Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ranking the Beatles my damn self: snake eyes!

Ah, I got nothing ...

24. Getting Better (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)

Awesome from the opening notes, supposedly produced by striking the strings of a piano, and recorded to sound different by George Martin. Musically, the verse stays on one note (G, if I'm not mistaken) and is never boring. And again, awesome use of tamboura. Brutally frank treatment in the lyrics, this marked a new plateau in honesty and candor as they moved ever farther away from the 'bubble gum' lyrics.

23. Savoy Truffle (The Beatles)

Ah, the saxes. My God, the saxes. Cool progression, too. And the organ sound is supercool. But the saxes ...

22. Sexy Sadie (The Beatles)

This didn't have much in the way of dynamics either, did it? I honestly think John either was kind of lazy by now or was too focused on the song and not bothering about songcraft or production. Possibly both. But the song is perfection, from the opening piano notes to the descending/ascending/descending progression. I love the way John sang it, too; an excellent performance.

21. Polythene Pam (Abbey Road)

I honestly almost raised it over Ticket to Ride just because of the way John says “Great!” toward the end. But Ticket to Ride’s beat put it over the top. The guitar sounds (and mixing) in this are beautiful, though. In some ways, this is Abbey Road in microcosm.

20. Ticket to Ride (Help!)

I really can't believe this isn't in my top 10. Did any Beatle song create a mood as effectively as this song did? Ringo talked about his drumming in Rain as if he were temporarily possessed, but this might be his most inspired beat.

19. Baby's in Black (For Sale)

It hurts, people. It hurts not to have this in the top 10. If this were purely about singability -- if iPods could only make playlists 10 songs long, and I wanted one of Beatle songs just for singing, this wouldn't just be on the list, it might be the first song picked for it. The harmonies are plotted out, almost stately; they don't move around too much, but they're so great.

18. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles)

This kind of could have been ranked almost anywhere; more than a lot of other songs, I really had to keep moving it up and asking "Do I like it more than ..." whatever song I'd temporarily vaulted it above. I don't know that I would have guessed it to be so high at the outset. That would have been fun, actually, guessing at a top 10 or 20, giving myself only two minutes or so to compile it. This song is so in-your-face frenetic, which you can tell because someone keeps screaming in between "Take it easy"s.

17. Mean Mr. Mustard (Abbey Road)

Obviously the medleys create ranking problems. I’m pretending they are full-length songs and giving them credit for what else they might have done in that time, assuming it wouldn’t have been just more of the same, like just a third verse and extra chorus – in other words, I’m dividing awesomeness by time and then extrapolating.

This is my favorite of the three pieces: John's voice is superbad, the tambourine comes in at a nice spot, the Moog sounds great, Paul's harmonies in the second verse are spot-on, and the lyrics are tight, yo.

16. Because (Abbey Road)

I have to fight the urge to penalize this song for having so few parts to it, for some reason. Luckily, the singing and mixing are so genius that even a dink like me is floored. The lyrics are great too, if you don't take them too seriously.

15. Rain (Past Masters vol. II)

No other Beatles song sounds like this one, which isn't true of a lot of others. I love the rhythm guitar sound, and what Paul is doing on bass. I love John's vocal, and the production. And I love the message, maybe more than any other song's.

14. Taxman (Revolver)

Which should just about do it for George. If you don't know, that's Paul playing what as far as I know is his best guitar solo in the band's career. By the way, I wanted to vault each of the last four songs over this, but I just couldn't, because of that iconic bassline. That bassline is as influential as anything.

13. And Your Bird Can Sing (Revolver)

OK, remember how I was saying I shouldn't let alternate versions factor into the countdown too much? Well I'm granting myself an exception. The Anthology take of this, where John and Paul can't do a vocal overdub because they're either too high or tripping, could cheer me up no matter how down I was. As for the album version, it's got the great guitar work, and it's so much fun to try to sing along with John (and Paul, when he shows up). Also, the bridge of this might be the first instance where they used their trademark descending chord progression.

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Join us tomorrow for the wrap-up. I might not surprise you with my favorite, but I'll surprise myself with my third-favorite.

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