The Beatles were an English rock and pop group formed in Liverpool in 1960 who became one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of popular music. During their years of international stardom, the group consisted of John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar,
vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Although their initial musical style was rooted in 1950s rock and roll and skiffle, the group worked with different musical genres, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to psychedelic rock. Their clothes, style and statements made them trend-setters, while their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.
Returning to Liverpool following periods of Hamburg residency during 1960, 1961 and 1962, the group appointed Brian Epstein manager, and he negotiated a record contract with EMI’s George Martin; Epstein would manage the band until his death in 1967, and Martin produced all but one of the group’s studio albums. The single “Love Me Do” achieved UK chart success in late 1962. The group attracted fervent interest, termed “Beatlemania”, during tours of the UK and Europe throughout the next year. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” found US chart success at the close of 1963, spearheading the group’s international popularity, and they toured the US and other countries over the next three years. During this period, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr were each honoured with an MBE. In 1966 the group found themselves mired in controversy, including widespread antipathy in the US after a magazine published a quote from Lennon’s remarks on Christianity. They ceased to perform commercial concerts after the 1966 US tour, concentrating instead on studio work and enjoying continued international chart success, which also earned them considerable acclaim as artists. In 1967, Epstein died from an overdose of a prescription drug. The group began a three-month retreat in India, treating Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their guru for a short time, but became disillusioned with him. Increasingly dominated by conflict, and further alienated from one another by a disagreement about the appointment of a new financial adviser, the group disintegrated in 1970. All four members embarked upon successful solo careers. Nearly four decades after the breakup, Beatles music continues to be popular, and September 2009 saw the release of a newly remastered discography as well as the video game The Beatles: Rock Band.
The Beatles sold between 600 million and one billion records internationally. In the United Kingdom they released more than 40 different singles, albums, and EPs that reached number one, earning more number one albums (15) than any other group in UK chart history. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, they have sold more albums in the United States than any other artist. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked them number one in its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and four of their albums appeared in the top ten of the magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. According to that same magazine, The Beatles’ innovative music and cultural impact helped define the 1960s, and their influence on pop culture is still evident today. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of top-selling Hot 100 artists to celebrate the chart’s fiftieth anniversary, with The Beatles at number one. The Beatles were collectively included in Time magazine’s list of The Most Important People of the 20th Century.