Friday, January 23, 2009

Ranking the Beatles my damn self

Well, when I saw this, my first thought was "Preposterous." My second: "I've gotta do that." And so I did.

This is a ranking of my favorite Beatle songs, in reverse order. Obviously subjective. I'll be candid: A big factor is how much I like to sing each song, which is why I score the great harmonies higher than some might. I also give some weight to historical significance, by which I mostly mean musical innovation. Both of these factors -- singability and breakthroughability -- tend to favor the earlier and middle songs, I think. I also will occasionally vault a song due to a great moment in it. But ultimately, the point is that it's totally subjective -- which songs I enjoy most. I can like No Reply more than Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite if I want to.

So, in reverse order, here we go. The guy whose idea I'm stealing ranked 185 songs, but I have no idea where he got that number. I count 211, not including the German versions of She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. I'm dividing them into 'albums,' with the worst record first. We'll do a disc each (week)day, and then maybe see if we can learn a little more (about me) from the data. I suspect that we'll learn that I like the For Sale, Help, and Rubber Soul albums more than most people do, and that John is my favorite. He's the dreamiest! I'm eager to hear where you disagree with the rankings, so join the conversation! Both of you!

211. Revolution 9 (The Beatles)

Nothing else really had a chance.

210. Fool on the Hill (Magical Mystery Tour)

More listenable than Revolution 9, but just barely. I know some people like this song, and it's probably insane to list it here, but I will never ever willingly listen to this song.

209. The Long and Winding Road (Let It Be)

Paul's vocal = unintentional comedy = better than Fool on the Hill.

208. Wild Honey Pie (The Beatles)

Higher on the list than the songs before it largely because it's shorter.

207. Not a Second Time (With the Beatles)

Had to look up which album this is on, which means we've left the land of hatred and reached the shores of indifference.

206. A Taste of Honey (Please Please Me)

Um ... I won't always have something to say about each one.

205. P.S. I Love You (Please Please Me)

You'd think a lot of the least faves would come from these first two albums; they were rushed, and had more covers than the others. Let's find out!

204. Don't Bother Me (With the Beatles)

I won't if you won't.

203. Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby (For Sale)

Stunned that this is on For Sale; it was my fourth guess. Needless to say, I stop listening a couple of tunes before this.

202. Chains (Please Please Me)

We've almost reached Neutral. I'll skip this one, but I don't dislike it.

201. I Wanna Be Your Man (With the Beatles)

I do like the madcap harmonies.

200. Here, There and Everywhere (Revolver)

Some people like this, I'm sure. Hey, maybe your mom likes this, huh? Your mom.

199. Good Night (The Beatles)

It's said John, who wrote this song, did a take with him singing, likely to guide Ringo. Unless I get to hear it, the song stays here.

198. All My Loving (With the Beatles)

Nothing wrong with this song. Wasn't it a No. 1?

197. There's a Place (Please Please Me)

Nice moment there on "And it's my mind" when they go someplace musically I'd never have thought of. John said this was the first time he tried to write about himself instead of I-Love-You, You-Don't-Love-Me.

* * *

So there you have it. If this had been their first album, regardless of its lack of coherence, it would have had All My loving, The Long and Winding Road, and Fool on the Hill, which were all popular songs. Plus one for Ringo.

Join us next time, when we'll disparage Paul a little bit and tell George to get his damn tongue out of our ear.


Tonto said...

*Somebody wake me when he gets to Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.*

Anyway, I think I’ve found a new job for the BCS after the NCAA finally institutes a college football playoff system. (And by the way, how in the world does anyone expect us to get the national economy straight when we can’t even pick a D-1 college football champ without our heads exploding?)

Anyway, has anyone ever taken a look at Rolling Stone’s lists of Top 500 singles and albums without your head exploding?!?

The Top 10 albums go like this: Beatles, Beach Boys, Beatles, Dylan, Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Rolling Stones, The Clash, Dylan, Beatles. Apparently the chief requirement of this elite rank was that pieces of these had to be played on 8-track format in my parents’ VW SuperBeetle.

An Elvis compilation (released in ’76, no less) is at No. 11. Miles Davis is at No. 12. Public Enemy at 48. Aretha Franklin is at No. 83 AND No. 84. (What, is that some sort of fat joke?) And Sinatra’s only entry is at No. 100, only 42 places behind Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band’s “Trout Mask Replica.” Devo’s debut album, by the way, is sitting in the back of the refrigerator like a forgotten bottle of Worcestershire Sauce at No. 447.

Who picked this list? The Magic 8-Ball?

Anyway, I think this would be the perfect use of the BCS’s well-stirred combination of polls and those ever-mysterious “computer selection methods.” If we’re going to bother to throw in some jazz and rap and country, then I wanna see a list that actually reflects musical importance. Something the aliens can actually learn from when they discover our bones in 9 million years. This is way too much work for an anniversary issue of Rolling Stone to handle. We sent men to the moon. We can do this right.

The singles list is little bit better. Like saying TGI Friday’s is a little bit better than Houlihans. It goes like: Dylan, Stones, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Beatles, Nirvana, Ray Charles.

We get a little Public Enemy at 160. BB. King at 183. Buddy Holly at 194. Guns N’ Roses at 196. Elvis at 197. Beck at 200. Hank Williams at 213. Some disco song that I kinda like at 224. Maybe one of the best songs EVER recorded but NEVER talked about or even played anymore at 259. Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 300.

Prince’s “When Doves Cry” is No. 52. C’mon, that piece of crap is going to hit No. 52 and there's no Manilow, Streisand, Carpenters, or Bee-Gees?


No Pete Seeger? No Woody Guthrie? No Louis Armstrong or Glenn Miller? No Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians? No Dave Brubeck?

No Gershwin? No Stravinsky? No Brahms? No Bach? No Handel?


If we’re going to have Top 500 music lists, then I wanna see everything in them.


In elementary school, they didn’t make us sing Joseph Bracket’s “Simple Gifts” over and over and over for nothing, right?



Thank you.

troy said...

Right -- if I can amend the sentence to 'In elementary school, they didn’t make us sing Joseph Bracket’s “Simple Gifts”.'

I can't even imagine how they compiled the songs list. One guy? A panel? Each is more frightening than the other. I mean, one guy ranking the Beatles' songs, I can live with, because I know the guy, and he knows his stuff.

Speaking of which, thanks for bearing with me until we get to the better songs. I know this part's a little slow unless you think The Long and Winding Road is brilliant, and you want to get exercised about it.

So, I just wanted to check in to say that I agree wholeheartedly about the BCS system taking on the songs and albums lists. I'm honestly a little too excited over the idea. And that Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah has been in every movie or TV show recorded in the last 10 years, so I'm not sure what you mean about that one. The rest I won't comment on out of respect for your taste and acknowledgement that taste is subjective, except to say that When Doves Cry was overrated at 52, but Purple Rain was TRAGICALLY overrated, no matter where they ranked it.

To try to address the central point you make, you probably know Joe Posnanski is trying to elect a class of Hall of Fame songs on his site -- he wants an initial class of the 10 most iconic songs of the rock-and-roll era, although he stresses they don't have to be rock songs. But I took it as a rock challenge; I didn't have to love the song to vote for it, or even to think it was the best by the group that recorded it (a panel made the nominations, not us, and only chose one song per artist), but I couldn't bring myself to vote for Sinatra or Johnny Cash.

For posterity, my 10, listed with each song's rank in the poll as of right now: 2. Smells Like Teen Spirit; 3. Stairway to Heaven; 4. Satisfaction; 5. I Want to Hold Your Hand (ludicrous; should've been Strawberry Fields Forever); 7. Like a Rolling Stone; 9. Born to Run; 16. Hound Dog; 18. Good Vibrations; 21. Purple Haze; and 31. Rock Around the Clock. Songs I passed on include 1. American Pie, 6. Freebird (just couldn't get over the choice not being Sweet Home Alabama); 8. Bohemian Rhapsody (not iconic, is it? Or is it?); 10. My Generation; and 20. Thriller (see Johnny Cash and Sinatra).

Yeah; I'm actually not sure I addressed the central point you made. But I tried.

Tonto said...

Maybe I oughtta be watching the same TV shows and movies as you. Last month I heard "Hallelujah" for the first time in 10 years. ... But maybe it's because I don't watch TV shows or movies anymore. ... Only the radio. Go figure.

Are you sure you grew up in New England and NEVER sang your little heart out to this?:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight ...

Hell, I sang this so many times in second grade that the kid sitting next to me was working on a Weird Al-esque parody of it ...

Speaking of Yankovic, if "Eat It" doesn't at least make No. 499 on the new BSC Top 500 singles list, then I just don't want to know about anything anymore ...


troy said...

Were you a West Wing guy? They used Hallelujah excellently. Although it'd be hard to use that song unexcellently.

Also, if you're like me, you heard Buckley's version years before bothering to listen to the original. And what a jolt THAT turned out to be.

I think maybe I was Special Ed., because not only didn't I learn the thing you're talking about (which, frankly, sounds like a sneaky incursion on the separation of church and state), but I don't recognize a lot of the books and other things we were supposed to have been exposed to in elementary school.

I don't watch TV anymore either, but I feel compelled to note that I finished ripping all episodes of The Wire this weekend and transferring them to the iPod. I now am in full compliance with U.S. Code 21:316, Subpart A, which mandates that all bloggers mention The Wire. This is a significant improvement over the previous 21:316/A, titled 'ORPHAN DRUGS,' although lately the orphans have been making a lot of noise, asking where their drugs are.

Lastly, some housekeeping: My failure to record my verification CAPCHA should in no way be construed as a lack of enthusiasm for the game. I merely am no longer am being asked to provide one.

Tonto said...