The Beatles' twelve studio LPs and various singles and EPs are packed with so many seminal moments of Western popular music as we now know it that it's hard to believe they were released in the space of just over seven years.
Please Please Me (1963)
- The "one, two, three, FOUR!" at the beginning of "I Saw Her Standing There" alone makes it the perfect way to open the Fab Four's first LP, but the raw energy of Paul's voice and George and John's guitar work give us a song to remember."Well, she was just seventeen, yeah, you know what I mean..."
- "Please Please Me", their second single and first UK #1 as well as the title track of their first album, is pure 1960s-brand garage-punk of the 'Nuggets'/'Pebbles' etcetera variety, and sits comfortably (as does the better-known "She Loves You") within the 'original punk' genre.
- "Twist and Shout", the famous throat-shredding single take, is as close as we're likely to get to the sheer adrenaline of the Beatles' live performances in 1963, when this was their preferred closing number. John's voice held out for just long enough to give us an absolute classic.
With the Beatles (1963)
- The Beatles' second album gets off to the same flying start as their first with the catchy rocker "It Won't Be Long", anchored by a first rate vocal performance from John.
- The fascinating opening chord from "All I've Got to Do" pre-dates the more iconic opening chord to "A Hard Day's Night" by several months; the rest of the song is one of the lads' more soulful love ballads.
- "All My Loving", the song with which the Beatles opened their first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, boasts a catchy tune and a great lead vocal from Paul.
- Paul's sensitive lead vocal and the acoustic guitars and bongos from John, George, and Ringo in the Beatles' cover of "Till There Was You" from The Music Man provide early evidence of how versatile they were as musicians, just as capable at rendering slow ballads as fast rockers.
- The Smokey Robinson-inspired "Not a Second Time" may be somewhat infamous among Beatles fans as the song that inspired the "Aeolian cadences" overanalysis by The Times' William Mann, but there's no denying that its harmonic progressions are highly unusual and part of the song's appeal, as is the heavily echoed piano performance by George Martin.note
- The closing cover of Janie Bradford and Berry Gordy's "Money (That's What I Want)" was, like "Twist and Shout" before it, recorded at the end of a lengthy recording session, and John's throaty performance once again comes close to capturing the sheer energy of a live performance, punctuated by George Martin's double-tracked piano performance of the song's familiar guitar riff.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
- The opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" is perhaps their most memorable opening to any song, and still confounding guitarists who try to replicate it to this day.note The rest of the song is just as memorable, and represents an early successful synthesis of two song fragments that didn't quite stand on their own (the verses and the bridge were originally planned for separate songs) but fit together like a hand in a glove.
- The Beatles' meeting with Bob Dylan didn't just provide an anecdote about Dylan's Mondegreen of "I get high, I get high, I get high" in the bridge of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"; it also inspired John to write more meaningful lyrics, starting with the lovestruck rocker "I Should Have Known Better", which also features a Dylan-esque harmonica riff (one of the Beatles' last songs to feature harmonica) and a memorable 12-string guitar solo from George.
- Some exquisite vocal harmonies and delightful melodies make the hopeful "If I Fell" a standout on the soundtrack side of the album.
- "And I Love Her" is a wonderful ballad with hauntingly beautiful and sparse acoustic instrumentation. The 2009 remasters in particular, since they bestow upon it a warmth and clarity that previous mixes simply lacked.
- The high-energy "Can't Buy Me Love" accompanies one of the most iconic sequences in the film, a sequence to which almost every music video ever made owes an indirect debt of influence, but the song itself stands up very well on its own, almost serving as a counterpoint to the cover of "Money" that closed the previous album. "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love..."
- The album's non-soundtrack side also hits the ground running with the just plain fun rocker "Any Time at All", a more fast-paced version of the "If you need me, just call me" theme from "All I've Got to Do" from the previous album. The instrumental break in the middle of the song is a highlight.
- The haunting "reverse nostalgia" ballad "Things We Said Today" (written for, but not included in, the film) is one of Paul's early masterpieces. The more melancholy verses, in which the singer wonders if he and his lover will remember the "things [they] said today" years from now, contrast well with the more upbeat, major key bridge.
- "You Can't Do That" was recorded for the film, but the performance was ultimately left on the cutting room floor. A shame, as the song - John's self-confessed attempt to emulate Wilson Pickett - is incredibly catchy and memorable.
- "I'll Be Back" is written with not one, but two different bridges - "I love you so / I'm the one who wants you..." and "I thought that you would realise..." - which combines with the sudden shifts between A minor and A major at the beginning and end of the verses to create one of their most complex early songs.
Beatles for Sale (1964)
- The first three songs on this album are indicative of the darker tone set by this album, and all three are awesome in their own way:
- "No Reply", in which the singer tries unsuccessfully to get through to the girl he loves but who is giving him the brush-off, has the anguished cries of "I saw the light!" and "I nearly died!" in the verses, brilliantly rendered by John and Paul.
- The upbeat melody of "I'm a Loser" creates an interesting case of Lyrical Dissonance in this song mourning lost love and lost opportunity, but said melody and John's performance of it add up to a classic lover's lament.
- The bluesy guitar riff that opens and recurs throughout "Baby's in Black" is a winner, coupled with the colour imagery of its refrain ("Oh dear, what can I do / Baby's in black and I'm feelin' blue / Tell me oh, what can I do") and the plaintive vocal performances.
- Paul's sublime folk country guitar ballad "Ill Follow The Sun", one of the first songs he ever wrote, is brief but stunningly effective and sweet.
- The cover of "Mister Moonlight" is one of their more polarising tracks, but there's something gloriously primal about John's opening cry of "MISTAAAAAAAAEHAHAHAAAA MOOONLAAAIIITTT!!!"
- The Fade In at the beginning of "Eight Days a Week" marks the song as a classic from the word "go". Although it does not quite fade in from total silence, it was still a bold move for its day. The rest of the song features more catchy vocal melodies from John and Paul.
- The upbeat "Every Little Thing" was written by Paul and sung by John, a rarity in the catalogue. Another rarity is the timpani played by Ringo, the only example of such on a Beatles record (not counting songs with an orchestral arrangement).
- "What You're Doing" features a punchy vocal performance by Paul and folk-like guitar ostinato (which seems to predict the riff from The Byrds' cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man", recorded several months later) that make it well worth a listen.
- "Help!" is one of John's most personal songs - his impassioned vocal performance in this literal cry for help stems from his own wavering faith in his independence and ability to tackle everything life throws at him by himself, and helps make the song one of their all-time classics.
- "The Night Before" is yet another hidden gem. This Motown inspired song was summed up perfectly by Rolling Stone when they said that for any other band, this would have turned into a career-making hit single, but for the Beatles, it was just another great album track.
- "You're Going to Lose That Girl" takes the message of "She Loves You" and turns it upside-down - instead of the singer trying to help the object of the song mend his troubled relationship, he is planning to swoop in and steal the girl when she inevitably leaves the uncaring object of the song. One of the most inventively-structured songs the Beatles had written to date (the verses and chorus are in E major but the bridge is in G major), and with great vocal and instrumental performances all round. It also accompanies one of the film's most memorable sequences, showing the Beatles recording the song in a smoky studio, lit in reds and purples, with Paul and Ringo playing different instruments in different shots - as close as the films ever came to chronicling the magic that happened when the Fab Four were in EMI's Abbey Road Studio 1.
- "Ticket to Ride" is another example of a song in which a singer mourning a broken relationship is nevertheless singing an upbeat melody. As well as a great lead vocal by John, it features some excellent guitar work from George, and an almost heavy metal-style drum part from Ringo.
- "Yesterday" came to Paul in a dream. He literally dreamt up the most covered song ever. The melody came so easily to him that he felt the need to play it for almost everyone he met to make sure he wasn't just remembering a song he already knew. If any songwriter could have five minutes in the mind of Paul McCartney, they'd be very lucky indeed.
Rubber Soul (1965)
Rubber Soul is widely considered one of the best albums not just by the Beatles, but by any artist, and with good reason. It convinced Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys that an album didn't have to be just a few hit songs and a bunch of filler, whereupon it also convinced him to create Pet Sounds, an epic album in its own right.note
- The album gets off to a flying - or driving - start with the opener, Paul's darkly comic "Drive My Car", with its humorous vocalisations of car horns ("Beep beep m'beep beep yeah!") and the revelation that the girl asking the singer to drive her car doesn't even have a car - "But I've found a driver and that's a start!"
- John's just plain dark "Norwegian Wood" features lyrics so good they later appeared in a volume of English verse and a memorable sitar riff from George. "So, I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood..."
- John's "Nowhere Man" stands out not just for the lyrics - the first by the Beatles not to explicitly address love between two people, but rather an attempt to reach a lonely man who lives in a world of his own (often interpreted to refer to John himself) - but for the rich, double-tracked three-part vocal harmonies in the verses. The song also has a nice symmetry to it; after the first two verses, first bridge, instrumental break, and third verse and second bridge, the lads then backtrack lyrically through the second verse, first bridge, and first verse to finish where they began. The movie Yellow Submarine visually represents this.
- George's "Think for Yourself" is given an effective shot in the arm with Paul's use of a fuzz bass to add extra heft, and features some outstanding vocal harmonies (which apparently took much rehearsing to perfect).
- "The Word" is the Beatles' first "love and peace anthem", and John's almost preacher-like lead vocal gives the song a suitable level of gravitas for its message about the liberating power of the word, "love", punctuated in the chorus by a harmonic clash between D major in the piano and D minor in the rhythm guitar and three-part vocal harmonies.
- The bittersweet "Michelle", with its plaintive lead vocal by Paul, deservedly won the Grammy for Song of the Year for 1966.
- "Girl" is another great example of John's wicked sense of humour - amid the laments by the singer about the girl who made him miserable yet whom he cannot get out of his mind, the refrain features John, Paul, and George breathing in as though smoking a joint, while the backing vocals in the bridge consist of the word "Tit" repeated over and over.
- "In My Life" is one of John's most deeply personal songs, with memorable lyrics about past and present loves, exquisite vocals from John, Paul, and George, and a double-speed piano solo intended to sound like a harpsichord by George Martin.
- "If I Needed Someone" is one of George's first truly great moments as a songwriter. When you've got a standout track on an album like Rubber Soul, you know you're going somewhere. A guitar riff which pays homage to The Byrds' cover of "The Bells of Rhymney", spine-chilling chorus harmonies, and Paul's hypnotic rising bassline makes this one an absolute keeper.
Revolver stacks fourteen awesome songs together, one after the other, to craft what numerous critics have declared the greatest album by any artist, ever.
- Like Rubber Soul before it, Revolver hits the ground running with George's bitingly satirical "Taxman", featuring a great guitar solo by Paul and wickedly funny lyrics. "My advice for those who die / Declare the pennies on your eyes..."
- The heart-rending "Eleanor Rigby" is one of the Beatles' all-time classics. A double string quartet has seldom sounded this awesome, and then there's Paul's Grammy-winning rendition of the doleful lyrics. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from / All the lonely people, where do they all belong?"
- John justifies his lifelong laziness in the laid-back "I'm Only Sleeping", with its backwards guitar solo and almost otherworldly varispeeded lead vocal.note
- "Love You To" marks George's first attempt to completely cross over western rock music with Indian music. The pseudo-improvised sitar solo in the opening is a particular highlight.
- "Here, There and Everywhere", Paul's musical homage to The Beach Boys (similarities to "God Only Knows" from their album Pet Sounds are not coincidental), features some of his best lyrics, melodies, and vocal work. Opening each verse with a word of the title and otherwise threading them through the lyrics, but waiting until the final line to group them together in a Title Drop is a particular masterstroke.
- Ringo delivers his best vocal performance to date in the just plain fun "Yellow Submarine", its catchy refrain instantly sticking in the memory of all who hear it. "We all live in a yellow submarine..."
- John took a bizarre conversation with Peter Fonda about what it's like to be dead and turned it into the memorable Side 1 closer, the hard rock "She Said She Said".
- Side 2 opens with the irresistibly catchy "Good Day Sunshine", Paul's musical homage to The Lovin' Spoonful (again, similarities to their song "Daydream" are not an accident), a song which gets off to a great start with a 3/3/2 rhythm in the Title Drop refrain.
- John's "And Your Bird Can Sing" boasts classic performances from John on vocals and George on guitar.
- This is followed by Paul's devastating "For No One", one of the biggest Tear Jerkers in the Beatles catalogue, its sadness heightened by instrumentation that only includes Paul on bass and keyboards, Ringo on drums, and a French horn solo by classical virtuoso Alan Civil.note
- "Doctor Robert", John's rocking homage to a famous hard drug-dispensing physician (the precise identity of whom is debated), boasts more great vocals and guitars, especially the vocal harmonies in the middle eight.
- George gets a third songwriting credit in the angst-ridden "I Want to Tell You", the first Beatles song to have a fade-in and a fade-out. Highlights of the instrumentation include the triplet rhythm of the opening/closing guitar riff and the dissonant piano chord which plays over the second half of each verse.
- Paul's boisterous, upbeat "Got to Get You Into My Life", ostensibly a love song but actually an ode to pot, is memorably backed by a chorus of trumpets and saxophones which really take off as the energy of Paul's lead vocal amps up during the fade-out.
- Finally, "Tomorrow Never Knows", the perfect conclusion. Lyrics adapted from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and some of the most captivating studio wizardry found in any Beatles track that really makes John's voice, just as he requested, sound as though it's being projected from a mountaintop while surrounded by a whirlwind of instrumental effects and tape loops. A perfect representative of their middle, "psychedelic" era.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band isn't always at the top of lists of Greatest Albums Ever, but it's usually at least found near the top - it's a whole Album of Awesome from the first strains of an orchestra tuning up to the final piano crash in "A Day in the Life".
- The title track is a rocker guaranteed to get nearly any audience on their feet, ready for the great music and fun to follow. It leads straight into "Billy Shears" performing the classic "With a Little Help from My Friends"note , another of Ringo's best vocal performances.
- The surreal yet serene "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" is a hallmark of the psychedelic era (even though it was not itself drug-inspired). Memorable lyrics, a very catchy tune, and a great vocal performance by John backed by a keyboard riff and sitar drone.
- The qualified optimism of "Getting Better" ("I've got to admit, it's getting better / A little better all the time (Can't get no worse)") is set to a fun melody by Paul and the spiky sound of piano strings being hit with metal hammers rather than the felt-covered hammers usually found in a piano.
- "Fixing a Hole" ranks as one of the best uses of a harpsichord in a rock and roll song. Listen to the song and you may find yourself wanting to join Paul in the room he has painted in a colourful way to which he can repair when his mind is wandering.
- "She's Leaving Home" is simultaneously on the side of the girl leaving home for a better life, and her grieving parents who realise too late that they didn't understand her. Those who like to dismiss McCartney's "granny music" should bear in mind that John Lennon wrote the parents' lines, which he sings in the chorus, based on the kind of thing his aunt Mimi used to say. Finally, in terms of stylistic experimentation, "She's Leaving Home" is one of the very few 1960s Western pop songs to be written in the style of a 19th century parlour ballad.
- Although the lyrics of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" are essentially paraphrased from an 1843 circus poster, they are set in such a way that we can, as John hoped for when he wrote the song, "smell the sawdust" as the usual guitars and drums blend seamlessly with Hammond and Wurlitzer organs, harmonicas, and randomly-cut-and-pasted calliope recordings to create an unforgettable atmosphere.
- "Within You Without You" doesn't always get a lot of love from Beatles fans, but anyone who knows Indian classical music can tell that it's the first successful fusion of Hindustani classical music with Western pop music, and one of the most out-there things the band ever did, sounding totally unlike the majority of their songs (partly because Harrison is the only Beatle who appears on it).
- Not everyone thinks very highly of "When I'm Sixty-Four" or "Lovely Rita", but Sgt. Pepper was made in a spirit of "love for everybody", and unusually among 60s bands, the Beatles meant everybody, including their parents' generation and hot parking attendants. "When I'm Sixty-Four" was put in so that people like the band's parents would have a song on it just for them (rebelliousness was becoming the convention, and the Beatles weren't big fans of convention). From the panting and gasping at the end of "Lovely Rita", we can assume Paul and Rita got it on after all.
- The animal noise cacophony that closes "Good Morning Good Morning", as well as the ever-shifting time signature of the verses decrying the emptiness of suburban life, make for a great "closer" to Sgt. Pepper's band's performance, leading straight into a high-energy reprise of the title track and a truly outstanding "encore".
- The final chord of the "encore" in question, the album closer "A Day in the Life", is possibly the ultimate moment representing the band at the height of their creativity. The four minutes leading up to it also feature some of the best work of each Beatle (bar George, as the song has no lead guitar; George was put on maraca duty instead) - John and Paul's vocals, Paul's bass playing, Ringo's drumming, not to mention George Martin's orchestral score for the slowly building wall of sound before the middle eight and again before the final chord. The song is ranked in many surveys as the best ever written by the Beatles.
- The main argument of people who think that this is the best Beatles album is that, for all that there may be better individual songs on other albums, this one is the most unified in tone in that all the songs are either about love or refer to it as a theme (even the protagonist of "Good Morning Good Morning" remembers in the course of the song how to love life itself), and of all their albums it conveys the strongest impression of being some kind of organic whole.
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
- "I Am the Walrus" is another hallmark of the Beatles' psychedelic era, and a hilarious deliberate Mind Screw to music critics who had been overanalysing the Beatles' music,note featuring some of the most elaborate studio wizardry found in any song in their catalogue as well as bizarre lyrics that stick in the memory from the very start.
- "Hello Goodbye" may have a simple lyrical idea (relationship disagreements stated as simple opposites), but the melody is so catchy that it's hard not to sing along.
- "Strawberry Fields Forever". One of John's best, and a masterstroke of arrangement by George Martin to join the two very different arrangements together - even if the join is impossible to miss, the musical flow of the song still sounds very natural.
- "Penny Lane" paints the portraits of its quirky characters with just a few verbal brush strokes, set to a great lead vocal by Paul and a piccolo trumpet performance by David Mason.note
- "Baby, You're a Rich Man" is one of the less known songs of the Beatles, but the unusual sound created by a clavioline, its tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the catchy choruses makes it an unforgettable song. The song also received some recognition years after its original release when it made a timely appearance in the film The Social Network.
- "All You Need Is Love" more than justified the trust the BBC placed in the Beatles when they were chosen to represent the United Kingdom in the worldwide Our World broadcast in 1967.
- The song's message may seem like wide-eyed optimism today, but it still stands as one of the anthems of the Summer of Love during which it was written, and John sings the lead vocal with real conviction - it was a message he firmly believed in. The whirlwind of other melodic fragments in the song - "La Marseillaise", Johann Sebastian Bach's Two-Part Invention No. 8, Glenn Miller's "In the Mood", "Greensleeves", and the Beatles' own "She Loves You" and "Yesterday" - make for one of their most universal songs.
- The backing vocalists for the song include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Jagger's then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, while Keith Moon played brush drums alongside Ringo (both Jagger and Moon can be seen in the Our World broadcast). In other words, the song features performances by members of perhaps the three most influential bands of The British Invasion. (Further backing vocals are provided by Eric Clapton and The Hollies' Graham Nash, among many others.)
The Beatles ("The White Album") (1968)
The White Album was the point the band was starting to fall apart, both personally and musically. The album's diverse styles attest to that. The lads were still able to craft an epic album that tops a lot of critics and fan-favorite lists.
- "Back in the U.S.S.R" is a brilliant opening to one of their most influential albums, and is similar to the opening of Rubber Soul and Revolver. An exhilarating rocker, the song both pays tribute to and parodies Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, especially the songs "Back in the U.S.A" and "California Girls". The song has been a staple for Paul's concerts, and was played multiple times by musicians touring Russia.
- "Dear Prudence" is a mellow ballad that segues from the rather loud previous song with a relatively simple premise. The segue feels natural, and the two very first songs of the lengthy album provide a glimpse of the variety the album would offer. It is also one of John's favorite songs.
- With the Word Salad Lyrics of "I Am the Walrus" having done nothing to stem the tide of academic overanalysis of his songs, John decided to go full Mind Screw for "Glass Onion", a shining example of his acidic sense of humour that parades references to "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I Am the Walrus", "Lady Madonna", "The Fool on the Hill", and "Fixing a Hole" along with other surreal imagery to create a song that, rather than being about something, just... is.
- While "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is one of the more polarising tracks (even within the band), Paul's infectiously bouncy bass line and John and George's vocal ad libs make the track a real joyous fun romp. The fact that the song is ultimately a celebration of gender fluidity is awesome as well, even if that part was because Paul flubbed the words in the last verse.
- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", with its heartfelt vocal performance by George and brilliant guitar solo by special guest Eric Clapton, ranks as one of the quiet Beatle's outstanding songwriting achievements of the 1960s. And before Clapton was persuaded to perform an electric guitar solo, the song was an acoustic masterpiece with an even more angsty final verse that was ultimately dropped:I look from the wings at the play you are stagingnote
While my guitar gently weeps
As I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing
Still my guitar gently weeps
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" plays out like a medley of four or five shorter songs (the rhythm track alone took dozens of takes to get right as a result), ranging from the dreamlike "She's not a girl who misses much" and "She's well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand" sections to the fuzz guitar-dominated, angry "I need a fix 'cause I'm goin' down" and "Mother Superior jump the gun" sections to the typical Lennon sarcasm of the Title Drop section, but it's all done in a way that makes the progression feel natural, and John's vocal track holds it all together brilliantly.
- "Blackbird" is simply beautiful. And it was done with only an acoustic guitar and one of Paul's most mesmerizing vocal performances - a prime example of how a few simple ingredients can create something great.
- The strident tones of a harpsichord (played by producer Chris Thomas, George Martin having been on holiday) and double string quartet give George's darkly satirical "Piggies" just the right spiky edge it needs to deliver an Animal Farm-inspired attack on consumerist capitalism, ending with sarcastically jovial harmonies and grunting noises from John and Paul as well as George. The wry "What they need's a damn good whacking!" lyric from the end of the bridge is the only known contribution to the Beatles catalogue from George's mother, Louise Harrison.
- "I Will" (which Paul wrote in India) is a heavily under-rated gem in the group's catalogue. Like "Blackbird" from earlier on the album, it features little more than Paul's voice and acoustic guitar (with some light percussion from Ringo and John); even the bass is rendered vocally.
- "Birthday" may be a slight, straightforward rocker and nothing more, but it's such good fun that it's hard to resist Paul's entreaties that we get up and dance, and the guitar riff in the verses is one of the Beatles' most infectiously catchy.
- Although George embraced Transcendental Meditation for the rest of his life, John was starting to grow disillusioned with it and especially with the movement's leader, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the target of "Sexy Sadie". A gloriously assembled song with double tracked piano and close backup vocal harmonies, it is guided by John's lead vocal that emphasises his bitter disappointment as he lays into the man he had come to see as a fraud after having once hung on his every word - but with his name (and gender) concealed within a song that, on the surface, seems to be a diatribe against a dishonest former lover.
- If you need proof that Paul wasn't just writing the Silly Love Songs that resulted in backlash songs from John and George by 1968, look no further than the raw adrenaline of "Helter Skelter", all heavily amplified lead guitar, weighty bass guitar, pounding drums, and throat-destroying vocals from Paul, all building up to Ringo's final cry of exasperation: "I've got blisters on my fingers!!" The fact that they kept this in the finished song is Awesome on its own, too. Some people went as far as to call "Helter Skelter" "The first proto-Metal roar" or even "The first Heavy Metal song".note
- "Revolution 1" may be slower than the single version of the song, and sees John still uncertain about whether "you can count me out" or "in", but its lyrics about how violent revolution solves nothing remain some of his most iconic.
- George's acerbic sense of humour comes through again in his contribution to Side 4, "Savoy Truffle", ostensibly a poke at his friend Eric Clapton's fondness for choccies and the damage they had done to his teeth, but also a knife through the syrup of some of Paul's more overly sentimental songs (its weighty electric organ and tenor and baritone sax score provides Mood Whiplash immediately after Paul's nostalgic love ballad "Honey Pie"), name-checking "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in the final bridge.note
- Try to think of any other rock band at the time that could have gotten away with releasing "Revolution 9" in a serious context. Maybe the Mothers of Invention, but that's about it. Not only that, but the piece is a fantastic exhibit of Nightmare Fuel when listened to in the proper atmosphere, and it actually has a sophisticated enough structure to be scored and included in Hal Leonard's The Beatles Complete Scores alongside all their more conventional material.
Yellow Submarine (1969)
- When asked to contribute new songs to the soundtrack of Yellow Submarine, the Beatles simply handed over some songs that had been shelved during recording sessions for Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, but among these was the hard-rocking "Hey Bulldog", anchored by a driving piano/guitar riff and angsty vocal performance from John, a hidden gem that might otherwise have been condemned to the archives.
- While not immensely famous as other hard-rocking Beatles tunes, George's "It's All Too Much" is a fine example of Epic Rocking, clocking in at about 6:28. It's an odd, catchy, and generally upbeat example that is purely psychedelic, and even seems to predate Shoegazing. Distorted guitars and an abrasive brass section may turn some listeners off, but this track is a contender for the best one on the album, alongside "Hey Bulldog."
Abbey Road (1969)
All of Abbey Road is Awesome Music. You have the individual works of four different musicians with differing styles all mixed into one album, that if you truly listen to it you can see it is all one song. "The End" just adds the final touch, as it fits its placement and usage. It is the last song on their last album, and it sums up the message they've been spreading their whole career, and all four Beatles have a solo. It is no wonder many consider it to be their greatest work.
- Side 1 of Abbey Road contains one classic from each of the four Beatles:
- The enigmatic "Come Together" by John boasts mysterious lyrics about a man identified only as "Old Flat Top", with haunting acoustic guitar and drum accompaniment in the verses that suddenly becomes heavier and electric for the chorus, bridge, and fade-out just in time for the Title Drop: "Come together, right now, over me!"
- The sublime "Something" by George ranks as his masterpiece from the Beatles years; Frank Sinatra may have goofed and described it as Lennon and McCartney's greatest love song, but the fact that he ranked it above the songs John and Paul actually did write speaks volumes. From the guitar hook at that opens the song and leads into each verse and the bridge to George's soulful rendition of the lyrics about that mysterious... something about his lover that so captivates him, "Something" is a timeless classic.
- The bluesy "Oh! Darling" by Paul belies any notion that he just wrote silly love songs in the Beatles' later years, with his anguish-laden vocal performance and percussive piano lending a suitable level of gravitas to a song in which he pleads with his lover to re-consider her claim that she doesn't need him anymore. The chord progression in the bridge is especially inventive and effective.
- The fun "Octopus' Garden" by Ringo is likewise his masterpiece as a Beatle, and while that may seem like damning with faint praise when one considers that he only received solo credit on one other Beatles song ("Don't Pass Me By" from the White Album), the catchy tune, fascinating imagery of an undersea refuge from the travails of the surface world, and instrumental performances (including watery sound effects in the bridge) make for a real winner.
- The remaining songs on Side 1, Paul's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and John's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", are more divisive, but still have their moments and their fans; highlights include the Lyrical Dissonance of a bouncy tune for lyrics about a serial killer and the hammer-on-anvil sound effects in the former, and the weighty guitar riff between the verses of the latter that leads not to a fade-out but to a swell-out that, by the end, sounds like the Beatles are playing in the middle of a hurricane.
- Side 2 boasts George's infectiously optimistic "Here Comes the Sun". The recipe: play hooky from work, hang out in Eric Clapton's garden, write a sunshine and flowers ditty, and get covered by everybody, forever. The other Beatles' performances, especially Ringo on drums, just make things better.
- Whether or not John's "Because" really does come across as the triplet figure from the opening movement of Beethoven's Moonlight sonata played backwards, as John claimed was his inspiration, the rich vocal harmonies - three parts and triple-tracked to create the sense of a chorus of nine people singing - and haunting melody that seems to cut off in the middle of a phrase make this song, the last one on which the Beatles began work,note one of their most memorable.
- The medley on Side Two of Abbey Road is a masterpiece from start to finish, starting with Paul's "You Never Give Me Your Money" (another song that unites disparate fragments into a coherent whole), easing into the Lennon-penned triptych of the laid-back "Sun King" and the acerbic "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam", followed by the straightforward rock of Paul's "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window". After a short break (the only mid-medley "ending" as such), the medley turns to Paul's bittersweet "Golden Slumbers", then takes it up a notch at "Carry That Weight", which contains all four Beatles singing loudly in unison (with Ringo at the lead), then segues into an epic-sounding reprise of the first part of "You Never Give Me Your Money". The "You Never Give Me Your Money" ending riff leads this time into "The End", charged with a drum solo from Ringo, guitar solos from Paul, George, and John, and capped off with the simple line "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," flourished with a beautiful harmony of their voices and a last guitar tune. Knowing this was their final album as a band makes it all the more epic.
- And then, well after the fade-out, they toss in "Her Majesty", ending things with a laugh.
- In a startling subversion, if you view it as such, The Beatles: Rock Band starts this medley—which you can play as a package from "You Never Give Me Your Money"—with all four Beatles in a studio, performing each song. As "The End" fades out, there is a pause and then "Her Majesty" fades in. At the end of the song, the camera zooms out and Paul is alone in the studio. It's open to interpretation but once you compare how this songlist starts, and then how it ends, it's rather saddening.
- Fittingly, "The End" is the last song in Story mode in The Beatles: Rock Band.
Let It Be (1970)
- As fractious as the Let It Be sessions were (if less so than the film implies), they still provided a few last gems that were crafted by both John and Paul, starting with the album opener, "Two of Us", the lyrics of which clearly draw from their long (though, by this time, disintegrating) friendship and the vocals of which emphasise the idea of shared experience by featuring two-part harmonies. And in a reverse trajectory compared to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", the song started out as an energetic electric rocker that is well worth hearing.
- John was rightly proud of his lyrics for the dreamlike "Across the Universe", calling them perhaps his best in a 1970 Rolling Stone interview. And whether it's the slowed down, orchestral version on Let It Be or the sped up version with (hastily recruited) female backing vocalists on the World Wildlife Fund charity album Nothing's Gonna Change Our World, the poetry of the words endures.note "Nothing's gonna change my world..."
- George's spectacular "I Me Mine" really steals the show. Even if John doesn't appear on it, it once again shows just how good George's songwriting was getting. It's a perfect way to segue into All Things Must Pass. This was the final new track recorded by the band before their break-up in April 1970.note
- "Let It Be" boasts a sublime vocal and keyboard performance by Paul, coupled with a brilliant guitar solo by George (whether in the single or the album version). It was the A-side to the final single released in the UK before Paul announced the band's impending dissolution, and although he wasn't exactly living by the sentiments of the song when it came to the infighting that had torn the group apart,note his "words of wisdom" provide such a fitting coda to the career of one of the most, if not the most, iconic and influential groups of the 20th century.
- "I've Got a Feeling" perhaps epitomizes the back-to-basics rock 'n' roll approach they were going for with the ill-fated Get Back sessions. One of Paul's best rock and roll vocal performances (and that's saying a whole damn lot right there!) and memorable instrumentation from all four lads. But most of all, it's one last collaborative effort between Paul and John, having combined three separate song ideas of theirs into one. The Counterpoint Duet when all of the musical ideas come together is just sublime.
- Paul's heartfelt lead vocal and piano make the wistful "The Long and Winding Road" a real winner in any arrangement; if, like Macca himself, you don't care for the "wall of sound" string and vocal score Phil Spector dubbed over the top of the song, try the more simple and direct version from Let It Be... Naked or, if you can find a copy of the film, the version Paul performs just before he and the other three head to the rooftop.
- "Get Back" is a fantastic rocker, containing some of the best riffing in their catalogue. And then there's the organ solo by Billy Preston, which proves just why he deserved to be credited on the single with them.
Past Masters (1988): The non-album singles
- The immediately catchy "From Me to You", a true Lennon-McCartney collaboration (most songs credited to "Lennon-McCartney" were largely, and often entirely, written by one or the other), was the first Beatles song to top all major UK record charts. The shift to a Gmin7 chord at the beginning of the bridge is a particular standout moment.
- Although the "yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain from "She Loves You" was (and still is) much parodied by the band's detractors, the fact remains that the song is a classic true Lennon-McCartney collaboration, and noteworthy in that, for the first time in the Beatles catalogue, the singer is not singing about his own past, present, or future relationship, but about that of a friend whom he is trying to help.
- The stuttering open to "I Want to Hold Your Hand", the third UK chart-topping true Lennon-McCartney collaboration in a row, as well as the catchy lyrics, tune, and vocal performances by John and Paul, all leave no mystery as to why this became the group's first chart-topper in the USA. And turn the UK release of the single over, and you would find the beautiful three-part harmonies of the plaintive "This Boy",note which was memorably re-scored as an instrumental theme for Ringo's "parading" sequence in A Hard Day's Night.
- The only Beatles original that was released in the UK neither as a single nor on an album is "I Call Your Name", the only original track on the Long Tall Sally EP from 1964.note The song was originally recorded by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and released as the B-side to "Bad to Me" (another Lennon-McCartney track), but John was unimpressed by their version and decided the Beatles could do better; he was right, and the ska-influenced instrumental bridge is a particular highlight of their version.note
- The feedback and guitar ostinato on "I Feel Fine" meshes with the upbeat lyrics, tune, and vocal harmonies to provide evidence that even when fighting burnout from a punishing touring and filming schedule, as they were when this single was recorded in late 1964, the lads could still produce some damn fine music. Flip the record over and you'll find a top notch B-side in the Little Richard-influenced "She's a Woman", boasting a throaty lead vocal from Paul and a punchy, syncopated rhythm guitar riff from John.
- The melancholy "Yes It Is", the B-side to "Ticket to Ride", features more lush three-part harmonies from John, Paul, and George, and more colour imagery ("Red is the colour that will make me blue") in the style of a slower, even sadder "Baby's in Black".
- "I'm Down", the B-side to "Help!", shows that while Paul was often derided for writing silly love songs, he could also write some outstanding rock and roll patterned after such classics as "Long Tall Sally".
- Their late 1965 double A-side single features back-to-back classics: "Day Tripper", led by an awesome guitar ostinato from George and sexuality-laden lyrics; and "We Can Work it Out", with a great lead vocal from Paul and optimistic lyrics about working out a couple's differences, as well as striking use of a Salvation Army harmonium in the bridge and outro.
- Their early 1966 single gave us two more classics: Paul's hard-rocking "Paperback Writer", anchored by another great guitar riff from George, some tight, crunchy drums from Ringo and humourously topped with falsetto choruses of "Frère Jacques" by John and George; and John's philosophical "Rain", slowed down from recording speed to give it an even more dreamlike atmosphere and featuring some of Ringo's best drumming, as well as the lads' first use of reversed tapes.
- "Lady Madonna" is livened up by a driving piano line from Paul and tenor and baritone saxophones; one of the bridges features a sax solo from renowned jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott.
- Little more needs to be said about "Hey Jude" the song Paul wrote to help Julian Lennon cope with his parents' imminent divorce except that the video for the song features a crowd coming onstage to join John, Paul, George and Ringo during the closing "Na Na Na Na" coda. Even more awesome: Despite its seven-plus minute length, no single edit was ever made ... and radio stations routinely played the entire song, in an era where songs rarely topped three minutes. And, the song was played as the finale for the segment where Paul was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2010 ... with dozens of performers in all genres, including jazz, rap, country, mainstream pop and R&B and anything else joining in on the "Na Na Na Na" coda (including Ringo, taking his customary place on drums), causing Paul to visibly be moved as he graciously accepted the honor.
- Turn over the single version of "Hey Jude", and you'll find one of John's greatest achievements as a songwriter: "You say you want a revo-LUTION?" The hard-rocking guitars and John's intense vocal performance make "Revolution" a classic.
- "Old Brown Shoe" may be a B-side, but Harrison's guitar solo on it is fiendishly intricate and sophisticated by the standards of the era, negotiating some gnarly chord changes with impressive ease.
- The complete insanity that is "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", a comedic rock song (which features Paul as "Dennis O'Bell") with the late Brian Jones on saxophone is a fun tune, originally released as the B-side to "Let It Be".
Live at the BBC (1994)
- Though this album is partly covers from the Beatles' early years on BBC Radio between 1963 and 1965, there's no better insight into the amount of intense energy through this compilation than through Paul's rocking vocals on Little Richard's "Ooh! My Soul".
- Another example could be given to Ringo, busting out his underrated drum chops on a cover of Elvis Presley's "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You".
The Beatles Anthology (1995)
- George Harrison's acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the third volume is wonderful to listen to. Less poppy than the White Album version, but still powerful.