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The Beatles

Introduction

So much has been said and written about the Beatles — and their story is so mythic in its sweep — that it's difficult to summarize their career without restating cliches that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans. To start with the obvious, they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. Moreover, they were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did, and the most popular at what they did. Relentlessly imaginative and experimental, the Beatles grabbed ahold of the international mass consciousness in 1964 and never let go for the next six years, always staying ahead of the pack in terms of creativity, but never losing their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience. Their supremacy as rock icons remains unchallenged to this day, decades after their breakup in 1970.

Even when couching praise in specific terms, it's hard to convey the scope of the Beatles' achievements in a mere paragraph or two. They synthesized all that was good about early rock & roll, and changed it into something original and even more exciting. They established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed their own material. As composers, their craft and melodic inventiveness were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its blues/R&B-based forms into a style that was far more eclectic, but equally visceral. As singers, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were among the best and most expressive vocalists in rock; the group's harmonies were intricate and exhilarating. As performers, they were (at least until touring had ground them down) exciting and photogenic; when they retreated into the studio, they were instrumental in pioneering advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements. They were also the first British rock group to achieve worldwide prominence, launching a British Invasion that made rock truly an international phenomenon.

More than any other top group, the Beatles' success was very much a case of the sum being greater than the parts. Their phenomenal cohesion was due in large degree to most of the group having known each other and played together in Liverpool for about five years before they began to have hit records.

Organization of 'The Beatles'

Guitarist and teenage rebel John Lennon got hooked on rock 'n' roll in the mid-1950s, and formed a band, the Quarrymen, at his high school. Around mid-1957, the Quarrymen were joined by another guitarist, Paul McCartney, nearly two years Lennon's junior. A bit later they were joined by another guitarist, George Harrison, a friend of McCartney's. The Quarrymen would change lineups constantly in the late '50s, eventually reducing to the core trio of guitarists, who'd proven themselves to be the best musicians and most personally compatible individuals within the band.

The Quarrymen changed their name to the Silver Beatles in 1960, quickly dropping the "Silver" to become just the Beatles. Lennon's art college friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined on bass, but finding a permanent drummer was a vexing problem until Pete Best joined in the summer of 1960. He successfully auditioned for the combo just before they left for a several-month stint in Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg was the Beatles' baptism by fire. Playing grueling sessions for hours on end in one of the most notorious red-light districts in the world, the group were forced to expand their repertoire, tighten up their chops, and invest their show with enough manic energy to keep the rowdy crowds satisfied. When they returned to Liverpool at the end of 1960, the band — formerly also-rans on the exploding Liverpudlian "beat" scene — were suddenly the most exciting act on the local circuit. They consolidated their following in 1961 with constant gigging in the Merseyside area, most often at the legendary Cavern Club, the incubator of the Merseybeat sound.

They also returned for engagements in Hamburg during 1961, although Sutcliffe dropped out of the band that year to concentrate on his art school studies there. McCartney took over on bass, Harrison settled in as lead guitarist, and Lennon had rhythm guitar; everyone sang. In mid-1961 the Beatles (minus Sutcliffe) made their first recordings in Germany, as a backup group to a British rock guitarist-singer based in Hamburg, Tony Sheridan. The Beatles hadn't fully developed at this point, and these recordings — many of which (including a couple of Sheridan-less tracks) were issued only after the band's rise to fame — found their talents in a most embryonic state. The Hamburg stint was also notable for gaining the Beatles sophisticated, artistic fans such as Sutcliffe's girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr, who influenced all of them (except Best) to restyle their quiffs in the moptops that gave the musicians their most distinctive visual trademark. (Sutcliffe, tragically, would die of a brain hemorrhage in April 1962).

Near the end of 1961, the Beatles' exploding local popularity caught the attention of local record store manager Brian Epstein, who was soon managing the band as well. He used his contacts to swiftly acquire a January 1, 1962 audition at Decca Records that has been heavily bootlegged (some tracks were officially released in 1995). After weeks of deliberation, Decca turned them down, as did several other British labels. Epstein's perseverance was finally rewarded with an audition for producer George Martin at Parlophone, an EMI subsidiary; Martin signed the Beatles in mid-1962. By this time Epstein was assiduously grooming his charges for national success by influencing them to smarten up their appearance, dispensing with their leather jackets and trousers in favor of tailored suits and ties.

One more major change was in the offing before the Beatles made their Parlophone debut. In August 1962, drummer Pete Best was kicked out of the group, a controversial decision that has been the cause of much speculation since. There is still no solid consensus as to whether it was because of his solitary, moody nature, the other Beatles' jealousy of his popularity with the fans, his musical shortcomings (George Martin had already told Epstein that Best wasn't good enough to drum on recordings), or his refusal to wear his hair in bangs. What seems most likely was that the Beatles simply found his personality incompatible, preferring to enlist Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), drummer with another popular Merseyside outfit, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Starr had been in the Beatles for a few weeks when they recorded their first single, "Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You," in September 1962. Both sides of the 45 were Lennon-McCartney originals, and the songwriting team would be credited with most of the group's material throughout the Beatles' career.

With Ringo Starr's joining was formed final staff of the group.

Biographies of the members

John Lennon

John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England, to Alfred Lennonand Julia Stanley Lennon. His full name was John Winston Ono Lennon. Early in his life he suffered the loss of both his parents, when his father left the family to become a seaman, and his mother, unable to care for a child on her own, decided to leave him in the hands of his aunt, Mimi. This early feeling of abandonment was to mark John for the rest of his life, and his fear of rejection can be heard in his lyrics, from his early work with The Beatles, all the way up to his pleading 1970's track "Mother. (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band).

With his aunt, Lennon experienced a quiet and undisturbed working class upbringing, that left him with many happy memories. Some of thesewould later result in some of his best work .(Strawberry fields forever, the masterpiece single released before Sgt. Pepper was based upon his childhood recollections of happiness). Ever since his early childhood his artistic side found a way up to the surface of his personality and young lennon began to express himself through sketches and artwork. A few of his teachers were impressed with his work, and suggested The Liverpool art school for the boy. Although John Lennon was (even by his own admission) a "child genious", he decided for this option, over a regular academic schedule. During this period, at fifteen years of age, John met Paul Mc Cartney, at a Wooton Parish Garden Fete.The result of their conjoined musical talents was a band called "The Quarrymen", named after Quarry Banks, the school that they attended. Years later this band would become the greatest musical influence of recent recording history, and would define an entire generation. This would be under another name, though:: The Beatles.

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