The Beatles

The Beatles are universally regarded as one of the most important bands in the history of Rock and Roll. Over the course of an active career that spanned just 10 years, the band released some of the most enduring popular music of the 20th century – a catalog whose influence would be hard to overstate. To give but one measure of the band’s stature, when Rolling Stone ranked the “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time,” four Beatles records made the top ten: Revolver, Rubber Soul, The Beatles (a.k.a. the “White Album”) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which made the No. 1 slot.

The Beatles formed in Liverpool in the late-1950s. Inspired by American Rock and Roll as well as the English Skiffle craze, a teenage John Lennon teamed up with Paul McCartney to form the Quarrymen. George Harrison was recruited soon thereafter, and before long the band changed their name to the Silver Beatles, then simply the Beatles. Original drummer Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr during the band’s first recordings for the label EMI, cut with producer George Martin.

The band cut their teeth during their early years playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany, mixing stray original songs with a repertoire heavy on numbers by American Rock and Rollers including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, and Larry Williams. Manager Brian Epstein molded the scruffy, leather-wearing combo into a professional act, and helped secure the band a record deal in 1962. The early singles “Love Me Do,” and “Please, Please Me” climbed the U.K. charts, taking the band from regional success to stardom in Britain, and from there things snowballed. The band’s first visit to New York City, in February 1964, and their subsequent appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show – the best-watched program in television history to date — launched a hysterical wave of popularity that would be dubbed “Beatlemania.” It also kicked off the British Invasion, an era that saw English bands including the Kinks, Rolling Stones, Animals and the Who dominating the charts in the United States, while purveyors of American styles including Surf, Doo-Wop, and R&B found themselves abruptly marginalized.

The Beatles’ popularity was such that their tours became frenzied affairs akin to military maneuvers, and tired of the ordeal, the Beatles retired from live performance after completing a U.S. tour in August 1966, to focus on recording. The records the Beatles made during this period, in partnership with longtime producer George Martin – Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Revolver – were increasingly marked by invention and experimentation, and are considered among the band’s highwater marks.

Their growing studio sophistication culminated in 1967’s Sgt. Peppper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a tour de force that’s considered one of the most influential records of the 20th century, in part for the way it advanced the idea of an album as a cohesive artistic statement rather than a collection of singles.

At the heart of the Beatles was harmonizing and songwriting collaboration between McCartney and Lennon. While each was a formidable talent on his own, it was through their partnership that each one’s gifts fully flowered, both because each was spurred by a sense of competition and because McCartney’s innate melodicism and Lennon’s soulful grit were such a potent combination. In all, the partnership resulted in over two dozen No. 1 hits in the U.S. and U.K., and a great many songs songs considered classics, from early efforts such as “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to mid-period gems such as “Help!” and “Yesterday” to latter-period songs such as “Across the Universe” and “Let It Be.” George Harrison’s skill as a songwriter also gradually blossomed; he would have to fight to have his songs included on Beatles records, but Harrison’s original songs such as “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” stand among the Beatles most beloved material.

By 1970, creative and personal tensions split the band apart. All members went on to successful solo careers. Fans and critics clamored for a reunion that would never be realized. John Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan in New York City in 1980. George Harrison died of cancer in 2001.

Related Lessons

lesson:
“Twist and Shout” and Post-War Britain

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: General Music

What role did cover songs like “Twist and Shout” play early in the Beatles's career, and how did their experiences growing up in post-WWII Liverpool and performing in Hamburg nightclubs help them to develop as a professional musical ensemble?

lesson:
Beatlemania

Grades: High
Subjects: Social Studies/History

What were the factors that contributed to the rise of Beatlemania?

lesson:
Chuck Berry

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: General Music

Why is Chuck Berry often considered the most important of the early Rock and Rollers?

lesson:
Considering the Future of Rock and Roll

Grades: High
Subjects: ELA, Social Studies/History

How is Rock and Roll's power, at least in part, a result of its being born on the margins of society?

lesson:
Fame and Judgement in “Funny”

Grades: All Ages, AP/Honors/101, Elementary K-2, High, Middle
Subjects: General Music, Social Studies/History

How might Tori Kelly’s song “Funny” speak to the potential pitfalls of “superstardom,” and how does it relate to past songs written about the subject?

lesson:
From the Stage to the Studio

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: General Music, Social Studies/History

What caused The Beatles to cease touring in 1966 and how did the innovative music they then created during their subsequent immersion in the recording studio both reflect and influence the world at that time?

lesson:
How to Study Rock and Roll

Grades: All Ages, AP/Honors/101, Elementary K-2, High, Middle
Subjects: ELA, General Music, Social Studies/History

How can teachers help students analyze and understand Rock and Roll?

lesson:
Liverpool: The Birthplace of the Beatles

Grades: High
Subjects: Social Studies/History

How did growing up in post-WWII Liverpool influence the Beatles?

lesson:
Multitracking in the Countercultural 1960s

Grades: High
Subjects: CTE, General Music, Science, STEAM

How did The Beatles’ use of cutting edge recording technology and studio techniques both reflect and shape the counterculture of the 1960s?

lesson:
The Beatles and American Segregation

Grades: All Ages, Elementary K-2, High, Middle
Subjects: Social Studies/History

How did the Beatles take a stand against segregation while touring America? And what did it mean for popular music culture?

lesson:
The Beatles and Teen Culture

Grades: High
Subjects: Social Studies/History

How did the Beatles’ image as a “rock band” affect young people in America?

lesson:
The Beatles Work Towards Success

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: Math, Social Studies/History, STEAM

How did The Beatles' rigorous work schedule during the years 1960-63 build their strengths as performers, as musicians, and as a band?

lesson:
The Beatles, a New Kind of Star

Grades: High
Subjects: General Music, Social Emotional Learning, Social Studies/History

How did The Beatles establish a new paradigm for the image of "the star," and how did that image support their global success?

lesson:
The Leadership Skills of a Music Producer

Grades: Elementary K-2, Middle
Subjects: CTE, Social Emotional Learning

How do successful music producers practice positive leadership skills?

lesson:
The Many Roles of a Music Producer

Grades: High
Subjects: CTE, General Music

What does a music producer do and in what ways does one hear the sound of a producer’s work in recordings?

lesson:
The Rise of the Electric Guitar

Grades: High
Subjects: General Music, Social Studies/History

What factors led to the rise of the electric guitar as the dominant symbol of Rock and Roll?

lesson:
The Teamwork Behind the Beatles

Grades: High, Middle
Subjects: CTE, General Music

How did the input of manager Brian Epstein and record producer George Martin help The Beatles develop and refine skills that aided the band in presenting their music and personalities to a mass audience?

lesson:
The Teamwork Behind the Beatles (Elementary Version)

Grades: Elementary K-2
Subjects: CTE, Social Emotional Learning

How did the input of manager Brian Epstein and record producer George Martin help The Beatles develop and refine skills that aided the band in presenting their music and personalities to a mass audience?

lesson:
Using Algebraic Expressions to Analyze Concert Schedules

Grades: Middle
Subjects: Math

How can writing and evaluating expressions be used to explain the scope of an artist’s concert schedule?

Videos

Images

Print Journalism

article:
Newcomers To The Charts: Liverpool’s Beatles Wrote Their Own Hit

MAKING THEIR NME Chart debut with 'Love Me Do' this week are the Beatles, a vocal-instrumental group who hail from Liverpool, the birthplace of such stars as Billy Fury, Frankie Vaughan, Norman Vaughan and Ken Dodd. Their own composition, 'Love Me Do', is their first disc to be released on a British label. Previously they were with Polydor and had several discs released on the Continent, including one with singer Tony Sheridan, of 'Oh Boy!' note. Why are they called "the Beatles" ? The boys laughingly put off this question by saying : "The name came to us in a vision!" The line-up is...