by John M. Borack
As a card-carrying music geek, I am well aware of the importance of lists. Year-end “best ofs,” top 10s, lists of all-time favorite Monkees songs (RIP, Davy) – folks love to read, debate, dissect and often ridicule these sorts of lists.
So get ready to read, debate, dissect and ridicule another one as I proudly present my personal list of the top 10 songs by the Beatles, along with some brief justifications.
First though, let me say that this obviously was a difficult list to narrow down, what with me being an unabashed Beatle freak and all. (I very easily could have compiled a dozen Beatles top 10’s with no appreciable loss of quality.) I’m also aware that I’ve probably neglected to mention your favorite Beatles song, so feel free to kick and scream and tell me I’m full of it. I’m used to that; I’m married.
ANYway….here’s the list:
10. “Nowhere Man” – The pristine vocal harmonies, John Lennon’s passionate lead vocal, the jangly, folk-rock influenced guitar sound…wow. Just…wow.
9. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” – Another folk-rock influenced ditty, this one more acoustic-based and penned primarily by Paul McCartney. He’s covered this peppy little number from 1965 in his solo concerts on and off since ’76, so he must be rather fond of it, too.
8. “Please Please Me” – To me, this is one of the most sonically thrilling examples of the early Beatles sound. It never gets old, does it? It’s somewhat difficult to fathom that it was originally conceived as a slower, bluesier number with a nod to the great Roy Orbison.
7. “Lovely Rita” – Somewhat buried on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this Paul composition features a winking lyric (“Got the bill and Rita paid it/took her home, I nearly made it/sitting on the sofa with a sister or two”), typically amazing, melodic bass playing from McCartney and some ace drum fills by Ringo Starr. A nice mixture of psychedelia and straighforward rock.
6. “It Won’t Be Long” – An early Lennon tune that exudes youthful energy and is memorable for the call and response “yeah’s” peppered throughout the song.
5. “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – A Lennon tour-de-force from 1968’s White Album, it’s chock full of his psychedelic, slightly cracked wordplay (“A soap impression of his wife, which he ate and donated to the National Trust” – awesome.) It’s also something of a mini-suite, with three distinct musical passages melding seamlessly.
4. “I’ve Got a Feeling” – A true John/Paul collaboration from the later Beatle years, borne out of what were originally two different bits – Paul’s “I’ve Got a Feeling” and John’s “Everybody Had a Hard Year.” More stellar drumming from Mr. Starr on this one.
3. “Hello, Goodbye” – Unfailingly melodic, joyous-sounding and catchy as hell. Ringo shines yet again. Oh, and it’s my daughter’s favorite Beatles song – how could I NOT list it in my top 10?
2. “And Your Bird Can Sing” – Even though Lennon wrote and sang it, he never thought much of it. Me, I love the kinetic energy of the killer lead guitar riff running through the song, as well as Paul’s high harmony vocals.
1. “You Never Give Me Your Money” – For my money, this Abbey Road number provides a four-minute musical snapshot of why the Beatles were the greatest band ever. You’ve got more inventive bass runs, some cool lead guitar courtesy of George Harrison, lovely group vocal harmonies, Ringo going all-out on the tom toms, a bit of classical-style piano from Paul, as well as his lead vocal which runs the gamut from sweet to powerful…whew. A masterpiece, pure and simple.
I’m sure your list is exactly the same as mine, right?