BEING BORN IN LIVERPOOL BRINGS WITH IT CERTAIN RESPONSIBILITIES
At all seasons, at all states, the River was beautiful.
At dead low water, when great sandbanks were laid
bare, to draw multitudes of gulls; in calm, when the
ships stood still above their shadows; in storm, when
the ferries beat by, shipping sprays., and at full flood,
when shipping put out and came in, the River was a
wonder to me.
John Masefield, New Chums, 1944
ON 28 AUGUST 1207, KING JOHN GRANTED THE CHARTER THAT MADE the small fishing village of Liverpool a free borough; a second charter, granted by Henry III in 1229, gave the merchants the privilege of buying and selling without paying government dues: thus was the port of Liverpool born. It acquired a castle and a chapel on the quay, both long since gone. But it was not until trade with the New World developed in the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that Liverpool's fortunes noticeably improved, when its geographical position established it as the main port to the North American continent. After the Great Plague in 1664 and the Great Fire of 1666, numerous London merchants moved there and the port flourished.
Many ran plantations in the New World, highly profitable enterprises which gave rise to the iniquitous triangle route: British ships laden with manufactured goods sailed for west Africa, where their cargo was bartered in exchange for slaves. The human cargo was then transported across the Atlantic to be sold in the established slave markets in the Caribbean or America. The huge sums of money raised enabled the ship's captains to return to Liverpool, their holds filled with cargoes of sugar, rum, tobacco and cotton. By 1700 there were eighty ships using the port, though not all were engaged in the slave trade, and the population of Liverpool had grown to 5700. The impact of this commerce remains evident to this day: even now Philips's tobacco warehouse is reputed to be the largest in the world, and Liverpool still has its own cotton exchange. Paul McCartney’s family was a part of it: his grandfather spent his whole working life as a tobacco cutter and stover at Cope's tobacco warehouse and his father, Jim, worked as a cotton salesman at the exchange.
All through the eighteenth century the docks expanded: Salthouse Dock, George's Dock, the King's Dock and the Queen's Dock. The nineteenth century brought the railways and canals, bigger docks and hundreds more warehouses. In 1817 the Black Ball Line operated four ships between Liverpool and New York, the first regularly scheduled transatlantic packet to Europe, leaving New York on the first of each month. Trade expanded so rapidly that by the next year several other shipping lines sailed between Liverpool and New York, offering a departure every week. Southern planters sent their cotton crops to New York, where it was transhipped to Liverpool for the northern textile mills. In 1830, the world's first railway station opened in Liverpool to transport cotton to Manchester. Wealthy merchants built solid, luxurious town houses along Rodney Street, but the prosperity of the time was overshadowed by mass migration to the New World. The hostels were crowded with tearful families who had often never before left their village or hamlet, preyed upon by a notorious gang of thugs known as the Forty Thieves, as well as by dishonest runners, unscrupulous boarding-house keepers and corrupt officials. The docks were a mass of confusion and emotional departures as families prepared to leave their homeland for ever for an uncertain new life in the Americas. Though emigration to the American colonies began in the seventeenth century, it was not until the nineteenth century, after the USA achieved independence, that Liverpool became the main point of departure.
An estimated nine million people left in search of a new life from Liverpool., mostly heading for the USA, but many going to Canada or even Australia. Most of them suffered primitive conditions in steerage on boats such as the Royal Mail steamers operated by the Allan Line, which crossed from Liverpool to Quebec and Liverpool to Norfolk and Baltimore six times a month. The Black Ball Line built more ships and operated twice a month between Liverpool and New York. Ships left virtually every day: the Red Star Line, the While Star Line, the Castle Line to India, the Cunard Line to the Levant. The emigrants were not just the English and Irish unemployed; they came from all parts of Europe: Scandinavians, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Austrians, Greeks and Italians. Even some Chinese used the Asian-European route as a way to emigrate to the USA. Some were robbed and never made the passage, others decided to stay in Liverpool, giving it the heterogeneous mix of people that characterises a great port.
Liverpool became the gateway to the British Empire. A grand neoclassical city centre was built, described by Queen Victoria as 'worthy of ancient Athens'. The docks grew so large that an overhead railway, known locally as 'the dockers' umbrella', was built to connect them. At the turn of the century more than 2000 ships were registered at Liverpool, with a combined tonnage of 2,500,000, a third greater than the Port of London. Liverpool also held the luxury passenger traffic for liners to North America, supported by grand hotels like the Adelphi, described by Charles Dickens as the best hotel in the world and famous for its turtle soup.
The docks remained prosperous during World War I, shipping men and materiel, but in 1918 the amount of shipping had dropped to half its pre-war rate. Liverpool was hit badly by the Great Depression and never recovered. Despite this, it remained the primary destina-tion of Irish immigrants arriving in the United Kingdom, as it had been since the 1860s. Among them were the forebears of Paul McCartney, who, like John Lennon, is of Liverpool Irish stock, Paul's parents were both born in Liverpool and, on his father's side, his grandparents were also from Liverpool, but no one is sure whether his great-grandfather James was born in Liverpool or Ireland. James was living in Scotland Road, Liverpool, when he married Paul's great-grandmother Elizabeth Williams in 1864. Paul's maternal grandfather Owen Mohin was born in Tullynamalrow in Ireland in 1880 (as Owen Mohan) but emigrated and married a girl from Toxteth Park, Mary Danher, in Liverpool in 1905.
During World War II Liverpool suffered terribly from the German air raids: from the night of 17 August 1940 until 10 January 1942 there were sixty-eight raids and over five hundred air-raid warnings. Every night thousands of people huddled together in basements and bomb shelters as high-explosive, incendiary and parachute bombs rained down upon the city, killing 2650, seriously injuring over 2000 others and leaving much of the city centre in ruins. The dead were buried in mass graves in Anfield cemetery. Over 10,000 of the homes in Liverpool were completely destroyed and two-thirds of all homes were seriously damaged.
Paul was born on 18 June 1942, five months after the bombing ceased, in Walton Hospital. His mother, Mary, had been the nursing sister in charge of the maternity ward before leaving to have children and was welcomed back with a bed in a private ward. He was named James Paul McCartney after his father, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather and was later to name his own son James. Eighteen months later, Paul's brother Michael was born on 7 January 1944. The boys were both baptised Catholics, their mother's faith, but religion did not play a part in their upbringing. Their father had been christened in the Church of England but later became agnostic. Paul and Michael were not sent to Catholic schools because Jim thought they concentrated too much upon religion and not enough on education.
Paul's parents were both involved in the war effort. Jim, born in 1902, was too old to be called up for active service and had previously been disqualified on medical grounds: he had fallen from a wall and smashed his left eardrum. When the cotton exchange closed for the duration of hostilities he worked as a lathe-turner at Napiers engineering works, making shell cases to be filled with explosives. At night he was a volunteer fireman, surveying the ruined city from a high rooftop on fire-watch duty when not actually fighting a blaze. No one knew if the air raids would start again. As a district health visitor his mother cared for families in houses that were often without water or electricity because of the Blitz, or for people living in emergency accommodation, frequently in terrible conditions.
Housing was scarce after the war; thousands of people lived in prefabs, single-storey prefabricated buildings assembled on site as temporary housing, intended to last a maximum of ten years, some of which were still in use on the Speke Estate twenty-five years later. Rather than patch up damaged old buildings, the Liverpool Corporation decided to demolish entire neighbourhoods and build anew. Paul spent most of his childhood in the new council estates thrown up around the city on levelled bomb sites or open fields.
In 1947, when Paul's younger brother Michael was three, Mary McCartney became a domiciliary midwife. It was an exhausting, demanding job which entailed being on call at all hours of the day and night, but it enabled the family to move to Sir Thomas White Gardens off St Domingo Road in Everton, a flat which came with the job. Not long afterwards they moved again, this time to one of the new estates on the outskirts of Liverpool.
PAUL: I don't know why that was; maybe she volunteered. Maybe she wanted to get a new house because a house came with the job. The first house I remember was at 72 Western Avenue in Speke, which we moved to when I was four. The road was still being built and roadside grass was being sown and trees were being planted. The city always ran out where we lived, there was always a field next to us. Then the minute they built more houses on that field, we moved to another place where there was another field.
12 Ardwick Road in Speke, where we lived after Western Avenue, was really unfinished, we were slopping through mud for a year or so before that was done, so it was always this pioneering thing, we were always on the edge of the world, like Christopher Columbus, there was this feeling you might drop off.
The McCartneys had money worries. After the war, Jim's job at the armaments factory ended and he returned to the cotton exchange, as a salesman for A. Hannay and company, but the war had changed everything; the cotton market was in chaos, and lie was lucky to bring home £6 a week. It meant that Mary also had to work and it was always a cause of slight embarrassment that she earned a higher wage than he.
PAUL: Whilst we weren't a poor family, we weren't rich by any means, so we never had a car, or a television till the coronation in 1953. I was the first one in the family to buy a car with my Beatle earnings. My mum, as a nurse, rode a bike. I have a crystal-clear memory of one snow-laden night when I was young at 72 Western Avenue. The streets were thick with snow, it was about three in the morning, and she got up and went out on her bike with the little brown wicker basket on the front, into the dark, just with her little light, in her navy-blue uniform and hat, cycling off down the estate to deliver a baby somewhere.
The picture of Mary on the sleeve of Michael McCartney's first solo album was taken when she was working at Walton Hospital. She looks more like a nun than a nurse in the royal blue and white uniform and hat, which in those days still showed the religious origins of the profession.
PAUL: If ever you grazed your knee or anything it was amazingly taken care of because she was a nurse. She was very kind, very loving. There was a lot of sitting on laps and cuddling. She was very cuddly. I think I was very close to her. My brother thinks he was a little closer, being littler. I would just be trying to be a bit more butch, being the older one. She liked to joke and had a good sense of humour and she was very warm. There was more warmth than I now realise there was in most families.
I think she was pretty good-looking. To me she's just a mum and you don't look at a mum the same way as you look at film stars or something. She had slightly wavy hair in a bob, I suppose she would have described her hair as mousy. It wasn't jet black or red or blonde or anything, it was kind of an in-between colour. She had gentle eyes and wore rimless specta-cles. She was quite striking-looking. She had lovely handwriting and was quite nicely spoken for Liverpool and encouraged us to speak the Queen's English. That's why I never had too thick a Liverpool accent.
They aspired to a better life. That idea that we had to get out of here, we had to do better than this. This was okay for everyone else in the street but we could do better than this. She was always moving to what she saw as a better place to bring her kids up.
Speke was named after the swine fields that surrounded Liverpool; the Anglo-Saxon 'Spic' means bacon. The old village of Speke, together with the hamlet of Oglet, had only thirty-seven houses when construction began in 1936 of a 'new model town’. Over 35,000 houses and flats were built, mainly to house people from the slums of the south end of Liverpool. Despite being well equipped with schools, clinics, parks and playing fields, it was a pretty soulless place. The idea of rehousing people in rural surroundings didn't work. They missed the street life, the local pub, the corner shops and sense of community and fell that the council had taken them and dumped them in a field out of sight. The low, monotonous terraced houses, the lack of nearby shops or entertainment and the great distance from the city centre quickly combined to make it into a rough working-class ghetto, separated from the rest of Liverpool by an industrial estate and the airport. However, there were thick woods nearby, full of bluebells in spring, now engulfed by a Ford motor factory, and it was only a short walk to the River Mersey.
School was only one street away but, as more and more houses were built and occupied, the Stockton Wood Road School rapidly became overcrowded until it eventually had a roll-call of 1500 children, making it the largest junior school in Britain. The problem was solved by taking many of the children, including Paul and Michael, on a school coach each morning to Gateacre, a half-hour drive north through Hunts Cross and Woolton, to the Joseph Williams Primary School in Belle Vale, also newly built, which was then on the edge of the countryside. It was at Belle Vale that Paul made his first appearance on stage.
In 1953, schools were preoccupied with the national celebrations for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and one project was an essay competition on the subject of the monarchy. 'I obviously wrote something reasonable because I won my age group's prize,' Paul remembered. 'I went to Picton Hall, in the city centre, and it was my first ever experience of nerves. When some dignitary in pinstripes called my name - ''And for the eleven-year-old age group, from Joseph Williams Primary School in Gateacre, J. P. McCartney" - my knees went rubbery.' His prize was a souvenir book of the coronation plus a book token. 'I used it to buy a book on modern art. It was fabulous. It was just lots and lots of pictures, people like Victor Pasmore, Salvador Dali, Picasso, and a lot of artists I hadn't heard of. I'd always been attracted to art. I used to draw a lot.'
Jim McCartney took great pleasure in gardening and filled their small front garden with flowers: dahlias, snapdragons and a carefully tended lavender hedge. He would dry and crush the sprigs of lavender to burn in the house like incense, and would sprinkle them in all the ashtrays to kill the smell of burning cigarette stubs. He would always curse the ginger torn from next door for sleeping in the lavender hedge. He kept his eye open for horse manure, and it was the boys' job to collect it. Paul: 'Talk about peer pressure, you would hope your friends didn't catch you shovelling the shit in the bucket. Then you'd have to carry it around to the garden.' Jim's interest in gardening led him to become the secretary of the Speke Horticultural Society and when they were living in Western Avenue he sent Paul and Michael out canvassing for new members.
PAUL: He had us out aged about nine. I was virtually a door-to-door salesman by the time I was twelve. We used to go, 'Knock knock, would you like to join the gardening club?' 'What's in it for me then? Why should I?' 'Well, there's free manure, and you can get seeds at a discount ...' and I had this spiel! And the people would go, 'Fuck off! Piss off,' so it was a very good way to learn the territory. "Shit, I'm not going to that house again, he's an old drunk.' I remember a blind couple there and there was only one seeing member of the family, it was quite bizarre really, looking back on it. My brain's full of all that. For some reason I worked like a bastard when I was a kid! I would be out collecting jam jars door to door, doing Bob-a-Job.
I was certainly not shy with people, I think because of all these activities my dad encouraged us into. I think it's probably very good for your confidence with people. It was all right. That was my upbringing.
For Paul and Michael, the best thing about living in Speke was the countryside. In a couple of minutes they could be in Dungeon Lane, which led through the fields to the banks of the Mersey. The river is very wide at this point, with the lights of Ellesmere Port visible on the far side across enormous shifting banks of mud and sand pecked over by gulls. On a clear day you could see beyond the Wirral all the way to Wales. Paul would often cycle the two and a half miles along the shoreline to the lighthouse at Hale Head, where the river makes a 90-degree turn, giving a panoramic view across the mud and navigation channels to the industrial complex of Runcorn on the far side. These are lonely, cold, windy places, the distant factories and docks dwarfed by the size of the mud banks of the river itself.
In the early fifties the McCartneys moved to another new house, surrounded by a muddy building site, at 12 Ardwick Road in the expanding eastern extension of the estate. It was not without danger. Paul was mugged there once while messing about with his brother on the beach near the old lighthouse. His watch was stolen and he had to go to court because they knew the youths that did it. Paul: 'They were a couple of hard kids who said, "Give us that watch," and they got it. The police took them to court and I had to go and be a witness against them. Dear me, my first time in court.'
In 1953, out of the ninety children at Joseph Williams School who took the eleven-plus exam, Paul was one of four who received high enough marks to qualify for a place in the Liverpool Institute, the city's top grammar school. The Institute was one of the best schools in the country and regularly sent more of its students to Oxford and Cambridge universities than any other British state school. It was founded in 1837 and its high academic standards made it a serious rival to Eton, Harrow and the other great public schools. In 1944 it was taken over by the state as a free grammar school but its high standards as well as many of the public-school traditions still remained.
Paul first met George Harrison when they found themselves sharing the same hour-long bus ride each day to Mount Street in the city centre, and identified each other as Institute boys by their school uniforms and caps. George was born in February 1943, which placed him in the year below Paul, but because they shared the ride together Paul put their eight-month age difference to one side and George quickly became one of his best friends. Paul soon made himself at home in the welcoming front room of George's house at 25 Upton Green, a cul-de-sac one block away from Paul's house on Ardwick Road.
The little village of Hale was less than two miles away, with thatched roofs, home of the giant Childe of Hale who, legend has it, was nine foot tall. Paul and Michael would stare at his grave in wonder. The worn gravestone is still there, inscribed 'Hyre lyes ye childe of Hale'. It was a favourite destination for a family walk. On the way back Paul's parents and the two boys would stop at a teashop called the Elizabethan Cottage for a pot of tea, Hovis toast and home-made jam. It was a pleasant, genteel interlude, a touch of quality before they walked back to their very different life among the new grey houses and hard concrete roads of the housing estate.
'This is where my love of the country came from,' Paul said. 'I was always able to take my bike and in five minutes I'd be in quite deep countryside. I remember the Dam woods, which had millions of rhododendron bushes. We used to have dens in the middle of them because they get quite bare in the middle so you could squeeze in. I've never seen that many rhododendrons since.' Sometimes, how-ever, rather than play with his friends, Paul preferred to be alone. He would take his Observer Book of Birds and wander down Dungeon Lane to the lighthouse on a nature ramble or climb over the fence and go walking in the fields.
PAUL: This is what I was writing about in 'Mother Nature's Son', it was basically a heart-felt song about my child-of-nature leanings.
I was a Boy Scout and I remembered Baden Powell's saying ‘People never look up,' so I would go in the woods and sit in a tree and watch people go by underneath. I'd be like a super spy, the Silent Observer, the Sniper. It became apparent to me that what I was doing was practising to be a soldier. National Service was still going and, like everyone else, I fully expected to have to go in the army for two years' National Service.
George Harrison's elder brother Harry had been to Christmas Island and arrived back with a gorgeous tan in his army uniform and we thought, My God, he's been made a man of. You used to see this quite regularly, people would be made a man of.
They'd come back and by then of course they were all used to being soldiers. We hadn't seen the first few months when it had been hell. We saw tanned blokes, fit, happy to be in the army, 'Sure, what's wrong?' So I expected that would happen to me, we all did. But then they ended it. Suddenly they said, ‘There will be no more National Service, we're having the regular army, the Territorials. We'll be all right, thanks, we're fixed, lads, we don't need you.' So it was like. Oh, my God! The relief!
However, when I was a kid, living on the outskirts of Liverpool, I didn't know this was going to happen so I had to be prepared. In my mind I would imagine myself with a bayonet, because that was the symbol of it all, and imagine myself running someone through, and I thought, Jesus Christ! That is not going to be easy. Fuck me! What's the look on his face going to be like if I do it? Having quite a vivid imagination, I'd follow all that shit through. So when I went out into the woods, I thought I'd better get some practice in. So I thought, Frogs. That'll do, because all my mates killed frogs anyway. They used to blow them up sticking a straw up their ass. That was the way to kill a frog. I didn't fancy that, I thought that was a little bit pervy. I thought a straightforward killing with a bash, hold the legs and just smash 'em on me head. You feel that you've got to learn to kill, like a farmer's boy who grows up and learns to kill that goose and wring that chicken's neck. But I didn't have the farm, so there was no other way to learn.
I felt very conscious that I was going to shit out completely when this National Service arrived. I was going to be one of the guys who said, 'Sorry, sir, I'm a pacifist, I can't kill,’ and I'd have to go to jail. I was in a dilemma in my mind. So I used to kill these frogs. There was a spot in the woods where there was some barbed wire and I used to stick 'em on the barbs of the wire. I had quite a little gallery. I used to call 'em Johnny Rebs, these were the rebels from the Civil War. I had six or seven of them, and I remember taking my brother down there once. He was completely horrified.
Though Paul had a secure home life, growing up in Speke was far from tranquil. It was a tough industrial estate and he had plenty of aggressive and delinquent youths to contend with:.
PAUL: I was looking out for guys on every corner who were going to beat me up. There were fights where George and I used to live in Speke. The next district, about quarter of an hour away, is called Garston and the guys from Garston would sometimes get on a late-night bus and come to Speke. And suddenly the word would go round, because it was like a frontier town in the Wild West: 'The lads from Garston are coming! Fuck off, fuck off!’ And you'd have to run! And they would come, forty guys from Garston would come and our bigger guys didn't run. They would go and meet them. It was very very real. It was serious fighting. George and I weren't very involved, but our moment came. There was one fight I remember in Woolton on the day I met John Lennon at the Woolton fete. We went to the pub afterwards, all getting a bit steamed up, then the word went round - God knows who it is who puts that word round, there was always a runner - 'The tads from ...' 'The teds from so and so are coming.' 'Jimmy Ardersly's around. He said he's goin’ to get you.'
'What? Jimmy Ardersly? He's fuckin' said he's goin' to 'it me? Oh! My God!’ I didn't like all that shit. I was not that type at all. I was much more of a pacifist.
Jim and Mary McCartney were overjoyed when Michael also passed the eleven-plus and got a place at the Liverpool Institute alongside his brother.
PAUL: My parents aspired for us, very much indeed. That is one of the great things you can find in ordinary people. My mum wanted me to be a doctor. 'My son the doctor' - and her being a nurse, too. No problem there. And my dad, who left school at fourteen, would have loved me to be a great scientist, a great university graduate. I always feel grateful for that. I mean, God, I certainly fulfilled their aspirations, talk about overachieving! That was all bred into me, that.
My dad always took the Express. He'd have long arguments on Sundays with my cousin Jean’s husband, Ted Merry, who was an ardent communist and would come round: 'Look Jim, the workers deserve… and the management take the lion's share of the profits...' All the completely true stuff. But my dad would say, 'What can you do about it? What are you going to do about it?' 'Well, if you overthrow -' ‘Wait a minute!' So my dad would have long conversations about that.
He was very into crosswords. 'Learn crosswords, they're good for your word power.' At a very early age I was the only kid in class who knew how to spell 'phlegm'.
We had George Newnes Encyclopedias. I can still remember the smell of them. If you didn't know what a word meant or how it was spelled, my dad would say 'Look it up.' I think that's a great attitude to take with kids. It steers you in the right direction. It was part of a game where he was improving us without having had an awful lot of experience of improvement himself. But I always liked that, and I knew I would outstrip him. By going to grammar school I knew I'd fairly soon have Latin phrases or know about Shakespeare which he wouldn't know about.
This access to new areas of knowledge is one explanation for the great social changes that came about during the sixties. The parents of many of the sixties generation had left school at fourteen and gone straight to work. Their children were far better educated, even those who paid scant attention to what was being taught. They knew more and their horizons stretched beyond that of their families into a world where their parents could no longer guide them; a world unknown to the pre-war generation. It was an area with no rules, an unexplored territory where young people had money; where fashion was for youth, not adults; where music meant rock 'n' roll, not Mantovani; where sex could be practised free from fear of pregnancy; where you could make up the rules as you went along.
In Britain then, the sixties revolution can he attributed largely to a combination of this free education, of open admission to art schools, and of the post-war economic boom. All that was needed to get into art school was a folder of work of sufficient standard to convince the principal that you might benefit from four years of painting and life drawing - and the state would pay the tuition. As Simon Frith and Howard Horne wrote in Welcome to Bohemia!: 'The art college was the flaw in the British education system, a space where both middle- and working-class youth could deny the implications of past and future and live out, however briefly, a fantasy of cultural freedom.'
The art schools produced very few fine artists, but turned out brilliant fashion designers and scores of rock 'n' roll artists, who went on to ensure that British rock became the dominant popular music on the planet for more than a decade: Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Pete Townshend, all of the Pink Floyd, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks, Jeff Beck and Eric Burden, to name only the most famous. When they arrived in Hamburg in 1960, two members of the Beatles were still technically at Liverpool College of Art.
PAUL: That was one of the great blessings, we all got a free classical education. None of us wanted to know at the time, of course, but you couldn't help it, they beat ii into us. Me and George Harrison didn't do well at school but you had to go and you had to take exams, whether you passed or not. John didn't do at all well at school, and he didn't do an awful lot at art school. He was not a keen painter, but this is where we were coming from and this is why it all happened.
No matter how bad a student John Lennon was, the fact is that he was an art student and not a truck driver like Elvis Presley. British rock 'n’ roll had very different roots to its American counterpart, filtering the raw R & B roots through an additional layer of Surrealism and contemporary European art theory.
Paul: That's why I'm so keen on my old school. Because it really did turn my head from being a lovely innocent suburban head, somewhat limited, somewhat dour, somewhat picky and provincial, and somewhat blinkered, to being expansive: "Wait a minute, fuckin' hell, there's all these guys wrote those poems ...!" It gave me a feeling that things were allowed.' More than any time before, there were no limits, no restrictions. The Beatles burst out of Liverpool into a world that they made up as they went along.
In 1955, Jim and Mary McCartney moved their family for the final time. Through Mary's job as a midwife, they were able to get a council property in Allerton, closer to the city centre and an altogether better neighbourhood than Speke. For Paul it was disruptive because at thirteen he had many friends on the Speke estate, but Allerton is not far from Speke and he was able to keep in touch with some of them.
Allerton - the place of the alder trees - began life as a separate manor and was only incorporated into Liverpool in 1913. Class-consciousness has always been acute in Allerton, and ever since the building of the Springwood housing estate in the 1920s many middle-class Allertonians have preferred to tell people that they live in neighbouring Mossley Hill.
PAUL: My mother was always on the lookout for a better place for us to live. It was a bit of an uproot but we soon settled in there and it was a reasonable area. Her idea was to get us out of a bad area into a slightly posh area so that perhaps some of the posh might rub off on us. It was also a safer area; in fact, it was quite a middle-class area where we were, but they'd built a council estate in the middle of all the posh houses, much to the chagrin of the local residents, I'm sure, though we never heard anything about that.
Mary McCartney's attempts to better herself and her family were the cause of one of Paul's regrets.
PAUL: There's one moment that I've regretted all my life which is a strange little awkwardness for me. There was one time when she said 'ask' and she pronounced it posh. And I made fun of her and it slightly embarrassed her. Years later I've never forgiven myself. It's a terrible little thing. I wish I could go back and say, ‘I was only kidding, Mum.' I’m sure she knew. I'm sure she didn't take it too seriously.
Number 20 Forthlin Road, near the comer of Mather Avenue, was a small two-floor brick-built terrace house in a 1950s council housing estate of the type being thrown up quickly all over the country to replace the houses destroyed by German bombs. It had a lavender hedge bordering a pocket-handkerchief lawn and a small mountain ash growing outside the glass-panelled front door. The living room led off to the left from the tiny front hall and a door led through from the living room to the dining room, overlooking the back yard. The dining room was connected to the kitchen, which in turn connected to the hall. Paul: 'It was an all-round plan: if you kept turning right, you would get back into the hall, which is a feature I've used in the house I've designed for myself, because people used to be so amazed to get back to where they started. The architects who helped me design my house have now incorporated that idea in their new houses. It was an amazingly good design for the suburbs in those days.'
Paul had the small bedroom at the front of the house above the front door. His parents had the big bedroom next to it, above the living room, overlooking the street, and Paul's brother Michael had the bedroom at the back, overlooking the back yard. Next to Michael's room was the bathroom. This was a great luxury; their previous council houses, despite being built since the war, all had outside lavatories, as did most working-class housing in Britain at the time. Despite the image of Britain propagated by the British Tourist Board, one of the most widespread British memories of childhood is not of being tucked up in bed by Nanny but of pulling an overcoat over thin pyjamas to brave the cold night air to use the outhouse.
The back of the house overlooked the grounds of the Police Training College, headquarters of the Liverpool Mounted Police. Paul and his brother would watch them training horses, knocking pegs out of the ground with lances just as they had done in the British Raj. 'We used to sit on the concrete shed in the back yard and watch the Police Show every year for free,' Paul remembered. 'One year, Jackie Collins came to open it and we were entranced at the sight of her comely young figure.'
Paul's adolescence in Liverpool seemed staid and old-fashioned compared to the modern, pacy, heroic images of the American television series that dominated the tiny black and white British screen: 77 Sunset Strip, Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, Dragnet, Whirly-birds. In 1955 there were still more than 11,000 gas lamps lighting the streets and alleys of Liverpool and the Corporation Cleansing Department still used horse-drawn wagons to collect the garbage: fifty-seven heavy shire horses, direct descendants of the old English war horse, capable of carrying a knight in full armour, pulled the heavy wagons, their iron-shod hoofs striking sparks from the cobbles. Britain's only elevated railway still ran from Seaforth Sands to Dingle Station; a trip on the 'overhead' was a favourite treat for young boys until it was demolished on the last day of 1956. It featured in John Lennon's original lyrics for 'In My Life' and was so well built that the company commissioned to knock it down went bankrupt trying. A gun was fired at 1:00 p.m. each day at Morpeth pier head and Paul would eat lunch in the large basement canteen of the Institute with its scrubbed wooden tables and long benches looking rather like an army mess hall. Life seemed totally predictable and stable.
Each morning Paul would catch the number 86 bus on Mather Avenue to school.
PAUL: I had to do the journey into the centre, half an hour on my own on the bus from the age of eleven. I was pretty independent, and I soon learned how to explore. I know it was something the other Beatles didn't really feel too much. I used to say to George Harrison, 'God, I'd love to go on a bus again.' George would say, 'Why would you want to do that?' His dad had been a bus driver and I think maybe George could not see the romance of travelling on a bus that I would. I always saw it as sitting upstairs, smoking a pipe like a poet. Sitting on the tog of a bus composing things.
Liverpool buses were double-deckers with an upstairs compart-ment where smoking was permitted, a section much favoured by schoolchildren because the conductor couldn't see them up there. It was this removed view of the city that provided a vocabulary of places and characters used in Paul's later songs. Though he often ran into friends on the bus, and his brother accompanied him to school, the long bus rides were an integral part of his childhood and youth; a period of enforced introspection, the detached observer viewing events and places through the frame of the bus window from the godlike height of the upper deck. Such moments was drawn upon in Paul's lyrics to 'A Day in the Life', where he sits upstairs in a bus, smokes a cigarette and goes into a dream. A combination of childhood memories and a high sixties reference to smoking pot.
No matter where he was headed - to school or to see friends — the bus inevitably took him first to Penny Lane.
PAUL: The area was called Penny Lane; we would often use it because a lot of bus routes converge there. It was on the way to Liverpool city centre so I would pass it every day on my bus route or if I was taking the bus to John's, if it was raining or something, I'd take it to there and change and get the bus up to his house. George and I used to to go through there to the cinema and it was also the way to a friend called Arthur Kelly who was a school mate.
Arthur Kelly later achieved success as an actor in the acclaimed television series The Boys from the Blackstuff and playing Bert in the West End stage play John Paul George Ringo ... and Bert.
The Penny Lane area actually looks much the same as it did thirty-five years ago, but the tourist hoping to explore the Liverpool of the Beatles is in for a unpleasant surprise because much of the city in which they grew up has been demolished: the beautiful Georgian terraces on Upper Parliament Street that Paul saw every day from the 86 bus on the way to school have all gone; Cumberland Terrace, built in 1847, was demolished as late as 1978, and the listed, and therefore supposedly protected, Georgian town houses on the same street were torn down to make way for the ill-advised inner ring road in the 1980s. The Liverpool Corporation has done more to disfigure and destroy Liverpool than the Luftwaffe managed with the blitzkrieg in 1941. The old heart of the city was ripped out: the large Georgian townhouses on St James Road which gave scale to the new Anglican cathedral and the elegant Georgian mansions with their columns and pediments on Upper Huskisson Street are now gone. Fine houses from the 1840s of the type so lovingly restored in Greenwich Village, Dublin or Chelsea were bulldozed into oblivion. The proportions of elegant city squares were destroyed by sixties blocks of flats, so badly built that many are already being replaced. Very few of the Victorian pubs, old warehouses and commercial buildings from the early nineteenth century, with their elaborate facades, ornamental pilasters, finials and patina of age, were retained. Now, at last, the city realises that tourism could be one of Liverpool's main industries, but the sad fact is that there is very lime left to see.
There were three BBC radio channels. The Third Programme was for highbrow culture; the few popular records played on the two remaining channels were taken from charts dominated by Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, Vera Lynn and Frank Sinatra. Then in October 1954 a record slipped briefly into the charts called 'Sh-Boom' by the Crew Cuts. It was the first rock 'n' roll-related record to make an impact in Britain. Elvis Presley was yet to have a UK release. Even though the Crew Cuts version was a squeaky-clean while copy of the Chords original, it caused kids all over the country to prick up an ear and when the Crew Cuts played the Liverpool Empire the next year, promoting their cover of the Penguins' 'Earth Angel’, Paul was waiting outside the stage door in his short trousers with his autograph book.
PAUL: When I was a kid, I used to get autographs at the stage door at the Empire. It was a fantasy thing, it was amazing to me that you could go to this building and out of this little back door would come these people you'd seen on a record cover. I met the Crew Cuts, who had the cover version of 'Earth Angel’, and they were very kind and very nice and I thought, Well, that's possible then, stars can talk to people, and I remembered that later.
The Crew Cuts were followed into the British charts by Bill Haley and his Comets, first with ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll', then with 'Rock Around the Clock'. Lonnie Donegan appeared on the scene and introduced skiffle and Paul was there when he came to the Empire. Finally, in May 1956, Elvis entered the British charts with 'Heartbreak Hold'. The floodgates opened and by the end of the year, half the records in the top 20 were American rock 'n' roll.
If a British home had a record player in 1956, it was most likely to play only 78-rpm records. It also required a needle change every couple of records and probably had to be wound up every three plays. Many R & B records were nor released in Britain at all and those that were cost a huge amount at that time since until then records had always been aimed at an adult audience. Liverpudlians, however, had one great advantage over the teenagers of any other British town. Liverpool was the main port for shipping to and from the USA. Everyone knew someone with a brother, a cousin or a father on the boats, and when they returned, they brought with them American cigarettes, comic books (in full colour, not like the feeble black and white British reprints) and rock 'n' roll records.
PAUL: I nearly did very well at grammar school but I started to get interested in art instead of academic subjects. Then I started to see pictures of Elvis, and that started to pull me away from the academic path. 'You should see these great photos ...' Then you'd hear the records - 'But wait a minute, this is very good!' — and then the tingles started going up and down your spine, 'Oh, this is something altogether different.' And so the academic things were forgotten.
The words they used in their end-of-term reports: ‘If he would only buckle down...' and you'd go, 'No! No! Get out of my life! I hate you. You should say I'm great. I've got to take this home, you know.' If I had buckled down, it could have worked out that way, but I'm glad it didn't, of course. There was always the great pull of the other stuff: show business, music, art, the other stuff...
The happiness and security of Paul's life was brutally shattered when his mother died on 31 October 1956. She had been in pain for several weeks but it is often the case with nurses and doctors that the carers fail to care for themselves. She did not mention the pain or the lump in her breast to the doctors and nurses she worked with every day until it was too late for them to help her. 'I would have liked to have seen the boys growing up’ was one of the last things she said. She was given a mastectomy but the cancer was by then too advanced for the doctors to cure her.
PAUL: I remember one horrible day me and my brother going to the hospital. They must have known she was dying. It fumed out to be our last visit and it was terrible because there was blood on the sheets somewhere and seeing that, and your mother, it was like "Holy cow!' And of course she was very brave, and would cry after we'd gone, though I think she cried on that visit. But we didn't really know what was happening. We were shielded from it all by our aunties and by our dad and everything.
The boys went to stay with Jim's brother Joe and his wife Joan, while friends and relatives tried to calm their distraught father, whose first thought was to join his wife. After his initial anguish, Jim suppressed his own grief in order to make a home for the two bewildered boys. Michael was twelve and Paul just fourteen. The McCartneys were part of a large extended family and aunts and uncles and cousins rallied round, cooking and cleaning, shopping and helping out, but there was a terrible emptiness in the house. There was no one there when they got home from school, just a house filled with memories and regrets. Paul later preserved his mother's memory in the beautiful ballad 'Let It Be', based on a dream he had of her a decade after her death. Paul: 'She was great. She was a really wonderful woman and really did pull the family along, which is probably why in the end she died of a stress-related illness. She was, as so many woman are, the unsung leader of the family.'
Paul dealt with his grief by focusing his attention on his music.
I had a £15 acoustic Zenith guitar, which I still have in my studio. I swapped a trumpet for it at Rushworth and Dreapers. My father had given me the trumpet for my fourteenth birthday, and I used to play it a little bit because that was the hero instrument then, The Man with the Golden Arm and everything, but it became clear to me fairly quickly that you couldn't sing with a trumpet stuck in your mouth. If you had aspirations in the singing line it had to be something like a guitar, so I asked me dad if he would mind and he said no. So I went into town, swapped it in, got a guitar, came back home, couldn't figure out at all how to play it. I didn't realise that it was because I was left-handed and it wasn't until I found a picture of Slim Whitman, who was also left-handed, and saw that I had the guitar die wrong way round.
When Paul restrung his guitar upside-down, he found the bridge and the nut which held the strings in tension could not be moved, which meant that the thin top string now passed through the notches intended for the thick bottom string, allowing it to rattle about. Paul carefully shaved down a safety match to make a little block of wood to put under the top string, the one that is most used, to stop it moving around.
PAUL: It was all rather inexact, I never had a really good instrument, but it didn't matter, the whole thing with the Beatles was we never really had great instruments, we never really had great headphones, we never really had great microphones or PAs, we somehow learned to muddle through. In fact I think it was quite good for us, because now all this sophisticated stuff seems such a luxury, it's wonderful. We always made do with whatever we had.
Paul took his guitar everywhere with him, even to the bathroom, and soon wrote his first song, 'I Lost My Little Girl'. Paul: 'I wrote that when I was fourteen just after I'd lost my mother. I don't think the song was about that but of course, any psychiatrist getting hold of those two bits of information would say it was. It's fairly obvious with a title like "I Lost My Little Girl".'
The McCartney family did their best to fill the gap in the boys' lives. 'I had a very nice warm family who I could always talk to about problems,' Paul remembered. 'My old Aunty Jin was like an earth mother: "Sit down and we'll talk about it." There was a lot of security there. She was a central character, she was known as Control within the family.' Paul's work is not often explicitly autobiographical but Aunty Jin is one of the few people to have received a name check in one of his songs; both she and his brother get a listing in 'Let 'Em In’ on Paul's 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound, showing how his childhood continued to be woven into his songs.
Jim now had to face alone the task of guiding his two teenage sons through the difficult period of adolescence. Paul's father had married late. He was born in 1902 and was in his thirties when he met Paul's mother. In the late twenties, he had his own band, Jim Mac's Jazz Band, which played dance halls all around Liverpool. It was very much a McCartney family affair: Jim played piano and trumpet and his brother Jack played trombone and there was also a cousin in the band. They played a repertoire of popular hits of the day: 'Stairway to Paradise', 'Chicago', 'Lullaby of the Leaves', 'After You've Gone'. Music had always been a focus of family life. Jim had an old upright piano at home which he bought from Harry Epstein's North End Music Store in Everton - the McCartneys' first unwitting contact with NEMS and the Epstein family - and one of Paul's early memories is of lying on the floor, listening to him play. It was a great house for family sing-songs with all the aunts and uncles gathered round the piano, children running everywhere.
PAUL: My dad was the original. To us kids he was a pretty good player, he could play a lot of tunes on the piano. I was very influenced by him. I used to ask him to teach me but he said, 'No, you must take lessons,' like all parents do. I ended up teaching myself like he did, by ear.
He thought he wasn't good enough to teach me, that I had to go and learn the real stuff. More aspirations, I suppose, but it would have done me because he was pretty good. I tried a few times to have proper piano lessons. I went to the old lady who smelled a bit, that one we all went to, and didn't like it because she gave homework one week and that blew it. I didn't like that. Then when I was about sixteen I tried again with a young guy, about nineteen, who lived the other side of Mather Avenue. He tried to take me back to the basics but by then I was starting to write some stuff of my own on the piano. Something was making me make it up, whether I knew how to do it or not. I’d already written the nine of 'When I'm sixty-four' when I was sixteen so I couldn't really get on with him taking me back to the beginning.
Not surprisingly there is a strong vaudevillian flavour to 'When I'm Sixty-four'.
PAUL: I grew up steeped in that music-hall tradition. My father once worked at the Liverpool Hippodrome as a spotlight operator. They actually used a piece of burning lime in those days which he had to trim. He was very entertaining about that period and had lots of tales about it. He'd learned his music from listening to it every single night of the week, two shows every night, Sundays off.
He had a lot of music in him, my dad. He taught me and my brother harmony; not the concept, not written down, but he would say, 'This tune is the harmony to that tune,’ so I learned very early how to sing harmony, which was one of my big roles in the Beatles. Whenever John sang I automatically sang in harmony with him, and that's due to my dad's teaching. I remember talking to the guys very early on about harmony, in the same way as my dad talked to us, saving, 'This would be the harmony for this.' One of the thrills about being in the music-publishing business now is that I know an awful lot of those old songs through him.
These old songs have become standards, the product of a golden age of show business and songwriting, but not everyone liked the Jim Mac Band's set list. Jim Mac's father, Paul's grandfather, Joe McCartney, called it 'tin-can music'. He came from an older musical tradition. He used to play an E-flat bass, a large brass tuba-like instrument, in the works brass band at Cope's.
PAUL: Even though it was forced on me, it is interesting that I'm a bass player. I certainly didn't pick it because my grandfather had played bass. My dad, presumably because of his dad, would point out the bass on a radio. He'd say, 'Listen to that. You hear that, dum duuum dum dum? That's called the bass.' ‘Oh.' My dad would take us to brass band concerts in the band shell in the park, and we would sit and listen, and I would always like that. It was very northern. I did work later with the Black Dyke Mills Band, and made a record called 'Thingumybob' with them which was quite fun. I still have a very soft spot in my heart for brass bands, it's a roots thing for me. And no wonder if my grandfather's semen had a load of bass genes in it, my dad must have passed them on to me.
Though brass band music and show tunes were the musical influences on his childhood, Paul's own choice of music was mainly rock ’n' roll. The BBC did not play rock 'n' roll. Popular music on the radio was played by BBC combos like the NDO, the Northern Dance Orchestra. They just played the tunes, sometimes making a feeble effort to imitate the arrangement of the original record. The Musicians Union saw records as a threat to their livelihood and held the BBC to a strict 'needle time' agreement which allowed them to play only a certain amount of recorded music each week. The main way to hear rock 'n' roll in Britain was to tune in to Radio Luxembourg, broadcast at 208 metres on the medium wave from the tiny European principality.
Luxembourg only broadcast in English in the evenings. Paul usually listened after he went to bed, thanks to a pair of Bakelite headphones which Jim had rigged up for each of the brothers on an extension cord leading from the radio in the living room. After much fiddling, the station's distinctive call sign could be made out for half an hour before programmes began. The signal faded in and out, sometimes swamped by static, but there it was: LaVern Baker's 'Jim Dandy', Fats Domino's 'Blueberry Hill' and 'Blue Monday', the moans and shrieks and wails of Little Richard's 'Tutti Frutti' and 'Long Tall Sally1, the grunts and slurs of Elvis, the strange falsetto of Frankie Lyman, great honking saxophones and twanging guitars. Luxembourg played a diet of popular music, richly biased by payola, interspersed by dumb quiz shows like Shilling a Second, but it also transmitted syndicated shows such as Alan Freed's Saturday Night Jamboree, featuring the latest American R & B and rock 'n' roll by the original black artists; there was no Pat Boone on the Alan Freed show. These were the songs that became the set list for the early Beatles, the benchmark, the classic songs that began rock 'n' roll: Chuck Berry's ‘Maybellene' and 'Roll Over Beethoven', Fats Domino's 'Ain't That a Shame’, Eddie Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock', Gene Vincent's 'Be Bop A-Lula', Ivory Joe Hunter, Jim Lowe, Bill Doggett, the Everly Brothers, the Diamonds, the Coasters, a string of hits from Elvis - the riches seemed never ending, inspiring thousands of British kids to play rock 'n' roll. And each time a song was played, Paul would memorise a few more of the words and perfect the chord changes on his guitar.
Luxembourg also played skiffle, an offshoot of the British traditional jazz revival first popularised by Lonnie Donegan, the banjo player with Ken Colyer's Trad Band, who played skiffle on stage between sets. 'Skiffle' was a late-1920s American term for music by people too poor to buy instruments: the line-up consisted of washboard, jug, tea-chest bass and cheap acoustic guitars. In 1956 Donegan had a hit with 'Rock Island Line' and over the next five years had thirty-one further top-30 hits. Other acts joined in and by the spring of 1957 there were three skiffle records in the UK top 20: the Vipers Skiffle Group and Lonnie Donegan, both with 'Cumber-land Gap', and Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey's 'Freight Train’. Skiffle had immense appeal to British teenagers who could not afford the electric guitars and saxophones needed for rock ‘n' roll. Sales of guitars doubled as hundreds of skiffle groups were formed all over the country - among them the Quarry Men, started by John Lennon.
On 6 July 1957, eight months after his mother died, Paul met John Lennon. Paul's schoolmate Ivan Vaughan lived near John and, knowing they were both obsessed with rock 'n' roll, he thought they should meet. John had a skiffle group called the Quarry Men who were playing at the local village fete in Woolton. It was a typical British summer fete, beginning with a procession through the streets of Woolton led by the twenty-five-piece-band of the Cheshire Yeomanry, followed by floats, Morris dancers, Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, Cubs and schoolchildren in fancy dress. The fete itself was held in the field behind St Peter's church, where a first-aid tent, a marquee offering 'refreshments at moderate prices' and a makeshift stage had been erected. It was a very hot day, humid, but with a slight breeze which stirred the bunting and balloons strung between the stalls and sideshows. The Rose Queen, Miss Sally Wright, was crowned to scattered applause.
The Quarry Men were scheduled to begin at 4.15, before the display by the City of Liverpool Police Dogs. When Paul arrived they were already on stage and John Lennon was singing his version of the Dell Vikings' recent hit 'Come Go with Me', but since he had only heard it on the radio, he had the words hopelessly wrong: 'Come go with me, down to the penitentiary...,' he warbled. No one in Britain knew what a penitentiary was since it is not a word in English usage, though it seemed to occur in a lot of American R & Â songs. What Norman Wright actually sang on the record was, 'Come go with me, don't let me pray beyond the sea.' John's line was probably better.
The police dogs showed how clever they were and Paul met up with Ivan Vaughan while the Quarry Men drank beer in the Scouts' hut before playing a second set at 5.45. After a further selection of skiffle and top-20 hits, the Quarry Men left the stage and walked across to the church hall, where they were due to play a set that evening as part of the fete. Ivan and Paul followed five minutes later and Ivan made the introductions.
Paul had just turned fifteen. His head was filled with rock 'n' roll, he had mastered his guitar and was able to demonstrate Eddie Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock' with the correct words and chord changes to an astonished sixteen-year-old John Lennon. Paul followed this up with Gene Vincent's 'Be Bop A-Lula' and a medley of Little Richard hits, all of which he had memorised. He and John began talking excitedly; neither of them had met anyone who cared about rock 'n' roll that much before. Despite the crucial eighteen-month difference in their ages - John was born on 9 October 1940 - John realised that what the Quarry Men needed if they were going to get anywhere was someone in the group who could play an instrument. After the Quarry Men played their second set they all went down the pub together, though Paul had to lie about his age.
A few days later Paul was out cycling and ran into Pete Shotton, one of the Quarry Men, who told him that John would like him to join the group. Paul said all right but he was going on his holidays first.
Paul's main reason for going to the Woolton fete was not to meet John Lennon but to try to pick up a girl. To this end he wore an outfit loosely modelled on the popular hit 'A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation', then regarded as the height of teen fashion. His white sports jacket had metallic threads which made the fabric sparkle. With it he wore very tight black drainpipe trousers. It was a far remove from the school uniform which, like most teenage boys, Paul was obliged to wear most of the time. That consisted of grey trousers, which he took to a tailor to have narrowed as much as he could get away with without his father's complaining, a school tie and a blazer, which he also had skilfully altered. Paul: 'I took the badge off. I swear to God, I had a removable badge you could pin back on top to go to school. I also had to carry my school cap with me, folded neatly in the pocket, in case I saw a teacher and had to put it on.'
His hair was brushed back from the forehead and set with Brylcreem in a Tony Curtis cut, known as a DA or duck's arse. Other haircuts of the late fifties he could have considered included the crew cut (half an inch all over), a brush cut, the very un-PC 'nigger-wig' (very long and standing on end), and the TV cut (the hair shaped into two bunches meeting in a V on the forehead, a style popular with the teddy boys from Garston, who also affected the variant jelly-roll: hair greased, combed forward and rolled to make a floppy detumes-cent tube hanging over the forehead, as popularised by Gene Vincent and worn ensemble with a long DA); and the flat top (a long crew cut with the top level like the deck of an aircraft carrier).
At the age of fifteen Paul's knowledge of girls came largely from books.
PAUL: I used to read books, sex manuals. My mum had this big book called Black's Medical Dictionary. I'd leaf through that and look up sex things. You'd have to go past graphic pictures of terrible operations and forceps on haemorrhoids, 'Oooo fucking hell!,' and people with terrible boils, 'Ohhhh', to get to the good bit, but to this day I still remember the 'mons veneris’. 'Can I have a peek at yer mons veneris then?' Very nice but quite old-fashioned. I remember being at some place baby-sitting some-where and they had a book that said, 'the man should take his time' and 'the man should withdraw slowly'. Those were hints I got from that. It's your education.
Paul also had other, vaguely sexual memories of his mother.
PAUL: At night there was one moment when she would pass our bedroom door in underwear, which was the only time I would ever see that, and I used to get sexually aroused. Just a funny little bit. I mean, it never went beyond that but I was quite proud of it, I thought, 'That's pretty good.' It's not everyone's mum that's got the power to arouse. I never saw her naked. I saw my father naked once or twice in the bath, and it was quite a shock. You just didn't see your parents naked. It's not like me and my kids. I will be naked around them. I think it's really healthy because we don't have anything to be ashamed of.
For boys in their mid-teens, most of their sex education came from their peers: skewed anatomical knowledge, improbable dirty jokes, stories of dubious authenticity about girls they barely knew, and of course masturbation circles. John's crowd tended to meet at Nigel Whalley's house in Vale Road, near Menlove Avenue. Nigel played tea-chest bass with the Quarry Men until he abandoned his instrument in the road one day trying to escape from two Woolton teddy boys. He took on the role of managing the Quarry Men instead. His father was a chief superintendent, head of Liverpool Police A Division, whose duties meant that his teenage son was often left alone in the house at night.
PAUL: We used to have wanking sessions when we were young at Nigel Whalley's house in Woolton. We'd stay overnight and we'd all sit in armchairs and we'd put all the lights out and being teenage pubescent boys we'd all wank. What we used to do, someone would say, 'Brigitte Bardot.' 'Oooh!’ that would keep everyone on par, then somebody, probably John, would say, ‘Winston Churchill.' 'Oh no!' and it would completely ruin everyone's concentration.
(John later took that experience and used it as the basis for his skit 'Four in Hand' in Kenneth Tynan's 'entertainment' Oh! Calcutta! Tynan copped out and substituted the Lone Ranger for John's original Winston Churchill; nor did he follow John's suggestion that they should actually masturbate on stage. Kathleen Tynan said that Ken's original idea for Oh! Calcutta! included Harold Pinter as director, Peter Blake or Allen Jones to design the decor and Paul to provide the music; none of which happened.)
Paul was to find that being in a group helped a great deal as far as meeting girls was concerned, and it was not long before he was able to graduate to the real thing. He had missed the first appearance of the Quarry Men at the Cavern because he and his brother Michael were away at Scout camp in Hathersage, in the Peak District. Apart from duetting with Michael in a talent competition at Butlins Holiday Camp in Filey, Yorkshire, in August 1957 - they sang the Everly Brothers' 'Bye Bye Love' as the McCartney Brothers - Paul's first time on stage was on 18 October 1957, when the Quarry Men played the Conservative Club premises at New Clubmoor Hall in Norris Green, Liverpool. Though they didn't exactly take Liverpool by storm, the Quarry Men went on to play enough gigs to get to know the attractions of being in a rock 'n’ roll band as the girls in the audience introduced themselves after the set. They were even invited back to the Conservative Club.
Paul's little black book began to fill with names.
PAUL: I remember I had a girlfriend called Layla, which was a strange name for Liverpool. She was slightly older, and buxom, and she used to ask me to help her go and baby-sit, which was a code word. Baby-sit was a very good situation. There were a couple of other early girlfriends; there was Julie Arthur, who was the niece of Ted Ray, the comedian, who's from Liverpool. She was nice. They were nice girls. There they were, suddenly sprouting things to be interested in. The baby-sitting was the big thing, everyone was out and you had the house to yourself so it was the big opportunity, but you always had to be on the lookout for a key turning in the door, 'Ohhhh, sorry!' because if you were caught with your pants down, that would be the ultimate disgrace. That never quite happened but it was a near thing a couple of times.
We always said the only reason to be in a group was to not have a job and to get girls. So when you did a gig, you'd play and you'd try and pick up a girl. And after the show, maybe, it was a knee-trembler, as it's called, in an alleyway or round the back of some shed or garage. In the early days there was no hotel or motel to go to, that was out of the question. You couldn't go back to her house or your house because the parents were nearly always in. I remember meeting some strange girls in those early days. One girl had a girdle on. I’d never met anyone with a girdle before, and that had to be overcome. Fumbling teenage fingers, it was a damn good barrier.
The first thing Paul did was teach John how to tune his guitar; previously John had paid a musically inclined neighbour to do it for him. Once they were both in tune, they began to practise their guitar playing in earnest. John was using two-finger banjo chords taught to him by his mother Julia. She had also taught him to play banjo versions of his two favourite songs, 'Little White Lies' and 'Girl of My Dreams'; Paul was not the only one to grow up with an affection for the old standards.
Paul knew many more guitar chords but, being left-handed, he knew them all in reverse. John had to learn them backwards and then mentally transpose them for a right-handed player. It took a long time but they persevered.
PAUL: We literally once went across town for a chord, B7. We all knew Å, A, but the last one of the sequence is B7, and it's a very tricky one. But there was a guy that knew it, so we all got on the bus and went to his house. 'Hear tell there's a soothsayer on the hill who knows this great chord, B7!' We all sat round like tittle disciples, strum strum. 'How's he doing it?' And we learned it.
Another thing we went across town for was the record 'Searchin’’ by the Coasters. Nobody had it. The drummer in the Quarry Men, Colin Hanton, knew some guy that had it, but we had to get on the bus, do two changes of bus routes. Didn't matter. Half an hour away. There was such a passion about that song 'Searchin". So we got the words, and I think we also stole the record. It was his foolishness for leaving it round. 'Doesn't he know we're hoodlums? Why would he leave it around? Foolish boy!' But I think this dedication is what separated the Beatles from a lot of the other bands.
These memories probably date from the first few months of Paul and John's friendship; the Coasters record, for instance, was released in May 1957, two months before they met, so they probably looked for it shortly after getting together. It was obvious that John and Paul had finally found someone else on exactly the same wavelength, with the kind of deep mutual recognition that can sustain a friendship for many years. With a prescience born of conviction rather than arrogance, they quickly came to see themselves not as rock 'n' rollers but as a future Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Unusually, both Paul and John had written songs before they met, in an era when white performers rarely wrote their own material (artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard or Fats Domino wrote their own, but Elvis never wrote a song in his life). Paul's knowledge of music, his songwriting and ability to play the piano obviously appealed to John, who must have seen music, and possibly songwrit-ing, as a last chance to express himself creatively. He had failed all his exams at school. He knew he was not an artist and would not pass his intermediate examinations at art college, yet he had a tremendous creative drive that needed to go somewhere. However, it is unlikely that John would have worked for very long with someone he did not like, no matter how many chords they knew. And on Paul's side, here was someone with a quick intelligence. He appreciated John's acerbic wit, and his mother's death gave him the ability to understand John's anger over his abandonment by his parents. John's vulnerability matched his own deep-seated grief.
PAUL: People always assume that John was the hard-edged one and I was the soft-edged one, so much so that over the years I've come to accept that. But Linda said, 'You've got a hard edge, it's just not on the surface. I know, living with you all this time.' It's true, I can bite, I certainly have a hard side, and she said, 'And John had a very soft side too.’ I think that's a much better analysis of it than most people have. John, because of his upbringing and his unstable family life, had to be hard, witty, always ready for the cover-up, ready for the riposte, ready with the sharp little witticism. Whereas with my rather comfortable upbringing, a lot of family, lot of people, very northern, 'Cup of tea, love?', my surface grew to be easy-going. Put people at their ease. Chat to people, be nice, it's nice to be nice. Which is the common philosophy for most people. But we wouldn't have put up with each other had we each only had that surface. I often used to boss him round, and he must have appreciated the hard side in me or it wouldn't have worked; conversely, I very much appreciated the soft side in him. It was a four-cornered thing rather than two-cornered, it had diagonals and my hard side could talk to John's hard side when it was necessary, and our soft edges talked to each other.
John was more introverted and much more willing to hurt someone in order to try and save his own neck, but this had never been a requirement for me, except running away from guys who would hit you physically. Mentally, no one could say much to hurt me, whereas with John: his dad wasn't at home, so it was 'Where's yer dad, you bastard?' And his mother lived with somebody and that was called 'living in sin' in those days, so there was another cheap shot against him. John had a lot to guard against, and it formed his personality; he was a very guarded person. I think that was the balance between us: John was caustic and witty out of necessity and, underneath, quite a warm character when you got to know him. I was the opposite, easy-going, friendly, no necessity to be caustic or biting or acerbic but I could be tough if I needed to be.
Not everyone approved of their friendship. John's Aunt Mimi disapproved because she thought Paul was a working-class lad who was encouraging her nephew to devote time to his guitar which should have been spent studying. According to Mike McCartney, Paul's father didn't take kindly to John at all: after one meeting he told Paul, 'He'll get you into trouble, son.' He was right, of course, but mostly it was just playing truant and harmless games. One of their games involved the telephone, a rarity in working-class homes, which had been installed for Mary's work as a midwife.
PAUL: I remember the great excitement at 20 Forthlin Road when we had the phone put in. I still remember the phone number: Garston 6922. George still remembers it. It's ingrained. John and I used to play pranks with our tape recorder: record stuff, then ring up people and play the tape recorder to them and record their answers on another tape. We were supposed to be making demos. We made one for Mr Popjoy, who was one of John's teachers from Quarry Bank. We had a message that said, 'That Mr Popjoy?' then there was a wait for some reaction. I’m calling about the bananas.' Then there was another pause. We'd put that to the speaker, call his number, and the minute we heard him answer we'd switch our recorder on and it would talk to him. We had a mike at the hearing end and we would record that, so we didn't know quite what he'd said until it was all finished but we could hear something going on. Then we'd just cut him off and listen back to it. It was great 'Popjoy here. Yes? Can I help? Bananas? What bananas? I haven't ordered any bananas!'
John could also be a rude and difficult person to be around and Paul often found himself justifying his behaviour.
PAUL: I remember I had a girlfriend called Celia. I must have been sixteen or seventeen, about the same age as her. She was the first art-college girl I'd ever been out with, a bit more sophisticated. And we went out one evening and for some reason John tagged along, I can't remember why it was. I think he'd thought I was going to see him, I thought I'd cancelled it and he showed up at my house. But he was a mate, and he came on a date with this Celia girl, and at the end of the date she said, 'Why did you bring that dreadful guy?' And of course I said, 'Well, he's all right really.' And I think, in many ways, I always found myself doing that. It was always, 'Well, I know he was rude; it was funny, though, wasn't it?'
And George Harrison was another. There was this guy called Ritter who was in our group at school, and George was in the younger group, and I remember we'd been standing around at playground and I'd tried to introduce George to Ritter, introduce him into my peer group. And being a year younger it was kind of difficult. I said, 'Hey, this is George Harrison. He's a mate of mine. We get on the same bus together.' And we'd been sitting around, and George suddenly head-butted this friend of mine. I thought, Fuckin' hell. Now I'm sure he had a very good reason to do it. But afterwards I was going, 'No, he's all right really, you know?' I always had to stick up for these friends of mine. What might have been construed as good old-fashioned rudeness I always had to put down to ballsiness. I had to assume that my mates were a little bit wimpish and that George had done the right thing, for some reason.
From the very beginning Paul took on a particular conciliatory role in the group, one he was almost forced into, explaining away rudeness and bad behaviour, trying to get everyone to like them. Paul: 'I have a reputation now of being a PR man, which has grown over the years, because anything you promote, there's a game that you either play or you don't play. I decided very early on that I was very ambitious and I wanted to play.'
The Lennon and McCartney songwriting partnership began shortly after they met when Paul played 'I Lost My Little Girl' to John. Paul: 'I must have played it to John when we met and we decided to get together and see if we could write as a team.’ They began writing and rehearsing during the long summer of 1957, while Paul was still on holiday from school and before John began his studies at art college. The Liverpool Institute and the art college were next door to each other in the same building so they were able to continue their rehearsals uninterrupted when term began, getting together in the canteen or an empty room to play their guitars. Songwriting was a different matter: for this they needed seclusion.
PAUL: When John and I decided to start to try and write songs, the most convenient location to do this was my house in Forthlin Road. My father went out to work and this left the house empty all day, so I would take off school, sagging off, we called it, and John would take off from art college. Of course, the main requirement was for me to be in school whereas he, being in art college, didn't actually have to be there so it was my risk.
They would take the 86 bus to Forthlin Road. Paul would let them into the house; Paul and his brother had had their own keys to the Yale lock ever since their mother died. He and John would usually work in the living room, where there was a comfortable three-piece suite, a sofa and two armchairs, arranged in front of the fireplace. To the right of the fire was the television with a radio beneath it. The room was south-facing, with a large sash window which filled the room with afternoon light despite the lace curtains and full-length curtains that convention required. To the left of the fireplace stood Jim's old upright piano.
There were three different types of wallpaper, ranging from floral through a Chinese willow pattern to imitation stone wall, chosen by Paul and Michael. A clock ticked on the mantelpiece, and there was a sheepskin rug in front of the tiled fireplace.
PAUL: Both my parents smoked and once a cigarette fell on the rug, which introduced me to the world of insurance claims because they asked, 'Did you do it on purpose or did a cigarette genuinely fall on it?’ I remember we used to have what they called nickers, which were cigarettes that they'd nicked for later [the end had been pinched to put it out], and if I wanted a naughty smoke I could nick one of those, and that became another meaning of the word 'nick'. But they knew exactly how many cigarettes they'd left around, they were quite amazing that way. The smoking came from Merle Oberon, the gorgeous glamorous image in the movies, the smoke curling up in black and white... and nobody then knew the connection with cancer.
My dad kept a couple of pipes in the top drawer of the nicely polished chest of drawers in the dining room, the drawer where the Prudential Insurance card and the birth certificates and the pens and the family photographs were kept. We didn't have any ciggies or anything and he always took his tobacco with him, so if we wanted to smoke we used to use Typhoo tea. We'd fill the pipes with Typhoo tea and light them, which made us cough and did nothing else, and we'd think we were right little rebels, doing that.
We would let ourselves in for the afternoon. My dad would probably finish at five and be home by about six. That meant that we had from two till about five, then we had to clean up and get out. That's a good three-hour session. John had a guitar bought from the want ads and its main claim to fame was that it was guaranteed not to split! It was a joke we always used to have. It was guaranteed not to split and by golly, it didn't! So it was not an awfully good guitar; neither was mine, but it didn't matter. I would either plonk a little bit on the piano or most of the time we would sit down opposite each other with our two guitars. And because I was left-handed, when I looked at John I would see almost a mirror image of myself, I'd be playing the guitar as it were upside-down, he'd be reading me; upside-down, so we could clearly see what each other was doing, almost what you were doing yourself, you could see yourself playing the chord D and you could see whether it looked good enough or whether you'd held it too long - 'Time to get off that chord, I think. Do an A.' So it was quite a useful visual aid.
We would sit down with a school notebook which I have to this day, an old tattered copybook, blue lines on white paper, and I would write down anything we came up with, starting at the top of the first page with 'A Lennon-McCartney Original'. On the next page, 'Another Lennon-McCartney Original'; all the pages have got that. We saw ourselves as very much the next great songwriting team. Which funnily enough is what we became! We started off, I think, with a song called 'Too Bad About Sorrows'. They all had very simple chord structures but we learned our craft that way.
There was one called 'Just Fun' we couldn't take any further: 'They said that our love was just fun / The day that our friendship begun / There's no blue moon / That I can see / There's never been / In history...' 'Ooops! It's horrible, this is horrible.' When we heard that rhyme we just went off that song in a big way. We were never really able to fix it either. But they'd get written down and we'd play 'em. We'd say, 'Wow, we've written some songs, you know, d'you wanna hear them? "Said our love was just fun..."' We'd do some good rhythm on the guitars, and we probably harmonised a little together, so, you know, for people who'd never seen anyone who could write songs before, we were probably quite a good little sideshow. So we just developed the art, gradually, gaining in confidence.
So we did this every so often through a number of months. We did 'Just Fun', 'In Spite of All the Danger', which I'd written more fully so John didn't have much of a look-in there. I did a very bad song called 'Like Dreamers Do' which the Applejacks did later. 'One After 909' was getting a little bit better, then came 'Love Me Do', which was the culmination of it when we finally got a song we could actually record. 'Love Me Do' was completely co-written. It might have been my original idea but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea.
John Lennon remembered differently, telling Hit Parader: ‘Paul wrote the main structure of this when he was sixteen or even earlier. I think I had something to do with the middle eight.' ‘Love Me Do' was written in 1958 when Paul was sixteen. It became the Beatles' first record to be released in Britain and it launched their career.
PAUL: We used to try and persuade people that we had about a hundred songs before 'Love Me Do'. That was a slight exaggeration. It was probably more like four - less than twenty anyway, but if you were writing off to journalists, 'Dear Sir, We have a beat combo you might be interested in writing up...' it sounded better to say, ‘We have written over one hundred songs...’
We would write down the words and if we needed to we might write the name of the chords but we wouldn't really bother too much. We had a rule that came in very early out of sheer practicality, which was, if we couldn't remember the song the next day, then it was no good. We assumed if we, who had written it, couldn't remember it, what chance would an ordinary member of the public have of remembering it? And it was a rule we stuck to, right up until the introduction, years later, of Philips cassette recorders. That was a complete revolution in songwrit-ing because you could just record it. It meant you remembered some bad songs. It was a good rule because it meant that we had to write stuff that was memorable and one of us would invariably remember it so the two of us were like each other's tape recorders. The only thing that we would sometimes do to notate was literally write the name of the note over each word, we didn't have any tempo, you'd just have to remember how it scanned and its metre. So over 'She was just seventeen. ...' it would be G, A, A ..., but that didn't happen very often.
We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters. I think why we eventually got so strong was we wrote so much through our formative period. 'Love Me Do' was our first hit, which ironically is one of the two songs that we control, because when we first signed to EMI they had a publishing company called Ardmore and Beechwood which took the two songs, ‘Love Me Do' and 'P.S. I Love You', and in doing a deal somewhere along the way we were able to get them back.
'P.S. I Love You' was the Â side of ‘Love Me Do' and was also written several years before the Beatles got a recording contract.
PAUL: It's just an idea for a song really, a theme song based on a letter, like the 'Paperback Writer' idea. It was pretty much mine. I don't think John had much of a hand in it. There are certain themes that are easier than others to hang a song on, and a letter is one of them. 'Dear John' is the other version of it. The letter is a popular theme and it's just my attempt at one of those. It's not based in reality, nor did I write it to my girlfriend from Hamburg, which some people think.
I wrote a few instrumentals: 'Cat Call' was one of those, then there was something called 'Cayenne Pepper', but those tended to be me writing tunes by myself. When John and I got together, it was songs. John liked instrumentals; he used to do a mean 'Harry Lime Theme', which we ended up playing in Hamburg. It was his party piece. John was quite a good harmonica player, which showed itself in 'Love Me Do', though not really until then. He had a chromatic harmonica like a lot of kids around that time because of people like Larry Adler and Max Geldray on the radio. It was quite a popular instrument along with the trumpet.
Paul's father allowed the Quarry Men to rehearse at Forthlin Road. He had been in a band himself, so he understood the need. Since rehearsals were held in the evenings when Jim McCartney was at home, they would take place in the dining room, where Paul and John would write if they wanted to work in the evening. Paul: 'The one thing about our songs, they were always quite quickly written, they were never protracted affairs, It would all be over in a matter of hours, thank God. So we never worried, we never had a dry session, which is amazing actually. In all the years, we never walked away from a session saying, "Fuck it, we can't write one.'"
There were a number of songs written in this early phase of the Lennon and McCartney partnership that didn't get completed until years later. One of these was ‘I’ll Follow the Sun' on the Beatles for Sale album.
PAUL: I remember writing that in our front living room at Forthlin Road on my own so that's pretty much all mine. On the record we got Ringo to tap his knees. We were thinking in terms of singles and the next one had to always be different. We didn't want to fall into the Supremes trap where they all sounded rather similar, so to that end, we were always keen on having varied instrumentation. Ringo couldn't keep changing his drum kit, but he could change his snare, tap a cardboard box or slap his knees. There were certain songs I had from way back that I didn't really finish up, but they were in the back of my mind. I've still got a couple of them now that I probably won't finish: ‘Years Roll Along': 'It might have been winter when you told me...' ‘I’ll Follow the Sun' was one of those.
Paul and John did not restrict themselves to songs.
PAUL: We once tried to write a play. We sat down with another exercise book, and tried to write a play involving a Christ figure called Pilchard. The whole idea was that he was not going to appear. We only got two pages, but I can remember it quite clearly. There was the mother and the young daughter of the family sitting at home in a kind of John Osborne suburban parlour setting, and they're talking. Suddenly 'knock, knock, knock' comes on the door. 'Who's that?' 'Harold.' 'Oh, my God, it's not him again, is it?' Then he walks in, 'Oh, hello.' Enter left, unwanted Harold. And he's trying to laugh it off because he'd heard them say, 'Oh no, not him again.' He comes in making polite Pinteresque conversation. He says, ‘Where’s Pilchard?’ 'Oh, he's upstairs praying again.' And we were going to have this character: the person upstairs who never comes in, and the play is just people talking about him and his terrible crisis. 'Oh, our Pilchard, you know, he's taken a turn. He's born again, and he really thinks he's the Messiah. He's upstairs praying.' This was the way it was going to go but we couldn't figure out how playwrights did it. The question was, do they work it all out and then work through the chapters or do they just write a stream of consciousness like we were doing? In which case, that was a fairly hard way to do it, because we ran out on the second page.
By the time they met, they had both had a go at writing: John was already composing his Lewis Carroll-inspired verses and stories and at school he had produced his own newspaper, the Daily Howl. Paul had also written a few things:
When I was at school I'd written a poem called 'The Worm Chain Drags Slowly'. It was this image of a conveyor belt with people coming out of one hole on a worm chain and disappear-ing down another. 'The young reappear on the backs of the old,’ it was like that. I was looking at a lot of modern art, and I wanted to write a bit of poetry. And that was one of my pretensions. We were both just students doing things together.
The press image of the Mersey groups as rough, cheerful working-class lads in it for the 'crack' - the camaraderie, the good times and the girls - was generally accurate. Few of them saw it as a career or imagined it lasting very long at all. In contrast to most other Liverpool groups, the Beatles - or at least John, Paul and George - were grammar-school boys and though they were famous for enthusiastic partying there was also a level of introspection and seriousness not obvious in the other bands. John and Paul, particularly, were well read and took their songwriting seriously.
PAUL: I had stayed on at school because John had gone to art school and I'd seen a guy there who was twenty-four. He was an old man to us, we were all seventeen or eighteen. But it planted the idea in my mind, 'Ah, you can hang on till you're twenty-four, then you've got to get a job or something. Then the game is up.' So it was art college or any kind of college, after I'd done sixth form. But first I was in remove, because I didn't get enough exams to go into the sixth form. I stayed back a year with all younger kids, which was horrible. The thing I enjoyed most in the sixth form was the feeling of freedom, of being treated slightly more grown up, of being a little more independent.
Dark was the night as pitch, as black as coal,
All the other kids were sending off their applications to Durham University and Oxford and Cambridge but I didn't know you did that three or four months before, so I was way late. Our family had never been to university. It was during that time, A-levels time, I remember thinking, in many ways I wish I was a lorry driver, a Catholic lorry driver. Very very simple life, a firm faith and a place to go in my lorry, in my nice lorry. I realised I was more complex than that and I slightly envied that life. I envied the innocence.
I had the greatest teacher ever of English literature, called Alan Durband, who was a leading light in the Everyman Theatre, when Willie Russell and everybody were there. He led the fund raising. He'd been taught at Cambridge by F. R. Leavis and used to talk glowingly of him. And he communicated his love of literature to us, which was very difficult because we were Liverpool sixteen-year-olds, 'What d'fuck is dat der?' He'd actually written a ten-minute morning story for the BBC, so I respected this guy. He was nice, a bit authoritarian, but they all had to be in our school because we would have gone had they not held us. We needed holding. He was a good guy.
His big secret, his clever move, was he told us about Chaucer's 'Miller's Tale'. I was wrestling with 'Whan that Àðrille with his shoures soote, the droghte of March hath perced to the roote.' It was all done in the old language. He threw us into it without warning. He just said, 'Here's what we're going to do today: "A povre wydwe, somdeel stape in age, was whilom dwellyng in a narwe cotage..." '
'What the fuck is that? It's German!' But to intrigue me, he told me about Nevill Coghill's translation. I loved having the answers. If you want to get me to learn, give me the answers. I was all right then. He said, 'Look at "The Miller's Tale"' because he knew bawdy young lads would like that:
And at the window out she put her hole,
And Absalon, so fortune framed the farce,
Put up his mouth and kissed her naked arse,
Most savorously before he knew of this.
And back he started. Something was amiss;
He knew quite well a woman has no beard.
Yet something rough and hairy had appeared.
‘What's this? I love this book!' So I totally loved Chaucer after that. Chaucer was my man, and I could get into this strange 'Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was'. I was interested to hear what a wimple was, it was one of those hats, 'They old conical hats, great! Eh!' So he got me fascinated. Then we got into Shakespeare. We did Hamlet, which I immediately started to eat up. I became a director in my own mind. I started reading a lot of plays, Oscar Wilde's Salome, Tennessee Williams's Camino Real, then a lot of Shaw's stuff, Sheridan, Hardy. We did a lot of great people that year and I got my only A level in English. Art I failed. I didn't realise there was going to be a written paper. I'd put it all into being able to draw or paint. But enjoyed myself when I was there.
When my daughter Mary was doing Shakespeare, I said she should get a translation, like the Coghill, so she went and bought one and what was it called? Shakespeare Made Easy by Alan Durband. Amazing! It was a lovely little tie-up of the circle.
Paul did not just read playscripts, he regularly attended the Liverpool Playhouse and the Royal Court, where he would sit up in the shilling seats by himself.
PAUL: I was quite a lone wolf on all of that. I never used to go with anyone. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go! At the Playhouse you used to have to go out on the stairwell to smoke in the interval and I remember on the stairwell for the first time in my life hearing someone say 'Crikey!' I thought it was just in books! But it was the Liverpool theatre crowd: 'It was very good, wasn't it, but crikey, did you see that fella?’
I'd take a bus to the Pier Head, go on the ferry by myself. I'd take a book of poetry, or a play, or something to read, come back on the ferry, take a bus home. Think of myself as a bit of a poet, observing people, sit on a bench and write a little bit about what I saw. I was very conscious of gathering material. I didn't know then what it would be for. I really fancied myself as an artist. I was preparing. I didn't know how the hell I was ever going to achieve it from my background. People didn't become this. But my mind was full of it, it was an intoxication.
There were millions of characters in Liverpool. I lived about a half-hour from the centre and I remember there was a great guy got on the bus once. All he did was recite comedians' names to himself on the packed bus, 'Tony Hancock! Ha ha ha haaa! Tommy Cooper! Ha ha ha, hmmmph!' He was just talking to himself but by the time he got off, the bus was just heaving. Then there was a guy walking along thinking he had a parrot on his shoulder, 'Hello! Pretty Polly!' and there was no parrot there.
I'd buy books from Philips Son & Nephews: Under Milk Wood, a lot of Dylan Thomas; John Steinbeck; a little bit of Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot. Or I'd steal them. There was a bookshop you could go in and very easily nick them. Gerald Hoffnung's cartoons was the first book I stole. I'd go to lectures. I went to a lecture on Le Corbusier at the university. I was trying to prepare myself to be a student. I had time, I'd do a little bit of work with the band, but I didn't know if I would actually get to university or get somewhere. What was my next thing gonna be? Teachers' training college?
The idea that the band could be made to develop into something serious had not yet occurred to them.
Sometimes John and Paul would meet at John's house, which was about a mile away from Forthlin Road. They would cycle between each other's houses or take the ten-minute walk across the golf course, where they would occasionally play a round or two.
PAUL: Nine holes. We'd go round for a laugh. We weren't very good but we'd do it. It was there, like Mount Everest, so you do it. I'd also been there a few times to try and caddy but there were always ten kids ahead of me and by the time it came to my turn, the work had gone. You used to get ten shillings for caddying, which was a princely sum. John lived just the other side of the golf course, literally and metaphorically. People don't realise how middle-class he was. It's a very fancy neighbourhood.
The British obsession with class is something that mystifies foreigners and irritates a good many Britons, but at the time the Beatles started there were very clear class divisions drawn in Britain with a variety of subtle levels and subdivisions. Many Liverpudlians, for instance, found it highly amusing that John Lennon could release a song called 'Working Class Hero’ when he himself came from a very comfortable middle-class background. He grew up at Mendips, a seven-room semi-detached house owned by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, at 251 Menlove Avenue, across the road from the golf course, in the pleasant leafy suburb of Woolton.
PAUL: I suppose John was the nearest to middle-class. The other three of us weren't. We were quite definitely working-class. We were in a posh area but the council bit of the posh area. John was actually in one of the almost posh houses in the posh area. They had lived there for quite a while; in fact, John once told me that the family had once owned Woolton, the whole village!
John had a relative in the BBC, and somebody who was a dentist. His uncle Cissy Smith taught me handwriting and English at the Liverpool Institute. He was actually quite nice, quite charming, looking back on him, but we thought he was a total berk at the time. John played that down.
John described his background in the 1980 Playboy interview:
I lived in the suburbs in a nice semi-detached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around, not the poor shimmy kind of image that was projected. I was a nice clean-cut suburban boy ... Paul, George and Ringo ... lived in government-subsidized houses. We owned our own house, had our own garden, and they didn't have anything like that. So I was a bit of a fruit compared to them.
The very name of the house, Mendips, betrayed its class aspira-tions: named not after one of the ragged mountains in the nearby Peak District but after a low range of hills in the prosperous south-west of England between the cathedral towns of Bristol and Wells, home of everything middle-class, comfortable and English.
Paul would go around the left side of the house to the back door, where Aunt Mimi would let him into a small conservatory which opened on to the kitchen and call, 'John, your little friend's here.'
PAUL: She would always refer to me as 'Your little friend'. I'd look at her, she'd smile. I'd know what she'd done. She'd know what she'd done. I would ignore it. It was very patronising, but she secretly quite liked me, she sort of twinkled, but she was very aware that John's friends were lower-class. John mixed with the lower classes, I'm afraid, you see. She was the kind of woman who would put you down with a glint in her eye, with a smile. But she'd put you down all the same. But she'd talk to John later and I remember him telling me, 'She thinks you're a better guitar player than I am,' which slightly miffed John. Did I say slightly?
A lounge led off of the kitchen and there was a front parlour containing Winston Churchill's collected works, bound in blue cloth, which John claimed to have read. John's middle name was Winston, given him by his mother in a fit of wartime patriotism. John and Mimi lived mostly in the lounge and kitchen.
PAUL: John had done a little poem that Mimi had framed in the kitchen. It was nice: 'A house where there is love ...' John had writing aspirations. At first he was writing what turned out later to be In His Own Write. He would show me what he'd been typing. I would sometimes help him with it. We would sit around giggling, just saying puns really, that's basically what it was; 'In the early owls of the Morecambe,' I remember, 'a cup o-teeth' was one section that was in the typewriter when I was around there. But I would like all that and I was very impressed.
He was a big Lewis Carroll fan, which I was too. In my view two of John's great songs, 'Strawberry Fields' and 'I Am the Walrus', both come from 'Jabberwocky'. 'I am he as you are he ...' It's thanks to 'Jabberwocky' that he could do that. I had a teacher at school, a swotty guy called Dodd, who could recite 'Jabberwocky' in Latin. One of the less useful things in life ...
I think John saw himself as 'Our correspondent from Alexandria'. It was a romantic dream that I understood and shared. 'I'll write about it as I see it and tell them all what's really happening.' It's a lot of people's dream.
It was a very catty household; John liked cats. They had pedigree Siamese cats, which again is slightly middle-class, if you think about it, rather than a puppy. There was always this slight feeling. His was Aunt Mimi, ours were all called Aunty: Aunty Edie, Aunty Jin, Aunty Milly, Aunty Flo. John had an Aunt Harriet, and Harriet was not a name we came across, especially when they called her Harrie! We never knew women called Mimi, she would have been called Mary. But Aunt Mary became Mimi, which is very sophisticated, very twenties and thirties, very jazz era. So it was Harriet and Mimi: I can imagine them with long cigarette holders. It was like Richmal Crompton's Just William books to me. You read Just William books because you like that world. I'm not ashamed of it, I'm attracted by that. I think it's a rich world, the world of Varsity, the Racquet Club sort of thing. So John was a particularly attractive character in that kind of world. And John was the all-important year and a half older than me.
We'd often get in the little glass-panelled porch on the front door looking out on to the front garden and Menlove Avenue. There was a good acoustic there, like a bathroom acoustic, and also it was the only place Mimi would let us make noise. We were relegated to the vestibule. I remember singing 'Blue Moon' in there, the Elvis version, trying to figure out the chords. We spent a lot of time like that. Then we'd go up to John's room and we'd sit on the bed and play records, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry. It's a wonderful memory: I don't often get nostalgic, but the memory of sitting listening to records in John's bedroom is so lovely, a nice nostalgic feeling, because I realise just how close I was to John. It's a lovely thought to think of a friend's bedroom then. A young boy's bedroom is such a comfortable place, like my son's bedroom is now; he's got all his stuff that he needs: a candle, guitar, a book. John's room was very like that. James reminds me very much of John in many ways: he's got beautiful hands. John had beautiful hands.
Sometimes John and Paul would work on a song at Menlove Avenue but it was not as convenient as Forthlin Road. Paul: 'Physically it was always a bad idea for us to sit side by side on the bed in his bedroom. The necks of our guitars were always banging.' One of the early songs written in John's cozy, untidy bedroom above the porch was 'I Call Your Name'.
PAUL: We worked on it together, but it was John's idea. When I look back at some of these lyrics, I think, Wait a minute. What did he mean? 'I call your name but you're not there.' Is it his mother? His father? I must admit I didn't really see that as we wrote it because we were just a couple of young guys writing. You didn't look behind it at the time, it was only later you started analysing things.
Not long after Paul joined the Quarry Men, he began a campaign to get his friend George Harrison into the group. George not only knew chords, but he could actually play solos. Around the time the Quarry Men played the Wilson Hall, Garston, on 6 February 1958, a sceptical John Lennon accompanied Paul on the bus to nearby Speke to check this out. George nervously performed 'Raunchy' by Bill Justis for them on the empty upperdeck of the bus. John was astonished. There was one big problem: George was only fourteen at the time and no way was John Lennon going to have a fourteen-year-old in his group. (George turned fifteen a few days later, on 23 February.) George, however, was determined; he showed up at every rehearsal, he followed John everywhere, even on dates where he was clearly not wanted. George's persistence paid off and within a month he was in the group.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons John finally relented was because Mimi hated George. If she was suspicious of Paul, with his good manners and easy-going way, then she was appalled by George, who was basically a 'right little teddy boy' with tight drainies and a drape jacket. He also had a thick Scouse accent, something that Mimi was determined that John would not acquire. Paul's mother had done the same, convinced that her sons would never do well with a 'common' accent like that.
Now that the Quarry Men had a soloist, a whole new range of songs could be added to their act. Together they studied the new records as they came out: they were in the middle of the golden age of rock 'n' roll and miniature masterpieces were being released each week: Buddy Holly's 'Peggy Sue', Elvis Presley's 'All Shook Up', Larry Williams's 'Bony Moronie', Little Richard's 'Lucille' ... They would note down the words, analyse the chord changes and in many cases added them to their act, particularly songs by Chuck Berry or Little Richard. By i960 the Quarry Men had a repertoire of over a hundred songs, including some quite obscure cuts, such as the Jodimars' 1956 'Clarabella', which Paul sang, as well as half a dozen of their own compositions.
Though John was brought up by his Aunt Mimi, his mother was a frequent visitor to Mendips, dropping round most days for a cup of tea and a chat with her sister. When John was five years old Julia Lennon had moved in with her boyfriend John 'Bobby' Dykins. He did not want to bring up another man's son so Julia arranged for her sister to care for the boy. John never got over the double trauma of first losing his father, whom Julia threw out when he returned from sea, and then being given away by his mother. Since adolescence John had been visiting his mother at her house in Blomfield Road in Allerton and spent most weekends and holidays with her. 'Twitchy' Dykins, as John called him, gave him weekly pocket money, and John enjoyed being with his younger half-sisters Julia and Jacqui. John and his mother were close and loving, but though he adored her, the relationship was a slightly uneasy one because he felt that she had abandoned him.
PAUL: His mum lived right near where I lived. I had lost my mum, that's one thing, but for your mum to actually be living somewhere else and for you to be a teenage boy and not living with her is very sad. It's horrible. I remember him not liking it at all. John and I would go and visit her and she'd be very nice but when we left there was always a tinge of sadness about John. On the way back I could always tell that he loved the visit and he loved her but was very sad that he didn't live with her. Being John, he didn't admit to it much unless it was a very quiet or drunken moment when he felt he could let his guard down. He loved his Aunt Mimi, I know he did, but she was always the surrogate. John later tried primal screaming to discover how he felt at being left by his mother.
John was waiting for his mother at her house when she was killed. Julia Lennon died on 15 July 1958, on her way home after visiting her sister at Mendips, knocked down and killed by a policeman on Menlove Avenue. He was late for duty and was speeding, but he was a learner driver not qualified to drive without supervision; when he saw her crossing the road he accidentally stamped on the accelerator instead of the brake. He got off with a reprimand. John was totally devastated. He was seventeen.
PAUL: It's very sad because he really did dote on his mum. Julia was the light of John's life, he idolised her: 'Julia' was his mother's song. She was a beautiful woman with long red hair. She was fun-loving and musical too; she taught him banjo chords, and any woman in those days who played a banjo was a special, artistic person. It was bohemian to do that. John and I were both in love with his mum. It just knocked him for six when she died. I always thought it was bad enough my mother dying and what I had to go through, but that was an illness so there was some way you could understand it, but in John's case, the horror of reliving that accident... Oh, my God! That always stayed with me.
Years later John told Playboy:
I lost her twice. Once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again at seventeen when she actually physically died ... That was a really hard time for me. It just absolutely made me very, very bitter. The underlying chip on my shoulder that I had as a youth got really big then. Being a teen-ager and a rock 'n' roller and an art student and my mother being killed just when I was reestablishing a relationship with her.
John had never known Paul's mother but now they had a tragic experience in common.
PAUL: Now we were both in this; both losing our mothers. This was a bond for us, something of ours, a special thing. We'd both gone through that trauma and both come out the other side and we could actually laugh about it in the sick humour of the day. Once or twice when someone said, 'Is your mother gonna come?', we'd say, in a sad voice, 'She died.' We actually used to put people through that. We could look at each other and know.
John began drinking heavily; his work at college had never been very good and now he just didn't bother. He began to act the teddy boy. John had a three-quarter-length drape jacket which he wore with skin-tight black drainies and fluorescent green socks, making him look top-heavy. It was quite a convincing guise.
PAUL: The image was a protective measure. You could get hit if you didn't look hard. He wore big long sidies and so we looked up to him as a sort of violent teddy boy, which was attractive at the time. At art college he was considered to be a bit of a hot-head. He got drunk a lot and once he kicked the telephone box in, which got him a reputation. He was a bohemian teddy boy at art school.
John neglected the group and for the next fifteen months the Quarry Men had no commercial bookings. Aside from rehearsals, the only time they played was at private parties. Paul and John still saw a lot of each other, getting together to play records, to rehearse and write. It was a time of dating girls, playing rock 'n' roll, furtive cigarettes, all-night raves, beer, and stealing records at parties.
Though John neglected his studies at art school, he did become involved with art-school life and began seeing a lot of his fellow student Stuart Sutcliffe, a painter whose work was already showing great promise. John began to hang out at art-student flats in Liverpool 8, the run-down area around the massive new Anglican cathedral in the centre of the city. These were bare, bohemian places, with naked bulbs, dirty floorboards and a mattress in the corner, where the curtain was an old blanket tacked over the window and the furniture was sometimes burned to provide warmth. The once grand mer-chants' houses around Percy Street, Huskisson Street and Canning Street were now the scene of intense all-night talks and as much debauchery as could be managed on a meagre art-school grant.
Stuart lived in Gambier Terrace in a building filled with would-be beatniks. One of his paintings was selected for the biennial John Moores exhibition held at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool from November 1959 until January 1960, and at the end of the show, John Moores bought Stuart's canvas for ?75, a huge amount of money at that time. One night at the Casbah Coffee Club, John and Paul used their considerable skills to persuade Stuart to spend the money on a Hofner President bass and join the band. Stuart had little talent for playing, but the bass looked good and Stuart began acting as a booking agent for the group. The Quarry Men used Stuart's flat to practise in and John often stayed over since it was very close to the art college.
PAUL: This was now student-flat time, so this was taking apart a Vick inhaler and putting it in a glass of water and getting the Benzedrine out of it. Youre supposed to stay up all night and talk. Well, we did that anyway. I don't remember, probably they didn't give me that much, probably they kept it for themselves. Also I was very frightened of drugs, having a nurse mother and thinking, I'm really hanging out with a slightly older crowd here, so I was always cautious.
Paul had turned seventeen in the summer of 1959 and there had been a slight improvement in the fortunes of the group: through Septem-ber and October they played a series of seven Saturday-night engagements at the Casbah Coffee Club at 8 Hayman's Green, West Derby, Liverpool, a youth club organised by Mona Best, the mother of Pete Best, who later became the Beatles' drummer during their Hamburg days. The group went through a period of experimenting with names. At the end of 1959, the Quarry Men became Johnny and the Moondogs for one night in order to appear on a Carroll Levis talent show, which, had they won, could have led to an appearance on Carroll Levis's Discoveries TV show. Levis did not discover them. In April 1960, in another short-lived incarnation, John and Paul performed together as the Nerk Twins.
This happened at the Fox and Hounds, a pub run by Paul's cousin Elizabeth, known as Bett, and her husband Mike Robbins, in Caversham, near Reading. Mike and Bett were Paul's first link to show business. Mike had worked as a stand-up comedian and been on the radio a few times. He met Bett when they were both working as Redcoats at Butlins Holiday Camp in Pwhelli, the site of Paul's first appearance on stage as a performer with his brother Michael in 1957. Mike and Bett left Butlins and went to run the Fox and Hounds, and Paul and John hitch-hiked down to stay with them during the school and college holidays of 1960.
PAUL: John and I used to hitch-hike places together, it was something that we did together quite a lot; cementing our friendship, getting to know our feelings, our dreams, our ambitions together. It was a very wonderful period. I look back on it with great fondness. I particularly remember John and I would be squeezed in our little single bed, and Mike Robbins, who was a real nice guy, would come in late at night to say good night to us, switching off the lights as we were all going to bed. And I'd ask, 'Mike, what was it like when you were on with the Jones Boys?' - a group that I knew he'd appeared with because I'd got a cutting. And he'd say, 'Oh, it was really good ...' and he'd tell stories of showbiz. He was the only person we had to give us any information. I think for John and I, our show-business dreams were formed by this guy and his wife. Mike Robbins has an awful lot to answer for!
John and Paul worked in the bar all week and Mike Robbins gave them a fiver each, good money then, and on the Saturday night they performed in the taproom with their acoustic guitars as the Nerk Twins, opening with an instrumental version of the Les Paul and Mary Ford hit 'The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise'. They did a lunchtime session the next day before setting off to hitch back to Liverpool. Not long afterwards, Mike and Bett became the publicans of the Bow Bars, on Union Street in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and Paul and John hitch-hiked down again to stay with them. (Paul's brother spent the summer of 1961 working there as a short-order cook.) It was a journey which in due course would reappear, punningly, in the Beatles 1965 single 'Ticket to Ride'.
On their return to Liverpool, there was another name change and at Stu and John's suggestion the Quarry Men became the Beatles, later changed for an audition with Larry Parnes to the Silver Beatles. They played as the Silver Beats, the Silver Beetles, Silver Beatles and finally, in August 1960, once again the Beatles.
When Paul, George and Ringo were working on the Anthology TV series in 1994, they looked up the origin of the word Beatles. Over the years many theories had evolved, but one thing they knew for sure was that it was inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
PAUL: I remember talking to John about this. 'Cricket. What a fantastic idea, it's a little grasshopper, and it's a game.' Well, they came over, they had no fucking idea cricket was a game, to them it was just a little chirping grasshopper from Texas, so it was actually quite a boring name. But we were turned on like nobody's business by the idea of a double meaning, so with our wit and wisdom and whatever, we wanted something that would have a double meaning. Beetles were little insects, so that took care of that, but with an 'A' it became something to do with beat. That's the commonly accepted theory given by John in his biblical 'It came in a vision - a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, "From this day on you are Beatles with an A."'
But recently, another theory has emerged. We were into the Marlon Brando film The Wild One, particularly John and Stuart, and in that they use the word beetles, and we think that kind of clinched it. It was John and Stuart one night at their art-school flat. I remember being told next day the new idea for the name. It definitely wasn't my idea. I said, 'Oh, great, marvellous.' So in examining this question for the Beatles Anthology, we looked at
LEE MARVIN (to Marlon Brando): You know I've missed you.
Ever since the club split up I've missed you. Did you miss him?
MOTOCYCLE GANG: Yeah!
LEE MARVIN: We all missed you. (Points to the girls in the gang.)
The beetles missed yuh, all the beetles missed yuh. C'mon,
Johnny, let's you and I ...
So I got this terrible thought, Fuck me, it's biker's molls. I had to make notes for the Anthology and I was watching the video and I wrote in my notes, 'Does "beetles" mean girls or guys?' The director looked it up and found that in forties American slang 'beetles' are girls. It's like 'chicks'. We were actually named after girls, which I think is fabulous. None of us noticed it.
In July 1960, the national Sunday tabloid the People ran an expose headlined, 'The Beatnik Horror, for though they don't know it they are on the road to hell,' illustrated by a carefully posed photograph taken in the flat below Stuart Sutcliffe's. A teenage John Lennon can be seen lying on the floor. The paper commented, 'Most beatniks like dirt. They dress in filthy clothes. Their "homes" are strewn with muck. This, for example, is the flat of a beatnik group in Liverpool. The man on the extreme left, Allan Williams, is a little out of place in these surroundings. He is the only one who is not a beatnik and who dresses in clean clothes.'
Allan Williams was the one who set up the photograph; he had been managing the Silver Beetles, as they were then, since May. Williams owned a small club called the Jacaranda in Slater Street, off Bold Street, where the group frequently hung out. It had the kind of bohemian atmosphere they liked and also did very good sandwiches. Allan Williams already managed or acted as booking agent for a number of other acts, so it was easy for him simply to add the Silver Beetles to his list. The core of the group was now John, Paul, George and Stuart Sutcliffe. They were having problems finding a drummer.
As a result of Allan Williams's involvement, they began to get gigs. In May 1960, he sent them out to back their fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle, then managed by the London impresario Larry Parnes (known in the trade as 'Larry Parnes, Shillings and Pence'), on a tour of Scotland. It was their first experience of the rigours of being on the road and though it was a financial and musical disaster, they were not deterred. For the tour they assumed stage names; George borrowed the name of his hero Carl Perkins to become Carl Harrison, Stu became Stuart DeStael, after the then fashionable painter, and Paul, for a laugh, chose Paul Ramond. Amusingly the Ramones punk band later used this as the inspiration for their name.
Williams had booked them into a series of Saturday Night, Big Beat Night, gigs at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Liscard, Wallasey, across the Mersey in the Wirral; a venue famous for the violence of its patrons.
PAUL: We were quite used to fights. Funnily enough, it was always when we did a song called '(Baby) Hully Gully' by the Olympics. We'd get to the line 'Hully, hully gully ...' and bam! Rumble! It was basically two sides of a village dance hall: girls and boys or sometimes the Bootle teds and the Garston teds, or somebody would ask the wrong girl to dance. We used to see flying crates and beer bottles and glasses. We always kept out of it, but it would often bubble its way to the front of the stage, then someone would get on the mikes, they all wanted to get on the mikes. I remember we were playing the Grosvenor Ballroom and this ted jumped on stage and grabbed my amp. I think he was going to use it as a weapon. It was only a small one, an Elpico, and I went to get it off him - 'Hey, my amp!' He said, 'One move and you're dead!' You know, in teenage years that was ... effective. 'All right, I don't want it then.' There was a lot of that.
Whenever he couldn't find them a booking, Williams put them into his own club, the Jac, but by the summer he had already found them more than three dozen gigs. The group began to dominate their lives and schoolwork took second place. Paul: 'At first we played little rock 'n' roll clubs, upbeat music really, nobody had done it before so that was enough.' For the Grosvenor Ballroom and the Scottish tour they had with them a drummer called Tommy Moore, but he left them after a couple of months because he could no longer stand John Lennon's ribbing, and his girlfriend thought he was wasting his time when he could be earning real money down at the bottle factory. He was replaced by Norman Chapman, who only played with them for three weeks before being conscripted into the army for his two years pf National Service.
The ending of National Service in November 1960 meant that rock 'n' roll groups became a real possibility. Previously, just as a group would begin to get somewhere, its members would have to leave to serve two years in the armed forces. Given their age difference, the Beatles, could never have existed had National Service been main-tained.
PAUL: I don't think there would have been the Beatles. I think we would have been a little group in Liverpool and if we'd been very lucky we'd have had some small success in the local clubs. But then just as we were getting somewhere Ringo and John, being the oldest two, would have had to go into National Service, followed shortly by me and then a year later by George and that would have split any chance of being a group.
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I always thought it ruined Elvis. We liked Elvis's freedom as a trucker, as a guy in jeans with swivellin' hips, but didn't like him with the short haircut in the army calling everyone 'sir'. It just seemed he'd gone establishment, and his records after that weren't so good. 'Hard Headed Woman' - great title, we thought; Oh, this is going to be great! Then there's a dreadful great big trombone right in the middle of it, and we thought, Good God! What in hell has happened? We were very disappointed about that, and we never really thought he got it back. Then he went into films and we thought he went totally down the pan. And I assume that would have been the end for us too. So that was great luck, the government just stopped that in time, allowing us the parting of the waves, and we went through and we had the freedom and the sixties.