John Lennon would celebrate his 70th birthday this year -- as does his fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, who is now touring the world. With the Beatles, they gave their only performance in Austria in 1965. In Obertauern. And on a Bösendorfer.
It was the script for the film "Help!" which prompted the "mushroom heads" to going skiing, and in snowy, scenic Obertauern in the Austrian Alps at that. The Hotel Marietta, owned by the Mackh family, thereby became the Alpine "home base" as well as concert stage. On the concert platform stood the hotel's Bösendorfer grand.
These were the Beatles' only concerts in Austria. At roughly 1.3 billion albums sold, the Beatles are among the most commercially successful bands of the 20th century.
The Beatles and the Bösendorfer grand in the snow
After Mr. Mackh Sr. had the Bösendorfer grand moved to the gorgeous snow landscape of Obertauern in accordance with the script, filming to the song "Ticket to Ride" and a photo session with the "Fab Four" were done on and around the Bösendorfer grand piano - (from left to right) Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison.
Hotel Marietta in Obertauern
Early in 1965, the "mop-tops", a Bösendorfer grand piano and the Mackh family became a family while filming the second Beatles movie, "Help!"
The Mackh family's Bösendorfer grand can also be seen in the "Ticket to Ride" video, which also shows the gorgeous landscape around the Hotel Marietta.
The special electric guitar sound and, for that time, the novel-sounding rhythm made for a very modern impression on fans and the music world.
"Ticket to Ride" achieved first place in the British and US charts. Lennon later once described the song as the first heavy metal song ever.
You can find the video to the song "Ticket To Ride" at:
The Beatles dedicated this autograph to the Mackh daughters Gloria, Heidi (the nickname of Nora) and Marion.
"Help!" - Film and LP from 1965
The title song to "Help!" hadn't yet been established when shooting commenced -- it first had to be composed by the Beatles. Director Richard Lester, an American film director, producer and author, had already produced all the other songs for the film. For a long time, the Beatles' second movie was to be called "Eight Arms to Hold You," yet in the end Richard Lester decided on "Help!" -- the original working title. John Lennon considered "Ticket to Ride" to be one of his favorite compositions.
The cover to the famous LP
Gloria Mackh visits Bösendorfer
In 1964, Gloria Mackh was named Miss Austria. Beatlemania, the worldwide euphoria surrounding the British band, began on October 13, 1963. That was the day the Beatles performed on the television show Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Beatlemania reached a climax in 1964 and lasted to the band's dissolution in 1970 and beyond.
Gloria Mackh recently accepted our invitation to visit Bösendorfer in Vienna and we were able to conduct the following interview with her concerning her emotional time with the Beatles.
A romance between Gloria Mackh and Paul McCartney developed while shooting "Help!" in Obertauern.
While shooting "Help!" in Obertauern,
We were a three-girl household and grew up in a musical family. All of us had piano lessons. Mama often played music herself at home, and we danced and sang to her playing. Our mother's musicality inspired my sister Nora and me to attend ballet school.
My mother Marietta Mackh was active as a soloist, singer and pianist in the German State Opera. Later, her family moved to Vienna and opened the famous Marietta Bar there. Personally, I'm active as a singer. For many years, together with my husband Wolfgang Mackh, I've managed the sports hotel Marietta in Reifnitz am Wörthersee (Carinthia) in accordance with the slogan "Our guests are also our friends," and we've done so above all with lots of music.
Marietta Mackh, the highly musical mother
Bar music on the Bösendorfer
Since the Marietta Bar in Vienna had a Bösendorfer grand piano from the 1940s and we had a grand piano at home, I assume that both pianos were bought at this time. In the 1950s, Gerhard Bronner, one of the best-known Austrian composers, authors, musicians and cabaret artists, played in the bar with Mama, on two pianos. My father sold the Marietta Bar to Gerhard Bronner in 1955.
Did your parents spark your love of music?
Mama had perfect pitch, great musicality, and a beautiful trained voice with which she could sing everything from opera arias to jazz, Viennese songs, "stanzeln" and yodeling. She played piano and accordion.
You were named Miss Austria in 1964 and went to the United States. Why did you return to Obertauern?
As Miss Austria, I took part in the Miss Universe competition in Miami, Florida and worked before and after a lot in the US as a professional athlete (water skiing) and star skiing instructor (Mt. Snow, Vermont and Aspen, Colorado). I therefore already spoke English very well and was asked by my parents to come to Obertauern from the US in order to help out the English film crew with translation work. I ended up also playing a role in the film.
Smiling, Gloria Mackh watched John Lennon and George Harrison during Eisstockschiessen.
When in 1965 did the Beatles arrive at your hotel and how long did the artists stay with you?
Beatles and the crew were in Obertauern from the beginning of February and furnished the makeup and changing rooms as they saw fit. They stayed until the end of filming in February.
How did the evening concerts, in which a Bösendorfer grand was played, come about?
Many evenings turned into Beatles evenings, even if they surely hadn't been planned in advanced. Again and again there were occasions to celebrate: birthday, engagements or simply a good day of filming were enough to get our "house band" in the mood to celebrate.
How did fans react to the "Fab Four"?
There were about 100 house guests at our ski hotel and in the evenings another 100 from other, surrounding hotels. What happened onstage was mostly so unexpected, impulsive and thrilling that the ski guests, who wanted to spend a cozy evening in our ski hotel, were going wild and neither service personnel nor the boss could calm them down. Since our musical entertainment was always of a high caliber and full of imaginativeness, our reputation now became legendary. In the evenings there was no room, not even standing room. You never knew what the evening would bring.
During a filming break, Gloria and Paul enjoyed their moments together.
George Harrison's birthday was February 25. Did you celebrate it back then in the Hotel Marietta?
Yes, of course George's birthday was celebrated rather merrily. At the time he had his new, pretty girlfriend Pat with him and after filming was mostly in the room with her. Incidentally, Ringo also had his newlywed wife Maureen Cox with him, and he spent most of the time with her.
What impression did the Beatles leave on you?
I had a lot of good, humorous discussions with Paul and John during breaks in filming while sitting in the snow groomers, and also put them on skis to at least teach them the very basics of this sport. Paul definitely wanted to take me to England with him, yet I had to fulfill my contracts in the US.
Frau Mackh, many thanks for the interesting discussion!
(Photo credits: Gloria Mackh, Parlophone Records/EMI, EMI Music)