Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs

Quite a bit of buzz going on this week regarding Rolling Stone Magazine putting out a "Special Collectors Edition" listing THEIR choices for The All-Time 100 Greatest Songs by The Beatles. (We got an advance notice about this special publication a couple of weeks ago but it finally hit the streets this week.)

We LOVE lists like this. (In fact, we've been known to publish a few of our own over the years!!!) And, as with most lists, there is always room for controversy and opinion.

What, after all, determines the "greatness" of any particular song? The Beatles' biggest U.S. Hit was "Hey Jude" ... this is a fact bore out by the nine weeks it spent at #1 atop The Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. Back home in Jolly Ol' England, that distinction belongs to their much earlier effort, "She Loves You", which remained the biggest selling British single in U.K. history until Paul McCartney himself toppled its ranking with "Mull Of Kintyre" some 14 years later.

"I Want To Hold Your Hand" would certainly rank as one of the most significant and important songs The Beatles ever recorded ... after all, this is the record that finally broke them through the American market and launched worldwide Beatlemania ... and, quite honestly, the world at large was never quite the same again! But was it a "GREAT" song??? Not really ... in fact, from a commercially "pop" perspective, "She Loves You" blows this one away ... I've ALWAYS felt that "She Loves You" SHOULD have been the record that paved the way for their ultimate success ... a catchier, craftier pop song may never have been written ... with the addictive "yeah, yeah, yeah"'s ... the shaking of their mop-tops on every "Oooooh" ... a better script for sure-fire success couldn't have been written ... yet "She Loves You" totally FAILED when it was first released here in The States. It didn't start to climb the charts until "I Want To Hold Your Hand" paved the way.

What about "Yesterday"? The most-covered Beatles song of all time. Should THAT be considered their greatest achievement? Then how about "Michelle", certainly a close second if that's going to be the criteria. "Let It Be"? ... "Something", a nod to the greatly-improved song-writing abilities of George Harrison ... (or "Here Comes The Sun" for that matter) ... how about "In My Life", one of the most beautiful melodies and lyrics they ever came up with, or "Here, There And Everywhere", another perfectly-executed McCartney ballad ... the complete innovative mastery of "I Am The Walrus", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" or "A Day In The Life" ... or the flat out fun of tracks like "Got To Get You Into My Life", "Day Tripper" or "Help" (which, in reality, was John Lennon baring his soul, screaming from within for help!)

"Things We Said Today", "Good Day Sunshine", "Girl", "She's Leaving Home", "Taxman", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "This Boy", "The Long And Winding Road", "Blackbird", "Back In The U.S.S.R.", "Norwegian Wood", "I'm A Loser", "I Should Have Known Better", "If I Fell", "I Will", "The Fool On The Hill", "All My Loving", "And I Love Her", "All You Need Is Love", "Because", "Birthday" ... any recording artist would have sold their soul to the devil to place just ONE of these hit records on their resume ... yet THESE guys turned out ALL of these songs (and nearly two hundred more) in their short eight years in the public eye as the entity known as The Beatles.

As you can see, the list is quite subjective. I, personally, couldn't do it ... there is NO way I could rank this music in any particular order. My favorite Beatle songs have changed numerous times over the years ... I couldn't narrow down 10, 20 or even 50 favorites without changing my mind repeatedly during the process. This music is SO close to me ... and played such a HUGE part in my life that I can honestly say that I love virtually ALL of it in varying degrees. (It'd be easier for me to pick my 20 LEAST favorites!!!)

Early efforts like "And I Love Her", "This Boy", "All My Loving" and "Things We Said Today" ... latter-day masterpieces like "Let It Be" and "The Long And Winding Road" ... in-between pieces like "Here, There And Everywhere", "For No One" and "Got To Get You Into My Life" ... the whole concept of "Sgt. Pepper" that changed album-making forever ... even the "after-the-fact" recording of John Lennon's "Real Love" by The Three-tles would have to rank amongst my favorites. And for pure, unadulterated fun, nothing beats a spin of "Oh! Darling" or "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" or "You're Gonna Lose That Girl", hardly songs that most would rank as amongst The Beatles' greatest ... but "feel good" music none-the-less.

In fact, I don't think The Beatles ever made better records than "Twist And Shout", "Rock And Roll Music" and "Ain't She Sweet" ... three "cover" songs that showcase John Lennon's vocals at their very best ... (and this is coming from a "Paul Guy"!!! lol) But these songs don't qualify ... they're NOT "Beatles Songs" ... so their outstanding renditions of "Roll Over Beethoven", "Words Of Love", "Kansas City", "Please Mr. Postman" and "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" aren't eligible for this "100 Greatest" list.

In typical Rolling Stone / Jann Wenner fashion, THEY chose their one hundred favorites ... no fans were polled in the process ... no "outside opinion" was given any consideration ... and this is the way things are usually handled on their end when it comes to matters such as these. (Just look at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, for example!)

After Scott Shannon read The Rolling Stone Magazine Top Ten List on his program the other day, he opened up his own "unofficial" True Oldies Channel Poll to find out what songs "The Oldies Nation" believe belong on this list. (You can cast YOUR votes here:
Click here: True Oldies Channel).

Ironically, several years ago, a couple of guys named Stephen J. Spignesi and Michael Lewis published a book that THEY called "100 Best Beatles Songs ... An Informed Fan's Guide" ... it pre-dates Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 100 List by about six years. Amazingly, SEVEN SONGS earned a Top Ten Ranking in BOTH publications ... three of them in the exact same spot: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at #10, "Yesterday" at #4" and, perhaps most significantly, "A Day In The Life", which topped BOTH charts at #1. It would appear that "A Day In The Life" is universally regarded as The Beatles' greatest musical achievement. (Other significant Top Ten parallels include "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Let It Be", "In My Life" and "Hey Jude".) In the Spignesi / Lewis book, they also published the results of a Fan Poll ... common ground here is shared by "Let It Be", "In My Life", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Hey Jude", "A Day In The Life" and "Yesterday" ... but in the fans' poll, "Let It Be" came in at #1 and "A Day In The Life" was #6.

We got this note from Gary Renfield (as in R.I.P. Renfield or right before we went to press this morning:
Regarding Rolling Stone's vanity list ...

I'm running this next week ...
Rolling Stone's Top 10 list of Greatest Beatles songs are:

1. "A Day in the Life"
2. "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
3. "Strawberry Fields Forever"
4. "Yesterday"
5. "In My Life"
6. "Something"
7. "Hey Jude"
8. "Let It Be"
9. "Come Together"
10. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Seems more a personal list than a factual across-the-board one ...
Out of THEIR 10, Renfield would only include:
1. "A Day in the Life"
4. "Yesterday"
5. "In My Life"
6. "Something"
I'd add ...

For the record, nobody is portraying this as any kind of an "official ranking" ... as usual, statistics have NOTHING to do with the outcome ... and, quite honestly, how could they? Not all these songs were released as singles (although, when it comes to Beatles music, it always was ... and still IS ... in music rotation the way the biggest hits have always been ... this is another reason why ALL of this music is so familiar and important to us. Who amongst us can't virtually sing along with ANY Beatles song, word-for-word, when it comes on the radio???) There'd really be no "fair" way in ranking this music based on sales or chart position ... a subjective list of favorites truly is the only way to do so. In that respect, this can only be described as a list of "personal favorites".

Popular music is, by definition, music "of its time" ... it isn't, by nature, designed to outlive that given time ... traditionally, it strikes a nerve and, when all the planets and elements are properly aligned, provides the soundtrack for that moment in time. In effect, it becomes a "time stamp" of that particular moment.

Based on this distinction, The Beatles' music can only be defined as "timeless" ... immensely popular when first released and then growing in stature as it earned the respect of music critics, an older generation and then each new generation to come along and discover it since.

Two and a half years ago we made our very first Forgotten Hits web page posting ... on the anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, we asked our audience "Is The Music Of The Beatles Still Relevant" ... in fact, you can still find it posted here:

Click here: Forgotten Hits: 2/3/08 - 2/10/08
Then ... as now ... we have to proclaim "You Betcha!!!"

While we're not asking you for your votes, we ARE expecting some feedback from you on this topic ... let's face it, everybody has their Beatles favorites ... (speaking of which, I don't think a day has gone by since 1965 when I haven't sung at least a line or two from "No Reply" ... it has literally been playing in my head for 45 consecutive years ... and that's not one that'll probably rank too high on anybody else's list!) ... so feel free to let us know which ones do it for you. (Which reminds me ... Rich Appel ... if you're out there reading this ... how the heck did "Hello, Goodbye" reach #1?!?!? Paul McCartney was writing less infantile lyrics when he was 15 years old composing the likes of "When I'm Sixty-Four", "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I'll Follow The Sun"!!! If ANY Beatles song ever didn't deserve to reach #1, it would HAVE to be "Hello, Goodbye"!!!) See what I mean?!?!? We're passionate about our favorites!!!

Meanwhile, be sure to head on over to The True Oldies Channel website and vote for your three favorites, too, so Scott Shannon can put together the most accurate list of fan favorites possible.