Sunday, September 06, 2009

Now We'd Like To Do "Hark The Angels Come"

I know that the Beatles Renaissance is nigh. I know that Entertainment Weekly can't continue to put vampires on their cover forever. But why, oh why would they choose instead to canonize the Fab Four in this way: "We Rank Their 50 Best Songs (and 5 worst)?" My own reaction was simple enough explanation. I immediately turned to page thirty-seven to get to the heart of the matter. What heresy could they possibly print on this "worst" list?
If you're not going to buy the magazine or swing past my house and see if it's still on the coffee table, I will spill those beans for you. Under the disclaimer "Oh, come on. Nobody's perfect - not even the Beatles" is the list. "All You Need Is Love," followed by "Wild Honey Pie," "Dig It," "Don't Pass Me By," and "Flying." The immediate problem I have is that the fiftieth best song is also the first song on their worst list. "All You Need Is Love" is a "catchy but thoroughly maddening novelty song." Not unlike Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
I know that the editors of Entertainment Weekly would love to stir up a little mail for their letters page, but this seems more than a little contrived. I say this primarily from the standpoint of a person who grew up watching and experiencing the way that the Beatles revolutionized pop music and the culture around it. My parents liked the Beatles. My mother was very open-minded when it came to the music that her kids listened to, but she liked the Beatles. She wasn't just putting up with the Beatles. Even "Dig It" or "Wild Honey Pie." These songs were connective tissue on albums that were designed to be listened to as a collection of songs, an album if you will. The sequence of songs was a primary concern of the lads as their career expanded beyond the shrieking din of Candlestick Park.
I am sure that somewhere another list is being generated. This one will be more focused on Ringo, the easy target. Or maybe George's sitar technique. Why not point out Paul's silly love songs or John's misanthropic rants? Here's why: When I read the list of "Best" and "Worst" I had immediate access to the sounds they made in my head. Would it be fair to say that every song that any person or group recorded was a golden moment, worthy of being preserved forever? I have only recently forgiven Mister Springsteen for "Human Touch," and this is from a guy whose career has spanned nearly three times that of the boys from Liverpool. The magic of the Beatles is the way they delivered world-changing music consistently for less than a decade. I acknowledge that there is a spectrum upon which listeners can feel free to rate the relative greatness of any piece of music. I'll take the worst of the best any day.


Anonymous said...

I'd put "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" on the worst list.

Anonymous said...

I want to know how many of the E Weekly writers were even alive when the Beatles were doing their thing. What a sissy way out, however. The "50" best and the "5" worst? I'd take that grade any day!