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The Beatles and The Beats
7 October 2021
Brian Hassett
Toronto, Canada, after 30 years in Manhattan
A Beginning
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15 September 2021
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I searched the Fab Forum here and didn’t find a thread on The Beatles and their connection to the Beat Generation, of which there were many.  

There was a scholarly article out of England last year including an interview with British Beat poet Royston Ellis and how the band changed the spelling of their name after doing gigs backing up the Beat poet.

Paul sat in with Allen Ginsberg at the Royal Albert Hall in ’95 —…..C_oiC0T3E0

And of course Allen joined John on stage at his One to One concert at Madison Square Garden in 1972 — 

John also invited Allen to his 31st birthday party held in upstate New York, which there’s actually home movie footage of them together.

And William S. Burroughs is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper — at the same time he was living in Ringo’s also apartment in London.  From my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac” — 

“William did some cut-ups and we did some crazy tape recordings in the basement,” McCartney remembers. “We used to sit around talking about all these amazing inventions that people were making, like the Dream Machine that Ian [Sommerville] and Brion Gysin had made. It was all very new and very exciting.”

Also from that same book — 

“And speaking of John, that little leprechaun from Liverpool had picked up on the Beat aesthetic even before he named his band after them. Right around the time the San Francisco obscenity police did deviants everywhere a huge favor by making Howl world famous, John began writing his own newspaper at Quarry Bank High School called “The Daily Howl,” with detailed but completely imaginary news reports — oddly reminiscent of the detailed imaginary news reports Kerouac himself wrote about his own fantasy baseball league, which was complete with player gossip, field conditions and sensational headlines.”

But what really prompted me to post this Beats / Beatles connection was reading a transcript of George & Paul talking in the studio in January 1969 about George seeing an obscure play by Beat poet/playwright Michael McClure — which prompted an investigation of how that came to be.  😉

The following people thank Brian Hassett for this post:

7 October 2021
Ahhh Girl
sailing on a winedark open sea



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Yes, yes, good thread. Ron Nasty and I went to Ye Cracke in Liverpool where John and his art school friends went after attending a poetry reading by Royston Ellis…..#p181568 

The first link in your post goes to a post from The Beat Museum in San Francisco. To think! I went to that museum in 2011, 2 years before I was introduced to the Beatles via a Paul McCartney concert I got dragged to (see my bio in my profile). I probably looked right at something Beatles related and didn’t even notice it. Argh.

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Brian Hassett
9 October 2021
Inside Von Bontee's mind
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There’s also this…


“Portland Coliseum”
by Allen Ginsberg

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children’s
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived

Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other’s sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
—hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing

while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.

-August 27, 1965

The following people thank vonbontee for this post:

Brian Hassett

GEORGE: In fact, The Detroit Sound. JOHN: In fact, yes. GEORGE: In fact, yeah. Tamla-Motown artists are our favorites. The Miracles. JOHN: We like Marvin Gaye. GEORGE: The Impressions PAUL & GEORGE: Mary Wells. GEORGE: The Exciters. RINGO: Chuck Jackson. JOHN: To name but eighty. 


9 October 2021
Ron Nasty
Apple rooftop

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In response to a question over on Quora asking “Who was the Liverpudlian author who was a friend of John Lennon and made famous by Paperback Writer ?”, not agreeing with the three answers already given, I gave the following response on 5 May:

I’m going to disagree with the other answers to this question, there was an author who was a friend of John’s and who has, by some, been claimed to have inspired “Paperback Writer “. He’s not a Liverpudlian though, but a Londoner, and his name is Royston Ellis (d.o.b. 10 February 1941).

Royston-Ellis.jpgImage Enlarger

Going on to become a novelist, biographer, and travel writer (for the Daily Mail), at the time The Beatles met him in the summer of 1960, he was a making a name for himself as a beat poet, and was often backed by musicians during his readings in London (including Cliff Richard’s backing band, The Shadows, and Jimmy Page).

He came up to Liverpool in June 1960 to give a lecture at the Liverpool College of Art entitled “Jazz and Poetry” as part of their “Festival of the Arts”. He gave the lecture twice, on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 June 1960.

In the audience on the Friday were John, Stuart Sutcliffe, Bill Harry and Rod Murray. The lecture didn’t impress them, and after the lecture they went to their favoured watering hole, Ye Cracke, to discuss what they’d heard.

Dissenters-plaque-Ye-Cracke.jpgImage Enlarger

However, Stuart Sutcliffe later invited him to stay at his flat at 3 Gambier Terrace for a few days, with The Beetles backing him during a poetry reading at the Jacaranda coffee bar (owned by their then manager Allan Williams).

He introduced The Beatles to Benzedrine during that stay, showing them how to get it from a Vicks’ Inhaler; something later shown to Paul by Jane Asher’s father, who liked to shock, and left Paul unsure whether to admit he already knew the trick.

Ellis had some thoughts of working with them more permanently: “I recall discussing with John (Lennon) at the Gambier Terrace flat my plan to take John, Stuart, George and Paul to London to back me on my poetry reading performances. This was reported in the Record Mirror of 9 July 1960 – the first ever major musical press reference to ‘the Beetles’ with a follow-up in the next issue, 14 July 1960, in which I described the Beetles thus ‘For some time I have been searching for a group to use regularly and I feel that the Beetles (most of them are Liverpool art students) fit the bill.'”

Nothing came of the idea, however while it was being discussed Ellis suggested a slight name change: “I asked John what name he was calling the group. He said the Beetles. I asked him how it was spelt and he said B-E-E-T-L-E-S. That’s when I suggested that since they liked the beats and I was a beat poet, why not spell it with an A.

“I recall cooking a meal at the flat one day which included frozen chicken pie. Somehow I managed to burn the chicken pie. It is that, I have always assumed, that gave rise to John’s reference to ‘a man on a flaming pie’ suggesting they call themselves Beatles with an A.”

Before one of The Beatles Hamburg visits John suggested, via Allan Williams, that Ellis come with them as compere, an offer he turned down.

They next ran into him when they were playing a concert in Guernsey on 8 August 1963, where he was working as a ferryboat engineer:

royston_beatles.jpegImage Enlarger

While it is certainly debatable how much of an inspiration he was on Paul when writing “Paperback Writer “, this encounter certainly resulted in a Beatles song, when John went back to spend the night at Ellis’ flat, and to meet his girlfriend, Stephanie; a night that became the inspiration for “Polythene Pam “:

“That was me, remembering a little event I had with a woman in Jersey [sic]. A poet [Royston Ellis], a beatnik that looked like a beatnik who was from Liverpool, took me to this apartment of his in Jersey. So this poet took me to his place and asked me if I wanted to meet this girl, Polythene Pam , who dressed up in polythene. Which she did. In polythene bags. She didn’t wear jack boots and kilts – I just sort of elaborated – and no, she didn’t really look like a man. There was nothing much to it. It was kind of perverted sex in a polythene bag. But it provided something to write a song about.”

(I often think the idea of Ellis coming from Liverpool comes from quote of John’s, where I think John means that they knew him from their Liverpool days, rather than he was a Liverpudlian.)

Royston Ellis: “We’d read all these things about leather and we didn’t have any leather but I had my oilskins and we had some polythene bags from somewhere. We all dressed up in them and wore them in bed. John stayed the night with us in the same bed. I don’t think anything very exciting happened and we all wondered what the fun was in being ‘kinky’. It was probably more my idea than John’s.”

Paul: “John, being Royston’s friend, went out to dinner with him and got pissed and stuff and they ended up back at his apartment with a girl who dressed herself in polythene for John’s amusements, so it was a little kinky scene. She became Polythene Pam . She was a real character.”

In his 1964 novel “Myself for Fame”, published in paperback, a chapter set in Liverpool was based on his experiences with The Beetles.

He had an ongoing friendship with various Beatles as time went on. 

Some sleight edits have been made to the above.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Mersey Sound poets (Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri) who rose alongside The Beatles were heavily influenced by the American beat writers, and were essentially a British equivalent.

The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:

Ahhh Girl, Richard, Rube, Brian Hassett, WeepingAtlasCedars

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty

To @ Ron Nasty it's @ mja6758
The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966

27 June 2023
Ahhh Girl
sailing on a winedark open sea



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I was playing around with the new interface to our database subscriptions and came across this…

Royston Ellis died back in February. RIP, Mr Ellis.…..-dead.html

Some excerpts from the article

Royston Ellis, Bridge Between Beat Poets and the Beatles, Dies at 82

Royston Ellis, a British Beat poet who rose to fame with spoken-word performances to a rock ’n’ roll accompaniment, including gigs with the Beatles and Jimmy Page before they were famous, died on Feb. 26 in Induruwa, Sri Lanka. He was 82.

But it was his encounters with the Beatles that would become an inextricable part of the Royston Ellis story.

Royston.PNGImage Enlarger

Mr. Ellis with the Beatles on the island of Guernsey in 1963, three years after the poet and the rockers first crossed paths in Liverpool.Credit…via Emmalena Ellis

In May 1960, Mr. Ellis headed north for a reading at the University of Liverpool. Once in town, he dropped into the Jacaranda, a coffee bar popular with local youth, and “got talking to a boy, George, in a striped matelot T-shirt and black leather jacket who told me his friends played music,” he later recalled in an interview with the website Classic Bands.

George (last name Harrison) suggested that they head to 3 Gambier Terrace, the home of John Lennon , the leader of the band that had been calling itself the Silver Beetles. During his stay in Liverpool, Mr. Ellis befriended the rest of the band, which ended up backing him in a reading in the Jacaranda basement.

The future moptops were fascinated by this louche literary star in their midst, soaking up his views on poetry, music and sex, as recounted in “Tune In” (2013), a history of the Beatles’ early years by Mark Lewisohn. The working-class Liverpudlians found the homoerotic themes in Mr. Ellis’s work to be eye-opening, to say the least. 

Mr. Ellis, who was bisexual by his account, recalled that he gave them “a lecture about the Soho scene and said they shouldn’t worry, because one in four men were queer, although they mightn’t know it.” In response, Paul McCartney said, “We looked at each other and wondered which one it was.”

Mr. Ellis later made other grand claims, including that he had persuaded the band to change “Beetles” to “Beatles,” a nod to Beat poetry. “I don’t know whether John had already considered that spelling,” he said in a 2013 interview with International Business Times, “but it was my encouragement that made him choose it permanently.” (This version of events is but one of many conflicting theories on the origin of the band’s name.)

Mr. Ellis did introduce the Beatles to drugs, according to the Lewisohn book, by showing them how to chew the Benzedrine-treated strip of a nasal inhaler to achieve an amphetamine high.

Mr. Ellis ended up inviting the Beatles to London to perform with him on television, although a scheduling conflict prevented the band from appearing. 

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