There are certainly not many people who can claim to have had as an impressive pop music career as John Lennon. His work with The Beatles is rightly considered some of the finest pop songs ever made but, the truth is, Lennon wasn’t very impressed with some of them. “I feel I could make every fucking one of them better,” remarked Lennon during a typically caustic interview with David Sheff. Despite being a part of The Beatles, the bespectacled ‘Imagine’ singer has never been shy about taking the Fab Four down a peg or two.
It means that while there is certainly a list of songs that Lennon loved from the band, and he loved many, there is an equally large list of songs he hates. Below, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of all those tracks and offering some background information as to why Lennon may have a problem with his past creations. It’s a list that will likely make bonafide Fab Four fans wince but Lennon knew what he liked and not all of The Beatles work was given such favour.
Some six decades after they first got together, the world is still endlessly talking about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr; The Beatles. From Please Please Me right up until Let It Be, four friends from Liverpool would achieve monumental fame and success in an astoundingly short period of time. While the group enjoyed massive highs, they battled through their fair share internal tension and touring mishaps along the way too.
In their meteoric rise to rock and roll fame, the band recorded in excess of 300 songs and, predictably, not all of them hold the same weight as their classics. In the years after the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon was often drawn into a conversation about the band and was never afraid to share his opinion, no matter the angle.
It was a classic attempt at gaining some salacious column inches and Lennon rarely disappointed.
The Beatles songs John Lennon hated:
‘Twist and Shout’ (1963)
The cover of Phil Medley and Bert Berns anthem has been a mainstay at parties since the band released it but the track has always been a problem for John Lennon and his social values.
Speaking in that year he says he “always hated singing that song” when there was a black artist on the bill. “It doesn’t seem right, you know. I feel sort of embarrassed… It makes me curl up. I always feel they could do the song much better than me.” It’s an honest reflection of what many think is The Beatles dark secrets.
‘I’ll Get You’ (1963)
The track that ended up as the B-side to ‘She Loves You’ has never really been taken too seriously. Featuring on The Beatles Second Album the song feels a bit flat for John Lennon and his now caustic sensibilities.
He told David Sheff in 1980: “That was Paul and me trying to write a song… and it didn’t work out.” Though Macca would disagree, the track remains a miss among many, many hits.
‘It Won’t Be Long’ (1963)
Taken from With The Beatles, ‘It Won’t Be Long’ is a song that many Beatles fans will hold dear to their hearts but for Lennon, it never really quite made it despite starting off a serious discussion about the band’s intellectual credentials and that is enough for it to be cast aside by Lennon.
“‘It Won’t Be Long’ is mine. It was my attempt at writing another single,” remembered Lennon in 1980. “It never quite made it. That was the one where the guy in the ‘London Times’ wrote about the ‘Aeolian cadences of the chords’ which started the whole intellectual bit about the Beatles.”
‘Hold Me Tight’ (1963)
Another song from With The Beatles sees Lennon’s tongue turns a little sharper as he reflects on a wholly forgettable number. “That was Paul’s,” he says. “Maybe I stuck some bits in there… I really don’t remember. It was a pretty poor song and I was never really interested in it either way.”
Paul McCartney confirmed the song’s irrelevance to their back catalogue, “‘Hold Me Tight’ was a failed attempt at a single which then became acceptable album filler.” While it’s a bit tough to read, it’s hard to argue with.
‘I Should Have Known Better’ (1964)
A Hard Day’s Night is one of the band’s standout albums and it features some incredible songs too. Some of the band’s best, in fact—but one song never really landed.
For Lennon it fell into the same old pattern of writing as many songs as possible, as he put it: “That’s me. Just a song— It doesn’t mean a damn thing.”
‘Eight Days A Week’ (1964)
The song featured on The Beatles’ most maligned album The Beatles for Sale and is regarded as one of their more popular efforts. But for John Lennon, the track never felt like a truly great tune.
“‘Eight Days A Week’ was never a good song,” Lennon remembered. “We struggled to record it and struggled to make it into a song. It was his (Paul’s) initial effort, but I think we both worked on it. I’m not sure. But it was lousy anyway.”
‘It’s Only Love’ (1965)
Released in 1965, Help! cemented The Beatles as a powerhouse pop act. As well as housing some of the group’s most beloved songs it also had room on the tracklisting for the song John Lennon hated most of all.
‘It’s Only Love’ will go down as his least favourite Beatles song, saying in 1972, “That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyric.”
Later, Lennon confirmed that hatred, telling Sheff in 1980: “‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics are abysmal. I always hated that song.”
Another track from Help! sees Lennon take aim at quite possibly the band’s most famous song of all time. While ‘Yesterday’ is an undoubted classic, Lennon took umbrage with the song’s lack of lyrical density.
Telling David Sheff in 1980: “The lyrics don’t resolve into any sense, they’re good lines. They certainly work, you know what I mean? They’re good— but if you read the whole song, it doesn’t say anything; you don’t know what happened. She left and he wishes it were yesterday, that much you get, but it doesn’t really resolve. So, mine didn’t used to either. I have had so much accolade for ‘Yesterday.’ That’s Paul’s song, and Paul’s baby.
“Well done. Beautiful— and I never wished I’d written it.”
‘Run For Your Life’ (1965)
Taken from the band’s seminal album Rubber Soul, ‘Run For Your Life’ bucks the trend of the record and is closer to the band’s previous material. Rubber Soul saw the group begin to move away from pop stardom and toward artistic integrity.
He told Sheff in 1980, “It has a line from an old Presley song. ‘I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man’ is a line from an old blues song that Presley did once. Just sort of a throw-away song of mine that I never thought much of… but it was always a favourite of George’s.”
‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ (1966)
Despite being one of Paul McCartney’s favourite songs from the mammoth Anthology release, the song’s original inclusion on Revolver wasn’t reviewed well by Lennon when he looked back.
In 1972 he called it “another horror,” it’s a sentiment he backed up again in 1980, calling it “another of my throwaways”. Considering the calibre of songs Lennon likely threw away, that shouldn’t necessarily discredit the song.
‘When I’m Sixty Four’ (1967)
When Paul McCartney came up with the idea for The Beatles’ concept record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band he came equipped with a ream of tracks that Lennon would later refer to as “granny music.” In fact, those words are a little kinder than he would use.
Naturally, ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ falls into that cracked and Lennon admitted: “I would never dream of writing a song like that. There’s some things I never think about, and that’s one of them.”
‘Lovely Rita’ (1967)
Following up that song on the album and in the list of Lennon’s least favourite songs is ‘Lovely Rita’ a track imbued with the same ragtime, good ol’ fashion fun as the previous track.
“That’s Paul writing a pop song,” recalled Lennon in 1980. “He makes ’em up like a novelist. You hear lots of McCartney-influenced songs on the radio now. These stories about boring people doing boring things– being postmen and secretaries and writing home. I’m not interested in writing third-party songs. I like to write about me, ‘cuz I know me.”
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ (1967)
One song that may surprise fans to know was on the list of Lennon’s most disliked songs was his own composition ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. Incorrectly deemed to be about LSD, the song is famed for its psychedelic lyrics nonetheless.
However, Lennon wasn’t so appreciative of the track: “I heard ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ last night. It’s abysmal, you know?” Lennon said in 1980.
“The track is just terrible. I mean, it is a great track, a great song, but it isn’t a great track because it wasn’t made right. You know what I mean?”
‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ (1967)
When you’re asked to produce so many songs in such little time, there’s a good chance you will begin to not only fall out of love with them but with writing them too. ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ falls into that bracket.
“‘Good Morning, Good Morning,’ I was never proud of it, I just knocked it off to do a song,” recalled Lennon just a year later. “But,” he admitted, “It was writing about my past so it does get the kids because it was me at school, my whole bit.”
‘Hello, Goodbye’ (1967)
With the Magical Mystery Tour film released, the band needed a new record to accompany it. The album is filled with some of the better Beatles efforts ut one stuck in Lennon’s teeth, ‘Hello, Goodbye.’
“That’s another McCartney. An attempt to write a single. It wasn’t a great piece,” Lennon told Sheff. “The best bit was at the end, which we all ad-libbed in the studio, where I played the piano. Like ‘Ticket To Ride,’ where we just threw something in at the end.”
‘Lady Madonna’ (1967)
Another number from that album which found no favour with John Lennon was ‘Lady Madonna’ a track which Ringo Starr quite accurately noted as sounding “like Elvis, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t sound like Elvis… it IS Elvis. Even those bits where he goes very high.”
Though Lennon admits that the song had a great piano lick he later conceded that “the song never really went anywhere.” For the singer, that was enough to cast it into the shadows.
‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ (1968)
The song that launched Lennon’s tirade of “granny music” was ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ a song that not only lacks any real sensical lyrics but was also compounded by Macca’s incessant desire to record it.
After the song was finally completed studio engineer Geoff Emerick quit the studio and refused to work with the band.
Featuring on the band’s White Album, ‘Birthday’ has a curious story attached to its composition as the band rushed to finish a track so they could watch The Girl Can’t Help It, an “old rock film with Little Richard and Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran and a few others.”
As such, the song falls flat as Lennon remembered in 1980, “‘Birthday’ was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul wanted to write a song like ‘Happy Birthday Baby,’ the old fifties hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage.”
‘Rocky Raccoon’ (1968)
A White Album song which couldn’t be more Paul McCartney if it tried. Asked by David Sheff who wrote the song, Lennon dryly replied: “Couldn’t you guess? Would I go to all that trouble about Gideon’s Bible and all that stuff?”
He was also quoted as saying: “I saw Bob Hope doing it once on the telly years ago; I just thanked God it wasn’t one of mine.”
‘Cry Baby Cry’ (1968)
Another White Album number this time straight from Lennon himself. While in 1968 he was happy to include the song on the album he also showed his hesitance to conclude it: “I’ve been playing it over and over on the piano. I’ve let it go now, but it will come back if I really want it,” he said.
Speaking in 1980, Lennon simply referred to it as “A piece of rubbish.”
‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ (1969)
There are a lot of songs on this list that highlights Lennon’s ability to be cutting when he wanted to. However, on this selection, the singer and guitarist would have been backed by his bandmates as George and Ringo equally disliked this song too, largely because of the song’s intense and lengthy composition.
“He (Paul) did quite a lot of work on it. I was ill after the (automobile) accident while they did most of the track, and I believe he really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it. We spent more money on that song than any of them on the whole album, I think.”
‘Mean Mr Mustard’ (1969)
Lennon takes another shot at his own songwriting when he told David Sheff that ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ was “a bit of crap I wrote in India”, A song about a man who hides money in his rectum isn’t likely to trouble the Ivor Novello awards and Lennon knew it.
He continued that the song was a “piece of garbage. I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else”.
‘Sun King’ (1969)
Another track from Abbey Road that Lennon severely disliked was ‘Sun King’.
Though in 1969 as part of a press run he was happy to see the lighter side of the track, “We just started joking, you know, singing ‘quando para mucho.’ So we just made up… Paul knew a few Spanish words from school, you know. So we just strung any Spanish words that sounded vaguely like something.”
By 1980 this view had considerably soured and he described it as “a piece of garbage I had around.”
‘Dig A Pony’ (1970)
Written prior to Abbey Road but released later on Let It Be ‘Dig A Pony’ falls victim to the same trappings as ‘Sun King’ and a track that Lennon once saw as “just having fun with words,” soon changed for him.
Of course, his assessment of the track in 1980? Well, “Another piece of garbage.”