The Beatles are Dead! Long Live the Fab Four!

The Fab Four - John, Ringo, George and Paul
The Fab Four – John, Ringo, George and Paul

Were The Beatles and the Fab Four different? Much has been made of the drumming skills of Pete Best and Ringo Starr, and opinions are often at odds. Each has been praised for his talent, or criticized for his lack of it.

Pete Best was removed from The Beatles because of George Martin’s comments at the end of their June 1962 audition. Was it a clash of personalities, haircuts and the myriad other reasons given for Pete’s “dismissal”? Or was there something more fundamental going on which may have gone unnoticed? David Harris, Brian Epstein’s lawyer, confirmed that when Pete Best left, The Beatles effectively disbanded and then re-formed with Ringo. Was this more than just a legal sleight of hand that happened in the blink of an eye?

There are certain crisis points in Beatles history where the evolution of the group required a personnel change.

The Quarrymen in the parade on 6th July 1957
The Quarrymen, including John, on the wagon during the parade on 6th July 1957

John lennon needs paul mccartney

On 6th July 1957, Paul McCartney watched The Quarrymen perform a mixture of country, rock ‘n’ roll and skiffle. Yet rock ‘n’ roll would always remain John’s first love. The Quarrymen lacked the expertise to make that musical leap from a skiffle group to rock ‘n’ roll. John knew that if they were going to become a rock ‘n’ roll group, they needed more skilled musicians. Thankfully, Ivan Vaughan introduced him to his mutual friend Paul McCartney. All John had to decide was whether they would continue playing just for fun, or take themselves more seriously. Should they bring in a musician who had the talent to improve them?

By inviting Paul to join The Quarrymen, John knew that most of his friends would soon be leaving. Rock ‘n’ roll bands didn’t need a banjo, washboard or tea-chest bass. That reality hastened the departures of Rod Davis, Pete Shotton and Len Garry.

john and paul need George harrison

Paul McCartney, John Lennon and george Harrison as Japage 3
Paul McCartney, John Lennon and george Harrison as Japage 3

What John and Paul realised after Paul botched his solo on “Guitar Boogie” was that they needed a lead guitarist. Thankfully, Paul knew someone who could amply assume the role: George Harrison. Five months after John met Paul, George had replaced Eric Griffiths, and Rod, Pete and Len had departed. Only Colin Hanton, the drummer, remained. The nucleus of The Beatles was in place; John, Paul and George were now together.

The Quarrymen Are Dead: Long Live The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals

Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe
Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe copyright Rod Murray

John, Paul and George were desperate to have their own rock ‘n’ roll group. They offered a spot in the band to Rod Murray or Stu Sutcliffe, depending on who could get a bass. Stu joined the group when he purchased a bass with the proceeds from the sale of one of his paintings.

john, paul, George and stu need a drummer

The Beatles - John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe in Hamburg 1960
The Beatles – John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe in Hamburg 1960

As they ditched the Quarrymen name, John, Paul, George and Stu needed a drummer. Their new manager, Allan Williams, recruited Tommy Moore, and, at long last, they were a rock ‘n’ roll group. Through Tommy first, then Norman Chapman, the boys were able to convince Williams to get them bookings. Later, with new drummer Pete Best on board, to send them to Hamburg.

The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals Are Dead: Long Live The Beatles

The Silver Beatles - Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutchinson and George Harrison
The Silver Beatles – Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutchinson and George Harrison

With Pete now in the group, The Beatles became the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group Liverpool or Hamburg had seen. As Beatles promoter Sam Leach observed; “When The Beatles came back from Hamburg, they were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band anyone had seen. Only those of us on the scene then saw The Beatles at their best: they were pure rock. They lost some of that when Brian put them in suits, but it worked, and you can’t argue with it.” 

there was nobody to touch us in britain

As John Lennon said: “We were four guys. I met Paul and said, do you want to join my band, and then George joined and Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very,  very big; that’s all. Our best work was never recorded. In Liverpool, Hamburg and around the dance halls, and what we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock. There was nobody to touch us in Britain, but as soon as we made it, the edges were knocked off. Brian put us in suits and all that, and we were very successful, but we sold out. Our music was dead before we even went on the theatre tour of Britain.” (Rolling Stone Interview).

The Beatles did their best work in Liverpool and Hamburg. John is acknowledging that the group was at its best with Pete on drums. This is a point easily confirmed by any fan who saw the band perform in Liverpool or Hamburg. There was no one to touch them. However, John’s comments need to be taken in context. He loved those early days playing rock ‘n’ roll, but his words shouldn’t be viewed as a criticism of Ringo.  

john, paul, George and pete don’t need stu

The Beatles at the Cavern - Pete, George, John and Paul
The Beatles at the Cavern – Pete, George, John and Paul

This transitional period also saw a crucial change on bass guitar. Although Stu Sutcliffe was a decent rock ‘n’ roll bassist, they needed Paul McCartney. With Paul on bass, they could take it up a notch.    

1962: Rocked in: Popped Out – The Beatles Are Dead: Long Live The Fab Four

What we witnessed during the summer of 1962 was the end of The Beatles. They were the great rock ‘n’ roll group that had conquered Liverpool and Hamburg. Through Pete Best’s driving beat, Paul’s thumping bass, John’s fiery rhythm and George’s infectious rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. What we then witnessed, with the introduction of Ringo, was the birth of the Fab Four. This new pop group would conquer the world. In 1962, they rocked in the year, but ‘popped’ it out in the charts with their new brand of music. They were at last achieving Brian Epstein’s vision of a polished, theatrically-astute and aesthetic pop group.

When Brian first saw them on at the Cavern, they were scruffy rebels in black leather. They were rocking the joint while eating, drinking, smoking and clowning around. When they were presented to the music press in 1962, they were four polite, cheeky, suited Liverpool lads. Brian’s vision of musical theatre was coming to fruition. His “boys” were now presentable in stage costumes with a rehearsed script and a set list. They even bowed at the end of their performances, much like a curtain call for a play. Their shows became carefully-crafted pieces of musical theatre. This was a huge leap into the unknown for the band, but one fully-orchestrated by Brian. The Beatles had evolved into the Fab Four. We couldn’t have both; one of them had to go, and the old style Beatles took the fall.

Things didn’t quite work with Pete, even though he was perfect for The Beatles were doing at the time. The Beatles were playing covers of other artists’ songs. There were certainly no documented issues raised prior to George Martin’s comments at EMI in June 1962. Ringo wasn’t even the first choice to replace Pete. What would The Beatles have been like had they hired Bobby Graham, Ritchie Galvin, Johnny Hutchinson ?

the fab four is born

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr joined The Beatles in August 1962
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr joined The Beatles in August 1962

Whatever magic potion he possessed, Ringo fit in perfectly with John, Paul and George, and it worked; history confirms that. As with any team, The Beatles proved that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. All that mattered was how they worked together. The group would always be greater than the individuals, regardless of talent. None of the Beatles was considered to be the best at his chosen instrument in Liverpool. Together they were greater than any musical team had even been, and likely will ever be. 

john, paul and George ask ringo

“Pete Best was good, but a bit limited,” said Paul. “You can hear the difference on the Anthology tapes. When Ringo joins us, we get a bit more kick, a few more imaginative breaks, and the band settles. So the new combination was perfect: Ringo with his very solid beat, laconic wit and Buster Keaton-like charm; John with his sharp wit and his rock ‘n’ rolliness, but also his other, quite soft side; George, with his great instrumental ability and who could sing some good rock ‘n’ roll. And then I could do a bit of singing and playing some rock ‘n’ roll and some softer numbers.” (Anthology).

Was Pete Best a Good Drummer?

In “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, we have analysed Pete’s drumming on the Tony Sheridan recordings from June 1961. On the accompanying CD, you can also hear the Decca audition from January 1962. Pete was a more-than-capable player. Extensive research conducted with various Merseybeat drummers about Pete’s drumming resulted in high praise from so many of them.

pete was a great drummer

Billy Kinsley played in the Pete Best Band. He is adamant that they didn’t get rid of Pete because he was a poor drummer. “You ask drummers who were around at the time,” said Billy, “and they say that Pete was a great drummer. I never had a problem at all with Pete. He was great, absolutely superb. Nothing against Ringo, but there was nothing wrong with Pete. However, John, Paul and George knew nothing about the recording business, and nor did Brian. If you saw any of those gigs at the Cavern , all the girls were screaming for Pete. That’s what The Beatles was all about; those three crazy guys and the moody guy who didn’t smile or was quiet, but it worked. Getting rid of him didn’t make sense to us.

From You To Me

So if fellow musicians didn’t see a problem with Pete, what was it? Was there a power shift within The Beatles from John to Paul. Paul’s repertoire and more eclectic song choices would appeal to a wider variety of audiences. Theywere better suited to a group who wanted to make, and sell, records. When it came to covering some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll and R&B songs, The Beatles with Pete were second to none. John admitted that.

from rock to pop, beatles to fab four

However, for a group writing its own commercial pop songs, a change of direction was needed, and that meant a drummer who was used to playing a more varied song selection. They found that drummer in Ringo Starr, who had performed with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes at the Butlin’s holiday camps, entertaining audiences other than those at the Cavern and the clubs of Liverpool. Brian Epstein was desperately trying to get The Beatles away from those clubs, and John, Paul and George knew that.  

The Beatles John Paul George and Ringo - The Fab Four
The Beatles John Paul George and Ringo – The Fab Four

So, when Ringo joined the group, they went from being The Beatles, the rock ‘n’ roll kings, to the Fab Four, the greatest-ever pop group. It is possible that, by changing drummers, John was trying to suggest that The Beatles were dead; long live the Fab Four. Both were great bands in their own right, and each had a great drummer in his own right. Pete Best helped The Beatles conquer Liverpool and Hamburg, and also secure Brian Epstein, the manager who would make them famous and attain the record deal they craved. For his contributions, Pete Best should be celebrated and thanked.

Read the full story in Finding the Fourth Beatle.

It is ok to celebrate and like both Pete Best and Ringo Starr; The Beatles were dead: Long Live the Fab Four.

David Bedford

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Beatles History: The Beatles’ Final Appearance at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963

From The quarrymen to the beatles

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 Cavern Club, Mathew Street, where The Beatles played nearly 300 times
The Cavern Club, Mathew Street, where The Beatles played nearly 300 times

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 Cavern was a jazz club before The Beatles played rock n roll music there
The Cavern Jazz Festival as they began to have Beat Nights before long

“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 at the Cavern Club in 1961; Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney
The Beatles in The Cavern in 1961; Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney

“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:

The Fab Four: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, who last played at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963
The Fab Four: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, who last played at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963

“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.

A Cavern Club membership card
Cavern Membership Card

Hello, goodbye

But for those Cavernites, it was the last time they saw their hometown heroes, The Beatles, in The Cavern.

David Bedford

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1960 in Beatles History: The year that made The Beatles. Many Beatles drummers, lots of different Beatles names, Allan Williams is the Beatles manager and they go to Hamburg

The Silver Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe with Johnny "Hutch" Hutchinson
The Silver Beatles

January 1960 – The Beatals

January 1960 – Stuart Sutcliffe joins the group

23rd April 1960 – The Nerk Twins: John and Paul

5th May 1960 – Allan Williams becomes The Beatles manager

May 1960 – The Black Roots of The Beatles

10th May 1960 – The Silver Beatles audition for Larry Parnes with Johnny Hutchinson

10th May 1960 – The Silver Beatles audition for Larry Parnes with Tommy Moore

14th May 1960 – The Silver Beats and Cliff Roberts

20th May 1960 – Johnny Gentle and His Group

June 1960 – The Beatles back Janice “The Stripper”

14th June 1960 – John, Paul, George, Stuart and Ronnie the “Ted”

14th June 1960 – An Undertaker dies on Stage: Jackie Lomax

18th June 1960 – John, Paul, George, Stuart and Norman Chapman

24th June 1960 – Royston Ellis: The Man on the Flaming Pie

July 1960 – The Silver Beetles at the Embassy Club

12th August 1960 – The Unknown Drummer

12th August 1960 – Pete Best is asked to join The Beatles

15th October 1960 – John, Paul, George and Ringo appear on a record for the first time

17th December 1960 – Chas Newby joins The Beatles

27th December 1960 – The Beatles, Beatlemania at Litherland Town Hall

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1957 in Beatles History: John meets Paul, and George joins The Quarry Men

The Quarrymen at St. Peter's Church on 6th July 1957
The Quarrymen at St. Peter’s Church on 6th July 1957

Spring 1957 – The Blackjacks?

22nd June 1957 – Charlie Roberts photographs The Quarry Men at Rosebery Street

6th July 1957 – Paul McCartney is introduced to John Lennon at St. Peter’s Garden Fete – Part 1

6th July 1957 – Paul McCartney is introduced to John Lennon at St. Peter’s Garden Fete – Part 2

6th July 1957 – Paul McCartney is introduced to John Lennon at St. Peter’s Garden Fete – Part 3

6th July 1957 – First published photographs of The Quarrymen parade

August 1957 – The McCartney brothers

7th December 1957 – George Harrison joins The Quarry Men

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1956 in Beatles History: The Quary Men are formed

Bill Smith, Pete Shotton and John Lennon
Bill Smith, Pete Shotton and John Lennon at Quarry Bank School

Rock Island Line is Released

April 1956: Michael Hill introduces John Lennon to the music of Little Richard

Spring 1956 – Arthur Pendleton teaches John to play Harmonica

Summer 1956 – Geoff Lee (also known as George Lee) suggests to John Lennon that he form a skiffle group

Summer 1956 – John, Pete and Bill Smith and the theft of a tea-chest bass

October 1956 – The Quarry Men’s first performance

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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?

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

Ivan Vaughan
Ivan at the Liverpool Institute

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.

David Bedford

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

The Quarrymen with John Lennon
The Quarrymen: Pete Shotton, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, John Lennon, Colin Hanton and Rod Davis
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

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Do you know when George Harrison joined The Quarrymen? Beatles historian says think again

For many years, we have known that George Harrison, at the invitation of his school friend Paul McCartney, auditioned before John Lennon a few times. The place where he was successful, according to all sources, was on the top deck of a bus outside Wilson Hall in Garston. The date? 6th February 1958.
Or was it?
While researching my latest book, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles”, I re-examined the available evidence, with help from Quarrymen banjo player/ historian Rod Davis, especially looking at the exit from The Quarrymen of Eric Griffiths. We know that Eric left The Quarrymen because he was replaced by George. Eric put away his guitar and joined the Merchant Navy. I therefore obtained a copy of Eric’s Merchant Navy records (reproduced in the book) which shows that Eric joined his first ship on 11th February 1958! We could then see that Eric qualified as an officer cadet in January 1958, which means he would have signed up for the Merchant Navy in mid December 1957.
Therefore, George must have joined The Quarrymen before the middle of December 1957 for Eric to have left and signed up for the Merchant Navy. When we check the records, The Quarrymen played at Wilson Hall on 7th December 1957, which makes this the likely date for George’s successful audition to join The Quarrymen.
This means that John, Paul and George were together in a band by the end of 1957!
To read the full story, get your copy of my book, “The Fab one hundred and Four” now at www.fab104.com
David Bedford
#arts & entertainment #Beatles #Quarrymen

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