HELLO GOODBYE - 60 years ago: John Lennon meets Paul McCartney

11. July 2017

The Beatles Beatles

HELLO GOODBYE - 60 years ago: John Lennon meets Paul McCartney

It's Saturday, it's hot, and all Woolton's on his feet. In the small garden of St. Peter's Church, between the drinks stand and the barbecue, there is a flatbed truck. At a quarter past four on that July 7, 1957, a few adolescents with guitars climb onto the loading area and off they go. They are one of the many skifflebands shooting out of the herb at that time in England, in this case even from the direct neighbourhood, and they are hardly better or worse than others. Their leader, a shirt-sleeved guy with an Elvis shirt and a checkered shirt, hammers on his cheap guitar and plays the usual popular tunes: the ancient folkkracher "Maggie Mae", "Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan and "Come Go With Me" by the US group The Del-Vikings. The boys call themselves The Quarrymen, inspired by the Quarry Bank High School they attend, and they have been chosen by the organizing committee of the Kirchweih to take part in the framework program for a demonstration of the Liverpool Police Dog Squadron.

One can probably assume that that afternoon would have remained without consequences had it not been for the fact - and this makes this garden party a big bang in pop history - that a fat boy, more a child than a teenager, who took a very close look at the group around the singer John Lennon, stood in the audience. Later, when the band has finished their gig and is getting their equipment into the community hall, this boy, accompanied by his buddy Ivan Vaughan, will also enter the hall, introduce himself to Lennon and demonstrate to him and his comrades what he's got with his 15 years - far more than the amazed skifflefans who surround him. Paul McCartney will grab Lennon's guitar, change its tune - which none of the bystanders would be able to do - and knock out a clean version of Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock". Lennon will make derogatory jokes about the guy and yet be severely impressed. Later in the day he will decide to bring McCartney into his band. Later he explained: "I was thinking that I was not allowed to let him dance out of line when I took him in. But he was good, so he was worth it."

The Symbiosis

What is interesting about the starting signal for the most successful working relationship in the history of modern pop music is the very special chemistry that is already revealed at this first meeting: Lennon is the undisputed boss of the Quarrymen. If he were to bring a musician into the band who was so much more talented and capable than he is himself, then Lennon knew that he would jeopardize this status. But at the same time he feels that McCartney would make the band better, much better. He chooses the big picture. And Paul McCartney, 18 months younger than Lennon, at this age an eternity, knows that he can score points with his abilities, but must leave the terrain of the leader to the other. Nevertheless, he is self-confident enough to answer the official offer to join the Quarrymen, which he received soon afterwards, only hesitantly at first: "Yes, he would like to, but first of all he wants to go on holiday with his family, and after the holidays you can see for yourself. The notoriously impatient Lennon will hardly have liked the answer.

In fact, it wasn't until the late summer of 1957 that the two boys began to form a real band out of the quarrymen. That their relationship will be a symbiotic one must have become clear to them very soon. The two teenagers could hardly have been more different, yet they complement each other perfectly. Lennon is the insecure bully, McCartney the self-confident diplomat, Lennon the teddyboy, McCartney the pop-pop; Lennon is the heart, McCartney the brain of the duo. And yet they have a lot in common: Both are highly intelligent, both have a soft spot for language and poetry despite their comparatively simple origins, both love rock'n'roll, and both need music to somehow cope with their personal tragedies. Eight months before the garden party in Woolton, Paul's mother Mary died of breast cancer, only one year later, in July 1958, John's mother Julia will be run over by a car.

The first encounter was followed by five years in which John and Paul became Lennon/McCartney. Afternoons together at Paul's in 20 Forthlin Road, where they listen to the same records over and over again, laboriously searching for the chords, scribbling lines of text in exercise books and fooling around; hundreds of gigs with the Quarrymen, later the Silver Beatles, who soon lose the Silver; endless nights on provincial stages, in rickety delivery vans, on rainy country roads. Fugitive girl acquaintances, fights over the last cigarette.

Little by little, a bunch of songs are created that both write together. Brotherly, they share their best ideas, sense the spirit of the Buddy Holly songs they love so much, torture each other until they reach the precision of the Everly Brothers' harmony singing, and pick up new chords and tricks on the guitar from all accessible corners (even if they have to take the bus all over Liverpool to visit the one guy they've heard knows how to grab a B major with big sevenths).

Then Hamburg, the melting pot in which the young Beatles, now complemented by the even younger George Harrison, the highly gifted Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best, who still has no idea what is blossoming for him, are cast into a musical world power. Reeperbahn, Whores, Preludin, Alcohol, Astrid and Klaus, Gretel and Alfons, "Show off!" - and the music. Eight hours a night, eight days a week...

Five years after the garden party: John and Paul are "little sharks", partners in crime, brothers in beat. The little plant whose seed was planted in Woolton is now in full bloom: Paul leads the group with his musicality and charm as a performer. John and his big mouth are the boss, and with his rhythm guitar Lennon forms the backbone of the band. All the Buddy Hollys and Everlys and Vincents and those who think they have something to report will now write them on the wall.

Lest mehr im eclipsed Nr. 192 (07/08-2017).