Ranking The Beatles – The Top Ten

91

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Ranking The Beatles – 25 to 11

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Ranking The Beatles – 40 to 26

Happy Hearts Club

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Ranking The Beatles – 55 to 41


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Ranking The Beatles – 70 to 56


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Ranking The Beatles – 85 to 71

85. You Can’t Do That
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: A Hard Day’s Night, 1964

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Ranking The Beatles – 100 to 86

hard-days-night

100. You Won’t See Me
Sung by: Paul
Written by: McCartney
Released: Rubber Soul, (1965)

Why is it ranked here? It’s another more thoughtful effort from an increasingly mature band, and a very personal song from Paul, perhaps spurred by growing tensions with long-time girlfriend Jane Asher. Ringo uses an unusual drum pattern to establish a sense of unease beneath the soul arrangement. Admittedly, as the longest track on Rubber Soul, it could’ve been trimmed by one verse.

99. Doctor Robert
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: Revolver, (1966)

Why is it ranked here? All but one of John’s songs for Revolver had some connection to drugs, and this one is quite literal, vouching for an acquaintance who could hook up high profile clients with “prescriptions.” (Theories vary as to who the good doctor could be; he may have appeared in a late episode of Mad Men.) It’s as straightforward as Revolver tracks go, but it’s got great vocals from John and Paul.

Worth it for: The spacey organ breakdown between each verse.

98. Cry Baby Cry
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: The Beatles (White Album), 1968

Why is it ranked here? John called this song “rubbish,” but it’s the clear standout track on the last side of The White Album. This is a nursery rhyme drowning in world-weary resignation (there are literal ghosts here), and John’s surrealist Lewis Carroll affectations are abundant as well. It’s also one of the few tracks on the album performed by all four Beatles – the arrangement cleverly spotlights a different instrument in each verse, and Paul and Ringo are so locked in, even with the more streamlined approach.

Worth it for: One of pop music’s earliest hidden tracks, McCartney’s “Can You Take Me Back?”suddenly appears at the end and fades out just as quickly.

97. The Night Before
Sung by: Paul
Written by: McCartney
Released: Help!, 1965

Why is it ranked here? This album track is one of Paul’s most melodic tunes to date. McCartney utilizes his more ragged higher register to convey his distress at learning he was just a one-night stand. Lots of bluesy keyboard, complex key changes, and a bendy guitar solo from Paul all mark growing musical progress.

96. Baby’s in Black
Sung by: John and Paul
Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Released: Beatles for Sale, 1964

Why is it ranked here? This underrated Lennon-McCartney composition goes super dark. The simple internal rhymes and waltz time give the track a folk feel, but the low end rhythm and clanging, dissonant lead guitar create a sour mood that matches the morbid lyrics – is the singer really pining for a girl who’s in mourning? It’s such a smart arrangement, and the two nail the Everly-inspired harmonies yet again.

95. Oh! Darling
Sung by: Paul
Written by: McCartney
Released: Abbey Road, 1969

Why is it ranked here? This 1950’s throwback establishes a solid formula that Paul would utilize throughout his solo work – a piano-driven ballad with a full-throated rock vocal. George’s slashes of guitar and Ringo’s bombastic drumming plant the doo-wop progression firmly in the classic rock era. With the added Abbey Road polish, it’s powerful enough that even John admitted he would have liked to take a crack at it.

94. Piggies
Sung by: George
Written by: Harrison
Released: The Beatles (White Album), 1968

Why is it ranked here? George’s jab at elite hypocrisy is one of the funniest tracks on the White Album. The lyrics owe a bit to Orwell’s Animal Farm, but the music is the funniest part, baroque parlor music played totally straight, complete with harpsichord. It’s typical of the far-flung styles that make the White Album greater than the sum of its parts.

Worth it for: The short outro after George says “One more time…”

93. Hey Bulldog
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: Yellow Submarine, 1969

Why is it ranked here? The best new track on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was recorded in 1968 and inexplicably cut from the film upon initial release, leaving the song mostly unheralded until it’s restoration in the 1999 director’s cut. The lyrics are the best kind of Lennon throwaway nonsense; there’s genuine menace in the short, staccato phrases. But the words are really secondary to the hard rock performance, anchored by that unassailable fast blues piano riff. George rips off an improvised solo full of nasty, growling chords; and Paul and John sound mad, barking and ad libbing through the fade-out.

92. I’ll Be Back
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Released: A Hard Day’s Night, 1964

Why is it ranked here? Another step in the band’s maturation, the closing track of the third album broke with precedent – the first two albums had ended in rave-up covers, while this is as resigned as can be. The break-up lyrics aren’t just conveying the fleeting anguish of puppy love; instead there’s a hard acceptance, while still leaving an opening for possible reconciliation. As the Merseybeat subsided, this style of brisk, mid-tempo acoustic pop would become the next signature style for The Beatles.

Worth it for: The immortal passive-aggressive line “You could find better things to do/Than to break my heart again”.

91. It’s Only Love
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: Help!, 1965

Why is it ranked here? John channels Dylan again in this gorgeously textured ballad, highlighted by delicate lead guitar and acoustics capoed on high frets to sound like mandolins. Besides the muted arrangement, Dylan’s influence is apparent in the demonstrative opening line, “I get high when I see you go by.” It’s almost too short, though, leaving one wondering how a more fleshed out version would have done. 

90. I Should Have Known Better
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: A Hard Day’s Night, 1964

Why is it ranked here? This may be the earliest song to indicate Lennon’s infatuation with Dylan, with the simple, straightforward melody, internal rhyming, and bluesy harmonica (John’s earlier harp work was usually a single-note melody). The Beatles give it their energetic spin – there’s a more complex, minor key bridge, as well as the trademark falsetto to make the girls swoon.

89. Two of Us
Sung by: John and Paul
Written by: McCartney
Released: Let It Be, 1970

Why is it ranked here? It’s a pretty, mid-tempo ballad typical of the style McCartney would develop in his early solo career. With its childlike rhymes and warm refrain of “on our way home”, it’s almost certainly about Paul’s wife Linda, but it’s also just as poignant when heard as a reflection of McCartney’s evolving relationship with Lennon, who shares the microphone for an Everly-style duet. The gentle shuffle beat makes it an interesting counterpoint to “Get Back,” the hard-rocking album closer.

88. Sexy Sadie
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: The Beatles (White Album), 1968

Why is it ranked here?  After the Maharishi was accused of sexual impropriety during The Beatles’ retreat in Indian, John penned this withering takedown, aiming his sarcasm at the guru over the alleged betrayal. (One wonders if he would’ve turned on the guru in time anyway). With it’s plaintive piano, minimal bass and stinging exclamations of guitar, “Sexy Sadie” sounds like a precursor to Lennon’s solo sound. The “wah-wah” backing vocals just add to the acerbic bite.

87. Yellow Submarine
Sung by: Ringo
Written by: McCartney
Released: Revolver, 1966

Why is it ranked here? Charming group singalong, or irritating children’s song? However you feel, there’s no denying this is one of The Beatles’ signature tracks, celebrating a idealized communal spirit that’s essential to the continuing image of the band (even if that spirit was just a well-spun fantasy). The simple melody is perfectly suited for Ringo’s vocal range, and the recording finds the group at their most playful, adding all kinds of nautical sound effects and parading around the studio with a group of VIP friends to record the final chorus. It’s basically a bite-sized preview of the Sgt. Pepper album.

Worth it for: Seriously, just picture band assistant Mal Evans, marching around the studio, pounding away at a Salvation Army bass drum on his chest, and tell me how anyone could hate this song.

86. The Word
Sung by: John
Written by: Lennon
Released: Rubber Soul, 1965

Why is it ranked here? This unusual soul track notably foreshadows the 1967 “Summer of Love” – “the word is love,” but in the universal, humanist sense of agape, not the hand-holding variety of The Beatles’ previous work. The simply structured piano riff is filled out with rocking organ, Stax guitar fills, and rising falsetto harmonies that put The Byrds to shame.

https://open.spotify.com/user/chrisoam/playlist/6hyd80FIhGMUw4hXGs31GO