Streaming The Beatles
Kelly McGarry, Erin McAuliffe, Jimmy Kemper, Matt McMahon, Jack Riedy and Adam Ramos | Tuesday, January 19, 2016
The entire Beatles discography was released to streaming services Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Prime and Google Play on Christmas Eve — a true Christmas miracle for those who pay monthly for subscriptions that couldn’t buy “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Capitalizing on the release, Scene writers shared the Beatles tracks they’re streaming — because it’s (sort of) timely, and The Beatles have an exorbitant amount of great songs that deserve to be talked about even if they’re “old news.”
“She Said She Said” – Adam Ramos
Picking a favorite Beatles song is really hard. With a litany of number one hits spanning multiple genres, cultural movements and influences, the Beatles just have far too many unique, brilliant tracks. I am convinced that anyone who has a definitive “favorite” Beatles song just hasn’t heard enough — I can’t even name my favorite Ringo song. So I went with a song I have recently taken a liking to, “She Said She Said,” a psychedelic pop ditty with a booming Lennon echoing haunting lyrics behind a screeching chord progression and a complex drumbeat. The raunchy, psychedelic Revolver track was a product of an acid trip accompanied by Peter Fonda — producing an almost eerie ambience with lines like “I know what it’s like to be dead / I know what it is to be sad.” The striking contrast between the upbeat melody and lyrical distress is mesmerizing.
Matt McMahon – “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out”
The reasoning behind my choice in a rather futile attempt to confidently answer such a tough question is the sheer impressiveness of “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” being released A/B on a non-album single. There are definitely songs I enjoy more from The Beatles: I’ve tweeted on occasion that “Rocky Raccoon” is my favorite Beatles’ song (and where would we be without accountability for what we say on the Internet), and I’d be able to break down at a molecular level why Ringo’s beat shift halfway through “Ticket to Ride” or the feedback that opens “I Feel Fine” or the heavy inhaling that dominates “Girl” make them top contenders. Then there’s the “correct” choice of “A Day In The Life” because it is the best song off their best album. But in considering what made The Beatles so unique, and why they’ve lasted as long as they have, “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” lie at the heart of the explanation. The Beatles output was so dense in their mere seven years, they went through a number of phases that would take another group decades to explore, and each individual phase has inspired countless artists since. The first song featured on their debut album and the final song on their last album could equally be their best song, for reasons both similar and dissimilar. That two songs of the quality and popularity of “Day Tripper” and its arguably superior B-Side “We Can Work It Out” could affordably and justly be relegated to non-album status is confounding to me, making them absolutely essential, and also one of my favorite bar trivia tidbits.
Kelly McGarry – “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
Though I appreciate the catchy, relatable tunes written by McCartney, I pretty consistently tend toward Lennon’s songs, but “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is not my favorite Beatles song. In fact, on some days it doesn’t even make top five. It’s my favorite today because it’s the ultimate expression the iconic White album, combining a gentle ballad style comparable to “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” with the soulful vocals like in “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road,” threaded with obscure lyrics and punctuated with electric guitar that achieves a level of hard rock that’s relatively rare in the Beatles’ discography. Throughout all albums, there are songs that tell a better story (“Norwegian Wood”), some that are more danceable (“I Saw Her Standing There”) and some more touching (“Something”), but “Happiness is a Warm Gun” offers just the right composite. It doesn’t hurt my esteem that Father John Misty has been known to cover it.
Erin McAuliffe – “A Day in the life”
Having purchased a “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” vinyl from a vintage store during my time in London last semester, I felt allegiance to the album in selecting my favorite song. “A Day in The Life” features lyrics by both Lennon and McCartney that work to tell a story via news clips and the intricate mundanities of life: reflecting both the structure of my journal and all my attempted conversations.
The song features an improvised atonal crescendo by a 40-piece orchestra that spirals, overwhelms and symbolically/cymbalically crashes into the sound of an alarm clock. From which McCartney steers the song into a more light-hearted vein with memories of youth escapism via a reflection on Monday morning inspired day-dreams.
As someone who stole the “Banned Book Month” display list from my high school library as an angsty teen wanting to indulge in all that was deemed “succulently sensual,” the fact that the BBC banned “A Day In The Life” might have further inspired this choice — a ban prompted by the supposed drug reference in the lyric “I’d love to turn you on” and its linkage to Timothy Leary’s famed “tune in, turn on, drop out” motto.
The end of the song is nothing short of ground-breaking: Lennon, McCartney, Starr and Evans all shared three different pianos to play an E-major chord simultaneously — the resulting tone resembles a MacBook starting up. Eerily so. I could not find any connections but I am guessing Steve Jobs might have been into this song as well. In another interesting facet of the song, a Jack-In-The-Box-esque recording of studio sounds repeats the band members saying “never can see any other way” at high frequency in lulling finality.
Jack Riedy – “I Will”
Is there anything better than Paul McCartney singing about love? Paul was never the coolest Beatle. He was cute and sweet and above all else, earnest, which is one of the most uncool things to be. If he were a pair of sunglasses, he would be those wrap-around monstrosities only sold on TV. Paul has been so famous for so long that he’s become easy to mock, easy to take for granted. “I Will,” track 16 of the White Album, is a potent reminder of the incredible talent that made him ubiquitous in the first place. Nestled among some of their most experimental songs, “I Will” is one of the simplest in the Beatles’ entire catalog. Three verses and a bridge, all finished in less than two minutes. Save for a short riff, the guitar chords are rudimentary, and the drums sound like someone idly tapping along on a table. Paul uses one of his catchiest melodies to pledge his undying love, offering up all his heart. It’s not dramatic or serious; he makes it sound like a breeze. “I Will” is basic enough to make you think you could write it, and while you’re at it you can offer yourself to someone forever. That’s the genius of Paul McCartney: He takes something as complicated as love and makes it sound as easy as a campfire sing-along.
“Yesterday” – Jimmy Kemper
“Yesterday” is the most covered pop song in history, and rightfully so. This saddest of sad pop songs is timeless and universal in a way that few songs ever have been. Its message of lost love and yearning for yesterday transcends generations and cultures, while its clean, minimalistic guitar arrangements give “Yesterday” an air of importance in the middle of “Help!” an album filled with loud, complex and uptempo tracks such as “Another Girl,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and the eponymous “Help!” Succinct, sharp and simple, “Yesterday” is the gold standard to which every pop song should be held.