Along with a version of Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be The Day’, ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was the first recording by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. Both songs were recorded in Liverpool in 1958, and a single 78rpm disc was pressed.

At some point in 1958 we wanted to make a record to say, ‘Look, this is us,’ just to show our wares. We found an advert for a little studio, Percy Phillips in Kensington – Liverpool’s Kensington, not quite as posh as London’s Kensington. It was about half an hour away by bus. It cost you five pounds to make a demo record on shellac; that’s the old-fashioned way of doing it. Each of us had managed to scrape a pound together, which wasn’t too hard once we set our minds to it. If it had been five each, that might have been a bit more challenging.

So we showed up at Percy Phillips’s recording studio, which was basically a small room with one mic. We were young kids with our own equipment, and you’d have to wait your turn, like at a doctor’s office. When it was us, he jus said, ‘Okay, you go in there and we’ll run through the song, and then you can record it. Let me know when you want to record as the A-side, the B-side and all that.’ And we said okay.

‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was the Quarrymen’s only original song at the time. It was sung by the group’s leader, John Lennon, with the songwriting credited – uniquely – to McCartney-Harrison.

It says on the label that it was me and George but I think it was actually written by me, and George played the guitar solo! We were mates and nobody was into copyrights and publishing, nobody understood – we actually used to think when we came down to London that songs belonged to everyone. I’ve said this a few times but it’s true, we really thought they just were in the air, and that you couldn’t actually own one. So you can imagine the publishers saw us coming! ‘Welcome boys, sit down. That’s what you think, is it?’ So that’s what we used to do in those days – and because George did the solo we figured that he ‘wrote’ the solo.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The two recordings showed the group’s rock ‘n’ roll influences, in place of the skiffle that had dominated the Quarrymen’s repertoire in 1957. According to McCartney, ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was inspired by Elvis Presley.

It was my song. It’s very similar to an Elvis song. It’s me doing an Elvis, but I’m a bit loathe to say which! I know which one! It was one that I’d heard at scout camp when I was younger and I’d loved it. And when I came to write the first couple of songs at the age of about 14 that was one of them.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The songs featured John ‘Duff’ Lowe on piano, a school friend of McCartney’s who was recruited for his ability to play the arpeggio at the beginning of Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Mean Woman Blues’. Lowe later recalled the preparation that took place prior to the recording.

I can well remember even at the rehearsal at his house in Forthlin Road, Paul was quite specific about how he wanted it played and what he wanted the piano to do. There was no question of improvising. We were told what we had to play. There was a lot of arranging going on even back then.
John ‘Duff’ Lowe
A Hard Day’s Write, Steve Turner

In the studio

The recording of ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was made on 12 July 1958 at Phillips Sound Recording Service, a recording facility in the living room of 38 Kensington, a Victorian terraced house owned by Percy F Phillips.

I remember we all went down on the bus with our instruments – amps and guitars – and the drummer went separately. We waited in the little waiting room outside while somebody else made their demo and then it was our turn. We just went in the room, hardly saw the fella because he was next door in a little control booth. ‘OK, what are you going to do?’ We ran through it very quickly, quarter of an hour, and it was all over.

According to the studio log book, Phillips charged the group a fee of 17 shillings and three pence to make a disc of their own. The Quarrymen played their two chosen songs live into a single microphone.

The tape was erased after the 10-inch shellac disc was pressed, Phillips’ custom practice to keep costs down. However, as the Quarrymen had only 15 shillings between them, Phillips held onto the disc until they returned with the full amount.

When we got the record, the agreement was that we would have it for a week each. John had it a week and passed it on to me. I had it for a week and passed it on to George, who had it for a week. Then Colin had it for a week and passed it to Duff Lowe – who kept it for 23 years.
Paul McCartney


In Spite Of All The Danger by The Quarrymen

In 1981, John ‘Duff’ Lowe had the ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ disc valued by Sotheby’s. It was reported by Sunday Times journalist Stephen Pile.

Before midday on that Sunday Paul McCartney had called my mum in Liverpool. I eventually spoke to him on the phone and we had long conversations over the next few days because he wanted to buy it from me. I was living in Worcester at the time and he sent his solicitor and his business manager up. I deposited the disc in a small briefcase at the local Barclay’s Bank and we met up in a small room the bank kindly let me use. The deal was done, I handed the record over and we all went home.
John Lowe
A Hard Day’s Write, Steve Turner

Lowe is known to have rejected an initial offer of £5,000, although the final amount paid by McCartney was not revealed.

I ended up buying it back for a very inflated price. I have since had some replicas made. I don’t want to play the shellac because it would wear out, as demos in those days would. But it’s great to have.
Paul McCartney

After taking possession of the single, McCartney arranged for sound engineers to improve the sound quality as much as possible. He then made around 50 copies which he gave to family and friends.

‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was eventually released in 1995, along with ‘That’ll Be The Day’, on Anthology 1. It is believed that a repeated verse and chorus towards the end were edited out for the album.

The song has since occasionally featured in McCartney’s live shows, most notably during his 2005 world tour.

It was the first song we ever recorded, the first thing on which our names appeared, the first official recording of what later became The Beatles.

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