DEAR JERRY: My mother and I often discuss the oldies, she being a teener of the 1950s and me of the '60s.
The essence of one recent debate centered partly on the Beatles, and partly on Elvis and the Beatles. In that regard, we need your help with a few questions we cannot answer.
I believe the Beatles had more No. 1 hits than anyone in rock history. I suppose Elvis is second, uh? How many did they have?
What amazes me even more about that is that I can't think of a single one of those written by someone other than themselves. Can that record ever be topped?
We both are curious if there are any other similar sales-based charts where Presley is second to the Beatles? Mom doesn't think so.
Jason Richmond, Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR JASON: I guess this topic is destined to be addressed today, since an e-mailed question very similar to yours just arrived from Tom Reise, of Milwaukee, Wisc (Moredoowop@aol.com). Tom, I should point out, made no mention of being in consultation with his mother on this issue.
Between 1964, and 1970, when they officially disbanded, 20 of the Beatles singles reached No. 1. You are correct that in this department they lead the rock and roll pack. However, they just barely surpass Elvis, who has 18 No. 1 hits.
More amazing is that all 20 of those tunes, from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” through “The Long and Winding Road,” are written by just two of the Fab Four: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Since no artist had more No. 1 hits, no one could have written more of their No. 1 hits. This achievement is not likely to be equaled, at least not in our lifetime. Before someone asks about George Harrison's composition, “Something,” that one didn't quite make it to No 1. It peaked at No. 3 on Billboard, and did slightly better on Cash Box, where it hit No. 2.
Were we to take into account the Cash Box surveys, the whole works gets sticky. They show “Twist and Shout” reaching No. 1 in 1964 (Billboard has it as No. 2), and it is written by Bert Russell and Phil Medley. So let's stick with Billboard.
Mom is also right about the rest of the rankings. Elvis has a seemingly insurmountable lead in all other domains, including: Most Top 100 Hits; Most Top 40 Hits; Most Top 10 Hits; Most Top 2 Hits; Most Total Weeks Spent at No. 1 Position; Most Consecutive No. 1 Hits; Most Consecutive Top 10 Hits; Most Two-Sided Top 100 Hits; Most Gold and Platinum Record Singles Awards; and Most Consecutive Hits to Debut in the Top 10.
Though the focus here is singles, Presley also is also credited with: Most Charted Albums; Most Charted Extended Plays; Most Gold and Platinum LP Awards; Top Albums Artist of All-Time, and Best-Selling Recording Artist in History, for total music sales, regardless of format. (Reference source for Billboard chart information is Joel Whitburn's Record Research publications.)
The supreme accolade for Elvis came a few months ago when the press named him Entertainer of the Century.