Was George Harrison’s Solo Debut Bigger Than Lennon and McCartney’s?
While Beatles fans learned the band split up in April 1970, the four members of the group had already gone their separate ways. That’s how Paul McCartney managed to release his own album before Let It Be (the Fab Four’s last) hit record stores that year.
Paul’s debut album, which John Lennon dismissed as “rubbish,” nonetheless found plenty of fans. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in May and stayed there until Let It Be bumped it from the top spot after a few weeks.
Later in the year, fans got a look at what the two other major songwriters in the group had to offer on their own. George Harrison, who delivered the triple-disc All Things Must Pass in November, came next.
When John’s first proper solo album arrived in December, it gave critics and chart-trackers alike a chance to compare the work of the three heavyweight songwriters. They may have been surprised to find George had the most success with his debut album.
‘All Things Must Pass’ went Gold within 3 weeks and Platinum 6 times.
While it can be tricky to nail down exactly what made one album a bigger hit than another, George made it easy with All Things Must Pass. It took the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart at the start of ’71 and stayed at the top for seven weeks.
That chart performance made mincemeat of Paul’a McCartney, which only held No. 1 for three weeks. As for John’s Lennon/Plastic Ono Band record that arrived in December ’70, there was no contest. John’s effort peaked at No. 6 in early ’71 while All Things Must Pass ruled the Billboard 200.
Going by the success of the albums’ singles, George also outdid his old bandmates. He was the first of the former Beatles to score a No. 1 single, which he did with “My Sweet Lord.” Neither Paul nor John managed to do that with a single in 1970.
In terms of sales, All Things Must Pass went gold by December ’70 and kept selling big through 1971. It has been certified platinum six times by the RIAA, which means it logged over 3 million sales as a double album in the U.S.
‘McCartney’ and ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ were lesser hits.
This isn’t to say McCartney wasn’t also a big hit. Buoyed by the publicity over The Beatles’ breakup (which he had announced), Paul’s solo debut sold a million copies within a month. All told, it has logged 2.5 million sales in America.
John’s debut also went gold and ended up selling nearly a million units over the years. For most artists, this type of success is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But for John and Paul, who’d had dozens of No. 1 singles and albums in the preceding decade, it was likely a wake-up call.
George, whom John and Paul had both condescended to in their way over the years, easily made the biggest splash of the three. In fact, All Things Must Pass became one of the biggest-selling albums (No. 33) of the 1970s.
Once he released that record, the idea of him rejoining The Beatles became out of the question. George wasn’t afraid to give a quote on the subject, either. After saying everyone was “enjoying being individuals,” he said he wouldn’t take part in a Beatles reunion because of one person: Paul McCartney.
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