My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

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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.

  1. Help

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!

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part 2

Lets continue with my favourite Beatles songs, in alphabetic order until the top 26 or so. Here’s Part One if you missed it.

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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!

 

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs Part 1

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s the one you’ve been waiting for – and for quite some time, apparently. According to WordPress, the last time I looked at this post was May 20 2011. Back then I basically wrote the names of the songs I knew I really liked from each release off the top of my head. At time of writing this introduction, it is August 21, 2017. What I will do between now and the time of publishing is check back through each release, add any song I’ve missed, put them in order, and add a little bit about why I like each. Hopefully that will not take another six years (oops).

So, everyone knows The Beatles, right? They had a few hits, played a few gigs, before disappearing into obscurity. We know they need know introduction. I’ll give some personal stuff instead. I never listened to a complete Beatles album until I was roughly 19 – I was at University at least. Obviously I knew all their hits – who makes it to 19 without knowing at least twenty Beatles songs off by heart? For whatever reason though I had just never listened to an album. It’s like the famous question – ‘Who do you prefer, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones’? My answer – ‘Led Zeppelin’. At some point though I acquired the albums and blasted through them, finding that treasure trove of unknowns that so many others before had. So now I present (to anyone reading this in the future), my own personal favourite Beatles songs. I’m being a little more liberal than usual with this list – on previous lists I’ve tried to include only my absolute favourites, but as it’s The Beatles I’m also adding some fringe ones that I really like but wouldn’t include if I was being more strict. If you’re looking for a more detailed and insightful ranking of every song – try this link.

Just one final note – I didn’t worrying about the ranking up until my very favourite songs – the top 26 – everything else is sort of alphabetical, with tracks 96 – 57 being the lower tier and tracks 56 – 27 being the middles. Enjoy!

96. Any Time At All

Any time at all is a good time to listen to The Beatles, or indeed read some fool on the hill’s listathon about them. This one is a straightforward rocker from A Hard Day’s Night with Lennon growling through the vocals and a simple piano middle which was left without vocals when the band couldn’t be arsed adding any lyrics.

95. And I Love Her

I love the Spanish feel to this one, one of the very few songs the band recorded which sounded like this. It has a terrific, simple 4 note Harrison riff and veers between melancholy and happy easily.

94. Ask Me Why

Even on their first album the band’s influences were clear, not only old R’n’B but the likes of Smokey Robinson. It’s the harmonies and the simplicity and the little unexpected notes which marked them at this early stage as something special.

93. All I’ve Gotta Do

It’s Smokey again, this time on their second album. Another simplistic song of love and yearning it still showcases the majesty of writing a hit melody.

92. All My Loving

One of the only songs where McCartney wrote the lyrics first. We know the early Beatles songs don’t have the most complex lyrics – usually repeated expressions of love for 90% of the albums they were featured on, but that was standard for the industry at the time. Still, it was all about the music and the vocals in the early days – the jangling guitars of the verse contrasted with the stuttering of the chorus, and of course McCartney’s ‘oohs’.

91. Because

We jump all the way to Abbey Road now and we can see how both the lyrics and music have changed. Maybe most notably it’s the production, with Martin employing all of the tracks he had picked up and honed over the previous six or seven years to create something haunting and angelic. The voices of Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney were recorded multiple times to give a more epic feel and Martin plays the Harpsichord intro against the same guitar part. We even get some synthesizer – perhaps hinting at the direction the band may have taken had they stayed together another few years. It’s lovely, but they have lovelier.

90. Birthday

One of those songs I knew for years but had no idea was by The Beatles and then seemed obvious once I found out. The White Album is a strange one – filled with good songs and disasters. I’ve always felt it lacked even one truly great song, though this comes as close as any. It’s a song made on the spot and it shows in the lyrics – basically lets take and idea or a word or phrase and write any old crap to fit the music. Naturally it works, and lo another classic ‘occasion’ song is born. It’s all about the riff.

89. Fixing A Hole

On to Sgt Pepper – celebrating its 50th birthday this year, remember. While McCartney’s music hall stuff sounds rubbish on The White Album it somehow works wonderfully here. There’s a lot more to it, it feels like there is more honesty and ingenuity and the experimentation is pulled off successfully. The lyrics are not as drug crazed as others on the album – simple, but suitably open to simple interpretation and examination – what hole exactly is being fixed?

88. For No One

A slice of McCartney cheese on Revolver – that of course means all of the cheese has been removed – the lyrics are bleak, dark, insightful, and the marching band beat gives a plodding monotony to echo the lyrical sentiment. It’s one of McCartney’s saddest songs, yet it’s so damn catchy and the little horn piece in the middle almost makes it feel happy. I also enjoy the sudden unexpected end – a trick the band pulled off more than once in their career.

87. Getting Better

Notable for its clinking intro and chilling lyrics which can easily be missed given how optimistic the song sounds. Lennon writes about his violent past, fighting, abusing women – all true – but that things are getting better (or can’t get no worse). I’m not sure how anyone is meant to feel about such things, but the music’s great and even has some tanpura from Harrison.

86. Got To Get You Into My Life

Back to Revolver and we have this massive horn section led rocker. I like how the chorus is held back by a double verse, giving it greater impact when it finally arrives. McCartney belts this one out, increasingly so, Harrison lets rip with a great, short solo, and the brass keeps growing – you know I’m not a fan of brass, but I love it here.

85. Good Morning Good Morning 

And back to Sgt Pepper for this piece of weirdness. Ringo is perfect here, epic, furious guitar work too. The timing is all over the place, the lyrics are great fun, and again I love the brass. There’s a bunch of sound effects too – all those integral pieces of a Great British morning and more.

84. Happiness Is A Warm Gun

A contender for best name of any Beatles song, and also a contender for the best Beatles lyric, Happiness Is A Warm Gun doesn’t even feel like a Beatles song. There’s a new direction here, with lots of downer melodies, droning, and even though the song moves through several different parts, the downbeat sense runs continuously from start to finish. Lennon gives a terrific vocal performance and that distorted rumbling guitar solo is pretty great too.

83. Helter Skelter 

As the sixties drew to a close a number of bands and artists were crafting much heavier, louder, angrier music – The Beatles wanted a piece of that. Helter Skelter is the answer. It’s pure nonsense of course, but the lead riff, the ferocious drums, McCartney’s vocals, and the sheer wall of noise mean it contended (temporarily) with the likes of The Who and The Kinks. It’s also notable for the double ending where a pile of distortion and drums fade in, thump for a while, then out, then back, then out, then blisters on my fingers.

82. It Won’t Be Long

Back to the beginning now, and a slice of R’n’B from With The Beatles. It’s just another early, fun, harmless track with a lot of killer harmonies and calls and repeats.

81. I’ll Get You

This one didn’t appear on any album so it was a while before I ever came to hear it. Of course it was a blessing, like uncovering a hidden treasure from your favourite band’s favourite period. An early song it has all the hallmarks of those days – the melodies, harmonies, simplicity, the energy and coherence, and the way it urges you to sing along. Featuring some of their best ‘oh yeah’ work, it remains a bit of a hidden treat.

80. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party

Even though their sound was changing by For Sale, the basic ideas were the same – simple songs of love and yearning and hurt with a smartass twist. It’s yet another song from the early half of their career with great melodies and playing that you can stick on at any time and have any person tapping their feet and humming along.

79. I Should Have Known Better

Super harmonica work opens this classic from A Hard Day’s Night. Once again there is nothing difficult here, it’s nothing more than pulling down an immortal hook from the ether and putting it out there. The guitars are almost in the background with vocals taking complete lead – aside from the nifty solo of course.

78. It’s Only Love

A slower one for now, notable for some tambourine, and some weird tremolo guitar work from Harrison. Lyrically it’s as basic as you could hope – whatever words fit the space and idea, slap them in, but it doesn’t matter when the tune is so infectious.

77. I’m So Tired

Even slower now, as Lennon makes us all as drowsy as he claims to be. Travelling, fame, seeing the same people and not seeing others – it’s hard man. Still, I like the difference between the verse and chorus yet how they are so flawlessly intertwined.

76. I Am The Walrus

I wasn’t going to include this one, mostly because it nonsense dressed up in importance. I’m not a fan of the drifty, dreamy vocal effects yet the performance is great, the central melody is good, and it has lots of interesting stuff going on in the background. I’m not as huge a fan of this one as many are in other words.

75. I’m Looking Through You

A soft rock ballad which almost becomes genius but instead just circles the edges. As always it’s mostly about the melody – verse, chorus, middle – all good. My favourite piece though is the hurried guitar line which bridges the parts.

74. I’m Only Sleeping

Another sleep song. I prefer this one to I’m So Tired. It’s another which almost makes it into my higher tier – the lyrics feel as if they were written by or for me, and I love the little pauses for bass. The backwards stuff is great too – there’s just something about these drowsy feeling songs that never quite sits right with me.

73. It’s All Too Much

It’s starts with some nonsense before that main organ riff kicks off. I love how the guitar follows that riff and then the vocals mimic it too. My favourite though is the drums -not just how crumbling tumbling they are, but the way the pace and volume subtly changes even as the beat remains the same.

72. Love You Too

It’s Harrison, it’s Revolver, so you know that means sitar. And because it’s me, you know that means all I can think of is videogame lava levels. Lots of throngs and rumbles and persistent, consistent beats, and best of all that sitar solo.

71. Martha My Dear

More music hall cheese from McCartney raised by strings and melodies. Even the brass somehow works, and you know how much I hate that stuff.

70. Mother Nature’s Son

There are so many songs on The White Album which I think would have been much better had they been written and recorded a couple of years earlier. This is a prime example – a lovely idyllic song which comes off as cold and distant instead of something truly beautiful. It’s a song I should adore, but that weird something that pollutes The White Album stains it too much. Listen to John Denver’s version – not necessarily better, but it takes things in the right direction.

69. Pepperland

Well, it’s not technically The Beatles, but as Martin was so integral to the group we’ll include it anyway. It’s another song that reminds me of something from a videogame, maybe a cut scene where the hero is finally reunited with his lover. I’ve no idea.

68. Revolution 1

Revolution 9 is not on my list. This one is – listen to that brutal guitar in the intro, then laugh as it gives away to such a gentle blues riff. It’s another of their songs which feels like it was written in a stoned haze off the cuff by a group of friends and performed and recorded right there and then. Except the production reminds us of the work which went into it. Lyrics, melody, bla bla.

67. She Said She Said

Revolver again and another classic guitar line. More great work from Ringo and interesting lyrics which recount some funny times with Peter Fonda and others. I think it’s the timing in this one which stands out for me, along with the guitar, the song slowing and arcing and stopping and starting.

66. Something

Though it appears on Abbey Road it feels like a White Album composition, having that same empty feeling. Even though it’s beautiful, catchy, and all the rest, it still has that dreary, sleepy feeling that puts me off somewhat. Again, the fact I like it in spite of this is enough to prove how good it is.

65. Tell Me Why

More fluff from A Hard Day’s Night – but like almost 100% of their fluff, the hooks are inescapable.

64. There’s A Place

More McCartney innocence – a song that seems like it was written for dreamers and for children, but it’s also fairly sexual so we’ll credit Lennon for that. Great harmonica, lovely melodies.

63. The Fool On The Hill

McCartney again, and more dreamy stuff. He also does all the recorder and piano stuff. There’s some psychedelia going on and a stumbling rhythm – it does veer a little too close to the dreary stuff mentioned above but manages to keep away from the edge.

62. Think For Yourself

I’ve always loved the free-form, bouncy nature of the bass, the tonal shifts, and the general variety brought around by Harrison striking out as a writer. The song feels like it avoids a standard verse and chorus structure (even though it doesn’t) and the lyrics are ambiguous enough to act as both a love song and a more personal attack on something larger.

61. Two Of Us

The opening track from Let It Be is a charming, folksy affair and a rather poignant love song. The lyrics mingle romanticism and nostalgia, hope, and although they feel personal they are entirely universal. The whistle end suggests an ease and sense that everything is good, which seems to oppose the mood in the band at the time.

60. Wait

There’s something weird about a lot of the songs on Rubber Soul – they’re still pop/rock commercial songs, but they veer off in unexpected ways from the norm, whether it be a strange melodic turn or a sudden momentary shift in tone or pace. Wait has all of these, my favourite the sudden change from ’till I’ and ‘come’ in the same line, leaping up the scale for a much higher note out of the blue. Harrison’s guitar is good too, bringing little pauses so emphasis the notion of waiting.

59. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Back before I really started listening to The Beatles, this is one of the songs I was most intrigued by – it had the coolest name and I wondered what it was all about. Certain friends who already knew the song and the band more than I did would always say how good it was, so it was quite hyped in my mind. Naturally when I first heard it, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I always assumed it was going to be either a bad-ass rock song, or some gripping ballad with blistering solos. What we get though is a downbeat pseudo ballad, minor key versus which pop away as the chorus comes. The guitar is subtle and introspective, matching the lyrics and themes. Maybe if I’d heard it before I’d heard about it, I’d like it more.

58. What You’re Doing

This is all about the nice riff and the sweet melodies running from start to finish. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, just another album track proving their non-hits could be hits too.

57. You’re Going To Lost That Girl

A great example of expanded call and repeat, it almost feels like something from a musical – you can just imagine the lead singer backed up by a group of cheesy, haranguing teens singing the repeat section. Those harmonies are epic, melding nicely with the melodies, but there isn’t a lot more to it.

Return in a few days for Part Two of my rundown, and feel free to add your favourites in the comments!