The Beatles are arguably, wait, no argument, I think they are, the most important group in pop music history to date. Transforming the very way songs are written recorded and released, most, if not all popular music owes them a nod, and some a heavy debt. Before The Beatles songs were written in offices by professional songwriters and microphones at professional studios were placed with scientific accuracy at measured distances to the instruments and amplifiers. The Beatles broke ground in music video making, film making, and even starting their own record label and signing independent artists and has a retail shop selling clothing. You name a groundbreaking advance in pop music and they probably did a version of it at some point, including “sampling’ sounds and found music to put into songs. You may be tired of hearing some of their songs, but they were both of and ahead of their time.
1- She Loves You – Single
The first time I heard The Beatles, it was probably this song. The palatable joy of these four mates making a racket and on their way up to the “topper-most of the popper-most” is infectious and still rocks and pops with youthful energy.
2- Run For Your Life- Rubber Soul
Here’s the sharp tongued John threatening a girl with “death’ (or at least saying “I’d rather see you dead… “) if she stays with another man. Not very PC in these times.
3- Tomorrow Never Knows – Revolver
This track is another John Lennon ‘out of nowhere’ original. Where he got the musical inspiration for this epic trance-like and rocking track, I don’t know. He did tell engineer Geoff Emerick and producer George Martin that he wanted his vocals to sound like the Dali Lama singing from a mountain top. It sounds like that.
4- While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The White Album
George Harrison’s songwriting was apparently never fully acknowledged by the elder Lennon and McCartney duo, but here is a timeless classic with amazing guitar by Eric Clapton, whom I’ve never been to fond of but here he burns. Maybe it has something to do with him shagging George’s wife.
5- Twist and Shout – Please, Please Me
Ok, I know The Beatles didn’t write this song, (Phil Medly and Beryt Russel composed it) but it is the quintessential John Lennon rocker vocal. This was the last song recorded for their UK debut album Please, Please Me and producer George Martin left it until last because he thought that John would blow out his voice and he was right and the results are beautiful.
6- Julie – The White Album
John’s achingly beautiful song to his deceased mother, Julie. I have always been fascinated with the unique chord changes and haunting melody that this song evokes. This is John Lennon at his most venerable and tender. The double tracked guitar and vocal foreshadow Elliot Smith’s whole recording style.
7- Day Tripper – Yesterday and Today
One of the ultimate guitar riffs ever put to tape. Someone, somewhere is playing it right now. This is a Lennon-McCartney collaboration, with John coming up with the guitar riff and choruses and Paul working on the verses.
8- Michelle – Rubber Soul
This song features a melodic bass solo played by Paul. The story goes that Paul wrote the song as a joke to entertain friends at parties grumbling fake French words while singing. John encouraged him to turn it into a proper song and voilÃï¿½, a classic song is born.
9- A Day In The Life – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
This song has to be on the list for many reasons. First, it is a true Lennon McCartney collaboration as the first third is written and sung by John, Paul sings and wrote the second third and then it returns to John as we approach the epic cacophonous symphonic outro. The song is unique in its arrangement, tempo changes, middle break and atonal orchestra build up, culminating in a final note that decays for a full 42 seconds.
10- Hey Jude – Let It Be
Does this song have the ultimate sing along outro? Maybe, but here’s Paul seemingly effortlessly tossing of a timeless classic with the ease of only someone totally comfortable with their own musical genius. Hat’s off to you, Sir McCartney.