The Fifteen Most Important Moments Of The Beatles’ Career
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles first official recorded single, "Love Me Do", recorded on June 6, 1962 - we take an extended look back through the history of the Fab Four to earmark the Top 15 most important turning points in the band's development.
What makes a truly historical moment in one of the most heavily chronicled, and most important bands of all-time? The Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine? Hardly. Ringo Starr's first lead vocal on "Act Naturally"? Getting closer. How about the death of their manager or the meeting between Lennon and Ono? That's more like it.
So sit back, 'turn off your mind and float downstream' as we take you on a Magical Mystery Tour of The Beatles' illustrious career.
THE QUARRYMEN: John Lennon was just sixteen when he formed The Quarrymen, a skiffle band known for using household items at their performances. On July 6th, 1957, they played a gig at St. Peter’s Church Garden Fete; with a young Paul McCartney in attendance. After the gig, Paul tuned John's guitar and played songs like ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and 'Be-Bop-A-Lua' on the guitar for him. A few weeks later, Paul was asked to join the band. He was fifteen. In early 1958, George Harrison joined, he was fourteen.
JOHN LENNON KILLS STUART SUTCLIFFE: By 1959, The Quarrymen were reduced to John, Paul and George, until Lennon’s art school mate Stu Sutcliffe joined on bass; along with any drummer they could find. Eventually settling with Pete Best, the band played a string of shows in Hamburg, Germany before George, John and Pete were deported back home. They played shows under the guises of ‘Johnny and the Moondogs’, ‘Beatals’, ‘the Silver Beetles’, then finally ‘The Beatles’. Stu wasn’t long for The Beatles, and went back to art school in 1961. He died the following year of a brain haemorrhage, which some claim was the result of long-term damage he received from a swift boot to the face from Lennon during a drunken row..
"THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD": In late 1961 The Beatles met Brian Epstein, who would go on to become their famed manager. He worked hard to garner the band attention befitting their “star power”, and after Decca Records rejected the band in early February, claiming "guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein", George Martin signed the group to EMI's Parlophone label. During their initial recordings at Abbey Road in June 1962, Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey), whom was deemed “the luckiest man in the world” by many back in Liverpool.
LOVE ME DO: The band’s first single, ‘Love Me Do’ was released in early October ‘62. It became a Top 20 UK hit and sparked the group’s first television appearance. Their subsequent debut album Please, Please Me, recorded in a day at Abbey Road, shot to the top of the UK charts in early ’63. The same year, their song ‘She Loves You’ became the best-selling British single to that date, and remained so until ’78, when it was trounced by ‘Mull of Kintyre’; by Paul McCartney.
BEATLEMANIA!: In 1963 The Beatles toured Britain four times, eventually being billed above the American acts they were supporting due to ‘audience demand’. At one show in Plymouth, police had to use high pressure water hoses to control the fervent crowd. After a slew of shows in Sweden, the band returned to Heathrow airport to a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans and dozens of journalists, the first of many such airport receptions during ‘Beatlemania’.
THE BRITISH INVASION: In February 1964 The Beatles left for America for the first time. With a #1 single and thousands greeting them at JFK airport, The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show two days after arriving. It was viewed by 73 million Americans; over two-fifths of the country’s population. On a subsequent visit in August, the band met Bob Dylan, who greeted them with a joint. After that meeting, Lennon’s writing was greeted with a more societal bent; while Dylan would pick up the electric guitar.
LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS: In early 1965, while they were his guests for dinner, Lennon and Harrison's dentist secretly added LSD to their coffee. Lennon described the experience thusly, "It was just terrifying, but it was fantastic.” McCartney was initially reluctant to try it, but eventually did so in the fall of 1966. He later became the first Beatle to discuss LSD publicly, declaring in a magazine interview that "it opened my eyes" and "made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society."
"WE'RE MORE POPULAR THAN JESUS NOW": "Christianity will go," Lennon said in March 1966. "It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."
THE BEATLES QUIT TOURING: The Beatles had long been touring with Vox AC30 amplifiers, which couldn’t cope with the screams of their fans at arena shows. Despite Vox custom building 100-watt amps for the band, they still found it impossible to hear themselves. Having grown bored of the monotony of relentless touring since 1964, the band decided that their August ’66 tour in support of Revolver would be their last. The band played their final commercial show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29th, 1966.
SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND: Freed from touring, the band hit their creative apex in the studio for Sgt Peppers. They spent 700 hours recording it, and it subsequently changed the face of popular music forever. Even the fact that it was the first album ever to include the lyrics in its packaging seems just to be just one minor aspect of its influence. Rolling Stone ranked it as number one on their list of the ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’.
BRIAN EPSTEIN DIES: Epstein, The Beatles’ manager since 1961, died on August 27th ’67 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. The Beatles were in India, and decided not to attend his funeral as to avoid the barrage of fans and media who’d likely follow. Commenting on Epstein’s influence, McCartney said “If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian”, while Lennon noted of his death, “I knew that we were in trouble then…I thought ‘we’ve fucking had it now!’”
THE BEATLES DITCH INDIA: Without the guiding force of Epstein, The Beatles turned to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for influence as they started writing what would become The White Album. The group were due to stay in India for a three month course in transcendental meditation, however one by one they returned back to England. Starr after only ten days, a bored McCartney left a month later, while Lennon and Harrison left after two months, after being informed the Maharishi was making sexual advances towards the women in the course.
THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO: Originally, Yoko Ono had requested the manuscripts of Lennon’s lyrics for a project he described as “avant-garde bullshit”; however after a visit to Lennon’s family home in late 1965, while his first wife Cynthia Powell was away. The two “made love at dawn” according to Lennon and the two became inseparable. Lennon broke the Beatles’ rule of ‘no girlfriends in the studio’ during the recording of The White Album and Abbey Road, which created tension. However, many believe that there were already a myriad of other tensions within the band, and Ono was not directly responsible for the band’s break-up, but merely around when it began to seriously fracture.
I (DON'T) WANT YOU: By the time The Beatles were set to record Abbey Road, Ringo Starr had briefly quit, and George Harrison had threatened to do the same. John Lennon refused to have his songs on the same side of the record as Paul McCartney’s. The recording of Lennon’s ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ was the last time the four Beatles were in the same room recording music together. Lennon publicly announced his departure from the band six days before the album’s release.
JOHN LENNON IS MURDERED: The Beatles disbanded in 1970, with all four going on to successful solo careers over the following decade. Most notably, Harrison would release his triple album debut, All Things Must Pass and stage the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in 1971; while Starr pursued all manner of collaborations and McCartney formed the successful group Wings, with his life Linda. Meanwhile, Lennon moved to New York City and became an anti-Vietnam activist whom was targeted for deportation by the Nixon administration. However, on 8th of December 1980, Lennon was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman, and pronounced dead on arrival at the Roosevelt hospital. On November 29th 2001, George Harrison was the next to go, dying of lung cancer at age 58. Meaning that McCartney and Starr still have tickets to ride.
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