By Desiree Heiser
The Beatles (also known as The Fabulous Four) formed in Liverpool, England in 1960. The band members consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. In my opinion, the Beatles are hands down the most amazing and iconic band in history.
The Beatles were highly regarded in the 1960s. They were a mixture of skiffle (blues, jazz, folk, and American folk) and in a skiffle competition that’s where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met. Paul McCartney impressed John Lennon with his acoustic guitar skills. Lennon asked McCartney to become a part of his band which was then known as ‘the Quarrymen’.
Paul McCartney asked John Lennon if his long-time friend George Harrison (another guitarist) could be a part of their band. Lennon at first said “no” because Harrison was only fourteen years old at the time. Harrison like McCartney had impressive guitar skills that he showed off to Lennon. After that, Lennon said that Harrison could join the band as well. These three formed the band the Quarrymen which also included Stuart Sutcliffe (vocalist) and Peter Best (drummer). They played gigs at Best’s mother’s club called the Casbah Club regularly.
The band had many different names to start out with before Lennon dreamed of the band’s name that would eventually stick. The name he chose was The Beatles which was a combination of beat and beetle. Now they had a name and on to get a record deal!
They were touring in Germany in 1960, when Ringo Starr joined the band. They played in a bar called the Cavern Club in England. They used the stage name “The Beat Brothers”. Their first gig at the club earned them five pounds and in 1963 it became three hundred pounds per gig. They roughly played two hundred and sixty-two shows at the Cavern.
In 1961, Brian Epstein was asked to become their manager. He had them change their images for good. He had them wear suits, ties, classic shoes and updated haircuts. He advised them not to eat and drink in public. Brian Epstein worked hard at improving their public image to make it acceptable to the more conservative media. Most of their communication off-stage was managed by Epstein.
In 1962 the Beatles came to London to record 15 songs, which at the time didn’t help their careers but later on it did. During the same year, the band made a few trips to London and auditioned for several labels. Throughout the year, their manager, Brian Epstein tried to get them a record deal and was told by a recording label tycoon George Martin that he liked their music but suggested replacing Pete Best with a different drummer. When given this information, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison asked Epstein to fire Pete Best. After he was fired, Epstein hired the fourth and final Beatle, Ringo Starr. Ringo Starr took over Pete Best as drummer of the band. In September of 1962, the Beatles recorded their first hit song ‘Love Me Do’ which hit the charts in the UK and reached the top of the US singles chart.
The Fab Four at a press conference.
Once the band’s career took off they were dubbed the ‘Fab Four’. There was a huge fan craze at this time dubbed ‘Beatlemania’. Many women would have bouts of hysteria and you would hear high-pitched screaming both at the concerts and the band’s travels.
By early 1964 the Beatles had become international super stars! The Beatles arrived in the US and their televised performance on the Ed Sullivan Show was viewed by approximately 73 million people! In addition to their international stature, their arrival changed attitudes towards other popular music in the US whose own rock and roll evolution had made it a global trend setter. ‘From 1964-1970, the Beatles had top selling US album one out of every three weeks’ excerpt taken from Beatlemania Wikipedia. In 1966 the frenzy became too much for them so they stopped touring and became a studio-only band.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were primarily the songwriters for the band. Their fourth album consisted mostly of their written songs and it clearly showed producers how extensive the McCartney/Lennon songwriting partnership was.
At a dinner in 1965 by Harrison’s dentist, their coffee was spiked with LSD which was unbeknownst to the band members. Since being introduced to this drug, Lennon and Harrison became regular users of the drug and Starr used it at least on one occasion. Paul McCartney was reluctant to try it out but eventually did. This started the band’s drug use which caused some controversy over it all.
Another controversy erupted when Queen Elizabeth II appointed all four Beatles members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) after the prime minister Harold Wilson nominated them for the award. In protest since the award was primarily given to military veterans and civic leaders, some of the other recipients gave back their own insignia.
A film came out called Help! They considered themselves guest stars on the film. The soundtrack was written by Lennon and he sang lead on most of the songs. Their fifth studio album came out around the same time. A ballad sung and wrote by Paul McCartney was ‘Yesterday’. This song inspired more cover versions of any song ever written.
The Beatles had a third US tour in August of 1965 at Shea Stadium in New York City. This concert was dubbed their most famous of all their concerts. They performed in nine different concerts and in a show in Atlanta, Georgia they were able to use a fold-out system of on-stage monitor speakers. During this tour, they met Elvis Presley who was a foundational musical influence on the band. There was a cartoon television show that was named after them called ‘The Beatles’ which was the first ever animated cartoon series that was based of real, living people.
PIcture of some of the Fab Four recording in the studio.
Back in the recording studio in mid-October of 1965, the Beatles had a time to commit to making the album without prior engagements to stop them from producing another album. In December of 1965 their new record, Rubber Soul was said by critics to be a huge step forward in the maturity and complexity of the band. They were beginning to expand further into romance and philosophy. Some biographers of the band have said that this “maturity” was stemmed from the use of marijuana which was confirmed by members of the Beatles. As the lyrics to their songs became more meaningful, fans were trying to find ‘hidden meanings’ in the songs.
Although this album was mainly comprised of songwriting from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the entire band had different contributions to the album. But tensions were growing between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and producers of the album could see the tension growing between the two. This album in 2003 was ranked by Rolling Stone fifth among the 500 Greatest Albums of All Times.
The Beatles released another studio album called “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ which was an experimental approach for them. According to engineer Geoff Emerick it took them over 700 hours to complete the album. The band insisted on having everything different on the track. The lyrics were written on the back of the album’s cover, which of course sparked controversy yet again for the band. It was said by Paul McCartney that people will interpret what they get out of the music but they (the Beatles) know exactly what is meant by the lyrics in the songs. In 2003 Rolling Stones ranked it as number one on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
On June 1967 the Beatles performed their single “All You Need Is Love” to an approximated number of 350 million viewers on Our World, the first live global television link. Two months later they received bad news. Their manager’s assistant called them to inform the band that Brian Epstein (the band’s manager) had passed away. This news came as a blow to the band. They were disoriented and afraid of what would happen in the future. They were worried that they were going to fall apart as a band.
The Magical Mystery Tour was a soundtrack to an upcoming Beatles television film, and was released in the UK in late 1967 as a six-track double. It was released in the US and in its first three weeks set the record for the highest sales for any capital LP. It was released on Boxing Day and was directed mainly by Paul McCartney and it brought about the band’s first negative UK press. It was deemed as ‘rubbish’ which led the US to grow disinterested in airing it on television.
In 1968 the Beatles had a cameo in the animated series “The Yellow Submarine” which featured cartoon versions of the band and had a soundtrack with eleven of their songs which included four of their unreleased songs that made their debut on the film. It was seven months later before a soundtrack album was made.
They were looking for a new manager to represent them and they thought they had found the perfect replacement for Brian Epstein only to learn that the replacement wasn’t acceptable. Ringo Starr quit the band for 10 days and Paul McCartney a month later also quit. The only two that stayed for a while were John Lennon and George Harrison. But a disagreement led to both of them leaving. John Lennon wrote a scathing song about the ordeal to avoid any legal issues. They made a mistake as a group.
Tensions were mounting even more after this and it was becoming more noticeable. Ringo Starr quit for two weeks and Paul McCartney took over playing the drums for the album the ‘Back In The USSR’. John Lennon and George Harrison also took turns drumming for this album. Lennon was disinterested in collaborating with McCartney. Also, Lennon broke the no girlfriend in the recording studio rules when he became interested in Yoko Ono. He would bring her with him to band rehearsals despite the rule that they had in place. These sessions were the start of the band’s break up.
Abbey Road was the band’s final album. They tried to collaborate with each other one last time but John Lennon and George Harrison felt like this last attempt to make a record was pure torture. Harrison was upset by both John Lennon and Paul McCartney so he abruptly left the band for five days. He came back to the band with the agreement with all involved that there wouldn’t be anymore live sessions and that they go to Apple instead of Twickenham. The band agreed to meet all of Harrison’s demands. They eventually played on the rooftop of Apple Corps.
New tensions were mounting once again after all of this took place. They were needing a new financial manager (since Brian Epstein died) and they couldn’t agree on one in harmony. John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison wanted Allen Klein who was manager of Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke while Paul McCartney wanted his father and brother in law to represent them. The band didn’t agree harmoniously on who was to represent them so both of the parties were asked to represent them. They continued their disagreement and in doing so, they lost opportunities to make themselves even more famous. Allen Klein was nominated to be their manager but McCartney didn’t want him to be but he was out voted.
A couple of days before Abbey Road was to be released, John Lennon decided that he was going to quit the band and let the rest of the members know. They asked him to wait for a couple of days after the release of the album so it wouldn’t deter people from wanting to buy the album.
A sad day for the music world was when in December of 1970, they officially disbanded. Most of the band members from then on out went on to produce solo work, and when asked, they collaborated with one another’s solo work.
In 1980, John Lennon was murdered in his New York home by a crazed fan, Mark David Chapman. George Harrison wrote a song that was dedicated to him called ‘All Those Years Ago.’ Ringo Starr was on drums and Paul McCartney and his wife Linda contributed to back- up vocals. McCartney also wrote a tribute song which was entitled ‘Here Today’ which appeared on his album called Tug of War.
In 1988 the Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the former bandmates Harrison and Starr attended the ceremony with Yoko Ono and his two sons Julian and Sean. Paul McCartney refused to attend the ceremony because he felt like it wouldn’t be prudent since there were still unresolved business issues.
In 1990 an unissued album recorded previously by the Beatles emerged. That same year Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison collaborated on the Anthology Project. They added instrumental and vocal parts too two songs recorded by Lennon in the 1970s.
In November 2001 another band member passed. George Harrison died of metastatic lung cancer. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed at the Concert for George which was organised by Eric Clapton and his widow Olivia. This tribute was taken place at Royal Albert Hall a year after George Harrison’s death.
The only two surviving members of the band are Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. They on occasion will perform either Beatles hits or their own solo work. Ringo Starr is an excellent drummer and Paul McCartney is a awesome guitarist and singer. Their work is just amazing.
These Fab Four were undoubtedly the most Iconic rock band of the 60 and 70s. The music that they made together was simply amazing!
￼ Here is a picture of the “Fab Four”.