There’s always debate about which is the best Beatles album. Well, the public has been voting since the first Beatles album was released, and for over 50 years since the last original Beatles album was released. They cast their ballots with their money. Critics and fans can have their favorites, but it’s always interesting to see what albums the most people were willing to pay for. If you’ve seen any similar lists, you might find a couple of surprises here. You’ll see the ranking of all 12 of The Beatles original studio albums, and be reminded of what songs are on them. Let’s start right at the top,
#1 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
With over 32-million copies sold, Sgt. Pepper is the most popular of The Beatles regular albums. Only their collection of #1 songs, Beatles 1, has sold approximately the same amount, and is poised to sell more. Sgt. Pepper was a risk for The Beatles. There had never been a mainstream album as innovative and imaginative as this one. Producer George Martin said he was afraid they’d gone too far with it, but it opened the door for other artists to be more daring too. Although the singles from these sessions, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were not on the album, the familiarity of many of the album tracks makes them seem like singles.
The Beatles’ first album to make full use of the recording studio comes in at #2. Revolver featured backwards guitars, altered voices, the use of tape loops, psychedelic lyrics, and much more.
It may be the peak of songwriting by Paul McCartney. His songs from the album sessions are “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and the single “Paperback Writer”. John Lennon’s songs are “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, ”She Said She Said”, the group’s very experimental “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and the single “Rain”. George Harrison had three songs, “Taxman”, “I Want To Tell You”, and “Love You To”. The album has sold over 27 million copies.
This was an album of growth for The Beatles. Their songwriting was maturing, and venturing beyond love songs…including Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” and “In My Life”, but it also has one of McCartney’s great love songs, “Michelle”. The album has proven to be very popular with fans, as it sits between the early Beatlemania and the non-touring studio years. It’s sold over 16.5 million copies.
#4 The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
The Beatles were bursting with songs when they came back from their time with the Maharishi in India. The result was a double album with 30 tracks. Sales are over 16-million. There’s a huge variety of musical styles from the beautiful acoustic “Blackbird” to the hard rock of “Helter Skelter”. Other highlights include “Back In The U.S,S.R.” and one of George Harrison’s best songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
This album tends to be a favorite of Beatles fans who were born after all these albums came out. Abbey Road starts off with “Come Together”, and includes George Harrison’s strongest showing with “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something”. The unique feature of the album is the side two medley. Sales are over 10-million.
#6 Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
This started out as a six song EP in England, but Capitol Records in America added five singles to make it a full album. It’s sold over 6-million copies. New songs at the time included “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Fool On The Hill” and “I Am The Walrus”. The recent singles they added included “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “All You Need Is Love”. It’s a really good album that people sometimes overlook, because it wasn’t one The Beatles had originally planned. The song titles are all on the front cover.
You won’t find this album on many lists of the best selling Beatles albums, because the official version of this is now With The Beatles, which only sold about 600,000 copies in the U.K. In America, Meet The Beatles sold over 5-million copies, including 4-million in its first year. The album kicks off with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “This Boy”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”…plus it has “All My Loving”.
#8 Let It Be (1970) [Recorded in 1969 before Abbey Road]
The public loves this album more than many critics, and it certainly has some strong songs, including three #1 singles…“Get Back”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road”. It’s sold over 5-million copies, and has added sales with the October 2021 remix, which put it at #1 for physical sales (vinyl & CD’s) the week it was released.
The third album by The Beatles is their first to have all original songs by Lennon & McCartney. The album contained the big hits “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night”, as well as one of the most covered songs of all time, “And I Love Her”. Other standout tracks include John Lennon’s rocker “”You Can’t Do That”, his ballad “If I Fell”, and McCartney’s “Things We Said Today”. The album has sold over 4.1 million copies.
(First 7 songs were on the soundtrack in the U.S.)
#10 The Beatles For Sale / Beatles ‘65 (1964)
Here’s another album that usually misses the list of best sellers. It’s because of differences between the British and American versions. Together they’ve sold over 4-million copies. You can see there are a lot of good songs on the album, but in America, Capitol removed some of them and added the songs from the single at that time, “I Feel Fine” & “She’s A Woman”. Still, they’re similar.
The Beatles second movie album, Help, is solid, with hits “Ticket To Ride” (#1), “Help” (#1), and the most covered song of all time “Yesterday” (#1). Other standouts include “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”. The album sold over 3.6 million copies.
This first album by The Beatles sold 3.2 million copies, which includes the sales of the American versions, Introducing The Beatles & The Early Beatles. Please Please Me featured the first two singles by The Beatles, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”. The Beatles were surprised when VJ Records released “Twist And Shout” as a single, but it hit #2 and became the song The Beatles most often used to open their concerts. A self-written rocker, “I Saw Her Standing There”, was a strong opener for the album. Eight of the songs were originals, and six were cover songs that The Beatles had been playing live.
Those are the twelve original studio albums by The Beatles, but they’re just the tip of the sales iceberg. With all the compilations and special releases, The Beatles have sold over 600-million albums. That’s more than any other artist. Update: In mid-2022, EMI (The parent company for Apple Records) estimated The Beatles have sold over 1-Billion records.
Extra: Using the public’s purchasing totals to rank the albums gives us a solid top five whose totals stand out from the other albums. Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and Rubber Soul certainly make a reasonable top three. If you think #5 Abbey Road should have been ranked higher than #4 The White Album, you may be right. Abbey Road sold more units (10-million) than The White Album (8-million units)…but since it’s a double album, each unit officially counts as two, making it 16-million.