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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Beatles History

If you want to know the key events in Beatles History, then this is the page for you. This will help you navigate the website, to find the Beatles history you need to know. Each link will take you to a different page on the site, where a post, article or interview is located. I will be constantly updating the site, so check back for the latest in Beatles history, discussing Beatles names, Beatles members, Beatles drummers and who the original Beatles were.

The information is from my three books: “Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles”, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles” and “Finding the Fourth Beatle”.

To make it easier to find, there is a separate page for each year. Select the page year to find out what happened in Beatles history that year.

1956 – The Quarrymen are formed

1957 – John and Paul meet, and George joins The Quarrymen

1958 – The Quarry Men make a record, and John’s mother is killed

1959 – The Quarrymen open The Casbah Coffee Club

1960 – 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

1961 – The Beatles are the best group; Brian Epstein discovers The Beatles at The Cavern Club

1962 – Decca audition, George Martin signs The Beatles, Pete Best is sacked/ dismissed from The Beatles (the truth is revealed) and Ringo Starr joins. The Fab Four is born and “Love Me Do”, their first single, is released.

David's Social Media
David’s Social Media

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The Man on the Flaming Pie? Beatals, Nerk Twins, Beetles, Silver Beatles and The Beatles Names

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”.

Letter from Stuart Sutcliffe mentioning Beatals
Stu has crossed out Quarrymen and used the name BEATALS

23rd April 1960: The Nerk Twins

The Fox and Hounds pub where John Lennon and Paul McCartney appeared as 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

The Silver Beatles or Silver Beetles at the Wyvern Club. Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutch Hutchinson and George Harrison
The Silver Beatles with Johnny Hutchinson drumming

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).

Tommy Moore was late for his first appearance, so Johnny Hutchinson sat in until Moore turned up. (Full story and biographies in Finding the Fourth Beatle)

14th May 1960: The Silver Beats

As well as being known as Silver Beetles or Silver Beatles, they were advertised as The Silver Beats
The Silver Beats

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

Advertised as Johnny Gentle and His group, they were calling themselves Beatals, Silver Beetles and Silver Beatles too

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.

Evidence that they used the name The Beatals in autographs; Johnny Lennon, Carl Harrison, Paul Ramon, Stuart de Stael and Thomas Moore, with Johnny Gentle
The Beatals autographs

The Silver Beatles / Silver Beetles

On their return from Scotland, Tommy Moore decided he had had enough of John Lennon, and quit the group. With temporary drummers Jackie Lomax and Ronnie the “Ted”, as well as Paul McCartney, they soon recruited Norman Chapman, who only lasted a few weeks.

The Beatles

The Beatles in Neston, the first time the group had use The Beatles name in print
Reference to The Beatles in Neston

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:

Beat Poet Royston Ellis, whom The Beetles, not Beatles, supported in Liverpool. Ellis was the man on the flaming pie
Royston Ellis

‘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

Record Mirror where Royston Ellis refers to the Beatles, but showing the spelling of The Beetles, and how they could come down to London
Record Mirror mentioning The Beetles

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.

For the full story of the Beatles names in 1960, and the interviews, see The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles.

David Bedford

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

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

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