I figured somewhere on these forums there would have to be a Beatles vs. Elvis thread, if not I would have likely started one myself. One of life's great debates, along with chocolate vs vanilla, Dallas vs Dynasty, Yankees vs Dodgers, Coke vs Pepsi.
Regarding the stats given in the early posts, a couple of things to keep in mind (aside from the fact that they were all UK stats): Elvis's total of over 100 hits (around 150 in the U.S.) is severely misleading. The vast majority of these songs were not hits -- they cracked the top 100 and fizzled out. Out of the (approximately) 150 'hits' Elvis had in the states, only about 40 of them cracked the top 10 (including 17 #1s). That means that less than 30 percent of his releases can be considered true hits! The rest of these songs are really just records that charted, or, if you prefer, flops. Some fluff from one of his '60s movies that got released as a single and made it to #36 on the charts is not a hit. And while the sheer volume of his charted songs is impressive, it doesn't hold a candle to Bing Crosby, who has in the neighborhood of 350! (Why is it that the pre-rock and roll artists are always left out of the statistical comparisons?) How much time Elvis, or any other artist, spent on the charts in any given year is irrelevant, when said artist is flooding the market with recordings, the vast majority of which don't even break the top 10 or 20.
How many more chart hits would the Beatles have racked up had they released a single off Sgt. Pepper or the White Album? The Beatles were the first band whose songs would be played on the radio regardless of whether the song was a single or not. Which is why album-only tracks such as In My Life, Lucy in the Sky, A Day in the Life, Ob-La-Di, Michelle, and dozens of other 'non-hits' have actually become some of their most popular (even if technically they don't fulfill the definition of 'hit').
Compare album performance: the Beatles spent far more time at #1 on the album charts than Presley; They hold the record for most #1 LPs (U.S. stats again) with 19 (Elvis had 9). The Beatles also have a record 6 LPs that have been certified Diamond (10 million copies sold). Led Zeppelin is second with 5. Elvis doesn't have one Diamond LP. The most recent Diamond LP the Beatles achieved was for 1, which came out in 2001. The Anthology series made them one of the biggest selling (if not THE biggest selling) act of the 1990s. Elvis doesn't sell records like that anymore. All the Presley estate revenue comes from tourist trips to Graceland and souvenir sales. Most Elvis fans aren't big record collectors -- besides a couple of greatest hits albums, and maybe a live performance or a gospel LP, that's a pretty thorough Elvis collection right there. A new Beatles fan is likely to start off with a greatest hits album, and once that fan's appetite is whetted, he or she will start to delve deeper into the ocean of discovery that comes with each Beatles record.
The most telling stat, if you want to base this comparison on statistics, is simple: all-time record sales. While worldwide totals are nearly impossible to audit with 100 percent accuracy (and now that the internet is involved, do downloads now count among total sales?), all the official certifications point to the Beatles as being the #1 record sellers. The Elvis camp likes to make the claim that Presley has sold over a billion units but the certifications are inaccurate because of primitive auditing procedures from decades ago (Crosby and Sinatra could probably make the same case, as could the Beatles in fact), but the Beatles were certified at over 1 billion sales in the early '80s. In the U.S., the Beatles have around 180 million certified album sales, according to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Elvis has around 118 million, and he ranks third, behind (gasp, get ready for this) Garth Brooks! Brooks and Elvis seem to go back and forth at the number 2 position; last year Brooks took back second place with a certification of 122 million. That Brooks has sold more albums than Elvis (at least in America, if nowhere else) is a bit of a shocker to me. I can understand Elvis fans' dismay over that stat. (Led Zeppelin is 4th in the U.S. with about 105 million and in fifth is either Elton John, Pink Floyd or the Eagles.)
Elvis was making records for 24 years. The Beatles recorded their much smaller catalogue in 7. That says it all right there.
And that's not even including their solo careers....