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Reevaluating the number of number one hits composed by the Beatles
22 April 2014
12.13am
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Four Thousand Holes
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A wide variety of sources, including Wikipedia,  significantly underrepresent how many songs the Beatles composed that went to number one in either the UK or U.S. charts.  Beatles-penned songs performed by other artists are often excluded from the totals one reads in various places. 

Here’s my count.  Obviously all songs but Harrison’s Something are credited to Lennon-McCartney.

  1. Love Me Do
  2. From Me To You
  3. She Loves You
  4. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  5. Can’t Buy Me Love
  6. A Hard Day’s Night
  7. I Feel Fine
  8. Bad To Me (Performed by Billy Kramer)
  9. A World Without Love (Performed by Peter and Gordon)
  10. Eight Days A Week
  11. Ticket To Ride
  12. Help !
  13. Yesterday
  14. Day Tripper
  15. We Can Work It Out
  16. Paperback Writer
  17.  Yellow Submarine
  18. Eleanor Rigby
  19. Penny Lane
  20. All You Need Is Love
  21.  Hello, Goodbye
  22. Lady Madonna
  23. Hey Jude
  24. Get Back
  25. The Ballad Of John And Yoko
  26. Come Together
  27. Something   (Harrison)
  28. Let it Be
  29.  The Long And Winding Road
  30. Ob La Di, Ob La Da—Marmalade
  31.  With A Little Help From My Friends —Joe Cocker; Wet Wet Wet; Sam & Mark
  32.  She’s Leaving Home—Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey
  33.  Michelle —Overlanders
  34.  Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds —Elton John

Additionally McCartney has eleven post-Beatles compositions or co-compositions to hit number one in the UK or USA charts.

  1.  Uncle Albert /Admiral Halsey (Co-written with Linda McCartney)
  2. My Love
  3. Band On The Run
  4.  Listen to What the Man Says
  5.  Silly Love Songs
  6. Mull Of Kintyre (Co-written with Denny Laine)
  7. With a Little Luck
  8.  Coming Up
  9.  Ebony and Ivory
  10.  Say Say Say (Co-written with Michael Jackson)
  11.  Pipes Of Peace

This brings McCartney’s total number of number one compositions and co-compositions to 44. 

 

Lennon’s compositions and co-compositions to hit number one in the UK or USA include these:

  1. Whatever gets you through the night
  2. Just Like Starting Over
  3. Woman
  4. Imagine
  5. Fame (co-written with David Bowie)
  6. Jealous Guy (covered by Roxy Music)

Lennon’s total of number one hit compositions and co-compositions is 39(!). 

Harrison’s Post-Beatles compositions and co-compositions to hit number one in the UK or USA bring his total to four.  In addition to Something , there are these three Harrison-penned songs:

  1. My Sweet Lord
  2. Give me Love
  3. Photograph  (Co-written with Ringo Starr

Consider the astounding collective success of these song-writers.  Over the expanse of their collective careers, both the with the Beatles and afterward,  the three main composers of the Beatles penned (or co-penned) a total of fifty-four(!) songs that topped the charts either in the UK or U.S. 

It’s fair to ask, however, whether McCartney and Lennon deserve credit for all 33 officially-credited Lennon-McCartney songs that went to number one.  Both Lennon and McCartney can take legitimate credit, I think, for only those compositions to which they actually contributed.  This, obviously, is a subset all officially credited Lennon-McCartney songs since both Lennon and McCartney wrote some songs without the assistance of the other.  It’s not my intent to get into a debate about attribution, so the way I assigned credit below was by giving Lennon and McCartney credit for any song for which they themselves claimed any contribution whatsoever—even if the other partner (or other observers) disagree.  My sense is to err on the side of co-authorship rather than assigning sole credit.  If either composer ever claimed even some credit, I’ve taken that statement as definitive.  So based on these criteria, here’s the authorship of their chart-topping Beatles songs.   (Oh, and I apologize for the nausea-inducing waviness of the margins below.) 

  1. Love Me Do                                                              Lennon-McCartney
  2. From Me To You                                                        Lennon-McCartney     
  3. She Loves You                                                          Lennon-McCartney
  4. I Want To Hold Your Hand                                           Lennon-McCartney
  5. Can’t Buy Me Love                                                     Lennon-McCartney
  6. A Hard Day’s Night                                                     Lennon
  7. I Feel Fine                                                                Lennon
  8. Bad To Me (Billy Kramer)                                            Lennon
  9. A World Without Love (Peter and Gordon)                      McCartney
  10. Eight Days A Week                                                   Lennon-McCartney
  11. Ticket To Ride                                                          Lennon-McCartney
  12. Help !                                                                      Lennon-McCartney
  13. Yesterday                                                              McCartney
  14. Day Tripper                                                            Lennon-McCartney
  15. We Can Work It Out                                                 Lennon-McCartney
  16. Paperback Writer                                                      Lennon-McCartney
  17.  Yellow Submarine                                                     Lennon-McCartney
  18. Eleanor Rigby                                                           Lennon-McCartney
  19. Penny Lane                                                             Lennon-McCartney
  20. All You Need Is Love                                                 Lennon
  21.  Hello, Goodbye                                                       McCartney
  22. Lady Madonna                                                       McCartney
  23. Hey Jude                                                                McCartney
  24. Get Back                                                                McCartney
  25. The Ballad Of John And Yoko                                      Lennon
  26. Come Together                                                         Lennon
  27. Let it Be                                                                  McCartney
  28.  The Long And Winding Road                                        McCartney
  29. Ob La Di, Ob La Da—Marmalade                                  McCarteny
  30.  With A Little Help From My Friends —Joe Cocker;           Lennon-McCartney
  31.  She’s Leaving Home—Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey             Lennon-McCartney
  32. Michelle —Overlanders                                                Lennon-McCartney
  33.  Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds —Elton John                   Lennon-McCartney

By my count we get this:

Lennon-McCartney songs:                      18

Lennon songs:                                     6

McCartney songs:                                 9

 

This would bring a more accurate (if less legalistic) count of number one Lennon compositions or co-compositions to 30.  (24 during his time with the Beatles and 6 post-Beatles).           

The total number of McCartney-penned (or co-penned songs) is 38.  (27 during his time with the Beatles and 11 post-Beatles.)

 

Both of these numbers are significantly higher than what is commonly reported.  

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IveJustSeenAFaceo, Wigwam, El Dorado, parlance, ScrambledEggs
22 April 2014
12.53am
Wigwam
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Scholarly!!

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Four Thousand Holes
22 April 2014
3.54pm
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Von Bontee
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Excellent research there Michael B!

If you want to create more work for yourself and inflate the numbers a bit (while also admittedly diluting the relevance), it might be of interest to note that "All My Loving " and "Nowhere Man " were released as singles and hit #1 in Canada.

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Four Thousand Holes

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!"
-- Paul McCartney

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22 April 2014
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Ron Nasty
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It's a great piece of research, Michael B.

I don't agree with all your credits (ie. Hey Jude  you have as only Paul, and ignore the oft told story of him telling John he'd change a line, and John telling him not to - that he understood it, but making a change and not making a change are as much a part of the writing process as any, and both are clear that the choice not to change anything was John's), but I understand them.

I just don't think that actual question is asked too much, as it's usually "How many #1's did The Beatles have?" not "How many #1's did The Beatles (as a group, or individually) compose?" that's asked.

So I don't think they get answer wrong, just that a different question is being answered.

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Four Thousand Holes

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty

 

The Beatles Non-Canon Poll List

22 April 2014
4.25pm
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meanmistermustard
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Dont Pass Me By hit #1 in Denmarka-hard-days-night-ringo-10

Ringo got a Beatles #1 with one of his two self-composed songs.a-hard-days-night-ringo-15

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Four Thousand Holes

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

"Don't make your love suffer insecurities; Trade the baggage of self to set another one free" ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)

23 April 2014
2.07am
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Four Thousand Holes
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Ron Nasty said
It's a great piece of research, Michael B.

I don't agree with all your credits (ie. Hey Jude  you have as only Paul, and ignore the oft told story of him telling John he'd change a line, and John telling him not to - that he understood it, but making a change and not making a change are as much a part of the writing process as any, and both are clear that the choice not to change anything was John's), but I understand them.

 First of all, thanks!

As for assigning credits, I think you raise a very good point. My own sense for some time has been that in a significant way for many of even the most solitary-written songs by John and Paul during their times with the Beatles were, to a degree, co-composed if for no other reason that their working rule of thumb (with perhaps the White Album songs excluded) was for either Paul or John run their songs by the other for editing.  So in that sense, yes, John did contribute to Hey Jude by preventing Paul from changing the lyrics to something less satisfactory.   

I think that as a general rule (with plenty of exceptions) Paul tends in his interviews to stress the co-composed nature of the songs, whereas John (depending upon the interview) tends to stress their singular nature.  I think this squares with their own identities.  Paul was a Beatles guy with a Beatles identity.  John was, I think, a towering genius in his own mind (and not without good reason, one must add).  Towering genius disdains committee work, no matter how small the committee, and in some interviews John is pretty quick not only to take full credit for songs that he's proud (Help ! and In My Life ), but he's also almost as equally quick to distance himself from less-than-satisfactory songs to which he contributed ("Eight Days A Week .")  Again, it really depends upon the interview one reads.  But there's no doubt that for both of them, much of the time, the other partner was an excellent editor when not a full partner in the composition.  

I think that because accounts differ between John and Paul (and others) about authorship of songs (and sometimes even between their own accounts--especially John's), I don't think we'll ever know who contributed what to each song with mathematical precision.  It's also not even clear such a judgment would be possible even if there were perfect agreement between the two composers because it's not clear how to attribute the essential nature of a song.  Think about several intros that really give the feel for a song but don't typically enter the equation of song-writing: 

Harrison in And I Love Her

Lennon's piano in Ob la di, ob la da. 

McCartney's entrances in Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Different intros to these songs would have (in my mind, at least) evoked very different feelings for these songs.   

In other words, just because Paul and John were to agree completely who contributed what to each song that doesn't mean people would agree about the relative worth or merit of each man's contribution.  

Okay....now I'm rambling.  Sorry for the wordiness.  

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IveJustSeenAFaceo
23 April 2014
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Four Thousand Holes
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Question to all:  

I'm pretty much still working my way around the forum.  Do you think this was the right forum area to post this topic?  If not, where should I have posted it? 

23 April 2014
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Starr Shine?
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Michael B said
Question to all:  
I'm pretty much still working my way around the forum.  Do you think this was the right forum area to post this topic?  If not, where should I have posted it? 

I think this is the right place since your talking about the songs

 

@Starr Shine? 

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Four Thousand Holes

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