BODEGA BAY, Calif. (BP)–When the Beatles performed their final concert in London in 1969, only a handful of the millions who had seen them in the decade before were present.
Ken Mansfield had the best seat in the house — or rather on the roof of the Apple Records building with just a few other listeners — when the Fab Four sang their final notes together as a group that had changed music and society in the 1960s. Mansfield, then U.S. manager of the Beatles’ Apple Records label, thought that moment would be the highlight of his life.
He was wrong.
“If I would have continued being successful in the music industry, I don’t think I would have ever come to the Lord,” said Mansfield, author of “The Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay: My Long and Winding Road,” released in May by Broadman & Holman, the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
When the Beatles stopped recording together, Mansfield worked with other big-name artists. But the Grammy Award-winning record producer also experienced frequent setbacks in the extremely volatile industry. It was those difficult days that eventually led to a spiritual awakening for Mansfield.
In a fast-paced career that had put him at the top of his form by age 30, Mansfield said he filled the emptiness of his life with “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” in the 1960s and ’70s.
“I had all this stuff — the big house in the Hollywood hills, the swimming pool, the wife who was a beautiful actress — but I was never happy,” Mansfield said in a conversation from his home in Bodega Bay, Calif., where today he lives a very different life.
By 1990, the ups and downs of the recording industry in Los Angeles, Nashville and other major cities had taken their toll on Mansfield. He found himself in the tiny, oceanside community of Bodega Bay. He entered a period of quiet and, ultimately, prayerful reflection.
“I would walk on the beach and think about something, like how did I get from being on top of the world, on the Apple roof with the Beatles, to this lonely beach wondering what the heck happened to my life,” Mansfield said.
“I would be moved spiritually as I searched for answers, and I would go back home and write. I would write a spiritual story, and I would write a Beatles story.”
His new wife, Connie, who had been instrumental in showing him the rewards of a Christian life, suggested there was a book in those stories in which he not only shared memories of John, Paul, George and Ringo, but also of his personal and spiritual struggles.
Broadman & Holman recognized the book potential, too. The result is the new volume illustrated with photographs of the rocks and sea where Mansfield walks and prays. It includes photographs, album covers and other memorabilia from those heady days with the world-famous Beatles.
“I really feel God did sponsor this book. All that time with the Beatles was for this purpose,” Mansfield said.
And, he is quick to point out, the loss of the fame and professional acceptance that came with his association with the Beatles was not rock bottom for him. Not yet.
“God stripped me of everything in regard to work, position, possessions — and notoriety — after I became a Christian,” Mansfield said.
A few years later, in the mid 1990s, his life situation got even worse when he was diagnosed with an extremely rare and incurable cancer of the blood and lymph systems. However, he is “already five and a half years into a three-to-five-year life expectancy.” Doctors don’t say he is in remission, but the debilitating conditions that increase as the cancer progresses are actually decreasing.
“I think God really tested me,” Mansfield said. In the quiet life stripped bare of distractions, the faith of the award-winning music producer became stronger, and he began to recognize the purpose of his own “long and winding road.”
He recalled the religious teachings of his childhood in rural Idaho where “church was part of everybody’s life, but the religion there was really stiff and awful and scary.”
A case in point: “In town there was a movie theater, and every Saturday morning, for 14 cents, you could see two westerns, three cartoons and a serial,” Mansfield remembered. It was something worth working after school and saving for, and the final installment of the season’s serial, along with the best cartoon carnival, was eagerly anticipated.
“I went to church the Sunday before and the preacher said that Jesus was going to come back soon and he was going to take everybody to heaven with him except people in bars and movie theaters.
“That scared me to death. I knew if I went that Saturday, Jesus was going to come, so I stayed home and Jesus didn’t come. I was so mad that as soon as I left home at 17 I was going to get away from all of that.”
He did, for more than three decades, but what he shares with readers in his book is that when he finished his professional journey, Jesus was ready to take him back on a far more personal one.
In The Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay, Mansfield explains it this way: “My hard years in the music business are the reasons why I have now found a soft place out of the mainstream. The passage of time and distance of purpose have cast me upon these uncertain shores, a million memories away from the cities, concerts, crowds and careening choruses that filled and fueled my heart and hopes for over a third of a century.”
Through his book, Mansfield hopes to reach out and begin a Christian ministry with some of his readers.
“I see my job as a seed planter,” Mansfield said. “I will just personally try and drop things without preaching to them and maybe it will just help them start putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Quigley is a freelance writer from Nashville, Tenn.