Songs To Learn and Sing Hall of Fame #1: The Beatles

by George_East on November 20, 2013

BeatlesWith Ray North’s Allthatsleft 3rd birthday posting of Revolution The Beatles became the first artist to have had 10 songs posted in our Songs To Learn and Sing feature.  As a result they are our first esteemed entrants in the  Songs To Learn and Sing Hall of Fame.

It is not, I guess, surprising that it would be The Beatles who would be the first to reach ten songs, they are, after all, the biggest and most consistently creative band that the world of popular music has ever seen.  They also had the good sense to split up at their peak (see also those other Allthatsleft favourites The Clash and The Smiths) rather than turn into slightly embarrassing corporate behemoths like, say, The Rolling Stones.

The continued resonance of The Beatles given that their first album, Please Please Me, was released more than 50 years ago, is extraordinary.   They are the most collected, most written about, most compared to band there has ever been.   Both Mojo and Uncut will regularly feature The Beatles (either collectively or individually) on their covers, usually supported by the most spurious of ‘new’ stories for the simple reason that when they do, sales of the magazines increase dramatically.

The total number of Beatles’ albums sold world wide is a staggering 2.3 billion.  Yes, that is 2,300,000,000.    They had 17 British number 1s and 21 American number 1s.

A mint condition of the first mono pressing of Please Please Me (with the black and gold label) will sell for more than £1,000.  The first pressing of The White Album with the 4 postcards and poster that came with it could be worth nearer £10,000 if you have an early numbered copy.

There appears still to be an insatiable appetite for all things Fab Four.

Their cultural dominance I think can be explained by the fact that they touched all bases.  They were a mop topped band of pretty boys for teenage girls.  They were intellectual experimentalists.  They were the ultimate pop singles band – Paul McCartney’s ear for a melody is still unmatched.  Yet they also were the progenitors of the serious studio made album – making pop music respectable for the broadsheets.     They were musically revolutionary and politically interesting.   With A Hard Day’s Night they changed forever the use of popular music in film.    With their cover art they produced some of the most iconic images of the post-War period

The early years with the gradual transition from mostly covers of rock n roll classics by artists like Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins to the increasingly self-penned work – would result in some of the most perfect pop songs ever created.   If the Beatles had split up after Help! In 1965 they would still have etched their place in the very top echelon of the popular music hierarchy.

Yet it was the transatlantic musical conversation between the Beach Boys and the Beatles that would see Rubber Soul beget Pet Sounds beget Revolver and which resulted in a complete change in what was seen as possible in popular music.  The studio became a place of creativity rather than a place to capture the live sounds of a band.  It was the equivalent of the editing suite in film production.

This extraordinarily creative period from 1965-66 changed things the way in which popular music would be viewed and who it would be marketed to.  No longer the province of pubescent screaming teenagers, not only had The Beatles become a different kind of band but popular music had become a different kind of art form.  1965 might be the last year when the single was the predominant form (though a case can be made for 1977-82) and the album would from 1966 begin its dominance.

In their later years they would continue to push back the boundaries of what was possible with the album:  the psychedelic musical hall concept album that was  Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, the disparate individual genius that was on display on The Beatles (AKA The White Album) and the wonderful swan song that is Abbey Road (I think the world can probably forgive them the stodgy misfire that was Let It Be).

The Beatles were also almost unfathomably prolific.  There were no 5 year breaks between albums which so many big bands routinely have these days.  They released 12 full studio albums (including one double), the Magical Mystery Tour double EP and a whole bunch of singles that were not on albums, in a mere 7 years.

The first 10 Beatles’ songs to appear in Songs to Learn and Sing in their order of appearance are:

  1. #23: 1969, Come Together;
  2. #134: 1969, Something;
  3. #178: 1965, Drive My Car;
  4. #234: 1964, I Feel Fine;
  5. #395: 1965, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown);
  6. #407: 1969, Here Comes The Sun;
  7. #439: 1967, A Day In The Life;
  8. #487: 1969, Get Back;
  9. #591: 1969, The Ballad Of John and Yoko;
  10. #799: 1968, Revolution.

So, that’s 3 songs from Abbey Road, 2 songs from Rubber Soul, 1 from Sgt Pepper,1 from The Beatles, 1 from Let It Be and 2 that were just singles.   Nothing from Revolver yet which is pretty astounding.  We’ve also had one solo song by each of John Lennon and George Harrison.

For what it is worth, my top 5 Beatles’ tracks:

  1. Paperback Writer;
  2. A Day In the Life;
  3. Tomorrow Never Knows;
  4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps;
  5. A Hard Day’s Night

And my top 5 Beatles’ albums:

  1. Revolver;
  2. Rubber Soul;
  3. A Hard Day’s Night;
  4. Abbey Road;
  5. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.




{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray_North November 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

1. Come Together
2. Something
3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
4. I Feel Fine
5. Back In The USSR


1. The White Album
2. Revolver
3. Sgt Pepper
4. A Hard Day’s Night
5. Rubber Soul


Charlie_East_West November 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm

1. Day in the Life
2. Penny Lane
3. Hard Days Night
4. Tomorrow Never Knows
5. I’m Only Sleeping

1. Sgt Pepper
2. Rubber Soul
3. Revolver
4. Abbey Road
5. A Hard Day’s Night


Jackie_South November 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Mine are –

1. Paperback Writer
2. Come Together
3. A Day in the Life
4. Tomorrow Never Knows
5= Twist and Shout; I Am The Walrus (it’s not cheating, honest!)

1. Revolver
2. Abbey Road
3. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
4. Rubber Soul
5. Help!


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