Want to learn the backstories of songs? Interesting tidbits about their musicianship? Gossip to impress your friends? It’s all right here. From Pete Best to Yoko Ono, you can brush up on your knowledge about this legendary foursome. If you’re a fan, no doubt you know some of it…but maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.
John Lennon Grew Up Near Strawberry Fields
There are tons of famous songs from The Beatles, including one called “Strawberry Fields Forever.” John Lennon grew up for the most part in Woolton, England, and one of his favorite spots in town was the garden of the nearby Salvation Army orphanage, known as Strawberry Fields.
He called it a secret and wild garden that wasn't kept up very well, so you could hide in it easily. In 1966, on the set of “How I Won the War,” Lennon was in a sentimental mood and penned “Strawberry Fields Forever” to pay homage to a place that helped him get through what appears to be a tough childhood.
To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize?
How does one spell the Beatles? Grammatical experts point out that since the “the” is part of the band's name, it should be capitalized, but it isn't as if bands have bent the rules in their titles before. Those on the other side of the aisle point to a hand-written note by John Lennon which has a small t in the band's title.
This topic became so heated that it started a fight on Wikipedia in 2004 which resulted in several editors being banned from commenting. This article chooses to capitalize the t, since that is, in fact grammatical, but we don't really have a dog in the fight.
They Recorded Their Debut Album in Almost One Day
These days, even simple albums can take weeks. Recording one in a single day takes focus, lots of caffeine, and short, simple songs. But on February 11, 1963, The Beatles gathered and pounded out almost their entire first album, “Please Please Me.” The very end of the twelve-hour session had them tackling “Twist and Shout,” which required John Lennon to push his voice to the breaking point.
He's commented that it nearly killed him, and his voice wasn't the same for years after. “Every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper.” He initially didn't like the recording but came to appreciate it as a frantic guy doing his best.
Paul McCartney's Method for Picking up Girls Became a Song
Ever wondered what the backstory to the song “Michelle” is? You probably couldn't guess, but here it is: McCartney and Harrison, both working-class boys, had trouble fitting into the bohemian art school parties John Lennon would drag them to. Lennon was a bit older and didn't have as much trouble with the scene, but those two felt uncomfortable.
To try and look cooler, McCartney would dress all in black, sit in a corner, and play fake French on his guitar to try and attract the babes. It, apparently, never worked. However, Lennon eventually suggested he turn it into a song, which was a little more successful.
Ringo Starr's True Name Revealed
Born in Liverpool in 1940, Ringo Starr started playing drums in a band he joined while in hospital at the age of thirteen, recovering from a medical condition. Joining the band ended up being the best decision of his life. He's known around the world by Ringo Starr, but his real name is Starkey. Richard Starkey (or “Ritchie” to dear old Mum). In some recordings, Paul can be heard calling the name before counting the band off.
Ringo's first nickname was Rings because of all his jewelry, and then he changed it to Ringo to sound more like a cowboy. His rings made it into a scene of “A Hard Day's Night.” In the photo, little Richard Starkey is just 10 years of age, not knowing what the future is about to bring.
Decca Records Realy Blew It
On New Year's Day in 1962, The Beatles drove from Liverpool to London to audition for Decca records. In just over an hour they recorded FIFTEEN SONGS, and though they were a bit shaky, they still had some of their eventual sparks. Yet Decca opted to pass on the deal, famously telling the band that guitar groups were on the way out.
It turned out to be a blessing disguise since the band decided to shake things up. They replaced original drummer Pete Best with Ringo, found longtime producer George Martin, and signed with EMI. The rest is music history. And don't feel bad for Decca – the next year they signed The Rolling Stones.
“Yesterday's” Original Lyrics
Every musician goes about his or her creative process differently. Some sit down to write lyrics and then put them to music, others come up with the melodies first. Paul McCartney is the latter, and that's best exemplified by the story of how he came up with “Yesterday.”
The melody of this famous song popped into his head one morning just after waking up, and in order to remember it, he put the first words that came to mind to it: Scrambled eggs. We have to imagine it was what was on the menu for breakfast that day. Thankfully, the lyrics got a second pass.
What Is With That Chord?
“A Hard Day's Night” has one of the most mystifying opening chords in music. They kicked the song off in grand fashion with a ringing intro chord that is instantly recognizable. Yet students of the band's music have an incredibly hard time figuring what, exactly, is being played. Fans have debated for years about what it could be, but it was none other than George Harrison who ended up clearing things up in an online chat.
He called it F with a G on top, referring to Fadd9 played on a 12-string guitar. He couldn't elucidate the bass note, however. Audio spectrum analysis suggests McCartney is playing a D note on his bass, Lennon is doubling Harrison, and producer George Martin added some piano.
The Real Eleanor Rigby
“Eleanor Rigby” is a song about a lonely old woman who passes away inside a church with no one to mourn her. McCartney has explained that he put the name together from the actress Eleanor Bron, who appeared in The Beatles film “Help!” from 1965, and a shop in Bristol, England, called Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers.
There's no reason to doubt him, but it turns out there's a gravestone for a woman named Eleanor Rigby in Woolton Cemetery, which is near St. Peter's Church in Liverpool. That just so happens to be where Paul and John met. Eerie coincidence? Subconscious connection? It's hard to tell.
A Meter Maid Name Meta
Meter Maids – or traffic wardens, as they were called in London in the sixties – aren't as common as they are in America, but they still played an important part in the history of The Beatles. A traffic warden was writing a ticket for someone (unknown who, exactly) outside of Abbey Road Studios when Paul McCartney saw the name of the warden – Meta.
An American friend told them about the stateside name, and one of the famous rhymes from “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” was born. On the other hand, McCartney states he came up with the lyric while walking near his brother's house in Gayton, near Liverpool.
It's All About the Furniture
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” means a lot of things to a lot of people. For Harrison, it meant giving him a chance to show off his sitar skills, however, the name actually alludes to the cheap furniture of a 1960's bachelorette apartment. The song follows a jilted lover who sets fire to his girl's apartment, burning the contents.
The affordable furniture of the era was cheap Norwegian wood. Think of the Ikea furniture of the decade. The first title was “Cheap Pine,” but McCartney has stated they didn't like the title that much and upgraded it.
Four Men and Three Pianos
Ask any tried-and-true fan of the fab four about their favorite moments, and you're bound to hear about the final outro of “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” A thundering piano chord rounds out the album, but to achieve the sound, the band needed a little bit of help.
They recruited roadie Mal Evans, who joined Lennon, Paul, and Ringo in playing an E chord across three different pianos. Why they needed four people is unknown. It took almost ten takes to get the timing right, but ask any fan of the album – the end result was more than worth it.
“Octopus Garden” Started With a Fight
One of the more well-known facts about The Beatles is that they could get into huge rows. One of these arguments, during 1968, resulted in Ringo Starr taking his family on a boating trip out of the country in the middle of recording “The White Album.”
He borrowed actor Peter Sellers's yacht, and the captain told him about something that octopuses do – they gather shiny stones, tin cans, and other small treasures in front of their caves. An octopus garden. Before long, the band was back in the studio with a new song to work on, all thanks to one of their fights.
Eric Clapton's Addition Cooled Tempers
During the sessions for “The White Album,” emotions were running wild. George Harrison thought that the gang wasn't giving his song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the same attention other songs got (all well deserved), so he convinced his pal Eric Clapton to join them in the studio and play on the track.
Not only did this give the song a new spark, but it also got the other members of the band to start behaving like adults. Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro, and another of The Beatles’ legendary songs was on its way to listeners. Clapton initially hesitated, but it certainly didn't hurt his career being associated with this famous band.
The First Abbey Road Picture
It's one of the most famous photographs in the last century, and it's been copied and parodied by everyone from the Simpsons to your annoying friend who travels too much. The cover photo for their final album, “Abbey Road,” took a number of tries and had to block traffic for a little while, and there's a story from before the final product.
Paul's wife Linda happened to be standing by with a camera of her own as the gang was getting ready, snapping a photo of an elderly lady talking to Starr as Paul fixed his jacket collar. Before long, photographic history would be made.
James Bond Hated Them, Sean Connery Loved Them
In one of the best Bond films, Sean Connery mentions that drinking Dom Perignon at the wrong temperature is like listening to The Beatles without earmuffs – it just isn't done. Young fans booed the line in theaters, but Sean Connery himself bore no ill will toward the band.
Connery collaborated with George Martin (record producer) in 1988 for the production of the “In My Life” album, a retrospective of the band with covers by celebrities including Robin Williams and Goldie Hawn. Connery's spoken-word version of the title track is odd but charming, just like the band and Connery himself.
There's Only One Featured Credit
Almost all of the songs The Beatles recorded were just the four of them and no one else. In fact, only one song had a “featuring” credit. That song was “Get Back,” and the additional musician is Billy Preston, a keyboardist from Houston. The band met him while he was touring with Little Richard in the early sixties. After a contentious session, George Harrison ran into Preston at a Ray Charles concert and asked him to join them in the studio.
The presence of an outsider helped to ease tensions, and Preston got along so well with all of them that John Lennon proposed making Preston a full-time member. McCartney vetoed the idea since the band was close to breaking up anyway.
The One With John and Paul
Pretty much all of the songs have all four of the members, but there's one track that has only two of the members, John and Paul. It happened in 1969 when John swung by Paul's house, and the two booked a bit of time. Ringo was filming “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers, and George was on vacation.
The song was “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” and it did gangbusters, reaching number one in the United Kingdom and number eight in the United States. Paul handled drum duties as well as piano, bass, and maracas, and John was on lead guitar.
It Almost Wasn't “The End”
The final song on the gang's final album ("Abby Road"), was “The End,” which is how the fab four ended their careers together. It was the perfect ending, however, it almost wasn't the final track on the album. Initial track listings for the 1969 LP have “The Long One,” which is a suite of interlocking songs that ends with “The End” as the final track on side one, not side two.
Instead, the album would have finished with “I Want You (She's So Heavy).” A good song, but it doesn't have the poetic finality of your final song together being “The End.” Thankfully, they mixed things around before finalizing.
Who's Responsible for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”?
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is a wild ride from start to finish, thanks (in part) to its strange lyrics. Many have pointed to the acronyms the title forms to say it's about the band's use of illegal substances, but the band itself has stated this isn't the case. Instead, this song comes from a much gentler place.
Four-year-old Julian Lennon once showed his father John a drawing of a girl named Lucy, who sat next to him at school. The drawing had Lucy “in the sky with diamonds.” Though Julian and Lucy weren't the best of friends, Julian rekindled his relationship with Lucy until her very last days.
Paul Is Dead
If you're a Beatle fan, that phrase means something a little different. An urban legend claims that Paul McCartney died in a car crash on November 9th, 1966, and the band replaced him with a lookalike to keep the public from finding out. Those who claim this, say they've found clues in some of the songs, such as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” in which people hear John Lennon supposedly mutter “I buried Paul.” He actually sang “cranberry sauce”.
The band found out and mocked it (or added to it?) with the line “The Walrus was Paul “ from “I Am the Walrus.” Those who believe the theory also point to the cover of “Abbey Road.” Paul is barefoot and out of step with the others.
Going Through Name Changes
The Beatles are no doubt the biggest name in music, but that name was almost a much different kind of name. John Lennon formed the first iteration in 1957 as a skiffle band (Blues, jazz, folk music...basically early rock) known as the Blackjacks. Another local band already had the name, so Lennon changed the name to...The Quarrymen.
In 1960, then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe suggested the name “Beatals” after Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Members changed, as did the name – it moved to Silver Beetles, then the Silver Beatles, then, finally, they settled on The Beatles. After that, only Ringo Starr stepped in for Pete Best, and then they were off.
Their Ribald Early Years
Just like almost every other band out there, The Beatles got their start by playing bars and clubs. The reason they ended up being so well-known once they started producing albums, is because they had spent so much time playing together, they knew exactly how to work with each other. Musically, at least.
They were very different from the clean-cut British boys they presented to their adoring public, with lots of wild antics, curse words, and, in at least one event, nailing male-use contraception to the walls. All of this happened at the Cavern Club, where they met Brian Epstein, the manager they hired in 1962, who literally changed their lives forever.
The First Official Recording Session
The first official session The Beatles spent in the studio was in 1962. It was at the historic Abbey Road Studios, though for most people the studio is famous because of the band. This was also their addition to EMI Studios' Parlophone label. Ringo hadn't yet joined the band, and they recorded four songs: “Besame Mucho,” “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” and “Ask Me Why.”
Producer George Martin started the session by explaining all the sound and recording equipment and then asked if there was anything the band didn't like. George Harrison said he didn't like Martin's tie, and that humorous exchange was part of the reason the band got signed.
Was the Last the Last?
“Let It Be” was the final album that the band released, but it wasn't the last album that they recorded together. It turns out that “Abbey Road” was recorded and released before “Let It Be.” “Abbey Road” came out in 1969, while “Let It Be” came out in 1970. The last song they ever recorded was “The End,” fittingly.
The sessions for “Let It Be,” immortalized in “Get Back,” were disastrous for the band, and a lot of the work they did was shelved. The band rallied to put together “Abbey Road,” and then eventually “Let It Be” was released. The band had already broken up at that point, so it's kind of a posthumous record.
A Balanced Partnership
Their informal partnership started when they were around fifteen or sixteen years old, and began with “You'll Be Mine” in 1960. And even if only one of them wrote a song, any song by either John Lennon or Paul McCartney credits both of them due to the partnership they had established. Most of the songs credited Lennon-McCartney, even though Harrison did have plenty of writing chops available.
Early on, they worked together extensively, sometimes, as Lennon described it, eyeball to eyeball. In this way, they worked on some of the most memorable lyrics and music that are out there today. After a few years, however, they worked on their own with little input from each other.
John Lennon Thought George Harrison Wasn't Old Enough
All the way back in February of 1958, The Beatles were once the Quarrymen. Paul McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to join him and John Lennon and watch them perform. Harrison immediately wanted to join the band, but Lennon thought Harrison was too young. Harrison was fifteen, while Lennon was seventeen.
Nevertheless, Harrison persisted and played the lead guitar part of the instrumental song “Raunchy” on the top deck of a Liverpool bus. Lennon was impressed, McCartney was vindicated, and the band had three of the four that would go on to change music forever.
When you think about The Beatles breaking up, the image that might come to mind is a quartet of burnt-out musicians who have exhausted their creativity and their ability to work together. What we're saying is, that you probably picture old guys. Get ready for a shock: None of the members were even thirty years old when the band called it quits.
By 1969, relationships were rocky. Lennon told the band he was stepping away, though it's unknown if this was going to be for a short period or for good. McCartney quickly followed suit, and by 1970 the band was done. The oldest, Ringo, was twenty-nine at the time.
What Are All These Lines?
Despite being a group of four world-class musicians, not a single member of The Beatles could read sheet music. Natural musical prowess and songwriting ability don't necessarily mean you can read those lines, which is, to be fair, a somewhat difficult skill to learn. Not even Ringo, despite the drummer being necessary to keep the tempo and beat.
Paul McCartney even went one step further – he revealed that he doesn't understand music theory, however, he still had the lyrical ability, and that doesn't mean he couldn't put together a song – it just means he had never learned about it.
The Beatles have a lot of records to their name, whether still standing or by now broken, and here's one that you might be able to guess – one of their songs is the most covered song in history. No doubt you've heard more than one version of “Yesterday,” but if you want to hear all of them, you'll have to set aside quite a bit of time.
There are more than two thousand versions from other artists, more than any other song in their discography, or in the world. Despite only being two minutes long, that still means more than three days of listening to the same song, even if there are various differences.
It Means Nothing
There's a rumor that says the album cover for “Help!” has the members of The Beatles spelling out the word “Help” as if they were using semaphore. While this was the original intent, photographer Robert Freeman realized it wasn't visually pleasing enough. He had them rearrange their arms to something that looked a little better – and it is one of the more famous album covers, even for The Beatles.
It does still spell something in semaphore, but that word is “NUJV.” Which means nothing. Still, it looks pretty good, which is really the big point of a cover design. Remember, even if it doesn't mean anything, The Beatles make good art.
The Quiet Beatle
When performing on-stage most of The Beatles had their unique personas. George Harrison was often quite focused and serious. In addition, he was far less outspoken to the media than the other members of the band. Many ended up describing him as “the quiet Beatle.” However, this rose from the fact that when The Beatles first arrived in America in 1964, Harrison wasn't feeling the best.
Strep throat and a fever laid him low, and his doctor encouraged him to limit speaking before their big appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Thus, before the appearance, Harrison let the other three do all the talking. The media noticed this and gave him his nickname.
Harrison Loved Indian Music
While filming a scene in an Indian restaurant for their 1965 movie “Help!” George Harrison was enthralled with the musicians playing Indian music. He took a great interest in Indian classical music that involved the sitar. He contacted sitar master Ravi Shankar and was able to learn the instrument, eventually incorporating it into some of The Beatles' later music.
He introduced the sitar in the song “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” By doing so, he created what Ravi Shankar called a “great sitar explosion.” People all over the world suddenly took interest in an instrument that many had probably never even heard before.
The Beatles Almost Owned an Island
In the summer of 1967, the band was riding high on critical acclaim, fanatic music fans, and probably plenty of certain substances as well. They were doing so well that they thought about purchasing an entire set of islands in Greece. The goal was to live and work together with their families, and they even went so far as to apply to the Greek government for permission.
Not surprisingly, the purchase never went through. The band was already having problems working together at this point, so it might be for the best that they didn't end up owning a bunch of islands together.
Who Was the Fifth Beatle?
A number of people were instrumental enough to become unofficial additions to the fab four. These include their two previous members, bassist Stuart Sutcliffe and former drummer Pete Best. Keyboardist Billy Preston was almost made a full-time member. Their manager Brian Epstein helped them out in big ways, by molding their public image, giving him the nod.
Paul McCartney added producer George Martin to the pile, and Harrison had two other names: Derek Taylor, public relations manager, and Neil Aspinall, road manager-turned-business executive. While the music was the most important part, all of these behind-the-scenes people helped keep The Beatles going as long as they could.
Breaking Into the Movies
After The Beatles made it big in the recording industry, the movie industry was silly not to try and take advantage. The first movie that the fab four filmed together was “A Hard Day's Night,” and, of course, much of the music was by the four. It was directed by Richard Lester and released in 1964. It was a resounding success, and Time magazine even called it one of the top 100 movies of all time.
It was a musical comedy, following the band as they prepared for a TV appearance during the height of Beatlemania. The movie got two nominations at the academy awards, including Best Original Screenplay.
The Big Controversy
Due to their number of public appearances, the controversy was going to happen to The Beatles eventually. One of the biggest was when John Lennon stated in an interview that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” While this led to boycotts, album burnings, and radio bans, Lennon argued he was simply making a statement about the decline of faith in the United Kingdom.
Christian groups were appalled, but many believe that Lennon was in fact criticizing fanaticism about The Beatles. Lennon would issue an apology, stating he was neither anti-God nor anti-religion. The apology was insufficient to many, but not the Pope, who praised the band for their music.
No More Live Performances
The last time The Beatles hit the stage to play their music was August 29th, 1967. They wouldn't break up for almost three more years, but at that point, they were done. Why, you ask? The reasons are numerous. The band was exhausted with writing music, acting, going on shows, and plenty more, so something had to go. There were threats to the band's security (something that would prove all too deadly).
One of the biggest reasons was the fans at those concerts. Not the dangerous ones, just the wild ones. As soon as they hit their first notes, the audience – which boasted a large number of crazed gals – would start screaming their heads off. They could hardly even hear themselves play.
Suspects of Arson
The band's early days saw a bunch of teenagers rocketed to international fame and fortune, and you can bet that led to some antics. Even regular teens can be reckless, and The Beatles were anything but regular. As the band was staying in Germany in 1960, Paul McCartney and Pete Best were in a theater and needed to cast some light.
They used a small lighter or a match, and some accounts say they burned some flammable items. The building was undamaged aside from small burn marks. McCartney and Best had to spend the night in jail before being deported the next day.
A Name Change for Love
There's no doubt John Lennon was madly in love with Japanese artist Yoko Ono. While her very name has come to mean someone who broke up a group with a romantic relationship, it isn't fair to say she was responsible. Lennon would often insist she come to the studio.
Lennon loved Yoko so much that he wanted to change his legal name to John Ono Lennon after their marriage. However, UK law stated that he can't fully revoke his given name, so he made a compromise with John Winston Ono Lennon. He disliked “Winston” because it reflected wartime patriotism.
An Accidental Snub and International Backlash
During one of many worldwide tours, The Beatles found themselves in the Philippines. Unbeknownst to them, the wife of the then-incumbent president (and dictator), Imelda Marcos, was going to host a party in the band's honor. Manager Brian Epstein had declined the invitation for the party before the band even arrived, and the band didn't know.
They were woken up by presidential guards demanding they attend the party, and they refused – understandable since they had no idea what was going on. The First Lady took offense to this and turned the government against the band. The Fab Four then underwent threats and harassment until they were able to leave the country.
Bob Dylan and the Green Dream
It should come as no surprise that The Beatles experimented with illicit substances. Their first taste of Lady Jane came from none other than Bob Dylan, who is well-known for enjoying illegal cigarettes. Dylan met the band in 1964 at the Delmonico Hotel in Manhattan and offered them one.
John Lennon tried it out and then passed it to Ringo Starr. Starr smoked the entire thing, and Dylan's road manager ended up rolling a few more cigarettes. Everyone in the room started enjoying themselves. After that, illegal substances of all sorts became a more regular part of the lifestyle for The Beatles.
The Pine Tree
George Harrison was the quietest member of The Beatles, and his life continued to be rather quiet afterward. Yes, his solo career was perhaps the best of the Fab Four, but as a spiritual man and avid gardener, Harrison was happiest in nature. He was a Hindu, and when he passed away, his ashes were spread in the Hindu tradition.
In Los Angeles in 2004 – three years after his passing – a park planted a pine tree in his honor. Though growing to more than ten feet tall, the tree's life ended ten years after it was planted thanks to an infestation of beetles. We wonder if Harrison would have enjoyed the irony.
What Street Is It?
One of the more popular songs by The Beatles is “Penny Lane,” which came out in 1967. Penny Lane is a street is a real place in Liverpool, and the song is about the sights and characters that Paul McCartney recalls from his childhood in the town. The song is popular enough that fans regularly steal the street sign of the actual Lane.
It's become so persistent that the area now has painted-on signs. Not only that, but the place has become a big tourist attraction for fans, which disrupts those living there. In a similar manner, Blue Jay Way in Los Angeles, California is getting the same treatment because of The Beatles song of the same name.
The First United States Hit
Believe it or not, the band actually had some trouble breaking into the American market. Manager Brian Epstein charged them to write a song that would cater directly to the overseas market, and the tactic was a hit. Lennon and McCartney worked together to write “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which was released in 1963 to great fanfare.
The single became a number one hit in the United States, hitting the top of the Billboard Hot 100 a few months after it debuted. It was this very song that paved the way for Beatlemania in the U.S., which then led to the British invasion – forever changing the landscape of America for decades to come.
From his marriage with his first wife Cynthia Powell Lennon, John Lennon had a son named Julian. However, John and Cynthia split following John's tryst with Yoko Ono, and fellow Beatle member Paul McCartney started to become concerned about Julian's state of mind. When John and Cynthia separated, Paul visited Julian in order to comfort and please the child.
On the car ride over, he composed the song “Hey Jules” just for John's son. We don't know if Julian liked the song, but lots and lots of other people did. Paul did change the name of the song to “Hey Jude” before making it an official Beatles song since it flowed a little better.
Swearing on the Song
“Hey Jude” is one of the most beloved songs by The Beatles that they gave us, but it's much more than just a melancholy, solemn track to put on when you're feeling down. It also has a little bit of humor thanks to Paul McCartney. At around the 2:58 mark of the song, he makes a mistake on the piano and blurts out “Flipping heck.”
He didn't actually say flipping heck, but you get the idea. While the group would usually groan and start over, this time they didn't – apparently they thought it was funny enough to keep in the finished track.
What Was the Shortest Single?
The Beatles aren't exactly known for longer songs. Most of their most memorable tracks don't exactly tip the scales, even when it comes to pop bands. But to some listeners out there, their shortest charting single barely even counts as a tune. “From Me To You” is not even two minutes long. In fact, at 1 minute and fifty-six seconds, you might not even notice it when it comes on.
Plenty of people did, however, since it was the second song to chart and their first to top what would eventually become the UK Singles Chart. It wasn't as popular in the United States, however, only charting when Del Shannon covered it in 1963.
Asking for Album Cover Permission
The cover of the album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” is chock full of celebrities and famous faces. They include Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Shirley Temple, and quite a few more. One person wasn't so keen on the idea.
Famous American film actress Mae West initially didn't allow the band to use her likeness, but the band sent her a personal letter and she ended up changing her mind. In a related piece of trivia, Shirley Temple wanted to hear the album before allowing the use of her likeness. She must have liked it.
You might think the Fab Four are extremely talented human musicians, but you would be wrong. Well, sort of. A group named the Minor Planet Center named minor planets (something in orbit around a star but neither a comet nor a true planet) after all four members of the band, as well as the band itself, in 1990.
They are 4147 Lennon, 4148 McCartney, 4149 Harrison, and 4150 Starr, as well as 8749 Beatles. We didn't promise out-of-this-world facts, but we do like to overdeliver. All of these minor planets are part of the asteroid belt that sits between Earth and Mars.
That Doesn't Sound Like Them
After a poor showing from their 1967 TV musical film “Magical Mystery Tour,” The Beatles wanted to try something different for their next film outing. They went with a fully-animated film called “Yellow Submarine.” It's one of the odder things they've done, and that's saying something. However, the film delighted children and art fans alike, and since it had new original songs you know the eventual soundtrack album was a hit.
Even now it's regarded as a landmark piece of animation. If you listen closely, however, you'll notice The Beatles aren't voicing themselves. Their busy schedules made it impossible, though they would have liked to. However, they were present for the live-action sections, and they sang all the songs.
Which Songs Credit Them All?
A high percentage of songs by The Beatles are credited to the titanic songwriting partnership Lennon-McCartney. Some of them are by George Harrison, and some of them are credited to “Starkey” (Ringo Starr's real name), but how many come from the minds of all four of the fab? There are a mere two tunes.
The first is “Flying,” which appeared on the 1967 album “Magical Mystery Tour.” The second is from the final album of their reign in 1970, “Let It Be,” and the song is “Dig It.” But those are just the official album cuts! There is also “Christmas Time is Here Again,” from a fan club record, and “Real Love” had Lennon as the songwriter and the other three as producers, strangely.
A Three-Year Reign
If you're a fan of The Beatles, you probably know about their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan” show in 1964. It came at the height of Beatlemania, while “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was topping charts and young ladies were going mad. At the time, “The Ed Sullivan Show” was where the biggest names of the age went, and so their performance was a match made in heaven.
Indeed, their first appearance on the program drew in a whooping seventy-three million viewers, a record-setting number that would remain uncontested for three years. Even now that's the kind of viewership that makes stations giddy, and it was back when TVs weren't as commonplace.
Sixty-Four or Sixteen?
Though the song didn't see the light of day until the 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Paul McCartney had been keeping “When I'm Sixty-Four” in his back pocket for almost ten years. He wrote the song in 1958 when he was only sixteen years old. It was one of his earliest compositions.
When the band finally got around to recording it, it was released at a different key than the recording. McCartney had recommended speeding the song up because he wanted to sound a little younger. Speeding his recording up raised his voice in pitch, bringing him back to his time as a boy for a little bit of time.
Almost a Reunion
The Fab Four called it quits in 1970, but in 1979 they were one person away from having a reunion show. Harrison, McCartney, and Ringo Starr all played at Eric Clapton's wedding in 1979, going through the Sgt. Pepper album. Lennon didn't attend for unknown reasons, though it might have simply come down to living in America at the time.
Clapton joined the three-piece to help with some songs, and those in attendance – which includes Mick Jagger and Elton John – said the songs were pretty rubbish thanks to the drinks available. It was still an important night for music. Oh, also, the woman Clapton was marrying was George Harrison's ex-wife.
Getting Some Medals From the Queen
Those who live under the crown of England are eligible for becoming (deep breath) a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Shortened, thankfully, to MBE. An MBE is awarded to recognize people who have contributed greatly to arts, sciences, charities, welfare organizations, and public service. All four of The Beatles received this accolade in 1965 for their contributions to music and entertainment.
The awarding arose mixed reactions for a pair of reasons. The first is the negative reputation rock and roll had, and the second is the negative reputation of imperialism, in particular, that of the British Empire. In addition, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were knighted for their services to music in 1997 and 2018 respectively.
The Single Live Song
Most of the songs from The Beatles originated with the Lennon-McCartney partnership, but there are plenty of great tracks that George Harrison penned. They include “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and lots of other classic tunes, but the band almost never played any of his songs live for one reason or another.
The single exception to this rule is “If I Needed Someone,” which was on their 1965 album “Rubber Soul.” He wrote the song for English model Pattie Boyd, whom he married in 1966, and then divorced in 1977.
Extra Goodies for the Album Buyers
When we say that “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” had all the song lyrics printed on the back, remember that it was issued as a vinyl record, not a little compact disc. It was the first British rock album to have the lyrics printed on the album, and pretty much every band was quick to follow in the footsteps of the fab four.
The record also had plenty of cool stuff, such as small cardboard cutouts, a portrait of Sgt. Pepper himself (he might have been real, information is spotty), a fake mustache, and lapel badges to help fans imagine themselves as members of the band. In the photo, you can see the very first sketch of the album cover made by Lennon, and presented in the Hard Rock Cafe in NY.
The Lord of the Beatles
Get this: after The Beatles found success on the big screen with their movies in the mid-1960s, they discussed the idea of filming an adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” books. It would have featured original songs and had a psychedelic feel to it. When they approached the big man himself, J.R.R. Tolkien for the rights to the trilogy, however, he shot them down and would hear no arguments.
Tolkien was quite the traditionalist and didn't like the musical trends the boys had inspired. As much as we love The Beatles, we're glad Tolkien stood his ground. We might have never seen Jackson's films if they had been successful.
They Were Musicians, Not Mountaineers
The band's eleventh studio album, “Abbey Road,” was originally going to be called “Everest.” While it wasn't the last album they would release, it was the last album they recorded, and it seems to be a fitting way to go out – on the top of the world. Then the band realized that to fulfill their creative vision they would have to fly to the Himalayas and climb up the titular mountain.
It would have taken a lot of time and resources, and it would have had some danger involved even if they didn't get near the top. They decided to go with “Abbey Road,” making things much simpler and creating an iconic album cover in the process.
A Brief Departure
During the band's recording sessions for their White Album in 1968, tensions were starting to run high. Feeling left out and overshadowed, Ringo Starr announced his departure from the band. Paul McCartney filled in as a drummer for a few songs, including “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence.”
Before long, however, the Fab Three realized that they needed Ringo's rhythms to keep them in line. They sent in a telegram asking for his return, stating that he was the best drummer in the world and that they loved him. Moved, Ringo made his way back, finding his drum kit adorned with flower decorations and the words “Welcome back, Ringo.”
Best of the Beatles
Plenty of people know Pete Best as the original drummer for the fab four, though Ringo replaced him before they released any albums. After the other three dismissed him, Pete moved to the United States to continue his music career, performing as the Pete Best Combo, a five-person band that performed classic tunes and some original songs.
The band didn't gain much success, but he did release an album named “Best of the Beatles.” It got quite a lot of attention, but fans were eventually disappointed to find out that Best had pulled a sneaky on them.
Left Off the Golden Record
In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager spacecraft, which included a “Golden Record,” which had sounds and images that portrayed the diversity of life on Earth. Why was this included? Well, NASA wanted to let any possible intelligent life know that there is – or perhaps was, if found far in the future – that there was once a planet called Earth that had some cool stuff.
Famous astronomer Carl Sagan wanted “Here Comes the Sun” to be part of the Golden Record, and The Beatles were all for it. However, EMI Studios owned the rights to the song, and for some unknown reason decided not to allow the song to be shot into space.
The Headless Drummer Bush
For eighteen months, Franco Covill, Italian sculptor, cultivated a topiary sculpture into the members of the Beatles, eventually unveiling it in 2008 at the Liverpool South Parkways Transport Exchange. You'd think that something crafted with so much thought and energy would be well-protected, but vandals ended up chopping off the head of drummer Ringo Starr, leaving the other three untouched.
Why malign the drummer, and only the drummer? Starr had recently publicly announced that he didn't miss anything about his hometown of Liverpool, which likely prompted the vandalism. The only other surviving member, Paul McCartney, seems to have enjoyed his childhood in the town.
Dad, I Saw This Movie
Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, had no idea that his dad was one of the most famous musicians in the world. The couple didn't play any of The Beatles albums at home, and so Sean remained unaware of the band's existence...up until he was over at a friend's house and watched “Yellow Submarine.”
He went home, confused as to why his pop was in the movie, and John then had to explain to his son all about The Beatles. Was that an easier or a harder talk than “The Talk”? At least Sean saw one of the good ones.
The World's Most Expensive Cinema Ticket
If you're a fan of classic comedy, no doubt the name Monty Python is familiar. From their original sketch show to “Fawlty Towers” to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” pretty much everything the group touched turned to gold. Yes, we know “Fawlty Towers” was just Cleese, it still counts.
They were having trouble finding funding for the historical comedy “Monty Python's Life of Brian.” The film would have never happened if not for George Harrison of The Beatles, who shelled out three million pounds, just because he thought the film would be funny. Thanks, George.
A Scary Attack
Long after The Beatles had gone their separate ways, George Harrison and his wife Olivia were living large in Harrison's home of Friar Park in England. The beautiful home had an unexpected guest on December thirtieth, 1999, when a thirty-four-year-old man broke into the home.
The intruder was slightly on the unstable side and ended up attacking Harrison. Harrison received numerous injuries, and Olivia Harrison attacked the attacker back. Fame and fortune may bring a lot of really good things, but it brings a lot of bad things, too.
The Mongolian Monument
Pretty much every country in the world has been touched by The Beatles in one way or another. They tend to celebrate the band somehow, and even more out-of-the-way places like Mongolia have done something for them. The monument stands near the State Department store where Mongolian youth would gather to listen to Western music and discuss wild things like Democracy.
The Communist Mongolian government had forbidden these things, and many say that The Beatles were part of the reason why Mongolia eventually changed its regime. The monument still stands in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, as a symbol of freedom.
Ever Wanted to Hear a Twenty-Seven-Minute Song?
"Helter Skelter" is one of the more famous songs by The Beatles, but not for the best reasons. While the song is about a fairground attraction, the infamous Charles Manson used the term. You probably know the song as less than five minutes long, though times vary depending on the version.
The band originally recorded a version that ran for an eye-popping twenty-seven minutes with eleven seconds on top. The song was much slower and vastly different from what would eventually end up hitting album store shelves.
Dad Comes Back
When The Beatles started to garner fame, a lot happened to all four of them. Alfred Lennon, John Lennon's father, was one of those things. Alfred was a merchant mariner during World War II who had a bad relationship with John's mother and was absent for most of John's childhood while John grew up with an aunt and uncle.
When The Beatles became the biggest band in the world, Alfred attempted to reconnect with his son. John wasn't pleased with this sudden reconnection. Alfred would later make a novelty recording to capitalize on his connection with the Fab Four which ended up being somewhat successful. On the left, nine-year-old Lenon with his mother Julia, and on the right, Alfred Lennon.
Never Meet Your Heroes
Never meet your heroes is common advice for people that are big fans, and even John Lennon had to learn this bit of information. The teenage Lennon was a big fan of Elvis Presley, wanting to enter show business just like his hero. Lennon would dress like Presley, and even comb his hair in a similar fashion.
When he made it big, manager Brian Epstein arranged for the band to meet Presley. The meeting was friendly enough, and they had a brief jam session, but Lennon thought that Elvis was disinterested in talking with them and that he wasn't very engaging as a person. Surprisingly, Presley's charisma is seen as one of his standout traits. Well, we all have bad days.
The Remarkable Consistency of Ringo
It's a shame to be Ringo. Behind the guitar chops of Harrison, the titanic songwriting of Lennon-McCartney, and the additional instrumental skills of all three, Ringo was sometimes seen as a hanger-on. Historians of The Beatles who looked over the notes from recordings made with EMI noted that the drummer was remarkably consistent when he sat at the kit.
He had very few blown takes, and his timekeeping and tempo were rock solid. Not only that, but he was a skilled live performer and was able to perform under pressure – both temporal and otherwise – while in the studio.
The Scruffy Years
When The Beatles first made it to the United States, they were clean-cut, wore sharp suits, and sported shining smiles. They had cheerful wit during interviews and won the hearts of millions around the world. Before they made it big, however, they performed at clubs in and around Liverpool as a bunch of scruffy lads.
They dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, black leather jackets. They had a much more in-your-face rock and roll attitude. They had plenty of onstage antics, such as eating food. When manager Brian Epstein joined them, he cleaned them up to make them more marketable, which definitely helped in the long run.
An Odd Sleeping Arrangement
A lot has been said about the first Beatle to leave this mortal coil, John Lennon. There are plenty of odd facts about him, such as where he slept every once in a while. According to one of their former managers, when Lennon was at the Jacaranda coffee bar, owner Allan Williams had an old, abandoned coffin on the premises.
If he ever needed a quick snooze, Lennon would nap inside the coffin. Maybe there were no other places to sleep, or maybe he preferred the coffin, but one way or another it raises eyebrows.
A Love of Cats
Cats are great but don't say that to John Lennon. He thinks they're far more than great. When he was a child he had a cat named Elvis Presley who turned out to be female when she had a litter of kittens. He didn't change the name, and when he grew up, he had far more than one cat to his name.
He was said to have owned more than a dozen cats at one time. If he wasn't famous, and a woman, he would be a classic crazy cat lady. While Lennon also owned a couple of dogs, he greatly preferred his feline friends.
Breaking Up at Disney World
To make the band's breakup official, they all had to sign some legal documents. This took years as the breakup slogged through courts, and lawyers negotiated a satisfactory agreement for all four members. Once the papers were written up and ready to sign, it was more than four years after the decision had been made: 1974.
It was going to happen at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, but Lennon never showed up. His stated reason was “the stars aren't right.” The other members signed, and ten days later John and his assistant got the papers at Disney World in Florida. Two days before the year ended, The Beatles officially ended under John's pen.
A Dentist Got Them to Use Substances
Though “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” isn't about the mind-altering substance, the band did use it. The band didn't even know they had taken it the first time. They were the guests of a dentist named John Riley, and the dentist spiked his guests' coffee with the substance after dinner without telling them.
While Riley did tell his guests that there was something in the coffee, he wouldn't tell them what. He also warned them not to leave, which the band members thought, he mean he wanted them to stay for “adult activities.”
Don't Start That Again!
If you've watched the 1967 Disney animated film “The Jungle Book,” you might have noticed that the quartet of vultures bears a striking resemblance to the fab four. The design and mannerisms were based on the members of the band, and Disney also wanted the band to voice the vultures.
Due to the work that The Beatles had ahead of them, John Lennon declined the offer, but he did suggest the film would be better off hiring Elvis Presley. Though modeled after these rock-n-rollers, the song the vultures sing is a barbershop-style song rather than a classic sixties-style song.
At the Top of the Charts
With a total of a hundred and thirty-two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, The Beatles are in a league of their own. It's by far the most of any artist, and we guess we shouldn't be surprised. Who could possibly defeat them? Michael Jackson? Whitney Houston? It turns out the second most is Garth Brooks, with a mere fifty-two weeks. Hey, that's still a whole year.
They've also had a total of twenty-one number one hits on the Billboard 100 in the United States, also the most of any artist. They also had seventeen number one hits in the United Kingdom.
Weird and Wild Merchandise
As the most famous people in the world, you can bet there were plenty of ways to support The Beatles that weren't their albums. There were shirts, wigs, hats, branded instruments, board games, ice cream bars, wallpaper, bed sheets, and pillowcases. Nowadays you can find pretty much anything you want with The Beatles' name on it.
Kaboodle Kits (kind of like a lunchbox), Paul and Linda McCartney Animatronic Caricature Heads, costumes, rings, party cake decorations, nylon stockings, hairspray, ice cube trays, salt and pepper shakers, CD players, wooden nesting dolls, and far, far more have graced store shelves and fan collections.