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”
On the surface, this deceptively simple ballad is basically one cliche lyric after another. If you assembled the words to the complete discographies of 1950s teen idols and fed them into some algorithm for a computer to write a love song, “Ask Me Why” would be the output. There’s nothing here that Continue reading “#102: Ask Me Why”
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”
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”
I have a theory about “Hello Goodbye.” It’s probably a stretch, and maybe I’m playing armchair psychologist a bit, but here goes: “Hello Goodbye” marks the beginning of the end of the Beatles. Continue reading “#105: Hello Goodbye”
The idea of “beyond the grave” duets has an inherent creepiness factor, and somehow, even though “Real Love” is a much better song than “Free as a Bird,” it feels decidedly more unsettling. I’d chalk this up mostly to the hollowness of John Lennon’s lead vocals, filtered from a piano demo and carrying an (intentional?) almost ghostly effect amidst the added production from the surviving Beatles. However, I’m not going to take for granted one last opportunity to hear Paul harmonize with John, even artificially. George’s guitar work is also a wonderful addition.
Not only did Yoko wisely opt not to contribute, but kudos to her for not trying to snag additional royalties by taking a credit for playing “wind” or whatever.
After “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” you’d be forgiven for assuming that a third ‘reunion’ single would accompany Anthology 3, but apparently the remaining trio couldn’t agree on a Lennon demo to tackle. Rumor has it the leading contender was Continue reading “#106: Real Love”
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”