Possibly a hard one to explain this week, but I had an idea to pick out an MVP from every Beatles albums (more in terms of songwriting, not necessarily performance). This basically just means I’ll choose the Beatle that I think wrote the best songs for that album – so you’re not going to see much love for Ringo in this list.
A couple of disclaimers – this is obviously very subjective, and also I’m half-guessing who the songwriter was on each track; usually the singer is the one that wrote it, so I’ll be basing most of my assumptions off that fact.
Also – I’m sure the Beatles all had a say in every song, so it will be pure guesswork in the end as to who had the most input, but it’s all just for a laugh anyway at the end of the day.
N.B. I’ll try to exclude any pure Lennon-McCartney 50/50 collabs, but who knows if it’s truly Even-Stevens if ya get me?
You can check out some of my other lists below:
Please Please Me
I think for their debut record, and you’ll notice for a lot of their first albums, Lennon seemed to be the powerhouse songwriter – or at least the one that made the hits.
Granted, it’s difficult to know in these early albums who took the most credit, but I think Lennon takes the cake here with tracks like “Please Please Me”, “Love Me Do”, “Ask Me Why” and “Twist and Shout” (I know that last one is a cover, but he basically made it his own).
That’s not to say McCartney way slacking, far from it – he was already making sensational pop tunes alongside Lennon, and if he was more consistent he could have even taken this matchup.
“I Saw Her Standing There” almost single-handedly gave McCartney the win, but other tracks like “P.S. I Love You” and “A Taste Of Honey” are only passable at best.
With The Beatles
McCartney doesn’t actually have many songs on this album, but his tracks are some of the best of the lot. “All My Loving” is a classic, and “Till There Was You” deserves more love.
Lennon could have easily taken this MVP, but there are so many bland and meh songs courtesy of him that I had to knock him down a peg. Still, the one-two punch of “It Won’t Be Long” and “All I’ve Got To Do” is a good showing from any songwriter.
A Hard Days Night
Another close tie when I put their tracks side by side, but if I had to pick my favourites from this record then Lennon would have the best of the bunch.
The title track “A Hard Days Night” is iconic, but I think the underrated and surprisingly best track on here has to be “You Can’t Do That”, a song chalked to the brim with an unshakable energy. Add to that amazing tracks like “If I Fell” and “Any Time At All” and it’s hard to argue who the MVP was for this one.
Once again, the fact that McCartney wasn’t MVP doesn’t mean his songs were sub-par; in fact, “Can’t Buy Me Love” is in for a shout as best on the record, and other tracks like “And I Love Her” and “Things We Said Today” add to an already stellar tracklist.
Beatles For Sale
This album’s a bit of a stinker in the Beatles catalogue, but at least Lennon made some tracks like “No Reply” and “I’m a Loser” to make it worth a listen within the Beatles discography.
I’m pretty sure “Eight Days a Week” was a pure collaboration, but it sounds more like a Lennon track so I’ll give it to him. Also, “Every Little Thing” might be THE most underrated track of the Beatles’ early years.
Welp … McCartney didn’t have the best showing on this record. Most of his features are just bland covers, but at least he made a couple of decent ones – “I’ll Follow The Sun” has a beautiful melody, and “What You’re Doing” is okay too (but neither of them are sensational really).
A scintillating return to form, and there are hints on this record of the greatness to come from both Lennon and McCartney.
Lennon was always going to take the cake on this one, he wrote almost half of the songs for crying out loud. The title track “Help!” is a classic, “Ticket To Ride” is a banger, and the trio of love ballads “You’re Going To Lose That Girl”, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and especially “It’s Only Love” made for an excellent batch of songs.
I was surprised how little McCartney contributed to this record in terms of songwriting, but the two stand-out songs are absolutely sensational and were almost enough to pip Lennon past the post.
“I’ve Just Seen A Face” is an early McCartney classic that I don’t hear often enough, and there’s already been enough praise for “Yesterday” over the years to tell you how awesome it is.
As far as I’m concerned, this was the start of the true Beatles dominance, and every album from now on is certifiably one of the greatest albums of all time. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that Lennon absolutely smokes everyone else on this record, and it would be another album before everyone else could catch up to his greatness.
This is the most unfair match-up of the lot, as this was arguably the album where Lennon was on the best songwriting form. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” was the catalyst of all the phenomenal tunes to come, “Nowhere Man” is catchy as heck, and the duo of “Girl” and “In My Life” showed a level of lyrical maturity that shouldn’t have been possible at his young age.
You’ve got to feel for McCartney – he was coming up against prime Lennon on “Rubber Soul”, and he ends up looking amateurish by comparison.
Still, “Drive My Car” is a fantastic album opener and one of my favourites, “You Won’t See Me” is a great song about his troubles with his partner at the time, and “Michelle” is a gorgeous track that proved he was still a songwriter for the ages.
This was a really tricky one, but I think I value McCartney’s contributions the most on “Revolver”. I’m sure initially you’d disagree with me, but with tracks like “Eleanor Rigby”, “Got To Get You Into My Life” and especially “Here, There and Everywhere” it’s hard to disagree that McCartney was in a sort of Golden Age.
McCartney actually wrote a lot more songs on here than I initially thought as well – “For No One” has never been a favourite but it’s still good, “Yellow Submarine” was sung by Ringo but penned by McCartney, and “Good Day Sunshine” is certainly … a song.
Runners-Up: Lennon / Harrison
“Revolver” marked the start of the colossal three-way battle between Lennon, McCartney AND now Harrison too.
I think the Lennon track that most people will remember from this album is “Tomorrow Never Knows” and rightly so – it’s outright bonkers with its structure and execution, and this album wouldn’t be the same without it. Add to that fantastic songs like “I’m Only Sleeping”, “She Said She Said” and “And Your Bird Can Sing”, and this is far from a failed effort from Lennon.
Harrison has a couple of awesome contributions as well – “Taxman” is an amazing start to the album, and “I Want To Tell You” is hella underrated. This album also had the first of the Harrison Indian trilogy with “Love You To”, except it’s easily the weakest of his Eastern-inspired tracks. A good effort all round, but he’ll have to settle for third place.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
I think the only album where McCartney was by far the MVP of the bunch, “Sgt. Pepper’s” was his creation from start to finish, and almost all of the stand-out contributions are his.
The titular tracks at the start and end really round off the whole thing and make it a fantastic concept album, and other tracks like “With A Little Help From My Friends”, “Lovely Rita” and “She’s Leaving Home” made this an easy choice for first place.
Even though Lennon didn’t quite bring his A-Game this time around, he still managed to construct two of the greatest songs of all time.
“Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds” is wonderfully weird and trippy, but all the accolades are always going to go towards the Lennon-McCartney track “A Day in the Life” (which is a 50/50 contribution I think, otherwise Lennon would have walked this match-up, but I thought I’d list it here).
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though, and his other two efforts “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Good Morning Good Morning” have never really been favourites of mine.
Magical Mystery Tour
McCartney had a couple of albums-worth of glory in the spotlight, but now it was Lennon’s time to shine again.
Lennon has four main contributions to this album, and they’re all sensational. Once you get “Baby You’re A Rich Man” out the way (which is still very good), we’re left with literally three of the greatest songs of all time.
“I Am The Walrus” was an exercise in eccentricity, and I absolutely love every ounce of oddity that seeps from this track. “All You Need Is Love” is a gorgeous romp which executes many fantastic and ingenious songwriting tricks. “Strawberry Fields Forever” is my favourite Beatles song on its day. All together, this is one of the most remarkable individual performances I’ve ever seen.
Whilst still pulling his weight, most of McCartney’s contributions on this album are a little overrated in my eyes. “Magical Mystery Tour” is a fun opener, but it doesn’t even come close to Sgt. Peppers, “Hello Goodbye” is a bit too overplayed for me, and “The Fool On The Hill” is the most ridiculous and infuriating track in the Beatle’s later discography.
He still had a couple of worthwhile mentions though – “Your Mother Should Know” is an underrated bop that has a nice swing to it, and “Penny Lane” is up with Lennon’s contributions as some of the finest songwriting of all time.
I’m surprised so many people sleep on this album; there are far too many bangers and literal all-time greats from both Liverpudlians for it to be anything other than a sensational record.
The Beatles (The White Album)
MVPs: McCartney / Lennon / Harrison
I wasn’t really comfortable giving the MVP award to any particular person on this album – the whole point of the White Album is that every Beatle got the chance to display their individual artistic brilliance, and as such they all shine in their own unique way.
McCartney had a good album, and my favourites of his have to be “Back In The U.S.S.R.”, “Blackbird”, “Birthday” and “Helter Skelter”. He had quite a few other tracks on here that weren’t quite as memorable, but I’ll forgive him in the grand scheme of things.
Lennon was similarly stacked with excellent tracks, and my personal picks would be “Dear Prudence”, “Glass Onion”, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, “Julia” and “Sexy Sadie”. I was tempted to give him the outright winners accolade, but he did make “Revolution 9” so no soup for you!
Last but not least, Harrison surprisingly had a great run of songs on The White Album. “Piggies” is a bit naff, but “Savoy Truffle” and “Long, Long, Long” are some really underrated gems. Lets not forget “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as well, and while you could argue that it’s Eric Clapton that does most of the heavy lifting on that, we shouldn’t understate the songwriting brilliance that has to go into a track like that – it’s probably my favourite song from the whole record all things considered.
Runner-Up: Ringo (he gave it his best)
Nice one Ringo, you finally got a mention! Fourth place as well, that’s one off a podium finish!
In all seriousness, even though I’m profoundly grateful for Ringo’s contributions on every Beatles record, this has to be the worst individual performance of the bunch. His only effort is “Don’t Pass Me By”, which is only rivalled by “Revolution 9” (the actual worst Beatles song) as biggest flub on the record. The only way is up from here though … right?
MVP: Harrison (!!!)
I was tempted to exclude “Yellow Submarine” from my list – it’s most certainly a Beatles record, but there are only four original songs on the entire thing! (Not including the second half of George Martin tracks).
If we take those four tracks into consideration, then it’s no competition really – Harrison has only gone and done it, beating the Lennon / McCartney duo that many thought could never be topped!
Well … even then it’s nothing too special. “Only A Northern Song” is fine I guess, but it’s a bit too weird for my liking, but the stand-out track (and best from the original songs) has to be “It’s All Too Much”, a fantastically heavy and cluttered rock romp that makes the first half of the album worth listening to.
Runners-Up: Lennon (and McCartney, I guess)
Not including “All You Need Is Love” and “Yellow Submarine”, it felt like Lennon and McCartney were just cashing in the check for this one.
At least Lennon had “Hey Bulldog”, second best of the original tracks with a killer riff, but McCartney has a complete stinker with “All Together Now” – a track so forgettable and mundane that I was tempted not to mention McCartney as a runner-up at all.
You guys have no idea just how close I was to putting Harrison as the MVP again, but I think McCartney just edges it.
If we’re talking about the first half of the album, then McCartney would probably even be in third place – “Oh Darling” is a great track with an awesome vocal performance, but “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is one of my least favourite Beatles songs from this era.
Why have I put McCartney all the way up in first place then? Well, whenever anyone thinks of Abbey Road they almost definitely remember the medley of songs at its tail end – and that stroke of genius is down to McCartney. “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” are fun additions to the second half, but McCartney really shines through with the explosive three-song finale that cement Abbey Road as my favourite record of all time.
Runners-Up: Harrison / Lennon
With quite possibly two of the greatest song contributions on any album ever, it was unbelievably painful to put Harrison down in second place – he really came into his own in the last few years of the Beatles, and solidified his place as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
On its day, “Something” might just be my favourite Beatles song of them all, and it’s certainly one of if not THE greatest love ballad of all time. On top of that, Harrison wrote what I believe is the most popular Beatles song of this generation with “Here Comes The Sun”, a gorgeous track with brilliant songwriting all the way through.
Even though Lennon has to settle for third place, he should be extremely proud of his contributions to this collosal record. “Come Together” is possibly the best opening song on any album ever, and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” has always been a personal fave with it’s heavy riffs and doom aesthetic.
Where Lennon doesn’t really shine, however, is the medley. His trio of contributions near the start of side two are quite comfortably the three most filler tracks of the bunch – even Lennon has dismissed them since their release. Still, the Abbey Road medley wouldn’t be the same without them.
Let It Be
Whether you consider Abbey road to be the band’s final outing or Let It Be as their swansong, I still think McCartney was the star than shone brightest on the last Beatles album.
It’s a little tricky to discern which tracks are purely McCartney’s – songs like “Two Of Us” and “One After 909” seem to be a pure collaboration with Lennon – but even if we exclude the ambiguous ones McCartney still reigns supreme.
“I’ve Got A Feeling” is a great rock track, “Get Back” is full of energy and bravado, “The Long And Winding Road” was swamped a bit by the strings but it’s still a marvellous song, and “Let It Be” is one of the finest songs in the Beatles catalogue. This was a really strong showing for the final album, and McCartney would continue this songwriting brilliance on all of his future solo efforts.
Runners-Up: Lennon / Harrison
I don’t think Lennon had that many contributions to “Let It Be” (other than the pure 50/50 collabs), but when he does show up he makes it count. “Dig A Pony” is a really underrated track that slaps, and “Across The Universe” is the last Lennon classic until his solo work. Not the strongest outing, but still a very valuable one.
Harrison also kept up his good form, although he wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders this time around. “For You Blue” is a fun little bluesy track, except it pales in comparison to most of the others, but his other song “I Me Mine” still proved that he could stand up to the big boys.
FINAL SCORE: Lennon 7, McCartney 6, Harrison 2
So there you have it. As expected, there wasn’t much to separate Lennon and McCartney in the end, but I wasn’t expecting Mr Harrison to nab a couple of top honours!
Aaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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