Lets continue with my favourite Beatles songs, in alphabetic order until the top 26 or so. Here’s Part One if you missed it.
56. All You Need Is Love
I always laugh at the ironic intro to this – the trumpet anthem blaring, before reminding the listener that maybe war isn’t good and all you need is love. It does come across as a little preachy and I’ve never liked the droopy brass which plays after the title vocal. Otherwise it’s another wonderful anthem, syrupy enough to charm the staunchest cynic.
55. Baby It’s You
There’s about a million great versions of this song, so credit to everyone involved in creating it in the first instance. I’m not a huge fan of Beatles covers, but this one stands out thanks to the harmonies which suited the band’s early sound, along with the slightly harsher edge to the vocals.
54. Don’t Let Me Down
I love how this goes straight into the weary, wrenching chorus almost immediately. Both the live and studio version of this great, the funky organ, the single note percussion versus the smashing in the chorus, the bass in the second verse, and how the vocals get increasingly strained. If there was a bit more variety here it would be one of my favourites.
53. Day Tripper
My first memory of this is from some Amiga game one of my friends had in the 80s or early 90s. I had no idea it was The Beatles until I heard the song much later. It’s a fine example of a terrific riff which doesn’t become repetitive even though it’s played constantly, and the feel-good verses elevate it to a higher ranking – it’s only the chorus which lets the whole down.
52. Free As A Bird
I know this song and Real Love get a lot of hate or disregard from Beatles fans… for me it doesn’t stop them from being good songs. I remember the fuss about this from when it was released and I remember watching the premiere on TOTP. I remember wondering what all the fuss was about too. The song stayed with me though, and I’m pretty sure I only heard it that single time until years later when I started listening to the band in earnest. It’s still too slow and dreamy to get me fully on board but I love the ideas and melodies.
51. Good Day Sunshine
Pure McCartney cheese, but this is Revolver we’re talking about so everything is gold. Everything is flawless from the introduction and withdrawal of each instrument, to the super happy friends vibe of it all.
50. Golden Slumbers
I’m not a huge fan of the last couple of Beatles albums – they sound too tired and out of ideas for too many songs, but then they unleash gems like this and wish the rest of the said albums could have been as strong. This is very simple, though the backing orchestration lifts it to near heavenly heights – I’m one of the few who loves McCartney’s voice here – I only wish it was longer.
49. Here, There, And Everywhere
As mentioned above, on Revolver almost every idea paid off brilliantly – what could have come off as boring and dreary avoids the pitfalls and ends up as another touching, insightful ballad.
48. I Need You
This isn’t a song you’ll see on many fan’s lists of favourites. It works for me, even if it is a simple love song. Once again I revert to my love of engaging melodies, and the little volume knob guitar trick keeps things interesting. It’s not a great song, but there’s something here which makes me enjoy it more than other better regarded songs.
47. I’ll Follow The Sun
It’s always interesting to me how The Beatles could write so many perfect pop songs and keep them so short. This is an endearing ballad which is barely over 90 seconds long. It gets to the point immediately, it cuts away the chaff, it even finds time for a guitar solo, and you’ll be singing it long after it has ended.
46. I Saw Her Standing There
The Beatles rarely rocked as raw as they did on their debut – this is the opening track from their first album and it remains a breakneck, rollicking statement of intent. I much prefer these original compositions to the blues covers that they used to bulk out their early sets. There’s nothing extraordinary in the writing here, but it’s the combination of energy, talent, melodies, harmony, and how tight the group feels which marked them as special from the start.
45. If I Fell
This one threatens to be overly dreary what with those minor chords and vocal drawls, but then it builds up to a very sweet chorus. That chorus though, turns out to not in fact be a chorus but the entire rest of the song – the intro is a trick start – the band already playing with conventions and expectations.
44. I’ll Be Back
Another one of the very many Beatles songs I find very underrated. It’s one I had no idea existed until I started working through the albums. I love the interplay of the harmonies, between major and minor, seemingly giving a sense of conflict, pain, and indecision.
43. Let It Be
From underrated to overrated. I was close to not including Let It Be at all – it’s one of their songs which is constantly played, constantly covered, and one we all know long before we ever listen to one of their albums. I can’t doubt that it’s a great song, but for me it suffers from being dull. I’m in the minority.
42. Love Me Do
This is another song I had heard countless times before playing a Beatles album in full, this one differs because it still gives me that sense of youthful fun. It’s child like in its simplicity and in effect becomes almost like a nursery rhyme – you learn it at birth and never forget it. The band did melody like no other group at the time.
41. Lovely Rita
McCartney up to his old tricks again – jaunty rhythms which would sound trite and overly saccharine in the hands of almost anyone else. Somehow all the literal bells and whistles and comedy sounds and Carry On lyrics don’t feel overly dated here – nope, they sound like a band having fun, experimenting, and taking the piss without giving a crap.
40. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Like in the aforementioned song, only a handful of artists could take a bellyful of drugs and rhyme off nonsense but make the overall product compelling and not laughable. Even The Beatles would fail at this trick in a few short years, but here everything they touched simply worked. It doesn’t matter who or what Lucy is, it doesn’t matter what they may or may not be singing about – they’re singing, they’re playing, just enjoy.
39. Magical Mystery Tour
Some will say it’s sacrilege ranking this song higher than the one before. While it’s true that the ranking here isn’t important, I think I do prefer this one to Lucy. It feels more fun to me, almost like the band realised all the crap that they had been spouting and decided to go along with it anyway, without the faux-seriousness and philosophy they had previously attempted.
38. Norwegian Wood
The song taken from one of my favourite books. Heh. Just making sure you’re paying attention. Murakami was inspired by this piece of lovelorn whimsy, one of their love songs that touches genuine honesty instead of a blast of catchy homilies. A mixture of acoustic guitar and George’s Indian antics, it’s a lumbering, simple song but with unavoidable melody dripping like the sweat of a college student getting home with his girl on their first date.
37. Octopus’s Garden
If it was good enough for the rest of the band to be off their faces on goofballs, then it was good enough for Ringo. Enter Octopus’s Garden. As it’s Ringo, you already know what the rhythm will cbe and what the vocals and overall tone will be. It’s a lot of fun and it’s perfect for kids, and hopefully not even the most sour and cynical adult (me) will hate it.
36. She’s Leaving Home
McCartney experiments with a harp, a string section, and a story about a sad family event from the perspective of parents. In another’s hands this could feel like a bad Hallmark movie, but he and the band imbue it with enough real emotion and smarts that it succeeds. The chorus dual vocals and melodies are glorious and the strings are tasteful and emotive.
35. Tomorrow Never Knows
The production on some of The Beatles albums is such that they feel like they could have been recorded today, not half a century ago. This song sounds perfectly modern as well as clearly being a 60s event. The backwards arsing about, the various sounds and techniques, and my god the drumming, all feel super-modern even now to the extent that most current artists releasing music today sound stale and behind the times when compared with this.
34. The Night Before
Back now with more streamlined, straightforward pop rock, and therefore it’s all about the melodies and harmonies. Few albums have generated so many instant classics as Help! and this is considered one of the lesser ones from that album. It’s so pleasingly simple, it borrows a lot of the harder edged R’n’B of their earlier days but adds a bopping rhythm and electric piano to give it something unique.
33. With A Little Help From My Friends
I grew up with The Wonder Years version of this – a song that I disliked so much that it put me off that show. I was never a huge fan of the show anyway, but something about the joining of song and show left me very depressed. I bet it was always on TV here on Sundays. I knew it was a Beatles song originally, but I don’t think I actually heard it until the first time I listened to Sgt Pepper in full. It completely changed my opinion of the song, it’s just so much more fun and honest than Cocker’s senseless grumbles.
32. Within You Without You
Probably the peak of the band’s messing around with Sitars and the like but still the first thing it makes me think of is Mario burning his ass on lava and hopping around in circles yelping like a… well, a burnt Italian. Usually I wouldn’t like a song like this – too sleepy and the vocals too slurred and dreamy, everything shimmering and wavering too much. Yet it works for me, the vocal melody comically follows the sitar, there are strings backing things, the band has the audacity to make half the song instrumental, just jamming away in dreamlike, mystical fashion. There’s so much going on here that I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to the numbers of musicians and instruments involved.
31. When I’m 64
At first listen for me at least, this sounds purely comical – like a joke recording. Then you hear the words and the sincerity and remember that it’s McCartney and it takes on its own special life. There’s no getting away from how funny those opening notes and instruments are, but the song gets better as it goes along that you’re converted from cynic to believer. The only part I can’t forgive is the ‘Vera, Chuck, and Dave’ which makes me cringe inexplicably every time.
30. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
McCartney unleashing a raw slice of of late blues rock, early proto punk. I mean, not really, but it has that snarling vocal and that angry guitar and simplicity that it’s easy to make such comparisons. The Beatles rarely cut loose and recorded something so overtly sexual and heavy – maybe they should have tried it more.
29. Yellow Submarine
Another Ringo special, more pure nonsense, and another one for the kids. You’ll be whistling it for days.
28. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
You could always rely on Lennon to go to the darker places when singing about love. This being on Help! though, you can be sure it’s infectious. The percussion is much softer with tambourine and brushes on the snares, we have a flute ending, and all the guitars are acoustic.
27. You Never Give Me Your Money
I’m fairly critical of the last two albums the band made, or at least as critical as you can be, but this underrated ballad is one of their best – that opening just sounds so sad. When I first Abbey Road and how all the last songs merged into a whole I thought this song was only a minute long – it wasn’t until later I realised the heavier second section and the ‘one sweet dream’ part etc were all part of the same song. They do all feel like separate parts but they hold together – I do still prefer the first section though.
Join me next time for my final post and to find out what my all time favourite songs by The Beatles are!