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Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) was born in Liverpool on 7 July 1940. Drums and vocals. John Lennon was born in Liverpool on 9 October 1940. He was shot dead in New York on 8 December 1980. Rhythm guitar, keyboards, harmonica, vocals. Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool on 18 June 1942. Bass guitar, keyboards, lead guitar, drums, vocals. George Harrison was born in Liverpool on 25 February 1943. Lead guitar, sitar, keyboards, vocals.

The Beatles evolved from an amateur teenage skiffle group, the Quarry Men, formed by Lennon in 1956 and named after his school, Quarry Bank High. McCartney joined the Quarry Men in July 1957, Harrison in March 1958. The only artefacts left of the Quarry Men period is a cover version of Buddy Hollys That'll Be The Day and a McCartney-Harrison composition, In Spite of All The Danger, both available on the double-CD Anthology 1 (see links to CDs on the left). Other early group names were The Beatals (March 1960) and The Silver Beatles (May 1960).

In August 1960, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison - together with Stuart Sutcliffe (born in Edinburgh on 23 June 1940; died in Hamburg on 10 April 1962), bass guitar, and Pete Best (born in Madras on 24 Nov 1941), drums Ė became the Beatles. Between then and November 1962 the group played many gigs in and around Liverpool, and also, with decisive effect on their development as performers, four extended residencies at various clubs in Hamburg's red-light district Reeperbahn. Sutcliffe, a talented painter, left in December 1961, being replaced on bass by McCartney, who, until then, had played guitar and piano. According to MacDonald, the Beatles were influenced by rock 'n' roll and black music, by Doo-wop and Tamla-Motown records, especially by William 'Smokey' Robinson (although, in my opinion, they completely lack the soul feeling).

In November 1961, a Liverpool music shop owner, Brian Epstein (born in Liverpool in 1934; died in London on 17 August 1967), heard the Beatles at the Cavern, a local 'beat' club where they played most of their pre-1963 British gigs. Becoming their manager, Epstein secured the group a recording contract in June 1962 with Parlophone, a subsidiary of the EMI label run by the producer George Martin. The rawness of the Beatlesí performing talent, which six months earlier had made Decca reject them, appealed to Martin, although he was then doubtful of their song-writing. Replacing Best with Starr on drums, he encouraged Lennon and McCartney, the groupís chief composers, to write with more concentration, pointing out to them simple structural devices such as commencing with the chorus (the main selling-point of most pop songs). Their second release, Please Please Me, rose to number one in the British singles chart and their commercial success thereafter was continuous. The groupís tours of Britain in 1963 created an unprecedented excitement, known as 'Beatlemania', which was reproduced in the USA when, on 9 February 1964, they appeared on national television singing their fifth single I Want To Hold Your Hand to an estimated audience of 70 million, an event unanimously identified by social commentators as a turning-point in postwar American culture. In the months after this breakthrough, the Beatles dominated the American singles charts, at one stage occupying the top five positions, a feat unheard of before and since.

Two feature films, A Hard Dayís Night (1964) and Help! (1965), followed. However, by the end of 1965, the influence of Bob Dylan and the accelerating popularity among pop musicians of marijuana made the international pop scene to advance from the straightforward energy and good humor of 'beat music' towards a greater formal and emotional complexity. Aware that they needed to regenerate themselves stylistically, the Beatles toyed uncertainly with 'comedy songs' and idiosyncratic variations on soul music in their transitional album Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965). Only in early 1966, with the appearance of the counterculture and its associated drug the powerful hallucinogen LSD, did they identify with a new type of pop music created by exploiting the techniques of the recording studio. The result was their imaginative exploration of consciousness and childhood memories in albums like Revolver (Parlophone, 1966) and Sgt. Pepperís Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone, 1967). Together with the later releases Magical Mystery Tour (Parlophone, 1967), The Beatles (Apple, 1968) and Abbey Road (Apple, 1969), they build the Beatlesí legacy.

After Epsteinís death from an overdose of tranquilizers in August 1967, the group gradually lost direction and the underlying conflicts between its otherwise intensely cohesive members soured. They managed to record some 80 more tracks. These were increasingly individual efforts, written and sometimes even recorded solo. During this period Harrison emerged alongside Lennon and McCartney as a writer of worthy songs, one of which, Something (Apple, 1969) became the Beatlesí second most recorded number after McCartney's Yesterday (Parlophone, 1965). Divisiveness, caused largely by the process of growing up and getting married, eventually broke the group. The process is visible in their final film Let It Be (1970). After the album Abbey Road, the Beatles split up.

None of the Beatles could read music. They even refused to learn. Therefore, arrangements beyond the basic four-piece were supplied by George Martin, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music. He has successfully refuted the suggestion that he was the real creative genius behind the Beatles. He worked only according to their original designs and to their specific requests, even to details of arrangements which they sang to him and which he often transcribed on the spot in the studio. Martin was important to the Beatles in suggesting improvements in the form of their early songs (improvements they quickly came to incorporate independently into their writing) and later in guiding them in the selection of instrumental and electronic textures hitherto unused in pop music. Together with his innovative engineer Geoff Emerick, Martin endeavoured to give the Beatles a productive base within the primitive and often exasperating restrictions of the studio technology of the time. The Beatles integrated notes into their songs from newspapers and from the radio, which they happened to read and listen to and which fitted into their compositions. The randomness played a vital part in their music

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