On this date in 1961, The Beatles appeared for the first time at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. Over the next three years, they would take the stage 292 times. And after that, well, the rest is history.
A light-hearted, but factual study which entails a detailed analysis of every recording, film, video and major utterance by the Beatles collectively and individually over 40 years revealed that the all-time favorite food of the Fab Four is Honey - which features in no less than fourteen song lyrics recorded by John, Paul, George and Ringo - and that their preferred drink is tea - with over a dozen musical references.
Noted Beatles scholar and humorist Martin Lewis - who undertook the study - said that he thought it might be useful to discover the nutritional stimulants which helped the Beatles create the music which made them the most popular and most critically-acclaimed group in history.
The survey analyzes over 1,800 separate recordings from the 130-plus albums written, performed or produced by the Beatles as a group and as solo artists in the 40 years between 1961 and 2001. The study also dissected over 40 hours of their 5 feature films and numerous documentaries; album artworks, books, major interviews, folklore, and mythology. Every reference to food or drink made by a Beatle was carefully annotated and logged into a database.
Here are the results:
Cows are a popular theme in Beatle songs - all four members of the Fab Four have written a composition featuring the creature: John's "When I Get Home," George's "Cockamamie Business," Paul penned an instrumental with the title "Cows." And even occasional composer Ringo wrote a line about cows into his single "Early 1970".
Vegetarian George has the most carnivorous references - with lyrics about pigs, pepperoni, chops, bacon (in two songs!), two varieties of chicken (Spring and Tandoori), Burger King and McDonald's. Paul wrote a song cautioning people to exercise portion control with his nursery ditty "Mary Had A Little Lamb." John was the poultry-lover with lyrics about birds "And Your Bird Can Sing" - and his paean to Thanksgiving leftovers - "Cold Turkey".
The group favor seafood such as octopus (Ringo's "Octopus's Garden") oyster and eel (the latter from Paul and George respectively.) John named his greatest hits compilation "Shaved Fish" and included a peculiarly British fish the pilchard (a plump sardine) in his "I Am The Walrus." John, Paul and George all wrote songs with "fish" in the lyrics.
The Beatles may have grown to love vegetables but they rarely sang about them. There's John's "Glass Onion" of course and George's "Savoy Truffle" - but veggie-lover Paul dispenses with all his vegetable mentions (sweet potato, green beans, garlic, and salad) in just one song "Cook of the House" from his "Wings At The Speed of Sound" album.
The Fab Four are certainly fans of dairy. John told us that he was the Eggman in "I Am The Walrus" - while Paul named an album "Back To The Egg." Until Paul came up with the words for his famous ballad "Yesterday" its working title was "Scrambled Eggs." Cream, cheese, and butter crop up occasionally and milk pops up with the ever-popular honey on a John album title ("Milk And Honey") and as "Sour Milk Sea" in a George composition.
Paul McCartney is the Beatles' King of Condiments. His "Cook Of The House" song features salt, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, curry powder and of course pepper - the spice he immortalized in his title song for the classic "Sgt. Pepper" album. John's wry corollary to Sgt. Pepper was "Mean Mr. Mustard."
In the realm of sweet condiments, we have John's 'marmalade skies' from "Lucy In The Sky" and his "Jam Rag." George was partial to "Apple Jam." John's infamous mutter of "Cranberry Sauce" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (see Fruit) was, of course, misheard as "I Buried Paul." (Though perhaps he was saying "I Berried Paul" - a reference to pelting McCartney with mixed berries in season.)
The fourteen references to honey occur in songs and albums ranging from Paul's "Honey Pie" and "Wild Honey Pie"; John's "Milk And Honey"; George's performance of "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" ("Well they took some honey from a tree...") and Ringo's renditions of "Honey Don't" and "Matchbox."
CEREALS, GRAINS, NUTS & STARCHES
A commercial for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was the inspiration for John Lennon's "Good Morning, Good Morning" from the "Sgt. Pepper" album - and a couple of months after recording that he envisioned himself "sitting on a cornflake" in his "I Am The Walrus." At various times John sang about seeds, semolina, and acorns. Paul sang of rice twice - including his famous "Eleanor Rigby" - and peanuts once (in "Drive My Car.") And both John and Paul have crooned about macaroni. In their "Magical Mystery Tour" film - John dreamed up the sequence where he appears as a very greasy waiter who is (quite literally!) shoveling massive quantities of spaghetti on to the plate of Ringo's size-challenged aunt.
PASTRY, BAKERY, DESSERTS & CANDIES
The Beatles had sweet teeth galore and a fine taste for baked goods. John wrote of chocolate cake in "Ballad Of John & Yoko," George crooned about birthday cake in "It's All Too Much" and Paul just sang of plain old cake in "Too Many People." John and Paul both sang the praises of pie. John favored 'marshmallow pies' (in "Lucy In The Sky") - while Paul's favorite varieties are 'butter pie' in "Uncle Albert" and "Flaming Pie" the title song of his 1997 album - inspired by a humorous story John wrote about the group having been named by "a man on a flaming pie."
George sang of apple tarts and ginger slings while John dreamed of yellow matter custard and sugar plum fairies. And though John and Paul feuded in the 1970's about many things (including money) - at the same time they were both singing about the glories of bread (the edible variety.)
George wrote "Savoy Truffle" for the Beatles' White Album - an entire song inspired by a box of British chocolates (the "Good News" assortment) which included such delights as Cream Tangerine, Montelimat and Coconut Fudge.
Apples are naturally the Beatles' favorite fruit and they were immortalized in song by George with "Apple Scruffs" and "Not Guilty"; John with "One Day" from his "Mind Games" album - and on the label of all the Beatles' post-1967 releases. George was notorious for having difficulty naming his compositions and the working titles for two of his three songs on the "Revolver" album were varieties of popular British apples - "Granny Smith" - which was finally titled "Love You To" and "Laxton's Superb" which was eventually named "I Want To Tell You." Strawberries were, of course, John's fruit of choice - while Ringo sang of peaches twice - "You're Sixteen" and "Matchbox." Other popular Beatle fruits include cherries (Paul, George, and Ringo have all paid tribute); bananas (by Paul in two songs), papaya, lime, coconut, pineapple, and tangerines.
The Fab Four definitely liked their wine. John drinks it in "Norwegian Wood," Paul wants a bottle of it "When I'm 64" and a bellyful of it in "Her Majesty." Both Paul and Ringo sing of the charms of Strawberry Wine - a particularly Beatle-ish wine.
They also liked a variety of other drinks. John sang about lemonade in "Rain" and Coca-Cola in "Come Together." Paul sang of gin in "Rocky Raccoon" and rum in "Helen Wheels." In 1964's "A Hard Day's Night" film, Ringo orders a half-pint of "mild" (a light English beer.) By 1965's "Help!" movie he was on to "lager and lime." Before he gave up drinking - Ringo had graduated to rhapsodizing about moonshine whiskey (on his 1970 "Beaucoups Of Blues" album.)
But without doubt tea was the Beatles' top tipple of choice! In one 3-month period in 1967 when they were ostensibly at the height of their drug period - they actually recorded no less than five songs referring to this most English of habits! ("Lovely Rita," "Good Morning, Good Morning," "A Day In The Life," "All Together Now" and "It's All Too Much.") They actually recorded more overt references to tea than to drugs!
OTHER FOOD & DRINK REFERENCES
Beatle songs are full of other food and drink references. There's talk about feeding ("When I'm 64" and "Lady Madonna") and drinking ("I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" and "I'm So Tired") kitchens and restaurants; dinners, breakfasts, and teas. Both John and Paul as solo artists wrote about TV dinners. In their movie "Help!" John discovers a season ticket in his soup ("I like a lot of seasoning in my soup.")