Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Here is one Beatles trivia question you probably have never been asked.

We know all of the Beatles can and did sing, though the majority of their songs do feature John and Paul.

But which is the first hit single in America for each one of the Fab Four as the lead vocalist?

How different would the answer be if we apply the same question to Great Britain releases?
—Claudia Freeman, Tacoma, Wash.

DEAR CLAUDIA: You are correct, this is another first!

The Beatles made many of our country's regional charts in 1963, including ones in major markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, New York, and Chicago.

The closest they came to national success in '63 was with “From Me to You,” but as commercial as this track is — it reached No. 1 in the UK — they inexplicably could not crash the Top 100 on any of our national surveys (Billboard, Cash Box, Record World, etc.). At least not until January 1964.

To best answer you, let us simply qualify a “hit” as one ranking in the Top 100.

With just their debut Capitol single, we can cover half of your four-part question.

Though John and Paul are both heard on “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” it is mostly a Lennon lead vocal. Paul McCartney is featured on the flip side, “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Then “Do You Want to Know a Secret” came along in March, becoming the first American hit on which George Harrison sings lead.

Ringo Starr takes the lead on “Act Naturally,” a 1965 remake of the late Buck Owens' C&W smash. That this would even be a Beatles track, much less a single, surprised nearly everyone.

Yet “Act Naturally” is the B-side of “Yesterday,” making for one of their most unusual musical couplings. Since it also qualifies as a hit, that concludes the American portion of your question.

Beatlemania got rolling over a year earlier in the UK than here. Because their first record (“Love Me Do”) charted in October 1962, the early start there makes all four answers different.

Though Paul has a solo line here and there, “Love Me Do,” doesn't really have a lead vocalist. It is a joint harmonizing effort.

So we go to their second hit, “Please Please Me,” (February 1963) which clearly features John.

Paul fronts the band on “She Loves You” (August 1963), though John is also heard a bit.

The first UK hit spotlighting Ringo is “Yellow Submarine” (August 1966).

As for George, he had to wait a few years. His “Do You Want to Know a Secret” reached No. 1 in England, but by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and not the Beatles.

Finally, in the summer of '69, “Something” came out, and it features George singing one of his finest compositions.

DEAR JERRY: In the early '70s a song was played often in my home town, which I'm hoping you can identify for me.

Do you know one from that time about toast, marmalade, and sailing ships upon the sea?
— Larry Albritton, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR LARRY: The Australian group Tin Tin had just two hits in America, both in 1971. The first, and their top-seller, is the one you recall: “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” (Atco 6794).

Tin Tin — Steve Kipner, Steve Groves, Johnny Vallins, and Geoff Bridgford — followed this Top 20 hit with “Is That the Way” (Atco 6821), a Top 60 item.

IZ ZAT SO? From their first Capitol single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1964), to their last as a group, “The Long and Winding Road” (1970), the Beatles ran off a total of 20 No. 1 hits. All were written by John, Paul, and George, either solo or as a team.

It isn't that they avoided songs from other writers, especially in the earlier years. Just that only their own compositions topped the charts.

Here are the seven Beatles hit singles from those years NOT written by one or more of the group (including Tony Sheridan): “My Bonnie” (H.J. Fuller); “Twist and Shout” (Phil Medley & Bert Russell); “Roll Over Beethoven” (Chuck Berry); “Ain't She Sweet” (Jack Yellen & Milton Ager); “Matchbox” (Carl Perkins); “Slow Down” (Larry Williams); and “Act Naturally” (Voni Morrison & Johnny Russell).

The highest ranking of these is “Twist and Shout,” which zoomed up to No. 2 where it stayed for four weeks. Despite a valiant effort, “Twist and Shout” just could not take over the top spot from “Can't Buy Me Love,” by you know who.

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