The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. Their best-known lineup, consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, became the greatest and most influential act of the rock era,
introducing more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century.Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later utilized several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania", but as their songwriting grew in sophistication, they came to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era's sociocultural revolutions.
The band built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first modest hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. They acquired the nickname the "Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. From 1965 on, the Beatles produced what many critics consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968), and Abbey Road (1969). After their break-up in 1970, they each enjoyed successful musical careers. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active.
The Beatles have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. According to the RIAA, they are the best-selling band in the United States, with 177 million certified units. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful "Hot 100" artists. As of 2013, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with 20. They have received 7 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and 15 Ivor Novello Awards. Collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people, the Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with EMI Records estimating sales of over one billion units. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beatles as the best artist of all-time.
1957–62: formation, Hamburg, and UK popularityIn March 1957, John Lennon, then aged sixteen, formed a skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank school. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that a respected local group was already using the other name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the band. The fourteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young to join. After a month of Harrison's persistence, they enlisted him as their lead guitarist. By January 1959, Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and purchased a bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band's name to Beatals as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name through May, when they became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they changed their name to the Silver Beatles and by the middle of August to the Beatles.
Their lack of a full-time drummer posed a problem when the group's unofficial manager, Allan Williams, arranged a resident band booking for them in Hamburg, Germany, so in mid-August they auditioned and hired Pete Best. The band, now a five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be a 3½-month residency. Beatles' historian Mark Lewisohn wrote, "They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on 17 August, the time when the red-light area comes to life ... flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unabashed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities".
Koschmider had converted a couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, and he initially placed the group at the Indra Club. After closing the Indra due to noise complaints, he moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned they had been performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of their contract, he gave the band one month's termination notice, and reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age.The authorities arranged for Harrison's deportation in late November. One week later, Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after they set fire to a tapestry on the wall in their room; the authorities deported them. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg through late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles.
During the next two years, the Beatles were resident for periods in Hamburg, where they used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. In 1961, during their second Hamburg engagement, Kirchherr cut Sutcliffe's hair in the "exi" (existentialist) style, later adopted by the other Beatles. When Sutcliffe decided to leave the band early that year and resume his art studies in Germany, McCartney took up the bass. Producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now a four-piece group through June 1962, and he used them as Tony Sheridan's backing band on a series of recordings.
After completing their second Hamburg residency, the band enjoyed increasing popularity in Liverpool, particularly in Merseyside, with the growing Merseybeat movement. However, they were also growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November, during one of the group's frequent appearances at the Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record store owner and music columnist. He later recalled, "I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence ... [a] star quality." Epstein courted the band over the next couple of months, and they appointed him manager in January 1962. After an early February audition, Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein."Tragedy greeted them upon their return to Germany in April, when a distraught Kirchherr met them at the airport with news of Sutcliffe's death the previous day from what would later be determined a brain haemorrhage. The following month, George Martin signed the Beatles to EMI's