Where Would The Beatles Have Ended Up Without Allan Williams?

Sir George Martin’s passing last year gave us the opportunity to ruminate about the “perfect storm” of people and events that ended up making the Beatles the greatest pop phenomenon of all time. Had Brian Epstein not become enamored of the band at a lunchtime gig at the Cavern, and had he not led them to the office of the eccentric junior producer George Martin at EMI, and had Martin not decided to record the scruffy foursome – well things certainly would not have been the same.

But while Epstein and Martin may have been the most serendipitous connections the Fab Four ever made, there were several other characters without whom the Beatles story would never have unfolded the way it did, and Allan Williams was one of them.

In 1958 Williams, who passed away last week at the age of 86, opened the Jacaranda in downtown Liverpool, a coffee bar that featured live music from local bands. Art school classmates John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe frequented the joint, and Williams hired them to paint a mural on the club’s walls. Hip to the new sounds of Rock & Roll, Williams allowed Lennon’s band to rehearse and eventually play at the club in exchange for more painting.

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Sensing that these guys had talent and could work a crowd, Williams became the Beatles’ de facto manager and booking agent, and by 1960 he was booking them at gigs all across Northern England. At this point the Beatles were a bunch of leather-clad smart-asses who were causing difficulty for promoters because unlike other bands, they insisted on playing and wearing whatever they wanted. Williams was able to work through that, instilling their first taste of professionalism. In the Beatles Anthology McCartney conceded that Allan Williams was “a really good motivator”.

And he was shrewd too. Williams had the foresight to arrange a partnership with a Hamburg music promoter which would see many nascent British acts bring their Rock & Roll to a German audience that hungered for it. Because he was already working with the Beatles, they got the nod to go to Hamburg in 1961 ahead of some more well-established English groups. And the Beatles would never have been The Beatles without Hamburg.

For their first trip to the German port city, Williams drove them down and across the ferry in his own van. All in all, the Beatles spent 18 months in Hamburg, playing music 10 hours a night. It was there they honed their craft and developed their sound and personality. It was there they established their distinctive harmonies and guitar interplay. It was there they met Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr who taught them about artistic vision. And it was there the four of them established a deeper and stronger bond with one another than any other Rock & Roll band had.

Near the end of the Hamburg gigs, The Beatles dumped Williams as their manager because they didn’t think he deserved his 10% cut anymore. He has never expressed any bitterness about it, because he knew The Beatles were heading for bigger things, and he knew it was more than he wanted to handle. And so for the past 55 years, Williams maintained operation of the Jacaranda, satisfied in the knowledge that his crucial role in shaping The Beatles’ perfect storm is firmly entrenched in the history books. May he rest in peace.

By Omroepvereniging VARA (Beeld en Geluidwiki – Gallery: The Beatles) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

3 comments to “Where Would The Beatles Have Ended Up Without Allan Williams?”
  1. Pingback: Magic Alex Was Maybe The Strangest Beatles Associate Ever | Rocknuts

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