Home Music Music Lists

The 100 Best Beatles Solo Songs

Five decades of amazing tunes from John, Paul, George, and Ringo

the Beatles


When the Beatles broke up in 1970, they figured it was the end of the story. But they got that wrong. Over 50 years later, John, Paul, George, and Ringo are more influential, famous, beloved than ever. That means the world is finally catching up with one of the weirdest chapters in the Beatles’ saga: their solo music. All four Fabs kept making music, on their own eccentric terms. All four dropped classic albums. All four released total garbage. The solo Beatles story is a gloriously messy, crazed, chaotic world of its own.

So let’s celebrate that story: the 100 greatest Beatles solo songs, starring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. The hits, the flops, the deep cuts, the fan favorites, the cult classics, the covers. Some of these songs are legendary tunes sung around the world at weddings and parties. Some are buried treasures only the most hardcore Beatlemaniacs know. And one is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” As a great man said, it don’t come easy.

Every fan would compile a different list—that’s the beauty of it. We love to keep arguing about the Beatles’ solo records. I have spent my life arguing that Ringo’s 1970 country album Beaucoups of Blues is an underrated masterpiece, and I will argue this forever. Hell, I once had this argument with Ringo. (I can’t tell if I persuaded him or not—he was too busy laughing at me.)

Keep in mind: this is NOT a list of their greatest hits. These songs aren’t here because of commercial success, radio airplay, sales or popularity. The only thing that matters is the level of Beatle magic. That means some incredibly famous hits didn’t make the cut. To pick just the most obvious example, the words “say,” “say,” and “say” do not appear consecutively here at all.

These days, fans dig deeper than ever into the solo Beatles’ music. Records that were once impossible to find are now easy to hear with one click. So the arguments keep getting more sophisticated. When Paul released Ram in 1971, the whole world agreed it was an atrocity. Now it’s easily his most famous and acclaimed album. Fans are just now discovering gems like John’s Mind Games or George’s Living in the Material World. The arguments keep changing—that’s what makes it fun.

This list gives all four Beatles room to make noise. Obviously, it’s tricky because Paul has a far bigger songbook than the others combined—he’s still thriving as a songwriter in his 80s, while John and George had their lives cruelly cut short. But the whole point of is list like this is mixing them up as equally as possible, or at least as far as the music demands. So they’re all fighting for space on this list, just as they always were on Beatles albums. (The Top Ten has three songs by each of the main songwriters, plus a Ringo banger.) But all 100 of these songs live up to that Beatles spirit. The dream will never be over.


Paul McCartney, ‘Bluebird’ (1973)

The first night Paul had Linda over to his house, in 1968, he opened the window to greet the fans camped outside, and played them a brand new song on guitar: “Blackbird.” Just a few years later, he sang “Bluebird” for her, a vision of Paul and Linda as two lovebirds flying across the sea to their own desert island. It’s an oddly melancholy bossa nova melody, showcasing Nigerian percussionist Remi Kabaka.


George Harrison, ‘Try Some Buy Some’ (1973)

A beautifully quizzical waltz that George wrote for Ronnie Spector, as her comeback single on Apple Records. She wasn’t the biggest fan, telling him, “I don’t understand a word of it.” He replied, “That’s okay. I don’t either.” When the single flopped, George couldn’t bear to see it go to waste, so he just sang “Try Some, Buy Some” over the original Phil Spector track. He flubbed half the high notes, yet that adds to the daft charm. But nobody ever loved this song like David Bowie, who sang it on Reality, hearing it as an allegory of his own addiction. “When I first heard that song it had a very different narrative to it,” he told The Word in 2003. “When I first heard the song in ’74 I was yet to go through my heavy drug period. And now it’s about the consolation of having kicked all that and turning your life around.”


Wings, ‘Arrow Through Me’ (1979)

“Arrow Through Me” is impeccably suave mall-funk from Back to the Egg, the 1979 mishmash that ended up being the final Wings album before Macca realized that pretending to lead a democratic rock band was more trouble than it was worth. New Wavers loved Back to the Egg (how it pains me not to have room for “Getting Closer” or “Old Siam, Sir”). “While I was in Tokyo I used to go to a vinyl bar, but the bartender didn’t have Wings records,” Harry Styles told Rolling Stone in 2019. “So I brought him Back to the Egg. ‘Arrow Through Me,’ that was the song I had to hear every day when I was in Japan.” Erkykah Badu samples it cleverly in “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long.”


Ringo Starr, ‘Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond)’ (1973)

George wrote this festive Celtic sea shanty, completing the Ringo Aquatic Trilogy begun by “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden.” Ringo and George kick up their heels on deck with their friends in The Band—Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson, sailing away on fiddle and accordion.


John Lennon, ‘Crippled Inside’ (1971)

What’s this: John swiping a hook from (of all people) Ringo? You love it to see it. “Crippled Inside” sounds a heck of a lot like “Don’t Pass Me By,” Ringo’s White Album hoedown, with George twanging away on the dobro. But it’s also the kind of old-timey tune that John’s mother Julia taught him to play on banjo when he was a little boy, which might be a clue to the inner devastation he’s confessing in the song. As he admits, “One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside.”


Wings, ‘Love In Song’ (1974)

An enigmatic rainy-day ballad from Venus and Mars, with bittersweet 12-string guitar. Paul pleads, “My heart cries out for love and all that goes with loving.” “Love In Song” feels like he started out trying to write one of his signature upbeat ditties, but changed his mind halfway through so he could brood over loss and exile, mourning “happiness in the homeland.” He plays a stand-up bass—the same one Bill Black played on the early Elvis hits.


Ringo Starr, ‘Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)’ (1978)

Ringo is the most New Orleans in spirit of English rock stars, so it’s a shame he didn’t do more Crescent City songs. (Can you imagine Ringo doing a whole album of Ernie K-Doe tunes? Perfect for him. Seriously, Ringo—get Walsh into the studio and bang out “Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta” or “Hurry Up and Know It.”) But with “Lipstick Traces,” he revs up an Allen Toussaint R&B classic he was born to sing (originally written for Benny Spellman in 1962), with Dr. John on piano. Nobody heard it, since this was the flop single from one of his worst albums, the instantly forgotten 1978 disaster Bad Boy. But it’s Ringo in his grandest role as a Liverpool Sisyphus calmly enduring his fate.


Paul McCartney, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ (1971)

Paul staked out his eccentric turf with Ram, such a weird masterpiece it took the world years to catch up to it. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” hit Number One, a crackpot prog-pop suite four years and countless bong hits ahead of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Paul and Linda sing the “Hands across the water” chorus, inspired by their Anglo-American marriage. His real-life uncle was a character—as Paul recalled, “Uncle Albert would stand on the table, roaring drunk, and recite the Bible.” Like the rest of Ram, it was ahead of its time. “A while ago, one of my nephews, Jay, said, ‘Ram‘s my all-time favorite album,’” Paul told Rolling Stone in 2016. “I thought it was dead and gone, stinking over there in the dung pit. So I listened to it. ‘Wow, I get what I was doing.’”


John Lennon, ‘Watching The Wheels’ (1980)

A proudly autobiographical tale from Double Fantasy, musing on life as a house-husband. John sings about dropping out of the music biz in the 1970s, giving up on stardom, choosing to stay home, raise his kid, bake bread, watch the wheels go round and round. There’s a cocky defiance when he sings, “No longer riding on the merry-go-round / I just had to let it go.” As he boasted in 1980, “I have the great honor of never having been to Studio 54.”


Paul McCartney, ‘Every Night’ (1970)

Paul summed up the themes of his homemade DIY solo debut: “Home. Family. Love.” It’s all here in “Every Night,” his affectionate ode to staying home with Linda and his kids instead of hitting the town. As he explains in The Lyrics, “It’s a love song, but rather than it being the sort of fantasy ‘happily ever after’ love, this is a more realistic and redemptive love.”


George Harrison, ‘Cosmic Empire’ (1970)

“Cosmic Empire” is a brilliant outtake George left behind from the All Things Must Pass sessions. It’s one of the mysteries of his career—he knocked off acoustic demos for 30 songs in the first 2 days, then left half of them in the vault. Some he revisited later, like “Beautiful Girl” or the Dylan tune “I Don’t Want To Do It.” (He put that one on the Porky’s Revenge soundtrack—George always had a mischievous sense of humor.) But for some reason, he never went back to this jaunty spiritual gem. “Cosmic Empire” is George having a sly laugh at religious day-trippers shopping for instant enlightenment. As he chirps, “I’m waiting in the queue to go to the cosmic empire / I want a front-row pew at the cosmic empire!”


John Lennon, ‘Woman’ (1980)

Fifteen years after John wrote “Girl” on Rubber Soul, reaching out for the cerebral female muse who turned out to be Yoko, “Woman” serenades her with Rubber Soul levels of guitar jangle and breathy vocal beauty. That “well well” is such a flex.


Ringo Starr, ‘Harry’s Song’ (2008)

Ringo bids a fond farewell tribute to his old L.A. outlaw buddy Harry Nilsson, the kind of playful Old Hollywood razzle-dazzle soft-shoe that Schmilsson made a specialty. “Harry’s Song” is sculpted with love by Starr and producer Mark Hudson, so clever it feels like they’re like sharing a private laugh with Harry. 


Wings, ‘Dear Friend’ (1972)

John had some gall calling his anti-Paul rant “How Do You Sleep?,” considering how often John’s answer to that question was “enough drugs to kill an elephant.” A less gentlemanly target than Macca might have tossed that brick at John’s glass house, but that wasn’t Paul’s style. “Dear Friend” was an unsentimentally blunt pipes-of-peace offering, with the plea, “I’m in love with a friend of mine.” (Did he mean Linda or John? He undoubtedly meant both.) “Dear Friend” successfully squashed the beef—not even John could think of a clever comeback—so their public spats ended. That sums up Paul: a soldier of love who’d rather lay down his arms than win the fight. As John wrote in a news “report” for Rolling Stone in 1973, “The extreme humility that existed between John and Paul seems to have evaporated. They’ve spoken to each other on the phone, and in English, that’s a change.”


John Lennon, ‘Hold On’ (1970)

A moment of tranquility in all the sturm and drang of Plastic Ono Band, with his tremolo guitar echoing “Don’t Let Me Down,” as he gives a pep talk to himself and Yoko. “Even now I’m saying, ‘Hold on, John, it’s gonna be all right,’” he told Rolling Stone’s Jann S. Wenner in the “Lennon Remembers” interview. “Otherwise, I won’t hold on.” John was an early fan of the brand-new TV show Sesame Street, so he growls “Coookieeee!” in a nod to his fellow chaos Muppet, Cookie Monster. No wonder he could relate: a shaggy creature raging about monstrously unmanageable childish appetites? And on drums: Ringo, the Beatles’ Grover.


Paul McCartney, ‘No Other Baby’ (1999)

Why did McCartney make an album of Fifties rock & roll oldies in 1999? He’d just lost Linda, after 30 years when they were inseparable. He worked through his grief by going back to Abbey Road to make Run Devil Run, losing himself in songs by his original heroes: Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Wanda Jackson, Elvis. “No Other Baby” is a long-forgotten 1958 side by the obscure U.K. skiffle group the Vipers. But Paul turns it into an elegiac haiku for Linda, with guitar from Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. It’s incredibly moving as he sings “No Other Baby” as a soulful tribute to the life and dreams they shared. 


George Harrison, ‘Any Road’ (2002)

George’s final album Brainwashed didn’t come out until after his death in 2001, at only 66, but it was a labor of love crafted with his son Dhani Harrison. In “Any Road,” he meditates on a theme inspired by Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Boy George did a really touching version of this one in 2014.


Paul McCartney, ‘My Valentine’ (2014)

An anything-but-silly love song for Nancy Shevell, a song that only the truest of rock & roll romantics could bring to life. He wrote it visiting Morocco with her, just as their romance was beginning. “It was a good awakening,” he told Rolling Stone. “It made me want to write positive songs.” Great as it is on Kisses on the Bottom, “My Valentine” has taken on a new life onstage, evolving over the years into an artistic statement of purpose, almost like his version of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.”


John Lennon, ‘Nobody Told Me’ (1984)

John’s hilariously deadpan tale of feeling dazed and confused in the Eighties, yelping, “Strange days indeed! Most peculiar, mama! Roll!” “Nobody Told Me” was a posthumous hit in 1984, from the great Milk and Honey collection—these tunes weren’t rejects from Double Fantasy, just too loose and funny and freewheeling to fit that album’s serious mood. But when it comes to Lennon one-liners about feeling lost in adulthood, it’s hard to top, “Always something happening and nothing going on.”


 Paul McCartney, ‘Seize the Day’ (2020)

How is it possible Paul McCartney was writing brilliant songs like “Love Me Do” in the 1950s, yet he’s still writing brilliant songs like this in the 2020s? McCartney III is Macca down on the farm, in lockdown—or “rockdown,” a very Paul thing to call it—strumming his guitar to the sheep and chickens, singing a lazy song beneath the sun. He worried “Seize the Day” sounded too “Beatle-y” when he wrote it, but figured, “I’ve gotta admit it’s what I do. It’s the way I write songs. If I like something that’s going a bit Beatle-y, I’m just gonna let it be.” Good move. Phoebe Bridgers sings it so brilliantly on the McCartney III Imagined album.


Ringo Starr, ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ (1972)

Ringo kept up to speed with Seventies pop as a buddy of T. Rex’s glam-rock guru Marc Bolan. “I’ve got a Les Paul given to me by my good pal Marc Bolan and I can play several chords,” he told Disc in 1972. “I pick it up and if something comes I tape it. I have to tape it otherwise I’ll forget what I’ve done.” “Back Off Boogaloo,” produced and co-written by George, was Ringo’s gong-bangingly great T. Rex-style hit, reaching out to the children of the revolution.


Paul McCartney, ‘Queenie Eye’ (2013)

A psychedelic groove inspired by a childhood game they used to play in the streets of Liverpool. It’s the highlight of New, with a playful zest re-energized by his bride Nancy Shevell. He played a memorable version of “Queenie Eye” at the Grammys with Ringo on drums—and the poignant sight of Yoko and Sean in the audience, getting up to dance. 


John Lennon, ‘Bless You’ (1974)

His great pained love song to Yoko, from his Lost Weekend  in L.A., when the marriage seemed to be over once and for all. The music heads into Stevie Wonder deep-soul territory. John wishes Yoko the best in her new life, even as she’s in someone else’s arms, adding, “Bless you whoever you are, holding her now / Be warm and kindhearted.” It’s his version of Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello,” saying farewell with a hard-won generosity of spirit.


Paul McCartney, ‘So Bad’ (1983)

If you were Paul McCartney in the Eighties, you could crank out perfect melodies like this, the kind other songwriters spend entire careers striving for—without anyone even noticing. “So Bad” was a here-today gone-today hit in 1983, from the era when he couldn’t get no respect at all, with gloppy production and you-gotta-be-kidding lyrics, a song even he dismissed as “overtly sentimental.” Which is true—but what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know?  One fan who DOES appreciate the greatness of “So Bad”: Smokey Robinson, who sang it exquisitely on the 2014 tribute album The McCartney Project.


George Harrison, ‘Beware of Darkness’ (1970)

One of the most mysteriously beautiful songs on All Things Must Pass, with George warning about the evils of the material world, as he follows his tangled chords wherever they lead. He cautions everyone to “beware of Maya,” or illusion. But in his demo version, he warns, “Beware of ABKCO,” a dart at new manager Allen Klein—a pithy quip about how deep in the material world he was slipping. On his next album, he was singing the “Sue Me, Sue You Blues.”


Paul McCartney, ‘Junk’ (1970)

“Junk” dates back to the Rishikesh days, on retreat with the Maharishi—Paul does an excellent White Album demo version on the Beatles’ Anthology 3. But it’s perfect for his solo debut: a young man looks in a junk-shop window and gets a glimpse of his future, picturing himself as old and forgotten, like the flip side of “Eleanor Rigby.” It sums up the album’s lo-fi basement-tapes vibe. “It’s got the door opening, the banging of the tape recorder, a couple of people giggling in the background,” he described it in Rolling Stone in 1974. “I’d always like that, all those rough edges and loose ends. It gives it a kind of live excitement.” 


John Lennon, ‘Isolation’ (1970)

John’s haunting soul ballad from Plastic Ono Band, finally grappling with his innermost paranoia and self-doubt. Ringo provides crucial support, especially in the pause before the bridge, where his kick-drum sounds like John’s amplified heartbeat. 


Paul McCartney, ‘Temporary Secretary’ (1980)

Paul sashays into the Eighties with this New Wave electro-pop oddity, from his wonderfully eccentric McCartney II. “I was just tinkering by myself like a mad professor locked up in his laboratory,” Paul recalled. He began working solo with borrowed synth gear. “I was getting a little tired of the formality of recording an album with a band and doing everything correctly. I just wanted to have some fun and experiment.” “Temporary Secretary” was so ahead of its time, it sat around unnoticed for decades until the 2010s, when rock hipsters suddenly realized it was a lost classic.


Ringo Starr, ‘Loser’s Lounge’ (1970)

Ringo always wanted to be a cowboy when he was a kid. So when the Beatles fell apart, he went to Nashville to knock out his own country album, Beaucoups of Blues, with pedal-steel whiz Pete Drake and a wrecking crew of Music Row session cats. They finished it in three days, just like the Beatles used to. But in some ways Beaucoups of Blues is his just-plain-Ringoest album—he shines when he gets to play the sincere fan, without feeling the pressure of being a solo artist. “Loser’s Lounge” is where he takes refuge in a honky-tonk where the world’s misfits can feel at home, with his voice full of banged-up melancholy.


George Harrison, ‘Dehra Dun’ (1970)

An acoustic meditation that George wrote in the Beatles’ Indian retreat of 1968, with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (Dhera Dhun is near the Maharishi’s base in Rishikesh.) “Many roads can take you there many different ways,” George sings. “One direction takes you years, another takes you days.” He cut “Dhera Dhun” on the first day of the All Things Must Pass sessions—but incredibly, it didn’t make the cut for the album, though it would have been a standout. A massively sweet moment from Anthology: George strikes up “Dhera Dhun,” lounging on the grass with Paul and Ringo. “Oh yeah, I remember that one!” Ringo says, hearing it for the first time since India nearly 30 years earlier.


Paul McCartney, ‘Fine Line’ (2005)

The past 20 years have been a glorious time to be a McCartney fan—ever since he found a new songwriting mojo with his 2005 classic Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. It’s Paul’s thorniest, bitchiest, least eager-to-please, and most cerebrally caustic solo album, with Radiohead/Pavement producer Nigel Godrich. Chaos and Creation was for the 63-year-old Paul what Time Out Of Mind was for 56-year-old Bob Dylan—a late-game masterpiece kicking off a new golden era. Both albums served notice these shrewd old grifters had finally cracked the code, and would never make a dud album again. (And neither has.) Godrich was the opposite of a yes-man—which might be why he never got invited back for another go, but maybe how he coaxed these songs out of him. “Fine Line” slides on a sharp-cornered piano riff, with Paul singing about two divided friends, urging, “Come home, brother, all is forgiven.” 


John Lennon, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’ (1974)

John was the last ex-Beatle to score his own solo Number One hit, but he finally got there with a little help from a friend named Elton John. “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” is a frozen-daiquiri pop homily with both Johns cooing, “Whatever gets you to the light/‘Salright, ‘alright.” Elton proposed a bet that John would sing it live with him—but only if the song made it to Number One. To John’s shock, it did. So on Thanksgiving weekend, November 1974, shaking from stage fright, he was a surprise guest at Elton’s Madison Square Garden show—the final concert appearance of John’s life. They sang “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” which he introduced as “a number of an old estranged fiancee of mine called Paul.”


George Harrison, ‘All Things Must Pass’ (1970)

George went into the Get Back sessions hoping to get his old friends to play this song with the spirit of Dylan and The Band at Big Pink. He’d been hanging out with them in Woodstock just a few weeks earlier. But strange as it seems, the Beatles couldn’t rustle up the communal warmth to do the song justice. So “All Things Must Pass” became the theme song of his solo album, a not-entirely-regretful farewell to the past and a reminder (to himself as well as the audience) that there was still a future to live.


John Lennon, ‘I’m Stepping Out’ (1984)

John is in his stay-at-home dad era, but willing to admit sometimes he just wants to cap a hard day’s night of fatherhood by hitting the town for a temporary lost weekend. As he splutters in the intro, “This here is the story about a house-husband who just HAS to get out of the house! He’s been looking at the kids for days and days! He’s been watching the kitchen and screwing around watching Sesame Street till he’s going craaaazy!” He’s at his warmest and funniest, zooming up into his falsetto to remind us all, “If it don’t feel right, you don’t have to do it /Just leave a note on the door, tell them to screw it.” But he’ll be home by one. Or two. Or three.


Paul McCartney, ‘Put It There’ (1989)

Paul’s realest fatherhood song, inspired by both his dad and his son. (Both named James—as is James Paul McCartney.) “Put it there’ is an expression my dad Jim often used,” he recalled. “When he was shaking your hand he would say, ‘Put it there if it weighs a ton.’” The father tells his son, “As long as you and I are here, put it there.” But it’s also connected to his Beatles brotherhood. “I wonder whether I wanted to direct this song in John,” he says in The Lyrics. “Whether it’s not, in its own way, a peace offering to a man who died way too early.”


John Lennon, ‘I Found Out’ (1970)

John tears down a few of the false idols he sees getting worshipped around him, like drugs, religion, and masculinity. He snarls, “I seen through junkies, I been through it all, I seen religion from Jesus to Paul.” He’s got tough words for his parents’ generation—“They didn’t want me so they made me a star”—but also his own, scoffing, “The freaks on the phone won’t leave me alone/So don’t give me that ‘brother-brother-brother-brother.’” But his guitar never lets up—so bristly, so wary, coiled to lash out at any target in sight. 


Paul McCartney, ‘Little Willow’ (1997)

A beautiful elegy for Ringo’s first wife Maureen “Mo” Cox Starkey Tigrett, after she died from leukemia in 1994—the first Beatles spouse to pass away. Paul visited her in the hospital; Ringo was at her side when she died. Mo was one of the original Beatlemaniac fangirls who used to scream for them at the Cavern Club. (She kissed Paul before she got to Ringo.) As you can see in the Get Back rooftop concert, she’s cheering louder than anyone, still the most passionate fan around. Paul’s last words on the roof: “Thanks, Mo.” He dedicated “Little Willow” to her children.


John & Yoko, ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ (1971)

Strange as it seems, this holiday classic flopped in the U.S. when it came out in 1971, and vanished for the rest of John’s life. The public didn’t discover “Happy Xmas (War Is Over”) until December 1980, while reeling in shock and grief after his murder. That was the first Christmas the radio played it, and that’s when it became the beloved seasonal standard we’ve known ever since, with Yoko and the Harlem Community Choir kids chanting, “War is over if you want it.” Honorable mistletoe to Ringo’s “I Wanna Be Santa Claus,” George’s “Ding Dong, Ding Dong,” and the Paul song you were hoping we wouldn’t mention at all.