Top 6 Jukebox: PRINCE

By Fahad Khan, Dinar Khayrutdinov and Roland Bruynesteyn

Fahad Khan

One of the hardest things to writing about Prince’s music is in knowing just where to start, after all, the fecundity of the man’s creative faculties can very often leave you at a loss: I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to try and describe his music, and the effect that it’s had on me, in the space of just a few paragraphs here. The purple one’s talents, extravagant as they were, tended to manifest themselves as a super-abundance, not only in terms of the prolific nature of his output — and in later years, or so it’s claimed, he suffered from an inability to edit himself, his compulsion to producing music far overtaking his judgement and paralysing his sense of quality control — but also in terms of the multiplicity and diversity of the sources of his inspiration, all of which he managed to yoke together to make a seamless whole. You see, the man had a fantastic disregard for the whole plethora of conventions and (binary) norms that had grown up around popular music in the post war era — with the boundaries between different genres like soul, funk, rock, jazz, and the blues, with what is white music and what is black music, essentially — but not just: he also was more than happy to play around with racial and sexual preconceptions and fixed notions as well (which open mindedness around sex he was later to repudiate almost totally after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness). Those types of rules and conventions were all well and fine, insofar as they enabled lesser mortals to orient themselves this hostile, essentially alien existence of ours, but for Prince they just got in the way of his muse. 

At the end of the day, Prince’s genius — what it was that lifted his status as a musician a rank above that of the merely outrageously talented — lay in his ability to make it all look so ridiculously easy, that musical high-wire act of his, like complete child’s play in fact. The fact is that regardless of just how far Prince may have pushing the envelope from a musicological point of view, he was still composing pop music: and pop music which the wider public consumed rapturously in its millions. That singular and prodigious gift of his would lead him on to release a series of dazzling pop masterpieces that not only allowed him to dominate the mainstream musical scene of the 80s — and in this his only real peers back then were Madonna and Michael Jackson, neither of whom had anything even distantly approaching Prince’s musical chops — but he also made drooling fanboys out of serious music critics and pop culture intellectuals too and won him the acclaim of chin stroking musos everywhere.   

Listening to some of Prince’s best stuff now, you want to ask yourself why it still sounds so vital and urgent, why it is that more than 30 years on it still sounds so fucking futuristic? Prince may have prematurely ended his earthly (purple) reign but the freshness and vibrancy of his music is undimmed and testament to the vigor and intensity of his talent.
Starfish and Coffee
Prince’s genius at its most effortless. ‘Starfish and Coffee’ is brittle and shiny and achingly soulful all at the same time: a joyous ode to non-conformity, eccentricity,  and the spiritual necessity of embracing otherness, it represents just one of the numerous career highlights that Prince’s legendary double album, ‘Sign O’ the Times’, has to offer — standing for the moment in his career where his manic prolificacy managed to temporally attain a state of complete and perfect equilibrium with his extraordinary pop nous. The brief trrrrrrrrrrrrrrilling of the alarm clock immediately sets the scene and you’re back in the schoolyard, ready to go off and pull some wee girl’s hair. Prince, sincere and wide eyed, is completely at his ease in this adolescent milieu. The vulnerability in his voice, the delicacy and the tenderness of sentiment, are accentuated by the repetition of the bluesy piano figure and the whooshing backward-drums, the backward rush of nostalgia.

Let’s Go Crazy
The opening song to what everyone says is Prince’s greatest album — and for once everyone is completely right — Purple Rain’s mushrooming reputation allowed it very quickly to outgrow its original, slightly utilitarian, status as the soundtrack to a fairly dull and unremarkable film. ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, an electrified fusion of gospel, rock, blues and soul, serves as the perfect entrée to this revolutionary suite of songs dedicated to the redemptive power of sex and sex and rock and roll (yeah you read the right, the drink and the drugs, it seems, were completely out of the picture). Make no mistake Let’s Go Crazy is a call to arms: it’s all about sensuality and the libido as a means to personal and social liberation, or at least that was the thinking way back then. That kind of utopianism never lasts long anyway, but the music and the art endures. Really I could have picked almost any song from the album as one of my six, since Purple Rain has a pretty much peerless selection (Take Me With You, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry). In the end though, Let’s Go Crazy wins just because, being the first song on the first Prince album I ever bought, it was the beginning to my appreciation of the great man. 

Kiss manages to be simultaneously the cutting edge of funk, the cutting edge of soul, and the cutting edge of rock — not bad for what is, in the end, really ‘just’ a pop song. Kiss’s jagged, juddering Princely minimalism sounds like a reinvigoration, or better still a purification, pop music pared down to its most ritualistic — that little judder you hear repeated throughout the song is the shudder of orgasm. Sparse in its instrumentation but utterly impeccable in its elegance and urbanity. Because it’s one thing the irresistible momentum and poise of the rhythm, but Kiss also gives you Prince’s voice at its most delicate and seductive, that quiet serenade, scarcely more powerful than a breath and delivered with an remarkable degree of intimacy.  

Alphabet Street
A perfect example of Prince’s all out fearlessness (not to speak of all out freshness) when it came to putting his songs together. The rhythm is breathtaking in its audacity, and the guitar line, especially, is off the scale: play this song a few times on a loop a few times just to get the full how in the fuck did he think of that effect. And best of all, as the engorged, horny pony squeal that kicks off the song testifies, it’s remarkably perverted too, even for Prince — in the most wholesomely hedonistic sense of the word of course. I mean, come on, how often do you see such flamboyance and charisma wedded to such jaw dropping musical virtuosity? The occasions are few and far between, although Hendrix comes most readily to mind. If the true genius of pop is to teach you to never ever settle for the mediocre, the commonplace, then Alphabet Street is shockingly, disarmingly effective.

Raspberry Beret
An all conquering, stomping, candy pop juggernaut of a song. Raspberry Beret wins you over right from the very first pulse beat of the intro, and from then it doesn’t take long for the song to finally explode into full iridescent life, transitioning into the aural equivalent of a peacock’s train. Although it’s driven on by the urgency of lust and an all-embracing hunger for sensory pleasure, Raspberry Beret’s core is a bittersweet one: pangs of tenderness and nostalgia and perhaps also that thing called regret, an acknowledgement that the hunt after novelty comes at the expense of having to always start over again.

Diamonds and Pearls
I went for one of Prince’s dreamiest, most gorgeous ballads as my final choice. To hear people talk sometimes you’d think that Prince was some kind of debauched idiot savant completely out of touch with everyday reality: that he was only capable of dealing in the most far out and deviant feelings and emotions. And it’s true that he did sing about those quite often, but he sung about normal stuff too, even if it was often in the most special way. In Diamonds and Pearls he takes on the role of indigent lover, unable to offer his beloved anything beyond the purity of his devotion and his promises for the future; strange that one of his most magical, sumptuous songs came with such an ostensibly humble message.

Dinar Khayrutdinov

Prince is quite possibly one of the most underrated artists in pop music. A great songwriter, an amazing multi-instrumentalist musician, an unbelievably productive entertainer, a fantastic singer and a godlike guitar player. He is often compared to Michael Jackson and I do see some grounds for that; however, a much better comparison would be David Bowie or Jimi Hendrix. Though he made unquestionably mainstream music, Prince rarely followed trends, instead preferring to set them for other artists to follow. His absolutely unique music blended R’n’B, funk, synth-pop, soul, rock and blues in a way nobody had ever tried to blend these genres before. Not to mention that he was so musically talented that he would often record albums ALL BY HIMSELF, by literally playing every fucking instrument available. Frankly, Prince is just so HUGE that for a long time I did not know how to approach this review at all, let alone single out six (only six!) songs out of his enormous catalogue (which I haven’t even yet heard in its entirety).

But anyway, here is my humble take on Prince’s career (mostly the 80s part of it) in the form of my top 6 Prince songs. Mind you, I had to limit myself to not more than one song per album, otherwise I would have never been able to do this. And I also allowed myself to cheat just very slightly and in each case name several other tracks I like from the albums I mention. I can’t resist it, sorry, I just love the man’s music so much.

6. Dance On (Lovesexy, 1988)
This song amazes me just for the sheer amount of things going on in it – all the insanely weird sounds, changes of melody, complex drumming and production gimmicks that make your head twirl when you listen to this. It is sort of industrial rock meets dance pop, if you can actually imagine such a thing. The evil menacing synth riff suddenly turns into shiny poppy chorus, then back to menacing grinding, then turns into a whirlwind of sounds. It’s absolutely crazy but it somehow works for me. Other highlights of the album: “Eye No”, “Alphabet St.”, “Glam Slam”.

5. Slow Love (Sign o’ the Times, 1987)
This great soul ballad is my pick from Sign o’ the Times – the most epic of Prince’s releases. It’s rather conventional but it’s absolutely inspired and has tons of feeling. Love the vocals, love the jazzy horn section and the beautiful atmosphere. ‘Nuff said. Other highlights of the album: “Sign o’ the Times”, “Starfish and Coffee”, “Strange Relationship”, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”, “The Cross”, “Adore”.

4. Do It All Night (Dirty Mind, 1980)
Prince’s third album is arguably his first truly great one and very possibly his most groundbreaking album, because it was here that he introduced that classic ‘Minneapolis sound’ – Prince’s own brand of synth-heavy pop-funk with the amazing use of bass and occasional Satriani-like guitar soloing. This song is one of the best examples of this style, with an infectious synth riff that you won’t be able to get out of your head soon, a cool bass-driven rhythm, some soulful singing and of course Prince’s gloriously lewd lyrics. Other highlights of the album: “Dirty Mind”, “When You Were Mine”, “Uptown”.

3. Little Red Corvette (1999, 1982)
Pop, soul and funk are great, sure, but personally I am a rock guy. Did Prince have rock songs as well? Sure, and what rock songs! This amazing track from Prince’s first double album, 1999, is one of his (not so numerous) straightforward rock songs but GOD DOES IT DELIVER. The atmosphere, the imagery, the fantastic guitar tone, the wonderful double-entendre filled lyrics – and we have us an all-time classic. Not to mention that the guitar solo here is to die for – that part of it that starts at 1:55 is among my all-time favorite moments in the entire rock history. This is no joke. Amazing song, full of unmatched passion and pure sexual energy. Other highlights of the album: “1999”, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “Lady Cab Driver”.

2. I Wanna Be Your Lover (Prince, 1979)
An early hit, but what a great one. This one is at the same time a heavenly pop song and a heavenly funk track (if you listen to the album version). It begins with some amazing synth/guitar interplay (again, good luck getting this hook out of your head) and exactly halfway through turns into a killer funk jam! Groovy as hell, the musicianship is a real highlight here. Play this song at a party and you get six minutes of fantastic dance music. Other highlights of the album: “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”, “Sexy Dancer”, “Bambi”.

1. Purple Rain (Purple Rain, 1984)
Whoa, the big one. Seriously – how could ANYTHING BUT this song take the No 1 spot? It might not be the most quintessential Prince song music-wise (cause it’s not funky), but it is an anthem to everything Prince stood for – sexual freedom, music, beauty and courage of being different. ‘Gorgeous’, ‘epic’, ‘majestic’, ‘transcendental’ are the words that don’t even begin to describe this song but that’s the closest I can come up with to what I feel when I hear it. It closes Prince’s greatest album on a triumphantly satisfying note. This is his “A Day in the Life”, his “Bohemian Rhapsody”, his “Stairway to Heaven”. His “Purple Rain”. Other highlights of the album: EVERYTHING on it, literally. “Purple Rain” is a perfect record if there ever was one.

Roland Bruynesteyn

Prince is to disco and funk what Steely Dan is to somewhat jazzy pop music:
  • intricate rhythm charts
  • somewhat sleezy lyrics
  • technical virtuosity by (all) musicians
  • revered by colleagues
  • writing, arranging, performing and production all done by the artist: independently pursuing his vision
  • a level of sophistication that makes for repeated listening, even if the actual melody seems perceptively simple on first hearing.
On top of that he’s an outstanding guitar player and he’s very productive. Whatever he sometimes lacks in quality control, he more than makes up for with the amount of good ideas and his sheer output of good dance pop that more or less defines the genre for the last thirty years.

Disco and funk is not my preferred genre, and one thing I don’t like about his music is his signature synthetic hand clap (to my ears even more annoying than the typical Phil Collins drum break in most of his hits from the 80’s and 90’s). Still, when he’s good, he’s very good. Parliament/Funkadelic mixed with Jimi Hendrix is one way of putting it, and it has been put like this often…. Although he peaked in the 80’s, most of his later work is interesting, if you allow for his chosen genre.

Temptation (Around the World in a Day, 1985)
Prince does blues! The handclaps and his singing may make you recognize it as a Prince song, but otherwise this is totally unlike him. Paradoxically, this goes for many of his album tracks, that often differ greatly from the hit singles. Ruining his vocal chords, driving bass, soaring guitar (and sax).

Sometimes it Snows in April (Parade, 1986)
You have to have a ballad in your list of great Prince songs, and it might as well be this one. Nice melody, great use of acoustic guitar and piano (always better in ballads I think) and stunning vocal delivery. It’s simple, comforting and sad in a not too depressing way. Try to listen to this somewhere, or rather buy the album. If you buy the cheap 5cd set (Original Album Series) you only need Sign o’ the times, and possibly Musicology as a later work.

I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (Sign o’ the Times, 1987)
How could one not include a song from Sign o’ the Times, his early career high, and probably his White album in terms of variety in song writing. This song just sounds so happy and energetic, white at the same time somewhat sad, considering the theme. The song more or less condenses all the lyrics of all his songs in the whole of his career, set to a great tune and with great guitar work. After grudgingly admiring his singles off Purple rain, and much preferring him over Michael Jackson in the 80’s, this was the song that more or less made me a fan, or at least someone who followed his career. The album version has a long outro that shows his production skills and his guitar work.
Strollin’ > Willing and Able (Diamonds and Pearls, 1991)
These two songs again show his great command of different musical styles and his great arranging and production skills. Strolling is a romantic jazzy number, complete with walking bass, Fender Rhodes, subtle electric guitar and jazz drumming, sung with a falsetto voice. Willing and able is partly exuberant gospel (mainly because of the great backing vocals) and partly a typical Police song, as redone by Prince.

A Million Days (Musicology, 2004)
This song has somehow always seemed to me to be a better version of Nothing Compares to U. The song sounds completely different, with less synthesizers, more guitar, heavier (it’s hardly a ballad), but there you go. And whenever you think it moves into Bruce Springsteen territory (and Bruce could do justice to it if he covered it), Prince has some weird production tricks up his sleeve, elevating the song above your ‘ordinary’ rock song. 

Top 6 Jukebox: THE BEATLES

By Fahad Khan, Nina A and Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

Fahad Khan

6. All You Need is Love
It’s all about the sentiments, man: those excessively utopian sentiments. A modern day secular hymn, it leads off with a raucous, but not unstately, rendition of the Marseillaise, the emblem of godless optimism. The song goes on to become an instant sugary cliche, but I love it, every single minute, right down to those repeated brass refrains. Finally it all starts to spiral and swirl into a maelstrom of even gloopier emotion and well that bit at the end with she loves you yeah yeah yeah gets me everytime.
5. Hello Goodbye
Once again I’m going to cite the tension between the essentially ephemeral, and even intrinsically silly — silly when shorn of their musical context that is — sentiments evoked by the lyrics and the weightiness and artistic heft that is furnished by the music. Then there’s confusion and perplexity of the song, the not knowing whether you’re coming or going. Except that it’s a gentle and joyous confusion, the perplexity of true pioneers working at the bleeding edge of art and culture with a sensitivity and a surefootedness that were utterly beyond the dreams of most of their peers.
4. She Loves You
Utterly irresistible: two minute twenty two seconds of pure pop ecstasy. Listen to how completely impatient it sounds, how much of a headlong rush into the future it represents. It manages to capture — with a supreme vitality and freshness that’s scarcely dimmed with the passage of the years — the instant when a generation’s extreme intolerance for boredom and the black and white limitations of the postwar world finally managed to kick start the 60s and modern day youth culture into existence.
3. Lovely Rita
The best song on Sergeant Pepper by a country mile. For me, Lovely Rita’s full-on zaniness has always proven a refreshing antidote to the tendency towards turgidity and a lack of focus in some of the album’s preceding tracks. It is, in essence, a randy young lad’s paean to a voluptuous and military looking meter maid, the titular Rita, whom the narrator manages to invite out to take some tea, and even gets to share a couch with — but without alas ever quite “making it”. The song ends with a heavy panting that’s either shagging or (given this aforementioned inability to make it) a gasping sort of masturbation, but it sounds so much like a dog’s panting that you kind of don’t realise what it is, or might be, straight away. Lovely Rita’s charm derives largely from its brassiness and its chutzpah. The track represents an aural allusion to that cheeky, fringey, head shake you always see them doing in the footage from the beginning of their career: and of course it also serves as a fantastic showcase of Lennon and McCartney’s complete mastery of the songwriter’s craft.
2. Sexy Sadie
The Beatles seemingly at their most frivolous and inconsequential — but it’s precisely here that you can really appreciate just how genuinely superlative Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting talents actually were. Just listen to it a few times in a row, over and over, until it finally clicks into place, and takes up permanent residence in your head. The words sound kind of silly to start with, and yet the music is so compelling, overloading the lyrics with such colour and significance, that soon they begin to appear weighty in and of themselves. Now, at this point you could well begin to roll off all the usual detailed, technical musicological/textual-rhetorical explanations as to why their songs continue to inspire awe and devotion amongst music fans of all generations; but I maintain that in essence it was the combination of both the Beatles’ supreme talent for melody along with, rather crucially, the absolute open-endedness, that somehow gnomic, elusive aspect characteristic of their art, that ensured its immortality. Sexy Sadie has that elusiveness in spades and it’s a song that continues to intrigue listen after listen after listen.
1. Strawberry Fields Forever
With Strawberry Fields Forever you feel like you’re getting the Fab Four at the absolute top of their game. They’ve reached the point where they can afford to goof around as much as they want and to make a decent stab at pushing whatever musical or cultural boundaries they felt like when they got up for breakfast that morning. All the same, it doesn’t have the self-consciousness and  that hint of pomposity that tends to mar their other more overtly experimental or psychedelic works (indeed for me it far surpasses other superficially similar tracks like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and in fact most of Sgt Peppers). Strawberry Fields has a languid and dreamy, opiate feel to it, across the which there wafts a certain air of ‘continental’ sophistication, and then there’s the insistent ‘primitive’ rhythms and finally a release into unreality and consequent bliss. The lyrics make little sense and yet they mean so much that, in the end, they manage to encapsulate the spiritual yearnings of an entire generation. When all is said and done, it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous mess. It seems to not want to go anywhere in particular but can’t really stand to stay still either: poised between a deep desire for an alice-in-wonderland style escape from the realities of everyday life, a reversion to a childlike state of simplicity, and the irresistible thrusts and promptings of personal ambition.

Nina A

In 1980, Chocho Vladovski (of Tangra) wondered whether in time under the stars in the window there will be light, and whether he will still be listening to the Beatles and reading the timeless poets. He’s sadly not around anymore but in a world where the beat, shortness and earwormy hooks are still pop songs’ main qualities under consideration, the Beatles are still the kings in the consciousness of many audiophiles, melomaniacs and casual music fans. Sadly, this most iconic of pop bands never touched my heart of hearts and never made my Balkan feet tap to the beat, but after some consideration, I had to concede that there are a couple of Beatles songs that are worthy of my love (or at least like) and here is the top 6 among them:
6. Eleanor Rigby
Have you seen that meme that All The Lonely People come from art college? Have you seen Paul Poirier and Vanessa Crone deliver a stunning performance on the ice to a version of this song in 2011? All I am saying is that this song had to take some helping to make it past my “ordinary people sob story” detectors, but still the strings provide the perfect backdrop and support for this piece and even the singing approaches genius emotiveness levels at points (something that is usually lacking with the Beatles).
5. Blackbird
You know, figure skaters luuurve the Beatles, and they are somehow generally seen as the intellectual skating kid’s path to greatness. Joshi Helgesson skated a cute routine to this Beatles song (or at least an elevator muzak blues cover, which is something else that skaters seem to love) in the 2014-2015 season. But I am best friends with this song from before – for example, the time when my sister would practice nothing else on the guitar for more than a year. Or the time when I stumbled upon the King’s Singer’s a cappella interpretation of it and it stuck to my brain like bubblegum sticks to hair. Ew. The bare bones arrangement and evocative lyrics do this song a massive service and its pretty melody is able to shine. Also it sounds perfect on a backdrop of rainy April evening noises, as I have just found out.
4. Revolution 1
Iconic British ice dancers Torvill and Dean skated to Revolution in the 1989-1990 season, actually (I don’t know why the skating routines keep happening in this list). However, I prefer Revolution 1 to Revolution, and it is mostly because of the beat, quite bluesy both times (major plus – I think the Beatles don’t do bluesy often enough) but I prefer the more laid-back and steady version here. Probably also because I am tired of hearing Revolution and Revolution 1 sounds like a refreshing rearrangement to my Beatles-unappreciative ear.
3. Because
Aaaaaah-aaah. This song is very pretty in an a cappella rendition but the harpsichord that underpins the whole thing is even better. Also the lyrics are rarely appealing and there is no English drama that can be found in the newspaper. Yes people, I think that the puns of blueness, etc. here work rather well here. Very well indeed.
2. Within You Without You
Someone told me that the lyrics to this are preachy. Well, what do you expect, it has sitars and is vaguely Indian and this is the 60s when New Age wisdom was released into the wild and even the title kinda ominously suggests what’s going to be going on here. I have no issue with that because for the most part I cannot make out what George is saying at all. His voice is just a part of this compelling oriental tapestry that’s being weaved before your very eyes. The whole thing is epically cool and like a hypnotised cobra, I want to rise out of my basket and do a little dance.
1. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Finally, a Beatles love song I can actually believe. No pick up lines, wink wink, nudge nudge, romantic clichés and other superfluous detail. He wants you so bad and it is driving him mad. The rhythm is driving too. The guitars sound appropriately gritty and so does everything else about the production. Now this song goes from an highlight moment to a highlight moment but my favourite bits are the subdued parts, and especially how the guitar mimics the vocal, and especially especially how the second repetition of “it’s driving me mad” trails off (on the principle: tension on the first repetition, release tension on the second — always very effective). Love the drumming, love the bass, love the guitar, love the organ, love the singing, love the passion and the maturity of the delivery. Best Beatles song ever.

Francelino de Azevedo

The Beatles are my favourite band, and have been since I’ve been 8 or 9, I don’t even remember. There’s not a lot to say about them that hasn’t been said, but here are my favourite 6 songs, in no particular order.
With a Little Help From My Friends
What makes this song unique, not only in the Beatles’ catalogue, but in the whole world of music, is the combination of so many disparate elements, that mingle with each other so perfectly. Paul’s bass is insistent, pulsing, talking throughout the song, while the piano brings a note of longing. Ringo’s vocal delivery is perfect, laid-back and sympathetic, contrasting with the others’ backing, which is simply gorgeous. The sum of it all is simply undescribable, mood-wise. Is it a happy song? A sad one? Or is it one that englobes the whole myriad of human emotions in less than three minutes? Probably not as much, but if any song is close to this ideal, that’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”. Also, some people say they prefer Joe Cocker’s version, and I couldn’t disagree harder, as he made a normal song out of something so special.
I’ve Got a Feeling
This was recorded live on the famous 1969 rooftop concert, perhaps I wouldn’t consider I’ve Got a Feeling so special if it weren’t so. On the other hand, I think it’d still rate highly, no matter what. As it is, this song is a glimpse into a different reality where they never stopped touring during their creative peak. And what a reality would that be! It is believed that it was their mastery of the studio that brought the Beatles to true greatness, well, there’s “I’ve Got a Feeling” proving this belief at least partially wrong! Both Paul’s and John’s voices feel much different live, with a weariness that don’t just add to the song, but in fact makes it. George, Ringo and Billy Preston are also completely tuned to the two stars. Mood-wise this is also very ambivalent, Paul’s lyrics are supposed to be happy, while John’s were meant to be sad, but both singers somehow mixed their emotions, so it ends up sounding so very urgent! This is a song felt in the guts and in the heart, a huge chunk of what rock and roll is supposed to mean.
Cry Baby Cry
Music is above all melody, and in the traditional pop song, the strongest melodies are saved for the refrain. Of all the great refrains found in the Beatles’ discography, this one is perhaps the strongest. The melody is gorgeous, and sung by John at his softest, which is accentuated by the hammering of the piano, bubbling bass and occasional guitar scream. Even though the verses themselves are not bad, with their folkish melody and intriguing lyrics, they could be cut from the song to the point where it would be three minutes of “cry baby cry / make your mother sigh / she’s old enough to know better / so cry baby cry” and it would still be an excellent song. In fact it would gain a different meaning, more like a mantra, and might even had been better than the original.
Eleanor Rigby
The Beatles’ most influential song. In 1966 this changed the perception of what a ‘pop song’ was meant to be. The melodies were lusher and more “classical” than anything else on the charts, and the somber lyrics made it even more clear: Rock was Art! Even if not for it’s historic significance, this song would still be one of the greatest ballads ever written. The verses’ vocal melody is simply stunning, and the strings are likely to have been the most beautiful in Sir George Martin’s career.
Long, Long, Long
The quiet “Long, Long, Long” might be one of the most overlooked Beatles’ songs. However, it touches me in an unequaled way. The way it starts so silently, as if drawing you inwards, but then submerges you in gorgeous intensity, on the “so many tears” bridge, it’s a journey throughout George’s soul. The ambiguous lyrics were meant to symbolize a rapprochement with God, but really they can mean anything you feel the strongest about. It’s also one of Paul’s and Ringo’s best performances, and they do provide a huge depth to the song.
The Abbey Road “suite”: You Never Give Me Your Money / Sun King / Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
Yeah, I went there. I asked Fahad and Nina if they’d let me and they said yes, so I did it. But really, even if they had forbidden me I’d choose “You Never Give Me Your Money” by itself. Everything in there is perfect, the piano, the bass, the vocal melodies, but specially the most beautiful guitar sounds George has ever produced. Seriously, it’s like he simply doesn’t stop with amazing guitar lines, culminating in the gorgeous part that appears when Paul does “came true / today” and continues till the end. That line is so haunting, if I listen to it once, I’ll hum it for the rest of the day. But, after a short rest on the beginning of Sun King, the rest of the suite continues with musical magic. It was meant to be the Beatles’ swan song, and they showed off all their range, diversity of melodies and moods, and, why not, instrumental virtuosity. No other artist in history can claim to close their career with something so significant, with the possible exception of Mozart and his Requiem Mass, and that’s because he fucking died writing it!
Playlist: Spotify, Deezer