The "Fab Four" Beatles lineup in 1964
Top: Lennon, McCartney
Bottom: Harrison, Starr
Origin: Liverpool, England, United Kingdom
Genres: Rock, pop
Years active: 1960–70
Labels: EMI Polydor Parlophone Swan Vee-Jay Capitol United Artists Apple
Associated acts: The Quarrymen Billy Preston Plastic Ono Band
Discography at Wikipedia
John Lennon – vocals, guitar, keyboards, harmonica (1960–1969)
Paul McCartney – vocals, bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, drums (1960–1970)
George Harrison – guitar, vocals, sitar (1960–1970)
Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, vocals (1962–1970)
Pete Best – drums, vocals (1960–1962)
Stuart Sutcliffe – bass guitar, vocals (1960–1961)
Chas Newby – bass guitar (1960–1961)
Norman Chapman – drums (1960)
Tommy Moore – drums (1960)
Jimmie Nicol – drums (1964)
The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the foremost and most influential act of the rock era. Rooted in skiffle, beat, and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later experimented with several genres, ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania", but as the group's music grew in sophistication, led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the counterculture of the 1960s.
The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe initially serving as bass player. The core of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison went through a succession of drummers, most notably Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. They acquired the nickname "the Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. From 1965 onwards, the Beatles produced what many consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album, 1968) and Abbey Road (1969).
After their break-up in 1970, they each enjoyed successful musical careers of varying lengths. McCartney and Starr, the surviving members, remain musically active. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001.
According to the RIAA, the Beatles are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful "Hot 100" artists; as of 2015, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the twentieth century's 100 most influential people, they are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with all four being inducted individually as well from 1994 to 2015.
1957–62: Formation, Hamburg, and UK popularity
In March 1957, John Lennon, then aged sixteen, formed a skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank school. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that a respected local group was already using the other name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the band. The fourteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young to join them. After a month of Harrison's persistence, they enlisted him as their lead guitarist. By January 1959, Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and was persuaded to purchase a bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band's name to Beatals, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name until May, when they became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they had changed their name to the Silver Beatles and by the middle of August to the Beatles.
Allan Williams, the Beatles' unofficial manager, arranged a residency for them in Hamburg, but lacking a full-time drummer they auditioned and hired Pete Best in mid-August 1960. The band, now a five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be a 3½-month residency. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn writes: "They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on 17 August, the time when the red-light area comes to life ... flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unabashed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities."
Koschmider had converted a couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, and he initially placed the Beatles at the Indra Club. After closing the Indra due to noise complaints, he moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned they had been performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of their contract, he gave the band one month's termination notice, and reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. The authorities arranged for Harrison's deportation in late November. One week later, Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after they set fire to a condom in a concrete corridor; the authorities deported them. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg through late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles.
During the next two years, the Beatles were resident for periods in Hamburg, where they used Preludin both recreationally and to maintain their energy through all-night performances. In 1961, during their second Hamburg engagement, Kirchherr cut Sutcliffe's hair in the "exi" (existentialist) style, later adopted by the other Beatles. When Sutcliffe decided to leave the band early that year and resume his art studies in Germany, McCartney took up the bass. Producer Bert Kaempfert contracted what was now a four-piece group through June 1962, and he used them as Tony Sheridan's backing band on a series of recordings for Polydor Records. As part of the sessions, the Beatles were signed to Polydor for one year. Credited to "Tony Sheridan & the Beat Brothers", the single "My Bonnie", recorded in June 1961 and released four months later, reached number 32 on the Musikmarkt chart.
After the Beatles completed their second Hamburg residency, they enjoyed increasing popularity in Liverpool with the growing Merseybeat movement. However, they were also growing tired of the monotony of numerous appearances at the same clubs night after night. In November 1961, during one of the group's frequent performances at the Cavern Club, they encountered Brian Epstein, a local record-store owner and music columnist. He later recalled: "I immediately liked what I heard. They were fresh, and they were honest, and they had what I thought was a sort of presence ... [a] star quality." Epstein courted the band over the next couple of months, and they appointed him as their manager in January 1962. Throughout early and mid-1962, Epstein sought to free the Beatles from their contractual obligations to Bert Kaempfert Productions. He eventually negotiated a one-month-early release from their contract in exchange for one last recording session in Hamburg. Tragedy greeted them on their return to Germany in April, when a distraught Kirchherr met them at the airport with news of Sutcliffe's death the previous day from what would later be determined to have been a brain hemorrhage. Epstein began negotiations with record labels for a recording contract. In order to secure a UK record contract, Epstein negotiated an early end to the band's contract with Polydor, in exchange for more recordings backing Tony Sheridan. After an early February audition, Decca Records rejected the band with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein." However, three months later, producer George Martin signed the Beatles to EMI's Parlophone label.
Martin's first recording session with the Beatles took place at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London on 6 June 1962. Martin immediately complained to Epstein about Best's poor drumming and suggested they use a session drummer in his place. Already contemplating Best's dismissal, the Beatles replaced him in mid-August with Ringo Starr, who left Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to join them. A 4 September session at EMI yielded a recording of "Love Me Do" featuring Starr on drums, but a dissatisfied Martin hired drummer Andy White for the band's third session a week later, which produced recordings of "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" and "P.S. I Love You". Martin initially selected the Starr version of "Love Me Do" for the band's first single, though subsequent re-pressings featured the White version, with Starr on tambourine. Released in early October, "Love Me Do" peaked at number seventeen on the Record Retailer chart. Their television debut came later that month with a live performance on the regional news programme People and Places. After Martin suggested rerecording "Please Please Me" at a faster tempo, a studio session in late November yielded that recording, of which Martin accurately predicted, "You've just made your first No.1."
In December 1962, the Beatles concluded their fifth and final Hamburg residency. By 1963, they had agreed that all four band members would contribute vocals to their albums – including Starr, despite his restricted vocal range, to validate his standing in the group. Lennon and McCartney had established a songwriting partnership, and as the band's success grew, their dominant collaboration limited Harrison's opportunities as a lead vocalist. Epstein, in an effort to maximise the Beatles' commercial potential, encouraged them to adopt a professional approach to performing. Lennon recalled him saying, "Look, if you really want to get in these bigger places, you're going to have to change – stop eating on stage, stop swearing, stop smoking ..." Lennon said: "We used to dress how we liked, on and off stage. He'd tell us that jeans were not particularly smart and could we possibly manage to wear proper trousers, but he didn't want us suddenly looking square. He'd let us have our own sense of individuality."
1963–66: Beatlemania and touring years
Please Please Me and With the Beatles
On 11 February 1963, the Beatles recorded ten songs during a single studio session for their debut LP, Please Please Me. The album was supplemented by the four tracks already released on their first two singles. Martin originally considered recording the Beatles' debut LP live at the Cavern Club, but after deciding that the building's acoustics were inadequate, he elected to simulate a "live" album with minimal production in "a single marathon session at Abbey Road". After the moderate success of "Love Me Do", the single "Please Please Me" met with a more emphatic reception. Released in January 1963, two months ahead of the album of the same name, the song reached number one on every chart in London except Record Retailer, where it stalled at number two. Recalling how the Beatles "rushed to deliver a debut album, bashing out Please Please Me in a day", AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine comments, "Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh, precisely because of its intense origins." Lennon said little thought went into composition at the time; he and McCartney were "just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, à la Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought of them than that – to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant."
Released in March 1963, the album initiated a run during which eleven of their twelve studio albums released in the United Kingdom through 1970 reached number one. The band's third single, "From Me to You", came out in April and was also a chart-topping hit, starting an almost unbroken string of seventeen British number-one singles for the Beatles, including all but one of the eighteen they released over the next six years. Issued in August, the band's fourth single, "She Loves You", achieved the fastest sales of any record in the UK up to that time, selling three-quarters of a million copies in under four weeks. It became their first single to sell a million copies, and remained the biggest-selling record in the UK until 1978, when "Mull of Kintyre", by McCartney's post-Beatles band Wings, surpassed it in sales. Their commercial success brought increased media exposure, to which the Beatles responded with an irreverent and comical attitude that defied the expectations of pop musicians at the time, inspiring even more interest. The band toured the UK three times in the first half of the year: a four-week tour that began in February, the Beatles's first nationwide, preceded three-week tours in March and May–June. As their popularity spread, a frenzied adulation of the group took hold. Greeted with riotous enthusiasm by screaming fans, the press dubbed the phenomenon "Beatlemania". Although not billed as tour leaders, the Beatles overshadowed American acts Tommy Roe and Chris Montez during the February engagements and assumed top billing "by audience demand", something no British act had previously accomplished while touring with artists from the US. A similar situation arose during their May–June tour with Roy Orbison.
In late October, the Beatles began a five-day tour of Sweden, their first time abroad since the final Hamburg engagement of December 1962. On their return to the UK on 31 October, according to Lewisohn, "several hundred screaming fans" greeted them in heavy rain at Heathrow Airport. Around 50 to 100 journalists and photographers as well as representatives from the BBC also joined the airport reception, the first of more than 100 such events. The next day, the band began its fourth tour of Britain within nine months, this one scheduled for six weeks. In mid-November, as Beatlemania intensified, police resorted to using high-pressure water hoses to control the crowd before a concert in Plymouth.
Please Please Me maintained the top position on the Record Retailer chart for 30 weeks, only to be displaced by its follow-up, With the Beatles, the release of which EMI delayed until sales of Please Please Me had subsided. In late November, EMI released With the Beatles to record advance orders of 270,000 copies, and the LP topped a half-million albums sold in one week. Recorded between July and October, With the Beatles made better use of studio production techniques than its predecessor. It held the top spot for 21 weeks with a chart life of 40 weeks. Erlewine described the LP as "a sequel of the highest order – one that betters the original". In a reversal of then standard practice, EMI released the album ahead of the impending single "I Want to Hold Your Hand", with the song excluded to maximise the single's sales. The album caught the attention of music critic William Mann of The Times, who suggested that Lennon and McCartney were "the outstanding English composers of 1963". The newspaper published a series of articles in which Mann offered detailed analyses of the music, lending it respectability. With the Beatles became the second album in UK chart history to sell a million copies, a figure previously reached only by the 1958 South Pacific soundtrack. When writing the sleeve notes for the album, the band's press officer, Tony Barrow, used the superlative the "fabulous foursome", which the media widely adopted as "the Fab Four".
EMI's American subsidiary, Capitol Records, hindered the Beatles' releases in the United States for more than a year by initially declining to issue their music, including their first three singles. Concurrent negotiations with the independent US label Vee-Jay led to the release of some of the songs in 1963, but not all. Vee-Jay finished preparation for the album Introducing... The Beatles, culled from most of the songs of Parlophone's Please Please Me, but a management shake-up led to the album not being released.[nb 1] Then when it surfaced that the label did not report royalties on their sales, the licence Vee-Jay signed with EMI was voided. A new licence was granted to the Swan label for the single "She Loves You", but legal issues with royalties and publishing rights proved an obstacle to the successful marketing of the group in the US. American chart success began after Epstein arranged for a $40,000 US marketing campaign and secured the support of disc jockey Carrol James, who first played the band's records in mid-December 1963. Late that same month, the Beatles were introduced in the Tidewater area of Virginia by Gene Loving of radio station WGH, accompanied by a full marketing campaign, including Beatles shirt giveaways. Within days, almost every other song played on the station was a Beatles recording. It was not until the end of first week of January 1964 that their records were played in New York City (also accompanied by a major marketing campaign and with similar play frequency), and then the rest of the country, initiating their music's spread across US radio. This caused an increase in demand, leading Capitol to rush-release "I Want to Hold Your Hand" later that month. Issued on 26 December 1963, with the band's previously scheduled debut there just weeks away, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" sold a million copies, becoming a number-one hit in the US by mid-January. In its wake, Vee-Jay released Introducing... The Beatles to go along with Capitol's debut album, Meet the Beatles!, while Swan reactivated production of "She Loves
On 7 February 1964, the Beatles left the United Kingdom with an estimated 4000 fans gathered at Heathrow, waving and screaming as the aircraft took off. Upon landing at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, an uproarious crowd estimated at 3000 greeted them. They gave their first live US television performance two days later on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by approximately 73 million viewers in over 23 million households, or 34 per cent of the American population. Biographer Jonathan Gould writes that, according to the Nielsen rating service, it was "the largest audience that had ever been recorded for an American television program". The next morning, the Beatles awoke to a negative critical consensus in the US, but a day later their first US concert saw Beatlemania erupt at Washington Coliseum. Back in New York the following day, the Beatles met with another strong reception during two shows at Carnegie Hall. The band then flew to Florida and appeared on the weekly Ed Sullivan Show a second time, before another 70 million viewers, before returning to the UK on 22 February.
A Hard Day's Night
Capitol Records' lack of interest throughout 1963 had not gone unnoticed, and a competitor, United Artists Records, encouraged their film division to offer the group a three-motion-picture deal, primarily for the commercial potential of the soundtracks. Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night involved the band for six weeks in March–April 1964 as they played themselves in a mock-documentary. The film premiered in London and New York in July and August, respectively, and was an international success, with some critics drawing comparison with the Marx Brothers. According to Erlewine, the accompanying soundtrack album, A Hard Day's Night, saw them "truly coming into their own as a band. All of the disparate influences on their first two albums had coalesced into a bright, joyous, original sound, filled with ringing guitars and irresistible melodies." That "ringing guitar" sound was primarily the product of Harrison's 12-string electric Rickenbacker, a prototype given to him by the manufacturer, which made its debut on the record.[nb 2]
During the week of 4 April 1964, the Beatles held twelve positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, including the top five.[nb 3] Their popularity generated unprecedented interest in British music, and a number of other UK acts subsequently made their own American debuts, successfully touring over the next three years in what was termed the British Invasion. Their hairstyle, unusually long for the era and mocked by many adults, became an emblem of rebellion to the burgeoning youth culture.
Touring internationally in June and July, the Beatles staged 37 shows over 27 days in Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.[nb 4] In August they returned to the US, with a 30-concert tour of 23 cities. Generating intense interest once again, the month-long tour attracted between 10,000 and 20,000 fans to each 30-minute performance in cities from San Francisco to New York.
In August, journalist Al Aronowitz arranged for the Beatles to meet Bob Dylan. Visiting the band in their New York hotel suite, Dylan introduced them to cannabis. Gould points out the musical and cultural significance of this meeting, before which the musicians' respective fanbases were "perceived as inhabiting two separate subcultural worlds": Dylan's audience of "college kids with artistic or intellectual leanings, a dawning political and social idealism, and a mildly bohemian style" contrasted with their fans, "veritable 'teenyboppers' – kids in high school or grade school whose lives were totally wrapped up in the commercialised popular culture of television, radio, pop records, fan magazines, and teen fashion. They were seen as idolaters, not idealists." Within six months of the meeting, Gould writes, "Lennon would be making records on which he openly imitated Dylan's nasal drone, brittle strum, and introspective vocal persona". Within a year, Dylan would "proceed, with the help of a five-piece group and a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, to shake the monkey of folk authenticity permanently off his back ... the distinctions between the folk and rock audiences would have nearly evaporated [and the group's] audience ... [was] showing signs of growing up."[nb 5]
Beatles for Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul
According to Gould, Beatles for Sale, the Beatles' fourth studio LP, evidenced a growing conflict between the commercial pressures of their global success and their creative ambitions. They had intended the album, recorded between August and October 1964, to continue the format established by A Hard Day's Night which, unlike the group's first two LPs, contained only original songs. The band had nearly exhausted their backlog of songs on the previous album, however, and given the challenges constant international touring posed to their songwriting efforts, Lennon admitted, "Material's becoming a hell of a problem". As a result, six covers from their extensive repertoire were chosen to complete the album. Released in early December, its eight original compositions stood out, demonstrating the growing maturity of the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership.
In early 1965, while they were his guests for dinner, Lennon and Harrison's dentist secretly added LSD to their coffee. Lennon described the experience: "It was just terrifying, but it was fantastic. I was pretty stunned for a month or two." He and Harrison subsequently became regular users of the drug, joined by Starr on at least one occasion. McCartney was initially reluctant to try it, but eventually did so in late 1966. He became the first Beatle to discuss LSD publicly, declaring in a magazine interview that "it opened my eyes" and "made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society".
Controversy erupted in June 1965 when Queen Elizabeth II appointed all four Beatles Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) after Prime Minister Harold Wilson nominated them for the award. In protest – the honour was at that time primarily bestowed upon military veterans and civic leaders – some conservative MBE recipients returned their own insignia.
Released in July, the Beatles' second film, Help!, was again directed by Lester. Described as "mainly a relentless spoof of Bond", it inspired a mixed response among both reviewers and the band. McCartney said: "Help! was great but it wasn't our film – we were sort of guest stars. It was fun, but basically, as an idea for a film, it was a bit wrong." The soundtrack was dominated by Lennon, who wrote and sang lead on most of its songs, including the two singles: "Help!" and "Ticket to Ride". The accompanying album, the group's fifth studio LP, contained all original material save for two covers, "Act Naturally" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"; they were the last covers the band would include on an album, with the exception of Let It Be's brief rendition of the traditional Liverpool folk song "Maggie Mae". The band expanded their use of vocal overdubs on Help! and incorporated classical instruments into some arrangements, notably a string quartet on the pop ballad "Yesterday". Composed by McCartney, "Yesterday" would inspire the most recorded cover versions of any song ever written.
The group's third US tour opened with a performance before a world-record crowd of 55,600 at New York's Shea Stadium on 15 August 1965 – "perhaps the most famous of all Beatles' concerts", in Lewisohn's description. A further nine successful concerts followed in other American cities. At a show in Atlanta, the Beatles gave one of the first live performances ever to make use of a foldback system of on-stage monitor speakers. Towards the end of the tour, they were granted an audience with Elvis Presley, a foundational musical influence on the band, who invited them to his home in Beverly Hills. September saw the launch of an American Saturday-morning cartoon series, The Beatles, that echoed A Hard Day's Night's slapstick antics over its two-year original run. The series was a historical milestone as the first weekly television series to feature animated versions of real, living people.
In mid-October 1965, the Beatles entered the recording studio; for the first time when making an album, they had an extended period without other major commitments. Until this time, according to George Martin, "we had been making albums rather like a collection of singles. Now we were really beginning to think about albums as a bit of art on their own." Released in December, Rubber Soul has been hailed by critics as a major step forward in the maturity and complexity of the band's music. Their thematic reach was beginning to expand as they embraced deeper aspects of romance and philosophy. Biographers Peter Brown and Steven Gaines attribute the new musical direction to "the Beatles' now habitual use of marijuana", an assertion confirmed by the band – Lennon referred to it as "the pot album", and Starr said: "Grass was really influential in a lot of our changes, especially with the writers. And because they were writing different material, we were playing differently." After Help!'s foray into the world of classical music with flutes and strings, Harrison's introduction of a sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" marked a further progression outside the traditional boundaries of popular music. As their lyrics grew more artful, fans began to study them for deeper meaning. Of "Norwegian Wood" Lennon commented: "I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair ... but in such a smokescreen way that you couldn't tell."
While many of Rubber Soul's more notable songs were the product of Lennon and McCartney's collaborative songwriting, it also featured distinct compositions from each, though they continued to share official credit. The song "In My Life", of which each later claimed lead authorship, is considered a highlight of the entire Lennon–McCartney catalogue. Harrison called Rubber Soul his "favourite album" and Starr referred to it as "the departure record". McCartney has said, "We'd had our cute period, and now it was time to expand." However, recording engineer Norman Smith later stated that the studio sessions revealed signs of growing conflict within the group – "the clash between John and Paul was becoming obvious", he wrote, and "as far as Paul was concerned, George could do no right". In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Rubber Soul fifth among "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", and AllMusic's Richie Unterberger describes it as "one of the classic folk-rock records".
1966–70: Controversy, studio years and break-up
Events leading up to final tour
Capitol Records, from December 1963 when it began issuing Beatles recordings for the US market, exercised complete control over format, compiling distinct US albums from the band's recordings and issuing songs of their choosing as singles. It was not until Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 that a Beatles album was released with identical track listings in both the UK and the US. In June 1966, Yesterday and Today, one of Capitol's compilation albums, caused an uproar with its cover, which portrayed the grinning Beatles dressed in butcher's overalls, accompanied by raw meat and mutilated plastic baby dolls. It has been incorrectly suggested that this was meant as a satirical response to the way Capitol had "butchered" the US versions of their albums. Thousands of copies of the LP had a new cover pasted over the original; an unpeeled "first-state" copy fetched $10,500 at a December 2005 auction. In England, meanwhile, Harrison met sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who agreed to train him on the instrument.
During a tour of the Philippines the month after the Yesterday and Today furore, the Beatles unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected them to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Epstein politely declined on the band members' behalf, as it had never been his policy to accept such official invitations. They soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to taking no for an answer. The resulting riots endangered the group and they escaped the country with difficulty. Immediately afterwards, the band members visited India for the first time.
Almost as soon as they returned home, the Beatles faced a fierce backlash from US religious and social conservatives (as well as the Ku Klux Klan) over a comment Lennon had made in a March interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave. "Christianity will go," Lennon had said. "It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." The comment went virtually unnoticed in England, but when US teenage fan magazine Datebook printed it five months later – on the eve of the group's August US tour – it sparked a controversy with Christians in the American "Bible Belt". The Vatican issued a protest, and bans on Beatles' records were imposed by Spanish and Dutch stations and South Africa's national broadcasting service. Epstein accused Datebook of having taken Lennon's words out of context; at a press conference Lennon pointed out, "If I'd said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it." Lennon claimed that he was referring to how other people viewed their success, but at the prompting of reporters, he concluded: "If you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then okay, I'm sorry." In the era of toleration, Mick Jagger has supported the words of John Lennon on this issue (in some meaning). In 1995, Jagger said in The Rolling Stone Interview that The Beatles "were bigger than Jesus" in those years.
As preparations were made for the US tour, the Beatles knew that their music would hardly be heard. Having originally used Vox AC30 amplifiers, they later acquired more powerful 100-watt amplifiers, specially designed by Vox for them as they moved into larger venues in 1964, but these were still inadequate. Struggling to compete with the volume of sound generated by screaming fans, the band had grown increasingly bored with the routine of performing live. Recognising that their shows were no longer about the music, they decided to make the August tour their last.