St PAULI AND THE CAVERN
Hamburg changed us enormously.
BRUNO KOSCHMIDER WAS A CRIPPLED EX-CIRCUS CLOWN AND FIRE EATER who owned a number of strip clubs and porn cinemas in the St Pauli district of Hamburg. He needed live music for his clubs but German bands could only play oompah music or military marches. The cost of bringing rock 'n' roll bands from America would have been prohibitive but news reached him that reasonably authentic groups could be heard playing in London's Soho, so he turned to Britain instead. His first English rocker was Tony Sheridan, a veteran of Marty Wilde's backing group and the Oh Boy! TV show. Koschmider met him at the 2-Is coffee bar in Soho and took him to Hamburg. He soon developed a large following and did good business for Koschmider at his club the Kaiserkeller, but one month later Sheridan defected to a rival. Koschmider returned to London to find more British groups. Allan Williams had already visited Koschmider when he travelled to Germany to find one of his acts, the Royal Caribbean Steel Band, who disappeared from Liverpool and then wrote to him from Hamburg telling him to send groups over to play. Now Williams ran into Koschmider again at the 2-Is and within a few days had another of his Liverpool bands, Derry and the Seniors, playing at the Kaiserkeller.
The results were very gratifying and Koschmider asked Williams for a group to revitalise another of his clubs, called the Indra. This time, Williams gave him the renamed Beatles: John Lennon, guitar and vocals; Paul McCartney, guitar and vocals; George Harrison, guitar and vocals; Stuart Sutcliffe, bass and vocals; and Pete Best, a new drummer, hired when the offer of the Hamburg season came up. It was Pete's mother who ran the Casbah, where the Quarry Men had had a residency in August 1959, after which Pete took over with his own group, the Blackjacks. When the offer of playing Hamburg came up, the Beatles were as usual caught short without a drummer. They knew Pete's group was breaking up so they called and asked Pete if he'd like to come to Hamburg with the Beatles. He jumped at the chance. He was to be a member of the Beatles for exactly two years before being unceremoniously dropped in favour of Ringo Starr.
Paul had to do some fancy talking before Jim would allow him to go. None of the group had ever been abroad. Allan Williams was driving them and their equipment out there in his van, but he did not intend to stay. Still, Paul was level-headed and unlikely to get himself into trouble. At the age of 18 Jim himself had already worked for four years and Paul's promised wages were good. The two-month contract was for £2.50 per day per man, out of which Allan Williams would receive ten per cent. This was more than Jim was earning himself so he set aside his misgivings.
For the next two years or so, beginning 17 August 1960, the Beatles were to divide their time between Liverpool and Hamburg. Though their later residency at the Cavern Club in Liverpool would be of vital importance in building a group of loyal fans, it was the 800 hours on stage in Hamburg that transformed them into a world-class act. This was where the early Beatles image evolved: the black leather suits, Paul's distinctive violin-shaped Hofner bass and John's Rickenbacker were both bought there, and it was there that they cut their first record. In Hamburg they got their first scattering of intellectuals in their audience and Hamburg also placed them in the front line of what would become the sixties sexual revolution.
The Indra was on the Grobe Freiheit, a narrow cobbled street of strip clubs and working-class bars in the St Pauli red-light district, separated from the River Elbe by a maze of tiny streets filled with bars, clubs and brothels where young women sat in picture windows. Number 64 was at the quiet end of the street away from the Reeperbahn, the main street leading to the city centre. It was a small, shabby strip club, with only four tables to the right and two on the left before you reached the pocket stage and dance floor. The rest of the room was taken up by five banquettes, each table dimly lit by a small table lamp with a little red lampshade. Heavy curtains concealed the stage and there was thick carpeting. It was doing badly as a strip club so Koschmider decided to try it as a rock 'n' roll club. For a rock band it was an acoustic nightmare because the heavy drapes muffled the sound. Only sixty people could be seated in comfort, but this was not a problem because when the Beatles first arrived there were only two people in the place. It was up to the Beatles to make a go of it.
PAUL: We were always trying to attract people in. This was one of the great learning experiences for us, to attract people who don't really want to see you. It came in handy later when we were doing something for people who had come to see us. The first thing people would look at was the beer price, 'Oh, ein Mark ...' Then they'd look around and there would be no one in the club and we'd jump into action, 'Yes! Yes! This is the night! Come on in!' You really have to learn that, and by God we learned it and we really had those clubs jumping.
Derry and the Seniors were playing the Kaiserkeller when the Beatles arrived. Their manager, Howie Casey, remembered how the Beatles looked: 'When they first arrived in Hamburg they had very very pointed shoes in grey crocodile, mauve jackets, black shirts and pants. The length of their hair caused a great stir around the area - it was thick at the back, almost coming over their collars.'
The accommodation was appalling. Bruno owned a run-down cinema called the Bambi Kino, just around the corner at 33 Paul-Roosen Strabe, where the group slept in three airless dressing rooms which had not been cleaned since the long-ago days when the Bambi functioned as a real theatre. They used the cinema toilets to wash. They had a tough schedule: 8.30 p.m. until 9.30, take a half-hour break and back on stage from 10.00 until 11.00; another half-hour off, then play from 11.30 until 12.30, break and a final set from 1.00 until 2.00, seven nights a week. The curtains and carpet may have absorbed much of the excitement of the music, but it did little to dampen the volume and the old woman who lived upstairs was immediately on the telephone to the police. Though Bruno was well connected with the local police, she pestered them with calls until his normally amicable relations with the department became strained. The Beatles logged forty-eight nights on stage before Bruno finally switched the Indra back to a sex club after being told that he would be closed down if the situation did not change.
The old woman was happy to have nice quiet strippers beneath her again and the Beatles were happy because they now got to play at the much larger, and comparatively luxurious, Kaiserkeller, alternating one hour on, one hour off, with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who had replaced Derry and the Seniors when their contract expired.
'Mach Schau! Mach Schau!’ Bruno Koschmider would yell, imitating their manager Allan Williams's exhortations to 'Make a show, lads!', and they did. All traces of English reserve vanished as the Beatles staged mock fights, leaping on each other's backs, feigned arguments and jumped into the audience with the mike. They quickly learned how to pace their act, to include show tunes and ballads to give themselves a breather, to stretch out and keep up the excitement level by picking songs they could improvise upon at length. A recent addition to their act was Ray Charles's 'What'd I Say', which was released in the USA in November 1959.
PAUL: I first heard it played by British disc jockey David Jacobs. And he was so hip because he played the other side as well, it keeps going 'Hey hey hey, c'mon, He-eyy'. I immediately wrote down 'Ray Charles' and went to the record shop the next day and bought the single. This was a huge record for us, we lived off that record in Hamburg, that was our show song. The joke in Hamburg was to see how long anyone could keep it going. One night we did it for over an hour. We used to disappear under tables with the hand mike, 'Woooohhh!' We used to work the hell out of it. It's just such a great number, there's just so many great segments in it, it's like an eight-movement bloody symphony, that thing. You've got the classic riff, then the rising chords! Well, that's enough already. But then it has the verse with the incredible singer and the 'Tell me what I say' chorus. Then comes 'Ohhho Hoho!' And that became our thing. We got very very drunk and kept it going for hours and hours and they loved it. The Germans just ate it up, it was very very popular.
Jerry Lee Lewis's 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' was also given the full treatment; stretched to last half the set, with John and Paul leading the audience in a clap-along.
Hamburg changed more than just their music. It was there that the early Beatles image was formed: a dark, slightly noir, rebellious look taken from the fashions of German teenagers. German youth in the late fifties and early sixties was divided into two camps: the Rockers and the Exis, each with their own culture and style. The Rockers were into fifties American rock 'n' roll; their heroes were Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marlon Brando in The Wild One. They combed their hair into greased DAs and wore the black leather jackets of their heroes with perhaps a nod to the black flight jackets of wartime Luftwaffe pilots. It was the style of the rebel, the greaser cowboy, tough, aggressive, visceral, and macho in the extreme. Their territory was the working-class bars and rock 'n' roll clubs of the St Pauli district. Their traditional enemies were the Exis, the student types who hung out in jazz clubs.
The Exis, short for Existentialists, modelled themselves on the habitues of St-Germain-des-Pres, the Paris Left Bank literary crowd which centred on Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Greco and Albert Camus. The Exis read Beckett, Genet, Artaud and the Marquis de Sade. They were students and artists; anti-establishment in a cerebral, intellectual way. They wore dark clothes, black turtleneck sweaters, tight-fitting corduroy, tight black trousers. Like the Rockers they also wore black leather jackets but in a short boxy style, rather than the oversize flight jackets of the Rockers. The men wore their hair brushed forward in the French fashion. They were cool, disengaged, impassive with no visible show of emotion; they were existentialists, or tried to be.
This was not how they described themselves - both names, Rockers and Exis, were slightly derogatory and were only used by one group to describe the other. The two groups had many things in common. They shared a passion for black leather: a German cultural tradition going back to Horst Buchholz, the German James Dean who wore a black leather jacket and trousers in the 1956 teenage gang movie Die Halbstarken, and before that the Red Baron and the flying aces of the Great War, not forgetting to mention the Nazi High Command in their leather greatcoats. They both thought of themselves as cool and unemotional, though the Rockers, fuelled by gallons of beer, often erupted into mindless violence, blowing their image completely. As far as the Rockers were concerned, the Exis were fair game and they beat them up whenever they had the opportunity.
The graphic designer Klaus Voorman was an art student and therefore automatically an Exi. He had argued with his girlfriend and was wandering around the port district of St Pauli, worrying about their relationship. As he strolled along Grobe Freiheit, he was intrigued by the music coming from the doorway to a basement rock club. Since this was Rocker territory he ventured down the stairs with some caution, but was rewarded by seeing Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, with Ringo Starr on the drum stool, doing their energetic best to entertain a room full of tough-looking Rockers and their girls.
Next on stage were the Beatles. Klaus was even more amazed by what he saw and heard. When the Beatles came off, he introduced himself and enthusiastically praised their music. He returned again the next day, bringing some record sleeves that he had designed. The day after that he brought with him his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr and a friend, Jurgen Vollmer, who had been fellow students at the Hamburg Master School for Fashion, Textiles, Graphics and Advertising. Vollmer described the experience in his book Rock ‘n’ Roll Times: 'We descended into a strange territory. Everybody looked tough. Black leather jackets and duck-tails dominated. We were strangers in a strange place - and fascinated. We were careful to minimise our presence, exercising extreme discretion.'
Bruno Koschmider's Kaiserkeller was at Grobe Freiheit 36, on the corner of Schmuck-Strabe. The narrow stairs led to the cloakroom and toilets, past the imposing figure of Horst Fascher, the club bouncer, and into a medium-sized, dimly lit room. Since Hamburg is a port, there was a predictable nautical theme: a boat-shaped bar, fishing nets and glass floats on the ceiling and brass portholes on the walls. To the right were three boat-shaped banquettes and a small stage. The dance floor was surrounded by heavy wooden tables and chairs. Jurgen Vollmer described the scene:
For the rockers the Kaiserkeller was mainly a social place for drinking and dancing and picking up a girl. They were the stars. It was their place, and the rockbands had secondary importance… It wasn't done to glorify the musicians. They merely provided the music for the atmosphere. Getting drunk and looking for a girl (and if that didn't prove successful, a fight). It was a mixture of bar and dance place. Predominant clothes were black leather jackets, black jeans, pointed shoes. The Beatles looked just like their audience.
Nobody but us sat right at the stage with such fixed attention, utterly absorbed in the music and the players. From then on we went almost every night and always sat at the closest table to the stage. It was also very practical in other aspects; when the frequent fighting among the Rockers became too heavy, we hid behind the piano ... We usually felt relatively safe once at the table, near The Beatles. Getting into the place, crossing it to that table and going to the bathroom, crossing it again, was when we felt most uncomfortable.
The atmosphere was menacing and dangerous; violent fights would erupt at the slightest provocation and the Rockers would hit each other with glass beer bottles and throw the heavy wooden tables at each other.
PAUL: Those clubs were pretty violent; you'd mainly get the violence with visiting servicemen. You could often tell what nationality they were by the smell of their cigarette smoke. You would smell English ciggies, Senior Service, in the club and you knew you might have trouble. The English guys would be very much on our side. 'Ow yes, English! Orrrright, lads, play this! Play this!' The more drunk they got, the more they'd start to think they owned the club, but of course the Germans don't like that. Nobody likes that. And there would come a point when they would get into an altercation with a waiter. The waiters had a system, a little whistle that could be blown and there would be ten waiters where there was once one. And they were all big body-building guys. They weren't chosen for their waiting abilities.
Horst Fascher, the bouncer, was a former featherweight boxer who had represented both Hamburg and West Germany in the ring. He had done time in jail for manslaughter after killing a sailor in a street fight; boxers are not allowed to hit anyone, their fists are classified as lethal weapons. Horst hired friends of his from the Hamburg Boxing Academy as waiters, a terrifying group of men known as Hoddel's Gang.
PAUL: Horst Fascher was a very good friend of ours and we've kept up the friendship. I think probably the most surprising thing when we really got to know those people, and we got to know them very very well, was that they really loved us. They loved us like brothers. Leaving Hamburg was always terrible, particularly later because we were starting to get a bit good and everyone could sense this might be the last time they'd see us. All of them would be weeping, drunk, 'I love you guys so much, you're like my own brother. Have a drink.' Gangsters are very very sentimental guys. We made some really good friends.
In the event of trouble, Horst's waiters would quickly wade in to restore order; they carried spring-loaded truncheons and wore special heavy boots for kicking the protagonists when they were already down. They all carried tear-gas guns in case things got really out of hand and sometimes used them. Bruno Koschmider himself would occasionally join in, using a particularly lethal-looking black ebony truncheon.
For someone like Astrid Kirchherr it was a scary experience but somehow the Beatles made it all right. In her essay 'Seeing John Lennon Again' she wrote, 'Being the "daughter of a respectable family", I used to spend most of my time in chic, "existentialist" bars, and the idea of going to the run-down Kaiserkeller on Hamburg's notorious Reeperbahn gave me the creeps. But the moment I saw the Beatles on stage, any misgivings I might have had evaporated.'
PAUL: The people that we most liked were Astrid, Klaus and Jurgen. We'd play our set and go down and talk to them. Astrid was a very beautiful blonde Peter Pan girl in a little leather jacket and very tight-fitting tailored leather trousers. There was Klaus, who was kind of her boyfriend, and Jurgen, who was taller and very shy. Real nice people, all of them, and very very sensitive, very understanding, with a great admiration for us. They spoke good English. Perhaps a little faltering, but good.
Astrid: 'When they met Klaus and me, and later on our circle of artist friends, they were completely bowled over. Suddenly they realised that this country also had sensitive, attractive people in it.'
Astrid came from a wealthy family, had her own Volkswagen car and lived with her mother in a large house on the Eimsbuttelerstrabe within walking distance of St Pauli but in a whole different world The Eimsbutte is an expensive residential area of the city and its very existence came as a surprise to the Beatles. Except to go for a row on the Auben-alster, a large lake in the middle of town, or on shopping trips to the centre, they had remained in the red-light district since they arrived two months earlier. 'That was an eye opener. We didn't realise Hamburg was so posh,' Paul said. 'We'd only seen the Reeperbahn.' In fact, Hamburg shared much with Liverpool: they had both been devastated by bombing during the war, their people were gritty survivors with an unbeatable sense of humour, they were both ports with the tolerance that comes from being a gateway to the world and the new ideas that arrive on each boat. But there the similarities ended: Liverpool was stuck in grinding poverty, not yet rebuilt, whereas Hamburg, a part of the post-war German economic miracle, was a wealthy city.
Astrid's room was painted black, with a black velvet bedspread and black sheets. Silver foil covered the walls and a large tree branch was suspended from the ceiling. Her library included the works of the Marquis de Sade and the existentialists and her large record collection consisted mostly of French chansons, jazz and classical recordings. Paul used to put on Stravinsky but John always took it off again. Some of her photographs were on the walls alongside paintings and sketches by her friends.
Paul: 'Astrid was a photographer and took really nice photos of us. And Jurgen was a photographer, brilliant photos. They were more interested in Stuart and John, they had the more teddy-boy faces. I was a little bit too baby-faced and didn't attract them as much.'
All the Beatles were attracted to Astrid. John called her 'the German Brigitte Bardot' because of her blonde hair and Bardot-like figure and though she and Stuart Sutcliffe quickly fell in love, she was also attracted to both John and George. Unfortunately for Paul, the Exis were not all that interested in him.
PAUL: They had a particular love for Stu; John was number two, which is understandable. George was number three, which was a little bit miffing, because I had expected at least to get third … Life is very like that. I came fourth, just before Pete Best. Stuart was entering the good-looking period. Earlier than that he looked a bit pimply and art-studenty. He had never been number one in our pecking order. Pimply and small, but onstage in Hamburg his stature grew. He wore his James Dean glasses, a nice pair of RayBans, and he looked groovy with his tight jeans and his big bass. Suddenly there was this transformation, and with his shades and haircut Stu became a complete dude. It was great.
It was inevitable that there should be a mutual attraction between the Beatles and the Exis. Of all the British rock 'n' roll bands of the time, the Beatles were the most intellectually inclined and appreciative of art. The Exis seemed like an extension of a scene with which they were already familiar.
PAUL: So we were very into them and they were very artsy. They were not the first artsy people we'd seen, but they were the first unique artsy people we'd seen. The rest seemed like students copying each other and just doing paintings.
Astrid fell in love with Stuart. He and I used to have a deadly rivalry. I don't know why. He was older and a strong friend of John's. When I look back on it I think we were probably fighting for John's attention. He was older and John was a year older than me, and that year makes a hell of a lot of difference at the age of eighteen. So I wasn't such a big friend of Stuart's. I was always practical, thinking our band could be great, but with him on bass there was always something holding us back.
Stu Sutcliffe and Astrid became engaged in November 1960, exchanging rings in the traditional German manner. He decided to leave the group, and was to remain in Germany when the others returned to Liverpool the following month. Stuart enrolled in Hamburg College of Art to continue his studies as a painter in the tutorial of the future pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi.
There has been a lot made of the supposed animosity between Paul and Stuart but most of it is rumour, exaggerated and amplified by time.
PAUL: It wasn't just me. Legend so often divides these things neatly down the middle: John was hard, I was soft; John loved Stuart, I didn't. But John was perfectly aware that Stuart couldn't play and it wasn't just me telling Stu to turn his back to the camera, it would often be John saying that. We used to ask him to turn away and do a moody thing looking over his shoulder so no one could see that his fingers weren't in the same key as the rest of us. It wasn't a good thing for a group to have someone who was such an obviously weak link. I think John felt a sense of relief when Stuart stayed in Hamburg. In a way, it was actually very convenient. Nobody wanted to sack him; it would not have got to that because of his personal friendship with John. But nobody was that sad to see him stay in Hamburg. It seemed right that we all had to move on and I quite easily got into bass.
But more than musical ability was needed to keep up. To mach Schau for four sets a night, seven days a week, was physically exhausting even for tough, healthy Liverpool teenagers, particularly as their contract had been extended to 31 December, so it was hardly surprising that some of the group began taking speed to stay awake. Pete Best stuck to the booze and Paul was never a great one for pills but John gobbled them down, developing an interest in pharmaceuticals which continued for the rest of his life. Amphetamine was not regarded as a serious drag in Germany. Astrid Kirchherr told Ray Coleman in his biography John Lennon that she helped supply the band with Preludin. 'We discovered that when you took them and drank beer, you felt great. You didn't get drunk but you got all speedy and talked away like mad. They were fifty pfennings each and my mummy used to get them for us from the chemist - you had to have a prescription for them, but my mummy knew someone at the chemist.'
PAUL: The speed thing first came from the gangsters. Looking back, they were probably thirty years old but they seemed fifty. I find that one of the interesting aspects of ageing: Brian Epstein never got beyond thirty-two, but I think of him as an older guy even though I'm already twenty years older than he ever got to be. The club owners would come in late at night. They would send a little tray of schnapps up to the band and say, 'You must do this: Bang bang, ya! Proost!' Down in one go. The little ritual. So you'd do that, because these were the owners. They made a bit of fun of us but we played along and let them because we weren't great heroes, we needed their protection and this was life or death country. There were gas guns and murderers amongst us, so you weren't messing around here. They made fun of us because our name, the Beatles, sounded very like the German 'Peedles' which means 'little willies'. 'Oh, zee Peedles! Ha ha ha!' They loved that. It appealed directly to the German sense of humour, that did. So we'd let it be a joke, and we'd drink the schnapps and they'd occasionally send up pills, prellies, Preludin, and say, 'Take one of these.'
I knew that was dodgy. I sensed that you could get a little too wired on stuff like that. I went along with it the first couple of times, but eventually we'd be sitting there rapping and rapping, drinking and drinking, and going faster and faster, and I remember John turning round to me and saying, 'What are you on, man? What are you on?' I said, 'Nothin'! 'S great, though, isn't it!' Because I'd just get buoyed up by their conversation. They'd be on the prellies and I would have decided I didn't really need one, I was so wired anyway. Or I'd maybe have one pill, while the guys, John particularly, would have four or five during the course of an evening and get totally wired. I always felt I could have one and get as wired as they got just on the conversation. So you'd find me up just as late as all of them, but without the aid of the prellies. This was good because it meant I didn't have to get into sleeping tablets. I tried all of that but I didn't like sleeping tablets, it was too heavy a sleep. I'd wake up at night and reach for a glass of water and knock it over. So I suppose I was a little bit more sensible than some of the other guys in rock 'n' roll at that time. Something to do with my Liverpool upbringing made me exercise caution.
Paul's first encounters with drugs proved to be typical of his subsequent rectitude regarding narcotics. It may have been fashionable to be 'elegantly wasted' as Keith Richards put it, but caution was the key to Paul's survival through the temptations of the sixties, particularly temptations of the sort offered to the Beatles. The pressures on them are exemplified by an encounter between Paul and two American models while shooting a scene from Help! on Huntington Hartford's estate on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, described by Andrew Yule in his biography of Richard Lester:
There he accidentally overheard two of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, dressed in identical, stunning black swimsuits, try to coax Paul into taking heroin. The combination of their sexual come-on and the enticement towards hard drugs was one of the most chillingly evil moments Lester has ever encountered ... His sense of relief when Paul rebuffed the twosome was profound.
Club bouncers and Exis were not the only people the Beatles knew in Hamburg. Paul once described Hamburg as 'a sort of blown-up Blackpool but with strip clubs instead of waxworks: thousands of strip clubs, bars and pick-up joints'. Here were five teenage boys - George was only seventeen when they arrived, Paul was just eighteen - away from home for the first time, freed from parental restrictions, living in the sex capital of Europe. But they weren't on a day trip to Blackpool; over their five visits they lived there for almost a year. It was like a teenage party when the parents are away for the weekend, except it went on for months at a time. The young women working in the clubs and sex industry adored these pale English boys and wanted desperately to look after them.
The great change in the attitude of young people towards sex during the sixties in Britain and the USA was caused primarily by the introduction of the pill. But the idea that sex should be enjoyable and guilt-free had been gaining ground throughout the fifties, with most of the role models, precursors of sixties ideas of sexual freedom, coming from a continental Europe which was mercifully free of the icy grip of American puritanism and British hypocrisy. Perhaps its prime example was Brigitte Bardot, who embodied the mythical ideal of sexual freedom for young men of the Beatles' generation and gave it a look: long blonde hair, a youthful gamine body and carefree dress.
Before Bardot, young women wore their hair sprayed and fixed into elaborate waves and perms, wore heavy make-up and fashions designed for middle-aged women. The thick constricting twin-sets of young American suburban women seemed designed to protect them from the communist hordes. Brigitte always looked as if she had just climbed out of bed: no make-up, hair piled on top of her head or hanging loose to her breasts. In photographs she often wore a man's shirt or revealing sexy clothes. 'Dress at my house and I will make you into an elegant woman,' Chanel once promised her. 'Elegance? I couldn't care less,' replied Brigitte. 'It's old-fashioned. Couture is for grannies.' She became the icon of female sexuality for an entire generation: women wanted to look like her, actresses by the score copied her style, and men wanted their girlfriends to be like her.
PAUL: John and I lusted after Brigitte Bardot in our teen years and tried to make our girlfriends look like her. She was it, she was the first, she was one of the first ones you ever saw nude or semi-nude. She was a great looker, and she was French. So Brigitte for us, with the long blonde hair and the great figure and the little pouty lips, was the epitome of female beauty, but if she hadn't whipped them off, she might not have been quite so attractive. It was the fact that she was thought to have loose morals; we could fantasise that she did anyway. She was pretty cool. John once met her. Didn't get on very well. I think he was trying to shag her and I think he was probably drunk and I think he probably misbehaved and was boorish, which was well possible.
I had a girlfriend called Dot, Dorothy Rohne, who was my steady girlfriend for quite a long time in Liverpool. She and John's girlfriend, later wife, Cynthia Powell, came over to Hamburg and I remember buying her a leather skirt and encouraging her to grow her hair long so she'd look like Brigitte. She was a blonde. Cynthia had the same thing, tight skirt, long blonde hair. Cynthia wasn't actually a blonde but John got her to dye it blonde to look a bit more like Brigitte. I remember he and I talking and saying, 'Yeah, well, the more they look like Brigitte, the better off we are, mate!'
Hamburg had none of the draconian censorship laws against sex which, to the amusement of the rest of Europe, Britain still upholds. A major war had been fought in Europe only fifteen years before; in cities like Naples people turned a blind eye as women of all classes sold themselves to the occupying Allies because they were on the verge of starvation. Hamburg had been virtually destroyed during the war: in 1943 the British bombing raid Operation Gomorrah killed 42,000 civilians and destroyed eight square miles of the city in a firestorm. The heat was so intense that the Alster lake boiled. The population had other things to worry about than whether young people were having sex together; any warmth and friendship was to be welcomed. Fifteen years later, they still retained a much more down-to-earth, straightforward acceptance of sex. Just as Astrid's mother saw nothing wrong if her daughter's boyfriend spent the night, so the girls on the Reeperbahn were delighted to find four teenage Liverpool lads looking for a bit of fun and friendship. And a great many of them were natural blondes who modelled themselves after Brigitte. It was a fantasy come true.
PAUL: It was a sexual awakening for us. We didn't have much practical knowledge till we went to Hamburg. We were baptised in Hamburg because there were the girls! Of course it was striptease girls and hookers. I remember going out with a shortish dark-haired girl who was quite attractive but I think she was a strip-teaser, she was certainly something professional, and I remember feeling very intimidated in bed with her, spent the whole night not doing an awful lot but trying to work up to it. Those terrible painful years where ... but it was all good practice, I suppose.
You couldn't say any girl coming down to the Reeperbahn was fair game because some of them were quite respectable kids who'd just bunked out on a Sunday afternoon and did observe the Ausweiskontrolle, the curfew. We had to announce the curfew at ten o'clock. 'Es ist zweiundzwanzig Uhr. It is 22 hours. Wir mussen jetzt Ausweiskontrolle machen. We must now make a passport control. Alle Jugendlichen unter achtzehn Jahren. All youth under eighteen years. Mussen dieses Lokal verlassen. Must now leave this club.' We had to make the announcement; then the police used to go through the club, checking everyone. But anyone who stayed after that was fair game.
There were some really nice chicks that we had our eyes on who would have to go home. There was one called Renata, who John fell for quite heavily, and there were a couple of other girls who were quite a bit nicer. And then there was the lot who lived locally in St Pauli, who weren't bussed in on the Sunday afternoon for a bit of dancing but actually lived there, so they were in the clubs and the restaurants later. There were a few chicks there who we went out with who were okay. They were just teenage girlfriends but there was sex, there was sex to be had. St Pauli is certainly the area where all the sailors come looking for it. It's the sex centre of Germany, outside of Berlin. So we learned. We had our real initiations then. Some minor ones in Liverpool, but the major things, when you really get the hang of it, happened there.
You were meeting strip-tease artists: you were a professional musician, and they were professional 'dancers'. So it's just 'members of the entertainment business getting together for social reasons'. Perfectly normal. So we came back from there reasonably initiated. It wasn't so much that we were experts, but that we were more expert than other people who hadn't had that opportunity. Groups in the Beat Boom, as it was called at the time, had freedom before others did, and they certainly made some kind of change.
Astrid had made a leather suit for Stuart to match her own, which the others desired so much that they had a tailor on the Reeperbahn run up copies for themselves.
Unfortunately the seams all split as they were not made to take the wear and tear of hours of on-stage gymnastics, but once they'd been strengthened they looked great: tight leather trousers, hip-length black leather bomber jackets with zips and turned-up collars without lapels worn over black T-shirts. As the writer Mick Farren pointed out, 'The black leather jacket always sets off middle-class alarm bells.'
Their black leathers helped coalesce them as a group. Deprived of the familiar friendships of home and family, thrown together in a non-English-speaking culture, they developed a hermetic Liverpool bubble around them: a secret language of wisecracks and references, gestures and behaviour, an impregnable protective wall which, as portrayed in A Hard Day's Night, became the role model for rock 'n' roll group behaviour for years to come.
At the end of October 1960, a new club called the Top Ten opened on the Reeperbahn in direct competition to the Kaiserkeller. Tony Sheridan and his Soho backing group the Jets were the opening act, and the owner, Peter Eckhorn, managed to lure Bruno's chief bouncer Horst Fascher away from the Kaiserkeller to work for him as manager. The Beatles had a high opinion of Tony Sheridan and enjoyed stopping by the Top Ten to see his set, much to the annoyance of Bruno Koschmider, who hated the Beatles to set foot in any club he didn't own. He assigned one of his assistants to keep an eye on them and relations between them and Bruno began to get strained.
The Jets' stint with Tony Sheridan was coming to an end and Peter Eckhorn was looking for a group to back him. The Beatles were getting irritated with Bruno and were attracted to the idea of moving to a new club. They asked for an audition and pulled out all the stops, with Paul doing his Little Richard imitations. Eckhorn was delighted and said they could start the next day.
Their first night was a great success. All the Beatles' regulars deserted the Kaiserkeller and packed out the Top Ten to see them. The members of the departing Jets joined in for a jam session which ended in an hour-long version of 'What'd I Say', but their success was short-lived. Bruno was furious and cut short their engagement because their contract contained a clause forbidding them to play within 40 kilometres of the Kaiserkeller.
Paul: 'One night we played the Top Ten Club and all the customers from the Kaiserkeller came along. Since the Top Ten was a much better club we decided to accept the manager's offer and play there. Naturally the manager of the Kaiserkeller didn't like it.' Bruno soon had his revenge. He informed the police that George was under eighteen and had been working without a permit. The police served him with a deportation order and George stayed up all night trying to teach John all his guitar parts so that the Beatles could stay and play as a quartet, but Bruno soon found another way to foil their plans. John and Stuart had already moved their stuff to a comfortable attic room over the Top Ten. When Paul and Pete Best went to collect their things from the Bambi, it was in darkness. While looking to see if they had left anything behind, they found a condom and as an act of defiance, attached it to a nail on the bare concrete and set fire to it. It didn't burn long but Bruno immediately reported them to the police for attempted arson.
'He'd told them that we'd tried to burn his place down and they said, "Leave, please. Thank you very much but we don't want you to burn our German houses." Funny, really, because we couldn't have burned the place even if we had gallons of petrol - it was made of stone.' Paul and Pete Best spent three hours in the local jail before being deported. They arrived at London airport on 1 December 1960, with just enough money to take a train back to Liverpool.
The Jets had their contract extended for a further two months until Gerry and the Pacemakers could come over from Liverpool to relieve them. John was free to stay, but without work there was no point. He sold some of his clothes to buy a train ticket and arrived back a sad figure carrying a guitar in one hand with his amp strapped to his back in case anyone stole it.
Back in Liverpool the Beatles were so down-hearted that they made no attempt to contact each other for several weeks. Then on 17 December they played the Casbah with a friend of theirs, Chas Newby, replacing Stuart on bass. Posters proclaiming 'The Return of the Fabulous Beatles!' and an almost full house cheered their spirits and they were back in business. Allan Williams quickly got them enough dances and concerts to see them through the winter.
On 27 December 1960, they played Litherland Town Hall, Liverpool, on a bill made up of the Del Renas, the Deltones and the Searchers. This concert is widely regarded as a turning point in the Beatles' career. They had not played in this part of town much before and when the concertgoers saw the posters announcing 'Direct from Hamburg. The Beatles!' they naturally thought they were a German group. From the moment Paul blasted out 'Long Tall Sally', the audience was at first stunned, then ecstatic. They pushed forward and pressed against the stage in a frenzy of excitement. The first signs of Beatlemania had begun. Virtually overnight they became the leaders of the Mersey beat scene as news of the Litherland Town Hall concert spread. From now on they began to build a serious local following of their own with fans who attended every performance.
They were now playing so many gigs, spread out all over Liverpool and its environs, that it became necessary to get a driver. Pete Best had a mate called Neil Aspinall who was studying to become an accountant, but life on the road seemed a much more exciting proposal. He bought a used Commer van for £80 and became the first member of the Beatles' entourage. He was to devote his life to them and is now the chief executive of Apple, still managing the Beatles' affairs.
Despite their local success, they longed to get back to Hamburg. As the result of a lot of haggling and meetings, Peter Eckhorn and Astrid finally straightened everything out with the authorities and, now that George was eighteen and of legal age to perform, the Beatles were issued with new work permits. They returned to Hamburg with a contract with Eckhorn to begin work at the Top Ten on 1 April 1961 playing each night from 7.00 p.m. until 2.00 a.m. with a fifteen-minute break each hour. On the weekends they had to play until 3.00 a.m. For this they received 35DM (£3) each per day plus free lodgings in the attic four floors above the club. Their rooms were next door to Tony Sheridan and his new wife, a German woman called Rosie. It had ex-army bunk beds in two tiers but was luxurious compared with the scruffy, dark rooms at the Bambi. Three washing lines were always heavy with the Beatles' shirts and underwear. The parties went on until dawn as the group unwound from their hours onstage.
The Top Ten was at Reeperbahn 136, about the same size as the Kaiserkeller, with about two dozen small tables surrounding a square dance floor in front of the stage and a cinema-style awning extending out over the wide cobbled pavement. The Beatles still pulled the same Rocker audience they had around the corner on the Grobe Freiheit, but now they built a small following of Exis as well. Though Stuart was no longer in the band, he sometimes sat in with them and jammed, and most nights he and Astrid, Klaus and Jurgen would be seated by the piano at the left-hand side of the stage just like old times. It was like returning home. One of the first things Paul did on his return to Hamburg was buy a bass, a Hofner with a violin shape which allowed it to be played left-handed without looking strange.
PAUL: There's a theory that I maliciously worked Stu out of the group in order to get the prize chair of bass. Forget it! Nobody wants to play bass, or nobody did in those days. Bass was the thing that the fat boys got lumbered with and were asked to stand at the back and play. Don't say anything. Don't blow your cool. So I definitely didn't want to do it but Stuart left, and I got lumbered with it. Later I was quite happy, I enjoyed it, but I'd started as a guitarist until my guitar had fallen apart; it was a piece of crap. I then became a pianist, because they had a piano on stage. It was a terrible old piano so to be able to even pick out anything was an achievement. Then finally I became a bass player. Stuart lent me his bass till I got one, so I was playing it upside down. My God, the conditions I was playing in, no
wonder I got pretty good! I never played on anything decent! But it was good for my musical education to have to play all those different instruments.
Since they had obtained the booking at the Top Ten in December before they were deported from Germany, and since they negotiated the new contract with Peter Eckhorn, telephoning him from Pete Best's house, they decided to withhold the 10 per cent a week commission paid to Allan Williams. As Stuart was no longer in the band, and was living permanently in Hamburg, they persuaded him to write the letter. Williams was not pleased, to say the least, and threatened legal action. In his autobiography The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away, he described himself as 'seething with wounded heart and indignation', but his retribution was limited to warning Brian Epstein 'not to touch them with a barge pole' when their future manager inquired about his experiences with the group.
One good thing which came from living in close proximity to Tony Sheridan was a recording session. Tony Sheridan was without a band at the time so the Beatles backed him on his solo numbers and he sometimes helped out on their sets. On the sleeve notes for The Beatles, First, Sheridan wrote: 'One night Bert Kaempfert came into the Top Ten, introduced himself as an A & R man and record producer, and asked us if we would like to record for Polydor. We said O.K., and the result of the first recording session was "My Bonnie", "The Saints", "Cry For A Shadow" and "Why" ...' Kaempfert was a popular German bandleader who had recently made number one in America with 'Wonderland by Night' so his opinion counted highly with German record companies.
On the morning of 22 June 1961, two taxis arrived to take them all to an infants' school, the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, where the session was held on stage with the curtain closed. Kaempfert was acting as an independent producer and only after Polydor agreed to release 'My Bonnie' as a single did he bother to sign the Beatles to a recording contract, for one year starting 1 July 1961. Seven tracks were recorded that day, with Sheridan taking the lead vocal on five of them plus a Beatles instrumental, 'Cry for a Shadow', and a rock version of 'Ain't She Sweet' with John taking the vocal. 'My Bonnie' was released as by Tony Sheridan and the Beatles and did reasonably well on the German charts.
Though they now wore their leather suits, the Beatles still combed their hair back in the Elvis Presley teddy-boy quiff favoured by their Rocker audience. Jurgen Vollmer wrote in Rock ‘n’ Roll Times: 'By the time of their Top Ten engagements, our taste in clothes and hairstyle had a certain effect on The Beatles ... Klaus and I had our hair combed slightly forward in the French style, naturally, without grease. Stuart was the first to wear his hair more like us. Astrid had styled it. Occasionally George would comb his hair forward, but always combed it back again. He said the Rockers gave him funny looks.'
The Beatles felt ambivalent: they were attracted to the Exi style but didn't want to alienate either their tough Liverpool audiences or the Hamburg Rockers. They took elements of the style and made it their own. Paul: 'The Exis had this great look to them, dark collarless Pierre Cardin jackets, which is the precursor of all that Beatle look. We took a lot off them, mainly the Beatle haircut.' Both the haircut and the idea for what became the collarless Beatle jacket came, in the end, not from Astrid but from Jurgen when they ran into him in the street in Paris later that year.
On 2 July 1961, the Beatles returned to Liverpool after thirteen exhausting weeks at the Top Ten. On John Lennon's twenty-first birthday, 9 October 1961, his aunt in Edinburgh sent him £100, about two months' wages for the average worker in those days. John decided to use some of the money for a hitch-hiking trip to the Continent intending to go first to Paris then hitch on to Spain; so the day after playing the Village Hall, Knotty Ash, Liverpool, he and Paul got out on the road and stuck out their thumbs. They reached Dover and took the ferry to Calais, but hitching was almost impossible in France so they took the train to Paris. Paul had picked up quite a bit of German in Hamburg and had taken German and Spanish at school but had not studied French. John had taken a few months of French, but had not paid attention, so between them they barely spoke a word.
PAUL: The only French we knew was 'Avez-vous une hotel pour la nuit?' and 'Avez-vous un chambre?' We ended up in Montmartre and by that time it was getting late. Some rather friendly prostitutes kindly took pity on us. They were the only people out. So we say, 'Avez-vous une hotel pour la nuit?' We thought our luck had really changed, we thought, Wow, this is a prostitute, there may be all sorts of bonuses thrown in here, but in fact it was un chambre pour la nuit where the two of us just slept, awaiting great pleasures that didn't come. But we slept, that was the main thing.
I remember we ordered something from a French waitress and she said, 'Merci, m'sieur,' and we thought, Ohhhh, Jesus Christ, she's so sexy! It was just the French voice, and she had hair under her arms. 'Ohhhh, my God!' That was wild, that was bawdiness in extreme. I'd just never seen anybody with hair under her arms.
They sat in a cafe on the rue des Anglais drinking banana milkshakes. Paul: 'We got to Paris and decided, "Sod Spain."'
They ran into Jurgen Vollmer, who was living in a cheap hotel in the Latin Quarter, having moved to Paris from Hamburg to pursue a career in photography. He showed them round the city. When he pointed out L'Opera, they burst into operatic song and laughed and danced together in the street. They were evidently having a good time. He took them to the flea market, where they bought some faded pre-washed jeans and in Montmartre they saw the short mod jackets which later inspired 'Beatle jackets'.
But Jurgen's greatest contribution to the trip was to get out his scissors. 'John and Paul visited me and decided to have their hair like mine. A lot of French youth wore it that way. I gave both of them their first Beatles haircut in my hotel room on the Left Bank.'
Paul: 'We said "Cut it like yours" but it went different from his. He had a longer bit in front; ours just went "Ping!" so we had a little fringe. People said, "Why'd you do it?" and we said, "Well, you know. Hey!" ' Jurgen's haircut was styled originally by Astrid, who described its origins. 'At the time I was in awe of Jean Cocteau. His favourite actor, Jean Marais, had such a haircut in one of his films, which I am certain was inspired by the ancient Greeks.' Jean Marais played Oedipus in Cocteau's popular Le Testament d'Orphee in 1959 with his hair brushed forwards into a proto-Beatle cut. Since John and Paul were not prepared to totally give up their DAs, their hair remained long in the back, combining both Rocker and Exi in one style, the famous Beatles haircut.
There were to be three more residencies in Hamburg, all of them at the Star Club, hired by Horst Fascher, the bouncer, who had moved on from the Top Ten Club to represent Manfred Weissleder, another prominent Hamburg club owner, who was converting his Star Cinema into a rock 'n' roll club. Fascher had been with them at both the Kaiserkeller and the Top Ten and knew the kind of crowds they pulled. He was prepared to outbid Peter Eckhorn from the Top Ten in order to open the club with a star act. So the Beatles found themselves back on the Grobe Freiheit, this time at number 39. They were there for seven weeks between 13 April and 31 May 1962, fourteen nights between 1 and 14 November 1962 on the same billing as Little Richard, and a final thirteen nights between 18 and 31 December, by which time they already had chart success and would have much preferred to stay in Britain, where they could now command a high fee. By the end of 1962 they had played for more than 800 hours in Hamburg alone and were formidable. Everything they had learned on the Reeperbahn would be consolidated back home.
Even though the Beatles split up more than twenty-five years ago, fans still arrive in Liverpool and ask a cab driver to take them to 10 Mathew Street, the address of the Cavern Club. They are always disappointed because, despite massive opposition, the Liverpool Corporation demolished it, destroying the city's principal tourist site and replacing it with a car park. It has now been reconstructed 'using the original bricks', so it is claimed, but has little of the funky atmosphere of the original. Besides, according to Paul McCartney's brother Michael, they've built it the wrong way round.
At the height of the city's prosperity in the nineteenth century, streets of warehouses were built further and further from the actual docks. Mathew Street lies about four blocks from Canning Dock: a narrow, drab row of late-Victorian warehouses used in the early sixties by fruit and vegetable wholesalers whose rotting produce could often be found underfoot, giving the street a distinctive ambience.
Market-garden lorries filled the street in the early hours of the morning, but as the day progressed traders were replaced by teenagers queuing to get into the Cavern for its lunchtime and evening sessions. The line filled the pavement, sometimes spilling into the road, and stretched almost the full length of Mathew Street, passing a bricked-up bomb site surrounded with an ugly tangle of barbed wire. It was one of the most unprepossessing streets in Liverpool.
Sited in the basement of a produce warehouse, the Cavern was by no means the first venue in Liverpool to present beat music. Indeed it was one of the last to catch the trend: it had opened originally as a jazz club in February 1953 and in those early days, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes had been fined for playing a rock number when they were supposed to be playing skiffle, which was then seen as a type of jazz. Elsewhere, from the late fifties onwards, the Mersey beat was played in the Casbah, the Aintree Institute, Blair Hall, the Litherland Town Hall, the Jive Hive, and many other halls and clubs that held regular dances. The Cavern finally switched to beat music in May 1960 because Ray McFall, the owner, realised that there was money in it.
He could hardly have resisted the tide. By the time the Beatles returned from their first Hamburg season, Liverpool had an astonishingly fertile music scene, with over 300 working groups: many of them - the Merseybeats, the Big Three, Faron's Flamingos, the Undertakers, the Searchers, Howie Casey and the Seniors, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, to name but a few - could be relied upon to pull big crowds. The Swinging Blue Jeans, who began life as the Swinging Bluegenes skiffle group in 1957 - the same year as the Quarry Men - already had their own 'Swinging Blue Jeans Night' at the Cavern when the Beatles first began to play there. Groups like Gerry and the Pacemakers had fans who would trek all over the city to see them. The Beatles had lost ground locally by spending so much time in Hamburg just as they were beginning to take off.
PAUL: There were some guys that were slightly older than us, or had been at it longer or were more successful. Ringo's first group, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, had been to Butlins for a whole season so they were seasoned professionals. In fact, that has to be the meaning of the word 'seasoned'. Ringo had a beard, a suit, and a car! A car, man! A Zephyr Zodiac! They'd had that extra year. When we'd just been getting out of our nappies, they were already on the stage, so you'd look to them.
But if the Beatles had lost ground in Liverpool by spending so much time in Hamburg, they had been playing almost continuously in the three months since the Litherland Town Hall gig and were well on their way to establishing themselves as one of Liverpool's premier beat groups even before they got to Mathew Street. However, it was the passionate loyalty they inspired in their Cavern Club fans that helped to push them, over the next two and a half years, to the very top.
Entrance to the club was by seventeen slippery stone steps which led down to a space made up of three long barrel-vaulted tunnels, connected by six-foot archways. The rooms were about ten feet wide, so narrow that in the central tunnel where the stage was located there was only space for seven straight-backed wooden chairs in each row. Many years before, probably when it first opened as a jazz club, the brick arches had been whitewashed. Since there was no ventilation, the combined breath and sweat of the hundreds of young people crammed into the low tunnels formed a film of condensation on the vaulted ceiling, causing the remaining flakes of whitewash to fall gently upon the club members. 'Cavern dandruff they called it. It was common for young women to faint clear away from the heat and lack of oxygen. The room reeked of body odour and of disinfectant from the rudimentary toilets.
The MC, Bob Wooler, played records from a small room to the left of the stage which doubled as a dressing room for the acts preparing to go on. The stage backdrop was a crudely painted mural, inspired by Mondrian, of coloured oblong shapes which became graffitied with the names of Liverpool bands. It was lit by a couple of fixed spots; no coloured gels or flashing lights were to be seen at the Cavern. Wooler screamed the name of the act into the microphone and the performers ran up the three concrete steps to the wooden stage; something the Beatles would do 275 times between 9 February 1961 and their final performance there on 3 August 1963.
The Beatles looked terrific in their black leather, the music was deafening in the confined space and hundreds of hours on stage in Hamburg made the short lunchtime and evening sessions at the Cavern seem like a doddle. They were relaxed and at ease on stage, joking with the audience and taking requests. Any sort of sing-along or show tune gave them a respite because the audience could be made to provide most of the energy. Indeed one of the keys to their success was the introduction of the jam session to rock 'n' roll. Instead of solidly plugging through jerky imitations of the Shadows or whoever was in the charts at the time, their act always featured a long-drawn-out jam on a rock 'n' roll standard such as 'What'd I Say', generating tremendous excitement and leaving their audience drained and exhilarated.
Their act became an eclectic mix of rock 'n' roll, chart hits, standards and old favourites, in part determined by which records they owned.
Because records were so expensive, the only way to build a collection in the late fifties and early sixties was to rummage through junk shops, steal them at parties and accept gifts of records which you would never have bought yourself. Paul's cousin Elizabeth Robbins gave him Peggy Lee's versions of 'Fever' (1958) and 'Til There Was You' (1960), which he sang on the With the Beatles album.
PAUL: I had this very diverse little record collection from which I was culling material. I remember I had the Coasters' 'Zing Went the Strings of My Heart' , which was on the Â side of 'Yakety Yak'. I can look back on these records and see what it was I liked. With 'Besame Mucho' by the Coasters , it's a minor song and it changes to a major, and where it changes to a major is such a big moment musically. That major change attracted me so much.
This wide variety in their stage act also gave the Beatles access to a greater number of venues. Competition between the groups was acute, and the Beatles had to work hard to stay ahead. It was this competition that drove them to write their own songs, since these were the only numbers that rival groups would not steal.
PAUL: When we got to the Cavern, we realised everybody and his uncle knew all the tunes we knew, so we started to move towards the Â sides and the more obscure tunes like Ritchie Barrett's 'Some Other Guy' (1962]. Of course you only had to do 'em once and everyone had 'em. Arthur Alexander's 'Shot of Rhythm and Blues' , Gerry and the Pacemakers did it. But we always feel we did it better. 'Let them do it, doesn't matter, we'll do it better.' We took James Ray's 'If You're Gonna Make a Fool of Somebody'  to the Oasis Club, Manchester, and Freddie and the Dreamers had it the next week! It was one of our numbers. That was a waltz, a funky soul waltz, and nobody did waltzes. We were looking to be different because we realised the competition out there.
There were groups that did Cliff and the Shadows. There was a group called the Blue Angels that sounded exactly like Roy Orbison; they were immaculate. The Remo Four did a lot of Chet Atkins stuff, with clever guitar picking. So we decided we couldn't keep up, we couldn't better any of them, we had to find our own identity. We looked on Bo Diddley Â sides, we looked for obscure rhythm and blues things: 'Searchin" by the Coasters , 'Anna' by Arthur Alexander .
We did the Shirelles' 'Soldier Boy' , which is a girl's song. It never occurred to us. No wonder all the gays liked John. And Ringo used to sing 'Boys' , another Shirelles number. It was so innocent. We just never even thought, Why is he singing about boys? We loved the song. We loved the records so much that what it said was irrelevant, it was just the spirit, the sound, the feeling. The joy when you did that 'Bab shoo-wap, bab bab shoo wop'. That was the great fun of doing 'Boys'.
So at the Cavern we started to introduce a couple of our own songs along with these obscure Â sides. We thought, There's one way they can't do it, they wouldn't dare do one of our songs. The first couple of songs we did of ours were rather laughed off, but a couple of girls in the audience quite liked them and would request them. 'Like Dreamers Do' was one of the very first songs I wrote and tried out at the Cavern. We did a weak arrangement but certain of the kids liked it because it was unique, none of the other groups did it. It was actually a bit of a joke to dare to try your own songs. They didn't go down very well with Gerry and the Pacemakers and other groups. If they told us what they liked it would be 'What'd I Say' or 'Some Other Guy' or Little Richard stuff that I did. It was the more genuine shit, not stuff you wrote yourself. For you to write it yourself was a bit plonky, and the songs obviously weren't that great, but I felt we really had to break through that barrier because if we never tried our own songs we'd just never have the confidence to continue writing.
By the time we got to 'Love Me Do', they started to feel a bit bluesier. When we eventually got down to London, that was the one we insisted on recording rather than 'How Do You Do It', the Gerry and the Pacemakers song, which was more George Formby than anything else. We knew that the peer pressure back in Liverpool would not allow us to do 'How Do You Do It'. We knew we couldn't hold our heads up with that sort of rock-a-pop-a-ballad. We would be spurned and cast away into the wilderness.
Another Lennon and McCartney song that became part of their Cavern repertoire was 'Hold Me Tight', a McCartney number that Paul and John worked on together. It was written in Forthlin Road, but not recorded until the With the Beatles album.
PAUL: When we first started it was all singles and we were always trying to write singles. That's why you get lots of these 2 minute 30 seconds songs; they all came out the same length. 'Hold Me Tight' was a failed attempt at a single which then became an acceptable album filler.
The thing about the Beatles is it wasn't vulgar. We were actually very good. It was like being in an art group, it was being in an association with a few artistic friends. That was the kind of underlying feeling we had after having been in Hamburg. I remember we had a joke with the sax player from another band. He knocked on the door and I grabbed a volume of Yevtushenko's poetry and started quoting from it and the guys all sat around, like really into it, like Beat poets. And the sax player crept in, 'Oh, sorry.' He put his sax back in his case and crept back out again. And we howled. But this kind of cheek gave us a feeling of being different from the pack.
We didn't particularly like the girl adoration, although it was marvellous if you wanted a date. The main thing for us, first of all, was just doing our craft. We were genuinely trying to be artists; we'd actually comment on it, 'Hey, there's a guy in the front row who's really clocking all your chords!' If we played a good bit, a new technique or an innovative riff, we saw that they noticed; the guys were watching our guitars and our hands, not our legs and willies. That was what we liked.
There was always an underlying ambition to go in a slightly artistic direction, whereas a lot of our fellow groups didn't have that. This is why we didn't do 'How Do You Do It' when George Martin suggested it. 'It's a number one!' he said, and God knows we needed a number one. We said, 'No, no! No thanks!' And we wouldn't go to America till we had a number-one record either, and again, God knows we wanted exposure, we wanted an American tour. In a strange way we were very conscious of where we were heading whilst having no map whatsoever. We just had a feeling that 'God, this John Lennon guy is pretty special and Paul McCartney's not too bad either. And fucking hell, George is a little bit of a head. And Jesus Christ, Ringo's a dude!' And we all knew, boy, these four qualify for something, there was no dead weight at all. It annoys me when people discount some of us; and obviously the easiest one to discount is Ringo - 'Well, he just hit some skins at the back of it all, didn't he?' George in one book is described 'standing around with his plectrum in his hand waiting for a solo'. Well, you know, 'Too easy, love. Too cheap a shot. You check George out some time and you'll find a little more there than that.'
The story of how Brian Epstein visited the Cavern and was so entranced by the leather-clad boys cavorting on stage that he asked if he could manage them is well known. As Brian's autobiography A Cellarfull of Noise was ghosted for him by Derek Taylor at the height of Beatlemania and he hardly had time to read it, let alone correct any errors, it cannot be trusted on matters of detail. The account in the book about Brian being intrigued when three people in two days came into his record shop and asked for 'My Bonnie' by the Beatles, causing him to set out to find this elusive record by an unknown German group, is a good story - but it is not true.
Brian knew perfectly well who the Beatles were - they were on the front page of the second issue of Mersey Beat, the local music paper. Brian sold twelve dozen copies of this issue, so many that he invited the editor, Bill Harry, into his office for a drink to discuss why it was selling so well and to ask if he could write a record review column for it. He is unlikely to have missed the 'Beatles sign recording contract' banner headline, reporting their session with Tony Sheridan for Bert Kaempfert, nor, with his penchant for rough boys, is it likely that he passed over the photograph of the leather-clad Beatles without giving them a second glance. As for the elusive record, he telephoned Polydor in Hamburg and ordered a box full. There was so much talk about the Beatles and the explosion of beat music in Liverpool that it made good business sense for Brian to go and check out the scene for himself. When he entered the Cavern, Bob Wooler announced over the PA, 'We have someone rather famous in the audience today.' Paul, 'Talk about parochial, the idea that Brian Epstein, a record-shop owner, could be famous, that shows you what Liverpool was like then.'
Brian described his visit to the Cavern in a 1964 BBC Radio interview transcribed by the Beatles buff Mark Lewisohn in his book The Complete Beatles Chronicle:
It was pretty much of an eye-opener, to go down into this darkened, dank, smoky cellar in the middle of the day, and to see crowds and crowds of kids watching these four young men on stage. They were rather scruffily dressed, in the nicest possible way, or, I should say, in the most attractive way: black leather jackets and jeans, long hair of course. And they had a rather untidy stage presentation, not terribly aware, not caring very much what they looked like. I think they cared more even then for what they sounded like. I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence and, this is a terribly vague term, star quality.
For the next three weeks, every time the Beatles played the Cavern, Brian was there in his impeccable pinstripe business suit and tie, watching, listening and, after the set, pushing his way through the crowd for a few words with the band. Then he invited them to a meeting at nems and proposed the idea of managing them.
Brian was twenty-seven, the son of Harry and Queenie Epstein, who ran a successful furniture retail business in Walton Road, Liverpool; the shop where Paul's father bought his piano. The Epstein family were affluent; Brian was brought up by a nanny. His family were religious, gave heavily to the synagogue and Jewish charities and were highly respected in the Jewish community. Though he was asked, Harry refused to join the synagogue's executive committee because he felt it would be hypocritical to do so as he was breaking the Sabbath by opening his stores on Saturdays.
Brian grew up very much under the suffocating influence of his mother, who doted upon him and in whose eye he could no wrong. He was educated privately at a series of seven fee-paying schools and did badly at them all before dropping out in 1950, aged sixteen, to join the family firm as a furniture salesman. At eighteen he was called up for National Service and managed to get stationed at the Albany Barracks in Regent's Park, London. He detested the discipline and remained aloof from army life; he was reprimanded because he never bothered to collect his army pay. He hated the 'hideous' uniform and had his tailor run up an elegant officer's outfit which he wore in order to cruise bars in search of young men. Military police picked him up one night at the Army and Navy Club on Piccadilly and arrested him for impersonating an officer. His parents had powerful lawyers who managed to avert a court martial and he was given psychiatric tests instead. He was discharged from the army after ten months' service as 'emotionally and mentally unfit': a euphemism meaning, among other things, that he was gay.
After a failed attempt to become an actor, Brian was made a director of NEMS, North End Music Stores, the sheet-music and musical-instrument side of the family business. In 1957 the family opened a second store on Great Charlotte Street with Brian in charge of the record department and his younger brother Clive looking after the electrical and domestic appliance department. In the fifties, record players were floor-standing affairs with wooden cases and sold mainly by large furniture shops, which also sold the records to go with them. Brian was an enthusiastic manager and the shop turned a profit almost immediately. Harry was delighted and opened another, much larger branch at 12-14 Whitechapel in the city centre. Once again Brian ran the record department, and once again it was a success. By the time Brian met the Beatles, NEMS had nine record shops in Liverpool, stocking over 500,000 records. They were the biggest record retailers in the north-west.
Everyone, even the scruffiest customer, was addressed as 'sir' or 'madam' by impeccably turned-out assistants and it was the house rule that no customer should leave the store dissatisfied. To this end, Brian devised a complex system of stock control involving bits of coloured string to ensure they never ran out of stock of popular items, and if someone ordered a record, he would always order multiple copies. He had an unerring ear for a commercial record and often shocked his staff by ordering hundreds of copies of a record that they would have dismissed, only to see it rise rapidly in the charts.
Brian always looked well scrubbed, as if he had just stepped from the shower. He was a fastidious dresser, his usual attire being a pinstripe suit, with a rolled umbrella and bowler hat; his shirt and tie were always a perfect match and his shoes buffed to a high shine; even as a child he apparently managed to walk off the rugby pitch with brilliantly white bootlaces.
He spoke quietly, with a perfect upper-class accent bearing no trace whatsoever of his Liverpool origin. He was proud, pompous and a bit of a snob; very formal, with immaculate manners. Brian liked to think of himself as a perfect English gentleman. It was a matter of great regret to him that the Beatles received the MBE and he did not. He suffered strong mood swings, from charming and caring to cold and magisterial. He was frequently bad-tempered and temperamental, apologising profusely afterwards. Much of his erratic behaviour stemmed from his homosexuality, the cause of his guilt and insecurity. He spent most of his life concealing his sexual orientation, something that caused him a lot of pain. Homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967, the year of his death.
His parents knew; he had been arrested in London for trying to pick up an undercover policeman in a public lavatory, the incident which ended his studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. There was also another occasion: Brian was attacked by a man dressed as a docker while cottaging at a public toilet one night in west Derby. The man stole his wallet and tried to blackmail him. Brian had no choice but to tell his parents and the police, who then set a trap, with Brian as bait. The man was convicted and jailed for three years. Since it was clearly less dangerous to cruise abroad, Brian took frequent short holidays alone to Amsterdam, Venice or Paris. Though Brian's homosexuality, had it become public knowledge, might have caused great loss of standing among his parents' generation, it was not a cause of concern to the Beatles.
PAUL: The first time we ever heard about gayness was when a poet named Royston Ellis arrived in Liverpool with his book Jiving With Gyp. He was a Beat poet. Well, well! Phew! You didn't meet them in Liverpool. And it was all 'Break me in easy, break me in easy ...' It was all shagging sailors, I think. We had a laugh with that line. John became quite friendly with Royston. One thing he told us was that one in every four men is homosexual. So we looked at the group! One in every four! It literally meant one of us is gay. Oh, fucking hell, it's not me, is it? We had a lot of soul-searching to do over that little one.
We'd heard that Brian was queer, as we would have called him, nobody used the word 'gay' then. 'He's a queer.' 'Yes. He's all right, though.' We didn't hold that against him. We didn't really know much about it, there were certain people around but they tended to be the slightly older guys on the scene from what we knew. There wasn't much talk amongst us and our friends about anything like that. Brian was quite a well-known gay, I think. We would go down late-night drinking clubs that we hadn't had access to. They were probably gay clubs, now I think about it, but it actually didn't occur to us at all; there were rather a lot of men there, that's all. But no one ever propositioned me. There was never any bother. Pubs would stay open through Brian's influence, which was fine by us. It meant we could get a drink late at night, fantastic! And the police wouldn't bust us, fantastic! In fact, this is where we started to see the seamier side of society, because the policeman would often come round and have a drink with us. There was a lot of that.
Then we got down to London and Brian had his contacts in the gay scene. People would say, 'How are your boys, Brian?' 'Well, they're doing rather well, they just had a hit.' 'Oh, marvellous, do put them on my show!' So obviously that didn't hurt us.
On 24 January 1962, the Beatles signed a management contract with Brian. He was to get 25 per cent of their gross receipts after a certain threshold was reached, but first he had to get them a recording contract. There were many anxious weeks spent waiting for Brian to come up with the goods. John and Paul would wait in the Punch and Judy cafe opposite Lime Street station (so called because they used to hold a Punch and Judy puppet show there every Saturday morning) for Brian's train to get in from London. Paul: 'We would rush up to him, "Well? Well? What's the news?" "I'm afraid it's not very good. They don't want you." The devastation! "Oh, God, when? Do you think it will ever happen for us, man?" "Come on, keep your spirits up, it'll be all right." He always said, "Well, I did see someone who might be interested" or "I've got a new idea of who to approach ..." He would always give us hope.'
Along the way there were false starts - most notably with Decca Records. Decca evinced enough enthusiasm to give the Beatles a recording test after their A & R assistant Mike Smith visited Liverpool at Brian's insistence and saw them perform at the Cavern. On 1 January 1962, Neil Aspinall unloaded in the back of Decca's north London studios in Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, and the group helped him to set up. Tony Meehan, the drummer who left the Shadows to go solo, had joined Decca as a producer the year before, and the group were impressed to meet even an ex-member of the Shadows. Since they were not allowed into the control room, they barely saw Meehan after saying hello. Paul found out afterwards that Brian had paid Meehan to produce the session. Paul: 'We gave him some money for doing it. There was a deal struck there, it was the first time we saw that they weren't all doing it just for art. This was commercial realities kicking in. We sat out there in the studio and tried to perform. We'd got a fairly silly repertoire at that time, George doing "Sheik of Araby" and I was still doing "Besame Mucho".' They played both of these on the session, which was one occasion when they allowed Brian to have a say in choosing their material and he thought it best to show all facets of their ability.
Mike Smith cut a number of acetates for his boss Dick Rowe, the head of 'pop' A & R at Decca, to hear when he returned from America. But Rowe turned the group down, telling Brian, 'Groups of guitars are on the way out, Mr Epstein. You really should stick to selling records in Liverpool.' Electric guitars, he told him, were now 'old hat'.
In all fairness, the tapes give a very poor idea of the group's potential. All but three tracks were cover versions of standards, seven of them of fifties material that could have been recorded by anyone. It is possible that the Beatles' covers were too accurate: they moved fairly effortlessly from the breathless teen-idol style of Bobby Vee's 'Take Good Care of My Baby' (1961), which was then number two in the charts, into a pretty accurate copy of Chuck Berry's 'Memphis Tennessee' (1959), without giving much idea of the personality of the group and hardly any indication of the excitement and energy of their stage performance. It was fine on stage but the wrong material for a recording test.
Eventually Brian Epstein's efforts paid off and on 9 May 1962 George Martin, the head of Parlophone Records, a division of EMI the world's largest recording organisation, offered them a contract without ever having seen them play. The paperwork was drawn up so that, if things went well in the recording studio, Martin could add his signature right away. On 6 June, the Beatles entered EMI's Abbey Road studios for the first time for a recording session, which was not only to record their first single, but to determine whether they were signed to the label at all. Though none of the tracks was ever issued commercially, George Martin was pleased by the results and signed the contract. The Beatles had a deal.
It took two more recording sessions to get something that George Martin regarded as acceptable, during which time the Beatles made their final line-up change. Ringo Starr was hired as drummer, and Pete Best, who had played with them since their first residency in Hamburg, was out. The story of Pete Best's unceremonious ousting and the resentment felt by Beatles fans is well known, but it does seem that it was not so much Pete's drumming that the others objected to - though George Martin insisted on using a session drummer instead of Pete - it was more a question of attitude. Pete was moody and just did not fit in that well with the other three. Ringo was the ideal replacement. The Beatles knew it would work musically because they had played with him in Hamburg, and he was already regarded as one of the top drummers in Liverpool for his work with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Brian Epstein called him up and offered him the drummer's stool. John Lennon told him, 'The beard will have to go but you can keep your sidies.'
Their first single, 'Love Me Do', was released on 5 October 1962. Paul wrote the Â side, 'P.S. I Love You', not long before the recording test. The record reached number 17 in the Record Mirror and Record Retailer charts, a good start for a band still virtually unknown outside the Liverpool area. Normally John took the vocal lead on 'Love Me Do' when they performed it live even though it was mainly Paul's song, but on the record this was reversed.
PAUL: George Martin said, 'Can anyone play harmonica? It would be rather nice. Couldn't think of some sort of bluesy thing, could you, John?' John played a chromatic harmonica, not a Sonny Boy Williamson blues harmonica, more Max Geldray from The Goon Show. I actually had one too but he'd been clever; he'd learned how to play it. He could play 'Oh, Camptown races ...' John expected to be in jail one day and he'd be the guy who played the harmonica. The lyric crossed over the harmonica solo so I suddenly got thrown the big open line, 'Love me do', where everything stopped. Until that session John had always done it, I didn't even know how to sing it. I'd never done it before. George Martin just said, 'You take that line, John take the harmonica, you cross over, we'll do it live.' So, 'Please ...' it had a big harmony, '... love me do.' I can still hear the nervousness in my voice! We were downstairs in number two studio and I remember looking up to the big window afterwards and George Martin was saying, 'Jolly good.'
But when we got up to Liverpool I remember meeting Johnny Gustafson, who was the bass player in the Big Three, and him saying, 'Aw, it was so much better when John sang that "Love Me Do". What's all this?' You had to go, 'Well, it's the blues, hey, man, you know?' At least there was some credibility in the fact it was a bluesy song rather than 'How Do You Do It'. So that was it, we were started and our credibility as songwriters had started then. So we realised, 'Wow, we could get good at this.'
Their second single followed on 11 January 1963: 'Please Please Me' backed with 'Ask Me Why'. This time John was mostly responsible. Please Please Me' was written at Menlove Avenue as a Roy Orbison song.
PAUL: If you imagine it much slower, which is how John wrote it, it's got everything, the big high notes, all the hallmarks of an Orbison song. But in the session George Martin suggested we lifted the tempo and suddenly there was that fast Beatles spirit. I did the trick of remaining on the top note while the melody cascaded down from it. A cadence. I remember a music teacher in Liverpool telling us she'd taught it to her kids. That was good. So it began as a Roy Orbison. We used to steal consciously, particularly from American black acts like the Marvelettes and alter it a bit. Something you love, something you're passionate about, is always a great starting point.
'Ask Me Why' had been a part of the Beatles' live act for some time. Written in the spring of 1962, it was one of the numbers they performed at their Parlophone Records audition. Paul: 'It was John's original idea and we both sat down and wrote it together, just did a job on it. It was mostly John's.' This was the first of many Lennon and McCartney compositions to show the influence of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, one of their favourite Motown groups.
By the time 'Please Please Me' was released, the Beatles had made a number of television and radio appearances, including a key appearance on the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars which enabled them to reach millions of viewers and create thousands of new fans. 'Please Please Me' reached number one, the first of a run of fifteen consecutive number ones in the Melody Maker charts. Their initial goal, of having a number-one record, had been reached, and they had achieved it without leaving Liverpool and by recording all their own songs.
Because their royalty rate was so low, it would be some time before they made much money from record sales, but having a record at number one meant that they could command top fees for concerts. Brian Epstein worked them hard, mixing concerts with radio and TV appearances to promote the record. They only had one day off throughout the whole of November and December, and that was spent travelling back from Germany. But the hard work paid off. They became known to a wider and wider audience, from Scotland to Kent, as Neil Aspinall’s battered Commer van criss-crossed the face of Britain. They would sometimes play a lunch-time session at the Cavern before heading out of town to perform at a town hall in another city, and it was not unusual to play two engagements in one night, often miles apart. Neil could no longer cope with driving, unloading, setting up and acting as personal assistant to all four Beatles so Brian Epstein hired Mal Evans to help him. Mal was a friend of George Harrison, who had recommended him for his job as one of the bouncers at the Cavern. Three months later, he was working for George. His burly six-foot-two-inch frame enabled him to act as a bodyguard to the Beatles, something that they would be needing before very long.
Please Please Me
George Martin thought it was time for an album, and they were even given a day off to get down to London from Sunderland, in order to be fresh on the morning of 11 February when they were due to record ten new songs at Abbey Road. One day was regarded as quite sufficient to record an album in those days. No one had even considered that it might take longer, so the Beatles were booked to play two evening gigs the following day, one in Sheffield, Yorkshire, followed by another in Oldham, Lancashire.
The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, was released on 22 March 1963. Of the fourteen songs, more than half were original McCartney-Lennon compositions (as they were credited on the label). Both sides of their first two singles were included as well as four new original songs.
'I Saw Her Standing There' was written in the living room of Forthlin Road in September 1962.
PAUL: Sometimes we would just start a song from scratch, but one of us would nearly always have a germ of an idea, a title or a rough little thing they were thinking about and we'd do it. 'I Saw Her Standing There' was my original, I'd started it and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of the information, and then you had to fill in. I had, 'She was just seventeen, she'd never been a beauty queen.' So we went, 'Ugh, this is one of these.' And by then we'd written a couple in the little book and we'd started to realise that we had to stop at these bad lines or we were only going to write bad songs. So we stopped there and both of us cringed at that and said, 'No, no, no. Beauty queen is out! There's got to be another rhyme for seventeen': so we went through the alphabet: between, clean, lean, mean; 'She wasn't mean; you know what I mean; great! Put that in.' And then the significance of it built as we sang it, 'She's just seventeen, you know what I mean?' and people picked up on the implied significance later. It was a good way out of that problem. So it was co-written, my idea, and we finished it that day.
Paul's brother Michael includes a photograph in his book Remember which captures the moment of composition: Paul and John are seen strumming guitars in the front room of Forthlin Road hunched over the working manuscript of 'I Saw Her Standing There' in a Liverpool Institute exercise book on the floor in front of them. Paul later told Beat Instrumental that he stole the bass line from Chuck Berry's 'I'm Talking About You' (1961): 'I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. Therefore I maintain that a bass riff doesn't have to be original.'
'Money' was written just before their first nationwide tour, as fifth on the bill to Helen Shapiro, starting 2 February, 1963. Helen was called 'Foghorn' at school in Bethnal Green, London, because of her deep, masculine voice; but this proved to be her claim to fame when at the age of fourteen she had a top-ten hit with 'Please Don't Treat Me Like a Child' in April 1961. This was followed by a couple of number ones: 'You Don't Know' and 'Walking Back to Happiness' and a number two, 'Tell Me What He Said'. They were straightforward Tin Pan Alley pop tunes and Paul and John thought they would try and get her to record one of theirs. They began work on 'Misery' backstage before a gig at the Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, on 26 January and finished it at Forthlin Road.
Paul: 'We wrote it for Helen Shapiro because we were going on tour with her and, being young lads with an eye for an opportunity, we thought, well, even if she does it on à Â side, this'll be very good for our songwriting.' It would have suited Helen Shapiro's vocal range perfectly but the song was turned down by Nome Paramor, head of A & R at Columbia Records, without Helen even hearing it. Kenny Lynch, who was also on the tour, heard the song and liked it. He earned his footnote in history by becoming the first person, other than the Beatles, to record a Lennon-McCartney song. Paul: 'He was another lad with an eye for an opportunity, and he had a minor hit with it. He used to do it on tour with us ... not amazingly well. It was our first stab at a ballad and had a little spoken preface. It was co-written. I don't think either of us dominated on that one, it was just a job, you could have called us hacks, hacking out a song for someone.' Nine days later they recorded it as a filler for their first album.
Each Beatle needed something to perform as a solo spot for his individual fan following. For the most part, the fans at the Cavern actually knew the group but the audiences outside Liverpool were responding to TV appearances, radio shows and press interviews. Many of these were groups of girls who would divide the band up between them to avoid arguments. Beatlemania had not yet properly begun but the way was being paved.
John and Paul naturally sang their own songs; then, in order to give George and Ringo something original to sing, they began to write for them too. It would be some time before George began writing his own material and 'Do You Want to Know a Secret' was written for him. Based on an original idea by John, it was essentially what Paul calls a 'hack song', a 50-50 collaboration written to order. John says that he based the tune on 'Wishing Well' from Walt Disney's 1937 cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which his mother used to sing to him when he was two or three years old.
The remaining Lennon and McCartney song was "There's a Place', another product of the front room at Forthlin Road; co-written, co-sung but with a bias towards being Paul's original idea since he was the owner of the soundtrack album of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story with the song 'There's a Place for Us', which is where the title phrase came from.
PAUL: But in our case the place was in the mind, rather than round the back of the stairs for a kiss and a cuddle. This was the difference with what we were writing, we were getting a bit more cerebral. We both sang it. I took the high harmony, John took the lower harmony or melody. This was a nice thing because we didn't actually have to decide where the melody was till later when they boringly had to write it down for sheet music.
The extra tracks required to make the album took the allotted one day to record. Like the single after which it was named, it went to number one.
The success of Please Please Me underlined the transformation that occurred in the Cavern of the Beatles from four leather-clad teddy boys to a highly professional rock 'n' roll band complete with a manager and stage outfits. They were now part of show business; and perhaps Brian Epstein's most significant influence on the group was in refining the stage presence that became part of their image. The theatrical Beatle bow from the waist was one of his many ideas.
PAUL: We actually used to count the bow, one two three, and we'd do this big uniform bow all at once. Brian believed that that would be very good for us, and I was also a great believer in that. Brian was very into the look onstage: 'Maybe you shouldn't do that, maybe you should wait a couple of numbers before announcing ...' His RADA experience came into play a little bit there and I would tend to agree with some of his stagey ideas. I don't think any of us had any problem with that, or else one of us wouldn't have done it. We knew Brian had a good flair, and, when you're on stage, you can't see yourself, so it's often very important to have someone sitting in the stalls to tell you how it looked. Brian's memos to us used to reflect that: 'You're playing Neston tonight. I'm looking for a re-booking here, please wear the shirts and ties.' And we'd do it, it was show business, we were just entering the whole magic realm.
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