Formed by John Lennon after he invited Paul McCartney to join his skiffle-rock group the Quarrymen, The Beatles remain to this day one of the most extraordinary bands to have ever existed. They’re certainly the most commercial. A plethora of hits came from all four corners of the band, and the discussion about their greatest hits has been debated by fans for decades, but now, we might have found a definitive list of best Fab Four records.
While many interviewers attempted to prise personal opinion out of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, very rarely did the members of the band play ball. However, as part of Lennon’s now-iconic conversation with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, the group’s founding member is talking about just that, a time when he openly shared some of his favourite songs from The Beatles extensive back catalogue amidst a hefty interview. With it, he offers the one fundamental theme throughout all of the Fab Four’s work; authenticity.
After avoiding a simple question from Wenner on Lennon’s favourite song he ever wrote for The Beatles, a painstaking task we imagine he undertook with a hefty dose of regularity, he delivers a typically flagrant response. Lennon says.”I always liked ‘[I Am The] Walrus’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Help’, ‘In My Life’,” Wenner soon interjects, “Why ‘Help!’?” Lennon delivers a typically coloured response.
The singer and guitarist replied: “Because I meant it, it’s real. The lyric is as good now as it was then, it’s no different, you know. It makes me feel secure to know that I was that sensible or whatever—well, not sensible, but aware of myself. That’s with no acid, no nothing… well pot or whatever.” Lennon clarifies his point, “It was just me singing ‘help’, and I meant it, you know. I don’t like the recording that much, the song I like. We did it too fast to try and be commercial.”
He also picks up on ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ for its raw authenticity and the song’s sentiment. “We [Paul & John] wrote that together, it’s a beautiful melody. I might do that and ‘Help!’ again. Because I like them. I sing them, you know, they’re the kind of songs I like to sing.” It connects with Lennon’s own raw intensity and turns the song into a foot-stomping anthem.
When asked why he liked the 1967 anthem ‘Strawberry Fileds Forever’, Lennon replied, “Because it’s real, yeah. It’s like talking you know, ‘I sometimes think no, but then again I mean‘ you know, like that. It’s like that Elton John one where he’s talking to himself sort of singing which I thought was nice.”
After being drawn into speaking about ‘Girl’ Lennon quickly shares that he always hated ‘Run For Your Life’ because it was “phoney”. But the former was different for the singer “’Girl’ was real. There’s no such thing as the girl, she was a dream, you know. But the words are alright. It’s about, well, ‘she was taught when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure.’ All that, there’s, sort of, philosophy quotes. I was thinking about it when I wrote it, it was just a song. And it was about THAT, that turned out to be Yoko in the end, girl that a lot of us were looking for.”
Lennon also shares a little on why he thinks ‘Across The Universe’ is one of The Beatles’ best ever songs, “It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best, I don’t know. It’s good poetry or whatever you call it. Without tunes it will stand.”
It’s a testament to Lennon’s patience that he was still happy to answer these questions some years later, and it’s also a testament to the place in Lennon’s heart that he held The Beatles until his untimely death. Listen to John Lennon pick five of his favourite Beatles songs ever below.
John Lennon’s 5 favourite Beatles songs:
- ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
- ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’
- ‘I Am The Walrus’
- ‘Across The Universe’
Listen to the full interview below: