What Was the First Hit Single Released by a Solo Ex-Beatle?
Just recently, I was asked what the official first hit single by a solo ex-Beatle was? Something in my memory sprang to the fore and made me say it was ‘My Sweet Lord’ by George Harrison, but at the first opportunity, I had to go and check.
The first thing to consider before working out the answer is where the parameters lie – at what point did the Beatles become ex-Beatles? Their final single release (in the UK) was ‘Let It Be’ in March 1970, their final album release (in the UK) was ‘Let It Be’ in May 1970 but the band itself did not officially disband then. It is important to note that all subsequent dates refer to releases in the UK only.
(The Beatles in happier times! - Image Source)
The act of dissolution of the band known as the Beatles began on the 31st December 1970, when Paul McCartney raised a legal suit. It was to be a rather long drawn-out process. Although it took until 1975 for every legal dispute to be ‘ironed’ out, the official dissolution of their partnership was sealed in the Chancery Division of the London High Court on 12th March 1971. Each member of the Beatles was now an ex-Beatle.
Solo recording careers for members of the Beatles had started long before the Beatles themselves had split. During the 1960’s, both Paul McCartney and George Harrison had written soundtrack’s to films (‘The Family Way’ and ‘Wonderwall’ respectively). John Lennon had released three singles, under the ‘Plastic Ono Band’ pseudonym, before the 1971 cut off date. During 1970, both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr had solo albums riding high in the charts, neither of which saw the release of a single.
My Sweet Lord, concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden
Moving into 1971, George Harrison released the song ‘My Sweet Lord’ on 23rd January – within a fortnight it had climbed to the number one spot, knocking off Clive Dunn’s ‘Grandad’. The following month saw the first non-album single released by Paul McCartney; ‘Another Day’, released on 27th February 1971. Both of these songs were still in the UK charts on the 12th of March, which was the date that the Beatles officially were not Beatles anymore.
Another Day - Paul McCartney
If 12th March 1971 was the point when the Beatles were officially no more, it is rather interesting to note that John Lennon released the song ‘Power To The People’ the very same day. Perhaps it was nothing more than coincidence, but perhaps it was a deliberate move on Lennon’s part.
Power To The People - John Lennon
There are two schools of thought as to why ‘Power to the People’ should not be known as the first hit single by an ex-Beatle: 1) Being released on the same day implies that it didn’t come after the split of the Beatles. 2) The writing credits on the song goes to John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.
So what was the first solo single release by an ex-member of the Beatles?
In the strictest of terms, the honour goes to Ringo Starr who released ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ on 17th April 1971.
It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr
There is of course the argument that the Beatles broke up in April 1970, and if that is the time frame everyone looks at as to who had the first solo release by a former Beatle, that changes things.
Many people just look at what the first Beatle solo releases showed up on the Billboard Top 100 charts.
The following Beatle solo releases in chronological order are.
Interestingly, John Lennon, with his release of “Give Peace a Chance” on July 26, 1969, before the Beatles even announced they were breaking up.
This was followed up by Ringo Starr, with his song, “Beaucoup Of Blues”, hitting the charts November 7th, 1970.
George Harrison, hot the Billboard Top 100 with “My Sweet Lord” on November 28th, 1970.
Paul McCartney released the single, “Another Day” hitting the charts on March 6th, 1971. Another interesting story about the song Another Day was that he wrote it when he was with the Beatles, and even played it at Apple Studios with the rest of the Beatles listening to it. John Lennon said to Paul McCartney, “You’ve been holding out on us”.
It all depends on the criteria someone used for the first Beatles solo release.