The Beatles Meet!

The adjective “historic” is not often followed by the noun “picnic,” but that fairly describes the event that occurred this week (July 6) in 1957.  It was at a church picnic near Liverpool, England — where they both lived — that 15-year-old Paul McCartney met 16-year-old John Lennon.  Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen, was playing at the picnic and between sets McCartney played a few tunes for the band members, which impressed Lennon enough to invite McCartney to join.

At first McCartney did not take seriously his “gig” with The Quarrymen — even skipping his first performance with the band to go on a scouting trip — but as their musicianship improved and their fan base grew, McCartney began to think the band, which soon changed its name to Johnny and the Moondogs, might have a future.  He even convinced Lennon to let his friend George Harrison join the band on lead guitar.

The following year, after Lennon’s friend Stu Sutcliff became the band’s base player, they changed their name again, to The Silver Beetles, and when drummer Pete Best signed up they became The Beatles, changing “Beetle” to “Beatle” to connote the “beat” of a song (although Lennon, who is credited with inventing the name, claimed it came to him in a vision).  Over the next few years The Beatles would change dramatically, losing Stu Sutcliff; acquiring a manager, Brian Epstein; replacing Pete Best with Ringo Star and finally getting a record contract with EMI Records under the brilliant producer, George Martin (sometimes called The 5th Beatle).

But the core remained the same — Lennon and McCartney. Although George Harrison became a gifted songwriter in his own right, the songwriting team of “Lennon & McCartney” became the most successful ever and changed popular music as no one had before them.  In their short, 8-year career The Beatles recorded 27 number-one songs, more than any other group in history, and sold an estimated 1 billion records worldwide.

Interestingly, although Lennon and McCartney agreed that any song written by one of them would be credited to both of them, they hardly ever wrote songs together.  And it shows.  McCartney’s songs generally are more upbeat and often include fictional characters (think “Rocky Raccoon”), while Lennon’s songs are more introspective and personal (“In My Life”).

It has been said that McCartney made The Beatles popular and Lennon made them matter, and there is much truth to that. After the band broke up in 1970 McCartney’s new band, Wings, became very popular but didn’t produce many memorable songs, while Lennon wrote several memorable songs but never achieved comparable popularity.

So … wouldn’t you agree that was certainly a historic picnic, the one held near Liverpool in July of 1957?

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!