Ranking The Beatles: 40 Years Later
This week marks 40 years since the release of Let It Be, the 12th and final studio album produced by The Beatles. A lot has happened in almost a half-century, but the music of the Fab Four is standing the test of time and John, Paul, George and Ringo are just as popular now as they were in May 1970.
What follows is a comprehensive list of the band's original 12 UK albums that would normally be referred to as "Worst to First," but in the case of The Beatles, we're gonna go with "Good to Best."
12. Yellow Submarine
The Beatles tenth offering is also their weakest. With only four previously unreleased songs and a B-Side featuring just instrumental tracks from George Martin, Yellow Submarine served as the soundtrack to the film of the same name. As far as soundtracks go, this one falls close to the bottom of that list, too.
Best Song: "Only a Northern Song"
Worst Song: The entire second side
11. Beatles For Sale
By the end of 1964, The Beatles were just worn out. Coming off of three albums in less than two years, their first feature-length film, and constant touring, the band came out with Beatles For Sale. With this album, The Beatles retroverted to the "8 Original/6 Cover" track listing... Which, on its own, is not exactly bad... But, coming off of A Hard Day's Night, which featured NO covers, something seemed to be lacking in Beatles For Sale. On a good note, The Beatles got a number one song out of it in "Eight Days a Week," which, coincidentally, was their eighth number one. In the case of Beatles For Sale, they were tired... and it showed.
Best Song: "I'll Follow The Sun"
Worst Song: "Mr. Moonlight"
10. With The Beatles
While this one might contain, arguably, one of the most iconic record covers of all time... The Beatles' second album, With The Beatles, is merely a platform to showcase their love for American R&B. Six of the fourteen songs are covers... Including a very rocking version of "Money (That's What I Want) and Paul's sweet rendition of "Till There Was You." As for the originals, most of them are pretty generic Rock N' Roll, but the bright spots include "All My Loving," George's song writing debut "Don't Bother Me," And the Ringo-lead "I Wanna Be Your Man," a tune later covered by Beatles "Frenemies" The Rolling Stones.
Best Song: "Don't Bother Me"
Worst Song: "Devil in Her Heart"
9. Please Please Me
For a debut album, Please Please Me is extremely strong. Recorded in just one day, it contains a few classics (See: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Love Me Do," Lennon's take on "Twist and Shout") as well as a few duds (See: "A Taste of Honey," and "Chains"). The album features plenty of the early Beatles' signature skiffle-type sound, with simple guitar riffs and a driving harmonica. I'm not sure how many people in 1963 got the subtle sexual innuendo in the title track. With a phrase like "I know you've never even tried, girl. But come on, COME ON! PLEASE please me... Like I please you," what else could the greatest song writing team in history have been speaking about?
Best Song: "I Saw Her Standing There"
Worst Song: "A Taste of Honey"
Just one year after A Hard Day's Night, it was time for another Beatles movie. Unlike its predecessor, Help! was in color and had a bit of a plot. This album serves as both the fifth release by the Beatles and the soundtrack of the film. This is the last Beatles album to feature whole cover songs: Lennon's version of "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and Ringo's "Act Naturally." This album features three number one songs: "Yesterday," the most covered song in the world, "Ticket to Ride," and the title track, "Help!"
Best Song: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
Worst Song: "Act Naturally"
7. A Hard Day's Night
Hands down the best "Early Beatles" album. A lot of accomplishments came with both the film and the album A Hard Day's Night: John was both solidified and had his last real hurrah as the leader of the group, writing most of the songs (mostly) himself. This was also the first Beatles album to feature all original songs, two of which ("A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love") became number one hit singles. Most of the 13 tracks are pretty rocking, but the harmony on "I'll Be Back" seems forced and uninspired. And if you want to trace back the birth of the modern music video, one must look to Dick Lester... The man who directed the film, A Hard Day's Night.
Best Song: "And I Love Her"
Worst Song: "I'll Be Back"
6. Rubber Soul
With Rubber Soul, we enter the "Middle Beatles" era, which only lasts two albums. It's 1965 and The Beatles were ready for something new, something different. They went into Abbey Road studios in October, churned out 14 tracks and by November, it was ready for a Christmas release. This is also the first album to be recorded in its entirety without being interrupted by tour dates... A precedent that would follow with each subsequent album. With songs like "Girl," "Michelle," and "I'm Looking Through You," Rubber Soul shows The Beatles looking at the downbeat side of love, a subject rarely, if ever, touched upon in previous releases. Rubber Soul marks The Beatles turning a soulful corner in their maturity... Both as individuals and as musicians.
Best Song: "In My Life"
In the beginning of 1966, The Beatles took a three-month break from EVERYTHING. They collected themselves together in April and greatly expanded the horizons they experimented with on Rubber Soul to record Revolver. The Beatles seventh release also features a return to driving electric guitars, instruments not prevalent on Rubber Soul's folky tracks. Revolver also includes the debut of Psychedelic Rock on a Beatles album, most notably with the record's last track, "Tomorrow Never Knows." Revolver contains three George compositions, the most of any album to that date, and the second most overall. (The Beatles (White Album) contains four George songs). On a side note, as we get closer to number one, it's getting harder and harder to pick a "Worst Song." Unfortunately, there has to be some casualties.
Best Song: "Got To Get You Into My Life"
Worst Song: "Love You To"
4. Let It Be
The Beatles' final release was actually the penultimate album the band recorded. Sessions for what was originally going to the "Get Back" album began in January of 1969 at Twickenham Studios. This decision was made so that the band could be filmed while making the album. The Beatles thought the venue was too cold and didn't like going to the early schedules the film crew imposed, so they moved production to Apple Studios, the band's home base. While the film's original intention was to simply show the making of a Beatles album, it turned into raw documentary about the break-up of one of the greatest bands in music history. Most of the tracks on Let It Be were created out of various live jam sessions and songs the band had left over from other recent albums.Paul's unhappiness with Phil Spector's post-production work led to the release of Let It Be... Naked in 2003.
Best Song: (A tie) "Two of Us," "Across The Universe"
Worst Song: "Maggie Mae"
3. Abbey Road
Just one month after the catastrophically horrific Get Back Sessions, Paul wanted to do a Beatles album the way they used to. All the other band members, sensing the end was almost near for the group, agreed to set aside their petty differences and recorded Abbey Road. With its B-Side melody suite lasting 16 minutes, Abbey Road was an outlet for The Beatles to do an album their way. And it works, as this album comes in at number three on the list. Abbey Road contains the only Harrison composition for The Beatles to go to number one in "Something," and "Because" featuring Lennon, McCartney and Harrison triple-tracked on a three-part harmony, providing for a beautiful tune. The album was originally going to be called "Everest" and have the fab four standing atop that very same mountain for the album cover. But it was rumored that Ringo simply said "Why don't we just walk along that street outside?" Thus, Abbey Road was born. Fun fact: The assistant engineer on the album was Alan Parsons of The Alan Parsons Project.
Best Song: "Here Comes the Sun"
Worst Song: "Her Majesty"
2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Determining the top two Beatles albums is like choosing between Sprite and 7up... It's a toss up. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band comes in at number two as what is essentially Paul's opus. John Lennon once said that his only contributions to the album were his songs "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Good Morning Good Morning" and "A Day in the Life," four songs that had nothing to do with Paul's Sgt. Pepper concept. "Lucy..." has long been thought to be associated with LSD. Lennon repeatedly denied this and instead claimed that the illustrious images presented in the song came from a drawing his son Julian drew. The album opens and (almost) closes with the Beatles, as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, greeting the "crowd" and treating them to musical paradise. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, like a few other Beatles records, features one of the most popular and parodied album covers of all time.
Best Song: "A Day in the Life"
Worst Song: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
1. The Beatles (White Album)
At one and a half hours on two discs, The Beatles (White Album) is the band's longest album. That alone does not make it the best of the 12 Beatles records, but the content (30 songs) certainly does. Featuring classics like "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Blackbird," "Helter Skelter," and "Revolution 1," The Beatles' eponymous album, known colloquially as The White Album, was recorded during a very dark period for the group. First, their long-time manager, Brian Epstein died, leaving the group like a herd of sheep without their shepherd. Then, Ringo quit the band for a spell, leaving Paul to man the drums for some time. And, despite the fact that this Beatles album is self-titled, referencing the "group," most of the songs were solo recordings with the other members serving as back-up musicians. Nevertheless, The White Album is an extraordinary release. And it's not just The Beatles contributing to the album. Eric Clapton, a long-time friend of George Harrison, plays lead guitar on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." All of these facts merge together to make The Beatles (White Album) the best of the 12 Beatles albums in their short seven year recording career
Best Song: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Worst Song: "Revolution 9"
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.