John Lennon? Philip Norman? Bill Harry? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Today paparazzi stalk celebrities, and gossip websites shriek about every misstep or manufactured scandal. But the struggle of living in a fishbowl is not new for well-known individuals. In the 1960s after the Beatles became famous, John Lennon reportedly feared that he would cause pandemonium if he returned to a favorite pub of his youth called “The Philharmonic” simply to have a drink with friends. These words have been attributed to Lennon:
The price of fame is not being able to go to the Phil for a quiet pint.
Did Lennon really say this? I have not been able to find any solid citations.
Quote Investigator: The earliest relevant evidence located by QI appeared in the 1981 band biography “Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation” by Philip Norman. John Lennon told one of his old friends about his desire to visit a pub according to Norman in a chapter that described events in December 1966. In the following excerpt, Brian referred to the manager of the Beatles, Brian Epstein: 1
Liverpool was one more embattled dressing room. John confided to his old Art School friend, Bill Harry, that he’d give anything to go into a pub like the Philharmonic or Ye Cracke, and stand under the chandeliers, or the Death of Nelson, just having a quiet pint.
They didn’t go to the Cavern Club, although John begged Brian to allow it. “Couldn’t we do a few numbers down there,” he pleaded, “just for old times’ sake?” Brian said that if word got out, they would be crushed to death.
The phrase “quiet pint” was used in the passage above and in the common modern quotation. Yet, Norman mentioned two pubs and did not present a direct quote. Interestingly, Norman visited this topic again in the revised 2005 edition of his book and altered some details. See the citation and excerpt given further below.
QI conjectures that Bill Harry was the source of this quote, and Harry has written extensively about the Beatles. It is possible that he presented a version in one of his books or in an interview; however, QI has not yet found it.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1981, Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman, Chapter 14: December 1966, Quote Page 260, A Fireside Book: Published by Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩