The Beatles are arguably the most overrated, underrated, and accurately rated band of all time. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that most people living in the world have heard at least one of their songs – their collection of number-one singles was the most successful album of the first decade of the 2000s, after all!
But to better understand what makes the four-piece and company legendary, one must dig deep into their discography, and sift past the obvious hits to gleam the whole picture. That’s why this guide is digging into each of the eleven official studio albums by the Fab Four.
Sit back, get stoned if that’s your thing. And you may want to put on your favorite album by the Liverpudlians for maximum effect. It’s going to be quite the journey!
- Please Please Me
- With The Beatles
- A Hard Day’s Night
- Beatles for Sale
- Rubber Soul
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Magical Mystery Tour
- The Beatles (The White Album)
- Yellow Submarine
- Abbey Road
- Let It Be
Please Please Me
Released: March 22, 1963
After two successful singles on the charts, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me,” which appear on the album, the Liverpool band that had spent the last two years gigging in Hamburg, Germany – earning their feet, so to speak – stopped into EMI to make an album. What ensued would change the course of history forever.
All 14 tracks from Please Please Me –– eight of which were original Lennon-McCartney compositions during an era where bands performing original material was unheard of at the time — got recorded in a single day. While many people today, about sixty years removed, might not look at this first album by the legendary Fab Four and think of it as extraordinary, know this. The songs represented the best that skiffle music sounded, captured hair-raising three-part harmonies and compositions, and revolutionized a new direction for bands of all stripes.
Perhaps one of the most enduring aspects of this album is how it began a fruitful journey that would forever change how music was made, enjoyed, and discussed. First and foremost, the production on the album cannot get understated. George Martin’s drive to produce the best-sounding album with the help of some keen engineers dressed in lab coats resulted in production techniques that would only become further developed as the band continued. And many of those techniques are still used today. One could argue that Martin’s presence during the session was integral to the band’s success – it also established precedence for bands having a genuinely significant artistic relationship with their producer.
Many of the songs on this album are widely known, but the deeper cuts are where the band shines. Songs like “Anna (Go to Him),” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” and “Baby It’s You” may not be the band’s most widely requested tunes, but darn it if they don’t kick butt.
- “I Saw Her Standing There”
- “Twist and Shout”
- “Love Me Do”
- “Please Please Me”
- “P.S. I Love You”
With the Beatles
Released: November 22, 1963
With the Beatles is an album that became widely celebrated for its improved production, songwriting, and performances. Essentially, it took everything that Please Please Me did, and did it better. However, due to a hectic touring schedule, the band stuck to the formula of their first album – 14 songs, eight of which were original compositions, with six cover songs.
Still, “All My Loving” is one of the best early Beatles tracks, and any Beatles fan will find a mountain of joy in the original tracks that made it onto the record. Cover songs, like with the previous debut, still played an important role in both the band’s live performances and their classic follow-up record.
This album saw George Harrison release his first original composition, entitled “Don’t Bother Me,” which cemented his status as The Quiet Beatle (since everybody seemingly had to compartmentalize the four guys into singular-focused base personality components). It might not be his most famous song, but it might be his most important, as it opened a world of new opportunities for both himself and the band.
- “All My Loving”
- “It Won’t Be Long”
- “Please Mr. Postman”
- “Roll Over Beethoven”
- “Don’t Bother Me”
A Hard Day’s Night
Released: July 10, 1964
A Hard Day’s Night is easily the most significant early Beatles record, though most critics and fans still fail to see that. Here are six reasons why it stands alone in the legendary Beatles discography, especially the band’s early years.
- It coincided with the first Beatles film.
- It was the first album with only original compositions (all are fire and introduced increased complexity).
- It popularized the 12-string guitar on a massive scale, which would prove pivotal to the rise of folk-rock music.
- It provided one of the most iconic album artworks.
- It established one of the catchiest and most famous malapropisms (coined by the one and only Ringo Starr).
- It pushed recording techniques further.
The movie itself saw entire movie theaters explode with dancing whenever any of the tunes came on – and in retrospect, these segments represented some of the earliest examples of music videos. And aside from the songs, the film was genuinely excellent and demonstrated the band could act – especially Ringo. That was a feat that the band and co. would attempt to re-create but never quite did (in quality, that is – every Beatles film was still culturally significant in its time).
But enough about the film and its relevance. The album is genuinely breathtaking, featuring hit after hit, especially in the first half. But the second side of the album is just as impressive, though it leaned more into the obscure.
For example, the last song on the album, “I’ll Be Back,” features two DIFFERENT bridge sections. Yes, you read that right. And that’s pretty incredible because, just one year earlier, they had begun revolutionizing popular songwriting with one subtle technique: repeat the bridge section twice, much like a chorus, to give the song a bit more life and variety. “I’ll Be Back” throws two separate bridge sections at the listener, in addition to the verse and chorus sections, to keep them on their toes. It’s just one of several reasons A Hard Day’s Night was truly ahead of its time.
- “A Hard Day’s Night”
- “Can’t Buy Me Love”
- “And I Love Her”
- “If I Fell”
- “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You”
- “I Should Have Known Better”
Beatles for Sale
Released: December 4, 1964
Beatles for Sale is a commonly overlooked early Beatles album, the last before their midpoint. And it’s easy to see why it remains in relative Beatles obscurity. For one, it was released the same year as A Hard Day’s Night. But the truth is the album saw a slight drop in quality in some ways, arguably because of the inclusion of cover songs. But the cover songs were necessary given the air-tight touring and recording schedule the band was on, and it would surely influence the decision to step away from touring altogether a few years later.
Still, Beatles for Sale has some undeniable smash hits that you must check out. The obvious winner of the bunch is “Eight Days a Week,” which you have likely heard. But at the time, the cover of “Mr. Moonlight” was among the most popular songs on the record. If you’re a Beatles fan, you will surely get something out of both of those tracks.
But the best songs are arguably the deep cuts – the original compositions that hardly anyone knows. For example, “What You’re Doing” has one of the best Beatles riffs and is an effortlessly catchy song with a style that foreshadows the sonic and lyrical textures that would get explored on Rubber Soul, especially by Paul. Not to mention, the instrumental interlude section is ambient garage rock bliss. And then there are the tracks “No Reply,” “I’m a Loser,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” “Every Little Thing,” and “I’ll Follow the Sun” – do not sleep on them!
- “Eight Days a Week”
- “No Reply”
- “I’m a Loser”
- “Mr. Moonlight”
- “Every Little Thing”
- “I’ll Follow the Sun”
- “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”
Released: August 5, 1965
Help! was everything A Hard Day’s Night sought out to accomplish and then some. While some moments might be slightly more forgettable, the highs on this record are undeniably mountainous – see “Help!,” “Yesterday,” and “Ticket to Ride.” Each of those songs cemented the band’s exploration of more introspective folk-rock textures combined with the group’s iconic three-part harmonies, excellent guitar riffs, solos, chord progressions, and innovative approaches to the utilized recording techniques.
Sure, the album coincided with the second Beatles film, filmed in color, unlike the black and white A Hard Day’s Night. The script is not as good and is arguably quite racist in its anti-Indian premise – which contradicted the band’s exploration of Indian music via George Harrison – though, on the surface, it aims to be far more ambitious in its narrative. Still, the music video segments are stunning, and the record that people took home to enjoy did not disappoint.
Ultimately, Help! represented the beginning of the midpoint of the Beatles’ career and the first installment of a stunning trilogy of albums, ending with Revolver. The deep cuts like “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “It’s Only Love,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” will surely impress anyone who has never heard them.
- “Ticket to Ride”
- “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
- “I Need You”
- “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”
- “Act Naturally”
- “I’ve Just Seen a Face”
Released: December 3, 1965
Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)
Rubber Soul is the definitive midpoint Beatles album because it represents one of the most mind-blowing sequences of songs in an album format ever. Indeed, it revolutionized the concept of an album as we know it today, wherein every tune is essentially a potential hit – all killer, no filler. If it weren’t for Rubber Soul, there would be no Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, and in turn, there would be no Sgt. Pepper. But significance aside, nothing can compare to the sheer amount of fun captured on these tracks. Each moment – aside from the last song (which is arguably the band’s worst and should never have gotten included in the final product) – is pure folk-rock meets sophisticated pop music bliss.
Here, we can see the foundation for the psychedelic folk-rock sound of the Summer of Love era, especially in tracks like “The Word” and “Nowhere Man.” Further, little known is that “Michelle” was the only Beatles song ever awarded a Grammy back in the day! The tune originated from what was essentially a comedic party bit Paul McCartney would perform, wherein he would play these chords and make stuff up in French to entertain his friends at late-night gatherings.
“In My Life” might be the most enduring song on the record, given its sheer level of relatability. But from a production standpoint, the sped-up classical piano solo performed by George Martin (a technique first used on the guitar solo for “A Hard Day’s Night”) showcased a mature forward-thinking sensibility. Both aspects make this tune easily the most non-self-indulgent introspective Beatles song, period.
- “In My Life”
- “Drive My Car”
- “Nowhere Man”
- “Norweigan Wood”
- “If I Needed Someone”
Released: August 5, 1966
Revolver as an album might not seem as exciting as Sgt. Pepper in the grand scheme of Beatles lore, though the cover art impressed us all and continues to do so. There were 14 songs, and each one was better than the last, much like with the almost perfect Rubber Soul. Thankfully, this time around, the band opted to avoid including songs with lyrical content like the dismal “Run for Your Life.”
Indeed, Revolver feels edgier but in a more mature and contemplative way. Case in point: this time, the album’s closer was their strongest to date – “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which still stands alone as an epic outro with hands-down revolutionary recording concepts like backward guitar and outstanding vocal, lyrical, and drum performances. Sure, it may have gotten overshadowed by “A Day in the Life” on the next record, but it still holds a standalone space in our hearts.
Fun fact about the album’s cover art: Klaus Voorman, an old friend from the band’s 1960-62 Hamburg phase, drew it. The artist eventually recorded bass guitar for three solo Beatle careers. You guessed it: control freak Paul was not one of those collaborators.
And you could even say that this was the starting point of McCartney’s perfectionism. Look at his main contributions “Eleanor Rigby” and “Here, There and Everywhere,” his deeper cuts “Good Day Sunshine,” “Lovely Rita,” and his guitar soloing contributions on “Taxman.” He demonstrated he knew what he was going for and had paid attention to George Martin for the past three years. Plus, his bass playing only got more expressive and explorative, amplified by the increased bass guitar in the mix, thanks to the behest of McCartney’s insistence that the band had to follow the bread crumbs of American Soul and Rhythm and Blues bands.
George’s guitar and backup vocals got excellently displayed in the impressive “She Said She Said” by Lennon. And the Quiet Beatle also has an engaging shared dual harmony lead guitar phrase with Paul McCartney in a rare three-part guitar harmony (mirrored by a blissful three-part vocal harmony) featured on “And Your Bird Can Sing.” That last track is catchy and warm sounding yet lyrically and emotionally complex, and it even became the theme song for The Beatles cartoon at the time.
- “Yellow Submarine”
- “Eleanor Rigby”
- “Here, There and Everywhere”
- “Tomorrow Never Knows”
- “Good Day Sunshine”
- “She Said She Said”
- “And Your Bird Can Sing”
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released: May 26, 1967
What hasn’t been said already about the band’s most iconic album? It supplied the soundtrack to generations of acid trips, most of which went alright until “A Day in the Life.” That is the album’s closer, the band’s best closer, and possibly the best closer of all-time – in part thanks to this chaotic moment featuring the explosive crescendo of 100 orchestral string instruments! Seriously, how many trips went wrong because of this precise music moment?
If you are unfamiliar with “A Day in the Life,” first of all, don’t trip on acid while listening to it, and maybe don’t trip on acid, period – but at the very least, don’t do it alone. Second, you can find it around the 1:39 mark, and it will take you to 2:16, when the triumphant horn and ringing alarms indicate you made it, and not only past the trippy freakout section. That build also serves a musical purpose: it changes the song’s key, taking it from an E minor to an E major. It makes for a rewarding climax in what is possibly the most cinematic song ever. And to illustrate how revolutionary this was at the time, the session musicians were baffled at the request of dragging out a single note for 37 seconds and making it as big as possible! It wasn’t until George Martin stepped in and explained what McCartney was asking for that it could get recorded for all to hear.
That might seem like a lot of exposition for a relatively obscure song on an otherwise noteworthy example of the powerful Beatles iconography. But most musicologists and die-hard Beatles fans will tell you it’s the best Beatles song. Still, other standouts include “With a Little Help from My Friends,” arguably the most universally well-known song on the album and definitively the best Ringo song. Additionally, there are the tracks “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” and the genuinely Raga song by George “Within You Without You.”
- “With a Little Help from My Friends”
- “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
- “A Day in the Life”
- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
- “When I’m Sixty-Four”
- “Within You Without You”
- “She’s Leaving Home”
Magical Mystery Tour
Released: November 27, 1967
Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)
In the UK, Magical Mystery Tour was released as a double EP. In the States, however, it got released as a proper full-length album, featuring several singles the band recorded in 1967, which generally eclipse the songs originally recorded for this project.
While Magical Mystery Tour may not be the most widely recognized Beatles album of all time, it nevertheless has some of the band’s most famous songs, especially the American release. It captures the quartet holding the line between unapologetic psychedelic music and the pop standards they were known for years before.
The album coincided with a movie more or less directed by McCartney, which became so convoluted and unsuccessful even during the shooting phase that it went straight to television and got panned. Still, it’s a potentially enjoyable cerebral experience if you can stomach the directionlessness. If anything, you will enjoy the music video segments, as the songs from this era are undeniably great.
- “All You Need Is Love”
- “Hello, Goodbye”
- “Strawberry Fields Forever”
- “Penny Lane”
- “I Am the Walrus”
- “Magical Mystery Tour”
- “Blue Jay Way”
- “The Fool on the Hill”
The Beatles (The White Album)
Released: November 22, 1968
The White Album is this writer’s favorite Beatles album, and not for the sake of obscurity, either. Simply put, it has everything you need in variety and quality, and even the weird “filler” songs will grow on you if you are a true fan. So many genres reside on this – one of the first major double albums in music!
Much has gotten said about the inception of these 30 songs – the death of manager Brian Epstein, the visit to India, and even Ringo Starr quitting the band mid recording session. The tension might have nearly broken up the band, but it doubtless led to countless classic songs, including some of the band’s most notable hits.
The album also demonstrated further innovative recording techniques, including sampling, most prominently featured on the genuinely unlistenable track “Revolution 9,” an avant-garde sound collage created by John and Yoko. But “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence” feature this technique, too – and in a much more restrained and pleasant form.
George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” featured Eric Clapton on guitar in a rare guest instrumentalist slot, and “Birthday” featured Yoko Ono on guest vocals – she also appeared on “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” sees the band explore ska music, and “Helter Skelter” and “Yer Blues” might be some of the heaviest songs the band EVER recorded.
In many ways, this album marks the end of The Beatles – the foursome would only last another year and a half. So, the album can have a saddening effect, as if you listen closely, you can hear the earthquakes forming in the music. But it also might be the band’s crowning achievement – and that should make the world of music happy forever.
- “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
- “Helter Skelter”
- “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
- “Dear Prudence”
- “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”
- “Revolution 1”
- “Yer Blues”
- “Don’t Pass Me By”
Released: January 13, 1969
Yellow Submarine is like Magical Mystery Tour in that the album lacks in quality compared to other albums. For example, it includes previously released tracks “All You Need Is Love” and “Yellow Submarine.” And this is because the album was merely released to fulfill a contractual obligation. And, this time, the second half of the record was a collection of George Martin instrumentals.
The album coincided with the band’s first animated film, which is not bad. The first half is okay, but the two tracks that are worth your time are “Hey Bulldog” and “It’s All Too Much.” Still, the instrumental second half is pleasant to put on in the background when you’re doing some Sunday cleaning around the house! Plus, it’s safe to assume this format was partly the inspiration for the famous medley that comprised the second half of Abbey Road.
- “All You Need Is Love”
- “Yellow Submarine”
- “Hey Bulldog”
- “It’s All Too Much”
- “Only a Northern Song”
Released: September 26, 1969
In the grand scheme of The Beatles, Abbey Road is likely the most widely recognized and enjoyed album, narrowly beating Sgt. Pepper among the world of casual listeners. And yes, that includes the album art. And it’s not hard to see why: Songs like “Come Together,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Oh! Darling,” and arguably every other single song represent the band performing at the height of their powers.
It’s one of the most notable releases by the band because it represents the explosive creative output of George Harrison, who was finally getting recognized for performing at a songwriting level akin to the famous partnership of his bandmates Lennon and McCartney. Indeed, “Here Comes the Sun” is arguably the most well-known Beatles song, and “Something” may have the band’s best bridge section and guitar solo section.
The medley on the backend is legendary, though the band admitted the songs got strung together with no intended narrative. The listener, however, is bound to find meaning in the collection of brilliant songs, starting with the most impressive “You Never Give Me Your Money” and ending with the hype “The End.” And if you stick around, you will hear an enjoyable hidden track under one minute, “Her Majesty.”
- “Come Together”
- “Here Comes the Sun”
- “Oh! Darling”
- “Octopus’s Garden”
- “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
- “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
- “You Never Give Me Your Money”
Let It Be
Released: May 8, 1970
The last official studio album by The Beatles was recorded before Abbey Road but was released after. And with the release of the three-part documentary Get Back, increased interest in Let It Be as an album is at an all-time high. Yes, that’s right – the album has way more to it than merely hosting a scintillating title track.
Songs like “Get Back,” “Across the Universe,” and “The Long and Winding Road” – not to mention “Let It Be” – are commonplace in today’s songbook. But at the time of recording, nothing was promised – not even for the Beatles! It took plenty of intense conversation, including George Harrison temporarily quitting the group to stay true to his increased songwriting output.
Still, tracks like “I Me Mine,” “Two of Us,” and “Dig a Pony” prove the band was as fresh as ever. And the fact that many of these tracks got recorded on the infamous rooftop concert adds more to the lore.
The presence of Billy Preston on piano cannot get understated. Listening to the album is a special treat, simply because of his contributions, most notably seen on the tune “Get Back.”
- “Let It Be”
- “Get Back”
- “Across the Universe”
- “The Long and Winding Road”
- “Two of Us”
- “I’ve Got a Feeling”
After digging into each of the eleven official studio albums by the Fab Four, it’s no wonder why The Beatles were so popular. Most, if not all, of the albums on this list, could be considered some of the best albums to come out from the 1960s. It could also be considered that this band has paved the way for some of the best classic rock bands of the 70s and 80s, and even bands up to today such as Green Day. As said before, The Beatles could be over, under, or perfectly rated to you, but it’s likely that everyone will have an opinion on this band as they were wildly popular.