The Beatles

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The Beatles
The Beatles in 1964.Top: John Lennon, Paul McCartneyBottom: George Harrison, Ringo Starr
The Beatles in 1964.
Top: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Bottom: George Harrison, Ringo Starr
Background information
Origin Liverpool, England
Genre(s) Rock, pop
Years active 1960–1970
Label(s) EMI, Parlophone, Capitol, Odeon, Apple, Vee-Jay, Polydor, Swan, Tollie, United Artists Records
Associated acts The Quarrymen, Plastic Ono Band, The Dirty Mac, Wings, Traveling Wilburys, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo Starr All-Starr Band
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Former members
Stuart Sutcliffe
Pete Best

The Beatles were a rock and pop band from Liverpool, England that formed in 1960. During their career, the group primarily consisted of John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Although their initial musical style was rooted in 1950s rock and roll and skiffle, the group worked with different musical genres, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to psychedelic rock. Their clothes, style and statements made them trend-setters, while their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. After the band broke up in 1970, all four members embarked upon successful solo careers.

The Beatles were one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of popular music, selling over one billion records internationally.[1] In the United Kingdom, The Beatles released more than 40 different singles, albums, and EPs that reached number one, earning more number one albums (15) than any other group in UK chart history. This commercial success was repeated in many other countries; their record company, EMI, estimated that by 1985 they had sold over one billion records worldwide.[2] According to the Recording Industry Association of America, The Beatles have sold more albums in the United States than any other band.[3] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked The Beatles number one on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[4] According to that same magazine, The Beatles' innovative music and cultural impact helped define the 1960s, and their influence on pop culture is still evident today. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of top-selling Hot 100 artists to celebrate the chart's fiftieth anniversary; The Beatles topped it.[5]




In March 1957 John Lennon formed a skiffle group called The Quarrymen.[6] Lennon met Paul McCartney on 6 July 1957; Lennon added him to the group a few days later.[7] On 6 February 1958, George Harrison was invited to watch the group.[8] Harrison joined the Quarrymen as lead guitarist after a rehearsal in March 1958.[9][10] Lennon and McCartney both played rhythm guitar during that period. After original Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton left the band in 1959, the band had a high turnover of drummers. Lennon's friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined on bass in January 1960.[11][12]

The Quarrymen went through a progression of names, including "Johnny and the Moondogs" and "Long John and The Beatles". Sutcliffe suggested the name "The Beetles" as a tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. The band changed their name to "The Beatles". The band's lack of a drummer posed a serious problem, for the group's unofficial manager, Allan Williams, had arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, West Germany.[13]

Hamburg, Cavern Club and Brian Epstein

The group invited Pete Best to become their drummer on 12 August 1960.[14] Four days after hiring Best, the group left for Hamburg. The Beatles began a 48-night residency in Hamburg at Bruno Koschmider's Indra Club, and moved to the Kaiserkeller in October 1960, although they then accepted an offer to play at the Top Ten Club.[15] Koschmider was furious that they had broken his contract, so on 21 November 1960 Harrison was deported for having lied to the German authorities about his age.[16] McCartney and Best were arrested for arson a week later, after setting fire to a condom, and subsequently deported.[17] Lennon returned to Liverpool in mid-December while Sutcliffe stayed behind in Hamburg with his new German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr. The reunited group played an engagement on 17 December 1960 at The Casbah Coffee Club, with Chas Newby substituting for Sutcliffe.[18]

The Indra Club, where The Beatles first played on arriving in Hamburg, as it appeared in 2007.

The Beatles returned to Hamburg in April 1961, performing at the Top Ten Club. They were recruited by singer Tony Sheridan (who also had a residency at the club) to act as his backing band on a series of recordings for the German Polydor Records label,[19] produced by famed bandleader Bert Kaempfert.[20] Kaempfert signed the group to its own Polydor contract at the first session on 22 June 1961. On 31 October Polydor released the recording "My Bonnie (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur)", which appeared on the German charts.[21] A few copies were also pressed under the American Decca Records label.[22] When the group returned to Liverpool, Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg with Kirchherr.[23] McCartney took over bass duties.[24]

The band returned to Liverpool, and on Tuesday, 21 February 1961, they made their first lunchtime appearance at The Cavern Club. From 1961 to 1962 The Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, culminating in a final appearance there on 3 August 1963.[25] On 9 November 1961, Brian Epstein saw The Beatles for the first time in the club.[26] Epstein's version of the story was that a customer, Raymond Jones, walked into the NEMS shop and asked Epstein for the "My Bonnie" single the group had recorded with Sheridan.[27]

The Beatles signed a five-year contract with Brian Epstein on 24 January 1962.[28] He then formed the management company NEMS Enterprises. Kaempfert agreed to release The Beatles from their Polydor contract. Decca Records A&R executive Dick Rowe turned Epstein down flat, informing him that "guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein."[29] (See The Decca audition.) While Epstein was negotiating with Decca, he approached EMI marketing executive Ron White.[30] White contacted EMI producers Norrie Paramor, Walter Ridley, and Norman Newell, all of whom declined to record the band. White did not approach EMI's fourth staff producer — George Martin — who was on holiday at the time.[31] The Beatles returned to Hamburg from 13 April to 31 May 1962, where they performed at the opening of The Star Club.[32] Upon their arrival, they were informed of Sutcliffe's death from a brain haemorrhage.[33]

Record contract

Epstein went to the HMV store on Oxford Street in London to transfer the Decca tapes to discs. There, he was referred to Sid Coleman, who ran EMI's publishing arm. Epstein eventually met with Martin, who signed the group to EMI's Parlophone label on a one-year renewable contract.[34]

Martin had a problem with Pete Best.[35] Martin privately suggested to Epstein that the band use another drummer in the studio.[36] In addition, Epstein became exasperated with Best's refusal to adopt the distinctive hairstyle as part of the band's unified look. Best had also missed a number of engagements because of illness. Epstein dismissed Best on 16 August 1962.[37] They asked Richard Starkey, known as Ringo Starr, to join the band; Starr was the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and had performed occasionally with The Beatles in Hamburg.[38] 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.[39] White's only released performances were recordings of "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You", found on The Beatles' first album.

The Beatles' first EMI session on 6 June 1962 did not yield any recordings considered worthy of release, but the September sessions produced a minor UK hit "Love Me Do", which peaked on the charts at number seventeen.[40] "Love Me Do" would reach the top of the U.S. singles chart in May 1964.

The "drop-T" logo

On 26 November 1962 the band recorded their second single "Please Please Me", which reached number two on the official UK charts and number one on the NME chart. Three months later, they recorded their first album, also titled Please Please Me. The band's first televised performance was on the People and Places programme, transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.[41] As The Beatles' fame spread, the frenzied adulation of the group was dubbed "Beatlemania". In 1963, The Beatles' iconic logo (referred to as the "drop-T" logo) made its debut.[42][43]

American releases

EMI's American operation, Capitol Records, declined to issue the singles "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You".[44] Instead, they were released on the Vee-Jay Records label. Art Roberts, music director of WLS, placed "Please Please Me" into radio rotation in late February 1963. Vee-Jay's rights to The Beatles were later cancelled for non-payment of royalties.[45]

In August 1963, Swan Records released "She Loves You", which failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on Dick Clark's TV show American Bandstand produced laughter from American teenagers when they saw the group's distinctive hairstyles.[46] In early November 1963, Brian Epstein persuaded Ed Sullivan to present 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 of "I Want to Hold Your Hand".[47] On 10 December 1963, a five-minute story shot in England about the phenomenon of Beatlemania was shown on the CBS Evening News. The segment first aired on the CBS Morning News on 22 November and had originally been scheduled to be repeated on Evening News that night, but regular programming was cancelled following the assassination of John F. Kennedy earlier in the day. The segment inspired a teenage girl named Marsha Albert living in Silver Spring, Maryland, to write to Carroll James, a disc jockey at Washington DC's WWDC radio station, requesting that he play records by The Beatles. Carroll James had seen the same news story and arranged through a friend to have a copy of The Beatles' new single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" sent over to him in Washington DC. Immediately after debuting the record on December 17, the station received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from listeners, with the station escalating airplay of the record. Made aware of the audience response, Capitol Records president Alan W. Livingston decided a few days later to rush-release the already-prepared single three weeks ahead of schedule on 26 December 1963.[48]

Several New York radio stations began playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on its release day. The positive response to the record 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 1964, Cashbox magazine had certified the record number one, in the edition datelined 23 January.

It was around this time that Brian Epstein was besieged by merchandising offers and, completely underestimating this relatively new market within the pop industry, chose to effectively give it away. Seltaeb was a company set up in 1963 by Nicky Byrne exclusively to look after The Beatles merchandising rights on a 90 /10 basis in Byrne’s favour. This quickly led to contractual disputes and lawsuits which eventually cost NEMS an estimated $100 million in licensing fees.[49]


On 7 February 1964, The Beatles took off for their first trip to the United States as a group.[50] They were accompanied by photographers, journalists (including Maureen Cleave), and Phil Spector, who had booked himself on the same flight.[51] When the group arrived at New York's newly renamed John F. Kennedy Airport, they were greeted by a large crowd. The airport had never experienced such a crowd, estimated at about 3,000 fans.[52]

The Beatles as they arrive at JFK Airport, New York City on 7 February 1964

After a press conference, The Beatles were driven to New York City. On the way, McCartney turned on a radio and listened to a running commentary: "[The Beatles] have just left the airport and are coming to New York City..."[53] After reaching the Plaza Hotel, they were besieged by fans and reporters. Harrison had a fever of 102 °F (39 °C) the next day and was ordered to stay in bed, so Neil Aspinall replaced him for the band's first rehearsal for their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.[54]

The Beatles made their first live American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964. Approximately 74 million viewers — about half of the American population — watched the group perform on the show.[55] The next morning, many newspapers wrote that The Beatles were nothing more than a "fad", and "could not carry a tune across the Atlantic".[56] The band's first American concert appearance was at Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. on 11 February 1964.[57]

After The Beatles' success in 1964, Vee-Jay Records and Swan Records took advantage of their previously secured rights to the group's early recordings and reissued the songs; all the songs reached the top ten this time. (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", the latter featuring John Lennon on lead vocal.) In addition to Introducing... The Beatles (1964), Vee-Jay also issued an unusual LP called The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons. This 2-LP set paired Introducing... The Beatles and The Golden Hits Of 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 consisted of two lengthy interviews with Los Angeles radio disc jockeys (side one was titled "Dave Hull interviews John Lennon", while side two was titled "Jim Steck interviews John, Paul, George, Ringo"). No Beatles music was included on this interview album, which turned out to be the only Vee-Jay Beatles album Capitol Records could not reclaim.

The Vee-Jay/Swan-issued recordings eventually ended up with Capitol, which issued most of the Vee-Jay material on the American-only Capitol release The Early Beatles, with three songs left off this final US version of the album. ("I Saw Her Standing There" was issued as the American B-side of "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and also appeared on the Capitol Records album Meet The Beatles. "Misery" and "There's a Place" were issued as a Capitol "Starline" reissue single in 1964, and reappeared on Capitol's 1980 US version of the Rarities compilation album.) The early Vee-Jay and Swan Beatles records command a high price on the record collectors' market today, and all have been copiously bootlegged.[58] The Swan tracks "She Loves You" and "I'll Get You" were issued on the Capitol LP The Beatles' Second Album. Swan also issued the German-language version of "She Loves You", called "Sie Liebt Dich". This song later appeared (in stereo) on Capitol's Rarities album.

In mid-1964 the band undertook their first appearances outside of Europe and North America, touring Australia; Ringo Starr was suffering from tonsillitis and was temporarily replaced by session drummer Jimmy Nicol. In Adelaide, The Beatles were greeted by over 300,000 people at Adelaide Town Hall.[59] Ringo had rejoined by the time they arrived in New Zealand on 21 June 1964.[60]

On 6 June 1964, A Hard Day's Night, the first movie starring The Beatles, was released in the United Kingdom. Directed by Richard Lester, the film is a mockumentary of the four members as they make their way to a London television programme. The film, released at the height of Beatlemania, was well-received by critics, and remains one of the most influential jukebox musicals.[61][62] That December the group released their fourth album, Beatles for Sale.

Help!, Elvis and Rubber Soul

In June 1965, Queen Elizabeth II appointed the four Beatles Members of the Order of the British Empire, MBE. The band members were nominated by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who also was the M.P. for Huyton, Liverpool.[63] The appointment – at that time primarily bestowed upon military veterans and civic leaders – sparked some conservative MBE recipients to return their insignia in protest.[64] In July 1965, The Beatles's second feature film, Help!, was released. The film was accompanied by the band's fifth British studio album Help!, which also functioned as the soundtrack for the movie. On 15 August 1965, The Beatles performed the first major stadium concert in the history of rock 'n' roll at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600.[65]

On 27 August 1965, the group arrived at a Bel Air mansion to meet Elvis Presley.[66] Biographer Peter Guralnick maintains that Presley was at best "lukewarm" about playing host to people he did not really know.[66] Paul McCartney later said: "It was one of the great meetings of my life ... I only met him that once, and then I think the success of our career started to push him out a little, which we were very sad about, because we wanted to coexist with him."[67] Marty Lacker, a friend of Presley's, recalls the singer saying: "'Quite frankly, if you guys are going to stare at me all night, I'm going to bed. I thought we'd talk a while and maybe jam a little.' And when he said that, they [The Beatles] went nuts."[68] The group told stories, joked and listened to records. The five of them had an impromptu jam session.[67] "They all went to the piano," says Lacker, "and Elvis handed out a couple of guitars. And they started singing Elvis songs, Beatle songs, Chuck Berry songs. Elvis played Paul's bass part on "I Feel Fine", and Paul said something like, 'You're coming along quite promising on the bass there, Elvis.' I remember thinking later, 'Man, if we'd only had a tape recorder.'"[68]

Their sixth album, Rubber Soul, was released in early December 1965. It was hailed as a major leap forward in the maturity and complexity of the band's music.[69]

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.[70] 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.[71] The group soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to accepting "no" for an answer. After the snub was broadcast on Philippine television and radio, all of The Beatles' police protection disappeared. The group and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own. At the airport, road manager Mal Evans was beaten and kicked, and the band members were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd.[72] Once the group boarded the plane, Epstein and Evans were ordered off, and Evans said, "Tell my wife that I love her."[73] 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.[74]

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,[75] Lennon had offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now".[76] 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. Attempting to make light of the incident, Harrison said, "They've got to buy them before they can burn them."[77] Under tremendous pressure from the American media, Lennon apologised for his remarks at a press conference in Chicago on 11 August 1966, the eve of the first performance of what turned out to be their final tour.[78] In November, 2008, The Vatican publicly announced that it had forgiven John Lennon for his remarks, saying it was a "boast" by a young man grappling with sudden fame.[79]

The group's two-year series of Capitol compilations also took a strange twist in the United States when one of their publicity shots, used for a Yesterday and Today album and a poster promoting the UK release of "Paperback Writer", created an uproar, as it featured the band dressed in butchers' overalls, draped in meat and mutilated plastic dolls. A popular, though apocryphal, rumour said that this was meant as a response to the way Capitol had "butchered" their albums.[80] Thousands of copies of the album had a new cover pasted over. Years later, a commentator linked the cover shot with the group's interest in German expressionism.[78] Uncensored copies of Yesterday and Today command a high price today, with one copy selling for $10,500 at a December 2005 auction.[81]

Elvis Presley apparently disapproved of The Beatles's anti-war activism and open use of drugs, later asking President Richard Nixon to ban all four members of the group from entering the United States. Peter Guralnick writes, "The Beatles, Elvis said, [...] had been a focal point for anti-Americanism. They had come to this country, made their money, then gone back to England where they fomented anti-American feeling."[82] Guralnick adds, "Presley indicated that he is of the opinion that The Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music while entertaining in this country during the early and middle 1960s."[83] Despite Presley's remarks, Lennon still had some positive feelings towards him: "Before Elvis, there was nothing."[84] McCartney later remarked that he "felt a bit betrayed [by Presley's views] ... The great joke was that we were taking drugs, and look what happened to [Elvis]. ... It was sad, but I still love him. ..."[85] Bob Dylan however, recognised The Beatles' contribution, stating: "America should put up statues to The Beatles. They helped give this country's pride back to it."[86]

Studio years

During the recording sessions for Revolver, tape looping and early sampling were introduced in a complex mix of ballad, R&B, soul, and world music. The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966.[78][87] From then on, The Beatles concentrated on recording. Less than seven months after recording Revolver, The Beatles 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.

The band appeared in a segment within the first-ever worldwide television 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, albeit to the accompaniment of a backing track they had spent five days recording and mixing in the studio prior to the broadcast.[88]

On 24 August 1967, The Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the London Hilton. A few days later they went to Bangor, in North Wales, to attend a weekend 'initiation' conference.[89] There, the Maharishi gave each of them a mantra.[90][91] While in Bangor, The Beatles learned of the death of Brian Epstein at age 32 from an accidental prescription drug overdose. At the end of 1967, they received their first major negative press in the UK with disparaging reviews of their surrealistic TV film Magical Mystery Tour.[92] Part of the criticism arose because colour was an integral part of the film, yet the film was shown on Boxing Day in black and white. The Magical Mystery Tour film soundtrack was released in the United Kingdom as a double EP, and in the United States as a full LP (the LP is now the official version).

The group spent the early part of 1968 in Rishikesh, Uttar Pradesh, India, studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[93] Their time at the Maharishi's ashram was highly productive from a musical standpoint, as many of the songs that would later be recorded for their next two albums were composed there by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison.[93] Upon their return, Lennon and McCartney went to New York to announce the formation of Apple Corps.[94] The middle of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album because of its plain white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band, with Starr temporarily leaving the band. The band carried on, with McCartney taking over the drums on the tracks "Martha My Dear", "Wild Honey Pie", "Dear Prudence" and "Back in the USSR". Among the other causes of dissension were that Lennon's new girlfriend, Yoko Ono, was at his side through almost all of the sessions, and that the others felt that McCartney was becoming too dominant.[95] Internal divisions had been a small but growing problem in the band; most notably, this was reflected in the difficulty that Harrison experienced in getting his songs onto The Beatles albums.

On the business side, Lennon, Harrison and Starr wanted New York manager Allen Klein to manage The Beatles; however, McCartney wanted businessman Lee Eastman (the father of McCartney's then-girlfriend Linda). All past Beatles decisions had been unanimous, but this time the four could not agree. The other three members felt Eastman would put McCartney's interests before those of the group (during the Anthology interviews, McCartney said, "Looking back, I can understand why they would feel that (Eastman) was biased for me and against them"). In 1971, it was discovered that Klein, who had been appointed manager, had stolen £5 million from The Beatles' holdings.

Let It Be project and breakup

In January 1969, The Beatles began a film project documenting the making of their next record, originally titled Get Back. During the recording sessions, the band undertook their final live performance on the rooftop of the Apple building at 3 Savile Row, London, on 30 January 1969. Most of the performance was filmed and later included in the film Let It Be. The project was temporarily shelved, and The Beatles 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 1969 was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio. Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on 20 September 1969, but agreed that no announcement was to be publicly made until a number of legal matters were resolved. Their final new song was Harrison's "I Me Mine", recorded 3 January 1970 and released on the Let It Be album. It was recorded without Lennon, who was in Denmark at the time.[96]

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 Wall of Sound production values went against the original intent of the record, which had been to record a stripped-down live performance. McCartney was deeply dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of "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 included a press release with a self-written interview explaining the end of The Beatles and his hopes for the future.[97] 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 not dissolved until 1975,[98] though McCartney filed a suit for the dissolution on 31 December 1970, effectively ending the band's career together.[99]


Apple Building at 3 Savile Row, site of the Let It Be rooftop concert

Shortly before and after the official dissolution of the group, all four Beatles released solo albums. 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. Harrison showed his socio-political consciousness and earned respect for his contribution for arranging the Concert For Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971 along with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974 (later bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in '74), Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again.

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 compilation of tracks that either had never been released in the U.S. or had gone out of print), and Reel Music (a compilation of songs from their films). There was also a non-Capitol-EMI release entitled Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962, which was a recording 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.

John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on 8 December 1980 in New York City. In May 1981, George Harrison released "All Those Years Ago"; a single written about his time with The Beatles. It was recorded the month before Lennon's death, with Starr on drums, and was later overdubbed with new lyrics as a tribute to Lennon. Paul and Linda McCartney later contributed backing vocals to the track.[100] In April 1982, Paul McCartney released his Tug of War album, containing his tribute song to John Lennon, titled "Here Today".

In 1988, The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility.[101] On the night of their induction, Harrison and Starr appeared to accept their award along with Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and his two sons. McCartney stayed away, issuing a press release citing "unresolved difficulties" with Harrison, Starr and Lennon's estate.

Reunion and Anthology

In February 1994, the three surviving Beatles reunited to produce and record additional music for a few of Lennon's home recordings. "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. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold on its first day of release. In 2000, the compilation album 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 (selling 3 copies a second) and more than 12 million in three weeks worldwide. The collection also reached number one in the United States and 33 other countries, and had sold 25 million copies by 2005 (about the ninth best selling album of all time).

Recent projects and developments

In the late 1990s, George Harrison was diagnosed with lung cancer. He succumbed to the disease on 29 November 2001.[102]

George Martin and his son Giles Martin remixed original Beatles recordings to create a soundtrack to accompany Cirque du Soleil's theatrical production Love. The soundtrack album Love was released in 2006. In 2007, McCartney and Starr reunited for an interview on Larry King Live to discuss their thoughts on the show. Beatles widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison also appeared with McCartney and Starr in Las Vegas for the one-year anniversary of Love.

Also in 2007, reports circulated[103] that McCartney was hoping to complete "Now and Then", the third Lennon track the band worked on during the Anthology sessions. It would be credited as a "Lennon/McCartney composition" by writing new verses, and reworked by laying down a new drum track recorded by Starr and utilising archival recordings of Harrison's guitar work.

Lawyers for The Beatles sued on 21 March 2008 to prevent the distribution of unreleased recordings purportedly made during Ringo Starr's first performance with the group in 1962. The dispute between Apple Corps Ltd. and Fuego Entertainment Inc. of Miami Lakes stems from recordings apparently made during a performance at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany.[104]

In November 2008, McCartney revealed the existence of a 14-minute experimental recording The Beatles made called "Carnival of Light", which he would like to see released but would require approval from Ringo Starr and Beatle widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.[105]

A video game in the style of Rock Band, based solely on The Beatles, is reportedly in development and scheduled for a release of 9 September, 2009.[106]

On 4 March 2009 the BBC reported that McCartney would headline a charity concert with one of the special guests listed as Ringo Starr. The concert took place on 4 April 2009 at Radio City Music Hall.[107]

Musical evolution

See also: The Beatles' influence on music recording

The Beatles' constant demands to create new sounds on every new recording, combined with George Martin's arranging abilities and the studio expertise of EMI staff engineers such as Norman Smith, Ken Townsend 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).

The Beatles continued to absorb influences long after their initial success, often finding new musical and lyrical avenues by listening to their contemporaries. Other contemporary influences included the Byrds and the Beach Boys, whose album Pet Sounds was a favourite of McCartney's.[108] Beatles producer George Martin stated that "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[109] After Sgt. Pepper was released, Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson was so despondent that he went to bed for months.[110] Lennon also named Elvis Presley as a spark that interested him in music:

It was Elvis who really got me buying records. I thought that early stuff of his was great. The Bill Haley era passed me by, in a way. When his records came on the wireless, my mother used to hear them, but they didn’t do anything for me. It was Elvis who got me hooked on beat music. When I heard 'Heartbreak Hotel', I thought ‘this is it’ and I started to grow sideboards and all that gear...."[111]

Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, tape loops, double tracking and vari-speed recording, The Beatles began to augment their recordings with instruments that were unconventional for rock music at the time. These included string and brass ensembles as well as Indian instruments such as the sitar in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and the swarmandel in "Strawberry Fields Forever".[112] They also used early electronic instruments such as the Mellotron, with which McCartney supplied the flute voices on the intro to "Strawberry Fields Forever",[113] and the clavioline, an electronic keyboard that created the unusual oboe-like sound on "Baby You're a Rich Man".[114]

Beginning with the use of a string quartet (arranged by George Martin with input from McCartney) 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). A televised performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 directly inspired McCartney's idea to include a piccolo trumpet on the arrangement of "Penny Lane".[115] The Beatles moved towards psychedelia with "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus" from 1967.


The Beatles appeared in five motion pictures, all of which featured associated soundtrack albums. The band played themselves in two films directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). The group produced, directed, and starred in the hour-long television movie Magical Mystery Tour (1967). The psychedelic animated film Yellow Submarine (1968) followed the adventures of a cartoon version of the band; the members did not provide their own voices, appearing only in a brief live-action epilogue. Their final film, the documentary Let It Be, released in 1970, followed the rehearsals and recording sessions for the early 1969 Get Back project and won the Academy Award in 1971 for Best Original Song Score.

During 1965-1969, The Beatles were the subject of their own Saturday morning cartoon series, which loosely continued the kind of slapstick antics of A Hard Day's Night. Two Beatles songs were played in each half-hour show, with The Beatles' cartoon counterparts "lip-synching" the actual Beatles recordings. Some of the song performances, such as those from A Hard Day's Night, appeared to have been rotoscoped. The regular speaking voices of the characters were not supplied by The Beatles themselves, but rather by voice artists Paul Frees and Lance Percival.[116]



The arrival of The Beatles is seen in radio as a touchstone in music signalling an end to the rock-and-roll era of the 1950s. Program Directors like Rick Sklar of WABC in New York went as far as forbidding DJs from playing any "pre-Beatles" music.[117]

Recreational drug use

In Hamburg, The Beatles used "prellies" (Preludin) both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances.[118] McCartney would usually take one, but Lennon would often take four or five.[118] Bob Dylan introduced them to cannabis during a 1964 visit to New York.[119] McCartney remembered them all getting "very high" and giggling.[120] The Beatles occasionally smoked a joint in the car on the way to the studio during the filming of Help!, which often made them forget their lines.[121]

In April 1965, Lennon and Harrison were introduced to LSD by an acquaintance, dentist John Riley, who slipped some into their coffees.[122] McCartney was more reluctant to try the drug, but finally did so in 1966 and was the first Beatle to talk about it in the press, saying in June 1967 that he took it four times.

The Beatles added their names to an advertisement in The Times, on 24 July 1967, which asked for the legalisation of cannabis, the release of all prisoners imprisoned because of possession, and research into marijuana's medical uses. The advertisement was sponsored by a group called Soma, and was signed by 65 people, including Brian Epstein, Graham Greene, R.D. Laing, 15 doctors, and two MPs.[123]


Song catalogue

In 1963 Lennon and McCartney agreed to assign their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by music publisher Dick James.[124] 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 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), from which Lennon and McCartney received stock.

In 1985, after a short period 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[125] (trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono), including the publishing rights to over 200 songs composed by Lennon and McCartney.

A decade later Jackson and Sony merged its music publishing businesses.[125] Since 1995, Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by The Beatles. 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 and HIStory album)

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 and 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, 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".

The Beatles are one of the few major artists who have not released their recorded catalogue through online music services (for example, iTunes and Napster). Apple Corp's dispute with Apple, Inc. (the owners of iTunes) over the use of the name "Apple" has played a particular part in this. An uneasy truce between the two companies broke when Apple Computers opened the iTunes Store, after which Apple Corp sued Apple, Inc. This was resolved in February 2007, with Apple Computer owning the Apple name but licensing it back to Apple Records. Following the resolution, several solo albums by Lennon and McCartney were released to the iTunes Music Store. As of November 2007, all of the band members' solo catalogues have been released on iTunes.

On October 30, 2008, it was announced that Harmonix Music Systems, MTV, and Apple Corps are collaborating on an exclusive Beatles music video game that makes use of The Beatles' catalogue.[126]

Studio albums

US charting singles

CD releases

In 1987, EMI released all of The Beatles' studio albums on CD worldwide. Apple Corps decided to standardise The Beatles catalogue throughout the world. They chose to release the twelve original studio albums as released in the United Kingdom, as well as the Magical Mystery Tour U.S. album, which had been released as a shorter Double EP in the UK. All of the remaining Beatles material from the singles and EPs from 1962–1970 which had not been issued on the original British studio albums were gathered on the Past Masters double album compilation:

The U.S. album configurations from 1964-65 were released as box sets in 2004 and 2006 (The Capitol Albums Volume 1 and Volume 2 respectively); these included both stereo and mono versions based on the mixes that were prepared for vinyl at the time of their original 1960s releases in the United States.

2009 CD remasters

All 12 original UK studio albums by The Beatles are currently expected to be released on CD in newly remastered versions on 9 September 2009, along with Magical Mystery Tour and a combined 2-CD set of Past Masters, Volume 1 and Past Masters, Volume 2 and stereo and mono box set collections.[127] The expected 2009 remasters will replace the infamously poor quality 1987 remasters.[128][129] Mojo magazine's Mat Snow was invited to hear 10 remastered tracks from 1968's The White Album and stated that they were "Better even than we'd hoped."[130] On 7 April 2009 it was confirmed through the Beatles website and email newletter that their entire back catalog is to be re-released in remastered form on the 9 September 2009, following an extensive remastering process that lasted four years.[131]

Dhani Harrison has recently stated that The Beatles are losing money everyday by not having a digital outlet for sales and that he does not feel that iTunes' 99 cent charge is a fair price for Beatles songs. Harrison, who was an integral part in pushing for the Beatles Rock Band video game, has confirmed that the remaining Beatles members are looking into creating their own website for digital downloads of the Beatles remastered catalogue, and expects it to be available in the near future.[132]

See also


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  132. ^ Blender excerpt from interview


  • Coleman, Ray (1989). Brian Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles. Viking. ISBN 0-670-81474-1. 
  • O'Brien, Ray (2001). There are Places I'll Remember. 1. London: Ray O'Brien. ISBN 0-954-44730-1. 
  • Pedler, Dominic (2003). The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-8167-1. 
  • Kevin Godley (director). (1995). The Beatles Anthology [DVD]. Apple Records.

Further reading

  • Astley, John (2006). Why Don't We Do It In The Road? The Beatles Phenomenon. The Company of Writers. ISBN 0-9551834-7-2. 
  • Lennon, John; Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr (2000). The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-811-82684-8. 
  • Carr, Roy; Tyler, Tony (1975). The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-52045-1. 
  • Cross, Craig (2005). The Beatles: Day by Day, Song by Song, Record by Record. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-34663-4. 
  • Norman, Philip (1997). Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation. MJF Books. ISBN 1-56731-087-7. 
  • Turner, Steve (2005). A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (3rd ed.). New York: Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 0-06-084409-4.  Discusses the inspiration for or interprets every Beatles song.

External links

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