NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As outlined in Part 1, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles! and Part 2, Roll Up for the Mystery Tour, most of the Beatles legacy unfolded in the space of seven years, beginning with the band's arrival in the U.S. in February of 1964.
This Sunday's Grammy Awards tribute to the Beatles' landmark 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, "The Night That Changed America," will mark the beginning of a slew of possible 50th anniversaries for the rock band, winding up with the 2020 50th anniversary of the band's breakup in 1970. The special airs 8 p.m. EST Sunday on CBS (CBS) and will include a performance by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with a Eurythmics reunion and appearances by Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and many others.
Over 73 million people watched that 1964 Ed Sullivan Show broadcast and the Beatles' popularity in the U.S. soared over the next few months and years. While the brand may have dimmed a bit in its appeal, the Beatles remain a huge moneymaker, with an album in the Top 10 Billboard charts as recently as last November (On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2).
If you are chalking up the hoopla over this anniversary to the Baby Boomers reliving their collective childhood -- well, you're right, up to a point. But a new nationwide survey for TheStreet by GfK has found that a clear majority of respondents of all age groups feel that the Beatles remain relevant even for those born after 1980 -- the year John Lennon was killed. (Read more survey results: Science Has Determined the Best Beatle)
The Beatles For Sale
Pre-fame, Lennon pushed his bandmates to keep their spirits up, telling them repeatedly that the band was going to the very top of pop charts, "the toppermost of the poppermost." So successful were they that 50 years later, they are still there, at the very top.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, which certifies Gold and Platinum records on request from labels, the Beatles have sold 177 million complete albums in the U.S. alone over 50-plus years, making them the top act in history, in terms of album sales, to be certified Gold or Platinum. Nielsen SoundScan says that since it started tracking sales in 1991, the Beatles have sold more than 65 million albums, second only to Garth Brooks (with 69 million). The collection of No. 1 hits, The Beatles 1, is the top-selling album for the last decade. Additionally, the band sold 15 million digital songs.
Many Web sites estimate Beatles global all-time sales but those figures vary wildly depending on the source. The Web site StatisticBrain puts album sales alone at over 2 billion -- yes, that's "billion" with a "b".
Any way you look at it, that's a lot of selling. There are many out there who certainly won't pass up the opportunity to generate additional revenue from these upcoming 50th anniversaries.
Last month, Universal Music Group, a subsidiary of Vivendi (VIV), released The Beatles: U.S. Albums, a CD box set of the American versions of the Beatles recordings, with the early ones released on the Capitol Records label. That dropped Jan. 21, just in time for the Grammys and the tribute broadcast. The track order and mixes for U.S. issues of the early Beatles albums was slightly different from those released in the U.K. In this set of remastered recordings, the orders match the original U.S. pressings, but any original differences in the mix are lost.
The collection of BBC recordings, mentioned above, On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2, was released in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the Beatles rise to stardom in Britain.