Beatlemania and the British invasion, two terms used to describe the profound way people from the United States and rest of the world felt about the Beatles. The Beatles, the greatest musicians of all time left a legacy that has been incomparable for around half a century. Prominent in the sixties, the popular rock band produced thirteen albums in less than ten years. The two hundred plus songs they created during this time period contained dozens of hit records, many of which can be heard traveling the radio waves to this day.
However, the Beatles were not always multi million dollar-worth superstars travelling the world. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were all born in Liverpool England during a three year span from 1940-1943. Ringo Starr was actually born Richard Starkey but then changed his name to something more appealing. The name Ringo came from a large golden ring that he would always wear and Starr was a condensed play on his last name.
In the summer of 1956, at the young age of sixteen, John Lennon and a few of his classmates at Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool decided to form a band. They named their band the Quarrymen and began to perform ar St. Peter’s Woolton Parish Church in 1957. During this time, Lennon was introduced to a fellow musician named Paul McCartney. Paul was only fifteen, but immediately became friends with John and soon after was invited by John to join the Quarrymen.
The next year, as the band continued their performances and picked up a little steam, they expanded once again. George Harrison was recruited (also at the age of fifteen). Lennon, who had been attending the Liverpool College of Art convinced a classmate Stuart Sutcliffe to join the band in 1960. After he joined, the four artists decided to change their name from the Quarrymen to the Silver Beetles. However the name didn’t stick long as it was promptly changed to the Silver Beatles (with an ea instead of an ee). In the summer, the Silver Beatles picked up their new drummer Pete Best. They also changed their name again as they shortened it to just the Beatles and kept on performing at different small venues and clubs, displaying their enthralling mix of folk rock music around England
The group of five musicians traveled to Hamburg Germany shortly after acquiring Best. In Hamburg, the Beatles performed at several different clubs including the Kiaserkeller and the Indra clubs. After their first trip, they went back four more times from 1960-1962. It is said that during these long mini tours, they discovered their collective musical identity and the sound that made them so unique.
After returning from their first trip to Hamburg, the Beatles staged a homecoming performance at Litherland Town Hall in Liverpool where they had fans waiting for them. This ecstatic show was the eighth of twenty shows they had at Litherland Town Hall and was one of the most memorable. They were also gaining popularity as they performed at clubs such as the Cavern Club and the Cassanova Club in Liverpool.
In 1961, Stuart Sutcliffe quit the band to pursue a career in art. Stuart never really wanted the career of a full time musician and was an extremely talented painter. Another factor that was involved with him quitting was his engagement to the German Astrid Kirchherr. Astrid Kirchherr met the Beatles during their Hamburg visits and was friends with all of them. Unfortunately, while living with Astrid in Hamburg, Sutcliffe died less than a year after leaving the Beatles of a brain hemorrhage.
Later, in November of 1961, the Beatles hired Brian Epstein to be their manager. A former student of the Royal Academy of the Arts, Epstein worked at a family run music store but became professionally involved with musicians around Liverpool. He met the Beatles at one of their shows and two months later he was hired. It is said that Epstein was the one who inspired many of the Beatles’ outfits and their iconic mop-top, bowl cut, mullet style hairdos. In the beginning as a manager, he successfully helped mold their persona from an average startup boy band to the loveable, quartet that took the world by storm.
On January 1, 1962 the Beatles experienced their first real speed bump in their musical journey. Epstein took them to audition for a large record deal in London but took it roughly when they were turned down. Dick Rowe of Decca Records made one of the biggest investing blunders known to man when he snidely responded to the Beatles’ manager saying, Guitar groups are on their way out Mr. Epstein. Mr. Rowe’s misjudgment and inability to envision the fab fours’ musical potential no doubt cost him millions.
Although the fallout with Decca Records was disappointing, the Beatles bounced back in May of the same year by hiring George Martin as their producer. Martin was the only producer who worked with the Beatles as a band and has been described by many, including Paul McCartney, as the fifth Beatle. He was able to land them a record deal with EMI, a well known record label. EMI has signed artists worldwide and many from the United Kingdom, some of which are Avicii, Pink Floyd, Queen, Iron Maiden, Coldplay, AC/DC, David Guetta, Snoop Dogg, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, Frank Sinatra, Spice Girls, Arctic Monkeys, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, J Balvin, Cher, Calvin Harris, and many more.
Right after Martin was hired, on August 16, Pete Best left the Beatles. There is still some controversy over whether Best left or was fired by Martin after their EMI audition. Martin apparently disliked Best and believed the rest of the group would be better off with a more skilled drummer. Pete Best also never really fit in with the rest of the Beatles as he was more introverted and preferred to spend his down time alone. He also refused to switch his ducktail haircut to the classic Beatle cut when the rest of the Beatles did.
After this, the Beatles were in desperate need of a new drummer. Ringo Starr joined fit the job description perfectly and joined the Beatles just two days after Best left (or was fired). Ringo was a close friend and had filled in as a drummer a few times on their Hamburg trips when Best wasn’t available. His quirky but skillful drumming style and his fun loving personality helped him fit right in with the other three members of the Beatles who enthusiastically invited him to join the band. On September 11, of the same year, the Beatles recorded their first single, Love Me Do. It did well for the first single they produced and even reached number seventeen on the British top singles chart.
1963 was the year the Beatles really blew up and became prominent and recognized in the music community. On January 11, 1963 they released their second single, Please Please Me in the United Kingdom. In just a month, it reached number one on the British singles chart and stays there for two weeks. By February 11, they recorded their first whole album, also called Please Please Me. By this time, ten more songs were also recorded to add to Love Me Do. On March 22, their Please Please Me album is released in the United Kingdom and becomes an immediate hit, staying at number one for twenty-nine weeks. In July the same album that had gained so much popularity in the United Kingdom was released in America but had an unexpected result. The release was a flop. Although the Americans had not yet started to pick up on the Beatles’ music, it was spreading like wildfire from the United Kingdom all throughout Europe. This quick increase of popularity outside of their home country was just the beginning of Beatlemania.
On October 13, roughly fifteen million people tune in to watch the Beatles perform on ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, which is the British equivalent of The Ed Sullivan Show. Less than a month later they had a royal performance for Queen Elizabeth II, Lord Snowdon (the Queen’s son in law), and Princess Margaret at a Royal Command Performance on November 4. Here John Lennon introduced a new song they had been working on with this cheeky statement, For our last number I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery. We’d like to sing a song called Twist And Shout. The Beatles did not perform again at the Royal Variety Show even though they were asked to every year. They chose not to because it seemed too formal to them and they were all extremely nervous about playing and speaking in front of the Queen.
On November 22, then Beatles second album, With the Beatles, is released in the United Kingdom, clinching the number one spot on the British album chart for twenty-one weeks. With the Beatles dropped Please Please Me down to number two in the United Kingdom and the two albums together stayed on top of the charts for over fifty consecutive weeks. The fab four was on a hot streak and could not stop producing music. A week later, on November 29, the band released another single in the United Kingdom called I Want To Hold Your Hand which immediately went to the top of the charts. Less than a month later this song was released in the United States and jumped to number one, where it held that spot for seven weeks.
On January 20, 1964, Capitol Records released Meet the Beatles! in the United States. On February 7, the Beatles landed at JFK Airport in New York where they were mobbed by thousands of fans who were waiting for them. The fans followed them and surrounded the Plaza Hotel in New York where they were staying. This was the spark that lit the flame of the British invasion. Two days later the Beatles were invited on the Ed Sullivan show setting a televised record of 73 million viewers. Here the fab four performed I Want to Hold Your Hand, All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, and I Saw Her Standing There.
Two more days after their televised performance, the Beatles played at the Washington Coliseum in Washington D.C. This was their first live performance in America. The next day, on the 12th, they performed live at Carnegie Hall. Their short trip to the United States was a key factor is boosting their popularity in the Americas. After those three memorable performances, Meet the Beatles! reached the number one spot on the Billboard’s hot album chart and had no competition for eleven straight weeks.
On March 2, George, Paul, John, and Ringo decided to try their hand in the film industry by starting their first film, A Hard Days Night. The musical comedy illustrated the everyday life of a Beatle and only took eight weeks to film. On March 32, 1964, the Beatles set a musical record having songs in the first five spots of the Billboard’s singles chart. These five songs that so enthralled the American public were, from one to five, Can’t Buy Me Love, Twist and Shout, She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, and Please Please Me. At this point they didn’t think it could get any better but by April they had the privilege of having fourteen songs on the Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.
In July, the Beatles release another movie with a sister album called A Hard Days Night. Both the movie and the soundtrack are consumed by the public worldwide and the album hits the top of the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. On August 19, 1964, the boy band begins their first tour of the United States and Canada. It started at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and lasted one month.
After their tour, they took a break for a while and produced their next album on December 4. Beatles For Sale once again has no competition and skyrocketed to the number one spot on music charts worldwide. In February of 1965, the Beatles started shooting their second movie Help! in the Bahamas. The hit film had a budget of $1.5 million and only took about six months to make. This movie was also a hit and its accompanying album was a success as well. In the summer, the Beatles returned to the United States where they held a concert at Shea Stadium in Queens. Here they set a record attendance of 55,600 people and roughly grossed about $304,000.
In December, another smash album, Rubber Soul, is released and of course rests atop the charts for over five weeks. The Beatles never returned to the incredible speed at which they produced music during 1964, but they were still steadily releasing albums at a rate much faster than most artist today. Their next album Revolver was released on August 5, 1966 and inevitably rose to the top of the charts where it stayed for six weeks.
On August 29, 1966, the iconic quartet ended touring for good. They performed on tour live one last time in San Francisco and decided to invest more time recording in the studio. They were sick of the emotionally and physically painful and stressful tour life and wanted to change it up temporarily. Revealed by Ringo Starr in an interview in the early 2000’s, hey never intended to stop touring completely, but sadly they did. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is released on June 1, 1967 and stays at the top of British charts for twenty-seven consecutive weeks. On June 25, a two hour television program made by the Beatles titled Our World aired in twenty-four different countries via new satellite technology making it the first television show to air worldwide.
On August 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Beatles family as their manager died at the age of thirty-two. Brian Epstein, the man who was responsible for making the Beatles who they were passed away due to an accidental drug overdose in Sussex England. The Beatles were heartbroken, having lost the fifth Beatle, but they kept on, releasing the Magical Mystery Tour in November, which also hit the top of the charts. In Febuary of 1968, the Beatles became infatuated with the Hindu religion and especially transcendental meditation right at the time they claim to have dropped drug abuse. They journeyed to a seminar teaching this in Rishikesh, India led by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi along with sixty other people including a few other celebrities. They returned from the seminar in a few weeks and on May 14, Lennon and McCartney guest starred on the Tonight Show to announce the startup of their new company designed to help young upcoming artists, Apple Corps Ltd.
On November 22, they released another album The Beatles or The White Album and it reached number one once again. Less than two months later, Yellow Submarine was released and hits the top of the charts, falling second to The White Album. On January 30, 1969, the Beatles have what will be their last performance together ever at a rooftop party for Apple Corps Ltd. in London. This was mainly due to the fact that the band had been deteriorating basically ever since the death of Brian Epstein. Drug abuse was back and there was a lot of conflict and tension between the four members of the group. A large part of this was due to Yoko Ono, a Japanese woman John Lennon left his wife for.
He broke one of the imperative rules put in place by the four members of the band, not bringing wives or girlfriends into the studio, by inviting her into the studio. Feelings clashed even more when Lennon enthusiastically allowed her to bleed some of her artistic input and opinion into the music the fab four created. Lennon unofficially left the band sometime in September. However the Beatles’ last studio recording was dropped on September 26 and of course found its way on top of the charts. Even with this album doing well, there was no coming back for the Beatles. The damage had been done and they were moving on towards their solo careers. Although they had a few minor hits individually, they could never be as great as they were collectively, together, and as the Beatles.
On December 8, 1980 John Lennon was murdered by an unhinged fan. Over twenty years later, George Harrison died of cancer on November 29, 2001. Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney are still alive to this day. While the Beatles were incredible musicians and entertainers, they lived a life full of harmful drug abuse. A few of the drugs they regularly used at different points in their career include speed, cannabis, LSD, cocaine, and heroin and their self harming lifestyles were not exemplary or condonable. However the Beatles left a legacy of incredible music and unprecedented sound and which is still listened to by millions today.
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