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- For the album, see The Beatles (album)
The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With John Lennon (rhythm guitar), Paul McCartney (bass guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar) and Ringo Fart (drums), they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later experimented with several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania", but as their songwriting grew in sophistication they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era's socio-cultural revolutions.
Starting in 1960, the Beatles built their reputation playing in clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. They acquired the nickname the "Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 they had become international pop stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. From 1965 on, the Beatles produced what many critics consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968) and Abbey Road (1969). After their break-up in 1970, they enjoyed successful musical careers. Although Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan in 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001, McCartney and Starr continue to remain musically active.
The Beatles are the best-selling music act of all time, with estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. They hold the record for most number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart (15), most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (20), and most singles sold in the UK (21.9 million). The band received seven Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award (for Best Original Song Score for the 1970 film Let It Be) and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually between 1994 and 2015. In 2004 and 2011, the group topped Rolling Stone's lists of the greatest artists in history. Time magazine named them among the 20th century's 100 most important people.
1957-1960 Formation and Early Years
The Beatles were all natives of Liverpool, England.
In late 1956/early 1957, John Winston Lennon (who was sixteen years old at the time) formed an amateur skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank School. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that another respected local group was already using the name. Fifteen-year-old James Paul McCartney joined the group as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met on later that year in July. On February 1958, McCartney invited his best friend George Harold Harrison to watch the band. The fourteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon and his band mates thought Harrison was too young to join. After a month of persistence, they enlisted Harrison permanently as lead guitarist. By January 1959, Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began his studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as "Johnny and the Moondogs", were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and purchased a bass guitar, joined the group in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band's name to Beatles as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name through May, when they became the "Silver Beetles", before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they changed their name to the Silver Beetles and by the middle of August to the Beatles.
1960–1975: The Beatles
Hamburg and UK popularity
Allan Williams, the Beatles' unofficial manager, arranged a resident band booking for them in Hamburg, but lacking a full-time drummer they auditioned and hired Pete Best (a member of the Blackjacks) in mid-August. The band, now a five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be a 3½ month residency. Beatles' historian Mark Lewisohn wrote, "They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on August 17, the time when the red-light area comes to life... flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unabashed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities."
Koschmider had converted a couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, and he initially placed the Beatles in the Indra Club. After closing the Indra due to noise complaints, he moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned that they were performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of their contract, he gave the band one month's termination notice, reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. The authorities arranged for Harrison's deportation in late November. One week later, Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after they set fire to a condom on the wall in their room; the authorities deported them. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg through late February with his German fiancee and photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles.
During the next two years, the Beatles were residents for periods of Hamburg, where they used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. In 1961, during their second Hamburg engagement, Kirchherr cut Sutcliffe's hair in the "exi" (existentialist) style, later adopted by the other Beatles. When Sutcliffe decided to leave the band early that year and resume his art studies in Germany, McCartney took up the bass. Producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now a four-piece group through June 1962, and he used them as Tony Sheridan's backing band on a series of recordings.
After completing their second Hamburg residency, the Beatles enjoyed increasing popularity in Liverpool with the growing Merseybeat movement. However, they were growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November, during one of the group's frequent appearances at the Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record store owner and music columnist. He later recalled, "I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was sort of presence... [a] star quality. Epstein courted the band over the next couple of months, and they appointed them manager on January 1962. After an early February audition, Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out Mr. Epstein." Tragedy greeted them upon their return to Germany in April, when a distraught Kirchherr met them at the airport with news of Sutcliffe's death the previous day from what would later be determined a brain haemorrhage. The following month, George Martin signed the Beatles to EMI's Parlophone label.
TV contract and first recordings
George Martin's first recording session with the Beatles took place at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London on June 6, 1962. Martin immediately complained to Brian Epstein about Best's poor drumming and suggested they use a session drummer in his stead. After contemplating Best's dismissal, the Beatles replaced him in mid-August with Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), who left Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to join them. A September 4 at EMI yielded a recording of "Love Me Do" featuring Starr on drums, but a dissatisfied Martin hired drummer Andy White for the band's third session a week later, which produced recordings of "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", and "P.S. I Love You". Martin initially selected the Starr version on "Love Me Do" for the band's first single through subsequent re-pressings featured the White version, with Starr on tambourine. Released in early October, "Love Me Do" peaked at No. 17 on the Record Retailer chart. Their television debut came later that month with a live performance on the regional news programme People and Places. A studio session in late November yielded another recording of "Please Please Me", of which Martin accurately predicted, "You've just made your first No.1."
In December 1962, the Beatles concluded their fifth and final Hamburg residency. By 1963, they had agreed that all four band members would contribute vocals to their albums- including Starr, despite his restricted vocal range, to validate his standing in the group. Lennon and McCartney had established a songwriting partnership, and as the band's success grew, their dominant collaboration limited Harrison's opportunities as a lead vocalist. Epstein, in an effort to maximize the Beatles' commercial potential, encouraged them to adopt a professional approach to performing. Lennon recalled him saying, "Look, if you really want to get into big places, you're going to have to change — stop eating on stage, stop swearing, stop smoking". Lennon said, "We used to dress how we liked, on and off stage. He'd tell us jeans were not particularly smart and could we possibly manage to wear proper trousers, but he didn't want us suddenly looking square. He'd let us have our own sense of individuality".
Although the band experienced huge popularity in the UK record charts from early 1963, EMI's American operation, Capitol Records, declined to issue the singles "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You". Vee-Jay Records, a small Chicago label, issued the singles as part of a deal for the rights to another performer's masters. Art Roberts, music director of Chicago powerhouse radio station WLS, placed "Please Please Me" into radio rotation in late February 1963 making it the first time a Beatles record was heard on American radio. Vee-Jay's rights to the Beatles were later cancelled for non-payment of royalties.
In August 1963, Philadelphia-based Swan Records released "She Loves You", which also failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on Dick Clark's TV show American Bandstand produced laughter from American teenagers when they saw the group's distinctive hairstyles. New York disc jockey Murray the K featured "She Loves You" on his '1010 WINS record revue' show in January. In early November 1963, Brian Epstein persuaded Ed Sullivan to present the Beatles on three editions of his show in February, and parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. Capitol committed to a mid-January release for "I Want to Hold Your Hand". On 7 December 1963 a clip of the Beatles was shown on the CBS Evening News, inspiring a teenage girl in Washington, D.C. to request a Beatles song on a local radio station. The station secured an imported copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — forcing Capitol Records to release the song ahead of schedule on 26 December.
Several New York radio stations — first WMCA and WABC — began playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on its release day. The Beatlemania that had started in Washington was duplicated in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The record sold one million copies in just ten days, and by 16 January, Cashbox magazine had certified the record number one (in the edition marked 23 January). On 3 January 1964 a film of the Beatles performing "She Loves You" was aired on the late-night Jack Paar Show.
Beatlemania crosses over to America
On 7 February 1964, a crowd of four thousand fans at Heathrow Airport waved to the Beatles as they took off for their first trip to America as a group. They were accompanied by photographers, journalists (including Maureen Cleave) and Phil Spector, who had booked himself on the same flight. The pilot had radioed ahead, and as they prepared to land said, "Tell the boys there's a big crowd waiting for them." Kennedy International Airport had never experienced such a crowd, estimated at about 3,000 screaming fans. After a press conference (where they first met Murray the K) they were put into limousines and driven to New York. On the way McCartney turned on a radio and listened to a running commentary: "They [the Beatles] have just left the airport and are coming to New York City..." After reaching the Plaza Hotel, they were besieged by fans and reporters. Harrison had a temperature of 102 the next day and was ordered to stay in bed, so Neil Aspinall replaced him for the first television rehearsal.
Their first live American television appearance was on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964. The next morning practically every newspaper wrote that the Beatles were nothing more than a "fad", and "could not carry a tune across the Atlantic". Their first American concert appearance was at Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. on 11 February.
After the Beatles' huge success in 1964, Vee-Jay Records and Swan Records took advantage of their previously secured rights to the Beatles' early recordings and reissued the songs, all of which reached the top ten the second time around. (MGM and Atco also secured rights to the Beatles' early Tony Sheridan-era recordings and had minor hits with "My Bonnie" and "Ain't She Sweet", the latter featuring John Lennon on lead vocal.) In addition to Introducing... The Beatles, which was essentially the Beatles' debut British album with some minor alterations, Vee-Jay also issued an unusual LP called The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons. This 2-LP set paired Introducing... The Beatles and The Golden Hits Of The Four Seasons, another successful act that Vee-Jay had under contract, in a 'contest' (the back cover featured a 'score card'). Another unusual release was the Hear The Beatles Tell All album, which consisted of two lengthy interviews with Los Angeles radio disc jockeys (side one was titled "Dave Hull interviews John Lennon," while side two was titled "Jim Steck interviews John, Paul, George, Ringo"). No Beatles music was included on this interview album, which turned out to be the only Vee Jay Beatles album Capitol Records could not reclaim.
The Vee-Jay/Swan-issued recordings eventually ended up with Capitol, who issued most of the Vee-Jay material on the American-only Capitol release The Early Beatles, with three songs left off this final US version of the album. ("I Saw Her Standing There" was issued as the American B-side of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and also appeared on the Capitol Records album Meet The Beatles. "Misery" and "There's a Place" were issued as a Capitol "Starline" reissue single in 1964, and reappeared on the 1980 Rarities compilation album.) The early Vee-Jay and Swan Beatles records command a high price on the record collectors' market, and all have been copiously bootlegged. The Swan tracks ("She Loves You" and "I'll Get You") were issued on the Capitol LP The Beatles' Second Album. (Swan also issued the German-language version of "She Loves You," called "Sie Liebt Dich." This song later appeared (in stereo) on Capitol's US version of the Rarities compilation album.)
In mid-1964 the band undertook their first appearances outside of Europe and North America. They toured Australia and New Zealand without Ringo Starr, who was ill and temporarily replaced by session drummer Jimmy Nicol. In Adelaide they were greeted by over 300,000 people who turned out at Adelaide Town Hall.
In June 1965, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appointed the four Beatles Members of the Order of the British Empire, MBE. The band members were nominated by Prime Minister Harold Wilson (who also was the M.P. for Huyton, Liverpool). The appointment — at that time primarily bestowed upon military veterans and civic leaders — sparked some conservative MBE recipients to return their insignia in protest. The first two were returned on 14 June, before the Beatles received theirs on 26 October 1965. On 15 August that year, the Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600. Their sixth album, Rubber Soul, was released in early December 1965. It was hailed as a major leap forward in the maturity and complexity of the band's music.
Backlash and controversy
In July 1966, when the Beatles toured the Philippines, they unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected the group to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Brian Epstein politely declined on behalf of the group, as it had never been the group's policy to accept such "official" invitations. The group soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to accepting "no" for an answer. After the 'snub' was broadcast on Philippine television and radio, all of the Beatles' police protection disappeared. The group and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own. At the airport, roadie Mal Evans was beaten and kicked, and the band members were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd. Once the group boarded the plane, Epstein and Evans were ordered off, and Evans said, "Tell my wife that I love her." Epstein was forced to give back all the money that the band had earned while they were there before being allowed back on the plane.
Almost as soon as they returned from the Philippines, an earlier comment by Lennon made in March that year launched a backlash against the Beatles from religious and social conservatives in the United States. In an interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave, Lennon had offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now." Afterwards, a radio station in Birmingham, Alabama, ran a story on burning Beatles records, in what was considered to be a joke. However, many people affiliated with rural churches in the American South started taking the suggestion seriously. Towns across the United States and South Africa started to burn Beatles records in protest. Attempting to make light of the incident, Harrison said, "They've got to buy them before they can burn them." Under tremendous pressure from the American media, Lennon apologized for his remarks at a press conference in Chicago on August 11, the eve of the first performance of what turned out to be their final tour.
The group's two-year series of Capitol compilations also took a strange twist in the United States when one of their publicity shots, used for a Yesterday and Today album and a poster promoting the UK release of "Paperback Writer", created an uproar, as it featured the band draped in meat and plastic dolls. Thousands of these copies had to be withdrawn. Years later, the cover shot was linked with the group's interest in German expressionism.
Elvis Presley disapproved of the Beatles's anti-war activism and open use of drugs (the latter proved to be massive hypocrisy on Presley's part), later asking President Nixon to ban all four members of the group from entering the United States. Peter Guralnick writes, "The Beatles, Elvis said, [...] had been a focal point for anti-Americanism. They had come to this country, made their money, then gone back to England where they fomented anti-American feeling." Guralnick adds, "Presley indicated that he is of the opinion that the Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music while entertaining in this country during the early and middle 1960s." Despite Elvis' remarks, Lennon still had some positive feeling towards him: "Before Elvis, there was nothing."
The studio years
In April 1966, the group began recording what would be their most ambitious album to date, Revolver. During the recording sessions for the album, tape looping and early sampling were introduced in a complex mix of ballad, R&B, soul and world music.
The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. McCartney asked Tony Barrow to tape the event, but the 30-minute tape he used ran out halfway through the last song. The concert lasted a little under 35 minutes.
From then on, the Beatles concentrated on recording. Less than seven months after recording Revolver, the Beatles returned to Abbey Road Studios on 24 November 1966 to begin the 129-day recording sessions for their eighth album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on 1 June 1967.
On 25 June 1967, the Beatles became the first band globally transmitted on television—before an estimated 400 million people worldwide. The band appeared in a segment within the first-ever worldwide TV satellite hook-up, a show titled Our World. The Beatles were transmitted live from Abbey Road Studios, and their new song "All You Need Is Love" was recorded live during the show.
The band's business affairs began to unravel after manager Brian Epstein died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on 27 August 1967 at the age of 32. At the end of 1967, they received their first major negative press in the UK with disparaging reviews of their surrealistic TV film Magical Mystery Tour. Part of the criticism arose because colour was an integral part of the film, but in 1967 few viewers in the UK had colour televisions. The film's soundtrack, which features one of the Beatles' few instrumental tracks ("Flying"), was released in the United Kingdom as a double EP, and in the United States as a full LP (the LP is now the official version).
The group spent the early part of 1968 in Rishikesh, Uttar Pradesh, India, studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Upon their return, Lennon and McCartney went to New York to announce the formation of Apple Corps. The middle of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album because of its plain white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band, with Starr temporarily walking out. The band carried on, with McCartney recording the drums on the songs "Martha My Dear", "Wild Honey Pie", "Dear Prudence" and "Back in the USSR". Among the other causes of dissension were that Lennon's new girlfriend, Yoko Ono, was at his side through almost all of the sessions, and that the others felt that McCartney was becoming too dominating. Internal divisions within the band had been a small but growing problem during their early years; most notably, this was reflected in the difficulty that George Harrison experienced in getting his own songs onto Beatles albums.
On the business side, McCartney wanted Lee Eastman, the father of his then-girlfriend Linda Eastman, to manage the Beatles, but the other members wanted New York manager Allen Klein. All past Beatles' decisions had been unanimous, but this time the four could not agree. Lennon, Harrison and Starr felt the Eastmans would put McCartney's interests before those of the group. Years later, during the Anthology interviews, McCartney said of this time, "Looking back, I can understand why they would feel that he [Lee Eastman] was biased against them." However, in 1971 it was discovered that Klein, who had been appointed manager, had stolen £5 million from the Beatles' holdings.
Their final live performance was on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row, London, on 30 January 1969, the next-to-last day of the difficult Get Back sessions. Most of the performance was filmed and later included in the film Let It Be. While the band was playing, the local police were called because of complaints about the noise. Although the group was simply asked to end their performance, the band members later remarked in the Anthology video that they were disappointed they were not arrested — pointing out that the police hauling the band members off in handcuffs would have been "an appropriate ending" for the film.
The Beatles recorded their final album, Abbey Road, in the summer of 1969. The completion of the song "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" for the album on 20 August was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio.
John Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on 20 September 1969 but agreed that no announcement was to be publicly made until a number of legal matters were resolved.
In March 1970 the Get Back session tapes were given to American producer Phil Spector, who had produced Lennon's solo single "Instant Karma!". Spector's "Wall of Sound" production was against the original intent of the record, which had been to record a stripped-down live performance. McCartney was deeply dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of "The Long and Winding Road", and unsuccessfully attempted to halt release of Spector's version of the song. McCartney publicly announced the break-up on 10 April 1970, a week before releasing his first solo album, McCartney. Pre-release copies included a press release with a self-written interview explaining the end of the Beatles and his hopes for the future. On 8 May 1970, the Spector-produced version of Get Back was released as Let It Be, followed by the documentary film of the same name. The Beatles' partnership was finally dissolved in 1975.
After The Beatles
Shortly before and after the official dissolution of the group, all four Beatles released solo albums, including Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, McCartney's McCartney, Starr's Sentimental Journey, and Harrison's All Things Must Pass. Some of their albums featured contributions by other former Beatles; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only one to include compositions and performances by all four, albeit on separate songs.
Rumours of Beatles reunions persisted through the 1970s, with one of the most notable being a front-page headline in the 21 September 1979 edition of the New York Post that trumpeted "The Beatles are back!" The story reported on speculation that the group would reunite for a charity concert (scientist Carl Sagan is shown purchasing a copy of this newspaper in episode 3 of his science-documentary series, Cosmos). On 24 April 1976, the producer of NBC's Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, appeared on the program and made a tongue-in-cheek offer of $3,000 to the Beatles if they agreed to perform together on a future episode. McCartney happened to be visiting Lennon when the proposal aired; in separate interviews, both Lennon and McCartney later confirmed they considered going to the studio during the live broadcast to collect $1,500 of the offer, but ultimately chose not to. SNL aired a follow-up skit on 22 May in which Michaels increased the offer to $3,200 (along with accommodation at a local motel). Finally, on 20 November 1976, Harrison appeared as a musical guest on SNL and took part in a skit referencing Michaels' offers.
Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974 (later bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in '74), Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again. Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on 8 December 1980 in New York City. Harrison died of lung cancer on 29 November 2001.
In the wake of the expiration in 1975 of the Beatles' contract with EMI-Capitol, the American Capitol label, rushing to cash in on its vast Beatles holdings and freed from the group's creative control, released five LPs: Rock 'n' Roll Music (a compilation of their more uptempo numbers), The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (containing portions of two unreleased shows at the Hollywood Bowl), Love Songs (a compilation of their slower numbers), Rarities (a compilation of tracks that either had never been released in the U.S. or had gone out of print), and Reel Music (a compilation of songs from their films). There was also a non-Capitol-EMI release of a show from the group's early days at the Star Club in Hamburg captured on a poor-quality tape. Of all these post-breakup LPs, only the Hollywood Bowl LP had the approval of the group members. Upon the American release of the original British CDs in 1986, these post-breakup Capitol American compilation LPs were deleted from the Capitol catalogue.
In 1981, after Lennon's murder, the three surviving Beatles reunited to record "All Those Years Ago," released as a George Harrison solo single. Its original lyrics had been rewritten as a tribute to John Lennon.
The BBC has a large collection of Beatles recordings, mostly comprising original studio sessions from 1963 to 1968. Much of this material formed the basis for a 1988 radio documentary series The Beeb's Lost Beatles Tapes. In 1989, many outtakes from the Beatles sessions appeared on the radio series The Lost Lennon Tapes. Later, in 1994, the best of the BBC sessions were given an official EMI release on Live at the BBC. In 2013, another such compilation was released, On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2.
In 1988 the Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a group (not as individual performers) during their first year of eligibility. On the night of their induction, Harrison and Starr appeared in person to accept their award along with Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and his two sons. McCartney stayed away, issuing a press release citing "unresolved difficulties" with Harrison, Starr, and Lennon's estate. Solo Beatles later inducted were Lennon in 1994, McCartney in 1999 and Harrison in 2004.
In February 1994, the three surviving Beatles reunited to produce and record additional music for a few of Lennon's home recordings. "Free as a Bird" premiered as part of The Beatles Anthology series of television documentaries and was released as a single in December 1995, with "Real Love" following in March 1996. These songs were also included in the three Anthology collections of CDs released in 1995 and 1996, each of which consisted of two CDs of never-before-released Beatles material. Klaus Voormann, who had known the Beatles since their Hamburg days and had previously illustrated the Revolver album cover, directed the Anthology cover concept.
450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold on its first day of release. In 2000, a compilation album named 1 was released, containing almost every number-one single released by the band from 1962 to 1970. The collection sold 3.6 million copies in its first week (selling 3 copies a second) and more than 12 million in three weeks worldwide. The collection also reached number one in the United States and 33 other countries and had sold 25 million copies by 2005 (about the ninth best selling album of all time). More recently, in 2006, George and Giles Martin remixed original Beatles recordings to create a soundtrack to accompany Cirque du Soleil's theatrical production Love.
The Beatles' constant demands to create new sounds on every new recording, combined with George Martin's arranging abilities and the studio expertise of EMI staff engineers such as Norman Smith, Ken Townsend and Geoff Emerick, all played significant parts in the innovative sounds of the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
The Beatles continued to absorb influences long after their initial success, often finding new musical and lyrical avenues by listening to their contemporaries. Among those influences were Bob Dylan, who influenced songs such as "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". Other contemporary influences included the Byrds and the Beach Boys, whose album Pet Sounds was a favourite of McCartney's.
Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, tape loops, double tracking and vari-speed recording, the Beatles began to augment their recordings with instruments that were unconventional for rock music at the time. These included string and brass ensembles as well as Indian instruments such as the sitar and the swarmandel. They also used early electronic instruments such as the Mellotron, with which McCartney supplied the flute voices on the intro to "Strawberry Fields Forever", and the clavioline, an electronic keyboard that created the unusual oboe-like sound on "Baby You're a Rich Man".
Beginning with the use of a string quartet (arranged by George Martin) on "Yesterday" in 1965, the Beatles pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by the double-quartet string arrangement on "Eleanor Rigby" (1966), "Here, There and Everywhere" (1966) and "She's Leaving Home" (1967). A televised performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 directly inspired McCartney's use of a piccolo trumpet on the arrangement of "Penny Lane". The Beatles moved towards psychedelia with John's songs "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I am the Walrus" from 1967.
Influence on popular culture
The Beatles' lifestyles were greatly altered by their success and the income they earned. The availability of the first oral contraceptive and illegal drugs changed many people's opinions — including the Beatles' — about life, marriage, and sexual relationships.
Recreational drug use
In Hamburg, the Beatles used "prellies" (Preludin) both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. McCartney would usually take one, but Lennon would often take four or five. Bob Dylan introduced them to cannabis during a 1964 visit to New York. McCartney remembered them all getting "very high" and giggling. The Beatles occasionally smoked a spliff in the car on the way to the studio during the filming of Help!, which often made them forget their lines.
In April 1965, Lennon and Harrison were introduced to LSD by an acquaintance, dentist John Riley. Lennon in particular became an avid "tripper", claiming in a 1970 interview in Rolling Stone to have taken LSD hundreds of times. McCartney was more reluctant to try LSD, but finally did so in 1966 and was the first Beatle to talk about it in the press.
The Beatles added their names to an advertisement in The Times, on 24 July 1967, which asked for the legalization of cannabis, the release of all prisoners imprisoned because of possession, and research into marijuana's medical uses. The advertisement was sponsored by a group called Soma, and was signed by 65 people, including Brian Epstein, Graham Greene, R.D. Laing, 15 doctors, and two MPs.
On 24 August 1967, the Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the The London Hilton on Park Lane, and a few days later went to Bangor, in North Wales, to attend a weekend 'initiation' conference. There, the Maharishi gave each of them a mantra. Their time in early 1968 at the Maharishi's ashram in India was highly productive from a musical standpoint, as practically all of the songs that would later be recorded for The White Album and Abbey Road were composed there by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison.
- Please see The Beatles discography
Official CD catalogue
In 1986–1987, EMI released all 12 of the Beatles' studio albums — as originally released in the UK — on CD worldwide. (North American releases were on EMI's American subsidiary Capitol Records). It was a considered decision by Apple Corps to standardize the Beatles catalogue throughout the world. Because there were tracks that had been released in the UK on singles and EPs that had not been released on the original UK albums, in order for all their recordings to be available on CD it was necessary to create two further CDs that would contain the missing tracks.
They were new compilations that gathered together all the other singles, EP tracks and recordings from 1962–1970 that had not been issued on the original British studio albums, nor Magical Mystery Tour which was originally a double EP in its British release, but was repackaged as an LP by Capitol, and this album replaced the EP as official international canon in 1975.
According to EMI and the Guinness Book of Records, the Beatles have sold in excess of one billion units (1,010,000,000, including cassettes, LPs, CDs and bootlegs).
Beginning in 2004, the US album configurations were released as a series of box sets from Capitol Records (The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 & Volume 2); these included both stereo and mono versions based on the mixes that were prepared for vinyl at the time of their original 1960s releases.
With the issuing of the 2016 documentary (see "On film" section below), the 1977 album The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl finally got a CD release, with four extra tracks.
In 1963 Lennon and McCartney agreed to assign their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by music publisher Dick James. The company was administered by James' own company Dick James Music. Northern Songs went public in 1965, with Lennon and McCartney each holding 15% of the company's shares whilst Dick James and the company's chairman, Charles Silver, held a controlling 37.5%. In 1969, following a failed attempt by Lennon and McCartney to buy the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs to British TV company Associated Television (ATV), from which Lennon and McCartney received stock.
In 1985, after a short period in which the parent company was owned by Australian business magnate Robert Holmes à Court, ATV Music was sold to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono), including the publishing rights to over 200 songs composed by Lennon and McCartney.
A decade later Jackson and Sony merged its music publishing businesses. Since 1995, Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by the Beatles. Sony later reported that Jackson had used his share of their co-owned Beatles' catalogue as collateral for a loan from the music company. Meanwhile, Lennon's estate and McCartney still receive their respective songwriter shares of the royalties. (Despite his ownership of most of the Lennon-McCartney publishing, Jackson only recorded one Lennon-McCartney composition himself, "Come Together" which was featured in his film Moonwalker.)
Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of The Beatles' greatest hits, four of their earliest songs had been published by one of EMI's publishing companies prior to Lennon and McCartney signing with Dick James — and McCartney later succeeded in personally acquiring the publishing rights to "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why" from EMI.
Harrison and Starr did not renew their songwriting contracts with Northern Songs in 1968, signing with Apple Publishing instead. Harrison later created Harrisongs, his own company which still owns the rights to his post-1967 songs such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something". Starr also created his own company, called Startling Music. It holds the rights to his two post-1967 songs recorded by the Beatles, "Don't Pass Me By" from the White Album and "Octopus's Garden" from Abbey Road.
The Beatles appeared in several films, all of which featured associated soundtrack albums.
The band played themselves in two films directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). The group produced and starred in the hour-long television movie Magical Mystery Tour (1967), while the documentary Let It Be (released 1970) followed the recording sessions for the Get Back project in early 1969. In addition, the psychedelic animated film Yellow Submarine (1968) followed the adventures of a cartoon version of the band; the members didn't provide their own voices, appearing only in a brief live-action epilogue. There is also a documentary, Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, and a fictional movie about their music, Yesterday (2019).