Has anyone never heard of the Beatles?
September 6, 2006 11:01 AM   Subscribe

What percent of US citizens have never heard of the Beatles?

I'm trying to settle an argument that was based entirely on speculation. It started off trying to figure out how many people don't like the Beatles but we settled on how many people have never even heard of them. It's a few days later and I'm still wondering and looking for some harder facts now.
posted by mike_bling to Media & Arts (37 answers total)
 
above a certain age? whether or not a 2 year old has "heard of the beatles" is arguable.

in any case, probably the percentage is very small.

what about what percentage of the population can name three beatles songs? or can name all four members?
posted by sulaine at 11:09 AM on September 6, 2006


According to the movie Sliding Doors, no one.
Everybody's born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively. They're passed into the fetus subconsciously along with all the amniotic stuff. Fact, they should be called "The Fetals".
posted by owenkun at 11:11 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I imagine it overlaps with the percentage of the population that is Amish, or part of any other group that cuts itself off from directly appreciating the dominant culture for generations. Though the Amish still interact with the wider culture on a business level and when rebelling, so it's probably not a 100% the same.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2006


I know a lot of people know Beatles songs without necessarily knowing they were written by the Beatles. I'm young enough to have heard a few Beatles songs covered before I ever heard the originals. Examples: "In my life", "Across the universe".
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:23 AM on September 6, 2006


It's extremely difficult to find out who hasn't heard about something, because when you ask them if they have, well, there you go...
posted by jon_kill at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2006


I've never seen the movie Sliding Doors, but that quote is awesome.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:32 AM on September 6, 2006


I think maybe 15% people are much worse about knowing things than most would expect.
posted by I Foody at 11:37 AM on September 6, 2006


How do you expect anyone to be able to answer this question? All you're going to get is snarks and wild guesses, and you can provide both yourself if that's what you want.

I imagine it overlaps with the percentage of the population that is Amish

I imagine it doesn't. Just because they don't watch TV doesn't mean they're living in the 17th century. Amish talk to other people, you know. Some of them even sell produce in NYC. I guarantee they've heard of the Beatles.
posted by languagehat at 11:57 AM on September 6, 2006


I am one of the few that do not like the Beatles. But I am certainly in the minority. I would venture to guess that 31% have not heard of them. I think the percentage that has not heard them (radio, tv ad, etc) is closer to 12%.

An anedote: I had a good friend whose daughter, circa 1989, came home from school one day and asked him, "What was the name of the band that Paul McCartney was in before 'Wings'?"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:58 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


9%

That was based entirely on speculation.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2006


I've got a friend, who, at the age of 28, in possession of several degrees from some of the world's best universities, was totally unable to name 3 artists or bands who'd had number one records ever - even with the incentive of being bought dinner if he could.

There are some people (a very few I suspect) who are totally divorced from pop culture, raised by TV hating parents and listening to classical music. Sadly he's now got married to someone rather more au fait with modern culture - which probably makes that a riskier game to play now...
posted by prentiz at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2006


JohnnyGunn, you think that nearly 1/3 of Americans have not elseheard of the Beatles? I'm pretty sure that's way off.

To answer this, find the number of people who live in caves. Pretty much everyone else must know who they are.
posted by gfrobe at 12:19 PM on September 6, 2006


These guys know, but they aren't telling. I bet, though, that if you emailed them telling them that you were a reporter and promising to attribute their work, they'd tell you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:20 PM on September 6, 2006


I know someone who, then at the age of eighteen, had never heard of Einstein!
posted by popcassady at 12:33 PM on September 6, 2006


At the age of 23 I had not heard of The Rolling Stones, so I'm sure there's a few people who haven't heard of the Beatles.
posted by Ryvar at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2006


There are people in the UK who have never heard of them either. A friend and I met Ringo once at some social thing. My friend is about 15 years younger than me. As we were leaving she said "You know who that is, don't you? That's Thomas the Tank Engine!!!"
posted by essexjan at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2006


gfrobe,

I really believe that number or close to it.

I figure there is a good percentage of the population under 12. Say 10%. There is another 11% who fall into the AmishLiveinaCaveCowboysSimplyDoNotListentoMusic types. Another 10% are simply ignorant or incapable. I would bet that 10% of most high school seniors couldn't tell you who the Beatles were.

It is easy for me in my 40's to not believe that everyone would know who the beatles are. But, I cannot assume that just because I know and my generation knows that everyone does.

The only thing that shakes my confidence in my number is the fact that Paul did the Super Bowl halftime show and many must have first learned about them from that appearance.

My guess is that most have heard the beatles or their song, but a lot have not heard of them. Ask the question 15 years ago and I would have been more in the 10% camp.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2006


You need to perhaps define the question better. Are you including children? How about retarded people? Non-english speaking (there are some US citizens who do not speak english)?

The number of US citizens who haven't heard of the Beatles is very small and likely to be affected significantly by whether or not you include subgroups who might reasonably be expected not to know who the Beatles are.

If you include each and every citizen, the number of people is 20%. If you include only people who speak English (eliminating non-verbal children, retarded people, demented people in nursing homes, etc.) it's less than 10%.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2006


Huge Beatles fan here. I think the number is probably around 10%.

I know someone who, then at the age of eighteen, had never heard of Einstein!
My anecdote: While in college, I made a reference to Hamlet, and got a blank stare from someone. When I said, "You know... Shapespeare", the person said, "Who?"
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2006


How about retarded people?

What an ignorant comment. If you'd seen "I Am Sam", you'd know that all retarded people love the Beatles.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:58 PM on September 6, 2006 [2 favorites]


I know someone who, then at the age of eighteen, had never heard of Einstein!

I know a college graduate who didn't know what Hiroshima refered to. She said "I know it was some kind of disaster like the Hindenberg, I just don't know the details."
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2006


essexjan writes "There are people in the UK who have never heard of them either. A friend and I met Ringo once at some social thing. My friend is about 15 years younger than me. As we were leaving she said 'You know who that is, don't you? That's Thomas the Tank Engine!!!'"

That's not nessicarily the same thing. She may have heard of the Beatles yet not know that Ringo of Beatles fame is the same guy doing Thomas (it impresses me to no end that George Carlin does Thomas). She may not even know the names of the band members. One of my favourite bands is Depeche Mode but I couldn't tell you a single band member's name.
posted by Mitheral at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2006


I would guess that between 15 and 20% of the population has not heard of The Beatles.

In 2004, almost 7% of the population was under 5. Very few of them could be expected to know about The Beatles. Another 21% was between the ages of 5 and 19, and some percentage of them have probably not heard of The Beatles. Then you fill in from the rest of the population that is completely disconnected from popular culture.

An anedote: I had a good friend whose daughter, circa 1989, came home from school one day and asked him, "What was the name of the band that Paul McCartney was in before 'Wings'?"

If by circa 1989 you meant 1975, then maybe although, I think that bit was in some stand-up comedian's act. Maybe you were friends with the comedian?

By 89, Wings hadn't released an album for something like 10 years. Paul was singing solo songs with Michael Jackson, and while a kid at the time might not have known that Paul was in a band called The Beatles, it is way more likely that they would have heard of The Beatles than that they would have heard of Wings.
posted by willnot at 2:27 PM on September 6, 2006


My 2 year old knows who they are. Granted, they are played a lot in my house but just today "If I Fell" came on the radio and he said "that's the Beatles". And Hard Days Night is one of my 7 year olds favorite movies.
posted by gfrobe at 2:47 PM on September 6, 2006


Anyone who's ever been in a grocery store has heard the Beatles, which is where they mostly get played.
posted by interrobang at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a scene in a book called All the Right Places where the Californian narrator finds a man in the Chinese countryside who'd never heard of Jesus Christ.

And the narrator thought this was remarkable.
posted by Rash at 3:58 PM on September 6, 2006


I wouldn't be so quick to discount retarded people. I know an adult with Down Syndrome who is really into The Beatles.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:41 PM on September 6, 2006


Slarty, I think the question was defined pretty clearly, "US citizens" is not ambiguous.
Willnot, I stand by my 30% and by the timeframe for having been told my anedote as circa 1989. I know where I was when told (at work). If the person who told me got it from a comedian, then I have no way of knowing that.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:44 PM on September 6, 2006


In "King of Rock", Run-DMC rhyme that "there's three of us but we're not the Beatles". They thought there were only three Beatles when they recorded the song. I found it confusing, when the song came out, 'cause it sure seemed like there were only two of them, given the name.
posted by bendybendy at 7:13 PM on September 6, 2006


Lennon was already dead when Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay recorded King of Rock.

Hope this helps.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:55 PM on September 6, 2006


"My anecdote: While in college, I made a reference to Hamlet, and got a blank stare from someone. When I said, "You know... Shapespeare", the person said, "Who?""

I've never heard of Shapespeare either...
posted by tomble at 8:09 PM on September 6, 2006


It had better be none.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:51 PM on September 6, 2006


This is an absolutely insanely difficult question to answer. I think even if you asked people on the street, depending on your tone of voice, a lot of people would probably answer yes, even if they hadn't heard of them, just to avoid sounding stupid.

In other news, a friend told me yesterday that somebody he works with (in her late 20's/early 30's) had never heard of David Hasselhoff. Now *THAT* is impressive! :)
posted by antifuse at 4:42 AM on September 7, 2006


Doh!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:51 AM on September 7, 2006


My Chinese grandmother spent pretty much all of her life in Hong Kong, and never really had any contacts with Western influences. Yet the only word she could speak in English was "Beatles"...
posted by badlydubbedboy at 5:17 AM on September 8, 2006


This June 2001 article by Charles Paul Freund speaks to your question without going into statistics...
While history has never been fair and often stacks the deck against youth, the younger generation has at least always been secure in the knowledge that their parents would eventually die off and leave them alone to get on with their lives. But in an age where average life-spans are likely to creep up to 90 over the next few decades, leading-edge boomers may be robbing the rest of us of even that comforting thought.
This obviously skewed poll answers 7%.
posted by ?! at 4:33 PM on November 5, 2006


You can't live in the US as a sentient person and never have at least heard the Beatles, if not "of" the Beatles. Even if you think you haven't, you probably have. For instance, I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies or any episode of Star Trek, which I brag about constantly. However, I understand what people mean by "yoda-like," "beam me up," etc. etc. You're just exposed to it all the time, even if you don't think you are.

Whatever the percentage, those people are super duper lucky. At 45, I've heard so much Beatles music so often that I skip ahead when it pops up on the iPod. I would LOVE to hear those songs with fresh ears again.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:14 AM on November 7, 2006


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