Chart Music Through The Years – 1963

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

‘I wish it was the sixties, I wish we could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen’. But what did happen in 1963, Mr Spindly Yorke? Things, that’s what! These things – In Asia, there were troubling rumblings in Vietnam, Japan saw it’s first Anime show hit the screens; in Europe Lamborghini was born, James Bond made his first official movie, and Hindley and Brady began terrorizing the Moors, while in the US the Civil Rights movement saw important moments amidst violence and riots with Martin Luther King telling us he had a dream, and JFK being assassinated.

In music, the world was about to be shocked into rock and roll goodness by four lads from Liverpool as The Beatles released their first singles and album, leading to a massive influx of British bands. The Rolling Stones were signed, Patsy Cline died, and both The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan released their second albums. The music industry was still dominated by old school jazz and country artists, each covering and re-recording each others’ songs, but that was all due to change thanks to the British Invasion and numerous cultural shifts across the globe. The times they were a changing. What of October’s Top 10 singles? Read on, my young Padawan.

1. Brian Poole And The Tremeloes: Do You Love Me

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If it was good for Jazz and Country, then why not R’n’B? British Invasion bands were in such demand at this time that most of them supplemented their own material with covers of recent hits, this one being a fairly a standard attempt. It’s energetic and fast, but all of these covers begin to merge into one after a while.

2. Crystals: Then He Kissed Me

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I’ve never heard of the group or the song from the title, but that opening riff sounds familiar. It sounds quite dated, but has a Supremes feel too. Ahh yeah, this was in Goodfellas, that’s where I recognise it from. It’s a nice enough song but pretty twee and non-eventful.

3. The Beatles: She Loves You

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One of my favourites by The Beatles (I don’t think I’ve done a Favourite Beatles Songs post yet, get on that…). Glorious from start to finish, melodies, the howls, the guitar echoing the ‘yeah yeah yeah’ sound, perfect.

4. Roy Orbison: Blue Bayou

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As a guitar player you’d think I’d know more Roy Orbinson songs, but I really don’t. I didn’t recognise the title of this one either, and from the opening verse I don’t think I’ve heard it. It’s a nice enough ballad, not too sure about the backing vocals, but I do like the shift in Roy’s vocals from deep to high.

5. Adam Faith: The First Time

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I was expecting another slow, soft ballad, but this has some thumping percussion and growled vocals. It definitely has a rougher edge which presumably was influenced by The Beatles etc. An okay song, again nothing that is going to become lodged in my memory.

6. Trini Lopez: If I Had A Hammer

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Hmm. Fast, getting something familiar from it. Wait, I thought Trini was a woman. It’s another light, catchy song. A little repetitive, but fun throughout. Seems to be some sort of protest song from the snippets of lyrics I’m picking up.

7. Gerry And The Pacemakers: You’ll Never Walk Alone

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Well, obviously I know this one. As a Liverpool FC fan, we sing this song at every game. This is still my favourite version. It’s a wonderful anthem, regardless of its sporting ties, with great message and powerful melodies to really punch the emotion skywards. And of course any swelling of strings gets top votes from me.

8. The Shadows: Shindig

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As a guitar player, you’d think I’d know more songs by The Shadows, but I don’t. This is good stuff, great guitars, good beat, but isn’t it a bit odd to have an instrumental song in the top 10 – in the 60s at least? Sure with Dance music being all the rage these days, and with pop music being nonsense, words are pretty much an afterthought.

9. Tommy Roe: Everybody

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Another foot stomper with prominent guitar and drums. I don’t believe I know this one either. Pretty catchy again, more oohing, something which has appeared on quite a few of these songs so far. Not bad.

10. Shirley Bassey: I Who Have Nothing

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A dramatic intro, with a little bit of Leone Western to it, though a few years before his big hits. Booming voice. Silence. Haunting string backing. Very nice, though this particular recording I’m listening too is of dire quality. Beast of a voice for those loud moments. There isn’t a lot to the song, and the actual vocal melodies aren’t memorable, but it’s Bassey so you know she’s going to blast it out.

So then, 1963? What do these 10 songs tell us about the year as a whole? We know Beatlemania was on the rise, and as such we have a number of Scouse written or influenced tracks, along with other British artists. We can tell it is a transitional period as many of the songs here are still hanging on to what had come before while trying their damndest to compete with the fresh young upstarts coming from the Mersey. That seems reasonable as The Beatles scored the biggest selling single of the year with She Loves You and a bunch of their other songs and songs which were influenced by them became hits while you still had traditional ballads, Swing, and Country songs stinking up da place. From a quality perspective, are these 10 songs indicative of 1963? Basically, yes – The Beatles released their first two albums which ushered in the aforementioned wave of imitators – with new bands being signed up left, wrong, and centre, and with already established artists covering their hits and trying their hand at the new sound. For an alternative Top 10 songs of 1963, have a gander at these boyos.

  1. The Beatles: From Me To You
  2. The Beach Boys: Surfin’ USA
  3. The Rolling Stones: I Wanna Be Your Man
  4. Johnny Cash: Ring Of Fire
  5. Louie Louie: Kingsmen
  6. Cliff Richard And The Shadows: Summer Holiday
  7. The Miracles: You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me
  8. Boots Randolph: Yakety Sax
  9. Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
  10. The Beatles: It Won’t Be Long

Yes, I know I cheated there with multiple Beatle entries, but what are you gonna do? My list isn’t too different from the actual Top 10 so there is plenty of good music for you to experience if you haven’t already, though as most are established hits I expect 99% of readers will know these songs inside out. As always, let us know what your musical memories of 1963 are by sharing in the comments. Which artists or songs have I missed? Do any of the tracks featured here have a special meaning for you? Let us know below!

Best Song:1965

Official Nominations:

The Shadow Of Your Smile (The Sandpiper): Johnny Mendel and Paul Francis Webster’s oft covered hit won the award this year, a gentle, dreary song – the original choral version isn’t the best, with several crooners and a wide range of performers putting stronger spins to it over the year. The melancholy shines through on the original though, and thankfully the choral isn’t all that bad to render it unlistenable.

The Ballad Of Cat Ballou (Cat Ballou): Johnny Livingstone and Mack David provided the central tune to Cat Ballou, a rip-roaring feisty track with humorous lyrics, veering between a typical cowboy tune and sea shanty. The melodies aren’t that strong, but the energy and fun spirit keep your interest.

I Will Wait For You (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg): Michael Legrand and Jacques Remy is a tear-jerker which again has been covered by all the crooners, and of course, in Futurama. The lyrics, vocals, and great composition come together to give a uniquely tragic song which instantly recalls moments from the film. And from Futurama.

The Sweetheart Tree (The Great Race): A calming moment in an otherwise frantic and silly movie, the song opens gently, accompanied by sweet vocals and easy lyrics. The choral version isn’t great, but the crazy piano solo in the middle is brilliant.

What’s New Pussycat? (What’s New Pussycat?): Not a lot to say on this one, other than Jones belts it out like a man posessed. It’s a nonsense song, but damn catchy.

My Winner: What’s New Pussycat?

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My Nominations

What’s New Pussycat? (What’s New Pussycat?).

The Sweetheart Tree (The Great Race).

I Will Wait For You (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg).

Do-re-mi (The Sound Of Music): It seems bizarre that for such a popular film which yielded so many popular songs, and won so many awards, did not receive any nominations for Best Song. Of course the songs were taken from the stage musical, but who cares about that? Although I can’t stand the film, I can’t deny the power of some of its tunes, and this jingly childrens favourite is the best of a good/bad bunch.

Help! (Help!): One of my favourite Beatles tracks, and one of the greatest songs of all time, so not much else to say.

Ticket To Ride (Help!): A more unusual song than much of the rest of the soundtrack, but another one of my favourite Beatles tracks.

My Winner: Help! (Help!)

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What do you think is the best movie song of 1965? Let us know in the comments!

Best Music (Scoring): 1964

Actual Nominations: Mary Poppins, Beckett, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, The Fall Of The Roman Empire, The Pink Panther, My Fair Lady, A Hard Day’s Night, Robin And The 7 Hoods, The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

I’ve merged the Best Original and Best Adapted scores into a single category with a single winner. The actual winners (Original) this year, unsurprisingly were The Shermans for Mary Poppins, whose soundtrack has that eternal Disney quality- most of the tracks are ageless, but many of them, like the songs from the film, are too twee and grating for my venomous ears. Picking up the win for Adapted Score was Andre Previn for My Fair Lady, again an expected victory. The same opinion above can be used here, although I find Poppins the more fun soundtrack, while Lady has more intelligence. Laurence Rosenthal’s score for Becket is powerful, dramatic, and clearly raises the film’s potency while Frank De Vol arguably does the same job for Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte with music that teeters between tender and terrifying. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for The Fall Of The Roman Empire has some fantastic moments, particularly the main theme which sounds an awful lot between a forgotten cross between The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, and The Godfather while Henry Mancini finally strikes gold with the eternally wonderful theme to The Pink Panther. It’s stealthy jazz conjures up images of cool criminals, cool cops, comedy capers, and would have made a more deserving winner than either of the two actual winners. Nelson Riddle’s Robin And The 7 Hoods on the other hand is uninspired pap, featuring voices from the Twat Pack. The Unsinkable Molly Brown is more renowned for it’s songs than the score, while my winner A Hard Day’s Night could fall under the same conclusion. However, George Martin’s production of The Beatles tracks merged to create one of the best albums/soundtracks ever and they accompany the antics of the films perfectly.

My Winner: A Hard Day’s Night

My Nominations: A Hard Day’s Night, The Pink Panther. The Fall Of The Roman Empire. A Fistful Of Dollars. Goldfinger. Viva Las Vegas. Mary Poppins. My Fair Lady. 633 Squadron

Four newcomers for my list- a musical, a Western, a WWII flick, and a spy thriller. John Barry’s soundtrack for Goldfinger may be the most famous of all the Bond scores, and certainly ranks among the most iconic. This is the first point in the series where the music really grew a life of its own, featuring several motifs which continue throughout the series. The heavy focus on brass counters the more metallic sounds, sending the seductive clashing against the threat. The soundtrack was also a huge commercial success. The soundtrack for Via Las Vegas was not the success it was expected to be, it’s style going against the rise of The Beatles. However, it is one of the best in Elvis’ career and is particularly frantic and fun. Finally, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for A Fistful Of Dollars is one of the most evocative in history. Taking his cue largely from Tiomkin, Morricone twists the usual music of Westerns by adding all manner of whistles, chants, percussion, and sudden strings. The main theme has a memorable melody and is equally sombre and jubilant, moving between contemplative moments to galloping rhythms. Ron Goodwin’s stirring soundtrack for 633 Squadron is arguably what most people remember about the film- a rousing British battle cry. It’s difficult to choose a winner year, in a very strong year for movie soundtracks.

My Winner: A Hard Day’s Night.

Let us know in the comments which of the nominations above you feel is the deserving winner, and feel free to share any soundtracks I’ve missed!

Best Writing (Original): 1964

I missed my usual Oscar post yesterday, so adding two today – yippee!

Actual Nominations: Father Goose. A Hard Day’s Night. The Organizer. That Man From Rio. One Potato Two Potato.

From these nominations you would be forgiven for thinking it was a slow year- a dreary romantic comedy as winner? A film based on an album, a spoof of James Bond? The Organizer is a fine Italian film but doesn’t have a remarkable script, while One Potato Two Potato attempts an emotional drama on race relations, but now looks naive. That Man From Rio looks beautiful and gets most of its plus points from attempting a rip-roaring French Bond film. My win though is A Hard Day’s Night as it sparkles with humour, surrealism, and self knowing, and like The Beatles themselves, is brimming with creativity and innovation.

My Winner: A Hard Day’s Night

My Nominations: A Hard Day’s Night. A Fistful Of Dollars. The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Band Of Outsiders. The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg.

Only one film makes it to my list from the officials, and most of my picks this year are foreign productions. Fistful takes many of the cliches of the genre and twists them into a new bunch, while The Fall is noted for much more intelligence than one would usually expect to see in a film of its type. Band and Umbrella feature many innovative techniques with the former relying on an air of cool and the latter on its unexpected sung dialogue.

My Winner: A Hard Day’s Night

Which film of 1964 do you think had the best original writing? Let us know in the comments!

The Beatles – Abbey Road

Abbey Road

The last recorded album by The Beatles is filled with a sense of things coming to an end, but also has the feeling that the band still had more to say. Unfortunately the lads would go their separate ways, but thankfully give us a few more decades of new work with new friends. As with any of the last 3 or four Beatles albums it is a mixed bag- glorious highs, infuriating lows, and a mixture of sounds and influences. In many ways it is a back to basics album, low on experimentation but remaining high on invention. The first half is traditional single songs while the second consists of a combined medley of sorts, a few short songs tied together as one piece. Although the band new this would probably be their final album, the signs of a new age are marked by Harrison’s contributions- his songs here are stronger than by the other Beatles and there are more of them than on other albums. There are more ballads and pop songs than the heavier Let It Be, and it isn’t as angry as The White Album. It suffers similarly to Let It Be and The White Album by having a few unnecessary songs. There were better songs written at the time which could have been included instead. Along with Sgt Pepper and Revolver, this has one of the most famous cover pictures ever, looking back now it can be taken as signifying a band in transition, or a band leaving the studio for the final time.

‘Come Together’ opens the album, a bluesy Lennon song with some great lyrics. It has a famous bass riff, some nice guitar work but I find the verse melody too repetitive and prefer the Michael Jackson version. A favourite of many fans it is one I usually skip.

‘Something’ is Harrison’s first song on the album, opening with a fairly famous guitar part. It is Harrison’s most famous work and one of his most praised, by fans, critics, and band mates. A mellow love song with a Pink Floyd feel, it breaks into heavy chorus followed by mellow middle part with strong guitar playing.

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is McCartney’s nonsense story of murder, filled with good lyrics and a jaunty Ringo-esque rhythm. It is a catchy song that the rest of the band were not particularly enamoured with and it sounds more like something from Sgt Pepper.

‘Oh Darling’ has a fifties rock’n’roll feel which McCartney screams through. It has a fairly typical blues feel moved along by some strange guitar sounds and heavy single piano notes.

‘Octopus’ Garden’ is one of Ringo’s most loved songs- it has the Ringo rhythm, but has a few nice melodies played over the top along with decent vocals from the drummer. The lyrics are gentle and picturesque, the drowning voices and bubbles adding the cosmic underwater feel.

‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is a long, deliberately repetitive song by Lennon. Lennon sings with a heavy angst, and the song reeks of desperation, lust, and blues. Unfortunately it is just the same short song repeated over and over with not enough new parts each time. The sudden end is a nice touch, ending the album without warning; it just comes 5 minutes too late.

‘Here Comes the Sun’ is possibly my favourite Harrison songs, and one of the best from the band. It is a perfect pop song like many of their older tracks; it is bright and uplifting with a superb guitar riff, nice synth work, and melodic singing.

‘Because’ is a Lennon ballad similar is style to ‘Something’, and with a similar structure to ‘I Want You’. The haunting vocals and the synth give a strange tone, one of longing, one of leaving which is expanded in the next song.

‘You Never Gave Me Your Money’ sounds just like ‘Perfect Day’ at the start before breaking down into a more rocking song. There is a good guitar solo chucked in before the song changes in tone and style again to more riff laden one. It is probably the most experimental song on the album, a medley in itself, and the first song in the overall medley of the second half.

‘Sun King’ begins in a mellow, twilight style with a riff floating between both ears. This is Lennon’s trippy twin of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ with gentle, drowsy melodies accompanied by organ. The lyrics break into faux Spanish for the last part and Ringo’s drum fill serves as an outro, and as an intro to the next song.

‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ is a quick, jaunty song by Lennon about a miser, mostly filler and linked to the following song.

‘Polythene Pam’ is based on one of the group’s early fans who happened to enjoy eating polythene. It is quick, short, with funny lyrics and sung in a heavy Scouse accent.

‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’ begins seamlessly as the ending of the previous song rather like a lot of the prog albums that were around at the time. The song is slower, McCartney plays lead guitar while Harrison is on bass, and it is based on a time when some of their fans broke into McCartney’s house and stole some stuff. After this there is a soft pause before next part of the medley continues.

‘Gold Slumbers’ begins with soft piano and a growing string section before the bass and drums begin. The verse is in lullaby form, while McCartney growls the chorus vocals as the music surges. It is one of the best constructed songs on the album and one of their forgotten greats.

‘Carry That Weight’ again is a seamless continuation from the previous song, but mixes “You Never Gave Me Your Money’ in a perfectly fitting way.

‘The End’ feels like a rocking conclusion to the album, all chanting and heavy guitars, before a cosmic breakdown begins. This was originally meant to be the final song but due to the attitude of a few engineers, the next song was tacked on.

‘Her Majesty’ does feel tacked on and completely out-of-place. It is a filler which either should have been sandwiched into the middle of the album of left off completely. It spoils the ending of the album, but if looked at as The Beatles joking around it almost suggests that the fun isn’t quite over.

The Beatles would go out on a high, but not at their height. Abbey Road may be surrounded by sadness, but there is also celebration; celebration of what they had created here and what they had already left behind, as well as the belief that each would go on to solo glory. The story was over but the legacy remains for every new listener. This record has a few classics, not as many as on their best albums but is essential nevertheless. In only a few short years the band had become the most important thing to ever happen to music.

The Beatles – The White Album

The White Album

The White Album sees the Fab Four at their most experimental, their angriest, and some would say their best. A true epic, the band enters further into uncharted territory with sounds unheard, ideas expounded never before, lyrical flourishes and weirdness all put to glorious sound and noise. Unfortunately for an album with so many songs and with so many ideas (not to mention the band chasing the dragon around on some plain just above the rest of our heads) it has many flaws. Some things don’t come off well, there is a lot of nonsense, some duff songs, and plenty of filler. Most fans who don’t see this as their best album agree that if this had been cut down it could have been much better. The good stuff that we do have ranges from classic Harrison ballads to McCartney blues romps and Lennon’s drug fuelled madness. There are plenty of fun moments, plenty of offbeat treats, but the days of the happy mop haired lads is long gone. From here on we are left with more coarse and hard edged guitar tracks as the group began to implode.

`Back In the USSR’ opens the album in a fairly rocking fashion with some ye olde fast piano playing slpiced with the modern sounds of a jet plane. McCartney sings in a clearly more gruff way hinting at the maturity, experimentation, and arguments within the band at the
time. Ringo was absent so the rest of the band took up his duties, not that this is noticeable. The lyrics speak of the excitement and relief of flying back home to be with all the ladies and is a clear homage to The Beach Boys. The Californian interlude is quite authentic.

`Dear Prudence’ fades in gently offering an opposite to what the first song displayed. Lennon’s tribute to Mia Farrow’s sister who joined them India only to stay in her room and meditate most of the time. It builds to a jamming climax accompanied by some nice guitar
before coming down to an acoustic fade out.

`Glass Onion’ returns to the heavier feel while referencing many old Beatles hits. The lyrics are deliberately messy and confusing, full of potential mystery and ideas. Mostly it is Lennon having a laugh at obsessive fans and critics obsessing over every lyric, and a challenge for them to decipher.

`Ob La Di Ob La Da’ is a McCartney ditty, a nonsense but nonetheless catchy pop song. It sounds like the band are having fun, contrary to what was actually happening, but also highlights the experimenting mode they were in when they first came up with it.

`Wild Honey Pie’ is an experimental piece with strange guitars, voices and other noises. Basically it is the group stoned, banging together whatever was close to hand and still managing to make a song out of it.

`The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ features a line from Yoko but is more notable for Lennon’s excellent sarcastic lyrics. He sings of a rich American who they knew for a while who happened to go hunting and kill a tiger. Lennon saw him as an upper class mummy’s boy taking an all expenses paid trip to India for some enlightenment that he could then relate to his equally rich friends. The chorus is catchy enough, the song ends in ironic applause and whistling. With a more interesting verse melody it could have been great.

`While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is Harrison’s famous downbeat sounding song about Eastern philosophy, yin yang, everything relating to everything and everyone. It features Clapton on guitar and is usually included in most lists of greatest guitar songs ever. The organs, effects, and Harrison’s vocals combine to create a trippy mood although it was probably intended to sound other worldy.

`Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ is a constantly evolving song with time and tone shifts as well as each part sounding musically distinct. Each part is linked by the gun imagery, and it inspired countless imitators from Halo Of Flies to Bohemian Rhapsody to Paranoid Android. Many of the ideas on the album don’t come off as well as they should have but on this song everything fits.

`Martha My Dear’ is McCartney’s music hall tribute, evoking images of old couple swirling about to gentle piano led songs. The lyrics oppose the feel of the song with thinly veiled insults to past lovers. Many dispute the song’s reference point- McCartney’s dog, his muse, his ex. As with most things it is a mixture of each influence.

`I’m So Tired’ was recorded at 3am, written about Lennon’s insomnia, and has a clear drowsy feel. There is emotional fatigue, the lyrics are angry, and the chorus livens things up.

`Blackbird’ is one of the better songs on the album, harkening back to simpler, more pop times. It is a typical McCartney song, singing of yearning, freedom, with some racial issues thrown in to satisfy the revolutionaries.

`Piggies’ is an interesting Harrison song featuring harpsichord and strings to give a baroque feel- a time noted for wealth and extravagance. This mirrors the lyrics as Harrison sings Orwell style of the rich people as piggies, rolling around in their opulence. Ironic yes given their own wealth, but at this time the group were rejecting all ideas of materialism. Charles Manson felt this was a large influence on his Helter Skelter plan, leading to the deaths of those he felt needed `a damn good
whacking’.

`Rocky Raccoon’ is a folk style McCartney song with Dylan leanings. There is a Cowboy movie style piano and acoustic guitar played over some storybook lyrics. It rounds off the `animal trilogy’.

`Don’t Pass Me By’ is Ringo’s first solo composition. He does his best with the vocals, though the lyrics are as bad as expected and the song has the same rolling down a hill in a shopping trolley rhythm. The strings offer a different feel from the other album tracks but it’s mostly forgettable.

`Why Don’t We Do It in the Road’ sees McCartney at his most metal, shrieking the lyrics in an attempt to match the sounds of Daltrey and Townsend. The lyrics simply speak of him seeing two monkeys at it, inspiring the primal, animal instincts in all of us.

`I Will’ is a rather simple, soft love song from McCartney to Linda. The lyrics call back to the early days when music was more important than the words. The song is catchy enough but lacks anything truly memorable.

`Julia’ closes the first side, Lennon’s only solo Beatles song. Unfortunately it is mostly tuneless as the lyrics are good and he sings and plays well. With a stronger melody this could have been a much better song.

`Birthday’ opens the second side in heavy style, blasting out with one of the most famous guitar riffs. It builds and changes with chugging chords, distorted notes, and swirling effects laden piano. It was a clear attempt to return to a more simple rock’n’roll and blues style and leads nicely into the next song.

`Yer Blues’ continues the heavier, dirtier feel with an almost Zeppelin-esque song. It showcases Lennon’s personal demons, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It’s a song which it is hard not to jump around to, filled with good drum parts and intertwining guitar solos. Performing this song for the Stones Rock n Roll Circus renewed Lennon’s love for playing live after years in the wilderness.

`Mother Nature’s Son’ is a better McCartney ballad inspired as with most of the other songs here by his time with the Maharishi,
except here it pays off well musically. The lyrics are suitably ideal, the melodies gentle and hard to shake.

`Everybody’s Got Something To hide…’ is Lennon’s view of his relationship with Yoko and all the negative feelings towards it. They felt they were in love while everyone else was paranoid and edgy. The song is quite heavy with a loud riff at the end of the chorus. Some have also claimed that it is more about Lennon’s heroin addiction.

`Sexy Sadie’ has the famous piano part which sounds like Karma Police but it’s almost insignificant. It is an average Lennon song with some nice, angry lyrics, some strange effects on the vocals and an up and down rhythm.

`Helter Skelter’ was McCartney’s main attempt to make the heaviest, dirtiest, most rock song out there in a time when The Who and other English R’nB bands were taking noise levels moonwards. To an extent it works, the drums are great, the guitar is pretty loud and riff laden, and McCartney sings at his loudest. The Helter Skelter motion of the song is notable, everything swirls and comes around upon itself. This song was one of the major influences on Manson’s already destructive mind as he believed the lyrics contained veiled messages and calls to war. The song fades in and out a few times at the end to good effect, and proves that McCartney was more than a ballad writer.

`Long Long Long’ is a soft Harrison ballad with good drum and piano parts. The deliberately bad production is annoying though and makes it too difficult to listen to.

`Revolution 1′ may be the most famous, most popular song on the album. It is a traditional Beatles song, filled with melody and ideology, with a few guitar effects and plenty of instruments clanging together brilliantly. The version here differs quite a bit from the single most people know, but all the hallmarks of a great song lie in both.

`Honey Pie’ is another unusual song from McCartney showing his seeming obsession with older styles of music around this time. There is a clear WWII vibe and I can’t help hear it now without thinking of Allo Allo or Wish Me Luck. The lyrics speak of a young English woman who makes it big in Hollywood only for her old lover back home to call her to return.

`Savoy Truffle’ is a good song to listen to while raiding the fridge. It is quite jazzy, with lots of brass and guitars, lots of timing shifts and is one of the more upbeat songs on the album.

`Cry Baby Cry’ is based on a nursery rhyme from Lennon’s youth, features the Harmonium again but isn’t a very exciting or interesting song. The lyrics are fine but the music isn’t particularly inspired. It segues into an unreleased song at the end which really should have been included instead, but can be found on bootlegs.

`Revolution 9′ is probably the most experimental piece the band ever produced, a collage of sounds, words, clips, effects all smashed together to create something monstrous. It still sounds awesome today, but is pretty difficult to listen to more than once. It is like falling into a sewer and being swept naked at a million miles an hour through various viaducts of time, surrounded by sights you don’t want to see, like Terry Wogan playing golf with Jimmy Tarbuck’s leg instead of a nine. Understandably it still splits fans; it’s great.

`Good Night’ is a rather sumptuous ending, almost like a Disney composition. Ringo does very well here, the strings are beautiful and the backing singers give it all a good night lullaby feel. It is deliberately lovely, cheesy, but looking past all that it is a pretty good song, and a great ending.

The White Album was the final great departure for the band. Break ups and bust ups followed and everyone agreed they should go back to their roots to try to hold on to their success. At times it is boring, at times it is brilliant but on previous albums the brilliance overshadowed everything else. Here there are simply too many songs and many tracks either don’t work at all or don’t live up to the expectation. This is still the favourite of many fans, largely because it tries so much, covers so much, is brave and unlike anything else. Full marks for trying, full marks for breaking new ground, but mostly (for The Beatles) average songs.

Let It Be – The Beatles

This is either the last or penultimate Beatles album depending on how you look at it, but either way it has a sense of loss and ending throughout. The album is almost more famous for the arguments between members which took place on a daily basis culminating in Harrison leaving and coming back. After not touring for years and pursuing various solo projects, as well as the band’s previous album seeming more like a collection of songs from each member, tensions were high. McCartney felt the group should write, record, and tour together to repair affairs and they should make a no frills, no experimentation simple album as they had before. The other 3 like the bare bones approach, but didn’t like the idea of touring and the film crew following them around every second. In the end the movie is more interesting than the album, while the album is a mix of good songs, throwaway bites, and a couple of classics.

`Two of Us’ is a McCartney song which can either be seen as a tribute to himself and Linda, or himself and John. Beginning with the famous Lennon quote it breaks down into a catchy acoustic ditty. The harmonies hark back to the good old days, the guitar is a gentle folk style, the lyrics speak of happier times, freedom, and nostalgia and features a nice bridge section without a chorus. The easy tone and whistling end suggest that everything in the group was fine, contrary to what we know. It is a good first song let down by a few fillers later.

`Dig a Pony’ is Lennon’s nonsense tribute to Yoko full of pointless lyrics culminating in the chorus where he pours his heart out to his soon to be wife. The false start is famous, the verse and chorus melodies are catchy enough, the guitars are good and Lennon sings in a rough fashion. Again it is not the sound the band falling apart, but definitely shows signs of weariness.

`Across The Universe’ may be the best song the Beatles ever recorded, and it is probably my favourite. Beautiful poetic lyrics which fit the sound perfectly, other-wordly guitars, wonderful simple melodies, an effortless meter for the words to float along, and sumptious production. The Eastern influence is stronger here in theme than in music, yet it is full of strange and foreign instruments. This is the song to play to people who do not yet consider themselves fans of The Beatles.

`I Me Mine’ is Harrisons take on both the egotistical problems of the band and his more personal feelings on wealth, personal gains and rejecting all notions of self for the greater good. The song has a bluesy waltz feel with it’s trumpets and guitars, but bursts into a heavy, rocking chorus.

`Dig It’ is a jam of ideas, words thrown in on the spur of the moment, instruments all jangling together- the sort of thing a band does when warming up or severely intoxicated. The version included here isn’t the best, and again it is throwaway filler.

`Let It Be’ is the most famous song on the album, McCartney’s follow up to Yesterday and superior in my opinion. It isn’t as dreary as it’s predecessor and has more emotion. Again the melodies stand out, full of cadences, the piano suits the sound perfectly and the guitar solo stands out; while it is a rather heavy effect for the song it doesn’t grate or sound out of place.

`Maggie Mae’ is a filler piece, a childhood Liverpudlian rhyme based on a modern folk tale about a prostitute. The tune is ok but it’s entirely pointless and should really have been replaced with something better.

`I’ve got a Feeling’ is another McCartney tribute to Linda, a sign that for him at least things were getting better. Of course there were darker truths as John had divorced Cynthia and Yoko had suffered a miscarriage and no-one was really happy within the band. It continues the blues rock feeling and is more hard edged than most of the back catalogue despite aiming to sound light and optimistic.

`One after 909′ is an early Blues attempt by McCartney brought back to fit in with the overall feel of this album. Written around 10 years prior to this release it shows the American influences on the young songwriters, but also exposes the adolescent songwriting. With all their experience since writing it they managed to turn it into a decent tune, adding plenty of extra riffs and instruments to make it a dance favourite.

`The Long and Winding Road’ is the last classic on the album, a wonderful epic from McCartney which is better due to the production. McCartney’s earlier, simpler version is strong but sounds a bit empty after hearing this. Some say it is over produced, but it is nice for the group to have a song such as this which sounds as if it is backed by an entire orchestra. The lyrics were based on the tensions between the band and a hope that they would all get through it.

`For You Blue’ continues the blues influence with the reference to Elmore James and slide guitar. Harrison’s vocals are perhaps too high for him, and I can’t stand the spoken parts. If it had had a few extra guitar parts or an underlying piano part I think I would like this more but for me it is too light.

`Get Back’ closes the album in rocking style, a good song but another one where McCartney’s vocals annoy me. He creates a story about a couple of lovers, the lyrics are fine, the music is suitably bluesy but it just isn’t a personal favourite.

And so the story came to an end, for a while at least; each member’s solo work features many great songs proving that even if the band was no more the spirit would live on. Record companies would continue to churn out re-issues and greatest hits, but it isn’t until the Anthologies, Blue, Red, and Love that fans had anything new to be excited about. Let It Be ends almost as an opposite to Please Please Me, with four older, more tired, more cynical worn out men belting out some great songs with a more weighed down enthusiasm. If you’re only getting into the band now, start at the beginning and work your way through. You’ll be smiling by the end.

Hippies

If you liked/hated this, feel free to check out my other Beatles reviews in the music section.