The madcap inventor who befriended the Beatles
Alexis Mardas never lacked ambition. After being named head of the electronics division of the Beatles’ Apple Records empire in 1968, the self-declared genius and inventor said he would create paint that changed color at the flick of a switch, loudspeakers made of wallpaper, and an invisible force field to protect the Fab Four’s homes from fans. Mardas’ promises all fell through, including his pledge to design a futuristic 72-track studio in Apple’s London offices. When the Beatles turned up to record their final album, Let It Be, they found a mess of faulty wiring and a mixing desk that “looked like it had been built with a hammer and chisel,” said a recording engineer. Apple’s electronics division was shut soon after, and Mardas was sent packing, his projects having cost the Beatles an estimated $4 million in today’s money.
Born in Athens, the son of a major in the Greek secret police, Mardas “arrived in London on a student visa in 1965,” said The Times (U.K.). He found work as a TV repairman and designed a psychedelic light show for the Rolling Stones. The Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones introduced him to John Lennon, and the pair became firm friends after Mardas made him a “nothing box”— a small plastic container filled with randomly flashing lights “that the Beatle spent endless hours staring at while tripping on LSD.”
After being dismissed from the Beatles’ entourage, Magic Alex—as Lennon called him—changed course and went into business with the former King Constantine II of Greece, said The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). The pair sold “bulletproof cars, and bugging and other security devices to VIPs,” including the Shah of Iran and Prince Juan Carlos of Spain.