The Beatles FAQ

Fun stuff about the Fab Four. Linked to The Beatles Teaching Pack



Friday, 19 April 2019

Why was Love Me Do chosen to be The Beatles first single?

 'Love Me Do' is Paul's song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn't swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters". John Lennon in David Sheff's : All We Are Saying).[8]
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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Did the Beatles ever live together?

The Beatles arrived in London in the summer of 1963, initially staying the Hotel President near the British Museum in Bloomsbury. After years of sharing dingy rented rooms, this was a substantial upgrade in their accommodation.

Soon, however, there were practical problems. Fans began tracking them down. Every day larger numbers laid siege to their hotel. By early autumn, with She Loves You at Number One, staying in any public building had become untenable.

Green Street

To increase their privacy, Brian Epstein arranged for the band to move into a three bedroom top floor flat in Green Street, Mayfair, near Hyde Park. There were three bedrooms, with the Lennon family taking one and the other three Beatles sharing the rest of the apartment.
The Green Street arrangement — the only time The Beatles formally lived together — only lasted a few months. John, Cynthia and the toddler Julian soon moved to their own flat on Emperor’s Gate. 

George and Ringo followed Brian Epstein to Whaddon House, an exclusive development near Harrods. They shared another apartment there for a year before eventually escaping to the suburbs.

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Thursday, 11 April 2019

How many records have The Beatles sold?


This is increasingly difficult to assess, as downloads of individual tracks are added to traditional singles & albums.

Singles

By 2014, the official figure for US single sales was an astonishing 1.6 billion. It would be reasonable to extrapolate that when British and other international sales are added the number would rise to well over 2 billion

Albums

The Beatles had a total of 21 Number 1 albums in the US. Total US album sales, however, are 'only' 177 million, less than a third of those sold outside the US.  It should be remembered, however, that Beatlemania occurred before albums became the mass market they later became in the 1970s. 

Post break-up

Sales of Beatles albums have remained strong since the band broke up in 1970 . Compilations, such as the 'red' and the 'blue' anthologies have  sold particularly well to new generations of fans. 


In fact the biggest selling album after Sergeant Pepper, Number 1s,  a compilation of singles. This was only released in 2000, thirty years after the band last recorded together. 


New formats

Sales were also helped by the mass switch from vinyl to CD in the 1980s. Ironically,the CD format has seen a rapid decline in this century while vinyl has undergone a mini revival. A new trend has been for special reissues and previously unreleased tracks. The Anthology series was a mass market example of this.


Download: The Beatles Teaching Teaching Pack  (£3.99) 
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Friday, 29 March 2019

Did George Martin have a 'secret history'?

The George Martin who the Beatles first met in 1962 presented as Professor Higgins to their Eliza Doolittle. With his smart suit, upper class (southern) accent and courtly manners he appeared to be what Brian Epstein described as “a stern but fair-minded schoolmaster”. 

“We were rednecks” as Ringo later put it. George Martin was the archetypal ‘square’: solid and suburban. They automatically assumed that he was backed by family wealth and a private education.

The Beatles, with the arguable exception of Ringo, did not grow up in poverty. George Martin unquestionably did 

Early history

According to a recent biography, Maximum Volume (2017), George Martin came from a seriously impoverished background. Author Kenneth Womack was
…very surprised about the degree of George’s childhood poverty — he describes a family that had no electricity or running water and had one gas jet.
Nor was Martin the product of a privileged education. Several changes of school marked his early years, though he did manage to win a scholarship to a Catholic (state) grammar school. 

His early musical training consisted of eight piano lessons. These ended abruptly after his mother had a ‘disagreement’ with the piano teacher. 

It was the Second World War that allowed George Martin to move out of poverty. In 1941 his school was evacuated to escape the Blitz. The Martin family chose to move to Bromley in Kent, where George  was accepted by the prestigious Bromley Grammar School. From there he began moving up the social ladder. 

First jobs 

Leaving school at fifteen, Martin initially worked as an office clerk in a surveyor’s office and later for the War Office. At seventeen he joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, where he became a commissioned officer.

A veterans' grant then enabled him to enroll  on a three year course at the Guildhall of Music in 1947. There he studyied oboe (under Jane Asher’s mother) and piano. In addition, he taught himself  numerous instruments. Perhaps most importantly he began to make social connections with the 'right' people.

After graduation, he took post in the BBC classical music department. From there he joined EMI , where he became the manager of Parlophone in 1955. 

Unwelcome reminder?

When The Beatles arrived at Abbey Road, George Martin was initially irritated by their personal presentation as much as their musical shortcomings
he wasn’t sure about .... shaggy hair, Liverpool accents .... their beat-up gear .... {their}studio professionalism ... source
According to Womack, this may have been rooted in his own ‘hidden’ background.
“Why would George want to align himself with the sort of guys he had been trying to get away from for so long?” 
His reservations were also of their time. As a working class self-made man, he knew the high standards expected from young men from their background. 

And yet The Beatles won him over, starting with the moment when George Harrison gave his famously cheeky response to George Martin's dressing down:
“Is there anything you don’t like?”“Well, for a start,” replied George Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.”  



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Who was the 'fifth Beatle'?


There is a long list of possible candidates, with Brian Epstein a very strong contender. Pete Best also has a claim, as a he was a full band member until August 1962. Musically, however, there is a clear winner and that is the man who offered them their first recording contract and guided them to new frontiers in pop music.

When The Beatles entered Abbey Road as very raw musicians without any formal training. They were good live performers but had no experience of working in a studio. None could read music and only Paul had a natural facility for explaining musical ideas in a form that technically trained musicians could follow. 

Their early compositions had potential but they needed Martin's experience to make them commercial. PLEASE PLEASE ME for example, was initially a Roy Orbison derivative dirge until Martin inspired Lennon to liven it up. The result was The Beatles first number one single.


What did George Martin contribute musically?

For five years the partnership blossomed, helped by the practical audio engineering genius of Geoff Emerick. The Beatles were very fast learners and with each album they set  new challenges which Martin heroically rose to. 

The death of Brian Epstein in August 1967 marked the end of this golden era.  The next project - the ill-fated TV special Magical Mystery Tour - was panned by the critics. Resentment grew against Paul and this merged with another gripe - that George Martin had been taking too much credit. By the White Album Martin was increasingly pushed to the sidelines. Geoff Emerick resigned and Martin was not retained for the recording of Let it Be. 

Unleashed from Martin, and under the direction of Phil Spector, the Let it Be recording sessions produced a sonic mess. While this was being resolved in post-production The Beatles were at the point of collapse, with personal relations between Paul and the others extremely poor. 


Martin returns

Ironically, the one thing The Beatles did agree about was that they deserved a better swansong. Paul proposed bringing back Martin and Emerick for one last album. To his surprise the others agreed.

The Abbey Road sessions went remarkably smoothly, despite the increasing rancour of their personal and legal disputes. The result was a magnificent album that stands with their finest achivements.





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Why did George Martin almost not sign The Beatles?

George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians. John Lennon, 1971


Despite their local success in Liverpool and Hamburg — and Brian Epstein’s best efforts — The Beatles struggled to get their first recording deal.
Columbia, HMV, Pye, Philips, and Oriole all turned them down. Dick Rowe at Decca signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes in preference, famously added insult to injury ‘Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein’.
After the failure of the Decca audition, Brian Epstein was running out of options. Early in 1962 he managed to get a meeting with George Martin, the manager of Parlophone Records, an eclectic label owned by EMI.
Martin was more charmed by the Beatles manager than their music. “I wasn’t too impressed with the tape Brian Epstein had played me,” Martin told Desert Island Discs in 1996. “There was something there but I couldn’t find out whether it was worthwhile or not.”
As a favour to Epstein, Martin agreed that The Beatles could come for an audition at Abbey Road Studios on June 6, 1962. Despite the fact that The Beatles were in residency in Hamburg, Brian Epstein was determined to seize the opportunity. He rushed to the post office to send a telegram ‘RECORD CONTRACT SECURED’ and summonsing them back to London . This wild wild overstatement was also passed on to the editor of Mersey Beat.
The Beatles did not need to see the small print. They rushed back to England, arriving at Abbey Road in time for their afternoon session with, their battered equipment in tow.

The Love Me Do Session

Their first reality check came when the sound engineers tested their equipment. “I got nothing out of The Beatles’ equipment except for a load of noise, hum and goodness-knows-what,” engineer Norman Smith later told Sound On Sound. Paul McCartney’s amp was distorting so badly that it had to be replaced.
The first was recording was a cover of Besame Mucho. Then they performed three original compositions: Love Me DoP.S. I Love You and Ask Me Why.
From the first recording session
Again George Martin was unconvinced by what he heard. “I thought their music was rubbish,” he told the BBC’s Arena in 2011.
I couldn’t really make out for myself what I was listening for — because I was so conditioned to [hearing] a solo singer with a backing group. But here I had four people who were all doing all sorts of things.
At the end of the session, The Beatles were called in for feedback. It was an uncomfortable experience for them. George Martin gave a long lecture on their shortcomings, particularly their lack of professionalism. He was particularly harsh about the state of their equipment and Pete Best’s drumming.
Finally, he gave The Beatles the chance to respond. “Is there anything you don’t like?”
“Well, for a start,” replied George Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.”
This could have been the moment that sunk The Beatles recording career. The man with their future in his hands was already lukewarm about their music. He was also irritated by their amateurish approach. Now they were giving him backchat.
Instead he began to laugh and the atmosphere instantly transformed.

Professor Higgins meets Eliza Doolittle

The George Martin who the Beatles first met in 1962 presented as Professor Higgins to their Eliza Doolittle. With his smart suit, upper class (southern) accent and courtly manners he appeared to be what Brian Epstein described as “a stern but fair-minded schoolmaster”.
“We were rednecks” as Ringo later put it. George Martin was the archetypal ‘square’: solid and suburban. They automatically assumed that he was backed by family wealth and a private education. Nothing could be further from the truth

To sign or not to sign

By 1962 Parlophone was a solid if unspectacular success. George Martin was aware, however, that comedy was a niche market and that the label needed a stronger foothold in mainstream pop. Could this group from Liverpool offer anything? Martin was skeptical:
he wasn’t sure about some of their songs, shaggy hair, Liverpool accents, the name, their beat-up gear, abilities, studio professionalism, or their first drummer Pete Bestsource
According to Womack, Martin was also uneasy for reasons rooted in his own ‘hidden’ background.
“Why would George want to align himself with the sort of guys he had been trying to get away from for so long?” source
Despite these reservations, George Martin, saw something that had been missed by Dick Rowe and the other record company executives. He noted something pleasing about the combination of voices, though he initially assumed that either Paul or John would need to be designated lead vocalist, and leaned towards Paul.
More importantly he picked up on the charismatic energy The Beatles that would captivate millions in the years to come. Decades later he admitted “I fell in love with them. It’s as simple as that.”
The Beatles first recording contract
Two days later sent out contracts to the four ‘rednecks’ who would change the world.


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Thursday, 28 March 2019

The shortest Beatle' song?


The shortest Beatles song  is only 23 seconds long and was unlisted on its original vinyl release. 

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Five Fun Facts about The Beatles?

  • Which song did The Beatles sing on the first worldwide satellite broadcast?
  • How many records have the Beatles sold? 
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Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Why did George Martin sign The Beatles?

The Beatles first recording contract

Despite their local success in Liverpool and Hamburg - and Brian Epstein's best efforts -  The Beatles struggled to get their first recording deal.
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How did George Martin improve Please, Please Me?

Recording session 1962
The songs the Beatles first gave me were crap.
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