The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962. They acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”. By early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market. From 1965 onwards, the Beatles produced what many consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album) and Abbey Road.
In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture, after using drugs in an effort to expand their consciousness. In 1966 Harrison visited India for 6 weeks and took sitar lessons from Pt. Ravi Shankar. At friend’s suggestion, the Beatles attended the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s (the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement) lecture at London in 1967. The group visited maharishi’s camp in Wales. While there, they announced at a press conference that they were giving up drugs. Curious to learn more, they visited Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh and spent some days there in simplicity.
According to the RIAA, the Beatles are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists; as of 2015, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation, they are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide.
Michael Jackson’s previous album ‘Off the Wall’ (1979) received strong critical acclaim and was also a commercial success, eventually selling over 20 million copies worldwide. The singer was upset about what he perceived to be the under-performance of the album and moved to Thriller. Jackson recorded 30 songs in 9 months for ‘Thriller‘ album at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles with a production budget of $750,000. Nine of the songs were eventually included. Jackson wrote four songs for the record. Jackson was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer”, and developed Thriller with that in mind.
Thriller was released on November 30, 1982, and sold one million copies worldwide per week at its peak. Thriller was well received by most critics. The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. Jackson won seven of the Grammys for the album. Thriller was recognized as the world’s best-selling album on February 7, 1984, when it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2009, Thriller was certified 29× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 29 million copies in the US.
Before the success of Thriller, many felt Jackson had struggled to get MTV airing because he was black. His position persuaded MTV to begin airing “Billie Jean” and later “Beat It”, which led to a long partnership and later helped other black music artists to gain mainstream recognition. The popularity of his videos, helped to place the young channel on the map, and MTV’s focus shifted in favor of pop and R&B. Jackson transformed the medium of music video into an art form and promotional tool through the use of complex story lines, dance routines, special effects and cameo appearances by well known personalities. For a black artist in the 1980s to that point, Jackson’s success was unprecedented. According to The Washington Post, Thriller paved the way for other African-American artists. Time noted, “Jackson is the biggest thing since The Beatles. He is the hottest single phenomenon since Elvis Presley. He just may be the most popular black singer ever”.