“Part 1 of a delightful talk with renowned Beatles author David Bedford, recorded at the famous Jacaranda club in Liverpool and covering various topics featured in his most recent book ‘Finding The Fourth Beatle’.
Also some thoughts on my recent trip to India and Jude Kessler’s 800-page John Lennon book called ‘Should Have Known Better’, which I’ve recently devoured!”
This coming weekend, join me and many others in Shrewsbury for a fantastic Beatles weekend.
This year Shrewsbury will be celebrating all things Fab Four with Shrewsbury Beatles Weekend 20th to 22nd September.
It’s almost impossible to imagine the modern world without The Beatles. Their impact upon popular culture has been – and continues to be – enormous. Their music and their iconic image are loved by young and old alike. On September 20th, 21st and 22nd there will be a whole range of events in the county town including live music, special guest speakers and Beatles film screenings – once again proving that All You Need Is Love.
What’s more: the entire weekend is in aid of the Mayor of Shrewsbury’s charity 2019-20, the Samaritans of Shrewsbury.
Now on display at Theatre Severn – statues of The Beatles, until 22nd September – Mon-Sat 10am – 7pm and when there is an event taking place at the theatre.
Key Film Screenings
Over the weekend, come and see us:
The Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn 8.00pm Film ‘Looking For Lennon’ (cert 12) 2018, introduced by director Roger Appleton, followed by Q & A. Documentary director Roger Appleton presents an honest retrospective on the early life of John Lennon and the tragedies that shaped his personality and later his music. The film includes rare and previously unseen memoirs along with interviews with some of his closest family, friends and associates. The film uncovers the story of John’s time in The Quarrymen with interviews with original members. Fellow art school students and early friends recall their memories of teenage John as he was discovering music and life. Director Roger Appleton will introduce the film and will participate in a question and answer session with the audience after the screening. Writer and director Curt Wiser describes the film – “I place ‘Looking for Lennon’ among the ranks of the great music documentaries out there.”
The Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn 12.45pm – Meet Beatles author David Bedford from Liverpool in the Theatre foyer. He will be describing his work and signing books. He has collaborated with Beatles biographer Hunter Davies on ‘The Beatles Book’. Find out more about David at http://www.davidabedford.com/
good ol’ freda
I have the pleasure of introducing the following amazing film:
1.30pm Film – ‘Good Ol’ Freda’ (cert PG) 2013 Behind a great band, there was a great woman. Beatles Fan Club Secretary Freda Kelly told her story for the first time in 50 years in this fun and charming documentary directed by Ryan White. At the start she had no idea how far The Beatles would go but she had faith in them and they had faith in her. For ten years Freda was a witness to the ups and downs of life in the inner circle of the greatest band in history. “This story of Freda Kelly’s will be one of the last true stories of The Beatles that you’ll ever really hear.” – Angie McCartney, Paul’s Stepmother “Pure joy.” – The Hollywood Reporter Tickets: £8 via Theatre Severn website or phone 01743 281281
Andy White was about to become The Fourth Beatle. A week after their first session at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, The Beatles were once again walking through its doors. That, however, was only a fantasy at this stage. They hadn’t even managed to make their first record yet. Today would have to be the day they accomplished this, because there would be no more studio time.
In his various books and interviews, George Martin has often confused the 4th September session with the 11th September session. That was his first meeting with Ringo, confirming that the 4th September session was not expected to produce a record.
As Martin once stated: “On 11th September 1962, we finally got together to make their first record. The boys meantime had brought along a guy, and they said ‘we’re going to get Ringo to play with us’. I said ‘we just spent good money and booked the best drummer in London. I’m not having your bloke in. I’ll find out about him later. Poor Ringo was mortified and I felt sorry for him, so I gave him the maracas”. On Anthology Martin said: “when Ringo came to the session for the first time, nobody told me he was coming. I’d already booked Andy White and told Brian Epstein this.”
George Martin was so exasperated with getting The Beatles’ first single recorded that he didn’t attend the second recording session. He left producer Ron Richards to oversee it.
ringo was shocked!
Following the 4th September session, George Martin decided that Ringo’s drumming was not what he was looking for. Therefore, he booked Andy White to make the record. As Ringo later observed: “I went down to play. He didn’t like me either, so he called a drummer named Andy White, a professional session man, to play”. That must have been devastating for Ringo. Was his career with The Beatles ending before it had begun? Ringo, unsurprisingly, was crestfallen. “I was devastated he (George Martin) had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, ‘We’ve got a professional drummer’. He has apologised several times since, had old George, but it was devastating – I hated the bugger for years” (Anthology).
Ringo also told Beatles biographer Hunter Davies: “I found this other drummer sitting in my place. It was terrible. I’d been asked to join the Beatles. Now it looked as if I was only good enough to do ballrooms with them, but not for records. I thought; that was the end. They’re doing a Pete Best on me. I was shattered. What a drag. How phoney the whole record business was; I thought. Just what I’d heard about. If I was going to be no use for records, I might as well leave. What could the others say, or me? We just did what we were told.”
no room for sentiment
Much like the June session, John, Paul and George didn’t mention the personnel change to their drummer; in June, it was Pete – in September, it was Ringo. You have to wonder why they failed to tell him earlier that week that he was not going to be playing on the next recording session. What kind of friends were they, not giving him advance notice that he was being replaced by a session drummer? It all came down to business. This was their last chance, and there was no room for sentiment.
Geoff Emerick was sitting in the control room when Ringo walked in. “Dejectedly, Ringo sank into a chair beside Ron, and the session got underway.”
The Session Drummer
“On ‘Love Me Do’, they were only recorded on mono at first,” said producer Steve Levine. “They moved to mono on twin-track so they could record the backing tracks. Then they overdub the vocals on the other track”. That is why it was crucial to have the session drummer at the beginning. The whole rhythm track would be mixed and recorded on one track. It had to be right. You could not re-do the drums or guitars. Drummers like Andy White were worth their weight in gold, and always in demand.
In my interview with Andy White for The Fab one Hundred and Four, he told me that he was contacted by EMI for the job. “I received a call a few days before the session from the ‘fixer’ at EMI,” said White. “Every record company had a guy, who would contact the session musicians and book them for a particular gig. I received my call from EMI. It was only when I walked in on the morning of 11th September I realised it was Ron Richards producing the session”.
White remembered Ringo walking in on 11th September. “Ringo walked in with the others, and was obviously shocked to see me setting up my drums,” he said. “It was clear nobody had told him he was not going to be playing, and so we said ‘Hello’. He must have thought I was going to replace him, but I was ten years older than him. I’d have needed a wig after a year with them!”
working with john and paul
White had no prior knowledge of the group or the songs they would be recording. That was the usual practice for session drummers. “As with any session, I had no knowing what I was going to be doing that day. We sat down and discussed the songs. Most of the time I was talking with John and Paul, as they were the songwriters. Of course, they had no written music, but that was fine. They knew what they wanted to do, so we set to work. I was really impressed with them, and it was a nice change to be working on original songs. We worked through the routines and started rehearsing. Most of what I was trying to do was work with Paul and match what he was doing with the bass guitar”.
Recording Session: 4.45pm-6.30pm
Andy White’s presence in the studio demonstrated why George Martin’s decision was such an important one. The studio was booked between 4.45pm and 6.30pm, which didn’t leave them much time. In less than two hours, they managed to commit to tape excellent versions of “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”, and also a couple of takes of “Please Please Me”. The difference in studio time spent this day compared with the previous session was incredible. The Beatles had also now recorded three versions of “Love Me Do”, each distinctive, and each with a different drummer.
P.S. You Love Me?
With Andy White on the kit, The Beatles first recorded “P.S. I Love You” and then “Please Please Me” to see which of the two would best serve as the B-side. Emerick remembers them playing “P.S. I Love You”. After a few run-throughs, and ten takes, he was amazed at how “White seemed to get the hang of it. I was amazed at how quickly he did so, and how well he fit in with three unfamiliar musicians. The mark of a great session player.”
Ron Richards suggested to Ringo that he could go downstairs and join in with them, though only to play maracas. Emerick could “sense that he (Richards) was getting increasingly uncomfortable at having the sulking drummer sitting beside him. This must have struck him as a good way of getting Ringo out of the control room.”.
Love Me Do
After successfully recording “P.S. I Love You” and a run-through of “Please Please Me”, they got down to recording a third version of “Love Me Do”. Ron Richards called them back to their places quickly, aware of the passing time. “Now we need get back to work,” he said. “George wants you to have another go at ‘Love Me Do’”. Geoff Emerick remembers Ringo looking expectantly at Richards, “but Ron shot him down again. ‘I’d like you to play the tambourine on this, Ringo; we’ll stick with Andy on the drums.’”
Again, it took White only a short time to familiarize himself with the song. “His timekeeping was definitely steadier than Ringo’s had been the previous week,” recalled Emerick. “The other three were playing a lot better, too, and Paul sang the lead vocal with much greater confidence”. It was obvious to Richards and Emerick that the Beatles had done a lot of rehearsing during the week.”.
Norman Smith affirms the choice of Andy White, a drummer he knew well. “He started playing exactly as I thought the song should have been played, and how it should be done. Andy White was great, and so we created the master.”
Please Please Us
George Martin turned up towards the end to the session to see the group, and what progress had been made. Ron Richards could happily inform him that, in just under two hours, they had recorded both the A-side and B-side. “Please Please Me” was then run through and recorded with the modifications Martin had suggested the previous week. However, it still wasn’t the finished article. Even so, it was vastly improved.
Again, White played the drums, with no contribution from Ringo. He gave the song an exciting rhythm, and his musical rapport with the other three Beatles was incredible. In less than two hours, they had taught him – and recorded! – three original songs. That is the difference a session drummer can make. With the White version of the song now completed, Ringo was able to use it to create a similar drum pattern when the group re-recorded the song on 26th November 1962.
comparing andy white and ringo
How do the two versions compare? “It’s a strange one,” said Alex Cain, “because on this occasion Ringo displays more solidity than the seasoned-pro. Ringo plays solid ‘8 in the bar’ ride cymbal throughout. Andy offers a softer approach, playfully landing on his hi-hats around the snare beats, producing a stop-start feel. White’s fills are somewhat hurried where he sounds as if he’s thrown his drums down the stairs! Personally, I much prefer Ringo’s performances, both in the studio and live. It makes for a more energetic and youthful sound overall”. Did Ringo’s performance on 26th November convince George Martin to stick with Ringo, and not use a session drummer again?
However, for the recording of “Love Me Do”, everyone was happy; except for poor Ringo.
Love Me Do or Love Me Don’t? Comparing the Ringo and Andy White Versions
In his book I Want To Tell You, Anthony Robustelli examined the two September versions of “Love Me Do”. “The second version of ‘Love Me Do’ (Andy White’s version) is five faster and therefore, rocks a little harder. The recording is far superior sonically to the other version with the kick and snare punchy in the mix. Furthermore, Andy White’s kick drum pattern is much busier, and though it seems to lock in with the bass better. It’s difficult to compare the kick’s feel because of the drastic sonic differences. On the original September 4th version with Ringo, the kick is barely audible. White’s more swinging kick drum definitely propels the song forward more successfully. The sonic punch and clarity undeniably helped, as did the addition of Ringo’s tambourine and an additional five BPM.”.
“Ringo Didn’t Drum on the First Single”
Paul was convinced that Ringo didn’t play drums on the group’s first Parlophone single, “Love Me Do” – and Ringo agreed. Yet history has shown that he was indeed on the UK single release. Considering that Andy White was hired to drum on the recording: Was Ringo’s version mistakenly released on the UK single? After all, the White version of “Love Me Do” appeared on The Beatles’ debut studio album Please Please Me. The UK EP release The Beatles’ Hits, and also on their U.S. single release.
Is there any evidence to support this?
If the Ringo version wasn’t considered good enough after 4th September, why release that first version? Neither George Martin nor Ron Richards were sure if it was selected intentionally or not.
The releases of “Love Me Do” issued after The Beatles’ Hits on 21st September 1963 contained Andy White’s version. Why? The original master recording of Ringo’s version of “Love Me Do” destroyed or recorded over, possibly as early as 1962. EMI only had Andy White’s 11th September recording to use. It was the only remaining – and arguably the superior – version. When “Love Me Do” was released in the U.S. in April 1964, it was Andy White’s version that was used.
The final piece of evidence is one of omission. With the group’s popularity in 1963, why did they not ask Ringo to re-record “Love Me Do” for the album? Instead, they used Andy White’s version? The conclusion is that Ringo’ version was most likely released by accident. Nothing else really makes sense.
No More Session Drummers
Although George Martin wasn’t impressed with Ringo’s drumming, he grew to appreciate his style. They soon became good friends. The producer would replace him only one more time by a session drummer – Bobby Graham. “Ringo always got, , a unique sound out of his drums, a sound as distinctive as his voice,” Martin said. “Ringo gets a looser deeper sound out of his drums that is unique. This detailed attention to the tone of his drums is one of the reasons for Ringo’s brilliance. Although Ringo does not keep time with a metronome accuracy, he has an unrivalled feel for a song. If his timing fluctuates, it invariably does so in the right place at the right time. He keeps the right atmosphere going on the track and giving it a rock-solid foundation. This held true for every single Beatles number Richie played Ringo also was a great tom-tom player”.
Martin added: “Ringo has a tremendous feel for a song, and he always helped us hit the right tempo the first time. He was rock solid. This made the recording of all the Beatles songs so much easier.”
the beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road – How Did They Do It?
Ringo was now The Beatles’ drummer. But that was just the start to his career with the group. All was going smoothly until the first EMI recording session on 4th September 1962, just after his debut. The new Fab Four headed to the EMI Studios in Abbey Road to record their first single.
Brian Epstein reported for Mersey Beat, and his story, carried anonymously at his request. He told how they had met together at Liverpool Airport at 8.15am for their flight to London. Neil drove the equipment van on that long journey to the capital, though not in the midst of a snowstorm. This time, it was just torrential rain, but still not for the faint-hearted. Brian even had his “boys” pose for a group photograph on the tarmac, but none of them looked impressed.
Ringo sported his now-famous grey streak and George tried to appear oblivious to his black eye. The flight was not very smooth due to the weather, which did little to comfort George. He had a aversion to flying. They eventually arrived in London and checked into their hotel in Chelsea before heading to EMI Studios in Abbey Road.
Beatles! How Did You Do With It?
There was an important aim for the day, and it wasn’t to make a record. After the June session, it wasn’t just Pete’s drumming George Martin didn’t like. He wasn’t impressed with the songs or the arrangements, and the overall quality from the group was below-par. George Martin had told The Beatles to work over the summer on “How Do You Do It?”. (The Mitch Murray song George had sent them in late July) and “Love Me Do”.
Was This A Recording Session?
The normal practice was that a session drummer would only be hired when a song was ready to record. On 4th September, The Beatles were nowhere near ready to record! It therefore made no economic sense to pay for a session drummer to stand around all day. Session drummers usually worked on three-hour sessions and, in that time, they could learn and record up to four songs. For producer Martin, there was still a lot of work to do with the group; they weren’t ready to record the songs yet: they didn’t even know which songs they were going to record.
Possibly of more importance was the fact that Dezo Hoffman had been booked to photograph The Beatles. Irrespective of Ringo turning up, George Martin would still be hiring a session drummer for the record. It wouldn’t matter how well Ringo performed. The evidence therefore suggests that this was not a recording session from which a record would result.
How Should We Do It?
The Beatles walked into the studio and were met by their trusted roadie ‘Nell’. There was also their ‘headmaster’ George Martin and producer Ron Richards, the latter two having contributed to Pete Best’s downfall. The Beatles must have been nervous as they readied themselves for the session. “And so the moment came when all was set to make a first disc. A first disc with the world’s greatest recording organization,” said a proud Brian Epstein. No pressure on the boys, then.
The afternoon session, a three-hour rehearsal slot which ran from 2pm to 5pm. This was followed by another three hours of recording between 7pm and 10pm. According to Brian, it wasn’t an easy afternoon for The Beatles. “The rehearsal part of the session began,” he recalled. “It was a long and hard afternoon’s work. Six numbers were considered and eventually two were selected for the actual recording session in the evening.” They definitely would have rehearsed “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, though the identity of the other four songs was not noted. They are thought to be “Ask Me Why”, “P.S. I Love You”, “Please Please Me” and a new original song in their repertoire, “Tip of My Tongue”. All apart from the first song were Lennon/McCartney originals. Their mission was clear: record their own songs. And this is where the conflict arose.
“how do you do it?”
George Martin wanted them to release the Mitch Murray song “How Do You Do It?”, which the group had been working on over the summer. But they were equally intent on recording only their own songs. They had been working on “Love Me Do” as Martin had asked them to do. Plus, they had “Love Me Do”, which had been recorded in June, but was now improved. What resulted was a much brighter, more marketable song. But there were other songs in contention, too, which they wanted to perform for Martin.
the beatles session in june 1962
The June session had to be scrubbed as far as making a record was concerned. However, George Martin still included those four songs in their total of six to record per the contract. This explains why no session drummer was present that day. They only had two songs left to fulfil the terms of the contract. He wasn’t going to squander money for a session drummer when they hadn’t even decided which songs they were going to release.
George Martin knew he had to start again and Ringo seemed to confirm this. “The response to us at EMI was okay, because we’d done the auditions and George Martin was willing to take a chance. On my first visit in September, we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did ‘Please Please Me’”. Norman ‘John Lennon called me Normal’ Smith, who had been involved in the June session, returned for this session. He remembers that “it was really all John and George and Paul. Ringo had just joined and was put right at the back, being used rather like a puppet.” What mattered at this session was having John, Paul and George up to speed on the songs. George Martin was still planning to hire a session drummer.
who was andy white replacing?
Was Andy White booked to replace Pete Best? No. White confirmed that he was only called in after the 4th September session. This 4th September was a test session, and George Martin probably had a plan for a final recording date. That is when the session drummer would be employed. That date became 11th September. In Martin’s mind, the session drummer was still going to be brought in to replace Pete. However, it was suddenly Ringo, not Pete, who was the problem. As it turned out, Andy White was booked to replace Ringo. However, just as Pete was kept in the dark about the Decca failure, nobody thought to inform Ringo when he was being replaced.
First Rehearsal Session: 2pm – 5pm
As the clock headed towards 2pm, they were ready to start rehearsing. The afternoon session of six songs included “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, plus “Please, Please Me” as Ringo had mentioned, “P.S. I Love You” and probably “Ask Me Why” and “Tip Of My Tongue”. They were intent on winning over George Martin, especially with their own songs.
But despite their efforts, Martin was still not impressed with “Love Me Do”, even with their changes. He didn’t hold back in his judgment of “Please Please Me” either. “They played me ‘Please Please Me’ but it was very slow and rather dreary. I told them if they doubled the speed it might be interesting”. And so George Martin’s influential role with The Beatles had begun. “I told them what beginning and what ending to put on it,” Martin added.
How Did We Do It?
After the three hours of rehearsal, George Martin took The Beatles out for a meal. He got to know them better as people. More than their songs, he liked their personalities, and regaled them with tales about recording the Goons. But there was still work to be done on the four songs set to be recorded. However, Martin considered only two songs sufficiently progressed enough for recording: “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”.
The recording of “How Do You Do It?” was completed quite quickly, in only a couple of takes. Though it was a good performance, it lacks enthusiasm and belief. There is no soul in the singing and playing, and they are clearly not interested in the song.
“LOVE ME DO”
“Love Me Do” was a different matter, Brian observed, as the song was “no simple matter. Everyone was anxious to attain a perfect sound, which would reproduce The Beatles’ unique qualities exactly”. As in June, this Lennon/McCartney original was causing problems for the recording engineers. Brian recalled it took around 15 takes to record, and that “John’s mouth (on harmonica) was numb with playing”. In fact, there were more than 15 takes for just the rhythm track, with the vocals added separately.
Why Should We Do It?
Once they had completed several takes of “Love Me Do”, there was a confrontation which has been remembered in different ways by those present.
It was Lennon, as group leader, who confronted George Martin. “Look, George, I have to tell you, we really think that song is crap”. Martin’s face was obviously shocked, so John qualified his statement. “I mean, it may be all right, but it’s just not the kind of thing we want to do”. George Martin quickly responded: “Well, exactly what is it you want to do?” Lennon realised this was his chance. “We want to record our own material, not some soft bit of fluff written by someone else”. Martin, who was obviously fond of the Liverpudlians, gave a wry smile. “I’ll tell you what, John,” he replied. “When you can write a song as good as that one, then I’ll record it.”
They’ve Got some cheek
What could Lennon say? Norman Smith was obviously amused by it all. “They’ve got some cheek, that lot,” he said. “I reckon that’s what got them this far, though?”
Paul and John were later to tell US journalist Larry Kane, what they felt about their choice. “‘Love Me Do,’ Larry, wasn’t the best song we ever wrote. But it really put us out front,” McCartney told Kane on the 1965 Beatles tour. John was also emphatic. “In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we knew we’d arrived,” Lennon said, “it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do.’ That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.”
“Um, Without Ringo”
Norman Smith remembered the session, too. “They started to do ‘Love Me Do’ again, this time with George Martin”. Smith looked back at the session from June, and the problem again was the drummer. “Ringo Starr’s drumming did not impress. And so Ringo was taken off and replaced by a session drummer.” This explained why it took more than 15 attempts to record “Love Me Do”.
george martin didn’t like ringo
Paul explained what happened. “Horror of horrors! George Martin didn’t like Ringo. Ringo at that point was not that steady on time.” Were they in a better place than with Pete? “Now he (Ringo) is rock steady,” Paul stated some thirty years later. “It’s always been his greatest attribute. But, to George (Martin), he was not as pinpoint as a session guy would be. So, Ringo got blown off the first record.” Actually, no he didn’t!
Paul continued: “George (Martin) did the ‘Can I see you for a moment, boys?’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Um… without Ringo’. He said, ‘I would like to bring another drummer in for this record’. George got his way and Ringo didn’t drum on the first single.” Norman Smith said: “I’ve a feeling that Paul wasn’t too happy with Ringo’s drumming, and felt that it could be better. He didn’t make too good a job of it. I remember too that there was a fair bit of editing to be done.”
“paul was starting to get annoyed with him”
Geoff Emerick remembered the problems surrounding the recording of “Love Me Do”. “The Beatles seemed to have a lot of trouble getting this one (“Love Me Do”) right, though,” he said. They obviously hadn’t rehearsed it as much as the other song. “Ringo was having difficulty maintaining a steady beat”. More telling was the dissention in the group, as “Paul was starting get annoyed with him”. They hoped that each take they finished would be good enough for George Martin. However, Emerick witnessed the conversations between Martin and Smith, where Martin criticized Ringo’s “unsteady drumming.”
When the session was finally over, George Martin appeared to be frustrated. Norman Smith then turned to Geoff Emerick to discuss the session. Smith said, “George has decided to bring in a session drummer when they come in again next week, so we shouldn’t have those problems again.”
“i didn’t rate ringo very highly”
George Martin’s opinion was based on what he had seen and heard. “I didn’t rate Ringo very highly,” he said. “He couldn’t do a drum roll – and still can’t – though he’s improved a lot since. Andy was the kind of drummer I needed. Ringo was only used to ballrooms. It was obviously best to use someone with experience.”
Ron Richards and George Martin hadn’t liked Pete Best’s drumming in June. Now, three months later, Martin and Norman Smith cared little for Ringo’s drumming. The Beatles knew there was one more recording session in which they could make their debut single. However, it would be without Ringo on drums. Was this really due to Ringo’s drumming quality? Or because it was record company practice to use session drummers at first? George Martin’s mind was made that he would be using a session drummer.
We shouldn’t be too harsh on Pete or Ringo, even if the producer had reservations about both drummers.
Ringo was in for a shock
After the 4th September session, there were two important decisions to address. First, a session drummer was still needed to make the record. And second, another Lennon/McCartney original was needed to replace “How Do You Do It?”. They had a week to prepare for their final session, but nobody thought to inform Ringo of George Martin’s decision. He was in for a very big shock.
It was a busy day and I am pleased to say that every copy of “Finding the Fourth Beatle” sold out on the day. That means that all of our Limited Edition copies have sold out for this print run. However, we now have options for every pocket. We now have a standard Hardback copy, Softback, and even an ebook, all of which have been selling well.
When I first picked up a book called “The Beatles: The True Beginnings” about the Casbah Coffee Club, written by Pete, Rory and Roag Best, I enjoyed it. However, I thought it was mainly fictional! How could there be a place of this importance in Liverpool, claiming to be the Birthplace of The Beatles and I not know about it.
So I started digging, and looking for the evidence, and I was truly gobsmacked! What became clear was that the story of The Casbah, Mona Best and Pete Best had been airbrushed out of Beatles history. As I continued my research for my first book, Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles, it became clear that I had to tell people, Beatles fans, about the Casbah Coffee Club.
Brian Epstein and the Fab Four
Brian Epstein was a genius! Without him, The Beatles would never have made it. He was a top salesman and marketer; but when he sent out the press releases about The Beatles, he named himself as the only Beatles manager, and The Beatles as only John, Paul, George and Ringo. And where were they discovered? The most famous club in the world; The Cavern! And so nobody mentioned the Casbah, except to say it was a club where The Beatles played.
The True birthplace of The Beatles
What became obvious was that The Casbah was the birthplace of The Beatles, and that the Best brothers’ book was not a work of fiction, but essential reading for any Beatles fan. In Liddypool, I decided to devote a significant chapter just focusing on The Casbah, because it is that important. It is also a wonderful story too, especially about the lady whose brainchild it was; Mona “Mo” Best. What a lady!
if you don’t know about Mo, then you need to find out more about her. She had pawned her jewellery and placed the money on a horse, “Never Say Die”, which romped home at 33/1. Mona bought the impressive house at 8, Haymans Green. Mo saw a TV show featuring the famous “2is” Coffee Club in London, and decided to create a coffee club in her basement.
That club opened as The Casbah Coffee Club on 29th August 1959, with the group being The Quarrymen; John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown (a guitarist from the Les Stewart Quartet whom George had been playing with).
birthplace of the Beatles? Why?
So why is the Casbah the birthplace of The Beatles? The group that had been The Silver Beatles (among other names) became The Beatles just before heading to Hamburg, where they became a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll group. When they returned from Hamburg, Mo kept the group from falling apart, and had them play at the Casbah on 17th December 1960. This marked the birth of The Beatles.
MO gets them into the Cavern
It was Mona Best who then contacted Ray McFall at The Cavern and persuaded him to book The Beatles. They made their debut there on 9th February 1961, going on to make around 292 appearances.
The Casbah Coffee Club closed on 24th June 1962, with The Beatles of John, Paul, George and Pete Best closing the club. It was only open for just under three years, but every top Liverpool group played there. No wonder they called Mo the “Mother of Merseybeat”.
TAKE A TOUR
For every Beatles fan who visits Liverpool, I always tell them that they have to visit The Casbah, which is open for private tours. It is essential! You can see the club as it was when it closed, including the ceilings hand-painted by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with other painting done by George Harrison, Pete Best, Stuart Sutcliffe and Cynthia Powell too. This is Beatles history at its best; its Mona Best! If you would like to book a Beatles tour that includes the Casbah, go to Liverpool Beatles Tours.
MAGICAL BEATLES MUSEUM
To add to the Casbah tour, Pete, Roag and Paul Parry (from the Pete best band) have opened a new Beatles museum on Mathew Street, with many unique pieces of Beatles history on display. You can buy a combined ticket to do both the museum and Casbah. It is highly recommended!
On 27th August 1967, Brian Epstein was found dead in his London flat. His Personal Assistant, Alistair Taylor, discovered his body. Many people still think that Brian committed suicide. Alistair explained what really happened in an interview with me for Liddypool, as he discussed Brian Epstein’s death, a very personal story.
“Brian had called me on several occasions threatening to commit suicide, and when I went round to his flat, he would be sitting there quite calmly having a drink and wondering what the fuss was about.
If Brian couldn’t be their manager..
“Brian was into drugs and becoming more and more dependent on them. I could see how this changed his character, with him being more depressed. Many have suggested that The Beatles didn’t need him any more. However, Lennon summed it up when he said, ‘Well we’ve f***ing had it now’. Most importantly, the four Beatles were quite clear on this: if Brian couldn’t be their manager then nobody else could”.
How did Alistair recall that night?
“I remember coming home from San Francisco, walking through the door and saying hello to my wife Lesley, when the phone went. Epstein’s secretary rang and said she couldn’t get an answer from Brian. I had to apologise to Lesley and head off there. Naturally, Lesley wasn’t impressed, but I had a feeling something was wrong. We went in to the flat, and I just remember Brian lying there and I immediately knew he was dead.
“Therefore, I looked around, and presumed it wasn’t suicide, because firstly there was no note, but more importantly, I could see his pill bottles next to his bed, half full with the lids on. There were some letters on the bed and his favourite chocolate biscuits on a plate.”
“He did not commit suicide”
Most importantly, what caused Brian Epstein’s death? The coroner confirmed what Alistair said; it was an “incautious self-overdose”. The amount of drugs in his body was consistent with a build up over the previous weeks, and this would have had the side effect of making the user more and more forgetful. The official cause of death was ‘Carbrital poisoning’. ‘Time, place and circumstances: 3.00 p.m., Sunday 27 August 1967 at 24, Chapel Street, Westminster. Found dead in bed. Coroner’s conclusion: Incautious self-over-dosage. Accidental death’.
brian’s funeral and burial
Brian Epstein’s body was brought back to Liverpool, and his funeral was held in his local synagogue at Greenbank Drive in Wavertree; he was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Aintree, North Liverpool. His contribution to the group’s success has been diminished over time, but to those in the know, it is immeasurable.
Without Brian Epstein, The Beatles would never have got out of Liverpool, obtained a record deal, and gone on to have the fame and fortune they did. (This is an excerpt from Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles)
a statue for brian Epstein in liverpool
In 2019, Liverpool is now looking to raise the money to erect a statue to Brian Epstein. More news will follow. See www.epsteinstatue.co.uk
Coming to Liverpool this week for the Liverpool International Beatleweek? Then there are certain things you need to do on this visit:
Statue of John Lennon
Inside St. George’s Hall, whicb is worth a visit anyway, is a new statue of John Lennon, only on display until the end of August. Don’t miss it! You will be able to hear my interview with Laura on our podcast, Liddypod, next week.
Double Fantasy at Museum of Liverpool
An absolute must is the Double Fantasy exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool at the Pier Head. With many exhibits from Yoko Ono, this unique exhibition about John and Yoko has to be seen. Uniquely curated for Liverpool, it is ending in November. An incredible exhibition.
BBC RADIO MERSEYSIDE – Sunday 8.30am
On Sunday morning at 8.30am on BBC Radio Merseyside, I have recorded a 30 minute programme about The Beatles and religion/spirituality, listening to some great Beatles songs too. It is on 95.8 FM.
Were The Beatles and the Fab Four different? Much has been made of the drumming skills of Pete Best and Ringo Starr, and opinions are often at odds. Each has been praised for his talent, or criticized for his lack of it.
Pete Best was removed from The Beatles because of George Martin’s comments at the end of their June 1962 audition. Was it a clash of personalities, haircuts and the myriad other reasons given for Pete’s “dismissal”? Or was there something more fundamental going on which may have gone unnoticed? David Harris, Brian Epstein’s lawyer, confirmed that when Pete Best left, The Beatles effectively disbanded and then re-formed with Ringo. Was this more than just a legal sleight of hand that happened in the blink of an eye?
There are certain crisis points in Beatles history where the evolution of the group required a personnel change.
John lennon needs paul mccartney
On 6th July 1957, Paul McCartney watched The Quarrymen perform a mixture of country, rock ‘n’ roll and skiffle. Yet rock ‘n’ roll would always remain John’s first love. The Quarrymen lacked the expertise to make that musical leap from a skiffle group to rock ‘n’ roll. John knew that if they were going to become a rock ‘n’ roll group, they needed more skilled musicians. Thankfully, Ivan Vaughan introduced him to his mutual friend Paul McCartney. All John had to decide was whether they would continue playing just for fun, or take themselves more seriously. Should they bring in a musician who had the talent to improve them?
By inviting Paul to join The Quarrymen, John knew that most of his friends would soon be leaving. Rock ‘n’ roll bands didn’t need a banjo, washboard or tea-chest bass. That reality hastened the departures of Rod Davis, Pete Shotton and Len Garry.
john and paul need George harrison
What John and Paul realised after Paul botched his solo on “Guitar Boogie” was that they needed a lead guitarist. Thankfully, Paul knew someone who could amply assume the role: George Harrison. Five months after John met Paul, George had replaced Eric Griffiths, and Rod, Pete and Len had departed. Only Colin Hanton, the drummer, remained. The nucleus of The Beatles was in place; John, Paul and George were now together.
The Quarrymen Are Dead: Long Live The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals
John, Paul and George were desperate to have their own rock ‘n’ roll group. They offered a spot in the band to Rod Murray or Stu Sutcliffe, depending on who could get a bass. Stu joined the group when he purchased a bass with the proceeds from the sale of one of his paintings.
john, paul, George and stu need a drummer
As they ditched the Quarrymen name, John, Paul, George and Stu needed a drummer. Their new manager, Allan Williams, recruited Tommy Moore, and, at long last, they were a rock ‘n’ roll group. Through Tommy first, then Norman Chapman, the boys were able to convince Williams to get them bookings. Later, with new drummer Pete Best on board, to send them to Hamburg.
The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals Are Dead: Long Live The Beatles
With Pete now in the group, The Beatles became the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group Liverpool or Hamburg had seen. As Beatles promoter Sam Leach observed; “When The Beatles came back from Hamburg, they were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band anyone had seen. Only those of us on the scene then saw The Beatles at their best: they were pure rock. They lost some of that when Brian put them in suits, but it worked, and you can’t argue with it.”
there was nobody to touch us in britain
As John Lennon said: “We were four guys. I met Paul and said, do you want to join my band, and then George joined and Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very, very big; that’s all. Our best work was never recorded. In Liverpool, Hamburg and around the dance halls, and what we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock. There was nobody to touch us in Britain, but as soon as we made it, the edges were knocked off. Brian put us in suits and all that, and we were very successful, but we sold out. Our music was dead before we even went on the theatre tour of Britain.” (Rolling Stone Interview).
The Beatles did their best work in Liverpool and Hamburg. John is acknowledging that the group was at its best with Pete on drums. This is a point easily confirmed by any fan who saw the band perform in Liverpool or Hamburg. There was no one to touch them. However, John’s comments need to be taken in context. He loved those early days playing rock ‘n’ roll, but his words shouldn’t be viewed as a criticism of Ringo.
john, paul, George and pete don’t need stu
This transitional period also saw a crucial change on bass guitar. Although Stu Sutcliffe was a decent rock ‘n’ roll bassist, they needed Paul McCartney. With Paul on bass, they could take it up a notch.
1962: Rocked in: Popped Out – The Beatles Are Dead: Long Live The Fab Four
What we witnessed during the summer of 1962 was the end of The Beatles. They were the great rock ‘n’ roll group that had conquered Liverpool and Hamburg. Through Pete Best’s driving beat, Paul’s thumping bass, John’s fiery rhythm and George’s infectious rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. What we then witnessed, with the introduction of Ringo, was the birth of the Fab Four. This new pop group would conquer the world. In 1962, they rocked in the year, but ‘popped’ it out in the charts with their new brand of music. They were at last achieving Brian Epstein’s vision of a polished, theatrically-astute and aesthetic pop group.
When Brian first saw them on at the Cavern, they were scruffy rebels in black leather. They were rocking the joint while eating, drinking, smoking and clowning around. When they were presented to the music press in 1962, they were four polite, cheeky, suited Liverpool lads. Brian’s vision of musical theatre was coming to fruition. His “boys” were now presentable in stage costumes with a rehearsed script and a set list. They even bowed at the end of their performances, much like a curtain call for a play. Their shows became carefully-crafted pieces of musical theatre. This was a huge leap into the unknown for the band, but one fully-orchestrated by Brian. The Beatles had evolved into the Fab Four. We couldn’t have both; one of them had to go, and the old style Beatles took the fall.
Whatever magic potion he possessed, Ringo fit in perfectly with John, Paul and George, and it worked; history confirms that. As with any team, The Beatles proved that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. All that mattered was how they worked together. The group would always be greater than the individuals, regardless of talent. None of the Beatles was considered to be the best at his chosen instrument in Liverpool. Together they were greater than any musical team had even been, and likely will ever be.
john, paul and George ask ringo
“Pete Best was good, but a bit limited,” said Paul. “You can hear the difference on the Anthology tapes. When Ringo joins us, we get a bit more kick, a few more imaginative breaks, and the band settles. So the new combination was perfect: Ringo with his very solid beat, laconic wit and Buster Keaton-like charm; John with his sharp wit and his rock ‘n’ rolliness, but also his other, quite soft side; George, with his great instrumental ability and who could sing some good rock ‘n’ roll. And then I could do a bit of singing and playing some rock ‘n’ roll and some softer numbers.” (Anthology).
Was Pete Best a Good Drummer?
In “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, we have analysed Pete’s drumming on the Tony Sheridan recordings from June 1961. On the accompanying CD, you can also hear the Decca audition from January 1962. Pete was a more-than-capable player. Extensive research conducted with various Merseybeat drummers about Pete’s drumming resulted in high praise from so many of them.
pete was a great drummer
Billy Kinsley played in the Pete Best Band. He is adamant that they didn’t get rid of Pete because he was a poor drummer. “You ask drummers who were around at the time,” said Billy, “and they say that Pete was a great drummer. I never had a problem at all with Pete. He was great, absolutely superb. Nothing against Ringo, but there was nothing wrong with Pete. However, John, Paul and George knew nothing about the recording business, and nor did Brian. If you saw any of those gigs at the Cavern , all the girls were screaming for Pete. That’s what The Beatles was all about; those three crazy guys and the moody guy who didn’t smile or was quiet, but it worked. Getting rid of him didn’t make sense to us.
From You To Me
So if fellow musicians didn’t see a problem with Pete, what was it? Was there a power shift within The Beatles from John to Paul. Paul’s repertoire and more eclectic song choices would appeal to a wider variety of audiences. Theywere better suited to a group who wanted to make, and sell, records. When it came to covering some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll and R&B songs, The Beatles with Pete were second to none. John admitted that.
from rock to pop, beatles to fab four
However, for a group writing its own commercial pop songs, a change of direction was needed, and that meant a drummer who was used to playing a more varied song selection. They found that drummer in Ringo Starr, who had performed with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes at the Butlin’s holiday camps, entertaining audiences other than those at the Cavern and the clubs of Liverpool. Brian Epstein was desperately trying to get The Beatles away from those clubs, and John, Paul and George knew that.
So, when Ringo joined the group, they went from being The Beatles, the rock ‘n’ roll kings, to the Fab Four, the greatest-ever pop group. It is possible that, by changing drummers, John was trying to suggest that The Beatles were dead; long live the Fab Four. Both were great bands in their own right, and each had a great drummer in his own right. Pete Best helped The Beatles conquer Liverpool and Hamburg, and also secure Brian Epstein, the manager who would make them famous and attain the record deal they craved. For his contributions, Pete Best should be celebrated and thanked.
“it don’t come easy”: how ringo’s debut with The beatles happened
August 1962 was a turbulent month for The Beatles. In trying to find a replacement for Pete Best, Brian had approached Bobby Graham, Ritchie Galvin and Johnny Hutchinson. Ringo, the drummer from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes with whom they had played before, agreed to join The Beatles. His debut was at Hulme Hall in the Victorian Model Village of Port Sunlight, Wirral, on 18th August 1962. The Fab Four was born.
how the beatles got to Hulme hall
In an interview for The Fab one hundred and Four, Ian Hackett had suggested The Beatles for a previous dance. His father, Harry, booked the group for that legendary debut appearance of the first Fab Four line-up in August 1962. “Our home overlooked the Dell, a particularly lovely landscaped part of the village,” recalled Ian. “It was just a few yards from Hulme Hall, the Bridge Inn and the Men’s Club. While selling the Liverpool Echo outside Lever’s, Monty Lister, one of my customers, approached me. He was the editor of the Port Sunlight News, with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“Back in the spring of 1962, Harry, as Captain of the Golf Club, organised the Club’s annual dance. He chose Hulme Hall as the venue, July 7th as the date and The Modernaires, as the main band. Then he asked me if I could think of a band to fill in during the Modernaires’ break. I suggested The Beatles.
“On 7 July 1962, the Golf Club Dance came,” recalled Hackett, the first of four appearances by The Beatles.
“They went down really well with my friends, although dad got some complaints about The Beatles.” In spite of those complaints, they booked The Beatles to appear again on 18th August 1962. Little did they know how significant this day would be.
“we want pete”
“By having The Beatles headliners at Hulme Hall on August 18th, this showed that not all the adults were hostile. But there was a mass female chanting of ‘We want Pete!’ when they introduced their new drummer.
“The make-up of the audience was different for this show,” recalled Ian, “as there were more young people than locals. The problem was that the local people were angry as the young interlopers wanted to show support for Pete Best. The Beatles never stood a chance. I was glad for this one that my dad took the flak, and not me!”
In spite of the audience reaction, Ian was impressed with The Beatles that night. “I loved their treatments of ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Besame Mucho’” he said. “John’s harmonica in general was great, but especially on Bruce Chanel’s ‘Hey Baby’. At that stage, they weren’t playing that many original songs.”
No photos are known to exist of The Beatles at Hulme Hall. However, I discovered a photo of Gerry and the Pacemakers performing there later in 1962.
ringo in the toilet!
Ringo, because of the animosity in the crowd, was not enjoying the night of his debut. “I ran into a miserable-looking Ringo in the gent’s toilet during the break,” recalled Ian. “I tried to cheer him up with a smile and an optimistic comment: ‘Don’t worry about tonight. Things can only get better.’ And it was not long before they did.” (David Bedford interview in The Fab one hundred and Four)
You can still visit the hall, though the stage is no longer there.