Probably the most popular, influential and enduring rockgroup of all time, the Beatles almost single-handedly reshapedrock ‘n’ roll from a genre of throwaway singles by faceless stars toan artistic medium with memorable images and idols. The Beatlesplaced the emphasis on a group, rather than a single individual,like Frank Sinatra or Elvis. They also set an example for all rock nroll bands to follow with their strong sense of self-determination,going against their record company and management on manyissues, even refusing to tour at the height of their popularity.
Ofcourse, their countless hit singles have become modern-day folksongs, covered by hundreds of individuals and groups and inspiringcountless more, and have sold more copies than those of any otherThe roots of the Beatles date back to Liverpool, Englandin the late 1950s. Inspired by the growing skiffle craze, JohnLennon bought a guitar in March 1957 and formed a skiffle groupcalled the Quarrymen, named after his high school, Quarry Bank. The lineup changed frequently, but by October 1959 it consisted ofLennon, his younger classmate Paul McCartney, George Harrisonand drummer Colin Hanton. By March of 1960, Lennon’s art schoolclassmate Stuart Sutcliffe joined the band on bass and suggestedthe name the Beetles, a play on Buddy Holly’s group the Crickets. By that summer they were the Silver Beatles, settling on theBeatles in August. That month the Beatles left for Hamburg, WestGermany, with their new drummer Pete Best, to try to establishthemselves in Europe.
The band became a popular local act,performing at various clubs until they were expelled from thecountry in November because George Harrison was underage. The Beatles returned to Germany in early 1961 to record as abackup band for singer Tony Sheridan; these sessions were laterreleased during the mid-’60s as “new” Beatles material, takingadvantage of unsuspecting fans. Meanwhile Sutcliffe had left theband to pursue his art career and relationship with Germanphotographer Astrid Kircherr. Paul took over on bass. Ironically,Stu died of a brain hemorrhage the following year, right before theThroughout 1961 the Beatles played clubs in Britain,becoming an underground sensation; they were particularlyfamous at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
Though they played mostlycovers, Lennon and McCartney began writing original songstogether, agreeing to forever share songwriting credits, eventhough they only co-wrote a handful of tunes during their entirecareer as the Beatles. By the end of the year, Liverpool recordstore owner Brian Epstein had become the band’s manager, andquickly began trying to find them a record contract. On January 1,1962 the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records, performing 12covers and three originals for A&R assistant Mike Smith. The groupwas rejected, however, and told that “guitar groups are on the wayout. ” Undaunted, Epstein got the group an audition at Parlophone,an EMI subsidiary, with producer George Martin, who signed theBeatles on May 9, 1962.
After one recording session, Martinsuggested that drummer Pete Best be replaced, and the Beatlesbrought in Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), a well-known localdrummer, as his replacement. By October 1962 their first single,Love Me Do” b/w “P. S. I Love You, was a U.
K. Top 20 hit, allegedlybecause Epstein bought 10,000 copies himself to ensure that itwould chart. The band became regular guests on the BBC,performing over fifty times between 1962 and 1964. In February of 1963 the Beatles returned to the studio torecord 10 songs (in one day!) for their first album, Please PleaseMe, which was released the following month. It became an instanthit, staying at No. 1 in Britain for 30 weeks and by October, femalefans were screaming at their performances , the start of”Beatlemania.
” Following an early November performance beforethe royal family, Parlophone released a second Beatles album,With The Beatles. By the end of the year the group had sold over2. 5 million albums in Britain, and had a string of million-sellingNaturally, word about this amazing new act soon spread toAmerica. Yet, ignoring the British success of the Fab Four, EMI’sU. S.
partner, Capitol, refused to issue the first few Beatles singles,which were instead picked up by the Chicago-based indie labelVee Jay Records. Vee Jay packaged the early singles asIntroducing the Beatles, their first U. S. LP. During the second half of1963 it was the only Beatles material available in America, and soldincredibly well; by 1964 a court awarded the rights to all Beatlesrecordings to EMI/Capitol, and the record went out of print, only tobecome one of the most counterfeited albums in music history.
In January of 1964 Capitol released their first U. S. Beatles LP,Meet the Beatles, containing remixed material from their twoBritish albums. Following a landmark three weekend stint on the EdSullivan show in February of 1964 (viewed by over 73 millionpeople), the Beatles were the biggest band in America,”Beatlemania” had taken hold of the U.
S. , also paving the way forother “British Invasion” groups. To capitalize on their incrediblepopularity, the Fab Four were made the stars of a comedy film, AHard Days Night, which, surprisingly, earned good reviews and,not surprisingly, produced a hit soundtrack album. Following therelease of the movie in July, the band left for their first NorthAmerican tour, performing 25 stadium dates in the U. S. andCanada.
By the end of the year Beatles For Sale was in Britishstores, part of EMI’s plan to have a new Beatles album out every sixmonths, while their previous albums and singles still clogged theU. S. and U. K Top 10.
In 1965 the band appeared in a secondmovie, the James Bond spoof Help!, which also spawned asoundtrack album. Another huge U. S. tour followed. Not content with their unprecedented commercial success,the Beatles began to take their music more seriously, shifting fromcovers and upbeat pop love songs to more thoughtful,experimental material, highlighted on December 1965’s RubberSoul. The next U.
S. Beatles album, Yesterday. . .
And Today, wasreleased on June 15, 1966 and featured a shocking cover featuringthe handsome Fab Four surrounded by raw meat and butcheredbaby dolls, a protest against Capitol’s “butchery” of their albums inthe U. S. . Complaints from retailers immediately rolled in, and thealbum was withdrawn, reissued the following week with a new,mundane cover of a steamer trunk. (Today copies of the albumwith the original cover are worth thousands of dollars. ) Furthercontroversy plagued the group when John Lennon claimed in anewspaper interview that the Beatles were “more popular thanJesus.
” Many radio stations stopped playing their songs, andprotesters appeared outside their concerts. Meanwhile the groupwas increasingly under the influence of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,an Indian guru; this flirtation with Eastern religion soon becamecommon among ’60s rock stars, and, more interestingly, lead theBeatles to experiment with Indian sitar music on their next fewalbums. The band also began using large amounts of psychedelicdrugs, foreshadowing the “flower children” of the next few years. Following the release of Revolver, their most mature effort todate, in August 1966, the Beatles embarked on their final U. S.
tour,playing their last live show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park onAugust 29th. From then on, the band announced, they were goingto keep away from live performances to concentrate on moreelaborate studio productions. Rumors were spread in the media asthe band disappeared from the public. The Beatles spent much ofearly 1967 in the studio, recording their amazing, Sgt. Pepper’sLonely Hearts Club Band. This groundbreaking concept albumcompletely changed the way rock albums were created.
It usednumerous studio effects, placed the emphasis on the album as awhole rather than on singles, and rewrote the standard for cover artwith its famous cardboard cutout-based photo collage. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band later won four Grammys,On August 27, 1967 Beatles manger Brian Epstein was founddead of a drug overdose, possibly intentional. The band wasshaken, but decided not to hire a new manager, assumingcomplete control over their own career. Their first project withoutEpstein’s guidance, the concept album and BBC TV specialMagical Mystery Tour, was attacked by critics, and was probablythe beginning of the end for the Beatles. By 1968 the group hadformed its own record label, Apple, and they were recording tracksfor a new double album.
Sessions were filled with tension asmembers of the group periodically stormed out and often failed torecord together, turning in tracks recorded independently. The bizarre result, popularly referred to as The White Album butofficially called The Beatles, was released in November of 1968,and featured a guest appearance by Eric Clapton on the single”While My Guitar Gently Weeps. ” That same month John Lennonreleased a solo album recorded with his controversial new lover,Japanese artist Yoko Ono, entitled Unfinished Music No. 1 – TwoVirgins. Late in 1968 an animated film inspired by the song “YellowSubmarine” was released in theaters. Despite the cheery tone ofthe film, created with little band involvement, the real Beatles werehardly speaking, spending more time on their personal lives andtheir own musical projects than on the group.
In January 1969 the weary band began preparing to record anew album live in the studio, without any overdubs, tentativelyentitled Get Back. For an accompanying film, the Beatlesperformed on the roof of their studio, their last public appearanceever. While preparing the album, the group began to fight overcreative issues, and the project was shelved, while the groupcontinued to deteriorate. On March 12, McCartney marriedAmerican photographer Linda Eastman; several days later Lennonformally married Yoko Ono. By May the Beatles’ situation worsenedwhen the group appointed Allen Klein as their new businessmanager, despite objections by Paul McCartney, who wanted togive the job to his new father-in-law.
Though conflict continued tohaunt the group, the Beatles returned one last time to EMI Studiosto record Abbey Road with George Martin, an amazingly togetheralbum. By early 1970 each of the four Beatles was working on asolo album, but each publicly denied rumors of a split. InSeptember 1969, Lennon told his bandmates that he wanted toquit, but because the group was renegotiating with EMI at the time,the breakup was temporarily put aside. Meanwhile, rampantrumors spread across America that Paul McCartney had died in anauto accident several years earlier and had been secretly replacedby a look-alike; the alleged “clues” hidden in lyrics and cover artwere quickly proved to be the product of overactive imaginations.
Sadly, internal tension resurfaced in the Beatles when AllenKlein brought in Phil Spector to produce and overdub Get Back(released in May 1970 as Let It Be) against Paul’s wishes, alsodemanding that Paul delay the release of McCartney, his solodebut, in order to avoid detracting from sales of Let It Be. In anger,McCartney released his album in April, before Let It Be, andpublicly announced that he was quitting the group. On December31, 1970 McCartney filed suit against Klein to break up the Beatles,which upset the other three, who had considered periodicallyrecording as a group while continuing their solo careers — now anychance of a reunion was gone, at least for quite a while. AppleRecords became a financial and legal mess.
During the 1970s each of the Beatles released solo albums. Paul, performing with wife Linda in the group Wings, was the mostcommercially successful. John recorded on and off with Yoko Ono,and continued to attract attention for his radical politics (though hesemi-retired from music in 1975 to spend time with his newbornson, Sean). Throughout the decade there was idle talk of a reunion,peaking around 1976 when a Beatlesque Australian group namedKlaatu was rumored to be the Fab Four under a false name (theyweren’t, though their manager and record company encouragedthe rumor) and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaelshalf-seriously offered the Beatles $3,000 to perform on his show. Though all four Beatles did contribute to the 1973 Ring Starr song”I’m the Greatest,” no real reunion ever took place.
On December 8,1980 all chances of that happening were ended when a derangedfan, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside hisAlthough the Beatles had not released any new albums since1970, interest in the group remained high into the ’90s, theirbackcatalog selling millions of copies a year and providing Capitolwith a large part of their annual income. Publishing rights to allLennon-McCartney compositions were sold during the ’80s forhundreds of millions of dollars, at one point passing through thehands of Michael Jackson. Though Capitol issued singles/out-takescompilations such as Past Masters and Rarities, a lot moreunreleased material remained unavailable due to ongoing legalproblems, and ended up on illegal bootlegs. By the early ’90s Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko Ono settledtheir disagreements about contracts, permitting the re-release oflong unavailable recordings. In 1994 Capitol issued a double CD ofearly Beatles recordings for the BBC.
Phenomenal sales of Live atthe BBC inspired more exploitation of the Beatles legacy. In 1995the surviving Beatles came together to contribute to a TVdocumentary about the group and select material for a plannedrarities anthology of out-takes and demos. While together, Paul,George and Ringo laid down music for two John Lennon demoout-takes, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love. ” Though the soundquality was often abysmal, the material inferior, and thesurrounding hype insulting, America’s aging Beatles fans ate upthe three 1996 double-album releases, Beatles Anthology 1, 2, and3, which sold over 15 million copies in less than a year.
Capitolonce again insists that there is no more Beatles material that willEven though one of the Fab Four has passed away, they live on,almost vividly, in the hearts of the youth in the world. Nothingbefore or since the Beatles has affected people in such a hugeway. Forty years ago, four young lads from Liverpool, England gottogether and grew and grew until they were bigger than anythingthats ever been seen in the music industry. They live forever inme, the world, in music, in everything. Love surrounds them forBibliography: