Sometimes it gets lost in the mix that the greatest rock band of all time often set down the electrics and did their thing equally Fab on acoustics. From tender ballads like “Yesterday” and “This Boy” to rock and roll classics like “Love Me Do” and “No Reply,” The Beatles made use of all the dynamic capacities of the acoustic guitar. Though there are dozens of all-time greats to choose from in the Beatle catalogue, here are the ten we deem the best.
1. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Anthology 3
Forget “Free as a Bird.” The biggest score from the Beatles Anthology series was George Harrison’s haunting acoustic version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” How this recording didn’t get released on the “White Album” is a mystery. Sure, the Clapton-revved cut is amazing. But if “Revolution” could get multiple interpretations, surely “While My Guitar” deserved the same.
2. “Yesterday” Help!
The most covered song of all time deserves the title. Paul McCartney’s plaintive look back on love lost is perfect in its simplicity. Who knew, in 1965, that a pop group could strike gold releasing a single featuring only one member, an acoustic guitar and a string quartet?
3. “Blackbird” The Beatles
That a composer could create a song as perfect as “Yesterday” is amazing. That someone could do it twice is unbelievable. But Macca’s Civil Rights-inspired song of comfort is so universal in its impact that it retains its power to this day as a political piece, a love song and a children’s lullaby.
4. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” Rubber Soul
John Lennon cunning linguistics were never more perfectly displayed than in this sexual-yet-somehow-not tale of a one-night stand that ends sleepily in the bath. Splashed with Indian textures, courtesy of George Harrison’s newly discovered sitar, the song somehow combines the exotic and the everyday in one intoxicating drink.
5. “Here Comes the Sun” Abbey Road
Has there ever been a better song for the start of the morning? You can practically feel the warmth of the new day sun in George Harrison’s opening fingerpicked chords. That a band on the brink of bitter collapse could record such an energizingly optimistic track is truly remarkable.
6. “Across the Universe” Let It Be
Lennon, the philosopher, sends us floating down a stream of consciousness like endless rain into a paper cup. John later told Rolling Stone that these might have been the best lyrics he ever wrote.
7. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” Help!
Sure it’s (admittedly) derivative of Dylan, but this gem from the Help! soundtrack does Mr. Zimmerman so well, all is instantly forgiven. And little Lennonisms like “Feeling two-foot small” give the song a character that is uniquely John.
8. “And I Love Her” A Hard Day’s Night
The Beatles do lounge…and do it masterfully. This McCartney composition (Lennon may have contributed on the “A love like ours…” section) is smoky and sensual, with a particularly sultry layer of nylon-string fingerpicking provided by Mr. Harrison. Maybe the greatest musical segue from the second martini to the bedroom ever written.
9. “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (single)
No band (outside perhaps The Rolling Stones) ever rocked with acoustics better than The Beatles. This mid-tempo rocker about John and Yoko’s wild wedding week was performed by just Lennon and McCartney, with the other two Beatles unavailable at the time. In the tradition of “I’ll Be Back” and “Things We Said Today,” the song leaves the listener’s foot stomping so hard, one hardly notices the lack of electric guitars on the rhythm track.
10. “Till There Was You” With The Beatles
As a pure player, George Harrison has always been underrated. But check out his stylish phrasing and “jazz chords” in the solo to this cover from, of all things, The Music Man. A Broadway show tune has no right sounding this cool.