I don’t know if it was when I was 3 or I was 4, but I know it was before I got to kindergarten when it happened. It was one of the most important and transformative events of my life. My father was in the process of taking out some of his records (for what reason I can’t recall), when I saw it. It was one of the most colorful, eye-catching pictures I had ever seen. I had no clue what it was, but it made an impression. There were four men dressed in colorful military costumes, with a bunch of other people standing behind them. That night I had a dream about that picture. I was in battle with these four men, and so was my Pound Puppy, Freckles. There were damaged buildings and a lot of things being blown up, and I just wanted to make sure that Freckles and I were safe.
That’s all I remember about the dream, but it was obvious that the album cover, which I seen, had made an impression on me. So I asked my dad about it, and he played me the record. I don’t remember what happened when I first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I do remember what happened from that point on: I was obsessed with the album and the band that made it, The Beatles.
For the rest of my childhood The Beatles were an incredibly important part of my life. My father was super excited, making tapes of the records he and my mother already had, and getting a hold of any other Beatles albums he could (he had lost most of his, along with most of his records in general when his apartment was robbed during his mid-20s). The local library had a VHS of a documentary of the group (though none of the members are in it), entitled The Compleat Beatles, which I watched numerous times. I was given the movie Help! as a gift for my birthday or Chanukah (I don’t remember), and had seen every other film of theirs except Let It Be (which at the time was basically impossible to get a hold of, though I have seen it). The first two CDs I ever owned were Abbey Road and Let It Be.
They were my favorite group for almost my entire childhood and still are one of my all time favorites (I bought myself the entire collection of their remastered albums as a birthday present to myself in 2009), and though I always knew that the band was important in terms of their music and society, it wasn’t until fairly recently that I really gained a true appreciation for what the group did. My History of Rock professor, at the University of Maryland, made a great point when he stated the fact that the band had produced 13 full albums and numerous singles (many which were #1 on the charts) in 7 years. That’s almost two albums a year, which is insane (especially today), and the fact that the level of songwriting was almost always at an elite level makes the feat even more amazing.
And this is why the task I set myself to accomplish was not an easy one. I decided to rank all of the albums by The Beatles from least liked to favorite. Now, this is not a list of which albums I think are historically the most important or are “the best,” because that can be, and has been, debated for years. They are ranked by how I like them and feel about them. Again, this was not easy in the slightest, and I probably could move each album up and down a few slots and still be okay with the list. But when all is said and done, I’m fairly certain this is the correct list for me.
A few notes:
– I originally wrote this as one long entry, but based on some feedback, I’ve split this up into four parts, which will be posted over the course of the next few days.
– This list does not include any of the original US releases, except for Magical Mystery Tour, which was originally a double EP in the UK.
– I did not include Past Masters I & II because they are collections of singles that were compiled well after the band broke up, and even though they complete The Beatles catalog, they were not technically albums from the band. The same goes for the Greatest Hits collections (“Red” and “Blue”), and the Anthology albums.
My Favorite Albums by The Beatles
13. Yellow Submarine (1969) – This album is only at the bottom of the list for the simple reason that only half of the songs are by The Beatles, with the other half being orchestral tracks that producer George Martin composed for the Yellow Submarine movie. Along with this, two of the songs can be found on other albums; “Yellow Submarine” comes from Revolver and “All You Need Is Love” can be found on Magical Mystery Tour. So really that leaves four Beatles songs that are unique to this album, “Only A Northern Song,” “All Together Now,” “Hey Bulldog,” and “It’s All Too Much.” Those four songs are damn good, however, and make the album worth owning. Personally, “It’s All Too Much” has recently become one of my favorite Beatles songs, and may be the biggest hidden gem on any Beatles album. (Note: When the movie was re-released in 1999, another album was released, called Yellow Submarine Songtrack, which contains all of the songs by The Beatles that were in the film, but none of the orchestral music.)
12. Please Please Me (1963) – This is the first album by The Beatles and was recorded live (in the studio) in a day. While half of the album is filled with covers, the originals, which include major hits such as “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Please Please Me,” and “Love Me Do,” show the shear talent the group had in performance and the songwriting potential and potency of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The reason the album is so low on my list has less to do with the quality of the songs and more to do with how much I listened to this album growing up, which was minimal, and overall had less impact on my musical education. I of course knew the hits, but I was less familiar with most of the album, especially the covers (with the exception of “Twist and Shout”). An interesting tidbit about this album is that George Harrison is the only member to not sing lead on the album (Ringo Starr sings lead on “Boys”).
11. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – The third album by The Beatles, this was also the first album to be attached to a film by the group (half of the songs are from the film, A Hard Day’s Night), and was also the first album to include all originals. Included in this album are infamous songs such as “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “I Should Have Known Better,” as well as some of my personal favorites “Tell Me Why” and “You Can’t Do That.” As mentioned previously, this is the first all-original album by the group, and probably one of the first albums by a pop group that was done “in house” (meaning written and recorded by the group themselves). That fact alone is incredible because the songs are not only well-written but also still sound pretty fresh.
10. With The Beatles (1963) – The second LP by the group, this album could’ve easily swapped places on the list with A Hard Day’s Night, and, honestly, it’s probably a tie between the two. Yet it is placed above the aforementioned record because, even though it contains half originals and half covers, the covers they did for the album are amazing. Not only did the group continue to show that they can write quality original songs (including the first song written by George Harrison, “Don’t Bother Me”), they showed they could cover some of the top artists of the time and make them sound like their own without diminishing from the original versions. Taking on Motown hits such as “Please Mister Postman,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” and “Money (That’s What I Want)“, is a task in itself, but the group knocks them out of the park. Yet, the gem of the covers is “Till There Was You,” which was taken from the play The Music Man. The group’s cover of the song was so well done that most people probably had no idea it’s a cover. That’s saying a lot. But let’s not forget that the album also includes stellar originals such as “It Won’t Be Long” and “All My Loving.”