A Mini-Vacation

ELDER MUSIC: Beatles Favorites

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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I like to walk along the beachfront on days when I’m not otherwise occupied. This is easy to do as I live not far away. Whenever I’m alone on the walk, I usually have my Sony Walkman along for entertainment, and before people make cracks about living in the seventies, cassettes and whatnot, the current model plays digital files.

As I’ve been doing this for 10 years (I’ve upgraded the Walkman a couple of times) I’ve listened to a range of things – serious talks, audio books, music, podcasts and whatever has caught my fancy.

A recent discovery, although it’s been around for a couple of years, is a podcast called “Compleatly Beatles” (that’s the way they spell it) where a couple of Canadians discuss all the Beatles’ albums, one per podcast.

Each song is discussed and occasionally they say something like “That one wouldn’t make my top five Beatles songs, or top 10 or top 50”. That got me thinking along the lines of which are my top ten Beatles songs?

So, here they are in no particular order. Now, before we have the usual, “What about...?”, remember these are my selections. No doubt yours are different.


Many people put the song, Things We Said Today down near the bottom of their lists. Even Paul, who wrote it, is believed to be embarrassed by it. Quite obviously, I disagree as it’s in the list. It’s from “A Hard Day’s Night”.

♫ Things We Said Today


Eleanor Rigby sounds so integrated that you’d expect that it was written by a single person, but all four of them had a hand in writing it. Maybe that’s the reason.

Paul started it and brought it into the studio where they all finished it off. It’s from the album “Revolver”. Paul said that Eleanor was named after Eleanor Bron who was in the film Help! with them. Rigby is from a wine store he noticed one day and Father McKenzie came from the phone book (well, the McKenzie part).

None of The Beatles played an instrument on the recording.

♫ Eleanor Rigby


We Can Work It Out was released as a double-A side single. That’s because Paul wrote (most of) it and he, George and Ringo thought it should be the A-side. John had written, and they had recorded, Day Tripper and he thought that should be the A. So, they compromised.

Paul wrote about his long term, but now deteriorating, relationship with Jane Asher. I think Jane should get some royalties, not just for this one, but she inspired several of Paul’s finest songs.

♫ We Can Work It Out


For No One is another song Paul wrote about Jane. It’s a great song, but a heartbreaking one. They often make the best songs.

Paul played all of the instruments except for the French horn that George Martin thought would add to it. He was right. The song is from “Revolver”.

♫ For No One


It’s best not to listen too closely to the words of Baby’s in Black because if you do, you can go down a couple of different rabbit holes of interpretation. Just listen on the surface is my advice, but even that’s a bit problematic as I’ve found the song to be a real earworm.

It’s from the album “Beatles for Sale”.

♫ Baby's In Black


When Bob Dylan recorded the song Fourth Time Around for his “Blonde on Blonde” album, Al Kooper, who played on the song, suggested that John (Lennon) might sue Bob as it’s an obvious pinch of Norwegian Wood.

Bob said that he wouldn’t as he had played the song for John before Norwegian Wood was even thought of. So, it’s a matter of Bob pinching from John or vice versa. The upshot is that John didn’t sue, or even threaten to. The song appeared on “Rubber Soul”.

♫ Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)


Many people think that The Ballad of John and Yoko is a John Lennon solo effort. It’s not, it was attributed to The Beatles and sold really well (okay, everything they did sold really well).

It wasn’t on any of their albums though, it came out as a single. It was The Beatles’ final number one single. Only John and Paul played on the record.

I was surprised that Paul played bass as it’s a rather perfunctory effort from probably the best bass player in rock and roll. He also played piano and drums.

♫ The Ballad of John and Yoko


The song And I Love Her is another of Paul’s about Jane. This is from early in their relationship so things are going well at this stage. Because of this, Paul is under represented on the album “A Hard Day’s Night”; John wrote most of the songs for that album.

♫ And I Love Her


After recording the album “Let It Be”, no one particularly liked the way it sounded. Several people had a go at remastering it without any success. Finally, John took it along to Phil Spector to see what he could do.

Spector added heavenly choirs, orchestral overdubs and all sorts of bells and whistles. No one was satisfied with that but it was released that way as everyone was sick and tired of the whole thing.

About 15 years ago, Paul got the original tapes and remastered the songs stripped back to the way the album was originally intended to be heard. It was released as “Let It Be (Naked)”, and I think it’s much more interesting than the original.

From that version of the album here is Let It Be, as it should be.

♫ Let It Be


Paul wrote the song I’ve Just Seen a Face, and it really moves along at a decent clip. The Dillards recorded the song as well on their album “Wheatstraw Suite”, and it’s a rare instance of a cover being better than the original.

However, today is Beatles day. Paul also wrote the next song on the album (“Help!”), but we don’t have that one today (or yesterday either).

♫ I've Just Seen A Face


If I were ranking the songs, the next one would have to be put at the very top of the heap. It’s amazing that the song In My Life was written by men in their twenties. It was mostly John’s song, with a little help from Paul.

It certainly gave the album “Rubber Soul” added gravitas.

♫ In My Life


On the subject of life, the next (and last) song probably had to be present. If I left it out it’d be like omitting Like a Rolling Stone from a Bob Dylan selection.

From “Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”, here is A Day in the Life, an appropriate note on which to finish as it concluded that album in fine style.

♫ A Day In The Life

Okay, the “top ten” blew out a bit, but I imagine that’d be the same for everyone.


My favorite Beatles songs change from one day to the next. Even though I have listened to almost all of their songs thousands of times over these many years, they NEVER seem to get old. We should all be thankful that they gave us a body of music to listen to; it doesn't seem likely that we'll see talent like this come along again. It's been 50 years - and we're still talking about them!

Yes! All of them and more. It’s the soundtrack of so many of our lives.

Going to see Paul in concert Memorial Day for the first time since 1965. Still have my ticket stub from that one - $4.50 I believe it was… Atlanta stadium, the “Help” tour. Amazing then and forevermore!

Thank you for this. I especially appreciate the photos, many of which I hadn't seen before. There were so many songs to choose from, 100 different people would have 10 completely different favorites! It sure takes me back, what a time in our lives.

What a pleasure to read, look and listen to on this gray and rainy Sunday. Love the Beatles. Remember watching them on Ed Sullivan, not understanding quite what they were.

So difficult to decide which are my favorite Beatle songs: it depends where I heard them, who I was with at the time, their emotional meanings to me, etc. I listened to yours and like your choice. Here are my favorites: Yesterday, Blackbird, I’ll Follow the Sun, Do you want to know a secret, I saw her standing there.

I still have to move when I hear Twist and Shout. I remember when they sang it at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1965 …”well, shake it up, baby, now…” then walking down Haight Street with my boyfriend, singing it at the top of our voices.

My husband’s favorite was Imagine by John Lennon. Isn’t it considered a Beatles song, too? My husband used to wear his pale blue sunglasses when he sang it – the lyrics are the best … Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today ….. I know it by heart.

Last week I was driving for hours in and around rural Arizona and New Mexico, through miles and miles of mostly nothing. I might have found it tedious, but the rental car had Sirius and the Beatles channel did a countdown of fans' top 100 Beatles songs. I would never have believed I know the lyrics to 100 songs...but of course I do, as do so many of us.

A vivid childhood memory: watching the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan in my pajamas from a bend in the staircase — mom let my sister and I stay up past our bedtime to see.

So many favorites: Blackbird, Fixing a Hole, I'm Looking Through You, Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight, Martha My Dear.... Thank you, Peter!

Thank you, Peter, you just took 55 years off my life! (In the best way.) Will always love the Beatles!

Thanks, Peter and Norma,
Can anyone take us "home," 60 years or so, as quickly as the Beatles. Their mops of cuteness, their harmonies and music slow or fast, and eventually their lyrics which took them to an elevated level in songwriting.

It continues to amaze me that so many musicians and songwriters had the insights and used their creative selves to come up with the music back then, in their 20s when their lives were closer to their beginning and far from the normal experienced maturity. I attribute drugs, far eastern thinking and practices, and another, such as fate.

The Beatles were/are an extraordinary musical phenomenon. They were just simply better than anybody else, and I (a pianist and with a degree in music) can't tell you why. Their stuff was just the best. THE best. Probably "Norwegian Wood" is my #1 favorite, but "Day in the Life" is stunning, "Blackbird" is an anthem for millions of people who have struggled to re-start their lives . . . they just never, IMO wrote a bad song. And I think the song Paul finds embarrassing is, instead, haunting.

¡Que viva los Beatles!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Peter and Norma. What an amazing combination of vividly revived memories and deeper (thanks to age!) appreciation of the lyrics you provided. Want to go back and go through this post and then all my albums all over again!

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