Fred Armisen Picks His Top 10 Beatles Songs: From “Penny Lane” to “Nowhere Man”

The actor, comedian and musician makes his picks in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' legendary 'Ed Sullivan Show' appearance

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If you ask Fred Armisen, “The Beatles or the Stones?” expect the actor, comedian and musician to always pick the Beatles. “I love everything about the Beatles, all the time,” he says.

That’s a sentiment that many people share, but long before the group became the Fab Four — back when the band was just starting out — no one would give them a record contract. It took their manager, Brian Epstein, months of behind-the-scenes machinations to get the band a record deal with EMI’s Parlophone subsidiary. The band — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and new drummer Ringo Starr — went into the studio and came out with their first singles “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You,” which went on to top the U.K. charts. It’s a feat they repeated again and again and again.

Now, the Beatles are the best-selling act ever, selling 600 million albums worldwide and racking up 20 No. 1 U.S. singles, a Billboard record that still stands. No other entertainers in history have been as popular, as influential, as important or as groundbreaking.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania hitting the States — when the Fab Four stormed the set of the Ed Sullivan show, drawing 73 million viewers, and changed pop culture forever — TIME asked Armisen to choose his 10 favorite Beatles songs.

“It’s All Too Much”

“Dear Prudence”

“Penny Lane”

“Baby You’re A Rich Man”

“A Day In The Life”

“Martha My Dear”

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

“Nowhere Man”

“Helter Skelter”

“And Your Bird Can Sing”

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4 comments
JoshSoffer
JoshSoffer

I notice every song Armisen picked except Nowhere Man was recorded between 1966-1968. That points to one challenge in choosing a favorite Beatles song. It's not just about the best tune, but which era one favors. Some may have a preference for the sweet, simple Beatlemania harmonies of 1962-1964, others may prefer the Dylanesque folk rock of Help and  Rubber Soul. Then there's the early psychedelia of Rain and Revolver, or the late psychedlia  of Magical Mystery Tour. Maybe it's the intimate singer-songwriter and bluesy, hard-rocking efforts of the White Album that does it for you. Or the masterfully produced song cycle on the second side of Abby Road. Like Armisen, my soft spot is the psychedelic and singer-songwriter era of 1966-1968, since I think it represented the Beatles at their most innovative. Having said that, I can understand his selecting Baby You're a Rich Man and It's All Too Much as these  obscure songs allow us to appreciate features of their psychedelic period that we now overlook in  overplayed songs like All You Need is Love. Still ,it's hard to argue that either of those two songs were as fully realized as Strawberry Fields or I Am The Walrus.

Aksa8
Aksa8

There can never never ever be a permanent top 10 from their songs; It'd be like choosing one part of one's brain as a favourite in comparison to others. But, these could meet the criterion of "my most favourite10" on most days : Because; Fool On The Hill; She's Leaving Home; Penny Lane; A Day In The Life; With A Little Help From My Friends; Something; Yesterday; Strawberry Fields Forever; Hello Goodbye.

drewpierze
drewpierze

This a great list!!! I especially love that you picked the glorious Martha My Dear and Tomorrow Never Knows. I could have picked 10 different songs than the ones on this list, too, but then that's what's great about the Beatles. Such a deep catalog.


DAS37
DAS37

Interesting choices.  Tomorrow Never Knows and Day in the Life would definitely make my Top 10 and maybe It's All Too Much, which I think is way overlooked.  Dear Prudence is also vastly underrated.