Top 10 Worst Beatles Songs

The Fab­u­lous Four­some (aka — the Fab Four!)

The Bea­t­les are, with­out ques­tion, the great­est, most-impor­tant band of all time. The qual­i­ty of their work is unpar­al­leled. Their song­writ­ing skills were superb. Their musi­cian­ship was amaz­ing. Their per­son­al­i­ties were emi­nent­ly lik­able. Their pop­u­lar­i­ty will prob­a­bly nev­er be reached again.  The Bea­t­les rein­tro­duced the con­cept of a band writ­ing their own songs. They were insane­ly exper­i­men­tal – hav­ing dab­bled in clas­si­cal, Indi­an, coun­try, dance hall, psy­che­del­ic, sound­scapes, (pro­to) heavy met­al, bal­lads and straight up rock­ers. They extolled the virtues of peace and love. They have sold the most records and have the most #1 hits in pop cul­ture his­to­ry. They reg­u­lar­ly dom­i­nate crit­i­cal lists of great­est bands, great­est albums and great­est songs.

With all that said, they released their fair share of stinkers.

Hey, they can’t all be “Let It Be” and “In My Life” can they? The vast major­i­ty of their songs are great. In fact, I’d take their awe­some-to-sucky song ratio above any oth­er band (espe­cial­ly giv­en the fact that they record­ed over 200 songs in a 7‑year span, in ridicu­lous­ly var­ied amount of musi­cal styles). But, yes, they have some bad songs. Songs I would prob­a­bly skip if they ran­dom­ly came up on my music play­er. I com­piled a list of the 10 worst Bea­t­les songs. Why? I don’t know. Maybe to be con­tro­ver­sial.   Maybe to play God-killer. Maybe I’m just a big jerk. At any rate, my list is below.  Peace and love!

#10 — Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

In many ways, I think Paul gets a bad rap. At his worst, he can be schmaltzy, he can by syrupy, and he can be lyri­cal­ly and melod­i­cal­ly soft. He gen­er­al­ly doesn’t have the same grav­i­tas as John, or even as George – which becomes all the more frus­trat­ing to some, because he is clear­ly a world-class song-writer, musi­cian, and vocal­ist. Sure, he wrote “Get Back,” “I’m Down,” and “Hel­ter Skel­ter” – but he also wrote “Your Moth­er Should Know” and “Hon­ey Pie” (two songs, inci­den­tal­ly, that I like). These are songs that John Lennon referred to as “Paul’s granny shit.” Old-timey, music hall music that was not near­ly ‘rock and roll’ enough for his taste. But I give Paul cred­it for this. A big part of what made The Bea­t­les the great­est band of all time is their will­ing­ness to absorb dif­fer­ent styles of music, and of all The Bea­t­les, nobody did this more than Paul. He’s writ­ten clas­si­cal songs, jazz songs, stan­dards, pro­to-met­al, and every­thing in between. Hell, he even wrote a 1800s saloon song! It has giv­en Paul plen­ty of hits, but also plen­ty of miss­es in his long career. Which brings us to one of his miss­es. “Maxwell’s Sil­ver Ham­mer.” I real­ly should like this song. The lyrics, about a ser­i­al killer who uses a ham­mer to kill his vic­tims, might be the dark­est he’s ever writ­ten, and in the­o­ry, I real­ly enjoy how he sub­ver­sive­ly cloaks it in a children’s sing-along.   And some of the instru­men­ta­tion is great. But some­how, it just doesn’t come togeth­er (no pun intend­ed). It’s too jokey. Too cheesy. I often find myself skip­ping it. It is the worst song off of Abbey Road – but the best song on this list!

 

#9… #9… #9… — The Inner Light

We all know that George Har­ri­son loved Indi­an music. This influ­ence led to a broad­er palate heard in Bea­t­les music. His use of sitar enhanced “Nor­we­gian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” and the Indi­an fla­vor of “Love You To” just plain works. Then there’s “The Inner Light,” which goes from influ­enced by to straight up cul­tur­al appro­pri­a­tion. This is not an Indi­an-influ­enced rock song – it is a straight up Indi­an song, writ­ten by a British, white man. I know he had the best inten­tions in the world, but facts are facts, and this sim­ply hasn’t aged well with where the cul­ture is today. I also acknowl­edge that times were dif­fer­ent then, and Harrison’s use of Indi­an music did lead to many peo­ple broad­en­ing their hori­zons and seek­ing out world music. That’s good. So that just leaves the song. I don’t like it. And it doesn’t make me want to seek out more Indi­an music. It just makes me want to push ‘skip.’ To be hon­est, I could have eas­i­ly cho­sen “With­in You With­out You” in this spot instead, but I will be crap­ping on a Sgt. Pepper’s song fur­ther down the list…

 

#8 — You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

Okay. I have a con­fes­sion. I love this song. I think it’s awe­some. So, why is it on this list? Because even though I love it, I have to admit that it is not good. The song has a dement­ed night­club vibe. It’s almost as if aliens were try­ing to put on a lounge show, with­out ful­ly under­stand­ing human cul­ture. Every­thing is a lit­tle bit off. It’s very bizarre, made up of a mish-mash of sec­tions and glued togeth­er in a seem­ing­ly hap­haz­ard man­ner (indeed, it was sig­nif­i­cant­ly trun­cat­ed from a pre­vi­ous ver­sion, found on Anthol­o­gy 2). The song seems to involve dif­fer­ent pre­tend lounge singers (such as Paul’s fan­tas­ti­cal­ly smarmy “Den­nis O’Bell) sing (or attempt to sing) the lines “You know my name/Look up the num­ber.” There’s a part where John shril­ly sings the lyrics like an espe­cial­ly annoy­ing lit­tle boy and anoth­er part where, as if pre­dict­ing the future, some­one mum­bles like a gelati­nous, drunk, fat-era Elvis. Like I said, this song is very fun. But the song is just a goof. Musi­cal­ly and lyri­cal­ly, it’s just not up to their stan­dards.

 

#7 — Matchbox

Let’s talk about Ringo. Like the rest of the Bea­t­les, Ringo was a world-class musi­cian, a high­ly cre­ative artist and an engag­ing, lov­able per­son­al­i­ty. But, unlike the rest of the Bea­t­les, Ringo was not a good singer. He just wasn’t. Sure, his unique (ie – bad) singing style added a lev­el of charm to many of the songs he sang (“Boys,” “Good Night,” “Octopus’s Gar­den”) and there are even some songs where you couldn’t imag­ine any­one doing a bet­ter job (“Yel­low Sub­ma­rine,” “With a Lit­tle Help From My Friends” (unless you enjoy the Joe Cock­er ver­sion more…)). But when it comes down to it, Ringo is a sub­par singer, and no song bet­ter illus­trates this more than “Match­box.” What makes this an espe­cial­ly bad per­for­mance is not Ringo’s tone, which he has no con­trol over – it’s his deliv­ery. He paus­es in weird places. Like in the very first line, for exam­ple: “I said I’m sit­ting here watching/Matchbox hold­ing my … *checks watch* clothes.” The part about the peach­es is real­ly smooshed togeth­er. And then there’s his “Weeeeeeeeeeeell”… The Bea­t­les have done a lot of cov­ers, and most can be argued to be supe­ri­or to the orig­i­nals.

 

 

I can’t see any­one mak­ing the argu­ment for this song. In fact, it’s not even the best ver­sion record­ed by a Bea­t­le…

#6 — Flying

The Bea­t­les as a whole were bet­ter than the sum of their parts. Sep­a­rate­ly, they were great musi­cians and artists, but togeth­er they were tran­scen­dent. Except when they wrote songs togeth­er. There are only three songs that all four Bea­t­les were cred­it­ed as writ­ing togeth­er on their orig­i­nal albums – “Fly­ing,” “Dig It,” and “Mag­gie Mae.” All of them are pret­ty ter­ri­ble. But “Dig It” and “Mag­gie Mae” had the good sense to be short (both are mer­ci­ful­ly under a minute long), so “Fly­ing” made the grade on this list. “Fly­ing,” off the Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour album, is a lum­ber­ing, bluesy instru­men­tal. Well, it’s not quite an instru­men­tal. There are some “fa la las” belt­ed out in an iron­ic, old-timey style. It’s obvi­ous­ly one of those “songs that came from a jam ses­sion” sort of deals, but it’s obvi­ous to me that if John, or Paul, or, hell, even Ringo, came in with an idea before they hit record, this would have been a lot bet­ter…

#5 — She’s Leaving Home

This will prob­a­bly get the biggest reac­tion of any song on the list. I know that a lot of peo­ple real­ly like it. Paul McCart­ney has gone on record to say that it is one of the best songs he’s ever writ­ten. Bri­an Wil­son of the Beach Boys (and a world-class com­pos­er in his own right) lists it as his favorite Bea­t­les song. So, who am I to say that it’s not good? I’m just a guy. A guy who will most like­ly skip the song if I come across it. “She’s Leav­ing Home” is a tear­jerk­er. I don’t have a prob­lem with tear­jerk­ers, and The Bea­t­les have done plen­ty of excel­lent ones (“Eleanor Rig­by” and “For No One” imme­di­ate­ly come to mind). The prob­lem with “She’s Leav­ing Home” is that it is SO melo­dra­mat­ic. The song is pure, sen­ti­men­tal trea­cle. Every note and every line of this (admit­ted­ly lyri­cal­ly vivid) song seems to be scream­ing at you to cry. I don’t like to be screamed at to cry. The oth­er prob­lem that I have with this song is that I don’t like the pro­tag­o­nist of the sto­ry. Maybe I’m not sup­posed to, but it’s hard to like a song about a char­ac­ter that caus­es so much mis­ery to her fam­i­ly. In the cho­rus, John sings as the strick­en par­ents, won­der­ing what they had done wrong and when the Greek cho­rus states that she left to have “fun,” I have to won­der this myself… Bletch.

 

#4 — Slow Down

The Bea­t­les were usu­al­ly an incred­i­bly tight band. Not this time. “Slow Down” is a mess. George, who lat­er became an amaz­ing slide gui­tarist, seemed to have a ter­ri­ble time hit­ting the notes with his slide. It’s notice­ably bad. And his gui­tar solo could have used a few more takes too. Then there’s a spot about 1:14 into the song where some­one is singing the wrong word. John, the lead vocal­ist, sings “but now you got a boyfriend” and at the same time, some­one is singing “girl­friend” or some­thing. Appar­ent­ly, it’s a bad cut between takes on George Martin’s part, where the piano and the bass also drops. This may be the slop­pi­est song the Bea­t­les ever record­ed. Not loose. Slop­py.   And def­i­nite­ly not up to their stan­dards.

 

#3 — When I Get Home

I would give John Lennon the edge over any­one as the great­est lyri­cist in Rock and Roll (and yes, that includes Dylan – or whomev­er you think is bet­ter). His words are always evoca­tive, and nev­er labored. He is a spe­cial kind of lyri­cist that was a mas­ter of all lyri­cal styles. He could be uni­ver­sal or spe­cif­ic. Detached or per­son­al. Clear or obtuse. He could do it all, which is why it is so frus­trat­ing when he writes a bad­ly writ­ten song. Music-wise, it is all right (though noth­ing spe­cial), but lyric-wise, it’s a mess. The song is about a man telling oth­er peo­ple that he has no time to speak to them – he’s rush­ing home to see his girl, because he’s “got a whole lot of things to tell her.” But dur­ing the bridge of the song, he states, “When I’m get­ting home tonight/I’m gonna hold her tight/I’m gonna love her till the cows come home.” So, he doesn’t have a whole lot of things to tell her. He’s just going to have a lot of sex. Which is fine, except for the way he describes it. Intro­duc­ing the col­lo­qui­al­ism “’till the cows come home” to a roman­tic sen­ti­ment is just wrong, man. I don’t want peo­ple think­ing of cows dur­ing sex. And I cer­tain­ly don’t want them to stop “when the cows come home.” I mean, does that mean that he thinks the cows are bet­ter options? Sheesh. Speak­ing of bet­ter options, he imme­di­ate­ly con­tin­ues, singing, “I bet I’ll love her more/Till I walk out that door, again.” Besides being a lit­tle awk­ward­ly writ­ten, I think it means that he only loves her when he sees her, and, based on some oth­er lyrics dur­ing the vers­es (“I’ve got no busi­ness being here with you, this way”), per­haps the pro­tag­o­nist is speak­ing to anoth­er one of his lovers on his way to see his wife or girl­friend. This actu­al­ly makes the song more inter­est­ing (though a lit­tle icky), but if this is the case, why is he rush­ing home to see the oth­er woman? And why would he be telling the oth­er woman? I’ll be hon­est, the more I write about it, the more inter­est­ing this song becomes, but I real­ly can’t for­give the “I’m gonna love her till the cows come home” line…

 

#2 ‑Mr. Moonlight

John seemed to give a lit­tle some­thing extra vocal­ly when he sang on a cov­er. On songs like “Twist and Shout,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” it sounds like he was lit­er­al­ly singing his guts out and shred­ding his throat along the way. And I mean that as a com­pli­ment. John’s vocals in “Mr. Moon­light” are just as impas­sioned and full of ener­gy as the cov­ers list­ed above… but I hon­est­ly don’t know why he both­ered. The song is pret­ty ter­ri­ble. Paul and George on back­ing vocals give off the prop­er feel­ing to the song – they sound like Mari­achi singers bored out of their gourde. Then there’s the organ solo. It sounds exact­ly like that elec­tric organ sound you hear when­ev­er a TV show par­o­dies a soap opera… and it sounds like it’s played by a grand­ma in a retire­ment home. Lyri­cal­ly, we can’t blame the Bea­t­les, since they didn’t write it, but I’ll just say I’m con­fused. Is John singing to actu­al moon­light? Ie – the light from the sun that bounces off the moon? If so, why is he so for­mal in call­ing him Mr.?

 

#1 — Revolution #9

Look, the only rea­son why this wouldn’t be the num­ber one song on this list is if I didn’t clas­si­fy it as a song. And that was a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty. I mean, there’s no writ­ten lyrics, there’s no melody, there’s no rhythm. It’s just a ran­dom mish-mash of weird tape loops smooshed togeth­er for over 8 inter­minable min­utes. The Bea­t­les were always push­ing the enve­lope, and I love it when they took exper­i­men­tal risks… but I just can’t sit through this one. I have prob­a­bly lis­tened to every Bea­t­les track hun­dreds of times, but I hon­est­ly don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through this one. It’s tor­ture. This is the only Bea­t­les song I will skip 100% of the time I come across it. Maybe, maybe, if this were one or two min­utes, I could stand to make it through (which is why songs like “Mag­gie Mae” and “Wild Hon­ey Pie” get a pass). But it would still be my least favorite song the Bea­t­les did.

 

Agree?  Dis­agree?  Filled with rage? (I hope not.  It’s just a list…)  Please feel free to com­ment.  And remem­ber — the love you take is equal to the love you make!