The career that The Beatles had when they were together is regarded as the greatest in rock history with little debate, and while the boys may have never quite reached the same heights in their solo careers, the three leading Beatles (sorry, Ringo) still have very impressive discographies in their own rights. Here are 10 of their best.
- What is Life (Harrison)
This upbeat, brass infused song of George’s 1970 debut All Things Must Pass shows him singing of his love for his then wife Pattie Boyd, claiming that his life would have no meaning or purpose if it wasn’t for her. The combination of many different guitar sounds, as well as the use of a number of brass instruments leads to the creation of a different sound for George and one that is significantly different from the other, generally acoustic songs on the album.
- Jet (McCartney)
A top 10 hit in both the UK and US, Jet is a catchy, sing-a-long from McCartney’s iconic 1973 album Band on the Run. The mixture of various rock instruments such as guitars and piano, as well as strings and horns come together to create a pop masterpiece with a great melody and chorus, and the yelping of ‘JET!’ at every opportunity will have even hardened cynics struggling to keep back their singing. The lyrics, which McCartney may claim are about a dog or a horse, seem to detail something else. McCartney seems to be detailing the loss of a relationship and that ex-lover now finding a new relationship, possibly talking of ex-fiancé Jane Asher, but who really knows.
- Calico Skies (McCartney)
This simple, acoustic ballad from 1997 shows that even 30 years after The Beatles’ heyday he could still write a melody better than anyone. The lyrics are incredibly heartfelt and emotional as he sings to his wife Linda about how they were born to be with one another. This is particularly emotional as she passed away from cancer only a year after this song was released.
- Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (McCartney)
1971’s Ram was not well-received by critics at the time, and the lead single from the album Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey was also meet with bemusement by critics, despite it reaching no. 1 in the US charts. By far the most weird of all McCartney’s singles, he showed that he could still innovate musically and on this song provided the perfect balance of experimentation and melody as it has three incredibly different verses all tied together with the outrageously catchy ‘hands across the water’ chants in the chorus. The odd musical structure is equalled by the odd lyrics which talk of both McCartney’s own uncle and an American navy admiral. The ground-breaking track put all who had criticised McCartney as being someone who could only write simple pop songs.
- Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney)
His first big song after The Beatles disbanded, Maybe I’m Amazed is a fairly simple, both musically and lyrically, song that sings again to his then new wife Linda about his complete infatuation with her and how the fact he seemed to now need her so much both amazed and scared him. Paul’s stunning gravelly vocal performance on this song, coupled with brilliant piano melodies make this song one of the best love songs of the 1970’s, and there is a few phenomenal guitar solos sprinkled throughout to add another dimension to the song.
- Run of the Mill (Harrison)
Another song off his debut, Run of the Mill is brutally honest and sad depiction of the breakup of the Beatles from George’s point of view. His love for his former bandmates shines through in this song as he talks of the loss of their friendships and how much that hurt him. He sings with sadness about how he feels the pursuing of individual goals by the members rather than doing what would be best for the group was the key factor in derailing the band. However, what shines through most on the song is that George holds no grudges towards his former bandmates and all he wants is for them to be able to take responsibility for the mistakes they made in order for them to be able to move on and be friends again. This song stands as the best depiction of the Beatles’ breakup and is a very moving song while also being quite uplifting in a way.
- Beautiful Boy (Lennon)
The poor parenting that John Lennon showed to his first son Julian is a much discussed topic amongst those who like to put Lennon down, and much of what they say is true, but this song sees him try to right these wrongs in his second time as a father to his son Sean. The beautiful instrumentation of an acoustic guitar and piano backs up John Lennon’s outstanding singing, which hasn’t been this moving since Strawberry Fields Forever, as he sings a lullaby to Sean about how he will protect him as he grows up. The most moving song in John’s discography grows only more emotional when you realise that John was murdered less than a month after this song was released.
- Band on the Run (McCartney)
The title track from the 1973 album sees Paul again use three different songs and merge them into one. The slow ballad that starts the song moves into a funky interlude before, after a fanfare of build involving a multitude of instruments, the acoustic led section of the song comes in and remains until the end. This brilliant musical experimentation sees McCartney at the peak of his powers with the melodies in all parts of Band on the Run being particularly brilliant. The lyrics depict a band breaking out from a prison and going on the run, something that Paul has said is in reference to escaping the pressures of being in a popular band and having your own freedom back. A brilliant song that shows exactly the level of pop mastery that Paul is capable of.
- Jealous Guy (Lennon)
John Lennon said a lot of stuff on his songs after The Beatles ended. A lot of harsh words, accusations being thrown around and general hyperbole said by a man who was in the midst of a drug addiction amongst a number of other issues. Basically, a lot of what he said cannot be taken too seriously, but on Jealous Guy, to the backing of simple, sparse piano, John Lennon seems to be finally taking a critical look at himself and speaking truthfully from his heart. Whether the lyrics are aimed at Yoko, Paul or his first wife Cynthia, John apologises for the way he has behaved in the past and honestly faces his own insecurities head on, promising to change how he acts in the future. This song shows that when he really put an emphasis on his feelings and speaking truthfully, John could create a masterpiece that could stand equal with anything he made during the Beatles years.
- Here Today (McCartney)
Released in 1982, two years after John Lennon’s death, Paul is able to finally address his emotions in the aftermath of an incredibly traumatic experience for him. Written as a letter to his friend, he sings an ode to John Lennon, a man that he knew better than probably anyone. His sings to John with words of love and admiration, and thanks him for all he did. When two people loved each other as much as they did, it was only a matter of time before it all imploded, but after all their mutual love was something that would endure regardless of what was said or what people thought, and Here Today is the perfect way of showing this to be true. A song about the power of friendship and love, it is guaranteed to move you to tears. An emotional masterpiece.