The Beatles make UK chart history with number one after 54 years

The last Beatles song was released just eight days ago

Maanya Sachdeva
Friday 10 November 2023 21:47 GMT
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Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song trailer

The Beatles have made history by topping the UK singles chart 54 years after their last number one song.

On Friday (10 November), “Now and Then” earned the top spot just eight days after it was released.

The track is based on a private recording made by the band’s late frontman, John Lennon in the late 1970s and completed earlier this year by the surviving members of the group – Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

McCartney described the news as “mind-boggling” in a statement to the Official Charts Company, adding: “It’s blown my socks off. It’s also a very emotional moment for me. I love it!”

No other act in UK music history has had such a long gap between two chart-toppers.

The previous record was set by Kate Bush, who waited 44 years between her first number one in 1978, “Wuthering Heights”, and her second in 2022, Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) – that saw a massive resurgence after it featured in one episode of Netflix’s Stranger Things.

The last time the Beatles reached the number one spot on UK charts was with “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in 1969.

As “Now and Then” becomes their 18th chart-topping hit, The Beatles maintain their lead as the group with the most chart-toppers in the UK – ahead of Westlife (14) and Take That (12).

They have also drawn level with Elvis Presley to share the record for the act with the greatest number of different songs to reach number one in the UK.

Liverpool’s Pop Music Wall of Fame following the announcement that the new Beatles single, Now And Then, which has become their 18th number one single, is to be immortalised on the wall (Peter Byrne/PA)

The history of “Now And Then” spans nearly five decades, beginning with the home recording made by Lennon on a cassette in the late 1970s, a few years before he was shot dead in 1980.

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono passed this tape to McCartney in the early 1990s, who then worked on the recording with fellow Beatles George Harrison and Starr. The trio quickly decided the poor sound quality of the tape, in particular the prominence of Lennon’s piano accompaniment, meant it was not worth developing any further.

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It was not until 2022 that the right software was available to isolate Lennon’s voice from the original recording, which was then used as the basis for the current version of the song.

The Beatles‘ original run of number ones lasted just over six years, starting with “From Me To You” in April 1963 and ending with “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in June 1969. Their 1960s chart-toppers included some of the world’s most well-known songs, such as “She Loves You, Help!”, “Yellow Submarine”, “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude”.

The group missed out on a chance to score two further number ones in the 1990s, when “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” stalled at numbers two and four respectively.

Both of these songs, like “Now And Then”, were based on private recordings made by Lennon in the Seventies, except these were fully developed and completed in the mid-1990s by McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

Other artists with long spells between UK number one singles include Tom Jones (42 years from “Green, Green Grass of Home” in 1967 to “Islands In The Stream” - with Rob Brydon, Robin Gibb and Ruth Jones - in 2009); Wham! (35 years between “The Edge Of Heaven” in 1986 and “Last Christmas” in 2021); and Cher (26 years between “I Got You Babe” – with Sonny Bono – in 1965 and “The Shoop Shoop Song: in 1991).

“Last Christmas” is back in the UK singles chart this week, re-appearing at number 37, while Mariah Carey’s equally persistent seasonal hit, All I Want For Christmas Is You, re-enters the chart at number 40.

It is the earliest appearance ever in the UK singles chart for a Christmas song.

Additional reporting on wires.

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