No introduction needed for the fabulous foursome, whose songs we saw fit to address as ‛nearest and dearest’ choices rather than ranking a mutual list. Thus, fifteen somersets each we shall undertake on solid ground, followed by three favorite albums apiece.
“Any Time at All”
TG: A quick “Wham!” from Ringo starts this one, and then we’re immediately thrust into the chorus. I suppose the recently departed George Martin steered his lads toward this type of song construction because they used it fairly liberally. Still, this track stands out as a winner from their early albums, which, honestly, were mostly hit (literally, bah-dum tssss) or miss. It wasn’t their fault, really. The Beatles entered Pop music in an era where singles were king and albums were an afterthought – a situation which soon changed thanks in part to their own efforts.
Aside from the attention-grabbing intro, another reason I selected this track is John’s urgent inflection during that chorus. His voice often has an aggressive edge to it, but here John’s vocal cuts through the typical love song B.S. He’s not crooning, yet he’s not shouting. He’s stating implicitly, through song, that he will be there “any time a-tall”. After that, the song continues fairly typically through verse and chorus refrains until 1:29 in, where a brief yet highly evocative bridge –16 whole seconds long! – is formed by the guitar and piano. It sounds like something I’ve heard before (or since – it was 1964, after all), but I can’t place it for the life of me.
And, yes, the title track of this album is great, and “Can’t Buy Me Love” is here, but the true importance of this album lies in the fact that it was the first Beatles album where all the songs were composed entirely by the band. No cover versions needed, thank you. Since their next release, Beatles For Sale, would be their fourth album released in 21 months(!), the boys reverted to using cover versions for it. It’s no surprise these early releases aren’t included in our album favorites. We’re not Boomers; we have no personal memories of Beatlemania. The excitement and wonder generated during that time was energy – eventually it had to dissipate. It’s true that some of it has been contained and preserved, but subsequent generations will be further removed from that spark. Still, that spark was necessary to bring us the later albums of The Beatles, where their powers and talents were fully developed and unleashed upon the world as paragons of Pop supremacy.
Good thing I didn't get carried away there.
TG: From a declaration of 24/7 availability, we burrow into a hole where all that love should be hidden in a midden, as it were. “Hide Your Love Away” is a semi-ballad about the kind of self-loathing that comes from loving someone else too much and not being able to suitably bury it under your thickest skin (or thickets’ kin?). Brambles and branches be damned, it’s a lovesick chant to reassure the pitiful self. It’s a gentle mantra of hope (with appropriate tambourine embellishment). It’s a possibly false assurance against the inevitable letdown of love. Until you find that perfect someone who won’t let you down, of course.
TG: Unlike Mr. Harrison, I am guilty – of liking “John” songs too much. This list of favorites is damning evidence. But let the record show that this song is a classic. Aside from the use of the, at that time, exotic sitar – a thoroughly Norwegian instrument – “Wood” also features Ringo occasionally keeping time with his bass drum and tambourine only. Come to think of it, that last track certainly wasn’t uncontaminated by drums, but I swear I don’t have anything against Ringo. Unlike some other critics, or even fans, I think Ringo was an entirely capable drummer who fit in perfectly for what The Beatles needed. He’s no Ginger Baker; he didn’t have to be.
What’s amazing about this track is its depth. On the surface, it sounds like a typical folk song with strumming sing-along style guitar. And George on sitar isn’t just using it as accent; it’s also properly employed as a drone. Paul’s bass is up in the mix, giving additional motion to the chord progression – often in playful fashion. When Ringo’s bass whumps and tambourine tings do show up, they’re used in just the right places. Everything gels excellently. Throw in John’s rueful and humorous vocal tale about a one night stand gone soft, and it all adds up to one of the best things they ever put together.
TG: One of my favorite things about this track is Paul’s pegging bass. If you ever had any doubts about Paul as a bassist, set them aside. Sure, he offers plenty of other instances that show he’s more than just a lovely voice (the previous track in this list among them), but “Rain” is driven by that standout line. The roundness of Paul’s bass is sliced through by the edginess in John’s vocal line. He supposedly wrote the lyrics because of an Australian deluge the band slogged through, and it’s his snippy commentary on the topic of weather and the generally negative public reaction to it.
Another nice thing about this track is that it’s Starr time. Ringo does a great job of not trampling over Paul. He provides the splashy beat and throws in energetic fills. I suppose there’s also been some positive tumult made over the ending backwards vocals – I’m just glad I don’t hear “Nair” throughout the song.
TG: Counting and coughing start this one offing. It’s a George song (finally) that begins a Beatles album, yet the guitar solo is by Mr. McCartney. John even offered that he helped George with a couple of lines – the Mr. Wilson and Mr. Heath lines are specifically credited to him. So, here I present the George Problem. The problem? George contributes his tunes to the band with the realization that they likely won't be accepted. His ideas likely aren’t given much weight by the two-headed, two-tonne songwriting gorilla superforce known as Lennon/McCartney. And up to this point, let’s face it, George hadn't offered much – “Think For Yourself” from Rubber Soul being a strong exception.
Perhaps then the George Problem was that he didn’t have a partner off whom he could bounce ideas and exchange traits to learn (or unlearn). After over 50 years, it’s well understood that the Lennon/McCartney pact was in fact a tense duel between two geniuses who pushed each other to greater heights. Paul was the Prince of Pop from whom flowed all things tuneful; he used his own experiences to reflect a greater worldview. John was the King of Snide who brandished his harsh wit as a scythe to cut down those who dared peer too closely into his tortured soul; he milked those inner demons for all they were worth and thrust his views upon the world. Together, they were often incredible. The true problem for George was that he just couldn’t compete. Thankfully, his solution was to keep trying anyway.
His first sterling result was “Taxman,” a scathing rant against the criminally high tax rate of The Beatles’ home country and a rallying cry for the countless everymen everywhere who felt the claws of government ripping the skin off their backs (or at least skimming dollars off their checks; freedom ain’t free, kids). So, this track was an obvious choice for me; it’s mean and lean and how you feel after the removal of a hefty percentage of your green.
TG: From jolted everyman, we turn to jilted lowly woman. “Eleanor Rigby/Picks up the rice/In the church/Where a wedding has been/Lives in a dream/Waits at the window/Wearing a face/That she keeps/In a jar by the door/Who is it for?” Fuck my life, that’s depressing. Eleanor apparently agreed and hung herself; that’s why Father MacKenzie is burying her and preaching a sermon heard by no one. Shit got dark fast after Rubber Soul, folks. Even so, there’s a brightness in this song, and it’s provided by the string octet orchestrated and conducted by...Sir George Martin (RIP).
Apologies to Ringo, but it took me a long time to realize that there are no drums in this song (no bass guitar, either). Instead, the pert rhythm is provided entirely by those luscious strings – violins and violas stroked emphatically while the cellos provided dissension and depth. George Martin actually gained credibility over the years as details emerged that he provided guidance and ideas to The Beatles. There’s certainly no shame in that from the band perspective; many producers have done similar and more for their charges. Sometimes it’s simply fine to sit back and marvel at how these people came together to create this wonderful music.
TG: Is it telling that CM and I only share one favorite Beatles song in common? I guess so, but consider that this exercise would have been stupid had we agreed on 10 songs. And an important designation should be made here that these are personal favorites. We are different people, and different songs appeal to us for different reasons. That said, I could have also chosen “Lovely Rita” or “In My Life”, but I sensed that CM felt more strongly about them than I did. And I happen to have space to talk about those songs below in my album favorites. Also, the 09/09/09 remasters opened my ears to new avenues of enjoyment down the abbeyed roads of the Fab Four. So, take those factors into consideration here.
The reason this song stands out for me is simply and entirely of no consequence at all. The refrain “She said/I know what it’s like to be dead” sticks in my brain for days after I listen to Revolver. Yes, the guitar parts are great, and the droning quality of those guitars (and the vocals) contribute to some greater equilibrium in my overall being that I can’t properly explain. That’s it. It makes me feel good.
TG: This track is a highlight for me because of how it came about. The flyer above (the image is a reproduction) was found in an antique shop by one of the boys. In a fit of inspired lunacy, they decided to turn it into a song featuring the words from the flyer as the lyrics and the soundtracks from 1,000 clown nightmares as the music. Seriously, they took recordings of circus and calliope music, put them to tape, spliced up the tape and recompiled it. Then they piled more (good) shit on top of that.
The lyrics are hyperbolic in order to sell the tale of that fantastic traveling circus. What better way to put butts in the seats than to weave a yarn about a performance involving a hogshead of real fire – not only will you be entertained, you might get to see someone burn to death! Don’t forget that the Hendersons will soon be there – late of Pablo Fanque’s Faire. Of course, we all remember them!
Besides the entertainment value, “Mr. Kite” tickles my own vanity. It scratches that itch I’ve had on occasion to create stories involving found items. For instance, I once found an Army Ranger Handbook. I took some of Major Robert Rogers’ standing orders from 1759 (such as, “When we’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.”) and applied them to a story about a modern guy and girl driving around trying to decide where to eat. So, this Beatles creation hit my sweet spot, and it really is a fantastic construction filled with inspired touches like the manically cascading organs in the background.
TG: Speaking of construction, break out the hardhats and catcalls because this song is an architectural wonder. It begins with the simple framing of soft chords on guitar with a grand (piano) entry augmented by bass; the bass takes over, filling the main space while John and continuing soft guitar chords and organ coalesce into a foundation. Ringo bangs in and hangs the gypsum, spackling as necessary. John discusses the headlines of the day (literally), providing some not-so-small talk before graciously informing everyone that he’d love to turn them on.
The orchestra stumbles in – already turned on or just lit from last night – and clatters and clutters about until they reach the second story. There, Paul takes over, briskly running over the details of his busy day and undoubtedly giving instructions for the rest of the project before running out to catch the bus to another job where he arrives and promptly falls into a dream.
The dream is about John counting potholes, apparently, but at least now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall (which will be useful for tabulating gate receipts from their non-existent live shows). Just as John finishes the roof, the orchestra blows if off with cacophonous abandon. Somehow, everything is set right with a diminishing E chord played simultaneously on multiple pianos.
“ADITL” is a shack and a skyscraper at once. It stands tall on grand ambition, using simple elements in unusual ways (and unusual elements in striking ways). It’s abstract art and absurdist fiction in musical form. It’s one of my favorites because it’s the culmination of the Sgt. Pepper’s recording that they had fully assembled in their sanctuary – the studio.
TG: “Won’t you come out to play?” amongst the arpeggi and tambourini? Prudence was Mia Farrow’s sister; they had both traveled to India to study transcendental meditation. The Beatles arrived soon after. As Prudence took her studies seriously, she rarely ventured outside – thus John’s plea. John and Paul, meanwhile, were busy writing songs like this sunnily dawning one which starts simply and builds to a grand climax of orgiastic sound (note the gradual additions of electric guitar, increasingly pounding drums, echoing handclaps and tinkling piano).
Prudence went on to teach transcendental meditation, yoga and elementary school. John went on to be shot by Mark David Chapman, which was mystifying to many people at the time because Chapman also had a clear shot at Yoko.
TG: As the group was splintering (further) apart, George decided to bring in his friend and wife-swapping partner Eric Clapton to bring the proper tone to this guitar-soaked extravaganzer. The intro features random axe bursts that stick out like bristly whiskers, yet are more attractive. More uneven warbles follow and set up the later spikes of guitar that give the song its weight. The real six-string action doesn’t even happen until about the last minute of the song; that’s when the weeping really starts. George and Eric could have shredded the whole time and maybe made a lasting impact, but the delayed gratification is what has given this track its long shelf life.
TG: Early guitar shots create free-flowing wounds on this track. The resulting crimson stains spread from the source, making the damage appear worse than it actually is. I don’t know if this song is about drugs, guns, nuns, violence, or all of the above, and it doesn’t really matter. It inhabits a dark corner of the Beatles’ discography, and I’m glad it exists.
TG: After traveling to India and studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi, John became disillusioned with the man and wrote this song. Just substitute “Maha Rishi” every time John sings “Sexy Sadie”, and the message becomes quite clear. I think John couched his distaste in such form because he felt that there was a benefit to TM and its study; his problem was with the messenger.
Likely knowing that the song would live well beyond him, John masked his own message on tape. Later, he plainly stated his displeasure with the India situation in interviews – making sure to discredit the Maharishi himself but not his teachings. John was striving to reach some greater meaning of his life or at least a deeper understanding of his self by journeying across the globe. Unfortunately, he only found yet another type of vicar whose practices weren’t in line with his preaching.
TG: I love this track because it so ably demonstrates the musical fecundity of the band. It’s a relatively straightforward blues form augmented with chilled-out Hammond organ (thanks again, Mr. Preston!) and classical-music influenced progressions with subtly sparkling guitar and giddy bass gallops throughout. It’s heavy, alright; yet it’s also like they rolled fifties and sixties sounds into one Rock and pushed it forward into the seventies riding aloft on John’s synthesized wind sounds (which I always liken to a jet). And just when you’re ready for takeoff, the tape cuts off, and you’re left flat on the ground.
TG: “Feeling” is fun, and it sounds and feels like the Liverpool Lads had fun making it. The guitar is perfect for the occasion, and the electric piano gives a little extra soul. You can hear Paul and John vocally pulling that soul up from their toes at times – it must have been infectious. It’s almost like this song blows apart the acrimony that had built up around the band during the past few years (you can literally hear them laughing during parts of it).
Of course, that wasn’t true at all. John left the band just before Abbey Road came out. Paul would officially announce his departure soon after. All those years of stage, studio and slumming time together had proven ultimately that John and Paul were two completely different people who could no longer stand working together despite the obvious benefits to both. The personal costs had become too great, and their individual musical desires placed them poles apart from each other. But what a legacy they left behind...
TG: This might just be a perfect Pop record. It expertly weaves elements of other styles into its tight 36-minute run time. Even Ringo's “What Goes On” stands as his most enjoyable song for me – despite stiff competition from “Octopus's Garden”. And George notched a high slugging percentage with “Think For Yourself” (home run) and “If I Needed Someone” (I score it a double because the shimmery choral refrain lifts it out of humdrum status). The loan groaner is Paul’s “Michelle”. It doesn’t hold up to repeated listens, but it’s presented with such joie de vivre and bonhomie that it’s hard to hate.
Others might not care for John’s longing “Girl”, but that breath intake sound in the recording gives the song a sinister tinge thanks to things left unsaid. It’s the sound of the sharp drawing in of breath that precedes a biting remark or a resigned sigh. That same tinge turns to a gleam of danger on the final track, “Run for Your Life”. I know it was 1965, but even then you didn’t sing about chasing down your woman and killing her. That kind of mayhem was for country boys like the Louvin Brothers in “Knoxville Girl”.
The remaining tracks present their own cases for Pop Immortality. “Drive My Car” is a chugging bopper about the fast ride to stardom (and, of course, “love”). The beep, beep “backup” vocals are kitschy yet entirely appropriate. “Norwegian Wood” is a multi-layered masterpiece. “You Won’t See Me” recalls their earlier songs (note the la-la-las), yet it resides at a level of musical sophistication not reached by those previous tunes. “Nowhere Man” continues in the “See Me” vein as far as musical muscle and plows into fresh ground lyrically.
“Think For Yourself” is aggressive; it features that wonderfully fuzzy guitar and George being a bit obstreperous lyrically (he must have borrowed a cup of snide from John; or maybe he ordered a side of snide with dinner the night before; or maybe he had some tight-ass tea with his crumpets – but that’s none of my business). “The Word” is a love song done vigorously with a hopping bass line, but it’s a more encompassing type of love than mere “boy-girl”. “I’m Looking Through You” is another song with verve and excellent guitar licks, proving that sometimes less is more.
“Wait” makes the listener do just that, if only briefly, for the chorded resolution to the lyrical command; the sense of waiting is drawn out further by the lack of emphasis on time. Last and not least, “In My Life” is one I could have chosen for my Top 15. It’s an elegiac appraisal of a lifetime’s worth of sentiment from a young man (John was only 25 when it was released) who had lived a very full life to that point. The music is simple, but the simplicity allows the lyrics to carry that emotional weight from that presumed lifetime of experience. The fake harpsichord offers a bit of whimsy while recalling days that came long before. This set and the other lyrics on Rubber Soul syndicate that the Beatles were about to row their boat into deeper matters.
TG: Ah, the soundtrack to the Summer of Love...but why? Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The (Jefferson) Airplane, The Mamas And The Papas, Big Brother and myriad other groups descended upon San Francisco (and Monterey) during that summer presenting life-altering music (and ingesting mind-altering drugs). However, SPLHCB was released simultaneously worldwide at the Haight of activity, and thus became the album to which millions of people – not just the large clusters of hippies gathered in SF, NYC and London – related to that particular time.
And though Sgt. Pepper’s is a bit of a conceit – a studio-produced, augmented and constructed album almost bookended by “live”-ish tracks presented in an over-the-top vaudevillian style, it reached those millions of hungry ears at just the right time to be absorbed and dissected into pop culture nuggets by the media. Time magazine, for example, gushed, calling it “a historic departure in the progress of music – any music.”
The above items were noted by me merely to reflect a brief history of Sgt. Pepper’s and its impact upon the era. The album (and not just the music) has been written about thousands of times, so what am I going to add? A bit of dissonance, perhaps. Sgt. Pepper’s is not a concept album musically; however, it is a conceptual album in that it was crafted and completed using studio techniques and experimentation. And while one could argue that every album is loosely about “Life”, this one presents several snapshots of Life taken from the differing angles of the band member’s perspectives (okay, mostly Lennon and McCartney, but still). Doubts? Observe the following: “Sgt. Pepper’s” = Life in simpler times, “With a Little Help” = Life support (sorry, bad pun; penalty taken), “Lucy” = Life on drugs (or as John told it, a song based on one of Julian’s drawings, so it’s possibly Life as art), “Getting Better” = Life’s ups and downs, “Fixing a Hole” = Life needs introspection, “Leaving Home” = Life has different meanings, “Mr. Kite” = Life needs entertainment, “Within You” = Life needs enlightenment, “64” = Life will end, “Lovely Rita” = Life is to be enjoyed, “Good Morning” = Life is repetitive (hey, it’s in the damn title), “Sgt. Pepper’s (Reprise)” = Life is good and, finally, “A Day in the Life” – as if the others weren't already.
Perhaps this theme of life is why the album has touched so many of them throughout its nearly 50-year history. From my perspective, I enjoy Sgt. Pepper's more as a whole than I do individual tracks. When CM and I first began this list, I thought I would have more Pepper titles. However, when I judged the songs based on their individual merits and my inclinations toward their sound and purpose, I found that many of then soon fell short of my expectations. Part of their strength is the cohesion of the album’s execution, but culling them from the herd puts their relative weaknesses on display. I won’t list those weaknesses. Instead, I’ll say that there were two other Top 15 contenders: “Fixing a Hole” and “Lovely Rita”.
“Hole” is that little wriggling tail end of the worm sticking out of the ground that you try to grab, but it slips out of your fingers, and instead of having great bait, you have to use corn or some other stupid thing to attract fish. It’s also that “hole where the rain comes in” – the reminder of the potentially dark world outside that keeps you from fully enjoying whatever fantasies arise inside your sunny mind. It’s a necessary evil, as it were, because you need that niggling reminder that all is not perfect.
“Rita” is a romp – in the sack, in the hay, on the couch; you name it. The Beatles lyrics were great at being suggestively outright about sexual appetites without being fully lewd. And other artists successfully carried that torch into the early ‛90s until all hell broke loose when those fey-ass mofos Color Me Badd (yes, two dees) released “I Wanna Sex You Up”. After that, everything was on the table – buffet style. Anyway, I decided to let CM do the “heavy lifting” with Rita because I could mention her in this space.
To wrap things up, I enjoy many parts of Sgt. Pepper's, but I enjoy them even more when I hear the album as one piece, all together (now). And maybe there is something to my Life theory – even though Pepper is the third-best selling album of all time in the UK, in the USA, at the time I'm writing this, it currently sits at number 42.
TG: My first association with “this” recording (and by “this” I mean the body of works recorded and eventually released in 1970 as Let It Be) was hearing “Get Back” on the radio one summer while working for my uncle the brick mason. Backstory: My cousin and I had been complaining because my uncle only listened to country music on the job site. Since we were teenagers, the honky-tonkin’, woe-as-me subject matter didn't resonate with us. One afternoon, he relented, “Okay, boys, turn it to your Rock N Roll station.” My cousin wasted no time in switching it over, and one of the first songs that played was “Get Back”.
My uncle laughed and asked, “Are you sure you changed the station?” He was right, of course, the song has just a tinge of country to it. Shortly thereafter, he was almost rolling on the ground in hysterics when Napoleon XIV’s “They're Coming to Take Us Away – Ha Haa!” played – the damn DJ didn't do us any favors that day. My uncle spent the rest of the afternoon making fun of us and our “Rock” music. He did it in a good-natured way, though; I can still hear him chuckling whenever I even think about “Get Back”.
After that, I really didn't pay much attention to Let It Be until I bought it on cassette when going through my first Beatles phase – and it was mostly an afterthought at the time. Since then, I’ve even heard the early acetate and Glyn Johns versions of the proposed Get Back release, but those had their problems, as well. My main problem with Let It Be was the saccharine production of the slow numbers and the sense that the other songs were missing some dynamic.
So, I could spend some of my time here ripping Phil Spector and questioning his common sense, but I won’t because his approach worked with other artists. Still, I can’t imagine why someone would practically remove Billy Preston from the mix and add heaps of syrupy strings and choir to Paul’s beautiful ballads. Apparently, it also bugged Paul for over 30 years until he finally did something about it and got approval for ...Naked.
Thank goodness he did. I know there are people out there who think the exact opposite of me and can’t believe that Paul ruined Let It Be, but I hope those people will realize that he actually saved it. After I bought ...Naked, I listened to it every chance I could for over a week – in the car, at work and at home it was with me. It was like hearing a new Beatles release.
And I get that it’s not totally what Paul originally intended for Get Back because there are numerous fixes and edits on ...Naked that just couldn’t be avoided, but ...Naked at least carries that spirit of being created of a piece and not twiddled and fussed over like Sgt. Pepper’s or Abbey Road. You can hear the basic nature of the music on those early versions I mentioned.
Examples: “One After 909” is a bit more raucous in its early forms with some sloppy (but enjoyable) guitar work by (I assume) George. “Don't Let Me Down” is slower and the vocals are a bit ragged; I can imagine it was sped up just to help out on that end. “I've Got a Feeling” is pretty loose; ...Naked tightened it up. An early version of “Get Back” sounds like they just let Paul go at it; still, this song probably changed the least of any of the others. “For You Blue” is another with an early version that sounds mostly like George playing it through with minimal accompaniment; the ...Naked version goes a touch longer with full instrumentation. “Two Of Us” was also a bit slower and suffered uneven vocals; the new version is a bright and jangly thing. “Let It Be” and “Winding Road” appear pretty much ...Naked in their early and final versions; the mixes are a bit different, obviously, but both are much more affecting in their non-Spector presentations. “I Me Mine” is a shorter George offering at first that finds full flower. “Universe” was John’s with some sitar added, and so it remained.
So, here are my final thoughts on the songs as presented on ...Naked. It was a long and winding road, but I feel they ended up where they should have started. “Get Back” is a classic; it was from the first take. And it’s one of Paul's songs where a woman is a man or vice versa, “Sweet Loretta Martin/Thought she was a woman/But she was another man”. Two others include “Oblidi Oblada” and “Jet”. There may be others, but I’ve never really gotten into Paul as a solo artist other than hearing his hits. “Dig A Pony” is still a mess, but it’s a fun mess. “Blue” is George stating the obvious in an early R&B style, but his legerity on guitar really shines. “Road” is quite beautiful, with George and Billy Preston providing more than enough additional impact.
“Two” starts a bit maudlin, and the vocals are still iffy, but it ends up being a happy look back upon the partnership between Paul and John (that’s how I interpret the lyric, anyway) when their differences weren’t so great – or at least didn’t seem that way. “Feeling” is a riot; I always wonder if John’s lyrics were off-the-cuff. It’s one instance from these sessions where it feels like they were having a genuinely good time playing together. “909” is infectious, Mr. Anderson. It’s not the greatest lyric ever written. It’s not the greatest music ever written. But it makes me tap my foot every time.
Criminally, “Don't Let Me Down” wasn't even included on Let It Be. It features Mr. Preston’s finest work on these sessions, and it’s a good John song, so I don’t know why it was left off while the detritus of “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” survived. Yes, there are longer versions of “Dig It”. No, you don't really want to hear them. Anyway, John’s line “I'm in love for the first time” always gets me. Ouch – wonder how poor Cynthia felt about that one? Aside from “Feeling”, “I Me Mine” is my favorite track here. George is singing about selfishness, and he’s pissed. He should have written more songs with a chip on his shoulder (see “Taxman”) – a little attitude suits him well. And, no, it doesn’t sound like “Revolution” at all – get outta here!
“Universe” is John’s intimate expression of transcendental visions; it’s a bit of a fish out of water with this group of songs, but Let It Be wouldn't have been much without it. Finally, ...Naked ends with Paul’s plaintive plea for personal peace. It might as well have been the epitaph for The Beatles upon its original release; it serves as a fitting one now. But, amazingly, after all the turmoil from “the White album” through Let It Be, the four went on to record their true final statement in the studio, giving birth to its namesake, Abbey Road.
CM: My entries aren’t in any particular order, though this is usually the first favorite Beatles song to come to mind. Intended to sound retro at the time, the rolling piano, swinging drums, and Paul’s vocal nonetheless have a timeless feel for me, plus the blended voices of the “See how they run” line is sheer wonder.
CM: If I need a quick Abbey Road fix, “Money” crams most of that album’s best qualities into one place, a mini-suite in itself.
CM: Upbeat and lotsa fun, including the impromptu John/Paul banter at the end. I’ll take the 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack remix over the original.
CM: A big favorite for many, and I’m no exception.
CM: Clangorous nonsense that I’ve always dug, thanks to the frisky groove (that takes 15 seconds to settle in), neurotic guitar, and peripheral vocal encouragement. “Such a joy.”
CM: I’ve always liked this one (and Stevie Wonder’s cover as well). Paul’s vocal coasts nicely over the changes, supported by the breathy harmonium.
CM: Whenever I play Revolver, I accept that earworms will follow for a couple of days. “She Said” wriggles most diligently, who knows why.
A few Lennon songs contain unusual meters/rhythmic shifts, most being cases of “I’m singing this line until it ends and starting the next one when I want” with the band following, awkwardly or not. Here, the immediate juncture between “No you’re wrong” and “When I was a boy” sounds like it skips/adds a beat or two, but with the bridge sounding so positive (and interrupting the other speaker of the song, given that it’s based on a two-way conversation), the diversion from straight time serves an actual purpose. And now that I think about it, that’s one the reasons this song gets stuck in my head.
CM: “Michelle” was where songwriter McCartney became a composer; anyone who understands counterpoint and modulation knows what I mean. He increased those skills with “Martha”, a jaunty piano throughline turned brief-yet-marvelous pop song, colored by strings and brass. Sans other Beatles, the track nonetheless has a very Beatle flavor.
The title name was inspired by Paul’s dog, and while the lyric might really be addressed to a lady, it’s more touching for me to envision Martha as a beloved pet, particularly the “don’t forget me” line.
CM: I like the low-boil electric piano, eerie strings, chord sequence (more dramatic than it has any right to be, thanks to the production), and Lennon’s distorted wordplay. What it means, I dunno, but that’s part of the appeal, and I doubt the author knew either. I’ll also use this as an excuse to praise the Love compilation for its superior stereo mix, not to mention its incredible rejig of all shapes and sizes of Beatles tracks.
CM: Pretty radical, a one-chord piece that aims to hypnotize rather than exploit the pop song forms the boys had mastered. The drum pattern, pedal point, and vocal declamations set an interesting scene, but what seals the deal is the tape loop decoration (primitive sampling, if you like) that adds hazard and a second chord in a way (the B-flat offsetting the C drone – hear the first two instances at 20 and 34 seconds in).
CM: Is this the most rubbery and soulful track they’d done to date? The bass (doubled by guitar) makes a nice hook beneath the top lines, and when piano joins the chorus, all’s well in a short cruise to pop perfection.
CM: Why this George song, with more celebrated options available? Because the music happens to strike my pleasure bone – love the keyboard and fuzzy saxes – and lyrically, I’ll take a candy lexicon over fake profundity any day. It also adds needed spark to the final stretch of the White Album.
CM: Sgt Pepper demands to be heard straight through, and while some immortal tracks appear along the way, I really like those that never get much spotlight, specifically “Fixing a Hole” and “Rita”. It’s not just my tendency to back underdogs; I’m willing to argue that they’re as good as anything else on the album, if not as directly amazing.
CM: I was born a couple of years after the Beatles broke up, but their music continually hit my ears as a bambino, and I even saw their cartoons on syndication somewhere. “Hard Day’s Night” got stuck in my brain around then, and of course, it’s still terrific.
CM: Like “Yesterday”, precociously mature. The first real impact this song had on me was when it scored the opening montage of the Anthology documentary, quite an appropriate choice.
CM: The Beatles don’t appear on my desert island disc list, but if they did, this would be first in line. I love it all, especially the concluding suite.
CM: A double-album of extremes that chronicles the group breaking apart, yet on occasion tightly bonded as ever. Chosen not just for several top grade tracks and hidden gems but for its honest variety and imperfection.
Incidentally, I prefer the stereo presentation but must thank my co-writer for gifting me with the mono version. The variations are interesting.
CM: Revolving platter of tasty treats.