Inspired by "skiffle, a popular style of folksy Pop music in England at the time, John Lennon, a student at Quarry Bank School in Liverpool decided to form a band in 1957 in the style under the original name of The Blackjacks. The name lasted only a week, however, choosing instead to use his school's name to reform as The Quarry Men that March. While Lennon sang and played guitar, Colin Hanton played drums, Eric Griffiths took up the other guitar, Pete Shotton on washboard, Rod Davis on banjo and Bill Smith on tea-chest bass; Smith was soon replaced by Ivan Vaughan.
Lennon was inspired by Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel to became a fan of American Rock 'N' Roll music. He introduced songs by Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent into his act's repertoire. On July 6, 1957, Ivan Vaughan invited Paul McCartney to see their gig at The Woolton Parish Church Fete. The fifteen-year-old McCartney was introduced to the sixteen-year-old Lennon and a unique song writing partnership began.
The line-up of The Quarry Men increased to seven with McCartney (guitar/vocals), John Lowe (piano) and George Harrison (guitar/vocals) added. Soon Griffiths and another member would leave, leaving a five-piece band. The group appeared at several local talent contests but had very few gigs and by January 1959, the group wasn't operating. Although Lennon and McCartney kept in touch, Harrison had joined the Les Stewart Quartet. But by shier luck The Les Stewart Quartet had been booked as a resident band at a new club called The Casbah, run by Mrs. Mona Best to support her son's Pete and Rory. Stewart himself, however, was apparently upset because his guitarist Ken Brown helped to decorate the club, and refused to play there. Brown and Harrison walked out of the group and contacted Lennon and McCartney resulting in a reunification of The Quarry Men as a quartet. After about seven gigs at the club, Ken Brown left over a disagreement about money. From October 1959 to January 1960 Lennon, McCartney and Harrison continued as a trio with McCartney on drums under the name Johnny & the Moondogs.
By this time Lennon was enrolled in The Liverpool College Of Art. Lennon knew that they needed a bass player so he asked Stuart Sutcliffe and Rod Murray (two students) if they would like the position. Neither could afford a guitar, however, but while Murray started to make one by hand, Sutcliffe was able to sell one of his paintings to a John Moores Exhibition and was able to buy a Hofner bass guitar and join the group in January, 1960. At this time the group had changed its name to Silver Beetles, but they were still having drummer problems. The first was Tommy Moore who toured with them through Scotland and then left. The next was Norman Chapman but he left after only a few weeks. Finally, Harrison suggested that Pete Best, the son of club owner Mrs. Mona Best, become the group's drummer. Best would subsequently take the position.
The group finally settled on the name The Beatles just before their first trip to Hamburg in August 1960. At that time, The Beatles weren't taken very seriously in the general public, not even considered the leading group in Liverpool where they were most commonly seen jamming at the cellar bar known as the Cavern Club. The gigs in Hamburg proved to be a turning point for it saw the act come together to be come more serious and mature caused by the fact that they had to play long hours bullied by the club owner Bruno Koschimider to "make a show". It wasn't just Hamburg that made them special for the competition at home was steep in itself for Liverpool had a large number of venues for local acts to play at with over 300 Merseyside groups competing for the stage space at those clubs.
At the time, Pete Best was regarded as the big man in the band. But after Hamburg, Stuart Sutcliffe had left and now The Beatles were a four-piece band leaving McCartney to take over as bass guitarist. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison proved to be a true talent in a team for they became the three frontline guitarists and they alternated as lead singers able to perform vocal harmony with any or all of the three. Pete Best, for his part, stuck to his drums to develop a distinctive drum sound called "the atom beat" and only occasionally sang a song.
The Beatles then hired Brian Epstein as their manager who soon after signed them for an audition with Decca Records'. The audition went nowhere when the head of Decca Records' exclaimed, "Guitar groups are on their way out Mr. Epstein." Epstien, undaunted, soon after secured them a successful contract with Parlophone Records'. Soon after, George Martin became their A&R Man and in August of 1962 Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best.
Love Me Do, their first single, arrived on October 5, 1962, to become a modest hit. 1963 and 1964 proved to be the most important years in their careers for in 1963 the "Beatlemania" craze took off in Britain making them the fad of the day and no longer support acts at concerts, even starring in the Royal Variety Show, and the highest rated TV show in England at the time, Sunday Night At The London Palladium.
But their biggest year by far was 1964 when they entered the charts in America. Indeed, America was in mourning after the recent assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and with Elvis' stint in the army his music had lost much of its rebellion, not to mention Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry being rocked by scandals, and Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens killed in an plane crash, there was a demand for fluffy pop music and old fashioned Rock N' Roll.
Ed Sullivan would be the next to enter their lives. He had been at London airport when The Beatles returned from Sweden. He saw girls screaming, boys cheering and the media taking pictures. Figuring they were something in the making, he booked them on his TV show The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the top rated and influential variety shows on American TV at the time, and was rewarded when The Beatles' performance received the highest ratings in the history of television up to then. That same year The Beatles toured America for the first time and starred in their first motion picture A Hard Day's Night, named after their hit single of the same title. In 1965, The Beatles second motion picture HELP!, also named after their hit single of the same title, premiered. Later that year, The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,000; the largest live audience in history to that point. But not all was rosy on tour, the first problem arising in Tokyo, Japan where The Beatles were locked up in their hotel and were not allowed to come out until show time. The next was in the Philippines when, on a day off, Madam Marcos asked them to attend a Royal dinner but they politely declined, not knowing that in Asia one does not turn down a request by the Kings, Emperors or Dictators. The public was furious and The Beatles quickly left town.
1966 was the year of that famous quote that got The Beatles in the most hot water of their career when Lennon made a remark that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. That remark even saw the infamous KKK burning their albums in effigy. The problem was exacerbated when their tour of America was plagued with mishaps. On August 19, 1966 they received a death threat in Memphis with a firecracker subsequently going off during the show. The next day in Cincinnati a concert promoter failed to provide a stage canopy and pretended to not understand why The Beatles were unwilling to play their electric guitars in a rainstorm. McCartney becomes so agitated he becomes ill, and finally on August 28, 1966 at Dodger Stadium, L.A. cops are seen beating teenage girls; dozens are trampled in the chaos.
During the sixties, The Beatles not only became a musical phenomenon, they influenced fashion and business. The mop top hairdo and the long hair looks (although to today's standard The Beatles never had long hair). The music industry, on the other hand, saw much more of a long-term change. The Beatles brought about enforcement of royalties for artists and producers, revolutionized music tours and made it easy for bands to both write and play their own music.
By the end of 1964 the band was on the move for the slow transition from a bubblegum Pop band to a psychedelic and more serious act had begun; The Beatles would prove to be one of the few to ever succeed in such a drastic conversion. In late 1964 they were introduced to marijuana and would experiment with LSD by late 1965. The Beatles played their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966 because they could not hear themselves play on stage over the screaming of the (mostly female) fans. In 1967, their manager Brian Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose. Friction between Lennon and McCartney then emerged because apparently McCartney was trying to become the leader of the group. Ties were still strong at this point between the band members despite Ringo leaving the band for a short time later during The White Album because he felt left out. The massive hit that was the resulting Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) would become a key player in the psychedelic movement.
Indeed, the transition of The Beatles to a more introspective psychedelic act coincided with the popularity of the LP album. Prior to 1965 most of their albums were like those of any other band, a mere compilation of their hit and not so hit singles since it was singles and not albums that had traditionally drove the music industry since its very founding. But times were changing quickly in the 1960s and The Beatles singles compilation albums of Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963), A Hard Days Night (1964), Beatles For Sale (1964) and Help! (1965) gave way to more album oriented music: music that was intended to be heard on the long play format starting with Rubber Soul (1965) and moving quickly into Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) would be the turning point in the music industry for it was here that albums first outsold singles, paving the way for the entire 1970s Album Oriented Rock styling. Yellow Submarine (1969), Abbey Road (1969), and their finale Let It Be (1970).
After the aforementioned The White Album they embarked on the Let It Be project. The idea was to see The Beatles jam, rehearse and record a whole new album of songs. Tensions were already high while Lennon was off in his land of love with Yoko and Ringo was left in the background. One day Harrison walked out on a session after a disagreement with McCartney. Harrison came back to finish up the album but as Lennon would later explain, "We couldn't play the game anymore, we just couldn't do it".
The Beatles gave their last public appearance on top of the Apple building (Apple Records' only recently opened as their own record label) on January 30, 1969. However their Let It Be album was deemed un-releasable. It was handed over to Phil Spector who added lush orchestrations to such songs as The Long And Winding Road, infuriating McCartney. Despite all of this, The Beatles decided to get together to make one final album Abbey Road which would go on to become their biggest selling record in history. It was mainlyMcCartney who kept the group together this long, encouraging them to make Magical Mystery Tour back in 1967 after Brian's death and trying to get them all excited about recording and performing. Recording yes, performing no. From Sgt. Pepper's through Abbey Road these were considered to be their "studio years" where they rarely got together except to record.
The Let It Be album was finally released on May 8, 1970 less than a month after McCartney publicly announced he was no longer a member of the group, And by the end of the year it was all over. In the end Lennon found happiness with his one true love Yoko, his Plastic Ono Band, and son Sean; McCartney left with Linda, his children, and solo project Wings; Harrison found happiness with his solo career, Olivia, and his son Dhani; and Ringo found happiness with his solo career, acting career, Barbara, and his sons.