By Margot Winick
At first, it was John, Paul, George, and … Colin.
“Pre Fab!,” a documentary film about Colin Hanton, drummer of The Quarry Men, opened the Florida Film Festival in Orlando. The film, produced by Floridians Mark Bentley and directed by Todd Thompson, is based on Hanton’s book with co-author Colin Hall, who serves as custodian of John Lennon’s childhood home, Mendips.
The feature-length documentary looks back at the early days in Liverpool when Hanton joined Lennon to form The Quarry Men, which would eventually evolve into The Beatles. Full of pride, Hanton retells detailed anecdotes and memories as he takes viewers around his native Liverpool, and describes how the members of The Quarry Men came together in 1956, on bus routes and as Quarry Bank High School classmates.
Inspired by what theyheard on Radio Luxembourg, they began as a skiffle group, complete with banjo, tea-chest bass, and washboard. Hanton had a modest Broadway drum set, which is now on display at the Beatles Story Museum. “We were a garage band with no garage,” says Hanton, who at 83, still has a rollicking sense of humor.
Interviews in the film include Beatles scholar and author Mark Lewisohn, John Lennon’s half-sister and author Julia Baird, musician Billy Bragg, Peter Asher, and several clips from interviews with Paul McCartney. The film also includes shots inside the McCartney childhood home.
Producer Mark Bentley, an attorney in Tampa, bought the rights to the book, but also conducted most of the interviews, and tracked down and purchased rare photographs and negotiate the rights to music and archival footage. “The drummer is always in the back, and can see and observe everything. That was the same with Colin,” said Bentley. “They just wanted to be a good band,” he said, “but Colin had an apprenticeship as an upholsterer, and knew that was his future.”
Hanton is also interviewed on site at St. Peter’s Church Hall, where Paul McCartney first met John Lennon at the Garden Fete in July 1957. It wasn’t as there was a bolt of lightning or angels came down, said Hanton, but he admits he wished he had a camera if he knew how important that occasion would be in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
Though Hanton had quit the group before they became The Beatles in 1960, he was with John, Paul and George when they first played the Cavern Club and in 1959, when they recorded their first disc, “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly and “In Spite of All the Danger” by McCartney and Harrison.
Beatles fans will love Hanton’s delightful tale of the early days, and a joyful trip that the octogenarian Quarry Men make to Abbey Road studios in July 2019 to play a few tunes. The film does not yet have a distribution deal. Let’s hope they get one soon so we can all enjoy this film.
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Writer: Margot Winick