Sad news on the passing of Dennis Littler. As you will read from this article, I interviewed Denis for my book The Fab One Hundred and Four. He was the guy on the right of Mike McCartney’s famous colour photo of the Quarrymen.
On 20th May I flew out to Germany with Rod Davis from the Quarrymen.
Rod, like many people, didn’t realise that I play guitar and sing a bit too! So he suggested that ge would do a talk with songs, I would do my talk, and then we would sing some songs together. What an honour that was for me and we had so much fun too!!
Have a look at the video I’ve just uploaded to our YouTube channel and I hope you forgive the camera work from those watching and my singing too!
Although St. PETER’S Church is famous for being the place where John Lennon met Paul McCartney on 6th July 1957, John had been attending Sunday School here from the age of 5. Many of his friends from The Quarrymen also attended here too.
John, his best friends Pete Shotton and Nigel Walley also sang in the choir, though it won’t surprise you that John was thrown out of the choir too!
Join me as I go through the doors and into the church to see inside the famous St Peter’s where John sang in the choir
In our latest Video on YouTube we are sharing some of the unseen footage and interviews from when we made “Looking for Lennon”.
Not many visitors to Liverpool realise that in the heart of Woolton, close to John Lennon’s home at “Mendips”, was a Quarry. This was still active in the 1950s. When the Quarrymen performed at the St Peter’s Garden Fete, they played on top of the Quarry.
You can view some drone footage (see photo) that we shot in the quarry – it is a residential area now – which looks over St Peter’s Church and the footpath, which many people also don’t know about, that runs from Lennon’s side of Woolton to St. Peter’s Church.
Walk in the footsteps of John Lennon and The Quarrymen. Enjoy the short film – more to come soon
Why Percy Phillips got there before George Martin did
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 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.
“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!
“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”.
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.
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!
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.
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.