The Beatles’ 50 best songs

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

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Double A-side single, February 1967

PHIL MANZANERA: I love the guitar, being a guitarist, obviously, and a George Harrison fan, and the way that George Martin used it and put it all together. The textural, purely instrumental thing, I love. Then the words double the whole thing. It just shows you that they were so strong in lots of different ways. At times they reached, just, heaven.


PAUL WELLER: It was the first record I heard as a kid that really did my head in…just that colourful feeling it’s got, and the openness about the sound as well, like being in the middle of a huge field. And that bit (sings) “Let me take you down cos I’m going to…” That sort of fall. Their influence on me is just kind of constant but, I suppose, the bigger influence was for bands to start writing their own material.

DAVID BYRNE: My favourite is probably “Strawberry Fields Forever”. They really pushed what a pop song could be, but it’s still a pop song. You can put that up as a model.

ED HAMELL: Of course, if you want arty, this is the best. I just like the image of Lennon, very Warhol-like, saying to George Martin, or Sir George Martin – he’s knighted now and he has seen more battles-“Uh…fix it!”

TOM McRAE: The pitched down vocal, the Mellotron, the twisted brass, “Living is easy with eyes closed”… What more do you want?

LOUIS ELIOT: It still sounds modern, completely original, like something that’s from a different handbook. You can’t even see references from other music in it. I like that sort of skewed, semi-nonsense lyric. It has a totally wonderful atmosphere. It’s quite brooding sometimes, but then it’s still really light and colourful. In the space of a few bars, they can take you on a ride, emotionally, from something quite pretty to almost slightly sinister.

SIMON FOWLER: Probably one of my most distinct Beatles memories is “Strawberry Fields”, the first time I remember listening to it, I’d just walked home with my mum- I was four- in 1969, and I was sitting in front of what was then called the gramophone- it had Bakelite buttons- pretending it was a piano and playing along with “Strawberry Fields”. It’s hard to describe it without getting a bit biblical. It’s like they achieved everything.


IAN MacDONALD: “Strawberry Fields” is a troubled venture in childhood memory like no one had ever heard before, if only Lennon had been asked to do the music for a film of Alice in Wonderland!

KYLE COOK: Just musical genius, so incredibly atmospheric. You don’t necessarily derive any one meaning out of it, but it’s very colourful, lyrically and musically, and I think that that was something that hadn’t been done up to that point in pop culture.

SHAUN WILLIAMSON: It just blows me away. It really predicts that Sgt Pepper era they went into afterwards. It has this effect of making you feel quite floaty. It was about 20 years before its time. Even now, 35 years later, it’s an unusual sound.

EDWYN COLLINS: I suppose Lennon’s riposte to Dylan was just to come up with gobbledygook and nonsense lyrics. It’s interesting the commitment he brings to these things that are absolute nonsense. I don’t know why he does that. Probably the drugs.

GARY MOORE: I love the Mellotron in it, the lovely melody and the way it slides into “Let me take you down,” and the guitar at the end where George is playing that lovely, clear Indian scale…it’s just a beautiful song. They seemed to be so full of fresh ideas all the time. Every single they did was completely different from the one before, and sounded exactly like The Beatles at the same time. I don’t know anybody else who’s ever achieved that.

NODDY HOLDER: I saw it as the trailer for the Pepper album that was to come- the big turning point in the actual sound of The Beatles. We were recording in Abbey Road next door to their studio when they were in the throes of making Pepper. We could hear snatches of these weird sounds coming out, all these backward tape sounds- “What the hell are they playing at?” People didn’t know what to make of Pepper when it came out. I don’t think a lot of people got it right away.

ANDY BELL: A beautiful, slow motion rocket trip into John’s memory and the imagination away from the responsibilities of the adult world, back towards childhood. The music is saturated and strange, the vocal delivery lazy but deliberate. George Martin did a great job of making the production match the overall feel of the words and music.


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