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Before They Were Fab: Facts You Never Knew About the Boys Who Became Beatles

Updated on August 1, 2011

Before They Were Fab: The Quarrymen

Young George (far left), John (center) and Paul (right) practicing for a gig as the Quarrymen.
Young George (far left), John (center) and Paul (right) practicing for a gig as the Quarrymen. | Source

Pre-Beatles Trivia

Everyone knows the Beatles came from Liverpool, but most people are unaware of their adventures before they made it big. This is a hub for people like me who have always had a fascination for the group, whether you choose to dwell on their talent, looks, wit, or above all their incredible luck. Here are some facts about the group before they conquered the world.

Paul McCartney’s parents met at a bomb shelter in 1940 during one of the German air raids of World War 2. Had it not been for Herman Goering, the Nazi leader who directed the Luftwaffe to target civilians, Paul’s parents would probably never have met.

John Lennon’s introduction to music and performing began with his group the Quarrymen, a skiffle group he led that was just one of dozens in Liverpool. After one performance he was introduced by a mutual friend to Paul McCartney, who impressed John with a guitar demonstration that earned him an invitation to join the group the next week.

Paul was eighteen months younger than John, something that made a difference in the early years. George Harrison seemed hopelessly baby-faced to John at first, though he was impressed by George's prowess with the guitar. After subtle but persistent lobbying from Paul, John agreed to let George join the Quarrymen. 

From 1960 to mid 1962, the Beatles were teenage boys who were desperate enough for work that they volunteered to be ferried to Hamburg, Germany. Lacking work visas, they deceived authorities into believing they were students. The majority of their pre-Beatlemania adventures would take place in that city, and the difference in their treatment upon their triumphant return in 1966 would be astonishing. 

The famous Beatles haircut was adopted almost by accident. Stuart Sutcliffe, one of John's closest friends and the group's bass player at the time, had a German girlfirend named Astrid who styled it for him. The others poked fun at him at first, but a few days later George followed suit. Soon every member had the mop top, except, prophetically, Pete Best, whose hair was too curly. 

Before Ringo, the Beatles had a drummer for two years named Pete Best. He was unceremoniously fired by their new manager Brian Epstein on the eve of a record deal. Epstein acted on the instructions of John, Paul and George, who didn’t want to tell Pete to his face, and never spoke to him again.

The group’s introduction to drugs began in Hamburg, where they played for a club full of rowdy Germans who frequently offered them beer and “Prellies”, or amphetamine pills to help them perform till four or five in the morning each day.

Before the glory days, the boys were in such tight financial spots that once, they conspired to mug a sailor. When Paul and George got cold feet at the last moment, John and Pete led the way, but ended up getting beaten up by the tough veteran.

To earn more money, the Beatles offered their free time to a local club, a move that angered their original employer, Koschmider. In a spiteful move, Koschmider reported George Harrison to the authorities for being underage for work and thus having entered Germany illegally. With George gone, Paul and Pete tried for revenge by nailing a condom to the wall of their room and setting it on fire. They were jailed and deported when Koschmider accused them of vandalism, and John Lennon was in the novel position of being the only one not in trouble.

Ringo is known as "the luckiest man alive" for having been chosen as the Beatles' drummer, but according to Beatles biographer Bob Spitz, he was born "battling more adversity then Job."Ringo nearly died as a baby from his childhood sicknesses, and he was frail and fragile well into adolescence. To sick to have spent much time in school and barely literate, he turned his attention to music and especially drumming. 

When Paul returned to Liverpool after the fiasco in Germany, his father was convinced that music wasn’t his future and arranged for him to have a menial job at a local factory. The second week of his job, John and George visited him, with Lennon telling him to stand up to his father and quit the job to play more gigs. Paul left the job on the spot and never looked back.

The name “The Beatles” was reportedly coined by Stu Sutcliffe. John and Stu were talking one night about the band The Crickets, and how clever a play on words it was. Further musing prompted Stu to come up with the Beatles. During interviews, John liked to poke fun at reporters by claiming he came up with the name from a dream, in which a man on a flaming pie visited him and instructed him to form a group named the Beatles. 

Paul and Stu used to have, in Paul’s own words, “a deadly rivalry” as they competed for the attention of John Lennon. The tension spilled over one night when Paul provoked Stu as they performed on stage, and the two Beatles fell to the floor punching and kicking one another. Two days later, Stu left the group, saying he wanted to focus on his art and handing over his bass guitar to Paul as a gesture of good will. He would die of a brain aneurism before they could ever see him again.

As the teenage John Lennon turned to music while neglecting school, his Aunt Mimi often said, “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living out of it.” When John was famous, he loved to remind her of those words. He once visited her to give her a golden plate with that sentence engraved in it.


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    • Mark Sparks profile image

      Mark Sparks 6 years ago from Charlottesville, Virginia

      Thanks, Kimberly! It's kind of inspiring how little some of the biggest stars of all time started out with, and how little quirks of fate shaped their lives

    • Kimberly D King profile image

      Kimberly D King 6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      "Fab" story about my boys :)

      Anyone who is just beginning to discover the Beatles will benefit well from your hub!