Thursday, October 19, 2017

Some Random Commentary on Beatles Songs

I've been listening, for the first time in a while, to my Beatles collection, and since my brain never stops running, I've thought of numerous things I want to say about some of these songs, but have no one to say them to. So they're going here, on my blog.

Basically, my blog is my only friend.

Please Please Me (1963)

1. I Saw Her Standing There: This is one of my favorite "early" Beatles songs, a great rock n' roll number sung by Paul that holds up well over time. In addition to the original Beatles recording, Elton John did a live duet of this song at Madison Square Garden with John Lennon in 1974 which is pretty good too. (Listen to the Elton John/John Lennon version here.)

2. Boys: Ringo generally sang one song per album, but they're almost always among the best tunes on the record. Like "I Saw Her Standing There," "Boys" is a rollicking, upbeat rock n' roll song that also still holds up really well. Ringo's vocals are perfect.

3. Love Me Do: This was the Beatles' first single (recorded and released several months before the album) and it's only okay, but it's noteworthy because Ringo doesn't play drums on it. When they went into the studio to record this song and "P.S. I Love You," the record company wanted to use one of their session drummers, a guy named Andy White. So Ringo just plays tambourine on the song.

4. Twist and Shout: This is my favorite early Beatles song, edging out several others. I've liked this song since it was featured in its entirety in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. John's famously scratchy vocal track was apparently unplanned, as it was the last song they recorded on the album, and after a week of nonstop rehearsing and recording, he was losing his voice.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

1. If I Fell: About halfway through this song, there is a noticeable spot where Paul is singing background vocals, and his voice breaks and he cuts off mid-note. I'm not sure if it was always noticeable and they just left it in, or if maybe it only became apparent after the original song was remastered and digitized, thus removing tape hiss and other stuff that may have masked the sound. But if you listen for it, it's pretty funny. It's at about the 1:45 mark on the phrase "was in vain."

Beatles For Sale (1964)

1. No Reply: This song is basically about a guy whose girlfriend has dumped him and made it clear she's not interested, so now he's stalking her.

Help (1965)

1. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away: John Lennon is clearly attempting to channel Bob Dylan in this one. He even sounds like Dylan in the vocals.

Rubber Soul (1965)

1. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown): So let me get this straight: the singer goes home with a girl expecting to get laid. She leads him on and then refuses to put out. After she leaves for work the next morning, he burns her house down. Gotcha.

2. Nowhere Man: One of my all-time favorite Beatles songs. It's also the first song written by the Beatles that did NOT have anything to do with girls or romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form.

3. In My Life: Another song in my top 10. This is a great little tune where Ringo's drumming is just perfect and really fills out the song well.

4. Run for Your Life: Literally a song where the narrator threatens to kill his girlfriend if she cheats on him.

Revolver (1966)

1. Doctor Robert: On the surface, this song appears to be about the singer's favorite doctor. Apparently it's actually about a drug dealer. In any case, it's literally one of the dumbest songs in the Beatles' catalogue.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

1. Within You Without You: This is one of several songs written by George Harrison with heavy Indian influence, and I've always thought it stuck out like a sore thumb on this otherwise masterpiece of an album. It's not that the song isn't good - it's fine, although a bit boring, in my opinion - but it just doesn't fit on this album. It would have made better thematic sense on either Revolver or the White Album.

2. A Day in the Life: The Best Beatles' Song of All Time. In my opinion. In the remastered version, you can hear one of the engineers counting off measures at the end during the big orchestral finale.

The Beatles (the White Album) (1968)

1. Wild Honey Pie: This double album has several songs on it that qualify as "dumb bullshit" and this is one of them.

2. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill: Yoko Ono has a solo on this song, and her voice sounds like the voice of a little girl who can't sing.

3. Happiness is a Warm Gun: So much greatness and awfulness side by side on this album. Absolutely love this song.

4. Piggies: George Harrison at his worst, by far.

5. Rocky Raccoon: Paul McCartney at his worst.

6. Julia: John Lennon at the top of his game. This is a beautiful ballad to John's mother, who died when he was a teenager. I love the vulnerability of the opening line: "Half of what I say is meaningless. But I say it just to reach you, Julia."

7. Yer Blues: Another of my absolute favorites. The Beatles were so diverse in the styles they could play. This song is straight-up hard rock blues and for a band that did very little of this style of music, they pull it off amazingly.

8. Savoy Truffle: Another really bad George Harrison effort. How does the guy who wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - on the SAME ALBUM, no less - also write and record "Savoy Truffle" and "Piggies"? I just don't get it.

9. Revolution 9: This isn't a song. It's 8 minutes of noise and recorded nonsense. The worst "song" in the Beatles' catalogue. By far.

Abbey Road (1969)

1. Maxwell's Silver Hammer: I really wish I could've been a fly on the wall when Paul brought this one in for the band to hear. It's literally about a serial killer who murders people (including the judge who's sentencing him to prison) by bashing them over the head with a silver hammer. It comes complete with hammer-on-nail sound effects during the chorus. They were definitely straining for material by this point. Still a fun little song.

2. Octopus's Garden: Oh Ringo. The only song he wrote that the Beatles' recorded and it sounds like a Wiggles song. Still, like all songs Ringo sings, it's a good one.

3. I Want You (She's So Heavy): Like a lot of the songs on this album, this is only half a song. But because they needed to fill the space on the A side of the record, they extended it out by repeating the coda over and over and over again. It would be a great song at 3:45. At 7:47 it's a bit much.

4. Mean Mr. Mustard: At one point, the lyrics of this song reference the Queen of England. Isn't it weird to think the same exact monarch referenced in this song is STILL on the throne? It always gives me a strange sense of continuity with the past. Queen Elizabeth is the constant.

5. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End: The Beatles at their best. This medley runs a close second to "A Day in the Life" for best Beatles' tune.

Past Masters (a compilation of all Beatles' songs released as singles and not found on albums)

1. Long Tall Sally: This is another in the same group with "Twist and Shout" and "I Saw Her Standing There." Just a great classic rock n' roll tune.

2. Don't Let Me Down: I love this song. It's the best one from their "Let It Be" sessions, but was left off the album and released only as a single. It was one of the songs they performed during their famous "roof top" performance in 1969 - their last public performance together.

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