Match this song!

August 22, 2013 • 9:07 am

In our discussion (to use a euphemism) about the quality of modern rock, several readers dissed the Beatles, one of them even saying, as I recall, that he simply couldn’t bear to listen to them.  Now that’s close to a banning offense here, comparable to touting d-gs over cats. The Beatles happen to be the greatest rock group ever, and it’s simply a moral failing not to like them.

But I see that many readers do share my enthusiasm for them, so, as a treat—or punishment, depending on who you are—I’ll present over the next week a selection of some of my favorite Beatles songs.  I hope you’ll see that the quality of their music, particularly starting with the “Rubber Soul” album, is immensely higher than anything being produced today.  If you claim, as some have, that groups of equally high quality exist today, but simply haven’t been separated from the chaff by the sieve of time, then the onus on you is to name them. If you don’t like the Beatles, well, take a number, get in line, and . . .

But first listen to their music. “A Day in the Life” happens to be my favorite Beatles song, and I was pleased to see that Rolling Stone has put it as #1 on their list of the 100 Greatest Beatles songs. It is, of course from the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which I love but don’t consider their best album (that would be “Revolver”).  But the album, which came out in 1967, is dear to me because it was while listening to it that I had an instant conversion to atheism (read the story in the Chicago Tribune here).

As is well known, the song contains different parts that reflect the distinct talents of Lennon and McCartney. Rolling Stone gives some details about its composition, and the Wikipedia link above has others:

Lennon took his lyrical inspiration from the newspapers and his own life: The “lucky man who made the grade” was supposedly Tara Browne, a 21-year-old London aristocrat killed in a December 1966 car wreck, and the film in which “the English army had just won the war” probably referred to Lennon’s own recent acting role in How I Won the War. Lennon really did find a Daily Mail story about 4,000 potholes in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire.

Lennon wrote the basic song, but he felt it needed something different for the middle section. McCartney had a brief song fragment handy, the part that begins “Woke up, fell out of bed.” “He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought, ‘It’s already a good song,'” Lennon said. But McCartney also came up with the idea to have classical musicians deliver what Martin called an “orchestral orgasm.” The February 10th session became a festive occasion, with guests like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull and Donovan. The studio was full of balloons; the formally attired orchestra members were given party hats, rubber noses and gorilla paws to wear. Martin and McCartney both conducted the musicians, having them play from the lowest note on their instruments to the highest.

Two weeks later, the Beatles added the last touch: the piano crash that hangs in the air for 53 seconds. Martin had every spare piano in the building hauled down to the Beatles’ studio, where Lennon, McCartney, Ringo Starr, Martin and roadie Mal Evans played the same E-major chord, as engineer Geoff Emerick turned up the faders to catch every last trace. By the end, the levels were up so high that you can hear Starr’s shoe squeak.

Me with my original album from 1967, the one that promoted my loss of faith.


184 thoughts on “Match this song!

  1. The Beatles happen to be the greatest rock group ever, and it’s simply a moral failing not to like them.

    OMG there IS objective morality!!

  2. “Revolver” is also my favorite Beatles album.

    My favorite songs? “Penny Lane”, “Here Comes the Sun”, and “Norwegian Wood”, to name three.

      1. And “Fool on the Hill” and “For No One” and “Eleanor Rigby” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Hey Bulldog” and…

        Yes, I could go on all day.

  3. I like the Beatles, but I find I just like songs from artists rather than their entire body of work so I usually set the iPod to shuffle when taking a long car journey. At the moment Amy MacDonald is getting a bit of repeat play.

  4. … and it’s simply a moral failing not to like them.

    Ah, but is it an objective moral failing?

      1. And “Yes It Is” is one of their greatest early songs. Lennon said in 1980 that the song “didn’t quite work” as a rewrite of “This Boy” (another great one). I disagree, and I love both songs.

  5. Just for the record (pun intended), the best book written about the Beatles’ music comes from a Shostakovich scholar: “Revolution in the Head” by Ian MacDonald. Be sure to get the final edition published in the States by the Chicago Review Press.

  6. Although The Beatles are great, I don’t consider their canon to be inerrant. Evidence for this? Ob la di Ob la da. An excruciating piece of music. See also When I’m 64, another example of how McCartney’s song-writing could become horribly twee. But then even the best aren’t perfect all the time.

    1. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was McCartney’s attempt at ska. I don’t love the song but I like it (more excruciating to my ears is “Yer Blues”). But McCartney (as a Beatle, at least) was a versatile songwriter who could write in a variety of styles — and the music-hall nature of “64” is one of them.

      Funny how inconsistent Lennon could be in his observations. In the PlayBoy interview he said something to the effect that “Paul likes to write about meter maids; I like to write about me.” Oh yeah? How is “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” all about you? Funny, Lennon had his playful, “impersonal” side as a songwriter, and it was odd of him to not own up to it.

      1. I’m not a McCartney hater; I think he was a great songwriter. I just wish he’d written a few more like Helter Skelter. That one rocks hard.

        And yes, you’re right. Lennon did have his playful side.

    2. Can you name any band/group/musician etc. that is inerrant? Of all my most cherished loves there is always something they have recorded to bore or confuse me.

      1. “Can you name any band/group/musician etc. that is inerrant?”

        Of course not. But listening to people who endlessly blather on about the bloated sacred cows of rock music and how we should simply bow down in awe at their obvious greatness, I sometimes doubt others do.

        But it’s just an opinion.

        PS. My use of ‘inerrant’ was tongue in cheek.

      2. It depends on how you define “inerrant”.

        Some composers did in fact have sufficient command over harmonic and contrapuntal principles to be able to say that nothing they wrote (excepting, perhaps, extreme juvenilia) was “bad”. I’d suggest that Bach and Brahms fall into this category. If I’d been alive during Bach’s lifetime, I can’t say I’d have had to wonder whether the next thing he’d write would be any good. Which makes me look askance at the concept of musical experimentation. Someone with such compositional control shouldn’t need to wonder whether what they’ve put on the page has intellectual and artistic merit. (Doing new things =/= experimentation. A good composer in control of what she’s doing doesn’t “experiment”, even if she breaks new ground.)

        One also needs to remember that a personal reaction to a piece of music isn’t necessarily an indication of the music’s quality. Brahms touched on this when he wrote that when he was composing, his first priority was technical perfection. “Whether or not it is beautiful also is an entirely different matter. But perfect it must be.” A careful listener should be able to discern the careful, logical use of pitch even if that same listener isn’t necessarily being swept away. Most often, however, one doesn’t have to worry particularly about this distinction because in most cases the “perfect” and the “beautiful” are identical; the perfection is the cause of the beauty.

    3. I’ll take either of those songs over the excruciating self indulgent shite that is Revolution 9.

      My favourite Beatles song is I Feel Fine. I just love the guitar riff.

  7. Excellent choice. A Day In The Life is one of my many Beatles favorites as well. Come Together is another.

    How long, ya think, before someone responds seriously to Jerry’s jibes?

    1. Yes, even George Martin said that “The Beatles” (the so-called “white” album) should have been a single disc. There are more than a few subpar songs on that album: “Wild Honey Pie”, “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?”, “Don’t Pass Me By”, and “Yer Blues” should have been left on the cutting room floor.

      While I will say that “Revolver” is their best album, I would say their finest LP side is side two of “Abbey Road”.

        1. Yes, not a favorite — and McCartney was pissed to learn he was left out of that session. He might have made it a better “song” (if that’s what “Revolution 9” is).

      1. Agreed: There are some great songs on the white album, and then there’s a bunch of crap. Some of my favorite Beatles songs (Blackbird, Mother Nature’s Son, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Revolution (I like the single version better though), Back in the USSR (great send up of the Beach Boys)) but it also has my least enjoyed Beatles songs on it (Rev. #9, Honey Pie, Me and My Monkey).

      2. When McCarty was asked in an interview once (I misremember the interviewer), for the eleventy-first time, about the length of the white album, he replied something to the effect that, “Come on, it’s the bloody Beatles white album, it’s one of the best known productions in popular music, so bugger off”. He was probably more polite than I’ve portrayed him.

  8. Infact, they should be called ‘the Featles’
    – Line from Sliding Doors

    Beatles are the best group of all time…John Lennon…the Albert Einstein of rock.

  9. The Beatles songs capture an era as good as anyone. If you want to know what the late 60s sounded like, just listen to Sgt. Pepper.

    My favorite Beatles songs are “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane”. Both are essentialy about the same thing, and as such demonstrate brilliantly the difference b/t Lennon and McCartney.

    Also, “Penny Lane” has tons of sexual references that had to be explained to this dumb American.

    Finally this. It’s bad enough to not like the Beatles, but how about not even hearing a Beatles song. I was a college freshman in 1994, and when I was playing the Abbey Road album once, my roommate said “Hey, that’s pretty good. Who are they?”

    1. This is blasphemy, and I’m about to bring down the WEIT equivalent of fire and brimstone on my head, but I’ve always thought Sgt.Pepper’s is pretty overrated personally.

      I’ve got all the Beatles albums, really like them (although I prefer the Stones, Who, Zeppelin, Allmans etc), but I’d have Pepper a long way down the list of Beatles albums I listen to. For my, it’s “Rubber Soul”, “The White Album” and “Abbey Road”.

      Here comes the thunder….

  10. Frightening, I kid you not; Revolver is my top Beatles Album. Imagine if the evanescent ‘Rain’ had replaced ‘Yellow Submarine’, what an album.

    I may be anticipating Jerry, with this, but who cares? This astonishingly overlooked Beatles song is one of their greatest.


    A particularly dazed inhabitant of the tree-house assumes the topic is about her. She starts to describe her latest surreal dream but her co-arborealists put her right, exasperated at the intolerable tedium in the details of another person’s sub-conscious meanderings. Dr. Freud, tether-ended during his nth consultation that day, exjects, “VZF (German for WTF), chust pull yourself tokether, voman!”

    So, straight to it, no messing, unlike the Beatles’ incomprehensible prevarication in not releasing ‘It’s all too much’ until 20 months after its recording. They waited for more than one fifth of their successful recording career before unleashing the mightiest of psychedelia. So, instead of being the psychedelic party’s high point, it appears at its fag-end, like an unwanted guest, inappropriate, atavistic, still up for it when everyone else, simultaneously going up and coming down, wants to slope off to bed. Its misfortune seems to have been that George penned it; it must have been hard to be heard in a group where one composer thought he was bigger than Jesus and the other had just written ‘Eleanor Rigby’.

    From the first majestic organ chords, through the beat-liberated drums, the guitar feedback as rhythm, the bass with broken volume knob, now barely registering, now über-black-noise against right-wall red, to the sinewy, nursery-rhyme melody of the verse, ‘It’s all too much’ confirms its eponym. And it’s the first recording in which everything is louder than everything else. And it’s long. And it’s rough. And it’s dirty.

    How did it sleep? No appearance on the post-career ‘Best of…’ compilations. None in Scorsese’s recent (too long) documentary on George. Relegated, if it competes at all, in the popular fandom, to the level of the Fabs’ second division material: ‘That (or is it ‘This’?) Boy’, ‘Two of us’.

    Give yourself a treat. It is not possible to think that the hubristically-neglected ‘It’s all too much’ isn’t great.

    1. “Rain” just might be my favorite Lennon-penned Beatles song. It certainly would make my Top Ten of Lennon songs (“Hey Bulldog” would be on the list along with the gorgeous “If I Fell”).

      My favorite McCartney song is “Penny Lane” and my favorite Harrison song is “Here Comes the Sun”.

      But I must reiterate here my love of the early Beatles. How could anyone diss “It Won’t Be Long” or “All My Loving”? Both are great songs.

  11. The Beatles fall into that “I hate them but I appreciate their significance” category for me. For some obviously Pavlovian reason, I can’t stand any of the music that was played incessantly around the house when I was a wee lad. I sure am glad that my parent’s weren’t Zeppelin fans!

  12. “I hope you’ll see that the quality of their music, particularly starting with the “Rubber Soul” album, is immensely higher than anything being produced today.”

    It’s also better than just about anything Paul, George, and John did post-Beatles. And that goes for a lot of my other favorite artists from that classic rock era.

    I don’t think that Rock and Roll artists from the mid 70s on are/were necessarily worse musicians or singers than their 60s counterparts. Some of it has to do with the fact that styles change and that late 60s/early 70s sound and subject matter of the songs just got stale. Bands today could probably reproduce a lot of that sound, but it would just sound old and dated.

    The other thing that I might add though, in Jerry’s favor, is that almost all of those great bands of his time had to go through a trial by fire of a punishing touring schedule before they made it big. I’ve read that the Beatles were mediocre musicians before they had to perform live almost every night in the early 60s. Perhaps too many modern artists, particularly pop artists, don’t spend enough time learning their craft before they become well-known.

    1. While there was a synergy that the three writers had in the Beatles that was lost when they parted ways, I think “Imagine”, by Lennon is excellent and iconic. Harrison’s album, “All Things Must Pass”, is a true work of art. McCartney, well…

  13. Heh.. Judging by the number of responses to your “rock and roll is dead” post, nothing is as irresistible as arguing about whether something is good art or bad art.

    I guess I really better watch myself when Im here. Not only do I find Beatles songs boring and simplistic, but I prefer dogs over cats.

        1. The Beatles were the first rock group I listened to. Interestingly, the next 3 I discovered, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Rush, are still in my top 10, maybe top 5 today. (OK, to be fair, first after the Beatles were the Moody Blues, but Tull soon took their place.) In my case, it’s definitely not a case of liking what I liked when I was young, since I discovered these bands past their peak, maybe even after they had disbanded, and it wasn’t related to what other people were listening to. (While I can understand that a song, like anything else (cue À la recherche du temps perdu here), can evoke memories, I’ve never understood people liking music because they heard it at a certain time in their life.)

          Of the “fast 80s” groups you mention, I think that only Iron Maiden is really good. Probably most people here have heard of them, but not heard them. I have listened to a wide variety of rock music, and music in general, for 30 years or more and only heard the first song from Iron Maiden a couple of years ago. I admit that I was turned off by the general imagery of their album covers etc (which is similar to but somewhat more clever than that of many heavy-metal bands) and the fact that I didn’t like any other heavy-metal bands (Judas Priest, Saxon etc—I’ll omit the “is it hard rock or is it heavy metal” discussion here).

          If anyone likes The Beatles, likes Jethro Tull, likes Pink Floyd, likes Rush, likes Cream, Uriah Heep, the Kinks, Wishbone Ash etc, I urge you to listen to Iron Maiden (basically any album with Bruce Dickinson is OK; there are surprisingly few dud songs and no dud albums, at least none with Bruce singing) without prejudice and come back and say if you have ever heard any rock music (or, apart from JSB perhaps, any music at all) which is so refined, clever, just so good. Like The Beatles, I find that I can listen to their music over and over without any sort of boredom setting in. While each song is immediately recognizable, at the same time one can listen to it several times and still discover new things.

          1. Sorry Philip, dark metal never filled the void of rock after the late 60’s and early 70’s (and 80’s). I ended up rabbit holing to the blues and early rock.

            1. I agree, but Iron Maiden are definitely not dark metal.

              There is more variety within heavy metal than within the rest of music combined. And Sturgeon’s Law holds, perhaps even more strongly than elsewhere. Give them a listen.

        2. One could make a case that Helter Skelter is the first heavy metal song. All bands that came after the Beatles owe something to them. Black Sabbath in particular, as Ozzie will tell you, we’re heavily influenced by the Beatles.

          1. “as Ozzie will tell you…”

            Yes, I remember him in an interview talking about this. He said, “Mmmmdlly ther Beatles wur prerrt gud mmmdly merp Sharon”

    1. Can’t imagine what you mean by “simplistic” (excluding a few songs from their first two albums). Both jazz and classical people have been drawn to the Beatles catalog precisely for their relative complexity (when compared with other rock/pop songs).

      No, apart from stuff like “Birthday” and similar songs, the Beatles were not a three-chord rock group! Hardly.

      1. “Both jazz and classical people have been drawn to the Beatles catalog precisely for their relative complexity (when compared with other rock/pop songs)”

        Well, maybe compared to other songs of the 60’s (I dont know, that was before my time.) But certainly not compared to what was going on in rock in the 80’s. A song like “Penny Lane” sounds like a nursery rhyme compared to something like “Hot for Teacher”.

        1. I’m not sure that “simplistic” is the word for what you’re describing. Perhaps “innocent?” You seem to be conveying the thought that Hot for Teacher is more sophisticated than Penny Lane because its subject matter would not necessarily be appropriate for young children (sexual subject matter). That’s a bit odd, though…it’s rather like saying Rear Window is a more simplistic movie than Losin’ It.

          Lyrically, Penny Lane is MUCH more sophisticated: Compare “got it made, got it made, got made…I’m hot for teacher; got it made so great…I’m hot for teacher,” with “penny lane is in my ears and in my eyes, here beneath the blue suburban skies I sit and meanwhile back…”

          As for melodic complexity: Although Eddie Van Halen is quite a guitarist, and a melody doesn’t have to be complicated to be good, you’ve chosen a poor example of the group’s music to compare with Penny Lane, which introduces a piccolo trumpet to pop music, modulates keys in the latter part of the song, and…well, for more analysis of this, go here: (Alan W. Pollack’s Notes on “Penny Lane”)

          I should make it clear that I do NOT dislike Van Halen, and as Hot For Teacher came out when I was a freshman in High School, it carries very fond memories for me. I just cannot see any way in which Van Halen is less simplistic than the Beatles.

          Okay, wait…there’s one way: The drum solo opening on Hot For Teacher is really pretty cool. I have always wished that Ringo had done more solos on Beatles songs…the one and only such solo he did (in The End) ALWAYS makes me drum along, even when driving…I cannot help it.

          But maybe it’s just me. You know I’m not like other guys…I’m nervous, and my socks are too loose.

          1. I totally agree with your analysis. Penny Lane is vastly more sophisticated in every way except for the drum solo than Hot For Teacher.

            It is alleged that John Lennon was once asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the World. His reply was “he’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles”.

            That might have something to do with Penny Lane’s one lapse.

          2. No, I wasn’t talking about lyrics at all. I don’t care much about lyics;couldn’t tell you what penny lane is about.

            You know how you might talk very slowly and clearly to some who barely spoke English? To me, the Beatles sound like the musical equivalent. Like it was written to entertain five year-olds.

  14. SOOOO difficult to pick a single favorite Beatles song…though A Day In The Life is definitely in the top echelon…

    Some of my personal favorites are:

    I Feel Fine
    Norwegian Wood
    In My Life
    You Won’t See Me
    If I Needed Someone
    For No One
    And Your Bird Can Sing
    Eleanor Rigby
    I Want To Tell You
    Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
    Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite
    Within You Without You
    When I’m 64
    Good Morning
    A Day In The Life
    Hey, Jude
    Lady Madonna
    The Ballad Of John And Yoko
    Old Brown Shoe
    Across The Universe
    The Long And Winding Road
    Dear Prudence
    Yer Blues
    Back In The U.S.S.R.
    While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    Here Comes The Sun
    Come Together
    You Never Give Me Your Money
    I Want You/She’s So Heavy
    Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End…

    …and Her Majesty

  15. Let It Be, though not my favorite song, contains my all time favorite guitar solo. I love the disconnect between the happy music and dark lyrics of Run For Your Life. She Said, She Said is a big favorite of mine. There’s so much goodness in the Beatles catalog. I agree that to dislike the Beatles is a moral failing, but not only that, I’d consider it a kind of disability. Musically disabled. Same goes for the Stones (up to the early ’80s…after that, not so much).

    1. “Run for your life” is probably the only Beatles song I actually hate. The music is OK, but nothing special. The lyrics, though, are abominable. Lennon later said that he was sorry he wrote it. Unlike “Happiness is a warm gun”, this is not meant as satire. It’s just stupid macho misogynist bullshit.

      1. I didn’t know that. I thought it was supposed to be some kind of satire. It’s certainly less enjoyable if you listen thinking he actually means what he’s singing. Too bad.

        1. According to the biography “Shout!”, John was very jealous and controlling of Cynthia (his first wife), to the point of abuse- so it may be an expression of his feelings; may have a bit of ‘working out issues’ in it

  16. I am a White Album fan, but as far as musical genius status from today’s music, you NEED to listen to Tool. Aenema, Lateralus, or 10,000 Days are all great albums. Did the Beatles write any lyrics following the Fibonacci Sequence?

  17. I don’t think the squeaking sound is Starr’s shoe. I read somewhere yonks ago it’s squeaking piano stools ~ makes more sense IMO.

  18. I do consider Sgt. Pepper’s their greatest record. Even apart from it arguably being their most significant and influential, it’s my favourite. I’m quite partial to the albums that came out of their “creative peak” (1965-1967) and would rank them Sgt Pepper’s > Revolver > Rubber Soul.

    Now, I love Revolver, and I concede that it’s a better collection of songs than Sgt. Pepper’s. The songwriting is more consistent. But, being one who generally listens to albums front-to-back, I find Sgt. Pepper’s is greater than the sum of its parts. Every time I listen to that record I feel like I’m being transported into some alternate dimension. It’s always an otherworldly experience for me, particularly the middle section. “Within You Without You” may be the best thing Harrison ever wrote. I also think tracks like “Getting Better” and “Fixing A Hole” are criminally underrated. And yes, “A Day In The Life” is their best song.

  19. And if I may make a plug (no, I’m not affiliated with the band), “Kontiki” by Cotton Mather has to be the greatest Beatles album not made by the Beatles. Be sure to get the deluxe 2CD edition. Better than any album by Badfinger (and that’s not meant as a diss to Badfinger: their third album, “Straight Up”, is a very good, almost great record).

    1. “Bellamy’s vocals are better than Lennon’s or McCartney’s”

      Which immediately makes me ask, better for what?

      That’s a loud song, I’ll give you that. More interesting than A Day In the Life? Not for my money, not even close.

      1. Nice opening guitar (I’m listening to this right now). Nice reverb and tone* on the vocal. Nice development/buildup/crescendo.

        Good one! Thanks for sharing the link! I could listen that one many times.

        (* Celtic influence? I know nothing of this band.)

  20. If you like the Beatles you have to like the Rutles (The Pre-Fab-Four).

    All you need is cash,
    Can’t buy me lunch
    Blue Suede Schubert,
    Goose Step Mama

    Some of this songs had a strong influence on the Beatles who were lucky not to be sued for plagiarism!

    1. The Beatles had no problem with The Rutles. In fact, George Harrison appears in “All You Need is Cash”!

      “I have always thought at the back of my mind cheese and onions.”

  21. Favorite Album:
    Abbey Road (#2 Let It Be)

    Favorite song: Here Comes the Sun (and I can play it on the guitar!)

  22. Yes. The Beatles. I was born after they split up, but my older brothers would play them constantly when I was growing up. The Beatles, together with the Stones, the Kinks, and some others (as well as my dad’s favorite ’40s and ’50s jazz) were the musical soundtrack to my childhood. Once upon a time I used to listen to contemporary pop, but the older I get the more I find myself listening to the music I used to hear in the background as a child.

  23. Got a copy of “Pepper” for my 14th birthday in 1980. Listened to side one till I got sick of it, and flipped it and did the same with side 2! Not sick of it anymore though. It’s brilliant! The White Album is my personal favourite though, but all the albums from Rubber Soul on are pretty much of equal quality.

        1. I agree with Revolution Number 9. I usually just stop after Cry Baby Cry. The result being that I’ve rarely heard Good Night.

          1. I have very few problems with the rest of the songs on the album. Example: Why Don’t We Do it in the Road, maybe not be the greatest McCartney composition but it leads very nicely into I Will. There’s something about the contrasting styles.

            1. On reviewing the song list for it, I agree that most of it is pretty solid. I can’t stand honey pie. Yeah, after Rev. #1, I pretty much stop on side 4.

  24. “engineer Geoff Emerick turned up the faders to catch every last trace”

    So, one of the notable things about this song is just a studio trick. But using a vocoder is decried… 

    & § at last!


    1. I think he’s decrying to use of digital editing to correct the fact that the singers can’t hit pitch.

      Unless I’m reading things wrong, vocoder is a completely different effect (synthesizing the sound pattern of speech to make the sound recognizable as speech but with the tone of some other kind of sound.) Which is different from a guitar talk box as well.

    1. Thanks! I wasn’t going to comment on this thread since in the 60s I ‘liked’ the Beatles, but spent my money on the Stones; never bought a Beatles album until I was a father many years later (altho a girlfriend gave me her scratchy copy of Abbey Road when she was going to Europe in the early 70s).

      And since I liked the Stones then (edgier, ‘rootier’ rock than the Beatles I think), I like the Black Keys now. Notice they were the most mentioned band in the ‘rock is dead’ thread.

    1. What an idiot. At best, one one have someone who looks vaguely like John Lennon. (I have been told at various times that I look vaguely like John Lennon—or Jesus Christ, for that matter—so it’s no big deal.) This person actually believes that a Lennon clone would have some of the “magic” of Lennon. What an idiot.

      1. Why wouldn’t a Lennon clone have *some* of the magic of Lennon? I think a kid with Lennon’s genes, growing up exposed to hip hop, post-punk, metal, etc. and with today’s technology, could make some pretty fantastic music. Or do you think artistic ability is 100% nurture, zero percent nature?

      2. Also, I think he would look almost exactly like Lennon. That’s why we call identical twins identical.

  25. They were far and away the most experimental group of the 1960s, with the Stones a well-deserved second place. They had only a few clunkers, which will happen when you’re not tied to a formula and are always thinking outside the box.

      1. Velvet Underground
        Lou Reed on his own

        Rock N Roll Animal is still my favorite live rock album (with Stand in the Fire a close second)

  26. Reading the comments has reminded me of an old joke.
    Q. In what year did Paul McCartney write silly love songs?
    A. 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 …….
    I think that 50 years from now, people will look back at the Beatles with the same sort of reverence that we now give to Mozart, Beethoven etc.

    1. McCartney will always get ribbed for his love songs, but the truth is that most of them are pretty good. I can’t imagine anyone actively disliking “And I Love Her.” And how about Lennon’s love songs? “If I Fell” is one of the greatest songs he ever wrote.

      But McCartney’s “failure” as a rock and roll figure has to do with the fact that he’s never been the angry or depressed type. Lennon often seemed best by turmoil, whereas McCartney has always been a get-up-and-go happy guy. (But McCartney also has his moody, melancholy side. “For No One” is certainly a masterpiece in that regard.)

      As for his general songwriting (as a Beatle) and his contributions to the group, history will eventually show that McCartney was actually the more adventurous and forward-looking of the two. He was the guy checking out the avant garde scene. He was the guy who could write a folk song, then a music-hall song, and then a hard rocker. The guy is crazy talented and often a genius.

      Finally, we all have to be forever grateful to Paul: if it weren’t for McCartney, we wouldn’t have “Abbey Road.”

      1. “McCartney . . . was the guy who could write a folk song, then a music-hall song, and then a hard rocker. The guy is crazy talented and often a genius.”

        He also took a stab at writing an opera, eh?

  27. I am the egg man; they are the egg men; I am the walrus!

    How can there be a person who doesn’t love I Am The Walrus?

    Expert textpert choking smokers don’t you think the joker laughs at you?

    And thanks to our gracious host and the commenters here who have assured that my brain will be filled with Beatles songs for the rest of the day. There are worse fates than that.

  28. The Beatles are also my favorite.

    I think they found their own unique and distinctive style in “Rubber Soul”. Their material before that is first-rate and fabulous but nonetheless more derivative from earlier rock music. Most lists of top 50 Beatles songs are dominated by songs after (and including) RS, rather than the songs that initiated Beatlemania.

    The Beatles’ music seems oddly ripe for adaptation into other genres. I own an album of Beatles jazz adaptations (which is not very good), another of Beatles bluegrass adaptations, two of Beatles Renaissance/Bach adaptations, and finally Beatles songs have even been adapted as Gregorian chants!!

    IMO, they owe a tad bit of their success to their producer George Martin, who collaborated closely with them in creating the symphonic parts of their records. If anyone reading hasn’t heard this, I especially recommend the remix of Beatles songs done by Martin for the Cirque de Soleil act “Love” (album same title). Lots of wild overlays of multiple Beatles songs, but the opening of “Because” with the Beatles voices only (all instrumentation removed) is amazing.

    1. I would add that a couple of “concept” Beatles albums I have but don’t like is a CD of one of their early German concerts- it’s from an amateur tape recorder and the sound quality is so muddy I don’t think it’s worth it.

      You can also get an album called “Lost Songs” which the Beatles wrote but never recorded. They sold the rights to other minor groups who did record them. If you listen to it you can tell the Beatles made the right decision to not record them!!

  29. The Beatles are one of the greatest artists of all time. Their catalogue is definitely extensive and incredible… but we have Radiohead today! Music ain’t dead; Thom’s got this.

  30. Anyone who doesn’t like the Beatles is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils. The run of albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper and the White Album (plus Magical mystery Tour if that counts as an album) seems pretty much unsurpassable to me. And even the weaker albums (Beatles for Sale, Let It Be) are very well worth listening to.

  31. You like A Day In The Life. Hmmm….

    Well, if you like long story-telling songs with lots of changeups and songs that get away from 3-chord, standard structure rock songs, you might try Dream Theater.

    I’d suggest you try “Home” from the album Scenes from a Memory. Its got Sitar. Its long and tells a story. It changes up. Its got a nonstandard structure. What else could A Day In The Life fan want? (Warning though, while its not as metal as some of their other pieces, its definitely ‘harder’ than the Beetles.)

  32. “A Day in the life” is also my favorite Beatle song. I have ‘aurgasms’ (multiple simultaneous ‘aurgasms’, as a matter of fact) when I listen to it. I start counting twenty-four beats, either aloud or to myself, when John sings the lyric “turn” from “I’d love to turn you on.” At the twenty-fourth beat, the orchestral crescendo breaks and my brain lets go a ‘petit mort’, or ‘aurgasm’, as I call it. Because there are two times in the song when this happens, I call the ‘aurgams’ multiple. Because they happen at the twenty-fourth beat, I call them simultaneous. It really is better than sex.

    1. Sorry, to disabuse you, tombesson, but that’s 46 beats from ‘turn’ to the climax – 11 times 4/4 plus a bar of 2 beats. Odd that they chose to bung in a 2-beat bar, but that’s the kind of thing they did.

      1. Got it; the bar, containing the words ‘love to’ as in ‘I’d love to turn you on’ is also a 2/4 bar after a series of 4/4s. The string orgasm is therefore (almost) bracketed by the bars of 2/4.

  33. I love the Beatles as everyone should 😉

    I know the chances are slim of you liking this a great deal -if at all, but give this a couple of goes Jerry, turned up loud with headphones, it’s one of my favourite songs ever, I’ve seen them do it live twice- in my opinion they’re amazing.

    I love this song particularly because I find it so visual, I love the images it fills my head with.

    Arcade Fire, Tunnels

    And if the snow buries my,
    my neighbourhood.
    And if my parents are crying
    then I’ll dig a tunnel
    from my window to yours,
    yeah a tunnel from my window to yours.
    You climb out the chimney
    and meet me in the middle,
    the middle of the town.
    And since there’s no one else around,
    we let our hair grow long
    and forget all we used to know,
    then our skin gets thicker
    from living out in the snow.

    You change all the lead
    sleepin’ in my head,
    as the day grows dim
    I hear you sing a golden hymn.

    Then we tried to name our babies,
    but we forgot all the names that,
    the names we used to know.
    But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms,
    and our parent’s bedrooms,
    and the bedrooms of our friends.
    Then we think of our parents,
    well what the hell ever happened to them?!

    You change all the lead
    sleepin’ in my head to gold,
    as the day grows dim,
    I hear you sing a golden hymn,
    the song I’ve been trying to sing.

    Purify the colours, purify my mind.
    Purify the colours, purify my mind,
    and spread the ashes of the colours
    Over this heart of mine!

  34. Hmmm. I’m not a Beatles fan (but I don’t hate them either), and that’s not even my favourite song of theirs. I don’t care much for the tone shift in the middle; while it may work for some people, it doesn’t work for me, even though some tone shifts do work for me. So there are a number of songs that I’d put ahead of that one, from various periods.

    More modern:

    Broken: Amy Lee and Seether.
    Vertical Horizon: The Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning).

    Okay … I don’t listen to a lot of modern music, so I run out here. But moving back just a wee bit:

    The Cars: Drive.
    AC/DC: Ride On.
    Elvis Presley: In the Ghetto

    And there are others, but let me end it here with what, to me, is the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard, and also, because of that, also in some ways the most disturbing.

    Better than Ezra: Porcelain.

    Link is here:

  35. I agree that no artist post-Beatles has matched the quality and prolificacy of their output, but I also think it’s a myth that music in general isn’t as good as it used to be. The great music of today may be less in the mainstream, but it’s also more accessible (Internet) and abundant. I find that most of today’s great acts are semi-popular, somewhere between mainstream and independent (often on independent labels).

    They were mentioned earlier, and I agree that Radiohead is the closest thing we have today to The Beatles. Massive innovation and genre-bending. OK Computer and Kid A are both modern classics. Kid A is their Sgt. Pepper (groundbreaking in terms of experimentation). Actually, if I were to name my top five records of all time, Kid A would be in it.

    Other favourite new music:

    Destroyer – Kaputt (2011) (Canadian artist, one of my fav records of the past five years easily)
    Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
    The National (Brooklyn sad-sack rock; their last four albums have all been brilliant)

    1. Sorry that should’ve said most great new artists are between mainstream and underground. Wide majority on independent labels. Although, I think I’m so disconnected from mainstream music that I forget that most of the stuff I listen to isn’t that popular. It’s popular for independent music though, and some of the artists I’ve been listening to have ended up becoming more well known.

      Couple more newer albums that I consider masterpieces:

      Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
      Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (1999)

      Couple bands from the ’80s I worship almost as much as The Beatles:

      Joy Division
      The Smiths

  36. Gotta be honest… I am not really much of a Beatles fan. Growing up I never really cared for them. I have respect for them now though and some of their tunes have grown on me thanks to my favorite band being heavily influenced by them and making an amazing cover medley. If anyone is interested, YouTube “Type O Negative – Day Tripper.”

  37. Popular, relatively modern bands, on par with the best from the ’60s:
    -Pearl Jam

    And while I wouldn’t put this next band on the same level, Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of my favorites. Listening to Blood Sugar Sex Magik for the first time was practically a transformative experience. I’d never heard anything before that sounded like that. True, it’s 20 years old, now, but that’s still new compared to the ’60s. And their song, Shallow Be Thy Game, might resonate well with this audience.

    1. I wouldn’t describe any band that was formed more than 20 years (or 30 years ago in the case of U2) ago as relatively modern.

      1. U2’s last album was 2009. Pearl Jam’s latest album will be out in a couple months. The Chili Peppers last album was 2011.

        1. I don’t go by “when did a band release its most recent album”. That makes the Rolling Stones (last album in 2005) more modern than Blur (last album in 2003).

          1. Fair enough. And now I’m getting out of my element, because I’m not really a hardcore audiophile, but my question is, can you really pick out the ‘greats’ without a decade or two to see how they’ll influence upcoming artists (assuming influence is one of your metrics to determine great)?

  38. Acoustic version

    Gordie Johnson got the title “All Hell For A Basement” from the famous writer Rudyard Kipling. Who upon visiting Medicine Hat, Alberta used the term in reference to the vast natural gas wells underneath the city.

    Gordie Johnson recalls his inspiration for the song:

    “All Hell For A Basement, is about the first wave of Newfoundlanders coming to Alberta to work up north and what they must have gone through. I have a place in my heart for Newfoundlanders. They’re practically coming from a foreign country; they stand out because of their culture, customs, the way they speak, et cetera.

    The first time I met Newfoundlanders was up in Fort McMurray. When Big Sugar played there, it didn’t even have an airport, it was just this tiny little place. It struck me as a quintessential Canadian story – in this expansive country, we find ourselves born and raised in one place and we find a job or go to university 2,000 miles away. You grow up in Alberta, cross a major mountain range and you end up on the coast in Vancouver. Canadians don’t really stop and think about that too much.”

  39. Some clarification, please, regarding the Beatles song, “Because.”

    Is it true that this song was recorded with instrumental accompaniment, and also released without the accompaniment, putatively as an a cappella recording?

    I’m neutral about this song. Their harmony is quite nice enough.

    Re: “moral failing” vis-a-vis knowledge and appreciation of Beatles songs: a few years ago some (now former) singing chums and I were rehearsing, and one song we had agreed to sing was the quality Dave Clark V song, “Because.”

    This reminded one of the others of the Beatles song, “Because, and I indiscreetly and naively and honestly volunteered that I did not know that particular song, though I had heard a 55-gal drum of Beatles songs, and knew by memory a reasonably respectable number of their songs.

    I was met with disbelief and ersatz and fatuous shock. They just couldn’t believe that I had not heard this particular song, and ran hither and yon to be sure that everyone within earshot was aware of my blaspheming and vile transgression against civilization and life as we know it.

    I replied aloud, “Ah! The Argument From Personal Incredulity!” But of course that went over their heads.

    It mattered not to them that I also knew the art song from yesteryear, “Because,” by Guy d’Hardelot. The only “Because” that mattered was that by The Beatles. “And you grew up during that period!” one – a died-in-the-wool paternalistic religioso and likely creationist – sniffed and bloviated.

    I replied that all that they had accomplished with their juvenile harrangue of me was to put me in a frame of mind to ask them questions, the answers to which I thought they (reasonably) ought to know. (E.g., the age of the Earth; that the Earth revolves around the Sun and takes a year to do it; the efficacy of the theory of evolution, etc. I civilly refrained from telling them that I would not be “Shocked! Shocked!” at their profound non-curiosity in not knowing the answers.)

    So I ask you, brethren, is it a moral failing -a sin – on ones part to not know EVERY song in the Beatles’ catalog? Is it not sufficient to know at least a plurality if not a majority? Shall I dress in sackcloth and ashes and smite and scourge myself in retribution? Pray tell, what is the authoritative consensus about where “Because” lies in the Beatles’ celestial musical firmament?

    1. “is it a moral failing -a sin – on ones part to not know EVERY song in the Beatles’ catalog?”

      If you need to ask you are lost. Eternity in a flaming lake awaits you.

  40. “In our discussion (to use a euphemism) about the quality of modern rock, several readers dissed the Beatles, one of them even saying, as I recall, that he simply couldn’t bear to listen to them.”

    The Beatles are one of my favourites, as a group and as individuals, but the thing I like about them is that no person in their right mind could dislike them or not appreciate their material. One of my wise friends once said, when giving advice on a gift I could give someone, “You can’t go wrong with Beatles” a sentiment with which I completely agree.

    IMHO, people who dislike the Beatles should be reasoned with, and treated with sympathy, at least for a first and second offence.

    1. My favorite Beatle, personally, is Ringo, because he seemed to be the one who was having the most fun. Musically, it is George Harrison.

  41. I don’t think I’m quite old enough to really be into the Beatles.

    I tend to go more for The Who, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or AC/DC.

  42. Whenever I hear In My Life (from Ruber Soul) I think of my late wife and collapse into a quivering, weeping heap. I love and hate that song.

  43. I commend to you the album ‘Help!’. There is story telling there about relationships that it is hard to top (though I think Adele did it).

    How can one not fall for the sadness inherent in “You’ve got to hide your love away” and the emotion that John puts into the song. It is one of the most covered Beatles tunes.

    Love the movie too.

  44. McCartney should also be credited for his vocalise linking section in “Day in the Life” – based on the Hendrix recording “Hey Joe”, which he had recently heard. Not to mention excellent bass and piano performances.

    The Beatles were utterly unexpected pop music innovators, writing strong original music using techniques drawn from Tin Pan Alley, soul, pop folk and blues. They eventually followed Dylan’s lead in writing lyrics which were more serious, personal and articulate than the contemporary models. As well as being strong studio singers, they were excellent arrangers – particularly McCartney – and studio technical innovators.

    However, things move on and standards of performance, writing, arranging and recording have moved a long way ahead since 1970.

    If you accept that 95% of popular culture is crap, that still leaves some outstanding work. There are terrific modern writers and singers who outstrip Lennon and McCartney in terms of performance, writing and arranging skills. They may stand on the shoulders of giants, but they still deserve respect.

  45. I can think of lots of music that might sound better on most people’s computer speakers than A Day In The Life.

  46. Beatles’ songs are always on my playlists. Switch albums for different styles and moods. Introduce a neophyte to the Beatles and make them a fan of pop music forever…

  47. Hey, Jerry’s done it again! (First Linda Ronstadt, then Judith Durham, and now…) A Day in the Life happens to be my favourite Beatles song too. I find Ringo’s syncopated (is that the right word) drumming fascinating.

    My second favourite is probably Strawberry Fields, with the change of key at the halfway mark.

    I noticed at the time that for many years the whole pop world trailed after the Beatles. The Beatles were never content to stick to straightforward Monkees-like songs, they kept looking for new styles, and wherever they went, the pop music world followed.

  48. If it has to be a Beatle song, the early stuff when they were a proper pop band –
    Twist & Shout perhaps.

    Honestly, I hate this overblown overproduced material.

    I will say no more – I don’t wish to be banned!

    1. …HOWEVER – best album ever for me was Script of the Bridge by the Chameleons – deep, dark, epic. The first song is terrific – & the whole album doesn’t let you down.

      Give it a try…

      That was my generation.

      1. “In his autumn, before the winter, comes man’s last mad surge of youth.”
        “What on earth are you talking about?”

  49. I’ve always liked the Beatles well enough. There are a handful of their songs that I really like, and then a bunch of songs that I won’t skip when they come up on my playlist. But all this fawning over them is enough to turn my stomach. So, as an antidote, I went googling “Beatles overrated”, and found a few entertaining articles. For anyone interested, here they are (I hope this isn’t a bannable offense):

    The Beatles At 50: Why I Hate The Fab Four – Sabotage Times

    Penny lame – The Guardian

    Here’s an excerpt from the first article:

    The blues permeates the most vital contemporary music of the last century like a rich seam of platinum. It runs like blood through the beating heart of just about any music of note outside the classical world. Don’t even try and claim a similar legacy for those third-rate, mop-topped hacks. I’ll just laugh. Or poke you in the eye with my pen. As if a case could ever be made for, say, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath or even Simon and Garfunkel being, in any way, defined by some shallow, plastic, pop-tarts from the 60s! Go on; try. Yeah, thought so…

    And another:

    As far as individual musical proficiency goes, it’ll take barely a paragraph to pull these fakers from their Ivory Tower and expose the Emperor’s New Clothes (excuse the mixed metaphors; that’s what they do to me, God damn ‘em!). Ringo, you’re first up, my man; as a drummer, Mr Starr, as Lennnon himself famously remarked, was not only not the best drummer in the world, he wasn’t “…even the best drummer in The B*atles”. Sadly, poor old Ringo lacked sufficient talent to even polish John Bonham’s cymbals. Or pour Keith Moon’s booze. Or even chop Ginger Baker’s lines with his sticks.

    And here’s an excerpt from the second:

    The Beatles are what they always were – the safe, money-spinning, housewives’ choice. Their albums are easy listening (fine for 50-somethings, but the Beatles were cardigan-wearing duffers in their 20s). Sgt. Pepper, their much-trumpeted “psychedelic” album was as mindbending as an Asda mushroom pie. Give or take Helter Skelter, they never even rocked, really. Next to the Stones, the Who or the Troggs, the Beatles are the low alcohol lager of the 60s.

  50. shouldnt a band actually have to rock to be the greatest rock band of all-time? the beatles have always written nice, pleasant songs that often put me to sleep, usually while waiting to have my teeth cleaned in the dentist office via one of those pleasant, inoffensive radio stations with the heavy phil collins, beatles, and other easy listening classics in heavy rotation.

    1. “Rock” as a genre is quite broad. Some people won’t listen to anything that doesn’t fuel their aggression or sense of masculinity. Others can appreciate beautiful arrangements and songwriting.

    2. Sorry, that was a bit of a cheapshot, so let me explain. I realize I’m setting up a bit of a strawman here.

      There’s nothing wrong with listening to heavy music. I don’t enjoy it at the extreme, personally (can’t take black metal), but I am human and have a range of emotions. I like music to get my adrenaline going sometimes, too.

      But it seems to me that people who write off all music that isn’t aggressive as sleep-inducing, or “pussy music”, are either internally suppressing certain emotions or are too concerned with preserving a masculine image. The Beatles were hugely influential and wrote, in my opinion, brilliant, affecting music. It’s fine not to like them, or to prefer heavier music. But it’s telling when in the process of voicing that opinion you relegate softer music to something not worth paying much attention to. Or narrowing what falls into the category of good music, or “real rock”.

      A related point… Technical proficiency and musical complexity are also pretty poor ways to gauge quality. People like to say, oh well I could play that guitar part/drum solo/etc., as if that’s the same thing as writing a song. Complex compositions can be wonderful, but count me not among those who present 30 min drum solos as the pinnacle of music as if art is a competitive sport.

    3. Although the Beatles songs tend to be quite short and often easy to listen to, I think the apparent simplicity and the catchiness of the tunes is misleading. There’s a lot more musical subtlety that you may not notice on a casual listen through. (And of course it may be lost from the innumerable cover versions that ‘everyone else’ puts out).

    1. OK, CJ, I’ll argue otherwise. I’ve just had the misfortune to listen to your link: that’s 10 minutes of my life that I’ll never be able to get back again.

      The only interesting story about Led Zep is that Pete Townsend said that if they played stuff like that, they’d go down like a lead balloon: hence, the name Led Zeppelin. And it’s not even funny. Overblown, outdated and full of wind, just like the group.

      I’ve lost my patience with the amount of commenters alleging that heavy metal and any related genre is any good at all. I know this is all subjective, but honestly, I’m completely depressed by these white (usually Southern English middle-class) bozos who claim that they’re updating the blues. No they ain’t. This is self-indulgent, look-at-me-ain’t-I-bleedin’-fast onanism. Adore me, look my name’s on the logo of a plane.

      This is garbage, technically proficient, one-note autism, emotionally illiterate with its either triple piano or its triple forte, nothing in between, no dynamics, bland tenor-and-above white-boy vocals (contrast Howlin’ Wolf, no competition). Its expressive range starts at A and stops there; there’s no movement, no shade, no drama. It is itself and nothing more. Like a dull troll.

      The main reason why it’s crap is because it lacks charm; it doesn’t even consider or have the potentiality for otherness, change or surprise. You will never be intrigued by the possibility that the next LZ song might be different – and anything different is good. With the Beatles, there is always that chance. And that’s why the Beatles always will be better than every other group so far.

    2. Having had a brief listen, I have to say I agree with Dermot C’s last paragraph, if not necessarily all his generalisations about heavy metal (however that’s defined). A Day in The Life has a distinctive tune, a catchy drum track that complements it perfectly, it draws me in to listening to it. That LZ track has a distracting and disturbing drum track and no real tune to it. It has no charn. I wouldn’t actually choose it to compare with A Day in the Life, the two seem to me to come from totally different genres. Maybe for someone who likes LZ, A Day in the Life may seem simple (I wouldn’t say ‘childs play’) by comparison; but that’s a comparison I wouldn’t make.

      1. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, II. That’s a review of LZ’s interminable whatever it’s called; the comments go from the particular to the general, not vice versa. You don’t have to tweak much to apply it to the whole genre and sub-categories.

  51. I’d have to put “Tomorrow Never Knows” right up with “A Day in the Life” as maybe the two most intellectual songs ever written. Thier music in that era went someplace wholly unseen, and in a real sense is still defining what is produced today. Beatles down on the pharm, gotta love em!

    (And come to think of the Beatles influencing modern music, I’ve long been puzzled why no great hip hop song has been built off a sample of their song “Flying”… jus sayin!)

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