The Virtual Chicago Fest starts today at 5pm (Chicago Time CDT) so it is gonna be busy at also slightly weird to make sure I turn up at the right time!
My first panel is tonight at 6.30pm (CDT) which is 12.30am (UK time), where I will be talking with Jim Berkenstadt (The Beatles Who Vanished) and filmmaker Simon Weitzman. Our discussion is about Filmmaking – our current and future Beatles film projects. Some exciting news and information to share.
Saturday is going to be busy, but great fun.
Firstly, the formal announcement of the new book I have written with Richard Porter and Susan Ryan: The Beatles Fab Four Cities.
Find out what it is all about at 1pm (CDT) which is 7pm (UK Time).
Then straight over to the Main Stage where I am interviewing Carol Phillips, daughter of the legendary Lord Woodbine, whose story has rarely been told, and then it is often wrong!
Don’t miss that at 2pm (CDT) which is 8pm (UK).
And finally on Saturday, a fantastic panel, which has been titled: “Black Artists’ Influence on The Beatles from Liverpool to the US”.
This should be an incredible panel presentation and discussion.
I get Sunday off so I can just enjoy the rest of the Fest! Hope you do too.
Due to popular demand and numerous requests over the years, we are going to make a documentary of my first book, Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles.
Due to the popularity of “Liddypool”, David and local film director Roger Appleton have decided to make a documentary film based around the book and celebrate The Beatles and Liverpool.
The Film: Locations
We plan to hire a vintage double-decker book to take a trip around Liverpool, visiting the famous homes and sites connected to The Beatles, from the Dingle and Wavertree. We will visit Penny Lane, Woolton, Strawberry Field and St. Peter’s Church. We will got to Mendips and Forthlin Road in Allerton. Then The Casbah in West Derby and into the city centre, The Cavern and the Beatles statues. Along the way, we will “bump into” people who were there. We will welcome people like The Quarrymen, owners of The Cavern and so many more.
The Beatles Songs
We will tell the story of the importance of Liverpool to the story of The Beatles like never before. We will be supported along the journey by Liverpool singer/ songwriter Ian Prowse who will share his musical story. He will also sing some of those Beatles songs made popular in Liverpool by The Beatles.
The Film – News Coming Soon
Sign up for the website to get updates. We will need your help to make it when we launch the crowd-funding campaign.
Liverpool’s First Casualty of the Coronavirus witnessed Beatlemania
Outside of Liverpool, you’ve probably never heard of Cy Tucker. He was a legend around Liverpool and performed on the same bill as The Beatles, but sadly, he is Liverpool’s first casualty of the coronavirus.
Cy Tucker, born Thomas Thornton in 1943, played guitar and sang with Liverpool group The Cinnamons who played Litherland Town Hall on 27th December 1960, while waiting for another group to arrive. “I was bashing my brains out for a couple of hours for 30 bob,” said Tucker. “Then the Beatles came on and the girls went berserk.” This was the night when The Beatles, having returned from Hamburg, took Liverpool by storm.
Tucker then joined Earl Preston And The TTs as the second lead vocalist; this was the group that beat The Beatles in a poll in Mersey Beat. A single of the hit ballad, “My Prayer” came out in Cy Tucker’s name. “I met Paul McCartney in the Blue Angel one night. He said; You’re on the Oriole LP, This Is Mersey Beat, you’ve got a single by yourself and one with Earl Preston. You’ve got to have a hit with one of them.” But it never really happened in a big way for one of Liverpool’s great beat groups.
Cy Tucker and the Friars
He had other solo records, but became one of the most popular local acts until his death, as Cy Tucker and the Friars. His ability to sing those big, emotional ballads never disappointed his Liverpool audiences.
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, there are questions. 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.
Was it released by mistake? Any evidence?
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.
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. 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.
McArtney not mccartney!
A further mistake was made when 250 promo discs of “Love Me Do” were released, misspelling Paul’s name as McArtney; something he was used to in Mersey Beat. One of these discs was sold in October 2017 for $14,757, the ost expensive 7-inch single ever sold.
50th anniversary mistake
In a twist of fate – or was it an inside joke – when Apple decided to reissue “Love Me Do” on the 50th anniversary, they initially used Andy White’s version. They then had to quickly recall those records, so that Ringo’s version could be issued.
The final piece of evidence is one of omission. With the group’s popularity increasing, why did they not ask Ringo to re-record “Love Me Do” for the album? The conclusion is that Ringo’ version was most likely released by accident. That is not uncommon in the recording industry, even today. Nothing else really makes sense.
REVIEW OF THE BEATLES’ FIRST PARLOPHONE SINGLE
Specially written for this Press Release By Tony Barrow. His weekly column OFF THE RECORD by “DISKER” appears each Saturday in THE LIVERPOOL ECHO AND EVENING EXPRESS
For many years the Tennessee town of Nashville has been known as the golden capital of America’s Country & Western music industry. In its own way, I guess, Liverpool has become the British beat equivalent to Nashville for the city, deep in the heart of Z Cars country, boasts an almost incredible array of thriving rock ‘n’ roll beat groups.
The most popular of these is THE BEATLES a group which deserves the nationwide following which its Parlophone recordings will surely bring. On the evidence of “LOVE ME DO” nobody can claim that THE BEATLES are a carbon of The Everlys, The Brooks, The Allisons, The Shadows or any other existing outfit. Theirs is a thoroughly distinctive vocal sound backed by the semi-plaintive, semi-impatient rasp and whine of John Lennon’s remarkably expressive harmonica plus a stout guitar and solid drum beat.
The lyrics of this infectious, medium-paced ballad are simple and it is in this easy-to-remember simplicity that THE BEATLES can pin their well-founded hopes of hit parade headlines for their very first Parlophone outing.
ANOTHER PUNCHY VOCAL
The under-deck carries something much more than the traditional (albeit ungenerous) B side padding. “P.S. I LOVE YOU” is a bright, up-tempo ditty with another punchy John Lennon/Paul McCartney vocal and a smart, rhythmic backdrop which has a colourful Latin tint to it.
IF YOU CAN’T BEET ‘EM……………..
Beetles did you say, George? Course I’ve heard of them. Your Grandfather (may he rest in peace) used to put down some powdery stuff to stop them coming in the house.”
“No, Grandma. BEATLES. With ‘A’ before the ‘T’”.
“Hay? No, I’m sure it was powdery stuff. And who ever heard of beetles supping tea?”
“BEATLES, Grandma. It’s a group………………..there are four of them……………..and they’re on Parlophone”.
“We haven’t got a phone in the parlour, George. Anyway I don’t want hear any more about them. They give me the creeps. Nasty big black things”.
“But they’re not black, Grandma………… They’re white …………. And they’re British!…..”
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.”
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!
The Beatles first appeared at The Cavern when they were just The Quarrymen, back in early 1957. It wasn’t until February 1961 that as The Beatles, thanks to Mona Best, made their first appearance at the legendary Cavern Club on Mathew Street. It was a lunchtime session, and it wasn’t long before they made their debut in the evenings too. It was later in 1961 that Brian Epstein walked into The Cavern and saw The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. Within weeks he had signed them and arranged an audition for them at Decca.
Between their first appearance and their last appearance on 3rd August 1963, they played nearly 300 times. Their final show did not go without incident.
The fab four: “please please me”
The Beatles were by now nationwide stars, and touring the country after the success of their singles and number one album, “Please Please Me”. The Fab Four were moving away from Liverpool, and setting up home in London, where the national media was located. That last night at The Cavern would be their last, even though they didn’t realise it at the time.
“The crowds outside were going mad. By the time John Lennon had got through the cordon of girls, his mohair jacket had lost a sleeve. I grabbed it to stop a girl getting away with a souvenir. John stitched it back on. They may have altered their style elsewhere, but they didn’t do it at the Cavern. They were the same old Beatles, with John saying, “Okay, tatty-head, we’re going to play a number for you.’ There was never anything elaborate about his introductions.” Paddy Delaney, Cavern Club doorman
Brian Epstein promised they would return
Tickets for the final show had gone on sale at 21 July at 1.30pm, and sold out within 30 minutes. The fees for their last Cavern show were £300, a lot more than they received for their first appearance. By then, The Beatles could command almost any fee they wanted. With only 500 people there, at 10 shillings each, it was impossible for The Caverb to make money that night. Brian Epstein promised the club’s compère Bob Wooler that The Beatles would return, but they never did.
“The Beatles were very professional: there was no larking around and they got on with it. We all felt it was their swan song and that we would never have them at the Cavern again. Brian Epstein still owes the Cavern six dates for The Beatles as he kept pulling them out of bookings by saying, ‘You wouldn’t stand in the boys’ way, would you, Bob?” Bob Wooler
“When i’m sixty-four”: The first live performance
The show lasted from 6pm-11.30pm and The Beatles were joined on the bill were The Escorts, The Merseybeats, The Road Runners, Johnny Ringo and the Colts, and Faron’s Flamingos. However, during The Beatles’ set, there was a power cut – which was not unusual at the Cavern – and so they couldn’t use any of their equipment. As the show must go on, Paul McCartney moved over to the piano, and played a song the crowd hadn’t heard before, and wouldn’t hear on record for a few years: ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ from the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Having shown that The Beatles had outgrown this primitive club, Lennon was not happy:
“We were on just before The Beatles and we were delighted with our reception as everybody was cheering and going mad. The Beatles all had long faces and John Lennon was saying, ‘We never should have come back here.” Tony Crane, The Merseybeats
Although this was the last Cavern appearance, it wasn’t their last Liverpool appearance, which happened in December 1965 at the Empire Theatre.
But for those Cavernites, it was the last time they saw their hometown heroes, The Beatles, in The Cavern.
Beatles History: July 1962. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete Best – made just the one appearance at this venue in the seaside town of Southport, just 20 miles north of Liverpool. Brian Epstein took action to get The Beatles out of the rock ‘n’ roll clubs, and this was all part of his strategy.
Cambridge Hall is now the Southport Arts Centre. (Featured in Liddypool)
On this occasion they were supporting one of Britain’s top acts, Joe Brown and his Bruvvers; The Beatles regularly covered Brown’s hit records. Brian had recently received news that they had a Recording Contract with Parlophone, and now Brian acted, sooner rather than later.
The following day, Brian approached the first drummer as a potential replacement for Pete Best; and it wasn’t Ringo Starr! Beatles history was about to be made. (The full story is in Finding the Fourth Beatle)
How did The Beatles get their name? And how many Beatles names have there been?
When John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison decided they had had enough of the name “Quarrymen”, it was their latest recruit, Stuart Sutcliffe, who suggested a new name. In tribute to their hero Buddy Holly, whose group was called The Crickets, Stuart suggested “Beetles”. But how would it be spelled? In 1960, the group used many spellings, and variations, of the name Beetles. Interestingly, before calling themselves The Crickets, Holly’s group considered the name “Beetles” too. (Fab one hundred and Four)
the Beetles Myth
One often quoted myth can be debunked, which was quoted by George Harrison. The name was not inspired by the 1953 Marlon Brando film The Wild One, which refers to the rival gang led by Lee Marvin as “The Beetles”. The film was banned in England by the British Board of Film Censors until 1968.
27th March 1960: The Beatals
The first recorded use of the Beatles name was “Beatals”, in a letter written by Stuart Sutcliffe on 27th March 1960, calling himself The Beatals’ “manager”.
23rd April 1960: The Nerk Twins
The Fox and Hounds pub in Caversham, Berkshire was the venue for an unlikely pairing of two of The Beatles. John and Paul played on consecutive nights at this little village pub as The Nerk Twins, to only a handful of people. So how did they end up in the south of England in a tiny village pub?
They were in the Fox and Hounds because it was run by Paul’s cousin Bett and her husband Mike. The couple had both worked as Butlin’s Redcoats before taking on the pub and the teenage Lennon and McCartney were keen to get their advice. The Nerk Twins perched themselves on bar stools and, with their acoustic guitars and no microphones, played a set of songs together.
“It was the Easter school holidays and John and I had hitchhiked down from Liverpool to help out in the pub,” Paul recalled. “We generally dossed around for a week and worked behind the bar. Then Mike said that me and John should play there on the Saturday night. So we made our own posters and put them up in the pub: ‘Saturday Night – Live Appearance – The Nerk Twins’. It was the smallest gig I’ve ever done. We were only playing to a small roomful.” (Fab one hundred and Four)
10th May 1960: The Silver Beetles/ Silver Beatles
After the concert on 5th May 1960 featuring Gene Vincent alongside Liverpool groups, John, Paul, George and Stuart approached Allan Williams to be their manager. He agreed, and his first job was to find them a drummer; he achieved that. Tommy Moore joined the group, now known as The Silver Beetles – or The Silver Beatles. Nobody is exactly sure which spelling was used and when over the next couple of months. The first time it was used was on 10th May 1960, when music promoter Larry Parnes came to Liverpool seeking a backing band for his latest star; Liverpool-born Billy Fury (born Ronnie Wycherly in the Dingle).
Appearing as The Silver Beats – the only time they used this name – the group played at Lathom Hall, in the north of Liverpool, on 14 May 1960. Their drummer Tommy Moore was with them, but because he did not have his kit, they asked Cliff Roberts to fill in. In many reference books, there is confusion over which Cliff Roberts played that night, and most of them refer to Cliff Roberts and The Rockers. However, the Rockers’ Cliff Roberts was a singer and guitarist, not a drummer. The Cliff Roberts who played with The Silver Beats was the drummer with The Dominoes.
Johnny Gentle and His Group/ The Beatals
Although they didn’t pass the audition to back Billy Fury, The Silver Beatles did enough to persuade Larry Parnes to hire them to back another Liverpool-born artist, Johnny Gentle. They spent two weeks travelling around Scotland, billed only as “His Group”. However, the first set of autographs to show a variation on the Beatles name was signed on this tour, as The Beatals, using their stage names; Paul Ramon, Carl Harrison, Stuart de Stael. John Lennon always swore he never used a pseudonym, though it has been suggested he called himself Johnny Silver, or Johnny Lennon, or a variation on that. Tommy Moore was simply Thomas Moore.
One of the places the group played in June 1960 was the Neston Civic Hall, and the local newspaper published a review, referring to them as The Beatles, the first time it had appeared in print.
The Man on the Flaming Pie?
So what about the “Man on the Flaming Pie”? Although Paul McCartney had an album titled Flaming Pie, and had a song; “I’m the Man on the Flaming Pie”, he wasn’t. On Page 2 of the first issue of Bill Harry’s Mersey Beat, John Lennon wrote his biography of the origins of the group, which Bill Harry titled “Being a Short Diversion on the Origins of Beatles (Translated from The John Lennon).”
In it, Lennon wrote:
“Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A’. Thank you, mister man, they said, thanking him.“
For years, many have scoffed at this as a bit of fun. However, there is a true story behind the “man on the flaming pie”, as detailed in The Fab one hundred and Four. His name is Royston Ellis, and he was a Beat Poet who visited Liverpool, and was backed by a group, known as The Beetles, at Liverpool University. I interviewed him for the book, and he told me the story of what happened in Gambier Terrace, looking every bit like a Beatnik paradise. He sat there with John, Paul, George and Stu, and discussed the possibility of them coming back down to London to back him as a beat group.
While there, they had an experience with a drug, of sorts, remembered by John later:
‘By the way, the first dope, from a Benzedrine inhaler, was given to The Beatles (John, George, Paul and Stuart) by an (in retrospect) obviously ‘English cover version of Allen – one Royston Ellis, known as beat-poet (he read poetry whilst we played 12-bar blues at the local in-place!). So give the saint his due. Love, John Lennon
Whether it was under the influence of “Vicks” or not, Royston Ellis and John Lennon had a discussion about their group’s name. In a newspaper report, Ellise refers to the group The Beetles, and how he is hoping to bring them down to London as his backing group. “John and George liked the idea, though Paul and Stu were less keen.”
Beetles with an “A”
“I suggested that since they liked the beat scene and they were coming to London to back me, a beat poet, why not spell it with an ‘A’? I had bought a chicken pie and mushrooms for dinner. I might have had the money but I did not know much about cooking, and the result was that I overcooked the mushrooms and burnt the chicken pie. I have always assumed that gave rise to John’s reference to ‘a man on a flaming pie’ suggesting they call themselves Beatles with an A.” (Fab one hundred and Four)
And very soon afterwards, they settled on Beatles with an “A”, never to be changed.
Just three days after making their first record at Percy Phillips’ studio in Kensington, Liverpool, tragedy was to strike John Lennon once more.
In the June of 1955, his Uncle George had died suddenly. The 14-year-old John took it badly. However, what did help him was the re-establishing of a relationship with his mother, Julia. She had bought him his first guitar, taught him to play a few songs using banjo chords and even let The Quarrymen rehearse in her house. She encouraged his love of music.
“I Lost her Twice”
On 15th July 1958, he was to lose his mother for the second time; this time it was forever. Having been taken away from his mother at the age of five, he longed for a relationship with her again in his teens. When making “Looking for Lennon”, our documentary feature film, we interviewed and filmed Nigel Walley, John’s childhood friend and eyewitness to Julia’s death.
Julia often used to take the bus to Mendips to see her sister Mimi, and on this occasion, John was in his mother’s house. Nigel called at Mendips just as Julia was coming out of Mendips, and walked to the corner of Vale Road with her. After saying goodnight, Nigel headed down Vale Road to his house, while Julia crossed the road and headed for the bus stop. As she crossed the old tram tracks and stepped onto the road, a car, driven by an off-duty policeman who didn’t have a full driving license, slammed on its brakes, but it was too late: the car hit Julia and sent her flying through the air. Nigel heard the brakes and turned round to see his best friend’s mother in the air and slamming onto the road. He ran over, but he knew she was dead. He can still picture her red hair blowing in the wind.
John opened the door…..
John answered the door of his mother’s house to the police, exactly like it is in the movies he said. He was devastated. The mother he adored was gone, and he spent the rest of his life seeking something for fill the void left by her. He immortalised her in song “Julia”. Some would say he never recovered from her loss.
The policeman, Eric Clague, eventually left the police force and, in a strange twist of “instant karma”, became a postman, delivering Beatles fan mail to 20, Forthlin Road, the McCartney house.
Looking for Lennon
You can see the footage we shot with Nigel Walley, and the affect it had on him according to those who knew him best, and they didn’t all agree on how it affected John, in Looking for Lennon.
It is available on digital download worldwide on various platforms, on DVD/Blu-Ray in the US and will be sold all round the world. It should be out on DVD/Blu-ray in the UK soon, and is still available to watch on SkyTV.