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Not Quite Fab Enough…

Once more into the breech, is creating a new poll. Last week, we announced our Top 50 Guitarists of All Time, as voted on by fans, editors and writers, and an all-star panel of musicians. This time around we’re doing the Top 50 Beatles Songs (vote now!). So far, we’ve signed up members of The Hold Steady, Berlin and Swag for our all-star panel (with others to come!). But boy-oh-boy, is this one tough. The sheer volume of amazing material is overwhelming. And to cull it down to 50 songs — and rank them! — is pretty brutal. Around the editorial offices, there’s been a lot of moaning as each of us has felt compelled to kill some of our own personal favorites in order to make room for songs that were more popular, had a greater influence on modern music or pushed the envelope a bit further. Here are a few of the more painful cuts. But who knows, maybe some of these will creep into the final list once your votes and everyone else’s have been tabulated. Let their cases be heard …


“Hey Bulldog”

Propelled by a thundering riff and an irresistible refrain (“You can talk to me!”), it’s hard to believe “Hey Bulldog” sat in the can for nearly a year before it was released on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Written by Lennon, with a few finishing touches from Macca (most notably, impromptu dog barking that inspired a lyric and title change from “Hey Bullfrog”), “Bulldog” in many ways represents the last of the “middle period” Beatles. Three months after the song was recorded, the band reconvened to record the White Album, which marked a new direction for the band, with a lesser emphasis on highly polished and innovatively produced pop songs. “Hey Bulldog” is one last look at The Beatles as a unified (if only outwardly) rock and roll band. —Michael Wright


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“My Bonnie”

It was the record that started it all. While in Hamburg, the band had met Tony Sheridan, a recording artist of some note at the time, and he’d brought them in as his backing band for some recording sessions. Sheridan provides vocals on “My Bonnie” but the backing is pure Beatles — although billed as the Beat Brothers at the time. According to Beatles mythology, a young Liverpool lad walked into Brian Epstein’s record store and asked for “My Bonnie” by The Beatles. He found no such single listed but did order several copies of the Tony Sheridan single. With the band picking up a sizable local following, the singles sold quickly and Epstein’s curiosity took him to the sweaty Cavern Club one lunchtime to see the boys in action. Epstein, recognizing a goldmine when he saw one, volunteered to manage the band. The rest, as they say, is history. —Andrew Vaughan


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“You Won’t See Me”

When thinking about Beatles songs I felt might not crack the Top 50 but considered great nonetheless, I didn’t hesitate to go straight to “You Won’t See Me” from Rubber Soul. This song is a perfect example of how the power of music alone — even without lyrics — can tug at your heartstrings. The lyrics to “You Won’t See Me” are your basic lovelorn fare, and they work just fine here. But it’s the actual music of the song — the melody, the wonderful harmonies and the perfectly structured chord progressions — that really pull you in. You could almost sing any words to “You Won’t See Me,” and it wouldn’t matter because the music — dare I say, formula — was so skilled and well-executed. With John and George’s sweet “ooh-la-la-la-la’s” nestled snuggly under Paul’s soaring lead vocals, “You Won’t See Me” is an irresistible pop confection. —Sean Dooley


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“I’ll Cry Instead”

Although I know it’s not quite as good as its “A Hard Day’s Night” counterparts such as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell” or the title song, I’ve always had a soft spot for this jangly country shuffle. Maybe it’s because the 1:49 ditty accompanied a spiffy Beatles ’64 montage that preceded the feature film on the VHS copy that I grew up watching. As a kid, I enjoyed that movie so much. I wanted to be one of them, running around in open fields, goofing off on trains, playing rock and roll. I savored every minute of that movie and I was more than a little bit heartbroken when I bought the DVD version years later, and the “I’ll Cry Instead” montage had vanished. Now there are two minutes less that I get to spend with the boys. Thinking like an adult for a second, I like the juxtaposition of the bouncy beat with John Lennon’s obvious misgivings about fame – sort of like a proto-“Help!” Later, Lennon drew attention to the “I got a chip on my shoulder that’s bigger than my feet” line, saying that it was an accurate description of how he felt about his new superstardom. The song is packed with misgivings: He can’t talk to people that he meets; he’d have himself locked up. He wanted to get away from the crowds, but he couldn’t, so he wrote a song instead. —Bryan Wawzenek


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Posted: 6/4/2010 3:49:53 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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