The Beatles are arguably the most influential band of all time, dabbling in everything from pop, psych and hard rock, and Indian music. Even though the band split up in 1970, Beatlemania has yet to die out. This is the hidden history of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
As the group began fighting more, the cause of the fights became quite petty. George and John once got in a physical after Yoko Ono ate some of George’s McVitie’s chocolate digestive biscuits.
Paul McCartney: Guitar Wizard
Outside of his role as a songwriter and singer, Paul McCartney is usually found laying down melodic bass lines for the Beatles. Surprisingly, his first instrument was actually the guitar, and he recorded a handful of the Beatles’ most difficult guitar solos, not George Harrison. Harrison would regularly be congratulated for his work on solos he did not play. He would simply reply, “No, that was Paul.” Paul’s recognizable, difficult solos include Taxman, Back in the USSR, and Good Morning, Good Morning.
One of the most physically distinguishable traits about the Beatles was the early uniformity in their mop-top bowl cuts. The look’s inspiration came while they were in Hamburg where many young men wore their hair as such, including friend Klaus Voormann (the artist who designed the Revolver album art). Then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe tried the cut first, and the rest followed suit. Original drummer Pete Best was doomed from the start – his curly hair couldn’t be styled like his bandmates.
The Silver Beatles
After Stuart Sutcliffe joined the band on bass, they soon changed their name from the Quarrymen. Before a short tour in Scotland, they began going by the Silver Beetles. Under two months later they would change the spelling to the Silver Beatles. As part of the tour, they took stage names. John was Long John, George became Carl after Carl Perkins, McCartney became Paul Ramon. By mid-August, they had dropped the silver from their name and officially became The Beatles.
High Praise From Ol’ Blue Eyes
Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, was a huge fan of the group, especially George Harrison’s Something. Something was the first A-side song written by Harrison and is the band’s second most covered song behind Yesterday. Sinatra referred to the song, one that he frequently played live as well as recorded, as “the greatest love song of the last 50 years.” That’s high praise from a guy that sang The Way You Look Tonight.
The Fifth Beatle
One of the biggest discussions in Beatles-lore surrounds the “fifth Beatle.” Some prefer to label early band members Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best as fifth Beatles. Lennon did not like to give credit to any one person above others. McCartney referred to either manager Brian Epstein or George Martin as the fifth member. Pianist Billy Preston is also mentioned as he is the only artist to receive joint credit for a song (Get Back), plus his contribution on four other songs.
Decca’s Big Mistake
Before they became international sensations, the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records in London. They played 15 songs, including three Lennon-McCartney original tunes. In what would go down as one of the biggest mistakes in music history, Decca rejected them, instead choosing to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Decca told them that “guitar groups are on the way out.” They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice – Decca signed another “guitar group,” the Rolling Stones, in 1963.
Voice Actors In Yellow Submarine Film
The Yellow Submarine is one of the Beatles’ most successful films. The animated musical fantasy takes the Fab Four away from their home in Liverpool to save Pepperland, a land of joy and music, from the music hating Blue Meanies. Early press reports claimed that the Beatles would each voice their own characters. Instead, they were played by voice actors, only making a cameo at the end of the film to meet their contractual obligation.
Where Did ‘Paul Is Dead’ Come From?
In 1966, Paul McCartney injured himself in a moped accident. He grew a mustache over a cut on his lip that he sustained in the crash, fueling rumors that it actually was not Paul, but an imposter. “Paul is dead” rumors persisted as many people believed that John Lennon mumbled “I buried Paul” at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever. Conspiracy theorists were disappointed to hear that he said “cranberry sauce” randomly.
They Planned To Set Up A Commune
In 1967, the Beatles conceived a half-baked idea to purchase an island off the coast of Athens, Greece for the purpose of starting a utopian society for their friends and families. Lennon was really into the idea. He said, “They’ve tried everything else. Wars, nationalism, fascism, communism, capitalism, nastiness, religion – none of it works. So why not this?” They came to their senses and scrapped the idea for a place with no possessions.
Paul Hops On The Kit
In the middle of recording The Beatles, colloquially known as The White Album, Ringo Starr stormed out of the band because he felt unloved. With no drummer, the rest of the band still had work to do. McCartney hopped on the drum kit in his absence, and the three remaining Beatles recorded Back in the USSR and Dear Prudence. They quickly begged him to return, which he did to find his kit decorated with flowers spelling “Welcome Back Ringo.”
Ridiculous Beatlemania Merchandise
Beatlemania became an unavoidable phenomenon, especially once the Beatles landed in the United States. Not only could record stores not keep their records on the shelves, but other retailers became quickly invested in the Beatles. Beatles merchandise became as big a part of the movement as the music itself with everyone looking to make a buck off of them. Some of the strangest items include Beatles bubble bath, talcum powder, insect repellent mothballs, and women’s stockings.
A Firm Hold On Number One, And Two And Three…
After the release of Please Please Me, the Beatles’ success in America was unprecedented. Following their US arrival at JFK airport, and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show two days later, The Beatles made history on April 4, 1964. They held the top five slots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with Can’t Buy Me Love, Twist and Shout, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Please Please Me.
John Lennon Actually ‘Read The News Today’
A Day In The Life beautifully closes out the Beatle’s magnum opus, Sgt. Peppers. The verses of the song were based off actual news stories from an edition of the Daily Mail. The first two verses were inspired by the death Tara Browne, a friend of Paul and John’s and Guinness beer heir, that died in a car accident. That same copy of the Daily Mail also commented about “4000 holes” in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire.
A Powerful Ending
A Day In The Life is one of the most complex and beautiful songs in the Beatles’ extensive catalog. Its most noteworthy moment comes immediately after the chaos subsides – a stunningly powerful single chord that rings out until it fades away. To achieve such a full sound, McCartney, Lennon, and Starr cheated a bit. Instead of having one person lay down the chords, the three Beatles plus their road manager Mal Evans shared three pianos and simultaneously slammed on that E chord.
Strawberry Fields Took Forever
The first song recorded as part of the Sgt Peppers sessions, the Beatles were pressured into releasing Strawberry Fields Forever as a single before its release with Magical Mystery Tour. The song took 45 hours to record over five weeks as it was recorded as three distinct arrangements. In the end, Lennon, who considered it his greatest achievement, loved two of the versions and asked George Martin to combine them even though they were different speeds. You can hear the change a minute in.
A Humble, Yet Rocky Beginning
The earliest contingent of the Beatles started with John Lennon’s group of school friends under the name The Quarrymen. In the summer of 1958, they recorded an album with the help of Paul McCartney and George Harrison who had joined the band within the previous year. The record caused strife in the band as it leaned closer towards rock and roll, with the dissenting members eventually leaving the band. They remained as a trio of guitar players until 1960.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Man Don’t Play Drums For Me
As the Beatles prepared their debut single, Love Me Do, producer George Martin became increasingly frustrated with how Ringo sounded on the first take. Ringo was a new addition to the band and was only in his first recording session with them. They re-recorded the song a week later, this time with Andy White, a session player, on drums and with Ringo on tambourine, something Paul believes still bothers Ringo today.
We All Sing On The Yellow Submarine
One of Ringo Starr’s moments in the sun as a singer, Yellow Submarine is one of the most recognizable Beatles tunes. Intended initially as a nonsense children’s song, it became a cultural phenomenon which spurred an animated film and soundtrack album. Did you know that a handful of famous faces lent their voices for backing vocals? The Rolling Stones original guitarist Brian Jones, British singer Marianne Faithfull, George’s wife Pattie Boyd, and hippie singer Donovan all contributed to the song.
The Pope Chimes In
Searching for music reviews? Look no further than the Vatican for pop culture commentary. In 2010, the Vatican released a list of its top 10 pop albums of all time. Revolver topped the list to the surprise of Beatles fans. The Vatican notoriously condemned the Beatles as satanic after Lennon referred to the band as “more popular than Jesus.” 50 years later, the Vatican would apologize to the band, something that Ringo found to be unnecessary.
The Controversial “Butcher” Album Cover
With an album worth of songs to release for the US market, the Beatles scrapped together Yesterday and Today. John once joked that the original idea was a decapitated Paul. What they actually chose was no less shocking. Photographer Robert Whitaker was tired of taking clean images of them and decided to go darker, taking photos of them in butcher smocks, covered in pieces of meat and body parts from baby dolls. Many were recalled and either destroyed or covered with another photo.
A Look Into Their Dreams
NME once published a series of interviews looking into the guys’ dreams. According to the 1967 interviews, the Beatles had plenty of fears. McCartney, never one to get caught with his pants down, recalled a dream in which he appears in the street wearing only his underwear. George told of vivid plane crash dreams, perhaps projecting a fear of flying. He said, “It was all funny though: me legs were burning, but they weren’t like hurting.”
A Breakfast-Based Hit
The most covered Beatles song of all time came to Paul McCartney in a dream. One morning, McCartney woke up with a melody in his head and rushed to a piano so he would not forget it. With no idea where it came from, he first thought that he had heard the song before. As placeholders for the worlds, he sang, “scrambled eggs/oh my baby how I love your legs/not as much as I love scrambled eggs.” It soon became Yesterday.
First Recording Session Critiques
On June 6, 1962, the Beatles took part in their first recording session for Parlophone records at Abbey Road studios. After the session had concluded, producer George Martin ran through a list of critiques for his new project. After he had finished, Martin asked if the band had any comments of their own. George Harrison promptly responded with, “Well, for a start, I don’t like your tie.” Martin’s relationship with the Beatles was off to a great start.
What’s It Like To Be Dead
While in Beverly Hills on a break from their tour, the Fab Four took some mind altering “substances” with the Byrds and Peter Fonda. A very not sober Fonda kept repeating “I know what it’s like to be dead,” about the time at age 11 he accidentally shot himself. John Lennon snapped back at him, “You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born.” By 1966, both lines became part of the Revolver track She Said She Said.
Getting The Band Back Together
The Beatles’ breakup was flagrantly messy but would not be the end of their playing together. During a break from Yoko Ono in 1973-74, McCartney joined Lennon in what is considered their only known recording session post-Beatles. They had attacked each other publicly for the past few years, but apparently remained friends in private. For one day, with Stevie Wonder, Harry Nilsson, and Bobby Keys, they recorded a sloppy session which became the bootleg record A Toot and a Snore in ’74
She Really Left Home
The Lennon-McCartney song, She’s Leaving Home, was inspired by a news article about a 17-year-old girl named Melanie Coe who ran away to be with her boyfriend. Outside of the general concept, the duo fabricated the rest of the story for the lyrics. In a strange turn of events, Coe later claimed that they had guessed many of the details correctly. Coincidentally, she had met Paul a few years early in as the prize winner of a dance contest.
George Martin’s Premonition
The early hit Please Please Me was not initially loved by George Martin. He hated the way first recordings of the song sounded, claiming them to be like a slow Roy Orbison song. Martin felt it needed some energy, so they increased the tempo. After another 18 take of the newer version, a finally pleased Martin said, “You’ve just made your first number one.” He was right – the song went to the top of the NME, BBC, and Melody Maker.
Who Is Mr. Kite?
Like many of John Lennon’s compositions, the inspiration came from something he saw or read. In the case of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, the concept came from a 19th-century circus poster. The Beatles were in the middle of filming Strawberry Fields Forever when Lennon purchased the poster from an antique shop. Mr. Kite is believed to be William Kite. He worked for Pablo Fanque, the circus’s proprietor, around the time the poster was published.
As Beatlemania turned the Beatles’ lives around, making them the most recognizable faces on Earth, they would repeatedly have fans show up at their homes. Screaming girls would come looking specifically for Paul and John but occasionally would end up at the wrong place. When they would show up at Harrison’s Liverpool home, he would tell them, “No, Paul McCartney doesn’t live here.” The disappointed faces would then promptly leave to find Paul’s actual home.
They Were Deported From Germany
The two years that they spent in Hamburg was the most formative experience of their young music careers, but it almost did not last long. Harrison, only 17 at the time, was deported in 1960 after a spiteful club owner told authorities that he was under the legal age to play in German clubs. McCartney and Best were deported for arson two weeks later when they lit a condom on fire as a light source when their power was cut.
Really, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
The Abbey Road song She Came In Through The Bathroom Window is not some random reference to a made-up story, but inspired by actual events. The Beatles were frequently bothered by the Apple scruffs, a group of fans that hung around the studio and followed them to their homes. On one occasion, a fan snuck into Paul’s home through an upstairs bathroom window via ladder, letting in her friends to steal photos and clothes.
John’s Problematic Choices for The Sgt. Peppers Cover
Once the Beatles decided on the concept for the Sgt. Peppers album art, they went through the difficult process of selecting who to put in the image. Recognizable faces such as Fred Astaire, Bob Dylan, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, and Shirley Temple made the cut, but a few others did not. Lennon fought for the inclusion of three controversial names, Gandhi, Christ and Hitler, but they were removed for being various reasons.
The Start Of Beatlemania
Legend has it that a 15-year-old from Maryland is responsible for Beatlemania in America. Marsha Albert allegedly called a local Washington DC radio station after seeing a news report on the Beatles and asked, “Why can’t we have music like that here in America?” The DJ located a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand and demand went through the roof. Another DJ had attempted to play them previously in Chicago and LA, but it never clicked.
Women’s Clothes And The Last Concert
The Beatles final live performance came as a surprise to many as the Fab Four (with Billy Preston) rocked the socks off London from the rooftop of Apple Corp’s building. On a chilly January day, Lennon and Starr came a bit unprepared for the weather so they borrowed their ladies’ coats, which can be seen in Let It Be. With winds whipping on the roof, engineer Alan Parsons wrapped the microphones in pantyhose to minimize outside noise.
The (Unfortunate) Defining Scent of Beatles Concerts
Teenage girls came in droves to see the Beatles during the British Invasion. Video and audio footage of their shows are littered with high pitch screams. But screams were not the only they left behind. Recurrently, the end of Beatles shows and film screenings would reek of urine. Concert and movie goers would literally pee themselves from excitement. Musician Bob Geldof claims that the smell of urine is what he most associated with the Beatles.
The Lived Together In A German Cinema
During their time in Hamburg, the upstart Beatles lived meagerly in an old cinema called Bambi Kino. They were still teenagers at the time, so they did not mind the less-than-stellar accommodations next to the bathroom. Lennon recalled how they would be woken up by the next day’s show. They would then rush to the cleanest restroom, the ladies, fighting through the old German patrons to wash up for the day.
He Had To Hide His Love Away
While his closest friends knew, Brian Epstein kept his homosexuality a secret from the public. It was not known until years after his death that he was gay. Rumors swirled that Epstein was in love with John and that John knew about his friend’s intimate feelings. Although he never explicitly said so, it is believed that the song You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away is about Epstein and his true feelings.
The Jelly Bean Incident
After their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, the Beatles embarked on a US tour. Before a stop at the Coliseum in Washington D.C., George mentioned in an interview how much he liked “jelly babies.” Fans showed up prepared for the show in D.C. with fists full of jelly beans. The stage was placed in the middle of the auditorium, and the band was bombarded from all sides by fans slinging jelly beans at the stage. No man could avoid being hit by the little sweets.
The Other Other Drummer
In 1964, Ringo came down with a bad case of Tonsilitis before the band was heading on tour. Shubdubs drummer Jimmie Nicol received a surprising call from Brian Epstein to come audition for the gig. He got the part, took himself to a barber for the famous mop-top and joined the band for ten days. Nicol was given a 500-pound bonus and a watch for filling in, caught a plane back to England and had his life spiral out of control.
The Beatles Relay Race
One field the Beatles never excelled – athletics. Even though it did not affect their voices, they smoked enough cigarettes to make sports difficult. While film Help! in 1965, they decided to hold a relay race on the last day of filming. They split into four teams: electricians, carpenters, camera crew, and the Beatles. In a miraculous display of shocking athleticism, the Beatles came out on top. Paul later claimed that the course ran near a mile long.
Beatles Retail Fail
For as magnificent of musicians as they were, the Beatles were terrible businessmen. One of their worst business ideas came in the form of a retail store in London. The Apple Boutique, part of their larger Apple Corps, was a psychedelic shop with an enormous mural that was universally hated by locals. Designed by Dutch collective The Fool, the merchandise has been described as “a bog of bad taste.” After seven months, they gave the merchandise away for free.
Paul’s Lost Decade
After the Beatles had broken up, Paul entered an uncontrollable downward spiral. He would stay in bed late into the day and start drinking earlier in the morning. He began taking refuge at the High Park Farm in Kintyre, Scotland. Linda referred to this period as “frightening beyond belief.” In addition to drowning his demons, his attempts to mend his relationship with John were futile. He struggled to find his place in the music world again and did not have his closest friend.
The Disappearance Of Penny Lane
The Magical Mystery Tour song Penny Lane is one of the many great Beatles songs to come from the Sgt. Peppers sessions. The song is in reference to a real street in Liverpool. Because of the song’s popularity, Penny Lane has become a must-see tourist destination for Beatles fans. The street sign for Penny Lane became a frequent target for theft. After replacing the sign for years, city officials decided to paint the sign on a building.
The Fight For Pattie Boyd
As one of George Harrison’s closest friends, Eric Clapton was asked to join the Beatles in recording While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Their friendship, however, would be put to the test over a woman, Pattie Boyd. Clapton developed a huge crush on Boyd while she was married to Harrison. Each guitarist eventually wrote songs about Boyd, including Harrison’s Something and Clapton’s Layla. Harrison and Body divorced in 1977, and she married Clapton in 1979.
Cher’s Love Of Ringo
The Goddess of Pop dominated the 70s and 80s pop music scene. Before she became Cher, she recorded her first single under the name Bonnie Jo Mason. Ringo, I Love You was produced by Phil Spector and came out right in the middle of Beatlemania. The song did horribly as radio DJs felt that her low voice sounded too much like a man’s. Some did not play it believing she was a man and that the song had homosexual undertones.
Ringo’s Cheeky Revolver Idea
Like most Beatles albums, Revolver has become a classic. The 1966 album is heavy with psychedelic influences and has a memorable black and white album cover. Before they settled on Revolver, the album was to be named Abracadabra. With the Beatles in somewhat of an arms race with other British Invasion bands, such as the Rolling Stones, Ringo jokingly suggested calling the album “After Geography.” The Stones had released “Aftermath” a few months earlier.
They Wanted To Film Lord Of The Rings
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film adaptations broke numerous film records. The Beatles almost beat him to the punch if not for J.R.R. Tolkien. Lennon made a push to produce a Lord of the Rings film starring the Beatles. Paul would have played Frodo, Ringo as Sam, Harrison as Gandalf, and Lennon as Gollum. Lennon asked Stanley Kubrick to direct the film, but he turned it down, and Tolkien refused to give them the rights.
A Merry Hell’s Angels Christmas Party
The 1968 Christmas party at Apple headquarters was almost ruined due to some hungry Hell’s Angels. With John Lennon as Father Christmas and Yoko by his side as Mother Christmas, Harrison decided to invite some of his buddies from the Los Angeles Hell’s Angels chapter to drop by. With a “mountain of sausage rolls” nearby, some impatient Angels almost ruined the party. The turkey was taking too long to cook, so they began causing a ruckus with no one to tell them off.
Lennon Returned His MBE
At the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1965, the Queen bestowed the Beatles as Members of the British Empire (MBE), a high civilian honor, due to their exploding worldwide success. Lennon returned his MBE medal to the Queen in 1969 as part of his peaceful protests. He wrote in his letter, “Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon.”
They Passed On Roles In The Jungle Book
In the original Disney film The Jungle Book director Wolfgang Reitherman planned to have the Beatles voice the vultures which Mowgli encounters. While they are evil characters in the book, they wanted to lighten the characters up by giving them a resemblance to the Beatles, mop top and all. They were to sing That’s What Friends Are For, but Lennon eventually shot the idea down because he did not want to be in an animated film.
John Had An Issue With Lyrics
For all his songwriting prowess, John Lennon was terrible at remembering the lyrics to his songs. In fact, during the Beatles final rooftop concert, producers were so worried that he would forget the words that they had an Apple employee hold up a lyrics sheet for him out of the camera’s view. Even with the cue cards, Lennon managed to mess up the words in Don’t Let Me Down, something close to “And only reese we got the blootchy-koo.”
The Beatles Officially Split At The Happiest Place On Earth
The Beatles broke up in 1970 but would remain a legal entity until 1974. They planned to sign off on dissolution papers together at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Ringo had already signed the documents in England, but McCartney and Harrison flew in for it. John did not come because “the stars aren’t right.” Instead, an Apple lawyer brought him the contract to sign while he vacationed at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Hotel.
Banned By The BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation butted heads with the Beatles on numerous occasions. I Am the Walrus was not allowed on the for suggesting adult imagery with the line “let your knickers down.” A Day in the Life and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds were initially banned because they felt they were too heavy in substance references. In most cases, the bans were never lifted per se but have been played in recent years on BBC Radio.
The Real Reason The Beatles Broke Up: Part 1
Unfortunately, it was not a quick and easy split, and a few events led to their official close. Their first major hit was the 1967 death of manager Brian Epstein which left them exposed on the business side. It added new stresses they were unprepared for. Also, the band, especially George, became increasingly frustrated with Yoko Ono’s intrusive and constant presence. They had originally agreed to keep wives and girlfriends out of the studio.
The Real Reasons The Beatles Broke Up: Part 2
In the end, the Beatles were done in by their maturing music abilities and tastes. After they stopped touring in 1966, George became increasingly improved as a songwriter. However, Lennon and McCartney frequently shot down his ideas. Collectively, there was less collaboration as each member pursued their own artistic agenda and tastes. The White Album, for instance, has been called “four solo albums in one roof.” John left the band in 1969, and McCartney announced the end in 1970.