“Making good music in a band is all about chemistry.” – Paul McCartney of the Beatles.
Sixty years ago, the world was taken by storm by a four-person act out of Liverpool, United Kingdom. Beatlemania set it, and the rest was, well, history.
From humble beginnings in 1967, the Beatles would become the next big thing in music, not only in their home but worldwide. Historically speaking, the Beatles were ahead of their time, laying the landscape for music to be the voice of the people, opposing corrupt government and war, while promoting cultural shakeup, particularly in the United States.
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The Beatles would also initiate the revival of film musicals, crafting a total of five beautifully shot features. A Hard Day’s Night (1946), Help! (1965), and Yellow Submarine (1968) would become the soundtrack of a generation of music lovers who resonated deeply with Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison.
The megastars would inevitably be responsible for 20 different number-one hits spanning 13 studio albums. Loyal fans quickly reference ‘Abbey Road’ (1969), ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’ (1967) and ‘Rubber Soul’ (1965) among the best that the musical legends have ever produced.
How It Started
Before gaining international fame, the Beatles started with three original members: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon. Long before bursting onto the scene with their 1963 album’ Please Please Me,’ the pride of Liverpool started as the Quarrymen.
The band, originally started by George Harrison, would take in Paul McCartney after the pair met during a local church fête in 1957. Sir Ringo Starr would become the band’s official drummer after standing in for Pete Best in 1960, thus finalizing the Beatles as we know them.
The Beatles Produce Hit After Hit
In 1964, everything would change for the Beatles. On February 7, the ragtag crew would land in New York to perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show. The British rock-and-roll quartet had already scored their first number 1 hit with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Beatlemania was now a pandemic that had the United States in its grasp.
According to those present during the live filming of the show, the performance of the Beatles was something to behold. Hardly able to hear, the foursome belted out their new number 1 hit song over the screams of teenage girls; hysteria surrounding the rock group had officially taken over, and the Beatles became the world’s most popular musical number overnight.
The rock band would go on to produce an extensive catalog of hit songs, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (1968), “Hey Jude” (1968), “A Day in the Life” (1967), and “Yesterday” (1967). The Fab Four would produce a career unmatched by many who came before and after.
The mega group paved the way for other high-demand entertainers like Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce, as they were instrumental in changing how business was carried out in the musical industry. McCartney, Harrison, Starr, and Lennon would create their own production company and attempt to manage their own band after the death of Brian Epstein. At the time, this was unprecedented.
As well, Paul McCartney and other members of the Beatles have been at the forefront of ownership lawsuits, with Paul’s most recent suit filed in 2017 to regain rights to his music, and that written by fellow Beatles members John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison.
War and Death
It’s well recorded that the Beatles were opposed to the Vietnam War. “Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon, “Revolution,” and “All You Need Is Love” were all popular hits from the group that lent their voice to the protests of conflict in Asia during the 60’s. A large part of the progressive movement that promoted love instead of war, the Beatles became a persuasive voice to those whose values aligned with the concept of world peace.
John Lennon would be the most outspoken voice during the Vietnam War, with many contemplating that he had a severe impact through his non-violent protests. Lennon would go on to record independently away from the Beatles after a separation from the band in 1969. Much of his production, including songs accompanied by Yoko Ono, would center around his displeasure with the violent conflict.
Upon the departure of Lennon, all three remaining Beatles would eventually venture out into solo careers. Although they sometimes appear on tracks together, such as George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” (1981), they never fully reunited. Out of the four, arguably, Paul McCartney would experience the highest success after his time with the Fab Four. Hits like “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die,” both from 1973, would become popular songs for the once “face of the Beatles.”
John Lennon would die at the hands of fan Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980, outside of his New York apartment. After asking the star for an autograph, Chapman would wait for Lennon to return and then fire a .38 special revolver into the musician right in front of his home and wife, Yoko Ono. Although not ultimately responsible for his death, former Beatle George Harrison would also find himself on death’s door when he was stabbed in the chest by a burglar. Harrison passed away in 2001 from lung cancer.
One Last Song From the Beatles
Despite departures from the original band and the death of former members, the Beatles still are renowned as one of music’s greatest acts to this day. Despite not working together since the ’60s, the Beatles, with hits such as “Let it Be,” hold strongly to their position in musical lore and history, paving the way for modern rock-and-roll music, as well as cultivating a new tradition of utilizing lyrics to affect change.
Although there are only two surviving members of the original four, that hasn’t stopped the world from experiencing the greatest of the Beatles once last time. With help from artificial intelligence, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, thanks to Peter Jackson, have released one final psychedelic rock ballad.
“Now and Then,” released worldwide at 7 a.m. PDT on Thursday, November 2, by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe. The double A-side vinyl single pairs the last Beatles song with the first: their 1962 debut UK single, “Love Me Do.” According to Wikipedia, the final version features additional lyrics by McCartney and Lennon’s voice, which was extracted from the demo using the AI-backed audio restoration technology commissioned by Peter Jackson for his 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back. Jackson also directed the music video for “Now and Then.” The song received acclaim from critics, who felt it was a fitting finale for the Beatles.
Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song on Disney+
Streaming now on Disney+, Now and Then – the Last Beatles Song provides personal insight regarding the inspiration and production of this latest project by the Beatles.
Featuring audio from McCartney, Ringo Starr, and others, the Disney+ shows provide a behind-the-stage look at how Peter Jackson went about sampling Lennon’s voice from prior demos as well as how they filmed their final musical film.
The 12-minute feature provides an emotional perspective of how Ringo and McCartney handled the deaths of both John Lennon and George Harrison. McCartney details the stress of hearing Lennon’s voice again and wishing that there were more of the legendary rockstar to be enjoyed by the masses.
Although short, the feature touches everything that made the Beatles great, giving fans one last listen as the Beatles, despite the deaths of both Lennon and Harrison.