The Beatles FORMED: 1960,
Liverpool, England - DISBANDED: 1970.
Inspired by the "skiffle boom", a student at Quarry Bank School in
Liverpool named John Lennon
decided to form a group in 1957 which laid the foundation to what was
to become the most famous rock band of all time. John's original name
was "The Blackjacks". However, this name only lasted a week and John
used the school name as inspiration for the later name "The Quarry Men"
in March 1957. John sang and played guitar, Colin Hanton played drums, Eric Griffiths on guitar, Pete Shotton on washboard, Rod Davis on banjo and Bill Smith on tea-chest bass. Bill
was soon replaced by Ivan Vaughan.
John was inspired by "Heartbreak Hotel" and became a fan of American
rock 'n' roll music. He introduced songs by Buddy Holly , Carl Perkins,
The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent into
their repertoire. On July 6, 1957, Ivan Vaughan invited Paul McCartney
to see their gig at The Woolton Parish Church Fete. The
fifteen-year-old McCartney was introduce to sixteen-year-old Lennon and
a unique song writing partnership began.
The line-up of The Quarry Men increased to seven with Paul on guitar
and vocals, John Lowe on piano and George
on guitar and vocals. Soon Griffiths and another member would leave,
leaving a five-piece band. The group appeared at several local talent
contests but had very few gigs. By January 1959, the group wasn't
operating. Although John and Paul kept in touch, George had joined the
Les Stewart Quartet.
That might have been the end of The Quarry Men but they had a stroke of
luck. The Les Stewart Quartet had been booked as a resident band at a
new club called "The Casbah". It was run by Mrs. Mona Best to support
her son's Pete and Rory. Stewart, upset because his guitarist Ken Brown
help decorate the club, refused to play there. Ken and George walked
out of the group and George contacted John and Paul, and The Quarry Men
were reunited as a quartet. After about seven gigs at the club, Ken
Brown left over a disagreement about money. From October 1959 to
January 1960 John, Paul and George continued as a trio with Paul on
drums. They called themselves "Johnny & the Moondogs".
By this time John was enrolled in The Liverpool College of Art. John
knew that they needed a bass player so he asked two students if they
would like the position. The two were Stuart Sutcliffe and Rod Murray.
Both could not afford a guitar, so Rod started to make one by hand.
However, Stuart was able to sell one of his paintings to a John Moores
Exhibition and was able to buy a Hofner bass guitar and join the group
in January, 1960. At this time the group had changed its name to
"Silver Beetles". They also began shifting drummers around, the first
was Tommy Moore who toured with them through Scotland and then left.
The next was Norman Chapman but he left after only a few weeks.
Finally, George suggested that Pete Best, the son of club owner Mrs.
Mona Best, become the group's drummer.
Paul contacted Pete and offered him the drummer seat, he took it. The
group had finally settled on "The Beatles" just before their first trip
to Hamburg in August, 1960. Now John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete
would head off for Hamburg. At that time The Beatles weren't considered
to be the leading group in Liverpool and in most cases were looked down
upon. In Hamburg they pulled their act together musically. This was
caused by the fact that they had to play such long hours and were
bullied by the club owner Bruno Koschimider to "make a show". It wasn't
just Hamburg that made them special. The fact that Liverpool had so
many venues for local acts to play at, coupled with the rivalry between
more than 300 Merseyside groups, continued to forge The Beatles until
they were to be regarded as Liverpool's top band.
At the time, Pete Best was regarded as the most potent symbol in the
band. After Hamburg, Stuart Sutcliffe had left and now The Beatles were
a four-piece band and Paul took over as bass guitarist. John, Paul and
George were the three front-line guitarists and they alternated as lead
singers and also performed vocal harmony with either John and Paul or
all three. Pete Best played drums and occasionally sang one song but he
had developed a distinctive drum sound called "the atom beat" which
many other drummers tried to copy.
By this time, The Beatles had hired Brian Epstein as their manager and
he signed them up for an audition with Decca Records. The head of Decca
Records told The Beatles manager, "Guitar groups are on their way out
Mr. Epstein.". The Beatles were devastated by their failed audition but
Epstien secured them a contract with Parlophone Records. George Martin
became their A&R Man. In August of 1962, Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr.
Their first single "Love Me Do" was issued on October 5, 1962, and was
a modest hit. 1963 and 1964 proved to be the most important years in
their careers. In 1963 the "Beatlemania" craze had started in Britain
and The Beatles were no longer support acts at concerts. Now they were
starring in the Royal Variety Show and the highest rating TV show
"Sunday Night At The London Palladium".
Their biggest year was 1964 when they conquered the biggest record
market in the world - America. The group became symbols. America was
mourning the death of President John F. Kennedy and The Beatles
appeared on the scene to bring them fun and excitement and end their
mourning. They also brought back rock 'n' roll to America. After Elvis
had join the army, he lost much of his early rebelliousness. Jerry Lee
Lewis and Chuck Berry were rocked by scandals and their careers
suffered. Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens had been
killed in an plane crash. The American media was promoting what The
Beatles called "One-Hit-Wonders" such as Frankie Avalon, Tab Hunter,
James Darren, etc.
Ed Sullivan had been at London airport when The Beatles return from
Sweden and saw all the girls screaming, the boys cheering and the media
taking pictures. He knew they were something special and he booked them
on his TV show "The Ed Sullivan Show". That show received the highest
ratings in the history of television up to then. That same year The
Beatles toured America for the first time and starred in their first
motion picture "A Hard Day's Night". In 1965, The Beatles second motion
picture "HELP!" premiered. Later that year, The Beatles performed at
Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,000 screaming fans. The
largest live audience in history. Their tours did have their darker
moments. The first being in Tokyo, Japan where The Beatles were locked
up in their hotel and were not allowed to come out until show time. The
next was in the Philippines when, on a day off, Madam Marcos asked them
to attend a Royal dinner. The Beatles politely turned down the
invitation and the public was furious. The Bea
tles quickly left.
In 1966, The Beatles were under heavy pressure from the press after
John made a remark that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. John
had to apologize and explain himself several times. Not only that but
their tour of America was plagued with mishaps. On August 19, 1966 they
receive a death threat in Memphis and a firecracker went off during the
show terrifying The Beatles. The next day in Cincinnati a concert
promoter failed to provide a stage canopy and can't understand why The
Beatles were unwilling to play electric guitars in a rainstorm. Paul
becomes so agitated he becomes ill. On August 28, 1966 at Dodger
Stadium, L.A. cops are seen beating teenage girls. Dozens are trampled
in the chaos.
During the sixties, The Beatles not only became a musical phenomenon,
they affected the styles and fashions of the decade. They transformed
the record industry as well. They brought about royalties for artists
and producers, revolutionized music tours, and started the Pop promo
film or what we know today as "The Music Video". Everyone of their
albums, from Please Please Me to Abbey Road were all popular and unique
in their own way. But after the death of their long time manager Brian
Epstein, things would start to fall apart for The Beatles.
Due to outside interests the group focused less and less and the band.
In late 1964 they were introduced to marijuana and would experiment
with more drugs such as LSD which they were first introduced to in late
1965. The Beatles played their last concert at Candlestick Park in San
Francisco on August 29, 1966. In 1967, their manager Brian Epstein died
of a accidental drug overdose. Some friction was caused between John
and Paul because Paul was trying to become the leader of the group
after Brian's death. Ties were still strong at this point between the
band members despite Ringo leaving the band for a short time during The
White Album because he felt left out. When Ringo decided to return he
found his drum kit decked with flowers and the others tried to include
After The White Album they embarked on the "Let It Be" project. The
idea was to see The Beatles jam, rehearse and record a whole new album
of songs. At the end they would give a concert from some spectacular
place. Tensions were high between Paul and George as they started
recording at Twickenham Film Studios. John was off in his land of love
with Yoko and Ringo was left in the background. One day George walked
out on a session after a disagreement with Paul. George came back to
finish up the album but as John would later explain, "We couldn't play
the game anymore, we just couldn't do it".
The Beatles gave their last public appearance on top of the Apple
building on January 30, 1969. However their "Let It Be" album was
deemed un-releasable. It was handed over to Phil Spector who added lush
orchestrations to such songs as "The Long and Winding Road",
infuriating Paul. Despite all of this, The Beatles decided to get
together to make one final album "Abbey Road" which would go on to
become their biggest selling record in history. It was mainly Paul who
kept the group together this long, encouraging them to make Magical
Mystery Tour back in 1967 after Brian's death and trying to get them
all excited about recording and performing. Recording yes, performing
no. From Sgt. Pepper's through Abbey Road these were considered to be
their "studio years" where they rarely got together except to record.
The Let It Be album was finally released on May 8, 1970 less than a
month after Paul publicly announced he was no longer a member of the
In the end, The Beatles became true legends. Their music touched all
our lives. The Beatles wanted more than just to "Be Beatles", they
wanted happiness. A happiness that they once had back when they first
became successful. John found happiness with his one true love Yoko,
his Plastic Ono Band, and son Sean; Paul found happiness with Linda,
his children, and Wings; George found happiness with his solo career,
Olivia, and his son Dhani; and Ringo found happiness with his solo
career, acting career, Barbara, and his sons. They will always be the
greatest rock 'n' roll band in history.