Here’s a great article from Issue 2 of The Merseysider magazine, marking the 50th anniversary of 1962, the year it all turned around for the Beatles.
THE YEAR IT ALL BEGAN
1962 was a pivotal year in the history of the Beatles: Ringo joined (and Pete Best left), Brian Epstein became their manager and they released their first single, Love Me Do. Here are 50 interesting facts about the year everything changed for the Beatles.
1. Brian Epstein officially became the Beatles’ manager when a contract was agreed on 24th January 1962. He’d first encountered them when he’d gone to see the group perform at the Cavern the previous November. He’d never been to the club before but legend has it that customer enquiries about the group in his nearby NEMS record shop in Whitechapel made him curious. Epstein had no previous experience of artist management but struck a deal that eventually gave him 25% of the group’s earnings, promising them in return that he’d negotiate increased performance fees and get them a recording contract.
2. One of Epstein’s first actions was to alter radically the Beatles’ appearance. The leather jackets and jeans they usually wore on stage were replaced by smart, matching suits, bought from Beno Dorn, a tailor in Grange Road West, Birkenhead.
3. Throughout 1962 most of the Beatles’ performances continued to be at local clubs and halls. Examples of venues they played include the Casbah Coffee Club in West Derby (owned by Pete Best’s mother Mona), Knotty Ash’s Village Hall, St John’s Hall in Bootle, Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight and St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hall in Tranmere.
4. At the Aintree Institute, a small venue the group played in January, their £15 fee was paid in handfuls of coins. Epstein felt insulted by this and was determined to move the Beatles up to a more professional level.
5. Thanks to Epstein’s efforts, during 1962 they increasingly played at larger, more prestigious venues. These included Southport’s Kingsway Club, the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead and the Liverpool Empire, where they played in October (supporting Little Richard and other acts including Craig Douglas and Jet Harris).
6. Epstein also started securing gigs beyond the Merseyside area. For the first time they played dates in Preston, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales.
7. At their 1962 shows they played very few of their own compositions. Instead a typical set would include rock’n’roll (Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen), rhythm & blues (Money), ballads (Till There Was You) and one or two novelty songs (The Sheikh Of Araby, What A Crazy World We’re Living In).
8. 1962 was the last year the Beatles played dates in Hamburg, where they’d first appeared in August 1960. They travelled to Germany three times during the course of the year: two trips of a fortnight each, plus a seven-week stint in April and May. The schedule was always gruelling, playing for two or three hours a night and with few if any nights off. It’s been estimated that they performed in Hamburg for around 800 hours in total – by the end they had no wish to go back, but they’d served an invaluable apprenticeship and when their Hamburg experience finally ended they were more than ready for the big time.
9. When the Beatles arrived in Hamburg in April they learned the shocking news that Stuart Sutcliffe, the ‘fifth Beatle’, had died of a brain haemorrhage. Sutcliffe, who was born in Scotland but grew up in Liverpool, had played bass guitar in an earlier line-up of the Beatles and was a talented artist who’d made his home in Hamburg with girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr.
10. A venue closer to home where the Beatles continued to perform regularly in 1962 was the Cavern. Typically they’d play two or three lunchtime sessions a week, plus a Wednesday night show.
11. The Beatles’ trips to Germany were followed by ‘Welcome Home’ shows at the Cavern. On 9th June an audience of 900 crammed into the venue, breaking the club’s attendance record.
12. The only known film footage of the Beatles performing in the Cavern dates from August 1962. A lunchtime show was filmed by Granada TV, but owing to its poor technical quality the film was not broadcast until more than a year later, when Beatlemania had taken firm hold of the nation. The brief clip of the group performing Some Other Guy has since been shown many times.
13. Three of 1962’s more unusual shows were on board the Royal Iris ferry boat, organised by the Cavern Club and billed as a ‘Riverboat Shuffle’ along the Mersey. Appropriately enough, their shipmates on one of these nautical excursions included Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.
14. A host of local beat groups appeared alongside the Beatles in their Merseyside shows, including the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Merseybeats, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Lee Curtis and the All Stars, the Big Three, Howie Casey and the Seniors, and the Undertakers.
15. The Beatles also occasionally shared the bill in 1962 with major UK chart acts of the time, including Joe Brown, Frank Ifield, Acker Bilk and Emile Ford.
16. Legendary rockers Gene Vincent and Little Richard appeared at shows with the Beatles in Hamburg and also in Liverpool. Gene Vincent played at the Cavern, while Little Richard appeared at the Liverpool Empire and at the celebrated ‘Night of Nights’, a massive five and a half hour package show at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton.
17. At another Tower Ballroom show the Beatles supported Bruce Channel, whose Hey! Baby was a big hit in 1962. The distinctive harmonica sound on the record was the work of Delbert McLinton, who accompanied Channel on his UK visit. John Lennon was greatly impressed by McLinton, who’s said to have influenced John’s own harmonica style on Love Me Do. Delbert McLinton later had a very successful solo career and is still performing today.
18. Although the Beatles’ own first release was to be Love Me Do, in January 1962 My Bonnie, by Tony Sheridan and the Beatles, was released in the UK on the Polydor label. It had been recorded in Hamburg the previous year. The single had some local success in Hamburg but did nothing in the UK.
19. Brian Epstein spent much of the early part of 1962 trying to secure the Beatles their own recording contract. They were rejected by a series of record labels: Columbia, HMV, Decca.
20. One theory for the rejection by Decca is that at the time the label only wanted to sign one new group, and instead of the Beatles chose London outfit Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.
21. The breakthrough came when Epstein used his contacts at EMI to set up a meeting in February with George Martin, a record producer and the head of A&R at the Parlophone label. Martin expressed an interest in the Beatles, but months slipped by before they next met in May.
22. Finally, on 6th June, the Beatles recorded their first session at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. They cut four songs, including an early version of Love Me Do.
23. When he first met the Beatles, George Martin knew relatively little about the pop groups of the day, having achieved his greatest success as a producer of comedy records. However, he hit it off with the Beatles, who were impressed that he’d worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.
24. In conversation with Brian Epstein, George Martin expressed reservations about Pete Best’s drumming. There was already a bit of a rift between Pete and the rest of the group, and it was decided to replace him with Ringo Starr. As the drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo was well known to the Beatles and had already stood in for Pete Best on occasion.
25. Pete Best’s last appearance with the Beatles was at the Cavern on 15th August 1962. Ringo Starr’s first show as his replacement was at Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight on Saturday 18th August – the date that’s sometimes considered to mark ‘the birth of the Beatles’.
26. The day after his final appearance with the group Brian Epstein told a shaken Pete Best that he was no longer wanted. The other Beatles wanted to avoid telling him themselves, and had asked Epstein to carry out the sacking. When word got out, there was a brief groundswell of anger among Beatles fans, and Brian Epstein’s car was damaged.
27. Later in 1962, Pete Best joined Lee Curtis and the All Stars (a move engineered by a guilty Brian Epstein), before leaving the music business and working as a civil servant for many years. He later formed The Pete Best Band, appearing all over the world. In 1995, the release of early Beatles audition recordings featuring him on drums (including the first version of Love Me Do) reputedly made him a wealthy man.
28. In September 1962 the Beatles returned to the Abbey Road sessions for two more recording sessions. They continued working on Love Me Do, recording many more takes of the song.
29. At one of the September sessions they also recorded an early version of Please, Please Me.
30. Another song recorded at these sessions was How Do You Do It, written by Mitch Murray. George Martin was initially convinced this should be their debut single, but the Beatles were less keen on the song, partly because it wasn’t one of their own compositions. Eventually it was recorded by Gerry and the Pacemakers, becoming their first No.1 hit in 1963.
31. George Martin was still concerned about the drum sound on the recordings. Ringo played on the first September session, but Martin brought in experienced session drummer Andy White for the second one, where Ringo was asked to play tambourine or maracas. This means there are versions of Love Me Do with three different drummers – Ringo, Andy White and Pete Best.
32. Love Me Do was released on 5th October 1962. The first pressing of the single was a version with Ringo on drums, but subsequent pressings were of a later version featuring Andy White. The flipside was another Lennon-McCartney composition, P.S. I Love You.
33. Paul McCartney had written Love Me Do in 1958 for Iris Caldwell, who was Rory Storm’s sister.
34. John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi famously said of the Beatles’ first single, ‘If you think you’re going to make your fortune with that, you’ve got another think coming.’
35. The week after its release Love Me Do entered the hit parade at number 49. Over the next several weeks it made slow, erratic progress up the charts, eventually peaking in the last week of December at 17.
36. Brian Epstein is alleged to have bought 10,000 copies of the Beatles’ first single himself, to ensure it broke into the charts.
37. On 26th October Love Me Do entered the New Musical Express Top 30. The pop weekly reported: ‘Making their NME chart debut with Love Me Do this week are the Beatles, a vocal-instrumental group who hail from Liverpool, the birthplace of such stars as Billy Fury, Frankie Vaughan and Ken Dodd.’
38. At No.1 that week was Telstar, an instrumental hit by the Tornadoes (Margaret Thatcher later said it was one of her favourites). Other records in the chart included The Locomotion (Little Eva), Ramblin’ Rose (Nat King Cole), It Might As Well Rain Until September (Carole King), Bobby’s Girl (Susan Maughan), Devil Woman (Marty Robbins) and I Remember You (Frank Ifield).
39. Let’s Dance by Chris Montez was at No.7. In March the following year Chris toured the UK, supported by the Beatles (venues included the Liverpool Empire). 50 years later, Chris is still going strong and in March this year was on the bill for the Solid Silver Sixties Show, giving a great performance at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.
40. Soon after he became the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein organised a BBC radio audition for the group. The producer who heard them gave his seal of approval, noting ‘An unusual group, not as “rocky” as most, more C&W with a tendency to play music.’
41. Following the audition, in March 1962 the Beatles made their radio debut on Teenager’s Turn, a BBC Light Programme show. Their set comprised Please Mister Postman, Memphis Tennessee and Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream).
42. In October 1962 the Beatles appeared on Radio Luxembourg for the first time. On The Friday Spectacular both sides of the Love Me Do single were played and the group were interviewed.
43. The Beatles’ television debut was an appearance on Granada’s People and Places, on 17th October. As well as Love Me Do they performed Some Other Guy. They made two other appearances on the programme before the end of the year.
44. On 23rd August, at Liverpool’s Mount Pleasant Register Office, John Lennon married Cynthia Powell. That night he was with the group when they played the Riverpark Ballroom, Chester.
45. 1962 was the year of the Cuban missile crisis, when the world seemed on the brink of a nuclear war. In the UK, Harold Macmillan was prime minister and in what became known as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ sacked a third of his cabinet.
(Above image copyright Bill Harry. Permission given.)
46. That year, Brazil won the World Cup and Spurs retained the FA Cup they’d won the previous year. Liverpool finished the 1961-62 season as Champions of the old Division 2 (they’ve remained in the top flight ever since), while Everton finished fourth in Division 1.
47. On 26th November the Beatles recorded Please, Please Me, the follow-up to Love Me Do, and the record’s B-side, Ask Me Why.
48. At the end of the year Merseybeat magazine ran a poll to find Liverpool’s most popular group. The Beatles came top, and confirmation that they were also beginning to make waves nationally came in a New Musical Express poll: the Beatles came fifth in the Best Vocal Group category, and seventh in the Small Group section.
49. Please, Please Me would be released on 17th January 1963. Barely a month after its release it was No.1 and Beatlemania had begun.
50. In December 1962 the Beatles ended the year by returning to the Star Club, Hamburg for a 2-week stint, with the last show on New Year’s Eve. They wouldn’t be going back.