Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Top 10 Greatest Dylan Rip-Offs.


Bob Dylan is generally considered rock's finest songwriter & deservedly one of the most revered--& covered.

But what about those songs that aren't covers but adapt his unique characteristics--the bending voice, the wheezing harmonica, the complicated lyrics--for their own use, in varying levels of love & theft & parody?

It struck me that there were just enough decent examples of this to make a Top 10 list, as you find here. I decided to go with contemporaries or at least members of Dylan's own generation, as you could argue that entire artists have built a career out of ripping off his style. I also avoided direct parody--namely, "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2003 song "Bob," which used his 12-bar-blues early electric sound to unfurl a series of non-sequitur palindromes when viewed on cards a la Dylan's own video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues"--although some of these definitely court parody, even if they are not novelties in & of themselves.

Additionally, I stuck to ripping of the sound of Dylan in his classic mid-1960s era; I was very tempted to put on Dire Straits' "Sultans Of Swing," which is a rare Dylan sound-alike that evokes a later period of his music, but ultimately decided it was too much its own thing. Finally, I excluded any songs by Bob Dylan himself; hence no "Tweeter & The Monkey Man" (which itself is technically more of a Dylan-writing-Springsteen-in-turn-ripping-off-Dylan than a Dylan rip-off, per se, but I digress).

At any rate, here they are:


10. A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission) by Simon & Garfunkel



Paul Simon has always been the Bob Dylan-lite version--well-studied in both folk music & poetry, he took Dylan's style & made a kinder, gentler version for the masses to consume. Like so many others (including many of the people on this very list), Simon is unimaginable without Dylan. Simon seemed to acknowledge as much in this bizarre parody of the then-newly electric Dylan, spouting stream-of-conscious, name-dropping rhymes, wheezing into a harmonica, & even working in a few Dylan song titles while he was at it. But best of all was the disorganized ending in which Simon-as-Dylan croaks, "I dropped my harmonica, Albert," referring to Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman. A loving parody that probably sounded dated from the moment it was released.



9. Thrasher by Neil Young


Bob Dylan is the master of lifting other people's melodies & making them his own (a talent he in turn gleaned from Woody Guthrie), so here Neil Young returns the favor. On the first acoustic side of Rust Never Sleeps--the second side was electric, which itself seemed to mirror Dylan's first-side-electric-second-side acoustic 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home--Young strums and plays harmonica on this winding ballad, which lifts the melody from "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," which was released on the above-mentioned Dylan LP. At one point, Young sings "On the sidewalks & in the stations," which again mirrors Dylan's like "In the dime-stores & bus stations" in "Love Minus Zero." One could interpret this as either a knowing wink to Dylan's original (like how Young had previously admitted to stealing the melody of The Rolling Stones' "Lady Jane" in his own aptly-titled "Borrowed Tune") or just evidence of how lodged Dylan's classic music was in rock's collective unconscious.



8. Catch The Wind by Donovan


Donovan has spent much of his career telling anyone who will listen that he wasn't influenced directly by Bob Dylan, but by the same people who influenced Dylan, namely Woody Guthrie & Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Whatever. The fact is, when Donovan's first hit single came out in 1965 (once Dylan had already moved onto more electric things), "Catch The Wind," it not only sounded like Dylan's earlier acoustic music, but it seemed to lift the melody from Dylan's own "Chimes Of Freedom"; furthermore, the title to Donovan's song seemed to riff off of Dylan's "Blowing In The Wind." Donovan would find something closer to his own voice when he went electric the following year, but in the meantime, the "Dylan vs. Donovan" hype of 1965 has been recorded (with a showdown towards the end!) in D.A. Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back" for all posterity to see.



7. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? by Bruce Springsteen


By the 1970s, it seemed that every third white guy with an acoustic guitar was being hailed as "The New Dylan." (For a definitive document, check out Greil Marcus's list of "New Dylans" in Dave Marsh's classic Rock Lists book; Bob Dylan himself makes the list about half a dozen times.) But no "New Dylan" was greater-hyped--or more initially disappointing--as Bruce Springsteen. Initially signed by legendary Columbia Records A&R man John Hammond (who had previously discovered Dylan), the label wanted a folk debut & Springsteen wanted it to be more rock. Thankfully, the album mostly goes Springsteen's way (as it's most tedious song, the acoustic ballad "Mary Queen Of Arkansas" is perhaps the worst Dylan rip-off in rock history); when it was released, Lester Bangs marveled it had more words in it than any other album that year. "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?" is the most ridiculous of the lot, but at the same time, it's a loving use of Dylan's winding verses & surreal rhymes that ends in Spanish Harlem, the site of Dylan's own "Spanish Harlem Incident."



6. Song For Bob Dylan by David Bowie


On David Bowie's third album & first masterpiece, Hunky Dory, he performs three ritualistic killings of the father, in the songs "Andy Warhol," "Song For Bob Dylan," & "Queen Bitch" (about Lou Reed). His one for Dylan captures both Dylan's "voice of sand & glue" as well as the refrains, which find Bowie railing against a female subject in the second person, as many of Dylan's songs did as well ("It Ain't Me Babe," "Like A Rolling Stone," "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" etc.) A master mimic & trained theatrical actor, Bowie even hangs on words like Dylan & plays it straight where his other songs show off his voice's range. All is a fitting tribute, from someone who claimed to have been in the audience of Dylan's "Royal Albert Hall" concert in which someone shouted "Judas!"--a rare turn of one of rock's great center-stage performers placing himself in the audience seats. Now hear this, Robert Zimmerman, indeed.



5. Who's Driving Your Plane? by The Rolling Stones


Although Dylan & The Rolling Stones seemed to be very different forces in '60s rock--& beyond--they shared a kindred spirit of the blues. More than any other major white rock band, the blues was the touchstone of The Stones, & Dylan pulled the impossible trick of inspiring psychedelic rock without actually making it himself; he always stayed true to his roots, which means that once he plugged in, he would always come home to the blues. So while a song like "Jigsaw Puzzle" might be the more obvious choice for a list like this, I've always preferred the absurd, sexy "Who's Driving Your Plane?," an obscure B-side to "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?" which finds The Stones absorbing Dylan & meeting him on his (& their) own turf. & unlike their other psychedelic music of this period, The Stones tap into the stoned overdrive of the blues, pushing it into something more fierce--& timeless--than most of their other work during this time.



4. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) by The Hombres



The Hombres were a garage band from Memphis, Tennessee, that took the sound & vocabulary of Dylan & stretched it to its limits in this near-lampoon of a sound-alike. Like Dylan himself, they weren't afraid to borrow freely from other sources--the record's bizarre opening promise of "A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, Nicotine, & the temptations of Eve" was lifted from Red Ingle & His Natural Seven's 1947 novelty hit "Cigarets, Whuskey, & Wild, Wild Women." The Hombres' song that followed these words did well enough to make #12 on the national charts upon its release in 1967, & lead to an LP & a slew of follow-up singles, none of which would chart. The band members went their separate ways & in 2012, lead singer & organist B.B. Cunningham Jr. was shot & killed as a security guard in his hometown of Memphis.



3. Death Of A Clown by The Kinks


Kinks' leader Ray Davies' kid brother Dave Davies stepped out of the shadows to pen & sing "Death Of A Clown" on their 1967 LP Something Else By The Kinks. Lifted as a single, the song was a smash hit in the UK, where it made the Top 3 & opened the door for future singles by Dave Davies, only one of which, "Susannah's Still Alive," would chart. (Worth seeking out are his non-charting B-sides & fascinating obscurities like "Mindless Child Of Motherhood" & "This Man He Weeps Tonight.") But as a hit-maker, "Death Of A Clown" was Dave Davies' first, last, & greatest hit. He adopted the acoustic strum, the raspy croon, & even the carnival atmosphere of Dylan songs like "Desolation Row" to craft his song, which was brought down from any heights of pretension by its earnest vocal & brother Ray's perfectly sour harmonies.



2. Run For Your Life by The Beatles


Perhaps no one ripped off Dylan more than The Beatles (which makes sense because electric Dylan wouldn't exist without their gauntlet). "I'm A Loser" has the confessional lyric & wheezing harmonica & "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" has a tempo so familiar Dylan himself reclaimed it as "4th Time Around" & "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" finds them taking the hallmarks of Dylan & remaking it into their own vision. So why "Run For Your Life"? Honestly, it could have been any of these--or another. But "Run For Your Life" appeals for a few solid reasons: (1) It was the finale of both the UK & US album Rubber Soul, which found The Beatles "going folk" (especially in the US version) & seems to end the LP with a hat tip to the mentor; (2) it's the closest The Beatles would get to Dylan melodically, which seemed appropriate for the well-studied tunesmiths of Lennon & McCartney (just check the swooping of "Well, you know that I'm a wicked guy..."); (3) it begins with a direct lift of a line from Elvis's "Baby, Let's Play House" ("Well, I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man"), which finds The Beatles literally picking up where Elvis left off. It speaks to a sort of shared trinity between Elvis, The Beatles, & Dylan while following the folk tradition of borrowed verses--a tradition on which Dylan literally built his songwriting career.

[Unfortunately, The Beatles don't allow their stuff to remain on YouTube for more than a millisecond so the closest I could get was this VASTLY INFERIOR alternate take of the song, but please, ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES & track down the original anyway; anyone who loves rock enough to make it through this list should have a copy of Rubber Soul anyway.]




1. A Public Execution by Mouse & The Traps


If initiation is the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps no song was more flattering to Bob Dylan than Mouse & The Traps' 1965 song "A Public Execution." Released within six months of Dylan's own "Like A Rolling Stone" & within four months of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, Mouse & The Traps got to the Dylan-imitation game early & did it the best. Clearly modeled after "Like A Rolling Stone," "A Public Execution" takes all of the various elements we've seen so far & packed them into one succinct punch--he careening imitation vocals, the unusual & pretentious song title, the winding lyrics focused on the caustic put-down of a female in the second person--& puts it into a song that actually sounds not too far off from Dylan's own Highway 61 Revisited-era sound, if a bit more deliciously ragged.

A major hit in their native Texas (Mouse & The Traps hailed from Tyler, TX), it did well enough nationally to make #121 on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart & lead to a string of follow-up material, most of which, like "A Public Execution," were regional hits with little action nationally.

Their song reached rock immortality when Lenny Kaye put it on his seminal 1972 garage rock compilation Nuggets: Original Artifacts From The First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, along side B-level soundalike hits like The Knickerbockers' Beatles rip-off "Lies" & The Standells' Rolling Stones rip-off "Dirty Water."

In other words, "A Public Execution" did one thing that the girl in "Like A Rolling Stone" could never do: It found a home.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Top 10 Most Underrated Beatles Songs Of All-Time.


The Beatles have perhaps the most well-known discography in rock & roll--all 217 of the songs they officially released are classics in one way or another.

Tons has been written about the likes of "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Strawberry Fields Forever," & "Hey Jude," but what about the songs that are overlooked & forgotten, obscure & esoteric; it is for these songs that I make this list.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, & Ringo Starr all contributed worthy songs that have fallen through the cracks of modern appreciation, songs that are overshadowed by the more-celebrated & recognized songs of their career.

I didn't use any hard-&-fast rules for this list, I just tried to think of The Beatles songs that have almost no culture identity, ones you never hear on the radio, tunes that are rarely brought up in print. My only rule was that it had to be a Beatles original as opposed to a cover, but after that, anything was game.

I ended up leaving out anything from their first two albums because their early material is all pretty well familiarized & well-rated, & the few songs that weren't (say, "Misery," "All I've Got To Do," "Not A Second Time") weren't good enough to merit a list like this. Chalk it up to the ubiquitousness of their early years, where basically anything that was good-to-great was released on a single in the US & devoured by an adoring public in their native land.

Plus, can anyone say that songs like "There's A Place," "I'll Get You," or "It Won't Be Long" (each of which were strong contenders for the list) are underrated? Aren't they all just fairly famous & fairly well rated? Yes, a song like "There's A Place" should be better-rated than it is, but it's not as neglected as some of the choices here. At least in my humble opinion.

Also, I wanted to put this list together within a weekend, as opposed to a lifetime.

So what follows is one fan's highly subjective list.



10. "Old Brown Shoe" [Single B-Side, 1969]

Thanks to its surprise placement on hits collection "The Blue Album," "Old Brown Shoe" is perhaps the most recognizable of the underrated Beatles songs, but even people who've heard it for years on this set let it pass by without really hearing it, out-shined by its flashier A-side "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" & the Abbey Road material like "Come Together" & "Something" that follow it. But "Old Brown Shoe" deserves to be heard in its own right. This is one of Harrison's true gems, featuring some of his funniest, slyest lyrics since "Taxman" ("I want a love that's right, but right is only half of what's wrong," it begins) & a deep, muddy groove that ignites the band into one of their finest (& final) truly ensemble performances. Just listen to the way Lennon shouts "Hey!" with joy in the last verse.



9. "The One After 909" [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970]

There is a ragged warmth to "The One After 909" that transcends the petty bickering of the atmosphere in which it was recorded. If it sounded like they'd been playing it forever, it's because they had. One of the earliest Lennon-McCartney collaborations, the song was nearly a decade old and was recorded on at least two separate occasions--once with the Stu Sutcliffe-era 1960 demos & once as a potential B-side for "From Me To You" three years later. In the nostalgic, heady days of the ill-fated "Get Back" project, it was trotted out again & they completely nailed it, with a key assist (no pun intended) by Billy Preston. Oddly, it's the only Beatles song about trains--a sort of lighter, Liverpudlian take on "Love In Vain."



8. "All Together Now" [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969]

When Ian MacDonald wrote about this song in his classic book Revolution In The Head, he said simply: "Self-produced (for the planned Yellow Submarine cartoon feature (in one six-hour session, this repetitive McCartney singalong displays the group's misplaced faith in the childlike, being trite enough to have been chanted for several seasons on English football terraces." I respectfully beg to differ. First of all, the song isn't trying to be anything more than it is--a children's song. Secondly, I hear it as a Lennon-McCartney collaboration in the classic sense, with McCartney contributing the verses & Lennon writing the bridge. Third of all, it has a performance that more than carries its spirit, especially once Lennon's ukulele rhythm comes in & Starr's Spike Jones-quality percussion finish. Finally, for a song that usually dismissed as a children's song, it has some knowingly adult lines ("Can I take my friend to bed?") that make it something else entirely. All told, it's a song that delivers a whole bigger than the sum of its parts--like its title implies.



7. "Only A Northern Song" [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969]

The second of three songs on this list from Yellow Submarine, which may seem like a lot, but it must be remembered that the songs on that album spanned a three-year recording era. "Only A Northern Song" was made during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band but was shelved, presumably for being too dark for that album's optimistic aesthetic. This is a shame as less-interesting material like "Fixing A Hole" made the cut instead, not to mention Harrison's replacement, "Within You Without You," which has divided audiences since its first release. I much prefer this oddity, an apparent dig at Harrison having to write songs under Lennon & McCartney's "Northern Songs" publishing company, which spoke to an underlying skepticism & cynicism that has aged much better than nearly everything else on Sgt. Pepper.



6. "Wait" [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965]

While I favored the obscure for this project (literally one-half of The Beatles' songs from the Yellow Submarine LP made this list), I was also drawn to the under-appreciated work on some of their celebrated albums, such as this & the next song on Rubber Soul (perhaps because Rubber Soul is itself the most underrated of The Beatles' stone-cold classic albums, at least to modern ears; I personally think it's finer than anything else except Revolver & Abbey Road). But what about this track? "Wait" was the first song recorded for Rubber Soul--or more tellingly, the last song recorded for Help!, which The Beatles thought it was not strong enough for. Luckily, they picked it up again in their recording sessions for Rubber Soul some five months later, making it a worthy track on the LP. The spirit of the melody carried by the urgency of the percussion make it among the most exciting tracks they ever cut--plus with Lennon's verse & McCartney's bridge, it was one of the true 50/50 Lennon-McCartney compositions of this period. From its conception to its execution, "Wait" makes it clear that it will do everything except what its title says.



5. "I'm Looking Through You" [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965]

When I combined a baker dozen's worth of best-song Beatles lists to make my own poll-of-polls The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs Of All-Time in 2015, I was shocked to find that among the songs not to make any list was "I'm Looking Through You." Perhaps Rubber Soul is simply too packed with classics, but "I'm Looking Through You" is a great song that combines McCartney's penchant for melody with clever lyrics built on internal rhymes & killer bridge. It is also one of the best songs to capture The Beatles' transition from straight-ahead rock to the abstraction of their psychedelic music, as "I'm Looking Through You" creates a surreal lyric that demands to be taken entirely literally. Also, like the best songs from Rubber Soul (such as the more-celebrated "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" or "Girl"), it provides more questions than answers, while its organ blast at the refrain is one of the most soulful parts of Rubber Soul.



4. "Cry Baby Cry" [Album Track, "The White Album," 1968]

A haunting nursery rhyme of a song, "Cry Baby Cry" is the last song before "The White Album" goes off the rails with the challenging "Revolution 9" & the saccharine "Good Night." Taking the form of a folk ballad, The Beatles seem to reach back into a world that never really existed, which, lifted by piano & pushed forward by the drums, seemed to echo the music made by Bob Dylan & The Band the previous year in their legendary Basement Tapes sessions. Perfectly answering Lennon's riddle wrapped in an enigma is the cold finish into McCartney's "Can You Take Me Back?" coda, rocking back & forth mysteriously into the ether. As the twisted sounds of "Revolution 9" followed, it was clear the answer was no.



3. "I'll Be Back" [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964]

The finale of the forward-looking second side of the UK version of A Hard Day's Night LP, "I'll Be Back" was one of their most affecting ballads. Originally conceived as a waltz in 3/4 time, it proved too tricky to sing & was reinvented in straight 4/4 time. (Check out The Beatles' Anthology 1 for the hilarious results of the former before settling into the latter.) Part of what makes the song so special is that it contains not one but two distinct Beatles bridges (the "I wanna go" verse & the "I thought that you would realize" verse), creating a song that is varied in melody but united in sound. It is also noticeably darker than their contemporary material, pointing the way to Rubber Soul, "The White Album," & beyond.



2. "Hey Bulldog" [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969]

A funky, rock & roll boogie recorded just as The Beatles were careening from psychedelic rock to a more back-to-basics sound, "Hey Bulldog" is one of their freshest & most spontaneous-sounding performances. Part of this is because of how criminally neglected & underplayed it is, but most of it has to do with the performance in the song itself. Shifting from its offhanded, nonchalant asides of verses, it then hits you with a refrain that has all the intensity of The Four Tops' "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," based on an underlying simplicity: "YOU CAN TALK TO ME...IF YOU'RE LONELY YOU CAN TALK TO ME." What more needs to be said after this? Originally beginning life as "Hey Bullfrog," the group wisely changed it to a canine subject, shelved it, & then threw it away on the Yellow Submarine LP. It deserved much better.



1. "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" [Album Track, "The White Album," 1968]

The closest thing The Beatles ever got to a self-contained "rock opera" (a la The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away"), "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" is a patchwork quilt of a creation, with Lennon stitching together various half-finished demos from their trip to India. Like "Strawberry Fields Forever," it began its life as a folk-picked ballad, but kept that feeling with its ominous "She's not a girl who misses much..." opening. It then takes a turn into the rocking "She's well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand..." part, which itself lands in the hard-rock style riffing that picks up with the "I need a fix 'cause I'm going down" that then goes into the stop-&-start "Mother superior jump the gun" section. Finally, everything resolves into the lovely, ridiculous, cascading "Happiness is a warm gun" finale, which takes the malt-shop doo-wop chord progression of the '50s & turns it inside-out into a bizarre statement made out of love, lust, & revolution. Every twist & turn of the song is fully supported & hashed out by The Beatles, adding up to a complex, proficient performance that defies the cliche that "The White Album" is just a preview of The Beatles' solo careers.

With the assassinations of RFK & MLK that same year--not to mention Lennon's own a dozen years later--"Happiness Is A Warm Gun" plays like a foreboding prophecy of doom, the moment at which the all-you-need-is-love ethos of the '60s became a doomed warning for the modern age.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Donald Trump: Unpresidented.

President Trump peddling snake oil in Youngstown, OH, 7.25.2017.

I was nine years old when I first learned to recite the Presidents backwards.

Ever since, they have been a source of interest, of inspiration, a lens through which to better understand America in all of its ragged guts & glory. They exist as a set of 44 men who, at their best, represent the best that America can be.

This is not true, however, of the current president.

President Donald J. Trump is shaping up to be the joker in the deck, the one who taints the entire set by the mere presence of his inclusion.

This is not just tragic, but ironic--no President has ever been more obsessed with the concept of "branding," & yet President Trump single-handedly ruins the brand of President.

He is, to use his own mistaken term that was left up in a tweet for nearly an hour before it was taken down & corrected, "Unpresidented."

So last night, in one of his countless would-be election rally speeches in Youngstown, Ohio, when President Trump said that "With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any other president," he had finally gone too far.

Now it was personal.

I'm pretty sure President Trump initially ran for President as a publicity stunt to promote his then-dimming brand, & as time went on, found himself triggering something like a social movement he couldn't have predicted. Somehow this super-rich New York City elite who bragged about his adultery & had the speaking skills & morality of a 3rd grade bully won over the so-called Christian conservatives in the midwest & south.

What was supposed to be referendum on America became a referendum on Hillary Clinton.

As he continued to fall backwards into things going his way, Trump's insatiable ego took over. He must be great because every tells him he's great. He should be President because he is a Great Man because he must be. He is basically like Rodion Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment, only instead of killing a helpless old lady, he killed our country.

But the American People--or more tellingly, the Electoral College--called his bluff & made him President. As everyone waits with baited breath for the "real President Trump," he continues to be the only Trump there ever was: The self-absorbed jackass who blusters his way through everything with big empty promises, insults, & tweets. Even now that he is President, the campaigning never stops. Can you imagine if six months in, Obama still talked about McCain nearly every day or Bush had kept bringing up Gore?

The only saving grace to this all is that Trump himself appears to hate his new job.

I chalk it up to the fact that, until January 20, 2017, he hasn't really had to put in a hard day of work in probably 30 years. He's not used to doing it, & even worse, he's not interested in doing it. He's used to surrounding himself with his family (why do you think they all now work in the West Wing?) & letting them call the shots as he supplies the brand name like an honorary CEO.

I've heard skeptics say that perhaps the weight of the office would inspire him to step up, but all signs thus far have indicated that he simply does not possess the mental ability to do so. Someone recently wrote that being President requires at least some level of intellectual curiosity, & President Trump appears to be entirely void in this way.

He surrounds himself with yes-men & Fox News who don't dare to question his allegedly historic, "A+" Presidency, & everyone else is either wrong or "FAKE NEWS."

It's basically like "The Emperor's New Clothes," & Trump is the clueless king who's complimented by his noblemen but stands naked to the world.

Or perhaps, he's like King Lear, a fool who believes himself to be a wise man, railing against the storm in futility & rage.

Whatever he is, it's not presidential & it's ruining the brand of men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, & Franklin Roosevelt; let alone more recent ones like Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, & Ronald Reagan.

One of our worst Presidents, Warren G. Harding, who spent his time in office gambling & cheating on his wife while appointing his corrupt friends to government positions said, "I am not fit for this office & should never have been there."

If only President Trump could have the wisdom of, um, Warren G. Harding.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Beatles: The Number Ones.


Of all the achievements The Beatles have been recognized for, there is one that I don't believe I've ever seen mentioned.

While they were together, The Beatles released 22 singles--featuring 26 A-sides between them--in their native UK.

Between the major charts in the UK & the US, every single single--that is, all 26 A-sides--hit #1.

That's quite a feat for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, & Ringo Starr. No one can touch this--not Elvis, not The Rolling Stones, & certainly not Bob Dylan, who's yet to ever have a #1 record.

So to celebrate this on the 60th Anniversary month of The Day John Met Paul, I thought it would be interesting to break down just how those 26 A-sides charted--as well as over a dozen more #1's that occurred outside of their homeland singles.



* * *


INTRO: THE CHART MYTH

They say that history is written by the winners, & perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in the popular music charts, of all places.

Modern day chart listings will have you believe that for each country, there was only one main chart. Nowhere is this more true than for the UK & the US where Record Retailer & Billboard, respectively, have become the end-all, be-all authority of what was officially a hit when & where.

But as with so much else, the truth is, well, more complicated.

At the time The Beatles were releasing their singles, there was no one single dominant chart in the UK or the US. In the UK, Record Retailer was one of several main charts, which also included ones printed in New Music Express (NME) & Melody Maker. In fact, of these three charts, Record Retailer was generally considered the weakest & least-reliable because, despite its name, it actually sampled the fewest number of stores--around 30 to the others that tabulated upwards of several hundred each. (A fourth chart, Disc, also generally considered more reliable than Record Retailer, was omitted here because it only printed its own charts until 1967 before using the one made by Melody Maker.)

But somehow Record Retailer got be the official UK chart in hindsight, which altered standings of some long-accepted #1 hits, none more so than "Please Please Me," which now magically lost its #1 status in the UK. (The other chief loser was The Rolling Stones, whose "19th Nervous Breakdown" also lost its UK #1 status). To anyone living in the UK at that time, this was absurd, as "Please Please Me" topped the charts everywhere else & began The Beatles career as a mainstream commercial sensation. Thus, when the much-celebrated CD collection 1 came out, "Please Please Me" was nowhere to be found.

In the US, Billboard was the first chart compiler & the last one standing, but throughout the '60s, competitors like Cashbox & Record World were used just as much & considered just as reliable, if not more so. Just like how only focusing on Record Retailer results in a distorted perspective of the UK charts, so too does only focusing on Billboard results in a distorted perspective of the US charts. To get the most complete picture of what was going on, it is best to put the three charts together to form a greater whole.

When this is done for both sides of the Atlantic, all 22 Beatles singles--which includes 26 A-sides--hit #1 on at least one of these charts. An additional five songs made #1 on the US charts only. & by my count, nine more songs on top of that made #1 in a major country that wasn't the UK or US. All told, this makes for 40 #1 hits, which means that over 18%--nearly one-fifth--of their initial catalog hit #1 somewhere in the world.



* * *


PT. 1: THE ORIGINAL UK SINGLES



1. Love Me Do



B-Side: "P.S. I Love You"
Released: October 5, 1962 [UK]; April 27, 1964 [US]
Recorded: September 4-11, 1962
Composer: McCartney-Lennon
Length: 2:26 [Version 1]; 2:22 [Version 2]
Other Countries Where #1: Australia

Record Retailer: #17
NME: #27
Melody Maker: #21

Billboard: #1 (1 week)
Cashbox: #1 (1 week)
Record World: #1 (1 week)

Fun Fact: "Love Me Do" is the only original Beatles UK single to reach #1 for no more than one week on any chart.


Notes: "Love Me Do" was the first Beatles single & the first single not to top any UK charts (including Disc, the fourth chart, where it placed #24) until "Something/Come Together" in 1969. However, in America it topped all three charts--a pattern we shall see repeated (& inverted) later on.

There were two "Love Me Do"s--the original UK single version that featured Ringo Starr on drums ("Version 1") & one version that featured session musician Andy White on drums & Starr banging a tambourine ("Version 2"). After a few weeks, "Version 1" was replaced with "Version 2," a trend cemented when "Version 2" was included on the first Beatles LP, Please Please Me. Meanwhile, the original master of "Version 1" was erased, & when the song was reissued on rarities compilations some twenty years later, a 45 record was used. Thus, in the US, it was "Version 2" that hit the top spot on all the major charts.





2. Please Please Me



B-Side: "Ask Me Why" [UK]; "From Me To You" [US]
Released: January 11, 1963 [UK]; February 7, 1963 [US]
Recorded: November 26, 1962
Composer: McCartney-Lennon
Length: 2:06

Record Retailer: #2
NME: #1 (2 weeks; 1 week co-#1 with Frank Ifield's "The Wayward Wind; 1 week solo)
Melody Maker: #1 (2 weeks)
Disc: #1 (2 weeks)

Billboard: #3
Cashbox: #3
Record World: #3


Fun Fact: Like "Love Me Do" & all of the original songs off of their first LP, "Please Please Me" is officially a "McCartney-Lennon" composition; the more familiar "Lennon-McCartney" credit would not be used until their next single, "From Me To You."


Notes: When The Beatles finished cutting "Please Please Me," their producer, George Martin, replied, "Congratulations gentlemen, you've just made your first #1."

He was right, mostly.

"Please Please Me" hit #1 on every UK chart except for Record Retailer, which means it got the top spot in NME, Melody Maker, & Disc. It further was the #1 song on the BBC listings, making Record Retailer the freak outlier. By literally all the other more reliable sources, "Please Please Me" was the biggest record in the country; when the back of The Beatles' debut album, also called Please Please Me, hailed its title track as their first #1 song in the UK, it wasn't lying.

In the States, it fared less well, but received a boost when it was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, propelling it to #3 on all the major charts, held back from the top by "I Want To Hold Your Hand" & "She Loves You," taking turns at #1 & #2, depending on the week & the chart.




3. From Me To You



B-Side: "Thank You Girl"
Released: April 11, 1963 [UK]; May 27, 1963 [US]
Recorded: March 5, 1963
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 1:57
Other Country Where #1: New Zealand

Record Retailer: #1 (7 weeks)
NME: #1 (5 weeks; 4 weeks solo; 1 week co-#1 with Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas' "Do You Want To Know A Secret")
Melody Maker: #1 (6 weeks)

Billboard: #41
Cashbox: #41
Record World: #46 

Fun Fact: Clocking in at under two minutes, "From Me To You" is the shortest Beatles #1.

Notes: If there were any doubts about whether "Please Please Me" was just a passing fad, they were put to rest with "From Me To You." The fact that it remains, outside of the enormous follow-up "She Loves You," The Beatles hit to spend the most collective weeks at #1 in their native country speaks to how different they were upon arrival. 

They were so different that the US didn't know what to do with them--although they would soon learn. In the meantime, American singer Del Shannon (best known for his 1961 smash "Runaway") covered "From Me To You" in June 1963, where it made #77 on Billboard, giving him the distinction of having the first charting Beatles song in America. This led the original version to garner some attention, making #149 on Cashbox & #116 on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart that July & August, respectively, making it the first Beatles record to make the US chart, some four months before full-fledged US Beatlemania.

When The Beatles broke wide-open in early 1964, "From Me To You" was reissued as the B-side to "Please Please Me," which caused it to stall on the American in the low-to-mid-40s. It remains the only original Beatles UK single to not make the American Top 40 on any major chart.





4. She Loves You



B-Side: "I'll Get You"
Released: August 23, 1963 [UK]; September 16, 1963 [US]
Recorded: July 1, 1963
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:21
Other Countries Where #1: Canada, New Zealand, & Norway

Record Retailer: #1 (6 weeks)
NME: #1 (6 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (7 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks)
Record World: #1 (1 week) 

Fun Fact: "She Loves You" says the word "Yeah" 29 times.

Notes: British Beatlemania begins here. "She Loves You" took The Beatles from being the biggest thing in English music to the biggest thing in the England. The song led to them playing Val Parnell's Sunday Night At The London Palladium in October 1963, the British equivalent of The Ed Sullivan Show, which was watched by 15 million people in England. It also led to their playing The Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth a month later. & as a reminder of how huge the song was for them, it serves as the live performance closer at the end of their film the following year, A Hard Day's Night.

Not surprisingly, it was named as Record Retailer's Best-Selling Single Of The Year for 1963 & later, their Best-Selling Single Of The Decade.

If the record didn't do quite as well in America overall, it was only because it was overshadowed by "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which became a hit in the country first. It was only after "I Want To Hold Your Hand" became #1 that "She Loves You" rose to follow it, although its stay at the top was truncated because of the other song's massive success. However, both songs lingered on the charts for roughly the same amount of time (15-18 weeks each, depending on the chart), which was reflected in the fact that it was #2 on both Billboard & Cashbox's year-end sales charts for 1964.

The song also initiated the astounding nine consecutive UK singles in a row that would reach #1 on all three major UK & US charts, a feat unheard of in this or any other era. 

   

5. I Want To Hold Your Hand



B-Side: "This Boy" [UK]; "I Saw Her Standing There" [US]
Released: November 29, 1963 [UK]; December 26, 1963 [US]
Recorded: October 17, 1963
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:26
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, & Norway

Record Retailer: #1 (5 weeks)
NME: #1 (6 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (5 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (7 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (8 weeks)
Record World: #1 (9 weeks)

Fun Fact: With 12 million in sales to date, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is The Beatles' best-selling song worldwide.

Notes: The song that launched American Beatlemania. After seeing countless UK acts try to make it in America & fail, they swore to never tour the country until they had a #1 hit. On February 1, 1964, they got their wish.

Much as "She Loves You" was the monster hit that made them a sensation in the UK, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was the monster hit that made them a sensation in America. The song basically stopped everything for about two months, as The British Invasion arrived with two albums worth of Beatles material ready for the US audience hungry for more.

In the UK, the song was a big hit, but not as big as "She Loves You" had been. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" would go onto become the second-best selling song of the year in the UK.

Meanwhile, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was #1 on both Billboard & Cashbox's year-end sales chart for 1964.

It also capped a successful year for The Beatles, as 1963 was the only year in which they would release four singles, all of which were #1s.




6. Can't Buy Me Love



B-Side: "You Can't Do That"
Released: March 20, 1964 [UK]; March 16, 1964 [US]
Recorded: January 29, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:12
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Ireland, & Netherlands

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (4 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (3 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (5 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (5 weeks)
Record World: #1 (4 weeks) 

Fun Fact: "Can't Buy Me Love" is the first song in history to top the UK & US charts simultaneously.

Notes: The breakout success of "Can't Buy Me Love" proved that "She Loves You" & "I Want To Hold Your Hand" were no fluke. It also showed the growing innovation of their singles. It is the first Beatles song to feature only one member of the band singing on its main part (McCartney), as the previous singles featured duets between Lennon & McCartney. It is also the first Beatles UK single to feature a guitar solo by Harrison, a characteristically rockabilly throwback that picks up on the song's rollicking rhythm & fits in the proceedings perfectly.

The song also arrived when American Beatlemania was at its peak, jumping a record #27 to #1 on the Billboard chart, the biggest jump ever until they began using SoundScan to tabulate their charts in 1991. But more significantly, on that first week "Can't Buy Me Love" reached the top spot--April 4, 1964--The Beatles held the Top 5 spots on Billboard: "Can't Buy Me Love" (#1), "Twist & Shout" (#2), "She Loves You" (#3), "I Want To Hold Your Hand (#4), & "Please Please Me" (#5). The following week, April 11, 1964, with "Can't Buy Me Love" still at the top of the chart, they broke another record when they occupied 14 songs on the Hot 100, a record that would hold for over 50 years.

In the UK, the single was even bigger (sales-wise at least), as it would go on to become Record Retailer's Best-Selling Single Of The Year for 1964. No wonder it would be featured in its entirety twice in their first film...




7. A Hard Day's Night



B-Side: "Things We Said Today" [UK]; "I Should Have Known Better" [US]
Released: July 10, 1964 [UK]; July 13, 1964 [US]
Recorded: April 16, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:34
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (4 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (4 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (3 weeks)
Record World: #1 (3 weeks)

Fun Fact: "A Hard Days Night" was the last time an original UK Beatles single featured a different B-side than its US counterpart.

Notes: From its epic sustained opening chord, the title track to The Beatles' first film kept the multiple-weeks-at-number-one-on-all-charts ball rolling. Even though it's the more iconic song than its predecessor today, "Can't Buy Me Love" was actually the bigger hit, which perhaps speaks to the increasing level of quality (& by extension, competition) in The Beatles' wake.

With Lennon singing the verses & McCartney singing the bridges, it felt like a more mature collaboration than the earlier 50/50 splits, providing the first inklings of a songwriting approach that would yield "A Day In The Life" in just a few short years.

But with Starr hammering away on the bongos & Harrison playing a scribbly solo on the electric 12-string guitar, this was a group effort, chomping at the bit & brimming with energy.



8. I Feel Fine



B-Side: "She's A Woman"
Released: November 27, 1964 [UK]; November 23, 1964 [US]
Recorded: October 18, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:23
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, & Norway

Record Retailer: #1 (5 weeks)
NME: #1 (6 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (6 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (3 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (4 weeks)
Record World: #1 (2 weeks)


Fun Fact: "I Feel Fine" marks the second time within three singles that the word "things" is rhymed with the words "diamond rings."


Notes: Perhaps appropriately, the song that landed in the exact middle of The Beatles' streak of 9 consecutive #1 songs to reach the top of all the major UK & US charts contained what's generally considered the first experiment on a Beatles record. "I Feel Fine" opens with the thick buzz of a guitar--as some like to tell it, the first use of feedback on a rock song--& sets the course for the next few years of The Beatles' career.

Chosen over the equally-commercial "Eight Days A Week" (which got its own US release--see below), "I Feel Fine" was a masterful pop construction, although a slight lived-in weariness to the sound spoke to the fatigue of international Beatlemania.

A huge hit in their native country, as it provided the second of their three consecutive "Christmas #1s" (apparently a big thing over there), the song proved slightly less successful in the US, despite being a major hit in its own right.



9. Ticket To Ride



B-Side: "Yes It Is"
Released: April 9, 1965 [UK]; April 19, 1965 [US]
Recorded: February 15, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:10
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (5 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (5 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (1 week)
Cashbox: #1 (1 week)
Record World: #1 (1 week)

Fun Fact: "Ticket To Ride" was the first Beatles single to clock in at over three minutes.


Notes: With its slower sound & off-kilter beat, "Ticket To Ride" was the most challenging Beatles single to date, & the first to take a bit longer to reach the top spot since their international breakthrough. The US seemed especially skeptical, as it was the first #1-on-all-three-charts to only last a week on each since "Love Me Do."

"Ticket To Ride" was the sound of an increasingly maturing Beatles, looking for new sounds & influences to inspire their music. One could hear Dylan for sure (just listen to the "Aaaaaah" just before the titular phrase in the refrain), as well as the medicinal effects of pot, which both slowed & deepened their sound. But if surprise greeted it upon release, it's been considered one of their finest & most influential songs ever since.



10. Help!



B-Side: "I'm Down"
Released: July 23, 1965 [UK]; July 19, 1965 [US]
Recorded: April 13, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:20
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (4 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (4 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (3 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (3 weeks)
Record World: #1 (1 week)

Fun Fact: "Help!" is the only original UK Beatles single with one word in its title.


Notes: An archetypal Lennon confessional song that packed a lot into a relatively short running time: A driving verse that shifted gears into a galloping bridge, anticipatory backing vocals by McCartney & Harrison, clever guitar licks & a master hand at the beat glueing the whole thing together.

If its self-analytical, worried man stance was lifted from Dylan, he would end up paying the price too, as "Help!" single-handedly kept his iconic "Like A Rolling Stone" from reaching the top spot on the Billboard charts.



11. Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out



Released: December 3, 1965
Recorded: October 20-29, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:52 / 2:15
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Ireland, & Netherlands

Record Retailer: #1 (5 weeks)
NME: #1 (5 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (4 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks) [WCWIO only] / #5 [DT]
Cashbox: #1 (4 weeks) [WCWIO only] / #10 [DT]
Record World: #1 (2 weeks) [WCWIO only] / #12 [DT]

Fun Facts: "Day Tripper" was originally written with the phrase "prick teaser" until it was substituted for the more appropriate "big teaser"; "We Can Work It Out" was the result of 11 hours in the studio--the most amount of time The Beatles had spent on a song up to that point.


Notes: The first of The Beatles' three (or four, depending on how you count them) double-A-sided singles, this was a bold, potentially arrogant experiment in marketing that perhaps only they alone could pull off.

Traditionally, singles had a killer A-side & a filler B-side, with double-sided sensations (the most famous up to this point being Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel") being the rare fluke exception. But when The Beatles released "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out," both sides were marketed as the A-side.

The ploy worked in the UK, where British loyalty buoyed the sales, but perhaps more importantly, the charts counted two sides of a single as one record only.

In the US, things were different. With Billboard leading the way with their Hot 100 chart in 1958, two different sides of a single could chart individually, as things such as airplay & jukebox holdings could influence a song's success, as opposed to strictly just sales. Thus, for most of the '60s, this was the rule, & so even The Beatles' double-A sided singles were split, mostly based on airplay.

So where both "Day Tripper" & "We Can Work It Out" reached the top spot on all three UK charts, only "We Can Work It Out" reached the top of the three US charts. "Day Tripper" fared less well, not making it past #5 on any of the charts.

With The Beatles releasing the songs as "Day Tripper" followed by "We Can Work It Out" on both the Past Masters anthology & the compilation 1, it seems they imagined "Day Tripper" to be the bigger side, & both Record Retailer & NME listed the single as "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out." However, in four weeks the single sat atop the Melody Maker chart, it was listed as "We Can Work It Out"/"Day Tripper," which was more in line with the American airplay.



12. Paperback Writer



B-Side: "Rain"
Released: May 30, 1966
Recorded: April 13-14, 1966
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:15
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, & Sweden

Record Retailer: #1 (2 weeks)
NME: #1 (2 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (4 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks)
Record World: #1 (1 week) 

Fun Fact: Lennon & Harrison are singing "Frere Jacques" in the backing vocals to the final verses.


Notes: The last of The Beatles' nine consecutive #1-on-all-major-UK-&-US-charts was also perhaps the least, a musically solid but lyrically disposable song about wanting to be a novelist. Clearly, the sound is what carried it. Building off of the lead guitar hooks of songs like "Ticket To Ride" & "Day Tripper," "Paperback Writer" expanded the sonic pallet by adding a dimension of complex overlaying harmony that was clearly influenced by their primary American competition, The Beach Boys. It was also the first Beatles song to have a boosted bass part, after Lennon asked why Wilson Pickett records had a much stronger deep end than theirs. In other words, "Paperback Writer" brought The Beatles into the modern sonic era.

But while "Paperback Writer" holds its place comfortably in every major Beatles collection, history & hindsight has shown its proto-psychdelic flipside, "Rain," to be the better & more influential song. "Rain" was perhaps a little too ahead of its time for the powers-that-be at the record label, as "Paperback Writer" was the only single in this current string of four not to be issued as a double-A-sided single.



13. Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby



Released: August 5, 1966
Recorded: April 28-June 6, 1966
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:39 / 2:07
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, & Norway

Record Retailer: #1 (4 weeks)
NME: #1 (4 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (3 weeks)

Billboard: #2 [YS only] / #11 [ER]
Cashbox: #1 (1 week) [YS only] / #12 [ER]
Record World: #1 (1 week) [YS only] / #16 [ER]


Fun Facts: "Yellow Submarine" is the only Beatles #1 single sung by Starr; "Eleanor Rigby" is the only Beatles #1 single to feature no Beatles playing any instruments.


Notes: The second of The Beatles' double-A-sided singles, & the first single comprised of music that was simultaneously released on an LP (in this case, Revolver, which was released on the same day as this single).

Like "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" before it, the ploy worked great in the UK, where both singles were considered one apiece, & all the charts listed "Yellow Submarine"/"Eleanor Rigby" in the #1 spot.

In the US, the sides were split once again, with "Yellow Submarine" proving more popular, as "Eleanor Rigby" failed to crack the Top 10 on any major US chart. (Interestingly, in the UK, "Eleanor Rigby" proved to be the more popular side.)

"Yellow Submarine"/"Eleanor Rigby" also broke The Beatles #1-on-all-major-UK-&-US-charts streak just barely when Billboard alone held off "Yellow Submarine" from the top spot in favor of The Sumpremes' "You Can't Hurry Love."

At least it was kept off by a stone-cold classic.




14. Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane



Released: February 13, 1967
Recorded: November 24, 1966-January 17, 1967
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 4:07 / 3:01
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, & Norway

Record Retailer: #2
NME: #2
Melody Maker: #1 (3 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (1 week) (PL only) / #8 (SFF)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks) (PL only) / #10 (SFF)
Record World: #1 (2 weeks) (PL only) / #9 (SFF)


Fun Facts: "Strawberry Field" was a real place where Lennon remembers playing in the garden outside of the Salvation Army children's home in Liverpool; "Penny Lane" was a real bus terminus between Lennon & McCartney's childhood homes.


Notes: The third of The Beatles' double-A-sided singles was their finest, two studies of childhood--Lennon's moody & surreal rumination "Strawberry Fields Forever" & McCartney's upbeat & surreal celebration "Penny Land"; together they made, as cultural historian Greil Marcus has suggested, "The first 'concept 45'?"

It also marked The Beatles' artistic reach exceeding their commercial grasp. For the first time since "Love Me Do," a Beatles single didn't top at least two of their major charts; in perhaps the greatest UK social injustice of the '60s, the greatest single in rock history was kept from the top spot by Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me." Melody Maker alone put both sides at #1 for three weeks (albeit with "Penny Lane" listed first), allowing "Strawberry Fields Forever" to be added to the official full tally of Beatles #1s.

As had occurred with "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out," Melody Maker's ordering coincided with American popularity. "Penny Lane" alone made the top spot on all three major charts, with "Strawberry Fields Forever" reaching no higher than #8, making it the poorest showing of any original UK A-side in the US besides "From Me To You."

Beatles producer George Martin always said the biggest regret of his musical career was not making "When I'm Sixty-Four" the B-side to either "Penny Lane" or "Strawberry Fields Forever" so that the two sides didn't split the single's success (or put The Beatles back to the drawing board when approaching the album that was to become Sgt. Pepper).

Martin's folly is the greatest Beatles single of them all, even if it was far from being the greatest in terms of sales.



15. All You Need Is Love



B-Side: "Baby, You're A Rich Man"
Released: July 7, 1967
Recorded: June 14-26, 1967
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:50
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (4 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (3 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (1 week)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks)
Record World: #1 (2 weeks)


Fun Fact: McCartney sings the refrain "She Loves You" in the song's fade, marking the only time that a Beatles #1 song is directly quoted in another Beatles #1 song.


Notes: Released in the wake of the epic Sgt. Pepper, "All You Need Is Love" was a sort of finale for the season, cementing that period of 1967 as The Summer Of Love.

It tellingly marked the shortest turn-around period between recording & releasing a Beatles single, presumably to tie in with it being recorded as part of the international broadcast Our World television special.

As a anthem to & reflection of its time, it easily made #1 on all the major UK & US charts, the first song to do so since "Paperback Writer" only a year earlier--& half a world away. What was an obvious success then has become dated ever since, as "All You Need Is Love" is at once an inspirational hallmark & a relic trapped in its own long-lost era.




16. Hello Goodbye




B-Side: "I Am The Walrus"
Released: November 24, 1967
Recorded: October 2-November 2, 1967
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:29
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain

Record Retailer: #1 (7 weeks)
NME: #1 (6 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (5 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (3 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks)
Record World: #1 (4 weeks)


Fun Fact: The song ends with a "Maori finale," which is often mistaken for The Beatles singing "aloha." The latter would have been the more appropriate choice, as it means both hello & goodbye in Hawaiian.


Notes: After the runaway success of "All You Need Is Love," "Hello Goodbye" became the second Beatles single in a row to reach the top of all the major UK & US charts.

In the UK it was an especially big hit, the first single to break the 5-week mark on any chart since the double-sided "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out." In this regard, it brought The Beatles' psychedelic period to a close in stunning style.



17. Lady Madonna



B-Side: "The Inner Light"
Released: March 15, 1968
Recorded: February 3-6, 1968
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:18
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, & Switzerland

Record Retailer: #1 (2 weeks)
NME: #1 (2 weeks)
Melody Maker: #2


Billboard: #4
Cashbox: #2
Record World: #2


Fun Fact: "Lady Madonna" was the first release on The Beatles newly-formed Apple Records.


Notes: "Lady Madonna" was the first Beatles single to not be a stone-cold essential; tellingly, it is also the first UK Beatles single not to hit #1 on any US chart since "From Me To You" (in other words, since before American Beatlemania). It also breaks what would have been another five-in-a-row of Beatles songs that hit #1 on all the major UK & US charts. In fact, it is the only UK Beatles single not to hit #1 on at least half of the major UK & US charts other than "Please Please Me."

Coming after the less-than-successful Magical Mystery Tour project, "Lady Madonna" marked a way out of psychedelic rock by embracing a '50s-influenced, back-to-basics aesthetic. Based on the boogie style of Fats Domino, "The Fat Man" himself would cover the song later in the year & score his final charting hit to date. (Meanwhile, its flipside, "The Inner Light"--somehow Harrison's first appearance on the side of a Beatles single--used tried to find a way out through Eastern thought.)

It worked in the loyal UK (mostly), but in the US, people looked elsewhere for their top hits. "Lady Madonna" was beaten out in Cashbox & Record World by Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey." In Billboard, it remained at #4 for 3 weeks behind "Honey," The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett's "Young Girl," & The Box Tops' "Cry Like A Baby."

If "Lady Madonna" plays like a rare relative misstep in The Beatles judgment (at least in terms of their American audience), it was one they would more than make up for with their subsequent release.




18. Hey Jude



B-Side: "Revolution"
Released: August 26, 1968
Recorded: July 31-August 2, 1968
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 7:10
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, & Switzerland

Record Retailer: #1 (2 weeks)
NME: #1 (3 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (4 weeks)

Billboard: #1 (9 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (7 weeks)
Record World: #1 (4 weeks)

Fun Fact: Clocking in at over seven minutes, "Hey Jude" was The Beatles' longest #1 song.


Notes: "Hey Jude" was one of The Beatles' most iconic songs & initiated another double-header of songs that hit #1 on every major UK & US chart. Its seven-minute-plus length made it a force to be reckoned with, & was a feature that perhaps The Beatles alone could have pulled off in that time. It is not, however, The Beatles' longest song (both "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" & "Revolution 9" are longer), nor is it the longest #1 song overall (that would be Don McLean's "American Pie Parts 1 & 2," which clocks in at over 8:30 minutes).

But "Hey Jude" was huge, especially in America, where it owned the charts for a few months & would become an even bigger-seller than "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (although the latter would still beat it in terms of world-wide sales). Several would try their hand at the song themselves to try & recapture the magic--including, most infamously, Elvis Presley--but it eluded them; "Hey Jude" only sounds right in the hands of The Beatles.

The song also contained one of The Beatles' most famous B-sides, "Revolution," which did well enough that Record World made the unusual move of listing the single as "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" when it made the #2 spot. The following week (the first week of four it reached the top spot), the single was now split, with "Hey Jude" at #1 & "Revolution" at #2. Had they kept the listing as a double-sided single, it may have added another song to the list of #1 Beatles songs.

Not surprisingly, "Hey Jude" would make #1 on both Billboard & Cashbox's year-end sales chart for 1968. It is also The Beatles song to hit #1 in the most number of different countries with a total of 13.




19. Get Back



B-Side: "Don't Let Me Down"
Released: April 11, 1969
Recorded: January 27-28, 1969
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:11
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, & Switzerland

Record Retailer: #1 (6 weeks)
NME: #1 (5 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (5 weeks)


Billboard: #1 (5 weeks)

Cashbox: #1 (5 weeks)
Record World: #1 (4 weeks)

Fun Fact: "Get Back" & its flipside were officially credited to The Beatles With Billy Preston--the African-American keyboardist who appears on the track. It is the only time in The Beatles catalog that a song was released with a co-credit.


Notes: Inspired in part by the live-in-the-studio recording of "Hey Jude" & its accompanying promotional film, The Beatles spent the early part of 1969 on their ill-fated "Get Back" project, where they filmed themselves "getting back" to becoming a working live band, which was originally supposed to culminate in some sort of a live album or performance.

In reality, they ended up filming themselves coming apart as a band, as much of the project was shelved. The sole exception was this single, which was musically the most simple song they had released as a single since "Love Me Do."

It was also an international smash, becoming the last song that The Beatles released to hit #1 on all the major UK & US charts--& the first since "I Want To Hold Your Hand" to remain at #1 on every chart for at least a month each.







20. The Ballad Of John & Yoko



B-side: "Old Brown Shoe"
Released: May 30, 1969
Recorded: April 14, 1969
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:00
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, & Switzerland

Record Retailer: #1 (3 weeks)
NME: #1 (2 weeks)
Melody Maker: #1 (3 weeks)

Billboard: #8
Cashbox: #10
Record World: #7

Fun Fact: "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" is the only Beatles single to not have its title anywhere in its lyrics.


Notes: Written entirely by Lennon, "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" was recorded in the studio by he & McCartney in one freewheeling session, which speaks to their deep friendship, as at that point The Beatles were experiencing some of their darkest days. With Lennon on guitars & vocals & McCartney on everything else, it is the only UK Beatles single to feature only two Beatles.

The song was their final UK #1 hit, but in America, its use of the word "Christ" & references to crucifixion got it banned from many radio stations. It remains the Beatles single to hit #1 in the most number of countries--10--without doing so in the US.

Yet, as we have seen with "Love Me Do" & "From Me To You," when a Beatles single doesn't make #1 on either the UK or US charts, it often makes #1 on the charts of the other. (The only exception to this rule is "Please Please Me.") Its failure to reach the top spot on any US chart (let alone the Top 5) makes it the least-essential Beatles single besides "Lady Madonna."



 
21. Something / Come Together



Released: October 6, 1969
Recorded: May 2, 1969-August 15, 1969
Composer: George Harrison / Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:02 / 4:20
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Canada, Germany, & New Zealand

Record Retailer: #4
NME: #2
Melody Maker: #4

Billboard: #1 (1 week)
Cashbox: #1 (3 weeks)
Record World: #1 (3 weeks)


Fun Facts: "Something" is the second-most covered song in recorded sound (after The Beatles' own "Yesterday"); "Come Together" was once used by Timothy Leary as a theme song for a presidential bid.


Notes: "Something" is the only original Beatles UK single not to come out independent of, or simultaneously with, an album. Both sides of the single were previously released on Abbey Road in late September, but were issued as a single a few weeks later. This was the brainchild of then-manager Allen Klein, who was called in to try & clean up the muddled state of The Beatles' finances. In an effort to make some more cash for the group, the single for "Something" appeared in its unorthodox way.

But things didn't go as planned. Despite the fact it gave Harrison is first & only official UK A-side, Lennon's flip "Come Together" proved at least as popular, if not more so. The competition between the sides split the single's success, as well as the fact that many fans already owned the song on the Abbey Road LP. As a result, it became the first UK single to miss the top spot on every UK chart since "Love Me Do."

In America, "Come Together" proved to be the more popular side, even though "Something" gave it stiff competition there too. But as what so often happens in The Beatles' story, luck intervened. After the two sides of the single fought against each other on the Billboard chart, the organization changed its rule for singles, allowing both sides of a single to chart as a single entity as long as both sides were getting significant airplay. The combined forces of this single caused it to be listed as "Come Together" / "Something," giving The Beatles another stateside #1. Meanwhile, Cashbox only listed "Come Together" at the stop spot, while Music World followed Billboard's lead & put both sides, with "Come Together" first.

As a result, the chart success of "Come Together" forced the "Something" single to become a double-A-sided single, although it was not intended as one from the outset. But in all likelihood, it was the presence of "Come Together" as the flip that allowed "Something" to become a #1 single on any of the charts.

 

22. Let It Be



B-Side: "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)"
Released: March 6, 1970
Recorded: January 31, 1969-January 4, 1970
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:52
Other Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Canada, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, & Switzerland

Record Retailer: #2
NME: #3
Melody Maker: #3

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (4 weeks)
Record World: #1 (3 weeks)


Fun Fact: "Let It Be" was inspired by the words said to McCartney in a dream by his mother, Mary, who died when McCartney was 17.

Notes: The last Beatles UK single was the second-in-a-row not to make #1 on any of the UK charts. As a result, if you focus solely on the so-called "official" chart of Record Retailer, the only Beatles UK singles not to hit #1 were the first two ("Love Me Do" & "Please Please Me") & the last two ("Something" & "Let It Be"). & in Record Retailer"Let It Be" was kept from the top spot in Record Retailer by Lee Marvin's "Wand'rin' Star," from the Paint Your Wagon soundtrack.

In America, the song fared much better, continuing the pattern of "Something" / "Come Together" that if a song misses #1 on all the UK charts, it makes #1 on all the US ones. Fittingly, this song of peace & inspiration was the final single released by The Beatles when they were still a group, as McCartney quit the band roughly a month after the "Let It Be" single was released.




* * *


 
PT. 2: THE ADDITIONAL US #1s


 
Twist & Shout



B-Side: "There's A Place"
Released: March 2, 1964
Recorded: February 11, 1963
Composer: Phil Medley, Bert Russell
Length: 2:35

Billboard: #2
Cashbox: #1 (1 week)
Record World: #1 (1 week)

Fun Fact: "Twist & Shout" is the only non-original Beatles song to hit #1 in the US.

Notes: When Beatlemania hit the US, anyone with the rights to Beatles music started flooding the charts with their own product. With the various labels that tried to release Beatles material up until "I Want To Hold Your Hand" & failed, this meant that much of The Beatles' early catalog was split among various small labels.

One of them, Tollie, used this issue a single of one of the most exciting & iconic songs The Beatles would ever cut, "Twist & Shout." In a time with less competition, the song would have easily become a smash, but by mid-1964 The Beatles were facing the stiffest competition imaginable: Themselves. Contemporary singles like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" & "Can't Buy Me Love" were up against other earlier releases finding light in America for the first time like "She Loves You" & "Love Me Do."

"Twist & Shout" only made #1 for a single week on Cashbox & Record World before falling victim to other Beatles hits. Meanwhile, in Billboard"Twist & Shout" spent four weeks on Billboard lodged at #2 behind The Beatles' own "Can't Buy Me Love."

The song's inability to make #1 on Billboard was reason enough to keep it from being an "official" #1, meaning it could be left off of "The Red Album" compilation & the CD 1 with a straight face. For a band so focused on their original material, it kept such collections entirely free of cover material. Some claim it is the only Beatles cover to reach #1, but as seen below, their versions of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" & "Rock & Roll Music" both hit #1 in Australia.



 
Eight Days A Week



B-Side: "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party"
Released: February 15, 1965
Recorded: October 6-18, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:44
Other Countries Where #1: Canada & Netherlands

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (3 weeks)
Record World: #1 (3 weeks)


Fun Fact: Like the song titles "A Hard Day's Night" & "Tomorrow Never Knows," the phrase "Eight Days A Week" is credited to one of Starr's malapropisms.


Notes: In the UK, singles & albums were treated as separate entities for the most part. So when "I Feel Fine" was picked as The Beatles' final single of 1964, the equally-commercial "Eight Days A Week" was regulated to the Beatles For Sale LP.

In the US, the market was different as singles almost always appeared on their respective albums. The Beatles albums were no exceptions, even though their albums compiled differently than their UK counterparts (much to The Beatles' chagrin). When "Eight Days A Week" was held off of the American version of Beatles For Sale (shuffled around & compiled as The Beatles '65), it was released a few months later as the lead single for The Beatles VI.

It proved to be nearly as big of a hit as "I Feel Fine" in the US & remains one of their best-loved songs. Ironically, it was The Beatles themselves who didn't think much of it, passing it over as a single & never performing it live as a band. But the song's energy is contagious & it is rightly described as one of the most optimistic songs of the entire decade.


 
Yesterday



B-Side: "Act Naturally"
Released: September 13, 1965
Recorded: June 14, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:06
Other Countries Where #1: Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain

Billboard: #1 (4 weeks)
Cashbox: #1 (3 weeks)
Record World: #1 (2 weeks)


Fun Fact: "Yesterday" came to McCartney in a dream, for which he used the lyric "Scrambled Eggs."


Notes: It is one of the great ironies of The Beatles career that the most-covered song in the history of recorded sound was never originally released as a single in their native country. (It would be reissued as a single in the 1976 as a tie-in to their Love Songs collection, where it made #8 on Record Retailer).

Their US label couldn't pass up the chance of releasing this instant-classic & it predictably became a big hit on all of the major charts. With McCartney only playing guitar & singing over producer George Martin's string arrangement, "Yesterday" is the only #1 Beatles song to feature one Beatle. ("Eleanor Rigby," which featured no Beatles playing instruments, contained vocals by McCartney, Lennon, & Harrison.)

The success of "Yesterday" in other countries--& its place in the popular music canon ever since--has proved that its hit status in the US was no fluke.

 
Nowhere Man



B-Side: "What Goes On"
Released: February 21, 1966
Recorded: October 21-22, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:47
Other Countries Where #1: Australia & Canada

Billboard: #3
Cashbox: #2
Record World: #1 (2 weeks)


Fun Fact: "Nowhere Man" is often cited as the first Beatles A-side that isn't about romance or love.

Notes: Aside from Sgt. Pepper, Rubber Soul was perhaps the greatest Beatles album not to have any singles issued from it in their native country. The same was true of the truncated US version of the album. However, one of the songs left off of the stateside Rubber Soul was "Nowhere Man," which was released as single with its ex-pat Rubber Soul M.I.A. flip, "What Goes On," in advance of being released on the US album Yesterday & Today.

The song was a hit, though not the magnitude of "Yesterday" or the UK singles released in this period. Surprisingly, it reached the top of Record World for two weeks, which is often the most conservative of the US charts, as it is the only one to have "Hey Jude" at #1 for four weeks.

Meanwhile, "Nowhere Man" was kept from the top spot by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler's "The Ballad Of The Green Berets" (#1) & The Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown" (#2) in Billboard & "19th Nervous Breakdown" in Cashbox.

With many forgetting about Record World as a major player in the US charts, "Nowhere Man" is the most obscure of the US-only #1 Beatles songs.



 
The Long & Winding Road



B-Side: "For You Blue"
Released: May 11, 1970
Recorded: January 26-April 1, 1970
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:38
Other Country Where #1: Canada

Billboard: #1 (2 weeks) (both sides listed)
Cashbox: #1 (2 weeks)
Record World: #1 (2 weeks) (both sides listed) 

Fun Fact: "The Long & Winding Road" was The Beatles' 20th #1 hit in America, a record they still hold as the most for any artist.


Notes: The last contemporary new song to be issued by The Beatles, & since it was in the works at the time of McCartney announcing he was quitting the group, "The Long & Winding Road" is often considered the final official Beatles release.

However, part of McCartney's reasoning for leaving The Beatles was the others allowing Phil Spector to pull together the "Get Back" tapes into a release as Let It Be, the most infamous of which featured his syrupy strings on this track (although in Spector's defense, it was to mask many mistakes found in Lennon's bass playing on the song's master take). 

Issued as a single with Harrison's "For You Blue," the song apparently met Billboard's vague requirement that if both sides of a single were garnering enough airplay, they could both be listed at #1. Hence, when the single made the top of the charts for a fortnight, it was listed as "The Long & Winding Road" / "For You Blue," making it appear like a double-A-sided single like The Beatles had intended for "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" & "Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby." For that reason, many charts purists count "For You Blue" as one of The Beatles' official #1s.

The problem is that, unlike "Come Together" & "Something," "For You Blue" was never nearly as popular as "The Long & Winding Road." For proof of this, just check its meager listing on Cashbox at #71. It appears that the folks at Billboard were so entranced by The Beatles (&/or such fans of "For You Blue") that they assumed the songs would be co-equals, even when there was no evidence of this. It also appears that the folks at Record World followed their lead, as they too listed the song as a dual number one (although their rules about doing so never seemed as hard & fast as those at Billboard).

Of all the songs that people claim as should be included among The Beatles' #1, the claims in defense of "For You Blue" are the most dubious.






* * *



PART 3: THE NON-UK / US #1s



I Saw Her Standing There


B-Side: "Love Me Do"
Released: March 22, 1963
Recorded: February 11, 1963
Composer: McCartney-Lennon
Length: 2:54
Country Where #1: Australia

Billboard: #14
Cashbox: #100
Record World: #29

Fun Fact: The rhyming couplet for "She was just seventeen" was originally "never been a beauty queen" until Lennon insisted on changing it to "you know what I mean."

Notes: "I Saw Her Standing There" got a lot of visibility as the opening track to their first album in the UK & B-side to "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in the US. For nearly any other group it would have been an obvious choice for a single, but with The Beatles' quality, it was largely put aside.

However, in Australia the song was released as a single in early 1964 with "Love Me Do" as its flip. It would remain at the top spot for a whopping seven weeks, becoming the best-selling single of that year, over other Australian #1 smashes like "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night," "I Should Have Known Better," & "I Feel Fine."

In Canada, "I Saw Her Standing There" was also listed at #1 alongside its A-side, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," as was the policy for the CHUM radio chart that existed before the official Canadian RPM chart.




All My Loving



B-Side: "This Boy"
Released: November 22, 1963
Recorded: July 30, 1963
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:13
Countries Where #1: Australia & Canada

Billboard: #45
Cashbox: #31
Record World: #32


Fun Fact: "All My Loving" was the first song that The Beatles played on their legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.


Notes: Generally considered the finest album-only Beatles song before 1964, "All My Loving" is arguably the most visible original Beatles song to never get an official single release in the UK or the US. Passed over as a single in the UK in favor of "She Loves You," it was released on With The Beatles, as well as being made the title track of an EP. In the US, fans could get the song on the massive-selling Meet The Beatles! LP.

Australia & Canada went one step further by releasing the song as its own single. Its massive success in the latter country were enough for copies to slip stateside to reach 45, 31, & 32, on Billboard, Cashbox, & Record World, respectively.

As with "I Saw Her Standing There" being listed at #1 alongside "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "This Boy" was listed alongside "All My Loving" on the CHUM radio chart, the one used before the official Canadian RPM chart began in mid-1964. This was the policy for CHUM, but it was not replicated with RPM, making these flip listings dubious #1s at best.




 
Roll Over Beethoven 



B-Side: "Hold Me Tight"
Released: November 22, 1963
Recorded: July 30, 1963
Composer: Chuck Berry
Length: 2:46
Country Where #1: Australia

Billboard: #68
Cashbox: #30
Record World: #35

Fun Fact: "Roll Over Beethoven" was the first A-side featuring Harrison on vocals, some five years before "Something."

Notes: At the height of international Beatlemania, a version of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" was released as a single outside of the UK in Australia & Canada. Enough copies of the latter spilled over the border to make a middling impact on the US charts. The song was recognized for its spunk, kicking off the second side of With The Beatles in the UK & the first side of The Beatles' Second Album in the US. Their version was faster & more driving than Berry's original.

Although The Beatles performed dozens of Berry's songs in their live act, they only ever released two as part of their initial output, "Roll Over Beethoven" & "Rock & Roll Music." Thanks to their Australian fanbase, both of these hit #1 in that country, making Chuck Berry the only artist for whom every song they covered (both of them) was a #1 hit.






Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand



B-Side: "Sie Liebt Dich"
Released: February 4, 1964
Recorded: October 17, 1963-January 29, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:26
Country Where #1: Germany


Fun Fact: "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" featured the original backing track of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" with new vocals on top, while "Sie Liebt Dich" had to be an entirely new performance because their label had destroyed the masters to "She Loves You" after mixing it to mono.


Notes: The Beatles' legendary all-night gigs in Hamburg was where they cut their teeth on early rock & roll music & learned how to cohere as a band. It also led to some of their early connections that gave them their first steps towards major fame.

As a result, The Beatles had an outsized fanbase in Germany, who always took partial credit for their international success. As a thank-you to their German fans, they re-recorded their songs "I Want To Hold Your Hand" & "She Loves You" as "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" & "Sie Liebt Dich," respectively.

Not surprisingly, the song was a #1 in Germany. What actually is surprising is that its flip, "Sie Liebt Dich," actually made 97 on Billboard & 121 on Record World at the height of American Beatlemania, proving the US market was hungry for anything Beatles.




I Should've Known Better


B-Side: "If I Fell"
Released: July 13, 1964
Recorded: February 25-26, 1964
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:43
Countries Where #1: Australia & Norway

Billboard: #53
Cashbox: #43
Record World: #84

Fun Fact: This is the last Beatles song to have a harmonica intro, a hallmark of early tunes like "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "There's A Place," & "Thank You Girl."

Notes: "I Should Have Known Better," originally released on the soundtrack to A Hard Day's Night, has cropped up in strange places over the years: On the 1970 US LP Hey Jude, as the flipside to the UK 1976 reissue single of "Yesterday," in the 1982 "Beatles Movie Medley" single, & as a major hit in Australia & Norway in mid-1964. Furthermore, its presence as the US B-side to "A Hard Day's Night" caused the song to chart in the US.


Although it is not generally considered one of the finer songs from A Hard Day's Night soundtrack, "I Should Have Known Better" is still classic, taking a solid second-fiddle role to the title track like "The Night Before" does for the later "Help!" As with so much else by The Beatles, their own high quality can make their own solid work dim in comparison. But the Australians loved it, making it the #1 song in their country for five weeks straight.





Rock & Roll Music


B-Side: "I'm A Loser"
Released: December 4, 1964
Recorded: October 18, 1964
Composer: Chuck Berry
Length: 2:31
Countries Where #1: Australia & Norway


Fun Fact: Like another Beatles #1 cover, "Twist & Shout," "Rock & Roll Music" was recorded in a single take.


Notes: The Beatles are the most influential rock artist never to issue a cover song as an official single. Their original catalog was such an embarrassment of riches that only a relative few songs were ever issued in other countries, none more successfully than the aforementioned "Twist & Shout." Other of these rare exceptions in the US include "Roll Over Beethoven" & "Matchbox," neither of which did particularly well in that country.

In Australia, their searing cover of "Rock & Roll Music" was released as a single & made its way to #1. Easily the greatest Beatles cover outside of "Twist & Shout"--& the finest Chuck Berry cover ever--"Rock & Roll Music" was the rare Beatles cover that met the excitement of their originals. No wonder it was used as the introductory montage for The Beatles Anthology series.



Michelle



B-Side: "Girl"
Released: December 3, 1965
Recorded: November 3, 1965
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:42
Countries Where #1: Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, & Spain


Fun Fact: "Michelle" is the only Beatles song with French lyrics (not counting the backing vocals in "Paperback Writer").

Notes: As an album, Rubber Soul was The Beatles first major artistic breakthrough, featuring, in the words of an awestruck Brian Wilson, "a whole album of good stuff," in an age where most LPs were a single or two surrounded by second-rate covers & third-rate filler. Despite the number of classics on the UK LP--"Drive My Car," "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," & "In My Life," among many others--none of these songs were issued as singles. In America, "Nowhere Man" was withheld to be released as a single for Yesterday & Today.

Other European labels went with the song that was seen as the most potentially-commercial song, McCartney's love ballad "Michelle." When The Beatles didn't bother to release it as a single, The Overlanders did & hit #1 in the UK. In America, the song proved just as popular, earning the Grammy Award for Song Of The Year in 1967, despite not being issued as a single. The Beatles themselves seemed to acknowledge its popularity by including it on their first collection in late 1966, A Collection Of Beatle Oldies.

"Michelle" remains the song to hit #1 in the most countries (6) that wasn't released in the UK or US.




Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da



B-Side: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Released: November 22, 1968
Recorded: July 8-15, 1968
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 3:09
Countries Where #1: Australia, Austria, Germany, & Switzerland


Fun Fact: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is considered by many to be the first ska song by a white group.


Notes: Only The Beatles could release a 30-song, double-LP set & not bother to release a single off of it. But when The Beatles came out (better known as "The White Album"), there was nary a single to found, despite the commercial appeal of tracks like "Back In The USSR," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Blackbird," & this song, the most obviously commercial song on an often challenging & sprawling two-record set.

The trouble is that McCartney, the primary author & singer on the song, drove his bandmates crazy with it as he obsessively perfected it in the studio. Despite the fact that it was built around a then-groundbreaking Jamaican rhythm, the other Beatles vetoed it as a single because they were simply sick of it.

Other European countries heard the potential & released it themselves, where it hit the top spot in four different countries. 

With "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" securing this position, every original UK Beatles LP now contained at least one #1 song, with the exception of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band--ironically their most celebrated album of all. (In 1978, a single of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" & "With A Little Help From My Friends" backed by "A Day In The Life" would be released as a tie-in to the infamous musical film, but it never rose higher than #63).



Got To Get You Into My Life


B-Side: "Helter-Skelter"
Released: August 5, 1966
Recorded: April 7-June 17, 1966
Composer: Lennon-McCartney
Length: 2:29
Country Where #1: Canada

Billboard: #7
Cashbox: #3
Record World: #9

Fun Fact: Out of the scores of Beatles reissue singles released since The Beatles have broken up, this is the only one to make #1 anywhere in the world.


Notes: To tie-in with The Beatles' 1976 double-LP compilation Rock & Roll Music, their North American label picked a song from it to release as a promotional single. With a television movie coming out about the Manson killings, "Helter Skelter" was floated as a potential single, but it was regulated as a B-side when that seemed too tasteless. (In the UK, a single of "Back In The USSR" backed by "Twist & Shout" was released as a promotion; it never made it past #19.)

For the A-side, "Got To Get You Into My Life" from Revolver was chosen, an odd choice since most of the Rock & Roll Music collection covered the group's vintage raw R&B-inspired years, & this was blue-eyed soul from their proto-psychedelic period. Never issued as a single before ("Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby" were the cuts issued from Revolver), "Got To Get You Into My Life" made the Top 10 in the US & made it to #1 in Canada.

It remains their final #1 song on a mainstream chart to date.