John Lennon’s Quiet Pint Revisited

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‘In conclusion, there is some evidence that circa 1966 John Lennon made a remark about the difficulty of experiencing a “quiet pint” in a favorite Liverpool pub.’

So states a blog post by Garson O’Toole, the famous consulting quote investigator, responding to a query we made last year.

He has traced it back as far as Philip Norman’s 1981 muck-raking biography Shout! but not to source.

If you’ve got copies of magazines containing Bill Harry’s early Beatles writing, perhaps you’ll have more luck.

The Beatles and Brown Ale, 1968

“One night, [Ringo] and John [Lennon] were coming back from London in John’s Rolls when they passed a pub all lit up. ‘It looked great,’ Ringo says. ‘When we got home, we decided to change and go and have a drink. The pub itself was just like pubs when we used to know them. The barman was very pleased when he recognized us. We had a bottle of brown [ale] each. We had to sign a few autographs, but it wasn’t too bad.

‘The Beatles: part 2’, Hunter Davies, Life magazine, 20 September 1968.

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.