How do you pick, let alone rank, the 12 best tracks recorded by the most beloved and influential pop band of all time? The premise is ridiculous, the task impossible. But just for fun (and with apologies to inevitable dissenters), Elysa Gardner offers USA TODAY’s purely subjective list of Beatles favorites.
1) Ticket to Ride
No single better reflects the mix of ambition, tension and pure pop genius that made The Beatles unique than Ticket to Ride. John Lennon and Paul McCartney have disputed the authorship of this chart-topping, spine-tingling hit from 1965’s Help! Lennon maintained that McCartney’s contribution was essentially Ringo Starr’s propulsive drum part, a key element in the production, which prefigures a heavier, more muscular rock sound.
The bridge is just as brilliant: The band suddenly, frantically picks up the pace, and the tune becomes precociously groovy even as it reflects the nervous desperation lurking beneath that soaring melody and majestic arrangement. The first Beatles song that ran over three minutes long, Ticket to Ride is perfection all the way through.,
2) I Want to Hold Your Hand
There are few things as blissful, or as hard to pull off, as a happy pop song, free of sentimentality or snark. No rock group is responsible for more such treasures than The Beatles; a number of them are on this list, none more effervescent than 1963’s I Want to Hold Your Hand, the band’s first No.1 hit in the USA.
Fittingly, the song that allowed The Beatles to conquer America was a joint effort between Lennon and McCartney, who wrote it sitting together in the basement of McCartney’s then-girlfriend Jane Asher’s parents. I Want to Hold Your Hand’s joyful simplicity is deceptive; there are tricky chord shifts and syncopated (hand-clapped) rhythms within rhythms. But the effect is unfussy exuberance — just try listening to it without grinning.
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