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And Another Thing!
The Beatles Story
Published on June 3, 2013 by guest author: Barry Wenig

I’ve been a Beatlephile (I’ve been told that’s what they call us; “Beatlemaniac” is undignified) since 1969 when I bought the 45 of “Get Back” as a seven-year-old. I had been very impressed by the film “Yellow Submarine” earlier that year, and off I went into Pepperland.  

I began my Beatles’ “jones” in earnest in 1976, when I starting purchasing their albums with my Long Island Newsday (NY) carrier money. At first, I bought the Beatles' Capitol L.P.s. But once I found out that the American albums had fewer songs on them (a mere 10 compared to the 14 tracks on their British counterpart label, Parlophone), I started buying the English album versions. If my local T.S.S. (Time Square Stores) didn’t have them, I’d have them special-ordered.  

I had just moved out to a new county (Suffolk) and a new school district (Middle Island) from Queens that summer, and it was hard to make friends as I entered my first year of High School. And so … the Beatles became my friends. They offered rock and roll and romance.   

I thrilled to the discovery of each new album, and was proud of my rarer selections: a German bootleg of a 1966 live concert in Japan (!); a Dutch version of Magical Mystery Tour (with the songs on Side 2 in true, rather than “reprocessed” stereo); a Parlophone album called “The Beatles in Italy," which featured the set list from their 1965 concert in Italy (not live, but I could settle for that).  

As the years passed, I made friends, and the girls caught on to my sense of romance, but I never left “the Boys” behind.  I remained as ardent a fan as ever. I remember being slightly annoyed when the Beatles CDs came on the market in 1987.  They were based on the English albums and even included two CDs of the “flip sides” of the Beatles 45s, all of which I had scrupulously collected. Did that mean that what I had was no longer special? I finally realized that as long as what I had purchased was still special to me, that was all that mattered.  

This morning, I saw Sara Foss’ list of favorite Beatles’ songs in “Foss Forward,” and naturally I had to add my own two cents … and maybe a few comments along the way. I’m sure I have more than ten favorites, but here are ten Beatles’ songs, in no particular order, that stand out for me.  

1). “I’m Only Sleeping” (Revolver in England; Yesterday and Today in the U.S.) — How I loved the joys of sleeping as a teenager. John Lennon’s song extolled the virtues of closing your eyes and being whisked away, and had a dream-like quality, along with "backwards" guitar solos courtesy of Mr. George Harrison.    

2). “I Need You” (Help!) — One of George Harrison’s early efforts, "I Need You” is a plaintive call for love, which I could relate to. I couldn’t have realized it at the time, but I was also drawn to the use of minor chords in the chorus.    

3). “Dear Prudence” (The Beatles, also known as The White Album) — I liked The White Album so much that I recorded it on my Panasonic cassette player (the one that featured a “condenser" microphone), by putting my player in front of one speaker (my Sanyo stereo, with a built-in cassette deck, was on lay-away at a local electronics store, so I had to improvise). I used to bring the cassette player and listen to The White Album while swimming at the pool in my condominium complex. "Dear Prudence," with its soft lilting guitar and request for company, was my favorite.   

4). “Yes It Is” (flip side, “Ticket to Ride” single) — Besides being the first single to feature a Moog synthesizer, “Yes It Is” is a very moving, simply written song. In it, still bruising from a breakup, the singer (John) asks his new girlfriend not to wear red, which was the favorite color of his previous girlfriend. This one resonated with me, as I had several breakups with my first girlfriend, whose favorite color, alas, was also red.    

5). “If I Fell” (A Hard Day’s Night) — Probably the most romantic song from A Hard Day’s Night, "If I Fell" stays with me for two reasons. Even though I do a very good John Lennon imitation in the shower (in my opinion), I have a hard time staying on key on this one. Also, I remember mailing a copy of this 45 inside a box of chocolates to a long-distance girlfriend. That relationship didn’t last either (sensing a pattern here?).    

6). “Here, There and Everywhere” (Revolver) — In 1988, when my soon-to-be wife Mary (success at last!) and I announced our engagement to a houseful of friends in Sutton, NH, I put this song on the turntable, and we danced. Mary much prefers this song to “Wonderful Tonight," the Eric Clapton song, which we danced to at our wedding instead. She has complained that “Wonderful Tonight” is really about a guy who drinks too much. She’s probably right.    

7). “Helter Skelter” (The White Album) — Luckily, I was too young when this song was originally released to link it to the Manson Family murders. What I do know is that this track, which Paul McCartney claims was inspired by both a roller coaster, and the desire to make a song as loud and heavy as possible, kicks ass. I've got blisters on my fingers!!!    

8). “Baby It’s You” (Please Please Me in England, The Early Beatles in the U.S.) — Yet another romantic entry, and also sung by John. This was originally a hit for the Shirelles, but I prefer the Beatles version. It’s much fluid, and more of a plea than a declaration.   

9). “When I’m 64” (Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band) — In my opinion, Paul McCartney is the modern-day king of melody (with Billy Joel, an apt pupil, coming in second). His songs, while not carrying the depth of John Lennon’s, are true “ear-worms”; they get into your head and you cannot shake them. “When I’m 64”, which Paul wrote when he was 17, has a vaudevillian touch, obviously influenced by his father Jim, who had a jazz band. But while songs like “Honey Pie” go over the top, and are a little embarrassing, “When I’m 64” has just the right touch of nostalgia and humor.    

10). “Across the Universe” (Let It Be) — It dawns on me that this list is very “John-heavy." So be it. "Across the Universe," which was recorded twice by the Beatles (the first version was a throw-away given to a World Wildlife Fund charity album), has an ethereal, happy feel to it. Gone was the John who threated violence in “Run for Your Life” just a few years earlier on Rubber Soul. Here was the John who had (for the moment, anyway) found spiritual contentment and (for good) happiness and love with Yoko Ono.

Barry Wenig lives in N.H. with his wife Mary, his daughter Talia and their pets. His son, Eli, is in college in upstate New York.

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User Comments
Steve | June 04, 2013 08:10

Barry- great article and great list! Several of your songs were in my 11-20 range. I seriously considered "I'm Only Sleeping", "Dear Prudence", "Yes It Is", "If I Fell", and "Helter Skelter" for the top 10 list I put together. I'd say your list is the most eclectic, and (no offense to Sara) the most informed out of all our lists!

brian | June 18, 2013 09:01

Here is a great discussion site about the Beatles, one of the best in my opinion:

http://heydullblog.blogspot.com

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