Keno's Classic Rock n Roll Web Site
ROCK 'N ROLL BIOGRAPHY
Formed: 1960 in Liverpool,
There will never be another band like the Beatles. They not only changed what rock 'n roll music was about but also help change what society was going through in the insane sixties. The Beatles first really came about in 1955 when Paul McCartney joined up with John Lennon's band, The Quarrymen. Lennon played lead guitar, McCartney was on rhythm guitar with Stu Sutcliffe on bass and several fill-in drummers. A short time later thirteen year old George Harrison joined them and took over the lead guitar job from Lennon. Peter Best became their regular drummer in 1960. Also around this time they changed the band's name to "The Silver Beatles", then shortly after that to just "The Beatles". They first made their mark playing clubs night after night in Hamburg, Germany. In 1961 Sutcliffe left the band and McCartney took over the bass duties. Sutcliffe did contribute one very important thing to The Beatles image before he left that would at first make them stick out. His (what was then considered) long hair do, which the rest of the band copied and would become know as "the Beatle haircut" or "Beatles moptops". The long do in turn would change how not only rockers, but most men in at least the western world would look for years to come.(Sadly, Sutcliffe would die of a brain hemorrhage in April 1962, before his "new" look caught on).
After making it as local favorites in Hamburg, they returned home to Liverpool to play The Cavern Club where they began to draw a big following. It was there in November of '61 that their soon to be manger Brian Epstein would first watch them play. In early 1962, Epstein had them record a demo tape for Decca records, who would turned them down, as did several other different record companies. Finally in mid '62, he found producer George Martin of EMI records. Martin liked what he heard. He signed them to EMI's Parlophone Records. But one last change would be made. Martin didn't feel Best was a good enough drummer and wanted a session drummer to fill in for him when they recorded. As it turned out, the other Beatles had the same feelings about Best's skills and decided to ax him in favor of another Liverpoolian drummer named Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey)..
Their first single, "Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You," was recorded in September, 1962. The song was written by Lennon/McCartney, something almost unheard of in rock at the time. Up till then most rock bands only did cover songs. The song barely made the British top 20. The Beatles phenomenon didn't truly kick in until "Please Please Me" hit number one on the British charts in early 1963. The Beatles music took off like a rocket after that, their debut LP, Please Please Me, which was recorded in just one day, topped the British charts for 30 weeks. They were now the biggest rock act in the UK. Beatlemania would soon take over America and the rest of the world. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" their first official U.S. release went straight to number one shortly after it's December 1963 release. After their appearance on the The Ed Sullivan TV Show in February of 1964, they had had the top five best selling singles in the U.S.; they also had the number one and number two spots in the album charts, as well as several other entries throughout the Top 100. No one at that time (or anyone after) would dominated the market for pop music like the Beatles did. Another very important thing was that they opened the door for just about every other rock band that followed them. They would continue to put out one after another number one hits until their breakup in 1970.
The Beatles sound did change somewhat in the mid sixties, around the time of Rubber Soul's release. Their "good boy" image, pressed upon them by Epstein, was now also a thing of the past. Drug intake by the band members, which was always a part of their lives, was no longer covered up, in fact, it would start to show up more so than in the past in their song's lyrics. In 1967, the album some claim to be rock's best ever, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band, was released. But not all good things would take place that year. Epstein would die of a drug overdose and with that, the Beatles were now truly on their own, as far as in who would lead them. Shortly after his death, they would overcome their only flop, the film project, Magical Mystery Tour. Unlike their first two films, A Hard Day's Night and Help! which were big hits, the "Tour" went nowhere. But their two biggest albums yet, were still to come, the double LP The Beatles - better known as the White Album and the part concept album Abbey Road. Abbey Road was remarkable if for only the fact that they were able to regroup after the problems that plagued the preceding album sessions for the album Get Back, which would be shelved then later renamed Let It Be and released after Abbey Road. When the Beatles did call it quits in 1970, Paul and John were no longer talking to each other. John would be insulted by McCartney's solo Ram album, that he claimed had bad references to him and his new wife Yoko Ono. In turn he put out a song he wrote about Paul called "How Do You Sleep" that had to go down as one of rock's all time put downs songs. But in time, Lennon and McCartney did make up and became friends again. Tragically, Lennon would later be assassinated in New York City in December of 1980.
There was of course several sides to the Beatles. They not only changed how music was written, put out and sounded, but helped to lead the baby boomers to social change and rebellion against the establishment. They may not have started the hippie moment, but they did help made it popular. They also were amongst the first to publicly speak out about their drug use and question the stiff, unjust drug laws. They would in turn pay the price for those views with their own drug arrests.
No question, the Beatles timing was right. There will never again be a band that shapes the world the way the great Beatles did.
- Keno, 1999
Addendum - George Harrison passed away in November of 2001 after a long battle with cancer.
To read more on John Lennon, check out Keno's John Lennon Web Site.
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