Back in 1961 Beat music had replaced skiffle as the popular music of the time in Liverpool, England. In a classic Lennon play on words, he came up with Beatles as in “beat music”. The music forming on the banks of the Mersey would soon become the British Invasion. It would take over America and change the course of popular music & pop culture forever.
The name Beatles was also an ode to Buddy Holly’s group, the Crickets. Holly & the Crickets may have well been the biggest influence on Lennon & McCartney’s early days, and their clever name also an influence.
Another theory came about during the release of the Beatles Anthology in 1995. Lennon and his best friend Stu Sutcliffe, were huge Marlon Brando fans & the great biker film “The Wild One”. (Sutcliffe was Lennon’s best friend from Art College, the original Beatles bass player who didn’t really play. He would just stand on stage with his back facing the crowd; It was Stu’s girlfriend Astrid, who gave the Beatles the famous hair styles. Stu tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at age 21.)
The film “The Wild One” came out in 1953; it has a scene where a young Lee Marvin & his biker gang roll into a small town that has been occupied by Brando & his biker gang "Black Rebels Motorcycle Club". Marvin taunts Brando, and Brando throws him to the ground, then Marvin says “we missed you Johnny, the beetles missed ya, all the beetles missed you”.
It is believed this quote was an influence on the name of the group. Remember Marlon Brando’s photo from the movie “The Wild One” is pictured amongst the crowd on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.
Brando was the man in the fifties; the movie was one of the first rebellious biker classics, based on a true story of events in a 1947 California town. The movie was a big influence on James Dean, & Elvis Presley, who imitated Brando’s look & style. Out of this film also came the fashion of side burns, tilted caps, blue jeans and leather jackets.
Paul McCartney said doing research he later found out, "beetles” was tern used in the forties for biker girls, or “chicks”. In the film Marvin does point to a bunch of biker girls standing behind the bikers. Great stuff.