Yesterday, Strawberry Fields Forever, Come Together, Something, Let it Be – songs like these ensure The Beatles legacy as the greatest band ever.

But what about the other songs – the ones that history would overlook if they hadn’t been recorded by the gods?

Abbey Road by M. Caimary

Abbey Road with no Beatles on it

13 Crappy or at Least Mediocre Beatles Songs or…You Can Polish an Apple But You Can’t Polish a TurdLet’s go over the criteria first. Only songs that were widely-known during the Beatles era (ending 12/31/70) are eligible.  That excludes “Anthology” plus Star Club and BBC recordings because they were released later. (Some BBC material was circulating in the UK, but its existence was not widely known.) Songs by The Beatles will be included even if not all Beatles play on the song but we will exclude solo releases and guest sessions. We will also exclude George Martin’s instrumentals and anything else not definitely by the Beatles, such as mis-attributed Tony Sheridan recordings and fakes like Have You Heard The Word.

And I Love Her (1964)  George Martin barely had to change the arrangement to record his cheesy instrumental version for the US .  ‘Nuff said.

Two of Us (1969) I can’t imagine why Phil Spector chose to kick off “Let It Be” with this dismal song.  Maybe it was to make Dig a Pony sound better. It lacks that special sonic something most Beatles records have. One reason is because nobody is playing bass. (George plays bass lines on a guitar.) Even with three guitars, the most interesting thing anybody plays is that lick at the beginning. We get this from the guys who came up with the bang that opens A Hard Day’s Night?

The lyrics are mostly meaningless. We are doing something together, but what? And why? The nonsense lyrics in I Am The Walrus and even Glass Onion work because the imagery is so strong. It’s like John just didn’t try on this one. Paul sings in his fake cheery mode. John sounds like he just got up and George can’t even be bothered to sing. Overall, it sounds like they never really figured out what to do with this song.  Too bad they didn’t have anything else ready.

Dig A Pony (1969)  The riff is sluggish but not heavy, and syncopated but not funky. We get more half-assed Lennon-doing-Carroll lyrics with a mediocre lead vocal. Nice guitar solo, though.

Mr. Moonlight (1964) Easy target. This song alternates with Revolution  (which isn’t on this list) for the top spot in any worst-Beatle-song fan poll. It has uninspired vocal arrangements, cornball lyrics and an organ solo only Walter Wanderly could love.

The Long and Winding Road (1969)-Even without Phil Spector’s oft-criticized orchestration, it’s a very sappy song. It’s too long and boring the way the Beatles played it.  The Wings Over America version is better, but we wouldn’t have known that in 1970

Her Majesty(1969)-Funny and cute, to be sure, but it totally spoils what they were building over the previous twenty minutes. People pretend it doesn’t exist when they say that “and in the end/the love you take/is equal to the love you make” was the last lyric on the last song on the last Beatles album. Come to think of it, they pretend that Let It Be doesn’t exist either.

P.S. I Love You (1962)-It’s got a lousy beat and you can’t dance to it. It’s not his drumming.

What Goes On (1965)-Horribly boring drumming from an otherwise exciting drummer. Blame Ringo. Not only does he drum here, he wrote the song.

The Ballad Of John and Yoko (1969)-Yoko may have inspired John, but not the day he wrote and found Paul to record this song. It’s just lame rock and roll cliche without anything special.

Baby’s In Black (1964)- Hack songwriting. They never found a good arrangement for the song. You can tell by the plodding waltz beat that the rhythm section had no idea what to do. We would have heard them butcher this on the 1965 tour.

Matchbox (1964)- Obviously it was time to record a contribution from Ringo. They had nothing ready so they pulled out one of their old live songs. Matchbox’s lyrics are seemingly pulled at random from blues songs. The melody is boring but I guess Ringo could sing it, so it was good enough. It’s too bad, because we could have had another Boys instead.

Chains (1962)- This is just a boring girl-group number. The Beatles were capable of great harmonies but they stuck with tried-and-true block harmonies here.

There’s A Place (1962)- Like “P.S. I Love You”, this song is just too much like other pop songs of 1962.

Did you notice a pattern? Most of these songs were recorded during three transitional periods of the Beatles’ career. They were at their worst right before they were at their best. The first transitional period was when they were beginning to record in 1962. Their songwriting skills were still immature and George Martin hadn’t figured out what was special about them. They had yet to prove that they – or any rock and roll band – deserved much time in the studio. It didn’t take long for the Beatles to get the hang of things.  She Loves You was right around the corner.

Their next challenging period was in late 1964, while they were working on “Beatles For Sale”, “Beatles” and “Beatles VI”, (depending on where/when you grew up). They were exhausted after two years of Beatlemania and four years on the road. They didn’t have enough time to write songs. Recording sessions were rushed, snuck in between gigs. They took a vacation, grew up a little and gave us “Rubber Soul”.

Finally, we get to depressing 1969 and the Let it Be debacle. Paul was the only Beatle interested in being a Beatle, so the quality suffered. John was strung out and contributed little of value, other than the excellent Don’t Get Me Down. George had some great songs, but John and Paul weren’t very interested. Ringo was there, but how much help was he going to be? Soon after, the Beatles reconvened for their last gasp and best album, Abbey Road.

By 1970, they had gone their separate ways and over the next four years, they treated us to a fantastic array of solo albums: “Plastic Ono Band”, “All Things Must Pass”, “Imagine”, “Ram”, “Living In The Material World”, “Band On The Run”, “Ringo”, and others that are excellent in spots. Like everyone else, the Beatles sometimes sucked. One of the reasons they were so great was that they could pick themselves up, turn the corner, and be awesome once more.