My friend Dan sent me this article How did the Beatles Get Their Name? Any Beatles fan worth his or her salt has heard the Flaming Pie story:
Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision–a man appeared in a flaming pie and said unto them “From this day on you are Beatles with an A.” “Thank you, Mister Man,” they said, thanking him.
Flaming Pie, not coincidentally, is the name of a 1997 Paul McCartney album.
In the book The Gospel according to the Beatles by Steven Turner, it’s clear that John, far more than any of his cohorts, grew up with religious training. He was living with his Aunt Mimi (Stanley) Smith, who grew up Anglican, though neither she nor her sisters attended church as adults.
Still, Mimi and her sisters made sure their children were sent to Sunday school. John was a chorister and member of a Bible class. “For a time, he was attending events at the church four days a week.”
It was that respectable, impersonal, “bourgeois” version of Christianity that John eventually rejected. Still, the lessons he heard seeped into his thinking. The structure of the flaming pie story, Turner opines, is based on Acts 10:11, and/or Genesis 17. John himself called the flaming pie story “imitation Biblical stuff.”
“Mimi’s religion could be summarized by a stanza she framed on her wall:
However black the clouds may be
In time they’ll pass away
Have faith and trust and you will see
God’s light make bright your day
Compare these to the lyrics from Tell Me What You See, from the UK version of the Help! album.
The first time I heard The Word, from Rubber Soul, it reminded me of the beginning verses of the Gospel according to John. Both the first verse of the song and the first verse of chapter 1 begin with the words, “in the beginning…” John acknowledged to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine that The Word was the first song he’d written to impart knowledge. (“This could be a Salvation Army song,” said Paul at the time.)
Girl, also from Rubber Soul, is a response to a book John read called Masochism in the Modern Man by Theodor Reil, who suggested that the command to love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute us is masochistic. “In John’s hands those ideas led him to question whether the ‘girl’ had been raised to believe ‘that pain would lead to pleasure…’ Did the girl believe those who told her “that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure’?”
Turner said that The Beatles “were skeptical, even dismissive of the church, but yet many of the core beliefs… were secularized versions of Christian beliefs.” All You Need Is Love would be a prime example.
There’s a lot more in the book, both involving the Beatles’ philosophy as a group and individually, but this is enough for now.
John Lennon would have been 75 today. And his son Sean turns 40!