Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ten of a Kind: Great Beatles Songs!

So for this edition of Ten of a Kind, I'm picking ten of my favorite Beatles songs to write about, and tell you why they're ten of my favorites! Most of these will likely be penned by John Lennon, 'cause that's how it tends to go with me! Without any further ado (and in no particular order), they are:

1. Come Together, Abbey Road
From the last album the Beatles recorded together, this bluesy rocker is just excellent! Sure, John stole the first line from an old Chuck Berry song, but the rest are all out of his head... Okay, so much of it is nonsense, "He wear no shoeshine, he got toejam football," for example... but between the music (heavy with Paul's bass playing) and John's singing, it's just a great song to listen to! "One thing I can tell you is you've got to be free," if there's ever been a line in a Beatles song that was classic John, that has to be it, right?

2. No Reply, Beatles for Sale
Some of John's greatest songs with the Beatles were about personal anguish. In this song, the singer's girlfriend is obviously hiding the fact that she's going out with someone else, and the singer is crushed ("I nearly died," "I saw the light," etc.). As with most songs of this type, the singer's saying that he loves her more; uncharacteristically, he's willing to forgive her (quite a contrast to "Run For Your Life," for example).

3. Hard Day's Night, A Hard Day's Night (Soundtrack)
Could John and Paul have written a better title song for their first movie? It's fast paced, gets you going right at that opening chord... it's amazing to me how people don't realize that it's John singing lead (with Paul harmonizing) on the verses, and Paul singing lead on the middle eight ("When I'm home... everything seems to be right..."). Apparently the phrase "A hard day's night" came from one of Ringo's malapropisms, giving the Beatles' first movie its title (originally they were going to call it "Beatlemania").

4. If I Fell, A Hard Day's Night (Soundtrack)
Most people will generalize that Paul wrote the love songs, and John wrote the rockers, but this one was John's all the way, and it's a great love song... the singer's had his heart broken before, and wants to love someone new, but he's afraid to experience another broken heart ("'Cause I couldn't stand the pain, and I would be sad if our new love was in vain"). There's even a bit of a twist in that there's already a girlfriend of sorts that apparently the singer doesn't really love.

5. Help!, Help! (Soundtrack)
John knocked it out of the park with the second movie's title track (originally, it was to be called "Eight Arms to Hold You," by the way). This was possibly John's most personal song to date... he'd said that he was really crying out for help himself at this time, calling it his "fat Elvis stage," and insisted you could see it in the movie. I dunno about that myself. Regardless, it's a fantastic song, with some great guitar riffs by George in the chorus!

6. Ticket to Ride, Help! (Soundtrack)
Another of John's anguish songs... and one I have related to very much in the past myself. Simply put, the girl that the singer loves is leaving town, and she doesn't care. An unforgettable lead guitar line at the beginning running through all the verses and (in modified form) the chorus!

7. I Am the Walrus, Magical Mystery Tour
When I'm in a chaotic mood, or just need something to break me out of a funk, nothing does it quite like this one, John's maniacal take on Lewis Carroll. As with the later "Come Together," it's mostly nonsense (some of it taken from John's childhood in Liverpool)... well, it's all nonsense. The opening of the sound features an organ (or is it an electric piano?) mimicking the sounds of a British police siren, and of course at the end we get some Shakespeare fading in and then out again.

8. I Want To Hold Your Hand, Past Masters Vol. 1
The song that introduced America to the Beatles! This is one of the best feel-good songs out there, if you ask me, and one I cannot resist singing along to if it comes on the radio. It's a happy, happy song! It's included on Past Masters because the Beatles didn't release it on an album in the UK (that was policy there... no singles on the albums, although when Capitol Records released the Beatles recordings in the US, they made sure that everything got on an album, and even some albums got bits and pieces taken off of them to make additional albums... something the Beatles did not care for, which is why they went for the infamous "Butcher Cover" that originally went on "Yesterday... and Today," but I digress). When the Beatles catalog was released on CD, they went to the original UK albums, and put the singles on Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2.

9. Don't Let Me Down, Past Masters Vol. 2
Yes, another of John's songs that's apparently anguish... although it's really just a great love song, written expressly for Yoko ("Nobody ever loved me like she does..."). In the movie "Let It Be," this is one of the songs performed on the rooftop of Apple Studios, with Billy Preston playing the keyboards on the song. Both the "live" version and the single version were released (the live on on Let It Be).

10. And Your Bird Can Sing, Revolver
One of John's songs in which he's protesting, this time it's a protest against the need to own stuff, especially stuff that doesn't really matter. "When your prized posessions start to weigh you down, look in my direction, I'll be 'round, I'll be 'round," he sings, promising to be there when realization strikes. For a fun treat, listen to the alternative take on "The Beatles Anthology 2," where Paul keeps giggling throughout the recording, and there's a bit of a difference in the ending of the song.

Wow, ten great songs, and I didn't even get to all of my favorites! Well, I guess I'll just have to do "Ten of a Kind: More Great Beatles Songs" in the future, then!

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