The Beatles, as the world knows them, came into being on August 18, 1962 when Ringo Starr replaced drummer Pete Best. The official word from the band was “Pete left the group by mutual agreement. There were no arguments or difficulties, and this has been an entirely amicable decision.” According to Best himself, Beatles manager Brian Epstein ended the relationship by nervously stammering "The boys want you out and Ringo in." After playing together with a revolving cast of bandmates since 1959, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and now Ringo were ready to begin their recording career.
Of course we know about the Beatles’ remarkable eight-year run of musical creativity, but what makes them extraordinary was their unprecedented effect on the music business and the culture at large.
After those of us in the States were exposed to the Beatles in late 1963, when “I Want To Hold Your Hand” hit the airwaves, they were invincible. Catchy and well-produced records aside, their appearance was nothing like anything Yanks had seen: the hair, the boots, the collarless coats.
How did the “mop top" style come about? When the group was playing long hours in German clubs, they met a number of locals including Astrid Kirchherr, a young art student and photographer. Although she is often credited for the haircut itself, she insisted the bowl cut wasn’t uncommon in Hamburg at the time. She did however, end up cutting and styling the group's hair in that manner. Likewise, collarless jackets were trendy in Germany and the boys ended up adopting them. They were already wearing tight, pointed, Cuban-heeled boots. The combination was a distinctive expression. The photo shown is of their actual boots, with their names written in them. Clockwise from top left: John, Paul, Ringo, George.
Among the thousands of merchandise items that sprang up in 1964 to cash in on their popularity were Beatle Wigs and Beatle Boots. My rock 'n' roll band at the time was one of many who adopted elements from the Beatles' appearance; we proudly sported collarless jackets and tried to grow our hair, at least as much as 14-year-olds were able to at the time.
Looking at early photos of the group, their hair length hardly seems excessive. But it prompted men to grow their hair longer, creating a trend that lasted throughout that decade and beyond.
I would be remiss not to mention one other trend that John Lennon launched when he began to wear eyeglasses in public. He chose round wire rim frames, a style that became known as John Lennon glasses. Actually, John got the idea from the Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian. The style still lives on but these days many know them as Harry Potter glasses!
But wait, there's more!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, to be posted soon. Here's something to think about in the meantime. What do the Beatle songs "Can't Buy Me Love," "Twist And Shout," "She Loves You," "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Please Please Me" have in common?