10 of The Best Beatles Love Songs
The songs of the British rock group the Beatles are known for their vitality and variety, covering all genres of the day from pop ballads to hard rock to acid rock to Indian ragas to basic rock’n’roll. They wrote some astounding love songs, too, and here are some of the best. It’s difficult to limit such a list to a particular number as there are so many beautiful Beatle love lyrics. There’ll always be arguments over what is included and what is left out.
Following the band’s break-up, EMI/Capitol released it’s own selection simply called Love Songs. This was a double LP set and has never been subsequently re-issued on CD. Side One of that album kicks off with the first song on our list:
1. “Yesterday” This is undoubtedly the best known of Paul McCartney’s classic ballads. The best lines?
I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
Why she had to go,
I don’t know, she wouldn’t say…..”
McCartney wrote it alone and sings it alone, accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar and a string quartet. The lyrics are achingly heartfelt, full of sorrow and regret. “Yesterday” is the quintessential song about a love that once was but is no longer. It was the first of the solo performances by the Beatles; released in 1965, it has been covered by other singers well over 2,000 times.
2. “If I Fell” is an interesting composition about the sometimes tentative and risky nature of falling in love. Here there are complications because the singer (John Lennon) is already in an existing relationship and it will have to end if another is to begin.
“If I give my heart to you
I must be sure from the very start
That you would love me more than her…”
The song dates from 1964 and was probably written by Lennon, although McCartney recalls contributing to it. “If I Fell” is a two-part harmony, with Lennon singing the low side and McCartney the high, and it comes from the UK version of the album A Hard Day’s Night. In the US it appeared on Something New.
3. “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” OK. Yes, it’s simple–but holding hands is where it can all start, especially for teens. One of the earliest of the Beatles’ hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was jointly written by Lennon and McCartney, and right from the top it captures the inarticulate rush of first love:
“Oh yeah I tell you somethin’
I think you’ll understand
When I say that somethin’
I want to hold your hand.”
That’s probably why in 1963 it sold in the millions around the world. It’s also got a melody that you just can’t get out of your head.
4. “And I Love Her.” The story goes that this beautiful ballad was written by Paul McCartney while staying at the London home of his then-girlfriend, Jane Asher. It’s a song of which McCartney is justifiably proud, especially the lines
“Bright are the stars that shine/
Dark is the sky/
I know this love of mine/
Will never die.”
There’s a clever use of words in the title, too. Putting in the “And” was creative, effective and different. Definitely got to be high up on any list of great love songs.
5. “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Not a traditional love song in the true sense of the word, more an ode to a couple growing old together.
“I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?”
Perhaps surprisingly this was written by Paul McCartney when he was very young back in the Cavern days in Liverpool. It didn’t make an appearance on record until 1967 and the Sgt Pepper album. It speaks of love lasting well beyond the first blush of infatuation, in fact, love lasting even across the generations.
6. “P.S. I Love You” is a wonderfully visual song of a lover sitting down to write a letter to his partner. They are apart, but not forever as he’ll be home soon.
“As I write this letter, send my love to you
Remember that I’ll always be in love with you
Treasure these few words till we’re together
Keep all my love forever
P.S. I love you, you, you, you!”
It is simple in structure but clearly conveys its meaning. Need we say more? Another of the earliest Beatle songs, “P.S. I Love You” was included on the UK Please Please Me album and was the B-side to the single “Love Me Do.”
7. “All My Loving.” This song is like a partner to “P.S. I Love You”. Again we have the idea of two lovers being apart and (in the pre-internet age) promising to keep in touch via the postal service. It is a simple reminder of how sweet love can be. “And then while I’m away/I’ll write home every day/And I’ll send all my loving to you.” The song dates back to 1963 and is distinguished as being the first song The Beatles sang in their US TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show before an audience estimated to be around 73 million viewers.
8. “Something.” Frank Sinatra once pronounced this George Harrison composition the best love song written in the last fifty years. Harrison said it was inspired by a James Taylor song, which started with the same opening line:
“Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how.”
At one point, Harrison attributed the song’s inspiration to his wife Patti, but after they broke up he added that he had also thought of the R&B artist Ray Charles singing it. “Something” has been covered by many other artists, including Ray Charles and Sinatra. The number of cover versions is in the hundreds. And there’s a good reason for that. It is a gorgeous love song.
9. ”Two of Us.” Again, not strictly a love song, but one that speaks about the joy of just being together. Where doesn’t really matter, in fact, if we go out and get lost in the countryside that’s just fine–we have each other.
“On our way back home
We’re on our way home
We’re on our way home
We’re going home
You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”
The opening track on what was to be The Beatles’ final album, Let It Be, this song is exuberant and upbeat.
10. “Real Love.” Apple and Capitol marketed this beautiful John Lennon song (posthumously recorded by the “Threetles” for The Beatles Anthology series) as a Valentines Day gift when it was first released in 1996 as a CD single. Best lines:
“Thought I’d been in love before
But in my heart, I wanted more
Seems like all I really was doing
was waiting for you.”
Of course, there are many more truly great songs which could easily have been included on this list. Love in its many forms was such a central theme in so much of The Beatles repertoire. We’ll include ten more examples of great love songs in Part 2.