12th July 1958: John, Paul and George make their first record

Why Percy Phillips got there before George Martin did

Percy Phillips Record by The Quarrymen
The First record made by John, Paul and George
Percy Phillips Studio
Percy Phillips’ Studio was in the back room of his house

This small studio tucked inside a Victorian terraced house at number
38, Kensington is where The Quarrymen made their first and only
demo record. It was a disc that eventually became one of the most
historic recordings in popular music. John, Paul, George, Colin
Hanton and John Duff Lowe paid seventeen shillings and sixpence
(87.5 pence) and cut a two-sided disk made of shellac. They couldn’t
afford to pay for a tape and so the recording was made straight to
disk.

McCartney/ Harrison Song

The five-piece ensemble recorded Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be
The Day” and “In Spite Of All The Danger”, an original McCartney-
Harrison tune. It was seen as Paul’s song with George providing
the guitar solo.

Percy Phillips in his studio
Percy Phillips (right) in his studio

Percy Phillips owned the studio, which was on the ground floor.
His clients waited in the front parlour and recorded in the back room
studio. The studio consisted of two tape-recorders, a microphone
hanging from the ceiling, a piano and disc-cutter, which produced
these shellac discs.

Interview with Colin Hanton

Colin Hanton spoke about that famous first recording. “We met at a theatre and walked up there. All I remember was this back room with electronic equipment in the corner. We set up our equipment with me in the corner and the lads with their guitars: there were no amps, it was all-acoustic. John Lowe was over by the wall on the piano. I was hitting the drums and he said that they were too loud, so I tried again but there was still the same problem, which was finally fixed by putting a scarf over the snare to soften it and keep it as quiet as possible.

Colin Hanton of The Quarrymen

“John Duff Lowe reckons there was one microphone hanging down from the ceiling, which picked everything up. He was complaining because he said we should get the tape, which was a pound, but we just had enough each— three shillings and sixpence (17.5 pence). I always felt that was one of the reasons to invite John Lowe along to split it five ways. John and Paul went white at the thought of a pound. “Percy was fed up because we were taking too much time, and starting to look at the clock. ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was quite long, and he said to chop a verse off. John said no. John Lowe could see Phillips from where he was sitting and he was apparently telling John to finish. We kept going, so the record ended with the song going almost to the centre of the disc, right to the hole in the middle.

We had a record!

In Spite of all the Danger
In Spite of all the Danger by The Quarrymen

“He gave us the disc and off we went. It was a big thing. How many people had records like popular crooner, Matt Monro? So we had a record too, and could listen to ourselves. We had heard our group before because the girl who lived next door to me, Geraldine Davies, had a Grundig tape recorder. She’d record us and then we’d all sit down and listen to it. It was a momentous day for us. I can still remember it so clearly”.

The songs appeared on Anthology Disc 1.

This interview first appeared in “Liddypool“. Read the full interview in the book – get your copy here.

Liddypool
Liddypool by David Bedford

David Bedford

6th July 1957 – Part 3: John Lennon meets Paul McCartney

The Quarrymen led by John Lennon

Read Part 1 or Part 2 here

On the day John Lennon meets Paul McCartney, the meeting was about to happen. After the parade, and after Paul had watched John and The Quarrymen perform, the group was over in the church hall, preparing for the evening performance.

St Peter's Church Hall
St Peter’s Hall and Stage shortly before it was removed

Ivan Vaughan walked in with Paul McCartney, but what happened next?

Who did what? Who said what?

Since I started investigating these key moments in Beatles history, I have interviewed several people who were there at St. Peter’s Church on 6th July 1957. These include: Quarrymen Rod Davis, Eric Griffiths, Colin Hanton and Len Garry, plus eyewitnesses Julia Baird and Ian James. I have also studied the comments made by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And guess what? Not everyone agrees on 100% of what happened! I did mention to several of them that they should have been taking notes, as the most important meeting in music history was happening, but we can excuse them!

David playing with The Quarrymen
David playing with The Quarrymen at he 50th Anniversary

What we can agree, when collating and conflating the eyewitness accounts, is that most of The Quarrymen were in the hall: Colin Hanton had gone home for tea, and Rod Davis was in the toilet for some of the time! Ivan brought Paul over to meet John, and they were talking for a short while. Paul was intrigued by how John was playing guitar. John explained that he was playing banjo chords, as taught by his mother.

He’s cack-handed!

Most of them agree that John handed Paul his guitar. The first thing Paul did was to alter the tuning, which was more than the other Quarrymen could do; tune a guitar! What astonished them, and must have looked impressive, was that Paul then turned John’s guitar upside down, because he had learned to play a right-handed guitar upside down! This was verified during an interview I did for “The Fab one hundred and Four” with Ian. Paul was left-handed (or cack-handed as we call it. Just don’t ask why!!)

Twenty Flight Rock

Paul then played “Twenty Flight Rock” by Eddie Cochran, and proved he could not only play a guitar upside-down, but he could sing too, and know a new song, including its lyrics. No wonder John was impressed! Paul also sang some of “Long Tall Sally”, not knowing how important that song was to John (that will be a future blog post).

After a short time, Paul left to go home, and John was left with the decision; should he let Paul join, even though he was better than him, but would improve the group?

John made the right decision; Paul would be invited to join, thus creating the Lennon/McCartney partnership that would change modern music.

You can see photos from the parade in “The Fab one hundred and Four”, as well as interviews and other photos too.

David Bedford

6th July 1957 – Part 2: Without Ivan, there would be NO Beatles

Ivan (left) with Pete Shotton
Ivan Vaughan (left) with Pete Shotton

How did John Lennon and Paul McCartney Meet?

Read Part 1 here

The story of how John and Paul met for the first time on 6th July is a fascinating one, because it has the strangest of coincidences connected with it.

When John moved in with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George in 1946, the first friend he made was Ivan Vaughan, who lived in Vale Road, just behind “Mendips”. When Ivan moved from Lidderdale Infants School to Dovedale Primary School at the age of 8, he and John became even closer, even though he was a year behind John.

“THAT Lennon!”

However, with John’s reputation among the parents in Woolton, when it came for Ivan to go to Grammar School, Mr and Mrs Vaughan didn’t want their son following John to Quarry Bank! Known by parents as “THAT Lennon!”, they didn’t want their precious son, who was very intelligent, being corrupted by Lennon. And so they took the decision to send him all the way into the city centre to the Liverpool Institute.

 John Lennon and Ivan Vaughan in the Isle of Man
John Lennon (second from left) and Ivan Vaughan (second from right) in the Isle of Man

The Same Birthday

At the Liverpool Institute, Ivan ended up in the same class as a lad born on exactly the same day as him; Paul McCartney. The two became friends, with a mutual interest in music, and so Ivan told Paul all about his friend’s skiffle group called The Quarrymen, which Ivan occasionally played in. He told Paul that The Quarrymen were performing at the Woolton Fete on 6th July (1957) and invited him to come along. Paul was indecisive at first, but when Ivan told him it was a good place to meet girls, how could he refuse!

John, Meet Paul

And so, on 6th July 1957, Ivan brought Paul along to St. Peter’s Church, and introduced him to John Lennon.

Without Ivan, the most important meeting in music history would never have taken place. John and Paul lived in different parts of Liverpool, went to different schools, and had different groups of friends, all apart from Ivan. And so, thanks to Mr and Mrs Vaughan wanting to keep their son away from John Lennon, they inadvertently connected John and Paul, and thus led to the birth of The Beatles.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Vaughan, and especially Ivan.

Find out more about Ivan in The Fab One Hundred and Four and in Liddypool

READ PART 3

David Bedford

6th July 1957 – Part 1: The Quarrymen on Parade

The Quarrymen in the parade
The Quarrymen, including John, on the wagon during the parade

On 6th July 1957, the day John Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time, there was a parade around the village of Woolton. At the front of the parade was a marching band, and at the back was The Quarrymen. In the above photo, you can see that John is singing, though nobody else is doing anything!

The Quarrymen (left to right) are: Pete Shotton, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, John Lennon, Colin Hanton and Rod Davis. The photos of the parade were taken by Rod’s father James Davis. This photo appeared in my first book, Liddypool, and was inserted at the last minute, when the book was on the printing press ready to go! We literally said; “Hold the presses!” It was the first time it had appeared in a book.

When I was working on my second book, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles”, I gained permission from Rod Davis to reproduce all of the photos from the parade, the only book to include all of the photographs. These include the marching band, brownies and guides, the youth group, the Rose Queen and another of The Quarrymen. They are incredible. You can get your copy of the book here.

As the parade finished, everyone left the parade, as The Quarrymen clambered down from the wagon, and walked along the side of the church to the field behind the church. In that crowd watching closely was Ivan Vaughan, and his school friend Paul McCartney. Who could have predicted what would happen this day would still be talked about all these years later.

David Bedford