Although I was born after the Beatles first set foot in America, that never kept me from being a huge fan of the band. Like most fans, I own the entire Beatles catalog. In fact, over the years I’ve bought it twice — once on cassette tape and a second time on compact disc. But don’t feel sorry for me — I’m sure there are more than a few people out there who have bought the entire catalog three or four times over. Talk about Beatles love.
When one thinks about the Beatles, for most fans, the band members that usually first come to mind are John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Then again, asking me to pick my favorite Beatle is like asking me to pick my favorite child; I love them all equally, but each in different ways.
For most Beatle fans, the John-versus-Paul debate is still a passionate one. And although I was always been interested in finding a definitive answer, I never really had a decent feel for which of the two Beatles was more popular until iTunes began selling the Beatles’ catalog back in 2010.
Surprise! The Market Speaks
I think most people will agree that the market is arguably the purest arbiter of such perplexing and emotional questions. With that in mind, during the first week of sales, iTunes customers downloaded 450,000 Beatles albums and, incredibly, 2 million individual songs from the Fab Four. As for the most popular song … It was Here Comes the Sun, which is neither a Lennon or McCartney composition, but a tune written by the “Quiet Beatle.” That’s right: George Harrison.
Surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be. After all, Harrison has always unjustifiably been an underrated member of the Beatles. Consider the following:
- At the height of the Beatles’ popularity, back around the time they were first appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, polls reportedly showed that Harrison was the most popular member of the band.
- The great Frank Sinatra declared another Harrison tune, Something, to be the greatest love song ever written. (Never mind that he also declared Something to be his favorite Lennon/McCartney composition.)
- Something and Here Comes the Sun were arguably the two strongest tracks on the iconic Abbey Road album, the final one recorded by the Beatles.
- Despite being the third Beatle to release a solo album, George was the first Beatle to have a number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 with My Sweet Lord.
- George was also the first Beatle to log two songs as a solo artist in the Top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100: My Sweet Lord, and What Is Life (which reached #10).
- Although George was responsible for solely writing just 10% of the Beatles’ catalog — 21 songs to be exact — he composed a few other gems besides Something and Here Comes the Sun including: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Taxman, I Want to Tell You, If I Needed Someone and, my personal favorite, Long, Long, Long. (I’ll forgive George for writing Within You Without You, from the Sgt. Pepper’s album.)
- With more than six million units sold, George Harrison still has the biggest selling solo album of any of the Beatles, All Things Must Pass.
So is the most popular Beatle really and truly George Harrison? I know the market has spoken, but you’ll still never get a straight answer out of me. Like I said before, I love them all equally.
That means you too, Ringo.
Photo Credit: public domain