THIS Sunday, June 25, is global Beatles day.
And what better way to honour the Fab Four than by delving into their catalogue and pulling out their 10 best songs.
Which, is to say, your humble correspondent has compiled a list of his 10 favourite songs.
So, without further ado, here they are:
10. Day Tripper (1965)
Seven years before Smoke on the Water, The Beatles put forth their entry for the greatest rock guitar riff of all time with Day Tripper. It was John Lennon’s baby, and was released as a double-A side with We Can Work it Out. As a teenage heavy metal nut, it took me a while to get to The Beatles, but this one really cooks. And I found out.
9. Michelle (1965)
Paul McCartney said the basic chord structure of this song was one of the first pieces of music he ever wrote, and he used to play the progression under some rudimentary French phrases at parties. He only added words after prodding from John Lennon. The second chord in the verse, a Bb minor seventh, was shown to him by a local jazz player named Jim Gretty – and the whole song is more harmonically adventurous than most songs in the Beatles canon. Suffice to say, the diminished chords really, uh, augmented this number.
8. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1963)
Two minutes, 25 seconds of pure, innocent pop. The first Beatles song to use four-track recording technology, the band made the most of the new-found freedom – overdubbing handclaps, and doubling lead vocal tracks gave it a sheen not apparent on their other hits to that time, and offered an aural glimpse of the kind of studio experimentation they’d be immersed in throughout the rest of the decade.
7. Something (1969)
Pattie Boyd – take a bow. Has any woman inspired more quality music than her? Recorded in high fidelity prior to any infidelity, Something was written by George Harrison during the sessions for The White Album, given to Joe Cocker, and eventually released before Cocker’s version, on Abbey Road. John Lennon thought it was the best song on there.
6. Let it Be (1969)
Inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had about his late mother (Mary), Let it Be was released first as a single and then remixed by Phil Spector for the Let it Be album, The Beatles’ final studio release. That’s the version in the playlist below, and it’s my preferred take – probably because George Harrison’s guitar solo is less ‘effected’ than the single release, lending it more urgency. There’s also the delay added to Ringo’s hi-hat in the early stages, and a general ‘Spectoring’ of things. Has Paul McCartney’s voice ever sounded better?
5. Come Together (1969)
The funkiest thing The Beatles ever did. Come Together was a piece of bluesy, sexy, nonsensical groove – the sort of thing that gave Beatles obsessives cause to argue about the lyrics. Well, not me Jack … I’d rather just shut up and listen and let the glorious production and dumb rhymes wash over me like graffiti viewed from a comfortable train.
4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1968)
Another Harrison number, the guitars in this one more scream and wail, rather than weep. With Eric Clapton’s tortured bends a highlight, While My Guitar Gently Weeps grabs you from the moment that single, pulsing piano note (and the wonderfully chugging, distorted bass) sounds – and it doesn’t let go for nearly five minutes.
3. Yesterday (1965)
A Paul McCartney solo song before Paul McCartney went solo. It’s a simply beautiful ballad, and the strings – a quartet used at the suggestion of George Martin – marked a bold shift that has been seen countless times since.
2. A Day in the Life (1967)
The only track from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band to get a guernsey, A Day in the Life is probably the most ambitious thing the band ever committed to tape. Tempo changes, an orchestra, an alarm clock, 4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire – it’s five-and-a-half minutes of sheer, listenable lunacy. The final chord, with sustain Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnell would kill for, took three men – roadie Mal Evans, John Lennon and Ringo Starr – to play.
1. Drive My Car (1965)
So… you weren’t expecting this one – but it leads off Rubber Soul, my favourite Beatles record, and therefore never fails to put a smile on my face. Clocking in at a tick under two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a thinly veiled invitation that hinges on a B minor chord and a little piano riff during the chorus. “Baby you can drive my car” – as far as automotive double entendres go, it’s not as graphic as, say, Grace Jones’ “Pull Up to the Bumper” but these were different times. And like every great short story it has a great twist – she never even had a car! Beep-beep, beep-beep yeah…