My Top 10 Beatles Tracks
By Bret Sayre
We all go through it at some point–that point in your musical existence when you stop focusing on what’s here now, but what came before. My classic rock exploration phase started when I was a sophomore in high school, and the Beatles were not my main focus. For that first year or two, I was heavy into Zeppelin–which made sense based on the heavier music I was into at the time; however as I got older and started to write music myself, the Beatles’ influences and tendencies manifested themselves more and more loudly. The hooks, the harmonies, the depth, all of it.
It was hard enough just to narrow this down to ten songs, I’m not masochistic enough to try and rank them amongst each other, so they sit below in alphabetical order:
“A Day in the Life”
There’s really no better example of the Lennon/McCarthy collaboration than this classic track from what is probably their most overrated album. The song meanders through five minutes of eclectic instrumentation, tempo changes and vocal trade-offs–and is spread out judiciously in the space. It’s both laid back and urgent. It’s rare that a track is both ahead of its time and properly appreciated when it’s released, but here we are.
This song was one that I didn’t discover until late in my Beatles Finding phase, but it had one of the biggest influences on my songwriting. I always wished I could write a guitar hook half as cool as the one that drives this song, but it turns out that not being John Lennon is a trait many aspiring musicians share.
“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight”
The second side of Abbey Road is one of my favorites of all time, and because it’s very tough to pick out a singular song from it, I’m not going to. Frankly, if I could pick the whole medley, I would. What are the rules of this thing anyway? The piano ballad of the former is a perfect appetizer, leading into the explosive chorus of the latter–and the reprise of You Never Give Me Your Money (horns again, I know) really ties the room together.
“Got to Get You Into My Life”
There’s no other way to put it, this song just makes me happy. It’s Paul through and through, which can be a turn off to some, but this is one his songs that needs to be played as close to full volume as possible. Another Bret musical fun fact: I have a very soft spot for well-placed horns, and that helps solidify this song’s placement.
“Happiness is a Warm Gun”
Unlike many of its predecessors, this song is a one-way street. The verse starts quiet and builds up with the jagged guitar before exploding into aural intensity. The combination of the playfulness of the music and the darkness of the lyrics is John Lennon as his finest, and his lead vocal track in the eventual chorus of the song is one of his finest moments in the band’s discography.
“Here Comes the Sun”
The lone George Harrison representative on the list, it’s really tough to think of the ten best Beatles since without this one. For me, I knew this song before I really knew all that much about the Beatles, as this was used at my summer camp when after we had “quiet time” on the bus to let us know we were getting close to whatever destination we were headed to. For that reason, it has a special place for me, but it is the pinnacle of George’s songwriting and is a key track on arguably the band’s strongest album.
“I’ve Just Seen a Face”
Of all the Paul acoustic songs, this is the one tha makes the list. It’s just two minutes of earnest perfection and having gotten into the song in my formative years, the earnestness was appreciated in a way that only a naive teenager can. It was also one of the first handful of songs I tried to learn on the guitar, though I was never quite able to nail playing and singing it at the same time.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
There are plenty of “better” Beatles songs than this quirky Paul track, but for some reason this one has always stuck with me. I guess quirky doesn’t really do to justice, as the lyrics read like the ramblings of a man who can’t tell the floor from the ceiling. However, it’s one of the catchiest Beatles tracks, and suits me just fine.
Another track I didn’t pick up until later on, this quickly became a personal favorite with it’s sweeping vocals and crushing verses. Add in one of their finest guitar riffs and you get another in a long line of nearly perfect pop songs from the first stage of the Beatles’ career.
The blaring of the opening guitar riff to this song signals that it aims to be something larger than just a Beatles song. It wants to be an anthem, and thanks to the indignant attitude, melody and vocal energy of John, it succeeds.
“Back in the USSR”
“Here, There and Everywhere”
“I Am the Walrus”
“She Said She Said”
Five More (because I can’t help myself):
“And Your Bird Can Sing”
“Drive My Car”
“Eight Days a Week”