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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 on rhythm guitar, Paul McCartney on bass guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar and Ringo Starr on drums, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. Having roots in skiffle and 1950s rock music, the Beatles later experimented with several genres, such as such as pop ballads, psychedelic rock and more. They incorporated elements from classical music in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their band's 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 country of their homeland, the United Kingdom. Over the following year, and by early 1964, they had become international popular music stars, They led the "British Invasion" of The United States's popular music market. From 1965 on, the Beatles produced what many critics consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums, which were 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, and some partial reunions occured in 1995-1996 and 2023. Lennon was shot and killed in 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr 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.

History

Early years

In late 1956/early 1957, John Winston Lennon 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. James Paul McCartney joined the group as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and John met on later that year in July. On February 1958, Paul invited his best friend George Harrison to watch the band. George auditioned for John, impressing him with his playing, but John and his band mates thought George was too young to join. After a month of persistence, they enlisted George permanently as lead guitarist. By January 1959, John'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. John'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. Later they called themselves the Silver Beatles, and, eventually, simply The Beatles. They played not only in Liverpool, but also in Scotland and in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960. When Stu Sutcliffe decided to leave, Paul took over that instrument. Upon their return to England, a record shop manager named Brian Epstein approached the band about becoming their manager. Within a year of signing Epstein on as manager, the Beatles gained a recording contract from EMI Records producer George Martin. Drummer Pete Best left the group and a drummer named Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, joined.

Despite initial doubts, George Martin agreed to use John and Paul originals on both sides of the Beatles' first single. "Love Me Do," released on October 5, 1962, convinced Martin that, with the right material, the Beatles could achieve a number one record. He was proven correct when the single charted in the US. After Martin suggested rerecording "Please Please Me" at a faster tempo, a studio session in late November yielded that recording, of which Martin accurately predicted, "You've just made your first No. 1."

Beatlemania era

The Beatles' debut album, "Please Please Me," released in Britain on January 12, 1963, and was an immediate hit. Famously recorded in one thirteen-hour session, the album remained number one on the charts for six months. The United States remained uninterested until, one month before the Beatles' arrival, EMI's U.S. company, Capitol Records, launched an unprecedented fifty thousand dollar promotional campaign. The publicity and the Beatles' American tour-opening performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the most popular entertainment show on television at the time, paid off handsomely. They were given the nicknames "The Fab Four" and "The Mop Tops" (because of their hair styles).

The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand," released in the United States in January 1964, hit number one within three weeks. After seven weeks at the top of the charts, it dropped to number two to make room for "She Loves You," which gave way to "Can't Buy Me Love." As many as three new songs a week were released, until, on April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the top five slots on the Billboard (a recording industry publication) list of top sellers. They also had another seven songs in the top one hundred, plus four album positions, including the top two. One week later fourteen of the top one hundred songs were the Beatles' - a feat that had never been matched before, nor has it since.

The 1964 album "A Hard Day's Night" was a breakthrough album for The Beatles, as it was their first album where they wrote all the songs. Of the album's thirteen tracks, it became John's crowning achievement, as he wrote ten of the thirteen. During this time, John was the unofficial leader of The Beatles, and although Paul was more musically accomplished, Paul remained the junior player to John, since their first meeting in 1957. In the years since they met through 1964, John recalled as his most dominant period during The Beatles musical career. It would not be until John felt inhibited that Paul began to take over. "A Hard Day's Night," having featured ten John songs, or the majority, would not occur again on any Beatles' album. In the title song, written by John, he had said that the only reason Paul sang the lead was because he could not hit the high notes. The album was a soundtrack to the film of the same name, which is viewed as one of the greatest rock-and-roll comedy adventures ever. The film is a mock-documentary, following "a day in the life" of John, Paul, George, and Ringo as fame takes them by storm.

At the time of the making of "Beatles For Sale," the group was momentarily burned out. Through 1963, The Beatles toured non-stop, having only a week off now and then. However, while off from touring, The Beatles were expected to write and record new songs, as well as tape shows for the BBC, and meet with the press. The Beatles were so tired from their hectic schedule, that they were only able to come up with eight of the fourteen songs on this album. The remaining six others were cover songs. The album featured the hit single "Eight Days A Week".

In 1965, following the success of "A Hard Day's Night," the studios gave The Beatles a lavish budget, with exotic locations, as well as being filmed in colour. Unlike The Beatles first movie, "A Hard Day's Night," their second feature film was quite different. "Help!" had an increased budget, was filmed in colour, and in several exotic locations, including the Bahamas, the Austrian Alps, and New Providence. Other locations included London's Cliveden House and Twickenham Film Studios. Because Ringo had received glowing reviews for his performance in "A Hard Day's Night," he was given the lead role in "Help!". The plot focused on Ringo, who had inherited a magic ring, and who, along with the other Beatles, are pursued by members of an evil cult who want this ring. The soundtrack album "Help!" contains 11 Lennon-McCartney originals and two cover songs, "Act Naturally" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy". Seven of the fourteen songs, including the singles "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride", appeared in the film and take up the first side of the vinyl album. The second side includes "Yesterday", the most-covered song ever written. During the recording sessions for the album, the Beatles continued to explore the studio's multitracking capabilities to layer the group's sound. "Yesterday" features a string quartet, the band's first use of Baroque sensibilities, and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" includes a flute section.

Psychedelic era

The Beatles' 1965 and 1966 albums Rubber Soul and Revolver marked a turning point in the band's recording history. The most original of their collections to date, both combined Eastern, country-western, soul, and classical motifs with trend-setting covers, breaking any mould that seemed to define "rock and roll." In both albums balladry (songs that tell stories), classical instrumentation, and new structure resulted in brilliant new concepts. Songs such as "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Eleanor Rigby," and the lyrical "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" made use of sophisticated recording techniques. This was the beginning of the end for the group's touring, since live performances of such songs were technically impossible at the time.

Freed from the burden of touring, the Beatles embraced an increasingly experimental approach as they recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, beginning in late November 1966. According to engineer Geoff Emerick, the album's recording took over 700 hours. Parts of "A Day in the Life" featured a 40-piece orchestra. The sessions initially yielded the non-album double A-side single "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" in February 1967; the Sgt. Pepper LP followed with a rush-release in May. The musical complexity of the records, created using relatively primitive four-track recording technology, astounded contemporary artists. Among music critics, acclaim for the album was virtually universal. In the wake of Sgt. Pepper, the underground and mainstream press widely publicised the Beatles as leaders of youth culture, as well as "lifestyle revolutionaries". The album was the first major pop/rock LP to include its complete lyrics, which was released on the back cover. Sgt. Pepper topped the UK charts for 23 consecutive weeks, with a further four weeks at number one in the period through to February 1968. With 2.5 million copies sold within three months of its release, Sgt. Pepper's initial commercial success exceeded that of all previous Beatles albums. It sustained its immense popularity into the 21st century while breaking numerous sales records.

The Beatles' next cooperative project was the scripting and directing of another film, Magical Mystery Tour (1967) for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). Although the film was a flop, the accompanying EP charted in the UK, which contains some of their last psychedelic material, such as "The Fool on the Hill" and "I Am the Walrus". It was the first example of a double EP in the UK. The record carried on the psychedelic vein of Sgt. Pepper, however, in line with the band's wishes, the packaging reinforced the idea that the release was a film soundtrack rather than a follow-up to Sgt. Pepper. In the US, the soundtrack appeared as an identically titled LP that also included five tracks from the band's recent singles. In its first three weeks, the album set a record for the highest initial sales of any Capitol LP, and it is the only Capitol compilation later to be adopted in the band's official canon of studio albums.

Last works and breakup

Growing differences between artistic approaches pointed to the Beatles breaking up. Following the recording of their single "Lady Madonna" in February, the Beatles flew to Rishikesh, India for several weeks of meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during which they enjoyed a prolific period of song writing. Recording began at Abbey Road on 30th May and studio work occupied most of their time until the final session in mid October. The Beatles or "The White Album" as it became better known was released on 22nd November, 1968 on the fifth anniversary of their second album, With The Beatles. A total of 34 new tracks were released in 1968 (including the hit single "Hey Jude/Revolution") and 30 were contained on The White Album.

The remainder of 1968 and 1969 saw the individual Beatles continuing to work apart. Ringo appeared in the film The Magic Christian. John performed live outside the Beatles in a group called the Plastic Ono Band with his wife Yoko Ono. In July 1968, the animated film "Yellow Submarine" was released, which received widespread acclaim. The soundtrack album was released six months later, which contains six songs by the Beatles, including four new songs and the previously released "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need Is Love". The remainder of the album is a re-recording of the film's orchestral soundtrack by the band's producer, George Martin. The project was regarded as a contractual obligation by the Beatles, who were asked to supply four new songs for the film. Some were written and recorded specifically for the soundtrack, while others were unreleased tracks from other projects. The album was recorded before - and issued two months after - the band's self-titled double LP (also known as the "White Album") and was not viewed by the band as a significant release.

In 1969, The Beatles spent months filming and recording for Let It Be (which originally was going to be called Get Back). It was supposed to be a film of how the group worked together. in January 1969, especially when McCartney was pushing the group to return to live performing, although none of the others seemed especially keen on the idea. They did agree to try recording a "back-to-basics," live-in-the-studio-type LP, the sessions being filmed for a television special. That plan almost blew up when Harrison, in the midst of tense arguments, left the group for a few days. Although he returned, the idea of playing live concerts was put on the back burner; Harrison enlisted American soul keyboardist Billy Preston as kind of a fifth member on the sessions, both to beef up the arrangements and to alleviate the uncomfortable atmosphere. Exacerbating the problem was that the Beatles didn't have a great deal of first-class new songs to work with, although some were excellent. In order to provide a suitable concert-like experience for the film, the group did climb the roof of their Apple headquarters in London to deliver an impromptu performance on January 30, 1969, before the police stopped it; this was their last live concert of any sort.

Editing the film would have made release before 1970 impossible, so the Beatles (who were generally dissatisfied with these early-1969 sessions), put the album and film on hold as the group tried to figure out how the projects should be mixed, packaged, and distributed. A couple of the best tracks, "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down," were issued as a single in the spring of 1969. Instead, for the final time, the Beatles gathered to produce a new album. The result was as stunning as Sgt. Pepper had been. All their problems seemed to vanish on the album Abbey Road (1969). The Beatles were at their best. The album contained such classics as "Come Together," "Golden Slumbers," "Octopus's Garden," and George's "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something," which John hailed the best track on the album. They won yet another Grammy Award. Around this time, John had begun releasing solo singles and performing with friends as the Plastic Ono Band, and at one point threatened to resign from the Beatles in late 1969, although he was dissuaded from making a public announcement.

Most of the early-1969 tapes remained unreleased, partially because the footage for the planned television broadcast of these sessions was now going to be produced as a documentary movie. The accompanying soundtrack album, Let It Be, was delayed so that its release could coincide with that of the film. John, Paul, and Allen Klein decided to have celebrated American producer Phil Spector record some additional instrumentation and do some mixing. Thus the confusion that persists among most rock listeners to this day: Let It Be, although the last Beatles album to be released, was not the last one to be recorded. Abbey Road should actually be considered as the Beatles' last album; most of the material on Let It Be, including the title track (which would be the last single released while the group was still together), was recorded several months before the Abbey Road sessions began in earnest, and a good 15 months or so before its May 1970 release.

By that time, the Beatles were no more. In fact, there had been no recording done by the group as a unit since August 1969, and each member of the band had begun to pursue serious outside professional interests independently via the Plastic Ono Band, Harrison's tour with Delaney & Bonnie, Ringo's starring role in the Magic Christian film, and Paul's first solo album. The outside world for the most part remained almost wholly unaware of the seriousness of the group's friction, making it a devastating shock for much of the world's youth when Paul announced that he was leaving the Beatles on April 10, 1970. (The "announcement" was actually contained in a press release for his new album, in which his declaration of his intention to work on his own effectively served as a notice of his departure.)

The final blow was the conflict between the release dates of Let It Be and Paul's debut solo album. The rest of the group asked Paul to delay his release until after Let It Be; McCartney refused and, for good measure, was distressed by Spector's post-production work on Let It Be, particularly the string overdubs on "The Long and Winding Road," which became a posthumous Beatles single that spring. Although Paul received much of the blame for the split, it should be remembered that he had done more than any other member to keep the group going since Brian Epstein's death, and that each of the other Beatles had threatened to leave well before Paul's departure. With hindsight, the breakup seemed inevitable in view of their serious business disagreements and the growth of their individual interests.

Paul filed suit for the dissolution of the Beatles' contractual partnership on 31 December 1970. Legal disputes continued long after their break-up, and the dissolution was not formalised until 29 December 1974, when John signed the paperwork terminating the partnership while on vacation with his family at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. After the group's break-up in 1970, all principal members enjoyed success as solo artists. Lennon was shot and killed in 1980 and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active.

Personnel

Principal members

  • John Lennon – vocals, guitars, keyboards, harmonica, bass (1960–1969; died 1980)
  • Paul McCartney – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, drums (1960–1970)
  • George Harrison – guitars, vocals, sitar, keyboards, bass (1960–1970; died 2001)
  • Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, vocals (1962–1970)

Discography

The Beatles have a core catalogue consisting of thirteen studio albums and a compilation of UK singles and EP tracks:

Selected filmography

Main article: The Beatles in film

Fictionalised

Documentaries and filmed performances

Concert tours

Headlining

Co-headlining

See also


External links

Footnotes


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