The Beatles
Photo: Parlophone Music Sweden / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

20 Beatles Buried Treasures

This is a Beatles list of the nearest things in the most overexposed catalog in popular music history to “deep tracks”.

11. “Tell Me Why

It’s easy for a minor classic to get lost amid the vastness of the Beatles’ catalogue. Even at the album level, there’s still plenty of scope for low-profile jewels to secrete themselves. A Hard Day’s Night — a pivotal record, the first (and, in fact, only) Beatles album to consist solely of Lennon-McCartney compositions, widely considered the best of their early output — is a prime example.

“Tell Me Why”, a joyous wash of vivacious doo-wop, shot through with a raw, syllable-stretching Lennon vocal, is a true hidden gem. Listened to in isolation, it seems incredible that something this exciting could be overlooked; there’s an almost Spectoresque wall of sound quality on this track, heavily redolent of the Girl Groups the Beatles so admired in their early days of playing together. It’s a classic demonstration of the Beatles’ phenomenal facility for transforming words which, on a lyric sheet, seem almost banal in their simplicity, into something of enormous emotional power. This was always a key aim for them: how a record sounded overall was everything, to the extent that the words really didn’t matter.

Both the lyrics and the performance, linger just on the verge of parody: the ostensible tone, of wounded love, is in diametric opposition to the mood generated by the music, the pitch of the singing rising to falsetto in tandem with the increasingly desperate pleas of the singer. The penultimate song on side one of the album tucked away just before the monumentally brilliant “Can’t Buy Me Love”, this track has a strong claim for the title of ‘most neglected Beatles song’. — John Carvill

12. “I’m So Tired

“I’m So Tired” perfectly captures what it feels like to be an exhausted heap. The “White Album” John Lennon composition showcases the Beatle languidly whining about how lazy and distressed he is in a song that’s the aural equivalent of hazily shuffling around the room in search of a bed. The song drags in such a lumbering manner it’s easy to overlook how complex the chord progression is. And how many other rockers throw around harmony fills and allusions to Sir Walter Raleigh while battling insomnia?

Lennon makes the song seem effortless, implying that he could write great tunes whilst a bleary-eyed mess. What makes “I’m So Tired” a song worthy of attention is the underlying tension caused by Lennon’s threats to break out of his lethargy and indecisiveness. Occasionally his voice rises and tenses (particularly in the choruses), ultimately peaking with desperate unanswered exclamations of “I’m going insane!” and “You know I’d give you everything I’ve got / For a little piece of mind”, only to fall back into sluggishness. “I’m So Tired” is desire without resolution, and that’s what makes this sloth-like deep album cut unexpectedly compelling. — AJ Ramirez

13. “I’m a Loser

Why isn’t this song better known? Mostly because it isn’t very good. The lyrics are — apart from the astonishing confession of the title — mostly trite and banal. (“My tears are falling like rain from the sky, Is it for her or myself that I cry?”) The melody is catchy if a bit underbaked, and the performance is spare and unvarnished (as is the rest of the quickly-recorded Beatles for Sale record), leaving little to get too excited about. So, what’s this tune doing on a list of undervalued tracks? History.

First of all, this song was almost a single, which means it was almost a hit, which means it could have been huge, but then Lennon wrote the vastly superior “I Feel Fine” and it was used instead. So, that’s something. Second, weird as it is, this song would be alluded to in massive hits by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles not once but twice over the following two years — the lyric “Although I laugh and I act like a clown, Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown” provides the basic metaphor behind both “Tracks of My Tears” and “Tears of a Clown”. Third, as I have explored in another entry on the far more effective “Help!”, this song represents an early attempt by the Beatles to fuse dark confessionalism with jaunty melodies, a heretofore new and exciting direction for pop music.

But, most of all, fourth: that shambling harmonica solo, metaphors about masks and clowns, and a chorus that claims “I’m not what I appear to be”? Lennon has heard Dylan, folks. This is the real moment folk-rock was born. — Stuart Henderson

14. “Old Brown Shoe

Perhaps “Old Brown Shoe”, B-side to the button-pushing “Ballad of John and Yoko”, is so often overlooked because it seems more tailored to George Harrison’s subsequent solo sound than anything he’d produced with the Beatles thus far. He indeed recorded its early demos on his own, in the same birthday session in which “Something” and “All Things Must Pass” were first put to tape, but the three are far closer in quality than in structure.

Harrison’s take on “the duality of things” employs a jangling piano that, assisted by melodic guitars and tandem bass line, elaborates the raunchy nature of the piece. This in turn is offset by innocent lyrics that belie the lusty orchestration, sung as if by an ambivalent teenager—rejoicing in the verse (“won’t be the same now”), uneasy in the bridge (“I’m changing faster than the weather”) and back again to bring it home. Here, a Hammond organ overdub, replacing John Lennon’s original rhythm guitar, elevates Harrison’s pleas to exultation. As much gospel as a love song, it follows a long tradition of solid, confident B-sides that unfortunately often get lost in the shuffle. — Carole Ann Wright

15. “And Your Bird Can Sing

You could probably choose any song from either Revolver or Rubber Soul as the one where the Beatles went from being bubblegum pop stars to “serious” musical artists. “And Your Bird Can Sing” could very well be the one that you would choose. The song acts as a bridge between the two eras of the Beatles’ career. It is unabashedly a bouncy pop song, with an up-tempo beat and tight vocal harmonies. But its adventurous, regal-sounding guitar riffs and esoteric lyrics set the stage for the experimental nature of future Beatles songs. In other words, the song is the best of both worlds. It is a grand song that should have been one of the Beatles’ greatest hits. As it is, it’s a hidden gem that shows exactly what type of band the Beatles were. — William Gatevackes