Yes, we know that The Beatles are great. Yes, they are unarguably the most important band in musical history, achieved more in their brief period together than any band have before or since, and released a shed-load of songs that are now stitched firmly into our cultural heritage.
Yes, John Lennon is one of the UK’s true icons, Paul McCartney is the most beloved and revered songwriter of our time, George Harrison is an underrated genius and Ringo – erm- narrated Thomas the Tank Engine.
We know all of this, but that doesn’t mean everything they released was great, does it? For every ‘A Day In The Life’ there is the repetitive horrors of ‘Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?’ For every ‘In My Life’ there is the baffling pointless ‘Flying’. For every ‘Dear Prudence’ there is the just plain awful ‘Piggies’, a song that somehow managed to inspire a mass murder.
No band can ever be that incredibly visionary, delicious and just plain brilliant the entire time so it’s time to shine a light on the very worst that The Fab Four has to offer. Here are the 10 worst Beatles songs.
10) ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’
Thanks Paul. Whilst many would point towards the frog chorus as the nadir of his career, the worst thing that Macca ever did was surely to launch the universal hated cod-reggae genre to popularity by writing ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. Of course had the song actually been a good song, then all may have been forgiven – but unfortunately it is not!
It is that rare beast of a song that is both astoundingly irritating and fist-clenchingly awful. The track’s melody crawls into your brain like a tumour on first listen and stays lodged in there, coming out and looping in your head only at your lowest moments to mock you. I’m listening to it at the moment and it’s making me angry. I want to turn it off.
I keep fascinating about how I want to throw Desmond’s barrow at him and then force him to listen to the song over and over again until blood starts pouring out of his eyes and he is nothing more than a broken shell of a man who can do nothing but desperately claw at his own ears in the hope he will one day tear them off and be rid of hearing that abomination of a song. Thanks for that, Sir Paul.
09) ‘Run For Your Life’
The popular consciousness is that John Lennon was a nice and peace-loving guy who wrote some of the best songs ever written and is essentially painted as the greatest man to ever walk the face of the earth. You may get a bit of shock, therefore, if you listen to the lyrics of ‘Rubber Soul’s closer ‘Run for Your Life’ and discover the song is about how he wants to kill his girlfriend if she goes off with another man. Charming!
‘Run for Your Life’ does admittedly have a very pleasant melody and catchy guitar riff, but it is just impossible to get past the repellent lyrics. Lennon himself became embarrassed by it, though in the song he sounds so utterly self-satisfied with the concept of killing this girl that I would not be surprised if ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ by Cannibal Corpse turned out to be based around a set of lyrics he was working on before he died. Still though, it is definitely the most joyous song that is about something as horrendous as hunting down and brutally murdering a girl, so there is that!
“Hey, you know what my favourite song by The Beatles is? ‘Birthday’.” said literally no one ever. It’s not really hard to see why this song gets perhaps a more muted reception than other Fab Four songs. The song is essentially just Lennon and McCartney enthusiastically shrieking about how it’s your birthday, how exciting it is that it’s your birthday, how it also their birthday and then a whole host of other commands over a riff that may as well be labeled “generic rock riff no.8.” This is certainly not the most appealing of ideas.
It all gets a bit tedious after about 2 seconds, when the novelty of listening to Lennon and McCartney seemingly have a competition to see who can sound the most hoarse wears off. ‘Birthday’ is the musical equivalent of that annoying friend everyone has who seems to find it necessary to shout “Shots?” every 5 seconds and then constantly asks if everyone is enjoying themselves. The one who doesn’t seem to ever leave you alone and instead will keep on trying to create an aura of forced fun when all you want to say to them is “No! Leave me alone! I just want to be left alone in a darkened room and watch The Graham Norton Show under a blanket whilst I wait for death!” That is how ‘Birthday’ makes me feel.
07) ‘Don’t Pass Me By’
‘Don’t Pass Me By’ comes courtesy of everyone’s fourth favourite Beatle, Ringo! Originally played to the other Beatles in 1962, shortly after joining, the song was sensibly not allowed on any album until the recording process of ‘The White Album’ when Ringo finally saw his chance to unleash it on the world. Admittedly, the only reason Ringo did get that chance was because quality control on ‘The White Album’ was so staggeringly low that had he handed in a song that consisted of nothing but the noise of him scraping a rake across a rusty garden gate, then that also probably would have been accepted!
What does Ringo’s amazing creation actually sound like though? Well, it’s a stilted country & western song that plods along sounding more like a theme tune to a failed children’s TV sitcom about the hijinks a family of country folk get up to, instead of an actual certified song. Even the performance is dire; Ringo manages to not sing a single syllable of the song in tune and then manages to give off all the emotion of a particularly grey IKEA sofa. It is probably best to just let this one pass you by to be honest!
06) ‘Within You Without You’
When John Lennon discovered Indian music he wrote ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, which is now considered to be one of the best songs ever written. On the flip side of that, when George Harrison discovered Indian music he wrote the tedious, steaming pile of garbage that is ‘Within You Without You’. By a distance, the worst thing on ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ the song drones along without any hint of a tune or melody and mumbles out lyrics that sound like they were stolen from a discounted self-help book that Harrison once flipped through for a couple of minutes at a petrol station.
I challenge anybody to point out one interesting thing about this song that is actually memorable. You almost definitely can’t, as not one single solitary memorable moment or idea happens throughout its entire five-minute run time. In fact, the only thing you can really say about it is that it sounds Indian; So well done George, you’ve managed to write a song in a different style to what you normally do. Congratulations! Muse once decided they were a dubstep band for a song and that was atrocious as well!
Is ‘Yesterday’ really that good? I know its heresy to say that, but is it really that good? Is it really? I’m only asking because from where I’m standing it’s always sounded like schmaltzy drivel, rather than the heartstring-pulling masterpiece that about twenty-thousand other bands have felt the need to cover.
Surely I am not alone in thinking this? I mean I know it’s popular amongst people, but last year the best-selling debut album by a British artist was by Bradley Walsh, so what people like isn’t necessarily a sign of quality. It is just so saccharine and earnest that all I want to do is throw up every time I hear it, and that is every single day because whatever street I walk down there always seems to be some busker playing it! It has got to that stage where I envy people who have not been even remotely effected by the modern world, because they have probably managed to escape hearing ‘Yesterday’.
That is seemingly unlikely though, as even they have probably had to listen to some sub par Spanish cruise singer warble it at them in broken English whilst they try to cook fish on their camp fire. Thoughts like that make me sad, and make me yearn for a world that hasn’t been tarnished by the all-consuming plague that is ‘Yesterday’.
Just imagine that rainbow framed utopia! No more annoying people in fedoras who insist on playing it on the acoustic at every party you have ever been to! No more horrendous piano led cover versions of it on adverts! No more racism! Well, maybe not the last one, but it does still sound like a comparative paradise to what we live in now, and is defiantly a reason why that lousy song should be left in the yesterday!
04) ‘Octopus’s Garden’
A Beatles song that often finds its way into a lot of worst of lists, yet not this one, is ‘Yellow Submarine’. The song is just too nostalgically euphoric and weird to make it’s way onto this list, and is in its own way a charming and slightly rubbish little tune that will probably outlive live us all. The same cannot be said for ‘Octopus’s Garden’, The Beatles’s second attempt at appealing to the all important under fives demographic. If ‘Yellow Submarine’ is a Porsche then in comparison to that, ‘Octopus’s Garden’ is a second-hand reliant robin that comes with a slightly deflated tire, dodgy clutch and smells slightly of rotting eggs when your inside it.
‘Octopus’s Garden’ sounds so desperate to be ‘Yellow Submarine’ that it is actually rather sad to listen to. To call it desperate to be anything is perhaps a bit unfair, as it sounds so bored of is own existence that to feel an emotion as strong as desperation would probably be pushing it. The Beatles probably went into the song trying to achieve a sort of hazy and carefree paradise, though it instead just sounds half asleep and phoned in.
This is not helped that man at the helm of it is Ringo, the man with all of the vocal range of a horse with a sore throat, who manages to give about as much excitement and passion about this magical underwater kingdom that he supposedly desperately wants to live in as he probably would if he discovered that there was a slight discount on egg and cress sandwiches at the supermarket. It is hard to feel any sort of connection to this watery wonderland, when they have probably been more passionate and convincing speeches about the benefits of being boiled alive than this!
03) ‘Wild Honey Pie’
‘Wild Honey Pie’ is just not enjoyable to listen to. It sits proudly at track five on ‘The White Album’, with all the grace and decorum of a man throwing up on a homeless person. Not only is it utterly unbearable but, as if by some cruel joke it actually comes directly after ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ because The Beatles obviously thought the listeners had not suffered enough by this point. It is literally the musical equivalent of spending all day shovelling rancid cow feces in a field and then have a cow immediately defecate on your shoes once you’ve finished.
It is hard to even think of words to accurately describe this song. It is literally just 50 seconds of McCartney playing an incredibly exasperating plinkity plonkity guitar riff whilst screeching the song’s title like a brain-damaged parrot for the songs entire duration. That is literally it! If you locked a gorilla in a room with the same instrument that Macca used, then it would almost certainly come up with something more enjoyable to listen to. Hell, even if the Gorilla had no arms, the results would still be more palatable!
02) ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’
‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ has been dubbed the song that broke up The Beatles, took three days to record and was apparently the most expensive song they ever recorded, and the result? A terrible puppet show-esque sing along that was seemingly aimed at infants who sometimes eat glue.
Imagine a drunk Barney the Dinosaur, stumbling aimlessly around his horrible garish surroundings. That is a visual representation of what the song sounds like. Utterly insufferable from beginning to end, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is based around the fictional Maxwell Edison, a medical student who likes to kill people with hammers. Paul McCartney, the evil genius behind the song, then decided to hide this chilling story in a cheerful and upbeat pop song after being inspired by the works of Alfred Jannings.
This may have been a good concept for a song, had Paul not strained so hard for it to be a hit that it ended up being this uncatchy kitschy ordeal that stomps along like an elephant that hasn’t yet learnt how to walk properly before ending with what sounds like the results of when Ringo fell asleep on a Moog synthesiser. ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is just the worst.
01) ‘Revolution 9’
I originally wanted to leave ‘Revolution 9’ out of this list as it doesn’t really qualify as song, but I eventually relented so here it is: The worst “song” The Beatles ever wrote. In what I can only imagine was an attempt to impress Yoko Ono, John Lennon decided to make this eight and a half-minute long avant guard sound collage nightmare that was supposed to be an attempt at showing revolution in sound.
Of course, it doesn’t sound like revolution, it just sounds like a mess of badly put together random sounds with someone occasionally saying “number 9” throughout it, because why the hell not. It is so unquestionably bad, that it somehow sort of goes past that, becoming just a big slab of nothingness that floats around in the musical void doing nothing but existing. I know a lot of you may now be shouting “You just don’t get it. Its art!” or “It was revolutionary for its time!” or something along those line, and my response to that is, have you actually listened to ‘Revolution 9’ the whole way through? I have, and they were eight and half minutes I will now get back.
It’s the musical equivalent of watching paint dry. In fact, I have actually watched paint dry once and it was like going for a sky dive in comparison. If given the choice of listening to ‘Revolution 9’ again or pushing a pencil into my eye until it reached my brain, not only would I jump at the latter but I would also volunteer to do both eyes, just out of thanks of being given the chance to be spared listening to that never-ending polyphonic monstrosity again.
There is literally nothing in the entire world, however big or physically damaging they may be, that I would not rather do than listen to ‘Revolution 9’ again. Well, except listening to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ actually as there are limits!
Do you agree with this list or think we are missing something? Let us know in the comment section below.