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.

 

Rank

Title

 

1

Hey, Jude

 

2

Yesterday

 

3

Let It Be

 

4

Across the Universe

 

5

A Day in the Life

 

Can’t Buy Me Love

 

7

In My Life

 

8

Something

 

9

Eleanor Rigby

 

10

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

 

11

A Hard Day’s Night

 

12

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

 

13

Strawberry Fields Forever

 

14

Abbey Road Medley

 

15

I Saw Her Standing There

 

16

If I Fell

 

17

Blackbird

 

18

All My Loving

 

19

Get Back

 

20

Rocky Raccoon

 

21

Eight Days a Week

 

22

Penny Lane

 

23

Back in the USSR

 

24

I’m So Tired

 

25

Sexy Sadie

 

26

The Fool on the Hill

 

27

Martha, My Dear

 

28

Oh Darling

 

29

Julia

 

30

Here Comes the Sun

 

31

Lady Madonna

 

32

Here There and Everywhere

 

33

Help

 

34

Nowhere Man

 

35

I Want To Hold Your Hand

 

36

She Loves You

 

37

Don’t Let Me Down

 

38

Day Tripper

 

39

With a Little Help From My Friends

 

40

Hello, Goodbye

 

41

Run For Your Life

 

42

And I Love Her

 

43

Paperback Writer

 

44

Come Together

 

45

She’s Leaving Home

 

46

We Can Work It Out

 

47

I’ll Follow The Sun

 

48

Two of Us

 

49

Mother Nature’s Son

 

50

Revolution

 

     

 

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