Friday, January 30, 2009

And in the end...

Somebody at named JBev has a lot more time on his hands than I do.

He actually rated all 185 original compositions performed by The Beatles as a group and posted them on the site, with an explanation for each that goes far beyond “cool” or “sucks.”

The list stretches for 20 web pages, and will be excruciating reading for many (although it doesn’t seem half as long as watching the movie Across The Universe), but a delight for some Beatles fans. If you don’t really care about the nuances of “Tell Me Why” or “The Night Before,” you may want to skip to the summary on the last page.

I dug it, of course.

As with all such lists, there are bound to be arguments. Perhaps the least controversial entry is the first—“Revolution 9” at number 185. As groundbreaking as John Lennon thought it was, it just didn’t work (although I still prefer it to Celine Dion’s best song).

My first “Aw, come on!’ moment came a stride out of the gate with “Honey Pie” at number 184. Maybe it’s because I used to dance around the house with a cane and an old sport coat singing the song when I was seven. But it’s not a bad song. Among Paul’s “granny” songs, I would rank it behind “When I’m Sixty-Four” and in front of “Your Mother Should Know.”

That’s one problem with the list. Maybe I’m a blind fan, but I submit that The Beatles never made a bad song. (Their solo efforts don’t count for these purposes. Neither does Yoko.) Some were just more significant than others. JBev is more attuned to the Fab Four’s subtleties, as those songs near the bottom represent some of their extremes—the most upbeat (“Good Day Sunshine”) and downbeat (“Yer Blues”) songs in their catalog, as well as their attempts to be headbangers (“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”) and lounge lizards (“Ask Me Why”).

There are arguments along the way, as there are bound to be. Not much love for “Day Tripper” or “Julia,” way too much for “I Am The Walrus” (number two?) and “Dear Prudence” (the highest-rated White Album track at number 11?), and cheers for the lofty placement of some underrated gems such as “Yes It Is” or "If I Fell."

After showing so much guts along the way, JBev gives us the most predictable number one—“A Day in the Life.” It’s certainly a pop music landmark, and it’s the correct left-brained choice, but is it the song that any Beatles fan really enjoys the most?

Two more interesting possibilities for the top spot came in at numbers four and five. Number four is “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” (rated as one song here). The Beatles had done everything thought possible in pop music, and more, and they couldn’t have gone out more eloquently than they did on that Abbey Road medley. Number five is “Hey Jude”—their biggest hit and certainly one of the most uplifting songs ever, ending with the best vamp (no, not the kind Cher used to sing about on her TV show) in pop music history.

There are other reasons to pick a favorite. “Something”—number nine on the list—has gained a special place in my heart in recent years. My wife and I danced to it on the weekend we met, and it was the first song we danced to at our wedding. It seems heretical to put a George Harrison song at the top of the list, but it now has a spot that goes beyond any list.

The ‘60s are over, and new generations have held The Beatles’ music up to a scrutiny that wasn’t possible during the full fervor of Beatlemania. The band’s legacy has proven that the music is strong enough to withstand that scrutiny.

P.S. You might also want to check out the comments at the bottom of the page. As I write this, the last comment appears to be from Julian Lennon.

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