McCartney Times

Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs? Lead Vocal Totals

Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs? Lead Vocal Totals

Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs? Lead Vocal Totals
March 09
11:00 2020

Looking at who sang lead on each Beatles song gives credibility to an oft-told narrative about the power dynamic within the group.

As much as we want to think of the Beatles as a four-headed beast, John Lennon was the clear frontman in their early days, taking the majority of the lead vocals. It makes sense, given their origins as his schoolboy band the Quarrymen, and that he was, until Ringo Starr joined on the eve of their first recording session, the oldest member.

Even though Paul McCartney had his share of lead vocals from 1963-65, he was often sharing the spotlight with Lennon. But then, things began to change, with McCartney becoming a more prolific songwriter and taking greater control in the studio, much to the dismay of the others. Meanwhile, George Harrison was usually left with only one or two songs per LP until he started to blossom as a songwriter. Sometimes Starr didn’t even get that.

In compiling the lead-vocal totals of Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs?, we distinguished the tracks where they were shared or split between members; where they were credited equally among members; and where certain members were credited with just background harmonies. For example, Lennon and McCartney singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” together throughout the song is marked as a shared vocal, and “A Hard Day’s Night,” where McCartney takes over from Lennon on the bridge, is considered a split. Songs with a clear lead singer but prominent harmonies (think “Twist and Shout” or “Eleanor Rigby”) are credited to only one singer.

Below, we break down the results chronologically by album, using the U.K. titles, with the exception of the U.S. version of Magical Mystery Tour, and the Past Masters compilations of non-LP singles and rarities. We’ve also included the two new tracks recorded for the Anthology series, but left out the vault recordings from those records. We also omitted the two Live at the BBC collections as well as the deluxe reissues of albums, which included some demos and other stray cuts.


Please Please Me (1963)

John Lennon – 8: “Misery,” (with McCartney) “Anna (Go to Him),” “Ask Me Why,” “Please Please Me” (with McCartney), “Love Me Do” (with McCartney), “Baby It’s You,” “There’s a Place” (with McCartney), “Twist and Shout”
Paul McCartney – 7: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Misery” (with Lennon), “Please Please Me” (with Lennon), “Love Me Do” (with John), “P.S. I Love You,” “A Taste of Honey,” “There’s a Place” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 2: “Chains,” ‘”Do You Want to Know a Secret”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Boys”

The Beatles’ debut established the pattern that would mark their early recordings, with Lennon getting the bulk of the leads and McCartney boosting his totals by singing the same melody with him, separating only to harmonize (“Misery”) or taking a line or two by himself when Lennon played the harmonica (“Love Me Do”). Harrison steps to the front twice, for a cover of the Cookies’ “Chains” and Lennon’s “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” while Starr gets the spotlight on a cover of the Shirelles’ “Boys.”



With the Beatles (1963)

John Lennon – 7: “It Won’t Be Long,” “All I’ve Got to Do,” “Little Child,” “Please Mister Postman,” “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” (with Harrison), “Not a Second Time,” “Money (That’s What I Want)”
Paul McCartney – 3: “All My Loving,” “Til There Was You,” “Hold Me Tight”
George Harrison – 4: “Don’t Bother Me,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (with Lennon), “Devil in Her Heart”
Ringo Starr – 1: “I Wanna Be Your Man”

If there was any doubt Lennon was the leader in the early days, With the Beatles pushes it aside. He takes the lead on half the material and also sings the bulk of the Past Masters tracks that were recorded at this time (see below). With only three lead vocals, McCartney gives his smallest contribution on any full-length Beatles album – even Harrison had more songs, thanks to his first-ever composition (“Don’t Bother Me”) and his dual-lead with Lennon on the verses of their take on the Miracles’ “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” Starr’s sole vocal contribution is “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which Lennon and McCartney originally wrote for the Rolling Stones.



A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

John Lennon – 9: “A Hard Day’s Night” (with McCartney), “I Should Have Known Better,” “If I Fell” (with McCartney), “Tell Me Why” (with McCartney and Harrison), “Any Time at All,” “I’ll Cry Instead,” “When I Get Home,” “You Can’t Do That” “I’ll Be Back”
Paul McCartney – 7: “A Hard Day’s Night” (with Lennon), “If I Fell” (with Lennon), “And I Love Her,” “Tell Me Why” (with Lennon and Harrison), “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Things We Said Today,” “I’ll Be Back” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 2: “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” “Tell Me Why” (with Lennon and McCartney)

With A Hard Day’s Night as the only Beatles album comprised entirely of Lennon-McCartney compositions, it makes sense that Harrison and Starr would be virtually shut out of the proceedings; Harrison sang lead on only “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” and shared vocals with the two main songwriters on “Tell Me Why.” McCartney rebounds from With the Beatles by singing lead on half of A Hard Day’s Night‘s 14 songs, though two of them were in close harmony with Lennon (“If I Fell,” “I’ll Be Back”), and another was the bridge on the title track, because it was out of Lennon’s range.



Beatles for Sale (1964)

John Lennon – 9: “No Reply,” “I’m a Loser,” “Baby’s in Black” (with McCartney), “Rock and Roll Music,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Words of Love” (with McCartney), “Every Little Thing,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”
Paul McCartney – 5: “Baby’s in Black” (with Lennon), “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey,” “Words of Love” (with Lennon), “What You’re Doing”
George Harrison – 1: “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Honey Don’t”

Lennon’s growth as a writer started to show on Beatles for Sale and again he dominates the proceedings, even though he sings two of the tracks — “Baby’s in Black” and a cover of Buddy Holly‘s “Words of Love” — in close harmony with McCartney. Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head suggests Harrison sang co-lead on the verse of “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” but it’s widely believed Lennon overdubbed a second part. Harrison and Starr get one lead each, both on songs written by Carl Perkins.



Help! (1965)

John Lennon – 7: “Help!” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” (with McCartney and Harrison), “Ticket to Ride,” “It’s Only Love,” “Tell Me What You See,” (with McCartney), “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”
Paul McCartney – 6: “The Night Before,” “Another Girl,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” (with Lennon and Harrison), “Tell Me What You See,” (with Lennon), “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Yesterday”
George Harrison – 3: “I Need You,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” (with Lennon and McCartney), “You Like Me Too Much”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Act Naturally”

The record released in conjunction with the Beatles’ second movie sees Harrison, for the first time, singing two of his own compositions. Meanwhile, the growing contrast in writing styles between Lennon and McCartney is reflected in the fact that they sing in tandem only once, on the slight “Tell Me What You See,” though the trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison resurfaces on “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.” Starr gets to cover Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally.”



Rubber Soul (1965)

John Lennon – 8: “Drive My Car” (with McCartney), “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” “Nowhere Man,” “The Word,” “Girl,” “In My Life,” “Wait” (with McCartney), “Run for Your Life”
Paul McCartney – 5: “Drive My Car” (with Lennon), “You Won’t See Me,” “Michelle,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “Wait” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 2: “Think for Yourself,” “If I Needed Someone”
Ringo Starr – 1: “What Goes On”

Rubber Soul was where Lennon’s maturing songwriting began to get experimental, with Harrison’s sitar being added to his “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” and the introspective lyrics of “In My Life.” Harrison’s emergence as a writer continues with his two lead vocals, and Starr helped out with some of the lyrics to “What Goes On” and was given a co-writing credit – his first – on his only lead vocal on the album. McCartney was a little behind Lennon’s pace, but he would soon make up for it.



Revolver (1966)

John Lennon – 5: “I’m Only Sleeping,” “She Said She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” Doctor Robert,” “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Paul McCartney – 5: “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “For No One,” “Got to Get You Into My Life”
George Harrison – 3: “Taxman,” “Love You To,” “I Want to Tell You”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Yellow Submarine”

The only full-length Beatles album with no co-lead vocals is also the first time Lennon and McCartney sing the same number of songs, five. With Harrison getting three with his compositions – the most he’d ever have on a one-disc Beatles LP – the Beatles were as close to a democracy, at least on record, as they would ever get.


Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

John Lennon – 5: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “She’s Leaving Home” (with McCartney), “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (all four), “A Day in the Life” (with McCartney)
Paul McCartney – 8: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole,” “She’s Leaving Home” (with Lennon), “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (all four), “A Day in the Life” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 2: “Within You Without You,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (all four)
Ringo Starr – 2: “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (all four)

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band serves as the moment when the balance of power within the Beatles changed. In a reverse of what occurred only four years earlier on Please Please Me,  Lennon’s totals are inflated through his contributions to two McCartney songs. While Harrison is relegated to one solo lead vocal (“Within You Without You”), Starr’s spotlight, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” is his most prominent on a Beatles album.



Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

John Lennon – 5: “Flying” (all four), “I Am the Walrus,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” “All You Need Is Love”
Paul McCartney – 6: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Flying” (all four), “Your Mother Should Know,” “Hello, Goodbye,” “Penny Lane”
George Harrison – 2: “Flying” (all four), “Blue Jay Way”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Flying” (all four)

Even though Magical Mystery Tour is technically a compilation of songs from the made-for-TV movie and some recent non-LP singles created for the U.S. market, it nonetheless continues the shift in the band from Lennon’s leadership to McCartney’s. The latter gets a slight lead over his onetime songwriting partner, even though three of the singles and B-sides (“Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” and “All You Need Is Love”) belong to Lennon. Harrison’s sole solo lead comes in his psychedelic “Blue Jay Way”; Starr is heard in unison with the other three in the wordless “Flying.”



The Beatles (1968)

John Lennon – 12: “Dear Prudence,” “Glass Onion,” “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “I’m So Tired,” “Julia,” “Birthday” (with McCartney), “Yer Blues,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Cry Baby Cry,” “Revolution 9”
Paul McCartney – 12: “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Wild Honey Pie,” “Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” “I Will,” “Birthday” (with Lennon), “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Helter Skelter,” “Honey Pie”
George Harrison – 4: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Piggies,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Savoy Truffle”
Ringo Starr – 2: “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Good Night”

The most sprawling Beatles album is also the one that’s the easiest to figure out who who sings lead. With the exception of Lennon and McCartney sharing the spotlight on “Birthday,” every song features lead vocals by the person who wrote it. But The Beatles still posed a few challenges. We counted “Revolution 9” as a Lennon song, even though there’s no melody and few words, and we didn’t give McCartney a co-credit for the “Can you take me back” coda tacked on to the end of “Cry Baby Cry.” We also left “Revolution 1” off the list because it was released after the “Revolution” single included on Past Masters.



Yellow Submarine (1968)

John Lennon – 2: “All Together Now,” (with McCartney), “Hey Bulldog”
Paul McCartney – 1: “All Together Now” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 2: “Only a Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much”

With seven George Martin-written instrumentals and two previously released tracks, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack contains only four new Beatles songs, and half of those were written by Harrison. McCartney’s sole contribution, the nursery rhyme-like “All Together Now,” also features Lennon’s lead vocals in the middle.



Abbey Road (1969)

John Lennon – 7: “Come Together,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Because” (with McCartney and Harrison), “Sun King” (with McCartney and Harrison), “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “Carry That Weight” (all four)
Paul McCartney – 10: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Oh! Darling,” “Because” (with Lennon and Harrison), “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Sun King” (with Lennon and Harrison), “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” (all four), “The End,” “Her Majesty”
George Harrison – 5: “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Because” (with Lennon and McCartney), “Sun King” (with Lennon and McCartney), “Carry That Weight” (all four)
Ringo Starr – 2: “Octopus’s Garden,” “Carry That Weight” (all four)

As on Sgt. Pepper, the lean toward McCartney on Abbey Road shows that it was mostly his project, particularly the medley that takes up much of its second side. No other Beatles single album features a member of the group taking as many lead vocals as he does here (10), though three of those — “Because,” “Sun King” and “Carry That Weight” — are in unison with at least two of his bandmates. Harrison’s five leads, including two of his most beloved compositions, is the most he would ever get.



Let It Be (1970)

John Lennon – 7: “Two of Us” (with McCartney), “Dig a Pony,” “Across the Universe,” “Dig It,” “Maggie Mae” (with McCartney), “I’ve Got a Feeling” (with McCartney), “One After 909” (with McCartney)
Paul McCartney – 7: “Two of Us” (with Lennon), “Let It Be,” “Maggie Mae” (with Lennon), “I’ve Got a Feeling” (with Lennon), “One After 909” (with Lennon), “The Long and Winding Road,” “Get Back”
George Harrison – 2: “I Me Mine,” “For You Blue”

For all the discord among the group at the time of Let It Be, particularly between its two most prolific vocalists, it’s not reflected in the totals. Lennon and McCartney share lead four times, including one last trade-off on “I’ve Got a Feeling” and an aborted run-through of the Liverpudlian folk song “Maggie Mae.” Harrison again gets to sing on the tracks he wrote; Starr gets shut out for the second time (not including Yellow Submarine).



Past Masters (1988, consolidated as one set in 2009)

John Lennon – 16: “From Me to You” (with McCartney), “Thank You Girl” (with McCartney), “She Loves You,” “I’ll Get You” (with McCartney), “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (with McCartney), “This Boy” (with McCartney and Harrison), “I Call Your Name,” “Slow Down,” “I Feel Fine,” “Bad Boy,” “Yes It Is” (with McCartney and Harrison), “Rain,” “Revolution,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” (with McCartney)
Paul McCartney – 15: “From Me to You” (with Lennon), “Thank You Girl” (with Lennon), “I’ll Get You” (with Lennon), “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (with Lennon), “This Boy” (with Lennon and Harrison), “Long Tall Sally,” “She’s a Woman,” “Yes It Is” (with Lennon and Harrison), “I’m Down,” “Day Tripper,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Paperback Writer,” “Lady Madonna,” “Hey Jude,” “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” (with Lennon)
George Harrison – 4: “This Boy” (with Lennon and McCartney), “Yes It Is” (with Lennon and McCartney), “The Inner Light,” “Old Brown Shoe”
Ringo Starr – 1: “Matchbox”

For the two-disc Past Masters compilation, we’ve included only the songs that don’t appear on any Beatles album (different versions of “Love Me Do,” “Get Back,” “Across the Universe” and “Let It Be” appear here). We also omit the German-language versions of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” because they’re mostly redundant. The rest of the set serves as a microcosm of everything that came earlier: Lennon sings lead on most of the early songs, either by himself or in tandem with McCartney, who takes greater control in the last few years. Harrison’s contributions are four B-sides, two of which were in three-part harmony, and Starr gets to sing a Carl Perkins number from the Long Tall Sally EP.



Anthology 1 (1995)
John Lennon – 1: “Free as a Bird” (with McCartney and Harrison)
Paul McCartney – 1: “Free as a Bird” (with Lennon and Harrison)
George Harrison – 1: “Free as a Bird” (with Lennon and McCartney)

Anthology 2 (1996)
John Lennon – 1: “Real Love”

The three surviving Beatles reunited to record new music for their Anthology documentary in the mid-’90s, building songs around a pair of demos recorded by Lennon. The first of those, “Free as a Bird,” includes a b-section written by McCartney, with him singing it on the first go-round and Harrison during the second. “Real Love” is entirely Lennon’s.

Beatles Solo Albums Ranked Worst to Best

63. Ringo the 4th (Ringo Starr, 1977)

It’s easy to complain about the all-star cast approach taken on Starr’s best albums, since they so often seemed to play on a Beatles fan’s lonely desire for a reunion. Worse still, as we saw here, was when Starr made an album where his old buddies were absent. Produced by disco maven Arif Mardin with an unerringly blind eye to the punk revolution brewing around him, Ringo the 4th positions Ringo in a shamelessly overproduced, “dance”-oriented atmosphere that perhaps ranks as the most embarrassing, gut-churning moment for any former Beatle.

62. Give My Regards to Broad Street (Paul McCartney, 1984)

A soaring new power ballad (“No More Lonely Nights”) and a pair of credible rockers (“Not Such a Bad Boy” and “No Values”) are completely wasted among dull, utterly senseless re-recorded versions of old Beatles and Wings tunes. Starr is on the album, but refused to take part in the cover songs. Fans smartly stayed away too, as Broad Street ended a run of nine platinum post-Beatles albums. McCartney never reached such heights again.

61. I Wanna Be Santa Claus (Ringo Starr, 1999)

This full-length seasonal project isn’t without its miniature successes. Starr does his own version of “Christmas Time (Is Here Again)” from the Beatles’ 1967 fan-club recording. Jeff Lynne – who ended up working on Starr, McCartney and Harrison solo projects in the ’90s, not to mention the “Threetles” sessions – sang back-up on a trio of songs. Still, there’s a very limited audience for something like I Wanna Be Santa Claus, not to mention a very, very limited shelf life.

60. Bad Boy (Ringo Starr, 1978)

This was more delightfully idiosyncratic than the sleek dud that proceeded it – and the songs were certainly more warmly produced. There’s just something essential missing from the studio performances, despite the album-long presence of a series of sessions aces. As his album sales continued to sag, Starr descended into the bottom of a wine bottle. His sidemen actually seemed to be inadvertently echoing Starr’s basic detachment.

59. Pipes of Peace (Paul McCartney, 1983)

An odds-and-ends project featuring stragglers from the Tug of War sessions, Pipes of Peace was buoyed up the charts by another pop hit with Michael Jackson. The rest ranged from the mawkish (“So Bad,” a wasted reunion with Starr; “Through Our Love”) to the weirdly misplaced (“Hey Hey,” a cool, fusion-informed collaboration with Stanley Clarke), from the old (the pretty fun “Average Person,” with his long-gone Wings cohort Denny Laine) to the utterly useless (“Tug of Peace”?).

58. Ringo 2012 (Ringo Starr, 2012)

It’s never good news when a remake of “Wings” from Ringo the 4th, though badly needed, stands as the highlight of an album released 35 years later. (This cool-rocking little do-over featured brother-in-law Joe Walsh and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.) It was, however, a sign of things to come: Elsewhere, Starr also offers a retread of “Step Lightly,” from 1973’s Ringo, and covers of “Think It Over” and “Rock Island Line” across a set dominated by auto-pilot nostalgia.

57. Sentimental Journey (Ringo Starr, 1970)

Working again with producer George Martin shortly after the arrival of Abbey Road, the easy listening-focused Sentimental Journey was as comfortable a place as any to begin Starr’s solo career. It didn’t boast the heady eclecticism of the Beatles’ White Album – how could it, within such a narrow genre? – but it certainly drew a straight line back to the easygoing allure of Starr’s set-closing turn on Lennon’s “Good Night.”

56. McCartney II (Paul McCartney, 1980)

The solo-recorded, keyboard-focused McCartney II was fatally hobbled from the first by Paul McCartney’s own poor mechanics with the synthesizers he chose to experiment with throughout. He was, perhaps admirably, trying to tap into the New Wave zeitgeist. But this didn’t pass for innovation back in 1980, and today McCartney II – outside of a few moments like the underrated, interestingly gritty rocker “On the Way” – sounds at times laughably dated.

55. Give More Love (Ringo Starr, 2017)

Unfortunately, we’ll never know just how good Give More Love might have been. A trio of tracks here date back to a larger Dave Stewart collaboration that was apparently meant as a (welcome) return to Starr’s interest in Beaucoup of Blues-style Americana, before it was scrapped. “Standing Still,” “So Wrong for So Long” and “Shake It Up” are, in many ways, more involving than the run-of-the-mill Starr stuff that was added later, beginning with the typically star-studded lead single “We’re on the Road Again.”

54. Ringo’s Rotogravure (Ringo Starr, 1976)

Ever wondered if an album featuring Eric Clapton, Dr. John, the Band’s Levon Helm and a song each by Harrison, Lennon and McCartney could somehow whiff? Here’s your answer. As the former Fabs saw a mid-’70s creative decline, whatever table scraps they had for Starr became increasingly difficult to warm over. Some fans rallied around it anyway, making this Starr’s most recent Top 40 album – despite moments like “Las Brisas,” which, for some reason, features a mariachi band.

523. Liverpool 8 (Ringo Starr, 2008)

This Dave Stewart-produced album dabbled in a few too-obvious Beatle-isms (the title track, of course, but also “Gone Are the Days,” with an entirely expected Indian raga intro, Lennon-like “oh no, oh no!” and it-don’t-come-easy lyric.) Elsewhere, it’s even less memorable – well, except for “Harry’s Song.” Dedicated to the mad genius that was Harry Nilsson, this freewheeling track is everything you’d like Starr’s music to be. That is, fun while not trying so hard.

52. Press to Play (Paul McCartney, 1986)

An oh-so-typically ’80s Hugh Padgham-helmed album that’s long on glossy production and slight on material. “Press,” the lead single was a mechanized mess. “Talk More Talk” and “Pretty Little Head” were largely nonsensical. Yet McCartney is incapable of making a completely awful record. (Even McCartney II had “Coming Up.”) On Press to Play, this grace-note role is played by “Strangehold,” a gem nearly lost amid the plasticine echoes of drum-machined monotony.

51. Wonderwall Music (George Harrison, 1968)

Apple Records officially arrived with an Eastern-flavored Top 50 vanity project that – unlike some of what followed (looking at you, Lennon) – almost worked. George Harrison oversaw sessions held in England and India at the turn of 1968 that featured both Indian classical musicians, as well as Richie Snare and Eddie Clayton (pseudonyms for Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton, respectively). It ends up feeling unfinished, however, since the abbreviated, very episodic songs were created with a film soundtrack in mind.

50. Old Wave (Ringo Starr, 1983)

Produced during a period of extended darkness, both personally and professionally, Old Wave was recorded in a converted studio at the former home of his late bandmate John Lennon. By this time, Starr was without a label, meaning the album was issued piecemeal on different imprints worldwide. The results have a similarly meandering, rootless feel – outside of Starr’s cheeky cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover.” An exhausted Starr disappeared for almost decade.

49. Stop and Smell the Roses (Ringo Starr, 1981)

In the wake of Lennon’s murder, two of this session’s best cuts ended up elsewhere: “Nobody Told Me” became Lennon’s final, posthumous charting hit, while George Harrison ended up rewriting “All Those Years Ago” as a tribute to their fallen bandmate and re-recording it with Starr and McCartney. This left the sort-of-annoying “Wrack My Brain,” also created with Harrison, as the album’s nominal remaining high point. And that says it all.

48. Somewhere in England (George Harrison, 1981)

After a series of sessions dating all the way back to October 1979, Somewhere in England was still going nowhere. Then Lennon was brutally murdered in December 1980, prompting a return to “All Those Years Ago,” which Harrison originally intended to give to Starr. It became a No. 2-finishing semi-Beatles reunion. Even then, the album – which had four songs forcibly replaced by his label – couldn’t be saved.

47. Y Not (Ringo Starr, 2010)

As is so often the case, this Ringo Starr album rises and falls with his collaborators. At its worst, (Richard Marx’s “Mystery of the Night” or Joss Stone’s “Who’s Your Daddy”), Starr sounds like a man out of place. But then there’s “Walk With You.” A rare duet with McCartney, this track finds Starr’s friendly bravado melting into a sadly appropriate melancholy — and not the put-on, aw-shucks kind so familiar from his youth. “Peace Dream” neatly reanimates the Beatles’ utopian visions, while “Time” blithely pushes back against the inevitable.

46. Some Time in New York City (John Lennon & Yoko Ono, 1972)

John Lennon’s move to New York City coincided with a political shift leftward and, perhaps not coincidentally, lingering issues with immigration. The result was one of his most determinedly topical, most critically reviled and most often ignored solo projects. The biggest issue was the lightning-quick recording process. These issue songs were ripped, as they say, right from the headlines. Unfortunately, those old dailies have become yellowed and frayed.

45. Choose Love (Ringo Starr, 2005)

If there’s a warm familiarity to Choose Love, it’s because that’s just how it was made. To this point, Starr had been working with co-producer Mark Hudson, songwriter Gary Burr and guitarist Steve Dudas for something like 10 years. They’re confident enough, in fact, to largely ditch the typical celebrity collaborators in favor of a tighter-knit studio group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, what they produced is far more homey than necessarily exciting.

44. Driving Rain (Paul McCartney, 2001)

Unusually self-conscious, Driving Rain is the sound of an artist trying to combine two parts of his craft – a natural inclination toward ornate pop and an interest in lengthier forms. McCartney was also struggling to balance the loss of wife Linda with the arrival of a new love. Admirable stuff, but it simply didn’t work. Driving Rain often came off as indulgent, impenetrable and strangely disconnected.

43. Wild Life (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1971)

Most Wings albums – even the determinedly small-scale London Town – have tended to grow in critical estimation over the years. Not this one. Perhaps in an attempt to replicate the bucolic scene found on its cover, Wild Life marks a decidedly unambitious debut for one of the era’s biggest hitmakers. They sound too cute by half, and the other half is taking the day off.

42. Extra Texture (George Harrison, 1975)

Buffeted on all sides by bad news, from a poorly reviewed U.S. tour to a lawsuit over one of his biggest solo hits to his failed marriage, Harrison could perhaps be forgiven for becoming more introspective. But this was almost relentlessly morose. A leftover lead-off song (“You”) and a seemingly superfluous Beatles rewrite (“This Guitar Can’t Keep From Crying”) serve as signposts for the entire album’s creatively bankrupt, dead-end vibe.

41. Choba B CCCP (Paul McCartney, 1988)

Originally issued exclusively in the former Soviet Union, Choba B CCCP echoes – but can not best – John Lennon’s oldies-themed 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll. Mainly, that’s because McCartney waters the proceedings down with Great American Songbook fare. Still, this was a welcome return to stripped-down rock, something very much needed after a decade of also-ran albums, and the initial, long-hoped-for twinkling of a career rebound.

40. Vertical Man (Ringo Starr, 1998)

Ringo attempted to keep the momentum of the Anthology projects going with an album featuring McCartney, Harrison, classic-era mixer Geoff Emerick and Beatles-nut producer Mark Hudson. If he’d have stopped there, rather than also adding in ill-fitting next-gen figures like Alanis Morissette and Scott Weiland, Vertical Man would have been a stronger effort. Best to stick with moments like “King of Broken Hearts,” a Harrison collaboration that sounds something like a collision between “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Act Naturally.”

39. Kisses on the Bottom (Paul McCartney, 2012)

Before the Beatles, before he put on that first Little Richard record and saw a whole new world open up before him, Paul McCartney listened to this kind of music. Looking back, an album of standards seemed inevitable for the scion of old-time jazz performers. Sure, it could be too precious, but maybe that was the whole idea. Biggest complaint: the dumb title.

38. Ringo Rama (Ringo Starr, 2003)

Capping a period of remarkable post-’70s consistency, Ringo Rama is essentially of a piece with 1992’s Time Takes Time and 1998’s Vertical Man, at least in terms of approach: lots of guests, lots of looks back. It’s a far brighter recording, very rooted in its technological time. Otherwise, Ringo Rama principally stands out for its loving tribute (“Never Without You”) to Starr’s recently deceased former bandmate George Harrison.

37. Wings at the Speed of Sound (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1976)

Wings’ earlier Venus and Mars did a better job of balancing miniature delights and distracting whimsy. The industrious McCartney tries to dress things up here – adding a limber, endlessly entertaining bass line, for instance, to “Silly Love Songs,” and a punchy horn section to “Let ‘Em In.” But most of it is a letdown. Worse, McCartney doesn’t even sing several of these songs.

36. Postcards From Paradise (Ringo Starr, 2015)

Ringo Starr has typically succeeded inside a communal atmosphere with established friends rather than with ad hoc session men and outsiders. Recording here with his longest-ever running All-Starr bandmates, he finally found the kind of trusted collaborative voices to succeed on that level once again. Postcards From Paradise crackled with a wit, and charm, that has too often been missing since Starr’s initial years as a solo artist.

35. New (Paul McCartney, 2013)

Maybe the thing that was newest about New was how comfortable McCartney was in an entirely different age. There are next-gen flourishes, but nothing too outside the basic framework of his well-established approach. New updated his sound, but not to the point of being a modern-day curio. So, points for trying. Unfortunately, he needed a more consistent batch of songs on what turned out to be a top-heavy set.

34. Time Takes Time (Ringo Starr, 1992)

Despite not charting – Starr’s stuff, good or bad, had long since stopped appearing on Billboard rankings – Time Takes Time stands as his best non-’70s recording. Credit the influence here of descendant fan-bands like Jellyfish (Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning appear on “Weight of the World” and “I Don’t Believe You,” which they co-wrote) and the Posies (whose song “Golden Blunders” is covered). They enlivened Starr’s entrenched nostalgia for his own hey day with youthful vim and vigor.

33. Gone Troppo (George Harrison, 1982)

This album was, even by Harrison’s uneven solo standards, a notable flop. There’s plenty of blame to go around, beginning with those cheesy synths. Dig deeper, however, and you find an intimate album marked by a desire to become a part of smaller things after the big things have let you down. In this way, Gone Troppo should have been favorably compared with the pastoral joys of John Lennon’s earlier Double Fantasy, but it wasn’t. Deflated, Harrison took five years off.

32. London Town (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1978)

The second time wasn’t the charm. London Town found Wings reduced once again to a threesome – but five years later, they couldn’t pull off another Band on the Run. Instead, Wings risked devolving into caricature on a too-precious project that desperately needed a jolt of punky attitude. McCartney must have realized it, as he subsequently set about restructuring Wings for a final time.

31. Dark Horse (George Harrison, 1974)

Produced during a particularly turbulent period of George Harrison’s life, this album marked the beginning of a ’70s-era downward turn – commercially and emotionally. Lost friendships (“Bye Bye Love”), lost loves (“Maya Love”) and lost dreams (“So Sad”) run like a theme throughout, only mitigated by a few moments of rueful humor (“Simply Shady”). Put simply, it’s kind of a downer.

30. Off the Ground (Paul McCartney, 1993)

There are times when this LP can be admittedly insufferable. The single “Biker Like an Icon,” in what had become a theme, is in no way representative. The album’s also includes a few largely forgettable bromides. But McCartney keeps saving himself with some of his best-constructed modern pop songs, and a final pair of flinty Elvis Costello collaborations. That’s almost enough to make up for the rest.

29. Beaucoups of Blues (Ringo Starr, 1970)

Unlike his standards-focused solo debut, Starr’s sophomore genre record didn’t come as such a surprise. After all, Beaucoups of Blues harkened back to Beatles-era covers like Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” and Starr’s own rootsy “Don’t Pass Me By.” There’s an innate sadness in Starr’s voice which seems perfectly suited to this kind of music, and he completely inhabits the songs here.

28. Paul McCartney, ‘Egypt Station’ (2018)

McCartney splits the difference between nostalgia and looking forward, checking in with his spunkiest, horniest and most biting album in years. It goes on a little too long, and some tracks fall into the forgettable modern pop that’s weighed down McCartney records for more than three decades. But there’s a renewed sense of energy and purpose – and “I Don’t Know” is one of his very best modern-era songs.

27. Tug of War (Paul McCartney, 1982)

Overpraised at the time by a fan base still reeling from the murder of John Lennon, Tug of War can now be seen as a noble failure. McCartney ditches Wings in favor of a kitchen-sink approach to music-making, and that new freedom leads to a decidedly unfocused outcome. At its best, Tug of War shimmers. But for every “Take It Away,” there’s an “Ebony and Ivory.” The whole album is like that.

26. Red Rose Speedway (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1973)

In a reflection of the stormy atmosphere then surrounding the disintegrating Wings, Red Rose Speedway is another half-measure success, best known for the sappy hit “My Love.” Dig deeper, however, and McCartney is often working at full strength. If nothing else, it steeled him for his greatest post-Beatles success inside a lean three-person format.

25. Milk and Honey (John Lennon & Yoko Ono, 1984)

The biting “I Don’t Wanna Face It” begins with the smeared sound of a tape machine engaging; it’s another powerful reminder that Milk and Honey includes the incomplete, now-posthumous recordings a murdered genius. The whole thing is like that, only half varnished, unrepentant and very real. In this way, Milk and Honey might be the perfect ending for Lennon. After all, he once put out a series of albums called Unfinished Music.

24. Run Devil Run (Paul McCartney, 1999)

Despite being holed up in Abbey Road (site of so many brilliant Beatles recordings) and with Chris Thomas (who co-produced Back to the Egg, the 1979 finale of his subsequent band Wings), Paul McCartney went about things here in an older old-fashioned way. That meant none of his tried-and-true studio-craftsmanship. Instead, this was fast and loose, though (again) primarily dotted with cover songs. The originals nose it ahead of his other nostalgic turns.

23. Venus and Mars (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1975)

A stabilized Wings – they eventually featured the same lineup on consecutive studio albums for the first (and only) time – synced up with an already-cozy family life to shower everything in a warm, inviting glow. Sometimes, that means McCartney gets a bit too cute. But his genius, at least when he wasn’t handing the mic over to his fellow Wings, consistently shines through.

22. Goodnight Vienna (Ringo Starr, 1974)

Like most sequels, this one fell a bit short. Starr again worked with sturdy producer Richard Perry, and again with an impressive galaxy of guest performers – including Elton John, Steve Cropper, Dr. John, Billy Preston and John Lennon. The issue on this more inconsistent follow-up might have been who wasn’t there: the other Beatles, in particular since the always-sympathetic George Harrison had helped craft a No. 1 single (“Photograph”) for 1973’s Ringo.

21. Flowers in the Dirt (Paul McCartney, 1989)

It seemed the spell of ’80s disappointments could only be broken with an edgy outside voice, a new collaborator in the vein of John Lennon. McCartney found that person in Elvis Costello, who helped him return to the charts – and, more importantly, return to his former ambitions. The production on Flowers in the Dirt is sometimes inextricably of its time, but the McCartney of old is back.

20. Mind Games (John Lennon, 1973)

This album opened the door for Lennon’s so-called Lost Weekend, and Mind Games can sound just as in flux as his private life had become. Its highlights (including the Top 20 hit title song) are pretty high, however. “Out the Blue,” a tale of once-devoted lovers now apart, speaks to his sorrow in a touchingly direct way. Elsewhere, Lennon largely avoids the strident missteps of the preceding Sometime in New York City with flinty rockers like “Meat City,” the deeply underrated “I Know” and his utterly broken “Aisumasen (I’m Sorry).”

19. Thirty Three & 1/3 (George Harrison, 1976)

The album’s title was a take off on the RPMs for old vinyl and Harrison’s age on the proposed release date — though the record didn’t actually arrive until his 33 & 2/3 birthday. That mishap aside, Harrison is back in good humor again, and the often-overlooked Thirty Three & 1/3 is better for it. He scored an impish Top 20 hit with “Crackerbox Palace,” sent up that whole Chiffons mess on “This Song,” and rounded things out with several R&B-stoked successes.

18. Double Fantasy (John Lennon & Yoko Ono, 1980)

It’s been easy, over the decades, to mythologize this project. After all, we now know the fate that awaited him, and that changed everything about the way Double Fantasy was received. In truth, this album was a potentially exciting, yet still determinedly tentative, step back. With its comfy domesticity and too-slick, of-its-moment production, Double Fantasy still doesn’t feel dangerous enough to be a top-tier John Lennon record.

17. George Harrison (George Harrison, 1979)

An adult-contemporary-ish project that can be too slickly mid-tempo, and somehow includes yet another needless update of a Beatles cut (“Here Comes the Moon”). Still, George Harrison often rises above all of that. “Your Love Is Forever” is one of his most enduring ballads and “Blow Away,” a soul-lifting track about clearing skies and opening hearts, has aged as well as any ’70s-era solo Beatle single. Maybe better.

16. Memory Almost Full (Paul McCartney, 2007)

This album has likewise only gotten better with time. What once felt like pastiche now seems like a terrific blending of elements from the breadth of McCartney’s varied career, as Memory Almost Full succeeded at creating the broad statement of purpose he’d clearly hoped Driving Rain would be. At the same time, “The End of the End” made clear the more troubling themes at play, as McCartney’s then-recent divorce seemed to send him into deeply contemplative territory.

15. Brainwashed (George Harrison, 2002)

When producer Jeff Lynne decided to finish this project after Harrison’s death, you had to wonder what would become of it. After all, the Electric Light Orchestra frontman — perhaps even more so than Harrison — was prone to unsuccessfully ornate albums. What happened was one of the best records Harrison ever issued.

14. Walls and Bridges (John Lennon, 1974)

Somehow even more scattered than Mind Games, Walls and Bridges can’t decide whether it wants to be a party record (“What You Got,” “Surprise, Surprise [Sweet Bird of Paradox]”), a dark confessional moment (“Scared,” “Nobody Loves You [When You’re Down and Out]”), a throwback (“Ya Ya”) or something in between. It ends up being all of those things, and none of them. Along the way, however, Lennon sprinkles in some of his very best solo efforts with “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” “Old Dirt Road,” “#9 Dream” and “Bless You.”

13. Back to the Egg (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1979)

McCartney set out to make a more raw-boned record, and he largely succeeded, putting a bright charge into his sound after the soft-rock fluff of London Town. Ultimately, however, he tries to have it both ways; the second side features a retrenchment into some of McCartney’s more recognizable indulgences. Still, Back to the Egg is better than it’s given credit for.

12. Cloud Nine (George Harrison, 1987)

Returning to action with Jeff Lynne could have – heck, maybe should have – turned into a empty genre exercise. Instead, Cloud Nine played to every one of Harrison’s strengths. The chart-topping cover of “Got My Mind Set on You” reanimated his early influences. “That’s What It Takes” sounded like the completely realized mid-’70s hit he never quite managed. Harrison even came to terms with the Beatles on “When We Was Fab,” a tune that – even then – had this sense of bittersweet reverie.

11. Rock ‘N’ Roll (John Lennon, 1975)

Sessions for this surprisingly effective look back took more than a year, as Lennon struggled with personal issues, legal stuff and producer Phil Spector. (At one point, Spector swiped the tapes. At another, bootlegs of the early takes began popping up everywhere. It all started, of course, with a lawsuit.) Lennon ended up completing Walls and Bridges in the meantime, but that album can only aspire to this one’s consistent passion. The arrangements are very much time specific, but Lennon has rarely sung with more energy and wit.

10. McCartney (Paul McCartney, 1970)

This organic, home-recorded aside sounds like what it is: someone trying to work out his own sound. And that’s its enduring magic. McCartney emerged from one of rock’s biggest bands a little unsure of things. He occasionally sounds like a reasonable facsimile of his hitmaking self (“Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Every Night”), but more often he’s reaching for other parts of his muse.

9. Ringo (Ringo Starr, 1973)

Starr, the ultimate glue guy, orchestrated the closest thing we ever got to a Beatles reunion – and together they created his bestselling album. Home to a pair of chart-topping songs, Ringo featured game contributions from his old pals George (“Photograph,” “You and Me [Babe]”), John (the superlative “I’m the Greatest”) and Paul (“Six O’Clock”), completed with a cover that brought to mind their classic collaboration Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

8. Flaming Pie (Paul McCartney, 1997)

One of McCartney’s most complete albums ever, Flaming Pie was informed but not shackled by his return to all things Beatles while working on the Anthology project. Something clearly sparked, as McCartney deftly reanimates his entire legacy of layered pop, touchingly personal folk and loose-limbed rock. Best of all, he brought along a memorably enduring set of songs.

7. Living in the Material World (George Harrison, 1973)

After the Beatles split, Harrison made a stirring case for his own emerging skills as a songwriter and performing artist. He started by topping both the U.S. and U.K. charts with 1970’s All Things Must Pass, then returned with this similarly impressive – though sometimes a touch too similar – album, which had an impish original working title of The Magic Is Here Again.

6. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Paul McCartney, 2005)

A typically winking McCartney made his most serious and most unfussy LP ever with Chaos and Creation. That consistency in tone and quality might lead to distraction for those enamored with his more obvious quirks. But Chaos only grows into a richer experience with subsequent listens. The result is not only a modern-period success, it’s one of McCartney’s very best albums of any era.

5. Imagine (John Lennon, 1971)

In the decades since the arrival of this project, most of its legacy has telescoped around the title track. But there was more to this than “Imagine.” Lennon asked probing questions on “How?” and “Gimme Some Truth.” He offered grinding rock on “It’s So Hard,” and delicate admissions on “Oh My Love.” The jaunty “Crippled Inside” belied its heartfelt lyric, while “How Do You Sleep” delivered a sharp jab at Paul McCartney. Then there was “Jealous Guy.” An instance of nearly unmatched fragility, it’s become one of the most covered of Lennon’s solo tracks.

4. Ram (Paul & Linda McCartney, 1971)

Ram keeps rising in estimation, particularly with fans who now recognize it as an overlooked precursor to the handmade-pop era. Fascinatingly unedited and utterly misjudged in its time, this album never sits still for long. It also rarely stumbles. McCartney was bursting with post-Beatles ideas, and they give Ram dizzying momentum.

3. Band on the Run (Paul McCartney & Wings, 1973)

In an enduring triumph, McCartney skillfully weaves his desire to break free of the Beatles with an age-old outsiders mythology. This restlessness, a sense of destiny unfulfilled, pushed McCartney to new creative places – and he uses every tool in his pop-music shed on the LP. No McCartney album has held together so well, and none showcases his many strengths so successfully.

2. Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon, 1970)

Lennon’s disillusionment with a decade, a band and a youth now being left behind erupted in a scalding series of songs. Lennon didn’t simply take parting shots. He lashed out, tearing to shreds everything in which he once placed his faith. It was often painful to hear, but Lennon’s confrontations with his demons and heroes continue to resonate with anyone who’s ever struggled with the same emotions – and his tough backing group matches him punch for punch.

1. All Things Must Pass (George Harrison, 1970)

Asked what he thought of his monumental Spector-ized debut during a remastering session years later, Harrison simply said, “Too much echo.” By then an American publishing company had won a $600,000 judgment after claiming that the chart-topping “My Sweet Lord” sounded too much like the early ’60s hit “He’s So Fine.” Still, nothing could mask the creative triumph that is All Things Must Pass, as George Harrison fully emerged from the long shadow of Lennon and McCartney. If he never did another solo thing, his legend would have already been secured.

Read More: Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs? Lead Vocal Totals |

Source: Who Sang the Most Beatles Songs? Lead Vocal Totals

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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