Almost sixty years ago, rock ‘n’ roll was something fresh, exciting and controversial (thanks in part to Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show with his sexy hip swivels). By the beginning of the 1960’s, rock n’ roll music was becoming more accepted and rock legends like Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets had opened the gate for a new era that would change the music landscape. During this rock revolution, The Beatles came to life.
It is hard to believe that it’s been 52 years since The Beatles’ journey began when John Lennon formed a group called The Quarrymen. At first, the group consisted of 5 band members: John Lennon (guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (guitar, vocals), George Harrison (guitar), Stu Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drummer). The Quarrymen soon changed their name to The Beatles, after Buddy Holly’s “Crickets.” In 1962, Stu Sutcliffe left the group and Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr.
A combination of talent, practice, determination and opportunities rapidly led to the band’s success and eventually to the birth of Beatlemania. The group’s first years together were filled with gigs played in clubs all over Europe, specially the Hamburg, Germany club circuit between 1960 and December 1962, where The Beatles were hired to play at a nightclub for several periods of time. There, they played five sets a night for 8 hours. Playing 8 hours every night certainly helped them perfect their act. As the saying goes: “Practice Makes the Master.” In the book Outliers, the author Malcolm Gladwell talks about The Beatles’ Hamburg experience. He refers to a study called the “10,000-Hour Rule,” in which accumulating more than 10,000 hours of practice in any field will undoubtedly make anyone successful. Gladwell affirms that all of the time The Beatles spent performing in Hamburg (over 10,000 hrs of playing time) shaped their talent and gave way to their triumph.
George Harrison once said: “we just had this amazing inner feeling of: ‘We’re going to do it’. I don’t know why… we were just cocky.”
Sure enough, upon their return to England from their final Hamburg stint at the end of 1962 everything started to happen for them.
1963 was a big year for The Beatles, with their television debut on the British television show, “Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium” and the release of their first album, “Please Please Me.” Beatlemania had officially begun to spread. By the end of that year the Fab Four conquered UK radio stations and were topping the UK charts. They were among England’s most popular bands. However, it was not until February 9th, 1964 that The Beatles officially burst onto the music scene and fame, with their U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.
History was made that night. An incredible 73 million people tuned in that evening to watch this legendary performance, where they performed “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I saw her standing there” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
At the time, it was the highest rated television show ever. The Beatles appeared a total of four times on The Ed Sullivan Show and one can say that nearly everything The Beatles did after these legendary performances was successful.
The Fab Four’s first No. 1 single in the U.S. was “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which hit the charts just a few weeks prior to The Beatles Ed Sullivan Show 1964. This popular hit was followed by 45 more Top 40 hits over the next six years! During the week of April 4, 1964, The Beatles set a record that is likely never to be broken when they occupied all five of the top positions on Billboard’s Top 40, with “Can’t Buy Me Love” at No. 1.
Throughout the band’s years together, they produced some of rock’s best and most influential albums ever, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1966), The Beatles (1968), also referred to as The White Album, Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970). It is estimated that The Beatles have sold more than 600 million units worldwide.
The Beatles became more than recording artists. They made films, like their anarchic documentary film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help!; their clothes, style and statements made them trend-setters and perhaps most importantly they became political activists, particularly John Lennon.
On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced his departure from The Beatles, and the group subtly came to an end. After the band’s break up in 1970, all four members embarked upon successful solo careers.
The Beatles achieved an iconic status with far reaching effects. To this day, their music, styles and ways of thinking continue to captivate millions of people around the world. The Beatles are unquestionably the most popular group in music history.