My Beatles Favorites, Part I

July 10, 2009

My summer has pretty much been dominated by The Beatles, and to put my blog to good use I thought it would be cool to pick my top 10 Beatles tracks and do a little write up about why I thought each song was great.

One problem- picking 10 Beatles songs out of their vast catalogue proved impossible for me. So I decided I should do a top 20. That was a no-go as well. By the time I managed to compile the list of my very favorite Beatles songs, there were 45. And I figured that explaining why I loved these 45 songs would be ridiculously time-consuming.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing it. Instead, I settled on doing them in groups of 5, starting alphabetically at the beginning as a kind of summer project. Here goes.


“All Together Now”
Album: Yellow Submarine

Charming, catchy, and most probably catered toward younger listeners as one of the tracks in the Yellow Submarine film, “All Together Now” is a delightful listen. It’s upbeat and simple, and in classic Beatles fashion blurs the lines of what type of song it’s meant to be.

Few groups can boast having a song that simultaneously acts as a kind of pseudo-Sesame Street instructional song by reviewing the alphabet and numbers and colors, and asks “can I take my friend to bed?” with the magical earnestness that makes the lyric go right over the head of most listeners. The chorus, which consists just of the repeated line “all together now,” even feels as if it’s inciting the listener to join in.

Plus, it’s in Yellow Submarine twice, both in an animated sequence and in a segment where it is introduced by the Beatles themselves (this is their only actual appearance in the film because their the cartoon Beatles were voiced by professional voice actors), so it has to be good. And there’s a Kermit the Frog version. ‘nough said.

“And Your Bird Can Sing”
Album: Revolver

The rolling guitar riff that crops up throughout “And Your Bird Can Sing” is one of the many, many musical instances that make Revolver my favorite Beatles album. It’s one of those songs that manages to sound psychadelic without resorting to the wavery far-off vocals or guitar that tend to signify when a song was conceived in a druggy haze.

The harmonizing, too, is especially engaging, and it’s was quite clever that the harmony changes on the line “tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is…” as if the singer is pointedly remarking “oh, but you haven’t heard this sound yet.”

Admittedly, it takes some decoding to sort out what the song is really about, but the lyrics have that kind of punchy hook that makes you forget to question them. The song seems to be about the dangers of materialism in relationships, but Wikipedia suggests that the song is about Mick Jagger, electronic caged birds, druggy discoveries of the meaning of life, and Frank Sinatra. All in all, what’s important is that it’s a fun song, and I can almost imagine Lennon snickering as he wrote these lyrics and anticipated people being stumped in their analysis.

And this is a demo version on Anthology 2. The different guitar riff is interesting. I mostly dig the crazy giggles.

“Another Girl”
Album: Help!

Let me start by saying that, if Paul McCartney had written and performed this song with me in mind, I would be thoroughly upset. That said, I’m not the subject matter of this song, and find this song engaging and, horribly enough, kind of funny.

The premise is pretty simple; this guy has a new lady friend, and decides to tell his old girlfriend about it in his own gracefully tactless way. Apparently not very good at break-ups, he decides to tell her only after he begins this new relationship.

The message from here on is equally wishy-washy. He tells her rather brashly “I ain’t no fool and I don’t take what I don’t want,” and then pulls back a little by insisting “I don’t want to say that I’ve been unhappy with you” in an instance of Paul’s typical non-aggression.

What really makes the song interesting is the happy-go-luckiness of it all. It’s not the everyday, mopey, break-up song. Instead it almost celebrates the end of the relationship and the beginning of the process of moving on.

But then again, it’s kind of the norm on the Help! album for the music to be an inappropriately upbeat match for the lyrical content. And the accompanying scene in the Bahamas, with Paul playing a girl like she was his Hofner bass, has no resonance whatsoever of what the song is about (which is probably why it’s so effective).

“Baby You’re a Rich Man”
B-Side to “All You Need Is Love”

Like “A Day In the Life,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man” is composed of parts that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote separately before somehow realizing that the two songs would mesh perfectly into one of the most stick-in-your-head Beatles tracks ever. John’s soft verses, backed by piano and rhythmic hand-claps, lead seamlessly into Paul’s chanting chorus of “baby you’re a rich man.”

The juxtaposition of the two bits, with John’s highlighting the vanity of money and Paul’s over-the-top, nearly mocking, celebration of wealth come together to make the point pretty clear that money doesn’t make the man.

Legend has it, too, that the song was a light-hearted mockery of the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who happened to be gay and Jewish. Though Lennon and Epstein were very close, Lennon would tend to poke fun at him and often act resentful of his capitalization of the success of the Beatles. Allegedly, the last “baby you’re a rich man too” sung by Lennon is actually “baby you’re a rich fag Jew.” That’s not very nice… and I don’t really hear it at all.

Album: The Beatles

Birthday songs! Lyrically, “Birthday” could have been written by anyone, but what the Beatles do with such a simple song is masterful. For the white album, the track is refreshingly uncomplicated rock and roll that sounds like a more sophisticated version of what their earlier records could have been.

Most of all, it doesn’t sound like a birthday song. Paul’s vocals here are some of his loudest and most aggressive– not your typical gather-round-the-cake-and-blow-out-the-candles fare.

And since “Happy Birthday to You” is copyrighted too, you might as well sing the Beatles’ song instead if you’re gonna pay royalties anyway.


Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this and keep updated. Here’s Part II and Part III!


One comment

  1. […] Part 1 […]

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