The Beatles released their first single in 1962 and quickly went on to become one of the top-selling, most well-known music groups in history. For more than 50 years, fans have come to know the band through their music, as well as through countless books, documentaries and websites. The Beatles’ story includes some surprising facts that help explain their creative process and enduring legacy.
5 Ringo Joined Last
Ringo Starr, the oldest Beatle, was the last member to join the group. Before Starr joined, a band composed of George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and two other musicians (a drummer and a guitarist) toured Germany and began playing many of the songs that made the Beatles famous. By 1962 Ringo Starr had come in to serve as the band’s new drummer, and little-known Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best were out of the band.
4 They Made the Most of Accidents
The Beatles were skilled musicians but also dedicated experimenters. Their improvisations and accidents led to new techniques that made their music stand out from other rock ‘n’ roll and pop music of the 1960s. One example is John Lennon’s accidental discovery of the unusual sound produced by playing tape-recorded music backwards. Lennon discovered this by setting up a tape player the wrong way and playing tracks from “Rain” at home. The effect made its way into multiple Beatles songs.
3 They Didn’t Work Alone
While the four Beatles played a variety of instruments among them, they did not always work alone. Established stars such as Billy Preston and Eric Clapton joined them in the studio to add organ and guitar parts, respectively. Yoko One contributed vocals while recording “The White Album.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney also wrote songs for other bands to perform, such as Badfinger’s hit “Come and Get It.”
2 Ed Sullivan Was Not the Beginning
In February 1964, the Beatles famously appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” catapulting them to fame in America. However, this TV appearance was hardly the beginning of the band’s success. Prior to appearing on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” the Beatles already had two No. 1 records in Great Britain. Their existing fan base accounts for the record-breaking number of viewers who tuned in to watch Ed Sullivan “introduce” the band, which had already been producing professional records for a year and a half.
1 They Were Censored
The Beatles were a major target of censorship efforts. The BBC, which controlled radio distribution of their songs across its massive network, refused to play songs such as “A Day in the Life” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” because of allegations that they made reference to drug use. The BBC also banned “I Am the Walrus” because the lyrics included the word “knickers.”