The Beatles. Need I say more? The four British boys with faint Liverpudlian accents and high ambitions cast a legacy on music that’ll never quite fade. And quite right, too. From their cheesy ‘rock’ in the early 1960s, giving us such songs as ‘Love Me Do’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, all the way through to the psychedelia and madness of Revolver and the infamous White Album, The Beatles have done it all.
And what better way to recognize this than pulling ten songs (and a few more to boot) from the vaults of their back catalogue? You’ll no doubt disagree and have your own personal deep cuts, but regardless, here are mine:
‘Magical Mystery Tour’, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967 – Musicologist Walter Everett once wrote that, ‘I agree with those who call ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ a warmed-over ‘Sgt. Pepper’-type fanfare…’, and I have to say he’s completely wrong. I’ve never understood why this song never got the single treatment, nor did it even garner much attention. Look, I love Sgt. Pepper’s… (in truth, it’s probably my favourite of The Beatles’ albums), but the opener to the album of the same name is just better. It’s catchy, playful, and invites the listener along on a journey no doubt concocted of drugs and hallucinations. It explodes into a chugging powerhouse of jubilation, and McCartney sounds superb here.
‘If I Fell’, A Hard Day’s Night, 1964 – The earliest inclusion on this list (though not for want of searching – I find the early Beatles’ stuff just not as powerful as their later work, as worthy as it still is) , ‘If I Fell’ is a bittersweet ballad of Lennon (sometimes contested by McCartney that it was a joint effort), of the narrator wondering if a new flame will hurt him like her predecessor.. It’s not exactly a thought-provoking piece, but nevertheless shows an interesting side to the early Beatles. It’s one of the highlights of A Hard Day’s Night, and I always felt it deserved more attention. It was eventually released as a single in the UK, but received relatively affection, often labelled as not one of their ‘official’ releases.
‘Piggies’, The Beatles, 1968 – The Beatles’ infamous ‘White Album’ has been praised by some, resented by others. Regardless of your feelings, never has one album showed a band’s varying musical styles like this one. From the Beatles’ classic, ‘Back in the USSR’ to the tongue-in-cheek ‘Glass Onion’ to Paul’s ‘granny shit’ (so spoke John Lennon), ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, there’s a plethora of commodities and oddities here. One of the overlooked gems of this record is without a doubt, George Harrison’s ‘Piggies’. A harpsichord-riddled slice of baroque pop fused with intense social commentary, it’s one of the more bizarre Beatles songs out there. Harrison recalls the ‘bigger piggies, stirring up the dirt…’, in reference to the elite. Following on from his bitter ‘Taxman’ of Revolver, it’s actually a really neat song. Odd, but catchy nonetheless. And cemented the hope that the quiet Beatle could be heard, too.
‘Hey Bulldog’, Yellow Submarine, 1969 – ‘Hey Bulldog’ is an example of one of those songs on movie soundtracks that should have been a single in itself. Taken from the motion picture from which the album is derived, ‘Hey Bulldog’ is built around the piano, layered with grooving guitar and catchy lyrics. The lyrics may be meaningless, to be fair, but what do you expect from a movie with flying, evil gloves and a realm composed entirely of holes? (seriously, even if you’re not a Beatles fan, Yellow Submarine remains one of the most entertaining and downright bizarre movies out there) The chorus, though – ‘If you’re lonely, you can talk to me.’ – is particularly poignant, and another example of the Beatles making something concrete of something so… abstract.
‘I’m So Tired’, The Beatles, 1968 – Another inclusion from the eponymous ‘White Album’, but one that absolutely deserves a place on this list. John Lennon’s ‘I’m So Tired’, a lamentation on the absence of his then obsession, Yoko Ono, is a mellow track which features some of his most sublime vocals. When Lennon howls down the microphone, ‘I wonder, should I call you? But I know what you would do!’, we get a real sense of his grief. Regardless of how you feel toward Yoko Ono, this is a pained man, drained of energy from the studio and missing his love. The track only gets better when it chugs into a tour-de-force, complete with lyrics cursing Sir Walter Raleigh. It’s a wonderful song that remains a highlight of side two.
And that’s it for the first half of my chosen deep cuts. But, in the spirit of giving – and that I couldn’t pick just ten – here are two honourable mentions that very nearly made the sacred list:
‘Getting Better’, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967 – A wonderful little optimistic piece from McCartney (complete with Lennon’s disdain, ‘It couldn’t get much worse!’), it remains catchy pop that I think deserves more love on the album. It’s not ‘With A Little Help…’, but by God is it still good.
‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’, The Beatles, 1968 – One of the catchier tracks on the ‘White Album’, and a reminder that the Beatles didn’t have to be so serious all the time. It always takes me by surprise, and I welcome it entirely.
And that’s all for now. Soon I’ll be back with the last five, so we can finally put to rest what the best underrated Beatles tracks are. Probably.