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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 07.31.12: The Top 5 Beatles Songs
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 07.31.2012



Note: This top 5 is not a list of the best Beatles songs ever. Heck, 5 aren't enough for that. Instead, this is a list of 5 songs that are my personal favorites. Some I can justify well. Others require more of a leap of faith. The Beatles were simply one of the most influential pop/rock bands in the history of modern music. What follows is a list that adheres to that principle.

5. "With A Little Help from My Friends"

Taken from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" released in 1967, this Lennon/McCartney penned song was Ringo Starr's big moment in the spotlight. His casual singing (if you can call it that) of self deprecating lyrics make the song very catchy and hard not to like. The guy is admitting he needs a little help. Who doesn't!? He's literally leaning on John and Paul to get him through this song. Forget the bad pop song, but isn't that truly what friends are for? For extra credit, check out John Belushi's take on Joe Cocker's unique version…

4. "I Saw Her Standing There"

"I Saw Her Standing There" hails from the 1963 release of "Please Please Me". This early Beatles song is what I truly think of when I think "BEATLES". It's positive, it's catchy, and it's timeless. And make no mistake; McCartney and Lennon are mimicking Check Berry here. They've even admitted so. Sung chiefly by McCartney, the song is just pure bubblegum pop. And it's infectious. It's really the first Beatles song I was exposed to. This is the Beatles.

3. "Hey Jude"

Recorded in 1968 as a single, "Hey Jude" was written by Paul McCartney as a tribute to John Lennon's son, Julian. (Who has a hit single of his own in the 80's called "Too Late for Goodbyes"). The song starts off as a chill piano song that builds into an epic sing along. It's beyond infectious. It may be a little played out, but heck if it isn't brilliant.

2. "Here Comes the Sun"

Hailing from "Abbey Road" from 1969, "Here Comes the Sun" is one of George Harrison's few times to take the spotlight. It was written by Harrison in the backyard of Eric Clapton's house while borrowing Clapton's guitar. Not a bad string of events… There's just something very peaceful and positive about the tune that puts one at ease. Harrison is truly underrated and this song is proof that he could hold his own with the big boys.

1. "The End"

I won't lie. My first exposure to this song was courtesy of the Beastie Boys. They sample the bass line on "The Sounds of Science" of the album "Paul's Boutique". And it's super funky! Who would have thought it was the Beatles!? Or at least, that's what I thought. It turns out it's "The End". Like, "Here Comes the Sun", "The End" is off "Abbey Road". (You should have it in your collection if you don't already!) The lyrics are simple. Paul basically just sings "The End" over and over again…with the exception of the end. And I think Chris Farley says it best…

Now, check out the tune…


Note:I am a huge Beatles fan and I know I am not the only one that has said this before, but picking a few Beatles songs above others is like trying to pick a favorite between your children. Luckily I only have one child at the moment so I do not even have to think about that, but "The Beatles" are the only band I have ever listened to; where I enjoy every single song they have put on a record because they are all awesome. So, this was pretty difficult for me to do. However, I should state once again, these are my favorite Beatles songs, not which songs I think are the best out of their entire huge catalogue because I could put any five songs on here and it would be hard to argue against any of them.

Honorable Mention (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Something, Drive My Car, Let It Be, I Feel Fine, Daytripper, Day in a Life, A Little Help From My Friends, I Will, Blackbird, Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, Yellow Submarine, Really all of their songs)

5. "You´re Going to Lose That Girl"

One of the last songs that uses some of the elements of the early Beatles sound shows up on the Help! Album. I am a big fan of the whole Motown sound and many of the artists that resulted from that. So, the doo wop chords and harmonies by Paul and George that are meant to enhance the main lyrics sung by John are great. Another thing I love about this song is the way Ringo has a simple beat going on with the drums and then he introduces some lovely bongo action, which just fills your ears with so much wonderful sound. I dare anyone to tell me they do not find themselves tapping their foot or nodding their head along to the song.

4. "Helter Skelter"

I am a huge fan of hard rock and heavy metal so this song always makes my playlist of stuff to play at a loud volume. McCartney wrote this as a response to a review of a Who song. McCartney challenged the band to come up with the loudest, noisiest, and craziest song they could play. They had to practice the song so much in one session that you can hear the famous "I got blisters on my fingers" line said by Ringo at the end of the song. This is probably the edgiest and hardest George ever got on his guitar as a member of the Beatles and Ringo´s drumming all brings it together to really make you feel like you are in this distorted guitar and heavy bass sound pit. I still say McCartney´s screaming vocals are way better than some of the "moaning into a microphone" some people call the harder stuff today. I don´t know if you can call this a direct influence to hard rock and heavy metal, but you can hear why some may think that it has many of the elements.

3. "Here Comes the Sun"

One of the most popular songs in the Beatles catalogue was written by George Harrison when he was taking a break from the band. Apple was becoming a chore for George so he decided to spend the day at Eric Clapton´s house and he walked around with an acoustic guitar and came up with "Here Comes the Sun." George´s guitar on this song is simply beautiful and Ringo´s drum allow you to tap your foot, while also not taking away from the terrific energy the song has. The way the song was composed it literally makes you feel like you are outside on a sunny day. I smile every time I hear this song and probably my favorite part is the harmonies saying "Sun, Sun, Sun, Here We Come."

2. "In My Life"

One of the most powerful songs in all of beatledom is written by John and includes some memories from his childhood and an ode to some fallen comrades like original Beatle member Stuart Sutcliffe. The song is just simple and sweet but has a complex message that could be used for graduations, funerals, weddings, or any montage video you choose. Even Apple and The Beatles chose it to be the opening montage of their Anthology series. It really is just a great song that has topped many a list for greatest Beatles song.

1. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

My favorite Beatle is George because maybe his early stuff was not that great, but once Taxman was put on Revolver, fans knew what maybe Lennon and McCartney did not want to admit at first, there was a third Beatle writer who should be heard. He went on to write several Beatles classics including "Something" and the song I have listed at No. 1. If you need more proof George was awesome, he had so many songs written down that the Beatles weren´t using, his first solo album "All Things Must Pass" became a triple album. George brought in "guitar god" Eric Clapton to do some of the guitar work for the song, namely the solos, and also to sort of make the Beatles get along. George wrote the song based on the Chinese book of changes where everything is relative, so he decided to write it based on the first word he saw in a book. Eric Clapton does wonderful guitar work in this song and really makes you feel like the guitar is really weeping, which always amazes me every time I listen to the song. You can hear Harrison´s themes for the song clearly as the song just ebbs and flows so beautifully thanks to the heavy guitar influence. Every time I listen to the song it makes me think and though it can be a little sad, it is still a killer song that shows you how great of a songwriter George was.


Honorable Mentions: "Revolution 1," "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "If I Fell," "Something," "Hey Jude," "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday"

5. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

As you might notice from my top five, I'm more of a fan of the band's socially-conscious music than their straight-out pop songs. This is a great example of that. It's such a somber song; you can't help but relate it to any era from the 1960s forward with lyrics like "With every mistake we must surely be learning/Still my guitar gently weeps." Interestingly, the song was written by George Harrison as a writing exercise as he put his study at the time of I Ching to use. He took the idea of relativism and ran with it, writing a song based off the first line that he found when opening a book. The end result was a brilliant piece of work.

4. "Come Together"

This song, which is on Abbey Road, was originally inspired by LSD guru Timothy Leary's gubernatorial campaign. The song is one of my favorite tracks penned by Lennon. It's a much more bluesy song than you typically got from the band and that helps it stand out musically; the lyrics are out there to boot. They're cryptic and there has been a lot of speculation over exactly what they mean. Is it about all four of the band members, John specifically or something else entirely? Whatever the case it's a great, classic track.

3. "All You Need Is Love"

"All You Need Is Love" is not one of the band's more subtle songs. That certainly doesn't make it anything less than fantastic though. It's an out-and-out anthem…and in fact that was the point. The song made its debut during Our World, the first-ever global television production, when the band was asked to come up with a song that could be understand by all nationalities, regardless of cultural differences and free from misinterpretation. The lyrics are simple and straight-forward, and that helps make them powerful. The Beatles had several songs that were similarly straight-forward like this, but this is the one that really resonates to this day.

2. "Blackbird"

A song about the racial struggle in the United States in the late 1960s, "Blackbird" is a beautiful song. McCartney used "bird" meaning the British slang for "girl," which makes the song very apparent when you read the lyrics with that in mind. That fact aside, the song does have a timeless quality—something you can say about most the band's best songs—and even today it makes for a wonderful ballad about rising above the obstacles that are in your way and holding you down. If this song doesn't strike some kind of emotional resonance in you, I don't honestly know what to say.

1. "Let It Be"

What can you really say about what is one of the greatest songs in the history of popular music? The last single released before Paul McCartney left the band, "Let It Be" is one of the band's most popular and timeless songs. It could be that the song carries such emotional weight specifically because it was their last single, which carries with the lyrics about letting go and finding an inner peace. This is one of those many songs that shows exactly how skillful of a songwriter Paul McCartney is. It speaks to the band's turmoil at the end of their run together, and also in a broader way to anyone listening. This is a song that can be many different things to many different people, but no matter what it is the very words of wisdom the song talks about. Just an amazing piece of music.

The Final Word

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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