More than thirty years after this most influential of legendary rock bands broke up, the recent release of Let It Be - Naked, an alternate rendering of the Fab Four’s final release - is an instant Top Ten hit and cultural event. When Capitol released a gathering of Number One hits in 2000 (Beatles 1), the compilation was a quick #1 hit and allowed yet another generation to share the magic of the foursome that launched the British Invasion close to 40 years earlier. Beyond all mythology, The Beatles’ essence was synthesizing all that was good about early rock & roll, and transforming it into something original and even more exciting.
Inspired by the "skiffle boom,” John Lennon, a student at Quarry Bank School in Liverpool formed a group called The Quarrymen in 1957, and laid the foundation for a significant part of rock history. When Lennon met Paul McCartney at a Church fete, a historical songwriting partnership began. They played as a trio with George Harrison for a time as “Johnny & The Moondogs,” then added drummer Pete Best (renaming the band “The Silver Beetles”) for what became those legendary 1960 dates in Hamburg.
Adding record-store owner Brian Epstein as manager moved them from Liverpool favorites to the national scene. Brian was able to get an audition with Decca Records. Despite their devastation at the failure of this audition, Brian went on to secure them a contract with Parlophone Records. George Martin became their A&R director and producer. In August of 1962, Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr.
Their first single "Love Me Do" was issued on October 5, 1962, and was a modest hit. By 1963, "Beatlemania" had started in Britain, and they were starring in the Royal Variety Show, playing for the Queen and the Royal Family (at which John Lennon made his famous "rattle your jewelry" quip) and the top-rated TV show "Sunday Night At The London Palladium". Their biggest year was 1964, when they conquered the biggest record market in the world – America, beginning with their February appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
That same year The Beatles toured America for the first time and starred in their first motion picture "A Hard Day's Night." The Beatles’ second film "Help!" premiered in 1965. Later that year, The Beatles performed at Shea Stadium in New York to a crowd of 55,000 screaming fans--the largest live audience in history.
During the 1960s, The Beatles not only became a musical phenomenon, they affected the styles and fashions of the decade. They transformed the record industry as well. They brought about royalties for artists and producers, revolutionized music tours, and started the pop promo film, or what we know today as "the music video."
After the death of Epstein from an accidental overdose, things started to fall apart for The Beatles. They played their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966. Following the historic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the White Album, they embarked on the troublesome but creatively brilliant Let It Be project. Despite the friction and lacking Brian Epstein's sure hand on the tiller, The Beatles decided to get together to make one final album, Abbey Road, which would go on to become their biggest selling record ever. After much controversy and delay, Let It Be was finally released on May 8, 1970 less than a month after Paul publicly announced he was no longer a member of the group. Each Beatle went on to a successful solo career, and the legend grew to even more mythical proportions upon the tragic assasination of Lennon in 1980 and Harrison 's death from brain cancer in 2001. The Beatle’s long and winding tale is perhaps rock 'n' roll’s “Greatest Story Ever Told.”