How can you rank the output of the world’s greatest band? You can’t, and you perhaps shouldn’t, and it will change every time you consider it, but we’re going to anyway. So without further ado here they are. Obviously ‘The Best of The Beatles’ tops them all, but we knew that already.
12. ‘Let It Be’
NME wrote at the time: “If [this album] is to be their last then it will stand as a cheapskate epitaph, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop”. 40 years later, has anything changed?
11. ‘Beatles For Sale’
As close as they ever came to phoning it in; they don’t even look that arsed on the cover. Nevertheless, ‘Eight Days A Week’ is a classic and they were still knocking out the likes of ‘I Feel Fine’ as singles during the same period.
10. ‘Magical Mystery Tour’/’Yellow Submarine’
The former isn’t officially considered a studio album; the latter is, but not really in the eyes of the band. Either way, they both have enough to keep them off the bottom spot but neither are up to the band’s usual (impossibly high) standard.
9. ‘With The Beatles’
Another covers-packed classic that knocked ‘Please Please Me’ off the charts and helped The Beatles complete a 51 week consecutive run at the top of the album charts. A solid effort, but not up there with their best.
8. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’
Is there a more famous single chord than Harrison’s opening strum? It set the bar high for the record, but they vaulted it with ease on the title track, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, and everything in between.
7. ‘Rubber Soul’
On which sitars and matchbox drumming enter the fray as the band started purposely moving away from sheer unit-shifting pop gold to more sophisticated material (although the likes of ‘Drive My Car’ offer plenty of the former).
You just can’t argue with the calibre of record on display here. It’s almost embarrassing: ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, ‘You’re Going To Lose That Girl’, ‘Ticket To Ride’, the title track, and some number called ‘Yesterday’. They were really spoiling us on this.
5. ‘The Beatles (The White Album)’
Yes, there’s filler. And sure, we didn’t need Revolutions 1 or 9. But trim some of the fat and there’s an astonishing single album here, from ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’ to ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Helter Skelter’ and beyond.
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4. ‘Please Please Me’
Recorded for a few hundred quid in essentially one day’s work, their first album was an astonishing achievement at the time. Fifty years later it still stands strong against most debuts recorded since.
With many of the inarguably genius pop tracks (‘Taxman’, ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’) on a par with some of their other early ‘60s LPs, it’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and the frankly visionary ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ that elevates this particular album.
2. ‘Abbey Road’
Never normally this high up, but for me a nearly impeccable outing. Obviously all the tracks are great (and I’ll even stand up for ‘Octopus’s Garden’ at this point), it’s also a masterfully coherent, connected LP from start to finish, from the much-needed placement of ‘Here Comes The Sun’’s uplifting riff after the soul-crushing ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ to that
seamless ‘Polythene Pam’ / ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’ segue.
1. ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’
You could argue with this one. You could bet against it. But you’d be all different kinds of wrong, battered into submission with statistics (27 weeks at the top of the charts, four Grammys, 32 million album sales) and eulogies (greatest psychedelic album ever, most inventive LP ever conceived etc), and for once the hype-mongers would be right.