24 May 2011

Thinking Paper #9 - Screaming schoolgirls – Is Barack Obama bigger than The Beatles?

By Tim Massingberd-James


This week, Barack Obama embarked on a week-long European tour. In Dublin, he addressed an audience of 25,000 screaming Irish schoolgirls, and the tour sees him playing massive gigs at various venues in Ireland, the UK, France and Poland, accompanied by an entourage of 1,500, including a personal chef.

If Barack Obama were a band, he would undoubtedly be one of the biggest in the world, but would he be bigger than the Beatles?

Is Obama bigger than The Beatles?

The Beatles' biggest European Tour was in Summer 1965, when they played dates in Italy, France, Spain and the UK, before jetting off to the US for more gigs. This focusses on large European powers, and was undertaken during the Cold War, when it was basically impossible to consider taking the tour to Poland. At the time, the Beatles were described by the USSR as the "belch of Western culture" and in the 1980s McCartney was refused permission to play behind the Iron Curtain.

So, the largest tour of the Beatles had about the same number of countries (and screaming girls) as Barack Obama's Tour, and was only about a week longer. Details remaining from the tour show that alongside eight gigs, the band held press conferences, radio interviews, stayed in hotels, and even attracted political scrutiny in the Italian Parliament, with MP Mr. Quintieri questioning whether the Beatles would pay their taxes, in an echo of Mayor of London Boris Johnson's electioneering / questioning of whether the US Embassy should be paying the Congestion Charge during Obama's visit. Records show that the Beatles even attended a reception in their honour in Jerez, Spain, on 1st July 1965, much like the Obama's probably attended lots of receptions.

At Buckingham Palace, Obama was given a 41 gun salute by the Queen, but this is just box-ticking when meeting a foreign head of state. It is worth noting that in June 1965 – around the time of the European Tour - The Beatles were given the MBE by the Queen, and were invited to Buckingham Palace later that year. There were, however, no guns.

Earlier this month, President Obama listed $4 million in personal assets and income, including book royalties, and pensions, however, Sir Paul McCartney alone was estimated to have a personal fortune of $1.2 billion in 2009, and if we add in Ringo Starr's wealth, we might raise the figure by a few bob, alongside the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon.


In conclusion, it would seem that the Beatles were as big as Obama in 1965, and as more than 40 years has passed since then it seems that they're probably much bigger. If we factor in the likelihood that the Beatles will all die before Obama, however, the President will undoubtedly win in the end.

^Picture by Anthony Baker under Creative Commons^

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