There’s no sense in reiterating what has already been said before about the legacy of the Beatles and the enduring impact they made on music as we know it; we’ll save you the ad nauseam and dive straight into what this article is specifically about. A while back, ClassicRockHistory began working on a conceptual piece that would document each year of the Beatles’ work; homing in on some of their standout recordings that came to define an era. 1963 was the genesis of this theme, and highlighted the band’s rock and roll tendencies with the classics, Please, Please Me and With the Beatles; this introduced the band to a significant following in their home country, and pretty much coined the religious fanaticism known as “Beatlemania.”
Then came 1964, which segued instantly into what would be the era that brought them unanimous recognition, and this was all due in part because of the high demand of their single I Want to Hold Your Hand which soon made its way into the US charts, selling more than a million copies over the span of a few weeks. Now add to the mix their subsequent arrival in America and their performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which bolstered their immense popularity into what would be known as the British Invasion; everybody and their mother couldn’t shake the infectious bug of Beatlemania from their consciousness.
When discussing the Beatles and their prodigious body of work though, things become rather tricky. They only put out thirteen studio albums, but most of them were mass released with countless different variations; most of these were the American releases on Capitol Records. Their Parlophone records are the true album versions, whereas the American counterparts only featured a fraction of the original track lists and were more artificially compressed. So for these top ten lists, our undivided attention will focus on the UK issues that were intended to be the Beatles’ true vision.
Everyone sit back and relax, because from here, you’ll be taken on a journey through each passing year of significant importance. This is music no other human being ever thought to create…..except four young men from Liverpool. Continuing on with the year 1964, here’s our top ten Beatles list:
10.) No Reply
1964 was an interesting period for the Beatles. They were a band so recognizable and so widely adored, that to say they were sitting on top of the world would be an egregious understatement. With the release of A Hard Day’s Night and their film of the same name, it was becoming quite the challenge for the band to carry on the exhaustive task of dealing with irate fans, the press, and excess touring.
This is where the album Beatles For Sale comes in. It was quite the musical shift, because they tossed aside their bubble gum pop and traded it in for a more emotional awakening; they were now absorbing the music around them, which happened to be the folk rock explosion lead by Bob Dylan. No Reply showed that the inseparable chemistry of Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting was now in full swing. With its gloomy tranquility and lyrical rantings about a man and his unfaithful woman, this was the perfect song to open up the album with.
9.) I’ll Cry Instead
A Hard Day’s Night was a landmark album for the band. It was the first album that featured all original content composed by Lennon and McCartney, which also happened to coincide with the release of their film of the same name, a comedy musical that cleverly satirized their God-like status; the film’s influence alone was so effective that it inspired the formation of the Monkee’s and their television show.
Seven of the thirteen songs were included in the film, with the rest of the score composed of instrumental variations that were later included on the American version. The Beatles’ pop melodies peaked during this epoch, exposing their glimmering progression as an original band who didn’t just churn out old rock and roll standards. I’ll Cry Instead was the Beatles showing a more world-weary attitude in their lyrics, while at the same time maintaining their jittery rhythm.
8.) Rock and Roll Music
The Beatles started out as a band who mainly performed cover songs; their first two albums were stockpiled with countless pop, soul, and rock numbers composed by other artists. That didn’t deter from their ability to effortlessly encompass the song’s essence as their own. Their gyrating interpretation of Chuck Berry’s classic elevated Beatles For Sale into an album that was both somber and fun, cementing their pathway to bigger and brighter ideas.
7.) I Call Your Name
Here’s a fun little song that was first released on their U.S. record, The Beatles’ Second Album, A very messy hodgepodge of previously released material, as well as several session cuts that were scrapped. Only a month later was the Long Tall Sally EP released in the UK; I Call Your Name accompanied side A with the aforementioned song. Lennon originally wrote it for another Liverpool band, The Dakotas, but he was so unhappy with their composition that the Beatles decided to record their own version instead. The song was close to being added to A Hard Day’s Night, but was soon pushed aside, instead ending up on the The Beatles’ Second Album as a poorly edited stereo cut with a different opening guitar riff; the UK mono cut was assigned to the EP, which was the intended version.
6.) Eight Days a Week
Eight Days a Week was going to be issued as a single in the UK, but ultimately ended up being released as a single in America, making it the Beatles’ seventh number one hit in the US. Like Rock and Roll Music, the rudiments of Eight Days a Week were that of a band completely comfortable transitioning from a more stripped down methodology to their jingle ear worms that made them the star-studded hit makers they came to be. It’s a nifty dance piece that had two interesting anecdotes attached to its initial creation. Paul had stated in an interview that the title came from a conversation he had with his chauffeur where he asked him how he was doing, and the chauffeur replied, “working hard, eight days a week.” And the other one being that Ringo actually said it. Who knows which story is legitimate, the important thing is that the song was written as a result of that conversation.
5.) Long Tall Sally
It has been noted already that the Beatles’ discography was quite desecrated in the states. Capitol Records took full control over their work and what would be best suited for the masses; most of these records were very confusing because they were composed of songs from several of their UK counterparts i.e. the true versions. Long Tall Sally was included on both The Beatles’ Second Album and Something New, and even the Canadian release, The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. But we’re instead going to ignore those and make this all about their EP issued in the UK. This grooving rendition of Little Richards’ rock and roll opus harbors the vibrant spirit of the original, but with an added mixture of their skiffle mechanics.
4.) A Hard Day’s Night
Everybody knows this one; it’s one of their signature tunes after all. It was the theme song for the film, and opened up their UK and US albums. It has been dissected over the years for being quite the complex composition; who ever heard of such a thing for a jovial pop song? The reason being it’s immediately discernible opening chord that bangs out hard before going straight into the contagious chorus. Many have debated what kind of chord it was that George played on his Rickenbacker 360 12-string guitar; some thought was either a G7sus4, D7sus4, G7 with added 9th and suspended 4th, or a combination of Dm, F, and G, among others. It’s actually an F add9 chord. George revealed in an interview that it was an “F with a G on the top.”
It took several takes before they found the perfect version. They layered the recording with a four-track tape that consisted of lead, rhythm, bass, drums, two sets of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals, bongos, acoustic guitar, and George Martin playing piano. It’s hard to imagine it took all of that time and effort to craft such an iconic song. Everything else about A Hard Day’s Night goes without saying.
3.) I’ll Follow the Sun
During the whole process of getting their Beatles For Sale record finalized, the guys were frantically trying to figure out ways to fill up the album with enough songs, so they decided to try this one out for size. It was written by Paul when he was sixteen years old. They kept this beautiful ballad tucked away when they first started out, because it was former drummer Pete Best who stated that songs like I’ll Follow the Sun wouldn’t have been good for their rough, leather jacket-clad, street look. But they made the wise decision of including this sad-eyed song of heartache in the album, because it truly is the first great song that Paul ever wrote.
2.) And I Love Her
This McCartney love song is one of the best he’s ever written; it was one of the big endowments of A Hard Day’s Night that really gives it that timeless soul. Paul shines as bright as the stars of the night sky that he softly serenades about. The song’s gorgeous chord changes from major and minor keys is really quite the scenic pleasure to the ears. But the other leading factor in the song’s spectacular scope is George. That arpeggiated riff he dangles over each chord is the kind of earworm that’ll have you humming it long after you’ve listened to it.
1.) I’ll Be Back
Lists like these are always going to be controversial, but at the end of the day, they’re all merely subjective; everybody holds certain songs near and dear to their heart, and they connect with them on an emotional and ethereal level. That’s the beauty of music. I know there are numerous songs from the year 1964, several of which that have graced this list, that are just as deserving of the number one spot. There’s just something so hauntingly brilliant about I’ll Be Back. Maybe it’s the dreary melody that ties into the languished atmosphere of a person losing the one they love. Or maybe it’s just an outstanding song that closed out an outstanding album. However you want to look at, I’ll Be Back is an encrusted gem in their 1964 period that predated the start of a band who would mature into something even better.