In 2000, the Beatles released the album 1, which gathered every single by the band that had topped the charts in either the U.S. or the U.K. The collection itself went on to top the chart across the globe and became the best selling CD of the 21st century, to date having sold over 31 million copies. It is the seventh best-selling album since 1991, the year Billboard revised its chart system.
In 2002, Elvis’ estate followed suit with Elv1s 30 #1 Hits, noting on the liner notes that “Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything!” Indeed, Elvis had 30 number ones, whereas the Beatles had 27.
The Solo Beatles had 20 number ones on either the U.S. or U.K. charts, bookended by Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” which topped the charts in 1970 and then returned to the number one position after his death in 2002.
McCartney had eleven number ones, Lennon four, Harrison three, and Starr two. Of Lennon’s four, only “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” was number one in his lifetime. “Imagine” topped the charts ten years after its initial release in 1971.
Technically, McCartney is tied with Starr for only two number one singles in his own name (“Coming Up” and “Pipes of Peace”), because his others were either credited to Paul & Linda McCartney (“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”), Paul McCartney & Wings (“My Love,” “Band on the Run”), Wings (“Listen to What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “With a Little Luck,” “Mull of Kintyre”), Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) or Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (“Say, Say, Say”).
Three of the hits in this compilation (“Ebony and Ivory,” “Say Say Say,” and “Pipes of Peace”) I did not profile in the book because they epitomize the McCartney stereotype I have tried to provide a corrective to: soft, slick, synth-tinged, and borderline-saccharine. But on their own, the songs themselves are fine – affecting even, if you’re in the right mood. Two of them reflect his attempt to veer away from “Silly Love Songs” and get back to “Let It Be” statements in the aftermath of Lennon’s murder, and represent the last time he was on top of the singles charts (and thus a part of the young generation’s zeitgeist).
To play the singles continuously, go to this You Tube link and select “Play All”.