The Beatles FAQ
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The Beatles FAQ

Which Beatle had two birthdays?

Age always a thorny issue for the youngest band member

The date on George Harrison’s birth certificate is February 25, 1943. In the early 1990s it was reported that a family document had revealed that this was erroneous. The hospital had recorded his time-of-birth 23.50, February 24.

Only they didn’t because George was not born in hospital. He came into the world in a very small terraced house, 12 Arnold Grove. And the mysterious ‘document’ revealing his real birthday? That was a joke by the man himself — one that had fooled this writer — and more significantly the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We all quietly uncorrected the corrected date.

The house where George was born and spent his earliest years.

You suspect that age was a slightly delicate area for George. He was the youngest of four siblings, with a three year gap to his brother, Peter. His friendship with Paul was framed by music but also by a fifteen month age gap. With John this again stretched to three years.

A group dynamic was established around this age hierarchy. Part of George’s later resentment about being undervalued grew from being the youngest (and by implication the most junior) member of the band.

John Lennon was initially very reluctant to allow ‘that kid’ to join The Quarrymen. Only George’s guitar virtuosity and his friendship with Paul overcame this. For his part, George hero-worshiped his new band leader. This brought out the harsher side of Lennon:

I couldn't be bothered with him when he first came around. He used to follow me around like a bloody kid, hanging around all the time. He was a kid who played guitar and he was a friend of Paul's which made it easier. It took me years to come around to him, to start considering him as an equal.

Hamburg

In Hamburg, George's youth caused a serious practical problem which forced him to (temporarily) leave the band. In October 1960 The Beatles moved from to The Top Ten Club: a new venue with slightly better pay and conditions than their current residency. Disgruntled at what he claimed was a breach of contract, the owner went to the local police, pointing out that George was not yet eighteen

On 20 November 1960, George was deported without ceremony. He was obliged to make his own way back to England.

It was a long journey on my own on the train to the Hook of Holland. From there I got the day boat. It seemed to take ages and I didn't have much money - I was praying I'd have enough. I had to get from Harwich to Liverpool Street Station and then a taxi across to Euston. From there I got a train to Liverpool.

The experience still rankled thirty years later:

I can remember it now: I had an amplifier that I'd bought in Hamburg and a crappy suitcase and things in boxes, paper bags with my clothes in, and a guitar. I had too many things to carry and was standing in the corridor of the train with my belongings around me, and lots of soldiers on the train, drinking. I finally got to Liverpool and took a taxi home - I just about made it. I got home penniless. It took everything I had to get me back. source

This proved to be one of the turning points in the early history of The Beatles. Separated from the band and with nothing to show for a gruelling experience, George might have been expected to throw in the towel. That he didn’t was a testimony to his strength of character — but the emotional cost was high.

Songwriting

John Lennon and Paul McCartney had formed their songwriting partnership before George joined the band. In the early years, George concentrated on playing and claims he received ‘very little encouragement’ from to contribute original material himself.

He did receive his first songwriting credit on their second album With the Beatles (1963) for ‘Don’t Bother Me’, which he would later dismiss as ‘not very good’. Others feel this was a harsh judgement but the song is clearly from the Lennon and McCartney template.

It was not until Revolver that Harrison wrote material that was generally agreed to be of a comparable standard to that of Lennon and McCartney. This created a new tension. While George complained that his output was generally restricted to one or two tracks per album, the feeling at Abbey Road was that he took too long to produce more.

Lennon initially laughed off George’s complaints, giving the nickname Harrisongs. He later conceded that they had undervalued their youngest member’s contribution. By this point George’s antagonism was largely focussed on Paul, who he felt bossed him around.

A typical younger/elder brother dynamic, played out with guitars and sitars.

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Kieran McGovern

Kieran McGovern

I grew up in an Irish family in west London