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(Credit: Capitol Records)

Music

The Beatles’ cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘That'll Be The Day’ during 1958 recording session

The world before Beatlemania seems so distant now that it’s hard to fathom what it must’ve been like when the group were in their early years of formation, wandering around unrecognisable to the public. Similarly, it’s difficult to imagine what the world would be like today if the Beatles hadn’t become the focal point of not only a musical revolution but a global cultural revolution.

Would one of the other British invasion bands of the 1960s have taken the spotlight instead? Would we have had such an iconic cultural shift? These questions are, of course, unanswerable, but what we can be certain of is that the world would be a very different place today had the Beatles not existed.

After so many years of The Beatles’ rule atop the ladder of popular music, it can be difficult to conceive that they were giants who stood on the shoulders of others. Their main influences were rooted in the earliest form of blues-based rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. The Beatles took a lot of inspiration from American greats like Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. It was these musicians that they would cover in their early shows before they had a healthy back-catalogue in the Lennon-McCartney locker. 

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Before The Beatles were The Beatles, they were The Quarrymen. This early group was formed by 16-year-old John Lennon in 1956 with his friends from Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. They were briefly called the Blackjacks, but this was changed very early on to The Quarrymen.

In 1957, Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at St Peter’s Church Hall fete in Woolton. The pair got on like a house on fire, and it wasn’t long before McCartney joined The Quarrymen, initially as a rhythm guitarist.

In February 1958, McCartney invited his younger friend George Harrison, a keen guitarist, to watch the band play. Harrison auditioned for Lennon, and although impressed by the young lad’s talent, he thought he was too young (Harrison was nearly three years younger than Lennon).

After persisting for a few weeks, McCartney managed to get Harrison back in front of Lennon while travelling on the top deck of a Liverpool bus. Harrison played a near-perfect rendition of the instrumental Bill Justis number, ‘Raunchy’. This ostensibly impressed Lennon more than the first audition, and Harrison was subsequently recruited as lead guitarist.

In the summer after Harrison’s recruitment in 1958, The Quarrymen recorded some early covers. Below is The Quarrymen’s cover of Buddy Holly’s classic song, ‘That’ll Be The Day’. It was recorded on July 14th, 1958, at Percy Phillips’ Studio, Liverpool. This was part of what was later regarded as The Beatles’ first-ever recording.