In Rolling Stone’s new Special Collectors Edition issue, the music magazine counts down the 100 greatest songs from the greatest band of all time: The Beatles.
“The Beatles: 100 Greatest Songs” also features Paul and John talking about their favorite tracks, the Fab Four’s best cover songs, and George Harrison’s finest guitar work. “Lennon, McCartney and Harrison had stunningly high standards as writers,” Elvis Costello says in his introduction. “Then they started to really grow up: simple love lyrics to adult stories like ‘Norwegian Wood,’ which spoke of the sour side of love, and on to bigger ideas than you would expect to find in catchy pop lyrics.”
Check out the top 10 songs now, before the issue hits stands:
#10: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
The lyrics for George Harrison’s first truly great Beatles song began as a deliberate accident — and it wasn’t until Harrison pulled Eric Clapton in to play guitar that the arrangement was finished.
#9: “Come Together”
Originally intended by Lennon as a campaign song for LSD guru Timothy Leary’s campaign for California’s governor in 1970, this became the last song all four Beatles cut in the studio together.
#8: “Let It Be”
McCartney channeled Aretha Franklin’s soul in “Let It Be,” recorded during the peak of the Beatles’ troubled times. A month after its 1970 release, McCartney announced the band had broken up.
#7: “Hey Jude”
McCartney’s lyrics for “Hey Jude” were inspired by John and Cynthia Lennon’s five-year-old son, Julian — but Lennon first thought McCartney was singing to him about his relationship with Yoko Ono.
Before it became the second-most-covered Beatles song behind “Yesterday,” Lennon said this unexpected Harrison track was “the best track on [Abbey Road]” and McCartney called it “the best song [Harrison has] written.”
#5: “In My Life”
“In My Life,” featuring Lennon’s most personal lyrics up to the song’s release, is one of only a handful of Lennon-McCartney songs where the two strongly disagreed over who wrote what.
The most covered song in history began as something called “Scrambled Eggs.” It also began as a dream.
#3: “Strawberry Fields Forever”
Lennon once said growing up “was scary because there was nobody to relate to.” Strawberry Field the place (a Liverpool children’s home near where Lennon grew up) represented those haunting childhood visions. With this song, Lennon conquered them forever.
#2: “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was most American’s first exposure to the songwriting magic of Lennon and McCartney, setting off Beatlemania. It represented what producer George Martin calls “the apex of Phase One of the Beatles’ development.”
#1: “A Day in the Life”
The ultimate Lennon-McCartney collaboration, “A Day in the Life” wasn’t recognized as the band’s masterwork until the 80s, after Lennon’s death. It pairs lyrics inspired by the newspapers and Lennon’s own life with McCartney’s idea to have classical musicians perform what producer George Martin called an “orchestral orgasm.”