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 (May 21st-27th)

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

300492-large5/21- On this day in 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released the single “Ohio” in reaction to the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings during which unarmed college students were shot by members of the Ohio National Guard.

2174-large5/22- On this day in 1965, The Beatles reached No.1 on the US singles chart with their track “Ticket to Ride”. The song was the group’s eighth No.1 hit. It was also used in the Beatles’ second film Help! and was a part of the film’s soundtrack.

375787-large5/23- On this day in 1970, Paul McCartney‘s debut solo album McCartney began a three-week run atop the US album chart. Apart from a few vocal contributions by Linda McCartney, McCartney performed and recorded the entire album as a solo project.

101405-large5/24- On this day in 1974, jazz legend, bandleader, composer and pianist Duke Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia at age 75. Ellington’s career spanned over 50 years; he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1966, and the United States Mint launched a new coin featuring his face in 2009.

32093-large5/25– On this day in 1968, Simon and Garfunkel‘s fourth studio album Bookends became the duo’s second US No.1 hit. The album was a breakthrough for the pair, launching them to superstar status. It contained their No.1 hit single “Mrs. Robinson”, which went on to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

12589-large5/26- On this day in 1990, the top five positions on the US singles chart were held by female artists for the first time. Madonna was at No.1 with “Vogue”, members of Heart were at No.2, Sinead O’Connor at No.3, Wilson Phillips at No.4, and Janet Jackson at No. 5.

114141-large5/27- On this day in 1977, The Sex Pistols‘ single “God Save the Queen” was released in the United Kingdom. Although the track sold over 200,000 copies in one week and peaked at No.2 on the UK charts, it was banned by TV, radio, and stores because of its controversial lyrics.

Pick up these pieces of music history in our CD marketplace! Every album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, and lossless formats FLAC and ALAC. :-)

This Week in Music History (May 15th-21st)

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

Rolling Stones - Black and Blue5/15- On this day in 1976, The Rolling Stones hit No.1 on the US album chart with Black and Blue. The album was the band’s sixth No. 1 hit, and its first featuring Ronnie Wood as the replacement for guitarist Mick Taylor.

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds5/16- On this day in 1966, The Beach Boys released their now-iconic eleventh studio album Pet SoundsThe album is considered their masterpiece and one of the most influential records ever released. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it No.2 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

7872-large5/17- On this day in 1975, Elton John released his ninth studio album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. It became the first album to debut at No.1 on the US pop charts, and stayed there for seven weeks. It was eventually certified 3x platinum.

5820-large5/18- On this day in 2011, John Lennon‘s handwritten lyrics for The Beatles‘ 1967 hit “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” sold for $237,132 at auction in Beverly Hills, California. Although popular speculation held that the song was written about drug LSD, Lennon insisted that the song was inspired by a picture Lennon’s son Julian had drawn of a classmate named Lucy Vodden.

11051-large5/19- On this day in 1973, Stevie Wonder went to No. 1 on the US singles chart with his track “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. The song, which was his third US No.1, won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

5943-large5/20- On this day in 1966, John Entwistle and Keith Moon of The Who were running late to a gig and unable to arrive at the venue on time. Bandmates Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey enlisted the help of a bass player and drummer from a local band in order to play the set. The replacements played until Entwistle and Moon arrived in the middle of the set.

12936-large5/21- On this day in 2011, Adele reached No.1 on the US singles chart with “Rolling in the Deep” from 21, her second studio album. The song was the Billboard Year End Hot 100 Number One Single of 2011 and received three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video. 

Find these music history gems in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (May 7th-13th)

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

The Mamas and the Papas5/7- On this day in 1966, The Mamas and the Papas began a three-week run atop the US singles chart with “Monday Monday”. The group won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for this song.

The Beatles - Past Masters5/8- On this day in 1964, The Beatles began a 14-week run on top of the US singles chart. The reign was a result of three back-to-back No. 1 hits, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (on top for seven weeks), “She Loves You” (on top for two weeks), and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (on top for five weeks).

Louis Armstrong - Hello Dolly5/9- On this day in 1964, Louis Armstrong hit No. 1 on the US singles chart with “Hello, Dolly”, making him, at 62, the oldest artist to ever hit No. 1. This record was broken in 2011, when Tony Bennett topped the charts at 85 with his album Duets II.

12646-large5/10– On this day in 1965, The Rolling Stones recorded the first version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at Chess Studios in Chicago. Although the original track featured Brian Jones on harmonica, a re-recording completed two days later in Hollywood contained a different beat.

365913-large5/11- On this day in 1981, Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley died at age 36 after melanoma spread to his lungs and brain. His birthday, February 6th, was proclaimed a national holiday in Jamaica to commemorate him, and his compilation album, Legend, became the best-selling reggae album of all time.

46-large5/12- On this day in 1973, Led Zeppelin began a three-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart with Houses of the Holythe band’s fifth album. The group’s third No. 1 album, it went on to spend 39 weeks on the US chart.

12921-large5/13- On this day in 1970, the world premiere of The Beatles‘ film “Let it Be” took place in New York City. The film, a documentary about the band’s experiences recording and rehearsing songs for the album Let it Be, features a rooftop performance by the Fab Four.

You can own these and other pieces of music history by hitting up our CD marketplace! Each album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (April 9th-15th)

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

4/9- On this day in 1977, ABBA scored its first US No. 1 hit on the Billboard singles chart with “Dancing Queen”. The song was the group’s 7th US Top 40 hit, and would also hit No. 1 in 13 other countries. 

4/10- On this day in 1956, Nat King Cole was attacked onstage while performing a show at the Municipal Hall in Birmingham, Alabama. The attackers were five racial segregationists looking to make a political statement. The group was arrested, and Cole returned to the stage later that night for a second show.

4/11- On this day in 1994, Oasis released their first single, “Supersonic”. Although the track peaked at No. 11 on the charts, it eventually sold over 215,000 copies, making it the band’s 13th highest-selling single.

4/12- On this day in 1954, Bill Haley recorded “Rock Around the Clock” at Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The song, which went on to become a worldwide No. 1 hit, is widely considered to be the track that began rock and roll’s rise to fame.

4/13- On this day in 1967, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra were No. 1 on the singles chart with “Somethin’ Stupid”, making them the only father and daughter team in history to have a No. 1 single. The song was originally written and recorded by folk singer C. Carson Parks.

4/14- On this day in 1969, Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Lennon performed lead vocals and guitar, with McCartney on bass, drums and piano. After the song was released, many radio stations banned it because of its controversial lyrics.

4/15- On this day in 1972, Roberta Flack began a six-week run at No. 1 on the US singles chart with “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”. The song, written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me. 

Oh, so you wanna own these gems, and hear them in lossless format? Check out our CD marketplace where you can stream (mp3, FLAC) and download in your favorite format (mp3, acc, FLAC, and ALAC)!

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).

Grammy Recap: Top 10 Moments

Didn’t get a chance to watch all of the Grammys? No problem! In case you feel like recapping the highs and lows, I’ve compiled the 10 don’t-miss moments. Check ‘em out!

1. 34 Couples Getting Married—By Queen Latifah!

As Rap Album of the Year winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their song “Same Love”, Queen Latifah officiated the marriages of 34 couples.

2. Kendrick Lamar Duet with Imagine Dragons

Rap Album of the Year nominee Kendrick Lamar came together with rock group Imagine Dragons for a performance that created a truly epic fusion of electronic rock and hip-hop.

3. Beyonce and Jay-Z Leave the Audience “Drunk in Love”

The ultimate power couple put on the duet of the night—Hov and B’s version of “Drunk In Love” heated up the room and cemented their status as music’s golden duo.

4. Taylor Swift’s Surprise Letdown

Taylor Swift wore an overjoyed expression when she thought she had won Album of the Year—until she realized Daft Punk was actually being announced as the winner.

5. Yoko Ono Dancing

The late John Lennon’s former wife proved she could bust a move, dancing through Ringo Starr’s “Photograph” and Paul McCartney’s “Queenie Eye”.

6. Pink the Acrobat

Singer Pink showed off her Cirque de Soleil-esque acrobatic ability while her song “Try” played.

7. Pharrell Williams Communicates with Robots

Williams gave an acceptance speech on behalf of Daft Punk, who hid inside their famous helmets after winning the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Grammy.

8. Taylor Swift’s Awkward Dance Moves

During rapper Kendrick’s Lamar’s performance of “M.A.A.A.d City”, Swift jammed out hard. The quality of her dance moves, however? You decide.

9. Macklemore’s Humblebrag

After winning Rap Album of the Year, Macklemore texted fellow nominee Kendrick Lamar to apologize for “robbing” him of the award. He then posted a screenshot of the conversation on Instagram.

10. Led Zeppelin Wins its First Grammy

Although Led Zeppelin has already been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the band was yet to win a statue. This year, however, it earned its first Grammy Award for Best Rock Album with “Celebration Day”.

Do you have any other top Grammy moments to add to this list? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to check out our collection of albums by 2014 Grammy nominees on Murfie.