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The Beatles wait, January 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago in January 1962, British popular music crept toward the brink of success. Notably, the coming months would see Britain’s Decca Records release the UK’s first international rock hit Telstar created by the quirky iconoclast Joe Meek with his studio band the Tornados. That recording declared Meek’s infatuation with the first telecommunications satellite and proved that London’s recording industry had the potential to compete in the United States.

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The Beatles and “She Loves You”: 23 August 1963

By Gordon R. Thompson
As the summer of 1963 drew to a close and students prepared to return to school, the Beatles released what may have been their most successful single. “She Loves You” would top the British charts twice that year, remain near the top for months, and help to launch the band into the American consciousness.

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The Beatles at EMI, September 1962

By Gordon R. Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles entered EMI’s recording studios on Abbey Road for their first official recording session. Their June visit had gained them a recording contract, but had cost Pete Best his position when artist-and-repertoire manager George Martin winced at the drummer’s timing. With little ceremony, Lennon, McCartney, and especially Harrison recruited the best drummer in Liverpool — a mate who sometimes subbed for Best — and left the firing of Best to manager Brian Epstein. Thus, Ringo Starr ascended to the drummer’s throne.

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The Beatles and “My Bonnie”: 23 June 1961

By Gordon Thompson
To many adolescents fifty years ago, the future seemed bleak: the “King” had become preoccupied with refurbished Italian schmaltz while the world drew closer to Armageddon. But hope buzzed in the heart of an ungrounded amplifier in a West German high school.

Goodwill had floundered between the recently elected American president, John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union’s premier, Nikita Khrushchev over the Soviet blockade of Berlin and America’s support of the failed

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The Beatles’ first visit to EMI, part 1

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, the Beatles recorded for the first time in a building that would eventually bear the name of their last venture. On Wednesday, 6 June 1962, the most important rock band of the twentieth century auditioned at the EMI Recording Studios in Abbey Road, London.

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“What Brings Mr. Epstein Here?” 9 November 1961

By Gordon Thompson
The transformation of the Beatles from four musicians with humble roots into British cultural icons (second only to Shakespeare in some minds) began in Liverpool, even if a recent decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office may attempt to shape how we remember those roots in the future. Ironically, that decision comes shortly before a relevant anniversary in Beatles history.

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“Tomorrow Never Knows”: The Beatles sample the future, April 1966

By Gordon Thompson

Forty-five years ago, at the beginning of April 1966, on the almost anniversary of a London dentist surreptitiously spiking his and George Harrison’s coffees with Lysergic acid diethylamide, John Lennon visited Barry Miles’ Indica Books and picked up a copy of Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In its pseudo-mystical prose, Lennon found partial inspiration for one of the most audacious recordings the Beatles would ever attempt.

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“The Start of a Solo Career”: Paul McCartney, 10 April 1970

By Gordon Thompson


Even in the storm’s dawning, both fans and defamers alike recognized magic in the Beatles’ ability to collaborate and to adapt in pursuit of a shared vision, and at the heart of this quest lay the desire to make great recordings. In the beginning of their career with EMI, their willingness to subvert their individual identities to a common cause (and the joy with which they did so) contributed to their success. In the

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The Beatles record “From Me to You,” Tuesday 5 March 1963

With Northern Songs (their publishing company) established, the Beatles needed a song for their next single and, flushed with the success of “Please Please Me” and the emerging ecstasy at their performances, they again brought together elements from different songs in their repertoire to create something new and fresh. George Martin scheduled a recording session for Tuesday 5 March, towards the end of their first national tour when they served as a warm-up act to British singer Helen Shapiro.

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Charting success: The Beatles, December 1962

The Beatles were unlikely successes on London’s record charts in December 1962. Northerners with schoolboy haircuts who wrote and performed their own songs, their first record “Love Me Do” had risen slowly up British charts, despite lack of significant promotion by their publisher and record company, and without an appearance on national television.

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The Beatles, Orientalism, and Help!

By Gordon Thompson
At the July 29, 1965 premiere of the Beatles’ second film, Help!, most viewers understood the farce as a send-up of British flicks that played on the exoticism of India, while at the same time spoofing the popularity of James Bond. Parallel with this cinematic escapism, a post-colonial discourse began that questioned how colonial powers justified their economic exploitation of the world. Eventually, Edward Said’s Orientalism would describe the purpose of this objectification as “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (1978: 3). In effect, Said and others argued that portrayals of the non-Western other

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Brian Epstein transforms the Beatles, December 1961

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago in December 1961, Brian Epstein made a leap of faith that he could change his life and the lives of four young musicians. He could not foresee that he would change Western civilization. A few weeks earlier, the Liverpool businessman had heard the din of the Beatles in a claustrophobic former vegetable cellar and had seized upon the idea of transforming the band into something the world could embrace. He seems to have had few second thoughts about his decision, even as he allowed that he might fail.

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Brian Epstein and the quest for a contract

By Gordon Thompson
On a cold winter’s day in early 1962, Brian Epstein and the Beatles huddled together contemplating their failed bid for a Decca recording contract and the bitter aftertaste of rejection that left emptiness in their stomachs. But hunger can feed ambition. Disappointments would ensue, but almost immediately Epstein would be the proverbial right man in the right place at the right time and meet a string of people who were looking for something not quite exactly unlike the Beatles.

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