Monday, September 01, 2008


by Hunter Davies

Can you answer these 13 questions?

1. Which Beatle was born during a heavy air-raid at seven in the morning at Oxford Street Maternity Hospital, Liverpool?

2. Which Beatle earned 50s. a week as a British Railways messenger boy and then worked as a barman on the Liverpool-North Wales boats?

3. What did the Beatles record as a follow-up to "Love Me Do"?

4. What was the actual date Paul and Jane became engaged?

5. What song did George write on a harmonium at Manfred Klaus Voormann's house?

6. Which Beatle edited, wrote and illustrated a series of home-made books called "Sport, Speed and Illustrated" when he was seven?

7. Who wrote "I Lost My Little Girl" in 1956?

8. Who was the drummer when the Beatles backed Johnny Gentle for a fortnight's tour of Scotland in 1960?

9. Who earned £7 a week winding electric coils in 1961?

10. When did Paul, George and John call themselves Paul Ramon, Carl Harrison and Johnny Silver?

11. Where did the Beatles appear in concert on a bill topped by Frank Ifield?

12. Which Beatle won a book called "Seven Queens of England" in 1953 as a school Coronation Year Essay Prize?

13. Where can you find "The best photographs of the Beatles . . . much better than any which appear in newspapers"?

The correct answers are below

1. John, on October 9, 1940.

2. Ringo--and each job lasted just six weeks.

3. "How Do You Do It"--but the recording was never released. They made "Please Please Me" instead and Gerry and the Pacemakers used the other song.

4. Christmas Day, 1967.

5. "Within You Without You".

6. John--his Aunt Mimi still keeps the original copies.

7. Paul--one of his very first compositions.

8. Thomas Moore.

9. Paul.

10. When they were billed as The Silver Beatles nearly eight years ago.

11. For promoter Arthur Howes at Peterborough's Embassy Theatre in 1962.

12. Paul--who still has the prize book in his library.

13. Right here in "THE BEATLES MONTHLY BOOK"--according to author Hunter Davies who writes in his biography of the Beatles: "It has been going since August 1963 and is the longest-running fan magazine in the country. Instead of taking a lot of profits out of it, NEMS insists upon its quality being maintained by having, for example, many full colour pictures. It is an excellent publication."

I have picked out just a handful of the fascinating facts to be found in Hunter Davies' forthcoming biography of the Beatles, the first officially authorised life-story, to be published in Britain at the end of September. At least a further 1,000 equally interesting answers come out in the course of Hunter's book.

After an introduction which condenses a history of Liverpool into several pages of print, Hunter opens his first chapter by looking back more than 50 years to the time when John's father, Fred Lennon, was born in Liverpool, the son of a Dubliner who had been an original member of the Kentucky Minstrels! He recalls how a five-year-old John almost emigrated to New Zealand and how John made his earliest school friendships--with Ivan Vaughan and Pete Shotton.

Taught Himself

The second chapter, headed "John And The Quarrymen", moves forward to John's teenage years in the first half of the 'fifties and shows how his upbringing was divided between his mother and his Aunt Mimi, and how he taught himself to play the mouth-organ with a little help from a bus conductor.

Next comes a couple of chapters devoted to Paul's childhood, his early days at Stockton Wood Road Primary and the memories of younger brother Michael, better known as Scaffold member Mike McGear. Paul's father wanted him to join Liverpool Cathedral Choir. "I made him go, but he deliberately cracked his voice in the audition. He did join St. Chad's Choir, near Penny Lane, for a while."

Paul was given an old trumpet by an uncle and taught himself to pick out tunes on it. Later still Paul was introduced to John by their mutual mate Ivan Vaughan, and John remembers being very impressed by Paul playing "Twenty Flight Rock" on the guitar, an informal audition which won him a place in the Quarrymen for a date at a local Conservative Club dance the following week.

George, the fourth child and third son of Harold and Louise Harrison, was "always very independent and never wanted any assistance of any kind", admits his mother. In 1954 George started at Liverpool Institute. Paul was already there, in the year ahead. He once went to school with a canary yellow waistcoat under his school blazer. It belonged to his brother Harry, but George thought he looked terrific in it. His first guitar, bought by his mother for £3, was used for endless practice. He kept at it until his fingers were bleeding.

"I first saw the Quarrymen when they were playing at Wilson Hall in Garston. Paul was playing with them and said I should come", recalls George.


"George wanted to join us because he knew more chords, a lot more than we knew. So we got a lot from him. Every time we learned a new chord, we'd write a song round it", adds John.

"A lot of people in little boxes all trying to get out", is how Ringo remembers his hometown neighbourhood of Dingle, not far from Liverpool's dock area.

When he was six, after less than a year at St. Silas' Junior School, Ringo developed an appendicitis which burst and became peritonitis. His spell at Myrtle Street Children's Hospital--just over 12 months--was the first of several prolonged periods of indisposition which kept him away from school. Today he can't remember the names of any school masters, but he does remember the names of nurses who cared for him.

His first set of drums cost £100. He went to his Grandad for the £50 deposit.

Hunter's story moves on to chronicle John's days at Art College, his meeting with Cynthia, the time when the Quarrymen became the Moondogs, and then the Silver Beatles, and the group's first highly colourful trip to Hamburg in 1960.

Later chapters deal in much depth with Brian Epstein, the substituting of Ringo for drummer Pete Best, touring, Beatlemania in America, the so-called Beatle Business Empire, the period when the Beatles turned from drugs to meditation and, finally, the group as it is today.

One entire section deals with the death of Brian Epstein, another with the Beatles' closest relatives and friends, another with an impressive study of the Beatles' songwriting techniques.


And there are another four chapters headed John, Paul, George and Ringo, with family conversations set in each Beatle home and involving the first really detailed interview material with Cynthia, Pattie, Maureen and Jane. Despite the fascination of the early part of the biography with all its childhood stories, this final segment of Hunter's book may be of greatest interest to Beatle People. Here are extended discussion pieces in which each one talks about the past, the present and the future with greater frankness and in greater depth than is possible via any newspaper or magazine feature.

When Hunter Davies had finished his writing, proof-copies of the book were circulated to each Beatle. All four read it in detail. So did their families and close friends. So everything in the finished book has been checked and re-checked for factual accuracy. For the first time Beatle People will have a true and very comprehensive book of reference.


Anonymous said...

Sad that you got the very first question wrong. I didn't bother reading after that. For the record:

10/09/1940 - John Lennon is born at Oxford Maternity Hospital in Liverpool to Julia and Freddie Lennon.
Contrary to popular legend, there is no air raid in Liverpool that night. The previous raid had been more than two weeks earlier on September 21-22. The next was a week later on October 16, when the Walton and Everton districts were hit, causing 30 casualties.

Anonymous said...

And another thing, who is MANFRED Klaus Voorman? There is no such person. MANFRED was the first name of the band he joined after meeting The beatles, Manfred Mann.

Anonymous said...

{sigh} perhaps you ought to READ these questions before you post them? It's kind of hard for John's Aunt Mimi to still have john's original writings since she died many years ago. Even then the writings were never found.

tnk said...

Thanks for the updates. The article was written by Hunter Davies back in the '60s. John called Klaus "Manfred Mouse" so maybe Hunter was just having some fun.

John Burns said...

Mimi insisted there was an air raid on. I have read that John was born at 6:30 a.m. on the 9 October 1940 - some state p.m. Mimi said she held John 15 minutes after the birth. That means if John was born at 6:30 a.m., she went to Oxford St maternity hospital on the late evening of the 8th as the trams stopped around midnight or even well before so that sparks could not be seen from the overhead electric tram wires by planes. Mimi went by tram from Penny Lane.

The Liverpool Echo reports no raids on the 9th October but raids on the 8th and 10th. On the 8th a lone German Ju88 was shot down in the fastest shoot down in all of WW2. Hurricanes were scrabbled at Speak airport. As they were taking off and the undercarriages were still retracting the Ju88 flew across the plane's bows at low level - they opened up hitting the Ju88 which flew over the the Wirral and crash landed near Bromborough Dock (now filled in). The pilots were Czechs.

There was strict censorship in WW2, so newspaper reports cannot be relied upon One raid in May 1941, before the German push into the USSR, took out half the dock gates at Liverpool, which is a massive port. The Germans never knew that.

So, a raid on 8 October 1940 may be the date to look at. Also there were many false alarms and the AA guns would open up firing at what they thought would be a plane. The shells burst to spatter planes and the shrapnel would fall down from the sky. This could kill as it was steel fragments. People had run for cover when the guns opened up, as it could be a real raid - and get away from the shrapnel.

There may have even been a false alarm. One thing is clear is that in that period there were a series of air raids, hence why John was placed under his mothers bed.