There’s no question that the Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time. In fact, few people would argue that they are the best artist in the history of music, in any genre, period. They were only around for a few years, but what a few years they were! The Beatles’ influence is so strong that it can be felt in the sound of every single band or artists to have come to prominence in the past half a century. They gave us 23 studio albums in just ten years of producing music. Here are all of those albums, ranked from worst to best.
25. The Beatles’ Story
This album isn’t even really an album. It’s definitely the most unusual entry in the Beatles’ discography. It’s a bizarre format – supposedly a documentary album that tells the story of how the Beatles started out and what led them to becoming the biggest band in the world. Some not so wise producers put this strange piece of work together in order to cash in on the Beatlemania craze, which was reaching its peak at this point. The Beatles barely had any involvement – it’s just interviews and press conferences and live performances and original recordings all mashed together to make an easy buck.
24. The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally
The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally was the band’s final studio album to be released exclusively in the Canadian market, but four of its track had already been released in Canada before on the album Beatlemania! With the Beatles. Still, if you take it as an album on its own and not as a mish-mash of earlier albums and releases, there are some gems to behold here, like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and the Beatles’ cover of their idol Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” But there are also a lot of weak spots that detract from that.
23. Introducing…the Beatles
You can barely find a copy of this album anymore. In fact, there are counterfeit copies available. This was supposed to be the album that – like it says on the tin – introduced the Beatles to an American audience. The distribution company was marred with legal troubles as a court of law banned them from selling units of the album, so they reworked the album and looked for loopholes and tried to release it again, but again, it failed. It’s sad, because there’s a lot of great tracks on the album. By the time they figured out the legalities of this one, the Beatles had already been introduced to America with Meet the Beatles.
22. Yellow Submarine
As the soundtrack album for the surreal animated film of the same name, Yellow Submarine is one of the strangest Beatles albums of all time. All of their weird and little known stuff is on there. There are glimmers of greatness in the form of the likes of the title track and “All You Need is Love,” but those tracks had been previously released on other albums, so there was really no need to actually go out and buy this album. Still, if you’re a fan of the animated movie, which a lot of Beatles fans are, then there is some merit to it.
21. The Early Beatles
This album is more or less the same album as Introducing…the Beatles, which Vee-Jay tried to release in order to bring the Beatles’ music to an American audience before getting swept up in legal troubles and being banned from distributing the album. Capitol Records eventually became the American label for the Beatles and ended up releasing the Vee-Jay tracks as the band’s eighth American-released album. The Early Beatles has all the same tracks as Introducing…the Beatles, which was going to be released at the time when the Beatles were just starting out and their music was more simplistic. By the time The Early Beatles was released, the band had evolved and the fans were used to a different style. You couldn’t just drop it in like that.
20. Beatles VI
This album is more or less just a compilation of earlier material that was released in the British market, but for the American and Canadian markets. However, it does feature two tracks that John Lennon recorded specifically for the American listeners. He covered the Larry Williams songs “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Bad Boy” (and, funnily enough, recorded both covers on Williams’ birthday, May 10). So, this album stands out for being the only time that the Beatles created songs just for their American audiences. But other than that, it is just previously released tracks hashed together for the overseas crowd.
19. The White Album
The Beatles’ ninth studio album is actually self-titled, but everyone just calls it The White Album. While there are some quite interesting sounds and lyrics on this album – particularly some of the more satirical and political stuff – it was marred by Yoko Ono being around for the sessions and sticking her nose in. John was changing under her influence, so much that he let her screw up the album. Before then, the band had a policy whereby wives and girlfriends weren’t allowed to play a hand in their music. Sadly, with Yoko around, this was the beginning of the end.
18. Yesterday and Today
This album is best remembered for its original album cover, which became known as “the butcher cover” and was controversial for being so darn graphic – it had the Fab Four dressed as butchers, covered in dismembered baby dolls and blood and meat. What the hell was that photographer thinking? But the album itself has some great tracks on it, all the dream-like, surreal stuff: “Dr. Robert,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing” etc. Plus, it has the most covered song of all time, “Yesterday.” It’s just another American album that’s made up of the biggest hits from the British albums, but surely if we’re left with all the best stuff, that’s a good thing.
17. With the Beatles
The Beatles’ second album suffers from the sophomore slump, as it is called, when the second album fails to live up to the first one. The Beatles’ first album had all the best stuff they’d been working on while they tried to get a record deal on it, so the second album found them high and dry, having to come up with new stuff. They gave George Harrison his first opportunity to have an original composition on a Beatles album with “Don’t Bother Me.” It’s not the band’s best album, but as second albums go, it’s frankly not half bad.
16. The Beatles’ Second Album
There’s a long standing theory that bands always suffer from a second album syndrome where their second album fails to live up to the first one, because the expectation is so high to match it. But that’s not the case with The Beatles’ Second Album, because despite what it says on the tin, it’s not actually their second album. The title refers to it being their second album released in America, and due to legal troubles with various different record labels, that’s not even true. It was the second one to be released in America completely legally, after the huge demand for more from the popularity of their first, Meet the Beatles. This one has a lot of early lyrical work from George Harrison writing with the dream team of Lennon–McCartney.
15. Beatles for Sale
This fourth album was recorded right at the height of the Beatles’ fame. They were the biggest celebrities in the world – their cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” from this album even topped the charts in Australia! They were covering all the rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers in this one: Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly. According to their producer George Martin, the band members were exhausted during the recording of this album, which was their fourth recorded in less than two years. It shows, but only in the album’s content, with songs like “Eight Days a Week” in the track listing – the Beatles are still on fire as always.
14. Something New
After a couple of Capitol Records hits and a very successful movie release, the fan base of the Beatles in America was huge. So, rather than just keep rehashing their earlier British releases and compiling them into albums to release in America, the band decided to properly serve their fans with a tour of the United States and an album that would offer, as the title suggests, “something new.” It wasn’t a total failure, but at the end of the day, this is a British band that hit it big in America – they shouldn’t have tried to tailor any of their stuff to an American audience, because that’s not who they are.
13. Meet the Beatles
This was the album that introduced the Beatles to an American audience and made them mega stars across the world. There was a previous attempt to do this by another record label with an album called Introducing…the Beatles, but that label was swamped in legal troubles and couldn’t actually get it released in time to introduce the Beatles – instead, Meet the Beatles from a different label had beaten them to it. With all of those legal issues cleared up, the Beatles were free to release all their best stuff up to that point into the American market, including “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
12. Twist and Shout
The Beatles’ first studio album to be released exclusively in Canada is very similar to their UK debut album, Please Please Me, but with some significant omissions. It was not wise to remove “I Saw Her Standing There,” which made for a strong opening track on the original UK version, or “Misery,” which was the first Beatles song to be covered by another artist. But luckily, they left hits like “She Loves You” (which wasn’t on the original) and, of course, “Twist and Shout,” and it is more or less Please Please Me, which is a great album, making this a great album.
11. Beatles ‘65
Throughout their short, yet influential fun, the Beatles became one of the earliest forerunners of the concept album, and Beatles ‘65 was the first one. This was the first time in their history that the album couldn’t just be thrown together with all their latest material in any old order. This album was the whole piece, from start to finish. It wasn’t just a collection of songs – this was, as Rolling Stone put it, “a musical whole.” It was so successful that record labels copied its title for their other 1965 releases, so there was Frank Sinatra’s Sinatra ‘65 and Duke Ellington’s Ellington ‘65.
10. Let It Be
There’s something poignant about the listening experience of Let It Be, because it has some of the band’s most touching and tragic songs in its track listing – like the title track “Let It Be” about Paul McCartney’s mother and “Across the Universe,” which scientists have beamed into deep space to be heard by aliens as their first experience of what the human race is capable of – and it would be the band’s last album that they ever recorded together. In fact, they had officially broken up by the time the album was released. They picked a beautiful note to end on.
9. Abbey Road
In Abbey Road, we see the Beatles on their way out. Every band member was pushing in a different direction, tearing the group apart, which is what made that album cover with the four guys crossing the road, all walking in the same direction, so darn poignant. George Harrison was developing his talents as a songwriter and made some of his finest lyrical contributions to the band with “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” But this was the last time that all the band members were in the recording studio at the same time, so there is something very important and yet inorganic about it.
8. Rubber Soul
The Beatles played around with the soul genre in Rubber Soul, which they took from the derogatory term “plastic soul” that people were using to describe soul music that was played by British musicians, and it was an early example of them treating albums as the artworks – as in, the songs made up an album and the album could be seen as a complete work. This inspired contemporary musicians to start focusing on creating albums full of terrific songs, rather than doing a couple of great songs and releasing them as singles, then padding them out with crap into album length.
7. Hey Jude
Considering that this was one of the band’s last albums and it was long after Yoko Ono had stuck her claws into John Lennon, it doesn’t have any right to be as great as it is. Despite the fact that there’s a track on there called “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” this album marked a nice change from Yoko’s meddling in The White Album, when she broke the band’s rule about wives and girlfriends, by simply being a compilation of all the old singles that were never released on an album before. This album has its title track “Hey Jude,” one of the band’s greatest all time songs, which Paul McCartney wrote to cheer up John Lennon’s son when John was going through a bitter divorce, as well as beautiful, melancholic songs like “Don’t Let Me Down,” which didn’t make the cut for Let It Be, and the classic “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
6. Magical Mystery Tour
In the later days of their run, the Beatles moved from straight pop and rock music to push both of those styles right to the edge of all the other genres in the musical spectrum. In their experimentation, they landed mostly in the territories of trippy, surreal, dream-like sounds and it created some of the most unique and brilliant and revolutionary music of the time. Magical Mystery Tour is no different, featuring such unusual gems as “I Am the Walrus” and “All You Need is Love” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It was a great late album in the Beatles’ run.
5. Please Please Me
As the Beatles’ debut album, this album is one of the most important in the history of music. Believe it or not, the Beatles essentially came up with the concept of a rock band who wrote all their own songs and played all their own instruments. When they started that, it was a novel idea, and it was so great that it changed the face of rock forever. This is the album that introduced the world to that idea. When Rolling Stone magazine ranked the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, they gave Please Please Me the number 39 spot on the list. It’s a hugely influential album.
4. A Hard Day’s Night
It seems that third time’s the charm as the Beatles’ third studio album, A Hard Day’s Night, is the one that finally found them success in the United States. It made the U.S. market want more British rock bands, which is how the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks and the Animals also found success there. The album was also hugely influential in the folk rock movement of the 1960s, as folk bands were moving into rock ‘n’ roll territory, having been inspired by the folky electric guitar stylings of George Harrison. This album is the soundtrack to the film of the same name, which is a great movie, and it contains such classic tracks as “Can’t Buy Me Love” and, of course, “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Considering it was written as a soundtrack album for a film, Help! is actually surprisingly poignant. The title track is taken as a banging rock ‘n’ roll tune, but it was actually written by John Lennon as a sincere cry for help. He was feeling burned out and unsure of himself and the pressures of that sheer level of fame and expectation were killing him. Plus, the album is rammed with classic tracks: “Yesterday,” “The Night Before,” “Ticket to Ride,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and “You Like Me Too Much.” There’s so much to love in this album, it’s phenomenal.
2. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
There’s no doubt that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has the greatest album cover of all time, so it already has that going for it before you even get the record out of the sleeve. Everything beyond that album cover is pretty much just gravy. But then you start listening to it and holy cow, it’s one of the most mind-blowing, unique, powerful, and impressive albums ever created. It encapsulates the culture of the ‘60s (when it was recorded) and it’s utterly postmodern in its blending of pop music and higher art. Once again, Sgt. Pepper sees the Beatles toying around with experimental sounds, and once again, those experiments worked. It has Indian musical influences and avant garde styles and classical vaudeville music and marching band type stuff. With everything from “A Day in the Life” to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” it’s a heck of an album.
A lot of passive fans might argue that Sgt. Pepper is the Beatles’ greatest album, but make no mistake. It’s Revolver. They did a lot of albums and Revolver is, without a doubt, the best one. The rock ‘n’ roll community has long considered Revolver to be the Beatles’ finest album. It laid down the foundations for the Britpop movement and made huge strides in the musical stylings of electronica and psychedelic rock and prog rock. The band laid down a very basic manifesto for the sound technicians that made a world of difference: “every instrument should sound unlike itself: a piano shouldn’t sound like a piano, a guitar shouldn’t sound like a guitar.” It’s an album that’s full of brand new sounds that still feel fresh decades later. The tracks on Revolver are timeless. It has “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “And Your Bird Can Sing” – it’s the best!