On this day (May 26) in 1967, the Beatles released their beloved eighth studio album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. To celebrate the record's 54th anniversary, let's go through the best Beatles albums!
The Beatles need no introduction, but we'll give a short one anyways. It all began in 1957 when John Lennon started a band called The Quarrymen in Liverpool. After being impressed by Paul McCartney's musical skills and inviting his school friend, George Harrison, to play guitar, Lennon took his new group out to jam at the clubs in Hamburg. After several lineups and name changes, the Beatles found their footing when Brian Epstein became their manager, George Martin signed on as producer, and Ringo Starr took over as drummer.
The stars seemed to align. Over the seven years they recorded together, the Beatles won 10 Grammys, had 11 of their first 12 albums reach #1 on national charts, expanded the boundaries of rock 'n' roll music, and contributed to several prominent 1960s movements - including the Civil Rights movement, women's liberation, gay rights, environmentalism, and 60s counterculture. The fab four were even made Members of the Order of the British Empire for their contributions to the music world.
Every Beatles album is great in its own way. But which albums have impacted society the most and stood the test of time? It's a tough call to make, but we have some opinions. So without further ado, here's Live365's picks for the Top 10 Beatles albums!
10. Let It Be (1970)
This album is essentially the Beatles' version of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, but not as successful.
The last studio album to be released by the fab four, Let It Be came at a time when the group was at each others' throats. Paul McCartney wanted the group to go back to their roots while the other members needed a break from workaholic Paul. A lack of true managerial leadership and having the men perform together in the studio rather than recording seperate parts contributed to their breakup. It also didn't help Phil Spector used his infamous "Wall of Sound" production techniques behind the group's back.
The album was released in 1970 on May 8, just one month after the Beatles broke up. While it received mixed reviews from critics, it did have some commercial success. Despite tracks that fail to flow into each other and "The Long and Winding Road" being...long and winding, songs like "Across the Universe," "Get Back," "I've Got a Feeling," and "Let It Be" prove the Beatles could still write hits despite their personal strife.
9. Help! (1965)
Help! is the Beatles' fifth studio album and follow-up to Beatles For Sale. Unlike their fourth album, this record did not rely on several covers to get by. Only two are included ("Act Naturally" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"), and 10 tracks are Lennon-McCartney numbers. George Harrison also has 2 writing credits.
This album let the group explore a much deeper musical territory - a territory they would venture further into by the time Rubber Soul was released. Part of it was because of John's respect for Bob Dylan, another part of it was because he felt mental anguish from his group's unprecedented success. The song "Help!" isn't just a cheeky tune commisioned for the Beatles' second feature film: it's literally the band's cry for help.
On the song, John Lennon told David Sheff in 1980:
"Most people think it’s just a fast rock ‘n’ roll song. I didn’t realise it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out for help. So it was my fat Elvis period. You see the movie: he – I – is very fat, very insecure, and he’s completely lost himself. And I am singing about when I was so much younger and all the rest, looking back at how easy it was."
Besides "Help!", other notable tracks on this album include "Ticket to Ride" and "Yesterday."
8. A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Although A Hard Day's Night is still rooted in the Beatles' early pop phase, there are several notable things about it. To start, it is composed entirely of original songs and showcases John and Paul's songwriting strength for the first time. The Beatles became the second pop musicians to record a whole album of original material - following Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin', which was released the same year. This began the trend of musicians writing all their own work: a modern practice today.
Fans noticed A Hard Day's Night sounded more complex than previous albums. This is because the project was recorded on four-track tape. It allowed for higher-quality recording of rhythm tracks that no longer needed to be “bumped down” to a single track before recording vocals.
Like with Help!, the first side of this record was the soundtrack to a feature film. Notable songs off A Hard Day's Night include the title track, "And I Love Her," and "Can't Buy Me Love."
7. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
While not as focused as other Beatles albums that experimented with psychedelic sounds, Magical Mystery Tour is still a solid album with fun, creative tracks. The project was initiated by Paul McCartney in April 1967, but after the band recorded the title song, the record remained dormant until the death of Brian Epstein in August.
Like Help! and A Hard Day's Night, part of the soundtrack was turned into a film. It's got a few classic Beatles anthems, such as "I Am The Walrus," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Baby You're A Rich Man," and the song that would define the hippie movement, "All You Need Is Love."
6. Please Please Me (1963)
The album that made The Beatles a household name, Please Please Me is the Beatles' official debut, and was mostly recorded in one day.
Some songs were fully captured in a single live take, and the album features very few overdubs. This kept in line with the Beatles' raw sound, which they were known for when performing at Liverpool clubs. Because of the early success singles "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me" garnered, this album topped the U.K. charts in May 1963 and remarkably stayed #1 for thirty weeks straight.
Please Please Me is rooted in a poppy version of rock 'n' roll, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Besides the two singles previously mentioned, it's classics like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout" that catapulted the Beatles to instant stardom. All it took after those releases was a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show...after that, the Beatles were cultural icons.
5. Rubber Soul (1965)
The creation of this album marked the Beatles' transition from a great 60s band to one of the best bands of all time. In fact, after Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys listened to this record, it led to the creation of one of the greatest 60s albums of all time: Pet Sounds.
Rubber Soul - the title being a pun on soul music and a shoe’s rubber sole - is markedly more sophisticated than previous Beatles albums. In a way, this album marks the midpoint of the Beatles' seven year run. It's definitely an underrated record in the band's discography, and some even claim Rubber Soul is the Beatles' best work...although other fans say that's debatable.
No matter your opinion on Rubber Soul, it's undeniable this album has some solid tracks. Many of them are folksy, and are reminiscent of Bob Dylan tunes. Songs like "In My Life," "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," and "Michelle" solidify the Beatles' growth from young Liverpool studs into mature artists.
4. Revolver (1966)
The album's core theme is death: both literally and metaphorically. George Harrison's best work comes in the form of "Love You To," and techniques like reversed vocals and tape-loops on songs such as “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” make Revolver such a wild ride.
Additionally, songs like "Eleanor Rigby," "Taxman," and "For No One" feature some of the Beatles' most genius instrumentation. Some say this album marks the beginning of the Beatles' psychedelic phase. Revolver also marks the Beatles' final recording project before their retirement from live shows.
3. The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
While The White Album is polarizing and marked the beginning of the end for the Beatles, we've decided to place it so high on our list because of what this record meant for the 1960s as a decade. There's a reason Joan Didion titled her famous memoir about the 60s The White Album. Just like the decade it was made in, this record is diverse, chaotic, profound and ridiculous all at the same time.
There's a song for every occasion on The White Album. There are serious ballads like "Blackbird" and "Julia," as well as hard rock cuts like "Back in the USSR" and "Birthday." There are cutesy songs like "Piggies" and "Rocky Raccoon," as well as "Revolution 9," which is probably the most avant-garde song the Beatles have ever made.
And then there's "Helter Skelter": the roller coaster ride of a song that led to one of the most infamous series of murders ever committed. The White Album is not one solid thing, and that's the reason why it's so beloved and talked about.
2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Y'know how we said Rubber Soul led to the creation of Pet Sounds? Well, after the Beatles listened to that famous Beach Boys album, it influenced them to create Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
There's a multitude of reasons why this album is important. It was the last time the fab four truly worked together as a team, and established the LP as an art form. Ringo Starr even remarked, "Sgt. Pepper’ was our grandest endeavor. It gave everybody – including me – a lot of leeway to come up with ideas and to try different material…whoever had the best idea (it didn’t matter who), that would be the one we’d use. No one was standing on their ego, saying, ‘Well, it’s mine,’ and getting possessive."
The title of the album came from Paul McCartney wanting to create a "fake identity" for the band. Because the Beatles were done with touring when this album was created, it allowed them to truly be free, stay focused, and experiment with the sound on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The result was a record that became the first rock album in history to win the Grammy for Best Album.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is still ranked #1 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. It's songs like the title track, "With A Little Help From My Friends," "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," and "A Day In The Life" that proved that mainstream music could be just as intellectual as genres like jazz or classical.
1. Abbey Road (1969)
If only the Beatles had ended their career on this high note of an album...their breakup wouldn't have been so devestating.
When people think of the Beatles, one image that comes to mind is that iconic album cover of George, Paul, Ringo, and John crossing the street. And there's a good reason for that - Abbey Road, particularly the B side of Abbey Road, takes everything good about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club and stuffs it into an entire medley. Sgt Pepper's may be consistently ranked #1 on top albums lists, but if you're making a "best albums of all time" list, it's a cardinal sin not to put Abbey Road somewhere on it.
Named after the location where the Beatles did most of their recording for the album, Abbey Road mixes genres such as blues, rock, and pop, and makes prominent use of Moog synthesizer, sounds filtered through a Leslie speaker, and tom-tom drums. The reason why this album has such a clear sound compared to other Beatles albums is because of the solid-state transistor mixing desk the band recorded on.
Of course, "Come Together" is the most famous track off Abbey Road - possibly the most famous track the Beatles have ever made. Other legendary tracks include "Somebody," "Here Comes The Sun," "Oh! Darling," and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Abbey Road initially received mixed reviews from critics, but because of astounding commercial success all across the world, this album quickly became the Beatles' magnum opus.
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