Rock n' Roll
In 1940—the year John Lennon and Ringo Starr were born—the Nazis bombed Liverpool every other day. These attacks were part of the Blitz, a military strategy designed to demoralize the European Allies with relentless bombing of strategic and civilian locations in England and Northern Ireland. Because the majority of war supplies shipped from abroad (mainly the United States) entered Great Britain through the Liverpool docks, the port city was a key target throughout the war. Lennon and Starr were too young to remember the constant air raids, but they and the other Beatles certainly experienced the effects of the war as children and young adults. When they were in elementary school, much of the city was still in ruins, unemployment was high, and food rationing—which continued until 1954—was a part of daily life.
The Nazis, in obvious contrast, never bombed the United States, which enjoyed an economic boom in the postwar period. The Beatles and other European youths saw the U.S. as a land of hope and optimism. With American support, the Liverpool docks once again filled with ships in the postwar years. As Marshall Plan aid helped rebuild Liverpool’s economy, the transmission of American culture—especially movies and music—also inspired the area's youth. Merchant seamen known as the Cunard Yanks traveled to New York City and returned to Liverpool wearing American fashion and carrying American recordings, including Blues, Country, and Rock and Roll.
The Beatles did not start off together. John was in a band called "The Quarrymen," named after their school. They played a style of music that combined country, blues, folk and comedy, called Skiffle. It was popular in Liverpool, but not really anywhere else. It used quite a few homemade instruments. Look for pictures of the wash basin bass in the following recording. As Rock n' Roll music spread to Liverpool, the Quarrymen added that music to their style. At this point, Paul, who was a few years younger than John, was asked to join the band because he already could play more guitar chords than the other members. Soon George, who was a year younger but had taken a few guitar lessons, joined the band. They were still known as the Quarrymen, but not for much longer. What you are about to hear is the first ever recording of musicians that would become The Beatles This song was a cover of a classic Buddy Holly song and was recorded in 1958 when the boys were 18, 16 and 15. The Quarrymen did not include Ringo, who at the time was playing with more "successful" groups.
Now listen to the original: What did John do to sound like the voice of Buddy Holly?
Class 3: Who were the 1950's musicians that inspired The Beatles and countless other musicians? What makes them so special?