What John Lennon "appropriated" from the record store during the Beatles' first foreign trip

This funny incident in Arnhem to some extent influenced the development of rock and roll...

How The Beatles' first trip abroad turned out to be "the theft of the century

Despite its world status, The Beatles - like any other group - started small. And sometime in their history the first "trip abroad" happened - a trip that turned into bright emotions and the "theft of the century". And the main "thief" turned out to be John Lennon!

So what did Lennon steal from a record store in Holland, and how did his "find." played an important role in the band's work?


The Beatles with Pete Best
The Beatles with Pete Best

But first, a little backstory. Somehow John Lennon said:

"I grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool."

John Lennon with Chupa Chups
John Lennon

This statement may come as news to the many millions of Beatles fans for whom the Magnificent Four are synonymous with a northern English port town. But in many ways Lennon was right, and in this respect he was also speaking on behalf of the other members, because without Hamburg "The Beatles would never be the legendary band they became.

It all started when German concert promoter Bruno Koschmider hired a rival band Derry and the Seniors to perform at his club in Hamburg. Upon learning of this, the Beatles' first manager, Allan WilliamsSoon he finds another Liverpool band for another club. It's easy to guess which band we're talking about...

George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and John Lennon
George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and John Lennon

The Beatles' experience in Hamburg is well documented: the teenage band, which also included the original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Pete Best, enjoyed the city's nightlife and hedonistic decadence. But it was not only in Hamburg that the Beatles pushed their boundaries and found adventure. As Lennon himself recalled, the group's first trip to Europe in 1960 was by car, and it was not limited to the city:

"Williams drove us in a van. We drove through Holland and had some fun there..."

Incident in Arnhem

The early Beatles in Arnhem
The early Beatles in Arnhem

The story of that trip holds many mysteries, and Lennon's recollections seem deliberately vague. But one incident was "recorded for posterity", the one that took place in the Dutch town of ArnhemThe site is known for its Arnhem Oosterbeek military cemetery. The site, where the remains of hundreds of British soldiers from World War II are buried, has become one of the many "tourist stops" bands. If we believe Williams' documented recollections, the visit to Arnhem was emotional for the young band, especially for Lennon, who was "both sensitive and impulsive. Here, in the aforementioned cemetery, a photograph was taken of the musicians, but... it is notable first of all for the fact that Lennon is not in the frame.

Subsequently, the manager The Beatleswho arranged this whole trip, explained:

"John was so disturbed by the sight of so many graves, one of which coincidentally had the name of the band's then-drummer, Peter Best... He decided to stay on the bus to keep his composure."

Legendary musician and performer John Lennon
Legendary musician and performer John Lennon

However, Lennon, who was also something of a "braggart" (according to the memories of many close friends), quickly found a way to restore his rebellious authority in the lineup. When, after the cemetery, the band, led by Williams, stopped at a music store, the "theft of the century" was committed: pleased with himself, Lennon came out of the store and showed his comrades the stolen harmonica! This incident greatly upset their manager, who was worried that the band would be arrested before they got to Hamburg. Fortunately, all his fears were in vain.

Talented harmonica player

John Lennon
John Lennon

John Lennon learned to play the harmonica as a child when he was given it by a guest of the house, Harold Phillips. The man made a bet with the boy that he could not learn a song on the instrument in one day. John accepted the challenge, and learned two pieces at once! The victory was his. So perhaps it's no surprise that the item he decided to steal from a music store in Arnhem turned out to be his favorite childhood instrument. Going back to that journey - Lennon was known to play his new stolen harmonica.

Although the Beatles are primarily remembered as a guitar band, their recording career was marked by the sound of the harmonica, the sound of which is unmistakably recognizable at the beginning of the Liverpool four's debut single "Love Me Do.". Rumor has it that Lennon plays that particular stolen instrument here. So - this funny incident in Arnhem had some influence on the development of rock and roll.


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