In the Spring of 1961, while still in Hamburg, Sutcliffe decided to leave the band in order to concentrate on his art studies. While Sutcliffe had had little musical impact on the group, he had influenced their appearance and sense of style. McCartney, who had been playing guitar, replaced him on bass.
In their early days, the Beatles composed and rehearsed their songs at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool, the home of Paul McCartney, and now a National Trust property open to the public.
The Beatles, as individuals and as a group, soaked up influences from performers enjoying popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. Besides the previously mentioned Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were enamored with early Elvis Presley recordings. George Harrison liked American "rockabilly" guitar styles. The Beatles were also directly influenced by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, the Isley Brothers, and the Motown stars and groups. The Beatles were an opening act for Roy Orbison during one of Orbison's overseas tours, and his influence can be heard in some of McCartney's early melodies. Ringo Starr had a fondness for straight-ahead country & western music. Guitar-based American blues had little influence on them until the late '60s, although they recorded the old Blind Lemon Jefferson song "Matchbox Blues" (but in a country & western style). By the mid sixties, Bob Dylan's "folk rock" was an influence on John Lennon's lyrical attitudes and content. Still later, American mainstream amplified-guitar blues had an influence on the Beatles, but probably more by way of Eric Clapton and Cream, and other British bands that had been steeped in that influence for years, by this point.
On December 10, 1961, Brian Epstein agreed to become the band's full-time manager, after receiving requests for the band's music two months earlier in his record store ("My Bonnie by The Beatles" - Epstein couldn't find it) and watching them perform at the Cavern Club on November 9, 1961. Epstein arranged for the Beatles to audition for Decca Records on January 1, 1962. Decca, in one of the most embarrassing business decisions in music history, rejected the band, on the grounds that guitar music was "on the way out". The Decca audition has subsequently accumulated significant legend.
The Beatles auditioned for EMI's Parlophone label on June 6, 1962. George Martin, who was at first unimpressed by the band's demos, liked them as people when he met them, and they were signed. Not only did he feel that they had musical talent, but he also felt that their wit and humor made them extremely "likeable." When he asked them if there was anything they wanted to change, Harrison said, "I don't like your tie". Martin informed the Beatles that he was signing them in late July.
Martin did have a problem with Best however, whom he criticised for not being able to keep time. For this and other reasons, the Beatles let Best go on August 16, 1962, although it was left to Brian Epstein to tell him. They immediately asked Starr, whom they had met and even performed with previously, to join the band permanently. Starr had been the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, at a time when they seemed a bigger group than the Beatles were. Martin, unaware of this personnel change, hired session drummer Andy White to play drums on the Beatles' first studio session on September 4, 1962. Andy would be the session drummer during their 3rd EMI session on September 11, 1962.
The Beatlemania years
The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do", was released on October 5, 1962 and became a minor hit. The Beatles recorded their first full length album, often "live" in the studio, on February 11, 1963 in one 12 hour session; it was released as Please, Please Me in March. On February 22, 1963 the Beatles' second single, "Please Please Me" went straight to No. 2 in the U.K. "From Me to You" and "She Loves You" (with its instantly memorable "Yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain) followed to the top of the U.K. charts.
Beatlemania as a chaotic cultural phenomenon began in Britain on October 13, 1963 with a televised appearance at the London Palladium.
Meet the Beatles, the first Beatles album in the United States, was released on January 20, 1964. On February 7, 1964 The Beatles traveled to New York for a number of U.S. television appearances and performances. Upon arriving at JFK airport, The Beatles noticed thousands of kids screaming and awaiting the plane's arrival. They assumed that there must have been someone important on the plane with them and were a bit shocked to learn that the crowds were actually there for them.
On February 9, 1964 The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Their appearance made their popularity explode across the country. To this day it remains one of the highest rated television programs of all time, with 73 million people tuning in. The Beatles made four more live appearances on the show in months to come. Two days later, on February 11 in the Washington Coliseum, The Beatles made their first live stage appearance in the United States.
On April 4, 1964, The Beatles set a record that has yet to be broken when they occupied all five top positions on Billboard'sHot 100 (they first appeared on Billboard on January 18th that year). Their single "Can't Buy Me Love" was at number one. In August of that year, The Beatles' first motion picture was released, A Hard Day's Night. They started filming their second film, Help! on February 23, 1965 in the Bahamas.
The psychedelic years
From mid 1964 all the band members became habitual smokers of marijuana after reportedly being introduced to it when they met Bob Dylan for the first time in New York. In mid 1965, according to Lennon and Harrison, they were unwittingly 'dosed' with LSD at a party by their dentist. (The dentist, however, never admitted that he had put anything unusual in Lennon's or Harrison's tea).
Nevertheless, in the ensuing years, the Beatles met with psychedelic counterculture icon Timothy Leary, and began experimenting with the psychedelic drug - though McCartney claims today he only took the drug once. Two albums released during this period, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band were both clearly influenced by the band's experimentation with LSD. Around this same time, Geoff Emerick took over as the new recording engineer at the beginning of the Revolver sessions. With Emerick's help, the group incorporated a new sound into these two groundbreaking albums, one which represented a radical alteration compared to their previous studio work. A key innovation in their recording was the use of automatic double tracking, invented by Abbey Road staff engineer Ken Townshend, which allowed the group to automatically 'double' their vocals in recordings. Townshend reportedly came up with the technique because of Lennon's well-known dislike of tracking sessions. In 1966 McCartney worked with George Martin on the film score for "The Family Way" that allowed him to use orchestration, another element that featured in the following albums, and he subsequently won an Ivor Novello award for the score.
On June 12, 1965, HRH Queen Elizabeth II created each Beatle Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). This appointment is bestowed by the monarch (under advisement by the Prime Minister) for important services rendered to the nation. Many opposed the decision, and some recipients of the Order returned their own honours in protest, claiming that the honorary title had been "devalued." It should be remembered that at the time, many were veterans of World War II. Lennon would return his own in 1969 with the note:
"Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down in the Charts.
"John Lennon of Bag"
On August 15, 1965, The Beatles started their second North American tour at Shea Stadium, which was the first rock concert to be held in a venue of that size. The concert also set two new world records, one for attendance (55,600+) and one for revenue.