Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

My dad, circa 1972.

My dad, circa 1972.

As many of you know, I have a pretty extensive music collection. I recently did a rough count and when you include albums, 45s, cassette tapes, CDs, and downloads I have over half a million songs in my collection. Yeah, I know. Hard to believe but it’s true. That’s a lot.

I have the complete works of several artists, including The Beatles, R.E.M., Eels, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Chi-Lites, Bob Dylan and many others. My collection is very eclectic, from The Osmonds to Frank Sinatra to Tchaikovsky to Hank Williams to . . . you get the idea.

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That hungry little daschund!*For mature readers only, and trust me when I say you’ll look at that little dog differently by the end of this article.

But seriously, I’m talking songs about killers. Death Songs. Rock and Roll has been rife with these types of oddities since its inception. Probably the heyday of morbid rock was in the 60’s, with songs like “Dead Man’s Curve” or “Last Kiss” (Pearl Jam did a brutal cover of that one a few years back) although that’s not exactly the type of song I’m going to talk about here. I’ve always been fascinated by the tunes with more of an edge, songs with a more threatening tone if you will. If they have a happy little melody to balance things out, well, that’s even better. Hey, there’s nothing cooler than humming along merrily to a song about a serial killer, right?

So without further ado, a list of my favorites:

Run for Your Life – The Beatles

This gem from John Lennon seems harmless enough, at least until you actually listen to the lyrics. It was on Rubber Soul and John pulled no punches regarding what would happen if his girlfriend left him:

Let this be a sermon, I mean everything I’ve said, Baby, I’m determined and I’d rather see you dead. You better run for your life if you can, little girl, Hide your head in the sand little girl, Catch you with another man, that’s the end, little girl.

Yikes. How in God’s name did that get past the honcho’s way back in 1965? This, my friends, was an early indicator that the friendly moptops weren’t as innocent as they seemed.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – The Beatles

This Paul McCartney song (from Abbey Road) is a great example of how downright nasty lyrics can be when hidden behind a catchy tune and how, incredibly, a lot of people miss the point. Hey, it’s upbeat and bouncy, it can’t possibly be about a guy who murders his girlfriend Joan, his teacher, and then the judge presiding over his trial. Or can it? I’ve got to give you the full song on this one:

Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home,  Late nights all alone with a test-tube, ohh-oh-oh-oh… Maxwell Edison majoring in medicine calls her on the phone,  “Can I take you out to the pictures Joa-oa-oa-oan?” But as she’s getting ready to go a knock comes on the door…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead.

Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again, teacher gets annoyed Wishing to avoid an unpleasant sce-e-e-ene,  She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away, so he waits behind,  Writing 50 times “I must not be so-o-o-oo…” But when she turns her back on the boy, he creeps up from behind…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head,  Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead.

P.C. Thirty-One said “we caught a dirty one,” Maxwell stands alone,  Painting testimonial pictures ohh-oh-oh-oh,  Rose and Valerie screaming from the gallery, say he must go free,  The judge does not agree and he tells them so-o-o-oo,  But as the words are leaving his lips a noise comes from behind…

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon his head,  Bang, Bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that he was dead.

I’m going to tell you something now that you may not believe. I actually heard an elementary music class singing this song at school once. I stopped outside in the hallway to make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing, and I was sure enough correct.

Awesome.

Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon (must-click link!)

Another great song about rape and murder set to a catchy melody. Hey, he’s just an excitable boy:

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom Excitable boy, they all said.  And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home Excitable boy, they all said. Well, he’s just an excitable boy.

After ten long years they let him out of the home,  Excitable boy, they all said. And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bonesExcitable boy, they all said. Well, he’s just an excitable boy.

That last line about building a cage with her bones just finishes it off with the right touch, don’t ya think?

Marie Provost – Nick Lowe

God, I love this song. It’s just chock full of ironic, tongue-in-cheek madness. Basically it’s a song about a silent movie actress who couldn’t adjust when the talkies came to Hollywood. She lives all alone in a house with her little dachshund, becomes depressed, passes out on pills, and uh, things take an ugly turn. Here ya go kids! Sing along!

She’d been lyin’ there for two or three weeks, The neighbors said they never heard a squeak, While hungry eyes that could not speak, Said even little doggies have gotta eat.

And later . . .

Those quaalude bombs didn’t help her sleep, As her nights grew long and her days grew bleak, It’s all downhill once you’ve passed your peak, Marie got ready for that last big sleep.

The cops came in and they looked around, Throwin’ up everywhere over what they found, The handiwork of Marie’s little dachshund. That hungry little dachshund!

She was a winner that became a doggie’s dinner, She never meant that much to me, Whoa oh, poor Marie.

Try though as I might to elaborate on those lyrics, I got nuthin’. That is all.

The End – The Doors

Ooh, this song gave me the willies back when I was a young, impressionable kid (insert age joke here). Even now it’s a powerful song in many respects. To this day it’s hard to believe Jim Morrison went where he went with these horrifying lyrics:

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery, And he walked on down the hall. He went into the room where his sister lived, and then he . . . paid a visit to his brother, and then he . . . Walked on down the hall, and he came to a door . . . and he looked inside.

“Father?” “Yes son.” “I want to kill you.” “Mother? I want to . . . . f**k you.”

Holy . . . what the hell? Man, you think rap music goes to dark places? They got nothin’ on The Lizard King. Whoa.

Timothy – The Buoys

Great song from the early 70’s about three guys who become trapped in a cave and uh… let’s just say only two are left when the rescuers get to them. Hey, nothing wrong with a catchy little song about cannibalism, is there? Enjoy . . .

Hungry as hell no food to eat, And Joe said that he would sell his soul, For just a piece of meat

Water enough to drink for two, And Joe said to me, “I’ll have a swig And then there’s some for you.”

Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?

I must have blacked out just around then, ‘Cause the very next thing that I could, Was the light of the day again, My stomach was full as it could be,  And nobody ever got around To finding Timothy . . .

So there you have it. My favorite songs about murder, rape, cannibalism, death by dachshund, and screwing your mother.

Have a nice day.

Stellar.

thebeatlestitt

beatles

I apologize for the length of this piece, and I suppose it should only be read by true music lovers or real Beatle fans. You have been warned.

I touched on this subject in a previous blog entitled A few thoughts regarding The Beatles, but I thought it was worth delving into a little deeper. I always amazes me when I hear somebody actually downplay The Beatles and their contributions to rock music. Hell, I quit listening to Simon & Garfunkel for 5-years after Paul Simon made this asinine statement back in the late 70’s:

The world is waiting for two great reunions. Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.”

That’s right, Paul. You guys and The Beatles, that’s what we wanted. I guess one out of two ain’t bad.

But back to The Beatles and the groundbreaking things they did. They did so many things first, and the fact is, virtually all of today’s music can be traced back to The Beatles in one way or the other. And nobody comes close to them as far as being innovative musically.

Nobody. They just made it up as they went along, and everyone since has followed.

So without further ado, an amazing list of Beatle firsts . . .

  • Believe it or not, The Beatles were the first rock band to have every member of the group singing lead on various songs. Paul and John also traded leads during songs, a first. Most bands, even now, have one lead singer with the other members providing backup.
  • The Beatles released the first single with two A-Sides. Before, all singles had an A-Side (the hit) and a B-Side (a random throwaway song). This all ended when the Beatles released a single with “Strawberry Fields Forever” on one side and “Penny Lane” on the other. Both became major hits.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use feedback in the recording of a song. Listen to the guitar feedback at the beginning of “I Feel Fine”to hear it.
  • The Beatles were the first band to sell a million copies of a song before its release. That single was “Can’t Buy Me Love” in 1964.
  • The Beatles were the first band to put out an album on which over half the songs (Please Please Me, 1962) were written by the group members. It was normal in the world of popular music (before The Beatles anyway) for a singer to simply perform songs written by others. Elvis, for example, wrote none of the songs that he made famous. It was a startling event when the Beatles released their first album and eight of fourteen songs were written by members of the band. Soon they’d be writing all of their music. In fact, the album “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 contained all original compositions.
  • The Beatles were the first band to take their concerts from concert halls to stadiums.  Their first venture into this area was at New York’s Shea Stadium where more than 50,000 fans watched the show.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use electric keyboards and synthesizers in their music, including the mellotron that was used in “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Totally groundbreaking at the time.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use a harmonica (Love Me Do in 1962) in a rock song. The harmonica was not considered a rock instrument until the Beatles used it in several songs; it then became common.
  • The Beatles were the first band to star in a feature film (“A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964). Now it’s pretty common for popular bands to make movies.
  • The Beatles were the first band to make a rock video. In 1965 they made videos for both “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”
  • The Beatles were the first rock band to use a full orchestra in their recordings.
  • The Beatles once had the Top 5 selling singles in the United States (“Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.”), a record that still stands.
  • The Beatles wrote the first “concept” album, where all the songs were tied together in a collective theme. Before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” albums were simply a collection of unrelated songs.

  • The Beatles were the first rock group to have the lyrics printed on the album’s back cover.
  • The Beatles were the first band to record a song that faded out, then back in. They did this on “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Helter Skelter.”
  • The Beatles were also the first band to release an album with a completely blank cover. “The Beatles”, more commonly referred to as “The White Album” was completely white. Note the original printings had “The Beatles” in raised white lettering in the bottom right corner.

  • The first time a satellite was ever used to broadcast anything worldwide was for The Beatles and their live performance of “All You Need is Love” in 1967. Over 400-million people watched. Oh, and since it was live they obviously did this in one take.
  • The Beatles were the first to use subliminal messages in songs. As I mentioned in my blog Turn Me on Dead Man: The Great McCartney Death Hoax , you just have to listen to the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and hear John say, “I buried Paul” to get a sample of this.
  • The Beatles were the first to use any type of sampling in their songs. They used a pig grunting in “Piggies”, farm animal noises to “Good Morning, Good Morning”, and a jet engine in “Back in the U.S.S.R.” It’s since become commonplace to use non-musical sounds in studio recordings.
  • It has been said that The Beatles recorded the very first Heavy Metal/Speed Metal song with the release of “Helter Skelter” in 1968.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use a sitar on a record. George played one on “Norwegian Wood.”
  • The Beatles were the first group to use backwards music in their songs. Again, since then it’s been done many, many times.
  • The Beatles were the first band to have the drummer sit higher than the rest of the group.
  • The Beatles released the first single in the history of rock and roll that was longer than 4-minutes with “Hey Jude” in 1968. It was over 7-minutes long and included rock’s first “extended fade-out”.
  • The Beatles were the first rock band to use a horn section. It was in the song “Got to Get You Into my Life.” Groups like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears were influenced by this song when they created their bands.
  • The Beatles were the first band to have songs run together into each other on an album.
  • The Beatles were as avant-garde as any group has ever been. Their experimentation was simply amazing. Listen “Revolution 9” and “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number” and and tell me if you’ve ever heard anything like it since. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” it ain’t.

I’ve always argued that The Beatles advanced popular music more in their short lifespan (basically 1960 to 1970) than popular music has advanced since then (1970 to 2013). Not even an argument in my opinion.

And believe it or not, non-believers, but I actually left some Beatle Firsts out. There are more from whence these came.

The Beatles were creative, inventive, talented, and groundbreaking. Musical geniuses really. But the bottom line is, they wrote really, really good songs. My man Mark Oliver Everett (E), creative genius behind The Eels, perhaps said it best:

“Kids know what’s going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn’t matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like The Beatles and I’ll show you a bad seed.”

Amen E. Amen.

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Yeah, yeah, we all know Paul McCartney isn’t dead. If he did indeed die back in the late 60’s, his replacement has sure made some damn good music for the past 40+ years. Band on the Run, Jet, Maybe I’m Amazed, and Live and Let Die were pretty good songs if written by some replacement. Still, something was going on back then, because the lads left way too many clues for it to be a coincidence. Was it a prank? Were The Beatles just messin’ with us? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure – it’s fun looking at the clues they left.

For those out of the know, it all started back on October 12th, 1969 when some shady character called a Detroit radio station (WKNR-FM on your dial!) and told disc jockey Russ Gibb about the rumour and its clues. Gibb and other callers then discussed the rumor on the air for the next hour. Thus, the firestorm had begun. Soon people were discovering clues everywhere, on album covers, in song lyrics, hell, even when you played certain Beatles songs backwards. The clues dated back to Sgt. Pepper’s in 1967.

Holy shit man, was Paul really dead?

As the story goes, Paul had gotten into a huge argument during a recording session, rushed off and was killed in a horrific traffic accident. He was then replaced by the winner of the Paul McCartney look-alike contest, the contest that was held with no winner ever being announced. I know, pretty preposterous and obviously untrue. But still, a bazillion and three clues were left, some more credible than others, but all incredibly compelling. Let’s discuss some of my favorites . . .

“Turn me on Dead Man”

This one was a d-o-o-o-z-y (anyone get the Groundhog Day movie reference? Sigh). Here’s the deal. If you put the song “Revolution #9” on the turntable (it’s on the White Album by the way) and turn it backwards slowly you hear “Turn me on dead man” over and over. Wanna hear it? Hear ya go. Now, that song was freaky anyway, but listening to it backwards in the middle of the night was downright chilling.

“Paul is dead, man. Miss him. Miss him.”

Also from The White Album. At the end of the song “I’m So Tired” and before the beginning of “Blackbird” there is some mumbling. When played backwards you can hear the words, “Paul is dead, man. Miss him. Miss him.” Again, I have the audio right here for y’all, more proof that I’m not your average run-of-the-mill blogger. Enjoy.

“I buried Paul.”

This is a good one. If you listen to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” at the end of the song there’s a fade-out followed by a fade-in of gibberish and noises. Then, right before the second fade-out you hear the words, “I buried Paul.” John said later he was saying “cranberry sauce” but I never bought that. Of course, at another time he said he was saying “I’m very bored” so John was either forgetful, messing with us, or high (definite possibility). Click here and you be the judge. It begins at the :13 second mark.

There are numerous other lyrics people point to when declaring that The Beatles were trying to tell us something…

“He blew his mind out in a car, he didn’t notice that the lights had changed.”

These are lyrics from “A Day in the Life,” on 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, and of course they fit right in with the conspiracy theorists macabre conjectures.

“You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair.”

From Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By,” which was on 1968’s White Album. Sure are a lot of references to car wrecks, huh?

“Yes, he’s dead” and “We loved you yeah, yeah, yeah.”  

If you listen to “All You Need is Love” closely, which you will in a second, you’ll hear “Yes he’s dead” and shortly thereafter the words “We loved you yeah, yeah, yeah.” I’ll give you the link shortly.

“Will Paul be back as Superman?”

At the very end of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album you hear some weird voices with unintelligible words. When played backwards you can hear “Will Paul be back as Superman?” Cu-reepy.

I actually found a video with the last four examples included (as well as some others I have and have not mentioned). You can hear “Yes he’s dead” at the 1:20 mark and “We loved you yeah, yeah, yeah” at 1:29.  The others are pretty clear-cut. Here’s a link to said video. It also includes the “Walrus was Paul” line from Glass Onion. The walrus was apparently the symbol of death in Scandanavian culture, and Paul was dressed as one on the “Magical Mystery Tour” album cover. Good stuff.

There are other weird lyrics, like in “Come Together” when John sings “One and one and one is three” which could be the lads trying to tell us there were only three Beatles left. No way, right? But still . . .

There are also several clues located on album covers, in album sleeves and elsewhere. I’ll begin with the most famous . . .

Abbey Road Album Cover 

Everybody knows this one, right?

abbey

Here’s the way this one was interpreted. You see, from left to right we have George dressed as a gravedigger, Paul as the corpse (left-handed Paul is holding the cigarette in his right hand and he’s also out of step with the other three), Ringo as the undertaker and John as the preacher, ambulance driver or heavenly figure according to what you read.

And on the back of the Abbey Road album we have this:

abbey2

Check out those dots before the word BEATLES. If you connect them can you make a 3? As in 3 BEATLES? Some people can. In addition, some can see a skull in the shadows to the right of BEATLES. A stretch? You be the judge.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Cover

1a

Well, the first clue is pretty obvious, since there’s a grave on the cover. But check out that guitar made of flowers. Is it possible they spell out PAUL?, including the question mark? Can you see it? Oh, and did I mention that’s a left-handed guitar and Paul was left-handed?

There’s also a photo of the boys on the inside fold-out. Paul has a patch on his sleeve that apparently has the letters OPD on it. Let’s see . . . Officially Pronounced Dead? Sure.

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On the back cover there was a photo of the band and only one member has his back turned. Yep, you guessed it. Here’s a close-up:

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You can’t see the lyrics George is pointing to, but they say, “Wednesday morning at 5:00 as the day begins.” Since Paul supposedly left an all-night recording session in an angry state, could this be referring to the time he was killed?

One more thing regarding the Pepper’s album I must mention. On the cover there is a hand above Paul’s head. This, according to the experts, is a European symbol of evil and/or death. Here’s a closeup:

1aapaulhand

There are several examples of this hand over Paul’s head on the Magical Mystery Tour album as well.

Magical Mystery Tour Album

There was a booklet contained in the album, and it included this picture:

Yep, Paul has a black rose, everybody else has a red rose (the pic is enlarged in the corner for your benefit – again, top-notch blogging). The black rose, obviously, is a symbol of death. Why the hell did it take a phone call to a radio station to get people to see these clues? Geez.

Here’s another photo from the booklet:

1

Sure enough, there’s Paul with a sign saying, “I was” on it. Can’t get much clearer than that.

As I said, these are just a few of my favorite clues. The list goes on and on . . .

There are tons of websites dedicated to the rumor that Paul McCartney died back in the 60’s. If you don’t believe me just Google “Paul is Dead” and see what happens. Insanity.

To reiterate, we all know that Paul is indeed alive. Still, it’s pretty clear to me that The Beatles were having some fun with us. There’s just way too many clues to be coincidental.

But it’s 2015, and Paul still isn’t dead.

Rock music creativity, though? Yeah, definitely on life-support.

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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’ve included the actual audio so you can give them a listen.

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.”

Believe it or not, in the video below the people that walk onto the set were just 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. 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, 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, one of my best friends Tom and I sing this song every time we see each other. Weird but true.

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.

Check out this live performance in what was the bedlam of their Shea Stadium concert:

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 here  . . .

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 ti 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?

I read a quote today that got me to thinking, which is always a dangerous proposition. But we’ll get to the quote later . . .

Every once in awhile I’ll hear a student (or somebody else for that matter) say something along the lines of, “The Beatles were overrated,” or “The Beatles are for old people.” For the love of God, I once had a kid tell me that his dad told him that The Beatles were “the first boy band.” Sigh. I took a breath, counted to 10 and backed slowly away, muttering horrific and terrible things about said father.  Anyway, I usually just attribute such gibberish to the fact that people are ignorant or simply haven’t really listened. And I mean REALLY listened. For if you HAD listened, you’d know that almost all music we hear today was influenced in one way or the other by The Beatles. There is simply no denying that fact.

I could write a book on this, but I’ll simply argue that The Beatles advanced popular music more in their short lifespan (basically 1960 to 1970) than popular music has advanced since then (1970 to almost 2016). I’d be happy to debate this with you.

The music is the main thing. of course, but when you take into effect their influence and impact regarding style, album covers, and videos it’s a no-brainer. Yep, The Beatles are credited with making the first music video for “Rain” in 1966. Some say “Helter Skelter” was the first speed metal song as well. Hell, the guitar feedback at the beginning of “I Feel Fine” was a first, and they were also the first band to “sample” other artists. Their list of firsts is way too long to list here, but if you want to see them go to the website An Amazing List of Beatle Firsts. ‘Tis impressive indeed.

But on to the quote I mentioned earlier. I’m currently reading a book by Mark Oliver Everett, founder and creative genius behind The Eels. Today I came across this quote:

“Kids know what’s going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn’t matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like The Beatles and I’ll show you a bad seed.” 

That’s not only true, but it reminded me of my son Kip and something he told me when he was around 3-years old. We were in the car going somewhere and he asked me to put in a Beatles CD, which we often did. For some reason I asked him why he liked The Beatles and their music so much. His response?

“It makes me happy.”

Well, there ya go. In its simplicity, it was the perfect answer.

Bottom line? If you don’t like The Beatles please don’t tell me. I’ll just think horrible things about you, your judgement, your character, and your intelligence. And that’s not good.

What can I say? If you feel that way, it’s best just to let it be. And for those of you about to argue that The Beatles were overrated? Here ya go . . .

 

Cover songs seem to strike some sort of maniacal chord in music lovers, bringing out the worst Cover-Songs-274x190type of venom directed at the artist in question (speaking of maniacal chords, Hendrix sure screeched out a few, huh? But I digress). Everyone has their  own list of their best and worst cover songs, and I’m no exception. As general rule, aren’t the originals just always better? I mean, especially if the original performers wrote the song? C’mon, it’s THEIR song after all, and the way they perform it should be the way it should be heard. Those are my feelings anyway. Still, over the years there have been some great covers, songs that really stood out to me.  On the other hand, others were just a big bowl of wrong. I’ve added a ton of links so make sure you click on them, to not would just be disrespectful. Let’s start with the good covers:

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50-years ago today The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. On that night music, and my life, was changed forever.

‘Twas way back in the winter of ’64, 1and my music world consisted of listening to the likes of Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka, yes, even Andy Williams. Hell, we didn’t even have much Elvis in the house. My sister Karen had some Elvis soundtracks but even The King was way too controversial for Bourneville, Ohio at the time. Mom and Dad had some Dean Martin stuff I could throw on the turntable, if that clarifies my situation at all.

I was 8-years old but listened to music as often as I could. I was too young to buy 45s, so I was dependent on whatever was brought home by Mom and Dad or my two older sisters. Bleak times indeed. Those times had become bleaker in November of ’63 when my 2nd grade teacher walked in the room to tell us that President John F. Kennedy, a man for whom I’d passed out flyers around Ross County with my strongly democratic family, had been murdered in Dallas. I was shaken, even at my young age. Seeing your dad cry for the first time will do that to you. With the country knocked down to one knee, it certainly needed a wake-up call.

I, and America, got one in February.

I’d heard rumblings of something strange going on. My older sister Karen, the rebel in the family, had whispered to me the news of a new band. Not one guy like Elvis or Bobby Darin, but rather four guys who all sang and played instruments. Hell, rumor had it that they even wrote their own songs.

Outrageous.

Trust me, at the time it was mind-boggling. Then one day it happened. Good old Sis, corrupting as ever, brought  home a new record– “Introducing the Beatles.” She insisted that I give it a listen, and when Paul McCartney began counting “one, two, three, four . . .” as an introduction to “I Saw Her Standing There” life as I’d known it was over. What the hell was THIS?

I know it’s hard for anyone under 50 to understand, but this was something w-a-y different. The music was melodic, infectious . . . completely new. The guitars, the voices, the harmonies, everything was totally unique to me and millions of others. Again, it’s hard for anyone born later to grasp how dramatic this shift was. The Beatles music just set off a spark in my soul that has never been extinguished.

Anyway, I think I played “I Saw Her Standing There” at least 10 times before moving the needle to the next song. I just couldn’t believe my ears. By the time I got to the last song, “Twist and Shout” it must have been hours later. Although it was my sister’s record, between her and I we probably wore the grooves almost completely through the vinyl. Later that day, when dad got home from work, I heard words for the first time that would be repeated hundreds of times over the years:

“TURN IT DOWN!”

Heh-heh. I knew I was onto something.

From that point onward it was The Beatles who defined everything musically to me. I couldn’t wait for the next single, the next album, the next TV appearance. They covered so much ground in their short existence that, although they tried, no other group could keep up. From “Introducing the Beatles” and “Meet the Beatles” all the way through to “Sgt. Pepper’s”, “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road.”

I’ve said this before, but I believe The Beatles progressed more musically from 1962-1970 than rock music has progressed since.

The Beatles provided the soundtrack of my youth. Hell, they’re still the soundtrack today, always playing in the background somewhere.

And to think it all started, at least for me, in a small living room in Bourneville, Ohio, in the winter of 1964.

Thanks Sis.

Note: As I was writing this, I remembered a moment that sort of defines the Beatles and how their music affects people. My son Kip has been listening to music with me since he was 6-months old. When he was around 5 we were driving somewhere in my car when he asked me to put The Beatles on. I then asked him why he liked the Beatle’s music. His answer?

“It makes me feel good.”

Exactly.

And after a few short years, The Beatles progressed to this, the Abbey Road Medley. It was their final recording, and it’s quite possibly the most amazing 16-minutes in rock history. Give it a listen . . .

A classic.