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Beatles, The

Formed:
1960

Genres:
British Invasion

John Lennon was interested in rock and roll from it’s earliest roots, and quickly formed a rock and roll group of his own while he was a student in high school. Lennon played guitar and sang, and tried to imitate the records of Elvis and Little Richard that he had in his personal collection. He formed the Quarrymen as a way of rebelling against school and adults, and he began recruiting members. Soon, another guitar player joined Lennon’s group, and his name was Paul McCartney. Paul was a couple of years younger than John, but he was proficient with the guitar, and quite a good vocalist and songwriter. Paul also liked the same types of music that John did, and the two hit it off. Later, a third guitar buff named George Harrison joined the group. Harrison was a friend of Paul’s, and he seemed to fit in quite well. Their lineup changed off and on until 1960, but these three men were the consistent and key elements of the band. In 1960, they changed their name to the Silver Beatles, but they would eventually shorten it to the Beatles. Stuart Sutcliffe took over the bass guitar position, and eventually Pete Best joined on as drummer. And, right after Best took the job, the five left for Hamburg, Germany, where they would be gigging until the end of the year. They paid their dues in the red light district, in pubs filled with drunken teenagers. They played long hours, going from one club to the next, practicing their tunes, honing their skills, and learning new songs for the party-hungry crowds. At the end of 1960, they returned to Liverpool, and were quickly dubbed the hottest act around. They began to gig around their England, gaining a rapid following. In 1961, Sutcliffe dropped out of the Beatles, wanting to continue with his art school career. McCartney took over the bass guitar position at that point, leaving Lennon on rhythm guitar and Harrison on lead. They all sang, and could harmonize quite well together. They returned to Hamburg to make their first recordings, even though they were only to be as a backup group for the British rock guitarist and vocalist Tony Sheridan. Brian Epstein, a local Liverpool record store manager, recognized the band and began inquiring about becoming their manager. They recognized their need for a good manager, and quickly agreed to let Epstein handled their business. He began to work, setting up auditions at record companies and booking them in clubs. In 1962, after much hard work and determination by Epstein and the band, they were signed to Parlophone records, which belongs to EMI. All the while, Epstein worked on the band’s image, sharpening their look and tailoring their sound. Part of the tailoring came when drummer Pete Best was released from his duties as drummer, and replaced by Ringo Starr, who had previously been with the local band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Right after Ringo joined the group, they recorded their first single, “Love Me Do”/”P.S. I Love You,” both Lennon/McCartney songs. This is the songwriting team that would prevail over the next decade. In 1963, “Please Please Me” was released, thus officially starting the Beatles phenomenon as we now know it. The third single, “From Me to You,” only caused to strengthen this, and they then released their first album, titled Please Please Me. Please was recorded in a single day, and it topped the British charts for more than seven months. It is important to note, however, that the Beatles weren’t a simple band, by any means. They were and continue to be the most creative, influential and innovative band going, always striving to come up with a new sound, or a new way of producing sounds and noises. From their first, more simplistic music, to the more developed instrumental music, they never quit trying to be innovative and new, not relying on formulas and old standards to maintain their popularity. Their second album, With the Beatles, shows that their progression as musicians and songwriters from the first to the second album was quite enormous. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” became tremendous top ten hits, and the Beatles phenomenon grew to a new level. Their albums were selling at previously unheard of rates, and Beatlemania was in full swing. In 1963, Capitol Records released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in America, where the Beatles were virtually unknown. It raced to the top of the charts, and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964 clenched the deal: American teenagers were now as crazy as the Beatles as were the English. Soon, Beatles hits were all over the American charts as well as the English charts, dominating the singles and albums charts as no band had before or has since. In 1964, the Beatles made and released A Hard Day’s Night, a movie that featured the Beatles running from screaming fans and getting into all sorts of mischief. Again, teen girls fell in love with their happy-go-lucky, boy-next-door image, and records flew off the shelves. They toured extensively through 1964 and 1965, as well as producing more chart-busting albums and singles. Beatles for Sales and Help! were both released during this time, and it is no accident that these are the same two albums that have been judged by critics to be their most careless efforts, although fans wouldn’t agree. Their records were selling like hotcakes, and they sold out shows in every country they played in. As time progressed, it became apparent that the band was reaching out for deeper meaning in their songs. In 1965, Rubber Soul became the new defining sound of the flower-child generation. The Beatles were experimenting in the studio with new sounds and effects, as well as alternative instruments, such as the sitar. It was during this time that the band had begun hanging around Bob Dylan, who had been a huge influence on John Lennon’s songwriting. He reportedly introduced the band to psychedelic drugs, and this, too, opened doors of creativity for them. Their next effort, entitled Revolver, was released in 1966. It, too, featured songs with more depth, different arrangements of noise-sounds, backwards masking, and distorted vocals and guitar. Revolver featured several hits including “Eleanor Rigby” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Live performances and tour, however, were beginning to take their toll on the Beatles, as not all of the group’s experiences were particularly pleasant. The Beatles’ entourage were attacked in the Philipines after the Beatles didn’t show up to a luncheon with the Queen of that country. In America, an off-handed remark made by Lennon about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus set off the haters in the heartland, and Beatles albums were gathered and burned, as well as mass banning of Beatles music by religious organizations. In 1966, the Beatles played their final stadium performance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. They wanted to concentrate on recording. In 1967, amidst rumors of breakups and scandals, the Beatles produced the “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” single. The following album, entitled Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was released in the summer of 1967, and was considered the soundtrack to the hippie movement. Many consider this album the group’s crowning achievement, but there are just as many who would disagree with that statement. “All You Need Is Love” came at the perfect time, just as many people were experimenting with alternative lifestyles and psychedelic drugs. Many hippies had grown up and matured with the Beatles, and it only seemed appropriate that the Beatles become the spokesmen for the hippie generation. At the end of the summer of 1967, however, long-time Beatles manager and friend Brian Epstein died of a drug overdose. In the wake of this tragedy, the group turned to Eastern religion, as much of the world was doing at that time. They went together on a sabbatical to India to study transcendental meditation in 1968, but each member left the study course before it was completed, causing more media frenzy and uproar. While in Indian, however, the group gained enough inspiration to compose a group of new songs, and this became what is known as the White Album. With the White Album, the group returned to their guitar-rock base, and manages to maintain their lyrical depth and meaning. This album marked the end of the collective songwriting effort (although it was never really collective; all of the so-called Lennon/McCartney songs were written by one or the other, but they would collaborate to finish a piece.), as each member strove to become more of an individual. Group arguments became commonplace in the studio, and outside influences including wives and girlfriends, were beginning to pose a problem for some members of the group. On January 30, 1969, the Beatles climbed to the top of their record label’s building and gave a live performance. The police stopped it early, as they always do, and this was the Beatles’ last live performance. They released Let It Be as the band’s arguments and business problems were intensifying. The final studio album, Abbey Road, was released in 1969, and surprisingly enough contains some of the band’s most intricate melodies, unified harmonies, and lovely instrumental arrangements, even though much of the individual parts were recorded separately. On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced to a stunned world that he was leaving the Beatles to pursue a solo career. At the end of the year, McCartney sued the other Beatles in order to dissolve their partnership, a battle that would drag on in courts over the next few years. All four members established themselves as solo musicians. George Harrison emerged as a master songwriter, an acclaim that had always escaped him as he was heavily eclipsed by the Lennon/McCartney duo. Even Ringo, who didn’t possess the same songwriting skills and musical finesse as the other former Beatles, achieved solo stardom, as well as branching out into acting. Although most hopes for any sort of reunion were far-fetched and skeptical, it became all-out impossible when John Lennon was assassinated in New York City in late 1980. Although they had been feuding for almost a decade, the news of Lennon’s death devastated each of the Beatles, and fans everywhere mourned the loss of one of their long-time teen idols and rock stars. After the death of Lennon, the other individual Beatles began to slow down, and their popularity faded in the midst of new wave music and a second British Invasion that was redefining popular music. But, the popularity of the Beatles as a collective group has never faded. They are still as strong today as they were when they started, and recently, with the release of the Beatles Anthology series and the new compilation CD of #1 hits, aptly entitled One, the Beatles have proven themselves to be the most successful pop group of all time.

Band Members:
George Harrison
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Ringo Starr

Discography:

Let It Be
Release Date: May 8, 1970
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Yellow Submarine
Release Date: January 13, 1969
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Abbey Road
Release Date: September 26, 1969
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

The Beatles (White Album)
Release Date: Nove 22, 1968
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Release Date: June 1, 1967
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Magical Mystery Tour
Release Date: November 27, 1967
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Yesterday and Today
Release Date: June 20, 1966
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Revolver
Release Date: August 8, 1966
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Beatles '65
Release Date: June 14, 1965
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Help!
Release Date: August 13, 1965
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Rubber Soul
Release Date: December 6, 1965
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Meet the Beatles
Release Date: January 20, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

The Beatles' Second Album
Release Date: April 10, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

A Hard Day's Night
Release Date: June 26, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Something New
Release Date: June 20, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Beatles for Sale
Release Date: December 4, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Beatles VI
Release Date: December 15, 1964
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

Please Please Me
Release Date: March 22, 1963
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin

With the Beatles
Release Date: November 22, 1963
Label: Capitol
Produced by George Martin



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