October 9th, 1940 was like many nights during the Battle of Britain, German bombs rained down upon the oil-slicked port city of Liverpool, England. But this night was different; this night was the beginning of the life of an amazing musician, artist, and activist. John Winston Lennon was born.
John Lennon was born to Julia Stanley and Alfred Lennon who married two years before his birth. His father, before hearing he was going to have a son, had gone to sea as a ship steward and his mother decided it would be best for John if he lived with his aunt. He lived with his aunt 'Mimi' and Uncle George at 251 Menlove Avenue in the Woolton district of Liverpool. His aunt has said that John never cared for toys or games. His mind was going all the time; it was either drawing, writing poetry, or reading. John's Uncle George often encouraged him to read the news and keep up with current events, a habit John would keep and that would influence such Beatles classics as 'A Day In The Life.'
John began school in 1945. The reading had really paid off; his teachers were impressed by his vocabulary and how much he excelled in the arts. John's early success in school would be short-lived and by the time he entered high school it was clear that he wouldn't excel as he had in primary school. Teachers had said that he spent most of his time coming up with 'witty remarks' instead of studying. Around this time John began a filling notebooks with the Daily Howl, a news pamphlet that showed what 'witty remarks he had come up with. One ad posted read Women needed, preferably female, apply 28 Rainhill.
1955 was a big year for young Lennon. His mother had reentered his life and began seeing him on a regular basis. John and his mother would be come very close and it would be her who turned John onto music. She had begun teaching him using a banjo that had belonged to his grandfather. The first song he learned was Buddy Holly's 'That'll Be The Day,' which helps explain why Buddy Holly was such a big influence on Lennon. Later that year, John had also purchased his first guitar for ₤5 from the Daily Mail which was advertised as 'guaranteed not to split.'
In 1957, John, along with childhood friend Pete Shotten, formed the Black Jacks, Lennon's first band (they later changed the name to The Quarry Men). On July 6th, 1957, the Quarry Men played their first gig at St. Peter's Church in Woolton. This show was attended by a friend of John's friend, Paul McCartney. After the show, John heard McCartney play 'Twenty Flight Rock' by Eddie Cochran and instantly asked him to join the band. That October John began classes at the Liverpool College of Art, the same time Paul began taking classes at the Liverpool Institute. During the lunch breaks, they would get together in empty classrooms and play their favorite songs. McCartney often brought along a school mate named George Harrison to sit in with the group. One night on the top deck of a bus, Paul asked George to play 'Raunchy' for John. After playing it note for note, George was in the band.
One event though, would greatly affect his life. On July 15th, 1958, John's mother Julia was hit by a car driven by an off-duty police officer while waiting for a bus. John said that his had made him very, very bitter.
John's poor performance in high school had carried over to art school, but he did meet fellow student Stuart Sutcliffe, who would later become the band's first bass player. John also met Cynthia Powell that year. Cynthia, like Stuart seemed to be the polar opposite of John, but the two later became inseparable. They got married in August of 1962 and had a son, Julian, on April 1st, 1963. John later dropped out of school to focus more time on music. In August of 1960, the band asked Pete Best to be their first drummer. Around the same time, the band had gone through several name changes until settling on the Beatles. John said the name came from a vision he had when he was younger where a man came in on a flying pie and said that they would be called the Beatles.
In 1960, the Beatles made their first trip to Hamburg. In Hamburg, the band had become veteran rockers, often playing for drunk, rowdy audiences from 8 P.M. to 2 A.M. While in Germany, Sutcliffe had met a photographer named Astrid Kirchherr and left the group to stay in with her in Germany. He later died of a brain hemorrhage less than two years later.
The following June, on their second trip to Hamburg, the Beatles were asked to record with British singer Tony Sheridan. They recorded several songs including 'When The Saints Go Marching In,' 'My Bonnie,' 'Nobody's Child,' and 'Cry For A Shadow.'
On October 28, 1961, Raymond Jones, a regular customer to the NEMS store in Liverpool asked manager of the record department, Brian Epstein, for a single called 'My Bonnie' by the Beatles. Epstein had never heard of the group, which surprised him because he kept track of local bands. So on November 9th, he went to the Cavern, a club often frequented by the Beatles, to watch their performance. He was amazed not only by their music but by their unorthodox stage performance. On December 3rd, Epstein offered to manage the band.
Brian Epstein made the Beatles go through several changes including cleaning up their rocker image and changing their stage behavior. In January, Epstein took them to Decca Records in London but the label dismissed the band as did most record major British labels.
George Martin, producer for EMI-owned label, Parlophone, finally gave the Beatles a label to record on. Before the Beatles first recording session with Martin, they again changed the line up. Pete Best, who had never been a great drummer, was replaced by Ringo Starr who they had previously met in Hamburg when he played with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Although on their first session, Martin had hired a studio musician instead of having Ringo play.
After trying several different songs, the band finally agreed on a song which would be their first single. 'Love Me Do' was released but only never gained high status on the charts; but on March 2nd 1963, their second single 'Please, Please Me' reached number one in the UK. In August, 'She Loves You' reached number one and thus began Lennon's and the Beatles upward climb to stardom.
On October 13th, 1963, the Beatles headlined a show at the Palladium in London. That night the fans were going wild. Hundreds of screaming fans jammed the streets and created the trademark deafening scream that followed the Beatles where ever they went.