My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs: (100-81)
The story so far: Once upon a time the 90’s happened. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. (Thanks Douglas Adams) I was a child in the 90’s. A young one. I went through a lot of phases that became less intense as time went on. I would still call lions my favourite animals but I no longer go around biting people (Sorry Stuart Hamilton.) I still like Digimon Adventures (Fuck you, it is brilliant) but I no longer tell my confused friends I am dating Yamato. I was still a very young child when I first heard The Beatles. And I loved them. Especially John Lennon. Finding out about his assassination 18 years after everyone else was a hard entry in my Roald Dahl diary.
Well, I say I loved them. Thanks to watching the films ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’ I was familiar with their work. I bought a few albums on CD (to be exact: Hard Day’s Night, Sgt Pepper…, Abbey Road and The collection that included all their number 1’s.) and thanks to my Dad’s extensive and very cool record collection I could identify a lot of their songs when they were on TV etc. I listened to Abbey Road and made mixed tapes that my siblings found quite tiresome on long rides as ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is not exactly known for its brevity. So I could call myself a fan. Kind of…
I say kind of. Because it turns out I was not the expert I thought I was. A couple of years ago I came across the Rolling Stone Magazine list of 100 Greatest Beatles songs. I remember wondering if The Beatles even had that many songs. I had watched a lot of documentaries about the 60’s and knew my Lennon so was aware that they broke up roughly 10 years after they made it big. How many songs could that time scale produce? So I read it. I was surprised that I did not recognise all the tracks. Just flat out hadn’t heard them before. I started looking them up. And something long sedated awoke in me. Passion. Passion for the greatest band there ever was.
So I got it all. The backcatalogue. Every album, every b side, even a couple of rough sounding Quarry Man tracks. If there is a band you like who have had a large output I thoroughly recommend this game. Mind you, not every band can be this good. It was brilliant. So many albums, some recorded in a day, some released within months of the last one, some songs that they never did live cause they got sick of the screaming girls who couldn’t even hear their work…And I researched a bit. I learned things that I did not know before. I want to summarise the stand out moments from this here:
1) While neither Lennon nor McCartney hit the heights of the Beatles in their subsequent solo careers/ludicrous nepotism hippy bands it was a rare time that they worked side by side writing songs, despite what the credits on each album might suggest. I had assumed that seeing Lennon/McCartney next to a track meant they both contributed to the song. Not the case. And yet they brought out the best in each other. More on that later.
2) Before Linda, McCartney dated actress Jane Asher and in my opinion she brought out the best in him musically. Their relationship seemed squiffy though. More on that later.
3) John Lennon was not a nice man. More on that later. (For the record: I am aware none of the band were as well behaved as their nice matching suits would suggest. It is difficult to say if they were always unpleasant and egotistical or if success that young just makes a dickhead out of you, but their track record with wives and girlfriends is disappointing to say the least. Hell, they wouldn’t seem out of place on the Jeremy Kyle show. Ringo was physically abusive to both his wives, Harrison refused to allow his first wife to have a career and cheated on her with Ringo’s first wife, and even McCartney openly cheated on girlfriend Jane Asher and wrote Mull of Kintyre. Ok that last one isn’t really relevant but I do hate that song. So it is not that Lennon was massively worse than the other 3 on a moral level but he was the one I hero worshipped as a child so he had a lot further to fall in my eyes.)
4) Being George Harrison was not always an easy thing. More on that later.
5) Early Beatles = A lot of cover versions. Given it is a thing a lot of artists are criticised heavily for nowadays (typical complaint: ‘Can’t they do anything original?’) it is perhaps surprising that one of the most innovative musical groups ever padded out their early work with cover songs. More on that later.
So way back in February 2012 I started working on my own top 100 Beatles Songs list. Rolling Stone magazine have been shitting themselves ever since. Or so I hear. I chose the line up and started writing…and then, like with so many of my projects, I got distracted. So I am returning and finishing it. So there.
Because a lot of time has gone past I have re-listened to a lot of Beatles albums and as such the ranking I chose…well…it is no longer an accurate order. Despite this, I have no intention of starting again as I have already written a lot of it and nothing is so distractingly different that I am now ashamed. It is just that there a few songs that I had only heard one or two or three times when I first made the list. Over time, some of those songs have become firm, immovable favourites. I thought about highlighting the ones I believe should be higher on the list now I have heard them a few more times but instead have decided just to recommend you take the actual numbering with a pinch of salt. Except my top 10. That is still bang on.
100. Love me Do (1962) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 87
Main Composer: McCartney (Lennon wrote the Middle 8)
On a pop show he was really above doing, McCartney was asked if he had to listen to one of his songs forever what one he would choose. His answer, Love me Do, surprised me. It is pretty repetitive and not a lot happens and out of the many Beatles tracks available, it is definitely not the one I would want on loop. Having said that, it is not bad for a couple of skiving teenagers who used to write: ‘Another Lennon-McCartney Original’ at the top of their notebooks. George Martin’s input is noted with the inclusion of Lennon on harmonica which is an inspired touch. The young lads harmonise with a boyish enthusiasm that would continue to infuse much of their early work and it is hard not to be charmed by the finished product that would eventually launch a new era of pop onto an unsuspecting but very lucky world.
Favourite bit: The harmonica playing. McCartney said Lennon expected to be in jail at some stage in his life and planned to be the guy with the mouth organ. But life had much bigger plans for John…
99. Sexy Sadie (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 93
Main Composer: Lennon
It is pretty common knowledge that this song is not about a Sexy Sadie but about the Maharishi who the Beatles hung out with in India for a bit. Lennon was pissed off to hear that their lifestyle guru had been allegedly sleeping with the hot young girls who sought out his wisdom. As he was leaving he wrote this scathing review and only toned it down and changed the name at the bequest of Harrison who did not believe the rumours were true. I enjoy the story behind this song as I feel it could just as easily apply to Lennon, who was married to Cynthia but forming a bond with Yoko at the time this song was composed. His well documented self loathing suggests the hypocrisy of the Maharishi’s message hit so hard because of his own façade. As Harrison said about their time in India: ‘There were a lot of flakes in Rishikesh. Some of them were us.’
Taking all of this out of the equation I love the vocal and guitar work on this one and find it sticks in my head for days after hearing it. The piano almost sounds sarcastic and Lennon’s vocal is dripping with hostility despite the quivering top notes.
Favourite bit: ‘She came along to turn on everyone…’ I have heard a lot of scathing pop songs but nobody does disillusioned quite like Lennon.
98. And I Love Her (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 65
Main Composer: McCartney
Start with some superb rhythm guitar, some nice bongo work from Ringo (the others get their surnames but he is Ringo to me) and add McCartney declaring his love and you have a classic ballad. I adore the album ‘Hard Day’s Night’ because each track is 3 minutes long and demonstrates perfectly how to put a pop song together without ever seeming to break a sweat. Before they would go on to rewrite the rules of popular music, experimenting with feedback, looping, and generally just mind-bendingly original work, they first of all conquered the basic love song. It is one those tracks you just want to lie back and drift away to and perfectly captures the sweetness of early affection.
It didn’t take long for us to get to an example of the competitive nature behind everyone’s favourite song writing ‘team.’ While the body of the song was put together by Paul, history cannot agree who composed the middle 8 of this song, as both Lennon and McCartney lay claim to it. Does it matter? Well…those who write about such things agree Lennon did it but McCartney’s memory suggests ‘I wrote it on my own.’ In response, Lennon dismissed the track as McCartney’s first attempt at writing ‘Yesterday.’ It is hard for me to have an opinion, being not in with The Beatles and having been born in 1988, but I would say the middle 8 has a distinctively different sound to the rest of the song…do with that what you will. But all this is mere foreshadowing. Horseplay. There would have to be a lot of ducking to avoid the toys being hurled from their respective prams in years to come.
Favourite bit: The line ‘And I Love Her’ just seems like a nice little afterthought at the end of the second section and the guitar solo is lovely. So those bits.
97. I Want to Hold your Hand (1963) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 2
Main Composer: Lennon/McCartney (hooray!)
I am baffled by how high Rolling Stone magazine placed this one as it does not stand out as either one of their more original or inspired hits to me. I have noticed it is generally rated very high by critics, the public and even George Martin. I am worried I am missing something. But as personal taste cannot really be argued with, I intend to be honest with my preferences and leave it where it is. I hope you stay with me anyway.
Having said that I don’t rate it as high as most people, its cultural influence cannot be disputed. It was this track, written on request to win over a reluctant American market, which allowed The Beatles to cross the pond as heroes. And it is one of the, seriously few, occasions where Lennon and McCartney collaborated on a tune, in Lennon’s own words, ‘eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose.’ The track was written in the home of Jane Asher (see above) and the exciting chords used in this song were in the words of Bob Dylan himself: ‘Outrageous’ Personally, I don’t hear anything that really excites me in this song, but I do appreciate the pure joy in the vocals, aided by the clapping behind the verses, and the use of chords so revolutionary that nobody on the internet or beyond can actually agree on what they are. America loved The Beatles. Lennon and McCartney loved each other. The world wanted a more optimistic, joyful sound. And the Liverpudlian four piece were happy to deliver. Good times.
Favourite bit: I like the ‘And when I touch you I feel happy inside…’ sections. Written down that looks dodgy as hell, but they make it sound like the most innocent, lovely thing in the world. Dylan also liked this bit of the song, thinking the gang were singing: ‘I get high’ with each twang of the guitar, when in fact it was ‘I can’t hide’ and the boys had actually never smoked marijuana. Yet.
96. When I’m 64 (1967) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: McCartney
One of the joys of researching this self-serving Beatles piece was finding out that McCartney wrote this when he was 16. I thought a millionaire grumbling about the price of cottages on the Isle of Wight was a bit odd so I like the song a lot more knowing it came from an idealistic young man imagining being close to retirement age and considering how useful he could be to his family.
Apparently it was a Caverns favourite when the amps were not working. Why did it not appear until Sgt Pepper? George Martin reckons it was McCartney’s Father turning 64 that brought it to the forefront. No matter what it was, I have always liked the whimsical use of clarinet and the sweetness of the sentiment which stops just short of schmaltz in my opinion.
There is something about music that is quite spooky, in that it captures a slice of time that gives the song writer a kind of immortality. There is something slightly melancholy about this track now knowing that McCartney has passed 64, an event landmarked by his children recording this song for him, and has the grandchildren (although with, I imagine, more modern sounding names) Meanwhile Lennon said it would never have occurred to him to write a song like ‘When I’m 64.’ Whether he said this in admiration of McCartney, in disgust, or just to remind the world of his unconventional and often tragic upbringing that probably meant he rarely thought about what he would do in his twilight years, I’m not sure. McCartney got old. Lennon did not. And there is something about this head bopping piece of fancy that serves as a sobering reminder of the passage of time.
Favourite bit: It has got to be the slight Scottish accent on ‘Grandchildren on your knee’ always makes me smile.
95. Octopus’s Garden (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A (surprisingly!)
Main Composer: Ringo Starr (Possibly George Harrison in reality, but Ringo got the sole credit)
I know, I know, I know.
Of all the tracks that have not made the cut, ‘Fool on the Hill,’ ‘Dear Prudence,’ ‘Paperback Writer,’etc I have included Ringo’s second attempt at composing that was included on the otherwise superb Abbey Road.
From the point of view of a critic, it is a weak track. From the point of view of someone who has been listening to The Beatles my whole life, I love this song. It perfectly captures Ringo’s childlike persona (I know he was an alcoholic wife beater but I am talking about the persona, people. The persona) and creates pleasing images in my brain of a bunch of sea creatures hanging out and having a party. Taking the sweetness of the lyrics out of it, it contains bubble sound effects through a straw! What is not to love?? Plus a song about an octopus containing 2 electric guitars and rock piano? Life is good! Plus plus, it was inspired by an incident involving Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers!
It also reminds me of an embarrassing part of my life when I was about 8 or 9. Our class was split into teams and given a decade to talk about. Me and two other girls had the 60’s. I elected to write about The Beatles, as an enthusiastic, if not especially knowledgeable, fan. And on the day of the assembly, the track I selected to play as an example of the wide body of work The Beatles had produced was this one. The teachers must have been baffled.
Anyway, while I have lost all of your respect I also like Ringo’s ‘Don’t Pass me By.’ So there! And ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and ‘Get Back Boogaloo’ are awesome. What of it??? Come at me Bro!
Favourite bit: The very last section of the song from 2:30 onwards makes me cry a bit, with the earnest strains of the guitar. Cause I like it. And I do want to be under the sea. So fuck you.
94. Please Please Me (1963) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 20
Main Composer: Lennon
Before they had a sound all of their own, The Beatles had many people who they wanted to be like. Lennon wrote this after being inspired by Roy Orbinson’s ‘Only the Lonely’ which you can totally hear. Indeed, the original version was a lot slower and George Martin hated it. However, after they upped the tempo Martin famously announced that the boys had just recorded their first number one. And they had. Boom. Despite the lack of originality, I love the sexual energy Lennon brings to it and the fact that it had a sound that just sums up the early 60’s Beatles. The ‘come on,’ ‘come on!’ question and answer vocals, the harmonica, the high notes, and it was Ringo’s turn to convince Martin he was a drummer worthy of attention. And it worked. Take that doubters! You can really dance to ‘Please, Please, Me’ and while you are throwing yourself around to the unbelievable catchy chorus, distinctive stand alone middle 8, and groovy verses, take pleasure in the sound of the best band of all time coming together and changing the world.
Favourite bit: I thoroughly enjoy singing along to the ‘come on!’ bit. Try being all of The Beatles and hitting all the notes. Impossible fun.
93. Every Little Thing (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 91
Main Composer: McCartney
I can’t tell you how much I love this chorus. The melodic leap when the title comes in makes my heart soar. It was a lovely discovery as I check listed the back catalogue. Why hadn’t I heard it? McCartney decided that this didn’t have what it took to be the next single, which shows how high their standards were becoming. I adore Ringo’s timpani playing in this track too, but my favourite aspect are the vocals, an arrangement so tight it is hard to distinguish who is the lead (for those of you who just have to know: You can hear Lennon more in the verses and McCartney more in the chorus, but they are singing together) These are some of the clues that The Beatles were starting to trade their standard routine to test the waters of new sounds. This is one of many McCartney songs inspired by Jane Asher and I enjoy the self serving nature of the lyrics. Most love songs are a ‘we’ an homage to how happy two people can make each other. But McCartney is pleased to note ‘every little thing she does, she does for me’ I am not sure how self aware the lyrics are, but it gives this love song edge to imagine a satisfied man in his 20’s basking in the devotion of his pretty girlfriend and the envy of those around him.
Favourite bit: I can’t get over the chorus. I just wasn’t expecting that leap. ‘Every lit-tle thing she does…she does for me…yeah.’ Boom, boom. Stunning.
92. Tell me Why (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: Lennon
Lennon was the married Beatle. He knocked up his art school girlfriend just as he was becoming a rock star. Bad timing? Yes indeed. How is this relevant? Maybe it isn’t. But this song, running just over 2 minutes, is a fast paced doo-wop track, designed to emulate the black female vocal harmony groups of the era, tells the story of a frustrated Lennon begging a woman to tell him why she is crying. Cynthia Lennon was married to a man who millions of young women wanted to have sex with. Cynthia was, to all intends and purposes, a single mother. Despite her husband’s well documented infidelities that he desperately tried to hide from her, he was insanely jealous, paranoid, needy and verbally and sometimes physically abusive towards his spouse. Knowing this, the 2.10 ode to crying, lying women seems to be laced in shame and fear. And lord knows those themes make art a hell of a lot more interesting. Great beat too.
Favourite bit: ‘If it’s something I have said or done, tell me what and I’ll apologise.’ Oh John. That’s not how it works.
91. Rain (1966) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 88
Main Composer: Lennon
Lennon’s ode to people who moan about the weather is considered by many to be the finest B Side The Beatles produced. Rain was a revelation not just for the ears but for the eyes. Harrison cites it as ‘inventing MTV’ as there were 3 different promotional videos released for this one song. My favourite involves Ringo wandering around looking for his drum kit. But it is perhaps most famous for the use of Lennon’s backward vocals towards the end of the track, a technical error that both Lennon and George Martin try to take credit for. Whoever did it, the result is pretty cool and meant that the long suffering recording studio team had to play every song backwards as well as forwards during the making of ‘Revolver’ just to check which way was better. It took a few listens for me to warm to this one, and I have to say it was the combination of the top notch bass work, drums (sorry world, he is a good drummer) and most of all the vocals of Lennon, which seem to be coming from another place and time, that eventually won me round. A lazy sound that still sounds fresh and unique many years later.
Favourite bit: Apart from Ringo looking for his drums? Just Lennon’s vocal the whole way through. Particularly the sarcastic/stoned reading of: ‘The weather’s fine…’
90. What You’re Doing (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: McCartney
I love McCartney in angry mode. God bless Jane Asher. While Lennon deservedly gets the credit as being the edgier of the two angry young men in the band, this was one of the first examples that demonstrated the heart of McCartney was not made of homely apple pie. He was capable of being petty, frustrated, and let down by love. The wounded puppy lyrics are amusing but what I love about this song is the ostiano figure that plays over and over on a 12 string guitar. Just beautiful. Although this song was around before ‘Hey Mr Tambourine Man’ you can hear how the guitar must have inspired it. The opening and ending drums also remind me very strongly of ‘Be My Baby.’ So 60’s. What a wonderful era it was.
Favourite bit: Absolutely the repeated guitar riff. Just stunning.
89. Glass Onion (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: Lennon
Damn but he was clever. When Lennon wrote ‘I am the Walrus’ he was mocking those who tried to find hidden meanings in pop lyrics. With ‘Glass Onion’ he was trying to tell those same people that, seriously, there is no deep meaning behind these songs and that searching for one was like looking through a glass onion. Although, he is kind of hurting his cause by announcing that: ‘The Walrus was Paul’ the first time I heard that, I assumed he meant it in a snide way, but apparently it was his way of thanking Paul for keeping the band together following the sudden death of their manager and friend, Brian Epstein. And messing with the people who claimed Paul was dead of course. I love the opening drum beat that leads into the crazy funnel of Beatles references (before you accuse me of loving Ringo too much, McCartney played drums on this track because Ringo was sick of people like you, and had walked out) and the strings are great, particularly from 1.49 as a feeling of doom begins to wind down the track…
Favourite bit: The end. Just mental. I don’t even know what genre of music it belongs to, but it is epic.
88. Think for Yourself (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 75
Main Composer: Harrison
Ah yes. Welcome to the list George, you earned it. Imagine being the youngest Beatle. The quietest Beatle. You want to write songs but your bandmates are John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Two of the most talented and arrogant sons of a gun ever to grace the Billboard chart. What do you do? Your best. And often your best is just not good enough. Often your best is laughed out the room. This track was only used because they were short and it was done in one take because it wasn’t important enough to be get more time. But you keep trying. Cause the best is yet to come.
This is Harrison’s first track not to be about love. What is it about? Harrison was a bit fuzzy, but he reckons the Government and all their lies. And stuff. Ahem. Despite the lack of political conviction, I enjoy the two bass lines, the then unique use of fuzzbox, the G major chord that adds to the aggressive boredom juxtaposition that runs through the track, and Harrison’s vocal ability, while not as distinctive as the other two, communicates his restless wit well enough.
Favourite bit: The growly chorus. Harrison spits out the phrases and the bass is epic. I hope the other two said well done. I bet they didn’t.
87. Honey Don’t (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: Cover Version
As I mentioned above I was shocked to discover just how many cover versions The Beatles had on their early albums. Very few of them top their own work or even the original tracks (‘Roll Over Beethoven’ in particularly, fails to live up to the Chuck Berry standard) but a few are enjoyable enough to me to make it on to this list. Rolling Stone chose to not take any of the cover versions into account on their list, and I can understand why. When you have the breathtaking riches of The Beatles back catalogue, why would you bother to pay tribute to someone else’s song writing? But this is not a list composed of what I consider to be the top 100 most ground breaking tracks. Just the ones I love.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a requirement for Ringo to take the lead on at least one track per album. For… some reason. I adore his vocals on this one most of all. If you see Ringo as a spare part in the group, this bluesy rendition of a Carl Perkin’s track won’t change your mind. But he sells the song. He is a natural teddy boy, and he sounds so damn sincere and puzzled. Plus his little adlibs directed towards Harrison are just delightful. I can’t listen to this and not smile.
Favourite bit: I do heart his little nods to George but for me what sells this are the imperfect little vocal cracks on the bits where it goes too high for him. Perfection isn’t endearing. You know what is? A little bit of Starr power. As Lennon said, Pete Best was a drummer, Ringo was a Beatle.
86. I’m Down (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 56
Main Composer: McCartney
One of the biggest and best revelations of this little time waster of mine was the discovery of McCartney’s vocal ability. If someone were to ask me to demonstrate what made Paul such a great vocalist I wouldn’t even question what purpose that would serve to the world at large. I would gleefully play McCartney howling ‘I’m Down’ in full Little Richard mode while pointing to the CD player and grinning like an idiot. Seriously. Amazing. There are some wonderful examples of McCartney honing the ‘scream’ on various tracks, and I close my eyes in appreciation of his raw vocal talent every time, but this is the first example on the list where he blew me out the water. And I wasn’t even standing in water at the time! That is how good he sounds! What more is there to say? Blues/rock being battered and shook in a joyful bellow of the happiest pain I have ever heard.
Plus, this song at the infamous Shea Stadium gig is possibly my favourite live performance of theirs. McCartney starts spinning joyfully in the breaks, Lennon goofs off in front of thousands by playing the keyboard with his elbow, Ringo bashes the hell out of his drums and Harrison pisses himself laughing at Lennon’s antics as they struggle to keep up with the pace of the track. They may as well be four mates playing in their Parent’s garage and it is awesome to see. Plus Paul’s singing. Did I mention I appreciate Paul’s singing? I really, really, like his voice. Especially on this one. A LOT.
Favourite bit: The opener gets me every time. What an exciting voice. He may have lost a lot of respect in recent years (The X Factor, Paul??? Why???) but damn what a talent.
85. No Reply (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 45
Main Composer: Lennon
Another doo-wop tribute with some super sad lyrical ideas that pushed Lennon closer to the song writer he would become. I enjoy the drama of the crashing harmonies/guitar/drums at the ‘I saw the light’ bits. I always imagine those moments as him failing to remain calm while relaying the tale. While the AABA melody is not exactly an original, the images are vivid and the pain tangible.
The story in the song takes me back to the early years of my short life, when I had a particularly needy relationship with my friends growing up. One girl in particular, who lived across the road from me and claimed to be my best friend, was an expert on making me feel terrible. I remember calling her one day and asking if she would come across the road to play. She agreed she would be over right away. I waited at the window excitedly and saw her climb over her fence and get on her bike. This seemed like an odd thing to do to go across the road. But she cycled off in the other direction. To this day I remember the feeling. My smile slid down my face and I felt my heart banging against my chest. It wasn’t the first or the last time she would mess with my head this way. This song reminds me strongly of the anxiety that comes from loving someone more than they love you and wanting them to be sorry that they hurt you while instinctively knowing they won’t even give it a second thought.
Pretty heavy for a six year old right?
Favourite bit: ‘If I were you, I’d realise that I love you more than any other guy; and I’d forgive the lies that I heard before, when you gave me no reply’ A hauntingly accurate depiction of the desperation you feel when you realise you are willing to be humiliated as long as you are not left alone.
84. Oh! Darling (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 67
Main Composer: McCartney
See ‘I’m Down.’ McCartney was a screamer before metal even existed. But what is more interesting about this track is the comparison with this and ‘I Want You (She’s so Heavy)’ Abbey Road is the home of both these songs, both odes to the ladies that McCartney and Lennon had just committed to. McCartney attempt to serenade Linda with this throat shredding 1950’s homage, is actually the less primal of the two but vocally it is another home run. However, Lennon was miffed McCartney spent so long getting it just right and desperately trying to nail it, when he felt he would have had made a superior job of it as it was his kind of track. He makes a good point. Nobody does angry love like Lennon. Despite this, the finished product aches with longing and sells the ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you’ passion that McCartney felt about his woman.
I encourage any Beatles fan to get a hold of their Anthology which contains many wonderful takes of their tracks including one of ‘Oh! Darling’ where you can hear Lennon singing along as McCartney struggles to get the sound he wants. Fascinating to hear the competitiveness right there in front of you. McCartney’s range was effortlessly better but Lennon had a complex emotion to his voice that really outshone pretty much every singer ever. It breaks my heart to know they will never sing together again.
Favourite bit: The wrenching ‘When you told me…Whoo-hoo…you didn’t need me anymore…’ convinces me that McCartney was right to hang on to this for himself.
83. Anna (Go to Him) (1963) Rolling Stones List Ranking: N/A
Main Composer: Cover Version
Critics are divided on this, an early Beatles cover of an Arthur Alexander track that Lennon liked. One reviewer of music felt it was a youth grappling with a man’s song. Given Lennon was a teenager, perhaps that is a fair criticism. I don’t really believe Lennon’s interpretation until it gets to the ‘All of my life…’ section. Then I buy his pain. I like the repeated guitar phrase a lot and felt strongly drawn to this when I first investigated their earlier work. I love the undercurrent of bitterness and anger in this song, particularly clear in the bit about asking for the ring back. Despite the seemingly selfless act of letting her go to her true love, like the bland third character in every romcom love triangle, the narrative voice seems unwilling to finish the song and get on with his life. In my head I imagine Anna looking at her watch impatiently as he croons: ‘One more thing girl…’ And why doesn’t he want to let her leave right away? Cause he loves her? Or cause he is pissed off? Basically, Anna is a lying bitch. Or so this deceptively sweet rhythm would have us believe.
Favourite bit: ‘All of my life…I’ve been searching…’ Young Lennon sure could belt. Even when he had a cold.
82. Mother Nature’s Son (1968) Rolling Stones List Ranking: 80
Main Composer: Paul McCartney
The White Album is an odd one. It was essentially a 3 part solo album with poor Ringo in the middle. Actually considering he got a track on it, I guess that makes it a 4 part solo album. What I am trying to say is, but getting sidetracked with my love of Ringo, The White Album is good but it isn’t really a Beatles album despite its oft forgotten real name: The Beatles. Everyone’s favourite boy gang was starting to split off and do their own thing and this is one of the best songs to come out of that schism. McCartney recorded alone. All the instruments? Him and a brass band he directed. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. Lennon was raging as he always was when McCartney stayed late to work on his own stuff. And so it cannot be entirely fair to say Yoko broke up The Beatles…after all, can you really call a band a band if they won’t play nicely together?
Band politics aside, this is a lovely folky number that has the kind of melody that seems like it has been around forever. McCartney attributes the spirituality of the lyrics to both a Maharishi lecture and his new lady friend Linda. So Paul loves nature and that is great but what I enjoy most about this swishy, sweet little acoustic number, with its far off dream like use of brass and timber, is the image of McCartney sitting singing songs for everyone. I am glad he did.
Favourite bit: The aforementioned image of him sitting singing songs for everyone makes me feel very peaceful.
81. The Ballad of John and Yoko (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 48
Main Composer: Lennon
I remember first discovering this song, at about aged 12, during a time in my life when I had an intense and passionate love for Lennon. I loved the chorus, wondering aloud how anyone could doubt his brilliance and agreeing that yes, they may as well have crucified the poor genius. I loved it, especially the comparison to Christ. As far as I was concerned, at 12, Lennon was the messiah. Or if not, he was mine.
Over 10 years later, I am no longer convinced that Lennon’s death was the single greatest tragedy to ever befall humanity. Nor do I believe a multi millionaire sitting in bed with his new wife talking about peace and love is a particularly noble activity. I certainly feel the Lennon/Ono publicity machine wasn’t so much romantic as it was naff. And comparing yourself to Christ? Kind of tacky, although you have to admire his balls considering the trouble he had gotten into years earlier in America comparing a little rock n roll to the Christian faith.
Despite the fact that Lennon no longer ranks as a hero of mine, I enjoy the Ballad, the wry smile of a song, telling me what it was like to be one half of the world’s most watched/hated couple. I enjoy that McCartney and Lennon put their ever expanding differences asides to record this together, sans the other two because it showed that McCartney cared deeply for Lennon and Lennon’s ego. He didn’t want either of them to be harmed. Nothing says solidarity like ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko.’ She wasn’t going anywhere and, for the moment, neither was McCartney.
Favourite bit: ‘The men from the press said we wish you success…it’s good to have the both of you back’ As much as I would like to have had a taste of BeatleMania, I am not sure having to deal with the paparazzi would have been remotely worth it.
Next Time…We all had a wet dream, Billy Preston drops in and Lennon has the blues…80-71