'Day Tripper'From: 1965 Single
Released the same day as the career-shifting Rubber Soul album (as part of the double A-side single with "We Can Work It Out"), "Day Tripper" signaled the start of a new era of Beatles records, one that explored wild new musical frontiers. It was also one of the last songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked on together.
'Get Back'From: 1969 Single
Like "Let It Be," "Get Back" was released in two different versions: a 1969 single mix and a rougher take that appears on the Let It Be album. "Get Back" was the original working title of the LP the Beatles planned to make after the White Album split them apart. The sessions ended disastrously, but this song was a hopeful indication of where things were heading before the collapse.
'Eight Days a Week'From: 'Beatles for Sale' (1964)
"Eight Days a Week" was the first Beatles song to be composed in the studio. Prior to its recording near the end of 1964, the group always had complete songs ready to play; starting with "Eight Days a Week," they began fleshing out skeletal ideas for songs as they recorded. John Lennon reportedly hated the final version.
'I Am the Walrus'From: 1967 Single
Released as the flip side to "Hello Goodbye," "I Am the Walrus" reflected the growing distance between John Lennon and Paul McCartney as songwriters. Where the A-side was basically a pop song shaded with some Summer of Love colors, "I Am the Walrus" is a full-on freak-out, complete with bits of rambling dialogue, stray swatches of swaying strings and a fiercely distorted lead vocal from Lennon.
'Got to Get You Into My Life'From: 'Revolver' (1966)
The Beatles always absorbed the music around them, whether it was music-hall ballads from their youths, pioneering rock 'n' roll or the R&B that swept in from the U.S. The brass-tastic "Got to Get You Into My Life" was hugely influenced by Motown and helped make Revolver one of the group's most ear-popping, and -opening, albums.
'Twist and Shout'From: 'Please Please Me' (1963)
The Beatles covered a fair amount of songs on their first few albums, and because they were pretty much great songs to begin with, the band's versions rarely topped the originals (as solid as they were). Their scorching take on the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," recorded at one of their earliest sessions, is one of the times they totally owned a song not bearing the Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit.
Like the single it supported ("Paperback Writer"), the Beatles' best B-side comes from the productive Revolver sessions. But "Rain" is more than a mere flip-side castoff; loaded with backward tape loops, massive overdubs and a studio-as-a-playground ethos that would consume the Beatles going forward, "Rain" is a masterpiece of controlled chaos.
'All You Need Is Love'From: 1967 Single
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was a little more than a month old when the Beatles released this song, which was originally commissioned by the BBC for the planet's first live global satellite television special. It couldn't have come at a better time, with the Summer of Love marching forward in all its paisley-colored, patchouli-scented glory.
'With a Little Help From My Friends'From: 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (1967)
The second half of one of the most celebrated album intros ever recorded, With a Little Help From My Friends was given to Ringo Starr by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who envisioned it as the drummer's showcase number on the LP. And with his down-home vocal and shuffling delivery, it's one of Starr's most enduring numbers.
'Can't Buy Me Love'From: 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964)
By mid 1964, just as Beatlemania was reaching its apex, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were hitting their stride as songwriters. No longer satisfied with singing other people's songs, they began writing their own at a feverish pace. "Can't Buy Me Love" was a highlight of a marathon period that yielded much of the A Hard Day's Night album.
'Come Together'From: 'Abbey Road' (1969)
The opening track on the last album the Beatles recorded, "Come Together" serves as the perfect intro to Abbey Road. With its slithery rhythm and slightly menacing and sinister vibe, the song leaves a burning scar on some of the album's sunnier songs. It reached No. 1 – the last Beatles chart-topper penned by John Lennon.
'Please Please Me'From: 1963 Single
Recorded at one of the Beatles' earliest sessions and released as their second single, "Please Please Me" helped prove that their debut, "Love Me Do," was no fluke. The song topped the U.K. charts and later made it to No. 3 in the U.S. The band liked the song so much, it named its first album after it.
'A Hard Day's Night'From: 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964)
"A Hard Day's Night" was more than just the title of the Beatles' first movie and third album; it was the first time they showed some muscle on record. Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, based on something Ringo Starr had said, "A Hard Day's Night" is the sound of a group heading toward its inevitable immortality.
'I Saw Her Standing There'From: 1963 Single
In a way, "I Saw Her Standing There" helped launch Beatlemania in the States. Even though it was released in the U.K. in 1963, it showed up on the B-side of the Beatles' breakthrough U.S. single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," almost a year later, setting in motion a musical revolution that's still reverberating today.
'Eleanor Rigby'From: 1966 Single
"Eleanor Rigby" wasn't the first pop song to use only a string section as its musical base, but it was one of the most effective up to that point (and still is, for that matter). More importantly, Paul McCartney was just 23 years old when he wrote this look at infinite loneliness and the hopelessness that springs from it.
'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)'From: 'Rubber Soul' (1965)
John Lennon wrote "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" as a confession to his wife, whom he had cheated on. It helped uncover a brand new level of the Beatles' songwriting: personal introspection, rather than the universal themes of love that had marked their first couple of years. George Harrison's use of the sitar was also revolutionary, introducing a thoroughly exotic instrument to pop music.
'She Loves You'From: 1963 Single
The "yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain is legendary, and it was at the time too. But "She Loves You" storms out of the gate unlike very few songs before or since. Kicking off with the chorus (how many songs did that in 1963?) and featuring some of the young band's finest playing and harmonies, "She Loves You" is the sound of Beatlemania wrapped in 2:18.
The demands of fortune and fame were barreling down hard on the Beatles, especially John Lennon, when they wrote and recorded Help! in 1965. Stepping into more personal songwriting, the song was a literal cry for help from Lennon, who was the most uncomfortable with the Beatles' ballooning success.
'Yesterday'From: 'Help!' (1965)
Paul McCartney wrote "Yesterday" when he was 22 years old. Within a few years, it became one of the most recorded songs in pop history, with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan covering it. All these years later, it sounds like it's been with us forever. No surprise that it shot to the top of the chart.
'Hey Jude'From: 1968 Single
"Hey Jude" was one of the few times the Beatles pulled themselves together and worked as a unit during the troubled White Album sessions. Written by Paul McCartney for John Lennon's son, the seven-minute single became the group's biggest U.S. hit. The singalong chorus that dominates the second half of the song amounts to one last unified rallying cry by the splintering band.