Playboy: OK, we’re on. Why don’t we begin by…
John Lennon: Doing Hamlet. (laughter)
Ringo Starr: Yeah, yeah, let’s do that.
Playboy: That sounds fun, but just for laughs, why don’t we do an interview instead?
George Harrison: Say, that’s a fine idea. I wish I’d thought of that.
Paul McCartney: What shall we ask you for a first question?
Ringo: About those Bunny girls…
Playboy: No comment. Let’s start over. Ringo, you’re the last Beatle to join the group, aren’t you?
John: A few years probably… sort of off and on, really… for three years or so.
Paul: Yeah, but really amateur.
George: The local pub, you know. And in each other’s uncle’s houses.
John: And at George’s brother’s wedding. Things like that. Ringo used to fill in sometimes if our drummer was ill. With his periodic illness.
Ringo: He took little pills to make him ill.
Playboy: When you joined the others Ringo, they weren’t quite as big as they are now, were they?
Ringo: They were the biggest thing in Liverpool. In them days that was big enough.
Paul: This is a point we’ve made before. Some people say a man is made of muscle and blood… No they don’t… they say, ‘How come you’ve suddenly been able to adjust to fame,’ you know, to nationwide fame and things. It all started quite nicely with us, you see, in our own sphere where we used to play, in Liverpool. We never used to play outside it, except when we went to Hamburg. Just those two circles. And in each of them, I think we were ’round the highest paid, and probably at the time the most popular. So in actual fact we had the same feeling of being famous then as we do now.
George: We were recognized then, too, only people didn’t chase us about.
Paul: But it just grew. The quantity grew; not the quality of the feeling.
Playboy: When did you know that you had really hit it big? There must have been one night when you knew it really had begun.
John: Well, we’d been playing ’round in Liverpool for a bit without getting anywhere, trying to get work, and the other groups kept telling us, ‘You’ll do alright, you’ll get work someday.’ And then we went back to Hamburg, and when we came back, suddenly we were a ‘Wow.’ Mind you, 70 percent of the audience thought we were a ‘German Wow,’ but we didn’t care about that.
Paul: We were billed in the paper: ‘From Hamburg – The Beatles.’
John: In Liverpool, people didn’t even know we were from Liverpool. They thought we were from Hamburg. They said, ‘Christ, they speak good English!’ Which we did, of course, being English. But that’s when we first, you know, stood there being cheered for the first time.
Paul: That was when we felt we were…
John: …on the way up.
Paul: …gonna make it in Liverpool.
Playboy: How much were you earning then?
John: For that particular night, 20 dollars.
John: For the group! Hell, we used to work for less than that.
Paul: We used to work for about three or four dollars a night.
Ringo: Plus all the Coke we could drink. And we drank a lot.
Playboy: Do you remember the first journalist who came to see you and said, ‘I want to write about you’?
Ringo: We went ’round to them at first, didn’t we?
John: We went and said, ‘We’re a group and we’ve got this record out. Will you…’
George: And the door would slam.
Playboy: We’ve heard it said that when you first went to America you were doubtful that you’d make it over there.
John: That’s true. We didn’t think we were going to make it at all. It was only Brian telling us we were gonna make it. Brian Epstein our manager, and George Harrison.
George: I knew we had a good chance… because of the record sales over there.
John: The thing is, in America it just seemed ridiculous… I mean, the idea of having a hit record over there. It was just, you know, something you could never do. That’s what I thought anyhow. But then I realized that it’s just the same as here, that kids everywhere all go for the same stuff. And seeing we’d done it in England and all, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it in America, too. But the American disc jockeys didn’t know about British records; they didn’t play them; nobody promoted them, and so you didn’t have hits.
George: Well, there were one or two doing it as a novelty.
John: But it wasn’t until Time and Life and Newsweek came over and wrote articles and created an interest in us that American disc jockeys started playing our records. And Capitol said, ‘Well, can we have their records?’ You know, they had been offered our records years ago, and they didn’t want them. But when they heard we were big over here they said, ‘Can we have ‘em now?’ So we said, ‘As long as you promote them.’ So Capitol promoted, and with them and all these articles on us, the records just took off.
Playboy: There’s been some dispute among your fans and critics, about whether you’re primarily entertainers or musicians… or perhaps neither. What’s your own opinion?
John: We’re money-makers first; then we’re entertainers.
Ringo: No, we’re not.
John: What are we, then?
Ringo: Dunno. Entertainers first.
Ringo: ‘Cuz we were entertainers before we were money-makers.
John: That’s right, of course. It’s just that the press drivels it into you, so you say it ‘cuz they like to hear it, you know.
Paul: Still, we’d be idiots to say that it isn’t a constant inspiration to be making a lot of money. It always is, to anyone. I mean, why do big business tycoons stay big business tycoons? It’s not because they’re inspired at the greatness of big business; they’re in it because they’re making a lot of money at it. We’d be idiots if we pretended we were in it solely for kicks. In the beginning we were, but at the same time we were hoping to make a bit of cash. It’s a switch around now, though, from what it used to be. We used to be doing it mainly for kicks and not making a lot of money, and now we’re making a lot of money without too many kicks… except that we happen to like the money we’re making. But we still enjoy making records, going on-stage, making films, and all that business.
John: We love every minute of it, Beatle people!
Also on this day...
- 1965: Mixing: We Can Work It Out
- 1964: Live: ABC Cinema, Exeter
- 1963: Live: Borås Hallen, Borås, Sweden
- 1962: Live: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
- 1961: Raymond Jones orders My Bonnie from Brian Epstein
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.