The Beatles

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Performers and composers

L-R: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in 1964.
L-R: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in 1964.
Background information
Origin England Liverpool, England
Genre(s) Rock
Psychedelic rock
Classic rock
Years active 1960– 1970
1994– 1996
Label(s) Parlophone
United Artists
Former members
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Pete Best
Stuart Sutcliffe

The Beatles, an English musical group from Liverpool, were one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful popular music bands in history. The innovative music and style of John Lennon ( 1940– 1980), Paul McCartney ( 1942—), George Harrison ( 1943– 2001), and Ringo Starr ( 1940—) helped to define the 1960s, and they continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, their huge commercial success, their role in the history of popular music, and their contributions to popular culture. Although their initial musical style was rooted in the sounds of 1950s rock and roll, the group explored a great variety of genres, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to psychedelic rock.

The Beatles were the best-selling popular musical act of the 20th century. In the United Kingdom alone, they released more than 40 different singles, albums, and EPs that reached number one. This commercial success was repeated in many other countries: EMI estimated that by 1985, the band had sold over one billion discs or tapes worldwide. The RIAA has certified The Beatles as the top selling artists of all time in America based on U.S. sales of singles and albums.

The Beatles were a major force behind the so-called " British Invasion" of UK-based popular bands in the United States in the mid-1960s and they helped to pioneer more advanced, multi-layered arrangements in pop music. The Beatles' impact extended well beyond their music. Their clothes, hairstyles, and statements made them trend-setters from the 1960s to this day, while their growing social awareness — reflected in the development of their music — saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.

Record contract

Epstein eventually met with producer George Martin of EMI's Parlophone label. Martin expressed an interest in hearing the band in the studio; he invited the quartet to London's Abbey Road studios for an audition on 6 June. Martin had not been particularly impressed by the band's demo recordings, but he instantly liked them as people when he met them. He concluded that they had raw musical talent, but said (in later interviews) that what made the difference for him that day was their wit and humour in the studio. They were very likeable, and slightly cheeky, young men. When he asked them if there was anything they did not like, Harrison replied, "For a start, I don't like your tie." The remark typified the slightly surreal blend of wry humour and irreverence towards authority that eventually became the band's in-joke with a global audience. That day, however, their audience was a single person: a detail-orientated, slightly stuffy looking Parlophone executive who had never worked with a rock 'n' roll band before. Fortunately for the band, Martin, whose background was in comedy and novelty records, appreciated the joke. He offered the band a contract.

Martin did have a problem with Pete Best, whom he criticised for not being able to keep time. He privately suggested to Brian Epstein that the band use another drummer in the studio. Best had some popularity and was considered good-looking by many fans, but the three founding members had become increasingly unhappy with his popularity and his personality, and Epstein had become exasperated with his refusal to adopt the distinctive hairstyle as part of their unified look. Epstein sacked Best on 16 August 1962. They immediately asked Ringo Starr (real name: Richard Starkey), the drummer for one of the top Merseybeat groups Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, to join the band. The Beatles had met and performed with Starr previously in Hamburg. In fact, the first recordings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo together were as early as 15 October 1960, in a series of demonstration records privately recorded in Hamburg as backing group for singer Lu Walters. Starr played on The Beatles' second EMI recording session on 4 September 1962, but Martin hired session drummer Andy White for their next session on 11 September.

Their recording contract — in common with how shabbily new artists were treated in that era — paid them only one penny for every single sold, which was split among the four Beatles. This amounted to one farthing per group member. This royalty rate was further reduced for overseas sales, on which they received half of one penny (split between the whole band) for singles sales outside of the UK. George Martin said later that it was a "pretty awful" contract. Their publishing contract with Dick James Music (DJM) was also standard for the time; each writer received the statutory minimum of 50% of the gross monies received, with the publisher retaining the other 50%.

The Beatles' first EMI session on 6 June did not yield any releasable recordings but the September sessions produced a minor UK hit, " Love Me Do", which peaked on the charts at number 17. ("Love Me Do" reached the top of the U.S. singles chart over 18 months later in May 1964.) This was swiftly followed by their second single " Please Please Me". Three months later they recorded their first album (also titled Please Please Me). The band's first televised performance was on a program called People and Places transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.


Although the band experienced huge popularity in the record charts in the UK from early 1963, Parlophone's American counterpart, Capitol Records (owned by EMI), refused to issue the singles "Love Me Do", " Please Please Me" and " From Me to You" in the United States, partly because no British act had ever yet had a sustained commercial impact on American audiences. Vee-Jay Records, a small Chicago label, is said by some 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 radio rotation in late February 1963, making it possibly the first time a Beatles record was heard on American radio. Vee-Jay's rights to The Beatles were cancelled for non-payment of royalties.

After The Beatles' huge success in 1964, Vee-Jay Records and Swan Records took advantage of their previously secured rights to The Beatles' early recordings and reissued the songs that they had rights to, which all reached the top ten of the charts the second time around. (Atco and Decca also secured rights to The Beatles' early Tony Sheridan-era recordings and had minor hits with " My Bonnie" and " Ain't She Sweet".) Vee-Jay ended up issuing some odd LP repackagings of the limited Beatles' material they had: as well as Introducing... The Beatles, which was essentally The Beatles' debut British album with some minor alterations, Vee-Jay also issued an unusual LP called The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons which put together songs from The Beatles and The Four Seasons (another successful act that Vee-Jay had under contract) in a 'contest': the back cover featured a 'score card'. Another unusual release was the Hear The Beatles Tell All album, which mixed interviews with the same early Beatles' material. It has been claimed that both Vee-Jay and Swan attempted legal fights with Capitol/EMI to secure full American contractual rights to The Beatles, which may have contributed to the eventual demise of both labels. It has also been said this fight to secure The Beatles took attention away from each label's most successful artists, The Four Seasons (Vee-Jay) and Freddy Cannon (Swan), who decided to move to more-established labels. The Vee-Jay/Swan-issued recordings eventually ended up with Capitol, who promptly issued them on the American-only Capitol release The Early Beatles. Many of the early Vee-Jay and Swan Beatles' records command a high price on the record collectors' market.)

In August 1963, the Philadelphia-based Swan label tried again with The Beatles' " She Loves You", which also failed to receive airplay. A testing of the song on Dick Clark's TV show American Bandstand resulted only in laughter and scorn from American teenagers when they saw the group's Beatle haircuts. The famous radio DJ, Murray the K (Kaufman) featured "She Loves You" on his 1010 WINS record revue in October, to an underwhelming response.


In November 1963, The Beatles appeared on the Royal Variety Performance and were photographed with Marlene Dietrich who also appeared on the show. In early November 1963, Brian Epstein persuaded Ed Sullivan to commit to presenting The Beatles on three editions of his show in February, and parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. Capitol committed to a mid-January release for "I Want to Hold Your Hand", but a series of unplanned circumstances triggered premature airplay of an imported copy of the single on a Washington DC radio station in mid-December. Capitol brought forward release of the record to December 26, 1963.

Several New York radio stations — first WMCA, then WINS and WABC — began playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on its release day, and the Beatlemania that had started in Washington was duplicated in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The record sold one million copies in just ten days, and by January 16, Cashbox Magazine had certified The Beatles record number one (in the edition published with the cover-date January 23).

This contributed to the hysterical fan reaction at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964. A record-breaking seventy-three million viewers — approximately 40% of the U.S. population at the time — tuned in to the first Sullivan appearance on February 9. During the week of April 4, The Beatles held the top five places on the Billboard Hot 100 (see The Beatles record sales, worldwide charts) — a feat that has never been repeated. They had an additional 7 songs at lower positions: 12% of the chart consisted of Beatles songs.

In the summer of 1964 the band undertook their first appearances outside of Europe and North America, touring Australia and New Zealand (notably without Ringo Starr who was ill and was temporarily replaced by session drummer Jimmy Nicol). When they arrived in Adelaide, The Beatles were greeted by what is reputed to be the largest crowd of their touring career, when over 300,000 people — about one-third of the population of the city — turned out to see them. In September that year baseball owner Charles O. Finley paid the band the then unheard of sum of $150,000 to play in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1965 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon them the MBE, a civil honour nominated by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The award, at that time primarily given to military veterans and civic leaders, sparked some conservative MBE recipients to return their awards in protest, which was widely reported in the British press and was even the lead item on the BBC television news. The first two were returned on June 14, before The Beatles received theirs on October 26 1965.

On August 15 that year, The Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,600. The band later admitted that they had been largely unable to hear themselves play or sing, due to the screaming and cheering. This concert is generally considered the point at which began their disenchantment with performing live.

Backlash and controversy

In July 1966, when The Beatles toured the Philippines, they unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected the group to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Brian Epstein politely declined on behalf of the group, as it had never been the group's policy to accept such "official" invitations. The group soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to accepting "no" for an answer. After the snubbing was widely broadcast on Philippine television and radio, all The Beatles' police protection disappeared. The group and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own, with the authorities throwing up every road block they could to harass them as much as possible. At the airport, roadie Mal Evans was beaten and kicked, and The Beatles themselves were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd. Once the group boarded the plane, Epstein and Evans were ordered off, and Evans said, "Tell my wife that I love her..." (showing how seriously he thought the danger was of them both being shot). Epstein was forced to give back all the money that the band had earned while they were there before being allowed back on the plane ( Anthology).

Almost as soon as they returned from the Philippines, an earlier comment by John back in March of that year launched a backlash against The Beatles from religious and social conservatives in the Bible Belt of the United States. In an interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave Lennon had offered his opinion that Christianity was dying and that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now." In many cities and towns across the United States (primarily in the South) and in South Africa, people banned and burned Beatles records. However, The Beatles observed wryly, "Hey, they've gotta buy 'em before they can burn 'em." Under tremendous pressure from American media, Lennon apologised for his remarks at a press conference in Chicago on August 11, the eve of the first performance of what turned out to be their final tour.

The studio years

The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on 29 August 1966. Tony Barrow was asked to film the event, but it was a 30-minute film and it cut halfway through the last song. The concert lasted for only 35 minutes.

From then on, they concentrated on recording music. After three months away from each other, they returned to Abbey Road Studios on November 24, 1966, to begin their 129-day recording period in making their eighth album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on June 1, 1967.

On 25 June 1967, The Beatles became the first band globally transmitted on television, in front of an estimated 400 million people worldwide. The band appeared in a segment within the first-ever worldwide TV satellite hook-up — a show entitled Our World. The Beatles were transmitted live from Abbey Road Studios, and their new song " All You Need Is Love" was recorded live during the show.

Soon after the triumphs of the Sergeant Pepper album and the global broadcast, The Beatles' situation worsened. First, their manager Brian Epstein died of an overdose of sleeping pills on 27 August 1967, at the age of 32, and the band's business affairs began to unravel. Next, at the end of 1967, they received their first major negative press criticism in the UK with disparaging reviews of their surrealistic TV film Magical Mystery Tour. The film was also panned by the public. Part of the public's difficulty lay in the fact that colour was an integral part of the film but in December 1967 very few viewers had colour receivers (the colour service having only started in July) and repeatedly featured themes of angst, loneliness, and excessive whining [much of which the public criticized as being too trivial for any real sympathy]. The film's soundtrack, which features one of The Beatles' few instrumental tracks (" Flying"), was released in the United Kingdom as a double EP, and in the United States as a full LP.

The group spent the early part of 1968 in Rishikesh, Uttar Pradesh, India, studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Upon their return, Lennon and McCartney took a trip to New York to announce the formation of Apple Corps, initially an altruistic business venture which they described as an attempt at "western communism." The middle part of 1968 saw the band busy recording the double album The Beatles, popularly known as The White Album due to its stark white cover. These sessions saw deep divisions opening within the band.

McCartney gradually took greater charge of the group's production, growing dominant in that role. Internal divisions within the band had been a small but growing problem during their earlier career; most notably, this was reflected in the difficulty that George Harrison experienced in getting his own songs onto Beatles' albums, and in the growing artistic and personal estrangement between Lennon and McCartney.

On the business side McCartney wanted Lee Eastman — the father of his wife Linda Eastman — to manage The Beatles, but the remaining Beatles wanted New York manager Allen Klein to represent them. All Beatles decisions in the past were unanimous but this time the four could not unanimously agree on a manager. Lennon, Harrison and Starr felt the Eastmans would look after McCartney's well-being before that of the group. Paul was quoted years later during the Anthology interviews, saying that "Looking back, I can understand why they would feel that was biased against them."

Their final live performance was on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row, London on 30 January 1969, the next-to-last day of the difficult Get Back sessions. Largely due to McCartney's efforts, they recorded their final album, Abbey Road in summer 1969. Rowan Ayers launched the album on his show Late Night Line Up on 26 September 1969. Rowan recalls, "we had lunch at Apple Studios and they showed me their latest album."


Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group in mid-September 1969 but was talked out of saying anything publicly. In March 1970 the Get Back session tapes were given to American producer Phil Spector, who had produced Lennon's solo single " Instant Karma!". Spector's signature " Wall of Sound" production was in direct opposition to the original intent of the record, which had been to record a stripped-down live studio performance. McCartney was deeply dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of some songs, particularly " The Long and Winding Road", and unsuccessfully attempted to halt release of Spector's version of the song. McCartney publicly announced the break-up on 10 April 1970, a week before releasing his first solo album, McCartney, pre-release copies of which included a press-release with a self-written interview explaining the end of The Beatles and his hopes about the future. On 8 May 1970, the Spector-produced version of Get Back was released as Let It Be, followed by the documentary film of the same name. The Beatles' partnership was legally dissolved after McCartney filed a lawsuit on 31 December 1970.

After the break-up

Following the dissolution of the group, all four Beatles released solo albums in the early 1970s, including Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), McCartney's Ram (1971) and Harrison's All Things Must Pass (1970). Some of their albums featured contributions by other former Beatles; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only one to include compositions and performances by all four, albeit on separate songs.

In 1971, it was discovered that Allen Klein had stolen £5m from The Beatles holdings, and, in 1973, Lennon admitted to McCartney that they should have gone with the Eastmans' management. This helped to mend the personal relationship between the two, although not entirely. They never recorded together again. Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980.

The BBC has a large collection of Beatles recordings, mostly comprising original studio sessions from 1963–1968. Much of this material formed the basis for a 1988 radio documentary series The Beeb's Lost Beatles Tapes. Later, in 1994, the best of these sessions were given an official EMI release on Live at the BBC.

In February 1994, the then-three surviving Beatles reunited to produce and record additional music for a few of Lennon's old unfinished demos. " Free As A Bird" premiered as part of The Beatles Anthology series of television documentaries and was released as a single in December 1995, with " Real Love" following in March 1996. These songs were also included in the three Anthology collections of CDs released in 1995 and 1996, each of which consisted of two CDs of never-before-released Beatles material. Klaus Voormann, who had known The Beatles since their Hamburg days and had previously illustrated the Revolver album cover, directed the Anthology cover concept.

The Beatles still remain enormously popular. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold on its first day of release, reaching the highest volume of single-day sales ever for an album. In 2000, a compilation album named 1 was released, containing almost every number-one single released by the band from 1962 to 1970. The collection sold 3.6 million copies in its first week and more than 12 million in three weeks worldwide, becoming the fastest-selling album of all time and the biggest-selling album of the year 2000. The collection also reached number one in the United States and 33 other countries.

Musical evolution

The Beatles were fans of almost every kind of music that they heard on the radio, or heard on imported records from America. These early records were not officially imported to the UK, but were taken to Liverpool by sailors who had bought them in America. Early influences included Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Lonnie Donegan, ragtime, and English music hall.

Their constant demands to create new sounds on every new recording, and the imaginative — and ground-breaking — studio expertise of EMI staff engineers, including Norman Smith, Ken Townshend and Geoff Emerick all played significant parts in the innovative sounds of the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). (In 1973, Smith had a hit as a singer under the performing name Hurricane Smith with "Oh Babe, What Would You Say".) The role of producer George Martin is often cited as a crucial element in their success. He used his experience to bring out the potential in the group, recognising and nurturing their creativity rather than imposing his views. After The Beatles stopped touring, they increasingly came under pressure, and it was decided for the group to vent their artistic energy solely into recording. They had already shown a clear trend towards progressively greater complexity in technique and style but this accelerated noticeably on their Revolver album. The subject matter of their post-touring songs branched out as well, as a diverse range of subjects were written about.

The Beatles also continued to absorb influences throughout their career — long after their initial success — often finding new musical and lyrical avenues to explore from listening to the work of some of their contemporaries. Among those influences were Bob Dylan, on songs such as " You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (Help!) and " Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (Rubber Soul). Dylan introduced The Beatles to cannabis (1964) in a New York hotel room when he offered the Fab Four pot as a consequence of his misconception that the lyrics in their hit song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (Meet the Beatles!) were "I get high" instead of "I can't hide". This initial partaking in drugs grew into heavier experimentation with LSD and various other substances whose psychedelic effects were commonly thought to have manifested themselves in the band's music. The Beatles, in turn, would influence Dylan's move into an electrified rock sound in his music.

In 1965, having recently become interested in Indian music, George Harrison purchased a sitar, which he played on the song " Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", the first instance of such an instrument being used on a rock record. He later took sitar lessons from maestro Ravi Shankar, and implemented further elements of Eastern music and spirituality into his songs, notably " Love You To" and " Within You Without You". These musical decisions greatly increased the influence of Indian music on popular culture in the late 1960s.

Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, automatic double tracking and vari-speed recording, The Beatles began to augment their recordings with instruments that were unconventional for rock music at the time, including string and brass ensembles, Indian instruments such as the sitar and the swarmandel, tape loops, and early electronic instruments including the Mellotron, which was used with flute voices on the intro to "Strawberry Fields Forever". McCartney once asked Martin what a guitar would sound like if it was played underwater, and was serious about trying it. Lennon also wondered what his vocals would sound like if he was hanging upside down from the ceiling. Clearly their ideas were out-stripping the technology that was available at the time.

Lennon is portrayed as having played the major role in steering The Beatles towards psychedelia (" Rain" and " Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and " Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", " Strawberry Fields Forever" and " I Am the Walrus" from 1967), but McCartney was also influential, being involved in the London avant garde scene, which was itself moving towards psychedelia during the same period.

Moreover, with his customary humorous irreverence, Lennon once quipped: "Avant-garde is French for bullshit."

McCartney, who still lived in London, would often tell Lennon about any new 'happening' or 'movement', and Lennon was always keen to hear about it, and sometimes to endorse it. They created many of the tape loops used on the song " Tomorrow Never Knows" and experimented with musique concrete techniques and electronic instruments, as well as creating many experimental audio-visual works.

While most recording artists of the time were using two, three or four tracks in the studio, The Beatles had to use linked pairs of four-track decks, and ping-ponging tracks two, and even three times, became common.

EMI delayed the introduction of eight-track recording — already becoming common in American studios — until 1968, when American studios were already upgrading to 16-tracks. EMI were loath to spend any money on new equipment — even though The Beatles were earning vast amounts — and so Abbey Road was always (technically) one step behind every other studio.

Beginning with the use of a string quartet (arranged by George Martin) on " Yesterday" in 1965, The Beatles pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by the double-quartet string arrangement on " Eleanor Rigby" (1966), " Here, There and Everywhere" (1966) and " She's Leaving Home" (1967). Lennon and McCartney's interest in the music of Bach led them to use a piccolo trumpet on the arrangement of " Penny Lane" and a Mellotron at the start of " Strawberry Fields Forever".

The extreme complexity of Sgt. Pepper 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 used because The Beatles themselves were disinterested in the animated film as a project.

Lennon and McCartney renewed their interest in rootsy forms towards the close of The Beatles' career — for example, " Yer Blues" and " Birthday" in 1968, and " Don't Let Me Down" in 1969.


The Beatles influence on rock music and popular culture was — and remains — immense. Their commercial success started an almost immediate wave of changes — including a move from U.S. global dominance of rock and roll to UK acts, from soloists to groups, from professional songwriters to self-penned songs and to changes in fashion. The Beatles were also influenced by many artists themselves, including the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. They were also influenced by Johann Sebastian Bach, and an example of this can be found in their song " Penny Lane". The famous trumpet part is done by a piccolo trumpet, and this part was inspired by Bach's 2nd Brandenburg Concerto, which Paul McCartney heard on the radio one day and decided to incorporate it into one of his songs.

Various artists of the last 4 decades have listed The Beatles as major influences on their career. Their influence has been especially prevalent over the last 20 years, helping in part to create new genres and styles along the way, possibly the most well-known of which was the birth of grunge, largely thanks to Seattle's Nirvana, whose frontman Kurt Cobain always listed Lennon as a major inspiration to him. The revolutionary automatic double tracking system, which was first used by Lennon while working on Revolver, was used to great effect on Nevermind, widely regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made.

ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra, which was formed 1971, was heavily influenced by The Beatles. Jeff Lynne, the lead singer and song writer of the group, often mimicked McCartney and Lennon's style of vocals and melodies in early songs such as " Mr. Radio" (No Answer) and " Mister Kingdom" (Eldorado). The group even released a song called " Beatles Forever", on the LP version of Secret Messages, in which Lynne expressed how he idolized the group and admired their talent and success.

Amongst other relatively recent bands who have cited The Beatles as a major influence are Pearl Jam, U2, Oasis and Radiohead. Oasis' and Radiohead's definitive albums, Definitely Maybe and OK Computer respectively, are two examples of how the Beatle's sound has not become any less influential.


  • Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Epiphone, Gibson, and Fender guitars
  • Ludwig drums
  • Steinway, and Blüthner pianos
  • Höfner, Fender and Rickenbacker basses
  • Hammond, Vox and Lowrey electric organs
  • Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Hohner Pianet electric pianos
  • Moog Modular synthesizer


A Neumann U87
A Neumann U87

Although microphone usage varied somewhat according to the requirements of each song, the group's recordings at Abbey Road most often employed Neumann U47 or U67 microphones for electric guitars and one or more Neumann U48s for vocals. Early in their recording career the drums usually were recorded with only two microphones: one overhead (an AKG D19 or STC 4038) and one for the bass drum (such as an AKG D20). Later, more microphones were used on the drums.

With the group's encouragement, recording engineer Geoff Emerick experimented with microphone placement and equalization. Many of his techniques were unusual for the time but have since become commonplace, such as "close miking" (physically placing the microphone in very close proximity of a sound source) of acoustic instruments or deliberately overloading the signal to produce distortion. For example, he obtained the biting string sound that characterizes " Eleanor Rigby" by miking the instruments extremely closely — Emerick has related that the string players would instinctively back away from the microphones at the start of each take, and he would go back into the studio and move the microphones closer again.

The AKG C28 is visible in the Let It Be film. Available studio documentation and interviews with their former recording engineers indicate that this microphone was not used for recording in the studio.


Studio albums

The original studio albums by The Beatles in their home market (the UK) are as follows:

Official CD catalogue

In 1987, EMI released The Beatles' original albums on CD. To allow the catalogue to be truly complete, EMI released an American-compiled album on CD in 1987 and two compilation CDs in 1988:

According to EMI and the Guinness Book of Records, The Beatles have sold in excess of 1,010,000,000 units (including cassettes, records, CDs, bootlegs). The only other artist to come close is Elvis Presley, with a similar number.

Song catalogue

In 1963 John Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed to assign their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by music publisher Dick James in conjunction with Brian Epstein. The company was administered by James' own company Dick James Music. 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 the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs to British TV company Associated TeleVision (ATV), in which Lennon and McCartney received stock.

In 1985, after a short duration in which the parent company was owned by Australian business magnate Robert Holmes à Court, ATV Music was sold to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono), including the publishing rights to over 200 songs composed by Lennon and McCartney. (McCartney, who had two hit duets with Jackson, " The Girl Is Mine" and " Say Say Say", later told Rolling Stone that while he and Jackson were working together on the video for "Say, Say, Say", he told Jackson that there was money to be made in owning song publishing, referring to his ownership of the Buddy Holly song catalog, and Jackson reportedly told McCartney, "One day I'm going to buy your songs." The purchase later caused a rift between McCartney and Jackson.) 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 Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by The Beatles. 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 respective songwriter shares of the royalties. (Despite his ownership of most of the Lennon-McCartney publishing, Jackson has only recorded one Lennon-McCartney composition himself, " Come Together" which was featured in his film Moonwalker.)

Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of The Beatles' greatest hits, four of their earliest songs had been published by one of EMI's publishing companies prior to Lennon & McCartney signing with Dick James — 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" from EMI.

Harrison and Starr did not 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 post-1967 songs such as " While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and " Something". Starr also created his own company, called Startling Music. It holds the rights to his two post-1967 songs recorded by The Beatles, " Don't Pass Me By" and " Octopus's Garden".

Number one singles

Year Single Countries
1962 " Love Me Do" U.S. (once Beatlemania hit in 1964)
1963 " Please Please Me" Italy
1963 " From Me to You" UK, Ireland
1963 " Twist and Shout" Finland
1963 " She Loves You" UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, U.S.
1963 "I Want to Hold Your Hand" UK, Australia (NS Wales), Sweden, Norway, Germany, Holland, U.S., Canada
1964 " I Saw Her Standing There" Australia (NS Wales)
1964 " All My Loving" Sweden, Canada, Australia (NS Wales) (EP), Finland
1964 " Can't Buy Me Love" Sweden, UK, Holland, U.S., Ireland, Australia (NS Wales)
1964 " Ain't She Sweet" Sweden
1964 Long Tall Sally EP Holland
1964 " A Hard Day's Night" U.S., Canada, Australia (NS Wales), UK, Holland, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Argentina, Czechoslovakia
1964 " I Should Have Known Better" Canada, Holland, Australia (NS Wales), Norway, Sweden, Denmark
1964 " If I Fell" Norway
1964 " I Feel Fine" Canada, Australia (NS Wales), UK, Holland, Sweden, U.S., Rhodesia, Ireland, Norway, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Denmark
1965 " Rock and Roll Music" / " No Reply" Norway, Sweden, Holland, Rhodesia, Finland, Denmark, Australia (NS Wales), Hong Kong, Luxembourg
1965 " Eight Days a Week" Canada, Uruguay, U.S., Hong Kong, Luxembourg
1965 " I'll Follow the Sun" Sweden
1965 " Ticket to Ride" Ireland, Canada, Norway, UK, Sweden, Australia (NS Wales), Holland, U.S., Rhodesia, New Zealand
1965 " Words of Love" Sweden
1965 " Help!" Canada, Australia (NS Wales), UK, Ireland, Holland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, U.S., Rhodesia, Norway, Argentina, Brazil, Italy
1965 " Yesterday" Canada, Holland, U.S., Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Hong Kong, Poland, Denmark
1965 " We Can Work It Out" / " Day Tripper" Canada, Norway, UK, Ireland, Australia (NS Wales), Holland, Sweden, Hong Kong, U.S. (A-side only), Rhodesia, Brazil
1966 " Michelle" France, Holland, Sweden, Poland, Belgium, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Italy
1966 " Nowhere Man" Canada, Australia (NS Wales)
1966 " Paperback Writer" Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, U.S., UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark
1966 " Yellow Submarine" / " Eleanor Rigby" Canada, UK, Ireland, Norway, France, Holland, Germany, Australia (NS Wales), New Zealand, Belgium, Poland (B-side)
1967 " Penny Lane" / " Strawberry Fields Forever" Canada, Norway, France, Holland, Sweden, U.S. (A-side), New Zealand, Germany, Australia (NS Wales), Denmark
1967 " All You Need Is Love" (b/w " Baby You're a Rich Man") Finland, Poland, Canada, UK, Holland, Australia (NS Wales), Norway, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, U.S., New Zealand, Rhodesia, Denmark
1967 " With a Little Help from My Friends" Poland
1967 " Hello Goodbye" Canada, UK, France, Holland, Sweden, U.S., Norway, Germany, Australia (NS Sales), New Zealand, Poland, Denmark
1968 " Lady Madonna" (b/w " The Inner Light") Canada, UK, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, Australia (NS Wales)
1968 "Hey Jude" Canada, UK, Sweden, Norway, Austria, France, Ireland, Holland, Spain, U.S., Switzerland, Rhodesia, New Zealand, Belgium, Australia (NS Wales), Germany, Poland, Denmark
1968 " Revolution" New Zealand
1968 " Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" Malaysia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Australia (NS Wales)
1969 " Get Back" (b/w " Don't Let Me Down") UK, Canada, Holland, Norway, Ireland, Belgium, New Zealand, Germany, Malaysia, Denmark, Spain, U.S., Rhodesia, Australia (NS Wales)
1969 " The Ballad of John and Yoko" UK, Holland, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Australia (NS Wales), Austria, Denmark
1969 " Maxwell's Silver Hammer" France
1969 " Something" / " Come Together" Canada, U.S., Australia (NS Wales), New Zealand, Germany
1970 " Let It Be" Germany, Austria, Holland, Australia (NS Wales), Norway, France, Malaysia, U.S., Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, Poland, Canada
1970 " The Long and Winding Road" Canada, U.S.
1976 " Got to Get You Into My Life" Canada

On film

The Beatles appeared in several films, most of which were very well received. The exception was the (mostly unscripted) television movie Magical Mystery Tour which was panned by critics and the public alike. All of their films had the same name as their associated soundtrack albums and a song on that album.

A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles had a 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 Beatlemania and their hectic touring lifestyle, the movie was directed in a quasi-documentary style in black-and-white by the up-and-coming Richard Lester, who was known for having directed a television version of the successful BBC radio series The Goon Show as well as the off-beat short film The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film, with Spike Milligan.


In 1965 came Help!; an Eastmancolour extravaganza, which was also directed by Lester and also featured black eyeliner, and was shot in exotic locations (such as Salisbury Plain, with Stonehenge visible in the background; the Bahamas; and Salzburg and the Tyrol region of the Austrian Alps) in the style of a James Bond spoof along with even more Marx Brothers-style zaniness: For example, the film is dedicated "to Elias Howe, who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine."

In 1966 Lennon took time off to play a supporting character in the film called How I Won the War, again directed by Lester. It was a satire of World War II films, and its dry, ironic British humour was not well received by American audiences.

Magical Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour film was essentially McCartney's idea, which was thought up as he returned from a trip to the U.S. in the late spring of 1967, and was loosely inspired by press coverage McCartney had read about Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' LSD-fuelled American bus odyssey. McCartney felt inspired to take this idea and blend it with the peculiarly English working class tradition of charabanc mystery tours, in which children took chaperoned bus rides through the English countryside, destination unknown. The film was critically dismissed when it was aired on the BBC's premier television network, BBC-1, on Boxing Day — a day primarily for traditional "cosy, family entertainment". The film appeared radically avant-garde by those standards, and instead of showcasing the lovable black eyeliner they had donned up until then, it portrayed them as sensitive superheroes replete with dyed black hair, which was at odds with the British establishment of that era. Compounding this culture clash was the fact that BBC-1, at that time, only transmitted programmes in black-and-white, while Magical Mystery Tour was in colour. The film was repeated a few days later on the BBC's second channel (BBC-2) in colour, receiving somewhat more appreciation than its initial reception.

Yellow Submarine

The animated Yellow Submarine followed in 1968, but had little direct input from The Beatles, save for a live-action epilogue and the contribution of four new songs (including " Only a Northern Song", an unreleased track from the Sgt. Pepper sessions). It was acclaimed for its boldly innovative graphic style and especially stinging pangs of heartbreak, along with the soundtrack. The Beatles are said to have been pleased with the result and attended its highly publicised London premiere, every one of The Beatles thought their own voices (narrated by actors) were not quite right, whilst saying that the other three were perfect.

In 1969, Ringo Starr took second billing to Peter Sellers in the satirical comedy The Magic Christian; in a part which had been written especially for him. Starr later embarked on an irregular career in comedy films through the early 1980s, and his interest in the subject led him to be the most active of the group in the film division of Apple Corps, although it was Harrison who would achieve the most success as a film producer.

Let It Be

Let It Be was an ill-fated documentary of the band that was shot over a four-week period in January 1969. The documentary — which was originally intended to be simply a chronicle of the evolution of an album and the band's possible return to live performances — captured the prevailing tensions between the band members, and in this respect it unwittingly became a document of the beginning of their break-up.

The band initially rejected both the film and the album - instead recording and issuing the Abbey Road album. But with so much money having been spent on the project, it was decided to finish, and release, the film and album (the latter with considerable post-production by Phil Spector) in the spring of 1970. When the film finally appeared, it was after the break-up had been announced.

Unlike the other Beatles films, Let It Be is not currently available to buy on DVD or any other media.


Approximately conciding with the release of the " Free as a Bird" single and Anthology 1 album (the first of three double-CD albums), The Beatles Anthology series of documentaries was broadcast on television in 1995. The series, which was made over five years of planning and production (1,760 minutes), collected together numerous film clips and interviews to present a complete history of the band from The Beatles' own personal perspectives. The series was later released on VHS, laserdisc and as a boxed set of five DVDs.

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