Tag: beatles-week

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Despite the vast array of EPs, LPs, singles, one-offs, compilations and regional releases that the Beatles work was spread over, it’s still insane that one of their finest songs never made it to a studio album release outside the USA. Instead, it was relegated to a single and a spot on Past Masters, a collection of similarly non-studio album released songs.

Hey Jude is a monumental epic, a perfect cap to an eclectic and hugely prolific career. It’s wonderfully comforting in the lead-up to its protracted outro, where it explodes triumphantly and joyously, unbound and unhindered. It’s amazing how such a simple pattern of “na na na na’s” could become so powerful, buoyant and ultimately memorable: even if you don’t remember the lyrics for the rest of the song, you’ll certainly remember exactly how to sing the outro.

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While the intention for this week was to bring you one track from each of the Beatles’ studio album releases, this version of Let It Be is better than version that appeared on the divisive album of the same name. Producer Phil Spector’s famed “wall of sound” production technique resulted in a track (and album, for that matter) that, while similar to this version, was overwrought and cluttered with extraneous additions.

This track is a soulful gospel ballad, and an epic in the same vein as Hey Jude. After the experimentations demonstrated in their previous few releases, the tail end of their career saw them return to a striped back and raw state. Let It Be is an exquisite track: simple in its instrumentation and arrangement, but exuding an air of elegance and honesty.

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Hey Bulldog is certainly one of the Beatles wilder songs, but not in same regard as something like, say, A Hard Day’s Night. This tune is harsher and edgy, almost pre-empting the alternative rock movement (Dave Grohl has subsequently commented on the importance of the Beatles in establishing his career, and this song in general).

While a heavy piano riff features throughout, the stand out is the outro which sees the song dissolve into a tangled mess of shouting and barking. Coming from an album that also featured the comparatively ludicrous Yellow Submarine, this makes quite the impact!

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Lennon and McCartney took on the vast bulk of compositional duties for the Beatles work, but there were a good handful of songs credited to Harrison, including this one. A candidate for his most popular contribution, Here Comes the Sun is a serene, heart-swelling piece of music, evoking the somewhat paradoxical aura of gentle, unbridled optimism. It’s vastly distinct from the rest of Abbey Road, but is certainly not minimised as a result.

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This tune was certainly one of the more controversial ones of the day. Thanks to its rather overtly sexual lyrics and symbolism, it was banned by British censors from radio airplay. A shame, but thankfully we’re not as prudish these days.

There’s a vein of eclecticism running through this song: rhapsodic in nature, it drifts from a pseudo-ballad to a crazed bit of hard rock, and expertly done despite its structural complexity. It’s frenzied at times and serene at others, and it’s incredibly compelling as a result.

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While Lennon and McCartney divided singing duties fairly cleanly between their songs, this song provided a chance for both of them to feature distinctly. With McCartney taking the verses and Lennon the chorus, there is a wonderful call and response motif in which they take on different characters within the story (that of a young runaway). The song itself consists purely of a string arrangement and vocals and is, quite simply, beautiful.

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It’s hard to imagine that a group that produced a song like this also produced songs like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand a scant few years earlier. The only other group that I can think of that demonstrated such an evolution is Radiohead, and even their output over the years has been somewhat patchy.

This song, barring some oddball recordings for The White Album, is fully ensconced down in the rabbit hole depths of psychedelia. And yet, it’s infinitely interesting to listen to: the orchestral components add a surreal splash of class, while the lyrical subject matter bewilder all who listen to it. I certainly can’t think of any other ‘out there’ tunes that are also as incredibly memorable and singable as this, too.

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Revolver marked a fairly substantial evolution of the band’s style and influences. A streak of spirituality mixes with hints of political overtones and their general British cheekiness for most of the album, but this tune dives whole-heartedly into the realm of wild mysticism. It’s also one of the heavier examples of experimentation on the album, both in composition and instrumentation: the song maintains a single chord for its entirety, and it features the sitar (an instrument I generally find rather grating, but it’s blended perfectly here) and a wild cacophony of horns, piano, warbling vocals and other random noises. Somehow, it all just works!

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Harrison’s songs for the Beatles always felt different to the rest. Not in any sort of harsh way, but they had a particular resonance and charm that felt distinct to anyone that listens closely to the Beatles. While that resonance would become more apparent in the latter stages of their career when experimentation was rife, it’s perfectly evident in this track from Rubber Soul. Compositionally, it’s rather interesting: it switches to a minor chord during the “Had you come some other day” bit, and in the process completely subverts the typical verse-chorus-verse. As a result, the entire song feels quite dream-like, assisted by the prominent guitar riff and the vocal “ahhs”.

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The over-reliance on Yesterday as a song to underpin moods of melancholy and reminiscence following its release has blunted its impact somewhat, but it’s hard to ignore the song’s significance not only in the Beatles career, but music in general. It’s structural simplicity belies the poignancy flowing from the composition and lyrics: it is a song very much from the heart. It’s remarkably different from the rest of Help!, possibly owing to the fact that this is essentially a McCartney song. He was the sole creator and performer on the track, aside from the session musicians who supplied the orchestral elements.

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