Tuesday, August 04, 2009

10 Great Beatles Songs You May Have Never Heard

I recently paid a visit to a blog that I read regularly published by my British cyber-buddy, Martin Warminger. At his site, Music Obsessive, he just listed what are, in his opinion, the worst Beatles songs of all time. It's an idea I wanted to steal, and I could come up with a short but bad list, but for the sake of originality I decided to do something completely different instead. So, here is a list of ten songs by my all-time favorite band that deserve a better place in the annals of Beatles history. Most of them are only known by their hardcore fans. Here they are in chronological order.

1. I'll Be On My Way
The only known recorded version of this very early, 1963, Lennon-McCartney ditty appears on Live at The BBC. The Beatles never put it on vinyl. Yes, it's simplistic and the lyrics even have the audacity to rhyme the word "moon" with "June." However, the song has one of those undeniably catchy melodies that the Beatles were so superb at composing. It's quite unfortunate that once I play this song I can't get it out of my head for a week. The Beatles gave it to Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas who used it as a "B" side to one of their singles.

2. Soldier Of Love
This is another song that only appears on Live at The BBC. It's not a Beatles song in the truest sense because it's a cover version. The composing credits read Cason - Moon and the Beatles found it on a record by R & B singer - songwriter, Arthur Alexander, who wrote "Anna," a song The Beatles recorded for their first album. The quartet played a lot of covers of American R & B in their early years and this song may actually be their finest cover of them all. It's mystifying why they never recorded it for an album. John Lennon's lead vocal is excellent.

3. No Reply
This very good tune was considered as a single until John brought in "I Feel Fine." It's good enough to have been a radio hit but instead it languishes in semi-obscurity on the band's last album from their "Beatlemania" days, Beatles for Sale. Help! followed, and that LP began their transition away from being cute mop tops into something the music world would have to take far more seriously.

4. I Don't Want to Spoil The Party
This is another song from Beatles for Sale and it also served as the "B" side of "Eight Days A Week." This mostly acoustic track, sung by John Lennon, was The Beatles' first foray into real country music. It's far removed from the happy go lucky rock of their early years. It is one of those dark, moody pieces that only the group's leader could have written. There is no way the song could have been a hit for the band in those early fab four years but if John had held it and put it on one of their later albums this intelligent confessional may have received the accolades it deserves. The pop world just wasn't quite ready for something as introspective and serious as this in 1964 and early 1965. Rosanne Cash turned it into a hit many years later.

5. Yes It Is
For years the only way to obtain "Yes It Is" was as the "B" side to the 1965 single "Ticket to Ride." It's a moving, slow, sad ballad that features some weird electric guitar sounds from George Harrison and some wonderful three part harmonies. This is some of the best singing John, Paul, and George recorded as a trio. The superb and little known rock guitarist, Johnny A, did an excellent, instrumental cover of the song on his first solo CD.

6. For No One
Like "No Reply," this song, from Revolver, is not really a rarity but due to a lack of radio airplay it's not as well known to casual fans as it should be. Everything about this McCartney tune, from the lyrics, to the melody, to the arrangement, are perfect. To me it's the unheralded gem from this classic Beatles album.

7. Not Guilty
This George Harrison rocker closes with a rousing electric guitar solo. The complete, fully formed, band version of this song was left off of the The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) at the last minute. Why is a mystery, because George's stuff was just as good as most Lennon-McCartney works in 1968. "Revolution 9" did make the album so it's no wonder that George believed he was not being treated fairly. "Not Guilty" was released in a much different version on a Harrison solo album in the 70s and The Beatles version finally made it to CD on Anthology 3.

8. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Solo Acoustic)
This is the original demo Harrison played to introduce the song to everyone in the studio during sessions for The White Album. It's almost totally his acoustic guitar and voice. Paul McCartney added some barely audible organ in the background. Wildly different than the famous and magnificent version with Eric Clapton that did make it to the album, this slowed down original appears only on Anthology 3 and is a thrill in it's own right. We were treated to two versions of Lennon's "Revolution" and there should have been two released versions of this song, one of the finest in The Beatles catalog.

9. Old Brown Shoe
Here is another rocker by George that originally appeared as the "B" side to "The Ballad of John and Yoko." It's a rollicking example of George's excellent songwriting and unique guitar playing during the last two years of The Beatles. At the time, the "A" side received virtually no radio airplay due to John's usage of the word "Christ." Since the "hit" didn't get the same attention that almost all other Beatle singles received "Old Brown Shoe" got completely lost in the controversy.

10. Real Love
Is it mere coincidence that this list is full of Lennon and Harrison songs? "Real Love" is the second of two songs written by John that Yoko Ono gave to Paul, George, and Ringo to complete for the anthology series. This one appears on Anthology 2. ("Free as a Bird" released on Anthology 1 was the first). Around 1979 John recorded the song at his piano with just his voice, double tracked, and a drum machine. The other three Beatles finished the song in 1995 and it was released as the opening track to Anthology 2. Lennon always complained about Paul's "silly love songs" yet John wrote his share. This song proves it. Another perfect, catchy melody saves the day.

10 comments:

  1. Great post. I am currently doing write ups on all of the Beatle releases from Please Please Me through to Let it Be. I have made it to Rubber Soul thus far. Feel free to drop by and have a look.

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  2. Haha! Great twist! I wholeheartedly agree with 'Yes it is' - almost a forgotten song.

    My own favourite 'lesser known' song is 'You Can't Do That' from side two of the 'Hard Day's Night' soundtrack LP. A real rocker with wonderful soulful vocal from John. Almost Stones-ish with it's guitar riff and cowbell beat. Just shows what a tight rockin' band they were after weeks of clubbing gigs in Hamburg.

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  3. Great post. The French horn solo in "For No One" is one of the most amazing moments in the Beatles' career. If I were to add an eleventh song to the list, it would be "I'm Down" which was released - at the time, though it's appeared on at least one collection singe - only as the B-side to "Help!"

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  4. Excellent post. I found my way to the Music Obsessive's blog through this as well... click on my name for the link

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  5. One correction: You write: 'Yes It Is
    For years the only way to obtain "Yes It Is" was as the "B" side to the 1965 single "Ticket to Ride."' If you live in England, this might be correct. However, it's certainly wrong if you are an American. "Yes It Is" appeared on the American album "Beatles VI," which was released right before "Help!" in 1965. I know: I owned a copy of "Beatles VI"!

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  6. cmon bro what about glass onion

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  7. That's because John and George carried the group!

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  8. Dehra Dun? Sour Milk Sea? Both from the Rishikesh era iirc?

    Enjoyable Read :-)

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  9. Los Parnoias? What's the New Mary Jane?

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  10. You fools! How about Ana go to him. John's first solo vocal song from I think 1963 and it was a cover but I John dedicated this to his recently enough deceased mum. Tough life eh?

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