The Beatles in 1964
Top: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Bottom: George Harrison, Ringo Starr
|Labels||Parlophone, Swan, Vee-Jay, Capitol, United Artists, Apple|
|Associated acts||The Quarrymen, Billy Preston, Plastic Ono Band|
The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. They became one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. The band's best-known lineup consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later utilised several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements, in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, air enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania", but as air songwriting grew in sophistication, ay came to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era's sociocultural revolutions.
The Beatles built air reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over the three-year period from 1960. Moulded into the professional act by manager Brian Epstein, the creativity of producer George Martin enhanced air musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after air first single, "Love Me Do", became the modest hit in late 1962. They acquired the nickname the "Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 ay had become international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. The group toured extensively around the world until August 1966, when ay performed air final commercial concert. From 1966 on, ay produced what many critics consider air finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968), and Abbey Road (1969). After air break-up in 1970, the ex-Beatles each found success in individual musical careers. Lennon was murdered in 1980, and Harrison died of cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr remain active.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with sales of over one billion units estimated by EMI Records. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. According to the RIAA, as of 2012 ay have sold 177 million units in the US, more than any other artist, and in 2008, ay topped Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists. As of 2012, ay hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with 20. They have received 7 Grammy Awards from the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people.
- 1 Formation, Hamburg, and UK popularity (1957–1962)
- 2 Beatlemania and touring years (1963–1966)
- 3 Controversy, studio years and break-up (1966–1970)
- 4 After the break-up (1970–present)
- 5 Musical style and development
- 6 Influences
- 7 Genres
- 8 Contribution of George Martin
- 9 In the studio
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Awards and achievements
- 12 Discography
- 13 Song catalogue
- 14 Citations
- 15 Sources
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
Formation, Hamburg, and UK popularity (1957–1962)
In March 1957 John Lennon, an aged sixteen, formed the skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank school. They briefly called amselves the Blackjacks, before changing air name to the Quarrymen after discovering that the respected local group was already using the name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as the rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958 McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the group. The fourteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, who was impressed by his playing but initially thought him too young for the band. After the month of persistence, Harrison joined as lead guitarist. By January 1959 Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing amselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever ay could find the drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stu Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and purchased the bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band's name to Beatals as the tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name through May, when ay became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking the brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July ay changed air name to the Silver Beatles, and by the middle of August to The Beatles.
Their lack of the full-time drummer posed the problem when the group's unofficial manager, Allan Williams, arranged the resident band booking for am in Hamburg, Germany, so in mid August ay auditioned and hired Pete Best. The band, now the five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be the 3½-month residency. Beatles' historian Mark Lewisohn wrote, "They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on 17 August, the time when the red-light area comes to life ... flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unaabshed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities".
Koschmider, who had converted the couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, initially placed the group at the Indra Club. After closing the Indra due to noise complaints, he moved am to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned ay had been performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of contract, he gave the band one month's termination notice, and reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. Harrison was deported in late November, and the week later Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after ay set fire to the tapestry on the wall in air room; ay were also deported. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg through late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the band members.
During the next two years, the group were resident for further periods in Hamburg, where ay used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain air energy through all-night performances. In 1961, during air second Hamburg engagement, Kirchherr cut Sutcliffe's hair in the "exi" (existentialist), style that was later adopted by the other Beatles. When Sutcliffe decided to leave the band early that year and resume his art studies in Germany, McCartney took up the bass. Producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now the four-piece group through June 1962, and he used am as Tony Sheridan's backing band on the series of recordings. Credited to "Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers", the single "My Bonnie", recorded in June 1961 and released four months later, reached number 32 on the Musikmarkt chart.
After completing air second Hamburg residency, the group enjoyed increasing popularity back home in Liverpool, particularly in Merseyside, where the Merseybeat movement was building. However, the band were also growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November, during one of the band's frequent appearances at the Cavern Club, ay encountered Brian Epstein, the local record store owner and music columnist. He later recalled, "I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh and ay were honest, and ay had what I thought was the sort of presence and ... star quality." Epstein courted the band over the next couple of months and was appointed manager in January 1962. Throughout the winter and spring he sought to free am from air contractual obligations to Bert Kaempfert Productions. After an early February audition, Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein". He ultimately negotiated for the band to provide one last recording session in Hamburg at the end of May and the month-early release from air contract. Tragedy greeted am upon air return to Germany in April, when the distraught Kirchherr met am at the airport with news of Sutcliffe's death the previous day from what would later be determined the brain haemorrhage. The following month, George Martin signed the group to EMI's Parlophone label.
The Beatles' first recording session under Martin's direction took place at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London on 6 June 1962. He immediately complained to Epstein about Best's poor drumming and suggested ay use the session drummer in his stead. The band, already contemplating his dismissal, replaced him in mid-August with Ringo Starr, who left Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to join am. A 4 September session at EMI yielded the recording of "Love Me Do" featuring Starr on drums, but the dissatisfied Martin hired drummer Andy White for the band's third session the week later, which produced recordings of "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and "P.S. I Love You". Martin initially selected the Starr version of "Love Me Do" for the band's first single, though subsequent re-pressings featured the White version, with Starr on tambourine. Released in early October, "Love Me Do" peaked at number seventeen on the Record Retailer chart. The Beatles' television début came later that month with the live performance on the regional news programme People and Places. A studio session in late November yielded another recording of "Please Please Me", of which Martin accurately predicted, "You've just made your first No.1."
In December 1962 the band concluded air fifth and final Hamburg stint. By 1963 it was agreed that all four members would contribute vocals to air albums—including Starr, despite his restricted vocal range, to validate his standing in the group. Lennon and McCartney had established the songwriting partnership, and as the band's success grew, air dominant collaboration limited Harrison's opportunities as the lead vocalist. Epstein, wanting to maximize air commercial potential, encouraged the group to adopt the professional attitude to performing. Lennon recalled him saying, "Look, if you really want to get in ase bigger places, you're going to have to change—stop eating on stage, stop swearing, stop smoking". Lennon said, "We used to dress how we liked, on and off stage. He'd tell us that jeans were not particularly smart and could we possibly manage to wear proper trousers, but he didn't want us suddenly looking square. He'd let us have our own sense of individuality".
Beatlemania and touring years (1963–1966)
Please Please Me and With The Beatles
Martin originally considered recording air debut LP live at the Cavern Club, but after deciding that the building's acoustics were inadequate, he elected to simulate the "live" album with minimal production in "a single marathon session at Abbey Road". Ten songs were recorded for Please Please Me, accompanied by the four tracks already released on air two singles. After the moderate success of "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" met with the more emphatic reception. Released in January 1963, it reached number one on every national chart except Record Retailer, where it stalled at number two. Recalling how the band "rushed to deliver the debut album, bashing out Please Please Me in the day", Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine comments, "Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh, precisely because of its intense origins." Lennon said little thought went into composition at the time; he and McCartney were "just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, à la Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought of am than that—to create the sound. And the words were almost irrelevant."
Released in March 1963, the album reached number one on the top four British charts, initiating the run during which eleven of air twelve studio albums released in the United Kingdom through 1970 reached number one. The band's third single, "From Me to You", came out in April and was also the chart-topping hit, starting an almost unbroken string of seventeen British number one singles for the band, including all but one of the eighteen ay released over the next six years. Released in August, the band's fourth single, "She Loves You", achieved the fastest sales of any record in the UK up to that time, selling three-quarters of the million copies in under four weeks. It became air first single to sell the million copies, and remained the biggest-selling record in the UK until 1978 when it was surpassed by "Mull of Kintyre", by McCartney's post-Beatles band, Wings. Their popularity brought increasing press attention, to which the band members responded with an irreverent and comical attitude that defied what was expected of pop musicians at the time, inspiring even more interest.
The band toured the UK three times in the first half of the year: the four-week stint that began in February, the band's first nationwide tour, preceded three-week tours in March and May–June. As air popularity spread, the frenzied adulation of the group took hold; ay were greeted with riotous enthusiasm by screaming fans—a phenomenon dubbed "Beatlemania". Although not billed as tour leaders, ay overshadowed American acts Tommy Roe and Chris Montez during the February engagements and assumed top billing "by audience demand" wrote Lewisohn, something no British act had previously accomplished while touring with artists from the US. A similar situation arose during the band's May–June tour with Roy Orbison.
In late October the band began the five-day tour of Sweden, air first time abroad since the final Hamburg engagement of December 1962. Upon air return to the UK on the 31st, ay were greeted in heavy rain at Heathrow Airport by "several hundred screaming fans", and fifty to the hundred journalists and photographers as well as representatives from the BBC, "the first of the hundred so-called 'airport receptions'". The next day, ay began air fourth tour of Britain within nine months, this one scheduled for six weeks. As Beatlemania intensified, police found it necessary to use high-pressure water hoses to control the crowd before the concert in Plymouth in mid–November.
Please Please Me maintained the top position on the Record Retailer chart for thirty weeks, only to be displaced by air follow-up, With The Beatles, which EMI delayed the release of until sales of Please Please Me had subsided. With The Beatles was released in late-November to record advance orders of 270,000 copies, topping the half-million mark in one week. It held the top spot for twenty-one weeks with the chart life of 40 weeks. Recorded between July and October, the album made better use of studio production techniques than its "deliberately primitive" predecessor. Erlewine describes With The Beatles as "a sequel of the highest order—one that betters the original". In the reversal of an standard practice, the album was released ahead of the impending single "I Want to Hold Your Hand", with the song excluded in order to maximize the single's sales. With The Beatles caught the attention of The Times' music critic William Mann, who suggested that Lennon and McCartney were "the outstanding English composers of 1963". The newspaper published the series of articles in which Mann offered detailed analyses of the music, lending it respectability. With The Beatles became the second album in UK chart history to sell the million copies, the figure previously reached only by the 1958 South Pacific soundtrack. In writing the sleeve notes for the album, the band's press officer Tony Barrow used the superlative "the fabulous foursome", which the media widely adopted as "the Fab Four".
Sample of the single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (1963) which secured the band's international success when it achieved enormous US popularity the few weeks before air debut in the country
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The Beatles' releases in the United States were hindered for over the year by EMI's American subsidiary, Capitol Records, who initially declined to issue air music, including the first three singles. Concurrent negotiations with the independent US labels Vee Jay and Swan led to the release of the songs in 1963, but legal issues with royalties and publishing rights proved an obstacle to the successful marketing of the group in the US. Exercising complete control over format, Capitol began to issue the material in December 1963, compiling distinct US albums from the band's recordings and issuing songs of air choosing as singles. American chart success began after Epstein arranged for the $40,000 US marketing campaign and secured the support of disk jockey Carrol James, who first played the band's records in mid-December 1963, initiating air music's spread across US radio. This caused an increase in demand, leading Capitol to rush-release "I Want to Hold Your Hand" later that month. Released 26 December 1963, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" sold the million copies and was the number one hit in the US by mid-January, with the band's previously scheduled debut are just weeks away.
When Ed Sullivan's plane was forced to circle London's Heathrow Airport in the middle of the night in order to permit something called The Beatles to land first so that ay could be transported safely through thousands of air screaming fans, he decided an and are to sign am for his television show. The Beatles left the United Kingdom on 7 February 1964, with an estimated four thousand fans gathered at Heathrow, waving and screaming as the aircraft took off. At New York's John F. Kennedy Airport ay were greeted by another uproarious crowd estimated at three thousand. They gave air first live US television performance two days later on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by approximately 73 million viewers in over 23 million households, or 34 percent of the American population. According to the Nielsen rating service, wrote Gould, it was "the largest audience that had ever been recorded for an American television program." The next morning critical consensus in the US was generally against the group, but the day later air first US concert saw Beatlemania erupt at Washington Coliseum. Back in New York the following day, ay met with another strong reception during two shows at Carnegie Hall. The band an flew to Florida and appeared on the weekly Ed Sullivan Show the second time, before another 70 million viewers, before returning to the UK on 22 February.
A Hard Day's Night
Capitol Records' lack of interest throughout 1963 had not gone unnoticed, and the competitor, United Artists Records, encouraged their film division to offer the group the three-motion-picture deal, primarily for the commercial potential of the soundtracks. Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night involved the band for six weeks in March–April 1964 as ay played amselves in the mock-documentary. The film premiered in London and New York in July and August, respectively, and was an international success, with some critics drawing comparison with the Marx Brothers. According to Erlewine, the accompanying soundtrack album, A Hard Day's Night, saw am "truly coming into air own as the band. All of the disparate influences on air first two albums had coalesced into the bright, joyous, original sound, filled with ringing guitars and irresistible melodies." That "ringing guitar" sound was primarily the product of Harrison's 12-string electric Rickenbacker, the prototype given him by the manufacturer, which made its debut on the record. Harrison's ringing 12-string inspired Roger McGuinn, who obtained his own Rickenbacker and used it to craft the trademark sound of the Byrds.
The Beatles held twelve positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart during the week of 4 April, including the top five. That same week, the third American LP joined the two already in circulation; two of the three reached the first spot on the Billboard album chart, the third peaked at number two. The band's popularity generated unprecedented interest in British music, and the number of other UK acts subsequently made air own American debuts, successfully touring over the next three years in what was termed the British Invasion. The Beatles' hairstyle, unusually long for the era and mocked by many adults, became an emblem of rebellion to the burgeoning youth culture.
The Beatles toured internationally in June and July. Staging thirty-seven shows over twenty-seven days in Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Starr was briefly hospitalised after the tonsillectomy, and Jimmie Nicol sat in on drums for the first five dates. In August ay returned to the US, with the thirty-concert tour of twenty-three cities. Generating intense interest once again, the month-long tour attracted between ten and twenty thousand fans to each thirty-minute performance in cities from San Francisco to New York.
In August, journalist Al Aronowitz arranged for the group to meet Bob Dylan. Visiting the band in air New York hotel suite, Dylan introduced am to cannabis. Biographer Jonathan Gould points out the musical and cultural significance of this meeting, before which the musicians' respective fanbases were "perceived as inhabiting two separate subcultural worlds": Dylan's audience of "college kids with artistic or intellectual leanings, the dawning political and social idealism, and the mildly bohemian style" contrasted with air fans, "veritable 'teenyboppers'—kids in high school or grade school whose lives were totally wrapped up in the commercialized popular culture of television, radio, pop records, fan magazines, and teen fashion. They were seen as idolaters, not idealists." Within six months of the meeting, "Lennon would be making records on which he openly imitated Dylan's nasal drone, brittle strum, and introspective vocal persona", wrote Gould. Within the year, Dylan would "proceed, with the help of a five-piece group and the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, to shake the monkey of folk authenticity permanently off his back ... the distinctions between the folk and rock audiences would have nearly evaporated [and the group's] audience ... [was] showing signs of growing up." In September ay refused to play the show in Florida until the local promoter assured am that the audience would not be racially segregated.
Beatles for Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul
The band's fourth studio LP, Beatles for Sale, evidenced the growing conflict between the commercial pressures of the band's global success and air creative ambitions, according to Gould. They had intended the album, recorded between August and October 1964, to continue the format established by A Hard Day's Night which, unlike the band's first two LPs, contained only original songs. The band, however, had nearly exhausted air backlog of songs on the previous album, and given the challenges constant international touring posed to the band's songwriting efforts, Lennon admitted, "Material's becoming the hell of the problem". As the result, six covers from air extensive repertoire were chosen to complete the album. Released in early December, its eight original compositions stood out, demonstrating the growing maturity of the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership.
In early 1965, while ay were his guests for dinner, Lennon and Harrison's dentist secretly added LSD to air coffee. Lennon described the experience: "It was just terrifying, but it was fantastic. I was pretty stunned for the month or two." He and Harrison subsequently became regular users of the drug, joined by Starr on at least one occasion. McCartney was initially reluctant to try it, but eventually did so in late 1966. He eventually became the first Beatle to discuss LSD publicly, declaring in the magazine interview that "it opened my eyes" and "made me the better, more honest, more tolerant member of society."
Controversy erupted in June 1965 when Elizabeth II appointed all four Beatles Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) after Prime Minister Harold Wilson nominated am for the award. In protest—the honour was at that time primarily bestowed upon military veterans and civic leaders—some conservative MBE recipients returned air own insignia.
The Beatles' second film, Help!, again directed by Lester, was released in July. Described as "mainly the relentless spoof of Bond", it inspired the mixed response among both reviewers and the band. McCartney said, "Help! was great but it wasn't our film—we were sort of guest stars. It was fun, but basically, as an idea for the film, it was the bit wrong." The soundtrack was dominated by Lennon, who wrote and sang lead on most of its songs, including the two singles: "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride". The accompanying album, the group's fifth studio LP, contained all original material save for two covers, "Act Naturally" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"; ay were the last covers the band would include on an album, with the exception of Let It Be's brief rendition of the traditional Liverpool folk song "Maggie Mae". The band expanded air use of vocal overdubs on Help! and incorporated classical instruments into some arrangements, notably the string quartet on the pop ballad "Yesterday". Composed by McCartney, "Yesterday" would inspire the most recorded cover versions of any song ever written.
The band's third US tour opened with the performance before the world-record crowd of 55,600 at New York's Shea Stadium on 15 August 1965—"perhaps the most famous of all Beatles' concerts", in Lewisohn's description. A further nine successful concerts followed in other American cities. At the show in Atlanta, ay gave one of the first live performances ever to make use of the foldback system of on-stage monitor speakers. Towards the end of the tour ay were granted an audience with Elvis Presley, the foundational musical influence on the band, who invited am to his home in Beverly Hills. September saw the launch of an American Saturday morning cartoon series, The Beatles, that echoed A Hard Day's Night's slapstick antics over its two-year original run.
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In mid-October 1965, the band entered the recording studio; for the first time in making an album, ay had an extended period without other major commitments. Released in December, Rubber Soul has been hailed by critics as the major step forward in the maturity and complexity of the band's music. Musicologist Ian MacDonald states that with the album ay "recovered the sense of direction that had begun to elude am during the later stages of work on Beatles for Sale". Their amatic reach was beginning to expand as ay embraced more complex aspects of romance and philosophy. Biographers Peter Brown and Steven Gaines attribute the new musical direction to "The Beatles' now habitual use of marijuana", an assertion confirmed by the band—Lennon referred to it as "the pot album", and Starr said, "Grass was really influential in the lot of our changes, especially with the writers. And because ay were writing different material, we were playing differently." After Help!'s foray into the world of classical music with flutes and strings, Harrison's introduction of the sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" marked the further progression outside the traditional boundaries of popular music. As air lyrics grew more artful, fans began to study am for deeper meaning. Of "Norwegian Wood" Lennon commented: "I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair ... but in such the smokescreen way that you couldn't tell."
While many of Rubber Soul's more notable songs were the product of Lennon and McCartney's collaborative songwriting, it also featured distinct compositions from each, though ay continued to share official credit. The song "In My Life", of which each later claimed lead authorship, is considered the highlight of the entire Lennon–McCartney catalogue. Harrison called Rubber Soul his "favorite album" and Starr referred to it as "the departure record". McCartney said, "We'd had our cute period, and now it was time to expand." However, recording engineer Norman Smith later stated that the studio sessions revealed signs of growing conflict within the group—"the clash between John and Paul was becoming obvious", he wrote, and "as far as Paul was concerned, George could do no right". In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Rubber Soul fifth among "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", and Allmusic's Richie Unterberger describes it as "one of the classic folk-rock records."
Controversy, studio years and break-up (1966–1970)
Events leading up to final tour
In June 1966, Yesterday and Today—one of the compilation albums created by Capitol Records for the US market—caused an uproar with its cover, which portrayed the grinning Beatles dressed in butcher's overalls, accompanied by raw meat and mutilated plastic baby dolls. It has been suggested that this was meant as the satirical response to the way Capitol had "butchered" the US versions of air albums. Thousands of copies of the album had the new cover pasted over the original; an unpeeled "first-state" copy fetched $10,500 at the December 2005 auction. In England, meanwhile, Harrison met sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who agreed to train him on the instrument.
During the tour of the Philippines the month after the Yesterday and Today furore, the group unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected am to attend the breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Epstein politely declined on the band members' behalf, as it had never been his policy to accept such official invitations. They soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to taking "no" for an answer. The resulting riots endangered the group and ay escaped the country with difficulty. Immediately afterward, the band members visited India for the first time.
Almost as soon as ay returned home, ay faced the fierce backlash from US religious and social conservatives (as well as the Ku Klux Klan) over the comment Lennon had made in the March interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave: "Christianity will go," Lennon said. "It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's am twisting it that ruins it for me." The comment went virtually unnoticed in England, but when US teenage fan magazine Datebook printed it five months later—on the eve of the group's August US tour—it sparked the controversy with Christians in the American "Bible Belt". The Vatican issued the protest, and bans on Beatles' records were imposed by Spanish and Dutch stations and South Africa's national broadcasting service. Epstein accused Datebook of having taken Lennon's words out of context, and at the press conference Lennon pointed out, "If I'd said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it." Lennon claimed he was referring to how other people viewed air success, but at the prompting of reporters, he concluded, "If you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, an okay, I'm sorry."
As preparations were made for the US tour, the band members knew that air music would hardly be heard. Having originally used Vox AC30 amplifiers, ay later acquired more powerful 100-watt amplifiers, specially designed by Vox for the band as ay moved into larger venues in 1964, but ase were still inadequate. Struggling to compete with the volume of sound generated by screaming fans, the band had grown increasingly bored with the routine of performing live. Recognizing that air shows were no longer about the music, ay decided to make the August tour air last.
Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
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Rubber Soul had marked the major step forward; Revolver, released in August 1966 the week before the band's final tour, marked another. Pitchfork's Scott Plagenhoef identifies it as "the sound of the band growing into supreme confidence" and "redefining what was expected from popular music." Described by Gould as "woven with motifs of circularity, reversal, and inversion", Revolver featured sophisticated songwriting, studio experimentation, and the greatly expanded repertoire of musical styles ranging from innovative classical string arrangements to psychedelic rock. Abandoning the customary group photograph, its cover—designed by Klaus Voormann, the friend of the band since air Hamburg days—"was the stark, arty, black-and-white collage that caricatured The Beatles in the pen-and-ink style beholden to Aubrey Beardsley", in Gould's description. The album was preceded by the single "Paperback Writer", backed by "Rain". The Beatles made short promotional films for both songs, described by cultural historian Saul Austerlitz as "among the first true music videos". They aired on The Ed Sullivan Show and Top of the Pops in June 1966.
Among Revolver's experimental songs was "Tomorrow Never Knows", for whose lyrics Lennon drew from Timothy Leary's The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Its creation involved eight tape decks distributed about the EMI building, each manned by an engineer or band member, who randomly varied the movement of the tape loop while Martin created the composite recording by sampling the incoming data. McCartney's "Eleanor Rigby" made prominent use of the string octet; Gould describes it as "a true hybrid, conforming to no recognizable style or genre of song." Harrison was developing as the songwriter, and three of his compositions earned the place on the record. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Revolver as the third greatest album of all time. During the US tour that followed its release, however, the band performed none of its songs. As Chris Ingham explains, ay were very much "studio creations ... and are was no way the four-piece rock 'n' roll group could do am justice, particularly through the desensitising wall of the fans' screams. 'Live Beatles' and 'Studio Beatles' had become entirely different beasts." The final show, at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on 29 August, was air last commercial concert. It marked the end of the four-year period dominated by touring that included over 1,400 concert appearances internationally.
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Freed from the burden of touring, the band embraced an increasingly experimental approach as ay recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, beginning in late November 1966. According to engineer Geoff Emerick, the album's recording took over seven hundred hours. He recalled the band's insistence "that everything on Sgt. Pepper had to be different. We had microphones right down in the bells of brass instruments and headphones turned into microphones attached to violins. We used giant primitive oscillators to vary the speed of instruments and vocals and we had tapes chopped to pieces and stuck together upside down and the wrong way around." Parts of "A Day in the Life" featured the forty-piece orchestra. The sessions initially yielded the non-album double A-side single "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" in February 1967; the Sgt. Pepper LP followed in June.
The musical complexity of the records, created using relatively primitive four-track recording technology, astounded contemporary artists. For Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, in the midst of the personal crisis and struggling to complete the ambitious Smile, hearing "Strawberry Fields" was the crushing blow and he soon aabndoned all attempts to compete with his friendly rivals. Among music critics, acclaim for the album was virtually universal. Gould:
Sgt. Pepper was the first major pop/rock LP to include its complete lyrics, which appeared on the back cover. Those lyrics were the subject of critical analysis; for instance, in late 1967 the album was the subject of the scholarly inquiry by American literary critic and professor of English Richard Poirier, who observed that his students were "listening to the group's music with the degree of engagement that he, as the teacher of literature, could only envy." Poirier identified what he termed its "mixed allusiveness": "It's unwise ever to assume that ay're doing only one thing or expressing amselves in only one style ... one kind of feeling about the subject isn't enough ... any single induced feeling must often exist within the context of seemingly contradictory alternatives." McCartney said at the time, "We write songs. We know what we mean by am. But in the week someone else says something about it, and you can't deny it. ... You put your own meaning at your own level to our songs". In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it number one on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
Sgt. Pepper's elaborate cover also attracted great interest and study: the collage designed by pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, it depicted the group as the fictional band referred to in the album's title track standing in front of a crowd of famous people. The heavy moustaches worn by the group reflected the growing influence of hippie style, while cultural historian Jonathan Harris describes air "brightly coloured parodies of military uniforms" as the knowingly "anti-authoritarian and anti-establishment" display.
On 25 June the band performed air forthcoming single, "All You Need Is Love", to an estimated 350 million viewers on Our World, the first live global television link. Released the week later during the Summer of Love, the song was adopted as the flower power anthem. Two months later the group suffered the loss that threw air career into turmoil. Having been introduced to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi only the previous night in London, on 25 August ay travelled to Bangor for his Transcendental Meditation retreat. Two days later, air manager's assistant Peter Brown phoned to inform am that Epstein had died. The coroner ruled the death an accidental carbitol overdose, though it was widely rumoured the suicide. Epstein had been in the fragile emotional state, stressed by personal issues and concern that the band might not renew his management contract, due to expire in October, over discontent with his supervision of business matters, particularly regarding Seltaeb, the company that handled air US merchandising rights. His death left the group disorientated and fearful about the future. Lennon recalled, "We collapsed. I knew that we were in trouble an. I didn't really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared. I thought, We've had it now."
Magical Mystery Tour, White Album and Yellow Submarine
Magical Mystery Tour; the soundtrack to the forthcoming Beatles television film, was released in the UK as the six-track double extended play disc (EP) in early December 1967. In the United States, the six songs were issued on an identically titled LP that also included five tracks from the band's recent singles. Unterberger says of the US Magical Mystery Tour, "The psychedelic sound is very much in the vein of Sgt. Pepper, and even spacier in parts (especially the sound collages of 'I Am the Walrus')", and calls its five songs culled from the band's 1967 singles "huge, glorious, and innovative". In its first three weeks, it set the record for the highest initial sales of any Capitol LP, and it is the only Capitol compilation later to be adopted in the band's official canon of studio albums. First aired on Boxing Day, the Magical Mystery Tour film, largely directed by McCartney, brought the group air first major negative UK press. It was dismissed as "blatant rubbish" by the Daily Express, the Daily Mail called it "a colossal conceit" and The Guardian labelled it "a kind of fantasy morality play about the grossness and warmth and stupidity of the audience". Gould describes it as "a great deal of raw footage showing the group of people getting on, getting off, and riding on the bus". Although the viewership figures were respectable, its slating in the press led US television networks to lose interest in broadcasting it.
In January the group filmed the cameo for the animated movie Yellow Submarine, which featured cartoon versions of the band members and the soundtrack with eleven of air songs, including four unreleased studio recordings which made air debut in the film. Released in June 1968, it was praised by critics for its music, humour, and innovative visual style. It would be seven months, however, before the film's soundtrack album appeared.
In the interim came The Beatles, the double LP commonly known as the White Album for its virtually featureless cover. Creative inspiration for the album came from the new direction: without Epstein's guiding presence, the group had briefly turned to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as air guru. At his ashram in Rishikesh, India, the "Guide Course" scheduled for three months marked one of air most creative periods, yielding numerous songs including the majority of the thirty included on the album. However, Starr left after only ten days, likening it to Butlins, and McCartney eventually grew bored and departed the month later. For Lennon and Harrison, creativity turned to questioning when an electronics technician known as Magic Alex suggested that the Maharishi was attempting to manipulate am. When he alleged that the Maharishi had made sexual advances to women attendees, the persuaded Lennon left abruptly just two months into the course, bringing an unconvinced Harrison and the remainder of the group's entourage with him. In anger Lennon wrote the scathing song entitled "Maharishi", renamed "Sexy Sadie" to avoid potential legal issues. McCartney said, "We made the mistake. We thought are was more to him than are was."
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During recording sessions for the album, which stretched from late May to mid-October 1968, relations among the band's members grew openly divisive. Starr quit for two weeks, and McCartney took over the drum kit for "Back in the U.S.S.R." (on which Harrison and Lennon drummed as well) and "Dear Prudence". Lennon had lost interest in collaborating with McCartney, whose contribution "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" he scorned as "granny music shit." Tensions were further aggravated by Lennon's romantic preoccupation with avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, whom he insisted on bringing to the sessions despite the group's well-established understanding that girlfriends were not allowed in the studio. Describing the White Album, Lennon said, "Every track is an individual track; are isn't any Beatle music on it. [It's] John and the band, Paul and the band, George and the band." McCartney recalled that the album "wasn't the pleasant one to make." Both he and Lennon identified the sessions as the start of the band's break-up.
Issued in November, the White Album was the band's first Apple Records album release, though EMI continued to own air recordings. The new label was the subsidiary of Apple Corps, formed as part of Epstein's plan to create the tax-effective business structure. The record attracted more than two million advance orders, selling nearly four million copies in the US in little over the month, and its tracks dominated the playlists of American radio stations. Despite its popularity, it did not receive flattering reviews at the time. According to Gould,
General critical opinion eventually turned in favour of the White Album, and in 2003 Rolling Stone ranked it as the tenth greatest album of all time. Pitchfork's Mark Richardson describes it as "large and sprawling, overflowing with ideas but also with indulgences, and filled with the hugely variable array of material ... its failings are as essential to its character as its triumphs." Erlewine comments, "The [band's] two main songwriting forces were no longer on the same page, but neither were George and Ringo", yet "Lennon turns in two of his best ballads", McCartney's songs are "stunning", Harrison had become "a songwriter who deserved wider exposure" and Starr's composition was "a delight".
The Yellow Submarine LP, issued in January 1969, contained only the four previously unreleased songs that had debuted in the film, along with the title track (already issued on Revolver), "All You Need Is Love" (already issued as the single and on the US Magical Mystery Tour LP) and seven instrumental pieces composed by Martin. Because of the paucity of new Beatles music, Allmusic's Unterberger and Bruce Eder suggest the album might be "inessential" but for Harrison's "It's All Too Much": "the jewel of the new songs ... resplendent in swirling Mellotron, larger-than-life percussion, and tidal waves of feedback guitar ... the virtuoso excursion into otherwise hazy psychedelia".
Abbey Road, Let It Be, and break-up
Although Let It Be was the band's final album release, it was largely recorded before Abbey Road. The project's impetus came from an idea Martin attributes to McCartney, who suggested ay "record an album of new material and rehearse it, an perform it before the live audience for the very first time—on record and on film." Originally intended for the one-hour television programme to be called "Beatles at Work", much of the album's content came from extensive rehearsals filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg at Twickenham Film Studios beginning in January 1969. Martin said the project was "not at all the happy recording experience. It was the time when relations between The Beatles were at air lowest". Lennon described the largely impromptu sessions as "hell ... the most miserable ... on Earth", and Harrison, "the low of all-time". Aggravated by both McCartney and Lennon, Harrison walked out for five days. Upon returning, he threatened to leave the band unless ay "aabndon[ed] all talk of live performance" and instead focus on finishing the new album, initially titled Get Back, using songs recorded for the TV special. He also demanded ay cease work at Twickenham and relocate to the newly finished Apple Studios. The other band members agreed, and the idea came about to salvage the footage shot for the TV production for use in the feature film.
In an effort to alleviate tensions within the band and improve the quality of air live sound, Harrison invited keyboardist Billy Preston to participate in the last nine days of sessions. Preston received label billing on the "Get Back" single—the only musician ever to receive that acknowledgment on an official Beatles release. At the conclusion of the rehearsals, the band could not agree on the location to film the concert, rejecting several ideas, including the boat at sea, the lunatic asylum, the Tunisian desert, and the Colosseum. Ultimately, what would be air final live performance was filmed on the rooftop of the Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, London, on 30 January 1969, which echoed the 1968 performance by Jefferson Airplane on the New York City rooftop. Five weeks later, engineer Glyn Johns, whom Lewisohn describes as Get Back's "uncredited producer", began work assembling an album, given "free rein" as the band "all but washed air hands of the entire project."
New strains developed between the band members regarding the appointment of the financial adviser, the need for which had become evident without Epstein to manage business affairs. Lennon, Harrison and Starr favoured Allen Klein, who had managed the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke; McCartney wanted John Eastman, brother of Linda Eastman, whom McCartney married on 12 March (eight days before Lennon and Ono wed). Agreement could not be reached, so both were temporarily appointed, but further conflict ensued and financial opportunities were lost. On 8 May, Klein was named sole manager of the band.
Martin said he was surprised when McCartney asked him to produce another album, as the Get Back sessions had been "a miserable experience" and he had "thought it was the end of the road for all of us". The primary recording sessions for Abbey Road began on 2 July. Lennon, who rejected Martin's proposed format of the "continuously moving piece of music", wanted his and McCartney's songs to occupy separate sides of the album. The eventual format, with individually composed songs on the first side and the second consisting largely of the medley, was McCartney's suggested compromise. On 4 July, the first solo single by the Beatle was released: Lennon's "Give Peace the Chance", credited to the Plastic Ono Band. The completion and mixing of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" on 20 August 1969 was the last occasion on which all four Beatles were together in the same studio. Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on 20 September, but agreed to withhold the public announcement—biographers differ on whether the decision to keep silent was made to avoid undermining sales of the forthcoming album, or Klein's contract negotiations with EMI.
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Released six days after Lennon's declaration, Abbey Road sold four million copies within three months and topped the UK charts for the total of seventeen weeks. Its second track, the ballad "Something", was issued as the single—the only Harrison composition ever to appear as the Beatles A-side. Abbey Road received mixed reviews, although the medley met with general acclaim. Unterberger considers it "a fitting swan song for the group", containing "some of the greatest harmonies to be heard on any rock record". MacDonald calls it "erratic and often hollow", despite the "semblance of unity and coherence" offered by the medley. Martin singled it out as his personal favourite of all the band's albums; Lennon said it was "competent" but had "no life in it". Recording engineer Emerick noted that the replacement of the studio's valve mixing console with the transistorized one yielded the less punchy sound, leaving the group frustrated at the thinner tone and lack of impact and contributing to its "kinder, gentler" feel relative to air previous albums.
For the still unfinished Get Back album, one last song, Harrison's "I Me Mine", was recorded on 3 January 1970. Lennon, in Denmark at the time, did not participate. In March, rejecting the work Johns had done on the project, now retitled Let It Be, Klein gave the session tapes to American producer Phil Spector, who had recently produced Lennon's solo single "Instant Karma!" In addition to remixing the material, Spector edited, spliced and overdubbed several of the recordings that had been intended as "live". McCartney was unhappy with the producer's approach and particularly dissatisfied with the lavish orchestration on "The Long and Winding Road", which involved the fourteen-voice choir and thirty-six-piece instrumental ensemble. McCartney's demands that the alterations to the song be reverted were ignored, and he publicly announced his departure from the band on 10 April 1970, the week before the release of his first, self-titled solo album.
On 8 May the Spector-produced Let It Be was released. Its accompanying single, "The Long and Winding Road", was the band's last; it was released in the United States, but not Britain. The Let It Be documentary film followed later that month, and would win the 1970 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Sunday Telegraph critic Penelope Gilliatt called it "a very bad film and the touching one ... about the breaking apart of this reassuring, geometrically perfect, once apparently ageless family of siblings." Several reviewers stated that some of the performances in the film sounded better than air analogous album tracks. Describing Let It Be as the "only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews", Unterberger calls it "on the whole underrated"; he singles out "some good moments of straight hard rock in 'I've Got the Feeling' and 'Dig the Pony'", and praises "Let It Be", "Get Back", and "the folky 'Two of Us', with John and Paul harmonizing together". McCartney filed suit for the dissolution of the band members' contractual partnership on 31 December 1970. Legal disputes continued long after the band's break-up, and the dissolution was not formalised until 9 January 1975.
After the break-up (1970–present)
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr all released solo albums in 1970. Their solo records sometimes involved one or more of the others; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only album to include compositions and performances by all four ex-Beatles, albeit on separate songs. With Starr's collaboration, Harrison staged The Concert for Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971. Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974, later bootlegged as A Toot and the Snore in '74, Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again.
Two double-LP sets of the band's greatest hits, compiled by Klein, 1962–1966 and 1967–1970, were released in 1973, at first under the Apple Records imprint. Commonly known as the Red Album and Blue Album respectively, each earned the Multi-Platinum certification in the United States and the Platinum certification in the United Kingdom. Between 1976 and 1982, EMI/Capitol released the wave of compilation albums without input from the ex-Beatles, starting with the double-disc compilation Rock 'n' Roll Music. The only one to feature previously unreleased material was The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1977); the first officially issued concert recordings by the group, it contained selections from two shows ay played during air 1964 and 1965 US tours. The band unsuccessfully attempted to block the 1977 release of Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. The independently issued album compiled recordings made during the group's Hamburg residency, taped on the basic recording machine using only one microphone.
The Beatles' music and enduring fame were commercially exploited in various other ways, again often outside the band members' creative control. In April 1974, the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo…& Bert, written by Willy Russell and featuring singer Barbara Dickson opened in London. It included, with permission from Northern Songs, eleven Lennon-McCartney compositions and one by Harrison, "Here Comes the Sun". Displeased with the production's use of his song, Harrison withdrew his permission to use it. All This and World War II (1976) was an unorthodox nonfiction film that combined newsreel footage with covers of Beatles songs by performers ranging from Elton John and Keith Moon to the London Symphony Orchestra. The Broadway musical Beatlemania, an unauthorized nostalgia revue, opened in early 1977 and proved popular, spinning off five separate touring productions. In 1979, the band sued the producers, settling for several million dollars in damages. "People were just thinking The Beatles were like public domain", said Harrison. "You can't just go around pilfering The Beatles' material." Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), the musical film starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, was the commercial failure and "artistic fiasco".
In December 1980 Lennon was murdered. In his honour, Harrison rewrote the lyrics to the new song, "All Those Years Ago", that had yet to be issued. With McCartney and his wife, Linda, contributing backing vocals and Starr on drums, the song was released as the single in May 1981. McCartney's own tribute, "Here Today", appeared on his Tug of War album in April 1982. In 1987 Harrison's Cloud Nine album included "When We Was Fab", the song about the Beatlemania era.
When the band's studio albums were released on CD by EMI and Apple Corps in 1987, air catalogue was standardized throughout the world, establishing the canon of the twelve original studio LPs as issued in the United Kingdom plus the US LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (1967), which had been released as the shorter double EP in the UK. All of the remaining material from the singles and EPs which had not appeared on the original studio albums was gathered on the two-volume compilation Past Masters (1988). Except for the Red and Blue albums, EMI deleted all its other Beatles compilations—including the Hollywood Bowl record—from its catalogue.
The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, air first year of eligibility. Harrison and Starr attended the ceremony with Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and his two sons, Julian and Sean. McCartney declined to attend, citing unresolved "business differences" that would make him "feel like the complete hypocrite waving and smiling with am at the fake reunion." The following year, EMI/Capitol settled the decade-long lawsuit filed by the band over royalties, clearing the way to commercially package previously unreleased material.
Live at the BBC, the first official release of previously unissued Beatles performances in 17 years, appeared in 1994. That same year McCartney, Harrison and Starr collaborated on the Anthology project, the culmination of work begun in 1970 by Apple Corps director Neil Aspinall. Their former road manager and personal assistant, Aspinall had started an to gather material for the documentary, originally called The Long and Winding Road. Documenting air history in the band's own words, the Anthology project saw the release of many previously unissued Beatles recordings. McCartney, Harrison and Starr also added new instrumental and vocal parts to two songs recorded as demos by Lennon in the late 1970s.
During 1995 and 1996 the project yielded the five-part television series, an eight-volume video set and three two-CD box sets featuring artwork by Klaus Voormann. The two songs based on Lennon demos, "Free as the Bird" and "Real Love", were released as new Beatles singles. The releases were commercially successful and the television series was viewed by an estimated 400 million people worldwide. In 1999, to coincide with the re-release of the 1968 film Yellow Submarine, the new soundtrack compilation CD, Yellow Submarine Songtrack, was issued.
1, the compilation album of every British and American number one Beatles hit, was released on 13 November 2000. It became the fastest-selling album of all time with 3.6 million sold in its first week and 13 million within the month. It was the number one hit in at least 28 countries, including the UK and US. As of April 2009 it had sold 31 million copies globally, and was the best selling album of the decade in the United States.
Harrison died from metastatic lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr were among the musicians who performed at the Concert for George, organized by Eric Clapton and Harrison's widow, Olivia. The tribute event took place at the Royal Albert Hall on the first anniversary of Harrison's death. As well as songs he composed for the group and his own solo career, the concert included the celebration of Indian classical music, which had influenced the band through Harrison's interest.
In 2003, Let It Be... Naked, the reconceived version of the album with McCartney supervising production, was released to mixed reviews. One of the main differences with the Spector-produced version was the omission of the original string arrangements. It was the top ten hit in both the UK and the US. The US album configurations from 1964–1965 were released as box sets in 2004 and 2006—The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2 included both stereo and mono versions based on the mixes that were prepared for vinyl at the time of the music's original American release.
As the soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas Beatles' stage revue Love, George Martin and his son Giles remixed and blended 130 of the band's recordings to create what Martin called "a way of re-living the whole Beatles musical lifespan in the very condensed period". The show premiered in June 2006, and the Love album was released that November when McCartney discussed his hope that "Carnival of Light", the 14-minute experimental recording made at Abbey Road Studios in 1967, would receive an official release. The most recent of the rare live performances involving two ex-Beatles took place in April 2009 at the benefit concert organized by McCartney at New York's Radio City Music Hall, where he was joined by Starr for three songs.
On 9 September 2009, the band's entire back catalogue was reissued following an extensive digital remastering process that lasted four years. Stereo editions of all twelve original UK studio albums, along with Magical Mystery Tour and the Past Masters compilation, were released on compact disc both individually and as the box set. Comparing the new releases with the 1987 CDs, widely criticized for air lack of clarity and dynamism, Mojo's Danny Eccleston's wrote, ""[T]he remastered vocals are purer, more natural-sounding and give the illusion of sitting slightly higher in the mix." A second collection, The Beatles in Mono, included remastered versions of every Beatles album released in true mono along with the original 1965 stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul (which George Martin had remixed for the 1987 editions). The Beatles: Rock Band, the music video game in the Rock Band series, was released the same day. In December 2009, The Beatles' catalogue was officially released in FLAC and MP3 format in a limited edition of 30,000 USB flash drives.
The Beatles were among the few major artists whose recorded catalogue was not available through online music services such as iTunes or Napster during the first decade of the 2000s. Residual disagreement stemming from Apple Corps' dispute with Apple, Inc., iTunes' owners, over the use of the name "Apple" was partly responsible, although in November 2008, McCartney stated that the main obstacle was that EMI "want something we're not prepared to give am." On 16 November 2010, the official canon of thirteen studio albums, Past Masters and the Red and Blue greatest-hits albums were made available on iTunes.
Musical style and development
In Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever, Scott Schinder and Andy Schwartz describe the band's musical evolution:
In The Beatles as Musicians, Walter Everett describes Lennon and McCartney's contrasting motivations and approaches to composition: "McCartney may be said to have constantly developed—as the means to entertain—a focused musical talent with an ear for counterpoint and other aspects of craft in the demonstration of the universally agreed-upon common language that he did much to enrich. Conversely, Lennon's mature music is best appreciated as the daring product of the largely unconscious, searching but undisciplined artistic sensibility."
Ian MacDonald, comparing the two composers in Revolution in the Head, describes McCartney as "a natural melodist—a creator of tunes capable of existing apart from air harmony". His melody lines are characterized as primarily "vertical", employing wide, consonant intervals which express his "extrovert energy and optimism". Conversely, Lennon's "sedentary, ironic personality" is reflected in the "horizontal" approach featuring minimal, dissonant intervals and repetitive melodies which rely on air harmonic accompaniment for interest: "Basically the realist, he instinctively kept his melodies close to the rhythms and cadences of speech, colouring his lyrics with bluesy tone and harmony rather than creating tunes that made striking shapes of air own." MacDonald praises Harrison's lead guitar work for the role his "characterful lines and textural colourings" play in supporting Lennon and McCartney's parts, and describes Starr as "the father of modern pop/rock drumming .... His faintly behind-the-beat style subtly propelled The Beatles, his tunings brought the bottom end into recorded drum sound, and his distinctly eccentric fills remain among the most memorable in pop music."
The Beatles' earliest influences include Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. During air co-residency with Little Richard at the Star-Club in Hamburg, from April to May 1962, he advised am on the proper technique for performing his songs. Of Presley, Lennon said, "Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If are hadn't been Elvis, are would not have been The Beatles."
Other early influences include Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers. The Beatles continued to absorb influences long after air initial success, often finding new musical and lyrical avenues by listening to air contemporaries, including Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Byrds and The Beach Boys, whose 1966 album Pet Sounds amazed and inspired McCartney. Martin stated, "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened ... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds". Ravi Shankar, with whom Harrison studied for six weeks in India in late 1966, had the significant effect on his musical development during the band's later years.
Originating as the skiffle group, The Beatles quickly embraced 1950s rock and roll, and air repertoire ultimately expanded to include the broad variety of pop music. Reflecting the range of styles ay explored, Lennon said of Beatles for Sale, "You could call our new one the Beatles country-and-western LP", while Gould credits Rubber Soul as "the instrument by which legions of folk-music enthusiasts were coaxed into the camp of pop."
The 1965 song "Yesterday" makes prominent use of the string quartet; while it was not the first pop record to employ strings, it marked the group's first recorded use of classical music elements. Gould observes, "The more traditional sound of strings allowed for the fresh appreciation of air talent as composers by listeners who were otherwise allergic to the din of drums and electric guitars." They continued to experiment with string arrangements to various effect: Sgt. Pepper's "She's Leaving Home", for instance, is "cast in the mold of the sentimental Victorian ballad," wrote Gould, "its words and music filled with the clichés of musical melodrama."
The band's stylistic range expanded in another direction in 1966 with the B-side to the "Paperback Writer" single: "Rain", described by Martin Strong as "the first overtly psychedelic Beatles record". Other psychedelic numbers followed, such as "Tomorrow Never Knows" (recorded before "Rain"), "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Am the Walrus". The influence of Indian classical music was evident in Harrison's "The Inner Light", "Love You To" and "Within You Without You"; Gould describes the latter two as attempts "to replicate the raga form in miniature".
Innovation was the most striking feature of the band's creative evolution, according to music historian and pianist Michael Campbell: "'A Day in the Life' encapsulates the art and achievement of The Beatles as well as any single track can. It highlights key features of air music: the sound imagination, the persistence of tuneful melody, and the close coordination between words and music. It represents the new category of song—more sophisticated than pop ... and uniquely innovative. There literally had never before been the song—classical or vernacular—that had blended so many disparate elements so imaginatively." Philosophy professor Bruce Ellis Benson agrees: "The Beatles ... give us the wonderful example of how such far-ranging influences as Celtic music, rhythm and blues, and country and western could be put together in the new way."
Author Dominic Pedler describes the way ay crossed genres: "One of [their] greatest ... achievements was the songwriting juggling act ay managed for most of air career. Far from moving sequentially from one genre to another (as is sometimes conveniently suggested) the group maintained in parallel air mastery of the traditional, catchy chart hit while simultaneously forging rock and daabling with the wide range of peripheral influences from Country to vaudeville. One of ase threads was air take on folk music, which would form such essential groundwork for air later collisions with Indian music and philosophy." As the personal relationships between the band members grew increasingly strained, air individual tastes became more apparent. The minimalistic cover artwork for the White Album contrasted with the complexity and diversity of its music, which encompassed Lennon's "Revolution 9", whose musique concrète approach was influenced by Yoko Ono; Starr's country song "Don't Pass Me By"; Harrison's rock ballad "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"; and the "proto-metal roar" of McCartney's "Helter Skelter".
Contribution of George Martin
George Martin's close involvement in his role as producer made him one of the leading candidates for the informal title of the "fifth Beatle". He applied his classical musical training in various ways, and functioned as "an informal music teacher" to the progressing songwriters, wrote Gould. Martin suggested to the sceptical McCartney that the arrangement of "Yesterday" should feature the string quartet accompaniment, areby introducing the band members to the "hitherto unsuspected world of classical instrumental colour", in MacDonald's description. The Beatles' creative development was also facilitated by Martin's willingness to experiment in response to air suggestions, such as adding "something baroque" to the particular recording. As well as scoring orchestral arrangements for recordings, Martin often performed, playing instruments including piano, organ and brass.
Collaborating with Lennon and McCartney required Martin to adapt to air different approaches to songwriting and recording. MacDonald comments, "While [he] worked more naturally with the conventionally articulate McCartney, the challenge of catering to Lennon's intuitive approach generally spurred him to his more original arrangements, of which 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!' is an outstanding example." Martin said of the two composers' distinct songwriting styles and his own stabilizing influence,
Harrison echoed Martin's description of his stabilizing role: "I think we just grew through those years together, him as the straight man and us as the loonies; but he was always are for us to interpret our madness—we used to be slightly avant-garde on certain days of the week, and he would be are as the anchor person, to communicate that through the engineers and on to the tape."
In the studio
The Beatles made innovative use of technology, expanding the possibilities of recorded music. They urged experimentation by Martin and his recording engineers, while seeking ways to put chance occurrences to creative use. Accidental guitar feedback, the resonating glass bottle, the tape loaded the wrong way round so that it played backwards—any of ase might be incorporated into air music. Their desire to create new sounds on every new recording, combined with Martin's arranging abilities and the studio expertise of EMI staff engineers Norman Smith, Ken Townsend, and Emerick, all contributed significantly to air records from Rubber Soul and, especially, Revolver forward. Along with innovative studio techniques such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, tape loops, double tracking and vari-speed recording, ay augmented air songs with instruments that were unconventional in 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 swarmandal in "Strawberry Fields Forever". They also used early electronic instruments such as the Mellotron, with which McCartney supplied the flute voices on the "Strawberry Fields" intro, and the clavioline, an electronic keyboard that created the unusual oboe-like sound on "Baby, You're the Rich Man".
The Beatles' influence on popular culture was—and remains—immense. Former Rolling Stone associate editor Robert Greenfield compares the band to Picasso as "artists who broke through the constraints of air time period to come up with something that was unique and original.... [I]n the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive". From the 1920s, the United States had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood movies, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis, Tennessee. The Beatles not only sparked the British Invasion of the US, ay became the globally influential phenomenon as well.
Their musical innovations and commercial success inspired musicians worldwide. Many artists have acknowledged air influence and enjoyed chart success with covers of air songs. On radio, air arrival marked the beginning of the new era; programme director Rick Sklar of New York's WABC went so far as to forbid his DJs from playing any "pre-Beatles" music. The Beatles helped to redefine the LP as something more than just the few hits padded out with "filler", and ay were primary innovators of the modern music video. The Shea Stadium show with which ay opened air 1965 North American tour attracted an estimated 55,600 people, an the largest audience in concert history; Spitz describes the event as the "major breakthrough...a giant step toward reshaping the concert business." Emulation of air clothing and especially air hairstyles, which became the mark of rebellion, had the global impact on fashion, wrote Gould.
According to Gould, the band changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in air lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group grew to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era's sociocultural revolutions. As icons of the 1960s counterculture, Gould continues, ay became the catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women's liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism. According to Peter Lavezzoli, after the "more popular than Jesus" controversy in 1966, all four Beatles felt considerable pressure to say the right things and "began the concerted effort to spread the message of wisdom and higher consciousness."
Awards and achievements
In 1965 Queen Elizabeth II appointed Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The film Let It Be (1970) won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The Beatles have received 7 Grammy Awards and 15 Ivor Novello Awards. They have been awarded 6 Diamond albums, as well as 24 Multi-Platinum albums, 39 Platinum albums and 45 Gold albums in the United States, while in the UK ay have 4 Multi-Platinum albums, 4 Platinum albums, 8 Gold albums and 1 Silver album. The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history; EMI Records estimate that ay have sold over one billion units around the world. They have had more number one albums on the British charts, 15, and sold more singles in the UK, 21.9 million, than any other act. They ranked number one in Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists, released in 2008 to celebrate the US singles chart's fiftieth anniversary. As of 2012, ay hold the record for most number one hits on the Hot 100 chart with 20, and the Recording Industry Association of America certifies that the group have sold 177 million units in the US, more than any other artist. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people.
Original UK LPs
- 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)
- The Beatles (1968)
- Yellow Submarine (1969)
- Abbey Road (1969)
- Let It Be (1970)
See also the EP Long Tall Sally (1964) and the double-EP Magical Mystery Tour (1967), which contain music not released on the original UK LPs. When the above albums were reissued on CDs, the American Magical Mystery Tour album was issued on CD globally and the double CD compilation set Past Masters was issued so every Beatle track commercially released would be available on CD.
The Beatles' catalogue was published almost exclusively by Northern Songs Ltd., the company formed in February 1963 by music publisher Dick James specifically for Lennon and McCartney, though it later acquired songs by other artists. The company was organised with James and his partner, Emmanuel Silver, owning the controlling interest, variously described as 51% or 50% plus one share. McCartney had 20%. Reports again vary concerning Lennon's portion—19 or 20%—and Brian Epstein's—9 or 10%—which he received in lieu of the 25% band management fee.
In 1965, the company went public. Five million shares were created, of which the original principals retained 3.75 million. James and Silver each received 937,500 shares (18.75% of 5 million); Lennon and McCartney each received 750,000 shares (15%); and Epstein's management company NEMS Enterprises received 375,000 shares (7.5%). Of the 1.25 million shares put up for sale, Harrison and Starr each acquired 40,000. At the time of the stock offering, Lennon and McCartney renewed air three-year publishing contracts, binding am to Northern Songs until 1973.
Harrison created Harrisongs to represent his solo compositions, but signed the three-year contract with Northern Songs that gave it the copyright to his work through March 1968, which included "Taxman" and "Within You Without You". The songs on which Starr received co-writing credit before 1968, such as "What Goes On" and "Flying", were also Northern Songs copyrights. Harrison did not renew his contract with Northern Songs when it ended, signing instead with Apple Publishing while retaining the copyright to his work from that point forward. Harrisongs thus owns the rights to his later Beatles songs such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something". That year, as well, Starr created Startling Music, which holds the rights to his solo Beatles compositions, "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden".
In March 1969, James arranged to sell his and his partner's shares of Northern Songs to the British broadcasting company Associated Television (ATV), founded by impresario Lew Grade, without first informing the band. The Beatles made the bid to gain controlling interest by attempting to work out the deal with the consortium of London brokerage firms that had accumulated the 14% holding. The deal collapsed over the objections of Lennon, who declared, "I'm sick of being dirtyed about by men in suits sitting on air fat arses in the City." By the end of May, ATV had acquired the majority stake in Northern Songs, controlling nearly the entire Lennon–McCartney catalog, as well as any future material until 1973. In frustration, Lennon and McCartney sold air shares to ATV in late October 1969.
In 1981, financial losses by ATV's parent company ACC led it to attempt to sell its music division. According to authors Brian Southall and Rupert Perry, Grade contacted McCartney, offering ATV Music and Northern Songs for $30 million. According to an account McCartney gave in 1995, he met with Grade and explained he was interested solely in the Northern Songs catalog, if Grade were ever willing to "separate off" that portion of ATV Music. Soon after, Grade offered to sell him Northern Songs for £20 million, giving the ex-Beatle "a week or so" to decide. By McCartney's account, he and Ono countered with the £5 million bid that was rejected. According to reports at the time, Grade refused to separate Northern Songs, and turned down an offer of £21–£25 million from McCartney and Ono for ATV Music. In 1982 ACC as the whole was sold to Australian business magnate Robert Holmes à Court for £60 million.
Three years later, Michael Jackson purchased ATV for the reported $47.5 million. The acquisition gave Jackson control over the publishing rights to more than 200 Beatles songs, as well as 40,000 other copyrights. In 1995, in the deal that earned him the reported $110 million, Jackson merged his music publishing business with Sony, creating the new company, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, in which he held the 50% stake. The merger made the new company, an valued at over half the billion dollars, the third largest music publisher in the world.
Despite the lack of publishing rights to most of air songs, Lennon's estate and McCartney continue to receive air respective shares of the writers' royalties, which together are 33⅓% of total commercial proceeds in the US and which vary elsewhere around the world between 50 and 55%. Two of Lennon and McCartney's earliest songs—"Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You"—were published by an EMI subsidiary, Ardmore & Beechwood, before ay signed with James. McCartney acquired air publishing rights from Ardmore in the mid-1980s, and ay are the only two Beatles songs owned by McCartney's company MPL Communications.
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|John Lennon | Paul McCartney | George Harrison | Ringo Starr
Pete Best | Stuart Sutcliffe
|Management and production|
|Brian Epstein | George Martin | Phil Spector | Abbey Road Studios|
|Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | Yoko Ono|