Anniversaries

How The Beatles Trampled a Singing Nun on Their Way to the Top

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Who knows how long Meet the Beatles would have stayed at No. 1, but thanks to Capitol's insatiable greed for Beatles product it once happily rejected, it now released The Beatles' Second Album, which pushed the Capitol debut down to number two on May 2 and aided the Singing Nun's descent into oblivion. Despite only having one Paul McCartney lead vocal, "Long Tall Sally," and clocking in at a curt 27 minutes, The Beatles Second Album became the fastest rising pop album to date, zooming to No. 1 in its second week. It also meant The Beatles simultaneously held down the No. 1 No. 2 album positions for another 16 weeks. Here is that album, clocking in the same time it would take you to watch the average sitcom or eat a very, very large macaroon.

Meanwhile on the single charts, the Beatles continued its stranglehold of the No. 1 spot for three and a half months with three different tracks -- "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," and "Can't Buy Me Love." Yet this streak was finally stopped, not by another member of the clergy but by a man who had not seen a Top 40 appearance since the onslaught of rock 'n' roll. Yet his gift for improvisation is credited for making rock 'n' roll happen in the first place. I'm taking about Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Let's pause to roundly thrash about the head anyone who just said "Louis who?'

Although his records with the Hot Five and Hot Seven demonstrated his peerless skills as a soloist at its peak and raised the bar for all musicians who followed in his wake, he should be remembered statistically for ending the Beatles' stranglehold on the American charts not with some hot jazz trumpeting, but with his rendition of "Hello Dolly."

That this historical achievement couldn't have happened with a better record is probably just empty quibbling a half-century later, but it did start an unfortunate tradition of legends coming back from decades of dormancy with a truly mediocre representation of their talents. Witness Chuck Berry ascending to the top of the Hot 100 with the juvenile "My Ding-a-Ling" in 1972. Or the Beach Boys breaking their 22 year absence at No. 1 to bring us the insufferable "Kokomo." You're probably already singing "Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you." That's how pure evil that song is. It lodges in your brain like fruity dopamine.

By June, Armstrong's Hello Dolly album would also top the charts, trading places with the original cast album of the Broadway version of Hello Dolly, in the quiet weeks between multiple Beatles LP releases. That album showed that Satchmo had basically turned into a singer of show tunes who occasionally blew into a trumpet. Fans of the musical Bye Bye Birdie might enjoy hearing the jazz great singing that Conrad Birdie classic "Got a Lot of Livin' To Do."

Once Dollymania subsided, there would be no more high charting hits in the rock era for Louis Armstrong, who was admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an "early influencer" in 1990. But maybe they should have inducted him as "earliest example of a Beatles usurper."

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic

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