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Paul McCartney's 20 favourite songs by The Beatles

@jackwhatley89

It’s hard to imagine living the life of Sir Paul McCartney. One-quarter of the most famous band to have ever graced the earth in The Beatles, he was also one half of the finest songwriting partnership of all time, sitting across from John Lennon, penning pop tunes that would last decades on the airwaves. But with such an impressively dense catalogue, it must be difficult to pick out singular songs as your favourites?

“I always swerve it,” was the response McCartney gave when, during an interview with Beats Radio’s Zane Lowe, he was asked the age-old question of what was his favourite Beatles song. However, he caved, and McCartney shared his view on the Beatles back catalogue and tried to list some of his favourite numbers. These tunes, combined with some interviews from the past, mean that we’ve got a reasonably good idea of the Fab Four songs McCartney holds closest to his heart.

Picking out McCartney’s favourite Beatles album has always been an easy task, such was his creative command over Sgt. Pepper that the album is naturally aligned to McCartney’s view of pop perfection. However, picking out his favourite set of songs has usually been a much more difficult task. Thankfully, when speaking to Lowe, McCartney provided a brief list to get us started.

Having already suggested how hard he tried to swerve any such questions, the icon relented and noted the ‘Let It Be’ B-side as one track he holds especially dear: “I always say ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’, which is a zany, zany little B-side that nobody knows – but we had such fun making it. It’s like a little comedy record. And I just remember the joy of making it.” But he also shared a list of other songs which have stayed the course of time and still feel important to him.

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“But there’s a lot of songs that I love of the Beatles,” McCartney told Lowe on the promotional run for his LP McCartney III. “I think ‘Strawberry Fields’ is a great song; I think ‘Hey Jude’ worked out great. I’ve got a lot of favourite songs: ‘Blackbird’ I love, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ I love.” During the same run of promos, McCartney also dropped by the Adam Buxton podcast and faced a question from Louis Theroux about his favourite John Lennon songs.

As well as proclaiming his love for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ once more, he also picked out ‘Across the Universe’ as a song he adored and noted another poignant Beatles number: “‘Julia’…is about the mum he couldn’t live with. So I loved the poignancy of that because I’d been with him round to Julia’s house to visit her. And I knew how deeply he loved her. So ‘Julia’ I would go with.”

Another more surprising entry on our list of Paul McCartney’s favourite Beatles songs is taken from their first album. While ‘Love Me Do’ is said to have been the moment McCartney knew the band had “arrived”, it was another track that grew their potential, ‘From Me To You’: “That was a pivotal song. Our songwriting lifted a little with that song,” Macca proclaimed in 1994. The icon had a similar appreciation for ‘This Boy’, “Fabulous. And we just loved singing that three-part too.”

Despite suggesting to Lowe that there was only one song that he used as his go-to answer for the usual question, McCartney has also shared another: “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.”

Another favourite of McCartney’s was the wonderful ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’, from Revolver, but it was a special Anthology take of the track that floated his boat. He explained in 1995: “One of my favourites on the Anthology is, ‘And Your Bird Can Sing,’ which is a nice song, but this take of it was one we couldn’t use at the time. John and I got a fit of the giggles while we were doing the double-track. You couldn’t have released it at the time. But now you can. Sounds great just hearing us lose it on a take.” Another song from Revolver that features on the list is ‘Rain’ which, as well as having Ringo Starr’s finest work, also captured McCartney’s heart as he “really enjoyed that one.”

The Beatles (Credit: Alamy)

Of course, across Sgt. Pepper there were many songs McCartney enjoyed but only one he picked out as top of the pile, ‘Fixing a Hole’, about which McCartney said in 1984: “Yeah, I wrote that. I liked that one. Strange story, though. The night we went to record that, a guy turned up at my house who announced himself as Jesus. So I took him to the session.” Of course, there’s a fair chance that ‘A Day in the Life’ is also regarded as one of McCartney’s favourites as it lands in the sweet spot of orchestral arrangements, beguiling narrative and extraordinary pop sensibilities — indeed all of McCartney’s favourite things about music.

Another song deeply connected to his time spent with John Lennon was ‘Penny Lane’, a track entrenched in the history of McCartney the boy and man: “John and I would always meet at Penny Lane. […] When I came to write it, John came over and helped me with the third verse, as often was the case. We were writing childhood memories– recently faded memories from eight or ten years before, so it was recent nostalgia, pleasant memories for both of us.” One the same album, Magical Mystery Tour, McCartney also loved George Harrison’s spiritual awakening ‘Inner Light’, about which McCartney said, “Forget the Indian music and listen to the melody. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful melody? It’s really lovely.”

It appears as though a singular moment, sound or lyric within a song is enough for McCartney to share his love for it; one such track is ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, a song inspired by an advert using the titular words which McCartney called “good poetry”. But McCartney also recognised a great pop tune when he saw one, and in George Harrison’s ‘Something’, it was clear that the guitarist had struck gold. About the song, McCartney noted: “I like George’s song ‘Something.’ For me, I think it’s the best he’s written.”

Of course, no list of McCartney’s favourite Beatles songs would be complete without ‘Let It Be’. Though there is a fair chance that Macca is sick of hearing the song by now, it’s also an indelible piece of his iconography. McCartney explained the unique way the song came to him back in 1994: “One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who’d been dead ten years or so. And it was great to see her because that’s a wonderful thing about dreams, you actually are reunited with that person for a second… In the dream, she said, ‘It’ll be alright’ ‘I’m not sure if she used the words ‘Let it be’, but that was the gist of her advice, it was ‘Don’t worry too much, it will turn out okay’ It was such a sweet dream I woke up thinking, ‘Oh, it was really great to visit with her again’ I felt very blessed to have that dream.”

It must be noted that McCartney has never given a truly definitive list of his favourite songs from the hundreds that he wrote alongside The Beatles. The truth is, there probably isn’t such a list. Like a loving father, McCartney probably provides ample care, attention, and understanding to the value of each and every track he laid down with the Fab Four. However, if we had to venture a guess, we’d put our money on the 20 below being a part of his most treasured collection.

Below, find a playlist of PaulMcCartney’ss favourite songs by The Beatles.

Paul McCartney’s 20 favourite Beatles songs:

  • ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’
  • ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
  • ‘Hey Jude’
  • ‘Blackbird’
  • ‘Eleanor Rigby’
  • ‘Across the Universe’
  • ‘Julia’
  • ‘From Me To You’
  • ‘This Boy’
  • ‘Here There and Everywhere’
  • ‘Yesterday’
  • ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’
  • ‘Rain’
  • ‘Fixing a Hole’
  • ‘A Day in the Life’
  • ‘Penny Lane’
  • ‘The Inner Light’
  • ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’
  • ‘Something’
  • ‘Let It Be’