For this exercise, I did go through the Beatles catalog (I did for the Stones, too, to be fair) but even without looking to see if I forgot something, I knew the top four songs without much thought. And, that is not because I have made a list like this before: rather I know the songs that I not only love, but the ones I have continued to cherish in my memory bank.
It is odd that nothing from St. Pepper made it, as that is generally considered the band’s landmark/seminal album, and though I have nothing to say against it, in the rear view–at least to me–it doesn’t hold as strongly as Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, or especially the White Album (which is all over the map, but is so damned interesting).
That said, saying there is a bad Beatles album is kind of like saying there is a good Starland Vocal Band album (remember, they got a best new artist Grammy, and well the Beatles as a band never got one until Let It Be which counted as a movie soundtrack).
Here goes (but scroll to the bottom for some honorable mentions):
Please Please Me: Dynamite the first time I heard it, and it is still dynamite today. How did they do that? The harp and machine gun drums (shades of The Locomotion?) and those staccato guitar chords and thumping bass. And the couplet: “I do all the pleasin’ baby It’s so hard to reason with you, why do you make me blue?” is so beyond brilliant it is scary. More than anything, Please Please Me defined the band, the sound, and everything that came dragging on its coattails. That is pretty good.
And Your Bird Can Sing: I have written about this song before. It was part of the best bass lines ever piece on this site, but maybe the opening guitar riff belongs in a similar Lick Hall of Fame. The only problem with the song is it is too short as in I want it to keep going. But, since the tune is as close to perfect as one can get, that observation is moot.
It’s Only Love: God how I love John, and I think a lot of it is he is cynical (Ballad of John and Yoko) and obscure (I am the Walrus) and a rocker (Revolution) and such a romantic, as in It’s Only Love. This song is so beautiful and sweet, and when John sings “why am I so shy” he is telling us he is just like us, Beatle or not. And, we should all relate.
I am the Walrus: Speaking of which, this one is just mesmerizing. It is psychedelic pop at its very best and is a song that instantly hooks, and keeps me humming, trying to figure which vocal part to sing with at times. Does anyone have a clue what this song is even about? Better, does anyone care? That is pretty good when we love a song and no one has any idea about its essence.
I’ve Got a Feeling: Such a great opening riff, and such a great song, and such great vocals, especially at the end when the “Everybody had a high here” is double tracked in rounds with itself. I get shivers just thinking about it. Great double vocals. Great drums. Great bass. Great rhythm guitar. Just great.
It’s All Too Much: Always a sucker for George’s songs, and even though Yellow Submarine is really a thrown together soundtrack, this song just sends me. It’s hypnotic. The opening alone–basically 30 seconds of feedback–defines it all. Kind of like Moonlight Mile is to the Stones, It’s All Too Much is to the Beatles for me.
Tomorrow Never Knows (TNK): Goddam, how did they know to do the things they did to get all those–at the time–crazy sounds in this wonderful song? Was it George Martin, or them? And, how much fun might it have been to simply watch them brainstorming this stuff? I also want to give cred to 801–the Phil Manzanera/Eno jam band–who more than did justice to this song as well. I tossed it in for fun.
And, 801 doing the song more than justice.
Day Tripper: One of the first riffs I was able to figure out on the guitar, was the opening to Day Tripper. The bridge into the solo with the crash cymbols ringing is just spectacular. Solo is pretty good too.
I Need You: Such a lovely song from George, and one I prefer to Something. Again, a great opening lick, and better, when the bass kicks in after the head, god, is it good. Advanced guitar effects too. Just a great song.
Here Comes the Sun: Everything I have already said about the preceding nine songs applies here. Again, just a beautiful piece, with great guitar. And, the deadly farfisa organ that comes chiming in after the bridge just destroys me. It always did is the thing. I have played a few Beatles songs live in various bands, but this is the only one that was rehearsed, and I played the lead acoustic guitar part (capo on 7th fret, if memory serves) and I did an ok job. Sang it too. Always proud that I think I did it justice.
Honorable mention (in no particular order): Revolution, I Feel Fine, 8 Days a Week, Back in the USSR/Dear Prudence, She Said, While My Guitar Gently Weep and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.
BTW, three points each.