Before The Beatles became the iconic group associated with the immortal name of ‘The Beatles’, John Lennon formed the Quarrymen in 1957, and they performed skiffle music in and around Liverpool and the surrounding areas.
Throughout their early career, the group managed a few key line-up changes as they searched for the right name for the band in tandem. Before ‘The Quarrymen’, they were called ‘The Blackjacks’. Paul McCartney then joined the band after the fateful and famous meeting with John Lennon on July 6th, 1957 at St. Peter’s Church. Eventually, George Harrison was introduced to the group through McCartney, and as The Quarrymen performed at various venues, the group would yet again undergo new name changes.
One day, the members showed up to a gig wearing different coloured shirts so they decided to call themselves ‘The Rainbows’. In a talent show they did in 1959, they called themselves ‘Johnny and the Moondogs’. How on earth did they end up with the name, ‘The Beatles’?
Why did the Beatles spell their name with an ‘A’?
When John Lennon’s best friend from art college, Stu Sutcliffe had joined the band as the bass player, the story goes that the two were discussing possible band names, and came up with ‘The Beetles’ as they were huge fans of Buddy Holly and The Crickets – as a way of emulating their heroes, they called themselves after an insect.
Why do The Beatles spell their name with an ‘A’?
There are multiple versions of the story as to how The Beatles adopted the ‘A’ in their name.
According to a humorous article that John Lennon wrote which appeared in the Mersey Beat in 1961, Lennon had whimsically described the inspiration in a hyperbolic and nonsensical dream sequence.
“It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘from this day forward you are the Beatles with an ‘A’! Thank you mister man, they said, thanking him,” he said.
Most of the accounts claim that Lennon’s love of wordplay is what led them to eventually adopt the ‘a’. Lennon would explain in a 1964 interview: “It was beat and beetles and when you said it, people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music.”
Years later after Lennon’s death in 1980, George Harrison claimed in the Beatles’ Anthology documentary that the name came about differently (as is usually the case).
Harrison claimed that the name, ‘The Beatles’, came from the 1953 Marlon Brando film, The Wild One. In the film, Brando played a character called ‘Johnny’ and was in a gang called ‘The Beetles’.
This would add up considering that the group also flirted with the name of ‘Johnny and the Beetles’, as well as ‘Long John and the Silver Beetles’.
Even Yoko Ono claimed at one point, years later, that Lennon thought of the name alone as per his crazy dream sequence involving the ‘flaming pie’ – this is where Paul McCartney got his idea for the name of his tenth solo record in 1997, ‘Flaming Pie’.
What other names did The Beatles have?
Just like when The Quarrymen went through various names, the Fab Four’s metamorphosis into ‘The Beatles’ wasn’t an overnight process – although, in retrospect, it would certainly seem that way.
During the early part of the 1960s, the group shuffled through various names, including: ‘The Beetles’, ‘The Silver Beetles’, ‘The Beatals’, ‘The Silver Beets’, and even the similar ‘The Silver Beatles’.
Considering all the possible explanations, there’s no real way of knowing for certain how they came up with the final iteration of ‘The Beatles’ with an ‘a’. Not to mention, the Fab Four were infamous for their silly answers in interviews; they never took any interviewers seriously (except for when Lennon was nearly crucified for saying that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus Christ).
They were once asked in an interview what ‘The Beatles’ means – in response they said: “Beatles just means us!” Adding, “you know those small crawly things? We’re the big crawly things!”