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No. 12, December 2000
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Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

The Beatles
biographies, CDs, songs, books, sheet music
For sheet music by The Beatles click here


The Beatles: One. Their 27 #1 hits. November 2000, Apple Bea/EMI. Get it from:
- Amazon.com,
- Amazon.co.uk,
- Amazon.de
- Amazon.fr
- Directmedia Schweiz
 
 
The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, Hardcover, 368 p., October 2000. Get the book from:
- Amazon.com
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.de
- Amazon.fr.
This is an illustrated book for fans, with a lot of photographs.
 

Ian MacDonald: Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. Henry Holt, paperback reprint edition, 1995. [March 18, 2001: not found with Amazon.com anymore].
German edition: Ian MacDonald:
The Beatles. Das Song-Lexikon.
Gebunden, Bärenreiter, 2000, 528 S. Bestellen bei Amazon.de.
 
The Beatles: The White Album. 1987 (1968). 2 CDs. Emd/Capitol. Get it from:
- Amazon.com
- Amazon.co.uk
- Directmedia Schweiz
 

The Beatles: The Red Album. 1962-1966. 2 CDs. Emd/Capitol,
Parlophone/EMI, 1993 (1973). Get it from:
- Amazon.com
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.de 
- Amazon.fr.
 

The Beatles: The Blue Album. 1967-1970. 2 CDs. Emd/Capitol,
Parlophone/EMI, 1993 (1973). Get it from:
- Amazon.com 
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.fr 
- Amazon.de.
 

The Beatles Anthology 1. 2 CDs, Emd/Capitol, 1995.
Get it from
- Amazon.com
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.fr 
- Amazon.de
- Directmedia Schweiz
 

The Beatles Anthology 2. 2 CDs, 1996, Emd/Capitol. Get it from:
- Amazon.com 
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.fr 
- Amazon.de
- Directmedia Schweiz
 

The Beatles Anthology 3
. 2 CDs, 1996, Emd/Capitol. Get it from:
- Amazon.com 
- Amazon.co.uk 
- Amazon.fr 
- Amazon.de
- Directmedia Schweiz
 
Hal Leonard, editor: The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook Paperback, June 2000, Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

 

 
Ian MacDonald: Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties.
Henry Holt, paperback reprint edition. 1995. German edition: Gebundene Ausgabe, Bärenreiter, 2000, 528 S. Bestellen bei Amazon.de. The following article is based on the German version of MacDonald's book.
 
As far as I know, Ian MacDonald has written the most substantial book on the Beatles. In the first 60 pages, he gives background information on the 1960s in general. In the second part, he analyses all 241 songs ever recorded by the Fab Four. On some compositions, he has written more than five pages; in total over 340 pages. In the third part, MacDonald offers a fourfold chronology of what the Beatles did, what happened in pop music in general, what the political and economic events of a specific month were and what happened in culture in general. These almost 100 pages open up a completely different, comparative perspective. A bibliography, a discography, an index and other useful information follow in the last part.
 
The first recording analyzed by MacDonald is My Bonnie (22 June 1961), a traditional arranged by Sheridan. The first notable hit was Love Me Do. (June 6 as well as September 4 and 11, 1962). Love Me Do is one of the first songs written by Paul McCartney. He had the idea one day in 1958, at the age of 16, when he skipped lessons at the Liverpool Institute. He showed the song to his friend John Lennon who, probably, added the middle part of the tune. In December 1962, Love Me Do reached #17 in the UK charts. Although quite simple compared to the Beatles' later songs, Love Me Do brought fresh air to the British pop scene and marked the beginning of a new generation's rise.
 
Twist And Shout, recorded in February and released in March 1963, was the cover version of a hit by the American family band, The Isley Brothers, from 1962. It is a shouting number of a rare intensity, unseen before in British pop history. She Loves You, recorded in July of the same year and released in August, was written by Lennon-McCartney in a hotel room in Newcastle after a concert at the Majestic Ballroom on June 26. Paul's original idea was to sing it in the third person instead of the usual first or second. In the UK, it remains their best sold single. According to MacDonald, She Loves You already shows the complete success formula of the collaboration between the Beatles' two main songwriters: it is a mix of Lennon's pessimistic cynicism and McCartney's casual optimism. Their uniqueness is a result of their joy of experimentation. Their trial-and-error method and their lack of academic knowledge let them explore new musical possibilities. She Loves You was a highlight in their career.
 
On October 13, 1963, the Beatles had a successful appearance on the television show Sunday Night At The London Palladium. In the UK, children and parents immediately accepted them, whereas the United States remained immune. Capitol records still refused to release their songs. Only after Jack Paar had shown a clip of the BBC documentary The Mersey Sound in his show in January 1964, did the Beatlemania also sweep through America. On March 21, 1964, I Want To Hold Your Hand reached #1. Two weeks later, it was displaced by Can't Buy Me Love. I Want To Hold Your Hand was the first song which the Beatles recorded with the stereo technique at the Abbey Road studios. It was still primitive, compared what the Americans were able to do in their studios, hence the original reluctance of US radios to play the Beatles. It took them a while to realize the originality, energy, sense of construction and the humor in their songs, probably also due to the historic US-British rivalry.
 
In contrast to the Rolling Stones, who always talked about sex, the Beatles had a neat image. It was partly the result of Brian Epstein's image campaign. The manager was interested in having a widely accepted pop group. According to Ian MacDonald, the rebellious John Lennon was very dissatisfied with that. The Beatles used simple lyrics because they were more interested in making them fit into the sound than in expressing views. In this regard, I Want To Hold Your Hand went back to the innocent rock 'n' roll of the 1950s, but with a higher intensity. The Beatles were far away from the American protest movement and their ideas of pop song messages to humanity. The British hate exaggerated earnestness. In Liverpool, a sarcastic view is natural. People who do not understand this irony may misread some Beatles songs as sentimental. These are just a few comments taken from Ian MacDonald's useful book.

 
Biographies, biography
 
The Beatles: Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) was born in Liverpool on 7 July 1940. Drums and vocals. John Lennon was born in Liverpool on 9 October 1940. He was shot dead in New York on 8 December 1980. Rhythm guitar, keyboards, harmonica, vocals. Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool on 18 June 1942. Bass guitar, keyboards, lead guitar, drums, vocals. George Harrison was born in Liverpool on 25 February 1943. Lead guitar, sitar, keyboards, vocals.
 
The Beatles evolved from an amateur teenage skiffle group, the Quarry Men, formed by Lennon in 1956 and named after his school, Quarry Bank High. McCartney joined the Quarry Men in July 1957, Harrison in March 1958. The only artefacts left of the Quarry Men period is a cover version of Buddy Hollys That'll Be The Day and a McCartney-Harrison composition, In Spite of All The Danger, both available on the double-CD Anthology 1 (see links to CDs on the left). Other early group names were The Beatals (March 1960) and The Silver Beatles (May 1960).
 
In August 1960, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison - together with Stuart Sutcliffe (born in Edinburgh on 23 June 1940; died in Hamburg on 10 April 1962), bass guitar, and Pete Best (born in Madras on 24 Nov 1941), drums – became the Beatles. Between then and November 1962 the group played many gigs in and around Liverpool, and also, with decisive effect on their development as performers, four extended residencies at various clubs in Hamburg's red-light district Reeperbahn. Sutcliffe, a talented painter, left in December 1961, being replaced on bass by McCartney, who, until then, had played guitar and piano. According to MacDonald, the Beatles were influenced by rock 'n' roll and black music, by Doo-wop and Tamla-Motown records, especially by William "Smokey" Robinson (although, in my opinion, they completely lack the soul feeling).
 
In November 1961, a Liverpool music shop owner, Brian Epstein (born in Liverpool in 1934; died in London on 17 August 1967), heard the Beatles at the Cavern, a local "beat" club where they played most of their pre-1963 British gigs. Becoming their manager, Epstein secured the group a recording contract in June 1962 with Parlophone, a subsidiary of the EMI label run by the producer George Martin. The rawness of the Beatles’ performing talent, which six months earlier had made Decca reject them, appealed to Martin, although he was then doubtful of their song-writing. Replacing Best with Starr on drums, he encouraged Lennon and McCartney, the group’s chief composers, to write with more concentration, pointing out to them simple structural devices such as commencing with the chorus (the main selling-point of most pop songs). Their second release, Please Please Me, rose to number one in the British singles chart and their commercial success thereafter was continuous. The group’s tours of Britain in 1963 created an unprecedented excitement, known as "Beatlemania", which was reproduced in the USA when, on 9 February 1964, they appeared on national television singing their fifth single I Want To Hold Your Hand to an estimated audience of 70 million, an event unanimously identified by social commentators as a turning-point in postwar American culture. In the months after this breakthrough, the Beatles dominated the American singles charts, at one stage occupying the top five positions, a feat unheard of before and since.
 
Two feature films, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965), followed. However, by the end of 1965, the influence of Bob Dylan and the accelerating popularity among pop musicians of marijuana made the international pop scene to advance from the straightforward energy and good humor of "beat music" towards a greater formal and emotional complexity. Aware that they needed to regenerate themselves stylistically, the Beatles toyed uncertainly with "comedy songs" and idiosyncratic variations on soul music in their transitional album Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965). Only in early 1966, with the appearance of the counterculture and its associated drug the powerful hallucinogen LSD, did they identify with a new type of pop music created by exploiting the techniques of the recording studio. The result was their imaginative exploration of consciousness and childhood memories in albums like Revolver (Parlophone, 1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone, 1967). Together with the later releases Magical Mystery Tour (Parlophone, 1967), The Beatles (Apple, 1968) and Abbey Road (Apple, 1969), they build the Beatles’ legacy.
 
After Epstein’s death from an overdose of tranquilizers in August 1967, the group gradually lost direction and the underlying conflicts between its otherwise intensely cohesive members soured. They managed to record some 80 more tracks. These were increasingly individual efforts, written and sometimes even recorded solo. During this period Harrison emerged alongside Lennon and McCartney as a writer of worthy songs, one of which, Something (Apple, 1969) became the Beatles’ second most recorded number after McCartney's Yesterday (Parlophone, 1965). Divisiveness, caused largely by the process of growing up and getting married, eventually broke the group. The process is visible in their final film Let It Be (1970). After the album Abbey Road, the Beatles split up.
 
None of the Beatles could read music. They even refused to learn. Therefore, arrangements beyond the basic four-piece were supplied by George Martin, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music. He has successfully refuted the suggestion that he was the real creative genius behind the Beatles. He worked only according to their original designs and to their specific requests, even to details of arrangements which they sang to him and which he often transcribed on the spot in the studio. Martin was important to the Beatles in suggesting improvements in the form of their early songs  (improvements they quickly came to incorporate independently into their writing) and later in guiding them in the selection of instrumental and electronic textures hitherto unused in pop music. Together with his innovative engineer Geoff Emerick, Martin endeavoured to give the Beatles a productive base within the primitive and often exasperating restrictions of the studio technology of the time. The Beatles integrated notes into their songs from newspapers and from the radio, which they happened to read and listen to and which fitted into their compositions. The randomness played a vital part in their music.
 
John Lennon was born in 1940 in Liverpool as the son of the ship steward Alfred Lennon. At the age of six, he sang in the church choir of St. Peter's in Woolton. He first went to Doverdale Primary School and changed in 1952 to the Quarry Bank Grammar School. Abandoned as a child by his father and then his mother, he began playing the guitar in his teens. His first group, the Quarry Men, co-opted another local boy, Paul McCartney whom John had met at a church party in 1956. The group developed into the Beatles and became the most successful pop act of all time, selling far more than one billion records. In 1962, Lennon married his teenage sweetheart Cynthia Powell.
 
Lennon launched his solo career even before the Beatles’ dissolution in 1970. He met his future wife, the Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, in 1966, at the height of the group's success. He left his wife. The Lennon/Ono-couple made experimental recordings such as Two Virgins (Apple, 1968). By 1969 Lennon had an ad hoc group of his own, the Plastic Ono Band, whose singles included the anti-war song Give Peace a Chance (US#10, UK#2, Germany#4) and Cold Turkey, a harrowing depiction of his fight with heroin addiction (both Apple, 1969). A series of media stunts, most notably the "bed-in for peace", confirmed his taste for high-profile protest, yet his music was often stark and characterized by self-lacerating introspection. Power To The People was a bestseller in March 1971 (US#8, UK#7, Germany#7). His second album of post-Beatles songs of the same year, Imagine (US#1, UK#1, Germany#10), revisited the blues influenced rock and roll of his youth, but is best known for the melodic craftsmanship of its idealistic title track, also a number one in the US and the UK.
 
Lennon moved to New York in 1971 where he dedicated himself to a curious mix of left-wing activism, mystical passivity and Fifties nostalgia. In 1973, a short separation from Yoko Ono inspired his album Walls & Bridges (1974; US#1, UK#5, Germany#41). Lennon had drug problems in several times in his life and, therefore, faced legal action. In 1974, the American Justice Department tried to extradite him for drug abuse, but he successful fought that decision, reconciled himself with Yoko Ono and moved back to the Dakota House by New York's Central Park. Lennon spent the next five years as a "houseman". Recorded in total secret, his 1980-album Double Fantasy (US#1, UK#1, Germany#2) marked his return to public life. Its single (Just Like) Starting Over (US#1, UK#1, Germany#4) was a bestseller too. The sensational comeback was curtailed by his assassination outside his home in New York City. In 1981, after his death, John Lennon had four singles in the international charts: Woman (US#2, UK#2, Germany#4) and Watching The Wheels from Double Fantasy as well as the re-released Happy Xmas (UK#3) and Imagine (UK#1, Germany#7).
 
Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool in 1940 as the son of a working-class family. At the age of fourteen, he got his first guitar. He was an autodidact who could not read music. Together with John Lennon, he was the key figure of the Beatles. In 1969, he married the American photographer Linda Eastman. His first major assignment away from the Beatles was the music for the film The Family Way (Decca, 1966). His solo album McCartney in 1970 (US#1, UK#2, Germany#15) marked the Beatles' demise. The album Ram reached US#2, UK#1, Germany#22. Together with wife Linda, he made naive sounds. As his music turned cosily domestic, the critics' response was devastating. The Ram-single Another Day (US#5, UK#1, Germany#6) was another success.
 
In 1971, Paul formed a new band, Wings. The amateurish Wild Life and group's albums Band on the Run (Apple, 1973) and Venus and Mars (Capitol, 1975) were commercial achievements. He had some drug problems, but also other successes, e.g. with the James Bond theme Live And Let Die (US#1, UK#7, Germany#31). In 1977, the Arcadian single Mull of Kintyre (US#1, UK#1, Germany#33) sold millions of copies in Britain alone, beating the sales record established by the Beatles song She Loves You. The album London Town, released in 1978, was another success (US#2, UK#4, Germany#6). In 1980, the album McCartney II reached US#3, UK#1, Germany#19. Four times a father, he was arrested in Tokyo for marijuana possession, but, due to his fame, he only had to leave the country.
 
In 1982 followed his duet with Stevie Wonder, Ebony And Ivory (US#1, UK#1, Germany#1). Paul's most artistically successful albums were Tug of War (1982; US#1, UK#1, Germany#1), on which he again worked with the Beatles' producer George Martin, and Flowers in the Dirt (1989; US#21, UK#1, Germany#9), co-written by Elvis Costello. The duet single Say Say Say with Michael Jackson was another bestseller (US#1, UK#2, Germany#12). In the post-Beatle period, McCartney also wrote classical music such as the Liverpool Oratorio (1991) and the symphonic poem Standing Stone (1997). Paul McCartney was knighted in 1997.
 
George Harrison was born in Liverpool in 1943 as the son of a bus driver. At the age of 13, he got his first guitar. A year later, at the Liverpool Institute, he met Paul McCartney who introduced him to John Lennon in 1958. Lennon was so pleased by George's respectless playing that he made him a part of the Quarry Men. With the beginning of the Beatlemania around 1963, Harrison was somewhat relegated to the second grade in the group behind Lennon and McCartney. Don't Bother Me in 1963 was the first song George composed for the Beatles. Others were I Need You, You Like Me Too Much, Something, Here Comes The Sun and Within You, Without You.
 
In the middle of the sixties, Harrison became a follower of guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, discovered Asian philosophies, Buddhism, yoga and the the Indian instrument, sitar, for himself. At the end of 1967, Harrison began to work on the concept album Wonderwall Music (US#33, UK#22), one part recorded with Indian tabla and sitar players from Bombay, the other part recorded with Tony Ashton (key) and Roy Dyke (dr) in London. The film, with Jane Birkin in the leading role, was no success. In 1969, the album Electronic Sound encountered even less enthusiasm. After the Beatles demise, Harrison had great successes with the triple-album All Things Must Pass (#1, UK#1, Germany#10) as well as with the hit single My Sweet Lord (US#1, UK#1, Germany#1). In 1969/70, Harrison had also two songs written for the Radha Krishna Temple choir in the British charts, Hare Krishna Mantra (UK#11) and Govinda (UK#25). In the summer of 1971, Harrison's friend Ravi Shankar informed him about the misery in his country and George immediately wrote the single Bangla Desh (US#13, UK#10, Germany#23). He also organized a concert at New York's Madison Square Garden with stars such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar and Ringo Starr. The Concert for Bangla Desh, recorded in front of 40,000 people, reached #1 in the US charts.
 
In the summer of 1973, after having played as a studio musician for the Plastic Ono Band and other groups in the meantime, George Harrison returned with the hit Give Me Love (US#1, UK#8, Germany#28) and the album Living In The Material World (US#1, UK#3, Germany#20). He also worked as a film producer. Little Malcolm won prizes at several film festivals. In 1974, George created his own label, Dark Horse. The first album, Dark Horse, was a public success in the United States where he presented it on tour (US#4, Germany#45). The media however were more interested in Harrison's matrimonial problems. His wife, Patricia Anne Boyd, with whom he had been married since 1966, left him for Eric Clapton.
 
In 1976, George's album Thirty Three reached the charts (US #14, UK #25) as well as its singles This Song (US#33) and Crackerbox Palace (US#26). Two years later, Harrison released the album Faster (US#16), inspired by Formula One driver Nicki Lauda's almost fatal accident. Harrison's film company produced Monty Phyton's The Life of Brian. In 1980, George released his autobiography, I, Me Mine, in a limited edition of 200 copies for £145.- each. The 1981-album Somewhere in England (US#11, UK#13, Germany#36) contained a tribute to the assassinated John Lennon, All Those Years Ago (US#2, UK#9, Germany#44).
 
The critics still did not like his post-Beatles music. Somewhat disillusioned by the music business, Harrison produced the cult movie Water with his film company Handmade. Other films by Handmade include Time Bandits and Mona Lisa. George also produced Shanghai Surprise, the film with Madonna and her then husband Sean Penn in the leading roles.
 
In 1987, Harrison worked on his first studio album for five years, Cloud Nine (US#8, UK#8, Germany#15). It included the Rudy Clark composition Got My Mind Set On You (US#1, UK#2, Germany#7). A year later, George created the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. The "supergroups" single Handle With Care (US#3, UK#16, Germany#10) was a success, but the group was hit hard by Roy Orbison's death on December 6. The group continued in 1990, without a replacement for Orbison. Together with Lynne and Petty, George Harrison had received a Grammy in March 1989 for the Traveling Wilburys.
 
Ringo Starr was born in a working-class district of Liverpool in 1940 as Richard Starkey. His nickname "Ringo" was a result of his passion for very visible rings. His grandfather gave him his first drums. As a teenager, Ringo was part of several skiffle groups. In 1958, he turned professional as a member of Rory Storm's the Hurricanes. Starr remained with Storm, who had the unrealistic ambition of becoming the English Elvis, for four years. In August 1962, Brian Epstein sacked Pete Best and engaged Ringo Starr in his place on drums for the Beatles, just before the band was about to take off. In 1965, he married the hairdresser Maureen Cox. The same year, his son Zak was born. Starr was the entertainer within the Beatles. He did not try to have an impact on the Lennon/McCartney dispute over musical matters and was no creative part of the Beatles.
 
In 1970, Ringo Starr played a dumb, Mexican gardener in the French-Italian movie Candy. The same year, he convinced in The Magic Christian as the adoptive son of the world's richest man, played by Peter Sellers. Starr also released his album Sentimental Journey (US#20, UK#15), a nostalgic trip through 1940s music. The October 1970-album Beaucoups of Blues (US#38) was a curious mix of Country & Western and pop music. Among his successes were the singles It Don't Come Easy (US#1, UK#5, Germany#5) and Back of Boogaloo (US#8, UK#2, Germany#12). The album Ringo, released in 1973, reached US#1, UK#6, Germany#28. It was recorded with Dr. John, Elton John and members of the Band. The album's singles did well too: Photograph (US#1, UK#4, Germany#5) and You're Sixteen (US#1, UK#4, Germany#19). His simple, uncomplicated and cheerful sound produced more hits in the United States in 1974/75: Oh My My (US#5, Germany#34) and No No Song (US#3). In Autumn 1975, Starr founded his own label, Rong 'O Records. He played in the studio for his friend Keith Moon of the Who, Manhattan Transfer and others, but he had no more solo successes. In 1981, he married the actress Barbara Bach, whom he had met on the set of the film Caveman. He had parts in several movies, television films and documentaries. His All Star Band, created in 1990, was a failure.
 
This article is based on Grove Online, the German version of Ian MacDonald's The Beatles Song-Lexikon and the German Rockmusik Lexikon by Graf and Rausch.
 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 12, December 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.