And Now, A Personal Ranking of Beatles Albums

Being albums released during the band’s existence, not compilations, etc. Also, this is the UK not the US chronology, with the exception of Magical Mystery Tour, which I understand was released as a double EP in the UK or whatever.

1. Abbey Road

2. Revolver

3. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

4. Rubber Soul

5. Help!

6. Magical Mystery Tour

7. A Hard Day’s Night

8. Please Please Me

9. The Beatles (White Album)

10. With the Beatles 

11. Beatles for Sale

12. Let it Be

13. Yellow Submarine

Go on and fight about it in the comments.

40 thoughts on “And Now, A Personal Ranking of Beatles Albums

  1. The top of the ranking is mostly okay, except that you, like many, overrate Rubber Soul. The songs range from mediocre to insipid (In My Life) to shouldn’t-even-be-played-in-the-21st-Century (Girl). I’d put the White Album in its place.

  2. I would move the White Album higher up on the list, but in truth my favorite Beatles song/album is the one I am listening to at the time.

    I predict MUCH commentary on this post :-)

  3. When it comes to the Beatles, I prefer the Stones. Lennon & co are superb craftsmen but they miss out when it comes to soul. If I was going to chose my favorite Beatles, I would go with the psychedelic sounds (especially “It’s All Too Much” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”)

  4. The first two are spot on. And the rest of the rankings are so close that you might as well draw names out of a hat, so I can’t argue with any of them…

  5. Revolver over Abbey Road, IMNSHO.

    For which circle did Dante specify are bound the people who start religious wars?

  6. Dear John Scalzi,

    ARE YOU MENTAL? ANYBODY WITH A LIVING BRAIN CELL KNOWS THAT YELLOW SUBMARINE IS THE GREATEST ALBUM OF MUSIC EVER RECORDED! TO PUT IT AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR LIST SHOWS BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT…umm, these things are totally subjective and everybody has the right to their opinion. Sorry. Carry on.

  7. Being the Beatles’ music was the first music I heard in a tinny transistor radio starting Jr high, then bought on 45s, it’s hard for me not to fav Meeting the Beatles, with Sgt Pepper next, the latter being the first thing I played on a new 8 track I put in my first car :-)

  8. I actually prefer the music of John and Paul after they parted (go on, throw your tomatoes). It’s hard to single out a song by the Beatles as the best, but I do love Revolution.

  9. I’d move Help! above Revolver, othewise we’re on the same page. Help! Is really the last innocent “hold your hand, love you do” type album they did before they started to get edgy with the, “Run for You Life” mentality. I was in a band 30 years ago that performed the entire Abbey Road album. Big crowd pleaser although we were no Rain. Cheap Trick did a nice job of the side two medely at the end of their Sgt. Pepper Live shows in NYC but mostly Vegas.

    Got to do one of those VIP things at their last show at Paris (in Vegas), and I understand Scalzi’s comments about the VIP ticket thing he posted recently. Here’s my nobody wife and nobody me (who only happened to know an extremely rich guy who owned a microwave equipment manufacturing company from which I bought a shit-ton of stuff for my nuclear particle accelerator who is Rick Neilson’s neighbor in Rockford, IL, and, who – after hearing I was a big Cheap Trick fan – sent his private jet to Indiana to pick us up and provide VIP tickets to that last show, which is undeniably a fine customer perk!).

    However, cool as all that setup part was, and after front row seats for a truly great show, It was weird afterwards backstage, with my wife and I pretty much hanging in the shadows watching all these famous people we were familiar with but who did not know us. The rich and famous are a lot different than you an me folks, and probably different than even our beloved Scalzi. I don’t see Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio blogging a lot but I doubt 1) one needs to do a lot of social media to sell their movie, and 2) I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy the interaction Scalzi has with his fans through such media.

    Back to the Beatles, an interesting note: an undergrad friend Bill, a fine record collector long before CDs, followed his girlfriend out west in a hurry and sold me his entire collection of – even 35 years ago – highly collectable albums, including brand new, never unsealed, therefore never played copies off all 13 albums in the list above (American releases). I have a good idea what they’re worth at this time, especially with the resurgence of vinyl fanatics, but I don’t need the money right now and imagine they’ll only increase in value.

  10. I don’t really disagree with your list, but I’m more on jblanx91’s side. I’d rather listen to Exile on Main Street than anything the Beatles did. My cousin told me when I was 9 that I had to pick between the Beatles and the Stones. As time has passed, I’ve always felt I made the right decision.

  11. Hear hear! What is it they say? “The Rolling Stones is the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in The World?” Who cares, the Beatles “is” better.

  12. I’m afraid that I have to admit that I’ve only heard about four complete albums. Of those, I’d rate Sgt. Pepper most highly; I played it a fair amount in college. Most of my familiarity with the Beetles comes from radio play and I don’t think about them in terms of which album is which.

    Bettlemania is what, 54 years old in the U.S.? Now I can’t help but think about whether the Beetles are like Heinlein, or Star Wars, favorites of older-folks which some younger ones still grok while others don’t really understand the fuss.

  13. It is hard for me to rank the Beatles Albums since all of them (save Yellow Submarine) are very good in their own way.

    In general, later Beatles >>> earlier Beatles (using, say, Rubber Soul, as the midpoint).

    But lots of the early stuff is really good, and some of the later stuff wasn’t as good as it could have been.

    I guess I’ll go this way:

    1. Revolver
    2. Abbey Road
    3. Sergeant Pepper

    Hard to argue with these three as the best, in any order. I have Sgt Pepper last because it works really well as an album, but I’d consider relatively few of the songs here as favorites.
    ——
    4. Beatles for Sale (my favorite of the early Beatles era)
    5. Help
    6. Magical Mystery Tour
    7. Rubber Soul
    8. White

    Beatles for Sale and Help are my “early” favorites. I like the Beatles move away from typical love songs starting with BFS and “No Reply”, “I’m a Loser”, and “Baby’s in Black”. There are songs on MMT (the full album version that first appeared in the mid 80s and included some important singles), RS, and White that are better than anything on BFS or Help, (For example, for me, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever are better than anything on Sgt. Pepper), but each of these albums are kind of the opposite of Sgt Pepper – some individually great songs but the albums as a whole are somewhat lacking. White should have been a tighter single album, lots of great work there but I could do with out “Revolution 9” and some others. I’m probably overrating BFS and Help, but there is something compelling about the energy of the early years.
    —–
    9. A Hard Day’s Night
    10. Please Please Me
    11. With the Beatles

    Now adding in the other early stuff.
    —–
    12. Let it Be
    13. Yellow Submarine

    Let it Be had its well known problems. Yellow Submarine should almost not be called a Beatles album.

    Past Masters I and II (which have all of the singles not previously mentioned) probably belong on this list, as many of the greatest Beatles songs never appeared on one of their studio albums. (Lady Madonna, the best version of Revolution, Hey Jude, I Feel Fine, We Can Work t Out, I want to Hold Your Hand, She Loves You). I’m tempted to rank these above everything else, although I’d probably put them below Revolver and Abbey Road because of all the B sides.

  14. I have to say, I’m surprised at how low everyone here is placing the white album. It’s a bit pretentious in length, which keeps it out of the top spot, but it contains some of their best written and most important tracks. I always put it above Sgt. Pepper’s, but below Revolver and Abbey Road.

  15. If I’m reading this correctly, you’re placing a great deal of emphasis on overall album strength rather than just picking the high points. If you were to pare the White album down to a single LP, surely it would rank near the top. It has more great songs than Rubber Soul, wouldn’t you agree? Likewise, Yellow Submarine is a fantastic EP with two amazing songs (“It’s All Too Much” and “Hey Bulldog”) padded out to album length. For me, anything pre-Help! sounds so dated I prefer that I rank all later worth except for Let It Be well ahead.

  16. Their albums, even the “theme” albums, were all mixed up with good, bad, and indifferent songs. I prefer to think of the individual songs. It’s difficult to come up with a best song, or a worst. In my running for best song would be A Day in the Life, I Am the Walrus, Strawberry Fields, and Across the Universe. Among the worst, Run For Your Life (because it’s pro-stalking and scary), Misery, Revolution #9 (not even a song, just a waste of album space), and I personally can’t stand Hey, Bulldog. All of these, however, were better than the pre-fame promo tape released as The Silver Beatles. My favorite Beatles albums are pretty much all unauthorized live stuff. I think a lot of their studio material was overproduced, and the mandatory George and Ringo songs on the albums were mostly just annoying. My favorite Beatles track is Wes Montgomery’s cover instrumental of A Day in the Life. Oh, and as far as the Stones go, I prefer their soft orchestral stuff, like Ruby Tuesday.

  17. The only thing “orchestral” about “Ruby Tuesday” is that on it, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman both play an instrument found in orchestras, the double bass. You might as well call “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” “big band stuff” because it features a drum set, an instrument also found in big bands.

    Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album, but this is at least partly because it’s the one Beatles album I’m old enough to have bought on the day it was released. Revolver is probably, by any sensible measure, their best. Yellow Submarine really shouldn’t be on the list, on the same rationale that excluded all the post-band compilations, remasterings, rarities, etc. My actual favorite Beatles song isn’t on any of the albums under discussion here: “Rain.” As people have pointed out over the years, it’s flawed in ever so many ways: the tempo wavers, several instruments are slightly out of tune, the vocals wobble, the studio effects are primitive at best — and it’s absolutely magnificent, like a vast lighter-than-air craft achieving flight. It really is a refutation of the modern pop-music cult of shimmeringly perfect technique.

  18. Are we to be treated as slaves: to be pitted against one another in subjective combat for the amusement of our host!?

    Nay I say, NAY!

    Throw off your shackles Whateverians, lay down your oft spouted opinions, and beat your keyboards into hand trowels! Do not give HIM the satisfaction!

    Only madness lies before you on that virtual path, muddied as it is with the bloodied flipper prints of the Sea Lions who plodded it before you. Turn back now; turn back before it’s too late!

    BEWARE, Beware, beware…

  19. I’d have put the White Album and MMT much higher on the list. The White Album is interesting in that it’s better listened to as a whole rather than the sum of its parts (the filler tracks, particularly the back half of Side 1 and most of Side 2, are better thought of as Abbey Road-style medleys than as standalone tracks). Magical Mystery Tour is more of a singles compilation, considering it’s 3 singles and an EP smooshed together, but in effect there’s not a bum track on it.

    While Let It Be does tend to be thought of as the Contractual Obligation/Closet Cleaning album, it’s the opposite of the White Album — it’s a mess as a whole, but many of the songs on their own are wonderful, like Two of Us, I Dig a Pony and I’ve Got a Feeling. Sure, they’re sloppily played, but looking past the demo-level playing, they’ve also got some fascinating musicianship, like IDaP’s continual time signature changing and IGaF’s insistent groove.

    Agreed, Yellow Submarine is the weakest of the lot. It suffers the same fate as the American versions of A Hard Day’s Night and Help, in that it’s half soundtrack/half score, and in the process loses some of its luster. George Martin’s score is fun and fanciful, but ends up diffusing a lot of the urgency in the Beatles tracks, especially Hey Bulldog (imho one of their most badass songs…had they gone in this direction rather than nip off to India and lose sense of what they were trying to achieve, I think they’d have been an even stronger group).

  20. Beatles, Mathematics, and Science fiction are three things my son (26) and I share. I’ve also written dozens of short stories and poems that cite a Beatles phrase. And John is still under-rated as a singer.

  21. To me there are inherent problems with any ranking of Beatles albums because of their longstanding practice of releasing a lot of their best stuff as singles only. (These were first collected on the Hey Jude LP, released soon after the breakup.)

    The U.S. premieres of the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” films were on two consecutive broadcasts of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Being 12 at the time, I’d thought the “Revolution” performance was actually in front of the Smothers audience – that is, Tommy and Dick made no effort to suggest otherwise. But I especially like this version of “Revolution” because of all the extra background vocals, including the shoo-be-doo-wops from “Revolution 1.”

    I would rank all the early albums higher because of how good their original songs are, and also because of how much fun they’re having with the covers. Young teenagers (mine, anyway) really enjoy Please Please Me, With the Beatles, etc.

    I can’t rank Abbey Road very highly because I reached my lifetime threshold decades ago. It’s like a wonderfully rich dessert that you couldn’t possibly stand to eat more than once a year.

    In the area of “Beatles fiction” (alternate universe section) I would recommend Ian R. MacLeod’s early-1990s novella “Snodgrass.”

  22. One thing that’s pretty important is to consider whether you’re talking about the British or US versions of the albums. Rubber Soul, for example, is drastically improved in its British form which includes Drive My Car and Nowhere Man. Revolver is also better in its British form which included And Your Bird Can Sing, I’m Only Sleeping and Doctor Robert (absolutely fabulous pure rock song).

    Anyway, I’d swap Revolver and Abbey Road, move Beatles for Sale up some (No Reply, I’m a Loser and Baby’s in Black are all stellar) and drop Magical Mystery Tour down to one notch above Yellow Submarine.

  23. Jon Chaisson: Let it Be was just a train wreck. But since it was almost entirely recorded before Abbey Road was, I don’t think it’s ever been considered “contract filler”. Abbey Road was an unexpected blast due to George Martin’s insistence that the group not go out on such a sour note as the “Get Back” sessions provided. A perfect (or almost perfect depending on your tolerance for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) ending to seven or eight wild years no matter what the chronology of the release dates say.

  24. S Wyatt: Understood. I just think of it as contract filler because once Abbey Road was finished and the band was no more, none of the four wanted anything to do with it other than just getting it out there and call it done. Or in the words of Lennon about Spector’s end result: “He was given the sh*ttiest load of badly-recorded sh*t with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.” ;)

  25. 1 Sgt Pepper
    2 The White Album
    3 Abbey Road – I’d rate this higher except it’s a bunch random incomplete stuff that was turned into an album by others. Having said that, it’s the one I play the most.
    4. Let It Be

    Those are the only ones that resonate as albums to me rather than a collection of singles.

  26. Side b of Abbey Road is awesome. In this day of playlists you really don’t get that sort of thing anymore.

    *Hangs onion on belt.

  27. I would put The White Album somewhere near the top, because I like strange music. I love that Paul both noodles around in music-hall style and somehow comes up with “Helter Skelter.” You can take the goofball songs like “Honey Pie” and “Rocky Raccoon” as an ominous warning of where Paul’s post-Beatles career was going to go, but I think it’s unfair to judge them by that standard.

    I have a couple of friends who insist that Abbey Road is garbage and cannot be dissuaded. I don’t understand this. The one thing I’ll admit is that “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” probably should have been cut, but what more than makes up for it is that George comes out of nowhere with two of the most beautiful songs in Beatles history.

  28. I would have to say that I agree for the most part in your rankings except for The White Album. I would probably replace Sgt. Pepper with it and then place Sgt Pepper one rung below. I’ve never understood all the beatles vs. stones jive — they are completely different in so many ways. And completely wonderful. And completely horrifying. Oh — wait — that’s just the Stones.

  29. It’s interesting. My parents are about 6.5 years apart. Their only overlapping Beatles album is Sgt. Pepper’s. My mom loves the early stuff (she’s the older) and my dad the latter stuff.

    This places Sgt. Pepper’s in my number 1 slot, simply by pure virtue of volume of play. White is probably second. A lot of the early stuff I love, but never really a full album, so I’d place the Red Album (1962-1966) in the third slot (yes, this is cheating, but its my list, so deal!).

    After that,it gets a little less settled.

    All of that said, my two favorite songs are “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.” Neither can, in my opinion, be beat.

    And now for sad story time with Carter: I was a freshman in Sept of 2001. Parents weekend was only a couple of weeks after the attacks. Part of that weekend was a yearly talent show (I went to a small liberal arts college, its what we do). The rule was the person or group that won the year before had the last slot in the show. That year it was a group of sophomores that come out and played several songs, all covers if I remember, real crowd pleaser sort of stuff. Then, to close their portion, and the whole show, they started playing “Let It Be.” As I remember it (and we all know how faulty memory is) without prompting the whole audience started standing and singing along. It was catharsis. It was worship (in the true sense of the word). It was beautiful.

    I’ve always been afraid that someone was going to tell me that it didn’t happen the way I remember it and ruin the memory for me. I hope not.

  30. I don’t love the Beatles. But of the Beatles albums, Rubber Soul is the only album by the Beatles that has more than one song on it that I like….Nowhere Man and Michelle. So I’d rate it as 1. Then rest will fall however, except Sgt. Peppers and Yellow Submarine, neither of which have a song that I like and would be next to last and last respectively.

  31. Rochrist posted: “One thing that’s pretty important is to consider whether you’re talking about the British or US versions of the albums. Rubber Soul, for example, is drastically improved in its British form which includes Drive My Car and Nowhere Man. […]”

    Just in case anyone is confused by this, in fact none of it has been true for at least 28 years, when the Beatles’ back catalog appeared on CD worldwide in its British form, retiring the “American” versions of the various albums up through Revolver. Indeed, those American versions went so far down the memory hole that they were actually reissued in a couple of boxed-sets-for-completists a few years ago, complete with the original boomy mix slapped onto them by Capitol Records.

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