Echoes From The Cavern: The Birth Of Mersey Beat, In Its Own Words

The coming music phenomenon got its own name and magazine on July 6, 1961, with a new fortnightly newspaper.

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The Beatles photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Beatles photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The up-and-coming phenomenon of Mersey Beat got its own name and magazine, when the fortnightly newspaper of that name published its first edition for the period July 6-20, 1961. Edited by Bill Harry, it had Gene Vincent on the cover and a Beatles biography on page two written by John Lennon.

The new periodical was the idea of editor Bill Harry, a friend of Lennon’s and fellow Beatle of the time Stuart Sutcliffe. Harry and his girlfriend, and future wife, Virginia, launched it with the help of a loan of £50, and operated from a small office above a wine merchant’s shop in Renshaw Street, about half a mile from the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The 5,000 copies of the first issue swiftly sold out.

Harry later explained that his idea for the newspaper’s title, later the globally-recognised description of the Liverpool pop sound of The Beatles and countless others, was actually conceived with a slightly different meaning. “Sitting alone in the office at about two in the morning, I was attempting to think of a name for the new paper,” he said.

‘I suddenly visualised it as a policeman’s beat’

“Having decided that I’d cover the entire Merseyside region — Liverpool, the Wirral, Southport, Crosby, St. Helens, Widnes, Warrington, and so on — I suddenly visualized it as a policeman’s beat. The image of a copper walking around a map of the surrounding area came into my head, along with the name ‘Mersey Beat.’”

Vincent, by then a rock’n’roll star for five years and in the UK Top 30 at the time with “She She Little Sheila,” was on the cover of the first issue of a publication that always kept a strong sense of Scouse humor. Harry later remembered asking Lennon to write a piece about his group. “When the Beatles returned from Germany, John gave me the biography,” he said, “written in his own inimitable style, which I entitled ‘On The Dubious Origins Of Beatles, Translated From The John Lennon.’”

‘They were the getting together type’

In that hugely entertaining piece, Lennon wrote the story of the group with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “Once upon a time there were three little boys called John, George. and Paul, by name christened,” went the introduction. “They decided to get together because they were the getting together type.”

Later in the article, he wrote the words later remembered in the title of McCartney’s 1997 album, which became the 13th title in his Grammy-winning Archive Collection in July 2020. “Many people ask what are Beatles? 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.”

With thanks to the Beatles Bible.

Listen to the best of The Beatles on Apple Music and  Spotify.

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