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11 February 2012 @ 04:23 pm
Just In Time for Valentine's Day: The Best Beatles Love Songs  

As you would expect from the band that famously sang ‘All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles wrote their share of love songs. In fact, over their brief but prolific career, they wrote pretty much every type of love song imaginable.

You name the stage of a relationship, chances are there’s a great Beatles song to go with it. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d list the Beatles’ ten best love songs. Nothing about breakups or jealousy or unrequited love here. We’ll leave that to the ironic hipsters. We’re dealing with the act of being in love, with all its joy, beauty and yes, sometimes doubt and fear.

10) I've Just Seen a Face, from 'Help!', 1965

It may have been buried deep on the ‘Help!’ album when it was first released, but this song has become such a favorite that it was one of only five Beatles songs Paul McCartney played during his ‘Wings Over America’ tour in 1976.

In just 2:05, it perfectly captures the rush and excitement of love at first sight, when you just want to share your joy with every passing stranger on the street. This country-tinged number features John, Paul and George on acoustic guitars, with George’s lean 12-string solo reflecting his growing confidence as a lead player. But what’s most amazing about ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ is that it was recorded on June 14, 1965 during the same session that they cut ‘Yesterday’ and ‘I’m Down,” giving further proof of McCartney’s increasing versatility.

9) When I'm Sixty-Four, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967

According to the story, McCartney wrote this song when was 16 and forgot about until his father turned 64, which happened to be as the Beatles were recording ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’

Paul often gets mocked (sometimes justifiably so) for his nostalgic side, but here’s one occasion where it works to his advantage. Beneath the vaudeville music lies a deceptively innovative lyric. He’s trying to convince his new girlfriend of his worthiness by painting a scenario of what their life will be like in the future. It won’t always be easy (“we shall scrimp and save”) but spending your last years working in the garden and playing with our grandchildren make it all worthwhile.

8) If I Fell, A Hard Day's Night, 1964

Particularly in their early days, the Beatles were first and foremost a vocal band. Their seemingly innate ability to harmonize as one was evident from their first album, with songs like ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘There’s A Place.’

But on ‘If I Fell,’ the first of three songs on this list from ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ we see how Lennon and McCartney’s differing melodic sensibilities work together to create something beautiful. John’s low part moves in simple intervals, steps and half-steps, while Paul’s high part is more complex, rising and falling to find the right note to match John. And yet, neither part stands on its own, but combined they perfectly complement Lennon’s lyric about the fears of falling in love again.

7) It's Only Love, Help!, 1965

Had he been born in Georgia or Mississippi, John Lennon could have been one of the all-time greatest singers and songwriters of soul music. Instead, the Liverpool native had to settle for merely being a Beatle.

Although Lennon would later admit to hating the lyric, ‘It’s Only Love’ is a perfect distillation of everything he learned about conflicting emotions from those southern soul records he loved: You’re breathtakingly beautiful, but we’re always fighting. I know I should break up with you, but my love for you makes me want to change. And his vocals, light in the verse and tormented in the chorus, is straight out of Soul Singing 101.

6) Things We Said Today, A Hard Day's Night, 1964

Few things can break apart a relationship more than distance, but not here, where the memories of the declarations of love between Paul and his girl are enough to get him through the long nights that they’re apart.

We also see how, as early as 1964, McCartney was turning into a masterful songwriter. The minor key of the verse (driven by an acoustic rhythm part so infectious that the Hollies stole it for ‘Bus Stop’) reflects his sadness at their being apart, while the bridge switches to a major key to convey his joy with being in love. And George’s low harmony is icing on the cake.

5) Any Time At All, A Hard Day's Night, 1964

How do you best prove your worth to the one you love? According to John, it’s by being there to help her through the bad times. ‘Any Time At All,’ the last of the three songs on this list from ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ spells this out in terms that are unambiguous and, at times, borderline poetic.

This point is brought home by Ringo’s emphatic drum fills that announce the chorus, and reinforced by George’s 12-string Rickenbacker riffs. The verse also features one of John’s earliest uses of the descending bass line, which would become one of his favorite harmonic devices throughout his songwriting career.

4) I Will, the White Album, 1968

There’s so much going on in ‘I Will’ that, it’s hard to believe that, at 1:45, it’s one of the shortest songs in the Beatles’ entire catalog. The lyric isn’t quite cohesive — one moment Paul is unsure of her name, the next he’s declaring his eternal love — but it doesn’t really matter too much. Between the beautiful melody, the acoustic guitar riff between the verses, and its immediacy, this has been a favorite since its release on ‘The Beatles’ in 1968. And the way McCartney effortlessly introduces new musical ideas into the coda is the mark of a songwriter at the very top of his game.

3) Here, There, and Everywhere, Revolver, 1966

Much has been written over the years of the story about how the Beatles and the Beach Boys were engaged in a friendly rivalry throughout the mid-60s. But Brian Wilson’s influence on McCartney was never more apparent than on ‘Revolver’s’ standout ballad, the equal of anything found on ‘Pet Sounds’ that isn’t ‘God Only Knows.’

Like so many of Wilson’s most celebrated songs, Paul takes chords that shouldn’t belong together and makes them sound perfectly natural, while the lush harmonies underneath the verse echo Wilson’s ‘Surfer Girl’ and “The Warmth Of The Sun.’ It also helps that McCartney’s lyric is so perfectly realized and sung in such hushed tones that you almost feel like you’re intruding on an intimate moment.

2) In My Life, Rubber Soul, 1965

John Lennon may not have showed his sentimental side often, but when he did, the results could be extraordinary. That was never more evident than on ‘In My Life.” Originally conceived as a poem about his childhood, Lennon threw most of it away and fashioned his most beautiful love song around the lines he liked.

So many Beatles songs have lasted because they appeal to our sense of optimism, and ‘In My Life’ is the perfect example of that. Yes, I have many wonderful memories, John is saying, but the future we’re building together will be even better. As brilliant as the lyric is, the arrangement, including Ringo’s inventive part, Paul’s harmony and producer George Martin’s Baroque piano part, is every bit its equal.

1) Something, Abbey Road, 1969

Was there really any doubt as to what No. 1 would be? Upon the release of ‘Abbey Road,’ the Beatles’ last recorded album, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney put aside their arguments and were able to agree that George’s masterpiece was the best song on the album.

‘Something’ became a standard almost immediately, and has been covered by artists as diverse as James Brown, Julio Iglesias and Frank Sinatra, who mistakenly credited it to Lennon and McCartney onstage. And if you want to hear ‘Something’ on a new level, next time you’re listening to this song on your iPod, remove the left earbud and focus entirely on the right side, which allows you to better hear McCartney’s astonishingly brilliant bass line.


Do you agree with the list? What do you think about the song that earned the number one spot?

In no particular order:

This Boy, (released as a single) 1963

Ask Me Why, Please, Please Me, 1963

All I've Got to Do, With the Beatles, 1963

All My Loving, With the Beatles, 1963

And I Lover Her, A Hard Day's Night, 1964

(I can't believe this didn't make the list!)

I'll Be Back, A Hard Day's Night, 1964

I Need You, Help!, 1965

Michelle, Rubber Soul, 1965

I Want You (She's So Heavy), Abbey Road, 1969

For You Blue

Phenomenal Cat: Cool Johnsoft_guitar60 on February 11th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
She Loves You
You Like Me Too Much
I've Got A Feeling
Eight Days A Week

In no particular order.
Jay.: geo gif smiling cupjonesingjay on February 11th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
i always found 'you like me too much' amusing. he's basically saying 'yeah, i know i'm all of that. i think you're alright.'
Phenomenal Catsoft_guitar60 on February 12th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, also I Want To Hold Your Hand.

I think the earlier songs have a simpler message than their later work.
wytchcroft: ronwytchcroft on February 11th, 2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
Don't Let Me Down.

Long, Long, Long
Jay.: johnsmilingjonesingjay on February 12th, 2012 12:26 am (UTC)
don't let me down is a pretty good one. john wrote one heck of an angsty love song.
kalizookakalizooka on February 12th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC)
Two of Us
Oh! Darling (possibly my favorite)
All You Need is Love (granted it's not a direct love song to anyone, but instead a celebration of love, and I think that's good enough.)

Definitely agree that And I Love Her should have been on the list. Something is absolutely number one, too.
Jay.: pauljonesingjay on February 12th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
i know paul gets knocked some times for his songs being too...'soft' or whatever but i could listen to 'and, i love her' over and over again and not get tired of it.
Clarey: The_Beatles-Cartoon_Johnclarey_h on February 12th, 2012 09:08 am (UTC)
They dis write some beautiful love songs.

I'd put Don't Let Down as my number one Beatles Love song and Two Of Us, somewhere in my top ten.
Jay.: geojonesingjay on February 12th, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
i just might have to give 'two of us' a listen. since it's popped up before in the comments.
Selena: Beatles by Alexis3selenak on February 12th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
No dispute on "Something" getting the No.1 spot, and I'd only replace "It's only love" with "Don't let me down" otherwise - but ask me again tomorrow, and I might make some other choices, they wrote that many good love songs. :)

It's odd about "Don't let me down", though, because I have such a strange relationship with that song. On the one hand, it's terrific, so much passionate longing, plus the performance on the roof top is one of my all time favourite Beatles performances, demonstrating even at this very late stage how perfectly in sync and joyful in each other's abilities they were when playing together. On the other hand, I can't ever decide whether I'm deeply appalled or deeply impressed by the ruthless honesty of the title and this as a major theme. One part of me thinks, John, how about promising you won't let the object of your affection down for a change, before making that so very you paranoid demand. And another thinks: we're all like this, even in the ecstasy of falling in love, afraid that we'll get hurt when handing ourselves over to another person; but few were as open to admit it as John was.

Also: "I'm in love for the first time" and "nobody ever...". This is why I like In My Life better; In My Life also captures the sensation of being newly in love and believing this feeling surpassing all that has gone before. But at the same time, it acknowledges that those past loves, friends and places still have their place in the narrator's heart. They weren't suddenly obliterated. Whereas "Don't Let Me Down" states outright there is no past anymore. Which is off putting to me. But it's sung ever so compellingly! And every time I listen, I find myself completely drawn in!

In conclusion: probably the John/Beatles song which evokes the most, since they are contradictory, feelings in me, and that's a compliment to the composer and the performers, too. :) (Oh, and let's not forget that the Let It Be transcripts by Sulpy et al testify both Paul and George had a lot to do with getting the song into the shape it eventually took, so kudos to them, too.)
Jay.: johnsmilingjonesingjay on February 12th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
I like that John's love songs, even from the very beginning seemed to have a certain edge to them. Do you know what I mean? They were never straight forward flowery love songs. I'm sure there are some songs that are exceptions to that rule but almost all of his love songs seemed to have some kind of angst to them.
itsnotmyminditsnotmymind on February 12th, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
I don't think "This Boy" fits the criteria since it's about unrequited love.

About "I Will": The lyric isn’t quite cohesive — one moment Paul is unsure of her name, the next he’s declaring his eternal love — but it doesn’t really matter too much. I always thought that was an intentional joke--he's declaring eternal love to someone he's never even met.

In addition to the songs other people have suggested, I have always had a soft spot for "Dig a Pony"--part nonsense lyrics, part all-consuming declaration of love.
Jay.: geojonesingjay on February 12th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
i realize 'this boy' doesn't fit the criteria. a lot of the songs i wanted to add to the list don't. especially john's songs.
The Fool on the Hill: A Day in the Lifemaybeimamazd on February 13th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Love Me Do
P.S. I Love You
From Me To You
I'll Be Back
Jay.: pic#107460413jonesingjay on February 13th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
i love 'i'll be back', one of my favorite beatles songs!
The Fool on the Hill: Help!maybeimamazd on February 14th, 2012 04:47 am (UTC)
mine too!