Almanac Music: The Beatles Best 50 Songs


The first album I ever bought: ‘Revolver’ (in 1973) and I still have the tape.



It was into a Beatles-loving family that I was born, and the Fab Four’s music has been something of  a soundtrack to my life. My sons have suffered a similar fate, but I guess fandom dissipates a little with each passing generation. The following is a very personal list of my fifty favourite Beatles songs, accompanied by thoughts, notes, and family anecdotes. As always with lists such as this, it is all subjective…



  1. I Should Have Known Better (1964)

When The Beatles arrived in Australia in June 1964, they did so without their drummer Ringo Starr, who was waylaid by tonsilitis. Ringo did join the tour just prior to The Beatles’ Melbourne shows. When he landed at Essendon airport, he was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. One youth jumped the security fence and leapt onto the side of the vehicle transporting Ringo. The youth put his hand through the window and shook the hand of a surprised Ringo before being ushered back to the crowd by police. For years, my mum kept a newspaper clipping of this incident in her purse, because that youth was my dad. At the time, he was on the verge of turning 17, while my mum was only 15. I was born less than 18 months later! A Hard Day’s Night was released a mere fortnight after that Australian tour concluded, and I have always thought this to be one the most under-appreciated of all Lennon and McCartney’s compositions. John’s sunny lyrics give the song a joyous feel, in no small part aided by his uplifting harmonica. And George Harrison’s simple guitar solo just gets me every time.


  1. We Can Work It Out (1965)

My first exposure to the music of The Beatles was via my parents’ reel-to-reel tape player. This chunky contraption sat on a table in the lounge room. On one of the reels was an hour’s worth of Beatles tracks which my dad had recorded to tape from the records of family and friends. I was still a pre-schooler when he taught me how to rewind, fast-forward and thread the tapes without the machine ‘chewing’ them.


My parents owned a reel-to-reel tape player similar to this [Source: ElectroProps UK]


  1. I’ve Just Seen a Face (1965)

This is The Beatles steering into bluegrass territory with a nod to their roots in skiffle. Paul McCartney barely pauses to take breath on what is an up-beat, frenetically paced track. His non-stop delivery is simply superb, as are the acoustic guitars. To me, it is another example of The Beatles’ stunning versatility, and leaves one wondering why they did not venture into bluegrass more often. The track has lived on as a staple of McCartney’s post-Beatles live shows, so it must be a favourite of his. I owned the double cassette of Wings Over America (1976), which included a slightly slower version of the track – with heavily overdubbed backing vocals. Even as a 12-year-old, I was mystified by how inferior this later version was to the original, despite it being the same person singing. My favourite cover of this track is brilliantly performed by Melbourne’s own The Living End (check it out on YouTube).


  1. And Your Bird Can Sing (1966)

For my ninth birthday, my mum and dad bought me a portable cassette-player. To play in it, they also let me select a tape – which would be my first ever album purchase. From the moment I chose Revolver, a life-long love of The Beatles’ greatest album was born. An early favourite was And Your Bird Can Sing, with its superb guitar riff and seemingly abstract nonsensical lyrics, the meaning of which Lennon never fully explained.


  1. Nowhere Man (1965)

When the red and blue double albums (Beatles 1962-1966 and Beatles 1967-1970) were released in 1973, my dad purchased them both – and played them regularly. These records contained a few tunes which I had never previously heard; being only eight years old, I loved the idea of ‘greatest hits’ albums – a view with which I have long since disassociated myself! Nowhere Man is the first track on side four of the red album, and my dad always played this side first. The acapella beginning of this track is wonderful, but the track marked a departure from early Beatles ‘love’ songs.


  1. Across the Universe (1969)

A fine example of Lennon’s ability to paint vivid lyrical pictures. How about the superlative opening line ‘Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup’ – it is Lennon at his best. Of the twelve tracks on the Let It Be album, there is a sadness on this track that is not apparent elsewhere. Interestingly, it was only last Christmas that my dad mentioned in passing that this is his favourite Beatles tune. I am not sure that this was always the case.


  1. Rain (1966)

Since its release a couple of months ago, the popularity of Revolver (Super Deluxe) has proven that the appetite for Beatles material is insatiable. Unsurprisingly, it has been given a regular airing on my Spotify. For me, among two of the more interesting aspects included in the new package are the versions of Rain. The first is an instrumental, prominently featuring an inventive McCartney bass; the second is a slower version of the original release. Some critics have claimed that this track was the genesis of psychedelic music. Indeed it was allegedly the first to use vocals played backwards. I am still amazed that on top of the tracks on the original Revolver release, Rain and Paperback Writer were also recorded during these sessions.


  1. You’re Going to Lose That Girl (1965)

I just adore the superb interplay between Lennon’s lead vocals and the backing vocals of Harrison and McCartney on this track. And despite the uncertainty within the lyrics, there is a tenderness to the story being told. Of course, if you listen closely, the melancholy which underlines much of the Help album is a presence, nonetheless. Ringo’s bongos are an excellent touch.


  1. If I Fell (1964)

Strangely, my parents did not have a copy of the A Hard Day’s Night album, and so it was a fellow Beatles-loving classmate who introduced me to this track at primary school in 1975. She was aghast that I had never heard the song, so she sang it to me – word-perfect – at lunch time. What a beautiful love song, I thought. And some 50 years on, I still think that.


  1. Blackbird (1968)

Having set the standard with Yesterday, by the time of the ‘White Album’ McCartney was unquestionably a master of the tender acoustic folk song. He has sometimes explained that Blackbird was written as a metaphor for the ongoing racial tensions in the US at the time, but is he rewriting history? Who is to say? Either way it is a sweet and beautiful song. My sister accidentally scratched my parents’ copy of the record, right at the start of Blackbird, so that McCartney would sing ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of the/Blackbird singing in the dead of the…’ ad infinitum. A gentle nudge of the stylus would be required to move the track on. But so etched into my unconscious is that scratch, that when I play the song on Spotify nowadays, I still expect the track to jump in that very spot.


  1. Eight Days A Week (1964)

When he was a toddler, my eldest son John was unable to pronounce the letter ‘v’, so the word ‘love’ would tumble out of his mouth as ‘luss’. At the time, his favourite tune was Eight Days a Week (what are the chances of my toddler son liking The Beatles?) and with his toy guitar he would regularly take the opportunity to perform the song for his mum and dad, singing ‘Ooh I need your luss, babe…’ How good is the fade-in intro? The song itself is simply gorgeous guitar pop, like much of Beatles For Sale.



‘Ooh, I need your lusss, babe!’



  1. Got To Get You Into My Life (1966)

Recently, on the BBC podcast Paul McCartney: Inside the Songs, the man himself reiterates an oft-told story that, rather than it being a love song, this track is ‘a tribute to pot (marijuana)’ – to which The Beatles were introduced by Bob Dylan. He also talks about how he was listening to a lot of American soul and blues around the time he wrote it, and of his subsequent desire to include horns on a Beatles song. The perfect opportunity presented itself during the recording of ‘Revolver’, as the group continually experimented with a range of different instruments and sounds. It is all perfectly executed by McCartney, and the end result is a timeless tune. Yet another example of George Martin’s superb arrangement abilities.


  1. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1967)

Sometime in the mid-1980s, with one of my first ever pay cheques in hand, I drove out to ‘Silver K Gallery’ in Armadale and purchased three framed prints for around $120 each. Decent money back then. Featuring the track-listings and album covers of Revolver, Sgt Pepper, and Abbey Road, these prints moved with me into my first house where they hung not inconspicuously in the lounge-room. Thirty-five years on, they now hang in the backyard shed after hanging for many years in the bedroom of my youngest son, Luke.


  1. For No One (1966)

In the Beatles’ mid-period, Paul McCartney’s then partner Jane Asher was a regular inspiration for some of his most beautiful compositions (Here There and Everywhere, You Won’t See Me, We Can Work It Out, I’m Looking Through You just to name a few). However, it is somewhat ironic that many of the lyrics on these tracks hinted at the turmoil in their relationship. Indeed, For No One describes a relationship ending. It is a hauntingly beautiful song. If Rubber Soul was Lennon’s coming of age, Revolver was surely McCartney’s.


  1. With A Little Help from My Friends (1967)

There is a clip I once saw of Ringo, entering the Abbey Road studios sometime during the Sgt Pepper recording sessions. Accosted by a film crew, he is asked what is happening inside. He seems to shrug and replies with words to the effect that he will find out when he goes inside. Maybe the others handed him a lyric sheet and said, ‘Sing this!’ But maybe that would all downplay his contributions. With lyrics that are perfectly suited to Ringo’s mournful, downbeat persona on record (think Act Naturally, Honey Don’t), the to-and-fro between him and the backing vocals is a brilliant example of the ability of The Beatles and George Martin to nail an arrangement. Often covered – notably by the late Joe Cocker – but never bettered.


  1. All My Loving (1963)

When The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, on February 9, 1964, this was the first track they played. Almost 60 years later, it is difficult to comprehend just how huge a social and cultural moment this was in 1960s America and beyond. The excitement must have been palpable. In an early episode of his hugely enjoyable podcast series A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, Andrew Hickey notes that – almost without exception – every successful American rock musician from the mid ’60s through to the early ’70s watched that Beatles performance on Sullivan’s show. My enjoyment of this track was soured somewhat by Johnny Young and co singing it cheesily at the end of every episode of Young Talent Time.      


  1. Happiness Is a Warm Gun (1968)

On the day that John Lennon was ruthlessly gunned down on a New York street, my younger sister Margaret came into my bedroom and broke the news to me. I was 15, she was 12. It was confusing, and just so nonsensical. At the time, I was playing the ‘White Album’. Was this track playing? I cannot recall. But it is one of Lennon’s best from that record: playful, soulful, witty, loose. And overall, just beautiful.


  1. Yesterday (1965)

Given how different it is in presentation to most of The Beatles material which had come before it, I can understand why this track was so popular and is such an enduring piece of music. Part of its appeal is its simplicity, while the string quartet is a beautiful accompaniment. It is reputedly one of the most covered and recorded songs in popular music, yet it has never been one of my real favourites.


  1. Taxman (1966)

When I was in grade 3, my parents bought a taxi business in the town of Eden, in the far south of New South Wales. My dad also did a thrice-weekly mail run from Pambula to Bombala. On the school holidays I would accompany him, assisting with the mail deliveries all the way up the Mt Darragh Road. When setting off we would place my brand-new tape player on the front seat with Revolver – my only cassette – playing, all the way there and back. Is it any wonder I know every note on that album? In some ways Revolver still speaks to me of dusty morning drives through the bush. Taxman, the opening track, is The Beatles’ first overtly political track, incendiary lyrics superbly articulated by George Harrison with a super McCartney guitar solo.


  1. Help! (1965)

By the time of the album Help!, Beatlemania must have been taking its toll. Lennon once said that, amid all the madness, this was a subconscious cry for help. Given all that was going on around them, there seems to be a lot less joyfulness on the album as a whole.


  1. She Loves You (1963)

For me, this is the track which encapsulates the early mop-top period. Together, the harmonies, the ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’, and the enthusiastic manner in which that familiar chorus is belted out all combine for a tune that seems eternally youthful.


  1. If I Needed Someone (1965)

This is Harrison’s first great song, in which he steps out from the considerable shadows of Lennon and McCartney. This jingle-jangle riff is the closest The Beatles came to sounding like The Byrds, and the jaded tone of the lyrics are exemplary. The message was that there was plenty more to come from George.


  1. Revolution (1968)

Although the slower, bluesy Revolution 1 on the ‘White Album’ is a great track, I prefer the faster, rockier version which appeared on the B-side of Hey Jude. The fuzz guitars are more suited to Lennon’s overtly political lyrics. It really is an unforgettable track.


  1. I Feel Fine (1964)

It is amazing to think that this song feels as fresh as if it was released yesterday, despite it now being 58 years old. One of The Beatles’ greatest riffs accompanied by sublime vocal harmonizing, and with a catchy chorus, I Feel Fine was also the first pop record to contain feedback. Ringo’s jazz style beat is excellent, too.


  1. Paperback Writer (1966)

A brilliantly rollicking rock’n’roll song, with another top-shelf riff from McCartney. The lyrics also provide the listener with a story to mull over.


  1. All You Need Is Love (1967)

With lyrics that are so beautifully simple, I have always sensed that this track provided a signpost for the direction in which John Lennon’s music would lead, particularly in the post-Beatles era. As a youngster I had dismissed this track as mawkish, but found myself drawn to its meaning more and more as an adult.


  1. Eleanor Rigby (1966)

In 1966, surely no musical artist had ever told as vivid a story in so short a timeframe as McCartney does here. Maybe that still stands? This track lasts a mere two minutes and six seconds. The descriptive lyrics paint a portrait of loneliness and melancholy, and those strings – so stark and prominent in the mix – add everything to the story.


  1. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (1965)

In the early 1970s, Saturday afternoons on Melbourne television were the exclusive domain of Elvis Presley films. Occasionally, the brilliant A Hard Day’s Night and the inferior Help! would also get a run. The latter film’s plot was forgettable nonsense but this gorgeous track was a highlight of the film and album.


  1. Can’t Buy Me Love (1964)

I love the way McCartney gets straight into this, with no preamble nor intro. My mother’s older sister, my late aunt Judith, gave me a pile of old 45s when I was about 7 years old. Among them were a number of Beatles singles, including this. And the gorgeous You Can’t Do That was on the B-side. The constant playing of this batch of records at such a formative age was the foundation on which my love of music was built.


  1. Ticket to Ride (1965)

The first single released by the group in 1965, I have always thought this song to be a major step away from the ‘mop-top’ period into much more deep and experimental music-making. Consider that Ticket to Ride was released three days before Mr Tambourine Man, despite The Byrds being widely considered the originators of the ‘jingle-jangle’ guitar sound. This rolling riff of George Harrison on his 12-string Rickenbacker is a thing of beauty, and Ringo’s unique drum pattern – reputedly devised by Paul – is spot-on.


  1. Here Comes the Sun (1969)

George Harrison’s joyous ode to summer is one of the great uplifting songs, in my opinion. It speaks of putting the bad times in the past and looking to the future with positivity. Even now I marvel at the beauty of the acoustic guitar. How good?!


  1. Get Back (1969)

Arguably the greatest song from the ‘Let it Be’ sessions, this remains a powerhouse of a track. Ringo’s driving snare and beat and Billy Preston’s piano are essential to the feel. Until Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, I had not realized that some of the original lyrics – left out of the final versions of the track – parodied anti-immigration sentiment at the time. Early this year I watched every minute Jackson’s doco; it was a fascinating presentation of how The Beatles worked in the studio, and how songs such as this were brought together through repeated playing.


  1. Come Together (1969)

London, 2013. My wife, sons and I are on a European holiday. With ‘London Passes’ in hand we take the tube to St John’s Wood to visit Lord’s. Emerging from the station, the boys are inquisitive as to why there is so much Beatles paraphernalia for sale in the kiosks. ‘Abbey Road is not far from here,’ I reply. Despite it not being in our initial plans, a family visit to the famous Abbey Road pedestrian crossing was inevitable as the sun rising in the morning. Despite the crowds and general chaos of the area, my wife Margaret managed to snap an excellent shot of my sons and I crossing the famous road. It is poignant for a number of reasons, not least of which is because it captures the essence of their wiry teenaged frames on the verge of manhood. Undoubtedly I would have had a song from Abbey Road swirling about as an earworm. Quite possibly, it was this – one of the great album-opening tracks.



Smokie and his three sons cross Abbey Road, 2013



  1. Something (1969)

Harrison was on fire by this stage of The Beatles’ journey. Indeed, he had already written many of the tracks for his upcoming All Things Must Pass opus. Lyrically George evokes his feelings so beautifully, while musically his guitar playing is just sublime.


  1. Let It Be (1970)

Everything about this McCartney tune is so wonderfully epic. From the piano, to Harrison’s glorious guitar solo, to the way the song just continues to build. I especially love Billy Preston’s Hammond organ. A classic.


  1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Have a listen to the lyrics…fairly suggestive for 1964 I would have thought! One of the great love songs from The Beatles early period, it was of course the title of their first film. And then of course there is the most famous and memorable opening guitar chord in pop music.


  1. Hey Jude (1968)

It took me years to fully appreciate McCartney’s magnificent opus, which became one of The Beatles’ greatest-selling songs. A mellow piano-based introduction, a 36-piece orchestra, handclaps, and the build-up to a singalong are all notable pieces of this 7-minute epic – absurdly lengthy for a single of that era. Of course, it is part of Beatles lore that Paul wrote it about Julian Lennon, in the wake of his parents’ separation. Of the song, in 2012 Julian said: ‘It’s very strange to think that someone has written a song about you. It still touches me’.


  1. Rocky Racoon (1968)

Another of McCartney’s tracks with a honky-tonk feel, the story of Rocky and Dan’s showdown is a favourite of my sons. Many years ago, when our friends Linda and Michael were married in Bendigo, a group of us crammed into a car after the reception to be driven back to our accommodation. For some unknown reason I commenced singing Rocky Racoon, and soon the whole car was joyously singing along.


  1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1968)

This has always been my favourite George Harrison song, and indeed I have always regarded it as the White Album’s best song. A sensational vocal from George, the lyrics are superbly thought-provoking. And what can you say about Eric Clapton’s lead guitar? I have this on a vinyl 45 single, with the inferior Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da on the A side!


  1. I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)

Sheer musical simplicity – from the opening chords, to the harmonies, to the lyrics implying a sense of desperation. I can only imagine how thrilling it must have been, 59 years ago, to hear these three minutes of perfect pop, lyrics speaking of longing, blasting out of the wireless for the very first time.


  1. Here, There and Everywhere (1966)

My wife and I were fortunate to have the late Hugh McDonald of Redgum play at our wedding. When he asked us what our wedding song was, we told him that we had selected Here There and Everywhere. Hugh replied that it was a personal favourite of his, and assured us he would do the track justice, which he did. And what’s not to love about this gorgeous love song?  Twenty-eight years on, it remains a favourite of my wife and I. ‘Changing my life with the wave of her hand’ is one of my favourite Beatles lines. And RIP, Hugh. Taken far too early.


  1. Tomorrow Never Knows (1966)

The final track on Revolver, this still sends a shiver up my spine when I hear it. They pulled out every recording-studio trick at their disposal on this. It is ridiculous to think that when The Beatles toured America a mere week after releasing Revolver, they did not play any tracks from the new record. But it is not quite so silly when one considers that many of the tracks would have been impossible to replicate on stage in the mid ’60s.


  1. Penny Lane (1967)

With as catchy a chorus as The Beatles recorded, and that wonderfully distinctive piccolo trumpet solo, this track happily and dreamily references Lennon and McCartney’s childhood in Liverpool. The barber, the banker, the fireman, the nurse: to me, the imagery in the lyrics of Penny Lane has always served as a reminder that the Beatles were, indeed, English to their bootstraps.


  1. Norwegian Wood (1965)

Another John Lennon highlight from Rubber Soul, the lyrics to me have always remained stubbornly obtuse. What does it all mean? An affair, perhaps? In the end, it does not matter, with Lennon’s wry sense of the ridiculous shimmering obviously just below the surface. Harrison’s sitar is right at the forefront, his flourishes adding to the track’s mystery.


  1. Two of Us (1970)

A Dawson family get-together is usually accompanied by a Beatles play-list. My niece Erin is an excellent guitarist, but does not play as much as she once did. When she brings her guitar along to family gatherings, I always request of her this song, especially since it is so suited to the acoustic guitar. It is an endearingly sweet song, more of friendship than love, but so typical of McCartney.


  1. I Saw Her Standing There (1963)

The opening track on the Beatles’ very first album is a delightful foot-stomper. And I have always thought that, if I were to compile a Beatles ‘greatest hits’ album, this track would kick off the proceedings. Simple lyrics, almost to the point of ridiculous, but memorable and wonderful nonetheless: ‘My heart went boom/ When I crossed that room/ And I held her hand in mi-ne!’ As such, in my twenties, I compiled a Fab Four greatest hits mixtape, and this song was the lead-off track. For my mum and dad’s 30th wedding anniversary, my sisters and I had the family’s old Super 8 home movies transferred onto videotape. I used my mixtape for the soundtrack to the film compilation. My sisters were amazed at the result. ‘It’s almost as if the music was written for the videos,’ they said. I responded: ‘Well, that is not surprising, as The Beatles were the soundtrack to our early lives!’ Coincidentally, this was the opening number at The Beatles’ 1964 concerts at Festival Hall, one of which was attended by my parents.


  1. A Day in The Life (1967)

By far the best song on Sgt Pepper, this is a complex, beautiful composition. I once wondered why McCartney’s bridging verse was included, but nowadays I realize that it neatly fits as a harried counterpoint to Lennon’s wistful lyrics. The latter stages of my cricket career were the most enjoyable. My good mate Ship, also a Beatles tragic, would drive to away matches. His car laden with our cricket gear, we would set off late on a Saturday morning with The Beatles blaring out of his stereo. Ship has told me that this is favourite Beatles track.


  1. Golden Slumbers (1969)

My mum’s younger sister, my aunt Maree, presented me with a well-worn vinyl copy of Abbey Road when I was around 7 years of age – which meant the record was actually not more than two years old. It was a gift that I never fully appreciated until many years later. Now, 50 years on, I still have that record tucked away in my vinyl collection. From the first time I listened to the album, Golden Slumbers has been a personal favourite. McCartney commences the tune simply, almost as if singing the very lullaby that he references in the lyrics, with some orchestral accompaniment. But when Ringo’s drums come crashing in, I get chills up my spine every time. There is a dolefulness to the song – emphasized by George Martin’s dramatic orchestral arrangement – which can probably be too easily read that the Beatles dream was all but over. Paul McCartney still regularly includes it in his setlist to this day.


  1. In My Life (1965)

The Rubber Soul album was Lennon’s coming of age as a songwriter, with track being a highlight. To a superb melody, he is reflective and tender, looking back on his childhood with a previously unexpressed sentimentality. It is wistful until, in the third verse, the sentiment changes slightly and he addresses a lover. It is almost perfect. And then there is the George Martin piano solo, manipulated in the studio to sound like a harpsichord, a baroque-sounding flourish which adds to the ruminative feel. The wonderful In My Life is surely one of Lennon’s finest moments.


  1. Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)

John Lennon’s semi-biographical opus, of childhood memories and more contemporaneous psychedelic and spiritual references, is a lyrically and sonically exquisite journey. As a child, I was fascinated by the whole ‘Paul is Dead’ story and would listen closely in an attempt to decipher the ‘I bury Paul’ reference toward the end of this song as it builds slowly toward its dramatic and slightly foreboding conclusion. The band’s increasing interest in the magic and complexity of the recording studio is obvious, with all manner of flourishes in the latter part of the track. To me, it will always be the opening track of The Beatles 1967-1970 double album, and perhaps it marks the delineation between the early and late Beatles periods. The detail of the song’s construction was brilliantly revealed on Anthology 2, with Lennon strumming an acoustic guitar in intimate and raw early demos. It is quite amazing how the track progressed from these ‘unplugged’ recordings to the final version. In Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2021)’ it was ranked #7. Quite simply, it is one of the greatest songs in popular music. And when I am asked for my favourite song, Strawberry Fields is forever my response.




Selected References:


Mark Lewinsohn: The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions;

The Beatles – The Fabulous Story of John, Paul, George and Ringo;

Peter Brown & Steven Gaines: The Love You Make – An Insider’s Story of The Beatles;

Robert Rodriguez: Revolver – How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roll;

Richard DiLello: The Beatles – The Longest Cocktail Party;

Maxwell Mackenzie: The Beatles – Every Little Thing;

Mark Hertsgaard: A Day In The Life – The Music and Artistry of The Beatles.



Tomorrow Never Knows – A Beatles Podcast;

I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast!;

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs;

Paul McCartney: Inside the Songs (BBC);

Something About The Beatles.


The Compleat Beatles;


A Hard Day’s Night;

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years;

The Beatles: Get Back.




You can read more from Smokie HERE.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Great selection Smokie. I first heard of The Beatles in early 1963 during my first year at high school. I was into folk music, Peter, Paul, & Mary etc but when I heard ‘She Loves You’ I could not believe what I was hearing, out of this world, and everyone started going crazy! Soon afterwards ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, could it get any better? Of course it did, The Beatles kept churning them out, most of my favs are their early records. I remember hearing ‘Yesterday’ for the first time in 1965 while soaking in the bath with my little tranny sitting precariously on the edge. Couldn’t wait to get out of the bath to chat to my mates about this new song from The Beatles. How to pick your favourites is so difficult when you consider the volume of songs to choose from. ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is another great song. We could go on forever.

  2. Love this Smokie and clearly very personal. My Dad, 2 x half brothers and a half sister were from Liverpool and took the 10 pound trip to Perth after Dad’s first wife died in 1958. Needless to say we were smothered in Beatles music as kids. Like you, my partner Lynda is a Beatles adorer and in 2011 we took a UK+ trip which included Liverpool of course. It was a ripper 2 x days and we took in all things Beatles including waking into the new Cavern and bursting into tears as 2 x young brothers were on stage singing pitch perfect Lennon/McCartney. This is a link to the story. Cheers

  3. Richard Griffiths says

    Well done Smokie – a very difficult task. I did a Beatles countdown 180 to 1 based on all studio recordings (excluding side 2 of Yellow Submarine) for my Community Radio show a couple of years ago. Here is my top 10:

    1. A Day in the Life, 2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps. 3. In My Life 4. Something 5. Tomorrow Never Knows
    6. Eleanor Rigby 7. Dear Prudence 8. With A Little Help From My Friends 9. I Am the Walrus 10. Hey Jude

    I have often said to my brother I cant imagine my life without The Beatles.

  4. Let us bow down at the temple of Smokie Dawson for his generosity in telling us so much about his family and their connections to 50 of The Beatles’ songs. Let us give praise to Smokie for his thorough but not overwhelming research and for his carefully calibrated enthusiasm.

  5. Smokie- thank you for your magnum opus.

    Just listening to Rubber Soul as I type and thinking that even when the Beatles were dark there was light and space and joy at play. Only reflecting yesterday on how great a minor song like Lovely Rita is with its soaring and wonderful opening. The enormity of their catalogue is such that this would only just sneak into my top 50. And it’s clearly a difficult call but my favourite is probably not even a Lennon/McCartney song but Harrison’s ‘Here Comes the Sun.’

  6. This is War and Peace Smoke! Monumental effort. There can always be conversation about your number one. I love Strawberry Fields. Would have Eleanor Rigby higher – a real time and place song for me. I didn’t realise as a young kid with 5 brothers that there were so many lonely people.

    So many magnificent pieces of music.

    Outstanding effort.

  7. Now we’re talking.

    Moments, places and people live in the very notes of these songs. In the rests.
    Thanks for taking us along on Your Ride, Smokie.
    As I read the name of each song on your list, I feel myself picked up and taken somewhere in time and space. Just like you, I meet family and friends. I travel to other dimensions.

    And then, there is the music itself.
    I share your reverence for #1. And for all of it.

    An aside – I love the song “and your bird can sing” always interpreted the lyrics pretty directly.
    FWIW I find it a beautiful message – written before “showing vulnerability” was a thing – that we can have all the shiny bells (singing birds) we like and go on all the flashy holidays (seven wonders) we like, but in the end, all that stuff is just noise and fluff. Distractions. All we really want or need is to be loved & supported (you don’t see me).
    I see it as a pre-cursor – similar sentiments – to all you need is love and strawberry fields.

    Enormous. Thanks Smokie, Your trip here has opened up trips for me and anyone else lucky enough.

  8. Magnificent Smoke! You took us here, there and every … okay, I’ll stop with the puns.

    Your family’s quite remarkable generational relationship with The Beatles is truly impressive and uplifting.

    While I get that everyone’s list is going to vary I was a little taken with several omissions. Helter Skelter, Don’t Let Me Down and She’s Leaving Home come to mind. And I’m not a fan of Taxman, despite it’s rollicking beat. It grinds my gears hearing millionaires whine, but that’s my beef not yours.

    The Beatles have so many great to incredible songs and you have captured their essential beauty and creativity so well along with a very moving story about you and yours. Cheers

  9. I am humbled by you all for taking the time to read and comment.

    Your thoughts and words are greatly appreciated.

  10. Loved it. Argued with it all the way, but a joyful read to be sure.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Magnificent Smokie, you are putting your retirement to good use.

    I had no older siblings as I navigated my way through the 60s nor were my parents followers of popular music, so I received my early Beatles education from the cartoon show. The first bit of Beatles that entered my house was a copy of the Let It Be single that I acquired from one of my 10th birthday invitees. Thanks whoever it was.

    Sometimes I like the idea of The Beatles and their vast influence on the western world as much as the music itself, if you get my drift.

  12. another aside, Smokie –

    I’ve always loved that opening line from Across the Universe, too. “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.” And your reference to it here reminded me of an interview between Roy & HG and Neil Finn that aired on Club Buggery on a Saturday night some time in the 1990s.
    And just now I found the interview on YouTube.
    HG: “What’s the best song that you would have liked to have written?”
    NF: “I would love to have written ‘Across the Universe’ by John Lennon – it’s a magnificent song. I fell in love with that one.”
    HG: [asks something else]
    Roy: “I think there’s a reference to a PAPER CUP in Across the Universe, isn’t there? And there is in Don’t Dream It’s Over – one of yours…”
    NF: “Oh well spotted. Well spotted. I was wondering if anyone was going to pull me up on that – cos no one has up til now.”

    (opening lines of Don’t Dream It’s Over: “There is freedom within – there is freedom without trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup.”)

  13. For me one of the personal indicators of a great artist is that I go through stages during which I have a different favourite album.

    Sgt. Peppers- in my early twenties; one of the first CDs I bought
    White Album – the sprawling, messy nature of it seduced me when I lived in Kimba
    Revolver- when living in the UK
    Help – after that
    Rubber Soul – when the boys were born.

    Really loved side two of Abbey Road but found side one patchy, and reckon they’d run out of puff by Let It Be. Penny Lane’s trumpet solo might just be their greatest single part.

  14. A worthy list. Not matching mine, but we all have our favorites. Anyway, all of you should come to my place next May (or some other late May) for Abbey Road on the River, the world’s biggest Beatles (and Beatles-era) music festival (50+ bands/performers of all kinds and a dozen nationalities, five stages, five days, late-night singalongs and playalongs). That’s where you’ll find us next May 25-29, at Big Four Station Park in Jeffersonville, Indiana, USA. (I am not an employee of the festival, just a nearly lifelong Beatles aficionado — I was 8 when they first appeared on our Ed Sullivan show.)

  15. Luke Reynolds says

    Smokie, this is an absolutely magnificent piece of writing, love your passion for the band and the personal tales interwoven. Despite listening to their albums many times, I feel I’m still discovering something new with each listen. And I’ve gone down the ‘Paul is dead’ wormhole a few times online, such an interesting topic! The Living End’s cover of “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is a ripper, as is Chris Cheney’s version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which is also on YouTube. I’ve listened to a few of these songs while reading this, will give The Beatles a good run over Christmas now.

  16. Smokie, what a labour of love, and how superbly you have completed this great task. Everyone of those songs means something to me, i never get tired of listening and thoroughly enjoying them. When the Beatles came to Melbourne that came with Jimmy Nicholl who was a last minute replacement for Ringo. He was mobbed by an adoring crowd at the airport desperate to see the Beatles, but next day after Ringo arrived I remember seeing a photo of him sitting all alone at the Airport awaiting a flight back to the UK.
    Smokie, thanks so much.

  17. James Walton says

    So hard to choose once you think about it. Just shows how good the music is I reckon.

  18. Les Everett says

    Nice to read again Smokie especially after seeing McCartney.

    A few years ago I got the book The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner. First songs I checked out were two of my favourite lesser-light songs (favourite reserves players might be the category).

    It’s Only Love: “It was one of the few Beatles’ songs John really hated.”

    You Like Me Too Much: “George chose not to discuss ‘You Like Me Too Much’ in his otherwise comprehensive account of his songwriting, I Got Mine, presumably because there was nothing much to say.”

  19. Karl Dubravs says

    Fabulous list. You could almost reverse the order of the top 40 and still have a great ranking of Beatles songs – such was the wonder of their songwriting.
    There was a certain magic in being there & living each of those songs in ‘real time’ – a time of great innocence (suburban Australia in the early – mid 60’s) – a ‘magic’ that can never be replicated & impossible to explain.
    Somewhere I read what would life be like without the Beatles – well the movie ‘[Yesterday’ sort of covered the subject – great movie!
    Thanks for the list of songs Smokie and for a while, allowing me to relive distant memories that still generate a positive charge within my musical fibres.

  20. Earl O'Neill says

    Great list, Smokie, thanx.
    Many years ago I was making 30 track compilations of my favourite bands, the Beatles comp ran over 40 and that was after I decided to leave ‘Revolver’ songs out.
    ‘Rain’ is in my Top Five and ‘Rubber Soul’ is my #1 Beatles album. It’s the last one made while they were a touring band, after that they became a bit too clever, tho still recorded many great songs.
    The sheer musicality of The Beatles, the amazing songwriting and command of the studio, is gobstopping, jawdropping awesome. That said, the Abbey Road medley is the low point, a bunch of half-arsed ideas that they couldn’t be bothered making into songs, so left it to to the inestimable skills of George Martin to edit into something cohesive.

  21. Tony Forbes says

    Wow, Smokie this is a magnificent homage to my favourite band and I love the way you have intertwined your journey in life with the Beatles timeless and brilliant music. I have read many books on the Beatles and your insightful reviews of the construction and development of their songs is spot on! Smokie, check out Mike Pachelli on YouTube, he is a great musician and Beatle ‘nut’. He deconstructs their songs and shows you how they are played using identical guitars. He sings the harmonies(sometimes) as well and seems to know when and how they were recorded!

  22. Tony Forbes says

    May have put wrong email on!

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