A little over 65 years ago, pop culture history was put into motion when, on July 6, 1957, singers John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time, paving the way for the eventual creation of The Beatles. Despite popular belief, the Earth didn’t shake, the clouds didn’t part and a choir of angels didn’t break into song. In fact, there was little special about that day at all — though YouTube user Hal-9000 has now offered up an AI clip of that meeting, which is above.
Julia Baird, John’s half-sister (their mothers were the same) points out that at the time, “In Liverpool, and I’m sure it was the same in the States at that time, you wouldn’t say to any of your friends who had a brother, ‘Is your brother in a group?’ You’d say, ‘Is your brother the singer, the drummer, the guitarist or what?’ Everyone was in a group. As I write in my book [Imagine This], if you took an aerial view, there were all these groups playing on porches and in kitchens and garden sheds, and all the roofs would be jangling about. This was all the groups practicing. The difference with John’s group was that they succeeded.”
Who knew Julia was a master of understatement?
From the Quarry Men to The Beatles
In the summer of 1957, John led a band called the Quarry Men, the lineup of which included Pete Shotton, Eric Griffiths, Rod Davis and Len Garry. A devoted rock and roll fan, John was driven by his passion and fantasies — shared by innumerable others — of being the next Elvis.
The fateful day that would, at the very least, put destiny into play, was a celebration of Liverpool’s being signed to the Magna Carta by King John in 1215 (“We like our history here, don’t we?” laughs Baird). Taking place at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool, the annual fete was an opportunity for John and the band to offer a public performance.
“We saw John play in the kitchen and practice in the bathroom and on [Aunt] Mimi’s porch,” Baird explains. “On that day, John and the Quarrymen were playing on the back of a lorre [truck]. My sister Jackie and I were running alongside the lorre, trying to make John laugh, because he could hardly stand up. Then, in the end, he sat down on the back of the lorre to keep better balance, because they were singing all the way up to the church field. Now Paul hadn’t appeared at that point when they were playing, and those are the pictures you’ve seen of John in the check shirt. Later, Paul was brought up and introduced.”
For his part, Paul reflected in the pages of The Beatles Anthology, “One day I went with this friend of mine. His name was Ivan Vaughan. And I went up to Woolton, in Liverpool, and there was a village fete going on, and John and his friends were playing the thing. My friend Ivan knew John, who was a neighbor of his. And we met there and John was onstage singing ‘Come little darlin’, come and go with me…’ But he never knew the words because he didn’t know the record, so he made up his own words, like, ‘Down, down, down, down to the penitentiary.’ I remember I was impressed. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s good. That’s a good band there.’ So backstage, back at the church hall later, I was singing a couple of songs I’d known. I liked their band, and then one of their friends, who was in the band, a guy named Pete Shotton who was a friend of John’s, saw me cycling up in Woolton one day and said, ‘Hey, they said they’d quite like to have you in the band, if you’d like to join.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, it’d be great.’”
Added John, “I had a group, I was the singer and the leader. I met Paul and I made a decision whether to — and he made a decision, too — have him in the group; was it better to have a guy who was better than the people I had in, obviously, or not? To make the group stronger or to let me be stronger? That decision was to let Paul in and make the group stronger.” Obviously there were still several steps before the formation of The Beatles, but as John would point out, “George would join later, but everything started moving forward with Paul and I.”
The Connection Between John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Julia Baird points out that Paul had an “enormous” influence on John, which was evident from the first day the duo met. “John was impressed with his looks, and probably slightly envious, as well as his ability to play the guitar and the fact that he knew a lot — note, not all — of the words to ‘Long Tall Sally,’ which sealed his fortune. Obviously the songwriting came slightly later. I called them the Dream Team, because John was the wordsmith and Paul is the melodist; he has beautiful melodies. You put them both together and you’ve got almost perfection — as has been proven.”
Beatles biographer Julius Fast adds, “The two boys hit it off very quickly. There was something both of them had that just locked together. Perhaps it was a crazy kind of attitude towards life, a contemptuous mockery that later became the trademark of the four Beatles, or perhaps it was just a teenage friendship that stuck. Whatever it was, Paul eventually was invited to join The Quarry Men. As far as John was concerned, Paul was not only a good guitarist — as good as John himself — but he also resembled their mutual idol, Elvis.”
Reflects Baird, “We were watching what happened, but without really knowing what was going on. It was all a gradually evolving process. It’s a bit like the auntie that comes every six months and says, ‘Oh my God, he’s grown.’ You don’t see it day to day but it’s happening nonetheless.”