The Beatles never recorded a bad song.
Well, let's see.
It goes without saying that part of the magic of The Beatles--John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, & Ringo Starr--was their economy as recording artists. Their official lifespan as a recording group ran about eight years, thirteen albums (one of which was a double LP), plus another 33 cuts that were released only on singles, EPs, or as one-offs on stray collections.
All told, this makes for 217 songs, by their catalog's official count.
That's not very much.
So, to mark The 60th Anniversary Of The Day John Met Paul--which will fall on July 6, 2017--I decided to review Every. Single. One.
What follows is a review of every Beatles song in the order that they were released by their official UK discography. If a single & an LP were released on the same day, I put the single first. Otherwise, it's pretty self-explanatory. (& most things that were more unusual I explained further anyway.)
After each one is how it was released, the year, & its charting position, if any. "UK" is the official UK charts, "US" is the official Billboard Hot 100 Pop Charts. (Many early songs charted in the US because the money-hungry American labels would release anything they could put the word "Beatles" on & the group themselves wouldn't have full commercial control over their US releases until 1967.) For the rankings of all the cover songs The Beatles released, UK & US are the same, while "R&B" is the US R&B charts, while "Country" is the US Country charts. Any chart numbers that are followed by an asterisk, represent charting singles after the release of their breakup in April 1970;  "Yesterday" is listed as making #8 UK* because it charted there upon its re-release in 1976.
& then finally is my ranking of the song on the standard five-star scale:
***** = Classic
**** = Great
*** = Good
** = Fair
* = Poor
I tried to consider the song in terms of its musical quality, its influence, & its iconic or historic stature, if any.
I also just need to give a tip of the hat to the finest Beatles literary critic of them all, the late, great Ian MacDonald.
With that said, having been some days in preparation...we hope you will enjoy the show.
* * *
1. Love Me Do [Single Version] [Single A-Side, 1962; #17 UK] *****
A beginning. While it was suggested they should debut with "How Do You Do It?" (later a hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers), The Beatles tellingly opted with their own simpler song, which came complete with a harmonica hook, charming two-part harmony, & a cymbal splash. It also literally sounded like nothing else out on the radio, which helped make it a minor hit (along with their manager buying about ten zillion copies of it)--& eventually a number-one hit in the US, albeit in the slightly different album version that featured session drummer Alan White & Ringo beating a tambourine . But for the original version of the four Beatles' arrival into popular music, look no further than here.
2. P.S. I Love You [Single B-Side, 1962; #10 US] ****
With its confident execution, clever harmonies, & a syncopated beat, the first stirrings of sophistication & the earliest proof The Beatles weren't just singing for girls--but for posterity. It was also the birth of McCartney, whimsical sentimentalist. No wonder producer George Martin initially pushed to make him the frontman, which was quickly vetoed by the group.
3. Please Please Me [Single A-Side, 1963; #2 UK / #3 US] *****
Their first pop masterpiece. Originally composed as a brooding slow-burn in the style of Roy Orbison, the song got sped up to a brisk pace in the studio, & set the mold for the soon-to-be-classic Beatlemania sound--the cascading harmonies, the witty lyrics, the churning guitar riffs, the call-&-response choruses, the economy with which ever square second of space is thought out & effectively used. So bright & cheery it's easy to miss what many hear as a double-entendre in its main lyric. Although George Martin predicted it would be their first #1 hit, the song reached the top of the charts in New Musical Express & Melody Maker, it reached #2 in Record Retailer, which then became the official UK Chart.
4. Ask Me Why [Single B-Side, 1963] **
The first clunker. An early Lennon song built around a Latin-tinged rhythm that found their reach exceeding their grasp. It was a predicament that would rarely happen again.
5. I Saw Her Standing There [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #14 US] *****
One-two-three-FAAAH! An infectious rocker that was one of the hardest songs The Beatles would ever cut, this song marked several firsts: The first opening album track to their first album, as well as George Harrison's first guitar solo. A vintage Lennon/McCarntey 50/50 collaboration--epitomized in Lennon changing McCartney's rejoined to the opening line "She was just seventeen" from "Far from a teenage queen" to "You know what I mean." Being issued in the U.S. as the flip-side to their breakthrough hit "I Want To Hold Your Hand" put the song at the epicenter of international Beatlemania. Which it deserved to be.
6. Misery [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963] ***
A rare deep cut from The Beatles' first UK album--deep cut because it was the only original tune not released as a charting single in the U.S. The charts' loss are the modern listener's gain as the song gives you a rare chance to hear an early Beatles song the way their audience heard it: Brand new.
7. Anna (Go To Him) [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963] ***
The first Beatles cover to be released was this remake of the now-forgotten R&B singer Arthur Alexander's minor hit from 1962 (#68 Pop / #10 R&B), featuring a yearning & ambitious vocal by Lennon. The fact that there's an entire Married...With Children episode based around it (Al can only remember the words "Hmm hmm him") proves that even most obscure-level song from The Beatles' canon is still famous enough to be featured in a sitcom.
8. Chains [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963] **
Harrison's first vocal lead in a Beatles song was this cover of The Cookies' 1962 hit (#17 Pop / #7 R&B); The Cookies would be better remembered for their next single "Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)." "Chains" was an early Jerry Goffin & Carole King effort that The Beatles' sixth sense for great pop songwriting. Unfortunately, Harrison's nasal vocal made it come off as more awkward than smooth, making it a rare filler cut on an otherwise excellent album.
9. Boys [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #102 US] ***
Ringo Starr's first lead vocal in a Beatles song was this cover of The Shirelles' 1960 song, which was the B-side of their signature hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (#1 Pop / #2 R&B / #4 UK). Starr had inherited the song from former Beatles drummer Pete Best, who was generally considered the sexy one of the early Beatles lineup. Perhaps this is how he got away with singing a song that otherwise would have homosexual overtones. Either way, Starr gave it much gusto & it remained part of their live act as his feature. The energy given to it here makes it easy to see why.
10. Love Me Do [Album Version] [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #1 US] *****
As part of his agreement to sign The Beatles, producer George Martin asked them to sack their original drummer Pete Best. They showed up to their first recording session with their pick for Best's replacement, Starr. Meanwhile, Martin had already booked session drummer Andy White for the date. They recorded a version of the song with Starr ( "Love Me Do"), but legend is that Martin was unhappy with Starr's bass drum being out-of-sync with the band (very bizarre given Starr's legendary steady timing--I always thought he just wanted to get his money's worth from the already-hired White). At any rate, they cut two versions of the song--the single version with Starr on drums & this second version with White on drums & Starr on tambourine, which was released on the album, & later as a #1 hit in the U.S. For philosophical reasons alone, this is the weaker version, but it's usurped the single version as the "official" one, so here we are. Not that most people would have even realized there was a difference until it was pointed out to them.
11. Baby It's You [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963] ****
The Shirelles must have been surprised to find two covers on The Beatles' debut album, but one imagines they were more after the songwriting chops of Goffin & King (on "Boys") & Bacharach & David (& producer Luther Dixon) here than the specific performances themselves. It serves as a further reminder of who revolutionary The Beatles were in terms of having a self-made hit-writing factory within themselves. The Shirelles' original was one of their biggest hits (#8 Pop / #3 R&B) & The Beatles brought a sort of quiet reverence to it, slow-building to a satisfying burst of emotion right before the chorus. The small journey the vocal takes is perhaps the earliest evidence of Lennon as a vocalist, as opposed to merely a singer. Some hold that the version they cut at the BBC a few months after this one is even better, which is probably why it was released a single in 1995 as part of the Live At The BBC album; this live version hit #7 in the UK & #67 in the US.
12. Do You Want To Know A Secret [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #2 US] ****
Harrison's first vocal on a Beatles original was here, his awkward & nasal voice sounding a bit unsure in the dramatic flourish that opens it, but finds its way throughout the catchy tune. Released as a single during the height of American Beatlemania, it was a bigger hit stateside than UK smashes "Please Please Me" or "From Me To You." This makes it their most surprising big hit; it's surreal to think it was only one notch away from being immortalized on the 1 collection a few decades later.
13. A Taste Of Honey [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963] ***
The first hint that The Beatles could appeal to a decidedly non-rock, MOR audience. Modeled after the first vocal version by Lenny Welch, they had added it to their live act the previous year with McCartney on vocals ('natch). It remained a live favorite, as they would play it over the BBC radio no less than seven times. The song remains a perfectly fine track, but is more than a stylistic flavor in their hat as opposed to what you would buy the album for.
14. There's A Place [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #74 US] ****1/2
The last original song on The Beatles' first album was a stunner, a bottle rocket of energy that rose on thrilling harmonies. On one hand the subject matter predicts The Beach Boys' "In My Room," while on the other it holds the secret key to the rest of the decade: The place where you can go is in your mind. Within three years, they would be living this song out more than they could have ever imagined.
15. Twist & Shout [Album Track, Please Please Me, 1963; #2 US] *****
Originally recorded by The Top Notes 1961, most people knew "Twist & Shout" from The Isley Brothers' version the following year (#17 US / #2 R&B / #42 UK). The song was a lynchpin of The Beatles' early live shows, but "Twist & Shout" was recorded as an afterthought when they needed one more song. With Lennon's voice nearly shot, he stripped down to his waist & gave it everything he had. He then went for a second take & his voice blew. "Twist & Shout" is that first & single complete take, as well as the greatest document we have of The Beatles in their early peak as a live band. It proves that on stage too, they were masters of the form.
16. From Me To You [Single A-Side, 1963; #1 UK / #41 US] *****
If there were any doubts left after  "Please Please Me" missed the top of the UK charts, "From Me To You" quelled them & kickstarted British Beatlemania in earnest. Their third & final A-side to use a harmonica hook at the opening, "From Me To You" was smart, fleeting, & catchy, energetic verses held together by a lovely bridge. It was also the rare Beatles UK hit that never made much of an impact in the US, as it is the only UK single to miss the US Top 40.
17. Thank You Girl [Single B-Side, 1963; #35 US] ****
Planned as the next A-side until "From Me To You" came along, "Thank You Girl" was an anything-but-subtle thank you to their female fans who had propelled them so far so fast. With its opening verse lines met by rejoinders with a double internal rhyme, this was vintage Lennon/McCartney working 50/50, head-to-head, eyeball-to-eyeball, as they once put it. The fact that The Beatles could effortlessly produce something so slick as a B-side showed they were a force to be reckoned with.
18. She Loves You [Single A-Side, 1963; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
Paul McCartney has noted that even in their earliest songwriting days, he & John Lennon would try something a little different with each new single. In the earliest days, this was simply a shifting of perspective. Their first singles were asking to love me do & please please me, while their next took the story from me to you. This may have been subtle stuff in the grand scheme of things, but it was telling nonetheless--& an early harbinger for their restless ambition. For their fourth single, they took things one step further with "She Loves You," hence focusing entirely on external figures. With its thundering drums, cheering refrain of "Yeah, yeah, yeah," & bouncy, punchy drive, this was nothing short of the beginning of a revolution, & as some like to tell it, the greatest Beatles song of them all.
19. I'll Get You [Single B-Side, 1963] ****
Mirroring it's "Yeah, yeah, yeah" flip with a hook of "Oh yeah, oh yeah," "I'll Get You" was its perfect balance: Brooding where "She Loves You" was exuberant, a tad melancholy where "She Loves You" was nothing but joyful. Despite a few vocal flubs in the bridge, it all added up to a very effective track & showed just how far you could go with churning blues-based chords & soaring harmonies.
20. It Won't Be Long [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ****1/2
One of the most effective opening tracks to a Beatles album, "It Won't Be Long" kicked off their sophomore LP With The Beatles in grand from. Reprising the word "Yeah" from their recent hit "She Loves You," they use it as the center of a call-&-response refrain that helps catapult the song into a series of glorious builds. Featured prominently on the American version of the album, Meet The Beatles!, it was proof their album cuts could be just as stellar as their singles.
21. All I've Got To Do [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ***
The first example of one Beatles song lifting a phrase from one song to build another (in this case, the words just before "...is thank you, girl" in  "Thank You Girl"), this was a moody Lennon piece, built around a groove & delivered with a burning bridge & budding confidence.
22. All My Loving [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963; #45 US] *****
One of their most iconic songs, featuring many of the key ingredients of their early sound: The catchy tune, the clever rhyme-infused lyrics, a nonstop walking bassline (one of McCartney's finest), those high "ooooos", & a rockabilly guitar solo. Though it was never issued as a single in their native country, it was better than almost everything else on the radio; no wonder they chose it in that historically enormous moment of the first song on their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
23. Don't Bother Me [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ***1/2
Harrison's first composition was this brooding rocker, which proved from the start that he had his own style--a bit darker, a bit deeper, a sound that demanded to be met on its own terms. He would expand leaps & bounds in the years to come, but finds himself here with a worthy beginning. & it rocked enough to be edited into one of the club scenes in the following year's A Hard Day's Night.
24. Little Child [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] **
If you wondered where the harmonica from the first three singles went, look no further than here. An earnest Lennon rocker, this song was the rare Beatles original from this period that felt like filler.
25. Till There Was You [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ****
A ballad that originated from The Music Man that McCartney had learned from the Peggy Lee version (a #30 UK hit for her in 1961). It quickly proved that, like "A Taste Of Honey" before it, The Beatles were not afraid of mainstream Tin Pan Alley-style music, & in fact played this song for the Queen in 1963, right between "She Loves You" & "Twist & Shout."
26. Please Mister Postman [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ****
A cover The Marvelettes' 1961 song (#1 Pop / #1 R&B), which holds the distinction of being the first Motown song to reach #1. If Lennon couldn't touch Gladys Horton's sexy vocals, he didn't even try; he just shouted as hard as he could. Where the original version was a flirty plea, The Beatles' version was a storm cloud of sweet agony that captured the fun of the original--& the live Beatles sound.
27. Roll Over Beethoven [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963; #68 US] ****
Their first official Chuck Berry cover of this 1956 hit (#29 Pop / #2 R&B) was also Harrison's second vocal spot for the album. By kicking up the tempo & overlaying handclaps, The Beatles in effect modernized Berry's original, which seemed to drag in comparison. Both versions are classic, but when people hum it today, they are usually thinking of The Beatles' version.
28. Hold Me Tight [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] **
First tried out for Please Please Me & abandoned, it was subsequently trotted back out here. Though the performance is spirited enough, it can't hide the fact is the rare Beatles song (& a McCartney one at that) which feels oddly unfinished. That didn't stop Phil Spector from giving it the Wall Of Sound treatment when his group The Treasures cut a version the same year that the original came out.
29. You Really Got A Hold On Me [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ****
The first of the covers recorded for this album & it appears the group was eager to attack it. Originally written & recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1962 (#8 Pop / #1 R&B), Lennon gives it a solid vocal with Harrison providing a key assist, while the band backs them solidly & tightly. The result is a love song that itself is fueled by love.
30. I Wanna Be Your Man [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ****
Originally written on the spot for soon-to-be-rivals The Rolling Stones, Lennon & McCartney threw song to Ringo for his spotlight on the album. Where the Stones' version is messy & distorted, The Beatles' version is tight & bubbling over with enthusiasm--a party in a record. The only stakes here are fun, & it delivers.
31. Devil In Her Heart [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] **
A cover of the obscure 1962 non-hit "Devil In His Heart" by The Donays, which presumably made its way to The Beatles' ears through the imported R&B records that came through their home port of Liverpool. The boys flipped the gender & gave it to Harrison for his second feature, but it ultimately drags, remaining the sole R&B cover that doesn't click on an album that was otherwise filled with numerous successes.
32. Not A Second Time [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] ***
A brooding rocker sung by Lennon that evidenced the growing maturity of he & his songwriting partner's sophistication. Where other groups might be rewriting the blues, they were stringing together chord changes that signaled something closer to Tin Pan Alley--or at least their version of it.
33. Money (That's What I Want) [Album Track, With The Beatles, 1963] *****
On With The Beatles, the group paid their debts to American R&B music. This third & final Motown cover ranks with their finest early recordings, easily outpacing Barret Strong's 1959 original (#23 Pop / #2 R&B), which was Motown's first hit. Where Strong found an easy groove, The Beatles found a desperate attack, perhaps because the prospect of money was so central to their rags-to-riches version of pop success--just listen to the way Lennon screams "I wanna be free!" towards the end. He meant it.
34. I Want To Hold Your Hand [Single A-Side, 1963; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
After conquering their native continent with  "She Loves You," The Beatles wrote their follow-up single with their sights focused straight on America. No British group had made the transition across the pond successfully before, & The Beatles swore they wouldn't make the trip until they had a Stateside #1 record. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was their shot, & they didn't so much outdo everything they had done before with it so much as they used everything they had learned up to that point. The catchy melody, the build in the bridge, Lennon & McCartney's tight harmonies, Harrison's studied lead licks, Starr's splashy cymbals & swinging drive, & the effervescent charm & energy of the whole picture. This is the record that launched them in America (& the rest of the world), the moment at which Beatlemania went from a national craze to an international phenomenon. They would develop in new & sophisticated ways, but no song of theirs would ever have as much impact as this one.
35. This Boy [Single B-Side, 1963] ****
The first of a trilogy of three-part harmony ballads The Beatles would record ( ), this was the most famous, appearing as it did as the B-side of the smash  "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in the UK, the third song on the US smash album Meet The Beatles!, & instrumentally during a sequence in A Hard Day's Night featuring Ringo, which eventually saddled the song with "Ringo's Theme" in many subsequent cover versions. The original is still the best, especially with that masterful bridge kicking up a notch & proving that Lennon could sing like a rocker even in the most meticulous of ballads.
36. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand [German Single A-Side, 1964] *
The Beatles spent much of their early years cutting their teeth in marathon sets to rowdy crowds in Hamburg, Germany, where they perfected their sound & built their legend. After the UK & US, Germany had the most loyal Beatles fans in the '60s, they recorded this &  Sie Lieb Dich--German-language versions of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" & "She Loves You," respectively--as a thank-you. Both have become part of the official Beatles canon, even though they add nothing to it outside of giving a bunch of 7th grade German teachers something to work with.
37. Sie Liebt Dich [German Single B-Side, 1964; #97 US] *
Along with its flip , the rare Beatles recording that cannot be argued as essential in any imaginable way. The fact it made the lower reaches of the US Hot 100 at the peak of Beatlemania though speaks to just how hungry the audience was for any kind of material.
38. Can't Buy Me Love [Single A-Side, 1964; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
The first Beatles single to have a solo lead singer as opposed to harmony, this was McCartney's song, a jaunty thing that ranks with the most charismatic music they ever waxed. Originally the verses had response backing vocals, but these were thankfully excised, leaving the sound open & built around the strumming acoustic guitar. Harrison contributes one of his vintage rockabilly solos, & while the lyrics may sound trite, it packed an undeniable punch. Newly broken in to the US audience, "Can't Buy Me Love" became the first song in history to top the UK & US charts simultaneously.
39. You Can't Do That [Single B-Side, 1964; #48 US] ****
While  "Can't Buy Me Love" was all McCartney, the flip was all Lennon, starting a trend of splitting single sides that would continue for the rest of their career. Where McCartney's rock had an airy sense of pop, Lennon's had a swagger & a drive, not to mention a bit of a nasty tone, driven home by Starr's strutting cowbell & McCartney & Harrison's nagging backing vocals. But if anyone feared that it might get too caustic, one only needs to listen to the lovely bridge, which wears its heart firmly on its sleeve. One of their most underrated rockers.
40. Long Tall Sally [EP Track, Long Tall Sally, 1964] *****
Little Richard was McCartney's vocal idol--& the source from which The Beatles lifted their thrilling, trilling "ooooo"s. Here, McCartney paid back the influence & then some, covering Richard's 1956 original (#6 US / #1 R&B / #3 UK) from their live act. Fast, furious, & full of love, this was one of The Beatles' finest covers & every bit deserving of comparison to the original. Its quality was so good that it was released as the title track to the only standard EP of independent material the group would ever release.
41. I Call Your Name [EP Track, Long Tall Sally, 1964] ***
One of Lennon's earliest songs, "I Call Your Name" may have been trotted back out by The Beatles at this time because of its similarities to  "You Can't Do That"; either way, the two songs share the same strutting cowbell. Included as the only original song on the Long Tall Sally EP, it found the group treading water stylistically, in this solid, if unremarkable, track.
42. Slow Down [EP Track, Long Tall Sally, 1964; #25 US] **
Though largely forgotten today, Larry Williams was a 1950s R&B singer who was a labelmate of Little Richard on Specialty Records. He had a string of hits, the biggest & most famous of which were "Short Fat Fannie" & "Bony Moronie." ("Slow Down" was originally released as the B-side to another Williams song The Beatles covered,  "Dizzy Miss Lizzy.") At any rate, Lennon was a big fan, as The Beatles would cover 3 of his songs in their official discography. "Slow Down" was the first & arguably the best, although it suffered from perhaps Harrison's worst solo in a Beatles song; just as Williams himself paled in comparison to Little Richard on his label, so too did "Slow Down" sound much weaker than  "Long Tall Sally."
43. Matchbox [EP Track, Long Tall Sally, 1964; #17 US] **1/2
The only artist that The Beatles covered as frequently as Larry Williams in their original discography was Carl Perkins, as they covered three songs from each artist. The first was "Matchbox," recorded in Perkins' presence (some say that he's playing the low boogie riff on the record), with Starr singing lead. Perkins was pleased, but the song was more interesting from a historical standpoint than stellar--based on Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues," it put The Beatles in direct line back to the country blues. Released as a single with  "Slow Down" as its flip in the US (where the EP market wasn't as strong as in the UK), it barely made it inside the Top 20.  "Long Tall Sally" would have been the more obvious choice, but it had already been released months earlier (along with  "I Call Your Name") on the US-only The Beatles Second Album.
44. A Hard Day's Night [Single A-Side, 1964; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
The title track of their first & finest feature film, "A Hard Day's Night" was a classic Lennon-McCartney collaboration, with Lennon providing the main verse & McCartney the shimmering bridge. With its sustained opening chord (an Fadd9 with McCartney's bass playing a high D on top), it symbolically ushered in a new experimental period for the group, as they searched for new sounds & ways to take their music to a new place. The song that follows the chord is one of the finest they would ever write, with a simple, catchy tune & sly lyrics, & featuring Starr upping the energy by hammering away on bongos & a drolly rollicking solo from Harrison on an electric 12-string guitar. (Future Byrd Roger McGuinn would note Harrison playing this instrument in the film & make an entire band around it.) In terms of quality & influence, it stood above most other songs they would ever record--perhaps this is why Entertainment Weekly once named it as The Greatest Beatles Song Of All-Time.
45. Things We Said Today [Single B-Side, 1964] ****
If  "A Hard Day's Night" was primarily Lennon's song, its B-side, "Things We Said Today," was primarily McCartney's. An uncharacteristically somber track, the ominous opening chords were the perfect balance to the open possibility & excitement of the chord that opened  "A Hard Day's Night." A study in melody & mood, it already displayed the sensibilities that would come to fruition a year & a half later on their groundbreaking album Rubber Soul.
46. I Should Have Known Better [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964; #53 US] ****1/2
Though not necessarily their finest work of the period, "I Should Have Known Better" was one of the most famous, in part because of its prominent featuring in A Hard Day's Night, in the card game sequence that features a young--& future Mrs. Harrison--Patti Boyd among its idolizing girls. Whatever the song may have lacked in harmonic creativity it more than made up for in energy & drive, marking yet another occasion in which The Beatles' charisma wins out in the end.
47. If I Fell [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964; #53 US] ****1/2
The second of their trilogy of three-part harmony ballads (, ), this was the finest. There is a tenderness in the lyric that matches the melancholy of the melody, among the finest ever heard in a Beatles song. This is all just to say that it is simply a beautiful song, reinforced by a beautiful performance.
48. I'm Happy Just To Dance With You [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964; #95 US] ****
The UK version of the A Hard Day's Night album was the first & only to be entirely comprised of Lennon-McCartney songs, so it only follows that Harrison's feature was written by them. Built around a cycle of chords not too dissimilar from the types that John Fogerty would use to structure his future Creedence Clearwater Revival hits, the would-be trite lyric finds success in Harrison's under-reading of it, balanced by the gusto with which Lennon & McCartney sing the backing vocals. The result is beat music with a quiet storm at its center.
49. And I Love Her [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964; #12 US] *****
The first of McCartney's starkly affecting ballads, of which he would perfect the following year in  "Yesterday." The simple melody is held in place by the acoustic guitars & Starr's time-keeping claves, all which part for Harrison's lovely, minimalist solo. Part of the magic of The Beatles' early records was their economy--no part overwrought, no part undercooked--& the beauty of this song is perhaps the quintessential example.
50. Tell Me Why [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964] ***
An wild explosion of a song, built on McCartney's boogieing bassline & those spontaneous-sounding block vocals. The whole thing sounded like a party--no wonder The Beach Boys would cover it on their live-in-the-studio LP, The Beach Boys' Party!
51. Any Time At All [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964] ****
51. Any Time At All [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964] ****
Cultural historian Greil Marcus once wrote about the UK A Hard Day's Night LP as follows: "Side one, the soundtrack music, was hot stuff; side two was unnerving," the latter serving as "proof that the Mop Tops were...smart!" He could have been describing this song which opens the side in grand form, as Lennon's ballad verses gives way to the storming build of the refrain, all marked by Starr's startling hits on the snare drum. The result is a song that delivers reassurance through desperation.
52. I'll Cry Instead [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964; #25 US] ****
A lovely rockabilly song that not only captures some of the sonic hallmarks of early '50s rock & roll, but also its fleeting, here-&-gone ephemerality. Although it contains some of the angriest lyrics in a Beatles song, it is redeemed by its clever, heartfelt bridge. The accusatory tone of the words further makes one wonder if The Beatles weren't already absorbing the music of their biggest contemporary rival in influence, Bob Dylan.
53. When I Get Home [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964] **
The least-famous song on A Hard Day's Night is not coincidentally its weakest, perhaps spun off of the "When I'm home..." bridge of the album's title track (). Where the cliched lines about working like a dog & sleeping like a log are glossed over in the latter, this song's "love her 'til the cows come home" sticks out as lazy. After the storm of the opening lines, there is little in the song to match its promise, making it one of the few lackluster songs of this era.
54. I'll Be Back [Album Track, A Hard Day's Night, 1964] ****1/2
This song ended A Hard Day's Night with one of their most sophisticated songs to date, featuring a beautiful tune matched by a lovely lyric & two (!) different bridges. Originally conceived in 3/4 waltz time, "I'll Be Back" evolved into the stirring piece heard today, keeping it at a traditional rock tempo & letting the song speak for itself. It remains one of their most affecting works--& haunting.
55. I Feel Fine [Single A-Side, 1964; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
On their first A-side since the onslaught of international Beatlemania & a grueling year, The Beatles sound weary for the first time. They also sound experimental: The feedbacking note at the start of the record is often cited as the first official sound experiment in The Beatles' catalog, & as some like to tell it, the earliest use of pure, sustained feedback on a rock record. It kicked off a song that was the first Beatles single to be built around a guitar riff--a tricky, spiraling thing played by Harrison & Lennon--but had a lived-in depth & warmth that marked its greatness. It proved to be a victory lap to an epic year.
56. She's A Woman [Single B-Side, 1964; #4 US] ****1/2
Built around chiming, staccato chords, a powerful bassline, & straightforward blues changes, "She's A Woman" was evidence of a new influence in The Beatles music: Pot. Turned on to the drug a few months earlier by Bob Dylan (who assumed they already new about it based on mishearing the line "I can't hide" in  "I Want To Hold Your Hand" as "I get high"), the group quickly absorbed its lessons. This can be heard here, their most sonically extreme track to date, as well as the line "Turn me on when I get lonely," which sounds like a real drug allusion for Dylan to catch.
57. No Reply [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ****1/2
The starkest song to open a Beatles album, "No Reply" spoke of the group's newfound weariness & wariness. The clever internal rhymes of the verse are met with the storming onslaught of the bridge, which turns the song from one of denial to anger. Couched in acoustic guitars, it was a song that could be burrowed into, predicting the folk sound that would dominate the following year, as well as the reflecting the pot that had already deepened their sensibilities. An odd, if affecting, rocker--& a fascinating opener.
58. I'm A Loser [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ****
With its confessional lyric, wheezing harmonica, & acoustic guitar base, "I'm A Loser" finds The Beatles doing Dylan a few months before Dylan goes Beatles & records with an electric combo. Lennon's self-deprecating words matches a melody that sinks downwards that reflects McCartney's walking bass part, while Harrison's guitar work helps to set the country/folk tone of Beatles For Sale. Considered for a single along with  "No Reply" &  "Eight Days A Week," Lennon's own  "I Feel Fine" eventually beat it out, leaving "I'm A Loser" as the loser.
59. Baby's In Black [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***1/2
A 12/8 waltz about love & loss, "Baby's In Black" might be considered a ballad, if not for Starr's vigorous performance on the drums. It is also the first Beatles song that appears to deal with death, & while not as deep as say,  "In My Life," it is a step away from the overwrought death songs that had populated rock so far (J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers' "Last Kiss"). Whatever it was, "Baby's In Black" was always popular with their female fans & they played it frequently in their live sets over the next year & a half.
60. Rock & Roll Music [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] *****
Like their other great classic rock & roll cover,  "Twist & Shout," this was nailed in a single take. Lennon give a fervorous performance as the rest of the band follows his lead & producer George Martin makes a case for being one of the best rock pianists of his day. Tighter, faster, & better than the original, this remains not only a high point in The Beatles' catalog, but the greatest Chuck Berry cover in rock history.
61. I'll Follow The Sun [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ****
One of McCartney's oldest songs, a recording of "I'll Follow The Sun" exists in a rare 1960 recording of The Beatles as rockabilly rave-up with a completely different bridge. By this point, The Beatles slowed down it down & added a new more melodic bridge, turning it from the tale of a spurned lover to an ode to hopefulness. This is McCartney at his most bare & beautiful, an illuminating step between  "And I Love Her" &  "Yesterday."
62. Mr. Moonlight [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***
The second cover song on Beatles For Sale was originally recorded by blues pianist Piano Red (born in 1911, the same year as Robert Johnson), who released the song as a B-side in 1962 under the name Dr. Feelgood & The Interns. Something of a cult favorite among British beat groups, The Beatles added a Latin rhythmic flair to it, added a minimalist organ solo, & hammed up the backing vocals. Other than balancing the sun of the previous track ( "I'll Follow The Sun"), the song added little to the album's overall quality.
63. Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ****
As Lennon delivers the greatest Chuck Berry cover, McCartney follows suit with one of the greatest tributes to his vocal idol, Little Richard, his second of the year ( "Long Tall Sally"). Splicing together two Little Richard singles, 1959's "Kansas City" (#95 US / #26 UK) & 1958's "Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey," the B-side of the mega-hit "Good Golly Miss Molly," The Beatles concocted a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, driving home a tight groove where Little Richard sounded uncharacteristically unsteady.
64. Eight Days A Week [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964; #1 US] *****
A meeting place of good-time rock & shimmering pop, "Eight Days A Week" is one of the pure delights in The Beatles' catalog--it is simply one of the happiest-sounding records ever made. Originally earmarked as a single until  "I Feel Fine" came along, their American label knew gold when they heard it & issued it as a single with  "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" as its flip. The result was a song that stayed at #1 even longer than  "I Feel Fine" had. Although much time & spirit went into its recording, The Beatles oddly didn't care much for it, & no Beatle ever played it live until McCartney introduced it to his setlist a few years ago. & even if the group initially viewed it as disposable pop, the then-unusual fade-in also found them pushing the experimental envelope.
65. Words Of Love [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***
The Beatles were huge Buddy Holly fans, dating back to Lennon, McCartney, & Harrison in the proto-Beatles Quarrymen making their first recording in 1958, a cover of Holly's "That'll Be The Day." Their affection did not wane--Lennon was said to be very shaken by Holly's premature death & McCartney eventually bought the rights to Holly's catalog. Originally issued as the non-hit follow-up to "That'll Be The Day," "Words Of Love" was a tender ballad that found Holly harmonizing with himself in an early double-tracked lead vocal. Here, Lennon & McCartney take the vocals but put in more reverence than delight. Given the breadth of Holly songs they covered in their heyday, it would have been interesting to hear them do a different song instead.
66. Honey Don't [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] **
After a stellar album of all-originals (A Hard Day's Night), the return to the 8 originals/6 covers format of Please Please Me & With The Beatles made Beatles For Sale felt like a retreat. This is because despite a few solid exceptions (, ), the covers felt like the weaker tracks. Weakest of all was this, the second of their three Carl Perkins' covers (, ), which was Starr's feature for the LP. The song dragged overall & Starr's vocal asides throughout only added to the awkwardness of the proceedings, the most desperate of all being when he name-checks their single  "I Feel Fine."
67. Every Little Thing [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***
While far from a a masterpiece, this pretty song holds its own successfully on the album, showing a softer side to Lennon & displaying further evidence of the folk sound that would be further explored on the second side of Help! & the Rubber Soul sessions. But as solid as the vocals are, it's Harrison's guitar interlude that sounds timeless.
68. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964; #39 US] ****
An underrated UK album cut that just barely made the US Top 40. A country stomp redeemed by the sweet harmonies on its killer bridge. A rare Beatles song that remains hidden in plain sight.
69. What You're Doing [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***
If Harrison's guitar work in A Hard Day's Night gave Roger McGuinn the idea of using an electric 12-string guitar, this song taught him how to play it. What could easily be dismissed as a knock-off of The Byrds' classic sound actually predates it by several months, turning the influence on its head. Also noteworthy for its cold-open drums & a collective vocalizing on the first word of lines that both predicts & reverses the Run-D.M.C. style of of collectively closing in on the last word of a line. Or maybe it's just me.
70. Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby [Album Track, Beatles For Sale, 1964] ***
The Beatles' third & final Carl Perkins cover (, ) features a heavily-echoed Harrison vocal & an audible mistake in the opening riffs, courtesy of Lennon's infamous sense of rhythm (or lack thereof). While not stellar, it's not nearly as bad as some have made it out to be, borne out by the singer's deadpan wit. It later subsequently became a feature of their live act, famously performed at their Shea Stadium concert the following year.
71. Ticket To Ride [Single A-Side, 1965; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
To modern Beatles fans, it's easy to forget just how revolutionary it was to have a band changing their sound so regularly & quickly. While there is no clean before & after cut-off point of the "old" & "new" sound, their first single of 1965, "Ticket To Ride," may just be closest thing. With its odd, off-kilter rhythm--magnificently held together by Starr's drum patterns--it was a slow rocker that switched to double-time for the bridge. Although it would eventually hit #1 on both sides of the Atlantic, it took a minute for fans to warm up to it, to meet it on its own terms. & if there were any doubts as to one of the main catalyst behind their shifting sensibilities, one had to look no further than the "I don't know why she's riding so high" line.
72. Yes It Is [Single B-Side, 1965; #46 UK] **1/2
The third & final of their trilogy of three-part harmony ballads (, ), this was the weakest of the lot, built around a rather sickly melody & dragging beat. There are some who swear by it & the shift to the build in the bridge help it, as do the deceptively straightforward lyrics, but overall, this was one of their less memorable B-sides.
73. Help! [Single A-Side, 1965; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
Like so many Beatles song, "Help!" is one that you hear so much that it is easy to forget how great it is. Clocking in at only a touch over two minutes, it packs a punch like few others, hanging on Lennon's at one turn lonely, at the next turn desperate vocal, with McCartney & Harrison proving themselves to be among the finest backup singers in rock, as they bob & weave their way through the tricky timing expertly. Harrison can still get it some clutch guitar licks as Starr drives the song through its various motions, at one point straight-ahead rock, at another a galloping country rhythm. It's a shimmering beauty of a song, & one of The Beatles' most perfect singles--which makes it one of rock's most perfect singles.
74. I'm Down [Single B-Side, 1965; #101 US] ****
On songs like  "Long Tall Sally" &  "Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey" we heard McCartney cover Little Richard; on "I'm Down," he draws him out from within. A sort of '50s rave-up pastiche, "I'm Down" was a joyous, four-on-the-floor rocker, with Lennon joining Harrison to return the favor of wonderful backing vocals as McCartney did on the single's flip . Luckily nothing got too overworked along the way, resulting in one of their most spontaneous-sounding records, & a gem of a deep cut for a catalog where familiarity is the rule.
75. The Night Before [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****
"The Night Before" played a similar role in Help! that  "I Should Have Known Better" played for A Hard Day's Night--the solidly tuneful second cut that would probably sound a lot better if it wasn't surrounded by phenomenal material. If the lyrics are a bit trite, one can once again sink their teeth into the backing vocals, showing that, for all the attention The Beatles get for lifting tricks from Dylan (which they certainly did as well), they were also keeping a keen eye on The Beach Boys.
76. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away [Album Track, Help!, 1965] *****
Their first all-acoustic production was appropriately the farthest they had journeyed into the Dylan vibe. (Compare this with the previous year's more jokey  "I'm A Loser.") Built around one of their finest chord progressions, Lennon imbued the lyric with a jaded edge that spoke of a deeper kind of love than what they had previously sung about. Meanwhile, the flutes at the end showed the group was willing to take a song like this into sonic places that not even Dylan was interested in venturing.
77. I Need You [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****
Somehow "I Need You," the 77th song released by The Beatles, was only the second to be written by Harrison. It had been two albums & a string of singles since his last,  "Don't Bother Me," & he had grown by leaps & bounds. While still keeping his characteristically subdued feel, Harrison crafted a fine melody that gave way to proof that, like his senior partners in the band, he too could craft a worthy bridge. The backing vocals by Lennon & McCartney & the steady support by Starr shows that this was truly a group effort, with all parts reinforcing a greater whole.
78. Another Girl [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ***1/2
For all intents & purposes, "Another Girl" should be a throwaway, but I've always heard something bigger & better; even more than the average McCartney song, this is a study in pure melody, couched in harmony & giving way to a cascading bridge. Is it the greatest thing The Beatles ever did? Of course not. But no one ever said that pop for pop's sake ever had to apologize for itself.
79. You're Going To Lose That Girl [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****1/2
In  "Help!," the backing vocals were just part of the overall tapestry; here, they are the basis for an entire song. Crisscrossing between the solo lead (Lennon) & the backing harmonies (McCartney & Harrison), the effect is like a small Greek chorus guiding the singer through his warnings & pledges. It is also simply an interesting song, & holds up well, punctuated by one of Harrison's most offhandedly rewarding & expertly underplayed solos. If the girl ends up staying with the other guy after hearing this, she must be the biggest fool in the world.
80. Act Naturally [Album Track, Help!, 1965; #47 US] ***1/2
The Beatles' most convincing performance as a country band came with Starr's cover of the 1963 song that made Buck Owens a country superstar (#1 Country). Nestled at the top of the second side of their second film album, "Act Naturally" was a clever choice with its clever movie-star-wanna-be lyrics, rendered earnestly by Starr. Though he would continually dip his toe into the country stream for the rest of his career (both with The Beatles-- "What Goes On,"  "Don't Pass Me By"--& beyond), it was never more rewarding than here. Released as the flip side to the US-only single  "Yesterday," it even made the Top 50.
81. It's Only Love [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****
Although McCartney is generally thought of as the tunesmith in The Beatles, "It's Only Love" was proof that Lennon could craft a solid melody as well. With its light touch & acoustic-based sound, this was a coy, playful number, with an expert refrain that was built on a similar structure as the one found in  "I Want To Hold Your Hand." Perhaps that's why this song starts with the words "I get high"--the exact phrase Dylan thought he was hearing in the earlier tune.
82. You Like Me Too Much [Album Track, Help!, 1965] **1/2
After the breakthrough of  "I Need You," Harrison's unprecedented second song for the Help! LP, "You Like Me Too Much," feels like a retreat. With its odd piano trills that open it & its unabashedly trite lyric, it was a tune that could not rise above Harrison's sour melodic tendencies. The song is most important for starting the trend of Harrison getting multiple cuts on an LP, & in this regard, it can best be seen as a stepping stone onto far greater things.
83. Tell Me What You See [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****
McCartney was in an uncharacteristic songwriting slump for much of the initial recording of Help!, as evidenced by the fact that a Lennon song had gotten their last four A-sides (, , , ) & even a B-side too (). In the meantime, McCartney had contributed some great material, but with diminishing results as time moved on. "Tell Me What You See" changed all that, kicking off a streak of winners (, ) that found McCartney at the peak of his game & helping to push The Beatles' sound further. Brimming with confidence, "Tell Me What You See" had the lived-in folk sound of current work, but was all tied around a straightforward & effective lyric & musical hook. It was McCartney proving he could deliver, once again.
84. I've Just Seen A Face [Album Track, Help!, 1965] ****1/2
One of the great deep cuts in The Beatles catalog, "I've Just Seen A Face" was McCartney crafting a song with the tenderness of a folk ballad but the excitement & drive of a rock song--with a clever lyric to match (which had more internal rhymes than you could throw a dictionary at). Buried on the second side of an LP in their native UK, the song received special prominence in the US where it was issued as the opening cut to their next album, Rubber Soul, in an apparent ploy to make the latter album sound "folkier." No matter what the context, the song stands out as a high-water mark of this period.
85. Yesterday [Album Track, Help!, 1965; #8 UK* / #1 US] *****
Hard as it is to believe, the most covered song in the history of recorded sound was originally the second-to-last song on the second side of a film LP, not even released as a single in its own native land (until long after The Beatles disbanded). America knew better, where it was released on a 45 & easily made the top of the charts for a month. The origins are now the stuff of legend--McCartney waking up with the song in his head, convinced he didn't write it; showing it to George Martin with the lyric "Scrambled Eggs" before wisely changing it to "Yesterday"; Martin convincing McCartney to let a string quartet back him instead of his bandmates; the song subsequently getting covered by everyone from Elvis to Aretha to Brother Ray on down & virtually defining modern pop music in its most Platonic form.
86. Dizzy Miss Lizzy [Album Track, Help!, 1965] **1/2
For all of its great music & innovations, Help! was ultimately one of the weaker links in The Beatles' early albums. Part of it had to do with the group being worn down by years of touring & recording (as well as the pot that was loosening their usually strict sense of quality), but part of it was simply that the songs weren't as good. Case in point was this track, initially recorded to appease their American label (see  "Bad Boy"). Originally released by Larry Williams in 1958 (US #69), "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" tried to cash in on his earlier rhyming hit "Bony Moronie." For whatever reason, Lennon liked the song & would sing it at his live concert in Toronto four years later. Here, it plays like poor man's  "Money (That's What I Want)."
87. Day Tripper [Single A-Side, 1965; #1 UK / #5 US] *****
Built around one of the greatest riffs in rock history--only The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" has it beat, which likely inspired it in part--"Day Tripper" was a tale of love & drugs at the dawn of the psychedelic era. With McCartney's equally-commercial  "We Can Work It Out" as its competition in the band, The Beatles released the first of their three legendary "double A-side" singles. In the UK, where both sides of a single were counted as a single entity, both sides went to #1; in the US, where each side was counted individually in that period, its flip got more airplay.
88. We Can Work It Out [Single A-Side, 1965; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
An ode to compromise by a band that seemed to function as a miraculous whole; if one had trouble imagining McCartney singing it to his bandmates, they could picture him singing it to his entire generation. In a master stroke of uniting lyric & melody, the song chugs along at its steady pace before giving way to a churning two-step rhythm when "fussing & fighting my friend" is broached. In a few short years, The Beatles would conclude that  "All You Need Is Love," but here a more pragmatic approach is taken. If it feels more complicated, that's because it is--& why it still holds up better than its Summer Of Love counterpart in the modern age.
89. Drive My Car [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] *****
A funky song that takes its place in the grand tradition of rock car songs that goes back to Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues" & on through Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" & The Beach Boys' "I Get Around." Built around a tricky guitar riff played by McCartney &/or Harrison with some choice piano chords thrown in to pad out the lick, this was a groove the way few Beatles songs had been before--or after. It also set the tone for the effortless artistry that would fill out the album it kicked off, Rubber Soul. At least in the UK. The US version of the album cut this & three other songs (, , ) & put the mellower Help! tracks  "I've Just Seen A Face" &  "It's Only Love" at the top of Side 1 & Side 2, respectively, to try & convey a "Beatles gone folk" vibe that, while lovely in its own right, ultimately mutilated The Beatles' own vision for the album.
90. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] *****
There are some songs in The Beatles catalog like  "Yesterday" that seem to come from everywhere at once, & then there are songs like this that could have come from nowhere else & from no one else. On paper, it shouldn't work at all--a 12/8 waltz with a tune that plays like a Dylan knock-off, with words about an affair & arson, all punctuated with the first sitar heard on a rock record. It should be a bizarre mess, but it all holds together brilliantly. It's at once timeless, mysterious, & funny, an instant folk song for a new era, a stunning meeting place of sound & vision.
91. You Won't See Me [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ****
Although Rubber Soul is often thought of a "folky" album, tracks like this one are better described as straight-ahead electric pop songs that are steeped in the trappings of folk, without falling into the genre per se. Another expertly-executed lyric & performance, "You Won't See Me" ultimately suffers from its length, as a reprise of the bridge makes the song overstay its welcome, whereas the less-is-more structure of  "No Reply," which could have repeated its bridge but did not, would have been preferred.
92. Nowhere Man [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965; #3 US] *****
The Beatles' first foray into social criticism was skippered by Lennon (naturally) but depended on a unified front to see it through. Sung in three-part harmony by Lennon, McCartney, & Harrison & filled with lovely, chiming guitar work, the song plays like an existential riddle; if this is like one of Dylan's "finger-pointing songs," the finger is on a hand suspended in the air & pointing back onto itself. Held off of the US version of the LP to be released a single (presumably for its deep perspective), the song made the Top 3 & was eventually featured on the infamous Yesterday...& Today "Butcher Cover" album.
93. Think For Yourself [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ****
After years of false starts & hiding behind covers, Harrison finally came to his own on Rubber Soul. His songs are at the very least equal of Lennon & McCartney's & all fit together to form a greater whole. Nowhere is this more true than in "Think For Yourself," where Harrison takes his dour approach but layers it with fuzzy guitar hooks & adds lyrics that finds his cynicism brushing up against his wit ("Try thinking more if just for your own sake"). The result is a churning put-down of a rocker that was the earliest indication that Harrison could write at the level of his bandmates.
94. The Word [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ***1/2
In the beginning...There was Love. & it was Good. The moment where The Beatles embrace psychedelic rock, if not fully sonically, then fully philosophically. This makes it an important turning point for the band, but as an actual song, it sounds hollow today, with its outmoded ideology & stronger material surrounding it.
95. Michelle [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] *****
Rubber Soul was originally conceptualized a comedy album, the remnants of which can be heard in the punchlines of  "Drive My Car" &  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)." But "Michelle" was the only song purely born out of comedy, with McCartney playing it at parties, introducing it as the little French song he had invented, ad-libbing the language while breaking out in the ridiculous "I love you, I love you, I love you" triplets. Well, something happened on the way to the record, because by the time "Michelle" was released, The Beatles had taken the time to get the French words right & recorded the whole thing in earnest. (If you don't think McCartney was taking this seriously, just listen to the killer bass work he does during the fade-out.) The joke, then, was on the music industry--although never released a single (The Overlanders took it to #1 in the UK the following year), it picked up a Grammy for Song Of The Year & has been lovingly covered ever since.
96. What Goes On [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965; #81 US] **
The sole clunker on the original UK version of Rubber Soul, "What Goes On" was Starr's first writing credit (alongside Lennon & McCartney, who apparently couldn't save the song). Built on the country/western style that Starr always adored, it felt meandering & unfinished, with only Harrison channeling Carl Perkins with his guitar work giving it anything of interest.
97. Girl [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] *****
Rubber Soul was a laboratory of new sounds & ideas for The Beatles, with "Girl" being one of the finest examples. Built around a German two-step, it kept up the international influence of the album (i.e., the Indian instrumentation of  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," the French singing of  "Michelle), in the form of a wrenching ballad that spoke of the depths & limits of love. Lennon's vocal makes it, but even more memorable is the breathing in sound he makes on the refrain, which seems to emulate taking a hit of pot. A rich yet unsuspecting, & affecting, song.
98. I'm Looking Through You [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ****
A great & catchy song that works because, despite the implied surrealism of its lyric, it demands that you take its words entirely literally. When the singer sings that he is looking through the girl, he sounds as though she is simply made of glass. It's unlike anything else I've heard in a rock song. & with the organ blast coming at the end of each verse, it's a not-so-subtle reminder that when The Beatles called their work Rubber Soul, they were thinking of (& emulating) soul music, too.
99. In My Life [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] *****
Perhaps the most beautiful Beatles song of them all, "In My Life" was also their wisest, with Lennon showing wisdom far beyond his 25 years. It was a study of love & loss that was both heartfelt & bittersweet, at once a love song, a self-portrait, & a philosophy lesson. George Martin's sped-up Bach piece fit right into the proceedings during the instrumental bridge, but this was a Beatles show through & through. The best of their music is utterly timeless, & no song is more so than this one.
100. Wait [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ****
The first song to be recorded for Rubber Soul (it was actually a leftover from the Help! sessions), "Wait" is one of their most exciting pieces, using syncopation & rhythm tracks to build up the sense of urgency until it all but bleeds out the speakers. For any other band, it would be a major highlight, yet for The Beatles, it unfairly remains a relatively obscure cut. I'm also pretty sure it's what Odysseus sang to Penelope all the way home.
101. If I Needed Someone [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ****
This song was proof that  "Think For Yourself" was no fluke, as Harrison delivers arguably his best song to date. Tunefully, witty, & wry--& filled with lovely guitar work--its melody winds through the song like a creek, rich harmonies embellishing it along the way. It should inspire anyone to carve their number on a wall.
102. Run For Your Life [Album Track, Rubber Soul, 1965] ***
Getting its first words from the last lines of the last verse of Elvis's "Baby, Let's Play House" (which Lennon performed on the day he met McCartney)--"I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man"--"Run For Your Life" is caustic & a tad desperate, a spiritual sequel to Lennon's own  "You Can't Do That." But surrounded by the depths of Rubber Soul, the song sounds hollow, making for a surprisingly weak end to an otherwise nearly flawless album.
103. Paperback Writer [Single A-Side, 1966; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
A McCartney song that took in The Beach Boys' complex overlaid harmonies & applied it to a tune about a guy who wants to write paperbacks. Lennon would later slam his partner for songs like this, but lyrics aside, the sound is so great that it defined its moment in pop music. (The Monkees' producers wrote their zillion-selling "Last Train To Clarksville" based on something they thought they heard in this song's fadeout.) Maybe because of its lyric, or just pot, Lennon & Harrison didn't take it very seriously, famously singing "Frere Jaques" as the backing vocals during the last verse. But with its riff, its hooks, & its harmonies, this was a calculated hit single, & with its hard-to-replicate-outside-of-the-studio sound, it was one step closer to retiring The Beatles as a touring outfit.
104. Rain [Single B-Side, 1966; #23 US] *****
Lennon's first LSD-inspired song, generally considered to be Starr's finest performance on record. With its phased vocals, surreal lyrics, & washed-out guitars, it was the beginning of their next sonic phase, especially with the backwards part at the end (which began as a mistake--although when he heard it, Lennon was so excited, he wanted to release the entire song backwards). Also noteworthy is McCartney's restless bass part which at once holds down the sound while taking it to soaring new places--& reminds listeners that the McCartney/Starr rhythm section was the finest of its time.
105. Yellow Submarine [Single A-Side, 1966; #1 UK / #2 US] *****
A children's song, written by Lennon-McCartney but given to Starr to sing. George Martin dipped into his experience with novelty records to throw in all sorts of things that made it feel so alive & real that it literally inspired an entire animated film. It is also a sonic snapshot of 1966, a moment when everything was possible, & even a sing-along about the land of submarines could become a massive international hit.
106. Eleanor Rigby [Single A-Side, 1966; #1 UK / #11 US] *****
Perhaps the saddest song in the Beatles canon, it nonetheless was tuneful enough to grace one side of their string of double A-sided singles. For the first time, no Beatles played on the tracks, it was simply McCartney's vocal (& Lennon & Harrison's harmonies) with a double string quartet playing Martin's dramatic score. Lyrically, it was the tightest of all Beatles songs, using a few short verses to weave a tale of two lonely people who pass like ships in the night in the song's brilliant third verse. At once a statement on society & a well-crafted story, "Eleanor Rigby" was proof that The Beatles were something bigger than just a pop/rock band--as if anyone was still wondering at this point.
107. Taxman [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
Starting with the best "1, 2, 3, 4" count-off ever heard in a rock song--a mirror to the count-off on  "I Saw Her Standing There," which kicked off their first LP--"Taxman" is the first & only Harrison song to initiate a Beatles LP, let alone one that many consider to be their finest. It's a very clever song that finds Harrison aiming his razor-sharp wit at government greed & the citizens who have to finance it. In another band's hands, it could have come off as angry or overwrought, but with The Beatles it sounds glorious.
108. I'm Only Sleeping [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****
For all the ink that has been spilled describing LSD as something that creates a moonbeam diamond marshmallow sky--for reasons both good & bad--it's easy to forget that the drug also simply heightened everyday existence (again, in ways good & bad). "I'm Only Sleeping" took a simple idea--waking up--& remade it into not just a song about the drowsy early morning, but the feel of the drowsy early morning. It was a lovely transition between the meditations on the world West ( "Eleanor Rigby") & East ( "Love You To"), but only in the UK. The US edition of Revolver cut this & two other Lennon songs ( "And Your Bird Can Sing,"  "Doctor Robert"), as well as a Harrison cut ( "I Want To Tell You"), ruining its overall effect. Perhaps this was the straw that broke the camel's back, as it was the last time the US & UK studio LP releases weren't identical.
109. Love You To [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ***
Harrison's first full immersion into Eastern music remains one of his best, his often dour, nasal melodies hooking together naturally with the scales of Indian songwriting. It was one thing to feature a sitar ( "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"), but it was quite another to scrap the band for traditional Indian performers & musicians. What was jarring in 1966 has since become a bit of a cliche--any time a cheap advertisement needs to evoke the '60s, it just needs a beaded doorway & a couple of twangs on the sitar. This song was the first proof that, at least for Harrison (& by extension, The Beatles), the mood went far deeper.
110. Here, There, And Everywhere [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
For all the flack that McCartney gets for writing, as he would later jokingly put it, "silly little love songs," it is easy to forget that he was perhaps the greatest melodist of his generation.  "Yesterday" is the obvious example, but if one needs something fresher & less overplayed, put on "Here, There, And Everywhere." With its beautifully sparse arrangement (& those finger-snaps making a late appearance in the third act!), it is a study in pure melody, thread through with the ideal accompanying lyrics to match its at once meandering yet focused tune. Like many of McCartney's finest tunes, it seems so obvious in both concept & lyric, but if it was so obvious, how did no one think of it first?
111. She Said She Said [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
Lennon takes LSD & has an epic conversation with Peter Fonda about death. Which is to say, LSD was such an all-encompassing experience that it often left its takers with the notion that they had died & been born again. No song expresses this more succinctly than "She Said She Said," with its rich, overlaid guitars & Starr's masterfully tumbling drums (the latter of which was already becoming the norm after the breakthrough of  "Rain"). But just when one thinks it might become too esoteric for the average listener, it still employs the toolkit of The Beatles' core talents--a great hook, an effective bridge, & smart lyrics. The latter especially should give one pause. She says she knows what it's like to be dead, which makes him feel like he's never been born. This is perhaps the most perfectly impossible phrase this side of Dylan's "& you know that we will meet again, if your memory serves you well" in "This Wheel's On Fire."
112. Good Day Sunshine [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
After the first side of Revolver ends with Lennon's personal, challenging  "She Said She Said," the second side opens with McCartney's open, optimistic "Good Day Sunshine." Make no mistake about it, this is still LSD-influenced music, only it works as an enhancement to reality, much like Lennon's earlier  "I'm Only Sleeping." Brimming with confidence, &, well, sunshine, this is The Beatles' equivalent of The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," a city upon a hill of a bright sky & a fine-looking girl. The darkest thing to be found in the song is a flirtation with the sin of pride--"I'm so proud to know that she is mine"--but even this is a gesture of not taking another person for granted. Remember, this was 1966, & everything was still possible.
113. And Your Bird Can Sing [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
After The Beatles inspired Roger McGuinn to buy an electric 12-string guitar ( "A Hard Day's Night") & then taught him how to play it ( "What You're Doing"), this song finds The Beatles re-appropriating from The Byrds. Featuring winding & intricate guitar playing by Lennon & Harrison--some of their finest as a team--the song works because Lennon has crafted a wondrous melody that is enriched by Harrison & McCartney's luscious harmonies (& nowhere is this more apparent--or appropriate--than on the "Tell me that you've heard every sound there is..." final verse). The result could be described as Lennon's version of pop for pop's sake, albeit enriched by LSD. Let's remember that it was Lennon--not McCartney--who was the huge fan of Phil Spector. No wonder it sounded so good as the opening theme to the infamous Beatles' cartoon show.
114. For No One [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ****1/2
While Revolver showed Lennon absorbing LSD (figuratively & literally) & Harrison absorbing Eastern music (figuratively & philosophically), the LP found McCartney absorbing classical music, which neither he nor his bandmates had paid much attention to. Luckily for them, they had George Martin who could whip up a perfect score when need be, & none so effectively as he does here. Once again, the whole thing works because McCartney's sense of melody is effortlessly beautiful, & it uses the trick of playing the french horn first solo, & then over a verse, that ties it altogether musically as much as  "Eleanor Rigby" had done so lyrically. (It was also a trick they would employ again to great effect, such as the "sung trumpet" bridge in  "Lady Madonna.") Heartbreak rarely ever sounded so good, & with the mysterious tagline--is he saying the love should or shouldn't have lasted years, or both in different places?--it even involves a little listener participation to parse it out, which draws in the listener on a whole other level.
115. Doctor Robert [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ***
The closest thing Revolver has to a weak song, "Doctor Robert" is nonetheless at the very least, perfectly good. It also ties in the greater 1960s theme of the medicine man--a character who appears & reappears in Dylan's songs & harkens back to the turn of the century American popular entertainment of traveling medicine shows. Here the good doctor is reborn as a version of Timothy Leary, which plays like a radio jingle for the wonders of LSD (especially in the bridge). Years later, Leary would return the favor by adopting  "Come Together" as the theme of his presidential campaign.
116. I Want To Tell You [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] ***
This song seems to give a window into Harrison's mysterious songwriting techniques, seemingly taking you through the winding logic of his melody & lyric, never being afraid to end on a line like "That is confusing things." To my ears, he would recast it over two decades later as a Traveling Wilbury in the catchier "Heading For The Light," but "I Want To Tell You" is still a solid piece of songcraft in its own right, even if it is a tad unpolished compared with his other contributions to the LP ( "Taxman,"  "Love You To"). Only the sudden fadeout catches one off-guard as undercooked, as the more important thing being that Harrison received a third songwriting credit for the first time on a Beatles LP.
117. Got To Get You Into My Life [Album Track, Revolver, 1966; #7 US*] ****1/2
While  "She Said She Said" found Lennon taking LSD & finding death, "Got To Get You Into My Life" finds McCartney taking the drug & reaffirming life. It's no coincidence that one is the flipside of the other, but it's interesting to see what each Beatle focuses on as their inspiration. As  "Eleanor Rigby" &  "For No One" studied loneliness, this song begins with that idea--"I was alone, I took a ride"--but then uses it to reach an epiphany of needing others. The brass only reinforces this, making it the second mind of  "Good Day Sunshine," or perhaps, the other way around. & McCartney strings it along with a deceptively simple melody hook--"Ooh!"--that drives the whole thing home. If anyone wondered whether this could be a hit, they found the following decade when it was released as a tie-in to the Rock 'n' Roll Music compilation, where the already 10-year-old it easily landed in the US Top 10.
118. Tomorrow Never Knows [Album Track, Revolver, 1966] *****
The last song to appear on Revolver was the first one to be recorded, Lennon's epic "Tomorrow Never Knows." He came in with no melody (the whole thing is essentially one C chord) & lines from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, which was then used to guide LSD trips. The group constructed a virtual prophecy of modern music, employing tape loops (basically early "samples") to build the sound around Starr's drums & McCartney's bass, fading in & out various sped-up & slowed down clips of orchestras & laughter for a surreal effect. For the final verse, Lennon told George Martin that he wanted to sound like he was chanting from the mountain top with a thousand monks below him, at one point suggesting being suspended by the ceiling & spun so that his vocal would approach & recede from the listener for an undulating effect. They instead compromised by putting his vocal through a rotating speaker, which made it sound as though it was coming from above the proceedings. Although Lennon would later sing about revolution (), this was perhaps the most revolutionary track of their career, bringing the experience of LSD to the average listener in a song that was still tight & interesting enough to stand on its own. If people were split on it when it was first release, hindsight has shown it to be one of their finest & most influential recordings ever since.
119. Bad Boy [Album Track, A Collection Of Beatles Oldies, 1966] *1/2
It is a cruel piece of irony that, if you listen to The Beatles' catalog in the order in which it was released in their native UK, you get one of their very worst songs right in between what might just be their two finest ( "Tomorrow Never Knows" &  "Strawberry Fields Forever"). Some backstory: In 1965, The Beatles' American label needed two more cuts to fill out one of their bastardized albums, The Beatles VI. With no new material ready, the group begrudgingly obliged with two Larry Williams covers (their second & third--see  "Slow Down"),  "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" & this, a non-charting 1959 B-side to "She Said Yeah," magnificently covered by The Rolling Stones. While  "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" was deemed good enough to be included Help!, "Bad Boy" was held back, making it the only song released in America that had not appeared on a UK counterpart. When Christmas 1966 rolled around with no new Beatles LP ready (the first time this had happened), their label put out A Collection Of Beatles Oldies, which gathered many of their non-LP singles, a few LP tracks, & this song to lure listeners who already had everything else. While the album had some significant flaws (a jumbled running order, hits omitted, no consistency over album cuts vs. singles), none was worse than the inclusion of this number which played like a piece of coal in a goldmine. (It sounds much better when played directly after  "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," like it was recorded, but I left it here for history's sake.) Oddly stripping out the titular phrase (Williams' original had a response part that said "He's a bad boy," in the style of The Everly Brothers' "Bird Dog"), the song falls apart, & despite some nice rock vocalizations (check out Lennon's "ooo!" after the line "Every dime that he gets"), it is clear that it was nothing more than the filler it was designed to be.
120. Strawberry Fields Forever [Single A-side, 1967; #2 UK / #8 US] *****
Initially conceived as a finger-picking folk song, "Strawberry Fields" evolved to become The Beatles' finest recording. A lyrical meditation on a field near Lennon's childhood home, the song takes in elements of time, space, & memory to weave a singularly beautiful & effective track. Part of its effect comes with the fact that, after the tender Mellotron opening notes, it hits you straight off with the refrain, baptizing you in a wash of sound that finds all The Beatles contributing--Lennon's careening vocals, McCartney's bubbling bass, Harrison's cascading slide guitar, & Starr's stuttering drums, used to their greatest psychedelic impact. & of course, you have the great wizard of George Martin guiding the track to maximum effect. One verse is sung over suspended horns, in another portion, the strings take the lead. & then there is the sounds that can't be defined--the whirring, flickering noise in the final verse that appears to be sound for sound's sake. & of course, the backwards part at the end, echoing the earlier  "Rain" only further enriched by this track's musical colorfulness. Because despite the touches of classical (strings) & jazz (horns), make no mistake about it, this is a rock song played by a rock band, using virtually every trick in the book. But what should sound overcrowded or superfluous instead sounds complexly complete, as every part feeds back into the greater whole of the sound, a unified front of music & lyric that goes on forever. The result is more than just pop or rock, but an artistic a vision of freedom that in its own way, for the length of its own ephemeral existence, goes on forever. With all due respect to Revolver before it & Sgt. Pepper after, this is The Beatles at their creative peak. Which means it is the creative peak of rock, too.
121. Penny Lane [Single A-Side, 1967; #2 UK / #1 US] *****
Often unfairly dismissed as the kinder, gentler, simpler side of  "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane" is a masterpiece in its own right, just as complex & surreal, albeit in a more subtle way. Part of this has to do with the fact that it's a classic McCartney third-person narrative, as opposed to Lennon's seemingly deeper first-person one, but songs like  "Eleanor Rigby" have proven that McCartney can be just as revelatory when spinning tales of others. Also like its flipside, "Penny Lane" was a rumination on childhood, featuring the intersecting memories of a barber, a banker, & a fireman, among others. As Ian MacDonald has pointed out in Revolution In The Head, the song is a masterpiece of paradox, as it creates a world where it is simultaneously clear-skied & pouring rain, summer & winter (the pretty nurse is selling poppies for Armistice Day), & childlike but filled with adult-level double-entendre. There is also the sonic enhancement of sound effects both obvious (the fireman's ringing bell) & subtle (the barber's chair buzzing up as the banker waits to have his haircut), not to mention the spontaneous-yet-perfect piccolo trumpet solo at its core. Once again, this only works because this deeply personal memory of childhood is a group effort, with all Beatles invested to making a greater whole. Because of its wit & tunefulness, it proved to be the more commercial side, hitting #1 in the US (where single sides were still split at the time, even though this was technically a "double A-side" single). & best of all was the line about the pretty nurse: "& though she feels as if she's in a play, she is anyway." Nothing is real, indeed. This &  "Strawberry Fields Forever" should have made the beginnings of a brilliant concept album about childhood & memory, but the lack of any new material since the previous summer's Revolver pressured the group to release this as a single in early 1967. The single market's gain was their next album's loss, as these songs would have anchored a classic album to have become even better.
122. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967; #63 UK* / #71 US*] *****
About four months of silence elapsed between the double-sided  "Strawberry Fields Forever" &  "Penny Lane" single, during which time rumors began to fly that The Beatles were falling apart, or already broken up. Since they had retired from touring the previous year, there was no way for them to connect with the outside world outside of new music being released on record. But when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out in the spring of 1967, The Beatles proved they were functioning as a cohesive unit better than ever. The title track to the LP has since become so overplayed that it's easy to forget how unusual & conceptually daring it was. Having "died" as a live act, The Beatles were re-born as a new act, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, for which this LP was the concert. This song introduced the idea, beginning with the orchestra warming up & sprinkled with applause & laughter throughout. It also was one of the tightest summations of The Beatles' flavor of psychedelic hard rock, all knit together in a two-minute rocker that had a tangible excitement for the proceedings.
123. With A Little Help From My Friends [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967; #63 UK* / #71 US*] *****
Keeping with the Sgt. Pepper concert theme, the next song of the LP was sung by "Billy Shears" (in reality Starr, who if he didn't have the least-recognizable voice, surely had the least-utilized one). Appropriately, he sings about getting by with a little help from his friends, as this song was penned by Lennon-McCartney but would become his signature closer in decades to come. Masterfully bringing together a feeling of social togetherness as well as the influence of drugs ("I get high with a little help from my friends"), it was the perfect entryway into this landmark album of psychedelic community. That it was later immortalized by Joe Cocker at Woodstock only spoke to the richness of its message.
124. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] *****
& then, just three songs in, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band falls apart. As Lennon later pointed out, none of his songs on the LP had to do with Sgt. Pepper & his band because he only knew how to write about himself. Point taken. But at least it gave way to music that sounded unified, even if it held up less well conceptually when put under scrutiny. Lennon's first exercise was this LSD classic (though he always held he had no idea that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" literally abbreviated to "LSD"), perhaps the most evocative lyrical expression for those who had never (& would never) sample the drug itself. Like so many of the cuts on Sgt. Pepper, it worked because it was a unified band performance, McCartney's bass underpinning Lennon's vocals, while Starr's confident drumbeat shifted between the waltz verse & the rock refrain. Lennon would write better songs about the LSD experience (my vote would be for  "I Am The Walrus," though you could just as easily argue  "Rain" or  "Tomorrow Never Knows"), but positioned as it was on this landmark LP, this was the most iconic.
125. Getting Better [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ****1/2
Part of what made Sgt. Pepper so revolutionary in its time (& so dated in ours) was its sunny optimism. No song shows this better than "Getting Better." A light & airy dose of McCartney pop, it is deepened (&, truth be told, darkened) by the contrasting Lennon parts--the "It can't get no worse" reply of the "It's getting better all the time" refrain, the final verse about domestic abuse. Furthermore, the use of clip-clop rhythms & buzzing droning further made it feel at one with the rest of the album, & one would believe, the world at large who heard its simple message.
126. Fixing A Hole [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ***
Perhaps the most trying programming on an original LP is "Fixing A Hole" between  "Getting Better" &  "She's Leaving Home," as the first side of their supposed "greatest" LP is weighed down by excess McCartney. Inspired by his own handiwork at his farm home, it is fine enough, but drags in comparison to its surroundings. Turns out its best to leave the philosophical thinking in The Beatles to Lennon & Harrison.
127. She's Leaving Home [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ****
A bittersweet song about the generation gap, "She's Leaving Home" is one The Beatles' most stirring & mainstream pop recordings, thanks to a dramatic string arrangement by Mike Leander (as opposed to the more subtle work of their usual arranger, George Martin). Like  "Eleanor Rigby," The Beatles themselves play no instruments on the recording, only vocals. When McCartney visited Beach Boy Brian Wilson in the studio while Wilson was recording his follow-up to Pet Sounds, McCartney played him this song, cheekily saying, "You better hurry up!" Wilson was wowed by this song (& perhaps intimidated by it), but to modern audiences, it feels more saccharine than effective. Still, Lennon's nagging refrain lines (supposedly taken from his Aunt Mimi's sayings) lift the spirits of the proceedings.
128. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] *****
The carnival lurks deep in the heart of 1960s psychedelic rock--whether it's Dylan's trailblazing "Desolation Row," The Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus television special, or any number of Frank Zappa's celebrations of the freak sideshow. The Beatles blew its cover with this song, one of the most evocative songs ever produced in rock music. Lennon asked George Martin for a circus sound so authentic that you could smell the sawdust, & Martin delivered in spades. From the haunting organ to the swirling sounds of vendors & rides, it served as an ample reminder of the surrealism, nothing-is-real funhouse of the carnival was the perfect metaphor for the psychedelic experience. Tying it all together was Lennons' lyrics, taken largely verbatim from an antique circus poster he had found advertising the wonders of Mr. Kite's wondrous circus. While Martin's production values gave the song space to breathe, & Starr's one-two hi-hat & McCartney's snaking bassline helped to flesh out the world in which it existed, it was Lennon's central melody that kept the proceedings sound dark & nearly menacing--when he said that Mr. Kite was topping the bill, he made it sound like a plan for world domination. It also held the perfect summation of Sgt. Pepper as an album (despite Lennon's later detail that his songs had anything to do with it): "Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all."
129. Within You Without You [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ***
Upon realizing that his song  "Only A Northern Song" wasn't going to be included on the LP, Harrison went all for broke on "Within You Without You," his deepest exploration into Eastern music & philosophy on record. While it contains excellent performances by originally uncredited Indian musicians (along with Harrison on vocals & sitar), as well as iconic lyrics like "With our love we could save the world," the song drags to the Western ear, overstaying its welcome. Yet as an all-encompassing work of art, it works as a stand-alone piece, demanding you take it at its own terms. George Martin originally didn't know what to do with it (aside from adding strings at Harrison's request), so he put it at the top of the album's second side (a technique he did before for the square peg  "What Goes On" on Rubber Soul). If many found it trying initially, the general opinion of it has improved dramatically, although it still isn't a classic like some of its surroundings on the LP.
130. When I'm Sixty-Four [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ****
Contrasting Harrison's deep & moody Indian exercise  "Within You Without You," was "When I'm Sixty-Four," one of McCartney's earliest songs, although you'd never know it from the treatment it receives here. The first Sgt. Pepper song to be recorded (it was the third option for the  "Strawberry Fields Forever"/ "Penny Lane" single--George Martin later said he wished he had chosen this song & one of the others as so not to have wasted the two better songs), it fits into the LP remarkably well, providing a British music hall feel that one would expect a lonely hearts club band might play. It also broached the subject of old age, albeit in a very opposite way as the earlier  "Eleanor Rigby," a sort of  "Yellow Submarine" for the aged crowd. It must be remembered that part of Sgt. Pepper's appeal was that it included all ages, & older-generation music fans that had never purchased a rock LP found themselves buying & listening to this one. Most tellingly, songs like this helped propel it to become the first rock album to win Album Of The Year at the Grammys.
131. Lovely Rita [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ***
A perfectly fine if unremarkable track, "Lovely Rita" is proof that, song-for-song, Sgt. Pepper was a far weaker affair than their previous LP, Revolver. As Ian MacDonald held in Revolution In The Head, where Sgt. Pepper beat Revolver was in spirit, not musical quality. So where does that leave us with this song? Well, with a cursory glance at the proletariat, in this case a parking meter maid that tows the singer's heart away. Not the deepest of stuff, but high spirited & well-adjusted to the album overall, especially in its exciting, echoing build at the end that collapses into  "Good Morning Good Morning."
132. Good Morning Good Morning [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ****
When The Beatles' Anthology project came out some thirty years after Sgt. Pepper, it gave away the secret how much production work was done to enhance otherwise straight-ahead rockers like this &, say,  "Glass Onion." Stripped of their orchestration, many Lennon songs from this era are little more than solid, if not always memorable driving rockers. They sound fine, but also more than just a little naked. But once the Salvation Army horns & barnyard animal sounds are thrown into the mix, the song transcends to the next level, making the best argument to split for the country this side of The Kinks' "Animal Farm." Nowhere is its carefree life & death perspective more deeply brought home than in the irreverent ending, in which Lennon insisted that each succeeding animal had to be capable of eating the one before it. Nothing to do to save her life, indeed.
133. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] ****
The last song to be recorded for the LP, the idea for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" was broached when it was suggested that they still needed one song to really bring the album home. This did so in more ways than one, as it linked the opening title track, giving the air of a sophisticated song-cycle as opposed to a set of generic rock songs. As previously noted (by Lennon among others), if you look at it song-for-song, the whole concept breaks down, but it works because of its unifying sound & united spirit. Say what you will about the rest of the album, but once this song comes on, it is an exciting revelation. Perhaps no other Beatles song has as much tangible excitement as they are literally figuring out the album-oriented future of modern rock & roll, all singing together & making way for their--or rather, Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band's--epic finale.
134. A Day In The Life [Album Track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967] *****
One of the most accomplished & sophisticated Beatles song, & as some like to tell it, their finest song, period. (As you probably already figured out, my vote would go for  "Strawberry Fields Forever," but I digress.) Inspired by Lennon reading the morning paper, he hitched his somber folk song to a clip of a McCartney song going through his morning routine, which floated on a cloud & landed back in a double-time version of Lennon's ballad. All expertly tied together by Starr's magnificent drumming, only Harrison sits back on the song, contributing acoustic guitar & maracas. The finale is what makes it, though--unsure of how to end it, George Martin instructed an orchestra to climb from their lowest to their highest string in a cacophony of sound, stopping dead cold & landing with all four Beatles slamming the strings of a piano, which gave way to an inner-loop of a dog whistle & some backwards gibberish (at least in the UK edition of the LP). Many hold that this epic of a performance was their masterpiece, the moment at which the sum came together into an undeniable whole, officially turning pop into Art, & The Beatles into geniuses--at least in the eyes of Western Civilization.
135. All You Need Is Love [Single A-Side, 1967; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
If Sgt. Pepper could be praised for its relative subtlety in message, "All You Need Is Love," their next subsequent release a little over a month later, blew its cover. Something of a victory lap in The Summer Of Love, the song was recorded in part for the UK's contribution to the global broadcast Our World, featuring a backing cast of thousands (including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, & countless others). Beginning with a joke quoting of "La Marseillaise" (which itself became a pivotal plot point to an entire film, 2011's The Music Never Stopped) & ending with a free-associative quoting of  "She Loves You" (making this the only #1 Beatles song to quote another #1 Beatles song), it conjured up a carefree & fun environment that few could touch. As a visual & musical message, it defined its era, which means it has since become defined by its era. Because of this, it's the rare song that holds the status of an anthem, but an anthem that many people nowadays don't particularly like. (Even The Beatles themselves seemed to be searching for their way out of psychedelic rock early the following year.) Yet one can't fault its intentions & its articulation of Andy Warhol's Pop idea (even if The Beatles had come up with it themselves): The idea that anyone can do anything. The song was included in the Yellow Submarine film & subsequently on every list of good Beatles songs for children, as though they make the ideal audience for its utopian ideals, which itself is a bit of a sad statement on the current state of the world. Still, I don't see how Beat Bugs could've picked a more appropriate theme song.
136. Baby, You're A Rich Man [Single B-Side, 1967; #34 US] ***
As a lackluster romp through the diamond sky of LSD-inspired music, "Baby, You're A Rich Man" marks the first time that cracks began to show in the facade. The song was at least partially inspired by manager Brian Epstein--legend has it that Lennon's original lyrics were "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew"--who died shortly after this song was recorded (eerily, they were working on it the last time he visited them at the studio). This left their business affairs in a messy state from which they never fully recovered. The song also is a comedown after Sgt. Pepper, setting the course for the ill-fated Magical Mystery Tour project, their first self-produced (& self-managed) project, & their first failure. Still, one can hear a spirit in the song that redeems it, especially with Lennon's imaginative clavioline playing, Starr's bold drumming, & the fun they're having with the ridiculous chorus. But if its flipside  "All You Need Is Love" promised the beginning of a new age, "Baby, You're A Rich Man" held seeds that would undo it.
137. Hello, Goodbye [Single A-Side, 1967; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
The third of three singles for 1967, "Hello, Goodbye" was a childlike study in opposites vaguely disguised as a love song. It was also catchy as hell. Throw in a bunch of horns & The Beatles re-donning their Sgt. Pepper uniforms to shoot the music video & you have one last trip down the  "Penny Lane" of their invincible year (at least until Magical Mystery Tour debuted on the British telly). One missed opportunity pales over the proceedings however: The "Maori" surprise finale should've been "Aloha" (Hawaiian for both hello & goodbye), but no matter, most listeners assumed they were saying "Aloha" anyway. Bright, shiny, fun pop of 1967 just before the mad days of 1968 uprooted everything.
138. I Am The Walrus [Single B-Side, 1967; #56 US] *****
For all that has been written about The Beatles' full-fledged psychedelic music, few seem to ever comment on how little there was of it. There was only one year of releases--1967--& then some leftovers on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack in early 1969. "I Am The Walrus" was the last masterpiece of the period, featuring Lennon going out with a bang (roughly six months later, he was already going to the back-to-basics rock of "Revolution," one of the most extreme about-faces in rock history ever.) Cobbled together from a mix of LSD, free-association, childhood rhymes, & an allusion to  "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (kicking off a lyrical trend of inter-song referrals, first hinted at by the ending of  "All You Need Is Love"), "I Am The Walrus" was powered by its own internal logic (or lack thereof), given a rocking accompaniment by the band overlaid with one of the haunting string arrangements ever heard in a rock song. (Not to mention the seemingly random jabbering throughout that emerges towards the end, which was taken from a BBC production of King Lear, decades before anyone thought of sampling a speech into a song.) "I Am The Walrus" stands as a testament to Lennon's own singular vision, as well as a tantalizing what-if, had The Beatles chosen to continue down this road of darker psychedelic music. But fate had other plans & we're left with this odd, brilliant song, which ended up doubling as Lennon's farewell to the diamond sky of psychedelic rock.
139. Magical Mystery Tour [Double-EP Track, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967] *****
Aside from the inclusion of "I Am The Walrus"--which was technically released as a B-side before Magical Mystery Tour aired--the best part of the Beatles' ill-fated self-produced special was its music, most notably this title track. The first song they begun after Sgt. Pepper, McCartney tried to go a "spontaneous" route before hammering down a more specific structure (which was for the best--if you need to hear the results of spontaneity in 1967, just put on The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request). Fluctuating between the driving verses & the lilting carousel of the refrain, "Magical Mystery Tour" was structurally more interesting than most of their work from this period & boasted enthusiastic vocals & an exciting horn arrangement. Only the meandering fade seemed like a story in search of a plot--which in hindsight made it the perfect theme song to Magical Mystery Tour.
140. Your Mother Should Know [Double-EP Track, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967] ***1/2
With only six songs in Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles couldn't opt to do a full soundtrack album or a four-song EP. As a compromise, they chose to do a "double-EP," which consisted of two 7-inch records of three songs each. In America, where the EP market had long since evaporated, the six songs were released as the first side of a Magical Mystery Tour LP, with the second side picking up other five single sides from the year (, , , , ). For the first & only time, the American version of a Beatles album usurped the UK edition, but for the purposes of this chronology, I am deferring to the original UK double-EP running order. Thus, instead of  "The Fool On The Hill," you get "Your Mother Should Know," a charming piece of filler that seems to hark back to the music hall sensibilities of "When I'm Sixty-Four" (& McCartney's father). With no bridge switching it up, the song sounds unfinished, yet at the same time extremely polished. It was proof that even though the song-for-song quality of their output was nothing like it had been a year earlier, their mastery of the studio could almost make up for it.
141. The Fool On The Hill [Double-EP Track, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967] ***
With apparently most of Lennon's energy going to  "I Am The Walrus," we get another McCartney song, "The Fool On The Hill." It remains one of the least-deserving of The Beatles' most famous songs, presumably because its catchy & inoffensive melody helps it to cross over into the mainstream music realm of  "Yesterday" &  "Eleanor Rigby." But where those songs are effortlessly lovely, "The Fool On The Hill" is more cloying than enjoyable. This is further hindered by the production, which prominently featured...bouncy flutes. 'Nuff said.
142. Flying [Double-EP Track, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967] ***
The only instrumental of The Beatles' official catalog is also the only song credited to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, & Starr. It is also their first to be based on a 12-bar blues progression in quite some time (since  "The Word," perhaps?), which implies that it may have come out of a studio jam. Though seemingly forgettable at first listen, it actually contains some lovely tonal qualities, & rewards the listener who ventures back to it for repeated plays.
143. Blue Jay Way [Double-EP Track, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967] *
One of the worst songs in The Beatles canon (despite the fact that recent criticism has seen its opinion rise greatly), "Blue Jay Way" is Harrison at his worst--listless, dull, & plodding. Filled with superfluous psychedelic chatter, it overstays its welcome. "Please don't be long," goes the refrain; the same could be said for the song itself.
144. Lady Madonna [Single A-Side, 1968; #1 UK / #4 US] *****
The most jarring transition in The Beatles' original UK releases comes as "Lady Madonna" bursts in after  "Blue Jay Way." A little over three months have passed since The Magical Mystery Tour aired on television & was universally panned, & The Beatles seem to be searching for an escape from the project--& by extension, the psychedelic music it prolonged. McCartney came to rescue with this piano-based boogie, which was so indebted to Fats Domino that "The Fat Man" himself recorded a version five months later which was his last charting hit to date (#100 US). It was a back-to-basics record that had a thick sound, carried by lyrics honoring motherhood as it rushed through the days of the week. (It also seemed to contain a link-back to  "I Am The Walrus" which, like that song, repeats the line "See how they run" several times.) One bridge contained vocalized trumpet sounds (itself perhaps inspired by a similar technique employed by Fats Domino in his 1949 hit, "The Fat Man"), followed by another pass that contained the vocalized trumpeting sound on top of additional lyrics (not unlike the real french horn/singing verse in  "For No One"). While it sounded great, it wasn't a classic the way nearly every single British UK single had been up to that point--perhaps this is why it became the first not to hit #1 in the US since  "Yellow Submarine" backed by  "Eleanor Rigby."
145. The Inner Light [Single B-Side, 1968; #96 US] ****
Generally considered to be the finest of Harrison's Eastern-influenced songs, it was also (somehow) his first side on a UK single. With all of the instrumentation played by other musicians (with Harrison "directing"), he gets a lovely feel, giving insight into the wisdom of transcendental mediation & philosophy, right when The Beatles were at the height of their studies in it.
146. Hey Jude [Single A-Side, 1968; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
The biggest hit of The Beatles career, "Hey Jude" was a groundbreaking epic, running for over seven minutes on most radio formats that rarely played songs that broke three-and-a-half. The first three minutes ranked with the finest melody ever heard on a Beatles song, while the following four were a long chorus of "nah-nah-nah"s, which, depending on your perspective, either made the song or ruined it. Either way, it wouldn't be "Hey Jude" without them. Originally written by McCartney to Lennon's son in the back of the car, they worked it up as a functional band in a way they had not really worked in months, which helped to inspire the ill-fated "Get Back" project. McCartney gives it a flawless, & then ridiculous, vocal, Starr provides some of the most satisfying playing of his career (just listen to the way he tumbles in for the first time), Harrison remains characteristically under-the-radar, & Lennon provides some of the worst bass playing ever heard on a top-selling international smash hit. (You can a hear him feign frustrated surprise with a "Whoa!" & then "Bloody hell!" as he fucks up his way towards the "nah-nah-nah"s; oddly, he would be given the chance to butcher another piano-based McCartney classic when he played bass on  "The Long & Winding Road.") Considered by many to be the greatest song The Beatles ever made, as a melody & a hook, it can't be beat--& stands as the textbook example of a natural hit if there ever was such a thing. & yet, the fact that no one less as Elvis tried his hand at it & failed miserably proves that at the same time, it was a singularly Beatles creation.
147. Revolution [Single B-Side, 1968; #12 US] *****
Lennon's first song since  "I Am The Walrus" roughly nine months earlier, this was the last of the "Revolution" songs to be recorded (, ), but the first to be released. Inspired by the political upheaval of 1968, he laid his own rules for social engagement, with a measured skepticism ("You tell me it's the institutions...") & the tenets he carried with him that grew out of the previous year's psychedelic age & the current one's Eastern philosophies ("...you better free your mind instead!"). After all the tangerine trees & marshmallow skies of his LSD-laced recent work ([124)], this was a man who was now decidedly sober & working out his philosophies & realities. Serving as both a warning against & an inspiration for political revolutions of all kinds, it remains one of The Beatles' most timeless & effective rockers.
148. Back In The USSR [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968; #19 UK*] *****
The Beatles biggest album--self-titled The Beatles, but usually referred to as "The White Album"--opened with this cheeky Beach Boys pastiche, which in turn was also loosely based on Chuck Berry's "Back In The U.S.A.," at least in concept. This was an odd way to start an album (especially since The Beach Boys didn't make records like this in at least three years), but then again, "The White Album" is a pretty odd album. & if anyone can make a pseudo-surf rock parody about the Soviet Union work, it's The Beatles. It also set the course for the more straight-ahead sound of the album (after their psychedelic year) &, when it was released in the UK as a single tie-in to the Rock 'n' Roll compilation, eventually became a Top 20 hit in its own right.
149. Dear Prudence [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
Perhaps the most overrated song to regularly make the "most underrated" Beatles songs lists, "Dear Prudence" originated like many of the songs on "The White Album" from their trip to India. Lennon specifically sang it to Mia Farrow's kid sister, Prudence, using a folk finger-picking style likely picked up from Donovan, who was also in the fold. Given the rock treatment at Abbey Road (with McCartney filling in for Starr on drums, & doing quite well with the fill-filled finale), it's perfectly fine, but not the lost classic many cling to with misty eyes.
150. Glass Onion [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
The pinnacle of Beatles' reference songs, "Glass Onion" refers to no less than five other songs--"I told you about Strawberry Fields..." ; 'The Walrus was Paul" (actually, it was Ringo) ; "Lady Madonna tryin' to make ends meet, yeah" ; "I told you about the Fool on the Hill..." ; "Fixing a hole in the ocean..." --the song is an exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy disguised as an allusion-filled parlor game. It also smacks of a hangover from psychedelic rock, but the driving rock keeps the LSD-influenced sounds away (mostly), until George Martin's haunting snippet of strings that end it.
151. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968; #49 US*] *****
The first major white exercise into Jamaican ska music, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" divided The Beatles while recording it--& has divided fans ever since. Despite its carefree sound, McCartney's perfectionism in getting it down drove his bandmates mad, famously resulting in Lennon's wild piano opening out of exasperation. McCartney was so keen on presenting a sense of spontaneity, when he mixed up the line about Desmond staying at home to do her pretty face (it should've been Molly), he left the mistake intact. The song was the most obvious choice for a single from "The White Album," but McCartney was vetoed by the others, even though it was released a single in numerous other countries outside of the US & UK (it hit #1 in Australia, Austria, Germany, & Switzerland); the Scottish band Marmalade swooped in & got a #1 hit out of in the UK. To my ears, it still plays great, although that may just be my childhood nostalgia talking.
152. Wild Honey Pie [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *
This is barely even a song--it's more of an interlude as McCartney just says "Honey pie" over a weird syncopated beat. It is the first evidence on "The White Album" that randomness is the rule of the day, with many weird inter-tracks & codas that often do little more than link songs together. But unlike the music on say, the second side of Abbey Road, these interludes fall apart when taken away from the context of the greater album.
153. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
"The White Album" seemed to touch upon all facets of music--or at least The Beatles' version of it--rock , blues , country , folk , ska , heavy metal , & even postmodern art . On "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill," they seem to broach a children's song, telling the story of a Wild Western cowboy going hunting for tigers. With its odd turns of phrase ("If looks could kill it would've been us instead of him) & jaunty refrain, the track holds up, as carried by Lennon's irreverent vocal. All the children sing!
154. While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *****
Generally considered the finest song on "The White Album," Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" began its life as finger-picked folk song before working its way up to full-band orchestration, the first of which, featuring fancy weeping-guitar effects, was scrapped entirely. Harrison rebuilt the song from scratch, calling in an uncredited Eric Clapton to play lead, as his fluid-playing style was more effective at emulating weeping than any production tricks. A characteristically introspective study on rumination, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" fleshes out a thoughtful lyric with a haunting melody line & as great of a bridge as Harrison would ever write. Coming out of Clapton's solo into the final "diverted" verse is an especially transcendent experience. & therein lies the magic of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps": Where Indian-inspired songs like  "Within You Without You" delivered transcendence through lyrical philosophy, this song delivers it through its sheer sound. Deservedly celebrated as one of The Beatles' greatest recordings.
155. Happiness Is A Warm Gun [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *****
The party line on "The White Album" is that it's a double-LP preview for the coming attractions of The Beatles' solo careers. & while that's the case for many of the songs, it certainly isn't the case for all them. The biggest exception to the rule is "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," Lennon's mini-rock opera that begins as a folk ballad ("She's not a girl..."), grows into a rocker ("She's well acquainted..."), & kicks it up a notch ("Mother Superior jumped the gun"), before cascading into a '50s pastiche ("Happiness is a warm gun..."). All of the twists & turns of the song required the group to work as fully-functioning whole, given the many shifts in tempo, timing, & feel. The fact that they delivered so completely proves that they were still capable of functioning better than any other band in history, even as the first major fissures were occurring in their outfit. By turns sexy & ridiculous, Lennon's doo-wop-flavored finale brings it all home in more ways than one, ending the first side of "The White Album" masterfully.
156. Martha My Dear [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
An ode to a sheepdog, this is McCartney at his most cloyingly catchy, accompanied by a strings-&-brass section courtesy of George Martin. Tellingly, he is the only Beatle who appears on the recording.
157. I'm So Tired [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
A document of Lennon's insomnia, sung lying on the studio floor with a microphone suspended from above. But when he sings "I'll give you everything I got for a little piece of mind," he means it.
158. Blackbird [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *****
Like  "Yesterday," "Blackbird" is one of those McCartney ballads that is so timeless it's insane think that it ever didn't exist. Working his way up & down the guitar neck with some simple figures (as in  "I've Just Seen A Face"), McCartney spins one of his loveliest melodies, which has been alternatively interpreted as a song about love, a song about death, a song about the environment, or a song about the Civil Rights Movement, among other things. The fact that it is open to such interpretations speaks to its effectiveness, although for people in my generation, it will always remain tied with the closing title cards of The Compleat Beatles documentary, summing up each one's work after splitting up, & ending with Lennon's assassination.
159. Piggies [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *1/2
Programming is everything on "The White Album," so it only goes to figure that a song about a blackbird () gives way to a song about "Piggies" (which in turn gives way to a song about a racoon().) Laced with harpsichord and pig sound effects, it was written as a quasi-social commentary with a lyrical assist from his mother ("What they need's a damn good whacking!"). It remains one of Harrison's weakest songs in The Beatles canon, & has only become all the more infamous once Charles Manson cited it as part of the inspiration for his murders the following year.
160. Rocky Racoon [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] **1/2
A galloping Dylan rip-off that quickly gives way to a conventional folk ballad, backed with drums & barrelhouse piano. Many grow nostalgic for its wit & charm, but for a song so focused on lyric, it fails to deliver any kind of punch to redeems its tediousness.
161. Don't Pass Me By [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *
& now a folk ballad () gives way to a country song. Starr's first solo composition for The Beatles (of which there would be only one more, the far better  "Octopus's Garden"), "Don't Pass Me By" remains a plodding track that ranks with the worst music The Beatles ever recorded.
162. Why Don't We Do It In The Road [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] **
& now the drums of a half-baked country song give way to a half-baked blues rocker. Little more than one verse (& by extension, one idea), "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" was perhaps the most Lennon-like song that McCartney ever wrote. Simple, stomping, & unabashedly sexual, its one-note joke exercise in over-zealousness can't hide how half-baked it is, spirited or not.
163. I Will [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
A deceptively-simple sounding love song that, while basic in structure, took McCartney hours of painstaking trial & error to reach the exact sense of softness the song conveys (down to his lovely sung bass part). That it works as well as it does is a testament to McCartney's perfectionism--& his patience.
164. Julia [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
Lennon's mother Julia died when he was in his late teens from a car accident. Lennon was deeply affected by her death & she remained a muse for the rest of his career. (It also became a bonding point for McCartney, who lost his mother, Mary, two years earlier .) "Julia" was a hauntingly beautiful evocation of her that seemed to sing to all of us (even if Lennon was primarily thinking of her): "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you."
165. Birthday [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
If the first LP of "The White Album" was the "hits" record, with several songs that became minor hits (, ) or radio classics (, ) in their own right; the second was the "cult" record with the more obscure & challenging music, but also with some of the most rewarding. One of the great Beatles parlor games is whether "The White Album" should have been issued as a single LP (as George Martin wanted), or if it works better as a whole. Regardless of your belief, just like it wouldn't be  "Hey Jude" without the "nah-nah-nah," it wouldn't be "The White Album" without the sprawl. The second record starts off with this raucous throwaway, penned after watching the Little Richard film The Girl Can't Help It. The simplicity & (dare I say) stupidity has made it a favorite on children's mixes for years.
166. Yer Blues [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
Keeping with the stream-of-conscious masterful programming of "The White Album," a song about your birthday is followed by a song about wanting to die. Recording at ear-bleeding levels, this was The Beatles' version of blues-riff based hard rock, which was being shaped into heavy metal by contemporaries Led Zeppelin right around the time this was waxed. It's good enough as an explosive rocker, but fans of Lennon should do themselves a favor & check out the version cut later in the year for The Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus television special, where Lennon sang it with "The Dirty Mac," featuring Keith Richards on bass, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, & Mitch Mitchell on drums, for what is generally considered the better (& more interesting) version.
167. Mother Nature's Son [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***1/2
Future vegetarian-extrodinaire McCartney sang this song right at the moment when environmentalism was becoming a thing; it would not be the last time The Beatles would lend their talents to such endeavors (). Unlike several "White Album" songs that began as folk ballads & morphed into other things (, ), "Mother Nature's Son" kept its shape intact, its sound brimming with a confident, swinging acoustic vibe. In  "Tomorrow Never Knows," Lennon wanted to sound like he was coming from a high mountaintop, here, McCartney sounds like he's sitting on one by virtue of his performance.
168. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me & My Monkey [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***1/2
One of the most boisterous songs on "The White Album," "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me & My Monkey" pits rhythms & guitars against each other such that the listener is rattling in between in a way that is viscerally exciting. If the lyric was less-than-genius, they didn't need to be. Like so much '50s rock, this song is about a feeling (& probably sex!), albeit in a very different way than Little Richard or Elvis Presley might have recorded it.
169. Sexy Sadie [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
A mysterious, settled track, grounded on one of the prettiest chord progressions Lennon would ever craft. Originally inspired by disenchantment with the Maharishi, traces of this original lyric remain ("You made a fool of everyone"), while the titular character morphed into "Sexy Sadie" to avoid any lawsuits. The Maharishi's loss is our gain; now recast as a sort of love song, it captures the bewilderment that accompanies the devolution of a lover from a magical being to something far more secular--& the struggle to come to terms with it.
170. Helter Skelter [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
If  "Yer Blues" was Lennon's version of heavy metal, "Helter Skelter" is McCartney's version of it. Depending on who you ask, it's either one of the greatest or one of the worst Beatles songs of all-time, while its infamy with being associated with the Charles Manson murders of 1969 (along with Harrison's  "Piggies") adding another layer to the puzzle. To these ears, it's always sounded overwrought--noise for noise's sake, the kind of music the old parents always yell at the kids to turn down in the movies--but that's probably the point. Plus, it's got one of the great endings in The Beatles' cannon: "I got blisters on my fingers!"
171. Long, Long, Long [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
This being "The White Album," it only figures that one of the loudest songs on the LP (), is followed by the very quietest. Harrison's third of four compositions, this is the finest after  "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." It plays like its own secret, a whispered hush that demands to be leaned into, & rewards every listener with its gentle grace.
172. Revolution 1 [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
The last side of "The White Album" opens with the earliest version of Lennon's "Revolution" series. (It was, in fact, the first song began for "The White Album.") He originally wanted this to be a single, but it was deemed too slow, hence the faster rock version () that was released as the B-side to  "Hey Jude." This was a charming blues shuffle that finds the group coming down from the heady days of psychedelic rock by getting their feet wet in a slow, socially-conscious boogie. If there was any wonder whether they were looking to get back to their '50s rock roots, the "shoobie-doo-wah" backing vocals seem to confirm that they were.
173. Honey Pie [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ***
Another flirtation in the dancehall style (like  "When I'm Sixty-Four") found The Beatles doing the most Hollywood-focused song they would ever write (the only thing close would be  "Act Naturally," which was a Buck Owens cover). Keeping with theme of pastiche, McCartney made it have a silver screen, silent era feel; keeping with the theme of interconnected songs, its subject seems to be a very different kind of muse in the throwaway  "Wild Honey Pie." Unlike some of McCartney's more self-indulgent work, this brings him to the edge of embarrassing self-parody (especially his utterances during the musical break) but is saved by its inherent charm.
174. Savoy Truffle [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] **
Ever wonder what it would sound like if The Beatles recorded a song about a box of chocolates? Look no further than "Savoy Truffle," inspired by Harrison & Eric Clapton's late-night gluttonous candy box binges. Enhanced by a funky horn section, production values can't mask the fact it's essentially Harrison reading a list of candy flavors--except for when he keeps up with "The White Album" name game by alluding to  "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."
175. Cry Baby Cry [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] ****
A nursery rhyme wrapped in a haunting folk song, "Cry Baby Cry" is one of the most oddly affecting pieces on "The White Album," tucked away on its final side. & just when you think it's stopped dead cold at the end, McCartney's even more haunting "Can You Take Me Back?" snippet appears out of the ether, perfectly answering his partner's counterpart.
176. Revolution 9 [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *
Clocking in at nearly eight & a half minutes, "Revolution 9" is the longest song The Beatles ever released. Except that it's not even really a song by normal standards (despite the fact it's officially a Lennon-McCartney composition). "Revolution 9" is a sound collage assembled by Lennon with an assist by Harrison, inspired by the avant-garde work of Lennon's lover/muse, Yoko Ono. As a piece of art, it remains the most radical thing to be included on a #1 album that sold millions of copies, & that alone should be seen as an achievement. It is also an appropriate sonic encapsulation of 1968, a "revolution" song that was actually lived up to its name. But is it any good? If it was, say, cut to the last two minutes or so, I think it'd be a very fascinating extended interlude on the album, but given its unwieldy length, it is simply too long to hold up for repeat listenings. & given the lackluster quality of the closing song on "The White Album," I'd hazard to guess that most listeners turn the album off after "Cry Baby Cry" & consider those 28 songs to be "The White Album."
177. Good Night [Album Track, The Beatles, 1968] *
From Elvis & Ray Charles on down, even the best rockers have flirted with schmaltz, if not went through major periods of making it (see: Elvis & Ray Charles). The closest The Beatles ever came was "Good Night," which, like  "Martha My Dear," features only one Beatle on the recording--a vocal by Starr--all of the instrumentation is an arrangement that can only be described as "Disney strings." If Starr is game enough (it seems to be a preview for his album of standards he would later record for his mother), his clumsy croon adds little to the song, which was originally written by Lennon for his son. He probably should have kept it between them, as this is the weakest close to a Beatles album--& probably the weakest close to any "great" album, period.
178. Only A Northern Song [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969] ***
The Beatles' animated feature Yellow Submarine was released while the group was working on "The White Album," but the soundtrack release was delayed to early 1969, as not to compete with their big-ticket double-LP. But in fact, Yellow Submarine was hardly an album in its own right--it featured six Beatles songs (two of which, the title track & "All You Need Is Love") had already been released, with the remainder of the album filled out by The George Martin Orchestra. That meant there were only four new songs on the LP, three of which were leftovers from the psychedelic era & sounded like it. "Only A Northern Song" was Harrison's first composition for Sgt. Pepper, but was cast aside presumably for its sardonic tone (Northern Songs were Lennon & McCartney's songwriting publisher, under which Harrison was then currently employed.) Though many overlook it, I hear a caustic wit that is not unlike the vibe of  "Taxman," bringing the song into a darker place than the group's usual psychedelic fare. To these ears, it plays at least as well as half the stuff that made it to Sgt. Pepper in its place--including Harrison's replacement composition for the LP,  "Within You Without You."
179. All Together Now [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969] ****
A children's song, which is often overlooked by purists for reasons that can only be snobbery. "All Together Now" is not trying to be anything more than it is--a children's song--& in this, it succeeds wonderfully. & with McCartney & Starr bashing about on various percussion & Lennon's ukulele brought up high in the mix, it is the rare Beatles song from this otherwise very serious period that sounds utterly carefree.
180. Hey Bulldog [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969] ****1/2
The lost Beatles masterpiece? Buried away on a half-filled soundtrack for a film in which it doesn't even appear, "Hey Bulldog" was heard by many people for the first time when it was saved from obscurity by its inclusion on The Beatles' Rock 'n' Roll Music double-LP in 1976. Ever since, it's legend had been growing. Perhaps the funkiest thing the group ever cut, it sounds at once tossed-off & deeply focused, a song that, like  "Lady Madonna," finds them rediscovering their groove after their psychedelic period. & yet, the "You can talk to me" chorus rings out as both heartfelt & desperate, a gesture in rock that is only beaten by The Four Tops' "Reach Out (I'll Be There)." The random chatter at the end brings down the track a little bit, but even that remains fascinating in an off-the-cuff manner. For many latter-day Beatles fans, "Hey Bulldog" is the rarest of rarities--a song that is so unknown, so underplayed, it feels like an entirely undiscovered fresh listening experience, just for you.
181. It's All Too Much [Album Track, Yellow Submarine, 1969] *
As luck would have it, the best song on Yellow Submarine () is followed by the worst. This was presumably done to separate the two Harrison songs, which in turn were arranged to separate the two previously-released songs. But no matter how you cut it, "It's All Too Much" is one of the worst things The Beatles ever recorded. With its unwelcoming "To your mother--" opening (perhaps a reference to  "Your Mother Should Know," recorded in this same period?), it seems to be redeemed by the organ intro, but it is soon weighed down by an over-compressed, over-long song that should have never been released in the first place. The other new songs on Yellow Submarine played like neat little curiosities; "It's All Too Much" sounds like the psychedelic reject that it was.
182. Get Back [Single A-Side, 1969; #1 UK / #1 US] *****
Inspired by the fun (remember that?) they had recording the  "Hey Jude" promo film, The Beatles embarked upon their ill-fated "Get Back" project, where they were going to document themselves writing & recording a new album, which might be performed & released as a concert. Following the lead of Dylan's John Wesley Harding & The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, as well as the emergence of The Band (who Harrison once described as the greatest band in the universe), this was to be a no-frills, no-effects, no-bullshit affair. But, as has often been written, instead of making a document of their return to their performing roots, they were making a document of themselves falling apart. For all the hours of video & studio recordings yielded by the group in early 1969, only two songs were released contemporaneously, "Get Back," & its B-side  "Don't Let Me Down." "Get Back" was intended to be the title track & philosophical ethos of the project, a driving rock boogie built on a few chords & some nice lead work by Lennon. In part to keep everyone on their best behavior, Harrison had brought African-American R&B musician Billy Preston to the studio with him to play electric piano, making this & its flip the only Beatles songs to be released as a collaboration: "The Beatles with Billy Preston" (leading Preston to become "The Fifth Beatle," along with about 37 other people). An instant classic that addressed transvestism while Lou Reed was still trying to figure out what to do with The Velvet Underground, it proved that, some seven years after the fact, The Beatles could hold their own against any pub band out there.
183. Don't Let Me Down [Single B-Side, 1969; #35 US] *****
A love song to Yoko by Lennon that continues the literal streak in his songwriting initiated by  "Revolution," which also makes it one of the sexiest (or at least most suggestive, depending on your perspective) Beatles songs out there. Cultural critic Greil Marcus also heard the song as a worthy farewell to fans--& the last essential music by them worth hearing--even though a more formal farewell, Abbey Road, would follow. Oddly, the song was left off of the Phil Spector-produced Let It Be album, an oversight that was remedied by McCartney's latter-day Let It Be...Naked remix of it a few decades later.
184. The Ballad Of John & Yoko [Single A-Side, 1969; #1 UK / #8 US] *****
The peak of Lennon's literalism as a songwriting Beatle came with this, the what-you-see-is-what-you-get "The Ballad Of John & Yoko." Despite all the infighting at this point in the group (about music, about money, about everything) between the two principles, Lennon wrote this song, got inspired, called McCartney to the studio, & the two of them had a great time banging it out, seeming to prove that even in the darkest of times, The Beatles had an essential spirit of love & friendship that could override everything else. Lennon sang lead & played the guitars while McCartney sang harmony & played all the other instruments. With the 12-bar blues at its core & two bridges thrown in to split it up, "The Ballad Of John & Yoko" is an infectious rocker, even if it among the least essential singles they ever cut (along with  "Lady Madonna"). Its references to crucifixion made it controversial in America, but it easily made #1 in literally every other major country with an official music chart, & holds the distinction of being The Beatles' last #1 single in their native UK.
185. Old Brown Shoe [Single B-Side, 1969] ****
Harrison doubles down on a blues boogie, crafting some sly lyrics ("I want a love that's right but right is only half of what's wrong") & some great playing that is matched by the enthusiasm of his bandmates (especially Lennon, who can be heard shouting for joy in the background). It was so good that it somehow made it on "The Blue Album," although it shouldn't have since it wasn't a hit & didn't belong in any sort of comprehensive overview. But as an explosion of quality & joy, it sounds better & better with every listen.
186. Come Together [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969; #4 UK / #1 US] *****
This is one of those songs that is so overly familiar that it's easy to forget just how strange it is. Like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" over two decades later, the main verses are sung over primarily drums and bass, with Lennon's free-associative lyrics describing some sort of a hippie like he was a creature from outer space. He also subconsciously took the opening lines ("He come on flattop, he come groovin' up slowly") from Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me," which resulted in a lawsuit. Released as the flip-side to  "Something," the only Beatles single to be released of previously-released material (in a ploy to get some money concocted by then-manager Allen Klein), "Come Together" was actually the more popular side. Although he would release other fine songs in the short remainder of The Beatles' career, "Come Together" was Lennon's final masterpiece, which is made all the more ominous by the "shoot me" riff that starts off & continues through the song.
187. Something [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969; #4 UK / #1 US] *****
After  "Yesterday," the most covered song in the history of recorded sound is Harrison's "Something." With its main phrase lifted from then-Apple recording artist James Taylor's song "Something In The Way She Moves," the is a work of wistful beauty that builds to a charging rocker bridge. It also features fines lead guitar work by Harrison, who is sounding more & more like his best friend Eric Clapton every day. Its quality was rewarded by being the only Harrison song to grace the A-side of a Beatles single, even though the single came out after the song had been released on Abbey Road. Thanks to its flip,  "Come Together," making the top of the chart in America, it could be sneaked onto The Beatles' massively-selling compilation 1, as the only Harrison track.
188. Maxwell's Silver Hammer [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***
Never a favorite within The Beatles, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" catches McCartney at his worst both musically (the over-perfectionism that drove his bandmates crazy) & lyrically (this was essentially a novelty song about a psycho killer). & yet, the fact that a song so potentially tasteless arguably works is because of its sterling production values, causing its sick humor to skate by undetected as light pop. Still, McCartney's bandmates were right in vetoing it as the group's next single, as McCartney had initially lobbied.
189. Oh! Darling [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***
McCartney channels Elvis in this song, which, like most of the songs that would appear on Abbey Road, originally dated from the abandoned "Get Back" sessions. After the latter fell apart, George Martin said he would re-team with The Beatles for another album, which for all intents & purposes looked to be their final one. The resulting Abbey Road was often choppy during the sessions (at one point, Lennon wanted all of his songs on one side & all of McCartney's on the other), but they pulled through for one last magnum opus swan song. The result was the best-sounding Beatles album, which helped elevate a song like "Oh! Darling," which would have sounded like a '50s pastiche on an earlier record, to stunning show of force in its own right.
190. Octopus's Garden [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***1/2
Starr's second & final solo composition for The Beatles was his finest, showing he had grown leaps & bounds over his previous  "Don't Pass Me By," as well as collaborations like the lackluster  "What Goes On." After learning that octopuses made little gardens out of stones at the bottom of the sea, he put together this harmless little country rocker. It worked because not only was it a decent song, but also because his bandmates sound fully engaged with fleshing out their parts (especially Harrison's lead work), which in turn made it not come off as second-rate corn-&-country, as his previous work often did. The wonderful solo hit "It Don't Come Easy" was just around the corner. Included on "The Blue Album" compilation (presumably to get a Starr composition on there), it didn't deserve to be, but still blended in with its surroundings better than anyone might have imagined.
191. I Want You (She's So Heavy) [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***
Clocking in at nearly eight minutes, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" was the longest Beatles song that was actually a traditional song (only the sound collage  "Revolution 9" beats it); it was also among the most amount of studio time The Beatles spent working on a song. Featuring the twin lead progressions of Lennon & Harrison, it plays like a farewell to their underrated guitar chemistry, broken up as it is by only a few short phrases that total only 14 different words. It also features a Santana-style jam before returning to the main undulating progression, which plays over increasing wind machine sound effects until it surprises the listener by cutting off cold (insisted on by Lennon). Originally intended to be the end Abbey Road, The Beatles wisely flipped the sides at the last minute, allowing it to end with the more appropriate  "The End," which came with its own surprise ( "Her Majesty").
192. Here Comes The Sun [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] *****
Ironically, one of the most optimistic songs of The Beatles career was a song they recorded while bitterly falling apart. Harrison's other masterpiece on the album (along with  "Something") showed that he could now write songs that were not only top-notch, but arguably better than the recent material of his bandmates. He was more than ready to go his own way, as his triple-album solo debut would confirm. "Here Comes The Sun" is also perhaps the most iconic Beatles song to never be released as a single--& it deserved to be.
193. Because [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****
A Lennon song that featured the most complex harmonies ever heard in a Beatles song, this was the equivalent of  "This Boy" cubed, with Lennon, McCartney, & Harrison contributing three overdubbed vocals each. This was the final song recorded for Abbey Road, & by extension, the final song recorded by The Beatles, outside of  "I Me Mine," which didn't feature Lennon. It was a worthy farewell.
194. You Never Give Me Your Money [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****
A Brief History Of The Twilight Of The Beatles. Taking the form of a mini-rock opera, "You Never Give Me Your Money" shifts from a ballad ("You never give me your money...") to a rock boogie ("Out of college...") to something more majestic ("But oh that magic feeling...") before finally resolving on a transcendent nursery rhyme ("One, two, three, four, five, six, seven..."). It is among the most sophisticated songs that McCartney would ever pen, & holds together better than most of the similar-type variations he penned in his long solo career. As a single work, it plays like his version of Lennon's  "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." It was also the first indication that the second side of Abbey Road was going to be something special.
195. Sun King [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] **
The sole bum track on the otherwise near-perfect second side of Abbey Road, "Sun King" finds the group singing in Italian, the most foreign tongue featured in a Beatles record since  "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" &  "Sie Liebt Dich." It nearly drags the proceedings to a halt, but luckily the songs that surround it more than make up for its relative folly.
196. Mean Mr. Mustard [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***1/2
A song by Lennon that dated from their India trip before recording "The White Album," "Mean Mr. Mustard" was little more than a jingle, featuring a sister "Shirley" until he changed it to "Pam" so that it could segue into  "Polythene Pam." These two songs represent Lennon's only songwriting contributions to Abbey Road's "long medley."
197. Polythene Pam [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***1/2
Originally conceived of as its own song until Lennon discovered he could segue  "Mean Mr. Mustard" into it, "Polythene Pam" was a cool burst of adrenaline that featured some of Lennon's sharpest late-period lyrics ("She's the kind of the girl who makes The News Of The World, yes, you could say she was attractively built").
198. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****
Lennon always blamed McCartney for writing songs about other people, but in pieces like "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window," it worked wonderfully. First off, the title is simply a great idea (perhaps a sequel to Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"), weaving a tale of retired policemen, self-proclaimed dancers, & the days of the week calling each other on the phone. This song had the kind of solid craftsmanship & performance that The Beatles created so effortlessly, turning what would be dismissed as filler in someone else's hands as something polished & compelling in its own right.
199. Golden Slumbers [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****1/2
A beautiful ballad by McCartney that ranks with the most tuneful & moving work he's ever written. The fact that it also seemed to be a lullaby to be played as they put The Beatles to sleep only added another layer to the emotion.
200. Carry That Weight [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****
As the rocking resolution to  "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" appeared to be about the legacy of The Beatles on the group member's impending solo careers. Working in a piece of  "You Never Give Me Your Money" only added to sense of cohesion; where Sgt. Pepper appeared to be a singular, unified work, the "long medley" of Abbey Road's second side actually was.
201. The End [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ****
Picking up on a modulation upwards from  "Carry That Weight," "The End" began with a rocking opening, before making way for the only drum solo on a Beatles record. This in turn made way for the three Beatles guitarists rotating licks (McCartney plays it straight, Harrison plays like Clapton, & Lennon bangs around like a proto-punk), before leaving one final kernel of wisdom--"& in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make"--winding to an elegant finale. It appeared to bring the Abbey Road, & by extension, The Beatles as a recording act, to a perfect close.
202. Her Majesty [Album Track, Abbey Road, 1969] ***
& then, after 17 seconds of silence following  "The End," "Her Majesty" appears. Originally planned to go in between  "Mean Mr. Mustard" &  "Polythene Pam" (presumably illustrating the "takes him out to look at the Queen" lyric), McCartney asked for it to be discarded, so the engineer edited it to the end of the tape. When listening to a play-through, McCartney liked how the song then appeared out of nowhere at the end & decided to keep it right there. Coming at the end of, well, "The End," the song plays like a wink, as though nothing is ever really finished. & sure enough, another album's worth of Beatles material waited in the wings.
203. Across The Universe [Wildlife Version] [Benefit Album Track, No One's Gonna Change Our World, 1969] **1/2
Perhaps the most overrated of the "great" Beatles songs, "Across The Universe" was thought very highly by its author, Lennon, who initially wanted to release it as a single. When  "Lady Madonna" got the nod instead, this song sat on the shelf until Lennon gave it to The Goon Show veteran Spike Mulligan, who was assembling a charity album for the World Wildlife Foundation that was released a month after Abbey Road, in December 1969. With this song in tow, the collection was named No One's Gonna Change Our World & opened with "Across The Universe," hence the wildlife sound effects at its start. As the final song released by The Beatles in the '60s, it was less than stellar, especially with the two teenage girls Lennon called in from the street to sing backing vocals--two "Apple Scruffs" who spent all day waiting outside of Apple studios for a glimpse of The Beatles. Despite some lovely lyrical images, the song drags (even though this version was sped up slightly from its original recording tempo to little avail), & after the official release a few months later (), this inferior version remains little more than a curiosity for Beatles fans.
204. Let It Be [Single Version] [Single A-Side, 1970; #2 UK / #1 US] *****
"Let It Be" was the final single released by The Beatles before they ceased to be a band. Originally recorded over a year earlier with the "Get Back" sessions, the song was inspired by a dream in which McCartney's dead mother, Mary, told him to "let it be." Given the level of chaos & frustration in that period of The Beatles' career, they were indeed words of wisdom. Nearly identical to the album version released a few months later (), the single mix of "Let It Be" featured a different guitar solo, less prominent orchestration, & a shorter running time. It is generally considered to be the better of the two versions. As a whole, this is The Beatles' final masterpiece, & as much a worthy farewell as a single as Abbey Road had been as an album.
205. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) [Single B-Side, 1970] *1/2
Strangely, the last song issued as The Beatles while they were still a band was this bizarre novelty, "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)." Originally dating from the psychedelic days of 1967 (where it makes much more sense in context), the song was left on the shelf & tinkered with over the years until it was finally released as the B-side to  "Let It Be." Beginning as a psychedelic chant, the song first shifts into an amusing nightclub act parody featuring one "Dennis O'Bell" (actually McCartney), to gossiping lower-class housewives (actually Lennon), until it becomes a jazz combo with what sounds like a monster snorting & heaving over the song (Lennon again). The only Beatles song to feature a belch, it also featured The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones on alto sax. As a whole, the song spoke to The Beatles' often overlooked irreverent humor, but made an embarrassing farewell track for an amazing band. Easily their worst B-side.
206. Two Of Us [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
On April 10, 1970--a little over a month after the "Let It Be" single was released--McCartney announced that The Beatles was no longer a band. Meanwhile, the "Get Back" sessions from early 1969 had still only seen three songs released from the dozens they recorded:  "Get Back,"  "Don't Let Me Down," &  "Let It Be." To McCartney's chagrin, Lennon gave the unfinished masters to legendary producer Phil Spector, who assembled Let It Be to match with the release of the documentary film chronicling the project. The resulting Let It Be album was incredibly controversial upon its release in May 1970s, with Spector's mixes seen as ruining The Beatles' music. Hindsight has shown the criticism to be mostly overblown, as it's a fine album & with a closer look, Spector's touches have as much to do with covering up imperfections on the tapes than him imposing himself on things. One of the most affecting songs on the LP is the first, "Two Of Us," which finds Lennon & McCartney hitting an Everly Brothers vibe as they seemingly sing to each other in an effort to make their way back home. (Perhaps the opening lines of  "Golden Slumbers" answers this prospect.) It is a quiet opening to an LP made under stormy conditions, & perhaps the most sublime (& least-known) opening numbers to a Beatles album.
207. Dig A Pony [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
To provide a finale for the Let It Be film (& the "Get Back" project), The Beatles played a set on the rooftop of their Apple Corps building on January 30, 1969. It was the final time The Beatles ever performed as a live band. Many of the songs (& dialog snippets) on Let It Be were taken from this concert, the first of which being Lennon's "Dig A Pony." After a false start (Starr had to blow his nose), the song begins as a winding, boogie-based rocker with free-associative lyrics by Lennon. If the song is not one of his greatest overall, the performance elevates it with visceral energy.
208. Across The Universe [Album Version] [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
Though technically not recorded as part of the "Get Back" project (the main vocal takes were recorded before "The White Album" sessions in early 1968), "Across The Universe" still didn't have a proper home on a Beatles album, as it had only seen the light of day on a wildlife charity album (). Spector wisely disregarded the wildlife sound effects as well as the teenage girls' backing vocals, & overdubbed strings to fill out the sound. While vastly improved, the song was still not the masterpiece that many (Lennon included) have made it out to be. Quite simply, its esoteric "Jai guru deva om" mantra is no replacement for McCartney's simpler, more effective  "Let It Be."
209. I Me Mine [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] **1/2
When the final edit of the Let It Be film contained a scene of Harrison demonstrating this song to Starr, it was decided that a finished version should be made for the accompanying LP. With Lennon with Yoko Ono in Denmark, Harrison, McCartney, & Starr convened for The Beatles' final recording session on January 3, their only one to take place in the 1970s. They fleshed out the song with a short 1:34 minute running time; for the album release, the bridge & following section were repeated to fill out the length. & so, coming after some four months after the last song with Lennon--the infinitely better  "Because"--"I Me Mine" holds the distinction of being the final Beatles song to be recorded. It's bitter lyric has long been interpreted to describe greed that tore The Beatles apart, which was less caustically documented in  "You Never Give Me Your Money." This is a song that would be entirely looked over if not for its historical significance as The Last Beatles Song.
210. Dig It [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] *
A stream-of-conscious riff that was edited down from a much longer jam, "Dig It" is essentially a throwaway interlude on Let It Be that allowed Lennon to further insult McCartney by putting on a mock schoolboy voice to introduce the title track.
211. Let It Be [Album Version] [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] *****
A subtly different version from the single version , which contains an alternate, more stinging guitar solo, greater orchestration, & a longer length. As noted earlier, this is generally considered the slightly inferior version, although most would have to strain to hear the difference.
212. Maggie Mae [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] **
Another piece of spiteful programming by Lennon, which had McCartney's tribute to his mother followed by a folksong about a Liverpudlian whore. Of all the cover songs to be tested during the "Get Back" sessions, this was a lively but odd choice, & holds the distinction of being the only non-original released Beatles song since  "Bad Boy" & recorded since  "Act Naturally."
213. I've Got A Feeling [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
Perhaps the final clearly-split Lennon-McCartney composition, "I've Got A Feeling" features McCartney's gospel-tinged blue-eyed soul rocker making way for Lennon's street-wise cool-down. They wisely chose the take originating from the rooftop concert, mistakes & all, which had a warm-&-ragged quality to it.
214. The One After 909 [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
One of the earliest Lennon-McCartney songs to be written, it was first attempted in 1963 in the session that produced  "From Me To You" &  "Thank You Girl." They breathed new life in it here as part of the rooftop concert, with Billy Preston filling in some great electric piano work. In many ways, this plays like the ultimate song from the "Get Back" project--a rockabilly song that actually dated from when The Beatles were still a rockabilly band, a reminder that this was a band with real history & camaraderie. The thick, rocking groove they hit for this sounds like old masters conjuring the ghost of the earlier incarnation of their pub-band selves. I have a feeling their teenage selves would have been aptly impressed. It is also, oddly, the only Beatles song about a train.
215. The Long & Winding Road [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970; #1 US*] ****
215. The Long & Winding Road [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970; #1 US*] ****
"The Long & Winding Road" is often cited as the proof that Phil Spector ruined Let It Be. In truth, the version at the core of the take featured only McCartney singing & on piano, with Lennon playing the most incompetent bass part ever heard on a Beatles song. (Only his bare-bones bass playing on  "Hey Jude" comes close.) With The Beatles far from a state to participate as active partners on the project, Spector had to make do with what he had. In part to mask Lennon's ineptitude, Spector overdubbed a zillion strings & what sounds like a choir over it, which, while turning it into a syrupy, saccharine mess, did its job in hiding the errors at the song's core. Released a single after the fact in the US, the song hit #1 for two weeks. One has to wonder if this had more to with nostalgia about The Beatles' breaking up (& the '00s ending) than the inherent quality of the song. One would do best to just end their hit singles with the last one they released while together,  "Let It Be."
216. For You Blue [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ***
Harrison's final Beatles song to be released was "For You Blue," a 12-bar blues featuring Lennon on lap-steel slide guitar with Harrison egging him on. It proved to be a low-key finale for the most low-key Beatle.
217. Get Back [Album Version] [Album Track, Let It Be, 1970] ****
This is the exact same take as the one used on the single version (), minus the reverb & with studio chatter before & rooftop chatter afterwards to create the impression of a different version. While not exactly improving the single version, it doesn't really detract from it either, although the single version is the default standard. Still, it's hard to argue with the desire to end the album--& The Beatles' official recorded catalog--with Lennon's famous words at the close of the rooftop concert: "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group & ourselves, & I hope we passed the audition."
Audition, consider yourself passed.