Deep Cuts: The Beatles

Assembling a list of deep cuts from the Beatles is one of the grandest exercises in futility that we’ve ever attempted. Is there anyone who doesn’t know all of these songs? Consider the following:

• The Beatles had 47 Top 40 hits in a six-and-a-half year period. The Stones, by comparison, racked up 41 Top 40 singles, but needed 25 years to do it.

• Those 47 Top 40 hits do not include any of the following songs: “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” “In My Life,” “If I Fell,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “Drive My Car,” “Taxman,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Michelle,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “I Am the Walrus,” or a single track from either Sgt. Pepper or the White Album (except “Revolution,” which was re-recorded and issued as the B-side to “Hey Jude”).

Add all of those tracks up, and that means there are just over 100 Beatles songs that are instantly stricken from the record. One hundred songs. Ye gods. Is there even anything left to assemble a decent list of deep cuts?

Yes. We’re going to cheat here and there, using lesser known Sgt. Pepper and White Album tracks, different versions of well known songs, and perhaps a B-side or two that charted back in the day. The key for us is that for a song to count as a Deep Cut, it could not have been on either the “Red” (1962-1966) or “Blue” (1967-1970) compilations, and even then, we ruled out certain songs – and even suites of songs, like “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” – because of their ubiquitous presence on the rock radio of our youths.

Beatles scholars will likely yawn at my suggestions – after all, for the really curious, there are scores of Beatles bootlegs out there that plumb far greater depths than this – but in the interest of saving the time and money of our dear readers, we’ll stick to the official Parlophone and Capitol-endorsed releases to assemble our list. Trust us; there are still scores of songs from which to choose.

Full disclosure: there will be a noticeable bias to this list, in that we have not included anything prior to A Hard Day’s Night. As wildly successful as the Beatles were in those early years, they were still a far cry from the band that they would become a mere two to three years later. A Hard Day’s Night is the first Beatles album with all original compositions, so it seemed like a good place to start.

“Tell Me Why” – A Hard Day’s Night
Simply put, it’s the Beatles paying tribute to Martha and the Vandellas. There’s a strong “Heat Wave” vibe to the intro, and you get the first sense of the complex harmonies the band would come up with time after time in the years to come. It’s very telling that this and “If I Fell” were started and completed on the same day.

“Baby’s in Black” – Beatles for Sale
As my colleague Will Harris observed, “Baby’s in Black” might be the first mope rock song ever written. When John sings, “She thinks of him, and so she dresses in black / And though he’ll never come back, she’s dressed in black,” suddenly songs like the Smiths’ “Unlovable” (“I wear black on the outside, ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside”) and Depeche Mode’s “Dressed in Black” make a lot more sense.

“I’ve Just Seen a Face” – Help!
Pearl Jam fans will know this one, as it’s been a set list staple of theirs for years now. This folk and bluegrass-based track may be Paul’s answer to John’s “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” a Dylan-esque track with a rapid fire vocal and a lie-lie-lie-lie-la-lie singalong that Simon & Garfunkel would steal a few years later for “The Boxer.” Interesting note: Paul recorded this song, the rockin’ B-side “I’m Down,” and “Yesterday,” the mother of all ballads, on the same day. Laugh at him all you want for “Ebony and Ivory,” but back in the day, Macca had mad, mad skills. And speaking of that rockin’ B-side…

See the rest of the list here.


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