Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Joe Diffie, “Bigger Than the Beatles”

“Bigger Than the Beatles

Joe Diffie

Written by Jeb Stuart Anderson and Steve Dukes

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

February 17 – February 24, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 9, 1996

Joe Diffie’s final No. 1 hit is a winner.

The Road to No. 1

After three No. 1 hits from Third Rock From the Sun, “I’m In Love with a Capital ‘U'” went top thirty and “That Road Not Taken” went top forty.  The lead single from Diffie’s fifth studio album, Life’s So Funny, then became his final No. 1 hit.

The No. 1

For a song that’s just a loose rewrite of “Meet Me in Montana,” it’s impressive how effective “Bigger Than the Beatles” is.

It features two very likable characters working at the Holiday Inn.  One sings with the band, the other waits tables.  Both dream of stardom that isn’t going to happen.  But they aren’t despondent about it like the “Montana” couple, because they realize that “all you need is love.”  They see stars when they look at each other. She’s a movie queen to him, and he’s a rock star to her.

Diffie sings their story with an optimistic spirit of celebration, and the production weaves sixties pop trademarks into its fundamentally country arrangement.  Those “She Loves You” yeah yeah yeahs at the end are the icing on the cake.

The Road From No. 1

Diffie would go on to have four more major hits.  “Texas Size Heartache” from his 1998 Greatest Hits set went top five.  His 1999 set A Night to Remember produced a top ten hit with the title track and a top five hit with “It’s Always Somethin’.”  Diffie made his final visit to the top ten in 2001 with the title track of In Another World.  His last significant appearance on the chart came three years later, with the top twenty hit, “Tougher Than Nails.”

Diffie recorded sparsely after that, rearranging his hits for his 2010 release Homecoming, and collaborating with Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin in 2013 on All in the Same Boat.  He was name-dropped by Jason Aldean on the hit “1994,” and was a popular draw on the nineties nostalgia circuit.  His life was tragically cut short in 2020 when he succumbed to COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.  As this feature has demonstrated, this late artist is overdue for a revival, as he was one of the best artists to come along in his generation and has an impressive body of work left behind as his legacy.

“Bigger Than the Beatles” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Collin Raye, “Not That Different”

3 Comments

  1. I’ve always enjoyed this song and it’s fun to sing along with.
    Just to clarify, Homecoming was a bluegrass album and it was pretty good.

    (I’m still loving this feature; I’ve just got a lot of catching up to do on commenting.)

  2. I absolutely love this song! It’s one of the best happy feel good songs of the decade, imo. It’s also another one of the songs from this mid 90’s era that I always enjoyed hearing on the radio in the car with my dad during that time.

    I love everything about this, from the guitar riff that opens the song, the catchy joyful melody, and Diffie’s spirited, enthusiastic performance. I’ve always loved the sweet love story in this song, as well, which I always found to be very endearing. The bridge always makes me smile and feel happy, too, especially the “all you need is love” line (which, I swear, I didn’t realize was a Beatles reference until just now). Even the way Diffie joyfully sings “Ooh, they got a love!” near the end as the song fades is so uplifting! I still get surprised when I see that this was a winter release, because the song has such a breezy, fun, carefree, cruising with the windows down kind of vibe to it. Also, since I also enjoy a lot of the Beatles’ work, I’m always up for some Beatles references. I especially always loved the “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’s” at the end, as well. :)

    The video is also very cute and charming. I like how they even got a Fab Four lookalike to make a cameo in the distance, when it’s their turn to do the “Yeah, yeah’s” (one of them even looks like it could be Joe himself). I also love how the dead guy from “Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox” makes a little cameo in the pool, as well, and I like how he made an appearance in almost every video Diffie made after that, lol. He even shows up right at the start in another one of my favorite Diffie videos, “This Is Your Brain.” :)

    What a bummer that this is his final number one. I enjoy many of the other songs he came out with after this like “Whole Lotta Gone,” “This Is Your Brain,” and “Something Like This” (the 1997 Twice Upon A Time album is quite underrated, imo). I especially also love his latter day late 90’s & early 00’s singles, such as “Texas Size Heartache,” “A Night To Remember,” “The Quittin’ Kind,” “It’s Always Something,” “In Another World,” and “This Pretender.” I particularly think the A Night To Remember album struck an absolute perfect balance between the traditional style Diffie is mainly known for and the more contemporary sounds of late 90’s country.

  3. Diffie wills this song to succeed through charm alone. The Eagles and Rolling Stones have been cheaply referenced before in country lyrics, but Diffie gets away with it here through genuine sincerity. He sells the hell out of this story and makes the song work as hard as the two characters in it.

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