(Author’s note: my point of reference for albums is Steve Turner’s amazing book A Hard Day’s Write.
33. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
32. Here Comes The Sun (Abbey Road)
31. Day Tripper (Rubber Soul)
30. Drive My Car (Rubber Soul)
29. Michelle (Rubber Soul)
28. Something (Abbey Road)
27. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Help!)
26. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (Rubber Soul)
25. I Should’ve Known Better (A Hard Day’s Night)
24. Because (Abbey Road)
23. Paperback Writer (Revolver)
22. In My Life (Rubber Soul)
21. I’ll Follow The Sun (Beatles For Sale)
20. Let It Be (Let It Be)
19. Yesterday (Help!)
18. I Want To Hold Your Hand (With The Beatles)
17. Blackbird (The Beatles, aka the White Album)
16. Lady Madonna (The Beatles)
15. Eleanor Rigby (Revolver)
Paul McCartney’s portrait of loneliness is harrowing even for those of us who haven’t truly experienced that kind of life, and the stark, simple backing of a string quartet adds to the haunting loveliness of the track.
14. Across The Universe (Let It Be)
John Lennon said that this song is about the process of songwriting, which gives the potentially weirdo-mystical lyrics some true resonance. A beautiful song.
13. Hello Goodbye (Magical Mystery Tour)
Paul McCartney said this song was simply a word game, and some critics have tried to read some sort of “cosmic” meaning into the lyrics, but I’ve always seen it as a song about a guy and girl who can’t agree on anything. No matter what way you slice it, it’s simply a great song.
12. Getting Better (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
This track about a guy who is turning his life around, despite the attempts of his darker nature to come back to the forefront (“it can’t get no worse…”) is a song full of good-natured humor and a look at the less savory side of one man’s world. The fact that another one of my favorite bands (Gomez) covered it endears the song to me even more.
11. She Loves You (With The Beatles)
One of my favorite songs from the early, “Beatlemania” days, “She Loves You” is a terrific example of tight harmonies, clever lyrics, and all-around great songcraft.
10. The Night Before (Help!)
I can’t really explain just why I like this song; I guess it’s catchy to me. I love the melody, and I’ve always thought the lines “When I held you near/You were so sincere” were a clever rhyme.
9. You Never Give Me Your Money (Abbey Road)
Leave it to Paul McCartney to turn a lament about the Beatles’ financial and management problems into a joyous celebration of the fun of having nothing to do and no money to spend. One of the most enjoyable and varied songs in the Beatles catalog.
8. The Long And Winding Road (Let It Be)
The Beatles’ poignant swan song…their last “official” single, and a truly beautiful song about the comfort of true friendship. I much prefer George Martin’s organic, stripped-down production (which was released in 2003 on Let It Be..Naked) to Phil Spector’s overdone production, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.
7. All You Need Is Love (Yellow Submarine)
Probably a quintessential “hippie message” song, but if I’m going to have to hear a message, why not from the Beatles?
6. All My Loving (With The Beatles)
This is the first Beatles song I fell in love because of my mom’s influence and because of my tape of The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles. What can I say? It has an irresistible melody, and it’s a great song about devotion.
5. We Can Work It Out (Yesterday…And Today)
I’ve always loved this one. I like the enthusiasm of the notion of working problems out despite differences. Plus it’s catchy.
4. Your Mother Should Know (Magical Mystery Tour)
Paul’s obsession with Vaudeville-era music can easily be dismissed as “cute,” but when it produces a song like this one, it becomes something more interesting. There’s not much to the song lyrically, but it’s a nice piece of nostalgia.
3. Hey Jude
This is one of the Beatles best known, best loved songs, and it was certainly their biggest hit. Once again, Paul writes an amazing melody, combining it with incredible lyrics to produce one of the greatest songs of all time.
2. A Day In The Life (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
I recently read a critic who said that the true genius of Sgt. Pepper’s lies in the beauty of the songs about mundane life. This statement is no more true than in this song. The combination of John’s observations about things he has read with Paul’s description of an early morning routine are added to the band’s top-notch performances and George Martin’s impeccable orchestration to turn a song about everyday life into an epic. The long final chord at the end of the song gives me chills.
1. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End (Abbey Road)
This medley, the final one in the series of medleys on Side 2 of Abbey Road, deals with Paul’s struggles with the troubles that would lead to the breakup of the band, before evolving into a joyous jam with one of the best , truest lines in the Fab Four’s canon (“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”). Again, Paul’s songwriting, the band’s performance, and George Martin’s near-perfect arrangement and orchestration converge to create a piece of true, varied beauty.
The amazing thing to me about the Beatles’ music is that there’s never a dull moment, and in just a few short years, they produced an enduring catalog of music that is timeless and never sounds dated. These are my favorites, and I’d love to hear others’ opinions as well…