Ranking The Manics Songs – Postcards From A Young Man

Golden Postcards

Ten albums – not many bands make it that far these days, and certainly not with the same level of consistent success and quality. And this album is now ten years old and the band is still going. That’s one of the many reasons to love them. This album, described as their ‘last shot at mass communication’, has many moments of pop goodness and embraces some choice and unusual influences (Gospel and Motown) while not relinquishing their central roots. Sadly, this was one of the main instances of the band simply picking the wrong songs to be singles – but luckily there were still three and therefore a bunch of alternatives to ponder over. Here is my ranking:

  1. I Think I’ve Found It
  2. All We Make Is Entertainment
  3. Golden Platitudes
  4. Don’t Be Evil
  5. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  6. Hazelton Avenue
  7. It’s Not War
  8. The Descent
  9. Auto-Intoxication
  10. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  11. Postcards From A Young Man
  12. Some Kind Of Nothingness

My main issue with a lot of the B-Sides around this time and till today, is the reliance on uninspired instrumentals and Nicky vocals. I managed to replace one song with a B-Side for my fantasy tracklist:

  1. It’s Not War
  2. Postcards From A Young Man
  3. Broken Up Again
  4. The Descent
  5. Hazelton Avenue
  6. Auto-Intoxication
  7. Golden Platitudes
  8. I Think I’ve Found It
  9. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  10. All We Make Is Entertainment
  11. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  12. Don’t Be Evil

I toyed with adding I’m Leaving You For Solitude or Midnight Sun, but they don’t really fit the grandiose nature of the album. This seems like a respectable album. Let us know what your ranking would be!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 40-21

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Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one and part two Otherwise….

40. Simon And Garfunkel

As mentioned in post one, I haven’t discussed the ordering of this thing at all. I’ve no idea what their ordering criteria is but at the moment it doesn’t seem like there is one at all. Until we get to the top five of course and see Elvis, The Stones, and The Beatles. I always assumed I would like Simon And Garfunkel. Then I listened and posted about one album – the first of theirs I’d heard – and it wasn’t great. I’ve since listened to another album which was better. The jury’s still out on how I feel about them, but I know most people are fans.

39. David Bowie

Speaking of the Jury still being out… I understand and appreciate how much Bowie brought to music and how many artists he inspired and how he did his own thing for decades. I’m annoyed I don’t like him more – the glam stuff does nothing but irritate me and I’m generally not moved by his vocals. There are plenty of songs I love and plenty I like, but maybe the time for me to truly love him has passed.

38. John Lennon

His work with The Beatles would be enough to top any list. Then he did ten years of solo work, most of which I haven’t heard. It’s probably not as good as The Beatles, but probably not far behind.

37. Roy Orbison

When I was young I took one look at Orbison and said ‘naw’. But then you hear him sing, and you hear him play, and you get it. He wasn’t some knock off Elvis, he was his own thing and I much prefer his voice to The King’s. His songs have lasted too.

36. Madonna

Bitch, she’s Madonna. Mad as a bottle of snakes and might just pour them over you, but show me another artist who’s had her longevity and success and hits. You can’t. You can tear apart her vocals or her politics or certain creative or musical choices, but when you look at the best hits of her vast body of work, you can’t help but be in awe.

35. Michael Jackson

Probably the greatest voice in all of music, probably the greatest entertainer of all time. In the beginning it was all about his voice and style – how cute he looked, how he danced, how he sang. Then he branched out from his brothers and more success. Then he branched out on his own and became the biggest thing in the world. All through that time he was writing his own stuff and honing his perfectionist style. There has never been anyone like Michael, and there likely never will be again.

34. Neil Young

I’m still waiting for that thing to make me like Neil Young music. It must be there.

33. Everly Brothers

Fair enough.

32. Smokey Robinson And The Miracles

Smokey is such an underrated writer, but with The Miracles he was able to get his best work across. I still find it amazing that Smokey was around before Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles, and he’s still going.

31. Johnny Cash

Everybody loves Johnny Cash. Me? Not so much. It’s another example of appreciation rather than enjoying the music. It may be dark, on occasion, but it’s still Country. And Gospel too, which is worse. A unique figure though.

30. Nirvana

Everything I wanted and needed in a band when I was young; everything the music industry needs now. Nirvana wasn’t just grunge, rock, metal, punk, pop, whatever – it was a rare concoction of fury, intelligence, wit, integrity – you listen to any interview with them at the time, you watch any performance – no matter how fucked up they were they played with more intensity and feeling and passion than anyone else. I don’t care if you were Metallica or The Beatles or Yngwie Malmsteen or Pavarotti, Nirvana were going to blow you off the stage and make you look like amateurs. Then they’d destroy the stage and fuck off. A complete nobody came from nothing and changed the lives of millions. There have been few greater losses to the musical world than when Kurt ended his life.

29. The Who

On stage in their prime there was nobody like The Who. Complete maniacs. Off stage too. Luckily they had the chops and prowess to pull it off. They had the balls to make shit like Tommy and Quadrophenia, grand sweeping stories which had great songs in the mix. And they would throw out amazing anthems like My Generation and Baba O’Reilly too.

28. The Clash

One of the first punk bands I got into, but my relationship with punk has almost always been surface – I’ll dip in and out when I need quick blast on how powerful music can be. It’s not just about the notes, it’s about the raw passion, the need to express yourself, or tell a story, or connect with an audience. The Clash could connect while also writing simple, catchy songs. They went and experimented with a tonne of other styles – most of which was not to my taste – but all the while they remained true to their vision of self.

27. Prince

I get he’s a good writer and a multi-talented musician. The music does little to nothing for me. I don’t find it sexy, it doesn’t make me want to dance, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or create or procreate. Hands up once more – I still haven’t heard much from him outside of some of his hits. He apparently has a million songs. Some of them are bound to pop up in my other series.

26. The Ramones

I’ve always found The Ramones to be on the silly side of punk. That’s not to say they’re not authentic, just that it’s hard to take a lot of their stuff seriously. They still play with fury but more often than not it’s the fury of a kitten trying to attack my hand – charming, fun, entertaining to be part of, but ultimately harmless.

25. Fats Domino

I mean, it’s Fats Domino. He was good, influential, but there’s a cultural and historic divide which will likely never be bridged to make me truly align with most of his stuff. I’ll listen, but I won’t think about it much.

24. Jerry Lee Lewis 

I’ll take him over Elton any day.

23. Bruce Springsteen

The nicest man in rock, or maybe the most genuine (assuming Dave Grohl went out for a walk). Again outside of the Born In The USA album and a few songs, I’m not too knowledgeable about his actual songs but there are so many singers who have come after him who try to mimic or embody his spirit – the voice, the style, the workmanship, and the message.

22. U2

Chris Martin in the article, opening his mouth and embarrassing himself as always, says some of the most stupid things. I get he’s trying to compliment the band, but when he says U2 is the only band whose entire back catalogue he knows by heart, what I take from that is that Chris Martin is not a music fan and should be kept far away from any recording studio. God, he then goes on to say ‘they may be the only good anthemic rock band ever’. Why is Chris Martin a thing? Can anyone explain it? Does he realise by simply existing in the same time and space as U2, he’s making them look worse? He then closes his love-fest with a sermon, of course, where he unironically states (when mentioning musician’s abilities to discuss a wider political or cultural issue) ‘every time I try, I feel like an idiot’ Yeah, mate, that’s because you are. I like U2 – some of their songs. I’m not some superfan. Bono’s a bit of a twat and they stopped making decent music about fifty years ago, but for a while they were good. Coldplay though – I liked that ‘beautiful world’ song, for five minutes before self-exorcising.

21. Otis Redding

Another great story with a tragic ending. Redding had his hits and his fame and likely would have had more. It wasn’t to be, yet most of his stuff feels as good today as I imagine it did in the 60s.

Next time, we complete our rundown with the Top 20! Let us know in the comments how you feel about any of the artists above and their position within the list!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Journal For Plague Lovers

Journal For Plague Lovers

Maybe it was the simple act of using Richey’s lyrics again, but the music of Journal For Plague Lovers is fucking glorious. It isn’t simply a matter of the fury, the feeling, and the riffs returning but something about embracing those past ghosts and genius entirely revitalized every aspect of their outlook and output. The result is one of their best albums, and arguably the best album of 2009. If I have any real criticism, it’s that too many of the songs end in an abrupt way – a sudden or stilted stop instead of a more thought out conclusion. That’s just me though. More than any of their albums, almost every track is on an even level so my ranking is more pointless than usual. Here it is:

  1. Virginia State Epileptic Colony
  2. Peeled Apples
  3. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
  4. All Is Vanity
  5. Me And Stephen Hawking
  6. Doors Closing Slowly
  7. This Joke Sport Severed
  8. Marlon JD
  9. She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach
  10. Marlon JD
  11. Bag Lady
  12. Pretension Repulsion
  13. William’s Last Words

No bad songs here at all, and Number 13 could just as easily be in the top five. No ideal version here – most of the bonus tracks released around this time are instrumental or not exciting – no singles were released for the album so there isn’t the usual collection of B-Sides to rip through. Let us know your ranking in the comments!

TTT – Top Ten Walter Hill Movies!


2016 Toronto Film Festival - Portraits
Walter Hill of ‘(Re)Assignment’ poses for a portrait at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival Getty Images Portrait Studio at the Intercontinental Hotel on September 13, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Greetings, Glancers! This one was suggested a long time ago by fellow movie blogger and connoisseur John over at Cinematic Coffee. Check out his site for detailed reviews, discussions, and myriad director lists. John is a Walter Hill fan, as we all should be given his output and influence, and he wanted to hear my favourite Hill films.

Starting out as a writer, Hill’s early directorial voice is clear from the films he scripted or helped on – gritty, masculine, hard-hitting, and one of the fore-running of the buddy-cop/mismatched partnership/clashing of backgrounds which would come to define his best work. The Getaway, The Drowning Pool and others would set him on the path to becoming a director, though he would consistently remain a creative writing and producing force through his career. In 1975, he opened his Director’s Chair account and since then he has directed twenty six movies and TV Shows.

For me, Hill’s best work was from the tail end of the 1970s to the late 80s, a period when he enjoyed commercial and critical success. Since then, both have largely avoided him but his impact on both action and thriller genres should not be underestimated and his films are always challenging on multiples levels and a great tool for upcoming creators to learn from.

10. Trespass

It was either going to be this or Streets Of Fire. While I like Streets Of Fire for its ambition, it doesn’t always work and to me comes off as just another curio of 80s macho action. Curio is a good word to describe much of Hill’s work – he never exactly goes against the grain but takes what is popular at the time and adds a unique, left wing twist on things. Trespass is a post Reservoir Dogs, pre Pulp Fiction crime movie with a script from over a decade earlier but which feels like it was released two years too early. Bill Paxton and William Sadler play firemen who meet an unusual old man moments before he dies who leads them on a quest for stolen riches. They end up becoming embroiled in a gang war involving Ice Cube AND Ice T and a fight over the gold. It’s basically a Pirate movie set in modern day Illinois. It’s a film of its time but one which deserves to find an audience now – it was released around the time of the LA riots and due to some of the subject matter the studios didn’t give it the attention it warranted

9. The Long Riders

A Western which meets the curio quota – first, not many Westerns were being made in the 80s, and second it makes great use of Hollywood’s history of nepotism by casting some of the most famous Hollywood families as its stars. We have three Carradines, two Keaches, two Quaids, and two Guests – it’s a cool idea and not one many directors have tried over the years. The film takes its inspiration from the antics of Jessie James and the groups he ran with and against, and the men tasked with bringing them down. It’s more violent than many of the Westerns which came in the middle of the 70s and doesn’t paint the favourite American heroes in a heroic light. Like Hill’s best work though, it shows ‘hard times’ with a deft hand and engaging photography.

8. Extreme Prejudice

After some interludes into musicals and comedies, Hill returned to what he did best – tough guys dealing with no-win situations. The great cast includes Hill favourites Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe, along with Michael Ironside, Rip Torn, Clancy Brown, and Maria Conchita Alonso. Nolte is a stoic border town Sheriff going up against his ex best friend Boothe who turned to the dark side and became a drug runner. There’s this personal war between two old pals who took opposing paths despite coming from the same place, and there’s the B plot which eventually merges with the main story about a covert group of soldiers – cold and ruthless killers who are sent in to do the dirty jobs no-one else is capable of. With a story from John Milius you can expect more violence, great one-liners, and as the title suggests, politics and viewpoints and resolutions from the more extreme right of centre.

7. Southern Comfort

Scaling down some of the larger ideas and set pieces of his previous work, Southern Comfort is nevertheless an ambitious and deep project. Again dealing with opposing forces of men, opposing individuals, and people from different backgrounds forced into working together to defeat a common foe, it draws inevitable comparisons with Deliverance thanks to its setting and survivalist tone. It follows a group of Natural Guard guys out on some routine training in Louisiana. The group is a mixture of yahoos, yokels, and incompetent wannabee soldiers. Powers Boothe stars as the newbie to the group, transferred in from Texas and pissed off by how uncivilized and unskilled the group is. Carradine is the easy-going Private who tries to defend his group as men just having a good time. Inevitably getting lost, they encounter a group of Cajun locals deep in the bayou and one of the group stupidly begins firing at them with his blank rounds. Naturally the locals fight back – except they are trained and skilled hunters and fighters with deep knowledge of the terrain. It’s like Rambo in reverse. It’s a film I loved more in my youth because I remembered it having more action than it actually has. Now seen through older eyes, it feels more like a film about a bunch of idiots encroaching on territory which doens’t belong to them, and having to face the consequences. It’s well acted by the main players but not enough of the surrounding cast have long enough to have their characters fleshed out – a smaller group with more time dedicated to their flaws would have resulted in a more devastating film, but it’s still one which grips and entertains.

6. Geronimo

Like any number of Walter Hill movies, Geronimo never received the audience or credit it deserves. Hill gets to make the full blown Western he always wanted to and with a superb lead performance from Wes Studi it’s another Hill film which should be revisited. American audiences aren’t known for watching films where the lead is not a white guy they can relate to, yet the story of Geronimo is both fascinating and prescient. It follows the real life story of the Apache Indian forced to live on a US Reservation and deal with the associated humiliation. Refusing to cope with his forefather’s land being stolen and living according to the whim of the white man, Geronimo leads a splinter group who start to cause trouble for the Government and the military. Enter Jason Patrick who is tasked with capturing Geronimo and bringing his revolt to an end. Over the course of the film the two men are shown to be fighting for their beliefs and coming to respect each other. Still, as it’s Hill there’s a fair amount of action and violence in there. Aside from the main two performers, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon, and Robert Duvall all show up. It’s a film which always seemed to be on during my Summer Holidays at the Caravan/Camping park we went to every year, meaning that the next day me and my mates would be charging about the beaches and forests pretending to scalp people. PRETENDING.

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5. Another 48 Hours

An unfortunate side effect of always making whatever you want to or hitting those curios or niche markets is that you rarely have a hit. A sequel to one of his biggest hits seemed like a sure-fire win for Hill, and bringing together Nolte and Murphy once more basically guaranteed the film would print money. The buddy formula was reaching its end but the chemistry between the two leads and Hill’s comfort dealing with the action and humour meant that the film is more of the same – it’s not as good as the first one but it will still make you laugh and it has plenty of bullet holes as Reggie and Jack reluctantly team up once again.

4. Brewster’s Millions

The story had already been filmed numerous times before Hill decided to do his version, and what better backdrop to make the film than in the bloodthirsty, Republican led, every man for himself era of 1980s New York? I don’t know what it is about Richard Pryor’s 80s movies, but to me they’re all hilarious – just watered down enough to be palatable to families, but just madcap enough that we got to see what a true talent he was. If you’re not familiar with the story, it concerns an everyday Joe being informed that an old relative has died leaving him $300 million, as long as he can complete several tasks. First, he must decide to either walk away with $3 million – no questions asked, or if he can spend $30 million in 30 days he will get the full $300 million. Of course he goes for the second option, and of course there are caveats which the comedy spins off from – he can’t simply give it all to charity, he cannot tell anyone what he’s doing etc. Pryor is the ideal person to play Brewster – those expressive eyes conveying desperation, exasperation, and hilarity better than anyone. Add in John Candy as his best mate and a bunch of hangers on, money man, and legal types, and we have a fast moving, family comedy the likes of which you rarely see anymore. It’s a very unusual film for Hill to helm, but he handles it perfectly.

3. The Warriors

My top three picks are mostly interchangeable. The Warriors is one of those movies that everybody seems to love, but nobody seems to talk about outside of cult movie circles. I don’t think I’ve ever shown it to anyone who didn’t love it. I love the premise of trying to get across a city while besieged by all sides, and I love that it uses gang warfare rather than say zombies or some other supernatural event. A student of Ancient Greek and Roman literature and mythology, I also love that it’s loosely based around Anabasis – which tells of an army’s voyage home through enemy territory. At a push, it goes back to The Odyssey as a voyage home, my favourite of any sub-sub-genre. The film follows the titular Warriors – one of nine gangs in NYC who have come together to agree upon a truce which would allow the gangs to essentially rule the city. The dude with the plan is murdered, the blame is placed upon The Warriors, and a hit is put on their heads meaning every gang in the city is after them.

It’s a simple idea but Hill is in total command of the material – stylish, violent, and with a potent and convincing cast it paints NYC as a cold and unforgiving arena where territorial skirmishes are an hourly occurrence and you’re not safe unless you’re with your own kind on your own turf. Beck, Remar, and Kelly are each great and it’s maybe Hill’s most visually impressive film.

2. 48 Hours.

If there’s one thing these top three/four films have in common for me it’s that they are so rewatchable. They’re junk with substance – delicious yet rewarding. 48 Hours is probably the most universally rewatchable thanks to the smart and funny script led by Eddie Murphy at his best and Nick Nolte as the robust, perpetually pissed off foil. Barely a minute passes without something funny being said or seen, and if all else fails there’s plenty of violent 80s action to fall back on. For my money it’s the best buddy cop movie ever made, and it rarely puts a foot wrong.

  1. The Driver.

For the longest time I would rave to anyone and everyone about how good The Driver was. Then that movie with Ryan Gosling came about, and then Baby Driver, and a few more people suddenly claimed they loved this one too. The Driver contains some of the best car chases you’ll ever see and a bare bones hard boiled plot which exists just to remind us how cool Ryan O’Neal could be and how Bruce Dern could go full Nicholson before Nicholson ever did. The film was ripped to shreds upon release, but I loved it the first time I saw it. The main characters are unnamed, a deliberate choice and throwback to noir ideals, and the story is lean, leaving only sporadic dialogue, threats, and chases. For any fans of Drive and Baby Driver, or car-centric action movies in general, go back to the source – this is the source.

Let us know in the comments what you think of my picks and share your favourite Walter Hill Movies!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Send Away The Tigers

Manic_Street_Preachers_-_Send_Away_the_Tigers

After the mainly piano-based and electronic antics of Lifeblood, the band headed once more back to their guitar roots with the straightforward angular rock of Send Away The Tigers. Generally well received at the time, it’s an album which is mostly forgotten now beyond its major single. The band itself has once again been critical of certain songs but also credited it as getting them back on track and helping them to fall in love with making music again. Here’s my ranking of the ten tracks and the one hidden song:

  1. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  2. Autumn Song
  3. Send Away The Tigers
  4. Winterlovers
  5. Imperial Bodybags
  6. Underdogs
  7. Rendition
  8. I’m Just A Patsy
  9. Indian Summer
  10. The Second Great Depression
  11. Working Class Hero

Essentially everything above is a few steps below Your Love Alone Is Not Enough in terms of quality, with at least 7 of the lower ranked songs being interchangeable for me. No bad songs at all, just high average or thereabouts. It’s a short album but still garnered four singles, so that means we have plenty of B-Sides and alternatives to add in for my ideal version of the album:

  1. Send Away The Tigers
  2. Underdogs
  3. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  4. Anorexic Rodin
  5. Fearless Punk Ballad
  6. Rendition
  7. Morning Comrades
  8. Autumn Song
  9. Leviathan
  10. Boxes And Lists
  11. Imperial Bodybags
  12. Little Girl Lost
  13. Winterlovers
  14. Umbrella
  15. Ghosts Of Christmas

Both of those last two would be hidden tracks, naturally. That’s actually a pretty great album right there. I’m sure the order could be switched around to flow better. Let us know your ranking and picks in the comments!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Lifeblood

Manic+Street+Preachers+Empty+Souls++slipcase+360165

Perhaps more than any other album the band recorded, Lifeblood has been unfairly criticized. It seemed like critics and fans both agreed that it was a little bland, lacking both the political conviction, the rage, the creativity, and the tunes of anything else they’d done before. I’d argue each of those points, though I’d agree that the rage has been muted or transformed and concede that while the lyrical creativity was decreased, the musical inspiration was high. It’s an album I like a lot, though the funny thing is that most of the tracks which the detractors agree upon liking, are the ones I’d cut. Here’s my ranking:

  1. Glasnost
  2. Cardiff Afterlife
  3. To Repel Ghosts
  4. I Live To Fall Asleep
  5. Emily
  6. A Song For Departure
  7. Empty Souls
  8. Solitude Sometimes Is
  9. The Love Of Richard Nixon
  10. 1985
  11. Fragments
  12. Always/Never

Luckily, the band had been going through a particularly productive period of novelty releases – Greatest Hits, B-Sides, EPs etc, so there are plenty of songs from this time which I would much rather have on the album instead. The good thing is, most of them fit the tone and musical landscape of the album. Like these:

  1. Happy Ending
  2. A Song For Departure
  3. I Live To Fall Asleep
  4. There By The Grace Of God
  5. Automatik Teknicolour
  6. To Repel Ghosts
  7. Everything Will Be
  8. No Jubilees
  9. Emily
  10. Door To The River
  11. 4 Ever Delayed
  12. Everything Will Be
  13. Glasnost
  14. All Alone Here
  15. Cardiff Afterlife

Fifteen songs is likely still too many – I could cut it down to 12, say drop All Alone Here, Automatik, and one of your choice and we would have a damn near perfect album. Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists (in music) Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 100 -71

Greetings, Glancers! In my quest for always looking to post at least one listicle every couple of weeks, I’m having to take the coward’s way out and look at what other more reputable publications are posting. Now this one is a pretty obvious idea so I wouldn’t class it as stealing – everyone has their own list of favourite artists and opinions on these things. Still, it’s a regressive, lazy, click-bait type of post so you’ll have to bear with me until I can come up with something better.

There are a lot of these lists out there – every music rag and site will have their own take on it and I’m still toying with the idea of reacting to a few of them. However, I imagine most of them will be very similar and have a large crossover of artists. I went for Rolling Stone because they at least have a certain calibre of Writer, a certain respectability, and a level of talent and history which many more recent publications lack. The magazine has been going since the 60s and at least cares about music and talent rather than image and sales. Here is the link to their original article if you want to absorb it yourself and form your own opinion. What I have done is simply read the article and give some brief thoughts on each artist. I’m not going to get too hung up on placement.

Rather than let their Journalists give their thoughts on the best artists – likely factoring in influence, sales, quality, personal opinion, talent, originality, writing, technical proficiency etc, their list was based off actual industry insiders – the artists themselves, producers, writers, singers, musicians from a wide array of genres and eras. Without looking at the list then, I imagine there will be a few surprises and acts I’m not familiar with. Due to that fact alone, I’ll probably look at one more list, by a different site, for another post for comparison’s sake and because I want a more traditional list too. Also, this list apparently focuses on ‘The Rock Era’ so I don’t know if that means artists before a certain date wont be used or if certain genres are out of bounds. I’m more interested in a list which covers any genre and era, so that I can rant more.

Remember, the below selections are not mine, but I am going to give my thoughts on each. Here we go.

100: Talking Heads

I’m not going to doubt their influence, I’d have some doubts concerning their musical talent, I’m not going to question their lyrical prowess or ability to write songs which people seem to enjoy. I don’t like them – from what I’ve heard, which isn’t much – and I don’t like David Byrne’s vocals. Personal opinion, they’re not for me.

99. Carl Perkins

I only know the songs which other artists have recorded that he wrote – Elvis and The Beatles most notably. I’ve probably heard his original versions of those songs but I can’t say much more than that. Seems like an influential guy.

98. Curtis Mayfield

Much of what I referenced regarding Perkins could be said here too, although I know Mayfield through his famous work on Superfly. Remember when African American artists used to write and play with soul, and were some of the best musicians around? The white guys took all of that over in the late 50s – it’s time to share it around again I think.

97. REM

I’m surprised they’re so far down on the list, given the usual adoration and ball-fondling they receive. Maybe people are finally forgetting about them and realizing that the majority of their stuff doesn’t have staying power. Outside of Automatic For The People, there are very few REM songs I personally enjoy, mostly down to how I feel about Michael Stipe’s voice. That and the fact that I’m fairly certain a light breeze could strip them to their bones and shatter their skeletons. Still, they do have a number of pretty good songs which I can’t argue against, and every so often they’ll concoct an interesting lyric.

96. Diana Ross And The Supremes

I’m glad this is a single entry – Ross has the odd solo song which I don’t mind, but with The Supremes they were unbeatable. Classy and with the right group of writers backing them, they had hit after hit and I’m sure they broke down some racial barriers which is always good. Lets keep it focused on the music though – they have a strong of nothing less than masterpiece pop hits. Ross has some good vocals, but it’s the song selection and the quality of melody and harmony which keeps them so revered today, as well as some top session musicians backing them up. I wouldn’t call them influential any longer, because today’s female pop groups and artists seem to have forgotten that melody matters.

95. Lynyrd Skynyrd

That band that you have to keep spell-checking to make sure the Ys are in the ryte places. I don’t know much about them – I’m not big on the Southern US rock scene. Still, there’s no denying the skill on display and staying power of Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. I’m sure they have other songs too.

94. Nine Inch Nails

No doubt influential in the metal and rock arena, Nine Inch Nails, or more acurately Trent Reznor, is generally held up as one of the genre’s best lyricists. Cutting and introspective and dark, the industrial experimental sound fits the words like a worm in your soul. I think he’s a better writer than a vocalist, though he certainly has a way with creating atmosphere. I always feel like I never give NIN a chance and I always mean to, but then I remember the  songs I don’t like – most of the obvious songs like Closer and Hurt are ones I don’t enjoy – then I abandon the idea.

93. Booker T And The MGs

Yeah, no doubting their influence or songwriting or playing. Just not a group I pay much attention to.

92. Guns N Roses

Now we’re talking. Hair metal was an extension of the more glamourous, self confident rock which came out of the 70s, but had too much focus on ego and image and sales and all too quickly allowed itself to transform from something about technical proficiency into something mass marketed and pussified. G’n’R was the antithesis of hair metal, the up-turning of that umbrella. They took the skill and swagger of what the genre should have been and added a raw 70s punk edge and effortless cool – these guys looked and performed like Hell’s demons were on their heels while the other hair metal bands suddenly looked like Belinda Carlisle. The band looked and felt like a gang, like a family, and their playing wasn’t overblown (at least in the beginning) yet remained vicious, rebellious, fast, and sexy – they played how animal fucking sounds and feels. Axl is an underrated songwriter, and Duff and Izzy don’t get the credit Slash gets.

91. Tom Petty

Another artist I don’t know much about – I know more about him than his music would be more accurate. What I’ve heard… I’m not a fan of the drawling vocals or Southern Sound, but I’ve heard single figure % of his work so I’m not the best example of someone accurately commenting.

90. Carlos Santana

I always found Santana suddenly finding widespread fame (again) in the 2000s quite bizarre. Here was a guy renowned in the 60s as a hippy free spirit and for playing loose, jazz infused Latino experimental rock. It was a commercial stroke of genius to link him up with some of the pop darlings of the day, and Supernatural remains a fantastic album. But you have to go back to his earlier days to find some of his truly killer playing. Carlos is a beast on the guitar with a style and tone you know is instantly his – for people who don’t really know much about guitar playing or guitarists, he is one of a very small handful of guitarists that the uninformed hear and recognise. From lightening fast breaks to soulful slow-dances, his music is perfect for a Summer afternoon beerathon, for howling at the moon afterwards, and for the come-down the next day, plus he’s a genuine, cool guy.

89. The Yardbirds

I always say that The Yardbirds existed so that later, better bands could. That’s a little unfair even if it is true, but in their short existence they set up the new rules for those later bands to follow – what can you do when you truly master an instrument? What sounds and songs will follow from feeling, what can you achieve when you don’t focus on writing a hit or looking a certain way or sounding like anyone else?

88. Jay-Z

Sorry, kids, but I’m going to go on record and admit that I can’t name a single Jay-Z song. I’m sure I’ve heard plenty, but I don’t know them. I’m going to assume that of all the rap and R’n’B to come out of the late 90s he’s among the most respectable – I have friends who know their stuff and whose musical opinions often fall in line with mine who love him – that’s usually good enough for me to give someone a chance. I haven’t yet, and probably won’t. There’s just too much stuff ahead of him on the list.

87. Gram Parsons

I don’t like Country. You know this by now. Parsons at least fused Country with other stuff – but then it was the 60s and everyone was fusing everything with everything else while at the same time being out of their fucking minds on whatever mind-altering goodness they could get their hands on. Was it the music that was good, or the drugs? In any case, I mostly know him from a few songs by The Byrds. I’m sure he could have achieved more if he’s lived longer.

86. Tupac

Similar to Jay-Z, except that I actually know some Tupac stuff. What I know I generally like but again I probably know more about the man and the myth than what he actually created and left behind. It seems like a lot of people on this list influence others, but the influence becomes reductive. Usually an artist is supposed to inspire others to be and do better, but in this case those were born out of Tupac’s success and skill have turned into everything which is shitty about music today – pre-packaged, mass produced, safe, repetitive garbage with no great message or meaning. Tupac is rolling in his grave over what you have become.

85. Black Sabbath

They essentially created metal. There were bands before and around the same time, but Sabbath brought all the vital ingredients together first. How you feel about metal will determine how you feel about Sabbath – do you like loud, heavy music? Do you enjoy frenetic rhythm sections, wailing vocals, solos like a volcano erupting and riffs like a shotgun cocking and firing? If not, you probably won’t like Sabbath – that’s fine, go listen to George Michael – but if you do, then you’ll love Sabbath. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a Sabbath individual songs listener, but they have enough individual songs regardless of their influence to make them a great band.

84. James Taylor

Fantastic voice and some gorgeous melodies. A nifty guitarist too. I think most metal fans have some sort of affinity with folk music, or at least the more introspective side of folk. Maybe it’s that both genres place so much value on emotion and musical ability. Taylor was at the forefront of folk, but he’s still someone whose music I haven’t heard very much of considering how prolific he has been.

83. Eminem

It seems more and more likely that Eminem is the musical genius of my generation. How many other artists have been as prolific and as critically and commercially successful as he has within the time when he started to today? The guy’s lyrics are flawless – insightful and brutal with the same couplet, hilarious the next. No-one is safe from his tongue or his pen, not least himself, and there may not be a finer lyricist on the planet. His knowledge and understanding of music doesn’t get enough credit and unlike so many of his peers – no matter the genre – he’s never content in being one thing; he wants to get better, he only wants to prove to himself that he’s still got it.

82. CCR

Yea yeah, I get it, I have to listen to them. Again, the few songs I’ve heard I like – don’t love, and they’re deep within that Souther US rock style I’m not a huge fan of.

81. The Drifters

I’m not sure how The Drifters ever qualified as a single group, given how many line-up changes they had ((like the article references). What remains consistent is that the voices are always strong, no matter who was in the group they all knew how to harmonise and perform together, and the melodies were smooth and timeless.

80. Elvis Costello

He’s been going for a hell of a long time, I’ll give him that Another case of knowing the artist more than the music, though what I’ve heard I never gave a second glance.

79. The Four Tops

Like The Drifters, these guys knew how to sing together; Once they had the right writing team behind them it was a money making machine. More importantly, the music was great.

78: The Stooges

Even though it always seemed like there was a lack of focus in that they apparently hated everyone and took the piss out of everyone meaning you couldn’t take anything they said seriously, they still had raw power and energy (pun intended). It was punk which was more intellectual than most and wasn’t afraid to be sexy as well as dirty and angry. I’m not overly well-versed in their stuff but much of it you can’t help but like thanks to the urgency with which they play.

77. The Beastie Boys

One of the most notable instances of rock and rap working together, The Beastie Boys have an array of hits to their name but if you look at what mostly came out of their ideas – groups like Limp Bizkit and shite of that ilk – you have to wonder was it worth the effort? Still, the band’s early stuff sounds more fresh and vital than any nu-metal or rap inspired rock band now, and the less said about current rap artists attempts to merge with rock, the better.

76. The Shirelles

Arguably the greatest girl band of all time (obviously I still hold The Bangles in the top spot), The Shirelles may not have played their own instruments or wrote many of their own songs, it was the girl next door appeal of their vocals and performance which made them stand out. They were sexy without flaunting it, honest, open, and the vocals weren’t trying to blow out the speakers. One of the few bands to truly influence The Beatles in the early days, once they had a writing team behind them they dropped a number of hits which remain unbeaten today in terms of quality.

75. The Eagles

Like a few of the other mainly US oriented bands above, I only know a handful of their songs. Maybe it’s the Country music relationship that put me off. I’ll get to them in one of my other series.

74. Hank Williams

It’s Country, so I already have a low tolerance. It’s not whiny old crap Country though.

73. Radiohead

You already know they’re one of my favourite bands. Even if they have been the Thom Yorke And Friends band now for longer than they’ve been Radiohead. When they’re good, nobody comes close to touching them, and when they’re not good they’re still more adventurous and interesting than almost any other act. I just wish they were good again. Still, when they’re live even the songs I don’t like become something special.

72. AC/DC

They’re an average rock band who has managed to crank out more hits than most. It’s pretty much mindless music with a good beat and brain-shredding vocals. I can’t take them seriously at all, even if I do agree many of their songs are catchy.

71. Frank Zappa

An incredibly influential artist, Zappa is and was like nobody else. He was a great guitarist and writer, but it just so happened that most of his music and ideas didn’t really translate into good songs.

Join me next time for another batch and let us know your thoughts on the artists above!

 

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

beatlesofrock31

Well, this has been a slog. Be thankful we’re almost at the end! Below, thou shalt find my favourite Beatles songs in the whole wide world. I’m tired. So tired. I haven’t slept a wink. Click here for Part One and there for Part Two.

26. Strawberry Fields Forever 

We’re into my favourite Beatles songs now, starting with this slice of trippy oddness from Magical Mystery Tour. It’s another one which could be dreary and depressing but overcomes by power of melody, interesting lyrics, and the amount of instruments and invention at play.

25. Penny Lane

One of the most summery songs the band crafted, it’s essentially a story of a time and place. The names and people may be unfamiliar but it’s universal enough, it’s cheery enough to make you feel like they’re talking about your street, your town, your friends.

24. Every Little Thing

When I first started listening to the band album to album there were a number of songs I had no idea existed but fell in love with first time around. For Sale doesn’t get enough credit for its experimentation but it’s really here where they began to throw in little changes and ideas – the timpani in the chorus, the single note piano, the unusual melodies and the layered guitars all setting up for the future but on its own a terrific pop rock song.

23. Hey Jude

This is high on my list, and yet I’m not as enamoured with it as most other people are. It’s a great song no doubt, but it’s not their best and other bands have created similar songs that I’ve loved more. Still, great song.

22. Eleanor Rigby

I know a lot of people consider this the best Beatles song, and I’d be happy to agree with that. Still, it’s not my favourite, but it’s undoubtedly brilliant. Like Penny Lane it feels like a story and while it doesn’t strike the same universal chord the melodies and strings and feeling make it one which will last well into the next century.

21. I’m A Loser

From that grunting opening vocal, the darker tone, the song title and lyrical content, this was maybe my first exposure to The Beatles not being this happy go lucky, summery pop band. Lennon was actually singing about something real yet making it eminently catchy so that anyone could still enjoy the music without contemplating the meaning.

20. Paperback Writer

One I was always fond of from my youth, this is a song which blends the band’s earlier harsher rock sound with their later, more mature pop abilities. What a great riff – the weird thing is that you can easily forget the riff because the harmonies and melodies are so strong. All the harmonic stuff going on in the verses is spellbinding, there are lots of tiny notes and different things going on that I notice something new each time I listen, and the lyrics are a quirky delight too.

19. Real Love

So, it’s more of a Lennon solo effort, but given that the surviving lads got together to fix it up and release it, it still counts. Plus it’s glorious. Fantastic lyrics once again showcasing the growth, and one of the great shifts from minor to major in rock history. The vocal effects are squarely in that psychedelic period, George’s guitar lines are simmering, and wouldn’t you just know it – melodies from start to finish are the stuff of dreams.

18. In My Life

The Beatles at their most tender. When the band tried, really tried, to do a certain type of song, they invariably knocked it out of the park. This is one such example, a ballad of both love and sorrow. It’s so damn simple, yet so damn beautiful. The little drums pieces Ringo adds – <makes kissing fingers gesture> – and that little solo in the middle, all just lovely. But man, so many Youtube comments about this song being played at funerals – not a dry eye across the land.

17. Mr Moonlight 

Ah ha, yes. The most maligned Beatles song. I had never heard this song until I first listened to For Sale all the way through. How had I never heard such a fantastic song? Why wasn’t this one of their biggest hits? Well, it turned out that its almost universally hated. I was completely mystified by this when I found out, and I still don’t get it. Like, at all. I can’t think of any reason why people really don’t like this. I understand if it’s not a favourite, but all the hate is totally beyond me. The vocals are maybe the best I’ve heard from Lennon. And I love the little church organ solo – sure it could have been replaced with a different type of organ, but it adds a quirky charm. This is easily one of my favorites, and easily their best cover.

16. And Your Bird Can Sing

This is another one of those instances where I’d maybe heard the song before but had no idea it was by The Beatles until I starting working through the albums. As lovely as it sounds, lyrically it is quite vicious. I love the constant thumping beat throughout and of course the duel guitar attack – another glorious collection of riffs – and what about the melodies, both following and complementing the central riff? It has a mantra quality, something hypnotic, but it’s all too short at only two minutes.

15. A Day In The Life

What is usually heralded as the band’s best song is an undoubted masterpiece. It’s almost flawless – it is, but there are a few things I would still change about it, in my genius. I have nothing of substance to add to what has already been said about it, beyond the little things I love – the growing horror movie soundtrack strings, the variances in the drumming, the sudden shifts etc etc.

14. No Reply

When I started listening to The Beatles albums, For Sale was the biggest blank for me – I didn’t really recognise any of the songs and so I assumed it had been a misstep with no hits. When it opened with this, I was suitably blown away. If this is a misstep, then what the hell else has every other band been doing with their time? It’s dark and angry stuff, portrayed by jealous lyrics and a biting delivery and punched beats.

13. A Hard Day’s Night

If you’d asked me to name any Beatles song from the age of about 5 up to, well today, chances are this would be one of the first songs I’d mention. The band were already megastars before this, but this song represented a shift to God status – it not only exemplified their growth but also their staying power. They were here to stay, and change the world while everyone else had their lunch.

12. Ticket To Ride

Another one of the first songs I loved by the band, and another which has never been far from my affections. It’s just a very strange pop rock song, the sort of thing nobody else has ever really been able to pull off so successfully. There are so many elements which shouldn’t work, but they do, likely because of the melody and charm. Also, the video is hilarious as the band sit about and take the piss.

11. Please Please Me

I can’t really remember when or how I first heard this, it could be another that I didn’t realise was The Beatles, or it could be one I only discovered when I picked up their first album. Either way, even though it was one of their first songs, it still stands out as one of their best. That energy, the choices, the melodies, the playing, the exuberance of youth, and just the sheer balls and joy of it all.

10. We Can Work It Out

The Beatles just had so many songs – so many that never even made it to any album and yet are better than what most people produce their whole lives. The thing I love most about this song – beyond another amazing minor/major dynamic, beyond the melody? That transition from chorus to verse – it’s not even a transition, it just… happens. And both pieces are completely different. How is it even possible?

9. She Loves You

You’re probably noticing that a lot of these favourites are early songs – in truth that’s probably the period I love most – more than their experimenting, more than their second half. There’s a joy in their first songs, an unspoken perfection which only an artist and fan can recognise – that moment when it all comes together. This is a song we’ll still be listening to when our ears have evolved into Ipod holders or something.

8. I Want To Hold Your Hand

I know I’m critical of bands whose lyrics are overly simple, and that’s a simple criticism to make of The Beatles in their early days. Even though they were taking the piss as they wrote whatever banal stuff popped into their heads, there was still something somehow earnest. And they were among the first to express such sentiments in such colloquial fashion and to string words together in a certain way. If anybody else from then or now was to sing about wanting to hold a hand, I would dismiss it. With these guys, it’s liquid gold.

7. From Me To You

It’s just more early pop rock perfection. Music rarely gets better than this.

6. I’ve Just Seen A Face

One of my favourite discoveries as I made my way through the albums, this is one of music’s most special songs. That discovery of love, of seeing that face for the first time, is something we can all understand, but it has never been put to paper or sound so wonderfully as this. One of the greatest love songs of all time, just wholesome unashamed goodness.

5. The Long And Winding Road

As the band began to reach their conclusion, they were still able to put out stuff like this. Some day, Paul and Ringo will be gone, everyone who was involved in making this will walk the Earth no more, but the song will echo onward. This is one of the most contemplative and heartbreaking and beautiful songs the band would record, and it’s one I rate much higher than the more popular Let It Be or ever Lennon’s Imagine. 

4. Here Comes The Sun

I love it when my favourite bands sound happy and make music which reflects that. I’m into the dark side of things and usually listen to a lot of angry, heavy stuff, but when an artist more renowned for that sort of music makes something sweet and whose purpose is to only make you smile, I love it. The Beatles don’t fall into that category and have many songs designed to bring you joy, but this is on another level. It’s Harrison’s best song by some distance, and it’s maybe the number one song of all time for raising that hope, that excitement, that positive feeling, that everything is going to be okay, that things are about to be glorious.

3. Can’t Buy Me Love

Taking pop and rock and music to the next level is something The Beatles did repeatedly. Can’t Buy Me Love was one of several songs on that album alone which performed that trick and you’ll struggle to find a more perfect song anywhere else.

2. Across The Universe

Maybe the best personal discovery during my run through of Beatles albums, I’d had no clue this song even existed when it first came on. Much of everything from The White Album onward had registered little more than a ‘okay, that was nice/weird/pointless’ and it felt like the band were shadows of their former selves. Then this came along and became an instant personal favourite. Why hadn’t they been writing stuff like this the whole time? Was this the last drip of their collective creative juice collecting inside a paper cup? I don’t care about the whys and hows now – it simply is, and it’s one of the best by anyone.

  1. Help

My number one. I honestly can’t think of a single better pop/rock song. Every millisecond is perfect. It sounds so simple, but this must have been a nightmare to write and record. The call and repeat stuff is inverted, multiple times throughout the song, and it boggles my mind how they make it sound so easy and so good. This is not an easy song. The high notes, the arpeggios, and above all the melody/harmony attack make Help my favourite Beatles song and I’d say a contender for the greatest song ever written.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. It’s only taken me two years to write and publish, but we’re finally done and we never have to speak of it again. Unless of course you want to add your favourites in the comments – something I encourage. Till next time!

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part 2

Lets continue with my favourite Beatles songs, in alphabetic order until the top 26 or so. Here’s Part One if you missed it.

beatlesofrock31

56. All You Need Is Love

I always laugh at the ironic intro to this – the trumpet anthem blaring, before reminding the listener that maybe war isn’t good and all you need is love. It does come across as a little preachy and I’ve never liked the droopy brass which plays after the title vocal. Otherwise it’s another wonderful anthem, syrupy enough to charm the staunchest cynic.

55. Baby It’s You

There’s about a million great versions of this song, so credit to everyone involved in creating it in the first instance. I’m not a huge fan of Beatles covers, but this one stands out thanks to the harmonies which suited the band’s early sound, along with the slightly harsher edge to the vocals.

54. Don’t Let Me Down

I love how this goes straight into the weary, wrenching chorus almost immediately. Both the live and studio version of this great, the funky organ, the single note percussion versus the smashing in the chorus, the bass in the second verse, and how the vocals get increasingly strained. If there was a bit more variety here it would be one of my favourites.

53. Day Tripper

My first memory of this is from some Amiga game one of my friends had in the 80s or early 90s. I had no idea it was The Beatles until I heard the song much later. It’s a fine example of a terrific riff which doesn’t become repetitive even though it’s played constantly, and the feel-good verses elevate it to a higher ranking – it’s only the chorus which lets the whole down.

52. Free As A Bird

I know this song and Real Love get a lot of hate or disregard from Beatles fans… for me it doesn’t stop them from being good songs. I remember the fuss about this from when it was released and I remember watching the premiere on TOTP. I remember wondering what all the fuss was about too. The song stayed with me though, and I’m pretty sure I only heard it that single time until years later when I started listening to the band in earnest. It’s still too slow and dreamy to get me fully on board but I love the ideas and melodies.

51. Good Day Sunshine

Pure McCartney cheese, but this is Revolver we’re talking about so everything is gold. Everything is flawless from the introduction and withdrawal of each instrument, to the super happy friends vibe of it all.

50. Golden Slumbers

I’m not a huge fan of the last couple of Beatles albums – they sound too tired and out of ideas for too many songs, but then they unleash gems like this and wish the rest of the said albums could have been as strong. This is very simple, though the backing orchestration lifts it to near heavenly heights – I’m one of the few who loves McCartney’s voice here – I only wish it was longer.

49. Here, There, And Everywhere

As mentioned above, on Revolver almost every idea paid off brilliantly – what could have come off as boring and dreary avoids the pitfalls and ends up as another touching, insightful ballad.

48. I Need You

This isn’t a song you’ll see on many fan’s lists of favourites. It works for me, even if it is a simple love song. Once again I revert to my love of engaging melodies, and the little volume knob guitar trick keeps things interesting. It’s not a great song, but there’s something here which makes me enjoy it more than other better regarded songs.

47. I’ll Follow The Sun

It’s always interesting to me how The Beatles could write so many perfect pop songs and keep them so short. This is an endearing ballad which is barely over 90 seconds long. It gets to the point immediately, it cuts away the chaff, it even finds time for a guitar solo, and you’ll be singing it long after it has ended.

46. I Saw Her Standing There

The Beatles rarely rocked as raw as they did on their debut – this is the opening track from their first album and it remains a breakneck, rollicking statement of intent. I much prefer these original compositions to the blues covers that they used to bulk out their early sets. There’s nothing extraordinary in the writing here, but it’s the combination of energy, talent, melodies, harmony, and how tight the group feels which marked them as special from the start.

45. If I Fell

This one threatens to be overly dreary what with those minor chords and vocal drawls, but then it builds up to a very sweet chorus. That chorus though, turns out to not in fact be a chorus but the entire rest of the song – the intro is a trick start – the band already playing with conventions and expectations.

44. I’ll Be Back

Another one of the very many Beatles songs I find very underrated. It’s one I had no idea existed until I started working through the albums. I love the interplay of the harmonies, between major and minor, seemingly giving a sense of conflict, pain, and indecision.

43. Let It Be

From underrated to overrated. I was close to not including Let It Be at all – it’s one of their songs which is constantly played, constantly covered, and one we all know long before we ever listen to one of their albums. I can’t doubt that it’s a great song, but for me it suffers from being dull. I’m in the minority.

42. Love Me Do

This is another song I had heard countless times before playing a Beatles album in full, this one differs because it still gives me that sense of youthful fun. It’s child like in its simplicity and in effect becomes almost like a nursery rhyme – you learn it at birth and never forget it. The band did melody like no other group at the time.

41. Lovely Rita

McCartney up to his old tricks again – jaunty rhythms which would sound trite and overly saccharine in the hands of almost anyone else. Somehow all the literal bells and whistles and comedy sounds and Carry On lyrics don’t feel overly dated here – nope, they sound like a band having fun, experimenting, and taking the piss without giving a crap.

40. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Like in the aforementioned song, only a handful of artists could take a bellyful of drugs and rhyme off nonsense but make the overall product compelling and not laughable. Even The Beatles would fail at this trick in a few short years, but here everything they touched simply worked. It doesn’t matter who or what Lucy is, it doesn’t matter what they may or may not be singing about – they’re singing, they’re playing, just enjoy.

39. Magical Mystery Tour

Some will say it’s sacrilege ranking this song higher than the one before. While it’s true that the ranking here isn’t important, I think I do prefer this one to Lucy. It feels more fun to me, almost like the band realised all the crap that they had been spouting and decided to go along with it anyway, without the faux-seriousness and philosophy they had previously attempted.

38. Norwegian Wood

The song taken from one of my favourite books. Heh. Just making sure you’re paying attention. Murakami was inspired by this piece of lovelorn whimsy, one of their love songs that touches genuine honesty instead of a blast of catchy homilies. A mixture of acoustic guitar and George’s Indian antics, it’s a lumbering, simple song but with unavoidable melody dripping like the sweat of a college student getting home with his girl on their first date.

37. Octopus’s Garden

If it was good enough for the rest of the band to be off their faces on goofballs, then it was good enough for Ringo. Enter Octopus’s Garden. As it’s Ringo, you already know what the rhythm will cbe and what the vocals and overall tone will be. It’s a lot of fun and it’s perfect for kids, and hopefully not even the most sour and cynical adult (me) will hate it.

36. She’s Leaving Home

McCartney experiments with a harp, a string section, and a story about a sad family event from the perspective of parents. In another’s hands this could feel like a bad Hallmark movie, but he and the band imbue it with enough real emotion and smarts that it succeeds. The chorus dual vocals and melodies are glorious and the strings are tasteful and emotive.

35. Tomorrow Never Knows

The production on some of The Beatles albums is such that they feel like they could have been recorded today, not half a century ago. This song sounds perfectly modern as well as clearly being a 60s event. The backwards arsing about, the various sounds and techniques, and my god the drumming, all feel super-modern even now to the extent that most current artists releasing music today sound stale and behind the times when compared with this.

34. The Night Before

Back now with more streamlined, straightforward pop rock, and therefore it’s all about the melodies and harmonies. Few albums have generated so many instant classics as Help! and this is considered one of the lesser ones from that album. It’s so pleasingly simple, it borrows a lot of the harder edged R’n’B of their earlier days but adds a bopping rhythm and electric piano to give it something unique.

33. With A Little Help From My Friends

I grew up with The Wonder Years version of this – a song that I disliked so much that it put me off that show. I was never a huge fan of the show anyway, but something about the joining of song and show left me very depressed. I bet it was always on TV here on Sundays. I knew it was a Beatles song originally, but I don’t think I actually heard it until the first time I listened to Sgt Pepper in full. It completely changed my opinion of the song, it’s just so much more fun and honest than Cocker’s senseless grumbles.

32. Within You Without You

Probably the peak of the band’s messing around with Sitars and the like but still the first thing it makes me think of is Mario burning his ass on lava and hopping around in circles yelping like a… well, a burnt Italian. Usually I wouldn’t like a song like this – too sleepy and the vocals too slurred and dreamy, everything shimmering and wavering too much. Yet it works for me, the vocal melody comically follows the sitar, there are strings backing things, the band has the audacity to make half the song instrumental, just jamming away in dreamlike, mystical fashion. There’s so much going on here that I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to the numbers of musicians and instruments involved.

31. When I’m 64

At first listen for me at least, this sounds purely comical – like a joke recording. Then you hear the words and the sincerity and remember that it’s McCartney and it takes on its own special life. There’s no getting away from how funny those opening notes and instruments are, but the song gets better as it goes along that you’re converted from cynic to believer. The only part I can’t forgive is the ‘Vera, Chuck, and Dave’ which makes me cringe inexplicably every time.

30. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road

McCartney unleashing a raw slice of of late blues rock, early proto punk. I mean, not really, but it has that snarling vocal and that angry guitar and simplicity that it’s easy to make such comparisons. The Beatles rarely cut loose and recorded something so overtly sexual and heavy – maybe they should have tried it more.

29. Yellow Submarine

Another Ringo special, more pure nonsense, and another one for the kids. You’ll be whistling it for days.

28. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

You could always rely on Lennon to go to the darker places when singing about love. This being on Help! though, you can be sure it’s infectious. The percussion is much softer with tambourine and brushes on the snares, we have a flute ending, and all the guitars are acoustic.

27. You Never Give Me Your Money

I’m fairly critical of the last two albums the band made, or at least as critical as you can be, but this underrated ballad is one of their best – that opening just sounds so sad. When I first Abbey Road and how all the last songs merged into a whole I thought this song was only a minute long – it wasn’t until later I realised the heavier second section and the ‘one sweet dream’ part etc were all part of the same song. They do all feel like separate parts but they hold together – I do still prefer the first section though.

Join me next time for my final post and to find out what my all time favourite songs by The Beatles are!

 

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs Part 1

beatlesofrock31

Greetings, Glancers! It’s the one you’ve been waiting for – and for quite some time, apparently. According to WordPress, the last time I looked at this post was May 20 2011. Back then I basically wrote the names of the songs I knew I really liked from each release off the top of my head. At time of writing this introduction, it is August 21, 2017. What I will do between now and the time of publishing is check back through each release, add any song I’ve missed, put them in order, and add a little bit about why I like each. Hopefully that will not take another six years (oops).

So, everyone knows The Beatles, right? They had a few hits, played a few gigs, before disappearing into obscurity. We know they need know introduction. I’ll give some personal stuff instead. I never listened to a complete Beatles album until I was roughly 19 – I was at University at least. Obviously I knew all their hits – who makes it to 19 without knowing at least twenty Beatles songs off by heart? For whatever reason though I had just never listened to an album. It’s like the famous question – ‘Who do you prefer, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones’? My answer – ‘Led Zeppelin’. At some point though I acquired the albums and blasted through them, finding that treasure trove of unknowns that so many others before had. So now I present (to anyone reading this in the future), my own personal favourite Beatles songs. I’m being a little more liberal than usual with this list – on previous lists I’ve tried to include only my absolute favourites, but as it’s The Beatles I’m also adding some fringe ones that I really like but wouldn’t include if I was being more strict. If you’re looking for a more detailed and insightful ranking of every song – try this link.

Just one final note – I didn’t worrying about the ranking up until my very favourite songs – the top 26 – everything else is sort of alphabetical, with tracks 96 – 57 being the lower tier and tracks 56 – 27 being the middles. Enjoy!

96. Any Time At All

Any time at all is a good time to listen to The Beatles, or indeed read some fool on the hill’s listathon about them. This one is a straightforward rocker from A Hard Day’s Night with Lennon growling through the vocals and a simple piano middle which was left without vocals when the band couldn’t be arsed adding any lyrics.

95. And I Love Her

I love the Spanish feel to this one, one of the very few songs the band recorded which sounded like this. It has a terrific, simple 4 note Harrison riff and veers between melancholy and happy easily.

94. Ask Me Why

Even on their first album the band’s influences were clear, not only old R’n’B but the likes of Smokey Robinson. It’s the harmonies and the simplicity and the little unexpected notes which marked them at this early stage as something special.

93. All I’ve Gotta Do

It’s Smokey again, this time on their second album. Another simplistic song of love and yearning it still showcases the majesty of writing a hit melody.

92. All My Loving

One of the only songs where McCartney wrote the lyrics first. We know the early Beatles songs don’t have the most complex lyrics – usually repeated expressions of love for 90% of the albums they were featured on, but that was standard for the industry at the time. Still, it was all about the music and the vocals in the early days – the jangling guitars of the verse contrasted with the stuttering of the chorus, and of course McCartney’s ‘oohs’.

91. Because

We jump all the way to Abbey Road now and we can see how both the lyrics and music have changed. Maybe most notably it’s the production, with Martin employing all of the tracks he had picked up and honed over the previous six or seven years to create something haunting and angelic. The voices of Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney were recorded multiple times to give a more epic feel and Martin plays the Harpsichord intro against the same guitar part. We even get some synthesizer – perhaps hinting at the direction the band may have taken had they stayed together another few years. It’s lovely, but they have lovelier.

90. Birthday

One of those songs I knew for years but had no idea was by The Beatles and then seemed obvious once I found out. The White Album is a strange one – filled with good songs and disasters. I’ve always felt it lacked even one truly great song, though this comes as close as any. It’s a song made on the spot and it shows in the lyrics – basically lets take and idea or a word or phrase and write any old crap to fit the music. Naturally it works, and lo another classic ‘occasion’ song is born. It’s all about the riff.

89. Fixing A Hole

On to Sgt Pepper – celebrating its 50th birthday this year, remember. While McCartney’s music hall stuff sounds rubbish on The White Album it somehow works wonderfully here. There’s a lot more to it, it feels like there is more honesty and ingenuity and the experimentation is pulled off successfully. The lyrics are not as drug crazed as others on the album – simple, but suitably open to simple interpretation and examination – what hole exactly is being fixed?

88. For No One

A slice of McCartney cheese on Revolver – that of course means all of the cheese has been removed – the lyrics are bleak, dark, insightful, and the marching band beat gives a plodding monotony to echo the lyrical sentiment. It’s one of McCartney’s saddest songs, yet it’s so damn catchy and the little horn piece in the middle almost makes it feel happy. I also enjoy the sudden unexpected end – a trick the band pulled off more than once in their career.

87. Getting Better

Notable for its clinking intro and chilling lyrics which can easily be missed given how optimistic the song sounds. Lennon writes about his violent past, fighting, abusing women – all true – but that things are getting better (or can’t get no worse). I’m not sure how anyone is meant to feel about such things, but the music’s great and even has some tanpura from Harrison.

86. Got To Get You Into My Life

Back to Revolver and we have this massive horn section led rocker. I like how the chorus is held back by a double verse, giving it greater impact when it finally arrives. McCartney belts this one out, increasingly so, Harrison lets rip with a great, short solo, and the brass keeps growing – you know I’m not a fan of brass, but I love it here.

85. Good Morning Good Morning 

And back to Sgt Pepper for this piece of weirdness. Ringo is perfect here, epic, furious guitar work too. The timing is all over the place, the lyrics are great fun, and again I love the brass. There’s a bunch of sound effects too – all those integral pieces of a Great British morning and more.

84. Happiness Is A Warm Gun

A contender for best name of any Beatles song, and also a contender for the best Beatles lyric, Happiness Is A Warm Gun doesn’t even feel like a Beatles song. There’s a new direction here, with lots of downer melodies, droning, and even though the song moves through several different parts, the downbeat sense runs continuously from start to finish. Lennon gives a terrific vocal performance and that distorted rumbling guitar solo is pretty great too.

83. Helter Skelter 

As the sixties drew to a close a number of bands and artists were crafting much heavier, louder, angrier music – The Beatles wanted a piece of that. Helter Skelter is the answer. It’s pure nonsense of course, but the lead riff, the ferocious drums, McCartney’s vocals, and the sheer wall of noise mean it contended (temporarily) with the likes of The Who and The Kinks. It’s also notable for the double ending where a pile of distortion and drums fade in, thump for a while, then out, then back, then out, then blisters on my fingers.

82. It Won’t Be Long

Back to the beginning now, and a slice of R’n’B from With The Beatles. It’s just another early, fun, harmless track with a lot of killer harmonies and calls and repeats.

81. I’ll Get You

This one didn’t appear on any album so it was a while before I ever came to hear it. Of course it was a blessing, like uncovering a hidden treasure from your favourite band’s favourite period. An early song it has all the hallmarks of those days – the melodies, harmonies, simplicity, the energy and coherence, and the way it urges you to sing along. Featuring some of their best ‘oh yeah’ work, it remains a bit of a hidden treat.

80. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party

Even though their sound was changing by For Sale, the basic ideas were the same – simple songs of love and yearning and hurt with a smartass twist. It’s yet another song from the early half of their career with great melodies and playing that you can stick on at any time and have any person tapping their feet and humming along.

79. I Should Have Known Better

Super harmonica work opens this classic from A Hard Day’s Night. Once again there is nothing difficult here, it’s nothing more than pulling down an immortal hook from the ether and putting it out there. The guitars are almost in the background with vocals taking complete lead – aside from the nifty solo of course.

78. It’s Only Love

A slower one for now, notable for some tambourine, and some weird tremolo guitar work from Harrison. Lyrically it’s as basic as you could hope – whatever words fit the space and idea, slap them in, but it doesn’t matter when the tune is so infectious.

77. I’m So Tired

Even slower now, as Lennon makes us all as drowsy as he claims to be. Travelling, fame, seeing the same people and not seeing others – it’s hard man. Still, I like the difference between the verse and chorus yet how they are so flawlessly intertwined.

76. I Am The Walrus

I wasn’t going to include this one, mostly because it nonsense dressed up in importance. I’m not a fan of the drifty, dreamy vocal effects yet the performance is great, the central melody is good, and it has lots of interesting stuff going on in the background. I’m not as huge a fan of this one as many are in other words.

75. I’m Looking Through You

A soft rock ballad which almost becomes genius but instead just circles the edges. As always it’s mostly about the melody – verse, chorus, middle – all good. My favourite piece though is the hurried guitar line which bridges the parts.

74. I’m Only Sleeping

Another sleep song. I prefer this one to I’m So Tired. It’s another which almost makes it into my higher tier – the lyrics feel as if they were written by or for me, and I love the little pauses for bass. The backwards stuff is great too – there’s just something about these drowsy feeling songs that never quite sits right with me.

73. It’s All Too Much

It’s starts with some nonsense before that main organ riff kicks off. I love how the guitar follows that riff and then the vocals mimic it too. My favourite though is the drums -not just how crumbling tumbling they are, but the way the pace and volume subtly changes even as the beat remains the same.

72. Love You Too

It’s Harrison, it’s Revolver, so you know that means sitar. And because it’s me, you know that means all I can think of is videogame lava levels. Lots of throngs and rumbles and persistent, consistent beats, and best of all that sitar solo.

71. Martha My Dear

More music hall cheese from McCartney raised by strings and melodies. Even the brass somehow works, and you know how much I hate that stuff.

70. Mother Nature’s Son

There are so many songs on The White Album which I think would have been much better had they been written and recorded a couple of years earlier. This is a prime example – a lovely idyllic song which comes off as cold and distant instead of something truly beautiful. It’s a song I should adore, but that weird something that pollutes The White Album stains it too much. Listen to John Denver’s version – not necessarily better, but it takes things in the right direction.

69. Pepperland

Well, it’s not technically The Beatles, but as Martin was so integral to the group we’ll include it anyway. It’s another song that reminds me of something from a videogame, maybe a cut scene where the hero is finally reunited with his lover. I’ve no idea.

68. Revolution 1

Revolution 9 is not on my list. This one is – listen to that brutal guitar in the intro, then laugh as it gives away to such a gentle blues riff. It’s another of their songs which feels like it was written in a stoned haze off the cuff by a group of friends and performed and recorded right there and then. Except the production reminds us of the work which went into it. Lyrics, melody, bla bla.

67. She Said She Said

Revolver again and another classic guitar line. More great work from Ringo and interesting lyrics which recount some funny times with Peter Fonda and others. I think it’s the timing in this one which stands out for me, along with the guitar, the song slowing and arcing and stopping and starting.

66. Something

Though it appears on Abbey Road it feels like a White Album composition, having that same empty feeling. Even though it’s beautiful, catchy, and all the rest, it still has that dreary, sleepy feeling that puts me off somewhat. Again, the fact I like it in spite of this is enough to prove how good it is.

65. Tell Me Why

More fluff from A Hard Day’s Night – but like almost 100% of their fluff, the hooks are inescapable.

64. There’s A Place

More McCartney innocence – a song that seems like it was written for dreamers and for children, but it’s also fairly sexual so we’ll credit Lennon for that. Great harmonica, lovely melodies.

63. The Fool On The Hill

McCartney again, and more dreamy stuff. He also does all the recorder and piano stuff. There’s some psychedelia going on and a stumbling rhythm – it does veer a little too close to the dreary stuff mentioned above but manages to keep away from the edge.

62. Think For Yourself

I’ve always loved the free-form, bouncy nature of the bass, the tonal shifts, and the general variety brought around by Harrison striking out as a writer. The song feels like it avoids a standard verse and chorus structure (even though it doesn’t) and the lyrics are ambiguous enough to act as both a love song and a more personal attack on something larger.

61. Two Of Us

The opening track from Let It Be is a charming, folksy affair and a rather poignant love song. The lyrics mingle romanticism and nostalgia, hope, and although they feel personal they are entirely universal. The whistle end suggests an ease and sense that everything is good, which seems to oppose the mood in the band at the time.

60. Wait

There’s something weird about a lot of the songs on Rubber Soul – they’re still pop/rock commercial songs, but they veer off in unexpected ways from the norm, whether it be a strange melodic turn or a sudden momentary shift in tone or pace. Wait has all of these, my favourite the sudden change from ’till I’ and ‘come’ in the same line, leaping up the scale for a much higher note out of the blue. Harrison’s guitar is good too, bringing little pauses so emphasis the notion of waiting.

59. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Back before I really started listening to The Beatles, this is one of the songs I was most intrigued by – it had the coolest name and I wondered what it was all about. Certain friends who already knew the song and the band more than I did would always say how good it was, so it was quite hyped in my mind. Naturally when I first heard it, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I always assumed it was going to be either a bad-ass rock song, or some gripping ballad with blistering solos. What we get though is a downbeat pseudo ballad, minor key versus which pop away as the chorus comes. The guitar is subtle and introspective, matching the lyrics and themes. Maybe if I’d heard it before I’d heard about it, I’d like it more.

58. What You’re Doing

This is all about the nice riff and the sweet melodies running from start to finish. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, just another album track proving their non-hits could be hits too.

57. You’re Going To Lost That Girl

A great example of expanded call and repeat, it almost feels like something from a musical – you can just imagine the lead singer backed up by a group of cheesy, haranguing teens singing the repeat section. Those harmonies are epic, melding nicely with the melodies, but there isn’t a lot more to it.

Return in a few days for Part Two of my rundown, and feel free to add your favourites in the comments!