When I started doing these best of retrospectives, this was the one I most worried about. How do you rate the greatest group in music history? Here is my guide to this list. I have heard many of these songs well over 100 times each, so it’s more rankings based on what sounds most fresh to my ears now. Probably the reason their early records will not be as well-represented. (Heads up, no I Want to Hold Your Hand or Love Me Do.)
The thing that will be the biggest problem for many of you is I’m not a big fan of the Sgt. Pepper’s record. I not only do not rate it one of the greatest records in Rock History I would rate it about number 7 on my Beatles discography. (White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Be-Naked Version, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, and then Sgt. Peppers.) If that shakes you to your foundations I would suggest you not go any further.
1.Abbey Road Medley- I will admit this seems like cheating as starting off your list with a suite of 8 songs doesn’t seem to be fair to the others, but it’s as perfect a grouping of pop music as has ever been done. The way these very diverse songs segway into each other is thrilling. Golden Slumbers is so achingly beautiful that I think it gets forgotten as a classic, since it’s connected to this medley. Ringo’s drumming holds it altogether. Btw, check out Cheap Trick’s live rendition of this. Just demonstrates their American Beatles label.
2. A Day in the Life- I can’t imagine how mind-blowing this song sounded back in 1967, but it’s hard not to say it still isn’t the most innovative song in rock music history. Why did Lennon/McCartney not make as consistently groundbreaking solo music? Listen to this song and you will better understand the amazing contributions of the 5th Beatle, George Martin.
3. Revolution- I can recall finding my uncle’s 45 collection when I was 7 years old and putting it on my Radio Shack realistic carry along player. The guitar came out of the speaker with a distorted scream that rocks as hard as anything I had ever heard before. A far superior song to the overplayed Come Together.
4. Eleanor Rigby- To think Paul was 23 writing with this type of depth makes me wonder what I was doing at that age–oh yeah, delivering tortilla chips at Chi-Chi’s trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. George Martin suggested strings for the first time and it makes the song totally singular.
5. Norwegian Wood- This was the 1st song the group ever offered that had real depth. John turned the musical world upside down as he exposed the truth of him being an asshole. Also this song shows off George’s first take with a sitar.
6. Hey Jude- We are so badass that we are going to release a 7 minute single and it will totally take over the world. It’s got so much soul you would think it was written in Memphis. If it was written for Julian or John, the impact of the song is monumental.
7. Let It Be- Paul’s gospel classic is greatly aided by the keyboard genius of Billy Preston. Not a wrong note on this one.
8. Blackbird- The White Album is my favorite Beatles record, as it has so much depth and truth to it. It is the amazing simple beauty of Blackbird that has all the sweetness to it as a James Taylor classic.
9. Hello Goodbye- I’m a total sucker for a Beatlish pop song, so why wouldn’t I always be charmed by their most Beatlish song ever. Happy music.
10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps- My favorite musical playing of any Beatles song. Eric Clapton and George Harrison blend beautifully together as the song title perfectly describes the sound of the song.
11 (tie). Across the Universe/Two of Us/Dig a Pony- The most underrated record of the Beatles is Let It Be, the Naked version. Nutty Phil Spector slapped too much of Wall of Sound, but the Naked version that came out a few years back demonstrates the purity of these 3 songs. Universe is John’s best Beatles lyrics, while his rave-up vocals on Pony are at his raw top. 2 of Us toe-tappin romance is quintessential McCartney and much superior to the Long and Winding Road.
14. I Saw Her Standing There- While I Want to Hold Your Hand and Love Me Do are the early hits that people speak about most, I loved this one from the moment I heard it when at 5 years old. It was the first Beatles song that ever grabbed me. Paul at his Little Richard-best.
15. Hard Day’s Night- The edgy guitar jangle and the Lennon/McCartney harmonies propel this song like few had ever sounded before.
16. Help!- The group was starting to transition into something more than a phenomenal boy band.
17. Julia- You can hear the pain in John’s voice speaking to the Mother who abandoned him. As good as any song Nick Drake ever wrote.
18. (tie) Penny Lane/Fool on the Hill- 2 great examples of McCartney the songwriter meets novelist. Elton John and Bernie Taupin must have used these songs as a template.
2o. Here There, and Everywhere/For No One- 2 more McCartney simple, but classic ballad beauties.
22. Glass Onion- John takes a look back at the history of the band with snide-like approach.
23. Ticket to Ride- The classic jangle that took over music in 1965, with this one and the music by the Byrds. Ringo’s drums on this are him at his best.
24. We Can Work It Out- Paul sings the chorus, while John gives the lyrical response. One of McCartney’s most funky compositions with the group–if you don’t believe me listen to Stevie Wonder’s spectacular cover.
25. Good Day Sunshine- How you not feel good after this one?
26. When I’m 64- I’m a total sucker for these old timey songs, as I love every one of these type of songs Freddie Mercury did with Queen. Best rock radio song featuring a clarinet song ever?
27. Magical Mystery Tour- I’m not sure I buy all the elements of this song anymore, but I like the horns, and love the Traffic-like ending.
28. I Am the Walrus- This at one point was my favorite song Beatle song, but just like special effects in old movies don’t work the same in the modern world, I find the samples seem a little forced and don’t have the same perfection as a Day in the Life has. Still great, but not as tuneful as I prefer in my old age.
29. Rocky Racoon- This song is insane. It’s old timey, mixed with country, all while having a fun the whole time.
30. (tie) Dear Prudence/Sexy Sadie/I’m So Tired- While the White Album doesn’t have a lot of homeruns, it is filled with triples like these 3. I like triples, as they are much more rare than hitting it in the stands. Something more original and harder to come up with. These 3 Lennon tunes feature John’s emotional tone, as it jumps from edgy, weary, and sexy.
33. I’ve Got a Feeling- This is a really underappreciated Beatles song, as featuring Paul and John doing a little duet, which might have been their last, as the band was blowing up.
34. Hey Bulldog- Anarchy on record, as the band’s groove is jammin’ and fun.
35. Get Back- Another of one my favorites as a kid that has fallen a little, but still has great power to it. Paul doing his blues-thing, while Billy Preston noodling notes adds a lot to it. This is the one song I like Phil Spector’s production on better than the Naked version.
36. Back in the U.S.S.R.- Just to add the level of making Brian Wilson even more Beatles insane, Paul writes a pitch perfect parody of the Beach Boys and adds a touch of soul to pump up the levels on it. At this point, what couldn’t this band do?
37. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away- John does Dylan and especially on the raw version of it on Beatles Anthology 2, you wish that he had done a whole cover record by Hibbing, Minnesota’s greatest folk singers.
38. Got to Get You Back Into My Life- Another funky Paul number that the cover by Earth Wind & Fire does is even better.
39. Yesterday- I think I’ve just heard the song too much, as I respect it’s beauty, but it’s not one I need to hear much more in my life.
40. Something- Same goes for this one. It’s sexy as hell, but I like a few covers of it better.
41. Here Comes the Sun- As you might notice, I’m not a huge fan of George Harrison’s Beatles work, as I’m sure this song is in a lot of people’s top 10 lists. I like it a lot, but just can’t rate it at the levels of so much of John and Paul’s compositions. I love a lot of Harrison’s solo work to the point that I prefer about 7 of his solo singles better than this one.
42. Your Mother Should Know/Ob La Di, Ob La Da- A couple Paul pop masterpieces that are pretty nonsensical, but pretty hard not to turn down.
44. Happiness is a Warm Gun- Lennon mixes beautiful harmonies with another White Album raw throated vocal.
45. I Will- On this White Album deep cut, McCartney features a vocal tone that would become a template for many future Wings songs. Sweet.
46. Lovely Rita- When it comes to Sgt. Pepper, Maybe I needed to be tripping balls in 1967 to truly appreciate it. This one is probably the least Pepper like on the album.
47. Eight Days a Week- Classic early Beatles. If you want me on-board with your pop song…add some nifty hand claps like this one.
48. Can’t Buy Me Love- The most underrated part of the early records is how singular the guitar sounds are on them. Love the rockabilly groove here.
49. Paperback Writer- Another McCartney short story, as the harmonies are a little shrill, but the guitar sound on the solo totally makes up for it.
50. Michelle/Girl- Paul and John, retrospectively do their ballad thing on the remarkable Rubber Soul, with the 2 distinct personalities coming out in the lyrics.