You Can’t Do That, or How I Managed to Narrow My Favorite Beatles Songs Down to a Top Ten

by John M. Borack

As a card-carrying music geek, I am well aware of the importance of lists. Year-end “best ofs,” top 10s, lists of all-time favorite Monkees songs (RIP, Davy) – folks love to read, debate, dissect and often ridicule these sorts of lists.

So get ready to read, debate, dissect and ridicule another one as I proudly present my personal list of the top 10 songs by the Beatles, along with some brief justifications.

First though, let me say that this obviously was a difficult list to narrow down, what with me being an unabashed Beatle freak and all. (I very easily could have compiled a dozen Beatles top 10’s with no appreciable loss of quality.) I’m also aware that I’ve probably neglected to mention your favorite Beatles song, so feel free to kick and scream and tell me I’m full of it. I’m used to that; I’m married.

ANYway….here’s the list:

10. “Nowhere Man” – The pristine vocal harmonies, John Lennon’s passionate lead vocal, the jangly, folk-rock influenced guitar sound…wow.  Just…wow.

9. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” – Another folk-rock influenced ditty, this one more acoustic-based and penned primarily by Paul McCartney. He’s covered this peppy little number from 1965 in his solo concerts on and off since ’76, so he must be rather fond of it, too.

8. “Please Please Me” – To me, this is one of the most sonically thrilling examples of the early Beatles sound. It never gets old, does it? It’s somewhat difficult to fathom that it was originally conceived as a slower, bluesier number with a nod to the great Roy Orbison.

7. “Lovely Rita” – Somewhat buried on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this Paul composition features a winking lyric (“Got the bill and Rita paid it/took her home, I nearly made it/sitting on the sofa with a sister or two”), typically amazing, melodic bass playing from McCartney and some ace drum fills by Ringo Starr. A nice mixture of psychedelia and straighforward rock.

6. “It Won’t Be Long” – An early Lennon tune that exudes youthful energy and is memorable for the call and response “yeah’s” peppered throughout the song.

5. “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – A Lennon tour-de-force from 1968’s White Album, it’s chock full of his psychedelic, slightly cracked wordplay (“A soap impression of his wife, which he ate and donated to the National Trust” – awesome.) It’s also something of a mini-suite, with three distinct musical passages melding seamlessly.

4. “I’ve Got a Feeling” – A true John/Paul collaboration from the later Beatle years, borne out of what were originally two different bits – Paul’s “I’ve Got a Feeling” and John’s “Everybody Had a Hard Year.” More stellar drumming from Mr. Starr on this one.

3. “Hello, Goodbye” – Unfailingly melodic, joyous-sounding and catchy as hell. Ringo shines yet again. Oh, and it’s my daughter’s favorite Beatles song – how could I NOT list it in my top 10?

2. “And Your Bird Can Sing” – Even though Lennon wrote and sang it, he never thought much of it. Me, I love the kinetic energy of the killer lead guitar riff running through the song, as well as Paul’s high harmony vocals.

1. “You Never Give Me Your Money” – For my money, this Abbey Road number provides a four-minute musical snapshot of why the Beatles were the greatest band ever. You’ve got more inventive bass runs, some cool lead guitar courtesy of George Harrison, lovely group vocal harmonies, Ringo going all-out on the tom toms, a bit of classical-style piano from Paul, as well as his lead vocal which runs the gamut from sweet to powerful…whew. A masterpiece, pure and simple.

I’m sure your list is exactly the same as mine, right?

 

36 thoughts on “You Can’t Do That, or How I Managed to Narrow My Favorite Beatles Songs Down to a Top Ten

  1. There is no power pop without Day Tripper and its amazing opening hook.

    That song is near the top of my top 10.

  2. Impossible task, but here she goes…

    Rain
    I Want To Tell You
    Strawberry Fields Forever
    No Reply
    All You Need is Love
    It Won’t Be Long
    Don’t Let Me Down
    Julia
    I Feel Fine
    Paperback Writer

  3. 1. I’m Down – punk rock in ’65
    2. I Am The Walrus – ftg. Ringo the Funky Drummer
    3. Revolution single
    4. Rain
    5. Paperback Writer
    6. Strawberry Fields Forever
    7. Hold Me Tight
    8. When I Get Home
    9. Penny Lane – great mid 60s pop record
    10.I Want To Tell You

  4. Do yourself a favor, put a 5 minute time limit on yourself or you’ll obsess about it all day.

    not ranked:
    Tell Me Why
    Do You Want to Know a Secret
    All My Loving
    I Should Have Known Better
    Eight Days a Week
    You’re Going to Lose That Girl
    And Your Bird Can Sing
    Girl
    I’m So Tired
    Two of Us

  5. In no particular order:
    . I Am The Walrus.
    . A Day In The Life.
    . Cry Baby Cry.
    . No Reply.
    . Here Comes The Sun.
    . In My Life.
    . She Said She Said.
    . Something.
    . Eleanor Rigby
    . Here, There And Everywhere.

  6. Good choices – you can’t go wrong with almost any 10 random Beatle songs. “Don’t Let Me Down” is always in my top ten list, though. That one makes me roll my head back and squeeze my eyes shut every time!

  7. This is extremely difficult….but here goes:

    10 – while my guitar gently weeps
    9 – nowhere man
    8 – 8 days a week
    7- something
    6 – all you need is love
    5 – I feel fine
    4 – you’ve got to hide your love away
    3 – We can work it out
    2 – all my loving
    1 – a hard days night

  8. An absurd task yet who can resist……In alphabetical order

    Can’t Buy Me Love
    Eleanor Rigby
    In My Life
    I’ve Just Seen a Face
    Norwegian Wood
    Paperback Writer
    Taxman
    While My Guitar Gently weeps
    Yesterday
    You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away

  9. A Top Top Beatles’ tunes is like trying to identify my top ten Beach Boys’ songs … impossible!

    Gotta have these:
    I’m A Loser
    I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
    Help
    Penny Lane
    I’m Looking thru You
    Paperback Writer
    Hello, Goodbye
    I Saw Her Standing There

  10. I think the “middle period” gets neglected. I would think a top ten would contain both sides of that great double a single from 64-65 xmas season, “I feel fine” and “She’s a woman” “she’s a woman” is oddly left out of all the greatest hits compilations (from the red album to “ones”) even though it was as much of a hit as “I feel fine” and is one of Paul’s jazziest numbers with its electric piano and staccato guitar riff and Paul’s great vocal all chasing the beat against that thump thump bass in weird syncopation.

    Ticket to Ride! Hide your love away! I don’t want to spoil the party…(is this a tribute to Lesley Gore?)

    Slow down. A Larry Williams tune with a terrific Lennon vocal. (honorable mention to Bad Boy, same description) I could go on but that would mean getting out the records and looking at them…

  11. I think the “middle period” gets neglected. I would think a top ten would contain both sides of that great double a single from 64-65 xmas season, “I feel fine” and “She’s a woman” “she’s a woman” is oddly left out of all the greatest hits compilations (from the red album to “ones”) even though it was as much of a hit as “I feel fine” and is one of Paul’s jazziest numbers with its electric piano and staccato guitar riff and Paul’s great vocal all chasing the beat against that thump thump bass in weird syncopation.

    Ticket to Ride! Hide your love away! I don’t want to spoil the party…(is this a tribute to Lesley Gore?)

    Slow down. A Larry Williams tune with a terrific Lennon vocal. (honorable mention to Bad Boy, same description) I could go on but that would mean getting out the records and looking at them…

    You can’t do that!

  12. Excellent choices, people, love ALL of those picks. I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to 10 (although Bill’s idea of limiting it to 5 minutes is a good one).
    One thought, though: Isn’t it interesting that Hey Jude has not been mentioned?
    And what would be the 10 worst Beatles songs?

  13. Let’s not forget Hey Jude
    Get Back
    A Day in the Life
    Old Brown Shoe
    Help
    Something
    I want you
    Come Together
    Revolution (fast doo-wop version)
    Birthday

  14. i have many top tens on Beatles but here goes:
    RAIN
    YER BLUES
    TICKET TO RIDE
    HELP
    BACK IN THE USSR
    BABY YOUR A RICH MAN
    TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS
    I WANT TO TELL YOU
    MISERY
    YOU KNOW MY NAME

  15. well i mostly prefer the original versions the beatles copied from but here goes
    slow down
    matchbox
    bad boy
    honey pie
    for you blue
    and your bird can sing
    honey dont
    i saw her standing there
    act naturally
    everybodys trying to be my baby
    savoy truffle

    oops thats 11

  16. In any order you want:

    I’m A Loser
    Lady Madonna
    Day Tripper
    We Can Work It Out
    What You’re Doing
    Hello Goodbye
    I’m Looking Through You
    Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
    Here Comes The Sun
    You Never Give Me Your Money

    It’s really, really hard to stop there and to betray so many other great tunes by leaving them out. A Top 20 list wouldn’t make the task ay easier, either! One order than might help would be to list two clearly A sides on the same disc as one selection … I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman comes to mind. And I might need a separate list for George Harrison tunes. Or favorite White Album songs … it goes on …

  17. How can any Beatles’ top-10 list omit “Drive My Car” and “Words of Love”? Yeah, I know “Words…” is a cover, but it IS the greatest cover song of all time. Omit “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, and I’ll be relatively happy.

  18. 100 years from now, the ONE song that scholars will say changed EVERYTHING was “She Loves You”- the first time ANYONE used 3rd person narrative! It wasn’t “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or “You Can’t Do That”", it was “SHE Loves YOU!” This simple ditty of a pop-song changed the rules of songwriting forever. Now, anyone could spin a story without the restrictions of 1st or 2nd persons telling the tale. Must be part of all Top 10 Beatles Song List, maybe even Number One!

  19. no particular order:

    a day in the life
    something
    i feel fine
    help
    eight days a week
    ticket to ride
    yellow submarine
    I saw her standing there
    strawberry fields
    she loves you

  20. I think you need to add Here, There and Everywhere. I could live without Happiness is a Warm Gun. Yesterday is probably one of the most covered songs ever written.

  21. okay…here’s my ten:
    (no particular order)

    tell me why
    she’s a woman
    tomorrow never knows
    don’t bother me
    magical mystery tour
    yes it is
    it’s all too much
    i’ll be back
    eleanor rigby
    no reply

    while i really didn’t want toeave ringo off the list, i couldn’t think of any of his vocals i could put in my top 10…sorry, ringo…

  22. “And Your Bird Can Sing” is my all time favorite Beatle record. It exudes energy and brilliance. Thank you for including this fabulous song. And #2 is, of course, the classic “She Loves You”….I still get a thrill everytime I hear that incredible 45!!!

  23. What amazes me is how many different Beatles’ songs are somebody’s favorite. I suspect that a tabulated list from a large group of people would not include such songs as “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Honey Pie” or “Old Brown Shoe” or other less obvious choices in the top ten but it is interesting to see that some folks chose those. Here are mine but not in order
    Help, Hey Jude, Revolution (single), A Hard Day’s Night, Yesterday, Let It Be, I Want to Hold Your Hand, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Here Comes the Sun, With a Little Help From My Friends.
    Next we should do best Beatles solo hits….

  24. HELP!
    Nowhere Man
    Revolution
    Don’t Let Me Down
    All My Loving
    Dear Prudence
    Hello Goodbye
    If I Needed Someone
    Sun King
    This Boy

  25. Nobody likes – You Can’t Do That ?
    Would be in my top ten along with Drive My Car, Lady Madonna, Revolution, Imagine ….. and more

  26. A Day In The Life
    Strawberry Fields Forever
    And Your Bird Can Sing
    I Feel Fine
    Day Tripper (U.S./Australlian Stereo)
    Drive My Car
    Come Together
    Something
    While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    Hey Jude

  27. Here my top 10
    ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
    SOMETHING
    YESTERDAY
    AND I LOVE HER
    PENNY LANE
    STRAWBERRY FIELDS
    DEAR PRUDENCE
    BLACKBIRD
    HERE THERE AND EVERYWHERE
    IN MY LIFE

  28. HOOOyah !!!!!! BUT…… How can you pick 10 ? ALL of the Beatles songs are # 1 !!!!!!!! DUUUUUUUUh ! Some good choices of I’m down, and She loves you, but everybody forgot You know my name. And, yes, there HAVE 2 b some George songs !!!!!!!

  29. This is an impossible task… tomorrow my list will be totally different!

    Something
    You Never Give Me Your Money
    Strawberry Fields Forever
    I Am the Walrus
    I Should Have Known Better
    Nowhere Man
    A Day In The Life
    Drive My Car
    I’m a Loser
    If I Needed Someone

    … Wheh!

  30. within you without you.george at his best.started side two off with a look at how we live our lives.

  31. How can you think that it won’t be long and please please me would be better than songs like something, i will, i am the warlus, for no one, a day in the life, strawberry fields, penny lane, here comes the sun, let it be, dig a pony, come togheter, oh darling and other and other more…..

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