The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band from Liverpool that released twelve albums between 1963 and 1970. They had seventeen No. 1 hits on the UK Singles Chart and twenty No. 1’s on the US Billboard Hot 100. With global estimated sales of 600 million units, they are the biggest-selling musical act of all time.

They emerged from The Quarrymen, a late-fifties skiffle group formed by singer–guitarist John Lennon. By 1960, The Beatles lineup stabilized with guitarist–singer Paul McCartney, guitarist George Harrison, drummer Pete Best, and bassist Stu Sutcliffe. After a residency in Hamburg, Germany, Sutcliffe left and McCartney became the bassist. In 1961, they backed guitarist Tony Sheridan (as The Beat Brothers) on the instrumental single “My Bonnie.”

Under the guidance of manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles signed with EMI subsidiary Parlophone, where label head George Martin became their producer. In October 1962, they debuted with the single “Love Me Do,” a UK Top 20 hit that established the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership.

In January 1963, The Beatles released “Please Please Me,” their first No. 1 on multiple UK charts (No. 2 on what became the official chart). Their debut album, Please Please Me, appeared in March and topped the UK Albums Chart for thirty weeks. Their third single, “From Me to You,” became their first official UK No. 1 hit. By now, The Beatles were England’s biggest band. Their next two singles, “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” traded places at No. 1 and ushered full-blown Beatlemania across the UK. Their second album, With the Beatles, topped the UK chart for twenty-one weeks.

In February 1964, The Beatles debuted on American television while “I Want to Hold Your Hand” became their first No. 1 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Beatlemania gripped North America as the band scored further hits with “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Days Night,” the title-track to their first feature film, which also includes the ballads “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell.” Their stateside success spearheaded the British Invasion, marked by the transatlantic hits of UK singers (Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones), pop-rock combos (The Hollies, The Searchers, The Dave Clark Five, Chad & Jeremy), and R&B–rock bands (The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann, The Zombies, Spencer Davis Group). The Beatles closed out 1964 with the global No. 1 “I Feel Fine.” In the US and Canada, their albums appeared on Capitol, which split their fourth album Beatles for Sale across the North American titles Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI.

In 1965, The Beatles starred in their second feature film Help! The soundtrack contains the jangly “Ticket to Ride” and shows Lennon and McCartney’s individualism: notably on John’s exclamatory “Help!” and Paul’s poignant “Yesterday,” one of the most covered Beatles songs. Their mix of styles (pop, rock, folk, R&B) and mop-top image became the catalyst for a new breed of American bands, including The Byrds, The Beau Brummels, The Rascals, The Turtles, The Monkees, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. The Beatles took the art of album-making more seriously on Rubber Soul, an all-originals set with the soul-rocker “Drive My Car” and the ballads “In My Life” and “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” Their concurrent UK double a-sided single “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out” appears on the Capitol hybrid release Yesterday and Today.

After their spring 1966 No. 1 “Paperback Writer,” The Beatles did their last American tour and retired from the road to focus on music-making. They broke new ground on their seventh album Revolver, a set that encompasses soul-rock (“Got to Get You Into My Life”), vaudeville (“Good Day Sunshine”), chamber pop (“Eleanor Rigby”), novelty (“Yellow Submarine”), and their first traces of psychedelia (“Tomorrow Never Knows”). Harrison emerged as a songwriter with the raga-tinged “Love You To” and the bass-driven “Taxman,” a precursor to funk.

In February 1967, the new-look Beatles released the psychedelic “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a showcase of studio innovations backed with “Penny Lane,” an upbeat music hall number. They adopted a colorful alter-ego on their next album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a thematic song-cycle with much-covered radio evergreens (“A Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”) and the epic “A Day In the Life,” a pioneering merger of rock and classical music.

The Beatles’ experiments with tape-loops, overdubs, and vari-speed got more complex on “Love Is All You Need,” their Summer of Love single for the June 1967 multi-national Our World telecast. They rounded out the year with “Hello Goodbye,” a jolly McCartney a-side backed with Lennon’s avant-garde “I Am the Walrus.” The last three songs (plus the “Strawberry Fields” single) appear on the late 1967 Capitol LP Magical Mystery Tour, a soundtrack to their surreal TV special with the much-covered Paul ballad “The Fool On the Hill.”

In March 1968, The Beatles took a back-to-basics approach on “Lady Madonna,” a piano-driven homage to fifties rock ‘n’ roll. That summer, they released their biggest double a-side: “Hey Jude,” an epic McCartney ballad backed with “Revolution,” a fiery Lennon rocker. With its extended “na-na-na-na” coda, “Hey Jude” became the longest (to that time) global No. 1 hit. This was their first release on Apple Records, a division of The Beatles’ multimedia corporation Apple Corps Ltd.

The band member’s musical differences are most pronounced on their 1968 double-album The Beatles (aka “the white album”), a collection of thirty songs with only sixteen that feature the entire band. Musically, it shows Paul’s love for orchestral pop (“Martha My Dear”) and folk balladry (“Blackbird”) and John’s interest in lyrical profundity (“Happiness Is a Warm Gun”) and sonic experimentation (“Revolution 9”). George Harrison contributes four songs, including the dramatic minor-key number “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which features guest guitarist Eric Clapton. The “white album” is best known for the McCartney rockers “Back In the USSR,” “Birthday,” and “Helter Skelter.” Its release coincided with debut solo albums by Harrison (Wonderwall Music) and Lennon (Two Virgins), the latter recorded with John’s new partner Yoko Ono. Meanwhile, the band’s 1966 song “Yellow Submarine” became the theme of a psychedelic animated film with four new Beatles songs, including John’s R&B rocker “Hey Bulldog.”

In January 1969, The Beatles performed a filmed concert on the rooftop of Apple headquarters for Get Back, a proposed live-in-studio album and documentary film. They scrapped the project and issued “Get Back,” an uptempo roots rocker with American keyboardist Billy Preston. That spring, as Ringo took a film role and George spent time abroad, John and Paul cut “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” a chronicle of the much-publicized Lennon–Ono marriage. The Beatles reconvened for Abbey Road, which features an eight-part song suite and radio evergreens by John (“Come Together”) and George (“Something,” “Here Comes the Sun”). Days before its release, Lennon left the band.

In March 1970, The Beatles released “Let It Be,” a McCartney ballad from the shelved Get Back project. As the single went No. 1 worldwide, producer Phil Spector remixed and re-sequenced the vaulted album as Let It Be, The Beatles’ twelfth and final album. Weeks before its release, McCartney announced his departure from the band. Apple issued “The Long and Winding Road” as the final Beatles single.

The Beatles were the first popular band to advance rock from its twelve-bar, blues-based origins and open the music to an infinite array of chord sequences and melodic possibilities. They also established the self-contained group model in which the members write original material and perform with little or no extra players. The band’s global reach brought them in contact with different musical cultures, which fueled their creativity. Their drive to innovate made them a conduit through which new musical ideas gained mass exposure and acceptance. As rock’s figurehead act, they transformed the music from a static idiom to one of complex potential and cross-generational sustenance. 

Members: John Lennon (guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards, harmonica), Paul McCartney (bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion), George Harrison (guitar, vocals, sitar, keyboards, bass), Stuart Sutcliffe (bass, 1960-61), Pete Best (drums, 1960-62), Ringo Starr (drums, percussion, vocals, keyboards, 1962-70)

This page is currently in development and will undergo heavy editing and have added contents in the coming months (May 2023)


Background

The Beatles evolved from skiffle group The Quarrymen, formed in 1957 Liverpool by sixteen-year-old guitarist John Lennon and several friends from Quarry Bank High School. Paul McCartney, then fifteen, became the band’s rhythm guitarist that summer. As the year advanced, Lennon and McCartney began their songwriting partnership and moved the band from skiffle to rock. Their initial batch of originals included “Love Me Do” and “Just Fun.” Lennon switched from banjo to rhythm guitar while McCartney struggled as the band’s soloist.

In February 1958, Lennon hired McCartney’s schoolmate George Harrison as lead guitarist. The 15-year-old won his spot in The Quarrymen with an impromptu rendition of the rock instrumental “Raunchy” by Bill Justis. Another McCartney cohort, John Duff Lowe, became the band’s pianist. That July, the lineup of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Lowe, and drummer Colin Hanton cut an acetate of the McCartney original “In Spite of All the Danger,” backed with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.” The sole 78rpm copy landed in the possession of Lowe, who sold it to McCartney for an undisclosed sum in 1981.

By late 1958, the band was down to the trio of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. They briefly gigged as Johnny and the Moondogs and Japage 3 before running aground in the spring of 1959. Lennon and McCartney continued their songwriting partnership while Harrison did a stint in the Les Stewart Quartet with guitarist Ken Brown. That August, the three regrouped with Brown in tow as the Quarrymen. This four-guitar lineup took a residency at Mona Best’s Casbah Coffee Club.

In January 1960, Brown bowed out due to illness. Lennon persuaded his art school friend Stu Sutcliffe to purchase a bass and join the band. They entered Phillips’ Sound Recording Services and cut a now-lost version of Lennon’s “One After 909.” They also taped a jam at McCartney’s home, where they cut his instrumental “Cayenne.”

Weary of the Quarrymen name, Sutcliffe suggested they call themselves The Beatals. They used this name until May, when they became The Silver Beetles, changed shortly thereafter to The Silver Beatles. That August, they shortened their name to The Beatles.

With a Hamburg residency arranged for the band by acting manager Allan Williams, The Beatles hired drummer Pete Best (Mona’s son) in August 1960. They played all-nighters at two red-light area clubs, the Indra and Kaiserkeller, until the November deportations of Harrison (for lying about his age), followed by McCartney and Best (for a condom-fire prank). When Lennon returned to Liverpool that September, Sutcliffe stayed behind to be with his German fiancée, photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first professional photos of the band.

When The Beatles returned to Hamburg in early 1961, Sutcliffe had his hair fashioned in a pixie style that was soon adopted by the other members (except Best). He soon left the band to focus on his art studies, prompting Paul to switch to bass. Sutcliffe would ultimately die of a brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962.

For the next two years, The Beatles alternated between residencies in Hamburg and Liverpool. In June 1961, the now-four-piece band were linked in Hamburg with English rock singer Tony Sheridan. This union produced the single “My Bonnie” (b/w “The Saints”), credited to Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers and issued that October on German Polydor. The following month, after a concert at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the band encountered local record-store owner Brian Epstein, who became their manager.


1962

By 1962, The Beatles were one of the most popular bands on Liverpool’s growing Merseybeat scene, which also included The Searches, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. In January, The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records, which passed on the band and signed The Tremeloes, a London-based act that didn’t require travel costs. In April, The Beatles signed to Parlophone, a division of EMI.

After the signing, The Beatles held their first sessions at Abbey Road Studios in June 1962 with producer and Parlophone label head George Martin. In August, they replaced Best with drummer Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Star) of fellow Merseyside act Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. In September, they held two sessions for their first single, “Love Me Do.” In November, they cut the harmonica-driven “Please Please Me,” released as a single in January 1963. It topped the UK charts and catapulted The Beatles to homeland superstardom.


“Love Me Do”

On October 5, 1962, The Beatles debuted with the single “Love Me Do,” a mid-tempo singalong backed with “P.S. I Love You,” a harmonized fifties-style ballad. Both songs reappear on their debut album, released the following winter. In a deviation from the era’s standard industry practice where artists recorded songs by non-performing songwriters, both songs on The Beatles debut single are band originals credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership.

“Love Me Do” (2:22) is one of the first songs Lennon and McCartney wrote as a team. Its most prominent musical feature is the wailing harmonica riff, which John modeled after the intro to the recent UK No. 1 “I Remember You,” a cover of the 1941 Jimmy Dorsey song by British–Australian country singer Frank Ifield. John took pointers on the instrument from American harpist Delbert McClinton, a sideman of American singer Bruce Channel, who recently had a transatlantic chart-topper with “Hey! Baby.” Lennon approached McClinton on June 21 at New Brighton’s Tower Ballroom in Wallasey, where The Beatles opened for Channel.

The Beatles cut three versions of “Love Me Do.” The first session occurred on June 6, 1962, with Pete Best, whose performance underwhelmed George Martin. The band agreed and replaced Best with drummer Ringo Starr, who joined The Beatles two weeks before they entered EMI Studios in London to re-record the song. The Best version remained unreleased until the 1995 compilation Anthology 1.

The second “Love Me Do” session occurred on September 4 at EMI Studios in London. Martin was initially doubtful of the song’s commercial potential and wanted them to record “How Do You Do It?” — a song written for Adam Faith by professional composer Mitch Murray. However, John and Paul were adamant about their own material and EMI’s publishing arm, Ardmore & Beechwood, backed the pair. Martin made one change to the “Love Me Do” arrangement: he assigned the solo utterance of the title to Paul so that John, the designated singer, wouldn’t break the line for the harmonica riff (which starts on the word “do”).

When Martin replayed the September 4 version, he took issue with Ringo’s loose drum style and enlisted showband drummer Andy White for another re-recording. Sessions for the third version took place on September 11 at EMI, where producer Ron Richards oversaw the recording in Martin’s absence. Ringo arrived uninformed of the change but stood aside and played tambourine on the third version of “Love Me Do,” which Richards later deemed unnecessary.

When Parlophone first pressed “Love Me Do” (red label), the single contained Ringo’s September 4 version. Subsequent pressings (black label) contain White’s September 11 version, which also appears on the first Beatles album and subsequent US pressings of the song. The Ringo version later surfaced on the US version of the Beatles comp Rarities.

“Love Me Do” reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. In April 1964, American medium-press Tollie issued the single in the US, where it became their fourth of six No. 1 hits that year on the Billboard Hot 100. The song appears on the North American albums Introducing… The Beatles (Vee-Jay) and The Early Beatles (Capitol). In 1982, “Love Me Do” reached No. 4 in the UK after EMI reissued the song for The Beatles’ 20th anniversary.

P.S. I Love You” (2:04) is a mid-tempo song reminiscent of pre-Beat harmony pop. Ron Richards produced “P.S. I Love You,” which The Beatles recorded in ten takes on September 11; the day of the Andy White “Love Me Do” session. “P.S. I Love You” features White on drums and Ringo on maracas.

The Beatles wanted to make “P.S. I Love You” an a-side but Richards said they couldn’t because the title had already been used for a 1960 song (and Pye International EP) by American singer James Darren.


1963


“Please Please Me”

On January 11, 1963, The Beatles released “Please Please Me,” an upbeat McCartney–Lennon original backed with “Ask Me Why.” It reached No. 1 on the New Musical Express and Melody Maker charts and No. 2 on the Record Retailer chart, which later became the official UK Singles chart.

Lennon conceived “Please Please Me” as a slow blues ballad akin to the 1960 hit “Only the Lonely” by Roy Orbison. He also sought to use different meanings of the word “please” in a single hookline: an idea taken from the Bing Crosby song “Please” and its lyric “please lend a little ear to my pleas.”

For the second Beatles single, George Martin initially tapped “How Do You Do It?” by English songwriter Mitch Murray. However, The Beatles insisted on all-original singles sides from this point forward; buoyed by the modest chart placement of “Love Me Do.”

The Beatles first cut “Please Please Me” on September 4 with Martin, who felt the song needed more work. After a radical arrangement overhaul, they cut a second version on September 11 with Andy White on drums. They broke for Hamburg as “Love Me Do” took off on the UK chart and returned to EMI Studios on November 26 to cut a third version, which features Ringo on drums and John on harmonica. After eighteen takes, Martin saw its hit potential.

“Please Please Me” appeared during the Big Freeze of 1962–63, one of the coldest UK winters on record. With most of the nation snowed in, The Beatles performed the song to prime-time audiences on the ITV music program Thank Your Lucky Stars. The ensuing press sparked nationwide interest; further spurred by the band’s unusual appearance. They embarked on a February tour with pop singer Helen Shapiro.

On February 27, “Please Please Me” peaked at No. 2 on the Record Retailer chart behind “The Wayward Wind” by Frank Ifield. The Beatles rose to headliner status on ensuing winter–spring tours with Roy Orbison and American pop singer Tommy Roe.

For the b-side, The Beatles rehearsed the Lennon–McCartney number “Tip of My Tongue.” They instead chose Lennon’s “Ask Me Why,” a song first recorded on June 6, 1962, with Pete Best and performed the following week on BBC Light Programme’s Teenager’s Turn – Here We Go. The Beatles cut a new version on November 26 with Ringo. Meanwhile, Epstein passed “Tip of My Tongue” to singer Tommy Quickly, who released his version as an August 1963 Piccadilly a-side. (In 1965, Swedish beatsters The Mascots covered “Tip of My Tongue.” No Beatles recording has ever surfaced.)

“Please Please Me” became the first American Beatles single on February 8, 1963, when it appeared on Vee-Jay Records, a mid-sized label based in Chicago, where WLS DJ Dick Biondi played the song for two weeks. This helped it rise to No. 35 on the local “Silver Dollar Survey.” It didn’t become a stateside hit until January 1964 when Vee-Jay reissued the song to capitalize on Beatlemania. This time, the song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Please Please Me

The Beatles released their debut album, Please Please Me, on March 22, 1963, on Parlophone. It contains eight Lennon–McCartney originals and six covers, including songs by The Cookies (“Chains”), The Shirelles (“Boys,” “Baby It’s You”), and the Isley Brothers (“Twist and Shout”).

Side One opens with the popular deep cut “I Saw Her Standing There” and contains the title-sake January second single and its b-side “Ask Me Why.” Side Two contains both sides of their October 1962 debut single (“Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You”) and the Harrison-sung doo-wop ballad “Do You Want to Know a Secret.”

1. “I Saw Her Standing There” McCartney (2:52) conceived as “Seventeen.”
2. “Misery” Lennon and McCartney 1:47
3. “Anna (Go to Him)” (2:54) originated as a September 1962 a-side on Dot Records by Alabama country–soul singer and songwriter Arthur Alexander, whose version reached No. 10 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Lennon sings the Beatles version.
4. “Chains” (2:23) is a song by the Brill Building team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin; first released as a November 1962 a-side on Dimension Records by Brooklyn girl trio The Cookies, whose version reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 6 R&B). Harrison sings the Beatles version.
5. “Boys” (2:24) is a song by New York producers Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell; first recorded for Scepter Records by New Jersey girl quartet The Shirelles as the b-side to their November 1960 Goffin–King-penned Billboard No. 1 “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Ringo Starr sings the Beatles version.
6. “Ask Me Why” Lennon 2:24
7. “Please Please Me” Lennon and McCartney 2:00

1. “Love Me Do” McCartney and Lennon 2:19
2. “P.S. I Love You” McCartney 2:02
3. “Baby It’s You” (2:35) is a co-write between Luther Dixon (credited as ‘Barney Williams’) and composer Burt Bacharach with lyricist Mack David; first released as a 1961 Scepter a-side by The Shirelles, whose version reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 3 R&B). Lennon sings the Beatles version. (“Baby It’s You” became a 1969 Billboard No. 5 hit for LA soul-rockers Smith.)
4. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” Harrison 1:56
5. “A Taste of Honey” (2:01) is a song by New York composers Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow; written for the 1960 Broadway adaption of the namesake 1958 play by English dramatist Shelagh Delaney. The subsequent film adaptation inspired 1961–63 pop-vocal versions of the theme by American singers Billy Dee Williams, Lenny Welch, and Barbra Streisand. McCartney sings the Beatles version.
6. “There’s a Place” Lennon and McCartney 1:49
7. “Twist and Shout” (2:33) is a song by New York composers Phil Medley and Bert Russell; first released as an August 1961 Atlantic b-side by R&B duo The Top Notes and made famous as a May 1962 Wand a-side by soulsters the Isley Brothers, whose version reached No. 7 on the Cashbox Top 100 (No. 2 on Billboard‘s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart). Lennon sings the Beatles version.

Aside from the late 1962 sessions behind the album version of “Love Me Do” (September 11) and both sides of the recent “Please Please Me” single (November 26), The Beatles recorded Please Please Me in one twelve-hour session on February 11, 1963, at EMI Studios.

The 10 am – 10 pm session occurred in four blocks: morning (“There’s a Place,” “I Saw Her Standing There”), afternoon (“A Taste of Honey,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “Misery”), evening (“Anna,” “Boys,” “Chains,” “Baby It’s You”), and night (“Twist and Shout”). Another song cut that evening, “Hold Me Tight,” ended up on their next album. They recorded the belter-intense “Twist and Shout” last to spare Lennon’s voice from premature exhaustion.

George Harrison plays lead guitar and splits rhythm and acoustic tracks with John Lennon, who plays harmonica on “Chains,” “There’s a Place,” and the two a-sides. Ringo Starr makes select use of tambourine (“Love Me Do”) and maracas (“P.S. I Love You”). On 20 February, George Martin overdubbed piano on “Misery” and celesta on “Baby It’s You.”

Soundmen Stuart Eltham and Norman Smith engineered Please Please Me. Surrealist photographer Angus McBean took the group photo on the front cover, which shows The Beatles looking down from the stairwell ledge of EMI’s London headquarters in Manchester Square. The back cover features liner notes by Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow, who touts The Beatles as “visually and musically the most exciting and accomplished group to emerge since The Shadows,” and ensures that the “built-in tunesmith team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney has already tucked away enough self-penned numbers to maintain a steady output of all-original singles from now until 1975!”

Please Please Me reached No. 1 on the charts compiled by the music weeklies Melody Maker, New Musical Express, and Record Mirror. It also topped the chart by the trade paper Record Retailer, whose ratings were later recognized by the Official Charts Company (established in 1969). Please Please Me remained held the top spot for thirty weeks until its followup and remained in the Top 10 for sixty-two weeks. In West Germany, the album reached No. 4 on the Musikmarkt chart.


“From Me to You” / “Thank You Girl”

On April 11, 1963, The Beatles released “From Me to You,” a harmonized singalong backed with “Thank You Girl,” both Lennon–McCartney numbers. This was their first UK No. 1 hit on Record Retailer, which later became the nation’s official chart (despite the No. 1 placement of “Please Please Me” on several secondary UK charts).

Lennon and McCartney co-wrote “From Me to You” on a tour bus between stops on their UK tour with singer Helen Shapiro. They lifted the title off “From You to Us,” the name of the letters section in the New Musical Express. Their intent was to make a direct song addressed to the audience (“You”).

The Beatles recorded “From Me to You” on March 5, 1963, at EMI Studios. The song involved six takes and seven edits. It features Lennon on harmonica in the style of American bluesman Jimmy Reed. John learned the instrument from Texas country singer Delbert McClinton when the two shared a live bill.

“From Me to You” reached No. 1 on the week of May 4, where it overtook the Martin-produced “How Do You Do It,” the debut single by Merseyside rivals Gerry & The Pacemakers. Mitch Murray, the writer of “How Do You Do It,” first pitched his song to The Beatles, who cut their own version but decided against using it as a single or album track. “From Me to You” held the top spot for seven weeks and gave way on June 20 to “I Like It,” the second Pacemakers single. This was the first of seventeen Beatles UK No. 1 hits.

In the US, “From Me to You” (b/w “Thank You Girl”) appeared on May 27 as The Beatles’ second single single on Vee-Jay. Despite its initial failure to gain traction, American rocker and recent Beatles acquaintance Del Shannon covered “From Me to You” as a June a-side on Bigtop Records. His version reached the Billboard Hot 100 — the first recording of a Lennon–McCartney composition to do so — and prompted DJ Dick Biondi of KRLA Los Angeles to play the original. Biondi’s support made The Beatles’ song a local hit with sales of 22,000 copies, enough to fuel a national peak of No. 116 on Billboard‘s Bubbling Under chart.

On January 3, 1964, Vee-Jay paired “From Me to You” with “Please Please Me” as a new single in response to stateside interest that followed a Beatles segment on The Jack Paar Program, a prime-time NBC variety show. This release peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 amid the outbreak of stateside Beatlemania.

Thank You Girl” appears on the UK and original US b-side of “From Me to You” as a tribute to the Beatles’ legion of female fans. They recorded the song on the same day as its a-side (March 5) in thirteen takes. Also that day, they rehearsed two further Lennon–McCartney originals: “One After 909” (later re-recorded for Let It Be) and “What Goes On” (later recorded for Rubber Soul with additional input by Ringo).

In the UK, “Thank You Girl” remained unavailable on LP until the 1978 Beatles compilation Rarities. The song appeared in the US as the b-side of “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” a No. 35 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It also appears on the April 1964 release The Beatles’ Second Album, their second North American album on Capitol Records.


“She Loves You” / “I’ll Get You”

On August 23, 1963, The Beatles released “She Loves You,” an exuberant harmonized rocker backed with “I’ll Get You,” both Lennon–McCartney numbers. It spent six non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and spent eighteen weeks in the UK Top 3.

Lennon and McCartney conceived “She Loves You” on June 26, 1963, after a show at Newcastle’s Majestic Ballroom, where The Beatles headlined over Roy Orbison and Gerry & The Pacemakers. Paul lifted the song’s call-and-response theme from “Forget Him,” a 1963 hit by American teen idol singer Bobby Rydell (written by English composer Tony Hatch, an eventual songwriter for Petula Clark). For the “yeah, yeah, yeah” refrain, John took inspiration from the vocables in the 1957 Elvis Presley hit “All Shook Up” and the exclamatories in the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout,” a song since cultivated by The Beatles.

“She Loves You” marked The Beatles’ embrace of strummed folk-style chords: an innovation that freed rock from its twelve-bar blues confines. They recorded the song on July 1 on two-track at EMI Studios. On early takes, Harrison played his guitar through a Maestro FZ-1 fuzz-tone device.

“She Loves You” stormed the UK Singles Chart with advance orders of 500,000 and claimed the No. 1 spot on September 14; displacing the Martin-produced cover of the Lennon–McCartney composition “Bad to Me” by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas. The Beatles held the top spot for four weeks and bowed on October 16 to the Contours cover “Do You Love Me” by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes. As Beatlemania peaked in the UK, “She Loves You” reclaimed the No. 1 spot on November 30; this time ousting the Rodgers & Hammerstein cover “You’ll Never Walk Alone”  by Gerry & The Pacemakers. “She Loves You” held the summit for two further weeks and finally gave way to the followup Beatles single.

Due to the poor stateside showing of UK rock acts, Capitol Records (EMI’s US affiliate) declined to issue the first four Beatles singles in America. When Vee-Jay welched on royalties, Epstein licensed “She Loves You” to Swan, another mid-sized American label, which issued the song on September 16, 1963, in the US. Beyond the soft support of New York DJ Murray the K, it received scant airplay and barely moved 1,000 units.

I’ll Get You” appeared as the b-side of “She Loves You” on Parlophone and Swan. Lennon and McCartney conceived it under the working title “Get You in the End.” John wrote the song’s opening line “Imagine I’m in love with you” — an appeal to the listener’s imagination that Paul later likened to the fantasy fiction of Victorian author Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass).

“I’ll Get You” reappeared on the April 1964 Capitol release The Beatles’ Second Album. In the UK, it remained a non-album obscurity until the 1978 compilation Rarities.

“She Loves You” coincided with the launch of The Beatles Book, a monthly Beatles fan magazine published by Epstein associated and Pop Weekly editor Sean O’Mahony. The magazine (alternately known as Beatles Monthly) ran for six years with cartoon caricatures by artist Bob Gibson and articles by Beatles roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans.


With the Beatles

The Beatles released their second album, With the Beatles, on November 22, 1963, on Parlophone. It contains seven Lennon–McCartney originals and six covers, including songs by Chuck Berry (“Roll Over Beethoven”), The Marvelettes (“Please Mr. Postman”), and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (“You Really Got a Hold on Me”).

Side One contains the popular deep-cut “All My Loving” and the Beatles’ first Harrison-penned number, “Don’t Bother Me.” Side Two contains the early live favorite “Hold Me Tight” and the Beatles’ own version of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which John and Paul wrote for The Rolling Stones.

1. “It Won’t Be Long” Lennon 2:13
2. “All I’ve Got to Do” Lennon 2:02
3. “All My Loving” McCartney 2:07
4. “Don’t Bother Me” (George Harrison) Harrison 2:28
5. “Little Child” Lennon with McCartney 1:46
6. “Till There Was You” (2:14) is a song by Hollywood composer Meredith Willson; written for the 1957 Broadway musical The Music Man and first released as a 1959 Carlton Records a-side by 1958 Miss Oklahoma Anita Bryant, whose version reached No. 14 on the Cashbox Top 100. McCartney sings the Beatles version.
7. “Please Mr. Postman” (2:34) originated as an August 1961 Tamla a-side (and Billboard No. 1) by Motown girl quartet The Marvelettes; co-written by label staffer Freddie Gorman and producer ‘Brianbert’ — the writing partnership of Brian Holland and Robert Bateman — with input by Marvelette Georgia Dobbins and her William Garrett. Lennon sings the Beatles cover version.

1. “Roll Over Beethoven” (2:45) originated as a May 1956 Chess Records a-side by Missouri singer–guitarist Chuck Berry, whose version reached No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart amid the birth of American rock ‘n’ roll. Harrison sings the Beatles version.
2. “Hold Me Tight” (2:32) first appeared in the Beatles’ 1961 live set. McCartney sings lead. Covered as a May 1965 a-side on Phil Spector’s Shirley label by American pop-vocal group The Treasures. In 1976, Bristol post-Beatle popsters Stackridge included a ska-tinged cover on their fifth studio album Mr. Mick.
3. “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (3:01) originated as a November 1962 Tamla b-side by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, who scored a Billboard No. 8 hit with the song after it outperformed the original a-side, “Happy Landing.” Lennon and Harrison harmonize on the Beatles version.
4. “I Wanna Be Your Man” (1:59) was half-completed in early October when newcomers The Rolling Stones approached John and Paul in need of a hit. The pair finished the song that afternoon and the Stones released their version on November 1 on Decca. It reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart and launched the Stones as the Beatles’ most formidable chart competitors. This was the first Lennon–McCartney hit for another act.  Ringo Starr sings the Beatles version.
5. “Devil in Her Heart” (2:26) originated as “Devil in His Heart,” a song by Richard Drapkin (aka Rick Martell) that Detroit girl quartet The Donays cut as the b-side to their only single: the 1962 Correc-tone Records release “Bad Boy” (issued in the UK on Oriole). Harrison sings the Beatles version.
6. “Not a Second Time” Lennon 2:07
7. “Money (That’s What I Want)” (2:49) originated as a 1959 Tamla a-side by Mississippi soul singer Barrett Strong; co-written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and staff-writer Janie Bradford. Lennon sings the Beatles version.

They recorded With the Beatles across three months at EMI Studios. Sessions commenced on July 18 when they cut “Money” and the Miracles and Donays covers. On July 30, The Beatles recorded “Please Mr. Postman,” “Till There Was You,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “All My Loving,” and (in two takes) “It Won’t Be Long.” On September 11–12, they finished “All I’ve Got to Do,” “Not a Second Time,” “Little Child,” “Don’t Bother Me,” and “Hold Me Tight” (first recorded during the Feb. 11 Please Please Me sessions). After three prior takes, they finished “I Wanna Be Your Man” on October 23.

Paul McCartney plays piano on “Little Child,” which features “mouth organ” (harmonica) by John Lennon, who interlocks with George Harrison on nylon-string acoustic guitar on “Till There Was You,” which features Ringo Star on Arabian bongo. George Martin plays piano on three tracks (“You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Not a Second Time,” “Money”) and organ on “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

With the Beatles, sports a b&w group shot by Sunday Times photojournalist Robert Freeman, whose pictures of John Coltrane impressed the band. The photoshoot took place on August 22 in Bournemouth at the Palace Court Hotel, where Freeman lined up The Beatles in a dark corridor to capture the solemn half-shaded image; inspired by Astrid Kirchherr’s earlier photos. They placed Ringo lower because he was the shortest member and the last to join.

With the Beatles reached No. 1 on the UK Record Retailer LPs Chart and the German Offizielle Top 100. In Finland, it reached No. 5 on the Suomen virallinen lista.


“I Want to Hold Your Hand” / “This Boy”

On November 29, 1963, The Beatles released “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a harmonized uptempo rocker backed with “This Boy,” both Lennon–McCartney originals. They wrote the song in the basement of 57 Wimpole Street, the residence of Dr Richard and Margaret Asher, the month of Paul’s then-girlfriend, actress Jane Asher.

The Beatles recorded “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy” on October 17 at EMI Studios, where Martin and the band made their first use of four-track equipment inside Studio 2. They completed each track with seventeen takes.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was greeted by advance orders of more than one million copies, which should have guaranteed a No. 1 debut week. However, The Beatles August single “She Loves You” retook that No. 1 spot as Beatlemania skyrocketed just priot to the new single, which took two weeks to unseat its predecessor.

On the week of December 18, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” claimed the top-spot and held it for five weeks before Mersey rivals The Searchers reached No. 1 with their Tony Hatch-produced version of the Jack Nitzsche–Sonny Bono composition “Needles and Pins.”

Meanwhile, Brian Epstein cut a deal with American prime-time TV host Ed Sullivan to showcase The Beatles for their American debut. Capitol Records finally agreed to issue Beatles singles in the US, where they slated “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for a January 18 release.

This Boy” appears on the January 1964 Capitol release Meet the Beatles! George Martin subsequently arranged an orchestral instrumental version titles “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy)” for the soundtrack to the upcoming Beatles film debut.


Beatlemania

On November 22, 1963, a five-minute segment on Beatlemania ran on the CBS Morning News. Its scheduled evening repeat was pre-empted by coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which ran nonstop for the next four days. Meanwhile, “She Loves You” inched its way up the Canadian CHUM Chart.

On December 10, Walter Cronkite re-aired the Beatlemania segment on the CBS Evening News. In Maryland, a fourteen-year-old viewer named Marsha Albert phoned her local Top 40 radio station, WWDC-AM, and urged DJ Carroll James to play The Beatles. Carroll secured an import copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and invited Marsha to introduce the song’s debut on the DC airwaves. Within days, stations in Chicago and St. Louis added the song to their playlists.

The ensuing interest prompted Capitol to issue “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on December 26, 1963, two weeks ahead of its slated US release date. Brian Epstein convinced Capitol of The Beatles’ commercial potential and secured $40,000 to promote the single.

On February 1, 1964, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” ousted “There! I’ve Said It Again” by Bobby Vinton as the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, where it held the top spot for seven weeks. On February 7, The Beatles landed in America to pandemonium at New York International Airport, recently renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in honor of the fallen leader.

The Beatles made their US television debut on Sunday, February 9, 1964, on the CBS prime-time variety program The Ed Sullivan Show, where they performed “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You” to a then-record-breaking 73 million viewers. Copies of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sold at such a rate that Capitol licensed pressing plants from RCA Victor and Columbia Records to meet market demand.

Meanwhile, the Swan-issued “She Loves You” climbed up the charts to No. 2, where it spent four weeks under “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and then overtook it as the No. 1 song in America. This was the first time since 1956 — when Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” took the No. 1 spot from his prior single, “Love Me Tender” — that an act replaced itself at the top of the US charts.


1964

March 20, 1964, The Beatles released “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a Paul-sung twelve-bar rock song backed with “You Can’t Do That,” both Lennon–McCartney numbers. McCartney conceived “Can’t Buy Me Love” on an upright piano at the George V hotel in Paris, where The Beatles recorded the song on January 29 at EMI’s Pathe Marconi Studios amid an eighteen-day stand at Olympia Theatre. They recorded “You Can’t Do That” on February 25 at EMI Studios, London. Both songs reappeared on the soundtrack to their upcoming movie debut.

On April 4, “Can’t Buy Me Love” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Chart while four other Beatles songs — “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me” — rounded out the Top 5.


A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles released their third album, A Hard Day’s Night, on July 10, 1964, on Parlophone. This is their first all-originals album; comprised of thirteen Lennon–McCartney numbers. Its release coincided with the namesake musical comedy, which premiered at London’s Pavilion Theatre on July 4, the eve of Ringo’s 24th birthday.

Side One contains songs from the corresponding film, including the pre-released single “Can’t Buy Me Love” and the jangly title-track, plus two popular early ballads: “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell.” Side Two contains McCartney’s poignant “Things We Said Today” and five Lennon-sung songs, including “I’ll Cry Instead,” originally planned for the film.

1. “A Hard Day’s Night” Lennon with McCartney 2:34) Ringo coined the title phrase.
2. “I Should Have Known Better” Lennon 2:43
3. “If I Fell” Lennon with McCartney 2:19
4. “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” Harrison 1:56
5. “And I Love Her” McCartney 2:30
6. “Tell Me Why” Lennon 2:09
7. “Can’t Buy Me Love” McCartney 2:12

1. “Any Time at All” Lennon 2:11
2. “I’ll Cry Instead” Lennon 1:44
3. “Things We Said Today” McCartney 2:35
4. “When I Get Home” Lennon 2:17
5. “You Can’t Do That” Lennon 2:35
6. “I’ll Be Back” Lennon 2:24

Apart from the two sessions for “Can’t Buy Me Love” and its b-side, The Beatles recorded A Hard Day’s Night across three months amid international live commitments. On February 27, they recorded “Tell Me Why,” “If I Fell,” and completed “And I Love Her” at EMI Studios, where they returned on March 1 and cut “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” and two songs for their Long Tall Sally EP.

After the promotional blitz behind “Can’t Buy Me Love,” John and Paul wrote a theme song for the upcoming movie; recorded on April 16 during the final week of film shoots. On June 1 and 2, The Beatles completed the balance of Side Two: “Any Time at All,” “I’ll Cry Instead,” “Things We Said Today,” “When I Get Home,” and “I’ll Be Back.”

On the same day as the album, The Beatles released “A Hard Day’s Night” as the second single, backed with “Things We Said Today” (UK) and “I Should Have Known Better” (US). “A Hard Day’s Night” topped twelve national charts around the world. On the UK Singles Chart, “A Hard Day’s Night” overtook “It’s All Over Now” by The Rolling Stones as the No. 1 single on the week of July 29. Three weeks later, it bowed to “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann. On the Billboard Hot 100, “A Hard Day’s Night” began its two-week stay at No. 1 on July 1, when it ousted “Rag Doll” by the Four Seasons.

United Artists issued the North American version of the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack on June 26, two weeks ahead of its UK counterpart. The US–Canadian version sports a red-framed cover a twelve-song tracklist that contains everything from Side One of the Parlophone release (the songs in the movie), plus “I’ll Cry Instead” (intended for the movie) and Martin-arranged orchestral–instrumental versions of “I Should Have Known Better,” “And I Love Her,” “Ringo’s Theme,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

On July 20, UA lifted “And I Love Her” as a third single (b/w “If I Fell”). It reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, United Artists lifted Martin’s orchestral version of “And I Love Her” backed with an instrumental version of “This Boy” titled “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy).”

A Hard Day’s Night reached No. 1 in Australia, Finland, Germany, the UK, and the US, where the album later certified quadruple-Platinum (four million sold).


A Hard Day’s Night  (The Motion Picture)

On July 6, 1964, A Hard Day’s Night premiered at London’s Pavilion Theatre. It stars The Beatles as themselves in a send-up of their status as a famous touring rock band. The plot spans thirty-six hours of the group’s hectic schedule that includes a train ride and TV rehearsals with mishaps along the way. This was the first of their two live-action musical comedies for United Artists by director Richard Lester, who shot the film in cinéma vérité (documentary-style) black and white.

The first two and a half minutes serve as a video for the movie’s title song, “A Hard Day’s Night.” The Beatles run from hordes of screaming fans into Marylebone station in Central London, where they hide in phone booths and jump a newspaper cart. John, George, and Ringo hide in a photo booth while Paul dons a goatee disguise. They narrowly avoid the mob and board the train as the song fades.

On the train, Paul introduces the others to his grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), sent by Paul’s mother to accompany the band because “he’s nursing a broken heart.” Their manager Norm (Norman Rossington) and assistant Shake (John Junkin) take Paul’s grandfather for coffee as the band spares with a WWII vet who takes umbrage with their antics. The Beatles change cabinets to play cards and perform “I Should Have Known Better” in front of young female passengers.

Later, The Beatles sort through fan mail at a hotel, where Paul’s grandfather slips off to a casino with an invitation intended for Ringo. The band attends a sock hop where “I Wanna Be Your Man” plays on the loudspeaker, followed by “Don’t Bother Me” and “All My Loving.” The next morning, John ‘scuba dives’ in a bubble bath and pulls a vanishing prank on Norm.

The Beatles attend a press conference, where the following exchanges transpire:

Female reporter: “Are you a mod or a rocker?”
Ringo: “I’m a mocker.”
Male reporter: “What would you call that hairstyle you’re wearing?”
George: “Alfa.”

On the studio soundstage, The Beatles perform “If I Fell.” They argue with the producer (Victor Spinetti) and exit down the fire escape to “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which plays as they frolic in high-speed jump cuts across a soccer field. Back in the studio, a thirtyish woman named Millie (Anna Quayle) recognizes John but can’t remember his name or significance. A bizarre exchange ensues as a bespectacled man (Beatles roadie Mal Evans) walks through with a standup bass. Meanwhile, George flirts with a secretary and auditions for an advertisement. The Beatles return to the soundstage and perform “And I Love Her.” After an unrelated dance skit, they perform “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You.”

One hour before airtime, Ringo accompanies Paul’s grandfather for tea. Ringo then goes out on a stroll with a camera but gets chased by two female fans. He disguises himself as a tramp and plays darts at a pub, where his clumsy aim almost hits a parrot. When his chivalry sends a woman down a mud hole, police apprehend him. At the station, he meets Paul’s grandfather, who attempted to sell forged Beatles autographs. The police don’t believe Ringo’s true identity. Paul’s grandfather hurries back to the studio and tricks his way past guards to inform the band. John, Paul, and George run to the station to fetch Ringo. A Keystone Cops-style chase ensues as “Can’t Buy Me Love” replays.

The Beatles arrive back at the studio just in time for the televised concert, where they perform “Tell Me Why,” “If I Fell,” “I Should Have Known Better,” and “She Loves You.” In the final scene, they board a helicopter to their next gig as “A Hard Day’s Night” plays.

Actor Wilfrid Brambell was known to British audiences as Albert, the dirty old man in the BBC television sitcom Steptoe and Son. Paul describes him to John as a “clean” old man (a pun on the Albert character’s appellation). The beehived blond in the casino scene is Margaret Nolan, an early sixties UK glamour model (under the name Vicky Kennedy). The blond schoolgirl on the train is model Pattie Boyd, who later married George Harrison (the two met during filming). In the TV performance scene, the crowd of audience extras includes a thirteen-year-old Phil Collins.

In the final cut, Lester omitted three songs: “I’ll Cry Instead,” “You Can’t Do That,” and “I Call Your Name.” The Beatles intended “I’ll Cry Instead” for the soccer field scene but Lester favored the more upbeat “Can’t Buy Me Love.” For the TV concert sequence, they performed “You Can’t Do That” as a fifth number, which aired separately on the May 24 broadcast of the Ed Sullivan Show. They cut “I Call Your Name” for undisclosed reasons.

For the screenplay, The Beatles chose Alun Owen on the strength of his 1959 ITV play No Trams to Lime Street. He studied the band and their dialogue and based the script on their hectic life on the road. Ringo’s “mocker” quip came from an earlier joke he made on the ITV music program Ready Steady Go!

Lester produced A Hard Day’s Night in sixteen weeks on a £200,000 budget. Filming occurred between March 10 and April 23 at Marylebone station, Twickenham Studios, and Turk’s Head Pub. London tailors Dougie Millings & Son designed The Beatles’ suits for the film.

A Hard Day’s Night premiered on Ringo’s 24th birthday. The film grossed $20,000 in its first week at the box office with 1,600 prints in simultaneous circulation.

The movie’s title came from an accidental remark Ringo made to Los Angeles DJ Dave Hull during The Beatles’ first stateside tour. In a sleepless rush of promo activity, Ringo lost track of time and said “it’s been a hard day.” When he looked around and noticed it was dark, he appended the sentence with “night.” Once they settled on this phrase, John wrote the title song later that same evening. They recorded “A Hard Day’s Night” on April 16, eight days before filming wrapped. He wrote the lyrics on a 1st birthday card for his son Julian.

Before they settled on A Hard Day’s Night, Lester shot the film under the working titles The Beatles and Beatlemania. Despite this, the band’s name is never mentioned in the film.

In select foreign markets, the film appeared as Yeah Yeah Yeah (Germany and Sweden), Tutti Per Uno (Italy: All for One), Quatre garçons dans le vent (France: Four Boys in the Wind), Yeah! Yeah! Tässä tulemme! (Finland: Yeah! Yeah! Here We Come!), and Os Reis do Iê-Iê-Iê (Brazil: The Kings of Yeah-yeah-yeah).

English author and film novelist John Burke wrote a 1964 novelization of A Hard Day’s Night for Pan Books. It features an eight-page section of image stills from the movie.

In 1982, Universal Pictures re-released A Hard Day’s Night to theaters with a prologue comprised of production stills set to “I’ll Cry Instead.”

A Hard Day’s Night influenced subsequent rock-musical comedies by Gerry & The Pacemakers, (Ferry Cross the Mersey), The Dave Clark Five (Catch Us If You Can), and The Monkees’ television series. The scenes that synchronize action vignettes with songs (“A Hard Day’s Night,” “Can’t Buy Me Love”) presage music video.


The Beatles 1964 World Tour

After their February US blitz and the filming of A Hard Days Night, The Beatles did an April 26–31 UK tour that hit London (Empire Pool), Edinburgh (ABC Cinemas), Glasgow (Odeon Cinemas), and London again (Prince of Wales Theatre). They filmed a TV special, Around The Beatles, that aired on May 6 on the ITV network.

On the eve of their Continental tour, Ringo fell ill with tonsillitis after the June 1–2 sessions for Side Two of A Hard Days Night. George Martin asked drummer Jimmie Nicol — a sessionist behind Tommy Quickly who recently sat-in with Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames — to deputize Ringo on the upcoming dates. Nicol played as The Beatles’ stand-in drummer for seven shows, including their June 4–10 Eurasian dates that covered Denmark (K.B. Hallen, Copenhagen), the Netherlands (Hillegom, Amsterdam, Blokker), and Hong Kong (Princess Theatre, Kowloon). After the first two dates of the tour’s Australasian leg (June 12–13: Centennial Hall, Adelaide), Ringo returned on June 15 for The Beatles’ three-night engagement at Melbourne’s Festival Hall.

The Beatles’ arrival in Australia caused mania on par with their stateside conquest. An estimated 250,000 fans lined the route between Adelaide airport and the city center. In Melbourne, some 20,000 fans swarmed the streets outside Southern Cross Hotel, where The Beatles (with Ringo and Nicol) held a press conference. Australian Beatlemania energized the local rock and pop scene led by The AztecsThe Easybeats, The Masters Apprentices, The Playboys, The Twilights, and Max Merritt & The Meteors.

In Sydney, 2SM DJ Mad Mel (a young, eccentric presenter known for his giant red-rimmed sunglasses) asked listeners to sew a giant scarf for The Beatles. Hundreds of fans sent in pieces for the project. A group of fifty girls sewed the 11,000 pieces into an 8100-foot scarf, which Mel presented to the band at the Sydney Sheriton Hotel, where he spotted Paul in an elevator and told him of the gift.

The Beatles played ten shows in Australia — including three nights at Sydney Stadium (June 18–20) and two at Brisbane Festival Hall (June 29–30) — and six in New Zealand, where they hit Dunedin, Christchurch, and did two-nights each in Wellington and Auckland. Their typical setlists on these dates featured two songs from Please Please Me (“I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist and Shout”) three from With the Beatles (“All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “Roll Over Beethoven”), the EP cover “Long Tall Sally,” and the single sides “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “You Can’t Do That,” “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Most shows featured an opening set by the Epstein-managed instrumental quintet Sounds Incorporated.

The tour’s UK leg occurred as A Hard Days Night hit record stores and movie theaters. On July 12, The Beatles Brighton’s Hippodrome Theatre, followed by shows in Blackpool (7/19: ABC Cinema), London (7/23: Palladium), and another in Blackpool (7/26: Opera House). After a two-night engagement in Stockholm, Sweden (July 28–29: Johanneshovs Isstadion), The Beatles played three more UK dates in Bournemouth (8/2: Gaumont), Scarborough (8/9: Futurist Theatre), and a second show at the Blackpool Opera House (8/16).


“I Feel Fine” / “She’s a Woman”

On November 23, 1964, The Beatles released “I Feel Fine,” a plucked Lennon rocker backed with McCartney’s “She’s a Woman,” both credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. Both songs appears on their December 1964 North American Capitol release Beatles ’65

Lennon conceived the riff to “I Feel Fine” in October 1964 during the late-stage sessions for The Beatles’ upcoming fourth album. The guitar figure draws from “Watch Your Step,” a 1961 Bobby Parker hit that the group included in its Cavern sets.

The Beatles recorded “I Feel Fine” on October 18 at EMI Studios, where John leaned his semi-acoustic Gibson (model J-160E) against Paul’s bass amp and captured feedback through the guitar’s onboard pickup. They liked the sound, which Martin tacked to the start of the final mix. This is the first known intentional use of feedback on a popular music recording. Ringo lifts his drum pattern from the 1959 Ray Charles hit “What’d I Say.”

“I Feel Fine” began its five-week run at No. 1 on December 16, 1964, when it overtook “Little Red Rooster” by The Rolling Stones and held the top-spot until January 20, 1965, when Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames took the honors with the Mongo Santamaría cover “Yeh, Yeh.” In the UK, “I Feel Fine” became the fifth-highest-selling single of the decade. “I Feel Fine” also reached No. 1 in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden.

On December 26, “I Feel Fine” displaced “Come See About Me” by the Supremes at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and held that position for three weeks before the Supremes’ single reclaimed the top spot. This was the sixth Beatles Billboard No. 1 of the 1964 calendar year.

The Beatles filmed two promo videos for “I Feel Fine,” both directed by Scottish filmmaker Joe McGrath. Brian Epstein blocked release of the second, in which the group eats fish and chips and lip syncs the song.

She’s a Woman” appeared as the b-side of “I Feel Fine” yet charted on its own on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 4) and the Cashbox Top 100 (No. 8). McCartney wrote the song in the style of Little Richard. The Beatles recorded “She’s a Woman” October 8, 1964, the day of its composition. They finished the song after six takes and decided against the initial rockabilly arrangement.

“She’s a Woman” features Paul on EMI’s Steinway Vertegrand tack piano, which the studio named “Mrs Mills” as an ode to English honky-tonk pianist Gladys Mills (1918–1978). George double-tracked the guitar solo with his Gretsch Country Gent. Ringo plays a chocalho shaker in addition to drums.


Beatles for Sale

The Beatles released their fourth album, Beatles for Sale, on December 4, 1964, on Parlophone. It features eight Lennon–McCartney originals and six covers, including their second Chuck Berry cover (“Rock and Roll Music”) and songs by Buddy Holly (“Words of Love”) and Carl Perkins (“Honey Don’t”).

Side One contains the Lennon belters “No Reply” and “I’m a Loser” and the McCartney ballad “I’ll Follow the Sun.” Side Two opens with the international hit “Eight Days a Week.”

1. “No Reply” Lennon 2:15
2. “I’m a Loser” Lennon 2:30
3. “Baby’s in Black” Lennon and McCartney 2:04
4. “Rock and Roll Music” (2:31) originated as a September 1957 Chess a-side by Chuck Berry, whose version reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 6 R&B). Lennon sings the Beatles version.
5. “I’ll Follow the Sun” McCartney 1:49
6. “Mr. Moonlight” (2:38) originated as a 1962 Okeh b-side by Dr. Feelgood & The Interns; written by singer–guitarist Roy Lee Johnson. Lennon sings the Beatles version.
7. “Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” (2:38) is a medley of the 1952 Leiber & Stoller song “Kansas City” (a 1959 Billboard No. 1 for R&B singer–pianist Wilbert Harrison) and “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” — a rewrite of “Kansas City” by pianist–singer Richard Penniman (aka Little Richard), who released it as the b-side to his 1958 Billboard No. 4 hit “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” McCartney sings the Beatles combination of the two songs.

1. “Eight Days a Week” Lennon with McCartney 2:43) opens with rock’s first ever fade-in.
2. “Words of Love” (2:04) originated as a June 1957 Coral a-side by Buddy Holly; covered soon after by Canadian doo-wop quartet The Diamonds. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison harmonize on the Beatles version.
3. “Honey Don’t” (2:57) is a song by Carl Perkins, who made it the b-side of his January 1956 Sun Records single “Blue Suede Shoes,” a pioneering rockabilly release. Ringo Starr sings the Beatles version.
4. “Every Little Thing” Lennon with McCartney 2:04
5. “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” Lennon with McCartney 2:33
6. “What You’re Doing” McCartney 2:30
7. “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” (2:26) originated as a 1936 Decca shellac by Alabama hillbilly singer Rex Griffin; updated to the rock canon by Perkins, who covers it on his 1957 Sun Records release Dance Album of Carl Perkins. Harrison sings the Beatles version.

Sessions first occurred on August 1 at EMI Studios. After The Beatles completed their second US tour, they recorded the bulk of for Sale between September 29 and October 26 with George Martin, who granted more creative control to the now sound-curious group. They double-tracked select instruments and used reverb enhanced audio depth.

George Harrison plays a twelve-string Rickenbacker and a six-string Gretsch Tennessean guitar on Beatles for Sale, which features Ringo Starr on assorted sundries (maracas, timpani, cowbell, bongos) in addition to drums. Paul McCartney plays piano, Hammond organ, and acoustic guitar in addition to bass. John Lennon plays the bulk of acoustic and electric rhythm parts, plus harmonica and tambourine.

Robert Freeman photographed the Beatles for Sale cover at sunset in London’s Hyde Park, where the group struck blank expressions to reflect the album’s tone. Due to the now-global familiarity of The Beatles’ linkeness, their name is absent from the cover, which restricts the title to minuscule type. The back cover features a wordless, full-scale shot of the wind-blown foursome looking up to the lens.

Beatles for Sale is one of the first rock albums housed in a gatefold sleeve. On the monochrome right inner-gate, The Beatles pose before a collage of film stars, including several (Victor Mature, Jayne Mansfield, Ian Carmichael) who they met on their recent US tour.

Beatles for Sale reached No. 1 in the UK, Germany, Finland, and Australia.

In North America, Capitol issued eight of the album’s fourteen tracks on the December 15, 1964, release Beatles ’65. Side One contains the first six corresponding for Sale tracks. Side Two contains of Beatles ’65 features two songs from the corresponding for Sale side (“Honey Don’t,” “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”) and both sides of the their concurrent single (“I Feel Fine,” “She’s a Woman”), plus “I’ll Be Back” from the UK version of A Hard Day’s Night.

The six Beatles for Sale tracks omitted from Beatles ’65 appear on the June 1965 Capitol release Beatles VI.


1965

On February 15, 1965, The Beatles lifted “Eight Days a Week” as an a-side in North America and Benelux (b/w “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”). It reached No. 1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US, where it topped the Cashbox Top 100 and the Billboard Hot 100. On the latter chart, “Eight Days a Week” overtook “My Girl” by The Temptations on the week of March 13 and bowed two weeks later for “Stop! In the Name of Love” by The Supremes.


“Ticket to Ride”

On April 9, 1965, The Beatles released “Ticket to Ride,” a jangly mid-tempo number backed with “Yes It Is” — both Lennon–McCartney originals.

Sessions took place on February 15–16 at EMI Studios, one week before production commenced on the second Beatles motion picture, which features “Ticket to Ride.”

The Beatles released this single three days ahead of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the debut single by Los Angeles folk-rockers The Byrds, whose jangly twelve-string advanced the sonic scope of “Ticket to Ride.”

“Ticket to Ride” reached No. 1 in Canada, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. On the week of April 28, 1965, it overtook “The Minute You’re Gone” by Cliff Richard at the top of the UK Singles Chart. In the US, “Ticket to Ride” hit No. 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 and the Billboard Hot 100, where it ended the three-week reign of “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits on the week of May 22 and bowed the following week to “Help Me, Rhonda” by the Beach Boys.

Capitol copies state “From the United Artists release Eight Arms to Hold You,” the working title of the second Beatles feature film. (Later red- and purple-label pressings retain this subheading with no acknowledgment of the film’s final title.)


Help!

The Beatles released their fifth album, Help!, on August 6, 1965, on Parlophone. It features ten Lennon–McCartney originals and two covers, plus two submissions by George Harrison. The album’s release coincided with the transatlantic premiere of the namesake musical comedy–adventure; the group’s second feature film.

Side One contains seven tracks from the movie, including the Lennon-sung ballad “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and the spring a-side “Ticket to Ride.” The exclamatory title-track remains one of the most recognized Beatles evergreens.

Side Two features covers of songs by Buck Owens (“Act Naturally”), Larry Williams (“Dizzy Miss Lizzy”), and three McCartney-sung originals, including “Yesterday,” a much-covered ballad.

1. “Help!” Lennon (2:18) John contrasts his fierce independence as a younger man with his interpersonal needs of the present day, followed by admissions of his current despondency (“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down” — Paul appropriates the second clause on the b-side). Lennon wrote this song on the night that Help! became the movie’s official title.
2. “The Night Before” McCartney 2:34
3. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” Lennon 2:09) features veteran English jazz reedist John Scott on tenor and alto flutes.
4. “I Need You” (George Harrison) Harrison 2:28) features Lennon on snare drum
5. “Another Girl” McCartney 2:05
6. “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” Lennon 2:18
7. “Ticket to Ride” Lennon 3:09

1. “Act Naturally” (2:30) is a song by American country singer and comedian Johnny Russell and co-writing partner Voni Morrison, who handed it to the Bakersfield combo Buck Owens & The Buckaroos, whose March 1963 Capitol version reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. Ringo Starr sings the Beatles version.
2. “It’s Only Love” Lennon 1:56
3. “You Like Me Too Much” (Harrison) Harrison 2:36) features George Martin on piano
4. “Tell Me What You See” McCartney 2:37) feature percussion by Harrison (guiro) and Starr (claves).
5. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” McCartney 2:05
6. “Yesterday” McCartney 2:05) Paul performs this song on acoustic guitar, backed by a string quartet without the other group members.
7. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (2:54) originated as a March 1958 Specialty Records a-side by New Orleans singer–pianist Larry Williams. Lennon sings and plays organ on the Beatles cover.

The Beatles recorded most of Side One (plus “You Like Me Too Much” and “Tell Me What You See”) during the week of February 15–19 at EMI. After completing nine songs (including both sides of the April “Ticket to Ride” single), they reconvened with A Hard Day’s Night director Richard Lester for the production of Help! the motion picture, which commenced on February 23 and wrapped on April 14.

The Beatles cut “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and another Williams’ composition, “Bad Boy,” on May 10, 1965: the R&B singer’s 30th birthday. Capitol Records issued both recordings (along with “You Like Me Too Much” and “Tell Me What You See”) ahead of Parlophone on the June 14 North American release Beatles VI, which also includes the balance of Beatles for Sale not on Beatles ’65 (six songs), plus the “Ticket to Ride” b-side “Yes It Is.”

The Beatles cut “Help!” as the title track to the upcoming film and album on April 13, one day before production finished on the movie. Between June 14 and 17, they recorded “Act Naturally,” “It’s Only Love,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Yesterday,” and “I’m Down,” the eventual b-side of “Help!”

Outtakes from the Help! sessions include the Lennon–McCartney numbers “If You’ve Got Trouble” (cut with Ringo on vocals but deemed unsatisfactory), “That Means a Lot” (handed to singer P.J. Proby, who released it as a September 1965 Liberty a-side), and “Wait,” which they completed for their subsequent studio album.

Help! sports a cover photograph by Robert Freeman, who instructed the members to form a flag semaphore: a distant visual signal whereby participants stand side-to-side and spell out a world with combined arm gestures. However, the arm arrangement for the word ‘HELP’ didn;t photograph well so he had them change positions. The resulting flag semaphore reads ‘NUJV’ (‘NVUJ’ on North American Capitol copies).

The Beatles lifted “Help!” on July 23 as a second advance single, backed with “I’m Down.” It reached No. 1 in Canada, Oceania, Scandinavia, Spain, and the Netherlands. On the UK Singles Chart, “Help!” overtook “Mr. Tambourine Man” on the week of August 11, where it held top spot for three weeks then bowed for “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher. On the Billboard Hot 100, “Help!” ousted I “Got You Babe” on the week of September 4 and spent three weeks at No. 1, then cleared out for “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire.

In North America, Capitol Records issued Help! as a strict soundtrack with the seven movie tracks from Side One of the Parlophone release and five orchestral instrumentals: two composed by Lennon–McCartney (“From Me to You Fantasy,” “Another Hard Day’s Night”), two by arranger Ken Thorne (“In the Tyrol,” “The Chase”), and a Beatles–Thorne medley (“The Bitter End–You Can’t Do That”). The Capitol version affixes the title-track with a short parody of the James Bond theme.

Help! reached No. 1 in Australia, Finland, and the UK. The Capitol soundtrack version reached No. 1 for nine weeks on the Billboard Top LPs chart.


Help!  (The Motion Picture)

On July 29, 1965, Help! made its Royal World Premiere at the London Pavilion Theatre. Help! is a 92-minute musical chase comedy in full color by A Hard Day’s Night director Richard Lester. The Beatles play a band on the run from Hindu cultists in pursuit of a sacred ring that attaches itself to Ringo’s hand.

In the opening scene, an Indian Thuggee cult conducts a sacrificial ritual, where priest Clang learns that the key detail (a sacrificial ruby ring) is missing from the hand of the intended victim: a Beatles fan who sent the ring to Ringo. Clang shouts “What has she done with the ring?” and the film cuts to a monochrome studio scene where The Beatles perform “Help!”

Clang and his cult, including priestess Ahme, descend on London to capture the ring. Ahme stocks The Beatles home, where she tries to bite the ring from Ringo’s finger (through a doorway sandwich dispenser) and pry it with a remote robot wrench. The next day, Clang and Ahme make more failed efforts as The Beatles head to the studio to record “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.” Clang saws the floor from under Ringo and his drumkit but Ahme foils the capture.

Later, The Beatles dine at an Indian restaurant, where Ringo learns that he must either hand them the ring or become their sacrificial lamb. However, he can’t get the ring unstuck from his finger. The group flees to a jeweler, who fails to remove the ring. They next go to Professor Foot, a mad scientist whose wall-strap contraption (activated by sidekick Algernon) removes Ringo’s pants and all the other rings on his fingers, but not the sacred ruby ring. Foot, now obsessed with the Ring, tries to hold Ringo and his bandmates captive. Ahme arrives and frees the band, who flee home and perform “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”

Ahme prepares a temporary shrinking formula for Ringo’s finger. Before she’s able to inject, fellow cultists knock on the door; the shocked priestess drops the syringe, which lands on Paul and renders his body doll-sized. The others fight off Clang before the arrival of Foot, who demands the ring “in the name of science.” His gun jams as Paul reappears at human size. The Beatles flee to the Swiss Alps, where they snow-sled, ski, picnic, and ride horseback to “Ticket to Ride.”

Later, at a ski competition, Clang tries to fire-hose The Beatles. They flee to Scotland Yard, where the superintendent arranges a barricade for the band on Salisbury Plain, where they perform “I Need You.” As Clang and his loyalists infiltrate the military compound, The Beatles perform “The Night Before.”

Cannons fire and tanks combust but The Beatles appear unscathed at Buckingham Palace, where Clang’s cult infiltrate the Palace Guards. The Beatles break to a nearby pub, where Ringo’s counter-stuck beer glass opens a trap door. Ringo plunges to a cellar haunted by a roaming tiger. The zoo master arrives and tames the tiger with “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The Beatles emerge at Heathrow Airport (disguised in trench coats and beards) and flee to the Bahamas, where they cavort on the seaside with bikini-clad vacationers and perform “Another Girl.”

Clang’s cult descends on the beach, where Ahme whisks The Beatles into an underground temple (with a statue of Durga, the ten-armed Hindu goddess). They escape through a water passage to a swimming pool. With Clang, Foot, and the superintendent of Scotland Yard in pursuit, The Beatles bike a red-footed trail that misleads them to an abandoned theme park, where the bands fights off cultists but Foot and Algernon capture Ringo and drives off with him in the trunk. George jumps Foot’s car, which runs aground in at a tree, where George dislodges a hubcap and frees Ringo.

Later, John, Paul, and George each pose as Ringo to distract the cult at a baseball game. Foot and Algernon recapture Ringo and hold him at gunpoint on a ship, where Ahme bribes them with the shrinking formula. She jumps ship with Ringo, who can’t swim and falls captive to Clang. On the beach, as Clang initiates the sacrificial ritual, Ringo wrestles his right arm free and the ring flies off his finger. Ringo places the ring on Clang’s finger and rejoins his bandmates. Hokum ensues as Ahme turns on Clang and Scotland Yard descends on the cult as “Help!” replays.

The lens pans out to an abandoned vintage Singer sewing machine (with Durga in the distance) with the rolling caption “The film is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Mr. Elias Howe, who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine.”

Help! marked the feature film debut of English actress Eleanor Bron (as Ahme), a graduate of the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe who subsequently played the female lead in the 1967 Peter Cooke–Dudley Moore vehicle Bedazzled. Australian dramatic actor Leo McKern (Murder in the Cathedral, The Day the Earth Caught Fire) portrays the balding, portly Clang. Help! also features actors Roy Kinnear (Algernon), Patrick Cargill (the superintendent), and A Hard Day’s Night cast member Victor Spinetti (Foot). (Cargill appears in the 1959 musical film Expresso Bongo starring Cliff Richard).

Lester filmed Help! at locations in England (London, Salisbury Plain) and the Bahamas (New Providence Island, Paradise Island). Shoots commenced on February 23, 1965, i the Bahamas and wrapped on April 14 at Twickenham Film Studios, London. They shot the “Swiss Alps” scenes at Obertauern, a ski resort in Austria, where The Beatles were less recognized. While there, they played an impromptu concert for the assistant director’s birthday. This was their only show on an Austrian stage. The day they shot the Indian restaurant scene marked Harrison’s first exposure to Indian music: a subsequent influence on his songwriting. The bearded Heathrow scene (with Lennon in granny glasses) presages their later hirsute look.

Help! took inspiration from the 1933 Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup. The film’s comedic devices — exotic animals, impromptu music numbers, abstractions (the Elias Howe reference) — drew from the 1950s BBC Light Programme comedy The Goon Show, an influence on the member’s teenage years. Before they settled on Help!‘s title, United Artists producer Walter Shenson suggested The Day the Clowns Collapsed. Between the two Beatles films, Lester made the 1965 sex-comedy The Knack… and How to Get It, a capsule of Swinging London mod culture.


Rubber Soul

The Beatles released their sixth album, Rubber Soul, on December 3, 1965, on Parlophone. It features two George Harrison submissions and twelve Lennon–McCartney numbers, including one (“What Goes On”) third-credited to Ringo Starr.

Rubber Soul emphasizes The Beatles’ softer, more lyrical side with the Lennon-sung ballads “Nowhere Man,” “In My Life,” and “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” their first song with Harrison on sitar. The album opens with “Drive My Car,” a harmonized mid-tempo rocker that remains a popular evergreen.

The cover, with its stretch photography and tear-drop font, is an early example of psychedelic imagery.

1. “Drive My Car” McCartney with Lennon 2:25
2. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” Lennon 2:05
3. “You Won’t See Me” McCartney 3:18
4. “Nowhere Man” Lennon 2:40
5. “Think for Yourself” (George Harrison) Harrison 2:16) features Paul on fuzz bass.
6. “The Word” Lennon 2:41
7. “Michelle” McCartney 2:40

1. “What Goes On” (Lennon–McCartney–Richard Starkey) Starr 2:47
2. “Girl” Lennon 2:30
3. “I’m Looking Through You” McCartney 2:23
4. “In My Life” Lennon 2:24
5. “Wait” Lennon and McCartney 2:12
6. “If I Needed Someone” (Harrison) Harrison 2:20
7. “Run for Your Life” Lennon 2:18

The Beatles composed the bulk of Rubber Soul after their August 1965 tour of North America, where the influences Stax–Motown (“Drive My Car”) and folk-rock informed the new songwriting. Sessions commenced on October 12 at EMI Studios. They spent roughly 113 hours recording the songs, mostly on the week of November 4–11, when they worked until 3 am each morning. Late in the process, they polished the Help! sessions outtake “Wait,” which brought Rubber Soul to its final duration (34:59). George Martin mixed the album across four subsequent days.

On Rubber Soul, The Beatles grew their arsenal of instruments and made newfound strides in recording methods. Paul McCartney adopted the Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar, which produced sharper, more punctual tones than his prior hollow-body Hofner. Harrison adopted the Fender Stratocaster to achieve a more strident, searing tone on solo passages. He incorporated the sitar after socializing in LA with Byrds members Roger McGuinn and David Crosby, who took a similar interest in East Indian music.

The baroque keyboard break on “In My Life” (often misheard as a harpsichord) is a piano solo taped at half-speed by George Martin and “sped up” to full-speed for the glistening effect. Martin plays harmonium on two tracks (“The Word,” “If I Needed Someone”) while Mal Evans plays Hammond on (“You Won’t See Me”). Organ appears visa John (“Think for Yourself”) and Ringo (“I’m Looking Through You”).

During the same sessions, they recorded two songs for an accompanying non-album single (“Day Tripper,” “We Can Work It Out”) and “12-Bar Original,” an R&B instrumental that went unreleased for three decades.

The Beatles titled the album Rubber Soul as a play on the phrase “plastic soul,” a sometimes derisive term aimed at white acts that incorporate elements of R&B. Robert Freeman photographed the cover in the garden on Lennon’s property. When he projected the chosen picture onto a piece of LP-sized cardboard, the board back-tilted and stretched the image. Freeman liked the effect and applied it to the finished cover. Typographer Charles Front conceived the teardrop-shaped title font, designed to resemble the tap of a rubber tree.

Rubber Soul reached No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report, the Finnish Albums Chart, and the West German Musikmarkt LP Hit-Parade. In the UK, Rubber Soul spent eight weeks at No. 1. and (despite its late-autumn release) became the nation’s third-highest-selling album of 1965 behind Beatles for Sale and the Sound of Music soundtrack. This prompted British record companies to shift their focus from adult-oriented performers to youth-oriented ones and prioritize albums over singles among rock acts.

In North America, Capitol released Rubber Soul on December 6, 1965, as a twelve-track album with ten of the fourteen songs from its UK counterpart, plus two songs (“I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “It’s Only Love”) omitted from the Capitol version of Help! The four songs omitted from the North American Rubber Soul (“Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On,” “If I Needed Someone”) appear on June 1966 Capitol release Yesterday and Today.

Rubber Soul topped the Canadian CHUM’s Album Index and the US Cashbox Top 100 Albums chart. The album spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top LPs chart.


“Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”

On December 3, 1965, The Beatles released “Day Tripper,” a Lennon-sung rocker backed with “We Can Work It Out,” a McCartney-led folk-rock number. Though initially a standalone single, both songs appear on their June 1966 North American album Yesterday and Today.

“Day Tripper” coalesced early during the Rubber Soul sessions from a riff inspired by the 1961 R&B hit “Watch Your Step” by Bobby Parker (also the inspiration behind “I Feel Fine”). Lennon conceived this as a guitar-driven rocker that would rival (and possibly surpass) the fuzz-driven “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the recent global No. 1 by The Rolling Stones. The lyrics are a dual play on the “trippy” effects of hallucinogens and the act of taking trips (travels) by day.

The Beatles recorded “Day Tripper” on October 16, straight after the session that produced “Drive My Car,” a Rubber Soul album track with similar R&B leanings. They used Take 3, the only version that they managed to perform interruption-free. Harrison used a volume pedal for the bridge scales and overdubbed a second lead part on the same passage. 

On November 1–2, The Beatles filmed a clips of both sides for the Granada TV special The Music of Lennon & McCartney. In the “Day Tripper” clip, the group mimes amid go-go dancers.

The Beatles recorded “We Can Work It Out” on October 20, halfway through the Rubber Soul sessions. McCartney wrote the verse and chorus to the song, which he then presented to Lennon, who added the middle-eight. Harrison suggested the 3/4 pattern on the chordal descent that accompanies the “fussing and fighting” lines. Lennon overdubbed EMI’s Mannborg harmonium on the finished version.

On November 23, The Beatles entered Twickenham Film Studios in south-west London with director with Joe McGrath and filmed ten b&w promos in one day, including three mimed clips of “We Can Work It Out,” each with Lennon seated at the harmonium.

“Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” were issued and promoted as a double-a-sided single but radio stations typically favored McCartney’s side, which reached No. 1 in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the UK, where it won the Ivor Novello Award as the top-selling A-side of 1965. “We Can Work It Out” became the seventh highest-selling single of the 1960s. In the US, “Day Tripper” appeared separately on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 5.

In North America, both songs appear on the June 1966 Capitol release Yesterday and Today, the label’s ninth US Beatles album, which also gathers six songs excluded from the Capitol versions of their two most recent Parlophone albums: two from Help! (“Yesterday,” “Act Naturally”) and four from Rubber Soul (“Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On,” “If I Needed Someone”). Yesterday and Today also includes three early completions (“I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Doctor Robert”) from their upcoming seventh Parlophone studio album.

For the Yesterday and Today cover, The Beatles worked with Australian photographer Robert Whitaker, who met the band and Epstein on their June 1964 Down Under tour. He recently moved to London, where he photographed sleeves for Gerry & The Pacemakers (Ferry Cross the Mersey), Cilla Black (You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin), and the coil spring picture on The Beatles’ Million Sellers, a Parlophone four-song EP of the Fab Four’s three biggest international hits of 1964 (“She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Feel Fine”).

Whitaker designed a triptych for the inner-gate of a proposed Yesterday and Today gatefold cover with three surreal Beatles images: one where they co-handle sausage strands in front of a back-turned female (left); one where they sit in butcher coats with strewn cold cuts and severed baby doll parts (middle); and one with George holding three nails and a hammer around John’s head (right).

When Capitol issued Yesterday and Today, they dispensed with the triptych and pressed the album in a single sleeve with the middle image on the front cover. Capitol purportedly used this visual (against the wishes of Brian Epstein and George Martin) at the insistence of Paul, who intended for the image to serve as a statement on the Vietnam War. The cover sparked outage from radio DJs and retailers, who refused to stock the album.

Capitol recalled the 750,000 copies of what media dubbed the “baby butcher” cover. Subsequent Yesterday and Today pressings sport an image of The Beatles posed around a travel suitcase. To cut the estimated $250,000 loss, Capitol reused thousands of the recalled copies and pasted the new cover over the offending image. The original pressing gained instant value among collectors, who also horded copies of (possibly doctored) second pressings.

In 1972, erstwhile Spirit guitarist Randy California covered “Day Tripper” on his solo album Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds.


1966


“Paperback Writer” / “Rain”

On May 30, 1966, The Beatles released “Paperback Writer,” a McCartney rocker backed with “Rain,” a jangly Lennon number.

“Paperback Writer” concerns an aspiring author and his pitch to a publisher in the form of a letter. McCartney penned the lyrics as part of an effort to explore novel topics; a challenge presented years beforehand by his Aunt Lil, who alleged that he only wrote about love. He also sought to write a melodic song that retains a single key-center throughout. (“Paperback Writer” remains in G apart from the first utterance of the title on each chorus, where it rises to C).

The Beatles recorded “Paperback Writer” on April 13–14 at EMI Studios. For enhanced bass presence, McCartney used a Rickenbacker bass, which engineer Geoff Emerick boosted with a loudspeaker placed next to the microphone. They did this to approximate the loud bass signals on select Stax recordings. EMI long prohibited high bass levels — classified as Automatic Transient Overload Control (ATOC) — over concerns that such frequencies would disrupt the stylus on most home turntables.

“Rain” possibly refers to the hallucinogenic effects of LSD, which induces visualizations of rain in some users. It’s one of the first songs to put a positive spin on the literal and figurative meanings of rain, which are typically cast in a negative light.

The Beatles recorded “Rain” between April 14 and 16 at EMI Studios. McCartney plays a Rickenbacker 4001S bass on ‘Rain,” which features Lennon on a Gretsch Nashville and Harrison on a Gibson SG.

To enhance the song’s hallucinogenic  theme, Emerick taped the backing track at a higher speed and Lennon’s vocal track at a lower speed, then adjusted both to normal speed. On the song’s coda, he back-masked the opening line and Lennon’s utterance of the word “sunshine.” This set a precedent for subsequent sessions where Emerick and the Beatles tried each track in forward and reverse.

On May 19–20, The Beatles filmed for promo clips of three promo clips for “Paperback Writer” with Michael Lindsay-Hogg. They also filmed three for “Rain” —  two on the EMI Studios soundstage (one color; one b&w) and one at Chiswick House, where the members lip sync and walk around the garden. They submitted the color “Paperback Writer” clip to The Ed Sullivan Show and the b&w soundstage clip for British TV. The latter aired on the June 3 broadcast of the ITV music program Ready Steady Go!

Parlophone issued “Paperback Writer” (b/w “Rain”) on June 10 in the UK, where it overtook “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra as the No. 1 song on the week of June 29 and bowed two weeks later to “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks. “Paperback Writer” also spent two speparate weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where Sinatra interrupted The Beatles chart peak.

In a rare live UK TV appearance, The Beatles mimed both sides of the single on the June 16 broadcast of Top of the Pops.

In 1974, hard-rock supergroup Tempest (ex-Colosseum and TimeboxPatto) covered “Paperback Writer” on their second album Living In Fear. A lengthy cover of “Rain” (8:38) appears on Kapt. Kopter.


Revolver

The Beatles released their seventh album, Revolver, on August 5, 1966, on Parlophone. It features eleven Lennon–McCartney numbers and three George Harrison contributions, including the bass-driven opener “Taxman.”

Side One contains two McCartney-sung numbers: “Here, There and Everywhere,” a ballad in the vein of Rubber Soul; and the cello-laden “Eleanor Rigby,” a pioneering example of chamber pop. Ringo Starr sings “Yellow Submarine,” a singalong novelty that later spawned an animated film.

Harrison’s “Love You To” is one of the earliest examples of English psychedelic rock, a style further explored on the Lennon-sung album-closer “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Side Two also contains three Paul-sung songs: two piano-thumping music hall numbers (“Good Day Sunshine,” “For No One”) and “Got to Get You into My Life,” a brassy Stax-infused track with a ringing Harrison guitar break.

Three Lennon-sung tracks (“I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Doctor Robert”) appeared in North America two months beforehand on the June 1966 Capitol release Yesterday and Today.

1. “Taxman” Harrison 2:36
2. “Eleanor Rigby” McCartney 2:11
3. “I’m Only Sleeping” Lennon 2:58
4. “Love You To” Harrison 3:00) Anil Bhagwat of the Asian Music Circle plays tabla.
5. “Here, There and Everywhere” McCartney 2:29
6. “Yellow Submarine” Starr 2:40) Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones plays the ocarina vessel flute.
7. “She Said She Said” Lennon 2:39

1. “Good Day Sunshine” McCartney 2:08
2. “And Your Bird Can Sing” Lennon 2:02
3. “For No One” McCartney 2:03) Alan Civil of the New Philharmonia Orchestra guests on French horn.
4. “Doctor Robert” Lennon 2:14
5. “I Want to Tell You” Harrison 2:30
6. “Got to Get You into My Life” McCartney 2:31
7. “Tomorrow Never Knows” Lennon 3:00

The Beatles initially planned to record the album at Stax Studio in Memphis with producer Jim Stewart but crowd-control issues rendered this option mute after word leaked. Sessions commenced on April 6 with George Martin at EMI Studios, London, where cut an early arrangement of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and multiple songs rejected from he final tracklist. By mid-May, they completed six tracks for the finished album and both sides of the “Paperback Writer” single. At this stage, Martin handed three Lennon-sung songs to Capitol for inclusion on the label’s June North American release Yesterday and Today.

After 220 hours of sessions, The Beatles completed Revolver on June 21, the recording date of Lennon’s “She Said She Said.” Martin mixed the album on June 22 and the band threw a party at Sibylla’s, a new London nightspot co-owned by Harrison.

Revolver is the first Beatles album engineered by Geoff Emerick, a 20-year-old soundman who recently earned his first engineering credit on the “Pretty Flamingo,” a May 1966 UK No. 1 by Manfred Mann. As a teenager, Emerick worked Norman Smith’s assistant on the 1962–63 singles “Love Me Do,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” With Emerick, The Beatles experimented with compression and tonal equalization to alter the sounds of select instruments.

John Lennon works with tape loops and sound effects on Revolver, on which he expands his arsenal with harmonium and Mellotron, an electro-mechanical keyboard with tape-sampled string, brass, and choral sounds. On “Tomorrow Never Knows,” John sings through Leslie speakers designed for the Hammond organ.

Paul McCartney expands on his bassist role with select use if piano, clavichord, and guitar (rhythm and lead). On “Eleanor Rigby,” he insisted on close-miking the string octet to render their instruments with a volume and presence best-suited to rock music.

George Harrison makes further use of sitar and exotic instruments (tambura, maracas). His guitar of choice is the Gibson SG, played through newly acquired Fender amplifiers. He plays a backmasked solo on “I’m Only Sleeping” that made him consider the impact of the note-sequence when played in reverse.

Ringo Starr works with tape loops and percussive sundries (tambourine, maracas, cowbell, shaker). To enhance his rhythmic presence, Emerick placed cloth inside Ringo’s bass drum and positioned the microphone three inches from the drumhead. Emerick used a Fairchild limiter to compress the signal of Ringo’s drum tracks.

To Lennon’s delight, EMI studio tech Ken Townsend prevented the need for multiple vocal takes with a double-tracking innovation (two linked tape recorders run simultaneously) that quickly became an industry-wide method. On the session b-side “Rain,” Emerick back-masks John’s voice on select passages. Despite the studio’s limitation, Emerick’s recording innovations sparked redesigns of more state-of-the-art US studios as the era’s leading engineers sought to capture the sounds introduced on Revolver.

“Got to Get You into My Life” features a five-piece horn section with trumpeters Eddie Thornton, Ian Hamer, Les Condon, and tenor saxophonists Peter Coe and Alan Branscombe — all recent members of Georgie Fame‘s backing band the Blue Flames. Martin plays Hammond organ on this track and piano on “Good Day Sunshine” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” He also loops the marching band on “Yellow Submarine,” which features bass drum by Mal Evans and backing vocals by Brian Jones, singer Marianne Faithfull (Mick Jagger’s then-girlfriend), model Pattie Boyd (Harrison’s girlfriend), and Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall.

Revolver sports b&w line art by German-born artist (and recent Manfred Mann bassist) Klaus Voormann, a longtime friend of The Beatles from their Hamburg days. He rendered the members likeness in a style reminiscent of Victorian illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898), whose decadent ink drawings for the literary works of Oscar Wilde and Alexander Pope helped usher the style of fashion illustration associated with Art Nouveau. Voormann intermixes the Beatles’ entangled hair strands with a collage of 1964–65 photos by longtime group photographer Robert Freeman.

Yesterday and Today photographer Robert Whitaker took the bespectacled monochrome group shot on the back of Revolver, on which members sport select articles (George’s velvet jacket; John’s paisley shirt) from the mod-psychedelic Chelsea boutiques Granny Takes a Trip and Hung on You.

Revolver‘ is a dual reference to the handgun and the revolving motion of a turntable. The Beatles settled on the title after a sequence of working titles that included Abracadabra, Pendulum, Bubble and Squeak, Magic Circle, and Four Sides to the Circle.

The Beatles lifted “Eleanor Rigby” (b/w “Yellow Submarine”) as a single on the same day as the album. It reached No. 1 in Canada, Oceania, Belgium, and the UK, where it overtook “With a Girl Like You” by The Troggs on the week of August 10 and held that position for a month then bowed for “All or Nothing” by the Small Faces. Capitol flipped the sides in the US, where “Yellow Submarine” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Revolver reached No. 1 in Australia, Finland, Sweden, and West Germany. In the UK, Revolver entered the Record Retailer chart at No. 1 and held that spot for seven weeks (nine weeks on the Melody Maker chart). It became the second-highest-selling UK album of 1966 behind The Sound of Music soundtrack.

In North America, Capitol Records issued Revolver as an eleven-song album that omits the three songs that appear on the label’s earlier release Yesterday and Today. This Revolver reached No. 1 on the Canadian CHUM’s Album Index and the US Billboard Top LPs chart.


1967


“Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Lane”

On February 13, 1967, The Beatles released “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a psychedelic Lennon number backed with “Penny Lane,” a McCartney music hall tune.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” references Lennon’s childhood at Strawberry Field, a Victorian house in Liverpool that functioned as a Salvation Army children’s home for sixty-nine years (1936–2005).

The Beatles created “Strawberry Fields Forever” during five weeks of sessions (November–December 1966) at EMI Studios with George Martin and Geoff Emerick. Its initial working title was “It’s Not Too Bad.” They recorded the song in Studio 2 on a Studer J37 four-track machine. Relieved of deadlines and budget limitations, they used 45 hours of studio time on the song.

Three complete versions exist of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Take 1 follows Lennon’s acoustic demonstration of the song; played on the Epiphone Casino electric guitar. (It surfaced on the 1996 comp Anthology 2.) Take 7 (Nov. 28) features a McCartney Mellotron introduction; the first minute of this take appears in the final cut. Take 26 (Dec. 8–9) accounts for the remaining three minutes of the finished song.

Martin arranged the orchestral score of four trumpets and three cellos. Emerick combined Takes 7 and 26 on a dual-tape setup with scissors and vari-speed control. The pitch-shifting blurred the tone of Lennon’s vocals. Ringo’s drums and cymbals play in reverse on “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which features George Harrison on swarmandal and percussive sundries by Beatles associates Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, and Terry Doran.

The Beatles filmed the video for “Strawberry Fields Forever” on January 30–31, 1967, around a tree at Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent. Swedish film director Peter Goldmann directed the clip, produced by band assistant Tony Bramwell, who decorated the tree as a piano–harp combination. They video showcases the band’s new look: mustaches and colorful jackets. Lennon wore his round “granny” glasses retained from his Private Gripweed character in How I Won the War.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” made its transatlantic premieres on The Ed Sullivan Show (Feb. 12) and Top of the Pops (Feb. 16) on the days before their respective US–UK release dates. The Beatles new appearance altered audience perceptions of the band, who drew new male coverts with the complexity of their music but alienated some younger female fans with their avuncular appearance.

In the UK, “Strawberry Fields Forever” peaked at No. 2 behind “Release Me” by Engelbert Humperdinck. (Its status as a double-a-sided single halved the impact of its sales on the chart calculation.) US stations promoted “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” separately but favored the latter, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where “Strawberry Fields” peaked at No. 8.

Penny Lane” refers to the namesake street in Liverpool. McCartney drew inspiration for the song from the recent Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.

The Beatles recorded “Penny Lane” between December 29, 1966, and January 12, 1967, at EMI Studios. Paul played keyboard parts on each track of the four-track tape: rhythm piano (one), reverb-laden second piano (two), honky-tonk prepared piano (three), and amplified harmonium (four), which Emerick then paired onto one track. The band then recorded basic parts, followed with overdubs of brass, woodwinds, percussion, and harmonies.

Sessionist David Mason (1926–2011) plays the piccolo trumpet solo on the “Penny Lane” bridge. McCartney spotted the reedist on a BBC broadcast of Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto.

The “Penny Lane” video intermixes footage of Liverpool with Beatles street scenes in the Angel Lane neighborhood of Stratford, East London. Midway, they ride on horseback in red hunter jackets to a picnic table, where Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall arrive in powdered wigs to hand guitars to Paul and George.

In Australia, “Penny Lane” reached No. 1 for five weeks on the Go-Set National Top 4, which favored the song over “Strawberry Fields Forever.”


Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles released their eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, on May 26, 1967, on Parlophone. It follows the loose concept of an Edwardian showband that plays a 20th anniversary concert. Side One contains two McCartney music-hall numbers (“Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole”) and a Ringo-sung third (“With a Little Help from My Friends”). Lennon sings the hallucinogenic “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and the carnivalesque “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

George Harrison leads “Within You Without You,” the sitar-drone piece that opens Side Two, which features Paul’s vintage oom-pah number “When I’m Sixty-Four” and John’s wake-up call “Good Morning Good Morning.” Sgt. Pepper climaxes with “A Day in the Life,” an epic merger of rock and classical music. The album closes with a random-sound runout groove and a high-pitch frequency only audible to canine ears.

1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” McCartney 2:00
2. “With a Little Help from My Friends” Starr 2:42
3. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” Lennon 3:28
4. “Getting Better” McCartney 2:48
5. “Fixing a Hole” McCartney 2:36) John plays bass.
6. “She’s Leaving Home” McCartney with Lennon 3:25
7. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” Lennon 2:37

1. “Within You Without You” Harrison 5:05
2. “When I’m Sixty-Four” McCartney 2:37
3. “Lovely Rita” McCartney 2:42) George Martin plays the piano solo.
4. “Good Morning Good Morning” Lennon 2:42
5. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr 1:18
6. “A Day in the Life” Lennon with McCartney 5:38) John plays the final piano E chord.

McCartney conceived Sgt. Pepper with Mal Evans on a November 1966 return flight from Kenya, where he envisioned The Beatles as an Edwardian military band. Evans suggested the name, inspired by long-named Bay Area groups like Country Joe & The Fish and The Quicksilver Messenger Service.

In London, McCartney rendezvoused with a newly bespectacled Lennon, who’d just completed his parts in How I Won the War, his only solo film role. The two bonded over avant-garde art and electronic music on the city’s underground psychedelic scene. John welcomed Paul’s concept of a Beatles alter-ego with unbound creative freedom.

As new songs took shape, Paul studied the harmonic nuances of Pet Sounds, an album directly inspired by Rubber Soul. He sought to expand its textures with an avant bent akin to Freak Out, the 1966 debut album by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention. His interest in the avant-garde spawned “Carnival of Light,” an unreleased experimental free-form piece created for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, a four-day event (Jan. 28–Feb. 4) at London’s Roundhouse Theatre.

Sessions commenced on November 24, 1966, in Studio 2 at EMI Studios, which they mood-livened with lava lamps and red fluorescent lights. They started with three songs: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” and “When I’m Sixty-Four,” which collectively followed a theme linked to the Beatles’ childhoods. After George Martin handed the first two songs to Parlophone for release as a non-album single, they abandoned the childhood theme and recorded a set of songs that, in the context of the album, are performed in sequence on a 20th anniversary concert by the Sgt. Pepper character and his Lonely Hearts Club Band.

McCartney wrote more than half the music for the finished album and exerted greater studio dominance. On “Getting Better,” he demanded multiple takes to nail the proper sound. He typically recorded secondary instruments first and overdubbed the bass lines; a reversal of standard practice. This allowed him to craft melodic, ornamental bass parts that didn’t conform to the rhythm track. In addition to guitar, his Sgt. Pepper contributions also include Hammond and Lowrey organ and standup and grand piano.

On February 10, The Beatles staged a “happening” (performance art event) where Martin conducted the orchestral overdubs on “A Day in the Life.” On March 15, Harrison led the session for “Within You Without You” inside Studio 2, which they adorned with Indian carpets and incense for the occasion. After sessions wrapped on April 20, they finished Harrison’s “Only a Northern Song,” one of four new songs submitted for a proposed animated film based on “Yellow Submarine.”

Sgt. Pepper is one of the first rock albums sequenced without between-song spaces. It makes extensive use of automatic double-tracking, soundboard injection (instruments plugged directly into the console), and vari-speed, an evident feature on John’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” vocals. Overall, the album consumed 700 hours of studio time and £25,000 in production costs.

Ringo Starr traded the plastic tom-tom heads for calfskin, which ensured deeper timbre. Martin plays assorted instruments, including piano (“Getting Better”), Hammond organ (“With a Little Help from My Friends”), harpsichord (“Fixing a Hole”), and Mellotron (“Benefit of Mr. Kite!”). “Good Morning Good Morning” features saxophones, trombones, and French horn by Sounds Inc.

Sgt. Pepper is housed in a gatefold sleeve with a cover designed by husband–wife pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth. It shows The Beatles in colorful Edwardian sergeant coats behind a kick drum that sports the album title and a floral garden with figurines and a rosary of the band’s name. They’re surrounded by a collage of notable singers (Bob Dylan, Dion), film stars (Mae West, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich), authors (H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe), and philosophers (Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung). To the Beatles’ left stands four wax dolls of the members in their earlier Beatlemania iteration, loaned by Madame Tussauds. In all, the collage contains nine waxworks and fifty-seven photographs.

London scene photographer Michael Cooper photographed the inner-gate photo-spread of The Beatles: a seated medium-shot against a yellow background where the now-mustached group sport satin sergeant jackets in magenta (Ringo), lime (John), blue (Paul), and red (George). Paul sports a badge with the letters O.P.P., the initials of the Ontario Provincial Police (aquired on a recent Canadian tour). The back cover shows them dwarfed against a red wall of lyrics. Cooper subsequently photographed The Rolling Stones for the cover of their Pepper-inspired December 1967 release Their Satanic Majesties Request.

The Sgt. Pepper inner-sleeve has a red-into-white wave illustration by The Fool, a Dutch design firm. Original copies contained a cardboard insert with cut-out Pepper items, including two sergeant lapel badges, a handlebar mustache, a Beatles desktop stand-up, and a postcard-size illustration of Sgt. Pepper.

The pirate station Radio London aired Sgt. Pepper on May 12, two weeks before the album’s release. The Beatles held a May 19 launch party at Brian Epstein’s house. On May 20, presenter Kenny Everett previewed Sgt. Pepper on the BBC Light Programme’s show Where It’s At.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band appeared in UK shops on May 26, 1967; one week of its scheduled release date. Abroad, the album appeared on June 2. Sgt. Pepper is the first proper Beatles album with identical UK–US tracklists.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band spent twenty-seven weeks at No. 1 on the UK Record Retailer LPs Chart and also topped charts throughout Europe and the Commonwealth. In the US, Sgt. Pepper spent fifteen weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top LPs chart. On its fiftieth anniversary in 2017, global sales of the album passed the 32 million mark.


“All You Need Is Love”

On July 7, 1967, The Beatles released “All You Need Is Love,” a psychedelic singalong backed with “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” both credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. They created “All You Need Is Love” for Our World, a multi-national telecast that drew 700 million viewers across twenty-four nations.

Lennon wrote “All You Need Is Love” as a universal message at the request of British Our World representatives, who contacted the band on May 18, 1967; five weeks before the record-breaking global broadcast.

The Beatles recorded the backing track on June 14 at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, Southwest London. They cut thirty-three takes of “All You Need Is Love” and chose the tenth. It features members on unfamiliar instruments like harpsichord (John), bowed contra-bass (Paul), and violin (George). On June 19, they overdubbed banjo and guitar at EMI Studios, where George Martin added piano. Mike Vickers conducts the string and brass, which includes “Penny Lane” sessionist David Mason on trumpet. The fadeout features a snippet of “In the Mood,” a 1939 swing classic by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

On Sunday, June 25, Our World aired via four satellites with participation by fourteen countries coordinated by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). At 8:54 pm London time, the transmission cut to EMI Studios, where a stool-seated Beatles performed “All You Need Is Love” with an in-studio celebrity guest list that included members of the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards), The Who (Keith Moon), The Hollies (Graham Nash), Cream (Eric Clapton), Jagger’s then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, George’s wife Pattie Boyd, Paul’s girlfriend Jane Asher, and his younger brother Mike McGear. Though filmed in color, the segment aired in black and white, which was still the transmission standard throughout most of the world (including Britain).

Parlophone issued “All You Need Is Love” on July 7, 1967, twelve days after the broadcast. It entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 2 behind “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. The Beatles overtook the top spot on July 25 and held it for three weeks until American folk singer Scott McKenzie took the honors with his generational ballad “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” Capitol issued “All You Need Is Love” on July 17 in North America, where the single reached No. 1 for one week on the Billboard Hot 100.

Due to Martin’s improperly licensed insertion of the Miller theme, EMI was obliged to pay royalties to KPM, the publisher of “In the Mood.”

Baby, You’re a Rich Man” is a combination of two unfinished Lennon–McCartney songs. John wrote the verses under the working title “One of the Beautiful People” before Paul added the chorus.

The Beatles recorded “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” on May 11, 1967, in a single six-hour session at Olympic Sound Studios. George Martin co-engineered the song with Olympic soundmen Keith Grant and Eddie Kramer. Mick Jagger, an Olympic regular with the Stones, sings backing vocals.

Lennon creates the song’s oboe-like sound with a clavioline, a monophonic three-octave precursor to the synthesizer. He plays the primary piano part across the track, onto which Paul overdubbed a second part (1:45 onward) that plays in reverse on the third verse. Kramer overdubbed vibraphone, of which a single note is head (at :53).

The Beatles first submitted “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” for inclusion in Yellow Submarine, an animated work-in-progress. Though absent from the later soundtrack, parts of the song appear in the film.


“Hello, Goodbye” / “I Am the Walrus”

On November 24, 1967, The Beatles released “Hello, Goodbye,” a jolly McCartney singalong backed with “I Am the Walrus,” an avant-psych Lennon number with chamber strings. This was their fourth Christmas UK No. 1 single in five years.

The Beatles started work on “Hello, Goodbye” as filming wrapped on the planned television special Magical Mystery Tour. They taped the backing track on October 2 at EMI Studios with George Martin and engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott.

They cut two finished takes of “Hello, Goodbye.” Take 14 features piano (Paul), Hammond organ (John), Leslied guitar (George), and drums (Ringo) with overdubbed Maori-style percussion on the coda. Take 16 features a more strident guitar part by George, who interjects Paul’s vocals with runs. Martin added strings to Take 14, the chosen version, which features classical violists Kenneth Essex and Leo Brinbaum. McCartney overdubbed his bass parts on November 2, the day Emerick completed the mix.

Parlophone issued “Hello, Goodbye” for the Christmas holiday season in the UK, where it sold 300,000 copies within twenty-four hours. On December 12, it overtook “Let the Heartaches Begin” by Long John Baldry as the No. 1 song on the UK Record Retailer chart. The Beatles held the top spot for seven weeks until January 30, 1968, when Georgie Fame took the honors with “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.” For three weeks into the new year, The Beatles held the top two positions when their subsequent EP release nested under “Hello, Goodbye.”

Capitol issued “Hello, Goodbye” on November 27 in the US, where it overtook The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” on December 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. After three weeks at No. 1, The Beatles bowed to “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band. This was their fifteenth US No. 1 single. Its US release coincided with the Capitol LP version of Magical Mystery Tour, which contains both sides of the single.

The Beatles filmed three promo videos for “Hello, Goodbye” on November 10 at London’s Saville Theatre. In the first clip, they mime in their Sgt. Pepper uniforms against a psychedelic backdrops. It briefly cuts to a scene of them huddled and waving “goodbye” in their 1963-era collarless suits, then cuts back to the soundstage, where they’re joined on the coda by hula dancers. The second, less-seen clip, shows them in street clothes against a rural backdrop. On the eve of the single’s US release, the first video premiered on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I Am the Walrus” is the first song The Beatles made after the August 1967 death of manager Brian Epstein. They recorded the song on four days (September 5–6, 27, and 29) at EMI Studios. John Lennon wrote the song and plays electric piano and Mellotron on the finished version. Martin conducted the orchestration, which includes violins, cellos, horns, and clarinet. Lennon strove for an otherworldy quality in his vocals; achieved with a saturated preamp signal from a primitive microphone.

Moody Blues members Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas sing backing vocals on “I Am the Walrus,” which also features the Mike Sammes Singers, a sixteen-voice choir. The song contains a sampled excerpt from a dramatic reading of the William Shakespeare tragedy King Lear (Act IV, Scene 6) from a Sept. 9 BBC Third Programme broadcast, which Lennon tuned in while messing with the radio dial at EMI Studios.


Magical Mystery Tour

On November 27, 1967, The Beatles released Magical Mystery Tour in North America on Capitol. Side One includes four new Beatles songs from the upcoming film: three Lennon–McCartney numbers (“Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Your Mother Should Know”), a George Harrison contribution (“Blue Jay Way”), and the instrumental “Flying,” one of the few Beatles numbers credited to all four members.

The just-released single sides “I Am the Walrus” and “Hello, Goodbye” (also both part of the film)  respectively close Side One and open Side Two, which gathers the two preceding non-album single sides: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” and “All You Need Is Love.”

In the UK, Magical Mystery Tour appeared on December 8 as a soundtrack EP with the five new songs and “I Am the Walrus.” McCartney conceived the accompanying film, which first aired in the UK on December 26 on BBC1.

1. “Magical Mystery Tour” McCartney 2:48
2. “The Fool on the Hill” McCartney 2:59) Looped guitar sounds create the closing bird-like effect.
3. “Flying” instrumental 2:16
4. “Blue Jay Way” Harrison 3:54) The stereo mix features intermittent fade-ins of the song in reverse.
5. “Your Mother Should Know” McCartney 2:33
6. “I Am the Walrus” Lennon 4:35

1. “Hello, Goodbye” McCartney 3:24
2. “Strawberry Fields Forever” Lennon 4:05
3. “Penny Lane” McCartney 3:00
4. “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” Lennon 3:07
5. “All You Need Is Love” Lennon 3:57

The Beatles commenced work on the title song on April 25, 1967; immediately after sessions wrapped on Sgt. Pepper. Paul completed the song in the studio on piano and overdubbed bass after the others recorded their parts. Geoff Emerick flanged Harrison’s guitar and applied echo-enhancements to the group’s harmonies. On May 3, they recorded the brass fanfare with “Penny Lane” sessionist David Mason and three additional trumpeters. The band, together with Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, play percussive sundries on the finished song, which has glockenspiel on the coda.

“Magical Mystery Tour” laid dormant for four months as The Beatles focused on Pepper‘s release and the subsequent “All You Need Is Love” single and broadcast. Sessions for the next-recorded track, “Your Mother Should Know,” occurred on August 22–23 at Chappell Recording Studios in central London, where McCartney recently attended a session by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, who recorded his non-Beatles composition “Cat Call” for an October 1967 a-side on the Marmalade label.

After Epstein’s passing, McCartney refocused The Beatles on the Magical Mystery Tour project. In September, they held sessions at EMI Studios for “Blue Jay Way” (Sept. 6–7), “Flying” (Sept. 8), and “The Fool on the Hill” (Sept. 25–27). They recorded the final overdubs on October 20 when three sessionists (including James Bond reedist Jack Ellory) taped flutes on “Fool on the Hill,” which also features harmonica by Moodies (and “Walrus” participants) Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. Filming occurred amid these sessions with the earlier songs worked into visual sequences.

As the project neared completion, Harrison and Lennon appeared on the September 29 broadcast of the ITV talk show The Frost Programme to speak with host David Frost about Transcendental Meditation, a concept forwarded by the band’s new spiritual muse, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George and Ringo visited the Indian guru on a side trip to Copenhagen.

Apart from the songs, The Beatles recorded three pieces of instrumental for the film, including an untitled Mellotron interlude (for the “magic is beginning to work” line) and a group-credited instrumental titled “Jessie’s Dream.” They employed accordionist Shirley Evans on “Shirley’s Wild Accordion,” an omitted number arranged by Mike Leander.

The Parlophone EP version is a double-7″ in a gatefold sleeve with a 28-page inner-booklet of movie stills and comic story panels by Beatles Monthly illustrator Bob Gibson. The cover is an image cutout from the “I Am the Walrus” segment with The Beatles in animal costumes. Their name appears in yellow stars while the title swoops up in rainbow letters. The back sleeve shows a kaleidoscope of stills from the white-tux segment for “Your Mother Should Know.”

The North American album on Capitol album appropriates the art an inner-booklet to LP-size proportions. For the cover, Capitol art director John Van Hamersveld framed the animal image in orange gradient with the song titles arranged like film-poster credits in red Art Deco font. He emphasized the titles — which include several already well-known songs at the time of the album’s release — to compensate for the absence of the member’s faces: a selling point of prior Beatles albums.

Parophone’s Magical Mystery Tour topped the Record Retailer EP chart and reached No. 2 for three weeks under the single “Hello, Goodbye” (b/w “I Am the Walrus”), which shares one track. Capitol’s album version spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Since the 1987 reissue of the Beatles’ catalog on compact disc — when the sixties Parlophone tracklists became the global standard — Magical Mystery Tour is their only title based on the corresponding Capitol version.


1968


“Lady Madonna” / “The Inner Light”

On March 15, 1968, The Beatles released “Lady Madonna,” a fifties-inspired McCartney rocker backed with “The Inner Light,” Harrison’s third raga-psych contribution.

The Beatles recorded “Lady Madonna” between February 3 and 6, 1968, at EMI Studios; just prior to their stay in India. McCartney based the piano riff on “Bad Penny Blues,” a 1956 jump-blues instrumental by English trad-jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton, an artist on Parlophone when George Martin became label head. Paul took inspiration from the boogie-woogie style of Fats Domino, who covered the song on his 1968 Reprise release Fats Is Back. Lyrically, “Lady Madonna'” chronicles the daily plight of an overworked Liverpudlian mother in a manner akin to “Blue Monday,” Domino’s 1956 observation of the working man’s predicament.

McCartney laid the basic track on EMI’s Steinway Vertegrand tack piano, accompanied by Ringo on brush drums. George Harrison and John Lennon added twin guitar lines through a shared amplifier. Paul, John, and George perform faux-brass vocals on the instrumental break. The initial mix contained Mellotron and tambourine. A four-piece horn section led by saxophonist (and London jazz impresario) Ronnie Scott play on the final mix.

Concurrent to the “Lady Madonna” sessions, The Beatles recorded Lennon’s “Across the Universe,” a psychedelic ballad first tapped as an a-side. He deemed the recording lackluster and pulled it from release.

The Beatles shot a promo clip for “Lady Madonna,” both comprised of studio footage shot on February 11 at EMI Studios during sessions for Lennon’s “Hey Bulldog,” a song reserved for the upcoming Yellow Submarine soundtrack. The band are dressed casually apart from Ringo, who wears a white button-up shirt with a paisley yellow tie. John now sports lambchop sideburns. Top of the Pops aired the clip on the outro segment of its March 14 broadcast.

On April 2, “Lady Madonna” reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, where it ousted “The Legend of Xanadu” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich and held the top spot for two weeks before Cliff Richard took the honors with “Congratulations,” England’s entry into the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest.

In the US, “Lady Madonna” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Five months later, Fats Domino’s cover version pierced the Hot 100 (at No. 100). This was the veteran boogie-woogie balladeer’s 77th and final US hit.

Romanian rockers Phoenix cover “Lady Madonna” (and The Easybeats‘ “Friday On My Mind”) on their 1968 debut EP Vremuri (“Old Times”). American Latin jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader does an instrumental jazz arrangement on his 1969 Skye Records release Cal Tjader Plugs In. In 1971, Elvis Presley performed an impromptu studio rendition of “Lady Madonna” that surfaced on the 1995 box set Walk a Mile in My Shoes.

The Inner Light” is the first George Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles single. He recorded the song with Indian musician on a private trip to Bombay, where he finished work on the Wonderwall score. Along with his sitar-laden contributions to Revolver (“Love You To”) and Sgt Pepper (“Within You Without You”), “The Inner Light” forms a trilogy of Harrison-penned Beatles raga numbers. Apart from Lennon and McCartney’s overdubbed harmonies, Harrison’s bandmates are absent. This is the only Beatles-assigned recording made outside Europe.

Harrison recorded the backing track to “The Inner Light” on January 13, 196, at Bombays HVM Studios. He employed some of India’s leading players of Hindustani classical music, including Rijram Desad (harmonium), and Aashish Khan, who plays the sarod, a sitar-like string instrument. Musicians Hanuman Jadev and Hariprasad Chaurasia respectovely play the shehnai and the bansuri, both Indian flute-like instruments. Mahapurush Misra plays the pakhavaj, a barrel-shaped drum. Harrison produced the HVM session, which involved five takes on a two-track recorder.

“The Inner Light” features lyrics based on a poem from the Taoist Tao Te Ching, a fifth-century credited to the sage Laozi. Harrison accessed the poem from Lamps of Fire, a 1958 anthology of ancient religious writings by Sanskrit scholar and translator Juan Mascaró.

Harrison finished the song in London, where he recorded the vocal track on February 6 at EMI Studios. The enlisted John and Paul to sing backing vocals over the closing line “Do all without doing” because the required register was out of his range.

In Australia, “The Inner Light” was listed as a double a-side with “Lady Madonna” when the single reached No. 1 on the Go-Set national chart. “The Inner Light” remained a non-album exclusive until its inclusion on the 1978 compilation Rarities.


“Hey Jude” / “Revolution”

On August 26, 1968, The Beatles released “Hey Jude,” McCartney’s epic ode to Julian Lennon backed with “Revolution,” a politically ambiguous Lennon rocker. This was their first single on Apple, recorded amid sessions for their upcoming double-album.

Paul wrote “Hey Jude” about John’s five-year-old song Julian, who McCartney visited amid John’s divorce from Cynthia. The Beatles rehearsed “Hey Jude” on July 28–29 at EMI Studios, where camera crew from the National Music Council of Great Britain filmed the band for a documentary titled Music!

McCartney and Harrison cut the backing track on July 31 at Trident Studios. Initially, George proposed a call-and-response arrangement between his guitar and Paul’s voice. They cut four takes and selected Take 1 as the master. On August 1, The Beatles overdubbed their instruments and George Martin handled string and brass arrangements on the vocable second-half of “Hey Jude,” played by a 36-piece orchestra comprised of ten violins, three violas, three cellos, two flutes, one contra bassoon, one bassoon, two clarinets, one contra bass clarinet, four trumpets, four trombones, two horns, percussion and two string basses. Paul gathered everyone in the studio (including thirty-five orchestral players) to partake in the “na-na-na-na” chant.

Video-maker Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who worked with The Beatles on their promo clips for “Paperback Writer” and “Rain,” directed a video for “Hey Jude,” which premiered on the September 8 broadcast of Frost On Saturday.

“Hey Jude” appeared as one of the first four Apple singles along with the Harrison written-and-produced “Sour Milk Sea” by fellow Merseyside vet Jackie Lomax and two McCartney-produced singles: “Those Were the Days” by Welsh singer Mary Hopkin and the Lennon–McCartney number “Thingumybob” (b/w “Yellow Submarine”) by John Foster & Sons Ltd. Black Dyke Mills Band. Apple issued the four singles in a two-day span and grouped them in a box titled Our First Four.

“Hey Jude” reached No. 1 across Europe, North America, Oceania, and parts of Africa. In the UK, it overtook “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” by the Bee Gees on September 10 and bowed after a fortnight to “Those Were the Days.” On the Billboard Hot 100, “Hey Jude” ousted “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley on September 28 and held the No. 1 spot for a record-breaking nine weeks, followed by “Love Child” by Diana Ross & the Supremes.

“Hey Jude” became the top-selling single of 1968 in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia. At over seven minutes, it was the longest unedited UK chart-topper up to that time.

In November 1968, soul singer Wilson Pickett covered “Hey Jude” at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Pickett’s version — recorded with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and a then-unknown guitarist named Duane Allman — reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 and No. 13 on the Billboard R&B chart. Allman’s contribution led to his discovery by (recent Beatles collaborator) Eric Clapton, who summoned Duane for a subsequent project.

Revolution” is the third-recorded version of Lennon’s ode to the current state of political unrest. He wrote the song as a slow-paced acoustic blues number, which The Beatles recorded for their upcoming album (as “Revolution 1”). Lennon also made a sound collage (“Revolution 9”) that stemmed from the latter part of the original.

On July 10, The Beatles recorded the rocked-up “Revolution” for the non-album “Hey Jude” single. Geoff Emerick engineered the session at EMI Studios, where he routed the guitar signal through two microphone preamplifiers to achieve the song’s crackling distortion, which some initial buyers mistook for surface noise. London sessionist Nicky Hopkins plays electric piano on the track.

“Revolution” appeared as a separate entry from “Hey Jude” on the US singles charts, where it reached No. 12 on the Hot 100, No. 11 on the Cashbox Top 100, and No. 2 on Record World, where it nested under the a-side. In Australia, the two songs appeared together at No. 1 on the Kent Music Report. In New Zealand, “Revolution” reached No. 1 for one week after the five-week run of “Hey Jude.”

The Beatles filmed a promo clip of “Revolution” comprised of studio footage. Top of the Pops aired the clip on its September 19 broadcast. In the US, “Revolution” aired on the October 6 broadcast of the CBS variety shows The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.


The Beatles

The Beatles released their ninth proper album, The Beatles (colloquially known as the “white album”), on November 22, 1968, on Apple.

Of the album’s thirty songs, only sixteen feature the entire band. Each song segues into the next with no between-track gaps. This was the third album released by Apple Records after George Harrison’s soundtrack to Wonderwall and John & Yoko’s free-form collaboration Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins.

Harrison contributes one song per side: two full-band recordings (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Piggies”) and two Lennon-free trio recordings (“Long, Long, Long,” “Savoy Truffle”).

Side One features seven songs credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership: three by Paul (“Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Wild Honey Pie”) and four by John (“Dear Prudence,” “Glass Onion,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”) — all full-band recordings apart from the Ringo-free opening pair “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence.”

1. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” McCartney (2:43) Features Lennon on six-string bass and Paul, John, and George on drums in lieu of an absent Ringo.
2. “Dear Prudence” Lennon (3:56) John sings double-tracked lead vocals and Paul plays drums in lieu of Ringo. Features backing vocals and handclaps by Mal Evans, Apple signee Jackie Lomax, and Paul’s cousin John McCartney.
3. “Glass Onion” Lennon (2:18) Features the full band with Paul and Chris Thomas. Martin conducts the eight-piece orchestra (four violinists, two violists, two cellists).
4. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” McCartney (3:08) Features the full band with three unnamed saxophonists and wind arrangements by Martin.
5. “Wild Honey Pie” McCartney (0:52) Performed by Paul alone.
6. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” Lennon, with Yoko Ono (3:14) Features the full band with Lennon and Thomas on Mellotron and Yoko and Maureen Starkey on backing vocals.
7. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Harrison (4:45) Features the full band. Harrison plays Hammond organ and acoustic guitar and sings double-tracked lead vocals on the song, which features an uncredited guitar solo by Eric Clapton.
8. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” Lennon (2:47) Full band with Lennon on Hammond.

Side Two contains seven numbers credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership; only two recorded by the full band: John’s “I’m So Tired” and Paul’s “Rocky Raccoon.” Paul submits two self-performed songs (“Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird”) and two Lennon-free small combo recordings (“I Will,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”). Ringo makes his writing debut with “Don’t Pass Me By,” a Lennon-free recording. John — who appears only twice with the others on Side Two — closes the side with the lone-recorded “Julia.”

1. “Martha My Dear” McCartney (2:28) McCartney self-performs the rock instrumentation (vocals, piano, bass, electric guitar, drums) accompanied by Martin’s orchestral arrangement, comprised of nine string and six horn players.
2. “I’m So Tired” Lennon (2:03) Full band with John on Hammond and Paul on electric piano.
3. “Blackbird” McCartney (2:18) Self-performed by Paul.
4. “Piggies” Harrison (2:04) Full band with Thomas on harpsichord and Martin-conducted “Glass Onion” orchestra.
5. “Rocky Raccoon” McCartney (3:33) Full band with Lennon on six-string bass, Martin on honky-tonk piano, and Yoko on backing vocals.
6. “Don’t Pass Me By” Starr (3:51) Trio recording between Ringo (drums, tack piano, sleigh bells) and Paul (grand piano, bass) with Canadian-British jazz violinist Jack Fallon.
7. “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” McCartney (1:41) Duo recording between Ringo (drums, handclaps) and Paul (everything else).
8. “I Will” McCartney (1:46) Trio recording of Paul, George, and Ringo with no proper rhythm track (percussion and ‘vocal bass’).
9. “Julia” Lennon (2:57) Lennon solo recording.

Side Three contains six numbers credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership: two by Paul (“Mother Nature’s Son” “Helter Skelter”), three by John (“Yer Blues,” “Sexy Sadie” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”), and the genuine co-write “Birthday” — all full-band recordings apart from Paul’s mostly self-performed “Mother Nature’s Son.”

1. “Birthday” McCartney with Lennon (2:42) Full band with harmonized McCartney–Lennon harmonies and backing vocals by Yoko and Pattie Harrison.
2. “Yer Blues” Lennon (4:01) Full band in their conventional roles.
3. “Mother Nature’s Son” McCartney (2:48) McCartney solo recording (acoustic guitars, timpani, bass drum) with four unidentified horn players (two trumpets, two trombones). In 1975, symphonic-folksters Gryphon covered the song on their fourth album Raindance.
4. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” Lennon (2:24) Full band recording.
5. “Sexy Sadie” Lennon (3:15) Full band with McCartney on Hammond.
6. “Helter Skelter” McCartney (4:30) Full band performance with notable contributions by George (slide guitar) and John (six-string bass, mouthpiece tenor-sax sound effects).
7. “Long, Long, Long” Harrison (3:08) Trio recording of George (acoustic), Paul (Hammond, bass), and Ringo; plus Chris Thomas (piano).

Side Four contains five numbers credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership, all full-band recordings apart from “Good Night,” an orchestral track that Ringo sings with no accompaniment from the other Beatles. Paul submits one song (“Honey Pie”) and John submits “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution 1,” the blues-based original version of the “Hey Jude” b-side. He was also responsible for the sound collage “Revolution 9.”

1. “Revolution 1” Lennon (4:15) Full band recording with Paul on bass and keyboards (piano, Hammond); plus Martin-arranged brass (four trombones, two trumpets).
2. “Honey Pie” McCartney (2:41) Full band recording with Paul on piano and George on six-string bass, plus Martin-conducted horn arrangements (five saxophones, two clarinets).
3. “Savoy Truffle” Harrison (2:54) Trio recording of George (all guitars, Hammond), Paul and Ringo; plus Thomas (electric piano, organ) and a six-piece sax section (three tenor, three baritone).
4. “Cry Baby Cry” Lennon, with McCartney (3:02) Full band with Lennon–McCartney harmonies and keyboards by John (piano, organ) and George Martin (harmonium). The “Can You Take Me Back?” is a trio recording minus Harrison.
5. “Revolution 9” Speaking from Lennon, Harrison, Ono and George Martin (8:15) Performed by John (piano, Mellotron, cymbals) and George (guitar), who both add spoken vocals and tape loops along with Yoko, Martin, and former Epstein assistant Alistair Taylor.
6. “Good Night” Starr (3:14) Starr, the only Beatle present, sings lead; backed by the Mike Sammes Singers and unidentified orchestral musicians (twelve violins, three violas, three cellos, three flutes, clarinet, horn, vibraphone, double bass, harp) arranged by Martin, who plays celesta.

The Beatles wrote most of the songs during their February–April 1968 stay in Rishikesh, India, for the Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. From the pool of approximately forty new songs, they demoed twenty-six at Kinfauns, Harrison’s deluxe bungalow in Esher. Lennon contributed fourteen songs, including “What’s the New Mary Jane,” a John–George–Yoko recording that remained unreleased until the 1996 comp Anthology 2.

Sessions took place between May 30 and October 14 at EMI Studios with additional work at Trident. Their working method differed from prior albums, where they rehearsed each song in advance of a session. For The Beatles, they recorded each jam as songs took their final shape and added overdubs to the best takes. As sessions advanced, George Martin went on holiday and left the album’s production in the hands of his protege Chris Thomas, an attendee at recent Hollies sessions.

Harrison recorded 102 takes of “Not Guilty,” which presents his views of the Maharishi fallout. Despite its inclusion in the working tracklist, The Beatles cut “Not Guilty” from the album’s running order. Harrison later re-recorded the song for his 1979 eighth solo album George Harrison. The 1968 original version surfaced on Anthology 2.

They recorded multiple songs that didn’t make the album, including songs by Lennon (“Look at Me” “Child of Nature”), McCartney (“Junk”), and Harrison (“Circles,” “Sour Milk Sea”). Lennon included “Look at Me” on the 1970 John–Yoko release Plastic Ono Band and reworked “Child of Nature” as “Jealous Guy” on Imagine, his 1971 debut solo album. McCartney rerecorded “Junk” for his 1970 solo debut McCartney. Harrison handed “Sour Milk Sea” to Jackie Lomax for the singer’s second solo single, released in August 1968 as the third Apple single. George later rerecorded “Circles” for his 1982 album Gone Troppo.

The Beatles sessions also produced early versions of Lennon’s “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam,” both held over till the next album.

The Beatles is housed in a white gatefold sleeve and the name embossed in Helvetica font (tilted) with a serial number for each copy. Each member took one of the first four copies; #0000005 was the first publicly sold copy. (In 2015, Ringo’s #0000001 copy sold at auction for an unprecedented $790,000). The inner-gates contain song titles and bleak monochrome headshots of each member by Wonderwall and Magical Mystery photographer John Kelly, who also has 1968 visual credits on releases by Grapefruit, Esther & Abi Ofarim, Scott Walker, and Apple signee Mary Hopkin. Original copies contain a six-fold poster insert with a collage of candid member pics and lyrics.

The album’s working title was A Doll’s House. However, The Beatles opted for a self-titled album after the mid-July Reprise release Music in a Doll’s House, the debut album by Family. Though George Martin took full credit as the album’s producer, incoming soundman Chris Thomas produced “Birthday” and “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Thomas earned his first full credit on the 1969 debut album by the Climax Chicago Blues Band.

The Beatles debuted at No. 1 on December 7, 1968, on the UK Albums Chart, where it ended the seven-week reign of Hollies’ Greatest. It held the top spot for seven weeks and dropped to No. 2 on January 25, 1969, for Best of the Seekers. On February 1, The Beatles retook the No. 1 spot for an eighth and final week.

In its first week on Capitol, The Beatles sold 3.3 million copies in North America. On December 28, it overtook Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell on the Billboard 200, where it stayed at No. 1 for six weeks. The Beatles dipped on February 8 behind the Motown soundtrack album TCB, then retook the top spot for an additional three weeks before Wichita Lineman reclaimed the honors. The white album spent 215 weeks on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell 12 million copies in the US.


1969


Yellow Submarine

The Beatles released their tenth album, Yellow Submarine, on January 13, 1969, on Apple. It serves as the soundtrack to the namesake animated film, which premiered six months earlier in London.

Side One opens with “Yellow Submarine” — the Ringo-sung Lennon–McCartney song from the 1966 Beatles album Revolver —  and closes with their 1967 single “All You Need Is Love.”

The first side also contains four new Beatles songs: two Lennon–McCartney originals (“All Together Now,” “Hey Bulldog”) and two Harrison numbers (“Only a Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much”). They recorded these songs before their recent double-album but Apple postponed the soundtrack’s release to avoid a possible sales conflict.

1. “Yellow Submarine” Starr (2:39)
2. “Only a Northern Song” Harrison (3:24) Harrison first submitted the song in February 1967 for possible inclusion on Sgt. Pepper.
3. “All Together Now” McCartney, with Lennon (2:11) McCartney took the title from a childhood music-hall singalong phrase. The Beatles cut this on May 12, 1967, in a single session.
4. “Hey Bulldog” Lennon, with McCartney (3:12) Lennon wrote this song as The Beatles convened at EMI Studios on February 11 to film group footage for the “Lady Madonna” promo video. They used the studio time to record the song and jammed after the intended fadeout, which appears in the final mix after the false ending.
5. “It’s All Too Much” Harrison (6:26) Harrison wrote this song under the influence of LSD. The session took place in May 1967 at De Lane Lea Studios. The unedited version lasted over eight minutes. “It’s All Too Much” contains a lyric from the 1966 Merseys hit “Sorrow” and quotes a trumpet passage from the 1700 classical piece Prince of Denmark’s March by English baroque composer Jeremiah Clarke.
6. “All You Need Is Love” (3:47) First released as a single in July 1967 and performed on the multi-national telecast Our World. This is a new stereo mix created in October 1968 especially for the soundtrack.

Side Two consists of the orchestrated movie score arranged and conducted by George Martin.

1. “Pepperland” 2:18
2. “Sea of Time” 3:00
3. “Sea of Holes” 2:16
4. “Sea of Monsters” 3:35
5. “March of the Meanies” 2:16
6. “Pepperland Laid Waste” 2:09
7. “Yellow Submarine in Pepperland” 2:10

Martin recorded the symphonic material with a 41-piece orchestra on October 22–23 at Abbey Road Studios. Prior Beatles themes appear in “Sea of Time” (“Within You Without You”) and “Yellow Submarine in Pepperland,” an instrumental reprise of the title track. “Sea of Monsters” mimics Stravinsky and interpolates Bach’s “Air on the G String.”

The Beatles initially planned to release their four new songs for the movie on an EP with Lennon’s unreleased “Across the Universe.” American cassette and 8-track copies of Yellow Submarine contain an additional song from the film, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Their contributions to Yellow Submarine fulfilled a contractual requirement to United Artists, which originally signed the band to a three-movie deal. After their dissatisfaction with Help! (the motion picture), they were allowed to bypass active roles in a third film as long as their likeness and music could be used in an animated film. The Beatles had little interest in Yellow Submarine until they saw the premiere, after which they embraced their association with the film.

Yellow Submarine sports psychedelic cover art by Czech–German illustrator Heinz Edelman, whose caricatures of The Beatles carry over to the film’s animation. UK copies contain the line “Nothing Is Real” (a quote from “Strawberry Fields Forever”) under the title. The back cover on US copies contains a fictional bio that likens the band’s Blue Meanies battle with historical triumphs like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence.


“Get Back” / “Don’t Let Me Down”

On April 11, 1969, The Beatles released “Get Back,” a McCartney R&B rocker backed with Lennon’s blues ballad “Don’t Let Me Down,” both credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership.

“Get Back” (3:13) evolved from a January 7 jam session at Twickenham Studios. McCartney conceived the riff on his Hofner bass and appropriated the chorus from the lyrical line “Get back to the place you should be” in “Sour Milk Sea,” the George Harrison-penned Apple single by Jackie Lomax, whose version features Paul on bass.

On January 22, The Beatles on-boarded American keyboardist–singer Billy Preston as an auxiliary player. He devised the “Get Back” Fender solo and plays on the Jan. 23 and 27 Apple sessions that produced the song in twenty-four takes. The finished song features the band members in their standard roles apart from John (lead guitar) and George (rhythm). “Get Back” and its b-side are the first Beatles songs with Ringo’s drums cross-mixed (left and right channel) in true stereo.

The Beatles performed “Get Back” as part of their filmed January 30 concert on the rooftop of Apple Studios. At the end of the song, Lennon quipped “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” Though it doesn’t appear on the 1969 single version, Phil Spector suffixed the quote to the 1970 album version.

On April 29, 1969, “Get Back” overtook “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces on the UK Singles Chart, where it held the No. 1 spot for six weeks and bowed on June 10 to “Dizzy,” the comeback hit by American pop singer Tommy Roe. This was the first and only Beatles single to debut at No. 1 on the UK chart. It also reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and multiple European territories (Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands).

On May 24, “Get Back” overtook “Aquarius–Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension on the US Billboard Hot 100, where it spent five weeks on top and bowed to “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” by Henry Mancini.

Don’t Let Me Down” (3:35) is a blues–soul ballad written by John Lennon. The Beatles recorded multiple versions of the song and chose the take from January 28, 1969: the day they finished “Get Back.” It features the band in their conventional roles, augmented by Billy Preston on electric piano. They slated this song for inclusion on the proposed Get Back album before they shelved that project. When Phil Spector remixed the tapes for the 1970 release Let It Be, he cut “Don’t Let Me Down” from the tracklist.

The Beatles twice performed “Don’t Let Me Down” as part of their Jan. 30 rooftop concert. Performance 1 appears in the 1970 Let It Be film. A composite of the two performances appears on the 2003 archival release Let It Be… Naked. The original b-side version appears on the 1970 Beatles comp Hey Jude, a roundup of non-album material.

“Don’t Let Me Down” listed separately from its a-side on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 35.


“The Ballad of John and Yoko” / “Old Brown Shoe”

On May 30, 1969, The Beatles released “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” a John-penned Lennon–McCartney recording backed with Harrison’s “Old Brown Shoe.” 

“The Ballad of John and Yoko” (2:59) chronicles key public moments in the courtship and eventual marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon wrote the song in Paris during the couple’s honeymoon (“Finally made the plane into Paris, Honey mooning down by the Seine”). In the third verse, he references their March 25–31 “bed-in for peace” at the Amsterdam Hilton; their first of two such events to promote peace in the face of the ongoing Vietnam War.

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton
Talking in our beds for a week
The newspapers said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”

John presented the song to Paul on April 14 at McCartney’s home in St John’s Wood, London. He insisted they record the song that evening and release it at the soonest possible date. With George abroad and Ringo on the set of The Magic Christian, John and Paul recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko” as a duo at EMI Studios with engineer Geoff Emerick. Lennon plays all guitars on the track and shares percussion with McCartney, who plays bass, drums, and piano. Due to the song’s personal nature, Harrison didn’t regret his absence from the session.

“The Ballad of John and Yoko” appeared in the UK on Apple amid the couple’s second week-long “bed-in for peace” (May 26–June 1) at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, where they were visited by early US Beatles supporter Murray the K and assorted counterculture icons (Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg).

On June 17, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” unseated “Dizzy” on the UK Singles Chart, where it held No. 1 for three weeks and bowed to “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman, a psychedelic pop trio with sixteen-year-old Scottish guitarist (and later McCartney hiree) Jimmy McCulloch. This was The Beatles seventeenth and final UK No. 1 single. It also reached the Top 2 in Oceania and select European markets. Apple assembled two accompanying videos that compile footage of the couple from July 1968 to April 1969 when they regularly filmed their activities.

The single appeared on June 8 in the US, where select stations banned the song over its references to Christ and the crucifixion. “The Ballad of John and Yoko” peaked at No. 7 in Canada and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song and its b-side appear on the 1970 comp Hey Jude, a roundup of non-album tracks.

Old Brown Shoe” (3:16) is one of numerous songs that George Harrison wrote during a winter–spring creative surge that followed his holiday stay in upstate New York, where he hung with Bob Dylan and The Band and witnessed their musical camaraderie: a quality long dissipated in the Beatles camp.

In a deviation from standard practice, Harrison wrote “Old Brown Shoe” on piano. He demoed the song on his 26th birthday (February 26, 1969) at EMI Studios, where he also recorded early versions of “Something” (a future Beatles ballad) and “All Things Must Pass” (an eventual solo track). George presented the first two songs to singer Joe Cocker, who recorded “Something” on his second album, the November 1969 Regal Zonophone release Joe Cocker!

When John and Paul needed a b-side for their duo Beatles single “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” they asked George (absent from that recording) for a song. They recorded “Old Brown Shoe” on April 16 and 18 amid sessions for their upcoming album at EMI Studios. The Beatles’ version purportedly contains the full band in their standard roles apart from Paul (tack piano) and George himself, who plays the active bass line, tracked in lockstep with his lead guitar parts. (By some accounts, Paul played drums as Ringo was still away on the film set.) “Old Brown Shoe” also marks the first appearance of Harrison’s bottleneck slide style, which he’d refine months later on the road with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.

Though George Martin took sole credit as the song’s producer, Chris Thomas oversaw the April 18 sessions, where American band The Aerovons watched as John and Paul recorded vocal overdubs. On the final mix, Harrison overdubbed Leslied guitar and replaced Lennon’s rhythm guitar with Hammond organ.

“Old Brown Shoe” enhanced Harrison’s songwriting bona fides, which got a major boost after his co-writing credit (with Eric Clapton) on “Badge,” the spring 1969 UK Top 20 farewell hit by Cream.


Abbey Road

The Beatles released their eleventh album, Abbey Road, on September 26, 1969, on Apple. It contains a sixteen-minute suite and three radio evergreens, including John Lennon’s “Come Together,” a rally cry that presages his Plastic Ono work. George Harrison wrote the album’s two best-known tracks: the ballads “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” which both anticipate his breakout solo success.

Abbey Road is the last-recorded Beatles studio album. Their 1970 release Let it Be contains material recorded pre-Abbey for a scrapped 1969 album titled Get Back. Unlike their 1968 “white album,” all tracks on Abbey Road are self-contained apart from two appearances by Billy Preston (“Something,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”) and an unidentified orchestral big band, which producer George Martin conducts on Harrison’s ballads and the last three medley parts.

Twelve of the sixteen proper tracks are full-band conventional (FBC) — Paul McCartney (bass), John Lennon (rhythm guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar), and Ringo Starr (drums) — with select discrepancies and additional instruments. Each song is sung by its writer. Harrison imparts newfound influence on the Beatles’ sound with extensive use of Leslied guitar and Moog synthesizer.

Side One features “Something” and two songs credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. Lennon submits the counterculture clarion call “Come Together” and the epic “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” a harbinger of heavy metal and symphonic rock. McCartney offers the music-hall “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and the retro fifties boogie-woogie ballad “Oh! Darling.” Ringo Starr presents the novelty track “Octopus’s Garden,” his second Beatles composition. All tracks are full band recordings apart from the Lennon-free “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

1. “Come Together” Lennon (4:19) FBC with Paul on electric piano.
2. “Something” Harrison Harrison (3:02) FBC. George plays all the guitar parts on “Something,” which features John on piano and Billy Preston on Hammond organ. Martin arranged the string section, comprised of twelve violins, four violas, four cellos, and string bass.
3. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” McCartney (3:27) Trio recording of Paul (harmonies, piano, acoustic guitar, Moog synthesizer), George (harmonies, bass, electric guitars), and Ringo (harmonies, drums, anvil) with Martin on Hammond organ.
4. “Oh! Darling” McCartney (3:27) Features the full-band; purportedly in their conventioal roles apart from John (piano). Alternate accounts re-attribute bass (George), guitar (John), and piano (Paul).
5. “Octopus’s Garden” Starr (2:51) FBC with ‘bubbling effects’ by Ringo.
6. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” Lennon (7:47) FBC. Features Moog synthesizer (John) and Hammond organ (Billy Preston).

Side Two opens with Harrison’s acoustic singalong “Here Comes the Sun” and includes Lennon’s Ringo-free harmony track “Because.” The remaining sixteen minutes consists of an eight-part medley (referred to among members as “The Long One”). Each part (minus the Lennon-free “Golden Slumbers”) features all four Beatles.

1. “Here Comes the Sun” Harrison (3:05) Trio recording of George (guitars, harmonium, Moog), Paul (harmonies, bass), and Ringo (drums). George Martin arranged the string section, comprised of four violas, four cellos, double bass, two piccolos, two flutes, two alto flutes, and two clarinets.
2. “Because” Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (2:45) Trio recording of John (guitar), Paul (bass), and George (Moog) — who sing triple-tracked harmonies (respectively medium, high, and low) — with Martin on electric harpsichord.

Medley (aka “The Long One”)

3. “You Never Give Me Your Money” McCartney (4:03) FBC with Paul handling multiple parts (piano, wind chimes, tape loops) in addition to bass.
4. “Sun King” Lennon, with McCartney and Harrison (2:26) FBC. guitar treatments by John (Leslie) and George (tremolo) and Ringo on bongos and maracas; plus Martin on Lowrey organ.
5. “Mean Mr. Mustard” Lennon (1:06) FBC. with Paul on fuzz bass.
6. “Polythene Pam” Lennon (1:13) FBC. with John on acoustic twelve string. Features uncredited cowbell and “whipcrack” percussion.
7. “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” McCartney (1:58) FBC. 
8. “Golden Slumbers” McCartney (1:31) Trio recording of Paul (piano), George (six-string bass), and Ringo (drums, timpani). Martin arranged the string section, comprised of twelve violins, four violas, four cellos, double bass, four horns, three trumpets, trombone, and bass trombone.
9. “Carry That Weight” McCartney (1:36) All four sing choral vocals. Paul plays piano and rhythm guitar, backed by George (6-string bass, lead guitar), Ringo (drums, timpani), and Martin’s string arrangements (same as “Golden Slumbers”).
10. “The End” McCartney (2:05) FBC. with guitar solos by George (Gibson Les Paul), John and Paul (both Epiphone Casino), backed with Martin’s strings (minus cello).
11. “Her Majesty” (hidden track) McCartney (0:23) Self-recorded Paul postlude of voice and acoustic guitar.

Paul McCartney initiated the project in February 1969 when he pitched the idea of an old-fashioned band album to George Martin, who agreed on the condition that all four Beatles cooperate as a group and adhere to his guidelines as the album’s producer.

Sessions first took place on February 22 at Trident Studios, where The Beatles cut the backing track to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” During March and April, Ringo departed to the set of The Magic Christian while John and Paul released “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Keyboardist Billy Preston — who functioned as a fifth member during the January Get Back sessions — partook in the “She’s So Heavy” recording and the early May sessions for “Something.” After the May 6 Olympic Sound Studios session for “You Never Give Me Your Money,” the band parted for eight weeks.

The Beatles recorded the bulk of Abbey Road at EMI Studios between July 2 and August 1, when John, George, and Paul recorded vocal tracks on the last-completed song (“Because”). On August 20, they finalized the album’s sequence. This was the last time all four Beatles stood in the same studio together. To the consternation of some, Yoko Ono attended the majority of sessions.

McCartney and Martin dictated the album’s sequence and song suite. As sessions advanced, Lennon pitched an alternate format of strictly independent songs with John and Paul numbers split between sides. Paul recorded an additional song, “Come and Get It,” that he later handed to Apple signees Badfinger. John presented another new song, “Cold Turkey,” which the band red-lighted; possibly due to its slang lyrics and drug-related theme.

Geoff Emerick engineered Abbey Road with incoming soundmen Alan Parsons, Phil McDonald, and John Kurlander. Abbey Road is the first Beatles album recorded on reel-to-reel eight-track equipment. Emerick used the TG12345 Mk I, a solid-state transistor mixing desk that enhanced the album’s tonal clarity. This was their first album not issued in mono.

Apple art director John Kosh designed the Abbey Road cover, which show a zebra-crosswalk photo of The Beatles by photographer Iain Macmillan. Police re-route traffic on Abbey Road, where Macmillan stood on a step ladder and took six photos of the band at 11:35 am on August 8, 1969. John, Ringo, and Paul (barefoot) sport suits designed by Tommy Nutter. Abbey Road is This is the only Beatles album cover with no name or title.

Before sessions wrapped, Lennon and Yoko formed the Plastic One Band as a vehicle for “Cold Turkey” and other new ideas ill-suited to The Beatles aesthetic. Meanwhile, McCartney spent time with his newborn daughter and Harrison (along with Preston, Clapton, and Leon Russell) went on the road with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.

On September 20, 1969, Lennon informed McCartney, Starr, and business manager Allen Klein that he “wanted a divorce” from The Beatles. Six days later, Abbey Road hit shelves. The Beatles kept Lennon’s departure a close-guarded secret for the time being.

On October 6, Apple lifted “Something” as a double a-sided single with “Come Together.” Apple assembled a “Something” video clip, which shows Super 8 footage of each Beatle with his significant other. The single reached No. 4 in the UK and No. 1 in Australia, Canada, and the US, where the two songs overtook “Wedding Bell Blues” by the 5th Dimension on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that month, Lennon went head-to-head with the band on the debut Plastic Ono Band release “Cold Turkey.”

Abbey Road debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, where it held the summit for eleven weeks and then cleared for Let It Bleed, the November 1969 release by The Rolling Stones. After one week, Abbey Road reclaimed the No. 1 spot for six further weeks and finally bowed to Led Zeppelin II. In the US, Abbey Road spent eleven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

In early 1970, Joe Cocker had a US Top 30 hit with his caterwauling soul-rock take on “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” one of two Beatles Abbey covers (along with “Something”) on his self-titled second album.


1970

On February 26, 1970, Apple issued Hey Jude, a ten-song compilation of Beatles singles that hadn’t appeared on their studio albums. Ethan Russell, a former Rolling Stones photographer, took the front and back group photos on August 22, 1969, at Lennon’s Tittenhurst Park estate, where The Beatles held their final photoshoot before John’s departure. 

Hey Jude filled gaps left by the 1967 syncronization of The Beatles UK and North American studio releases, which left their non-album singles unnacounted for on recent Capitol studio albums. (Before Sgt. Pepper, Capitol interspersed distilled versions of their UK albums with stopgap releases that included their 1962–65 UK singles. The Beatles preferred the UK practice of no overlap between albums and singles: an unpopular method in the US market.)

Hey Jude features their 1966 single “Paperback Writer” (and its b-side “Rain”) and six 1968–69 sides, including “Lady Madonna,” “Hey Jude” (and its b-side “Revolution”),  and “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (and its b-side “Old Brown Shoe”). Hey Jude excludes “Get Back” (marked for the upcoming Beatles album) but does include its b-side “Don’t Let Me Down.” Side One opens with two earlier Beatles songs, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better,” both from the 1964 United Artists soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night but not found on any Capitol album.

Apple first pressed the compilation as The Beatles Again. Initial copies circulated before the label renamed the album Hey Jude to highlight its inclusion of the band’s biggest ever hit. Hey Jude reached No. 1 in Australia and No. 2 in Canada and the US. Its popularity spread to the UK, where it sold well as an import. This was the only album release with “Hey Jude” until the 1973 compilation 1967–1970.


“Let It Be” / “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”

On March 6, 1970, The Beatles released “Let It Be,” a McCartney ballad backed with the novelty “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” both credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. This was their final single before Paul announced his resignation from the band.

McCartney conceived “Let It Be” after a dream in which he was visited by his mother, Mary Patricia McCartney, who died in 1956 of cancer when Paul was fourteen. He felt blessed to have that visit with his mother, who gave him the kind of encouragement expressed in the lyrics.

McCartney developed “Let It Be” in September 1968 during sessions for The Beatles. They rehearsed the song in early January as work commenced on the namesake film. The Beatles cut a master take of “Let It Be” on January 30, 1969, with Paul on piano and his bandmates in their regular roles apart from John, who played six-string bass on the master. At the insistence of George Martin, Paul overdubbed bass and reduced John’s role to that of backing vocalist. Martin handed the song’s string arrangements. “Let It Be” also features Billy Preston on Hammond organ.

The Beatles recorded two versions that day: one (27-A) for the single and one (27-B) for the film. Harrison overdubbed different guitar solos on the two versions, which are further distinguished by lyrical differences in the final verse: “there will be an answer” (A) and “there will be an answer” (B).

On January 4, 1970, nearly one year after the master session, Linda McCartney overdubbed backing vocals on the still-unreleased song. This is her only known contribution to a Beatles recording.

On March 14, “Let It Be” peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart under “Wand’rin’ Star” by actor Lee Marvin. On April 11, “Let It Be” ended the six-week Billboard reign of “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel. The Beatles held the US No. 1 spot for two weeks and then bowed to “ABC,” the second straight chart-topper by The Jackson 5.

In late March, Phil Spector remixed “Let It Be” for the namesake album. This version gives greater prominence to the strings and lead-guitar lines.

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” originated in 1967 when The Beatles recorded the song across three sessions (May 17 and June 7–8). At this stage, Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones played saxophone on the song.

Lennon conceived the hook at McCartney’s house, where he spotted a phone book on Paul’s piano with the phrase ‘You know the name, look up the number.’ In the song’s lounge break, John introduced Paul as Denis O’Bell, a reference to film producer Denis O’Dell, who worked with The Beatles on A Hard Day’s Night and with John separately on How I Won the War. John plays guitar and maracas on “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” which features Paul on piano and bass and George on lead guitar and vibraphone.

In April 1969, John and Paul unvaulted the song with Mal Evans, who overdubbed sound effects with the pair, who both added vocal tracks. They shelved it again when George and Ringo returned to work on a new Beatles album. On July 3, original contributor Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool, one month after exiting the Stones. Two months later, as Abbey Road neared release, Lennon left The Beatles.

In late November, Lennon edited “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” from its original length (6:08) to a more single-friendly duration (4:19). He planned to use it as the debut Plastic Ono Band a-side, backed with the August 1968 white album outtake “What’s the New Mary Jane.” The POB single never materialized and “Mary Jane” got vaulted until the 1996 release Anthology 3.

After the “Let It Be” single, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” became a non-album rarity until its inclusion on the 1980 US version of The Beatles’ Rarities compilation.


Let It Be

The Beatles released their twelfth album, Let It Be, on May 8, 1970, on Apple. It contains eleven songs from the January 1969 sessions for Get Back, a proposed album that The Beatles shelved when they commenced work on Abbey Road. In the intervening fifteen months, two songs from the Get Back sessions surfaced as a-sides: the April 1969 hit “Get Back” and the recent “Let It Be.”

American keyboardist Billy Preston served as a de facto fifth Beatle during the Get Back sessions. He appears on seven Let It Be tracks.

In March–April 1970, American producer Phil Spector remixed the Get Back tracks (including the two hits) and added orchestration to select numbers. On the songs that constitute Let It Be, Paul McCartney and George Harrison recorded overdubs in the absence of John Lennon, who left the band as Abbey Road dropped in September 1969.

By the time Let It Be hit stores, McCartney announced his resignation and dissolved The Beatles. Apple lifted Paul’s ballad “The Long and Winding Road” as the band’s final single.

Side One contains the remixed title track and three additional songs credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership, including Paul’s “Two of Us” and John’s “Dig a Pony.” Of special note are two miniature tracks: “Dig It” (edited down from a lenthy jam credited to all four members) and trad number “Maggie Mae,” The Beatles first cover since 1965.

The first side also contains two songs that originate from outside the Get Back project. Lennon’s “Across the Universe” is a 1968 outtake from the “Lady Madonna” timefame. George Harrison’s “I Me Mine,” is a January 1970 trio recording that post-dates John’s departure. It’s the only song on Let It Be that doesn’t feature all four members.

1. “Two of Us” McCartney and Lennon (3:36) Full band with John and Paul on acoustic guitar and George on six-string Fender bass. Recorded January 31, 1969.
2. “Dig a Pony” Lennon (3:54) FBC with Billy Preston on electric piano. Rec. Jan. 30.
3. “Across the Universe” Lennon (3:48) Full band with Paul (piano) and George (tambura). Rec. February 4 and 8, 1968; retouched April 1970.
4. “I Me Mine” Harrison (2:26) Trio recording of George (all guitars), Paul (bass, Hammond organ, electric piano), and Ringo (drums) with uncredited female choir, string and brass (18 violins, four violas, four cellos, harp, three trumpets, three trombones). Rec. Jan. 3 and April 1, 1970.
5. “Dig It” Lennon (0:50) Is a snippet of group-credited jam fifteen-minute jam from Jan. 26, 1969. Full-band recording with unothodox input by John (six-string bass) and Paul (piano) with Preston (Hammond) and Martin (maracas). Glyn Johns first trimmed it to conventional song lenth (4:10) for the aborted Get Back album.
6. “Let It Be” McCartney (4:03) March 26, 1970, Spector remix of the March 6 Martin-produced single with fuller orchestration and a new Harrison guitar overdub.
7. “Maggie Mae” Lennon and McCartney (0:40) Band-arranged adaptation of an 18th-century Liverpudlian folk traditional about a prostitute who robs a sailor. George plays the bass-line on electric guitar while John and Paul both play acoustic guitar. This is their first cover since “Act Naturally” (on Help!) and their second-shortest song after “Her Majesty.” Rec. Jan. 24, 1969.

Side Two opens with “I’ve Got a Feeling,” a McCartney song that interpolates Lennon’s twice-demoed “Everybody Had a Hard Year.” Harrison contributes “For You Blue,” which comes between Paul’s ballad “The Long and Winding Road” and the earlier hit “Get Back.” In keeping with the return-to-roots ethos of the Get Back project, John resurrected “One After 909,” a song from his pre-Beatles days.

1. “I’ve Got a Feeling” McCartney and Lennon (3:37) FBC with Preston (Fender Rhodes). Rec. Jan 30, 1969.
2. “One After 909” Lennon and McCartney (2:54) FBC with Preston. John wrote this song at age seventeen and fiurst recorded it in 1960 with Paul and George in The Quarrymen. The Beatles first cut “One After 909” in March 1963 during the sessions for “From Me to You.” They recorded the Get Back version on Jan. 30, 1969.
3. “The Long and Winding Road” McCartney (3:38) Full-band number with Preston and alternate input by Paul (piano) and John (six-string bass). Rec. Jan. 26, 1969. Spector remixed the song in April 1970 with added orchestration (18 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, harp, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 guitars, 14 female voices).
4. “For You Blue” (Harrison) Harrison (2:32) Full-band song with George (acoustic), John (lap steel), and Paul (piano, bass). Rec. Jan. 25, 1969; retouched Jan. 8, 1970.
5. “Get Back” McCartney (3:09) Spector’s remix of the April 1969 single (rec. Jan. 27, 1969), suffixed with Lennon’s “passed the audition” quip from the rooftop concert.

Longtime Beatles producer George Martin produced the Jan. 24–31, 1969, Get Back sessions but isn’t credited in that capacity on Let It Be. He plays Hammond organ on “Across the Universe” and shaker on “Dig It.”

The Get Back sessions were The Beatles second attempt to film an impromptu set of back-to-basic numbers. In early January 1969, Apple Films head Denis O’Dell offered to tape the band for a proposed TV documentary at Twickenham Film Studios, which he used for scenes in The Magic Christian, the 1969 black comedy starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. The band’s Twickenham rehearsals collapsed as personality conflicts came to a head.

The Beatles moved the project to Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row, where George Martin and engineer Glyn Johns equipped the basement with two eight-track recorders borrowed from EMI Studios. The started filming and recording on January 21, 1969. The following day, Harrison encountered longtime Beatles friend Billy Preston outside the building and invited him in as a fifth wheel for the duration of the Get Back sessions, which concluded on January 31.

Glyn Johns arranged a Get Back rough mix and presented the acetate in May 1969 for the band’s approval. The acetate contains eleven titles that appear on Let It Be — including the recent a-side “Get Back” and a four-minute edit of the “Dig It” jam — and three additional songs: “Don’t Let Me Down” (the “Get Back” b-side), “Teddy Boy” (a McCartney folk tune), and the medley “Rocker–Save the Last Dance for Me” (a Beatles jam segued with a Drifters cover).

Please Please Me cover photographer Angus McBean photographed The Beatles for the proposed Get Back cover. It’s a recreation of the 1963 image with the now-hirsuit foursome looking down from a ledge of the interial stairwell at at EMI’s Manchester Square headquarters. Apple cancelled the planned album as The Beatles commenced work on Abbey Road. (Paul re-recorded “Teddy Boy” for his debut album McCartney. McBean’s 1969 photo appears with blue margins on the 1973 compilation The Beatles 1967–1970.)

In late December 1969, the remaining Beatles asked Johns to re-sequence Get Back with the same songs as the namesake film, then in post-production. This version dropped “Teddy Boy” (not in the film) but added Lennon’s 1968 demo “Across the Universe” and Harrison’s post-Lennon trio number “I Me Mine.” Paul, George, and Ringo rejected this mix.

In late March 1970, as the “Let It Be” single road the charts, Harrison and former Beatle John Lennon asked Phil Spector to mix the Get Back tapes into a coherent album. He retained seven songs as-is from the original project: four January 1969 recordings at Apple’s makeshift studio — “Two of Us,” “Get Back,” “Maggie Mae,” and an interlude-length edit of “Dig It” — and three cuts from the Jan. 30, 1969, rooftop concert: “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “One After 909,” and “Dig a Pony.” Spector retained Lennon’s “Across the Universe” and applied orchestral enhancements to “For You Blue,” “Let It Be,” “I Me Mine,” and “The Long and Winding Road.” The last two feature string and brass arrangements by Richard Anthony Hewson.

The album and corresponding film assumed the title of The Beatles most recent hit. Apple released Let It Be in the UK and Europe in a box cover with a book of color studio pictures by Ethan Russell, a former Rolling Stones photographer who was present at the final Beatles photo session on August 22, 1969, at Lennon’s Tittenhurst Park estate. The Let It Be cover presents closeup shots of each member in black framework.

Paul McCartney preceded the release of Let It Be with his debut solo album McCartney, which appeared on April 17, 1970; one week after the April 10 announcement of his resignation from The Beatles. McCartney reached No. 2 on the UK Albums and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Paul self-recorded the album with help from wife Linda on harmony vocals. It features the ballad “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which became one of his best-known solo songs after its inclusion on Wings Over America, the 1976 live double-album by the couple’s post-Beatles band Wings.

Apple lifted “The Long and Winding Road” as the final Beatles single (b/w “For You Blue”). It reached No. 1 in Canada and on the US Cashbox Top 100 and Billboard Hot 100 (No. 2 Billboard Adult Contemporary).

Let It Be reached No. 1 in the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and went Top 3 in Japan, Sweden, and West Germany. On the Billboard 200, Let It Be debuted at No. 103 during the second chart-topping week of McCartney’s solo debut. On the week of June 6, Let It Be jumped to No. 2 behind McCartney. and traded places with Paul’s album the follwing week.

In 2003, McCartney oversaw the release of Let It Be… Naked, a remixed version of the 1970 album that restores the vision of the 1969 Get Back project without Spector’s subsequent orchestral arrangements. Naked omits the two miniatures (“Maggie Mae,” “Dig It”) and adds the live rooftop performance of “Don’t Let Me Down.”


Discography:

  • Please Please Me (1963)
  • With the Beatles (1963)
  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  • Beatles for Sale (1964)
  • Help! (1965)
  • Rubber Soul (1965)
  • Revolver (1966)
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  • Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
  • The Beatles (aka “The White Album”, 1968)
  • Yellow Submarine (1969)
  • Abbey Road (1969)
  • Let It Be (1970)

Sources:

1 thought on “The Beatles

  1. Original draft intro (2018):
    “The Beatles were an English rock quartet that was active throughout the 1960s. Establishing their classic lineup in Liverpool in late-1962, the band were among the first to liberate rock from its 12-bar, 1-4-5 blues base and open the music to an infinite array of chord sequences and melodic possibilities. In doing so, they sparked a wave of like-minded bands throughout the UK, many of whom followed the band across the Atlantic as the Fab Four — as the press dubbed the Liverpudlian foursome — spearheaded the British Invasion of 1964/65.

    The Beatles were among the first acts to legislate the principles of the self-contained rock unit in which the members play their own instruments and write their own material. The band’s strength on that latter front — coupled with a global touring itinerary that exposed them to a vast array of musical influences — facilitated their idiomatic expansionism as the decade advanced.

    Ultimately, The Beatles conceived new methods of composition and instrumentation in tandem with their producer, George Martin. These innovations — combined with a worldwide profile that allowed them to function as a conduit through which new musical developments could gain mass exposure — cast them as leaders in rock’s development from an idiom of static foundationalism to one of infinite musical potential and cross-generational sustenance.”

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