The Beatles live: Sydney Stadium, Sydney

The Beatles gave two performances on the second of their three-night residency at the Sydney Stadium in Sydney, Australia, on 19 June 1964. Each concert was seen by 12,000 fans.

Sydney Stadium was the city’s only large-capacity concert venue at the time. It stood on the corner of New South Head Road and Neild Avenue, Rushcutters Bay, but was demolished in 1973 to make way for the Eastern Suburbs Railway. A commemorative plaque now marks the former site.

Ticket for The Beatles in Sydney, Australia, 19 June 1964

Back in England, extracts from John Lennon’s In His Own Write were read out in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Charles Curran. The politician disdainfully noted that: “He has a feeling for words and story telling, and yet he is in a state of pathetic near literacy.” However, a fellow Conservative MP, Norman Miscampbell, defended Lennon in the parliamentary exchange.

Let me try to convey to the House one of the consequences of not providing this kind of education for the kind of children about whom we are talking. I want to quote an expert whose name is famous not only here, but throughout the world. He is perhaps almost the most celebrated living Englishman. His name is John Lennon and he is one of the Beatles. I have never seen or heard the Beatles, but I have been very interested indeed to read a book by John Lennon, published in America and, I believe, in this country. It is called “In His Own Write”.

The book contains a number of poems and fairy stories written by Lennon. These tell a great deal about the education he received in Liverpool. He explains that he was born there in 1940 and attended various schools, where he could not pass examinations. I would like to quote one of the poems. It is one that the Ministry of Education and Science might well distribute to every member of its staff concerned with the kind of children we are discussing. It is called “Deaf Ted, Danoota and Me”.

I will quote three verses from it: Never shall we partly stray, Fast stirrup all we three Fight the battle mighty sword Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me. Thorg Billy grows and Burnley ten, And Aston Villa three We clobber ever gallup Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me. So if you hear a wondrous sight, Am blutter or at sea, Remember whom the mighty say Deaf Ted, Danoota, and me.’

I quote that poem not because of its literary merit, but because one can see from it, as from other poems and stories in the book, two things about John Lennon: he has a feeling for words and story telling and he is in a state of pathetic near-literacy. He seems to have picked up bits of Tennyson, Browning and Robert Louis Stevenson while listening with one ear to the football results on the wireless.

The book suggests to me a boy who, on the evidence of these writings, should have been given an education which would have enabled him to develop the literary talent that he appears to have. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State can tell us anything about what kind of school this Beatle went to. The volume from which I have quoted strikes me as singularly pathetic and touching.

The boy appears to be a sort of throwback to H. G. Wells’s “Mr. Polly”, who was brought up in much the same fashion and who was also a boy with a love for and ability with words which he was unable to get developed in school so that, when he was grown up, he talked about “Sesquipedarian verbijooce.” “Mr. Polly” went to school nearly 100 years ago, but it seems that the kind of education that made him talk like that was still being supplied in Liverpool when John Lennon was at school in the 1950s. I would like my hon. Friend to tell us what the secondary modern schools of Liverpool are like now. What sort of education is being provided for that sort of boy at present?

Charles Curran MP (Conservative, Uxbridge)
I was interested in my hon. Friend’s mention of the Beatles. It is unfair to say that Lennon of the Beatles was not well educated. I cannot say which, but three of the four went to grammar school and as a group are highly intelligent, highly articulate and highly engaging.

I think that we would draw the wrong conclusions if we thought that the success which they are having came from anything other than great skill. They provide an outlet for many people who find it difficult to integrate themselves into society when they move into adolescence. The Beatles, and groups like them, are giving such people an outlet, and are taking up the slack which ought to have been provided by a deeper education.

Norman Miscampbell MP (Conservative, Blackpool North)
Last updated: 24 January 2024
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The Beatles live: Sydney Stadium, Sydney
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