|The Beatles in August, 1969, in their final photo-shoot together.|
1. The Beatles were formed in March of 1957 by 16-year-old John Lennon and several friends. First called the Blackjacks, and later the Quarrymen, Paul McCartney joined the band later the same year, after hearing them play at a church social. By early 1958, George Harrison had joined. They toured off and on for the next several years, eventually adding a fourth guitarist, Stu Sutcliffe, who was slated to play bass. They lacked a consistent drummer until Pete Best was hired in 1960. Shortly after this, the Quarrymen, now going by the name The Beatles, left for Germany where they were slated to play as the house band in a number of clubs operated by the same owner. They performed in Germany for much of the next two years, and played as the backing band for a German pop star named Tony Sheridan. Sheridan's song "My Bonnie" - credited to Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers - charted at #32 in Germany, giving the band their first hit. Sutcliffe had left the band shortly before this time, and McCartney had taken over bass guitar duties.
|The Beatles in Germany in the early 60's. From left: Lennon, Harrison, Best, McCartney, Sutcliffe.|
2. In 1962, shortly after being signed to their first major record contract, the band fired Pete Best at the request of the record company, which felt that his drumming wasn't up to par. He was replaced by another local drummer, Ringo Starr, who had, in fact, filled in for Best on several previous occasions. Starr was left-handed, but played a right-handed drum kit.
3. The Beatles' early image of clean-cut teen heart-throbs was, in many ways, largely a ruse. All four were in their 20's before they were ever heard of in the United States. When Beatlemania began, in February of 1964 with the band's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, John Lennon was already married with a child. By 1966, three of the four band members were married. Lennon himself was hardly a clean-cut "boy next door." He had a rocky childhood, frequently got in trouble in school, and was widely considered a "bad influence" on his friends. As seen in the photograph above, The Beatles dressed more in the "dangerous" style of James Dean in their early days, and only switched to well-tailored suits and clean-cut appearances at the behest of their record company after returning to the UK from Germany.
|The "clean-cut" Beatles look of the mid-60's.|
4. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon lost their mothers to early and untimely deaths - a fact that no doubt helped unite them. McCartney's mother died of a blood clot following surgery for breast cancer in 1956. John's mother was struck by a car and killed while walking along the street in 1958. Neither lived to see their sons become world-renowned musicians.
5. The song "When I'm Sixty-Four," from the Sgt. Pepper album, was written by Paul McCartney when he was just a teenager, long before his success with The Beatles. Both Lennon and McCartney insisted that the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was not about LSD, despite the apparent connection of the letters. Instead, it was based on a drawing by John's son Julian, showing a blonde-haired girl under a starry sky. When asked by McCartney what the drawing was, toddler Julian responded: "It's Lucy - in the sky with diamonds." The McCartney song "Hey Jude" was originally titled "Hey Jules," and was intended as a message to Julian Lennon during his parents' divorce. The song "A Day in the Life" was originally two separate songs, one by Lennon and one by McCartney, that were merged together with a heavy overdub of orchestration. The final note of the song is played by three pianos and one organ hitting the same chord simultaneously.
6. The song "My Majesty," from the Abbey Road album, was originally intended to be placed between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam." McCartney, however, didn't like the song and told the recording engineer to get rid of it. The engineer complied, cutting the song out of the master tape. However, after Paul left, he spliced it back onto the end of the reel, fearing he might lose his job if he got rid of something The Beatles recorded. It had long been an unwritten rule in the recording studio that nothing The Beatles recorded was ever to be destroyed. When Paul heard the tape again, now with "My Majesty" at the end of the record, he decided he liked it. As a result, "My Majesty" effectively became the first "hidden track" in popular music, as there is a 14-second pause after the end of the previous song, due to the tape splicing. Additionally, on the original release, "My Majesty" was not listed on either the album cover or the record's label.
7. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely regarded not only as The Beatles' breakout album, but also as the first "concept album" in rock history. However, the "concept" the album was based on was largely abandoned by the group during recording, and only the first two tracks, together with the 13th track, actually retain the original concept of an "alter-ego" Beatles band. The lead singer of this alter-ego band was Ringo Starr - called Billy Shears on the album. The song he sings as Billy Shears - "With A Little Help From My Friends" - is one of The Beatles' most famous songs. It has been covered by more than 50 mainstream acts, and has hit #1 on the UK charts three different times. The character of "Sgt. Pepper" was conceived when someone misunderstood the phrase "salt and pepper."
8. The album Let It Be was the final album released by The Beatles. However, Abbey Road was actually the last album they recorded. With Let It Be in the mixing stage, the band - unhappy with the final results - shelved the whole thing and recorded Abbey Road. After Abbey Road was released, Let It Be was re-mixed and finally released in early 1970, right as the band was breaking up. In the final medley on Abbey Road - the so-called "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" medley - all four Beatles sing, and all four Beatles have instrumental solos - the only time that ever happened. These were also the last songs they ever recorded together.
9. The first member to leave the band was Ringo Starr - in 1968. He rejoined several months later, however. The following year, in late 1969, John Lennon left the band, although he agreed not to make his departure public, because Abbey Road was being released the following week. In early 1970, just before Let It Be was released, Paul McCartney left the band, released a solo album, and publicly announced that The Beatles were breaking up. Lennon was incensed by this, feeling that McCartney had conned him into keeping his departure quiet so that McCartney could get the "credit" for breaking up the band, and so he could use the break-up to promote his own solo album. Lennon later said: "I started the band. I disbanded it. It's as simple as that."
10. Following their break-up, all four Beatles embarked on solo careers, with each releasing a solo album in 1970. All four recorded #1 hit songs as solo acts. Everyone but Ringo had a #1 album. The best-selling solo album among ex-Beatles in George Harrison's 1970 album All Things Must Pass, which has been certified 6-times platinum in the United States. The most enduring single by an ex-Beatle is John Lennon's song "Imagine." The overall best-selling ex-Beatle is Paul McCartney.