From their formation in 1960 through to their demise in 1970, The Beatles achieved a wide variety of musical successes that not only made them the world’s biggest band but quite possibly the most pioneering musical group of all time. Even today, fifty years after the band broke up, they are still the world’s best-selling artist in history.
The Liverpudlian icons played a crucial role in the development of the 1960s counterculture movement, aiding the rise of popular music into the mainstream as an art form. The band took their cues from skiffle, beat and ’50s rock and roll. Latterly, the band would be influenced by classical music, ballads, Indian music, psychedelia and hard rock. Ultimately, The Beatles revolutionised every aspect of popular music.
Famously, the group were helmed by songwriting power couple John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Over three years, starting with the group’s inception in 1960, they built up a strong following playing at clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. The story of the latter is a much-fabled tale.
The core trio of the Beatles was Lennon, McCartney and guitarist George Harrison, and they had been together since 1958. The three had met playing in the Liverpool skiffle scene of the ’50s and, in their early days, they had a line of drummers, including Pete Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962 following a short illness. Now the classic Beatles line-up had formed.
Almost as famous as the band members themselves was manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin. Epstein moulded the band into a professional and marketable act, and long-term producer Martin guided and developed their recording sessions. The band’s relationship with these two pivotal figures culminated in their massive success.
Their domestic triumph expanded greatly after their first hit, 1962’s ‘Love Me Do’, and it was this single started the cultural phenomenon dubbed ‘Beatlemania’, which stemmed from widespread, and intense fan frenzy. In this sense, they were the world’s first musical superstars. Consequently, the band were given the moniker ‘The Fab Four’ by fans and the media. The nickname also impacted Epstein and Martin, who were both at different points regarded as the ‘Fifth Beatle’.
Much of the Beatles‘ generation-defining career is cemented in the vast mythos of popular culture. The widespread tales of their careers and the well-documented personal lives has resulted in an untellable amount of discourse surrounding the band. However, one rumour frequently abounds; The Beatles were on a never-ending cycle of tours.
However, in a rare radio interview with former drummer Ringo Starr in 1977, he revealed that the band had actually stopped touring in 1966. The lengthy interview, which was broadcasted on the airwaves, is a dense retrospective on the drummers’ life. At about the halfway point, the interviewer posits: “John said in an interview, ‘By the time the Beatles came to America, they couldn’t perform live anymore.'”
The former Beatle replied: “That’s the truth. I mean, it’s the great truth. No one heard us, not even ourselves. I found it very hard. I mean, I’m looking at amplifiers thinking the sound is going to come through my eyes instead of ears, but it’s like—I couldn’t do any fills because I’m just there just to hold it together somehow, you know. So if I go off for a ‘fill’ which isn’t as loud as all your force on an off-beat it would get lost anyway. And the timing usually went all to cock. And that’s why we were bad players.”
The ‘Yellow Submarine’ vocalist explained: “That’s when we decided to stop in ’66. Everyone thought we toured for years, you know, but we didn’t. I joined in ’62, and we’d finished touring in ’66 to go into the studio where we could hear each other… and create any fantasy that came out of anybody’s brain.”
This recently unearthed statement by Starr sheds light on why the Beatles were so prolific in the recording studio. Additionally, it can perhaps serve as a lesson to any aspiring musicians. Maybe don’t burn yourselves out touring, and instead focus on honing your craft in the studio. However, studios are expensive, and tours are fun and necessary, so we’ll let you make your own mind up on this.