When I started writing for Odyssey one of my first articles was a list ranking all 13 Beatles albums from worst to best, but what if I told you that the best Beatles album ever has yet to be made?
That Beatles album is a compilation of the best songs from all four of their solo careers.
It seems hard for fans to even remember the solo careers of all four Beatles after their official breakup in 1970. The magic all four men made together was gone and only a reunion could bring it back. And that dream became impossible with the untimely deaths of John Lennon in 1980 and George Harrison in 2001.
Since the breakup the only official Beatles songs made were in the mid-1990s when Paul, George and Ringo added their voices and instruments to old demos of John’s songs Free as a Bird and Real Love.
It’s interesting how a lot of Beatles fans are passionately dedicated to songs the Fab Four recorded as a group but nowhere near as passionate towards their solo products.
The songs they made in an eight year span from 1962 to 1970 are extraordinary and timeless. However, if you were to actually listen to some songs made during their later years, a lot of them could easily be recognized as solo tracks. The only difference being that they were labeled under The Beatles and most were produced by their master producer George Martin.
So when all four members began their solo careers and branched off into new directions, the aura of The Beatles together disappeared and the magical production and ideas of George Martin were absent. For a typical Beatles fan it’s harder to emotionally connect to a Beatles solo song because it’s just a quarter of what could have been had they stayed together.
But what if we took the very best of The Beatles solo songs in which there are decades of material and cherry picked them to create one epic album? If fans suspended their disbelief and pretended that all of these solo tracks were actually The Beatles, it would rank up with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road as the best Beatles album ever.
These twenty-five songs are the very best done by either John, Paul, George, or Ringo as solo artists.
Also I decided on this list that music collaborations such as George Harrison's supergroup The Traveling Wilburies or Paul's duets with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder on Ebony and Ivory (Still a great song by the way) will not be included on this list. Basically it needs to be either a Beatle entirely solo or a Beatle who is the leader of the band such as Paul with Wings and John with the Plastic Ono Band.
25. The No-No Song, Ringo Starr
Lemme guess, you didn't know Ringo had a solo career did you? The writer of only two Beatles songs, Don't Pass Me By and Octopus's Garden, was just getting his feet wet in the songwriting department just when the breakup happened.
He obviously has the least amount of songs on this list because he was the least talented songwriter of the group but that doesn't mean he was a bad solo artist.
This song is a catchy tune that is actually encouraging for attics with a serious problem.
24. Mother, John Lennon
Everyone loves John Lennon, but lets honest, it’s no secret that he had some problems going all the way back to childhood. And his first solo album was his chance to work on those issues.
His problems with his mother's absence during childhood is well known and was even portrayed in three different movies about him.
So if you're getting married and about to dance with your mother during the celebration, don't assume that a John Lennon song about his mother is as sweet as his songs about Yoko and his son. Playing that song to dance with her would be the most awkward moment of your life.
23. All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
The title track of George's first solo album is akin to his best songs because they can be enlightening and comforting. The title itself confronts the reality of death and copes with loss and grief. In many ways this is his Let It Be.
22. Working Class Hero, John Lennon
It's almost impossible to think that The Beatles led by John Lennon in the suit and bowl cut on the Ed Sullivan and John Lennon the solo artist with the beard and full moon spectacles are the same person. The raw emotion and anger of his first solo album have several stunning songs especially in Working Class Hero, an angry grievance on life and society that would make Holden Caulfield proud.
And remember when the whole world flipped out when John made the comment that the Beatles looked like they were bigger than Jesus? If these songs came out five years earlier even President Lyndon Johnson would've been convinced that Lennon was the devil.
21. You're Sixteen, Ringo Starr
Ok so back in the 1950s it was normal for 19 year old teeny boppers singing love songs about teenagers. When Ringo Starr paid homage to that while in his 30s in the 1970s, it's kinda creepy. Nevertheless, the song was a number one hit and one of Ringo's best. When I found the music video for this song the love interest Ringo was singing for was played by...Carrie Fisher. Yes, that same Carrie Fisher who became Princess Leia a few years later.
20. Jet, Paul McCartney
Paul has passionately loved animals through the years and is a vegetarian, and he also makes good songs about animals like his pet dog named Jet. Like Back in the USSR, Jet is both a fast-paced rock song and a homage to fifties pop.
19. Photograph, Ringo Starr
Look at this photograph! Every time I look it makes me laugh!
No that's not how the song goes
I'm out a luck, out a love, Gotta photograph, picture of, Passion killer, you're too much, You're the only one I want to touch
No that's Def Leppards Photograph
This version of the song titled Photograph was actually one of Ringo's two number one hit singles throughout his solo career.
18. Happy X-Mas (War is Over), John Lennon
Some of the few things we dread as Christmas comes is the bitter cold weather and our favorite soft music FM station playing overused Christmas songs 25/8 for an entire month. The only Christmas song they play that isn't bland and cliched however is John Lennon's surprisingly dark Christmas song that is a powerful anti-war statement.
The Choir singing in the background of is the Harlem Community Choir.
17. What is Life, George Harrison,
John has often been seen as the deep thinker of the Beatles, but George could make a case being even deeper with his solo material. After all it was George who adopted Eastern religion and philosophies during his time with The Beatles and even played the sitar on several tracks.
The simple question of this title that could have a billion answers is explored in one of the best songs of his solo career.
The girl in this video is amazing!
16. Mindgames, John Lennon
The lyrics make this sort of a more deeper version All You Need Is Love, in Mindgames John expresses his philosophies of people playing their "Mindgames" with each other. As people look for meaning and answers John declare that it is "Love" that can fulfill you and that you already know that.
I would've loved to live in the time where I can meet John walking around New York city.
15. Silly Love Songs, Paul McCartney
Ok so it's not as dramatic a diss as Ice Cube dissing NWA in his first solo album but Paul's Silly Love Songs was a small jab at John who dismissed Paul and The Bealtes history of "Silly Love Songs". So Paul wrote his diss-song to John by asking "What's wrong with that? I'd like to know, cause here I go again."
14. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), George Harrison
Underrated with his use of the "slide-guitar" throughout his career, George used that along with poetic lyrics to craft one of his most beautiful and popular songs. The song is pleading to the world to grant us love and peace to cope with our "heavy load" along with enriching our "heart and soul" and connecting with the spiritual side of life.
13. Watching The Wheels Go Round, John Lennon
This was one the few hit singles released after John's death in 1980 and symbolizes the stages of peace he was nearing in his final years. With him and Yoko finally having a baby in Sean Lennon, John exercised the demons of his past and found joy in raising his new son, something he didn't have time for with his first son Julian while with The Beatles.
As the lyrics go, he acknowledges the years criticisms he's received from his actions but declares that he's "no longer riding on the merry go-round."
12. All Those Years Ago, George Harrison
As solo artists, The Beatles hardly acknowledged any nostalgia for the "glory days", but in the wake of John Lennon's shocking death, George wrote this tribute to John and their times together. At first it sounds like nostalgic Beatles song but listening to the lyrics it explores the deep thoughts and controversy John drew through the years.
"Deep in the darkest night
I send out a prayer to you
Now in the world of light
Where the spirit free of lies
And all else that we despised"
11. Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney
With the recent passing of Roger Moore, who holds the record for most movies playing James Bond with 8, his famous Bond films were celebrated and re-watched. Moore's first Bond film was Live and Let Die in 1973, and Paul McCartney performed the title track on the soundtrack.
In the tradition of the James Bond franchise, a song is performed by a world renown artist, and while Paul was unusual choice compared to the erotic songs of Bond's past and present, Live and Let Die still stands as one of the best.
10. Feels Like Starting Over, John Lennon
What makes this song transcend most of John’s solo songs was that it was the hit single of his final record Double Fantasy. Like Starting Over would be the Number One song on the charts for weeks in the wake of his assassination. The power of the lyrics transcends their original meaning because it was the hit single from his final album. Going from a love song to Yoko to a symbolic farewell song for one of the most iconic artists of all-time.
9. Got My Mind Set on You, George Harrison
When you see George's son Dhani Harrison all grown up in the splitting image of his father, you can imagine this song was about him when he was just a boy. This song was actually a cover of a 1962 James Ray single "I've Got My Mind Set On You" that George updated as a catchy 80s hit. Though he didn't write the song, the lyrics are very fitting for Harrison's words of wisdom. It also inspired one of the most unusual music videos of the 80s, and that's saying something.
Stunt double alert in the middle of the video!
8. It Don't Come Easy, Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr's peak as a songwriter and solo artist was 1971's It Don't Come Easy (He actually had help from George Harrison writing it too.) A song both fun and honest in it's lyrics helps bring legitimacy to Ringo's post-Beatles legacy.
What's more surprising? Ringo playing piano on ice or realizing he could actually play it?
7. Band on the Run, Paul McCartney
Arguably the most popular song of Paul's solo career was the title track to the album led by him and his band Wings.
Like the Abbey Road medley, there are multiple acts of the song that are much different
from one another. It begins slow and is about the misfortune of
being jailed. Then it picks up the pace with him singing about wanting to get
out, before finally breaking open the main part of the song with the escape and
"Band on the Run"
6. Instant Karma!, John Lennon
The first hit single of John's solo career came out before The Beatles officially broke up and even competed on the charts with Let It Be.
It may not be his most popular anthem but it's without a doubt one of Lennon's best. His famous voice reaching a high pitch and great booming drums beating in the background is especially engaging.
Why Yoko Ono wore blindfold while sewing I have no idea. Just go with it.
5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Paul McCartney
Paul’s greatest talent as a musician is his ability to take short medleys and combine them together to make one great song. Case in point the second half of The Beatles Abbey Road. In his solo album Ram he took that style into Uncle Albert/Admiral Hasley. Paul once again creates characters like Sgt. Pepper, Mr. Mustard, and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer in Uncle Albert and Admiral Hasley.
4. Give Peace a Chance, John Lennon
Technically this could count as a Beatles song because they were still in existence when John wrote and sang this song in the hotel room during one of his famous bed ins with new wife Yoko Ono.
So while the purely post-Beatles John song The Ballad of John and Yoko still counts as a Beatles song, Give Peace a Chance is still seen as a John Lennon solo song.
3. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
If you saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 then among the soundtrack of classic 70s songs was Harrison's best solo song in My Sweet Lord. A well known fact among Beatles fans is that My Sweet Lord was the first Beatles solo song to hit number one on the charts.
The lyrics are some of his most spiritual and religious as he sings about his relationship with God. While it could have been a typical Christian rock song, it actually applies to all religion who have different interpretations of their almighty. Evidence of that are the different religions and languages spoken near the end of the song.
2. Maybe I'm Amazed by Paul McCartney
While John constantly put Yoko in his performances and videos with him Paul didn't spare his rather shy new wife and vegetarian Linda. He even put the inexperienced musician as the keyboard player to his band Wings. Could you imagine being the non-professional experienced keyboard player for one of the greatest songwriters of all-time? It'd be difficult even if you were married to him!
Nevertheless, Maybe I'm Amazed was Paul's first single after the breakup and was attributed to her for helping him get over the end of The Beatles.
Regarded as the best song of his solo career, Paul literally played all of the instruments on the track and was once quoted in saying that it was "the song he would like to be remembered for in the future".
And here is a version of the song backwards courtesy of The Simpsons.
1. Imagine by John Lennon
Choosing the top Beatles solo song was the easiest one of all. John Lennon's Imagine is the best and most popular by a Beatle post breakup. It may even be the most iconic song by a Beatle ever.
I once saw a Beatles tribute show at Atlantic City, the band covered the long Beatles catalog from the teeny-bop early days to the psychedelic 1967 to the gloomy Let it Be, but they still took time to play John Lennon's Imagine in the show because it's so important to his legacy and identity.
Rolling Stone magazine agrees too. Lennon's Imagine was ranked as the third greatest song of all time just below The Rolling Stones's Satisfaction and Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. It was five spots higher than the highest rated Beatles song which was Hey Jude at eight.
The lyrics. So simple yet so powerful and universal.
The piano chords. Easy to play but so intriguing to hear.
The voice. So familiar but engaging that it's as if he's right in front of you singing it.
For decades, fans have lamented the breakup of The Beatles thinking about what more they could have done together. But the fact that their breakup also gave us many classic solo songs such as Imagine, makes their breakup almost a blessing in disguise.