Thursday, September 10, 2009

Five Great Beatles Songs

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.


Kevin Wignall said...

Agreed on 2, 5 and 6. But each of them would have to vie for sixth place in my list alongside "Strawberry Fields", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Here Comes the Sun", "Across the Universe" and "I Am the Walrus" (quite a trippy list, I know).

Anonymous said...

I've been skipping over "Julia" on my iPod to get to a new (to me, anyway) favorite "Martha, My Dear" Talk about a pick-me-up on a random walk to work:

"Hold your head up, you silly girl, see what you've done. When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you, silly girl." I'm with you 100% on your #1.

steve said...

Here is my list of 5 Beatles favorites:

1. I Will ( one of many beatles songs I sang to my children)
2. In My Life
3. Come Together
4. And I Love Her
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps


AnswerGirl said...

If the list had expanded to seven, "Martha, My Dear" would definitely be on it . . . supposedly, it was written to Paul's old English sheepdog.

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Five? Really? Can't this be a two, or two-dozen-parter? Great new format by the way. Love it. Here are my fab five:

I've Got A Feeling. Not for any persuasive argument other than the way it feels--I could never describe the feeling of this song other than play the song itself, but I do love the way it builds, love the tinkly piano fills by Billy Preston, love the back-and-forth singing/shouting of John and Paul. Everybody let their hair down!

Across the Universe. Again, hard to explain precisely what it is. I love the lyrics so but do so more like a great Ashbery poem--no need to work too hard to make sense of them, simply pay attention, and in this case, let the beauty of the song carry them (and me.)

You're Going to Lose That Girl. Try singing that by yourself.

I'd Be Happy to Dance with You. There's so much to love about George, so very much, but in this song his sweet nasally singing always makes me stop and bob my head.

Can't Buy Me Love. Not actually one of my top five purely for the music; but it is an all-around favorite and makes the list as the soundtrack for the cavorting-in-the-field scene in Hard Day's Night, which is and always will be the archetype of exuberance in film.

By the way, speaking of I've Just Seen A Face, I agree that it is the perfect album opener, and not to get all High Fidelity, but that would be a great topic for a later list....

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Sorry but one more thought--I hope you'll do another Beatles list at some point--here are my top five: favorite Ringo drum fills, favorite George guitar solos, best non-Beatle Beatle movies, best/worst Beatle covers, and, perhaps, most sentimental personal Beatles paraphernalia.

John Schramm said...

One song sung by each Beatle:

[1] John - Across The Universe (still gives me chills, a brilliant masterpiece)
[2] Paul - Let It Be (my eternal song for hope)
[3] George - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison at his best)
[4] Ringo - Yellow Submarine (just plain fun)

[5] Nowhere Man (all of them in perfect harmony)