The Beatles were one of the most influential acts in Twentieth Century popular music. While everyone knows their hits, here are some facts you may not know about the Fab Four.
1. The Beatles got the idea for their name from Buddy Holly and The Crickets
The band liked the idea of using the name of an insect as a band name, and they were fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Because John Lennon loved puns, he altered the spelling of “Beetles” to “Beatles”.
2. John Lennon’s father was absent for much of his early life but showed up when his son became famous
John Lennon’s father, Alfred Lennon, was a merchant mariner who had a stormy relationship with Lennon’s mother and was gone for most of his son’s youth. John Lennon was mostly raised by his aunt.
When the Beatles exploded on the pop scene, Alfred Lennon tried to reconnect with his son and also made a novelty recording that was somewhat successful to capitalize on the fame of the Fab Four.
3. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were not the original rhythm section
A friend of John Lennon’s from art school, Stu Sutcliffe, handled the bass duties when the band was living and working in Hamburg, Germany during the early 1960s, while McCartney stuck to rhythm guitar.
In Hamburg, Sutcliffe left the band to pursue a relationship with Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer who befriended the band, and to study art in Germany. He died in his twenties of a brain hemorrhage.
A Liverpool contemporary of the Beatles named Pete Best was the band’s original drummer. He was not replaced by Ringo Starr until after the band had a record contract and was angry when this happened.
4. John Lennon’s hero was Elvis Presley, but he was disappointed when he met him
The teenage John Lennon was infatuated with Elvis Presley, and the American performer was a big reason why Lennon later pursued a career in show business. The young Lennon would dress like Presley and comb his hair in a similar fashion.
When the Beatles became famous, their manager, Brian Epstein, arranged for them to actually meet Elvis in America. Although the meeting was friendly enough and the musicians had a brief jam session, Lennon thought that Elvis was disinterested in talking with them and that he wasn’t especially engaging in person.
5. The Beatles were nervous about playing Carnegie Hall
When the Beatles toured in the United States, Beatlemania ensued everywhere they performed. However, when they were booked to play at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City, they were scared that the audience might be made up of stuffy older people who would look down on their rock and roll.
They were relieved when the Carnegie Hall gig turned out to be attended mostly by the usual ecstatic teenagers.
6. The Beatles’ producer wasn’t really a rock and roller
George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, had an enormous influence on the band’s pop sound, but he wasn’t as into rock and roll as the Beatles themselves. Martin, who produced all kinds of music over a long and successful career, came into his work through a love of classical music, and his primary instrument as a child was the piano.
7. The Beatles didn’t think they would be popular in the United States.
The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in New York City drew a huge television audience. They sold out shows everywhere they went in the United States. The band was highly influenced by American pop music, but initially, they weren’t sure if Americans would be open to a foreign band.
8. The Beatles had difficulty getting signed to a major record label
The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein worked hard to secure his lads a recording contract with a label big enough to make them stars. This wasn’t easy, though, because not everyone in the music industry saw the potential in them that Epstein did.
At one point, the act was rejected by Decca Records, and Epstein was told that guitar groups were on the way out. Ultimately, of course, EMI took a chance on the Beatles, and the rest is history.
9. John Lennon performed on film with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell.
Along with other famous pop musicians of the 1960s, the Beatles were part of the unreleased film “The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus,” and Lennon performed on camera with Richards, Clapton and Mitchell.
10. They shared songwriting credits in a unique way
The two frontmen of the Beatles had an unusual agreement where they would both get songwriting credits for tunes that only one of them had written.
For example, McCartney was the primary songwriter of the band’s classic “Yesterday” and had little to do with the writing of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” but these songs were attributed to both Beatles.
11. Ringo Starr was (and still is) an incredible drummer
Historians of the Beatles who have looked over the notes from the recordings that the Beatles made with EMI over the years note that Ringo Starr was responsible for very few blown takes. He was a remarkably consistent and reliable timekeeper, and he was able to perform very well under time pressure in the studio.
12. The Beatles’ “look” was originally much scruffier
When Beatlemania occurred in the early 1960s, the band was known for the smart suits they wore on stage and for their cheerful whit during interviews. The early Beatles that performed at various clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg were a lot scruffier.
They dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and leather jackets, and they had an in-your-face rock and roll attitude. They also liked to eat while on stage. It was their manager Brian Epstein who convinced them to clean up their act in order to have a better shot at the big time.
13. It was Bob Dylan who got the band into smoking pot.
The Beatles met Bob Dylan during their 1964 tour of the United States, and the singer-songwriter offered them some cannabis to smoke. They enjoyed the experience, and all four Beatles began smoking marijuana on a regular basis.
14. George Harrison lived briefly in the United States before the Beatles were famous.
George Harrison’s sister was married to an American, and the couple lived for a time in Herrin, Illinois, a small town in a coal-mining region of the Midwest. Harrison visited them in the United States before the Beatles were famous and even played the guitar on stage with some local bands.
15. The Beatles insulted Imelda Marcos
While touring the Philippines, the Beatles turned down an invitation to meet the first lady Imelda Marcos. This was not an intentional snub, but Marcos took it as such.