December 8 is a bad day for music. On this day in 1980, John Lennon was shot by a guy who misread The Catcher In The Rye as some sort of psycho-killer manual. I've never read the book. Tell that to my high school English teacher who said my analysis was "spot on." (I'd read Bob Uecker's baseball memoir Catcher In The Wry instead.)
Picking the five best John Lennon songs is a bit like picking zits off a teenager. There are so many worthwhile ones to choose from. But eventually we here at List Of The Day have to get down to the hard work and make the tough decisions. And for the record let's say his most important songs are the ones that sound as if they'd been written before time began: "In My Life," "Imagine," "Give Peace A Chance," "Happy Xmas," "Help!"...the list is long and impressive.
But to anyone who's had their ear cocked to a radio for the past several decades, it's hard to even hear those songs any longer. Who requests "Happy Birthday" as song? Who, besides Bruce Springsteen, thinks breaking out into "The Farmer In The Dell" is a good thing?
So going through Lennon's ridiculously huge catalog and ignoring "I'm Only Sleeping," "I'm So Tired" and a dozen other worthy contenders, I narrowed it down to my favorite five. The best part about picking your personal faves is that You Can't Be Wrong!
"All I've Got to Do": From the first U.S. album Meet The Beatles and from the second one, With The Beatles, in the U.K., this tune always gets credited with reflecting the influence of Arthur Alexander, the dude who wrote "Anna" and "You Better Move On," which just goes to show that Lennon had great ears hiding underneath that silly mop top.
"She Said She Said": Lennon hit his stride as the band got slightly harder. As the band's designated "rocker" (as opposed to Harrison who was the band's resident "anti-tax advocate"), Lennon turned up the guitar and the other guys begrudgingly had to play louder as well. Just when you'd think the Beatles finally had the songs to go out on the road and rock, they stopped touring. If they could have envisioned the kind of money the Rolling Stones have made in their old age, well, they might've taken greater precautions to keep themselves alive.
"And Your Bird Can Sing": This song is two minutes long. You have to play it twice to make it feel like it's actually happened. Lots of guitar, lots of weird silly lyrics and harmonies better than a church choir. If all music had this much energy, we could rid the country of folk music and get on with our lives.
"Strawberry Fields Forever": I like the idea that he had to take two different takes in two different keys to make himself happy with the finished product. Whatever happened to sitting around and just strumming a tune? Makes you wonder if he'd ever finish the songs in today's world where you can spend years playing with waveforms on the computer and months wondering why you hired Bob Rock to produce your record in the first place. (Uh, his name had "Rock" in it, so I assumed he had to be good.)
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun": The pop song as a three-act play. I like the second act, the "I need a fix because I'm going down" part the best. How come these guys can be so smart and worldly and still not remember which drugs are highly physically addictive and which ones just make you lazy and eat crappy snacks?