ELEVEN OVERLOOKED BEATLES SONGS (And What Can Be Learned From Them)
By David Lockeretz - 01/09/2003 - 03:57 AM EST
Perhaps because they have recorded so much material, some of which is less readily available, certain songs have not received their share of the limelight. While selections such as “Yesterday”, “Hey Jude”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Norwegian Wood” and “Eleanor Rigby” are often cited as important and influential pieces of pop music, the songs on this list are some that the reader may not have heard before. For those who have heard these before, perhaps the commentary will shed new light on them, and for those unfamiliar, consider these as gems waiting to be discovered.
“For No One” (Lennon/McCartney, Revolver)
While much of the material on “Revolver” might be construed as beginnings of the Beatles’ journey to psychadelia, “For No One” is more like a sophisticated distillation of the sensibilities of their early music. Non-diatonic chords are placed carefully within a straightforward pop progression underneath a stately, yet intimate melody.
“Hey Bulldog” (Lennon/McCartney, Yellow Submarine)
With an incredibly funky piano intro, an insistent groove and minimalist lyrics, “Hey Bulldog” describes a modernity different from the psychadelic pop music of the era. The song has a tight and satisfying form with a contrasting verse and chorus with the intro riff weaving in back and forth. The ending features some spoken-word with dry humor typical of the Beatles.
“If I Fell” (Lennon/McCartney, A Hard Day’s Night)
“If I Fell” is more than a pretty love song. It is a work with a harmonic complexity that eclipses almost any of the Beatles’ other material. While the song is a staple of oldies radio, it is rarely cited as a Beatles masterpiece. “If I Fell” moves from D-flat major to D major to G major beneath a simple, memorable melody. As is the case with the other songs on this list, the technique of “If I Fell” exists to make the song work, not just for its own sake. “If I Fell” gives the listener much to glean from repeated hearings.
“I’ll Cry Instead” (Lennon/McCartney, A Hard Day’s Night)
This was one of the first rock’n’roll songs to candidly address jealousy and obsession. The energetic groove, a mix of Motown and rockabilly, adds to the intensity of the song, making the lyrics more convincing. At just over two minutes in length, “I’ll Cry Instead” packs more--including a verse and bridge with subtle variations--than many songs twice its length.
“I’ll Follow the Sun” (Lennon/McCartney, Beatles 65)
This is one of the few Beatles songs to show the influence of American folk music. It starts from the “V” chord, as opposed to a more common “I” chord beginning, and the melody line has a unique sound, based on an exact choice of notes sung over the harmonies. Lyrically, the song is at once peaceful and melancholy, anticipating things that were to come from the Beatles.
“I, Me, Mine” (Harrison, Let It Be)
One can’t help but wonder if the late George Harrison was talking about his feuding bandmates in this provocative song about greed and selfishness. Transforming instantly from a lyrical waltz to a raucous blues shuffle several times in the space of two and a half minutes, “I, Me, Mine” is amazingly economical, using two contrasting musical styles to get the lyrics across.
“It Won’t Be Long Now” (Lennon/McCartney, Meet the Beatles)
A cursory listen might not distinguish this piece substantially from any of the Beatles’ other earlier works, but close inspection reveals some rather startling innovation. First, the verse, pre-chorus are all presented in reverse order: Chorus, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus. Second, the chorus features unusual seven-bar phrasing. Third, the harmonic progression features some non-diatonic harmony, very unusual for pop music of the era. But the innovations are not there for their own sake; they are there to help the song serve its purpose of sticking in the listener’s head.
“One After 909” (Lennon/McCartney, Let It Be)
From an album on which producer Phil Spector brought in cascades of strings comes a throwback to the Beatles’ early years. This is a catchy, groovy song with a country-rock influence, an example of the Beatles’ versatility, showing that they never lost track of their roots.
“Taxman” (Harrison, Revolver)
When George Harrison died, radio stations paid tribute with songs of his such as “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”. Indeed, Harrison’s Eastern-influenced philosophy often served as a calming influence during the Beatles’ later turbulent years. However, as shown by “Taxman”, Harrison was also capable of harshly direct social commentary. The satirical words of “Taxman” are set against a funky groove with bluesy lead guitar work, resulting in a piece that sounds modern and fresh to this day.
“Yer Blues” (Lennon/McCartney, The Beatles)
“Yer Blues” anticipates the catharsis that informed much of John Lennon’s solo work. It contrasts much of the material on the forward-looking The Beatles (also known as the White Album), evolving less from the psychadelia of late 1960s than from the Delta blues. Lyrics of anger and despair are snarled over some of the rawest guitar on record from the Beatles.
“You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” (Lennon/McCartney, Help)
With a great vocal hook, good chords and thoughtful lyrics, it’s surprising that this song did not become a hit. The sections flow together remarkably well. The bridge is marked by a modulation from the key of E major to G major, keeping the listener guessing while maintaining the feel and unity of the song. The lyrics represent a viewpoint of a relationship not often seen in songwriting. And all analysis aside, “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” works: It’s an enjoyable song to listen to, one that keeps the listener smiling during its whole duration, and one that doesn’t need a single note changed. The Beatles’ catalog is so rich and varied that it cannot just be represented with their most popular songs. These are among many unheralded beauties from a band whose work has influenced forty years of songwriters and whose impact will always be felt.
I would like to acknowledge the web site http://www.beatlesbeats.com/, which I referred to several times while writing this article.
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