Thursday, May 03, 2007

Beatles prolific as solo artists

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The Beatles

By Steve Seymour

It was no surprise that millions mourned when the Beatles broke-up in April, 1970. Since the band's launch in America in early 1964, fans had been treated to a dozen smash albums and more than 60 hit singles. Although the group disbanded, the music didn't stop. Fans consequently enjoyed a flood of quality material over the next five years as John, Paul, George and Ringo each launched their solo careers.

When I plunked down my $6.98 for "Let It Be" in May, 1970, I knew I was buying the Beatles final album. It was the end of an era, but also the beginning of another. There in the rack, were solo albums from McCartney and Starr to temper my disappointment. Ringo's LP, "Sentimental Journey," was a collection of standards which didn't impress me at the time. Paul's self-titled effort contained "Every Night" and the magnificent "Maybe I'm Amazed." It didn't exactly rock out, but it was pleasant enough and has grown on me over the years.

During the 1960s, the Beatles marketed themselves well, having new material available just about every Christmas season. The tradition continued in 1970 when Harrison released his triple-disc "All Things Must Pass" and Lennon unleashed "Plastic Ono Band," featuring Ringo on drums. Starr also issued his second album, the country-flavored "Beaucoups of Blues," recorded in Nashville. Harrison's single "My Sweet Lord," soared to the top of the charts, becoming the first post-Beatles number one.

McCartney issued a second solo set, "Ram," in the spring of 1971, containing his first number one, "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." Lennon countered a few months later with "Imagine," a career high-point. McCartney's first album credited to Wings, "Wildlife," appeared at Christmas as did Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh."

Although Harrison's set won a Grammy for album of the year in 1972, the only new LP to appear was Lennon's "Sometime in New York City," an abysmal collaboration with Yoko Ono containing just one worthy studio recording in "New York City."

The former Beatles soon made up for their lackluster year. In the spring of 1973, Apple Records released the group's first ever greatest hits collections, "1962-1966" and "1967-1970," known commonly as the red and blue albums. McCartney entered the fray with "Red Rose Speedway," containing "My Love." Just a month later Harrison appeared with "Living in the Material World," and the accompanying single, "Give Me Love." Both 45s went straight to number one on the Billboard chart. While those records might seem enough to satiate the public, the ex-Beatles weren't done yet.

On Nov. 2, 1973, Lennon and Starr simultaneously released new albums for the Christmas market. "Ringo" contained contributions from all three of Starr's former band-mates as well as "Photograph" and "You're Sixteen." Both singles topped the charts. Lennon returned to form with "Mind Games."

Capping off the busy year, McCartney unleashed "Band On the Run," a number one single and album, which many fans believe to be his finest solo effort.

Since "Band On the Run" continued to sell well into 1974, McCartney didn't release a solo album that year, but the other three did. Lennon's "Wall and Bridges" LP, containing the number one hit "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," appeared in September, while Ringo's "Goodnight Vienna" came several months later. Harrison's Christmas present for fans, "Dark Horse," arrived on Dec. 9, 1974, during his first and only American tour as a solo performer.

Lennon was the first with new product for 1975 when he issued an album of oldies called "Rock 'n' Roll" in February. The "Venus and Mars" LP, containing McCartney's chart topping "Listen To What the Man Said," hit stores on May 27, while Harrison's "Extra Texture" appeared on Sept. 22. As the year was coming to a close both Lennon and Starr issued hits packages, "Shaved Fish" and "Blast From Your Past," respectively, which became the last releases on their Apple Records label.

By early 1976, the Beatles' nine-year contract with EMI/Capital expired. Lennon retired, Starr signed with Atlantic, Harrison formed Dark Horse Records and McCartney continued with Capital.

Since the dawn of the decade, they'd released 23 solo albums, and hit the charts with 48 singles, including nine number ones. I bought every one, took them home, examined the covers, studied the liner notes and played the heck out of 'em.

Remarkably, each of the solo Beatles succeeded with critics and in a very competitive marketplace. It turns out the public had a very large appetite for Beatles product which didn't diminish as they established their individual careers. Their solo product didn't always have the cultural impact of Beatles records, but the songs maintained high artistic quality and often matched or surpassed the popularity of their 1960s output.

While Beatles material, group and solo, continues to be released, the years immediately following their break-up proved to be a most prolific and musically-rewarding period. I know. I've got the collection to prove it.


Anonymous said...

Hi, great article. Do you have any info about the image you have of the Beatles. I have the same image on a WDGY poster. I have been researching for a long time and need help.

Steve Seymour said...

The Beatles graphic was obtained by typing in "Beatles and solo" into Google Images. Sorry, I don't know the origin of the item.
Steve Seymour

Anonymous said...

Unpon further ivestigation, this collage poster, originally in color, was prepared by Capitol Records to promote the Beatles "Rock and Roll Music" album from 1976.