Widely considered one of the best bands of all time, the Beatles need little introduction. From Africa to Asia, Borneo to Brazil, there can’t be many people who haven’t heard of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. There can’t be many who don’t have an opinion on which of their songs rank as the best either. But what about the opposite end of the spectrum? Even the Fab Four were capable of making some lemons, but which are the very worst Beatles songs ever made? Ultimately, everyone’s got their opinion. In ascending order, this is ours.
5. Ask Me Why (1963)
In the sake of fairness, we should point out that ‘Ask Me Why’ was one of the very first compositions from Lennon and McCartney. For that reason alone, most of us would be willing to turn a blind eye to the occasional clunky lyric or jarring rhyme. But asking us to forgive “I love you / Woo-woo-woo-woo” once is one thing. Asking us to forgive it when it’s repeated quite so often over the space of 2 and a half minutes is another thing entirely. But this was 1963. The group was young, naive, and still a long way away from the polished sound and lyrical ambitiousness of their subsequent years. So we won’t give ‘Ask Me Why’ a higher place on our list. But those Woo-woo-woo-woo’s won’t let them off the hook entirely.
4. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (1967)
‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ is generally considered to be one of the Beatles’ finest albums. It was certainly their most technically advanced. The musicianship was extraordinary. The cover art is quite possibly the best cover art, ever. As Wikipedia notes, it spent 5 weeks at number one in the US, was applauded by critics for its innovations, and has even said to have been a defining moment in 1960s pop culture, heralding as it did the Summer of Love. But as for the songs themselves? Were they really the great masterpieces they were proclaimed to be? ‘A Day in the Life’ we won’t argue with. It was genius, from start to finish, and a great note to end the album on. ‘With a Little Help From My Friends” is also pretty amazing, even if Joe Cocker did sing it better. But ‘Fixing a Hole?’ ‘Lovely Rita?’ Was this really the best that two of the greatest songwriters of all time could come up with? Worse still was ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,’ a novelty song that even a children’s entertainer would have blanched at performing. The collage of sound the Beatles were hoping to create on the album may have been a worthy endeavor, but here, as in plenty of other places, it falls flat.
3. Yesterday (1965)
According to The Independent, “the very worst Beatles song is one whose crushing banality and mediocrity are amplified by undeserved acclaim.” Listening to ‘Yesterday,’ we can’t help but agree. Celebrated as a classic that perfectly captures the sadness of the passing of time, ‘Yesterday’ is, in many people’s opinion, one of the Beatles’ best songs. Why, you’d have to ask them. Because where they see tenderness, we see mush. Where they see sweetness, we see sickliness. Where they see melancholy, we see melodrama. All in all, it’s mawkish, it’s commonplace, and it’s far, far too obvious for its own good. Obviously, you don’t have to agree. Most people don’t. According to thebeatles.com, it’s been voted the No. 1 pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone, generated nearly $20 million in royalty payments, and been performed over seven million times. None of that makes it ok.
2. Why Don’t We Do it in the Road (1968)
The Beatles’ self-titled album ‘White Album’ is the musical equivalent of Miracle Whip. Some people hate it with a fiery passion, calling it a bloated, incoherent exercise in self-indulgence. Others love it till death and beyond. Stephen Thomas Erlewine at All Music probably described it best when he called it an interesting mess. The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach certainly gave us some gems. Lennon’s ballads ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘Julia’ were little short of sublime. Some of McCartney’s contributions were less than inspired, but considering they included “Helter Skelter” in their mix, we’ll forgive him for the silliness of ‘Honey Pie’ and the country-lite of ‘Rocky Raccoon.’ What we won’t and can’t forgive him for is ‘Why Don’t We Do it in the Road.’ If you thought McCartney’s music-hall numbers were bad enough, wait till you get an earful of this diabolical little piece. McCartney got the inspiration to write it after catching two monkeys in flagrante delicto in the middle of a road. Their apparent ease with the situation led him to reflect on why humans have so many hang-ups about things the rest of the animal kingdom couldn’t give a hoot about. It’s a fair enough philosophical question… it was just a pity it translated into lyrics like “No one will be watching us/Why don’t we do it in the road?” Silly, forgettable, and made none the better for Ringo’s handclaps, it was at best throwaway and at worst rotten.
1. Revolution 9 (1968)
Some of our other entries may be a bit contentious. Regardless of how reviled ‘Yesterday’ is in certain quarters, some people are always going to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Some listeners might even think ‘Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?’ has a certain kind of rough charm. But no one, no one, can think that our next choice is anything but the worst song ever included on a Beatles album. And if they don’t, they have terrible taste in music. It’s not so much that the song itself is terrible, per se. In Lennon’s eyes, it was probably art. In fact, he later went on to admit he was trying to paint a picture of a revolution using sound. He shouldn’t have bothered. Art or not, it had no place on a Beatles album. By all accounts, McCartney wasn’t involved in the recording and later expressed unhappiness that it had been included. He himself had already recorded several ‘experimental’ recordings but had the good sense not to squeeze them into an album he expected people to pay good money for. The tinkling piano, the disembodied voice repeating ‘number nine,’ the swoops, the swirls, the crackling, the sputtering …. it was weird, it was wrong, and as the penultimate song, it was a terrible way to bring the ‘White Album’ to a close.