Top 10 Beatles Songs of 1964

Beatles songs 1964

Photo: By Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (https://www.flickr.com/photos/proni/18226096790/) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s no sense in reiterating what has already been said about the Beatles’ legacy and their enduring impact on music as we know it; we’ll save you the ad nauseam and dive straight into what this article is 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 to the high demand for their single I Want to Hold Your Hand which soon made its way into the US charts, selling more than a million copies over 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, things become rather tricky. They only put out thirteen studio albums, but most were mass-released with countless variations; most were American releases on Capitol Records. Their Parlophone records are the authentic 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 intended to be the Beatles’ true vision.

Everyone sit back and relax because from here, you’ll be taken on a journey of significant importance through each passing year. This is music no other human being ever thought to create…..except four young men from Liverpool. Continuing 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 widely adored that saying they were sitting on top of the world would be an egregious understatement. With the release of A Hard Day’s Night and the film of the same name, it was becoming quite challenging for the band to handle the exhaustive task of dealing with angry 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 led 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.

# 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 in 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 as a band that 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 them from their ability to encompass the song’s essence as their own effortlessly. Their gyrating interpretation of Chuck Berry’s classic elevated Beatles For Sale into a sad and fun album, cementing their pathway to more extensive and brighter ideas.

# 7 – I Call Your Name

Here’s a fun little song first released on their U.S. record, The Beatles’ Second Album, a messy jumble of previously released material and several scrapped session cuts. Only a month later, the Long Tall Sally EP was released in the UK; I Call Your Name was accompanied by 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 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 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 earworms that made them the star-studded hit makers they came to be. It’s a nifty dance piece with two exciting anecdotes attached to its initial creation.

Paul McCartney 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 is what Ringo said. Who knows which story is legitimate? The important thing is that the song was written due to that conversation.

# 5 – Long Tall Sally

It has been noted already that the Beatles’ discography was quite desecrated in the States. Capitol Records took complete control over their work and what would be best suited for the masses; most 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 The Beatles’ Second Album and Something New, and even the Canadian release, The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. Instead, we will ignore those and make this all about their EP issued in the UK. This grooving rendition of Little Richard’s 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 a complex composition; who ever heard of such a thing for a jovial pop song? The reason is that it’s an 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 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

While 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 because former drummer Pete Best stated that songs like “I’ll Follow the Sun,”wouldn’t have been suitable for their rough, leather jacket-clad street look. But they decided to include this sad-eyed song of heartache in the album because it 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 gives it that timeless soul. Paul shines as bright as the night sky stars that he softly serenades about. The song’s gorgeous chord changes from major and minor keys are quite a pleasure to the ears. However, George is the other leading factor in the song’s spectacular scope. 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 will always 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 connects with them on an emotional and ethereal level. That’s the beauty of music. I know numerous songs from 1964, several of which have graced this list, are just as deserving of the number one spot. There’s just something so hauntingly brilliant about I’ll Be Back. Maybe the dreary melody ties into the languished atmosphere of a person losing the one they love. Or perhaps it’s just an outstanding song that closed out an exceptional album. However you want to look at it, “I’ll Be Back” is an encrusted gem in their 1964 period that predated the start of a band that would mature into something even better.

Updated May 9, 2024

Top 10 Beatles Songs of 1964 article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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