The Beatles’ 101 Greatest Songs

The Fab Four’s best work, ranked by a top panel of musicians and writers.

beatlesrex-770

IT WAS 50 years ago this month that Paul McCartney finally decided on some proper lyrics for that “scrambled eggs” song he’d been kicking around. Having dreamed up the tune many months beforehand, it was during a quiet moment on the set of Help! in May 1965 that the Beatle finally settled on the words for Yesterday, and he recorded the song the following month.

“What’s better, Yes It Is or I’m Down?”

But where does this most covered of songs rank in The Beatles’ canon? Indeed, how do you start comparing all the band’s wonderful creations? What’s better, Yes It Is or I’m Down? Not only have the Fab Four become the gold standard of pop music – even more definitive and treasured as the years have passed – but they’ve left their mark on pretty much every song and album released by any popular musician since.

To essay this Herculean task, MOJO marshalled some of the world’s leading musicians – Brian Wilson, Johnny Marr, Elvis Costello, Lemmy, Donovan, Flaming Lips, Blur, Paul Weller, Arcade Fire, Butthole Surfers, U2 and more – to volunteer their favourites, and our definitive list of the 101 Greatest Beatles Songs is now online.

Rock’n’roll bangers, timeless anthems, innovative experiments and peerless ballads are all included, as is that little ditty Macca finished writing half a century ago… Find out who picked what, listen to our selections and marvel all over again at the Beatles’ genius.

101. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-DaThe White Album |1968

101. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-DaThe White Album |1968

"Did I rip this off for Desmond [Happy Mondays track]? Well, we gave the game away calling it Desmond." Shaun Ryder

100. Run For Your LifeRubber Soul |1965

100. Run For Your LifeRubber Soul |1965

"[My cover version] let me stay in character, and it was a very powerful statement for a white woman in the '60s." Nancy Sinatra

99. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)Let It Be B-side |1970

99. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)Let It Be B-side |1970

"It's so cocky. It's almost gangster, film-noir, it's so psychological." Frank Black, Pixies

98. Shimmy ShakeLive At The Star-Club, Hamburg |1962

98. Shimmy ShakeLive At The Star-Club, Hamburg |1962

"Stomping out great rock'n'roll music to a half despondent audience of Reeperbahn sex freaks." Billy Childish

97. Octopus's GardenAbbey Road |1969

97. Octopus's GardenAbbey Road |1969

"They gave Ringo all the best songs – by which I mean the corny, reactionary pop that dates well." Stephin Merritt, Magnetic Fields

96. I'll Be BackA Hard Day's Night |1964

96. I'll Be BackA Hard Day's Night |1964

"It's a great pop song, but it's kinda eerie, especially for a closing track." Britt Daniels, Spoon

95. All My LovingWith The Beatles |1963

95. All My LovingWith The Beatles |1963

"Crystallised in two minutes: the wonders being worked on American music by four young men from England." John Harris, MOJO

94. FlyingMagical Mystery Tour |1967

94. FlyingMagical Mystery Tour |1967

"It's got humour, mystery and groove... What else do you need?" Kelley Stoltz

93. MichelleRubber Soul | 1965

93. MichelleRubber Soul | 1965

"Michelle changed my life , because when I was in The Palace Guard it was the song I got from behind the drums to sing." Emitt Rhodes

92. It's Only LoveHelp! | 1965

92. It's Only LoveHelp! | 1965

"I love the poetry and the music, everything about the record." Daniel Johnston

91. Mother Nature's SonThe White Album | 1968

91. Mother Nature's SonThe White Album | 1968

"It's like Paul's sitting there, stoned in the sticks, reflecting on his last eight years." Norman Blake, Teenage Fanclub

90. Back In The USSRThe White Album | 1968

90. Back In The USSRThe White Album | 1968

"The song takes them right back to their rock'n'roll roots. Subversive or just mischievous? You decide." Billy Bragg

89. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

89. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"I was about 10 or 11 [when I first heard it] and it struck me as being so different. It was mostly the production." Matt Costa

88. Glass OnionThe White Album | 1968

88. Glass OnionThe White Album | 1968

"It was Lennon starting to demystify The Beatles, realising what a monstrous phenomenon they'd become." Neal Casal, The Cardinals

87. MoneyWith The Beatles | 1963

87. MoneyWith The Beatles | 1963

"John's lead vocals are like soul singing gone metallic, and the guitars growl with predatory relish." Steve Lowe, MOJO

86. Lovely RitaSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

86. Lovely RitaSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"I was at the Lovely Rita session and had a feeling that I was actually at a very historic moment." Marianne Faithfull

85. It's All Too MuchYellow Submarine | 1968

85. It's All Too MuchYellow Submarine | 1968

"They were working within a pop format but this just shows you what they can do when they wanna stretch out." Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream

84. You Won't See MeRubber Soul | 1965

84. You Won't See MeRubber Soul | 1965

"There is so much separation, alienation and longing here but it's also so joyous and real, it's not self-pitying." Brandon Curtis, Secret Machines/Cosmicide

83. Good Morning, Good MorningSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

83. Good Morning, Good MorningSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"The straight world viewed through Lennon's acid-fried lenses." John Harris, MOJO

82. All I've Got To DoWith The Beatles | 1963

82. All I've Got To DoWith The Beatles | 1963

"It's a grown-up record. I always used to think, My God, what did all the teenage girls think of that when they first heard it?" Dave Caitlin-Birch, The Bootleg Beatles' "Paul"

81. BecauseAbbey Road | 1969

81. BecauseAbbey Road | 1969

"A joining of many points of the past as well as the future, where the distances between these times cease to exist." John Frusciante

80. Long, Long, LongThe White Album | 1968

80. Long, Long, LongThe White Album | 1968

"A lament for a long-lost love which ends with a ghostly freakout." Colin Newman, Wire

79. Got To Get You Into My LifeRevolver | 1966

79. Got To Get You Into My LifeRevolver | 1966

"It's weird because it's tucked away towards the end of Revolver but feels like it set the tone for Sgt Pepper." Bob Mould

78. Yer BluesThe White Album | 1968

78. Yer BluesThe White Album | 1968

"I've never bought the idea that the song was a spoof of British blues; it sounds dead serious." Peter Case, The Plimsouls

77. Get BackSingle | 1969

77. Get BackSingle | 1969

"The Beatles aren't often thought of as groovy, but from '68 onwards you get a few tunes that really get in the pocket." Dan Penn

76. I'll Get YouB-side | 1963

76. I'll Get YouB-side | 1963

"It bears the most appealing of the Beatles 'oh yeah' phrasings." Robert Pollard, Guided By Voices

75. Only A Northern SongYellow Submarine | 1969

75. Only A Northern SongYellow Submarine | 1969

"It reflects George Harrison's musicality, which was something distinct from Lennon and McCartney." Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze

74. Day TripperSingle | 1965

74. Day TripperSingle | 1965

"Never had they so completely subjugated a song to the riff." Keith Cameron, MOJO

73. The Ballad Of John And YokoSingle | 1969

73. The Ballad Of John And YokoSingle | 1969

"It is simple and fresh. No post-psychedelic masterpiece or eight-minute anthem." Robert Forster, The Go-Betweens

72. We Can Work It OutSingle | 1965

72. We Can Work It OutSingle | 1965

"It's where we really begin to take sides in John versus Paul - it's kind of the soundtrack of the beginning of the end." Pete Wylie, Wah!

71. The Fool On The HillMagical Mystery Tour | 1967

71. The Fool On The HillMagical Mystery Tour | 1967

"There's something medieval about the whole thing." Fyfe Dangerfield

70. I Should Have Known BetterA Hard Day's Night | 1964

70. I Should Have Known BetterA Hard Day's Night | 1964

"It exemplifies the brazen swagger of Lennon's first great songwriting splurge." Steve Lowe, MOJO

69. JuliaThe White Album | 1968

69. JuliaThe White Album | 1968

"Lennon would do those weird things that fell from his psyche, fully formed." Steve Drozd, The Flaming Lips

68. There's A PlacePlease Please Me | 1963

68. There's A PlacePlease Please Me | 1963

"John's voice is so dry and rough, Paul's is so effeminate and cutesy." Graham Coxon

67. Yellow SubmarineRevolver | 1966

67. Yellow SubmarineRevolver | 1966

"All Beatles music is childish. Even Revolution 9 is children's music, in a great way." Chris Eckman, Walkabouts

66. I'm DownB-side | 1965

66. I'm DownB-side | 1965

"McCartney's vocal is the closest a white guy has ever come to sounding like Little Richard." Glen Matlock, Sex Pistols

65. Revolution 9The White Album | 1968

65. Revolution 9The White Album | 1968

"It isn't even a song, more of a sketch of an acid trip." Paul Leary, Butthole Surfers

64. Lady MadonnaSingle | 1968

64. Lady MadonnaSingle | 1968

"Understatedly perfect." John Harris, MOJO

63. No ReplyBeatles For Sale | 1964

63. No ReplyBeatles For Sale | 1964

"There is no rock blueprint for this." Chris Hillman, The Byrds

62. BlackbirdThe White Album | 1968

62. BlackbirdThe White Album | 1968

"Sounds remarkably fresh and timeless and as beautiful as it did in 1968." Colin Blunstone, The Zombies

61. Hold Me TightWith The Beatles | 1964

61. Hold Me TightWith The Beatles | 1964

"If I listen to it now it does the same to me as it always did: it sends a shiver up my spine." Lemmy

60. You've Got To Hide Your Love AwayHelp! | 1965

60. You've Got To Hide Your Love AwayHelp! | 1965

"Pure Beatles pop as a warm bath in sorrow." Phil Sutcliffe, MOJO

59. Hey BulldogYellow Submarine | 1969

59. Hey BulldogYellow Submarine | 1969

"Lennon was a craftsman but songwriting was also his therapy." Dave Matthews

58. For No OneRevolver | 1966

58. For No OneRevolver | 1966

"I can always go back and find something else in there that I'd missed before." Emmylou Harris

57. Yes It IsB-side | 1965

57. Yes It IsB-side | 1965

"Somewhere between I'm A Loser and the mighty Girl." Elvis Costello

56. You're Going To Lose That GirlHelp! | 1965

56. You're Going To Lose That GirlHelp! | 1965

"It has this almost effortless key change in the middle, which if you weren't a musician, you probably wouldn't notice." Neil Harrison, The Bootleg Beatles' "John"

55. Sexy SadieThe White Album | 1968

55. Sexy SadieThe White Album | 1968

"Crystallises The White Album's haunted sense of the '60s dream curdling." Steve Lowe, MOJO

54. I WillThe White Album | 1968

54. I WillThe White Album | 1968

"I will marry one of those melodies one day." Luke Steel, Empire of the Sun

53. Help!Help! | 1965

53. Help!Help! | 1965

"George Martin had Lennon's original veracious cry from the heart sped up to make it appeal more to the masses." Lois Wilson, MOJO

52. Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

52. Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"No matter what language you speak, it just feels exquisite." A.C. Newman, New Pornographers

51. Love Me DoSingle | 1963

51. Love Me DoSingle | 1963

"A moment. The first time we heard The Beatles. That harmonica lurching out the radio, wailing and sneery-snarling." Phil Sutcliffe, MOJO

50. Let It BeLet It Be | 1970

50. Let It BeLet It Be | 1970

"In communist Yugoslavia The Beatles were incredibly popular, definitely more than Jesus and almost as much as Tito." Laibach

49. Getting BetterSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

49. Getting BetterSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"Sgt. Pepper's most splendid moment of pop - but there are hints of Fabdom's dysfunctional flipside." John Harris

48. TaxmanRevolver | 1966

48. TaxmanRevolver | 1966

"There was something about George's tight playing, his economy, that Paul and John didn't have in their solo years." Joe Brown

47. From Me To YouParlophone single | 1963

47. From Me To YouParlophone single | 1963

"The first time I recognised that pop music might not go away, that it might be with us for the rest of our lives." John Otway

46. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My MonkeyThe White Album | 1968

46. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My MonkeyThe White Album | 1968

"What's it about? It's about having a wank! And Lennon's open about it." Dave McCabe

45. I Feel FineSingle | 1964

45. I Feel FineSingle | 1964

"Me and John Squire would come up with songs and go 'Wow, great!' before realising, it was I Feel Fine." Ian Brown, The Stone Roses

44. Dear PrudenceThe White Album | 1968

44. Dear PrudenceThe White Album | 1968

"Prudence (Mia Farrow's sister) was in deep meditation, and this was John's way of saying, 'Are you OK in there?'" Donovan

43. If I FellA Hard Day's Night | 1964

43. If I FellA Hard Day's Night | 1964

"It's such a beautiful song, weird as well. It's got key changes but it wears them lightly." Blaine Harrison, The Mystery Jets

42. Drive My CarRubber Soul | 1965

42. Drive My CarRubber Soul | 1965

"So instantly seductive and life-affirming." Gary Lightbody, Snow Patrol

41. And Your Bird Can SingRevolver | 1966

41. And Your Bird Can SingRevolver | 1966

"The birth of all powerpop." Toby Litt, MOJO

40. Twist And ShoutPlease Please Me | 1963

40. Twist And ShoutPlease Please Me | 1963

"Recorded live in just one take, it proves how tough a singer Lennon could be." Lois Wilson, MOJO

39. Helter SkelterThe White Album | 1968

39. Helter SkelterThe White Album | 1968

"It's like a proto-punk song. It's so powerful and yet it contains such a high level of melody." The Edge, U2

38. I Am The WalrusMagical Mystery Tour; B-side Hello Goodbye | 1967

38. I Am The WalrusMagical Mystery Tour; B-side Hello Goodbye | 1967

"It is an art object - eventually it could be looked on as an artefact as important as Picasso." Johnny Marr

37. Paperback WriterSingle | 1966

37. Paperback WriterSingle | 1966

"Paul made a real effort to write a song that wasn't about love because his aunt apparently asked him to." Ed Harcourt

36. Hello GoodbyeSingle | 1967

36. Hello GoodbyeSingle | 1967

"The greatest ever pop song, bar none." Alan McGee

35. It Won't Be LongWith The Beatles | 1963

35. It Won't Be LongWith The Beatles | 1963

"Raw and aggressive and punk - before punk was punk." Steve Bays, Hot Hot Heat

34. I Want You (She's So Heavy)Abbey Road | 1969

34. I Want You (She's So Heavy)Abbey Road | 1969

"Epic, immense, bonkers really." Dan Gillespie Sells, The Feeling

33. She's Leaving HomeSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

33. She's Leaving HomeSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"Parents as well-drawn and human as the girl who's flying the nest. Dad snoring, mum blubbing - it's spot on." Peter Hook

32. Across The UniverseLet It Be | 1970

32. Across The UniverseLet It Be | 1970

"About being true to your own perception of the world's beauty and not letting anything soil that." Fiona Apple

31. Don't Let Me DownB-side, Get Back | 1969

31. Don't Let Me DownB-side, Get Back | 1969

"Real romance, in its purest form with yearning and desperation intact!" Devendra Banhart

30. Here, There And EverywhereRevolver | 1966

30. Here, There And EverywhereRevolver | 1966

"There's rawness and real emotion here. Both John and Paul had to deal with their mums dying." Mike McGear, Liverpool Poet; Paul's brother

29. I'm Only SleepingRevolver | 1966

29. I'm Only SleepingRevolver | 1966

"Sung like a twisted nursery rhyme about death and the afterworld." Greg Dulli, Afghan Whigs/ Twilight Singers

28. All You Need Is LoveMagical Mystery Tour | 1967

28. All You Need Is LoveMagical Mystery Tour | 1967

"It made me do things like sleep in the park and wake up with a girl called Circles." Dave Stewart, Eurythmics

27. The Long And Winding RoadLet It Be | 1970

27. The Long And Winding RoadLet It Be | 1970

"McCartney's songs are so expressive melodically, but this has this heart-and-soul melody." Brian Wilson

26. She Said, She SaidRevolver | 1966

26. She Said, She SaidRevolver | 1966

"A good song to flail to." Robyn Hitchcock

25. Nowhere ManRubber Soul | 1965

25. Nowhere ManRubber Soul | 1965

"I love the super-bright guitar solo and the lyric – it sounds all superior, then you get 'isn't he a bit like you and me'." Mick Head, Shack

24. Please Please MeSingle | 1963

24. Please Please MeSingle | 1963

"It was their first Number 1, and it just sounds like a hit record." Wilko Johnson

23. Ticket To RideSingle | 1965

23. Ticket To RideSingle | 1965

"The sound of a four-piece group hurtling way beyond the beat-pop being churned out by their peers." John Harris, MOJO

22. I Saw Her Standing TherePlease Please Me | 1963

22. I Saw Her Standing TherePlease Please Me | 1963

"Just great rock'n'roll." Peter Blake

21. Here Comes The SunAbbey Road | 1969

21. Here Comes The SunAbbey Road | 1969

"Perhaps the best song - outside Jerusalem - that religion can claim credit for." Danny Eccleston, MOJO

20. RainB-side | 1966

20. RainB-side | 1966

"They look outwards into the psychedelic sunset to where they're going next." Andy Partridge, XTC

19. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)Rubber Soul | 1965

19. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)Rubber Soul | 1965

"It had this atmosphere that I just remember as being very acid." John Cale

18. Can't Buy Me LoveA Hard Day's Night | 1964

18. Can't Buy Me LoveA Hard Day's Night | 1964

"I toured with The Beatles on their first American tour. Can't Buy Me Love made me ready to take on the screaming masses." Jackie DeShannon

17. While My Guitar Gently WeepsThe White Album | 1968

17. While My Guitar Gently WeepsThe White Album | 1968

"Originally, there was another verse where George says that John and Paul should have their heads banged together." Chris Difford, Squeeze

16. RevolutionB-side to Hey Jude | 1968

16. RevolutionB-side to Hey Jude | 1968

"Revolution made me want to be in a band." Pete Shelley, Buzzcocks

15. With A Little Help From My FriendsSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

15. With A Little Help From My FriendsSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"I liked the way the song felt, the way the notes fell. Later in life, the story meant more to me." Bettye LaVette

14. I Want To Hold Your HandSingle | 1963

14. I Want To Hold Your HandSingle | 1963

"It made me aware of the bass drum – a sonic revelation that stayed with me ever afterwards." Todd Rundgren

13. Come TogetherAbbey Road | 1969

13. Come TogetherAbbey Road | 1969

"There’s a quality of baleful soul, of existential risk, that raises The Beatles to another level again." Danny Eccleston, MOJO

12. Hey JudeSingle | 1968

12. Hey JudeSingle | 1968

"It's one of Paul's best vocal performances in terms of sincerity and coolness." Guy Chambers

11. Eleanor RigbyRevolver | 1966

11. Eleanor RigbyRevolver | 1966

"You can tell that Paul really watches people, that he acknowledges their sad determination." David Crosby

10. A Hard Day's NightA Hard Day's Night | 1964

10. A Hard Day's NightA Hard Day's Night | 1964

"Every time I hear that opening chord, I feel a warm glow." Phil Collins

9. Penny LaneSingle | 1967

9. Penny LaneSingle | 1967

"This was mould-breaking. The lyrics run like a movie." Neil Innes, The Rutles

8. Happiness Is A Warm GunThe White Album | 1968

8. Happiness Is A Warm GunThe White Album | 1968

"They sang of drugs and guns without telling me what to feel about it. That's genius." Tori Amos

7. SomethingAbbey Road | 1969

7. SomethingAbbey Road | 1969

"It doesn't sound like The Beatles. It sounds like the beginning of George Harrison's solo career." Ian McNabb, The Icicle Works

6. In My LifeRubber Soul | 1965

6. In My LifeRubber Soul | 1965

"Lennon paints an incredible picture in just three minutes." Ozzy Osbourne

5. She Loves YouSingle | 1963

5. She Loves YouSingle | 1963

"These were not chord choices heard previously in pop or rock music. They were folk music chords." Roger McGuinn

4. Tomorrow Never KnowsRevolver | 1966

4. Tomorrow Never KnowsRevolver | 1966

"Listening to this is like stepping into a void of nothingness and everything at the same time." Tom Rowlands, The Chemical Brothers

3. YesterdayHelp! | 1965

3. YesterdayHelp! | 1965

"I think it's the most played song ever, and there's got to be a reason for that." James Skelly, The Coral

2. Strawberry Fields ForeverSingle | 1967

2. Strawberry Fields ForeverSingle | 1967

"I always compare it to having really freaky sex – one of the moments that show us there's a magical invisible area in our lives." Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips

1. A Day In The LifeSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

1. A Day In The LifeSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band | 1967

"It's never lost its magic. It just comes from a different part of the Universe." Win Butler, Arcade Fire

 

Did your favourite make the cut? Is it lower, or higher than you deem just? Let us know your Fab Four favourites via MOJO’s Twitter (@MOJOmagazine) and Facebook.

PHOTO: REX

Artist(s):