The second page of Mersey Beat’s first issue, published on 6 July 1961, featured a biography of The Beatles written by John Lennon. It was titled ‘Being A Short Diversion On The Dubious Origins Of Beatles (Translated From The John Lennon)’, and was given to Harry shortly before the group’s second trip to Hamburg.
Once upon a time there were three little boys called John, George and Paul, by name christened. They decided to get together because they were the getting together type. When they were together they wondered what for after all, what for? So all of a sudden they grew guitars and fashioned a noise. Funnily enough, no one was interested, least of all the three little men. So-o-o-o on discovering a fourth little even littler man called Stuart Sutcliffe running about them they said, quite ‘Sonny get a bass guitar and you will be alright’ and he did – but he wasn’t alright because he couldn’t play it. So they sat on him with comfort ’til he could play. Still there was no beat, and a kindly old man said, quote ‘Thou hast not drums!’ We had no drums! they coffed. So a series of drums came and went and came.
Suddenly, in Scotland, touring with Johnny Gentle, the group (called the Beatles called) discovered they had not a very nice sound – because they had no amplifiers. They got some.
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.
And then a man with a beard cut off said – will you go to Germany (Hamburg) and play mighty rock for the peasants for money? And we said we would play mighty anything for money.
But before we could go we had to grow a drummer, so we grew one in West Derby in a club called Some Casbah and his trouble was Pete Best. we called ‘Hello Pete, come off to Germany!’ ‘Yes!’ Zooooom. After a few months, Peter and Paul (who is called McArtrey, son of Jim McArtrey, his father) lit a Kino (cinema) and the German police said ‘Bad Beatles, you must go home and light your English cinemas’. Zooooom, half a group. But before even this, the Gestapo had taken my friend little George Harrison (of speke) away because he was only twelve and too young to vote in Germany; but after two months in England he grew eighteen and the Gestapoes said ‘you can come’. So suddenly all back in Liverpool Village were many groups playing in grey suits and Jim said ‘Why have you no grey suits?’ ‘We don’t like them, Jim’ we said, speaking to Jim.
After playing in the clubs a bit, everyone said ‘Go to Germany!’ So we are. Zooooom Stuart gone. Zoom zoom John (of Woolton) George (of Speke) Peter and Paul zoom zoom. All of them gone. Thank you club members, from John and George (what are friends).
Bill Harry presumed that Lennon’s spelling of McCartney’s surname – McArtrey – was correct; it was written that way in a number of issues of Mersey Beat, including on the front cover of issue 13.
Delighted at seeing his words in print, Lennon gave Harry a huge number of stories and drawings, offering to let them be used as he wished. Harry invented the pseudonym Beatcomber, under which Lennon’s articles were published. The Beatles were often guests at the Mersey Beat office, helping out, answering the telephone and typing.
I wrote for Mersey Beat. Some things went into In His Own Write, and I used to write a thing called ‘Beatcomber’, because I admired the column ‘Beachcomber’ in the Daily Express. That’s when I wrote with George, ‘A man came on a flaming pie…’ because even back then they were asking: ‘How did you get the name, “The Beatles”?’
The first issue of Mersey Beat also featured an article on a local singer, Priscilla White, who also worked as the cloakroom girl in the Cavern Club. Unable to remember her name, Harry wrote “Cilla Black is a Liverpool girl who is starting on the road to fame…” Fortunately, Cilla liked the name and decided to keep it.
Issue one of Mersey Beat had a print run of 5,000 copies, all of which sold out. Bill Harry placed them with the three major distributors – WH Smith, Blackburn’s and Conlan’s – as well as local newsagents, music venues and record stores in and around the centre of Liverpool.
Among the shops which agreed to stock the newspaper was NEMS in Whitechapel, managed by Brian Epstein. He agreed to take 12 copies which quickly sold out, and more copies were ordered. For the second issue Epstein ordered 144 copies.