#96: Rocky Raccoon

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”

#96: Rocky Raccoon

#97: Glass Onion

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”

#97: Glass Onion

#98: Fixing a Hole

For a guy who maintains a very consistent and particular public persona, Paul McCartney surprisingly often lets his freak flag fly on record. Truth be told, they typically end up becoming some of my favorite songs of his, which probably says more about me than it does about Paul’s willingness to get weird. We all love “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Band on the Run,” but my McCartney collection would be incomplete without oddball gems like “Temporary Secretary,” “Monkberry Moon Delight,” and “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose.”

Maybe the earliest evidence of Paul’s musical wild side is 1967’s “Fixing a Hole,” an eerie slice of psychedelia with lyrics that sound especially deep and thought-provoking at first but it turns out that, once again, Paul is just singing about Continue reading “#98: Fixing a Hole”

#98: Fixing a Hole

#99: Tell Me What You See

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”

#99: Tell Me What You See

#100: It’s All Too Much

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”

#100: It’s All Too Much

#101: If I Needed Someone

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”

#101: If I Needed Someone