was Alexis Mardas's best man at his 1968 wedding in London; Lennon who set up Apple Electronics as a vehicle for Mardas's inventive skills; Lennon who kept faith with his friend by holidaying with him on a yacht around the Greek islands after the completion of Abbey Road; and then Lennon who, in a fit of post-Primal Therapy passion, betrayed that friendship by effectively denying that he had ever been close to Mardas.

Thereafter, the man Lennon once thought was Magic has been stereotyped in Beatle history as a con-artist, a charlatan, a fraud. He had to carry the entire blame for the debacle of the unfinished and unworkable Apple studio in January 1969. He was lampooned as the 'inventor' of schemes that were far-fetched, impossible or plain silly. And he has, as far as the world of the Beatles is concerned, been absent from the scene for the past 40 years.

Well, almost entirely absent. In recent years, he has reappeared on a handful of occasions to file libel suits and demand retractions when media outlets (usually famous newspapers) have lazily repeated all the old jibes about him, his abilities and his motives. He's usually won his cases, too.

As one of the very few journalists to have met Alexis Mardas (over several days in the early part of the decade just finished) since 1970, I'm delighted that he has stepped in to correct the loaded stories that have been told and endlessly retold about him since the demise of Apple Electronics in 1969. I only wish he'd done it sooner. He told me that, for many years, he was so busy in his job (more of which later) that he didn't pay any attention to what was being written about him.

I'll talk about my encounters with Mardas in my next post. Suffice to say here that John Lennon has much to answer for when it comes to Magic Alex's reputation. He was the man who built up the Mardas legend; and he was the one who tore it down, when he described his friend in Rolling Stone as "alright, but cracked". For Lennon in December 1970, Mardas was another guru - like the Maharishi, like Arthur Janov, like Bob Dylan - who had turned out to be human after all, not 'Magic'. But who was the person who told the world that Mardas was 'Magic' in the first place?

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