Beatles Live 1957-1963

The Six Phases of Beatles Creativity (1) Outlier Outlaws

How did The Beatles come into existence, and how come they were so creative? Using the six phases of creativity identified on 9 after 909 I will use YouTube videos to try to explain this online. The first period I will look at,  1957-1963, is the same period as that identified by Malcolm Gladwell when The Beatles were Outliers, or unknown unknowns, and in the process of self-creation. The pre-Fab Four were such Outlaws that they had to travel to, and work in, Hamburg’s red light district to make their music during 1960-62, the most significant part of this time. Bob Spitz in The Beatles The Biography identifies the Litherland Hall Concert in Liverpool on December 27 1960, after the Beatles returned from Hamburg in black leather, as the point at which they became legends in their own backyard. Nice short film about Litherland made by their manager of the time Allan Williams. But even legends started small and The Beatles started as The Quarrymen. Here they are with Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be The Day That’ll Be The Day sounds like the fifties; tentative, earnest, faraway and lost. It was played in an easy skiffle style, the play-in-a-day entry-level music of the fifties. However it was rock n roll that took the restlessness of fifties youth and placed their energy into the music. (Great Archive of Beatles pix from 1957-60 here) The Beatles played a lot of rock n roll, especially in Hamburg for their first fans; the Art School exi’s. They learnt how to “make a show,” entertain, amuse and to give it up with Rock n Roll Music. The Beatles cover version of Chuck Berry’s great 1956 song Roll Over Beethoven was selected by Daniel Levitin as one of the 6 tracks that sum up rock music in This is Your Brain on Music. Rock n Roll Music it is; But most of all they were inspired by Elvis Presley. John went crazy when he first heard Elvis and drove his Aunt Mimi, whom he lived with on Menlove Avenue, where his mother Julia would eventually be run over, sufficiently bonkers to buy him a guitar. Great scene in Nowhere Boy showing them buying Lennon’s first guitar. What would ultimately differentiate The Beatles from their Beat Boom peers was their song writing. This scene in Nowhere Boy pretty accurately (thousands of boys bedrooms unwittingly recreated this scene for years) captures Paul (dismissively introduced by Aunt Mimi) teaching John the chords to Rodgers and Hart’s Blue Moon. In a rock n roll adaptation the Marcels doo-wopped it to the top, but Elvis made it famous, Blue Moon; Paul had “passed the audition” to play with The Quarrymen (still going strong), after meeting Lennon on July 6th 1957, by playing Eddie Cochran’s 20 Flight Rock for him. In February 1958 Paul introduced his friend George Harrison, whom John originally dismissed as too young and too small to be a Quarryman. George, like Paul, auditioned by playing something really well that John couldn’t, the instrumental Raunchy, and suddenly he was in the band. The fact that they naturally developed the three-part harmonies, reflecting doo-wop, which were to propel Beatles songs out of the transistor radios that every kid owned in the sixties, really helped of course. Here they are then The Beatles; Raunchy Well not quite The Beatles yet, just 3/5ths of the Quarrymen. They started with low-cost skiffle, added no-cost doo-wop, street-corner barber shop harmonies from urban America, but now they were in the some-cost territory of being a rock n roll band. They were acting  cooler, but it was still hard to play live. So, after Stu Sutcliffe (the James Dean of the group) joined in January 1960 the Quarrymen evolved into the late great Johnny and the Moondogs, then the Silver Beatles (oh and JaPaG according to Mark Lewisohn 2013). In August 1960 they became The Beatles adding Pete Best as drummer later that month. Best’s mum Mona ran the Casbah Club giving them some guaranteed dates in Liverpool. They were ready to be a real live rock n roll band and Allan Williams sent them off to play in Hamburg. Here they are playing live on radio in 1962 covering three typical songs; Roy Orbison’s Dream Baby driven by Pete’s rock n roll drumming, Memphis Tennessee a live favourite of their fans and, like all bands at that time, a top Ten cover Joe Brown’s fifties-facing A Picture of You But Pete Best did help the Beatles become a driving live club band, as good as any other at the time, with five good-looking lads to attract the girls, some wit and sarcasm from Lennon, bonhomie and cheer from McCartney and a driving drum sound to drown out the shake of the dancers, the rattle of the glasses and the rolling of reefers. And rockabilly was a good way to impose yourself on an audience. Here’s a great (short) example of Beatles rockabilly sound in Hamburg with flying saucer Billy Lee Riley’s appropriately named Red Hot They became a raving rock n roll band in Hamburg but George was so young on the first visit, seventeen, that he was expelled by the immigration authorities, which almost broke The Beatles. Back in Liverpool Lennon had started Art School in 1959 and had fallen under the artistically creative influence of Stuart Sutcliffe (Eduardo Paolozzi’s favourite pupil) and Royston Ellis (the Paperback Writer of later years). Moving out of Aunt Mimi’s house Lennon lived in a squat with them which was exposed as part of the Sunday People’s Beatnik Horror “silly season” series in August 1960. But 1961 was the critical year when they were both arty beatniks and a great little rock n roll band who were adopted by German exi’s, art students in Hamburg. Lennon was attracted to Stuart’s genius and this arty period helped extend and clarify their group identity, particularly when Astrid Kirchherr gave them all Beatle haircuts; all except Pete! Their musical range was unusually broad, they sang girl group songs as well, creating a complex identity that would eventually mature in 1964/65 as their songwriting became more reflective. Some of this is captured live in Ask Me Why; As well as developing their uniquely sixties identity in Hamburg The Beatles were so successful musically in Germany during 1960-62 that they were asked to back the top Hamburg star, English singer Tony Sheridan, on a Polydor recording session for the influential Bert Kampfert, a major German producer and songwriter. This wasn’t so sweet a session overall but The Beatles did get to sign their first recording contract and even record their first composition, the Harrison-Lennon instrumental Cry Me A Shadow, in part a tribute to The Shadows, which opens this lovely little film; full of wonderful black and white photos from Hamburg (ooops! – deleted) Here is Cry Me A Shadow;  

But Hamburg did improve The Beatles as a rock n roll band. They played six times a week often for 10 hours per day. They put in the 10,000 hours of live performances that made them Craftsmen of popular music. They had to draw on skiffle, show tunes, rock n roll, rockabilly, country, pop hits, easy listening lounge songs, burlesque, instrumentals, military tunes, pub songs, and Goon-like humour; everything they could find to fill the time. If you knew the name they looked up the number. This was also the origin of their musically diverse 1968 White Album. Here is one of their live classics, Hippy Hippy Shake, later a hit for the Swinging Blue Jeans whom The Beatles really liked.  This was recorded in Hamburg but is fitted to the film of Some Other Guy made in the Cavern in 1962 by Granada TV from Manchester. Word was spreading Hippy Hippy Shake;

The Beatles, big fish in two little pools in 1961, were now both treading water professionally whilst improving in various ways as a band. Signed by Brian Epstein to NEMS in Liverpool, after a fan asked for a copy of the Kampfert recordings in his record shop, Epstein looked to get them a UK recording contract through auditions, first at Decca, and then at EMI. Fatefully at EMI George Martin asked for Pete Best to be replaced as drummer after his poor performance on Love Me Do. The band believed they were on the verge of becoming EMI recording artists and so sacked their live drummer, bringing in the “best drummer in Liverpool” instead. The musical instrument known as The Beatles, actually John, Paul, George and Ringo, was now complete. So let us offer a tribute to Pete Best, who helped The Beatles become a live rock n roll band, but who was not to be part of their fabulous recording history (see next post), with Besame Mucho; both on the Decca Audition (his best recorded performance) and live. Resonates with Pete Best, Besame Mucho; Ringo was in, they had a recording contract, they had a post-beatnik, post rock n roll, softer more feminine identity. They were now the Mop Tops, a brand, a set of attitudes and behaviours that were easily copied; or consumed. They had a hit record, but still played 246 live performances in 1963. Live their signature tune was I Saw Her Sanding There, a jam sometimes lasting up to 10 minutes, but now the opener to their hit album, designed by George Martin to mimic their live show. Can’t find a rough and raucous version but here is a live TV performance in Sweden which shows they can knock it off with confident familiarity. Paul doesn’t just see her standing there, he stands right on top of her;   This is part one of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is followed by parts 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 AND I have just summarised them in All You Need is Heutagogy The uninterrupted Playlist of these videos is available on YouTube. If you liked this post then you might like 10 Best Remastered Tracks. Page checked & Updated Aug 26 2014

If you came for #ELT Resources try Beatles BELTers

Latest post on this blog (26th August 2014) is All You Need is Heutagogy

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67 Responses to “Beatles Live 1957-1963”

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  17. [...] Quarrymen in 1957 playing a simple form of acoustic music called Skiffle. You can read about how they became the Beatles here. This is the most skiffle sounding song they recorded as the Beatles. I’ve Just Seen A Face; [...]

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  38. Excellent site, la. Well done. Lots to read here. Mike PS. One little-discussed area of Fab-dom that intrigues me is the Seltaeb rip-off, when Eppy and the boys got scammed by a southern smoothie…

    • Thanks Mike! I’ve just bought your Never Mind the Balkans ;-) I think one of the rip-off merchants in Seltaeb was a posh Londoner living in New York who had Seltaeb credit cards and gave them to models he wanted to pull. Seems like a good idea for a blog post – thanks. Got a few in development though, Beatles in Hamburg, Nonsense Lennon, Kinfauns Unplugged & Love. And of course why Please Please ME was Number 1 in 1963 (for next year)

      • Fred,

        First, thank you for buying me buk. Hope you like! Please post a review if and when u have a mo, on Amazon or wherever.

        Re Seltaeb… yes, bang on, Nicky Byrne by name, a streetwise toff, by the sound of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seltaeb

        one more thing..
        I have a story you might like, ‘The Promised Land’, about a) my cousin who knew the Beatles, b) my wife and I getting scammed on a land deal in Transylvania. As EM Forster might say, ‘Only connect..’ What’s your email? I can send it to you. It was published in the anthology ‘Bucharest Tales/New Europe Writers’ . Could have been in my own book, really, but that came out before I wrote it. Anyway, you might like it. Here’s the first line:

        “Your cousin worked for The Beatles?” My wife sounds skeptical. I don’t blame her. When i was a kid, my schoolmates never believed me either ….

        mike.ormsby@gmail.com.

      • Sounds great! I’ll track that down. I’m doing some work with an NGO group in Bucharest, CROS, and they know I am a Beatles fan, so I’ll have to show it to them! I have a friend who was one of their first fans in London and hung out with them for 18 months until Hard Days Night and I’m getting some interesting stories out of her!

      • Fred, if u have not heard their Xmas records, as put out via their Fan Club, you are in for a treat. Apple put them out on vinyl in time, we used to get them from my cousin. Hilarious. I can file share if u give me an email address. Same with my story. Bucharest, eh? Great, we have a place there. How long are u in Romania?

      • I’m planning to visit for a week in April, then in the summer, anything else depends on how the week goes and if our EU bids get funded. I’m fred.garnett@gmail.com
        In return I’ve written a novel about the 60s called 63/68 A Visceral History, from which this blog emerged. It has too many musical references so can never be published but I have a Kindle version you can have via Dropbox?

      • your novel sounds interesting, yes i’m on dropbox. that’s how i’ll fileshare your xmas goodies … please kindle me! and stand by..
        let’s resume via email… m

      • ps. have you got The Beatles Christmas Messages/Records? That’s worth a post, I expect? ‘Podgy the Bear and Jasper’ is a classic.. as is their batty song “Plenty of Jam Jars.” What a nutty lot they was.

      • Actually, that sounds like it will fit into Nonsense Lennon, thanks! Have seen the Love show in Vegas? Fantastic IMHO, especially the sound, 3,000 speakers in the auditorium, to me it was like being in the studio with them the sound was so clear

      • no, have not seen the Love show, but was intrigued by your reference to it on your blog, spotted that earlier tonight. My brother was in Vegas recently and ‘hated it’. I love it, got married there in 97, Xmas day. Will tell him about the show! Send me an email address! I’m gonna make your day… i have all the Beatles Xmas records, they last about 5 mins each. If u ain’t heard ‘em, I’m envious! they still make me laff every time….

  39. [...] If you like this blog post you might like the series analysing the Beatles Creativity – starting with Beatles Live 1957-63 [...]

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  41. Very cool!!! i especially love their earlier stuff. If you will search utube for “Crying Blue Beatle’s Wart” I believe you will find an album that sounds like it could have been recorded by the Beatles during this era. Enjoy.

    • Thanks Vic! Next Monday, April 15 2013, sees the release of the 1st remastered CD (double) of their early stuff. Look out for I Saw Her Standing There :-)

  42. Loved it all thank you, reminds me of my youth and a happier time.

  43. suzanne menard Says:

    Love this!!!

  44. […] Live 1957-1963 From That’ll Be The Day until Love Me […]

  45. […] Live 1957-1963 This was the period from the Woolton Fete in July 1957 when Paul McCartney was introduced to John […]

  46. […] Live 1957-1963 From That’ll Be The […]

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  48. […] Beatles Live 1957-1963 | A Beatles YouTube Album – … which were to propel Beatles songs out of the transistor radios that every … As with many of the posts on this blog there is an accompanying post with videos on a Beatles YouTube … This is the most skiffle sounding song they recorded as the Beatles. I’ve Just Seen A … […]

  49. […] Beatles Live 1957-1963 | A Beatles YouTube Album – … amuse and to give it up with Rock n Roll Music. The Beatles cover version of Chuck Berry’s … With The Beatles. As with many of the posts on this blog there is an accompanying post with videos on a Beatles YouTube … Next Monday, April 15 2013, sees the release of the 1st … […]

  50. […] Beatles Live 1957-1963 | A Beatles YouTube Album – Youtube Music Videos Beatles Radio Says … in Learning from Learning…With The Beatles. As with many of the posts on this blog there is an accompanying post with videos on a Beatles YouTube … This is the most skiffle sounding song they recorded as the Beatles. I’ve Just … […]

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