The Beatles

This article is about the band. For the self-titled album, see The Beatles (album).
The Beatles
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in 1964.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in 1964.
Background information
Origin Liverpool, England
Genre(s) Pop
Rock
Psychedelic rock
Years active 1960–1970
1994–1996 (Studio-based partial reunion)
Label(s) Parlophone, Capitol, Apple, Odeon, Vee-Jay, United Artists, Atco, Swan, Tollie, Polydor
Website Beatles.com
Members
John Lennon (1960–1970)
Paul McCartney (1960–1970), (1994–1996)
George Harrison (1960–1970), (1994–1996)
Ringo Starr (1962–1970), (1994–1996)
Former members
Pete Best (1960–1962)
Stuart Sutcliffe (1960–1961)

The Beatles were a highly influential English rock band from Liverpool.[1] They are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful popular music bands in history.[2] Their innovative music and style helped to define the 1960s, and they continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, their role in the history of popular music, and their contributions to popular culture.

The Beatles were the best-selling popular musical act of the 20th century. In the United Kingdom alone, they released more than 40 different singles, albums, and EPs that reached number one. This commercial success was repeated in many other countries: EMI estimated that by 1985, the band had sold over one billion discs or tapes worldwide.[3] The RIAA has certified The Beatles as the top selling artists of all time in America based on U.S. sales of singles and albums.[4]

The Beatles were a major force behind the "British Invasion" of UK-based popular bands in the United States in the mid-1960s and they helped to pioneer more advanced, multi-layered arrangements in pop music. Although their initial musical style was rooted in the sounds of 1950s rock and roll, the group explored a great variety of genres ranging from Tin Pan Alley to psychedelic rock. The Beatles' impact extended well beyond their music. Their clothes, hairstyles, and statements made them trend-setters from the 1960s to this day, while 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

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1957–1960: The Quarrymen and The Silver Beetles

John Lennon, vocals and rhythm guitar
John Lennon, vocals and rhythm guitar

In March 1957, John Lennon formed a skiffle group called The Quarrymen whilst attending Quarry Bank Grammar School.[5] Lennon and The Quarrymen met guitarist Paul McCartney at the Woolton (St. Peter's church hall) fête on 6 July 1957.[6] On 6 February 1958, the young guitarist George Harrison was invited to watch the group (who played under a variety of names) at Wilson Hall, Garston, Liverpool.[7] Members continually joined and left the lineup during that period.

McCartney had become acquainted with Harrison (a year younger) on the morning school bus-ride to the Liverpool Institute, as they both lived in Speke. At McCartney's insistence, Harrison joined the Quarrymen as lead guitarist[8] (after Lennon's initial reluctance, because of Harrison's young age) after a rehearsal in March 1958.[9] He was followed by Lennon's art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, on bass.[10] A few primitive recordings of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison from that era have survived.

The Quarrymen went through a progression of names — Johnny and The Moondogs, Long John and The Beatles, The Silver Beetles (derived from Larry Parnes' suggestion of "Long John and the Silver Beetles") — and eventually decided on 17 August 1960 on "The Beatles". There are many theories as to the origin of the name and its unusual spelling; it is usually credited to 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". Cynthia Lennon suggests that Lennon came up with the name Beatles at a "brainstorming session over a beer-soaked table in the Renshaw Hall bar...".[11] In addition to being a fan of the Crickets, Lennon is paraphrased as having said: "If you turn it round it was 'les beat', which sounded French and cool."[11] Lennon, who was well known for giving multiple versions of the same story, also joked in a tongue-in-cheek 1961 article in Mersey Beat magazine that "It came in a vision — a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, 'From this day on you are Beatles with an A'.".[12] (This story was later the inspiration for the title of one of McCartney's solo albums, Flaming Pie.)

In May 1960, The Beatles were hired to tour the north-east of Scotland as a back-up band with singer Johnny Gentle,[13] who 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.[citation needed] For this tour the chronically drummerless group secured the services of Tommy Moore, who was considerably older than the others.[14] The band's van (driven by Gentle) had a rear-end crash with a stationary vehicle on their way back from Scotland; Moore lost some teeth and had stitches after being hit in the mouth by a guitar.[15] Nobody else was seriously injured. (Shortly afterwards, feeling the age gap was too great — and following his girlfriend's advice — Moore left the band and went back to work in a bottling factory as a fork-lift truck driver.)[16]

Norman Chapman was their next drummer, but his appointment lasted only a few weeks, as he was called up for National Service. Chapman's departure posed a significant problem, as the group's unofficial manager, Allan Williams, had arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany.[17] McCartney has often said that if any of The Beatles had been called up for National Service — had it been extended for just a few more weeks — the band would never have come into existence, because of the different ages of the key members.[18]

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1960–1970: The Beatles

Paul McCartney, vocals and bass guitar
Paul McCartney, vocals and bass guitar

On August 16, 1960, McCartney invited Pete Best to become the group's permanent drummer after watching Best play with The Blackjacks[19] in the Casbah Club. This was a cellar club operated by Best's mother Mona, in West Derby, Liverpool, where The Beatles had played and often used to visit.[20] In the documentary The Compleat Beatles, Williams said that Best "played not too cleverly, but passable."

They started in Hamburg by playing in the Indra and Kaiserkeller bars. They were required to play six or seven hours a night, seven nights a week. Shortly after they began performing at a new venue, the Top Ten, Harrison was deported for having lied to the German authorities about his age. Finally, McCartney and Best started a small fire at their living quarters while vacating it for more luxurious rooms. Arrested and charged with arson, the two were deported. Lennon and Sutcliffe followed suit in returning to Liverpool in December.

In December 1960, The Beatles reunited, and on 21 March 1961, they played their first concert at Liverpool's Cavern club.[21][22] They went back to Hamburg in April 1961. Whilst playing at the Top Ten they were recruited by singer Tony Sheridan to act as his backing band on a series of recordings for the German Polydor Records label,[23] produced by famed bandleader Bert Kaempfert.[17] Kaempfert signed the group to its own Polydor contract at the first session on June 22 1961. On October 31 Polydor released the recording "My Bonnie (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur)", which appeared on the German charts under the name "Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers", a collective name used for whoever happened to be in Sheridan's backup band at any given time.[24] In addition to the legend that this record led to the group's eventual meeting with Brian Epstein, it also resulted in their first mention in the American press. Around the beginning of 1962, My Bonnie was mentioned in Cashbox as the debut of a "new rock and roll team, Tony Sheridan and the Beatles", and a few copies were also pressed (ironically, considering the group's experience with the label) under the Decca label for U.S. disc jockeys, as American Decca had a distribution deal with Polydor parent Deutsche Grammophon.[25] Sutcliffe stayed with Astrid Kirchherr when it was time to go back to Liverpool, so McCartney took over bass duties.[26]

Their third stay in Hamburg was from 13 April to 31 May 1962, when they opened The Star Club.[17] Their spirits were dampened when the group was informed upon their arrival of Sutcliffe's death from a brain haemorrhage.

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. In a now-famous exchange, a senior Decca Records A&R executive named Dick Rowe turned Epstein down flat and informed him that "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein."[27] At the same time Epstein was negotiating with Decca, he also approached EMI marketing executive Ron White.[28] White (who was not himself a record producer) in turn contacted EMI producers Norrie Paramor, Walter Ridley, and Norman Newell, all of whom declined to record The Beatles.[29] White did not approach EMI's fourth staff producer - George Martin - who was on holiday at the time.[30]

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Record contract

George Harrison, lead guitar and vocals
George Harrison, lead guitar and vocals

After failing to impress Decca Records with the early demo, Epstein was referred by recording engineer Jim Foy to Sid Coleman, who ran EMI's publishing arm. When Coleman heard the demo tapes he suggested taking the tapes to George Martin, who, Coleman explained, "does comedy records" and headed the Parlophone label at EMI. Epstein eventually met with Martin, who expressed an interest in hearing the band in the studio; he invited the quartet to London's Abbey Road studios for an audition on 6 June.[31] Martin had not been particularly impressed by the band's demo recordings, but he instantly liked them as people when he met them. He concluded that they had raw musical talent, but said (in later interviews) that what made the difference for him that day was their wit and humour in the studio.

Martin did have a problem with Pete Best, however, whom he criticised in The Compleat Beatles for not being able to keep time. He privately suggested to Epstein that the band use another drummer in the studio. Best had some popularity and was considered good-looking by many fans, but the three founding members had become increasingly unhappy with his popularity and his personality, and Epstein had become exasperated with his refusal to adopt the distinctive hairstyle as part of their unified look. Under direction of the band members, Epstein sacked Best on 16 August 1962. They immediately asked Ringo Starr (real name: Richard Starkey), the drummer for one of the top Merseybeat groups Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, to join the band. The Beatles had met and performed with Starr previously in Hamburg. In fact, the first recordings of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr together were made as early as 15 October 1960, in a series of demonstration records privately recorded in Hamburg while acting as the backing group for singer Lu Walters.[32] Starr played on The Beatles' second EMI recording session on 4 September 1962, but Martin hired session drummer Andy White for their next session on 11 September.

Their recording contract — in keeping with how shabbily new artists were treated in that era — paid them only one penny for every single sold, which was split among the four Beatles.[citation needed] This amounted to one farthing per group member. This royalty rate was further reduced for overseas sales, on which they received half of one penny (split between the whole band) for singles sales outside of the UK. Martin said later that it was a "pretty awful" contract.[33] Their publishing contract with Dick James Music (DJM) was also standard for the time; each writer received the statutory minimum of 50% of the gross monies received, while the publisher retained the other 50%.[citation needed]

The Beatles' first EMI session on 6 June did not yield any releasable recordings but the September sessions produced a minor UK hit, "Love Me Do", which peaked on the charts at number 17. [1] ("Love Me Do" reached the top of the U.S. singles chart over 18 months later in May 1964.) This was swiftly followed by their second single, "Please Please Me". Three months later they recorded their first album (also titled Please Please Me). The band's first televised performance was on a programme called People and Places transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.[34]

In August 1963 The Beatles Book, a monthly magazine devoted to the group began publication. It continued for 77 issues until the end of 1969.

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America

Ringo Starr, drums and vocals
Ringo Starr, drums and vocals

Although the band experienced huge popularity in the record charts in the UK 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"[35] in the United States, partly because no British act had ever yet had a sustained commercial impact on American audiences.[citation needed]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 radio 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.[36]

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 in laughter 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.[citation needed] However, on 7 December 1963 a clip of The Beatles was shown on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, inspiring a teenage girl in Washington, D.C. to request a Beatle song on a local radio station which secured an imported copy of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to play for her to an overwhelming response, forcing Capitol Records to release the song ahead of schedule on 26 December. On 3 January 1964 a grainy film of The Beatles performing "She Loves You" was aired on the late-night Jack Paar Program, building excitement and setting the stage for their first American television live appearance a few weeks later on the Ed Sullivan Show on 4 February 1964, launching the British Invasion.

After The Beatles' huge success in 1964, Vee-Jay Records and Swan Records took advantage of their previously secured rights to The Beatles' early recordings and reissued the songs that they had rights to, all of which reached the top ten of the charts the second time around. (MGM and Atco also secured rights to The Beatles' early Tony Sheridan-era recordings and had minor hits with "My Bonnie" and "Ain't She Sweet".) Vee-Jay ended up issuing some odd LP repackagings of the limited Beatles material they had. In addition to Introducing... The Beatles, which was essentially The Beatles' debut British album with some minor alterations, Vee-Jay also issued an unusual LP called The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons, which put together songs from The Beatles and The Four Seasons (another successful act that Vee-Jay had under contract) in a 'contest': the back cover featured a 'score card'. Another unusual release was the Hear The Beatles Tell All album, which mixed interviews with the same early Beatles material. It has been claimed that both Vee-Jay and Swan attempted legal fights with Capitol/EMI to secure full American contractual rights to The Beatles, which may have contributed to the eventual demise of both labels. It has also been said this fight to secure The Beatles took attention away from each label's most successful artists, The Four Seasons (Vee-Jay) and Freddy Cannon (Swan), who decided to move to more-established labels. The Vee-Jay/Swan-issued recordings eventually ended up with Capitol, who promptly issued most of the Vee-Jay material on the American-only Capitol release The Early Beatles. Many of the early Vee-Jay and Swan Beatles records command a high price on the record collectors' market.[2] The Swan material was issued on the Capitol LP The Beatles' Second Album.

Different editions of Beatles albums, with fewer songs per album, were released in the US by Capitol Records until Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was identical in content to the UK release, as were subsequent albums.

See The Beatles discography for a comprehensive listing of US album releases and their contents.

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Beatlemania

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",[37] 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 26 December 1963.[3]

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 16 January, Cashbox Magazine had certified The Beatles' record number one (in the edition published with the cover-date 23 January).[citation needed]

This contributed to the hysterical fan reaction at JFK Airport on 7 February 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 9 February. During the week of 4 April, 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. They had an additional 7 songs at lower positions: 12% of the chart consisted of Beatles songs.[4] However, they were so unaware of their popularity in America that, on their arrival at JFK, they initially thought the crowds were there to greet someone else.

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 turned out to see them at Adelaide Town Hall;[38] at the time Adelaide's population was roughly 200,000.[citation needed] In September that year baseball team owner Charles O. Finley paid the band the then unheard-of sum of $150,000 to play in Kansas City, Missouri.[citation needed]

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, which was widely reported in the British press and was even the lead item on the BBC television news. The first two were returned on 14 June, before The Beatles received theirs on 26 October 1965.[39]

On 15 August that year, The Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600.[40] The band later admitted that they had been largely unable to hear themselves play or sing, because of the screaming and cheering. This concert is generally considered the point at which began their disenchantment with performing live.[citation needed]

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Backlash and controversy

In July 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[citation needed]. 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. The group soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to accepting "no" for an answer. After the snubbing was widely broadcast on Philippine television and radio, all The Beatles' police protection disappeared. The group 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 harass 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, Epstein and Evans were ordered off, and 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 (Anthology).

Almost as soon as they returned from the Philippines, an earlier comment by Lennon made in March that year launched a backlash against The Beatles from religious and social conservatives in the United States. In an interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave, Lennon had offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now."[41]

Afterwards, a radio station in Birmingham, Alabama, ran a story on burning Beatles records, in what was considered to be a joke. However, many people affiliated with rural churches in the American South started taking the suggestion seriously. Towns across the United States and South Africa started to burn Beatles records in protest.

However, The Beatles observed wryly, "Hey, they've gotta buy 'em before they can burn 'em."[citation needed] Under tremendous pressure from American media, Lennon apologised for his remarks at a press conference in Chicago on August 11, the eve of the first performance of what turned out to be their final tour.[citation needed]

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The studio years

The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. McCartney asked Tony Barrow to tape the event, but the 30-minute tape he used ran out halfway through the last song. The concert lasted a little under 35 minutes.[42]

From then on, they concentrated on recording music. After three months away from each other, they returned to Abbey Road Studios on 24 November 1966 to begin the 129-day recording sessions for their eighth album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on 1 June, 1967.[43]

On 25 June 1967, The Beatles became the first band globally transmitted on television, in front of an estimated 400 million people worldwide. The band appeared in a segment within the first-ever worldwide TV satellite hook-up — a show entitled 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.[citation needed]

Soon after the triumphs of the Sgt. Pepper album and the global broadcast, The Beatles' situation worsened. First, their manager Brian Epstein died of an overdose of sleeping pills on 27 August 1967, at the age of 32, and the band's business affairs began to unravel. Next, 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.[44] The film was also panned by the public. Part of the public's difficulty lay in the fact that colour was an integral part of the film but in December 1967 very few viewers in the UK had colour receivers (the colour service having only started in July) and the film appeared largely plotless and confusing. The film's soundtrack, which features one of The Beatles' few instrumental tracks ("Flying"), was released in the United Kingdom as a double EP, and in the United States as a full LP.[citation needed]

The group spent the early part of 1968 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, initially an altruistic business venture which they described as an attempt at "western communism."[citation needed] The middle of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album because of its stark white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band, one temporarily ending with Starr walking out on the rest of the band. Because of this, McCartney recorded the drums on the song "Back in the USSR". Among the other causes of dissension were that Lennon's new girlfriend, Yoko Ono, was at his side through much of the sessions and that the others felt that McCartney was becoming too dominating.[45]

McCartney gradually took greater charge of the group's production. 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.[citation needed]

On the business side McCartney wanted Lee Eastman — the father of his wife Linda Eastman — to manage The Beatles, but the remaining Beatles wanted New York manager Allen Klein to represent them. All Beatles decisions in the past had been unanimous but this time the four could not agree on a manager. Lennon, Harrison and Starr felt the Eastmans would put McCartney's interests before those of the group. Years later, during the Anthology interviews, McCartney said of this time: "Looking back, I can understand why they would feel that was biased against them."[citation needed]

Their final live performance was on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row, London on 30 January 1969, the next-to-last day of the difficult Get Back sessions. The performance was filmed and later included in the film Let It Be. While the band was playing, the local police were called due to noise complaints. Although the group was simply asked to end their performance, the band members later remarked in the Anthology video that they were almost disappointed they were not arrested, pointing out that the police hauling the band members off in handcuffs would have been "an appropriate ending" for the movie.

Thanks largely to McCartney's efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road in the summer of 1969. The completion of the song "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" for the album on 20 August was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio.

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Breakup

Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on 20 September 1969 but was talked out of saying anything about it publicly. The final Beatles sessions were 3 January-4 January 1970, which produced their last new song, "I Me Mine". Lennon did not attend the sessions.

In March 1970 the Get Back session tapes were given to American producer Phil Spector, who had produced Lennon's solo single "Instant Karma!". Spector's signature "Wall of Sound" production was in direct opposition to the original intent of the record, which had been to record a stripped-down live studio performance. McCartney was deeply dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of some songs, particularly "The Long and Winding Road", and unsuccessfully attempted to halt release of Spector's version of the song. McCartney publicly announced the break-up on 10 April 1970, a week before releasing his first solo album, McCartney, pre-release copies of which included a press-release with a self-written interview explaining the end of The Beatles and his hopes for the future. On 8 May 1970, the Spector-produced version of Get Back was released as Let It Be, followed by the documentary film of the same name. The Beatles' partnership was legally dissolved after McCartney filed a lawsuit on 31 December 1970.[citation needed]

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After The Beatles

Following the dissolution of the group, all four Beatles released solo albums in the early 1970s, including Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), McCartney's Ram (1971) and Harrison's All Things Must Pass (1970). Some of their albums featured contributions by other former Beatles; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only one to include compositions and performances by all four, albeit on separate songs.

In 1971, it was discovered that Allen Klein had stolen £5M from The Beatles' holdings, and, in 1973, Lennon admitted to McCartney that they should have gone with the Eastmans' management. This helped to mend the personal relationship between the two, although not entirely.[citation needed] Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974 (later bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in '74), they never recorded together again. Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 in New York City.

In the wake of the expiration in 1975 of the Beatles' contract with EMI-Capitol, the American Capitol label, rushing to cash in on its vast Beatles holdings and freed from the group's creative control, released five LPs: Rock 'n' Roll Music (a compilation of their more uptempo numbers), The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (containing portions of two unreleased shows at the Hollywood Bowl), Love Songs (a compilation of their slower numbers), Rarities (a complilation of tracks that had been either never been released in the U.S. or had gone out of print), and Reel Music (a complilation of songs from their films). There was also a non-Capitol-EMI release of a show from the group's early days at the Star Club in Hamburg captured on a poor-quality tape. Of all these post-breakup LPs, only the Hollywood Bowl LP had the approval of the group members. Upon the American release of the original British CDs in 1986, these post-breakup Capitol American compilation LPs were deleted from the Capitol catalogue. The Star Club album still appears in release from time to time. Most Beatles fans cast a critical eye on these releases, considering them as thinly disguised attempts by Capitol to make a quick profit on the Beatles' music.[citation needed] Only the Hollywood Bowl LP was taken seriously because it was authorised by the group, put together and produced by original Beatles producer George Martin, and marked the occasion of the first-ever official live Beatles concert release on record.[citation needed]

The BBC has a large collection of Beatles recordings, mostly comprising original studio sessions from 1963 to 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.

In 1988, the Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a group (not as individual performers) [5]. On the night of their induction, only original members Harrison and Starr appeared to accept their award along with Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and his two sons, but McCartney stayed away, issuing a press release citing "unresolved difficulties" with Harrison, Starr, and Lennon's estate. (McCartney was inducted as a solo artist a few years later and did appear to accept his award.)

In February 1994, the then-three surviving Beatles reunited to produce and record additional music for a few of Lennon's old unfinished demos, almost as if reuniting the Beatles. "Free as a Bird" premiered as part of The Beatles Anthology series of television documentaries and was released as a single in December 1995, with "Real Love" following in March 1996. These songs were also included in the three Anthology collections of CDs released in 1995 and 1996, each of which consisted of two CDs of never-before-released Beatles material. Klaus Voormann, who had known The Beatles since their Hamburg days and had previously illustrated the Revolver album cover, directed the Anthology cover concept.[citation needed]

The Beatles remain enormously popular. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold on its first day of release, reaching the highest volume of single-day sales ever for an album.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] The collection also reached number one in the United States and 33 other countries.[citation needed].

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Musical evolution

The Beatles were fans of almost every kind of music that they heard on the radio or 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. Other early influences included Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Lonnie Donegan, ragtime, and English music hall. Country music artists such as Hank Williams, Buck Owens and Jimmie Rodgers were also a strong influence as were American soul and rhythm and blues artists such as Ray Charles, Arthur Alexander, and Little Richard, as reflected in the numerous cover versions recorded on their early albums.

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). (In 1973, Smith had a hit as a singer under the performing name " Hurricane Smith " with "Oh Babe, What Would You Say".) 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, they increasingly came under pressure, and it was decided that the group would vent their artistic energy solely into recording. 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 a diverse range of subjects were written about.[citation needed]

The Beatles also continued to absorb influences throughout their career — long after their initial success — often finding new musical and lyrical avenues to explore from listening to the work of some of their contemporaries. Among those influences were Bob Dylan, on songs such as "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (Help!) and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (Rubber Soul).[6] Dylan introduced The Beatles to cannabis (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 use of drugs grew into heavier experimentation with LSD and various other substances whose psychedelic effects were commonly thought to have manifested themselves in the band's music. The Beatles, in turn, would influence Dylan's move into an electrified rock sound in his music.[citation needed]

In 1965, having recently become interested in Indian music, Harrison purchased a sitar, which he played on the song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," the first instance of such an instrument being used on a rock record. He later took sitar lessons from maestro Ravi Shankar, and implemented further elements of Eastern music and spirituality into his songs, notably "Love You To" and "Within You Without You." These musical decisions greatly increased the influence of Indian music on popular culture in the late 1960s.[citation needed]

Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, automatic double tracking and vari-speed recording, The Beatles began to augment their recordings with instruments that were 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 the Mellotron, which was 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. Lennon also wondered what his vocals would sound like if he were hanging upside down from the ceiling. Clearly their ideas were out-stripping the technology that was available at the time.[citation needed] Lennon is often considered to have played the primary 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 McCartney was also influential, being involved in the London avant garde scene, which was itself moving towards psychedelia during the same period.[citation needed]

Moreover, with his customary humorous irreverence, Lennon once quipped: "Avant-garde is French for bullshit."[46]

McCartney, who still lived in London, would often tell Lennon about any new 'happening' or 'movement', and Lennon was always keen to hear about it, and sometimes to endorse it. They created many of the tape loops used on the song "Tomorrow Never Knows" and experimented with musique concrete techniques and electronic instruments, as well as creating many experimental audio-visual works.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 loath 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 many other studios.[citation needed]

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 a Mellotron at the start of "Strawberry Fields Forever".[citation needed]

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 were uninterested in the animated film as a project.[citation needed]

Lennon and McCartney renewed their interest in rootsy forms towards the close of The Beatles' career — for example, "Yer Blues" and "Birthday" in 1968, and "Don't Let Me Down" in 1969.[citation needed]

[edit]

Influence

[edit]

Discography

Further information: List of Beatles songs by singer,  The Beatles record sales, worldwide charts, and The Beatles bootlegs
[edit]

Official CD catalogue

In 1986–1987, EMI released all 12 of The Beatles' studio albums — as originally released in the UK — on CD worldwide. (North American releases were on EMI's American subsidiary Capitol Records). It was a considered decision by Apple Corps. to standardise the Beatles catalogue throughout the world. Because there were tracks that had been released in the UK on singles and EPs that had not been released on the original UK albums, in order for all their recordings to be available on CD it was necessary to create three further CDs that would contain the missing tracks.

One CD was of a 1967 US compilation album that featured the 6-track 1967 UK EP Magical Mystery Tour and the various singles released in that year. The other two CDs were new compilations that gathered together all the other singles, EP tracks and recordings from 1962–1970 that had not been issued on the original British studio albums.

According to EMI and the Guinness Book of Records, The Beatles have sold in excess of one billion units (1,010,000,000, including cassettes, records, CDs and bootlegs). The only other artist to come close is Elvis Presley.

[edit]

Song catalogue

In 1963 John Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed to assign their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by music publisher Dick James in conjunction with Brian Epstein. The company was administered by James' own company Dick James Music. 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 the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs to British TV company Associated TeleVision (ATV), in which Lennon and McCartney received stock.

In 1985, after a short duration in which the parent company was owned by Australian business magnate Robert Holmes à Court, ATV Music was sold to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono), including the publishing rights to over 200 songs composed by Lennon and McCartney. (McCartney, who had two hit duets with Jackson, "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say", later told Rolling Stone that while he and Jackson were working together on the video for "Say, Say, Say", he told Jackson that there was money to be made in owning song publishing, referring to his ownership of the Buddy Holly song catalogue, and Jackson reportedly told McCartney, "One day I'm going to buy your songs." The purchase later caused a rift between McCartney and Jackson.) 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 Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by The Beatles. 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 respective songwriter shares of the royalties. (Despite his ownership of most of the Lennon-McCartney publishing, Jackson has only recorded one Lennon-McCartney composition himself, "Come Together" which was featured in his film Moonwalker.)

Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of The Beatles' greatest hits, four of their earliest songs had been published by one of EMI's publishing companies prior to Lennon & McCartney signing with Dick James — 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" from EMI.

Harrison and Starr did not 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 post-1967 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 post-1967 songs recorded by The Beatles, "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden".

[edit]

Hit singles

[edit]

Song samples

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On film

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Other projects

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Anthology

[edit]

Love

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Instrumentation

[edit]

Microphones

A Neumann U87
A Neumann U87

Although microphone usage varied somewhat according to the requirements of each song, the group's recordings at Abbey Road most often employed Neumann U47 or U67 microphones for electric guitars and one or more Neumann U48s for vocals. Early in their recording career the drums usually were recorded with only two microphones: one overhead (an AKG D19 or STC 4038) and one for the bass drum (such as an AKG D20). Later, more microphones were used on the drums.

The AKG C28 is visible in the Let It Be film. Available studio documentation and interviews with their former recording engineers indicate that this microphone was not used for recording in the studio.[48]

With the group's encouragement, recording engineer Geoff Emerick experimented with microphone placement and equalization.[citation needed] Many of his techniques were unusual for the time but have since become commonplace, such as "close miking" (physically placing the microphone in very close proximity of a sound source) of acoustic instruments or deliberately overloading the signal to produce distortion. For example, he obtained the biting string sound that characterises "Eleanor Rigby" by miking the instruments extremely closely — Emerick has related that the string players would instinctively back away from the microphones at the start of each take, and he would go back into the studio and move the microphones closer again.[49]

[edit]

Notes

  1. AMG biography
  2. Rolling Stone biography
  3. Biggest All-Time Sales For a Band. Guinness World Records. Retrieved on January 25, 2006.
  4. Best Sellers: Gold & Platinum Top Artists.
  5. Spitz. p47
  6. Spitz. p93
  7. Ray O'Brien, There are Places I'll Remember: Volume 1, 2001
  8. Miles. p47.
  9. Spitz. pp126-127
  10. Miles. p50.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lennon, Cynthia (2005). John. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
  12. Davies, Hunter. The Beatles (1981 edition)
  13. Coleman, Ray (1984). Lennon: The Definitive Biography. Pan Books. p212.
  14. Lewisohn, Mark (1992). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-975-6.
  15. Lewisohn, Mark (1992). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-975-6.
  16. Coleman, Ray (1984). Lennon: The Definitive Biography. Pan Books. 213.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Chancellor Press, 368. 1851529756.
  18. McCartney, Paul (October 1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. Secker & Warburg, 576. 0436280221..
  19. From Blackjacks to Beatles: How the Fab Four Evolved. Retrieved on 2006-06-21.
  20. http://maxwelledison.blogspot.com/2005_10_16_maxwelledison_archive.html
  21. Cynthia Lennon “John”. p84.
  22. Lewisohn. p80
  23. Cynthia Lennon “John”. p97.
  24. Spitz, Bob The Beatles: The Biography p.250. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-80352-9
  25. Palowski, Gareth L. How They Became The Beatles. Plume. ISBN 978-0452265066
  26. Miles. p74.
  27. The Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, LLC, 2000.
  28. Coleman 88-89
  29. Coleman 93
  30. Coleman 93-94
  31. Davies, Hunter. The Beatles (1981 edition). pp. 178
  32. http://www.beatlesource.com/bs/ao-smrtime.html
  33. "Beatles History — 1962" at Beatles Discography.
  34. Bill Harry The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia P.516
  35. JPGR.
  36. The Beatles on Vee Jay Records. Retrieved on August 19, 2006.
  37. JPGR.
  38. Ficher, P. and Seamark, K. H. (2005). Vintage Adelaide. East Street Publications, 70-71. ISBN 1-921037-06-7.
  39. Napier Chronicles.
  40. Badman, Keith (2000). The Beatles Off The Record. London: Omnibus Press. 193. ISBN 0-7119-7985-5.
  41. Cleave, Maureen (1966). "How Does a Beatle Live? John Lennon Lives Like This". London Evening Standard 4 March 1966. Retrieved on 16 September, 2006.
  42. Barrow, Tony. John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me. ISBN 1-86200-238-X
  43. Spitz, Bob The Beatles: The Biography p.696. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-80352-9
  44. Magical Mystery Tour.
  45. Spitz, Bob The Beatles: The Biography p.777-779. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-80352-9
  46. Qtd. in the London Observer.
  47. LP version originally released in the United States on 27 November 1967.
  48. http://www.eqmag.com/story.asp?storycode=12030
  49. Emerick, Geoff, with Howard Massey (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles. ISBN 1-59240-179-1.
[edit]

References

[edit]

Further reading

[edit]

See also

[edit]

External links

The Beatles
John Lennon | Paul McCartney | George Harrison | Ringo Starr
Pete Best | Stuart Sutcliffe
Management
Brian Epstein | Allen Klein | Apple Records
Production
George Martin | Geoff Emerick | Norman Smith | Phil Spector | Abbey Road Studios
Official studio albums
Please Please Me (1963) | With the Beatles (1963) | A Hard Day's Night (1964) | Beatles for Sale (1964) | Help! (1965) | Rubber Soul (1965) | Revolver (1966)  | Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) | Magical Mystery Tour (1967) | The Beatles (The White Album) (1968) | Yellow Submarine (1969) | Abbey Road (1969) | Let It Be (1970)
Filmography
A Hard Day's Night (1964) | Help! (1965) | Magical Mystery Tour (1967) | Yellow Submarine (1968) | Let It Be (1970)
Related articles
Line-ups | Bootlegs | Lennon/McCartney | Anthology | Influence | The Quarrymen | London | Beatlemania | Fifth Beatle | Paul is dead | British Invasion | Apple Corps | Northern Songs | Yoko Ono

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