McCartney Times

All 227 Beatles Songs Ranked Worst to Best

All 227 Beatles Songs Ranked Worst to Best

All 227 Beatles Songs Ranked Worst to Best
July 24
10:58 2018

By our calculations, the Beatles recorded 227 songs that were officially released over the years, not including BBC or live tracks.

Still, things get a little complicated in our list of All 227 Beatles Songs Ranked Worst to Best. We’ve included a handful of demo-like tracks featured on the Anthology collections that were originally intended as group songs but never fully recorded by the band at a time when the four Beatles – George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – were working independently from one another, anyway. We also included the two newly assembled songs found on the first two Anthologys that the surviving Beatles based around a pair of Lennon demos.

On the other hand, we’ve omitted a few official tracks that don’t quite fit, like the two sketchy 1963 demos included on the 2013 iTunes exclusive The Beatles Bootleg Recordings, as well as alternate versions of songs found on the Anthology sets and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band expanded reissue. We stuck with the first-released and original versions – so, sorry, fans of “Lovely Rita (Speech and Take 9).”

We also judged the songs based on their officially released versions – so even though the Let It Be toss-off “Dig It” runs less than a minute on that album, longer (and better) versions included on bootleg records aren’t eligible here.

We should also note it was way more difficult putting together the bottom half of this list than it was the top part. With so many great songs in their catalog, uncovering “lesser” Beatles tracks is no simple task, even when they seemed to make it easy once in a while.

227. “You Know What to Do,” Anthology 1 (1995)

When Harrison finally hit his stride, he became the Beatles’ ace in the hole. But this early song, intended for A Hard Day’s Night, shows why his songs were still being passed over at this point.

226. “That Means a Lot,” Anthology 2 (1996)

A McCartney-penned song from the Help! sessions that singer P.J. Proby had a minor hit with in the U.K. Forgettable – no surprise it didn’t make the final cut.

That Means A Lot (Anthology 2 Version)

225. “Junk,” Anthology 3 (1996)

224. “Step Inside Love/Los Paranoias,” Anthology 3 (1996)

Two McCartney recordings from the White Album sessions. “Junk” is basically a solo demo and found a home a couple years later on the McCartney album; “Step Inside Love” (given to singer Cilla Black for her TV show) and “Los Paranoias” (not even a song, really) feature help from Lennon and Starr.

223. “Teddy Boy, Anthology 3 (1996)

“Teddy Boy” was attempted several times during the chaotic Get Back / Let It Be sessions. McCartney later fine-tuned it for his first solo album.

222. “12-Bar Original,” Anthology 2 (1996)

Recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions and credited to all four members, this boring instrumental stayed on the shelf until dusted off (and edited) for the second Anthology set 30 years later.

221. “Tell Me What You See,” Help! (1965)

The Beatles had advanced so much on Help! that this forgettable song seems like a step backward.

Tell Me What You See (Remastered 2009)

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220. “Misery,” Please Please Me (1963)

An early Lennon and McCartney song featuring both on lead vocals and struggling to find some footing.

219. “Ask Me Why,” Single (1963)

The B-side to “Please Please Me” is an early Lennon and McCartney collaboration that doesn’t even begin to hint at the great things to come.

218. “I Call Your Name,” Single (1964)

The Beatles’ stop-gap Long Tall Sally EP included four covers and one original – this forgettable slice of prefabricated Beatles music.

217. “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues,” Anthology 3 (1996)

216. “Rip It Up” / “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” / “Blue Suede Shoes,” Anthology 3 (1996)

In between the bickering and the aborted attempts at new songs during the friction-filled Get Back / Let It Be sessions, the Beatles ran through a bunch of oldies. The covers of Buddy Holly‘s “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues” and the medley of ’50s classics are fun enough, but sloppy and inessential.

215. “Till There Was You,” With the Beatles (1963)

The Beatles could be forgiven for some of the groan-inducing covers on their debut album. But there’s no excuse for this Music Man showtune to be on the second.

Till There Was You (Remastered 2009)

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214. “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand,” Single (1964)

The Beatles recorded two of their biggest hits in German as a thank-you to their early Hamburg fans. The reworked “She Loves You” is better than this lifeless take of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

213. “Wild Honey Pie,” The Beatles (1968)

Fifty-two seconds of McCartney nonsense from the White Album.

212. “If You’ve Got Trouble,” Anthology 2 (1996)

Written by Lennon and McCartney and given to Starr as his solo showcase on Help!, the tepid “If You’ve Got Trouble” was replaced by the marginally better “Act Naturally.”

211. “How Do You Do It?,” Anthology 1 (1995)

Earmarked as the Beatles’ first single, “How Do You Do It?” was written by British songwriter Mitch Murray. It was initially offered to some other artists, who turned it down. Murray didn’t like the Beatles’ arrangement, so the song was scrapped and “Love Me Do” made history instead. Wise move.

210. “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Two Carl Perkins songs show up on the second side of the Beatles’ fourth album. Starr sang the other one, Harrison has this one. They had outgrown these sort of lazy covers by this time.

Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (Remastered 2009)

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209. “Come and Get It,” Anthology 3 (1996)

208. “All Things Must Pass,” Anthology 3 (1996)

Two early attempts, basically demos recorded in 1969, at possible future Beatles songs that eventually ended up in better forms elsewhere. McCartney’s “Come and Get It” was given to Badfinger; Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” was included on his solo album of the same name.

207. “Little Child,” With the Beatles (1963)

Lennon and McCartney originally wrote “Little Child” for Starr but ended up singing it themselves, with much indifference.

206. “Maggie Mae,” Let It Be (1970)

Less than a minute long and tossed off during the Get Back / Let It Be recordings, the traditional Liverpool folk song at least shows the occasional casual approach the group took during the sessions when they weren’t at each other’s throats.

205. “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” Single (1970)

The B-side of the “Let It Be” single is another artsy throwaway, in the vein of “Revolution 9” and “What’s the New Mary Jane.” Started in the Sgt. Pepper’s era, completed around Abbey Road.

204. “You Like Me Too Much,” Help! (1965)

Harrison still wasn’t the songwriter Lennon and McCartney were at this time, but he was getting there.

You Like Me Too Much (Remastered 2009)

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203. “Hold Me Tight,” With the Beatles (1963)

A simple early song by Lennon and McCartney that was first tried out for the debut LP but scrapped and eventually re-recorded for the follow-up.

202. “What’s the New Mary Jane,” Anthology 3 (1996)

The White Album already had “Revolution 9,” so this six-minute slice of avant-garde nonsense was shelved until the third Anthology record.

201. “Don’t Bother Me,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The first Harrison-penned song to appear on a Beatles record. They got better.

200. “Dig It,” Let It Be (1970)

This song recorded during the Get Back / Let It Be sessions exists in various lengths, running from a 15-minute jam to the official version, which lasts less than a minute. It’s barely a fart in this form.

199. “Words of Love,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Faithful cover of Buddy Holly’s jangly love song. The Beatles add little.

Words Of Love (Remastered 2009)

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198. “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

197. “Long Tall Sally,” Single (1964)

One and a half Little Richard songs – the “Kansas City” portion of the Beatles for Sale track was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – recorded during the busy year of 1964. For better or worse, the Beatles play the songs like they’ve lived them for years, which they had.

196. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” Help! (1965)

195. “Bad Boy,” Beatles VI (1965)

Two Larry Williams songs recorded by the Beatles on the same day (which happened to be Williams’ birthday). “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” is pretty standard Little Richard territory; “Bad Boy” was made specifically for a U.S. album, a rarity in those days.

194. “What You’re Doing,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

An original number written and sung by McCartney on the Beatles’ covers-heavy fourth album. Mostly forgettable except for Harrison’s shimmering 12-string guitar.

What You’re Doing (Remastered 2009)

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193. “Not a Second Time,” With the Beatles (1963)

Early in their songwriting ventures, Lennon and McCartney emulated others. This is one of a few Lennon attempts at writing a Motown song found on the Beatles’ second album.

192. “Your Mother Should Know,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

One of McCartney’s post-Sgt. Pepper’s misfires, best known for its elaborate dance sequence in the Magical Mystery Tour movie.

191. “Baby It’s You,” Please Please Me (1963)

The Beatles’ shows in the early days consisted of a lot of covers originally sung by girl groups – like this one made popular by the Shirelles and co-written by Burt Bacharach.

190. “Chains,” Please Please Me (1963)

Another cover from the first album, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and a staple of the Beatles’ early live sets.

189. “When I Get Home,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Typical Beatles song from the Beatlemania days. Nothing special.

A Hard Day’s Night (Remastered 2009)

188. “Every Little Thing,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Mostly written by McCartney, but sung mostly by Lennon, “Every Little Thing” breaks away from some pop conventions, proving even when they were coasting, the Beatles were one step ahead.

187. “All I’ve Got to Do,” With the Beatles (1963)

Lennon said he wrote this song specifically for the U.S. market. It soon appeared on their debut Capitol LP in the States.

186. “Devil in Her Heart,”  With the Beatles (1963)

A fairly obscure cover, gender-switched by the Beatles, with Harrison singing lead. Not bad, but pretty rudimentary.

185. “Leave My Kitten Alone,” Anthology 1 (1995)

Recorded during the Beatles for Sale sessions in 1964, but unreleased until the first Anthology set 31 years later, Little Willie John’s R&B scorcher gets a fairly standard but sorta energetic workout with Lennon on lead vocals.

184. “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” Single (1967)

The Beatles recorded seven Christmas records from 1963-69 that were sent to their fan club. Most contain little more than greetings and some goofing around. But the 1967 edition included an actual song interspersed among the dialogue. It got a widespread release in 1995 as part of the “Free as a Bird” CD single.

183. “I Me Mine,” Let It Be (1970)

Written by Harrison about the constant arguments tearing apart the Beatles, “I Me Mine” was the last song ever recorded by (most of) the group. Lennon was already gone.

182. “Tell Me Why,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Slight but enjoyable rocker, written and sung by Lennon, from A Hard Day’s Night movie and album.

181. “Think for Yourself,” Rubber Soul (1965)

Like his bandmates, Harrison was starting to grow as a songwriter on Rubber Soul. But he still had a way to go.

180. “Sun King,” Abbey Road (1969)

The second side of Abbey Road is pretty much free of the self-indulgent songs that ran through parts of the White Album. The medley’s second piece is not one of those songs.

179. “Good Night,” The Beatles (1968)

The White Album’s eloquent closer was written by Lennon but sung by Starr, who doesn’t quite give it the grace it requires.

Good Night (Remastered 2009)

178. “I Want to Tell You,” Revolver (1966)

Harrison wrote and sang three songs on Revolver. This one’s the easiest to forget.

177. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise),” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Tacked on near the end of the landmark Sgt. Pepper’s LP, the 80-second reprise of the album’s title track basically sets up the grand finale.

176. “Anna (Go to Him),” Please Please Me (1963)

Lennon loved Arthur Alexander’s country-soul song from 1962. So, he sang the hell out of it the following year on the Beatles’ first album.

175. “All Together Now,” Yellow Submarine (1969)

Recorded right after Sgt. Pepper’s but left in the vault until the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Not essential, not terrible.

174. “Don’t Pass Me By,” The Beatles (1968)

Starr’s first solo composition to appear on a Beatles album, and a reflection of his interest in country music.

Don’t Pass Me By (Remastered 2009)

173. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” The Beatles (1968)

Sometimes it sounded like the Beatles were just throwing stuff together in the studio while recording the White Album.

172. “Dig a Pony,” Let It Be (1970)

The Let It Be sessions (originally recorded for an album that was supposed to be called Get Back) were filled with tension as the group started to fall apart. The back-to-basics recordings often sound unfinished and unfocused, but still invigorating at times. “Dig a Pony” is a perfect example.

171. “Not Guilty,” Anthology 3 (1996)

Recorded for the White Album but left off, Harrison revisited the song for his self-titled 1979 LP. This earlier take is superior.

170. “Mean Mr. Mustard,” Abbey Road (1969)

One of Lennon’s contributions to the McCartney-heavy medley that closes out Abbey Road. It fits, but McCartney’s songs are better.

169. “One After 909,” Let It Be (1970)

Dusted off from their pre-fame years for Let It Be, “One After 909” is Lennon and McCartney’s attempt to get back to their roots. Raw, rocking … but not that good of a song.

One After 909 (Remastered 2009)

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168. “Only a Northern Song,” Yellow Submarine (1969)

A Sgt. Pepper’s outtake left on the shelf until the Yellow Submarine project, Harrison’s self-referential stab at the industry wouldn’t have fit on the milestone album, anyway.

167. “Polythene Pam,” Abbey Road (1969)

Abbey Road‘s medley is often seen as McCartney’s creation, because his songs dominate it. But Lennon has some in there too – like this one left over from the White Album days.

166. “Love You To,” Revolver (1966)

Harrison’s first head-dive into Indian music is essentially a solo song with little input from the other Beatles. A bunch of outside musicians provide sitar, tabla and tambura.

165. “Old Brown Shoe,” Single (1969)

This effortless but slight Harrison song from the Beatles’ final days ended up on the flip side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”

164. “A Taste of Honey,” Please Please Me (1963)

Cover of hokey Broadway song chosen by McCartney to sing on the Beatles’ first album. A sign of things to come.

A Taste Of Honey (Remastered 2009)

163. “Matchbox,” Single (1964)

162. “Honey Don’t,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

The Long Tall Sally EP came out a month before the Beatles’ third album. Three of the four tracks were covers, including Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” sung by Starr. Likewise, the drummer’s one vocal turn on the band’s rushed fourth LP was – surprise! – another Perkins cover, which the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer did better.

161. “Boys,” Please Please Me (1963)

Starr sang one song on the group’s debut album – a cover of a B-side by girl group the Shirelles. It made much more sense there.

The Beatles – Boys (Live / From “Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”)

160. “Sie Liebt Dich,” Single (1964)

The Beatles recorded a pair of their big hits for the German audiences that were there at the beginning. This “She Loves You” rework is pointless, but at least better than the other one.

159. “The Inner Light,” Single (1968)

The B-side of “Lady Madonna” is pretty much a Harrison solo song, another foray into Indian classical music.

The Inner Light (Remastered 2009)

158. “Act Naturally,” Help! (1965)

Starr was given one song to sing on Help! – a cover of a Buck Owens’ country novelty.

157. “P.S. I Love You,” Please Please Me (1963)

The B-side of the Beatles’ first single stole its title from another song. The rest of it is sorta underwhelming, too.

156. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” Abbey Road (1969)

A goofy but violent fantasy written and sung by McCartney, who had more success on Abbey Road‘s second side.

155. “What Goes On,” Rubber Soul (1965)

Lennon and McCartney included Starr, who sings, in the songwriting credits to this country-style number from Rubber Soul.

What Goes On (Remastered 2009)

154. “Roll Over Beethoven,” With the Beatles (1963)

The Beatles were still stuffing their albums with covers in their first year. Harrison sings this workmanlike version of Chuck Berry‘s classic.

153. “I Wanna Be Your Man,” With the Beatles (1963)

Lennon and McCartney gave this song to the Rolling Stones. Then they gave it to Starr to sing. That says a lot about it right there.

152. “For You Blue,” Let It Be (1970)

A breezy, tossed-off Harrison song from the band’s last-released LP.

151. “Slow Down,” Single (1964)

The Beatles released a four-track EP about a month before A Hard Day’s Night came out. This Larry Williams rocker is the best song.

150. “Real Love,” Anthology 2 (1996)

Like “Free as a Bird” from the first Anthology set, “Real Love” combined an old Lennon demo with newly recorded parts by the other Beatles on the second.

The Beatles – Real Love

149. “Mr. Moonlight,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Snatched from the B-side of an obscure R&B single, the Beatles’ “Mr. Moonlight” is saved by a super-weird organ solo.

148. “Money (That’s What I Want),” With the Beatles (1963)

One of three Motown songs from the Beatles’ second album. The worst of them.

147. “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Lennon and McCartney specifically wrote “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” for Harrison, who still hadn’t found his songwriting voice.

146. “I’ll Be Back,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A pretty run-of-the-mill Lennon song from the A Hard Day’s Night era.

I’ll Be Back (Remastered 2009)

145. “I’ll Cry Instead,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

One of Lennon’s earliest songs about how fame weighed and wore him down. Unspectacular but not bad.

144. “There’s a Place,” Please Please Me (1963)

An early example of Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting magic. They share lead vocals too.

143. “Thank You Girl,” Single (1963)

The B-side of “From Me to You” was recorded at the same time. Nothing great, but the songwriting showed promise.

142. “Baby’s in Black,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

A Lennon and McCartney co-write from the album they tossed off to get through a very busy year.

141. “Please Mr. Postman,” With the Beatles (1963)

The Beatles were still hauling out their old club covers on their second album. Nowhere near as good as the Marvelettes’ original, but Lennon sings it well.

140. “Octopus’s Garden,” Abbey Road (1969)

One of only two Beatles songs written by Starr, though Harrison reportedly lent a huge helping hand. Goofy, but not without some charm.

Octopus’s Garden (Remastered 2009)

139. “Flying,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

An instrumental from Magical Mystery Tour. Disposable but notable because all four Beatles had a hand writing it.

138. “Honey Pie,” The Beatles (1968)

McCartney loved old British Music Hall performances. He sang way too many of them on Beatles albums.

137. “The Night Before,” Help! (1965)

From the Help! album and movie. They were quickly moving away from this sort of song.

136. “Revolution 9,” The Beatles (1968)

It gets a lot of hate, but Lennon’s eight-minute avant-garde sound collage shows just how much the group, and their interests, had progressed from “yeah, yeah, yeah.” That said, it probably shouldn’t be on a Beatles record.

135. “If I Needed Someone,” Rubber Soul (1965)

Inspired by the Byrds‘ 12-string hits, this song – one of two from Harrison on Rubber Soul – is pleasant but not really necessary.

If I Needed Someone (Remastered 2009)

134. “Another Girl,” Help! (1965)

Mid-’60s pop by a group that excelled at this sort of thing.

133. “Doctor Robert,” Revolver (1966)

Supposedly true song about a doctor who supplied the Beatles with drugs during their druggiest period.

132. “Her Majesty,” Abbey Road (1969)

Fifteen seconds after Abbey Road ends with its career-defining medley, this 23-second goof shows up to lighten the load.

131. “I Need You,” Help! (1965)

Harrison’s otherwise standard love song is noteworthy for his use of the volume pedal throughout the song.

130. “Cry Baby Cry,” The Beatles (1968)

A typical, if not great, Lennon song from the White Album sessions and era.

Cry Baby Cry (Remastered 2009)

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129. “Long, Long, Long,” The Beatles (1968)

More mood piece than song, Harrison’s spiritual and meditative “Long, Long, Long” originated during the Beatles’ trip to India.

128. “Piggies,” The Beatles (1968)

Harrison’s White Album anti-establishment allegory isn’t very deep lyrically (even Charles Manson figured it out), but it is musically rich and complex.

127. “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” The Beatles (1968)

There’s not much here – two lines, less than two minutes. Representative of the White Album era, though.

126. “Any Time at All,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Lennon and McCartney upped their songwriting on their third album. This is one of the good, but not great, ones.

125. “I’m Looking Through You,” Rubber Soul (1965)

McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher was ending. He wrote this song about it.

I’m Looking Through You (Remastered 2009)

124. “It’s Only Love,” Help! (1965)

Lennon wasn’t a fan of this Help! song he wrote and sang, but it packs a pretty strong chorus.

123. “You Can’t Do That,” Single (1964)

The B-side of “Can’t Buy Me Love” is one of Lennon’s first anti-love songs.

122. “You Never Give Me Your Money,” Abbey Road (1969)

The first part of the medley that closes Side Two of Abbey Road, and the first song recorded for the suite.

121. “Good Morning Good Morning,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

The lead-in to the reprise of Sgt. Pepper’s title track and the album’s glorious finale, “Good Morning Good Morning” is not too bad itself.

120. “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” Please Please Me (1963)

Written by Lennon and McCartney, sung by Harrison, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” is one of the better originals from the band’s first LP.

Do You Want To Know A Secret (Remastered 2009)

119. “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” With the Beatles (1963)

The first track recorded for the Beatles’ second album was this Smokey Robinson song. One of their better covers, but they were outgrowing these sort of things.

118. “Rock and Roll Music,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

The group was pretty much obligated to deliver another album in 1964 after already making three over the past year and a half. Out on the road for most of that period, they didn’t have time to write many songs. So, they dipped into their old club repertoire for covers like this Chuck Berry one.

117. “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

As the Beatles were winding down a particularly grueling year, Lennon’s songwriting sharpened as he began to look inward.

116. “Good Day Sunshine,” Revolver (1966)

One of McCartney’s sunbeam-soaked throwbacks from an era when the Beatles were looking forward.

115. “She’s a Woman,” Single (1964)

The A-side, “I Feel Fine,” is better, and if this one sounds a bit rushed, that’s because it was. Lennon and McCartney finished the song in the studio right before they recorded it.

She’s A Woman (Remastered 2009)

114. “Magical Mystery Tour,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Recorded immediately after Sgt. Pepper’s was finished, “Magical Mystery Tour” is the sound of the Beatles soaking in almost everything 1967 had to offer. It became the title track to a kinda awful TV movie later in the year.

113. “Fixing a Hole,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

A typically busy Sgt. Pepper’s song with harpsichord, double-tracked guitars and McCartney slyly referring to pestering Beatles fans.

112. “I’ll Get You,” Single (1963)

The B-side of “She Loves You” is an early minor gem loaded with harmonica, fat bass and Lennon and McCartney’s shared lead vocals.

111. “Savoy Truffle,” The Beatles (1968)

How self-indulgent did the Beatles get on the White Album? Harrison has this song about pal Eric Clapton‘s love of chocolate. It is catchy, though.

110. “I’ll Follow the Sun,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Though it first appeared on Beatles for Sale, McCartney wrote “I’ll Follow the Sun’ years earlier, most likely when they were still called the Quarrymen.

I’ll Follow The Sun (Remastered 2009)

109. “Birthday,” The Beatles (1968)

In addition to all the solo excursions found on the White Album, there’s the occasional band-powered, old-style rock ‘n’ roll song – like this no-frills McCartney rocker.

108. “When I’m 64,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

McCartney was the nostalgic one in the group, and he often dipped into English Music Hall for his songs. “When I’m 64” is one of his most pronounced in this style.

107. “Martha My Dear,” The Beatles (1968)

Another Music Hall-inspired song by McCartney, this one was written about girlfriend Jane Asher, though the title is a reference to his dog.

106. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” Abbey Road (1969)

Part of the medley that ends Abbey Road, and the song that immediately precedes the trio of tracks which closes the door on the Beatles’ majestic career.

105. “Oh! Darling,” Abbey Road (1969)

McCartney’s old-school R&B tribute reflects the relatively casual approach to the sessions for what would be the Beatles’ last album. Loose, ragged and a throwback to a time before things got complicated.

Oh! Darling (Remastered 2009)

104. “Rocky Raccoon,” The Beatles (1968)

The Beatles were allowed many solo indulgences on the White Album, including this folksy McCartney tune – sung in an exaggerated country accent – about an old-west cowboy and his rival.

103. “I’ve Got a Feeling,” Let It Be (1970)

Lennon and McCartney combined two of their unfinished solo compositions for Let It Be‘s Side Two opener. It’s playful and tossed-off, a rarity during the tension-filled final years.

102.. “Run for Your Life,” Rubber Soul (1965)

As the Beatles’ worldview expanded, so did their songwriting. Rubber Soul marked a giant leap lyrically, though that sometimes meant nasty threats like the ones Lennon sings here.

101. “Lovely Rita,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

A hectic Sgt. Pepper’s track written and sung by McCartney. Three of the four Beatles played makeshift kazoos made up of combs and tissue paper.

100. “Free as a Bird,” Anthology 1 (1995)

Stitched together from a 1977 Lennon demo and newly recorded parts by Harrison, McCartney and Starr, “Free as a Bird” marked the first “new” Beatles song in a quarter century when it appeared on the career-capsuling rarities set Anthology 1.

The Beatles – Free As A Bird

99. “Yes It Is,” Single (1965)

The flip side to “Ticket to Ride” advanced the Beatles’ musical experiments – something they’d jump head-first into with Rubber Soul later in the year.

98. “Blue Jay Way,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Inspired by Harrison’s visit to Los Angeles, “Blue Jay Way” captures the Beatles during their post-Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelic buzz.

The Beatles – Blue Jay Way

97. “I Will,” The Beatles (1968)

Written during the group’s trip to India and included on the White Album, McCartney provides most of the instrumental accompaniment here, except for some percussion by Lennon and Starr.

96. “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” Single (1967)

The B-side to “All You Need Is Love” was initially interpreted as a slight knock on Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who died a month after the single’s July release. Its vaguely Eastern tone fits in with the Summer of Love.

95. “The Word,” Rubber Soul (1965)

The first song written by Lennon and McCartney under the influence of pot. And a steppingstone into Rubber Soul‘s worldview.

The Word (Remastered 2009)

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94. “Glass Onion,” The Beatles (1968)

Nods to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill,” among others, make “Glass Onion” the Beatles’ most self-referential song.

93. “Mother Nature’s Son,” The Beatles (1968)

Lennon wasn’t the only one inspired to write songs about the group’s trip to India. McCartney’s plaintive “Mother Nature’s Son” stemmed from a Maharishi Mahesh Yogi lecture.

92. “You Won’t See Me,” Rubber Soul (1965)

A rare kiss-off from McCartney, who usually was more optimistic in his love songs than Lennon. One of the last tracks recorded for the era-shifting Rubber Soul.

91. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” The Beatles (1968)

The White Album contains its share of nonsense and indulgences, but even the seemingly slight “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” has more substance than it initially lets on. Plus, it’s kinda fun.

90. “No Reply,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

The Beatles’ fourth album is often dismissed as a step backward following the all-original A Hard Day’s Night. Beatlemania was clearly wearing them down, but the LP’s opener glances to their more mature future.

89. “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” Help! (1965)

In the U.K., “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is buried on Side Two of Help!; in the U.S., it kicks off Rubber Soul, in effect turning the American version of that LP into a folk-rock masterpiece.

88. “Yer Blues,” The Beatles (1968)

Lennon wrote this nod to England’s blues-rock scene when the Beatles were in India. It’s part homage, part satire. And it rocks in all the right places.

87. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Lennon took almost every single word heard in this Sgt. Pepper’s carnival ride from a 19th-century circus poster. It fits perfectly with the album’s theme; the kaleidoscopic production helps.

86. “It’s All Too Much,” Yellow Submarine (1969)

Harrison’s Yellow Submarine freak-out was recorded shortly after Sgt. Pepper’s was completed, but it’s less structured than anything found on that milestone record. It’s still one hell of a trip, though.

85. “This Boy,” Single (1963)

Relegated to a B-side in the U.K., included on the Beatles’ first U.S. Capitol album, performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and included in the A Hard Day’s Night movie, “This Boy” has quite a history. A great Lennon vocal break, too.

This Boy (Remastered 2009)

84. “I’m a Loser,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Lennon’s self-deprecation – on one of Beatles for Sale‘s most tuneful cuts, no less – marked a further turning point for the group as it moved beyond the simpler love songs found in earlier work.

83. “Within You, Without You,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

It doesn’t really fit on Sgt. Pepper’s, but Harrison’s lone contribution to that album brought Indian classical music to pop culture – a contribution as historically important as any other associated with the LP.

82. “From Me to You,” Single (1963)

The Beatles’ third single and their first song to crack the U.S. chart … albeit in a cover version by Del Shannon. They were on their way.

81. “It Won’t Be Long,” With the Beatles (1963)

The opening song on the Beatles’ second album was also the first original they recorded for it. It was a step forward from Please Please Me, with more giant leaps to come.

80. “Lady Madonna,” Single (1968)

Following the whirlwind explorations of Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s and subsequent songs, the Beatles stripped away some of the frills and studio enhancements for this pre-White Album single.

The Beatles – Lady Madonna

79. “Because,” Abbey Road (1969)

Even though the Beatles were determined to strip down and keep things relatively simple on Abbey Road following the White Album’s indulgences, they were still experimenting wildly in the studio – like on this song featuring a Moog and multi-tracked harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.

78. “I’m Down,” Single (1965)

The Beatles were almost through paying tribute to their idols by the time Help! rolled around, but this sweaty rocker recorded around that time was one of their finest – a Little Richard-style rave-up on the “Help!” single’s flip side.

77. “Yellow Submarine,” Revolver (1966)

Written by Lennon and McCartney, sung by Starr and later used in the Beatles’ animated film of the same name, “Yellow Submarine” is, by turns, goofy, charming and fun.

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

76. “I’m So Tired,” The Beatles (1968)

The Beatles wrote a lot of songs during their trip to India, especially Lennon, who was anxious and couldn’t sleep. “I’m So Tired” came out of one of those restless nights.

I’m So Tired (Remastered 2009)

75. “And I Love Her,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

McCartney’s love-ballad contribution to A Hard Day’s Night serves as a perfect complement to Lennon’s “If I Fell.” The songs were paired up on a U.S. single.

74. “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” Help! (1965)

The Beatles were growing more comfortable in the studio, as evidenced by this song’s overdubbed piano (played by McCartney) and rolling bongos (added later by Starr).

73. “Getting Better,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Co-written by Lennon and McCartney, “Getting Better” highlighted the two songwriters’ conflicting personalities. “It’s getting better all the time,” sings McCartney, the optimist; “Can’t get no worse,” counters the less-hopeful Lennon.

72. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” The Beatles (1968)

Recorded for the White Album by the entire band, written for Yoko Ono by Lennon and the song that holds the record for the Beatles’ track with the longest title. It rocks too.

71. “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” Single (1969)

Lennon’s self-referential song about his chaotic and media-hounded wedding to Yoko Ono was recorded as the Beatles were laying down tracks for their final album, Abbey Road. It was the group’s last No. 1 in the U.K.

The Beatles – The Ballad Of John And Yoko

70. “Things We Said Today,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

One of the few songs written for the Beatles’ first movie that didn’t make it to the screen. It did show up on the souvenir album, though.

69. “Michelle,” Rubber Soul (1965)

The Beatles were growing more and more ambitious by their sixth album. Rubber Soul marked a huge leap, thanks to songs like the French-dropping “Michelle.”

Michelle (Remastered 2009)

68. “Two of Us,” Let It Be (1970)

The opening song on Let It Be sounds like a wistful, nostalgic nod to the Lennon-McCartney partnership after months of turmoil within the group. McCartney said he wrote it for his future wife. Either way, a sweet beginning of the end.

67. “If I Fell,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Lennon claimed this was his first real ballad, McCartney said he had a hand in writing it. Either way, like much of their third album, it showed another side to the Beatles.

66. “Got to Get You Into My Life,” Revolver (1966)

McCartney’s brass-powered tribute to Motown was just one of the new tricks the band unveiled on Revolver. Another was the abundance of drug songs, like this one.

65. “I Should Have Known Better,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

One of the earliest Beatles songs to bear Bob Dylan‘s growing influence on the group, from the soaring harmonica to Lennon’s more grown-up lyrics.

64. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

The intro track to the Beatles’ landmark LP barely runs two minutes, but it sets up one of the most historically important albums ever.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

63. “All My Loving,” With the Beatles (1963)

An early Beatles original that was never released as a single but became one of their most popular songs just as Beatlemania was taking hold.

62. “Girl,” Rubber Soul (1965)

The last song recorded for the game-changing Rubber Soul, Lennon’s “Girl” signals the musical sophistication to come over the next several months.

Girl (Remastered 2009)

61. “The Fool on the Hill,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

The Beatles’ hastily assembled and messy Magical Mystery Tour movie works best during its musical sequences. “The Fool on the Hill” is a highlight.

60. “Julia,” The Beatles (1968)

As the Beatles went their separate ways during the recording of the White Album, each explored more personal themes than they could have in the full-band setting. “Julia” is Lennon’s soft solo tribute to his late mother.

59. “Drive My Car,” Rubber Soul (1965)

The opening song on Rubber Soul only hints at what’s to come, though it is a bit more adventurous than what was found on the preceding Beatles for Sale. A new era starts here.

58. “Sexy Sadie,” The Beatles (1968)

Lennon, more than any of the other Beatles, felt duped by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during the group’s trip to India. “Sexy Sadie” was his kiss-off: “You made a fool of everyone.”

57. “Hey Bulldog,” Yellow Submarine (1969)

Recorded before the White Album but not released until the Yellow Submarine soundtrack a year later, “Hey Bulldog” belies the difficult times ahead with its playful tone, which includes Lennon and McCartney barking like dogs.

The Beatles – Hey Bulldog (Promo video)

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56. “Back in the U.S.S.R,” The Beatles (1968)

The opening song on the White Album pays tribute to both Chuck Berry (an early idol) and the Beach Boys (a contemporary rival). A sign of things to come: no Ringo.

55. “Hello Goodbye,” Single (1967)

The Beatles were still on a creative roll after Sgt. Pepper’s, but this single – later on Magical Mystery Tour – was a throwback to more straightforward pop times.

The Beatles – Hello, Goodbye

54. “And Your Bird Can Sing,” Revolver (1966)

One of Revolver‘s most tuneful and straight-up pop songs, short on the studio experimentation that powered much of the rest of the album. Killer guitar intro too.

53. “Eight Days a Week,” Beatles for Sale (1964)

Beatlemania was draining the group by the end of 1964, when their fourth album in a year came out. You can hear the strain throughout Beatles for Sale, but “Eight Days a Week” still shimmers.

52. “I Feel Fine,” Single (1964)

The Beatles were coming off a particularly grueling year when they released their eighth single. The feedback-drenched guitar at the beginning of the song was one of the first ever recorded.

51. “Twist and Shout,” Please Please Me (1963)

The Beatles recorded quite a few covers in their early days. This is the best. The Isley Brothers reached the Top 20 in 1962 with their version; the Beatles claimed it a year later. Lennon practically wrecked his voice in one of his greatest performances.

The Beatles – Twist & Shout – Performed Live On The Ed Sullivan Show 2/23/64

50. “Love Me Do,” Single (1962)

The song that started it all. The Beatles’ first single and the first credited to Lennon and McCartney, the latter of whom wrote the bulk of it. Starr plays drums on the single version but handles only tambourine on the re-recorded take found on the group’s debut album.

49. “She Said She Said,” Revolver (1966)

Inspired by an acid trip, and with no input whatsoever from McCartney (he walked out of the sessions for the song), “She Said She Said” was the last track recorded for the mind-bending Revolver.

48. “Nowhere Man,” Rubber Soul (1965)

Tiring of Beatlemania and being pigeonholed, the Beatles started to look outside of the usual pop-music subjects for inspiration. Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” goes way deeper than they had before.

47. “Don’t Let Me Down,” Single (1969)

Lennon’s heart-baring love song to Yoko Ono was recorded during the Let It Be sessions but didn’t make it to the album when it finally came out in 1970. It did show up as the B-side of “Get Back,” though.

The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down

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46. “For No One,” Revolver (1966)

One of McCartney’s most accomplished ballads, an end-of-relationship song that Lennon called one of his favorites. McCartney and Starr are the only two Beatles here, playing alongside that sublime French horn.

45. “I’m Only Sleeping,” Revolver (1966)

Another standout track from the culture-shifting Revolver album, Lennon’s ode to the joys of sleeping features Harrison’s guitar solo unspooled backward – a first for pop music.

44. “Here, There and Everywhere,” Revolver (1966)

Inspired by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds LP, McCartney wanted his own “God Only Knows.” He nearly achieves it, on one of his most gorgeous ballads.

43. “Dear Prudence,” The Beatles (1968)

Written by Lennon about Mia Farrow’s sister during their spiritual sojourn in India, “Dear Prudence” marks his first song on the White Album. Drums by McCartney, replacing Starr, who temporarily quit the band.

42. “She’s Leaving Home,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Lennon and McCartney collaborated on this sparse, strings-guided weeper from Sgt. Pepper’s, one of the few Beatles songs on which none of them plays an instrument. Harrison and Starr are missing altogether.

41. “Taxman,” Revolver (1966)

Revolver‘s opening song and Harrison’s extra-sharp stab at the insanely high taxes the Beatles were paying in the U.K. at the time. An early protest number by the group.

40. “The Long and Winding Road,” Let It Be (1970)

The Beatles’ last single, and final No. 1, came out a month after their breakup and just days after the release of the Let It Be album. McCartney, the song’s writer and singer, wasn’t happy with Phil Spector’s orchestral adornment.

39. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” Abbey Road (1969)

This was the first song started for Abbey Road but the last one actually finished (and the last time all four Beatles were in the studio together). At almost eight minutes, it’s one of their longest, and less-structured, songs.

38. “Day Tripper,” Single (1965)

Along with “We Can Work It Out,” the flip of this double A-sided single, “Day Tripper” was recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions and released the same day as the album. A significant piece in the group’s evolution.

37. “We Can Work It Out,” Single (1965)

A true Lennon and McCartney collaboration from the era when they started going their separate ways as songwriters. A transitional single from the Beatles’ most transitional period.

The Beatles – We Can Work it Out

36. “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Single (1964)

Released just as Beatlemania was storming the world, “Can’t Buy Me Love” shot to No. 1 and eventually ended up in the band’s first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. The boys’ exuberance practically jumps from the speakers.

The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love

35. “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Lennon and McCartney gave this song, a key Sgt. Pepper’s ingredient, to Starr to sing, and he nails it as the affable host of the calliope of sounds to come.

With A Little Help From My Friends (Remix)

34. “Get Back,” Single (1969)

After the splintering White Album, the Beatles wanted to get back to their stripped-down roots by making an old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll record together. It was a long, bumpy path, but this chart-topping single is a highlight.

33. “Blackbird,” The Beatles (1968)

This sly commentary on the racial unrest going on in America at the time is 100 percent McCartney, who sings, plays guitar, taps his foot and incorporates tape loops.

32. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” Help! (1965)

The group, Lennon especially, was greatly influenced by Bob Dylan’s industry-shaking work in 1965. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” features 12-string acoustic guitar, flutes and a moving unplugged performance.

31. “Please Please Me,” Single (1963)

The Beatles’ second single (and first in the U.S., on the small Vee-Jay label before Capitol took over) gave their debut album its title. An early example of producer George Martin‘s influence – he suggested a faster tempo – in the studio and on the group.

30. “Rain,” Single (1966)

“Paperback Writer”‘s B-side and one of the greatest non-LP songs ever recorded. Like its better-know flip, “Rain” was an early taste of what was coming with Revolver, the album that took the Beatles, and modern music, into a whole new direction.

The Beatles – Rain

29. “Golden Slumbers” / “Carry That Weight” / “The End,” Abbey Road (1969)

The trio of songs that end Abbey Road‘s album-closing medley are primarily McCartney’s, but for five final glorious minutes the Beatles sound like a band again. Name a more poignant group finale than “The End.”

28. “I Saw Her Standing There,” Please Please Me (1963)

The opening song on the Beatles’ debut album and the B-side of their first U.S. Capitol single. Any wonder why it holds such a special place in fans’ hearts?

27. “Across the Universe,” Let It Be (1970)

“Across the Universe” first appeared on a 1969 compilation benefit album, and was later reworked for the Beatles’ final LP. One of Lennon’s most spiritual songs, inspired in part by the group’s trip to India.

26. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Lennon said this hazy Sgt. Pepper’s song has nothing to do with LSD; it was just a coincidence that the title, inspired by his son’s drawing, could be abbreviated that way. Whatever. A kaleidoscopic trip, either way.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Remix)

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25. “Here Comes the Sun,” Abbey Road (1969)

After years of basically allowed one song per album, Harrison stepped up with two classics for the Beatles’ last run in the studio. A  mood-lifting celebration of life.

24. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” The Beatles (1968)

Lennon stitched together three different song ideas he was working on to come up with this White Album classic, one of the few tracks on the LP to include all four members playing their usual instruments.

23. “All You Need Is Love,” Single (1967)

The Beatles’ Summer of Love anthem came out a little more than a month after Sgt. Pepper’s turned pop music upside down. The musical revolution here is a little more subtle but no less inspiring.

22. “Paperback Writer,” Single (1966)

Released a few months before Revolver signaled a new, magnificent era, “Paperback Writer” finds the Beatles rummaging around the studio with wide-eyed curiosity. From here on out, they changed pop music with almost every single release.

The Beatles – Paperback Writer

21. “Revolution 1,” The Beatles / “Revolution,” Single (1968)

“Revolution” started as a bluesy, acoustic jam (which appeared on the White Album as “Revolution 1”) before the band turned up the volume for a distortion-heavy single version that ended up on the flip side of “Hey Jude.”

The Beatles – Revolution

20. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” Rubber Soul (1965)

A turning point for the group. Not only was Harrison’s sitar a first in rock music, Lennon’s confessional lyric – about an extramarital affair he had – opened a whole new world for them.

19. “Helter Skelter,” The Beatles (1968)

The harshest-sounding song ever recorded by the Beatles and a straightforward rock ‘n’ roll exercise that doesn’t let up until poor Ringo’s got blisters on his fingers.

Helter Skelter (Remastered 2009)

18. “A Hard Day’s Night,” A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The title track to the group’s first movie begins with a chiming chord that rings like a bell signaling a new era. And in a sense it was: the first Beatles album to include all original material by Lennon and McCartney.

17. “Ticket to Ride,” Help! (1965)

Another key track in the Beatles’ evolution, “Ticket to Ride,” like other songs on Help!, finds the band branching out. Here, they explore a less structured sound than that used on earlier, more pop-oriented songs. Another No. 1.

16. “Come Together,” Abbey Road (1969)

The opening song on Abbey Road is almost an old-school rock ‘n’ roll number except for that sinister and snaky riff. Lennon, the song’s writer, was even sued by Chuck Berry’s publisher for a lyric lift.

15. “I Am the Walrus,” Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

A bit of lyrical surrealism by Lennon that perfectly suits the Beatles’ post-Sgt. Pepper’s creative rush. Loaded with sound effects and distorted side trips, “I Am the Walrus” is a grand aural experiment.

14. “Something,” Abbey Road (1969)

Harrison was finally given an A-side of a Beatles single, pulled from the final album they recorded. It went to No. 1. A majestic love song better than anything on the LP written by his two more established bandmates.

The Beatles – Something

13. “Penny Lane,” Single (1967)

One-half of a double A-sided single with Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever,” McCartney’s “Penny Lane” is a similar travelogue of growing up in Liverpool. Like the flip side, originally intended for Sgt. Pepper’s.

The Beatles – Penny Lane

12. “Let It Be,” Single (1970)

McCartney’s tribute to his late mother doubles as a meditative hymn to the final days of the Beatles. They knew the end was near. “Let It Be” is their somber farewell.

11. “Eleanor Rigby,” Revolver (1966)

The Beatles were all about breaking down pop conventions on Revolver, and this McCartney-penned song about “all the lonely people” was a key track in this transformation. It’s all strings and voices – not a traditional pop instrument in sight.

The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (From “Yellow Submarine”)

10. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” The Beatles (1968)

Harrison’s tour de force is a sly dig at the other Beatles during one of their most tumultuous periods. The White Album is basically four solo albums with assist from the other members and occasionally outside guests – like Eric Clapton, who contributes a searing guitar solo here.

The Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

9. “Help!,” Help! (1965)

Ostensibly the title track from the Beatles’ second movie, “Help!” was really Lennon’s tuneful attempt to make sense of Beatlemania and mentally splintering from the crushing demands. A huge shift was right around the corner.

The Beatles – Help!

8. “In My Life,” Rubber Soul (1965)

McCartney had “Yesterday”; Lennon had “In My Life.” He had just turned 25 when he recorded this plaintive song about looking back. The Beatles had grown up immensely since “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” “In My Life” was just the start.

In My Life (Remastered 2009)

7. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Revolver (1966)

Recorded at the start of the Revolver sessions, “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the sound of the Beatles reinventing themselves and modern music in the process. Tape loops, backward guitars and an abstract wall of noise serve as the bedrocks of a truly revolutionary work. Nothing was the same after this.

6. “She Loves You,” Single (1963)

Arriving just as Beatlemania was about to take over the planet, “She Loves You” sounds like the entrance theme for a new musical revolution. The rolling intro ushers in one of the group’s biggest early hits. It doesn’t let up until 140 breathless seconds later.

5. “Yesterday,” Help! (1965)

McCartney wasn’t even 23 when he recorded “Yesterday,” one of the most covered songs in music history. He reflects like a man twice his age on what is basically a solo track (producer George Martin brought in some strings). One of the Beatles’ first steps toward maturity … and a timeless classic.

4. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Single (1963)

The one that kicked off Beatlemania in the U.S. and one of the most exuberant pop singles ever recorded. There’s not much to it – the Beatles would grow out of this sort of innocence within a year or so – but the sparks lit by its influence are immeasurable.

3. “Hey Jude,” Single (1968)

Recorded during the sessions for the White Album, the “Hey Jude” single ran for more than seven minutes – one of the longest songs ever to reach No. 1. McCartney wrote it for Lennon’s son following his parents’ divorce. The sing-along fade-out is one of pop music’s most uplifting, and recognizable, wordless moments.

The Beatles – Hey Jude

2. “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Single (1967)

The start of the Sgt. Pepper’s sessions and a taste of things to come. Revolver, released about four months earlier, set the stage for one of the most revolutionary singles ever released. The Beatles were just beginning their most experimental era.

Strawberry Fields Forever – Restored HD Video

1. “A Day in the Life,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

The Beatles’ vision, ambition and execution flawlessly come together in five and a half breathtaking minutes. It’s the culmination of the landmark Sgt. Pepper’s LP and of the band’s career, stitched together from two separate songs. Pop art doesn’t get more sublime than this.

Initial sessions for “Helter Skelter” were so intense that they ultimately included the longest song the Beatles ever recorded: a 27-minute version of the track that later appeared on their self-titled double album in abbreviated form.

The same sessions, held on July 18, 1968, also produced takes that were more than 10 and 12 minutes long. These lengthy jams ended up creating no small amount of technical issues with the equipment of the day, but this too proved to be inspirational as the song’s writer, Paul McCartney, moved toward a final idea of what “Helter Skelter” would be.

Put simply, they were running out of tape – and nobody wanted to interrupt the band’s collective train of thought.

“They recorded the long versions of ‘Helter Skelter’ with live tape echo,” engineer Brian Gibson told Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles Recording Sessions. “Echo would normally be added at remix stage, otherwise it can’t be altered, but this time they wanted it live.” As the tape grew shorter, the technical crew had to make a decision.

“The Beatles were jamming away, completely oblivious to the world and we didn’t know what to do, because they all had fold-back in their headphones so that they could hear the echo. We knew that if we stopped it, they would notice,” Gibson said. “In the end, we decided that the best thing to do was stop the tape echo machine and rewind it. So, at one point the echo suddenly stopped and you could hear ‘bllllrrrrippppp‘ as it was spooled back. This prompted Paul to put in some kind of clever vocal improvisation based around the chattering sound!”

McCartney had made a very rough, acoustic-based pass at the song earlier in June, while in a room with his girlfriend, John Lennon and Yoko Ono during a promo shoot at EMI’s Studio Two. He’d been inspired to try the noisiest thing the Beatles had ever done by a description of the Who‘s recently released song “I Can See For Miles.”

“I was in Scotland and I read in Melody Maker that Pete Townshend had said, ‘We’ve just made the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock ‘n’ roll record you’ve ever heard,'” McCartney recalled in Anthology. “That got me going, just hearing him talk about it. So, I said to the guys, ‘I think we should do a song like that; something really wild.’ And I wrote ‘Helter Skelter.'”

By the time these elephantine demos were being made, the group had already spent seven hours working on “Cry Baby Cry,” one of Lennon’s songs, before returning at 10:30PM to try “Helter Skelter.” The Beatles – with McCartney on vocals and lead guitar, Lennon on bass, George Harrison on rhythm guitar and Ringo Starr on drums – were still banging away at 3:30AM.

Listen to the ‘Anthology’ Version of the Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’

Ultimately, they put these recordings aside. The finished version of “Helter Skelter” emerged from sessions held on Sept. 9, 1968, building off the 21st take. Overdubs were completed the following day. But the original rehearsal tapes were not forgotten. The 12-minute version was later included on 1996’s Anthology 3, though it was cut down to 4:37 – much to Lewisohn’s consternation.

“I made it clear to George Martin when we doing Anthology 3, that the fans are desperate to hear [the earlier versions] and I urged him to listen to it, because I don’t think initially he was going to do so,” Lewisohn said. “He listened to it, and he said, ‘Well, why is this important?’ I said forget the quality of the sound, or forget the fact that it’s not quite in tune or whatever – what a producer would normally be looking for. Just respect the fact, please, that it is hailed as the most important outtake of them all, and the fans will go crazy if you don’t include this on the Anthology.”

In the end, Lewisohn continues to argue for the release of the full 27-minute take. “They said, ‘This is all people will stand, they won’t stand the whole thing,'” he added. “And I said, ‘Well, I think a lot of them will, actually.'”

By the ’90s, “Helter Skelter” – which McCartney named after an amusement-park ride – had witnessed plenty of highs and lows. The White Album was a multi-platinum smash. The song itself was later issued as a double-sided single that reached the Billboard Top 10 in 1976. But “Helter Skelter” also became closely associated with the grisly murders committed by Charles Manson’s crime family.

“You could have thought of it as a rather cute title, but it’s since taken on all sorts of ominous overtones because Manson picked it up as an anthem,” McCartney told Barry Miles in Many Years From Now. Then again, he noted, “quite a few punk bands have done it, because it is a raunchy rocker.”

Mission accomplished.

 

 

The Beatles Albums Ranked

13. ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1969)

The soundtrack to the animated Beatles movie (which they didn’t provide the voices for, by the way) includes two previously released cuts, a handful of leftover session tracks from the era and an entire side of orchestra music from the film. Completists probably need the four new songs; everyone else can skip them.

12. ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (1967)

Released as an EP in the U.K. and as an album in the U.S., ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ is spotty, especially when compared to the Beatles’ other records from the era. But several of its songs – “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane” and “All You Need Is Love,” especially – rank among the group’s all-time best.

11. ‘Beatles for Sale’ (1964)

Tasked with recording their fourth album in a little more than a year, the Beatlemania-battered quartet quickly shuttled to the studio for a loose set of covers, tossed-off originals and a few gems. Success was taking its toll on the group by now, and the tired, ho-hum ‘Beatles for Sale’ proved it. Just look at their weary faces on the cover.

10. ‘Help!’ (1965)

Ostensibly the soundtrack to their second movie, the Beatles’ fifth album is their first real declaration of independence. They’d launch a creative whirlwind a few months later on ‘Rubber Soul’ that would pretty much last until the end of their career. But that album’s seeds are planted here on songs like “Ticket to Ride,” “Yesterday” and the hit title track.

9. ‘Let It Be’ (1970)

The last album to be released by the Beatles was recorded before ‘Abbey Road,’ but tumultuous sessions and a messy post-production schedule delayed its debut for a year. In a way, ‘Let It Be’ makes a pivotal swan song, with many of the songs coming off as eulogies for a once-great group. They’re still mostly excellent here, but the cracks widened beyond repair.

8. ‘Please Please Me’ (1963)

The Beatles recorded their debut album in one 13-hour session. And it sounds like it. The group is energized as they plow through a stage repertoire of jumpy original tunes (opener “I Saw Her Standing There”) and revitalized covers (closer “Twist and Shout”). They’d get sharper and tighter in the studio, but this is the sound of the band in all of its primal, ragged glory.

7. ‘With the Beatles’ (1963)

The Beatles’ second album was sorta reworked as ‘Meet the Beatles!’ for the group’s U.S. debut, and we prefer that version. But the original U.K. ‘With the Beatles’ stands as the official record these days. And it’s not bad, mixing sprightly originals (“All My Loving”) with well-oiled covers (“Please Mister Postman”). Beatlemania pretty much starts here.

6. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964)

The first album to include songs written entirely by the band (well, John Lennon and Paul McCartney), ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is pretty much 30 minutes of pure Beatlemania. From the shimmering chord that kicks off both the album and the title track, the Beatles never let up. It’s easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm.

5. ‘Rubber Soul’ (1965)

The Beatles responded to Beatlemania, Bob Dylan and pop music in general with their milestone sixth album. It inspired tons of artists – including Brian Wilson, who crafted the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ in reply; the Beatles, in turn, responded with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ – to move into a new era, free of commercial expectations and LP filler. They were only just beginning.

4. ‘Abbey Road’ (1969)

The last album recorded by the Beatles (but released before the temporarily shelved ‘Let It Be’), ‘Abbey Road’ presented a briefly reinvigorated group trying one last time to pull it all together. George Harrison delivered two of his best songs (“Something,” “Here Comes the Sun”), John Lennon plugged in and rocked out (“Come Together”) and Paul McCartney checked in with a sprawling centerpiece, the eight-song, 16-minute medley that stands as one of his greatest achievements.

3. The White Album (1968)

The Beatles all but splintered into four solo artists on their messy, epic and brilliant self-titled LP (commonly known as the White Album). It took two records to contain all their ideas – some of them great, some of them maddening, all of them fascinating. It was only a matter of time before they went their separate ways; the White Album, for better or worse, leads the charge.

2. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967)

Pop music grew up in 1967, when the Beatles forged a masterpiece of sound, texture and melody. Its kaleidoscopic approach to record-making – layer after layer of instruments and voices piled on top of each other until it all blurs into one colorful explosion – would become a marker and pattern for everything that came after it. In many ways, it still hasn’t been topped.

1. ‘Revolver’ (1966)

The Beatles turned themselves inside out on ‘Revolver,’ exercising a creative freedom following their retirement from the road. They used the studio as their playground, turning the record’s 14 songs into the sort of mind-expanding musical template that would influence artists for generations to come. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ may be the more complete work, but ‘Revolver’ is way more fun.

Source: All 227 Beatles Songs Ranked Worst to Best

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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