Arrival: we begin the show on February 7th, 1964, in the first-class cabin aboard Pan American Airlines Flight 101 from London to New York City. It’s a raucous, party atmosphere, but John Lennon, for a moment anyway, feels alone in a crowd.
A door opens, pandemonium ensues, and a new era arrives.
Some housekeeping, and we move on to the Soho District, West London, and lay some foundation for today’s story—and for future discussions. Then we pull back a bit, and look at some of the political, economic, and cultural forces at play in 1950s England.
We then move on to Liverpool, late 1950s, and meet John Lennon and Paul McCartney, before they was fab. Then we pull back once again, and talk about alchemy and catalysts—and about a shared bond of shared loss.
One catalyst comes in the form of a person: Paul’s school chum George Harrison, the baddest young guitar-slinger in Liverpool.
John, Paul and George settle in together in the spring of 1958, and begin a four-year apprenticeship that will take them from coffee-house skifflers to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost.”
Then it’s off to Hamburg, fall of 1960. The Beatles work hard and play hard, and learn the basics of being a professional Rock N Roll band. We briefly meet a sad-eyed bloke who plays drums—and plays them well—in a competing band on the circuit.
We will also meet two founding Beatles: Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best, and tell some of Stu’s story, a story with a tragic ending.
At the end of the second tour, the Beatles become a four piece, and acquire their signature instruments. At the end of the third Hamburg tour, they come back to Liverpool as conquering heroes.
June of 1962, and John, Paul, and George stand on the brink.
Departure: there is one final move, one last step to take. And the Beatles already have someone in mind.
LISTEN to the EPISODE 7 PLAYLIST
The Beatles: “Roll Over Beethoven,” (Written By Chuck Berry), from With The Beatles, 1963 Parlophone Records
Cliff Richard and The Shadows: “Move It,” (Written by Ian Samwell), single released 1958, EMI Records
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: “I Put a Spell on You,” single released 1955, Okeh Records
The Ventures, “Lonesome Town,” from The Ventures, 1961 Dolton Records
The Beatles: “Bad Boy,” (Written by Larry Williams), from The Beatles VI, 1965 Capitol Records
Eddie Cochran: “Twenty Flight Rock,” single released 1957, Liberty Records
George Harrison: “When We Was Fab,” from Cloud Nine, 1988 Dark Horse Records
The Kinks: “Come Dancing,” from State of Confusion, 1982 Arista Records
Gene Vincent: “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” single released 1956, Capitol Records
Roy Orbison, “Crying,” single released 1961, Monument Records
Bill Justis, “Raunchy,” single released 1957, Phillips Records
The Beatles: “Three Cool Cats,” (written by Lieber & Stoller) from Anthology, 2001 Apple Records
The Quarrymen: “That’ll Be The Day,” (written by Buddy Holly) from Anthology, 2001 Apple Records
Carl Perkins: “Blue Suede Shoes,” single released 1956 Sun Records
Elvis Presley: “Love Me Tender,” single released 1957 RCA Records
Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers: “My Bonnie,” from Anthology, 2001 Apple Records
The Beatles: “Act Naturally,” (Written by Buck Owens), from Help!, 1965 Parlophone Records
Epstein, Brian (1964): A Cellarful of Noise
Everett, Walter (2001): The Beatles as Musicians (Vol. 1): The Quarry Men Through Rubber Soul
Gladwell, Malcolm (2008): Outliers: The Story of Success
Lewisohn, Mark (2013): Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years
McDonald, Ian (1994, revised 2005): Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties
Milligan, Spike (2013): Man of Letters
Mole, Ian (2011): London Rock N Roll Guidebook
Spitz, Bob: (2004, E-Book published 2012): The Beatles: The Biography
Thompson, Gordon (2008): Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out
A further note on the books we used in this episode: We leaned mostly on Lewisohn and Spitz. Both books are extraordinary; we recommend them highly. Lewisohn takes a historian’s approach; it’s chronologically written and impeccably sourced. Spitz did his homework too, but we liked his book for the prose style, for the fine, dramatic narrative he lays out.
We highly recommend The Beatles Anthology (see below) as well, but with a cautionary note: as is so often the case with authorized biographies, Anthology contains no small amount of mythmaking and spin. That said, it is a tour-de-force accomplishment, a 7 must-have for Beatles fans.
Finally, Walter Everett’s two-volume set, “The Beatles as Musicians,” is wonderful. Be advised though: this is a music-theory textbook written at the college level. It’s not light reading, but it is a treasure trove of insight and deep analysis.
Films and Television Programs Nowhere Boy, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, 2009 Icon Entertainment UK
Beatles Anthology: six DVD set, three audio CDs, and accompanying book, 2001 Apple Entertainment Ltd.
Online Sources, by Topic in Order of Appearance
Beatles Interview with Monty Lister on Radio Clatterbridge: broadcast on Oct. 27th, 1962, retrieved from
Oliver Cromwell: http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/oliver-cromwell
Background on Soho: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol3/pp173-184
The Goon Show archives: http://www.thegoonshow.org.uk/
Malcolm Gladwell is full of shit: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/10/why-im-tired-of-grit.html
Adam Scott, of London Walks Tours, interview by Christian Swain on September 4th, 2015.
Voice of Bob Spitz: Bob Ferguson
Voice of Mark Lewisohn: Matt Bragg
Sound by John Michael Berry of Million Dollars Music