Last week, I published a long-form piece on The Beatles: Rock Band and the group’s history. As you’d expect, there was a lot of research behind the article, and that’s left me with a notebook full of Beatles facts that didn’t fit into the piece proper. These facts aren’t anything that will have escaped Beatles buffs, but they were new to me, so why waste them? Here they are in roughly chronological order:
•The Beatles and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were both playing a venue where the stage was made out of wooden planks and beer crates, and so, figured it was inevitable that someone would eventually go right through the floor. That honour went to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes as one night, one of their performers tore open a gap in the wood into which Ringo Starr’s drumkit disappeared.
•As The Beatles were playing their pop hit Please Please Me in-studio, producer George Martin recommended that they change the tempo of the song. The band responded, “What’s that?”. McCartney would concede that Martin’s speed was more appropriate for the track and said that The Beatles were slightly embarrassed about this.
•While Epstein was essential in catapulting The Beatles to success, Harrison says that early on, he didn’t secure the band anything close to the money they were owed. He let various parties purchase rights to The Beatles songs for cheap, and his father also sold off the merchandising rights for the band, despite having no legal authority to do so.
•The Beatles played in front of the Queen for the Royal Variety Performance of 1963. Some members of the public were uncomfortable with a group of working-class boys from far out of London entertaining royalty. Epstein also became nervous as they teased that they would spout off some vulgarity from the stage. In the end, they refrained from it, but Lennon did famously shout “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery”.
•When The Beatles went to perform in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1963, they were told the audience would be racially segregated. The group refused to play for a segregated audience, and the concert promoters told them that they would leave unpaid if they didn’t put on their show. The Beatles accepted this condition, the promoters eventually relented, and the band played to a mixed crowd of white and non-white people.
•In 1965, The Beatles all received MBEs, one of the Royal Family’s awards for societal contributions. Controversy erupted over four civilians receiving a reward that had traditionally been assigned to soldiers. Lennon said that if people got medals for propagating war, he didn’t understand why the band shouldn’t receive them for promoting peace.
•Lennon later mailed his MBE back to the monarchy in protest of the Vietnam War.
•When The Beatles made their iconic Ed Sullivan Show appearance, the producers had title cards appear on-screen for each of them. This is recreated in The Beatles: Rock Band but results in an unusual choice where the characters are introduced with title cards even after we’ve played as them for two chapters.
•A little more background on The Beatles’ disastrous 1966 stop in The Philippines: On the band’s arrival in the country, they were met at the airport by gunmen who separated the musicians from the rest of their staff, and took The Beatles to a private yacht. A wealthy businessman had effectively bought out the band for the night, unbeknownst to them. They were also unaware that the royalty of The Philippines expected them to play for First Lady Imelda Marcos. The Beatles, who had a general rule against playing for foreign royalty, declined, and the TV channels aired footage of a stadium with no one playing in it. This perceived snub caused widespread outage, and while Epstein went on television to explain the band’s situation, it was aired with sound so warped that his speech was indecipherable. All security and hotel staff that were aiding the band and their entourage then withdrew, citizens tried to block the hotel gates, and the airport was practically shut down. The Filipino authorities tried to prevent the band from leaving, self-reportedly due to issues with UK financial authorities. The boys were heckled all the way to the runway, and Epstein was pulled off of their departure plane right before it took off, allegedly due to passport issues. After a tense few moments, he was allowed to get back on board.
•Paul McCartney was inspired to write Helter Skelter after reading an interview with The Who’s Pete Townsend. Townsend boasted that The Who had just recorded the heaviest rock song yet put to tape. Even in an interview with Wired in 2018, McCartney professed not to know what song it was. Helter Skelter was McCartney’s attempt to one-up The Who’s intensity.
•The Beatles decided on the name and logo of their record label Apple Corps based on a painting by surrealist René Magritte.
•Prior to the founding of Apple Corps, Lennon had said that The Beatles would never start their own label as it would be too much trouble.
•The cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band depicts fifty-seven different public figures. The original lineup for the artwork was meant to include Hitler and Jesus, among other figures, although both were dropped.
•The final version of the cover was only made possible by The Beatles phoning up every one of the people shown and asking for the free use of their image. One person demanded a fee: actor Leo Gorcey, so a piece of sky was pasted over Gorcey’s head.
•The Beatles had a little help with the unusual lyrics for Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Lennon had, one day, walked out of a shop in Kent with an old-timey circus poster that featured roughly what would become the words for it.
•In With a Little Help from My Friends, Ringo Starr sings “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?”, but an earlier draft of the lyrics had him singing “What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?”. Worried that the audience would throw fruit at him every time they played the song, Starr insisted they change the line.
•Once The Beatles started playing more esoteric music, theories abounded about secret messages in their songs, including everything up to hidden clues that some of them were dead and replaced by body doubles. Lennon wrote Glass Onion, essentially, to troll the theorists. The line that has caused perhaps the most speculation is “The Walrus is Paul”. Lennon tells us this lyric meant nothing.
•The Beatles believed that it was their job to spread transcendental meditation to the world. While their experimentation with psychedelic drugs was the stuff of legend, they felt that these substances offered a more limited version of true peace and insight to be found in this meditation method. They visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India to train themselves for their perceived task. They famously became disillusioned with the Maharishi, finding his enlightenment camp was more capitalist and organisational than they had hoped.
•The song “Octopus’s Garden” grew out of an idea Ringo Starr had while eating squid aboard a boat. The captain told Starr that underwater, octopuses place debris around their resting spots, forming what are known as “Octopuses’ Gardens”.
•Lennon has asked why, if Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono are consistently blamed for the break-up of The Beatles, they are never given credit for inspiring the music of the musicians. He says that, ultimately, the idea that they split up The Beatles is ridiculous as two women could not come between four men that closely bonded.
•In Let it Be, McCartney memorably sings, “When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me”. A lot of listeners have interpreted this to be a reference to the Biblical Mary, but Paul was actually referring to his late mother. Going through a rough patch in his life, Paul had a dream in which his mother appeared to him and told him his life was going to work out; he just had to “Let it be”.
After representatives of The Beatles: Rock Band project presented their original demo to Paul McCartney, McCartney gifted them with lavender clippings from his garden.
Thanks for reading.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. Cassell & Co.
- 5 Historical Figures Erased from the “Sgt. Pepper” Cover by Christopher Klein (November 28, 2018), History.
All other sources are linked at relevant points in the article.