The Beatles’ Top 100 Songs – Part 1, 100-76

Beatles Month Staff Lists

The centerpiece to Strange Currencies’ month-long celebration of The Beatles is this feature – our first collaborative staff list. As someone who has spent a lot of time making list-form projects, I know the work, strategy, and second-guessing that goes into such an endeavor. While the nature of a group list helps to divide some of the work load, the incorporation of multiple perspectives brings about its own set of challenges. Though I may bemoan my colleagues for the exclusion of some of my personal favorites – such as “Baby’s In Black,” “I Will,” “There’s a Place,” and “I’ll Be Back” – I think they absolve themselves with their thoughtful selections and commentary.

Our methodology was simple: each contributor had 100 picks; the top pick received 100 points, the 100th received 1. In the official canon of 213 songs – excluding alternate versions, German-language re-recordings, and George Martin’s instrumental tracks from Yellow Submarine; but including the “reunion” singles from the Anthology project – 161 songs earned at least one point between our seven participants. As the editor-in-chief of Strange Currencies, I reserved the right to break ties, though the final rankings vary (often greatly) from how I ordered them in the A Century of Song project.

The collaborators for this project range in age from the late-teens to early-forties; our individual level of enthusiasm for The Beatles ranges from “pretty serious fan” to “certified obsessive”; five of us are musicians, while two are merely music lovers. Here are our picks:

100. “Good Morning Good Morning”

from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

89 points

It’s hard to identify the best individual element of this late-album highlight from Sgt. Pepper: perhaps it’s John’s sardonic/tragic portrayal of domestic life; maybe it’s the searing lead work coming from Paul’s Epiphone Casino; or perhaps the punchy brass that gives the song a triumphantly propulsive undercurrent. Nope, it’s Ringo. Anyone who ever put in a few good rounds behind the kit in The Beatles: Rock Band gets it. This one of Mr. Starkey’s finest performances. — MR

99. “The Ballad of John and Yoko”

single A-side (1969)

96 points

A song for everyone that has ever been in a relationship that everyone else hates. John and Yoko were both clearly happy, and compatible with each other in a way that some people spend entire lifetimes looking for. That their love for one another yields such… obnoxious…? results is besides the point. “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a showcase of bad decisions, poor PR choices, and foreshadowing. Of course Yoko was going to be a wedge; John was having more fun making art with her than anyone at Abbey Road. It translates here. They may not have been bigger than Jesus, but they were certainly bigger than Paul and Linda. — GB

98. “Revolution 9”

from The Beatles (1968)

97 points

Of those 97 points up there, 86 of them came from my colleague, Matt McReynolds. Therefore, it was a no-brainer that he should contribute the write-up for this piece. What he sent me was essentially a full-blown article. It’ll appear on the site tomorrow. For now, I’m just glad that the 8 points I gave to this most revolutionary of Beatles tracks were enough to help it make the cut. — MR

97. “Cry Baby Cry”

from The Beatles (1968)

102 points

John cops a line from an advert, affixes it to a narrative drawn largely from an old nursery rhyme, and The Beatles provide one of the most ghostly musical backings in their catalog – shrill guitar leads, Studio Two’s legendary “Mrs. Mills” piano, and a wheezing harmonium – to create a tantalizingly vivid centerpiece to side four of the “White Album.” When anybody asks me what the most underrated song is in the band’s catalog, I always point to this one. Okay, they never ask me, but I volunteer the opinion regardless… — MR

96. “Blue Jay Way”

from Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

105 points

George Harrison’s token contributions to Beatles albums always had a different feel to them than the Lennon/McCartney songs. Even the first song he wrote and recorded – “Don’t Bother Me” – was written in a somber minor key, characteristic to him long before he discovered Indian music. “Blue Jay Way” is haunting, and contains one droning C-chord that the melody and arrangement weave around and through. Written about their press agent, Derek Taylor, becoming lost in the Hollywood Hills, one can’t help but feel a little lost themselves while listening to it. It’s a song that, like so many George tracks, seeks and twists its way through its brief life. Incidentally, is it “Please don’t be long” or “Please don’t belong”? Yeah, I know what the lyric sheet says, but what is George saying? — MM

95. “This Boy”

single B-side (1963)

113 points

The truth about the early Beatles that nobody touches on is that the band was, in essence, a girl group. It’s no secret that Lennon and McCartney adored the girl groups of America – particularly artists like Motown’s The Shirelles and Rosie And The Originals. Arguably, girl groups defined the early Beatles sound more than male-led rock and roll had. “This Boy” is one of the more obvious doo-wop songs in their early catalog – one that has a uniquely “Beatles” spin to it. The track follows the standard doo-wop progression, but at a hypnotizing 12/8 time. The three-part harmonies are soothing in their simplicity during the verses, almost coming across like a lullaby. Lennon’s blistering lead in the track’s middle-eight attacks with such emotional intensity that it gives the illusion he is crying. The backing harmonies shadow Lennon’s eerie vocals into his spectacular lead that finishes on a high A. That middle eight is downright brilliant – one of John’s best bridges. — KC

94. “Yer Blues”

from The Beatles (1968)

115 points

I used to sing this song to myself whenever I had to wake up at 4am to go to work. There is a hopelessness and fatality at that hour that feels overdramatic and fitting to the song’s sentiment. John’s not going to kill himself, but he’s trying to make a point equal to his scenery-chewing emotion: The Beatles aren’t blues, Paul, but it’s fun to pretend sometimes. — GB

93. “Do You Want to Know a Secret”

from Please Please Me (1963)

119 points

It’s hard to find an early Beatles song that covers more stylistic ground. They manage to pack in several examples of “Beatlemania” in under two minutes: a simple McCartney follow story; joyous upbeat melodies; minor-key John Lennon harmonies; vaguely cover-sounding; and mixed to sound good on AM radio. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” is also a good example of the deep bench-supergroup nature of the Beatles: a Lennon-McCartney song, sung by George, and carried by Ringo’s over-competent drumming. — GB

92. “Carry That Weight”

from Abbey Road (1969)

121 points

Wait a second. This is a song fragment. It really is part of a larger piece. Let’s be honest, “Carry That Weight” is the meaty portion of a larger medley that really deserves its own classification. You can’t talk about “Carry That Weight” without also bringing in “Golden Slumbers” and “The End.” They just belong together. Look. Drop the needle onto the vinyl and it doesn’t let up until “The End.” They belong together. Cosmically. I mean, our protagonist is drifting off to a sweet lullaby where they must carry their heavy pressures of life, laying them down, until ultimately, they make peace with the fact that in the end, they’ve done all they can do. It’s lovely, really. Especially at the end of what we know as The Beatles’ journey as a group. — GK

91. “I’m So Tired”

from The Beatles (1968)

127 points

This is another one of John’s “honesty” tracks. The vocals slog lazily through the verses – almost daring that same yawn from “I’m Only Sleeping” to make an appearance between lines. Of course, he had the help of heroin by this time. But it’s not the same laziness from Revolver. This is the sound of a man tormented, and at his wit’s end – pleading, bargaining for the peace he sought in India and could not find. Here, we get a glimpse of the sheer, stark, raving John Lennon who would give us Plastic Ono Band a little more than two years later.

As a 16-year-old kid, I saw Elliott Smith shriek this for his encore – with Sam and Janet from Quasi – at Portland’s La Luna during the last stop on his Either/Or tour. To see this guy who, up until then, had sung in mostly hushed tones on four-tracked albums screaming John’s lines at the ending – using “I’m So Tired” to exorcise some demons in front of a room full of his friends and admirers – was a revelation: not just about John and Elliott, but about myself and the power of music. — MM

90. “I Need You”

from Help! (1965)

128 points

Often remembered for the clever use of a volume pedal – or for its unsettling-but-beautiful visual accompaniment in the Help! film – George Harrison’s second Beatles song should be considered one of his finest. The song of lost love is carried by Harrison’s emerging lyrical talent, which seems to predict the melancholic lyrics that would characterize The Beatles throughout 1965. — RG

89. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

135 points

“Mr. Kite” is as much mythology as reality, for history and inspiration. The backstory is that the song was taken, nearly word-for-word, from an antique carnival barker’s poster. The truth to the finished product may lay somewhere in-between flat stock and sugar cubes as a drug delivery device. Either way, it provides a nice transition between the sadness of “She’s Leaving Home” and the trip that is “Within You Without You.” — GB

88. “Baby You’re a Rich Man”

single B-side (1967)

135 points

The star of the show is the peculiarity of what sounds like a convulsing oboe frantically attempting to charm the snake that has already bitten it. In reality, it’s John rolling a tangerine on the keys of a sped up clavioline synthesizer. That alone is enough to shoot this magical track up the canonical charts. Sure the lyrics are a touch on the nose, oozing with mystical saccharine, but sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m one of the beautiful people. — GK

87. “It Won’t Be Long”

from With The Beatles (1963)

135 points

Visceral and almost unbearably raw, “It Won’t Be Long” kicked off The Beatles’ sophomore album on an exhilarating note. The primal urgency of the track helps to make it leap from any speakers: whether a pricey pair of book-shelfs, an AM transistor radio, or the old family television. It was through the latter in which I – in the fall of 1995 – first felt the stubborn Beatle-skepticism of my youth melting away during the initial airing of the Anthology series. — MR

86. “Think for Yourself”

from Rubber Soul (1965)

140 points

Melodically, “Think For Yourself” feels like an expected addition to Rubber Soul; the chord progression is bland and the arrangement standard. What really carries the track are the group’s beautiful three-part harmonies and Paul’s fuzz bass lead. “Think For Yourself” was only the third original Harrison track to make the cut for a Beatles album, but it holds up alongside Lennon and McCartney’s originals. George makes a noteworthy effort in trying to develop seemingly more mature lyrics with a bitter edge – following the band’s expansion into psychedelics and cannabis – and additionally is one of the only people to use the term “rectify” in a song and have it actually fit. — KC

85. “It’s All Too Much”

from Yellow Submarine (1969)

150 points

This George Harrison track was overlooked for too long: a status at least partially attributed to its relegation to the least-essential release in the official Beatles canon. Recently, “It’s All Too Much” has seen a well-deserved boost in support from Beatle fanatics, who champion its trippy production, Harrison’s clever lyrics, and a sound that is strikingly “modern.” Seriously, throw this one onto The Olivia Tremor Control’s Black Foliage, and hardly anyone would bat an eye. — MR

84. “Love You To”

from Revolver (1966)

151 points

While I love the Indian-influenced, rocking feel of this song, it is the opening lines that get me every time:

Each day just goes so fast
I turn around, it’s passed
You don’t get time to hang a sign on me

It’s a notion that really stood out to me as an eighteen-year-old, but has a near equal power to a forty-something dad. — NB

83. “You Never Give Me Your Money”

from Abbey Road (1969)

154 points

The Beatles get better with personal age. When I was 23, I didn’t really care for “You Never Give Me Your Money.” I thought it was about financial independence and being an adult. Now in my forties, I realize it’s about being an adult, but for deeper and more fundamentally sad reasons. Those of us lucky enough to realize our dreams know how hard it is to maintain them in the face of outside pressures. Paul uncorks a masterpiece of therapy, expressing at once how versatile and amazing the band could be, but set to a subject matter illustrative of why it wouldn’t, or couldn’t, last. — GB

82. “You’re Going To Lose That Girl”

from Help! (1965)

156 points

Featuring one of John Lennon’s greatest vocal performances, catchy backing vocals from Paul and George, and Ringo playing the bongos, this track is remembered by many for the impact of its visual counterpart. Arguably the best performance scene in any Beatles film, “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” is the most arresting visual experience that The Beatles offered in 1965’s Help!. — RG

81. “Long, Long, Long”

from The Beatles (1968)

157 points

Never doubt George Harrison’s ability to write a profound love song. “Something” overshadows it and “My Sweet Lord” updates it, but “Long, Long, Long” is the original thesis. Written during his 1967 transcendental awakening, it captures the deeper meditative nature of George’s spiritual leanings and includes just enough ‘experimental’ sounds and time signatures to make clear that it is his song and not anyone else’s.  — GB

80. “Two of Us”

from Let It Be (1970)

166 points

Recorded during the sessions that many consider to be the breaking point of The Beatles, it’s easy to see why many people believe this song was an attempt by Paul McCartney to salvage a faltering friendship with his songwriting companion. Even if the lyrical content isn’t explicitly about the Lennon-McCartney duo, the spirited performance certainly harkens back to better days. — RG

79. “Mother Nature’s Son”

from The Beatles (1968)

170 points

While this track may feel more at place on a Simon & Garfunkel album, the folksy frolicking chorus that has Paul cooing like a pied piper is part of what gives the “White Album” it’s “all over the place” charm. It’s certainly a “Paul” track, much to John’s chagrin (who – by all accounts – showed up to the studio with Ringo, and tensions built when they found an already completed track without a fingerprint of theirs to be found). Still, the trumpets and trombones give the finger-picked guitar a jaunty boost in what ends up as a pleasant track that belongs on everyone’s grassy hillside picnic playlist. You have one of those playlists, right? — GK

78. “You Won’t See Me”

from Rubber Soul (1965)

174 points

The Beatles write a sneaky good break-up song. It doesn’t matter that the fault always seems to lie with their own insecurities; it makes for great music. Included on Rubber Soul – just before they discovered the height of their powers – “You Won’t See Me” is also a good example of Ringo’s unseen influence over the band. Paul leads the tempo on piano, and the song drags slightly – perhaps suffering a little more than it may have otherwise. — GB

77. “When I’m Sixty-Four”

from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

183 points

Sure, this song is a bit campy, but it’s also rather contemplative. Despite hearing this track at around age 19 – which meant that no part of the story really related to my life at that youthful moment – I nevertheless had a profound connection to it. I would get lost in the song, envisioning myself as an old man with a doting wife: a father with kids out in the world somewhere that had long since left the nest. — NB

76. “Back in the USSR”

from The Beatles (1968)

183 points

The amped-up opener to The Beatles’ most fascinating record may brim with the excitement of a band in full flight, but it was actually recorded during a particularly tense moment in the group’s history. Ringo had walked out on an early session for “Back in the USSR,” declaring his intention to leave The Beatles. In his absence, John, Paul, and George each took a crack at the drums, and took a similarly “all hands on deck” approach to the track’s guitar, bass, vocal, and percussion parts. Whether it hits its mark as a Beach Boys pastiche or Cold War-era satire is debatable, but it at least pissed off the John Birch Society, so that’s gotta count for something, right? — MR


Part Two – #75-51

Authors

  • Matt Ryan founded Strange Currencies Music in January 2020, and remains the site's editor-in-chief. The creator of the "A Century of Song" project and co-host of the "Strange Currencies Podcast," Matt enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has a particular affinity for 60s pop, 90s indie rock, and post-bop jazz. He is an avid collector of vinyl, and a multi-instrumentalist who has played/recorded with several different bands and projects.

  • Glenn Krake is the associate editor of Strange Currencies Music and a co-host of the nearly flawless podcast of the same name. He counts among his proudest achievements taking his daughter to her first concert: Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds in its entirety on its 50th anniversary (as a way of making amends for his own pitiable first concert: The Osmonds at the county fair).

  • Remy is a contributor to Strange Currencies Music with a particular interest in Psychedelic Rock, Punk Rock, Funk/Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz. When Remy isn't writing for Strange Currencies Music, they enjoy playing guitar, watching movies, reading books, and playing with their dog Bowie.

  • George Budney is a guest writer for Strange Currencies Music. Though he has no musical talent himself, he has the good fortune of friends that do. His interests include music, old cars, dogs, and other fringe pursuits.

  • Matt McReynolds, of Strange Currencies' Arizona contingent, has had a song stuck in his head since before he can remember. He and Matt Ryan met outside a public library because of a Pitchfork Music Festival t-shirt. His bailiwick includes 50's - 60's rock and pop and country, 70's and 80's English new wave, Northwest Indie rock, and argyle socks (one of which he's wearing right now).

  • Strange Currencies contributor involved in self portraiture and music. Her favorite albums feature Flamingo Serenade by The Flamingos, Floating Into The Night by Julee Cruise, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. When she isn’t writing songs, she spends her time researching history and collecting 1950s clothing.

  • I have been a melomaniac for as long as I can remember. By middle school, I had become a serious music collector. By high school, I had every record store in town mapped out in my brain and frequently made the rounds on the hunt for the classics and the obscure!

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