The Beatles were an iconic rock group from Liverpool, England. They are frequently cited as the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in modern history, with innovative music, a cultural impact that helped define the 1960s and an enormous influence on music that is still felt today. Currently, The Beatles are one of the two musical acts to sell more than 1 billion records, with only Elvis Presley having been able to achieve the same feat.
After conquering Europe, with successful tours to Germany and Sweden, the Beatles led the mid-1960s musical 'British Invasion' into the United States. Although their initial musical style was rooted in 1950s rock and roll and homegrown skiffle, the group explored a great variety of musical styles including Psychedelic Rock, Experimental, Ballads, Western and Indian Classical among others. Their clothes, hairstyles, and statements made them trend-setters, while their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.
Early on, the band consisted of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best. The band got its first major break playing in Hamburg, Germany, at some rather seedy nightclubs, beginning in 1960. While in Germany, they also met Klaus Voormann, who would later design the cover of the group's 1966 album Revolver. Stuart remained in Germany after the others decided to return to England, and became engaged to fellow artist Astrid Kirchherr, only to die a few years later of a brain hemorrhage.
In 1961, Brian Epstein heard their sound and was thrilled enough to sign on as their manager, even though he had no previous experience in that field. His efforts eventually led, in 1962, to an audition with EMI producer George Martin, who signed them to EMI's Parlaphone label.
Later, due in part to Martin's refusal to use him on recordings, Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, the drummer from another big Liverpool band known as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Ringo was supposed to play on their first single, "Love Me Do", but George Martin had Alan White, a session drummer, play instead (Ringo can be heard on the album version of the song).
In 1963, The Beatles initiated a craze known as "Beatlemania" in the UK with the song "Please Please Me". Their first album of the same title was recorded in just one day. This fame spread internationally and, in February of 1964, they arrived in the United States. Their first appearance in the States was on the Ed Sullivan Show, following "I Want to Hold Your Hand" going #1 in the States. With this success, the Beatles released two feature length films within the space of two years: A Hard Day's Night and Help!. The songs from both films were penned by Lennon and McCartney, and albums followed their release. In Help!, the Beatles were given greater creative freedom, deciding for example to head to the exotic location of the Bahamas simply to shoot one scene.
The Beatles were comprised of four members in the long run: John Lennon (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), Paul McCartney (vocals, bass guitar, piano, guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals), and Ringo Starr (percussion, vocals). Lennon and McCartney were the main songwriters and singers, although songs penned by George started showing up more frequently on later albums. Ringo traditionally sang one song on each record. George Martin produced most of the Beatles' records, and was a highly influential part of the band's sound on most of their records. He also played the renowned solo on "In My Life" (Rubber Soul).
For years, The Beatles showed an amazing talent for writing hit after hit. In 1966, they ceased performing in concert (apparently they grew weary of the constant screaming from the fans, which always got so loud they could never hear themselves play; another contributing factor was the extraordinary lengths they had to go to for security reasons before and after each performance)...