411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2008: The Beatles
THE BEATLES’ MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
• The best-selling musical group of all time, estimated to have sold over one billion albums worldwide.
• The most multi-platinum selling albums for any artist or musical group in history.
• Six diamond-selling albums: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles, Abbey Road, The Beatles: 1962-1966, The Beatles: 1967-1970, and The Beatles 1.
• More #1 albums than any other group (19 in the U.S. and 15 in the U.K.) and more weeks at #1 than any other band in history (174 in the UK and 132 in the U.S.).
• The fastest selling CD of all time with 1. It sold 13+ million copies in four weeks.
• More #1 singles than any other musical group (23 in Australia, 23 in The Netherlands, 22 in Canada, 21 in Norway, 20 in the U.S., and 18 in Sweden).
• John Lennon and Paul McCartney have written more #1 hits than any other songwriters in history.
• During the week of April 4, 1964 The Beatles held the Top 5 positions on the Billboard singles chart.
• During the week of April 11, 1964 The Beatles held fourteen positions on the Billboard Hot 100.
• The only artist to go back-to-back three times with a #1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100.
• “Yesterday” is the most covered song in history with over three thousand recorded versions. It is also the most played song in the history of international radio.
• “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is the fastest selling single of all time (1 million units in 10 days).
• The first band to play in a stadium.
• Broke television ratings records with their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” at 70+ million viewers.
• The first band to broadcast globally.
• The greatest band of all-time.
In 1957, John Lennon formed as a skiffle group called The Quarrymen. Paul McCartney joined thereafter soon to be followed by fellow classmates George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe. Various names changes, everything from “Johnny and the Moondogs” to “The Silver Beetles”, were tried, sometimes for one gig, as the group traveled and performed in clubs. They even found work as a back-up band. The position of drummer was a revolving door at this point, with no one person remaining at the kit for long. Eventually Pete Best became the band’s stay-on drummer when the group found work in Germany. Germany proved to be a turning point, after grueling nightclub performances of seven hours every night of the week, the full time gig was cut short when Harrison was deported for lying about his age. McCartney and Best joined him thereafter when they were deported due to charges of arson over a fire in their living quarters. The band was forced to abandon the job, but when Lennon returned to Liverpool, Sutcliffe chose to remain in Germany with his girlfriend. This signaled Paul McCartney taking over bass duties in the band. Sutcliffe would rejoin the band when they returned to Germany for a few one-off shows, but this came to an end in 1962 when Stuart died from an unexpected brain hemorrhage. After this, the band gave up on the German scene and focused on the U.K.
Back in England, the group pursued a recording contract. This invoked the famous rejection line to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, “Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein”, curtsey of executive Dick Rowe of A&R. More producers and labels would reject the group until EMI’s George Martin agreed to produce their first album. Interesting enough, Martin didn’t like the band’s demos either, but signed them because he liked them as individuals and thought they had talent. However, Martin had a problem with the band’s drummer and suggested that they replace him, which they did. Drummer Ringo Starr (ne Richard Starkey) was brought in, as the band had worked with him a few times back in 1960.
The new lineup started recording in June of 1962, but didn’t produce anything releasable for several months, until the minor hit “Love Me Do”. Their second single, “Please Please Me”, became a big hit in the U.K. and would become the title of their first full length album three months later. This coincided with a live televised performance on the “People and Places” TV show on October 17, 1962. The broadcast was a smash success and orders for the singles went up dramatically. The number one demographic for this surge in popularity was teenage females, whose behavior was called a “frenzy” by one reporter. This in turn led to the name that stuck with the band for years to come: Beatlemania.
The band was an overnight success in the U.K., but still had not registered on the American shores, as EMI’s American division Capitol Records had declined to issue the Beatles hit singles. Only one known radio station, WLS in Chicago, played the singles at the time as a part of a deal reached between Vee-Jay’s Records and Capitol, but that was short lived as Vee-Jay’s contracts were cut due to non-payment of royalties. The group was further derailed when a test broadcast of the song “She Loves You” failed on the Dick Clark TV show when the audience laughed at the Beatles appearance with its distinctive haircut.
Not to be undone, band manager Brian Epstein negotiated a deal to get the band onto American airwaves. He persuaded Ed Sullivan to give the band three appearances in February of 1964, and used the guaranteed exposure to work a deal with Capitol Records to release the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” a month before the appearance on Sullivan. In a twist, despite Capitol’s unwillingness to release the band’s material earlier, they were soon forced to release this single early due to public demand. A few kids in Washington D.C. saw news clips of the band and requested a local station to play the song. With no single available, the station had the single imported and put it in immediate rotation. Beatlemania started to spread and the label needed to act on it fast, so they released it early. It spread to further American markets like wildfire and sold an amazing one million copies in ten days. In keeping with the overnight sensation, “The Jack Paar Show” showed clips of the band playing “She Loves You” on January 3rd, interestingly enough before the original release date for the band’s single.
The band arrived in America for the first time on February 7, 1964 for the Ed Sullivan appearance. Instead of arriving to promote a newly released single as planned, the group arrived to Beatlemania in full force with 3,000 screaming fans at the airport. The scene was unlike anything JFK Airport had ever seen, and the band was surprised to find the radio in their limousine was interrupted with news reports of the group’s arrival. By the time they arrived at the hotel, they were buried by another mob of fans and reporters trying to scoop the event. Despite critics universally panning the group’s appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” two days later, the band would start touring America and sell out concert appearances, all while their singles would continue to sell in record amounts. American companies then decided to start releasing the older songs they had sat on previously to cash in on the current success, while others even hunted older recordings from the band’s earlier days. The scene became a release frenzy, with singles, EPs, and albums getting put together and is one of several reasons the band’s catalog differs in America to their original U.K. albums. This problem was fixed in 1987 when the label unified the discography when issuing it on CD.
Riding the wave of success, the Beatles released singles and albums at a high rate. The albums A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sales, Help!, and Rubber Soul were released in less than a year and a half. During this time, the phenomenal success of the Beatles gained them a privilege no other band enjoyed, and that was complete access to the production facility at Abbey Road to experiment and work on recording songs, all at no cost. The group took advantage of it to experiment with effects and new technologies, eventually leading to the Beatles becoming the first band to popularize the use of guitar feedback, artificial double tracking (the band actually invented ADT on site), close miking of instruments (common now, but revolutionary then), sampling (first appearance – “Yellow Submarine”), backward taping (“Rain”), and the use of classical instruments and musicians on a pop album (“Yesterday”).
Following Rubber Soul came the critical success of Revolver in April of 1966, and its tour. This is when the Beatles would finally have enough of touring and stop performing live. The band’s notoriety had grown to the point where they were literally mobbed and harassed everywhere they went. Each band member had taken to booking flights and rooms with aliases and had to wear a disguise to get around. Even McCartney, who loved live performing the most, had enough with the trouble and screaming crowds, and the four settled in to work on more creative studio output.
The Beatles returned to Abbey Road Studios on November 24, 1966 to begin the 129-day recording sessions for their eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on June 1, 1967. The album was inspired by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (Which was inspired in turn by the Beatles Rubber Soul), and with the extra studio time afforded to them, the band made full use of it to experiment with new technologies and push the boundaries of creative writing. This led to what many critics consider not only the band’s opus, but the greatest rock ‘n’ roll record ever released. More innovations flowed, including techniques in direct injection of the guitar, synchronized tape machines, reverse taping, and increased levels of complex orchestration to their music. The net result was an album sited as the most influential record in Rock history.
On August 27, 1967 the group’s business manager Brian Epstein died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. This would end up having a traumatic effect on the Beatles, as Epstein not only was the person to diplomatically handle the group’s individual differences, but would also help organize the band’s ideas into commercial ventures. This was followed with the band receiving their first negative reviews for the surreal TV film Magical Mystery Tour. Mostly cited as an example of too many unorganized ideas and unfocused, it also failed due to the use of color as a driving conceptual force during a time when most people still had black and white TVs. The Beatles as a business entity started to unravel.
The band spent the middle of 1968 recording the double album The Beatles, more popularly known as “The White Album” due to it’s white cover. While the album saw new levels of writing, the sessions saw arguments and divisions spread within the band. At one point Starr left the recording session and McCartney had to handle the drums. Other problems cited were issues with Lennon’s girlfriend’s (Yoko Ono) continued presence at his side, claims that McCartney became domineering in the studio, and Harrison’s frustration with not getting more of his songs onto the bands albums. Another issue was who would become the band’s new business manager. McCartney wanted his girlfriend’s father to manage the band, simply because he wanted someone he trusted to manage the band’s financials and business commitments, while the others didn’t trust Mr. Eastman to manage the group unbiased and preferred vaunted New York manager Allen Klein as a professional and neutral party.
The band put on a final live performance on the rooftop of the Apple Building in London, on January 30, 1969, the next-to-last day of the difficult recording sessions known as the “Get Back” sessions, the working title of what would eventually became the Let It Be album. Most of the performance was filmed and included in the documentary film Let It Be. In a scene replicated by many bands years later, the band played live from the roof while local police were called because of complaints about the noise.
The Beatles recorded their final album, Abbey Road, in the summer of 1969. The completion of the song “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” on August 20, 1969 was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio. John Lennon announced his departure to the rest of the group on September 20th, but agreed that no announcement was to be publicly made until a number of legal matters were resolved. The “Get Back” session tapes were given to American producer Phil Spector, who would produce and release the finished product as Let It Be along with the documentary of the same name. McCartney publicly announced the break-up on April 10, 1970, a week before releasing his first solo album. Pre-release copies of McCartney’s album included a press release with a self-written interview explaining the end of The Beatles. Let It Be was released on May 8th, officially ending the group as a recording entity.
Why The Beatles Were Selected:
The Beatles are without a doubt the most recognized name in rock ‘n’ roll. They quietly entered the depths of 1960′s pop-culture and detonated like a sonic charge, causing cascading waves to rip through musical conventions and cultural preconceptions; the force of the band’s music impacting itself onto the sound of music then and now. The shear magnitude of the group’s sales and achievements reads like a roll-call of honor, a testament to a moment in music history where time stood still, holding its breath while music evolved to the next generation and beyond. The numbers reflecting what was at the heart of Beatlemania, beyond sales and adoring fans, the group achieving inconceivable levels of writing success by embracing technology, using new (and old) forms of instruments and techniques, layering complexity when the muse demanded it, and evolving their songs to a new level each time they entered the studio. The band never settled for nor wanted to do the same thing twice, that determination caused them to advance musically while dragging an industry with them.
No other band in history has enjoyed the same level of success as the Beatles, or has been as influential. Truly, most musicians will either claim the Beatles as an influence, or point to a band/singer that was ultimately influenced by them, as if all musical roads today wind and twist backwards through history and cross at a point where John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr reside. For these reasons, the most influential band in rock history, the Beatles, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame today.