Sometimes people ask me if I have the full list of my Beatles ranking already planned out or if it’s a work in progress that I’ve been assembling as I write them up. (Yes, people do ask me about the list. Yes, I do have friends. “Hey, we were just talking about the list. Nobody was saying you didn’t have friends, Anthony.” The tone was implied.) Well, if you’re dying to know how the game is played, the art of the trade, and how the sausage gets made, yes, the ranking is fully complete and safe in my possession, despite the efforts of desperate Russian hackers trying to get their hands on it who have dejectedly turned to meddling in American politics instead.
Vladimir Putin’s favorite Beatles song is “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” so he’s had it out for me ever since I ranked it at #193.
From time to time, I hear a song, wonder where it is on the list, and then react with appalled rage that it’s so low. Surely I made a mistake when I compiled things! How could I have Continue reading “#86: Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”
I really want to make the case here that “Tell Me What You See” is a lost Beatles masterpiece that deserves more attention. I really want to, but I can’t. It’s a filler track. But it’s a personal favorite. (Well, a 99th favorite.) One of those songs that I rarely seek out, but any time it pops up on shuffle or I’m listening to Help! I smile and think, “Yeah, I like this one.”
It’s pretty charming right out of the gate, with calming percussion and meek, wistful lyrics. As much as I normally Continue reading “#99: Tell Me What You See”
As discussed in the last entry, “Ask Me Why,” the Beatles weren’t always completely cutting-edge, but more often than not, they were wearing a Chuck Berry or R&B influence on their sleeves. “If I Needed Someone” is a rare case where they imitated a contemporary, as the track probably shares a bit too much in common with the Byrds’ “The Bells of Rhymney.” But if you’re going to copy another band, you could do a lot worse than the Byrds (insert obligatory R.E.M. shoutout here).
“Just as the Byrds were influenced by the Beatles, we were influenced by the Byrds,” George Harrison admitted, and it’s clear from the first jangly note of this oddly ambivalent love song. Along with his other Rubber Soul contribution, this is the first Continue reading “#101: If I Needed Someone”
Apparently the most-covered pop song of all time, “Yesterday” is essentially a perfect composition, so don’t be fooled by its ranking just shy of the top 100. When the protagonist began playing it in the recent film of the same name, I got chills, and that was a decidedly flaccid “guitarist on the quad” rendition of the song. But the versions by Ray Charles, Judy Collins, Aretha Franklin, and of course the Beatles’ original are all beautiful blueprints of the possibilities of putting this song in the right hands.
When I say the Beatles, though, I really just mean Paul McCartney, who is the only member of the band involved with its writing and recording. Even when it was performed in concert, John, George, and Ringo would step aside for Paul’s solo spotlight. Despite its generation-spanning appeal, Continue reading “#103: Yesterday”
The Beatles aren’t exactly what I would consider to be a very riff-oriented band. That’s not a knock against them; they came up with some terrific ones during their tenure. But unlike, say, Led Zeppelin or Soundgarden, two other favorites of mine whose songs are usually defined by meaty, repetitive guitar lines, most Beatles tracks succeed as a result of the combined forces of John, Paul, George, and Ringo rather than any one individual element. “Day Tripper” might be the biggest exception to that rule.
Normally I post a witty caption here, but I just got really bummed out imagining how amazing a Soundgarden cover of “Day Tripper” would have been. RIP, Chris Cornell.
Sure, the performance is top-notch on every level, from its chill bass to its Continue reading “#113: Day Tripper”
Is there anybody going to listen to my thoughts about the song “Girl”? Ah, “Girl.” (deep sigh)
Armed with melancholy harmonies and alluring, wistful guitar strums, it’s easy to get sucked into this cynical, matter-of-fact ballad. It was one of the earliest Beatles songs I became familiar with, thanks to its appearance on the 1962-66 compilation, which boasted a whopping six of 14 Rubber Soul cuts. Even though I’m ranking this above “Drive My Car,” I feel like “Girl” is probably the least essential inclusion of the bunch. It’s a great song, but thematically it feels similar to “Norwegian Wood” and musically shares some DNA with “Michelle.”
Of course, “Girl” does boast one distinct feature Continue reading “#121: Girl”
Ooh, Paul McCartney’s getting sassy here! It’s hard to imagine a song like this coming out in 2018 and not receiving some mild backlash, but the Beatles could get away with anything, including this not-entirely-fictional threat that Paul’s significant other had better play her cards right, because if she doesn’t, he has another girl lined up and ready to go. “I ain’t no fool and I don’t take what I don’t want,” he taunts, and unlike Continue reading “#134: Another Girl”
Kicking off Rubber Soul into high gear, “Drive My Car” steered the Beatles onto a road they’d never gone down before, and I’m already sick of these car puns so let’s forget this intro ever happened.
In the first half of the sixties, the Beach Boys seemed to corner the market on automobile tracks, from “409” to “Little Deuce Coupe” to “Driving Aimlessly Because Continue reading “#137: Drive My Car”
This has got to be one of the most unjustly overlooked Beatles songs ever. I realize by putting it at #138, I’m probably not doing anything to curb its underrated status, but man, give it a listen and tell me that this is not a damn good song on every level. Really. There’s a palpable excitement from the opening roll of the bass and drums to the twinkle of a guitar riff that punctuates everything.
I really don’t know where to start with the praise. How about Continue reading “#138: The Night Before”
We live in a world where practically every song released can be classified as a single–any individual track can easily be cued up on Spotify or YouTube, or downloaded on iTunes. Physical media lovers like myself still mourn the loss of CD singles with their myriad of rare and otherwise unavailable b-sides, but by far the most iconic single format was the 7″ 45 RPM vinyl with a big ol’ hole in the center and one song on each side. The Beatles, as one might expect, gave the world some pretty excellent combinations–“Day Tripper” and “We Can Work it Out,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” and my personal pick for the greatest single of all time, “Hey Jude” and “Revolution.” But one of the more unintentionally awesome couplings was pairing “Help!” with “I’m Down”–two songs that, while both centered around going through a rough patch, couldn’t be more vastly different (which is exactly why they work so well together).
“I’m Down” is a really cool transitional track–it sounds like an early With the Beatles-era kind of song, but you can hear the leap in skill and songwriting that took place between 1963 and 1965. But all it takes is one listen to realize Continue reading “#141: I’m Down”