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The Beatles (L-R, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon), in 1964, performing on The Ed Sullivan Show during their first United States tour, promoting their first U.S. hit song, "I Want To Hold Your Hand." and ushering in the "British Invasion" of American popular music.
The Beatles were the most influential, and most successful, popular music group of the rock era, with global sales exceeding 1.3 billion records as of 2004 — more than any other artist or artists in history.
Few artists of any sort, in any era, have achieved The Beatles' combination of popular success, critical acclaim and broad cultural influence.
The Beatles were comprised of John Lennon (rhythm guitar), Paul McCartney (bass), George Harrison (lead guitar), and Ringo Starr (drums), all from Liverpool, Merseyside, in England.
Lennon and McCartney were the principal songwriters. For most of their career, their records were produced by George Martin.
The Beatles created a sensation in late 1963 in the UK (dubbed "Beatlemania" by the British press), notable for the hoardes of screaming and swooning young women the group inspired.
Beatlemania came to North America in early 1964, and the band's popularity extended across much of the world.
Within the space of five years, their music progressed from the apparent simplicity of their early hits (such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand") to artistically ambitious suites of songs (such as the albums Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road).
By writing their own songs, exploring the possibilities of the recording studio, and striving for unprecedented quality in every recording they released, the Beatles had far reaching effects on popular music.
The band made feature films, they were the subject of unprecedented press scrutiny, and they became symbolic leaders of the international youth counterculture of the 1960s, publically exploring Eastern mysticism, psychedelic drugs, and revolutionary politics. The group disbanded in 1970.
Main article: History of the Beatles
John Lennon formed a skiffle group, The Quarrymen, in the summer of 1956.
On July 6, 1957 he met Paul McCartney whilst playing at the Woolton Parish fete, and the two were soon playing music together.
In 1958 the young guitarist George Harrison joined the group, which played under a variety of names. In 1960 they travelled to Hamburg, where they finally became the Beatles. Stuart Sutcliffe was part of the group in 1960-61 and influenced their appearance and sense of style.
Allan Williams and Sam Leach acted on occasions as their manager until 1962 when Brian Epstein took over the role permanently.
In 1962 they joined the EMI's Parlophone label; their drummer for the past two years, Pete Best, was jettisoned in favor of the more experienced Ringo Starr.
Beatlemania began in Britain on 13 October 1963 with a televised appearance at the London Palladium, and then exploded in the United States following three appearances of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, on 9 February, 16 February, and 23 February 1964.
The pop-music band became a worldwide phenomenon with worshipful fans and angry denunciations by cultural commentators and established performers such as Frank Sinatra, sometimes on grounds of the music (which was thought crude and unmusical) or their appearance (their hair was scandalously long).
In 1964 they held the top five places on Billboard's Hot 100, a feat which has never been repeated.
In 1965 they were instated as Members of the Order of the British Empire. Lennon and Harrison also began experimenting with LSD in that year, and McCartney would do the same near the end of 1966.
Lennon caused a backlash against the Beatles the following year when in an interview he claimed that Christianity was dying and he quipped that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus."
Eventually he apologised at a press conference, after being slammed by many religious groups, including the Holy See, having Beatles' records banned or burned across the American South, and receiving threats from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, on 29 August 1966.
They then concentrated on making recorded music, and their compositions and musical experiments raised their artistic reputations, while they retained their tremendous popularity.
The Beatles' financial fortunes took a turn for the worse, however, when their manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967 and the band's affairs began to unravel.
The members began to drift apart. Their actual "last" concert is considered to be a live appearance on the roof at the Apple studios in London in January 1969, which was known as the "Get Back" sessions and featured on the "Let it Be" album. In 1969 they recorded their last album, Abbey Road (although in 1970 various songs recorded earlier were compiled into Let It Be).
The band officially broke up in 1970, and any hopes of a reunion were crushed when Lennon was assassinated in 1980.
However, a virtual reunion occurred in 1995 with the release of two original Lennon recordings which had the additional contributions of the remaining Beatles mixed in to create two hit singles: "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love".
Three albums of unreleased material and studio outtakes were also released, as well as a documentary and television miniseries, in a project known as The Beatles Anthology.
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