|Who is it?||Soundtrack, Actor, Composer|
|Genres||Rock pop psychedelia|
|Labels||Parlophone Apple Capitol|
|Associated acts||The Quarrymen Tony Sheridan Billy Preston Plastic Ono Band|
|Past members||John Lennon Paul McCartney George Harrison Ringo Starr See members section for others|
Within days it was apparent that a genuine upheaval was underway, offering a frenetic distraction to the dread that had set into America after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and a renewal of the brutally wounded ideal that youthfulness carried our national hope.
In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The film Let It Be (1970) won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The recipients of seven Grammy Awards and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards, the Beatles have been awarded six Diamond albums, as well as 24 Multi-Platinum albums, 39 Platinum albums and 45 Gold albums in the United States. In the UK, the Beatles have four Multi-Platinum albums, four Platinum albums, eight Gold albums and one Silver album. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
The best-selling band in history, the Beatles have sold more than 800 million physical and digital albums as of 2013. They have had more number-one albums on the UK charts, fifteen, and sold more singles in the UK, 21.9 million, than any other act. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beatles as the best artist of all time. They ranked number one on Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists, released in 2008 to celebrate the US singles chart's 50th anniversary. As of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty. The Recording Industry Association of America certifies that the Beatles have sold 178 million units in the US, more than any other artist. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the twentieth century's 100 most influential people. In 2014, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Former Rolling Stone associate Editor Robert Greenfield compared the Beatles to Picasso, as "artists who broke through the constraints of their time period to come up with something that was unique and original ... [I]n the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive ..." The British poet Philip Larkin described their work as "an enchanting and intoxicating Hybrid of Negro rock-and-roĺl with their own adolescent romanticism", and "the first advance in popular music since the War". They not only sparked the British Invasion of the US, they became a globally influential phenomenon as well. From the 1920s, the United States had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood movies, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis, Tennessee. The Beatles are regarded as British cultural icons, with young adults from abroad naming the band among a group of people that they most associated with UK culture.
Originating as a skiffle group, the Beatles quickly embraced 1950s rock and roll and helped pioneer the Merseybeat genre, and their repertoire ultimately expanded to include a broad variety of pop music. Reflecting the range of styles they explored, Lennon said of Beatles for Sale, "You could call our new one a Beatles country-and-western LP", while Gould credits Rubber Soul as "the instrument by which legions of folk-music enthusiasts were coaxed into the camp of pop".
In March 1957, John Lennon, then aged sixteen, formed a skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank High School. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that a respected local group was already using the other name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as a rhythm Guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the band. The fifteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young to join them. After a month of Harrison's persistence, during a second meeting, arranged by McCartney, he performed the lead guitar part for the instrumental "Raunchy" on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, and they enlisted him as their lead Guitarist. By January 1959, Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a Drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and was persuaded to purchase a bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was him who suggested changing the band's name to Beatals, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name until May, when they became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they had changed their name to the Silver Beatles and by the middle of August to the Beatles.
According to Gould, the Beatles changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group's popularity grew into what was seen as an embodiment of sociocultural movements of the decade. As icons of the 1960s counterculture, Gould continues, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women's liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism. According to Peter Lavezzoli, after the "more popular than Jesus" controversy in 1966, the Beatles felt considerable pressure to say the right things and "began a concerted effort to spread a message of wisdom and higher consciousness".
After the Beatles completed their second Hamburg residency, they enjoyed increasing popularity in Liverpool with the growing Merseybeat movement. However, they were also growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November 1961, during one of the group's frequent performances at The Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record-store owner and music columnist. He later recalled: "I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence ... [a] star quality." Epstein courted the band over the next couple of months, and they appointed him as their manager in January 1962. Throughout early and mid-1962, Epstein sought to free the Beatles from their contractual obligations to Bert Kaempfert Productions. He eventually negotiated a one-month-early release from their contract in exchange for one last recording session in Hamburg. Tragedy greeted them on their return to Germany in April, when a distraught Kirchherr met them at the airport with news of Sutcliffe's death the previous day from what would later be determined to have been a brain hemorrhage. Epstein began negotiations with record labels for a recording contract. In order to secure a UK record contract, Epstein negotiated an early end to the band's contract with Polydor, in exchange for more recordings backing Tony Sheridan. After a New Year's Day audition, Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein." However, three months later, Producer George Martin signed the Beatles to EMI's Parlophone label.
The band's earliest influences include Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. During the Beatles' co-residency with Little Richard at the Star-Club in Hamburg, from April to May 1962, he advised them on the proper technique for performing his songs. Of Presley, Lennon said, "Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been Elvis, there would not have been the Beatles."
Capitol Records, from December 1963 when it began issuing Beatles recordings for the US market, exercised complete control over format, compiling distinct US albums from the band's recordings and issuing songs of their choosing as singles. In June 1966, Yesterday and Today, one of Capitol's compilation albums, caused an uproar with its cover, which portrayed the grinning Beatles dressed in butcher's overalls, accompanied by raw meat and mutilated plastic baby dolls. It has been incorrectly suggested that this was meant as a satirical response to the way Capitol had "butchered" the US versions of their albums. Thousands of copies of the LP had a new cover pasted over the original; an unpeeled "first-state" copy fetched $10,500 at a December 2005 auction. In England, meanwhile, Harrison met sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar, who agreed to train him on the instrument.
Other commentators such as Mikal Gilmore and Todd Leopold have traced the inception of their socio-cultural impact earlier, interpreting even the Beatlemania period, particularly on their first visit to the United States, as a key moment in the development of generational awareness. Referring to their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show Leopold states: "In many ways, the Sullivan appearance marked the beginning of a cultural revolution...The Beatles were like aliens dropped into the United States of 1964". According to Gilmore:
In 1965, the company went public. Five million shares were created, of which the original principals retained 3.75 million. James and Silver each received 937,500 shares (18.75% of 5 million); Lennon and McCartney each received 750,000 shares (15%); and Epstein's management company, NEMS Enterprises, received 375,000 shares (7.5%). Of the 1.25 million shares put up for sale, Harrison and Starr each acquired 40,000. At the time of the stock offering, Lennon and McCartney renewed their three-year publishing contracts, binding them to Northern Songs until 1973.
The band's stylistic range expanded in another direction with their 1966 B-side "Rain", described by Martin Strong as "the first overtly psychedelic Beatles record". Other psychedelic numbers followed, such as "Tomorrow Never Knows" (recorded before "Rain"), "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Am the Walrus". The influence of Indian classical music was evident in Harrison's "The Inner Light", "Love You To" and "Within You Without You" – Gould describes the latter two as attempts "to replicate the raga form in miniature".
Magical Mystery Tour, the Soundtrack to a forthcoming Beatles television film, was released in the UK as a six-track double extended play disc (EP) in early December 1967. In the United States, the six songs were issued on an identically titled LP that also included five tracks from the band's recent singles. Unterberger says of the US Magical Mystery Tour, "the psychedelic sound is very much in the vein of Sgt. Pepper, and even spacier in parts (especially the sound collages of 'I Am the Walrus')" and he calls its five songs culled from the band's 1967 singles "huge, glorious, and innovative". In its first three weeks, the album set a record for the highest initial sales of any Capitol LP, and it is the only Capitol compilation later to be adopted in the band's official canon of studio albums. First aired on Boxing Day, the Magical Mystery Tour film, largely directed by McCartney, brought the group their first major negative UK press. It was dismissed as "blatant rubbish" by the Daily Express; the Daily Mail called it "a colossal conceit"; and The Guardian labelled the film "a kind of fantasy morality play about the grossness and warmth and stupidity of the audience". Gould describes it as "a great deal of raw footage showing a group of people getting on, getting off, and riding on a bus". Although the viewership figures were respectable, its slating in the press led US television networks to lose interest in broadcasting the film.
Harrison created Harrisongs to represent his Beatles compositions, but signed a three-year contract with Northern Songs that gave it the copyright to his work through March 1968, which included "Taxman" and "Within You Without You". The songs on which Starr received co-writing credit before 1968, such as "What Goes On" and "Flying", were also Northern Songs copyrights. Harrison did not renew his contract with Northern Songs when it ended, signing instead with Apple Publishing while retaining the copyright to his work from that point on. Harrisongs thus owns the rights to his later Beatles songs such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something". That year, as well, Starr created Startling Music, which holds the rights to his Beatles compositions, "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden".
In March 1969, James arranged to sell his and his partner's shares of Northern Songs to the British broadcasting company Associated Television (ATV), founded by impresario Lew Grade, without first informing the Beatles. The band then made a bid to gain controlling interest by attempting to work out a deal with a consortium of London brokerage firms that had accumulated a 14% holding. The deal collapsed over the objections of Lennon, who declared, "I'm sick of being fucked about by men in suits sitting on their fat arses in the City." By the end of May, ATV had acquired a majority stake in Northern Songs, controlling nearly the entire Lennon–McCartney catalogue, as well as any Future material until 1973. In frustration, Lennon and McCartney sold their shares to ATV in late October 1969.
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr all released solo albums in 1970. Their solo records sometimes involved one or more of the others; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only album to include compositions and performances by all four ex-Beatles, albeit on separate songs. With Starr's participation, Harrison staged the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971. Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974, later bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in '74, Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again.
The music and enduring fame of the Beatles was commercially exploited in various other ways, again often outside their creative control. In April 1974, the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert, written by Willy Russell and featuring singer Barbara Dickson, opened in London. It included, with permission from Northern Songs, eleven Lennon-McCartney compositions and one by Harrison, "Here Comes the Sun". Displeased with the production's use of his song, Harrison withdrew his permission to use it. Later that year, the off-Broadway musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road opened. All This and World War II (1976) was an unorthodox nonfiction film that combined newsreel footage with covers of Beatles songs by performers ranging from Elton John and Keith Moon to the London Symphony Orchestra. The Broadway musical Beatlemania, an unauthorised nostalgia revue, opened in early 1977 and proved popular, spinning off five separate touring productions. In 1979, the band sued the producers, settling for several million dollars in damages. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), a musical film starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, was a commercial failure and an "artistic fiasco", according to Ingham.
A wave of Beatles nostalgia and persistent reunion rumours in the United States during the 1970s led several entrepreneurs to make public offers to the Beatles for a reunion concert. Promoter Bill Sargent first offered the Beatles $10 million for a reunion concert in 1974. He raised his offer to $30 million in January 1976 and then to $50 million the following month. On 24 April 1976, during a broadcast of Saturday Night Live, Producer Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show. Lennon and McCartney were watching the live broadcast at Lennon's apartment at the Dakota in New York, which was within walking distance of the NBC studio where the show was being broadcast. The former bandmates briefly entertained the idea going to the studio and surprising Michaels by accepting his offer, but decided not to. Concert promoter Sid Bernstein ran full-page newspaper advertisements in September 1976, inviting the Beatles to reunite for a concert that would raise $230 million for charity. In June 1976, Entrepreneur Alan Amron created the International Committee to Reunite the Beatles, asking Beatles fans worldwide to send in one dollar to then offer the money to the Beatles to reunite. In January 1977, Amron partnered with boxer Muhammad Ali for a proposal to the Beatles to reunite to help create a $200 million charity fund. In March 1978, an environmental group called Project Interspeak announced to the media that they were planning a concert to raise money for anti-whaling efforts and suggested the Beatles would participate. Bernstein again appealed to the Beatles with a full-page newspaper advertisement in September 1979, asking them to perform three concerts to benefit the Vietnamese boat people. At the same time another effort to reunite the Beatles for the same cause was sponsored by United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. Those discussions led to the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea in December featuring Wings but not the rumoured Beatles reunion.
After the murder of Lennon in December 1980, Harrison rewrote the lyrics to his song "All Those Years Ago" in Lennon's honour. With Starr on drums and McCartney and his wife, Linda, contributing backing vocals, the song was released as a single in May 1981. McCartney's own tribute, "Here Today", appeared on his Tug of War album in April 1982. In 1987, Harrison's Cloud Nine album included "When We Was Fab", a song about the Beatlemania era.
In 1981, financial losses by ATV's parent company, ACC, led it to attempt to sell its music division. According to authors Brian Southall and Rupert Perry, Grade contacted McCartney, offering ATV Music and Northern Songs for $30 million. According to an account McCartney gave in 1995, he met with Grade and explained he was interested solely in the Northern Songs catalogue, if Grade were ever willing to "separate off" that portion of ATV Music. Soon afterwards, Grade offered to sell him Northern Songs for £20 million, giving the ex-Beatle "a week or so" to decide. By McCartney's account, he and Ono countered with a £5 million bid that was rejected. According to reports at the time, Grade refused to separate Northern Songs, and turned down an offer of £21–25 million from McCartney and Ono for ATV Music. In 1982, ACC as a whole was sold to Australian Business magnate Robert Holmes à Court for £60 million.
When the Beatles' studio albums were released on CD by EMI and Apple Corps in 1987, their catalogue was standardised throughout the world, establishing a canon of the twelve original studio LPs as issued in the UK plus the US LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (1967). All the remaining material from the singles and EPs which had not appeared on the original studio albums was gathered on the two-volume compilation Past Masters (1988). Except for the Red and Blue albums, EMI deleted all its other Beatles compilations – including the Hollywood Bowl record – from its catalogue.
When the above albums were reissued on CD in 1988, the double-CD compilation set Past Masters were included so that the full set would contain every track commercially released at that time.
Live at the BBC, the first official release of unissued Beatles performances in seventeen years, appeared in 1994. That same year McCartney, Harrison and Starr collaborated on the Anthology project. Anthology was the culmination of work begun in 1970, when Apple Corps Director Neil Aspinall, their former road manager and personal assistant, had started to gather material for a documentary with the working title The Long and Winding Road. Documenting their history in the band's own words, the Anthology project included the release of several unissued Beatles recordings. McCartney, Harrison and Starr also added new instrumental and vocal parts to two songs recorded as demos by Lennon in the late 1970s.
Three years later, Michael Jackson purchased ATV for a reported $47.5 million. The acquisition gave him control over the publishing rights to more than 200 Beatles songs, as well as 40,000 other copyrights. In 1995, in a deal that earned him a reported $110 million, Jackson merged his music publishing Business with Sony, creating a new company, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, in which he held a 50% stake. The merger made the new company, then valued at over half a billion dollars, the third largest music publisher in the world. In 2016, Sony acquired Jackson's share of Sony/ATV from the Jackson estate for $750 million.
The Beatles' 1, a compilation album of the band's British and American number-one hits, was released on 13 November 2000. It became the fastest-selling album of all time, with 3.6 million sold in its first week and 13 million within a month. It topped albums charts in at least 28 countries, including the UK and US. As of April 2009, the compilation had sold 31 million copies globally, and is the best-selling album of that decade in the United States.
Harrison died from metastatic lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr were among the Musicians who performed at the Concert for George, organised by Eric Clapton and Harrison's widow, Olivia. The tribute event took place at the Royal Albert Hall on the first anniversary of Harrison's death. In addition to songs he composed for the group and during his solo career, the concert included a celebration of Indian classical music, which had significantly influenced Harrison.
In 2003, Let It Be... Naked, a reconceived version of the Let It Be album, with McCartney supervising production, was released. One of the main differences with the Spector-produced version was the omission of the original string arrangements. It was a top ten hit in both Britain and America. The US album configurations from 1964 to 1965 were released as box sets in 2004 and 2006 – The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2 included both stereo and mono versions based on the mixes that were prepared for vinyl at the time of the music's original American release.
As a Soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas Beatles stage revue, Love, George Martin and his son Giles remixed and blended 130 of the band's recordings to create what Martin called "a way of re-living the whole Beatles musical lifespan in a very condensed period". The show premiered in June 2006, and the Love album was released that November when McCartney discussed his hope that "Carnival of Light", a fourteen-minute experimental recording made at Abbey Road in 1967, would receive an official release. A rare live performance involving two ex-Beatles took place in April 2009 at a benefit concert organised by McCartney at New York's Radio City Music Hall, where he was joined by Starr for three songs.
Owing to a long-running royalty disagreement, the Beatles were among the last major artists to sign deals with online music services. Residual disagreement emanating from Apple Corps' dispute with Apple, Inc., iTunes' owners, over the use of the name "Apple" was also partly responsible for the delay, although in 2008, McCartney stated that the main obstacle to making the Beatles' catalogue available online was that EMI "want[s] something we're not prepared to give them". In 2010, the official canon of thirteen Beatles studio albums, Past Masters, and the Red and Blue greatest-hits albums were made available on iTunes.
On 9 September 2009, the Beatles' entire back catalogue was reissued following an extensive digital remastering process that lasted four years. Stereo editions of all twelve original UK studio albums, along with Magical Mystery Tour and the Past Masters compilation, were released on compact disc both individually and as a box set. Comparing the new releases with the 1987 CDs, which had been widely criticised for their lack of clarity and dynamism, Mojo's Danny Eccleston wrote, "the remastered vocals are purer, more natural-sounding and give the illusion of sitting slightly higher in the mix." A second collection, The Beatles in Mono, included remastered versions of every Beatles album released in true mono along with the original 1965 stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul (which Martin had remixed for the 1987 editions). The Beatles: Rock Band, a music video game in the Rock Band series, was issued on the same day. In December 2009, the band's catalogue was officially released in FLAC and MP3 format in a limited edition of 30,000 USB flash drives.
In 2012, EMI's recorded music operations were sold to Universal Music Group. In order for Universal Music to acquire EMI, the European Union, for antitrust reasons, forced EMI to spin off assets including Parlophone. Universal was allowed to keep the Beatles' recorded music catalogue, managed by Capitol Records under its Capitol Music Group division. Also in 2012, the entire original Beatles album catalogue was reissued on vinyl, available either individually or as a box set.
The best-selling band in history, the Beatles have sold more than 800 million physical and digital albums as of 2013. They have had more number-one albums on the UK charts, fifteen, and sold more singles in the UK, 21.9 million, than any other act. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beatles as the best Artist of all time. They ranked number one on Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists, released in 2008 to celebrate the US singles chart's 50th anniversary. As of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty. The Recording Industry Association of America certifies that the Beatles have sold 178 million units in the US, more than any other Artist. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the twentieth century's 100 most influential people. In 2014, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
On 26 January 2014, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed McCartney's "Queenie Eye" in Los Angeles at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The following day, The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles television special was taped in the Los Angeles Convention Center's West Hall. It aired on 9 February, the exact date of – and at the same time, and on the same network as – the original broadcast of the Beatles' first US television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, 50 years earlier. The special included performances of Beatles songs by current artists as well as by McCartney and Starr, archival footage, and Paul and Ringo being interviewed by David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater, site of The Ed Sullivan Show.
On 18 January 2017, McCartney filed a suit in United States district court against Sony/ATV Music Publishing seeking to reclaim ownership of his share of the Lennon–McCartney song catalogue beginning in 2018. Under US copyright law, for works published before 1978 the author can reclaim copyrights assigned to a publisher after 56 years. McCartney and Sony agreed to a confidential settlement in June 2017.