Category Archives: Day in History

October 17th 1963 – I Want To Hold Your Hand, and a Christmas Message!

October 17th 1963 was a busy day for the Beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. They recorded both sides of their new single, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and it’s B Side ‘This Boy’

If that wasn’t enough, they also recorded a Christmas message to be sent to members of the Beatles Fan Club. They would continue to record these discs for the Fan Club for the next 7 years.

I Want to Hold Your Hand was written in the basement of 57 Wimpole Street, where Margaret Elliott, the mother of Jane Asher, had her music room. Paul McCartney had recently moved into the Asher’s house, as he was dated their daughter, Jane. John Lennon visited Paul here on a few occasions, and as he told ‘Playboy’ magazine in 1980:

We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that — both playing into each other’s noses.

Of course I Want to Hold Your Hand became the Beatles first number one hit in the USA.

I Want to Hold Your Hand on the Ed Sullivan Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jenWdylTtzs

The Beatles 1963 Christmas Record https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZLYO0H65E0

The Beatles 1963 Christmas record
The Beatles 1963 Christmas record

October 13th 1963 – The Beatles at the London Palladium

On 13th October 1963, the Beatles appeared on a TV show called Val Parnel’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The Palladium was, and still is, London’s most famous theatre, and it was regarded as a highlight of a ‘showbiz’ career to play there. Sunday Night at the London Palladium had been going for several years, and was one of the most watched TV shows in the the UK. On March 2nd 1958, Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared on the show – and very much influenced the youth of the UK, including John, Paul, George and Ringo, who were all glued to the TV that night!

The Beatles appearance on the show was very popular – about 18 million people watched this show. By then, the Beatles already had 3 number one hits, and been on TV many times, but all on shows geared towards teenagers. The Palladium show was the first time they had been on an ‘family’ show. They topped the bill on the show, which was presented by Bruce Forsyth. Forsyth whipped the audience into a frenzy by counting down to the Beatles appearance. They sang From Me To YouI’ll Get You, She Loves You and Twist and Shout. They also appeared, together with the rest of the cast, right at the end of the show, to wave goodbye to the audience on the Palladium’s revolving podium.

No film of the show remains, as TV bosses at the time did not think anyone would want to watch this performance of the Beatles after it was first shown. There is audio of the show though – which you can listen to here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6C_f9lvyFg

There is, however, footage of the Beatles coming out of the theatre. You can see that the street was packed with people. The Beatles come out, and there is no car waiting for them. They rush towards what they think is a taxi, but it turns out to be a police car, and policemen would not let them in. Ringo comes out first, then the other three follow, and there is nowhere for them to go. This confusion was probably because the stage door is around the back, and they came out of the front entrance. Maybe, that was deliberate, as all the press were outside here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNYXilEvSo4

Throughout the day the theatre was besieged by several hundred Beatles fans. Next day all the UK newspapers were full of stories of the mayhem. Although screaming girls were a regular occurrence around the Beatles by then, the national newspapers had virtually ignored the Beatles and their fans up to this point. The Palladium show changed that; from now on the Beatles were hardly ever out of the newspapers. A couple of weeks after the Palladium show the term ‘Beatlemania’ was used for the first time to describe the scenes that now greeted the Beatles wherever they went.

Beatles books have often misstated that their famous 1963 appearance on the Royal Command Performance was held at the London Palladium, when it fact it was held at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a month after the Palladium concert. This confusion was no doubt brought about by a poster that was released at the time, of the Beatles standing in a doorway. The poster said: “The Beatles, Royal Command Performance 1963, London Palladium”. This is a mistake, and a strange one, as the poster was officially licensed by NEMS – Brian Epstein’s company! You would have thought someone would notice such an error!

The Beatles made a second appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in January 1964, and, if anything, were greeted by more mayhem than their first appearance. They returned to the Palladium for the last time in July 1964 for a charity concert called The Night of a Hundred Stars.

The Beatles at the London Paladium

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com His book, Guide to the Beatles London, is available at http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_londo

October 2nd 2012 – Paul McCartney, Victor Spinetti, and a Magical Mystery Tour

October 2nd 2012 – a day I will never forget. A day I attended 2 very memorable events, with Paul McCartney at both!!

The afternoon was the memorial service to Victor Spinetti at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Victor had died a few weeks before. I had got to know Victor quite well through various Beatles conventions, and interviewed him for the British Beatles Fan Club at the City Barge pub, that features in Help! I later found out that my birth mother was born only a mile or so from Victor in South Wales, and used to buy fish and chips in the Spinetti family’s fish and chip shop!

Victor had a profound effect on me, especially when I first met him at the 1981 Beatles Convention in Liverpool. I was very sad to hear about his passing, and was determined to attend his memorial service. I rang the church a few days before and told of my family connection, and was invited along.

I was amazed when I got there to see so many famous faces.

It was a lovely occasion, moving at times, but in the main, a wonderful fun celebration of Victor’s life. The tone was set by Fr. Simon Grigg, who said that during his life, Victor was an atheist – but now he knows different!
The programme was a mixture of song and readings, plus very nice tributes to Victor from Barbara Windsor and Jim Davidson.
The musical highlight was Michael Ball singing ‘In My Life’. As he put it, with one of the composers sitting feet away from him.
Fenella Fielding read John Lennon’s poem, Fat Budgie, to celebrate Victor’s collaboration with John on the play ‘In His Own Write’.
Paul McCartney arrived at the church just before the service started. It seems that he initially didn’t think he was going to make it, and sent a written tribute to be read out. Instead he read it himself.
He remembered at one of the Beatles first meetings with Victor, he told them to look at a cloud in the sky and that he would make it go away – and it did! Paul said that, when thinking of Victor that morning, he tried to do the same thing. However the cloud he got didn’t go away, it just got bigger and bigger. Paul joked that it was actually Victor.

Barbara Windsor, who was one of Victor’s best friends, remembered when they were both in a touring stage show, and due to lack of rooms, had to share a bed in a hotel. Barbara, then the ‘sex bomb’ of the ‘Carry On’ films etc, said she never felt so safe in her life! Of course, Victor was gay.
The service lasted about an 75 minutes and we left the church to a recording of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.
Afterwards I was mingling outside, when Paul McCartney came up to me, shook my hand and said “Hi Richard, how are you going, haven’t seen you for a while.” It’s nice he remembers me :>)

Although everyone was sad about Victor’s passing, the service was very funny in places – and Fr. Grigg said at the end that he’d never heard so many ‘F’ words in a church before!
A lovely service for a lovely man.

A section of the service – including Paul  McCartney’s speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFfsPFkjTEQ&playnext=1&list=PL03C5D18AB9E99DCF&feature=results_video

You can see me in the audience at about 7 mins 4 seconds :>)

A report on the service http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2211815/Actor-Victor-Spinetti-star-Beatles-films-died-aged-82-cancer-battle.html

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Paul McCartney arriving at St Paul's Church
Paul McCartney arriving at St Paul’s Church

Attending the service would have been a highlight of most day’s – but mine didn’t end there. That evening, I attended a special gala screening of Magical Mystery Tour. I was the guest of Jeni Crowley, who was on the original Magical Mystery Tour coach, and appears in the film. Sitting with us were Sylvia Bodhi Hillier, and Leslie Cavendish, who were also on the coach, and Roy Benson, who edited the film.
Amongst the celebrities in the audience were Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller, Neil Innes, David Walliams, Peter Asher, Barry Miles, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, Mark Lewisohn, and Joe Boyd. Paul McCartney was there too, and gave a short speech before the screening. He seemed surprised to see me again so soon :>) I was sitting right in front of Liam Gallagher, and I could hear him singing along to I am the Walrus.
At first we saw the BBC ‘Arena’ programme about the making of Magical Mystery Tour, and after a short break, the film itself. Magical Mystery Tour looked and sounded great on a big screen, and it was wonderful seeing it with so many of the people that appeared in it.

…A Day in the Life!!!

Pic I took of Paul with Liam Gallagher at the screening of Magical Mystery Tour
Pic I took of Paul with Liam Gallagher at the screening of Magical Mystery Tour

 

‘Abbey Anniversary’ to the Abbey Road album – released on September 26th 1969.

‘Abbey anniversary’ to the Abbey Road album – released on September 26th 1969.
On September 26th 1994, all those involved in the making of the album ( apart from the Beatles unfortunately) gathered at Abbey Road Studios to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album.

Here is a picture I took that day – from left to right Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Eddie Klein, Jeff Jarratt, Ken Townsend and George Martin

Sir George Martin on the steps of Abbey Road Studios – September 26th 1994
A rather famous album cover :>)

September 4th 1962 – the Beatles Record ‘Love Me Do’ at EMI Studios, Abbey Road

On September 4th 1962 The Beatles recorded their first single, Love Me Do, at EMI Studios, Abbey Road.

They had first been to the Studios on June 6th 1962, for their first recording session, but nothing from that session was deemed fit to release as the Beatles first single, even though they did record a version of Love Me Do. It was also the first time George Martin and seen them in person, and he wasn’t keen on the drumming of Pete Best. George thought he wasn’t up to drumming on record, and would have a session drummer playing instead. This meant no sense to the Beatles, and decided to replace Pete with Ringo Starr.

In the morning on September 4th the group had flown down from Liverpool Airport. They checked into The Royal Court Hotel in Sloane Square, Chelsea, and arrived at Abbey Road shortly after midday.

Prior to the recording session The Beatles undertook a rehearsal, overseen by EMI’s Ron Richards, during which they repeatedly ran through six songs. Two of these – Love Me Do and How Do You Do It – were chosen to be recorded by the group. Ringo Starr has just replaced the sacked Pete Best, and was keen to impress. However, during this rehearsal, he tried too hard, and made a real hash of his drumming, which had big consequences for him later on.

The rehearsal lasted between 2pm and 5pm. During it they also played a slower, bluesy version of Please Please Me, which featured George Harrison playing the main motif throughout the song.

Between 5pm and 7pm George Martin took The Beatles and Neil Aspinall for spaghetti at the Alpino restaurant on Marylebone High Street, and impressed them with tales of his recording sessions with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

The recording session began at 7pm. How Do You Do It had been selected by Martin to be The Beatles’ debut single. The group had been sent an acetate demo of the song, written by songwriter Mitch Murray, which had been recorded earlier in 1962 by Barry Mason and the Dave Clark Five at London’s Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street.

The Beatles rearranged the song to suit their R&B leanings, replacing much of the carefree bounciness of the original demo. However, the Beatles hated the song, and wanted to do Love Me Do instead. You can tell from every note the Beatles played how much they didn’t want to record it.

Finally, the Beatles began work on Love Me Do, laying down the backing track in around 15 takes. After this the vocals were overdubbed. Paul McCartney was unexpectedly given the vocal spotlight in the chorus, after Martin told the group that John Lennon couldn’t play harmonica and sing at the same time.

Around 17 takes were recorded, and the session over-ran by an hour.

Also present during the September 4th recording session was photographer Dezo Hoffman, who took any pictures of the Beatles what became a very historic day. George Harrison is mainly seen in profile, as just before the session, George was given a black eye by a fan at the Cavern Club. However, in some pictures, George’s shiner is clearly visible!

Even after such a long day in the studio, George Martin still wasn’t happy, and the Beatles had to return to the Studio on September 11th to record Love Me Do all over again. This time, George Martin wasn’t going to take any chances with the drumming, and session musician Andy White played drums, while Ringo was given a tambourine to bang, something he never really forgave George Martin for! However, Ringo played tambourine so loudly, it’s hard to hear Andy Whites drumming!

So, there are 3 different versions of Love Me Do released, with 3 different drummers! The Pete Best version is on Anthology One, the Ringo version was on the first single release (funny how this version was chosen, and not the Andy White one!) and Andy White is on the version of the Please Please Me Album.

The different version have caused much confusion over the years. In 2012 EMI planned re-release Love Me Do on it’s 50th anniversary, with an exact replica of the recordings and cover. However, they used the Andy White version by mistake. Thousands of copies of the single had to be send back and thrown away, while the correct version was released! I kept my copy :>)

We go to Abbey Road on my London Beatles Walks – for more info see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

Below – photos taken of the Beatles at the September 4th 1962 session

August 8th 1969 – The Beatles Cross Abbey Road

On 8th August 1969, at 11.35am, four men walked across a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood. Hardly an earth-shattering event, but since then millions of people have come to the very same crossing to imitate those four men.

Of course, the four men in question were the Beatles, and the crossing is in Abbey Road. The ‘Fab Four’ were posing for the photo that was to be used on their last album to be recorded. Abbey Road has never been the same since.

Every day, fans from around the world come to the crossing to walk in the footsteps of their heroes and to see the studios where they recorded most of their songs.

The Beatles had been coming to Abbey Road for many years to record at the EMI Studios. Their die-hard fans often visited the studios in the hope of catching a glimpse of them coming or going. A select few even camped in the car park to see their heroes come out after a late night recording session. However, it wasn’t until after the Beatles named their album after the street it was recorded in that it became world famous and a shrine for fans.

Things could have been very different. Originally the LP was going to be called Everest – after the favourite brand of cigarettes smoked by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles’ recording engineer. Someone had the bright idea that the Beatles should go to the mountain of the same name to shoot the album cover! The Beatles reaction to that idea can’t be repeated here without offence! Finally, it was decided to call the album Abbey Road. Incidentally the album was NOT named after the studio, but the road where the studio is situated. The studio was then called EMI and didn’t change its’ name until after the album came out.

The famous pose of the Beatles on the Abbey Road crossing endures as one of the most memorable LP covers of all time, and one of the easiest for fans to replicate. The idea for the picture was probably Paul McCartney’s. A sketch drawn by Paul showing how the picture should look still exists. The photographer was Iain MacMillan, a long time friend of John and Yoko. MacMillan had known Yoko before she met John, and it is quite possible that John’s first site of Yoko might have been on one of MacMillan’s photos. His photos illustrated the catalogue for Yoko’s exhibition Unfinished Paintings and Objects, at which the couple first met.

For the photo shoot, the Beatles congregated by the crossing at around 11.35am. This was an early start for them, as normally recording sessions didn’t start until around 3pm. This was done deliberately to ensure fans would not interrupt the photo session. The day was gloriously sunny and Iain MacMillan stood on a stepladder in the middle of the road to get the required angle. The Beatles were asked to cross the road in procession, while MacMillan attempted to get the best shot. In the end six photographs were taken, and the whole session only took about 10 minutes.

Shot one shows them walking from left to right, with a Mercedes car coming out of the car park of the studios. Shot two has them walking the other way across, towards the studios. In both shots Paul has his head bowed and is seemingly preoccupied with his feet. By shot three Paul has removed the open top sandals he was wearing and is now barefoot – an historic decision! Shot three was probably the best so far, but has traffic too near to the crossing to be perfect.

Shot four again shows them going from right to left. Like shot two, the Beatles don’t seem to be concentrating on getting the right pose. Maybe they already had it in mind that the shot would look better going the other way across. Shot five was the best by far and the one used on the album cover. Another shot was taken but this was far inferior.

The first Abbey Road photo
The first Abbey Road photo

2nd

The 3rd Pic taken
The 3rd Pic taken
The 4th Pic
The 4th Pic

 

The 5th pic taken - the one used on the album cover
The 5th pic taken – the one used on the album cover

 

The last pic taken
The last pic taken

After the session on the crossing Iain MacMillan got in a car with Anthony Fawcett, John and Yoko’s assistant, to find a suitable road sign for the back cover. They found one on the junction of Abbey Road and Alexandra Road. As MacMillan was about to take a photograph of the sign a girl in a blue dress walked through the shot. Fawcett remembers that Iain MacMillan was angry the girl had got in the way – but other accounts said it was planned. Unfortunately, the Abbey Road sign no longer exists. This part of Abbey Road was redeveloped in the 1970s and the wall and sign demolished.

The session on the crossing only lasted about 10 minutes – leaving the Beatles over three hours to kill before they were due to start recording. According to Mal Evans in his personal diaries, Paul, John and Ringo went to Paul’s home nearby to relax while George and Mal went to “Regents Park Zoo to meditate in the sun. To Krishna Temple for lunch and studio for 3pm”.

Since the famous Abbey Road picture was taken, several million people have crossed the street to imitate their heroes. In 2005 Abbey Road Studios estimated 150,000 come to Abbey Road every year.

Just after the album came out, the Abbey Road cover became the central part in a bizarre rumour and conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was dead! It is hard to pinpoint where the rumour started, but it seemed to begin almost simultaneously in different universities in America. Word went around that Paul had died in a car accident in 1966 and that the Beatles had replaced him with an imposter, to ensure their fame wasn’t affected. However, the Beatles felt guilty about doing this, so they put ‘clues’ on various album covers and songs to tell the truth. Many of these clues can be found on the Abbey Road album cover.

The picture is supposed to be of Paul’s funeral procession, with George Harrison dressed as the gravedigger, Ringo Starr the undertaker, and John Lennon the preacher. Paul McCartney is supposedly wearing an old suit, and is barefoot – how bodies are buried! Paul is holding his cigarette in his right hand – fans pointed out the ‘real’ Paul McCartney is left handed, so the man in the picture isn’t Paul, but an imposter. Some even named the imposter as William Campbell, who had won a Paul lookalike competition. Paul is also out of step with the others, drawing attention to himself.

By the side of the crossing is a white Volkeswagen car. The first part of the car’s license plate is LMW – this is supposed to stand for ‘Linda McCartney – widowed.’ The second part is 281F – this is supposed to signify that Paul McCartney would have been 28 years old – IF he was still alive! Actually, he was 27 in 1969.

There are even clues on the back cover. The ‘Beatles’ sign has a crack through it – to show that the band are no longer complete. Also the sun has shone though the shadows to create a shape that is supposed to resemble Paul McCartney’s skull!

Rumours of Paul McCartney’s demise spread like wildfire, especially when Russ Gibb, a DJ on a radio station WKNR in Detroit, received a telephone call from a student telling him to look for clues. From there the whole thing became an international pastime. The Beatles’ offices received many calls from distraught fans wanting to know the truth.

The rumour only started dying down when a reporter from Life magazine went up to Scotland, where Paul was staying, to obtain an interview to prove that Paul was still alive.

The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour
The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour

Since 1969 the rumour has refused to go away. There have been many books and TV shows on the subject. Paul himself lampooned the rumour on his 1993 album Paul is Live. He returned to the Abbey Road crossing with Iain MacMillan to pose with his old English sheepdog, Arrow. For the cover Paul is superimposed on an original Abbey Road picture – with the Beatles taken out. However, the VW license plate has been changed, to 51 IS – Paul’s age when the Paul is Live picture was taken.

The cover of 'Paul is Live'
The cover of ‘Paul is Live’

On 8th August 2009 I organised a mass crossing of Abbey Road, exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I arranged for a Beatles lookalike band, Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band, to lead fans across wearing the same styled clothes as the Beatles wore 40 years earlier. I thought we may get some media interest, as we’d organised similar crossings on the 25th and 30th anniversaries. However, I was totally shocked by the scenes around the crossing. There were at least 15 TV crews around the crossing, representing over 100 countries. The event was featured in countries like the USA, Russia, India, Greece, Italy, Australia with many covering it live! There were also scores of press photographers and many hundreds of fans. Eventually the police closed Abbey Road for over an hour and fans held an impromptu street party.

Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 - 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 – 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed

In December 2010 the Abbey Road Crossing was given ‘Grade 2 Listed Status’ by English Heritage. This means that the crossing cannot by moved or altered without specific Government permission. In its’ report English Heritage said, “The Abbey Road zebra crossing is of undisputed interest as a late C20 iconic cultural site”. It also states in the English Heritage document that they believe the crossing has moved since 1969. This isn’t the case. Linda McCartney was also present on the day of the Abbey Road photo shoot, and took many pictures. Her shots show the side of the road, and shows things like the drain by the crossing on one side, and the manhole cover on the other are still in the same place now as they were in 1969.

Linda McCartney's photo - showing the location of the crossing.
Linda McCartney’s photo – showing the location of the crossing.

 

Author and blogger Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles tour guide. For more details on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

July 26th 1989 – Paul McCartney Live at the Playhouse Theatre, London

Wouldn’t you just know it :>) You wait years to see a ‘live’ Beatle – then you see 2 in 2 days! The day after seeing George Harrison at the premiere of ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising’, Paul McCartney gives a special ‘Rehearsal Concert’ at the Playhouse Theatre in London. It was his first full live show in 10 years.

It was not the first time that Paul had played at the Playhouse. In the 60s it was used by the BBC and the Beatles did many of their BBC broadcasts from there.

The theatre only holds around 300 people, and tickets we allocated through the Paul McCartney Fan Club. I wasn’t lucky in the draw, but decided to go up to the theatre anyway and try my luck. There was as tube strike in London that day, and getting there was very hard, which actually worked in my favour, as some people who were allocated tickets couldn’t make it, so I managed to get one! Not only that, I was in the second row from the front!

Paul was rehearsing with his new band for his upcoming World Tour. He decided to test the band in front of a live audience at 2 intimate shows, as well as giving a press conference to announce the world tour. It wasn’t a full show (well it lasted about 1.5 hours, so good enough!) but absolutely brilliant. Paul sang ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ for the first time since the Beatles! There was a small gap between the seats and the stage, and many of us got up to dance.

The show comprised mainly of songs from the newly released ‘Flowers in the Dirt’ album, but also some oldies, including George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ – McCartney sings Gershwin! It was a very apt song to sing too – as it was one of the hottest days of the year outside, and no air conditioning inside.

You can see the setlist here https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/paul-mccartney/1989/playhouse-theatre-london-england-5bc9a7d4.html

After the show, many fans gathered at the stage door, to be great by a very happy looking Paul and Linda, who signed many autographs.

A great day!

My ticket to the Playhouse gig
Paul McCartney outside the Playhouse Theatre
Paul and Linda outside the Playhouse

13th July 1954 – the Recording Session that changed British Music History

“Without Lead Belly, no Lonnie Donegan, without Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles.” – George Harrison.

July 13th 1954 – one of the most important recording sessions in British rock and pop history – by a Jazz Band!

The Chris Barber Jazz Band record an album for Decca at their studios in West Hampstead. The album is called New Orleans Joys.

Part way through the recording, the band realise they don’t have enough songs to make a full album, so they retire to the Railway Hotel pub next door to discuss what to do. They decide to record some songs they do live as a ‘Breakdown Group’ – this was a part of their concerts when they would allow the brass section a break and play some paired down music, bringing the guitar player to the front (it was seen as a percussion instrument before this) and have double bass (or improvised tea chest bass) and washboard, which would be played using thimbles.

Chris Barber decided he would play bass, and Lonnie Donegan would play guitar. Washboard player Beryl Bryden was called up and summoned to come to the studio from her home in nearby Maida Vale.

One of the songs they recorded was ‘Rock Island Line’ which had been popularised by Huddy Leadbetter, better known as ‘Lead Belly’. It was sang by Lonnie Donegan

The album went on to sell a few thousand copies, not bad for a jazz album, and ‘Rock Island Line’ just seen as an album track. Things changed though, nearly 2 years later. Bill Haley had a UK number one hit with Rock Around the Clock and record companies tried to find a similar record which would have the same impact. Decca then remembered about ‘Rock Island Line’ and released it as a single, credited to The Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group. It became a huge hit record in the UK, and also ironically, in the US. More importantly, ‘Rock Island Line’ and other ‘skiffle’ songs, inspired thousands of British teenagers to start their own skiffle bands. The bands only need one cheap guitar, and the rest of the instruments could be adapted from household implements. Each song only had 3 or 4 chords to learn, so it was easy to play too. Guitar sales went up from about 2000 a year to 200,000 a year.

Amongst those who played in skiffle bands included: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Van Morrison, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, Dave Davies etc etc etc.

Skiffle itself died out. Lonnie Donegan went on record novelty songs, but others went onto other things :>)

“Without Lead Belly, no Lonnie Donegan, without Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles.” – George Harrison.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7col8uqIQQ

Lon, Paul, George and Ringo?  3 Beatles with  Lonnie Donegan – at Eric and Pattie Clapton’s wedding reception, 1979.

P.S. Elvis Presley’s version of ‘That’s Alright’ was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis on July 5th 1954 – just 8 days before this session :>)

Blogger Richard Porter is a full time Beatles tour guide in London. For more on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com