who are the beatles?

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Pop history is reductive, and skewed. A friend forwarded along a Spotify list published in Billboard of popular Beatles songs broken down by demographics, and while a lot of the statistics are baffling (is “Mean Mr. Mustard” really the third most-popular Beatles track among streamers aged 55-plus? What’s with 30-34 year olds and “Hello Goodbye” and “Ob-La-Di. Ob-La-Da”? How does “You Never Give Me Your Money” rank as a stand-alone #6 song among the 18-24 group?), what’s evident is that the younger you are, the more you listen to “Here Comes The Sun.” In the 17-and-under demo, that’s the #1 track, and when you reach those from 18-to-24, it comes in second only to “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” (And yet somehow, in the boomerest demo, 55-plus, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,””She Loves You”– #1 in the 30-34 gang – “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night” don’t even make the top 10. The only 1964 track that makes that list is “Do You Want To Know A Secret.”) I’m no statistician, but I’ve been looking over these seven top ten lists looking for any patterns that make sense. What albums are the tracks on? What cultural anomalies come into play? Why do people under 18 play “Love Me Do” more than any other age group does? Why, after not appearing on any other list, does the cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” leap to #1 on the 55+ chart? Who are The Beatles? The answer seems to be: it depends on how old you are.

Like, 45-54 year olds make “Back In The U.S.S.R.” their #1, but no other cuts from The Beatles (aka The White Album) are anywhere in the top ten. “Let It Be” is in the youngest demo’s top ten, then vanishes, apparently, until you hit 45 years old. So from 18 through 44, you’re not in the mood to hear “Let It Be” all that much, and then you are, and then not so much anymore once you turn 55? And what to make of the fact that “I Am The Walrus” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” are nowhere (“Penny Lane” is on every under-30 list), but if you’re under 25, “Come Together” is one of your favorites? There is a big “We Can Work It Out” spike 35 through 54, but that demo doesn’t care as much for the superior flip side, “Day Tripper.” Some number one singles, “All You Need Is Love”,” “Eight Days A Week,” are out of every top ten, but the boomer chart contains “Glass Onion” and “Long, Long, Long.” I haven’t done a mathematical breakdown, but it looks like it’s the 25-to-29’s who gravitate most towards the earlier stuff (“From Me To You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Love Me Do”), and they’re the only group that loves “Norwegian Wood” (#4).

On most all-time-albums surveys, Sgt. Pepper is way up at or near the top, and even if Rubber Soul and Revolver have weathered better musically, you still see Pepper floating up there in historical terms, but the streaming population doesn’t seem to be that impressed. “With A Little Help From My Friends” is on one list (18-24), the title track and “A Day In The Life” on a couple of others, and that’s it. No Lucy or Rita or Mr. Kite, no “Fixing A Hole” or “She’s Leaving Home” anywhere: it looks like people play the first and last tracks and don’t poke around much further, and you can say it’s because there were no singles on it, but that can’t be the whole explanation, can it? The charts are very singles-heavy, but other odd tracks do sneak in.

Why do people under 25 play “Here Comes The Sun” so much? And why is it so high (#1 or #2) on similar iTunes and Amazon charts? Of all the revelations on the Spotify charts, this stands out. It’s the only non-single on the under-18 list, and beats the Abbey Road single “Come Together” in the 18-24 demo. I don’t think it’s part of a Harrison renaissance, despite “Long, Long, Long” and “Something” turning up (surprise: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” isn’t on these lists). I was going to chalk it up to the Glee factor: it was sung by Naya Rivera and Demi Lovato in a 2013 Beatles-themed episode, and on the Glee Sings The Beatles soundtrack album. But George’s “Something” is on that album also, and so are “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” and none of those are top ten streams for the under-25 set. Was it a big grade-school sing-along (maybe: “Yellow Submarine” is big with that demo)? I have to guess that people in that age group (conscious-to-24) are doing the most streaming, which would mean that the 1-and-2 placing of “Here Comes The Sun” makes it the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify and combined with the other music services means it’s now, at least by this measurement, the Most Popular Beatles Track. Who’d have ever thought that would happen?: a late-period non-single, not written by John and/or Paul. Who are The Beatles? Keep asking, and the answer keeps changing.

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