Friday, June 24, 2016

The Great 38

100 BEST BEATLES SONGS: AN INFORMED FAN'S GUIDE, by Stephen J. Spignesi and Michael Lewis (2004).

INITIAL FINDINGS -- This is a reprint. The book was initially titled HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: THE 100 BEST BEATLES SONGS. Inside, the book is subtitled A PASSIONATE FAN'S GUIDE. So there is some confusion here. Lots of black-and-white photos of the Fabs, but the photo reproduction isn't always the best. Stills from their movies look especially dark and grainy. There are occasional typos -- one indicates that the BBC aired a documentary on the Beatles in December 1884, which is not only astonishingly early for the BBC, but nearly 80 years before the Beatles got rolling. So.

DISAGREEMENTS -- Of course the whole idea of a Beatles "Top 100" is kind of silly, but whatthehell. And you can't fault the American authors' timing if this came out in 2004, the 40th anniversary of the Fabs conquering America.
In any fans' list of bests there are going to be some quirky choices, and there are definitely some here. But maybe it'd be simpler if I listed....

SONGS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP 100 -- Criteria for choices is that these are all Beatles-written songs released on their albums. Among the 100+ that didn't make the cut are:
Got to Get You Into My Life, Tell Me Why, There's a Place, Things We Said Today, Any Time at All, I'll Cry Instead, The Night Before, Oh! Darling, Wait, Old Brown Shoe, I'm Down, I'll Follow the Sun, Do You Want to Know a Secret?, I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Misery, She's a Woman, When I'm 64, The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Cry Baby Cry, Thank You Girl, Don't Pass Me By, Yer Blues, P.S. I Love You, Yellow Submarine, You Know My Name (Look Up the Number), I'm Looking Through You, and about a dozen more that I think are well above average and deserving of mention in a Top 100.

NO DISAGREEMENTS -- I'm grateful that "From Me to You" didn't get in. I've only heard one good version of it ever -- and that was in a Target Christmas commercial. It was very nice to see the gorgeous "Dear Prudence." The rockin' "Hey Bulldog" was a nice surprise. So was George's "I Need You." And the medley from Side 2 of ABBEY ROAD is included here, all as one piece, as it should be.

AUTHORIAL BIASES? -- They seem to have a pro-John bent, and I'm OK with that. They also admit they like material that pushes the envelope -- I'm OK with that too. But that means "A Day in the Life" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" lead off. No argument with the first one. And "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "She Said She Said" are here. But there are some odd choices as we work our way into the Hundred.

MORE DISAGREEMENTS -- I Do Not Get why a Beatles Top 100 includes:
Sexy Sadie, Good Morning Good Morning, All You Need is Love (at Number 5?!), Another Girl, Get Back (this is a big blind spot for me), Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, Girl, It's All Too Much (what, no "Blue Jay Way"? It's not even in the index), Michelle, Savoy Truffle, She's Leaving Home, Within You Without You, add your least favorite Beatles original here. (Sorry, "Mr. Moonlight" was written by someone else and does not qualify for this list.)

BUT -- On first impression, the authors are engaged and thoughtful fans, know their history, and refer to solid research and references. Just because there are occasional problems (George DID write "Blue Jay Way," right? "It Won't Be Long" is indexed as left out of the book but is in there at Number 92), doesn't mean these guys are klutzes.
I was happy to see some respect for "Something" (low-key, gorgeous, underrated) and "The Long and Winding Road" (the "many times I've been alone" section gets me every time, despite the rest).
But I don't get why they have no love for "You Know My Name," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Yellow Submarine," "Octopus's Garden," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Rocky Raccoon," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road," or even "Wild Honey Pie"? Immune to the silliness, perhaps? Surely it's not No Sense Of Humor?

I WOULD HAVE DROPPED -- Everything listed above in MORE DISAGREEMENTS, and MOVED DOWN: Strawberry Fields Forever, Here There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine, Martha My Dear, Day Tripper, Drive My Car, Lady Madonna, If I Needed Someone, Love Me Do, Long Long Long, Doctor Robert.

OVERALL -- These guys refer to the BEATLES ANTHOLOGY and Mark Lewisohn's BEATLES RECORDING SESSIONS as their main support material. If you haven't read those, you may learn a few new things here. Otherwise, not so much. And there's no point arguing over matters of taste, right?

WATCH FOR my own picks of The Beatles Top 100 songs! What the hell?

No comments: