My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs (Part 3)

My Top 100 Favourite Beatles Songs 70-61

70. I’ll Follow the Sun (1964)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 79

Main Composer: McCartney

This was a delightfully sincere early effort from McCartney, composed as a teenager back when they were The Quarry Men. However, it wasn’t recorded until 1964 when they needed filler for their album as it was too soft and gentle for their initial image. (Hard, I think they were going for. Like nails and that.) The tempo is a welcome change to the fast paced mania of early Beatles, plus it has the added adorable bonus of having Ringo play his knees rather than the drums. The vocals are all swooping and pure and the lyrics relaxing and melancholy, as McCartney is departing an unhappy relationship but feels quite sad about it. Ok, not exactly ground breaking stuff, but he was about 17. And it is lovely.

Favourite Bit: The whoa-whoa-whoa kind of moment, when he sings: ‘And now the time has come and so my love I must go,’ plus there is Ringo slapping his knees.

69. And Your Bird Can Sing (1966)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 78

Main Composer: Lennon

Lennon was dismissive of this song, as he was of a lot of things, which is a shame cause I think it is great. Fact. Moving on. Nah, just kidding. The song is tight, built around the dual guitar skills of McCartney and Harrison with some soaring vocals (pun accidentally intended) and some slightly nonsensical lyrics thrown in for good measure. Revolver is a catalogue of innovation, a hot spot of musical genius, and perhaps this isn’t the most memorable of the bunch but it is still brutally awesome and how can you not bop your head to it and join in with the boys on the ‘and your bird can sing?’ moment. You can’t. Moving on.

Favourite Bit: I am no guitar player, but adore the hard edge rockier vibe brought to the table on this one. Also, if you own Anthology 2 you can hear a brilliant version where they all break down in helpless giggles during a take. It is dead cute.

68. Yes It Is (1965)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 99

Main Composer: Lennon

What stops me dead while listening to this song is the vocals. The three part harmony is notably complex and, indeed, it took our guys hours to perfect it. Also, it includes an early attempt of Harrison using volume pedal guitar, creating an unusual vibe for a Beatles track of the time: The guitar almost seems to be sobbing. Their warbling is what makes this one a winner: You can’t deny the raw talent of these young lads when you listen to this. They make it sound natural and also quite sad. The lyrics are raw with honesty, all about wanting to move on, but being unable to. Lennon, pattern forming, dismissed it as an attempt to recreate an earlier track (‘This Boy,’ in my opinion an inferior song) and wrote it off as a hack job. McCartney defends it as one of Lennon’s stronger emotional ballads and I whole heartedly agree.

Favourite Bit: With the hauntingly beautiful harmonies present throughout, it is hard to pick a favourite section. Although I have a soft spot for the second last ‘yes it is, it’s true.’ I am so glad they found each other.

67. Taxman (1966)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 55

Main Composer: Harrison

Welcome back Harrison, it has been a while. Angry hard rock to open Revolver and it works because the reason for his anger will never go away. As certain as death, there will be taxes. Only if you are The Beatles 95% of your earnings get taxed. Super tax. No wonder he was cross.

It is quite ballsy to include the names of the politicians you are ragging on in your song. But I am not one to get political, so let us focus on the guitar. Good work, McCartney. Despite Lennon’s claims that Harrison approached him for help with the song because McCartney would have been unwilling, the highlight of the song is actually McCartney’s remarkable bass and lead guitar work. Particularly on the solo, which utilises several octaves and ends with an assured upward flourish. Harrison also appreciated the Indian detail that McCartney put in for him. What a bro. Overall a noisy, satirical, crashing start to one of the more polished of their efforts. Well done lads.

Favourite Bit: Has to be the lead guitar solo

66. Day Tripper (1965)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 39

Main Composer: Lennon

In interviews, the boys sparkled. You could see they had personality, chemistry with their music and each other. Hence some of their more complex work musically contained sly childish jokes that they were in on. Take ‘Day Tripper,’ the title references weekend drug users who weren’t as committed to surrendering their brain to substances as The Beatles were and they proudly sang the line ‘she’s a big teaser’ as ‘she’s a prick teaser’ on a regular basis. Keep in mind this was back when The Beatles were still courting the world in sharp matching suits. They had not yet given up on touring and TV appearances so their references to drugs and prick teasing were highly inappropriate. But funny.

Despite this being primarily Lennon’s song (McCartney contribution has been disputed over the years) McCartney takes lead vocal and, particularly when performed live, the boys seem to enjoy it. Possibly the most memorable thing is the guitar riff, which is glorious, plus they muck around with the notes of a 12 bar blues in an intellectually witty fashion. There is a lot to hear if you listen. Harrison is climbing a scale behind the riff, Ringo has a tambourine and the harmonies are soaring.

This song was all set to be a lead single when it was decided that ‘We Can Work it Out’ was the commercially superior track, much to the irk of Lennon. As a result of his lower lip wobbling, the world got their first Double A Side. Both songs were the lead single, somehow. Cause who could choose? The innovation was coming thick and fast now, and why would anyone want it to end?

Favourite Bit: The guitar riff is pretty sweet. Yes it would have to be that. If I could write the onomatopoeic version it would be: ‘Down-dow-dow-dow-dow-dow-dow-d-ow-dowdowdow-n’ Or something.

65. Dr Robert (1966)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A

Main Composer: Lennon

Speaking of drugs…Although no. I won’t right now. Cause that undermines the musical sophistication of the track. The backing vocals, the double tracking, the slightly out of phrase tracks on separate stereo channels, the added harmonium on the bridge, the key changes, all surreal and trippy and genuinely inspired. Some have said Dr Robert is heroin but according to Lennon he was Dr Robert all along (like Twin Peaks all over again) cause he was the go to guy for pills and stuff. Best of all is the genius non sequitur modulation of: ‘well, well, well…’ which seems to suggest the moment when the drugs kick in and everything else kind of drifts off. Having said that drugs are bad kids. You might die. Or you might live and write great music. Your call.

Favourite Bit: ‘Well, well, well, you’re feeling fine…’ This is my kind of doctor.

64. Only a Northern Song (1969)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A

Main Composer: Harrison

This appealed to me most the first time I saw ‘Yellow Submarine’ when I was a rapscallion youngster. I liked the zany idea of writing a deliberately off kilter song. The lyrics were funny, the sound bizarre and the vocal nasal and sarcastic. Harrison’s ‘If I Needed Someone’ is very, very similar melodically and almost certainly the better tune. However I liked the song very much when I was younger and I am fascinated by the back story that accompanies it and subsequently provides it with edge.

The song was copyrighted to Northern Songs Ltd. Harrison did not own Northern Songs Ltd. Well that is not strictly true. He had 0.8% shares. Whoop. This meant that Lennon and McCartney, who both had a bigger slice of the shareholder pie, made more money from Harrison compositions than Harrison himself did. Indeed NS Ltd seems to exist purely to make money from The Beatles as far as I or the internet can make out. Not only that Harrison was fed up with being a Beatle: playing second fiddle to the infamous twosome, not owning the rights to his own music and not having very much fun lead to his weary old soul sounding defeated on this quirky little number, bringing a darkness to his insistence that none of it really matters. Who hasn’t been in a job that leaves you feeling that what you do doesn’t actually make a difference? So much for zany…

Favourite Bit: ‘It doesn’t really matter what chords I play…’ section. I wouldn’t want Harrison cross at me. He’s too cool.

63. Across the Universe (1969)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 84

Main Composer: Lennon

The first thing I thought when I heard this song was: cosmic, man, yeah. As much as it is easy to dismiss something like this as the ramblings of a hippy in the middle of hippy times, if you listen closer it is pure melodic and lyrical poetry that you can just drift away to if you open your mind. Man.

The opening line (‘words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup’) came to Lennon back in 67 when his ex-Wife, Cynthia, was ‘going on and on about something’ Charming. Still, I’m glad she did cause the words are beautiful and just seem to tumble from him like he is making them up as he goes along and yet they come out perfect. Or something. Man. Clearly inspired by his time meditating and that, the repeated refrain is a mantra which translates to mean: glory to the shining remover of darkness. Man.

While Lennon correctly identified it as a song that works just as well as a poem with no instruments I love the delicate sound Spector created with the accompanying orchestra and choir. They are not too obtrusive, I only realised there was more than the boys playing on repeated listenings. But perhaps my favourite element is the slowed down vocal, another brilliant technical touch (Lennon was dissatisfied with his usual party piece of just looping it backwards) that really taps in to the dream like imagery and cosmic distortions that leave you spellbound with each and every listen. Man.

Favourite Bit: ‘Nothing’s gonna change my world…’ I dare you to try and perform a task while listening to this song. By this refrain you will have dropped the 700 year old vase you were restoring and started to dream…

62. I Want You (She’s so Heavy)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: 59

Main Composer: Lennon

There are different kinds of love. Some love makes you happy in a way that just makes you smile when you think about them. Some love is maternal, a kind of fondness coupled with a need to protect. Some love is incredibly close to hate. Some love is brutal. The kind where you would rather shave off your skin and roll around in vinegar than be apart from them (this kind usually burns out quite quickly cause it is too damn tiring) Every now and then you get them all in one person. And rather than smile you cry. You get down on your knees and you sob for your immortal soul cause you are hooked.

Abbey Road was my prized possession when I was 9, 10 years old. And despite it being a tad longer than what I was used to I liked this track. ‘He really wants her’ I would think, awed. Now I am an adult. And my emphasis is different. Lennon really wants her. And now I can’t listen to this song in the same room as my Mum. I just can’t do it. Cause the song is primal, deeply rough and very sexual. And Lennon makes you believe every horny groan.

Not that this funk covered, dark, troublingly groovy song is by any means a solo effort. The overdubbed guitar is sublime and a character all of its own, Billy Preston is on keyboard giving the modern blues sound some credibility, and Ringo found a wind machine. That’s right. A wind machine. Listen for it. Harrison was using a synthesizer so high tech they had to have it specially made. For me this song is utterly compelling because it seems to emphasise a slow descent into madness in sound form and when it ends in that seemingly improbable place it jerks me back to the real world and I am left shaking my head wondering where I have been.

Favourite Bit: While I love that seemingly never ending drop into the depths of musical lunacy, That first ‘she’s so…heeeavvvyyyy’ is enchanting.

61. Don’t Bother Me (1963)      Rolling Stone List Ranking: N/A

Main Composer: Harrison

This was the first Harrison penned track to appear on a Beatles album. Fact. He also wouldn’t get another for a while. If I hadn’t known in advance it was a Harrison composition I may have thought it was one of the other two and it certainly seems young Harrison was attempting to emulate the big boys as it fits very nicely into their early cannon. The reason why I appreciate it so much is its sullenness. So much of early Beatles was so peppy, and even when the lyrics were dark the performances were cheeky and cheerful. Perhaps it just wasn’t possible to stop smiling if you were a Beatle in 1963. Who knows? I mean, how common is it in early pop to have lyrics like: ‘go away…leave me alone…don’t bother me?’ It is nasty, sure, but it seems to be something he is saying under his breath rather than to someone’s face and who hasn’t done that?

The lyrics are brilliantly matched by the almost constant minor key, the double tracked vocals, the reverbed guitar, busy drumming and rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place in a Latin dance club. He may not have found his artistic balls yet, but it is cool to know they were starting to drop as early as 63 (Worst metaphor ever? Possibly)

Favourite Bit: ‘I’ve got no time for you right now…don’t bother me…’ What a grump.

Next Time…A dirty old man stops by, Lennon shreds his throat on their best cover version and we all learn a lesson about checking our song titles to see what they spell out…60-51


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