The Meaning Behind the Band Name: The Beatles

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Beatles went through several names before landing on the one that would grant them iconic status. From the Black Jacks to the Quarry Men, several versions of the name came before the band. So, why The Beatles? Why name a band after a much-despised little creature? While its origins are much argued about among Beatles fans, the theories have led to the same result: The Beatles were just feeling “pun-ny.”  

The Theories Behind the Band Name 

While there are many theories about the name’s origins, it has been widely accepted that the name came from Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia. She claimed the band had come up with the name during a drunken “brainstorming session,” inspired by Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets. Former member Stuart Sutcliffe is then to have thought of the name The Beatles. 

However, good band lore wouldn’t be complete without multiple theories to fight over. According to The Beatles’ publicist, Derek Taylor, the name came from the 1953 movie “The Wild One,” starring Marlon Brando. Taylor’s memoir details that Brando’s character referred to his leather-jacket-donning gang as “young beetles.” And the rest is history. While tempting enough of a theory, it is not completely foolproof. “The Wild One” was banned in the U.K. until 1967, so it’s unlikely that the band saw it in the early ‘60s when the band name solidified. 

Purposely obtuse? 

Even with all of the theories, The Beatles themselves were often cryptic when asked about the name. When asked about this in an early interview, Lennon said, “I just thought of it.” Real specific, John.  

However, Dave Persails, writer of The Beatles Anthology, “The Long and Winding Road,” discovered another response from Lennon. Giving another run-around answer, Lennon said the name came to him in a vision.  

“A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an A,’” Lennon said.  

A Pun-ny Bunch 

A lot of the theories and run-around responses, however, lead to the same result. Whether drawing inspiration from Buddy Holly’s band, movie characters, or a weird dream, the group made several statements about the band’s name spelling. It was just a joke.  

Radio personality Jim Steck of Los Angeles radio station KRLA 1110 interviewed the band during their 1964 American tour. In a special titled “Hear the Beatles Tell All,” Steck interviewed all of the members and Lennon separately for a promotional edition to their catalog.   

When asked, yet again, about the band name’s origins, Lennon said the spelling was deliberate. They successfully found the bug-related name they had been looking for, but how did they make it different? By making the name the biggest pun ever. 

“It was beat and beetles and when you said it, people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music,” Lennon said. 

With Lennon’s history of humorous answers, who’s to say where the iconic band’s origins truly came from.

Do you believe the theories?  Let us know and comment below.

Photo by John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

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