On Friday, 19 May 1967, British newspapers carried the announcement that the British Broadcasting Corporation had chosen the Beatles to represent the UK in the first global television broadcast.
George Martin’s contributions to the way we hear music today are incalculable. Many describe him as the “fifth Beatle,” and his work with those musicians certainly warrants recognition, but his contributions to recorded sound in the twentieth century go far beyond that epithet. In an era when record company marketing lauded hyperbolic praise on stars and some producers presented themselves as supreme geniuses, George Martin maintained a relatively discreet presence.
Every major news source last week carried news of Andy White’s death at 85. The Guardian’s “Early Beatles Drummer Andy White Dies at 85” represents a typical article title intended to attract readers albeit with misinformation that suggests that a particular two-minute-and-twenty-second episode from his life should be why we remember him.
The popular music industries of the 1960s produced thousands of recordings with each studio relying on an infrastructure of producers, engineers, music directors, songwriters, and, of course, musicians. In recent years, documentaries have introduced us to instrumentalists and singers who formed the artistic backbones of America’s major studios.
Fifty years ago during their North American tour, The Beatles played to the largest audience in their career against the backdrop of a nation shattering along economic, ethnic, and political lines. Although on the surface the events of August 1965 would seem unconnected, they nevertheless illustrate how the world was changing and how music reflected that chaotic cultural evolution.
Fifty years ago, at the height of the British Invasion, The Yardbirds released “Heart Full of Soul” (28 May 1965) and The Kinks, “See My Friends” (30 July 1965). Both attempted to evoke something exotic, mysterious, and distinctly different from the flood of productions competing for consumer attention that summer. Drawing on Britain’s long fascination with “The Orient,” these recordings started sixties British pop down a path that proved both rewarding and problematic.
In the spring of 1965, The Rolling Stones could be forgiven their frustration. Even though they had scored three number-one UK hits in the past year, the American market remained a challenge. Beatles recordings had already thrice dominated the US charts since New Year’s Day and Brits Petula Clark, Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, and Freddie and the Dreamers had all topped Billboard between January and May.
In the opening months of 1964, The Beatles turned the American popular music world on its head, racking up hits and opening the door for other British musicians. Lennon and McCartney demonstrated that—in the footsteps of Americans like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry—British performers could be successful songwriters too.
By Gordon R. Thompson
Fifty years ago, a wave of British performers began showing up on The Ed Sullivan Show following the dramatic and game-changing appearances by The Beatles.
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.
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.
Songwriting had gained the Beatles entry into EMI’s studios and songwriting would distinguish them from most other British performers in 1963. Sid Colman at publishers Ardmore and Beechwood had been the first to sense a latent talent, bringing them to the attention of George Martin at Parlophone. Martin in turn had recommended Dick James as a more ambitious exploiter of their potential catalogue.
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.
The Beatles’ dream of releasing a record came to fruition fifty years ago today when Parlophone issued the band’s first disc, “Love Me Do.” That night, EMI played the song on its own London-produced weekly radio program Friday Spectacular, broadcast on Radio Luxembourg. In the Beatles’ Anthology, George Harrison recalled that, “First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over.
Many describe the 1964 arrival of the Beatles in New York as the beginning of the “British Invasion,” but UK rock and pop had begun culturally infiltrating our consciousness much earlier. Indeed, a London instrumental group topped American charts in the fall of 1962 with a recording that celebrated the first telecommunications satellite. Launched from Cape Canaveral on 10 July,
Forty-five years ago, in the spring of 1966, as swinging London and its colorful denizens attracted the attention of ‘Time’, the publishers of an American teen magazine found part of a recent interview with John Lennon to be of particular interest. A rapid disintegration ensued of the complex identity that the Beatles management, the media, the fans, and even the musicians themselves had constructed, setting in motion a number of dark forces.