When you think of vinyl records, what artists do you think of? There’s so many you could list. But I’m willing to bet one of the first that most people think of is none other than the legendary Beatles. The English rock band rocketed into popularity during the 60’s, and their mark on the world of music remains even to this day.
After all, one of the most highly priced records ever sold was in the namesake of the Beatles! Ringo Starr’s very own copy of ‘The Beatles (White Album)’ branded 0000001 sold at $790,000 on auction! The Beatles’ name, the names of each member, are enough for things they own to fetch a massive amount of money.
But how did they get to that stage?
The story of The Beatles is one that’s been told many times, so we won’t keep you here for too long. It’s nice to look back at where legends started, though!
Humble beginnings started when John Lennon gathered a few friends to form his first band, The Quarrymen. Members fluctuated constantly, but eventually Paul McCartney and George Harrison would find their ways into the band, in 1957 and 1958 respectively.
The Beatles became the band’s official name around 1960, after going through several name changes from their previous one. Pete Best would make his entrance as their permanent drummer, and The Beatles began to pave the way for themselves via shows in Liverpool. They made themselves known for covers and original songs alike.
They toured endlessly, and earned themselves a massive break by playing as a backup act for Tony Sheridan. ‘Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers’ put out the single ‘My Bonnie’, which gained a lot of traction in Liverpool and led them to finding a manager in Brian Epstein. He would also convince the replacement of Pete Best for the man we know so well today as Ringo Starr.
The Beatles first recording contract was with Parlophone. In just one day, they recorded their first studio album ‘Please Please Me’, and the album performed very well in the UK. They had a lot of trouble initially being noticed in the US, but were released by the small Vee-Jay Records label at first. They made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which, with clever marketing of their manager, led to Capitol Records releasing a print of the album in 1964.
Between 1963-1966, albums flooded the scene under The Beatles’ name, including ‘Revolver’ in 1966 which would surface one of the most successful and well known songs in history, ‘Yellow Submarine’. 1966 could be seen as the year in which The Beatles began to step away from their title as the 'Fab Four', instead chasing much more artistic and experimental themes and genres in their music.
While The Beatles only came out with a single album in 1967 to contrast their onslaught of albums for years prior, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ would release with a much different energy than prior albums. Perhaps with some outside influence of substance, though Paul McCartney mostly took the helm for this album and steered himself and his peers onto a path of defining themselves as individual talents amongst being such a successful quartet.
‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ would be the start of these previously close friends truly falling apart. The film performed terribly, which caused further friction between the group. ‘The Beatles (White Album)’ cemented their failing relationships, as it caused enough disagreements to have Ringo leave the band during recording temporarily. Paul refused to let the others contribute to his songs and performed everything in them on his own.
‘Abbey Road’ came about in 1969 and was named in reference to the location they’d recorded so many of their albums, and then ‘Let It Be’ in 1970. These were the last two albums that saw the whole band performing together.
John Lennon, as many know, was shot dead in 1980. In 1995, the remaining three of the quartet would come together and added their own instrumentation and lyrics to two of Lennon’s demos, ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. These two songs were the last ever released under the name of The Beatles.
George Harrison’s death in 2001 unfortunately ended any and all talk of any sort of reunion.
Only five? How could you only pick five? There are way more that we could absolutely recommend, but we’ve got some thoughts together to offer the suggestion of which records any Beatles fan should have in their collection!
‘Revolver’ is often brought up to be one of the greatest albums The Beatles ever produced. Many fans will split the debate between itself and ‘Abbey Road’, but that’s just a matter of preference more than anything. ‘Revolver’ continued the artistic experimentation of the prior ‘Rubber Soul’, around the time the band had dropped the typical influence of teenage crushes and instead pursued their own artistic ideals. The album is funny, it’s creative, and it marks a time in the Beatles’ career where they could truly create for themselves and how they wanted to.
‘Revolver’’s psychedelic cover also visualizes the shift in the Beatles’ creative tone and writing. Four stylised portraits of the band are spread across the cover with additional imagery laced in between them. It’s an odd looking cover, but it would certainly stand out amongst most other records.
It’s only natural that the two albums at war for the spot of ‘the best’ are both here! ‘Abbey Road’ is a collection of even more vast and wide experiments from The Beatles. A vast array of genres shower the album as well as innovative sound, instrumentation and creativity. Mixing blues, rock and pop with synth, tom-tom drums and filtering sounds for dramatic effect, there was no end to the artistic talent of these four men, it seemed. ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is included on this album, another of The Beatles’ very well known songs. They were Brits, after all, of course they’d sing about seeing the sun.
How can you talk about ‘Abbey Road’ and not mention the cover? All four Beatles walking across the zebra crossing of Abbey Road single file, each pair of legs in the same part of their walk, all four matching suits. This imagery has been replicated and parodied hundreds of times and will likely be hundreds more in the future.
‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ Progressed with The Beatles moving into their prime as individuals and as one of their more out there albums, moving them away from their image as the Fab Four. Though, with outside issues creeping into production, such as John Lennon being drugged up on LSD and the passing of Brian Epstein, Paul McCartney took the wheel for most of this album. Still the end result was a remarkable one, the album excels at the band exploring their much more artistic and free song writing and making, rather than following the formulaic themes of teenage angst and romance. This album is McCartney’s own favourite, if that tells you anything!
The colourful cover presents the Beatles wearing extravagant, brightly coloured costumes ahead a drum bearing the album name and a patch of flowers carefully arranged to spell their band’s name beneath them. With all the colourful characters on display around them, there’s a lot to notice on this fun cover. It captures the sort of sense of humour of the Beatles quite nicely.
‘Rubber Soul’ can be seen as a beginning for several things concerning the Beatles. They were met with watching Bob Dylan grow increasingly popular, and find his voice with people via meaningful lyrics and his own unique sound. There’s a lot to thank him for, as that’s what the Beatles brought to the table with ‘Rubber Soul’. This is arguably the first time they all made an identity for themselves throughout the album. This album cemented the fact that this wasn’t just another band, that it was a group of four talented individuals who had so much to contribute to the genre of rock. Harrison would show off his sitar for the first time, Lennon and McCartney showed themselves to their listeners with deeper lyrics, and Ringo had his first shot at co-writing.
These days, the movie of this title is so deeply forgotten that people probably don’t even remember it WAS one in the past. Don’t worry if you hadn’t heard of it though, there’s a reason for that. To say it’s not great is a bit of an understatement. However, the soundtrack completely outclasses the movie, to a point where it features classic songs like “I am the Walrus” and “Hello Goodbye”, which are more often just viewed as integral Beatles songs rather than any relation to the movie. The album truly does go on a journey, a tour through its songs, their genres, their moods and feelings.
I always find myself pretty captivated by this cover, I can’t really explain it. The goofy costumes, the rainbow text, the Beatles written out of star shapes and all the different coloured stars raining down from the top of the image… It’s so campy, I can’t help but love it.
Regardless of what you think of them, it’s hard to deny their influence not just on music, but on pop culture as a whole. We mentioned it earlier, but just how many times have you seen something recreate the ‘Abbey Road’ cover? Or parodies of ‘Yellow Submarine’? Thousands of covers of the seemingly endless library of songs The Beatles have produced.
If you’re looking for some Beatles records to add to your collection, we hope we can help you along the way!
New Vinyl Records by The Beatles on Life of Vinyl
Second Hand Vinyl Records by The Beatles on Life of Vinyl