It’s Beatlemania all over again around here, both in this article filled with little-known facts about the Beatles, and in our publishing sibling Thunder Bay Press’s new book, The Beatles: Illustrated Lyrics,So get back, come together, drag a comb across your head, and get ready to love eight days worth of facts.
The Beatles’ “White Album,” so named for its stark white cover featuring only the words “The Beatles” is actually untitled, or self-titled. And certified at 24 times platinum, it’s the top selling double LP in American history. But it wasn’t supposed to go out with no name. The band planned to call it A Doll’s House, after the 19th century feminist play by Henrik Ibsen, but a few months before its scheduled release, British band Family unleashed Music in a Doll’s House, putting the Beatles out of a title.
The most successful post-Beatles solo singles, according to Billboard: Paul McCartney’s “Say, Say, Say,” McCartney’s “Ebony and Ivory,” John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over,” McCartney’s “Coming Up” and McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs.”
“Beatlemania” hit in 1964, and it hit big. Some tangible proof of the phenomenon. The group’s February 9, 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was, at the time, the most-watched TV broadcast ever. Within the year, the Beatles topped the American album chart with five different albums (a sixth LP peaked at #2), selling a total of 18 million copies. On the singles chart, 31 Beatles songs made an appearance, of which 15 hit the top 40 and six hit #1. At one point, the Beatles occupied every position in the top 5.
The Beatles made a lot of well-received movies, including A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, but they won an Oscar for their documentary Let It Be. The Fab Four took home an Oscar for Best Original Score, which they were awarded in 1971 — after they’d broken up, a process documented in Let It Be.
Almost all of the Beatles’ biggest hits were written by John Lennon and/or Paul McCartney. Not “Something” — the transcendent ballad is a George Harrison original. For years, fans assumed he’d written it about his wife, model Pattie Boyd, but in 1996, he told a reporter that he was moved to write it about the music of Ray Charles.
The Beatles are nicknamed the “Fab Four,” but a precious few other musicians can claim status as the unofficial “Fifth Beatle.” Original member Stuart Sutcliffe left the group well before Beatlemania and died in 1962, first drummer Pete Best was fired in favor of Ringo Starr, and when Starr fell ill during a 1964 concert tour, Jimmie Nicol sat behind the kit. In the late ‘60s, Billy Preston played piano on “Get Back” and “Let it Be,” and John Lennon wanted to make him a permanent member, but the rest of the group nixed that idea.