My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

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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.

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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

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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!

Classic Rock Band Tier – Ranking Classic Rock Bands

Greetings, Glancers. It seems like this tier malarkey is all the rage these days, and every blogger, vlogger, and their embittered uncle is thrusting their own flaccid list into the unexpected orifices of subscribers. Not one to be out-thrust, this post will be my own grading of a list of bands. Before I get to that, I should point out that I only found out about this nonsense via my watching of Become The Night – a Youtube channel run by a musician and metal fan called Mike. If you’re into reaction videos, metal, prog, insightful and entertaining rants on the current state of popular music, then it’s one of the more eloquent and knowledgeable channels out there, while remaining fun to watch.

Mike seems to have used a site called tiermaker which allows you to create your own lists and categories, and drag and drop items into each, before sharing on Facebook or wherever. That link above takes you to the same list Mike uses in his video. In my post I’m going to go through the same artists, but give my ranking on each. It’s partly a response to Mike’s video, partly because I’m curious to see where I would rank each act, and partly because I couldn’t think of anything more interesting to write about today. I should talk a little at the outset about where Mike and I differ. Obviously, obviously, each person is different, with our own tastes, preferences, baggage and all of that will greatly determine how we rank anything, no matter how objective we try to be. If we’re being 100% objective, there would be no point in doing the list because one ranking would be the official ranking. Mike is big into production when it comes to music – listen to any of his song reaction videos, any of his videos really, and he’ll harp on about production quite a lot – the mix, the tone, the tools – he knows a hell of a lot more about it than I ever will and that’s mainly because I simply don’t weigh production as highly as he does in terms of making a song. I’m being slightly tongue in cheek, and admittedly naive because obviously Production is one of the most important aspects of recording music. It’s just that for me, it lies a hell of a long way behind talent, melody, emotion, and lyrics.

Lyrics and emotion are two points where I differ from Mike, and maybe from a lot of other fans. Where Production for me roughly falls into three large categories – crap, okay, and good, Mike has a highly trained ear for the slightest flaw (perceived or otherwise) in a recording and mix – I don’t. My ear is much more attuned to emotion – I can easily tell if something is false or disingenuous, much more so than your typical listener and (without getting too wanky) I have a finely tuned degree of empathy when hearing and feeling any song. In Mike’s own (near enough) words, he doesn’t give a shit about lyrics and considers music and the playing of instruments as the most important element in creating a song.

He’s wrong of course, and is not accurately defining the difference between music and song, at least as both have existed since the start of the 20th Century. Sure a song doesn’t have to have lyrics to be considered a song, but most do, while a song usually needs (but not always) music before being called a song. Ignoring lyrics is essentially ignoring half of a song. It’s one of the prime examples of how music and listeners and artists have been dumbed down over time, to the point that most people ignore lyrics unless they’re deliberately provocative or ridiculously inane. Otherwise intelligent people have been taught to ignore words in songs, because words in songs have lost all meaning. If music is to become intelligent again and move away from its current mass-market, junk food approach, then lyrics need to be part of that equation. As always, I’m writing this off the cuff and chucking generalizations around – I’m aware that lyrics have been silly for most 20th and 21st Century popular music, but even The Beatles grew from childish declarations of love to often near God tier poetry. In Epic Poetry, lyrics told the stories with a cast of hundreds, sung to music which has been lost over time while the words remains. Popular music began showcasing more intelligent lyrics in the mid-sixties, but since it there have been more troughs than peaks in the art form, with the best lyrics tending to come from either cult acts or those with a small following. Various sub-genres of rap obviously focus heavily on words, perhaps moreso than the music. From a Business perspective, lyrics don’t sell, music does. It’s a little frustrating then when he berates modern acts (correctly) for being vain, reductive, and repetitive in terms of music and lyrics, but then completely dismisses the lyrics of some of the best songwriters in history. It’s partly because his favourite acts are shitty lyricists anyway (Dream Theater anyone?) It’s fine though, he mainly defines songs in terms of music while I define songs in terms of the whole package which comprises a song – a piece of music usually designed to be sung.

Enough bullshit for now, lets look at how his tier looked at the end – if you’re curious it’s probably best to watch his video first (plus you’ll probably find it more entertaining than this).

mike

That’s not the easiest to see, so here’s a more clear list:

S: Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Steely Dan. Queen. The Beatles

A: Cream. Creedence Clearwater Revival. David Bowie. Elton John. The Rolling Stones

B: ACDC. Aerosmith. Billy Joel. Deep Purple. Jimi Hendrix. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rush

C: The Who. Fleetwood Mac. Black Sabbath

D: The Eagles. Grateful Dead. Bob Dylan

F: The Doors

Naturally, posting a list like this to a large audience on the internet is going to lead to all manner of angry frothing and gesturing. How dare someone else have an opinion, especially one that is so different from mine! Mike has a much larger audience than I do, so I imagine he’s got a lot of hate over some of these choices. Because people are precious of the things they love, and because people are dicks. I disagree with some of his choices, as I will show in my own ranking, but I understand that he is who he is and I’m not here to change his mind. Or anyone else’s. As always, leave a comment here and share your own ranking and reasoning. But there’s no sense in arguing because this is almost entirely subjective and based on our own shit. If we try to be objective, then we have to fall back on tangible metrics such as sales, chart history, longevity, influence, followed up by less tangible stuff like musicianship, lyrics, originality. I’m not sure who even came up with this list of artists, or how they define each tier – I think there are too many tiers and I would replace a few of these acts with ones I deem much more suitable, but I’ll cover these ones anyway.

So lets follow Mike’s ranking from the bottom. The Doors – it was pretty obvious from the outset that Mike would stick The Doors here. He’s not a lyrics guy, and perhaps more than any other act on this list The Doors relied more on lyrics and atmosphere than music. Being a lyrics and atmosphere guy, I rank The Doors much higher. The band were also massively influential (maybe more in terms of redefining what a front man can be) in terms of lyricism and songwriting, they’re undoubtedly one of the most iconic acts of all time, and of course they sold and charted a bunch and are still spoken of highly today. I love a lot of The Doors songs and for a while they were one of my favourite bands. I fully admit that a lot of their catalogue is a little iffy – I credit that to the use of keyboards more than anything else. I agree that Morrison doesn’t have the greatest voice from any technical standpoint, but it continues to moisten panties in every generation which is more than I can say for most vocalists. As much as I like The Doors, there’s really only a handful of songs which I can say I both love and which had an impact on a wider scale. For example, Love Streets is probably my favourite song by The Doors, but it’s not one you ever hear people talking about it. Ray Manzarek was a beast on the keys, it’s just that the sound now feels dated and cheesy. Densmore – a decent enough drummer, nothing special. Krieger had some great riffs and solos and as a band they all experimented and stretched the boundaries of popular music – something Mike claims to pine for.

Next up, The Eagles. In what is going to be a recurring theme for this post, I’ll have to take a step back and state that I’m not American. In my part of the world and in the time that I grew up in, no-one gave a shit about The Eagles. They made Hotel California and… that’s it? I know they were a massively successful band but I think most of that success was internal to the USA. For whatever reason they never crossed the shores to me. They’re a band whose back catalogue I have wanted to get into, and I’ll probably get to them in the future on this blog, but for now they are looking like an F. The same will go for The Grateful Dead, except they don’t even have Hotel California. Bob Dylan, I’ve never been a huge fan of and in most cases the songs he’s written that I have liked, have been performed by other artists whose versions I much prefer. Again, he’s someone I know I need to listen to and will. Known for his lyrics, I’m hoping those will have something I can enjoy and distract me from his voice. Either way, I probably wouldn’t include Dylan on this list at all.

The Who haven’t been given enough credit by Mike, presumably because he hasn’t heard enough by them (admitting again that many of the bands I will rank low will be because I haven’t heard a lot of their stuff). The Who are arguably the most energetic rock band of all time – Mike mentions that ACDC are ranked higher for him because he appreciates their energy even if he doesn’t like many of their songs. The Who knock ACDC out of the park in terms of energy. Keith Moon is unquestionably one of the great drummers, Roger Daltry’s voice can strip paint and lull a heart-attack victim to sleep, while Pete Townsend is at the forefront of progressive music. Of course Townsend would class his stuff as Rock Operas rather than concept or progressive albums, but they fall under the same wider umbrella of telling a larger story with linking themes and songs. The band is rarely mentioned as pioneers, but I think they influenced both metal and punk as well as rock overall. Admittedly they don’t have as many hits as some bands here, but their sales and longevity speak for themselves. Great lyrics too.

Fleetwood Mac is a band I should love but I haven’t bothered going from album to album yet. I do love quite a lot of their songs so I can only assume there will be others I’d like, and they crossed more successfully than other bands that bridge between rock and pop. Black Sabbath, as Mike points out, are probably the first metal band. At least in terms of what we think of as Metal today. We all know Ozzy isn’t the most appealing of vocalists nowadays, but back then he could belt it out and that’s what it was all about – being loud, being aggressive, and being in your face. Tony Iommi is probably second only to Jimmy Page in creating memorable guitar riffs. While the band quickly ran out of steam, their first few albums remain essential parts of metal. They’re far from my favourite band, but I appreciate what they did, the ground they broke, the fans they awakened. I take them more as a greatest hits band – a few songs from each album would make one single great album, leaving the majority of stuff I pass over.

The B and A tiers are where I will change most stuff around. Starting with ACDC. I’ve never been a fan – I think they’re the prime example of pop music under the guise of rock. I feel the same way towards ACDC as I do towards hair metal – sure ACDC is more authentic, but it’s marginal. ACDC is just a better Status Quo. They’re the Nickleback of the 70s and 80s. I just can’t take them seriously, with their lyrics like a bad Carry On movie or a thirteen year old boy’s idea of sex. Sure they have some memorable riffs and the odd decent song, and they’ve sold more albums than is humanly possible… doesn’t mean they’re any good. I’ve never liked any of their singers either – ever skinned a fox? While it’s still alive? Neither have I, but that’s what I think Brian and Bon sound like. Only their sales keep them from being lower.

Aerosmith I used to like when I was a kid. They had a couple of decent albums in the late 70s, then again in the early 90s. I can’t say too many of their songs have really stayed with me over time – while I like them, they’ve fallen away while songs from other bands have kept afloat. Mostly a fringe band for me, I don’t have anything bad to say, but I don’t have any massive positives either, beyond liking (not loving) a lot of their songs. Billy Joel is an artist who, until a few years ago, I had no idea had sold so many records. This must come down to not being American again. As an outsider I knew Uptown Girl, and that one about not starting fires, and that was about it. Yet he is somehow one of the biggest selling artists of all time? How did I not know this? Is it like Garth Brooks syndrome and it’s only idiots buying multiple copies of his stuff? Actually, let me check Wikipedia to see if I know any of his other stuff – there must be songs I know that I wasn’t aware were by him. Nope. There are songs there which I have probably heard, but don’t recognise from name only. He’s another I’ll have to delve into on the blog. For the purposes of this post though, he’ll be going low.

Deep Purple was always a dad rock band to me, even when I was a kid. There was another kid on my street when I was growing up, and his dad loved Deep Purple. They were always playing when I was in his house. Incidentally, it was in that house that I first watched (most of) John Carpenter’s The Thing. Another example of a movie being put on and then us sneaking in unattended. Anyway, it took me a while to actually listen to Deep Purple for my own purposes, and in truth I still haven’t heard most of their stuff. I know their biggest songs, but little beyond that. Jimi Hendrix on the other hand I know fairly well. There’s no doubting Hendrix’s skill as a guitarist and there are quite a few songs I like. The problem is there are very few songs of his I truly love. He broke ground as a front man – ground which remains to this day largely, and sadly untouched in rock and metal. As a vocalist though he was quite limited, but I think it’s his style of singing which gets on my nerve more than his actual voice – a languid funk which never changes from song to song. Hendrix’s songs also come almost entirely from within the psychedelic period and are therefore of their time much more than many other artists here. If he’d been alive longer I have no doubt he would have branched into other territory and made stuff I liked more.

Lynyrd Skynrd. Another quintessential US band and therefore another band I don’t really give a shit about. Mike’s a Southern guy so I can understand him liking this lot. For me, there’s Free Bird and nothing else. Rush is a band people have been telling me to listen to for so long that I’ve given up caring. Maybe I’ll listen one day. The few songs I’ve heard have had elements I’ve liked. But they’ve also had Geddy Lee. I have little doubt I would like Rush if I took them time to listen to their stuff properly – I just haven’t done that, or been given the impetus to do so. Into A and Cream – nope. They didn’t last nearly long enough or sell nearly enough or chart highly enough to be in this tier. Sure, they were influential, but mainly in setting up acts a few months later who were much more influential and much better. Creedence Clearwater Revival – I used to think they were a made up band, like Spinal Tap. Then I found out they were real. I still didn’t care. Another band for Southern US guys trapped in time – a poor man’s, no, a destitute man’s Led Zep. Honestly, I only know a handful of their songs – their covers I don’t care for, Proud Mary annoys the nips off me, but I quite like Bad Moon Rising. 

Man, I should have made a video for this instead of typing. But that would take more effort. Bowie next – if you follow my blog you’ll have seen me going through the Bowie albums – I’m up to number 86 or something by now. I think it’s clear by now that Bowie is someone I appreciate and respect more than I actually like. He does have some songs I love, I have found some songs I’ve liked. I’m not a fan of his vocals or delivery, and too much of his stuff is in the glam genre which I like as much as I like Country music (not at all). But credit to changing the game, to always trying something new stylistically, and for pushing boundaries. Elton John I probably wouldn’t include on the list at all – he hasn’t been rock since the early 70s, and even then it was touch and go. I can’t think of a single Elton John song I love, and there are very few I like. I haven’t listened to a single album by him so there could be a treasure trove of stuff out there, but I’m very aware of all of his singles.

The Rolling Stones are wildly hit and miss for me. I can’t remember if I’ve posted it yet or not, but I am starting to go through their albums again. I’ve listened to all of their albums up until the mid 70s before, but they didn’t make an impact on me. 10 years later I’m doing it again to see if my opinion has changed. Just that short bluesy stuff doesn’t do a lot for me personally, and they had so many covers and almost covers in their early days that it’s a slog to get through. Jagger is a great front man without being a great singer, and the rest of the band are just okay. But they’ve sold so much and they’re still headlining, and some people genuinely prefer them to The Beatles. Led Zep – you know my feelings – I think they’re the greatest classic rock band of all time. Pink Floyd – immense in all the tangible categories, great lyrics and emotion too. I like patches of their early and later stuff, but it’s that run from Dark Side to The Wall which cements them – four flawless albums. Steely Dan – I haven’t posted it yet, but I have already listened to and written about one of their albums (A Royal Scam I believe) and as far as I know that’s the only stuff by them I’ve heard. I need to know more to adequately comment, but based on that single album they’re not top tier. Queen are as big as they’ve ever been and their songs have already proven to stand the test of time. The Beatles I probably wouldn’t have included here, but they were the turning point so it’s fine. Either way you cut it, they’re top tier anything. Lets take a look at my ranking:

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A little different then. And because it’s not very clear, and because I don’t like the categories, I’m going to rejig it a little below:

A: Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. The Beatles

B: Queen. The Who. The Rolling Stones. David Bowie. The Doors.

C: ACDC. Aerosmith. Deep Purple. Jimi Hendrix. Fleetwood Mac. Black Sabbath

D: Cream. Elton John. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rush. Billy Joel.

E: The Eagles. Grateful Dead. Bob Dylan. Steely Dan. Creedence Clearwater Revival.

That looks better. Or worse. Who knows. If it was me, and because I am me it most likely is, I would have replaced Elton with Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles with Alice Cooper, Steely Dan with Thin Lizzy or Motorhead, Billy Joel with Santana, The Grateful Dead with The Kinks.

Right, I’m done with this. Think differently? Chuck in a comment. Want me to do more reaction type posts to Youtubers or lists or other nonsense? Tell me to. Want me to listen to any songs by any of the artists I’ve ranked low above? Let me know and I will. Adios for now!

 

The Nightman Scoring System(c) – A Hard Day’s Night!

 Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

It’s number 3 and the album I consider to be when the band truly found their stride and their own voice. Check out my original review here.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (The first truly great Beatles album, loved by all)

Originality: 4 (The signs of originality in playing, recording, and writing make sudden, small leaps on this record. There are no covers, giving the band the chance to show off their own abilities in full flight, though they are still finding their direction. Here they move away from the blues laden tracks on the first two albums, and make a selection of pop hits instead but give new twists and flavours on the sounds and content of such songs).

Influence: 5 (Like most of the Beatles albums, this is a huge influence on everything that came after, but this was the first album which showed that a band could do everything themselves without relying on exterior input. The variety of styles, the look and feel, the sound, the lyrics, everything here has influenced countless works since).

Musical Ability: 5 (Not only do the band solidify their playing, but they expand with new ideas, instruments, and they cement their ability to play as a group).

Lyrics: 4 (Although most of the songs still are based on love and romance, there are the odd moments and perspectives which eschew conventions and show that the writing was greatly improving).

Melody: 5 (There is a huge leap here from the first couple of albums, possibly by moving towards a more pop oriented sound, and by having free rein to write whatever they wanted. The harmonies shine through meaning that depending on whose voice you choose to listen to, each song can be heard in completely different ways).

Emotion: 4 (The band step up the emotional content bravely here by baring themselves like few groups had before, not only showing their cynicism but their unabashed love).

Resilience: 5 (Again, 50 years later it still sounds better than much of what is around today, more vital, more important, and will still be discussed in another 50).

Vocals: 4 (Each member excels again, while there are a few moments which drag my score down from maximum such as John’s eunuch moment).

Coherence: 4 (The band’s first fully original album holds together wonderfully, nothing sounds out-of-place, and the overall sense of a romantic chase and the ups and downs within is potent).

Mood: 4 (The record makes you want to dance, to sing along, to write, to pick up an instrument and play along).

Production: 5 (This is the first Beatles album which sounds like a unique Beatles album – no other band could have made these songs in this way. Everything is just right).

Effort: 5 (A lot of effort went into this, especially considering the film was being done around the same time, as well as continual writing and touring, and the mix of breathless endeavor and weariness is apparent).

Relationship: 4 (Fits nicely with the previous albums, stands on its own, and blends seamlessly into the next).

Genre Relation: 4 (It’s pop, it’s rock, it sounds like many of the bands of the time, but more importantly it sounds like it is improving upon, and almost making a mockery of those other bands).

Authenticity: 5 (It’s the sound of a band coming into their own, throwing off the shackles of convention, embracing expectation and confidently acknowledging that they will surpass all expectation. Some may go 4 here, I couldn’t accept anything lower).

Personal: 5 (Not my favourite Beatles album, but it can’t be anything less than a 5).

Miscellaneous: 5 (Great stories from the recording, an oft-imitated cover, a film which should have won several Oscars, a classic).

Total: 92/100

I mean… I’m surprised by that score. It’s by no means my favourite Beatles album but that score is almost perfect and you wonder how anything could get any better. If someone asked me to give a score out of 5, I’d say 5, out of 10 I’d probably say 10, out of 100 I suppose 90 or late 80s would have been my answer. So far my scores are on track with my personal feelings, so that either means I’m a genius or the system is balls. Or somewhere in between, who the hell knows. At the very least, this mirrors the general critical consensus, but that’s not saying much either. No matter which way you slice it, this is one of the best albums of all time and the score reflects that.

Fantasy Festival Line Up – Day Three

It’s our last day – lets make it a good one. That stranger you spent the night with… I’m sorry to say that you won’t keep in contact with them, but that’s fine – just let it be a beautiful 24 hour romance and long may it remain in your memory.

10 – 11: John Carpenter

I think this one could be a possibility given John’s recent touring and focus on music. I’d love to see the great man live and while I feel that an indoor, night time setting would suit his music better, there’s no way he’s going to headline here and a morning blast of Halloween or some of his Lost Tracks would be superb.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

11 – 12: Lovebites

My favourite recent band, there’s no reason why Lovebites shouldn’t be huge. Well, people are idiots, so that’s the main reason they won’t be as successful as they should be. They are a Japanese metal band, but get this – they’re all girls – shock! And double shock, they’re amazing musicians, playing face-melting power metal! I jest of course, but the focus on the band is usually that they are female. Regardless, this is an injection of pure adrenaline and delight, a throwback to the glory days with a renewed sense of fun and exuberance.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

12 – 2: Natalie Imbruglia

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here – Natalie Imbruglia is the finest pop star of her generation, to the extent that pop star is too cheap a term for her. She has a huge array of hits released and otherwise, and is an intelligent writer and performer who doesn’t get any of the credit she deserves. A sunny lunchtime outdoor gig would be perfect for her blend of angst anthems and melancholic pop.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

2 – 4: The Delays

While we’re on the subject of pop perfection, The Delays are another band who came out at the same time as all of the other ‘The’ bands, but surpass them all in terms of sheer melody. The Delays see one of the finest vocalists in the business – Greg Gilbert – lending his incredible falsetto to some of the most infectious hooks you’ll ever hear. Imagine The Beach Boys crossed with Nirvana and you’re somewhere close to the mark. Unfortunately the band hasn’t released anything in 9 years due to family commitments followed by Greg getting cancer. He’s still fighting, and I’m holding out for a glorious return.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

4 – 6: Joni Mitchell

Maybe the greatest living singer songwriter, Joni Mitchell has had her (un)fair share of health issues in the last years but in her early years everything she touched was gold. I’m a much bigger fan of her folk stuff than her later jazz and blues stuff, but a late afternoon 2 hour set from this Goddess would strike the hippy chord which all festivals need.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

6 – 8: The Gathering

I mentioned Natalie Imbruglia being an underrated pop star – The Gathering are the best unknown band in the world, an incredible collection of artists who change with each release and can variously be called a metal band, an atmospheric rock band, post-prog, shoegaze etc. I’ve reviewed most of their stuff on this blog already and every music fan should definitely check them out. The band has had line-up changes over the years but for the purposes of this festival I’d love to have Anneke Van Giersbergen and Silje Wergeland on stage together like at their 25th anniversary show. They are definitely a band to enjoy in the dark, so this time of the day should suit them perfectly.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 1

8 – 10: The Beatles

What is this? The Beatles, not headlining? Blasphemy! Well, yes, but I rate my headliner higher and would want to see them more than the Fab Four. The Beatles stopped performing live just as they were hitting their peak in musical releases meaning a tonne of their best songs were never performed by the original band together. But this is fantasy, so my show will see The Beatles alive, well, and together, playing songs from their entire catalogue with no technical concerns. Surely that is the Holy Grail of all music fans?

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

10 – 12: Michael Jackson

There was never going to be anyone else to close my original festival. Jackson is the greatest and to me personally had the biggest impact on me musically. It’s rare a day passes that I don’t either listen to or play one of his songs in my head. He was a born headliner and he was cruelly taken just before what was sure to be a glorious tour. Here he is free to play whatever the hell he wants with as huge a stage show as he wants, and there’s no-one else in the history of music I’d want to see live more.

Number Of Times Seen Live: 0

Let us know in the comments who else you would add to you festival line-up!

The Nightman Scoring System © – With The Beatles!

 

As it’s my music month, I’m going to post a few of these. Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

I continue going back over The Beatles’ albums, again, with their second UK release With The Beatles. Click this link for my original review. It’s not my favourite album of their’s – the weaker rushed out cousin to the first, but it’s still the bloody Beatles. Check out my scores below.

Sales: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was a smash hit).

Chart: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was a smash hit).

Critical: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was highly praised at the time, and is still voted as being one of the best albums of all time today. Retrospective reviews have been less positive so some people could go 4 or even 3 on this. I’m tempted to go 4, but I’ll leave it).

Originality: 3 (This is really more of the same after Please Please Me, hardly surprising when it was recorded 4 months after their debut. There isn’t any progression, which couldn’t really be expected, but even so I have to give a more average score in this category. The more lenient may go with 4 but 3 seems like the best choice).

Influence: 3 (Similar to their debut, but again the impact is decreased simply by virtue of the fact that Please Please Me was recorded first. If you’re being extra nice go 4, but I think 3 is most accurate).

Musical Ability: 4 (Again, there can’t be much progression in playing in four months, but here they solidify their various styles and ability to play together).

Lyrics: 3 (Like their debut, there isn’t a lot to speak of here for the eight original songs – another collection of love songs, this time with more focus on the darker side. They fit the music, they rhyme when they need to, and do everything else expected of simple pop tracks, and verge close at times to being much too cliche).

Melody: 3 (The original tracks here don’t quite match up to those on the debut, though there are still plenty of wonderful moments, but the covers are hit and miss. 3 -5 is the range here, but the lower ebb seems more reasonable).

Emotion: 3 (The tracks are given the full Beatles energetic treatment, and again the tracks are mostly pleasant without truly gripping us in a vice grip of emotion – no highs or lows, just playing for the love of playing).

Resilience: 5 (Again, 50 years on this is still being discussed, although the covers are not seen as definitive and the originals are not as strong as on other albums. Can’t go lower than a 3, surely).

Vocals: 4 (Lennon has stronger output here than the others, McCartney getting minus points for Till There Was You, Harrison does a good job in his first solo performance, while Ringo does a great job on his lead performance).

Coherence: 3 (This one does suffer from sounding more like a random collection of hits, although most of the tracks fit together in a gentle rock style rather than the full on energetic blast of the debut).

Mood: 3 (The mood is less distinct here than in the debut, with less of the spirit of the time coming through, and less of the japes of being a band made clear to the listener).

Production: 3 (For some reason this one sounds a little more tinny, twangy, cheaper than the debut, although every part is clear).

Effort: 3 (Not as high a score as the debut as many of these tracks were leftovers or basic covers of already oft covered hits, but by and large the band give it their all in the playing).

Relationship: 3 (The songs here don’t clasp on to the listener as firmly as those on the debut, although this does sound like the slightly uglier twin of Please Please Me and fits well with the early set of Beatles records).

Genre Relation: 4 (More of the same, with the band treading familiar water to other bands of the time, yet not truly striking out on their own).

Authenticity: 3 (Unlike the debut, this sounds and feels more like a cash in on recent success rather than a true Beatles album, although there are enough twists and moments to prevent it from sounding like any other band or a band at odds with themselves).

Personal: 3 (It’s not a great album in any respect in my eyes, with much less punch than the debut, less ideas, less passion, but still plenty of strong songs. Hardcore fans will go 4 or 5, I can understand the 4 but 5 seems like a lie. Only haters will give less than a 3).

Miscellaneous: 3 (Nice cover work again, not much else to say here. As always, this will range from 1-5 for the individual).

Total: 71/100

A lesser album in my eyes than the original, and the overall score reflects that, knocking it down to a mid-B grade if we’re talking more traditional scoring. I should have said in the previous post that some people will disagree with the 20% per grade scoring. Usually I wouldn’t do things that way either, and most schools etc don’t follow that pattern, but that opens a different can of worms;  Should A grade only be 90-100, or 85-100? Should it fall like 0-30 is an E, 31-45 is a D, 46-69 is a C, 70-84 is a B? Who knows? What I will say is that you can’t give a 0 in any category, so even if you score 1 in each category, you still score 20/100. That’s the lowest possible, and I can’t see anyone getting it so maybe an E grade should be 30? Regardless, that’s not what we’re here for – I’m just giving a score out of 100 so I’ll leave any grading to your personal tastes. Once I’ve scores a few more albums, you’ll see a pattern emerge between them.

In any case, this score seems okay. If I wasn’t using these categories and was asked to give a score out of 100 for this album, depending on the day I think I’d give anywhere between high 60s and high 70s. I don’t think I’d ever go 80 or above. Let us know in the comments how you would score the album based on the system – I’m curious to see how other scores fit and if any patterns emerge.

The Nightman Scoring System © – Please Please Me!

 

February is music month for The Spac Hole, for no reason other than I’ve written a crapload of posts about music and what to clean out my drafts section. As it’s music month, I’m going to post a few of these. Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

This time I’m doing the first album by those purveyors of peace, The B Sharps, and their first album Please Please Me. If you want to check out my actual review of their album – check this link. We start with The Beatles because – everyone knows them, and they are kind of the benchmark for all modern music and for the album as a format. Every band is measured against The Beatles in terms of success and acclaim, so if I can score all of their albums we can see how everyone else competes. As for my score, based on the system, read on my friend.

Sales: 5 (Like most Beatles albums this sold roughly a bazillion copies, and while it may not have sold as well as their others, I don’t think you can score this less than a 5).

Chart: 5 (Like most Beatles albums, this went to Number 1 in roughly a bazillion countries, at least where the concept of charts existed. Again, no way you can score this less than a 5).

Critical: 5 (Although later releases garnered much greater critical success, this was lauded at the time, and is still praised now, 50 years later, so it can’t really be any less than a 5. If you’re being very strict and comparing it to their other work in terms of critical consensus, then maybe you can go with a 4).

Originality: 3 (The band, even on their debut, were experimenting with what it meant to record, release, and BE an album, but still the old tropes of including covers to bump up the number of tracks were used. The idea of a band writing all their own tracks and playing own instruments was not quite there yet, but we can see the beginnings here. As for the songs, there isn’t a huge much of originality. I can see people going higher than a 3, but in truth this echoed much of fifties rock, albeit with a new sensibility).

Influence: 4 (The first Beatles albums were released in such quick succession, so it’s difficult to determine which album truly was the most influential. Nevertheless, the whole idea of the band, the recording, the playing style etc etc is on display here and primarily went on to influence a whole host of local and international imitators. People who think their stronger influences came later may go lower).

Musical Ability: 4 (While there isn’t anything terribly difficult or complex here, the playing is almost brutal in its energy, showing an extreme ease and comfort to the playing – signs that they could do a lot more if called for, even if it was not called for here. I can see hardcore musicians going lower on this, and general fans who may not have a technical background going higher).

Lyrics: 3 (The original songs are mostly a collection of love songs, either highlighting the joys, pitfalls, or depressions of the feeling. The lyrical genius was still brewing, but there are moments which show what was around the corner. Not to sound condescending, but those with less of a literary background or who don’t usually pay attention to lyrics may go higher, likewise snobs may go lower).

Melody: 4 (With neat twists on the covers, and a solid run of infectious originals, the melodies are strong, but not yet reaching the peaks which would come later. I imagine most will go four or five here, I don’t think you could go lower than three).

Emotion: 3 (There isn’t a great amount of emotional content here, most of the focus being on raw energy and the sheer joy of playing, but again there are moments of cynicism and tenderness. The soppy and the big fans or those with nostalgia will go higher, but 3-4 seems the most accurate).

Resilience: 5 (I’ve changed the name of this category – basically means how long does the music last over time – do we still care one or five years later? Fifty years on we are still listening to it, and although it doesn’t hold up as well as some other Beatles albums, how many other fifty year old albums do so many people still listen to? If you’re being harsh and saying most people only listen to a handful of songs rather than the whole album, you could go with four but I can’t see anyone going lower).

Vocals: 4 (There are a few tame, lame moments here, but on the whole this is powerful stuff, from McCartney’s stonking opener, to Lennon’s growling closer. The harmonies work well, still a work in progress, but all the hallmarks of their best moments are on display. Hardcore fans will likely go five regardless, and I doubt anyone would go less than four).

Coherence: 4 (Whilst not yet an album as an art form, this is definitely more than just a collection of hits and covers largely held together by the group’s energy and synergy – having played and toured together for some time, these songs roll out of the studio easily and almost feel like a set list. While some of the covers can sound out of place, it is the original hits which pull the album together, highlighting a growing writing partnership. This category will be difficult for some to understand and could garner some anomalies, but three to five should be the norm).

Mood: 3 (I don’t think the band set out to create one mood or style with their debut, again that would come later, but most of the tracks succeed in what they want to achieve – the rockers make us want to rock, the pop ones make us sing along, while the more downbeat tracks are the weaker link, leaving us uncertain).

Production: 4 (Again this feels loose, almost like a live record, and the little touches and ‘mistakes’ left in lend a charming quality where they would normally grate. The frenetic pace of the album soaks through, partly down to the lightning fast recording of the album. Nothing is drowned out, and this feels like one of the first true, raw, rock albums, leaving behind the crooners of the past. Like some of the categories, Production can be reliant on personal taste so the scores here could vary).

Effort: 4 (Most of the effort which went into the making of this album came in the preceding months and years of touring and perfecting their craft, meaning that the recording, while fast and frantic, was largely problem free. Then again, the schedule was frantic, and the band were able to decide upon the likes of Twist And Shout as new entries for the album. This one is a difficult one to gauge without a lot of investigation so people will most likely go with gut feeling and what info they have).

Relationship: 4 (This is the atypical early Beatles album, and the surrounding releases are in the same vein. Being born two decades after it was released means it’s not the easiest thing to relate to, but for those around at the time, this was symbolic of the spirit of swinging 60s Liverpool and of the many bands who were plying their trade in the clubs and pubs around the Mersey. Four or five seem the most obvious votes).

Genre Relation: 4 (Many merseybeat bands were trying to make it big around the time this was released, and while many had regular gigs, fans, and the occasional hit single, Please Please Me took the genre to the next level. It is a merge of pop, rock, and blues, combining a variety of styles to create what would become one of the first true rock albums. The Beatles would continue to improve upon this with each release, and many people took this as their inspiration to start a ‘rock band’).

Authenticity: 5 (Possibly the most authentic album in the Beatles catalogue, this is the true sound of a band eager to make an impact, to make it big, and to play for the love of playing. They take no prisoners with their style, the ‘mistakes’ mentioned earlier are left in to give a more true account of what it is to be an artist. It would look unreasonable to give this less than a 5).

Personal: 4 (This is unlikely to be picked by many as the best Beatles album, but as a debut there are few better, or with such an impact. If only some of the lesser covers had been replaced by some of the stronger original material which was left off, this would have been a 5 in my eyes. I do skip quite a few songs when I listen, so it can’t be a five for me).

Misc: 4 (Memorable album cover, interesting liner notes, a lot of history and background, make me give a 4 in the vague, miscellaneous category. I imagine this category will be used by most as an additional personal category/cheat and an excuse to bump up an album they love or hold back one they don’t.)

Total: 81/100

There we have it – our first baseline – the first album by the band most consider as the best ever, gets an 81. I think I’ve been fair and logical in my assessments and while 81 sounds low, I think it is valid. If we break down our score into standard even A-E grades, 81-100 would be classed as an A, or an overall 5/5. I personally think it’s only a B grade Album, both in terms of their own work and music in general, and that most scores are inflated by the band’s significance, an 81 or A grade is fine. They just scraped in. Of course with this hitting the highest grade, I imagine my scores for most of the subsequent albums will also fall within this tier, with probably two or three falling slightly lower.

What do you think of the album? What do you think of the system? How do you grade, and how many minutes will it take you to realise the error of your ways and adopt my system instead? Let us know in the comments!