Paul McCartney’s 10th studio album, Flaming Pie, was released in 1997 and one of his best albums, in my opinion. In 2020, it is about to be reissued with a deluxe boxset.
Changing Names – from beetles to beatles
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.
The Man on the Flaming Pie?
So what about the “Man on the Flaming Pie”? Although Paul McCartney had an album and 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.“
Meet the real “Man on the Flaming Pie”
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.
“In 1964, The Beatles created entire LP, Beatles for Sale, as a homage to their life-long love of country music. But how did this connection to musicians such as Carl Perkins begin? It began in The Country of Liverpool! And here, in exciting and accurate detail, David Bedford walks us through the Liverpool-link to The Beatles’ country and western vibes. Known for his detailed research and passion for “getting things right,” Bedford unfolds yet another dimension in The Beatles’ story that has long been overlooked. This book is a must-read for Beatles fans and scholars alike. I loved it!”
Was This Paul McCartney’s Debut with The Quarrymen? Colin Hanton says No!
For years we have accepted that Paul made his debut at New Clubmoor Hall on 18th October 1957. However, I spoke to Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton who says that can’t be right.
“All I knew was that one day Paul turned up, and Rod had left by then. His parents were giving him some grief about homework and not messing about with these silly boys and the music.”
Charlie McBain and Wilson hall
“I have my doubts about Paul’s debut being at Clubmoor,” said Colin. “It was Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, which was run by the same guy Charlie McBain. We did a paid gig at Wilson Hall after Clubmoor, but we appeared before it too.”
st. peter’s church hall
Colin says that after John and Paul met, they played at the hall regularly. This was before playing Wilson Hall or New Clubmoor Hall. “After the summer fete in July ‘57, we used to play a lot at St. Peters church hall on a Saturday night. The guy had no microphone for us, and we kept asking for one. The Saturday dance became very big and they were getting all of their friends from school to come.”
A memory then springs to Colin’s mind. “I’ve just remembered: Paul was there. He said to John, there was no mic and he had been promised there would be a microphone. We got there late afternoon to set up, and John was looking round and there was no mic. The guy said he couldn’t get one. John argued with the guy who said he hadn’t been able to get a microphone.
“Paul said, ‘He’s rattled now, because he’s whistling’ and so that was that. John decided we were not playing and we walked out, which was a bit of a mistake. I went home with my drums, and then back to the hall to look for the others. I got to the door and asked if John and the lads were there. The guy said, ‘no, and he’ll never get back in here!’
“This was soon after the fete and we used to rehearse there too. They had a dance evening with a record player there by the stage, which was cranked up to full volume. Then they danced the usual three waltzes and three quick steps and then The Quarrymen would play.”
From St. Peter’s Church Hall, the next step was to Wilson Hall, Garston.
“This is how we got into Wilson Hall. Charlie McBain had a good system whereby he had a 6-piece dance band/ orchestra who would play and then want a 45-minute break to go to the pub. In the past he put the record player on, but he decided to have a skiffle contest. All he needed were 5 or 6 groups.
“You needed to pay two shillings and sixpence to get in. At 4 or 5 people a group, and 5 or 6 groups: a great idea and he was quids in. John said, ‘I’m not paying that, we’re here for the competition’. Paul said, ‘the prize is £1, so just pay the money then we’ll split the winnings’. We didn’t win!” However, it worked as an audition.
“McBain must have seen something, even though we didn’t win and that’s how we got our bookings with him. Nigel Walley was a bit of a manager and he got us 5 ten-shilling notes – £2.50 – for playing.
how they got to new clubmoor hall
“We definitely did Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, and that’s how we got it, from the competition. That’s how we also then got up to Clubmoor. We were just desperate to get onstage. We got on at the Cavern – Paul wasn’t there because he was with scouts. It was Open Mic night which was how we got down there, and then we got paid for it. There was no way Paul joined in July and did not play until October at Clubmoor. We rehearsed and played in St. Peter’s Hall, and then appeared at the contest at Wilson Hall.
“We also went to the Locarno, another of the endless round of talent contests. There was a poster at the back for the following week for singers only, so Paul said to John, ‘why don’t we go in for it’, but John said, ‘no we’re a group’. John wasn’t interested in getting up on his own, just for the group. I think John would have been happy to keep doing what we were doing.”
Playing at New Clubmoor Hall, and the famous photograph showed how having Paul in the group had changed the balance.
mccartney gets john lennon into a suit
“Paul never challenged John’s authority, but he was very diplomatic, very subtle. He always got his own way, but with subtle means. I remember at the start Paul wanted to smarten the Quarrymen up. He never said let’s get jackets, he just said to John, ‘I’m going to wear a jacket’. He didn’t say that we should wear one – it was sort of oatmeal colour. So, of course, John went out and got one too. So Paul got John dressed up without having a row or telling him to do it. And that was for the Wilson Hall gig, before the Clubmoor one. So it certainly wasn’t the first time Paul played with us. Maybe the first time in those jackets, so again, we played Wilson Hall before Clubmoor.”
Conclusion? Paul’s appearance at New Clubmoor Hall was probably the first time Paul played and The Quarrymen were paid! It was certainly not the first time he played with them.
Taken from my interview with Colin Hanton for Liddypool (now in its third edition)
Colin Hanton has a new book out called “Pre:Fab“, which is a great read, and being turned into a documentary.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
1959 is an important year for the group, as, after only a few appearances, they have no more bookings, and George Harrison joins another group, the Les Stewart Quartet. It could have been the end of the road for John, Paul and George, but a twist of fate sees them open The Casbah Coffee Club.