Well, this has been a slog. Be thankful we’re almost at the end! Below, thou shalt find my favourite Beatles songs in the whole wide world. I’m tired. So tired. I haven’t slept a wink. Click here for Part One and there for Part Two.
26. Strawberry Fields Forever
We’re into my favourite Beatles songs now, starting with this slice of trippy oddness from Magical Mystery Tour. It’s another one which could be dreary and depressing but overcomes by power of melody, interesting lyrics, and the amount of instruments and invention at play.
25. Penny Lane
One of the most summery songs the band crafted, it’s essentially a story of a time and place. The names and people may be unfamiliar but it’s universal enough, it’s cheery enough to make you feel like they’re talking about your street, your town, your friends.
24. Every Little Thing
When I first started listening to the band album to album there were a number of songs I had no idea existed but fell in love with first time around. For Sale doesn’t get enough credit for its experimentation but it’s really here where they began to throw in little changes and ideas – the timpani in the chorus, the single note piano, the unusual melodies and the layered guitars all setting up for the future but on its own a terrific pop rock song.
23. Hey Jude
This is high on my list, and yet I’m not as enamoured with it as most other people are. It’s a great song no doubt, but it’s not their best and other bands have created similar songs that I’ve loved more. Still, great song.
22. Eleanor Rigby
I know a lot of people consider this the best Beatles song, and I’d be happy to agree with that. Still, it’s not my favourite, but it’s undoubtedly brilliant. Like Penny Lane it feels like a story and while it doesn’t strike the same universal chord the melodies and strings and feeling make it one which will last well into the next century.
21. I’m A Loser
From that grunting opening vocal, the darker tone, the song title and lyrical content, this was maybe my first exposure to The Beatles not being this happy go lucky, summery pop band. Lennon was actually singing about something real yet making it eminently catchy so that anyone could still enjoy the music without contemplating the meaning.
20. Paperback Writer
One I was always fond of from my youth, this is a song which blends the band’s earlier harsher rock sound with their later, more mature pop abilities. What a great riff – the weird thing is that you can easily forget the riff because the harmonies and melodies are so strong. All the harmonic stuff going on in the verses is spellbinding, there are lots of tiny notes and different things going on that I notice something new each time I listen, and the lyrics are a quirky delight too.
19. Real Love
So, it’s more of a Lennon solo effort, but given that the surviving lads got together to fix it up and release it, it still counts. Plus it’s glorious. Fantastic lyrics once again showcasing the growth, and one of the great shifts from minor to major in rock history. The vocal effects are squarely in that psychedelic period, George’s guitar lines are simmering, and wouldn’t you just know it – melodies from start to finish are the stuff of dreams.
18. In My Life
The Beatles at their most tender. When the band tried, really tried, to do a certain type of song, they invariably knocked it out of the park. This is one such example, a ballad of both love and sorrow. It’s so damn simple, yet so damn beautiful. The little drums pieces Ringo adds – <makes kissing fingers gesture> – and that little solo in the middle, all just lovely. But man, so many Youtube comments about this song being played at funerals – not a dry eye across the land.
17. Mr Moonlight
Ah ha, yes. The most maligned Beatles song. I had never heard this song until I first listened to For Sale all the way through. How had I never heard such a fantastic song? Why wasn’t this one of their biggest hits? Well, it turned out that its almost universally hated. I was completely mystified by this when I found out, and I still don’t get it. Like, at all. I can’t think of any reason why people really don’t like this. I understand if it’s not a favourite, but all the hate is totally beyond me. The vocals are maybe the best I’ve heard from Lennon. And I love the little church organ solo – sure it could have been replaced with a different type of organ, but it adds a quirky charm. This is easily one of my favorites, and easily their best cover.
16. And Your Bird Can Sing
This is another one of those instances where I’d maybe heard the song before but had no idea it was by The Beatles until I starting working through the albums. As lovely as it sounds, lyrically it is quite vicious. I love the constant thumping beat throughout and of course the duel guitar attack – another glorious collection of riffs – and what about the melodies, both following and complementing the central riff? It has a mantra quality, something hypnotic, but it’s all too short at only two minutes.
15. A Day In The Life
What is usually heralded as the band’s best song is an undoubted masterpiece. It’s almost flawless – it is, but there are a few things I would still change about it, in my genius. I have nothing of substance to add to what has already been said about it, beyond the little things I love – the growing horror movie soundtrack strings, the variances in the drumming, the sudden shifts etc etc.
14. No Reply
When I started listening to The Beatles albums, For Sale was the biggest blank for me – I didn’t really recognise any of the songs and so I assumed it had been a misstep with no hits. When it opened with this, I was suitably blown away. If this is a misstep, then what the hell else has every other band been doing with their time? It’s dark and angry stuff, portrayed by jealous lyrics and a biting delivery and punched beats.
13. A Hard Day’s Night
If you’d asked me to name any Beatles song from the age of about 5 up to, well today, chances are this would be one of the first songs I’d mention. The band were already megastars before this, but this song represented a shift to God status – it not only exemplified their growth but also their staying power. They were here to stay, and change the world while everyone else had their lunch.
12. Ticket To Ride
Another one of the first songs I loved by the band, and another which has never been far from my affections. It’s just a very strange pop rock song, the sort of thing nobody else has ever really been able to pull off so successfully. There are so many elements which shouldn’t work, but they do, likely because of the melody and charm. Also, the video is hilarious as the band sit about and take the piss.
11. Please Please Me
I can’t really remember when or how I first heard this, it could be another that I didn’t realise was The Beatles, or it could be one I only discovered when I picked up their first album. Either way, even though it was one of their first songs, it still stands out as one of their best. That energy, the choices, the melodies, the playing, the exuberance of youth, and just the sheer balls and joy of it all.
10. We Can Work It Out
The Beatles just had so many songs – so many that never even made it to any album and yet are better than what most people produce their whole lives. The thing I love most about this song – beyond another amazing minor/major dynamic, beyond the melody? That transition from chorus to verse – it’s not even a transition, it just… happens. And both pieces are completely different. How is it even possible?
9. She Loves You
You’re probably noticing that a lot of these favourites are early songs – in truth that’s probably the period I love most – more than their experimenting, more than their second half. There’s a joy in their first songs, an unspoken perfection which only an artist and fan can recognise – that moment when it all comes together. This is a song we’ll still be listening to when our ears have evolved into Ipod holders or something.
8. I Want To Hold Your Hand
I know I’m critical of bands whose lyrics are overly simple, and that’s a simple criticism to make of The Beatles in their early days. Even though they were taking the piss as they wrote whatever banal stuff popped into their heads, there was still something somehow earnest. And they were among the first to express such sentiments in such colloquial fashion and to string words together in a certain way. If anybody else from then or now was to sing about wanting to hold a hand, I would dismiss it. With these guys, it’s liquid gold.
7. From Me To You
It’s just more early pop rock perfection. Music rarely gets better than this.
6. I’ve Just Seen A Face
One of my favourite discoveries as I made my way through the albums, this is one of music’s most special songs. That discovery of love, of seeing that face for the first time, is something we can all understand, but it has never been put to paper or sound so wonderfully as this. One of the greatest love songs of all time, just wholesome unashamed goodness.
5. The Long And Winding Road
As the band began to reach their conclusion, they were still able to put out stuff like this. Some day, Paul and Ringo will be gone, everyone who was involved in making this will walk the Earth no more, but the song will echo onward. This is one of the most contemplative and heartbreaking and beautiful songs the band would record, and it’s one I rate much higher than the more popular Let It Be or ever Lennon’s Imagine.
4. Here Comes The Sun
I love it when my favourite bands sound happy and make music which reflects that. I’m into the dark side of things and usually listen to a lot of angry, heavy stuff, but when an artist more renowned for that sort of music makes something sweet and whose purpose is to only make you smile, I love it. The Beatles don’t fall into that category and have many songs designed to bring you joy, but this is on another level. It’s Harrison’s best song by some distance, and it’s maybe the number one song of all time for raising that hope, that excitement, that positive feeling, that everything is going to be okay, that things are about to be glorious.
3. Can’t Buy Me Love
Taking pop and rock and music to the next level is something The Beatles did repeatedly. Can’t Buy Me Love was one of several songs on that album alone which performed that trick and you’ll struggle to find a more perfect song anywhere else.
2. Across The Universe
Maybe the best personal discovery during my run through of Beatles albums, I’d had no clue this song even existed when it first came on. Much of everything from The White Album onward had registered little more than a ‘okay, that was nice/weird/pointless’ and it felt like the band were shadows of their former selves. Then this came along and became an instant personal favourite. Why hadn’t they been writing stuff like this the whole time? Was this the last drip of their collective creative juice collecting inside a paper cup? I don’t care about the whys and hows now – it simply is, and it’s one of the best by anyone.
My number one. I honestly can’t think of a single better pop/rock song. Every millisecond is perfect. It sounds so simple, but this must have been a nightmare to write and record. The call and repeat stuff is inverted, multiple times throughout the song, and it boggles my mind how they make it sound so easy and so good. This is not an easy song. The high notes, the arpeggios, and above all the melody/harmony attack make Help my favourite Beatles song and I’d say a contender for the greatest song ever written.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. It’s only taken me two years to write and publish, but we’re finally done and we never have to speak of it again. Unless of course you want to add your favourites in the comments – something I encourage. Till next time!