Monday, October 10, 2005

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.


At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Token Liberal said...

"Day in the Life" (That's SIR George Martin to you)

"Across the Universe" (Duuuuude)

"Back in the USSR" (Beach Boys? They're okay...)

"For No One" (Up there with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in saying a lot in a few words)

"Got to Get You Into My Life" (The Beatles as precursors to ... Earth Wind & Fire???)

"Here Comes the Sun" (This, and Marley's "Three Little Birds" are my favorite "it's all right" songs).

"I Saw Her Standing There" (one word: wooooooooh)

Nowhere Man

Penny Lane (love the horns outro)


At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Blue Meanie said...

Top 10 Beatles? Can't be done.
First, the list is dynamic, depending on your mood. Or, as one of the Bobs would say: "I celebrate (their) entire catalog."
Second, half the songs are at disadvantage, thanks to overexposure. Well, overexposure for those of us who grew up in the 70's with radio as our only music choice.

I will say, however, that “Old Brown Shoe” has always been my fav from George.

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Ralyyy said...

1. Let it be, definetely

2. Yesterday

3. Come Together

4. Hey Jude (I seem to be the only one who things that song is special...)

5. Across The Universe

6. Julia (Noone ever mentiones this song, dunno why)

7. Here Comes The Sun

8. And I Love Her

9. Strawberry Fields Forever

10. Yellow Submarine


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous MikeyInTheSky said...

In no particular order then...

1. Oh! Darling - I've known people who always just assumed this was a Lennon song. As I remember, Lennon wanted McCartney to let him sing it. But I love Paul's voice on it, totally lovesick in a slightly knowing way...

2. Revolution 1 - I didn't even know about the single version till a few months after the album version. There's just too much going on during the album version for me not to love it, and as far as I'm concerned, the pace is perfect for it.

3. Cry Baby Cry - The voice, the atmosphere... basically the chorus, man! I'm not normally one to say "I wish it was longer", but I always have to restrain myself from playing it twice every time.

4. And Your Bird Can Sing - Best sounding guitar on Revolver, and that's probably saying a lot...

5. Run For Your Life - Sums up Rubber Soul for me, that move away from the screaming hordes that totally comes as a surprise tacked onto that quintessentially Beatles melody. LITTLE GIRL!

6. Twist And Shout - As far as dancing to the Beatles goes, this cover's the ultimate. If they put this on in a nightclub, I'd go insane.

7. Got To Get You Into My Life - Cause there's something great when Paul starts shouting. That and the horns.

8. Hello Goodbye - I dunno... maybe it's that it's one of the songs that sums up Magical Mystery Tour, yet I haven't over-listened to it yet.

9. Lovely Rita - The sound all around this recording is the best thing that came out of the '67 experimentation as far as I'm concerned. And Paul's word-game lyrics are great.

10. Get Back - I'm just incapable of anything but love for this song. From the first time I ever heard it onwards.

And now I feel bad for not having any Harrison ;) So special mentions for Here Comes The Sun and I Me Mine... and hell, Octopus's Garden as well of course!

At 2:04 AM, Anonymous Kellie said...

Good Day Sunshine - My Ultimate happy song. I wouldn;t mind waking up to this song every single day of my life- the Piano rocks as well.
Elanor Rigby - I love the sort of haunting sound this one has, especially with the strings added. It has a beauty to it that is unsurpassed.
Got to Get You Into my Life- I remember the first time I heard this song in a place where I couldn't hear the name of it. All i knew is that it rocked- I asked about six people what the name of "That Beatle's song with the horns" was and finally listened to every song until i found it again. Since then, It's hands down my favorite. Funny thing that it's about marijuana, you know?
Rocky Raccoon- The story got me on this one, I love to play it out in my head. And the guitar chords are perfect in setting that brooding mood rocky's got. Always a keeper.
Norwegian Wood- first beatles song with a sitar, but Here's another where the story gets me, especially the vindictive ending action about setting the apartment on fire. Greatness.
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for me and my Monkey- This Jams! I love the guitar riff, and that's what made it for me. I could jam to it over and over.
A Day in the Life- Love the innovation and the direction the song travels. It's got such a range, but each distinct part is excellent. And who can say no to a near half-minute E Major chord at the end? I can't.
What You're Doing- Another where the guitar riff pushed it to favorite status for me. I just like how it plays out, and it makes me grin. Sheme the Beatles didn't like it that much themselves.
Lady Madonna- Another Jammer that i can't get enough of. The piano especially sticks out in my mind and I love the Pun in "Stockings needed mending/ See how they Run"
Hey Jude- So people think it's overdone, I don't care. I'd happily listen to ten minutes of Na na na na's. This song helped me out immensely through a tough time, just like it was designed to do. it's magical.
Happiness is a Warm Gun- The mixed meter in this song astounds me. It changes back and forth so often that I'm always immensely interested when this song plays. And the "Touch of a velvet hand/like a lizard on a window pane" is one of my favorite lyrics of all time, any band.


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