Friday, March 8, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt.4)

5.  "Helter Skelter"
Appears on;  The Beatles  (preferably mono)

I dunno if "Helter Skelter" was the first metal song, or the granddaddy of grunge music, or whatever I read that one time in Rolling Stone/Spin/Alternative Press.  I do know, however, that the Beatles when inspired could obliterate for miles and miles.  This is music to destroy the soles of your shoes to, kicking and kicking away at headlight of every parked car until the last satisfying shatter.

Forget dingy sociopaths and their half-baked, half-fried dreams of war.  Marvel instead at the chug and snarl that sounds remarkably fresh even after 40+ years.

4.  "A Day in the Life"
Appears on:  Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

Jesus Christ.

John Lennon's recitation of the news is alienation verse that hiccups the occasional rhyme.  "I'd love to turn you on," wobbling aside, still doesn't sound either all that promising or threatening.  Honestly our hero sounds rather resigned to the daily cavalcade of the gory and mundane.

But then the orchestra ascends from the bowels of discontentment, climbing as if in a fight for just one more day of its life.  (Mal Evans' countdown in the first transition is, in this context, the intonations of a faceless, feature-free, and omnipotent shadow figure.)  The final curlicue once sounded, Paul enters, and I can damn near see him skipping along to the dum-dum piano.  It's all very cheerful and engaging and then it all just evaporates.

2:49 to 3:15 strikes me now--it did not always--as a struggle against the morass rather than a free-form interpretation of Paul's smoky dream.  Inarticulation as the last line of defense.

The end, when the orchestra gives way to the infamous crashing piano chord, which the Beatles would not let die, turning the sound levels in the studio up until a time hole appeared.

When I was a young Jenn that final chord bothered me terribly.  If the orchestra had hit my ears as impending doom cloaked in grey-and-black, the pianos were termination.  The end.  The empty.  No greys allowed.   I knew nothing of death as transition, how a slamming door somehow jimmied open the nearest window, the idea of transmigration of the soul, what could I even comprehend of the soul?  "A Day in the Life" still renders me breathless.  I hear euphoria in the confrontation between man and world, between the artist and their infinite resources versus the rigid clock of the universe.  The one that demands days must go on.

3.  "Here, There and Everywhere"
Appears on:  Revolver

A Paul ballad so undeniable, even John had naught but effusive praise to bestow.  A Paul ballad so unassailable, not even its inclusion in the "Phoebe's wedding" episode of Friends could tarnish its luster.  God only knows what Paul would have done without Brian Wilson.

"To lead a better life/I need my love to be here."

Songs about love tend to be superior to those about just sex simply because if it's an honestly romantic relationship, the couple will spend much more time doing things that aren't sexual acts:  share meals, hold conversations, travel, actually sleep in a bed.  Just being there with and for another.  The deep, long vibration of a routine, and the security to jostle it aside when need be.

"Changing my life with a wave of her hand."

Nothing about "Here, There and Everywhere" is less than gorgeous.

2.  "Strawberry Fields Forever"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour

You know the cut/paste origin story, do you not?  You are aware of every step Messrs. Martin and Emerick to make John's wish a reality, still remember how you smacked your forehead upon realizing you were listening to two distinct takes.  Oh my hell, he buried Paul in cranberry sauce!  Right.  I've detailed it myself on this very blog, so I shan't revisit.

I mean...come on.  Dazed and confused, sure, but amazed and amused as well, John was very skilled at exploring the hazier patches without becoming a sanctimonious twat.  "Nothing to get hung about," indeed.  Strawberry Fields is anywhere you wanna be.

Listen to the lyrics, that man does not have the answers, nor does he purport otherwise.  Instead of a half-hearted wish to turn ya on, Johnny wants to take us down, down, down.  Everyone with their own unique tree to hang out in, their own nest to construct, their own inner peace to realize.

Musically, "SFF" is a marvel.  The mellotron.  Ringo has probably never played better in his life.  He is off-the-wall good.  The trumpets and the cellos, especially the cellos.  I don't know precisely why their syrupy slashes press all the right buttons with me, but I can't deny what happens.

1.  "Things We Said Today"
Appears on:  A Hard Days Night

Yep.  That one.

It's not so much I'm out of my mind, as it is more that this song is massively underrated.  The innovative and mesmerizing harmonies, the quixotic chord changes, the conceit of "future nostalgia."  Not to forget, it contains my personal favorite chorus of any song, ever.   How does a 21-year-old rock 'n' roll demigod frolicking on a yacht in the Bahamas, hot-ass actress girlfriend in tow, conjure up such a world-weary song?  It goes from strength to strength, following its bliss from one glamorous locale to the next, go on and on...

Happiness gleaned from love is fleeting; contentment hopefully less so.  The echoes to be heard and traces to be glimpsed might be sufficient to keep a soul satisfied.  But is Paul, at the age of 21, already thinking of a day many years ahead, when he and/or his love in their halcyon days will reminisce upon the wilder, luxurious times of their youth?  Long, long way from "I Want To Please Please Hold All Your Loving Me Do."

Bless you, Beatles.  Forgive me what I am about to do.

Wait, what?  Worst Beatles songs?  Yes.  Please close your mouth before any gnarly manner of insect flies in there and finds home in some warm bacteria-infested areas.  Of course the Beatles had some worm in the corn.  Mediocrity is a consistent critter, y'see, while genius oscillates 'tween triumph and tragedy.  Which explains why the White Album on its own contains numerous songs that make my nerve endings sing with the glory of being a fully-functioning biped and still other songs that fill me with a very real sense of relief that one day, this hell-ride will end.

So understand that this list is not a childish reaction to promiscuous praise or a contrarian riposte to the litany of honorifics that have been bestowed upon the Beatle boys (by people who were alive back then, nonetheless!).  If I'm willing to acknowledge the apex and nadir moments of my favorite band, then I have to do it for my second-favorite.

5.  "The Ballad of John and Yoko"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 2

Vis-a-vis "Taxman," this manages to be only a mildly annoying entreaty to please oh please spare a kind thought for the poor put-upon rock star and his misunderstood artist wife.  But while George's anti-avidity anthem at least had Paul's glissando fest and a ripper solo besides, "Ballad of John and Yoko" has...John making reference to being crucified in the chorus.  I'm not even a Christian, but I loathe that sort of inflammatory, and frankly lazy, lyrical tactic.  It's throwing an itchy pox-ridden blanket of faux-controversy over a chilly, twitching body of mediocrity.

The killer is...the tune itself, freed of John's crap, is pretty cool and even a li'l funky in parts.  (The guitar even sounds as annoyed and fidgety as I am towards the end.)  But it doesn't fit with John's crap!  I don't care about his honeymoon hijinks.  It is amazing to me that anyone ever did.  People get paid to follow celebrities around and ask dumb questions?!  Are you for real, that can't be!  Let the artists eat their chocolate cake in peace you animals!

Longest three minutes in Beatle history.

4.  "Please Please Me"
Appears on:  Please Please Me

AKA, "Blow Me Do."

My best friend--you may recall him as the unabashed hater of "You Know My Name" from a few posts in the past--really likes "Please Please Me."  He digs the urgency, the barely-restrained passion.  I dig...the "come on" call-response part.  Reminds me of "I Like It Like That" by Dave Clark Five.  They should have scrapped everything else around that and rebuilt.  'Cause otherwise I find this a trite attempt at salaciousness that really just makes John come off like a typical young asshole.  It's the throbbing dullness of this track paired with its status as a beloved classic that puts it so high on my list.

3.  "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Hey guys I'm gonna play "Classical Gas" real fast, check it out...HEEEYYY BUNGALOW BILL!  WHAT DID YOU KILL?

More Spirit Camp fun.  Well golly gee, seems this middle-aged woman and her college-aged son came all the way from America to get them some peace and enlightenment...and then go out and shoot some wild life!  A very interesting song could have been written from this, but John Lennon decided that as a Beatle, and thus as someone used to defying all the conventions of songwriting, he would slap together a very irritating campfire sing-along.  Why bring kids into this, John?  Hell, why bring Yoko into it?  And I like Yoko!

Uh-oh, they're doing another round! Aim directly for my heart, Bill!  Remember me for the great S'mores I made, everyone!

2.  "Wild Honey Pie"
Appears on:  The Beatles

I am a Paul McCartney fangirl.  I have many comrades.  It is my personal opinion that he was the best songwriter in the Beatles, had the most artistically successful post-Beatles career, and ranks on the shortlist of greatest composers of the 20th Century.  I defend him to the death on so many occasions.  His "granny shit songs"?  Magnificent!  Wings?  Band on the Run is a masterpiece!  And on it goes.  But I cannot, will not, shall not raise even finger one to help "Wild Honey Pie."  No, actually I will raise a digit up.

I like dissonance as much as the next obsessive Sonic Youth fan, y'all, but oh the drear this horrid genre-exercise engenders inside of me.  As brief a bit of spastic flail as "WHP" is...I still want to rip my toes off with lobster claws every time I put the first disc on and inevitably forget that not only is this ode to drug-induced stupidity on there, but it's followed by "Bungalow Bill"!  Oh huzzah!  I'm gonna take off my fingers too, a digit-free life is the life for me!

It's like eating shit, puking the shit back up, then eating the shitty puke.  It almost beggars belief how this ended up on an album, even one that totals 30 songs of wild variety and quality, but then I remember the drugs and it all makes sense.

1.  "All You Need Is Love"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour

This is what happens when you sign up for Philosophy 101 and spend valuable class-time doodling on the desk, ogling tits 'n' ass, and deciding that reading the back jacket of each assigned book is sufficient to pass all the tests.

Lennon fucked up here.  "All You Need Is Love" could have been a very powerful statement, and the Beatles were uniquely qualified in terms of both ability and popularity to deliver that statement, but the ball was well and totally dropped.  It's not that he, Socrates, does not know how to express what he means.  It's that the method is lacking.  The lyrics are immoderate and clumsy, to the point where either Lennon is saying give up on trying to imprint your own unique stamp on the world because everyone deep down is capable of doing what you can do if not better so you should abandon any fanciful aspirations and just give in to love, or that your potential is limitless so long as you believe in the power of love.

Regardless what John was trying to express...the sentiment is wrong-headed and even dangerous. Love is not all you need.  You need love, yes.  But you need hate as well.  You need trust, and distrust.  You need to be able to discriminate between gold and brass, understand?  Not all shiny things are fucking gold.  You need money.  You need other people.  You need dreams.  You need responsibilities and boundaries.  You need not to look towards filthy rich, obnoxiously lavished-upon musicians to tell you the secret to a happy life.

And you most certainly do not need to listen to writers like myself.  But if you've made it this far, that means you wanted to, and I appreciate it.  After that last blast of negativity, I'm going to slip into some Abbey Road and enjoy a nice day.  See you next time...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt.3)

One and one and one is...

10.  "Abbey Road Medley"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

Eight songs, in various stages of completion, over 16 minutes...the Abbey Road medley/suite/hodgepodge was conceptualized by Paul and true fifth Beatle George Martin to wrap up the last recorded Beatles album.  I love Paul for several hundred reasons, and if I ever ranked the top 10 reasons--and I would--his unassailable status as the Beatles legacy-maintainer for their last couple years of active musical life would be there.

I found it impossible to separate these songs when considering this list.  How could I rip "Polythene Pam" and "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" apart?  "Golden Slumbers" to "Carry That Weight" to "The End" don't mess with that.  That's perfection.

From a disarmingly nectarous ode to sour negotiations, to trippy gibberish...but Mean Mr. Mustard knows people far more interesting and actually alive than ol' King Louis the Whoever.  Why's John sound so bored?  Surely it's just my imagination, running away with Pam, gleefully sleazy and oh yeah, wide-eyed now Johnny boy!  Pam would never have been an Apple Scruff, but she still admires their chutzpah.

Enough about the others, the extraneous skin-slappers.  The last bit is Paul's love letter to the Beatles.  "Once there was a way"'s less the boy that's gonna play Atlas, more the boys, you dig?...the solo bug has inevitably bitten them all, and they'll be successful for sure, but the Beatles mystique will never disappear.  Buck up, fellas, sing yer hearts out, face the future.

Oh yeah!  All right!

Going out like heavyweight champions, baby:  Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense.  We're the Beatles, bah, it's done fuck the Beatles!  But hey, we're the Beatles, so fuck you!  John, George and Paul take turns flipping V's.  But then...

"And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make."

Internecine drama and bitterness be damned.  It's still about love.

9.  "Something"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

My favorite George tune for sure, an exquisite gossamer slow dance that manages to give itself over to passion while still keeping its cynical head.  I much prefer this to his preachings on  shallow material fetishism.  Best intro to a Beatles song? Best end to a Beatles song?

8.  "I'm So Tired"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Whilst at Maharishi Spirit Camp, our hero John fell into a nasty funk indeed.  Head fulla intense thoughts and body weighed down by even more intense insomnia exacerbated by stunted lust, our begrudging noctavigant warrior squeezed out a universal lament.

"I'd give you everything I've got for a little piece of mind."  No metaphors or similes.  No extravagant imagery.  Just sludge of the soul.  Funny as John's brief snipe at Walter Raleigh is, both poets used their gifts to express the contemptus mundi* attitude for a wide, largely appreciative audience.  Brothers always fight.

*(translated from the original Latin, "The world sucks and I hate it.")

7.  "Your Mother Should Know"
Appears on:  Magical Mystery Tour (stereo version, crisp and clear; the mono is flayed with flange and practically unlistenable, even as the aesthetic fits tighter with that of the MMT album)

This one has its detractors.  Paul was the Beatle to rely on for meretricious populace pleasers (and what could bring a smile to one's face faster than thoughts of mom?) and mileage varies for certain.  "Your Mother Should Know" wears a monocle, top hat, pink feather boa hat, and ball gown all at the same time.  Sing it again?  Aw yeah, again and again!

6.  "Two of Us"
Appears on:  Let It Be

Paul penned this one for Linda, but Beatle freaks can't help but hear a tribute to a friendship that changed the world. (Bittersweet to consider that Paul has been without either of his partners for years now.)  J and P are perfectly matched here (and the fact that by and large the Beatles were even at this point able to check their mutual enmity at the studio door and lay down classic after classic is yet another check in their column), two troubadours content to ride it out side by side, gazing out at the extremely long stretch of dotted and streaked grey ahead, heads flashing with wispy fragments of thoughts and memories.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt. 2)

Phase Two, in which Doris gets her oats.

15.  "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite"
Appears on:  Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

The circus is in town!  Scratch that, actually, the circus is the town.  Everyone lives in Big Top tents and rides elephants to and from work, which is either constructing an aerial apparatus or reading Nancy Drew mysteries to the caged freaks.

As stirringly off-kilter is the patchwork of harmonium 'n' Hammond 'n' glockenspiel 'n' loopy-loops, it's really John's performance that makes it such a personal favorite.  Even double-tracked up he still sounds resolutely blase amid such blithe proceedings.

With all this barmy somersaulting and horse-dancing going on, the listener might not expect Paul and Ringo to show up high-stepping it in their rainbow suspenders and flaming top hats, but they do.  Why this was never sold as a kiddy song alongside the likes of "Octopus' Garden" and "Yellow Submarine" I'll never figure, as it blows both the aforementioned away.

Any song that irritates Lou Reed so intensely that he is rendered seemingly literally unable to attack it with any critical substance has something going for it.  Something very real and worth investigating.

14.  "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 2 (not the Anthology version, which has a friggin' ska section.  Whimsy has its limits.  Ska music violates each and every one of those limits.)

A legendary pastiche, I call it.  A legendary piece of shit, my best friend retorts.   I tell him, I tell you:  hating this song is a strong indication that you are also nauseated by the very thought of having a good time, AKA "fun."  And you don't care much for Statler and Waldorf, AKA the crotchety old bastards in the Muppet Show balcony.

This is a classic comedy song in four distinct parts, united only by the title and the fact that the J & P Show are having the actual time of their collective creative life.  Starts off as a piano stomper that fools the unsuspecting ears into thinking some throwback good times are afoot, then LOUNGE NUMBER!

I'm not an idiot; I understand that people have good reasons to convulse in distaste at this track, and despite the conviction of my opening paragraph up there, said reasons likely have little to do with the phlegmatic existences their soulless shells demand they endure.  Because while the the first half of "You Know My Name" is at its worst in love with its own distorted reflection in the fun house mirror, the second half is like the Kool Aid Man bust right through said mirror.  Except the Kool Aid Man in this instance an obese middle-aged man with a comb-over and walrus stache who is wearing naught but an adult diaper.  I can understand how this might disturb some listeners and cause them to turn away in disgust.  After the lounge section, it truly ceases to be a "song" as we would accept from the Beatles, and becomes an exercise in goofball self-consciousness.  It's scatterbrained, it's silly, I half-believe Paul was wearing drag for that third part, and that the entire thing birthed Monty Python full stop.

Fun!  Not lowercase, and not with a period at the end, you grant that?  Brian Jones' sax solo on here is the best thing that fella ever did in his too-short life.  Which is saying something, really, 'cause dude had like 9 kids.  Or 6.  You can look up the number.

13.  "I Feel Fine"
Appears on:  Past Masters, Vol. 1

Forget the famously non-incidental feedback, what about Bobby Parker?  What about joy, namely the unabashed kind of joy that we seem to lose the handle on the older we become?

"I Feel Fine" is another Beat-all-y'alls track that benefits from early exposure to my li'l ears.  It had a shuffle not dissimilar from those classic country songs my dad loved and the middle eight sounded like magic.  It was distinctly different from MTV.  For one, there were no carefully calculated images suggesting ways that I should react to the song.  I could just hang out by the stereo and pay it allll of my attention.

It's that shuffle that really deserves some extra shine here.  Legendary drummer/perfectionist Buddy Rich is on record dismissing Ringo's skills as "adequate," and so often, the degrading words of a famous musician towards another of his or her tribe will be referenced when one of us little non-famous folks want to validate our similar opinion.  But that's lazy thinking/debating.  I also don't put too much stock in artists talking crap on each other, as their personalities tend towards insecurity and hypersensitivity anyway.  I'm sure as long as there are sticks to wield and skins to beat, drummers far less famous than Mr. Starkey will bemoan how a "mediocre" thronesman could be considered one of the all-time greats when clearly he's not even top 100 all time, man!  

But the man never fucked up a Beatles song.  Okay, at least not with his drumming.  And in more than a few instances, "I Feel Fine" being one of those, he was able to give a performance that was precisely what the track needed.  No superfluous fills, no showy cymbal crashes.  Feel over technique.  Vibes over virtuosity.

12.  "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
Appears on:  Abbey Road

A greatly unsettling scream for sensual healing.  Lennon had this disquieting tendency to make natural human desires sound like Satan Devouring His Son.  "She's So Heavy" is basically 8 minutes in the hazy maze cave, trying to navigate through the reeking clouds of lust and pools of blood that once stepped in begin to draw out your own.

I don't recommend trying to complete your own unique puzzle with the pieces of another person.  Of course my advice sounds pretty lame next to this masterwork of form-experimentation.  When I discovered Abbey Road as a teenager, this song helped me put all those metal tapes my brother would begrudgingly let me listen to in proper context.  As in, those guys were wimps.

"Heavyyyyyyyy!"  The exultation to settle it, once and for all.  Saxon?  Motley Crue?  You get nothing.  Good day!

11.  "Michelle"
Appears on:  Rubber Soul

One of those cloud-puff Paul ballads that divide the super-opinionated fanbase.  I fall firmly on the side that J.P. McCartney is the greatest writer of pop songs that's ever lived.  This does not mean he's batted 1.000 in his career, that would be a silly claim, no one ever bats 1.000 ever, especially if they're not actually playing baseball.  Which would be the case here.

"Michelle" is quite repetitive, quite carefree, and undeniably French in parts.  It gets nitpicked to hell for all of these qualities, and I've more than once come across the fan lamentation that no matter how gently gorgeous the track itself is, truly memorable love songs should display a bit more commitment and devotion than is evident in these threadbare lyrics.

There's a reason so many damn girls were named after this song (including one of my nieces) and it's not just because their parents thought it would be funny to say "my belle" each time they called their name.  This song is immaculate.  That "I love you" at 1:26 certainly strikes me as being borne from the heart.

Monday, March 4, 2013

You Can't Do That! The 25 Best Beatles Songs Ever--And the 5 Worst (Pt. 1)

Well…I did it for my favorite band ever,  might as well do it for my second-favorite band ever.  But where Sonic Youth got the 30 Best/10 Worst treatment, the Beatles get 5 off both sides.  The reason for this, simply, is that I did not want to feel hemmed in by a template.  

I encourage you to sit back and enjoy not only this post, but also the next two that will be put up in the coming days.  This is my listed opinion on the greatest and most grating musical moments that the most influential racket-gang of all-time had to offer, and I do not gussy it up to be anything other than that, so please--calibrate the scales before you weigh in.  

25.  "Love Me Do"
Appears on:  Please Please Me (Andy White on drums; Ringo Starr on tambourine)

The primacy of the Beatles is not a myth perpetuated by a bunch of old assholes and/or lazy people.  Over seven years they went from squeaky-clean, similarly-suited purveyors of good ol' rock'n'roll, running away from screeching lasses while barely holding back their own hysterical laughter, to turned-on/tuned-in harbingers of one of the most fascinating eras in world history.  

"Love Me Do" was their first single released as the Beatles (a rather forgettable version of the traditional "My Bonnie" was released the year before, credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers) and while it did well in their homeland (#17 on the UK singles chart) it wasn't until "Please Please Me" that they topped the charts for the first time on either side of the pond.

Their first US #1 was "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which is a song so harmlessly drawn up and executed that, truly, having it drowned out by screaming young girls is my preferred way to hear the damn thing.   Later in 1963 they earned their second chart-crowner with "Love Me Do."

Much like its predecessor, "Love Me Do" does not appeal to anything particularly profound.  It's a stark toe-tapper, though, and more of the boys' personalities--which combine to create one large super BEATLE personality, of course--comes through.  It is also the resounding answer to the timidly-asked question, "What would the Everly Brothers sound like if they performed actual good songs?" 

Vocal delivery is key: 

"Love, love me do
You know I love you
I'll always be true"

The way the J & P Show stretch out "please" is also 10/10, A+.

And as embarrassing as the title is, it's a sight less cringe than the repeated desire to grasp one's fingers between your own.  

24.  "Don't Bother Me"
Appears on:  With The Beatles

The first George Harrison composition to appear on a Beatles album, but the man himself didn't like the track much, and honestly there might not be more than let's say six people who hold it in the esteem I do.  As George's confidence and abilities expanded, his songs tended towards matters of the spiritual world, not this "I had a girlfriend now I don't I'm sad" stuff that the non-enlightened folk tend to obsess over.

Lyrically it's a dryer sheet in a hurricane, but that's par for the course when dealing with pre-Rubber Soul material.    I love the snarling vexation oozing from George's vocal delivery, a psychological state heretofore unheard in the band's young catalogue.   Anyone who is gobsmacked by its inclusion here, I beseech you, go back and watch A Hard Day's Night.   'Cause honestly I can't be the only one whose mental projection screen shows those scenes in my head when I hear "Don't Bother Me"--especially Ringo and Paul's play-pugilism.  So wonderful.

23.  "From Me To You"
Appears on:  Past Masters Volume 1 (Mono version, aka "The version with the harmonica part")

Pretty sure the only reason the NME is still permitted space on this here planet is due to the fact that its old letters column inspired the title for a Beatles song.  It surely cannot be the writing.

So many Beatles songs have melodies that knock me out, listen after listen after listen.  Songs that, much like the elderly couple whose daily morning walk down North Market Street I find absolutely adorable even as I'm also kind of wishing they were able to just step a little faster, give me no choice but to believe in love.  The yearning, the bliss, the uncertainty, the comfort, the agony, all of it and oh so much more.  

22.  "Help!"
Appears on:  Help!  

With an exclamation point so you know it's real...

A new jive here, some Lennon desperation set to a soundtrack suited for beach-romping.  George's arpeggios are just the backwards pitch into ditch, abyss diverted 'cause help is always around the corner.

21.  "Blackbird"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Delicate treatment of a delicate topic.  As long as it's just Paul's voice, hands and feet, this haunting call-to-arms stays golden.  The added chirps are pure second-prize, but just a mild annoyance in the end.  This was my favorite song the first time I ever listened to the White Album.  As you'll see, it didn't stay that way as the years went on.  Which is not the fault of "Blackbird."  

20.  "Got to Get You Into My Life"
Appears on:  Revolver

This song is about weed, yo.  It's also tighter than an expertly-crafted sushi roll.  The horns, I swear!  Especially when they go staccato.  Refreshingly clear and short for a tune proselytizing the plant.   I mean, I've never smoked, and have no plans to start, but goddamn this one's a dandy.  I like the visuals I get:  Paul "suddenly see"(s) the marijuana.  That's awesome.  Like he was just cleaning up around the house, picked up a book from the coffee table and oh my, there was a bag of mean green under there!  The second verse is the best, though, as Macca basically spells out why weed will forever have his heart over any of us feckless, irritating havers of boobs.

"And I want you to hear me/Say we'll be together every day."  Marijuana! Are you listening?!  I really do hope Paul speaks to, and perhaps even on occasion raises his voice to, all of the pot he smokes.  

Weed-Off between Paul, Willie Nelson and B-Real, who wins?  Redman.

19.  "I Saw Her Standing There"
Appears on:  Please Please Me

The shimmery shimmy of the swingin' Sixties, the decade when not even the remotest of damns was given, 'cause "She was just seventeen/Well you know what I mean."

Oh yes, I feel you on that one.  Hey, Paul was only twenty years of age himself when he sang this, it's not like he's in his seventies now and singing this, except he is and it's like Mac, you are lucky this is a super-good chunk of white-boy boogie with the exuberance in abundance or otherwise the squick would smother us all.  

The use of "woo" instead of "yeah" makes a world of difference.  The long "o" sound is fresh and vivacious and everything the Beatles represented to all those shrieking skirts and, lest we forget, to all the young boys who ran out and bought guitars.

The hand claps are unnecessary and fantastic.  My heart goes boom.

18.  "Cry Baby Cry"
Appears on:  The Beatles

Crazy underrated, this.  Took me years to even appreciate what Lennon was saying.  Why is the weeping young'un making his mom lament?  The emotional and physical weariness of motherhood?  Cynicism?  How can you be cynical towards a baby?  Hey, I was a baby once, and I don't remember ever dreaming up any devious manipulations designed to age my mother ten years in just two.  

'Course I additionally don't recall any of the stories she recited to me, or any of the songs she attempted to soothe me with.  Guaranteed none of the words she spoke where on the level of this fairytale nonsense, with all manner of royalty captured in their majestic banality.   

One of my favorite Beatle choruses and, concurrently, Lennon vocals.  He apparently didn't care much for this "rubbish"; frankly, I adore it and wouldn't mind more, sir.   It appeals to the same part of me that so enjoys that classic Macca fluff.  You know, far more concerned with matters of the heart over those of the head, able to see the beauty and importance of the basic human elements and urges.  

Who do you think changed the world more profoundly through their music--John Lennon or Barry White?  Seriously.

17.  "Tomorrow Never Knows"  
Appears on:  Revolver

Behold, the deleterious effects of fully-realized genius!  Holy modal rounders, Beatleman!  

Revolver as a whole can be appreciated in the context of history as a damn-near salacious peek at the dolce stil novo the boys were about to flip music on its head with--again.  Imagine falling in love with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" then you get to the likes of "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows"!

The lyrics never struck me like that, 'cause I'm one of an exclusive group indeed (Beatles nuts who never have ingested illicit drugs; seriously, isn't there only like 11 of us?) but I can still hear most, if not all, of the lysergic supernovas.  Droning and looping layers of play indicating this is the Beatles "blue period" because the sky just fell down.  Clearly.  

It ends with "The beginning."  Which I could go off on this whole thing about Triple Stage Darkness, but!  I don't want to soil the panties, so I'll stop.

16.  "Let It Be"
Appears on:  Let It Be

Oh and isn't this just a lovely segue from that last sentence.   

One of the very first Beatles songs I ever heard when I was but a young 80s baby…"Michelle" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" also stand out as early exposures to a band that, honestly, no one in my family was all that nuts about.  My parents were Kentucky hillbillies, see.  My father much preferred Bill Monroe and Chet Atkins to any rock musician (interestingly, though,  "Nothing From Nothing" by fifth Beatle Billy Preston was his favorite non-country/bluegrass song ever).  My mother didn't mind the odd song by the Carpenters or Abba, but anything more abrasive than that?  Forget it.

My sisters (the oldest of whom was born in 1958) had fonder memories of the Monkees.  My brother thought the Beatles were okay, but he liked much heavier shit.  His cassette case was loaded with Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Black Sabbath, et al.  

Of course, one need not have an inside connection to fall in love with the Beatles. They are no one's best kept secret.   I listened to the radio religiously, and well, discovery was inevitable.  

My initial impression was the "mother Mary" was a nun or something, as I couldn't really comprehend that the singer was referencing the woman who gave him life.  It struck me then as unbearably sad, and the organ's presence just reminded me of all those church recitals that were linked in my mind with the frightful unknowns of God and Satan and death.  

Older and ostensibly wiser, I no longer connect "Let It Be" with anyone wearing black-and-white duds telling me how horrible I am and how any second not spent in repentance is just a minute more I'll burn in Hell.   The element of the ineffable is not only still present, however, and it still suffuses my senses every single time I hear the song, but even more powerfully.   Paul's mother with her no-nonsense, hard-won wisdom is so many mothers, throughout time.  When I thought this song was about God, I felt horror at the prospect of a day I would no longer exist.  When I evolved, so to speak, and understood it more as a song about my own mother, I felt abject terror at the very strong likelihood of a day she would no longer exist.  

It's the difference between wanting to scream so you don't cry, and crying just so you keep from screaming.  

Cry I do.  Put "Let It Be" on tonight as I was writing up this review and didn't make it through the first verse before the tears completely blurred my vision, and I threw my suddenly-useless pen to the floor and gave myself over fully to my sorrow.  It's done that to me for several years now.  I'm okay by the time Billy Preston comes in…funny how that all sounds like hope and peace and life and all that great stuff to me now.  

It's simply gorgeous.  The piano was an instrument created solely to break our hearts.  

I just love this song so much I never want to hear it again, you know?