“Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles!”

Early last week I went out to the garage to spend a couple of quality hours on my clean up efforts of the new year. The storage racks and rafters are jammed with boxes and other items and needs sorting badly. I’ve grown tired of simply going out there and rearranging my stuff,  I’ve done that for decades! This time I am determined to create more space.

As luck would have it, the first box I grabbed was the only box that got moved that afternoon. The box was very heavy so I suspected it was filled with books or magazines. I set the box down and pulled off the lid, it was filled with old copies of Rolling Stone Magazine. Yes, that’s right, Rolling Stone. I first subscribed to it back in 1971 and continued to receive it until about 2005. I continued to pick up a copy from time to time  and still do. Sometimes I check them out online. Old habits die hard.

The RS at the top of the stack was a special edition issue from mid August 2010. “Rolling Stone Special Collectors Edition: The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs.” And that my friends was all it took. The Beatles fan in me immediately took over. I sat down in a camping chair, and began going through the magazine. I remember thinking “all I need now is a beer.”The thought nagged me for a few pages so I went in and grabbed one, and continued my little Beatles adventure.

The introduction, written by Elvis Costello and notes that accompanied each of the 100 song on the list were interesting but the ranking itself was questionable. I mean why even bother trying to numerically rank 100 Beatles songs? Slow day at the office?  The Beatles music library is so vast, I’d be hard pressed to even attempt a top 10 much less 100, unless of course my top 10 could contain 20 songs. I could definitely do it then. But I doubt we’d be in agreement. We all have our particular favorites, our personal top 10. We’d probably have a few songs in common but there’d be many differences as well. RS 100 Greatest songs list the following as the Beatles top ten songs of all time.

1: “A Day in the Life”                                               6: “Something”                                                    2: “I Want to Hold Your Hand”                             7: “Hey Jude”                                                    3: “Strawberry Fields Forever”                              8: “Let It Be”                                                      4: “Yesterday                                                             9: “Come Together”                                          5: “In My Life”                                                         10: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

So what do you think, do you agree with RS? Are these songs a true indication of the Beatles greatness? Are some of your favorites missing? Are you as surprised as I am by some of the tunes that didn’t make the cut? In my opinion half the top 10 songs should be there, there are better ones by far! I will admit that the list is a fair representation of the Beatles body of work but their greatest? Far from it.

Take #2 for instance, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Sure it brings back some great memories, Beatlemania, the British Invasion, Ed Sullivan, Beatles wigs and hordes of screaming girls! Yeah the four mop tops were quite the sensation back in early 64, just the diversion America needed after the horror of the Kennedy assassination. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure, I know “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was the Beatles first #1 hit in America and is a cool, catchy little tune and all, but compared to some of their other work it’s just a cute, little ditty the boys dreamed up one lazy afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong I like the song and  it would probably be in my top 25, but the second best song in their entire repertoire? No way!  I feel the same about “Yesterday,” “Let it Be,” “Something” and “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.” All outstanding Beatles songs that deserve recognition.  All four would definitely be in my top 25, just not in the first 10. There are more deserving tunes that should be in the top 10, at least in my top ten.

I totally agree with Rolling Stone’s selection of “A Day in the Life” as the number one Beatles song. Without a doubt it is the cream of the crop, “the topper most of the popper most.” George Martin aptly described it as an “orchestral orgasm,” a fitting description for a true masterpiece! Truly the greatest of all Beatles songs! In my opinion only three other songs come close, “Hey Jude” and “All You Need is Love,”and “Strawberry Fields,” my number 2, 3, and 4 picks. My top 10 would look something like this:

1. A Day in the Life (#1)                        5 – 10  (any order)                                                              2. Hey Jude (#7)                                     I am the Walrus (#32)         Don’t Let Me Down(#46)  3. All You Need is Love (#21)               Revolution (fast) (13)          Come Together (#9)        4. Strawberry Fields (#3)                      Norwegian Wood (#12)        In My Life (#5)

(#) Rolling Stone ranking  

My next ten would include in no particular order,  “I Feel Fine,” “Julia,”  “Yer Blues,” “Here,There and Everywhere,” “Across the Universe,” “Revolution,” “For No One,” “Long and Winding Road,” “You Can’t Do That,” and “Oh Darling.” I’m sure your list would differ from mine and that’s the whole point. Lists, particularly those that claim to be the greatest or best of, are completely arbitrary. Greatest or best based on what? Units sold? Weeks in the Charts? Radio play-time? Surveys or producers choice? It makes a difference. We all have those songs that have special meaning to us, feel good songs. Tunes that we rank among the group’s best work that somehow didn’t make the cut.

Music is a very personal thing. We all have different taste and look for different things in a song. Some like the beat, others like the lyrics, or harmonies. Two people can listen to the same tune and one comes away thinking it’s a waste or just okay while the other thinks it the greatest thing he’s ever heard. Rolling Stone’s list is interesting and reminds us of the greatness of the Beatles music and is certainly a nice trip down memory lane, but it’s far from definitive. We all have our own top ten list of Beatles songs and our lists are just as valid as the RS list.

My list is just that, my list. It’s not set in stone, it’s fluid and changes from time to time. On any given day the order of my top 10 songs may be different. Some songs may be in different positions or be off the list completely so new ones can be added. Even now as I look over my lists I see that I forgot “Yes It Is” “Girl”, and “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.” Then there’s “She Said, She Said” or “Day Tripper”?  And Maybe my number 3 and 4 should be reversed. I tell you, my list changes depending on my mood. Thank God for current technology that allows us to assemble our own greatest and best of playlists. I’d be lost without my Ipod.

Just Saying..

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