60 Years Ago, 2 Boys Met And The Beatles Began On the anniversary of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's first meeting, revisit the church garden party that changed the course of popular music forever.
NPR logo

60 Years Ago, 2 Boys Met And The Beatles Began

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535612114/535732213" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
60 Years Ago, 2 Boys Met And The Beatles Began

60 Years Ago, 2 Boys Met And The Beatles Began

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535612114/535732213" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On this day 60 years ago, two young musicians happened across each other at a church garden party, and that meeting changed the course of popular music forever. NPR's Neda Ulaby has the story.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: A stultifying heat wave in 1957 did not stop John Lennon's skiffle group, The Quarrymen, from playing outside a Liverpool church alongside a dog show...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NOWHERE BOY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Singing, unintelligible).

ULABY: ...These scenes, painstakingly recreated in a 2009 movie about the early days of the Beatles, called "Nowhere Boy." Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney stands watching in the crowd. In "The Beatles Anthology" DVD, the real Paul McCartney remembered the spectacle of John Lennon strutting around in a checkered shirt.

(SOUNDBITE OF "THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY")

PAUL MCCARTNEY: Sort of blondish kind of hair, a little bit curly, sideboards, looking pretty cool. And he was playing sort of one of these guitars guaranteed not to crack, you know? Not a very good one, but he was making a very good job of it. You know, I remember being quite impressed.

ULABY: After the set, McCartney played a song for Lennon, who was impressed in turn, maybe partly because McCartney actually knew the words to the song. Later, Lennon remembered being uncertain about whether to partner with such a strong musician who might challenge his leadership. But his hesitation lasted only briefly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN LENNON: And I turned around and right then, on first meeting, said, do you want to join the group? And I think he said yes the next day.

GORDON THOMPSON: That's the beginning of the story.

ULABY: The beginning, says music professor Gordon Thompson, of a 20-year partnership yielding nearly 200 songs now worth close to a billion dollars.

THOMPSON: That's where it starts - that afternoon in that church hall in that part of Liverpool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO OF US")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) You and me Sunday driving, not arriving...

ULABY: We're in a peak Beatles anniversary moment right now, with the 50th anniversaries of their most famous albums rolling in practically on top of each other, "Revolver" last year, "Sergeant Pepper's" this year and soon "Let It Be," where this song from.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO OF US")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) We're on our way home.

ULABY: Today, says Professor Gordon Thompson, on the anniversary of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's very first meeting, maybe it's worth taking a moment to reflect on how shaped we are by the people who've crossed our paths. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.