Alright, done with covering the best songs from the sixties to the nineties (I will post about why I stopped there later), time to move on to the best songs from the best bands and solo artists! No better place to begin than at the toppermost of the poppermost! THE BEATLES!
“A Day in the Life” (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967)
The closing song of the Fab’s seminal Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album would see the band combine John Lennon’s reflective observational non-sequiturs, Paul McCartney’s jaunty nostalgia and (with a little help from producer George Martin), an avant-garde sensibility that would lift “A Day in the Life” from quirky curiosity to genuine artistic tour-de-force! The true moment where The Beatles transcended themselves as a pop group and transformed themselves into ground-breaking artists!
“Here Comes the Sun” (Abbey Road 1969)
George Harrison managed to capture the magical moment of the sunrise in a song. With intricate guitar work and ground-breaking synthesizers, “Here Comes the Sun” is truly memorable and would foreshadow Harrison’s explosive creativity after the group broke up.
“Strawberry Fields Forever”/ “Penny Lane” (Magical Mystery Tour 1967)
Okay, so I am cheating here a little bit in order to get these two masterpieces in as one entry. One of the few Beatles singles (double ‘A’ as well!) that did not go to #1 in the UK charts and to this day, it’s a confounding mystery. Both songs looked back at the band members’ childhoods in Liverpool. The former is a psychedelic masterful studio creation while the latter mined the rich music hall tradition.
“You Can’t Do That” (A Hard Day’s Night 1964)
Considering early 60s pop was all lovey-dovey sugar n spice, this scathing jealous rant must have stood out like a sore thumb back in the day. An indication of where John Lennon would take his lyrics to for the rest of his career.
“Hey Jude” (single 1968)
The band’s biggest single commercially is primarily a McCartney composition with a couple of Lennonesque non-sequiturs thrown in for good measure – ‘the movement you need is on your shoulder’ (?) Clocking in over 7 minutes with an extended singalong coda, arguably the Beatles’ best known song.
“Please Please Me” (Please Please Me 1963)
The Beatles’ first #1 single – and 2nd overall – was originally written in the style of Roy Orbison until producer George Martin advised the band to speed up the proceedings to good effect. Notoriously, the subject matter may or may not be a plea for fellatio, but who knows, eh? It makes for excellent copy.
“Taxman” (Revolver 1966)
Not quite as political as their rivals, the Rolling Stones or Dylan, “Taxman” was an anomaly for the Beatles and a bit of a cheeky gripe about the band’s tax liability increasing as their fortunes improved. A Harrison number with McCartney on shadow lead guitar. The riff was famously ‘borrowed’ by The Jam in their #1 single, “Start!”.
“Help” (Help 1965)
Lennon would later describe this composition as a cry for help. Literally. The emotional contrast between the energetic music and the pleading lyrics was a wonderfully creative choice.
“Norwegian Wood” (Rubber Soul 1965)
Notable for Harrison’s use of the sitar to usher in a period of experimentalism with Indian music, “Norwegian Wood” was a barely veiled attempt by Lennon to sing about his extra-martial affairs.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (The Beatles 1968)
Another Harrison classic, memorable for having Eric Clapton on lead guitar and an espousal of Harrison’s mystic philosophies. The song cleverly modulates from a minor key (in the verses) to a major key (in the choruses) producing a potent change of mood and atmosphere.
What are your top ten favourite Beatles songs? Let us know at the Power of Pop Facebook page.
… still there’s more …