Across hundreds of songs, the world watched The Beatles transform from sweaty club band to pop princes to artistic aristocrats to untouchable icons, all within ten years. But as their music developed and evolved into something that would still feel fresh and relative some 60 years after its initial release, there has always been one theme that refuses to go away: love.
“In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” and “all you need is love” are just two phrases now used in common parlance that originated from the minds of the Fab Four. Whether it was simply to sell records or, later, in a benevolent attempt to use their star power for something more meaningful, the very essence of love has always been rooted in the lives of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Right from the very beginning, the sweet smell of lust, love and everything in between permeated the airwaves as intoxicatingly as their newfound pop rhythms.
Thinking about their canon of work, it is relatively easy to find a thread of our desirable theme in most of their work. Even the most churlish and charring of their songs are still flecked with the impressionable ideals of the doe-eyed dreamers who wrote them. The band seemingly chalked up every kind of love song there is too. Whether it’s a heartbreak anthem, a hopeful ditty about dancing with your special someone or even the passionate lust of youth, The Beatles had love all sewn up.
It makes picking out ten of their greatest love songs all the more difficult. Of course, some are guaranteed. Spoiler alert: the song Frank Sinatra called the “greatest love song” written in the last 50 years will certainly make an appearance. But, thanks to the band’s unique output there will be some surprising entries too. Songs which, under the surface, beat with the same voracious notions of love as the most perfumed poetry one can imagine.
Below, we’re picking out the ten greatest love songs The Beatles ever wrote.
10 best The Beatles love songs:
10. ‘Real Love’
There’s a genuine connection that can be felt in every lyric that John Lennon sings on this track. Finished under the tutelage of The Threetles (the band without Lennon that reunited in the 1990s), the track seems to offer up a genuine answer to loneliness and discontent — love.
Apparently written for Yoko Ono, the song became the final top 40 hit The Beatles would ever have after it was completed during the band’s Anthology project. Lennon sings: “All my little plans and schemes, All My Lovinforgotten dreams, Seems that all I was really doing, Was waiting for you” for arguably some of his most sincere lyrics on record.
9. ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’
Paul McCartney always drew from those around him for his nuggets of inspiration. Having previously gone by the name of”AuntieGGin’s Them” Macca had originally dedicated the song to his father’s youngest sister. But eventually, the song became known as ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ but loses none of its conversational charms as he skews the song toward a more romantic angle, still relying on his songwriting nouse to carry the song into the sunset.
McCartney has stated, “It was slightly country and western from my point of view… it was faster, though, it was a strange uptempo thing. I was quite pleased with it. The lyric works; it keeps dragging you forward, it keeps pulling you to the next line, there’s an insistent quality to it that I liked”
8. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’
There are few songs in the pop music universe that are as sweet and tender as ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand‘. Of course, the song is fairly conceited in its inception — Lennon and McCartney became quickly aware that teenage girls were the main drivers of their commercial success and they intended to accommodate their wants and needs — but there’s something undeniably charming about this song.
Perhaps because, sitting in the 21st century with the swathes of sexualised pop songs dominating the charts, there’s something nostalgic and innocent about the track, but there’s a wholesome nugget at the centre of the song. After all, haven’t we all experienced the electricity of holding another’s hand for the very first time?
7. ‘Eight Days A Week’
“I ain’t go nothing but love, babe, eight days a week” is a line that will live on forever in the annals of music history. What’s more than loving your special someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Adding an extra day to proceedings to ensure you can squeeze out every last drop.
Another charming track from the band’s earlier moments, there is a fairly high chance that, if you play this song on your first date, you will guarantee yourself a gleeful smile and a quick dance. “I remember writing that with John, at his place in Weybridge, from something said by the chauffeur who drove me out there” recalled Paul McCartney of the song’s inception.
“John had moved out of London. to the suburbs. I usually drove myself there, but the chauffeur drove me out that day and I said, ‘How’ve you been’ – ‘Oh, working hard’ he said, ‘working eight days a week’ I had never heard anyone use that expression, so when I arrived at John’s house I said, ‘Hey, this fella just said, ‘eight days a week’ John said, ‘Right – Ooh I need your love, babe’ and we wrote it.”
6. ‘The Ballad of John & Yoko’
Sometimes The Beatles hid their message of love within their songs and sometimes they were plainly obvious. One such track acted as a perfect wedding memento, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, which, as you may expect, encapsulated the iconic pair’s Gilbratar wedding day.
Many husbands may have commemorated the day with pictures or with a video recording, but for Lennon, who certainly wasn’t your average groom, the only way to truly capture the special day was with a song: “It was very romantic” the singer told Rolling Stone in 1970. “It’s all in the song, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’ if you want to know how it happened, it’s in there. Gibraltar was like a little sunny dream. I couldn’t find a white suit – I had sort of off-white corduroy trousers and a white jacket. Yoko had all white on”
“I wrote that in Paris on our honeymoon” Lennon later confirmed to David Sheff for his famous Playboy article in 1980. “It’s a piece of journalism. It’s a folk song. That’s why I called it ‘The Ballad Of’.”
5. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’
While the rest of the selection has largely focused on the Hallmark definition of love, there’s one song that is utterly rooted in Lennon’s complete adoration for Yoko Ono but with a twist. ‘Don’t Let Me Down‘ is arguably one of Lennon’s finest tracks and is emboldened by the raw emotion and passion that the songwriter imbues with every note. But, as McCartney once rightly noted, the song is actually a plea to Ono.
It’s a crying hope that she won’t abuse his love and that the trials and tribulations he was routinely facing were all worth it. McCartney remembered in 1994,”So ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was a genuine plea, ‘Don’t let me down, please, whatever you do. I’m out on this limb”
“It was saying to Yoko, ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down’ I think it was a genuine cry for help. It was a good song. We recorded it in the basement of Apple for Let It Be and later did it up on the roof for the film.
4. ‘If I Fell’
A Hard Day’s Night is unquestionably the band at their pop music peak. Rich in robust dancefloor ditties, one song on the record is sweet to the point of no return — ‘If I Fell’. The track is particularly noteworthy because of its simply sumptuous three-part vocal harmony which would leave a barbershop quartet looking to lose a member. ‘If I Fell’ would also act as a B-side on the ‘And I Love Her’ single, which reached number 12 in the Billboard chart and, somewhat surprisingly, it would go on the be a chart-topping single in Norway on its own right.
Like a lot of The Beatles’ material, McCartney wrote the track alongside Lennon who also spoke on the record about it being his first attempt at creating a ballad—a factor which many people believe was written around the faltering relationship with his first wife. “That’s my first attempt to write a ballad proper,” Lennon told David Sheff. “That was the precursor to ‘In My Life’. It has the same chord sequence as ‘In My Life’: D and B minor and E minor, those kinds of things. And it’s semi-autobiographical, but not consciously. It shows that I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back when.”
In the 1997 Barry Miles biography of McCartney titled Many Years From Now, the former Beatles man looked back at the process of making the track with eternal fondness: “People tend to forget that John wrote some pretty nice ballads. People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him really which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected. We wrote”If I Fel” together but with the emphasis on John because he sang it. It was a nice harmony number, very much a ballad.”
3. ‘In My Life’
If that song was a precursor to ‘In My Life’ then it is only right we should follow suit. The Rubber Soul track is an iconic moment in the band’s iconography. It showed that not only could the band continue to write songs about love but they could integrate them into their new artistic direction too. It also proved to John Lennon that he was just as skilled as his songwriting partner: “There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies” said Lennon in 1980, “that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But of course, when I think of some of my own songs – ‘In My Life’, or some of the early stuff, ‘This Boy’ – I was writing melody with the best of them.”
The song is beautifully tinged with the sadness of loss and hopefulness of the future. It’s a wonderful way of encapsulating the many facets of life and love. It also acts as one of the first moments that Lennon stepped into his new role as a songwriter: “I think ‘In My Life’ was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life.”
What remains is a lilting and gentle ballad that curves across the rivers of our mind with a seemingly unattached and otherworldly gait. It is the nearest The Beatles get to lucid dreaming and it is a simple yet powerful showstopper.
When artists such as Frank Sinatra pick out your work and label it as “the greatest love song of the past 50 years” you know you’re doing something right. ‘Something’ will forever remain a special track for George Harrison. Not only was it the first song he was able to releases with The Beatles as a fully-fledged single, but it was also the first song for The Beatles to reach number one that wasn’t suffixed with “written by Lennon-McCartney.”
For that reason alone the Abbey Road number became a moment of utter pride for the guitarist who had struggled to impose his songwriting will on the Fab Four. But the song also worked as a clear indicator of Harrison’s bright solo future away from the band and his chaotic life at the time of writing.
Many people have toyed with who the song might be ‘for’. Whether it was written for Pattie Boyd or for the universe as a whole, is up for debate, but Harrison once said: “Everybody assumed I wrote it about Pattie. The words are nothing, really” while reflecting in 1969. “There are lots of songs like that in my head. I must get them down. Some people tell me that ‘Something’ is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I don’t know. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong. It’s very flattering though…It’s nice. It’s probably the nicest melody tune that I’ve written””
1. ‘Here, There and Everywhere’
The Revolver anthem ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ is a song that has ubiquitous appeal across the entire Beatles spectrum. Even for the cantankerous John Lennon, the track was a hit. The Beatle said of the song: “This was a great one of his” before adding: “That’s Paul’s song completely, I believe. And one of my favourite songs of the Beatles”.
McCartney himself later remarked that it “was the only song that John ever complimented me on.” And he deserved the compliment too. Inspired by ‘God Only Knows’, McCartney’s favourite song of all time, the song is achingly beautiful and devilishly romantic.
“It’s actually just the introduction that’s influenced” confirmed McCartney. “John and I used to be interested in what the old fashioned writers used to call the verse, which we nowadays would call the intro – this whole preamble to a song, and I wanted to have one of those on the front of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ John and I were quite into those from the old-fashioned songs that used to have them, and in putting that [sings ‘To lead a better life’] on the front of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ we were doing harmonies, and the inspiration for that was the Beach Boys.”
Adding: “We had that in our minds during the introduction to ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ I don’t think anyone, unless I told them, would even notice, but we’d often do that, get something off an artist or artists that you really liked and have them in your mind while you were recording things, to give you the inspiration and give you the direction – nearly always, it ended up sounding more like us than them anyway.”