The Beatles

  • British rock band – and many would say the greatest group of all time – formed in 1960 in Liverpool England. The original members were John Lennon (guitars, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, vocals), and George Harrison (guitars, vocals). Stuart Sutcliffe was the original bassist – he left in early 1961, and Paul took over the bass. Pete Best was the original drummer – he joined in August 1960, and unhappy with his skill as a drummer, the rest of the band replaced him with Ringo Starr in August 1962. Lennon and McCartney were the primary songwriters, with occasional contributions by Harrison and Starr.
  • This blog post won’t even scratch the surface of the history of this band. I’ll write about their formation, their recordings and their achievements. There are thousands of books about The Beatles – go to the library if you want a deeper dive!
  • Sixteen-year-old Lennon started a skiffle band in March 1957, calling themselves the Blackjacks, and soon after, the Quarrymen. McCartney, age 15, met Lennon and joined the group in July that year. Early the next year, McCartney’s 15 year old friend Harrison watched them perform, and soon auditioned. Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young to join, but after a month of asking to join, Harrison was accepted as part of the band. They started billing themselves as Johnny and the Moondogs, playing rock & roll and picking up a drummer when they could. Sutcliffe, Lennon friend in art school, sold one of his paintings and used the money to purchase a bass guitar. Sutcliffe joined in January 1960, and suggested the name The Beatals. Over the next months, the name morphed to The Silver Beetles, then The Silver Beatles, and finally by August 1960, they were The Beatles.
  • They landed a residency at clubs in Hamburg Germany. Needing a full time drummer, they hired Best. After 2 stints in Hamburg, they returned to Liverpool, where their popularity grew. A local producer used them as a back-up band for Tony Sheridan, and they were signed to a recording contract with Polydor. A single, My Bonnie, was recorded and credited to Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers.
  • A local record store owner and music writer, Brian Epstein, encountered The Beatles at a performance in Liverpool, and in January 1962, Epstein was hired as the manager for the band. Epstein negotiated the termination of their agreement with Polydor. They were rejected by Decca Records – they were told that “guitar groups are on the way out” – and Decca signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes instead, who auditioned the same day as the Beatles. Three months later, they were signed by George Martin to the EMI Parlophone label. Martin complained that Best was a poor drummer, and the band agreed, ousting Best and signing Starr, who had been performing with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
  • In September 1962, The Beatles recorded Love Me Do. It reached #17 on the UK charts, and later would reach #1 in the U.S. In October, they had their television debut, and the following month, they recorded Please Please Me – it reached #2 in the UK, and their amazing musical careers took off.
  • Beatlemania hit its peak in the mid-60s. By 1968, even though their music still was amazingly innovative (partly due to the brilliance of George Martin), their ability to work together became divisive. In September 1969, Lennon informed his bandmates that he was leaving. McCartney filed the paperwork for formal dissolution of the partnership at the end of 1970 – after legal disputes were resolved, Lennon signed the final paperwork in 1974.
  • As The Beatles, between 1963 and 1970, they released 22 studio albums (this includes albums that were exclusive to the UK and Canada). Of the U.S. releases, all but 1 were certified platinum, with the biggest sellers The Beatles (The White Album) at 24x platinum, Abbey Road at 12x platinum and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at 11x platinum. Their core catalog consisted of 213 songs. They released 63 singles, of which 21 topped the Hot 100 chart in the U.S. – no artist has had more #1 songs than The Beatles.
  • The achievements of The Beatles are many. Here are some. They won 14 Grammy awards – 5 of these were for releases well after their split. They also have a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, a Grammy Trustees award, and 15 songs or albums in the Grammy Hall of Fame. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all 4 members are inducted individually. They are the best selling artist in the history of music, with estimated sales of over 800 million albums worldwide, and with certified sales in the U.S. of over 178 million units.
  • My favorite Beatles album is The White Album, with Sgt. Pepper’s a close second. Hard to pick my favorite song – Eleanor Rigby was the first one to get me hooked on them. Others faves include A Day in the Life, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Penny Lane.
  • It would have been cool to see The Beatles, though it seems highly unlikely that they would have reunited. Sadly, Lennon’s murder in 1980 and Harrison’s death from cancer in 2001 prevents it anyway. McCartney and Starr continue to be very active – McCartney’s 2018 album Egypt Station topped the Billboard album chart, his first #1 album in 36 years, and he continues to sell out stadiums with his concerts. Meanwhile, Starr released 19 solo albums, his most recent in 2017. His band Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band formed in 1989 and continues to tour today.
  • Here is the band performing at their famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, performing I Want To Hold Your Hand – one of 5 songs they performed that night, it was the launching point for the Fab Four in the U.S., their first of 4 appearances on the show.

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