Nobody can be perfect. Even for a band as legendary and beloved as The Beatles, there are bound to be some stinkers littered throughout their discography. Going through the entirety of their contemporary releases, it’s absolutely astounding how high the Fab Four’s hit rate was. But it wasn’t a perfect score.
Here are the stone-cold facts: The Beatles wrote and released 213 official songs together during their eight years of recording. Quite a few of those tracks wound up being stand-alone singles, but the core of the band’s catalogue found their way onto studio albums.
For a comprehensive look at just about everything The Beatles ever did, most of what you need can be found on the band’s 11 true-blue British studio albums, plus the US version of Magical Mystery Tour, the soundtrack/studio hybrid album Yellow Submarine, and the compilation Past Masters, which gathered almost all of the band’s standalone singles onto one album. With those 14 LPs, almost the entirety of The Beatles’ oeuvre is represented.
As previously mentioned, not every Beatles track is a complete necessity. For completionists, they might be, but for casual listeners and curious newbies alike, the notion of listening to over 200 songs can be downright daunting. The truth is that if you’re going to take a deep dive into The Beatles, there are a few songs that become redundant, unnecessary, or simply unpleasant. There’s an easy solution too: just skip them.
It might be sacrilege considering this is The Beatles we’re talking about, but even the Fab Four went through creative slumps, moments of writer’s block, and even approved of some real clunkers while assembling their tracklists. To help streamline the listening experience, we’re signalling out one track from all 14 albums of The Beatles’ core catalogue that wouldn’t kill you to pass over on your next listen. Some of these songs don’t quite pass muster, while others simply retread ideas that were done better elsewhere on their respective album.
Next time you listen to The Beatles’ albums, here are the 14 songs that wouldn’t kill you to skip.
The one song to skip on each Beatles album:
Please Please Me – ‘There’s A Place’
It would be tempting to single out any one of the lesser covers that pad The Beatles’ debut album Please Please Me. Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s ‘Chains’ is probably the most unnecessary song on the album, but it’s still worth listening to in order to understand where John Lennon and Paul McCartney were pulling their inspiration from in the early 1960s.
‘There’s a Place’, meanwhile, is simply the weakest original on the album. With its repeated harmonica lines and themes that recalled The Drifters’ ‘Up on the Roof’, ‘There’s a Place’ is a perfectly nice but ultimately inessential cut from the band’s legendary first LP. Pretty much everything in ‘There’s a Place’ can also be found on the album’s title track, so it’s OK to just stick with ‘Please Please Me’ instead next time you put on this LP.
With the Beatles – ‘Please Mr. Postman’
Does With the Beatles really need three Motown covers on it? It’s a lovely tribute, considering The Beatles were more than willing to show the influence that black singers and songwriters had on their own style, but it’s also pretty redundant on the millionth listen. There are worse songs on the LP, including the horribly disjointed ‘Hold Me Tight’, but just to make things a little more coherent, let’s take a skip over ‘Please Mr. Postman’.
The Beatles’ version of The Marvelettes’ classic is a fun romp, but The Beatles already had their own letter writing songs in ‘All My Loving’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’. They don’t really add anything that isn’t already present in the original version of the track either. Considering how ‘Money’ is a lot wilder and ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me’ reveals a more soulful side to the band, ‘Please Mr. Postman’ becomes the odd song out on With the Beatles.
A Hard Day’s Night – ‘When I Get Home’
Here’s a potentially unpopular opinion – the John Lennon-heavy side two of A Hard Day’s Night is wildly redundant in terms of content. While it represented the peak of both Lennon’s songwriting prowess and the refinement of The Beatles’ mop-top era sound, side two of A Hard Day’s Night still finds Lennon mostly rewriting the same song over and over again.
So which one has the least amount of memorability? ‘Any Time At All’ is a rollicking rocker, ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ is a surprisingly dark turn during the band’s lightest days, ‘You Can’t Do That’ features some essential George Harrison twelve string work, and ‘I’ll Be Back’ contains some fascinating chord changes. That leaves ‘When I Get Home’, a middling and generic rocker that usually slows down the momentum of A Hard Day’s Night.
Beatles for Sale – ‘Words of Love’
For the relative lack of attention it gets in the band’s catalogue, Beatles for Sale is actually quite a fun album to go back and listen to if you haven’t done so in a while. Great originals, country songs, manic rockers, and an early foreshadowing of the folkier direction that would take on Rubber Soul makes Beatles for Sale a solid underrated LP.
But nearly half of the album is covers songs, of which The Beatles’ take on Buddy Holly’s ‘Words of Love’ is the least inspired. It’s an amicable rendition, but the band then took the best parts of the song and remade them into their own original, ‘Every Little Thing’. It doesn’t feel right to strip George Harrison and Ringo Starr of their only lead vocal contributions, even if they’re not quite as good, so ‘Words of Love’ gets the skip button this time around.
Help! – ‘It’s Only Love’
Just like A Hard Day’s Night, Help! is ridiculously frontloaded as an album. That makes its pretty decent back half look inconsequential by comparison, with the major exception of ‘Yesterday’. This is mostly a three-song race between Lennon’s ‘It’s Only Love’, Harrison’s ‘You Like Me Too Much’ and McCartney’s ‘Tell Me What You See’.
If you want some downcast acoustic work from Lennon on Help!, you have the perfect song already with ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’. The biggest factor in this list so far is the point in the album when things start to drag, and no moment on a Beatles album drags more intensely and noticeably than on ‘It’s Only Love’.
Rubber Soul – ‘Wait’
The leap in quality that accompanies Rubber Soul is remarkable: Help! isn’t a bad album by any stretch, but it’s the last in The Beatles’ light and frothy mop-top pop song era. With the denser experiments and more thoughtful songwriting that accompanies Rubber Soul, The Beatles truly began their crusade to push pop music into the realms of high art.
That makes it somewhat disappointing that a song like ‘Wait’ found its way onto the tracklisting. ‘Wait’ is actually a great song, certainly much better than ‘What Goes On’ and ‘Run For Your Life’, but it’s clearly a holdover from the Help! sessions. A lot of what makes ‘Wait’ great is also present on McCartney’s ‘You Won’t See Me’, so ‘Wait’ gets the unfortunate axe on this occasion.
Revolver – ‘Doctor Robert’
Speaking of holdovers. Revolver was another massive leap forward for The Beatles, who officially traded in their folkie sensibilities and fully embraced psychedelic rock. Each song on Revolver has its own unique sound and personality, so much so that it’s arguably the hardest album to choose a skip-worthy song in the band’s entire back catalogue.
Just like ‘Wait’ is to Rubber Soul, ‘Doctor Robert’ is just a little too straightforward. If you take away any other song from Revolver, the whole of the album’s listening experience suffers as a result. But ‘Doctor Robert’ could have very easily been on Rubber Soul, or even Help!. Revolver is a remarkable transition towards the future on all but one song, and that one song is, unfortunately, ‘Doctor Robert’.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – ‘Fixing a Hole’
Time for a bit of a zag. The obvious choice here would be ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Reprise)’. I’ve spent so long hammering home my distaste for retreads on albums, and this song is quite literally a retread. In fact, it’s barely even a song. But here’s the thing: when taking Sgt. Pepper’s as a complete listening experience, the reprise of the album’s title track becomes essential for pulling the (admittedly thin) concept together.
Meanwhile, Paul McCartney might just have one too many cutesy psychedelic songs on the album. In my humble opinion, ‘Getting Better’, ‘Fixing a Hole’, and ‘Lovely Rita’ all largely scratch the same itch on Sgt. Pepper’s, so if only one can get pushed aside, ‘Fixing a Hole’ is the least ambitious. Of course ‘Fixing a Hole’ is a fantastic song, but you can certainly get your McCartney fix on his other contributions to the LP.
Magical Mystery Tour – ‘Flying’
‘Flying’ does admittedly occupy a rare spot in The Beatles’ overall body of work: it’s an instrumental, something that The Beatles never did before or after on an official studio album. For that uniqueness alone, it’s worth visiting at least once. It’s also pleasant enough: quick and simple and not at all a chore to listen to. The problem with ‘Flying’ is that it’s so basic that it almost barely exists as a song.
With just a twelve-bar structure and a novel kind of floating atmosphere to its arrangement, ‘Flying’ never aspires to much. That makes it the dictionary definition of filler. Every other song on Magical Mystery Tour is at least attempting to go big in some direction. ‘Flying’ is only one minor step above elevator music, so feel free to save some time by skipping the next go around.
The Beatles – ‘Honey Pie’
Boy oh boy is there a lot that can be cut from The Beatles. A smart man would hone in on one of McCartney’s silly nothing tracks like ‘Wild Honey Pie’ or ‘Why Don’t We Do It In the Road’. McCartney also has three light mostly-solo acoustic numbers in ‘Blackbird’, ‘I Will’, and ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, so if we’re talking about pure redundancy, then certainly one of those could go.
But I’m putting my money on ‘Honey Pie’ for two reasons. The first is that McCartney already has a superior music hall jaunt on the LP with ‘Martha My Dear’, which sonically and thematically occupies much of the same space. The second is that ‘Honey Pie’ comes right when The Beatles need a good jolt of energy to push it towards its conclusion. Instead, the track is an inconsequential pastiche that really underscores just how long The Beatles is.
Yellow Submarine – ‘Only a Northern Song’
By far the strangest album to work through on this list, I’ve decided on some (admittedly arbitrary) parameters for Yellow Submarine: I’m totally ignoring the second half, which is all George Martin score pieces (the most skippable one: ‘Yellow Submarine in Pepperland’). I’m also treating the songs that appear here as separate from their other album appearances, so just because ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’ appear on other LPs, that’s not a good enough reason to skip them.
That means it’s a tough decision to choose one of Harrison’s two psychedelic freakouts, ‘Only a Northern Song’ and ‘It’s All Too Much’. Of the two, I find myself skipping the maudlin and monotone ‘Only a Northern Song’ more often. A biting and sarcastic tune filled with personal gripes and dirty laundry, ‘Only a Northern Song’ is probably the most bitter and exasperated song in the entire Beatles catalogue. It’s singular, but also not always a pleasant listening experience.
Abbey Road – ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’
Here’s my take: every element to the final side two medley of Abbey Road is essential, even its shortest and least impactful songs. You take out just one of those tracks and the entire structure of the medley gets thrown out of whack. Even the 20 seconds of ‘Her Majesty’ works wonders as a button. None of the medley tracks has ever made me bored, or actively annoyed, when listening to Abbey Road.
Do you know what has? ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, McCartney’s official step too far into the twee, cutesy world of music hall and granny music. There is not a single song in The Beatles entire catalogue that makes me actively reach for the skip button quicker than ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’: not ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, not ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’, and not even ‘Revolution 9’. ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is the only Beatles song to earn its must-skip reputation on awfulness alone.
Let It Be – ‘Dig It’
OK, back to the completely unnecessary filler songs. There are really two of these kinds of songs on Let It Be – ‘Dig It’ and ‘Maggie May’, both of which were included on the album solely because they made appearances in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s original Let It Be documentary. McCartney left them off Let It Be… Naked for a reason: they’re brief diversions, but they’re still just diversions.
Of the two, ‘Maggie May’ at least lets The Beatles celebrate their connection with their hometown of Liverpool by namechecking it in a rootsy folk song. ‘Dig It’ is just a formless jam and nothing else, something that The Beatles did quite a lot of in Let It Be. That makes it uniquely representative of the album’s sessions, but it doesn’t make it at all necessary to actually listen to.
Past Masters – ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’
There are plenty of lower-quality B-sides and strange originals that populate Past Masters, but even the most shrug-worthy of covers and tossed-off pap is favourable to the bizarreness of The Beatles’ two German-language re-recordings of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’. It’s necessary for these songs to be included on the album for historical purposes, but it’s not at all necessary to listen to them.
If one has to be shown the door, it should be ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’ which is the more awkward and stilted of the two German-language tracks. The novelty of The Beatles singing in a foreign language wears off surprisingly quicky on these two tracks, but ‘Sie Leibt Dich’ at least mostly fits its original form. The same can’t be said for ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’, one of the more strangely unlistenable songs in The Beatles’ catalogue.