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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 02.10.14: The Top 5 Beatles Albums
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 02.10.2014


Criteria: Sunday marked a historical day in popular music history. On February 9th, 1964 the Beatles made their United States television debut, an event that quite seriously changed the course of popular music. The fiftieth anniversary has been celebrated in a variety of ways, and here at 411 we're honoring them with a look at the top 5 albums in their discography.


Note: I am only including the "core catalogue" albums. This includes the twelve original albums released in the UK (and elsewhere) between 1962 and 1970, along with the Magical Mystery Tour which was an LP in the US but an EP in the UK.

Honorable Mention: Magical Mystery Tour, Help!, A Hard Day's Night, Let It Be

5. Rubber Soul (1965)

Honestly, I'll be frank; it's supremely difficult to pick between Beatles albums. Whether you're talking the pop entries of their early days or the more rock-oriented LPs of the later years, they were among the absolute best at what they did. That being said, as you'll see below I prefer their later rock albums because they had really matured as artists by that point. Rubber Soul was the album where they really made that switch and even in their first steps into rock they made a legendary album. This was the music that gave them their sound and voice as artists and it became a turning point in their career. They were great before, but this made then icons of popular music.

4. The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

By the point that their self-titled LP (better known as "The White Album") was being recorded in 1968, the Fab Four were at each other's throats. The tension in the band was at an all-time high and, like Fleetwood Mac with Rumours, that tension turned into musical brilliance. This double LP suffers a bit because it somewhat lacks in cohesion but the individual songs are among the most brilliant that the band ever created. I would say this is their best collection of songs. From "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Back In The U.S.S.R." to "Dear Prudence," "Blackbird," "Rocky Raccoon," "Helter Skelter"...this is just one amazing song after the other and it helped redefine what rock and pop were capable of in the midst of this turbulent era for both the band and the world.

3. Revolver (1966)

If Rubber Soul was a turning point for the band, Revolver was where they truly found their voice. There are many people who consider it one of the greatest LPs of all-time and in fact, it is difficult to argue with that. This album took their new creative direction and focused it into new levels of potency, all the while continuing to branch out into other territories like psychedelia. "Eleanor Rigby" is one of the all-time great songs in rock and roll, "Yellow Submarine" is iconic for a reason, "I'm Only Sleeping" is a classic. And those are just three great songs off of a fourteen-track album full of them. Make no mistake; just because I have this at #3 doesn't mean it isn't one of the greatest albums in popular music history.

2. Abbey Road (1969)

Abbey Road was the final album the Beatles recorded as a group. Sure, they released Let It Be last (itself a great LP), but this was the last one they did together in the studio. The band wanted to go out on a high note as a group and Abbey Road accomplished that with the beauty of efforts like "Something," the power of "Come Together" and the bluesy gritty masterpiece that is "Oh! Darling." This is an album that, much like the singer of that last song, could do us no wrong. The second side of the LP features one of the best flowing sensations from one song into another, all the way through it. It's almost better that Let It Be made it out after this one, because as good as that one is it means that the band didn't go out on one of their highest possible notes. There would have been a lot stronger of a "what could have been" sense that followed in that situation.

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

One of the greatest albums in the history of music. What, do you really need more? Okay then. It's a truly brilliant concept album, an LP that became the quintessential mainstream album of the psychedelic rock era. This was deeply risky by the band at the time, taking them into an entirely new era and becoming one of the few concept LPs where the songs work not only as a whole album, but individually as well. The band was tired of being on the road nonstop and so they created the album as a way to double down with an album and concert both. That's a smart way to fix their problem, and the end result was one of the greatest albums ever recorded. And among the Beatles' catalogue it is, for my money, their best by a hair.

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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