Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Across The Universe – The Beatles

I’ve been putting together a post about my favourite Beatles songs for years now, but I just can’t be arsed finishing it. Every few months I go back to it and add a few more entries. I think I’m almost done, but it looks like this post will beat that one to the punch. Spoiler alert – Across The Universe is on that post. But that’s in the future, maybe, and this is now, maybe (ha, no, you did post that list first, and now you look like a fool – you fool!).

Across The Universe comes along fairly late in the careers of The Beatles. Appearing on Let It Be in 1970 I’ve always viewed it as their swan song, their final great. The song actually appeared in its original form on a charity compilation album one year earlier called Nothing’s Gonna Change Our World, with the song itself being written a year before that. While there are obvious differences between the two, both feature the dreamy Lennon vocals and lyrics and a trippy production. If anything the original feels more like an experiment than a song, with swirling guitars at different levels and high-pitched backing vocals. I think it’s sweeter, more folk driven. It’s the Let It Be version I love though, and the one most people know.

Lennon’s lyrics run the gamut from simplistic cat calls to sophisticated and nonsensical humour, but for my money Across The Universe is his best lyric. Every line flows so neatly and read from a page or a screen without music, it sounds musical. Of course when mixed with with the dreamlike music and Lennon’s drawling delivery, the lyrics take on a heightened quality and propel the song to heavenly heights. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that there isn’t a lot of room for the music to breathe alongside the lyrics – each line has so many words and Lennon sings them so slowly that he just about gasps the final syllable just as melody ends and the next begins. There are any number of immortal lines, from the simple and eternal ‘nothing’s gonna change my world’ to the world expanding ‘jai guru deva om’, from the opening ‘words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup’ to the ending ‘limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns’ – it feels like the end of something; a farewell, yet a hopeful reminder that nothing ever truly fades or dies.

The song’s opening is unassuming, an almost mundane collection of lazy chord strokes which belies the emotional undercurrent. In spite of the slurring melodies and hazy vocal delivery, that undercurrent comes to the fore, aided by brief string swells and choirs and tamburas until it peaks with the transcendent feeling the band had been hunting for in their last series of albums. As perfect as the Let It Be version is, the song didn’t turn out how John wanted it to. He felt the above observations were to the detriment of the song and wanted it to be tidied and polished before release, with better vocals and playing. I’m sure that version would have been good too, but what we have is near perfection.

As with every Beatles song, there are a multitude of covers to get through – everything from angsty upstart Fiona Apple, to red-headed harangue-Queen of Air Hostesses Cilla Black, as well as David Bowie. None touch The Beatles version(s).

Let us know what you think of Across The Universe in the comments!

The Nightman Scoring System © Reviews – Rubber Soul

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).

Hello Beatle
Rubber Soul

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (Another smash hit)

Originality: 5 (The band’s first truly original album finds them sowing the seeds for future releases but also letting their creativity surge to new levels and places. From the opening moments of Drive My Car you know that the band has undergone some sort of change and entered a brand new phase).

Influence: 5 (The band may have been seen by some as simple pop/rock masters, but this album found a new legion of fans who craved more distant and complex sounds and opened the doors for psychedelia and a host of new artists. Other artists were and had been experimenting in similar ways, but The Beatles allowed it to be honed and brought to the masses. Surely can’t go lower than 4).

Musical Ability: 5 (Here the band shine, showing a full command of whatever they try. The songs remain succinct but the array of instruments employed is wider than before and the band take each addition in their stride, including each in a coherent and valuable way. Purists looking for more technical skill may go lower, but screw those guys, anything under 3 is lies).

Lyrics: 4 (The band still linger with love songs but break free of most of the cliches which plague that type, whilst simultaneously writing about individuality and politics. There is an individuality to the lyrics as the band hone their personas and while influenced by Dylan (and by drugs) they remain much more unique than anything they had written till this point).

Melody: 4 (The experimentation leads to a drop in the quality of melody in some tracks, but a drop would almost be expected after the perfection of Help! Naturally there are still many flawless moments. Melody can be a personal thing, but 3 – 5 seem like the norm).

Emotion: 4 (The range of emotions is greater than ever before, with anger and confusion coming to more prominence, and plenty of moments of sheer joy and sadness).

Resilience: 5 (Similar to the drop from Help!, the fact that the album contains less ‘hits’ means many people will remember this album or play it less. Having said that, it feels more like a complete album rather than a collection of hits. Either way, enough tracks are still being listened to and discussed half a century later. Depending on your take it’s a 4 or 5).

Vocals: 5 (There is a much stronger quality to the vocals here than before, filled with confidence and individual style).

Coherence: 4 (Some say the US release is better, but the album as a whole fits together nicely with things elements such as the tambourine featuring in many songs and the theme of experimentation seeps into the music and lyrics).

Mood: 4 (Aside from the obvious sadness and joy mentioned above, I think the overall mood is one of exploration and creativity which can be found subtly in every song)

Production: 5 (Great work, still sounds stunning)

Effort: 4 (Impressive writing and creativity to make something new)

Relationship: 4 (It’s easy to relate to some songs here, from the tortured romantic to the non-conformist. Some songs have their influences in prior works but each has an effective twist)

Genre Relation: 4 (There wasn’t really anything like this before in the charts and while it is the beginning of their experimentation it doesn’t relate as well as their later, fully fledged works)

Authenticity: 5 (The band sound entirely dedicated to branching out and making something new)

Personal: 4 (As already mentioned, the experimentation leads to some weaker songs which miss out on having any truly great hooks)

Miscellaneous: 4 (Free from touring and filming now the band could concentrate fully on making music so not much to say here)

Total: 90/100

Take The Nightman Scoring System(c) Challenge and let me know how you score the album!

The Nightman Scoring System (c) – For Sale

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).

Beatlemania was at a peak and the band simply couldn’t cope with the constant touring, writing, and recording. Hence this album which saw a return to the inclusion of multiple covers. The fame was beginning to impact the band’s writing and we see the first true examples of breaking out from the cutesy love-based pop hits upon which they made their name.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 4 (Seen as a step back towards the first two albums with the unfortunate inclusion of the covers, some strong, some weak, but this was largely done to meet the demand of pumping out album after album. The more mature writing style of the originals though is singled out for praise. 4-5 are acceptable, 3 would seem cruel).

Originality: 4 (Those covers hold the album’s originality back, but the original songs are strong enough to more than counter this. The sound hasn’t necessarily evolved but the newer influences on the band have been merged into a new style of pop song. Once again, 4-5 seems right).

Influence: 4 (One of the least influential albums thanks to those covers, but again the original songs have spawned a host of imitators. I’m tempted to go with a 3, but 4 feels more accurate).

Musical Ability: 4 (Similar to the previous albums, with less progression, but still high amounts of skill. 3-5 would be understandable).

Lyrics: 4 (Those darker songs have some great lyrics, finally showing that Lennon in particular was branching out, while the remaining Beatlemania tracks have enough fresh perspectives to keep them from becoming derivative. 3-4 sounds okay).

Melody: 4 (Luckily even the weaker covers have decent melodies and the original tracks are still highly effective. I’m happy with people going 5, but 4 suits me).

Emotion: 4 (There is a darker tone throughout, though a fair amount of this is diluted by the covers. The covers have their moments, but some are too plain and I think hold this back from being a 5).

Resilience: 5 (Once again we’re still discussing it 50 years later, and actively listening to it on technology that didn’t even exist at the time of release. This has less popular songs and a smaller chance of people listening to the whole thing, but given the sheer amount of time which has passed, it has to be a 5).

Vocals: 4 (Some of the strain and tiredness is beginning to show and have a negative impact, but the harmonies remain strong, giving a freshness to the covers, and there are enough moments of brilliance to keep the score well above average).

Coherence: 4 (This is a strange one, because some of the songs hold together brilliantly in mood, tone, sound, style, yet they are interrupted by tracks which feel brash. 3-4 seem reasonable).

Mood: 4 (Similar to above, the mood is mostly dark, but then there are infrequent outbursts which take the focus away).

Production: 4 (Nothing out of the ordinary but still high quality stuff).

Effort: 3 (The covers drive this category down, though I appreciate the fact that there was so much going on at the time. I don’t think you can go higher than 4).

Relationship: 3 (It’s difficult to find a relationship between the covers as some are rockers, some are more left field, and they don’t fit well with the rest of the album. The originals mostly relate well to everything which the band has done to this point, as well as showing the progression in content which would be more prevalent in later releases).

Genre Relation: 4 (The covers ironically help here, as many other bands were doing the same thing and the range of styles blend well with the masters of each genre).

Authenticity: 4 (The originals and the overall tone, even including the covers, lend an authenticity – even though there are 6 covers the band are aware of this, hence the album title which makes an ironic joke of the necessity of their inclusion).

Personal: 4 (Obviously a lesser album than A Hard Day’s Night due to the rushing, scheduling, covers etc, but still an album most would be proud of).

Miscellaneous: 3 (A sombre album cover, a difficult recording process overcome, not much else to mention).

Total: 80/100

Another high scoring album from the band though a step back in most regards from the previous album, with the overall score reflecting as much. Let us know in the comments how you rate the album!

Nightman Listens To – McCartney Debut (Beatles Solo Series)!

See the source image

Greetings, Glancers! It’s safe to say we haven’t got off to a flying start with regards to the quality of the Beatles solo work I’ve heard so far. Experimental guff and Ringo’s ramblings, but surely old faithful Paul will give us a slice of groovy pop rock with his debut? And hey, I even know (and like) one of the songs listed here so it can’t be all bad! I know the album was mostly written and recorded when The Beatles were splitting up and fighting so maybe the music will reflect whatever anguish and torment was being felt. Or maybe it reflects the fresh start Paul needed. Or maybe it’s more of the same sort of ballad and blues based stuff from Let It Be. Who knows? Well, I’m about to….

‘The Lovely Linda’ hand drums of some sort and sweet ‘la la la’ vocals and melodies. Oh, it’s over. An unnecessary laugh at the end there.

‘That Would Be Something’ is led by a neat riff. It’s a little bluesy. The vocals feel distant. Nice introduction of the drums and a funny piece of mouth drumming going. Sounds like he’s experimenting and having fun without being too outlandish or abstract.

‘Valentine Day’ continues the low-fi style. It’s a pretty cool introduction. Unless it’s going to be an instrumental. Still, it’s neat and lean, like a jam or a loose set of ideas waiting to become something else.

‘Every Night’ reminds me of Joni Mitchell. The guitar sound, anyway. It’s very sweet. It’s just as catchy as you would expect. I could see this landing on something like The White Album. A nice surprise. Surprise isn’t the right word, it’s McCartney for Heaven’s sake.

‘Hot As Sun/Glasses’ feels Mediterranean, lazy, Mexican, Greek? I don’t know, something about lazing about on a beach with a drink and zero cares. It’s already better than most of the instrumental stuff on Yellow Submarine. Then it goes all weird and ghostly. Then he sings… something?

‘Junk’ is another sweet one, more sorrowful this time. It ticks the melody box, and it ticks the emotion box, so what more do you need?

‘Man We Was Lonely’ opens in dreamy fashion. Then it goes off in stomping fashion like some of the more dodgy compositions of his final years in The Beatles. It’s similar to those, but maybe this one’s newness means I don’t mind it as much. Catchy too. Feels like one Ringo could have tackled.

‘Oo You’ is very bluesy and mirrors the rock tracks of Abbey Road. Good vocals. It still feels very loose, like he just walked in with a few ideas and started recording. Still good.

‘Momma Miss America’ is, I’m guessing, another instrumental. At least these instrumentals are good – I can see these being hits or becoming hits if vocals were added, unlike what most bands’ instrumentals are like. It gets less dreamy and more groovy as it goes on. Great bass and guitar all around.

‘Teddy Boy’ is another which sounds straight out of The Beatles later catalogue. It’s fine but a bit too close to McCartney’s Music Hall stuff.

‘Singalong Junk’ is a sequel to junk? More piano led. Or an instrumental version. It’s quite lovely too.

‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is the one song I knew before hearing the album, and as far as I can tell it’s the main (only) one which has survived over time. It does feel like the most complete song, compared to the jam-style nature of most of the others. It has a tighter, more traditional structure, and again wouldn’t feel out of place on Let It Be. 

‘Kreen Akrore’ starts with sporadic drums for about a minute before a jumpscare guitar and piano drops. Then it gets weird – monkey noises and more drums and sounds. It’s the most experimental piece of freestyle on the album, just a few minutes of arsing about and messing with different sounds and styles.

So, that was somewhere middling. It followed the experimentation and avant-garde nature of John and George’s first solo outings, but thankfully these were not as esoteric, coming across more as studio jams than ill-advised freak-outs. Quite a few of the ‘traditional’ songs feel either unfinished or waiting for that little extra touch to make them fully realised – in the traditional sense, but most of those are still perfectly good to listen to thanks to Paul’s ability as a songwriter. There are a few songs here that I didn’t know previously which I plan on listening to again – which is more than I can say for any of the other three boys’ efforts so far. It’s not peak Beatles material, but there are gems.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Every Night. Hot As Sun/Glasses. Junk/Singalong Junk. Oo You. Momma Miss America. Maybe I’m Amazed.

Nightman Listens To – Ringo Starr – Sentimental Journey (Non-Beatles Series)!

Sentimental Journey: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! You know, throughout my life I’ve heard quite a few songs by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison that they wrote, recorded, and performed outside of The Beatles. Ringo Starr though? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. That’s why I was surprised that he has made so many albums – surely I’ve heard something. As I make my way through this journey, I’m sure I’ll find out. And yet, Ringo’s voice was probably more familiar to me than any of the other Beatles when I was young, thanks to his work on Thomas The Tank Engine. 

Sentimental Journey was released in 1970 and is apparently the first non experimental, weird, avant-garde album by any Beatle. I was looking forward to this until I saw the tracklist and released it was a cover album. Ah well, I suppose Ringo had to work through his shit before making something good too. Lets do this.

Sentimental Journey: We open with a song I don’t recognise. It threatens Country, then Jazz, then settles into some easy-listening crooning once Ringo starts singing. I know Ringo’s vocals tend to get a lot of criticism – he can sing fine, it’s just that he’s limited. His vocals work well for things like With A Little Help. The problem here is that the song is junk. There’s a lot thrown into the arrangement – droopy horns, backing vocals, and some unusual voicebox work. A slow, yet detailed opening.

Night And Day: Big band wank. If there’s one other genre I typically cannot find any worth in beyond Country (and Irish) it’s Big Band/Swing stuff. Ironically, Starr’s vocals do suit that style, though he probably doesn’t have the strength or supposed sex appeal the singers in this genre are supposed to have. But the melodies, the brass, the beat, the swagger – everything about this is abhorrent to me, aside from some of the snazzy drum fills, but it’s not Ringo’s fault – it’s just a crap song in a style I can’t stand.

Whispering Grass: More big band jazzy stuff. At least this song has a discernible, appealing melody. The strings are whining, the song is boring, and Ringo’s voice doesn’t have the chops to quite pull it off. It takes a certain level of talentlessness to put violins in a song and make me wish they weren’t there.

Bye Bye Blackbird: Is this Paul McCartney? Or Arthur Askey? It’s the sort of jaunty piece of novelty crap McCartney would have written then passed over to Ringo to sing. Funny for about three seconds, then tragic. It should also be noted that I was listening to this while trying to untangle my Laptop power cable before the battery died, and I almost headbutted the monitor in rage.

I’m A Fool To Care: More brass. More ass. I’m not sure I would have survived in an era when music was this bad – pre 1950. Then again, I’m alive now. If I had been alive then, I’m fairly certain I would have single-handedly invented Metal. Somehow.

Stardust: Oh no. I see the whole album was meant to be a selection of his parents’ favourite songs. That would explain it – parents haven’t a fucking clue. This has some interesting pronunciation.

Blue, Turning Grey Over You: Dear Jeebus, so much useless noise. All that brass makes me feel how pensioners must feel when they hear Cannibal Corpse. The melody is almost non-existant, the trumpets run over everything else making the song nothing more than a predictable selection of brass farts.

Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing: Another of the songs I know. Of course it’s a song I never liked. He keeps the awful choral backing vocals, but his vocals act as a counterpoint and somehow improve things. This is absolutely a song which should be performed solo with quiet vocals and as little backing arrangement as possible.

Dream: I know a version of this. This isn’t much better. Ringo’s verse vocals don’t work at all. It’s just another boring pre-rock ballad with the same rhythm as the others. Nigh on unlistenable.

You Always Hurt The One You Love: At least this one starts interestingly, before the verse arrangement gets things all wrong. More wanky jazz in the middle. Terrible.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You: We all know this. Apparently Elmer Bernstein had a crack at arranging this. It’s somewhere between a complete mess and something that weird ginger kid in your class who usually said funny things and sat with one hand in his pocket all time would write.

Let The Rest Of The World Go By: Twinkling and tinkling. Then more brass. And the same rhythm as the other dreary ballads. Worse than Love Island. 

Well, the title was right. Kind of. It probably was a Sentimental Journey recording these for his parents. For everyone else (me) it means absolutely nothing and is as pointless a piece of shit I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. What do you think? Actually, forget it – I never want to think of this again.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Seriously?

Nightman Listens To – Wonderwall Music – George Harrison!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we are, my first full (fool?) foray into the world of non-Beatles music by members of The Beatles. For a few years in my youth I was an Oasis fan – that’s the first time I heard the word ‘Wonderwall’. I wasn’t much of a fan of the song, but I loved the album it appeared on. Shortly after, Travis asked the question ‘What’s a Wonderwall anyway?’ in their hit ‘Writing To Reach You’, but I was none the wiser. I knew by this point that the Oasis lads were massive Beatles fans and as time went on they were repeatedly accused of nicking off the Liverpudlians. It must have been around this time that I heard about this George Harrison album. This was still before the days of downloading, at least for me, and I had no intention of forking out my pocket money on a Beatles’ bloke’s solo album when I hadn’t even heard a single Beatles album all the way through.

It turns out Harrison was the first to release solo material. In late 1968, The Beatles were already crumbling – Harrison’s rise as a songwriter and desire to do his own thing possibly one of the factors of the band coming to an end. I’ve always had a middling opinion of Harrison’s work with The Beatles – his writing contributions – some good, most average, and certainly not up to the standards of Lennon or McCartney’s day to day stuff. Maybe he felt constricted by them, and going solo would let him soar? I was going to say I had middling hopes for this one – more positive than negative – but then I saw that this is actually an instrumental only album, a soundtrack to a movie nobody has ever seen. My hopes have plummeted. Still, it can’t be much worse than Lennon’s experimental stuff, can it? CAN IT?

Microbes: We begin, as expected, with some sitar. Other Indian instruments too. I’ve never been much of a fan of Indian instruments, but something about the way George uses them does create a trance-like tone and atmosphere. That atmosphere people say they get in general from Indian music, but in most cases it just annoys me or makes me think of Mario 64. This though…. I like it. It very much works in conjuring up images of the movie which I haven’t seen – I’m making up my own opening scene in my head.

Red Lady Too: A plodding piano piece, like someone walking slowly or footering about the house. Credit for making it sound unlike anything The Beatles had written.

Tabla And Pakavaj: As the name suggests, this is mainly a drum led piece, with some sitar in the background. Picks up pace near the end, short enough to not get boring.

In The Park: More Indian strings. Maybe my problem with India music is that I’m so heavily invested in melody, Western melody, and emotion that India stuff typically feels like it has no melody and just a chaotic random selection of notes with no discernible emotion. I’m not saying that’s how it is, that’s just how it makes me feel. For me, this goes nowhere and does nothing.

Drilling A Home: A jaunty, more Western tune. Sounds like something you’d hear in a saloon in a Western movie, only with more dancing. Sounds like something McCartney would write.

Guru Vandana: Lots of horns and sitar.

Greasy Legs: A much nicer tune, with lots of… I don’t know – keyboard stuff of some description. Sounds like a child writing a song on a child’s toy.

Ski-Ing: Finally some honest to goodness electric guitar, with India stuff lurking ominously in the background like a strange stirring pot. It’s just the same riff played on a loop by different instruments with a lot of stuff blasting off around it. Pretty cool.

Gat Kirwani: Fast beats and Indian guitar stuff. If it’s fast, it’s good.

Dream Scene: Backwards stuff and some vocals. India vocals, so I have no idea. Changes halfway through, merging piano with Indian horns. Chaos drums. I assume this is the clash of East and West. Then is suddenly changes again, becoming hungover. Then it goes buck nuts. Sounds nice enough, not sure I need to hear it again.

Party Seacombe: Harry Seacombe? Sounds like the start of Across The Universe. Funky enough. Guitars, wall of sound, piano, drums.

Love Scene: More of what you would expect. I don’t have anything insightful or useful to say about most of this. I’m listening to it, maybe that’s enough. Don’t worry, I’ll have more to say once we get to a more familiar style. Still, it works as a melding of East and West.

Crying: A strange whining piece which almost sounds like a woman wailing in pain – not as bad as it sounds.

Cowboy Music: This is exactly as it sounds. If someone told me to write, in five minutes, a typical cowboy instrumental, this is exactly what I would write. Except it seems to have a slight Caribbean twinge.

Fantasy Sequins: There’s that whining again. This one is a little more jaunty. Like a scene at a fair or a market or a party in a palace.

On The Bed: A bit more of a groove and a tune to this one and the way the drums fade in is something The Beatles would play with.

Glass Box: Another short piece, jangly.

Wonderwall To Be Here: A Western opening, with pianos and triangles, and a vaguely threatening soap opera tone. So this prompted one of the biggest songs of all time, eh?

Singing Om: Organs and voices doing an ‘ahhhh’ mantra. Works as an end credits, I guess.

So what did I think? I’m happy I’ve heard it, but I don’t think I need to ever hear a single track again. It didn’t make me overly interested in ever seeing the movie of the same name. There isn’t a stand out piece but George does a fairly good job of slapping together Eastern and Western instrumental music – at least as he envisioned them at the time. If you’re a regular on the blog you probably know I’m not big on instrumental music, at least when made by ‘regular’ artists or bands, and they rarely feel anything more than an experimental aside, a curiosity to be heard once and forgotten. Pretty much sums this up. What did you think – let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr!

Beatles-Help-competition-770

Greetings, Glancers! I know they don’t get nearly as many views as my movie or TV posts, but I’m trying to keep up to date with my musical posts too, bringing you the worst the net has to offer in terms of my opinions on Bowie, Madonna, Jovi, The Stones, The Top 1000 Albums ever, yearly chart music et cetera etc. Many years ago I posted my Amazon Beatles album reviews and recently I’ve been posting updated versions of those along with my Nightman Scoring System (c) comments. In doing all of that I realized that I was missing out on the vast array of non-Beatles work that each of the four members created. Therefore, I’m going to start listening and reacting to all of those too. It’s a massive undertaking but I always planned on listening to them at some point so I may as well write about my experiences too.

It’s obvious that Paul McCartney has done the most out of each member – he has been extremely prolific since 1970, releasing with Wings, other bands, and on his own. Lennon died in 1980 and only managed a handful of albums, while Harrison released here and there up until his death. Ringo, I’ve honestly no idea. What I can say is that I haven’t listened to any of their non-Beatles albums all the way through. Actually, I have listened to Lennon’s experimental records with Yoko, and will not be doing so again for the purposes of this blog or otherwise, thank you very much. I know I’ve heard many of the individual songs by each artist post-The Beatles, but no albums. So I’m going to go through them in some sort of chronological order, I hope I get to listen to some great music for the first time, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey. Coming soon (probably not)!

Feel free to let me know in advance which solo/non-Beatles albums by John, Paul, Ringo, and George I should look forward to in the comments.

The Nightman Scoring System © Reviews – Help

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).

Beatles-Help-competition-770

We’ve reached my favourite Beatles album now – click here to check out my original review or read on for the scores.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (Another smash hit)

Originality: 4 (The band experiment on certain songs with string arrangements, newer styles of writing, recording, and genre setting them up nicely for what would come next)

Influence: 5 (Most of the songs here have been covered by several artists, and the style of merging rock and pop so fluidly was latched onto by record companies and artists around the world)

Musical Ability: 4 (The band again sound like they are having fun, Harrison is becoming a terrific lead guitarist and being allowed to roam free, and their growth as a cohesive unit is noticeable)

Lyrics: 4 (Once again the band take standard lyrics and ideas and add new twists to old cliches showing a great amount of intelligence. There are some moments which foreshadow the poetic turns which later songs would take, but which the band were not quite ready to release)

Melody: 5 (Some of the greatest, most famous pop songs in history, thanks largely to the melodies. Memorable choruses, verses, riffs, harmonies all come together for perfection)

Emotion: 4 (The overall tone is a light, happy one, but there are the more downbeat moments such as Yesterday which are some of the first moments where the group truly convey emotion in a meaningful way)

Resilience: 5 ( 50 years on, and an eternity ahead of it)

Vocals: 4 (Some of the strongest vocal displays, great harmonies, even Ringo doesn’t sound half-bad)

Coherence: 4 (The album holds together well, sounding like a whole, possibly because of the relation to the film, but mostly this is tied together by some clear themes and styles)

Mood: 4 (Again the mood switches quickly, but never abruptly, from sugary pop to bitter introspection, and all are crystal clear)

Production: 5 (Sterling work to create a sound which still sounds fresh today)

Effort: 5 (Again, touring, writing, filming were all going on at the same time, so to create such a timeless album is highly impressive)

Relationship: 5 (This time the album feels timeless down to the sheer joy of the songs. It’s difficult not to relate to such infectious melodies)

Genre Relation: 5 (This is effectively the archetypal pop album which pretty much everything since has sprung from)

Authenticity: 5 (When they sound happy it’s genuine, when they sound low you believe them, when they play you know that they enjoy doing it, both for the love of the craft and for pleasing the fans)

Personal: 5 (Possibly my favourite Beatles album, though as with most things there are times when this is changeable)

Miscellaneous: 5 (Once again, touring recording, writing, and making a movie all at the same time in a breathtaking feat of artistic achievement)

Total: 93/100

Take The Nightman Scoring System© Challenge and let me know how you score the album!

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.

beatlesofrock31

56. All You Need Is Love

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

55. Baby It’s You

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

54. Don’t Let Me Down

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

53. Day Tripper

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

52. Free As A Bird

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

51. Good Day Sunshine

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

50. Golden Slumbers

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

49. Here, There, And Everywhere

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

48. I Need You

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

47. I’ll Follow The Sun

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

46. I Saw Her Standing There

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

45. If I Fell

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

44. I’ll Be Back

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

43. Let It Be

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

42. Love Me Do

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

41. Lovely Rita

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

40. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

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

39. Magical Mystery Tour

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

38. Norwegian Wood

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

37. Octopus’s Garden

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

36. She’s Leaving Home

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

35. Tomorrow Never Knows

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

34. The Night Before

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

33. With A Little Help From My Friends

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

32. Within You Without You

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

31. When I’m 64

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

30. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road

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

29. Yellow Submarine

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

28. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

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

27. You Never Give Me Your Money

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

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