The Beatles are the most successful and best known band of the twentieth century. The main members of the Beatles were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Formed by Lennon and McCartney, who first performed together in Liverpool, England in 1957, they loved American rock and roll. Lennon played the guitar and sang. McCartney played bass and sang. They were both self taught. By the end of 1957 they made Harrison the lead guitarist.They tried a different type of music, and several different names, and they had some other band members for a while. At first they played in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles recruited Ringo Starr, whom they had befriended in Hamburg. They got a manager named Brian Epstein who shared their desire that they would become “bigger than Elvis.”
Their first single called “Love Me Do” (released October, 1962)reached number 17 on the British charts. Their next single that was called “Please Please Me” (January, 1963), hit number one. Delighted with their success, they recorded their first album, Please Please Me (March, 1963), and it also reached the top of the charts. Their third single called “From Me To You” (April, 1963), also hit number one in England, but it was their fourth, “She Loves You” (August, 1963), which brought “Beatlemania.”
The group first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. It was viewed by an estimated 73 million people. Soon the franchise led to film with A Hard Day’s Night, a comedy which focused on the Beatles’ charm and humor as much as their music. As the Beatles grew as composers, they became more receptive to producer George Martin’s style. Martin had studied music theory, composition, and orchestration, and encouraged the Beatles to “think symphonically.”
Their next album, Revolver (August, 1966), is widely thought of as the Beatles’ masterpiece, and some consider it the greatest album ever made, with fourteen flawless compositions. Many will agree with Martin’s judgment that Revolver is the Beatles’ best album, while Sgt. Pepper is their most significant work. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (June, 1967) has been hailed as the model album of the sixties. To list everything great and important about it would fill books, but special mention must be made of “A Day in the Life,” one of the last great Lennon-McCartney collaborations, and one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs of their careers.
Magical Mystery Tour was a pointless film following the Beatles on a bus trip around England. Paul got the idea from the Merry Pranksters, a counterculture group traveling across America. The film was a flop, and the Beatles’ first real failure.
In 1968 the Beatles went to India to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during which they learned of manager Epstein’s death from an overdose of sleeping pills. Eventually disenchanted with the Maharishi, the Beatles returned with a great load of songs.The result was one of the Beatles’ strangest albums, The Beatles (November, 1968).
Yellow Submarine was a cartoon made to fulfill the Beatles’ film contract with United Artists (although Let It Be would actually fulfill this obligation a year later). The odd albums of the late 1960s marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles. Musically, their individual styles were drifting apart. Eventually the Beatles produced Abbey Road (September 1969), one of their best-selling and all-time favorite albums.
Their last album, Let It Be, was released in May 1970, and the band broke up in June 1970 due to unbeatable conflicts.One of their greatest achievements was to play across boundaries and appeal to multiple generations and classes, and represent the counter-culture while winning the respect of the establishment.
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