Disclaimer: Because this is a Beatles list, and because this band’s lawyers are so aggravatingly overprotective of their legacy, none of their studio tracks are available on YouTube. As such, the videos embedded below offer alternate – often poor quality – versions of the tracks in question. You can find the originals easily enough through Spotify. If you don’t have Spotify
what the fuck is wrong with you buy the albums I guess?
If you’re the Beatles, your deep tracks are more historically relevant than most people’s hits. Think of all the Beatles songs that weren’t singles, that weren’t even B-sides, that were just unassuming album tracks in their day, minding their own GD bidness, that you regularly sing word-for-word in the shower: “Drive My Car,” “In My Life,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Back in the USSR,” “When I’m Sixty-Four.” These songs (and so many many more) are the reason why no “hits” collection has ever done justice to the fabs’ discography. Even the great Red and Blue albums from ’73 – essentially the greatest set of compilation records ever – fall tragically short of complete, missing “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout” and “This Boy” and “Taxman” and “Blackbird” and FUCK!! Right?
Point is, the Beatles goldmine runs pretty goshdarn deep, which means that finding “deep cuts” that every mother’s son hasn’t been force-fed a trillion times over by Classic Rock Radio™ is a feat fit for only the most off-puttingly obsessive of Beatle freaks. AKA >>>THIS GUY<<<
Look, I’m not a very interesting guy. The Beatles are my favorite band, and I’m well aware of how FUCKING TYPICAL that makes me. But oh well. They wrote the best songs and made the best albums. I’m fine with being typical because (a) it’s fun to have obsessions, regardless of how (un)cool they are, and (b) it means I can be a serious authority on something most people have at least a vague impression of. When the Beatles’ discography was finally (FINALLY!!!) uploaded to Spotify back in 2015, I had people asking me what some cool album cuts were. The problem with a question like that is that it overloads the brain. What’re some cool Beatles songs? Uh, I dunno, fucking ALL OF THEM?? Realizing how unhelpful that is, however, I’ve decided to make this list.
Rules & Exemptions
Shit, where to begin? Thing is, we’re in Beatles territory here, which means nearly every song we encounter is in danger of violating the Too Obvious Rule. Luckily, since we’re talking deep cuts, all singles are out. Also disqualified are any tracks that were not singles but whose popularity and instant identifiability are unquestionable. This category includes the aforementioned “Drive My Car,” “In My Life,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” etc. Serious Beatles fans know that there’s a tier system within the Beatles catalog: First, there’s the shit everyone knows (basically the 1 album); second, there’s the shit everyone knows even if they don’t know they know it. It’s that second category we’ve got to watch out for. My high school girlfriend once sang a cover of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” at an official school function. This means that “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” – and any song with which it shares equal status – is disqualified from consideration. If we’re to be serious about hidden gems, we’ve got to make sure they’re too far beneath the earth for casual fans to get hold of.
On the other hand, however, it’d be stupid to just go fishing for the most obscure of all possible obscurities. Shit isn’t cool just cuz it’s for collectors only. We’re playing serious, but we’re also playing fair. For that reason, I’m only considering songs that were actually released by the Beatles during their tenure as an active rock band. This means no bootleg tracks (sorry, Esher demos!), no live performances (sorry, BBC sessions!), nothing from any of the Anthology discs (sorry, uhh, “In Spite of All the Danger”?). Believe me, I love those Anthology collections like the king dorkis malorkis that I am, but I can’t in good conscience say that any of the Previously Unreleased stuff from those records comes close to being worthy of the original catalog. The best “new” discovery from the series is probably “That Means a Lot,” a Paul song that actually kind of sucks. My favorite alternate version from the Anthologys is take 2 of “And Your Bird Can Sing” from Anthology 2, in which Lennon and McCartney can’t stop laughing over the vocal track. Ah, the early days of casual marijuana use.
So basically: We’re sticking to album tracks and B-sides that are off the beaten path even for seasoned WMGK listeners. In this respect, the deepest Beatles track of all is “Long, Long, Long,” the least assertive song on the band’s longest album. Alas, it is not on this list cuz it’s a snoozer.
I’m not ranking this one cuz shit, it’s the Beatles, they’re all number one.
“Hey Bulldog” (originally released on Yellow Submarine)
If there’s a “too obvious” candidate in the realm of deep-ass Beatle cuts, this bad bastard is probably it. I’m far from the first bespectacled twonk to make a Beatles deep cuts list, and a number of the others you’re bound to find out there on the whirled wide web list this song at numero uno. And while I’m not tryna copy off no fellow Beatlemaniacs, this track is undeniable. Unfortunately, Apple Corps is so protective of the band’s recordings that you can rarely track down Beatle songs on YouTube, but sprint on over to Spotify, find this song, and just try to tell me this shit isn’t fucking nasty! Armed with a pounding piano-and-fuzz-guitar riff, it’s a classic Lennon nonsense song, with lyrics about nothing in particular that manage to sound like they’re about everything. Anytime these fellas scream it’s a revelation, and Lennon screaming “YOU CAN TALK TO ME” is top gear indeed. And McCartney barking like a dog? Lord, why did the sixties have to end?
“You Won’t See Me” (originally released on Rubber Soul)
Dem Beatles, I tells ya, they gots SOULLLL!!!!! Here’s another in a rare series of Beatles tracks based around a piano riff, and shit how groovy is this perfect business? Can’t you just see in yer mind’s eye the boys doing a little Temptations choreography to this shit? The tragedy of so many of these deep tracks – as Paulie mentions in the above video – is that most of them were never performed live by the original band, and “You Won’t See Me” is one of the saddest of all deep trax casualties. I wanna see Macca way out front, no bass no nuthin, just the man getting down like David Ruffin, the other three lined up in back doing the cutest falsettos this side of “Paperback Writer,” while, I dunno, Dr. John or Burt Bacharach or sumbody pounds the pie-anna into oblivion. (Encore: “The Word.”) Proof positive that McCartney couldn’t fart leftwise in ’65 without expelling a perfect tune. Absurd.
“Old Brown Shoe” (B-side to “The Ballad of John & Yoko”)
He was always a good kid, for sure, but the one thing George Harrison didn’t get to do often enough during his Beatles tenure was flat out rock like fuck. He pulled some killer warmup exercises with “Taxman” and “Savoy Truffle,” but it was this murderous number that he was working up to the whole time. Seriously, when in the absolute heck have you ever heard a beat like that? George and Ringo musta been pretty good friends, cuz I can’t think of a single person I’d attempt that drumbeat for, and I’ve been playing for twenty some odd years. And shit, it’s another piano track! Maybe my brain’s tryna tell me something about my true preferences. Maybe I don’t like rock music at all. Maybe the Beatles ain’t even my favorite band! Maybe my favorite band is Billy Joel! Nah, even that heartsick twiddle couldn’t pound like Paulie does on this cut. It’s like Fats Domino taking speed, but even better.
“Yes It Is” (B-side to “Ticket to Ride”)
No foolin’, this might be my favorite Beatles song, lock stock and barrel. For years I was a “Paperback Writer” man – and could you blame me? – but as of late this muted but intense little number has struck me with its uncommon charm. This track goes to a place – a quiet place, a candlelit place, a dissonant place – where few Beatle tunes have dared to tread. Lennon later wrote it off as a failed attempt at a second “This Boy,” but I chalk that up to the chap’s legendary discomfort with sincerity. Paul was supposed to be the heart-on-sleeve Beatle. John was the snickering goof who published books with titles like “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works.” The alternate take of “Yes It Is” from Anthology 2 is telling: when the bridge comes around, Lennon puts on a silly voice and starts singing in gibberish. I get the feeling he didn’t like showing his real side very often. He got partway there on “Help!” but was he ever as naked as he was on “Yes It Is”? Wait, I take it back.
“I’m Down” (B-side to “Help!”)
There’s a world – not so very far from this one – in which “I’m Down” is the greatest Beatles song. For is it not the apotheosis of everything these four yops represented? Was not the whole point of the Beatles to do everything everyone had already done, only five kajillion times better? Hence, “I’m Down”: the greatest black rock ‘n’ roll song ever written by a white kid from Merrie Olde. It’s a clear attempt to reanimate Little Richard, but just like every other reanimation they attempted (cf. “Lady Madonna,” “Twist and Shout,” et al) it did the original one better. More than any other Beatles recording, this song does not give a single fuck. John plays the keyboard with his elbow and Paul just lets ‘er rip, showing he can fuck shit up and still go home and write some pap like “Yesterday.” If this is the best rock song the Beatles ever did, and the Beatles are the best rock band ever, then there can be no argument: “I’m Down” is the greatest song ever. Bye.