The Beatles FAQ
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The Beatles FAQ

When John Met Paul

On 6 July, 1957 two teenagers met at a garden fete.

On Saturday the 6th July, 1957 St Peter’s Church held it a annual summer fete in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton.

After the usual stalls and games for children in the afternoon, a new skiffle group played in the church hall in the evening. They were named The Quarrymen, after the school the band-leader attended.

John with the Quarrymen a few hours before meeting Paul

Paul McCartney was only just fifteen, eighteen months younger than Lennon. He lived a bus-ride away and went to a different school. But he and Lennon shared a mutual friend, Ivan Vaughan.

Ivan invited Paul to the fete, promising that there would be girls there. “You can meet my mate John, too,” he added. “He plays guitar like you…”

St Peter’s Church, Woolton

It is late afternoon. In a church hall in a suburb of Liverpool a group of school friends is playing music on the stage. They call their band, The Quarrymen, after the school they have just left, Quarry Grammar.

The Quarrymen play their first gig at at a summer fete

A tall, thin, sixteen-year-old young man sings and plays guitar. He is clearly the leader of the band. Because of his very poor eyesight he stands very close to the microphone and stares out into the audience. It makes him look angry and aggressive.

Paul McCartney is in the audience. His main reason for being there because Ivan has promised, ‘there’ll be lots of girls.’ That’s why Paul is wearing his best clothes: white jacket and drainpipe trousers. But all the girls seem to be with other boys.

The band isn’t too good, either. But there’s something about John Lennon that gets Paul’s attention:

‘There was a guy up on the stage wearing a checked shirt,’ he remembers many years later. ’He was singing a song I loved, the Del-Vikings’ Come Go With Me. I thought he was singing well.’

McCartney begins to listen more closely. He notices that Lennon’s guitar is out of tune.

‘What do you play?’

The Quarrymen finish playing and come down from the stage. Ivan introduces Paul to John. They don’t shake hands but nod to each other.

They begin to talk about music. Lennon smells of beer but is friendly to the younger boy. ‘What do you play?’ he asks. ‘Guitar,’ says McCartney. ‘Show me then,’ said the older boy.

The left-handed McCartney plays Lennon’s right-handed guitar. He plays songs by Eddie Cochrane, Little Richard and Gene Vincent.The quality of his playing impresses Lennon. And the younger boy knows the chords one of John’s favourite songs, Twenty Flight Rock.

McCartney then shows Lennon a new way to tune his guitar.

‘Do you want to join my band?’ asked Lennon.

‘I’ll think about it,’ said Paul. McCartney goes on holiday to the Lake District. When he returns he agrees to join The Quarrymen.

Unlikely partners

This meeting tells us a lot about the relationship between Lennon and McCartney. The boys are very different but they interest each other. Each admires the other. There is rivalry, too.

John Lennon is the leader of the group. At sixteen he is already a charismatic figure on stage. In the photograph he is the one we look at.

Lennon quickly spots something in McCartney. He notices the younger boy’s musical talent but is a little jealous, too. McCartney is a potential rival as well as a possible partner.

Paul McCartney also reveals a lot of his character and personality. He is a natural musician and technically better than Lennon. He is confident enough to play guitar for the older boy.

It is significant that Paul delays his response to the invitation to join the group. He likes Lennon but notices his ‘wild’ side. He thinks carefully before making his decision.

Some (including the other Beatles, at times) find this calculating side of McCartney unattractive. It will, however, prove essential to the group’s success and longevity.

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Kieran McGovern

Kieran McGovern

I grew up in an Irish family in west London

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