To celebrate iTunes bold move into issuing the highly obscure Beatles catalog, I opted to put together a top ten. Not your usual top ten. Anyone who needs to be validated by a list that includes "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "She Said She Said" or " A Hard Day's Night" or "Strawberry Fields Forever" should book themselves a room into the Hotel Obvious and hang out with others who have just seen a face.
For anyone who has been following the Beatles for the past few decades, it should be readily obvious that we've covered that ground before. I'm trying to help history not repeat itself by choosing ten Beatles songs that are plenty great but not on every single list I see.
I didn't choose deliberately "hip" or "lousy" songs. There's no "Revolution #9" for the Sonic Youth clan. And no "Within You Without Me" or whatever its called because I've been avoiding Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band since I realized I didn't care for it when I was 12 years old.
This is an honest list. These are songs I still enjoy. Or have learned to love. Does "Norwegian Word" or "Penny Lane" belong on a list of greats? Most likely. But this blog is all about finding new skin for the old ceremony. And about getting paid! Chuck Berry would be proud.
10) "Hey Bulldog": They stuck this song on Yellow Submarine, guaranteeing that it would take forever for me to hear it, since I wasn't about to pay full price for an album that features "Yellow Submarine," "All You Need Is Love" and a side of "Pepperland" crap that isn't the Beatles. I was already annoyed at the American version of Help! with all that Ken Thorpe music. You know, there are other albums to buy out there!
9) "You've Really Got a Hold On Me": I'm still torn about the new remasters when it comes to something like this. My vinyl copy of The Beatles' Second Album features a glorious fake-stereo that makes Lennon's vocal sound twice as large and Ringo's drums completely killer. I don't care what the "authentic" version of anything is. I just like the ones that sound right. I don't want Robert Johnson albums without the surface noise and I love an Elvis Presley import I have with tons of fake echo on the RCA stuff. I'll let the purists get together once a week for their Peter Guralnick Appreciation Society Meeting. Me? I'm heading to AA to meet the real keepers of the flame.
8) "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey": Aside from the fact that the much-maligned Knack got slammed for stuff like "Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)," this track is Lennon being plenty surreal and really loud and obnoxious. The "White Album" is completely overrated, since people like the idea of it more than the actual content. Or else, people really enjoy sitting through "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Wild Honey Pie," "Rocky Raccoon," "Piggies," "Don't Pass Me By," "Birthday," "Long Long Long," "Honey Pie" and "Revolution #9" and I'm the one who's out of line.
7) "Tell Me What You See": All those "White Album" tunes listed above don't come near the enjoyment I get from this tune that appeared on either Beatles VI or Yesterday and Today. My albums are in storage and I think it makes a great point that it doesn't matter. All those U.S. albums were phonies anyhow. Great phonies, but phonies, nonetheless.
6)"I'm Happy Just to Dance With You": I'm not the world's biggest George Harrison fan. But the songs he sings are more tolerable than Ringo's. This one is simple, unpretentious and better than those Carl Perkins and Larry Williams numbers they usually filled gave over to George and Ringo. (That isn't to say that Carl Perkins didn't play these songs completely great on his own, but the Beatles doing them is a bit like listening to the Stones murder Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters.)
5) "Every Little Thing": I had it on the Beatles VI. It wasn't profound. It didn't break new ground, but it had a great tune that I could hum. Which means it's better to me than any post The Bends Radiohead.
4) "Dig a Pony": I remember buying Let It Be and taking it to my aunt's house for a vacation weekend and then spending most of the time listening to my cousin's copy of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Cosmo's Factory. This song sounded pretty good and a lot better than most of the rest of the record, which is so good I've never bought it on CD. Mostly because I think "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" would be better served being sung by people I don't like.
3) "Blue Jay Way": If Magical Mystery Tour had been an "official" album, it might have been their best. As it is, it's a great collection of singles (except for "Hello Goodbye," which should be sold to an airline and put out of its misery, and "All You Need Is Love," which didn't interest me at 11 and doesn't interest me now). The soundtrack stuff to the pretty dull movie is all mostly much better than should be expected. "I Am the Walrus" is the obvious pick, but Harrison's ode to being ditched is pretty awesome for what it is. I didn't even know they had fog in Los Angeles. I knew they had smog, but fog, well, that's a new one to an East Coast loser like myself.
2) "Flying": The Beatles didn't do many instrumentals. They were a vocal group. And even here you can hear them singing in the background at one point, as if they were afraid to issue a straight instrumental. Not since "Cry For A Shadow" have they been so naked.
1) "The Inner Light": I'm not kidding. Where "Within You Without You" is kinda long and "Love You To" just sounds like a pop song with a bunch of Indian instruments cluttering up the sound, "The Inner Light" sounds like a cool, psychedelic track I wouldn't mind marrying. And here I am thinking that Harrison tracks are uniformly skippable. That's what happens when you spend years listening to him warble "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby." You lose your perspective! Now I have to find my copies of Dark Horse and Living in the Material World and see what I've been missing all these years. Anyone have a spare copy of Ringo the 4th they want to send my way?