Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A Cheese Sandwich for John Lennon: A (e) Book Review


I am always on the lookout for obscure Beatles stories and stumbled upon this short book, A Cheese Sandwich for John Lennon: Coming of Age in Rockin' Liverpool, written by Marie McMahon. It is the true story of Marie, a young teenage girl, and her life living in Liverpool in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Her writing was very engaging and light-hearted.  There was some humor throughout her story.  It really took you back in time to Liverpool after World War II.   The story of listening to Buddy Holly, watching a dance show at the only neighbor who had a television, and taking ballroom dancing lessons almost made you feel like you were there with her.  

Her first connection with The Beatles was in 1958 when she attended a dance at the Locarno Ballroom in Liverpool.   The band that night was Sonny Swann and his Orchestra, who played dancehall music for ballroom dances.   However, during the intermission, a group of scruffy lads came and played Skiffle music, and everyone jived.   Marie was asked to dance by the young guitarist in the group once Sonny Swann came back because he told her that part of their payment was to be allowed to stay for the rest of the evening.    Now, I can't find any documentation that the Quarry Men played at the Locarno Ballroom during intermission in 1958, but her story is very believable.  Please let me know if anyone has more information about the Quarry Men schedule in 1958. 

Her second connection came in 1961 when she went to the Jacaranda on a rainy Monday night because she wanted to hear some Caribbean music.  When she arrived, she learned that the Caribbean steel band didn't play on Monday nights.   She decided to go inside anyway because she loved the cheese sandwiches made by Beryl Williams (she even explains how she made them).  While she was waiting on her food, she spots John Lennon (but didn't know who he was) begging change off of everyone in the place so that he could buy some food.   Marie offers to order him a cheese sandwich.  John accepts and sits down with her to eat it because his bandmates would try to take it from him if they saw it.  She learns that his band, The Silver Beetles are playing there that night and after the meal, she goes to check them out. 

Now, here is where a big mistake happens.  She has the Silver Beetles playing "She Loves You" at the request of someone in the audience asking for them to play it.  The Beatles could not have performed that song because it wasn't written yet.  This made me question just how true the entire short book when it came to the Beatles material really was.   Should you consider everything else false because of such a glaring error?  Or chalk it up to her not remembering exactly what songs were sung and accept the rest as true?   

Either way, it was a really good story and it was very entertaining while I was sitting in an airport waiting on a delayed flight.  

I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, so this book was included as part of my subscription.  It is also available as a paperback book.

Above is the affiliate Amazon link for the book I reviewed.  I get a very small percentage of anything purchased through this link.  Any money made through the affiliate link offsets the annual cost of keeping this site going.  Thank you for your support. 

1 comment:

  1. I read Maire's book at your suggestion, thanks! I think the Locarno Ballroom event must have been in 1957 because she said she was 17-years-old and was born in 1940 (same age as John). They played their for a skiffle competition as the Quarry Men. The Jacaranda/cheese sandwich encounter must have happened in the summer of 1960 when The Beatles played about twelve Monday nights there after returning from their Scotland tour with Johnny Gentle. I believe her stories, I just think she has mixed up many of the details. She says, for example, that the Jacaranda encounter was after February 1962 and after they returned, broke from a trip to Germany. I don't think this is possible - they didn't play at the Jacaranda that late.