50 years ago four ambitious lads from Liverpool got a chance to record their first albums in a London studio. They had released their first singles the previous year and had worked hard for a breakthrough both abroad in Hamburg and in their native northern town, imbibing all the musical and cultural influences that came their way. They wrote songs, composed melodies and were passionately confident they had something to give to the world if only they were given the chance to show their mettle.  
On March 22, 1963 the Beatles released – via the EMI label Parlophone – their 14-track debut album ‘Please Please Me’, which featured their first single ‘Love Me Do’. The album climbed to No. 1 on the UK albums chart. Exactly 8 months later they came up with a second album ‘With the Beatles’, which drew 300,000 British advance orders. I am leaving out ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ which came out the following year, as well as the other entire album releases – since I am sticking to 1963. Incidentally, ‘IWant to Hold Your Hand’ was the band’s first No. 1 in the United States and bestselling single worldwide. What a contrast that was to the unsuccessful outcome of an audition they had had in January 1962 for Decca Records at a London studio when Brian Poole and the Tremeloes were chosen in their place.
More than just the latest fad for young girls
In spring 2012 Newsweek magazine carried a special commemorative issue: “The Beatles! 50 Years since the music started’’ to typically mark a half century since ‘Love me do’ and the band that started a revolution. A collectible compendium of figures, photos and views in 4 Parts: The Beginning, The Band, The Mania and The Legacy, encompassing all aspects of this phenomenon which extended beyond the confines of the English-speaking world, shaped the Swinging Sixties and informed ensuing decades on a global scale…
Epithets like the “Fab Four”, the “Ultimate Pop Group”, and the “Ultimate Rock Band” have been applied to these iconic Liverpudlian young men, and much has been made of the individual and collective talent and influence of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Yet, over and above the glittering tags, the statement from the pen of Mark Lewisohn (1) does justice to these claims. “Every once in a while, life conjures up a genuine ultimate. It can be said without fear of hyperbole: this is what the Beatles were and are, and fifty-plus years after they leapt into view – fifty – there’s little hint it’s going to change. So many would-be successors have come and gone, there’s now an acceptance that no one can be bigger or better. John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey hold on strong, universally acknowledged as a cultural force, still somehow current and woven into the fabric of modern lives… “(Introduction, p. IX)
Reflecting on the Beatles’ authenticity through both research and a love of the subject
There is no doubt that the Beatles “created a profound and sustained connection to their public; resented branding, commercial sponsorship, corporate affiliation and hype; were free of artifice and weren’t the product of market research or focus groups or TV talent shows. They were original and developed organically when everyone was looking the other way” (Ibid, p. X)
2013 has seen the publication of the first volume of Levisohn’s three-part Beatle biography project, a contextual history built upon impeccable research and beautifully written with insight and objectivity. It covers the crucial and less-known early period – the Liverpool and Hamburg years of a hungry rock and roll band when all the sharp characters and situations take shape. These formative years reveal the core of a trend corroborated by BBC Radio broadcaster, travelogue and social historian Stuart Maconie (2) in his multi-episode Radio 2  Series ‘The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records’.  The Beatles like other British pop singers and musicians were exposed to whatever came from the other side of the Atlantic: ragtime, jazz, folk, country, rhythm and blues, gospel, soul, rock, twist and what have you. Creativity sprang from popular tradition and homegrown mainstream culture enriched by sights, sounds and influences flowing in from radio stations, sailors, soldiers, adventurers and even middle class sources disseminated by post-war grammar-schools.   
A most promising start
Mark Levisohn, the historian-researcher and Beatles devotee, explains his approach: “I’ve tried to thread together the ties and relationships of John, Paul, George, Richy, Stuart, Pete, Brian Epstein, George Martin and other crucial players. Everyone is in their context and worlds run on parallel and occasionally interweaving tracks before properly connecting – characters creating the circumstances to dictate an outcome. The Lennon and McCartney partnership is one among many deep explorations, told thoroughly in their words and deeds. George and Ringo were essential to the Beatles but John and Paul drove the bus and wrote the catalogue; and theirs is an especially fascinating tale – two needle-sharp grammar-school boys and then young men steeped in post-war British culture but with a passion for America and its great music, close friends with a deep admiration for each other’s talent and understanding of each other’s moods and personalities. Their determination, their egos and their creative rivalry made them the greatest songwriters of the age. And I’ve tried to show how it began…” (Ibid, p. 12)      
References:
(1)  M. Lewishon, ‘The Beatles – All These Years: vol.1: Tune In (London: Little, Brown,2013)
(2)  S. Maconie, ‘The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain In 50 Records’(London: Ebury Press, 2013) The book behind the Landmark BBC Radio 2 Series
     
Tracks on the 1st Album
(1)  I Saw Her Standing There
(2)  Misery
(3)  Anna (Go To Him)
(4)  Chains
(5)  Boys
(6)  Ask Me Why
(7)  Please Please Me
(8)  Love Me Do
(9)  P.S. I Love You
(10)                Baby It’s You
(11)                Do You Want To Know A Secret
(12)                A Taste Of Honey
(13)                There’s A Place
(14)                Twist And Shout