Oh My God The Beatles Here they are
The Beatles are among the most influential popular music artists of the second half of the 20th century, affecting the culture of Britain and America and the postwar baby boom generation, and the entire English-speaking world, especially during the 1960s and early 1970s. Certainly they're the most successful, with global sales reaching past 1.2 thousand million records sold as of 2003. Their influences on popular culture extended far beyond their roles as recording artists, as they branched out into film and even semi-willingly 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. The effect of the Beatles on Western culture (and by extension) on the rest of the world has been immeasurable.
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 others 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.
The Beatlemania Years
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 first 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.
A condensed history
Lennon met McCartney at a garden fete, and joined his band, The Quarry Men, into which McCartney also recruited Harrison. The band briefly split before regrouping. After going through several changes in name and band members, it finally became "the Beatles" under the EMI's Parlophone label. The Beatles' first full-length album, Please Please Me, was recorded within 12 consecutive hours. In 1964 they held the top five places on Billboard's Top Pop Singles Chart, a feat which has never been repeated.
In 1965 they began experimenting with LSD and were created as Members of the Order of the British Empire. Lennon caused a great backlash against the Beatles the following year when in an interview he claimed that Christianity was dying. Eventually he apologised after being slammed by among others, the Holy See.
That same year the Beatles performed their last concert. Their fortunes took a turn for the worse when their manager, Brian Epstein, passed away, and the band's affairs began to unravel. The various members began to pursue their individual interests and got together less often. In 1969 they recorded their last album, Abbey Road (although in 1970 various songs recorded earlier were compiled into Let It Be). In the same year, the Paul Is Dead hoax sprang up. The band officially broke up in 1970, and any hopes of a reunion were crushed when Lennon was murdered in 1980.
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.
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.
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 Ferdinand 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. Decades later with the fall of the Marcos regime, the members of the band took some pride that they stood up to the Marcos' in some small way.
Events like in the Phillipines, 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 least on a large scale) at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.
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. The voices of the characters in the movie were not those of the Beatles. However, the real Beatles appeared in a live-action epilogue at the film's conclusion. They also contributed five new songs for the film, including a holdover from the "Sgt. Pepper" sessions, "Only A Northern Song". Nonetheless, 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.
Unlike their contemporaries the Rolling Stones, the Beatles were seldom directly influenced by blues. Though they drew inspiration from an eclectic variety of sources, their home idiom was closer to pop music. Chuck Berry was perhaps the most fundamental progenitor of the Beatles' sound, the Beatles covered "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock And Roll Music" early in their carrers on record (with most other Berry classics heard in their live repetoire). Chuck Berry's influence is also heard, in an altered form, in later songs such as "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me And My Monkey" (1968) and "Come Together" (1969).
A significant and acknowledged musical influence was the Beach Boys, who were in turn spurred on by the work of the Beatles. The song Back in the USSR contains an overt allusion to the Beach Boys, but many other songs exhibit the kind of attention to vocal harmony for which the Beach Boys are also famous.
Individually, the four Beatles drew further inspiration from different sources. John Lennon's early style owed a huge debt to Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison ("Misery" 1963 and "Please Please Me" from 1963). After becoming acquainted with the work of Bob Dylan, Lennon became influenced heavily by folk music ("You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and "Norwegian Wood" from 1965). Lennon played the major role in steering the group toward psychedelia ("Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am The Walrus" 1967), and renewed his interest in earlier rock forms at the close of the Beatles' career ("Don't Let Me Down" 1969).
Paul McCartney is perhaps best known as the groups romantic balladeer, beginning with "Yesterday" (1965) he pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by "Eleanor Rigby" (1966) and "She's Leaving Home" (1967). Meanwhile, Paul maintained an affection for the driving R&B of Little Richard, in a series of songs which John Lennon dubbed "potboilers", from "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963) to "Lady Madonna" (1968). "Helter Skelter" (1968), which is the closest the Beatles ever came to heavy metal music, is a McCartney composition.
George Harrison derived his early guitar style from 1950's rockabilly greats such as Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore (who worked with Elvis Presley), and Duane Eddy. "All My Loving" (1963) and "She's A Woman" (1964) are prime examples of Harrison's early rockabilly guitar work.
In 1965, George Harrison broke new ground by recording with an Indian sitar on "Norwegian Wood". Many of his following compositions were based on Indian forms, most notably "Love to You" (1966), "Within You, Without You" (1967), and "The Inner Light" (1968). Indian music also influenced the band as a whole, with the use of swirling tape loops, droning bass lines, and mantra-like vocals on "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1966) and "Dear Prudence" (1968). George returned to Western musical forms in his later compositions, where he emerged as a significant pop composer in his own right. His later guitar style, while not displaying the virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, became distinctive with its use of clear melodic lines and subtle fills ("Something", "Let It Be" (1969)) in constrast to the increasingly distorted riffs and rapid fire guitar solo work of his contemporaries.
Ringo Starr's contributions to the Beatles' sound are widely underestimated. While he is mostly appreciated for his gentle comic baritone ("Yellow Submarine" (1966)), steady drumming, and everyman image, he was likely responsible for the group's occasional interest in surprisingly authentic country sounds ("What Goes On" (1965), "Don't Pass Me By" (1968)).
In their later music the pace of the songs tends to be moderate, with more of the interest usually (but not always) coming from the melody and the orchestration than the rhythm. Penny Lane (1967) is a good example of this style; it is a song you might emulate if you wanted to create a recognizably "Beatlesque" sound. Their earlier songs were often a bit faster paced. Throughout their career, their songs were rarely riff-driven. "Day Tripper" (1965) and "Hey Bulldog" (1968) are among the exceptions.
As stated above, a lot of Beatles songs had some psychedelia in them ("Yellow Submarine", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", " I am the Walrus" from 1967) but these also link to The Goon Show and the work of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Both "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Field(s)" are places in Liverpool, but the song In My Life (1965) also invokes such ideas. The song "Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite" (1967) is based on a Music Hall poster and the song "All Together Now" (1968) is based around children's rhymes.A handful of Beatles' songs both musically and lyrically border on the dadaist or absurd ("Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey", "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road", from 1968).
While romantic themes permeate the Beatles' work, in contrast to the Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Doors, songs with overtly sexual themes are rare in the Beatles catalogue. "Norwegian Wood" very obliquely refers to sexual infidelity, and "Lovely Rita" (1967) alludes to casual sex. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (1968) is a rare Beatles' song that deals with erotic imagery. The "Ballad Of John and Yoko" (1969) also raised some eyebrows with a sexual pun ("were only trying to get us some peace"), as well as the use of Christ as an expletive in the chorus.
After the Breakup
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered in front of his New York City apartment by a mentally deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, thus forever crushing any hope of a Beatles reunion. 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 produce and record additional music to a few of Lennon's old unfinished demos, with Jeff Lynne co-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 and brain cancer throughout the 1990s, finally succumbing and passing away on November 29, 2001.
In 2002, the Let It Be film was being restored and prepared for release on DVD sometime in 2004. It is expected that the DVD will include additional footage, not seen in the original film. The album Let It Be... Naked, featuring stripped-down (but intended) versions of the original album, was released in November, 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:
Pete Best - Their drummer before being replaced by Ringo Starr.
Stuart Sutcliffe - A bassist (apparently very shy) who left the group in Hamburg for the love of Astrid Kirchherr and died from a brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962 . His life, and his friendship with John Lennon, was fictionalized in the 1993 movie Backbeat.
Chas Newby - bassist in Germany, 1960. Left the band to return to college.
Tommy Moore - drummer for the Silver Beetles for one month in 1960. Quit the band, claiming to have had "just about enough of Lennon".
Norman Chapman - drummer for the Silver Beetles for a few weeks in 1960. Left when conscripted into the Army for two years service in Kenya and Kuwait.
The following individuals have played a role in the studio when Beatles records were recorded:
George Martin - Their producer, who translated their musical ideas into studio productions, and also did some piano work on, for example "In My Life"
Jeff Lynne - co-producer for The Beatles Anthology and 1994-1995 sessions
Geoff Emerick - studio engineer
Mal Evans - roadie and assistant
Neil Aspinall - assistant, road manager
Andy White - drummer on the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do"
Billy Preston - Organist on "Let It Be", electric piano player on "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down", first met them in their Hamburg days while touring with Little Richard
Eric Clapton - Lead guitarist on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Alan Civil - French horn soloist on "For No One"
David Mason - piccolo trumpet soloist on "Penny Lane"
Others have been associated with the Beatles in several ways. These include:
Allan Williams - original manager
Brian Epstein - The manager who took them from Hamburg to the world stage
Tony Barrow - press officer 1963-1968
Derek Taylor - assistant to Brian Epstein, press officer 1968-1971
Alf Bicknell - Chauffeur until 1966, body guard
Murray the K - A disc jockey in New York, the first to claim to be the fifth Beatle
Dick James - publisher
Magic Alex - head of Apple electronics
Klaus Voormann - German bassist and artist; a friend of Stu Sutcliffe's girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr member of the Plastic Ono Band, drew the cover for Revolver.
Jimmy Nicol - temporary drummer on the Beatles' 1964 overseas tour
Roy Orbison - In 1963 the American rock and roll star headlined a European tour with the Beatles. Recognizing their unique sound and extraordinary talent, and the reaction of the crowds to their performances, Orbison was instrumental in encouraging the fledgling group to come to the United States.