The Rivals

(Edited to reflect corrections from the comments.)

I watched A Hard Day’s Night on Tuesday for the first time in years. It had never done much for me in the past, although I appreciated it a lot more after reading Jonathan Gould’s group biography Can’t Buy Me Love. Gould discussed the Beatles’ group identity, how they perceived themselves, especially at the height of Beatlemania, as four against the world. The film highlights that identity, even if you discount the fact that the Beatles are performing a script—they seem to communicate in a code impenetrable to outsiders but perfectly understandable to themselves. In addition, the scenes in which they’re seen playing music together are filled with genuine joy—they aren’t good enough actors to fake the pleasure that shows on their faces. Their powerful sense of camaraderie is all the more poignant given what we know now that they didn’t know then—how temporary it was going to be. That’s why I enjoyed the posts over at Any Major Dude With Half a Heart this week imagining what might have been (here and here) had the Beatles figured out a way to overcome their differences and kept recording together through the 1970s. Tuesday, Reuters reported on a new film about the making of the album and stage show Love, and the largely amicable collaboration among Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and Olivia Harrison—another occasion for wondering what might have been.

All of this is a roundabout way of leading into what I really want to write about today. As Gould mentions, the Beatles and the Beach Boys sometimes saw themselves as rivals. American fans often perceived a rivalry between the two as well, although British fans were more likely to view the Beatles’ top rival as the Rolling Stones. So what I’d like to know is . . . when was the last time both the Beatles and the Beach Boys had a record in the Top 10 of the Billboard singles chart at the same time? It had to be sometime in the mid 1960s, right? Between 1963 and the end of 1966, the Beatles had 20 Top 10 hits, the Beach Boys 13. And for three weeks, ending with the chart dated September 24, 1966, “Yellow Submarine” and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” were in the Top 10 together. But that wasn’t the last time.

The question becomes easier if you know that the Beach Boys wouldn’t reach the Top 10 again until nearly 10 years later, when their cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” became a smash. But right there with them in the Top 10 during the summer of ’76 were their ancient rivals. Capitol released a Beatles compilation album titled (oddly enough) Rock and Roll Music, and a single from it, “Got to Get You Into My Life,” originally on Revolver. And for a period of four weeks, ending with the chart dated August 7, 1976, the Beach Boys and the Beatles were back in the Top 10 together. The Beach Boys actually got the better of it this time, making Number 5, while “Got to Get You Into My Life” made it only to Number 6.

Given that I was too young to remember hearing the Beatles and Beach Boys on the radio in the mid 60s, the little taste I got in the mid 70s was a sweet thing indeed.

“Got to Get You Into My Life”/The Beatles (buy it here)
“Rock and Roll Music”/Beach Boys (buy the album version here; according to the Wikipedia entry for the song, the single version has never been released on CD because the master is irreparably damaged No it isn’t. See comments.)

6 thoughts on “The Rivals

  1. Miles

    Actually, the Beach Boys reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1988 with Kokomo. It marked the longest time between #1 records for any group in the U.S.. Now, granted, there weren’t any Beatles songs on the charts then, but I did want to clarify that the Beach Boys did have a Top Ten hit after “Rock and Roll Music”.

    The Beach Boys have always been my favorite group but I never really saw them as rivals to the Beatles. I took the view of the Brits that the Rolling Stones were their competitors.

  2. jb

    Cripes, all those great songs and “Kokomo” gets to Number One? There is no god.

    I believe Cher went 29 years between Number Ones, between “Gypsies Tramps and Thieves” in ’71 and “Believe” in 2000.

  3. Shark

    “Rock and Roll Music” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” were two great examples of why the summer of ’76 was one of the best Top 40 music summers of all. I listened to WLS a lot that summer, mostly because WCFL had changed format in March of that year. To fill the void, I began listening more to something else….FM Radio.

  4. Yah Shure

    Contrary to the assertion in the Wikipedia entry, the single version of “Rock And Roll Music” was issued on the 2000 Capitol/Brother CD ‘Greatest Hits Volume Three – The Beach Boys, Best Of The Brother Years 1970-1986.’ To quote from the CD’s booklet:

    “The single mix, heard on this set, was made specifically for radio airplay and features less backing vocals and more prominent instrumentation than the album version.”

    There’s no deterioration noted on this CD appearance. In truth, the original 45 had a bit of a flaw; the very first word, “just,” isn’t quite up to speed, and wows a bit. The CD appearance doesn’t have this problem. The most obvious difference between the single and album versions is that the vocals are all centered right down the middle on the 45, and spread out over the stereo soundstage on the original ’15 Big Ones’ album version. The follow-up single, “It’s OK,” was pitched two percent faster than the version on ’15 Big Ones.’

    I still find it hard to believe that “It’s Cold Outside” never made it to the airwaves in – of all places – Minneapolis-St. Paul!

    Enjoy the blog, keep up the great work!

  5. Pingback: Rock Flashback: “Wings Over America”

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