Trying to review the top ten songs or best songs of a group like The Beatles, is like trying to list the top ten movies made of all time. So many to choose from. How do you? Well, I’m going to take a stab at this as somebody who has followed their career from their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964 to their historic breakup just after Abbey Road. Yes, I know Let It Be was released last but Abbey Road was actually the last album they recorded together. How fitting an ending it was.
So without further ado, the top ten in reverse order. We want to keep the suspense here.
Number 10. Please Please Me. From 1963, this is the earliest Beatle song to make my list. The truth is, the early Beatles music, while for the time was much different from anything we’ve heard, it was still crude in comparison to what it would evolve to. Please Please Me was one of those rare early songs that actually showed a spark of what was to come down the road. The harmonies especially showed what real talent the Fab Four had.
Number 9. All You Need Is Love. John Lennon was the early voice of The Beatles. Make no mistake about that. But the sad truth is, he lost interest in the band way before the eventual breakup and it was Paul who had to carry the load during the later years. However, this John Lennon tunes was probably one of his best. From 1967, it basically said what needed to be said during a time where we were suffering through a terrible war and racial tensions in the US. All You Need Is Love was a breath of fresh air and one of their best songs ever.
Number 8. Something. George Harrison never really did get the credit that he deserved as a member of The Beatles. Everything was about John and Paul. So the few times where George actually got to showcase his talents, he really took advantage of them. Something, from 1969, was not the big hit. Come Together, which was in comparison a rather crude tune, reached the top of the charts. But it was Something that showed just how talented George Harrison really was. One of his best songs and certainly one of the group’s best songs ever.
Number 7. We Can Work It Out. The song was released in 1965. It was one of those classic Paul McCartney tunes that comes at you right out of the gate (no instrumental intro) and doesn’t let up until it’s all over. As great as the melody of this tune is, you really need to listen to the lyrics. What Paul says is so simple and yet so truth. Life really is very short and there isn’t time for fussing and fighting.
Number 6. Hello Goodbye. Another Paul tune that comes right at you from the opening line. The lyrics are a bit corny, for certain, but musically this is one of those Beatles songs that you just can’t help but crack a smile to. If you look up the term “happy music” in the dictionary, you’ll see a notation that reads, “listen to The Beatles’ song Hello Goodbye.”
Number 5. Eleanor Rigby. This was actually the B side of Yellow Submarine, which was released in 1966. While I respect The Beatles for making a song just for kids, Eleanor Rigby was the true musical masterpiece of this double sided hit. Musically, this song is about as sad as it gets, almost entirely in a minor key. The story is a little cryptic, but the emotion still comes through. Another Paul McCartney gem.
Number 4. Penny Lane. In 1967 when this song came out, there wasn’t a music class in the states that didn’t try teaching it to their kids. It was without a doubt one of the biggest songs of the time and for a good reason. Put this one right alongside Hello Goodbye as far as putting a smile on your face. There were actually two versions of this song recorded. One with the US played feedback end and another with the very rare trumpet ending.
Number 3. Yesterday. It started out as “Scrambled Eggs” and ended up to be one of Paul McCartney’s signature tunes. The whole thing is played on guitar and cello. That’s it. It was probably the most bare song, as far as arrangement goes, that the Beatles ever recorded. It was also one of their best and will remain a classic for all eternity.
Number 2. The Long And Winding Road. This was The Beatles last single. There is probably more sentiment in having this song at number 2 than there is substance. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful melody and even though Paul hated what George Martin did with that sappy string arrangement, the song still stands as one of the group’s best. You can hear the sadness of the breakup and the end of their road every time you listen to this very haunting tune.
Number 1. Hey Jude. What can you say? It was the group’s biggest hit ever and with good reason. In a radio world where 3 minute tunes were the norm, this song broke all the barriers. But this wasn’t just about laying down tracks for 7 minutes and 14 seconds. It was about something that was truly different. It’s hard to find words to describe this big hit from 1968. You had to live through it. You had to be listening to the radio the first time you heard those first two words sung so well by Paul.
We may never have another group as great or as popular as The Beatles again. What they did in a span of 7 years was truly remarkable. And the truth is, picking their ten best songs is not only impossible, it’s criminal.