In 1957, 17-year-old John Lennon starts a band called The Quarrymen (named after The Quarry Bank High School he attends with other members) in Liverpool England. In 1957, 15-year-old Paul McCartney joins the band and shortly thereafter his 14-year-old friend George Harrison starts hanging out with the band. Harrison was finally accepted as old enough to join the band in 1958. Other band members moved in and out, and by 1960 the are appearing under the name The Beatles and in 1962 Ringo Starr joins as drummer. John had been raised middle-class by his aunt, while Paul and George knew each other because they shared a school bus from their government subsidised housing. Ringo (real name Richard Starkey) was 22 when he joined the band having grown up in modest surroundings and playing in other Liverpool bands. They learn their craft playing in both Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany and develop a loyal following in Liverpool managed by Brian Epstein who secures their first recording session in 1962. By 1963 they became the biggest band in England and by the time they arrive in the United States in 1964, Beatlemania has begun. Over the next 2 years they tour the world extensively as their lives were controlled by the hysterical and frenzied adulation of their fans. Though it was unknown at the time, the Beatles last concert was in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966. They retire to studio recoding and over the next four years their music becomes increasing sophisticated and sometimes controversal. The Lennon-McCartney signature becomes among the most famous song-writing teams ever. By 1969 they were no longer working cohesively, and each is pursuing separate projects. On September 20, 1969 Lennon tells the rest of the group he is leaving the band though it was not publicised at the time. They complete Abbey Road on August 20, 1969 – the last time they would work together – which was released on September 26, 1969. The Let It Be album, actually started before Abbey Road, but delayed in part over conflicts with producer Phil Spector’s overdubbing of their work, was released on May 8, 1970. The Let It Be documentary was release later that same month. This would be the last time they were seen together.
On December 31, 1970 Paul McCartney files suit to legally dissolve the group. The legal proceedings of this now fabulously wealthy corporation would drag on for 5 years. Lennon would be murdered in 1980, and Harrison died of cancer in 2001. What began as simple working class kids playing rock and roll would lead them down a path that in many ways epitomized the 1960s. Their music and their personal lives, from long hair, screaming fans, and girlfriends to wives, children, drug use and Indian mysticism, parallel what many were experiencing at the time. Perhaps their success was their undoing. Perhaps they had simply grown apart. But their phenomena was unprecedented and they have become larger than life, and their music became the soundtrack of their generation. If the 1960s were a football game, these guys were sitting on the front row on the 50 yard line.