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What makes a great/weak Beatle song?
26 February 2012
12.25am
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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It's somewhat interesting to see what songs are considered great (or weak).

It's even more interesting (and difficult) to figure out why a song sounds great to one person but not to another.

One factor would be "how did you first hear the song?" Was it a cool friend or your grandmother?

Another factor is the context within the times and within your life.

When "Penny Lane" came out, it was like a window had been opened in a stuffy room.

The flip side, "Strawberry Fields," was certainly novel, introspective, moody, and would draw you in... but somewhat of a downer.

 

Over time, Penny Lane's  star has diminished, while SF has risen.

I suppose if you hear these songs for the first time because, say, you got an iTunes gift certificate, SF will indeed sound more novel even by today's standards.

But personally, the melody and images of PL resonate more with me than those of SF.

 

Any other thoughts?

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
27 February 2012
8.48pm
meanmistermustard
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There are so many contributing factors to why a song would be liked or disliked. A prejudice attititude to the artist, music genre, place where the song comes from would be up there (eg country, tv programme).

Ringo's solo career would be a good example of that. Many people see Ringo as not being a good singer and therefore regardless of the quality of the music he does produce folks will not go anywhere near him, and even if they did they are determined not to like it. So from the off he is labelled as being rubbish.

 

As for a beatles song i dont think there is any way a rule or requirement can be applied. Love Me Do still receives regular airplay but the lyrics are not exactly complicated (some would argue that for Yellow Submarine but try and write a very simple kids song that appeals to a wide audience!). It will almost certainly be the spearhead of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles.

There are no beatles harmonies on Can't Buy Me Love but is still seen as being a great pop single and helps give a view of early Beatles music and Beatlemania and hailed by music critics. Dear Prudence doesnt feature Ringo's steady backbeat that characterises many peoples view of what makes/contributes to a great beatles song but is highly esteemed by many successful musicians of then and now, and is a favourite among fans - from casual to diehard. As has been discussed elsewhere many of the songs sound so simple when played but when analysed it becomes apparent that there are very clever chord changes and many of the songs have sophisticated melodies going on.

 

I dont think its possible to explain the effect that the beatles music has on people, why it extends to so many people of all ages in so many places of so many cultures and countries. Maybe society has been programmed to accept Beatle music as being something special and are therefore more open to listen to it. Which is always an advantage.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
28 February 2012
2.07am
kedame
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I have no idea why I like certain songs more than others. For example, I recognize that Something and Can't Buy Me Love are good songs, but I don't really like them that much. I recognize that Honey Pie is sugary sweet, but I still love it. I recognize that the lyrics of Don't Let Me Down make me uncomfortable (that whole, "I never loved anyone before you, and no one EVER loved me before you did!" sentiment is crap...), but I love the song. Weird, I know.

I think there are a few factors that determine why people like certain Beatles songs. Memories of the song, unique chord progressions (I read an article about this the other day...while I didn't understand half of it, I still found it compelling), excellent lyrics, funny lyrics, passionate singing, beautiful harmonies and melodies, etc. I really like the weird songs (Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Rocky Raccoon, You Know my Name, I Am The Walrus, Come Together); don't really care for some of John's psychedelic period songs (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Doctor Robert, She Said She Said, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite); George's early songs and Ringo's country flavored songs and covers do nothing for me (You Like Me Too Much, I Want to Tell You, If I Needed Someone, What Goes On). I love George's Indian influenced/spiritual songs and semi-psychedelic songs (Love You To, Within You Without You, It's All Too Much, Long, Long, Long). I love Paul's acoustic songs, character songs, and depressing break up era songs (For No One, And I Love Her, Blackbird, Mother Nature's Son, I Will, Honey Pie, Rocky Raccoon, You Never Give Me Your Money...the whole Abbey Road Medley, actually...Let it Be, Hey Jude, even The Long And Winding Road). John's kooky songs are excellent, as are the songs where he just sounds so damn passionate (all the weird ones above, Anna, early covers, I Want You, etc.). I also adore the early Beatles love songs (From Me To You, PS I Love You, I Need You, etc.). Great stuff!

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
28 February 2012
5.38am
BornInThe80s
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Wow great question Into the Sky with Diamond!

 

I think a lot of it depends on what type of music you are generally drawn to. On top of that like kedame  put it, a memory goes a long way. I've actually learned a lot about my musical taste through listening to The Beatles.

 

I love their early stuff because of how catchy it is. I mean it should be a sin how catchy most of those songs are, yet I've never met anyone else who has really liked it. They always say 'I love 'The Beatles', but not that early pop 'I Want to Hold Your Hands' stuff, but their later music' and I always want to ask them have they actually listened to those songs at all or just have heard 3 or 4 singles like I had before I became a fan.

 

For me their melodies are what really make the songs. For instance Harrisons I need you. I fell in love with how he sang "So come on back to me, I'm lonely as can beeeee...I need you' That melody line made the song for me. The melodies have a way of making me smile at how good they are.

 

On the other hand you'll have a song that's technically really good and I don't care for. Penny Lane was a song I just didn't like at all. I knew how people liked it but I wasn't feeling it. The song is tight. All the instruments pop out and are mixed very well. It moves along and makes you feel happy and I knew it was a good song. I went to school for audio so I can tell what a good song is (technically of course) but it comes down to how it makes you feel over all. Now that I'm 26 I all of a sudden heard Penny Lane and I like it a lot now. It's funny how growing up works. Songs you loved when you were younger you hate and vice versa.

 

I'm also a fan of simple songs which is why I sometimes prefer Harrison over the others at points. I love a song that is simple but big.  That explains why 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' is my favorite Beatles song. Not a complicated song my any means but one thing he got was the feeling which is my next point: The thing I love about The Beatles is how they can get you to feel where they are coming from. I Want You (She's so Heavy) being the perfect example. Very few words but the music is what makes that particular song. You feel how bad he wanted Yoko and the melody just takes you there.

 

This doesn't mean I don't love their more complicated works. Strawberry Fields is, imo, one of the best songs they ever recorded and it's not my favorite! Everytime I listen to that song I'm just blown away at how great it is. Why? Because Lennon used his music to take us on a journey. This is an instance where the over all work speaks for itself because it doesn't have a catchy melody (I don't think so atleast), it's not simple, but it does have FEEL written all over it.

 

Lyrics are another thing that make a great Beatles song. All You Need Is Love is simple and those are some of the best lyrics ever written. The lyrics make me love that song. I HATED 'Within You Without You' for ages. I'm just not into Indian Music but one day I actually listened to the lyrics and fell in love. Crazy huh? They lyrics made me appreciate the music more. 'In My Life'...amazing song...but I'm not going to lie I skipped it often when I first got Rubber Soul.

 

So I guess what makes a great Beatles song depends on your day. What I love is that they always have a song to match my mood. If I'm feeling lyrical I know what songs to listen to. If I want to just listen to a catchy melody without thinking to much, if I just want to feel something, or maybe listen to a song that always makes me smile or think of friend. That is what makes their songs Great.

 

Now weak Beatles songs are harder to pick out. Some of them are just boring. They go no where and having so many great songs you can tell when they are just going through the motions. I think album placement plays a big part on this. Some songs would be way better if they were put somewhere else on an album. For instance, most of the Sgt Pepper songs to me aren't that good. They seem very...basic...especially following what was before. The melodies weren't really sticking out, some of the lyrics weren't good and the music is sometimes a bit much. As an experience however, they are amazing. As a sum of a whole those songs shine. You can tell they were focusing more on that part of it rather than the actual songs. They could have recorded 'Mary had a little Lamb' and made it fit on Sgt. Pepper. Now most of the 2nd half of Help!...those songs are just boring.

 

I can also point out the Let It Be album. Those songs are weaker because you can feel the tension in some of the recordings. Although some of the songs are great as a whole that album just doesn't stand up. That's the thing with the Beatles. When they do great they do GREAT and if they just do good...it's still GREAT compared to plenty of people, but it comes off as weak compared to themselves.

 

So I guess what makes a weak Beatles song is lack of melody and good music behind it. Some the lyrics can't save them and others work better as a part of a whole than alone. Then again it all goes back around the personal preference. I'm not a fan of Rocky Racoon (I think it's an annoying sing along that serves no purpose) but all of my friends love it! I can see the appeal but it's not for me. I love 'Only A Northern Song' but many people don't (The melody of that song is sublime imo).

I think the over all answer to the question is personal preference. Songs are attached to memories and mood. I was really into more catchy Beatles when I first listened to 'Revolver' and thought it was awful (minus a few songs)...fast forward a year later, I listen to it and I realize it's incredible! Which is why I never throw away music. You never know when you'll finally hear what the artist wished for you to hear. That's what makes music so wonderful.

The following people thank BornInThe80s for this post:

Rita Eleanor
Try to realize it's all within yourself, no one else can make you change....
28 February 2012
5.58am
kedame
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BornInThe80s said

Wow great question Into the Sky with Diamond!

So I guess what makes a weak Beatles song is lack of melody and good music behind it. Some the lyrics can't save them and others work better as a part of a whole than alone. Then again it all goes back around the personal preference. I'm not a fan of Rocky Racoon (I think it's an annoying sing along that serves no purpose) but all of my friends love it! I can see the appeal but it's not for me. I love 'Only A Northern Song' but many people don't (The melody of that song is sublime imo).

It's funny that you should say that about Rocky Raccoon because that is precisely why I love it. It doesn't need a point...it's just a really neat little story sung in a fun way. I like pointless songs, I guess.

Only A Northern Song is one that I've never been able to get into. It makes me think of George as whiny because of his passive aggressiveness when it came to John and Paul. George stewed over everything, wrote songs like this, and didn't DEMAND more space on albums. I just want to yell at him, "Buck up, George! Don't let them walk all over you!"

But of course, that's not how George operated...passive aggressiveness indeed. It annoys me, even if I probably would have been the same way!

I love Within You Without You, too. In fact, I probably like most of George's Indian music. Other than I Need You, I don't care for his early efforts, but he sure hit his stride in Revolver (my number one, along with the White Album) and beyond (even though I'm not fond of Something).

I guess another thing that makes us like a song is knowing the story behind it, and "knowing" the person who wrote it. For example, most hardcore Beatles fans dislike Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in part because they know how much Paul annoyed the others with it. Among casual Beatles fans, though, it is one of the most popular songs. I like it, despite Paul's perfectionism. I don't love it or anything, but I'm not passionately opposed to it. Like I said with Don't Let Me Down, the sentiments expressed in the song make me uncomfortable precisely because I know the characters in the song. I know John has been loved before (Cyn, Mimi, Paul, George, Ringo, Julia...maybe not all like Yoko loved him, but it is love). It makes me feel bad for all the people who loved John and John loved before he met Yoko because he basically discounts them all. Maybe it's just because I've never been in love, but I think it's weird to discount all the relationships (including a previous marriage) in the face of a new one. I still think the song is brilliant, though.

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
28 February 2012
4.41pm
mr. Sun king coming together
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To me, it's all the feeling you get when you hear the song. Take what I'm listening to; Feist's Anti Pioneer. I love the song, and I love it because it makes me feel great - it makes me feel relaxed and unstressed. Or take Anna. It's not a great song, but it evokes a memory that makes me happy, so I love it.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
14 October 2014
7.57pm
Funny Paper
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Thought I'd take the time, now and again, to dip back into the dusty archives here.

Some interesting discussion here (and thankfully I didn't have to wade through like 38 pages or something).  One thing going on is that people can like/dislike a song for either 1) musical reasons or 2) non-musical reasons.  Maybe it's the musician in me, but I almost always only care about #1.  (On the other hand, there are times when you can't neatly separate the two.)

Now, when we get to the nitty gritty about #1 and ask the title question of this Topic, one can either be all technical about it, or one can tend toward the mystical:  "There's just a je ne sais quoi about a certain song, I can't describe why I like it..." etc.  Sometimes that's cheating -- a way to avoid the hard work of trying to analyze what makes a song good.

Even if it is possible to probe beyond the mystical impression to some kind of analysis, there also is an undeniable experience that hits one like an apperception -- pre-thought inspiration, perhaps much like the kind of Muse that must have graced the Beatle who created the song in the first place.  Beyond that, one gets into the "subjective" problem.  Is there a "real" reason why the various ingredients of "Penny Lane" come together into a Gestalt whole that pleases the soul?  There may be one, but can it be articulated in such a way as to persuade someone in that context who is, as that fine German word puts it, amüsische ("not visited by the Muses"...)?

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
15 October 2014
5.52am
Oudis
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Just like the ancient Greeks I simply believe the Muse descends upon us and touches with her hand. Or not. Any great work of art supposes a state of trance. But as Picasso said, “I don’t know when inspiration will come, I only know that I have to be working for that to happen”. Sorry, it’s all I have to say.

15 October 2014
5.26pm
Rita Eleanor
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Wow! This is a very complicated question!
Will really depend a lot of musical experience of the person. And do not say the experience of playing an instrument, our ear will get used to the sound, and we become more acute.
I for one, thought "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" a very cloying and silly music. I did not like psychedelic music. But, as I improved my ears, I started to enjoy it, and today, I get a lot of time analyzing it.
Another case that is going live for example: Hey Jude and Let It Be. Are great songs, both by the melody as the letter, has reason to do so successfully. The problem is that they are always being tocandas and everybody knows. This ends up letting us go unnoticed by them.
I can not say my favorite songs. Because they will always depend directly on my mood, the first time I heard (as I said into the sky), and what I'm willing to appreciate.
If I'm wanting to watch the bass, I'll probably hear Don't let me down, Something, Drive My Car ... and so will always depend.
Some will be analyzing the bass of In my life, but I could not for example, why she has a sentimental importance to me.
I think The Beatles so amazing, it is something very personal and sentimental. At least with a song you will identify them no matter who you are ...

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