The Beatles, Ranked

Tuesday marked the 48th anniversary of the Beatles’ last album, Abbey Road. To celebrate, BTRtoday decided to scientifically inspect all 14 people who could be considered a Beatle and decide who is the best. Here are the results.

14. Murray the K.

New York City disc jockey Murray the K. cajoled the Beatles into calling him “the fifth Beatle” during their first trip to America. He was a pretty big deal radio DJ, but who cares about radio DJs? Stop talking over songs, dudes, you’re killing the buzz.

13. Pete Best

In The Lives of John Lennon, Albert Goldman argued that Best was a better drummer than Ringo and that Best’s sacking was a travesty. Now, with recordings of both drummers available at a moment’s notice on YouTube, it is clear that Goldman was wrong. Best was a lousy drummer who derails the band with his incompetence. It makes me wonder if anything else in the book might be inaccurate as well! Anyway, at the height of Beatlemania, Best put out a record called Best of the Beatles, a title both technically accurate and totally misleading. So kudos for that, Pete. Your drumming was terrible but your wordplay was on point.

12. Eric Clapton

By virtue of playing the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Clapton qualifies as sort of a Beatle. It’s pretty funny that George Harrison, the lead guitar player for the most popular guitar band of all time, subcontracted out the guitar solo on his signature song which includes the word “guitar” in the title. But otherwise, it’s hard to see what the big deal about his guitar playing after hearing “Tears in Heaven” 6,000 times in the ’90s.

11. Kevin Parker/Julian Lennon/Sean Lennon

My wife had on The Shonen Knife Pandora station the other day and John Lennon voice rang out and I was like, whoa, how did the Beatles get on this thing. But it wasn’t John Lennon at all. It was his son Sean, a man genetically fated to sound like one of the most famous singers of the 20th century. Anyway, Paul McCartney would join up with one of Lennon’s kids or that Tame Impala dude and make a record of Everly Brothers covers. It would be better than “Free as a Bird” for sure.

10. Yoko Ono

Yoko doesn’t deserve 95 percent of the hatred she gets. It’s sourced in racism, misogyny and misplaced anger at John Lennon. But that five percent of hate she does deserve is right on. I want to like her since everybody hates her but she is so unpleasant it’s impossible. From her facile twitter wisdom to her grief-mongering art, she’s insufferable even to this day.

9. Stu Sutcliffe

The Beatles’ first bass player quit the band to concentrate on his painting career and died of a cerebral hemorrhage shortly thereafter. It’s a pretty sad story that was made into a movie called Backbeat that’s allegedly pretty good (haven’t seen it).

8. Phil Spector

Sure, he’s a convicted murderer and pulled a gun on the Ramones, but have you heard his production work on Let it Be? That shit is hilarious. “The Long and Winding Road” invented psychedelic elevator music.

7. Billy Preston

He’s a chill dude with a dope afro who kept the Fab Four from ripping each other’s throats out during tortuous recording sessions. The songs he played on were among the worst the Beatles wrote but he made them work. His solo on “Get Back” elevates the song out of mediocrity and he almost turns “Let it Be” into something decent.

6. George Harrison

Harrison lucked into a gig but managed to be defiantly ungrateful about it nonetheless. Boo hoo, the guys who wrote “Yesterday” and “She Said, She Said” won’t record your songs. Maybe just learn the parts and smile while you collect a paycheck as a member of the greatest band of all time. “Here Comes the Sun” is great hippy campfire rock and “Something” is a guitar teacher jam but it’s mind boggling he treated being in The Beatles like a chore.

5. John Lennon

For a cosmic revolutionary artiste hippy god king, Lennon sure had a shitty attitude.

There’s a whole cottage industry of people who hate John Lennon, but a lunatic shot him to death so it’s hard to be too mad.

4. Brian Epstein

This was a mid 20th century gay Jewish dude from a backwater town in England who saw a band playing at a bar during his lunch hour and turned them into the biggest group in the world. Such a legend. Shame he couldn’t handle his drugs.

3. Paul McCartney

The same guy wrote “Hey Jude” also wrote the theme from “Spies Like Us.” McCartney is a workaholic who loves his weed. His post Beatles work, which encompasses the majority of his life, ranges from OK to some of the worst music of all time. Still, his 1963-1969 hot streak is untouched. Despite 80 percent of his work, he’s history’s greatest writer of pop songs. He’s also in the upper one percentile for singers and bass players. He’s so talented it’s hard not to be constantly disappointed in him.

2. George Martin

Producer George Martin  handcrafted the analogue psychedelia of the Beatles while keeping his hair brylcreem-stiff and his suits freshly pressed. He guided each of their records until dropping out halfway through the White Album and skipping the brutal Let it Be sessions before returning for Abbey Road. You can chart out that quality dip in a tidy “U” shape. The Beatles used the recording studio like a symphony. George Martin conducted it.

1. Ringo Starr

Overall, the Beatles were about love and optimism. That never would have happened without Ringo, the least troubled man in the ensemble. He’s the warm candy center of the Beatles’ persona. It’s no accident he’s the featured player in their films. But goofball charm aside, he’s history’s most underrated drummer. He has the rare musical ability to perform complicated musical ideas simply. Beatles songs hopscotch through odd time signatures but you’d never know that Ringo is playing anything other than a quaint dancehall rhythm. Imagine the mess a showboat like Neil Peart would have made out of “Ticket to Ride” or “Here Comes the Sun.” If you don’t like Ringo, you don’t like holding down grooves and being chill and I fucking pity you.

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