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The Beatles still the most popular band in the land


Photo: US Library of Congress

You just can’t shake those Beatles. Nearly 40 years after their original releases, the Fab Four have racked up 646,000 album sales from their remastered series. Abbey Road topped the list with nearly 88,000 copies sold and counting. While the re-issues are ineligible for the Billboard charts, The Beatles In Stereo boxed set sold 25,000 which does merit inclusion as a new release, placing it Number 15 in the top 200. So yes, it appears that the Liverpudlian Lads are going platinum once again.

So, besides being the most undeniably popular band in all of history, what is it with the Beatles that allows them to breach the ever widening generational divide? Maybe just maybe they were that darn good. In the aforementioned Billboard charts they’re going toe to toe with Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 and furiously bumped the late Michael Jackson from his mighty perch atop the Catalog Albums Chart.

Even though these artists seem galaxies apart, they all are inexorably linked. Jay-Z’s Black Album was combined with samples from the Beatles’ 1968 White Album by mad-genius DJ Danger Mouse to birth 2004’s acclaimed Grey Album. Then of course were the King of Pop’s many dalliances with the Beatles, including buying the rights to their catalog and his numerous duets with Paul McCartney on his “Say, Say, Say” and “The Man,” as well as the smash single “The Girl Is Mine” from Jackson’s juggernaut Thriller album.

Theories abound, there just simply appears to be something in the water when it comes to The Beatles that is unshakable from the popular conscience. Maybe aging music fans/parents recognized it as a possible bargaining chip for relating to their angsty, purple-haired Gen-X’ers/sons & daughters. Could it be that The Beatles’ work is the last remaining figurative trophy that champions the older generation’s claim that their era was and will remain the most informative in rock history?

Our mom’s, dad’s and grandparent’s had Chuck Berry, Elvis, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones all in circulation, all separated by a couple of decades. That’s mighty impressive. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Jay-Z and MJ are absolute superstars of the highest order and musical geniuses in their own respective rights, but can they really compete with that shortlist which features The Beatles at the forefront?

Academics and scholars can pore over this all they like but it seems obvious that the Beatles music simply represents the settled and unmovable Rock of Ages. They’ve inspired multitudes of artist’s from Simon and Garfunkel to Elliot Smith to Nirvana and there are deposits of their rubber souls in nearly every genre of music known to man (yes, even and especially emo). All of these exploits and I thought Led Zeppelin were the ones that sold their soul’s for everlasting success? Hmmmmm. 

Check out my related articles on The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan

Check out my Lexington Rock Examiner homepage here.   


  • Skip Church 5 years ago

    From rockabilly to rockin' pop to orchestral to psychedelic to brilliant songs that are now considered standards covered even by the Chairman of the Board these guys spanned lots of chasms. All brilliant in their realms (yeah, even Ringo qualifies as one of the architects of rock drumming...and he could keep a beat while providing perfectly basic fills), a team of writers that has never been topped, brilliant solo careers post-breakup (okay...Ringo had some cool friends), they'll just never be topped. I'm glad to see them still charting like Kanye on steroids. Nice article, Erik.