MAKING THEIR DEBUT
John set up the Quarry Men (from the name of his school : the Quarry Bank Highschool) at 16 and a half, with his school pals ; among them was his best friend of always Pete Shotton. The members of his band of skiffle changed often. Indeed, the youngsters didn't take their activity too seriously, till the arriving of Paul McCartney, met for the first time at the Woolton fair, on July 6th, 1957, during a hot and sunny day. John Lennon and his band were giving a concert at the fair. Paul, a 15-year-old boy, was impressed by the way John managed to play the guitar (like a banjo) and he met them after the gig. He showed them his talents playing Lonnie Lonegan (skiffle's founder) and Twenty Flight Rock by Eddie Cochran. Hiding the strong impression Paul had done on him, John hesitated to admit Paul in the band, as Paul might steal his position of leader of the band, as Paul was more skilled than John. Finally, John thought the interest of the band prevailed and asked Paul to join the Quarry Men through his best friend at that time, Pete Shotton.
Woolton fair. John in a checked shirt with his Quarry men.
Paul was far more ambitious than any of John's previous partners and he began to do some housecleaning in the band with the implicit approbation of the leader. Those who didn't provide enough motivation to improve the band's sound were told to go away, so that through the mutations, we could already notice a hard core : John, Paul and in the afterwards, George Harrison, who was studied in the same school as Paul, and was keen on playing the guitar. John let George join with difficulty, as George was younger than him of more than two years, and that was quite a gap for their young minds !
By word of mouth, the Quarry Men, John, Paul, George et Ken Brown (no drummer), were called for inaugurating, a saturday of september 1958, the new club of teen-agers which was open in the wide cellar of the Best family : the Casbah.
At the end of 1958, the Quarry Men parted briefly, only to gather again during the following year under the name of Johnny and the Moondogs. They never stopped tiring themselves out in ballrooms and community halls, giving gigs and parties, without outstanding success.
They became "Long John and the Silver Beetles" then the "Silver Beetles" alone during an audition with Larry Parnes, on May 14th, 1960 at the Lathom Hall of Seaforth in Liverpool. At this moment, among the Silver Beetles was a friend of John's (they were both at the Beaux-Arts college), named Stuart Sutcliffe. He was talked by John into buying a bass guitar with the money won at a painting competition. Stu spent his time playing with his back on the public, to hide his lack of experience in the handling of a bass. Afterwards, he turned out to be an unskilled bassist, so that he left the band in 1961, to go on his studies of art at the Beaux-Arts of Hambourg, with the support of his German girlfriend Astrid Kirshherr.
Thanks to the audition with Larry Parnes, the Silver Beetles had their first tour of Scotland, accompanying the singer Johnny Gentle. This tour ended in failure and with low spirits.
However, they didn't give up, and their new manager, Allan Williams, owner of a sordid club named the Jacaranda, lair of the students of the Beaux Arts, and where started playing the Silver Beetles from time to time. Allan Williams got them a contract in the red-light district of Hambourg (Germany). The future Beatles set about finding a drummer, and found Pete Best, (son of the owners of the Casbah). On August 14th, 1960, John, Paul, George, Stu,et Pete set off to Germany, piled up in a minivan, with their manager Allan Williams. They manage to go through the customs of the harbour of Harwich, through the Dutch and German customs fraudulently. Everybody agreed on taking the name "The Beatles" once and for all.
From left to right : Allan Williams, his wife, ?, Stuart Sutcliffe, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. They stand in Arnhem's Cemetery (Holland) and on the Death Monument is engraved ""Their names liveth for evermore".
FIRST ARRIVAL IN HAMBOURG
When they arrived at the Kaiserkeller, the place where they thought they would be playing, and already excited by the Sankt Pauli district, the Beatles had a terrible disappointment when they were shown the place where they would actually play : the Indra, situated in a gloomy district, and when they found out that their "rooms" were windowless and lightless. Their rooms were at the back of a cinema named the Bambi. They had to wash in the toilets and put up with the noisy movies all night long. John and Stu were lucky enough to sleep in the only bed, in the most lit room, George slept on a sofa, and Pete and Paul got the worst places, with no light at all (first arrived, first served).
Every evening, for 7/8h in a row, the Beatles played without saving their energy (Mach Schau !); their music was less important than their show. There were some great moments of release, especially for John Lennon who flooded the public with insults that the Germans couldn't understand. The Indra was becoming the main attraction in town, when it had to be closed by the police, because of the noise. On and after the 4th of October, the Beatles played in the other club owned by Bruno Koschmieder who didn't want to let them go, the Kaiserkeller. The band where Ringo Starr (real name, Richard Starkey) was playing drums was also there ; this time, they could meet more properly.
The discovery of Sankt Pauli and above all of the Herbertstrasse, was very impressing : prostitutes of all sorts were displaying themselves in the front windows. The Beatles quickly became regulars of this avenue, and every evening there were parties very similar to orgies and noone had to pay anything. The Beatles were quite liked in the neighbourhood !
The meeting with Astrid, student at the Beaux Arts of Hambourg and fond of photography, happened through her ex-boyfriend Klaus Voorman. Astrid became Stu's girlfriend and she took the opportunity to take photos of the Beatles in black and white and pushed them into changing their clothes of Teddy boys, taking Stu as a guinea pig.
The Beatles soon adopted leather clothes, with a fringe (the famous Beatle cut !) except for Pete Best who let his hair a la Elvis Presley.
The miserable salary earned at the Kaiserkeller and their rotten accomodation weren't enough anymore for them, so that they decided to leave the Kaiserkeller and join a more comfortable club : the Top Ten, where were already appearing a friend of theirs : Tony Sheridan. The news triggered the furor of Koschmieder. He complained at the police against them for having set a fire in their room and revealed that George was toot young to work ; he was only 17. George was forbidden to stay after 22:00 in the Sankt Pauli district.
George was ordered to go back to England, and the police went to the Top Ten to get Paul et Pete (who were at the origin of the small fire). They spent some hours in prison then went back to London by plane, then to Liverpool by train
John came back a week later, and Stu in January.
Pete repatriated his drums and Paul's guitar from Germany and the search for gigs started again. From now on, the concerts were more spectacular thanks to the experience of "Mach Schau !", and the public was in a frenzy at the Casbah, then at the Litherland Town Hall. In the following of their successes, the Beatles were allowed to play at lunch time at a jazz club of the city center of Liverpool : the Cavern. This place was underground and not ventilated at all. The Beatles played there from February of 1961 to August of 1963.
SECOND VISIT IN HAMBURG
In April (1961), Paul and Pete were allowed to go back to Germany and George, being 18 since February 25th, The Beatles came back to the Top Ten to accompany Tony Sheridan. To stand fast during de shows of 7/8 hrs, the Beatles (Pete excepted), for the first time, began to take Preludin (amphetamins). They befriended with Ringo Starr, the drummer of
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and Ringo would replace Pete when the latter couldn't play. Stu left definitively the band in the middle of May to go on his studies of art at the Beaux Arts of Hamburg.
The Beatles recorded their first disc with Tony Sheridan at Polydor. They recorded "Ain't she sweet" and the instrumental composed by George "Cry for a Shadow", parody of the Shadows' style. For the remaining songs, Tony took the lead vocal and the Beatles had just to accompany. The Beatles appeared on the disc's sleeve under the name of "Beat Brothers", as some other bands did, which could cause confusion.
They came back in Liverpool in July.
In October, a fan of the Beatles came to the NEMS (North End Music Store), owned by the distinguished Brian Epstein. He asked for disc recorded by the Beatles in Hamburg which unfortunately couldn't be found in the shelves. Therefor, Epstein promised to solve this problem. Epstein went to the Cavern (on November 9th of 1961) , situated not far away from his store, and found out our four Beatles sweating, fighting, swearing and eating on the scene. He managed to talk to George who told the others that Epstein wanted to see them in his office. It is in these circumstances that Epstein became the manager of the Beatles. The contract was signed on January 24th.
Epstein altered the Beatles' image by making them wear a suit and a tie, in spite of the John's protest, and disciplined them. He got an audition at Decca on January the 1st of 1962, in London.
The audition included classics such as "The Sheik of Araby", "Till there was you", "Three cool cats" (and some others figuring on the first Anthology), but it ended in failure. Director Dick Rowe had chose Brian Poole and the Tremoloes instead of them. Epstein persevered with Pye, Phillips, HMV and Colombia, without success.
In spite of all, the Beatles recorded their first radio broadcast at the BBC : Play Hour.
THIRD VISIT IN HAMBURG
They signed a 7-years contract at the brand new Star Club with a good salary and a confortable accomodation. At their arrival, on April 13th, they learnt Stuart's death by Astrid.
"Love me do" was composed at this moment, with a melancholic melody on the harmonica.
During this time, Epstein didn't waste his time and got an audition with the director of one of the last label (EMI/Parlophone) who didn't reject the Beatles yet : George Martin. Thus, on June 6th, 1962, the Beatles arrived in EMI's studios at Abbey road to show their talents.
Pete Best was fired on August 16th, to be replaced by Ringo, previous drummer of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who had played at the Kaiserkeller too. The debut of Ringo as a Beatle was turbulent : Pete's fans expressed their griefs at the Cavern screaming "Ringo never, Pete Best forever !" For the occasion, George collected a black eye. Moreover, George Martin replaced Ringo by a professional drummer (Andy White) on the first version of "Love me do".
Ringo joins the Beatles.
The Beatles got back to the Star Club from November 1st to November 14th then from December 18th to November 31st, 1962.
December 17th, 1962 : The Beatles performed for the first time on television in People and places on Granada TV.