The date was 6th July 1957 and the unlikely setting for the momentous meeting was a church garden party in northern England during a summer heatwave.
The St Peter’s Church Hall fete was in full swing when John Lennon met Paul McCartney. Lennon, then aged 16, was providing the entertainment at the event with his skiffle group, The Quarrymen. McCartney, aged 15, was watching in the crowd.
As this month marks 65 years since they met, a fascinating documentary, The Beatles Anthology, describes the fateful meeting that spawned one of the biggest pop bands of the 20th century – and probably in history. To date, the Beatles have sold more than 600 million albums.
Their popularity continues more than 50 years after they disbanded in 1970. Hey Jude is still the Beatles’ biggest hit single. It remains the most-played song in the history of the US Billboard charts. The Beatles have also been certified as the best-selling artists on the planet.
What was the music scene like in the 1950s?
Dominated by rock and roll, a powerful new genre that combined elements of rhythm and blues, pop, blues and hillbilly music; the 1950s was the decade famous for the birth of rock and roll. It was the first decade when teenagers enjoyed their own youth culture.
While rock and roll swept the United States, British popular music of the 1940s was giving way to the influence of jazz, pop and swing. The 1950s was an exciting era to be a teenager, with significant changes in youth culture.
What happened when Lennon and McCartney met?
McCartney recalled he was wearing a white sports jacket with a pink carnation at the church fete. He spotted Lennon “strutting around” with “blondish” hair and sideburns, wearing a checked shirt and “looking pretty cool”.
Lennon was playing a guitar that wasn’t a particularly good one, but McCartney recalled he was “making a very good job of it”. The Quarrymen performed a hit song of the day, Come Go With Me, by the Del-Vikings. Lennon didn’t know all the words, but sang his own lyrics from blues songs instead.
McCartney was impressed by Lennon’s ingenuity at ad-libbing the lyrics and met him backstage after the set. A talented guitarist himself, even at 15; McCartney played Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock. He knew all the lyrics and sang along, which in turn impressed Lennon.
How did their relationship progress?
Years later, Lennon admitted he was hesitant initially about joining forces with such a strong musician. He was used to being leader of The Quarrymen and feared McCartney might challenge his leadership. However, his concerns were only brief.
During the first meeting, backstage at the summer fete, Lennon asked McCartney if he wanted to join the band. His amazing talent overcame any fears that Lennon had. The next day, after sleeping on it, McCartney said yes.
Although they didn’t become The Beatles until 1960, this chance meeting between two teenagers kick-started their creative partnership. Over the years, they co-wrote wrote almost 200 songs that made them an estimated £830 million as one of the world’s top pop bands.
The Beatles’ most famous albums (including Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Be and many more) are still best-sellers today. Such an amazing career comes back to one moment – the chance encounter one afternoon between two teenagers at a Liverpool church hall.
After the Beatles split up in April 1970, Lennon and McCartney always had the greatest personal respect for each other, until the sad occasion of Lennon’s untimely death, at the age of 40, in December 1980.
Marking the special 65th anniversary of the year they met, 80-year-old McCartney’s moving tribute to Lennon at Glastonbury festival on 25th June made headlines all over the world as the Beatles’ legacy lives on.
This is undeniable proof that even a chance meeting can lead to life-changing events that still send ripples throughout the world, 65 years later.
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