The Beatles, John Lennon, Paris, 1965
(Credit: Bent Rej)

From Little Richard to Bob Dylan: 40 of John Lennon’s most beloved songs

There are many legends that surround the pivotal musical figure of John Lennon. While more than a few can be attributed to his time with The Beatles, which a great deal of them are entirely untrue, some are both realistic and a direct reflection of the man behind the myth. If there’s one way to find out about a person it is to check their record collection.

Luckily for all John Lennon fans, the bespectacled Beatle kept a pretty healthy collection of 45s wherever he went. The Beatles man carried the personal jukebox, a KB Discomatic from the UK back in 1965 and personally filled it with some of his most beloved songs and vivid inspiration. The jukebox held 40 singles and showcased that John Lennon had an insatiable appetite for music. We’ve pulled the tracks together for a complete and perfect playlist of Lennon’s favourite songs.

Lennon picked up the jukebox in 1965 and filled it personally with handwritten notes along with his favourite singles of the time. He carried the jukebox around with him relentlessly, able to call on it to provide tunes and inspiration in equal measure whenever he had a spare moment. The jukebox surfaced in the late-eighties and was sold at Christie’s for a rather paltry £2,500 to Bristol-based music promoter John Midwinter.

The promoter spent several years restoring the jukebox to mint condition, researching the discs inside and relishing the handwritten catalogue Lennon had put in it. As Midwinter’s health deteriorated, he was keen for the jukebox to be given a documentary to tell the story. The South Bank Show took on the mantle of telling the story and did so in a 2004 documentary with a cracking documentary that spoke to many of the artists represented in the list. Such was the success of the piece that a compilation CD was organised, ‘inspired’ by the singles found in the jukebox, it is this list that can be found below. While it’s not exactly as Lennon completed it in 1965, some are different recordings or variants of the same song while others have B-sides missing etc., it is a very close showing of the songs that made Lennon an icon.

1965 was a pivotal year for John Lennon and The Beatles. Arguably seen as the moment the band went from boyband to musical icons, channelling their songwriting towards personal poetry instead of pop-chart dominance, the blueprints for what was to come can be heard in the playlist below as well as picking out some of Lennon’s absolute favourite songs and artists.

Notable figures on the list include Donovan, with whom Lennon shared a lot of time in India, the young folkie even helping the Fab Four to sketch out some of the songs that would make up their White Album. Another mainstay in The Beatles life given from in the jukebox was Bob Dylan’s song ‘Positively 4th Street’. Dylan was a huge figure for The Beatles and Lennon in particular, it was his style which turned Lennon on to the aforementioned style of songwriting.

As well as what The Beatles would end up sounding like, there was also a double dose of the music which helped them get to where they were—also likely some of John’s favourites too. It means there is more than one spot available for artists such as Little Richard, Buddy Holly as well as a spot for Gene Vincent’s ‘Be-Bop-A-Lua’, coincidentally the song John Lennon was performing the first time Paul McCartney saw him play live.

Another point of note is Lennon’s love of soul. As well as adding in Otis Redding and The Isley Brothers there was room for Bobby Parker and Smokey Robinson—another Lennon hero, “That’s me trying to be Smokey Robinson again,” the singer said of the Fab Four song ‘All My Loving’, Robinson’s incredible vocals being used as a benchmark throughout several Beatles periods.

Throughout the collection of songs below, be they exactly accurate or not, we can get a reals sense of the man who painstakingly loaded and noted the singles he added to his personal jukebox. John Lennon was a musician not bound by genre or perception, not comforted by staying safe or guarding himself, in 1965, Lennon made the jump into music and gave himself entirely to his art. Judging by this list of tracks, he had enough inspiration there to show him the way.

John Lennon’s favourite songs:

  • ‘In the Midnight Hour’ – Wilson Pickett
  • ‘Rescue Me’ – Fontella Bass
  • ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • ‘My Girl’ – Otis Redding
  • ‘1-2-3’ – Len Barry
  • ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’ – Tommy Tucker
  • ‘The Walk’ – Jimmy McCracklin
  • ‘Gonna Send You Back to Georgia’ – Timmy Shaw
  • ‘First I Look at the Purse’ – The Contours
  • ‘New Orleans’ – Gary U.S. Bonds
  • ‘Watch Your Step’ – Bobby Parker
  • ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ – Derek Martin
  • ‘Short Fat Fannie’ – Larry Williams
  • ‘Long Tall Sally’ – Little Richard
  • ‘Money’ – Barrett Strong
  • ‘Hey! Baby’ – Bruce Channel
  • ‘Positively 4th Street’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Daydream’ – The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • ‘Turquoise’ – Donovan
  • ‘Slippin’ and Slidin” – Buddy Holly
  • ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ – Gene Vincent
  • ‘No Particular Place to Go’ – Chuck Berry
  • ‘Steppin’ Out’ – Paul Revere & the Raiders
  • ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ – The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • ‘Some Other Guy’ – The Big Three
  • ‘Twist and Shout’ – The Isley Brothers
  • ‘She Said, Yeah’ – Larry Williams
  • ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ – Buddy Holly
  • ‘Slippin’ and Slidin” – Little Richard
  • ‘Quarter to Three’ – Gary U.S. Bonds
  • ‘Ooh! My Soul’ – Little Richard
  • ‘Woman Love’ – Gene Vincent
  • ‘Shop Around’ – The Miracles
  • ‘Bring It on Home to Me’ – The Animals
  • ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ – James Ray with the Hutch Davie Orchestra
  • ‘What’s So Good About Goodbye’ – The Miracles
  • ‘Bad Boy’ – Larry Williams
  • ‘Agent Double-O Soul’ – Edwin Starr
  • ‘I’ve Been Good to You’ – The Miracles
  • ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’ – The Miracles
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