1957 – 1959
John Lennon was the founder of the group back in 1957 and laid the foundation to what was to become the most famous rock band in the world. Originally, the band was called; ‘The Blackjacks’. Lennon was on guitar and done the vocals, Colin Hanton was on the drums, Eric Griffiths was also on guitar, Pete Shotton played the wash-board, the banjo was played by Rod Davis and Bill Smith played tea chest bass (a variation of the washtub bass that uses a tea chest – a type of wooden case used in shipping).
After lasting only one week, the name ‘The Blackjacks’ was written off and Lennon came up with a new name of ‘The Quarry Men’ using his old school name as inspiration. Bill Smith left the band and was replaced by Ivan Vaughan.
When John Lennon became a huge fan of American rock ‘n’ roll in 57 he introduced a number of songs by Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. Later that year on 6th July, Ivan Vaughan invited Paul McCartney to see their bands gig at ‘The Woolton Parish Church Fete’ where McCartney was introduced to John Lennon, to form a fantastic writing partnership that was one of a kind.
‘The Quarry Men’ increased its band members to seven with McCartney now on guitar and vocals as well as George Harrison and Lennon, and John Lowe playing piano. Two band members left soon after including Eric Griffiths. ‘The Quarry Men’ now became a 5 piece band.
Over the forthcoming year the band had very few gigs and only played occasionally at various talent contests. However, by early 1959 the group wasn’t playing at all and some members lost contact. Lennon and McCartney kept in touch and continued to write songs, but George Harrison now joined the Les Stewart Quartet with Les Stewart and Ken Brown.
1959 – 1960
When Harrison joined The Les Stewart Quartet they had been booked to play as a resident band soon after at a new club called ‘The Casbah’. Ken Brown helped decorate the new club which caused upset between a few band members and Les Stewart refused to play there. As a result of this, Ken and George walked out of the group and George got in touch with John and Paul, reuniting ‘The Quarry Men’ as a quartet. After the newly formed band played over 5 gigs at the club, Ken Brown left the group after a disagreement. For about 4 months between October 1959 and January 1960 John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison continued to play as a trio and they called themselves ‘Johnny & the Moondogs’.
Both the band and John Lennon knew they needed a bass player so he asked two student friends in ‘The Liverpool College of Art’ where he attended if they would like the position. In January 1960 Stuart Sutcliffe sold one of his paintings to a John Moores exhibition in order to buy a bass guitar to play in the group John had asked him to join. By this time the group had changed its name to the ‘Silver Beetles’.
In addition to the new recruit and name change they also began changing drummers around, starting with Tommy Moore who toured with the group in Scotland then left. After this was Norman Chapman who left just after a few weeks and finally George Harrison suggested that Pete Best, (the son of Casbah club owner Mona Best) should become the group’s drummer.
McCartney contacted Pete Best and offered him the drummer seat, he took it. Following on from this the group finally settled on the name ‘The Beatles’ just before their first trip to Hamburg in the middle of 1960.
1960 – 1962
Now that the group had settled on ‘The Beatles’ John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete could concentrate more heavily on performing and set off for Hamburg. In Hamburg they were under immense pressure by club owner ‘Bruno Koschmider’ to “make a show” and play very long hours. Along with the outstanding performances in Hamburg arranged by their unofficial manager ‘Allan Williams’ and many gigs they played in Liverpool, The Beatles started to broaden their reputation.
After their first Hamburg tour ended, George was deported for being underage and their dispute with their current boss lead to a police complaint about an attempted fire to his premises. Stuart left the group after becoming engaged and Pete Best was looked at as the most regarded member of the band. The Beatles were now a four piece band and McCartney took over as bass guitarist.
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were the three front-line guitarists and alternated as lead singers with Pete Best playing drums. Best sang occasionally but he had developed a distinctive drum sound nicknamed by the press the “atom beat”, which many others tried to imitate.
The Beatles hired ‘Brian Epstein’ as their manager and he signed them up for an audition with ‘Decca Records’ but the head of Decca Records told Epstein: “Guitar groups are on their way out Mr. Epstein” and The Beatles were devastated by their failed audition. However, Brian Epstein secured them a contract with ‘EMI / Parlophone Records’.
1962 – 1966
In the middle of 1962 Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr who had been playing with The Beatles on several dates when Pete Best was sick. Later that year their first single ‘Love Me Do’ was issued. In 1963 the ‘Beatlemania’ craze had started and many fans across the world were known to have Beatlemania, which hit the United States hard after The Beatles performed on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1964.
That year the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ received the highest ratings in the history of television due to The Beatles and following on from this they then went on to tour America for the first time and starred in their first motion picture ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.
Their biggest year was 1964 when they conquered the biggest record market in the world – America. In addition to this they also brought back rock ‘n’ roll to America and cheered those up who were still suffering the death of John F. Kennedy.
The Beatles’ second motion picture ‘HELP’ premiered later that year and they then went on to perform for a record live audience of 55,000 fans at the Shea Stadium in New York.
In 1966, The Beatles were under some heavy pressure from the press after John Lennon made a remark that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus and was made to apologise shortly after.
1966 – 1969
During the 1960’s The Beatles affected not only the music scene but styles and fashions of the decade! They transformed the music and record industry and started the ‘Pop Promo Film’, what is known as ‘The Music Video’ today. Most of their albums from ‘Please Please Me’ to ‘Abbey Road’ were all massively popular and unique in their own way.
However, things started to go a bit pair shaped in the middle of the 60’s when their manager Brian Epstein died. A tragedy like this shook the band and things started to fall apart. On top of this, the group started to be introduced to drugs such as marijuana and LSD. The Beatles played their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29th, 1966.
After Epstein’s death there started to be some friction between the band members when Paul McCartney tried to become the leader of the group. John Lennon was the main member in protest but ties between them were still strong. During this time Ringo left the group for a short period because he felt left out but soon returned to find his drum kit decorated in flowers and John, Paul and George tried to include him more.
After The White Album the band started on the ‘Let It Be’ project where they planned to rehearse and record a whole new album of songs and at the end of it all they would perform a concert from a fantastic venue. The band began rehearsals at the Twickenham Film Studios but one day George walked out on a session after a disagreement with Paul McCartney but came back to finish up the album. John later explained: “We couldn’t play the game anymore, we just couldn’t do it”.
At the beginning of the year in 1969 The Beatles played their final live performance on the rooftop of the ‘Apple’ building in ‘Saville Row’, London. 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 mainly Paul who kept the group together and encouraged them to make ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ back in 1967 after the death of Brian Epstein. In addition to this Paul tried hard to get them excited about recording and performing but the group were only interested in recording.
1969 – 1970
The Let It Be album was finally released on May 8th, 1970 – less than a month after Paul publicly announced he was no longer a member of the group.
Overall, The Beatles became true legends and their music and lives touched our lives in different ways. The Beatles wanted more than just to be ‘Beatles’. They wanted happiness that they once had back when they first became successful. The band members went their separate ways; John Lennon found happiness with his true love ‘Yoko’ and son ‘Sean’, Paul McCartney found happiness with ‘Linda’ his children and ‘Wings’, George Harrison found happiness with his solo career, ‘Olivia’ and his son ‘Dhani’ and Ringo Starr found happiness with his solo career, acting career and ‘Barbara’.
Many wished that a Beatles reunion was on the cards but John Lennon was murdered by a crazy fan in December 1980. However, a virtual reunion did occur in 1995 when 2 original Lennon recordings, which had the additional contributions of the remaining Beatles mixed in to create two hit singles, ‘Free as a Bird ’and‘ Real Love were released. Furthermore, 6 CD’s of unreleased material and studio outtakes were also released along with a documentary and TV miniseries in a Project known as ‘The Beatles Anthology’.