Best of the Best: The Beatles

Making a Top 5 list of Beatles albums is a daunting task. There are so many obsessive, argumentative, die-hard Beatles fans and hecklers out there.

I’ve known about The Beatles my whole life—from hearing their hits played on the radio, to seeing documentaries, reading articles, and even obtaining some choice albums and compilations. I also used to be on a radio show called Here, There and Everywhere on KZSC-Santa Cruz, spinning tunes by The Beatles, the four solo members, and anyone related to them. I’ve enjoyed most of their music, and I’m aware of the band’s sonic and personal development over time.

The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) not just changed with the times—they SET the times. They discovered new places, people, and ways of thinking, and were incredibly public with sharing their journeys with the rest of the world. Their albums give a snapshot of their changing mindsets and priorities, and over time, a few have stood out to me as the best. What do you think of this list?


 5 . With the Beatles (1963)

With the Beatles

1963’s With The Beatles, the band’s second studio album, will start the low end of this list. My personal preferences (since we all have them) lean towards the latter part of The Beatles’ career, but this oldie stands out to me for a few reasons. First off, it gives a good look at the origins of the band: bowl cuts, songs about love, one foot stuck in the 50’s. Top that off with covers of classic Motown hits like Barrett Strong‘s “Money (That’s What I Want)” and the Marvelettes‘ famous “Please Mister Postman,” and you’ve got a recipe for commercial success that people in the early sixties will obsess over.

Album highlights: “It Won’t Be Long,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Hold Me Tight,” “Money (That’s What I Want)”

4 . Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Here we go—you’ll notice things have changed a bit with this album. By 1967, The Beatles had begun to experiment with new things—musically and more. Sgt. Pepper can be considered an early form of a concept album, where the band performs as a different group called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s an important set of recordings because it helped solidify the “album” concept as a whole (i.e. releasing a special curated group of songs, vs. just singles on a record). It also helped introduce elements of psychedelia into British rock. The Beatles started to be open with their use of substances like marijuana and LSD, by vague and not-so-vague references (“I get by with a little help from my friends / oh I get high with a little help from my friends”). Even though John Lennon explained the pure coincidence between the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and the abbreviation L.S.D., the song is heavily surreal all the same. “Within You Without You” is an excellent song written by George Harrison and performed by a group of Indian musicians, which holds true to elements of classic Indian musical style. With phrases of Vedantic philosophy, Indian beats, and sitar galore, you’ve got a real example of how the Beatles’ sound had literally traveled thousands of miles and beyond. Sgt. Pepper, to this day, is one of the best-selling albums in music history.

Album highlights: “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Fixing a Hole,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Within You Without You”

Also awesome: The mashup of “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows” on The Beatles LOVE.

3 . Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Magical Mystery Tour

Here’s one that came out soon after Sgt. Pepper, later in 1967. The Beatles kept the surreal/fantasy trip going with Magical Mystery Tour. I mean, just look at the cover art. The idea for this album started when Paul McCartney wanted to create a film about the band. Descriptions of the plot are weird, to say the very least, and the film was poorly received. But it left us with a few hits that are widely enjoyed and remade, including the nonsensical “I Am the Walrus” (remember when Bono sang it in Across the Universe?), and “Hello Goodbye.” After releasing two psychedelic albums in 1967, it became clear the fab four had departed from tame songs about heartache and relationships to themes of universal love and endless imagination.

Album highlights: “I Am the Walrus,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” “All You Need is Love”

2 . The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

The Beatles - The White Album

Yes. Yes! With two whole discs making up The Beatles’ White Album, it’s hard not to find a few that you really like on here. This album goes all over the place—for better or worse—but it’s still high up on the list. The White Album brings a lot of great, solid rock n’ roll to the table: “Back in the USSR,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” and the widely-used b-day jam, “Birthday.” The song “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is one of my all-time Beatles favorites, and it’s great to sing along to (especially when the singing breaks to a bluesy dialogue spoken by John Lennon: “When I hold you in my arms / And I feel my finger on yoooour trigger…”). The song was banned by the BBC for its references to sex and drug addiction (“I need a fix ’cause I’m going down”). Those references are clear, but it’s an honest and raw tune. The album goes to softer places with the famous and beautiful song “Blackbird.” Overall, the social and political references are prominent throughout discs 1 and 2, and The White Album does an incredible job at showing us what it was like in 1968 (for those of us who don’t know).

Album highlights: “Back in the USSR,” “Dear Prudence,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “Blackbird,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”,  “Birthday,” “Revolution 1,” “Honey Pie”

1 . Abbey Road (1969)

Abbey Road

Ah yes, Abbey Road makes #1 on my list. Let’s start from the top. The album name is a tribute to Abbey Road Studios in London, where The Beatles recorded the majority of their work, and the iconic cover art is constantly being re-enacted by fans (watch a live stream here!). This is The Beatles’ 11th studio album, and reportedly their best-selling. The first track, “Come Together,” is insanely good because of the way it makes you move and groove. I won’t go through every track, but I encourage you to get a copy for your collection and listen through it. The best song on here, in my honest opinion, is “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The emotion and desire in that song is so very real. It’s a long song, almost stretching eight minutes, and it changes rhythmically and stylistically at different points. You’re taken on a roller coaster, going everywhere from cool, calm observation, to the fiery depths of despair and defeat. Just when you think you caught a break, you’re hit in the heart with a burst of heavy guitar riffs after the words “She’s so—.” At that point, the song transcends the auditory realm into something you can physically feel, and it’s heavy as hell. The lyrics are sparse, letting the music do the talking. This is The Beatles at their very best, and at their last. They disbanded before the record was even released. Ending on a lighter note, George Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun” is fundamentally positive and optimistic, and a favorite of many Beatles fans. In a way, it’s looking towards a future where music by the entire band and its individual members will continue to be played and enjoyed by all kinds of people, even those who came after their time.

Album highlights: “Come Together,” “Oh! Darling,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Mean Mr. Mustard/Poythene Pam/She Came in through the Bathroom Window”


If you agree or disagree with my Top 5 albums, let me know in the comments! And, of course, check out The Beatles discography on Murfie.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


This Week in Music History (February 19th-25th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

2/19- On this day in 1964, The Beatles’ popularity was cemented when half a ton of Beatles wigs were shipped to the United States, where they were worn by teenage fans of the Fab Four.

2/20- On this day in 2008, a copy of the The Rolling Stones’ 1976 LP Black and Blue sold for £4,000 at auction. Every Stones member, along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Paul and Linda McCartney and George Harrison, had signed the album.

2/21- On this day in 1967, Pink Floyd began their first recording sessions for their debut album at EMI Studios in London. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967.

2/22- On this day in 1989, a Heavy Metal category was included at the Grammy Awards for the first time. Although Metallica performed at the awards show, the award went to Jethro Tull.

2/23- On this day in 2010, London’s Abbey Road Studios was named a listed building, protecting it from any construction that would radically alter it. The studio was deemed a piece of British heritage in large part because The Beatles used it for 90% of their recordings.

2/24- On this day in 1976, The EaglesGreatest Hits became the first album to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. New certifications represented sales of over one million copies.

2/25- On this day in 2009, President Barack Obama honored his favorite musician, Stevie Wonder, by awarding him the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize at a ceremony at the White House. The president said Wonder’s music had been “the soundtrack to his youth”.

Check out these pieces of music history in our CD marketplace! Everything you buy comes with unlimited streaming (via computer, phones, tablets) and downloads (mp3, aac, FLAC, ALAC).

This Week in Music History (January 22nd-28th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/22- On this day in 1959, alone in his New York City apartment, Buddy Holly recorded his last songs. The recordings included “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “Learning the Game” and “That Makes it Tough”, among others, which were later released by Coral Records.

1/23- On this day in 1971, George Harrison became the first solo Beatle to have a No. 1 hit when his single “My Sweet Lord” reached the top of the UK single charts. The track stayed at No. 1 for five weeks.

1/24- On this day in 1969, New Jersey state prosecutors issued a warning to US record sellers that they would be charged with distributing pornography if they sold the John Lennon and Yoko Ono LP “Two Virgins”, which showed the pair fully nude.

1/25- On this day in 1986, Albert Grossman, a manager who managed acts including Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Peter, Paul and Mary, died of a heart attack. Grossman founded Bearsville Records in 1970.

1/26- On this day in 2003, Justin Timberlake burst out of boy band fame and onto the solo scene when his debut solo album “Justified” went to No. 1. The album went on to spend over a year on the charts.

1/27- On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley’s single “Heartbreak Hotel” was released by RCA Records. The song sold 300,000 copies in its first week and eventually sold over a million, becoming Elvis’ first Gold record.

1/28- On this day in 2008, Madonna was listed as the world’s richest female musician. Forbes.com estimated that the 49-year-old singer made $72 million between June 2006 and June 2007.

Oh, so you wanna own any of these gems, or hear ’em in lossless format? Check out our CD marketplace!

This Week in Music History (January 1st-7th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/1- On this day in 1960, Johnny Cash played a famous free concert for the inmates of San Quentin Prison in California. The recording of the concert was released as At San Quentin, Cash’s 31st album.

1/2- On this day in 1971, George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass began a seven-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart. The spot made Harrison the first Beatle to score a No. 1 solo album.

1/3- On this day in 1976, Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane” peaked at the No. 33 spot on the Billboard singles chart. The song received enough publicity to eventually get Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former boxer, released from prison. The song was written to promote Carter’s innocence.

1/4- On this day in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the first of what would be over 240 shows of that year. The band’s appearance on January 4th was at the Bromel Club in Bromley, England.

1/5- On this day in 1973, Bruce Springsteen released his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. The album, which was recorded in a single week, only sold about 25,000 copies in its first year.

1/6- On this day in 1975, the mayor of Boston canceled a Led Zeppelin concert after 2,000 fans rioted while trying to buy tickets. The riot caused an estimated $50,000-$75,000 in damage to the venue.

1/7- On this day in 1971, Black Sabbath released Paranoid, their second studio album in the US. The album included songs that would go on to become the band’s signatures, including “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”.

You can own any of these or other music history gems—just head to our music marketplace and pick them out! All albums purchases include: CD, streaming, and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless.

This Week in Music History (November 20th-26th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

11/20- On this day in 1976, Paul Simon hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Simon appeared live with George Harrison, performing tracks including “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound”.

11/21- On this day in 1970, Jimi Hendrix shot to No.1 on the UK singles chart with “Voodoo Child”, the closing track on Electric Ladyland. The track was Hendrix’s only No.1 UK single, and his guitar solo was named the 11th greatest solo of all time in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.

11/22- On this day in 1965, Bob Dylan married Sara Lowndes in a secret ceremony in Mineola, Long Island. The couple had a son, singer Jakob Dylan, but Lowndes filed for divorce in 1977.

11/23- On this day in 1899, the world’s first jukebox was installed in San Francisco at the Palais Royal Hotel. The term “jukebox”, however, only became popular in the 1940s.

11/24- On this day in 1966, The Beatles returned to the studio for the first time after their US summer tour. They spent the day recording “Strawberry Fields Forever”, a track that would go on to become their next single and one of their most famous of all time.

11/25- On this day in 1984, some of the biggest names in British music gathered at S.A.R.M. Studios in London to record the hit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. The single, which featured artists like Bono, Boy George, Sting, George Michael and Paul Young, sold over three million copies in the UK.

11/26- On this day in 1958, Johnny Cash made his debut on the US top country chart with “Cry, Cry, Cry”. The song hit number 14 on the chart, but his next seven singles would all reach the country top ten.

So you wanna own any of these gems, or hear them in lossless formats? Well, we just so happen to have them for sale! Find these albums and more pieces of music history in our marketplace!

What’s on Murfie: Tributes to the Beatles

The often-imitated, never-duplicated Paul, John, George and Ringo hold an unmatched place in our hearts and our music collections. Who didn’t grow up with “Yellow Submarine” and “Hey Jude” in the background? Only Paul and Ringo are still around these days, but the Fab Four remain musical icons and the face of an era. It’s no wonder that artists across the globe continue to pay tribute to their legendary tunes. We searched Murfie for four Beatles tribute albums and found these: they may span genres and time periods, but they keep their love of those guys from Liverpool at the forefront.

2159-largeA Tower Records Tribute to the Beatles
1996

There’s nothing quite like having some of music’s biggest stars cover music’s ultimate stars. Famed record company Tower Records released this 10-track collection in 1996, featuring covers of some of The Beatles’ greatest hits. Some of the 20th century’s greatest musicians pay their tribute, including Ike & Tina Turner on “Get Back” and The Beach Boys with “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”. Doing the Fab Four justice is a tall order, but these Tower Records stars give their classic tracks a twist that’s certainly worth a listen.

129850-largeTropical Tribute to the Beatles
1996

This album features an international interpretation of some of The Beatles’ most famous tracks using Latin rhythms like salsa, merengue, mambo and bolero. Some of Latin music’s biggest names, like Celia Cruz and Manny Manuel, take on 13 of the most famous Beatles songs, including “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Come Together”, “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude”. If you’re looking for something that closely resembles the original, this is definitely not the album for you. But if you’re open to a rhythm-heavy, genre-bending international take on some of the greatest songs of all time? This album and its dance-hall ready sounds are a great choice.

MI0000874100Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band
2009

Reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars have stepped in to provide their 13-track, dub-heavy tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably one of The Beatles’ most influential and best-loved albums. This tribute is truly easy listening, featuring knockout performances by guest stars the likes of Matisyahu.  It’s groovy without being overly produced or ambitious—the perfect reggae interpretation of one of the best-loved albums of all time. Don’t miss “Within Without You”, featuring Matisyahu, or  Ranking Roger’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”.

08e09b5c-11a7-11e2-bd3a-1231381369e0Pickin’ on the Beatles
1995

This tribute is part of the Pickin’ On Series, which features some of rock’s greatest albums with a bluegrass and country style. This album is no different, with 12 of The Beatles’ most famous tracks gone country. Songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Yellow Submarine” quickly convinced me that these songs are quite a stretch from the originals. This interpretation of The Beatles, with its fiddles, banjos and mandolins, is certainly different, and I would only recommend it for die-hard bluegrass fans.