#77: This Boy

Krispy Kreme donuts. The “Mr. Plow” episode of The Simpsons. The Beatles’ harmonies.

“What are three things that are pretty great, Alex?”

For all the division in our society in modern times, I think we as a collective can agree that all of those things are all quite exceptional. (Four if you count Alex Trebek.) I don’t know if it’s possible to gush too much about how amazing the Beatles’ harmonies were, but over the course of their seven-year recording career, John, Paul, and George united in three-part harmony just three times. “This Boy” was the earliest and best–I’ve never liked the maudlin “Yes It Is,” and “Because” is gorgeous, but the longing, impassioned “This Boy” is the greatest Smokey Robinson song he never wrote.

One of my favorite parts of the Beatles’ harmonies, and one of the reasons I wish they had more songs like these, is that Continue reading “#77: This Boy”

#77: This Boy

#79: The Inner Light

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.

capncrunch
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”

#79: The Inner Light

#88: Get Back

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.

harvey
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”

#88: Get Back

#91: From Me to You

With two rather selfish and demanding singles under their belt (“Love ME Do”! “Please Please ME“!), the Beatles finally found themselves in a giving mood for their third A-side. I always felt like “From Me to You” sort of flies under the radar, at least from the perspective of a 21st century American Beatles fan. You never hear it on the radio and it doesn’t attract the same appreciation as their other early singles, even though it’s just as catchy and enjoyable, and I never understood why until I started doing research for this write-up. Yes, I do research for these. I fact-check everything. Why is that so hard to believe?

Anyway, “From Me to You” was released just after President Richard Nixon was impeached for Continue reading “#91: From Me to You”

#91: From Me to You

#107: Old Brown Shoe

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”

#107: Old Brown Shoe

#109: Lady Madonna

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 SoulRevolver 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”

#109: Lady Madonna

#113: Day Tripper

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.

soundgarden.jpg
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”

#113: Day Tripper

#118: Thank You Girl

I’m probably ranking this higher than I should, but what the heck, it’s a catchy song. Originally planned as the Beatles’ third single, “Thank You Girl” was relegated to the b-side once Lennon and McCartney came up with “From Me to You.” A wise choice, but “Thank You Girl” deserves more love. It’s slightly–just slightly but Continue reading “#118: Thank You Girl”

#118: Thank You Girl

#125: Don’t Let Me Down

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”

#125: Don’t Let Me Down