This week’s Grammy Awards was yet another chance for us to admire the biggest names in popular music today. While all the coverage (and unavoidable controversy) has made up a massive portion of this week’s social media trends, it was great to see artists I adore and respect getting some attention up on stage. What’s even cooler was seeing the collaboration between Paul McCartney, Kanye West, and Rhianna. Seeing Paul (a fucking Beatle!) evolving with the times and continue to remain relevant got me wondering about Sir Paul’s earliest musical ventures. In my research, I discovered that this week marks a number of firsts for the Beatles, including their debut at a venue in which they would play nearly 300 shows, a marathon recording session, and a record-demolishing live television appearance.
Cavern Club Debut – February 9, 1961
The Cavern Club was – and still is – a small performance venue in Liverpool. Originally opened as a jazz club, the spot soon became the host of a number of rock bands, including The Beatles’ predecessor, The Quarrymen. On February 9, 1961, The Beatles made their first appearance on the club’s stage. Story has it that George Harrison arrived to the club in blue jeans, and was turned away by the club’s bouncer, as jeans didn’t fit the club’s dress code. However, an insistent Harrison was eventually allowed in after convincing the bouncer that he was one of the performers. Having just returned from a grueling three-month stint in Hamburg, Germany, the band was remarkably well-rehearsed. Their tight performance, matched with their catchiness and energy earned them a spot as regulars. Between their debut on the Cavern stage, and their final appearance in August of 1963, they played at least 280 times.
Please Please Me Session – Feburary 11, 1963
The Beatles’ debut album, Please Please Me featured 14 tracks, 8 of which were written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Following the success of their earlier singles, they decided to quickly record and produce the album, resulting in a one-day, three-session recording marathon that left them with 10 of the 14 tracks. In total, the band recorded over 60 takes throughout the day, starting at 10:00 am. The first session ended at 1:00 pm, giving the studio hands a chance to get lunch. Instead of taking a lunch break, the band decided to stay in the studio and continue rehearsing songs for the upcoming afternoon session. The second session began at 2:30 pm and ran until 6:00 pm, during which they recorded four songs. The final session started at 7:30, and lasted until 10:45 pm. With nine songs finished at 10:00, they decided their last track would be their long-time show closer, “Twist and Shout.” John Lennon took the microphone for the final two takes of the night, though with twelve hours of recording already behind him, his voice was on the brink of giving out. “The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn’t the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best.” – John Lennon, 1976
First Appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show – Feburary 9, 1964
The Ed Sullivan show was a widely popular television variety show that ran from 1948 to 1971. The show was the host of hundreds of pop culture icons, yet the appearance of The Beatles in 1964 stands as a milestone in pop culture history. The day before their live appearance, The Beatles rehearsed their staging with Neil Aspinall, their road manager standing in for George Harrison who had tonsillitis. Despite his sickness, the band performed five songs total: “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. A record 73 million people watched from 24.2 million homes across the US, completely smashing any previous viewership records. The event helped to further launch their career in the US, and is widely regarded as the start of the British Invasion.