Every Beatles album ranked from least best to best…
For almost all of these articles, it has not been much of a struggle to do the actual ranking part, it is the justification that is difficult. This one was different however. The 11 Beatles albums produced between 1963 and 1970 are the pinnacle of musical achievement. As with cats and politicians, you just can’t trust someone who claims they don’t like the Beatles.
I’ve put a lot of thought into these rankings but if you asked me tomorrow it could be totally different, that is the power that these records hold. OK, lets get it over with…
11. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Key Track: A Hard Day’s Night
A Hard Day’s Night was the Beatles third album but the first to contain no covers. If I’m honest… I don’t love it. The title track is inspired of course but the rest of the record lacks the visceral punch of the first two records whilst lacking the experimental genius of what followed. A cursory glance at the tracklist reveals an album featuring a lot of songs that get little to no airplay these days.
10. With The Beatles (1963)
Key Track: It Won’t Be Long
The Beatles sophomore effort features seven covers and seven originals with varying degrees of success. ‘It Won’t Be Long’ is absolutely classic early Beatles. Shouty backing vocals, inspired riffs, most of all it sounds like a band of brothers having a whole lot of fun. The covers are mostly successful although ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ doesn’t quite capture the manic energy of the Chuck Berry original.
While With The Beatles is the sound of the band finding their feet, it still contains undoubted moments of genius.
9. Beatles For Sale (1964)
Key Track: Eight Days A Week
The first album that saw John Lennon write about something more serious than young love, tracks like ‘I’m A Loser’ show the beginnings of a lyrical maturity that was more indebted to Bob Dylan then to Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
That’s not to say that the Beatles had abandoned their roots as ‘Eight Days A Week’ is a beautiful love song and ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ is one of Paul McCartney’s most underrated ballads.
8. Please Please Me (1963)
Key Track: I Saw Her Standing There
Definitely my favourite of the early Beatles albums, Please Please Me contains some of the most thrilling music ever recorded. The title track is incredible but it is ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ that captures the energy of the bands early live performances in Liverpool and Hamburg. Elsewhere, ‘Love Me Do’ is a classic and ‘Twist & Shout’ is quite simply one of the best cover versions ever recorded.
For a list of my top ten greatest ever cover songs, click here.
7. Help! (1965)
Key Track: Help!
Commonly seen as the album that bridges the gap between the Beatles pop records and the experimental stuff that came after, ‘Help!’ is an astonishing collection of songs. ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and the title track are further evidence of Lennon’s more literal songwriting, ‘Ticket to Ride’ is one of the best Beatles singles from this era and the ubiquitous ‘Yesterday’ is possibly the most famous song of the 20th century.
With Help! we are now entering 10/10 territory. It’s all killer from here.
6. Rubber Soul (1965)
Key Track: In My Life
Just a few months after the release of the game changing Help!, the Beatles dropped Rubber Soul and everything changed yet again. So many great tracks it’s difficult to know where to start but ‘Drive My Car’ is a masterpiece of pop songwriting, ‘Michelle’ is beautiful and Lennon’s ditty ‘In My Life’ is perhaps the most underrated song on the bands most underrated album.
Most artists spend their whole careers trying to write an album as brilliant as Rubber Soul, The Beatles would write at least five more records that were just as good if not better. Astonishing.
5. Let It Be (1970)
Key Track: Across The Universe
Let It Be was recorded before Abbey Road but eventually released after and while the sessions were plagued by arguments and petty squabbles, the record itself is glorious. The title track takes the headlines but it is elsewhere that the record reveals itself. ‘I Me Mine’ is pure John Lennon and this album contains perhaps his best ever song in the shape of ‘Across the Universe’. Add in a pair of McCartney classics in the lilting ‘Long and Winding Road’ and the triumphant ‘Get Back’ and you are left with an incredible record.
4. The White Album (1968)
Key Track: Blackbird
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Pretty much every double album ever recorded would benefit from being condensed into a single album. Even the Beatles fall into this trap with the White Album. If you dropped about eight tracks from their ninth recor you might just be left with the best Beatles album. Even allowing for the unnecessary extras, the White Album is undoubtedly Paul McCartney’s finest contribution to the Liverpool bands discography. Macca offers ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘I Will’ and ‘Helter Skelter’ to act as a counter to Lennon’s ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Revolution’ and ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’. Just read those song titles back to yourself and imagine writing and recording so many seminal songs for one album. It would never happen again.
3. Revolver (1966)
Key Track: Eleanor Rigby
We are getting deep into pub argument territory here, even with such a varied and celebrated back catalogue, surely everyone with ears would have Revolver somewhere in their top three Beatles albums?
Bursting with ideas and bright with innovation, Revolver is a masterpiece from start to finish. ‘Taxman’ is one of George Harrison’s best songs, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is about as perfect as pop music gets and Lennon’s lazy ballad ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ still sounds vital today. Also, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. What. A. Tune.
2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Key Track: A Day In The Life
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is probably the most influential and enduring album ever written. In 100 years, people will talk about Sgt. Peppers in the same hushed tones currently reserved for Mozart and Beethoven. It drove Brian Wilson insane, soundtracked the ’60s counter culture and defined guitar music for the next fifty years.
To be honest I can take or leave ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ but everything else is essential. ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ still sounds like it was recorded by aliens from the distant future, ‘Getting Better’ is one of Lennon’s best pop songs but it is ‘A Day In The Life’ that is the true moment of genius. An unbelievable moment of musical innovation.
1. I’d have to say… The Best of the Beatles
Only joking. One for the Partridge fans.
1. Abbey Road (1969)
Key Track: Come Together
I know people are going to be angry about this so allow me to attempt to explain. ‘Come Together’ pretty much invented Britpop, ‘Something’ is one of George Harrison’s finest hours and even ‘Octopus’s Garden’ holds a certain charm.
The medley that closes out the album is a joyous celebration of everything the Beatles represented. Cheeky, poignant and musically brilliant and those final seven tracks sum the band up perfectly. Abbey Road also contains my favourite Beatles lyric, from the track ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’. When the band lament ‘but oh that magic feeling, no place to go’ it perfectly encapsulates the same ethereal dreaminess that Lennon was trying to convey throughout the bands later work. A beautiful sentiment from an amazing song.
There we have it. The arguments will continue long into the wee hours but one thing is no up for debate. The Beatles are the greatest band to ever pick up a guitar. That will never change.