Last week I was interviewed for a forthcoming music documentary in which the subject of being ‘bigger than The Beatles’ cropped up. I pointed out to the interviewer that at one time or another all sorts of acts – usually boy bands – have been described as ‘bigger than The Beatles’ but only for two or three years, at which point they cease to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’ until the arrival of another one that is claimed by someone or other to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. 

        However, no one ever says that this or that band is bigger than the last act that was said to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. No act is ever described as being bigger than, say, The Bay City Rollers, or Take That, or One Direction, or BTS, or whichever boy band, or girl band – for a while the Spice Girls were ‘bigger than The Beatles’, as I recall – is currently doing pretty well. Being ‘bigger than The Beatles’ is a meaningless comparison drawn by lazy commentators seeking a standard with which to measure popularity, and the only standard ever worth applying is The Beatles.

Meanwhile, statistically, dozens of acts can claim to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. In the years since The Beatles were active as a group, everyone from Michael Jackson to Shania Twain via Pink Floyd, The Bees Gees and the Eagles, have released albums that sold many more than any single album by The Beatles. Indeed, on most lists of all-time best-selling albums to be found on the internet, The Beatles don’t even make the Top Ten. Michael Jackson’s Thriller tops the list with over 50 million sold, while The Beatles’ best-seller is their hit collection 1, languishing somewhere in the late teens in the list with sales of around 23 million.

        Similarly, attendance figures at Beatles’ concerts have been overwhelmingly surpassed by pretty much every act that’s risen to arena or stadium status in the past 50 years, not least their sixties rivals The Rolling Stones. On internet lists of highest grossing tours, The Beatles don’t even get a look in. 

        Nevertheless, as a measure of popularity, it’s The Beatles – and only The Beatles – who are used as a yardstick, which merely serves to solidify their impregnable status. It seems to me that the more acts who claim to be ‘bigger The Beatles’, the bigger The Beatles become. As I said in my interview last week: “Loads of acts have been bigger The Beatles at one time or another but at the same time none have ever really been bigger than The Beatles – or ever will be.”

        Go figure. 


Anonymous said...


John Halsall said...

That's that then Chris!