The Beatles Albums Ranked
No artist has had a bigger influence on modern music than the Beatles. For nearly a decade, the band from Liverpool, England spent its time masterfully crafting the groundwork for the pop and rock genres, becoming an influence for nearly every recording artist that followed. From the early days of Beatlemania, to the psychedelic era of the mid-60s, to the band’s break-up in early 1970, the Beatles acted as rock and roll trailblazers the entire way. Of course, not everything the Beatles did is on level ground. Many of their greatest songs and albums remain popular to this day, while the less influential pieces aren’t as well-celebrated. With Paul McCartney’s latest record dropping on Friday, and with the 50th anniversary edition of The White Album set to be released later this year, it’s a great time to look back at the Beatles’ classic discography and rank it from worst to first.
Note: Studio albums only. Live albums and compilations will be excluded.
13. Yellow Submarine (1969)
Released six months after the popular animated movie of the same name, Yellow Submarine gives the film a soundtrack counterpart but also boasts a somewhat disappointing track listing. Of the album’s 13 tunes, two can already be found on previous studio albums and seven are from the movie’s orchestral score (written by the band’s producer George Martin), leaving only four new songs for Beatles fans to enjoy. Although two of these new tracks are among the most underrated songs in the entire Beatles catalog, those being “Hey Bulldog” and “It’s All Too Much,” it’s not enough to keep Yellow Submarine from earning the bottom spot. Perhaps a four-track EP would have been more appropriate than a studio album at full price.
12. Beatles for Sale (1964)
By the end of 1964, Beatlemania was taking its toll on the lads from Liverpool, and it shows on Beatles for Sale. Although it’s far from a bad album, Beatles for Sale is a bit of a letdown. Just five months after releasing a record with all original music, the Beatles slowed down with this album, which features six covers and only eight new pieces. There is some great stuff here, including the undeniably catchy “Eight Days a Week,” the beautiful folk ballad “I’ll Follow the Sun” and the opening one-two punch of “No Reply” and “I’m a Loser,” but forgettable covers like “Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” don’t quite match the quality of music expected by the Beatles. It’s clear that the boys were worn out, and it wasn’t long after that they stopped touring for good.
11. With the Beatles (1963)
Seven months after the release of their groundbreaking debut, the Beatles followed up with their second record, With the Beatles. Composed of half original pieces and half cover songs, With the Beatles is a sequel to Please Please Me in everything but name. The album features a bit more polish than its predecessor, especially on the timeless “All My Loving,” but it falls below Please Please Me on this list as it doesn’t contain as many tracks that remain instantly recognizable to this day. That being said, Beatlemania-era classics like “It Won’t Be Long” and “Please Mister Postman,” as well as lesser known beauties like “Till There Was You,” prove that the Beatles were onto something special in 1963.
10. Please Please Me (1963)
As the Beatles’ debut record, Please Please Me deserves recognition for introducing the world to what would become the most influential rock band of all time. Classic cuts like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist and Shout” and the title track are all found here, and they’re all just as enjoyable to listen to today as they were in 1963. However, the album, perhaps more importantly, serves as a reminder of what the Beatles would accomplish just a few years down the road. “Love Me Do” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” are fun pop pieces, but later triumphs would end up standing the test of time much better. Regardless, Please Please Me remains a fine album, and its influence on rock and roll music as a whole cannot be denied.
9. Let It Be (1970)
By the time Let It Be was released in May 1970, the Beatles were no more. The news came as a disappointment to many, but at least fans were left with Let It Be, a surprisingly solid final album considering its complicated history. Recorded before Abbey Road but released after, Let It Be was intended to be a return to simpler music, but after the album was shoved aside and later picked up by producer Phil Spector, the ending result was a mixed bag. Blues and folk-inspired tunes like “Two of Us” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” seem to clash with the new Spector-produced renditions of “Across the Universe” and the title track, but the songs are so enjoyable that the stylistic differences become less apparent. It’s not the most cohesive album, but Let It Be is an otherwise commendable send-off for one of rock’s most commendable bands.
8. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Perhaps the Beatles’ strangest album, Magical Mystery Tour is a wild mix of baroque pop, space rock, dance hall and psychedelia all rolled into one. It’s a jumbled mess of music, but somehow it all fits together nicely. The record also marks a rare instance in which the U.S. release is superior to its U.K. counterpart, as the six-track EP released in Britain is missing all-time greats like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane” and “All You Need Is Love.” Still, formidable tunes like McCartney’s baroque pop ballad “The Fool on the Hill” and Lennon’s insane psychedelic trip “I Am the Walrus” found their way onto the British version. To this day, Magical Mystery Tour remains in the shadow of other superior records released in the same era, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.
7. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
If the Beatles’ first two albums put them on the map, it was A Hard Day’s Night that cemented their status as music legends. Beatlemania was in full swing at this point, and the feature-length film of the same name released a few days prior helped to make its soundtrack all the more successful. The title cut is one of rock and roll’s most celebrated tunes, and other fan favorites like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “And I Love Her, “If I Fell” and “I Should Have Known Better” are found here as well. A Hard Day’s Night also boasts some of the finest deep cuts of the band’s early discography, such as the ominous “Things We Said Today” and the snappy “You Can’t Do That.” This was Beatlemania at its finest.
6. Help! (1965)
Perhaps one of the most important albums in the band’s discography, Help! shows exponential growth for the Beatles as songwriters. As the Beatlemania craze was ending in late 1965, the members of the band refocused their efforts from writing love song after love song to exploring new themes with their music. Although the record did feature some of the typical fluff, the better-remembered efforts were revolutionary for their time. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” quietly explores the closeted homosexuality of manager Brian Epstein, while the title cut describes Lennon’s distress with his newfound lifestyle of fame. And of course, McCartney’s timeless “Yesterday” eloquently illustrates the sadness and regret sustained from the sudden end of a relationship. Other standout tunes like “Ticket to Ride” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” only bolster the listenability of the album. Help! may be a transitional record, but it’s a darn good one.
5. Rubber Soul (1965)
Released just four months after Help!, the ever-beloved Rubber Soul takes the songwriting skills found on its predecessor and expands them tenfold. Marking the first time that all four members received a writing credit on the same album, Rubber Soul branches into all kinds of territory. It’s got the bouncing rocker “Drive My Car,” the retrospective ballad “In My Life,” the philosophical folk-pop tune “Nowhere Man,” the short yet profound raga rock tale “Norwegian Wood” and much more. Beneath the fan favorites lie underrated gems, such as “I’m Looking Through You,” one of McCartney’s catchiest tunes, and “If I Needed Someone,” perhaps Harrison’s greatest musical contribution to this point in time. Of course, Rubber Soul was not the climax of the Beatles’ artistic capabilities. The best was yet to come.
4. The Beatles (1968)
The Beatles, better known as “The White Album,” is certainly the most disjointed album in the band’s repertoire. By 1968, of the Beatles were splintering into solo careers, and it was never more noticeable than it was on this sprawling double LP. But despite the advancing separation, all four band members were able to successfully contribute to this wonderful mess of an album. Lennon and McCartney were the driving forces, with Lennon focusing on blues and psychedelia (“Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Dear Prudence,” etc.), while McCartney bounced all over the place, dabbling with Beach Boys-inspired rockers (“Back in the U.S.S.R.”), poppy sing-alongs (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), acoustic beauties (“Blackbird”) and even proto-metal slashers (“Helter Skelter”). But it’s Harrison that steals the show with the powerhouse ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a strong contender for the greatest Beatles song ever. And, yes, even Ringo gets some love with the long-overlooked country tune “Don’t Pass Me By.” So, while “The White Album” might be chaos, it’s controlled chaos. It’s less of an album from a band and more of an album from four solo artists, making for one of the most interesting listens in music history.
3. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Perhaps no album has had a larger influence on modern music than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The idea of the concept album was practically born here. So was the idea to print song lyrics on the album sleeve. And rock music’s shift in focus from producing singles to releasing full records? That started here too. In fact, Sgt. Pepper’s produced no singles at all, but many of the album’s tracks remain beloved by fans to this day regardless. The opening duo of the title track and the Starr-sung “With a Little Help from My Friends” still gets constant airplay on classic rock radio, as does the wildly psychedelic “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Other favorites like the catchy “Getting Better,” the energetic “Lovely Rita” and the string-heavy “She’s Leaving Home” are here too, but the highlight of the album is the grand finale “A Day in the Life,” a five-and-a-half-minute display of art rock perfection. Nothing else at the time sounded even remotely like it. From its songwriting ingenuity to the musical customs established with its release, Sgt. Pepper’s remains one of rock and roll’s most innovative records.
2. Revolver (1966)
Sgt. Pepper’s may have been the album that revolutionized music, but it wouldn’t have all been possible without Revolver. By late 1966, the Beatles had stopped touring for good, a critical decision that allowed the band to focus solely on putting their best efforts into their songwriting and recording. But the creative juices were flowing months before their final show in Candlestick Park. Recorded between April and June of 1966, Revolver features some of the greatest songwriting of all time, and in quite diverse fashion. McCartney shines on ballads both uplifting (“Here, There and Everywhere”) and heartbreaking (“Eleanor Rigby,” “For No One,”), and he belts out one of the rock songs of the era in “Got to Get You into My Life.” Lennon takes his first shot at psychedelia, delivering with a punch on “I’m Only Sleeping” and the zany closer “Tomorrow Never Knows,” while still finding time for the riff rockers “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “She Said She Said.” Harrison gives one of his best ever performances on the opening number “Taxman” and later tests the waters of Indian music, a genre he would go on to become strongly associated with, on the stomping “Love You To.” And no one could ever forget Ringo’s lovely performance on the ageless pop sing-along “Yellow Submarine.” Fundamentally, Revolver is a delicious sample platter, displaying the best of the Beatles’ musical variety in perfect two to three-minute fragments. They would go on to more ambitious projects, but for 35 minutes in 1966, the Beatles were at their peak. Well, almost.
1. Abbey Road (1969)
After the burnout of the Let It Be recording sessions, the Beatles were dangerously close to calling it quits for good. Thank goodness they didn’t. Instead, they redirected their attention to a new project. From February through August of 1969 in series of numerous sessions, the Beatles banded together for one last hurrah, crafting their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Not a minute is wasted on this record. From the bass strums that open the album to the cut-off ending of “Her Majesty,” it’s rock and roll excellence the entire way. In perhaps an even better example than Revolver, all four Beatles get a chance to shine. Lennon gets weird on the blues-inspired “Come Together” then later jams out for nearly eight minutes on the grooving “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” McCartney shreds his vocal cords on “Oh! Darling,” just a song removed from the musically cheery but lyrically morbid “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Harrison has two of the finest moments of his career with the inspirational ballad “Something” and the ever delightful “Here Comes the Sun,” and the trio even combine for a fantastic vocal harmony on the eerie “Because.” Not to be the odd man out, Starr gets an appearance too with the childish yet smile-inducing “Octopus’s Garden.” But as great as all those tracks are, there’s no doubt that the centerpiece of the album is the 16-minute-long, eight-piece suite that closes the record’s second side. An absolute masterwork, the medley sees McCartney and Lennon collaborate for perhaps the greatest triumph of their entire songwriting partnership. The continuous style-hopping of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” the orchestral climaxes of “Golden Slumbers,” and the extended rotating guitar solo and closing horn swell of “The End” all stand out as moments of pure musical bliss. In short, everything about the record is iconic. From its 47 minutes of musical mastery, to its often-imitated cover art, Abbey Road remains one of the most legendary albums ever recorded. Nothing that the Beatles did before, or would go on to do later as solo artists, ever surpassed the brilliance of Abbey Road.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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