As I may have mentioned before, I am reading Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1 by Mark Lewisohn. It’s an absolutely comprehensive — and by “comprehensive,” I mean “no detail, regardless of its import or effect, is left out” — anthology of the events, both great and small, that took the Fabs up to the end of 1962.
1962? Twelve hundred pages, and it only covers their lives through 1962? Yep. So, as you might imagine, I have learned quite a bit so far. I wonder if you knew any of these interesting (to me, at least) facts about the Band that Changed the World Forever:
- The band (drummerless for a long time) went through several iterations of names. Paul and George changed their own names within that structure as well (Paul was “Paul Ramon,” and George was “Carl Harrison,” in honor of his idol at the time, Carl Perkins). John never changed his name, but the band went through the Silver Beatles, Silver Beats, Silver Beetles, and the Silver Beatles again, before settling in 1960 on just “The Beatles.” Local newspapers routinely misspelled everything (no wonder).
- John’s and Stu’s idea of calling themselves “The Beatles with an ‘A'” came in part from John’s admiration of — and desire to emulate — Buddy Holly and his “Crickets.” The “with an ‘A'” part is indicative of John’s penchant for wordplay and pun, which he would employ throughout his life as an author and songwriter.
- In the early days, Ringo was far more successful as a working musician than the other three. Drumming for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, he had steady work while John, George and Paul struggled to find and keep gigs. They weren’t very good.
- The Beatles didn’t feature just two drummers (Pete Best and Ringo). They went through a slew of them before landing on Pete. (At least a half dozen. I had no idea.) All of them quit or were let go, and I’ve wondered what it must have been like to “be them” when the Beatles finally hit the bigtime. Dang!
- As much as I love John’s voice and his songwriting, I am continually unimpressed with how cruel a person he could be. He had an unusual disdain for (fear of??) the handicapped — particularly those with cerebral palsy or any kind of mental retardation, and he poked fun at them with impunity, showing no remorse or compassion. It’s unsettling to read about it.
- As the Beatles gained modest recognition around Liverpool, Paul and John laid down rules for their girlfriends: You can sit with us at a club, but you’re not allowed to speak.
- John and then-bass player Stuart Sutcliffe considered Paul and George to be the pesky little brothers whose company they had to suffer. John and Stu were hoity-toity art students, while the other two were still in grammar school. It caused Paul to become quite jealous, and he and Stu never really hit it off at all.
- Stuart Sutcliffe could not play. He faked nearly everything, and it showed onstage. While the other three were digging in and playing to the audience and showing what they had, Stu often turned away from the crowd.
- All three (John, Paul and George) were little hooligan brats who “sagged off” school every chance they got. You can imagine their grades.
- Ringo gave up a potentially lucrative factory apprenticeship to spend the summer playing drums at Butlin’s summer camp in North Wales. His family thought he was nuts.
I could go on and on, seriously. Lewisohn’s access to longtime manager Neil Aspinall through personal interviews and diary entries gave him mountains of information. If you’re a Beatles freak like me, who thinks he’s read just about everything there is to read on the group, this one’s an eye-opener. But I know most people aren’t quite that freakish.
Snow day #8, I think. May as well get some work done around here.