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The catalogue of The Beatles is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in musical history. But what were John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr’s favourite Beatles album?
As a single unit under the moniker of The Beatles, the four individuals may have at times moved as one but in truth, their individualism would often lead them down different paths. The personalities of The Beatles are part of what endeared them to so many hearts across the world during their explosion in the swinging sixties.
While some of that was down to the marketing of George Martin, it was certainly true that their different tastes and talents were an organic evolution of not only the band but the members as people in their own right.
This led to a beautiful tapestry of all four members’ songwriting expertise. Lennon and McCartney will always be remembered as the principal songwriters in the band but Harrison and Starr’s contribution can not be underestimated.
When The Beatles came back from India in spring of 1968, they had written so many songs they couldn’t fit them on one album. So they did something they’d never done before: They recorded a double album. Though they released it as a self-titled record, it became known as The White Album.
That opened up some space for George Harrison. As recently as Sgt. Pepper’s (1967), the Fab Four had released albums that only featured one song by George. On The White Album, George had four songs he wrote and sang the lead vocal on.
And he had more ready to go that didn’t make the cut. The list included “Not Guilty,” which he released on his own 1979 album, and “Sour Milk Sea” which he gave to Jackie Lomax to record.
Of the four that went out on the album, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ranks high on the list of George’s best songs. But the stirring “Long, Long, Long” wasn’t far behind. That track was a special kind of love song for The Beatles.
Peter Asher is more than qualified to take us on a journey through the Beatles’ many songs and adventures. He’s a longtime friend of the band, and in the late ’60s was a producer for the Beatles’ Apple label, signing such talents as James Taylor. He’s been producing stars ever since and recently hosted SiriusXM’s radio show about the Fab Four, “From Me to You.” Though hardcore Beatles fans won’t find much that’s terribly surprising about the band in Asher’s new book, “The Beatles from A to Zed,” the writer and producer excels at excavating details and connections that sparkle and entertain.
Adopting Asher’s alphabetical format, here are some delightful — and less-than-delightful — takeaways from Asher’s book. (Space limitations kept me from including the full alphabet.)
A: A is for Abbey Road Studios. It was originally known as EMI Recording Studios and was inaugurated by Sir Edward Elgar, England’s famous classical composer who wrote that school graduation grind, “Pomp and Circumstance.” A is also for allusions. In James Taylor’s song “Carolina in My Mind, he mentions “the holy host of others standing around me.” That “holy host,” Asher reveals, is the Beatles. The title of Paul McCartney’s song “Queenie Eye” alludes to a Liverpool street game, but Asher, a well-off Londoner, has never heard of it. (One point for working-class Liverpool.)
Source: Sibbie O'Sullivan/washingtonpost.com
Millennials can put Boomers down all they want, but I’m damned okay with the fact that I got to experience the undisputed best band ever changing the world in real time. And all these years later, they’re still blowing our minds. I almost cried when the first remixed notes of “Come Together” poured from my pre-MP3 stereo, simultaneously remembering the joy that original Abbey Road produced from the moment I got it in my seventh-grade hands and feeling the losses that still ache — of the Beatles, of John and George, of youth’s dreams.
But this edition, judiciously remixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell, instantly reignited that joy. Throughout, the vocals and instruments just pop more vividly (and Billy Preston is fully heard at last), without disturbing the perfection of the Beatles’ last — and finest — masterpiece. And the add-ons are next-level. Too often, bonus content is underwhelming, but not here. The demos and alternate takes are incredible versions in their own right, often just as extraordinary as the chosen ones. And while several have appeared on the Anthology collection or elsewhere, they’re in full context here, enhanced by the 100-page coffee-table book detailing each.
Source: Lynne Margolis/americansongwriter.com
If you liked hearing The Beatles reference past songs in their work, 1968 was a very good year. The releases kicked off in March with Paul McCartney’s “Lady Madonna,” in which listeners got the chorus, “See how they run.”
That repeated a line from “I Am the Walrus,” the John Lennon masterpiece from a year earlier. But many more references would follow on the White Album (released later in ’68). On “Savoy Truffle,” George Harrison called out “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from earlier in the recording sessions.
But John would outdo everyone with his laundry list of references on “Glass Onion.” Keeping the chain alive, he referenced both “Lady Madonna” and “I Am the Walrus” in the track while adding nods to songs from Sgt. Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour.
The intent was to address the Beatles fans who were going overboard with interpretations of every word and sound on Fab Four recordings. And, even by John’s standards, “Glass Onion” was a mischievous bit of work.
If you read about John Lennon’s songwriting methods, you realize he got ideas from everywhere. For what became his least favorite Beatles song, John used a line from an Elvis hit as a jumping-off-point on “Run For Your Life.”
In the Fab Four’s psychedelic days, John said he used a drawing his son Julian wrote as the inspiration for “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” And on his Sgt. Pepper masterpiece “A Day in the Life,” the song started just as John described. (He “read the news today, oh boy.”)
Starting in 1968, you hear the influence of Yoko Ono on his Beatles work. Whether it’s John’s turn toward experimental music or the lyrics to “Yer Blues,” it’s clear Yoko’s input had affected his writing.
It wasn’t just conscious songwriting efforts. Even relaxing on a couch while listening to Yoko play classical piano could inspire a song. And that very thing happened with this Abbey Road track.