Thursday, August 10, 2006

Beatles review

In the last year or so I’ve been getting into the Beatles, this got more a little fanatic when I purchased my ipod and started getting all the Beatles Album to fill it up. Now, it quite rare that I listen to anything other than the Beatles on my ipod. It’s probably roughly 85% Beatles and 15% random shuffle (which more often than not, also includes the Beatles). As such, and especially in light of the fact that I’ve recently watch the Anthology documentary (a great, if slightly biased documentary), I thought I’d put down a few of my thoughts on paper – or well, in blog format anyway.

From my experience of the Beatles and from watching the Anthology series, the music and image of the Beatles roughly falls into 2 categories, that of early sixties and late sixties. Each of there periods is typified by the following:

Early sixties (a.k.a.) Beatlemania
Signature Merseybeat sound (i.e. two lead guitars, bass guitar and drums)
Images of screaming female fans fainting
Traditional Beatles image of smart suits and mop-top
Early Beatles films (i.e Hard Days Night and Help)
Endless tours across the world
English music breakthrough in the US

Late sixties
Psychedelic influences, including drug culture
Indian meditation and Sitar influences
Studio Albums
Experimental and maturing music (sound loops, backwards tracks, ambient sounds)
Range of instrument used (i.e. Piano, orchestral, electrical)
A sense of greater individuality between the songs written by each of the Beatles.

I personally tend to prefer the Beatles later work, mainly from Rubber Soul onwards. Although their earlier songs were certainly both catchy and popular, there is little variety. It’s from Rubber Soul onwards that the real genius begins to come to light.

Recently Mojo magazine asked top musicians of today (including U2, Oasis, Chili Peppers, Gnarls Barkley amongst others) what there favourite Beatles songs were, as a result, they compile the 101 greatest Beatles songs. The top 10 were:

1. A Day in the Life
2. Strawberry Fields Forever
3. Yesterday
4. Tomorrow Never Knows
5. She Loves You
6. In My Life
7. Something
8. Happiness is a Warm Gun
9. Penny Lane
10. A Hard Day's Night

As such, I thought I’d try to compile my own favourite 10 Beatles songs. In the end I found it impossible to order them from 1 to 10, as my favourite tends to change all the time, as such, here are my top 10 in no particular order:

Yesterday - Help
McCartney woke up one morning with this song in his head. For quite some time he thought that he’d heard it somewhere before, but after speaking to the rest of the Beatles amongst others, he came to realise that it was something that he’d come up with in his sleep. A perfect, pure and simple song and also to most covered song of all time (fact).

A Day in the Life – Sg Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
The Beatles Epic – for many the highlight of their creative career.
Lennon and McCartney display in this song why the Lennon/McCartney song writing duo is considered so highly. A wonderful blend of styles and lyrics with a truly epic finale.

While my Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles White Album
Harrison (with the help of Eric Clapton) really at his very best. Both beautiful, stirring and inspirational. A gem.

Let it be – Single / Let it be

A very touching song written by McCartney about a dream he had of his dead mother. Some have also interpreted this song as a Christian metaphor (Mary – McCartney’s mother representing the Virgin Mary), but this has always been denied by McCartney.
Quite probably the most well known and popular Beatles single and rightfully so.

Hey Jude – Single / Let it be
Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon (Jules became Jude) to comfort him during his parents divorce. A very heartfelt and touching song and who can forget the almost endless na na na’s!

Strawberry Fields Forever – Magical Mystery Tour
Haunting, memorable, beautiful, exquisite. No need to say more really!

Across the Universe – Single / Let it be
Lennon was never truly satisfied with this song, although it was one of his favourites. I wonder what he’d think of the Let it be – Naked version? This song is encapsulated by the lyrics “nothings going to change my world”. A pre-Imagine song from Lennon about peace and tranquillity.
This more than any other is more often at the very top of the heap of my favourite Beatles songs.

All You Need is Love - Single
McCartney once said that on retrospective, as he looks back over the years that The Beatles were together, he’s pleased that the vast majority of the songs written were about love and peace.
This song, more than any other, fully captures that essence of The Beatles.

Something – Abbey Road
Quite possibly one of the most romantic songs ever written and also one of Harrison’s finest songs.

Abbey Road Medley – Abbey Road
Okay, I cheated. This isn’t a single song, but a group of songs synched together starting with You Never Give Me Your Money and ending with (fittingly) The End on side B of Abbey Road. All the same, this is a masterful blend of songs that really need to be listen to as a whole to be enjoyed. A superb way for The Beatles legacy to come to an end,.

Songs that very nearly made it in my top 10:

I am the Walrus
Here Comes the Sun
Eleanor Rigby
Penny Lane
Helter Skelter
Fool on the Hill
I’m only Sleeping
Real Love
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Favourite Albums (in order)

Abbey Road
The Beatles – White Album
Sg Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
Rubber Soul

To summarise:

There’s a damn good reason why the Beatles are the most successful group of all time… They really were something special. Four very talented individuals who worked just so damn well together. They helped define an era and also expand the possibilities of popular music. They introduced music video’s, experimental sounds and put Britain firmly on the musical map.

If you haven't properly listened to the Beatles for a while, or have merely discounted them as something from before your time, I would strongly suggest that you give them another try.


Sameranda said...

While my guitar gently weeps is my favourite Beatles song ever.

Bazlurgan said...

Good choice!