The Daily Howl
By Bill Harry
12 March 1964
Bill Turner, a former school friend of John Lennon, dropped in to see us the other week and chat about the famous Beatles spokesman.
“Whilst we were at Quarry Bank School I remember a book John produced called ‘The Daily Howl,’” he said.
“It was an exercise book filled with his stories, poems, drawings and cartoons. He used to show his work to a bloke called Pete Shotton before he let anyone else see it. Pete was his best mate at Quarry Bank and I think John wrote ‘The Daily Howl’ mainly for him.
“I remember it was at the time Davy Crockett was the rage and one of the poems was ‘The Story of Davy Crutch-Head.’ He also took a current hit song called ‘Suddenly There Was a Valley’ and he incorporated this into a story which went – ‘Suddenly there was a valet who rode up riding…’
“There were quick flashes in the book such as a weather report: ‘Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tuggy, Wuggy and Thuggy.’
“He had an obsession for Wigan Pier; forever Wigan Pier kept cropping up – mainly in a story called ‘A Carrot in a Potato Mine’ – and the mine was at the end of Wigan Pier.
“One of his favourite cartoons was a bus stop scene. I remember he wrote under the sign, which said ‘Bus Stop’ – ‘Why?’ And he had a flying pancake at the top of the cartoon and below it there was a blind man wearing glasses leading along a blind dog – also wearing glasses.
“At one time ‘The Daily Howl’ was confiscated by one of the teachers and it went all round the staff before he got it back at the end of term.
“John and Pete formed a skiffle group which they named after the school – the Quarry Men. Also in the group was a chap called Colin on drums, another chap called Rod on banjo and Len Garry on tea-chest bass. They used to practice in the bathroom at John’s place in Menlove Avenue.
“They played at Barnabus Hall and another early engagement was at Woolton Garden Fete. Paul joined the group after he’d seen them at St Peter’s Church Hall, Woolton one night. He asked John if he could ‘have a go’ on his guitar – and he’s been with John ever since.”
Editor’s Note: Colin was Colin Hanton and Rod was Rod Davies. ‘Suddenly There’s a Valley’ was a hit by Petula Clark.
John was to say, "One of my earlier efforts at writing as a 'newspaper' called the Daily Howl. I would write it at night, then take it to school and read it aloud to my friends; looking at it now it seems strangely similar to the Goon Show! Even the title had 'highly esteemed' before it!"
In the 1988 auction at Sotheby’s in London, three pages of an original Daily Howl manuscript, which John had compiled in 1958, was sold for £12,000.
The first page had Daily Howl as the banner headline with Price Id or McVicars Head to the left and 1/2d to the Vicar to the right. There was a drawing by John entitled ‘Our Vicar’, next to an item which read: "The kindly Vicar of a parish, has kindly donated a kind donation, which he kindly decided to kindly donate to the Society for the Prevention of Standing on Toadstools. But it is found that the treasurer at the S.P.T.T has run away to Garston, he went on the bus."
Below it is another piece: "Talking of Vicars reminds us of the dreadful Gunpowder Plot. The gun powder plot was an awful thing, it is still done on the 5th Nov. Guy Fawkes chose the 5th Nov because it was Firework Day. Guy Mitchell, the singer claims direct descent from Guy Fawkes. His family tree is show below."
There is a drawing of a tree below it and to the left a drawing of a man with a bowl around his neck beneath the title: "Have You got Dandruff? Well, get a basin (basin) fitted on your head, it will stop the noise of the dandruff making you go deaf as it talk(s)."
There was, in fact, more than one exercise book. A pupil from the school tore out two of the poems and gave them to me and I published them, having obtained permission from John to publish any of his works he could trace. The poems were ‘The Tales Of Hermit Fred’ and ‘The Land Of The Lunapots’.
I also traced another copy of the Daily Howl, which was in the possession of a friend of mine, Rod Murray, who'd shared a flat in Gambier Terrace with John. John had left the book behind and Rod said he'd return it if he were reimbursed for the back rent which John had owed him. Rod eventually auctioned his copy off at Sotheby’s.