I finally got a new laptop recently and have since been obsessively reorganizing and cleaning up my music collection of 7000+ songs (over 19 days worth). WHEW. As I was going through the Beatles, I began to wonder which ones I would list as my top favorite songs. No easy task… There are so many great ones. “Hey Jude,” “A Day In The Life,” “Let It Be,” “All You Need Is Love,” … These are all too easy! So I decided to pick my favorite “underdog” songs. The ones you might not hear as often or may not guess as anyone’s favorites. So here they are!
1) Lady Madonna
Oh my gosh, this was one of my favorites from very early on! There’s a sort-of remixed version on the Cirque du Soleil soundtrack for Love that’s just fantastic. Great job on the drums there, Ringo. Love the beat! And the piano, and the saxophone, and the guitar. I love it all! I think the lyrics are my favorite part though. The idea of turning the sacred Virgin Mary into a modern woman with real problems is just so cool. “Did you think that money was heaven-sent?” Aaaah! This is maybe the best song about a single mother? Because over 50 years later, it’s still pretty amazing for being a song about a single mother at a time when that sort of thing is still looked down upon or seen as odd or pitiful. I feel like the Lady Madonna in this song gives zero fucks what anyone thinks about her.
2) I Am The Walrus
The song that means nothing! Lennon purportedly wrote this song as pure nonsense on purpose since people were trying to decipher the meanings of Beatles songs at the time. (Some people still are!) And hey, you know what? It’s still a brilliant song! It may mean nothing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like nothing. To me it’s angry, bitter, mocking, and a little bit sinister. Getting a little personal here, but I think of this time in college when some friends were treating me shitty. I was coming down the dorm hall and one of them, seeing me coming, immediately ducked into the room she had been standing outside of before she saw me. I immediately thought of the line “See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly/I’m crying” and somehow that made me feel better. Woof, I’m sorry if that was angsty. Blech. I still love this song!
3) Helter Skelter
Perhaps the distant grand-daddy of modern-day heavy metal music? Perhaps! This song is so un-Beatles-like. In fact, I’d say the most “Beatles” this song gets is in the backing vocals (that almost calm and steady “Aaaaaaa…”). Like, how did they DO this??? How did their studio not burn to the ground when they recorded this?! This song is LOUD and out of control and it makes my brain want to burst out of my skull. It makes me want to drive crazy. It makes me want to destroy a hotel room. It’s like Rat Fink translated into music. And the (TWO) false endings? Brilliant! The song just plunges into chaos each time it comes back and yet not a single second is wasted. Those drums just don’t quit! I believe Ringo when he screams “I got blisters on my fingers!” at the end. FANTASTIC.
4) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
Okay, I’ll admit this is a weird one! Not even the main version of the song, but an outro track leading to an even better final track? I know! Weird! But gosh, if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize as I write this, it’s that I really, REALLY love Ringo’s drum work. I just want to stand up and applaud him. I also just really enjoy the funky intro to this song. One of my other favorite things is how much they play around with singing the phrase “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Especially when it’s “Sgt. Pepper’s one and only Lonely Hearts Club Band!” Again, there’s another fantastic version of this song on Love, even though it’s barely any different. Such a simple and unassuming song. Listen to it and really appreciate Ringo in this one. There’s a reason he’s one of the greats, and it’s not just because he was a Beatle.
5) I Saw Her Standing There
I have two versions of this song: One that’s on Please Please Me and another that’s on Anthology 1 – and somehow I like the latter more! Maybe because the latter was played live and goes slightly faster. It sounds wilder, like it could be played in a club where the singer is actually seeing the girl standing across the room, waiting for him. I definitely want to dance to this song! It’s a rather simple and innocent song when you consider that this was early on in the Beatles’ career and they were basically a boy band. At the end of the Anthology 1 version, you can even hear screaming girls at the end. It’s funny how dancing gets equated with love, especially in early pop songs. And yet, in this song, the subject draws him it just by…standing there. Though her dancing certainly helps things along later! So much fun.
Disappointed by my picks? Well, I’d love to hear yours! Really! Nothing too easy. These are “underdog” songs (so to speak) after all! Let’s hear ’em!