A Friend Posits His Top 10 Beatles Songs
Speaking of the Beatles (we were, y'know), a longtime friend of mine and Beatles aficionado whom we will call Turtle, recently offered his favorite 10 Fab Four tunes. Since we dig his list, here 'tis in its entirety, with his notes:
1. "Come Together" - To me this will always be, if not necessarily the quintessential Beatles song, then the quintessential song of the late '60s. Something about it just positively drips with the raunchy sound of heroin needles, yellowed, half-smoked roaches, fading pop-art posters, cheap incense, black lights and dirty ashtrays at the end of a frighteningly long acid trip. With its vaguely drugged-out lyrics about madness and freedom, a bass line that pulses like the underbelly of urban hippiedom and a percolating rhythm like bubbles being sucked through a stale bong, you can feel the weariness in John Lennon's bones, as a man who has been dragged, kicking and screaming, through the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll decade only to be spat out the other side. It's one of the most perfectly dirty recordings (from the Beatles' most polished album) in rock history.
2. "Across the Universe" - Not a perfect recording, but a perfect song nonetheless. Unabashedly trippy lyrics, a lusciously beautiful melody and perhaps the saddest refrain in rock history.
3. "Revolution" (White Album version) - Deceptively stripped-down, there's actually much more going on sonically than in the blasting single version. The lazy blues style juxtaposed with the urgent political message, as well as the electric vs. acoustic instrument play, more truthfully reflects the lyrics' intentional ambivalence about actual, blood-shedding revolution; a complexly layered recording that deepens with each listening.
4. "Savoy Truffle" - It's so much fun to hear the usually somber and serious George Harrison relax and just kick ass in this giddy ode to sweets. The lyrics are even more of a hoot as the delivery is played straight. And you have to marvel at that horn section that manages to totally rock without being overbearing.
5. "Lovely Rita" - One of the down-right strangest recordings of all time, sounding more like a Spike Jones novelty bit than a rock song, it is nevertheless one of Paul McCartney's most exuberant and beautiful melodies and, appropriately, his most genuinely funny stab at satire.
6. "Long, Long, Long" - Harrison's most achingly beautiful dirge surges and ebbs with such subtle grace, its ephemeral effect is easy to dismiss on initial listenings. But it's precisely its cloudy mix and whispered vocals that give it its serene and ultimately haunting quality -- like awaking from a deep sleep to memories of a long-lost love.
7. "Hey Bulldog" - This overlooked gem is more raucous and uncontrived than anything else in their catalog, marking the first, and perhaps only, time the Beatles sounded like a garage band. Lennon's cryptic, enigmatic lyrics and speed-riffs, as well as the closing animal howls from the entire band are (dare I say it?) practically punk!
8. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" - Another Lennon blaster that just won't quit. Listen to this one on 11 and just try not to thrash. And has anyone ever rocked the triangle this hard?
9. "Baby, You're a Rich Man" - Another of their more twisted recordings, the song manages to rock extremely hard despite the maracas and muted electric guitars. That East Indian flute (or whatever the hell it is) curls in the belly and up the spine and makes you want to freaky-deaky!
10. "Good Day Sunshine" - McCartney does best here what he does best. With his trademark, sing-song melody, relentlessly upbeat lyrics and only a simple piano, he puts a song in your heart and spring in your step. This may be the ultimate feel-better song of all time.
All in all, a damn exquisite grouping, Turtle. My compliments.
Anyway, the exercise got me to thinking what would be my favorite 10 Beatles tunes. That's still to come. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite Beatles songs in the comments selection. Unless, of course, you don't know who the Beatles were.