When the inevitable 50th anniversary Let it Be box set is released later this year, there’s one outtake you can safely bet will be omitted. See, it took several attempts before “Get Back” evolved into its final form, and along the way it took…well, let’s go ahead and call it a detour before Paul McCartney becomes a victim of cancel culture.
Pictured: Paul McCartney walking onstage at Coachella 2021
In the version we all know and love enough to rank at #88, the chorus “Get back to where you once belonged” implies a return to one’s roots–in fact, that was even part of the song’s marketing campaign, suggesting that the Beatles had recorded a “pure spring-time rock number” that was “as live as live can be.” But in an earlier draft, it carried a far more sinister message with Continue reading “#88: Get Back”
Society often feels obligated to turn its nose up to entertainment aimed at children. People are consistently amazed by the way Pixar produces films that appeal to young and old alike, as though it’s an impossible feat. And yes, there are plenty of shows and movies developed by hacks and cynics that insult the intelligence of audiences of all ages by assuming that the only way to appeal to kids (and get their parents to open their wallets) is through loud, colorful, repetitive, and downright annoying content totally void of substance.
But look at the recent burst of Mr. Rogers nostalgia and appreciation, or how Sesame Street has brought on guests that kids probably don’t recognize without sacrificing the show’s core values (exhibit A: “Furry Happy Monsters”). A sense of sincerity is all it takes to Continue reading “#93: All Together Now”
For a couple of months in 1967 and 1968, the Beatles had a running joke/strategy that they were dumping lesser tracks in order to fulfill contractual requirements for the movie Yellow Submarine. But aside from “Only a Northern Song” (incidentally, the lowest-ranking solo George Harrison composition on the countdown), they actually gave the filmmakers some unique and high-quality tracks, from the kid-friendly “All Together Now” to the unsettling rocker “Hey Bulldog” to the feedback-laden proto-grunge of “It’s All Too Much.”
We enter the top 100 with the second George Harrison track in a row, and this lengthy, psychedelic anthem is unlike anything else in the Beatles’ catalog. With loud, shredding guitars, a surprisingly gentle vocal, a possibly superfluous brass section (I go back and forth), and a chaotic organ part, there is a lot to unpack here. The elephant in the room is that Continue reading “#100: It’s All Too Much”
My affinity for the Beatles’ harmonies is no secret at this point, and “Because” is one of the most stunning examples on record. John, Paul, and George blend together so beautifully here, and major kudos to whoever decided to include an a capella rendition on Anthology 3, because it allows listeners to appreciate their incredible vocals absent of the unsettling, sparse instrumentation found on Abbey Road. It truly transforms the lyrics from ominous to optimistic.
That said, I don’t dislike the original version by any means. It’s kind of creepy but also calming. Despite John Lennon’s claim that “Because” is Continue reading “#104: Because”
By far the most puzzling inclusion on the Red and Blue albums–seriously, how did this George Harrison-penned b-side make it onto a Beatles best-of?–“Old Brown Shoe” is an all-around enigma. When George was coming into his own as a writer with masterpieces like “Here Comes the Sun” and “Isn’t It a Pity,” he composed this oddball track, even recording a demo on the same day as “Something” and “All Things Must Pass.” And yet, as readers of this countdown know, I have an inherent bias towards George tracks, and so “Old Brown Shoe” has long been one of my random favorites.
This song is full of such bizarre non sequiturs that I don’t really see any issues with these lines. Practically every lyric seems Continue reading “#107: Old Brown Shoe”
Another beneficiary of a prime spot in the Abbey Road medley, “Mean Mr. Mustard” is a lumbering and nonsensical but undeniably catchy ditty clocking in at just over a minute. Written in Rishikesh alongside many of the tracks that made up the White Album–check out the bizarre acoustic demo–“Mean Mr. Mustard” got a decidedly glossier treatment when it eventually showed up on vinyl. That didn’t stop John Lennon from Continue reading “#110: Mean Mr. Mustard”
As a self-professed music junkie, I must confess to having a mixed relationship with albums. While I love engaging in passionate debates about full-length records (shoutout to my podcast partner and loyal reader Eric Nyberg), the truth is…I rarely listen to albums in full. I would estimate that about 90% of the albums in my collection I’ve played from start to finish just one time. I’m all about individual songs. When I’m in the mood to hear a particular track, I’ll play it out of context. I’m not like those radio stations that always pair up playing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” or Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid.” I’m my own man, and I don’t need society to tell me how to play my music.
Telling me how to play my music is like telling Winnie the Pooh to put on some pants. It’s not going to happen.
But there is at least one brutally clear exception: Continue reading “#114: Carry That Weight”
Here it is, Ringo Starr’s last hurrah on the countdown. His second songwriting contribution to the group, “Octopus’s Garden” might not rank all that high, but everything about it is really a testament to how determined the group was to step it up for their recorded swan song Abbey Road as opposed to the “let’s get this over with” feel of recording Let it Be a few months earlier.
It was during those sessions that Ringo introduced the song to the group, and there’s even a scene where George helps him compose it in the Let it Be movie. (George probably should have been given a co-writing credit, and there’s also reason to believe that Continue reading “#116: Octopus’s Garden”
As I browsed my completely and unarguably definitive ranking of Beatles songs, I have to say I did a double-take when I saw “Don’t Let Me Down” positioned at #125. Like, what’s there not to love? John and Paul give it their all vocally, with some great late-period harmonies; Ringo is practically attacking the drums; and George’s sultry guitar intro sets the stage perfectly for this carnal bluesy ballad. Top that all off with the smooth keyboard stylings of Billy Preston, and it seems like a ridiculously low placement.
Alas, when I listened back I realized the part that throws it off for me. It’s the Continue reading “#125: Don’t Let Me Down”
It’s really difficult for me to switch allegiances once I discover a song. By that I mean I become so accustomed to the first version I hear that, most of the time, any other version or cover (or original) just sounds wrong to me. I can appreciate and often even enjoy different renditions, but I’ll usually return to my initial introduction. It’s why I always get stoked when one of my favorite artists releases a massive box set filled with demos and alternate takes, which I subsequently listen to one time and then disregard in favor of the album versions I’ve known all along.
Ah, but there are exceptions, and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is very much one of them. I blame Continue reading “#132: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”