The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe initially serving as bass player. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act, and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding the group's popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. They acquired the nickname "the Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the next year, and by early 1964 became international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. From 1965 onwards, the Beatles produced increasingly innovative recordings, including the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (also known as the White Album, 1968) and Abbey Road (1969). After their break-up in 1970, they each enjoyed success as solo artists. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 800 million physical and digital albums worldwide. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. They are also the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful artists; as of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually from 1994 to 2015. They were also collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the twentieth century's 100 most influential people.
In March 1957, John Lennon, then aged sixteen, formed a skiffle group with several friends from Quarry Bank High School. They briefly called themselves the Blackjacks, before changing their name to the Quarrymen after discovering that a respected local group was already using the other name. Fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney joined as a rhythm guitarist shortly after he and Lennon met that July. In February 1958, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to watch the band. The fifteen-year-old auditioned for Lennon, impressing him with his playing, but Lennon initially thought Harrison was too young to join them. After a month of Harrison's persistence, during a second meeting, arranged by McCartney, he performed the lead guitar part for the instrumental "Raunchy" on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, and they enlisted him as their lead guitarist. By January 1959, Lennon's Quarry Bank friends had left the group, and he began studies at the Liverpool College of Art. The three guitarists, billing themselves at least three times as Johnny and the Moondogs, were playing rock and roll whenever they could find a drummer. Lennon's art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who had recently sold one of his paintings and was persuaded to purchase a bass guitar, joined in January 1960, and it was he who suggested changing the band's name to Beatals, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They used the name until May, when they became the Silver Beetles, before undertaking a brief tour of Scotland as the backing group for pop singer and fellow Liverpudlian Johnny Gentle. By early July, they had changed their name to the Silver Beatles and by the middle of August to the Beatles.
Allan Williams, the Beatles' unofficial manager, arranged a residency for them in Hamburg, but lacking a full-time drummer they auditioned and hired Pete Best in mid-August 1960. The band, now a five-piece, left four days later, contracted to club owner Bruno Koschmider for what would be a 3½-month residency. Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn writes: "They pulled into Hamburg at dusk on 17 August, the time when the red-light area comes to life ... flashing neon lights screamed out the various entertainment on offer, while scantily clad women sat unabashed in shop windows waiting for business opportunities."
Koschmider had converted a couple of strip clubs in the district into music venues, and he initially placed the Beatles at the Indra Club. After closing the Indra due to noise complaints, he moved them to the Kaiserkeller in October. When he learned they had been performing at the rival Top Ten Club in breach of their contract, he gave the band one month's termination notice, and reported the underage Harrison, who had obtained permission to stay in Hamburg by lying to the German authorities about his age. The authorities arranged for Harrison's deportation in late November. One week later, Koschmider had McCartney and Best arrested for arson after they set fire to a condom in a concrete corridor; the authorities deported them. Lennon returned to Liverpool in early December, while Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg until late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kirchherr, who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles.