Beatles faves: To each her/his own
The last time I sobbed to myself, meaning in solo mode, was at Las Vegas in September of 2006, while on a Philippine STAR assignment to cover Willie Revillame’s Wowowee show that drew 14,000 Pinoys to the Thomas & Mack Center. No, that didn’t swell my eyes. It was the sidelight privilege of taking in Cirque du Soleil’s production of Love.
While marveling at Cirque’s usual production pyrotechnics, I enjoyed the Beatles music that brought me back to my teens-to-manhood decade of the ’60s. At some point, the simulated fragrance of cannabis wafted throughout the theater. Being wrapped up in virtual nostalgia proved overwhelming, so that I couldn’t help but shed a tear or two. Throwback delights can do that to the best of us.
Flash forward to the recent 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “the most acclaimed rock album ever and the apogee of the Beatles’ cultural influence in the 1960s.” We find fresh exegesis focused on the iconic group.
All 213 Beatles songs have been ranked from worst to best by NPR and Salon art critic Bill Wyman at www.vulture.com. A list based on the band’s British releases over an eight-year recording career, it was shared repeatedly on social media, instantly drawing reactions, from joyously appreciative to vituperative.
Wyman’s preamble: “Beyond everything else, the Beatles were the biggest cultural story of the modern era, and they were, in the end, pop, if pop is music that makes people happy. Through the confusion and the chaos, the pain and the self-questioning, they worked to create a joyous sound. They didn’t fuss about it; it’s what they wanted to do. They loved to turn us on.”
But his choice as worst song at Number 213 is the jaunty Good Day Sunshine (from the album Revolver). This draws instant disagreement from me — despite the explanation: “McCartney’s piano playing, which graced so many Beatles songs, right up to A Day in the Life, is a parody of itself. It’s the worst song in the Beatles’ classic period. And it ruins “Revolver,” otherwise the most consistent and mind-blowing collection of pop-rock songs ever conceived by man.”
I can agree with Dig It (from “Let It Be”) at 212 (“McCartney sometimes produced schlock, but rarely work as annoying as this.”) and Little Child (“With the Beatles”) (“Probably the worst of Lennon and McCartney’s early efforts.”), which he calls it a filler.
Some forgettables follow, such as Not a Second Time. But questionable is the very low 204 ranking given She’s Leaving Home, as is the writer’s caustic view: “A bathetic lugubrious mess, the nadir of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s…’”
Follow other relatively unfamiliar pieces, till Ob-la-di, Ob-La-Da (“The White Album”) at 194. But don’t we all love this whimsical nonsense song? His verdict: “The whimsy will continue until morale improves. Definitely in the top five of Most Irritating Songs Paul McCartney Ever Wrote.”
Then come mostly covers done in the early years: Till There Was You (from the musical “The Music Man”), Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Long Tall Sally (Little Richard), Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins), and Mr. Moonlight (Roy Lee Johnson), among others. No arguments there. But I must dispute having Because (“Abbey Road”) at 140 and When I’m Sixty Four (“Sgt.”) at 103.
Another fave, Across the Universe (“Let It Be”), is also ranked too low at 93, inexplicably outranked by unknowns: I’m Down, Hey Bulldog and Yer Blues.
Michelle also seems misplaced at 70, and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds at 68. Thankfully, the backgrounder is notable: “Lennon brought the title (taken from a child’s painting, not used as an LSD reference) and melody to McCartney. The pair stitched together three verses of psychedelic patchwork as a joint project, with a six-word chorus. The somber, ethereal, transporting opening melody makes the song, along with Lennon’s amazing delivery — carefully humanized by McCartney in the studio….”
The Long and Winding Road (“Let It Be”) is also too low at 45, followed by other greats such as Come Together at 44, In My Life at 42 (despite being“… Lennon’s greatest plain pop ballad, the one that can stand beside McCartney’s best.”), and A Hard Day’s Night at 41.
Surprise! Yesterday is ranked at only 39. “Rock’s perfect ballad, written and recorded by Paul on his own, and given texture by him and George Martin via a quick string arrangement.” So why should Drive My Car and I’ll Cry Instead be ranked higher?
While My Guitar Gently Weeps is at 32, and Blackbird at 31, topped by the “Abbey Road” medley — You Never Give me Your Money to The End — at 29 up to 22. Fine. But Hey Jude (“McCartney’s ultimate pop moment”) is at a ridiculously low 20, topped by Lovely Rita and Ticket to Ride before Nowhere Man at 17, Here Comes the Sun at 16, and Let It Be at only 15, outranked by Money (That’s What I Want) before Something joins the list at 13. Follow questionable choices — Tomorrow Never Knows, She Said, She Said, and Rain before Eleanor Rigby appears at 9, Norwegian Wood at 8, and Here, There and Everywhere at 7.
Again, arguable are the choices of Dear Prudence at 6 and Please Please Me at 5, before the list is topped by She Loves You at 4, Penny Lane at 3, Strawberry Fields Forever at 2, and finally, A Day in the Life (Wyman favors its lush orchestration).
Clearly, to each her/his own when it comes to ranking Beatles faves. Mine are, from 1 to 15: Here Comes the Sun, Golden Slumbers from the “Abbey Road” medley, Across the Universe, Let It Be, Here, There and Everywhere, The Long and Winding Road, Yesterday, Hey Jude, A Day in the Life, Something, Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Because, Strawberry Fields Forever, and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.
Sure, I know you’d all have a different list. But let’s not argue.