In July of 1957, in Liverpool, Paul McCartney met John Lennon and joined his group, The Quarrymen. George Harrison joined them in February of 1958. In 1959 they played regular gigs at a club called The Casbah. They were joined by vocalist Stuart Sutcliffe, and by drummer Peter Best, whose mother owned The Casbah club. Early incarnations of the band included The Quarrymen, Johnny & the Moon Dogs, and The Silver Beetles. John Lennon dreamed up the band’s final name, The Beatles, a mix of beat with beetle. In 1960 The Beatles toured in Hamburg, Germany. There they were hired by singer Tony Sheridan as a backing band for his recordings for the German Polydor label. During the year of 1961 they played regular gigs at the Cavern club and were looking for a new manager. By the mutual decision of the Beatles’ members, their first manager, named Allan Williams, was replaced.
Brian Epstein was invited to be the manager of the Beatles in November 1961. His diplomatic way of dealing with the Beatles and with their previous manager resulted in a December 10, 1961, meeting, where it was decided that Epstein would manage the band. A 5-year management contract was signed by four members at then-drummer Pete Best’s home on January 24, 1962. Epstein did not put his signature on it, giving the musicians the freedom of choice. At that time McCartney and Harrison were under 21, so the paper wasn’t technically legal. None of them realized this and it did not matter to them. What mattered was their genuine trust in Epstein. He changed their early image for the good. Brian Epstein made them wear suits and ties, classic shoes, and newer haircuts. They were advised to update their manners on stage and quit eating and drinking in public. Brian Epstein worked hard on both the Beatles’ image and public relations. He improved their image enough to make them accepted by the conservative media of their time. Most if not all of their communication off-stage was managed by Brian Epstein.
In May of 1962 Epstein canceled the group’s contract with Tony Sheridan and the German label. During the year of 1962 Brian Epstein was persistent in trying to sign a record deal for the Beatles, even after being rejected by every major record label in UK, like Columbia, Philips, Oriole, Decca, and Pye. Epstein transferred a demo tape to disc with HMV technician Jim Foy, who liked their song and referred it to Parlophone’s George Martin. On June 6, 1962, at the Abbey Road studios, they passed Martin’s audition with the exception of Pete Best. George Martin liked them, but recommended the change of a drummer. Being asked by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison; Epstein fired Pete Best. After a mutual decision the band was completed with the session drummer, named Ringo Starr, who duly became the fourth Beatle. In September of 1962 The Beatles recorded their first hit Love Me Do, which charted in UK, and reached the top of the US singles chart in 1964.
In early performances the Beatles included popular songs from the 40s and 50s. They played rock-n-roll and R&B-based pop songs while they gradually worked on developing a style of their own. Their mixture of rock-n-roll, skiffle, blues, country, soul, and a simplified version of 1930s jazz resulted in several multi-genre and cross-style sounding songs. They admitted their interest in the music of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and other entertainers of the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Beatles’ distinctive vocals were sometimes reminiscent of the Everly Brothers’ tight harmonies. By 1965 their style absorbed ethnic music influences from India and other Oriental cultures, and later expanded into psychedelic experiments and classical-sounding compositions. Their creative search covered a range of styles from jazz and rock to a cosmopolitan cross-cultural and cross-genre compositions.
They played a wide variety of musical instruments. Initially the Beatles were a guitars and drums band. In the course of their career every member became a multi-instrumentalist. George Harrison played the lead guitar and also introduced such exotic instruments as ukulele, Indian sitars, flutes, tabla, darbouka, and tampur drums. John Lennon played a variety of guitars, keyboards, harmonicas and horns. Paul McCartney played bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitars, piano and keyboards, as well as over 40 other musical instruments. The Beatles were the first popular band that used a classical touch of strings and keyboard instruments; their producer†George Martin scored Baroque orchestrations in several songs, such as Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, In My Life, and a full orchestra in Sgt. Pepper. John Lennon and Paul McCartney played piano in many of their songs. Their jamming on a piano together led to creation of their best-selling hit I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1963.
Their 1963 performance at the London Palladium made them famous in Great Britain and initiated the Beatlemania in the UK. At first the Beatles were rejected by†Dick Clark after testing a recording of their song on his show. Then Brian Epstein approached Ed Sullivan, who discussed them with Walter Cronkite after seeing them on his CBS Evening News in 1963. Brian Epstein also managed to get their music played by influential radio stations in Washington and New York. The US consumer reaction was peaking, a single ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ was released in December 1963 by the Capitol Records. Their sensational tour in the USA began with three TV shows at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, in February of 1964. After that The Beatles endured several years of extremely intensive recording, filming, and touring. They stopped public performances after 1966, but continued their recording contracts. By 1985 The Beatles had sold over one billion records. Music became their ticket to ride around the world. Beatlemania never really ended since its initiation. It still lives as a movable feast in many hearts and minds, as a sweet memory of youth, when all you need is love and a little help from a friend to be happy.
The Beatles’ first two feature films, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help (1965), were made in collaboration with an American director,†Richard Lester. Their humorous, ironic, and farcical film performances are reminiscent of the Marx Brothers’ comedies. Later The Beatles moved into the area of psychedelic innovations with the animated film Yellow Submarine (1966). Their surrealistic TV movie The Magical Mystery Tour (1967) became the cause for the first major criticism of their work in the British press. Their film music was also released as studio albums. Original music by The Beatles as well as re-makes of their songs has been also used, often uncredited, in music scores of feature films and documentaries. Some of The Beatles concert and studio performances were filmed on several occasions and were later edited and released after the band’s dissolution. In 1999 the remastered and remixed film The Beatles Yellow Submarine Adventure†(2000) delighted a younger audience with incredible animation and songs.
All four members were charismatic and individually talented artists, they sparked each other from the beginning. Eventually they made a much better group effort under the thorough management by Brian Epstein. His coaching helped consolidate their talents and mutual stimulation into beautiful teamwork. Paul McCartney had the privilege of a better musical education, having studied classical piano and guitar in his childhood. He progressed as a lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, as well as a singer-songwriter. McCartney wrote more songs for the Beatles than other members of the band. His songs Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, Blackbird, When I’m 64, Let It Be are among the Beatles’ best hits. Yesterday is considered the most-covered song in history with over three thousand versions of it recorded by various artists. McCartney accepted the agreement that was offered by John Lennon in 1957, about the 50/50 authorship of every song written by either one of them. Most of The Beatles’ songs are formally credited to both names, regardless of the fact that many of the songs were written individually.
On June 25, 1967, The Beatles made history becoming the first band globally transmitted on TV to an estimated 400 million people worldwide. The Beatles were a segment in the first-ever worldwide satellite hook-up and their new song All You Need Is Love was broadcast live during the show. Two months later The Beatles lost their creative manager Brian Epstein, whose talent for problem-solving was unmatched. That was it, the beginning of the end, said Lennon. Evolution of each member’s creativity and musicianship also led to individual career ambitions.
John Lennon was experimenting with psychedelic poetry and art. His creativity was very unique and innovative. Lennon wrote Come Together, Girl, Revolution, Strawberry Fields and many other Beatles’ hits. An out-of-context reprinting of Lennon’s remarks on the Beatlemania phenomenon caused problems in the media. His comparison of Beatles’ popularity to that of Jesus Christ was used to attack them publicly, causing cancellations of their performances and even burning of their records. Lennon had to apologize several times in press and on TV, including at a Chicago press conference. In 1967 John Lennon met Japanese artist†Yoko Ono, whom he later married. George Harrison was the lead guitar player and also took sitar lessons from Ravi Shankar. Harrison had his own inner light of creativity and spirituality, he wrote Something, Taxman, I me mine, and other hits. Ringo Starr sang ‘Yellow Submarine’ and a few other songs. He has made a film career and also toured with his All Stars Band and released several solo albums. His 1973 release “Ringo” was the last album to feature all four living Beatles, although not on the same song.
Beatles created over 240 songs, they recorded many singles and albums, made films and TV shows. Thousands of memorable pictures popularized their image. In their evolution from beginners to the leaders of entertainment, they learned from many world cultures, absorbed from various styles, and created their own. Their cross-style compositions covered a range of influences from English folk ballads to Indian raga; absorbing from†Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Little Richard, and others. The songwriting and performing talents of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, fused in the Beatles’ music. Lennon and McCartney initiated changes in music publishing industry by breaking the Tin Pan Alley monopoly of songwriting. Their legacy became possible due to highly professional work by Brian Epstein and George Martin. In 1994 three surviving members reunited and produced Lennon’s previously unknown song ‘Free as a Bird’. It was preserved by Yoko Ono on a tape recording made by Lennon in 1977. The song was re-arranged and re-mixed with the voices of three surviving members. The Beatles Anthology TV documentary was watched by 420 million people in 1995.
The Beatles represent the collective consciousness of several generations. Millions of viewers and listeners across the universe became conditioned to the sounds and images of The Beatles. Their influence on the modern world never stopped. Numbers may only show the tip of the iceberg (record sales, shows admissions, top hits, etc.). As image-makers and role models they pushed boundaries in lifestyle and business, affecting customers behavior and consumption beyond the entertainment industry by turning all life into entertainment. A brilliant blend of music and lyrics in their songs made influence on many minds by carrying messages like: give peace a chance and people working it out. A message more powerful than political control, it broke through second and third world censorship and regulations and set many millions free.
The Beatles made impact on human history, because their influence has been liberating for generations of nowhere men living in misery beyond the Iron Curtain. Something in their songs and images appealed to everybody who wanted to become free as a bird. Their songs carrying powerful ideas of real love, peace, help, and imagination evoked creativity that outperformed the rusty Soviet propaganda and contributed to breaking chains and walls in the minds of millions. The Beatles expressed themselves in beautiful and liberating words of love, happiness, freedom, and revolution, and carried those messages to people across the universe. Their songs and images helped many freedom-loving people to come together for revolutions in Prague and Warsaw, Beijing and Bucharest, Berlin and Moscow. The Beatles has been an inspiration for those who take the long and winding road to freedom.
Even after the Beatles had gone, the individual members continued to spread their message; from the concert for Bangladesh by George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1971, to 2003 “Back in USSR” concert by Paul McCartney on the Red Square in Moscow, and his 2004 show near the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg where the Communist Revolution took place, just imagine.
In 2005 the Entertainment magazine poll named the Beatles the most iconic entertainers of the 20th Century. In July of 2006, the guitar on which Paul McCartney played his first chords and impressed John Lennon, was sold at an auction for over $600,000.