On a recent trip to Italy I purchased the Italian equivalent of the Guinness Book of Hit Singles and Albums detailing the top 50 singles chart since 1957 and the top 50 album chart since 1970. Much has been written about the impact of the Beatles in Britain and America but not a lot is known about the extent of their popularity on the continent. This book I feel gives a good insight into this previously rather neglected area of the Beatles history.
Were the Beatles then the number one music phenomenon in Italy, a country with one of the largest markets for record buying in Europe, as they had been in the States and in the good old U.K.? The answer to this question is a rather surprising no! The Beatles rank behind half a dozen home grown Italian performers in terms of chart success. From 1964 until 1970 our “boys” could only muster four number one hits over there which compares with 17 in Britain and 20 in the States. The four records which performed the feat were ‘Please Please Me’, ‘Help!’, ‘Michelle’ and ‘Let It Be’. Incidentally only one of these songs, ‘Help!’ made the top slot in Britain. Of the the other nineteen Beatles singles that appeared in the Italian chart, four failed to make the top ten, these being ‘Ticket To Ride’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Girl’ and ‘Hello Goodbye’. Although these statistics overall show that the Beatles were a very successful pop group in Italy during the 1960’s, they in no way matched their phenomenal achievements in the U.S. and the U.K. charts. Although the Beatles had great influence on the Italian youth they still had to play second fiddle in terms of chart success to well established Italian performers such as Adriano Celentano and Gianno Morandi the former achieving eight number one records and the latter nine over the same period that the fabs obtained their four chart toppers.
After the split in 1970 all four members enjoyed a fair amount of success in both the singles and album charts. It was John and not Paul who proved to be the most popular solo Beatle. one album with ‘Imagine’ and with the title track performed the same feat in the singles chart. John had five other top ten singles including Mind Games who’s success was rather surprising in view of its poor showing in the U.S and U,K, George and Ringo had a fair amount of success in both the album and single charts up until the mid 1970’s, but as in Britain have made only very infrequent visits back to the chart. George had his biggest successes with the ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ albums both of which made number 1 and the ‘My Sweet Lord’ single which also reached the top of the charts. Ringo’s highest placed single was ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ which climbed to number 12 in 1971 and his most successful album ‘Ringo’ made it into the top ten at number 8.
Finally we go on to Paul’s showing in the Italian charts. Unfortunately Macca’s flirtations with the album and singles hit parades have met with very little success. This is indeed very surprising when one considers that after the Beatles split it was Macca who became the “Big Star” out of the four in most parts of the world. Up to 1981 when the book was published he had only achieved three top ten singles hits in Italy, these being ‘Another Day’, ‘My Love’ and Goodnight Tonight’. In the album chart he has fared even worse with ‘Ram’ which reached number 3 being his only album to break into the top ten, Even the classic Band on the Run’ could only reach number 16,
To sum up, the Beatles are regarded as the greatest rock group of all time in Italy, but such artistic superiority was never translated into the same sort of chart superiority that they attained in the States and in Britain.
By Philip D Wood (esq).