Beatlemania hit me quite late, but at the perfect time. I had started getting into vinyl and was exploring genres outside of electronic music, which had been the primary and at times sole music genre of my teens. Four years on from the introduction, here is my worst to best.
To make things easier, I?ve decided to exclude the ?Yellow Submarine? and ?Magical Mystery Tour? albums, as they use previously released songs. Any albums and compilations released after ?Let It Be? I?ve also excluded.
11. Beatles For Sale
The album sounds like what it was, a rushed project completed in the middle of an extensive U.S. tour. In the same year, the band had already released their first film ? ?A Hard Day?s Night? ? and an album to go alongside, so it?s not a surprise ?Beatles for Sale? was filled with covers and rather redundant original cuts. Still, ?Eight Days A Week? remains one of my favourites Beatles tracks.
10. Please Please Me
A lot of reviewers and fans rank ?Please Please Me? higher, citing the significance of the first album and the rawness of the band. While tracks like ?Saw Her Standing There? and ?Twist and Shout? definitely encapsulate the rawness, others like ?Ask Me Why? and ?P.S. I Love You? are rather uninteresting, and the harmonica on ?Love Me Do? grates after a while. As a piece of history, it?s excellent, in comparison to the rest of the band?s discography, it?s not as impressive.
9. With The Beatles
The band had more time and energy to put into ?With The Beatles? than ?Beatles For Sale? and had a more polished sound than on ?Please Please Me?. Some of the original recordings, like ?It Won?t Be Long? and ?All My Loving? are the best of the tour era. ?With The Beatles?, like most of the tour albums, suffers because of the covers. I?d rather listen to the original versions of ?Please Mr. Postman? and ?Roll Over Beethoven? than Lennon and Harrison?s attempts.
8. Let It Be
The title track may be rated as one of the Beatles best songs, but the album on a whole is one of the band?s worst. I must admit I?m not the biggest ?Let It Be? fan. ?Get Back? is the only song I would listen to outside of re-listening to the album, as there?s a better version of ?Across The Universe? on the anthology. The album was released after the Beatles had broken up and the sessions were notoriously plagued by internal conflicts. It?s not hard to see why that led to a rather disjointed album.
One of the first tunes that really got me into the Beatles was ?Help!?, I remember watching the Blackpool live version on repeat hundreds of times. It was also the first Beatles record I owned. ?Help!? is the Beatles first attempt at organising songs differently, ?Yesterday? was the first Beatles song to only feature one of the band, McCartney, without any backing from the others. ?Help!? and ?Ticket to Ride? are the two standout tracks, and ?You?re Going To Lose That Girl? and ?Dizzy Miss Lizzy? are also both excellent.
6. The White Album
I can understand why ?The White Album? is considered one of the Beatles best. It?s hefty, cluttered and at times clunky, where everything prior had been concise and well formatted. For Beatles fans, it?s the perfect encapsulation of the band post-tour, attempting to redefine themselves and stretch their sound.
The problem I have with the album is all of the misses. I don?t ironically enjoy songs like ?Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da?, ?Bungalow Bill?, ?Wild Honey Pie? and ?Why Don?t We Do It In The Road??, and songs like ?Martha My Dear?, ?Piggies?, ?Yer Blues? and ?Sexy Sadie? are just OK. There are great highs on the record? ?Blackbird?, ?Helter Skelter?, ?While My Guitar Gently Weeps? and ?Revolution 1? are a few ? but slogging through the album is tiresome.
When it comes to enjoying a full album, I just find the ones below more pleasing and don?t have to skip tracks.
5. A Hard Day?s Night
Definitely the best of the tour era albums, ?A Hard Day?s Night? is just a great rock record. The title track is a brilliant opener and sets the tone for the album, ?I Should?ve Known Better? is one of the only harmonica songs from the Beatles I can stand. ?If I Fell?, ?Tell Me Why?, ?Can?t Buy Me Love? and ?Any Time At All? are all great, if somewhat simplistic, rock songs. It may not reach the technical or creative heights the next albums do, but it?s a great listen.
4. Rubber Soul
We?re now entering into the truly great albums section. ?Rubber Soul? comes fourth. It was difficult to choose between my favourite four and this album has some of my favourite songs from the Beatles: ?Nowhere Man? and ?In My Life?. Compared to previous output, ?Rubber Soul? sounds grown up, in a way, with smarter songwriting and a new mixture of instruments on ?Norwegian Wood? and ?Michelle?.
It?s a big step up, but it was just the start of the Beatles transition from a band that toured to a band that explored sound in the studio.
3. Sgt Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Considered by Rolling Stone to the best album of all time, ?Sgt Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band? comes third on my list. It?s a superb record and perhaps, if the band put singles created in the same sessions on the album it would?ve come first. What I wouldn?t give for McCartney?s irritating ?When I?m Sixty Four? and ?Lovely Rita? to be replaced with ?Strawberry Fields Forever? and ?Penny Lane?. Sadly, the two songs mentioned above and ?For The Benefit of Mr. Kite? make the second half of the album a drag, despite the awesome ending, ?A Day In The Life?.
This was a moment of true reinvention from the Beatles, and it should be celebrated for its technical achievements. ?Getting Better? and ?Fixing A Hole? are both great rock tunes by McCartney, and Ringo?s ?With A Little Help From My Friends? might be my favourite track of his.
Following on from ?Rubber Soul?, The Beatles went one better and created ?Revolver?, which is truly the pinnacle of Lennon?s career in the band. Tracks like ?She Said She Said?, ?And Your Bird Can Sing?, ?Doctor Robert? and ?I?m Only Sleeping? are some of his best work. McCartney performs brilliantly on the record as well, ?Eleanor Rigby? is one of my top five favourite Beatles songs.
Another of Ringo?s best lands on this record, ?Yellow Submarine?. Harrison contributions are not my favourites, although ?I Want To Tell You? is a great song. To cap it off, ?Tomorrow Never Knows? is Lennon?s most inventive song, and is a preview of what they would be attempting a year later with ?Sgt Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band?.
1. Abbey Road
It was a difficult choice between ?Abbey Road? and ?Revolver?. Both are great albums and worthy of the top spot, but for me, Abbey Road is the better album. I like Lennon more on ?Revolver? and I think it?s more of a rock record. That said, I think ?Abbey Road? is a tighter record, with excellent contributions from all members.
Given his rather sporadic contribution to the band during this period, ?Come Together?, ?I Want You (She?s So Heavy)? and ?Because? are all great songs from Lennon. Harrison is at his best, ?Something? and ?Here Comes The Sun? being two of excellent tracks.
While ?Maxwell?s Silver Hammer? is definitely the low spot, sticking out like a sore thumb in-between ?Something? and ?Oh! Darling?, McCartney makes up for it with an excellent medley of songs at the last 20 minutes of the album. Even though I may have hated some of the songs in the medley ? like ?Sun King? and ?Mean Mr Mustard? ? if they were on ?The White Album?, I think the speediness of the transitions and the shortness of the songs make them enjoyable little snippets, rather than awkward skips.
How I Decided
I had in my head an order, although I confess I?ve listened to the better albums a lot more than the worse ones. Originally, I had Revolver first, Abbey Road second, and The White album before A Hard Day?s Night.
To get a value from an album, I ranked each song out of four:
- 1 = awful, want to skip
- 2 = average, listenable but wouldn?t if not on album
- 3 = good, listenable without album
- 4 = great, a favourite, one I?ve listened to quite a few times
Take all the numbers then divide by the amount of songs on the record. Here are the results:
Beatles For Sale (1.71), Please Please Me (1.78), With The Beatles (2.07), Let It Be (2.25), Help! (2.50), White Album (2.52), A Hard Day?s Night (2.53), Rubber Soul (2.71), Sgt Pepper (2.76), Revolver (3.0), Abbey Road (3.2).
This method may be a little too mathematical for music, but I found when I looked back at the results, I agreed with them. ?The White Album?, for all of it?s brilliance, is harder to enjoy than ?A Hard Day?s Night?. I prefer to the ?The White Album?s? good tracks, but I?d rather listen to ?A Hard Day?s Night? in full.
And since I ranked the songs, I?ll end by saying I have a slight Lennon preference over McCartney, as I think most of us do.