It’s been almost thirty five years since John Lennon was murdered outside his home, and though his death was tragic and inhuman, Lennon’s spirit and artistic influence has lived on for decades. Lennon was a voice for peace and rallying people to think outside the box and question the status quo, and his influence began with his work in the Beatles as one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic rock band in music history. In celebration of Lennon’s memory, here are twenty five of the best The Beatles songs we’ve ever heard. I’d like to thank you on behalf of Cinema Crazed, and I hope I passed the audition.
25. I Me Mine
To me this song is basically about the tensions that arose with the Beatles and their quickly splitting loyalties and ego problems. There’s an urgency and sadness to Harrison’s singing that constantly changes with the varying speeds of the song from slow and angry to tense and vicious. Definitely a song with shades of the band’s behind the scenes turmoil.
24. Octopus’ Garden
This is one of my favorite Beatles songs and definitely an underrated gem in the discography. Starr really does create a light and airy pop song that evokes the surrealism of the Beatles in their later period where they were experimenting. It has dashes of McCartney’s pop appeal and Lennon’s artistic inclinations.
23. It Won’t Be Long
Another of the many Beatles pop love songs in which the foursome display their keen talent for harmonizing and delivering a powerful record based around simple lyrics. “It Won’t Be Long” is a promise song and a wonderful love song about keeping such a promise to your loved one.
22. Why Don’t we do it in the Road
It’s McCartney displaying his brilliance for vocalizing and sounding an awful lot like the soul singers he and the band loved in their early days, “Why don’t we do it in the road” is another very simple but catchy and powerful love making song that has passion and a touch of dry wit to it. It’s a wonderful rock song based around a repetitive chorus, but surely has a touch of soul and funk to it that you can definitely tap your feet to. It could also be called an anthem for exhibitionists.
Too many people think “Revolution” is a song about going to war and inciting violence. In actuality, the song is the very definition of what John Lennon stood for. He wasn’t for war. The song is basically letting those know that if you want to go to war, if you want to begin a cause, you’d better have a good reason for it, or he’s not interested. You want a war? Give me a good argument for it.
20. Yellow Submarine
Regarded as a song for kids by McCartney, with help from pop star Donovan, “Yellow Submarine” is a cute and sweet little song about a crew aboard a magical submarine that takes them on various adventures. It was, of course, included in the film “Yellow Submarine” and is in the album itself, but was originally a single. It’s one of the few Ringo tunes, and one of their best that excels at being brilliant and yet simplistic.
19. You’re Going To Lose That Girl
Every time I play this song, I am always enamored by Ringo Starr’s incredible background bongo playing. Though it’s a very minor addition, it adds an incredible touch of rhythm to an already catchy song, and Starr goes to town on the bongos like nobody’s business. A really good song about jealousy and the war of love, “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” is a wonderful warning from a pal that if his friend doesn’t treat his girl right, he’s going to take her away from him and show her how much she deserves to be valued by a real man. Love it.
18. I Am the Walrus
Allegedly written by the Beatles during some of their many acid trips, “I Am the Walrus” is a combination of old school influences and some of their most surreal lyrics ever put to song and yet it’s still iconic. Inspired by the “Alice in Wonderland” tale, Lennon and McCartney feature evocative lyrics like “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye,” along with the classic opening line “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Definitely a song to hear while high, and even better sober.
17. Eight Days a Week
This is yet another love song from the Beatles in their pop phase, and what a great song it is. It’s another over the moon declaration of love, insisting that the guy in the song has love for his girl not seven days a week, but eight days a week. He’s so in love he just defies any logic or restraint. Filled with a wonderful fade in and some great guitar riffs, “Eight Days a Week” is a great tune from the guys who combine their talents for a truly remarkable toe tapper about loving someone unconditionally.
16. I Want to hold your Hand
One of the first major Beatles singles based around the early pop influences from the band mates, “I Want to hold your Hand” is the sensation that took over the world based around a string of chords and lyrics that are seemingly very simple, but still so damn catchy and raucous. “I Want to hold your Hand” is an excellent love song, and one of many from the band, that’s built around the declaration of love from a person who wants to hold their lover close to them. It’s a great song to play aloud and the beginning of something incredible.
15. I Want You (She’s so Heavy)
Ah the love, the lust, the passion. Lennon’s utterly incredible love for Yoko Ono is depicted in the absolutely excellent “I Want You (She’s so Heavy),” a visceral and raw declaration of physical and mental agony from Lennon who creates the song through various tempos and rhythms. With a perfect mix of piano, drums, and a truly great guitar riff along with the final guitar solo, “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” is one of the many lasting reminders that Lennon’s connection with Yoko Ono was beyond the realm of reason.
14. Here Comes the Sun
George Harrison presented one of his many contributions to the Beatles with an uplifting jam that looks on the bright side of life. After the wind and cold has passed, “Here Comes the Sun” looks at the upcoming summer and the sun shine that brings with it. With the sun comes prosperity and hope, and kills all the horrible cold and snow. With a great chorus, a wonderful guitar riff, and some classic hand clapping complimenting the rhythm, this is one of Harrison’s finest.
13. Dear Prudence
It’s pretty insane how the Beatles through the proper arrangements and cues almost seem to let the listener envision the coming of the sun light through their music and lyrics. It’s quite shocking how you can almost hear the moment the day is revealed in “Dear Prudence” once the song reaches the lyrics “Look around, round, round…” The Beatles just have a way of putting words so vividly in to their music that they can form incredibly vivid and striking images for the listener to lose themselves in. And you just have to love the drums played by McCartney who adds a real weight to their importance in the song. It’s a really uplifting and optimistic tune about finding the light in the outside world.
12. A Hard Day’s Night
A great album, a great song, and eventually a great movie, “A Hard Day’s Night” mostly wins me over every single time thanks to the speedy pace of the anthem as well as the fantastic guitar solo during the middle of the song. And who can forget the opening chord that just blasts the song in to motion? As with most of the songs from the Fab Four, “A Hard Day’s Night” is about love and working to preserve that love. “A Hard Day’s Night” speaks of a man who works hard to give his wife everything she wants in life, and he’s happy to toil away because she’s grateful for his struggles in the end. It’s hard to listen to this jam without remembering the foursome running from a mob of frantic young girls.
11. Hey Jude
Hey Jude is yet another really excellent love song about a man’s inability to really confront his love and needs to find the strength to get up and go get what he really wants in his life. Without her, his life is pretty much incomplete and until he can get her and win her over, he won’t really be whole. McCartney sings with his usual skill and suave vocals allowing a really raucous love song that develops in to a more charismatic and uplifting chant to cheer on Jude in to confessing and taking his love.
10. The Ballad of John and Yoko
Another excellent Lennon song misinterpreted by uptight listeners, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a definite manifesto by Lennon on his troubles in America and the turmoil he was experiencing at the time. He loved New York, so it was a struggle to be deported and stalked by the government for merely speaking his mind, in the end. “The Ballad of John and Yoko” ultimately about the vast struggles he endured with Yoko Ono, and how it’d ultimately destroy him. Lennon was misunderstood and the public were unwilling to really meet him halfway, and this song expresses his frustration perfectly.
9. Happiness is a Warm Gun
Ah, one of the few anthems devoted to the joys of shooting up, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” garners a light reference to The Peanuts while devoting the lyrics to the love of injecting yourself with heroin. Though the song allegedly has its various interpretation, the song so clearly explores shooting up as an influence, it’s blatant. “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is one of the great songs during the Beatles drug fueled days, and as such is surreal and very unique in its rhythm and tone. It’s dark and gritty, but also very soulful.
8. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Based on an antique circus poster John Lennon purchased personally, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is a fun and cute song about the events at a circus and the acts that are daring to entertain you. There’s really nothing to it, but a ring master explaining the events of his circus and rousing up the listener as is their duty. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” also has the advantage of being a very fun song to sing because it requires no real effort and has no subtext beyond telling the story of a fun and unique circus. And of course, Henry the Horse dances the waltz.
7. The Long and Winding Road
I hate the naked version of this song. The orchestra compliments Paul McCartney’s heart wrenching vocals so beautifully that it’s criminal to tarnish it. The literal deth knell of the Beatles and their heydays, “The Long and Winding Road” is clearly inspired by the final days of the Beatles and their endless bickering and feuding while recording their music. The song has a sullen and very tortured rhythm to it with McCartney’s lyrics and vocals representing a man who has seen his glory days and is ready to pack it in. Sadly, the other Beatles followed with him and this is one of the last goodbyes for an iconic band.
Because is a song you can listen to in either a cappella form or in its album form. Recorded with a three part vocal harmony, “Because” is a beautiful and almost hypnotic song about the beauty of nature and is very contemplative. The Beatles voice almost seems to rise above the soundtrack at times and gives “Because” the emotion and intensity of a gospel song with a theme on love and the world rather than religion. With Paul’s keen ability to sing soulfully, Lennon’s charming ability to display his own unique form of vocalizing, and George Harrison’s underrated and often underused singing talents, “Because” is complete and a brilliant display of what the Beatles can do beyond rock and pop. I also appreciate that it subtly segues in to “You Never Give Me Your Money.”
5. Sun King
While often recognized as one song named “Sun King” or a part of a two song suite of “Sun King” and “Mean Mr. Mustard,” the complete suite is definitely comprised of Sun King, Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, and She Came in through the Bathroom Window in order. All four songs are a powerful and incredible mix of varying tones of pop music and rock, and all four have something beautiful to add to an already excellent album. “Sun King” is a beautiful and soft bit of the Beatles harmonizing and singing a chorus of what sounds like Italian, but is really strung together words of various dialects. “Mean Mr. Mustard” is a song about a mean rich man, leading in to Polythene Pam about an ugly woman dressing in frumpy clothing and finally ending with “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” a fantastic tribute to the Beatles fans whom were often bold enough to break in to their homes and take great lengths to bond with the musicians. It’s an excellent series of melodies and riffs that fit together so incredibly and is well worth listening as loudly as possible.
4. In My Life
One of the most emotional and beautiful songs ever written by the fab four, “In My Life” is a contemplation on the past, the present, and the future, as well as thinking back to the people in your life that have hurt you and affected you in ways you can’t change. Ultimately, it’s a love song that thinks back to the positive aspects of your past and how the great people in your past made you in to the person you are today. Eventually though you love your past, and think back to the good times, you pretty much have to move on and think ahead while keeping the love that renews itself with every friend and lover you meet. With that message, the Beatles confess that they don’t love the people in their past, they love them more. I can’t listen to it without getting a little emotional.
3. Helter Skelter
Pretty much one of the few hard rock songs The Beatles ever created, Helter Skelter is a very raucous and gritty ode to anarchy and destruction and of course has its fans. Thankfully the Beatles are much too iconic to have such an excellent song brought to the dumps by a madman like Charles Manson, but it is one of the many times one of their pieces of work would be misinterpreted as a song with a hidden meaning behind it. Nevertheless, in spite of the slight taint of Manson, Helter Skelter is still an excellent rock song and one recorded by Paul McCartney of all people, a part of the group usually reserved for songs like “Golden Slumbers” and “Honey Pie.” Covered by dozens of bands, this is a taste of heavy metal before heavy metal ever made the scene.
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Though this is a song from the Beatles, whenever George Harrison is paid tribute to by his peers, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is typically the song he’s defined by as an artist. Composed of an amazing piano accompaniment, excellent guitar, and incredibly soulful singing from Harrison, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” seems to be about the current state of society and how much disarray it seems to be in. He then juxtaposes that by exploring how everything affects everything and how we can change the big things by working on the small things. In the end everything is relative and in harmony, and we can alter fate and destiny if we really tried. With an incredible guitar solo in the finale, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is definitely the greatest of Harrison and his time in the Beatles.
1. Ticket to Ride
Definitely one of the most unique of the Beatles songs, this Lennon tune features a great drum accompaniment by Ringo along with some great guitar riffs by McCartney. “Ticket to Ride” is surely one of the many great Beatles songs about a woman breaking a man’s heart, and this one in particular is about a woman who has had taken advantage of a man for most of his life and decides to leave him. The man simply wants her to redeem herself before deciding to walk out on him. He knows heartbreak is inevitable, but he wants something to believe she is a good person.
With all the great love songs, it’s a song of sorrow and sadness about the state of love and how it can hurt, and ultimately it’s the most powerful in that it depicts the romance as filled with pain and loneliness while the woman is less ideal this time around. The song builds up to the final coda with the excellent chorus of “My Baby Don’t Care” that ends the sad love song about a bitter relationship. It’s definitely the most enchanting and riveting of the Beatles tunes and one I can listen to without ever getting tired.