Culture Re-View: On this day in 1957, Lennon met McCartney

John Lennon, left, and Paul McCartney as they smile during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, 1965
John Lennon, left, and Paul McCartney as they smile during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, 1965 Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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6 July 1957: When Lennon met McCartney


Salt and pepper. Apples and oranges. Yin and Yang… Lennon and McCartney. In the history of great duos, very little comes close to the magnetic poles of creative brilliance that made up the majority of The Beatles’ writing talent.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s sheer genius when it came to songwriting was a driving force in the cultural revolution that saw the 60s shift the world’s perception of not just music, but of youth, drugs, politics and hair. McCartney’s knack for hooks and Lennon’s bravado experimentalism melded perfectly to form The Beatles legendary discography: 12 albums and 63 singles released between 1963 and 1970.

Although the weight of their individual personality would eventually be the root of the quartet's breakup, today we’re looking at the day they first met.

On this day in 1957, a 16-year-old Lennon was playing a gig with his skiffle band The Quarrymen at the St. Peter's Church Rose Queen garden fête in Woolton, Liverpool. The young Lennon was a fan of the jazz-inflected music genre and played the gig with a collection of mates including his Quarry Bank High School friend, Eric Griffiths.

Lennon’s mother Julia had taught him and Griffiths how to tune and play a guitar to sound like a banjo. They formed the band in late 1956, naming it after their school. Lennon, Griffiths and other friends rehearsed regularly and performed at local venues around Liverpool.

By the time they reached the Rose Queen party, the Quarrymen were a tight band that had snatched the opportunity to play both as part of the moving float parade at the event and on a permanent stage later in the day.

Wikimedia Commons/London Features International
The Quarrymen performing in Rosebery Street, Liverpool on 22 June 1957 (L); playing at St. Peter's Church garden fête (R)Wikimedia Commons/London Features International

As they went through a rendition of ‘Come Go With Me’ by the Del-Vikings, a recently-turned-15 Paul McCartney arrived. In the church’s Scout hut after the performance, McCartney was introduced to Lennon by Quarrymen member Ivan Vaughan.

That first interaction lasted just a few minutes. Lennon only had a bit of time before he had to set up for a third performance at the evening’s grand dance. It was enough time for McCartney to impress though.

Showing off how he tuned his guitar, McCartney caught Lennon’s attention most by knowing all the lyrics to Eddie Cochran's song ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ during a mini-performance of a few songs including a Little Richard medley.

They said their goodbyes. Lennon prepared for the next performance and McCartney went home. In the end, the final Quarrymen performance that night would be interrupted by a thunderstorm. Despite the disruption, Lennon didn’t forget about his new young friend.

Dan Grossi/AP1964
The Beatles, from left, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr on drums, George Harrison and John Lennon on Feb. 9, 1964 in New YorkDan Grossi/AP1964

On the way home, while chatting to Quarrymen washboard player Pete Shotton, he decided he’d invite McCartney into the band.

It took two weeks before Shotton would bump into McCartney to extend Lennon’s invitation. McCartney conveyed he was interested via Vaughan the next day and the greatest songwriting duo in history was formed.

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