“Sgt. Pepper” was the first rock album with printed lyrics, the first to win a best album Grammy. It may be the most influential record in pop history, and the best-loved. It changed the direction of The Beatles, and of rock ‘n’ roll.
Forty-eight years ago, Paul McCartney announced the breakup of The Beatles, and even though nearly half a century has passed since then, interest in the greatest band of all time remains high.
The 2000 “1” album, a compilation of all of The Beatles’ No. 1 singles, itself went to No. 1 – 30 years after the band broke up. Millions of fans, and not just baby boomers, stream Beatles songs on Spotify every month. Dozens of books examine their rise, their influence and their appeal all these years later.
You might think there’s nothing left to know about the four working-class lads from Liverpool who became the most famous people in the world. Yet even the most hard-core Beatles fans are still amazed at what they don’t know.
24/7 Wall Street has compiled 50 fascinating facts about the most influential band ever, culled from music industry sites, media outlets and reviews of books about The Beatles.
1. Ringo, acting naturally
Vandals cut Ringo Starr’s head off a topiary sculpture of the group in Liverpool, most likely because of the drummer’s statements that he missed nothing about his hometown.
2. George’s contribution to the band’s final tour.
“If I Needed Someone” is the only George Harrison-penned song to be played live by The Beatles, appearing in the setlist of their 1966 tour.
3. Two nations separated by a common language
U.S. music executives considered dubbing over the Fab Four in 1964’s “A Hard Day’s Night” with American actors. They were concerned audiences would be unable to understand their Liverpudlian accents.
4. Hearing is believing
Shirley Temple was the only celebrity to insist on hearing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” before giving the band permission to use her likeness on their album cover.
5. Beneath the blue suburban skies
Fans were so relentless in stealing the “Penny Lane” street signs that Liverpool switched to painting the street name directly on buildings rather than replacing them.
6. Helping anyone in need
The song “Doctor Robert” from the album “Revolver” was about celebrity physician Robert Freymann, who gave his patients B12 shots laced with amphetamines.
7. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
Yoko Ono had John Lennon’s body cremated and ashes scattered in Central Park by their New York City apartment. The Strawberry Fields Memorial was erected there five years later.
8. Homage to Little Richard
The final song performed at the band’s final concert on Aug. 29, 1966, was “Long Tall Sally,” originally performed by Little Richard. The song had been a staple of their live repertoire since their days as The Quarrymen.
9. A “disease” on both sides of the pond
Music reporter Sandy Gardiner coined the term “Beatlemania” in The Ottawa Journal in November 1963, referring to the fan pandemonium as “a new disease … (that) doctors are powerless to stop.”
10. Meet The Beatles
The band had its first British performance under the name “Beatles” on Dec. 17, 1960, at Liverpool’s Casbah Coffee Club.
11. Brian Epstein’s death led to the band’s breakup
John Lennon considered the death of Beatles’ longtime manager Brian Epstein as the beginning of the end for the group.
12. Come together
The closest the group came to reuniting live was when Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr played “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at Eric Clapton’s wedding in 1979. (John Lennon wasn’t there.)
13. They’re Beatles, not vultures
The filmmakers behind Disney’s 1967 “The Jungle Book” approached The Beatles about voicing a quartet of vultures in the animated film. The collaboration never came to fruition, with John Lennon supposedly telling their manager that Disney would be better off hiring Elvis Presley.
14. Not hobbit-forming
Following the releases of the Beatles movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” they conceived of a new film project to star in: A psychedelic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, to be directed by Stanley Kubrick. The project never came to pass.
15. Greek getaway
At one point, the band considered purchasing a group of private Greek islands on which they hoped to live. They went so far as spending a few weeks on the islands and applying for permission from the Greek government for the purchase.
16. Alone in the penthouse
The Beatles have spent 132 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart – by far, the most of any artist. Garth Brooks occupied the top spot for 52 weeks, the second most.
17. A singular band
The band had 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard 100 in the United States – the most of any artist. They had 17 No. 1 hits in the United Kingdom.
18. A historic rejection
The Beatles were turned down by Decca Records following an audition on Jan. 1, 1962. According to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, a Decca executive said that “guitar groups are on their way out.”
19. A pleasing position
The group’s debut album, “Please Please Me,” spent 30 weeks in the No. 1 position on the U.K. album charts in 1963 before being replaced by their second release, “With the Beatles.”
20. Give that man a Grammy
Klaus Voormann, a friend of the Beatles, did the artwork for “Revolver,” including a drawing of the band that he did from memory. The cover went on to win a best album cover award at the Grammys in 1967.
21. Let me take you down
Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army children’s home in Liverpool that has since been razed.
22. Album champions
The band had 19 chart-topping albums with all but three spending multiple weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” spent the most time at No. 1: 15 weeks.
23. Come up and see me
Mae West didn’t immediately allow The Beatles to use her image on the iconic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover, but changed her mind after they each sent her a personal letter.
24. The play was not the thing
John Lennon and Paul McCartney began writing a play about a Liverpudlian man who thought he was God titled “Pilchard,” but they abandoned the project.
25. John Lennon was legally blind
John Lennon’s eyesight deteriorated so badly that he was legally blind as he got older.
26. Beatles shaken, not stirred
In the 1964 James Bond thriller “Goldfinger,” Sean Connery disses The Beatles. On drinking Dom Perignon at the wrong temperature, the secret agent states, “It’s simply not done … like listening to The Beatles without earmuffs.”
27. Sitting on a corn flake
A Corn Flakes breakfast cereal commercial he saw on television inspired John Lennon to write “Good Morning Good Morning.”
28. Endorsed by Ol’ Blue Eyes
Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra once described the Beatles song “Something” as “the greatest love song of the past 50 years.” He went on to record his own versions of the track in both 1970 and 1980.
29. John Lennon disliked his voice
John Lennon was insecure about his own voice and frequently asked producer George Martin to disguise it on Beatles records.
30. This coffee has an acid taste
John Lennon and George Harrison’s first experience with LSD was in April 1965, when Harrison’s dentist slipped it into their after-dinner coffee, unbeknownst to them.
31. Absolution for John Lennon
In 2008, the Catholic Church forgave John Lennon for his provocative statement in 1966 that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” The official Vatican newspaper stated that “after so many years, it sounds merely like the boasting of an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success.”
32. My friends have lost their way
The song “Blue Jay Way,” penned by George Harrison at a house on Blue Jay Way in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, has led to repeated thefts of the actual street’s street sign.
33. Combustible Beatles
While moving out of a room in Hamburg, West Germany, where they had been living, Paul McCartney and former Beatles drummer Pete Best reportedly set fire to an unused condom. Though the damage was minimal, the two spent the night in jail and were deported the next day.
34. Taking a stand
In 1964, John Lennon insisted that African-American fans be allowed to sit anywhere they pleased at Beatles concerts while the band was on tour in the South. Concert promoters quickly agreed.
35. Record-setting records
The Beatles dominated the Billboard Hot 100 the week of April 4, 1964, holding 12 positions on the singles chart, including the entire top five with: “Please Please Me,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Twist and Shout” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” (Drake broke that record just this week.)
36. Across the universe
In the 1970s, astronomer Carl Sagan wanted to include The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” on the Voyager’s Golden Record, which was launched into space as a message for potential extraterrestrial life. While the former band members were unanimously in favor of the move, the decision was nixed by recording company EMI.
37. Awash in merchandise
After Beatlemania hit the U.S. in 1964, the market became flooded with Beatles-themed merchandise. This included shirts, wigs, hats, instruments, board games, ice cream bars, wallpaper, bed sheets and pillowcases.
38. The Clapton connection
Eric Clapton is one of only a few musicians to appear on solo releases by all former band members following the dissolution of The Beatles.
39. Pretty little policemen in a row
The “Semolina Pilchard” mentioned in “I Am the Walrus” is a reference to Scotland Yard drug squad detective Norman “Nobby” Pilcher, who led a midnight drug raid on John Lennon’s London flat in October 1968. He’d targeted musicians Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton and Donovan prior to that.
40. Words that go together well
Beatles ballad “Michelle” – some of which is sung in French – was inspired by Paul McCartney’s fondness for singing in made-up French at parties to pick up girls. John Lennon later told him that he “should do something with that.”
41. Making me feel like I’ve never been born
“She Said She Said” was inspired by an LSD trip that John Lennon took with Byrds members David Crosby and Roger McGuinn, and actor Peter Fonda in August 1965. At one point, Fonda said, “I know what it’s like to be dead,” referencing a near-death experience he had as a child. Lennon eventually used it as a basis for the song.
42. Keeping Lennon-McCartney on their toes
John Lennon and Paul McCartney composed the score for a ballet titled “Mods and Rockers” in 1963 – one year before the band’s now-legendary performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
43. An affront to British sensibilities
The BBC banned several Beatles songs from the airwaves, including “A Day in the Life,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Fixing a Hole” for supposed references to drugs, and “I Am the Walrus,” for using the word “knickers.”
44. McCartney lacked good connections
Prior to reaching superstardom, Paul McCartney worked as an electrician, a field in which he later admitted to being “hopeless” at.
45. Rita really was lovely
Paul McCartney based his song “Lovely Rita” on a fantasy he had about an attractive American meter maid. The British referred to the job as “traffic warden,” and McCartney reportedly found the American use of “maid” to be quite humorous.
46. A spoof of Dylan
John Lennon authored multiple Bob Dylan parodies, including one rambling song that included the line, “stuck inside of a lexicon with a Roget’s Thesaurus blues again.”
47. Climbing up the Eiffel Tower
John Lennon is widely thought to have been inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” in his writing the surreal lyrics for “I Am the Walrus.” He also revealed that at least the first two lines were written while under the influence of LSD.
48. Longing for ‘Yesterday’
The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” written by Paul McCartney, is the most covered song of all time. Performers include Elvis, Boyz II Men, Frank Sinatra, Gladys Knight and James Brown have recorded it. According to McCartney, the song came to him in a dream.
49. Exclusive club
The Beatles are one of only two musical acts – the other being Eminem – to have eight consecutive albums on the Billboard 200 all hit No. 1.
50. Eerie coincidence
Paul McCartney was inspired to write “She’s Leaving Home” after reading a newspaper article about teenager Melanie Coe, who ran away from home at age 17. Oddly enough, McCartney had actually met Coe three years prior when he was a judge on the television show “Ready, Steady, Go!” where she won a mime contest.
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