John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in 1964, during their first American tour.
Origin Liverpool, England
Years active 1960 – 1970
The Beatles were an English Rock ‘n’ Roll group from Liverpool, who continue to be held in the very highest regard for their artistic achievements, their huge commercial success, and their ground-breaking role in the history of popular music. Consisting of John Lennon (1940–1980), Paul McCartney (1942–), George Harrison (1943–2001) and Ringo Starr (1940–), the group’s innovative music and style helped define the 1960s.
The Beatles were, by most definitions, the biggest musical act of the twentieth century. In the United Kingdom alone they have released more than forty different singles, albums and EPs that have reached number one. This kind of success has been repeated in many more countries and EMI estimated that by 1985, the band had sold over one billion records worldwide.
Their early original material fused elements of early American rock ‘n roll, pop, and R&B into a new form of popular Rock ‘n Roll and established the prototype for the “self-contained” rock group, breaking the long established stronghold that composers had had with record producers (thus beginning the demise of London‘s so called “Tin Pan Alley“ which was based in and around Soho’s Denmark Street). The band almost single-handedly kick-started the British Invasion of the USA and laid the groundwork for the rock culture of the 1960s. They helped pioneer more advanced, multi-layered arrangements in both Rock and Pop and were instrumental in the development of some of the 1960s dominant musical styles, such as folk-rock, hard rock and psychedelia. Ironically, and perhaps inevitably, the band’s music in the early twenty-first century has been subject to endless re-reevaluations and attempts at historical revisionism due in part to the increasing amount of printed literature and numerous biographical accounts–authorised or not–that have appeared with the passage of time. Nevertheless, The Beatles remain as an undisputed influence on popular music.
To a significant extent, the impact of The Beatles extended well beyond their music. Their clothes, hairstyles, statements, and even choice of instruments made them trend-setters (see The Beatles’ influence on popular culture) throughout the decade, whilst their growing social awareness – reflected in the development of their music – saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.Contents [hide]
Singer & guitarist John Lennon
Main article: History of The Beatles
In March of 1957, John Lennon formed a skiffle group called The Quarrymen (fleetingly known as The Blackjacks). On 6 July that year Lennon met Paul McCartney while playing at the Woolton Parish Church Fete. In February of 1958, the young guitarist George Harrison joined the group, which was then playing under a variety of names. A few primitive recordings of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison from that era have survived. During this period, members continually joined and left the line up. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison were the only constant members.
The Quarrymen went through a progression of names: Johnny and The Moondogs, Long John and The Beatles, The Silver Beetles, The Beat Brothers, and eventually decided on The Beatles. The origin of the name “The Beatles” — with its unusual spelling — is usually credited to John Lennon, who said that the name was a combination word-play on the insects “beetles” as a nod/compliment to Buddy Holly’s band (The Crickets) and the word “beat”. He also later said that it was a joke, meaning a pun on “Beat-less”.
In May of 1960, The Beatles were hired to tour the north-east of Scotland as a back-up band with singer Johnny Gentlewho was signed to the Larry Parnes agency. They met Gentle an hour before their first gig, and McCartney referred to that short tour as a great experience for the band. Their drummer at that time was Tommy Moore. The band’s van (driven by Gentle) had a head-on crash with another vehicle on their way back from Scotland and Moore lost some teeth and had stitches after being hit in the mouth by a guitar. Nobody else was seriously injured. He left the band shortly after, and went back to work in a bottling factory as a fork-lift truck driver, on the advice of his girlfriend. 
Norman Chapman was their next drummer, but only for a few weeks, as he was called up for National Service. This was a real problem as their unofficial manager, Allan Williams, had arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany. (Paul McCartney has often said that if The Beatles had been individually called-up for National Service, The Beatles would never have existed, because of their different ages; meaning the time spent apart when one of them would have been in the army.)
In August of 1960, McCartney invited Pete Best to become the group’s drummer, after watching Best playing with The Blackjacks  in Mona Best’s (Pete’s mother) Casbah Club; a cellar club in Hayman’s Green, Liverpool, where The Beatles had played, and often used to visit.
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. On 23 October Polydor released the recording “My Bonnie (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur)”, which made it into the German charts under the name “Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers”.
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 forty-nine times. Brian Epstein, manager of the record department at NEMS, his family’s furniture store, took over as the group’s manager in 1962 and led The Beatles’ quest for a British recording contract. Epstein met with producer George Martin of EMI’s Parlophone label. George Martin, a producer of comedy and novelty albums, expressed an interest in hearing them in the studio. On 6 June he invited the quartet to London’s Abbey Road studios, and – after some deliberation – decided to grant The Beatles a recording contract.
The Beatles auditioned on June 6, 1962. Martin, who was at first unimpressed by the band’s demos, liked them as people when he met them. Not only did he feel that they had musical talent, but he also felt that their wit and humor made them extremely “likeable.” When he asked them if there was anything they wanted to change, Harrison said, “I don’t like your tie”.
Their contract was probably one of the worst at the time, as they were paid one penny for every single sold, which was split among the four Beatles. This amounted to less than one farthing per Beatle. They were paid half of one penny (split between the whole band) for sales outside of the UK. Even George Martin said later that it was “pretty awful”. 
(Their record contract royalties were considerably improved after Allen Klein took over the management of the band. Their publishing contract with Dick James Music (DJM) was also terrible; they only got 50% of the money received, while James took the other 50%. Epstein also took a percentage of Lennon and McCartney´s share.)
Martin did have a problem with Best however, whom he criticised for not being able to keep time. For this and other reasons, The Beatles let Best go on August 16, 1962, although it was left to Brian Epstein to tell him. They immediately asked Starr, whom they had met and even performed with previously, to join the band permanently. Starr had been the drummer for Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, at a time when they had been one of the top Merseybeat groups, a bigger group than The Beatles were. Martin, unaware of this personnel change, hired session drummer Andy White to play drums on The Beatles’ first studio session on September 4, 1962. Andy would be the session drummer during their 3rd EMI session on September 11, 1962.
In August 1962 Pete Best was dismissed and replaced by Ringo Starr (real name: Richard Starkey). Starr had been the drummer for rival Liverpool band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and had played with The Beatles several times in Hamburg. George Martin was not impressed with Best’s playing and privately suggested to Brian Epstien that the band should use another drummer in the studio. Though Best had some popularity and was considered good-looking by many female fans, the three founding members had become increasingly unhappy with his drumming and his moody personality, and Epstein had become exasperated with his refusal to adopt the distinctive hairstyle as part of their unified look.
The Beatles’ first recording session, in June 1962, was unsatisfactory to Martin, but a second in September 1962 produced a UK hit, “Love Me Do”, which charted. (“Love Me Do” reached the top of the U.S. singles chart over 18 months later in May 1964.) This was swiftly followed by the recording of their second single “Please Please Me”. Three months later they recorded their first album (also titled Please Please Me), a mix of original songs by Lennon and McCartney with some covers of their favourite songs. The band’s first televised performance was on a program called People and Places transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.
Although the band experienced huge popularity in the record charts in Britain from early 1963, Parlophone’s American counterpart, Capitol Records (owned by EMI), refused to issue the singles “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You” in the United States, partly because no British act had ever yet had a sustained commercial impact on American audiences.
Vee-Jay Records, a small Chicago label, is said by some 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 possibly the first time a Beatles’ record was heard on American radio. Vee-Jay’s rights to The Beatles were cancelled for non-payment of royalties.
In August 1963 the Philadelphia-based Swan label tried again with The Beatles’ “She Loves You”, which also failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on Dick Clark’s TV show American Bandstand resulted only in laughter and scorn from American teenagers when they saw the group’s Beatle haircuts. The famous radio DJ, Murray the K featured “She Loves You” on his 1010 WINS record revue in October, to an underwhelming response.
In November 1963, The Beatles appeared on the Royal Variety Performance and were photographed with Marlene Dietrich who also appeared on the show. In early November 1963 Brian Epstein persuaded Ed Sullivan to commit to presenting The Beatles on three editions of his show in February, and parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. Capitol committed to a mid-January release for “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, but a series of unplanned circumstances triggered premature airplay of an imported copy of the single on a Washington DC radio station in mid-December. Capitol brought forward release of the record to December 26, 1963.
Several New York radio stations — first WMCA, then WINS and WABC — began playing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on its release day, and the Beatlemania that had started in Washington was duplicated in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The record sold one million copies in just ten days, and by January 16, Cashbox Magazine had certified The Beatles record number one (in the edition published with the cover-date January 23).
This contributed to the hysterical fan reaction at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964. A record-breaking seventy-three million viewers — approximately 40% of the U.S. population at the time — tuned in to the first Sullivan appearance on February 9. During the week of April 4, The Beatles held the top five places on the Billboard Hot 100 (see The Beatles record sales, worldwide charts), a feat that has never been repeated.
In mid-1964 the band undertook their first appearances outside of Europe and North America, touring Australia and New Zealand (notably without Ringo Starr who was ill and was temporarily replaced by session drummer Jimmy Nicol). 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 population of the city — turned out to see them. In September that year baseball owner Charles O. Finley paid the band the unheard of sum of $150,000 to play in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1965 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon them the MBE, a civil honour nominated by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The award, at that time primarily given to military veterans and civic leaders, sparked some conservative MBE recipients to return their awards in protest.
On August 15 that year, The Beatles performed the first stadium concert in modern rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600.. The band later admitted that they had been totally unable to hear themselves play or sing, due to the screaming and cheering. This concert is often considered the point their disenchantment with performing live began.
Backlash and breakup
In June 1966, when The Beatles toured the Philippines, they unintentionally snubbed the nation’s first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected the group to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Brian Epstein politely declined on behalf of the group, as it had never been the group’s policy to accept such “official” invitations. After the snubbing was widely-broadcast on Philippine television, and radio, all The Beatles’ police protection disappeared, and they and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own, with the authorities throwing up every road block they could to harrass them as much as possible. At the airport, roadie Mal Evans was beaten and kicked, and The Beatles themselves were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd. Once the group boarded the plane, Brian Epstein and Mal Evans were ordered off, and Mal Evans said, “Tell my wife that I love her…” (showing how seriously he thought the danger was of them both being shot). Epstein was forced to give back all the money that the band had earned while they were there, before being allowed back on the plane.
The next month, a comment from an interview launched a backlash against The Beatles from religious and social conservatives in the Bible Belt of the US. Lennon had offered his opinion that Christianity was dying when interviewed by a British magazine on the decline of Christianity and that the group was “bigger than Jesus” (by which he meant that the group was more popular with youngsters), something that he referred to as a topic that caused concern and consideration. Beatles records were banned and burned in many cities and towns across America (primarily in the South) and from countries such as South Africa. Under pressure from American media, Lennon apologised for his remarks at a press conference in Chicago, on the eve of their first performance of what would turn out to be their final tour.
The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. From then on, they concentrated on recording music.
The Beatles’ situation took a turn for the worse when manager Brian Epstein died of a drug overdose on 25 August 1967, at the age of 32, and the band’s business affairs began to unravel. Just two months earlier, on 25 June 1967, The Beatles became the first band globally transmitted on television, in front of an estimated 400 million people worldwide. The Beatles were a segment within the first-ever worldwide TV satellite hook-up — a show titled Our World. The Beatles were transmitted live from Abbey Road Studios, and their new song “All You Need Is Love” was recorded live during the show.
At the end of 1967, they received their first major negative press criticism in the UK with disparaging reviews of their surrealistic TV film Magical Mystery Tour. The film was also panned by the public, although the vast majority of viewers saw the film in black-and-white, when colour was such an integral part of the film. Moreover, even if the film had been shown in colour, relatively poor picture quality and even poorer sound reproduction would have negatively affected it. The film’s soundtrack is notable, since the song “Flying”, written especially for the film, is The Beatles’ only instrumental track.
In 1968 the group spent the early part of the year in Rishikesh, Uttar Pradesh, India, studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Upon their return, Lennon and McCartney took a trip to New York to announce the formation of Apple Corps; an initially altruistic business venture which they described at the time as an attempt at “western communism.” The latter part of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album due to its stark white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band.
Their final live performance was on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row, London on 30 January 1969, during the difficult Get Back sessions (later used as a basis for the Let It Be album). Largely due to McCartney’s efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road in summer 1969. The band officially broke up in April 1970, and one month later Let It Be followed as their last commercial album release.
McCartney gradually took greater charge of their own production, growing dominant in that role. Internal divisions within the band had been a small but growing problem during their earlier career; most notably, this was reflected in the difficulty that George Harrison experienced in getting his own songs onto Beatles’ albums, and in the growing artistic and personal estrangement between Lennon and McCartney. Lennon also had problems getting songs onto albums, as he once complained; “Give me my three tracks on an album, and I’ll be satisfied; that’s all I want…”
On the business side McCartney wanted wife Linda Eastman’s father Lee Eastman to manage The Beatles, but the remaining Beatles wanted New York manager Allen Klein to represent them. All Beatles decisions in the past were unanimous but the four could not, and would not unanimously agree on a manager. This was the final straw in the relationship between McCartney and the rest of the band. Lennon, Harrison and Starr felt the Eastmans would look after McCartney’s well-being before that of the group. In view of this impasse, they decided to go their separate ways with their business affairs. However, in 1971 it was discovered that Klein had stolen £5m from The Beatles holdings. McCartney could not just dissolve his business with The Beatles easily, and this led to him suing to disband all business with the group.
For the most part not speaking with the other band members until 1973, Lennon admitted to McCartney that they should have gone with the Eastmans’ management and this helped mend the personal relationship between the two.
Following the breakup, the only album to feature all four Beatles (although not on the same song) was Ringo, a 1973 Starr solo album.
A jam session between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was recorded on March 31, 1974, when McCartney visited Lennon in Los Angeles, California. They played with a number of other musicians, including Stevie Wonder. Believed to be the last time the pair recorded together, this tape has been released on bootleg as A Toot and a Snore in ’74.
Any hopes of a reunion were dashed when Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman, a mentally deranged fan, on December 8, 1980. However, in 1981 the three remaining Beatles (with Linda McCartney and Denny Laine doing backing vocals) recorded the song “All Those Years Ago”, a tribute to John Lennon written by George Harrison and released on his album Somewhere in England. Another 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 outtakes were also released, as well as a documentary and television miniseries, in a project known as The Beatles Anthology. On December 15, 2005, McCartney and Starr, along with the families of Lennon and Harrison (who died 29 November 2001) sued EMI in a royalties dispute in which Apple Corps claimed EMI owes The Beatles £30 million.
They remain enormously popular. In 1995 and 1996 three Anthology collections of CDs were released, each containing two CDs of never-before-released Beatles material, based on the Anthology documentary series. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold in its first day of release, the highest volume of single-day sales ever for an album. In 2000 a compilation album named 1 was released, containing almost every number-one single released by the band from 1962 to 1970. The collection sold 3.6 million copies in its first week and more than 12 million in three weeks worldwide, becoming the fastest-selling album of all time and the biggest-selling album of the year 2000. The collection also premiered at number one in the United States and other countries.
The BBC had a large collection of Beatles recordings, mostly comprising original studio sessions from 1963 – 1968. Much of this material formed the basis for a 1988 radio documentary series The Beeb’s Lost Beatles Tapes. Later, in 1994, the best of these sessions were given an official EMI release on Live at the BBC.
On June 30, 2006, Cirque de Soleil opened their show LOVE, a tribute to The Beatles, at the The Mirage in Las Vegas.
Singer & Bassist Paul McCartney
The role of producer George Martin is often cited as a crucial element in their success. He used his experience to bring out the potential in the group, recognising and nurturing their creativity rather than imposing his views. After The Beatles stopped touring, he, and the engineers, would increasingly come under pressure, as The Beatles vented their artistic energy solely into recording.
Their constant demands to create new sounds on every new recording, and the imaginative – and ground-breaking – studio expertise of EMI staff engineers, including Norman Smith, Ken Townshend and Geoff Emerick all played significant parts in the innovative sounds of the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
While most recording artists of the time were using two, three or four tracks in the studio, The Beatles had to use linked pairs of four-track decks, and ping-ponging tracks two, and even three times, became common. EMI delayed the introduction of eight-track recording – already becoming common in American studios – until 1968, when American studios were already upgrading to 16-tracks. EMI were loathe to spend any money on new equipment – even though The Beatles were earning vast amounts – and so Abbey Road was always (technically) one step behind every other studio.
When Magic Alex proposed building a 72-track studio in the basement of the Saville Row office, everybody encouraged him, but this was later proven to be a complete disaster, as Alex had no idea about studios at all, but nevertheless convinced all of The Beatles that he could do it.
Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, automatic double tracking and vari-speed recording, The Beatles began augmenting their recordings using instruments considered unconventional for rock music at the time, including string and brass ensembles, Indian instruments such as the sitar and the swarmandel, tape loops and early electronic instruments, including Paul McCartney´s Mellotron, which was unforgettably used (with flute voices) on the intro to “Strawberry Fields Forever”. McCartney once asked Martin what a guitar would sound like if it was played underwater, and was serious about trying it. It was quite obvious that their ideas were out-stripping the technology that was available at the time.
By the time of the sessions for The White Album – released in November of 1968 – they often had three studios booked at the same time, and usually worked alone. As Abbey Road was always being used by one of them, several tracks were cut as de facto solo recordings at other studios. They often used Trident studio in Soho, because it was an independent studio – not connected to a record company – and it had an 8-track machine. Its layout was very similar to Abbey Road, because it had a large room, and the window of the mixing room was high up on the wall.
The Olympic Studio in Barnes (used extensively by The Rolling Stones) was also another favoured place to record.
Olympic was the scene of the famous argument between The Beatles, when Paul refused to sign the management contract proposed by Klein. The other three Beatles left, and McCartney recorded a song with Steve Miller, who happened to be there, at the time. He never signed the Klein contract, although he pretended to (see photo) for the others.
This isolation was compounded by “Revolution 9″: a wildly experimental John Lennon/Yoko Ono concoction of tape loops, and “found sounds”, that the other Beatles didn’t think was really ‘them’ and tried (but failed) to keep off the album. This broke the rule that if just one of The Beatles objected to anything, it would not be accepted. It was McCartney, however, who had a stronger interest in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose Hymnen was similar to “Revolution 9″. The earlier use by The Beatles of “tape loops”, on “Tomorrow Never Knows” was driven (and the loops assembled) primarily by McCartney and the engineers.
Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” featured an ‘outside’ musician (his friend Eric Clapton) who played the guitar solo. Clapton was reportedly brought in as the result of a bitter dispute between Harrison and Lennon that drove Starr to take a two-week hiatus. During this time McCartney played drums on some of the tracks on the album, including “Back in the USSR”, on which he also overdubbed most of the lead guitar parts. McCartney had played lead guitar solos on selected songs as far back as 1966′s “Taxman” (ironically, a Harrison composition).
The stress of controlling everything (without Epstein) marred the troubled Get Back sessions in January of 1969 — Lennon later denounced them as being the worst recordings of their career — and the project was made even more stressful by having to get up extremely early in the morning and having the presence of a film crew to capture the rehearsals for a planned movie (which eventually became the Let It Be documentary).
By this time another very significant factor had emerged — Lennon’s passionate affair with Japanese artist Yoko Ono. The couple quickly became inseparable and Lennon further alienated the other Beatles by bringing Ono to almost every recording session; breaking the band’s long-standing rule against outsiders at sessions. Lennon even ordered a bed to be installed in the studio so Yoko could recuperate (after their car crash in Scotland).
The band’s differences were – more or less – put aside later in the year for the recording of what became their valedictory album, Abbey Road, which the group later recalled as being among the most enjoyable to record of their career
While The White Album and the original Get Back sessions emphasised a return to basic pop-rock song structures, Abbey Road took a step back in the direction of glossy production, although this time primarily consisting of instrumental backing produced by George Martin to help mould together the song fragments of Side Two into a unified whole.
Abbey Road featured a conservative use of synthesisers, but usually in more conventional musical contexts rather than as a source for the bizarre, but which did make an appearance as a static wave at the end of “She’s so Heavy.” The last track – Her Majesty – was a total accident. Having been removed from the medley on side two, an engineer tagged it on to the end rather than throw it away. When the band heard it again it was decided to use it (copies of Abbey Road were then sent to Buckingham Palace).
By the end of 1969, both Lennon and McCartney had effectively left the band and the only piece of unfinished business was the as-yet unreleased Get Back project. The Beatles had been very unhappy with the original tapes from the Get Back sessions (produced, as usual, by George Martin), and for some time it looked as if the material would be scrapped altogether.
After a delay of several months, American producer Phil Spector was brought in by Lennon to edit, remix and overdub the tapes, and his heavily-orchestrated “Wall of Sound” production style was evident after the eventual release of the Let It Be album: released in early 1970, nearly a year after the group had ceased to function on an active basis. McCartney was angered by Spector´s use of a female choir on The Long and Winding Road. “Girls on a Beatles record? We would never have done that,” he was reported as saying.
By this time, Lennon and Harrison had effectively decided to leave the band. McCartney made the move official at the start of 1970, when he began legal proceedings to dissolve the band’s business partnership.
Lead guitarist & singer George Harrison. (Photo by John Kelly, 1968)
The Beatles had a 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 the 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 off-beat short film The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film.
In 1965 came Help!; an Eastmancolour extravaganza, which also directed by Lester, and was 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.”
In 1966 Lennon took time off to play a supporting character in the film called How I Won the War, again directed by Lester. It was a satire of World War II films, and its dry, ironic British humour was not well received by American audiences.
The Magical Mystery Tour film was essentially Paul McCartney’s idea, which was thought up as he returned from a trip to the U.S. in the late spring of 1967, and was loosely inspired by press coverage McCartney had read about Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters’ LSD-fuelled American bus odyssey. McCartney envisaged taking this idea and blending it with the peculiarly English working class tradition of charabanc mystery tours. The film was critically dismissed when it was aired on the BBC’s premier television network, BBC-1, on Boxing Day — a day primarily for traditional “cosy, family entertainment”. The film appeared radical avant-garde by those standards, and instead of showcasing the lovable “moptops”/Beatles as they had been up until then, it showed them as part of the hippie counter-culture of 1967, which was at odds with the British establishment of that era. Compounding this culture clash was the fact that BBC-1, at that time, still only transmitted programmes in black & white, while Tour was in colour. The film was repeated a few days later on the BBC’s second channel (BBC-2) in colour — receiving more appreciation, but the initial negative media reaction is what is most remembered.
The animated Yellow Submarine followed in 1968, but had little direct input from The Beatles, save for a live-action epilogue and the contribution of four new songs (including “Only a Northern Song”, an unreleased track from the Sgt. Pepper sessions). 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, although every one of The Beatles thought their own voices (narrated by actors) were not quite right, whilst saying that the other three were perfect.
In 1969, Ringo Starr took second billing to Peter Sellers in the satirical comedy The Magic Christian; in a part which had been written especially for him. Starr later embarked on an irregular career in comedy films through the early 1980s, and his interest in the subject led him to be the most active of the group in the film division of Apple Corp, although it was Harrison who would achieve the most success as a film producer.
Let It Be was an ill-fated documentary of the band that was 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 — captured the prevailing tensions between the band members, and in this respect it unwittingly became a document of the beginning of their break-up. The band initially shelved both the film and the album, instead recording and issuing Abbey Road. But with so much money having been spent on the project, it was decided to finish and release the film and album (the latter with considerable post-production by Phil Spector) in spring 1970. When the film finally appeared, it was after the break-up had been announced, and it was viewed by shocked fans as the last – but not the best – tribute to the band.
Drummer & singer Ringo Starr
Major influences included:
Elvis Presley. They recorded a number of Presley covers at the Abbey Road studio, and bootleg copies have existed since the late 1960s. Interviews for the documentary Anthology has all four band members speaking very highly of Presley, with Paul McCartney referring to him as “The guru”. In other interviews McCartney has credited Presley as one of the artistes who has influenced him.
Chuck Berry. They recorded covers of Berry songs: “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music” on their early albums, and also performed many other of his classics in their live repertoire. When Lennon first met Berry (as Berry walked in the dressing room door) Lennon shouted out, “Chuck Berry, my hero!”.
B.B. King. Probably The Beatles only Blues influence, King’s influence can be found on Harrisons guitar playing, and on songs such as Get Back, and I Me Mine.
Buddy Holly was an early influence. The group played many of his songs on stage in their early days. They also recorded “Words of Love”. It is accepted that their name was inspired by Holly’s backing group, The Crickets. Stuart Sutcliffe suggested “Beetles” which John Lennon altered to Beatles, but his version was a joke; meaning “Beat-less”.
In their early days as performers the band took some cues from local Liverpool favourites Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, whom Starr had played with prior to joining The Beatles.
American rockabilly music; particularly that of Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins. The band’s early stage shows featured several Perkins tunes; some of these (notably “Honey Don’t”, featuring an early Starr vocal) that they eventually recorded on their albums.
Early Motown artists. Early Beatles covers included exact copies of Barrett Strong’s Motown recording of “Money (That’s What I Want)” and The Marvelettes’ hit “Please Mr. Postman”.
Little Richard. Some of their songs (especially in their early repertoire) featured falsetto screams similar to his, most notably on McCartney’s rendition of Richard´s song, “Long Tall Sally”. In 1962, Richard socialised with The Beatles in Hamburg and they performed together at the Star-Club. “Long Tall Sally” became a permanent fixture in early Beatles’ concert performances.
Ragtime and music hall; owing much to the musical interests of McCartney’s father. This is apparent in songs like “When I’m Sixty-Four” (composed during The Quarrymen period), “Honey Pie”, and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. About their early single, “From Me to You”, McCartney said, “It could be done as an old rag-time tune…especially the middle-eight, but we’re not writing the tunes in any particular idiom.”
The Everly Brothers. Lennon and McCartney copied Don and Phil Everly’s distinctive two-part harmonies. Their vocals on “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” were inspired by the Everlys’ powerful vocals on Cathy’s Clown (1960), the first recording to ever reach number one simultaneously in the USA and England. Two of Us, the opening track on Let It Be was overtly composed in the Everly´s style and McCartney acknowledged this in the recording, with a spoken “Take it Phil”. McCartney later name-checked ‘Phil and Don’ in his solo track, “Let Em In”.
Bob Dylan, particularly from 1965, with “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (Help!) and “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” (Rubber Soul). Dylan was the first to introduce The Beatles to marijuana (1964) in a New York hotel room when he offered the Fab Four pot as a consequence of his misconception that the lyrics in their hit song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (Meet the Beatles!) were “I get high” instead of “I can’t hide”. This initial partaking in hallucinogenic drugs grew into heavier experimentation with LSD, heroin, and various other substances whose psychedelic effects were commonly thought to have manifested themselves in the band’s unique music.
Country Music. All four band members have talked about their influences from American country music. The group coverd Buck Owens “Act Naturally” and also recorded an origanal country number “What Goes On?”, both sung by Starr. Both Starr and McCartney would continue to record country material in their solo careers. McCartney was once asked to record a duet with Kenny Rogers, which he accepted but never recorded.
Changes in their music
The Beatles were fans of almost every kind of music that they heard on the radio, or heard on imported records from America. These early records were not officially imported to the UK, but were taken to Liverpool by sailors who had bought them in America.
The Beatles were, in the beginning, heavily influenced by Rock and Roll. This later graduated into Beat Music, which is the reason why they chose The BEATles name. Mid-sixties Beatles material shifted away from dance music, and the tempo of their songs was varied from the back-beat rhythm of their beginnings. McCartney and Lennon never lost their affection for the driving R&B of Little Richard, and Chuck Berry, and this was reflected in many songs, from “I Saw Her Standing There” to “Revolution”, “Birthday”, and “Helter Skelter”.
Lennon is conventionally portrayed as having played the major role in steering The Beatles towards psychedelia (“Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” from 1966, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” from 1967), but what is not well-known is that McCartney was very involved in the London avant garde scene, which was itself moving towards psychedelia during the same period. McCartney (who lived in London) would often tell John about any new “happening” or “movement”, and Lennon was always keen to hear about it, and to endorse it. They created many of the tape loops used on “Tomorrow Never Knows” and experimented with musique concrete techniques and electronic instruments, as well as creating many experimental audio-visual works. 
The iconic Abbey Road album cover.
Beginning with the use of a string quartet (arranged by George Martin) on “Yesterday” in 1965, The Beatles pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by the double-quartet string arrangement on “Eleanor Rigby” (1966), “Here, There and Everywhere” (1966) and “She’s Leaving Home” (1967). Lennon and McCartney´s interest in the music of Bach led them to use a piccolo trumpet on the arrangement of “Penny Lane”, and the use of a Mellotron at the start of “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
The decision to stop touring – in 1966 – caused an abrupt change in their musical direction. They had already shown a clear trend towards progressively greater complexity in technique and style but this accelerated noticeably on their Revolver album. The subject matter of their post-touring songs branched out as well, as all manner of subjects were written about.
The extreme complexity of Sgt. Pepper 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 used because The Beatles themselves weren’t interested in the animated film as a project and did not want to record new material for it.
Lennon and McCartney renewed their interest in rootsy forms towards the close of The Beatles’ career, e.g. “Yer Blues” from 1968 and “Don’t Let Me Down” (1969) Helter Skelter and Birthday.
The Beatles Line-Ups
Main article: The Beatles Line-Ups
The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (1964)
Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Epiphone, Gibson, and Fender guitars
Steinway, and Blüthner pianos
Höfner, Fender and Rickenbacker basses
Hammond, Vox and Lowrey electric organs
Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Hohner Pianet electric pianos
Although The Beatles had access to the best microphones available,such as the Neumann U47, they often used the AKG C28, which features a small microphone capsule on the end of a long, curved extension stand, with the mic’s preamp located on the floor. (This mic was often used by the BBC.) They often used the AKG C28 mics for vocals, with a small piece of sponge crudely taped over them to prevent “pops”; meaning the sound produced by singing the letters B, and P. (Both types of microphones were taken upstairs to the roof – for the famous roof concert – where second engineer Alan Parsons simply tied a leg of pantyhose over the U47s (which were used as “overhead” mics) to act as windscreens.)
Main article: The Beatles discography
Further information: List of Beatles songs by singer, The Beatles record sales, worldwide charts, and The Beatles bootlegs
The original studio albums by The Beatles in their home market (the UK) are as follows:
1. Please Please Me (22 March 1963)
2. With the Beatles (22 November 1963)
3. A Hard Day’s Night (July 13, 1964)
4. Beatles for Sale (December 4, 1964)
5. Help! (August 6, 1965)
6. Rubber Soul (December 3, 1965)
7. Revolver (August 5, 1966)
8. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (June 1, 1967)
9. The Beatles (aka The White Album) (November 22, 1968)
10. Yellow Submarine (January 17, 1969)
11. Abbey Road (September 26, 1969)
12. Let It Be (May 8, 1970)
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 (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 songs such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something”. Starr also created his own company, called Startling Music. It holds the rights to his two Beatle-composed songs, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’s Garden”.
The following samples are organised as per the year the song was originally released.
“Help!” (help info)
“Yesterday” (help info)
“Drive My Car” (help info)
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” (help info)
“Nowhere Man” (help info)
“In My Life” (help info)
“Taxman” (help info)
“Eleanor Rigby” (help info)
“I’m Only Sleeping” (help info)
“Got to Get You into My Life” (help info)
“Strawberry Fields Forever” (help info)
“Penny Lane” (help info)
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (help info)
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (help info)
“When I’m Sixty-Four” (help info)
“A Day in the Life” (help info)
“Magical Mystery Tour” (help info)
“I Am the Walrus” (help info)
“Blackbird” (help info)
“Mother Nature’s Son” (help info)
“Helter Skelter” (help info)
“Revolution 1″ (help info)
“Come Together” (help info)
“Something” (help info)
“Here Comes the Sun” (help info)
“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” (help info)