What did John Lennon say about beer?

The Beatles in the pub.
‘Two lagers and lime and… two lagers and lime, please.’ Help (1965)

Nev, who recently made 800 posts on his long-running beer and music blog, mentioned the other day, in passing, a quotation from John Lennon that we’d not previously come across:

The price of fame is not being able to go to the Phil for a qui­et pint.

The Phil’ is the Phil­har­mon­ic, a pub in Liv­er­pool. We love the Bea­t­les almost as much as we love beer and pubs, so we liked this a lot, but we’ve also been fret­ting about sources a lot recent­ly. Aware that 99 per cent of beer quotes, just like sta­tis­tics, are either made up or inac­cu­rate, we decid­ed to look into it.

The fact is, we can’t find any ref­er­ence to where or when Lennon is sup­posed to have said the above. Some web­sites quote oth­er web­sites. Most just say that he ‘famous­ly’ said it, or that he said it ‘once’ to a reporter. The ear­li­est ref­er­ence in print, accord­ing to Google Books, is the Let’s Go guide to Europe from 2000.

That does­n’t mean he did­n’t say it, but we can’t help won­der­ing if the attri­bu­tion ought to be a clever brew­ery PR man or pub land­lord. Chris Rout­ledge had this to say on the sub­ject:

Did Lennon talk about beer, pubs or pints at all? We did find this inter­view from 1971 which includes a clas­sic bit of Lennon­ian bel­liger­ence:

As kids we were all opposed to folk songs because they were so mid­dle-class. It was all col­lege stu­dents with big scarfs and a pint of beer in their hands singing folk songs in what we call la-di-da voic­es- ‘I worked in a mine in New-cast-le’ and all that shit… most­ly folk music is peo­ple with fruity voic­es try­ing to keep alive some­thing old and dead. It’s all a bit bor­ing, like bal­let: a minor­i­ty thing kept going by a minor­i­ty group. Today’s folk song is rock and roll.

We think he’s try­ing to wind up Nev and Phil, and pre-emp­tive­ly tak­ing a pop at CAMRA two months before they even exist­ed. He cer­tain­ly man­ages to give ‘pint of beer’ a par­tic­u­lar­ly sneer­ing spin.

Astrid Kirch­her, a friend from the Bea­t­les’ time in Ham­burg in the ear­ly six­ties, recalled, in the 1996 Anthol­o­gy TV series, that, when Lennon drank beer as young man, it was because it was cheap, and a par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive accom­pa­ni­ment to Pre­ludin pills (uppers). In the accom­pa­ny­ing book, also talk­ing about Ham­burg, Paul McCart­ney says the he was the last to make the move (the upgrade?) to tak­ing drugs, hav­ing said, until then: ‘Oh, I’ll stick to the beer, thanks.’

If you hap­pen to know the inter­view where Lennon men­tioned ‘the Phil’, or have come across him or any Bea­t­le say­ing any­thing else about beer or pubs, we’d love to know. You might also enjoy this longish piece on rock music and pubs which men­tions Ringo.

7 thoughts on “What did John Lennon say about beer?”

  1. That’s very inter­est­ing, can’t pro­vide a spe­cif­ic source, but I recall in one biog­ra­phy, Philip Nor­man’s per­haps, there is men­tion of much beer drink­ing by The Bea­t­les in Ham­burg in the ear­ly years, it ties in with what Astrid Kirch­n­er was report­ed as say­ing. Apart from that, the only drink I can recall asso­ci­at­ed to The group was Scotch and Coke, which was a hip drink in the mid-60’s. Today, with the dom­i­nance of the heav­ier malts the drink seems a lit­tle odd bit it actu­al­ly works well with the blends which were pop­u­lar then such as Bells or in the States J&B.

    I do recall also that in a U.K. inter­view con­duct­ed with George Har­ri­son some years before his pass­ing, per­haps NME, the writer described him as scan­ning the post­ed beer list, pon­der­ing for a moment and then request­ing a brand, so by then he prob­a­bly had spe­cif­ic tastes in beer. I don’t think cask beer was men­tioned but would like to think that type was cho­sen.

    I too have for years read the quote about a qui­et pint in the Liv­er­pool pub but can’t add any­thing fur­ther on that.

    What a sple­net­ic thing for John Lennon to say about folk music, giv­en he was a Bob Dylan fan.

    Gary

  2. My first thought was Chris Rout­ledge may know…

    … sec­ond thought is that the quote could stem from one of those ear­ly Bea­t­les radio inter­views, the ‘how do you cope with star­dom / scream­ing girls’ line of ques­tion­ing.

    1. We poked around in a few archives of tran­scripts of that kind of inter­view and could­n’t find it, but it might turn up yet.

      The oth­er thought is that he said some­thing *sim­i­lar*, e.g. ‘The prob­lem with being famous is not being able to go out with your mates’, which got sub­tly twist­ed for one rea­son or anoth­er, and so isn’t appear­ing when we search.

  3. I have tried to find con­nec­tions between beer and the Bea­t­les, but with­out any sucess. Of the two remain­ing, I don’t think Paul is much of a beer drinker, and Ringo has been sober for decades.

  4. I’ve per­pet­u­at­ed this one myself – using it to get a bea­t­les-lov­ing friend of mine to vis­it The Phil on his Stag Do in Liv­er­pool. I did, how­ev­er, believe it to be true! So it was­n’t delib­er­ate sub­terfuge…

  5. Mac­ca likes a decent pint when at home (one of many!) in Wirral. His min­der has links to at Brim­stage Brew­ery and keeps promis­ing to bring him to the brew­ery one day.

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