The Beatles are known pretty much worldwide as one of the biggest names in rock/ pop history. You will find many people who will do absolutely anything (ie pay gigantic sums of money, publicly embarass themselves, steal, lie, or even beg) to get their hands on a vinyl copy of a Beatles album. This is sometimes very strange as often these people were around during the 1960's and could have bought the record then for a fraction of the price. Most probably they lent it to a freind somewhere along the line and never saw it again.
You will also find a portion of the polulation who will do anything to avoid the Beatles. These range from the pre-Beatles generation who still detest the same music that they detested so many years ago, to the younger generation who think it of it as "elevator music".
The band itself was formed as The Quarrymen in Liverpool, England around 1960 when Paul McCarteny saw John Lennon performing at a church picnick. Paul was impressed at John's ability to sing loud and forcefully, and to improvise when he couldn't remember the words to a popular song. Meanwhile, John was impressed because Paul actually new the lyrics. A few years later they were to sign to EMI as The Beatles with this now famous line up:
One half of the famous Lennon/ McCartney songwriting duo, Paul was the band's bass player, though he occasionally played piano and other instruments. His gift for melody and counter melody were responsible for such songs as "Let it Be", "Hey Jude", and "Yesterday", the most covered pop song in history.
John LennonFor a while the unofficial leader of the band, John played rhythm guitar and sang lead on most of the earlier tunes. He too added keyboards to songs, and would later share the lead singing spot fairly equally with McCartney. John's hard edge complimented Paul's smooth style in early years, and provided a nice contrast later, when they didn't work directly together as often. Lennon's mind brought us "Strawberry Fields", "I Am the Walrus", and "A Day in the Life" to name just a few.
George HarrisonLead Guitar player for the Fab Four, George Harrison was also an occasional song writer and lead vocalist. Along with Lennon, he was responsible for moving the Beatles towards Indian sitar music and spiritualism. George's pen was responsible for one of the greater moments on the White Album, "While my Guitar Gently Weeps".
Ringo StarrBorn Richard Starkey, Ringo was the drummer. He wasn't known for his singing ability, but the songs he did sing are almost invariably feel good tunes. The lead singer on "Yellow Submarine" and "With a Little Help from My Friends", both written by the unstoppable Lennon/McCartney team, Ringo also sang and actually wrote songs like "Octopus's Garden" and "Don't Pass me By".
The British Invasion
The band did what most English groups only dreamed of: they made it big in America. Releasing four albums in the span of about a year, the Beatles were soon being blasted out of the record players and radios of the World's youth, appearing on the Ed Sullivan show, and ultimately performing in stadiums in front of thousands of screaming teenage fans who could no longer hear the music above their own caterwaling (ultimately leading to their withdrawing from touring and becoming a full time studio band). They even made movies.
It was out of their "studio only" decision that one of the most groundbreaking rock albums ever was released: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Often concidered to be one of the worlds greatest concept albums, Sgt Pepper brought us such songs as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "A Day in the Life", "A Little Help from my Freinds", and, of course, the title track, among others.
Splitting up in 1970 over creative differences (which probably included John's marraige to Yoko Ono), the Beatles had recorded for less than a decade. Paul and John went on to successful solo careers, though John was assasinated in 1980, breaking the hearts of his family, freinds, and former band mates. George had a few minor hits, and a brief career with the "Traveling Wilburies", but even without the spotlight he manages to live quite well off of his Beatles career. Ringo tours with his "All Star Band", but has not had a major hit in years.
It would be a very long guide entry indeed that contained a full discography of the Beatles. Longer still if their major hits were included (the "Best of the Beatles" songbook includes more of their work than it leaves out). Suffice to say the Beatles have influenced most modern groups, if not directly then indirectly. Your favorite artist probably either loves the Beatles, or was greatly influenced by someone else who did.
Or is it?
Recently the surviving three added the finishing touches to a demo of two unreleased John Lennon songs to accompany the release of "The Beatles Anthology" a collection of CD's and Video Casssets with out takes, alternate takes, interviews and a good deal of back story to the band. Both songs did very well on the charts.