The Real Best of the Beatles

Q Magazine May 2012

Q Magazine’s current issue looks at many artists and picks their “real” best tracks, which vary slightly with each artist.  In the case of the Beatles, whom they describe as “the only group in the history of pop music who are actually better than everyone says they are” they’ve decided to pick under-rated works; so nothing from hits CD 1.  Selected by journalist Rob Fitzpatrick, who says that there is “no such thing as a Beatles obscurity” (Richie Unterberger might disagree & Dehra Dun anyone?) there are 10 Beatles tracks in all. So I’m going to alternate his 10 with my 10 (although he has nicked a couple I would have  chosen) half this week, half next.

The World looks fine when the Rain drops on the Fab Four, Q’s choice of best track and the B-side of Paperback Writer. I remember first seeing the record in a shop in Arnhem whilst, yep, standing in the rain. Rob says “Rain marks the moment when popular music threw itself over the drug pop precipice” but he is an English music journalist; Rain is the first thing the Beatles did after Tomorrow Never Knows and is their finest B-side. 

Some kind of happiness is measured out in Hey Bulldog, the last track that all four Beatles jammed on together live in the studio (Feb 68). I remember seeing it in Yellow Submarine back then and being baffled when it wasn’t in the US release. Made up between them in just four hours whilst they were bored with the slow process of filming the Lady Madonna video (they are actually playing Hey Bulldog) this just rocks; joyfully  

No Reply happened once before as a demo for Tommy Quickly in June 64, but wasnt used! One of their music publisher Dick James‘ favourite songs The Beatles nailed No Reply for themselves on September 30th and opened Beatles for Sale with it. Q describe it as reflecting “crushing self-doubt, in case any of you think that being a good-looking star makes you happy” but Lennon said he was inspired by The Silhouettes;

Beneath this mask I’m influenced by Bob Dylan, Lennon revealed on I’m A Loser, my second pick recorded just 14 days before meeting Dylan at Delmonico’s on August 28 1964. Harrison had bought Dylan’s first album and played it until Lennon became a convert but it was BBC’s Kenneth Alsop asking him why his lyrics weren’t as good as his writing that triggered his “Dylan period”. Part of the brilliant downer trilogy that opens Beatles for Sale this paved the way for In My Life

You’ve got to admit Getting Better Q’s third choice with “McCartney’s optimism brilliantly undercut by Lennon’s heroic ‘it couldn’t get much worse‘” is one of the breezier Sgt Pepper tunes, but in fact it is also Lennon & McCartney getting back at their shared misery of school. Thought up on Hampstead Heath and written on Paul’s magic piano in his music room, The Beatles layered up and sharpened the lyrics in Abbey Road

Nothing to do but disagree with Q on the most under-rated track on Pepper, for me it’s Good Morning, Good Morning. Lennon’s wowzy I’m Only Waking Up to my suburban life song this features typical Geoff Emerick tape wizardry on the Fox Hunt fade-out getting the animal circus to eat each other’s tails; it’s timing, metre and chops are all over the place

Cream Tangerine and it’s the ghost of sweet-toothed Eric Clapton making his first appearance here, not in Montelimar but in Savoy Truffle. George’s guitar buddy inspired this paean to chocolate box England (with heavily distorted horns) that Q describe as a “psych-soul swinger with Harrison pulling the words out from a box of Good News chocolates” with George and Derek Taylor making up the rest;

My Clapton related Beatle choice would be Dirty Mac’s version of Yer Blues, with Lennon bossing Clapton, Keith Richard & Mitch Mitchell live, but as that aint Beatle I’m going …Naked like Lennon for I’ve Got A Feeling, the rooftop Lennon & MacCartney Day In The Life mashup. I think this is a massively under-rated classic; when will Let It Be get a DVD release?

There’s A Place from the first album was also on The Beatles Twist & Shout EP and provides a yearning counter-blast to it’s arrogant swagger. I loved it’s aspiration back in the day and now Q love it because “known as a cheeky mop-head beat group no one expected this poignant longing” thanks to more of John’s harmonica;

Please Please Me’s real under-rated track is… Boys. George Martin’s original plan for the album was to recreate The Beatles live show but the all day 16-hour recording schedule on 20 February 63 undercut his plan as they fell behind schedule. However Ringo got it right on his showcase. Like Twist and Shout this was a one-take blast, so this is the authentic 1963 live sound of The Beatles straight outta the traps. Boys

End of Part One; so that’s 5 x Q 5 x Me. Part 2 to come Sunday May 6th. Full playlist on YouTubeQ is available from newsagents

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One Response to “The Real Best of the Beatles”

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