The Beatles were a group of four musicians that epitomised the popular culture of Britain and the postwar baby boom generation, indeed much of the English speaking world during the 1960s and early 1970s. The members of the group were: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), all from Liverpool, England.
Originally a high energy pop band (typified by the early singles "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me"), as they progressed their style became more sophisticated, influenced in equal measure by Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry. Their popularity was also aided by their attractive looks, distinctive personalities (a largely accidental echo of later boy bands in which members were selected for their ability to project a particular personality and image), and natural charisma, particularly on television. At the height of their fame in the mid-sixties, bolstered by the two films Help! and A Hard Days Night, the band discontinued touring. The increasingly sophisticated arrangements of their songs were difficult to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans. A backlash by conservative religious groups occurred in the United States and other countries after John Lennon described the band as "more popular than Jesus". Radio stations banned the groups recordings and the albums and other products were burned and destroyed.
By 1966 the influence of the peace movement, psychedelic drugs and the studio technique of producer George Martin resulted in the albums /Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, still widely regarded as classics. Particularly notable, along with the use of studio tricks such as sound processing, unconventional microphone placements, and vari-speed recording, was the Beatles' use of unconventional instruments for pop music, including string and brass elements, Indian instruments such as the sitar, and early electronic instruments. By then, the stress of their fame was beginning to tell and the band was on the verge of splitting by the release of /The White Album with some tracks recorded by the band members individually, and Starr taking a two week holiday in the middle of the recording session. By 1970 the band had split, with each of the members going on to solo careers with varying degrees of success.
The Beatles also had a limited film career with 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964) Directed by the up and coming American Richard Lester, it was a gritty black and white documentary like account of a short period in the life of a rock and roll band. In 1965 came 'Help', a technicolor extravaganza shot in exotic locations with a thin, if not almost transparent plot regarding Ringo's finger! The critically slammed 'Magical Mystery Tour', (the concept of which was adapted from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters bus tour of the USA), was aired on Btitish television in 1967, but is now condidered a cult classic. The animated 'Yellow Submarine' followed shortly after, but had little input from the Beatles themselves (for instance, the voices of the characters in the movie were not those of the Beatles). Finally, the documentary of a band in terminal decline, 'Let It Be' was shot over an extended period in 1969 - the music from this formed the album of the same name, which although recorded before Abbey Road, was (after much contractual to-ing and fro-ing) the final release.
Originally signed to Parlophone/EMI in the UK, the Beatles (UK) official studio albums (not including compilations and the like) were:
Of note: The earlier Beatles vinyl albums should be considered based on where they were released:
Also note: The early Beatles albums were originally released as monaural recordings. They were later remastered as artificial stereo with vocals on one side and music on the other side, much to the disgust of fans. Early CD printings of their albums are in this artificial stereo, though later printings restored the original mono.