The Beatles’ 50 best songs

Roll up! The Fab Four's greatest songs chosen by famous fans

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Single, August 1968

RAY CHARLES” “Hey Jude”, now that’s beautiful. That should be what music is all about. They were great performers, too. We worked together in Hamburg before they were famous. But what they had was songs. The best. Never dirty- just beautiful songs you can play to your grandmother and to your children alike. “Hey Jude” has that quality. It doesn’t get any better than that.


IAN McCULLOCH: Me and Will always stick up for Paul. People still talk about Paul being a pillock, but John did more things that were worthy of being a pillock, saying things like “We’re bigger than God”, and by being nude on that album cover. That was horrible. Then he suddenly went all Che Guevara. And he was out of his mind. But “Hey Jude” is all down to the tune and the words. It sounds like a brilliant love song, but it’s to a boy, which gives it some edge, that it’s not “Hey June”. It’s up their with sodding “Never Walk Alone”. It’s anthemic, but so simple. The only thing I must mention is that he gets a bit too, “Hey Judy, Judy, Judy”. I always thought when Paul tried to rock too much it didn’t sound that natural.

ARTHUR BAKER: The chords from the start…so many people have stolen them since. I really love soul music, and, to me, it was their most soulful song, and it had great lyrics. People like Wilson Pickett did great versions of “Hey Jude”.

HOWE GELB: It was just about the time we were learning to slow dance with the girls, so it was sweet and dangerous to have such a long time hanging on while the song went on and on and on.


Single, April 1965


BOB STANLEY: This was the first song that made me understand (when I was about 12) the emotional tug of a chord change. They take the crystalline jangle of The Byrds- about a month after the release of “Mr Tambourine Man”!- and mould it into the most melancholy, beautifully resigned song. The guitar sound may be traceable, but the chunky, lopsided drum pattern is all Ringo.

AIMEE MANN: I remember hearing that as a kid and feeling like, “There’s something more going on than meets the eye.” John Lennon always sounds like there’s this real pain coming out of him that’s in his voice regardless of what he’s singing, an undercurrent of angst. That’s why people find it so appealing.

IAN McNABB: The first thing that comes into your mind is them skiing in the snow. It’s a pretty heavy record. It’s based on sevenths and fifths. They usually used thirds and fourths, and pretty intervals and harmonies. It’s much more rhythm and blues, and bluesy, and really just that beat and the great lyric. I love that Lennon, sort of mid-period Beatles thing when he’s just a little bid fed up. You’d have to talk about “Help!” at the same time. It sounds a little bit weary but still full of energy and youthfulness, because that was before the real cynicism kicked in. “Help!” may appear poppy, but it’s probably the first “shout-it-from-the-mountain-top” that maybe it’s not Utopia out there.

PAPA CRAZEE: This song is everything great about Sixties pop. In three blissful minutes, you get a beautiful melody, sharp harmonies, shimmery guitars, drug imagery, and slamming, free low-end. Ringo’s beat is Eastern-influenced mayhem (even before George started playing that ridiculous sitar).


Single, June 1966

BILLY BRAGG: It’s one of the great guitar riffs of rock. Then you’ve got the Beach Boys harmony bit over the words “paperback writer”. It adds a bit of psychedelia to it. Most of all why I like this song- it’s talking about the ability of everybody to create culture. The Beatles were the first people to dominate the mass media who hadn’t been to public school or Oxbridge. They were the first people from outside that closed world to make a contribution to our culture. “Paperback Writer” is emblematic of that burst. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t write a deep and meaningful hardback book. You could be a paperback writer.

RAT SCABIES: I used to read so much when I was a kid, nearly all trashy novels. This let me know that it was ok to dream about being Mickey Spillane. It also has that killer guitar riff, plus the then innovative production, and it also sounds like a band having a great time.

RICHARD WARREN: That is the best single ever released. It’s better than “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields”. Everything that you need to know is in those two songs (“Paperback Writer” and “Rain”). They work together. The thing I really like, it’s like psychedelia before it turned into tie-dye and hippies and flowers in people’s hair. You can still tell that The Beatles were an R&B, beat-based group, still quite military and quite sharp, but this thing was creeping in- the British beat psychedelia. They were jack of all trades, and the master of them all. And it always sounded completely like The Beatles.

NORMAN BLAKE: It’s a great song, great lyrics, and pretty unusual as well, arrangement-wise. It’s got a sort of looping bassline, and a real garage, rock’n’roll feel. As a songwriter, you can tell that McCartney’s developing his technique. Compare The Beatles to their counterparts now- someone like Westlife. I can’t imagine any of those people writing a song as complex as that.


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