Even when couching praise in specific terms, it's hard to convey the
scope of the Beatles' achievements in a mere paragraph or two. They
synthesized all that was good about early rock & roll, and changed it
into something original and even more exciting. They established the
prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed
their own material. As composers, their craft and melodic inventiveness
were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its
blues/R&B-based forms into a style that was far more eclectic, but
equally visceral. As singers, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were
among the best and most expressive vocalists in rock; the group's
harmonies were intricate and exhilarating. As performers, they were (at
least until touring had ground them down) exciting and photogenic; when
they retreated into the studio, they were instrumental in pioneering
advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements. They were also the
first British rock group to achieve worldwide prominence, launching a
British Invasion that made rock truly an international phenomenon.
More than any other top group, the Beatles' success was very much a case
of the sum being greater than the parts. Their phenomenal cohesion was
due in large degree to most of the group having known each other and
played together in Liverpool for about five years before they began to
have hit records.
Organization of ‘The Beatles’
Guitarist and teenage rebel John Lennon got hooked on rock 'n' roll in
the mid-1950s, and formed a band, the Quarrymen, at his high school.
Around mid-1957, the Quarrymen were joined by another guitarist, Paul
McCartney, nearly two years Lennon's junior. A bit later they were
joined by another guitarist, George Harrison, a friend of McCartney's.
The Quarrymen would change lineups constantly in the late '50s,
eventually reducing to the core trio of guitarists, who'd proven
themselves to be the best musicians and most personally compatible
individuals within the band.
The Quarrymen changed their name to the Silver Beatles in 1960, quickly
dropping the "Silver" to become just the Beatles. Lennon's art college
friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined on bass, but finding a permanent drummer
was a vexing problem until Pete Best joined in the summer of 1960. He
successfully auditioned for the combo just before they left for a
several-month stint in Hamburg, Germany.
Hamburg was the Beatles' baptism by fire. Playing grueling sessions for
hours on end in one of the most notorious red-light districts in the
world, the group were forced to expand their repertoire, tighten up
their chops, and invest their show with enough manic energy to keep the
rowdy crowds satisfied. When they returned to Liverpool at the end of
1960, the band — formerly also-rans on the exploding Liverpudlian "beat"
scene — were suddenly the most exciting act on the local circuit. They
consolidated their following in 1961 with constant gigging in the
Merseyside area, most often at the legendary Cavern Club, the incubator
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