PAUL: I started out with just an acoustic guitar. I'd been brought up not to borrow (an ethic my dad instilled in me), so when I first moved to an electric I had to buy a Rosetti Lucky Seven; a terrible guitar but cheap, and it was electric. I had a little Elpico amp for it (which I've still got), of a very fifties design in bakelite. This Elpico wasn't really a guitar amp. It only had microphone and gramophone inputs; but I got a reasonable sound from the mike input. I took that and the little electric to Hamburg and they stood me in good stead for a month or so, until the sweat got to the guitar. It looked OK, pretty-ish for three days, and then the paint started to wear and it fell apart. One day someone just broke it, sort of over my head. It was never going to last, it was just a crappy piece of show. I think it was designed to fall apart, actually. Built-in obsolescence in an early form.
Stuck out in Hamburg with no instrument, I was forced onto piano as they had one on stage at the Kaiserkeller. I was used to facing the audience so this was an excuse to turn my back on the audience and just get into the music, which was good. I started to get into numbers like 'Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying', a Ray Charles B side. That was a good little period for me, and I think I developed my piano-playing quite a bit. I ended up being slightly better than the other guys on piano from that period by pure default: having no guitar.
So acoustic guitar is really my instrument, inasmuch as that's what I started on. But I went through to the Rosetti Lucky Seven, then the piano. And then, when it became clear that Stuart was leaving the band, I went on to Stu's bass. This got me back in the front line, which I wasn't too keen on since I'd been having quite a good time at the back. At that time I could just about get by on bass, putting in a very simple bassline now and again.
We used to actually cut strings out of the piano for the bass (which I hear is impossible, but we managed to do it). If we needed an A string, say, we'd just get on the piano and go dink, dink, dink - A! And then it was out with the pliers, thinking, 'They'll never notice the odd string,' and then try to fix it onto the bass. It worked occasionally but it's hardly the thing to do and probably puts a huge strain on the guitar. But back then it was very different from today where you have a roadie with a trunk full of strings. One packet was as much as anyone ever had. It just wasn't a priority to have strings. If a string went you just worked on the other three (or, if it was a guitar, the other five). You would ignore the one that had gone and think, 'One of these days I'll get one'
GEORGE: These days, you amplify the kit and have proper bass amplifiers - we had some little Mickey Mouse amplifiers. Now there are fifty-nine gauges of guitar string; for us it was, 'Can I have some of your strings, please?' I don't think we even knew the difference between electric and acoustic strings: they were all like telegraph wires, really thick so you couldn't even bend them. I don't expect it sounded very good.
PAUL: Anyway, after a bit I decided that I wanted to get my own guitar. In the centre of Hamburg there was a little music shop. I recall passing now and seeing a violin-shaped bass, which in itself was intriguing. And it appealed to me, being left-handed, that it was symmetrical; so when I turned it upside down it wouldn't look too bad. I got one; a little Hofner. I paid for it outright. It was the equivalent of about thirty quid, which was pretty cheap even back then.
That was it; that was the start of what became a kind of trademark. It is a lovely instrument. And because it's so lightweight, I didn't even feel as if I had a bass on - that had quite a liberating effect. It actually does something to you; because it's so light you treat it more like a guitar. I found I became more melodic on bass than other bass-players because I could do lots of high stuff on the twelfth fret. Being melodic in my writing, it was good not always to have to play the root notes. And you need a few more muscles on a big bass! So, being melodic anyway, and the combination of the instrument being very light yet with a very bassy sound, things just came together to make a certain sound; luck, really. And when I was given a Rickenbacker, during the Sgt Pepper years (though it was slightly heavier and slightly more electric), I had firmly developed this melodious style, which gave songs like 'With A little Help From My Friends' and 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' fairly interesting basslines.
After some years I put my Hofner in a case and consigned it to history, but I was watching the film of us on the rooftop in Let It Be years afterwards, and I noticed how lightly I was playing the bass and it brought it all back: 'Wow, that was what I used to love about it.'
RINGO: The drummer always sets the feel and I think that was the way that I played, and then with Paul on bass - he is an amazing bass-player; to this day he is the most melodic bass-player - we would work at putting the bass and bass-drum together. As long as they're together, you can put anything on top.
I only have one rule and that is to play with the singer. If the singer's singing, you don't really have to do anything, just hold it together. If you listen to my playing, I try to become an instrument; play the mood of the song. For example, 'Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire,' - boom ba bom. I try to show that; the disen-chanting mood. The drum fills are part of it.
The other thing is, I couldn't do the same drum sequence twice. Whatever beat I would put down, I could never repeat identically, because I play with my soul more than my head. My head knows to play the rhythms - rock'n'roll, swing, whatever - but it comes out as whatever the feeling is at that moment. The interesting thing about The Beatles was that we seemed to have telepathy. Without thinking, we'd all be up or bringing it down - together. It was magic, and that was one of the forces of The Beatles, the telepathy. (And, of course, the love of music, the great songs...) I've never had anything like that before or since.
When I first was around I was always being put down, like it was: 'JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE... and Ringo.' Particularly in Britain it was, 'There's them and there's him.' And to this day, there are music critics who don't really appreciate the drums. But when we went to America it was great because there are drummers like Jim Keltner (who's still my finest drummer), who would say 'Wow!' So, in the end, being appreciated by other musicians was a lot more important to me than the press's opinion.
My two favourite drummers in the world are Jim Keltner and Charlie Watts. Buddy Rich and Ginger Baker and all those great drummers are very fast, but they just don't get me off at all because they're too busy being complicated. I like drumming to be solid instead of busy.
JOHN: Ringo's a damn good drummer. He was always a good drummer. He's not technically good, but I think Ringo's drumming is underrated the same way as Paul's bass-playing is underrated. Paul was one of the most innovative bass-players that ever played, and half the stuff that's going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatles period. He was coy about his bass-playing. He's an egomaniac about everything else, but his bass-playing he was always a bit coy about. He is a great musician who plays the bass like few other people could play it. If you compare his bass-playing with Rolling Stones's bass-playing, and you compare Ringo's drumming with Charlie Watts's drumming, they are equal to them, if not better. I always objected to the fact that because Charlie came on a little more 'arty' than Ringo and knew jazz and did cartoons, that he got credit. I think that Charlie's a damn good drummer, and the other guy a good bass-player, but I think Paul and Ringo stand up anywhere, with any of the rock musicians. Not technically great. None of us were technical musicians. None of us could read music. None of us can write it. But as pure musicians, as humans inspired to make noise, they''e as good as anybody.80
I'm what I call a primitive musician. Meaning no schooling. I didn't ever take the instrument that far. I just took it enough to enable me to do what I wanted to do, which was express myself.74
I played a lot of harmonica and mouth organ when I was a child. 'Love Me Do' is rock'n'roll, pretty funky: the gimmick was the harmonica.(There had been 'Hey! Baby' and then there was a terrible thing called 'I Remember You'; and we did those numbers, so we started using it on 'Love Me Do' just for arrangements.) And then we stuck it on 'Please Please me' and then we stuck it on 'From Me To You', and then we dropped it; it got embarrassing.70
And I've always loved guitars. I still have my black Rickenbacker, which used to be blond, which is the first good guitar I ever had. It's a bit hammered now. I just keep it for kicks, really. I bought it in Germany, on HP. I remember that whatever it cost, it was a hell of a lot of money to me at the time.66
GEORGE: When we were first in Hamburg, we'd gone to Steinways because we didn't have very good equipment. That's where John bought his Rickenbacker and at the same hire-purchase session I bought a Gibson amplifier. I've no idea what happened to that amp. It was beautiful looking, but it didn't have any balls.
My sequence of guitars was: first; my crummy little Ј3 10s number. Second; a Hofner President. Non-electric, but you could buy a pick-up for a few pounds that would screw on to the bottom of the finger board - which I did - which made the guitar semi-electric. (Alternatively, put the head of the guitar to same sort of cavity, a wardrobe or a cupboard or a door, anything that will vibrate, and - because sound resonates that way - it will amplify slightly. I used to play my guitar against the wardrobe.) The Hofner guitars were quite nice (especially after the little Ј3 10 s one). They had a good range and each one came either blond or sunburst. Mine was the straight one.
I didn't have an amp to start with. The first thing I ever plugged into was John's stepfather's radiogram. It only amplified the sound a little, but it was great; except for the fact that we kept blowing out the amp or the speakers. John knew how to get into Twitchy's house when he was out, so we'd plug in and play and mess about and then blow his amp, and then we'd sneak off and have to wait a few weeks until he got it fixed.
I swapped the Hofner President with one of the Swinging Blue Jeans for my third guitar, a Hofner Club 40. Next came the Futurama, which I got at Frank Hessey's. A very bad copy of a Fender Stratocaster.
PAUL: In passing, I've never felt like I could afford a Fender. Even now there's a strange thing at the back of my mind that makes me think I can't afford a Fender. (Amazing how these things form and say with you.) A Fender is still a bit of an exotic instrument to me and, even though I could probably afford the factory, it seems out of reach.
GEORGE: Paul came with me when I bought the Futurama. It was on the wall with all the other guitars and Paul plugged it into the amp but couldn't get any sound out of it, so he turned the amp right up. The guitar had three rocker switches and I just hit one and there was an almighty 'boom' through the amplifier and all the other guitars fell off the wall. My mother signed the hire-purchase agreement for me. That is, one pound down and the rest when they catch you.
My fifth guitar was the Gretsch I bought in 1962 from a sailor in Liverpool for Ј75. A black Duo-Jet. (Chet Atkins used Gretsch guitars. He always had a different Gretsch in photos on his album covers.) That was my first American guitar. It was advertised in the Liverpool Echo. God knows how I managed to get seventy-five quid together. It seemed like a fortune. I remember having it in my inside pocket, thinking. 'I hope nobody mugs me.'
Next, in 1964, while we were staying at the Plaza in New York for The Ed Sullivan Show, the Rickenbacker people came and gave me one of their twelve-string guitars. After that trip I used it a lot. It was a great sound, and in those days the only other type of twelve-string available had a great big fat neck (it would have a high action, be a bugger to get in tune and impossible to mash the strings down). The Rickenbacker had a slim neck and low action. The twelve machine heads were fitted very tidily, and in a way which made it simple to recognise which string you were tuning. The pegs for the six regular strings were positioned sideways while the pegs for the octave-extra six were placed blackwards as on old Spanish guitars.
John already had a little six-string Rickenbacker, the famous blond one with the short-scaled neck that he later had painted black; so after I was given the twelve-string at the Plaza, John and I both had Rickenbackers and they became synonymous with The Beatles.
JOHN: The arm on the old one wasn't bad, but we had the Rickenbacker people to see ua in New York. They gave me a new one and the neck is great. I'd like to play this make of guitar all the time. George only got his because he didn't want me to be the only one in the group with a Rickenbacker.64
GEORGE: I used a Stratocaster around Rubber Soul time, on 'Drive My Car' and those kind of things. I used it quite a lot later when I got into playing slide in the late Sixties and early Seventies. I painted it before we did the 'All You Need Is Love' TV satellite show. It was powder blue originally. The paint started flaking off immediately. We were painting everything at that time; we were painting our houses, our clothes, our cars, our shop! Everything. In those days day-glo orange and lime paints were very rare, but I discovered where to buy them - very thick rubbery stuff. I got a few different colours and painted the Strat, not very artistically because the paint was just too thick. I had also found out about cellulose paint, which came in a tube with a ball tip, so I filled in the scratch plate with that and drew on the head of the guitar with Pattie's sparkly green nail varnish.
PAUL: IT WAS NEVER AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS.
It started in pubs; we went on to talent contests and then to working men's clubs. We played Hamburg clubs, and then we started to play town halls and night clubs , and then ballrooms. There could be as many as 2,000 people in a ballroom, so if you did a gig there the word really got round. Next up from that was theatres, and Brian took us through all these steps.
When we began to headline bills on theatres, we felt we had really arrived. The next ladder to climb was radio. It was a gentle thing; we had conquered the Indra, we'd conquered the Cavern - and we had gradually became quite known, so it was, 'Well, what's left? Radio!'
We wanted to be on Brian Matthew's Saturday Club. This was a huge radio show, and the thing I loved about listening to it was that I could wake up after a week of school and have a lie-in. I had a radio by my bed and I would lie there until about eleven. The most delicious lie-ins of your life are those teenage lie-ins: wake up feeling great, turn the radio on and Saturday Club is still on for an hour. So we really wanted to be on that, and we knew that it had a huge audience.
NEIL ASPINALL: They'd sold a lot of records for 'Love Me Do' to get to Number Seventeen, which was great for a Liverpool band - they'd made the charts! Now that The Beatles were known nationally, not just in the Northwest and Liverpool, they were being played on the radio and people everywhere were hearing them. In 1963 they started doing BBC radio shows, playing live. They did about five numbers on each show, all through 1963-1965.
JOHN: We did a lot of tracks for Saturday Club, a lot of stuff we'd been doing in the Cavern or Hamburg. 'Three Cool Cats' I think we did. There's some good stuff and they were well recorded.80
GEORGE: After the Hamburg period we were driving up and down, doing gigs at the BBC in London a lot. We got a better van and made more money and then a better van still.
RINGO: There are lots of driving stories. This is how a band gets close: in the van, going up and down the M1, freezing your balls off, fighting for the seats. A lot of madness went on in the van, but it got us together. We had a Bedford and Neil would drive. There'd be the passenger seat for one of us, and the other three - whichever three; the rest of us - whichever three; the rest of us - would sit behind on the bench seat, which was pretty miserable.
We would go everywhere in the van and the amps and everything would fit in it with us. I remember sliding all over Scotland. It was bloody freezing in the winter.
JOHN: But we always got screams in Scotland. I suppose they haven't got much else to do up there. Touring was a relief - just to get out and break new ground. We were beginning to feel stale and cramped.67
RINGO: We never stopped anywhere. If we were in Elgin on a Thursday and needed to be in Portsmouth on Friday, we would just drive. We didn't know how to stop this van! If we had a day off and we were going to Liverpool from London, we would just drive.
There was only a small piece of motorway in those days, so we'd be on the A5 for hours. Some nights it was so foggy that we'd be doing one mile an hour, but we'd still keep going. We were like homing pigeons; we just had to keep getting home.
One night I remember, when it was very, very cold, the three of us on the bench seat were lying on top of each other with a bottle of whisky. When the one on top got so cold that hypothermia was setting in, it would be his turn to get on the bottom. We'd warm each other up that way; keep swigging the whisky, keep going home.
PAUL: Quite an image. People think of stardom as glamorous, and there's us freezing - lying literally on top of each other, as a Beatle sandwich.
GEORGE: There were a lot of good times in the van; all the rough-and-tumble stuff that happens. And there were some hysterical things that happened. I had a good crash once. We were coming over the Pennines, the roads were icy and I was driving pretty quickly as we came through what turned out to be Goole in Yorkshire. Everything was fine until suddenly I went into a right-hand turn. It was a bit sharper than it looked and we went up onto the grass bank, which then slopped down to the left. The whole van tipped as we went down the embankment, at the bottom of which was a wire-mesh fence with concrete posts around a Burton's factory.
We bounced along - bump, bump, bump - knocking down all these concrete poles and finally came to a stop with Neil sitting in the front seat next to me, howling, 'Ow, ow, my arm!' The accident had ripped the filler cap off and the petrol was pouring out. We got out and had to shove T-shirts and things into the hole to try to stop the flow of petrol.
We'd started to push the van back up on the road when, out of nowhere, came, ''Allo, 'allo, 'allo, what's all this then?' It was a cop, and he booked us for crashing. A couple of months later I went to court; Brian came with me for moral support. (He did stand by his lads.) I think they banned me for three months.
RINGO: Another great van story was when George and Paul were both planning to drive the van; George got into the driving seat and Paul had the keys, and there was no way one was going to help the other. We couldn't go anywhere. We sat there for two hours. When you're touring, things can be pretty tense sometimes and the littlest thing can suddenly turn into a mountain; that was one of the great ones.
GEORGE: AS A BAND, WE WERE TIGHT. THAT WAS ONE THING TO BE SAID ABOUT US; WE WERE REALLY TIGHT, AS FRIENDS. WE COULD ARGUE A LOT AMONG OURSELVES, BUT WE WERE VERY, VERY CLOSE TO EACH OTHER, AND IN THE COMPANY OF OTHER PEOPLE OR OTHER SITUATIONS WE'D ALWAYS STICK TOGETHER.
If we were arguing, it was always about things like space: 'Who's going to sit on the spare seat?' - because everyone else had to sit on the wheel arches or the floor all the way to Scotland or somewhere. We used to get ratty with each other, pushing, protesting, 'It's my turn in the front.'
PAUL: There were a lot of laughs in the back of the car, just naming albums and chatting about birds and other groups' music and things. I can't remember many deep conversations. There was a lot of giggling though.
I do remember one incident: going up the motorway when the windscreen got knocked out by a pebble. Our great road manager Mal Evans was driving and he just put his hat backwards on his hand, punched the windscreen out completely, and drove on. This was winter in Britain and there was freezing fog and Mal was having to look out for the kerb all the way up to Liverpool - 200 miles.
RINGO: Neil and Mal were all we ever had. Throughout our fame, we just had two guys looking after us. Mal joined us full-time in 1963. He was our bodyguard, but he was great at it because he would never hurt anyone. He was just big enough to say, 'Excuse me, let the boys through.' He was pretty strong. He could lift the bass amp on his own, which was a miracle. He should have been in the circus.
MAL EVANS: I walked down this little street called Mathew Street that I'd never noticed before and came to this place, the Cavern Club. I'd never been inside a club, but I heard this music coming out - real rock it sounded, a bit like Elvis. So I paid my shilling and went in....
GEORGE: Mal used to come into the Cavern. He worked as a telephone engineer around the corner and would come into the club in his lunch hour. He'd sit there among all the other people and request Elvis songs. After a while we caught on that here was this guy who always wanted Elvis songs, so we'd say, 'Well, now we'd like to do a request for Mal.' After a while he got a job there as a bouncer in the evenings.
One time Neil was sick and we needed someone to drive us to London, so we asked Mal. He was a nice bloke, and by this time we'd been chatting with him a lot. He had to take a couple of days off work to do it. Then as we were expanding with all the gigs we realised we had to get someone else to drive the van and leave Neil to look after us and our suits and all of that. It was a unanimous thought. So Mal left his job and came to work for us.
NEIL ASPINALL: My weight went down to about eight stone on one tour, and I told Brian I needed somebody to help. That's when we got Mal Evans. We all knew Mal the bouncer, he was the 'gentle giant' - a good friend.
Mal started driving the van and looking after all the equipment and the stage-clothes, while I tended to look after The Beatles and the press and other people in our lives. And I had to teach Mal how to set up Ringo's drums! (Ringo has said that at first I wouldn't set up his drums. But I did.)
PAUL: Mal Evans got shot by the LA Police Department in 1976. It was so crazy, so crazy. Mal was a big loveable bear of a roadie; he would go over the top occasionally, but we all knew him and never had any problems. The LAPD weren't so fortunate. They were just told that he was upstairs with a shotgun and so they ran up, kicked the door in and shot him. His girlfriend had told them, 'He's a bit moody and he's got some downers.' Had I been there I would have been able to say, 'Mal, don't be silly.' In fact, any of his friends could have talked him out of it without any sweat, because he was not a nutter. But his girlfriend - she was an LA girl - didn't know him that well. She should not have rung the cops, but that's the way it goes... a thump on the door, 'Where is he? Where's the assailant Bang, bang, bang. They don't ask questions, they shoot first.
MAL EVANS: I'd never seen a drum-kit close up before. I didn't understand any of it. Neil helped me the first couple of days, but the first time I was on my own was terrible. It was a huge stage and my mind went blank. I didn't know where to put anything. I asked a drummer from another group to help me. I didn't realise each drummer likes his cymbals at a special height. He did them his own way, but they were useless to Ringo.
The worst of all was at the Finsbury Empire in London, when I lost John's guitar. It was one he'd had for years as well. It just disappeared. 'Where's my Jumbo?' he said. I didn't know - it's still a mystery.
It was great meeting all the people I'd seen on TV: I was really star-struck. I quickly realised of course that people were being nice, trying to get to know me, just to use me to get to The Beatles. I soon got to spot them a mile off.
GEORGE: He loved his job, he was brilliant, and I often regret that he got killed. Right to this day I keep thinking, 'Mal, where are you?' If only he was out there now. He was such good fun, but he was also very helpful: he could do everything. He had a bag that he developed over the years, because it would always be: 'Mal, have you got an Elastoplast? Mal, have you got a screwdriver? Mal, have you got a bottle of this? Have you got that?' And he always had everything. If he didn't have it, he'd get it very quickly. He was one of those people who loved what he was doing and didn't have any problem about service. Everybody serves somebody in one way or another, but some people don't like the idea. Mal had no problem with it. He was very humble, but not without dignity; it was not belittling for him to do what we wanted, so he was perfect for us because that was what we needed.
PAUL: It was a saying of Mal's that: 'To serve is to rule.'
GEORGE: I remember once Mal put a guitar and some suitcase on a rack on the back of the Austin Princess held on with some bungee ropes. We were on the A1 in Yorkshire. The boot was open and I heard a noise. I remember looking out of the window and seeing the guitar, still in its case, bouncing down the road and me shouting to the driver to stop (we had about three or four different chauffeurs over all the years), but it was too late because there was a truck behind us that ran straight over it. I think it was a Gibson acoustic.
It was hard, organising all the equipment; although there wasn't much - just a drum-kit and three amplifiers. But there was still quite a lot to get in and out. Packing up, Neil would have to get the equipment, carry some out, open the van, put it in the van and then lock the van so it wouldn't get stolen; and then go back in, get the next bit and come back out, open the van, put it in, lock it again. That's why we needed an extra hand after a while; Neil had had to do everything.
Our early van became the centre of attention every time it pulled up. It was brush-painted in red and grey, and from head to foot was covered in graffiti - girls' names, and things like 'I love you John'. It looked interesting, but the moment anybody saw it they would feel free to write all over it. It also presented the problem that if anything was going to get nicked, it was obvious where it was kept. Neil always had to worry about that.
NEIL ASPINALL: They did some funny gigs. I remember the worst show was when they played Crewe. There were only five people there. There were more of us than there were of the audience, but they still went on stage twice, and the five people stayed. When we went back there a month later, there were 700 people. (Probably including the original five.)
PAUL: Birmingham was a hard gig. Whenever we played there, they would double book us: two places very close together, they thought - Wolverhampton and Birmingham, say, or Wolverhampton and Coventry. It would be quite good for us inasmuch as we'd get a double-pay night, but it was very hard. If the latter of the venues had a revolving stage, we'd have to set up while the other band was playing, trying to tune up by holding the guitar close to our ears, over the din of the other band. And when they swung the stage round we'd be praying we hadn't got all our leads caught up.
On the longer journeys we would stop at service stations such as the Watford Gap to get a nice greasy meal. Occasionally we might see Gerry Marsden and the guys or other Liverpool bands there, and we'd have a laugh and exchange jokes.
RINGO: Elgin was one of the strangest gigs we played. We'd got all the way to the outskirts of Scotland to find an L-shaped room - and we were playing at the wrong end! I have this vision of the audience all wearing wellies; farmers and country people. The bar was on one side and we were in the other, and you could tell which side was doing the business. In those days they were still laughing at us because we'd be out there in the leather and stomping. Then we got in my car and slid all the way to the next gig.
On that tour we were staying in one of those theatrical boarding-houses. The rumour went round that before we came they'd had a hunchback staying, and we all got a bit worried that we'd be having his bed. George and John went to stay in another place but Paul and I took a chance that we wouldn't catch the hunchback.
We stayed in guesthouses a lot. (We only started to stay in hotels from mid-1963.) We used to come down to London and stay at one in Russell Square.
We'd have two rooms; sharing two and two, and it could be any two. At the beginning it always used to be Paul with me, because I was the new boy and the other two didn't really want to deal with my sleeping habits, whatever they may have been. Maybe I snored, maybe my feet stank; maybe theirs did, but they knew each other. They'd been through a lot of life, I still had to get into it with them.
GEORGE: Doubling up rooms on the tours, after Pete Best left, I used to pair with John because I felt I'd been instrumental in talking them into getting Ringo into the band. I thought that rather than me hang out with Ringo, it would be best if he shared with one of them because that would integrate him better.
RINGO: Often at small hotels, when we got back from a gig there'd be nothing to eat. We would have to beg for a sandwich that had been made at four in the afternoon. They'd say, 'We've had Alma Cogan here, you know, and she didn't put up a fuss. Dinner's over by eight.' So we'd say, 'Hey, man, we've been playing, we just want something to eat. Couldn't you open the bar or something?' - 'Oh, no, sir, I don't think we could open the bar. We couldn't do that - you're not in London now.' The night staff were terrible - poor people.
The next morning Neil would wake us up and get us to the gig on time, do the lights and the sound. Executive material.
RINGO: First you play every free gig in the world. Then you start playing clubs and fighting for some money. Then you play dance halls, and suddenly you are in a theatre with a seated audience (that didn't last long). I loved the theatres; I still do. I love playing venues like Radio City Music Hall. I love the contact. (We lost the contact, playing stadiums. I don't really ever want to play stadiums again. It was thrilling in 1964, because we were the first to do it. Now, I don't like going to see bands if they're playing in a stadium. It's like television - you might as well wait until the video comes out.)
NEIL ASPINALL: They started touring with the Arthur Howes Agency. He put on tours playing all the Gaumont Theatres, Odeons and other cinemas around the country. The first person that they toured with was Helen Shapiro.
I was now suddenly supposed to be handling complicated lighting systems. It wasn't computerised as it is today. Then there were the footlights, batons at the side and overhead lights. On the first night, Johnny Clapson, the Shapiro tour manager, asked who The Beatles' road managers was. There was no answer. In the end he said, 'Well, is anybody with The Beatles?' I said, 'Yeah, I am,' and he said, 'Well, you're their road manager.' So then Clapson asked, 'Where's your lighting plot?' - 'What lighting plot?' - 'Look, we're on in half an hour,' he said. 'I'll do the lights for the first house. You watch what I do and after that you're on your own.'
That's how and when I became The Beatles' official road manager. I never thought about the title before. I'd just done everything that they didn't do. I did whatever was needed, and that's how it's always been.
I had to do a different lighting plot every night, because every time we got to a new theatre (depending, say, on what pantomime they'd had on at Christmas) they had differently coloured or operated lights. If we played a cinema, the projection guys - who normally showed the movie - would use the projectors as the spotlights. They would always have the spotlight on John and Paul was singing, and on Paul when John was singing. They would never get it right; but they would be up there and I would be down in the house trying to scream through a little microphone with thousands of kids screaming too. It was always chaotic. I used to try and sort them out at the beginning of the show: take them something to drink; bribe them into getting it right.
GEORGE: The sound situation was bad. In some places all they had was one microphone. The Empire Theatre in those days had only one, coming up from the floor in the front centre of the stage. (I remember seeing The Everly Brothers there, both singing into this one mike. They'd sing 'Wake up, little Susie, wake up...' and then both reach forward with their guitars and hold them up to the big old mike and strum away. We used to have to do that.) Later, when they upgraded the sound system, venues started having two microphones and then the mikes came on moveable stands. We used to specify two mikes after a while, so that we could do our routine. It's funny, though; we never had the drums or the amplifiers miked up.
JOHN: There was always trouble with mikes on every tour. No theatre ever got it how we liked it. Even rehearsing in the afternoon first and telling them how we wanted it, it still wouldn't be right. They'd either be in the wrong position or not loud enough. They would just set it up as they would for amateur talent night. Perhaps we had a chip about them not taking our music seriously. Brian would sit up in the control room and we'd shot at him. He'd signal back that that was all they could do. It drove us mad.67
RINGO: The single 'Please Please Me' went to Number One in February 1963, when we were touring with Helen Shapiro. We used to open for her, then hang out until the next show; it was always a bone - then suddenly, we had a Number One!
GEORGE: That tour was when we first did the Moss Empire circuit, the biggest gigs that there were in England at the time, other than the Palladium. We were quite happy with that - Helen Shapiro was established, she'd been around and had a bunch of hits. But when 'Please Please Me' got to Number One, all the people coming to the show were just waiting for The Beatles. It was embarrassing, because she was a very nice person.
JOHN: We'd had a Top Thirty entry with 'Love Me Do' and we really thought we were on top of the world. Then came 'Please Please Me' - and wham! We tried to make it as simple as possible. Some of the stuff we've written in the past has been a bit way-out, but we aimed this one straight at the hit parade.63
It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song. I remember the day I wrote it. I remember the pink eiderdown over the bed, sitting in one of the bedrooms in my house on Menlove Avenue, my auntie's place. I heard Roy Orbison doing 'Only The Lonely' on the radio. I was also always intrigued by the words to a Bing Crosby song that went, 'Please lend a little ear to my pleas.' The double use of the word 'please'. So it was a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby.80
But what made it more exciting was that we almost abandoned it as the B side of 'Love Me Do'. We changed our minds only because we were so tired the night we did 'Love me Do'. We'd been going over it a few times and when we came to the question of the flipside, we intended using 'Please Please Me'. Our recording manager, George Martin, thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting very tired, though, and we just couldn't seem to get it right. We are conscientious about our work and we don't like to rush things.63
GEORGE MARTIN: In the first year, I had the final decision on songs (I didn't later on, but I did then), but they persuaded me to let them have their own songs on both sides of their first single. I was still thinking that we should release their recording of 'How Do You Do It'. They said, 'Couldn't we do one of our own, "Please Please Me"?' When I herd it originally, it was a Roy Orbison type of song, a very slow rocker, with a high vocal part; rather dreary, to be honest.
PAUL: We sang it and George Martin said, 'Can we change the tempo?' We said, 'What's that?' He said, 'Make it a bit faster. Let me try it.' And he did. We thought, 'Oh, that's all right, yes.' Actually, we were a bit embarrassed that he had found a better tempo than we had.
JOHN: Eventually, George Martin suggested we do another song. 'Leave "Please Please Me" until some other time,' he said, 'and see if you can tidy it up a bit.'
In the following weeks we went over it again and again. We changed the tempo a little, we altered the words slightly and we went over the idea of featuring the harmonica, just as we'd done on 'Love Me Do'. By the time the session came around we were so happy with the result, we couldn't get it recorded fast enough.63
GEORGE MARTIN: They came back with a speed-up version, and I said, 'OK, let's give it a whirl,' and at the end of that session I was able to say to them, 'You've got your first Number One. Great.'
NEIL ASPINALL: That's where they wanted to be Number One; but with it came the beginning of Beatlemania. They'd had a lot of madness in Liverpool, but they knew all the kids there. They didn't try to jump on you or overturn the van or rip the wing mirrors off. Suddenly this absolute craziness was going on, which was very exciting, but difficult to deal with. Now I had to organise getting in and out of theatres, instead of just being able to walk in normally.
Now they had BBC shows and on office, and a fan club in London - Cliff Richard had his own fan club, so that's an indication of how things were going. The first move was to get hand-out photographs made, all posed in the collarless jackets. They signed them in front of the fans; I gave them away.
When they performed, it was just a permanent scream. It was mainly girls, but it was a strange thing about The Beatles that there were a lot of guys there as well. They appealed to everybody.
PAUL: We were quite glad for a short period that people were screaming; because with some of those early gigs, we wished that someone would cover the noise we weren't always too good. I can't remember where it was but one night we were very out of tune and it was fairly disastrous, but we just soldiered on.
JOHN: The worst part is getting out of the theatre. When you think you can get away safety and you've managed to get into the coach, you find that some nut has let the tyres down.63
GEORGE: Some of these places, the big theatres, by the time we'd had a record or two out - on the tour with Chris Montez, say - there would be girls standing outside, the early birds. We would pull up at the gig and run through them to the stage door. And if you could quickly suss out the ones who looked half decent, you could push them in through the door with you, slam it behind, and then they'd come up to the room...
RINGO: After Number One, where else is there to go? Number One was It. After that, of course, every bloody thing we did was Number One and it got strange because in a weird way we were waiting for the one that wasn't Number One. And when that happened we felt, 'Thank God that's over.' It was a lot of pressure: we had a dozen in a row that went to Number One, so the one that didn't was a real relief.
JOHN: A year ago, before all this happened, we could enter and leave any theatre, stay in an hotel, have a night out, and go shopping without being mobbed. Things we really enjoy doing have now become pipe dreams. Perhaps one day it will all die down, then we can go back to living normal, peaceful lives.63
JOHN: THE FIRST ALBUM WAS RECORDED IN ONE LONG TWELVE-HOUR SESSION.76
GEORGE: THE SECOND ONE TOOK EVEN LONGER!
NEIL ASPINALL: From the early recording sessions they always worked in No. 2 Studio, at Abbey Road. The control room was on a higher level. There were stairs coming down into the studio; it was a quite big, barn-like room. I know The Beatles were very nervous at first, but then I guess anybody would be at their first recording session. It was really a learning process - not just for them but for George Martin too, and they worked pretty well.
JOHN: We were in a recording studio for the first time in our lives, and it was done in twelve hours because they wouldn't spend any more money.
That record tried to capture us live, and was the nearest thing to what we might have sounded like to the audiences in Hamburg and Liverpool. Still, you don't get that live atmosphere of the crowd stomping on the beat with you; but it's the nearest you can get to knowing what we sounded like before we became the 'clever' Beatles.76
One of the things is we worked without echo. When they came out we couldn't afford one. By the time we could afford it we didn't like it so we never used it on stage. It was a good thing, not getting echo because we would probably have sounded like all the other groups.63
GEORGE MARTIN: I had been up to the Cavern and I'd seen what they could do; I knew repertoire, knew what they were able to perform and I said, 'Let's record every song you've got, come down to the studios and we'll just whistle through them in a day.' We started about eleven in the morning, finished about eleven at night, and recorded a complete album during that time.
To begin with, The Beatles didn't really have much say in recording operations. It was only after the first year that they started getting really interested in studio techniques. But they always wanted to get the thing right, so it wasn't a one-take operation. They would listen to it, and then do two or three takes until they got it. It was only later on that they were able to afford the indulgence of more time and lots of re-takes.
RINGO: For me it is all a bit of a blur. The sessions and those time until we did the album - and that, too - are a bit of a blur.
We didn't rehearse for our first album. In my head, it was done 'live'. We did the songs through first, so they could get some sort of sound on each one; then we had to just run, run them down.
GEORGE: We were permanently on the edge. We ran through all the songs before we recorded anything. We'd play a bit and George Martin would say, 'Well, what else have you got?'
'Do You Want To Know A Secret' was 'my song' on the album. I didn't like my vocal on it. I didn't know how to sing; nobody told me how to sing: 'Listen, do da do, Do you want to know a secret? do da do. Do you promise not to tell...'
JOHN: I can't say I wrote 'Do You Want To Know A Secret' for George. I was in the first apartment I'd ever had that wasn't shared by fourteen other students - gals and guys at art school. I'd just married Cyn, and Brian Epstein gave us his secret little apartment that he kept in Liverpool for his sexual liaisons; separate from his home life.
So I had this thing in my head and I wrote it and gave it to George to sing.80
GEORGE: We might have run through 'Keep Your hands Off My Baby' (Little Eva's follow-up to 'The Loco-Motion') by coffin and King at that session. Sometimes we learnt songs and did them once or twice and then gave them up: like Paul at the Aintree Institute singing 'That's When Your Heartaches begin', the Elvis record where he talks in the middle. Have you ever heard such a dump line? - 'Love is a thing that we never can share.'
'Anna' by Arthur Alexander was on the album, too. I remember having several records by him, and John sang three or four of his songs. ('Soldier Of Love' was one; it appears on the BBC recordings.) Arthur Alexander used a peculiar drum pattern, which we tried to copy; but we couldn't quite do it, so in the end we'd invented something quite bizarre but equally original. A lot of the time we tried to copy things but wouldn't be able to, and so we'd end up with our own versions. (I'm sure that's how reggae came about. I think people were playing calypso music and listening to rock'n'roll in the Sixties and thought, 'We'll try that,' but they couldn't do it and it came out as reggae. Now we all try to play reggae and can't.)
RINGO: We started around noon and finished at midnight, in my book, with John being really hoarse by 'Twist And Shout'. We knew the songs, because that was the act we did all over the country. That was why we could easily go into the studio and record them. The mike situation wasn't complicated either: one in front of each amp, two overheads for the drums, one for the singer and one for the bass-drum. You still never hear the bass-drum and, now I think about it, I'm not sure if it's not just a confused memory of mine that there ever was one.
GEORGE MARTIN: I knew that 'Twist And Shout' was a real larynx-tearer and I said, 'We're not going to record that until the very end of the day, because if we record it early on, you're not going to have any voice left.' So that was the last thing we did that night. We did takes, and after that John didn't have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound.
JOHN: The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn't the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed, it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn't bother me. You can hear that I'm just a frantic guy doing his best.76 We sang for twelve hours, almost non-stop. We had colds, and we were concerned how it would affect the record. At the end of the day, all we wanted to do was drink pints of milk.
Waiting to hear that LP played back was one of our most worrying experiences. We're perfectionists: if it had come out any old way, we'd have wanted to do it all over again. As it happens, we were very happy with the result.63
GEORGE: The LP cover was photographed with us looking over the balcony at the EMI offices in Manchester Square. It was by Angus McBean - and I've still got the suit I wore then. (I wore it in 1990 to a party. It was a Fifties party but I cheated and wore a Sixties suit. It looked as if it fitted, but I had to have the trousers open at the top.)
We went back in 1969 and did the same picture for the 'Red' and the 'Blue' albums, although we had planned it to be the Let it Be cover at one point.
Right up to and even through the psychedelic period, EMI was like the Civil Service. they did train all their engineers properly. They would start on tape copies, and then would become tape operators, and then assist with demo sessions, and only after they had been through all the different departments, they might be allowed to engineer a demo session. Or, if suddenly there was no engineer available, a trainee might get his big break. They trained them well, but to still have to go into work in a suit and tie in 1967 was a bit silly.
PAUL: I remember being pretty nervous on most occasions in the recording studio, but very excited; a nervous excitement. It was fantastic to be in Abbey Road. I remember meeting Sir Donald Wolfit on the front steps: we were coming in, he was going out, and it struck me as something from out of the 'Just William' books - the great man! He had a coat with a big astrakhan collar - very theatrical - and great big bushy eyebrows. He looked down at us from beneath these eyebrows, rather patronisingly but benevolently, and said in a deep voice, 'Hello, how are you?'
We weren't even allowed into the control room, then. It was Us and Them. They had white shirts and ties in the control room, they were grown-ups. In the corridors and back rooms there were guys in full-length lab coats, maintenance men and engineers, and then there was us, the tradesmen. We came in through the tradesman's entrance and were helped by the lower people in the organisation to set up our stuff. That's how it was and stayed like until we became very famous (and even then those conditions still existed except that we were doing late-night recordings from the time of Sgt Pepper).
We gradually became the workmen who took over the factory. In the end, we had the run of the whole building. It would be us, the recording people on our session and a doorman. There would be nobody else there. It was amazing, just wandering around, having a smoke in the echo chamber. I think we knew the place better than the chairman of the company, because we lived there. I even got a house just round the corner, I loved it so much. I didn't want ever to leave.
GEORGE: In March we toured with Tommy Roe and Chris Montez, who were supposed to share equal top billing: one of them closing the first house and one the second house for the show. Chris Montez had a big hit, 'Let's Dance', and Tommy Roe had 'Sheila'.
The Beatles were getting more and more popular - unfortunately for Tommy and Chris. barking in London was the opening night of the tour and there was a big huddled meeting after the show because Arthur Howes, the promoter, said The Beatles had better close the first half. I think Chris Montez was closing the end of the performance and Tommy Roe the end of the first half. We said, 'No, no, Tommy and Chris close,' because they still sounded like big names to us. I remember Tommy Roe getting all uptight, saying, 'I'm contracted, and I'm going to leave if I don't close the show!'
I felt sorry for Chris Montez; he was just a little Mexican bloke. He did a slow song on a chair, a Spanish tune, and the Teds were all shouting, 'Boo, fuck off.' He said, 'Oh, you don't like it, OK,' and he stopped and put down his guitar and tried something else. It was sad really, but Beatlemania was coming on; 'Please Please Me' had been a hit and 'From Me To You' was on the way.
NEIL ASPINALL: The next big-name tour was with Roy Orbison, in May...
PAUL: At the back of the bus Roy Orbison would be writing something like 'Pretty Woman', so our competitiveness would come out, which was good. He would play us his song, and we'd say, 'Oh, it's great, Roy. Have you just written that?' But we'd be thinking, 'We have to have something as good.' The next move was obvious - write one ourselves. And we did. It was 'From Me To You'.
JOHN: We were selling records but we were still second on the bill, and one of our first big tours was second on the bill to Roy Orbison. It was pretty hard to keep up with that man. He really put on a show; well, they all did, but Orbison had that fantastic voice.75
GEORGE: Even right up to when he died he was a killer, because of his songs, and he had the most incredible voice. He'd had so many hit songs and people could sit and listen to him all night. He didn't have to do anything, he didn't have to wiggle his legs, in fact he never even twitched; he was like marble. The only things that moved were his lips - even when he hit those high notes he never strained. He was quite a miracle, unique.
We soon took over as top of the bill. We had to come on after Roy. They had a trick in those theatres where they would close some of the curtains on the stage so we could set up behind them while the other bloke was still out there doing his tunes. I can't remember where his backing group was, but Roy would be out there every night and at the end he'd be singing, 'She's walking back to me, do do do do do da do do-do...' And the audience would go wild. We'd be waiting there and he'd do another big encore and we'd be thinking, 'How are we going to follow this?' It was really serious stuff.
JOHN: Until now we'd never topped a bill. You can't measure success, but if you could, then the minute I knew we'd been successful was when Roy Orbison asked us if he could record two of our songs.63
RINGO: It was terrible, following Roy. He'd slay them and they'd scream for more. As it got near our turn, we would hide behind the curtains whispering to each other, 'Guess who's next, folks. It's your favourite rave!' But once we got on stage it was always OK.
JOHN: I'VE WRITTEN THINGS WITHOUT PAUL FOR YEARS. WE'VE ALWAYS WRITTEN TOGETHER AND SEPARATELY. ANOTHER WRITER, I DON'T NEED - GEORGE MAYBE; I'D WRITE WITH HIM.
RINGO: The real thrill, after we'd made 'Love Me Do' (even though I wasn't on it), 'Please Please Me' and 'From Me To You' - the first three singles - was that we always knew when they were going to be on the radio. Brian would say, 'Boys, it's on at twenty past seven.' We'd be in the car and stop wherever we were to listen. The other great deal was that every time a record of ours moved up the charts, we would have a celebratory dinner. You'll notice if you look at The Beatles from when we started recording, in the first eighteen months our weight went right up because we were eating all this food. That's when I discovered smoked salmon. I never ate salmon that hadn't come out of a tin until I was twenty-two; I still like it out of a tin.
GEORGE: We had four hits in 1963. Records were going gold before they had even been released - all kinds of things were happening.
The third single 'From Me To You' was really important, because that put the stamp on it. We'd had the first one, 'Love me Do', which did well. Then they let us back in the studio and we did 'Please Please Me', then we had the album, and then 'From Me To You', the success of which assured us some fame.
JOHN: The night Paul and I wrote 'From Me To You', we were on the Helen Shapiro tour, on the coach, travelling from York to Shrewsbury. We weren't taking ourselves seriously - just fooling about on the guitar - when we began to get a good melody line, and we really started to work at it. Before that journey was over, we'd completed the lyric, everything. I think the first line was mine and we took it from there. What puzzled us was why we'd thought of a name like 'From Me To You'. It had me thinking when I picked up the NME to see how we were doing in the charts. Then I realised - we'd got the inspiration from reading a copy on the coach. Paul and I been talking about one of the letters in the 'From You To Us' column.
We'd already written 'Thank You Girl' as the follow-up to 'Please Please me'. This new number was to be the B side. We were so pleased with it, we knew we just had to make it the A side, 'Thank You Girl' the B.63 It was far bluesier when we wrote it; today you could arrange it pretty funky.80
PAUL: We'd had a fair bit of practice writing over the years, though our legendary 'first one hundred' was probably in reality less than half that amount of songs. 'Please Please Me' was more John than me; I didn't have such a hand in it. 'PS I Love You' was more me. 'From me To You' was both of us, very much together. (I remember being very pleased with the middle eight because there was a strange chord in it, and it went into a minor: 'I've got arms that long...' We thought that was a very big step.) 'She Loves You' was custom-built for the record we had to make. 'Love Me Do' was a bit of a 'two-song'.
Crediting the songs jointly to Lennon and McCartney was a decision we made very early on, because we aspired to be Rodgers and Hammerstein. The only thing we knew about songwriting was that it was done by people like them, and Lerner and Loewe. We'd heard these names and associated songwriting with them, so the two-name combination sounded interesting.
I wanted it to be 'McCartney/Lennon', but John had the stronger personality and I think he fixed things with Brian before I got there. That was John's was. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that; I wasn't quite as skilful. He was one and a half years older than me, and at that age it meant a little more worldliness.
I remember going to a meeting and being told: 'We think you should credit the songs to "Lennon/McCartney".' I said, 'No, it can't be Lennon first, how about "McCartney/Lennon"?' They all said, '"Lennon/McCartney" sounds better; it has a better ring.' I said, 'No, "McCartney/Lennon" sounds good, too.' But I had to say, 'Oh, all right, sod it!' - although we agreed that if we ever wanted it could be changed around to make me equal. In fact, the Please Please Me album went out with the tracks all credited 'McCartney/Lennon'. Lennon/McCartney became a blanket term, but nowadays I occasionally fancy switching it on songs like 'Yesterday' to show who did what. So everything became Lennon/McCartney. But by now, we'd achieved our aim, we'd become like Rodgers and Hammerstein. We were now a songwriting duo.
JOHN: Paul and I saw eye to eye musically a lot in the old days. Geminis and Libras are supposed to get on well together, according to the astrologers' theories. And I suppose we worked well together because we both liked the same music.71
We sometimes wrote together and sometimes didn't.70 In the early days, we'd write things separately because Paul was more advanced than I was. He was always a couple of chords ahead and his songs usually had more chords in them. His dad played the piano. He was always playing pop and jazz standards and Paul picked things up from him.71 Some of Paul's he wrote separately. 'The One After 909' on the whatsit LP [Let It Be] is one that I wrote separately from Paul, when seventeen or eighteen in Liverpool.
We wrote together because we enjoyed it a lot sometimes.70 It was the joy of being able to write, to know you could do it. There was also the bit about what they would like. The audience was always in my head: 'They'll dance to this,' and such. So most of the songs were oriented just to the dances.74 And also they'd say, 'Well, are you going to make an album?' and we'd knock off a few songs, like a job.70 Though I always felt that the best songs were the ones that came to you.
If you ask me to write a song for a movie or something, I can sit down and sort of make a song. I wouldn't be thrilled with it, I find it difficult to do, but I can do it. I call it craftsmanship. I've had enough years at it to put something together, but I never enjoyed that. I like it to be inspirational, from the spirit.80
PAUL: SOMETIMES I'VE GOT A GUITAR IN MY HANDS; SOMETIMES I'M SITTING AT A PIANO. IT DEPENDS, WHATEVER INSTRUMENT I'M ON I WRITE WITH. EVERY TIME IT'S DIFFERENT. 'ALL MY LOVING' I WROTE LIKE A BIT OF POETRY, AND PUT A SONG TO IT LATER.65
JOHN: Usually, one of us writes most of the song and the other helps finish it off, adding a bit of tune or a bit of lyric.71 If I've written a song with a verse and I've had it for a couple of weeks and I don't seem to be getting any more verses, I say to Paul, and then we either both write, or he'll say, 'We'll have this, or that.'
It's a bit haphazard. There's no rules for writing. We write them anywhere, but we usually just sit down, Paul and I, with a guitar and a piano, or two guitars, or a piano and a guitar and Geoff (that's George).65 It's all the combinations you can think of; every combination of two people writing a song. And we obviously influence each other, like groups and people do.68
GEORGE MARTIN: As producer I didn't have tremendous input in their lyrics. I would tell them if I didn't think a lyric sounded good or suggest they ought to write another eight bars or so, but they tended to give me the finished songs. My work was mainly a question of contributing arrangement ideas.
PAUL: John and I wrote 'She Loves You' together. There was a Bobby Rydell song out at the time and, as often happens, you think of one song when you write another.
We were in a van up in Newcastle. I'd planned an 'answering song' where a couple of us would sing 'She loves you...' and the other one answers, 'Yeah, yeah.' We decided that that was a crummy idea as it was, but at least we then had the idea foe a song called 'She Loves You'. So we sat in the hotel bedroom for a few hours and wrote it.
We took it to George Martin and sang 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeaah...' with that tight little 6th-cluster we had at the end. (The 6th chord idea was George's - George Harrison's.) George Martin said, 'It's very corny, that end; it's like the old days, "De de dum dum wowww" - I would never end on a 6th.' But we said, 'It's such a great sound it doesn't matter; we've got to have it. It's the greatest harmony sound ever.'
He would often give us parameters, like, 'You mustn't double a 3rd,' or, 'It's corny to end with a 6th, and a 7th is even cornier.' We'd say, 'We like it, man; it's bluesy.' It was good that we could override a lot of his so-called professional decisions with our innocence. If anyone now asks, 'What is the sign of a great songwriter?' I say, 'If the songs sound good.' So we never listened to any rules.
My father said when he heard the song, 'Son, there's enough Americaisms around. Couldn't you sing "Yes, Yes, yes" just for once?' I said, 'You don't understand, Dad, it wouldn't work.'
JOHN: Ever heard anyone from Liverpool singing 'Yes'? It's 'YEAH!'
That was the main catchphrase. We'd written the song and we needed more, so we had 'yeah, yeah, yeah', and it caught on.67
It was Paul's idea: instead of singing 'I love you' again, we'd have a third party. That kind of little detail is still in his work. He will write a story about someone. I'm more inclined to write about myself.80
PAUL: Brian Matthew, the radio presenter, reviewed 'She Loves You' in Melody Maker, and called it 'banal rubbish'. None of us had heard the word 'banal' and we thought, '"Banal"? What's that? Soppy? Too rebellious? What does "banal" mean?' But when the record zoomed to Number One in the Melody Maker chart the next week, he was on the front page disclaiming his comments: 'No, no - at first I thought maybe it was a little banal... but it grows on you.'
I'm sure we paid attention to the critics, so that's a golden memory for me. Criticism didn't really stop us and it shouldn't ever stop anyone, because critics are only the people who can't get a record deal themselves.
Later, William Mann in the Times wrote of the descending 'Aeolian cadence' in our song 'Not A Second Time' and the 'pandiatonic clusters' that came flying out of us at the end of 'This Boy'. We hadn't been conscious of any of that. We just did our songs in hotel rooms, whenever we had a spare moment; John and I, sitting on twin beds with guitars. He on one bed, me on another.
JOHN: Don't ask me what I think of our songs. I'm just not a good judge. I suppose the trouble is that we're so close to them. But I can't help having a quiet giggle when straight-faced critics start feeding all sorts of hidden meanings into the stuff we write. William Mann wrote the intellectual article about The Beatles. He uses a whole lot of musical terminology and he's a twit.65 I still don't know what it means at the end, but he made us acceptable to the intellectuals. It worked and we were flattered. I wrote 'Not A Second Time' and, really it was just chords like any other chords. To me, I was writing a Smokey Robinson or something at the time.72
Intellectuals have the problem of having to understand it. They can't feel anything. The only way to get an intellectual is to talk to him and then play him the record. You couldn't put a record on and just let him hear it.71
GEORGE: 'This Boy' was one of our three-part harmony numbers. There were a lot of harmony songs around. Harmony in Western music is natural. Paul claimed that his father taught us three-part harmony, but that's not the case from my memory. When you think back to early rock'n'roll there was always stuff like Frankie Lymon and the Tennagers, The Everly Brothers, The Platters. Everybody had harmonies. It was natural to sing a harmony sometimes - with the Everlys, it was a permanent thing.
JOHN: That was the thing about The Beatles: they never stuck to one style. They never did just blues, or just rock. We loved all music. We did 'In My Life', 'Anna' on the early things and lots of ballady things. My image was more rocky but if you look down those Beatle tracks, I'm right there with all the sentimental things, the same as Paul. I love that music just as much.80
PAUL: I could often be a foil to John's hardness. But it could be the other way round, too. People tend to have got it one way; but John could be very soft, and I could do the hard stuff.(One of the things I didn't like about the film Backbeat is that they gave 'Long Tall Sally' to the John character. I was not amused. I always sang that: me and Little Richard.)
It's funny; the myth developed that I was the melodic, soft one and John was the hard, acerbic one. There was some surface truth to that; but, in actual fact, back then one of his favourite tunes was 'Girl Of My Dreams'. That was through his mum. Another was 'Little White Lies', which was certainly not cool either, but was a good, well-crafted song. 'This Boy' was one of those.
RINGO: I used to wish that I could write songs, like the others - and I've tried, but I just can't. I can get the words all right, but whenever I think of a tune the others always say it sounds like such-a-thing, and when they point it out, I see what they mean.
PAUL: George used to write his own songs, or (as in the case of 'Do You Want To Know A Secret') we'd write one for him. All the guys had their fans - Ringo had a big following because he's a nice guy, a great drummer, so he needed a song on each album. Likewise with George; a lot of the girls were mad on him, so we always wanted to give him at least one track. Then George started to catch on: 'Why should you write my songs?' And he started writing his own.
From when George first started, he would deliver one song per album. It was an option to include George in the songwriting team. John and I had really talked about it. I remember walking up past Woolton Church with John one morning and going over the question: 'W'thout wanting to be too mean to George, should three of us write or would it be better to keep it simple?' We decided we'd just keep to two of us.
He wrote 'Don't Bother Me'. That was the first one and he improved from that and became very good, writing a classic like 'Something'.
GEORGE: 'Don't Bother Me' I wrote in a hotel in Bournemouth, where we were playing a summer season in 1963, as an exercise to see if I could write a song. I was sick in bed. I don't think it's a particularly good song; it mightn't be a song at all. But at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing and maybe eventually I would write something good. I still feel now: I wish I could write something good. It's relativity. It did, however, provide me with an occupation.
I knew a little bit about writing from the others, from the privileged point of sitting in the car when a song was written or coming into being. I remember once sitting with Paul in the cinema on the corner of Rose Lane, not far from where he lived, near Penny Lane. They showed an ad for Link Furniture: 'Are you thinking of Linking?' Paul said, 'Oh, that would make a good song,' and he wrote one that went, 'Thinking of linking my life with you.'
John was always helpful. He said things like, 'When you're writing, try to finish the song immediately, because once you leave it it's going to be harder to complete,' which is true. Sometimes, anyway. He gave me a few good pointers and I did actually do some writing with him later on. I was at his house one day - this is the mid-Sixties - and he was struggling with some tunes. He had loads of bits, maybe three songs, that were unfinished, and I made suggestions and helped him to work them together so that they became one finished song, 'She Said, She Said'. The middle part of that record is a different song: 'She said, "I know what it's like to be dead," and I said, "Oh, no, no, you're wrong..."' Then it goes into he other one, 'When I was a boy...' That was a real weld. So i did things like that. I would also play him, on occasion, songs I hadn't completed. I played him a tune one day, and he said, 'Oh, well, that's not bad.' He didn't do anything at the time, but I noticed in the next song he wrote that he'd nicked the chords from it!
Writing on my own became the only way I could do it, because I started like that. Consequently, over the years, I never really wrote with anyone else and I became a bit isolated. I suppose I was a bit paranoid because I didn't have any experience of what it was like, writing with other people. It's a tricky thing. What's acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. You have to trust each other.
GEORGE: I'VE GOT A TAPE-RECORDER IN THE CAR, SO I CAN SING ON THAT AND WORK ON IT WHEN I GET HOME.66
JOHN: NORTHERN SONGS IS A LONG-TERM THING AND IT RESTS ON PAUL AND I WRITING SONGS UNTIL WE'RE SIXTY. UNLESS SOMETHING HAPPENS, THERE'S NOTHING TO STOP PAUL AND I WRITING HITS WHEN WE'RE OLD. IT'S SO PROFITABLE AND, ANYWAY, WE'RE GOOD FRIENDS - THERE'S NO REASON ON EARTH WHY WE SHOULD GIVE IT UP.65
NEIL ASPINALL: Brian knew Dick James, who was famous for singing 'Robin Hood' on the TV series and had started his own music-publishing company. John and Paul were beginning to write their own songs and Brian played him some tapes of theirs.
Dick James got the rights to the single 'Please Please me', and all the subsequent songs, too. We were all pretty naive back then and I think that The Beatles have all since regretted the deals they got into regarding song ownership.
PAUL: We were desperate to get a deal. It's like any young novelist who just wants to be published. They would just die for Doubleday; they wouldn't care what the deal was, so long as they could say to their friends, 'Oh, my new book's coming out on Doubleday.' - 'What, the real Doubleday?' - 'Yeah!' So that's all we wanted; to be published: 'Our record's coming out on EMI.' - 'What, the EMI?'
But Brian did do some lousy deals and he put us into long-term slave contracts which I am still dealing with. For 'Yesterday', which I wrote totally on my own, without John's or anyone's help, I am on 15% because of the deals Brian made; and that is really unjust, particularly as it has been such a smash. It is possibly the smash of this century.
But you can't be bitter. George martin didn't get much at all off the Beatles deal and I've asked him, 'In retrospect, aren't you bitter about it, George?' He says, 'No, I had a great time. At one point during the boom I had thirteen solid weeks at Number One with you, Cilla, Billy J. Kramer, Gerry and the Pacemakers - all Brian's acts - but I didn't get a bonus or anything.' he got a straight contract fee. I said, 'You are a good man not to be bitter,' which is true; he has kept his karma together that way. So I feel the same, but I think if Brian did have a failing then it was this: he wasn't astute enough.
JOHN: I think Dick James might have carved Brian up a bit. I mean, what happened after Brian died? Dick James Music Company - a fucking multi-million music-industry company. Northern Songs, not owned by us; and NEMS, not owned by us. That was all Brian and his advisors' setting up.71
And Dick James has actually said that he made us! I'd like to hear Dick James's music, please. Just play me some.70
GEORGE: Brian didn't get very good deals on anything. For years EMI were giving us one old penny between us for every single and two shillings for every album. And there was the fiasco where Brian's father gave away the rights to The Beatles' merchandising. His father didn't have any authority to give away the rights, yet he gave them to some guy who gave them to somebody else, who gave them to somebody else.
If we'd known in 1962/63 what we know now, or even what we knew back in 1967, it would have made a real difference. We would have got better royalties if only we had known what was happening; and the royalty rate we got caused so much trouble and so many lawsuits later. We could have had a proper royalty rate.
I wasn't writing songs then, but John and Paul were. When I first started writing songs, it was presented to me like this: 'Do you want your song published?' and as John's and Paul's songs were being published by Dick James, I said, 'Yeah, OK, I'll have my songs published.' Nobody actually says, 'And when you sign this bit of paper to have your song published I am going to steal the copyright of your song from you.' So I signed this contract, thinking, 'Great, somebody's going to publish my song,' and then years later I'm saying, 'What do you mean, I don't own it?' I mean, that was terrible theft. Things like that went on all the time.
JOHN: We never talked in terms of finance. We were just a songwriting team; we started at sixteen and we decided that we'd call them 'Lennon/McCartney', and we said here's a song we wrote; because even with ones where we'd have it 90% finished, there's always something added in the studio. A song is - even now when I write a song - not complete. I can never give my song to a publisher before I've recorded it, however complete the lyrics and the tune and the arrangement are on paper, because it changes in the studio. So we just always did it like that, but nobody ever thought about the money. There was enough money for everybody in the world. Who's going to talk about money?74
PAUL: WE'VE GOT PEOPLE WE TRUST - OUR MANAGER. OUR RECORDING MANAGER, OUR PUBLISHER, OUR ACCOUNTANT - THEY'RE ALL TRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE, I THINK. SO WE LEAVE IT TO THEM AND I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY.65
RINGO: In April 1963 Paul, George and I decided to holiday together in Tenerife. Klaus Voormann's parents had a house there. They didn't have electricity, so we really felt we were Bohemians.
That was the first time I had been anywhere where there was black sand. I'd never seen the like of that before. It was a real good holiday. Paul has some great photos of us hanging out in Spanish hats, looking dramatic. That's what I love about the Spanish - they are so dramatic.
PAUL: We went out there and stayed there for a bit, but we got worried because nobody knew us in the Canaries and we were a bit put off: 'You know us? The Beatles?' And they were saying, 'No, no... don't know you.'
I got terrible sunburn: that British tan that hurts so much later. That gave me quite an uncomfortable time. And I got caught in a riptide. I was in the sea and thought, 'Now I'll swim back in,' but I realised I wasn't getting anywhere. In fact, I was getting further away.
GEORGE: I REMEMBER BLACK BEACHES. WE STAYED IN THE SUN TOO LONG AND GOT INCREDIBLY SUNBURNT; TYPICAL BRITISH. RINGO AND I BOTH HAD SUNSTROKE THE FIRST OR SECOND DAY AND I REMEMBER SHIVERING ALL NIGHT.
I drove around a lot. I was into sports cars and Klaus very kindly let me drive his Austin Healey Sprite. We've got some photographs of Paul and me in it - we took it up to the volcano. It was like the surface of the moon up there, and there were telescopes and a big observatory.
PAUL: Brian Epstein was going on holyday t Spain at the same time and he invited John along. John was a smart cookie. Brian was gay, and John saw his opportunity to impress upon Mr Epstein who was the boss of this group. I think that's why he went on holiday with Brian. And good luck to him, too - he was that kind of guy; he wanted Brian to know whom he should listen to. That was the relationship. John was very much the leader in that way, although it was never actually said.
JOHN: Cyn was having a baby and the holiday was planned, but I wasn't going to break the holiday for a baby: I just thought what a bastard I was and went. I watched Brian picking up boys, and I liked playing it a bit faggy - it's enjoyable.70
It was my first experience with a homosexual that I was conscious was a homosexual. We used to sit in a café in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I'd say, 'Do you like that one? Do you like this one?' I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: 'I am experiencing this.' It was almost a love-affair, but not quite. It was not consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship.80
But those rumours back in Liverpool! The first national press we got, the back page of the Daily Mirror, was me beating up Bob Wooler at Paul's twenty-first. That was the first 'Lennon hits out' story. I was so bad the next day. We had a BBC appointment; they all went down in the train, and I wouldn't come. Brian was pleading with me to go, and I was saying, 'I'm not!' - I was so afraid of nearly killing Wooler.
Bob had insinuated that me and Brian had had an affair in Spain. And I must have been frightened of the fag in me to get so angry. I was out of my mind with drink. (You know, when you get down to the point where you want to drink out of all the empty glasses; that drunk.) And Bob was saying, 'Come on, John, tell me about you and Brian - we all know.' You know when you're twenty-one, you want to be a man - if somebody said it now I wouldn't give a shit, but I was beating the shit out of him, hitting him with a big stick, and for the first time I thought, 'I can kill this guy.' I just saw it, like on a screen: if I hit him once more, that's going to be it. I really got shocked. That's when I gave up violence, because all my life I'd been like that.72
He sued me afterwards; I paid him Ј200 to settle it. That's probably the last real fight I've ever had.67 From then on - apart from occasionally hitting my dear wife, in the early days when I was a bit crazy (I can't say I'm non-violent, because I will go crazy sometimes) - I stopped that.72
PAUL: So there was the homosexual thing - I'm not sure John did anything but we certainly gave him a lot of grief when he got back.
JOHN: Brian was in love with me. It's irrelevant. I mean, it's interesting and it will make a nice Hollywood Babylon someday about Brian Epstein's sex life, but it's irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant.80
RINGO: We went to Rhodes, Corfu and Athens. In Rhodes we wanted to see the Colossus so I asked the woman at the hotel bar, 'Excuse me, where's the Colossus?' She said, It's gone now, son' - that's how much we hadn't left home - 'but if you go down to the port...' which we did and we saw these two little plinths with two deers on, supposedly where the Colossus was. And I remember going around the Parthenon three times - I think to keep Jane happy - and it was really tiring.
JOHN: We don't think there is such a thing as the Mersey Sound. That's just something journalists cooked up, a name. It just so happened we came from Liverpool and they looked for the nearest river and named it. The only thing is that we write our own songs.64
NEIL ASPINALL: The interesting music in the early Sixties for us was American R&B. They were very American-influenced when they went to the clubs, to find out what was happening in London, since it wasn't yet our scene. We were the new boys in town. Around then we met a guy called Andrew Oldham, whom Brian brought in as a press representative. Andrew took us out to Richmond to see a blues band: The Rolling Stones. (He went on to become their manager, of course.)
JOHN: We made it and then the Stones came out doing things a little bit more radical than we'd done. They had their hair longer, they would be insulting on stage, which we'd given up.
We first went to see the Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond and then at another place in London. They were run by a different guy then, Giorgio Gomelsky. When we started hanging around London, the Stones were up and coming in the clubs, and we knew Giorgio through Epstein. We went down and saw them and became good friends.74
GEORGE: We'd been at Teddington taping Thank Your Lucky Stars, miming to 'From Me To You', and we went to Richmond afterwards and met them.
They were still on the club scene, stomping about, doing R&B tunes. The music they were playing was more like we'd been doing before we'd got out of our leather suits to try and get onto record labels and television. We'd calmed down by then.
RINGO: I remember standing in some sweaty room and watching them on the stage, Keith and Brian - wow! I knew then that the Stones were great. They just had presence. (And, of course, we could tell - we'd had five weeks in the business; we knew all about it!)
We talked to them. I don't know what about and I don't know if we ended up backstage.
PAUL: Mick tells the tale of seeing us there with long suede coats that we'd picked up in Hamburg, coats that no one could get in England. He thought, 'Right - I want to be in the music business; I want one of those coats.'
JOHN: I remember Brian Jones came up and said, 'Are you playing a harmonica or a harp on "Love Me Do"?' because he knew I'd got this bottom note. I said, 'A harmonica with a button,' which wasn't really funky-blues enough; but you couldn't get 'Hey! Baby' licks on a blues harp and we were also doing 'Hey! Baby' by Bruce Channel.71
NEIL ASPINALL: The Stones that night were OK - like any band down the Cavern. They could do their stuff and that was all you needed to do. A lot of people couldn't.
I remember Ian Stewart was playing with them on piano and later I couldn't understand why he wasn't in any of the publicity photographs. He still seemed to be around, on the piano, but in another way he wasn't in the band at all. I suppose that's the way it worked best for them.
PAUL: John and I were walking down Charing Cross Road one day. We used to hang out there because it was where all the guitar shops were; that was our Mecca. If we had nothing to do for an afternoon, we'd go down there window-shopping. I remember seeing Mick and Keith in a taxi and shouting, 'Hey, Mick - give us a lift!' We jumped in; they were on their way to the recording studio and Mick said, 'Here, you got any songs we could have? We've get a contract with Decca.' We thought, 'Hmmm.' We did have one we'd written for Ringo, 'I Wanna Be Your Man'.
Ringo always used to do a song in the show. Back then he had 'Boys'. It was a little embarrassing because it went, 'I'm talking about boys - yeah, yeah boys.' It was a Shirelles hit and they were girls singing it, but we never thought we should call it 'Girls', just because Ringo was a boy. We just sang it the way they'd sung it and never considered any implications. So we tried to write something else for Ringo, something like 'Boys', and we came up with 'I Wanna Be Your Man' - a Bo Diddley kind of thing. I said to Mick, 'Well, Ringo's got this track on our album, but it won't be a single and it might suit you guys.' I knew that the Stones did 'Not Fade Away' and that Mick was into the maracas, from when we'd seen them down at the Crawdaddy. So we went to the studio with them.
JOHN: The story on 'I Wanna Be Your Man' was that they needed a record. They'd put out 'Come On' by Chuck Berry and needed a quick follow-up. We met Andrew Oldham, who used to work for Epstein then had gone to the Stones and probably got them off Giorgio Gomelsky. He came to us and said, 'Have you got a song for them?' And we said 'Sure,' because we didn't really want it ourselves.
We went in and I remember teaching it to them.74 We played it roughly and they said, 'Yeah, OK, that's our style.' So Paul and I just went off in the corner of the room and finished the song while they were all still there, talking. We came back and that's how Mick and Keith got inspired to write: 'Jesus, look at that. They just went in the corner and wrote it and came back!' Right in front of their eyes we did it.80
We used to write in the early days, when we had more time or seemed to, for other people. We thought we had some to spare. We wrote one for Cliff and we did it.65
PAUL: The idea of our being rivals with The Rolling Stones was newspaper talk. It was natural that we would seem to be rivals, but in fact George got them their recording contract. He was at a party with Dick Rowe, the man famous for having turned The Beatles down for Decca.
GEORGE: There was a big showcase, at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. The Beatles had become famous, and Gerry and a few others had had success and everybody thought, 'Bloody hell!' and was looking up to Liverpool. Nobody had ever played the Philharmonic - they wouldn't let you in, let alone do a rock concert. But suddenly every group in Liverpool was there - even ones that weren't groups before. (Groups were forming right, left and centre to try to cash in on Liverpool's supposedly swinging scene.)
Anyway, I remember meeting some executives from London, one of whom must have been Dick Rowe. He said, 'You'll tell us who the good groups are, will you?' And I said, 'I don't know about that, but you want to get The Rolling Stones.'
JOHN: We hung around with the Stones in two separate periods. The first was initially, when they were still playing in the clubs, and the later period was when we were both riding high and there was a discotheque scene in London. We were like kings of the jungle then, and we were very close to Stones. I don't know how close the others were; I spent a lot of time with Brian and Mick and I admired them. 74
RINGO: When we came down to London it was a little like Liverpool, because most of the bands had come from the North and we'd all jammed together. We'd all hang out at each other's places. We'd hang out with The Animals and the Stones, and some jazz guys that we'd meet in clubs. There were good clubs: the Bag O'Nails and places like that.
(One odd thing: when we first started going to clubs in London we found people would be kissing you on the cheek. That was very weird for me, coming from up North. We shake hands up there; that's the manly thing to do. I soon got into it, but I remember being shocked at first. Brian Morris, who used to run the Ad Lib, went to give me a kiss on the cheek and I was mortified: 'Oh, my goodness!' But that was just the London way.)
JOHN: WE WERE THE FIRST WORKING-CLASS SINGERS THAT STAYED WORKING CLASS AND PRONOUNCED IT AND DIDN'T TRY AND CHANGE OUR ACCENTS, WHICH IN ENGLAND WERE LOOKED DOWN UPON. THE ONLY CHANGE WAS OUR IMAGE.73
JOHN: There have been offers of a spot on the Palladium show, but we don't feel that we are ready. We have seen others go and be torn to pieces.61
GEORGE: In October, the big one was Sunday Night at the London Palladium. That show had the biggest stars from America who ere in England, and the biggest stars in England. We felt comfortable on the show. I think we had enough cockiness going, and we'd had enough success. We were always a little nervous before we went up each step of the ladder, but there was always that confidence. That was the good thing about being four together: we were able to share the experience.
RINGO: Going on the Palladium was amazing for me because, years and years before, the Eddie Clayton group and I would rehearse in the living room in our house and my mother's best friend, Annie Maguire, would always say, 'See you on the Palladium, son. See your name in lights.' So I always wanted to play there, to get on that roundabout stage.
There was nothing bigger in the world than making it to the Palladium, I'd say, 'Yeah, sure, Annie, that's where we're going to go.' And we played Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and we were on the roundabout and it was dynamite. Anyone who knew you would say, 'Fucking hell, hey, look at this!' - we would of ourselves.
Before the show I was so nervous with craziness and tension that I spewed up into a bucket; just like those old showbiz stories - I spewed up and went on stage. Even today, when the intro is playing I have to run on stage. Once I'm on, I'm OK. I often think I'd like to be like Frank Sinatra and saunter on and go, 'Hi.' But perhaps while he's sauntering his mind is running.
GEORGE: TO GET ON THE PALLADIUM AND ALL THOSE PLACES WE WORE THE SUITS AND WE PLAYED THEIR GAME, BUT A LOT OF THE TIME WE WERE THINKING, 'HA, WE'LL SHOW THESE PEOPLE.'
RINGO: We came through showbusiness. Bands don't have to do that now - they can come through rock'n'roll. We had to go through the Shirley Bassey school, that was our battle. We could never have done the Palladium unless we'd have put the suits on. The real change of our clothes and our attitude was through our musical progression.
In your twenties you're just rolling, you feel that anything is possible; there's no obstacles. If they are in your way, you're determined just to knock them down.
GEORGE: At the time, there was a clique of people who were the stars and they were all basically conformists; the ones who played the game, the usual onslaught of the uninspired. If you look at the list of people who appeared on these things, it reads like the Grade or the Delfont organisation (the big London agencies); it was all their gang.
Early on, we were told by many a London band that it's all khaziland ten miles north of Watford. So the first thing we did on 'making it' was to give two fingers to all those bands who started out with a much better chance than us because they were from London.
It's typical even now that record companies don't know anything about trends or talent. All they know is the fear of singing up somebody who's a flop or not signing up somebody who's a hit. We were told all the time: 'You'll never do anything, you Northern bastards.' It was that kind of attitude. So although we didn't openly say, 'Fuck you!' it was basically our thing: 'We'll show these fuckers.' And we walked right through London, the Palladium, and kept on going through Ed Sullivan and on to Hong Kong and the world.
It was the same at school: my teachers expected nothing of me and didn't have it in them to be able to give me anything. My headmaster wrote on my school-leaving testimonial, 'I can't tell you what his work has been like because he hasn't done any. Has taken part in no school activity whatsoever.' Thanks a lot, pal, that'll really get me a job, won't it! So when Paul pulled out of a Ford showroom a couple of years later having bought a brand new Ford Classis and his old headmaster was standing there, Paul looked at him like, 'Ha ha, yes, it is me and I do have my own Ford Classic.' It was 'fuck you'. We made it in spite of him, in spite of the teachers, of Dick Rowe, of EMI (they didn't sign us up, either). We were hanging in there by the skin of our teeth, with no money or anything, and just got a bit of luck with George Martin. And we might have believed the crap, too - if it wasn't for the inner determination that we always had, that I always felt; a kind of assurance within that something was going to happen.
But that's the thing, as anybody knows who's had the experience of being down and being downtrodden (which we have, as working-class Liverpool lads), then making it big and seeing everybody brown-nosing you: everybody loves a winner, but when you lose, you lose alone.
JOHN: The class thing is just as snobby as it ever was. People like us can break through a little - but only a little. Once, we went into a restaurant and nearly got thrown out for looking like we looked, until they saw who it was: 'What do you want?' the head waiter said. 'We've come to bloody eat, that's what we want,' we said. Then the owner spotted us and said, 'Ah, a table, sir, over here, sir.' It took me back to when I was nineteen and I couldn't get anywhere without being started at or remarked about. It's only since I've been a Beatle that people have said, 'Oh, wonderful, come in, come in,' and I've forgotten a bit about what they're really thinking. They see the shining star, but when there's no glow about you, they see only the clothes and the haircut again.
We weren't as open and as truthful when we didn't have the power to be. We had to take it easy. We had to shorten our hair to leave Liverpool. We had to wear suits to get on TV. We had to compromise. We had to get hooked to get in, and then get a bit of power and say, 'This is what we're like.' We had to falsify a bit, even if we didn't realise it at the time.66
RINGO: We went to Sweden that October for a week, to do some shows. The hotel was a lot of fun. There was a memorable day when Paul dressed up in disguise; he had a camera and ran round the restaurants going, 'How do you do, Sweden?' He'd say some crazy mouthful and take photos of every body and no one would recognise him, which we thought was pretty hip. he was handing out strange business cards that other people had given him - it was one of the grooves of life.
NEIL ASPINALL: The popularity was escalating madly day by day. I can remember waiting outside stage doors when Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent played in Liverpool and there'd be a lot of girls there, screaming and going wild - but never on the scale of Beatlemania. There were 10,000 people in London Airport when we came back from Sweden. It was just bigger. It began in 1963 but it hadn't yet reached its peak.
RINGO: We'd started to fly really just that year. The first time we took a plane together as a group, with Brian Epstein, from Liverpool to London, the seat George Harrison was sitting in was a window seat, and the window opened... He was screaming; very strange.
We were flying from London to Glasgow once and there were only three seats left on the plane and in my naivety I said, 'I'll stand.' - 'I'm afraid you can't do that Mr Starr...'
PAUL: The fame really started from when we played the Palladium. Then we were asked to do the Royal Command Performance and we met the Queen Mother, and she was clapping.
NEIL ASPINALL: They took off like a rocket. I remember the Royal Command Performance; they were very, very nervous because they weren't used to that kind of audience. This wasn't the Cavern; this was a big charity show and everybody had paid a lot of money to attend. It was a completely different set of people sitting in judgement.
GEORGE: John did the line about 'rattle your jewellery' because the audience were all supposedly rich. I think he'd spent a bit of time thinking of what he could say. I don't think it was spontaneous. John also overdid the bowing as a joke, because we never used to like the idea of bowing; such a 'showbiz' thing.
JOHN: We had a few jokes in that one because people weren't screaming so they could hear what we were saying.64
We managed to refuse all sorts of things that people don't know about. We did the Royal Variety Show, and we were asked discreetly to do it every year after that, but we always said, 'Stuff it.' So every year there was a story in the newspapers: 'Why no Beatles for the Queen?' which was pretty funny, because they didn't know we'd refused. That show's a bad gig, anyway. Everybody's very nervous and uptight and nobody performs well. The time we did do it, I cracked a joke on stage. I was fantastically nervous, but I wanted to say something to rebel a bit, and that was the best i could do.70
PAUL: The Queen Mother said, 'Where are you playing tomorrow night?' I said, 'Slough.' And she said, 'Oh, that's just near us.'
RINGO: Marlene Dietrich was also on. I met her and I remember staring at her legs - which were great - as she slouched against a chair. I'm a leg-man: 'Look at those pins!'
JOHN: FOR OUR LAST NUMBER I'D LIKE TO ASK YOUR HELP. THE PEOPLE IN THE CHEAPER SEATS CLAP YOUR HANDS, AND THE REST OF YOU IF YOU'D JUST RATTLE YOUR JEWELLERY. WE'D LIKE TO SING A SONG CALLED 'TWIST AND SHOUT'.63
NEIL ASPINALL: To them, the show was just another way of plugging the records. Other people on the show reached to The Beatles very well; they could spot a success when they saw one. Everybody wanted to be The Beatles' friend. That's showbusiness. I've always found it very transient. You meet people when you're doing a gig and you might not meet them again for another six months or a year.
JOHN: We have met some new people since we've become famous, but we've never been able to stand them for more than two days. Some hang on a bit longer, perhaps a few weeks, but that's all. Most people don't get across to us.67 We can't go around with anybody for a long time unless they are a friend, because we're so closely knit.64 We talk in code to each other. We always did when we had strangers around us...
PAUL: If there was someone disastrous in the dressing room (because, occasionally, someone would get in who was a right pain and we didn't have time for all of that) we would have little signs. We'd say 'Mal...' and yawn, and that would be the sign to get rid of them. It was a very 'in' scene.
RINGO: A lot of established stars loved us; they really did. Shirley Bassey was a big star in those days and she was always at the gigs. Alma Cogan was always throwing parties and inviting us. I don't remember too many artists of the day putting us down - except for Noël Coward, who put his foot in it with his 'no talent' remark. We got him back later, when Brian came to us and said, 'Noël Coward is downstairs and he wants to say "hi".' - 'Fuck off!' We wouldn't see him. I mean, 'Sod off, Noël.'
NEIL ASPINALL: On 14th December there was a performance at the Wimbledon Palais for the Southern Area Fan Club Convention. All 3,000 fans present got to shake hands with The Beatles - when they weren't bombarding them with jelly babies.
JOHN: Somebody once asked what the kids had sent us and we said, 'Things like jelly babies.' 'But,' I said, 'George ate them.' And the next day I started getting jelly babies with a note saying, 'Don't give George any.' And George got some saying, 'Here's some for you, George; you don't need John's.' And then it went mad; they started throwing them all over the stage. Finally we got it round that we don't like them any more.64
RINGO: I remember we were in a cage at the gig, because it got so crazy. It was like being in a zoo, on stage! It felt dangerous. The kids were out of hand. It was the first time I felt that if they got near us we would be ripped apart.
NEIL ASPINALL: Halfway through, George said, 'I'm not doing this,' and he packed up, went to the stage door and began looking for a cab.
I ran after him and said, 'What are you doing? You can't walk out, we've got to finish.' And then John turned up with his guitar. I said, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'Well, if he's leaving, I'm leaving.'
But they did finish the gig and they shook hands with all the fans - about 10,000 of them, actually, because they kept going back to the end of the queue and coming round again.
GEORGE MARTIN: The first album was really a recital of their repertoire. We weren't thinking in terms of an album being an entity in itself back then. We would record singles, and the ones that weren't issued as singles would be put onto an album - which is how the second album, With The Beatles, was put together. It was just a collection of their songs, and one or two other people's songs as well.
RINGO: The cover songs recorded for With The Beatles were chosen by whoever liked them. It was interesting that when I joined The Beatles we didn't really know each other (the other three knew each other, of course), but if you looked at each of our record collections, the four of us had virtually the same records. We all had The Miracles, we all had Barret Strong and people like that. I suppose that helped us gel as musicians, and as a group.
PAUL: We were all very interested in American music, much more so than in British. Ringo arrived in the band knowing more blues music. Coming from the Dingle, by the river, he'd known plenty of blokes in the Merchant Navy (that was a way for kids to get out of Liverpool, to places like New Orleans and new York) who would pick up a lot of blues records. It was Ringo who introduced us to old country-and-western; Jimmie Rodgers and those kind of people. Ringo had quite a good collection of that. But, as far as Elvis and other such music was concerned, our tastes were pretty much in common, each of us having slightly different leanings as well, which made life interesting.
GEORGE: The second album was slightly better than the first, inasmuch as we spent more time on it, and there were more original songs. We did 'Money' for that album, and other cover versions: 'Please Mr Postman', 'You Really Got A Hold On Me' and 'Devil In Her Heart' (an obscure American song by The Donays).
Because there were a lot of record companies in America, lots of records seemed only to be distributed on a local basis. It was very regional; some were lucky enough to get distributed nationwide and others weren't. However, many of the small companies were affiliated with major labels that had distribution in the UK, so some obscure American records ended up being sold in the UK but unknown in America. There are some incredible R&B records from America that I find most Americans have never heard of.
Brian had had a policy at NEMS of buying at least one copy of every record that was released. If it sold, he'd order another one, or five or whatever. Consequently he had records that weren't hits in Britain, weren't even hits in America. Before going to a gig we'd meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we'd search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there. That's where we found artists like Arthur Alexander and Ritchie Barrett ('Some Other Guy' was a great song), and records like James Ray's 'If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody'. These were songs which we used to perform in the clubs in the early days, and which many British bands later started recording. 'Devil In Her Heart' and Barrett Strong's 'Money' were records that we'd picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.
I sang 'Roll Over Beethoven' for With The Beatles - it was a song I liked. I had the Chuck Berry record and I used to sing it in the clubs. I also wrote my first song, 'Don't Bother Me', for the album.
GEORGE MARTIN: In those days, the boys tended to rehearse for the recording as we did it. I would meet up with them, go through the material, and say, 'OK, what's the next one we're doing?' And we'd go in and rehearse a song and record it. It was like a workshop.
JOHN: We always record them exactly as we can play them. Even if we do put things on top, the basic thing we sing on a record we do live. We play and sing at the same time on the record, so if we can't do it there, we don't do it.64
The first set of tricks on the records was double-tracking on the second album. We discovered that, or it was told to us, 'You can do this,' and that really set the ball rolling. We double-tracked ourselves off the album.
The first [album] we did just as a 'group'; we went in and played and they put it on tape and we went. They remixed it, they did everything to it.70
GEORGE: The album cover for With The Beatles became one of the most copied designs of the decade. Robert Freeman took the cover picture. We showed him the pictures Astrid and Jürgen had taken in Hamburg and said, 'Can't you do it like this?' We did the photo session in a room with a piece of black background.
That cover was the beginning of us being actively involved in The Beatles' artwork. The Please Please Me album cover is crap; but at that time it hadn't mattered. We hadn't even thought it was lousy, probably because we were so pleased to be on a record. With The Beatles was the first one where we thought, 'Hey, let's get artistic.'
NEIL ASPINALL: John lived upstairs from Robert Freeman when be moved down to London. Robert had just got out of art school, and John got him doing the album cover. They all told him the sort of effect that they wanted and he achieved it very well. From then on, they were involved with all aspects of album artwork.
RINGO: In 1963 the attitude of my whole family changed. They treated me like a different person.
One absolutely clear vision I had was round at my auntie's, where I'd been a thousand times before. We were having a cup of tea one night and somebody knocked the coffee table and my tea split into my saucer. Everyone's reaction was, 'He can't have that. We have to tidy up.' That would never have happened before. I thought then, 'Things are changing.' It was absolutely an arrow in the brain.
SUDDENLY I WAS 'ONE OF THOSE', EVEN WITHIN MY FAMILY, AND IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO GET USED TO. I'D GROWN UP AND LIVED WITH THESE PEOPLE AND NOW I FOUND MYSELF IN WEIRDLAND.
GEORGE: My family changed, but in a nice way. They were so knocked out with the whole idea of what was happening. Anybody would be. Everybody likes success, but when it came on that scale it was ridiculous. They loved it.
My mother was a nice person, but she was naive; as we all were in Liverpool in those days. She used to write to anybody who'd written to us, answering the fan mail. She'd answer letters from people saying 'Dear Mr Harrison, can you give us one of Paul McCartney's toenails? Still, to this day, people come up to me brandishing letters that my mother once wrote to them. Even back when I was a kid, she had pen-pals, people who lived in Northumberland or New Zealand or somewhere, people she'd never met: just writing and sending photographs to each other.
RINGO: Home and family were the two things I didn't want to change, because it had all changed 'out there' and we were no longer really sure who our friends were, unless we'd had them before the fame. The guys and the girls I used to hang about with I could trust. But once we'd become big and famous, we soon learnt that people were with us only because of the vague notoriety of being 'a Beatle'. And when this happened in the family, it was quite a blow. I didn't know what to do about it; I couldn't stand up and say, 'Treat me like you used to,' because that would be acting 'big time'.
The other thing that happens when you become famous is that people start to think you know something. They all want to know what you think about this and that, and I would blah on - as a 22/23-year-old - as if suddenly I knew. I could talk about anything, I knew exactly how the country should be run, and why and how this should happen; suddenly I was a blaher: 'Yeah, Mr Blah here, what do you want to know?' It was so crazy. I remember endless discussions that went on for days and days - nights and days, actually, discussing the world, discussing music. Suddenly people give you all this credit! But we weren't any different; we'd just had a couple of Number Ones and millions loved us.
I had no schooling before I joined The Beatles and no schooling after The Beatles. Life is a great education.
PAUL: We're constantly being asked all sorts of very profound questions. But we're not very profound people. People say, 'What do you think of the H-bomb, of religion, of fan worship?' But we didn't really start thinking about these things until people asked us. And even then we didn't get much time to consider them. What do I think of the H-bomb? Well, here's an answer with the full weight of five O levels and one A level behind it: I don't agree with it.64
GEORGE: 'Let's get our kicks today, for tomorrow we die, man' - that's rot! Some people are like that; thick people blowing up the world. I'm interested in what will happen.66
NEIL ASPINALL: We all gradually moved to London. Until the move they would keep going home and still play the leftover dates at the Cavern and whatever, but it very quickly became far more practical to live in London than in Liverpool. All the families were very proud of what everybody had done but I think they may have felt they'd lost them a bit once they moved away. I think Mal Evans and I were the last ones to get a flat, because we couldn't afford it. Eventually they had to get us a flat, because staying in hotels, as we did, was even more expensive.
JOHN: When I left Liverpool with the group, a lot of Liverpool people dropped us and said, 'Now you've let us down.' It was the same in England. When we left England to go to America we lost a lot of fans. They begin to feel as though they own you, and the people in Liverpool did, and did until we decided to leave. A lot of people dropped us but, of course, we got a whole pile more; a different audience.71
RINGO: By the end of 1963, it was impossible to go home. And if you are in our business, you go to London. The recordings are there, the places to be seen are there, where it's happening is there; it's just a natural move.
George and I started out sharing an apartment in Green Street, Park Lane. Ј45 a week it cost - a fortune! John was living with Cynthia. (That's when they finally told me they were married - they'd kept it a secret in case I told somebody. They didn't really trust me, you know. Just joking!)
We were fed by Harry and Carol Finegold, who lived below us. We didn't know how to look after ourselves: we'd been living with our parents; they had done the cooking, and the tea was always ready. Now, suddenly, we had our own place in London. We'd go to the Saddle Room, a club where Prince Philip was a member. They used to keep a horse and coach outside so you'd often see two drunken little Beatles in the back of this coach being taken home up Park Lane. Clip clop. For two shit-kickers from Liverpool, this was far-out: 'Let's take the carriage!'
We met a lot of people as well. Phil Spector was one I was thrilled to meet. The DJ Tony Hall also lived on Green Street and when he had Phil and the Ronettes staying with him, George and I went over to meet them.
GEORGE: We had been living in hotels in London for so long that we decided we needed a flat. John got his first, because he was married; Ringo and I used to stay in the Hotel President in Russell Square, then we moved into the flat. It was such a buzz because we'd been brought up in little two-up two-down houses in Liverpool, and now to have a posh flat in Mayfair, and with a bathroom each, it was great.
John and Paul went through their intellectual phase between 1963 and 1966. Looking back at John, he was always interested in poetry and films, but when we moved to London he and Paul got into a bit of one-upmanship over who knew the most about everything. Paul started going to the Establishment Club and hanging out with Jane Asher. There was a time when they'd go to see plays and it was all, 'Did you see such and such? Have you read this?'
PAUL: Really, that was why we'd left Liverpool; London was the big capital city with everything going for it. If you went to a play, it could be at the National Theatre, watching some mind-blowing actors. Seeing Colin Blakely in Juno and the Paycock was a big eye-opener. I was going out with an actress - Jane Asher - at the time, so I did quite a lot of theatre-going.
I began to make little films on my own, too. We'd film home movies, and because I didn't like sound cameras (we didn't really have many then), I'd take the visuals and put any soundtrack on them, to experiment. I remember one I did of a gendarme directing traffic. I then ran that film through the camera again and just filmed the traffic, so where he'd try to stop the cars they would all run through him. Over the top I stuck on a crazy jazz sax player, who sounded out of tune, playing the Marseillaise - which is probably where the idea came from for the start of 'All You Need Is Love'. It was quite funny.
I have always been someone who gets into a steady relationship. I met Jane Asher when she was sent by the Radio Times to cover a concert we were in at the Royal Albert Hall - we had a photo taken with her for the magazine and we all fancied her. We'd thought she was blonde, because we had only ever seen her on black-and-white telly doing Juke Box Jury, but she turned out to be a redhead. So it was: 'Wow, you're a redhead!' I tried pulling her, succeeded, and we were boyfriend and girlfriend for quite a long time.
I always feel very wary including Jane in The Beatles; history. She's never gone into print about our relationship, whilst everyone on earth has sold their story. So I'd feel weird being the one to kiss and tell.
We had a good relationship. Even with touring there were enough occasions to keep a reasonable relationship going. To tell the truth, the women at that time got sidelined. Now it would be seen as very chauvinist of us. Then it was like: 'We are four miners who go down the pit. You don't need women down the pit, do you? We won't have women down the pit.' A lot of what we, The Beatles, did was very much in an enclosed scene. Other people found it difficult - even John's wife, Cynthia, found it very difficult - to penetrate the screen that we had around us. As a kind of safety barrier we had a lot of 'in' jokes, little signs, references to music; we had a common bond in that and it was very difficult for any 'outsider' to penetrate. That possibly wasn't good for relationships back then.
I was still living on my own in London when all the others started getting married and moving to the suburbs, on golf-club estates, which wasn't my idea of fun at all: one, because I wasn't married and there didn't seem any point. (I could see it for them: they were going to raise kids out there.) And two, because I was able to stay in London I was much more involved in going to the theatre and art galleries and whatever was going on in the big metropolis.
JOHN: I'm glad things got as big as they did, because when we got nearly big, people started saying to us: 'You're the biggest thing since...' I got fed up that we were the biggest thing 'since'. I wanted The Beatles to just be the biggest thing. It's like gold. The more you get, the more you want.70
RINGO: We knew we were a great band but no one could predict then where it was going. We were playing good music and making good money. With Rory, at Butlins, I was on sixteen quid a week, and as an apprentice engineer I would take home Ј2 10s a week with the prospect of Ј12 or Ј15 a week after finishing the apprenticeship. But, now, here I was with money. Money was great. It meant having a bathroom in my own house, having cars. I suppose the biggest expense was the apartment George and I used to share. There were many suits and shirts and shoes and shopping sprees. I counted thirty-seven shirts one time and I couldn't believe it.
The first year we were still getting fifty quid a week from Brian. It was Ј25 when I joined, and even that had been a fortune.
JOHN: We don't feel as though we've got money. You just feel as though you've got the material things. The money we don't feel as though we've got, because we've never seen it. I never wee more than Ј100 at once. They usually give us about thirty or forty quid a week each. I usually give it to my wife because I never use money, because I'm always being taken around. I only handle money when I'm off on holiday.66
GEORGE: We were still not that wealthy, except that we were better off relative to how poor we'd been before. But it was by no means real wealth, from the cash we were being given. I recently found a piece of paper that shows how much we were actually earning in one period in 1963. From the starting figure of Ј72,000, we made about Ј4,000 each; Brian Epstein took Ј2,025 a week and Neil and Mal got Ј25 each. So Brian got Ј2,000 more each week than Mal and Neil!
But our lives were changing. The way that we measured success or wealth now was that we had motorcars and lived in Mayfair and had four suits when we travelled. That was not bad, really.
JOHN: You can be bigheaded, and say, 'Yeah, we're going to last ten years,' but as soon as you've said that, you think, 'You know, we're lucky if we last three months.'61
GEORGE MARTIN: It was very difficult in 1963 to think The Beatles were going to last for ever and that I would be talking about them thirty years on. But it was very gratifying that they had made Number One. It took a whole year before they really conquered the world. It was 1964 before they had a Number One in America - the whole of 1963 was taken up with consolidating our work in England. They had four singles out during that time: 'Please Please Me', 'From Me To You', 'She Loves You', and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. As we recorded them, I would send each one to my friends at Capitol Records in America and say, 'This group is fantastic. You've got to issue them, you've got to sell them in the States.' And each time, the head of Capitol would turn it down: 'Sorry, we know our market better than you do, and we don't think they're any good.' Eventually, of course, they had to accede to public demand.
NEIL ASPINALL: Well, they had conquered Britain. The Beatles were everywhere - George even had his own column in the Daily Express, assisted by friend-to-be Derek Taylor.
DEREK TAYLOR: My first experience Beatle came earlier that year, and was extraordinary. I was still only thirty, but sufficiently unaware of the 'young' world in mid-Spring 1963 to have not heard of this rising phenomenon. I was working as a journalist for the Daily Express in Manchester and as such went to cover a one-night stand at the Odeon, starring The Beatles and Roy Orbison. I watched the show and when, two hours later, it was all over bar the screaming, I went to the telephone and dictated my review without a note, just as it came, and they printed it. I believed that in The Beatles the world had found the truest folk heroes of the century or, indeed, of any other time. From that day, 30th May 1963, I have never wavered in my certainty that they painted a new rainbow right across the world, with crocks of gold at each end and then some...
I was pleased when George's Daily Express column fell to me, but I started on the wrong foot. I did a real ghosting job. George's father was a bus driver, so I invented a conversation between his father and him in typical popular-newspaper style. It went like this: 'So my dad said to me, "Don't worry about me, son, you stick to your guitar and I'll carry on driving the big green jobs."'
I went down to London to deliver George's first column and I was asked by Brian, 'Oh, would you read it out for the boys? I'd like them to hear it.' So I had to take this column out of my pocket and, as if George had written it, I started reading it: '... you stick to your guitar and I'll carry on driving the big green jobs.' And George said, 'What are big green jobs?' I said, 'Um, buses - Liverpool buses.' George said, 'I didn't know they were called "big green jobs".' John said, 'I didn't know they were, either.' I said, 'Well, I don't know that they are.' I had just made it up. Which, of course, is what happens on newspapers and that's why all these things sound so phoney.
Anyway, the long and short of it was, after I'd passed the test by admitting that I'd made up 'big green jobs'. George said, 'I'll help you write the column - we can do it together.'
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