Thursday, June 5, 2008

Top 5 Songs on the White Album

Tim's Top 5:
It's actually among my least favorite Beatles albums. That, however, is like saying that winning it in the lottery is one of my less favored methods of procuring $200 million.

1. I'm So Tired - The desperation comes through clearly in Lennon's lyrics and vocals and he creates a wildly divergent song that starts out crawling, builds, drops back to the crawl and builds to an explosive and frenzied pleading chorus. It's a very simple song, but it shows a more dynamic emotional character than perhaps any other song in the Beatles catalog. It's also got the charm of a work that's clearly not a finished product, something they could never have put on an album before the White Album.

2. Dear Prudence - The bounce to the guitar that makes up the background of the entire song is masterful. It's one of the more cryptic songs and it carries a sort of childlike aura around it. Also noteworthy because Paul McCartney actually played the drums on the track because Ringo Starr had walked away from The Beatles when they began recording it.

3. Helter Skelter - Along with Polythene Pam, this might be as pure a rock 'n' roll song as the Beatles would ever record, and it's hard to believe that it's actually a McCartney song. It's easy to see how Charlie Manson decided this song was telling him something more, since McCartney was rarely this bizarre and abstract in his writing, particularly when, as here, the subject of the song was a piece of children's playground equipment. The deeply buried background vocals are one of the highlights.

4. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me & My Monkey - Ok, it mentions monkeys, so it's hard to neglect it. It's a very simple song with throwaway lyrics, but Ringo's work on the drums is a highlight and the presence of the greatest of all musical instruments -- the cowbell makes it an essential track for me, even to the exclusion of others that I know are better.

5. Happiness Is A Warm Gun - You can tell that John Lennon is my favorite Beatle going away, since four of the five songs here are his, but The White Album may also have been his finest hour. The ironic lyrics, the haunting vocals, and the screeching and moaning guitar help make this the first dual song (the latter being I'm So Tired) on the album, following after A Day In The Life, which was quite literally two songs since it was written in part by both Lennon and McCartney.

Honorable mention: Yer Blues - another Lennon tour de force; Blackbird is a troublingly beautiful song, The continuing adventures of Bungalow Bill - Yoko's vocals are annoying, sure, but there's a really good song behind it; Glass Onion - I know, it's a throwaway pop song, but it's a masterpiece of a throwaway pop song that just showed that they didn't really need to try to write great songs; While My Guitar Gently Weeps - a great song, just not on the list for me, Sexy Sadie - I've said enough.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Dear Prudence - Probably in my Top 5 Beatles songs. Have we done that list yet?

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison's masterpiece, I believe.

3. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey - Probably the most fun song on the album. Occasionally I will hear it in a public setting (i.e., Its playing didn't have anything to do with me), and that's always fun.

4. Blackbird - One of the most covered songs on the album, I'm sure. It loses points for the bird sound effects towards the end.

5. Helter Skelter - I'm including this one because the guitar intro is so dissonant, leading me to believe it was an inspiration for early heavy metal artists. (The album was released in '68, the same year Black Sabbath formed.) The song was created in order to top The Who's "I Can See For Miles."

Ryan's Top Five

1. "Helter Skelter" - I devoted most of my Ranking Time to song #1 versus song #2. I am a bit of a Lennon-phile and I typically prefer his music to McCartney's... but this song just kicks too much ass. "Proto-metal" at its finest. I don't know how to listen to this song on anything other than max volume.

2. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" - This song epitomizes what's so great about Lennon; his lyrics may be indecipherable at times, but they're biting and unassailably cool (thank you Rob Gordon). The music fucking rules, and I love the bitter irony of happiness being a warm gun. "When I hold you in my arms / And I feel my finger on your trigger / I know no one can do me no harm." This set to the tune of a doo-wop "bang bang shoot shoot." Awesome.

3. "Dear Prudence" - This was my favorite song for a while. I still love it but I've grown out of it a bit. That said, I have a weakness for songs with rocking crescendos.

4. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - This is George Harrison's second-best Beatles song (after "Here Comes the Sun"...do I sense another Top 5 list?). To wax English-teachery, I have always loved the titular personification. I love the idea of a guitar weeping.

5. "Back in the USSR" - It was either this or "Blackbird," and I think I'm just in more of a rock mood lately. This song deserves major cred for setting up "Dear Prudence" (let alone the album) so well.

Footnote: "Revolution" is awesome. "Revolution 1" sucks.

1 comment:

Vulpes Ryanis said...

If you guys haven't yet heard the "Love" remix of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite/I Want You (She's So Heavy/Helter Skelter," check it out, it's pretty great. My favorite track from "Love."