In honor of the big releases today (wish I could afford Beatles Rock Band SO MUCH!), and inspired by a top 50 list (that got some wrong) in Entertainment magazine, I present my list of top 45 Beatles songs. I cannot begin to put all of these in order of preference, so I present them in chronological order by when they were recorded.
Misery. The Beatles' first perfect effort at anti-feel good lyrics.
Hold Me Tight. A childhood favorite thanks to the Beatles cartoon show that transformed this song into one of the more exciting episodes.
Twist and Shout. A testament to the Beatles' early talent that they could take a song that was originally awful and perfect it when they covered it.
Til There Was You. This show tune-turned crooner ballad showed the Beatles had far-reaching range in both competence and inspiration.
Don't Bother Me. Like “Misery”, the Beatles realized that the love songs were for chicks and guys with girlfriends, but if they really wanted to appeal to everyone, they needed to reach the lonely, depressed male audience too.
And I Love Her. Admitted weakness: pair McCartney with a ballad and I'll love it every time.
I'm a Loser. When I was depressed, these were the songs with which I identified.
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party. The first Beatles song that tells a story.
Eight Days a Week. Foreshadowing the illogical lyrics to come.
You Like Me Too Much. Practically defines my current relationship.
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. They out-Dylaned Dylan.
Help. With hindsight, so insightful.
I've Just Seen a Face. Pure fun.
Yesterday. Pure magic.
Norwegian Wood. Wickedly funny and smart.
Tomorrow Never Knows. Mind-blowing entrance into psychedelia.
Paperback Writer. Absurdly funny.
And Your Bird Can Sing. Long before I was fully cognizant of the ironies the Beatles were playing with, this was one of my childhood favorites for what I perceived as its playful innocence – demonstrating the levels on which the Beatles were operating.
Eleanor Rigby. Buddy Holly had already given us rock n' roll with classical instruments; McCartney one-upped him by giving us rock n'roll that was classical music.
For No One. Their first truly sad song (which is why I didn't like it until I was older) which, coincidentally, is the only Beatles song to prominently feature a French horn, the only instrument I was ever tempted to learn how to play in grade school.
Yellow Submarine. As dazzlingly imaginative as any of Lennon's drug-inspired songs, while possessing the innocent sound that McCartney could still do so well and Lennon had lost.
Good Day Sunshine. The complete opposite of the band that had three years earlier written “Misery” -- now they were ready to push happiness in your face!
Strawberry Fields Forever. Powerful, with a sound music had never had before.
When I'm 64. More pure fun.
Penny Lane. The perfect B-side to “Strawberry Fields”; where “Strawberry” vaguely evokes a mist-shrouded past, “Penny Lane” is a snapshot-clear picture of a moment in time.
A Day in the Life. Transcendent. My #2 favorite Beatles song.
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Mesmerizing, how Lennon took something so mundane and twisted it into something almost scary.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Along with “Mr. Kite”, my other favorite song from Sgt. Pepper's in childhood for their imagery, when “A Day in the Life” was still too powerful for me to absorb.
It's All Too Much. While Lennon sang better about love as pain and McCartney sang better about love as an ideal, Harrison could sing about love as overwhelmingly powerful. This is “You Like Me Too Much” on steroids.
I Am the Walrus. Probably what I would pick as my #3 favorite song, this song combines the power of “Strawberry Fields” and the stark imagery of “Lucy in the Sky” while, again, sounding like nothing that had come before it.
Blue Jay Way. Harrison matched “Mr. Kite” for creepiness, with an emphasis on match. The Beatles were no longer complementing each other at this point, but competing with each other.
The Fool on the Hill. McCartney showed a new level of lyrical skill with some of Lennon's darkness (although masked with ambiguity).
Across the Universe. Lennon's most beautiful song (and a great movie too!) until "Beautiful Boy".
Hey Bulldog. Lennon showed that they could still do rock n'roll, though transformed by the sounds they were inventing around it.
Blackbird. One of McCartney's most beautiful songs and the simplest of them.
Revolution. Yes, they could still rock, but now they could rock with purpose!
While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I have to cheat – this song warrants inclusion not for the final, heavier version, but for the softer version discarded and only released later on Beatles Anthology. Harrison here could have complemented the other Beatles as he used to by demonstrating power with a whisper, but instead decided to compete with Lennon by rocking it out.
Hey Jude. Not just a song, it's the anthem of the human race. Powerful beyond measure and easily my #1 favorite song.
I Will. What I consider to be McCartney's most perfect expression of ideal love (though some of his post-Beatles work, like “Silly Love Songs” would come close).
Julia. Gripping in its biographical depiction of pain, regret, and sadness.
Two of Us. Even though not originally intended to be about Lennon and McCartney's partnership, still ironically poignant.
Let It Be. A sort-of “Hey Jude” Jr., that's still better than most other songs.
The Long and Winding Road. But my loyalties are torn between versions – on one hand, I like the power of the Phil Spector version, even while it subverts the simple wisdom of the quieter version McCartney had intended.
The One After 909. And after all that, they could still come back around to this and do an old-fashioned rock n'roll song? If you're the Beatles, you COULD go back home again.
Come Together. Almost a B-side song for “909”, though it was not released that way. After looking back at the beginning with “909”, “Come Together” could have been a fresh start for the Beatles, becoming a rock n'roll band again informed by their old influences, but also by the music they had created in between. That it never happened is so tragic that this song barely squeaks onto my list and would probably be #45 if I had ranked them all.