Since their break-up in 1970, the individual members of the Beatles have had mixed solo success. Ultimately, they’ve been disappointing. In the ’60s, they combined to reach UK Number One 17 times, yet since their break-up, they’ve only added a few number ones to our musical library. To put this in perspective: Bob The Builder has more solo UK Number Ones than half of the Beatles. Why is this the case, though? John did take a 5 year break from music and Ringo is Ringo, but how did the individual ingredients for 17 Number One recipes not yield more commercial success? Whatever the reason, this doesn’t mean they stopped making good music. In fact, if they hadn’t broken up in 1970 and their work over the next 20 years had been collated into one final Beatles album, it would be their best. So what would this album look like?

The name and cover of this imaginary album would be impossible to predict. I mean, Abbey Road was originally titled Everest but John couldn’t be arsed to go to the Himalayas and suggested they just take the photo outside and name it after the street. But if you had to guess; following the pattern of previous albums (Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Let It Be), it would in all likelihood be named after the biggest hit on the album. In this case: ‘Imagine’. Considered one of the greatest songs of all time, it’s no surprise I’ve chosen Imagine to open the A-Side. If anything, it’s a bit of a boring and predictable choice and I’m a bit disappointed with myself. Anyway, next you would expect a track from Paul, else his ego might take too much of a hit. There are a lot of poppy choices to go for, and none that would really fit to follow ‘Imagine’, but I’ll plump for ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. He actually wrote this while The Beatles were still together, so this could easily have made its way onto an actual Beatles album. It also made its way into a classic episode of The Simpsons, so you know it’s good. After John and Paul comes George with ‘What Is Life’. It’s a pretty obscure one, so much so that typing ‘What Is Life’ into Google doesn’t spit out this track in the first 10 pages. It’s an absolute sensation, though, with one of my favourite recurring guitar riffs in music. It also has the trademark of a lot of Beatles songs – people over-analysing the lyrics. Theologians, philosophers and critics have all tried to decipher the meaning of the song – a song that, in reality, was written “very quickly” on his drive home.

So all three big dogs have a track on the album now. What of Ringo? As much as I love him, he probably doesn’t deserve a song on this album. He really did need the others to tick. His few successful compositions to come out of The Beatles were heavily amended by the others. However, the other three were always keen to stick him in whenever they can, so I’ll throw him in as well with his best, but the worst of this album: ‘It Don’t Come Easy’. It’s a catchy tune and made it to Number Four in the UK singles charts. Good going Ringo. It also joins the previous three tracks in being released soon after the 1970 break-up; all four having been written within 18 months of it, which adds a bit of credibility to the fantasy that these could have made it onto a hypothetical 14th album. But I’m going to ruin that credibility with my next choice: George’s 1987 release ‘Got My Mind Set On You’. So this hypothetical album took almost 20 years to write. They must have been hypothetically relieved when it was hypothetically critically acclaimed. To end the A-Side, let’s throw another McCartney in before he throws a tantrum. So up at track 6, I’ve gone for ‘Silly Little Love Songs’. It’s textbook McCartney, and fits the Beatles mould well. John previously responded to a critic who accused him of only writing monosyllabic lyrics with ‘Help’, a song that somehow crams ‘independence’ and ‘self-assured’ into the rhythm. In the same vein, Paul responded to critics who criticised him of ‘only writing silly love songs’ with a silly little love song called ‘Silly Little Love Songs’.

Onto the B-Side and I’m going to expend all of my John Lennon at once. Let’s open with ‘Real Love’ – a track that The Beatles finished after John’s death. I actually don’t much rate their finished product, but the demo version with John on piano is hauntingly beautiful. It truly had the potential to be the best song of all time. Then onto ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Watching The Wheels’, two of John’s most lyrically impressive works. Pay real attention to the words when you give these two a listen. ‘Working Class Hero’, in particular, is closer to poetry than music.

We’ve got two more McCartney tracks to come, and we’ve got to bridge the gap from poetry to Poppy Paul. The first Number One by an ex-Beatle fills the gap: ‘My Sweet Lord’. Then, before we finish with ‘Live and Let Die’, we’ll slip in ‘Band On The Run’, a song recorded in Lagos because Paul wanted to sunbathe in the day and record at night. This was right after the Nigerian Civil War though, so with all the crime and disease, I suppose he had to just concentrate on the song. Anyway, let’s wrap it up with a bang and end what could’ve been the greatest album of all time with ‘Live and Let Die’. So there you go: what could have been The Beatles’ 14th album. The final tally, by the way, is 4 for Paul, 4 for John, 3 for George, and 1 for Ringo. Pretty standard for a Beatles LP.

Not included on this ‘album’, but still worth mentioning are two of the best Christmas songs ever written: ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ and ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’.

So although a lot of people would struggle to think of many hits from their solo careers, the ex-Beatles did release some big music after the break-up. Understandable since how spread out their releases were, but if they were all put out at once, on this one mega-album, it would have never been forgotten.

Listen to the album here

James Perkins

Image courtesy of Lawren via Flickr

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  1. Papa Tom
    August 24, 2016 at 02:53 — Reply

    Crappy article. If you hate the Beatles’ solo music so much, why did you bother to dream up this imaginary album (which, by the way, has been done hundreds of times before, by people much more knowledgeable and much more appreciative of the music than you seem to be.

  2. Chris Hampton
    August 24, 2016 at 20:56 — Reply

    James Perkins selections the biggest load of crap ever herd in my life. Who is this album for ‘K mart’ or two year olds?

    If there was another album – let’s call it ‘Foursome’ how about kicking off with a hell of a surprise and ‘Instant Amnesia’ from Ringorama. Ringo never sounded so heavy since ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – Then how about another surprise ‘Isolation’ John from ‘Plastic Ono album.’ Feeling the edge? Then how about George and ‘Wah Wah’ from All Things Must Pass. Feelin awake yet. Then ‘Tea Time’ from Paul’s Caos and Creation in the backyard.’ Feelin like something from Revolver.

    You get the idea. If you look around the solo catalogue once in a while that old inspiration is there. I know I really was there when it all started in that winter of 63 back in England. And boy was it good to be warmed up by the hope of Beatle in that frigid winter.

  3. TomNJ
    August 24, 2016 at 20:57 — Reply

    “Imagine” one of the greatest songs of all time? Not even John Lennon’s best song. I guess “All You Need Is Love” would be the second greatest song of all time.

  4. Dan
    August 25, 2016 at 02:26 — Reply

    Very misleading article. The Beatles as solo artists sold millions around the world and Paul’s solo career in the worlds largest market by far (US) was not only very successful but consider:
    – his band Wings is only behind The Beatles and the Rolling Stones in terms of number 1 singles by a group all time
    – Paul had 9 number 1 songs post Beatles which is more than Elton John or Stevie Wonder
    – Paul was the most successful songwriter in terms of the singles charts in the 1970’s
    – Paul had more hits in the 70’s overall than any artist with the exception of Elton and the Bee Gees who he was essentially tied with. And both Elton and the Bee Gees had hits written by Lennon-McCartney in that decade.

    In England, he had Mull of Kintyre which sold more copies than any Beatles single.
    So the Beatles had 17 UK number ones per this article while in the US the 4 combined had 16 number ones. Far more successful than the Stones or any other 1960’s band post 1970. Not that you would know that reading this article. How about a retraction?

  5. Dan
    August 25, 2016 at 02:27 — Reply

    Correction on email below

  6. Joost van Gijzen
    August 25, 2016 at 07:24 — Reply

    Uhm. Yes.

    Anyway, since Got My Mind Set On You was written in 1962, this hypothetical album could have hypothetically come out in 1980.

  7. Martin
    August 25, 2016 at 18:22 — Reply

    ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ was not a Harrison song. It was a cover of a 1962 track by Rudy Clark. In general, your choices – both of song and of language (‘poppy Paul’, ‘tantrum’ and similar childish jibes) – *seem* to reveal, if I may say so, a very superficial appreciation of these several bodies of work.

  8. mac
    August 25, 2016 at 20:31 — Reply

    Hi James,
    I like your idea, and you make some really interesting choices, but…using songs that span 45 years since the group broke up and decades after a few of them have passed on, seems like taking an easy way out.
    On the other hand, if you stipulate that the songs had to be limited to material released in 1970, then you have an intriguing project. As much as I like your title of Imagine, it’s 1971 release date disqualifies it.

    So, what about a title? I considered All Things Must Pass, but the Beatles rejected the song so I did, too. I also thought about It Don’t Come Easy –which might have been appropriate for a 1970 Beatles Record, but I settled on Instant Karma…because it seems to fit in with their other pun/funny titles (Revolver, Rubber Soul).

    I’d break it down as five Lennon tracks, five McCartney, and four by Harrison. I didn’t forget Ringo! More on Starr in a minute. Along with limiting the pool to 1970 songs, I made an exception or gave preference to those songs that were created prior or started with The Beatles (like McCartney’s “Junk” for example.)

    Selecting the McCartney tracks seemed pretty easy in that you just have to cherry pick “McCartney” –so you use Maybe I’m Amazed (to kick off side 2, perhaps) Every Night, That Would Be Something, Junk-with lyrics, and Lovely Linda. I know LL is not a strong tune, but it fits with what he was doing and he probably would want to have his spouse equally represented.

    Lennon was tougher. The Plastic Ono Band songs are so personal and eccentric, I wonder if they would have been accepted? On the other hand, many of the songs on Imagine were started or recorded by The Beatles, so I included a few of the songs off Imagine if I could verify that they were written in 1968-1970…
    So, along with the title track (Karma), I included Isolation, I Don’t Want to Be A Soldier, Gimme Some Truth, and Jealous Guy. (God and Working Class Hero are great. I thought about both of those, but if the Beatles didn’t break up, maybe Lennon doesn’t write God. Working Class Hero towers, but Harrison and McCartney might not have been too supportive of this…I also picked “Soldier because the war was still topical.) Nonetheless, if you wanted to substitute “Hero” for “Soldier”, I wouldn’t argue too much.
    Harrison was tough, too. He had a lot of songs to choose from. I picked three* What is Life, Beware of Darkness, and If Not for You. George might have been frustrated by getting only 3 tunes when the other writers got five, so for the final song I selected It Don’t Come Easy. Gives Ringo a solid vehicle and the song was actually written by Harrison…so George gets his fourth (albeit hidden) slot on the record.
    As an added bonus, Clapton’s guests on several of the Harrison tracks and Dylan co-wrote one with George, too. So there’s a little added star power.

    In keeping with a Beatles tradition of creating a unique single that’s not culled from the album ,I picked My Sweet Lord by George backed with Love.

    I’ve included the tracklist below (in no particular order) and noted where more than one member of the group actually play on the current recording. Just a thought and taking off on your original idea. What do you think?

    1. Every night
    2. Maybe I’m amazed
    3. Junk
    4. That would be something
    5. The lovely linda
    6. Instant karma (John w/George)
    7. Isolation (John w/Ringo)
    8. Gimme Some Truth (John w/George)
    9. What is life
    10. Beware of darkness – George w/ Ringo
    11. I’d Have You Anytime
    12. I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier (John w/George)
    13. Don’t come easy (Ringo w/George)
    14. Jealous Guy

    Single: My Sweet Lord/Love

  9. Brett Alan
    August 28, 2016 at 06:16 — Reply

    “Got My Mind Set On You” was written in 1962. It was originally recorded by James Ray; there’s a film clip of George requesting the song when the Beatles visited Murray The K in 1964.

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