Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad songs by The Beatles

They do exist. The Beatles were but men, prone to missteps and lapses in judgment.
I recently came across this rundown of unFab creations that was compiled by Neil McCormick of The Telegraph. I'm painting with broad strokes, but it seems there are essentially four categories of bad Beatles songs you'll find in such lists: John's occasional misfire (vague, I know, but his duds aren't easily classifiable like the others'), Paul's music-hall confections, George's self-serious Eastern dirges and Ringo's ... songs. McCormick targets a cut or two from each group - John: "Revolution 9"; Paul: "Your Mother Should Know"; George: "The Inner Light" and "Long, Long, Long"; and Ringo: "Honey Don't" and "Octopus's Garden." I agree with some but not all of these. I happen to love "Your Mother Should Know," along with Paul's other dainty throwbacks like "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Honey Pie." Ringo's moments in the sun usually don't bother me, but I'm emphatically not a fan of George's Eastern/stoner outings, particularly "Within You Without You" and "It's All Too Much." Joyless and navel-gazing, in my opinion. As for John, I'm not keen on "Revolution 9," but I consider his body of work to be the strongest overall. I even like his misogynist tirade "Run for Your Life" quite a lot.
For my own (very short) list, I have a different approach in mind. I'm going to write about the two Beatles songs that annoy me the most. I'm limiting it to two because only this pair has consistently stuck out over the years. By objective standards, they may not represent the worst of the worst (perhaps far from it, even), but for various reasons they get under my skin. And that's worse than merely being bad.
- "I Need You" (Help!)
An otherwise unmemorable song that is made memorably irritating by the nasal, offbeat, dragging guitar effect that George conjured up with a volume pedal. It sounds like a car horn mixed with a duck call; it's grating every time. I can credit George for trying something different, but all he managed to do in the end was constantly interrupt his own song. George Martin should've said no. Whenever I listen to Help!, I always bypass this track. It's the lone bum note on Side One.
- "Blackbird" (The Beatles)
Paul's precious paean to the civil rights movement is beloved by many. If you browse user comments on YouTube, you'll find that, through "Blackbird," people locate inner peace, experience the numinous, and achieve cosmic unity with Paul. I've never come close to any of that. On the contrary, I think "Blackbird" is a crashing bore. I detect no color, no spark, no passion. The melody is dull and erratic; Paul's vocal is little more than serviceable; and - to top it off - the chirping bird sample is super contrived and obvious. An exceedingly amateur touch, if you ask me. It rankles hard. On Side Two of "The White Album," I'll take "Martha My Dear," "Rocky Raccoon," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "I Will" (to say nothing of John's contributions) over "Blackbird" every day of the week.
. . .
By speaking well of "Run for Your Life" and trashing "Blackbird" in the same post, I may get excommunicated from the Global Community of Beatles Fans. I'm prepared to accept the consequences.

No comments: