Introduction: The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (02:28)
Many think The Beatles became famous overnight, but the band lived in obscurity for five years before becoming a major phenomenon. The quartet was considered “a nothing group” during its early Liverpool days, eclipsed in popularity by contemporaries Howie Casey, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Band Upbringings (05:53)
Liverpool was known as a bleak town. John Lennon had a privileged upbringing under the care of his aunt, Mimi Smith. Paul McCartney and George Harrison grew up in working-class neighborhoods and rode the same school bus.
Liverpool’s kids wanted their own music and style, and they increasingly had disposable income. They accessed American records through the Cunard Yanks, shipyard workers who traveled to the States. American “spasm music” inspired British kids to start skiffle bands. Lennon formed his own while attending Quarry Bank High School.
Lennon Teams Up with McCartney (04:09)
Lennon and McCartney met and bonded over a love of songwriting. The Quarrymen began experimenting with rock n’ roll as Liverpool’s kids discovered Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and other American rockers. When Buddy Holly & the Crickets performed at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall on March 20, 1958, members of several future Merseybeat bands were in the audience.
Liverpool’s Thriving Music Scene (05:30)
Skiffle was allowed at Liverpool’s Cavern Club when the Quarrymen played there, but rock n’ roll was banned. The band, which now included Harrison, started adding rock to its repertoire, which led to heckling from the venue’s jazz-centric crowd. Bill Harry started the "Mersey Beat" newspaper.
Birth of The Beatles (03:06)
Mona Best, the mother of drummer Pete Best, opened the Casbah Coffee Club in 1959. The Quarrymen helped decorate and played the venue when it opened on Aug. 29 of that year. The band’s first Liverpool performance as The Beatles was there on Dec. 17, 1960.
Origins of The Beatles' Name (01:43)
The band played as Long John and the Silver Beatles and the Silver Beatles before settling on its iconic name, which may have been inspired by Holly’s backing band, the Crickets. Lennon claimed the name was inspired by the Marlon Brando movie, “The Wild One.”
Lennon the Rebel (02:45)
Lennon’s classmates remembered him as an enigmatic rebel. He was also moody with a cutting sense of humor that verged on being nasty, but some said his caustic exterior was just a defense mechanism for the sensitive, loving person underneath.
3 Cambier Terrace (03:44)
Lennon shared a flat with Stuart Sutcliffe and Rod Murray. They began receiving noise complaints when The Beatles started practicing in the bathroom. Sutcliffe was Lennon’s best friend and became the band’s bassist. Tommy Moore played drums, but he quit to drive a truck.
The Beatles Invade Hamburg (08:31)
German club promoter Bruno Koschmider asked Liverpool businessman Allan Williams to recommend bands. Williams turned to The Beatles in desperation after his first two choices had other obligations. The band needed a drummer and auditioned Pete Best before heading to Hamburg.
Sutcliffe Leaves the Band (02:31)
The Beatles’ reputation grew in Hamburg where the band regularly headlined the Kaiserkeller nightclub. Tension developed between Sutcliffe and his band mates who wanted a better bass player and may have been jealous of his stunning girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr. Sutcliffe quit the band to focus on art following an argument with McCartney.
Popularity in Liverpool (04:31)
The Beatles had a falling out with Koschmider; Harrison was consequently reported for being underage, McCartney and Best were arrested for arson, and the band was deported. The Beatles had improved significantly, and their sound and leather-clad look made a big impression at home. Brian Epstein became the band’s manager.
Growing Liverpool Music Scene (02:44)
The Beatles returned to Germany in 1962 to discover Sutcliffe had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The band continued to learn as it opened for the likes of Gene Vincent, Ray Charles and Fats Domino.
"My Bonnie" (02:24)
German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert hired The Beatles to record with Tony Sheridan; the album reached No. 31 on the German charts and was The Beatles’ first commercial recording. Lennon continued to be known for his biting humor, which friends described as a cover for insecurity.
Popular Music Venue (03:46)
The Cavern Club was a dark, smoky, cellar-like venue where patrons were packed in “like sheep in a cattle train.” Revelers would leave with a distinct smell on their clothes. The venue was home to Liverpool’s rock scene in the early 1960s.
Original Material (07:45)
Merseybeat bands played mostly covers in the early 1960s. The Beatles' “This Boy” which was reminiscent of a Shirelles song. Epstein had a vision to make the band more palatable to the establishment media in London; he got their hair cut and dressed them in matching mohair suits.
The Beatles Get Signed (09:27)
Several record labels passed on The Beatles. Record executive Dick Rowe infamously rejected the group following an audition for Decca Records, a move some defend based on the band’s mediocre performance. George Martin was skating on thin ice at EMI and decided to take a chance on the band. Best was fired for reasons that are still debated.
Ringo Starr (05:53)
Starr had filled in on drums when Best was sick. He had an unhappy childhood during which he was in the hospital so often that kids nicknamed him Lazarus. The band recorded “Love Me Do” which did not initially perform well on the British charts. The band’s fame grew exponentially from that point.
Birth of Beatlemania (02:52)
The Beatles were soon surrounded by screaming mobs as they fulfilled Epstein’s promise that they would be “bigger than Elvis.” Best was paid royalties when “Anthology 1” was released in 1995, featuring him on 12 tracks. He continued to perform his old band’s songs.
Credits: The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (01:35)
Credits: The Beatles: Made on Merseyside
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