I now have my best example…
so please stop comparing the latest craze with the Beatles


I began kicking around ideas and research and material for this article after reading this story about how the cast of Glee had taken over the number one spot for most songs reaching the Billboard Hot 100 listing. And while I have no problems with Glee, the news struck me as strange… funny… and, honestly, just wrong.

The week that article was written, Glee was credited with putting six new songs in the top one hundred. Of the more the 110 songs that are part of the record now, I can’t help but wonder how many they were the first to record. (Hey… The Monkees may get a cold shoulder considering who wrote the songs or who played what instrument on which album. As far as I know, the majority of their hit songs involved material that they were the first to record and release.)

Ok… so where am I going?

Well… the main point is simple… if everyone is still being compared to the Beatles, then I think we can make a clear argument that the Beatles are still on the top of the mountain. And, as I will point out in a moment… there are several good reasons for that. Legends are legends for more than any single accomplishment. Numbers do in fact lie. And while every record can be viewed as something to be broken, the act of breaking the record does not automatically qualify for admission to the same hall the legends reside in.

When you look at the material the Beatles produced, it is simply mind-numbingly-boggling to even try and comprehend what they created in a very short amount of time. Staggering. Blindingly staggering. Breathtakingly staggering.

My wife loves Glee. Rightfully so. It’s creative and quirky and different. They’ve done a fabulous job developing characters and creating an environment for the story to exist and grow. The cast is talented. Production is good. It would be a shame if people didn’t love it.

That said, I don’t believe many people would start throwing names like Elvis… Barbra Streisand… Frank Sinatra… the Beatles… and so on in comparison with Glee. Does that make sense? If we take the past fifty years or so of musical history… not going back centuries, but long enough for albums and concerts and tours, and for us to consider singers and songwriters and entertainers… I personally believe it’s quite fair to say that the gang from Glee is not in the same wing of the building as that upper echelon of groundbreaking, rule-changing, generation-defining set of legends from the music industry.

(That’s not an insult folks. I think most of us are shaking our heads in agreement. Yes… fantastic show. Not the greatest source of original music. Not upper echelon of groundbreaking, rule-changing, generation-defining.)

Yet there it is… in major media outlets… Glee is number one. Topped Elvis. Topped everyone. Written as if that’s supposed to mean something.

And all I can say is… first, we’ve heard people challenge the legends before, claiming to have numbers on their side… second, when it comes to groups like the Beatles, be careful where you make the comparisons of greatness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

His name is Slim Whitman.

(For those of you that remember the commercials, you may be interested to know that according to what I can find he is still alive. His life and career are filled with some truly inspiring events and stories. But we’re actually referencing him here simply because of those commercials, so let’s get back on track…)

You’ve seen infomercials for all sorts of things. Funny, but in many ways they were just as slick back then as they are today. Fast cutting and misdirecting. Offering the unbelievable presented as though it was a miracle you have lived without it until now. Poorly shot and edited, often with comically inept conversations, all an attempt to make it seem that these folks are just like us. (Stress that it was an attempt to seem that way.) About the only thing missing today is a chance to order items C.O.D.

Thirty years ago the man… myth… legend… was being sold on television. For him, the claim back then… a claim many of us still remember, even though the exact wording has faded… was that Slim Whitman topped both Elvis and the Beatles.


Slim Whitman… was… the… man.

And you could order his music.

By acting now.

(C.O.D. orders accepted.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

His name is Gary Puckett.

I’d like you to visit his web site.

Gary is the lead singer of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. And as recently as… well, right now on his web site and all over in ads for upcoming appearances… Gary and the Union Gap claim that:

“In 1968 Gary Puckett and The Union Gap had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act... including the Beatles.”

I guess that really isn’t a claim. Instead, they are stating it as a fact. And they want you to know it. 1968. Sold more than the Beatles.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New Kids on the Block…

The Jonas Brothers…

Seems like every five to ten years a musical “legend” is born and the comparisons start. Usually it involves a band and crowds… chart success… demand for concert tickets… chaos at hotels and airports and television studios (oh my)… on a level that hasn’t been seen since, of course, the Beatles.

(Rarely does it provide a to-be-time-tested legend.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let’s focus on the Gary Puckett comment. After all, they aim at the Beatles by reference and have even given us some numbers…

“In 1968 Gary Puckett and The Union Gap had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act... including the Beatles.”

Anyone thinking that some accomplishments lose a bit of their impressiveness when someone has to explain them to you? (You don’t… for instance… care whether or not there was ever a year when the Rolling Stones outsold the Beatles, do you? And you don’t have to. Why? Because the Rolling Stones are also legends.)

1968 was a very interesting year for the Beatles. Why? Well, pretty much because it is the only year of their existence where only one album was released… The Beatles. (You know… The White Album.) That came out in November of 1968.

Different times back then. It wasn’t two, three, five or more years between releases by a major band. The Beatles did release two albums in 1967. One you’ve heard of… Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which came out in June of 1967. One you wouldn’t even remember they recorded, unless I asked you to name all of their albums… the other was Magical Mystery Tour, which was released in November of 1967. (Often times… more so then, but still today… different versions of albums were released on different dates and in different countries.) Still… not much in 1968, and when you look over their history, for the Beatles the time between Magical Mystery Tour and The White Album was one of the quietest they had. Twelve months between album releases. Only three albums over just about two years.

So… in the comparison for bragging rights… I have to say Puckett might have a point in accuracy, but he also likely picked one of the slowest years for Beatles albums.

Oh… yeah… since the Beatles were involved in a project here and a project there and things were a bit different then… you might want to know how many albums Gary and the Union Gap released in 1968. Yes?


In a year fueled by perhaps their biggest hit… “Young Girl”… a song that in the British charts replaced “What a Wonderful World” at number one before being overtaken by “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”… Gary Puckett and the Union Gap released four albums. I do believe sales of all four count when claiming “sold more records” bragging rights.

The Beatles released one.

(Hey… they made the comparison by naming the Beatles. Struck while the iron was hot. Nothing wrong with that. I’m just looking at the facts.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moment of reflection before we continue.

Scary thing about Magical Mystery Tour. You don’t know what songs are on it… do you?

I mean, at a quick glance you know, if for no other reason than my telling you, it was bracketed by Sgt. Pepper and The White Album. So that the album came at a really interesting time in their career. They were just about to begin the rush to the end (The White Album, Abbey Road and such). And Sgt. Pepper ahead of it. Tough to compete with those. Very interesting career stage.

But if I ask you to name a song off of The White Album, quite a few of you could name several. Same for Sgt. Pepper. Wouldn’t really have to think about it.

So go ahead… name me a song off of Magical Mystery Tour. (Hint: Answering “Magical Mystery Tour” would give you one of the songs on the album.)

Whether you knew it or not, just check out some of the material on the album (I believe this is from the American release)…

“Magical Mystery Tour” (Yeah… duh. Keep reading…)
“The Fool on the Hill”
“I am the Walrus”
“Hello, Goodbye”
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
“Penny Lane”
“All You Need is Love”

Heck… for good measure… “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” is on this album, and “Blue Jay Way” is as well, and the people singing along with “All You Need is Love” was a roster of giants.

That list creates an amazing, masterpiece of an album that would stand as a singular crowning achievement for perhaps 98% (or maybe even an Ivory-pure 99.9%) of individuals or bands that have ever recorded an album. If you walked into a room with any singer or band, handed them the track listing of Magical Mystery Tour, and told them that the best album they would ever record would be roughly the equivalent in quality of this material, I believe just about every one you approached would be happy and content with that thought. ((My words) “For my best work, I’m going to produce something as memorable as that collection? Where do I sign?”)

But for John, Paul, George and Ringo… eh. It followed Revolver and Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper… and it doesn’t really compare to Abbey Road, does it? That listing of songs… that incredible track listing… is a throwaway for them! Just a bunch of odds and ends. (Really. It is. I mean… come on… yikes!)

(In 1968 though… Gary Puckett and the Union Gap… take that Beatles.)

And yet… you have to kind of tip the cap to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Why? Well… consider…

Brian Epstein essentially took over managing the Beatles early in 1962. By the middle of that year, George Martin would be working with them in the studio and Ringo Starr had joined the band.

The last time all four members of the Beatles are known to have been in the studio together was August of 1969 while finishing up Abbey Road. John Lennon told the band in private that he was done about a month later.

So… January of 1962 to September of 1969 as a rough-edged timeframe for the group as we know it. (And history records it.) It’s rough. Still seems fair to me.

That’s not even eight years.

This band went from “She Loves You” and “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”… into the takeover of movies and music with Help! and A Hard Day’s Night… on to Revolver and Rubber Soul. That took a whopping four years.

Then they shift gears and begin a run to the end that included Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Let It Be and Abbey Road. Again… let’s get the dates and information correct… included Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Let It Be and Abbey Road. Not even four years.

(And, in between all of those four second-half-of-the-career releases, the lads casually tossed in an album with “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “The Fool on the Hill” and… good lord.)

So… you go ahead… explain to me how any band could cover that simply unreal amount of growth, transition and production in less than eight years, and yet somehow they had a down year during that time frame. Because, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap want you to know, in 1968 they sold more records.

(Can’t blame Gary and the gang for taking advantage of the claim.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There’s a place for Menudo, the Spice Girls, and the cast of Glee.

That’s a fact. (And it isn’t a lesson many people learn.)

You don’t have to please everyone to be successful. Heck… please a very small percentage of people and you can still be gargantuan in stature and success.

Not everyone loves puppies and chocolate ice cream. (Though, to be fair, accurate and honest… you should be incredibly suspicious of people that don’t like puppies or chocolate ice cream. My advice would be not to trust them.)

What’s your favorite song? …television show? …food?

Right now there are people, millions and millions (and millions) of people that hate that song… wouldn’t watch that show if you tied them in a chair and paid them… that can’t figure out why such a disgusting plate of inedible garbage was ever created.

There are people in the world… sit down, you’re going to be surprised so you’ll want to be prepared… that don’t like the Beatles.

My initial reaction when I heard that the cast of Glee had become the top act in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 was… I’m sorry to say… a bit of a shoulder shrug. Congratulations to them. Continued success and syndication deals beyond compare. It wasn’t Glee that honestly got me writing this. It was comparing Glee to Elvis.

In ten years, the next wave of in-the-moment singers and performers will be compared to the Beatles. Or Elvis. Or Barbra Streisand. There’s a reason that people are constantly compared to them. (A reason or a few dozen reasons. Remember… legends.)

A few of these will cross the bridge into truly-memorable-land. Most won’t. One thing is certain… those in-the-moment singers will not be compared to Glee.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com