Friday, June 8, 2012

The Beatles Top 100 Songs: 20-11


20. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" The White Album (1968)
Proving that it's possible to make a guitar actually sound like it's weeping, this guitar driven rock song written by George Harrison features an iconic guitar performance by Eric Clapton. For some reason this song has always reminded me of a Pink Floyd song, as the guitar has that detached and melancholy ring to it that reminds me so much of songs like "Comfortably Numb" from The Wall album. I think this is the second best song Harrison ever wrote and contributes greatly to the Beatles catalog, adding another serious minded guitar driven rock song to the bunch.

19. "Ticket to Ride" Help! (1965)
I teased earlier about there being one more 'driving' themed song on the list and this one is it. When I was younger I always much preferred "Drive My Car", mostly because I thought the "Beep, beep, beep, beep, yeah" part of the song was a lot of fun. Over time, I've come to appreciate just how great a song "Ticket to Ride" is, with a great vocal performance by Lennon, pretty unique drums by Ringo, and fantastic change of tempo to end the song. This was the first Beatles song to top 3 minutes.

18. "Penny Lane" Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Who doesn't want to visit Penny Lane after listening to this song? It's very different from "Rocky Racoon", but I find myself liking this song for many of the same reasons. From beginning to end, whenever the song is played I find myself always getting caught up in the narrative, or in this case Paul's elaborate painting of the scene on Penny Lane. The particular beat (created by the piano) in this song has always made me imagine someone strutting very proudly down Penny Lane (can you see it now?) and all the fire bells, horns, and extra little sounds complete the scene for me. 

17. "Yesterday" Help! (1965)
I really struggled with what to do with this song. It's a fantastic song and would be the highlight of any artist's career, but the song is so ubiquitous in our culture that it's hard to truly judge it in comparison with other songs. Trying to listen to it with fresh ears is impossible, so I did my best to try and place it where I think it belonged amongst their catalog. This melancholy ballad I think fits nicely into their top 25 as it's an early example of Paul's ability to craft a sweet and sad acoustic ballad. Paul is backed up by a string quartet (which also happens on "Eleanor Rigby") to great effect here. It's simple, it's honest, and I think that's why it has endured over the years.

16. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Rubber Soul (1966)
The premiere example of the Beatles' folk rock phase on Rubber Soul, this is one of Lennon's best songs that isn't completely up to interpretation. It is apparently the first use of the Sitar in a Beatles song and I think it's about the perfect amount of sitar, as I really am not a big fan of the songs that feature it. The song is part tongue in cheek and part wish-fulfillment, and it's a blast to listen to.

15. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" The White Album (1968)
Lennon's opening piano notes are just as awesome to me as the other big moments in Beatles lore ("Hard Day's Night" and "Day in the Life"). The opening piano notes are like a trumpet call to stand up, dance, and enjoy the song. Having this song in the top 25 is probably offensive to most 'true' Beatles fans, but this is just a personal favorite of mine. I've always found the song to be a great joy to listen to and sing. Paul's Desmond and Molly story is cute and memorable, and the song sticks with you well after it has ended. After Rubber Soul the Beatles largely put away songs that were just plain fun (not counting silly experiments), so this is a welcome song in the later years of the Beatles career.


14. "Can't Buy Me Love" A Hard Day's Night (1964)
One of Paul McCartney's early masterpieces, "Can't Buy Me Love" is a fast paced and simple declaration song that money just can't buy someone love. One of my early favorites as a kid, this one has remained one of my favorites despite my changing tastes.

13. "Help!" Help! (1965)
Although the fast pace of the song seems to contradict the emotional plea for help in the lyrics, the song still works. Lennon would say that this was one of his favorite songs he wrote as a Beatle, and I would completely agree. It's a song that stands up well when compared to some of their later more artistic work. Some cover bands have slowed the song down (as Lennon says he wished he would've done) to good effect, but I still enjoy this original better.

12. "Twist and Shout" Please Please Me (1964)
The Isley Brothers released this song to great success, but the Beatles took this song to a whole new level. This infectious dance-rock song is immortalized by John Lennon's incredible vocal performance practically shredding his vocals. Also standing out in the Beatles version is their harmonies, something the Isley version just cannot match. Perhaps I just prefer a rock version of the song, but this one has an incredible urgency and power to it that the Isley Brothers just couldn't match. It kills me that this didn't make it into the top 10, but there is good reason for it. 


11. "We Can Work It Out" (1965)
This song is so good it actually pains me that I can't fit it into the top 10. It represents another great collaboration between Lennon and McCartney and (like "Help!" earlier) signals an incredibly mature Beatles emerging from their feel-good mop top songs like "Twist and Shout" above. I'd love to try and talk in depth about the musical aspect of the song, but the wikipedia entry does it better justice than I ever could. I recommend you give it a read. 



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