The Fab 30: My Favorite Beatle Songs

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Interesting Videos, Music, Rock Lyrics, Rock Music, Rock Videos, Things I Love
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I started this blog with the intention of listing my Top 10 Favorite Beatle Songs. Well, those of you who know me realize that wasn’t a remote possibility. Hell, it was really hard narrowing the list down to thirty. That said, I did it. My Top 30 may include some songs the casual music fan might not be familiar with, so I’d suggesting blindly downloading them purely on the basis of my reommendation.

So turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream . . .

1. Abbey Road Medley (1969)

I know, I know, a medley is more than one song. In fact, this one is 8-songs long. Still, as I’ve mentioned before I consider this the greatest 16-minutes and 30-seconds in the history of music. It has everything, from Lennon’s “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” to McCartney’s “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” and “Golden Slumbers”. It also includes John, Paul and George taking turns towards the end in a searing 3-man guitar solo. Ringo also has a drum solo, his only one in the band’s history. It was the last album The Beatles recorded (although Let It Be was released later) and it concluded with the legendary “Carry That Weight” followed by “The End” with Paul’s famous lines:

And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

2. Nowhere Man (1965)

This song has always held a special place in my heart for several reasons, the most important being that it was the first song that ever really made me think. The amazing harmonies, the jangly guitars, it all fits into a tight, almost perfect rock song. Lennon, by the way, almost certainly wrote this song about himself.

Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to, isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

3. Helter Skelter (1968)

If any of my students ever questioned whether The Beatles ever really rocked, this song would put an end to that question. This blast of power, along with McCartney’s hoarse, screaming vocals, was by far the heaviest song in rock music to date and put bands like The Who on notice: You wanna rock? Here’s how it’s done.

4. Please Please Me (1963)

I was 8-years old when I first heard this song, and to this day I still get a little shiver when I hear it. The soaring vocals and the Lennon/McCartney harmonies just hit home with me. Producer George Martin felt the same way. After The Beatles recorded it he looked at them and famously stated, “Gentlemen, I think you’ve got your first Number One.”

And he was right.

If you want to hear and see a rollicking version by Paul McCartney from 2006, here ya go.

5. Revolution (1968)

When Lennon’s guitar started tearing into the intro of this song, you knew the four innocent “Mop Tops” from 4-years prior were forever disappearing into the rearview mirror. This was the group’s first overtly political song, and along with “Helter Skelter” stands as one of their hardest rocking songs.

6. Get Back (1969)

John always maintained that every time Paul sang the words, “Get Back” in the studio during recording that he looked directly at Yoko. Maybe, but this song was written by Paul when he thought The Beatles needed to “get back” to the basics of rock and roll and away from all the studio experimentation they’d been involved in. Me? I couldn’t care less, I just love the tune. Check it out:

7. Hey Jude (1968)

“Hey Jude” was written by Paul for John’s son Julian. John had broken up with Julian’s mom Cynthia and this was Paul telling him that everything was going to be OK.  Obviously he changed “Jules” to “Jude” and the rest is history. “Hey Jude” is the longest song The Beatles ever released, and George Martin didn’t think radio would play it because it was 7:11 long. “They won’t play it,” he said.  John knew better though. “Oh, they’ll play it,” he said. “They will if it’s us.”

If you can find the video, you’ll see people that had walked onto the set that had been invited in off the street as the song was being performed. Can you imagine that happening today?

8. Blackbird (1968

Paul wrote this simple, beautiful ballad about African-American women in the American south. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing, so it makes perfect sense. In England, women were commonly referred to as “birds”, so . . .

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to  see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”

9. Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968)

John Lennon was very proud of this song, as well he should have been. It’s an interesting mix of musical styles but I enjoy the taste of doo-wop that he throws in the most. An often overlooked gem from The White Album.

“She’s well acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.” 

Only Lennon.

10. I Am the Walrus (1967)

Quite possibly the strangest, most unique song ever recorded. The lyrics, the music, all of it is intertwined into a one of the greatest songs ever, period. Word is that after Lennon first played an acoustic version for everyone (the other Beatles, producer George Martin, the engineers) they sat there stunned for a few seconds like, “What the hell was THAT?” What it was was a giant leap forward in music creativity and Lennon at his finest.

Goo goo j’goob!

11. Let It Be (1969)

Ah, Paul’s gorgeous song about his mother. He was influenced by R & B, and in fact Aretha Franklin did a great cover of it. The version on the original “Let It Be” album, however, was butchered by producer Phil Spector after The Beatles turned over the raw studio mixes to him (at this point they were fighting so much they didn’t want to face the task themselves). The original was simpler, and stunningly breathtaking.

12. A Day in the Life (1967)

John Lennon called this song “the Beatles at their peak.” I’ve always loved the middle where Paul does almost a separate song: “Got, up, got outa bed, dragged a comb across my head” as well as the long, drawn out ending. The Beatles employed an orchestra for the song and at one point told them to simply start at a certain low note and end on a certain high note and do what you want in between, all in a set number of seconds. Somehow, it worked. If that made no sense, just listen to it. You’ll recognize it when you hear it.

13. I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)

This is the song that grabbed a nation by the neck and wouldn’t let go. From the soaring first verse when they sing. “When I, say that something, I wanna hold your H-A-N-D!”, to the guitars, to the intro that kicks it all off, all of it meshes together to form one of the catchiest, smoothest, harmonious songs ever recorded. To this day, I smile every time I hear it. Simply joyous. And for a nation reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy a little over 2-months before, this was a blast of upbeat, optimistic, much-needed fresh air.

14. Rain (1966)

This is a Lennon song that’s about, well, people walking around in the rain. What makes it special, though, is the fact that this was the song that ushered in the Psychedelic Era of Music. This was the song that led to the sound you heard emanating from Jefferson Airplane, Vanilla Fudge, Strawberry Alarm Clock and others. Was this song influenced by LSD? The answer is yes. Oh, and listen to Ringo beating the living hell out of the drums.

15. Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)

When I first saw the video and heard this song as a kid I remember thinking, “What happened to The Beatles?” It was so different, so out there, so surreal, that I didn’t know what to make of it. Remember that this was recorded just a little over 3-years after “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Talk about a transformation. This song illustrates how quickly The Beatles were growing and expanding as a band. One of Lennon’s best works.

16. Hard Day’s Night (1964)

This song opens with probably the most famous chord in the history of rock and roll. The jangly 12-string guitars influenced bands such as The Byrds, who in turn influenced everyone from Tom Petty to R.E.M. So yeah, important record. The best thing about this song for me, though, is the contrast between the bridge (which McCartney wrote and sings) and the rest of the song. Just beautiful.  The song’s title came from one of Ringo’s off-hand remarks that he was known for. As he was walking out after a long day in the studio, he started to say, “It’s been a hard day” but as he was saying it he noticed that it was dark outside. So, he said, “Man, it’s been a hard day . . .’s night.

And listen to the ending. Totally unique in rock music up to that point.

17. I Will (1968)

This is a simple love song from the White Album. Nothing fancy or complicated, it’s simply a song that has always appealed to me. I’m a sucker for a pretty melody, and this song has it. Just a good song that I’ve always loved, nothing more and nothing less. On a related note, my best friends Tom and Andy sing this song to me every time we see each other. True story.

18. Piggies (1968)

From the White Album. This George Harrison tune is about rich people who sit in their ivory towers, oblivious to the world around them. It’s a vicious song, and it has a dark history. You see, someone heard it and took these lyrics quite literally – “In their eyes there’s something lacking, what they need’s a damn good whacking.”  That someone was Charles Manson, and the song is one of the reasons “piggies” was written in blood on the wall of Sharon Tate’s home. Chilling.

19. The Long and Winding Road (1969)

McCartney wrote this gorgeous ballad as The Beatles were spiraling out of control, and the lyrics reflect that. It was originally a a stripped down song with just Paul and few extras. The version that eventually got put on the album had violins and women background singers added by producer Phil Spector. Here though, is the sadly beautiful original.

20. Yesterday (1965)

Paul woke up one morning with the melody in his head. Not even kidding. He was sure it must be an existing song so he spent weeks humming it to people, asking if they’d heard it.  The original title was “Scrambled Eggs” and it went, “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs.” When he was finally convinced he wasn’t stealing the song, he recorded it. The result was the most covered song in Beatles history and one of the greatest ballads ever written.

21. Hey Bulldog (1969)

Just a crazy-ass song from the get-go, with a snarling Lennon vocal and nasty Harrison guitar solo in the middle. Listen at the end for the exchange between Lennon and McCartney that includes howls, barks and laughter. Love it.

22. Come Together (1969)

This track stands out in The Beatles catalog because of its bluesy, funky feel, as well as for Lennon’s odd lyrics. And also for the incredible bass line. One of the eerier aspects of the song (considering what happened later) is when Lennon whispers “shoot me” several times during the intro. Totally unique, one-of-a-kind song.

23. I’m Down (1965)

A straight-ahead rocker, McCartney wrote it as an ode to one of his heroes, Little Richard. It really shows what a strong voice Paul really had. It’s basically a slam at a girl who has wronged him, and he sings it with an appropriate fervor.

24. She’s Leaving Home (1967)

Just a beautiful McCartney ballad about a girl who has run away from home. As a kid, when I heard the words, “She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years” it really touched me. And when Lennon sang from the parent’s point of view, “Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly? How could she do this to me?”, well, I got the irony right away. And you need to remember that this song was released in 1967, a period when a lot of teenagers were running away from what they considered to be oppressive upbringings.

25. Ticket to Ride (1965)

This song was really unique for its time and some, including Lennon, considered it to be “one of the earliest heavy metal records.” The historic 12-string guitar riff to start the song is stellar, and if it doesn’t grab your musical soul you have none. When you listen to the song, check out the change of tempo during the fade-out. It’s an entirely different song, and it was the first time this had ever been done. So good.

26. Ask Me Why (1963)

I make no apologies for loving this simple, straightforward love song. It’s one of the first Beatles songs I ever heard, and I fell in love with the beautiful vocals and harmonies. As I said, there are no special lyrics, no experimental sounds, and it wasn’t a hit record. I just love it, and that’s enough for me.

27. I Feel Fine (1964)

This is a great song on many levels, but perhaps the most interesting thing about it is the fact that it’s the first-ever record to use feedback as part of the tune, on purpose. And listen to Ringo as he messes with the cymbals and drums – very unique and creative stuff. And listen for that feedback that leads into the badass guitar riff right. Trailblazers once more.

28. Glass Onion (1968)

This song is rife with guitars and violins, and it refers to several earlier Beatles songs, including “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Lady Madonna”, “The Fool on the Hill” and “Fixing a Hole”. I’ve always loved the vibe this tune gives out.

29. Lady Madonna (1968)

There was always a rumor when I was a kid that this song was about a prostitute, but McCartney has steadfastly denied it and insisted it’s a tribute to working women, particularly in England. It’s a great, piano based tune that sort of has an R & B feel to it, and I’ve always loved it.

30. Got to Get You Into My Life (1966)

This is just a great song that was a bit of a departure for The Beatles, mainly because of the huge presence of horns. It was another venture of Paul’s into Motown territory, and it’s spectacular. And you know what all the kids across America didn’t know at the time? Paul wasn’t singing about a girl, he was singing about marijuana. Yep, it’s Paul’s ode to weed. Who knew? In addition, it has withstood the test of time. Here’s Paul singing it in New York in 2009. Stellar stuff.

So there you go. I know I left out some great songs like “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “Back in the USSR” and “Birthday” but I had to have a cut-off point. I also left out “Twist and Shout” primarily because it was a cover song. Let it be, people.

Finally, I really believe you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite Beatle songs.

So, whaddaya got?

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Comments
  1. InMyHead says:

    My favorite is Blackbird…stops me in my tracks every time I hear it.

Gimme a holler.

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