Date created: April 2010
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The Beatles Timeline
1962The most successful pop group of the 20 century; they changed popular culture forever. From their first studio contract in 1962 until 1970, the Beatles lineup consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. This famous lineup is also known as the "Fab Four" while many other musicians claimed the "Fifth Beatle" status. Those other musicians who performed with The Beatles on various gigs, tours, recordings, and on part-time basis were: singer Tony Sheridan, bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, guitarist Eric Clapton, drummers Pete Best, Andy White, Tommy Moore, Jimmy Nicol, and Neil Aspinall on harmonica and percussion, assistant and Hammond organ player Mal Evans, electric piano player Nicky Hopkins, and pianist Billy Preston, the only artist to receive joint credit on a Beatles record. The four Beatles sometimes referred to Brian Epstein as the fifth Beatle, albeit the label is now more often applied to George Martin, who produced nearly all the Beatles recordings, made arrangements and orchestrations, and played piano on several songs.
1962Their initial 1962 recording contract with Parlophone Records in England (a division of EMI) was for a series of singles, at a minimal royalty rate. After "Please Please Me" became a hit, EMI gave them a full five-year contract for singles and albums, and better royalties. Brian Epstein negotiated a new contract for them in 1967 just before he died; with its basic terms fulfilled by late 1969, Allen Klein was able to renegotiate with EMI, and got the band the highest royalty rate ever paid to a recording artist or group up to that time - a whopping 69¢ per album. John Lennon had already effectively quit the Beatles, but agreed to keep mum about it until the deal was complete; Paul McCartney announced the debut of his first solo album a few months later. The official dissolution of The Beatles was final in 1975.
1962Their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show actually wasn't the first time the Beatles had been seen on American television. The CBS Evening News (hosted by Walter Cronkite) ran a story about their popularity in England, and a film clip of them performing aired on "The Jack Paar Program" (1962). Sullivan gave them their first live TV appearance in America, after personally contacting Cronkite to ask about them.
1962Three of the Beatles married their wives because they became pregnant: John (to Cynthia Lennon, mother of Julian Lennon) in 1962, Ringo (to Maureen Starkey, mother of Zak Starkey) in 1965, and Paul (to Linda McCartney, mother of Mary McCartney) in 1969. George Harrison was the only Beatle who had a child born out of wedlock, his son, Dhani Harrison, was born one month before he married second wife, Olivia Trinidad Arias, who became Olivia Harrison. George was previously married to Pattie Boyd from 1966 - 1977; they did not have children.
1963When 16-year-old British sensation Helen Shapiro played the first engagement of her British nationwide tour in February 1963, The Beatles were second-billed to her act.
1964Both Ringo Starr and George Harrison were singled out for praise for their performances in the first Beatles movie, A Hard Day's Night (1964); manager (and former drama student) Brian Epstein predicted that Starr would turn out to have considerable acting ability. He did indeed begin a second career in movies as the Beatles broke up, while bandmate Harrison first befriended the Monty Python comedy troupe, then became a movie producer after he financed the Pythons' Life of Brian (1979). (John Lennon and Paul McCartney had briefer movie careers, with Lennon appearing in How I Won the War (1967) and McCartney making Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984).)
1964John Lennon was asked by a news reporter in 1964 "How long do you think the Beatles will last?" Lennon answered "About five years." The Beatles began to break up in 1969.
1964The recording "Eight Days a Week" (1964)) commenced with a fade-in - a first in pop music - when most contemporary recordings concluded with the commonplace fade-out.
1964"I Feel Fine" (1964), according to John Lennon, featured the first intentional use of guitar feedback on a pop song. This is heard at the very beginning of the track.
1964The band's performance of their 1965 number one hit song "Ticket to Ride" on "Top of the Pops" (1964) was wiped by the BBC and the only footage of it that is known to still exist features in "Doctor Who: The Executioners (#2.30)" (1965).
1965The landmark recording "Yesterday" (1965) featured Paul McCartney on vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied by a string quartet. McCartney agreed to the strings only on condition that the players not use vibrato, a finger-jiggling technique usually applied to the strings of bowed instruments.
1966The Beatles stopped touring in 1966. To promote their new albums, they made "promos" - a predecessor of music videos. Individual members of The Beatles sometimes appeared on TV to give interviews. Their few live performances were for cameras, and invited audiences. Their 1969 rooftop show in London was for whoever could hear them, on the street below, and was their last-ever public performance.
1966Even though their 1966 "Revolver" album came out while they were on tour, the Beatles performed no songs from it onstage, and mostly stuck to their 1965 set list. Not all the big shows were sold out, partly from the remaining controversy over John Lennon's "more popular than Jesus" remarks. The band played their last show on August 29, 1966 in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California. The band had already decided not to tour again.
1966The Beatles were best known from early on for their stage performances, but they came to dislike performing live, as their popularity increased. They were used to playing whatever music they chose, but had to stick to their own songs to promote record sales. What had been an hour-plus show was cut to 20-30 minutes, not allowing the band their usual interaction or showmanship. Their stage amplifiers were suited to nightclubs and theaters, not the stadiums or amphitheaters public demand required, and it was impossible for the Beatles to hear each other onstage - even without the nonstop screaming from the crowds. (In-house sound systems were rare, primitive, and also lacking in volume.) Higher-powered amplifiers were not yet available. The music suffered under these conditions, and sometimes became a pantomime, with Ringo Starr playing only every other beat, and the rest of the band trying to just start and end songs at the same time. The backstage atmosphere was usually a rowdy party scene, and lost its appeal over time. After the Beatles stopped touring in 1966, their few live performances were for cameras, and invited audiences. (Their 1969 rooftop show was for whoever could hear them, on the street below, and was their last-ever public performance.).
1967When "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was released in 1967, it was the first album to feature printed lyrics of all songs on its sleeve.
1967Geoff Emerick, a principal recording engineer on The Beatles' classic "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967), estimates that the entire album took 700 hours to complete over a period of 129 days. First track to be recorded was "When I'm Sixty-Four" (December 6, 1966 at Abbey Road studio two).
1968One of the reasons their 1968 "White Album" (whose formal title was simply "The Beatles") was a double album with thirty-three songs was because the band had misinterpreted their 1967 contract renewal. Since the deal with EMI was for a minimum of seventy recorded songs within nine years (either as a group or as solo artists), they sought to deliver those seventy recordings as early as possible, then look for another deal. Allen Klein, their manager, pointed out to the band that however early those songs were delivered, each member was still under exclusive contract to EMI until 1976. The fact that they had submitted the required number of songs (between the "White Album", "Abbey Road", the in-progress "Let It Be", recent singles, and solo projects) by the fall of 1969, however, gave them a bargaining chip for renegotiations.
1969The Beatles' album "Abbey Road" (1969) contains both the longest and shortest recordings in the band's entire repertoire: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (7:47) and "Her Majesty" (0.23).
1969One of the band's first recording engineers was Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, later Pink Floyd's first producer. Alan Parsons was the engineer at some of their last sessions in 1969.
1970"Let It Be" (1970) was the very first Beatles recording to use female backing vocals, a concept devised by producer Phil Spector. This wall-of-sound approach apparently pleased John and George, but was not as popular with Paul.
1975"Saturday Night Live" (1975) had a running joke in the 1970s, where producer Lorne Michaels would appear on camera, and invite the Beatles to reunite for one more set on the show, for the handsome sum of $3200 (later upped to $3500). The joke spoofed both the grandiose offers made by Sid Bernstein and other promoters to the Beatles to perform again through those years, and the relatively small budget SNL was given to bring on top musical acts. On one show night, John and Paul (who was visiting John in New York) happened to be watching, and joked about going down to the studio, just for a laugh. George Harrison did actually appear on another night; a mock argument happened on camera when he was told he couldn't collect the whole fee, since the offer was only for the whole band.
2008At the time of writing (2008) they remain the only band to have won two Brit (British Phonographic Industry) Awards for their Outstanding Contribution to Music, in 1977 and in 1983. In addition, they are the only band which has had two members receive the Outstanding Contribution Award individually, John Lennon posthumously in 1982 and Paul McCartney in 2008.
2010After years of legal disputes, The Beatles' music finally becomes available for the first time on iTunes, America's largest purveyor of online music after just 10 years in business. First day of sales saw single "Here Comes the Sun" and album "Abbey Road" racking up the most sales for the launch of the band's vast music library. [16 November 2010]