50 years ago today, The Beatles entered Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time with I Want to Hold Your Hand (January 18th, 1964). Soon, it shot up to number 1. They have since gathered a grand total of 20 number 1 records, rivaled by nobody else.
The Beatles represented the first wave of British Invasion, which could possibly be one of the most notable event in the entire music history. Together with other rock giants such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks, they have changed the face of popular music forever, and their impact has not faded one bit even in 2014.
If You’re New to The Beatles…
Most of us could hum the melodies just by looking at the song titles. Chance is… you’ve heard at least one of the Beatles number 1 hits.
But if you’re really, really young and haven’t heard of them, below is a list of the Fab Four’s number 1 singles. You could start with the bolded ones, which I’d deem as their career highlights:
– I Want to Hold Your Hand (1964)
– She Loves You (1964)
– Can’t Buy Me Love (1964)
– Love Me Do (1964)
– A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
– I Feel Fine (1964)
– Eight Days a Week (1965)
– Ticket to Ride (1965)
– Help! (1965)
– Yesterday (1965)
– We Can Work It Out (1966)
– Paperback Writer (1966)
– Penny Lane (1967)
– All You Need Is Love (1967)
– Hello Goodbye (1967)
– Hey Jude (1968)
– Get Back (1969)
– Something / Come Together (1969; double A-side)
– Let It Be (1970)
– The Long and Winding Road (1970)
The Hits-Making Era
Interestingly, on the first two years alone, The Beatles have collected half of their number 1 hits. Beatlemania was rampant and they could easily send multiple songs into the chart on the same week, often occupying the Top 2 spots simultaneously and once even the entire Top 5.
I guess it was inevitable that they’d block some of their own hits from reaching the top, including iconic anthems such as I Saw Her Standing There (1963), Twist and Shout (1964), All My Loving (1964) and Eleanor Rigby (1966).
This Beatlemania period would embody the distorted perception of what the modern public would associate the whole band with. This is a misguided view that didn’t represent the scale of the band’s actual commercial and critical power, but time has rewarded the band’s achievement towards their latter period’s output.
Whatever Happened to Their Post-1965 Career?
At face value, it may be tempting to conclude that the hits begin to slow down beginning in 1966. But is this a sign of the band waning down?
The public didn’t stop embracing them. Rather, The Beatles simply released less singles and stopped touring, getting fixated on studio sessions. As each member began to grow creatively, their achievements were initially celebrated.
However, beginning with 1968’s self-titled album release, the tension between each member’s vision became too apparent and resulted in criticism of non-cohesive albums. In retrospective, however, the tension has brought out the best in everyone with extreme creative control.
The 1966-1969 period is now acclaimed to be among all-time best in pop and rock history. The songwriting was sophisticated, the studio experiment broke new grounds, the diversity was unprecedented, the materials cited by subsequent batches of musicians to be their major influences. The overwhelming consensus is positive.
The Eventual Break-Up in 1970
In many ways, their disbandment was a historical tragedy.
However, it was also a blessing in disguise. It has allowed the band to exit at the highest possible note and leave their legacy untarnished. In contrast, closest competitor Beach Boys who matched them head-to-toe at the time (most notably with Pet Sounds in 1966) had diluted their own achievements with inadequate releases.
Whether The Beatles would have seen further domination or inevitable decline, that cannot be answered with certainty. However, whatever that we’re left with is a legacy that is still going strong 50 years after, regardless whether your religion is Radiohead or One Direction.