The World’s Most Lovable band: The Beatles!

Staff Writer: Hannah Johnson

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John LennonPaul McCartneyGeorge Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became regarded as the foremost and most influential band in history. Rooted in skifflebeat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to pop music‘s evolution into an art form and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s

They often incorporated classical elements, older pop forms and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and later experimented with several musical styles ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As the members continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they were an embodiment of the era’s sociocultural movements.

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The Beatles in their earlier years. Young men who years before, had no idea how huge they would become.

Led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe initially serving as bass player. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein molded them into a professional act, and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding the group’s homeland success after their first hit, “Love Me Do“, in late 1962. As their popularity grew into the intense fan frenzy dubbed “Beatlemania“, they acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”, with Epstein, Martin, and other members of the band’s entourage sometimes given the informal title of “fifth Beatle“. “The Beatles are quite literally the world’s most famous band for a reason. The lyrics they wrote were so ahead of their time.”- Josh Stanford, sophomore at Kennesaw State University. 

By early 1964, the Beatles were international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market and breaking numerous sales records. They soon made their motion picture debut with the mock-documentary A Hard Day’s Night (1964). From 1965 onwards, they produced increasingly innovative recordings, including the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”, 1968) and Abbey Road (1969). In 1968, they founded Apple Corps, a multi-armed multimedia corporation that remains active. After disbanding in 1970, the four members each enjoyed success as solo artists. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active. 

The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 800 million records worldwide. They are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually from 1994 to 2015. They have also had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful artistsas of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. They were also collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people. 

In March 1957, John Lennon, then aged sixteen, formed a skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that a respected local group was already using the other name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined them as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the band. The fifteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young for the band. After a month of Harrison’s persistence, during a second meeting , he performed the lead guitar part of the instrumental song “Raunchy” on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, and they enlisted him as their lead guitarist. “The Beatles are the type of band that young, wannabe hippie teenagers listen to, so they seem ‘cool’. I find them so overrated and tacky,”- Joey Scott, Junior at Kennesaw State University.

By January 1959, Lennon’s Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began his studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a drummer. Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had just sold one of his paintings and was persuaded to purchase a bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band’s name to Beatles, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used this name until May, when they became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they had refashioned themselves as the Silver Beatles, and by the middle of August shortened the name to The Beatles.

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The Beatles posing for a photoshoot for Stg. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club

Allan Williams, the Beatles’ unofficial manager, arranged a residency for them in Hamburg, but lacking a full-time drummer they auditioned and hired Pete Best in mid-August 1960. The band, now a five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be a 3 and- a- half-month residency. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn writes: “They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on 17 August, the time when the red-light area comes to life … flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unabashed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities.” “I have always loved the Beatles. My grandpa gave me one of their records when I was 14 and it changed my life.”- Joanna Woods, mother of two and classic rock lover.

Koschmider had converted a couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, and he initially placed the Beatles at the Indra Club. After closing Indra due to noise complaints, he moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned they had been performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of their contract, he gave the band one month’s termination notice, and reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. The authorities arranged for Harrison’s deportation in late November. One week later, Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after they set fire to a condom in a concrete corridor; the authorities deported them. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg until late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles. 

During the next two years, the Beatles were resident for periods in Hamburg, where they used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. In 1961, during their second Hamburg engagement, Kirchherr cut Sutcliffe’s hair in the “exi” (existentialist) style, later adopted by the other Beatles. When Sutcliffe decided to leave the band early that year and resume his art studies in Germany, McCartney took up the bass. Producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now a four-piece group until June 1962, and he used them as Tony Sheridan’s backing band on a series of recordings for Polydor Records. As part of the sessions, the Beatles were signed to Polydor for one year. Credited to “Tony Sheridan & the Beat Brothers”, the single “My Bonnie”, recorded in June 1961 and released four months later, reached number 32 on the Musikmarkt chart.

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The boys posing for a playful picture out on the streets. Dressed nice for the night that awaits them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Beatles completed their second Hamburg residency, they enjoyed increasing popularity in Liverpool with the growing Mersey-beat-movement. However, they were also growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November 1961, during one of the group’s frequent performances at The Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record-store owner and music columnist. He later recalled: “I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence … a star quality.”

*All photos derived from Creative Commons*

 

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