The Beatles, the inescapable musical lifeblood of Liverpool, celebrate 50 years of Beatlemania – and in the official week commemorating their achievements, Getintothis turns to those driving forward today’s sonic landscape – and asks them to reflect on their favourite songs from the Fab Four’s canon.
Fifty years ago they changed everything. Four lads from Liverpool kick starting a culture revolution which has never been surpassed. And this week in Liverpool, half a decade on from Beatlemania, the city celebrates the annual International Beatles Week.
An affair perhaps reserved for the devoted few from the region but always lapped up by their adoring legions across the globe – their reach remains untouchable. On these pages we’ve discussed their legacy and pondered whether it sometimes overshadows the brilliance of those artists working hard today – but whatever your take, there’s no escaping The Beatles‘ majesty in their music.
With that in mind, Getintothis HQ reached out to those carving a path in today’s Merseyside music landscape to ask what The Beatles means to them – and what their favourite track is. The response was incredible. Incredibly intriguing, baffling, moving and most of all funny. It is interesting to note just how much the band mean to those today – but contrastingly it was as equally notable how little they meant to others. One guitarist (who shall remain nameless) in a prominent city band declared them ‘meaningless – but would happily eulogise on the merits of Pink Floyd‘ – while another of Liverpool’s cultural figureheads said she’d never listened to them – see below for that declaration!
But perhaps the best bit of compiling this list was seeing just how much each track means to each individual. This type of compilation is what music was made for too – to talk about your favourites, laugh at your mate’s choices and discuss songs long into the night. Magic. Just like The Beatles: magic.
And, just like our beloved Fabs’, we’ve broken every rule in the book with this list too. A couple of tunes are duplicated (hey, we tried – musicians can get tribal about this band), a German version of an early single has slipped in, a couple of fab covers – plus a tune not written, sung or even associated with The Beatles has made it in. Go figure.
It just doesn’t matter – and, in fact, shows how diverse their craft was. The John’s and Paul’s (and a few Ringo’s) of the Merseyside music scene have their say below, alongside a host of Getintothis contributors and collaborators, and the quality and range of the work is displayed for all to see.
The greatest band of all time? That’s for you to decide.
One thing is beyond debate, however, and that’s that Liverpool’s favourite musical sons are the most influential rock & roll band of all time. Just scroll down the list below and listen to some of the choice cuts on offer – and the cosmic introductions from our panel. A couple of words from some, longer and more evocative explanations from others – all shine with lights of passion, feeling and belonging though. Yes, that’s the word: belonging.
The Beatles belong to all of us – so here you have it… The Beatles at 50: Merseyside music heads on their favourite tracks.
By Getintothis‘ Alan O’Hare & Peter Guy
1. Bill Ryder Jones, musician: Yesterday
It was a toss-up between Love Me Do and Yesterday.
Love Me Do absolutely mesmerised me during my teens – the sound of old Liverpool and the Albert Dock. I’ve gone with Yesterday, though: we used to sing it in primary school and it reminds me of Clare Denning. I loved her so much, but I don’t think she was bothered!
I can vividly remember looking down the line in assembly at her and feeling my heart break as we sang this song.
2. Nik Glover, musician, Loved Ones: Lady Madonna
It’s a proper band song which showcases every member: Paul’s boogie-woogie piano, Ringo’s heavy as fuck kick and snare beat, Harrison’s lead guitar line and Lennon’s piss taking fake trumpet ‘brrrrrrum-bum-bum-bummm’s’.
It’s classic, late career Beatles, before they’d really gotten to hate each other, but at the very end of the years where John and Paul were writing as a pair. It’s one of a few tracks from that period where you can’t see a Lennon yang. From Revolver onwards there’s a sense John and Paul are trying to one-up each other – Paul wrote Michelle, so John wrote Girl. John wrote Strawberry Fields Forever so Paul wrote Penny Lane, which are totally different songs, but back each other perfectly. You can tell they each respected the other, secretly thinking they were the best. So they’d spar through the songs.
Now that I think about it, it’s actually really similar to John’s Hey Bulldog, which was recorded at the same time, and got lumped onto Yellow Submarine as one of their cast offs. Lady Madonna isn’t on any of the official studio albums either, and Lennon ended up slagging it off when he went into his demolition period after they split.
It’s ironic that they kind of balanced each other out after all.
3. Keith Ainsworth, Getintothis photographer: Nowhere Man
The Beatles were no slackers. In 1965 they recorded two albums. The highlight for me of the second album, Rubber Soul, was the track Nowhere Man. Beginning with those effortless three part harmonies, the group did so well: Nowhere Man is 2 minutes 42 seconds of perfection. The lyric shows John Lennon full of reflection and doubt. It features a lost character without opinions just going with the flow. The line, “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” brings the sentiment around to the listener. This isn’t just about superstar John. This feeling is universal. The chorus brings advice ending with the exaltation that “the world is at your command”. The beautiful solo can nearly bring me to tears. George makes his Stratocaster sing with slides, vibrato and ends with a beautiful harmonic.
The song was later brought to life in the animated Yellow Submarine film. This showed The Beatles leaving psychedelic colour trails behind the as they walked. They always make the world a brighter place.
4. Yaw Owusu, music manager and LIMF curator: Let It Be
I reckon it would have to be Let It Be.
For three reasons: 1. think the simplicity of the record is a prime example of a song not needing to be overly complicated musically or lyrically. 2. It is great to hear The Beatles do a gospel styled record. It really stands out to me. 3. The message – that speaks to letting things run their natural course is really good.
I think many times we all battle against stuff we know is going to happen even when the writings clearly on the wall. It’s very apt that this song was written just before Paul McCartney left the Beatles.
5. Nicholas Otaegui, musician, Tea Street Band: Rain
B-side of the superbly bass heavy Paperback Writer, and recorded as part of the Revolver sessions, Rain (1966) epitomises all sides and eras of the Scouse mop tops.
It is, in all due respect, a fairly simple song – like most of their earlier material: lavishly displaying strong melodic and lyrical content along with heavily pushing the boundaries of record production. At the dawn of this psychedelic period, the ‘experimenting’ began to wash over into the studio, challenging production techniques and resulting in some ground breaking records. Rain is littered with these. From the use of backwards vocals for haunting harmonies, to recording the backing rhythm track at a higher tempo, to then slowing it down for a very distinct tone and vibe. No one had been laying sounds like these down before – certainly not in pop music anyway!
Throughout his career, John Lennon’s poetry can be strongly concerned with the human condition. In this example he nods his bowler to it in a distinctly British way, displaying our almost fanatical desire to talk about the daily weather and how it seems to shape our day. But with the four lads having now travelled all corners of the globe, gathering a myriad of influences, the whole concept takes upon a slightly Buddhist influence, that it’s all state of mind, Rain or shine, the weather’s fine.
I love this tune! I hear the influence of this pioneering ‘little B-side’ in most of my musical peers, on a musical, songwriting and production basis… from Head to Gallagher.
6. Simon Lewis:, Getintothis deputy editor: Things We Said Today
This was a track I hadn’t heard in a long time and one I struggled to identify upon hearing a cover version by Larry Carlton, on his album The Gift.
I had been into lots of jazz tinted guitar when this reworking was released and The Beatles were far away from my musical tastes. The solo phrasing and expression that Larry added to the song got me locked in and when I realised it was originally by The Beatles, a further dimension was added and a huge surprise. It had, after all, helped provide the inspiration for his incredible playing. Larry’s’ wife sang the vocals in a delicate manner that allowed room for the original music to breath and his guitar playing provided icing.
A great reworking of a Beatles song.
7. Al Groves, engineer at The Motor Museum recording studio: Paperback Writer
Paperback Writer! One of my all time favourite Beatles tunes that just get’s everything right. Lyrically, it’s great – “Dear sir or madam” is a fantastic opening line, and is so iconic I could recite the rest of the song word for word from memory. It’s also got such an infectious groove – almost too fast, but just on the edge enough to get all the toes tapping. I can never listen to it just once, I always need three or four goes on it.
About seven years ago, I recorded and mixed a cover version of it with Digsy and the Sums, and we had to figure out all the harmonies from the original version. That was the first time I realised just how talented that band was: some of those harmonies are really high and quite complex, and of course there was no autotune to help them back then. Songs like this remind me of how clever they were to be able to weave such advanced musicianship into successful pop music. And the best thing about the whole song – it’s only two minutes and eighteen seconds long…
8. Gen Er Al Midi, musician, a.P.A.t.T: Revolution 9
The most outstanding piece from our fab 3 and a half has to be the ridiculously OTT Revolution 9. It’s not the song I like the most, nor do I believe it’s the best written piece, however it serves as a kind of shorthand for the intentions and ideals held by the band at the time.
Much like the 4:33 piece for John Cage, it acts as a message to the world of the bands artistic intentions, capabilities and desires. Much like Cage, The Bootles would no longer not need these pieces after they have been ‘used’ and could carry with business an normal – but what an accolade to expose literally millions of people to such a contemporary sound art collage piece. It was the first time I heard anything like it as a youth and I’m still kinda’ keen on the whole angle!
One has to remind oneself this is the same band who released I Wanna Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There. Listen them back to back, go on… and when listening to Revolution 9, keep saying out aloud: “This is the biggest band in the world… this is the biggest band in the world…”
9. Chris Burgess, Getintothis writer: Helter Skelter
“I got blisters on my fingers!” Certainly the heaviest track of The Beatles’ massive catalogue, Helter Skelter is surrounded by a weighty mythology of its own. A McCartney-penned track, Helter Skelter is a world away from the ballads he is usually known for, on the opposite end of the spectrum to The Frog Chorus. It’s a maelstrom of a song, with the meatiest riffs the band ever played and was written as a direct response to The Who’s I Can See For Miles, which Paul didn’t think stood up to Pete Townshend’s description as “the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song” they’d ever written.
You can trace the song’s legacy right through to the modern day, most notably in McCartney’s collaboration with Nirvana last year. Sadly though, the song’s history is tainted slightly by its association with Charles Manson’s visions of an apocalyptic race war and the gruesome murders of Sharon Tate and others.
Helter Skelter has since been covered by artists as varied as Souixsie and the Banshees, Oasis, Husker Du, White Zombie and Arcade Fire, among others, and remixed along with Jay-Z’s 99 Problems on Danger Mouse’s 2004 The Grey Album.
Oh, and it was Ringo who got the blisters… not John.
10. Vidar Norheim, musician, Wave Machines: For No One
For No One was quickly my favourite track on Revolver. It was one of the first Beatles albums I bought whilst also working my way through The Beatles Complete – the yellow song book many budding musicians have started from. For No One hit me straight away with its beautifully sad lyrics, but still uplifting and majestic music behind it.
It’s clearly a McCartney-written track and only him and Ringo perform on it from The Beatles. The real star of this song is the French horn with its wonderfully melodic solo. The choice of instrument is perfect and it really blends with the clavichord and piano to set the track within the classical genre, it’s only the really quiet drums, very loud, but brilliant, bass line and the vocal that draws it back to being a band song. When the French horn comes back and intertwines with the vocal on the last verse, it really shows how clever their arrangements could be. At only 2:01, there simply isn’t enough of this song.
The false ending really makes you want more and what I would always do was run to the CD player and skip it back to the start.
11. Daniel Hunt, musician, Ladytron: Only A Northern Song
Not the most celebrated, I know, but at the very least notable for being the first Beatles song to break the fourth wall.
A lyrical satire, I’ve always favoured George‘s tracks, especially during this period, where he went far further into new, unconventional and eccentric instrumentation than the other three, with guitars eerily absent here… and yet those chords – the outro still gives me shivers.
Unfortunately, I can only imagine how this sounded at the time of release.
12. Bernie Connor, DJ: Yes It Is
In the canon of The Beatles work, many stand out as truly exceptional.
One of my personal favourites is Yes It Is, neatly tucked away on the b-side of their 1965 smash Ticket To Ride. It contains the signposts of the direction they would take over the next year, which abandoned the simplicity of their mop-tops output for something more esoteric, cerebral. It’s carried along by an electric guitar by George Harrison that is the audio equivalent of cascading tears, rendering it heartbreaking and uplifting simultaneously.
The harmonies, while still containing elements of the every brothers, also hint at the burgeoning influence of Brian Wilson and his proto psychedelic experiments in the sunshine, six thousand miles away . It is beautiful and mind-blowing due its unerring simplicity. somebody once said to me that it wouldn’t be out of place on the The Beatles album and the melancholic nature of John Lennon‘s voice and the ethereal nature of the harmonies and guitars certainly lends itself to that weird, dark-psychedelia that they pretty much invented to fend off the dark, cold, lonely winter of 1968.
Incredibly, overlooked by almost everybody. Thank fuck for The Beatles… fab, gear, like.
13. Patrick Clarke, Getintothis writer: Don’t Let Me Down
It’s fair to say John Lennon had his moments, but vocally Don’t Let Me Down is perhaps his finest.
What Paul McCartney called ‘a genuine cry for help’, it finds Lennon at his most tormented during The Beatles years, the dogged sincerity of the lyrics delivered with unprecedented depths of ragged, raw emotion. Recorded during the infamous Get Back sessions, The Beatles were collapsing in on themselves and much of their output was fragmented and sparse, but for Don’t Let Me Down a stripping of the frills was the perfect approach. Instrumentally the song drifts along, the measured interplay of George Harrison’s guitar and the electric piano of Billy Preston keeping tender pace and providing counter to Lennon’s primal screams. This is miles away from the buoyant pop of the early years, the extravagance of the band’s forays into psychedelia, and even the polished rock of Abbey Road. Evolutionarily it’s a song more akin to Lennon’s early solo work than to anything that had come before it and one of his last great contributions to the band’s canon.
Historical placing aside though, Don’t Let Me Down is an oft-overlooked masterpiece, and at heart yet another example of the fab four’s unimpeachable gift.
14. Michael Murphy, musician, The Wicked Whispers: Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Happiness Is A Warm Gun has always been a favourite Beatles track of mine. The title, apparently, was inspired by the cover of a gun magazine, while others think it was simply a Lennon-invented sexual euphuism aimed (no puns intended) at his new girlfriend Yoko… which I must admit is amusing.
As like A Day in The Life it is made up of more than one song, in this case shifting between three different time signatures and styles. The section where the first shift interrupts the track with George Harrison’s fuzzy guitar riff always sends shivers down my spine, while Ringo’s drums picking up the section gets me flying every time. To me, the chorus’ almost seemed like Lennon is mocking the early era Beatles with the top end ‘do wah’ style vocals. Obviously, I love the psychedelic elements of the track. The verses in particular are dark and edgy following Lennon and his PR, Derek Taylor’s famed LCD fuelled all-nighter. The imaginative, descriptive and dream like qualities bring imagery.
This style of writing was an inspiration to me as a teenager – eventually bringing me to write songs like Amanda Lavender and Dandelion Eyes for The Wicked Whispers.
15. Jennifer Vaudrey, musician: All My Loving
All My Loving reminds me of being a kid and my sister playing me The Beatles Anthology and dancing around to it in her room. I suppose that was one of my first introductions to music, plus my mum was a big Paul lover! I love the way it sort of depicts the innocence of late 50’s/early 60’s music in a way and its simplicity. It always puts a smile on my face.
16. Dave McTague, promoter at Mellowtone: Blackbird
I must confess that I don’t have a favourite Beatles song or album. To be honest, I don’t even have a favourite Beatle. When I was younger it was Paul. Then John, then George… but never quite Ringo!
Before leaving Yorkshire to study in Liverpool – “The birthplace of the Beatles TM” – I bought a copy of every album that I didn’t already own. At the time I had no idea when I would have the money to do it again but it became one of the best investments I ever made. With a canon as diverse as theirs, I genuinely don’t know where to start. To me – and I’m sure many others – The Beatles are like twenty or more bands in one. I struggled to choose between an intricate finger picked number, a psychedelic dreamscape or British invasion rock and roll.
So, finally, not to avoid the question completely, here are a few songs I like… In My Life, Blackbird, It’s All Too Much, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, I Saw Her Standing There, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Here Comes the Sun, Baby You’re A Rich Man, A Day In The Life… the list goes on, the quality of their songwriting makes it so hard to pick a favourite. Melodies and lyrics that roam the inside of your head for days and that’s something that will never go out of fashion.
17. Dickie Felton, Getintothis writer: Eleanor Rigby
Every weekend I’d bounce down the hill to get my Saturday newspaper.
Without fail there’d be tourists loitering at my front gate. We’d only lived in Church Road, Woolton for a few weeks and it was quite a thrill to have my own personal paparazzi every time I popped out to get a pint of milk. I knew the area had Beatles connections, but it took a Japanese tourist to point out specifics: “How does it feel to live in the place where John Lennon met Paul McCartney?”… “Your house is the closest to the grave of Eleanor Rigby…” With this mind-blowing information I popped into St Peter’s Church graveyard to search for my famous next-door neighbour. And there she lay. I went back home and played the song. The track which saw the Fab Four tackle the issues of loneliness and isolation.
For me, Eleanor Rigby is The Beatles at their very best. Beautiful, dramatic striking strings, a gorgeous vocal and breathtaking, yet simple, lyrics. A masterpiece.
18. Rebecca Hawley, Emily Lansley & Lucy Mercer, musicians, Stealing Sheep: Within You, Without You
All three of us are massive Beatles fans and love many if not all of their songs, but this one has been the most prevalent song for me this past year.
I think this song says a lot of things that we are all trying to say and understand at some point within our own lives, maybe. I think George Harrison gets his message across clearly in this song. It’s a very subtle healing and calm song that isn’t trying to impress and can pass you by, which I think is stated in the song (almost how life can pass you by). It sort of does exactly what it’s talking about – floats by and floats away – I think that what he is saying is very important and very guiding. Depending on how you take on the message. A realisation song.
Sometimes when I listen to this song I think there is a cynical vibe, but maybe that’s what he is trying to understand about himself, but I have no idea what goes on in his head.
Maybe in him working something out for himself makes it easier for us to understand? I love the way the vocals follow the sitar or vice versa the grounding drone and the tabla’s interesting rhythm’s which I’ve found out are in 15/8 or 3/4 with subdivisions of 5 or 5/4 with subdivisions of 3! A subtle and beautiful reverie with lots of insight for us all.
19. Jon Lawton, musician, Crosstown Studios: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Obviously, it’s very difficult to pick just one favourite Beatles track, but the one that always gives me goose-bumps is While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
There’s just something that comes over in George‘s voice that never fails to grab me. It’s a beautiful song, with an amazing arrangement and haunting lyrics… definitely one of my favourites.
20. Jono Podmore, Getintothis writer: Sie Liebt Dich from Mono Masters 2009
Slave ships from Liverpool bring West Africans to the U.S and Caribbean. Their music mutates under slavery. Exposure to the English language and Spanish guitars of their owners eventually generates new forms: one is rhythm and blues. Recordings of this music make the return journey to Liverpool. It inspires local whites, heirs of the golden triangle of the slave trade, to make this music themselves. For economic reasons they take their music to Germany, a nation that only 15 years earlier was waging a racially inspired war upon the world. The final mutation, the last cultural dislocation, is to record this song rendered in the German language.
This journey and its variants, completed in less than a couple of generations, is so commonplace and central to our culture now that it’s easily overlooked. Every step is revealed in this short tune: the unmistakeably African percussion and ululation at the climax of the chorus. The back beat of the chain gang. The descending Spanish guitar flourishes. The barely concealed Liverpool accents, easier to hear here than when John and Paul sing in their own language and affect the Americanisms of their heroes.
All rigorously rehearsed and honed on stage through to that final unexpected glorious chord, courtesy of the Northern European work ethic.
21. Andrew Hill, promoter at Abandon Silence & DJ: Revolution
Despite spending all of my life growing up just outside and then living in the centre of Liverpool, I feel that I don’t have the most in-depth or impressive Beatles knowledge by comparison to most other locals.
However, for a brief spell in my teens, I actively sought their songs out and got a few of my dad’s CDs together and one song that always stood out was Revolution. At the time I was listening to a lot of by the numbers indie music like The Pigeon Detectives and their illustrious contemporaries, and it amazed me (in hindsight it really shouldn’t have) that a song from the 60s could sound fresher and more current than any of the tunes that were flooding my iPod.
22. Jamie Bowman, Getintothis writer: It’s All Too Much
A burst of cosmic church organ, huge fuzzy riffs, distorted handclaps and a vocal so tripped out it’s virtually flying. If you really want to know just how far The Beatles had come in the three short years since I Want To Hold Your Hand, try listening to It’s All Too Much: a psychedelic monster of a tune that sits between Hey Bulldog and All You Need Is Love on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack and could be the most whacked out thing the Fab Four ever recorded.
Originally intended for Sgt Pepper’s, the track was recorded in the Spring of 1967 and it shows. Full of Summer of Love optimism and just a hint of writer George Harrison‘s barbed wit, the song explodes into a joyous cacophony of chemically enhanced mind-expanding euphoria summed up by lyrics like “Floating down the stream of time/Of life to life with me/Makes no difference where you are/Or where you’d like to be.” Paul McCartney pulses his bass around a single droned Eastern note, while Ringo‘s frequent, languid drum fills show he’s as happy as the rest of them about turning off his mind and floating downstream.
By the songs extended climax (bootleg versions exist that are over eight minutes long), Lennon and McCartney have joined in the chaotic fun, with their incessant backing chant of “too much” that eventually evolves into “tuba!” and “Cuba” as feedback soars and a horn section sounds a fanfare.
Really, what’s not to like?
23. Alan O’Hare, musician, Only Child and Getintothis writer: All You Need Is Love
Because it is. And nobody does economy and precision quite like John Lennon.
24. Dominic Dunn, musician: Oh Darling!
I’ve never really cited The Beatles as one of my major influences, but when I started thinking about what my favourite Beatles song is, I started to realise they’ve probably influenced me more than I’ve realised.
It’s been a pretty tough choice and I’ve changed my mind a few times – but I’ve decided to go with Oh Darling as my favourite. It’s got a dirty, bluesy feel to it with a rocky edge which keeps it interesting. It’s not as well known as some of their more popular stuff which is another reason why I like it. I read somewhere a while back that Paul McCartney spent ages recording and re-recording the lead vocal for it as he was a perfectionist. The vocals have got rawness to them so I like the fact that his repeated attempts at recording ended up with something that sounds like it was done in a first take.
Its years old, recorded in 1969, but sounds current. I like that.
25. Harry Sumnall, Getintothis writer: Flying
Outside of the big cities and art schools, Britain seemed to struggle with psychedelia in the 60s.
Whilst USA musicians fully realised the possibilities of the psychedelic revolution – helping to levitate the Pentagon, soundtracking hippie cults, and supporting networks for distribution of the most righteous acid – UK ‘psych’ music was comparably a predictable affair: rigid R’n’B variants, end-of-the pier toytown pop and standard love songs infused with a few threads of cosmic imagery. Few musicians seemed able to convey the experiential delights of LSD as well as their US counterparts. The Beatles, of course, were an exception.
Timothy Leary’s mutant evolutionary agents were certainly not the first, and perhaps not the best, exponents of UK psychedelia, but Flying (1967) is an almost perfect exemple. Often wrongly dismissed as a Magical Mystery Tour filler, Flying is disorientatingly woozy, infused with an acrid lysergic charm that dares you to take one more step across the threshold into inner space.
Alongside similar tracks such as the Pretty Things’ Baron Saturday, George Harrison’s own Party Seacombe, The Rolling Stones’ 2000 Light Years, and Small Faces The Journey, Flying is part of a short lived psychedelic micro scene that seemed to suggest that mainstream pop was determined to change global consciousness one Mellotron tape at a time. The original 9 minute 38 second version is the one for me…
26. Pete Bentham, musician, Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies: Can’t Buy Me Love
My favourite Beatles song, this week anyway, is Can’t Buy Me Love.
I reckon a lot of people when asked to contribute to this article would pick the later stuff from Revolver and beyond, when they started to become more experimental and more interesting in some people’s eyes… but I prefer the early Beatles. I also have a theory that bands get worse when they develop facial hair. I hope the Dinner Ladies never grow any! There’s that general idea that John Lennon was the rocker and Paul was about the melodies, but on this tune and many others, Paul proved that he had a great rock and roll voice.
I also love the early covers they did of fifties tunes like Good Golly Miss Molly and Long Tall Sally. Paul‘s voice on Long Tall Sally is really raw and one of the best rock and roll voices on record ever. Also, like She loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love comes straight in with the chorus. Proper pop song writing. Drippy indie kids take note.
PS. The version of Can’t Buy Me Love that mostly gets shown has the camera on John lip syncing on a TV show… when it’s actually Paul on the record.
27. Roger Hill, DJ: Getting Better
I was never a Beatles fan – The Rolling Stones were always my band – and if I were to nominate my favourite Merseybeat song it would be by The Searchers: When You Walk In The Room always gives me a special thrill when I hear it, thanks to that guitar riff. But I did master many of The Beatles’ songs on the piano, and growing up alongside their music much of it has lodged in my musical consciousness.
A quick rifle through YouTube produced a few potential favourites: You Can’t Do That, because it’s The Beatles having a go at a Searchers-style guitar riff and This Boy and Ticket To Ride, because I’m a close-harmony addict. But it’s the feel-good hits which connect now, because we were optimistic then, it was all going to be rather good, forever. I Feel Fine still does it for me, but I’ll nominate Getting Better because there’s just a hint in that rough old stomp that it might not be, getting better that is, unless you put your head down and just persevered.
28. Kieran Shudhall, musician, Circa Waves: Here, There & Everywhere
A few weeks after the Pet Sounds listening party, Paul McCartney wrote one of his greatest songs. Imitating the vocal style of Marianne Faithful, the harmonies of the Beach Boys and borrowing heavily from the great American songbook, he created Here, There and Everywhere. It sits neatly at number five on Revolver and precedes the not so elegant Yellow Submarine.
Written in John Lennon’s house, while John was asleep, Paul’s vocal weaves beautifully around a familiar verse chord progression. His words have an almost nursery rhyme simplicity to them, but delivering them with such love and conviction it’s impossible not to be drawn in. The lyrics are undoubtedly some of Paul‘s most loved up. He was a sucker for the girls and his then girlfriend Jane Asher was one he could evidently not bare to be without. The music effortlessly moves between keys and the unusual ascending chromatic guitar parts point towards the progression the band would make in the brilliant Sgt Peppers.
So, after the almost impossible task to pick a favourite, I did some research and discovered this is one of Paul‘s favourite Beatles songs and apparently John‘s favourite on Revolver. I guess I’m in quite good company.
29. Laura Coppin, Getintothis writer: Ticket To Ride
The Beatles‘ 1965 album Help! marked a new era of heavier sound for the band, sowing the seeds for the momentous Rubber Soul and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Ticket to Ride was the first single they released from the album, as well as their first to have a duration of more than three minutes. Deservedly topping the UK charts for three weeks, the song is full of jangles and grooves… switching moods wildly throughout and changing melody completely in the fade. Ticket to Ride embodies the pioneering spirit at the heart of The Beatles’ music; the sense of experimentation and adventure that made them the most enduringly popular band the world has ever seen. It’s no wonder, then, that the title of their final BBC Radio special was ‘The Beatles (Invite You to Take a Ticket to Ride)’; that the song to this day is a favourite for so many devoted fans.
30. Rory Taylor, Rebel Soul: Rocky Raccoon
With an incredible back catalogue, it’s extremely difficult to pick one favourite Beatles song. I adore the band and most of their music, but Rocky Raccoon is a song that really stands out for me.
I doubt it was the first Beatles song I ever heard, but it was the first to really stick in my mind. I was about 10 years old when my Dad rediscovered The White album. He played it over and over again, much to my mum’s annoyance, but to my delight. Although the album is full of great tracks, Rocky Raccoon has always been my favourite. As a child, I loved the story telling aspect of it. I didn’t know what the song was about, but it didn’t matter – I would picture the characters and the locations in my mind and create my own little story. I knew all the words and could sing along with my Dad.
As I got older, I began to appreciate the musicality of the song – the honky-tonk piano (played by George Martin), the harmonies and the lyrics. The song is a pastiche and Paul McCartney is “spoofing a folk singer” (his own words), but it’s still such a quality song.
Although I’ve learnt that the song is about a love triangle and revenge, and that Rocky Raccoon isn’t actually a raccoon, I still love the song as much as I did when I first heard it as a 10 year old.
31. Dave Haslam, DJ and author: Tomorrow Never Knows
I know Tomorrow Never Knows is cod-psychedelia, and the product of a slightly dilettante-ish interest in Tibetan mysticism on Lennon‘s part, but I am drawn into and never tire of it.
Repeated listens and you still don’t get it all. This was The Beatles absolutely making the music they want to make, free from commercial pressures. The looping drum pattern is so un-rock and roll too, and it’s no wonder it became a rave favourite and the basis of at least five songs by the Chemical Brothers. I love a repetitive beat around which all the madness happens. I like that there’s a seagull noise in there too; maybe it reminded them of home, Liverpool, port city and all that. Even though apparently it’s not a real seagull, it’s McCartney laughing, which is also OK.
There’s fun in the song too, a joy in its creation.
32. Emma Walsh, Getintothis writer: With A Little Help From My Friends
Though it pains me to admit it now – as someone attempting to play the part of a serious music writer – but when this song first lodged itself eternally in my inner jukebox at the age of eight, it was not in its original Beatles beauty… or even in the capable hands of Joe Cocker. It was featured on a comedy Christmas album by Dustin the Turkey (Irish children’s television puppet of the ‘90s and Eurovision embarrassment 2008). Worse still, it featured Boyzone’s Ronan Keating.
Though it could be argued that between the two of them they did as good a job vocally as Ringo Starr might ever have been expected to do when McCartney and Lennon penned the song for him in 1967. That aside, it was then and remains to be one of my favourite Beatles songs, and one of the finest examples of the McCartney-Lennon songwriting simplicity, because the song itself in whatever of the 50 plus versions there’s been over the years, is pop song perfection with sing-along charm, typical Beatles feel good messages of love, friendship and the harmless fun of marijuana, and some of the most simply beautiful lyrics: “Would you believe in a love at first sight? Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time. What do you see when you turn out the light? I can’t tell you but I know that it’s mine.”
33. Jason Stoll, musician, Mugstar: Here Comes The Sun
For me, the first Beatles song that springs to mind is always Here Comes the Sun, written by George Harrison.
I definitely have a soft spot for the songs of the ‘quiet’ Beatle. It’s probably not the most creative of their canon, or even that of George Harrison, but I like the simple melody and its nursery rhyme-like quality.
The track also highlights the decline of the power of The Beatles. In 1967, Harrison was at the Redlands Jagger/Richards bust, but the police waited for him to leave as the police didn’t want to embarrass themselves by arresting a Beatle. But, ten years later they couldn’t even give the go ahead to Here Comes The Sun to be included on the Voyager Golden record (as proposed by Carl Sagan) for use in the spacecraft of the Voyager Program, as they didn’t own the copyright any more.
34. Vicky Pearson, Getintothis photographer: Come Together
Funky, bluesy and political – Come Together opens Abbey Road with swagger and punch (and a bass line I can rarely resist air strumming to). Originally penned by Lennon as a campaign song for California governor candidate Tim Leary, it was left to be recorded by The Beatles after Tim was imprisoned for cannabis possession and quickly put and end to his attempted opposition of Ronald Reagan.
It has been noted, and subjected to legal action, that the song closely resembles Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me, however any similarity had no adverse effect on the charts as upon release the track hit no.1 in the US and could have done in the UK. However, the BBC banned the track classifying it’s mention of Coca-Cola as product placement, and it settled at number 4. As Beatles fans tend to do, some say the lyrics represent another Lennon self portrait, others that each verse is referring to a different member of the band… I sit in the group that argues for an imaginary protagonist.
Covered by greats including Aerosmith, Elton John and Tom Jones, it recently reared its head when Arctic Monkeys covered it at the 2012 Olympics.
35. Graham Holland, promoter at Liverpool Acoustic: There’s A Place
I grew up as a kid listening to my Mum’s singles collection on her old record player, where I was introduced to Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Seekers, Cilla Black, The Spinners and, of course, The Beatles.
She had most of the Fab Four’s early hits including Love Me Do, I Want To Hold Your Hand, and Please Please Me. However, it was the B-side to Twist And Shout that became my personal favourite: There’s A Place opens with John’s simple but memorable harmonica before the vocals kick in, with Paul taking the melody and John singing a tricky low fifth harmony – a perfect combination.
The subject matter of going to a place inside yourself to think happy thoughts when you’re feeling down shows that even at the start of their career McCartney and Lennon’s songs could be more than just the standard ‘boy meets girl’ found in Love Me Do and I Want To Hold Your Hand. The middle eight stands out as memorable with its syncopated lyrical phrasing, and having done what it needs to do the song fades out after 1 minute and 46 seconds of musical bliss. Short and sweet.
36. Niamh Rowe, musician, The Sundowners: Two Of Us
My story behind this song dates back to when I was 15 and decided against sitting one of my GCSE’s and called round at my friends house in my school uniform to see if she fancied taking some magic mushrooms (they were legal then ha!).
We bought them from The Palace in Liverpool and embarked on several bus journeys. We played the song on my disc-man and the poignant lyrics of the song being ‘Two of us riding nowhere, spending someone’s hard earned pay’… which we were! It was, and still is, one of my favourite memories. Tripping and laughing for hours on and off numerous buses with the bus passes our parents had paid for.
I’m sure a lot of people have had experiences like this with a Beatles song being the soundtrack and this is why I’ve picked this song. Their music has influenced most of our lives and will live on forever in our memories… but also have a soft spot for Within You And Without You – the reason being, about six years ago, I was having a housewarming party and things got a little trippy. Me and my friends were in my tiny room with no windows, surrounded by candles, listening to this song playing on vinyl. I thought I had figured everything out when hearing the words ‘life goes on within you and without you’ I jumped up in elation to tell everyone I had figured it all out and repeated this line to them. With the response being ‘yeah, isn’t that obvious!’
37. Joseph Viney, Getintothis writer: The Ballad Of John & Yoko
The anthem for those of us with a persecution complex.
Although it remains impossible to deny Lennon’s influence, legacy and talent, it can’t be argued that he tried very hard to make life as difficult as possible for himself. Not content with claiming he and the rest of The Beatles were bigger than the man upstairs, the final lines of this track’s chorus (“the way things are going/they’re gonna’ crucify me”) was either a barbed comment against his detractors or a cracking display of a complete lack of awareness on Lennon’s part. Either way, it doesn’t matter. This song, perhaps, remains one of The Beatles’ most underrated tunes. Propelled by Paul’s thudding bass and his perfectly strained backing vocals in the final parts of the song, it’s a stripped-back demonstration of the perfect storms that encompassed some of the group’s best tunes.
Since John and Yoko’s relationship took part of the blame for The Beatles’ disintegration, it’s fitting that The Ballad of John & Yoko was the group’s 17th and final UK number one single.
38. Pete Wilkinson, musician, The Red Elastic Band, Cast, Aviator: Strawberry Fields Forever
I was born in 1969 which marked the beginning of a world without The Beatles… but it seems to me they never split up.
How is it I (and many others) can sing along to most Beatles songs without owning the recording? I’ve been asked to choose a favourite track. Impossible, I hear you shout. Agreed, but just for the next two minutes I’m going with Strawberry Fields Forever. Intro – beyond brilliant… it makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention. And that’s just the intro. “Let me take you down cos we’re going to Strawberry Fields” … I was and still am being swept along with them. Lennon’s vocal, Harrison‘s guitar, Macca’s bass and the greatest drum fills of all time. Perfect. There’s a carefree/childlike element to this song which I love.
Days spent wondering around findingdiscovering new places . Empty fields, birds swooping by catching insects. To me this song is about escaping to a childlike existence (it’s no coincidence that John Lennon played in Strawberry Fields as a boy). But if you follow the lyrical progression there is a darker element. Each verse becomes more and more confused, each one expressing a desire to just give up trying to make sense of things and drop out. For me this song is about someone who wants to escape reality to a safe, easy life that doesn’t really exist and doesn’t have to care about anything anymore.
This song takes me there and brings me back. Ps… the outro, oh the outro.
39. Rosanna Hynes, Getintothis writer: Back In The USSR
When I was 17, I helped run a Beatles club night in Manchester. It was at a bar called Joshua Brooks: a middle aged guy with vinyl’s only played The Beatles all night, and it was awesome.
We danced, made some money from our friends and requested only the most popular songs. It was my first real introduction to The Beatles, and I remember being amazed that music made so long ago could be so great for dancing, and that music made by four ancient Scousers could actually sound cool to a Mancunian punk rocker. So, my choice is Back in the USSR. If you can listen to this song without having a little chair dance, you’re definitely part machine. There’s something undeniably punk about this song – the fast vocals and the way it’s taking the piss. The guitar solo is pretty damn cool, and I do prefer McCartney to Lennon.
40. Adele Emmas, musician, Bird: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
It’s a tough one, but my fave Beatles track would have to be Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
I remember discovering all of their more psychedelic stuff when I was younger after only knowing the more commercial stuff, it opened a whole new world for me and made me see them in a totally new light.
Then The Beatles followed and I’ve loved them ever since…
41. Joel Richards, Getintothis writer: I Am The Walrus
How on earth do I pick my favourite Beatles track of all time?
In what is quite possibly the hardest task I’ve ever been assigned, I decided to opt for a psychedelic number that has left many an avid fan scratching their heads at the meaning of the track. Released in November 1967, I Am the Walrus was said to be written by John Lennon in a bit to confuse those who tried to interpret his songs.
The result is four trippy minutes where the listener is taken on a journey through a nonsensical, yet delightful, track that delights the soul. Critic Nick Logan described it as diving “into the world of Alice in Wonderland” and how “you can almost visualise John Lennon crouching on a deserted shore singing the song to some beautiful strings from far away on the horizon and a whole bagful of Beatle sounds.” He likened it to “a ringing doorbell” and someone sawing a plank of wood.
Although I feel I Am the Walrus does not get the recognition it truly deserves, it’s a fantastic track which you will need to live with for a while to fully appreciate.
42. Peter Hooton, musician, The Farm: In My Life
My favourite Beatles track is In My Life. Lennon was tired of writing songs that he felt lacked depth. A journalist had asked him during the height of Beatlemania why he hadn’t written ‘personal’ songs about his life and personal experiences, so this was his response to that perceived criticism.
I’m pretty sure when he was writing it he was thinking of the tragic deaths of his mother Julia and Stu Sutcliffe expressed in the lines: “with lovers and friends I still can recall, Some are dead and some are living In my life, I’ve loved them all…” What I like about this song is that is has no chorus as such and so therefore breaks all the rules of a traditional pop song – even though it does have a middle -eight. Lennon agonised over the song as he wanted to write about his own feelings and experiences rather than writing objectively. This was the watershed moment in Lennon‘s style of writing when he started to express himself from personal experiences. This is also one of the songs Lennon and McCartney disagreed on regarding its origin. Lennon says he had written all the lyrics before Paul had heard it and Paul contributed to the harmony and middle eight, whereas Paul claims John only had the first verse and they wrote the rest together.
We will probably never know the exact truth. No wonder they wanted to claim ‘ownership’ – it’s the perfect song.
43. Ian Prowse, musician: Hello Goodbye
Hello Goodbye – is it rock and roll? Is it pop? I don’t know. But every time it bursts out of the speakers, I feel great pangs of nostalgia AND hope for the future. They could do that.
44. Michael Fowler, Getintothis writer: Here Comes The Sun
If you ever need a glimmer of optimism in your life, or something that will reassure you that things will be okay, listen to Here Comes the Sun.
It’s brighter than any solar simulator, it’s as good as a hug from an old friend and it’s the most genuine rejoice that good things can and will come. No surprises here, the song was written on a sunny day, George Harrison, stressed from his duties at an increasingly tense Apple, fancied bunking off work to visit his mucker, Eric Clapton. In Harrison’s words: “The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote Here Comes the Sun.”
It’s short enough at 3 minutes long that you want to hear it again straight after it’s been played, and when I listen to it, I can’t help but smile. Truly, I believe it’s the perfect song. Anyone can relate to the lyrics, and the guitar, synthesiser and George Martin’s orchestral arrangement are an aural translation of how it feels to bask in the warmth of a beautiful day.
45. Claire Welles, musician: I Just Want To Touch You
What much more can be said about the four lads who shook Wavertree? Not much more, actually, other than they were all massive wools and wrote really bad lyrics.
With this firmly in mind (having spent 31 years living in Liverpool and its ridiculous obsession with the fabulous four), I realise that my favourite Beatles song is I Just Want To Touch You by Utopia. It was released in late 1980 as a love-letter/homage to the Beatles by Todd Rundgren to John Lennon, whom he had a falling out with in the 70’s, however it was a love-letter that would be lost in transit as Lennon was assassinated only a week or so after Deface The Music was released. Buy it if you see it but pay no more than a flim.
46. Peter Guy, Getintothis editor: Abbey Road Medley
Inevitably, when talking about The Beatles, the imagery they conjure up is one of childhood and growing up. Their music seems so familiar it’s almost impossible to separate the magic with the everyday; timeless, beautiful songs which have been played so often they’re not just part of pop culture but life itself. And yet it’s both foolish and churlish to dismiss their music as anything other than revolutionary – they still, to this day, have the power to surprise and delight.
My own personal ‘Beatles epiphany’ was as a teenager at a club night called Brighton Beach in Leicester – a sweaty, Northern Soul-orientated evening when in among the Small Faces, The Creation, Thirteenth Floor Elevators and some Britpop, this cyclical groove seared through the heat and yellow swirling lights – I had no idea what it was, but it blistered my brain. Turned out it was Tomorrow Never Knows – a tune which sounds as smart and refreshing as ever.
But if I had to pick one slice of Beatles music – and I realise I’m cheating – I’d select the 16-minute suite at the end of Abbey Road – not only does it contain all four Beatles contributing both musically and compositionally at the peak of their powers, but it also underlines what a production mastermind George Martin is. He’s the guiding hand tying all this potency together – from the four-part harmonies and John Lennon rifle riffing of You Never Give Me Your Money to the Albatross-aping of Sun King through to the daft pop of Polythene Pam – and then that gorgeous segue of Golden Slumbers (just check McCartney‘s vocal!) and Carry That Weight. Oh, and if that’s not enough, it closers with The End – the only piece of Beatles music to contain a Ringo drum solo. It’s got it all.
47. All We Are, musicians: Long, Long, Long
The White Album is a hugely seminal album for so many reasons.
The artwork was controversial and ground breaking, the songs pushed the boundaries of pop music song craft and recording, but ultimately it’s arguably seen as the beginning of the end for them. It has some of their best and worst work, punctuated by a fragility and internal fragmentation not present in any of their other albums.
Most songs are individual efforts and Long, Long, Long – a George Harrison song coming at the end of side three – was an understated masterpiece featuring Ringo‘s best animalistic fills and shiver-inducing heartfelt vocals from George.
48. Kevin McManus, Liverpool Vision & Merseyside ACME: Taxman
The first time music really meant something to me was when punk exploded on to the world when I was around 15. I went to Eric’s and saw most of the punk/new wave greats and along with most of my peers had a very narrow worldview… which basically meant that we refused to acknowledge that any decent music existed prior to the Pistols and The Clash!
Then I grew up, and a few years later, grudgingly admitted that The Beatles were like, sort of, alright. But it was only when I was in my mid- twenties and writing for the then-very-cool music publication NME, trying to spot the next big thing, that I really got my head around how breathtakingly good The Beatles were. I bought everything on CD and majored on Rubber Soul and Revolver, in particular. So, the song I’d pick is Taxman from Revolver, written by the genius that was George Harrison (it’s such a good tune that Paul Weller rewrote it as Start).
My mate Mark was the drummer in a band who actually covered Taxman in their live set. He had a shop on Picton Rd and one day a woman came in and told him George Harrison was sitting outside in a car. Mark rushed out with a piece of paper for George to sign and greeted him with an inspired off the cuff remark: “I’m in a band too, George”. Genius.
49. Sean Bradbury, Getintothis writer: She Said She Said
She Said She Said is a veritable bag of Beatles tricks and the sound of the Fab Four at their experimental best, pushing the pop construct to the very limit of its boundaries. Or perhaps that should be Fab Three.
George Harrison is widely credited with the bass part on the track – as well as the psychedelic lead lines (why no Macca? “I think we had a barney or something and I said, ‘Oh, fuck you!’, and they said ‘well, we’ll do it’.”) But, it’s all there and more: switching time signatures, introspective LSD-soaked lyrics, plus brilliant fills and circular swirls from Ringo that show what he was really capable of behind the kit.
50(a). Paddy Quinn, No Fakin’ DJ: A Day In The Life (Les DeMerle version)
Favourite Beatles song, the impossible question.
I have many favourites, for many reasons. From childhood nostalgia via my old man, to rediscovering them as a young adult via the many obscure cover versions I came across through hip hop. So I have chosen something that touches on both: I always loved the vivid imagery of the lyrics on Sgt. Pepper’s as a kid and its epic climax A Day In The Life particularly stuck with me. A glimpse through the looking glass of everyday life set against instrumentation which found The Beatles at the pinnacle of their creative, innovative power.
Then I heard the Les DeMerle’s heavy hitting jazz-fusion take on it in Manchester’s post-Acid Jazz, basement club Headfunk, sometime in 1994. Realising this was what Buckwild had looped up for one of the biggest hip hop anthems from the golden era, OC’s Times Up, it blew my mind.
DeMerle, a jazz drummer from New York, takes the mood of the original and rolls it out in a completely fresh direction, horn heavy, stabs galore and with an unmistakeable intro that has now been immortalised through hip hop. John, Paul, George, Ringo… and jazz, at its very finest. Fully dope.
50(b) Mike Bennett, Broken Men & Milk:Presents: A Day In The Life
One of the best tracks, from one of the best albums, of all time.
It’s not just a piece of music. It has twists like good movie. Crescendos, climaxes, orchestral film score styling and psychedelic hand prints all over it – severe innovation. It puts you into the world they created. The shaker is so loud compared to everything else, sitting behind the vocal like cement in a brick wall, it just holds everything together. These dooming piano chords that drop you into a dream for the first verse as Lennon acts as your eyes and ears then Macca comes and wakes you up with a cold glass of water to the face.
You get to see both sides of the Lennon and McCartney saga. In my opinion you hear how real Lennon is compared to Macca. Lennon was in agony. It was a complete one off. It’s both heart-breaking and uplifting. Nobody will ever write a song like this again.
51. Jayne Casey, ex-Big in Japan:
I can’t pick a track as I have never listened to them. I’ve heard them in the background, but I don’t really know much about them. I’m saving them for my retirement – a gal needs something to look forward to!