The Savage Young Beatles

Michael Gerber
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Beatles Spring 1961 The Grapes

Paul McCartney in glasses, now that’s something you don’t see every day

I must admit to a strange but persistent lack of interest in the prehistory of The Beatles. I can offer no defense; do others feel the same way? Sure, the Hamburg stories are fun — hookers! strippers! possible murder of a drunken sailor! — but even then I feel a certain…impatience. I welcome any attempts to turn me around on this subject.

But even for a hard case like me, this exhaustive and lovingly curated collection of photos from the years before The Beatles were THE BEATLES is quite neat, and well worth a perusal. If you’re looking for early photos of the Beatles, The Savage Young Beatles is where you should start. I certainly learned a lot; for example, Tony Sheridan recorded “Ya Ya Parts 1 & 2.” Most artists would’ve stopped at 1, but Tony was like, “No. We’re doing ’em both.”

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  1. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    Same here, Michael, although I must confess to a girl-fannish interest in the story of John and Paul going off on their own for a little vay-cay without the rest of the group, sleeping together in the same bed, dreaming dreams of stardom. 🙂

    • Yeah, @Karen — the trip to Paris is a notable exception for me, too. It’s sort of a precursor to John and Brian’s heading off to Ibiza. I suppose I sense in it a cementing of friendships essential to the story to follow.

      But the endless gigging in shitty places in Liverpool, Alan Williams, etc — it’s like the Beatles’ version of “juvenalia.”

    • Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

      Karen, don’t sell the Paul/George slash fan fic short! Just think of that hitchhiking trip to Cornwall, with Paul and George sharing a bed!

  2. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    I must admit to a strange but persistent lack of interest in the prehistory of The Beatles. I can offer no defense; do others feel the same way?
    For me, seeing the savage young Beatles is like seeing photos of the Marx brothers from their 1910 vaudeville revue “Fun In High Skule”. The Marx’s personas are not yet fully formed. Harpo is Patsy Branigan. Groucho is the German comic with a crepe mustache. It’s like seeing photos of Chaplin, pre- Little Tramp, when he was experimenting with an “upper-class drunk” character. Or W.C. Fields as a young man billed as “The World’s Greatest Juggler” with greasepaint beard and hobo clothes. The pictures are fascinating as historical documents, and remind me that the best artists’ charismatic images are the result of organic evolution.

    (and of course the Beatles never stopped evolving).

    • YES, that’s it @Sam. For me, there’s a kind of chagrin in seeing the original sketch, because I know how glorious the finished product is.

      • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

        And until very recently, the only photos I’d ever seen of the Beatles with Pete Best were early savage photos. Leather jackets, Tony Sheridan era stuff. Then a few weeks ago I saw some formal portraits of the fully-formed John Paul George and Pete, looking they came off the set of Hard Day’s Night. It was disconcerting in a weird alternate universe way. Like seeing a photo of Groucho Harpo and Harry Ritz.

  3. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Check google images for “Beatles With Pete Best” and there is a photo session with them in suits looking like Hard Day’s Night, and Pete is there. Professional portrait, not “teddy boy” cavern shots. The session must have happened right before Pete got the sack.

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