My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (80-71)
After feedback from one avid reader I decided not to post 20 songs each time as not all of you have as much free time as me. So 10 songs with each post it is! But don’t panic as 70 etc will be revealed before you know it. You guys are going to be fine.
Now to the band that all bands have to try and live up to. And here is the thing…None of them do. Not one. Not even yours, guy reading this now. Sorry.
80. From Me to You (1963) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 72
Main Composer: Lennon/McCartney
This song is under 2 minutes. Don’t let anyone tell you that is easy to do. If I could sum up this track in one word? Tight. The vocals, the instruments, the sentiment, the enthusiasm, the lyrics, the form (intro, verse, verse, bridge, verse, verse, bridge, verse and coda, fact fans.) It is top of the pop class. It reminds me a bit of the Del Vikings track ‘Come Go With Me’ in the sense it has a mission, it achieves it, and it is there in your head forever. Even at this early stage in their career as song writers you can hear the skill, the belief in what they are doing. If I was given a second word? Joy. They don’t only believe in what they do they are having a blast doing it.
Favourite Bit: The high notes. How can three young men singing ‘oooh…’ sound so damn sexy? That’s talent. The harmonica moments are pretty sweet too.
79. Get Back (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 41
Main Composer: McCartney
A funky blues track that I dare you not to bop to, it was initially going to be directed at anti-immigration but McCartney bailed out of race baiting in favour of a narrative. I have never really taken in the lyrics of this song but it mentions a couple of characters and some ‘California grass.’ I dunno. The internet can’t seem to decide either. Although Lennon had one theory as he claims that during the sessions McCartney would direct the chorus at Yoko. Ouch. I assumed this was classic Lennon ego paranoia but having watched the footage online he is not wrong.
During the infamous Let it Be sessions, things were fraught and Billy Preston was invited in by Harrison to play keyboard and to keep the others well behaved (well it had worked before. More on that when we get to the top 20.) and the impact on the sound is noticeable and it brings a curious result. It is a seedier, cooler version of other Beatles tracks attempting a similar thing. You can hear the sweat that went into it and it further proves their versatility and range as a group. It is so authentically bluesy that you wouldn’t question it if it was sung by Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker. And how many pop/rock groups can jump genres so smoothly?
There are loads of versions of this song but the single release with the false ending is the best one. Fact. Although the rooftop gig version contains some fun adlibs and some enthusiastic cheering courtesy of Mrs Ringo.
Favourite Bit: The keyboard is good enough that the single listed the artists as ‘The Beatles with Billy Preston,’ and for my money he earned it.
78. She Loves You (1963) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 14
Main Composer: Lennon/McCartney
Of the 63’ tracks that launched four smiling young Liverpool men in suits onto a delighted world, this is a highlight. Having said that, I cannot put ‘She Loves You’ and that generation of Beatles much higher despite their impact on the sound of the time. To my ears, they just are not as interesting as what came next. Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road kick the early stuff’s backside and then some. Having said that, not as interesting for The Beatles is still absurdly wonderful.
One of the most energetic, playful pop songs ever recorded also indicated a new level of sophistication for the boys as recording artists. Harrison added the extra chord at the end of the chorus much to the confusion of Martin, but the guys insisted it worked. This is just one example of how ‘She Loves You’ stands out from other songs of the era.
You want more? Ok. The yeah, yeah, yeah was a first as was the use of third person in a love song. Speaking of the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ refrain McCartney’s Father adorably grumbled that there were enough Americanisms in the UK without his son adding to it and asked why it couldn’t be ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Oh Mr McCartney. You just don’t understand rock and roll, man.
Favourite Bit: The intro/chorus nails the excitement of the recording for me and always brings me in for the whole ride, including Harrison’s random chord. Sorry McCartney Sr. Yeah, yeah, yeah it had to be.
77. I’ve Got a Feeling (1969) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 64
Main Composer: McCartney/Lennon
I had never heard this song before I began this experiment. It is brilliant. A combination of two unfinished tracks one coming from the point of view of joyous love (McCartney) and the other cynical review (Lennon) This is considered the last true collaboration of the two song writing giants. McCartney talking about his Linda, Lennon about his rubbish experiences of divorce, drugs and miscarriages.
The juxtaposition is nice and what makes it works for me is it includes McCartney is screamer mode (My favourite McCartney) and Lennon in bittersweet nostalgia mode (my favourite Lennon) I don’t think it is possible to listen to this and still try and refute that these guys were rockers at heart. No amount of silly haircuts can change that. Ultimately this song is about looking to the future and so it is an appropriate send off to the partnership and the 60’s, a story of love, loss and commitment, for better or worse.
Favourite Bit: The huge part of me that loves Musicals enjoys the melodies running side by side so we can enjoy both the vocals and the dramas as they unfold.
76. It Won’t be Long (1963) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 53
Main Composer: Lennon
A classic call and response track not dissimilar to ‘She Loves You’ and as a result, Lennon bitterly conceded, was not a single. It is a shame because it has an inventive use of chords, guitar riffs and an unusually glum middle 8 for a 2 minute rock/pop track, making it, in my humble opinion a tad more interesting than ‘She Loves You.’
While Lennon wrote the bulk of the track, McCartney contributed to the lyrics and was pleased with the word play on ‘it won’t be long till I belong to you,’ Get it? Lennon also considers this song the start of a period of time where The Beatles began to get the attention of the Middle Class, due to their being more sophisticated musically speaking than other stuff in the chart. He doesn’t make it clear whether this is a good or bad thing. Nonetheless, I enjoy the frantic energy of the yeah, yeah, yeah that was synonyms with early Beatles and even the melodramatic ending. As with ‘From Me to You’ I can’t begin to imagine how you cram so much brilliance into 2 minutes.
Favourite Bit: The aforementioned chromatically descending chords in the middle 8 that really creates the lonesome vibe of the track. He really needs this person to come back.
75. I’m a Loser (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 71
Main Composer: Lennon
We now enter one of several (about 4 by my count) songs on my list that could be categorised as ‘Lennon’s cries for help’ By Lennon’s own admission he fluctuated, as artsy types often do, between thinking he was a loser and God. Lyrically it becomes quite philosophical: ‘Is it for her or myself that I cry?’ is not exactly classic fare for a 1960’s pop song at the time. It talks about hiding your pain for the sake of putting on a show, something our Lennon knew about all too well.
‘I’m a Loser’ comes at a song writing point where you could say that he is enthusiastically emulating Dylan (he admitted he only compared himself to a ‘clown’ cause Dylan had done it, making it ok) and the country music that was popular at the time, but it is still conspicuously a Beatles song. The vocal harmony, Harrison’s guitar, and the melodic dive are all the stamps of early 60’s Beatles. And then there is Lennon himself. His slightly lower than usual vocals and the way he pronounces each word somehow sells the bluesy sadness more than Dylan’s nonsensical vocals ever could. You can see him in your mind’s eye, retreating to lick his wounds, before emerging once more as the life and soul of the party.
Favourite Bit: The ‘Is it for her or myself that I cry?’ brilliantly captures his loser/God complex. These lines come and go so quickly that it sometimes takes repeat listens just to hear those brief moments of honesty among all the oohs and ahs and fancy guitar stuff. It doesn’t hurt that it is also sung in Lennon’s bass range, a rare treat.
74. You Won’t See Me (1965) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 94
Main Composer: McCartney
God, I love ‘Rubber Soul.’ It is so unselfconsciously original. The reason? Time restraints. This was one of 3 tracks that was needed to complete the album so was composed and recorded in one frickin’ night. This was cut in two takes. Bang. Another classic done. Now who’s for a sandwich?
There is a lovely juxtaposition of a bouncy beat and threatening lyrics. McCartney was cross at, you guessed it, Jane Asher. This time, she had the audacity to want her own career and was about to join the Bristol Old Vic. So he rather childishly wrote a song which painted her as the childish one. Imagine if your girlfriend wasn’t answering her phone so you wrote a song to get her attention? Genius. Anyways, Ringo does some brilliant (yes brilliant, LISTEN) drumming and McCartney sings lower than Harrison and Lennon giving the vocals an unusual twist. But it is the spite of the lyrics, the double meaning of ‘you won’t see me’ that I like best. You could take that as ‘Why won’t you see me?’ or ‘if you keep ignoring me, you are dumped,’ either way, he doesn’t come off well. Another fun fact: at 3.22 this was the longest song The Beatles had ever recorded…It flies by doesn’t it?
Favourite Bit: ‘Time after time you refuse to even listen…I wouldn’t mind if I knew what I was missing…’ Bitches McCartney. Passive aggression. The way to a woman’s heart.
73. You Can’t do That (1964) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 70
Main Composer: Lennon
I thought about moving this song to a different spot on the list when I noticed how similar it is to the previous entry in theme. Then I listened to it again. It may be about feeling vulnerable in a relationship but Lennon’s jealous rage and threatening lyrics are a world away from McCartney’s stompy feet irritation at Asher. When McCartney gets threatening, he is suggesting he might ignore her back. When Lennon does it, shit is going to go down.
The emotion behind this song is paranoia accompanied perfectly by the growling, dragging guitar played by Lennon himself. Musically, it is cool, rooted in 12bar with a discordant sharp on the chord to emphasise the ‘I told you before’ before the exasperated ‘oh!’ I love Lennon’s barking vocals that really communicate the hostility that was always just under the surface. Was he emotionally scarred by a rough start in life meaning he was always waiting to be abandoned by those who professed to care for him and therefore was unable to function in the adult world? Or was he a violent, narcissistic dickhole? I will let you be the judge, but either way, what a tune. Everything right down to the still on edge, warning fading notes makes this one of the more memorable tracks on ‘Hard Day’s Night.’ Lennon moaned that his amazing guitar playing was never given the praise it deserved, claiming that being in a band with Harrison meant he was the ‘invisible guitar player.’ As invisible guitar players go, the man makes a hell of a noise.
Favourite Bit: Tough one…The vocals, the guitar, the nasty as hell lyrics? Hang on…let me listen… ‘I can’t help my feelings, I go out of my mind,’ sums up this one and therefore wins the coveted favourite bit. No one could do angry young man like Lennon.
72. Julia (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 69
Main Composer: Lennon
As I have noted, McCartney’s habit of pissing off and writing solos for himself hacked the group off enormously, despite it producing some fine tunes. This is the one and only time Lennon did the same thing and it was, fittingly, during the making of The White Album.
Lennon’s songs are often at least semi-autobiographical but this one was transparently a tribute to his Mother, Julia Lennon, and his new life partner Yoko Ono (Yoko means ‘ocean child’ in Japanese, fact fans) Letting go of one and letting in another. His relationship with Yoko, to this day, is often credited with the destruction of the group as once their affair stopped being a secret he didn’t go anywhere without her leading to incredibly tense recording sessions. Which is understandable. Have you ever tried taking your partner to work? I imagine it would be awkward. If you fancy seeing it in action, watch the ‘Let it Be’ sessions if you can stand the strain. Historians all seem to agree, as they have nothing better to do, that what John liked about Yoko was the way she took over his life, and his nickname for her? Mother. Ick.
In his defence, his Mother left him and started another family when he was 5 and he was raised by his strict Aunt Mimi. As a teenager he found out his Mother actually only lived a few streets away. Just as they were getting to be buddies again she was hit by a car and killed. Now that is sad. Fact. So whatever your opinion of Yoko Ono and Lennon himself, this is a lovely little melody with a really sobering emotional core. When I listen to it I am reminded that we never really stop thinking about those we have lost, cause if we did, it wouldn’t hurt so much.
Favourite Bit: For me the opening line: ‘Half of what I say is meaningless…But I say it just to reach you…’ is heartbreaking enough that some days I have to skip the track cause I just can’t take it.
71. Yer Blues (1968) Rolling Stone List Ranking: 76
Main Composer: Lennon
I feel a lot of time has been taken up by Lennon’s demons so far, so I will try not to go on for too long. Only to say that while the other ‘Cry for Help’ songs had either a bouncy beat or veiled lyrics to make them slightly more ambiguous, this one is about as transparently naked as a song can be. Following the countdown into the song, Lennon bellows: ‘Yes I’m lonely…Wanna die!’ Not a lot of room for misinterpretation.
Written during the period they were all in India, it would seem searching for cosmic meaning didn’t sit well with Lennon’s psyche. When I listen to this song I always imagine it as the chaos of Lennon’s mind: It is messy and all over the place, kind of dirty and very angry. I recognise that this kind of furious, out of control toddler outrage does not suggest he is near death but just howling for attention. Doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve it, at the very least for pushing the envelope yet again. And we all get the blues sometimes.
Favourite Bit: ‘I feel so suicidal, even hate my rock and roll’ Damn. That is serious.
Next Time…Harrison is grumpy about his money, She’s a prick teaser and the Doctor makes us all feel better…70-61