This is one of the earliest Beatles deep cuts I ever heard–my fourth-grade teacher played it every time a student in our class celebrated his or her birthday. I wasn’t very impressed by it then (although it was a passable three-minute diversion from actually doing work), and not much has changed in the ensuing years. It’s a rare Beatles song to emerge from a jam session, which gives it a distinct sense of urgency and an appropriate party vibe, but it’s a pretty underwhelming way to kick off the second half of The White Album.
As with a lot of songs that fall into this range on the countdown, there’s one strong element to “Birthday,” and that is Paul McCartney’s vigorous lead vocal. Beyond that, you’re stuck with a grating and repetitive guitar riff, a loud and tedious piano line, and some flimsy vocals courtesy of Yoko Ono and Ringo’s wife Maureen. That’s not even getting into the lyrics, which explore the very deep concept of sharing a birthday and going to a party (party). No wonder my favorite Beatles critic, John Lennon, called it “a piece of garbage.” (This was 15 years before music being called Garbage was a good thing.)
Shirley you can’t be serious.
Oh yeah, and as any self-respecting stats geek can tell you, the probability that two students in the same class will share a birthday is greater than half once you have 23 students. I don’t remember if we had any shared birthdays back in fourth grade, but if there were, I hope I was out sick that day. Hearing this song on repeat would have probably turned me off the Beatles forever.