By Nancy McDonald
Honey, disconnect the phone. Doesn’t have a point of view; knows not where he’s going to. Coo coo ka-choo. In high school, I wrote a 25-page research paper on The Beatles. The paper was only supposed to be 20 pages, but I managed a cool 25. Didn’t even mess with the font to make the paper appear longer than it actually was. What you can’t tell is that I typed that sentence with a certain amount of pride, as evidenced by me straightening up in my chair and the cocky grin that spread across my face. It’s the little things in life, really.
But back to The Beatles. I love ’em. I loved them when they were in drab suits, playing innocent and taking uniform bows at the end of their songs. I loved them when Bob Dylan introduced them to a certain illegal substance and suddenly out went the suits and manners, only to be replaced by more meaningful lyrics and songs that contained words that had more than three syllables (something Lennon was particularly proud of at the time). I loved them when they were all mad on drugs, writing about women in the sky, nowhere men and, well, pigs. I even loved them when it was clear that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were going their separate ways, while Ringo sat there like a child watching his parents bicker and argue before one of them yelled, “I never wanted to marry you in the first place!” Individually, they all achieved a certain level of success with their solo careers, but they will forever be known first and foremost as an “ex-Beatle.” Although I don’t think I could ever really pick a list of their best songs, here are a few that are personal favorites:
“Rocky Raccoon” – White Album
Growing up as a Nancy, I always noticed that the name “Nancy” wasn’t one the rock stars liked to write ballads about. Sure, there’s Frank Sinatra’s “Nancy”, Pete Yorn’s “For Nancy”, Dave Matthews Band’s “Dancing Nancies”, and, maybe a little more obscure, Father John Misty’s “Nancy From Now On.” These are all okay songs, but in “Rocky Raccoon” Paul McCartney sings my name. Obviously, he wasn’t singing about me in particular (especially since I wouldn’t even be born for another 16 years or so), but every time I hear this song I smile when he gets to my name. Oh, and the rest of the song is pretty good, too.
“This Boy” – Meet The Beatles!
This track perfectly showcases how Lennon, McCartney and Harrison utilized the three-part harmony. Their voices blend and compliment with each other so well, as if they were mechanically engineered to do so. This song edged out “Because” on Abbey Road only because of Lennon’s wrenching vocal solo in the middle of the song.
“I’m Looking Through You” – Rubber Soul
McCartney wrote this biting, yet seemingly cheery song about a relationship gone awry with Jane Asher in mind. He had dated Asher for five years and openly announces in the song, “I thought I knew you/What did I know?” Ouch. I guess this song makes the list because rarely does McCartney, who is better known for his silly love songs, sound bitter. What did Asher do to upset McCartney? I mean, he wrote a sweeter song about his dog (“Martha My Dear”) than he did about her. Whatever she did, I’m glad. That may sound like a selfish thing to say, mostly because it is a selfish thing to say, but we wouldn’t have this great song if she hadn’t mucked things up with Sir Paul.
“Julia” – White Album
Lennon puts his mother, who was hit by a car when he was just a teenager, in the spotlight for this track. Anybody who knows anything about Lennon knows that his mother had a profound impact on his life, even though she was barely a part of it. This gentle ballad captures his love and affection for his mum, and the way he sings his mother’s name with such care is haunting.
“For No One” – Revolver
A very simple song, but this song of a relationship going bad has always lingered in my mind as one of my favorites. McCartney sings to the man in the relationship, who is desperately trying to hold onto the woman he loves. But she wakes up, she makes up, and takes her time doing so. She does nothing with him in mind anymore. The poor man wants to believe that he can salvage their sinking ship of a relationship, but he can look in her eyes and see nothing. A simple story, a simple song, but effective nonetheless.