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01 Jan 2002 00:00
In May 1962, a little-known band called the Beatles were playing in Hamburg’s Star Club when they received a telegraph from their manager Brian Epstein in London: “Congratulations, boys, EMI requests recording session. Please, rehearse new material”.
Five months later, the first Beatles single “Love Me Do” went on sale on October 5.
But the first Lennon/McCartney record was not an immediate hit, only reaching the No.
Forty years later, it marks the start of the legendary career of the mop tops from Liverpool.
The deceptively simple tune accompanied by John Lennon’s harmonica is “hardly the blockbuster of which legendary careers are made”, according to pop critic Alan Pollack.
“It’s tempting at first blush to dismiss the song as too simple and even unappealing. But just beneath the surface, you find not only that certain bristling intensity in their voices, but also a great deal of idiosyncratic originality,” he said.
Pollack said the Beatles’ bluesy sound and long hair were an exciting departure for gloomy post-war England, long dominated by American rock and local soundalikes such as the “uninspired pop of Cliff Richard”.
But initial sales of “Love Me Do” were slow, despite the band’s loyal following at home in Liverpool. So the Beatles made another trip to Hamburg, a time George Harrison described as an apprenticeship that crafted their live performance to its highest point.
Within months the Beatles were celebrating hit after hit. The second single “Please Please Me” in January 1963 was the breakthrough that brought them world fame. It went to No. 1 in the charts and sold more than 250 000 copies, becoming the Beatles’ first silver disc.
The first Beatles album, also called “Please Please Me”, followed the No. 1 hit “From Me to You” in April 1963. A subsequent English tour was a triumph. Beatlemania was born.
In August 1963, the Beatles stopped being a band like any other, when an unprecedented one-million copies of “She Loves You” was sold on one day. The album was the Beatles’ first gold disc and made the provocative “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” chorus their signature tune.
By 1966, the band had played more than 1 400 live gigs and they were growing tired. Ringo Starr said the first doubts started to creep in during a disastrous tour in the Philippines. He said the band found 1966 monotonous and felt the need of a break. Everyone thought it was the end of an era, he said.
Four years later in April 1970, the Beatles split and each band member set off on a solo career. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, both multimillionaires, are now the only surviving members of the Beatles; John Lennon was assassinated in New York in 1980 and George Harrison died of cancer earlier this year.
The terraced house in Liverpool where Lennon and McCartney composed “Love Me Do” in 1962 is now a national heritage site. The airport of the Beatles’ home town bears Lennon’s name and a trail of statues and plaques commemorates the band’s early days.
The Beatles are still big business. Beatles memorabilia changes hands at hefty prices. An early edition of “Love Me Do”, signed by Paul McCartney, was sold in London in 1994 for a record price of 11 000 pounds. Even tobacco tins with a Beatles connection fetch large prices at auction. - Sapa-DPA
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