So How Do We Get Some Bookings?
Boy, I remember that while I was playing in bands in Chicago, we spent a whole lot of time making demo tapes and taking them around to all the clubs to see if they’d let us play. The part I hated was calling to see if they’d listened to the tape yet. What a luxury it must have been for John and The Quarrymen that as far back as early 1957, they had people to do that work for them!
First was Nigel Walley. Nigel was one of John’s school friends and lived on Vale Road, the street that basically runs behind Mendips, John’s house on Menlove Avenue. He actually started out playing tea-chest bass with The Quarrymen, but he was somewhat more interested in business and soon became the group’s manager. Nigel made business cards, put up flyers, called clubs and promoters, and wrote letters of introduction. And he was pretty successful considering he was representing a bunch of teenagers. Shows in Liverpool that were booked by Nigel included a few at the Lee Park Golf Club, Wilson Hall, and several at a venue known as The Cavern, where they were scolded for playing rock and roll when they were supposed to be a skiffle band! Ha!
It was Nigel Walley who got The Quarrymen the gig at the Clubmoor Conservative Club on October 18, 1957, which was the first time Paul played with The Quarrymen. Nigel was introduced to the unhappier side of managing a group in early 1958, when he was sent by John, Paul, and George to fire guitarist Eric Griffiths. It was the manager’s job, you see. That’s what they’re paid for. Hmmm, that scenario sounds familiar. I wonder if it might happen again in a few years… Nigel’s tenure as manager ended in the Spring of 1958 when he contracted tuberculosis, and though he and John remained friends, the professional relationship just faded away.
In November of 1958, John’s friend from art school, Derek Hodkin, recorded a rehearsal at Paul’s house and in all the excitement, agreed to become the new manager of The Quarrymen. He was somewhat less successful then Nigel had been, only getting them a handful of gigs. And after a couple of bookings at La Scala Ballroom in Runcorn, Derek had become bored with management and by Spring of 1959 he left his position and recorded over the tape. The Quarrymen would have very few bookings for the next year with the very important exceptions of their Saturday night dates at The Casbah Coffee Club between August of 1959 and January of 1960. And they got that residency thanks to the break-up of George’s other band, the Les Stewart Quartet.
As I Write This Letter…
That bring us to sixty years ago, Spring of 1960. Our four boys (John, Paul, George, and Stu) were doing a lot of rehearsing and some home recording, but with no manager and very few performances. They decided to start writing their own letters to start sending around to clubs. And those letters seem to have been primarily written by Paul and Stu. Paul’s letters were a bit, well, I’ll let his own words from The Beatles Anthology book speak for him: “We would lie our faces off to get anyone to notice us.” The young Paul was pretty decent at putting together some flowery words that didn’t really mean too much. Check out this excerpt from one of his letters:
Their basic beat is the off-beat, but this has recently tended to be accompanied by a faint on-beat; thus the overall sound is rather reminiscent of the four in the bar beat of traditional jazz.
Um, okay. He goes on to say that he and John had written more than fifty songs, many composed “with the modern audience in mind.” He also said that he was an English Literature student at Liverpool University. That’s okay, though. I mean, one of our regular musical contributors, Norman (bass) likes to claim that he and his mother own a hotel outside of Fairvale, California.
Stu’s letters were a bit more, shall we say, intellectual: “As it is your policy to present entertainment to the habitués of your establishment…” In the end, these letters didn’t really do them much good. Around this time, during the Spring of 1960, the only gigs they really did were some Saturday night dances at the Student’s Union of the Liverpool College of Art. We’ll be talking about those in more detail in a couple of weeks. But there is one additional VERY interesting thing that these letters bring to light.
It’s no surprise that the name “Quarrymen” was one that they were tired of. They talked about new names constantly and came up with several that they never used, such as Los Paranoias. But it’s clear that they were thinking about it. In one draft of a letter by Paul, he writes that the group “..is called ……….” No name written in, but he sure didn’t want to say The Quarrymen. And then there is the draft of a letter written by Stu that tells its own story. It begins “I would like to draw your attention
to a bandto the Quar Beatals.” Now John would claim, and most would agree, that was he who came up with the name, and that it was “Beatles.” Stu preferred the alternate spelling, but he wouldn’t win that battle.
This is not to say that the naming process was over at that moment. We’ll be talking in the next few months about the variations that the name would go through, but at least it was now heading in the right direction. And, oh, by the way, it would only be another six weeks or so before they would find another manager, one who was a professional, not just a friend. One that would put them back on the track that they had started with Mona Best at The Casbah Coffee Club. A track that would have a couple more changes, but really wouldn’t end for almost a decade. As you likely know, that man was one we’ve been talking about already, Allan Williams.
As always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), where much of the detail and all of the quotes in this post came from. And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be talking about the recordings that our boys did at Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Road. Stay tuned!
Stu, John, Paul, and George
You know, Liverpool wasn’t the only place in the UK where music was thriving. We need to talk about what was happening in that less famous city known as London 😉. The 2i’s Coffee Bar was named for its original owners, Freddie and Sammy Irani. By the mid-fifties, they had sold the establishment to Australian professional wrestlers Rebel (Ray Hunter) and Dr. Death (Paul Lincoln). Business was good. The Vipers Skiffle Group (remember the recordings produced by George Martin?) were basically the house band by 1956.
The 2i’s was a very small coffeehouse at 59 Old Compton Street in Soho, London. It had standing room for 100 people and the stage was 18 inches deep. 18 inches. By comparison, Mona Best’s Casbah Coffee Club in Liverpool, where The Quarrymen had played in late 1959 and early 1960, as small as it was, seemed positively massive. Yet despite its size, the 2i’s would have a tremendously important role to play in the London music scene, the UK recording industry, the Hamburg music scene, and in a certain way, the story of The Beatles.
Let me start out by listing some of the artists who were in residence at the 2i’s over the years. I’ve already mentioned The Vipers Skiffle Group, who were the first. But then came Tommy Steele, The Worried Men (featuring Adam Faith), and none other than Cliff Richard and the Drifters (who became The Shadows). That’s just to name a few. The quality of talent to be seen at the 2i’s did not evade the attention of London’s A&R men.
Wee Willie Harris (made immortal by Ian Dury in his song “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3”), Eden Kane, Alex Wharton, and Mickie Most all spent time at the 2i’s and were eventually signed to Decca Records. Several of Larry Parnes’ stable of singers were found or at least played at The 2i’s. These included Tommy Steele, Terry Dene, and Joe Brown, who would all eventually sign with Decca Records; Lance Fortune, who would sign with Pye Records; and Vince Eager, who would actually be signed to Parlophone Records by George Martin.
Speaking of George Martin, he discovered several of his signings at The 2i’s, including The Vipers Skiffle Group, Adam Faith, Keith Kelly, Perry Ford, and The Bachelors. Most of these groups had limited success with the exception of Adam Faith, who had several top 10 and two #1 hits. The Bachelors also eventually had some success, but it was not until they had already moved over to Decca Records. Martin had a standard practice with his pop artists. He would personally produce the first couple of songs and then hand the artists over to his assistant Ron Richards, who would produce them until their contracts ran out. Martin would say about the 2i’s back in April of 1957: “I make a regular visit. It has become a breeding ground for talent. Six months ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of going there.”
Of course, arguably the biggest name to come out of The 2i’s was Cliff Richard, who, along with The Drifters, was the resident artist in the first half of 1958. Much to the chagrin of George Martin, Richard had been signed by Martin’s EMI arch rival Norrie Paramor and his releases were on EMI’s Columbia label. Another interesting name to come out of the 2i’s was one Tony Sheridan, interesting because of his upcoming role in The Beatles’ story, which we will be talking about in detail before too long. He was among the first to go to Hamburg.
Speaking of Hamburg, let’s bring Allan Williams into this story. Williams had a good friend named Tom Littlewood, who happened to be the day manager of The 2i’s. It was from Littlewood that Williams learned of the rule that a coffee bar could register as a private club, establish a membership list, and thereby stay open past midnight. This is what Mona Best had done at The Casbah Coffee Club and that was what Allan Williams did at The Jacaranda. The 2i’s became a model for how Williams ran The Jacaranda, right down to having a band in residence. The first band in that role was the Royal Caribbean Steel Band, you remember, the band whose members ran off to Hamburg and sent Williams a postcard stating how much they loved playing in Germany, thus setting off the idea in Williams’ head of trying to strike some deals with Hamburg clubs. Anyway, Williams would head down to London and the 2i’s occasionally and in a few months we’ll talk about how one of those trips would rekindle (well, set aflame, really) the Hamburg idea.
As always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), where much of the detail in this post came from. And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be talking about how our boys were starting to go about trying to get some bookings during the Spring of 1960. Stay tuned!
2i's Coffee Bar plaque
As we look back at what was happening in the story of The Beatles sixty years ago, we really do have to think about what was going on with some of the people who would become huge parts of that story. So I wanted to take an opportunity to give a little background on the man who would sign our boys in just over two years from where we now stand, heading into Spring of 1960.
George Martin was born in North London on January 3, 1926. His family went through some extremely lean years during the Great Depression, but they made it through. He began playing piano at a very young age, and was even writing pieces by the time he was 8 years old. When he was 17, in 1943, Martin joined the Navy. He was lucky enough to have not seen any real action during the war, and after he finished his time in 1947 he began a 3-year course for teachers at the Guildhall Music School. Soon after finishing, he started work at the BBC Music Library and by September of 1950, at the age of 24, he was offered a job with Parlophone Records, a minor division of EMI that specialized in jazz, orchestra, and dance music. He was soon overseeing the recordings of Parlophone’s orchestral artists.
In April of 1955, Martin was promoted to head of Parlophone after turning down an offer from Decca Records (imagine how The Beatles’ story would have changed if he had gone to Decca!). Now that he was in charge, he set out to expand the types of recordings that would come from his label. To start with, they would start recording some experimental music. And for the sake of sales, they would start to record comedy records. Fortunately, at a time when EMI was considering shutting Parlophone down, comedy kept them, and Martin’s career, alive. Two of his new artists were Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, who were also favorites of the future members of The Beatles.
And that brings us close to what was going on sixty or so years ago. The popularity of the comedy records was nice, and the occasional hit, such as Adam Faith’s “What Do You Want” must have felt good. But Parlophone was still just a third tier label in the EMI universe. Martin wanted more. What he longed for was the kind of success that was happening over at EMI’s Columbia Records division. He was exceedingly envious of Norrie Paramor, the Columbia Records producer who produced Cliff Richard and the Shadows. They were in the process of putting together 17 straight Top 5 singles. That was what George Martin wanted. A hitmaker who could put together a string of successful singles. Not unimportantly, he felt that pop music was easier to do than comedy, and that was appealing as well.
It wasn’t that Martin was lazy. It was that he had so many ideas and projects that he wanted to put into play. One of these was the “Do It Yourself” disc. He would have the Parlophone Pops Orchestra play his arrangements of popular hits without vocals, which would be packaged with lyric sheets so that the consumers could sing the songs with their friends at home! Not a tremendous success. As alluded to above, he also liked to mess around with experimental electronic recordings. Of course, there was no commercial success to be had there, either, though by 1961 he was already experimenting with altering tape speeds, de-tuning pianos, using echo effects, among many others including one that would be of great interest to The Beatles in a few years, backwards recording.
Martin got some press for himself just under sixty years ago, in the summer of 1960. But not in a way he would have liked. In June 1960, the Brian Hyland version of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was released in the US. Martin quickly created his own arrangement and the Paul Hanford version was released by Parlophone within days. Though the cover failed to chart in the UK, Martin’s arrangement was so close to the original that he was accused of plagiarism and appeared on Juke Box Jury to defend himself. Martin was uncomfortable with what he had done, and had this to say: “No A&R man worth his salt likes copying, [but] he is paid to produce financially successful records. British artists must ‘cover’ or be forced out of business. We are competing against the Americans on unequal terms.” He finished by appealing to anyone to come up with a plan to even the playing field. The strange thing to me about this whole thing is why Martin was singled out. If you study the UK and US charts for the era, as we do every week on social media, you see countless examples of British cover versions of American songs, both on the charts at the same time. And as stated above, this one didn’t even make the chart!
Fortunately, the bikini fiasco didn’t do irreparable damage to Martin’s career. I guess that’s obvious. He continued his search for pop success, and we’ll be talking about that some in the coming months. It would, of course, be better than two more years before the lightning would strike, and things would never be the same again, for Martin, for The Beatles, and for all of popular music.
As always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition). And extra special thanks to Kenneth Womack for his Maximum Volume, the Life of Beatles Producer George Martin. These two books go into great detail about the life of our favorite producer. And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be talking some more about Allan Williams as well as going into the 2i’s Coffee Bar and its importance to The Beatles’ story. Stay tuned!
This one may not be headed exactly where you think it will be. First off, to make it abundantly clear where I’m coming from: I love historical recordings. I don’t mind if the sound quality isn’t great. To a large degree, I don’t mind if the quality of the performances are less than professional. I love punk rock, I love primitive and I love low-fi. I mean, I love a lot of music that’s more professional and even over-produced as well, but that’s another story. So get ready for this.
The story goes that on March 5, 1960, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were playing at The Jive Hive in Crosby, north of Liverpool. This was not a rare occurrence. They apparently played there around 70 times between August of 1959 and October of 1961. On this particular night, the performance was recorded. The tape was uncovered by Rory’s sister, Iris Caldwell, in her basement, and a CD was actually released in 2012. Good luck finding a copy of it for under $50 US.
The CD, called Live at the Jive Hive, contains 19 songs. The first 15 seem to be exactly as the title suggests, but the last four seem to be home recordings (that apparently do not include drums) done sometime in 1960. The 15 live songs were as follows (in parentheses are the original or most well-known artists, not necessarily the songwriters):
Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor and His Playboys)
(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care (Elvis Presley)
Make Me Know You’re Mine (Conway Twitty)
Bye Bye Love (The Everly Brothers)
Jet Black (The Shadows)
Down the Line (Buddy Holly)
C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran)
Don’t Bug Me Baby (Milton Allen 1956, Cliff Richard 1959)
Rip It Up (Little Richard)
Somethin’ Else (Eddie Cochran)
Train to Nowhere (The Champs)
Since You Broke My Heart (The Everly Brothers)
Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins)
All American Boy (Bobby Bare 1958, Marty Wilde 1959)
Willie and the Hand Jive (Johnny Otis)
Top band in Liverpool, eh?
Many who have heard the recordings will report that it’s not just the recording quality that’s lacking. The band, they will tell you, just isn’t very good. It’s sloppy and Rory isn’t really that great of a singer. To some it seems that Rory’s visual appeal and showmanship, which were substantial, are lost when you’re just hearing the songs. However… I’ve listened to as much as I’ve been able to find without actually shelling out the money for the CD. And I love it. When I listen to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes live, I hear The Clash, The Cramps, and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, just to get started. And that’s a good thing! The guitars are out of tune, but not in a hideous way. Just enough to create some sonic dissonance, which really adds to the presentation for me. What? You thought people called me Barmy for no reason? Anyway, the one thing that’s a bit hard to deal with is how much the drums seem to lag behind. Now it can easily be argued that there are times when the whole band ups the tempo, leaving the drummer to catch up. But in the end, it really just sounds like the drummer is having a hard time.
Wait. What? But the drummer was Ringo! Or was it?
In 2012, when the tape surfaced, Ringo listened to it. He said that it wasn’t him playing. Many people, myself included, will agree that it just doesn’t sound like Ringo’s style. Ringo was on top the beat, never behind. However, he went on to say that it was recorded after he left to join The Beatles. If the tape was recorded on March 5, 1960, then that statement is not accurate. Of course, Ringo may have just been making an assumption as to when it was recorded. But his memory is that the only recorded songs he appears on with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were two that were done in Germany later in 1960. So is there any way to verify when the Jive Hive tape was recorded? Well, there is pretty substantial evidence.
John Byrne, better known as Johnny Guitar, member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, kept diaries. I have to step aside for a second to talk about how amazing these diaries are. They can be found online on many a website. The entries are short and to the point, but they tell an amazing story, not just of what Rory and the boys were doing, but of the life of a young man in Liverpool. They are a joy to read. Here’s a couple of samples: February 3, 1960 – “Jive Hive. Bad throat. Played lousy. Eileen there, no trouble.” February 5, 1960 – “…played lousy. Doris was there… Made a date with a blonde girl in case Eileen finished with me.” March 20, 1960 – “Crashed into petrol kiosk in Broadgreen on way to Casbah.” March 22, 1960 – “Got letter from kiosk’s insurance company.”
I could go on all day about the diaries, but the entries that matter to this story come from March 2 through March 5 of 1960. March 2, 1960 – “Jive Hive. Don played as Ritchie had the flu.” March 4, 1960 – “Southport. We paid £22.10 for a tape recorder.” March 5, 1960 – “Two and a half hours were recorded by radio engineers at Jive Hive. Back with Eileen.” Spoilers ahead! But just in case you’re worried, he did eventually marry Eileen.
So the date is apparently accurate. And though there is no specific mention of who played drums on the 5th, we know that Ringo had the flu and couldn’t play on the 2nd. Don, by the way, the drummer mentioned on March 2, is thought to be Don Singleton, who is mentioned in a list of drummers in the 1960 diary. So I would think there are a couple of potential answers to the Ringo or not question. There is simply the possibility that Ringo was still sick and wasn’t present for the recordings. That is accepted by quite a few people, including Mark Lewisohn. But let’s say for the sake of argument that it was him, and he is suffering from having a bad memory. I mean, I don’t remember many details from 52 years ago. But if that’s the case, he was 19 and was or had been sick. He may have still been feeling the effects of the flu or may have just been having a bad night for several other reasons. Even if that’s the case, if you compare these recordings to the ones that The Beatles were doing at Paul’s house around the same time, you wouldn’t likely have anything bad to say about Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Both bands would get plenty of experience in the next couple of years in Hamburg. They both got much better.
As always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition). And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be looking at what George Martin was up to sixty years ago. Stay tuned!
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
Oldies on the Let It Be Album
Most of you likely know the story of how the Let It Be album came about. But a quick synopsis if you need it. Making an album wasn’t the idea going into the Get Back sessions in January of 1969. The idea was to rehearse songs that would be played in a live performance at the end of January. And the rehearsals would be taped and filmed for inclusion in a documentary film. In the end, the live performance was the famous rooftop performance on January 30, 1969, and the documentary became the Let It Be film. But that was that. The tapes were put away and our boys moved ahead to recording Abbey Road starting towards the end of February. Around December of 1969, recording engineer Glyn Johns was asked to put together mixes of an album that would accompany the release of the Let It Be film. Recordings were eventually given to Phil Spector, who added orchestral and choir arrangements to several of the songs. The finished album was released on May 8, 1970.
But back to the recordings themselves. During these rehearsals, The Beatles played over 325 different songs, sometimes whole songs and sometimes parts, even very small parts. They played new originals, previously released Beatles songs, unreleased Beatles songs, covers of songs from the 50s and 60s, and they improvised quite a bit. Many of the songs were played only once, but the newer originals were played as many as 69 times (“Get Back”). When the time came to choose the songs that would appear on the Let It Be album, two of the ones that made the cut were among the oldest songs.
One After 909
“One After 909” was written mainly by John, most likely around early 1958. Interestingly, though it didn’t really see the light of day until the Let It Be album was released, in the early days it was one of their standards. In fact, it was close to if not the first original song that The Beatles would regularly play in clubs, both in Hamburg and at home.
Several recordings were made of “One After 909” between 1960 and 1963. The first was a recording they did in early 1960 at Percy Phillips’ studio in Liverpool, the same place they had recorded “In Spite of All the Danger.” Unfortunately, that recording seems to be lost forever. It was also recorded at Paul’s house on Forthlin Road in June of 1960. You can hear that one if you search out the bootleg. It wasn’t chosen as a song for the Decca auditions in January of 1962, but they did do a recording of it, along with several other originals, at The Cavern in late 1962, a recording that was intended to demo songs for use on future albums as well as to showcase them in case their label wanted to give them to other artists. Finally, they recorded a full studio version in March of 1963 in hopes that it would be released as a single. Unfortunately, The Beatles and George Martin all agreed that the recording wasn’t good enough, though that version did find its way to The Beatles Anthology in 1995.
During the Get Back sessions, John felt that there weren’t enough fast songs for the live performance, so he suggested they bring back “One After 909” for that purpose. They rehearsed it a total of 14 times over the weeks of rehearsals, and it was one of the songs played during the rooftop concert on January 30, 1969. Its long trip to get onto an album was complete.
Possibly my favorite part of the “One After 909” story is that during the various rehearsals during the Get Back sessions, John repeatedly feels embarrassed about the quality of the lyrics and says that he always meant to re-write them. Paul and George insist that its fine, though Paul at one point does say “I never knew what it was about.” John tries to explain that the narrator had missed his train, to which Paul responds “but he goes back and finds it was the wrong number?” Ha! In case you were wondering, there is no Barmy Old Codger version of “One After 909” at this point. Maybe a little bit later…
Funny story about this song. If you go through an agency that specializes in licensing cover songs, you will find that the composer credit on “Maggie Mae” belongs to John, Paul, George, and Ringo. In fact, when we recorded the Barmy Old Codger version about two years ago, we did purchase a mechanical license in order to put the song on Soundcloud (you can hear it at https://soundcloud.com/barmy-old-codger/maggie-mae). But that does end up being a bit confusing.
First, you probably remember that The Beatles’ version of “Maggie Mae” on the Let It Be album consists of one chorus and part of a verse, lasting a total of about 40 seconds. But the song actually contains several verses, telling the entire story of the man who was robbed by dirty Maggie Mae after hiring her for her “services.” We know this because there are several versions of the full song out there (including ours), most notably the version done by The Vipers Skiffle Group, a recording that was produced by none other than George Martin. Oh, and that recording was made in 1957. As far back as mid-1957, John had been singing the song with The Quarrymen.
The fact is, “Maggie Mae” is a song that had been sung by Liverpool sailors since at least the 1830s. Different versions use different place and street names, and have other slight differences in the lyrics, but the main storyline remains consistent. So how did The Beatles get a writing credit? Well, apparently it was as simple as changing the spelling from the original “Maggie May” (which is the way it is credited on The Vipers’ recording and others) and claiming that they had done their own arrangement. Well, good for them! And you know, I guess that since ours is a full version, that means that we should change the spelling so that it becomes a public domain song and then not bother to renew the license!
Hope you had fun with that!
As always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), and for much detail about the Get Back sessions, thanks to Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt for their book, Get Back, The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster. And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be looking at the story behind a rare recording of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes!
Let It Be film poster
If you remember, last week I mentioned that there are ways in which the “secret” songs can be made available. Basically, the recordings that are currently only on bootlegs could be officially released somewhere, whether that would be on an album or a film or whatever. And the fact is, there is precedent for this with Beatles songs. For example, there were several songs that made their way onto The Beatles Anthology in 1995 that had never previously been released. In this post, I want to talk about three songs that made their way out into the open, but you still may not have heard them unless you really collect just about everything related to The Beatles.
The Beatles Anthology “Extra”
Thinking of Linking
As you may remember, The Beatles Anthology began as a television series in 1995. In 1996 the whole series was released on VHS tape. Remember those? Then, in 2003, it was released on DVD, and that’s where it becomes interesting for this essay. The DVD collection included an 81-minute extra disc that contained a segment of the “Threetles” playing five songs from early in their career. Four were covers, but the fifth was a little fragment originally written by Paul in late 1957 called “Thinking of Linking.” The song is, predictably, fairly Buddy Holly-esque. It contains just one verse and is therefore incomplete. Mark Lewisohn, on page 12 of his 1988 book The Beatles Recording Sessions, quotes Paul as saying “Thinking of Linking was terrible! I thought it up in the pictures…” He also called it “pretty corny stuff.” George added, on page 97 of The Beatles Anthology book, that he and Paul were at the cinema together and that an ad for Link Furniture was shown, which asked “are you thinking of linking?” In any case, the release of the DVD extra gave us a previously unheard Beatles song, fragment though it is.
Let It Be – Naked (Fly on the Wall bonus disc)
In 2003, when Let It Be – Naked was released, it contained a 22-minute bonus disc called Fly on the Wall. Anybody remember that? I’ve often wondered whether or not putting together this album and especially the bonus disc is what gave Paul the idea to re-do the Let It Be movie, which, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, is currently being put together by Peter Jackson. If you haven’t listened to it, Fly on the Wall contains snippets of several songs along with dialogue from the Get Back sessions. There are pieces of at least six songs that were previously unreleased on any official Beatles album. But for this essay, I want to concentrate on two that were written early on, around 1958.
Because I Know You Love Me So
The only time this song is known to have been recorded was on January 3, 1969. Apparently the boys had been trying to come up with a fast number for the scheduled live performance at the end of January, and their old song from 1958, “One After 909,” was in heavy consideration. Well, playing that one reminded John and Paul of other old songs that they hadn’t played in ten years, and one of those was “Because I Know You Love Me So.” John began playing it between two takes of “One After 909,” and the others joined in almost immediately. The song basically has just one verse/chorus combination, and they repeat it several times. It’s unclear if they just didn’t remember any other words or if the song was never actually completed in the first place. Adding some confusion to the mix is that the lyrics as they sing them are pretty contradictory. It starts off with the narrator saying “I don’t feel blue because I know I’ve got you.” But then it suddenly changes to “I get the funny feeling you don’t treat me right.” Oh, well. In any case, the recording lasts two and a half minutes, about one and a half of which was included on the Fly on the Wall bonus disc.
Fancy My Chances With You
Okay, so to be sure, “Fancy My Chances With You” is a joke song. It’s about 30 seconds long and is basically dedicated to the idea of trying to pick up girls. In an odd way, it kind of reminds me of “Her Majesty.” It was recorded during the Get Back sessions, on January 24, 1969, and that recording found its way onto the Fly on the Wall bonus disc. Interestingly, it does seem that it was recorded once before that, in November of 1958. John’s art school friend Derek Hodkin had agreed to manage the trio (John, Paul, and George) that was calling itself Japage 3. And he owned a tape recorder. As Hodkin would remember in an interview with Mark Lewisohn, the recording session was “an hour of repartee, jokes, laughs, practice, songs, and quite a few ribald remarks about my girlfriend.” And the recording reportedly included “Fancy My Chances With You.” But don’t get too excited. The following Spring, Hodkin recorded some BBC Home Service music programs…over the Japage 3 recording…
Well, the good news for Barmy Old Codger about these three songs is that since they were on official Beatles releases, we could record cover versions of them. And so we did. All three are among the ones that are getting worked over for next year’s album release, but two of the three initial versions are still up on Soundcloud. “Because I Know You Love Me So” can be found at https://soundcloud.com/barmy-old-codger/because-i-know-you-love-me-soand “Fancy My Chances With You” is at https://soundcloud.com/barmy-old-codger/fancy-my-chances-with-you. Our license for “Thinking of Linking” expired and we did not renew it, so you’ll just have to wait a few months for the re-worked version!
Same as always, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), and for much detail about the Get Back sessions, thanks to Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt for their book, Get Back, The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster. And thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Next week we’ll be looking at the older songs (from the 1950s) that ended up on the Let It Be album. You can probably figure out what those are.
Auditioning for Larry Parnes in 1960
Remember that last week we talked about how “Tomorrow Never Comes” was played and recorded during the Get Back sessions and therefore exists in bootleg form, though it was never released on any official Beatles album including The Beatles Anthology. So was that the only song that falls into that complex category? Of course not! There are quite a few of them out there recorded from various sources, so let’s talk about two particular songs that can only be found on bootlegs of the Get Back sessions, and were two of the earliest songs written together by John and Paul, probably between late 1957 and early 1958.
Too Bad About Sorrows
“Too Bad About Sorrows” holds the distinction, according to Paul himself, of being the first song he and John ever wrote together. It likely would have been lost forever if not for the Get Back sessions, since no other recordings were ever made. A few songs seem to have been lost in just that manner. There are some titles known of songs that apparently existed at some point, but since there are no recordings, Paul may be the only person who could shed any light on them, and he hasn’t thus far. Those titles include “Calypso Rock,” “That’s My Woman,” “Looking Glass,” “Winston’s Walk,” “Keep Looking That Way,” “Years Roll Along,” and “Pinwheel Twist,” which was apparently sung by Pete Best! I would imagine there are likely others. As for the recording of “Too Bad About Sorrows,” John and Paul sing together, Paul on the higher harmony. As Mark Lewisohn describes it, you can hear the influence of both The Crickets and the Everly Brothers. The first two lines are:
Too bad about sorrows. Too bad about love.
There will be no tomorrow for all of your life.
The Beatles played “Too Bad About Sorrows” twice during the Get Back sessions. And both times it’s just a fragment of what may have been a complete song, we may never know. If it were ever complete, it was never recorded as such, and it has never been on any official release in any form. As for the historical significance of the song, I’ll just quote from the amazing Early Beatles Songs website, https://earlybeatlessongs.weebly.com/1957.htmlabout the 1969 recording: “Messy this might be, but it’s priceless nonetheless – Lennon and McCartney running through their first ever composition!”
The story is similar for “Just Fun.” It was either the second or something close to second song that John and Paul wrote together. In this case, experts such as Mark Lewisohn believe that this one was undoubtedly left unfinished. The story is they didn’t like the lyrics so they moved on. Feel free to judge for yourself. It began:
They said our love was just fun. The day that our friendship begun.
There’s no blue moon in history, there’s never been in history…
“Just Fun” was played just once during the Get Back sessions and then only for a few seconds. The first line actually appears in the Let It Be film, so there is hope that it might one day become more widely available. Interestingly, though, Paul clearly hasn’t forgotten about this song. On June 2, 2004, Macca played a show in Zurich, Switzerland at the Letzigrund Stadion. Though he didn’t play “Just Fun” during the concert, he actually did play it during soundcheck. This performance was recorded, possibly by someone in the audience. Word is from those who have heard the tape that there are two verses and an ending. The tape quality, however, is so poor, that the words can’t really be made out. It is only just possible to tell that the song being played is “Just Fun.”
Unfortunately, since it is currently against copyright laws to release covers of these two songs, there are no Barmy Old Codger versions available on Soundcloud. I have high hopes that someday songs like these will be released in some official way. As I’ve said before, I am hopeful that the Peter Jackson re-made Let It Be / Get Back film to be released hopefully in October will contain some of these recordings. And even if they don’t, maybe one day Macca will simply put together an album of everything that’s never been released. Or maybe he’ll give us permission to do it! Ha! I can dream, can’t I?
As usual, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), and for much detail about the Get Back sessions, thanks to Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt for their book, Get Back, The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster. Next week we’ll be looking at some not quite so secret songs, but still ones that you may not know unless you really collect everything put out by The Beatles! As always, thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined.
John and Paul at Paul's 20 Forthlin Road house
What are commonly referred to as the Get Back sessions took place in January 1969. And we’ll be devoting a lot of words to them as time goes by. For this particular essay, it is important to know that these sessions were not initially intended to be recordings for a new album (which is ultimately what happened with the release of Let It Be), but were instead intended to be rehearsals that would lead to a live TV performance. The fact that the whole thing was filmed was intended to help create a documentary to go along with the performance, hence the eventual release of the Let It Be film.
Friday, January 3, 1969 was the second day of the Get Back sessions. As happened frequently during these sessions, the boys spent a lot of time just jamming and messing around. They played several old covers that they used to do in the early days, some covers of recent songs, and most importantly, they revisited old songs of their own that they had written between the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of these was a song that Paul said their friend Pete Shotton had recently reminded him of. The lyrics talk about sitting alone and waiting for tomorrow to come.
As for the tune, as George said, it was very country. The performance is less than a minute long, and unlike some other songs recorded during the Get Back sessions, it was never released on any official album, including The Beatles Anthology. If you want to hear it, you’ll have to find a bootleg. And speaking of bootlegs, this is where an interesting story begins.
When we were choosing songs for Barmy Old Codger to record, we came across this one. But depending on where you find it, it has different titles. Some bootlegs call it “I’ll Wait For Tomorrow.” But Mark Lewisohn suggest that the title is actually “If Tomorrow Ever Comes.” Either way seems fine, but unfortunately, no registered copyright exists under either of those two names and the song has never been officially released. Hold that thought and bear with me for a short aside at this point.
Barmy Old Codger made an early decision to follow all copyright regulations. In general, it’s not that hard to do (I can give you the instructions if you’d like). But the fact is, even if you are not selling your version of a cover song, as long as you are making it public (like we do by posting songs on Soundcloud), you are supposed to obtain a mechanical license. I know, huge numbers of people don’t follow these rules, but anyway… So in the case of many songs written by The Beatles, copyrights were never registered unless and until they were released on an album of some type. For example, the song “Cayenne,” which The Beatles recorded in 1960 at Paul’s house, was eventually released on The Beatles Anthology. At that point, it became fair game for people to cover it as long as they obtained the mechanical license, like we did when we recorded our version of “Cayenne” (https://soundcloud.com/barmy-old-codger/cayenne). If a song has not ever been officially released, the author retains the right of first release and a license can only be granted with explicit permission of the author.
Okay, so what’s interesting is that a registered copyright does exist for a song called “Tomorrow Never Comes,” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Have any of you heard that song by them? Yeah, it’s close to the name of that other song we all know by them, but not exactly. We thought that well, that must be the song we were looking for, so we actually recorded a version of the song with the above lyrics in January 2018 and obtained a mechanical license for “Tomorrow Never Comes.” We put it up on Soundcloud.
As you may be aware, we’ve been refurbishing the songs that we did when we first started in order to put them on the upcoming album, and our version of “Tomorrow Never Comes” is one that we’ve done some work on. That got me thinking about the licensing that will have to be done to release the album, which is somewhat different from licensing for Soundcloud. And there was this nagging thought. Since the name of the song was never absolutely determined, what if we actually have the wrong song? The licensing agency that we used does list some of the artists who have done cover versions of the songs that you try to license, so I went back into the site and looked for the names of those artists who did versions of “Tomorrow Never Comes.” Then I checked out some of their versions… Each of them was actually a cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
Now, to be sure, “Tomorrow Never Knows” has its own identifying number that is not the same as the one for “Tomorrow Never Comes,” but it did give me an uneasy feeling to see that everyone had seemingly made the same mistake with the song title. I checked with another agency and they did not have any record of a song called “Tomorrow Never Comes” at all. Uh oh. That would suggest that the song still falls under the first release rule. Meaning that we shouldn’t have actually done it!
Well, I’m not that worried about getting in trouble for having put it on Soundcloud. It is not there anymore. But I am bummed that we may not be able to include it on the album. My hope is that when the new Peter Jackson directed documentary that uses the footage from the Get Back sessions comes out, supposedly in October, that this song will be in the film. Because then it will be officially released and we can keep it on the album! The question remains, though. What exactly does “Tomorrow Never Comes” refer to? What song is it and why has a copyright been registered for it? Such a puzzle!
As usual, thanks to Mark Lewisohn for his All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition), and for much detail about the Get Back sessions, thanks to Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt for their book, Get Back, The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster. Next week we’ll be looking at more secret songs! That is, songs like “Tomorrow Never Comes,” that were never officially released by The Beatles. As always, thanks to you for reading this. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined.
The "Get Back" sessions
A little introduction.
Allan Williams was born in Bootle, north of Liverpool, on February 21, 1930. His father was Dick Williams, a very successful dance promoter from whom he got his desire to run a business surrounded by music. Allan once said, in terms of musical promotion, that he “wanted to do something better than my dad.” Williams was 28 years old in 1958 when he opened The Jacaranda Club, coffee shop by day and members-only music establishment at night. Murals by Liverpool College of Art students, including Stuart Sutcliffe, decorated the walls and John (sometimes with Paul and George) would spend lunchtimes there.
The house band at “The Jac” was a group who called themselves the Royal Caribbean Steel Band. Now sometime in late 1959 a few of the members of the group were lured away by a German club owner who had visited Liverpool. The band members soon sent Williams a postcard saying what a great time they were having playing at a club in Hamburg. Williams’ entrepreneurial mind immediately came up with the idea of sending other Liverpool acts to Hamburg, and so on January 29, 1960, he set off to Germany to check out the club scene there, taking with him some tapes of bands he had helped find shows for in the past. Along with him was Harold Philips, better known as Lord Woodbine, a name we will be seeing a few more times in the coming months.
The pair’s introduction to Hamburg was exactly as you might expect from the stories that we’ve all heard regarding what it was like in the German city. They found themselves in the St. Pauli area of Hamburg, the playground for sailors, filled with strip joints, transvestite bars, hostess clubs, and music bars. Williams familiarized himself with the area and went into a sailor’s bar in the basement of a building on the corner of Reeperbahn Road and Grosse Freiheit where he heard music coming from inside. The bar was called The Kaiserkeller. This was, incidentally, not the same club in which the members of the Royal Caribbean Steel Band were playing. There’s no indication that Williams found them on this trip.
What Williams noticed pretty quickly was that the band that was playing at that time did not really create any excitement among the patrons. They played note for note covers of popular tunes and it was only when they took breaks that the customers would get up to dance to the songs on the jukebox. He asked to speak to the owner and was taken to the office of Bruno Koschmider, who spoke no English. Williams spoke no German, so a waiter had to interpret their conversation.
Williams told Koschmider that he represented Liverpool bands and asked if the Kaiserkeller owner had ever considered hiring any groups from England. Koschmider replied that he had not thought of it, but did not give pause when Williams told said that the cost would be £100 per week for each band plus a £10 commission for him. Williams soon produced the tapes that he had brought with him, featuring acts such as Cass and the Cassanovas (who would eventually evolve into The Big Three – we’ll be seeing more about them later), The Leon Sait Dance Orchestra, and singer Hal Graham. He offered to play the tapes so that Koschmider could hear what he was being offered.
Then seeming disaster struck. The tapes would not play on Koschmider’s Grundig tape recorder. It’s pretty much unknown exactly why, but to put it in Williams’ words, from an interview with Mark Lewisohn: “I said that the machine must be kaput but he put on one of his own tapes and it was fine. It was such a disappointment and I felt I’d blown it.” Williams returned to Liverpool feeling that the business part of the trip had been for nothing. It was okay, though. He had had a good time and he had other plans to turn his attention to.
Clearly, we all know how it turns out. By summer, English bands were playing in Hamburg and The Beatles themselves were playing at The Kaiserkeller. We will get to all of that over the next few months. But what it interesting to note is that while Allan Williams thought at the time that he had accomplished nothing, what he didn’t know is that he had planted quite a seed in the garden of Bruno Koschmider’s mind. It was Koschmider who made two trips to England in the next few months looking for those great English bands Williams had told him about, kaput tape or not. As for those other plans Williams was turning his attention to, there will be a lot to talk about in the coming months about both the shows that he would begin to set up as well as his soon-to-be association with our boys.
As always, we owe a great deal of thanks to Mark Lewisohn for the information that can be found in his amazing All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Extended Special Edition). Next week we’ll be looking at the mystery that is “Tomorrow Never Comes.” So stay tuned for that. Thanks for being here and reading. We really do appreciate it. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined.
Except where specifically indicated and with the exception of some general knowledge, opinions and subjective musings, this information comes from All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Special Extended Edition) by Mark Lewisohn. You should read it. It’s worth every penny!
Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe was Scottish. He was born on June 23, 1940 in Edinburgh. His family moved to Roby, east of Liverpool, in 1943. He grew no taller than 5’7” and his friend Jon Hague described him as “very skinny, weak, and sick looking.” Always a good student and with a keen interest in painting, Stuart enrolled at Liverpool College of Art in 1956. In his second year he would meet a new student by the name of John Lennon. John called him “Stu,” though it was pronounced more like “Shtyew.”
John and Stu were opposites. John was loud, extroverted, and could be quite obnoxious. Stu was quiet, introverted, and nice to everyone. John refused to wear his eyeglasses, even though he was practically blind without them. Stu almost never took his off. Despite these differences, there was a mutual respect that grew into the closest of friendships. Stu was impressed by John’s musicianship and rock and roll lifestyle, while John was in awe of Stu’s artistic abilities and his sense of “image.” By January of 1960, the pair were living together in a flat on Gambier Terrace in Liverpool along with three other Liverpool College of Art students.
It was also in January of 1960 that Stu was paid £90 for his work, Summer Painting, which had been on display as part of the John Moores Exhibition. It was bought by Sir John Moores himself. Within a couple of weeks, either because of the glamorous idea of the image of the rocker, or just because of John’s insistence, Stu bought a Hofner 333 bass guitar. It was almost as big as he was. He became a member of The Quarrymen, having never played a note of bass guitar. John, Paul, and George, with the help of Dave May, another art student who played bass with Ken Dallas and the Silhouettes, began teaching Stu how to play. They started with a basic 12-bar blues progression.
John, of course, was overjoyed to have his best friend join the band. George had always liked Stu and felt that “it was better to have a bass player who couldn’t play than to not have a bass player at all.” The outlier was Paul. Two things bothered him. First, though Paul had not objected in the past to John bringing his inexperienced friends in, it now seemed that the group was starting to make some real progress and having a beginner would only slow them down. Second, he was unhappy about John and Stu’s relationship and felt that he was being bumped down to second best. As Cynthia Lennon said, “I think Paul was also a bit jealous of Stu; until then he had had most of John’s attention.” (John, by Cynthia Lennon, page 48).
Nevertheless, the foursome got down to business. There were not many shows during the first half of 1960, but there was a lot of rehearsing and Stu tried very hard to learn his instrument. Friends noted that Stu almost completely stopped painting and as Cynthia Lennon said, Stu spent “every spare moment practicing.” (A Twist of Lennon, by Cynthia Lennon, page 29). This is quite noticeable on the two recordings that the group made between April and July 1960. On the April tape (sometimes known as the “Kirchherr Tape” if you look for the bootleg), Stu mainly plays root notes on the first beat of every measure. About right for someone who has played for not much more than two months. By July (on the “Braun Tape”), Stu’s playing is far more involved. There are some wrong notes here and there, but still very much in line for someone with just over five months of experience. Incidentally, if you don’t want to search out bootlegs, there are three songs from these sessions that appear on The Beatles Anthology. These songs are “Cayenne,” from April; and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” and “You’ll Be Mine” from July.
In May, the group that was trying out the name “Silver Beatles” had an audition for promoter Larry Parnes, who was looking for bands to back his stable of singers. We’ll talk more about that audition specifically in a couple of months, but it’s worth pointing out that several photos were taken that day, one of which may have been the spark for a myth about Stu that I remember hearing for many years. In the photo, Stu is standing with his back to the judges. Paul has said that it was his idea for Stu to look like he was “doing a moody,” as though he was just not interested, in order to distract the judges from Stu’s lack of ability. Unfortunately (at least I think so), the story escalated to the point to which I remember being a teenager learning about The Beatles, and it was given as “common knowledge” that Stu could never play and always stood with his back to the audience.
There is a lot more to say about Stuart Sutcliffe: the residencies in Hamburg, Germany; his relationship with the love of his life, Astrid Kirchherr; his introduction of the “Beatles haircut;” his not-so-great relationship with Paul; his time sitting in with another band (who must have thought he could play!); his decision to leave The Beatles in order to stay in Hamburg with Astrid and continue painting; and, of course, his tragic death from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 21. So we’ll be talking a lot about him for the next couple years.
As always, thanks for being here and reading. We really do appreciate it. Next time we’ll talk about Allan Williams and the trip that initiated the idea of sending Liverpool bands to Hamburg. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Stay tuned!
Well, we talked last time about how Paul lost his little girl. Apparently, John found her. Hello!
In all seriousness, “Hello Little Girl” is truly a great focal point to use for telling the story of the early Beatles. And as usual, a tremendous resource for information about this song is Mark Lewisohn’s incredible All Those Years Volume One: Tune In (Special Extended Edition). So let’s start at the beginning.
John had tried to start writing songs around the first half of 1957, but hadn’t really gotten much of anywhere. Two songs apparently existed, one called “Calypso Rock” and another for which only one line of lyrics is known (“my love is like a bird with a broken wing”). Any more than that, including any idea of how the music went, is lost to the ages. But sometime in late 1957, most likely in November, John, possibly motivated by the fact that Paul had written a couple of songs, came up with “Hello Little Girl.”
As with most of the songs our boys wrote before the turn of the next decade, “Hello Little Girl” was rarely heard for a few years. The Quarrymen were basically a covers only band, and when they actually recorded an original song at Percy Phillips’ Liverpool studio in 1958, the choice was “In Spite of All the Danger.” We can basically assume that “Hello Little Girl” started out in the style of Buddy Holly. He was an enormous presence in the future Beatles’ lives throughout 1957 and on the first known recording of the song, from 1960, you almost may as well be listening to a cover of a Holly song. We’ll talk a lot in a few months about the recordings done during 1960 at Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Road. “Hello Little Girl” is one of six original songs that appear on the second of two bootlegs from the Forthlin Road sessions, the one sometimes known as the “Braun tape.”
During 1960 and 1961, The Beatles played hundreds of shows that included almost seven months’ worth of nights in Hamburg, Germany. But they didn’t play their original songs until December 1961, when “Hello Little Girl” was one of three songs that were added to their stage show along with “Like Dreamers Do” and “Love of the Loved,” both written by Paul. And even then, they only played those songs at The Cavern, where they already had a substantial following. This did, however, give Brian Epstein a huge selling point while he was trying to find a recording contract for The Beatles. Very few artists wrote their own songs.
The next recording of “Hello Little Girl” happened on January 1, 1962. This was the day of the infamous Decca audition recordings. The three songs recently added to their live shows were among fifteen songs recorded that day. It was mainly the songs from their shows at The Cavern. Many of you are likely aware of the results of that audition. It was after listening to this recording that Decca’s Dick Rowe famously rejected The Beatles by saying “Groups of guitarists are on their way out.” Fortunately, Brian Epstein was able to keep the tape and he began to shop it to other labels. Interestingly, the song had changed quite a bit from the 1960 recording. A little less Holly and a little more British invasion pop. Also, whereas the chorus was the same musically as it was originally, the verses had a completely new chord progression. Same lyrics, though.
One meeting Brian had was on February 13, 1962, with a certain George Martin at Parlophone. Brian had brought recordings of two of the Decca audition songs, “’Til There Was You” and “Hello Little Girl.” Martin would say in 1971 that he was not very impressed with the recording, but others remembered it a little differently. Cynthia Lennon, in her book John, said that George Martin did like the recordings and that Brian cabled the boys in Hamburg “to tell them the good news” and that they should start rehearsing new material. She also remembered that this happened in May, so there’s that… (John by Cynthia Lennon, page 86). Of course, she may have simply conflated February and May events, because The Beatles were, in fact, signed to Parlophone in May.
On March 7, 1962, a golden opportunity to have gotten a new live recording of “Hello Little Girl” to be kept for eternity fizzled out. Brian had gotten them a spot on the BBC Here We Go radio broadcast that went out on Thursday afternoons. The spot was recorded in front of a live audience on the 7th and went out over the air on the 8th. The Beatles recorded four songs for this event, three covers along with “Hello Little Girl.” For some reason, only three songs were broadcast and you can probably guess which one was left out. You can find the recording of the three covers on YouTube, but “Hello Little Girl” seems to again be lost forever. Oh, no! Not a second time!
We’ll talk about the details of the Beatles signing to Parlophone in future posts, but when it did happen, Brian sent George Martin a list of 33 songs, listing who sang which songs, who wrote them, etc., so that Martin could better assess what he had, and Brian directed the boys to start rehearsing. An interesting thing about this list is that there are seven original songs on it. Those songs included “Hello Little Girl,” but also included names that had not come up before, songs that were written in the last couple of months, some possibly in Hamburg. They included “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” and “Ask Me Why.” The story goes that those three were the most rehearsed around this time, which would make sense simply because they were newer, but it appears to go deeper than that.
The first recording sessions happened in early June, and along with “Besame Mucho,” it was the three newer originals that made the cut. These were the ones that The Beatles themselves wanted to record, over “Like Dreamers Do,” “Love of the Loved,” and, of course, “Hello Little Girl.” It was out with the old and in with the new, an attitude that I can understand from playing in bands. You’re just more excited about playing something new! By August, all three of the old songs were dropped from their live shows, and may have never surfaced again if not for the fact that as far as the record company was concerned, if The Beatles didn’t want to record them, they could be given to other groups.
By my rough count, there were over twenty songs written by The Beatles that were given to other groups and never officially released by our boys (some did make it to The Beatles Anthology, etc.). As for “Hello Little Girl,” it was given to another Brian Epstein managed band, The Fourmost, and released in August 1963. John’s first real song, written when he was 17, made it to #9 on the UK charts.
Barmy Old Codger also did a version of “Hello Little Girl,” which you can find at https://soundcloud.com/barmy-old-codger/hello-little-girl. Take a listen if you’d like. As always, thanks for being here and reading. We really do appreciate it. Next time we’ll talk about Stuart Sutcliffe and the role he played in the early stages of the Beatles’ career. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Stay tuned!
George, John, and some of Paul
Quite an ominous start. Paul likes to say that “I Lost My Little Girl” was the first song he wrote. But it seems more likely that it was actually “Suicide,” while “I Lost My Little Girl” was likely the first song Paul wrote on guitar. According to Mark Lewisohn’s All Those Years Volume One: Tune In, Special Extended Version (pages 262 and 770), there were two songs written by Paul on piano in 1956. Paul himself has said that he started writing cabaret style songs before rock and roll really became a thing. He thought that he would send “Suicide” to Frank Sinatra (he didn’t…yet). As for the other piano song, incidentally, it wouldn’t have words until 1967 when it became “When I’m 64.”
“Suicide” was really just a fragment with one verse, and the only time The Beatles recorded it was on January 26, 1969, during the “Get Back” sessions. And that was really just Paul messing around with the others joining in. Paul did a recording in 1970, a piece of which ended up on his first solo album, McCartney. The full 1970 version was put on the re-release of McCartney in 2011. In 1974, he did send a demo version to Frank Sinatra, who rejected it. Clearly, the subject matter is pretty intense for a 14 year old. It tells of an abusive relationship in which a woman is “under both his thumbs.” She tries to leave but comes back whenever he calls. It is a far reach from the adolescent love songs he and John would be writing in the next few years.
The decision had been made early in the planning process that this would be the first song to be recorded by Barmy Old Codger. I started recording on July 10, 2017 and gave myself three weeks to complete it in order for it to be posted on the Barmy Soundcloud site on July 31. And in anticipation of its release, I began writing social media posts with the tagline “it begins at the end.” You know, “Suicide.” Pretty clever, eh? Don’t go looking for that version on Soundcloud now, by the way. It’s been taken down. Imagine someone who hadn’t played in over twenty years giving himself three weeks to record a song. Yeah, that’s about how well it turned out. Ha! But it was a start! And we are re-doing it right now, so that’s a good thing!
I Lost My Little Girl
This one is another fragment made up of two short verses. Not surprisingly, there is a lack of agreement on exactly when this song was written. As I wrote earlier, it seems likely that this was the first song Paul wrote on guitar, but only after writing a couple on piano. On the website, https://earlybeatlessongs.weebly.com/, it is suggested that Paul has said the song was written not too long after his mother’s death in October of 1956, and Mark Lewisohn, in All Those Years Volume One: Tune In, Extended Special Edition, page 400, suggests that it was written in the second half of 1957. I personally think it would be interesting to know which guitar he wrote it on. The first guitar Paul owned was a Zenith 17 that came from Hessy’s Music Store, where so many Beatle instruments would come from. He got it in a trade for the trumpet his father had bought him when he was 13. That trade was sometime around July of 1957. Before that, he had learned to play by borrowing a Rex guitar from his friend Ian James. That guitar was strung right-handed, so Paul had to learn to play it upside down.
As with “Suicide,” the only Beatles recording of “I Lost My Little Girl” was made during the “Get Back” sessions, this time on January 25, 1969. As with many of the songs recorded during those sessions, they were just kind of messing around. In this case, it was John that started singing it and the others joined in. Paul recorded a demo version in 1973 and then performed the song on “MTV Unplugged” in 1991. In those two versions, he added a section to the song that states that it is the “very first song I wrote.” Well, on guitar, maybe…
Interestingly, the 1969 version and the 1973/1991 version are very different from each other. Different tempos, different keys, different styles completely. When we recorded our version, I thought that it might be an interesting experiment to try both styles, since I was still working out the rust. I started with the more recent version (omitting the lyrics about it being the “very first song I wrote,” considering that I didn’t write it. Ha!). Then I transitioned to the 1969 style. Not sure that it worked out all that well. Like “Suicide,” our original version is no longer on Soundcloud. But also like “Suicide,” we’re working on re-doing it, so you may be able to hear it again soon!
If you want to hear Paul’s versions of these two songs, they are very easy to find with a Google search, so I’ll leave that to you. If you do, think about this while you listen: Paul wrote these when he was 14 to 15 years old. Mighty impressive. As always, thanks for being here and reading. We really do appreciate it. Next time we’ll talk about John’s first entry into the songwriting business. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Stay tuned!
When the first day of the 1960s arrived, John and Paul had been playing together for almost two and a half years, and George had been with them for almost two. They had written some songs, bought some guitars, and played some shows. But for the most part, they had not been a complete band. On January 1, 1960, it was just the three of them, all playing guitars. No bass player. No drummer. Many people look at 1962 or 1963 as being the year that was the most important in their development, or even 1964, when they conquered America. But I would suggest that in terms of really getting the ball rolling, the year that things really started happening that would result in The Beatles becoming the biggest band in the history of rock music may well have been 1960. So we are going to have A LOT of fun this year as we celebrate the 60th anniversaries of the important events of the year. How about a little preview.
Big things started happening right from January of 1960. That was the month that John, Paul, and George finally found a bass player, by the name of Stuart Sutcliffe. As most of you likely know, Stuart would not be around to see the band’s success, but his influence over the next couple of years is extremely important. January was also the month that Allan Williams, owner of the Jacaranda in Liverpool, would start forming the idea that would result in him sending several Liverpool bands, including both our boys and Ringo’s band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, to play extended runs in Hamburg, Germany. Speaking of Ringo, January was the month of the first documentation that he was using the name “Ringo Starr”.
The number of shows they played slowed down a lot in the first few months of the year, but they were still practicing and writing. Around the beginning of April, they also did some recording. They went back to the Percy Phillips studio where they had recorded “In Spite of all the Danger” in 1958 and did a recording of “One After 909.” It was just John, Paul, and George. Unfortunately, that recording seems to be lost forever. I’d like to think that Paul has it hidden away somewhere! They also started doing some home recording of their practice sessions at Paul’s Forthlin Road house. It is basically impossible to definitely date these recordings (there are some approximations out there), because the boys are said to have edited them, apparently into three tapes. Two of these tapes still exist as bootlegs. The third, if it really does exist, is rumored to be in the hands of Paul. If you do go looking for them, be aware that they are very rough in both recording quality and playing quality. Stu was just starting and many of the “songs” are clearly just long practice jams and not fully developed pieces.
Our boys also spent much of the first half of the year trying to decide on a name. They had decided that they were done with “The Quarrymen.” Paul has said that they used to come up with ten names a week, most of which were just jokes, such as “Los Paranoias.” Before they settled on the name that would stick, they went through The Beatals, The Silver Beetles, The Silver Beats, The Silver Beatles, Long John and the Silver Beatles, most likely among others.
In May 1960, one big break happened. Promoter Larry Parnes and Allan Williams had cooked up plans for tours of Scotland, but Parnes’ singers, Billy Fury, Duffy Power, and Johnny Gentle, would need backing bands. Our boys wanted in, but Allan Williams would have to find them a drummer first. That drummer ended up being Tommy Moore. The audition wasn’t exactly smooth (we’ll get into more detail later), but in the end, our boys were to do a week-long tour of Scotland backing Johnny Gentle. Added bonus, Allan Williams was now their manager. When they arrived back home, Williams had his newest band playing two to three shows a week locally, until August…
August 1960. Tommy Moore hadn’t worked out. A few other drummers had been used for some of their early summer shows. Paul had even taken over for a while. But when the BIG call came, they really needed to find a full-time drummer they could rely on. Pete Best was practically right under their noses, having been at most if not all of their Casbah Coffee Club shows (considering his mother, Mona, owned the place!). Allan Williams had found our boys a two month residency in Hamburg. On August 15, when they left for Germany, they were John, Paul, George, Stu, and Pete. And there were no more name changes. They were The Beatles. That two months turned into three and a half. Interestingly, in October 1960 John, Paul, George, and Ringo would play together for the first time. Now that’s exciting! When the boys returned to Liverpool in December, they would have a few weeks to recuperate, but by the beginning of 1961, their lives would be moving at breakneck speed until 1970.
As I said above, we’re going to have a lot of fun this year going into even more detail about the things that happened in 1960. About the recordings, about drummers, about Hamburg, etc. As always, thanks for being here and reading. We really do appreciate it. Next time we’ll talk about a couple of early songs written by Paul. Please leave a comment, even if it’s just to say “hello!” And please sign up for notifications if you are so inclined. Stay tuned!
George, John, and Paul at Paul's 20 Forthlin Road house