The Beatles

The Beatles

Internationally acknowledged as the greatest rock band of all time, The Beatles did pretty much everything first and better than anyone else. They were initially inspired by the U.S. rock 'n' roll of the '50s and the British skiffle scene. They grew out of singer/guitarist John Lennon's '50s group The Quarrymen, which included singer/guitarist Paul McCartney and lead guitarist George Harrison. After Lennon's friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined on bass in 1960 they became The Beatles. Pete Best soon became the drummer, completing the first Beatles lineup. That summer they began playing residencies in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, where they learned their trade through long nights of multiple sets playing covers and their first batch of original material. Sutcliffe defected to become a painter and McCartney shifted to bass. By 1961 they were a buzz band back home in Liverpool, especially at the Cavern Club, where they were seen by music biz entrepreneur Brian Epstein. He became their manager and started shopping them to record labels, originally receiving a deafening round of apathy. Eventually he snared a deal with EMI, after which Best was replaced by Ringo Starr (nee Richard Starkey). Their first single, 1962's "Love Me Do," hit the U.K. Top 20, but the 1963 follow-up, "Please Please Me," reached No. 2 and Beatlemania began sweeping the nation. Soon after, the fever spread to the U.S. with the international No. 1 "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." The band's first two U.K. LP's, Please Please Me and With the Beatles (both 1963), hit No. 1, and the U.S. debut album, 1964's Meet the Beatles, reached No. 1 in America. Thereafter, The Beatles were golden, an unstoppable hit machine as well as a rapidly evolving, endlessly innovative artistic entity fronted by two songwriting geniuses in Lennon and McCartney. "A Hard Day's Night," the 1964 Beatles-starring movie whose soundtrack was their album of the same name, spread the legend even further, influencing untold numbers of new bands. The band began expanding its sound enormously on 1965's Rubber Soul and helped kickstart the psychedelic revolution with the one-two punch of 1966's Revolver and the following year's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, both wildly innovative and unprecedentedly influential. By 1968's eclectic, untitled double LP, which came to be known as The White Album, the band was beginning to fragment. But with longtime producer/mentor George Martin's help they pulled it all together for resounding last hurrah on 1969's Abbey Road. In April of 1970, McCartney announced his departure from the band, effectively ending The Beatles. The next month, Let It Be, consisting of pre-Abbey Road sessions with producer Phil Spector, was released, providing closure to The Beatles' saga. There wouldn't be another Beatles session until McCartney, Harrison, and Starr convened in 1995, 15 years after Lennon's assassination, to overdub parts on two Lennon demos ("Real Love" and "Free as a Bird") for release as singles accompanying the "Beatles Anthology" documentary and album. On November 29, 2001 Harrison died of cancer. But The Beatles never ceased to be a key influence on each new generation of musicians.