What is, and always will be so astounding to me about The Beatles is the immense diversity of their songs and music. There is no question in my mind that, starting with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ all the way through ‘Let It Be’ (the album) that their knack for hit making (or as Sir Paul McCartney recently said “being of the hit making variety”) is unchallenged. For me this would also encompass the pre-hit Hamburg years where they did mostly covers, on through the post-Beatles days (yes, to me their solo stuff still resonates with ‘Beatle juice’). The musical contribution of The Beatles covers virtually all ends of the popular music spectrum.
Yes, that’s right, virtually all. ‘Norwegian Wood’ is a friggin Waltz for cryin’ out loud (Yeah it is, check the count).
Injected into their body of work is pure Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, R&B, Waltz, Country, Bluegrass, Skiffle, Blues, Folk (can I stop yet?), Orchestral, Psychedelic (which they perhaps invented), Ballads, Metal, Soul… and the list goes on. That said, what truly makes The Beatles body of work so brilliant and so remarkably unique is that there is honestly something for everyone. They cover virtually every angle as well, from satire to parody, self portrait to self deprecation and certainly no shortage of political and social commentary exist in their musical and lyrical genius.
I haven’t even gotten started…
How about ‘Twist & Shout?’ Originally recorded by The Top Notes, and then later covered by The Isley Brothers, yet The Beatles simply did it better, and as a DJ I say that with assured confidence. There’s also ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’ which, at the time of its release, crossed all kinds of lines while at the same time accomplishing a spot-on Beach Boys parody which is so darned good that I really have to wonder if they are parodying the surf sound of simply paying homage to it.
The Beatles (John, Paul, George and Ringo) loved music, and from their earliest time together in Liverpool they would scrutinize photographs of rock & rollers not just because they were their idols, but to dissect where the fingers were on the instrument in each particular photo (and I thought I was obsessive). They loved Elvis, and although he was a great inspiration to them both musically and stylistically, they were destined to outshine him. They didn’t have the ways or means to buy the songs (or have them bought for them) so they bucked the system and simply wrote their own. How’s that for rock & roll rebellion?
I recently read an article/blog published on the ‘Music Obsessive’ blog which penned what the author felt were the five worst Beatles songs. There were two songs listed there which I take issue with, and in fact will make an argument for, as I believe them to be not just good, but significant treasures in and of The Beatles catalog.
The two songs I refer to are ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’ and ‘Octopus’s Garden.’ Whimsy, yes, but not deserving of being on any ‘worst of’ Beatles list. Don’t get me wrong here, I know that bad Beatles songs do exist, but these two are as far from that list as Leif Garrett is to making a comeback. As Mary Poppins said “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun,” and what I think the author misses about these two songs, along with other ‘whimsy’ Beatles tunes like ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Maxwell’s Siver Hammer’ (dark, but still whimsy) is that these songs are just that… silly fun.
It’s the silly fun ditties that will hook the next generation of Beatles fans, just as they pulled me in as a kid. Certainly as an adult ‘Octopus’s Garden’ isn’t on my favorites list, as my musical tastes have matured over the years and I find other Beatles tunes more appealing, but I still have the wherewithal (is that even one word?) to recognize them (the whimsy ones) as what they are. Call them ‘Beatles light’ or perhaps even the kiddie pool for the future Olympic swimmers of Beatlemania, they are part of a Beatles legacy that appeals to the kid in all of us from ages number nine to sixty four and beyond.
And one more thing Mr. Music Obsessive… I for one can never get enough of ‘lovable’ Ringo.
Long Live Shining Time Station!
P.S. The Music Obsessive blog’s author is a guy named Martin, who although I don’t agree with on this particular point, I do find his blog (which has a huge emphasis on popular music) to be quite enjoyable, well written and thought provoking, being a popular music enthusiast myself.
Music Obsessive – http://mwarminger.blogspot.com/
‘Ringo The Octopus’ illustraton by Sean Gallo – http://seangallodesigns.wordpress.com/