60 years ago this month was arguably one of the most important and transformative periods in the Beatle’s grand history. Affecting both their private and career lives, August of 1962 would set up the platform for their soon-to-be-achieved greatness and shape their domestic lives.
The Day the Acetate Arrived- August 1, 1962
The Beatles had not heard from EMI, nor George Martin, for several weeks since their very first recording session at Abbey Road on June 6. It had not gone well. Producer Martin had already told the rest of the band that their drummer, Pete Best, was not up to caliber for recording purposes. But he had another reservation. He felt that the original tunes they brought with them (“Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You”) were just ‘OK’. Although he let them attempt recordings of the songs, he had other ideas. Soon he would introduce the song he wanted them to record. Written by unknown composure Mitch Murry, it was called “How Do You Do It.”
When a 7’’ demo acetate disk arrived from London at manager Brian Epstein’s office on Whitechapel Street in Liverpool, it included directions for the band to learn and rehearse “How Do You Do It” for their next recording session in September. The song was a sweet, bouncy and trite tune, and it was going to be their first single. Upon listening to the cut, alarm bells went off in Beatle land. “We hated it and didn’t want to do it!” Paul McCartney would later reflect in 1991, “We felt we were getting a style, the Beatles’ style, which we were known for in Hamburg and Liverpool, and we didn’t want to blow it all by suddenly changing our style and becoming run of the mill.”
Besides, the Beatles wanted to show George Martin they could deliver the goods when it came to their own compositions, and they immediately began to work to create other tunes that would eventually show up at their planned return to EMI on September 4th. But for now, no matter how much they complained to Epstein, or whined among themselves, “How Do You Do It” was unhappily stuck in their musical laps. Paul said at one point, they asked themselves, “Well, what are we gonna do with this?”
What the Beatles did do was make the song better (yes… take a sad song and make it better….). After repeated listening to the acetate (BTW- recorded by budding rock star Adam Faith for demo purposes) John, Paul and George pulled the song apart by switching the key from F# to G. Then by adding a new introduction with George playing a small lead guitar part and making a D chord repeat after each verse, the song became somewhat palatable to the boys. This set up a showcase for George Martin, as they would soon prove to the producer that they knew their way around a tune, and it would help to establish themselves as worthy composers at this early stage.
The Day They Came for Ringo- August 14, 1962
Since their initial June 6 recording session at EMI Studios at Abbey Road, drummer Peter Best’s future goose was cooked. His playing during this session was unimpressive, and John, Paul, and George were already whispering about how unhappy they were with Pete, both with his playing and his general “fit” within the band. Martin’s comments (which he would have to restate in court papers when Pete filed a legal suit against the Beatles soon after their great success) were the final straw. But not fast enough for George Harrison, who had been lobbying John and Paul for months to consider Ringo Starr to join the Beatles.
Toward the end of July, they had their minds made up, but they had heard a rumor that Ringo was considering leaving his current group (Rory Storm and the Hurricanes) for another band, and George again instigated pushing the others to “do something about it, now is the time!” That is when John and Paul (who’d just achieved his driver’s license) took the band’s van for a 332-mile round trip, from west coast England to the east coast town of Skegness, where Ringo was playing at Butlins’s Summer Camp. They put him on notice that he would be hearing from their manager soon, and they wanted him to join the group.
Sure to their word, on Tuesday, August 14, Ringo was paged on the camp’s public address system and he was soon talking with the Beatle’s manager. “Brian Epstein phoned me up on a Tuesday and said, ‘Would you join the Beatles? Ringo recalled years later, “I said, ‘Yeah.’ Brian said, “Well, can you get home tonight?’ And I said, I can’t leave the group just like that, I must give a bit of notice.’ So I said, ‘I’ll be there Saturday.” Pete would be told of his firing on August 16 by Brian, (John- “We were cowards when we sacked him. We made Brian do it. But if we’d told Pete to his face that would have been much nastier than getting Brian to do it.”). Ringo would play his first official gig as a member of the Beatles on August 16, in Port Sunlight in Wirral.
The Day They First Appeared on Television- August 22, 1962
There was some additional motive to their rushed madness to bring Ringo into the band, and that was to assure that Pete was not filmed for their pending first appearance in front of the TV cameras. The idea of gaining television exposure for the band was ironically started by Pete Best’s mother, Mona Best. In September of 1961, she had written an introduction letter on behalf of the Beatles to the Granada TV producers of a local human-interest series called Places and People. Nothing came from her inquiry at the time, but the producers would be familiar with the unusual name of the band. That helped Brian Epstein when he would professionally inquire about Granada’s interest in the spring of 1962. Soon they were booked to be filmed by a 6-camera crew at their native Liverpool Cavern Club for a lunchtime show on this date.
The club was not the best place for the simple technology of the day. The venue offered an environment located 18 steps underground, with no windows, and no modern airflow system. This all worked against the camera’s abilities which needed high levels of lighting to be brought in (creating super heat in the Cavern’s naturally damp environment) along with a single microphone used to capture the sound (that was often distorted).
Nevertheless, the show went flawlessly. There they are, John and Paul, wearing suits, vests, and ties, stage front, singing the Richie Barrett song “Some Other Guy,” with George stage left, playing his Gretsch Guitar. Ringo had been with them for one week and can be seen in the back with a not-so-Beatle haircut. It is now the first historic film of a Beatle performance that includes sound, and it still survives today (it can be found on YouTube). Grainy and primitive, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has described the film as “like something smuggled out of Eastern Europe” during the Cold War. The TV program achieved its goals, expanding the Beatle’s following outside of the northern Liverpool area and helped increase their popularity over the next 18 months.
The Day John Got Married- August 23, 1962
John and Cynthia Powell had been dating and having unprotected sex for 3 years when she fell pregnant. Already suffering morning sickness and a missed period in July, Cynthia, the art school student, would need to tell John, just as his prospects for a life as a professional musician were growing daily. In their years together, marriage only came up once, now through a veil of tears, fear, and hesitation, she told John ‘the dreadful truth.’ Cynthia later recalled the scene, “I watched his face drain its color, and fear and panic creep into his eyes. He was speechless for what seemed like an age. Then he said, ‘There’s only one thing for it, Cyn, we’ll get married.’”
Cynthia semi-avoided most of the wrath from her mother when she selected to tell of her plans to marry John just before Lilly Powell was to leave for Canada on August 22. John, on the other hand, faced the woman with whom he had an ongoing contentious relationship – his Aunt Mimi. As he predicted, she met the news of the pending nuptials with outrage (“You’re too young! You have nowhere to live, not much money!”). She declined his invite while posing moral authority, even though there was plenty of precedence on Mimi’s side of the family (the Stanleys, John’s mother’s side) for babies out of wedlock. Two out of four of Mimi’s sisters conceived children outside of marriage (including John’s mother) and Mimi herself was one of three Stanley girls to be born before the marriage of John’s grandparents.
Knowing that the couple couldn’t move back in with Mimi, John’s immediate problem was housing. This was solved by Manager Brian Epstein. Brian, who would serve as John’s best man, graciously gave the couple use of his private apartment on Liverpool’s Falkner Street. Epstein reportedly used this flat for his secret gay affairs. Brian stressed that they keep the couple’s marriage and pending birth hush-hush, viewing a married Beatle with a baby as a PR liability with fans.
The wedding date was set for the 23rd at Liverpool’s Register Office. John told George and Paul (who had just broken up with his 3-year girlfriend Dot Rhone; she at one time carried Paul’s baby until suffering a miscarriage) of the pending ceremony. But John did not invite the newly hired Ringo, as the relationship was so fresh, no one knew if they could trust the drummer with this kind of information yet (it would be months before Ringo would find out that John was indeed married). John, who would spend his wedding night apart from Cynthia due to a traveling gig in Chester, later remarked that the hurried marriage left him ill-prepared for the life-altering change; “Walking about married, it felt like walking about with odd socks on or your fly open.”
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