Out of step with popular culture (as usual), I totally missed the build-up to yesterday's Beatles Day. But since today is one after 9-09, it can't be too late to offer my own list of five great Beatles songs. Feel free to mention your own in the comments. And check out this article for a hilarious re-evaluation of the Beatles, Generation Y-style.
1. "From Me to You," 1963. Depending on which source you trust, this was the Beatles' first or second #1 song in the UK. It's a true collaboration between John and Paul, and was originally credited as a "McCartney/Lennon" composition. It's a perfect distillation of that first rush of new infatuation, packed into 1:56 of jangling guitars and soaring falsettos. For an immediate mood lifter, it's better than any anti-depressant on the market.
2. "Julia," 1968. "Half of what I say is meaningless/But I say it just to reach you/Julia." A John Lennon composition from the White Album, supposedly written for Lennon's late mother. John sings this song alone, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. The melody floats somewhere in the air, not quite sad but longing.
3. "I've Just Seen a Face," 1965. This was the first track on the U.S. vinyl edition of Rubber Soul, which was the one I owned (and may still have, somewhere). It's a late track on the U.K. version of Help!, but I think it's the perfect song to start an album. The perfect song to start almost anything with, in fact, another song about the joy of a new crush, before you have any idea of how things are going to turn out. I love the internal rhymes: "I have never known the likes of this/I've been alone and I have missed/Things and kept out of sight . . ."
4. "For No One," 1966. From Revolver, the end of the story that begins with "I've Just Seen a Face" -- possibly the best song ever written about a relationship that's ending for no reason and every reason. Written as a present-tense narrative in the second person, which shouldn't work but does. The French horn counterpoint just kills me.
5. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," 1965. I turned on the TV yesterday afternoon and found the movie "Help!" showing on VH1 Classic; it's a silly film with a lot of great songs, and this is one of them. The flute soloist was session musician and composer John Scott, who is now Artistic Director of the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra.
And because it's my blog and a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, I'll add
6. "A Day in the Life," 1967. A symphony in 5:06, and another true collaboration; John Lennon wrote the verses at the beginning and end, and Paul McCartney wrote the skiffle-beat middle section. The song features a 40-piece orchestra, but what I love most about it is the drum accompaniment. Ringo's not one of rock's greatest drummers, but he outdoes himself on this track. The final chord, played and held on three pianos, is an E-major.