Things You Probably Never Knew About The Beatles
Test your fab four trivia!
As one of the most acclaimed bands in history, there’s a lot known about the Beatles — and, thanks to countless biographies focusing on The Fab Four, plenty of it has been written. We’ve rounded up some of the more obscure facts about the Beatles that have been reported over the years.
For instance, did you know Ringo was the only one who could get the entire group back together after it had split? Or that Paul’s given name isn’t Paul? It’s time to meet the Beatles all over again!
Ringo Starr Learned to Play the Drums While Recovering from Childhood Tuberculosis
Ringo Starr — born Richard Starkey — came down with tuberculosis when he was 13 years old and was sent to a sanitarium to recover. As a way to keep the young patients entertained, a teacher did music education with them. Starr told NPR in 1995 that it was this introduction to musical instruments that made him love drums.
“I had a drum the first time, the first session. And I really loved it,” he said. “And so they came back, like, a couple of weeks later, and they tried to give me another instrument. But I only wanted the drum.”
John Lennon’s Childhood Wasn’t Easy
John Lennon had a complicated childhood, including an absentee father and a mother who gave up a baby girl by another man for adoption and then had two other girls with a third partner. Lennon was mostly raised by his aunt Mimi. And Lennon’s mother, Julia (pictured), died when he was a teen, a fact he and Paul McCartney bonded over, as McCartney also lost his mother as a teen. Lennon wrote the song “Julia” for his mother, which appeared on 1968’s “The Beatles” (aka the “White Album”).
Paul McCartney Was Mean To Frogs As A Kid
He may be better known today as an animal rights activist and vegan, but, as a boy, Paul McCartney used to kills frogs.
“I was very aware that I would soon be joining the army, because all of us were called up for National Service,” he told GQ in 2018. “I was probably about 12, I was looking at being 17, which is kind of looming — it’s going to happen fast — and the one thing that I thought is: ‘I can’t kill anything — what am I going to do? Get a bayonet and hurt someone? I’ve got to kill someone?'”
“And I used to go out in the woods, and I killed a bunch of frogs and stuck them up on a barbed-wire fence. It was like a weird sort of thing that I kind of hated doing but thought: ‘I’m toughening myself up.'”
Stuart Sutcliffe Was The Band’s First Bassist
One of the blokes who carries the nickname “The Fifth Beatle,” Stuart Sutcliffe, played with the Beatles in their first years as a band. Sutcliffe was a flatmate of John Lennon’s at the Liverpool College of Art. He could barely play bass guitar when Lennon got him to join his group. Sutcliffe later opted to leave the band in 1961 to pursue painting. Unfortunately, he died of a brain aneurysm in 1962 at the age of 21. Sutcliffe can be seen in this 1960 photo, standing fourth from the left.
Sutcliffe’s Girlfriend Could Be Credited With Their Famous Haircuts
Although there is some controversy over the person who introduced the Beatles to their famous mop-top haircuts, it seems that Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe’s German girlfriend, was the originator. She cut Sutcliffe’s hair in a style that was popular with young men in Germany around 1960, when the newly formed Beatles were playing there. Kirchherr, a talented photographer, took many classic photos of the band when they were just starting out.
A Mystery Drummer Missed Out
You may know that Pete Best (pictured) was the Beatles’ first regular drummer before he was fired and replaced by Ringo Starr. But did you know that an unidentified Beatle was also invited to join the band? A letter that turned up at a garage sale in 2011, written by Paul McCartney, dates back to 1960 and a pre-Ringo era when the Beatles were in search of a drummer to play with them in Hamburg, Germany. The letter’s recipient was never identified.
The Beatles Were Briefly A Leather Band
Before the iconic suits, there was the leather. After playing regularly in Germany, the Beatles started performing in leather jackets and pants that made them look like a group of greasers. When manager Brian Epstein came along, he got the group to change their look.
“It was a bit, sort of, old hat anyway — all wearing leather gear — and we decided we didn’t want to look ridiculous going home,” Paul McCartney recalled in a 1963 interview. “We didn’t want to appear as a gang of idiots. And Brian suggested that we just, sort of, wore ordinary suits. So we just got what we thought were quite good suits, and got rid of the leather gear. That was all.”
‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ Was Not The Beatles’ U.S. TV Debut
While the band’s legendary 1964 performance on CBS’s “The Ed Sullivan Show” was the first time they’d performed live on television in America, fans of the group had already seen them on the small screen before. In fact, the band’s true American television debut was on NBC News, which aired its own recording of the Beatles performing in Britain, right before they made their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The Beatles Helped The Rolling Stones Score An Early Hit
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “I Wanna Be Your Man” for The Rolling Stones, which turned out to be one of the band’s first hits.
“The guy who turned the Beatles down at Decca Records happened to ask George if he knew anyone worth signing,” McCartney told Rolling Stone magazine in 2016. “We were friends with them, and I just thought ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ would be good for them. I knew they did Bo Diddley stuff. And they made a good job of it. And I like to show off, say we gave them their first hit. And we did.”
‘She Loves You’ Was Written Quickly
“We had a recording date set for three days from this date. So we went to the hotel and we booked in a room, and we just decided that we have to write a song very quickly,” McCartney said. “So we sat down, no ideas came for a bit. But eventually, we got an idea. ‘She Loves You’ came, you know. It was just lucky.”
The Beatles’ Road Manager Contributed to Their Songs
Though not a musician by training, the Beatles’ road manager, Mal Evans, contributed to their music in the studio. He played everything from single organ and piano notes to providing sound effects by shoveling gravel and ringing an alarm clock.
‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ Isn’t About LSD
Despite the ongoing rumor, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” is not meant to stand for LSD and it isn’t about the drug. The title was inspired by a piece of artwork done by John Lennon’s son, Julian, featuring a classmate named Lucy.
“‘Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds,’ which I swear to God, or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled LSD,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970. The title and the song’s trippy imagery just seem to be a happy coincidence.
Phil Collins Twice Made Beatles Appearances And Was Cut
Phil Collins was a teen extra in the Beatles’ 1964 film “A Hard Day’s Night” but apparently didn’t scream loud enough to keep him in the final cut. A 19-year-old Collins later played backing congas on a recording session for “Art of Dying” from George Harrison’s 1970 album “All Things Must Pass.” Collins wasn’t credited on the album after a different take of the song was used. But Harrison later made a practical joke version for Collins after the two got to be friends years later.
John Lennon Used A Fake Name On An Elton John Recording
When Elton John did a cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” in the 1970s, he got John Lennon to do backing vocals and guitar on the track. Lennon was credited as Dr. Winston O’Boogie (Lennon’s given middle name was actually Winston). Lennon even made a Madison Square Garden concert appearance on Nov. 28, 1974, singing the song with John. It was Lennon’s last live performance before he was murdered in 1980.
John Lennon And Paul McCartney Didn’t Often Compliment One Another
Paul McCartney told “60 Minutes” that he only remembers John Lennon complimenting him regarding a song he’d written one time. It was for 1966’s “Here, There and Everywhere.”
“John says, just when it finishes, ‘That’s a really good song, lad. I love that song,'” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Yes, he likes it.’ You know, and I — I’ve remembered it to this day. It’s pathetic, really.”
In a 2018 GQ interview, McCartney said he wished he’d told Lennon what a fan of his he was before Lennon was killed. “We were Liverpool guys, and you don’t do that — you don’t compliment each other. It’s just how you’re brought up.”
The Beatles Didn’t Write Sheet Music
Despite being regarded as some of the best songwriters in music history, the members of the Beatles weren’t big on sheet music.
“I don’t read music or write music,” Paul McCartney told “60 Minutes.” “None of us did in the Beatles. We did some good stuff though. But none of it was written down by us. It’s basically notation. That’s the bit I can’t do. ‘Cause I don’t see music like that.”
It doesn’t seem like this held them back at all, does it?
Half Of The Band Members Were Lefties
Did you know that two of The Fab Four were left-handed?
Ringo Starr’s grandmother made him use his right hand as a child, so he writes right-handed, but he does everything else left-handed. Paul McCartney is also a lefty and plays a left-handed bass guitar. John Lennon and George Harrison were righties. This is statistically interesting because only an estimated 10 percent of the world’s population are lefties, yet half of the British powerhouse band were.
John Lennon Fantasized About Being A Fisherman
In a 1970 interview, John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine that he hated being an artist.
“If I could be a f—in’ fisherman I would,” Lennon said. “If I had the capabilities of being something other than I am, I would. It’s no fun being an artist … One of my big things is that I wish to be a fisherman. I know it sounds silly — and I’d sooner be rich than poor, and all the rest of that sh-t — but I wish the pain was ignorance or bliss or something.”
There’s An Actual Grave With Eleanor Rigby’s Name On It
Paul McCartney originally said he picked the name of his title character from 1966’s “Eleanor Rigby” from an actress the band had worked with and the name of a shop. But, years later, he found out from someone researching the Beatles that there was a gravestone in the cemetery of a village McCartney and John Lennon had played in when they were first starting out. The grave had the name Eleanor Rigby on it. He told GQ in 2018 he’s not sure if it was his subconscious or a coincidence that made him choose the name for his iconic song.
George Harrison Took Up Gardening Post-Beatles
George Harrison was 27 when The Beatles disbanded in 1970. In the years that followed, he became enamored with Eastern meditation, religion and music, put out a number of solo albums and formed The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison. But he also had a reclusive side. To his young son, Dhani, Harrison was a homebody who just gardened a lot.
“I was pretty sure he was just a gardener,” Dhani said of his dad’s of his dad’s long days working on the grounds of his British estate, Friar Park. “Being a gardener and not hanging out with anyone and just being home, that was pretty rock ‘n’ roll, you know?”
Shirley Temple Wanted to Hear ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ Before She’d Appear On The Cover
Many famous people appeared on the famous album cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” But Shirley Temple allegedly wanted to hear the album before she’d grant permission for the band to use her image on it. She appears three times on the famous cover, so she must have approved. Other famous faces on the cover include Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allen Poe, the Beatles’ original bassist and friend who died at age 21 Stuart Sutcliffe, Albert Einstein and Carl Jung.
You Can Visit Penny Lane, But You Can’t Take The Signs
Penny Lane is a real place in Liverpool that McCartney and Lennon would frequent. McCartney explained in an interview that Penny Lane was a bus terminus in Liverpool and that he and John would have to change buses there to get to each other’s homes. Because of the iconic Beatles song of the same name, fans tended to steal the signs in the area. Recently, town officials have taken to painting Penny Lane signs on walls so they can’t be taken.
Ringo And Paul Are Still Great Friends
They may not chat every day, but Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, the last two living Beatles, are still friends.
“If Ringo’s anything to go by, we’re great: ‘I love you, man,’ ‘I love you, man,’ and we hug and everything. And we’re very complimentary to each other,”McCartney told GQ in 2018. “We were at dinner the other night in London with some friends, and instead of saying something sort of clever, it just suddenly struck me, I said, ‘Me and this guy go back a long way, you know.'”
“We are good friends,” Starr told the Daily Mail. “We don’t live in each other’s pockets, but if we’re in the same country, we get together. He’s singing and playing on my latest album and I played on several of his. We’re just pals. We’re the only two who’ve experienced all this who are still here.”
George Harrison Funded A Monty Python Movie
George Harrison was such a Monty Python fan that when the money to make the comedy group’s 1979 film “Life of Brian” fell through, he paid to fund the film. It was a good investment, as the movie went on to make more than $20 million in theaters alone.
“I liked the script and I wanted to see the movie,” Harrison said. He’s pictured below with film financier Denis O’Brien.
Ringo Starr Narrated ‘Thomas and Friends’
Ringo Starr narrated episodes of the children’s show “Thomas and Friends” from 1984 to 1986 and later did the voice of the conductor for two years on a spin-off show, “Shining Time Station.” Starr has three children of his own: Zak, Jason and Lee Starkey (Starkey is Ringo’s given last name), whom he shared with his first wife, Maureen Cox. The couple divorced in 1975 after 10 years of marriage, and Starr remarried Barbara Bach in 1981. Cox died of leukemia in 1994 at age 48.
Paul McCartney Likes Taking Public Transportation
Imagine sitting down to take a train to work and you realize Paul McCartney is right next to you. It could legitimately happen since the music icon has said he still likes to travel that way.
“It’s just my character enjoys the sort of thing that I always did,” Paul McCartney said in 2018. “It’s a roots thing. I’ll sometimes go on the Underground in London, which I did the other day.” No word on whether he still takes the bus around Liverpool, as he and Lennon did back in the day.
A Ringo Starr Album Brought The Beatles Back Together
Although The Beatles never did reunite as a quartet after splitting in 1970, all four members contributed to Ringo Starr’s 1973 album “Ringo.” All four members didn’t play together on any single track, but Harrison, Lennon and Starr all performed together on the song “I’m The Greatest.” McCartney also played on a few tracks and all three of Starr’s ex-bandmates wrote a song for the record. The album cover is reminiscent of the band’s 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.
McCartney Is Tight With Lorne Michaels
While Paul McCartney says no one can replace John Lennon in terms of someone he’s close enough to have a tight musical collaboration and friendship, he does have some very famous close friends. “Lorne Michaels and I are pretty close,” McCartney told Rolling Stone in 2016. “I can always go for a drink with him — we can talk pretty genuinely.” Apparently the duo have been known to pal around with Jack Nicholson as well.
McCartney has performed on Michaels’ show, “Saturday Night Live,” numerous times as a musical guest.
Paul Isn’t McCartney’s First Name By Birth
Paul McCartney’s first name is actually James and Paul is his middle name, but he was called Paul from his earliest years, so as to not be confused with his father, who was also named James. Both are pictured below.
“I was told that it was because if letters arrived at the house for James McCartney, you wouldn’t know whether it was my dad … or me,” McCartney told a fan who wrote to his official website in 2015. “So that worked until they called my brother — whose name was Peter Michael McCartney — Michael!? And there was no Peter in the house to confuse him with! So I’ve ended up thinking it was rather Irish! I’ve no idea! My mum was Irish – and I don’t know, maybe there’s just some old thing where they call you by your second name. Nobody ever called me James, it was always Paul!”
Paul’s Nickname Is Pretty Common In England
Most Beatles fans probably known Paul McCartney’s nickname is Macca. But do you know that’s actually a fairly common nickname in Britain for people with last names that start with Mac or Mc?
“They just abbreviate everything there,” McCartney told Wired, referring to the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool.
The more common American or Canadian version of this might be to call someone “Mac.” (On a related note, McDonald’s is commonly called Macca’s in Australia.)