#140: Free as a Bird

“There won’t be a Beatles reunion as long as John Lennon remains dead.” – George Harrison, 1989

I wasn’t sure whether or not to include “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” on this ranking, because they’re definitely not typical Beatles songs. They were released 25+ years after every other song on the countdown, were both omitted from the 2009 remaster series, and present the curious conundrum George Harrison references above, in that John Lennon–who I think most would agree was a pretty key member of the band–didn’t show up for any of the recording sessions under the oh-so-convenient excuse of being dead for 15 years.

But ultimately, they were released under the banner “The Beatles,” and more importantly, including them allows me to write more and drag this thing out even further. You’re…welcome?

Although I will feel bad if I die right after posting the #3 entry of this list and never finish because I decided to include these two songs. I’m…sorry?


Actually, John was missing from the band’s actual last recording session in 1970 (and he didn’t even provide a doctor’s note for that), so he actually had more involvement on “Free as a Bird.” Unlike in other professions, death does not preclude new output from musicians, so his widow Yoko Ono handed off a few demos from the late 70s to his former bandmates to play around with. Under the guidance of ELO’s Jeff Lynne, an extremely talented pop maestro who can never say no to more snare drum, Paul, George, and Ringo turned “Free as a Bird” from a promising piano demo to a fully-realized song that didn’t turn out to be an all-time Beatles classic but also managed to avoid an all-too-possible fate of being cringe-worthy.

Ironically, it sounds way more dated than the Beatles’ timeless 60s output–and probably was already behind the times in 1995, with its decidedly 80s production. George Harrison contributes a lovely slide guitar solo, and even if it’s achieved through artificial means, it’s pretty nice hearing John and Paul harmonize once again. Ultimately, I appreciate its existence, especially for the awesome video which features tons of clever Beatles references.

#140: Free as a Bird