The Beatles were a pop and rock band from Liverpool, England formed in 1960. Primarily the band consisted of John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Throughout their career, The Beatles are recognised for leading the mid-1960s musical “British Invasion” into the United States. Although their initial musical style was rooted in 1950s rock and roll and homegrown skiffle, the group explored genres ranging from Tin Pan Alley to psychedelic rock. Their clothes, styles, and statements made them trend-setters, while their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. After the band broke up in 1970, all four members embarked upon solo careers.
In March 1957, while attending Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool, John Lennon formed a skiffle group called The Quarrymen. Lennon met guitarist Paul McCartney in St. Peter’s Church, on 6 July 1957; Lennon added him to the group a few days later. On 6 February 1958 the 14-year-old guitarist George Harrison was invited to watch the group, which was then playing under a variety of names, at Wilson Hall, Garston, Liverpool. McCartney had become acquainted with Harrison on the morning bus ride to the Liverpool Institute, as they both lived in Speke. Despite Lennon’s initial reluctance due to Harrison’s young age, Harrison joined the Quarrymen as lead guitarist at McCartney’s insistence after a rehearsal in March 1958. Lennon and McCartney both played rhythm guitar during that period and, after original Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton left the band in 1959 following an argument with other band members, had a high turnover of drummers. Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined on bass in January 1960.
The Quarrymen went through a progression of names, including “Johnny and the Moondogs” and “Long John and The Beatles”. Sutcliffe suggested the name “The Beetles” as a tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. After a tour with Johnny Gentle in Scotland, the band changed their name to “The Beatles”. Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia Lennon, suggested that Lennon came up with the name The Beatles at a “brainstorming session over a beer-soaked table in the Renshaw Hall bar.” Lennon, who was well known for giving multiple versions of the same story, joked in a 1961 Mersey Beat newspaper article that “It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an A’”. During an interview in 2001, McCartney took credit for the peculiar spelling of the name, saying that “John had the idea of calling us the Beetles; I said, ‘How about The Beatles; you know, like the beat of the drum?’ At the time, everyone was stoned enough to find it hilarious. It’s funny how history is made.”
In May 1960, the then Silver Beetles toured northeast Scotland as a back-up band with singer Johnny Gentle, whom the band had met an hour before their first gig. McCartney referred to the tour as a great experience for the band. For the tour, the often drummer-less group secured the services of Tommy Moore, who was considerably older than the others. Moore left the band soon after the tour and went back to work in a bottling factory as a forklift truck driver. Norman Chapman was the band’s next drummer, but was called up for National Service a few weeks later. His departure posed a serious problem, for the group’s unofficial manager, Allan Williams, had arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, West Germany.Â They went through a long list of drummers over the next two years, but after signing a record contract they finally settled on Richard Starkey, known as Ringo Starr.Â Starr had subbed a few times for the Beatles when they were in Hamburg, in early 1960 but only became permanent in 1962 when Pete Best was asked to leave the band.
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
The lyrics of the song sketch an encounter between the singer and an unnamed girl. They drink wine in her room and talk into the night. However, at 2 A.M. the unnamed girl ceases their flirtation, which the speaker may have been hoping to end in consummation, declaring “it’s time for bed”, leaving him to crawl off to “sleep in the bath” alone.
“Norwegian Wood” refers to the cheap pinewood that often finished the interiors of working class British flats. The last verse states that the singer lights a fire, the implication being that the singer in fact sets fire to the girl’s flat, presumably as revenge for not sleeping with the singer.
I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…
She showed me her room, isn’t it good, norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair.
I sat on a rug, drinking her wine, biting my time,
We talked until two and then she said, “It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, norwegian wood.