Friday, 26 February 2010

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960 and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. From 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later worked in many genres ranging from folk rock to psychedelic pop, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. The nature of their enormous popularity, which first emerged as the "Beatlemania" fad, transformed as their songwriting grew in sophistication. The group came to be perceived as the embodiment of progressive ideals, seeing their influence extend into the social and cultural reolutions of the 1960s.
With an early five-piece line-up of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums), The Beatles built their reputation in Liverpool and Hamburg clubs over a three-year period from 1960. Sutcliffe left the group in 1961, and Best was replaced by Starr the following year. Moulded into a professional outfit by music store owner Brian Epstein after he offered to act as the group's manager, and with their musical potential enhanced by the hands-on creativity of producer George Martin, The Beatles achieved UK mainstream success in late 1962 with their first single, "Love Me Do". Gaining international popularity over the course of the next year, they toured extensively until 1966, then retreated to the recording studio until their breakup in 1970. Each then found success in an independent musical career. McCartney and Starr remain active; Lennon was shot and killed in 1980, and Harrison died of cancer in 2001.
During their studio years, The Beatles produced what critics consider some of their finest material, including the album Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), widely regarded as a masterpiece. Four decades after their breakup, The Beatles' music continues to be popular. The Beatles have had more number one albums on the UK charts, and held down the top spot longer, than any other musical act. According to RIAA certifications, they have sold more albums in the US than any other artist. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the all-time top-selling Hot 100 artists to celebrate the US singles chart's fiftieth anniversary, with The Beatles at number one. They have been honoured with 7 Grammy Awards, and they have received 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Song Writers
, Composers and authors. The Beatles were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most important and influential people.

Formation and early years (1957–1962)
Aged sixteen, singer and guitarist John Lennon formed the skiffle group The Quarrymen with some Liverpool schoolfriends in March 1957 Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as a guitarist after he and Lennon met that July. When McCartney in turn invited George Harrison to watch the group the following February, the fourteen-year-old joined as lead guitarist. By 1960, Lennon's schoolfriends had left the group, he had begun studies at the Liverpool College of Art and the three guitarists were playing rock and roll whenever they could get a drummer. Joining on bass in January, Lennon's fellow student Stuart Sutcliffe suggested changing the band name to "The Beetles" as a tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and they became "The Beatals" for the first few months of the year. After trying other names including "Johnny and the Moondogs", "Long John and The Beetles" and "The Silver Beatles", the band finally became "The Beatles" in August. The lack of a permanent drummer posed a problem when the group's unofficial manager, Allan Williams, arranged a resident band booking for them in Hamburg, Germany. Before the end of August they auditioned and hired drummer Pete Best, and the five-piece band left for Hamburg four days later, contracted to fairground showman Bruno Koschmider for a 48-night residency. "Hamburg in those days did not have rock'n'roll music clubs. It had strip clubs", says biographer Philip
Bruno had the idea of bringing in rock groups to play in various clubs. They had this formula. It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the time to catch the passing traffic. In an American red-light district, they would call it nonstop striptease.
Many of the bands that played in Hamburg were from Liverpool...It was an accident. Bruno went to London to look for bands. But he happened to meet a Liverpool entrepreneur in Soho, who was down in London by pure chance. And he arranged to send some bands over.
Harrison, only seventeen in August 1960, obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. Initially placing The Beatles at the Indra Club, Koschmider moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October after the Indra was closed down due to noise complaints. When they violated their contract by performing at the rival Top Ten Club, Koschmider reported the underage Harrison to the authorities, leading to his deportation in November. McCartney and Best were arrested for arson a week later when they set fire to a condom hung on a nail in their room; they too were deported. Lennon returned to Liverpool in mid-December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg with his new German fiancée, Astrid
Kirchherr, for another month. Kirchherr took the first professional photos of the group and cut Sutcliffe's hair in the German "exi" (existentialist) style of the time, a look later adopted by the other Beatles.
During the next two years, the group were resident for further periods in Hamburg. They used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. Sutcliffe decided to leave the band in early 1961 and resume his art studies in Germany, so McCartney took up bass. German producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now a four-piece to act as Tony Sheridan's backing band on a series of recordings. Credited to "Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers", the single "My Bonnie", recorded in June and released four months later, reached number 32 in the Musikmarkt chart. The Beatles were also becoming more popular back home in Liverpool. During one of the band's frequent appearances there at The Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record store owner and music columnist. When the band appointed Epstein manager in January 1962, Kaempfert agreed to release them from the German record contract. After Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein", producer George Martin signed the group to EMI label. News of a tragedy greeted them on their return to Hamburg in April. Meeting them at the airport, a stricken Kirchherr told them of Sutcliffe's death from a brain haemorrhage.

The band had its first recording session under Martin's direction at Abbey Road Studios in London in June 1962. Martin complained to Epstein about Best's drumming and suggested the band use a session drummer in the studio. Instead, Best was replaced by Ringo Starr. Starr, who left Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to join The Beatles, had already performed with them occasionally when Best was ill. Martin still hired session drummer Andy White for one session, and White played on "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You". Released in October, "Love Me Do" was a top twenty UK hit, peaking at number seventeen on the chart. After a November studio session that yielded what would be their second single, "Please Please Me", they made their TV debut with a live performance on the regional news programme People and Places.
The band concluded their last Hamburg stint in December 1962. By now it had become the pattern that all four members contributed vocals, although Starr's restricted range meant he sang lead only rarely. Lennon and McCartney had established a songwriting partnership; as the band's success grew, their celebrated collaboration limited Harrison's opportunities as lead vocalist. Epstein, sensing The Beatles' commercial potential, encouraged the group to adopt a professional attitude to performing. Lennon recalled the manager saying, "Look, if you really want to get in these bigger places, you're going to have to change—stop eating on stage, stop swearing, stop smoking." Lennon said, "We used to dress how we liked, on and off stage. He'd tell us that jeans were not particularly smart and could we possibly manage to wear proper trousers, but he didn't want us suddenly looking square. He'd let us have our own sense of individuality ... it was a choice of making it or still eating chicken on stage."

Abbey Road, Let It Be and breakup
Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, site of the Let It Be rooftop concert
Although Let It Be was the band's final album release, most of it was recorded before Abbey Road. Initially titled Get Back, Let It Be originated from an idea Martin attributes to McCartney: to prepare new material and "perform it before a live audience for the very first time—on record and on film. In other words make a live album of new material, which no one had ever done before." In the event, much of the album's content came from studio work, many hours of which were captured on film by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Martin said that rehearsals and recording for the project, which occupied much of January 1969, were "not at all a happy ... experience. It was a time when relations between the Beatles were at their lowest ebb."Aggravated by both McCartney and Lennon, Harrison walked out for a week. He returned with keyboardist Billy Preston, who participated in the last ten days of sessions and was credited on the "Get Back" single—the only other musician to receive such acknowledgment on an official Beatles recording. The band members had reached an impasse on a concert location, rejecting among several concepts a boat at sea, the Tunisian desert desert and the Colosseum. Ultimately, the final live performance by The Beatles, accompanied by Preston, was filmed on the rooftop of the Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, London, on 30 January 1969.Engineer Glyn Johns worked for months assembling various iterations of a Get Back album, while the band turned to other concerns. Conflict arose regarding the appointment of a financial adviser, the need for which had become evident without Epstein to manage business affairs. Lennon favoured Allen Klein, who had negotiated contracts for The Rolling Stones and other UK bands during the British Invasion. McCartney's choice was John Eastman, brother of Linda Eastman, whom McCartney married on 12 March (eight days before Lennon and Ono wed). Agreement could not be reached, so both were appointed, but further conflict ensued and financial opportunities were lostMartin was surprised when McCartney contacted him and asked him to produce another album, as the Get Back sessions had been "a miserable experience" and he had "thought it was the end of the road for all of us... they were becoming unpleasant people—to themselves as well as to other people." Recording sessions for Abbey Road began in late February. Lennon rejected Martin's proposed format of "a continuously moving piece of music", and wanted his own and McCartney's songs to occupy separate sides of the album. The eventual format, with individually composed songs on the first side and the second largely comprising a medley, was McCartney's suggested compromise On 4 July, while work on the album was in progress, the first solo single by a member of The Beatles appeared: Lennon's "Give Peace A
Chance", credited to the Plastic Ono band. The completion of the Abbey Road track "I Want You(She's So Heavy)"on 20 August was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio. Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on 20 September, but agreed that no public announcement would be made until a number of legal matters were resolved.
Released six days after Lennon's declaration, Abbey Road sold four million copies within two months and topped the UK chart for eleven weeks. Its second track, the ballad "Something", was also issued as a single—the first and only song by Harrison to appear as a Beatles A side. Abbey Road received mixed reviews, although the medley met with general acclaim. Allmusic considers it "a fitting swan song for the group" containing "some of the greatest harmonies to be heard on any rock record". MacDonald calls it "erratic and often hollow": "Had it not been for McCartney's input as designer of the Long Medley... Abbey Road would lack the semblance of unity and coherence that makes it appear better than it is." Martin singled it out as his personal favourite of all the band's albums; Lennon said it was "competent" but had "no life in it", calling "Maxwell's
Silver Hammer" "more of Paul's granny music". Recording engineer Geoff Emerick noted that the replacement of the studio's valve mixing console with a transistorised one produced a less punchy sound, leaving the group frustrated at the thinner tone and lack of impact.
For the still uncompleted Get Back album, the final new Beatles song, Harrison's "I Me Mine", was recorded on 3 January 1970. Lennon, in Denmark at the time, did not participate. To complete the album, now retitled Let It Be, in March Klein gave the Get Back session tapes to American producer Phil Spector. Known for his Wall Of Sound approach, Spector had recently produced Lennon's solo single "Instant Karma
!" In addition to remixing the Get Back material, Spector edited, spliced and overdubbed several of the recordings that had been intended as "live". McCartney was unhappy with Spector's treatment of the material and particularly dissatisfied with the producer's orchestration of "The Long Winding Road", which involved a choir and thirty-four-piece instrumental ensemble. He unsuccessfully attempted to halt the release of Spector's version. McCartney publicly announced his departure from the band on 10 April, a week before the release of his first, self-titled solo album. Pre-release copies of McCartney's record included a press statement with a self-written interview, explaining the end of his involvement with The Beatles and his hopes for the future.
On 8 May, the Spector-produced Let It Be was released. The accompanying single, "The Long and Winding Road", was the band's last; it was released in the United States, but not Britain. The Let It Be documentary film followed later in the month; at the Academy Award ceremony the next year, it would win the Oscar for Best Original Song Score. The Sunday Telegraph called it "a very bad film and a touching one ... about the breaking apart of this reassuring, geometrically perfect, once apparently ageless family of siblings." More than one reviewer commented that some of the Let It Be tracks sounded better in the film than on the album. Observing that Let It Be is the "only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews", Allmusic describes it as "on the whole underrated... McCartney in particular offers several gems: the gospel-ish 'Let It Be', which has some of his best lyrics; 'Get Back', one of his hardest rockers; and the melodic 'The Long and Winding Road', ruined by Spector's heavy-handed overdubs." McCartney filed a suit for the dissolution of The Beatles on 31 December 1970. Legal disputes continued long after the band's breakup, and the dissolution of the partnership did not take effect until 1975.

The Beatles' influence on popular culture was—and remains—immense. Former Rolling Stone associate editor Robert Greenfield said, "People are still looking at Picasso ... at artists who broke through the constraints of their time period to come up with something that was unique and original. In the form that they worked in, in the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive than The Beatles were." From the 1920s, the United States had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood movies, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis, Tennessee. Drawing on their rock and roll roots, The Beatles not only triggered the British Invasion of the US, but themselves became a globally influential phenomenon.
The Beatles' musical innovations, as well as their commercial success, inspired musicians worldwide. A large number of artists have acknowledged The Beatles as an influence or have had chart successes with covers of Beatle's songs. On radio, the arrival of The Beatles marked the beginning of a new era; program directors like RickSklar of New York's WABC went as far as forbidding DJs from playing any "pre-Beatles" music. The Beatles redefined the album as something more than just a few hits padded out with "filler". They were primary innovators of the music video The Shea Stadium date with which they opened their 1965 North American tour attracted what was then the largest audience in concert history and is seen as a "landmark event in the growth of the rock crowd." Emulation of their clothing and especially their hairstyles, which became a mark of rebellion, had a global impact on fashion.
More broadly, The Beatles changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group grew to be perceived by their young fans across the industrialized world as the representatives, even the embodiment, of ideals associated with cultural transformation. As icons of the 1960s
counterculture, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fueling such movements as women's liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism.