Passing glimpses of other people’s lives: The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Keith Moon

Martin at around the time I knew him

Martin, around the time I lived in the flat with him

Yesterday, someone mentioned Martin Lickert to me.

Almost three years ago, I mentioned him in a blog.

When I was at college, I lived in a cheap bedsit. One of the other bedsits was rented by Martin Lickert who, at that time, was John Lennon’s chauffeur. This was before the Beatles broke up and they were still based at their Apple building in Savile Row.

Martin was 21 at the time.

The bedsits were in a flat in Langland Gardens, Hampstead, run by a Jewish Austrian woman called Mrs Gilbert who had fled from the Nazis before the War and who lived on the premises. Martin insisted on calling her Mrs Giblet, though not to her face.

Martin told me he lived in a bedsit because he was rarely home and only needed an occasional single bed to be unconscious in at night. Although, one night, I had to swap beds with him as I had a double bed and he had to entertain a girl called Juliet from the West Country. Bizarrely, the swap was reversed when I met a girl called Karen from the West Country. It was complicated. You had to be there. It all related to the positioning of Mrs Gilbert’s bedroom.

When Martin was around 14 years old, he had started a band.

Robert Plant (later of Led Zeppelin) was the singer, Chris Wood (later of Traffic) played sax & flute and Stan Webb (later of Chicken Shack) occasionally played lead guitar. Martin played bass guitar. They performed at the Seven Stars pub in Stourbridge, West Midlands, for £8 a night.

A few years after we both left Mrs Gilbert’s bedsits, Martin accidentally appeared in the truly awful Frank Zappa movie 200 Motels. He played the part of Jeff Simmons, the Mothers of Invention’s bass player.

In 200 Motels, Martin replaced old Steptoe

In 200 Motels, Martin replaced Steptoe

The real Jeff Simmons had left the group before filming began and Frank Zappa had got British actor Wilfred Brambell (old man Steptoe in the Steptoe and Son TV series) to impersonate Jeff by wearing a wig. Noel Redding (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) was going to overdub the sound for Wilfred Brambell’s mimed guitar-playing.

But Brambell walked off set in a rage after a few days and Frank Zappa said: “The next person who comes through that door gets the part!”

The next person who came through the door was Martin Lickert, by then Ringo Starr’s chauffeur. Ringo was in the movie and Martin had gone out to buy some tissues for his employer who had a ‘permanent cold’.

According to an interview he later gave, Martin could remember very little about filming 200 Motels. He said:

“My memory is clouded by my habits at the time, but I do remember an evening at a hotel in Windsor where we all stayed. Lucy Offerall (of The GTOs) had the hots for me, and I had gone to bed. My room in the hotel was on the second floor and Keith Moon was in the room next to me. Lucy persuaded Keith to shin across the window ledge, in the pouring rain, and break my window to allow Keith into my room and to let her in. I woke next morning, covered in broken glass and Lucy.

“I never played any live gigs with the Mothers. We were supposed to play the Albert Hall directly after the filming of 200 Motels, but the gig was cancelled after the orchestra complained to the Albert Hall about the bad language. We got as far as the steps. And I was supposed to go to the States with the Mothers after the film, but I was ill and that was the end.”

Martin the barrister in 1993

Martin Lickert the barrister in 1993

After a short period back with Ringo Starr, he worked as a promo man for CBS Records, became a bookmaker (in the UK, that means taking bets on horse races) and then, in 1986, he qualified as a barrister, specialising in prosecuting drug cases for HM Customs & Excise. He must have had an interesting life.

I accidentally stumbled on him online in 2001 and we exchanged e-mails.

He wrote:

“I spend most of my time prosecuting for H.M. Customs and Excise these days. Talk about poacher turned gamekeeper. I am married with two daughters and live in Crouch End. My main hobby is horseracing and I have a horse in training. Last week, a film crew from Meridian followed me around Newmarket when I went to buy a new horse. The item is to be used on Twiggy‘s new chat show which is to be networked on Sunday afternoons. It’s a long story as to how this came about.”

We intended to meet up, but never did.

I regret that.

Martin Lickert died eight years ago, on 7th March 2006, aged 58.

So it goes.

On YouTube, there is a clip of Danny Baker interviewing Martin on a TV show in 1993.

3 Comments

Filed under Movies, Music, Nostalgia

3 responses to “Passing glimpses of other people’s lives: The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Keith Moon

  1. Hannah

    Hi John,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article, which I have only read for the first time today.
    My name is Hannah, and I am Martin’s eldest daughter. I had never heard that Keith Moon story, or the Mrs Giblet one (which didn’t surprise me in the least and made me laugh), but then he was always very quiet about his past, and would only tell stories if really pushed. I do have a fabulous picture of him with the Mothers and some members of the Turtles on the steps of the RAH, which doesn’t seem to be in wide internet circulation.
    Thanks again for reminding me to be grateful for having this fabulous man as a father.
    Hannah (Notowitz, nee Lickert!)

    • Hi Hannah i like you have just found this , your Dad was my best mate at Apple and he got me the job at the time i was driving Keith Moon and had meet up at Ringo’s were we became buddies , he use to spend a lot of time at The Crown & Cushion which was owned by my folks and Moon , i have some great stories of our times together , i spotted him on show he did with Danny Baker , i phoned the show and they gave me his number ,and he and your mum came down to Torquay for the weekend and a few weeks later we stayed with him in london , i will never forget him he was as i say a great friend i still think of him with fondness xx
      regards john mears ..xx

    • Nigel oliver

      I met your dad when I worked for The Beatles , he came into the office to clean the walls and asked me if he could get a job and he did and worked with me for a while , a really nice man , love Nigel

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