The Beatles

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The Beatles

Years active 1960 - 1970
Origin Liverpool, England
Genre(s) Rock / Pop
Label(s) Parlophone , Apple Records
Members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

The Beatles were a British pop and rock group from Liverpool. They are widely regarded as the most important and successful musical group of all time, having achieved broad popular success, critical acclaim and cultural influence. The group shattered many sales records and charted more than 50 top 40 hit singles, including 20 #1's in the USA alone. EMI Records estimate that the band has sold over a billion records worldwide[1].

Dubbed "The Fab Four", the Beatles were John Lennon (1940 - 1980), Paul McCartney (born 1942), George Harrison (1943 - 2001), and Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey in 1940). Lennon and McCartney were the principal songwriters, with Harrison making a significant contribution, particularly in the band's later years. George Martin produced most of the Beatles' recordings.

The Beatles created a sensation in late 1963 in the UK (the phenomenon was dubbed "Beatlemania" by the British press), notable for the hordes of screaming and swooning young women the group inspired. Beatlemania came to North America in early 1964, and the band's popularity extended across much of the world. Within the space of five years, their music moved from the awakening of their early hits (such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand") to artistically ambitious suites of songs (such as the albums Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road). By writing their own songs, exploring the possibilities of the recording studio and working on unprecedented quality in every recording they released, the Beatles had far-reaching effects on popular music. The Beatles starred in two feature films. They were subjected to unprecedented press scrutiny which included criticism of their later role as symbols of 1960s youth counterculture. The group disbanded in 1970. 35 years later, in 2005, the American entertainment industry magazine Variety named them the most important entertainers of the 20th century.



Rhythm Guitarist John Lennon was known for his political activism, as well as his love for guitar-based rock and roll.  He penned such songs as "Imagine", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "In My Life", "Help!", "A Day In The Life", and "A Hard Day's Night".
Rhythm Guitarist John Lennon was known for his political activism, as well as his love for guitar-based rock and roll. He penned such songs as "Imagine", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "In My Life", "Help!", "A Day In The Life", and "A Hard Day's Night".

Main article: History of the Beatles

John Lennon formed a skiffle group, The Quarrymen, in March 1957. On July 6 that year, he met Paul McCartney whilst playing at the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete and the two were soon playing music together. In February of 1958 the young guitarist George Harrison joined the group, which played under a variety of names.

The first regular gigs for the group were at a club created by Mona Best in the basement of her family's home, a large Victorian House with a large complex of cellars at 8 Haymans Green in the West Derby area of Liverpool. She had noticed the number of young friends visiting her son, Pete, at the house and decided to turn part of the cellar into a private club. A more ambitious plan, a club for young people with live groups developed. It was one of the first cellar clubs in Liverpool to present rock 'n' roll groups exclusively, as opposed to the strict policy of jazz for venues such as the Cavern and the Cat A Coombs. The Casbah Coffee Club opened in August 1959 and the resident group was the Quarrymen - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown, who would soon be cast off.

The Quarrymen went through a progression of names: Long John and the Silver Beatles, the Silver Beatles, eventually arriving at The Beatles. In 1960 their manager, Allan Williams, arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany. In August 1960, McCartney invited Pete Best to become the group's drummer. In Hamburg (particularly at the infamous "Kaiserkeller" club) they honed their skills as performers and broadened their reputation. Stuart Sutcliffe was part of the group in 1960-61 and influenced their appearance and sense of style. While in Hamburg, The Beatles were recruited by singer Tony Sheridan to act as his backing band on a series of recordings for the German Polydor Records label, produced by famed bandleader Bert Kaempfert. Kaempfert signed the group to its own Polydor contract at the first session in June 1961.

Upon their return from Hamburg the group was enthusiastically promoted by Sam Leach who presented them over the next year and a half on various stages in Liverpool 49 times, including the famed “Operation Big Beat in 1961”, at which 3000 people paid to see the Beatles perform along with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, Gerry and the Pacemakers and others at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton.

Brian Epstein, manager of the record department at NEMS, his family's furniture store, took over as the group's manager in 1962 and renewed The Beatles quest for an English recording contract. After one last session for Polydor in May 1962, Epstein and Kaempfert jointly agreed to cancel the group's contract with the German label. Having been rejected by almost every other record company in England, he secured them a contract with EMI's Parlophone label. Pete Best was fired in favour of Ringo Starr. The new line-up recorded their first broadcast interview on the hospital station Radio Clatterbridge. The Beatles' first sessions in September 1962 produced a minor UK hit, "Love Me Do", which likely charted partly because Epstein ordered a large quantity of the singles from EMI for his family's record stores. ("Love Me Do" subsequently reached the top of the US singles chart in May 1964.) This was quickly followed by the recording of their first album, Please Please Me, a mix of original songs by Lennon and McCartney along with some covers. The band's first televised performance was on a programme called People and Places broadcast live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962 and presented by Bill Grundy (who later became "Big Grunty" in Lennon's first book "In his own write").

Beatlemania began in Britain on 13 October 1963 with a televised appearance at the London Palladium. Although the band was experiencing great popularity in the record charts in England by early 1963, Parlophone's American counterpart, Capitol Records (which was owned by EMI), refused to issue the singles "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You" in the United States, the reason being that no British act had ever made any impact on an American audience.

VeeJay Records, a small Chicago label, is said to have been pressured into issuing these 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 rotation in late February 1963, making it the first and last time a Beatles' record was heard on American radio until December 1963 (it lasted a few weeks at the bottom of the charts this first time around). Veejay issued a corresponding album that summer in America, which also went nowhere.

In August 1963 the Swan label (partly owned by Dick Clark) tried again with the Beatles' "She Loves You", which again failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on his TV show American Bandstand resulted in laughter and scorn from American teenagers when they saw the group's unusual haircuts. Meanwhile, it is said that British airline stewardesses and others were bringing single copies of Beatles records into major US cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to share with friends. In December 1963, during the weeks immediately following the Kennedy assassination, their music began slowly filling the American airwaves.

Beatlemania exploded in the United States with three national television appearances by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February, 16 February and 23 February 1964. The pop-music band became a worldwide phenomenon with worshipful fans and angry denunciations by cultural observers and established performers such as Frank Sinatra, sometimes on grounds of the music (which was thought crude and unmusical) or their appearance (their hair was considered 'scandalously long').

Some commentators have speculated that after the assassination of John F. Kennedy a depressed America was searching for a way out of gloom and despair. So in effect, the Beatles were in the right place at the right time (with a unique combination of talent and stage presence) to provide an enthusiastic jolt to a saddened nation.

During the week of April 4, 1964, they held the top five places on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that has never been repeated.

In mid-1964 the band undertook their first world tour, which included Australia and New Zealand. Just before the tour began, Ringo was briefly hospitalised with a severe attack of pharyngitis, so drummer Jimmy Nicol was drafted in for several concerts on the Australian leg. When they arrived in Adelaide, The Beatles were greeted by what is reputed to be the largest crowd of their touring career, when over 300,000 people --about one-third of the entire population of the city at that time -- turned out to see them.

In 1965 they were instated as Members of the Order of the British Empire, sparking some conservative MBE recipients to return their awards in protest. Lennon, Harrison, and Starr began experimenting with LSD that year ( Lennon and Harrison were given their first dose unknowingly at a party when their dentist 'spiked' their drinks, while Starr took his first trip at a party with Peter Fonda and members of The Byrds ). McCartney followed suit in November 1966.

In July 1966 Lennon caused a backlash against The Beatles when he claimed during an interview that Christianity was dying, quipping that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Eventually he apologised at a Chicago press conference, acquiescing to objections by many religious groups including the Holy See as Beatles' records were banned or burned across the American South along with threats from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. He tried to point out that he was commenting on the Beatlemania phenomenon, not trying to literally equate the group to Jesus, saying about his own comment that, "It was wrong, or it was taken wrong."

The Beatles, early 1967. Clockwise from top left: McCartney, Starr, Lennon, Harrison.
The Beatles, early 1967. Clockwise from top left: McCartney, Starr, Lennon, Harrison.

The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans in Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. From this time until the group dissolved in early 1970, the Beatles concentrated on making some of the most remarkable recorded pop music of the 20th century. The group's compositions and musical experiments raised their artistic reputations while they retained their tremendous popularity. The Beatles' financial situation took a turn for the worse however, when their manager Brian Epstein died in 1967 and the band's affairs began to unravel. That same year, The Beatles became the first band ever globally broadcast on television but the members were drifting apart. Their final live performance was on the roof at the Apple studios in London in January 1969 during the difficult "Get Back" sessions (later used as a basis for the Let It Be album). Also in 1969, largely due to McCartney's efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road. The band officially broke up in 1970 and a few months later Let It Be followed as their last commercial album release. Any hopes of a reunion were crushed when Lennon was murdered by a deranged man in 1980.

However, a virtual reunion occurred in 1995 with the release of two original Lennon recordings which had the additional contributions of the remaining Beatles mixed in to create two hit singles: "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love". Three volumes (six CDs in total) of unreleased material and studio out-takes were also released, as well as a documentary and television miniseries, in a project known as The Beatles Anthology.

Studio style evolution

Bassist Paul McCartney penned the most recorded song in history, the ballad "Yesterday", and also composed the rocker "Helter Skelter" and the blues song "Oh! Darling".  Lennon and McCartney often worked on composing and singing songs in each others' style.
Bassist Paul McCartney penned the most recorded song in history, the ballad "Yesterday", and also composed the rocker "Helter Skelter" and the blues song "Oh! Darling". Lennon and McCartney often worked on composing and singing songs in each others' style.

Many observers have noted that understanding the success of The Beatles and their music begins and ends with an appreciation for the diverse ways in which they (especially Lennon and McCartney) blended their voices as instruments.

The role of producer George Martin is often cited as a crucial element in the success of the Beatles. He used his experience to bring out the potential in the group, recognizing and nurturing their creativity rather than imposing his views. His earlier production experience ranged through acts such as Jimmy Shand to the Goons, which is said to have prepared him for the open-minded, sometimes experimental studio approach the group developed as they became more experienced. Martin's connection with the Goons impressed the Beatles, who were fans. He later said he was initially attracted to the group because they were "very charming people."

In 1966, at the height of their fame and bolstered by the two films Help! and A Hard Day's Night, the band stopped touring. Performing for thousands of screaming fans who typically made so much noise the music could not be heard had led to disillusionment and they decided to concentrate on making records. Their demands to create new sounds with every recording, personal experiments with psychedelic drugs and the studio techniques of recording engineer Geoff Emerick influenced the albums Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), still frequently regarded as two of the best albums ever made. Along with studio tricks such as sound processing, unconventional microphone placements and vari-speed recording the Beatles used instruments considered unconventional for pop music at the time, including bowed string and brass elements, Indian instruments like the sitar and the swarmandel, tape loops and early electronic instruments.

The group gradually took charge of their own production and McCartney's growing dominance in this role, especially after the death of Epstein, played a part in the eventual split of the group.

Their unprecedented fame caused its own stresses and the band was already on the verge of splitting up when The Beatles ("The White Album") was released in late 1968. Some songs were recorded by the band members as individual projects with other invited musicians and Starr took a two-week holiday (sometimes reported as a temporary break-up) midway through the sessions. McCartney finished some of the drum tracks on the album, including "Back in the USSR", after Starr had angrily stormed out of the studio. By 1970 the band had split and each Beatle went on to solo careers.

In film

Drummer Ringo Starr did not compose many songs for the Beatles but customarily sang one song on each album.
Drummer Ringo Starr did not compose many songs for the Beatles but customarily sang one song on each album.

The Beatles had a limited but largely successful film career, beginning with A Hard Day's Night (1964), a loosely scripted comic farce, sometimes compared to the Marx Brothers in style. It focused on Beatlemania and their hectic touring lifestyle, and was directed in a quasi documentary style in black-and-white by an up-and-coming Richard Lester, who was known for having directed a television version of the successful BBC radio series The Goon Show as well as the offbeat short film The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film - written, produced by and starring one of the Goons - Peter Sellers.

In 1965 came Help!, a Technicolor extravaganza, also directed by Lester, shot in exotic locations (such as Salisbury Plain, with Stonehenge visible in the background; the Bahamas; and Salzburg and the Tyrol region of the Austrian Alps) in the style of a James Bond spoof along with even more Marx Brothers-style zaniness. For example, the film is dedicated "to Elias Howe, who in 1846 invented the sewing machine".

Both of their first two films contained frequent show-stoppers when the Beatles would gather and sing their songs, which often (aside from the title tracks) had nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of the movie, defying the conventional approach of musical films.

In 1967, Lennon went solo, as a supporting star in a film called How I Won the War, again directed by Lester, a satire of World War II movies. (Lester described the film as "not an anti-war film but an anti-war-film film.") The dry, ironic "British humour" of this film may have been a bit over the heads of the American audience in those pre-Monty Python times, as it was not nearly as well received as the American-made Korean War satire MASH would be a few years later.

Magical Mystery Tour was Paul McCartney's idea, loosely inspired by Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' LSD-fueled bus odessey of the U.S. which McCartney had read about while visiting the U.S. It was critically slammed when it aired on British television in December 1967. It first aired on the BBC's primary channel (BBC1) on the day after Christmas - a day primarily for traditional cosy family entertainment. The film was a radical avant garde film by those standards and instead of showcasing the lovable moptops as the Beatles had been - showed them as part of the hippie counter-culture that was at odds with the British establishment of the era. Compounding this culture clash was the fact that BBC1 at that time still only transmitted programs in black & white. The film was in color and the color was quite integral to appreciation of the film. When the film was repeated a few days later on the BBC's second channel (BBC2) aired in color - it received more appreciation. However the initial media reaction to the first screening is what is most remembered. With the passage of time - and the fact that so many mainstream films subsequently incorporated many of the film's unusual filming and editing motifs - it is now considered a cult classic.

The animated Yellow Submarine followed in 1968 but had little input from the Beatles themselves save for a live-action epilogue and the contribution of four new songs (including one holdover from the Sgt. Pepper sessions, "Only A Northern Song"). Nonetheless it was acclaimed for its boldly innovative graphic style and clever humour along with the soundtrack. The Beatles are said to have been pleased with the result and attended its highly publicised London premiere.

Let It Be was an ill-fated documentary of the band shot over a four-week period in January 1969. The documentary - which was originally intended to be simply a chronicle of the evolution of an album and the band's possible return to live performance - happened to capture the prevailing tensions between the band members. In this respect it unwittingly became a document of the beginning of their break-up. Though the official dissolution did not occur till 16 months later in April 1970 when Paul McCartney made a press announcement that he had left the group. The music from this formed an album of the same name; although recorded before Abbey Road, after contractual disputes along with significant and controversial post-production by producer Phil Spector at the instigation of John Lennon and with the acquiesence of Harriosn and Starr, this album was released in 1970. When the film was finally released it was after the break-up had been announced and was viewed by disappointed fans through the prism of that recent news. In many respects the "warts and all" approach of the film showing disagreements and tension was more reality than devout fans wanted to see.

Influences and music

Lead Guitarist George Harrison contributed the charm and the mysteriousness of the Beatles' sounds.
Lead Guitarist George Harrison contributed the charm and the mysteriousness of the Beatles' sounds.

As youths, the members of The Beatles were enthusiastic followers of British rock-and-rollers, notably Cliff Richard and The Shadows, whose stage presence and female following were often cited by the band as one of their inspirations to begin performing publicly. In their early days as performers, the band took some cues from local Liverpool favourites Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who Ringo played with prior to joining the Beatles.

Many of the band's influences were American in origin, including Chuck Berry. They recorded covers of "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock And Roll Music" early on and also performed many other Berry classics in their live repertoire. Chuck Berry's influence is also heard (in altered form) on later recordings such as "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (1968) and "Come Together" (1969) (when "Come Together" was released, the owner of Chuck Berry's copyrights sued John Lennon for copyright infringement of his song "You Can't Catch Me", after which the two reached an amicable settlement, the terms of which included an agreement that Lennon cover some Chuck Berry songs as a solo artist).

George Harrison had a fondness for American rockabilly music, particularly that of Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins. The band's early stage show featured several Perkins tunes; some of these (notably "Honey Don't" featuring an early Ringo vocal) would eventually make it to vinyl. Moreover, Harrison's guitar work remained highly influenced by rockabilly styles throughout the band's tenure.

The Beatles' distinctive vocal harmonies were also influenced by those of early Motown artists in America; early Beatles staples included faithful versions of Barrett Strong's Motown recording of "Money (That's What I Want)" and The Marvelettes' hit "Please Mr. Postman".

While many of these American influences drew from the blues music form, The Beatles, unlike their contemporaries the Rolling Stones, were seldom directly influenced by the blues. Drawing inspiration from an eclectic variety of sources, their home idiom was closer to pop music (during their early fame they were sometimes referred to as a mod band, a label they seem to have resisted).

At the height of Beatlemania, John Lennon declared "Before Elvis, there was nothing." In comments recorded for the Anthology TV series all four band members spoke of him in glowing terms, with George Harrison (showing his knack for religious allusions) saying "Seeing Elvis was like seeing the messiah arrive." They also recorded a number of Presley covers at Abbey Road studios, although these were not released officially until after the group split, although bootleg copies have existed since the late 1960s. It has been argued Presley's musical influence on the Beatles may have been indirect, with opinion somewhat split; although few deny there was an influence, the extent of it has been the subject of debate among fans and music historians.

The Beatles were also fond of Little Richard and some of their songs (especially in the early repertoire) featured falsetto calls similar to his, notably on their version of his song "Long Tall Sally". In 1962 he socialised with the Beatles around Hamburg and they performed together at the Star Club. "Long Tall Sally" became a permanent fixture in the Beatles' concert performances, and McCartney's singing on their recorded version is widely regarded as among his best rock and roll vocal performances.

Apart from the up-beat, optimistic rock and roll sound of Little Richard and others, McCartney's influences include ragtime and music hall, owing much to his father's musical interests. Their impact is apparent in songs like "When I'm Sixty-Four" (composed during The Quarrymen period), "Honey Pie", and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". Of their early single, "From Me to You", McCartney said, "It could be done as an old ragtime tune... especially the middle-eight. And so we're not writing the tunes in any particular idiom." His songwriting was also influenced in part by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who was in turn spurred on by the Beatles' work. Wilson acknowledged that the American version of Rubber Soul challenged him to make Pet Sounds, an album which then inspired McCartney's vision of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song "Back in the USSR" was based on a suggestion by Mike Love to McCartney and contains overt allusions to the Beach Boys' "California Girls". The song "Here, There and Everywhere" is said to have been written the evening that Lennon and McCartney first listened to Pet Sounds.

The Everly Brothers were another influence. Lennon and McCartney consciously copied Don and Phil Everly's distinctive two-part harmonies. Their vocals on two 1962 recordings, "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me" were inspired by the Everlys' powerful vocal innovation on "Cathy's Clown" (1960), the first recording to ever reach number one simultaneously in the USA and in England. "Two of Us", the opening track on Let It Be is overtly composed in the Everly style and McCartney acknowledges this in the recording with a spoken "Take it Phil."

The song-writing of Gerry Goffin and Carole King was yet another influence. Some say that one of the Beatles' many achievements was to marry the relative sophistication of Goffin and King's songs (which used major-seventh chords, for example) with the straightforwardness of Buddy Holly, Berry and the early rock-and-roll performers. Lennon and McCartney's goal when they first began writing together was to become "the next Goffin and King."

John Lennon's early style has clear relationships to Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison ("Misery" from 1963 and "Please Please Me" from 1963). "That'll Be the Day" was the first song Lennon learned to play and sing accurately and the first song the proto-Beatles ever put to vinyl. McCartney admitted, "At least the first forty songs we wrote were Buddy Holly influenced." Lennon said that Holly "made it okay to wear glasses. I WAS Buddy Holly." The naming of the Beatles (originally the Silver Beetles) was of course, Lennon's way of paying tribute to Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets. The Beatles covered Holly's "Words of Love" on their album Beatles for Sale.

After hearing the work of Bob Dylan Lennon was heavily influenced by folk music ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from 1965). Lennon is said to have been stunned by Dylan's song Subterranean Homesick Blues, and made to wonder at how he could ever outdo it.

Lennon also played the major role in steering the Beatles towards psychedelia ("Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus" from 1967) and then renewed his interest in earlier, "good old rock and roll" forms towards the close of the Beatles' career ("Don't Let Me Down" from 1969).

Paul McCartney is perhaps best known as the group's romantic balladeer. Beginning with "Yesterday" (1965), he pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by "Eleanor Rigby" (1966), "Here, There and Everywhere" (1966) and "She's Leaving Home" (1967). Meanwhile McCartney kept his affection for the driving R&B of Little Richard in a series of songs Lennon dubbed "potboilers", from "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963) to "Lady Madonna" (1968). "Helter Skelter" (1968), arguably an early heavy metal song, is also a McCartney composition.

Originally, The Beatles' work focused around themes of optimistic, giddy love akin to that of a boy who had just fallen in love, as typified by their performances of songs on The Ed Sullivan Show, such as "All My Loving", "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
Originally, The Beatles' work focused around themes of optimistic, giddy love akin to that of a boy who had just fallen in love, as typified by their performances of songs on The Ed Sullivan Show, such as "All My Loving", "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand".

George Harrison derived his early guitar style from 1950s rockabilly figures 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 Harrison broke new ground in the West by recording on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" playing an Indian sitar. His long collaboration with Sri Ravi Shankar, a famous Hindustani Musician, influenced several of his compositions, some of which were based on Hindustani forms – most notably "Love You To" (1966), "Within You Without You" (1967) and "The Inner Light" (1968). Indian music and culture also influenced Lennon and McCartney, with the use of swirling tape loops, droning bass lines and mantra-like vocals on "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1966) and "Dear Prudence" (1968).

Harrison retained Western musical forms in his later compositions, emerging as a significant pop composer in his own right, although occasionally reprising major themes indicating his relationship with Hindustani music and the Hindu god Krishna. His later guitar style, while not displaying the virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, was distinctive with its use of clear melodic lines and subtle fills as in "Something" (1969) and "Let It Be" (1970), contrasting with the increasingly distorted riffs and rapid-fire guitar solo work of his contemporaries.

Ringo Starr rarely wrote songs but he is often noted for his gentle comic baritone on "Yellow Submarine" (1966) and "Octopus's Garden" (1969) along with his steady drumming and everyman image. Given his own performance on Buck Owens' "Act Naturally", Starr was likely responsible for the group's occasional interest in surprisingly authentic country sounds in songs such as "What Goes On" (1965) and "Don't Pass Me By" (1968).

Later Beatles material shifted away from dance music and the pace of the songs is often more moderate, with interest tending to come from melody and harmonic texture rather than the rhythm ("Penny Lane" from 1967 is an example). Throughout their career the Beatles' songs were rarely riff (or ostinato)-driven; "Day Tripper" (1965) and "Hey Bulldog" (1969, recorded 1968) are among the notable exceptions.

The decision to stop touring in 1966 caused an abrupt change in direction. Reportedly stung by criticism of "Paperback Writer", the Beatles poured their creative energies into the recording studio, making a determined attempt to produce material they could be proud of. They had already shown a clear trend towards progressively greater complexity in technique and style but this accelerated noticeably in Revolver. The subject matter of the post-touring songs was no longer you, I, love, boy meets girl and so on, taking them far from the days in 1963 and similarities with bands such as The Hollies. All manner of subjects were introduced, from home repair and circuses to nonsense songs and others defying description.

The extreme complexity of Sgt. Pepper's reached its height on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album, parts of which (for example "It's All Too Much" and "Only a Northern Song") were left over from 1967 and were apparently used because the Beatles themselves weren't much interested in the animated film as a project and weren't inclined to exert themselves by producing much new material for it.

The iconic Abbey Road album cover.
The iconic Abbey Road album cover.

After the Revolver/Sgt. Pepper's phase, came a double LP known at the time as The White Album (though recently often called The Beatles album), partly written in India. It involved some simpler subjects (for example "Birthday"), and some of the songs (for example "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "Wild Honey Pie") were far less complex than their material of just a year or two before. In 1969 the band became less united during sessions for the abortive Get Back project (which eventually emerged in 1970, much altered, as Let It Be). This had been intended as a return to more basic songs and an avoidance of thorough editing or otherwise "artificial" influences on the final output. Ironically Let It Be was heavily overdubbed and edited by producer Phil Spector in his wall of sound technique. With Get Back behind them, George Martin was asked to produce the last album the Beatles recorded, Abbey Road, representing a mature attempt to integrate what they knew and use recording studio techniques to improve the songs rather than experiment to see what happened. It represented a final effort, as McCartney once put it, to "leave 'em laughing."

Beatles music is still performed in public by tribute bands such as the Bootleg Beatles, and in shows like Beatlemania!. The Beatles were also the inspiration for the spoof documentary The Rutles (1978) created by Neil Innes and Eric Idle that featured affectionate musical pastiches of Beatles songs written by Innes.

For many, the group's musical appeal lay in the interaction of Lennon and McCartney's voices and musical styles. It is sometimes said they not only supplied missing bits and pieces for each other's songs, but shared a competitive edge that brought out the best in them both. George's lead guitar and vocals along with Ringo's understated and faithful drumming contributed their own chemistry. Finally, the Beatles' stage presence and charm as a group kindled their live shows, as well as relationships with key people in their careers. After the group dissolved some critics cited their solo releases as a demonstration of how important this group collaboration had been: together they sparked each other to reach heights rarely attained on the later solo releases.

Band members

  • John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar – occasionally harmonica, keyboards, bass guitar and other instruments (1959–1970).
  • Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar – occasionally guitar, keyboards, drums, flugelhorn and other instruments (1959–1970).
  • George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar – occasionally sitar, tambura, bass guitar, keyboards and other instruments (1959–1970).
  • Ringo Starr: drums – occasionally vocals, bongos, keyboards and other instruments (1962–1970).

Early members

Song catalogue

In 1963 the Beatles gave their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by Brian Epstein and music publisher Dick James. Northern Songs went public in 1965 with Lennon and McCartney each holding 15% of the company's shares while 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 back the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs to British TV company Associated Television Corporation (ATV), in which Lennon and McCartney received stock.

In 1985 ATV's music catalogue was sold to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (beating McCartney's bid), including the publishing rights to over 200 Beatles songs. A decade later Jackson and Sony merged their music publishing businesses. Since 1995 Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Beatles' songs. 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 standard songwriter shares of the royalties.

Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of the Beatles' greatest hits, a few of the early songs weren't included in the original ATV deal 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."

Harrison and Starr didn't 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 classics such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something."


  • "Dear Prudence" was written by John Lennon while the Beatles were in India visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Among other celebrities attending the ashram at the same time as the Beatles were singer/songwriter Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, who was having a difficult stay. Prudence wouldn't come out of her hut so John played his guitar and serenaded her with the song lyrics, Dear Prudence... won't you come out to play?
  • The song "Octopus's Garden" was composed by Starr during a very brief interlude from the band. Upset with disagreements during the recording of The White Album, he went on a short cruise. When he returned the others welcomed him and his new song. The song was recorded for the 1969 Abbey Road album.
  • George Harrison co-operated with Eric Idle and Neil Innes by performing a cameo role in their the comedic TV film about the Rutles, a spoof documentary that affectionately satirised the Beatles' story and the way it had been related in the media. Innes created twenty pastiche Beatles songs with lyrics and titles (e.g. "Ouch!") that gently spoofed the Beatles song canon.
  • Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney (and his wife Linda), and George Harrison were all featured as guest characters on the animated TV show The Simpsons in different episodes over the years.
  • Following their breakup, the only album to feature all four Beatles (although not on the same song), was "Ringo," a Starr solo album in 1973.
  • Ringo Starr was the narrator for a lot of the TV episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • During 2005, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey worked as the touring drummer for popular rock band Oasis, a group famous for its Beatlesque melodies. He had also been drummer for The Who since 1996, and has been noted for his similarity in performance to the late Keith Moon.
  • It is estimated the band have sold far in excess of 1 billion records world-wide
  • Two of The Beatles were left-handed. Paul is quite famous for it, but Ringo's left-handedness is not as well known because his drum kit was set up for a right-handed person. However, in A Hard Day's Night, he plays darts with his left hand.
  • The group's name was a combination word-play on "Beetles" (vs. "Crickets") and the word "beat" which in the late 1950's and early 1960's had both musical and pop-cultural connotations.
  • The press-given nickname, "The Fab (abbreviation for 'Fabulous') Four", stuck in the public consciousness. The fictional group "The Rutles" were described in the narration of their spoof 1978 documentary as "The Pre-Fab ('Pre-Fabricated') Four".
  • The Vox amplifiers used by the band were nicknamed "Deaf Aids" by John Lennon. He referenced this in a jokey song introduction heard on the album Let It Be.
  • There exists a small Beatles museum in Liverpool, which goes through the history of the Beatles and shows a large number of memorabilia and press articles.
  • In Paris, from October 2005 for nine months, at the prestigious Cité de la Musique, an exhibition on John Lennon is being shown. It has been criticized for being too closely supervised by Yoko Ono and playing down the Beatles period.

Song samples

1963 songs

I Want to Hold Your Hand

1965 songs

Help!, Yesterday, Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), Nowhere Man, In My Life

1966 songs

Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, I'm Only Sleeping, Got to Get You Into My Life

1967 songs

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, When I'm Sixty-Four, A Day in the Life, Magical Mystery Tour, I Am the Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane

1968 songs

Blackbird, Mother Nature's Son, Helter Skelter, Revolution 1

1969 songs

Come Together, Something, Here Comes the Sun, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window

See also


  • (various pages). Retrieved Dec. 15, 2004.
  • Braun, Michael (1964), Love Me Do: The Beatles' Progress. London: Penguin Books, 1995 [Reprint]. ISBN 0140022783.
  • Carr, Roy & Tyler, Tony (1975). The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. Harmony Books. ISBN 0517520451.
  • Davies, Hunter (1985). The Beatles (Second Revised Edition). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070155267.
  • Goldsmith, Martin (2004). The Beatles Come To America. Turning Points. ISBN 0471469645.
  • Lewisohn, Mark (1990). EMI's the Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years. Hamlyn. ISBN 0681031891.
  • MacDonald, Ian (1995). Revolution In The Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. Vintage. ISBN 0712666974.
  • Norman, Philip (1997). Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation. MJF Books. ISBN 1567310877.
  • Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Cameron House. ISBN 0811702251.

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
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      The Beatles      

Band members: John Lennon - Paul McCartney - George Harrison - Ringo Starr

Early members: Pete Best - Stuart Sutcliffe

Management: Brian Epstein - Apple Records

Production: George Martin - Geoff Emerick

See also: History of the Beatles - Discography - Bootlegs - Long-term influence - Beatlemania - Beatlesque - Fifth Beatle - Paul Is Dead rumours - British Invasion - Breakup - Classic rock era

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