Researching The Beatles by David Bedford

So, what does it take to research The Beatles? How do we Beatles authors and historians find the information?

Sometimes, just finding out a date can take weeks. In “The Fab one hundred and Four”, I was determined to find out when the first colour photograph of The Quarrymen was taken (see below). Sounds easy, but it was anything but! In the photograph, leaning against the wall with a half pint of Guinness is Dennis Littler, a good friend of Paul McCartney’s cousin Ian Harris. I tracked Dennis down, to find out what I could. Dennis sometimes let John, Paul or George borrow his guitar,  an Antoria Cello acoustic, which was more expensive than their guitars!

This is what Dennis remembered (taken from “The Fab one hundred and Four”):

Paul, George and John would often come to my house and play on my guitar, because it was a lot more expensive than the guitars they had, and obviously was a much better guitar too. I never performed with The Quarrymen, but rehearsed with them. I remember Paul coming to me one day and saying that he had worked out how to play ‘Butter y’ by Charlie Gracie and he played it perfectly. He had that knack of being able to pick a song up so quickly and it was
obvious how good he was. He could pick up songs like ‘Long Tall Sally’ by ear, and sing like Little Richard too because he had such a great voice. 

“When Ian got married, John, Paul and George were asked to provide some music, which is when the photo was taken by Mike McCartney, the first colour photograph featuring The Beatles. I am seen next to the wall with my glass of Guinness. I don’t remember much about the day I’m afraid.

So, the information that I had was that the photo was taken at the wedding of Ian Harris and Jacqueline Gavin. So all I needed to find was the day that Ian and Jacqueline got married. After searching databases and records, no such wedding took place between an Ian Harris and Jacqueline Harris between 1957 and 1959, and we know the wedding took place sometime in 1958. Where to go next?

As Ian Harris was a member of the McCartney family, they never use their first names. James Paul McCartney and Peter Michael McCartney for example. Ian’s dad was Harry, and as Paul had his father’s name, a search for Harry Ian Harris proved successful! In fact, Jacqueline didn’t use her first name either! She was Cecilia Jacqueline Gavin. Families eh? I then obtained a copy of the marriage certificate to provide the information I needed.

And so, as per the marriage certificate, Harry Ian Harris married Cecilia Jacqueline Gavin on 8th March 1958, the date the first colour photograph of The Quarrymen was taken, by Peter Michael McCartney!

So, for the purposes of the book, all you need to know is that the photo was taken on 8th March 1958. What you don’t see is the research behind finding that date. Believe me, that is the thrill of the historian/ researcher!

Read the full story behind the photograph in “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles from The Quarrymen to the Fab Four”

David Bedford

The first colour photo of The Quarrymen, with Dennis Littler

The first colour photo of The Quarrymen, with Dennis Littler





5 thoughts on “Researching The Beatles by David Bedford

  1. Garry Popper

    As a documentary producer I was very pleased to see the level of diligent research being put into you work. The Fab 104 is next on my priority reading list after wading through Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In. After producing The City That Rocked The World, we are now quietly busy on two more productions about the period in the City. Too many contributors to list here, but would love to add your undoubted knowledge to the projects to get it right. Give me a call. Best regards. Gary Popper. M:07706 030307.

  2. dderose2015moneysaver

    David, as a Beatle’s expert do you believe their music was in top form early on or would you say their music became more complex as they matured as a group? I just got a message from Joyce. I edited her soon to be published book, Wish You Were Here, a Badfinger Story (title to be amended to read a Badfinger Rock Fantasy). She told me she is in contact with you, so cool. Her and I have discussed this topic at length and I just thought I might get your opinion on it… and thanks.
    Dennis @ Moneysaver Editing

    1. David Bedford Post author

      Thank you for the kind “Beatles expert” tag! Their first couple of albums were good, if not stretching. They were learning their trade, but what they were good at was making songs appear simple, but you try and write them! And of course they were doing some covers as well. What they knew from early on was how to write a hit song. They found the formula, but never left it at that, always pushing themselves to try new things, sounds, arrangements etc. Their genius was making complex look easy. By the Rubber Soul/Revolver era, they were writing for themselves, and not trying to get a hit every time. The Badfinger book sounds really exciting – I’m a friend of Joey Molland and have done a few Fest shows with him. Great guy. Hope I can help.

      1. Paul Clinton

        David is indeed an expert. I have learned much from David on the Beatles. Not every “heavyweight Beatles author” is so generous with his time to fans. If your in Liverpool take the time to pre-arrange a Beatles history tour. You will be glad you did!

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