I listened to The Beatles for the first time at 19

It may be intensely embarrassing to admit, but until I made a point of it two days ago, I had never consciously listened to The Beatles.

The Fab Four may have been the soundtrack to millions of people’s childhoods, but for me, bands such as The Police and The Rolling Stones characterised family holidays and long car rides. I never dreamed that such a hole in my musical education existed – until one of my best friends challenged me to name five Beatles songs, and I genuinely struggled. How can I claim to write articles relating to music if I have never properly listened to the most famous band of all time? As an easy way in, I decided to start by listening to ‘1’, the famed compilation album that features virtually every number one song achieved by the band between 1962 and 1970.

I begin with ‘Love Me Do’…I recognise this, and start to think that maybe I’m not completely hopeless! The song makes me feel like I’m on my way to a barn dance and I love it- maybe it’s the harmonica. ‘She Loves You’ is very Beach Boys-esque - already my favourite so far. I want to drive around the countryside in an open-top vintage car listening to this; arguably, the best way to enjoy any kind of classic track. Moving onto ‘I Want to Hold your Hand’, I decide that Beatles funk is one of my favourite things – the guitar riffs in this song are blowing my mind. The harmony of Lennon and McCartney’s lead vocals is particularly compelling, and listening with a critical ear, it’s clear to see why the song spent five weeks at number one. ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ reminds me of Bob Dylan and tracks of his such as ‘Hurricane’, whilst the more laidback vibe of ‘Ticket to Ride’ gives me the perfect soundtrack for a montage in an 80s coming-of-age movie. 

“I never dreamed that such a hole in my musical education existed – until one of my best friends challenged me to name five Beatles songs, and I genuinely struggled.”

‘Help!’ is the soundtrack to every essay crisis, and the rocky edge to ‘Paperback Writer’ is a definite highlight of the middle section of the album. The lyrics are fun as well, and it’s interesting to hear something a little different to the average Beatles song. However, ‘Yellow Submarine’, despite its status as one of the most famous songs ever, fails to hit the mark for me. Maybe it’s the lack of nostalgia that I associate with it, although even the most seasoned Beatles fan has to admit that the song is weird. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Penny Lane’, however, are soon cemented in my memory as firm favourites. The former gives me lyrical genius combined with a gorgeous string accompaniment, whilst the latter, I am convinced, is happiness and sunshine condensed into song-form. Surely this must be the best one-two of songs on the 26-track long album. ‘All You Need is Love’ takes me by surprise – I know it’s in Love Actually, but the opening with the American national anthem is a shock. Still, all I can think of is Keira Knightely and her banoffee pie.

The realisation that ‘Hey Jude’ is seven minutes long is surely one I should have had fifteen years ago – having only ever heard snippets of this song, I had the impression that it was two minutes long like most popular Beatles tracks. Even I’m starting to feel nostalgic at this point, with the euphoric earworm-like nature of the song infecting my brain for the foreseeable future. By the time I reach the end of the album, which closes with ‘Let It Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’, I’m feeling a warm sense of affection for ‘1’. On reflection, I’ve really enjoyed listening to The Beatles (although The Rolling Stones will remain my number one band for nostalgic listens). Safe in the knowledge that I can now actually name multiple tracks of theirs that I enjoy, I can hopefully write articles with less shame of being completely under-qualified for such a role.

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