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Beatles Biography

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.The impact of the Beatles upon popular music cannot be overstated; they revolutionized the music industry and touched the lives of all whoheard them in deep and fundamental ways. Landing on these shores on February 7, 1964, they literally stood the world of pop culture on its head, setting the musical agenda for the remainder of the decade. The Beatles' buoyant melodies, playful personalities and mop-topped charisma were just the tonic needed by a nation left reeling by the senseless assassination of its young president, John F. Kennedy, barely two months earlier. Even adults typically given to scorning rock and roll as worthless 'kid's stuff' were forced to concede that there was substance in their music and quick-witted cleverness in their repartee. Without exaggeration, they transfixed and transformed the world as we knew it, ushering in a demographic shift in which youth culture assertively took over from its stodgy Eisenhower-era forbears.

The long journey resulting in the mob scene that greeted the Beatles' arrival at Kennedy Airport began in Liverpool back in 1958. A series of groups, including the Quarrymen and the Johnny and the Moondogs, variously included Liverpool natives John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. With a rhythm section consisting of bassist Stu Sutcliffe (an art student with great looks and scant musical ability) and drummer Pete Best, the group assumed the name 'the Beatles.' The group became a fixture on the rough-and-tumble bar scene in Hamburg, Germany, where their five-set-a-night marathons helped mold them into a tight performing unit. Their early repertoire consisted of well-chosen rock and roll and rhythm & blues covers, running the gamut from Chuck Berry to Little Richard. In April 1961, Sutcliffe left and McCartney switched from guitar to bass. On the local scene in their hometown of Liverpool, the group landed a lunchtime residency at a club called the Cavern, where they were discovered by a local record merchant and entrepreneur, Brian Epstein, who became their manager in December 1961.

Epstein helped polish the group's appearance, dressing them in dapper collarless gray suits and making them appear more friendly than menacing. After being rejected by Decca Records following a January 1962 audition, the Beatles signed with EMI-Parlophone that April, having impressed producer George Martin. In August, Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), who'd been drumming with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, was brought into replace Pete Best. The group's first single, 'Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You,' briefly dented the U.K. Top Twenty in October 1962, but their next 45, 'Please Please Me,' formally ignited Beatlemania in their homeland, reaching the Number Two spot. It was followed by four consecutive chart-topping British singles, issued throughout 1963: 'From Me to You,' 'She Loves You,' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' 'Can't Buy Me Love.' They conquered the U.K., even inducing a classical music critic from the London Sunday Times to declare them 'the greatest composers since Beethoven.' The group's success was based around the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership, Harrison's guitar-playing prowess, and Starr's amiable disposition and artful simplicity as a drummer.

The Beatles' conquest of America early in 1964 launched the British Invasion, as a torrent of rock and roll bands from Britain overtook the pop charts. The Fab Four's first Number One single in the U.S. was 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' released on Capitol Records, EMI's American counterpart. This exuberant track was followed by 45 more Top Forty hits over the next half-dozen years. During the week of April 4, 1964, the Beatles set a record that is likely never to be broken when they occupied all five of the top positions on Billboard's Top Pop Singles chart, with 'Can't Buy Me Love' ensconced at Number One. Their popularity soared still further with the release of their playfully anarchic documentary film, A Hard Day's Night, in August 1964.

When all was said and done, the Beatles charted 20 Number One singles in the States - a number even greater than runner-up Elvis Presley's 17 chart-toppers. For such feats of sales and airplay alone, the Beatles can unassailably be regarded as the top group in rock and roll history. Yet their significance as a band extends beyond numbers to encompass their innovations in the recording studio. The Beatles' legacy as a concert attraction, during their harried passage from nightclubs to baseball stadiums, is distinguished primarily by the deafening screams of female fans overcome by the group's very appearance. Consequently, the Beatles began to indulge their creative energies in the studio, layering sounds and crafting songs in a way no one had attempted before. The results included such musically expansive and lyrically sophisticated albums as Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966). For various reasons, ranging from safety concerns to frustration that no one could hear or was listening, the Beatles retired from touring after a San Francisco concert on August 29, 1966.

Ten months later, they released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that has almost universally been cited as the creative apotheosis of rock and roll, a watershed event in which rock became 'serious art' without losing its sense of humor (or sense of the absurd). Realizing the band members' collective ambitions took four months and all the technical wiles of producer George Martin. A completely self-contained album meant to be played and experienced from start to finish, Sgt. Pepper broke the mold in that no singles were released from it. The album's heady artistic reach further cemented the notion of a viable counterculture in the minds of youthful dropouts everywhere. Anyone who was alive in the summer of 1967 can remember the pleasant shock of hearing it and the reverberations it sent outward into the world of rock and roll and beyond.

In the wake of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles began to splinter in ways that were, at first, subtle but that gradually grew more pronounced. Subsequent events included the death of manager Epstein due to an overdose of sleeping pills; the release of the TV film Magical Mystery Tour, which earned the Beatles some of their first negative reviews; a trip to India to meditate with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, about whom Lennon wrote the scabrous putdown 'Sexy Sadie'; and the launching in January 1968 of Apple Corps, Ltd., a disastrously mismanaged entertainment empire that helped bring down the Beatles amid a tangled maze of money matters.

Through all the chaotic events of the late Sixties, the Beatles managed to retain their integrity and focus as recording artists. Released in August 1968, the single 'Hey Jude'/'Revolution' became their most popular single. The Beatles (1968), a double-LP popularly referred to as 'the White Album,' was like a prism that found the group refracting into four individual and highly estimable talents. The album and film Let It Be, recorded in 1969 but shelved until 1970, essentially documented the Beatles' dissolution and breakup amid internal squabbles and the presence of John Lennon's new mate, Yoko Ono. Yet the Beatles came together and exited on a high note, uniting in the summer of 1969 to record their swan song, Abbey Road.

On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced his departure from the Beatles, and the group quietly came to an end. Throughout the Seventies, fans hoped for an eventual reunion, while the group members pursued solo careers with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success. Those hopes were forever dashed by the murder of John Lennon in New York City on December 8, 1980.

Last Edited: 10/24/2004 10:50:56 AM

Items to buy by Beatles

  Featured Sheet Music by The Beatles

The Beatles: The Beatles - Complete Scores Performed by The Beatles. For voice(s), guitar(s), bass guitar, drum set and keyboard. Format: full score. With vocal melody, lyrics, standard guitar notation, guitar tablature, standard bass notation, bass tablature, chord names and drum notation. Classic rock, pop rock and psychedelic rock. Popular boxed gift set. Includes complete transcriptions of all instrumental and vocal parts. Series: Hal Leonard Transcribed Scores. 1136 pages. 7.25x10.88 inches. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.673228)
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The Beatles: The Beatles Complete Performed by The Beatles. For guitar and voice. Format: easy guitar tablature songbook. With easy guitar notation, vocal melody, lyrics and guitar chord diagrams. Classic rock, britpop and psychedelic rock. 304 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.696082)
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The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook Performed by The Beatles. Piano/Vocal/Chords (Arrangements for piano and voice with guitar chords). Size 6.75x9.75 inches. 400 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (306349)
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Beatles Easy Classics Performed by The Beatles. Easy Piano. Size 9x12 inches. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (364114)
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Beatles Easy Hits Performed by The Beatles. Easy Piano. Size 9x12 inches. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (364116)
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Best of The Beatles for Acoustic Guitar Performed by The Beatles. By Wolf Marshall. Signature Licks (Authentic guitar transcriptions in notes and tab). Book and CD package. With notes and tablature. Size 9x12 inches. 80 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (695453)
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The Beatles (The White Album) - Book 2 Performed by The Beatles. Guitar Recorded Versions (Authentic note-for-note transcriptions). With notes and tablature. Size 9x12 inches. 80 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (690111)
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