Beatles International
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When I wrote my book, “Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles”, there was an obvious story in the songs that inspired The Beatles: the songs and artists that shaped their teenage years: that ultimately shaped The Beatles.

For the teenagers of the 1950s, it all started with Bill Haley’s 1954 recording of “Rock Around The Clock”. John Lennon once commented that ‘I had no idea about doing music as a way of life until rock and roll hit me.’ When asked what specifically hit him, Lennon replied: ‘It was "Rock Around The Clock."’
However, it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll but skiffle that first inspired young boys across the UK to pick up musical instruments. Lonnie Donegan sparked a craze in 1956 when his single, “Rock Island Line” became the first UK record to go gold, and also hit the top ten in the US. All across the UK, skiffle groups started appearing, including a small group of friends at Quarry Bank School, Liverpool: The Quarrymen were formed. John Lennon played his copy of “Rock Island Line” until it was worn out, and then he sold it to his band mate Rod Davis.

However, the skiffle craze didn’t last long, because Elvis Presley was soon ‘The King’, and his 1956 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel” showed what rock ‘n’ roll dreams were made of. When John first saw Elvis, he knew what he wanted to be. “When I heard Heartbreak Hotel, I thought ‘this is it’.”

All Liverpool eyes turned towards America for further inspiration, and when those teenage ears heard Chuck Berry’s guitar come to life, with songs like “Roll Over Beethoven”, Berry’s songs began featuring on every group’s set list. On 6 July 1957, Ivan Vaughan brought his school friend Paul McCartney to meet his childhood friend John Lennon at the Garden Fete at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton. That was the day, Lennon remembered, that he first sang Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” with The Quarrymen.

Paul was introduced to John in St. Peter’s Church Hall, and, as an audition piece, McCartney played Eddie Cochrane’s “Twenty Flight Rock”, left-handed and upside down, on John’s guitar. A regular feature on The Quarrymen’s set list, a song that they also played that famous day, was The Del Viking’s “Come Go With Me”. Paul noticed that John was changing the words, singing about going ‘down to the penitentiary.’ John was impressed enough to ask Paul to join The Quarrymen.

Another favourite of the Liverpool skiffle groups was “Maggie May”, the story of a local prostitute from an old folk song that was performed by most of the groups. It was The Vipers, one of the best recorded skiffle groups, who had a hit in 1957 with the song. The Beatles later featured an excerpt of this song, entitled “Maggie Mae”, on their album, Let It Be.

Carl Perkins was an inspiration to a young George Harrison. George even used the pseudonym Carl Harrison on tour with the Silver Beatles when they backed Johnny Gentle, and Perkin’s song “Matchbox” became a standard in their set.

Having met Paul McCartney on the bus going to school, George Harrison would often go to Paul’s house to practice guitar. Paul was keen to get George into The Quarrymen, but this meant convincing the group’s undisputed leader, John Lennon, of his talent. Because of the age-difference – John was 17, and George only approaching his 15th birthday – Lennon was reluctant to let this young kid join the group. However, in February 1958, on the top deck of a bus, George played the instrumental “Raunchy”, made famous by the Bill Justis Combo in November 1957. John was convinced: George was invited to join The Quarrymen.

On 12th July 1958, The Quarrymen made their first record at Percy Phillips’ studio in Kensington, Liverpool. Having been to see their hero Buddy Holly play at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in March 1958, the first song they chose to record was The Cricket’s 1957 hit, “That’ll Be The Day”. It was The Cricket’s name that would inspire the group to change their name to that of another insect: Beetles.

On 29 August 1959, The Casbah Coffee Club opened in the basement of the home of Mona Best. The group that opened the club was The Quarrymen, with John, Paul, George and Ken Brown. To open The Casbah every night, they would play Johnny and the Hurricanes’ instrumental record, “Red River Rock”, on their Dansette record player.

By the end of 1959, The Quarrymen name was no longer in use, having walked out of The Casbah Club. They had used the name “Johnny and the Moondogs” and by the beginning of 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe now in the group, they changed their name to the Silver Beatles. In May 1960, Allan Williams became their manager, and secured an audition for them to back one of promoter Larry Parnes’ artists, Liverpool’s Billy Fury, who shot to fame with a string of hits, like his January 1959 song, “Maybe Tomorrow”. Although they didn’t win the chance to back Fury, Parnes thought they were good enough to support another of his artists, Johnny Gentle. Despite a disastrous tour of Scotland, Gentle had some modest success with songs like “Wendy”, which had been released in March 1959.

By the end of 1960, and with Pete Best now on drums, they were The Beatles, having conquered Hamburg. The first Merseybeat band to make it in Hamburg was Derry and The Seniors, soon to be Howie Casey and The Seniors. With Derry Wilkie and Freddie Starr on vocals, they became the first Liverpool band to get a record released, with “Double Twist” released in February 1962.

Litherland Town Hall, 27 December 1960, is seen as the birthplace of ‘Beatlemania’, where Paul screamed out Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” to the stunned crowd. Just back from Hamburg, The Beatles became the top band in Liverpool. Watching them that night was Liverpool legend, Faron. With his band The Flamingos, he recorded arguably the best version of “Do You Love Me?” in August 1963, though they never got the credit they deserved.

When returning to Hamburg, one of the biggest influences on their career and sound was Tony Sheridan. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete – were chosen to act as Sheridan’s backing group on a traditional song, “My Bonnie”. They had a minor hit in Germany with it as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers, but, when youngsters in Liverpool started asking NEMS’ record store owner Brian Epstein for the record, he became intrigued. Wanting to find out more, Epstein headed for The Cavern, and was so impressed that he offered to become The Beatles’ manager. His promise was to get them a record deal, and so, on 1 January 1962, The Beatles drove down to Decca Records in London for an audition. The set of songs was chosen by Epstein, and one of the standard songs in their set was The Coasters’ “Searchin’”.

However, it was EMI that signed The Beatles, who held their first recording session at Abbey Road Studios in June 1962. However, by the time they returned for their second session in September 1962, Pete Best had been replaced by the drummer from the Liverpool group Rory Storm and the Hurricanes: Ringo Starr. At that second session, George Martin had overseen the recording of their debut single, “Love Me Do”, which, after being released in October 1962, was soon followed in March 1963 by their first album, Please, Please Me. For many listeners, the stand out track was their cover of the Medley and Berns’ song, “Twist and Shout”, inspired by Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes version.

The BEAT was now in The Beatles, but from that moment on, it would be their own songs and music that would inspire the generations that followed.

David Bedford