Sunday, September 6, 2009

The 20 Greatest Beatles Songs

The 20 Greatest Beatles Songs

With the Remasters reposing that age-old question ­ which Beatles
records to buy first? ­ MOJO ranks their greatest tracks with the
help of an all-star cast: Paul Weller, Wayne Coyne, David Crosby,
John Cale, Ozzy Osbourne, Danger Mouse and more!

[September 2009]

20. Rain
(B-side, 1966)

Ringo's greatest drumming launches countercultural downpour.

Andy Partridge (XTC): "I could go on ad infinitum about this. To me,
Rain represents the glorious exploding death of the old Beatles, the
part where they stood at the pinnacle of their own Everest after
they'd done all they could with just two guitars, bass and drums.
Then they look outwards into the psychedelic sunset to where they're
going next, which is inevitably down.

"I first heard it on the radio in a youth club in Swindon when I was
13, and I was singing along to it before it had even finished. I was
very puzzled by the backwards voice. What are they singing 'Nair'
for? That's the hair removal cream my mum rubs on her legs.'

"I'm a bit synaesthesic, so every time I hear it I see bronze. The
guitars are like two ancient Greek shields flashing and battering
into each other, the bass is showing off wonderfully, in fact the
only records that had such a good bass sound before this were Tamla
records. It's also their first fuck-around with speed; the drums are
bigger and slappier than ever before ­ have you heard a better snare
sound? Lyrically it's a dislocated, caustic nursery rhyme, a quite
innocent us-and-them thing. 'They' ­ the straights - run from the
rain and the sun, all the wonderful banality of living, and don't
know they're alive.

"As a song I think it's indicative of the state of mind of English
people. American psychedelia was nastier, with class-A drugs and too
many politics; English psychedelia was gentler and more comical - a
picnic by the Thames with a bloody big daffodil and a purple smoke
bomb and two girls called Alice and Hermione.

"We played in Liverpool the day Lennon died. Rain is modally similar
to [XTC song] Towers Of London, so we played it during the coda; I
felt torn apart and had tears rolling down my face. It was the
weirdest sensation."

19. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
(Rubber Soul, 1965)

Lennon's leap into Dylanworld that inspired Zimmy's 4th Time Around.

Roy Harper: "We all knew they were good. Like gifted siblings. There
were obvious but shifting rivalries and allegiances in the group.
There was some kind of an edge. They were the top pop boys. What you
weren't prepared for was Rubber Soul. They were writing with a deeper
resonance, in another time zone. They'd grown up, it was no longer
parochial youth challenging for a national spot, but young men of the
world claiming a place on a universal stage. I was envious and
inspired at the same moment. They'd come onto my turf, got there
before me, and they were kings of it, overnight. We'd all been
out-flanked. The best song on the record was one of the shortest,
Norwegian Wood. Tears came to my eyes. I wished I'd written it. The
music was sublimely different. George's sitar was a well-placed act
of fusion and the song was full of Lennon wit. After a few times on
the turntable, you realised that the goal posts had been moved,
forever, and you really wanted to hear the next record, now. You
could sense Revolver just over the horizon. You were hooked."

John Cale: "I was just starting to work with VU down in the Lower
East Side. The Beatles' invasion was in full swing. If we were
rehearsing down there on Ludlow Street, we'd be getting stones thrown
at us on the block, because we had long hair, and they'd shout at us,
'Are you the Beatles? Are you The Beatles ?'

"They were a driving force in the Velvets, and made us work harder
and got us on our bikes. Rubber Soul was where you were forced to
deal with them as something other than a flash in the pan. It was
rich in ideas and I loved the way George managed to find a way to
include all those Indian instruments. Lou [Reed] and I had tried to
work with the sarinda. We were playing on it just to get a noise but
I soon realised if you play a melody on the sitar as good as
Norwegian Wood, it makes it easier to present the instrument.

"Norwegian Wood had this atmosphere that I just remember as being
very 'acid'. It's a night sleeping in the bath, a rueful look at how
easy it is to be had when you're running around chasing after tail,
but what you remember in a flashback is a sound, how your senses were
bombarded. I don't think anybody got that sound or that closeted
feeling as well as The Beatles did on Norwegian Wood."

18. Can't Buy Me Love
(A Hard Day's Night, 1964)

Best starting-with-the-chorus-song ever.

Jackie DeShannon: "In 1964 I had the good fortune of touring with the
one-and-only Beatles on their first American tour. One of the great
thrills was having George Harrison ask me to show him the little
guitar riff on When You Walk In The Room. John was writing I'm A
Loser, and he would come back and play it for me, and say, 'Hey, what
do you think?' We used to have pillow fights on the plane!

"Can't Buy Me Love was the song they usually played to open the show.
It put me in a great mood, and I was ready to take on the screaming
masses who came to see the Fab Four. It will always be a favourite of
mine as it takes me back to one of the best times in my life."

17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
(The Beatles, 1968)

Clapton guests on Harrison's post Rishikesh retort to band members.

Chris Difford (Squeeze): "When I first put the White Album on, the
song that really stood out for me was this one. Because of the
emotion in the lyric and in the musicianship, that emotional build to
it, it touched a chord. It's quite an unusual chorus, if it is a
chorus ­ a rock anthem in a classical sense, especially the way it
ends up with those solos, but I think it would sound brilliant on an
acoustic guitar, because it could be a lullaby love song.

"It wasn't until five years ago when I went to the George Harrison
memorial concert at the Albert Hall that I revisited the song and
took on board the whole concept of it. George was the one who came
back from India with the spiritual awakening and carried it through
to the rest of his life, whereas the others came back with the
postcards. The lyric was arrived at by using the I Ching; he opened a
random book and the first phrase he picked out was, 'gently weeps';
so he based it around that. Apparently, there was another verse to
the song that was edited out which George poignantly wrote about Paul
and John, and how he thought they should get their heads banged together!"

16. Revolution
(B-side to Hey Jude, 1968)

Lennon's pacifist response to the '68 uprisings rocks on Ringo's
atom-blast drums.

ete Shelley (Buzzcocks):"Revolution was the first Beatles song I
really liked. It was the great distorted guitar sound at the
beginning that really got me. I had never heard anything like that
before. It made me really interested in what you could do with pop
music. Hey Jude was the first single I ever bought, in summer 1968
when it came out. I took it home and looked at the sleeve for ages,
like you always did with a Beatles single, and then took Hey Jude out
and played it several times over. Then I turned it over one day and
found this great song on the other side. It was that eureka moment.
Revolution made me want to be in a band."

15. With A Little Help From My Friends
(Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)

Ringo led communion shows the light to the Southern soul siren.

Bettye LaVette: "The Beatles left so much room to work with the song.
They're so white and so bland, that they left me lots of places to go
­ I wanted to hear me sing it! But once you start to sing a Beatles
song, you realise what a strange route they took, you realise the
skill of the writing. As far as With A Little Help… , I liked the way
the song felt, how the notes fell. It wasn't the story, although with
the number of friends ­ not the industry, mind you, but genuine
friends ­ who have helped me hold on and pay my car notes and
mortgages over the last forty years, I probably have more reason to
sing a song like that today!"

14. I Want To Hold Your Hand
(Single, 1963)

Jane Asher's parents' bedroom gives birth to the British Invasion.

Tom Petty: "The Beatles were hyped to be the best thing ever, but
they actually were better than that. Just the sound of this is
thrilling. Even today when I listen to it, it doesn't really sound
like people singing, it sounds like it could be Martians or
something. I was just a kid when it came out. I went and bought the
single with that picture of them on the cover in those great
collarless suits, and then I immediately set out to get a guitar;
I've read that guitar sales boomed after that."

Tom Rundgren: "The first song I got hooked on and for a very simple
reason. Me and my best friend used to do everything together, and
when he decided to join the boy scouts so did I. You had to start
attending church. So I joined the youth group there, and a pretty hip
guy would drive us for outings on weekends and take us to the pizza
parlour afterwards. Somebody put I Want To Hold Your Hand on the
jukebox and this was the first time I'd ever heard what goes on
beyond the capacities of a normal car speaker. I suddenly became
aware of the bass drum. Other records had the bass drum as a fuzzy
presence, and suddenly there was this big punchy thing. I discovered
low-end with I Want To Hold Your Hand on a pizza joint jukebox with a
15-inch speaker. There was a sonic revelation hidden in there and it
was hugely useful in terms of my record production afterwards.

"Being eclectic was always part of my musical approach and The
Beatles really defined that. Also, the first US album, Meet The
Beatles, did something that I hadn't seen before, which was to
enumerate every instrument they had touched during the course of the
recording, including Arabian drum and maracas ­ like there was a
special skill involved in each one!"

13. Hey Jude
(Single, 1968)

Macca writes song for Julian Lennon and beats MacArthur Park (by a
second) to Longest Single So Far spot.

Guy Chambers (songwriter to the stars): "I was 10, my mum had the
double blue album and Hey Jude was always my favourite song from
that. I was fascinated by its extraordinary length. It's an epic,
just over seven minutes. The song's in two halves and I still think
that's amazing now, and I would still like to write a song like that.
When I wrote Angels with Rob [Williams], Hey Jude was very much on my
mind in terms of the piano part and trying to write an epic.

"We used to use the end of Hey Jude on the Robbie set, at the end of
Lazy Days, go straight into the, 'na, na, na, na, na, na, naaa'. That
had a fantastic effect in a big gig because everyone would sing it.
But it's also a very intimate song, the way it starts with just the
piano. I think it's one of Paul's best vocal performances in terms of
warmth and sincerity and coolness. The shriek, that, 'better, better,
better', that's one of the greatest moments in all pop music. When he
hits that high F, it's ridiculously great. It's beautiful and unusual
because it hasn't got a chorus. It's verse, bridge, verse, bridge and
then this ridiculous outro with the trombones, the brass and the long
notes. It's like a happening to me, an event."

12. Come Together
(Abbey Road, 1969)

Dave Okumu (of Mercury Prize nominees, The Invisible): ""Come
Together, for me, is kind of immovable. It's a bluesy, filthy tune
and there's something very sinister, something sexual in those
lyrics. It really draws you in, a dark mood underlying seemingly
frivolous words. And the groove! It's an amazing rhythm feel. The
musicianship all-round is just phenomenal, this effortless marriage
of traditional and progressive elements.

"I love the Beatles. I love the fact that they were so experimental
in the studio, such risk takers. They could be great storytellers, or
really abstract. And although we've lived with that music for
decades, I still go back to their records and go, Wow! What a bold
thing to do! To mix it in that way, or to throw this sound in, or
splice the tape together like that.

"Our version was going to accentuate the blues element, take it
Hendrixier, filthier and bluesier. But it just didn't really ring
true. So we found ourselves being led by this amazing instrument
called a Carousel. It's this really cool old keyboard. You can
program drums through it and do all kinds of weird things with it,
and although it was very abstract and strange and we definitely had
moments of going, 'What on earth are we doing?' it did feel like a
process that the Beatles might have gone through.

"It was important to make it our own really, or try to develop it in
some way, or deconstruct it. So we ended up keeping the vocal melody,
and excavating the rest, but with a tip of the cap to Ringo's amazing
drums in the electronic beats. As a kid hearing The Beatles I was so
inspired by the way the music was put together and the shape of it.
It's so counter-intuitive; they so very rarely followed the same
model twice. If you take anything from The Beatles as a musician, take that.

"It's a real thrill for us to be on the CD, though. MOJO is the only
magazine I get, so I just hope that our Come Together not a source of
shame and degradation to a magazine I really like."

11. Eleanor Rigby
(Revolver, 1966)

All the lonely people, enfranchised in hard-boiled mode: "no one was saved."

David Crosby: "Eleanor Rigby appeals to me for a bunch of different
reasons. One, who do you know that's written a song like that, who
noticed the loneliness of old people, of people seemingly unnoticed
by the rest of us? These people were invisible to songwriters, too,
but they weren't invisible to Paul. You can tell that he really
watches people, that he acknowledges their sad determination.

"The imagery is just stunning: 'darning her socks in the night',
'writing a sermon that no one will hear'. I love it that McCartney
sees people with that kind of love. That song has absolutely stood
the test of time for me. It's like a beautiful painting you can see a
thousand times and still be seein' new stuff in it."

10. A Hard Day's Night
(A Hard Day's Night, 1964)

RBrannnngg! The whole libetarian promise of the '60s in one G11sus4.

Phil Collins: "It's only now and again, as if in a dream, that I
acknowledge the fact that I was in A Hard Days Night that chord.
Well, not really in it, but actually there. I'll never forget that
day that I went with my stage school pals to the Scala Theatre in
Charlotte Street, now sadly demolished, to appear in a film the
details of which were undisclosed to us. When the Beatles walked out
on that stage all my friends went berserk. I just settled back to
watch and listen.

"They played a few songs: Tell Me Why, If I Fell, You Can't Do That,
and *this. Even now, every time I hear that opening chord, that is so
indefinable, so distinctive of an era, I feel a warm glow. Also that
killer Rickenbacker guitar solo, that incredible 12-string sound. I
don't even play guitar, but I collect Rickenbackers so that my guys
can use them, all because of George…"

9. Penny Lane
(Single, 1967)

Bach and Noel Coward combine in uber-elegant, English comic-pop utopia.

Neil Innes(erstwhile Bonzo; The Rutles' Ron Nasty): "This was mould
breaking. The lyrics ran like a movie, and it made me think there was
something more to writing pop songs than just trying to get girls to
scream. The Bonzos weren't interested in being in the charts ­ we
subscribed to the view of Albert Grossman about The Tremeloes:
y'know, 'Imitation pearls before genuine swine' ­ but this, this was
actually a piece of art.

"The opening line is brilliant: 'In Penny Lane, there is a barber
showing photographs / Of every head he's had the pleasure to know'.
It brings you right into a personal world. Then there's Paul's
melodic genius ­ he can bang two bricks together and make a tune.
That key change towards the end ­ "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my
eyes" ­ up it goes, and we're off! It's effortless."

8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
(The White Album, 1968)

An absurd NRA motto take Lennon on a voyage of Freudian concupiscence.

Tori Amos: "In 2000 I covered this song for my album Strange Little
Girls, a collection that reworked, with a feminist perspective, songs
made famous by men. I included it because 30 years later, this song
had a social commentary for America. Then we had the Bush father and
son comedy team around, with their close connections with the NRA. In
the CD booklet there's a picture of me looking like J-Lo meets
Beyonce, with long blonde crimped hair. I was playing the call girl
character that Mark Chapman saw the night before he used a gun on the
man who wrote Happiness Is A Warm Gun. It was a way of bringing
awareness to Columbine and those other tragedies - that guns have
been used in a way that could've been prevented if the NRA didn't
have the control it does. It's hard to write a song that has a social
commentary. There are songs you listen to on the radio and you want
to throw raw meat at them and say, shut up you sanctimonious
arsehole! A song that can make a statement without preaching is
rare, and this one did it. The Beatles had the ability to make you
think about the world, not just your own little world. They could put
the microcosm and macrocosm in the same song. They sang of drugs and
guns without telling me what to feel about it. That's genius."

7. In My Life
(Rubber Soul, 1965)

Began as Liverpudlian A to Z. Ended as introspective reflection,
swamped in melancholy.

Ozzy Osbourne: "Lennon paints an incredible picture in just three
minutes. It's not a load of rubbish that rhymes. My Life is one of
those beautiful songs. I did a version of it because the lyrics seem
to really fit me: 'There are places I'll remember / All my life
though some have changed / Some forever not for better / Some have
gone and some remain'. It's like when sometimes you sit down and
think back to when you were a five-year-old and you were frightened
when you went to school. These things come flooding back. It's those
kind of memories that you get from the song. It's like, I went
through a phase where I was having a lot of dreams about 14 Lodge
Road [Birmingham], the old house I grew up in. It didn't matter
whether I was being chased by Indians or whatever in my dream, I'd
end up in 14 Lodge Road. In My Life reminds me of that time back in
that house. I found out that the guy who owns the place sold the
front door on e-Bay recently. Somebody out there thinks they've got
my front door. But it ain't my front door 'cos ours never had windows
and this one that got sold did."

6. She Loves You
(Single, 1963)

A timeless joy forever from Ringo's b'dum-b'dum to George's jazz
twist on that final "yeah".

Roger McGuinn: "She Loves You is deceptively simple on first hearing.
The lyrics are just about teenage love and capture that feeling well,
but the real hook is the musical device the Beatles used - a
descending line from G to E minor with "Yeah yeah yeah" on the
choruses. Even the choice of chords in the verse is really cool,
going from G to B minor. These were not chord choices heard
previously in pop or rock music. They were folk music chord changes.
Subconsciously the Beatles had combined folk music with rock. When I
heard She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand it gave me the idea
of putting a Beatle beat to folk songs and was the inspiration for
the first sounds of The Byrds. When people debate the origin of
folk-rock they don't realize that the Beatles were responsible as far
back as 1963."

5. Something
(Abbey Road, 1969)

George's finest moment, a long, delicious ache, and Frank Sinatra's
favourite Beatle song.

Ian McNabb (scouse bard, Icicle Worker): "I'd bought The Blue Album
in a high street store in Prestatyn in North Wales in 1974 and when I
heard Something I thought, This is it!

"The first thing that hits you is the sound of it. It doesn't sound
like the Beatles. It sounds like the beginning of George Harrison's
solo career, and the prototype for that whole '70s 10cc/Fleetwood Mac
soft-rock sound. The idea was lifted from James Taylor's Something In
The Way She Moves, from his first Apple album, but then George gets
into that major/natural 7th chord progression, married to this simple
evocation of undying love to someone who ignites him simply by moving.

"The bridge lick at the top of the track is revisited after the
second verse, only to lead us into a completely different key, and
mood, for the middle eight, where he's getting more and more excited
but saying 'I don't know if it's going to last but if you hang round,
we'll see.' I don't know if anyone had ever written anything like
that before. And it turned out he was right, that was the peak in the
arc of that love affair. It's a love song that only exists in the
moment of him singing it.

"I also admire the fact that he didn't add anything to the third
verse, he maintained the enigma. Plus, that third verse invented
early-'70s Pink Floyd - mid-paced, nice chords, lots of major and
minor sevenths, a kind of lapsing-into-peacefulness, but aware that
it could all go wrong at any moment. Also, it's bang on three
minutes, it's a ballad, and it's a one-word title. Perfect. It's an
oasis, the pastoral in the middle of the urban, like the sleeve of
Abbey Road itself - a snapshot of a really great summer in London in 1969.

"It's perfectly placed in the Beatles' history. If it had been on the
White Album they would have bashed it out. If it had it ended up on
All Things Must Pass you'd have had Badfinger on there playing 19
acoustic guitars and Phil Spector putting fucking reverb on
everything. Sinatra covered it, and referred to it as a Lennon and
McCartney song, which must have pissed George off but must have also
elated him, because it would have pissed the other two off even more!"

4. Tomorrow Never Knows
(Revolver, 1966)

A revolution in perspective and palette; music as creation, not performance.

Tom Rowlands (The Chemical Brothers): "Me and Ed [Simons] always used
to play it after an acid house track by Emmanuel Top called
Lobotomie. It's 10 minutes long and people would be frazzled by the
end of it… then we would go into Tomorrow Never Knows and it would be
absolutely incredible. People would ask if it was something new, or a
remix ­ it just sounded so intense and so wild.

"I've had stages of my life when I've been completely obsessed with
that song. It's immediate, but at the same time it's
incomprehensible. It's noise, but it's music. The idea that a screech
could be the hook of a song was revolutionary. When we went to Japan
we used to trawl those Beatles bootleg shops looking for The Void ­
the mythical 20-minute version of Tomorrow Never Knows. I've got lots
of versions of 'Mark 1' as it's called ­ with all the different
embellishments ­ but I've never found The Void. But I like the fact
that it is called The Void. Because listening to this is like
stepping into a void of nothingness and everything at the same time.

"Obviously it was a big touchstone for what we've gone on to do. In
my mind, the alien-ness of acid house is related to the alien-ness of
Tomorrow Never Knows, and of course the techniques... Paul
McCartney's laugh twisted round to become seagulls, the mad
compression of the drums ­ it's an experiment to make things sound
how they shouldn't. That's what I try to do every day. And if you're
feeling sort of stumped or lacking in creative juice, you can listen
to Tomorrow Never Knows and just re-charge with the spirit of
adventure. It's that feeling of too-muchness, the ultimate."

3. Yesterday
(Help!, 1965)

Scrambled eggs/Oh baby how I love your legs" wouldn't have been the same...

James Skelly (The Coral): "I always knew it, but then the Anthologies
came out when I was about 15, and I got into it all over again.
There's no bullshit involved in that song, no gimmicks. He dreamed
it, you know. I think it's the most played song ever and there's got
to be a reason for that, hasn't there? It's just perfect ­
everything, the singing, the arrangement, the picking on the guitar.
I think sometimes Paul must have felt pressured to do heavier tunes
like Helter Skelter or Back In The USSR, but you can just tell he's
trying too hard and it sounds unnatural. When he does something like
Yesterday or Here, There And Everywhere, you just can't beat him. He
was steeped in that tradition of show tunes. At the time when he grew
up, kids would learn piano or guitar and you'd be competent. That's
why McCartney can nail the emotion. He's brilliant at crafting tunes
but making it sound effortless."

2. Strawberry Fields Forever
(Single, 1967)

Regret and drugs warp John's dream of a Liverpool already long gone.
Sheer alchemy.

E (Eels enigma): "I don't remember when I first heard it, but I
remember being four years old and my sister having the 45. I remember
dancing around to it in a real crazy, tribal, gorilla-like way. I
particularly responded to the weird fade-up at the end. Little kids
always respond to the Beatles; it's some universal thing that I can't explain.

"I like to think about what it would have been like to have been an
adult in 1967, driving down the road one day with the AM radio
playing, and hearing that for the first time. It must have been a
mindblowing experience. It has this ghostly quality, and the
slowed-down Lennon voice, which really dramatised the idea of
"maturing". There's also a scariness that offsets the nostalgic
childhood thing. And I think that's partly why it stands the test of
time. It transcends any Summer of Love bullshit.

"From a musician's perspective, it's stunning, a spine-tingler. I
really like the other versions of it, too, on bootlegs where Lennon's
voice isn't slowed down. It really raises the hair on your arms. I
love the conversational tone of the lyrics ­ 'that is', 'I think',
'you know', 'ah yes' ­ that's unusual for a pop song even now. It's
one of those John Lennon songs that has a preordained quality, as if
it just came from the sky. It just sounds perfect."

Paul Weller: "I can remember the wonderment it filled me with as a
kid and it still does after all these years ­ the soundscape it
creates in my mind which I can never put my finger on and never want
to. We've got so much information about The Beatles now, where they
wrote this and recorded that and how, but sometimes that takes the
magic away. Sometimes you just don't need to know all those things. I
remember seeing the two promo films, for this and Penny Lane. I was
about nine, watching it on the black and white grainy TV set and I
was so knocked out by it, and hearing the song on the radio it was
like something coming in from another planet at the time. It's the
world's most psychedelic record. No ,I'd never attempt to cover it,
wouldn't know where to begin, maybe strip it down, do it on acoustic
guitar but that still wouldn't be good enough. You can't touch it."

Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips): "Strawberry Fields is a thread that goes
through almost everything I've tried to do. Me and my older brother
Ken would endlessly listen to the end of the song ­ and I still wish
it was John Lennon saying "I buried Paul" instead of "cranberry
sauce". The song is monumentally awesome and strange without that
baggage, but it always haunted me ­ the idea that Paul McCartney is
actually dead and here's John Lennon singing about it. And I can see
now this clear thread ­ that starts with Strawberry Fields ­ of me
being almost mythically obsessed by the idea of a psychedelic death.

"Of course, now I know that was only a stupid story. But there's more
to Strawberry Fields than a story about John Lennon's childhood. I
mean, what the fuck are those lyrics? "No-one I think is in my tree"?
Sometimes you sing a line like that and then you pull yourself
outside of it and you're like, what the fuck is that all about?
Music's like that. I always compare it to having really freaky sex.
When you're doing it, it's like, Wooo, that's about as good as it
gets! And then the minute you pull away from it you're like, Man that
was weird. What are we doing here? But those are the moments that
show us there's a magical invisible area in our lives. And Strawberry
Fields does that, for sure."

Sufjan Stevens: "Even as a child, I knew this was a song of
incarnation. John Lennon's sobering voice, pitch-shifted down,
Ringo's bombastic beats, George Martin's gregarious string and horn
arrangements, the tape-splicing, the mood swings, that weird nautical
alarm clock in the third verse, the jam-out, the fade out, the
fantastic coda. It was serious and silly all at once. At the time, I
took it literally: Yes, of course, let's go down and pick
strawberries with the Fab Four. Why not? Years later, in college, my
friends clued me to the drug references. But now, I'm not so sure.
The multiple variations released on the Anthology albums indicate
something much deeper. To me, it's a song about John working it out,
shrugging his shoulders, letting it go, returning to an idyllic place
from his childhood now lost in memory. In the process he also
happened to create one of the most gorgeous psychedelic revelations
in pop music."

1. A Day In The Life
(Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)

The cosmos resounds in Lennon and McCartney's most perfect collaboration.

Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, The Grey Album): "I did a mix
tape when I was at college that remixed A Day In The Life. Usually,
with mix tapes you've got some hot New York DJ screaming all over it,
and he knows a bunch of people so he gets Mobb Deep on the track or
gets Nas to do a piece. I didn't know anyone, so I had to think of
something completely different to do.

"I was in History Of Rock And Roll class at the time, and they were
explaining how McCartney's string idea in A Day In The Life works:
'OK, this is where it starts, this is where it ends, it doesn't
matter how fast you play until you get there.' My teacher was
breaking that song down, and I was understanding just how much went
in to making the music.

"So I remixed A Day And The Life with a song by Jemini The Gifted
One, who was one of my favourite rappers at the time. And that was
the weird remix I had on my mixtape: Jemini's Funk Soul Sensation
instrumental mixed with the Beatles. I love Helter Skelter, I Am The
Walrus, Happiness Is A Warm Gun and Strawberry Fields Forever, but
this is the one for me. Obviously, I had no idea that a few years
later I'd be working with Jemini, and getting known for messing with
Beatles samples. I can genuinely say that A Day In The Life changed my life."

Win Butler (Arcade Fire): "I love A Day In The Life, although I know
that's almost a cliché. It's so obviously great. The combination of
production and song is unique. Musically it's amazing because it's
this insane-sounding tune, but Paul's "straight" piano break is
brilliant, too. After hearing this, you may as well stop trying to
write piano songs because nothing's going to top it. I probably first
heard it as a kid when my mum played it on the stereo, but it's never
lost its magic for me, however hard I've looked at it. It just comes
from a different part of the universe."


1 comment:

Jamie Goddard said...

Great blog, really enjoyed it.