The story of The Beatles is truly epic. Not only did they create some of the most popular music in the history of rock 'n' roll, but when Rolling Stone magazine compiled its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, The Beatles beat out everyone else with a whopping 23 songs on the list.
For a week in 1964, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had 12 songs on Billboard's Hot 100, including the number one, two, three, four, and five songs. Nobody before or since has accomplished that feat. The following list is a sampling of the Fab Four's music arsenal with 25 of their biggest hits.
This song, which started the "British invasion," became The Beatles' first number-one tune in the States. It did pretty well elsewhere, too -- it was their all-time best-selling single worldwide.
When this peppy song made its debut in America in September 1963, it didn't get much attention. But it was rereleased in January 1964 after the success of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and this time it spent 15 weeks on U.S. charts, hitting number one on March 21.
The first number one for The Beatles in the U.K., this song didn't make much of a splash in the States, reaching only number 41 upon its second release in 1964. However, across the pond it would mark the first of 11 number-one singles, so they didn't have time to sulk about this tune, written by John and Paul while on a tour bus.
If you've ever rocked out to The Beatles' version of this Isley Brothers tune, you know that John's vocals are scratchy, growly, and decidedly different from other songs by the group.
During the recording session for their album Please, Please Me, John started to lose his voice. Producer George Martin saved the recording for "Twist and Shout" until the very end. By then, John's voice was nearly shot and sounded strained -- in fact, he shouted most of the song.
The classic tune was recorded in one take not just because that was all John had left, but because it was pretty much perfect from the start.
Pressure to create another huge hit after "I Want to Hold Your Hand" didn't phase The Beatles. This tune is one of the first songs ever to start with the chorus. The formula worked like a charm, creating another U.K. and U.S. number one.
This malapropism was uttered by Ringo, who often got American words and phrases mixed up. He was stating that the band had had a hard day, but then realized it was already evening. "A Hard Day's Night" became another number one for the band and served as the title for their documentary released the same year.
This song came out of some downtime between John and Ringo, who were playing with a riff John had come up with while working on "Eight Days a Week." "I Feel Fine" eventually went to number one in every major market. The song featured reverb -- Jimi Hendrix and The Who were using feedback in their concerts at the time, but The Beatles were the first to commit the sound to vinyl.
The title of this song was again based on a Ringo-ism; the drummer claimed that he had worked so hard, he had added another day to the week. Even though the song reached number one in the States, it wasn't a band favorite, and they seldom performed it live.
The meaning behind this song is unclear -- it could be about a prostitute, John getting his driver's license, or a girl walking out the door. Whatever the subject, it's a catchy tune that reached number one in both the U.K. and the U.S.
John would later claim that he penned the lyrics to "Help!" after dealing with the pressures of being part of a group that was, as he so notoriously put it, "bigger than Jesus." He said that he wished the song could've been recorded at a slower tempo, but fans liked it just fine, making it another chart-topper for the band.
This melancholy tune about lost love reportedly came to Paul in a dream, so he worried that he'd unintentionally plagiarized another artist's work. He hadn't, and once he completed the lyrics, he recorded the song in the studio without the other three Beatles. The song reached number one in the United States, but the other band members were initially against its release in the U.K.
One of the Fab Four's fastest-selling singles, this moody Lennon-McCartney collaboration touched a nerve with struggling lovers everywhere. When The Beatles disbanded, this song took on an ironic and ominous overtone for the group that ultimately couldn't work things out.
On the next few pages, you will find even more of The Beatles' singles, including "Day Tripper" and "Lady Madonna."
13. "Day Tripper" (1965)
Though they fervently denied it for 40 years, Paul revealed in a 2005 interview that yes, "Day Tripper" is about drugs. At the time, nobody knew (or they didn't care), and this tune, released along with "We Can Work It Out" shot to number one right away.
This rather disturbing song, written by John about a man whose life is pointless and lonely, turned out to be somewhat autobiographical. Lennon reportedly had to come up with another song for the Rubber Soul album, but after several hours of writing nothing, he gave up. As soon as he did, this song simply came to him. "Nowhere Man" only reached the number-three spot in America.
This number one was penned by Paul after an aunt reportedly told him to write a song that wasn't about a girl. The song clips along at a fast pace and tells the story of an aspiring writer, possibly based on a book Ringo was reading at the time.
Though Paul vehemently denied it, "Yellow Submarine" (the song that later inspired an animated movie of the same name) got a reputation for being about hallucinogenic drug use. Ringo sings lead vocals on this goofy-but-catchy song that hit number one in the U.K. and number two in the States.
This melancholy track further proved to the world that The Beatles were not just a flash in the pan. Paul wrote the lyrics to this song about "all the lonely people," and producer George Martin added a lush string score. It all meshed together to describe the loneliness of old age. It hit the top of the charts in the U.K. but only made it to number 11 on U.S. charts.
Spending several weeks at number one on both the U.K. and U.S. charts, "Hello, Goodbye" was released around Christmastime 1967 and later on the Magical Mystery Tour album.
The cheers and applause that accompany this Ringo-led tune came from earlier recordings of The Beatles' live shows, since they were no longer touring when the song was recorded. The single wasn't a chart-topper, but it has a sweet message and a catchy melody that make it a classic Beatles fan favorite.
Before The Beatles left for India in 1969 (and changed directions musically) they recorded one last song for Parlophone/Capitol before releasing on their own label, Apple Records. "Lady Madonna" was that song, and it hit the top spot in the U.K. and reached number four in the States.
Up next, you'll find the final 5 top singles from The Beatles on our list.
Even though the lyrics don't exactly make sense, even though the song in its original version is more than seven minutes long, and even though it's technically a song about divorce, the song is beloved by many people. Written by Paul for John's son Julian during his parents' divorce, "Hey Jude" stayed at number one on U.S. charts for nine weeks, a record for any Beatles song. Across the pond, the full-length version of the song peaked at number one for two weeks.
Originally written for Timothy Leary's short-lived gubernatorial campaign, "Come Together" was released on the Abbey Road album in 1969. The song was also the subject of a lawsuit by Chuck Berry's music publisher, who claimed that a line from one of Berry's songs had been stolen for use in The Beatles' tune. The suit was settled out of court. The song reached number one in the States and number four in the U.K.
The last song on the Let It Be album, this hard-driving rock tune tells the listener to "get back to where you once belonged." Since The Beatles did not release any more records together after Let It Be, this song was the end of the line, period. The single reached number one around the world and was the first Beatles' tune to credit a fifth musician, Billy Preston on keyboards.
The Let It Be album, released in 1970 shortly after the band officially broke up, was the Fab Four's swan song. This single was a huge hit around the world, reaching number one in America and number two in the U.K. Paul was inspired to write it following a dream he had of his mother (Mary), who died when he was 14. The song's theme of surrendering and letting go touched a chord with millions of fans. "Let It Be" is often played at funerals, due to its hopeful, farewell message.
This sad song about unrequited love, also released after The Beatles disbanded, would prove to be the group's last number-one song in the United States. Paul reportedly wrote the song during a time when tensions were mounting among the band members.
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