In March 1957, John Lennon formed a skiffle group, The Blackjacks, who later became The Quarrymen. That year, Lennon met Paul McCartney while playing at the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete, and shortly afterwards, Lennon
invited McCartney to join his fledgling group. The lineup that McCartney joined featured Lennon, Eric Griffiths on guitar,
Len Garry on "tea-chest" bass, Pete Shotton on "washboard" and Colin Hanton on drums. In February 1958 the young guitarist
George Harrison joined the group, which was then playing under a variety of names. Recordings of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison
from that year still exist. During this period, members continually joined and left the line up. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison
were the only constant members. Hanton left in 1959.
The first regular gigs for the group were at a club named The Casbah, created by Mona Best in the basement of her family's home. Best had noticed the number of young friends visiting her son, Pete, at the house and decided to turn part of the cellar into a private club, which eventually developed into a club for young
people with live groups. It was one of the first cellar clubs in Liverpool to present rock 'n' roll groups exclusively, as
opposed to the strict policy of jazz for venues such as The Cavern and the Cat A Coombs. The Cavern was one of the more well-known spots where the band performed during their independent years.
The Casbah Coffee Club opened in August 1959, and the resident group was The Quarrymen — John Lennon, Paul McCartney,
George Harrison and Ken Brown on drums, who would soon be cast off.
The Quarrymen went through a progression of names: Johnny and The Moondogs, The Silver Beetles, and eventually arriving
at The Beatles. The origin of the name "The Beatles" with its unusual spelling is usually credited to John Lennon, who said
in a piece written in the first issue of Mersey Beat,
"Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a
vision - a man appeared in a flaming pie and said unto them 'From this day on you are Beatles with an A'. 'Thank you, Mister Man,' they said, thanking him."
The group's name was a combination word-play on "Beetles" (vs. "Crickets" according to John Lennon the word "Silver" was
added to add glitter) and the word "beat" which in the late 1950s and early 1960s carried both musical connotations (the beat
of a song) and pop-cultural connotations (relating to the Beat generation). In 1960, their unofficial manager, Allan Williams, arranged for them to perform in clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany. In August 1960, McCartney invited Pete Best to become the group's drummer. In Hamburg (particularly at the infamous Kaiserkeller club) they honed their skills as performers and broadened their reputation. While in Hamburg, The Beatles were recruited
by singer Tony Sheridan to act as his backing band on a series of recordings for the German Polydor Records label, produced by famed bandleader Bert Kaempfert. Kaempfert signed the group to its own Polydor contract at the first session in June 1961. On 23 October, Polydor published
the song "My Bonnie (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur)", which made it into the German charts (#5, according to a Paul McCartney
interview). They were deported from Germany on one occasion in 1960, when their work permits had expired, and it was discovered
that Harrison was underage.
Upon their return from Hamburg, the group was enthusiastically promoted by Sam Leach, who presented them over the next year and a half on various stages in Liverpool 49 times, including the famed "Operation
Big Beat in 1961", at which 3000 people paid to see The Beatles perform along with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes, Gerry and The Pacemakers and others at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton.
Brian Epstein, manager of the record department at NEMS, his family's furniture store, took over as the group's manager in 1962 and intensified
The Beatles' quest for a British recording contract. After one last session for Polydor in May 1962, Epstein and Kaempfert
jointly agreed to cancel the group's contract with the German label. On 6 June, after being rejected by almost every other
record company in the UK, he brought the quartet to London's Abbey Road studios, having secured the interest of George Martin, principal producer with EMI's Parlophone label, then noted for its production of novelty records. After considerable thought Martin decided to grant The Beatles their
first UK recording contract. Pete Best was fired in favour of Ringo Starr. The reason given at the time was that, whilst Best looked the part, his drumming was poor. This did not convince his army
of fans back home in Liverpool.
The Beatles' first sessions in September 1962 produced a minor UK hit, "Love Me Do", which charted. ("Love Me Do" subsequently reached the top of the US singles chart in May 1964.) This was swiftly followed
by the recording of their second single Please Please Me. Three months later they recorded their first album (also
titled Please Please Me), a mix of original songs by Lennon and McCartney along with some covers. The band's first televised performance was
on a programme called People and Places transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.
Although the band experienced great popularity in the record charts in Britain from early 1963 onwards, Parlophone's American
counterpart, Capitol Records (which was owned by EMI), refused to issue the singles "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You" in the United States, partly because no British act had ever had a sustained impact on American audiences beyond one-off
Vee-Jay Records, a small Chicago label, is said by some to have been pressured into issuing these singles as part of a deal for the rights
to another performer's masters. Art Roberts, music director of Chicago powerhouse radio station WLS, placed "Please Please Me" into rotation in late February 1963, making it possibly the first time a Beatles' record was heard
on American radio. Other US stations played Beatles records sporadically, but to no real effect. Vee-Jay's rights to The Beatles
were cancelled for non-payment of royalities.
In August 1963 the Philadelphia-based Swan label tried again with The Beatles' "She Loves You", which also failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on his TV show American Bandstand resulted in laughter and scorn from American teenagers when they saw the group's unusual haircuts. Murray the K featured
"She Loves You" on his 1010 WINS record revue in October to an underwhelming response.
Following Brian Epstein's success in early November in persuading Ed Sullivan to commit to presenting The Beatles on three
editions of his show in February (even though the group had no American record label at the time of Sullivan's commitment),
Epstein parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. He by-passed Dave Dexter, the A&R executive
who had rejected the group four times by then, and dealt directly with Capitol president Alan Livingstone, who was impressed
by what Epstein had lined up. He committed to a mid-January release for "I Want To Hold Your Hand", with the expectation that by the date of The Beatles' first appearance on Sullivan (scheduled for February 9) the disc
might have reached the Hot Hundred and thus be boosted higher up the charts by the consecutive TV appearances. There was obviously
no expectation that a completely unknown foreign artist could climb to the number one position just three weeks after the
scheduled mid-January release.
The Beatles were scheduled for Ed Sullivan and Carnegie Hall, both in New York. Capitol convinced New York's WMCA, the top pop station in the US, to play "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on December 26, airing just before 1pm. WINS and WABC
soon followed and Beatlemania broke in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The disc was an immediate success on
New York radio, especially with school children who, because they were on Christmas break, heard the record more frequently
in daytime than they would otherwise have done. The record sold one million copies in just 10 days, and by January 16 Cashbox
Magazine had certified The Beatles record #1 (in the edition with the cover-date January 23).
The record had been number one for three weeks prior to The Beatles' arrival in America, leading to the hysterical fan
reaction at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964. The Beatlemania that had gripped the United States since late December was immeasurably
boosted with the three consecutive national television appearances by the group on The Ed Sullivan Show. A record-breaking 73 million viewers — approximately 40% of the US population at the time — tuned in to
the first Sullivan appearance on February 9. This remains one of the largest viewing audiences ever in the US. The band had
become a worldwide phenomenon, with worshipful fans and angry denunciations by cultural observers and established performers
such as , a Frank Sinatra, sometimes on grounds of the music (which was thought crude and unmusical) or their appearance (their
hair was considered 'scandalously long'). Despite the naysayers, during the week of April 4, 1964 The Beatles held the top
five places on the Billboard Hot 100feat that has never been repeated.
In mid-1964 the band undertook their first world tour, which included Australia and New Zealand. Just before the tour began,
Ringo was briefly hospitalised with a severe attack of pharyngitis, so drummer Jimmy Nicol was drafted in for several concerts on the Australian leg. When they arrived in Adelaide, The Beatles were greeted by what
is reputed to be the largest crowd of their touring career, when over 300,000 people — about one-third of the entire
population of the city at that time — turned out to see them.
In 1965 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon them the MBE, sparking some conservative MBE recipients to return
their awards in protest. On August 15 of that year, The Beatles performed at the first stadium concert in modern rock, playing
at Shea Stadium to a crowd of 56,000. Lennon, Harrison, and Starr began experimenting with LSD later that year. Lennon and Harrison were
given their first dose unknowingly at a dinner party when their host (a dentist) spiked their drinks, while Starr took his
first trip at a party with Peter Fonda and members of The Byrds. McCartney followed suit in November 1966.
In July 1966 an out-of-context comment caused a backlash against The Beatles from religious and social conservatives, when
in a serious interview Lennon offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that the group was "more popular than Jesus".
Many religious groups, including the Holy See, voiced strong objections, and Beatles records were banned and burned in cities
and towns across America and around the world. These events, along with threats from racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan,
eventually forced Lennon to apologise for his remarks several times, including at a Chicago press conference. Lennon tried
to point out that he was merely commenting on the Beatlemania phenomenon, not trying to literally equate the group to Jesus,
saying about his own comment that "It was wrong, or it was taken wrong."
The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans in Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. From
this time until the group dissolved in early 1970, The Beatles concentrated on recording music. The group's compositions and
musical experiments raised their artistic reputations while they retained their tremendous popularity. However, The Beatles'
financial situation took a turn for the worse when manager Brian Epstein died in 1967 at the age of thirty-two, and the band's affairs began to unravel. That same year, on 25th of June, The Beatles
became the first band ever globally transmitted on television, in front of over 200 million people worldwide. The event took
place at the Abbey Road Studios in London. Among the guests were Mick Jagger, Keith
Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton and Keith
Moon. At the end of 1967, they suffered their first major critical flop with the TV film Magical Mystery Tour.
In 1968, the group spent the early part of the year in Rishikesh, Uttar Pradesh, India studying transcendental meditation
with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Starr left India after a week, and Paul after a month. The trip as a whole ended in controversy
after three months when unsubstantiated claims that the Maharishi had attempted to seduce a female student at the camp led
to the departure of the two remaining Beatles. Upon their return, Lennon and McCartney took a trip to New York in order to
announce the formation of Apple Corps, an initially altruistic business venture which they described at the time as an attempt at "western communism". The latter
part of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album due
to its stark white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band for the first time. Their final live performance
was on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row, London in January 1969 during the difficult "Get Back" sessions (later used as a basis for the Let It Be album). Largely due to McCartney's efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road in the summer of 1969
With various solo projects on the horizon, the Beatles stumbled through
1970, their disunity betrayed to the world in the depressing film Let It Be, which shows Harrison and Lennon clearly unhappy
about McCartney's attitude towards the band. The subsequent album, finally pieced together by producer Phil Spector, was a
controversial and bitty affair, initially housed in a cardboard box containing a lavish paperback book, which increased the
retail price to a prohibitive level. Musically, the work revealed the Beatles looking back to better days. It included the
sparse "Two Of Us" and the primitive "The One After 909", a song they used to play as the Quarrymen, and an orchestrated "The
Long And Winding Road", which provided their final US number 1, although McCartney pointedly preferred the non-orchestrated
version in the film. There was also the aptly titled last official single, "Let It Be", which entered the UK charts at number
2, only to drop to number 3 the following week. For many it was the final, sad anti-climax before the inevitable, yet still
unexpected, split. The acrimonious dissolution of the Beatles, like that of no other group before or since, symbolized the
end of an era that they had dominated and helped to create.
amazing photographs charting
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|Includes the complete British|
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