The Beatles. Need I say more? Well actually no, because that’s exactly how I began the first part of this list. If you recall, just a week ago or so I voiced my picks for the first five in a list of ten underrated Beatles’ tracks. With a band as diverse and influential as the Beatles, they’ve tried almost every sound imaginable, and with a back catalogue longer than a Meat Loaf album, there’s far too much to choose from. That being said, there’s no time to waste. Here’s the final five:
I’m Looking Through You, Rubber Soul, 1965 – The only inclusion from this album in my list and perhaps that’s wrong of me. But honestly, other than the hits, ‘I’m Looking Through You’ seems the only real gem here. Some jarring guitar and powerful vocals from McCartney deliver a sorrowful tale of being unable to count on the one he once held so dear. It’s a catchy tune with an infectious drumbeat that really hammers home the power the fab four have, even when they’re not working on the next ‘Nowhere Man’ or ‘Hey Jude’.
Lovely Rita, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1968 – Again, the only time ‘Sgt. Pepper’s…’ makes it into my top ten. This is primarily because I feel the whole of that album has been elevated to stardom, filler and all, so there’s not much in the way of stones left to unturn. And, of course, I agree this should be as it’s also my favourite Beatles record. But I’ve always loved this song and don’t feel it gets quite enough love. A song about a ‘meter maid’ (traffic warden) featuring classic Beatles guitar and kazoo of all instruments. It’s pretty cheesy – even for these boys – but it’s incredibly difficult not to sing along to. From those opening harmonies to the final few clatters of drums, it’s a kicker of a tune.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Abbey Road, 1969 – In what’s bound to be the most polarizing piece in my list, I put this song here because, quite frankly, it’s perfect. Sure, it’s a bit juvenile at times, and McCartney practically drained the life out of every other Beatle trying to master it in the studio, but I still think it’s one of the highlights of an already stand-out record. I recall listening to ‘Maxwell’s…’ for the first time, and being blown away by how catchy it was, only to discover what dark secrets its lyrical content were hiding a few google searches later. By all means, I agree that it can drive you insane. But what better way to make you mad than a song about a hammer-wielding maniac?
Your Mother Should Know, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967 – ‘Your Mother Should Know’ sounds sad from the get-go, but quickly picks up a bit of speed and features some absolutely fantastic harmonies from Lennon and McCartney. That drumbeat from Ringo drives the symphony home, creating an anthem of nostalgia and traditionalism. Or, maybe, it’s just Paul having the same verse to sing a dozen times. Either way, I think it’s a great track, and one that always makes me stop and take a listen.
Now, before I move onto my personal top pick of the Beatles’ underrated masterpieces, I will include two honourable mentions (yes, because we commit to the same international listing guidelines as everyone else here) that I feel nearly made the list. But didn’t – partly because of taste, and partly due to the fact that a top twelve list doesn’t sound nearly as catchy.
The Night Before, Help!, 1965 – The vocals and harmonies here are just beautiful. McCartney conjures up a tale of, well, heartbreak. It’s the Beatles, after all (and relatively early Beatles for that matter). But it’s got a contagious beat that has you tapping along for two-and-a-half minutes. A hidden gem, to be sure.
Carry That Weight, Abbey Road, 1969 – Yes, I know that really it should be ‘Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight’. And yes, I know that that’s still technically at the end of the Abbey Road medley. But I gave myself strict guidelines on only one song. And besides, everyone knows the best part of the whole B-side is ‘Carry That Weight’. It has that triumphant, awe-inspiring feeling of heroism and just… power. Every Beatle comes together (yes, a pun.) for a truly magnificent piece. The first time I heard it, I was blown away.
And now, for my personal Beatles deep cut. The one piece of music that I felt is long-forgotten, tossed aside and needs much love like a new pet rock:
Revolution 1, The Beatles, 1968 – This song is, in a way, not famous and yet, incredibly so. A much more popular, sped-up, guitar-driven version of it was released as a B-side to ‘Hey Jude’ (yes, that ‘Hey Jude) later that same year. And that version sure sounds great. Lennon’s scream at the start and tales of rebellion spur an already fast, uncontrollable steed. But the original, more bluesy-oriented piece is a slice of heaven. You can jam to it, tap your feet to it, or just stare off into space. The toned-down guitar at the beginning is incredibly relaxing, yet rocking at the same time. And Lennon’s gentler vocals could lull you into a deep sleep. It’s always what I’m looking forward to when I put on the White Album (and that in itself is high praise given that I have a huge soft spot for most of that record), and it never fails to cheer me up – even if, admittedly, the content isn’t particularly optimistic.
And with that, my top ten list of underrated Beatles picks is over. You may agree with me, you may disagree. You may even wish to hunt me down and treat me like prey. But one thing’s for sure; this list made me fall in love with the British boys all over again. And that’s got to be a good thing.