This 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.