Thomas Conway – Indy Writer
If you haven’t heard the news yet, I’m going to ruin the surprise. The Beatles are on streaming sites now. That’s right! Apple Music fanatics and Spotify addicts alike can enjoy the entire Beatles discography without having to buy every album. An avid Beatles fan myself, I was ecstatic when I found out. I immediately set to work crafting my perfect Beatles Spotify playlist and it got me thinking: the Beatles have a lot of songs, and a lot of those songs are amazing. But not a lot of those amazing songs get the recognition they deserve. This humble article is me doing my part to bring some of the Beatles’ lesser known gems to the forefront. Below are five of my favorites and a brief description. Enjoy the tunes.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer- Abbey Road
It’s Paul McCartney singing whimsically about a serial murderer. Though that should be enough to convince most people, the song has more going for it than deviously comical lyrics. Musically, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is classic Paul McCartney. The thumping, plucky bass line and the nondescript but extremely tasteful guitar fills both reek of McCartney. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” also introduces another stylistic element. His use of synthesizers foreshadows his work in the early 70’s with Wings and on his own. Think “Admiral Halsey” and “Band on the Run.” In all three songs the synths sound cheesy, but that’s part of the appeal. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a pick-me-up kind of song. Something you would play when you feel so awful that only complete nonsense will cheer you up.
Julia- The Beatles (The White Album)
John Lennon gets in touch with his sensitive side on this track. The intricate finger-plucked guitar chords give off an aura of sentimentality that Lennon matches with his lyrics. The song opens with “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you, Julia,” which sets the tone right off the bat. It’s a love song, but not a joyous one. On “Julia,” John Lennon opts for a more weathered depiction of love. His tired voice pairs with the hypnotic guitar to create a dreamlike soundscape but he still manages to convey a sense of humility. It’s as if love has pacified him, lulled him into submission. “Julia” is a message from that state of mind.
Long, Long, Long- The Beatles (The White Album)
“Long, Long, Long” is George Harrison’s diamond in the rough. Everyone loves “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something,” but “Long, Long, Long” deserves just as much credit. This song is impeccably crafted. Individual components of the song fit together like a Swiss Watch. Each instrument gets its own time to shine and the shifting emphasis occurs fluidly. George Harrison’s heartfelt vocal melody takes the spotlight in between drum, guitar, and bass fills. The result is a subdued but dynamic song. Speaking of dynamic, “Long, Long, Long” utilizes changes in volume exceptionally. It starts quiet. Sporadic drum breaks violently punctuate the first half of the song to keep things interesting. All the while, tension slowly builds until it reaches a climax at the end of the bridge, a sonic catharsis that must be heard to be truly experienced. After this peak Harrison reverts back to the mellow vibe from the beginning of the song, dropping listeners back into its familiar embrace. Not including the downright creepy outro, I would argue that “Long, Long, Long” is George Harrison’s masterpiece, his best individual effort as a songwriter and composer.
Across the Universe- Let it Be
Any true fan will tell you about The Beatles’ indispensable contributions to psychedelic music. The obvious examples being “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Both are disorienting and imaginative, and both are excellent songs in their own rights. If “Tomorrow Never Knows” marks John Lennon’s initial foray into the abyss of psychedelia, “Across the Universe” is him perfecting that art. His lyrics poetically depict the typical mundane conversations and thoughts that make up everyday life, which would come off as depressing if not for the borderline religiosity of the song. This is a modern hymn, a testament to the inexplicable beauty of existence, no matter how seemingly meaningless it may be. On the Let it Be version of “Across the Universe,” legendary producer Phil Spector reworks the song for optimum psychedelic effect. Shimmering sitar drones mix with divine string arrangements and John Lennon’s driving guitar to create a heavenly backdrop for some of the most profound lyrics in any Beatles song. The tone is hopeless yet awestruck. Endlessly sad and endlessly happy in the same breath.
I Will- The Beatles (The White Album)
In a general sense, John Lennon and Paul McCartney are perfect songwriting foils. Lennon uses his songs to depict reality, warts and all. McCartney opts for a more theatrical, fantastic approach. Their differing songwriting tendencies are best displayed on “A Day in the Life,” but that discrepancy is apparent in every song written entirely by either one of them. That being said, “I Will” is Paul McCartney’s take on a sunshine-and-rainbows love song. Reality never weasels its way into this brief testament to undying love. At 1:45 in length, the song breezes by, but it doesn’t waste a second. “I Will” is a constantly entertaining, consistently comforting love song.