There are a lot of reasons why the Beatles were so great–I mean, you put four talented, innovative musicians together and you’re bound to get impressive results no matter what–but one factor that really elevated them was the way they embraced competition. Their rivalry with the Rolling Stones inspired both bands to up their games, but the Beatles were confident enough to actually donate a(n admittedly lousy) song across enemy battle lines. Even within the group itself, Lennon and McCartney’s constant urge to outdo the other fueled a slew of hits.
So when Paul McCartney read a review claiming that the Who’s 1967 “I Can See For Miles” was the “heaviest” song ever recorded, he did what anyone else would have done. He went Continue reading “#74: Helter Skelter”
There’s a certain joy and comfort in discovering that someone else shares an uncommon habit or preference of yours. When I find a person who also acknowledges that cereal is far superior without milk, I know I’ve found an ally who will pick up a spoon and go to war with me.
Bring me the head of Cap’n Crunch.
Seemingly even rarer than my fellow dry cereal enthusiasts are those who appreciate Continue reading “#79: The Inner Light”
Back in the earliest days of my Beatles obsession, I had relatively limited access to their music. My parents were never big fans, so the only albums I was able to inherit from them were my dad’s vinyl copies of the Red and Blue compilations. During a record shopping excursion in Philadelphia, I was elated to come across Abbey Road on vinyl for the bargain price of $2.98. It turned out that it skipped at the very end of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” resulting in the final line of that song repeating ad nauseum (“Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s on the phone to *vrrp* Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s…”)
In order to get a taste of the rest of the catalog in those pre-YouTube, pre-Spotify days, I turned to 30-second samples on Amazon and Yahoo. Digging through the band’s early albums, the song titles were a lot less attention-grabbing than the ones found on the White Album–from the seemingly nonsensical “Glass Onion” to the curiously misspelled “Yer Blues,” there was Continue reading “#82: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
Writing about “Rocky Raccoon” is an inevitably losing proposition. Because no matter what jokes or elementary level of music criticism I’m able to produce, it will not be one iota as good as the lyrics to “Rocky Raccoon.” This is the most clever song the Beatles ever released. Meanwhile, a lot of folks in the media consider my other Beatles write-ups better than the songs themselves. For more info, read the cover story of next month’s Deaf Life magazine.
Let’s look at the characters we meet in “Rocky Raccoon”: Continue reading “#96: Rocky Raccoon”
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing John Lennon, AKA the greatest troll in rock ‘n’ roll. As the Beatles’ lyrics became more…shall we say, obtuse, listeners were determined to interpret what the hell the band–well, let’s be frank and just call Lennon out, because he was the culprit–was talking about. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in 1963? I think I understand. “I Am the Walrus, goo goo g’joob” four years later? Slightly less clear.
Considering what a rock icon Lennon is, it’s borderline bizarre how he approached popular music as a listener. He didn’t like seeing his favorite artists in concert, because live performances never exactly replicated the familiar sound of the records he loved. He also couldn’t fathom why fans would be compelled enough to analyze his lyrics. Why can’t they just turn off their minds and enjoy the music?
So John Lennon got an idea! An awful idea! John Lennon got a wonderful, awful idea!
“I know just what to do,” he said with Continue reading “#97: Glass Onion”
The one constant in the Beatles’ early years was evolution: in 1962-3, they recorded electrifying pop songs that birthed the Beatlemania movement. They rode that wave in 1964 but upped the ante on their songwriting, raising the bar for all their contemporaries. By 1965, they wore their Bob Dylan influence on their sleeves on the folksy Help! and explored even more styles on the diverse Rubber Soul. Revolver in 1966 took that sense of curiosity and experimentation to another level, and a year later their psychedelic work was unlike anything that had ever hit the mainstream before.
So for their first release of 1968, they pulled off their most unexpected move yet: Continue reading “#109: Lady Madonna”
One of the most gorgeous and endearing songs in the Beatles’ catalog, “Good Night” not only serves as a palette cleanser from the atrocious “Revolution 9,” but caps off the entire White Album so perfectly. After a chaotic ride through 29 songs that run the gamut both stylistically and qualitatively, we finish with this lovely lullaby written by John and sung delicately by Ringo.
As a result of singing songs like this and “Yellow Submarine” (not to mention hosting Thomas the Tank Engine), Ringo is an obvious choice to be the preferred Beatle of children, but most people grow out of that. That doesn’t mean we should Continue reading “#133: Good Night”
Time for me to be a hypocrite. I ranked “I Wanna Be Your Man” the worst original Beatles song largely due to its lousy, basic 18-word vocabulary. “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” clocks in at just 17 unique words, yet here it is, nearly 75 slots higher. I mean, obviously there are plenty of legitimate reasons for that which I’ll get into, but I’ll admit, that’s a pretty wide jump. You’re probably thinking, Continue reading “#136: Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?”
There’s very little middle ground when it comes to rock drummers–they’re either highly regarded (Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin’s John “Bonzo” Bonham, Rush’s Neil Peart) or unjustly ridiculed (pretty much every other drummer on the planet). The running joke is that it’s every band’s worst fear when their happy-go-lucky drummer, once so content to pound on the tom-toms however he was instructed to and occasionally perform a drum solo during a concert when the rest of the group needed a bathroom break, writes a song for the next album.
Ringo Starr–or rather, Richard Starkey–has just two individual writing credits to his name with the Beatles. That’s a grand total of Continue reading “#139: Don’t Pass Me By”
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who prefer the fast, distorted version of “Revolution” that served as the b-side to “Hey Jude,” and those–John Lennon among them–who favor the gentler, bouncy “Revolution 1” you’ll find on the White Album. However, there are no people in the world who would opt for what is oh-so-diplomatically referred to as a “sound collage,” “Revolution 9.”
In fairness, if I didn’t have both renditions to choose from, I’d certainly give “Revolution 1” more love, but it’s Continue reading “#142: Revolution 1”