The Beatles’ Top 50? A Hard Day’s List

It was a lazy few days—although I wasn’t completely listless. Literally.


List-making is one of my favorite activities. Top 10 lists. “Fields of 64”, a la the NCAA brackets. And yes, I know there are now 68 or 69 teams, but my fields don’t do preliminary games. The topics? Sports. Food. Music. TV. Movies. Beverages. Women. Countries. Sports movies. Politicians. Authors and books. You name it. Many of us enjoy making comparisons, or rating or ranking things. Until a few months ago, I may have even had the only continuously published (weekly) Top 10 list on topics that relate somehow to Jewish culture. As in Jewish sports and food and music and movies and…


Until those specific lists were published—and they’re being archived somewhere on jewocity (dot com)—I don’t know what I’ve done with my hundreds of previous such rankings and brackets. Perhaps, I missed making such lists, and so it was one early morning that I was searching Youtube for something or other and ended up being taken with a very—I dislike this next word, but—cute video montage set to the music of The Beatles’ song, Rocky Raccoon. I posted it on Facebook, and remarked that while I’ve always loved this song, I wonder if it would even make my Top 50 Beatles songs.


Seeing my post, a friend took up the implicit challenge and—quite admirably—ran a list of 104 Beatles songs with a two-pronged ranking system. The left column ranked their best and the right column ranked his favorite. Hmmm. To me, it’s hard for me to separate the two when it comes to music, television or movies. I’ll explain.


I would expect 10,000 out of 10,000 movie critics to rank Citizen Kane higher than say, The Blair Witch Project. But is it better, objectively speaking? Are there objective criteria to rate and rank such things? Not to me—whether box office, Academy Award nominations or imdb or Rotten Tomatoes composite critics’ ratings. The same with music.


For sports lists, there are enough objective statistics and results to come to a conclusion, for example, that Peyton Manning is the 6th greatest NFL quarterback of all-time, but only my 47th favorite. I haven’t done the math, but that’s probably pretty close—per my would-be rankings.


The beauty of The Beatles is that my almost-five-year-old son, Benny, is a fan, and this is roughly 50 years since The British Invasion. One of the first songs he learned (well, some of it) was Hello, Goodbye, and he also has been known to sing some A Hard Day’s Night. Recently, he has been throwing in some I Am The Walrus-inspired goo goo g’joobs.


In my case, I associate The Beatles with college, even if I’m not that old. Not quite. I always loved their music, pre-college, but during college, we wore out a lot of their vinyl on turntables playing all their albums. But, we did have (homemade) tapes as well. On second thought, I am fairly old. It seemed as if everyone I shared an apartment, hall or parties with had much more extensive musical collections than my meager one, and I may have listened to every single Beatles cut while in college. Not that I ignored The Rolling Stones, The Who  and Led Zeppelin (who were all still putting out new stuff 10-12 years…and counting…since The Beatles broke up) and many other more contemporary artists and groups. Still: Then, now and probably forever, The Fab Four reign supreme.


I have many Beatles-inspired college memories—some of which may be interesting to others. I recall singing All My Loving one early am at a frat party where a friend's

band (named Basement Culture) was gigging. I wasn’t booed off the stage; there was no stage. Actually, it was passable, if you weren’t expecting Paul McCartney—or anyone who has even a good voice.


There was the debate I had with a roommate as to whether The Beatles ever recorded a bad song. It was my self-imposed challenge to find one and I think I offered Revolution 9 as my Exhibit A before conceding that it was a well-executed novelty song of sorts. After a couple other attempts to find one, my heart wasn’t in winning that particular argument. About the closest I ever get to finding a clunker is Maxwell’s Silver Hammer—which isn’t a bad cut whatsoever. It’s just that I recall driving several years later with the same old roommate where we tuned into a local radio station that promised some kind of Beatles weekend. Every time we checked in over the next couple days, it seems that Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was their only offering. As if John, Paul, George and Ringo didn’t collab on at least 200 or so even better songs.


A final memory, quite sadly, is that of watching a December 8, 1980 Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins when suddenly Howard Cosell announced the unthinkable—John Lennon had been assassinated. Not much more to say, and still profoundly sad 32-and-a-half years on.


But, of course, the remarkable music and tons of other memories (even with the  loss of George 12 years ago) live on, as the greatest rock/pop band to ever perform somehow stays relevant and almost fresh, despite the great comfort and familiarity associated with each tune. In trying to select only 50 of their masterpieces, I simply went with how those songs hit me as I was thinking about them. I did not include any covers, as while they had some very good ones, they were also among the best-ever songwriters, collectively and individually. Probably, the best.


To that point, I was surprised that songs attributed to Paul (based more on writers’ credit than lead vocal, although they often coincide) garnered 28.5 spots to only 18.5 for John. In college, it would have been almost sacrilegious to elevate Paul to John’s level. Oh yeah, George took three, and Ringo, well, was overshadowed as a songwriter and vocalist, but still pretty awesome.


Without further qualification and explanation, below is my Top 50, with apologies to about 200 or so other songs that still rock 45 years later. It was an impossible task and perhaps, I Should Have Known Better, but after my Hard Day’s Night compiling this, Hey Dude, just Let It Be.






Hey, Jude






Let It Be



Across the Universe



A Day in the Life


Can’t Buy Me Love



In My Life






Eleanor Rigby



While My Guitar Gently Weeps



A Hard Day’s Night



Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds



Strawberry Fields Forever



Abbey Road Medley



I Saw Her Standing There



If I Fell






All My Loving



Get Back



Rocky Raccoon



Eight Days a Week



Penny Lane



Back in the USSR



I’m So Tired



Sexy Sadie



The Fool on the Hill



Martha, My Dear



Oh Darling






Here Comes the Sun



Lady Madonna



Here There and Everywhere






Nowhere Man



I Want To Hold Your Hand



She Loves You



Don’t Let Me Down



Day Tripper



With a Little Help From My Friends



Hello, Goodbye



Run For Your Life



And I Love Her



Paperback Writer



Come Together



She’s Leaving Home



We Can Work It Out



I’ll Follow The Sun



Two of Us



Mother Nature’s Son








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