Beatles in Rolling Stone: A Timeline – Rolling Stone
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Beatles in Rolling Stone: A Timeline

Twenty-five of the most memorable times John, Paul, George and Ringo graced the magazine’s pages

25 Best Rolling Stone Beatles Stories

The Beatles have enjoyed a long history with Rolling Stone, going back to the magazine's very first issue in 1967 when John Lennon adorned its front page. Since then, Rolling Stone has given each of the Fab Four multiple cover stories, explored the endurance of Beatlemania over the decades and rated the group's discography as one of the most vital in the history of rock & roll. Most recently, Paul McCartney appeared on the cover in anticipation of the release of the album The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

To celebrate nearly 50 years of Beatles insights, scoops and tributes, Rolling Stone has picked 25 of the most memorable times the group and its members have filled the magazine's pages, from groundbreaking and revealing interviews with McCartney and Lennon to a spotlight on how Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band became the most cherished LP in rock.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison Commemorate 20 Years of Rolling Stone

November 5th, 1987

Two Beatles participated in interviews for Rolling Stone's 20th anniversary issue, which also coincided with the release of the Beatles catalogue on CD for the first time. Naturally, the latter fact brought the Beatles to the forefront of the magazine's conversations with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. "When I heard the first side of [Sgt. Pepper's] this time, I thought it had finished," McCartney said. "There was enough on the first side for a whole album. And then it flips over and you've got 'Day in the Life' to come. So without boasting too heavily, I really thought it was a great album." Harrison discussed his disillusionment with people trying to reunite the Beatles. "If somebody asks me to do something, and then next thing I find out they've also asked Paul and Ringo … I don't want to be set up, put in a situation where I'm tricked into being in the Beatles again," he said.

Inside the Beatles’ Hit Factory

March 1st, 2001

To celebrate the release of 1, a 2001 compilation of the Beatles' 27 Number One hits in the U.S. and the U.K., Rolling Stone broke down the genesis of each track with a little help from producer George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick and Yoko Ono. The Kinks' Ray Davies, U2's Bono and Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan also weighed in for what is an enthralling and rare look at why the Beatles' hits are so special. From "Love Me Do" to "The Long and Winding Road," with stops at "Eleanor Rigby," "Paperback Writer" and "Something," among many others, Rolling Stone dissected each hit. "Every song he'd written at the time was autobiographical," Ono said of "The Ballad of John and Yoko." "And actually we were having a very hard time, very heavy stuff going on. He made it into a comedy, rather than a tragedy." And Emerick recalled his reaction to Phil Spector's embellishments on "The Long and Winding Road": "It was an insult to Paul. It was his record. And someone takes it out of the can and starts to overdub things without his permission."

Read the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs, which includes the 27 mentioned above.

The Beatles' 1:

Remembering George Harrison

January 17th, 2002

After a years-long fight with cancer, which was first discovered in 1998, George Harrison died on November 29th, 2001. Rolling Stone paid tribute with an issue dedicated to the "Quiet Beatle." Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Yoko Ono, Elton John, Paul Simon and others all paid tribute in interviews in the issue. "He was a giant, a great, great soul, with all the humanity, all the wit and humor, all the wisdom, the spirituality, the common sense of a man and compassion for people," Bob Dylan told the magazine. "He inspired love and had the strength of a hundred men. He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon, and we will miss him enormously." The issue also contained features on Harrison's life after the Beatles and a breakdown of his 25 most memorable musical moments.

Read "25 Essential George Harrison Performances" from the issue.

The Number One Album of All Time

December 11th, 2003

When Rolling Stone undertook the enormous task of selecting the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, it consulted with 273 people, including artists, producers, record execs, record store owners journalists and others in the music industry, who voted on the canon. By the time they were done, the Number One Album of All Time was readily apparent. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time," Rolling Stone declared. "It is simply the best of everything the Beatles ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place."

Read the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The Greatest Album of All Time:

How the Beatles Changed America Overnight

February 19th, 2004

Rolling Stone marked the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' landmark performance on The Ed Sullivan Show with a lengthy examination of how that broadcast, which went out on February 9th, 1964 and reached an estimated 73 million viewers, impacted not just American music but American life, as well, in a way that was greater than that of Elvis Presley's on the show in the Fifties. "Nobody could hear a thing except the kids in the audience, screaming," John Moffitt, associate director of The Ed Sullivan Show, recalled of the Beatles' performance. "They overpowered the amplifiers. The cameramen couldn't hear. Even the kids couldn't hear anything, except each other screaming." Sullivan made rock a mainstay on his program after the Beatles, welcoming the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Supremes, the Byrds, the Doors and many others and paving the way for regular rock-music broadcasts on television into the modern age, from MTV to the music played during sports games. "[Rock's ubiquity has] descended from that one night," Rolling Stone declared. 

Read the whole article.

Why the Beatles Broke Up

September 3rd, 2009

The Beatles catalogue was remastered for the first time in two dozen years in 2009, which prompted Rolling Stone to reassess why the group had fallen apart. A cover story that year told the inside story of the forces that tore apart the world's greatest band. "I don't think you could have broken up four very strong people like them even if you tried," Yoko Ono is quoted as saying. "So there must have been something that happened within them – not an outside force at all." The story examines the period from the late Sixties, around the time they recorded the "White Album," through to the tumult of 1970, poring over various factors from Ono accompanying John Lennon to the studio and the strains of running Apple to the tensions surrounding Allen Klein managing all of the Beatles except Paul McCartney and Lennon rebuffing McCartney about the notion of touring again. "It was all such a long time ago," George Harrison is quoted as saying. "Sometimes I ask myself if I was really there or whether it was all a dream."

Read the whole article.

John Lennon’s Last Days

December 23rd, 2010 and January 6th, 2011

Thirty years after John Lennon was killed, Rolling Stone paid tribute again by printing the entirety of the Beatle's final interview from 1980 and a moving new piece by Yoko Ono chronicling the singer's final days, as he and she were promoting their Double Fantasy LP. "The very last day of John's life, we woke up to a shiny blue sky spreading over Central Park," she wrote. "The day had an air of bright eyes and bushy tails. … In a room next to the control room, just before we left the studio, John looked at me. I looked at him. His eyes had an intensity of a guy about to tell me something important. 'Yes?' I asked. And I will never forget how with a deep, soft voice, as if to carve his words in my mind, he said the most beautiful things to me. 'Oh,' I said after a while, and looked away, feeling a bit embarrassed. In my mind, hearing something like that from your man when you were way over 40 … well… I was a very lucky woman, I thought."

Read "John Lennon: The Last Interview" and "John Lennon's Last Days: A Remembrance by Yoko Ono" from the issue.

John Lennon's last album:

How the Beatles Took America

January 16th, 2014

Half a century after the Beatles first invaded America, Rolling Stone chronicled how the group had overcome immeasurable odds – media disdain, a clueless record label and a country still reeling after the assassination of John F. Kennedy – and set off the biggest rock explosion of all time. The cover story also tells how they overcame their own insecurities. "They've got their own groups," Paul McCartney is quoted as saying to Phil Spector on the plane over to the United States. "What are we going to give them that they don't already have?" But with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, their fortunes changed overnight. The story provides an insider's account of how they rose to the occasion and how they managed such an unparalleled cultural victory.

Paul McCartney Remembers the Lost Beatles

 August 12th, 2016

Paul McCartney recalled the lyrics to "Just Fun," a never-recorded song he wrote with John Lennon before the Beatles got serious, in his most recent cover story. "I had a little school-exercise book where I wrote those lyrics down," he said. "And in the top right-hand corner of the page, I put 'A Lennon-McCartney original.' It was humble beginnings." Later in the interview, he speculated on the quality of such unreleased songs. "The thing about the Beatles – they were a damn hot little band," he said. "No matter what you hear, even stuff that we thought was really bad – it doesn't sound so bad now. Because it's the Beatles." He also shot down the prospect of a tour with Ringo Starr, once and for all squashing any hopes of a full-scale partial reunion. "We come together for things like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he said. "But to actually tour together – leave well enough alone."

Read the whole interview.

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