Beatles as Teddyboys

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The Beatles outside the Cavern (1962)
Their Teddyboys' Facade

While there are, without a doubt, numerous examples of the feisty and aggressive demeanour displayed by the Beatles during the early Liverpool days, some of these documented accounts are somewhat more salient than others and are presented here. To this end, a number of relevant comments were made by Gerry Marsden, of the famed Gerry and the Pacemakers, when visiting the Cavern to see the Beatles, shortly after the Fab Four had returned from Hamburg. Gerry is credited with the prediction "John and Paul are going to be big, big, big. Never mind what happens to the Beatles, there's nothing can stop those two." In reference to John, he added, "The attitude of the man. They'll be the first band out of Liverpool to make it." A further illustration of the Beatles "attitude" comes from a frequent routine acted out by the Beatles during many of their Cavern performances. In this amusing performance, John would ask "Where are we going fellas?" and the band would respond "To the top, Johnny to the top!" John would continue "And where is the top fellas?" and the response would be "To the toppermost of the poppermost!"

Bob Wooler, the well known disc jockey and Cavern announcer, characterized John Lennon as having "aggressiveness but not aggression." Wooler adds "He managed to give off this attitude of not caring two hoots, but deep down I know he did. He loved every minute." Historical accounts of Lennon's interaction with fans and friends are replete with situations in which he used his toughness to distance himself from others while at the same time betraying his emotions of caring and concern. Lennon felt that he had to be tough to be successful and was able to put on the "act" whenever it was required. Lennon openly acknowledged the importance of toughness as a "put on." In his words "You have to put it over a bit to do rock and roll." Sometimes John put it over too much and as a consequence had his own raw edge returned by the fist of an insulted patron. In Gerry Marsden's words "You don't walk away often, on Merseyside, when you give a mouthful of abuse to someone. I saw him get many a pasting." In reference to his teddyboy image Lennon claimed "I wasn't really a Ted, just a Rocker. I was imitating Teds, pretending to be one. I was never a real one, with chains and real gangs." (see Davies, 1978)

The Beatles were to experience first hand the effects of street violence from the earliest of their live performances. During Lennon's performance with the Quarry Men at Rosebery Street centenary party, during July 1957, the group required a policeman to escort them safely to the nearest bus stop. A most traumatic experience for the Beatles was the loss of Stuart Sutcliffe to a cerebral hemorrhage on April 10, 1962. While it has never been proven, Stuart suffered a severe beating and injury to his head at a perfomance in Lathom Hall, Liverpool on May 14, 1960 which may have contributed to his severe and persistent headaches and his sudden death. There is much confusion in the available literature with regard to the location and the date of Stuart's assault. So the group rose above these street battles and seemed to accept, almost as commonplace, that physical altercations were part and parcel of Liverpool life as a musician.

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