Krispy Kreme donuts. The “Mr. Plow” episode of The Simpsons. The Beatles’ harmonies.
“What are three things that are pretty great, Alex?”
For all the division in our society in modern times, I think we as a collective can agree that all of those things are all quite exceptional. (Four if you count Alex Trebek.) I don’t know if it’s possible to gush too much about how amazing the Beatles’ harmonies were, but over the course of their seven-year recording career, John, Paul, and George united in three-part harmony just three times. “This Boy” was the earliest and best–I’ve never liked the maudlin “Yes It Is,” and “Because” is gorgeous, but the longing, impassioned “This Boy” is the greatest Smokey Robinson song he never wrote.
One of my favorite parts of the Beatles’ harmonies, and one of the reasons I wish they had more songs like these, is that even after hearing them several hundred times, you can concentrate on isolating a single vocalist and get an entirely new listening experience. Single out any of the trio and enjoy the little intricacies and surprises you might not notice on a more casual play. I especially like John’s twee spin on the last word of “Though he may want you too.”
Ironically, the best part of this song isn’t the harmonies. It’s actually during the middle eight, where Paul and George handle backing vocals while John takes the lead. The first 90% of it is your standard early Beatles middle eight, but then John lets freedom ring: “That boy…won’t be happy…til…he’s seen you…CR-HA-HI-HIIIII!” Even the unflappable Alex Trebek can’t help but be moved when he hears that incredible moment.
Alex Trebek is the only person on the planet who I would share the #1 song with in advance, but he probably already knows it. Nothing gets past Trebek.