Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Fifty years ago, on May 11, 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long And Winding Road (for you kids, singles once had a physical manifestation). Like most of its predecessors, it became #1 in the United States. It’s one of my least favorite Beatles songs, suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation and much preferring the more stripped-down original version recorded (below) in early 1969 during the abortive Get Back recording sessions. The prior release, the classic Let It Be, should have been their farewell.
The hold and influence the Beatles had on pop music over a more than six-year period was phenomenal. The first six months of 1964 saw Beatlemania explode across the U.S. – on April, 13 of the top 100 singles were by the band and 65% of all records sold were by The Beatles. They had four #1’s in that time frame (She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do) along with two at #2 (Twist & Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret) and Please, Please, Me reached Number 3. After that initial flurry of releases, things calmed down to a more steady pace for the singles.
Though I’d seen their Ed Sullivan appearances in February and March of 1964 and occasionally heard them on our car radio, it was only in February 1965 when sick at home, that my parents gave me a radio to have next to my bed, I became an avid listener, so the first single I distinctly remember debuting was Eight Days A Week, released on the 15th of that month. From then through the release of Get Back in April 1969 I still have memories attached to most of the singles, though by the time Abbey Road was released that fall I was in college and my taste had turned to the rougher sound of the Stones who were reaching their peak (on December 5, Let It Bleed was released).
Of fifteen Beatles albums released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1970, thirteen topped the charts, the others being Something New (1964) which got to #2 but was blocked from the top spot by the soundtrack album for A Hard Day’s Night, and the soundtrack for the movie Yellow Submarine, which also reached #2 in early 1969, blocked by the White Album, released only seven weeks earlier and which topped the charts for 9 weeks (going on to spend 186 weeks on the Billboard 200). The Beatles still hold the record for most cumulative weeks at #1 on the album chart with 132 weeks (second is Garth Brooks with 52). Since the beginning of the Billboard charts in the early 1950s, the Beatles have more #1 albums than any other artist.
From July 13, 1964, with the release of A Hard Day’s Night, through May 11, 1970, The Beatles released twenty U.S. singles of which 16 (including the final three) hit #1. The only exceptions were Nowhere Man (#3), Yellow Submarine (#2, though its B-side, Eleanor Rigby reached #11, so probably a #1 if you counted both sides), Lady Madonna (#4), and The Ballad of John & Yoko (#8) – released while Get Back was still #1, with only John and Paul appearing on the song.
The B-sides of four #1 singles were also hits – She’s A Woman, the flip side of I Feel Fine, which was #4; Day Tripper, flip of We Can Work It Out, reaching #5; Strawberry Fields Forever, the #8 flip of Penny Lane; and Revolution, hitting #12 as the flip of Hey Jude, The Beatles’ best-ever selling single which topped the charts for eight weeks in the fall of 1968.
The longest intervals between single releases were the 7 1/2 months between Hey Jude (8/26/68) and Get Back (4/11/69) and six months from Yellow Submarine (8/5/66) to Penny Lane (2/13/67). As teenagers we were well aware of both gaps, wondering what was up with the boys, and if Paul was dead.
During the 32 months between Yellow Submarine’s release and that of Get Back, The Beatles released only five singles but finished with a flourish, releasing five more singles from April 1969 through May 1970.
As for staying power, 1, the Beatles album released in 2000 and containing all of the group’s #1 singles in either the U.S. or U.K. was the best selling album of the first decade of the 21st century worldwide and the 4th best selling album in the U.S. over the past thirty years, with 31 million copies purchased to date.
And now our daughter plays lullaby versions of Beatles songs to help our 5-month-old grandson fall asleep.