(April 10, 2023). For the past six decades, the Beatles have been considered by most pop music historians and trade publications to be the greatest recording act of all time.

They certainly have the record sales and chart numbers to back it up, and even the harshest critics—contemporarily and retrospectively—have heaped the highest amounts of praise on John, Paul, George and Ringo, crediting them with changing the face of music and influencing countless artists worldwide for 60 years.

Exactly when the Beatles’ 60th anniversary should be celebrated depends on who you ask.  The band had been recording together since the 1950s, when Paul and George were teenagers together in Liverpool.  John joined afterward, and Ringo, who replaced Pete Best as the drummer in 1962, completed the foursome as the world has known them since.

By most accounts, Beatlemania started in Europe in 1963, with the March release of their first album, Please Please Me, in the U.K.  By that December, Capitol Records would rush-release their first American single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” at a time when this country was still grieving over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was in dire need of escapism, which the Beatles’ lighthearted fare greatly provided at the time.

Within weeks, “Hand” would become the first of 20 No. 1 hits the band would score on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1964 and 1970.

Almost instantly, the Beatles were so popular here in the States that, by April 1964, their songs occupied twelve positions on the Billboard Hot 100–including the entire top five.  It was a feat that went unmatched for more than half a century until the current streaming-heavy era (post-2013) allowed artists to do it more frequently. 

The Beatles rode their incredible wave for more than six years, singlehandedly sparking the first British music invasion of the U.S. and inspiring many sound-alike bands and knockoffs for decades to come.  They pioneered recording techniques (or enhanced those of other artists who inspired them) to create masterpieces like Rubber SoulRevolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandMagical Mystery Tour, and Abbey Road, along with those 20 No. 1 singles. 

The pressure of recording, plus relentless touring early in their career and the later creative and personal tensions within the band, ultimately led to the Beatles’ dissolution as the 1960s gave way to the seventies.  

It was on this day in 1970 (April 10) that Paul McCartney confirmed rumors about the band’s breakup in the buildup to his first solo album released a week later (John Lennon had already ventured outside of the group both solo and on projects billed with his wife Yoko Ono).

The Fab Four’s 20 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 are still more than any other act has had before or since, and they almost certainly would’ve had more had they continued as a band. 

The biggest question when they broke up was whether they could continue this unprecedented momentum individually and which of the former members would have the greatest success.  

As it turned out, Paul would be that guy, at least commercially speaking, but all four—McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—would enjoy considerable success away from the Beatles, with each member achieving multiple No. 1 hits (plus several more top tens apiece).

While the four solo men didn’t collectively match the total number of chart-toppers they had as the Beatles, they came pretty darn close with 16 Hot 100 crownings between them (Paul had nine, George three, John and Ringo two each). 

In fact, if you conveniently add their near-misses—their four No. 2-peaking songs—to their No. 1 hits, then you get an even match, which is exactly what this blogger has done for this exclusive 60th anniversary special. 

In honor of the Beatles’ 60th year and on the anniversary of the breakup news that saddened the music world in 1970, djrobblog has tallied those 20 No. 1/ No. 2 songs by the former Fab Four and ranked them in order of how closely they resemble the Beatles’ musical styles while they were still together—or by how “Beatlesque” they are.

Of course, music changed many times over during those post-Beatle years when they were still making big hits (1970-88).  Heck, even the Beatles themselves significantly evolved over the course of their years of recording together during the sixties.

So pinpointing a specific sound or recording technique or musical era to compare their post-Beatles hits to their Fab Four days was a tricky task.

But someone had to do it, at least that’s djrobblog’s motivation on this momentous anniversary occasion.

So read on to see where each of those 20 chart-topping, post-Beatles hits stand according to how likely they could’ve been done by the greatest band in pop/rock history.  

And remember two things as you peruse the below list: 1) it is not a ranking of their best songs in order (obviously some of these tunes’ would be omitted altogether or their order changed); and 2) this list does not include hits that peaked below No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, many of which are more Beatlesque than the tunes included here.

Here it is…

Twenty.  “Say Say Say” – Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (1983).

Thirteen years past the breakup of the Beatles, music had gone through many eras by the time this duet between Paul and Michael Jackson was released.  There’s a bit of irony in this song being the biggest chart by any of the ex-Beatles (six weeks at No. 1 for Mac & Jack in 1983/4), and the one that sounds the least like anything the Fab Four would have created decades earlier.

Nineteen. “The Girl Is Mine” – Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney (1982).

Okay, while it’s east to pick on Paul’s duets with pop superstars to lead off this list, it is worth noting that this No. 2 smash from 1983 beat out the other (bigger) duet between these two megastars, so that counts for something, right?

Eighteen. “Ebony and Ivory” – Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder (1982).

It was a toss-up between this schmaltzy call for racial harmony and McCartney’s mock-fight with MJ, “The Girl Is Mine,” as to which song would occupy the No. 18 and 19 spots on this list.  “Ebony” won the coin-flip.

Seventeen. “Coming Up (Live At Glasgow)” – Paul McCartney & Wings (1980).

Now that we have his three eighties duets out of the way, next comes Paul’s big 1980 single, the live version of which he recorded with his band Wings the year prior to its release.  The non-live studio version was a new-wavy piece, with drum machine and sped up/slowed down vocals that gave it a contemporary feel (a little too contemporary to feel very Beatlesque, although it did inspire former band mate John Lennon to get back to recording after a five-year hiatus, more on that later).

Sixteen. “Got My Mind Set On You” – George Harrison (1987).

The first non-McCartney song (out of nine) on this list is by the last ex-Beatle to have a No. 1 single (he was also the first).  “Mind,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1988, was written and recorded 25 years earlier by Rudy Clark and James Ray, respectively, placing it firmly in the pre-Beatlemania era.  The repetitiveness of Harrison’s bluesy pop/rock cover could recall the Beatles’ “She Loves You” era, but the whimsical horns and drum programming place it firmly in 1987/8 territory.

Fifteen. “With A Little Luck” – Wings (1978).

This song is quite underrated when it comes to Paul McCartney’s repertoire of No. 1 hits, however it ranks among my personal favorites.  Its simplicity and understated nature recalls the easiness of songs like the Beatles’ “Michelle” although “Luck” is a little heavier in message and, unlike “Michelle,” eventually builds to an anthemic like finish, with synth additions that give it its seventies time stamp.  

Fourteen. “Listen To What The Man Said” – Wings (1975).

This is another one of my favorite McCartney songs.  That said, it is firmly entrenched in the light pop era it belongs to—1975–and was another one of those silly love songs that McCartney was accused of relishing in during his post-Beatle years (and before).  Still, it’s a great pop song, in the vein of some of the Beatles 1966-68 singles (I’m thinking “Lady Madonna”).  The addition of the soprano sax during the bridge, which Paul has said in interviews saved the song (and I agree), gives it enough of a mid-70s flair to keep it from ranking higher on this list.

Thirteen. “You’re Sixteen” – Ringo Starr (1973).

Getting back to the pre-Beatles era, Ringo Starr took his cover of Johnny Burnette’s “You’re Sixteen” to No. 1 in late 1973, making that year perhaps the most lucrative in terms of the Beatles post-breakup chart fortunes.  Both Paul and George had also hit No. 1 that year, and the band’s double-release Red and Blue greatest hits compilations were massive successes after being issued that spring.  Starr’s take on “Sixteen,” which was a borderline cringeworthy ode to an underage girl, was part rockabilly/part country and all whimsy, with a “kazoo” solo by former band mate Paul that turned out to be Paul singing, not playing the kazoo.  It’s the kind of country-tinged fun that could’ve appeared on a number of Beatles albums, including Rubber Soul, alongside Starr’s vocal turn on country-esque “What Goes On.”

Twelve. “My Sweet Lord” – George Harrison (1970).

This song gave “the quiet Beatle” the distinction of being the first ex-member to get a No. 1 single on his own.  With Harrison’s contributions being relegated to back burner status for much of the Beatles’ heyday, it became increasingly obvious during their later years that his songs were meritorious in their own right.  This nod to his spirituality (particularly to the Hindu god Krishna) lost a plagiarism court battle for being too close melodically to a pre-Beatles’ era hit by the Chiffons (“He’s So Fine),” ironically No. 1 60 years ago on this date, but Harrison’s use of slide guitar recalled his signature work on the White Album and Abbey Road, namely “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something,” respectively.  

Eleven. “Silly Love Songs” – Wings (1976).

By 1976, Paul McCartney was the undisputed king of crafting multi-sectioned pop masterpieces, including this retort to a frequent criticism of his post-Beatles work.  Similar to both “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Band On The Run” before it, “Silly Love Songs” ran roughly five minutes long and still managed to top the pop charts.  But it was Paul’s use of counterpoint (the blending of distinct vocal or musical arrangements that could stand on their own melodically)—a method used in several Beatles recordings (“Here, There and Everywhere”; “It Won’t Be Long”)—that counterbalanced the song’s disco-ey leanings and extensive use of brass.

Ten. “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” – John Lennon (1974).

This rollicking sax-infused rocker was Lennon’s first No. 1 solo single (“Imagine” topped out at No. 3 a few years earlier).  With the help of hot-as-fire pop star Elton John (piano and harmonizing vocals) who was in the midst of a No. 1 streak himself, “Whatever” placed Lennon on the losing end of a bet that resulted in the ex-Beatle appearing at Elton’s concert performance at Madison Square Garden in November 1974 (Lennon’s last).  This song recalls both the Beatles’ early era, with the tempo and rock feel similar to “Drive My Car” and “Taxman,” and their later period with that whimsical sax again recalling its use on songs like “Lady Madonna” and at the end of “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).”

Nine. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – John Lennon (1980).

“Starting Over” is a story of ironies. This ode to early rock and roll à la Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, whose vocal styles Lennon imitated on the track, was ironically the kind of silly love song he once derided band mate Paul for making.  It was also the first song from the album McCartney’s “Coming Up” had inspired Lennon to return to the studio and record after his five-year hiatus (a big deal at the time, not so much today—see Rihanna’s seven years).  Its pre-Beatles era rock sound is another irony in that it was early rock-and-roll that had inspired the Beatles in the first place.  And finally, it was as contemporary a production Lennon could’ve made in late 1980, which quickly propelled it to the top ten weeks before his death pushed it to No. 1 by the end of December. 

Eight. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” – George Harrison (1973).

This is the second-highest of the four George Harrison songs on this list, thanks in large part to its minimalist arrangement with lead guitar reminiscent (again) of Harrison’s earlier Beatles compositions (“Where My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something”).  The song also invokes the Beatles’ peace-seeking idealism (similar to that found in “All You Need Is Love”) but is far more spiritual and genuine sounding, IMHO.

Seven. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – Paul & Linda McCartney (1971).

Another of Paul’s multi-sectioned hit singles.  This one—billed as a medley of two songs—starts as a ballad (like later hits “Band On The Run” and “Live and Let Die”) inspired by Paul’s uncle, then erupts into an uptempo number (“Admiral Halsey”) characterized by descending and ascending notes not far removed from that used in the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” on the Abbey Road album.  The blending of multiple parts of songs into one was something the Fab Four had explored earlier (see “A Day In The Life” and “You Know My Name”).  It helped that their producer George Martin helmed this track as well.

Six. “All Those Years Ago” – George Harrison (1981).

This tribute to the late John Lennon was probably the second-most intentional Beatles-like recording by an ex-Beatle, after Lennon’s own “Woman,” which charted the same year (1981).  Harrison featured performances by former band mates Ringo Starr (drums) and Paul McCartney (vocals, along with his late wife Linda McCartney) in what could have righteously been billed as being by the Beatles (my guess is that billing alone would have propelled the song one spot higher to a No. 1 peak in Billboard).  Alas, it was Harrison who received sole billing for this track that lyrically invoked a Beatle reference (“All You Need Is Love”), and this “solo” hit languished for three weeks at No. 2 behind Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.”

Five. “Photograph” – Ringo Starr (1973).

One of several “collaborations” between ex-Beatles, this No. 1 song by Ringo Starr likely would’ve ranked even higher if there were more Beatles-era material featuring the drummer’s vocals with which to compare “Photograph.”  There are common sonic threads to late Beatles work, though, like the signature wall-of-sound technique Phil Spector employed on the Beatles’ last proper single, “The Long and Winding Road,” although “Photograph” was produced by Richard Perry, not Specter.  Ringo’s limited vocal range is evident on this song—as it was most of his singles—but this is a glorious track that fits as well in a post-Beatles Beatlesque repertoire as any other. 

Four. “My Love” – Wings (1973).

The Beatles wrote many love songs that were inspired by their girlfriends and wives.  This schmaltzy ballad by Paul was about his then-wife Linda, who died 25 years later (1998).  The song was a draggy ballad in the vein and tempo of the Beatles’ “The Long And Winding Road,” the last single the band released, not including reissues of oldies or reworking of tracks during the ‘90s.  Given the lyrical theme, and the association with “Road,” it’s hard to imagine “My Love” not fitting somewhere in the Beatles’ repertoire of McCartney-penned ballads.  

Three. “Live and Let Die” – Wings (1973).

Though they’re sonically different, every time I hear this Wings tune I think of “A Day In The Life” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album.  And although that was a John Lennon composition and this is a McCartney tune, the two songs have orchestral flourishes that swirl and build to crescendos that could have easily made them companion pieces, at least in this listener’s humble opinion.  Paul does contribute the middle portion of the Beatles tune, though, which kinda ties the two tunes together.  The “what does it matter to ya” part in “Live And Let Die,” with its use of playful sound effects, is vaguely reminiscent of the goofier parts of “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).”

Two. “Band On The Run” – Wings.

This song lyrically could have been about the Beatles, especially in their earlier days when they were constantly balancing extensive tour schedules with studio recording time.   “Run” makes use of Paul’s signature multi-section composition style, this time with three distinctive parts that form sort of a medley—reminiscent of many of the Beatles and McCartney tracks already mentioned. This song sounds like a perfect fit for the Rubber Soul album, especially the lead electric guitar parts during the intro, and the harmonizing vocals that accompany Paul’s beginning with “never seeing no one” in the first verse.  The experimental aspect of “Band On The Run”—along with its fugitive message—seems appropriate for the “experimentation” the Beatles were doing in late 1965 and beyond.

One. “Woman” – John Lennon (1981).

When John Lennon described “Woman” during a Rolling Stone interview on December 5, 1980, just three days before his murder, he referred to it as his most Beatlesque song on the Double Fantasy album, calling it his grown-up version of the Beatles song “Girl” (from 1965’s Rubber Soul).  I place the song closer to a love ballad written by Paul McCartney for their next album Revolver (the classic “Here, There and Everywhere”), an irony considering it was McCartney’s 1980 hit “Coming Up” that had inspired Lennon to return to recording that year, as previously mentioned.  Whatever the inspiration, if Lennon intended this to be his most Beatlesque song, he definitely succeeded…not only in making it his, but that of all four ex-Beatles.

And that’s it, the 20 biggest ex-Beatles hits, ranked by the most Beatlesque from 20-1, from “Say Say Say” to “Woman” and everything in between. 

Clearly, songs like McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Harrison’s “What Is Life?,” Lennon’s “Imagine” and Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” would have ranked higher on this list than many of the songs that were included.  But those and many other classics fell short of the top two positions on Billboard’s charts and we had to draw the line somewhere.  

Please feel free, however, to comment below or on any of the social media feeds where the article is posted about which of their songs you would include, or about the order presented above.


DJRob (he/him/his), who is still discovering Beatles tracks he’s never heard, is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.

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By DJ Rob

2 thoughts on “<strong>A 60th anniversary tribute: ranking the most Beatlesque of the ex-Beatles’ 20 biggest chart hits!</strong>”
  1. Another great article! There is not one Beatlesque song that has not been a part of my (our) generation’s fabric. The hits just keep emerging as times goes on. Currently, I find myself singing along to a commercial on TV “we all live in a yellow submarine 🎼”. My all time favorite Beatlesque solo is Imagine by John Lennon.

Your thoughts?