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The Beatles's best: 1966-1969 (videos)

By by nick rogers/nrogers@vicad.com
June 13, 2012 at 1:13 a.m.


Some bands respond to cultural changes, while others create them. After the band stopped touring in 1966, the Beatles focused more on the studio, creating new and complex sounds that solidified their legend.

"Paperback Writer"

This song showcases what an exceptional bass player Paul McCartney is. He also played the main guitar riff. Another cool aspect of this song is John Lennon's and George Harrison's backing vocals, singing "Frere Jacques" behind McCartney's verse. It has no lyrical significance, but it sounds really cool.

"Tomorrow Never Knows"

This Lennon song has two significant features: the distinction of possibly being the first psychedelic song, the second being Ringo Starr's percussion. As mentioned in an earlier article on music from the '90s, Starr's infectious rhythm had a major influence on the techno band The Chemical Brothers. Starr has often been denigrated for his drumming. This song needs to put an end to such insults.

"She Said She Said"

One of two Lennon songs on the album "Revolver" (the other being "Tomorrow Never Knows"), "She Said She Said" was based on something Peter Fonda had said to Lennon during an acid trip and Lennon's response. Besides guitar, Harrison also plays bass on the song.

"Lovely Rita"

A nifty little song off "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Legend has it that McCartney wrote the song after getting a ticket from a meter maid outside of Abbey Road studios. The piano solo is played by the band's brilliant producer George Martin.

"A Day in the Life"

Also off "Sgt. Pepper's," the song is possibly one of Lennon's most beautiful, influenced by the death of a friend in a car wreck.

The main section of the song drifts away into an orchestral crescendo that ends abruptly with the sound of an alarm clock, leading to middle ditty of McCartney's, which was placed into the song after he could find nothing to do with it.

The song returns to the main structure and at the end, again builds to stop abruptly, followed by a long, sustained piano chord. The chord was played on four pianos and a harmonium.

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

Originally intended for "Sgt. Pepper's," this Lennon song is considered by some to be The Beatles' finest song. Part self-reflection and part nostalgia, the song is about the garden of a Salvation Army house near Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool.

The song was recorded in two versions, one in which the only the Beatles played and a second that used an orchestra. Lennon couldn't decide which he liked, so he asked George Martin to put them together.

Each piece was a semitone apart, so with creative editing, speeding and slowing tape, Martin blended the two, which is what gives the song its dreamlike, almost creepy attitude.

Starr's drumming also adds a great deal of bottom to this song with a complex rhythm to a complex song.

"Penny Lane"

This McCartney song, released on the single with "Strawberry Fields," was also originally intended for "Sgt. Pepper's." Like its single partner, "Penny Lane" is a nostalgic look back at Liverpool. It also shows McCartney's ability to tell a story and build characters. The most distinctive feature of this song is the piccolo trumpet solo, which, afterward, became a fad on British recordings.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

A beautiful and haunting song, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is one of Harrison's greatest and shows his growth as a songwriter in the band. The lead guitar is played by his best friend, Eric Clapton.

"Here Comes the Sun"

Harrison wrote this beautiful piece in the garden of Clapton's home. The song, with its well-recognized acoustic progression, speaks of hope and optimism at the end of a long, dark winter, both literally and metaphorically.

"Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came in Through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End"

What do you do with a few short songs and bits of songs that you don't know what to do with? You make album salad.

The brilliance of putting together these disparate pieces of music becomes, as a collection, one of the finest works on "Abbey Road." Right before "The End," you hear McCartney, Harrison and Lennon trade guitar solos before abruptly ending, followed by a piano that transitions into an orchestral arrangement behind Harrison's beautiful guitar work.

The song ends in McCartney's immortal words, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," which are the last words of the last Beatles' song (unless you count "Her Majesty").

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