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Book Summary: The Beatles Anthology – An Unprecedented Look at the Most Influential Band of All Time

The Beatles Anthology (2000) is the story of the Beatles, told in their own words. Through original and archive interviews, the band and those closest to them recount the tale of their spectacular and influential career.

Book Summary: The Beatles Anthology - An Unprecedented Look at the Most Influential Band of All Time

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction: Discover the Beatles’ epic career from the band’s perspective.
Chapter 1. Boys
Chapter 2. Hamburg
Chapter 3. 1963
Chapter 4. 1964
Chapter 5. 1965
Chapter 6. 1966
Chapter 7. 1967
Chapter 8. 1968
Chapter 9. 1969 (side A)
Chapter 10. The end
Epilogue
Overview

Genres

Biography, Memoir, Society, Culture, Arts and Photography, Music, The Beatles, Rock Band Biographies, Rock Music, History, Autobiography, Pop Culture

Introduction: Discover the Beatles’ epic career from the band’s perspective.

I want to tell you about the Beatles.

Not just the familiar story, though, with the funny haircuts and classic album covers. I want to tell you the inside track – the Beatles according to the Beatles.

I want to tell you the story of the three Liverpool lads who all played the same instrument, and disappointed a stripper because of their musical illiteracy. I want to tell you the story of the band that ate themselves silly whenever they scored a hit. I want to tell you the story of the band who watched themselves fail to turn up to lunch with the Filipino first family.

And in this summary – I will.

The Beatles Anthology was actually a multimedia project between 1995 and 2000. There was a television documentary series, three compilation albums, and a book which is essentially an autobiography of the band. It’s made up of detailed interview material from Paul, George, and Ringo, compiled quotations from John (who died in 1980), contributions from the other key people involved, and lots of archive photography.

This summary which gives you a glimpse inside the world of the Beatles, as revealed in the Anthology – not just a day in the life, but the full decade they were together. So as well as a whistle-stop, magical mystery tour through the landmark moments in the band’s career, you’ll get the inside track.

Will I cover everything? Not a chance. But hey, we’re all doing what we can.

Oh, and also – you might spot the odd allusion to Beatles songs and song lyrics, too. If you don’t recognize them all – well, your mother should know.

So let’s get started with this summary of The Beatles Anthology – from me to you.

In this summary, you’ll learn

  • how the band grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool;
  • where the title “A Hard Day’s Night” came from; and
  • why Ringo learned to play chess in the recording studio.

Chapter 1. Boys

John Lennon’s first memories come from a three-bedroom red-brick house on Newcastle Road, in a Liverpool suburb called Penny Lane. But his parents split when he was four, and John moved to a wealthier part of town to live with his Aunt Mimi.

A trendy young boy, always the ringleader, he would lark about with his friends and sell lemonade in Strawberry Field, around the corner. Then he discovered rock’n’roll, guitars, and girls. As he got older, he reconnected with his mother, Julia – but tragically, she was killed in a drunk-driving accident when John was 17.

Losing his mother was a bond he shared with Paul McCartney, who was 14 when his mum died of cancer. His family was poorer than John’s, but warmer – and more musical, especially his dad, a trumpeter who passed on his love of brass bands and piano music.

With a little help from a mutual friend, Ivan, Paul met John one day at a local fair, and Paul impressed enough to get into John’s group, the Quarry Men – even though he was playing his guitar upside down. But Paul found he got stage fright when he tried a solo, so he roped in a kid he got the school bus with, George Harrison.

George was from a similar background to Paul – his dad was a bus driver and former seaman – but he was in the school year below; nine months younger than Paul and more than two years younger than John. But there was something in the way he played guitar – he was obsessed with them – so he too joined the Quarry Men.

There were other band members in those days, but when the musically gifted trio of John, Paul, and George came together, it felt good. There was just one problem: they were all guitarists.

Chapter 2. Hamburg

John had started art college in 1957 – you might say he was a dreamer – and he roped his college pal Stuart Sutcliffe into the band. Stuart wasn’t much of a musician, but he did buy a bass guitar, which was pretty much all you needed.

Oh, and they weren’t the Quarry Men anymore – John and Stuart came up with the Beatles – after Buddy Holly and the Crickets, plus a pun on “beat” music.

The Beatles weren’t great in those days. But they got a few gigs. One was in a strip club, where they embarrassed themselves: the stripper handed them some sheet music to play, but they couldn’t read it.

They got a lucky break in 1960. A promoter from Hamburg, Germany, had had some success with a Liverpool act called Derry and the Seniors. So he decided to take a gamble on another Liverpool band – the Beatles. In a flash, they forgot about their exams and apprenticeships. The Beatles were leaving home.

But they still didn’t have a drummer. Fortunately, George knew this boy called Pete Best who’d got a drum kit for Christmas. He’d do, they thought.

In the years after, the band would say Hamburg was where they truly grew up – both musically and in their lives. Postwar Hamburg, a progressive city, was a paradise of drink and debauchery for the young lads. George, still just 17, lost his virginity in their shared bedroom; John, Paul, and Pete applauded.

They also honed their act. They had to play long, long, long hours at their club, and cycling through the same material again and again was how they learned to play together properly. They were getting better all the time.

Oh, and they met another band from Liverpool – Rory Storm and the Hurricanes – whose drummer, Richard or Ringo or something, was quite keen on the Beatles. He used to hang around and watch them play.

Chapter 3. 1963

By 1963, the Beatles’ lives had changed, in oh, so many ways.

Stuart, for starters, had left the band. He tragically died in 1962.

But there was happier news too. Brian Epstein, a record shop owner and aspiring band manager, had taken a gamble and signed them in late 1961, and through him, the Beatles signed with a Parlophone producer called George Martin.

On his insistence, they’d replaced their drummer, Pete Best. The man they wanted instead was the best in Liverpool – that Ringo guy from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

Through Epstein, the Beatles had also got some decent tours under their belt, playing with the likes of Roy Orbison and Little Richard. And to cap it all off, in October 1962 the group had scored their first hit: “Love Me Do.” Penned by John and Paul (although mainly Paul), it reached number 17 in the charts.

But it wouldn’t be long until 1963 brought even more. In February, “Please Please Me” – a John song – made it all the way to number one on the NME chart. And after that – well, they really got a hold on the UK charts.

In those early days, Ringo remembers they’d get so excited whenever they scored a hit that they’d get a celebratory dinner – and you can see their waistlines expand through the early photographs.

They made two albums in 1963 – Please Please Me and With the Beatles – and moved to London for convenience. They didn’t quite shake off their northern roots, though. George’s mum would conscientiously answer every piece of fan mail he received.

Things were going phenomenally well for the Fab Four. But they were going to get even bigger.

Chapter 4. 1964

Every little thing the Beatles were doing was turning to magic in the UK. But the States? That was a whole different matter – until 1964.

The Beatles were on tour in Paris when Brian Epstein got the telegram from Capitol Records, which had agreed to promote the band in the US. Brian came running into the Beatles’ room with an amazing piece of news. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had got to number one in the US!

1964 was the year that Beatlemania went global. When they landed in the US for their first tour there, they were met by a crowd of screaming fans. Seventy-three million people tuned in to see them on The Ed Sullivan Show. They were truly huge – a phenomenon.

In June, the band went on a world tour, with John’s Aunt Mimi joining them for a while in Australia. They’d already gained a curious, disconcerting kind of cult status. People with a disability would be taken backstage to meet them – as if just a touch from a Beatle would heal them.

Somehow, among all the chaos, they managed to get another two albums out in 1964 – the first of which accompanied their very first film. A Hard Day’s Night, named after a phrase Ringo said once by mistake was a fast-paced, witty movie that became a major hit. When they got home to Liverpool for the local premiere, the streets they’d grown up in were lined with adoring fans, just hoping for a glimpse.

George’s recollection was that the rest of the world had gone mad – but the Beatles had stayed normal.

Back to the States, and an even bigger tour, including the Hollywood Bowl, where they couldn’t hear themselves over the screaming. Back to the UK to make Beatles for Sale and score a few more hits.

They really were working like dogs – eight days a week.

Chapter 5. 1965

Movie number two was soon in the works. John wrote the title song. It sounds at first like a standard upbeat rock’n’roll number – but in fact, John later said, it really was a cry for “Help!”

This was what John would call his “fat Elvis period.” All this success was fabulous, but hard to manage: they were constantly touring or recording, and he was depressed.

Paul’s most famous number from the album Help! is rather somber, too: “Yesterday,” with its tasteful string quartet arranged by George Martin, a true sign of how much the lads had matured as songwriters.

But it wasn’t all misery in 1965 – there was a lot of giggling as well. The year before, Bob Dylan – a hero of theirs – had introduced them to cannabis, and they’d developed something of a taste for it. George and John, moreover, had been tricked into taking LSD by a dentist. It was a life-changing experience.

They also got a ticket to ride back to the States, this time to play the biggest venues available – including the legendary gig at Shea Stadium, New York, to 55,000 screaming fans.

Unbelievably enough, they returned to the studio in October and laid down their most accomplished album yet: Rubber Soul. This was an album – as the strange, distorted faces on the cover suggest – that showed their interests shifting to more mature, and maybe more experimental, material.

John said that “In My Life” marked his maturity as a songwriter; Paul contributed the ethereal classic “Michelle;” and George wrote not one but two numbers for the first time. He also played an intriguing new instrument on John’s “Norwegian Wood” – the sitar.

George had become fascinated by Indian music and culture and was keen to explore it further. But with all that touring to do, when would there be time?

Chapter 6. 1966

Having been here, there and everywhere for years now, 1966 began with some much-needed downtime. They’d just done what turned out to be their last ever UK tour, so took a few months off to regroup and soak in some of the amazing cultural changes that were happening all around them.

But they were, you might say, only sleeping. In April they were back in the studio – with big ideas.

John would later say Rubber Soul was the Beatles’ pot album – and Revolver their acid album, most of all thanks to the concluding number, “Tomorrow Never Knows.” This was inspired by both LSD and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Though it’s very much a John song, Paul was better versed in avant-garde music, so he helped with its distinctive, innovative tape loops.

If the first half of 1966 was a dream, the second half – when they were back on the road – was a nightmare, most of all when they visited the Philippines.

On one of their rare days off, the band were relaxing in a hotel room with the television on – and had the surreal experience of watching a live broadcast that was meant to be showing the Beatles arriving for lunch at the presidential palace.

The band’s management had politely declined the lunch invitation ages earlier – but somehow the message hadn’t got through. It appeared, to the whole country, that the Beatles had stood up the first family.

The trip to the airport was genuinely dangerous, with people shouting abuse from the street and refusing to help them load their equipment.

That wasn’t the last gig they ever played – there was time for another US tour too, with a final performance at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park – but the scarring Philippines experience was a nail in the coffin. It just wasn’t worth it – for no one.

Chapter 7. 1967

Until 1967, the Beatles’ albums had been quickfire affairs, tucked into a busy schedule of touring. But they’d been getting increasingly interested in the possibilities of the studio. Their ambitious first release of the year came out quickly – the double A-side “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane” – but their next full album ended up taking nine months. It was worth it.

The legendary concept behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was mainly Paul’s idea. Because they were trying to escape from themselves and the pressures they faced, Paul hit upon the idea of framing the whole album with an alter ego, Sgt. Pepper, as master of ceremonies.

Paul thought of it as a liberating concept, although John and George weren’t so fussed – for them it was basically just a collection of songs like any other, albeit a very good one.

And Ringo? He was a big fan of the album, although their new, careful approach to laying down the complex instrumental arrangements – for which he wasn’t always needed – meant that he had time in the studio to learn to play chess.

George expanded on his Indian interests in his contribution, “Within You Without You.” The band had fitted in one more trip to India the previous year, and there was much more to come – they met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a proponent of Transcendental Meditation, in London, and followed him to Bangor, Wales, where he was holding a course. The next year, they followed him to the Himalayas, too.

But while in Wales they received some news that shattered the mood. Their manager from their very earliest days, Brian Epstein, had died, from a probably accidental overdose of pills.

And so began a new, chaotic chapter in the Beatles’ history, as the band tried to fix the hole that Brian had left.

Chapter 8. 1968

Somehow, the band managed to get a whole second album out at the end of 1967 – Magical Mystery Tour, accompanying the original but amateurish film of the same name.

Their own magical mystery tour was flying to India to further their interest in meditation with Maharishi. Even though they did get some songs written, it wasn’t quite the experience they’d been searching for. Maharishi’s behavior didn’t live up to the group’s expectations – “Maharishi, what have you done?” wrote John, later changing the name to “Sexy Sadie.” Slightly disenchanted, the group said hello, goodbye separately, leaving at different times.

The four were starting to think more independently – but they were also approaching the peak of their songwriting powers. Their self-titled “White” album had to be a double LP because there was just so much material – from the heavy rock’n’roll of Paul’s “Helter Skelter” to the experimentation of John’s “Revolution 9,” not to mention George’s best yet, “While Why My Guitar Gently Weeps,” with its guest appearance from Eric Clapton.

The Beatles didn’t just spend 1968 in the studio, though. Brian Epstein’s death had left their business affairs in chaos. So, taking matters into their own hands, they set up Apple.

What was Apple? It was all sorts. There was a shop. There was a record label. There were grants to help struggling artists pursue their dreams (or else just lounge around Apple headquarters). There was Apple Electronics, which was mainly a guy called Magic Alex, who invented a toilet with a radio in it.

Despite good intentions, Apple was a free-for-all. Business-wise, things were like Paul’s famous raccoon: rocky.

But something else was going on too. As he would later write in “Don’t Let Me Down,” John was “in love for the first time.”

Chapter 9. 1969 (side A)

In later years, John would say that Yoko herself didn’t break the Beatles up. It was more that meeting her changed his own attitude: suddenly, nothing else mattered. Their coupling was so intense that she was even in the studio during the White Album recording sessions.

It was the same in January 1969, when sessions began for the album provisionally titled Get Back. A film crew was documenting the recording progress, which – along with Yoko’s presence – made for a weird, uncomfortable atmosphere. Paul was winding the others up too, by being overly proactive. Things were so bad, that George even left at one point.

A change of scene helped: they moved into a studio in their Apple headquarters – once they’d fixed the disaster of a studio Magic Alex had conjured up.

They’d originally been going to do a live performance of the new album as a large-scale gig, but eventually got a feeling something simpler could work. So they performed songs from Let It Be – the new title – on the roof of the Apple building until the police cut them off.

They had fun doing that, but the album still didn’t sound quite right. They held back from releasing it and attempted to sort out everything else.

Apple was in chaos, and John, George, and Ringo decided to bring in Allen Klein, the suave manager of the Rolling Stones. Paul disagreed strongly, but Klein did eventually come on board, making some brutal cutbacks and changing the atmosphere yet again.

So it wasn’t just John who was drifting away – there were broader problems. The long road of the Beatles’ career was winding toward its end.

Chapter 10. The end

The band, including George Martin, looked back on Abbey Road as a happy album – probably because it felt clear it would be the last album they recorded (although Let It Be would be the last they released).

John and Paul had so many bits and pieces of songs that they sewed them all together into a continuous medley – which became the second side of the album. Ringo penned a lighthearted original number, “Octopus’s Garden.” And George finally blossomed in full as a songwriter, with two of the very best: “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.”

By the time 1970 rolled around, things had more or less wound up for the Beatles. Formally moving on was John’s initiative, but it wasn’t a controversial suggestion – that was just how it felt. They didn’t announce it publicly at first, but, as the months wore on, people more or less worked it out. All things must pass.

It was probably Paul who took it the hardest. He retreated to a farm he owned in Scotland and stayed there for a while, drinking a lot and feeling like he’d been made redundant. He eventually got round to making a solo album – but this too became a source of conflict as its release date clashed with Ringo’s solo debut, Sentimental Journey, as well as the newly reproduced Let It Be.

Given how close the band had been for the best part of a decade, a falling out at the end was inevitable. But they could all agree on what an amazing journey it had been. For Paul, the band’s legacy was a sense of freedom. George agreed, talking about hope. John’s message at the end, of course, was peace.

For Ringo, the word – as John had sung back on Rubber Soul – was love.

Epilogue

Bound up with the radical cultural changes of the 1960s, the Beatles’ decade-long career saw them skyrocket from a humble rock’n’roll outfit from northern England to the biggest act in the world. Their groundbreaking music and ever-evolving public image ensured that John, Paul, George, and Ringo left us with a wonderful legacy.

Overview

The international best-seller is now in paperback! From their years growing up in Liverpool through their ride to fame to their ultimate breakup, here s the inside story. Interwoven with The Beatles own memories are the recollections of such associates as road manager Neil Aspinall, producer George Martin, and spokesman Derek Taylor. The Beatles Anthology is a once-in-a-lifetime volume: warm, frank, funny, poignant, and bold-just like the music that s been a part of so many of our lives. The Beatles Anthology is, for the first time, the story of The Beatles by The Beatles. Created with the full cooperation of Paul, George, Ringo, and Yoko Ono Lennon, it also includes the words of John, painstakingly compiled from sources worldwide. The Beatles Anthology is, in effect, The Beatles autobiography. The Beatles Anthology features over 1300 images, most previously unpublished. Paul, George, Ringo, and Yoko Ono Lennon all opened their own archives just for this project, as did Apple, EMI, and others long associated with The Beatles, allowing the unprecedented release of photographs, documents, and other memorabilia from their homes and offices. The result is an extraordinary wealth of visual material brimming on each and every page.

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