Beatles island song list

The interesting thing about this exercise is that I became aware, sometimes for the first time, some biases.

Ever have what you think is a really good concept, then you start actually DOING it, and you decide, “Well, maybe it WASN’T such a hot idea, after all”? So it is with this blogging project about the Beatles, clearly my favorite group.

The idea was to create my Beatles island song list. If I only had 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 Beatles songs available, which ones would I choose? First off, I had to find a list of all the songs that the Beatles recorded that are in the canon: the singles, albums, and EPs released between 1963 and 1970. No Star Club in Hamburg, no Tony Sheridan, no BBC or Anthology recordings. This list shows 215 songs, but lists Love Me Do twice (but not the other possibilities?) and also has Real Love, but not Free As a Bird. So I’m assuming 213 individual songs. It would be easy to just pick four songs from Revolver, four from Rubber Soul, and a couple others for my Top 10, but I tried, when I could, to be more diversified.

And let’s face it: making a list like this always depends on the mood so that a song at 93 on this list might be 103 or 83 if I did it again. Which almost certainly WILL NOT HAPPEN. I started working on this before February. Of 2009, for the 45th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, which I am old enough to have watched in real time. Someone coming to the group after the fact would surely hear the songs differently.

Know also that these are not entirely or strictly by most to least favorite, but more about both the (artificial) scarcity AND the diversity. One Lennon cover version rocker might push another one back; likewise, a McCartney saloon song, a Harrison tune with sitar, or a Ringo record.

The interesting thing about this exercise is that I became aware, sometimes for the first time, of some biases. Surely, I knew about my affection for Beatles VI, my first album. But I wasn’t as aware of my general antipathy for Let It Be, an album that always felt like the group’s musical funeral. Still, all things being equal, I wouldn’t give up ANY of the songs!

I also had to find videos for all of these; if you find a broken link, PLEASE let me know, as they all worked when I started this thing. Some of the sources are HERE at Beatles Box Set 2009 and HERE at, the purpose of the latter site being “to organize all videos about The Beatles that you can find on Youtube.” But I DID find items elsewhere and used Beatles videos from the movies, were readily available.

To give you an idea of how my thinking went. On the list:
217. Across the Universe, the Wildlife version.
216. Love Me Do, the LP version which included Andy White, NOT Ringo on drums.
215. Let It Be, the single version, solely because the album version is longer
214. Get Back, the Let It Be album version, because the single actually ends, rather than “I hope we pass the audition,”, which IS a great line on a Simpsons’ episode, to be sure.
Because other versions of these songs appear elsewhere on the list.

So I’ll be doing these 10 at a time, at no particular set schedule. It’ll be at least once a week, but it might be twice or thrice, depending on what else I have in mind for the blog, and, of course, time.

My designation of the source album requires an explanation, I reckon. For the British albums, I limited myself to the original albums that the Beatles intended. Several of the early singles, EPs and the song Bad Boy appeared on A Collection of Beatles Oldies but Goldies, but it was their intent to put those songs out AS singles or EPs, so I’ve ignored it; all of those songs now appear on the Past Master CDs. Whereas for the US albums, I picked the Capitol albums, plus the Vee-Jay Introducing the Beatles and the United Artists’ A Hard Day’s Night, which had some overlap, because those releases, especially prior to Sgt. Pepper, were so convoluted. In fact, Introducing the Beatles was released at least TWICE, with 10 common songs, plus two on each album that don’t overlap; I’m not making the distinction.

Since I’m starting this on the 5th of November, I suppose I ought to provide a link to REMEMBER by John Lennon.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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