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Posts Tagged ‘John Lennon’

Today I thought I would share this lesser known song by The Beatles – “Free As A Bird”. It was released in 1996, when The Beatles put together their Anthology series of CDs, book and TV series. By this time, of course, John Lennon had been dead for 16 years. The other Beatles got in touch with Yoko who gave them a recording that Lennon had made of this song. They added their own voices and musical accompaniment to his original track, to create the closest thing possible to a new Beatles song. There are also some lyrics added by Paul McCartney, the parts that he sings on his own, rather than in harmony to Lennon’s voice.

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The Beatles single “Free As A Bird” was released in 1996, to coincide with the release of the Anthology CDs, book and TV series

Free as a bird
It’s the next best thing to be
Free as a bird

Home, home and dry
Like a homing bird I’ll fly
As a bird on wings

Whatever happened to
The life that we once knew?
Can we really live without each other?

Where did we lose the touch
That seemed to mean so much?
It always made me feel so…

Free as a bird
Like the next best thing to be
Free as a bird

Home, home and dry
Like a homing bird I’ll fly
As a bird on wings

Whatever happened to
The life that we once knew?
Always made me feel so free

Ah…
Ah…
Ah…

Free as a bird
It’s the next best thing to be
Free as a bird
Free as a bird
Free as a bird
Oooooo

Free…

[Turn out nice again, mother.]

The video to accompany “Free As A Bird” is fascinating. For aficionados of Beatles trivia, there are all kinds of obvious and less obvious references to Beatles songs in the video. See how may you can spot?

Enjoy!

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At number 1 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “A Day in the Life”. This song is the last track on the band’s seminal album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is consistently rated the best album of all time by many different experts and lists. See, for example, my own blogpost about Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time, here.

It may come as a surprise to many of you that this is the song Rolling Stone Magazine have chosen to be the greatest Beatles song of them all. In some ways it surprises me. Although I like this song a lot (I would put it in my top 20 Beatles songs), there are others which I would put above it based on the assumed criteria which Rolling Stone Magazine have used to rate Beatles songs, which seem to me to be

  1. impact
  2. inventiveness and/or originality and
  3. just a great song

Based on these assumed three criteria, I would say that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is clearly the song which had the biggest impact on the music world and on The Beatles, because it was their break-through song in the United States. No other song by The Beatles had such a profound effect on the course of popular music, or on the band’s own destiny.

In terms of inventiveness, I would say that, for example, “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” are more inventive songs than “A Day in the Life”. Yes, “A Day in the Life” is an inventive song, but there isn’t really anything in it that The Beatles had not already done in terms of studio techniques.

It is, definitely, a great song. No arguing with that, in my opinion. And it is one, if not the, last example of a collaboration between Lennon and McCartney. In fact, it is two unfinished songs stitched together. Lennon had composed a song based on some newspaper stories, real-life events and his recent experience of acting in the movie “How I Won the War”, but it didn’t have a middle-eight or chorus. McCartney had started on a very different type of song, a whimsical ditty based on his memories of going to school on the top deck of the bus. The band decided to put the two very different songs together, to create a masterpiece.

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At number 1 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “A Day in the Life”

Here are the lyrics of “A Day in the Life”. There has been much speculation as to who the man was who blew his mind out in a car. Most experts seem to agree that it was socialite Tara Browne, who died at the tender age of 21 when he drove his Lotus Élan into the back of a parked van. The “4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” comes from a newspaper story which Lennon read about potholes in the roads in Lancashire. The line “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall” is just pure genius.

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph

He blew his mind out in a car;
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords

I saw a film today, oh boy;
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book

I’d love to turn you on

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late

Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

Ah I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

I’d love to turn you on

Added to the lyrics which Lennon wrote is the beautifully haunting sound of his voice. With a little bit of echo, it floats in space. No one has a voice like John Lennon, it has a magical quality to it which is there in spades in this song. An ethereal, haunting quality to it. With lyrics like “I’d love to turn you on” and “…had a smoke….and went into a dream”, the song was banned from many radio stations for supposed references to drugs and getting high. Both Lennon and McCartney have denied that their lyrics had anything to do with drugs, and not long after this song they became fairly open about their drug taking, so had no reason to lie.

Thankfully, this hauntingly beautiful song is available on The Beatles’ official Vevo channel, so here is a link to it which will presumably not be removed. Enjoy!!

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Today, 8 December, marks the 36th anniversary of John Lennon’s senseless murder in 1980. It is always a poignant time for me; I had heard him on BBC Radio 1 the day before (7 December 1980) telling listeners of the interview which he had just recorded with Andy Peebles. I was full of excitement that my hero was returning to public life; I was too young to remember the time when he had stepped off the treadmill to bring up his son Sean (which he did in 1975).

I woke up the following morning to hear the news that he’d been shot dead outside his home in New York City. I blogged a little about that a year ago. I had already bought his ‘comeback’ album Double Fantasy. One of the most tender songs on this album was this song here, “Beautiful Boy”. After his murder the song’s lyrics became even more poignant.

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Some of the most poignant lines from John Lennon’s 1980 song “Beautiful Boy”. Within a few months of writing this song, he had been murdered.

The lines “life is what happens to you / While you’re busy making other plans” seemed prophetic. And the lines “I can hardly wait / To see you come of age / But I guess we’ll both / Just have to be patient” almost too sad to hear.

How could Sean even begin to understand suddenly losing his father at only 5 years of age? The answer, of course, is that he couldn’t.

Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monster’s gone,
He’s on the run
And your daddy’s here,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day
In every way,
It’s getting better and better,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both
Just have to be patient,

‘Cause it’s a long way to go,
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime,

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is what happens to you,
While you’re busy making other plans,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day
In every way,
It’s getting better and better,

[2x]
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful boy,

Darling, darling,
Darling Sean.

Here is the official video of “Beautiful Boy”, a song which takes on so much additional poignancy after the events of 8 December 1980.

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At number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “In My Life”. This 1965 John Lennon composed song is one of my favourite Beatles songs of any period. It is the 4th track on the second side of their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It reflects a departure for Lennon, in that the song is more personal and introspective in an obvious and direct way than his previous songs. For me the song is simply perfect, Lennon at his best. In addition to being number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, “In My Life” is also ranked by them at number 23 in the 500 greatest songs (by anyone) of all time.

“In My Life” was recorded in October 1965 and was never released as a single, so came out with the release of Rubber Soul in December 1965. As I have commented before (but in case there are new readers of this blog), The Beatles rarely released album tracks as singles, and they tended to not include their already released on their albums. None of the tracks on Rubber Soul was released as a single in the Disunited Kingdom, although some were in other countries.

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At number 5 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “In My Life”

One of the beautiful features of “In My Life” is, for me, the exquisite ‘harpsichord’ sounding solo. In fact, it is a piano solo, sped up. George Martin, The Beatles’ producer, wrote a piece  of music for this song with Bach influences, but found that he could not get it to match the tempo of the song. So, he played it on a piano, then sped it up to match the song’s tempo, the resulting sped-up piano sounding more like a harpsichord. It adds to the majestic feel of this wonderful song.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

Here is a video of this beautiful song. Apologies if the link stops working, Beatles songs on YouTube are often removed for copyright reasons, but as of my writing this the link works.

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At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “A Hard Day’s Night”. This song was recorded in April 1964 and released in July. It was The Beatles’ 7th singles release in the Disunited Kingdom, and got to number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It is also the title of The Beatles’ 3rd album, and the title of their first movie.

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At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “A Hard Day’s Night”

The title of the song apparently comes from a phrase that Ringo Starr would often say, with John Lennon being the main composer and singer. The opening chord is considered one of the most recognisable in rock ‘n’ roll. The single and album were both at number 1 simultaneously in both the DUK and the USA in August of 1964, something which had never been achieved before by any recording artist.

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things
And it’s worth it just to hear you say you’re going to give me everything
So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone
You know I feel OK

When I’m home everything seems to be right
When I’m home feeling you holding me tight, tight

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright, oww

So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone
You know I feel OK

When I’m home everything seems to be right
When I’m home feeling you holding me tight, tight

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright
You know I feel alright
You know I feel alright

Here is a video of this wonderful song from the album Live at the BBC. Enjoy!

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At number 12 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. This is one of my favourite Beatles songs, not just of 1965 but of any period. I simply adore this song. It is, in  my opinion, pure perfection. Instrumentally, if features the first use of a sitar on a Beatles’ song (and probably on any western pop music song). Lyrically, it is both profound and light; leaving the listener wondering at the end of the song – what happens next?

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At number 12 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”

As the screen capture above to the Rolling Stone blurb says, “Norwegian Wood” was John Lennon writing about an affair, but in a way to try and hide it from his wife. The song is only ten lines long, but it is ten lines of perfection. It is a mainly Lennon composition, with Paul McCartney claiming that he contributed the two lines “She told me…..”, and the title. But, in an interview just before his death, Lennon claimed it was his song entirely, with no contribution from McCartney.

I suspect McCartney’s version of events is more true; even when a song was nearly entirely a creation of one of them, the other would often suggest ideas or word changes in the studio, as they were recording the song. This went on even right up until the end, when they were barely speaking to each other outside of the studio. So, with this song, I suspect that McCartney did indeed suggest a line or two and a word here and there.

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…
She showed me her room, isn’t it good, norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said, “It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, norwegian wood.

Here is a video of this mesmerising song. Enjoy!

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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “She Loves You”. This song was recorded in July 1963 and was The Beatles’ 4th single release in the Disunited Kingdom, in late August 1963. “She Loves You” had advance orders of half a million copies in the DUK, and of course shot straight to number one in its first week of release. It remained in the charts for a staggering 31 weeks, with 18 of those being in the top 3 and spent 6 weeks in total at number 1.

“She Loves You” is a true joint Lennon-McCartney composition, both of them contributing to its lyrics and melody. Interestingly, it was credited as “Lennon-McCartney”, which would remain the credit of any song they wrote, either together or separately, from this point until The Beatles’ split in April 1970. But, prior to this single, their 2nd single “Please Please Me” and their 3rd single “From Me to You” were credited as “McCartney-Lennon”, something I did not know before I did the research for this blogpost. I have included photographs of the labels of their first four singles below so you can see how each was credited.

 

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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “She Loves You”

Here are the lyrics of this incredibly catchy song. Paul McCartney once said in an interview that his father did not like the Americanism of “yeah, yeah, yeah” and asked why they could not have sung “yes, yes, yes”. An interesting suggestion, but I don’t think it would have worked in quite the same way!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

You think you lost your love
When I saw her yesterday
It’s you she’s thinking of
And she told me what to say
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, ooh

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad

You know it’s up to you
I think it’s only fair
Pride can hurt you too
Apologize to her
Because she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, ooh

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Here is a video of a live performance of “She Loves You”. Enjoy!

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