|Leading Up To Fame|
| Although they are now the most celebrated group in the world, the Beatles did not obtain success instantly. Actually, success eluded them for many years as they were laughed at by observers, record companies refused to sign them, and they were often paid little and sheltered primitively.
John Lennon was the first member of what was to become the Beatles. He formed his first group, the Quarry Men (named after their school, Quarry Bank) in March of 1957 during the skiffle craze. The Quarry Men consisted of a gang of John's friends who merely formed a band for fun and girls. The second member of the Beatles joined the Quarry Men after he saw a performance at the Woolton Parish Church Fete on July 6, 1957. Ivan Vaughn (tea chest player) introduced an intoxicated John Lennon after the show to 15 year old Paul McCartney. John was very impressed with Paul's knowledge of the guitar, especially that he could properly tune it and he wanted Paul to join the group. However, he was delayed in doing so because he didn't want to alienate his friends and he didn't want to lose any attention. A few days after the show, Paul was asked to join the group and he accepted. Thus we have a very important half of the Beatles.
John and Paul shared many feelings and desires and became quite close during the early years of the Quarry Men. Each had an obsessive fondness for the guitar, each had lost their mother (John's was killed in a car crash and Paul's died of breast cancer), and each had a desire for fame. During these first few years the famous Lennon/McCartney writing collaboration began. Often John would sag off at art college and Paul from grammar school to go to Paul's house and write a few songs.
On his way to school, Paul often rode the bus and was accompanied by another obsessive guitar player. Paul would often play with and was impressed by this boy's talent, but the age difference interfered with his ability to get him into the band. George Harrison, while less than a year younger than Paul, was almost 3 years younger than John Lennon. It was based on this that George did not join the Quarry Men. However, a late night on a double decker bus would change that. It was there that Paul prompted George to show John how good he was. George played a song called "Raunchy", by Bill Justis and his Orchestra, which was a very popular song at the time. He played everything perfect, and John couldn't refuse to let him in.
The Quarry Men continued to play in small clubs in the late fifties. In August of 1959, they began playing in a club called the Casbah Club, which was located in the house of their future drummer, Pete Best. They played for cheap pay for a while, until a dispute arose between John, Paul, George and Ken Brown (Guitar). Brown then left the group and the Quarry Men stopped playing at the club for a while.
The Quarry Men underwent a few transformations during 1959 and 1960. They changed their name a few times and added and replaced a few members. They also began auditioning for bigger spots and tried to get started on the road to success. They acquired manager Allan Williams in 1959, who got them a few bookings as well as found a drummer for the group.
Also acquired during this time period was Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. Stu was John's best friend and was regarded as a very promising artist by his teachers. He was very unlike the loudmouth Lennon as Stuart as very introverted, conscientous, and polite. However, each took a great liking and vast undrestanding of one another. During an art show, Stu won a prize for a sum of money. He wanted to buy more art supplies, however, the persuasive Lennon and McCartney convinced him to buy a Hofner bass and join the group.
Besides being a member of the group, Stu also had one very important contribution: it was he who thought of the group name. All of the Beatles were big fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Stu and John decided to have a name originating from them. Stu thought of "Beetles", but John Lennon, with his gift for word play, changed the second "e" to an "a" and thus invoked beat music with the title.
As Allan Williams was booking the Beatles, he was also booking other groups to work for Bruno Koschmider in Hamburg, Germany. As the English groups were becoming more and more successful, Koschmider asked for more. Williams decided (although he really didn't want to send them) to send the Beatles. The trouble with using the Beatles as they were only a 4 piece band at that time,with no drummer, or Paul playing drums, and Koschmider requested a 5 piece band. The Beatles then thought back to their days of playing at the Cashah and remembered how Pete Best played drums. They asked Pete if he wanted to go with them and he immediately said yes. The Beatles were about to embark on the most influential part in their career.
The Beatles came to Hamburg as innocent, inexperienced teenagers. They did not, however, leave in the same condition. There were MANY changes in Hamburg that proved to be pivotal in their development.
When the Beatles first arrived in Hamburg the played at the Indra club (which was a strip club) and were housed in the most primitive conditions. they played for many, many hours in Hamburg, and this increased their stamina immensely. After the Indra club closed, the Beatles played in Koschmider's Kaiserkeller, which was much bigger. They continued to play long sets and were encouraged by Koschmider to "make a show". It was not unusual to see the Beatles mock fight, eat, drink or lay down on stage. John particulary followed Koschmider's advice, and would be the most rebellious and loudest of the bunch (not unusual). He would often call the German audience "fuckin' Nazi's", run around in only a toilet seat or wear dresses.
The Beatles gave everything they had in those performances, and they regarded them as the best shows they ever did, but this also caused them to tire midway through their set. They were then first introduced to drugs (apart from alcohol and cigarettes). They would often take uppers (Preludin) and would immediately become so wired they could not stop themselves. They would literally be foaming at the mouth. John was especially fond of the pills, and it is not surprising that he was to be the most involved in drugs later, but Pete often stayed away from the pills and Paul would only take them once in a while (he would seem just as wired, maybe even more, but this was a "natural high" due to their playing).
Hamburg was also pivotal because of the people the Beatles met there. One night, Klaus Voorman decided, against his conscience, to go down the Reeperbahn. There he heard a sound eminating from the Kaiserkeller that immediately caught his attentions. As he went in, he saw a group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes playing. He thought they were great. But soon Rory's set was done and another 5 piece band took the stage.
As soon as they started to play, Klaus could almost not control himself. He thought Rory Storm was great, but words cannot describe what he felt about the Beatles.
Klaus soon became a regular at the Kaiserkeller and even worked up enough nerve to speak with the Beatles. Being an artist himself, Klaus had an instant connection with Stu. Later, Klaus convinced his longtime girlfriend to come and see the Beatles. Astrid Kirchherr unwillingly went the club, but once she was there, she too was hooked on the Beatles, especially the cute bass player.
Besides being a close friend of the Beatles, Astrid was also the first professional photographer to take pictures of the Beatles. She loved what they looked like and enjoyed being in their company, and the Bealtes never had professional pictures taken of them and they now had something to show the record companies when they were looking for a contract. Her photographs would document what the Beatles looked like before stardom, but they would also be an influence to the picture on their "With the Beatles" album.
Trouble arose for the Beatles when they decided they had had enough of the Kaiserkeller. They told Bruno that they were leaving the club for a better one, the Top Ten Club. However, this was not to be, for in Hamburg there is a curfew for those under 18, like George Harrison. George was soon deported, and the group was going to try and play without him. This also was not going to happen.
Paul and Pete decided to collect their belongins at the place purchased for them by Bruno Koschmider. They got their things, and could not go without giving a "proper" goodbye. So, as a tribute to the Kaiserkeller and the hell they went through, they lit a condom that Paul had (as they met many prostitues due to their shift each one of them always carried a condom) on the stone wall. As they exited they were met with a little surprise: the german police. Paul and Pete were placed in jail, and waited for their friends to bail them out. When John and Stu got there, they do were placed under arrest for not having work permits. Therefore ALL of the Beatles were deported, and joined a lonely George in Liverpool.
After they returned to Liverpool, the Beatles did not wish to play for quite some time. When they did, some month and a half later, they were a bit rusty and not well received. Their hearts weren't in Liverpool either, as they ached for life on the Reeperbahn. They waited until George turned 18 and left for Hamburg as soon as possible. Their booking at the Top Ten club was still valid and they enjoyed being virtually stars in Hamburg. However, after a while they soon tired of the prostitutes, the long hours, and the drugs. They still hadn't fulfilled their dre ams. Only one Beatle was content in Hamburg and that was Stu. Stu had found the love of his life, Astrid, and was accepted on scholarship to an art college in Hamburg. What Stu was discontented with was the Beatles. He didn't enjoy the long hours and especially dislike Paul McCartney telling him how to play bass. Before the Beatles left for Liverpool again, Stu told John that he was staying behind and Paul could take over on bass. Unfortunately Stu's plans were not fulfilled, as he died from a brain hemorrage about 10 months later.
When they came back to Liverpool this time they were received much better. They began to play for better money as they were represented as coming from Hamburg and developed quite a following. Pete was the most popular due to his cool demeanor and good looks. The changes made in Hamburg made quite an impact. One major change that was to impact all the places they played was their hair. In Hamburg, the Beatles got their infamous "moptop" hairstyle. Most of their friends, Astrid, Klaus, and Jurgan Vollmer, had this hairstyle that was very unique and very different from the "Teddy Boy" look that was popular in Britian. Stu was the first to change his hair and then George agreed to have it done, each by Astrid. Later on a trip to France to visit Jurgen, John and Paul had it done as well. Pete Best refused to conform.
The Beatles were also held up in Mersey Side as celebrities because word got around that they had a record out. This was partly true. They are on record, but not as the Beatles but as the Beat Brothers and they were not the featured group, but were a backing group for Tony Sheridan for the song "My Bonnie". Apart from this, word spread about all the Mersey groups, especially the Beatles, through a newspaper called "Mersey Beat" put on by Bill Harry. Each of these items came together to form one of the biggest meetings for the Beatles.
Brian Epstein lived an insecure, unsettled life and had finally settled down to run his father's store, North End Music Stores (NEMS). He ran that with the utmost efficiency and promised to find any album a person was looking for. But Brian wanted more. His opportunity arose when a young man entered the store and asked for a record by a group called the Beatles. Epstein claims he hadn't heard of them even though they were featured in the "Mersey Beat" newspaper that was sold in his store. So he made a note to check for this album by the Beatles. His search came up empty. The young man entered again asking if he had found it, Brian replied he hadn't but inquired more about them. He was told they were a local group and played regularly at the Cavern Club down the street.
So Brian decided to go to the Cavern to check them out and see if he could find out what record label they were on. He entered the Cavern Club, and was immediately struck by how poor the conditions were, yet how much fun everyone was having. As he descended into this basement he saw loads of kids packed together with sweat pouring from them and from the walls. Then he saw the 4 boys on that stage that everyone came to see, and for a while he forgot his fallacies and was enraptured in the music. After the show, he met the Beatles and was struck by their charm and sense of humor. He found something special about these boys, and was (being a homosexual) attracted to them, especially John Lennon. Brian soon became a regular at the club, and even began dressing like the teenage boys.
At one point Brian decided he wanted to manage them. So he asked them to meet him in his store after closing hours. They came, and were very curious as to what he wanted. Brian made no point of dancing around the issue, and he asked the boys if he could manage them. After a period of awkward silence, they inquired if they would have to change their music, to which Brian answered no, and they decided he could manage them (former manager Allen Williams finished managing the Beatles after a fight with John Lennon and even warned Brian about them). Brian did decide to change a few things about their appearance though. He told them to stop eating, fighting, swearing, and smoking on stage and he bought them suits to wear to make them appear more professional. John and George did not like the idea of suits being worn, but Paul and Brian convinced them that they had to improve their image if they were going to be the stars they dreamed to be. They agreed to wear suits but the collarless ones so that they were a little different, and John refused to button his all the way and often left his tie crooked to rebel. Soon Brian wished to make this official and he had a contract made for everyone to sign. All of the Beatles signed, after waiting for Paul to finish showering, and they left. One signature was not on that contract: Brian's.
As part of being manager, Brian tried to use his connections to get a recording contract. Although the companies allowed them to audition, out of respect for Brian, none of them felt the Beatles were worth signing. It took about 8 months until they finally had a recording deal.
As a last resort, Brian went to EMI's minor label, Parlophone, for a deal. There he met George Martin, who reluctantly agreed to give them an audition. Brian told the boys that they had a deal and were recording so they wouldn't be nervous like they had been on the last auditions. It was then George Martin saw what everyone else saw: that special spark and charm.
There was one thing George Martin didn't like: the quiet drummer, Pete Best. He decided to give the Beatles a shot and would set up a recording date as long as there was a different drummer to play on the session. His demand, however, was no bother to the Beatles as they were becoming dissatisfied with Pete's drumming. They left the job to Brian and told him about a drummer they wanted. They remembered a drummer in Hamburg for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who was a star in his own right as he already changed his name and even had a name for his drum solos. Ringo Starr also attracted the Beatles because of his personality, he fit in so well with them. The formation of the Beatles is finally complete.
So on the recording the, the Beatles came with Ringo instead of Pete, but found a surprise waiting there: George Martin had a drummer he wanted, Andy White, and wouldn't let Ringo drum with them. Eventually, George felt bad for Ringo and let him try drumming and he played tambourine on their single, "Love Me Do/PS I Love You". The single made it to number 17 in the charts which showed a little promise. John and Paul continued writing and thought they had a great song for their new single. But again they hit heads with producer George Martin. George found what he believed would be their new single, "How do you do it", but the Beatles didn't like it. So he had them do the song, proclaiming it would be a number 1, and then they could do their song, "Please Please Me" (with Ringo). After they finished, George called through the intercom to tell them they had their first number 1 record, and he was right.
After that the Beatles went on to write numerous hit records and rarely faltered in anything they did. They went on to expand their writing and sounds, and conquered countries around the world with their music. The Beatles, with this meager start, went on to become the most celebrated group in history.