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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