The Beatles are quite comfortably the greatest band of all time, blending both commercial pop and experimental rock in ways that had never been seen before and will never be seen again.
I was actually very surprised to learn that they had a huge number of singles reach number 1 in the chart; I knew they were popular, but 27 blimin’ chart toppers?!? That’s quite a legendary collection of songs – how would I rank them all in my humble opinion?
A quick disclaimer – there are a few different statistics as to how many singles reached the top spot (e.g. just in the UK, or is that worldwide as well?) so to make life easier I’m just going to rank the songs on the official “1” album.
You can check out some of my other Beatles lists below:
27 – Hello, Goodbye
None of the Beatles’ Number 1 hits are bad (as you’d probably expect), but there are certainly some that either underwhelm me or are straight up overrated in my eyes.
“Hello, Goodbye” falls into that latter category for me, as I think it gets played on radios far too often. It used to be one of my favourite Beatles songs as a kid, but over time it has just gotten repetitive and childish – no wonder Lennon was annoyed when it took the A-side slot from “I Am The Walrus”.
26 – Love Me Do
Of all the early Beatles hits, this is easily the one I like the least – and it was their first one, so they didn’t get off to the best start.
The lyrics are way too repetitive (even by Beatles standards), the melodies are infuriatingly simple, and the harmonica is the worst feature on multiple early Beatles songs. At least it isn’t as mind-numbingly overplayed like “Hello, Goodbye”, but it’s close.
25 – Yellow Submarine
Big jump up in quality from now on, and the rest of the 25 number 1 hits are acceptably catchy and iconic, and deserve their place in pop culture history.
That being said, I do think “Yellow Submarine” is a little overrated. It’s fun with a great Ringo vocal performance, but once you look past the submarine sounds gimmick then there isn’t too much substance on display.
24 – From Me To You
This is as by-the-book as you can get for an early Beatles hit, and if it wasn’t for the random harmonica breaks I would probably listen to it more.
23 – The Ballad Of John And Yoko
A bit of a random one in the Beatles discography, as it’s just Lennon and McCartney on their own while Harrison and Ringo work on other songs.
“The Ballad Of John And Yoko” has some of the funniest lyrics from a Lennon song, and the general bluesy vibe from the guitar riffs and prominent bassline is always a plus.
22 – Eight Days A Week
Neither Lennon nor McCartney particularly thought too fondly of this one, as it was more of a contractual obligation to make a hit song rather than a track they wanted to do.
I still like it though, and even if it doesn’t quite pop as much as some other early Beatles classics I still think it’s one of their early winners.
21 – The Long And Winding Road
“The Long And Winding Road” used to be one of my favourite Beatles songs ever, and I felt it was one of McCartney’s most soulful and emotional contributions, but as time goes on it becomes more forgettable.
Also, the “Let It Be: Naked” stripped back version is pretty much superior in every way, so that knocked it down a couple of places.
20 – Ticket To Ride
When I think of this song I think of Ringo’s anthemic drumming, but otherwise it’s just a fairly simple Beatles hit.
19 – She Loves You
“Love Me Do” was a great first single to get the world excited, but I think “She Loves You” was the first true Beatles hit they made.
The chorus is infectious as all hell, and the “yeah yeah yeah!” brought an Americanism that had never been heard before in English music.
18 – Day Tripper
While all of the songs up until this point have been really good, now we’ve reached the point where every song is one of the greatest of all time.
The riff in “Day Tripper” is to die for, and the way it all comes together in the chorus is just splendid. I truly admire the songwriting efforts of every track from this point on, and very few artists have ever come close to reaching these songs’ levels of mastery.
17 – Help!
“Help!” draws you in straight away with that first belting chorus, and that unshakable energy clings to you right up until the final few seconds.
This was Lennon’s not-so-subtle call for help, and this is lyrically one of his best and retroactively sombre of the lot.
16 – Paperback Writer
That “Paperback Writer” / “Rain” single was a truly revolutionary era for the band, as it marked their first foray into more experimental pop.
While I prefer the B-side, “Paperback Writer” is still a fantastic rock bop that will almost certainly get you moving. Those choruses are far more psychedelic than anything we’d seen previously, and it marked the start of the Beatles’ golden age.
15 – Can’t Buy Me Love
Probably not the song you were expecting to see so far up the list, but this McCartney powerhouse pop song has always been one of my favourites.
This is just one of those insanely fun songs that they must have had a blast recording and playing, and that energy is apparent in every live performance.
14 – We Can Work It Out
“Genius” is the word that comes to mind whenever I hear this song, as both the main bulk and the middle eight work together so perfectly it’s almost baffling.
I also really love the sudden switch to 3/4 time at points during the song, it adds another experimental flavour that signified the start of an interesting period for the band.
13 – Lady Madonna
This song has McCartney written all over it, as it has that golden trio of piano, bass and silly lyrics.
There are also some gorgeous woodwind interjections throughout, and that saxophone solo is killer.
12 – A Hard Day’s Night
The opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” is more iconic that most other songs in pop history, and that tells you all you need to know about this slammin’ tune.
I also really like McCartney’s little verses that contrast Lennon’s choruses, and it’s yet another example of how Godly their collaboration powers were.
11 – I Feel Fine
The period just before Rubber Soul was an intriguing one, as while they hadn’t quite committed to the experimental pop they were still making complex tracks like this.
It sounds a bit cleaner than the earlier stuff, and the feedback at the start and the guitar riffs were revolutionary.
10 – Get Back
A song so good they’re naming the definitive Beatles documentary after it, “Get Back” came around during the Let It Be sessions when McCartney wanted the band to get back to their roots.
It’s bluesy, it’s rockin’, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Lennon even lays down a rare guitar solo filled with soul, and Billy Preston’s keyboard work was a much needed change of pace for the band during the recording sessions.
9 – I Want To Hold Your Hand
For my money’s worth, this is the ultimate “early” Beatles record. It’s probably best known nowadays as being the track that launched their careers in America after its memorable appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, but I’ve always loved it for many more reasons than that.
I’d argue this is the catchiest of all their early outings, and that opening riff is beyond iconic. They would go on to create better works, but this was the track that entranced the planet.
8 – Penny Lane
McCartney and Lennon went through a bit of a phase of reminiscence during the Sgt Pepper sessions, and “Penny Lane” was what McCartney came up with – an homage to a bus stop he used to frequent in Liverpool.
Paul’s piano work is really excellent throughout, and George Martin’s orchestral arrangements never cease to amaze. It’s a shame it never featured on the final album, it’s just one of those musical “what if” moments in history.
7 – Eleanor Rigby
A pop song had never sounded quite like “Eleanor Rigby” before – McCartney and George Martin managed to craft a beautiful example of Baroque Pop between them, and that string arrangement is to die for.
I think this is also one of McCartney’s best tracks lyrically, and there are some lines here that you’d never expect from him: “Look at all the lonely people / Where do they all belong?”. It would make sense to call this McCartney’s masterpiece, but somehow he’s made better ones.
6 – Yesterday
Another solo McCartney venture – in fact, this was the first time a Beatle had written and recorded a track completely solo (with George Martin’s help, of course).
McCartney was initially embarrassed by this slow ballad, but it’s recognised nowadays as being one of the Beatles’ most endearing records, and a track that has been covered countless times in the years since.
5 – All You Need Is Love
One of the rare Beatles tracks to appear on two albums (if you count “Magical Mystery Tour” as an actual album), “All You Need Is Love” is a romp of a pop track written for a special worldwide TV broadcast.
There are some really intelligent displays of songwriting from Lennon and the gang on this one, from the various shifting time metres to the bombastic outro that harkens back to “She Loves You”. This is one of those anthemic tracks that defined a whole generation.
4 – Let It Be
It’s actually quite astonishing that this track (and the album itself) were almost never released to the public, as we would have missed out on one of the greatest songs ever put to recording.
Coming to Paul in a dream (like many of his most famous works), “Let It Be” is a sort of homage to his late mother, and that tenderness and vulnerability shines in the lyrics and playing.
3 – Come Together
I believe George Martin named this his favourite Beatles track, citing the teamwork that went on between the band during the recording session.
Every member has their moment to shine: Lennon’s got the iconic vocals, McCartney and Ringo lay down some supremely iconic bass and drum lines, and Harrison provides his typically smooth guitar licks.
2 – Hey Jude
“Hey Jude” was a huge risk for the band and radio stations alike, as pop songs had never been more than about 3 minutes before – and this one goes on for almost 8 bloody minutes!
Against all odds, every second of this track is the gold standard of anthemic pop. The initial verse and choruses are already exceptional, but the obvious stand-out is the epic outro that is guaranteed to get any crowd singing along.
1 – Something
I always go back and forth between a few Beatles tracks as being my personal favourite: “A Day In The Life” is quite spectacular, “Strawberry Fields Forever” is a stunning display of songwriting, but every now and again George Harrison’s “Something” just resonates with me in all the right ways.
The melodies and lyrics and probably Harrison’s best ever, his guitar playing is mesmeric, and I even consider this to be way up there among McCartney’s best basslines. I don’t think a better love song has ever been written, and I don’t think pop will ever reach this quality again.
Aaaaand that’s my list. You can check out my latest blog posts below:
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