Personalities | The Beatles | The Formative Years (1957–62) | An Overview
Liverpool’s most famous sons, The Beatles, were wartime babies: Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) born 7 July 1940; John Winston Lennon born 9 October 1940; James Paul McCartney born 18 June 1942; and George Harrison born 24 February 1943. All four families moved at least once at the end of the war as Liverpool was rebuilt and renovated. They were not immune from other social upheavals in the post-war years, either. Lennon never knew his sailor father and grew up with his aunt Mimi. His mother Julia lived nearby with a new husband. Ringo’s parents had separated when he was three.
John Lennon and George Harrison attended the same primary school although, three years apart, they never met. The first two Beatles to meet were Harrison and Paul McCartney who had passed the 11-plus exam and gone to the Liverpool Institute. They regularly caught the same bus back to Speke and would often hang out at Harrison’s house strumming their guitars. Lennon had failed his 11-plus and gone to Quarry Bank High School where he continued to fail academically. Ringo, meanwhile, had spent almost as much time in hospital as school with peritonitis, pleurisy and various lung ailments.
All four Beatles became part of Britain’s first generation of ‘teenagers’, a term that had not existed before the war. By 1955 they had become a recognizable social group, looking to find their own entertainment. What brought the Beatles together was skiffle, a musical craze that was easy to imitate on cheap instruments. John Lennon formed a band, The Quarry Men, in 1957. A year later Paul McCartney and George Harrison were in the group. Sometimes the gigs dried up but they persevered. The line-up stabilized into the Beatles with the arrival of Lennon’s friend Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, but they only got permanent drummer, Pete Best, just before they took up an offer to play a residency in a Hamburg Club in 1960. It was a tough experience but they survived (apart from Sutcliffe) and back in Liverpool they soon became the leading band on the scene.
The real turning point came when Brian Epstein became the Beatles’ manager. He smartened them up, got them a record-company audition and finally a contract. He also, at the band’s behest, fired drummer Pete Best and installed Ringo. Now it was up to them.…
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