Band names, on paper, might seem like the difference maker between a good group and a great one, when, in reality, they mean next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. The only important aspect at the end of the day is whether you’ve got the tunes to walk the walk and, as we all know, The Beatles had that in abundance. Even with the wittiest band name in the world, it becomes meaningless without the songs to back it up.
The Beatles are proof that a band name is irrelevant once you hear a note of a song. Their name, albeit a corny pun, didn’t prevent them from creating history time and time again. At the beginning of careers, band names are treated with the same importance as songwriting, but not in every case, and it should come as little surprise that The Beatles were inebriated when they landed on their final choice. It takes many artists many pseudonyms before landing on the perfect encapsulation of their image. The story behind the name of The Beatles is no different.
The Beatles members always remained coy about how their name came about, with John Lennon remaining tight-lipped during an interview with Dusty Springfield in which he claimed, “I just thought of it.” This story contrasts with what Lennon declared in the Beatles’ biography in 1961, a time when he insisted that it arrived at him in a dream. “Many people ask what are Beatles?” he wrote. “Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. 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’. Thank you, mister man, they said, thanking him.”
Lennon’s explanations are absurd and untrue, but his tales are more interesting than the rather more bland truth behind The Beatles’ name. Back when the original inception of the group went by the title of The Quarrymen in 1960, new band member Stuart Sutcliffe came up with the confusingly spelt name ‘Beatals’, after being inspired to have an insect-based name because of Buddy Holly’s Crickets.
However, the name was soon abandoned as the group went in their own musical directions with new projects, which didn’t last too long before they’d be back working together, this time as the ‘Silver Beetles’. The name change was supposedly suggested by fellow Merseybeat stalwart Brian Cassar, who fronted Cass and the Cassanovas. Cassar mentioned the name ‘Long John and the Silver Beetles’, but Lennon wasn’t giving his seal of approval to the first half, understandably.
Another moniker they experimented with was the ‘Silver Beats’ for a gig at the Lathom Hall in Liverpool on May 14th. In July, they remerged as the Silver Beatles before switching to The Beatles in August. The decision to spell it Beatles with an “ea” is attributed to Lennon, who couldn’t resist the pun on them being a beat group.
Meanwhile, there has been another explanation offered up by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, who said that the band’s former press officer Taylor told him the name derived from the film The Wild One rather than based on Buddy Holly. In the film, a leathered up motorcycle gang is referred to as the Beetles. According to Davies, “Stu Sutcliffe saw this film, heard the remark, and came back and suggested it to John as the new name for their group. John said yeah, but we’ll spell it Beatles, as we’re a beat group.”
While this is a perfectly reasonable explanation, all that can be deciphered as the gospel truth is that Sutcliffe is why they are called The Beatles and Lennon is the guilty party for the pun. Band names don’t get much more iconic than The Beatles, and it’s hard to imagine them going under any other alias.