People are irresistibly attracted to lists, from to-do lists to the list of 50 ways to leave your lover. Music lists seem to be most irresistible of all, from the Hot 100 to America’s Top 40.
So it was inevitable, given the musical-historical significance of this week, that more than one person would come up with Beatles lists. Elysa Gardner of USA Today wrote her personal list of the 12 best Beatles songs. There have been several rankings of the 13 Beatles albums listed in order, with Revolver, Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road generally taking the top spot depending on the list.
So I felt the impulse to join the fray, although I will limit my list to the more familiar Top 10 – I suspect Ms. Gardner was unable to make the final two cuts.
There was an indefinable thrill upon first hearing a Beatles song – first the thrill of discovery: “A new Beatles song!” and then the thrill of listening to what new aural delights the band had injected into the composition this time: “Holy cow, listen to what they’ve done this time!” They were the leading innovators in a very innovative period of modern pop/rock music.
The first time I ever got that thrill was when I first heard “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on WABC Radio from New York. The last time, amazingly enough, was in the 1990s as I played my new vinyl reissue of Beatles for Sale, having skipped the American version Beatles VI so many years earlier, and I heard the first syncopated beats of “What You’re Doing”: OMG, I thought, a Beatles song I never heard before.
So there is no real scientific or musical-knowledge basis to this list of my favorite Beatles songs (which, after the very top of the list, probably would vary from day to day) – this is just the general order in which I recall that burst of energy most vividly.
1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
2. A Day in the Life
3. Eleanor Rigby
4. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
5. Yellow Submarine
6. Penny Lane
7. Good Morning Good Morning
8. I Feel Fine
9. She Loves You
10. I Should Have Known Better
To make that list, I needed to overlook “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” the song “Sgt. Pepper” itself, “In My Life,” and half of the songs that Ms. Gardner put in her top 12. Tomorrow I may remember the first time I heard “Hey Jude” – holy cow, this thing never ends! – and put that one in the top-10 list. Or the memory of my heart melting for “In My Life” or the joyous bounce of “With a Little Help From My Friends” starting without a pause from the new album’s first song – the Beatles gave us so many sweet surprises.
And for most of us in that generation, it started here the night of Feb. 9, 1964: