The Beatles FAQ

Fun stuff about the Fab Four. Linked to The Beatles Teaching Pack

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ten fun facts about Yesterday?

YESTERDAY famously began its life with the the unpromising title of SCRAMBLED EGGS. Here are ten more things you may not know about Paul McCartney's most famous composition.
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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

How did John Lennon meet Paul McCartney?

On Saturday the 6th July, 1957 St Peter's Church held it a annual summer fete in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton.
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Monday, 17 June 2019

Why did The Beatles 1966 tour of Japan start badly?

The European leg of the The Beatles 1966 world tour was designed to create a favourable impression on the band and its public. First there were a few dates in Germany, culminating in a triumphant return to Hamburg. Then on to Japan, a market where they had achieved unprec.edented penetration for a western act.

Finally The Beatles would visit The Philippines. This was the most Americanised of all Asian states, with a famously friendly population.. A warm welcome was confidently expected.

Nothing went according to plan.

In Hamburg there was embarrassment on the now cleaned-up  Beatles in front of their old fans. At one concert Lennon told the audience, "Don't listen to our music. We're terrible these days." He would later explain: "We'd outlived the Hamburg stage and wanted to pack that up. We hated going back... We'd had that scene. Brian [Epstein] made us go back to fulfill the contract..."

After this uneasy revisiting of their past, The Beatles were relieved to be leaving Europe. Japan seemed to offer a respite from the relentless madness of Beatlemania. Japanese fans, they were assured, would be restrained in their devotion.

A threat & a typhoon

The first sign of a potential problem came on the eve of their flight. An unsigned telegram arrived from Japan. It  contained a cryptic warning:  PLEASE DO NOT FLY TO TOKYO YOUR CAREER IS IN DANGER.

Until this point, The Beatles' management had been unaware of the controversy created by their choice of concert venue, the Budokan Arena in Tokyo. In fact the Budokan had a particular symbolic significance for Japanese nationalists, who saw it as a shrine to their war dead. Many angrily saw allowing a western pop group to play there as an affront.

Unsettled by this threat, The Beatles flew out of Hamburg. Their flight was scheduled to take a gruelling sixteen hours. This was extended when Typhoon Kit  forced an unscheduled stop-over in Anchorage, Alaska.

After a lengthy spell on the tarmac, Brian Epstein managed to get The Beatles to a local hotel, where they checked in at 3.30a.m. By the time they awoke their arrival had been broadcast on local radio and  local fans had surrounded the hotel.

Once again The Beatles were effectively Five Star prisoners in their hotel suite, where they were forced to wait  until their flight was cleared to continue.  

Free Advertising

Tired and disgruntled, The Beatles complained they were not  even able to change their clothes, which were still on the plane. Japanese Airline officials provided them with traditional Happi coats. This provided the airline with what has been described as 'the greatest (free) advertising in aviation history).
'The day my mum looked after the Beatles'
The Beatles arrive in Tokyo on June 29 wearing happi coats with a prominent JAL logo

Arrival in Tokyo

When The Beatles finally got to Tokyo they were greeted by a police escort. They were also informed of the controversy surrounding their concerts, with the country largely dividing on generational lines.  In an early sign of their disillusionment with Beatlemania, they gave a surly performance at an interminable press conference.


The concerts were then performed with unprecedented security, and The Beatles were unable to leave their hotels, though John and Paul did manage to sneak out on different occasions.

Despite the tension, the concerts were a great success, further accelerating both Beatlemania and the liberalisation of Japanese youth culture.

Taken from The Beatles Teaching Pack (£3.99)

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Saturday, 15 June 2019

Did The Beatles ever record with other artists?

Brian Epstein famously became aware of The Beatles when a young customer asked for a song recorded in Germay,"My Bonnie", by Tony Sheridan and The Beatles.  This disc would prove to be unique on two counts.

  •  It was the first non-bootlegged recording.
  •  It was also the only time they conceded top billing to another artist. 
In their subsequent recording career over a hundred people performed on official Beatles releases. These included major contributions to specific recordings - like Andy White's on the "Love Me Do" (single) to various wives, girlfriends and pals providing background harmonies. Even biographer Hunter Davies gets a walk-on vocal, deep in the chorus of All You Need Is Love"[42]

The house rule was that only band members were credited. This even applied to star names - Eric Clapton on The White Album, for example. Only two exceptions were made in the entire 1962 -1970 discography. 

Billy Preston 

Billy Preston came close to joining The Beatles in 1969. He added keyboads/Hammond organ to several track. This is formally acknowledged on "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down" (credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston). 

Anil Bhagwat

In April 1966 George Harrison was scheduled to record the pioneering "Love You To". On the morning of the session he informed Abbey Road that he would need someone to play the tabla - a two handed Indian drum.

For once this was a missing entry in George Martin's encyclopedia of session players. As ever, however, Martin found a solution. That afternoon Anil Bhagwat, a young engineering student, was collected from his flat in Earls Court in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce. His contribution to the recording would earn him a name-check on the back cover of Revolver - full story here.

Taken from The Beatles Teaching Pack (£3.99)

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How did Billy Preston nearly join The Beatles?

The Beatles first met Billy Preston before they were famous. In 1962 Brian Epstein had organised a special 'All-Star' tour, where The Beatles opened for some of their American idols. Preston played keyboards for Little Richard and the band got to know him

An invitation

After occasionally crossing paths during the Beatlemania years, The Beatles and Billy Preston lost contact. Then in 1969, George Harrison escaped an acrimonious recording session by attending a Ray Charles concert. He was surprised to see Preston playing keyboards and went backstage to meet him. 

Harrison invited Preston to come to meet the other band members at Abbey Road. It proved an inspired move - The Beatles no longer liked each other but they were all fond of Billy Preston. His presence was not only musically beneficial but also discouraged inter-Beatle squabbling in the studio.  

John even suggested that he be invited to join the group, but Paul pointed out that this would unfair as they were clearly in the process of breaking up.  The group did, however, give him an official credit on "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down" (credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston). 

Fifth Beatle?

Would Billy Preston have made a good Beatle? Perhaps, though his later struggles against drug addiction suggest that it might have been an inherently unstable alliance. 

Taken from The Beatles Teaching Pack (£3.99) 

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Friday, 14 June 2019

How did 'Granny Smith' help to create world music?

George Harrison always struggled with lyrics, particularly titles. 'Granny Smith'  would become 'Love You To', the first serious attempt to fuse the Indian classical and western pop traditions.

The extraordinary story behind this pioneering recording here.

Taken from The Beatles Teaching Pack (£3.99) 

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Friday, 19 April 2019

Why was Love Me Do chosen to be The Beatles first single?

 'Love Me Do' is Paul's song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn't swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters". John Lennon in David Sheff's : All We Are Saying).[8]
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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Did the Beatles ever live together?

The Beatles arrived in London in the summer of 1963, initially staying the Hotel President near the British Museum in Bloomsbury. After years of sharing dingy rented rooms, this was a substantial upgrade in their accommodation.

Soon, however, there were practical problems. Fans began tracking them down. Every day larger numbers laid siege to their hotel. By early autumn, with She Loves You at Number One, staying in any public building had become untenable.

Green Street

To increase their privacy, Brian Epstein arranged for the band to move into a three bedroom top floor flat in Green Street, Mayfair, near Hyde Park. There were three bedrooms, with the Lennon family taking one and the other three Beatles sharing the rest of the apartment.
The Green Street arrangement — the only time The Beatles formally lived together — only lasted a few months. John, Cynthia and the toddler Julian soon moved to their own flat on Emperor’s Gate. 

George and Ringo followed Brian Epstein to Whaddon House, an exclusive development near Harrods. They shared another apartment there for a year before eventually escaping to the suburbs.

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Thursday, 11 April 2019

How many records have The Beatles sold?

This is increasingly difficult to assess, as downloads of individual tracks are added to traditional singles & albums.


By 2014, the official figure for US single sales was an astonishing 1.6 billion. It would be reasonable to extrapolate that when British and other international sales are added the number would rise to well over 2 billion


The Beatles had a total of 21 Number 1 albums in the US. Total US album sales, however, are 'only' 177 million, less than a third of those sold outside the US.  It should be remembered, however, that Beatlemania occurred before albums became the mass market they later became in the 1970s. 

Post break-up

Sales of Beatles albums have remained strong since the band broke up in 1970 . Compilations, such as the 'red' and the 'blue' anthologies have  sold particularly well to new generations of fans. 

In fact the biggest selling album after Sergeant Pepper, Number 1s,  a compilation of singles. This was only released in 2000, thirty years after the band last recorded together. 

New formats

Sales were also helped by the mass switch from vinyl to CD in the 1980s. Ironically,the CD format has seen a rapid decline in this century while vinyl has undergone a mini revival. A new trend has been for special reissues and previously unreleased tracks. The Anthology series was a mass market example of this.

Download: The Beatles Teaching Teaching Pack  (£3.99) 
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Friday, 29 March 2019

Did George Martin have a 'secret history'?

The George Martin who the Beatles first met in 1962 presented as Professor Higgins to their Eliza Doolittle. With his smart suit, upper class (southern) accent and courtly manners he appeared to be what Brian Epstein described as “a stern but fair-minded schoolmaster”. 

“We were rednecks” as Ringo later put it. George Martin was the archetypal ‘square’: solid and suburban. They automatically assumed that he was backed by family wealth and a private education.

The Beatles, with the arguable exception of Ringo, did not grow up in poverty. George Martin unquestionably did 

Early history

According to a recent biography, Maximum Volume (2017), George Martin came from a seriously impoverished background. Author Kenneth Womack was
…very surprised about the degree of George’s childhood poverty — he describes a family that had no electricity or running water and had one gas jet.
Nor was Martin the product of a privileged education. Several changes of school marked his early years, though he did manage to win a scholarship to a Catholic (state) grammar school. 

His early musical training consisted of eight piano lessons. These ended abruptly after his mother had a ‘disagreement’ with the piano teacher. 

It was the Second World War that allowed George Martin to move out of poverty. In 1941 his school was evacuated to escape the Blitz. The Martin family chose to move to Bromley in Kent, where George  was accepted by the prestigious Bromley Grammar School. From there he began moving up the social ladder. 

First jobs 

Leaving school at fifteen, Martin initially worked as an office clerk in a surveyor’s office and later for the War Office. At seventeen he joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, where he became a commissioned officer.

A veterans' grant then enabled him to enroll  on a three year course at the Guildhall of Music in 1947. There he studyied oboe (under Jane Asher’s mother) and piano. In addition, he taught himself  numerous instruments. Perhaps most importantly he began to make social connections with the 'right' people.

After graduation, he took post in the BBC classical music department. From there he joined EMI , where he became the manager of Parlophone in 1955. 

Unwelcome reminder?

When The Beatles arrived at Abbey Road, George Martin was initially irritated by their personal presentation as much as their musical shortcomings
he wasn’t sure about .... shaggy hair, Liverpool accents .... their beat-up gear .... {their}studio professionalism ... source
According to Womack, this may have been rooted in his own ‘hidden’ background.
“Why would George want to align himself with the sort of guys he had been trying to get away from for so long?” 
His reservations were also of their time. As a working class self-made man, he knew the high standards expected from young men from their background. 

And yet The Beatles won him over, starting with the moment when George Harrison gave his famously cheeky response to George Martin's dressing down:
“Is there anything you don’t like?”“Well, for a start,” replied George Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.”  

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