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John Lennon
The Beatles were a highly influential and successful group of four musicians and songwriters who epitomized the popular culture of Britain and the postwar baby boom generation, and, indeed, much of the English-speaking world during the 1960s and early 1970s. Their influences on popular culture extended far beyond their roles as recording artists, as they branched out into film and even became spokesmen for their generation. The members of the group were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), all from Liverpool, England.

Originally a high-energy pop band (typified by the early singles "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me"), as the Beatles progressed their style became more sophisticated, influenced in equal measure by Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry. Their popularity was also aided by their attractive looks, distinctive personalities, and natural charisma; particularly on television where they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and others.

This was the beginning of Beatlemania in which the committed pop-music band found itself turned into a worldwide phenomenon with worshipful fans, hysterical adulation, and denunciations by such as Frank Sinatra. None of this had much to do with music and was regarded by the band members with intermittent awe and resentment.

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Lennon met McCartney on July 6, 1957 at St. Peter's Church garden fete. Lennon was in a skiffle group called The Quarry Men who were performing at the event. McCartney joined the band, and brought Harrison along soon after. In 1958, The Quarry Men recorded a demo of two songs; the first was an original Harrison/McCartney tune called "In spite of all the danger"; the other was a cover of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day". A number of songs that were later recorded for Beatles records, were originally written at this time including "I'll Follow The Sun", "Michelle", "When I'm 64", and "One After 909".

Paul McCartney
When the Quarry Men changed their name to the Beatles in 1960 (briefly known as The Fabulous Silver Beetles), Pete Best was drummer for the band and Stuart Sutcliffe was the band's bass player. Sutcliffe decided against continuing to perform with the band and remained in Hamburg in the Spring of 1961. McCartney, who had been playing guitar, replaced him on bass.

The name was a tribute to Holly's band, The Crickets combined with beat music, a common British term for rock and roll at the time. In another tribute, they had sometimes called themselves the Foreverly Brothers.

In the early days, the Beatles composed and rehearsed their songs at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool, the home of Paul McCartney, and now a National Trust property open to the public.

On December 10, 1961, Brian Epstein agreed to become the band's manager, after receiving requests for the band's music two months earlier in his record store and watching them perform at the legendary Cavern Club. Epstein arranged for the Beatles to audition for Decca Records on January 1, 1962. Decca, in one of the most embarrassing business decisions in music history, rejected the band, on the grounds that guitar music was "on the way out".

The Beatles then signed with EMI's Parlophone label in early 1962. George Martin, who was at first unimpressed by the band's demos, fell in love with the band when he met them in person. Not only did he feel as though they had musical talent, but he felt that their wit and humor made them extremely "likeable". He did have a problem with Best however, whom he criticized for not be able to keep time. The Beatles let Best go, and immediately asked Starr, whom they had met and even performed with previously, to join the band permanently. Martin, unaware of this personnel change, hired session drummer Andy White to play drums on the Beatles' first studio session on September 11, 1962.

The Beatlemania Years

George Harrison
The Beatles recorded their first full length album, live in the studio, on February 11, 1963 in one 12 hour session. On February 22, 1963 the Beatles' second single, "Please Please Me" went straight to No. 1. Meet the Beatles, the first Beatles album in the United States, was released on January 20, 1964. On February 7, 1964 The Beatles travelled to New York for a number of U.S. television appearances and performances. Upon arriving at JFK airport, The Beatles noticed thousands of kids screaming and awaiting the plane's arrival. They assumed that there must have been someone important on the plane with them and were a bit shocked to learn that the crowds were actually there for them.

On February 9, 1964 The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. To this day it remains one of the highest rated television programs of all time, with 73 million people tuning in. The Beatles made four more live appearances on the show in months to come. Two days later, on February 11 in the Washington, DC Coliseum, The Beatles made their 1st live stage appearance in the United States.

On April 4, 1964, The Beatles set a record that has yet to be broken when they occupied all five top positions on Billboard's Top Pop Singles chart. Their single "Can't Buy Me Love" was at number one. In August of that year, The Beatles' first motion picture was released, A Hard Day's Night. They started filming their second film, Help! on February 23, 1965 in the Bahamas.

The psychedelic years

In early 1965, Lennon and Harrison were dosed with LSD by their dentist. In the ensuing years, the Beatles met with psychedelic counterculture[?] icon Timothy Leary, experimented extensively with LSD and released two heavily LSD-influenced albums, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

On June 12, 1965, The Beatles were individually awarded the order of Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen. Since it was unusual for rock stars to receive the MBE, some previous recipients complained and protested, and a small number went so far as to return their own honours, complaining they had been "devalued". (Some had received the award for military heroism.) Lennon would return his own in 1969 with the note

"Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against "Cold Turkey" slipping down in the Charts.
"With love,
"John Lennon"

Ringo Starr
On August 15, 1965, The Beatles started their second North American tour at Shea Stadium, which was the first rock concert to be held in a venue that size. The concert also set new world records for attendance (55,600+) and for revenue.

On March 4, 1966, in an interview for the London Evening Standard with Maureen Cleave[?], John Lennon made the following statement:

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

The statement, was part of a two page interview and went virtually unnoticed in Britain. In July of that year, Lennon's words were reprinted in the United States fan magazine Datebook[?] leading to a backlash by conservative religious groups mainly in the rural South and Midwest states. Radio stations banned the group's recordings, and their albums and other products were burned and destroyed. Spain and the Vatican denounced Lennon's words and South Africa banned Beatles music from the radio. On August 11, 1966 Lennon held a press conference in Chicago in order to address the growing furor. He told reporters:

"I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it. I'm sorry I opened my mouth. I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I was not knocking it. I was not saying we are greater or better."

On June 5, 1966, The Beatles returned to The Ed Sullivan Show, this time with a taped appearance, where they introduced their two new music videos, "Rain" and "Paperback Writer". In later years, The Beatles would appear on the show to introduce more music videos for the songs "Hello Goodbye", "Penny Lane", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Two Of Us", and "Let It Be".

On July 2, 1966, The Beatles became the first musical group to perform at the Nippon Budokan Hall[?] in Tokyo. The performance ignited a lot of protest from local citizens who felt that it was inappropriate for a rock and roll band to play at Budokan.

By the end of July, the band headed to the Philippines for a series of shows. The Beatles, while relaxing in their hotel room, read in the newspaper that they would visit the Malacanang Palace[?] of President Marcos[?]. This came as news to the Beatles, who were tired from the tour and didn't plan on using their one day off to visit the President. They spent a relaxing evening in the hotel, and awoke the next morning to death threats and newspaper headlines like "Imelda stood up!" and "The Beatles snub the First Lady!". Epstein attempted to make a televised apology for the incident, but none of the local stations would air it. The following day, armed guards attempted to keep the band from leaving the country until they paid a fee of some kind. The Beatles, who hadn't been paid for their shows in the country, paid out of their own pockets. The Beatles literally had to fight their way to the airplane. Events like this, added to the fact that the fans screamed so loud at their concerts that they couldn't even hear themselves perform, led to the band deciding to quit touring altogether. The band performed their last concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.

The Studio Years

With the distractions of touring behind them, The Beatles began recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on November 24, 1966. The album took so much time to record (for a Beatles record anyway) that the press started to suggest that the Beatles had "lost it" and had run out of creativity.

On June 25, 1967 The Beatles performed "All You Need Is Love" for the Our World[?] television special. It was the first television special to air worldwide. Singing backup for the Beatles were a number of artists including Eric Clapton, and members of the Rolling Stones and The Who.

Manager Brian Epstein died of a drug overdose on August 27, 1967, while the Beatles were in Bangor, Wales, attending a weekend conference given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The death was officially ruled accidental, although it has often been speculated that it was a suicide. Epstein had managed every aspect of the Beatles' career, and his absence was immediately noticeable. The Beatles' business affairs began to unravel.

In January 1968, The Beatles launched Apple Corps.[?], a disastrously mismanaged entertainment company that included a recording studio, a record label (Apple Records), a film division and clothing store. In addition to Beatles records, Apple released albums by James Taylor, Mary Hopkin[?], Billy Preston[?], Badfinger, Ravi Shankar and other artists.

Towards the end of the 1960s, members of the band began to pursue their own musical interests and were writing together less and less. This became more and more obvious on releases like 1968's The Beatles (a.k.a. the "white album"), and Let It Be. The Beatles was largely written during the band's visit to India, where they had several meetings with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. With the exception of Harrison, the Beatles eventually rejected what they were hearing from The Maharishi - even occasionally writing songs that made fun of him (like "Sexy Sadie", originally titled "Maharishi", and a number of unreleased songs from the Let It Be sessions).

In January of 1969, The Beatles began rehearsals for a new album project (at the time entitled Get Back). The rehearsals at Twickenham Film Studios and recording sessions at Apple Studios were filmed for what would eventually become the Let It Be movie. Many ideas had been thrown around for the Get Back album, including the idea of recording it live during a surprise concert performance on top of a submarine, in an amphitheatre, or in a dancehall. None of these happened, but they did end the project with a live performance on top of the Apple Corps.[?] building in London, which was cut short when a local bank manager called the police to complain about the noise. Eventually the band gave up on the project and turned the results of the sessions over to producer Phil Spector. The Beatles professed themselves happy with Spector's re-working of the recordings to make a releasable album; Paul McCartney later indicated he was not happy because Spector had added things like an orchestra and a choir to the stripped-down performances (although he signed the release authorisation at the time). The original intent of the record had been to bring the band full circle, and record what was essentially a live studio performance - just as their first album had been.

In September of 1969, Russell Gibb, a radio DJ in Detroit, Michigan, announced that Paul McCartney was dead. Other DJs, television news reporters, newspapers and magazines picked up on the story and began to look for clues. This snowballed into what is commonly referred to today as the Paul Is Dead hoax. People that believed the rumors, claimed that McCartney had died in a car accident and was replaced by a look alike named William Campbell. Numerous clues were supposedly hidden in album artwork and lyrics.

The Beatles began recording their final album in July of 1969, entitled Abbey Road. Lennon announced to the other Beatles that he was leaving the band soon after that album's release but was persuaded to remain quiet in public.

The band officially broke up in 1970. The last Beatles studio session that included all four band members took place on August 20, 1969. The final Beatles session was on January 4, 1970.

EMI released Let It Be in May of 1970.

The Beatles' last public performance was on the roof of the Apple building on January 30, 1969. The impromptu concert was broken up by the police.

After the Breakup

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed in front of his New York City apartment. His death was mourned by millions of fans around the world.

Singer Michael Jackson bought the publishing rights for most of the Beatles' music, on August 10, 1985, for $47 million. McCartney, who had been attempting to purchase the rights himself, had told Jackson that he should get into publishing. McCartney did not expect Jackson to purchase the Beatles music. "I wrote a couple of letters and I said, Michael, don't you think that - even if I was just a writer on the payroll - after 30 years of being reasonably successful to this company that you now own, don't you think I could have a raise?" said McCartney. "And he said 'Oh Paul, that's just business'. He won't even answer my letters, so we haven't talked and we don't have that great a relationship. The trouble is I wrote those songs for nothing and buying them back at these phenomenal sums... I just can't do it." This is an example of how future royalties of an entertainment work are difficult to value and how creators should be cautious in making business decisions.

In 1988, The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Both Lennon and McCartney were also inducted separately in later years.

On November 30, 1994, Apple Records released a 2 CD collection of early Beatles performances on the BBC, entitled Live At The BBC.

In February of 1994, the three surviving Beatles reunited to record additional music to a few of Lennon's old unfinished demos, with Jeff Lynne producing. The first new song, "Free As A Bird", premiered November 19, 1995 as part of The Beatles Anthology series of television specials on the ABC network in the US and ITV in the UK. The song was also included on a CD with the same title, which was released on November 21, 1995. The following year, a second "new" track was released, entitled "Real Love", on March 4, 1996. That song was also included on the second Anthology collection which was released on March 18, 1996. A third Anthology collection followed on October 12, 1996, but did not include any new material. At least one other song, entitled "Now And Then", was worked on during these sessions, but remains unreleased.

In 2000, The Beatles released a best of collection, entitled "1". The CD included 27 number one hits by the band and within five weeks, became the best selling album of the year. Later that year, The Beatles released the Anthology book, which included interviews with all four band members and others involved, plus rare photos. The book went straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

George Harrison fought a long battle with lung cancer throughout the 1990s, finally succumbing and passing away on November 29, 2001.

In 2002, the Let It Be film was being prepared for release on DVD sometime in 2003. It is expected that the DVD will include additional footage, not seen in the original film. In addition, McCartney has begun to compile a new soundtrack album that is closer to what he had originally intended for the project. That collection will also be released sometime in 2003.

In January, 2003, following an investigation by The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry[?] and London detectives, police raids in England and the Netherlands recovered nearly 500 original Beatles studio tapes, recorded during the Let It Be sessions. Five people were arrested. The tapes have been used for bootleg releases for years.

In March, 2003, the Anthology television series was released on DVD with additional bonus material.

Several individuals who played an important role in the history or promotion of the band have at various times been called, or called themselves, the "fifth Beatle".

The following individuals were real members of the band before the Beatles achieved international success:

The following individuals have played a role in the studio when Beatles records were recorded:

Others have been associated with the Beatles in several ways. These include:

Studio Style Evolution

By 1966 the influence of the peace movement, psychedelic drugs and the studio technique of producer George Martin resulted in the albums Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, still widely regarded as classics. Particularly notable, along with the use of studio tricks such as sound processing, unconventional microphone placements, and vari-speed recording, was the Beatles' use of unconventional instruments for pop music, including string and brass elements, Indian instruments such as the sitar, and early electronic instruments. At the height of their fame in the mid-sixties, bolstered by the two films Help! and A Hard Day's Night, the band discontinued touring. The increasingly sophisticated arrangements of their songs were difficult to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans who typically made such noise that the music could not be heard anyway.

By then, the stress of their fame was beginning to tell and the band was on the verge of splitting at the time of the release of The Beatles (the "white album"), with some tracks recorded by the band members individually, and Starr taking a two-week holiday in the middle of the recording session. By 1970 the band had split, with each of the members going on to solo careers with varying degrees of success.

In the Movies

The Beatles also had a limited film career, beginning with A Hard Day's Night (1964). Directed by the up and coming American Richard Lester, it was a gritty black-and-white documentary-like account of a short period in the life of a rock-and-roll band. In 1965 came Help!, a Technicolor extravaganza shot in exotic locations with a thin, if not almost transparent plot regarding Ringo's finger! The critically slammed Magical Mystery Tour (the concept of which was adapted from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters[?] LSD-orientated bus tour of the USA) was aired on British television in 1967, but is now considered a cult classic.

The animated Yellow Submarine followed shortly after, but had little input from the Beatles themselves (for instance, the voices of the characters in the movie were not those of the Beatles). However, it was acclaimed for its boldly innovative graphic style and clever humour as well as the soundtrack. It did much to restore the reputation of the group for appearing in superior film musicals.

Finally, the documentary of a band in terminal decline, Let It Be was shot over an extended period in 1969; the music from this formed the album of the same name, which although recorded before Abbey Road, was (after much contractual to-ing and fro-ing) their final release.


Throughout their relatively short time recording and performing together, The Beatles set a number of world records - most of which have yet to be broken. The following is a partial list.

  • The Beatles are the best selling musical group of all time, estimated by EMI to be over one billion discs and tapes sold worldwide.
  • The most multi-platinum selling albums for any artist or musical group (13 in the U.S. alone)
  • The Beatles have had more number one singles than any other artist or musical group (22 in the U.S. alone). Ironically, the Beatles could easily have had even more number ones, because they were often competing with their own singles. For example, The Beatles' "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were released as a "double A" sided single, which caused sales and airplay to be divided between the two songs instead of being counted collectively. Even so, they reached number two with the singles.
  • The most successful first week of sales for a double album (The Beatles Anthology Volume 1), which sold 855,473 copies in the U.S. from November 21 to November 28, 1995).
  • In terms of charting positions, Lennon and McCartney are the most successful songwriters in history, with 32 number one singles in the U.S. for McCartney, and 26 for Lennon (23 of which were written together). Lennon was responsible for 29 number one singles in the U.K., and McCartney was responsible for 28 (25 of which were written together).
  • During the week of April 4, 1964, The Beatles held the top 5 positions on the Billboard singles chart. No one had ever done anything like this before, and it is doubtful that the conditions will ever exist for anyone to do it again. The songs were "Can't Buy Me Love", "Twist and Shout", "She Loves You", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and "Please Please Me".
  • The next week, April 11, 1964, the Beatles held 14 positions on the Billboard Hot 100. Before the Beatles, the highest number of concurrent singles by one artist on the Hot 100 was nine (by Elvis Presley, December 19, 1956).
  • The Beatles are the only artist to have back-to-back-to-back number one singles on Billboard's Hot 100. Boyz II Men and Elvis Presley have succeeded themselves on the chart, but the Beatles are the only artist to three-peat.
  • The Beatles' "Yesterday" is the most covered song in history, appearing in the Guinness Book of Records with over 3000 recorded versions.
  • The Beatles had the fastest selling single of all time with "I Want To Hold Your Hand". The song sold 250,000 units within 3 days in the U.S., one million in 2 weeks. (10,000 copies per hour in New York City alone for the first 20 days)
  • The largest number of advance orders for a single, at 2.1 million copies in the U.S. for "Can't Buy Me Love"
  • With their performance at Shea Stadium in 1965, The Beatles set new world records for concert attendance (55,600+) and revenue.
  • The Beatles broke television ratings records in the U.S. with their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
  • On June 12, 1965, The Beatles were awarded the order of Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen.
  • On July 2, 1966, The Beatles became the first musical group to perform at the Nippon Budokan Hall[?] in Tokyo.

Related topics

External links

  • Steve's Beatles Page (http://www.stevesbeatles.com/) with comprehensive lyrics for all songs released so far.
  • Steve Clifford's Beatles Website (http://www.islandnet.com/~scliffor/beatles/fabhome.htm) A large informational site for Beatles collectors and fans. All aspects of Beatlemania featured.

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