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            I was born in Walton Hospital on 18th June 1942.

            My mother was a nurse and came from Fazakerley, Liverpool. My dad was born in Everton and was a cotton salesman who'd left school when he was fourteen.

            Mum was a Catholic, Dad was a Protestant. They got married quite late, and had me when they were around forty. My mother was a midwife and we were always given the midwife's house wherever she worked. We always felt like a pioneer family in a wagon train. No sooner would we be established in one house than we would be moved to a new one, on the outskirts of Speke, say, where they hadn't built the roads yet. We'd live there for a while and then it would be 'whipcrack away', and we were moving again. It was all right; we adjusted. They were frontiers, the outskirts of Liverpool, where we were sent. I had a very secure childhood, though. I have one brother, one and a half years younger than me, Michael.

            Liverpool has its own identity. It's even got its own accent within about a ten miles radius. Once you go outside that ten miles it's 'deep Lancashire, lad'. I think you do feel that apartness, growing up there.

            As a child, Liverpool was trams. You'd get to the end of the tram route and the driver would go to the controls at the other end to drive back. Reminders of the war were all around. We played on bomb-sites a lot and I grew up thinking the word 'bomb-site' almost meant 'playground'. I never connected it with bombing. 'Where are you going to play?' - 'I'm going down the bombie.' We said words like 'shell-shock', never realizing their true significance. There used to be a guy in a demob suit who walked along twitching. People would ask, 'What's wrong with him?' - 'Oh, shell-shock.'

            I remember winters. They were like being in Siberia, getting chapped knees in short trousers. The insides of my knees and thighs always had red chap-marks from the wet and the cold, and the wind whipping them. I was a boy scout, but I didn't get many badges - I got a bivouac badge for camping out. And I remember there were always millions and millions of car tyres down on the dock, which we'd play amongst.

            I used to go down to the docks a lot. I had very romantic feelings about them. I had a mate whose father was the dockmaster of Herculaneum Dock, and I stayed there one night. A Spanish boat came in and we wanted to practise our Spanish, since we'd just started learning it at school. The only phrase I practised was 'non rapidamente', because they kept talking too fast and we didn't know the word for 'slowly'. I remember one Spanish guy on deck having his hair cut.

            There was a market called St John's until we were teenagers, and then it got turned into a car park or something. I have good memories of the market. You'd hear a guy shouting, 'What am I bid for this crockery?' He'd start off saying, 'That lot's worth fifty quid, and I'm not even asking twenty. I'm not even asking ten. 'Ere you are, lady, three quid the lot.' He'd stack it all up precariously - all the plates would be amazingly balanced - and then bang them down, proving what great crockery it was. There was always someone in the audience, a plant, who would say, 'I'll have them,' and then everyone would rush in. You'd be tempted to buy them even if you didn't have three quid and didn't need a lot of plates, because he was such a good salesman. I loved that.

            We used to go down Dungeon Lane to the beach where the lighthouse was on the Mersey shoreline. Two lads who were tougher than me robbed me of my watch there one time. I was ten. They lived in the next street - their garden backed onto ours - so all I had to say was, 'It's him, Dad. He got me watch.' We reported them to the police, and they went to court and got put away, silly guys. I had to go and give evidence against them. It was my first time in court.

            The school I went to was an old ex-public school, the Liverpool Institute. It was very dark, dank and gloomy - it seems almost Dickensian, looking back on it. You started aged eleven and were immediately in the third year. It was a hangover, because years before you would have gone there aged nine. There were all these little crazies: 'Why am I in the third year when this is my first year?'

            A lot of people don't like school. I didn't like it very much, but I didn't dislike it; and I quite enjoyed bits of it. I enjoyed English literature because we had a good master. What I didn't like was being told what to do.

            If I tried to get the bus at school it was always full, but if I walked for a quarter of an hour down to the pierhead where they started I could get on an empty bus and pick a prime seat (which was upstairs at the front, or back, depending on what the mood was). There was a little period later in my life when I would take a pipe up onto the top deck of a bus and sit there feeling like Dylan Thomas or someone, reading Beckett plays or Tennessee Williams.

            As kids we went to Sunday school. My mum liked to see us go. We didn't do much else in the way of religion. Of course, everyone did the usual things, like sing the hymn at school assembly in the morning. I grew to like a lot of hymns that way. (When I started writing, I remember asking people, 'What does this sound like? how do you like this song?' And they'd say, 'Well, it sounds a bit like a hymn.' It was one of the damning things people said about some of my early numbers.)

            But I developed my religious philosophy at the pierhead. It was like Speakers' Corner. You always had the Catholics arguing with the Protestants. The Protestant would say, 'What my friend over there is telling you is all wrong. There is no such thing as mortal sin, you're not born a sinner.' And then the Catholic guy would start up: 'My friend over there doesn't know that there is such a thing as mortal sin, and if you don't get rid of your guilt you will burn in hell and damnation.' They couldn't get it together, even though they were both Christians. The Irish problem, the Middle-Eastern problem - it's all down to that.

            I was exposed to many religious arguments on the pierhead, and I came to the conclusion that 'God' is just the word 'good' with 'o' taken out, and 'Devil' is the word 'evil' with a 'D' added. Really, all that people have done throughout history is to personify the two forces of Good and Evil. And although they've given them many names - like Jehovah or Allah - I've got a feeling that it's all the same.

            One memorable thing of importance happened when I was about eleven. My mum and dad and my brother and I went to Butlins holiday camp. I have a photograph of me there in short trousers and school blazer - a chubby little kid. (You would never wear your school uniform going on holiday, but I think it was al I had - my posh gear.) My brother took the picture. I'm in front of a hot-dog corner, which we thought was dead hip: an American hot-dog stand!

            So I was standing there in my school cap and everything, on a roasting hot day near the swimming pool, when out of the Calypso Ballroom came five guys from Gateshead. And they all looked alike. They each had on a little tartan flat cap, with a grey crewneck sweater, tartan shorts, pumps, and carried white towels under their arms. They walked in a line across to the pool to have a good old swim and I noticed everyone's heads turn and go: 'WHO'S THAT?' In that second a penny dropped for me and I realized the power of looking something. They won the talent contest at Butlins that week for whatever they did - and you just knew that they would win.

            My dad was an instinctive musician. He'd played trumpet in a little jazz band when he was younger. I unearthed a photo in the Sixties which someone in the family had given me, and there he is in front of a big bass drum. That gave us the idea for Sgt Pepper: The Jimmy Mac Jazz Band. My dad is sitting there as a 24-year-old in his tux with my Uncle Jack next to him. Uncle Jack played trombone. It was all very 'family'.

            Dad played the trumpet until his teeth gave out. Later he tried the clarinet, but that was a disaster and we'd laugh at him. He would play piano at home. We always had a piano. (It's a great-sounding piano, which I still have. It was bought, incidentally, from North End Music Stores, NEMS. Brian Epstein was the son of Harry Epstein, the owner, and my dad bought his first piano from Harry. It is all like that in Liverpool, pretty intertwined.) I have some lovely childhood memories of lying on the floor and listening to my dad play 'Lullaby Of The Leaves' (still a big favourite of mine), and music from the Paul Whiteman era (Paul Whiteman was one of his favourites), old songs like 'Stairway To Paradise'.

            To this day, I have a deep love for the piano, maybe from my dad: it must be in the genes. He played the piano from when I was born through until I was well into The Beatles. And you can start to see where I'm coming from when you hear an old number like 'Stumbling', which is a very clever tune. Dad told me what was clever about it; he was my musical education. There was none in school; we never got music lessons. He would always point out things like the chord changes at the beginning of 'Stairway To Paradise'. Later, he'd tell us we should do that one with the Beatles. We'd say, 'Dad, Dad... "Build a stairway to paradise"? Please!'

            We were listening recently to 'Like Dreamers Do', one of my early songs - and George and I looked at each other and he said, 'That's your old man, that's "Stairway To Paradise".' So a lot of my musicality came from my dad.

            I remember my dad would often have a mate round and he would say, 'Now, he can really play.' There was one fellow called Freddie Rimmer, a pianist. I did talk to him later, and he didn't think he was that great, but to me as a child he was playing rich, juicy chords - the like of which I had never heard. He played the same things as my dad, 'Chicago' and all the old jazz songs. They were interested in funny time signatures without knowing it.

            Dad was a pretty good self-taught pianist, but because he hadn't had training himself, he always refused to teach me. I would say, 'Teach us a bit,' and he would reply, 'If you want to learn, you've got to learn properly.' It was the old ethic that to learn, you should get a teacher. It would have been OK for him to teach me, but I respect the reason why he wouldn't. In the end, I learnt to play by ear, just like him, making it all up. I did then take lessons, but I always had a problem; mainly that I didn't know my tutor, and I wasn't very good at going into an old lady's house - it smelt of old people - so I was uncomfortable. I was just a kid. I quite liked what she was showing me, but then she started setting homework: 'By next week I want you to have learnt this.' I thought it was bad enough coming for lessons, but homework! That was sheer torture. I stuck it for four or five weeks, and then the homework really got difficult so I gave up. To this day I have never learnt to write or read music; I have a vague suspicion now that it would change how I'd do things.

            To this day, I have a deep love for the piano, maybe from my dad: it must be in the genes. He played the piano from when I was born through until I was well into The Beatles. And you can start to see where I'm coming from when you hear an old number like 'Stumbling', which is a very clever tune. Dad told me what was clever about it; he was my musical education. There was none in school; we never got music lessons. He would always point out things like the chord changes at the beginning of 'Stairway To Paradise'. Later, he'd tell us we should do that one with The Beatles. We'd say, 'Dad, Dad... "Build a stairway to paradise"? Please!'

            We were listening recently to 'Like Dreamers Do', one of my early songs - and George and I looked at each other and he said, 'That's your old man, that's "Stairway To Paradise".' So a lot of my musicality came from my dad.

            I remember my dad would often have a mate round and he would say, 'Now, he can really play.' There was one fellow called Freddie Rimmer, a pianist. I did talk to him later, and he didn't think he was that great, but to me as a child he was playing rich, juicy chords - the like of which I had never heard. He played the same things as my dad, 'Chicago' and all the old jazz songs. They were interested in funny time signatures without knowing it.

            Dad was a pretty good self-taught pianist, but because he hadn't had training himself, he always refused to teach me. I would say, 'Teach us a bit,' and he would reply, 'If you want to learn, you've got to learn properly.' It was the old ethic that to learn, you should get a teacher. It would have been OK for him to teach me, but I respect the reason why he wouldn't. In the end, I learnt to play by ear, just like him, making it all up. I did then take lessons, but I always had a problem; mainly that I didn't know my tutor, and I wasn't very good at going into an old lady's house - it smelt of old people - so I was uncomfortable. I was just a kid. I quite liked what she was showing me, but then she started setting homework: 'By next week I want you to have learnt this.' I thought it was bad enough coming for lessons, but homework! That was sheer torture. I stuck it for or four or five weeks, and then the homework really got difficult so I gave up. To this day I have never learnt to write or read music; I have a vague suspicion now that it would change how I'd do things.

            My father did write a song - only the one, to my knowledge - and many years later I said, 'Dad, you know that song you wrote: "Walking In The Park With Eloise"?' He said, 'I didn't write it - I just made it up.' Anyway, I told him that I'd recorded it with some friends of mine in Nashville. One of the friends was Chet Atkins, and he'd brought along Floyd Cramer. We got together and made a little recording of the song specially to play to my dad.

            Dad had told me: 'Learn the piano, because you'll get invited to parties.' He'd always play on New Year's Eve. Our family always had big New Year's Eve parties. They were some of the best parties I ever remember, because everyone got together.

            We kids were allowed to help behind the bar, which was a few crates and a bit of table. We were taught that if someone asked for a 'gin and it', it was gin and Italian, and that 'rum and black' was rum and blackcurrant. We learnt how to do it all: 'If they want beer, get it from that barrel there, and if they want mild, that's there.' It was wonderful, because everybody would get pissed out of their arses. Old Uncle Jack, a wheezy old man, would say, 'All right, son. Have you heard this one?' and tell the best jokes ever. A really good joke is a great acquisition for me, it's like gold bullion. I don't remember Uncle Jack ever coming up with a bad one, they were always killers. There'd be him and my Uncle Harry, drunk out of their minds. And at midnight on New Year's Eve at Uncle Joe's house in Aintree, a piper would come in - just a neighbour - and it was lovely; very, very warm.

            When I used to talk to John about his childhood, I realised that mine was so much warmer. I think that's why I grew up to be so open about sentimentality in particular. I really don't mind being sentimental. I know a lot of people look on it as uncool. I see it as a pretty valuable asset.

            The New Year's party would traditionally be my dad's night. I only took over as the New Year's Eve pianist from him because he had arthritis and he couldn't do it any more. There was an older man called Jack Ollie, married to a cousin of mine, who'd come up with a pint for me and plonk it on the top of the piano. He'd stand and listen to me, and as he sipped his pint he'd say, 'I like it, I like it - I like it.' That's all he'd say, and just buy me drinks.

            I haven't done it for a while, but part of my repertoire was 'Red Red Robin', and 'Carolina Moon'. I had a lovely uncle, Ron, who would come up and say, 'All right, son. Now, you know "Carolina Moon"?' and I'd say, 'Yeah.' He'd say, 'Well, don't play it yet, wait till I tell you. I'll give you the OK.' I'd wait and everyone would get streamed up, you cold feel the party rise and the atmosphere building, and at about eleven he'd come up to me and tap me on the shoulder - 'All right, son, go for it.' That would be it: 'Carolina Moon...' and everyone would cheer. He was always right, the timing was always spot on. I used to keep going for hours and hours, and it was good practice. It was a lot of my training. Later on, people wanted me to do 'Let It Be' and other songs of mine at these do's. But I never wanted to. It didn't seem kosher.

            My dad was also a great crossword-puzzle man, and used to tell us kids to practise crossword puzzles - it would improve our word power. Having left school very early, he'd had to educate himself. He taught me words that no one else knew and I was the only kid in my class who could spell 'phlegm'. He had met a lot of people at his workplace whom he looked up to, so he and my mum believed in education and in furthering yourself. I think a lot of my ambition comes from them.

            Dad could also be quite shy. My parents didn't tell me about sex, they were too embarrassed. Dad used to try to tell me, but it came out all wrong. He'd say, 'See those two dogs over there?' and I'd say, 'Well, throw some cold water over them.' - 'No, no, what I'm trying to tell you is...' He'd try to tackle the subject like that; but I found out from the other kids, anyway, when I was about eleven: 'Don't you know?' they'd say. 'Where have you been?'

            But he was great; very well meaning, and always upwardly mobile. He didn't actually move very far up himself, but he aspired heavily and so did my mum. Because she was a nurse, my brother and I were always going to be doctors, which we could never have achieved because we were too lazy. That was the kind of environment I was in.

            My mum dying when I was fourteen was the big shock in my teenage years. She died of cancer, I learnt later. I didn't know then why she had died.

            My mum wanted us to speak properly and aspired to speak the Queen's English. One of my most guilty feelings is about picking her up once on how she spoke. She pronounced 'ask' with a long 'a' sound. And I said, 'Oh - "aarsk"! That's "ask", mum,' and I really took the piss out of her. When she died, I remember thinking, 'You asshole, why did you do that? Why did you have to put your mum down?' I think I've just about got over it now, doctor.

            My mother's death broke my dad up. That was the worst thing for me, hearing my dad cry. I'd never heard him cry before. It was a terrible blow to the family. You grow up real quick, because you never expect to hear your parents crying. You expect to see women crying, or kids in the playground, or even yourself crying - and you can explain all that. But when it's your dad, then you know something's really wrong and it shakes your faith in everything. But I was determined not to let it affect me. I carried on. I learnt to put a shell around me at that age. There was none of this sitting at home crying - that would be recommended now, but not then.

            That became a very big bond between John and me, because he lost his mum early on, too. We both had this emotional turmoil which we had to deal with and, being teenagers, we had to deal with it very quickly. We both understood that something had happened that you couldn't talk about - but we could laugh about it, because each of us had gone through it. It wasn't OK for anyone else. We could both laugh at death - but only on the surface. John went through hell, but young people don't show grief - they'd rather not. Occasionally, once or twice in later years, it would hit in. We'd be sitting around and we'd have a cry together; not often, but it was good.

            Now Mum was gone there were chores to be done: I had to do the fire and a bit of cleaning. But we also made a point of playing out, too. We did have a couple of aunties, which was a blessing. Auntie Milly and Auntie Jinny came on Tuesdays, and that was a golden day in my week because I could come home and not have to do anything. They'd have a dinner waiting for me and I could just flop in a chair and go to sleep.

            I learnt to cook some things. I'm a reasonable cook. I used to take a tin of tomatoes and boil them down to make a very good tomato purée. Even when we started getting known, playing the clubs in Liverpool, my dad would show up at the Cavern with half a pound of sausages and throw them at me - and that would be dinner. I would be expected to go home, stick them under the grill and make some mashed potatoes - I'm a good mashed-potato maker to this day.

            I went occasionally to watch football. My family team was Everton and I went to Goodison Park a couple of times with my uncles Harry and Ron. They were nice memories for me, but I wasn't that keen on football. (The Beatles weren't very sporty at all.) When I went to the match it was the witticisms that I liked. You'd always get the comedians in the crowd; they must be the people who invent jokes. I remember being at one game and a guy had a trumpet and was commenting on the game musically. Someone would have a shot at goal which would go way, way over the top and he'd play: 'Over the mountains, over the sea.' Very skilful.

            My dad bought me a trumpet for my birthday, at Rushworth & Draper's (the other music store in town), and I loved it. There was a big hero-thing at the time. There had been Harry James - The Man With The Golden Trumpet - and now, in the Fifties, it was Eddie Calvert, a big British star who played 'Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White' - all those gimmicky trumpet records. There were a lot of them around back then, so we all wanted to be trumpeters.

            I persevered with the trumpet for a while. I learnt 'The Saints', which I can still play in C. I learnt my C scale, and a couple of things. Then I realised that I wasn't going to be able to sing with this thing stuck in my mouth, so I asked my dad if he'd mined if I swapped it for a guitar, which also fascinated me. He didn't, and I traded my trumpet in for an acoustic guitar, a Zenith, which I still have.

            It was OK as a first guitar. Being left handed, I would play it upside down. Everyone else had right-handed guitars, but I learnt some chords my way up: A, D and E - which was all you needed in those days. I started writing songs, because now I could play and sing at the same time. I wrote my first when I was fourteen. It was called 'I Lost My Little Girl' - 'I woke up this morning, my head was in a whirl, only then I realised, lost my little girl, uh, huh, huh.' It's a funny, corny little song based on three chords - G,G7 and C. I liked the way one melody line went down and the other went up, which I think is called contrary motion. It was a very innocent little song. All my first songs, including that one, were written on the Zenith; songs like 'Michelle' and 'I Saw Her Standing There'. It was on this guitar that I learnt 'Twenty Flight Rock', the song that later got me into the group The Quarry Men.

            Eventually, it got the worse for wear. My cousin Ian was quite a good carpenter (he and his dad were builders), and he repaired it for me with a brace unit and two-inch screws, the sort used for holding up shelves. It's actually been properly restored now, and looking better than it ever looked.

            John was the local Ted. You saw him rather than met him. I know John's story, and as I got older I realised it was his childhood that made John what he was. His father left home when he was four. I don't think John ever got over that. I talked to him about it. He would wonder, 'Could he have left because of me?' Of course he couldn't but I don't think John ever shook off that feeling.

            Instead of living with his mother, he went to live with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George. Then Uncle George died and John began to think that there was a jinx on the male side: father left home, uncle dead. He loved his Uncle George; he was always quite open about loving people. All those losses would really have got to him. His mother lived in what was called 'sin' - just living with a guy by whom she had a couple of daughters, John's half sisters, Julia and Jacqui; very nice people. John really loved his mother, idol-worshipped her. I loved her, too. She was great: gorgeous and funny, with beautiful long red hair. She played the ukulele, and to this day, if I ever meet grown-ups who play ukuleles, I love them. She was killed, so John's life was tragedy after tragedy.

            It was this tragedy that led John to be a wild guy, a Ted. There was a lot of aggression around Liverpool; there were lots of Teddy boys, and you had to try to avoid them if you saw them in alleyways. If, like John, you were a guy who had lived on his own, you had to put up some kind of a front. So he grew long sideburns, he had a long drape jacket, he had the drain-pipe trousers and the crepe-soled shoes. He was always quite defensive because of that. I would see him from afar, from the bus. This Ted would get on the bus, and I wouldn't look at him too hard in case he hit me, because he was just that much older. That was before I got to know him.

            Ivan Vaughan was a friend of mine born on exactly the same day as me. (He was a smashing fellow, who unfortunately got Parkinson'' disease and has died.) Ivan was also mates with John. Ivan said to me one day, 'The Woolton Village Fête is on Saturday' - he lived near John in Woolton - 'Do you want to come?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm not doing anything.'

            It was 6th July 1957. We were fifteen years old. I remember coming into the fête; there was the coconut shy over here and the hoopla over there, all the usual things - and there was a band playing on a platform with a small audience in front of them.

            We headed for the stage first, because as teenagers we were interested in music. There was a guy up on the platform with curly, blondish hair, wearing a checked shirt - looking pretty good and quite fashionable - singing a song that I loved: the Del-Vikings' 'Come Go With Me'. He didn't know the words, but it didn't matter because none of us knew the words either. There's a little refrain which goes, 'Come little darlin', come and go with me, I love you darling.' John was singing, 'Down, down, down to the penitentiary.' He was filling in with blues lines, I thought that was good, and he was singing well. There was a skiffle group around him: tea-chest bass, drums, banjo, quite a higgledy-piggledy lot. They were called The Quarry Men because John went to the Quarry Bank school, and I quite liked them.

            I wandered around the fair and then Ivan and I went backstage. The band were getting ready to move indoors, into the church hall for the evening show. There was some beer being drunk. Really, I was too young for that then, but, 'Sure, I'll have a sip.' I was trying to be in with the big lads who, being sixteen, were into pre-pub drinking. We went to the evening show and that was good, although a fight almost broke out; we'd heard that the gang from Garston was coming over. I was wondering what I had got myself into. I had only come over for the afternoon and now I was in Mafia land. But it all worked out fine, and I got on the piano.

            John was a little afternoon-pissed, leaning over my shoulder, breathing boozily. We were all a little sloshed. I thought, 'Bloody hell, who's this?' But he was enjoying what I was playing, 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' in C; and I knew 'Tutti Frutti' and 'Long Tall Sally'. Then I played guitar - upside down. I did 'Twenty Flight Rock', and knew all the words. The Quarry Men were so knocked out that I actually knew and could sing 'Twenty Flight Rock'. That's what got me into The Beatles.

            I knew all the words because me and my mate Ian James had just got them. He and I used to get into all these records and write down the words. 'Twenty Flight Rock' was a hard record to get; I remember ordering it and having to wait weeks for it to come in. We'd buy from Curry's or NEMS. We used to go around shops and ask to hear a record, and then not buy it. They used to get very annoyed but we didn't care - now we knew the words. I never had a very big record collection.

            I often pedalled around Woolton at that time, going to see Ivan. I lived a bike ride away, in Allerton. (You could walk through the golf links, so it was quite handily placed for me and John. It was important then whether you lived near each other or not. There were no cars for kids in those days.) Pete Shotton, who was in The Quarry Men, was cycling around too, and we met by chance. Pete was a close friend of John's. He said, 'Hey, Paul, it was good the other day, and we've been having a talk. Would you like to join the group?' I said, 'I'll have do think about it.' But I was quite excited by the offer, so - through Ivan - I agreed to join.

            A great thing about Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and the provinces, is that they all have places with famous names, and the first gig with The Quarry Men was on Broadway - in Liverpool. (We made our first record in a little demo studio in Kensington, Liverpool.) For my first gig, I was given a guitar solo on 'Guitar Boogie'. I could play it easily in rehearsal so they elected that I should do it as my solo. Things were going fine, but when the moment came in the performance I got sticky fingers; I thought, 'What am I doing here?' I was just too frightened; it was too big a moment with everyone looking at the guitar player. I couldn't do it. (I never played a solo again until a few years ago.) That's why George was brought in.

            I knew George from the bus. Before I went to live in Allerton, I lived in Speke. We lived on an estate which they used to call the Trading Estate. (I understand now that they were trying to move industry there to provide jobs, but then we didn't ever consider why it was called a trading estate.) George was a bus stop away. I would get on the bus for school and he would get on the stop after. So, being close to each other in age, we talked - although I tended to talk down to him, because he was a year younger. (I know now that that was a failing I had all the way through the Beatle years. If you've known a guy when he's thirteen and you're Fourteen, it's hard to think of him as grown-up. I still think of George as a young kid. I still think of Ringo as a very old person because he is two years older. He was the grown-up in the group: when he came to us he had a beard, he had a car and he had a suit. What more proof do you need of grown-upmanship?)

            I told John and the other Quarry Men about this guy at school called George: 'He is a real good guitar player, so if you're thinking of guitar - this is your boy.' They said, 'OK, let's hear him, then.'

            George could play 'Raunchy' so well it really sounded like the record. We were all on the top of an empty bus one night and I said, 'Go on, George.' He got his guitar out and sure enough he could play it, and everyone agreed, 'You're in. You've done it.' It was rather like me knowing the words to 'Twenty Flight Rock'. With George it was: 'He's a bit young, but by God he can play "Raunchy" well.' George was like our professional guitarist from then. Later, John did play some Chuck Berry-style solos, but he gave over the solo chair to George and became known as rhythm guitarist.

            John was at art school by now. I was fifteen, John was almost seventeen. It seemed an awful lot at the time. If we wanted to do anything grown-up we worried about George looking young. We thought, 'He doesn't shave... can't we get him to look like a grown-up?'

            Once, George and I had gone to see the film The Blackboard Jungle. It starred Vic Morrow, which was good, but more importantly it had Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock' as its theme tune. The first time I heard that, shivers went up my spine, so we had to go and see the film, just for the title song. I could just about scrape through the sixteen barrier. Even though I was baby-faced, I was just able to bluff it in the grown-up world; but George couldn't He had all the attitude, but he really was young-looking. I remember going out into his back garden and getting a bit of soil and putting it on his lip as a moustache. It was ridiculous, but I thought, 'He looks the part - we'll get in.' And we did. It was a teenage juvenile-delinquent film, and we were quite disappointed: all acting and talking!

            I actually went to see Bill Haley at the Odeon. I think it was twenty-four shillings. Consequently, I was the only one who could go, because no one else could save that amount. I didn't have any source of income; I had to save for quite a long time. I was very single-minded about it: once I'd had that tingle, I had to go. I remember I was in short trousers - for a rock'n'roll concert! It was great, although Vic Lewis and his orchestra had the first half of the show. I thought that was a bit of a swizz - I wanted Bill all the way.

            I had film heroes. Fred Astaire was always one of my big heroes, he was just so suave and debonair. I liked his voice a lot. Marlon Brando we were all very keen on. Robb Wilton, a comedian, whose autograph I got once. One of my relatives was a stage-door keeper at the Liverpool Empire, and he'd get autographs for me. I'm generally quite good natured about giving autographs (not always, but generally) and it's all because I used to collect them myself at the Empire stage door, from the Crew Cuts, people like that. And the fact that they treated me well never left me.

            I once wrote to Craven Cottage, Fulham Football Club, for Johnny Hayne's autograph and it's a special little tingly memory for me of it coming back in the post. Sir Peter Scott I wrote to. (I was a skiving bastard when you think about it, but I always thought nothing ventured nothing gained.) Peter Scott had a TV show and he used to draw various birds every week. I wrote to him, 'Can I have the drawings of them ducks if you're not doing anything with them?' I got a polite reply.

            The telly showed us most of what was going on then. I'd first heard about 'Rock Around The Clock' on telly, and even Maharishi. Granada, the local television station, saw to it that anyone wandering through the region was nabbed and interviewed. So we would hear about all those things; rock'n'roll films - The Blackboard Jungle, Marlon Brando in The Wild One (I was a bit disappointed with The Wild One).

            But it was music that I loved. There have been times when I've been feeling down, and then I've heard a particular song and it has lifted me. Me and my teenage mate Ian James both had fleck jackets with a little flap on the breast pocket, and we'd knock around the fairgrounds and places. If we were feeling lousy, we'd back and play an Elvis 78 - 'Don't Be Cruel' - and we'd be right up there again. It could cure and blues.

            I remember being in the assembly hall at school one day - it was a free period and all us kids were hanging out together. Somebody pulled out a music paper, and there was an advert for 'Heartbreak Hotel'. Elvis looked so great: 'That's him, that's him - the Messiah has arrived!' Then when we heard the song, there was the proof. That was followed by his first album, which I still love the best of all his records. It was so fantastic we played it endlessly and tried to learn it all. Everything we did was based on that album.

            I went off Elvis after he left the army. I felt they tamed him too much. It was all wrong - GI Blues and Blue Hawaii. I know they have kitsch value to a lot of people now, and I have also heard people say that they liked Elvis best when he was fat and bloated in Vegas, because there was an edge, a fear that something was going wrong, which they could be voyeuristic about. But I like him best around 1956, when he was young and gorgeous and had a twinkle in his eye; when he had a sense of humour, plus that great voice. He was an incredible vocalist. Try and do it sometime - we all have - and he is still the guv'nor. The video Elvis Live in '56 is great, but it was just one year later that he went to Hollywood and the light had gone out of his eye. In that video he performs like he's playing to an audience of screaming girls, but by his actions he is saying, 'I don't believe in this screaming.' Every line, he is reacting. It is an incredible performance, which I love still. Elvis made a huge impression on us.

            Chuck Berry was another massive influence with 'Johnny B. Goode'. We'd go up to John's bedroom with his little record-player and listen to Chuck Berry records, trying to learn them. I remember learning 'Memphis, Tennessee' up there.

            The Girl Can't Help It is still the great music film. They had always treated music films as B pictures up till then, or used music just as a theme tune, as in The Blackboard Jungle. Or those little black-and-white productions with an Alan Freed as the personality, and lots of what they thought were 'black acts'. To us it was not just a black act, it was Clyde McPhatter! We idolised these people and we always thought they were given crummy treatment - until The Girl Can't Help It. There is a famous moment at the beginning when Tom Ewell takes the screen. He says, 'Wait a minite,' and pushes the picture out so it becomes a wide screen. Then he clicks his fingers and it changes from black-and-white to colour: the big epic, exactly what we wanted! then Jayne Mansfield comes on and the game's over, and the guy's glasses break. At the same time, Little Richard is singing 'The Girl Can't Help It', and then Eddie Cochran does 'Twenty Flight Rock'. And Gene Vincent sings 'Be Bop A Lula', which was the first record I ever bought. I still love that film.

            There were lots of people coming up then. Buddy Holly was completely different; he was out of Nashville, so that introduced us to the country-music scene. I still like Buddy's vocal style. And his writing. One of the main things about The Beatles is that we started out writing our own material. People these days take it for granted that you do, but nobody used to then. John and I started to write because of Buddy Holly. It was like, 'Wow! He writes and is a musician.'

            We'd always watched the Elvis films checking to see if he could play guitar, and he could - a little bit. He wasn't bad; he held the shapes. Some 'guitarists' held like wallyville. We'd think: 'That's not a shape, that is not a chord,' so it would be: 'Goodbye - we don't like you any more. You mustn't strum the guitar if you can't play. Put it down and dance.' But you could tell that Buddy played the solo on 'Peggy Sue'. We were very attracted to him for that reason, and the fact that there was always 'Holly/Petty' or 'Petty/Holly' on the records, so we knew he was one of the writers. We tried for ages to learn the intro to 'That'll Be The Day', and finally John found it. Buddy did it in F with a capo, but we didn't know that so we did it in A.

            John was very short-sighted. He wore glasses, but he would only wear them in private. Until Buddy Holly arrived on the scene he would never get them out because he felt like an idiot, with his big horn-rimmed glasses. So he was constantly banging into things; he used to make a joke out of it. Another friend of his at college, Geoff, was even more short-sighted. John and Geoff used to have very funny moments going around town: two blind guys who wouldn't put their glasses on. But when Buddy came out, the glasses came out too. John could go on stage and see who he was playing to. In our imaginations back then, John was Buddy and I was Little Richard or Elvis. You're always someone when you start.

            Rock'n'roll wasn't all I liked in music. Kids these days must find it hard to imagine a time when rock'n'roll was only one of 'the musics'. Now it is the music. There is a huge spectrum, from pop to serious blues players. Back then I wasn't necessarily looking to be a rock'n'roller. When I wrote 'When I'm Sixty-Four' I thought I was writing a song for Sinatra. There were records other than rock'n'roll that were important to me. And that would come out in The Beatles doing songs like 'Till There Was You'.

            I had an elder cousin, Elizabeth Danher (now Robbins). She was quite an influence on me. She had a fairly grown-up record collection, and she would say, 'Have you heard this?' She was the first person ever to play me 'My Funny Valentine' - 'Don't change a hair for me, not if you care for me.' The words were good. For the same reason I've always liked Chuck Berry, who writes great lyrics.

            Betty would play me records like Peggy Lee's 'Fever'. Peggy Lee did 'Till There Was You' as well. I didn't know that was from the musical The Music Man until many years later. (Funnily enough, my company now publishes the music from that show.) This led me to songs like 'A Taste Of Honey' and things which were slightly to the left and the right of rock'n'roll.

            John's, George's and my tastes were all pretty much in common. We shared our influences like mad. And when John would show another side to his musical taste, it would be similar to what I'd been brought up on, like my dad's music. One of John's favourite songs was 'Don't Blame Me'. It is a really nice song that I believe his mother had shown him; another one was 'Little White Lies'. We would learn the chords to some of these. But the main feeling was for the rock'n'roll and that was what we started to devour.

            When we weren't playing parties or talent contests we would listen to other guys on guitar, and it became a quest to find chords and records. It was like looking for the Holy Grail. We would hear of some guy in Fazakerley - was that a long way away! It was, of course, in Liverpool but it was like going across the world for us: this guy knows B7! We must all go on a journey. So a little crowd of us would get on the bus there. It would be enough that he knew B7. We'd sit down: 'Oh guru, we hearest thou knowest B7. Please show it to us.' - 'Certainly, kids.' Then we'd go home: 'Wey-hey, we know E, A and D - now let's get B7.' We didn't know exactly how to do the last part of B7 for a while.

            A rumour reached town one day that there was a man over the hills who had the record 'Searchin'' by The Coasters. Colin, the drummer with John's skiffle group, knew him and so there was a great trek to find the man, and indeed we found him. And relieved him of it. It was too big a responsibility for him to keep. We couldn't return it. We just had to have it; it was like gold dust. 'Searchin'' became a big number with The Beatles; we always used to do it at the Cavern. (There were little groups of fans there who gave themselves names. One group was called The Woodentops and there were two girls, Chris and Val, who would shout in their Scouse accents, 'Sing "Searchin'", Paul. Sing "Searchin'".')

            That was how we found things out - going on a bus somewhere to see a man with a record, or to teenage parties. Kids would come with a handful of 45s - a little shopping bag full of them. And great villainly went on then, of course. As people got more and more drunk we used to nick their records.

            I'd started fiddling around on my dad's piano again. I wrote 'When I'm Sixty-Four' on that when I was still sixteen (it was all rather tongue in cheek) and I never forgot it. I wrote that tine vaguely thinking could come in handy in a musical comedy or something. Like I say I didn't know what kind of career I was going to take back then.

            I remember standing at the bus stop, thinking, 'If only I could win Ј75,000 on the pools and have the bare essentials of life - a guitar, a car and a house,' I couldn't even think of anything else. My dad gave me ten shillings once and, as far as I can recall, that's the only person in my whole life who's ever given me anything for free.

            I would often sag off school for the afternoon and John would get off art college, and we would sit down with our two guitars and plonk away. We'd go to my house because there wasn't really anywhere else. Dad was at work. We'd get a pipe out and smoke some Typhoo tea to feel like adults. (It didn't taste too good.) We'd both have acoustic guitars and we'd sit opposite each other and play. It was great, because instead of looking into my own mind for a song I could see John playing - as if he was holding a mirror to what I was doing. It was a good way to write.

            We wrote songs together. I wrote them down in an exercise book and above them it always said, 'Another Lennon/McCartney original.' Next page, 'Another Lennon/McCartney original.' It was just the lyrics and indications of the chords. We would have to remember the melodies, with indications of the 'oh's that would be the back-up vocals; I had no way of writing them down. There were no cassettes and you could hardly go to the expense of getting hold of a Grundig tape-recorder. You had to know somebody who had one. We did know one person, but we didn't record much on it - we weren't that interested in our own material early on. The whole deal was to remember the songs we'd written. John and I had an unwritten law, which was that if we couldn't remember them, then how could we expect people who hadn't written them to remember them?

            We did 'Love Me Do' and 'I Saw Her Standing There', and got the basis of a partnership going. One of us would came up with an idea and then it would see-saw. So there was a mild competitiveness in that we were ricocheting our ideas. 'Love Me Do' was very much G and G7, C and D - not too hard. The harmonica is a great bit. John was a good harmonica player. He had a chromatic one, which is more like Stevie Wonder's - it was a little square, so he had to learn how to get the blues sounds out of it.

            We were learning our skill. John would like some of my lines and not others. He liked most of what I did, but there would sometimes be a cringe line, such as, 'She was just seventeen, she'd never been a beauty queen.' John thought, 'Beauty queen? Ugh.' We were thinking of Butlins so we asked ourselves, what should it be? We came up with, 'You know what I mean.' Which was good, because you don't know what I mean.

            We were learning together and gradually the songs got better and most of what we called our 'first hundred' (which was probably above five - we would lie our faces off then to get anyone to notice us) were written in my house in Forthlin Road. Then we had to waft all the tea-tobacco smell away and get out before my dad came home and caught us.

            In those early days, you could go to the local studios and, as long as you could get the money together - five pounds, which was a lot for kids to find - you could cut a record. You would show up with all your equipment and wait; it was a bit like a doctor's waiting room. When the group or the performer before you had made their record, you would go into the studio and a guy would come in, adjust a few microphones and you would sing. Then it was back out to the waiting room for fifteen minutes while he processed the tape )I think it was tape, though it went straight onto shellac), and off you went. It was a very primitive recording.

            We made a shellac disc like that in 1958. There were five of us: George, John, Colin Hanton, 'Duff' Lowe and me. Duff was a friend of mine from school who could play the piano. He could play the arpeggio at the beginning of Jerry Lee's 'Mean Woman Blues'. That was the reason he was in. No one else we knew could play arpeggios right up the piano keyboard; we could do one broken chord and pause, and then do another and pause again - he could go right through with the correct fingering.

            We went to Phillips in Kensington, which sounded very posh. John sang 'That'll Be The Day', and the B side was 'In Spite Of All The Danger': a self-penned little very influenced by Elvis. John and I sang it and George played the solo.

            When we got the record, the agreement was that we would have it for a week each. John had it a week and passed it on to me. I had it for a week and passed it on to George, who had it for a week. Then Colin had it for a week and passed it to Duff Lowe - who kept it for twenty-three years. Later, when we were famous, he said, 'Hey, I've got that first record.' I ended up buying it back for a very inflated price. I have since had some replicas made. I don't want to play the shellac because it would wear out, as demos in those days would. But it's great to have.

            At that time I was playing guitar too. In fact, at one time there were only three of us in the band, and we were all guitarists - George, John and me. We were playing here and there, around Liverpool, and after a while everyone else had dwindled away to get jobs, go to college, whatever. We would show up for gigs just with three guitars, and the person booking us would ask, 'Where's the drums, then?' To cover this eventuality we would say, 'The rhythm's in the guitars,' stand there, smile a lot, bluff it out. There was not a lot you could say to that, and we'd make them very rhythmic to prove our point.

            We heard there were opportunities on talent shows like Carroll Levis's Discoveries. Carroll Levis was a rather portly Canadian gent with blondish hair. We thought Canadians were like Americans, so they were very special to us. They could easily get into entertainment, as Hughie Green did - just because of their accent: 'Ladies and gennelmen...' Oh wow, he's professional! In 1959, we got on Levis's Discoveries and went to Ardwick in Manchester. We rehearsed our set on the train over from Liverpool. We did 'Think It Over' and 'Rave On'.

            We failed miserably in the contest - we always got beaten. We never won a talent show in our lives. We were always playing little late-night ones at pubs and working-men's clubs. We were inevitably beaten by the woman on the spoons, because it was eleven at night and everyone was well tanked up, they didn't want to hear the music we were playing. It was always the fat old lady with a pair of spoons who would beat us hands down. We would come back on the bus saying, 'We shouldn't have lost to her, you know, she wasn't that good.' - 'She had a certain something about her, on the thighs, you know?' - 'No, we were better, we really were: they were all pissed.' We had to buoy ourselves up after every failure.

            Stuart Sutcliffe was a friend of John's from art college. Stuart had sold a painting for Ј65. (He used to paint in the style of Nicolas de Staël, his favourite artist. the paintings were basically abstract - to us it looked like throwing on a bit of paint and wiggling it about a bit.) So what do you do with Ј65? We all reminded him over a coffee: 'Funny you should have got that amount, Stuart - it is very near the cost of a Hofner bass.' He said, 'No, I can't just spend all that.' It was a fortune in those days, like an inheritance. He said he had to buy canvases or paint. We said, 'Stu, see reason, love. A Hofner, a big ace group... fame!' He gave in and bought this big Hofner bass that dwarfed him. The trouble was he couldn't play well. This was a bit of a drawback, but it looked good, so it wasn't too much of a problem.

            When he came into the band, around Christmas of 1959, we were a little jealous of him; it was something I didn't deal with very well. We were always slightly jealous of John's other friendships. He was the older fellow; it was just the way it was. When Stuart came in, it felt as if he was taking the position away from George and me. We had to take a bit of a back seat. Stuart was John's age, went to art college, was a very good painter and had all the cred that we didn't. We were a bit younger, went to a grammar school and weren't quite serious enough.

            So, with whatever occasional drummer we had - and there were a few - that made five of us.

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