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65 years: The Quarrymen, who later became The Beatles, record their first demo in Liverpool

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Authored by Alice Broome
Published on 12th July, 2023 3 min read

65 years: The Quarrymen, who later became The Beatles, record their first demo in Liverpool

Today (12/07/2023) marks 65 years since The Quarrymen recorded their first demo. The Quarrymen, formed by John Lennon in 1956, are a skiffle/rock and roll group that evolved into The Beatles in 1960. The Quarrymen still play today, the current line-up composed of Rod Davis, Len Garry, Colin Hanton, and John Duff Lowe.

Lennon formed The Quarrymen with his school friends and the band took their name from a song about their school: Quarry Bank High School. The original band featured John Lennon and Eric Griffiths on guitar, Pete Shotton on washboard, and Bill Smith on tea-chest bass. The following year saw a quick succession of line-up changes. The first stable line-up emerged in 1957, consisting of John Lennon, Eric Griffiths, Pete Shotton, Len Garry, Colin Hanton, and Rod Davis. The band’s manager at the time, Nigel Walley, promoted the group and secured them a paid show at The Cavern Club in Liverpool in the spring of 1957.

In the summer of 1957 Paul McCartney joined the group and made his debut a few months later in October. During this period, the band moved away from skiffle to rock and roll and lost members Davis and Shotton in the process. McCartney and Lennon started writing their own songs, eventually deciding to write together after being impressed with each other’s capabilities.

1958 saw the addition of George Harrison as lead guitarist. Initially, Lennon was concerned that Harrison was too young, having just turned 15, but Harrison won him over with a rendition of “Raunchy” by Bill Justis. After joining, Harrison heard from the guitarist of The Raving Texans about a recording studio in Liverpool and The Quarrymen booked a session for the 12th July 1958. They recorded two songs in their session at Phillips’ Sound Recording Services: “In Spite of All the Danger”, written by McCartney, and a cover of “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly. The set-up consisted of a microphone in the centre of the room and the band recorded straight to disc, not being able to afford the extra expense of tape. They received a single record, which they shared with and lent to friends and family before it was lost. Band member John Duff Lowe later rediscovered the record and sold it to McCartney in 1981. The Beatles later published the recordings on their album Anthology 1.

Our collection, London Life, 1965–1966, provides insights into the social and cultural transformations that Britain underwent during the so-called "Swinging Sixties". The collection includes articles on the tours staged and new music produced by The Beatles. It also includes an exclusive interview with Paul McCartney in 1965.

Extract from London Life showing an interview with McCartney and drawings of The Beatles band members

London Life, 4th December 1965

Authored by Alice Broome

Alice Broome

Alice Broome is an Editorial Assistant at British Online Archives. She is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics graduate from the University of York.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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