It has been exactly 40 years since The Beatles released their final album, Let It Be. It was a masterful work, a perfect end to a wonderful career which brilliantly exhibited the talents of its amazing members, a living testament to a band which was lightyears ahead of its time.
Now, fittingly, both technology and those with the publishing rights to The Beatles songs have caught up. After 40 long years, The Beatles back catalogue is available to be purchased online on iTunes.
Now whether you are receptive to modern technology or not, this is very beneficial for a number of reasons. It makes owning the full back catalogue of The Beatles, works which would have taken years to search for in record stores, not only possible, but much cheaper, and it also opens up the amazing music of The Beatles to a brand new audience, and ensures the first true supergroups popularity for decades to come.
So in honour of this new development in the world of digital music, YOURLifeChoices has collated a truly objective collection of the 40 best Beatles songs. With the scope of 40 years, we have listed our favourite Beatles numbers, both hits and some obscure tracks, which should help get your online Fab Four collection started.
1. Something (Abbey Road)
Something is the ultimate love song. Written and performed by the true soul of The Beatles, George Harrison, this song is well written, evocative, and smart in its simplicity. But more than that, it represented the true talents of George Harrison, and the truly beautiful music which he and The Beatles could make in an era of so much uncertainty. Lennon called it the best track on Abbey Road, McCartney called it the best track which Harrison had ever written and this beautiful ballad brought unabashed reverence and respect for the once underrated Beatle. It would go on to be the 2nd most covered Beatles song in history behind Yesterday.
2. A Day In The Life (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
It becomes hard to write about the greatness of The Beatles songs, and specifically magnificent songs such as A Day In The Life which have become canonised and deeply ensconced in the popular consciousness. So much has already been said, so many people have been inspired by this amazing song that it feels peculiar to be talking about how good it is. However it doesn’t hurt just to remind people the sheer magic, not witchcraft and wizardry, but real magic which The Beatles captured and committed to tape in that studio when making Sgt Peppers. It all culminated in this epic opus, a multi-layered study of existentialism, and the mundane. Two songs seamlessly merged together as one has never worked so well. This song is undoubtedly the ultimate Lennon-McCartney collaboration.
3. Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver)
The stunning conclusion to what is one of The Beatles most consistent albums, and also began their move away from a touring pop band, into one of the greatest and most musically revolutionary bands of all time. Revolver is an amazing piece of performance art, and Tomorrow Never Knows is the most artistic piece on the album. It changed the music industry by using loops and other un-heard of technology for the time to create a new experience in what would eventually become digitalised music which would take other bands years, even decades to replicate. About this song though, famed American Pop Culture writer Chuck Klosterman outlines that he takes an iPod with him wherever he goes, especially on aeroplanes, so if he is faced with his own mortality this is the last song he hears before he dies. It sounds like a very good plan, as it would be an excellent and somewhat appropriate soundtrack to your mystical journey into the unknown.
4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps is for many the highlight of the embarrassment of riches which is the White Album, and it is no surprise, as Harrison as wrote an amazingly evocative track. The inclusion of a little fellow called Clapton on lead guitar helped this song no end, but it was the heart-rending lyrics, beautiful harmonies and general excellence of the song as a whole which makes this a standout in The Beatles catalogue.
5. Oh! Darling (Abbey Road)
If George was the soul of The Beatles, then there is no doubt that Paul was the heart. Writing some of the most beautiful ballads of the sixties, and using his exquisite voice to perform them, he truly represented how much he loved with his songwriting. However, in this great song, Paul takes his cues and inspiration from Motown, writing ‘white man soul’ and ably performing it with those amazing pipes. An anecdote/myth/urban legend exists about this song, whereby Paul was quoted saying that to prepare for the damage this song would do to his vocal chords he sat in a hot bath rehearsing the song for two days to let the steam open up his throat. His raw emotion tells the story as you hear him bleed for the song. A true classic.
6. Within You, Without You (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Whatever happened to George Harrison when he met went on a journey of spiritual discovery to India changed him from lead guitarist who got a song on each album to play with, to being recognised as almost an equal talent as the superhuman Lennon/McCartney. Whilst the other two have more quantity of brilliant songs than George, George’s strike rate is phenomenal, and he is so soulful and honest in his writing and delivery. This track is just another example of the brilliance. In a dark room, turn this track on to repeat, close your eyes and thank George later for the peace it provides.
7. Help! (Help!)
Many people dismiss the earlier Beatles as safe and not artistic enough, but let us not forget that they were, first and foremost, a pop band designed for mass appeal by their manager Brian Epstein. The harmonies, the chorus, John’s incomparable voice, the desperation of the lyrics all work together perfectly to make what could almost be considered one of the finest pop songs ever.
8. Here Comes The Sun (Abbey Road)
One of the most beautiful acoustic tracks ever assembled. This song is much better than ‘alright’.
9. Revolution (The Beatles)
WEEEEAAAAHHHH! This song gets you right from the start. The opening riff and John’s piercing scream is a sure sign that you better listen up, because they have something important to say. The cultural significance of this song, and its biting social commentary, which still rings true today, are a testament to how important this song, and John and The Beatles, were in this era of war and violence.
10. I Saw Her Standing There (Please Please Me)
Is there any moment in pop culture history which is more significant and nostalgically remembered than The Beatles first appearance in America on The Ed Sullivan show? It surely will be a moment which encapsulates the 20th century when remembered by generations and decades to come. Those lucky enough to have watched it will forever remember it for the rest of their lives, and the storm it and Beatlemania created simply reinforces the fact that there will never ever be another band like The Beatles.
11. Across The Universe (Let It Be)
This track, surely the most evocative in their catalogue, would, as another great band of the era would say ‘make a grown man cry’, as many surely have done to it many, many times.
12. I Am The Walrus (Magical Mystery Tour)
I Am The Walrus is an awesome, kooky, eclectic and weird track which may or may not have meant anything. This song is a true testament to the genius enigma that was John Lennon, and his refusal to be confined by the restrictive social norms of popular music.
13. Taxman (Revolver)
Harrison makes another appearance, with the opening to Revolver which we all know and love. Some of the smartest and most inflammatory lyrics Harrison ever wrote, the song also features that recognizable Revolver guitar twang and reinforces Harrison’s modus operandi in The Beatles, which is, quality not quantity.
14. Strawberry Fields Forever (Magical Mystery Tour)
Some of the most quotable lyrics which exist in one of the best singles of all time. ‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see, its getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn’t matter much to me.’ Not much more needs to be said.
15. Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Beatles)
One of the most interesting songs the Fab Four have done. The numerous half key changes and tempo changes make it a revelation every time you listen to it. Almost 10 songs rolled into one, it shouldn’t work, but it does. And those ‘Bang Bang Shoot Shoot’s’, even though they are a send up of Doo-Wop, sound amazing. This song’s multiple sections also apparently inspired Radiohead’s (one of the most critically recognised bands of the 1990’s) three-part Paranoid Android, (again most probably the greatest song of the 1990’s). It speaks volumes that after all these years The Beatles music has stood the test of time and still inspires great artists to this day.
16. Twist And Shout (Please Please Me)
For me, this song is just early rock and roll at its finest. Plus, it is one of the most amazing vocal performances ever. Plus, it capped Please Please Me, the bands first album, yet left audience sure that there was something special within these four guys from Liverpool. Plus it gave us one of the best movie moments ever, when Ferris Bueller is dancing to it in the parade. John’s vocals have never appeared more rousing.
17. She Said She Said (Revolver)
If Paul is the heart and George is the soul, then no one can argue that John is the mind of The Beatles. Appearing in early interviews besting reporters with biting sarcastic wit, then growing into an existentialist philosopher and multi-instrumentalist, he was light-years ahead of his era and quite simply, a mastermind. It shows in his ability in simple songs, like this one off Revolver, to take a simple idea and create a wonderful piece of songwriting magic with allusions to big themes in life like death, love and childhood, but still create a beautiful song.
18. Roll Over Beethoven (With The Beatles)
One of the best covers in The Beatles back-catalogue, George absolutely rocks this one. If I was alive in 1963-4 I would have been doing the swim to this track like nobody’s business. Ringo’s drumming and George’s voice work beautifully in tandem here to create a rockabilly wonder. The first real glimpse of his brilliance emerging here.
19. Hey Jude (Past Masters)
This song could have been higher on the list. It was affected by numerous factors. Namely, it has been overplayed, The Beatles just have too many good songs to choose from and I wish it was on a real album, so I could see where it fit next to other great tracks. But regardless, this is one of Paul McCartney’s greatest performances.
20. Hold Me Tight (With The Beatles)
This is simple rock and roll at its purest form. A simple message, lovely harmonising and great vocal performance make this not only a brilliant cover, but a standalone performance of which The Beatles can be proud.
21. The Ballad Of John And Yoko (Past Masters)
Despite what Yoko may or may not have done to the band, the fact she gets a name check in this folksy track’s title gives her a big fat tick in the plus column. Breaking the band up, and Revolution 9 is a big minus.
22. Come Together (Abbey Road)
Another reason The Beatles were truly the greatest band in the world were the way in which they dominated popular culture and manipulated the media. Between the recording of Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road, a rumour went round that Paul McCartney had died, and was replaced with a look and sound-alike. The Abbey Road cover is an allusion to this (they are apparently dressed like they are going to Paul’s funeral. George is dressed in plain denim like an undertaker, Ringo in a suit like a mourner, John in an all white suit like a preacher or vicar and Paul is also in a suit but has his shoes off, like he is to be buried) and this song is also apparently John performing the funeral service. This was a true exponent of their intellect outside the recording booth.
23. Let It Be (Let It Be)
The ultimate send off in what would be the band’s swansong. While the album is excellent, it was more due to the individual member’s brilliance than them working as a cohesive unit together. This song is McCartney at his absolute best, and is a fitting send of for the Fab Four.
24. In My Life (Rubber Soul)
Over the bands seven year tenure, the writing partnership of Lennon/McCartney spawned some fantastic songs. But as the band broke up, it became clear that while telling press that every song was written together, they did work alone often. Both began to lay claim to the songs they wrote, and In My Life was one of the songs whereby both men actually both claimed to have written it, this is the reverence they hold it in. It could be argued that in my life is the best song on Rubber Soul, and the song is a great window into the usually self-protective John’s soul.
25. Please Please Me (Please Please Me)
There is something so innocent about the early songs of The Beatles. Much of this can be attributed to the ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein. After playing dive bars in Germany and Britain, swearing, smoking and eating on stage and wearing ripped jeans and denim jackets, Epstein persuaded the band (namely John) to become ‘clean cut’ and put on suits to have much more mass appeal. The strategy worked, and songs such as this classic became instant smash hits.
26. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Despite the debate about the origin of the meaning behind the song, it does not change the fact that this melodic, dreamy tune represented a dramatic achievement for The Beatles sound.
27. Got To Get You Into My Life (Revolver)
The perfect one-two punch to end Revolver. The hopeless romantic in Paul, with a great upbeat love song, and the worldly philosophical John with the deeply existential Tomorrow Never Knows. These songs are worlds apart, but somehow logically forever made to be together. You would be hard pressed to find a better conclusion to an album in musical history.
28. All You Need Is Love (Magical Mystery Tour)
Such a simple message and such a beautiful tune. With some of the most endlessly quotable lyrics in the history of music, it is baffling to think that The Beatles never went longer than eight months without releasing an album. These days, where band hiatus’ of up to 3 years are common place, 14 albums in eight years, and the depth and strength of that back catalogue are a true representation of the greatness of this band.
29. It Won’t Be Long (With The Beatles)
This song is catchier than the flu in winter. It speaks volumes about The Beatles talent that they can take a volume of Rock and Roll standards from the 50’s and early 60’s, put their own unique spin on them and create one of their finest albums. With The Beatles truly represents their talent as musicians and gave an indication of things to come.
30 Back In The U.S.S.R (The Beatles)
That The Beatles managed to rhyme U.S.S.R and managed to make it catchy in my view makes them eligible for a Nobel Prize in literacy.
31 Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
After the critical and commercial success of Revolver, The Beatles decided to take time off from touring to concentrate on making albums. Some would argue that the plan worked successfully, with the band releasing the ‘acceptable’ Sgt Peppers, a concept album which would revolutionise the industry and change the way people consider the album format forever.
32 A Little Help From My Friends (Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Ringo Starr, the happiest, most joyful drummer in the world, sang this song. Not really well, not even satisfactorily. But if you listen to the lyrics of the song, it all makes perfect sense. “What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me”… ‘I get by with a little help from my friends”. This song is so special because it is a loving ode to his band members, a true reminder that, whilst The Beatles seemed immortal, not all of them were perfect and it is also one of the more jarring reminders that The Beatles were self aware as a group.
33. Eight Days a Week (Beatles for Sale)
Ignoring the metaphysical impossibility of the title, this is simply one of The Beatles catchiest tunes, and a true exponent of the wonderful sentiment exhibited in many of their earlier tracks.
34 Yesterday (Help!)
The most covered Beatles song, and it’s not hard to see why. Not an overly complex melody, just a man and his guitar, but some of the most deeply affecting lyrics McCartney has ever written make this song an oddly beautiful ode to sorrow and loss and one of the bands best.
35 You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Help!)
Early on, The Beatles did pop music very well, but as this song shows, they could also break down a beautiful, simple ballad which cut right down to your heart. Simple, emotional and lyrically exquisite, it was a trait which for all their experimentation and growth as a band would never leave them until their split.
36 Love You Too (Revolver)
It has been said that the first time sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar heard George Harrison play the sitar he broke down into laughter. However, with Shankar’s guidance, Harrison would go on to record some of the most amazing eastern influenced tracks The Beatles would ever record, like this standout off the Harrison dominated Revolver.
37 Eleanor Rigby (Revolver)
This song features some of the best lyrics ever committed to tape. Many artists have tried to replicate this songs structure, mood and feel, and most have failed.
38 Hey Bulldog (Yellow Submarine Soundtrack)
The Beatles get up to some shenanigans on this track. Yellow Submarine the movie was one of the weirder things The Beatles ever did, and this song definitely represents that.
39 Because (Abbey Road)
Swirling guitar, swirling harmonies and enough beauty in a single song to make a bodybuilder weep. This track stands alone as one of the most beautiful moments in music history.
40 Please Mister Postman (With The Beatles)
If you had told me I would dig an ode to someone who constantly loses my post, brings me junk mail and makes my dog bark at 7am in the morning, I would have told you to go have your head examined. But upon hearing that infectious chorus, that pounding Ringo driven beat and the great choice of picking a cover which uses the postman as an allegory to express love in an era flooded with similar love songs, I was hooked.