The Beatles Discography
The Beatles have sold more albums in the US than any other artist. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the all-time top-selling Hot 100 artists to celebrate the chart’s fiftieth anniversary, with The Beatles at number one. They are credited with six Diamond albums, as well as 24 Multi-Platinum albums, 39 Platinum albums and 45 Gold albums.
In 1963 Lennon and McCartney agreed to assign their song publishing rights to Northern Songs, a company created by music publisher Dick James. Administered by James’ company Dick James Music, Northern Songs went public in 1965 with Lennon and McCartney each holding 15% of the company’s shares and James and the company’s chairman, Charles Silver, holding a controlling 37.5%. After a failed attempt by Lennon and McCartney to buy the company, James and Silver sold Northern Songs in 1969 to British TV company Associated TeleVision (ATV), from which Lennon and McCartney received stock. Briefly owned by Australian business magnate Robert Holmes à Court, ATV Music was sold in 1985 to Michael Jackson for a reported $47 million (trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono), including the publishing rights to over 200 songs composed by Lennon and McCartney.
Jackson and Sony merged their music publishing businesses in 1995, becoming joint owners of most of the Lennon-McCartney songs recorded by The Beatles, although Lennon’s estate and McCartney still receive their respective shares of the royalties. Despite his ownership of most of the Lennon-McCartney publishing, Jackson only recorded one Lennon-McCartney composition, “Come Together”, which was featured in his film Moonwalker (1988) and album HIStory (1995). Although the Jackson-Sony catalogue includes most of The Beatles’ greatest hits, four of their earliest songs were published by one of EMI’s publishing companies Ardmore and Beechwood before Lennon and McCartney signed with James, and McCartney succeeded in personally acquiring the publishing rights to “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me”, “P.S. I Love You”, and “Ask Me Why”. Harrison and Starr allowed their songwriting contracts with Northern Songs to lapse in 1968, signing with Apple Publishing instead. Harrison created Harrisongs, which still owns the rights to his post-1967 songs such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something”, while Starr’s Startling Music holds the rights to his own post-1967 songs recorded by The Beatles, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’s Garden”.
- Please Please Me (1963)
- With The Beatles (1963)
- A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
- Beatles for Sale (1964)
- Help! (1965)
- Rubber Soul (1965)
- Revolver (1966)
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
- Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
- The Beatles (“The White Album”) (1968)
- Yellow Submarine (1969)
- Abbey Road (1969)
- Let It Be (1970)
In 1987, EMI released all of The Beatles’ studio albums on CD worldwide, and Apple Corps decided to standardise The Beatles catalogue throughout the world, choosing to release the twelve original studio albums as released in the United Kingdom, as well as the Magical Mystery Tour US album, which had been released as a shorter Double EP in the UK. All the remaining Beatles material from the singles and EPs from 1962–1970 which had not been issued on the original British studio albums were gathered on the Past Masters double album compilation:
- Past Masters, Volume One (1988)
- Past Masters, Volume Two (1988)
The US album configurations from 1964–65 were released as box sets in 2004 and 2006 (The Capitol Albums Volume 1 and Volume 2 respectively); these included both stereo and mono versions based on the mixes that were prepared for vinyl at the time of their original 1960s releases in the United States.
2009 CD remasters
On 9 September 2009, The Beatles’ entire back catalogue was reissued following an extensive digital remastering process that lasted four years. Stereo editions of all twelve original UK studio albums, along with Magical Mystery Tour and a combined two-CD set of Past Masters, were released on compact disc both individually and as a box set. A second collection included all mono tracks. In Mojo magazine‘s review, Danny Eccleston writes, “Ever since The Beatles first emerged on CD in 1987, there have been complaints about the sound”, saying that the original vinyl has had significant advantages over the CDs in clarity and dynamism. “Compare Paperback Writer/Rain on crackly 45, with its weedy Past Masters CD version, and the case is closed.” Prior to the release of the 2009 remasters, Abbey Road Studios had invited Mojo reviewers to hear a sample of the four-year work’s achievement, telling the magazine, “You’re in for a shock.” In his release-day review of the full product, Eccleston reported that “brilliantly, that’s still how it feels a month later.” For a limited time after the release date, a brief documentary was included on each CD album.
Digital music licensing
The Beatles are one of the few major artists whose recorded catalogue is not available through online music services such as iTunes and Napster. Apple Corps’ dispute with Apple, Inc. (the owners of iTunes) over the use of the name “Apple” has played a particular part in this, although in November 2008 McCartney said the main obstacle was that EMI, in their negotiations with Apple Corps, “want something we’re not prepared to give them.” In March 2009, The Guardian reported that, “the prospect of an independent, Beatles-specific digital music store” has been raised by Dhani Harrison, quoted by the newspaper as recently saying, “We’re losing money every day… So what do you do? You have to have your own delivery system, or you have to do a good deal with [Apple, Inc. CEO] Steve Jobs… [He] says that a download is worth 99 cents, and we disagree.”