When I look back 10 years, most of my friends on Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t have known me. This last 10 years has been a whirlwind as my life took another turn.
Having had to give up work through ill health in 2000, I wasn’t sure what would happen from there. I started to write for the London Beatles Fan Club magazine – which later became the British Beatles Fan Club – and found that I enjoyed writing about The Beatles that I started on a project that would take 9 years to complete; “Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles“. Little did I know where that would take me.
Liddypool was published at the end of 2009 and, much to my amazement, became a worldwide hit. I had never written a book before, and couldn’t have done it without my publisher, Glyn Morris, and Marshall Terrill, my editor. The book sold out in 18 months and the second edition came out in 2011 and a third edition in 2017. It has taken me to America numerous times and around Europe to Beatles conventions and festivals. I never expected any of it. I have met and interviewed so many people connected to The Beatles; what a privilege and honour.
From that book, film producer Garry Popper contacted me and asked me to be the historian for a documentary about John Lennon. “Looking for Lennon” came out in 2018; what a privilege to work on that with Garry and director Roger Appleton.
John Lennon: The Boy Who Became A Legend
Through a good friend of mine, Mark Naboshek – who also edited The Fab one Hundred and Four and Finding the Fourth Beatle – introduced me to Michael Hill, John Lennon’s school friend from the age of 5. It was a privilege for me to edit and help Michael publish his book, “John Lennon: The Boy Who Became A Legend“. A fascinating book.
The Beatles Book
I was then contacted by Hunter Davies, the only ever official Beatles biographer, to collaborate with him, Keith Badman and Spencer Leigh, on a book called The Beatles Book. What an honour!
Finding the Fourth Beatle
Garry then suggested that he and I should write the follow-up to The Fab one hundred and Four, based upon the number of drummers I had identified in that book; 12! So we started with 12 Drummers Drumming, but then I started finding more and more drummers who had played with The Beatles, eventually ending up with 23 drummers, while also solving the mystery of what happened to Pete Best in 1962; he wasn’t sacked! Finding the Fourth Beatle was published in 2018.
While working on all those other projects, I wanted to also indulge my love of crime fiction, so I combined my Beatles research with crime fiction and published my first detective book, “Inspector Rocke: That’ll Be The Day That I Die” in 2017. More books are planned there too!
I am so grateful for everyone who has purchased one of my books. I never expected anything and I still get the biggest thrill whenever I am asked to autograph a book.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. 2020 promised to be an exciting year, with several books planned.
Keep in touch with the latest news by signing up at this website. And don’t forget that you can listen to me and my friend Paul Beesley on our Podcast, “Liddypod“.
A final thank you to my wonderful family and friends for their unending support, which means so much.
Having been invited down to The Cavern by John and Paul (see Part 1), the boys went to Mathew Street. They couldn’t get in to The Cavern!
“We went down there the following day and they wouldn’t let us in while they (The Beatles) were on,” said Joe Ankrah from the group. “Five black guys, standing outside The Cavern, which would have looked suspicious. So after they’d finished and everyone was coming out, they said we could come in then. The saving grace for us was that as we walked in, Paul remembered my name and said; ‘Joe, how are you?’ I told him I’d brought the band, and he was great. It was a really nice atmosphere.
“It was dark, the stage was lit and people were clearing up around us. He asked us to sing, so we started to sing ‘Duke Of Earl’. They were absolutely knocked dead, which was a buzz for us, because we’d been doing all of this rehearsing for twelve months and getting everything sharp without performing anywhere. It was refreshing to see people responding to what we were doing.
go and get brian Epstein!
“Bob Wooler, the Cavern compere, was there and he heard us and said; ‘I must go and get Brian. So he ran down Mathew Street to NEMS to see Eppy, and then came back to us. Brian can’t come down now, but tell the boys not to speak to anyone or sign anything, and we were just bemused. The Beatles picked up their instruments and started playing. We were just happy to be playing with a band, as we were used to just singing together. I would start us off with the pitch and away we’d go.”
There was, however, one problem, and that was Brian Epstein. When Epstein arrived at The Cavern that night, he hadn’t realised that The Shades didn’t have musicians and objected to The Beatles providing the backing. However, after intervention from John and Paul, he was overruled and The Beatles backed The Shades.
john and paul introduced us
“We found ourselves appearing at The Cavern that night and we turned up with these smart black shirts and suits. John or Paul said, ‘I’d like to introduce you all to some friends of ours, The Shades’, and then we walked on, wearing our dark glasses, our shades, being cool, all dressed in black, and we started singing. The place was in an uproar. We only had two microphones, with the lead singer on one, and the other four gathered around the second microphone, and doing our thing, and it was great. That’s where it all started.”
The Shades performed four songs that night: “Duke of Earl”, “A Thousand Stars”, “16 Candles” and “Come Go With Me”.
paul mccartney played piano
“I can remember going up to the Blue Angel after The Cavern”, Joe said, “and we did a few numbers with Paul playing the piano for us for Allan Williams.”
“After appearing with The Beatles, I signed with Eppy on behalf of the band, which didn’t mean much really, as we were under 21. But at least if people asked us to do anything, we could say no, because we were under contract.
played with the beatles
“We played with The Beatles then a couple more times–once at The Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead on 15 October ‘62, and then La Scala in Runcorn on 16 October ‘62, which I remember because we went over the bridge to this little cinema. Then we played another couple of times with them.
“Lots of our friends were starting up groups, but we were ahead of them, and had worked so hard on our stage presence. We were rough, but I had to tell the others that we can’t be swearing on stage, and getting into arguments with them, but we had to watch what we said, how we said it. We once had a complaint from a member of the audience at the Playboy Club in London because one of us was sweating, and another one had different coloured socks than the others!”
There weren’t many black groups around in the UK at the time, so where did they get their inspiration? Joe explained: “I watched a group called the Deep River Boys, who did all the moves on stage, dancing around the microphone and maybe a little more cabaret than us. We were a bit snobby about cabaret because we didn’t want to do that. However, artists like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, or the original Drifters, were a great inspiration to us. Furthermore, I would say all the black American vocal groups like The Marcels, the Del-Vikings, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and so many more. They were all fantastic.”
With their career under the guidance of Brian Epstein, they should have had success, but it wasn’t to be. “We didn’t do much with Epstein really, because he was busy with The Beatles, Gerry and Cilla,” said Joe. They didn’t see them again until after they had come back from America in 1964, because they had this civic reception at the Town Hall. We were invited, and we were the only other band there. I’ve got the picture from the day to prove it, but the photo has never really been seen, maybe because it had black guys in it. It is hard to believe that it was happening back then, but we just accepted that was the way it was.
juke box jury
The Beatles taped the episode of Juke BoxJury at the Empire Theatre between 2.30pm and 3.15pm on December 7, 1963. Juke Box Jury was a popular show hosted by David Jacobs in which panellists voted on whether forthcoming singles would be hits or misses. In the audience were members of The Beatles’ Northern Area Fan Club members. Juke Box Jury was broadcast later that evening between 6.05pm and 6.35pm, and was watched by an estimated 23 million people.
The first song to be judged was “I Could Write A Book” by The Chants, and this is how The Beatles rated it:
George: “It’s great. Enough plugs and they’ve got a hit.”
David Jacobs: “Are they being too generous?”
the beatles voted it a hit
The Beatles unanimously voted the single a hit, but sadly, despite their support, it failed to achieve chart status. None of the group’s other records fared any better: their debut single, “I Don’t Care”, released in September 1963; “She’s Mine”, released in June 1964; and their last single with Pye, “Sweet Was The Wine”, from September 1964. Commenting on their period with Pye Records, Eddie Amoo commented, “They had no idea what to do with a black doo wop group. They just had no idea.”
The group never found record success despite further releases with Fontana, Page One, Decca and RCA. They toured with box office stars like Helen Shapiro, Bobby Rydell and The Searchers and went to Hamburg and played at the famous Star Club, where they were very popular. “All we had to do,” recalled Joe, “was play two sets of twenty minutes, whereas the other groups were playing three or four hours each night. We had a great time there and Manfred Weissleder was very good to us.”
the real thing
After they disbanded in 1975, Joey and Edmund Ankrah formed another group, OFANCHI, and enjoyed a degree of success on the television show New Faces. Eddie Amoo joined the Liverpool soul band The Real Thing, whose lineup included his brother Chris Amoo. They found UK chart success in June 1976 with “You To Me Are Everything”, which reached number 1 in the UK and number 28 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart. Their follow-up UK hit, “Can’t Get By Without You”, reached number 2. They released a number of successful albums, including one named after the Toxteth area of Liverpool, their home turf.
The Chants were a fantastic group who should have made it big, especially with the help of The Beatles. Look them up on YouTube and listen to them. Fantastic!
This is an excerpt from “The Black Roots of The Beatles” in my book.
They are among the “Fab 104” people who featured in my second book, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles”.
13th October 1962: The Beatles and The Shades/ Chants – Joe Ankrah, Eddie Ankrah, Edmund Amoo, Nat Smeda, Alan Harding
One of The Beatles’ favourite Liverpool bands was the all-vocal black harmony group, The Shades, who later became The Chants. The Beatles would, in fact, back them on three occasions in 1962. The group originated in the Liverpool 8 area. I met founding member Joe Ankrah, who told me how it began. (Featured in my book The Fab One Hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles)
“My father was the organist and choir master at the African Churches Mission. My brother Edmund and I were in the choir there. A lot of my upbringing with my dad and the church, I did want to make something of myself.”
Joe attended Upper Park Street Primary School and then went on to Wellington Road Secondary Modern. “When I left school, I wanted to be an artist, as I was quite good at art,” Joe said. “There was a huge gap in opportunities between black people and white people. My dad was good at drawing, and when he was in the army, he was a draughtsman. He did all kinds of rubbish jobs, and ended up as a ship’s fitter over at Cammell Laird.
“Doing our moves”
“So I left school and suddenly, there were no friends and nothing to do. I decided that there was no way I was going to work in a chippy or something like that. So I put my portfolio together and headed for town and tried to get a job as an artist. It was possible back then, because posters and advertising hoardings were all painted by hand. However, of course, that kind of artwork was dying out and being replaced by photography and new ways of printing. So I found myself out of work, and bumming around.
“One of our enjoyments was going to the Rialto, which was a cinema.It also had a ballroom where we used to go and listen to music and dance. So we would head down there on a Monday night, all dressed up, stand around the ballroom, doing our moves.
rock around the clock
There was a movie coming on called Rock Around The Clock. We watched this and I was impressed with them, even though it was really about Bill Haley. I just realised that I wanted to start a group, and particularly a vocal-harmony group. My brother Edmund and I were bumming around. Because my dad had been a choirmaster at the church, I knew about harmony.”
Apart for singing in their cellar, they had performed a few times at Stanley House. This was especially when his mother grew sick of them! There was a gang culture developing in Toxteth, as Joe explained: “There was the J’s and the Shines. The J’s were the John Bull’s (John Bull was a political character who symbolised British culture), the white guys. We were the Shines, because our skin was shiny.
cellars and American g.i.S
Joe continued: “I told them we were going to form a group and we started to practice in our cellar. I knew all the harmonies off by heart and that’s how we evolved. People used to come around to the house and we would be singing on the corner. And even when we would be rehearsing, there would be big crowds standing outside the house listening. Several American singers influenced us, and here we had an advantage. I have three aunties–Grace, Adah and Uzor–who were courting American GIs stationed at Burtonwood, just outside of Liverpool. They would bring their records down to my grandmother’s house and we would listen to them.
“We were bored with it eventually. What were we doing? Where were we going? All we seemed to do was rehearse. During one of those periods where we weren’t singing or performing, I found out that Little Richard was visiting Liverpool.”
“we didn’t know about the cavern”
Joe made an interesting observation about the music scene in Liverpool. This showed how the black and white communities were still segregated in the Sixties. “We didn’t know that there was a live music scene in Liverpool,” observed Joe. “We didn’t know about the Cavern and clubs like that. I wouldn’t have known how to get into the clubs and you wouldn’t see a black person in town then. I had no reason to go into town, so I didn’t know what was going on there.
“I was a big fan of Little Richard and I had some communication with him. He told me he was staying at the Adelphi and to come and meet him. I went down and he spoke to me. ‘Hey man, I’m doing a thing at the Tower, a Mersey show’, so I went to see him live.”
The show was on 12th October 1962 at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton. One of Brian Epstein’s marketing ideas was to have The Beatles playing second to some of the biggest names around.
“I was backstage most of the time because I came with Little Richard,” recalled Joe. The Beatles were on and Little Richard was doing his famous walking around the balcony, singing all of his songs. So we were back by his dressing room and everyone was around Little Richard. I was just standing there, not trying to get near him. These two guys were there and asked me what I was doing there. So I told them I was there to see Little Richard. I asked them what they were doing there, and they told me they’d be on stage.”
Without realising it, Joe was talking to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were also queuing up to meet their hero. Joe didn’t know most of the groups, or even their names. For that reason, he hadn’t recognised John and Paul.
“I suppose I may have vaguely heard of the Cavern,” Joe said. “But even if we went into town at night time and tried to get into any of the clubs, we were turned away. We just accepted it back then. That was how it was, and it was the way it was. We had our photograph taken with Little Richard and The Beatles, plus Derry Wilkie and Sugar Dean.
“come down to the cavern”
“I told John and Paul that I was in a band and they laughed and asked what we played. I told them we don’t, we just sing. They couldn’t quite grasp it. ‘Why don’t you come down to one of the afternoon sessions at The Cavern, and we’ll listen to your band.
Was This Paul McCartney’s Debut with The Quarrymen? Colin Hanton says No!
For years we have accepted that Paul made his debut at New Clubmoor Hall on 18th October 1957. However, I spoke to Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton who says that can’t be right.
“All I knew was that one day Paul turned up, and Rod had left by then. His parents were giving him some grief about homework and not messing about with these silly boys and the music.”
Charlie McBain and Wilson hall
“I have my doubts about Paul’s debut being at Clubmoor,” said Colin. “It was Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, which was run by the same guy Charlie McBain. We did a paid gig at Wilson Hall after Clubmoor, but we appeared before it too.”
st. peter’s church hall
Colin says that after John and Paul met, they played at the hall regularly. This was before playing Wilson Hall or New Clubmoor Hall. “After the summer fete in July ‘57, we used to play a lot at St. Peters church hall on a Saturday night. The guy had no microphone for us, and we kept asking for one. The Saturday dance became very big and they were getting all of their friends from school to come.”
A memory then springs to Colin’s mind. “I’ve just remembered: Paul was there. He said to John, there was no mic and he had been promised there would be a microphone. We got there late afternoon to set up, and John was looking round and there was no mic. The guy said he couldn’t get one. John argued with the guy who said he hadn’t been able to get a microphone.
“Paul said, ‘He’s rattled now, because he’s whistling’ and so that was that. John decided we were not playing and we walked out, which was a bit of a mistake. I went home with my drums, and then back to the hall to look for the others. I got to the door and asked if John and the lads were there. The guy said, ‘no, and he’ll never get back in here!’
“This was soon after the fete and we used to rehearse there too. They had a dance evening with a record player there by the stage, which was cranked up to full volume. Then they danced the usual three waltzes and three quick steps and then The Quarrymen would play.”
From St. Peter’s Church Hall, the next step was to Wilson Hall, Garston.
“This is how we got into Wilson Hall. Charlie McBain had a good system whereby he had a 6-piece dance band/ orchestra who would play and then want a 45-minute break to go to the pub. In the past he put the record player on, but he decided to have a skiffle contest. All he needed were 5 or 6 groups.
“You needed to pay two shillings and sixpence to get in. At 4 or 5 people a group, and 5 or 6 groups: a great idea and he was quids in. John said, ‘I’m not paying that, we’re here for the competition’. Paul said, ‘the prize is £1, so just pay the money then we’ll split the winnings’. We didn’t win!” However, it worked as an audition.
“McBain must have seen something, even though we didn’t win and that’s how we got our bookings with him. Nigel Walley was a bit of a manager and he got us 5 ten-shilling notes – £2.50 – for playing.
how they got to new clubmoor hall
“We definitely did Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, and that’s how we got it, from the competition. That’s how we also then got up to Clubmoor. We were just desperate to get onstage. We got on at the Cavern – Paul wasn’t there because he was with scouts. It was Open Mic night which was how we got down there, and then we got paid for it. There was no way Paul joined in July and did not play until October at Clubmoor. We rehearsed and played in St. Peter’s Hall, and then appeared at the contest at Wilson Hall.
“We also went to the Locarno, another of the endless round of talent contests. There was a poster at the back for the following week for singers only, so Paul said to John, ‘why don’t we go in for it’, but John said, ‘no we’re a group’. John wasn’t interested in getting up on his own, just for the group. I think John would have been happy to keep doing what we were doing.”
Playing at New Clubmoor Hall, and the famous photograph showed how having Paul in the group had changed the balance.
mccartney gets john lennon into a suit
“Paul never challenged John’s authority, but he was very diplomatic, very subtle. He always got his own way, but with subtle means. I remember at the start Paul wanted to smarten the Quarrymen up. He never said let’s get jackets, he just said to John, ‘I’m going to wear a jacket’. He didn’t say that we should wear one – it was sort of oatmeal colour. So, of course, John went out and got one too. So Paul got John dressed up without having a row or telling him to do it. And that was for the Wilson Hall gig, before the Clubmoor one. So it certainly wasn’t the first time Paul played with us. Maybe the first time in those jackets, so again, we played Wilson Hall before Clubmoor.”
Conclusion? Paul’s appearance at New Clubmoor Hall was probably the first time Paul played and The Quarrymen were paid! It was certainly not the first time he played with them.
Taken from my interview with Colin Hanton for Liddypool (now in its third edition)
Colin Hanton has a new book out called “Pre:Fab“, which is a great read, and being turned into a documentary.
Happy to report that I had a fantastic time at the Shrewsbury Beatles weekend. National Film Award Nominated Director Roger Appleton introduced “Looking for Lennon” on Friday night, and I had the honour of giving a talk about “Liddypool“, “The Fab one hundred and Four” and “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, and debunking a few Beatles myths.
I then introduced one of my all-time favourite Beatles films, “Good Ol’ Freda”, and “Eight Days a Week” later that evening. In between selling some of my books – a big thank you to everyone who bought them – and talking to some fascinating people, I got to meet Cara Spencer, whose father Terry photographed The Beatles many times – as well as chronicling much of the latter 20th Century. She introduced “A Hard Day’s Night”, and told us plenty of funny and fascinating stories about her father.
Mayor Phil and King Tim
The brainchild of the weekend was Lord Mayor Phil Gillam who, in his one year term of office, wanted an event he would like to go to, and would support his chosen charity; The Samaritans.
As a huge Beatles fan, he quickly enlisted the help of his very good friend, and fellow Beatles nut Tim King. Between them, they put on an incredible weekend, which everybody thoroughly enjoyed.
Plus, because it was all about raising money for a fantastic charity, it made it even better.
The cavern – shrewsbury style!
On Sunday, it was al lover to the Buttermarket, which is a “cavernous” venue, perfect for live music! And what a fantastic atmosphere it was too, with Phil giving us an introduction, before the live Beatles music started. Combined with a bacon buttie, what more could you want?
i read the new today, oh boy!
The Beatles weekend made the local papers, and rightly so. It was a triumph for everybody involved, but a special thank you once again for the amazing Mayor, Phil Gillam, and Tim King. It was a wonderful weekend, and everyone is asking whether it will be repeated. If it is, then I will be there.
Ever been to Shrewsbury?
As well as meeting so many wonderful people, I was stunned at how beautiful the town is, and intend to return as a tourist. If you get the chance, go and visit this beautiful, historic town.
“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
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.