With over 200 songs to their name and a vast majority of them being, at the very least, revered in their own time, it’s hard to pick a single favourite song by The Beatles. Trying to whittle down the extensive list of fabulous songs usually ends in a collection of anywhere from five to 50. For the members of the band, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, selecting a single song as their favourite was an impossible task.
In fact, in most interviews, the band, perhaps dissuaded by the vulgarity of having to pick a favourite song of one’s own, largely avoided such questions until later in their careers. But, if we do a little digging and piece together interviews from across the years, we can certainly narrow it down to a selection of songs that can well be regarded as the Fab Four’s favourites.
As a single unit under the moniker of The Beatles, the four individuals operating under the banner may have, at many crucial times, moved as one; at one time, they’d even consider themselves family. But in truth, their individualism would often lead them down different paths. After all, the personalities of the individual Beatles are part of what endeared them to so many hearts across the world during their explosion in the swinging sixties and still some near-six decades later.
Some of the perceptions of the Fab Four as the boyband with a member for everybody’s tastes were down to the marketing of the incredible manager Brian Epstein; it was certainly true that their different styles and talents were an organic evolution of not only the band but the members as people in their own right. It was a happy accident that saw The Beatles excel across four different points.
This led to a beautiful tapestry of all four members’ songwriting expertise. Of course, John Lennon and Paul McCartney will always be remembered as the principal songwriters in the band but George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s contribution can not be underestimated, especially Harrison’s later canon of work, as he continued to improve his songwriting.
It’s a moving thread of styles that are also reflected in the songs they note as their favourites too. Below, we’re picking out the favourite Beatles songs from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
The Beatles’ favourite Beatles songs:
John Lennon’s favourite Beatles song
As we mentioned, narrowing it down to a single favourite would be difficult for anyone, least of all the band’s principal founder, John Lennon. Though often candid about his likes and dislikes regarding the band, he rarely landed on one track as his favourite. Instead, he usually offered a variety of songs. In one interview with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, he named five tracks as his favourites of the bunch: “I always liked ‘[I Am The] Walrus’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Help!’, ‘In My Life’,” later noting ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ for its raw authenticity.
If we were to scale that list down to one single song, we’d argue that it would be the perfectly placed ‘Help!’ that takes the accolade of being Lennon’s favourite. In the same interview, he elucidated on why he loved the track: “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.” It’s routinely seen as one of Lennon’s finest pieces and it seems fitting it would be his favourite, as it effortlessly bridges the gap between Beatlemania and the beginning of their time as progressive rock expressionists.
Paul McCartney’s favourite Beatles song
There have been a few instances in which Paul McCartney has named his favourite Beatles track and, like any fan, it seems that his penchant for certain songs changes with the seasons. The most usually accepted selection from Macca is his magnetic track ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, though he admitted it was largely because ‘Yesterday’ had become so popular. Speaking to Scott Muni, McCartney revealed: “Well, it’s difficult to choose the favourite. It (‘Here, There and Everywhere’) is one of my favourites. You look at your songs and kinda look to see which of the ones you think are maybe the best constructed and stuff,” says McCartney. “I think ‘Yesterday’—if it wasn’t so successful—might be my favourite.
“But, you know, you get that thing when something is just so successful… people often don’t want to do ‘the big one’ that everyone wants them to do. They kind of shy away from it,” continued McCartney. “‘Here, There and Everywhere’ with ‘Yesterday’ as a close second.”
However, in more recent years, McCartney has turned to a somewhat unusual song as his go-to choice, selecting ‘You Know My Name Look Up The Number’, a uniquely positioned B-side as his favourite. Speaking most recently to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, McCartney said: “[It’s] a zany, zany little B-side that nobody knows, but we had so much fun making it.”
He shared a similar sentiment when speaking to Mark Lewisohn in 1988: “People are only just discovering the B-sides of Beatles singles. They’re only just discovering things like ‘You Know My Name’ — probably my favourite Beatles track! Just because it’s so insane.”
Macca continued to explain his love for the song, “All the memories — I mean, what would you do if a guy like John Lennon turned up at the studio and said, ‘I’ve got a new song.’ I said, ‘What’s the words?’ and he replied, ‘You know my name look up the number.’ I asked, ‘What’s the rest of it?’ ‘…No. No other words, those are the words. And I wanna do it like a mantra!’ We did it over a period of maybe two or three years. We started off and we just did 20 minutes, and we tried it again and it didn’t work. We tried it again, and we had these endless, crazy fun sessions.
“Eventually, we pulled it all together and I sang, (sings in jazzy voice) ‘You know my name…’ and we just did a skit. Mal (Evans) and his gravel. I can still see Mal digging the gravel. And it was just so hilarious to put that record together. It’s not a great melody or anything, it’s just unique. Some people haven’t discovered that song yet.”
Now’s the time to do it.
George Harrison’s favourite Beatles song
As one may have expected, the most difficult to pin down to a definitive answer is George Harrison. Perhaps happy to sit behind his moniker of being the ‘Quiet Beatle’, Harrison rarely offered his opinion on Beatles songs beyond the odd nod of approval or promotional press junket. But, there are ten songs from the Fab Four that you could consider some of his favourites.
One thing we are sure of is that Rubber Soul was Harrison’s favourite album by the band. “Rubber Soul was my favourite album,” he once revealed. “Even at that time, I think that it was the best one we made,” he added when reflecting on the iconic record in the 1990s. He wistfully recalled: “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music, and everything was blossoming at that time—including us.”
With that in mind, we’re picking a song from that record, one which not only saw Harrison provide a glimpse of the future, with a unique, and previously unheard in pop music, sitar lead line, but saw Harrison excel as a spiritual counterpoint to Lennon’s realism. Harrison is noted as saying he “felt where it was coming from” and “really enjoyed” the song. For George Harrison, that’s as good as him flying an aeroplane overhead with a banner proclaiming his love.
Ringo Starr’s favourite Beatles song
As equally expected as Harrison’s difficult decision making is Ringo Starr’s affable nature. For him, there was no band better than The Beatles and he, generally, loved their work. But there was one song on which he not only thought the band excelled but also saw some of his best work behind the drums. Starr’s favourite was the B-side to ‘Paperback Writer’, the wonderful ‘Rain’. “I feel as though that was someone else playing,” he said. “I was possessed!”
He then went on to detail what exactly he loved about the song to Barry Miles: “I was into the snare and hi-hat. I think it was the first time I used this trick of starting a break by hitting the hi-hat first instead of going directly to a drum off the hi-hat,” Ringo said. “I think it’s the best out of all the records I’ve ever made.”
Speaking about writing the song, especially the use of backwards taping, John Lennon said of the track around the time, “After we’d done the session on that particular song — it ended at about four or five in the morning — I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder, and it came out backwards. And I liked it better,” concludes the singer, “So that’s how it happened.”
‘Rain’ is a perfect encapsulation of The Beatles at their creative best, a time when they are not being overproduced which is exactly the direction that John Lennon would have loved the band to travel down more often. Listen to the track, below.