Fans Rank Beatles’ Group and Solo Albums

How do fans rank every studio album released by The Beatles as a group or as solo artists in the 50 years from “Please Please Me” to last year’s “New”? In collaboration with Beatlefan and the Steve Hoffman Music Forums, Anthony Cusumano conducted a survey to determine just that. Here’s his report. …

Abbey-Road-Album-Cover--e1373043749226Every few years, an outlet like Rolling Stone or VH1 enlists a group of faceless rock critics to assemble its latest gargantuan list of the best albums of all time. These lists are typically populated by the same repeat offenders, with the only question mark being whether “Sgt. Pepper” or “Revolver” will nab the top spot. For listeners looking for evidence that proves Nirvana’s “Nevermind” is superior to Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks,” these rankings are a godsend. But those wondering where albums like “Back to the Egg” and “Gone Troppo” fall into the mix are out of luck.

To fill that void, I presented a survey in collaboration with Beatlefan and the Steve Hoffman Music Forums to determine what fans thought of every single studio album released by The Beatles as a group or as solo artists in the five-decade span between “Please Please Me” and last year’s “New.” The 94 albums fans could vote on included experimental, classical and remix albums, but not live albums, compilations or archival releases, ranking them on a scale from 1 to 10. In total, 506 fans took the survey.

On the surface, many of the results are unsurprising, but digging deeper into the votes provided some intriguing revelations, like the fact that there are at least four people who prefer “Two Virgins” to “All Things Must Pass.” (You know who you are.) Plus, the contentious battle for the top solo album — which shifted back and forth as the ballots came in — was swayed by a mere three votes. Presumably, some may have voted strategically in an effort to boost their favorite albums and/or Beatle in the ranking, but ultimately this is a ranking for Beatles fans by Beatles fans. Of course, I’m sure there will still be plenty of debate over the results, and I look forward to reading it!

So while we unfortunately cannot offer any indication of the quality of “Mind Games” relative to, say, Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light,” thanks to the magic of statistics we can definitively say it’s better than “Ringo’s Rotogravure.” Of course, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure that out.

Coming out on top was The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album, followed by “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” the White Album and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

botr coverAt No. 6 was the highest-ranking solo album, McCartney and Wings’ “Band on the Run.” The rest of the Top 10: Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram,” “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” and The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Here, starting from the bottom, is the full list of how fans ranked The Beatles’ group and solo albums:

(Author’s note: I decided to leave the soundtrack to “Everest,” which included contributions from George Harrison, out of the ranking because less than a third of the voters rated it. For the record, its average rating was 4.341.)

93. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — UNFINISHED MUSIC VOL. 2: LIFE WITH THE LIONS (1969)

AVERAGE RATING: 2.264

92. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — THE WEDDING ALBUM (1969)

AVERAGE RATING: 2.321

two virgins91. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — UNFINISHED MUSIC VOL. 1: TWO VIRGINS (1968)

AVERAGE RATING: 2.405

John and Yoko’s trio of experimental albums score the hat trick of dreadfulness, proving that listeners have yet to warm up to these records almost five decades later. It could have been worse: In a 1969 Rolling Stone interview, John promised (warned? threatened?) that an LP of the couple laughing on one side and whispering on the other was due. Alas, it never saw the light of day. “Life With the Lions” managed the impressive feat of earning a “1” from more than 50 percent of voters.

90. George Harrison — ELECTRONIC SOUND (1969)

AVERAGE RATING: 2.934

And thus, the empire of Zapple Records crumbles once again. “Electronic Sound” may have outranked label-mate “Life With the Lions,” but it has no reason to celebrate: It’s the only album that didn’t receive a single “10” vote. (It also received the highest percentage of “2” votes, with 22 percent.)

89. Ringo Starr, etc. — SCOUSE THE MOUSE (1977)

AVERAGE RATING: 3.139

While many voters were unfamiliar with this children’s album written and narrated by actor Donald Pleasance — it was only released in the U.K. and has never been issued on CD — those who have heard it clearly weren’t impressed.

88. Ringo Starr — RINGO THE 4TH (1977)

AVERAGE RATING: 3.751

“You know that I’m drowning,” Ringo sang on the opening cut here, and he had no idea how right he was. This disastrous stab at disco received the highest percentage of “4” votes, from 18 percent of voters.

87. Paul McCartney — OCEAN’S KINGDOM (2011)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.048

86. Ringo Starr — BAD BOY (1978)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.082

In perhaps the first sign that being able to claim “former Beatle” status only went so far, Ringo was unable to hold on to his Atlantic Records deal after the abysmal performance of “Ringo the 4th” and needed to find a new label. Portrait Records drew the short straw, and “Bad Boy” barely outperformed its predecessor on the charts— much like in this poll.

85. Paul McCartney, etc. — LIVERPOOL SOUND COLLAGE (2000)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.111

84. Paul McCartney — THE FAMILY WAY (1967)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.27

The first album credited to an individual Beatle is also the shortest album on the ranking, clocking in just short of 25 minutes (“Ringo 2012,” on the other hand, is a beefy 29 minutes). Paul’s score to the Hayley Mills film, conducted by George Martin, earned the highest percentage of “3” votes (18.5 percent).

83. Paul McCartney — ECCE COR MEUM (2006)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.345

82. The Fireman — STRAWBERRIES OCEANS SHIPS FORESTS (1994)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.411

81. Ringo Starr — OLD WAVE (1983)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.504

80. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — SOME TIME IN NEW YORK CITY (1972)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.612

79. Paul McCartney — STANDING STONE (1997)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.635

78. Paul McCartney — LIVERPOOL ORATORIO (1991)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.66

77. Twin Freaks — TWIN FREAKS (2005)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.717

This obscure collection mashes up various McCartney compositions with varying degrees of success — which explains why the response to it was more diverse than any other album, with a standard deviation of 2.64.

76. Percy “Thrills” Thrillington — THRILLINGTON (1977)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.721

75. George Harrison — WONDERWALL MUSIC (1968)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.782

74. Ringo Starr — RINGO 2012 (2012)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.79

73. Paul McCartney — WORKING CLASSICAL (1999)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.87

72. Ringo Starr — SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.889

Ringo’s first solo album is one of two albums that received the same amount of “1” votes and “10” votes (10 each).

stop smell roses71. Ringo Starr — STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES (1981)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.941

70. Ringo Starr — Y NOT (2010)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.963

69. Ringo Starr — RINGO’S ROTOGRAVURE (1976)

AVERAGE RATING: 4.984

68. The Fireman — RUSHES (1998)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.136

67. Ringo Starr — I WANNA BE SANTA CLAUS (1999)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.14

66. Ringo Starr — CHOOSE LOVE (2005)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.154

65. Ringo Starr — LIVERPOOL 8 (2008)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.276

64. Ringo Starr — BEAUCOUPS OF BLUES (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.344

A second string of four consecutive Ringo albums, interrupted only by “Rushes.” Of the 17 albums that make up the core Ringo Starr discography, 12 are in the bottom 30 (as is “Scouse the Mouse”). By contrast, the only other conventional pop-rock record that has appeared on the ranking thus far is “Some Time in New York City.”

63. Paul McCartney — GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET (1984)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.446

A McCartney pop album makes its first appearance on the ranking with the soundtrack to his flop film about missing master tapes. For those keeping score, this means that George Harrison has the honor of having the best “worst solo album” …

62. George Harrison — GONE TROPPO (1982)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.626

… But clearly it isn’t that much better.

extra texture61. George Harrison — EXTRA TEXTURE (READ ALL ABOUT IT) (1975)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.655

Arguably the gloomiest Harrison album — if not in the entire Beatle catalog — “Extra Texture” received a higher percentage of “6” votes than any other album (23 percent).

60. Paul McCartney — DRIVING RAIN (2001)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.675

59. Paul McCartney — PIPES OF PEACE (1983)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.743

58. Paul McCartney — KISSES ON THE BOTTOM (2012)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.8

57. Paul McCartney — PRESS TO PLAY (1986)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.82

56. Ringo Starr — RINGO RAMA (2003)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.841

55. Ringo Starr — VERTICAL MAN (1998)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.843

“Vertical Man” is the other album to receive an equal number of “1” votes and “10” votes (12 each).

54. George Harrison — DARK HORSE (1974)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.949

Best remembered for George’s rough vocals, more voters felt neutral about this album than any other, with more than 21 percent giving it a “5.”

53. Ringo Starr — TIME TAKES TIME (1992)

AVERAGE RATING: 5.965

Though it failed to hit the charts in 1992, “Time Takes Time” outranks every other Ringo album from the past 40 years on this list. Only two of his solo releases appear in the top 50.

52. Paul McCartney — OFF THE GROUND (1993)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.069

51. George Harrison — SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND (1981)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.113

wild life cover50. Wings — WILD LIFE (1971)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.131

Wings had nowhere to go but up, as their debut album was voted the weakest of their seven studio albums.

49. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — MILK AND HONEY (1984)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.151

48. The Beatles — YELLOW SUBMARINE (1969)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.229

There was never any question that “Yellow Submarine” would be the lowest-rated album of the band’s core collection — John Lennon once referred to it as a “joke” for its inclusion of George Martin’s orchestral soundtrack. Voters didn’t fully agree with Lennon’s assessment, but it still just misses the cutoff for the top half.

47. Ringo Starr — GOODNIGHT VIENNA (1974)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.349

46. John Lennon — ROCK ‘N’ ROLL (1975)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.39

45. Paul McCartney — McCARTNEY II (1980)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.407

44. Paul McCartney and Wings — RED ROSE SPEEDWAY (1973)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.544

43. Wings — WINGS AT THE SPEED OF SOUND (1976)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.716

42. John Lennon — MIND GAMES (1973)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.72

“Mind Games” received the highest percentage of “7” votes of any album (26 percent).

41. The Fireman — ELECTRIC ARGUMENTS (2008)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.768

40. Wings — LONDON TOWN (1978)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.77

39. George Harrison — THIRTY-THREE & 1/3 (1976)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.802

38. Paul McCartney — CHOBA B CCCP (THE RUSSIAN ALBUM) (1988)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.88

37. George Harrison — LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (1973)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.928

36. The Traveling Wilburys — VOL. 3 (1990)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.939

35. Paul McCartney — RUN DEVIL RUN (1999)

AVERAGE RATING: 6.952

34. George Harrison — GEORGE HARRISON (1979)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.016

33. Paul McCartney — MEMORY ALMOST FULL (2007)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.129

32. Wings — BACK TO THE EGG (1979)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.155

31. Paul McCartney — FLOWERS IN THE DIRT (1989)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.47

30. John Lennon & Yoko Ono — DOUBLE FANTASY (1980)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.481

29. John Lennon — WALLS AND BRIDGES (1974)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.493

Listen to this statistic: “Walls and Bridges” narrowly edged out “Help!” as receiving the highest percentage of “8” votes by less than one one-hundredth of a percent (26.55 percent), and is one of just two solo albums with a single “1” vote.

28. George Harrison — BRAINWASHED (2002)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.537

27. Paul McCartney — CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACKYARD (2005)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.665

26. The Beatles — BEATLES FOR SALE (1964)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.673

25. Paul McCartney — McCARTNEY (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.703

Paul’s DIY solo debut is forever linked to The Beatles’ bitter breakup, and received decidedly mixed reviews at the time of its release. Four decades later, fans responded well to “McCartney,” one of only two solo albums that did not receive a single “1” vote.

24. Paul McCartney — NEW (2013)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.714

Oddly enough, Paul’s earliest and most recent solo albums appear back-to-back on the countdown.

23. Wings — VENUS AND MARS (1975)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.768

22. The Beatles — LOVE (2006)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.785

Purists may scoff at the idea of remixing The Beatles, but voters couldn’t deny the magic of tracks like the “Within You Without You”/”Tomorrow Never Knows” mash-up. Still, this is a surprisingly high showing for the soundtrack to the Cirque de Soleil show, and by far the best performance of any album that isn’t a standard pop-rock release.

21. The Beatles — PLEASE PLEASE ME (1963)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.808

with beatles cover20. The Beatles — WITH THE BEATLES (1963)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.849

19. Paul McCartney — TUG OF WAR (1982)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.93

“Tug of War” is the other album that received just one “1” vote.

18. Paul McCartney — FLAMING PIE (1997)

AVERAGE RATING: 7.933

17. George Harrison — CLOUD 9 (1987)

AVERAGE RATING: 8

16. Ringo Starr — RINGO (1973)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.013

15. The Beatles — LET IT BE (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.075

14. The Beatles — HELP! (1965)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.257

13. The Traveling Wilburys — VOL. 1 (1988)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.361

12. John Lennon — IMAGINE (1971)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.481

“Imagine” received a higher percentage of “9” votes than any other album (27 percent) — John just can’t escape that number, can he?

11. The Beatles — MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (1967)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.629

10. The Beatles — A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.705

9. John Lennon — JOHN LENNON/PLASTIC ONO BAND (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.706

John’s solo debut just narrowly tops “AHDN” in the closest race of the entire countdown.

8. Paul & Linda McCartney — RAM (1971)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.729

Once deemed “the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock” in an infamous Rolling Stone review, “Ram” is clearly no longer a black sheep in the McCartney discography. It stands with its predecessor “McCartney” as the only solo albums that did not receive any “1” votes.

7. George Harrison — ALL THINGS MUST PASS (1970)

AVERAGE RATING: 8.99

While this received a higher percentage of “10” votes than any other solo album (49.46 percent vs. 49.24 percent for “Band on the Run”), some voters docked points for the “Apple Jam” disc. Had just seven “9” voters boosted their vote to a “10” — or if the three voters who gave Harrison’s triple album a “1” didn’t rate it at all— “ATMP” would have edged out the Wings classic.

6. Paul McCartney and Wings — BAND ON THE RUN (1973)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.031

5. The Beatles — SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1967)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.296

Interestingly, “Sgt. Pepper” is tied with “Yellow Submarine” for the most “1” votes of any Beatles album, with two. That may not sound like a lot, but had it received just one, like the #4 album on the countdown, the two would have swapped places.

4. The Beatles — THE BEATLES [THE WHITE ALBUM] (1968)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.3

3. The Beatles — RUBBER SOUL (1965)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.366

2. The Beatles — REVOLVER (1966)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.588

1. The Beatles — ABBEY ROAD (1969)

AVERAGE RATING: 9.681

A whopping 80 percent of voters elected to give “Abbey Road” a perfect “10” rating. For comparison’s sake, about 77.5 percent of “Revolver” votes went for the top rating, while the rest of the top five hovered around 60 percent. Only four voters gave “Abbey Road” a rating of less than “7,” ensuring that it easily had the least variation of any album, with a standard deviation of just 0.78.

Average rating of John Lennon albums: 7.004 (rock albums only), 5.729 (all albums)

Average rating of Paul McCartney/Wings albums: 6.966 (rock albums only), 6.219 (all albums)

Average rating of George Harrison/Traveling Wilburys albums: 6.993 (rock albums only), 6.398 (all albums)

Average rating of Ringo Starr albums: 5.165

Average rating of Beatles albums: 8.446

Average rating of all albums: 6.82 (rock albums only), 6.32 (all albums)

— Anthony Cusumano

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2 Responses to Fans Rank Beatles’ Group and Solo Albums

  1. As one of the participants, what I found most enjoyable about the “rate everything” approach to this survey was the simple fact that it asked us to … rate everything. In that process, I started doing comparisons I had not done in ages, sometimes never before. If you want to revisit your collection with fresh eyes, try doing your own 1 to 10 point ranking for every album on this list. You’ll reveal your own tiers of Beatles preference!

  2. Michael K says:

    Of all the ratings schemes I’ve ever seen, this is unique in that I’ve tried in vain at least 10 times to UNDERSTAND IT 😛

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