Thursday, September 21, 2006

Top Ten Songs by the Beatles

By: A. Bertocci

The legendary Beatles catalog is so full of hits, of inspiration, of beauty and of tears that a top ten list is a futile effort as best, an unpleasant one at worst. To preface such a list with a lame disclaimer is, by contrast, easy. All too easy. What you have here didn’t come from a master of music theory or a noted rock journalist. Just a fan with some great memories of his favorite band. It will have to do for now.

(1) Let it Be
Stripped down to the bare essentials of a voice and a piano, it doesn’t take long for this song’s simple words and message to grip the audience and provide something instantly hummable and endlessly comforting. You truly realize the depth of the musical genius when a ‘wrong’ chord at the three-minute mark sounds suspiciously correct. Somehow it all fits.

(2) A Day in the Life
But simplicity only gets you so far. The fusion of two different compositions from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the full and sumptuous arrangement of this epic, impressionistic piece provides a tour of life both real and imagined, from the mundane to the spectacular. Featuring everything from an improvised orchestral crescendo to an alarm clock to a powerful three-piano final chord, it is a masterpiece of complex composition and revolutionary production.

(3) Hey Jude
The sheer audacity of a seven-minute song comprised largely of “na-na-na-na” is tribute to the musical imagination of the Beatles. Everything, even Ringo’s late entry into the piece, comes together for a listening experience that gets people chanting even today.

(4) Penny Lane
Is it the joyous ascension or the jovial, almost casual downbeats, that make people remember the trumpets? This surrealist ode to English suburban living. Now if people would just stop stealing the street signs in Liverpool.

(7) Eleanor Rigby
With moving, poignant lyrics about loneliness and aging, “Eleanor Rigby” is a striking example of the Beatles’ brilliant transition into serious songwriting. To truly appreciate it, one must listen to the strings-only recording on the Anthology compilation, and immerse oneself in the eight-piece orchestra’s somber dirge. Pop grows up, and it is beautiful.

(8) Yesterday
The most frequently covered and recorded song in all of popular music, its haunting melody is so simple that even Paul McCartney could not believe no one had come up with it before.

(9) Strawberry Fields Forever
Psychedelic rock came into its own with John Lennon’s peaceful musical trip; it’s no wonder Lennon’s final, sweet, (mostly) silent resting place came to bear the name Strawberry Fields. Don’t forget to listen for the famous “Cranberry sauce” murmurs at the end.

(10) I Want to Hold Your Hand
The famous “British invasion” was spearheaded by this infectious hit. The face of American music was changed forever by the influence of this newfangled Fab Four. With every triumphant leap up the scale on “hand!”, a new era in music was reached. Oh, and it’s fun, too. Of course, the British already knew it all along. And listening to the blissful confidence in Lennon and McCartney’s voices, they knew, too.

By Liz Herrin

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album. The list of timeless and revolutionary albums seems almost unreal. How could one band have so many hits?
I’d probably have trouble picking out the top 10 Beatles albums lent alone songs. So acknowledging that it’s enough of a task just to pick out the top ten hits, there’s no way I can go so far as to rank them.
With that in mind, here’s my list in no particular order. (And please don’t respond with angry emails informing me which Beatles gem I left off the list. I’m aware some hits are going to be left behind in the dust of my all too cursory list.)

1.Twist and Shout
Why it made the list: This pop rock anthem has enough snap, crackle and pop to make a mummy move. Well…that might be stretching it slightly, but it’s certainly catchy.
It’s one of those immediately recognizable songs that sneak into feel good films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (think the parade scene when Ferris takes over a float and Ferris’ unsuspecting dad dances in his high-rise office.)
It puts a smile on my face after the first familiar bar, and that alone is reason enough to put it on my list.

2.A Hard Day’s Night
Why it made the list: Come on. Any song that gets an entire movie named after it deserves to make the top list.
But I have to admit, my reasoning for adding it to the list is much stranger than just an appreciation for the Beatle’s ability to cross media mediums. I laugh every time I think of this song because of an old Saturday Night Live “Celebrity Jeopardy” skit. The category is “Words that rhyme with dog.” Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell) asks his celebrity guests to finish this sentence—It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a…this. Sean Connery (Daryl Hammond) quickly buzzes in. Trebek looks hopeful. “Yes, Sean Connery.” “Chinese whore!” Connery seems so sure of his answer, so proud. It’s hysterical, and single-handedly earns A Hard Days’s Night a coveted spot on my list.

Why it made the list: Again, if it engenders a film, it probably deserves to be on the list. At least the song version of Help! wasn’t as atrocious as the film version (don’t hate me hardcore Beatles fans…)

4.Drive My Car
Why it made the list: I’ve always loved this song. My dad used to blast it while we were on family road trips. (My siblings and I cultivated a love for the Beatles this way.) So for the sake of personal nostalgia, on the list it goes.

Why it made the list: This song is just plain haunting. There are certain songs that by virtue of their sappy nature and slow rhythm become staples for weddings, graduations, christenings…you name it.
And while Yesterday is admittedly present at many of these milestones, it’s always meaningful and perpetually heartfelt. It’s not sugarcoated, and it doesn’t feel the need to apologize for that. I respect that enough to add it to my list.

6.Eleanor Rigby
Why it made the list: Granted, the line, “Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” has always intrigued me and is just sufficiently strange enough to secure it on the list.
But the real reason is that I had to play this song in my high school orchestra. After learning a song and playing it for months, one gains a new appreciation for it.

7.I am the Walrus
Why it made the list: Some people say they don’t even listen to the lyrics of a song, and this never ceases to shock me. Lyrics can really make or break a song for me, and in the case of this song, it absolutely makes it (not that the music isn’t phenomenal as well).
This stanza was the clincher:
Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your Knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus,
goo goo gajoob
Now I don’t pretend to know what that means, but I know I like it.

8.Strawberry Fields Forever
Why it made the list: Somehow this seems like such a definitive Beatles songs I just had to put it on the list. If I didn’t, it would be like having a Bob Dylan Best Of and not including The Times They Are A-Changin’. It just wouldn’t seem right.

9.Come Together
Why it made the list: The constant stops and starts of this song are what make it so classic. The rhythm of the song never lets you get comfortable, and consequently it feels innovative when you listen to it.
Not to mention the creative things they do with lyrics. I particularly like the paralleled lines “He got hair down to his knee” in the fist stanza and “He got feet down below his knee” in the third.

10.Tax Man
Why it made the list: There’s quite a bit of political angst loosely hidden behind its pop music veneer. Don’t tell me you don’t hear a smidgeon of anger in the chorus:
(if you drive a car, car;) - I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) - I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) - I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) - I'll tax your feet.
Great music with a message? It had to make the list.


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