The Beatles were an English rock band that was formed in 1960 in Liverpool. The main members of the band were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. However, it didn’t start with just these four. Initial and early members of the band included Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best.
The band stemmed from a shared enthusiasm for American rock and roll when Lennon and McCartney first performed together in Liverpool in 1957. Lennon, who was a guitarist and singer, and McCartney, a bassist as well as a singer were largely self-taught musicians like most of the early rock-and-roll figures. They were both much ahead of their time when it came to music composition and they gathered around a changing cast of accompanists. By the end of 1957, they added Harrison as a lead guitarist, followed by, Sutcliffe in 1960 who was a promising young painter who brought a brooding sense of bohemian style into the band.
The band tried their hand at skiffle, a kind of folk music that was popular in Britain in the late 1950s, and changed several names like the Quarrymen and the Silver Beetles, till they finally became the Beatles. Post that the band added a drummer, Pete Best, and joined a small but booming “beat music” scene, first in Liverpool and then in Hamburg.
In autumn 1961 Brian Epstein, a local Liverpool record store manager, saw the band and was completely swayed by their talent. Epstein was convinced of their commercial potential and soon became their manager and proceeded to send letters and tape recordings of the band to every major British music company. After which they finally got a contract with Parlophone, a subsidiary of the giant EMI group of music labels. George Martin was the man in charge of their career at Parlophone. He was a classically trained musician who put his stamp on the Beatles from the start, at first by suggesting the band required a more polished drummer and then by rearranging their second recorded song, “Please Please Me,” by changing it from slow to up-tempo. Thanks to this they ended by hiring Ringo Starr and the song became their first big British hit.
The band continued to rise to fame in England by producing vivacious recordings of original songs and by playing classic American rock and roll on a variety of British Broadcasting Corporation radio programs throughout the winter and into the spring of 1963. During these months, the fascination with the Beatles which was at first confined to young British fans of popular music, breached the normal barriers of taste, class, and age, transforming their recordings and live performances into widespread public appreciation. In Autumn that year, after they made appearances on British television, the craze and frenzy showed by the audience prompted the British media to coin a new word for the phenomenon: Beatlemania. In early 1964, after equally exciting appearances on American television, the same phenomenon exploded in the United States and provoked a so-called British Invasion of Beatles imitators from the United Kingdom.
The Beatles appeared in a movie called A Hard Day’s Night, in the summer of 1964. The movie dramatized the phenomenon of Beatlemania, post which the band’s effect on the fans was evident around the world as countless young people started imitating the members’ characteristics like long hair, flip humour etc. The transformative social and cultural influence of the band was even recognized among the powerful political people. In 1965 each of the four Beatles was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), after being recommended for the honour by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson himself.
The music of the Beatles rapidly changed and evolved between 1965 and 1967, becoming more subtle, sophisticated, and diverse. Their work during this time ranged from the chamber pop ballad “Yesterday” and the enigmatic folk tune “Norwegian Wood” to the hallucinatory hard rock song “Tomorrow Never Knows”, with lyrics inspired by Timothy Leary’s handbook The Psychedelic Experience. It also included the carnivalesque music of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”, which featured stream-of-consciousness lyrics by Lennon and a typically imaginative arrangement by George Martin built around randomly put-together snippets of recorded steam organs.
The Beatles retired from public performing In 1966 so they could focus on exploiting the full resources of the recording studio. A year later, the period of widely watched creative renewal was ended by the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that was enthusiastically greeted by young people around the world as an undeniable evidence of the band’s genius. More than just a band of musicians, the Beatles had come to epitomise, certainly in the minds of billions of young listeners, the joys of a new counter-culture of indulgence and unrestricted experimentation with music.
The Beatles effectively reinvented the meaning of rock and roll as a cultural form. The original songs written and recorded by the Beatles substantially expanded the musical range and expressive scope of the genre they had inherited. Their close vocal harmonies, subtle arrangements, and clever production touches, combined with an elemental rhythm section anchored by Starr’s exceptional drumming, created newer and higher standards of excellence and beauty in a form of music.
In 1968 the Beatles launched their own record label, Apple. In hopes to nurture experimental pop art, they produced commercial failure under the label, apart from their own work. The band still continued to enjoy widespread popularity and success especially when Abbey Road went on to become one of the band’s best-loved and biggest-selling albums in the following year.
Unfortunately the Beatles formally broke up in the spring of 1970. In the following years, all four members went on to produce solo albums. Lennon released a set of songs with his new wife, Yoko Ono, while McCartney went on to form a band called Wings, that released a fair number of commercially successful recordings in the 1970s. Starr and Harrison initially had some success as solo artists. In the early 1990s McCartney, Harrison and Starr joined forces to add harmonies to two previously unreleased vocal recordings by Lennon. A compilation of the band’s number one singles called 1, came out in 2000 and enjoyed major success worldwide, topping the charts in countries such as England and the United States.
The Beatles were initiated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 where Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr were also initiated as individuals. The Beatles were a legendary rock group and went on to transform popular music as a creative, highly commercial art form. The Beatles are one of the most popular bands of all time and have produced popular and loved songs like Yesterday, Hey Jude, Penny Lane, With A Little Help From My Friends, Day Tripper and Come Together that are still popular today.