The Beatles FAQ

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

Friday, 13 September 2019

How did The Beatles get their name?

Nearly sixty years on and there is still no settled answer to this question. We are now so familiar with the name— and its odd spelling — that it is often forgotten how exotic it seemed in the early 1960s.

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Friday, 9 August 2019

Top three cover versions of Beatles songs?

There have several thousand covers of Beatles songs but a relatively short list of those which work well. Here are my top three (in no order)

Golden Slumbers - George Benson

The Other Side of Abbey Road is an extraordinary achievement for the (then) young guitar prodigy and Golden Slumbers is a highlight.  A magnificent vocal over a strange, ethereal arrangement, it manages to avoid the syrupy 'Beatles with Strings' clich├ęsThe LP cover is great, too.

With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker

The best known interpretation of a Beatles song, performed in sensational fashion at Woodstock in 1969. Paying tribute to the late Sheffield singer Paul McCartney said:  

I remember him and [producer] Denny Cordell coming round to the studio and Saville Row and playing me what they recorded. It was just mind-blowing. He totally turned the song into a soul anthem, and I was forever grateful to him for doing that."

Got to Get You Into My Life - Earth, Wind and Fire

One of Paul McCartney's most exuberant compositions, an homage to Memphis soul and Motown. Earth, Wind and Fire give it the treatment, amplifying the horns and harmonies in an exhilarating arrangement.

Wisely, they do not draw attention to the writer's revelation that the 'she' in the lyric is marijuana. "It's actually an ode to pot," McCartney explained, "like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret."

The Beatles Digital Teaching Pack  (£3.99) 
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Thursday, 8 August 2019

What were the 'clues' on the Abbey Road cover?

So here’s another clue for you all/The Walrus was Paul
The Beatles Glass Onion (The White Album)

There were conspiracy theories long before the internet. The Beatles, with their unprecedented fame and influence on popular culture, were particularly prone to them. Perhaps the most notorious began on  the night of January 7, 1967, when  ‘a rumour swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the M1’. It became so widespread that the February 1967 issue of The Beatles Book fanzine felt obliged to reassure worried fans. 
The article appeared to confirm that Macca was alive and kicking, with three more years of Beatle in-fighting to look forward to. That part was true but the rest was inaccurate and misleading.

This — as Sixties folk liked to say — is what really went down.
McCartney’s Mini Cooper was involved in an accident on the M1 motorway outside London, as a result of which it was written off. However, the car was being driven by a Moroccan student named Mohammed Hadjij, and McCartney was not present.
Hadjij was an assistant to London art gallery owner Robert Fraser. The pair turned up at McCartney’s house on the evening of 7 January, and were later joined by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs.
The party decided to head to Jagger’s home in Hertfordshire … McCartney travelled with Jagger in the latter’s Mini Cooper, while Hadjij drove in McCartney’s Mini.
The two cars became separated during the journey. Hadjij crashed McCartney’s Mini and was hospitalised with injuries. The heavily customised car was highly recognisable, so rumours began circulating that McCartney had been killed in the incident. Source
So far from being ‘safely locked up in the garage’ Paul’s ‘highly recognisable’ black Mini Cooper had been out on the town with its owner and some Rolling Stones. By the end of the night it was a mangled wreck and a mysterious young Moroccan was licking his wounds in Accident & Emergency.

Meanwhile the pop stars slipped quietly into the frosty night.

Pretty low rent rock n roll hell-raising then, but the image of Paul McCartney tearing around London with the rough boys was not one The Beatles’ management wanted publicised. Hence the False Rumours press release.

The problem was that enough witnesses had seen Paul’s Mini that night to fuel well-founded rumours of a cover up.

Secret messages

On 12 October, 1969 a bizarre on-air phone call to Detroit radio station gave new life (!) to the controversy. A caller, identified only as ‘Tom’, had some startling new information. He revealed that The Beatles had been sending secret messages through their recorded songs.
‘Play ‘Revolution 9’ backwards,’ he said mysteriously. ‘And you’ll hear what I mean!’

The DJ duly spun the disk (backwards). After somehow deciphering discordant wailing, he pronounced judgement. ‘Wow! John is saying “dead man!” He’s trying to tell us that Paul McCartney is dead!’


In 1969, the story got a new lease of life. A Michigan University student published an article: “McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light”. The article built a pretty spooky — if not quite legally watertight — case for suspicious minds.

Most famously it drew attention to ‘Paul’ crossing Abbey Road on the album cover barefoot. And walking barefoot — as every conspiracy theorist agreed — was a scientifically proven symbol of death. McCartney later would protest that he was shoeless because of the August heat. The photographer - who took the photo standing on a stepladder while they held up the traffic -  confirmed Paul's explanation. But by this point nobody was listening.

Other 'clues' are also problematic:
  • The licence plat number on the white VW Beetle in the background ended 28IF. Another message! Paul would have been twenty-seven had he lived to record Abbey Road. That stood for Paul's age IF he had not died, right? But a glance at Paul’s birth certificate confirms that he was twenty-seven on the day he walked across Abbey Road. Or didn’t walk across….
  • The black prison van symbolizes the police role in the cover-up. So they were in on it too...
  • In the background a small group of people dressed in white are on one side of the road. They represent the surviving Beatles. A single figure in black stands alone on the other.  Dead Paul, of course. 
  • Why does Paul have a cigarette in his RIGHT hand? Everyone knows Paul McCartney is LEFT handed! How do you explain that, eh?

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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Why did The Beatles turn down David Bowie?

David Bowie was heavily influenced by The Beatles 
In 1968 David Bowie left Decca Records where his recording career had got off to an undistinguished start. He was keen to sign with Apple, a new record label set up by The Beatles to encourage new talent.
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Did Bowie cover any Beatles songs?

In 1974 David Bowie went to New York to was record his 'white soul' album Young Americans. He met Lennon at a party where the two men got on well - witnesses have reported that they drew caricatures of each other and drank cognac (hopefully in that order).

Encouraged by this meeting, and keen to get a Beatle on his new album - Bowie phoned Lennon to tell him that he was recording a version of Across the Universe. Lennon agreed to come to the studio play acoustic guitar. 

The session was a success and Lennon later said he liked Bowie's version better than his original recording with The Beatles on Let It Be.  


The two Englishmen returned to the studio for a jamming session. As they improvised, guitarist Carlos Alomar played a riff he had intended for Bowie cover of the R & B song Footstompin. Impressed, Bowie and Lennon then developed this into a new song in which Lennon sang 'aim' over the Alomar guitar. 

Bowie then rewrote the lyric, changing 'aim' to 'fame'. The resulting single was Bowie's most successful in the US, reaching the Top Ten for the first time.  

Influence of Beatles on Bowie

Pete Doggett has unearthed some interesting connections. 

I was struck ... by the influence the Beatles had on Bowie's work in the 70s. Some of that influence is obvious - the McCartney-inspired piano styling of 'Oh! You Pretty Things', for example. As early as 1965, in an obscure song entitled 'That's Where My Heart Is', Bowie sounded as if he was learning how to write songs by listening to With The Beatles

Other musical links between Bowie and the Beatles were more surprising {like the} influence on 'Blackout' from the 'Heroes' LP. In more recent times Bowie  covered George Harrison's 'Try Some, Buy Some', claiming that he hadn't realised that George had written the song.
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Taken from The Beatles Teaching Pack (£3.99) 

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Which Beatle had two birthdays?

George Harrison spent most of his life believing his birthday was February 25, 1943.
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Which Beatle supposedly 'died' in 1966?

One of the most enduring legends surrounding The Beatles is that the Fab Four became the Fab Three in November 1966.

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Who was the tallest Beatle?

'Evidence' of an alleged height disparity 
The official record has Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as the same height: 5'11" with Ringo Starr 5'8". Some have speculated that these figures are a little generous:
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Saturday, 20 July 2019

Which group most influenced The Beatles?

When asked about key early influences The Beatles usually cited individual names: Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. All but one followed the tried and tested formula of a star with an essentially nameless backing band.

The exception was Buddy Holly. His group, The Crickets, created a template for what became known as the ‘guitar group’. This which would be adopted by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and countless other British bands.

In January 1962, The Beatles failed an audition for Decca Records. Company boss, Dick Rowe, famously told Brian Epstein that ‘guitar groups were on their way out’. In fact they were about to conquer the world.

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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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