The Beatles have broken UK chart records as they return to No 1 with their “final” song together, Now and Then – their 18th chart-topper in total.
Their 17th No 1 was The Ballad of John and Yoko in 1969, meaning they are now the artists with the longest gap between No 1 singles: 54 years, smashing the record set last year by Kate Bush when she reached the top with Running Up That Hill, 44 years after her No 1 with Wuthering Heights. Neither of the new songs the living members of the Beatles released in 1995 and 1996, Free as a Bird and Real Love, topped the charts.
Now and Then, a midtempo ballad written by John Lennon in the late 1970s, uses his original demo recording combined with guitar lines recorded by the late George Harrison in 1994, plus new parts recorded by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. McCartney said of the song’s chart-topping success: “It’s mind boggling. It’s blown my socks off. It’s also a very emotional moment for me. I love it!”
Now and Then’s chart supremacy has been powered in part by a series of physical editions, including CD, cassette, 12in vinyl and four different coloured 7in vinyl versions, with the three non-black versions retailing at £17.99 each.
Those unusually high prices were no deterrent for fans, many of whom queued at midnight on Friday last week to snap up copies. With 19,400 vinyl copies sold, it’s the fastest selling vinyl single of the century, and its total physical sales of 38,000 were the biggest single week of physical sales since 2014, when X Factor winner Ben Haenow reached Christmas No 1 with Something I Need.
Now and Then was also streamed more than 5 million times in the UK, by far the highest single week figure for any Beatles song. The Beatles’ return was so anticipated that Now and Then actually reached the charts last Friday after being on release for just 10 hours before that week’s cutoff, reaching No 42.
The band extend their record as the British artist with the most No 1 singles, with Official Charts Company chief executive Martin Talbot saying: “If there were ever any doubts that the Beatles are the greatest band of all time, they have surely consigned them to history this week.”
They will need to find a fair bit more in the vaults if they want to beat Elvis Presley, who has 21 No 1s, though Peter Jackson, who directed Now and Then’s music video, has said it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. “We can take a performance from [Jackson’s documentary film] Get Back, separate John and George, and then have Paul and Ringo add a chorus or harmonies,” he told the Sunday Times this week. “You might end up with a decent song but I haven’t had conversations with Paul about that. It’s fanboy stuff but certainly conceivable.”
The album chart meanwhile hosted the return of other musical legends, with Cliff Richard scoring his 48th Top 10 album with Cliff With Strings – My Kinda Life at No 5, Johnny Marr getting a fifth solo Top 10 album with best-of compilation Spirit Power at No 7, and Van Morrison getting a 44th Top 40 album with Accentuate the Positive at No 39.
Bucking the trend for new albums to swiftly drop down the charts, the Rolling Stones earn a third week in the Top Five with Hackney Diamonds. Oasis are the highest new entry at No 2 with a reissue of B-sides compilation The Masterplan ahead of K-pop star Jung Kook at No 3, while Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of 1989 remains at No 1 for a second week.
Swift was deposed by the Beatles in the singles chart, her song Is It Over Now dropping to No 3. Prada, a remix of D-Block Europe and Raye’s song Ferrari Horses made by producer Cassö on his Swansea University laptop, spends a ninth week in the Top 5 at No 2, while Tate McRae and Tyla each return to the Top 5.