Royston Ellis & The Be"A"tles (June 1960 then Summer 1963)
Royston Ellis first met the Beatles when he visited Liverpool in Summer 1960. At that time, they were still unknown and called themselves The Silver Beetles. They became one of the numerous bands that backed the British Beat Poet. After this meeting, the band decided to modify the spelling of its name: now spellig it with an "a" instead of the second “e”, as they were inspired by the American BeAt generation and played BeAt music.
Three years later, he met up them once again in Guernesey at the height of the Beatlemania. He later inspired them two songs: "Paperback Writer" (Parlophone single, 1966) and "Polythene Pam" (Abbey Road, LP, 1969).
The Beatles inspired Ellis the “Rythmettes” in the chapter set in Liverpool of his novel ‘Myself For Fame’ realesed in 1964.
On Friday 24 June and Saturday 25 June, 1960:
Royston Ellis held a lecture ‘Jazz and Poetry’ in the basement coffee bar at Liverpool University during the ‘Festival of the Arts’.
John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Rod Murray and Bill Harry were in the audience and Rod invited him to stay at their Gambier Terrace flat for a few days.
"I was quite a star for them at that time because I had come up from London and that was a world they didn't really know about."
Ellis introduced them to their very first experience of a drug. He cracked open a Vick inhaler and showed them the strip of Benzedrine inside.
It was nicknamed a ‘spitball’ and you chewed it. The amphetamine kept you awake all night in a state of excitement.
“Yes, the Vick inhaler story has become part of drug legend. I was shown how to do that by a singer who later became Neil Christian and his guitarist, who used to accompany me in those days, Jimmy Page.”
Later in June, 1960:
Poetry-to-Rock session at the Jacaranda coffee club, Slater Street, backed by John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Rod Murray and Bill Harry who call themselves the Dissenters.
From the book ‘Big Beat Scene’
“Royston Ellis, a bearded teenager who made a name for himself on the television programme ‘Living for Kicks’, visited Liverpool last year. Appearing at Liverpool University’s ‘Festival of the Arts’ where he recited his poetry, he was threatened by students who wanted to set fire to his beard. Later, he recited ‘poetry-to-rock’ at the Jacaranda coffee club, Slater Street, backed by the Beatles.”
The Record Mirror of 9 July & 14 July 1960 reported that Royston Ellis had been searching for a group to use regularly and was thinking of bringing a Liverpool group called the Beetles to London to back him on his poetry readings, but nothing came of it. John and Stuart were trying to think of a new name for the group.
Ellis who suggested then that they put an ‘a’ into the word, making it ‘Beatles’, inspired by the Beat generation.
“There is famously a letter from Record Mirror (June 1961) in which I said I was planning to bring to London a group of Liverpool art students to back me after appearing with them in Liverpool, named the Beetles. I told them to spell it Beatles as I was a beat poet and they liked the beats of the USA and played beat music.”
From an issue of Bill Harry’s Mersey Beat: The Record Mirror reported that Ellis was thinking of bringing a Liverpool group called the Beetles to London to back him on his poetry readings.
“I recall discussing with John (Lennon) at the Gambier Terrace flat my plan to take John, Stuart, George and Paul to London to back me on my poetry reading performances. This was reported in the Record Mirror of 9 July 1960 – the first ever major musical press reference to ‘the Beetles’ with a follow-up in the next issue, 14 July 1960, in which I described the Beetles thus “For some time I have been searching for a group to use regularly and I feel that the Beetles (most of them are Liverpool art students) fit the bill.
“Of course, they never got to London to back me but I do remember meeting Allan Williams in London and he said that John wanted me to go to Hamburg with them as compere. I declined and am alive to tell the tale!
“I asked John what name he was calling the group. He said the Beetles. I asked him how it was spelt and he said B-E-E-T-L-E-S. That’s when I suggested that since they liked the beats and I was a beat poet, why not spell it with an A.
In 1960, Bill Harry commissioned John Lennon to pen a short biography of the band that appeared on page 2 of “Mersey Beat” issue #1 published on July 6 1961, in which he explained how the name “Beatles” did arrive:
“…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 on 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…”
“I recall cooking a meal at the flat one day which included frozen chicken pie. Somehow I managed to burn the chicken pie. It is that, I have always assumed, that gave rise to John’s reference to ‘a man on a flaming pie’ suggesting they call themselves Beatles with an A.
On 8 August 1963, the Beatles played at the Auditorium in Guernsey Islands where Royston Ellis was working as a ferryboat engineer.
“Polythene Pam: That was me, remembering a little event I had with a woman in Jersey. A poet (Royston Ellis), a beatnik that looked like a beatnik who was from Liverpool, took me to this apartment of his in Jersey. So this poet took me to his place and asked me if I wanted to meet this girl, Polythane Pam, who dressed up in polythene. Which she did. In polythene bags. She didn't wear jack boots and kilts - I just sort of elaborated - and no, she didn't really look like a man. there was nothing much to it. It was kind of perverted sex in a polythene bag. But it provided something to write a song about".
“We all dressed up in them and wore them in bed. John stayed the night with us in the same bed.”
“John, being Royston’s friend, went out to dinner with him and got pissed and stuff and they ended up back at his apartment with a girl who dressed herself in polythene for John’s amusements, so it was a little kinky scene. She became Polythene Pam. She was a real character.”