Beatlemania in the United Kingdom
|History of the Beatles|
The phenomenon known as Beatlemania originated in the United Kingdom, birthplace of the Beatles, when the band first realised enormous popularity there in 1963. Returning in 1962 from a highly formative two-year residency in Germany, the Beatles achieved a commercial breakthrough with their second UK single release, "Please Please Me" early in 1963, but gained "Superstar" status with the release of "She Loves You" later that year. There followed an almost non-stop series of concerts and tours, attended with feverish enthusiasm across the UK, for the whole of the following year. The Beatles' popularity in the UK came to exceed even that of the notable American artists Tommy Roe, Chris Montez and Roy Orbison, whose UK chart success at the time did not keep them from being overshadowed by the Beatles during their 1963 nationwide tours with the lower-billed band — an achievement previously unknown for a UK act.
With intense media interest in the Beatles during 1963, the year was also taken up with TV shows, press interviews and a weekly radio show. Despite these demands the band found time for many sessions in the recording studio, releasing two albums and four singles during the year. 1963 was also the year when Lennon's son Julian was born.
By the end of 1963, Beatlemania would begin to spread internationally. The single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" entered the US charts on 18 January 1964, selling one-and-a-half million copies in under three weeks, and the following month the Beatles made their first visit to America. The great interest in the Beatles brought about a major change in US attitudes to popular music and marked the start of the phenomenon known as the British Invasion.
- 1 Background
- 2 Please Please Me: the breakthrough
- 3 1963: a year of touring
- 4 Reputation and image
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Return from Hamburg and the Cavern Club
Following the Beatles' Hamburg period, the band had returned from Germany to the UK and were playing regularly at the Cavern Club. Their new manager, Brian Epstein, had made efforts to smarten the band up, encouraging them to wear suits instead of jeans and leather jackets, and to refrain from swearing, smoking, drinking or eating onstage, or stopping and starting songs when they felt like it: Epstein had seen the band's potential and was attempting to transform the Beatles into a serious commercial proposition. He had started to approach record companies, but this had not led to any interest in the band.
After failing to impress a number of record companies, most recently at the Decca audition, Epstein went to the HMV store on Oxford Street in London to transfer the Decca tapes to discs. There, recording engineer Jim Foy referred him to Sid Coleman, who ran EMI's publishing arm. Epstein eventually met with EMI's George Martin, who signed the group to the Parlophone label on a one-year renewable contract. The Beatles' first recording session was scheduled for 6 June 1962 at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in north London. Martin had not been particularly impressed by the band's demo recordings, but he liked the Beatles' personalities when he met them. He concluded that they had raw musical talent, but stated in later interviews that what made the difference for him was their wit and humour. The Beatles' recording contract paid the band a penny for each single sold, which was split amongst the four Beatles—one farthing per group member. This royalty rate was reduced for sales outside the UK, for which they received a halfpenny per single (again split between the whole band). Martin said later that it was a "pretty awful" contract.
Change of drummer
Martin was critical of Pete Best who, according to Martin, was not able to keep time. Martin privately suggested to Epstein that the band use another drummer in the studio. There was speculation by some that Best's popularity with fans was another source of friction. In addition, Epstein became exasperated that Best would not adopt the distinctive Beatle haircut as part of the band's unified look (although according to Astrid Kirchherr, who was instrumental in originally creating the hairstyle, he had "really curly hair and it wouldn't work"). Best had also missed a number of engagements because of illness. The three founding members of the band asked Epstein to dismiss Best, which he did on 16 August 1962. They asked Richard Starkey, known as Ringo Starr, to join the band; Starr was the drummer for one of the top Merseybeat groups, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and had performed occasionally with the Beatles in Hamburg.
The first recordings of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr together had been made as early as 15 October 1960 in a series of demonstration records privately recorded in Hamburg while the four were acting as the backing group for singer Lu Walters. Starr played on the Beatles' second EMI recording session on 4 September 1962, but Martin hired session drummer Andy White for their next session on 11 September. White's only released performances were recordings of "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You", found on the Beatles' first album.
Minor commercial success and first TV appearance
The Beatles' first EMI session on 6 June 1962 did not yield any recordings considered worthy of release, but "Love Me Do" from the September sessions produced a minor UK hit which peaked on the charts at No. 17. "Love Me Do" would reach the top of the US singles chart over eighteen months later in May 1964. The band's first televised performance was on the People and Places programme, transmitted live from Manchester by Granada Television on 17 October 1962.
Please Please Me: the breakthrough
On 26 November 1962, the Beatles recorded their second single, "Please Please Me". At the start of the recording session, George Martin attempted to persuade them to record a different song instead ("How Do You Do It", subsequently a hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers). Martin liked the song and felt the Beatles could have a big hit with it. The Beatles, however, did not like it and, furthermore, they wanted to record their own compositions. They became uncooperative, as they had done at an earlier session when Martin had tried to use the song, so Martin finally abandoned the idea and "Please Please Me" was recorded instead. The single, released in the UK in January 1963, reached No. 2 on the UK chart of Record Retailer, now considered the most authoritative of the era, and No. 1 on both the NME and Melody Maker charts. Three months after recording "Please Please Me", the Beatles would record their first album, also titled Please Please Me, which was released in the UK in March 1963.
1963: a year of touring
With the runaway success of the single "Please Please Me", the Beatles found themselves in huge demand for the whole of 1963. They appeared on ABC TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars show on 11 January (televised 19 January) and recorded for the BBCs Here We Go on 16 January and the BBC's Saturday Club and Talent Spot on 22 January. As well as completing four nationwide tours in 1963, they performed at a great many one-off shows across the UK throughout the year, often finishing one show only to travel straight to the next show in another location—sometimes even to perform again the same day. Two of the nationwide tours were led by popular American stars, but at every show during both tours, the crowds would not stop screaming for the Beatles, who proved even more popular than the American stars. Souvenir programmes were hastily reprinted in response, to show the Beatles as the tour leaders. While pleased with the positive reception, the Beatles were also embarrassed for the American performers, as it had never before happened that a UK act had topped an American act at a UK concert.
In addition to the four nationwide tours and all the other concerts, what little time remained was taken up with TV shows, press interviews, and recording sessions for the singles and albums released that year. The Beatles also had a weekly radio show. The music papers were full of stories about the Beatles, and magazines for teenage girls regularly contained interviews with the band members, colour posters and other Beatle-related articles. The intense public interest in the Beatles, coupled with Epstein's demanding schedule, ensured that they had no time for family matters. Lennon's August 1962 marriage to Cynthia Powell was kept from public view as a closely guarded secret. When Lennon's son Julian was born on 8 April 1963, Lennon, visiting the hospital to see his wife and meet his new son for the first time, attempted to disguise himself to prevent people in the hospital from recognising him. Lennon's attempt to keep the secret was not successful as other patients could see it was him. After the hospital visit, Epstein's schedule prevailed once more.
From April to October 1963, when the Beatles starred on Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, the UK's top variety show, the band had two further UK hit singles, "From Me to You" and "She Loves You", each successively building the excitement of Britain's teenagers. The Beatles' performance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium was televised live and watched by 15 million viewers. One national paper's headlines in the days following finally gave the phenomenal and increasingly hysterical nationwide interest in the Beatles a name, one which from that day on would be adopted universally: "Beatlemania".
On 7 December 1963, the Beatles appeared on the BBC's pop show Juke Box Jury, where new pop records were played and commented on by a selected panel of guests. It was filmed on stage at the Liverpool Empire Theatre and hosted by presenter David Jacobs.
February 1963: first nationwide tour
On 2 February 1963, The Beatles opened their first nationwide tour at a show in Bradford, featuring Helen Shapiro, Danny Williams, Kenny Lynch, Kestrels, and the Red Price Orchestra. Heading the tour bill was the 16-year-old Shapiro, followed by the other five acts, the last of which was The Beatles. The band used the nationwide tour as an opportunity to generate further interest in "Please Please Me", and the song was regularly included in their performances throughout the tour. The Beatles, though lowest on the bill, were immensely popular during the tour, as Gordon Sampson, a journalist with the tour, observed. His report did not include the word "Beatlemania"; the term would not be coined until some months later, but the phenomenon was evident, with Sampson writing that "a great reception went to the colourfully dressed Beatles, who almost stole the show, for the audience repeatedly called for them while other artists were performing!". The first tour had a duration of four weeks, and ended on 3 March 1963.
March 1963: second nationwide tour
For The Beatles' second nationwide tour, which began on 9 March 1963 at the Granada Cinema in London, the group appeared on a bill headed by the American stars Tommy Roe and Chris Montez. Both US artists had already firmly established themselves in the UK singles charts: Montez's "Let's Dance" had reached #2 four months earlier in October 1962, and another top 10 hit, "Some Kinda Fun", had recently followed; likewise Roe's "Sheila" had reached #3 five months previously in September 1962, and his new single, "The Folk Singer", would enter the charts during the tour, going on to reach #4. Throughout the tour, however, the crowds screamed and screamed for The Beatles, and for the first time in UK history, the American stars were less popular than a UK act. While enjoying the overwhelming display of enthusiasm for them, The Beatles also felt embarrassment for the American performers at this unexpected turn of events, which persisted at every show from the first day to the last. The second tour had a duration of three weeks, and ended on 31 March 1963.
May 1963: third nationwide tour
The Beatles began their third nationwide tour on 18 May 1963, the bill this time headed by Roy Orbison. Orbison had established even greater UK chart success than either Montez or Roe, with eight previous chart entries of his own—four of them entering the top 10, including the #2 "Dream Baby" and the #1 "Only the Lonely"—and was about to achieve his next top 10 entry with "Falling", which entered the charts during the tour. However, at the tour's opening show, staged at the Adelphi Cinema, Slough, the American star proved less popular than The Beatles, just as had happened with Roe and Montez throughout the previous nationwide tour. As events unfolded it became obvious this was not going to change, and a week into the tour the covers of the souvenir programs were reprinted to place The Beatles above Roy Orbison. Despite The Beatles' ascent to the top of the bill, Starr was impressed with the response Orbison still commanded. Starr recalled, "We would be backstage, listening to the tremendous applause he was getting. He was just doing it by his voice. Just standing there singing, not moving or anything." The third tour had a duration of three weeks, and ended on 9 June 1963.
Publicist Tony Barrow saw Beatlemania as beginning with the band's TV appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium on October 13, 1963, at which point he no longer had to contact the press but had the press contacting him instead.
November 1963: fourth nationwide tour
On 1 November 1963, The Beatles began their fourth and final nationwide tour of 1963. Tour stops this time included Dublin and Belfast. Three days before the tour started, the band, returning from a five-day Swedish tour, were greeted at Heathrow Airport in heavy rain by thousands of screaming fans, 50 journalists and photographers, and a BBC TV camera crew. The wild scenes at the airport caused the British Prime Minister, being chauffeured in the vicinity, to be delayed, his car obstructed by the crowds. Meanwhile, the current Miss World, passing through the airport herself, was completely ignored by journalists and public alike, and when the American TV presenter Ed Sullivan, numbered among those held up at Heathrow, was told the reason for the delay, he asked, "Who the hell are The Beatles?". Not long after, there would be similar scenes at an airport in Sullivan's own country, when the Beatles' arrived there for the first time, and he would himself introduce the band to the American nation on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by 73 million viewers.
On the tour's opening night at the Odeon in Cheltenham, the volume of sound created by the screaming crowds was so great that The Beatles' amplification equipment proved unequal to it, so much so that the band members were unable to hear any sounds they were making themselves, whether speaking, singing, or playing their instruments. As a result, they were unable to count songs in or perform in unison.
The tour produced much the same reaction from those attending as the previous three had done, with a fervent, riotous response from fans everywhere the band went. Police attempting to control the crowds employed high-pressure water hoses, and the safety of the police became a matter of national concern, provoking controversial discussions in Parliament over the thousands of police officers putting themselves at risk to protect the Beatles. During a break in the tour, the Beatles sang before Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the Royal Variety Performance on 4 November, sharing the bill with Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier. Harrison said at the time: "I don't want to sound ungrateful, but why are the Beatles on the same stage as a mass of show business greats?... We're just four normal folk who have had a couple of hit records." The fourth and final nationwide tour of 1963 had a duration of six weeks, and ended on 13 December 1963.
Reputation and image
In 1963 the Beatles were prominent in the public eye with the sweeping phenomenon of Beatlemania but, in addition, the Beatles' music was beginning to attract the attention of serious critics. On 23 December 1963, The Times music critic William Mann published an essay extolling the Beatles' compositions, including their "fresh and euphonious" guitars in "Till There Was You", their "submediant switches from C major into A flat major", and the "octave ascent" in "I Want to Hold Your Hand". The Beatles themselves were perplexed by one analysis by Mann: "...one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat-submediant key-switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of "Not a Second Time" (the chord progression which ends Mahler's "Song of the Earth")."
That year, The Beatles' iconic logo (referred to as the "drop-T" logo) made its debut. Epstein and Starr visited Drum City, one of Ivor Arbiter's stores in Shaftesbury Avenue, to purchase a new drum kit. Epstein asked for the band name to appear on the bass drum. Arbiter designed a logo with an extended "T" emphasising the word "Beat". Drum City was paid £5 for the design, which Arbiter sketched on a scrap of paper to be painted on the drum by a local sign-writer.
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