Top 7 Most Underrated Beatles Songs

7) Two of Us

Although far from the most popular, I find ‘Two of Us’ to be the most representative song of what The Beatles were trying to say and do on the ‘Let It Be’ album – it’s nostalgic in concept, conservative in instrumentation and announcing an end that will inevitably come. There are few things more emotional in the Beatles’ catalog than hearing McCartney and Lennon sing in close harmony for one last time and I just can’t argue with the ‘Ballad of Paul and John’ tag that fans associated to the song.

6) Martha My Dear

I do not know if the song really was written about Paul’s sheepdog or not, but what I do know for sure is that this is another example of McCartney’s pop genius – a tune flawlessly crafted, arranged, played and sung. Yes, it’s more retro than edge-cutting, but no Beatles fan should be able to resist Paul’s falsetto suddenly giving way to the more guitar-driven part or that bouncy little horn solo.

5) Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!

A natural instinct when people say that the Beatles didn’t rock all that much is to open YouTube and type the two mighty words in the search box: ‘helter’ and ‘skelter’. But after re-listening to this early rock ‘n’ roll cover, I’m thinking that maybe it would work as a pretty convincing argument as well. ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’ is Paul doing his best Little Richard, with a level of intoxicating excitement that he would rarely match again. Maybe the song is not as guitar-centered as ‘classic rock’ fans like their music to be, but the catchiness, memorability, party-spirit, dance-invitation, scream-along vibe more than makes it up for it.

4) The Long and Winding Road

“You need the Let It Be…Naked album to truly appreciate The Long and Winding Road” is a popular opinion that I’ve seen among Beatles fans and I can’t help but subscribe to it. This is the type of ballad that I can best describe as “intimate”, where the accent is put on the feeling and that works best with a minimal arrangement, with subtle instrumental touches. And as much as I’m a Phil Spector fan, his “grandiose” arrangement on the originally-released version just doesn’t fit the mood of the song, perhaps leading many people to underappreciate it. But underneath the big, overwhelming orchestra and choir backing vocals, there’s actually one of McCartney’s most pretty and heartfelt ballads to be found.

3) The Ballad of John and Yoko

Many will argue that no number one hit-single should ever be considered underrated by any means, but as far as Beatles go, this is easily their most forgotten success. Written by John Lennon, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ documents its protagonists’ marriage and other contemporary events in their lives, and probably wins the prize for being the most self-centered, not-relatable Beatles song ever. There’s no universal message in the vein of ‘All You Need Love’, it doesn’t announce anything regarding the band’s artistic direction like ‘Get Back’ and it’s certainly not as “heavy” as ‘Hey Jude’ (all three of which were pervious singles). But that’s exactly why I love it – it’s just a groovy little song for a change, funny lyrically in a cynical/biting type of way and memorable to the point of having it stuck in your head all day long. A perfect example of Beatles not taking themselves too seriously.

2) Within You Without You

The ‘Indian music’ label scares some away, but I’ve always judged this George Harrison compositions in terms of psychedelic music – with the accent put on atmosphere and with the voice as just another instrument contributing to that. And it definitely works – like many other Sgt. Pepper tracks, ‘Within You Without You’ feels like a world onto itself that can absorb you from reality for its whole duration. The sitars and tamburas play away, the strings join from time to time to accentuate the intensity and the contemplative lyrics couldn’t have been more suitable. Why should this be any worse than the more experimental works of Lennon and McCartney?

1) I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party

I think we’ve all been there – not being able to enjoy a party like the people around you do just because your loved one is not there near. Preferring to go for a walk by yourself, half-drunk half-sober, on the empty night streets to just get away from everyone and everything. Interesting is the fact that such a sad song made its way onto a Beatles album in an era generally predominated by joy, joy and even more joy. This predicts the Beatles’ future habit of jumping from one subject matter and mood to another and at the same time, confirms Lennon as an artist who you can always count on to write perfectly relatable and emotional songs.

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Categories: Tops

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20 replies

  1. Great idea for a post!

    The way you feel about “Kansas City,” is the way I feel about “Long Tall Sally.” McCartney does an amazing job on that song. It doesn’t rock in that crunchy guitar sort of way — it’s just pure energy.

    I always loved “Old Brown Shoe,” I think because it’s a bit of a departure from the typical Harrison composition. And the piano is great on it.

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  2. “Winding Road” is my favorite Beatles song – it should get more love. Because all you need is love.

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  3. I agree with all of your choices (except for the ‘Long and Winding Road’ — I like the Anthology version, but the LIB version turns out to be my least favourite Beatles song); absolutely love Martha My Dear (that picture is gorgeous!), IDWTSTP, Within You Without You, Two Of Us and all the rest. Some other underrated Beatles tunes I’d have added would include Old Brown Shoe, Yes It Is, Long Long Long, Dear Prudence (the lead guitar in that is almost completely lost in the mix — which saddens me), Cry Baby Cry, The Night Before, She Said She Said (my favourite Beatles song! Ask me tomorrow, though, and I could have a completely different answer), Because, Watching Rainbows (not an actual official Beatles song, but stuff that), Oh! Darling– oh God, I don’t know. IMO all the best Beatles songs are the ones that nobody except mad fans actually know.

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  4. Dig a Pony does it for me – my favourite Beatles tune, and you hardly hear about it.

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  5. When I wind up listening to a Beatles album all the way through, it’s normally Beatles for Sale (or Abbey Road, of course). The point you make about Kansas City can be applied to that whole album I think–it’s really raucous and a lot of fun, and you can kind of begin to see why people initially took notice of the band.

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  6. Interesting – all the more interesting because they wouldn’t be my seven choices – forcing me to go back and listen to them. I thought “Long Long Long” was on every classic “underrated Beatles song list” – perhaps now it’s no longer “underrated”.

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  7. Good post. I agree with “Two of Us”. I would also add “Yes It Is”, “Old Brown Shoe “(Anthology 3 version), and “I’ll Follow the Sun.” You should definitely listen to (both versions of) “Old Brown Shoe” again.

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  8. Cheers to Martha My Dear, a great side 2 opener!

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  9. Great arctlie, thank you again for writing.

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  10. A couple of my favorites that could apply (although all Beatles songs are automatically rated high–not to say overrated–by myriad Beatle fans) are “Hey Bulldog” and “Not a Second Time.”

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  11. A couple of thoughts – love the list. Don’t know if I’d think of any of them as underrated but ok. However, I confess I’ve never been a big fan of ‘Within You, Without You.’ To this day if I listen to Sgt. Pepper I skip over it. Given the choice, I really like another Harrison Indian song, ‘The inner Light’ quite a bit more. ‘Kansas City’ – yes! On my iPod. And “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party’ is from the excellent ‘Beatles for Sale’. There is no better harmony in the Beatles catalog than John and Paul singing, “I still love her.” This song has enough of a country feel that Rosanne Cash had a number one hit with it years later.

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  12. A few more underrated songs that I love are You Never Give Me Your Money, the silly rhyming Rocky Racoon, Mother Nature’s Son, Think For Yourself and the psychedelic Tomorrow Never Knows. None of them are hits, but they still say something extraordinary about their output.

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