Probably the late 1950s. Inspired by the growing

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Probably the most popular, influential and enduring rock
group of all time, the Beatles almost single-handedly reshaped
rock ‘n’ roll from a genre of throwaway singles by faceless stars to
an artistic medium with memorable images and idols. The Beatles
placed the emphasis on a group, rather than a single individual,
like Frank Sinatra or Elvis. They also set an example for all rock n
roll bands to follow with their strong sense of self-determination,
going against their record company and management on many
issues, even refusing to tour at the height of their popularity. Of
course, their countless hit singles have become modern-day folk
songs, covered by hundreds of individuals and groups and inspiring
countless more, and have sold more copies than those of any other
The roots of the Beatles date back to Liverpool, England
in the late 1950s. Inspired by the growing skiffle craze, John
Lennon bought a guitar in March 1957 and formed a skiffle group
called the Quarrymen, named after his high school, Quarry Bank.

The lineup changed frequently, but by October 1959 it consisted of
Lennon, his younger classmate Paul McCartney, George Harrison
and drummer Colin Hanton. By March of 1960, Lennon’s art school
classmate Stuart Sutcliffe joined the band on bass and suggested
the name the Beetles, a play on Buddy Holly’s group the Crickets.

By that summer they were the Silver Beatles, settling on the
Beatles in August. That month the Beatles left for Hamburg, West
Germany, with their new drummer Pete Best, to try to establish
themselves in Europe. The band became a popular local act,
performing at various clubs until they were expelled from the
country in November because George Harrison was underage.
The Beatles returned to Germany in early 1961 to record as a
backup band for singer Tony Sheridan; these sessions were later
released during the mid-’60s as “new” Beatles material, taking
advantage of unsuspecting fans. Meanwhile Sutcliffe had left the
band to pursue his art career and relationship with German
photographer Astrid Kircherr. Paul took over on bass. Ironically,
Stu died of a brain hemorrhage the following year, right before the
Throughout 1961 the Beatles played clubs in Britain,
becoming an underground sensation; they were particularly
famous at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Though they played mostly
covers, Lennon and McCartney began writing original songs
together, agreeing to forever share songwriting credits, even
though they only co-wrote a handful of tunes during their entire
career as the Beatles. By the end of the year, Liverpool record
store owner Brian Epstein had become the band’s manager, and
quickly began trying to find them a record contract. On January 1,
1962 the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records, performing 12
covers and three originals for A&R assistant Mike Smith. The group
was rejected, however, and told that “guitar groups are on the way
out.” Undaunted, Epstein got the group an audition at Parlophone,
an EMI subsidiary, with producer George Martin, who signed the
Beatles on May 9, 1962. After one recording session, Martin
suggested that drummer Pete Best be replaced, and the Beatles
brought in Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), a well-known local
drummer, as his replacement. By October 1962 their first single,
Love Me Do” b/w “P.S. I Love You, was a U.K. Top 20 hit, allegedly
because Epstein bought 10,000 copies himself to ensure that it
would chart. The band became regular guests on the BBC,
performing over fifty times between 1962 and 1964.

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In February of 1963 the Beatles returned to the studio to
record 10 songs (in one day!) for their first album, Please Please
Me, which was released the following month. It became an instant
hit, staying at No. 1 in Britain for 30 weeks and by October, female
fans were screaming at their performances , the start of
“Beatlemania.” Following an early November performance before
the royal family, Parlophone released a second Beatles album,
With The Beatles. By the end of the year the group had sold over
2.5 million albums in Britain, and had a string of million-selling
Naturally, word about this amazing new act soon spread to
America. Yet, ignoring the British success of the Fab Four, EMI’s
U.S. partner, Capitol, refused to issue the first few Beatles singles,
which were instead picked up by the Chicago-based indie label
Vee Jay Records. Vee Jay packaged the early singles as
Introducing the Beatles, their first U.S. LP. During the second half of
1963 it was the only Beatles material available in America, and sold
incredibly well; by 1964 a court awarded the rights to all Beatles
recordings to EMI/Capitol, and the record went out of print, only to
become one of the most counterfeited albums in music history.

In January of 1964 Capitol released their first U.S. Beatles LP,
Meet the Beatles, containing remixed material from their two
British albums. Following a landmark three weekend stint on the Ed
Sullivan show in February of 1964 (viewed by over 73 million
people), the Beatles were the biggest band in America,
“Beatlemania” had taken hold of the U.S., also paving the way for
other “British Invasion” groups. To capitalize on their incredible
popularity, the Fab Four were made the stars of a comedy film, A
Hard Days Night, which, surprisingly, earned good reviews and,
not surprisingly, produced a hit soundtrack album. Following the
release of the movie in July, the band left for their first North
American tour, performing 25 stadium dates in the U.S. and
Canada. By the end of the year Beatles For Sale was in British
stores, part of EMI’s plan to have a new Beatles album out every six
months, while their previous albums and singles still clogged the
U.S. and U.K Top 10. In 1965 the band appeared in a second
movie, the James Bond spoof Help!, which also spawned a
soundtrack album. Another huge U.S. tour followed.

Not content with their unprecedented commercial success,
the Beatles began to take their music more seriously, shifting from
covers and upbeat pop love songs to more thoughtful,
experimental material, highlighted on December 1965’s Rubber
Soul. The next U.S. Beatles album, Yesterday…And Today, was
released on June 15, 1966 and featured a shocking cover featuring
the handsome Fab Four surrounded by raw meat and butchered
baby dolls, a protest against Capitol’s “butchery” of their albums in
the U.S.. Complaints from retailers immediately rolled in, and the
album was withdrawn, reissued the following week with a new,
mundane cover of a steamer trunk. (Today copies of the album
with the original cover are worth thousands of dollars.) Further
controversy plagued the group when John Lennon claimed in a
newspaper interview that the Beatles were “more popular than
Jesus.” Many radio stations stopped playing their songs, and
protesters appeared outside their concerts. Meanwhile the group
was increasingly under the influence of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
an Indian guru; this flirtation with Eastern religion soon became
common among ’60s rock stars, and, more interestingly, lead the
Beatles to experiment with Indian sitar music on their next few
albums. The band also began using large amounts of psychedelic
drugs, foreshadowing the “flower children” of the next few years.

Following the release of Revolver, their most mature effort to
date, in August 1966, the Beatles embarked on their final U.S. tour,
playing their last live show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on
August 29th. From then on, the band announced, they were going
to keep away from live performances to concentrate on more
elaborate studio productions. Rumors were spread in the media as
the band disappeared from the public. The Beatles spent much of
early 1967 in the studio, recording their amazing, Sgt. Pepper’s
Lonely Hearts Club Band. This groundbreaking concept album
completely changed the way rock albums were created. It used
numerous studio effects, placed the emphasis on the album as a
whole rather than on singles, and rewrote the standard for cover art
with its famous cardboard cutout-based photo collage. Sgt.

Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band later won four Grammys,
On August 27, 1967 Beatles manger Brian Epstein was found
dead of a drug overdose, possibly intentional. The band was
shaken, but decided not to hire a new manager, assuming
complete control over their own career. Their first project without
Epstein’s guidance, the concept album and BBC TV special
Magical Mystery Tour, was attacked by critics, and was probably
the beginning of the end for the Beatles. By 1968 the group had
formed its own record label, Apple, and they were recording tracks
for a new double album. Sessions were filled with tension as
members of the group periodically stormed out and often failed to
record together, turning in tracks recorded independently. The
bizarre result, popularly referred to as The White Album but
officially called The Beatles, was released in November of 1968,
and featured a guest appearance by Eric Clapton on the single
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” That same month John Lennon
released a solo album recorded with his controversial new lover,
Japanese artist Yoko Ono, entitled Unfinished Music No. 1 – Two
Virgins. Late in 1968 an animated film inspired by the song “Yellow
Submarine” was released in theaters. Despite the cheery tone of
the film, created with little band involvement, the real Beatles were
hardly speaking, spending more time on their personal lives and
their own musical projects than on the group.

In January 1969 the weary band began preparing to record a
new album live in the studio, without any overdubs, tentatively
entitled Get Back. For an accompanying film, the Beatles
performed on the roof of their studio, their last public appearance
ever. While preparing the album, the group began to fight over
creative issues, and the project was shelved, while the group
continued to deteriorate. On March 12, McCartney married
American photographer Linda Eastman; several days later Lennon
formally married Yoko Ono. By May the Beatles’ situation worsened
when the group appointed Allen Klein as their new business
manager, despite objections by Paul McCartney, who wanted to
give the job to his new father-in-law. Though conflict continued to
haunt the group, the Beatles returned one last time to EMI Studios
to record Abbey Road with George Martin, an amazingly together
album. By early 1970 each of the four Beatles was working on a
solo album, but each publicly denied rumors of a split. In
September 1969, Lennon told his bandmates that he wanted to
quit, but because the group was renegotiating with EMI at the time,
the breakup was temporarily put aside. Meanwhile, rampant
rumors spread across America that Paul McCartney had died in an
auto accident several years earlier and had been secretly replaced
by a look-alike; the alleged “clues” hidden in lyrics and cover art
were quickly proved to be the product of overactive imaginations.

Sadly, internal tension resurfaced in the Beatles when Allen
Klein brought in Phil Spector to produce and overdub Get Back
(released in May 1970 as Let It Be) against Paul’s wishes, also
demanding that Paul delay the release of McCartney, his solo
debut, in order to avoid detracting from sales of Let It Be. In anger,
McCartney released his album in April, before Let It Be, and
publicly announced that he was quitting the group. On December
31, 1970 McCartney filed suit against Klein to break up the Beatles,
which upset the other three, who had considered periodically
recording as a group while continuing their solo careers — now any
chance of a reunion was gone, at least for quite a while. Apple
Records became a financial and legal mess.

During the 1970s each of the Beatles released solo albums.

Paul, performing with wife Linda in the group Wings, was the most
commercially successful. John recorded on and off with Yoko Ono,
and continued to attract attention for his radical politics (though he
semi-retired from music in 1975 to spend time with his newborn
son, Sean). Throughout the decade there was idle talk of a reunion,
peaking around 1976 when a Beatlesque Australian group named
Klaatu was rumored to be the Fab Four under a false name (they
weren’t, though their manager and record company encouraged
the rumor) and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels
half-seriously offered the Beatles $3,000 to perform on his show.

Though all four Beatles did contribute to the 1973 Ring Starr song
“I’m the Greatest,” no real reunion ever took place. On December 8,
1980 all chances of that happening were ended when a deranged
fan, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside his
Although the Beatles had not released any new albums since
1970, interest in the group remained high into the ’90s, their
backcatalog selling millions of copies a year and providing Capitol
with a large part of their annual income. Publishing rights to all
Lennon-McCartney compositions were sold during the ’80s for
hundreds of millions of dollars, at one point passing through the
hands of Michael Jackson. Though Capitol issued singles/out-takes
compilations such as Past Masters and Rarities, a lot more
unreleased material remained unavailable due to ongoing legal
problems, and ended up on illegal bootlegs.

By the early ’90s Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko Ono settled
their disagreements about contracts, permitting the re-release of
long unavailable recordings. In 1994 Capitol issued a double CD of
early Beatles recordings for the BBC. Phenomenal sales of Live at
the BBC inspired more exploitation of the Beatles legacy. In 1995
the surviving Beatles came together to contribute to a TV
documentary about the group and select material for a planned
rarities anthology of out-takes and demos. While together, Paul,
George and Ringo laid down music for two John Lennon demo
out-takes, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” Though the sound
quality was often abysmal, the material inferior, and the
surrounding hype insulting, America’s aging Beatles fans ate up
the three 1996 double-album releases, Beatles Anthology 1, 2, and
3, which sold over 15 million copies in less than a year. Capitol
once again insists that there is no more Beatles material that will
Even though one of the Fab Four has passed away, they live on,
almost vividly, in the hearts of the youth in the world. Nothing
before or since the Beatles has affected people in such a huge
way. Forty years ago, four young lads from Liverpool, England got
together and grew and grew until they were bigger than anything
thats ever been seen in the music industry. They live forever in
me, the world, in music, in everything. Love surrounds them for

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