The Beatles are one of the most celebrated and highly-regarded bands in modern music history. Some would venture to say that, with each release, The Beatles completely revolutionized how pop music would be written and recorded.
There’s no denying that The Beatles have one of the most expansive catalogs of recorded music. But just how many of those songs did The Beatles actually write?
The Necessary Disclaimer
Before we even begin to attempt to give you the answers, it’s necessary to provide a slight disclaimer. The reason is that the actual recording catalog of The Beatles continues to grow as time goes by.
How can this be if it’s physically impossible for The Beatles to actually go into the studio today? The answer to this comes in the form of lost media.
One could readily assume that every bit of analog tape The Beatles recorded onto has been preserved and already released through various anthologies. However, as we’ve seen in recent years, it isn’t uncommon for lost recordings to find their way to the light of day.
With that being said, there hasn’t been such an occurrence regarding The Beatles, though these things cannot be predicted. Furthermore, there have been rumblings about Paul McCartney completing what would be considered the “final” album, using AI to help with John Lennon and George Harrison’s parts.
What this inevitably means is that the numbers that will be presented to you in this article are likely to change in the future. Plus, there’s a fair chance that many songs they wrote never actually made it to the recording process.
How Many Official Song Releases Did The Beatles Write?
Disclaimer aside, the numbers that we can gather will have to rely upon official releases. Going this route still produces a staggering number that you might not initially expect.
From all of the albums and singles that The Beatles released, the band wrote 213 songs. This number, however, does not include studio outtakes that were later released well after the band had broken up.
If you’ve listened to the Anthology series, you know that there has been quite a bit of songs that did not get released. This total number of songs adds up to over 100 songs, putting the total number of songs written by The Beatles well over 300 songs.
Let’s take a look at each album release, as it will provide a chronology of the band’s songwriting with regard to who contributed songs. You’ll discover how the band relied more on covers at the beginning, as well as when each member made their contributions.
For the sake of this article, songwriter credits will follow that which is officially listed. Some songs may have been written by John Lennon or Paul McCartney as individuals, but the official credits are always listed as a partnership between Lennon and McCartney.
Please Please Me
Released in 1963, Please Please Me was the band’s debut album, featuring 14 total tracks. Of this track listing, 6 songs are covers while 8 songs are originals credited to Lennon and McCartney.
Out of all the official album releases, the most cover songs featured on a single album totals 6 songs. Pay attention as we go further to see when the band began to rely more on their original music without supplementing with cover songs.
With The Beatles
With The Beatles was also released in 1963, which only helped to fuel the fanatical hysterics the band would receive from audiences. Like Please Please Me, With The Beatles is very much dated to the early rock and roll pop stylings of the band’s sound.
There are 14 total songs on the release of With The Beatles. Of these songs, 7 are credited to Lennon and McCartney, with another song credited to George Harrison.
When combined, the total number of original songs equals 8. The remaining 6 songs are all cover songs.
A Hard Day’s Night
1964 is generally the year credited with being the year of Beatlemania as we all know it. During this year, the band released its first major motion picture, along with its soundtrack (A Hard Day’s Night).
Because of this, A Hard Day’s Night marks the first instance of an album being comprised completely of songs written by The Beatles. There are 13 total songs here, all of which are credited to the partnership of Lennon and McCartney.
Beatles For Sale
Beatles For Sale was released in the winter of 1964 and has a tracklist that mirrors the band’s first two albums as far as songwriting credits go. This album features 6 covers, with 8 originals credited to Lennon/McCartney.
It’s important to note that this would be the last instance of one of the band’s albums featuring this many cover songs. From here on out, the majority of the songs would be originals, with some contributions made by Ringo and George.
Like A Hard Day’s Night, Help! is an album from 1965 that serves as a soundtrack for another major motion picture (also called Help!). Unlike the former, this album actually does include 2 different cover songs in its tracklist.
However, aside from that, The Beatles wrote 12 of the songs, with George Harrison credited with 2. If math fails you, the other 10 would be credited to Lennon/McCartney.
Released in 1965 after Help!, Rubber Soul marks a noted shift in the band’s overall sound. It is also the second instance of The Beatles releasing an album comprised completely of original material.
Of the 14 original songs featured here, 2 are credited to George Harrison, while 11 are credited to Lennon/McCartney. Another song is credited to Lennon/McCartney/Starkey (Ringo Starr).
The following year saw the release of Revolver, which expands on the new-found sound heard in Rubber Soul. All 14 tracks on Revolver are originals, with 11 credited to Lennon/McCartney, and 3 credited to George Harrison.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
At the height of the psychedelic culture of the 1960s, The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. This epic album features 20 original songs, all credited to Lennon/McCartney with the exception of 1 song credited to Harrison.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered to be one of the most influential albums ever released. It certainly raised the bar for what could be possible within a recording studio.
Magical Mystery Tour
Despite being an EP rather than a full-length album, 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour deserves recognition. This EP expands on the psychedelic sound heard in Sgt. Pepper’s, and features 11 original songs.
Lennon/McCartney are given credit for 9 of these songs, with 1 to Harrison, and 1 to the entire band. The EP is actually a soundtrack for a short film that was aired on television that same year.
The Beatles (The White Album)
The following year saw perhaps the most expansive effort of The Beatles yet with the release of The White Album. This is the band’s only instance of a 2-LP official release, with each side of the record filled to the brim with tracks.
There are 30 total songs here, all of which are original. Of that, 4 are credited to Harrison, 1 is credited to Ringo, and the remaining 25 are credited to Lennon/McCartney.
Releasing major motion pictures was something that The Beatles were all too familiar with by 1969. This is the year that the band released what many consider to be their most culturally-significant film, Yellow Submarine.
If you know your Beatles history, you probably know that the album’s release actually featured 2 songs that were already released. The song, Yellow Submarine, was previously released in 1966 on the Revolver album.
For that reason, Yellow Submarine and All You Need Is Love has already been accounted for in our documented chronology. With that being said, 3 more songs are credited to Lennon/McCartney, 2 songs to Harrison, with 6 orchestral tracks credited to producer George Martin.
1969 was truly a pivotal year in music, with much of its influence coming from the recording techniques heard in Abbey Road. The album’s cover features the group walking across a street is perhaps the most famous image of the band.
There are 17 total songs on Abbey Road, all of which are original, with 14 credited to Lennon/McCartney. George Harrison has 2 songs on the album, with Ringo having credit for the remaining track.
Let It Be
Let It Be was released in 1970 and would come to be the last official album the band would ever release. Interestingly enough, the recording for the album actually took place before Abbey Road was even started.
However, tensions were growing within the band during the sessions and it became clear that it was time to part ways. Nevertheless, Let It Be continues to be named one of the greatest albums of the 20th century.
The original, official release of Let It Be has 12 total songs, with 1 song being a traditional folk song musically arranged by the entire band. In addition to this, the entire band is also credited with 1 song (Dig It).
Outside of the aforementioned songs, George Harrison is credited for 2 songs. The remaining 8 songs are credited to Lennon/McCartney.
Other Releases Outside Of Official Albums
If you’ve done your math, you know that what’s been covered thus far doesn’t quite add up to the total number given. There’s actually a reason for this, which you might know if you’re familiar with the band’s catalog.
The Beatles had a large number of singles that were officially released as singles but never featured on an album. Furthermore, anthologies and compilations of unreleased material have unearthed previously unreleased or hard-to-find recordings.
For instance, songs like Paperback Writer and Rain were never actually released on an album. Up until a compilation was released in 1988 that featured them, the only way to hear them was on the radio or the actual vinyl 45 RPM records.
Another famous example is the popular song, Don’t Let Me Down. Prior to the 2003 release of Let It Be…Naked, Don’t Let Me Down was only available by means of listening to the 1969 single release of Get Back.
There are actually nearly 50 songs that fall into this kind of uncategorized dilemma. That doesn’t even include studio outtakes heard on the Anthology releases and cuts from live albums, all of which were never officially released.
Why Are The Beatles So Highly Regarded?
If you’re a child of the modern age, it can be difficult to fully grasp the cultural phenomenon that surrounded The Beatles. Even as a millennial myself, I am willing to admit that my own lack of experiencing it firsthand prevents me from fully understanding it at the most granular level.
However, if you’re like me, you’ve probably always been aware of The Beatles and the impact that they had. At some point in your life, you have probably been within close proximity to a serious Beatles fan.
Heck, you might have even gone down the rabbit hole, listening to The Beatles’ entire catalog in chronological order. Most that go this route can understand why this band was so successful, but arguably, some people do not get it.
It’s perfectly acceptable not to be a fan of the band’s music. But to discount its legacy and importance based on personal preference is a crime you should think twice about before committing.
The landscape and terrain of the music industry at the time of The Beatles was much different than it is today. Record labels were essentially in control of what populations were able to discover.
Today, anybody with a willingness to learn a few things can record and release their own music. This shift in the industry is partially what makes it so difficult for younger generations to fully understand the success of The Beatles.
Since the band’s existence, there has really never been a musical group or artist that has come close to the band’s popularity in terms of audience hysterics. Michael Jackson might be the only real contender.
The band essentially had to quit playing live shows because audiences were so loud that they could not hear each other on stage. Granted, this was before stage monitors were commonplace, but this is something that just does not happen today.
The fact that they were able to pivot to become one of the greatest recording studio bands of all time speaks volumes. That’s not even including the 300+ original songs, many of which were extremely successful hits.
This is a band that influenced so many artists that we consider to be “the greats”. Without their innovation, the course of modern music would look quite different.
How Many Songs Did The Beatles Write? Final Thoughts
Do you remember where you were the first time you heard The Beatles? For many, listening to the band was akin to love at first sight.
While the band’s chronological career has a definitive end, all serious fans rejoice at the fact that The Beatles had so many songs.