Top 10 Underrated Beatles Songs, 1963-65
Of all the facts about the Beatles, perhaps none is as awe-inspiring as the sheer volume of their output. In less than eight years, they released more than 200 songs, and that’s not including those that they kept in the vault for years (‘That Means A Lot’), they wrote for other people (such as Badfinger’s Paul McCartney-penned hit ‘Come and Get It’) or the rock and soul covers that were captured on 1994’s ‘Live at the BBC.’
In their early years, they were notoriously prolific, with manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin trying to stick to a schedule of a new single every three months and a new album every six months. As such, many incredible songs from those days don’t get thought of as often as their biggest hits. To rectify that, here is our list of the Top 10 Underrated Beatles Songs, 1963-65.
Written and recorded by Arthur Alexander in 1962, ‘Anna (Go to Him)' is the only song on this list of underrated Beatles songs that the group didn’t write. However, it’s here because John Lennon showed that, even on their debut album, he was a vocalist capable of conveying as much emotion as the best soul singers. George Harrison’s lead guitar part is pretty good, too.
By mid-1965, folk-rock was starting to grab a foothold on the charts, and the Beatles wanted in on it. While Lennon’s ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Life Away’ gained praise for its Bob Dylan-like introspection, it was this McCartney number, also from 'Help!,’ that owed more to folk’s roots. Although the Beatles were more familiar with sweaty rock clubs, on ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ they turn the 60’ x 38’ Studio Two at Abbey Road into a front porch.
‘You’re Gonna Lose that Girl’ is an attempt to write in the style of the girl-group pop they loved, but from a male point of view. It’s evident in the lyric and the call-and-response harmonies by George and Paul. But it’s the way the bridge jumps from the key of E to G, adding urgency as the lyric picks up some bite, and slips back down with ease that makes this song stand out.
‘Yesterday’ may have cemented Paul McCartney’s reputation as the preeminent ballad writer of his generation, but it began eight months prior with this cut that was caught between a couple of Lennon rockers on 1964’s ‘Beatles for Sale.’ But in less than two minutes, McCartney shows off his way with a melody, coupled with one of the most sweetly poetic breakup lyrics you’ll ever hear.
The Beatles’ best songs are timeless because they took ideas in pre-rock songcraft and applied them to rock. Everything about ‘Tell Me Why’ - the harmonies, the bass line, the chord progression, the shuffle - harkens back to the swing era. Filtering the Andrews Sisters’ harmonies through Liverpool beat music may not sound like a good idea, but it works beautifully. And that line sung in falsetto is gratuitously giddy.
For all his nice-guy image, Paul McCartney can turn the tables when he wants to. Fortunately that’s not too often (see No. 7 on this list of underrated Beatles songs), but ‘I’m Looking Through You’ is delightfully nasty. It’s hard to not feel the sting when he sings to a jilted lover, "The only difference is you're down there / I'm looking through you, and you're nowhere" and the organ (played by Ringo Starr) sticks in a few daggers for good measure.
The ‘Past Masters’ series rescued a handful of Beatles B-sides from relative obscurity. One of those was ‘Yes It Is,’ which was the flip side of ‘Ticket to Ride.’ It follows the formula set by ‘This Boy’ (also a B-side) of close, three-part harmony singing against a 6/8 time signature and a soaring Lennon vocal on the bridge. But it improves upon its predecessor with better lyrics, greater confidence in the vocals and Harrison’s volume-knob guitar fills.
The Byrds famously took their cues after seeing ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ and the Beatles repaid the favor a year later. George Harrison built ‘If I Needed Someone’ on their version of ‘The Bells of Rhymney.’ The high-capoed Rickenbacker 12-string gives a bed for their trademark harmonies to soar, particularly in the last verse. But it’s McCartney’s bassline, played with perfect feel, that sends the second-to-last track on ‘Rubber Soul’ into the No. 3 spot on our list of early underrated Beatles songs.
With six covers, ‘Beatles for Sale’ seemed like a step back after ‘A Hard Day’s Night,' which was entirely comprised of Lennon-McCartney compositions. But the originals displayed a growing maturity that would soon blossom, and ‘I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party’ is the best of them. A country-tinged shuffle version from Rosanne Cash was a No. 1 country hit in 1989, the only time a Beatles cover has topped that chart.
Not only is the B-side to ‘Help!’ one of the most raucous pieces of pure rock n’ roll the Beatles ever recorded, but it was recorded on June 14 1965. Earlier that day, the Beatles cut ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face,’ and that night, they committed ‘Yesterday’ to tape. That footnote is a perfect example of Paul McCartney’s incredible versatility as a songwriter, and the Beatles as a group.