Skip to main content

While their recording career in the U.S. only last a little over six years, The Beatles made it count. From the time they broke through with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” until their run of No. 1 hits ended with “The Long and Winding Road,” the band utterly dominated the Billboard charts.

Their totals of 20 No. 1 singles and 19 No. 1 albums have never been matched by any artist. (It’s unlikely anyone ever will do so.) At the heart of the magic was the storied songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

In the beginning, tracks like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were true Lennon-McCartney compositions. However, John (61 songs) and Paul (43 songs) wrote dozens more tunes on their own during their time together in The Beatles.

Naturally, they competed for the rights to have their songs come out as singles when the band was releasing a new album. And they both put up an amazing number of No. 1 singles. But Paul ended up producing a few more.

John claimed sole credit on 6 tracks that reached No. 1 in America.

The Beatles at Granada Television Studios, Manchester for filming of ‘The Music Of Lennon And McCartney,’ 1 November 1965| Peter Stubbs/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

By the time of John’s death in 1980, there weren’t many mysteries about who deserved songwriting credit on Beatles tunes. Both he and Paul spoke at length about it. We know it was mostly John behind tracks like “A Day in the Life” and “In My Life.” However, neither one got released as a single.

Of John’s six tunes which hit No. 1, each track cuts in his signature way. “A Hard Day’s Night” might be the most instantly recognizable, but “Ticket to Ride” and “Eight Days a Week” also paint a clear picture of those early Beatles years (1964-65).

With Help! (’65), fans started to hear the introspective writing that became John’s trademark. “All You Need Is Love” (1967) and “Come Together” (1969) finished off his great run of chart-topping singles with the Fab Four in America.

But Paul had an even more impressive knack for hitting No. 1 on the U.S. singles charts.

Paul composed 10 Billboard No. 1 hits while with The Beatles.

John Lennon And Paul McCartney, circa 1965 | Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

These days, we know Paul McCartney as the most successful and richest rock star in history, but in the ’60s he could barely top his bandmate John. Nonetheless, Paul did end up topping the Billboard charts more than his old friend.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Love Me Do” were two early Macca hits, and once he nailed down “Yesterday” (1965), Paul had one of the most famous songs in history to his name. But his great run continued through the end of the decade.

Prior to the Beatles breakup, he wrote enduring classics like “Hey Jude” (1968), “Let It Be,” and “The Long and Winding Road” (both recorded in ’69 and released in ’70). Looking back and sparing no one’s feelings, even John acknowledged the late, great run Paul had with these songs.

By the time he finished, Paul could lay claim to 10 No. 1 hits with him as the primary songwriter. That run would continue through the ’70s, both on his own and with Wings.

Also see: What John Lennon Thought Was Really Underrated About Paul McCartney