10 Most Underrated Beatles Songs
So you’re a big fan of the Beatles, and you think every single one of their songs is amazing — no need to rate ’em. No argument here, but some Beatles song just don’t get as much as love as others. Everyone’s heard ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Love Me Do,’ but as a recent list of dogs barking in songs reminds us, there are also slept-on gems like ‘Hey Bulldog’ shining from the fringes of the Fab Four’s hallowed discography. What follows are the 10 most underrated Beatles songs — and yes, ‘Hey Bulldog’ definitely made the list.
Tucked away on ‘Yellow Submarine,’ this chunky-riffed number is one of the best Beatles songs nobody’s ever heard of. You can tell the lyrics were mostly written by John Lennon because it has that bizarro ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ or ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ vibe. It sounds like it was conceived of after eating a bunch of blue and red pills. Not that we know what that’d feel like.
‘Two of Us’
‘Let It Be’ is not only the Beatles’ last record — it’s also the one that gets the least amount of respect from the band itself. Lennon was quoted as saying it was ‘s–.’ Harrison referred to the sessions as pressure-packed and uncomfortable. In short, the band was in the process of breaking up. But one of the sweetest moments on the record — the hurricane’s eye, if you will — is ‘Two of Us,’ the duet between John Lennon and Paul McCartney that lands at No. 8 on our list of the most underrated Beatles songs. You can almost hear the sorrow and strain in both of their voices. It’s probably one of the last times the old mates did something beautiful together before the official breakup.
With John Lennon on lead vocals, this nugget from ‘Beatles for Sale’ (1964) — or ‘Beatles ‘65,’ as it was known in the States — is classic playful Beatles, in the vein of ‘P.S. I Love You’ or ‘I Should Have Known Better.’ Lennon’s narrator is trying to get a hold of his girlfriend, who’s apparently not been faithful. There’s something quaint about the story, as you can imagine the modern version: Lennon first tries her on his iPhone, then texts her, “Cum on, luv, WTF?” Then he just gives up. It’s just wouldn’t be the same.
‘It’s Only Love’
Appearing on the U.K. pressing of ‘Help!’ and the U.S. version of ‘Rubber Soul,’ No. 7 on our list of the most underrated Beatles songs was not one of John Lennon’s favorites. Even so, its structure and phrasing are amazing, particularly the way the monosyllabic lyrics in the verse line fall, one by one, out of Lennon’s mouth: “I | get | high | when | I | see | you | go | by … my-oh-my.” What’s also cool is the A-B-A-B rhyme scheme of the chorus (obviously, the A part is repeated, so it’s not exact): “It’s only love and that is all/why should I feel the way I do/It’s only love and that is all/but it’s so hard loving you.” That’s the thing about being an amazing yet self-critical songwriter: So much of what you deem crappy is brilliant to other people.
‘Within You Without You’
Some Beatles fans — those acquainted with the Byrds’ ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ — think of this song as the band’s David Crosby ‘Mind Gardens’ moment. It’s totally not. Go buy some incense, burn a little and lay on your back on the floor and chill the hell out. Then close the shades and shut your eyes. Lastly, take a deep breath and count to 10. Picture a pond, water pitter-pattering softly on the shore. Then put this song on. If you’re not totally feeling it about 30 seconds in, we can’t help you.
‘Her Majesty’ is one of the greatest 23-second-long songs of all time. It might be the only one, in fact. In the same way ‘Maggie Mae’ comes off as a happy little throwaway on ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Her Majesty’ appears and disappears so quickly the listener is left wanting more. Which is such a naughty way to end such a great album.
‘Blue Jay Way’
This is such an odd little song, but it’s oh so right. Written by George Harrison, it’s got a windy sort of melody that doesn’t fit quite right with the chorus — even though it does. Check out the great cover by Tracy Bonham Fine, she of ‘Mother Mother’ fame, to hear a modern take on this oft-forgotten classic, and if you like the original enough to spend 30 minutes listening, spin it 800 percent slower here.
With the exception of ‘Wild Honey Pie,’ ‘Glass Onion’ takes the cake as the weirdest song on the so-called White Album. But it’s strange in a good way, as it subtly pokes fun at Beatles songs like ‘Strawberry Fields,’ ‘I Am the Walrus’ and ‘The Fool on the Hill.’ It’s kind of like when Paul jokingly sings ‘She Loves You’ at the end of ‘All You Need Is Love.’ Only the Beatles could write great songs that make fun of their own earlier great songs.
Guitarists dig this song because it features a chord played by strumming all six strings completely “open,” i.e. without fingering any notes. In that sense, a 3-year-old messing around on dad’s six-string can play it, though young strummers may struggle with the Spanish line near the end of the song.
‘What Goes On’
‘What Goes On,’ which tops our list of the 10 most underrated Beatles songs, was originally released on the U.K. version of ‘Rubber Soul.’ U.S. audiences wouldn’t hear it until ‘Yesterday and Today,’ but it was worth waiting for. Sung by drummer Ringo Starr, it’s supposed to be a light moment on an otherwise heavy album — one that featured stuff like ‘Think for Yourself’ and ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face.’ But what’s cool about it is it’s basically a country-rock song, and arriving in 1966, it was ahead of the country-rock explosion that followed albums like the Byrds’ 1968 classic ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo.’ It was proto-country-rock, however tongue-in-cheek it was meant to be.