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The Beatles were a British pop and rock group from Liverpool. They are widely regarded as the most successful group of the rock and roll era, having achieved broad popular success, critical acclaim and cultural influence. The group broke many sales records and charted more than 50 top 40 hit singles, including 20 #1's in America alone.

Dubbed "The Fab Four" by some of their fans, the Beatles were John Lennon (19401980), Paul McCartney (born 1942), George Harrison (19432001), and Ringo Starr (born 1940). Lennon and McCartney were the principal songwriters, with Harrison making a significant contribution as the band matured. George Martin produced most of the Beatles' recordings.

The Beatles created a sensation in late 1963 in the UK (the phenomenon was dubbed "Beatlemania" by the British press), notable for the hordes of screaming and swooning young women the group inspired. Beatlemania came to North America in early 1964, and the band's popularity extended across much of the world. Within the space of five years, their music moved from the awakening of their early hits (such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand") to artistically ambitious suites of songs (such as the albums Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road). By writing their own songs, exploring the possibilities of the recording studio and working on unprecedented quality in every recording they released, the Beatles had far-reaching effects on popular music and made two feature films. They were subjected to unprecedented press scrutiny which included criticism of their later role as symbols of 1960s youth counterculture. The group disbanded in 1970.

History

John Lennon formed a skiffle group, The Quarry Men, in March 1957. On July 6 that year, he met Paul McCartney whilst playing at the Woolton Parish fete and the two were soon playing music together. In 1958 the young guitarist George Harrison joined the group, which played under a variety of names. In 1960 they travelled to Hamburg (particularly the infamous "Kaiserkeller" club) where they finally became the Beatles. Stuart Sutcliffe was part of the group in 1960-61 and influenced their appearance and sense of style. Allan Williams was their manager until 1962 when Brian Epstein took over the role.

In 1962, after having been rejected by every other record company in England, they joined EMI's Parlophone label. Their drummer for the past two years, Pete Best, was fired in favour of the more experienced Ringo Starr. The new line-up recorded their first broadcast interview on the hospital station Radio Clatterbridge. The Beatles' first sessions in September 1962 produced a minor UK hit, "Love Me Do", which likely charted partly because Epstein ordered a large quantity of the singles from EMI for his family's record stores. ("Love Me Do" subsequently reached the top of US singles chart in May 1964.) This was quickly followed by the recording of their first album, Please Please Me, a mix of original songs by Lennon and McCartney along with some covers.

Beatlemania began in Britain on 13 October 1963 with a televised appearance at the London Palladium. Although the band was experiencing great popularity on the record charts in England by early 1963, Parlophone's American counterpart, Capitol Records (which was owned by EMI), refused to issue the singles Love Me Do, Please Please Me and From Me To You in the United States, the reason being that no British act had ever made any impact on an American audience.

VeeJay Records, a small Chicago label, is said to have been pressured into issuing these singles as part of a deal for the rights to another performer's masters. Art Roberts, music director of Chicago powerhouse radio station WLS, placed "Please Please Me" into rotation in late February 1963, making it the first and last time a Beatles' record was heard on American radio until December 1963 (it lasted a few weeks at the bottom of the charts this first time around). Veejay issued a corresponding album that summer in America, which also went nowhere.

In August 1963 the Swan label (partly owned by Dick Clark) tried again with the Beatles' "She Loves You", which again failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on his TV show American Bandstand resulted in laughter and scorn from American teenagers when they saw the group's unusual haircuts. Meanwhile, it is said that British airline stewardesses and others were bringing single copies of Beatles records into major US cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to share with friends. In December 1963, during the weeks immediately following the Kennedy assassination, their music began slowly filling the American airwaves.

Beatlemania exploded in the United States with three national television appearances by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February, 16 February and 23 February 1964. The pop-music band became a worldwide phenomenon with worshipful fans and angry denunciations by cultural observers and established performers such as Frank Sinatra, sometimes on grounds of the music (which was thought crude and unmusical) or their appearance (their hair was considered 'scandalously long').

Some commentators have speculated that after the assassination of John F. Kennedy a depressed America was searching for a way out of gloom and despair. So in effect, the Beatles were in the right place at the right time (with a unique combination of talent and stage presence) to provide an enthusiastic jolt to a saddened nation.

During the week of April 4, 1964, they held the top five places on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that has never been repeated.

In 1965 they were instated as Members of the Order of the British Empire. Lennon and Harrison began experimenting with LSD that year and McCartney would do likewise near the end of 1966.

In July 1966 Lennon caused a backlash against The Beatles when he claimed during an interview that Christianity was dying, quipping that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Eventually he apologised at a Chicago press conference, acquiescing to objections by many religious groups including the Holy See as Beatles' records were banned or burned across the American South along with threats from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans in Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. From this time until the group dissolved in early 1970, the Beatles concentrated on making some of the most remarkable recorded pop music of the 20th century. The group's compositions and musical experiments raised their artistic reputations while they retained their tremendous popularity. The Beatles' financial situation took a turn for the worse however, when their manager Brian Epstein died in 1967 and the band's affairs began to unravel. That same year, The Beatles became the first band ever globally broadcast on television but the members were drifting apart. Their final live performance was on the roof at the Apple studios in London in January 1969 during the difficult "Get Back" sessions (later used as a basis for the Let It Be album). Also in 1969, largely due to McCartney's efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road. The band officially broke up in 1970 and a few months later Let It Be followed as their last commercial album release. Any hopes of a reunion were crushed when Lennon was assassinated in 1980.

However, a virtual reunion occurred in 1995 with the release of two original Lennon recordings which had the additional contributions of the remaining Beatles mixed in to create two hit singles: "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love". Three volumes (six CDs in total) of unreleased material and studio out-takes were also released, as well as a documentary and television miniseries, in a project known as The Beatles Anthology.

Studio style evolution

Many observers have noted that understanding the success of The Beatles and their music begins and ends with an appreciation for the diverse ways in which they (especially Lennon and McCartney) blended their voices as instruments.

The role of producer George Martin is often cited as a crucial element in the success of the Beatles. He used his experience to bring out the potential in the group, recognizing and nurturing their creativity rather than imposing his views. His earlier production experience ranged through acts such as Jimmy Shand to the Goons, which is said to have prepared him for the open-minded, sometimes experimental studio approach the group developed as they became more experienced. Martin's connection with the Goons impressed the Beatles, who were fans. He later said he was initially attracted to the group because they were "very charming people."

At the height of their fame, bolstered by the two films Help! and A Hard Day's Night, the band stopped touring in 1966. Performing for thousands of screaming fans who typically made so much noise the music could not be heard had led to disillusionment and they decided to concentrate on making records. Their demands to create new sounds with every recording, personal experiments with psychedelic drugs and the studio techniques of recording engineer Geoff Emerick influenced the albums Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), still widely regarded as two of the best albums ever made. Along with studio tricks such as sound processing, unconventional microphone placements and vari-speed recording the Beatles used instruments considered unconventional for pop music at the time, including bowed string and brass elements, Indian instruments like the sitar and the swarmandel, tape loops and early electronic instruments.

The group gradually took charge of their own production and McCartney's growing dominance in this role, especially after the death of Epstein, played a part in the eventual split of the group.

Their unprecedented fame caused its own stresses and the band was already on the verge of splitting up when The Beatles ("The White Album") was released in late 1968. Some songs were recorded by the band members as individual projects with other invited musicians and Starr took a two-week holiday (sometimes reported as a temporary break-up) midway through the sessions. McCartney finished some of the drum tracks on the album, including "Back in the USSR", after Starr had angrily stormed out of the studio. By 1970 the band had split and each Beatle went on to solo careers.

In film

The Beatles had a limited but largely successful film career beginning with A Hard Day's Night (1964), a loosely scripted comic farce, sometimes compared to the Marx Brothers in style. It focused on their hectic touring lifestyle and was directed in a black-and-white documentary style by an up-and-coming Richard Lester, who was already known for directing the television version of the Goon Show.

In 1965 came Help!, a Technicolor extravaganza shot in exotic locations with the style of a James Bond spoof.

Magical Mystery Tour, a McCartney idea adapted from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters LSD-oriented bus tour of the UK, was critically slammed when it aired on British television in 1967, but it is now considered a cult classic.

The animated Yellow Submarine followed in 1968 but had little input from the Beatles themselves save for a live-action epilogue and the contribution of four new songs (including one holdover from the Sgt. Pepper sessions, "Only A Northern Song"). Nonetheless it was acclaimed for its boldly innovative graphic style and clever humour along with the soundtrack. The Beatles are said to have been pleased with the result and attended its highly publicised London premiere.

Let It Be was an ill-fated documentary of the band in terminal decline, shot over an extended period in 1969. The music from this formed an album of the same name; although recorded before Abbey Road, after contractual disputes along with significant and controversial tinkering by producer Phil Spector, this album was released in 1970.

Influences and music

As youths, the members of The Beatles were enthusiastic followers of British rock-and-rollers, notably Cliff Richard and The Shadows, whose stage presence and female following were often cited by the band as one of their inspirations to begin performing publicly. In their early days as performers, the band took some cues from local Liverpool favourites Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who Ringo played with prior to joining the Beatles.

Many of the band's influences were American in origin, including Chuck Berry. They recorded covers of "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock And Roll Music" early on and also performed many other Berry classics in their live repertoire. Chuck Berry's influence is also heard (in altered form) on later recordings such as "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (1968) and "Come Together" (1969) (when "Come Together" was released, the owner of Chuck Berry's copyrights sued John Lennon for copyright infringement of his song "You Can't Catch Me", after which the two reached an amicable settlement, the terms of which included an agreement that Lennon cover some Chuck Berry songs as a solo artist).

George Harrison had a fondness for American rockabilly music, particularly that of Eddie Cochran and Carl Perkins. The band's early stage show featured several Perkins tunes; some of these (notably "Honey Don't" featuring an early Ringo vocal) would eventually make it to vinyl. Moreover, Harrison's guitar work remained highly influenced by rockabilly styles throughout the band's tenure.

The Beatles' distinctive vocal harmonies were also influenced by those of early Motown artists in America; early Beatles staples included faithful versions of Barrett Strong's Motown recording of "Money (That's What I Want)" and The Marvelettes' hit "Please Mr. Postman".

While many of these American influences drew from the blues music form, The Beatles, unlike their contemporaries the Rolling Stones, were seldom directly influenced by the blues. Drawing inspiration from an eclectic variety of sources, their home idiom was closer to pop music (during their early fame they were sometimes referred to as a mod band, a label they seem to have resisted).

At the height of Beatlemania, John Lennon declared "Before Elvis, there was nothing." In comments recorded for the Anthology TV series all four band members spoke of him in glowing terms, with George Harrison (showing his knack for religious allusions) saying "Seeing Elvis was like seeing the messiah arrive." They also recorded a number of Presley covers at Abbey Road studios, although these were not released officially until after the group split, although bootleg copies have existed since the late 1960s. It has been argued Presley's musical influence on the Beatles may have been indirect, with opinion somewhat split; although few deny there was an influence, the extent of it has been the subject of debate among fans and music historians.

The Beatles were also fond of Little Richard and some of their songs (especially in the early repertoire) featured falsetto calls similar to his, notably on their version of his song "Long Tall Sally". In 1962 he socialised with the Beatles around Hamburg and they performed together at the Star Club. "Long Tall Sally" became a permanent fixture in the Beatles' concert performances, and McCartney's singing on their recorded version is widely regarded as among his best rock and roll vocal performances.

Apart from the up-beat, optimistic rock and roll sound of Little Richard and others, McCartney's influences include ragtime and vaudeville, owing much to his father's musical interests. Their impact is apparent in songs like "When I'm Sixty-Four" (composed during The Quarry Men period), "Honey Pie", and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". Of their early single, "From Me To You", McCartney said, "It could be done as an old ragtime tune... especially the middle-eight. And so we're not writing the tunes in any particular idiom." His songwriting was also influenced in part by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who was in turn spurred on by the Beatles' work. Wilson acknowledged that the American version of Rubber Soul challenged him to make Pet Sounds, an album which then inspired McCartney's vision of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song "Back in the USSR" was based on a suggestion by Mike Love to McCartney and contains overt allusions to the Beach Boys' "California Girls". The song "Here, There and Everywhere" is said to have been written the evening that Lennon and McCartney first listened to Pet Sounds.

The Everly Brothers were another influence. Lennon and McCartney consciously copied Don and Phil Everly's distinctive two-part harmonies. Their vocals on two 1962 recordings, "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me" were inspired by the Everlys' powerful vocal innovation on "Cathy's Clown" (1960), the first recording to ever reach number one simultaneously in the USA and in England. "Two of Us", the opening track on Let It Be is overtly composed in the Everly style and McCartney acknowledges this in the recording with a spoken "Take it Phil."

The song-writing of Gerry Goffin and Carole King was yet another influence. Some say that one of the Beatles' many achievements was to marry the relative sophistication of Goffin and King's songs (which used major-seventh chords, for example) with the straightforwardness of Buddy Holly, Berry and the early rock-and-roll performers. Lennon and McCartney's goal when they first began writing together was to become "the next Goffin and King."

John Lennon's early style has clear relationships to Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison ("Misery" from 1963 and "Please Please Me" from 1963). "That'll Be the Day" was the first song Lennon learned to play and sing accurately and the first song the proto-Beatles ever put to vinyl. McCartney admitted, "At least the first forty songs we wrote were Buddy Holly influenced." Lennon said that Holly "made it okay to wear glasses. I WAS Buddy Holly." The naming of the Beatles (originally the Silver Beetles) was of course, Lennon's way of paying tribute to Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets. The Beatles covered Holly's "Words of Love" on their album Beatles for Sale.

After hearing the work of Bob Dylan Lennon was heavily influenced by folk music ("You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from 1965). Lennon is said to have been stunned by Dylan's song Subterranean Homesick Blues, and made to wonder at how he could ever outdo it.

Lennon also played the major role in steering the Beatles towards psychedelia ("Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus" from 1967) and then renewed his interest in earlier, "good old rock and roll" forms towards the close of the Beatles' career ("Don't Let Me Down" from 1969).

Paul McCartney is perhaps best known as the group's romantic balladeer. Beginning with "Yesterday" (1965), he pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by "Eleanor Rigby" (1966), "Here, There and Everywhere" (1966) and "She's Leaving Home" (1967). Meanwhile McCartney kept his affection for the driving R&B of Little Richard in a series of songs Lennon dubbed "potboilers", from "I Saw Her Standing There" (1963) to "Lady Madonna" (1968). "Helter Skelter" (1968), arguably an early heavy metal song, is also a McCartney composition.

George Harrison derived his early guitar style from 1950s rockabilly figures such as Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore (who worked with Elvis Presley) and Duane Eddy. "All My Loving" (1963) and "She's a Woman" (1964) are prime examples of Harrison's early rockabilly guitar work.

In 1965 Harrison broke new ground in the West by recording on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" playing an Indian sitar. His long collaboration with Sri Ravi Shankar, a famous Hindustani Musician, influenced several of his compositions, some of which were based on Hindustani forms most notably "Love You To" (1966), "Within You Without You" (1967) and "The Inner Light" (1968). Indian music and culture also influenced Lennon and McCartney, with the use of swirling tape loops, droning bass lines and mantra-like vocals on "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1966) and "Dear Prudence" (1968).

Harrison retained Western musical forms in his later compositions, emerging as a significant pop composer in his own right, although occasionally reprising major themes indicating his relationship with Hindustani music and the Hindu god Krishna. His later guitar style, while not displaying the virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, was distinctive with its use of clear melodic lines and subtle fills as in "Something" (1969) and "Let It Be" (1970), contrasting with the increasingly distorted riffs and rapid-fire guitar solo work of his contemporaries.

Ringo Starr rarely wrote songs but he is often noted for his gentle comic baritone on "Yellow Submarine" (1966) and "Octopus's Garden" (1969) along with his steady drumming and everyman image. Given his own performance on Buck Owens' "Act Naturally", Starr was likely responsible for the group's occasional interest in surprisingly authentic country sounds in songs such as "What Goes On" (1965) and "Don't Pass Me By" (1968).

Later Beatles material shifted away from dance music and the pace of the songs is often more moderate, with interest tending to come from melody and harmonic texture rather than the rhythm ("Penny Lane" from 1967 is an example). Throughout their career the Beatles' songs were rarely riff (or ostinato)-driven; "Day Tripper" (1965) and "Hey Bulldog" (1969, recorded 1968) are among the notable exceptions.

The decision to stop touring in 1966 caused an abrupt change in direction. Reportedly stung by criticism of "Paperback Writer", the Beatles poured their creative energies into the recording studio, making a determined attempt to produce material they could be proud of. They had already shown a clear trend towards progressively greater complexity in technique and style but this accelerated noticeably in Revolver. The subject matter of the post-touring songs was no longer you, I, love, boy meets girl and so on, taking them far from the days in 1963 and similarities with bands such as The Hollies. All manner of subjects were introduced, from home repair and circuses to nonsense songs and others defying description.

The extreme complexity of Sgt. Pepper's reached its height on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album, parts of which (for example "It's All Too Much" and "Only a Northern Song") were left over from 1967 and were apparently used because the Beatles themselves weren't much interested in the animated film as a project and weren't inclined to exert themselves by producing much new material for it.

After the Revolver/Sgt. Pepper's phase, came their self-titled double album, partly written in India. The Beatles involved some simpler subjects (for example "Birthday"), and some of the songs (for example "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "Wild Honey Pie") were far less complex than their material of just a year or two before. In 1969 the band became less united during sessions for the abortive Get Back project (which eventually emerged in 1970, much altered, as Let It Be). This had been intended as a return to more basic songs and an avoidance of thorough editing or otherwise "artificial" influences on the final output. Ironically Let It Be was heavily overdubbed and edited by producer Phil Spector in his wall of sound technique. With Get Back behind them, George Martin was asked to produce the last album the Beatles recorded, Abbey Road, representing a mature attempt to integrate what they knew and use recording studio techniques to improve the songs rather than experiment to see what happened. It represented a final effort, as McCartney once put it, to "leave 'em laughing."

Beatles music is still performed in public by tribute bands such as the Bootleg Beatles, and in shows like Beatlemania!. The Beatles were also the inspiration for the spoof documentary The Rutles (1978) created by Neil Innes and Eric Idle that featured affectionate musical pastiches of Beatles songs written by Innes.

For many, the group's musical appeal lay in the interaction of Lennon and McCartney's voices and musical styles. It is sometimes said they not only supplied missing bits and pieces for each other's songs, but shared a competitive edge that brought out the best in them both. George's lead guitar and vocals along with Ringo's understated and faithful drumming contributed their own chemistry. Finally, the Beatles' stage presence and charm as a group kindled their live shows, as well as relationships with key people in their careers. After the group dissolved some critics cited their solo releases as a demonstration of how important this group collaboration had been: together they sparked each other to reach heights rarely attained on the later solo releases.

Band members

  • John Lennon: vocals, guitar occasionally harmonica, keyboards, bass guitar and other instruments.
  • Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar occasionally guitar, keyboards, drums, flugelhorn and other instruments.
  • George Harrison: vocals, guitar occasionally sitar, tambura, bass guitar, keyboards and other instruments.
  • Ringo Starr: drums occasionally vocals, bongos, keyboards and other instruments.

Early members

  • Stuart Sutcliffe: bass (19601962).
  • Pete Best: drums (19591962).

Members of group as instrumentalists and composers

Most fans know Paul played bass guitar, John rhythm guitar, George lead guitar and Ringo drums. But all the Beatles had some proficiency on the piano and each used it to compose songs, which contributed to the exceptional breadth of the Beatles music catalogue.

Paul learned to play piano as a young boy but never learned to read music. Although he is known primarily as a bass guitar player, Paul experimented with many instruments, including Moog and Mellotron synthesizers. His mastery of the piano as a compositional instrument is said to have empowered him as a composer (perhaps something only fellow pianists can begin to appreciate). George Martin and John Lennon commented that Paul was the most technically proficient musician in the band. He played piano on many Beatles' tracks including "Hey Jude", "The Fool on the Hill", "The Long and Winding Road," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Let It Be". He played drums on "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence" (as well as bass guitar, piano and flugelhorn). "Michelle" was possibly performed entirely by Paul. He is also skilled on guitar, contributing guitar solos to, among other tracks, "Taxman", "Back in the USSR" and "The End".

Given his widely acknowledged expertise and inventiveness as a songwriter, John was less proficient playing rhythmic instruments such as drums or bass. For example, during the song "Another Girl" in the movie Help! he appears to play the drums uneasily and out of rhythm (the Beatles all switch their instruments during this clip). John played piano on "I Am The Walrus" and bass on "Back in the USSR", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" in which, if one listens closely, a few technical mistakes can be heard (these were fixed decades later on McCartney's stripped down, "un-Spectored" version Let it Be... Naked). The other Beatles admitted to teasing John about his timekeeping. When the remaining Beatles reunited in the mid 90s to record some of John's unreleased demo tracks, producer Jeff Lynne used studio technology to compensate for John's flexible sense of tempo (ironically, since his wonted instrumental role in the Beatles is usually characterized as rhythm guitar).

George was known for excelling when playing melodic lines, riffs and fills on guitar-like string instruments ('One of the greats', in McCartney's words). In addition to lead guitar and sitar, George played tambura on "Across The Universe", bass guitar on "Birthday" and "Honey Pie", synthesiser on "Octopus's Garden", and Hammond organ on "Blue Jay Way". His usual allotment (or limit) of one or two compositions per album, however, is said to have contributed to the tensions surrounding the band's breakup.

Although Ringo reportedly admits his musical knowledge beyond percussion is limited, he played electric piano on the recording of his "Don't Pass Me By", as well as organ on "I'm Looking Through You". As it stands, the aforementioned "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden" are the only Beatles songs for which he is given sole credit. Ringo claimed to have contributed the famous line "Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave" to "Eleanor Rigby", which was thought to have been written by McCartney. A line confirmed as his is, "Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there." Ringo was also responsible for a number of song titles, inspired by his malapropisms of homespun Liverpudlian sayings. Some notables include "A Hard Day's Night" and "Tomorrow Never Knows". Critical appreciation of his steady, supportive drumming has increased through the decades, though he is still considered, in certain circles, to be a "butcher" of the drums. It is often disputed that Pete Best (the group's original drummer) was supplanted by Starr, because Brian Epstein believed Best was an incompetent drummer - many believe Starr was included for his looks and personality. The only drum solo he ever recorded with the Beatles appeared on "The End". Though he sung the lead on many Beatles classics, Ringo was, purportedly, always self-conscious about his range as a vocalist, and it is noted that the final "high" note on "With A Little Help From My Friends" took quite a few takes to achieve.

Their producer George Martin composed a few fragments, and played on many songs, including Wurlitzer on "I Am The Walrus", and "In My Life", to which he contributed what sounds like a harpsichord (but in fact, was a recording of a piano, sped-up, which is apparent when one listens to the impossibly fast rolls towards the end of the instrumental break). "Hello, Goodbye" is said to have developed from an improvised piano duet by McCartney and Martin. The orchestra parts heard in some Beatles recordings were mostly composed or arranged by Martin, most notably in the case of "Eleanor Rigby". Along with Martin, Nicky Hopkins (who contributed piano to "Revolution"), Eric Clapton (who contributed some guitar (most notably the "solo") to his friend Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps") and Billy Preston, who played piano on the album Let It Be are probably the only outside musicians of note to play on Beatles records.

Song catalogue

In 1963 the Beatles gave their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by Brian Epstein and music publisher Dick James. Northern Songs went public in 1965 with Lennon and McCartney each holding 15% of the company's shares while Dick James and the company's chairman, Charles Silver held a controlling 37.5%. In 1969, following a failed attempt by Lennon and McCartney to buy back the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs to British TV company Associated Television Corporation (ATV), in which Lennon and McCartney received stock.

In 1985 ATV's music catalogue was sold off to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (beating McCartney's bid), including the publishing rights to over 200 Beatles songs. A decade later Jackson and Sony merged their music publishing businesses. Since 1995 Jackson and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have jointly owned most of the Beatles' songs. Sony later reported that Jackson had used his share of their co-owned Beatles' catalogue as collateral for a loan from the music company. Meanwhile Lennon's estate and McCartney still receive their standard songwriter shares of the royalties.

Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of the Beatles' greatest hits, a few of the early songs weren't included in the original ATV deal and McCartney later succeeded in personally acquiring the publishing rights to "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why."

Harrison and Starr didn't renew their songwriting contracts with Northern Songs in 1968, signing with Apple Publishing instead. Harrison later created Harrisongs, his own company which still owns the rights to his classics such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something."

Trivia

  • "Dear Prudence" was written by John Lennon while the Beatles were in India visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They had brought along an entourage of sorts including singer/songwriter Donovan, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, who was having a difficult stay. Prudence wouldn't come out of her hut so John played his guitar and serenaded her with the song lyrics, Dear Prudence... won't you come out to play?
  • The song "Octopus's Garden" was composed by Starr during one of his dido strikes. Bored by recording, he went to sea. When he returned the others enthusiastically welcomed him and his new song.
  • George Harrison co-operated with Eric Idle and Neil Innes in writing and filming (for television) the fictitious story of the Rutles, a "Rutlandbeat" group affectionately satirising the Beatles. Innes parodied particular Beatles songs with lyrics and titles (e.g. "Ouch!") only marginally less believable than those of the Fab Four.
  • Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney (and his wife Linda), and George Harrison all guest starred on The Simpsons although not at the same time.
  • Following their breakup, the only album to feature all 4 Beatles (but not on the same song), was "Ringo," a Starr solo album.
  • Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey is the drummer for popular rock band Oasis, a group famous for its Beatlesque melodies.
  • It is estimated the band have sold far in excess of 1 billion records world-wide
  • 50% of The Beatles were left handed. Paul is well known for that. Ringo is less known as he is drummer and it is less notable. He had his drum kit set up for right handed person anyway. You can however see him in A Hard Day's Night movie to play darts left handedly for example.

References

  • beatles-discography.com (various pages). Retrieved Dec. 15, 2004.
  • Braun, Michael (1964), Love Me Do: The Beatles' Progress. London: Penguin Books, 1995 [Reprint]. ISBN 0140022783.
  • Carr, Roy & Tyler, Tony (1975). The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. Harmony Books. ISBN 0517520451.
  • Davies, Hunter (1985). The Beatles (Second Revised Edition). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070155267.
  • Goldsmith, Martin (2004). The Beatles Come To America. Turning Points. ISBN 0471469645.
  • Lewisohn, Mark (1990). EMI's the Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years. Hamlyn. ISBN 0681031891.
  • MacDonald, Ian (1995). Revolution In The Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. Vintage. ISBN 0712666974.
  • Norman, Philip (1997). Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation. MJF Books. ISBN 1567310877.
  • Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Cameron House. ISBN 0811702251.


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