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Definition: Beatles from The Macquarie Dictionary

British band, formed in 1959, generally considered one of the most popular and influential of pop groups; members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr; before 1962 the group included Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best.

See Also: John Lennon Paul McCartney George Harrison Ringo Starr

Summary Article: The Beatles
From Chambers Biographical Dictionary

English pop band

The Beatles became the best-known group in popular music in the 1960s. They formed in Liverpool in 1960; three of the founder-members, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, were later joined by Ringo Starr (originally Richard Starkey, 1940- ), who replaced the original drummer, Pete Best, before their breakthrough. The group learned their trade through gruelling engagements at the city's Cavern Club and at venues in Hamburg, West Germany. Under the management of Brian Epstein, a local record-shop owner, they signed a recording contract in 1962 and their regional popularity quickly spread across the country with such records as "Love Me Do", "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand". In 1964 the last two titles were released in the USA, and "Beatlemania" spread rapidly around the world, with the group consistently surpassing all previous figures for concert attendances and record sales.

They provoked hysteria wherever they played as teen idols in the first half of the decade, then became the first mature rock icons in the second. The early songs of Lennon and McCartney involved simple but effective harmonies which nevertheless won acclaim from serious musicians and critics; William Mann, then England's leading classical music critic, described them in The Times as the most important songwriters since Schubert. The pair showed a remarkable ability to assimilate various styles and their compositional technique, enhanced by producer George Martin, developed quickly. Their decision to record their own songs had the effect, in the UK, of ending the dominance of "Tin Pan Alley" and was widely imitated by other performers. Their music ranged from the lyrically beautiful "Yesterday" to the complex rhythms of "Paperback Writer", the nostalgia of "Penny Lane", and the surrealism of "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Controversially created MBE in 1965 (Lennon later returned his insignia in protest against the Vietnam War), the group were involved for a while with Indian mysticism and "transcendental" meditation, and the use of hallucinogenic drugs. The latter flirtation had a major influence on the recording of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), an album which, with its long musically and thematically linked songs, achieved a new maturity for pop and became perhaps the most influential recording since the advent of Elvis Presley. Their eponymous double album of 1968 included "Helter Skelter", a song claimed as an inspiration by Charles Manson. After a long period of inactivity and a patchy final album, the group dissolved in 1970 amid complex legal wranglings.

After the group parted, Paul McCartney recorded alone and with the highly successful group Wings. John Lennon wrote and recorded in the USA with his wife, Yoko Ono, and was murdered in New York (1980). George Harrison made further recordings and became a successful film producer. The band "reunited" to add their singing and playing to "Free as A Bird" (1995), a previously unreleased demo tape sung by Lennon. It was a disappointment, but provided much valuable publicity for the launch of an Anthology series of their recordings.

    Major recordings: Please Please Me (1963), Beatles For Sale (1964), Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968, also known as The White Album), Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970). They also made the films A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965) and Magical Mystery Tour (1967).

  • See biography by Norman, P, Shout! (1981) and Best's, Pete The Best Years of the Beatles (1996).

John Lennon, ever the agent provocateur, prompted a massive furore in the USA in 1966 when he suggested in an interview in the Evening Standard that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first. Rock and roll or Christianity".

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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