Which Beatle came from the poorest background?
|The Everton area of Liverpool, 1960|
All four Beatles had what Mark Lewisohn calls ‘unvarnished working class roots’ in an industrial city that had seen better days. Two (Paul and George) spent their formative years living in social housing in areas that were solidly proletarian but not particularly associated with high crime rates or other social issues. Neither considered themselves to be poor by the standards of their peers.
On paper, John Lennon's early childhood was a textbook example of the social deprivation often experienced by single parent families in the mid Twentieth century. Though his biological parents were legally married they never lived together and effectively separated soon after his birth.
John initially lived with is mother, Julia. Economic insecurity (she relied on bar work) poor accommodation shared with her then boyfriend and 'unsuitable relationships' all caused concern in her family. Her sister, Mimi, reported Julia to Liverpool social services while at the same time offering to effectively adopt John.
Eventually, Julia agreed to this proposal and her son went to live at Mendips, a large house in prosperous suburb. From the age of four, John effectively had a middle class upbringing. He attended one of the best secondary schools in the city and enjoyed a far higher standard of material comfort than the other Beatles.
The Beatles interacted as social equals but they were aware of subtle class markers. Paul was astonished by what he perceived to the the poshness of John's home - marvelling that John called Mimi rather than the 'Auntie' he was used to.
From Aunt Mimi's perspective, George was very much from the wrong side of the tracks and she spoke disapprovingly of his strong accent ('he's very 'dose', John). By more objective measures, the Harrison family had modest means but were reasonably comfortable by local working class standards.
One future Beatles did experience a Dickensian childhood combining poverty, ill health and paternal abandonment. Richard Starkey grew up in an area of the city notorious for crime and poverty. But he would not meet the other Beatles until October, 1960.
Ringo Starr was not around to visit Mendips in the late 1950s. Had he done so Mimi would doubtless have hidden the spoons.