Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When I was in L.A., I saw my old friend—and fellow Beatles fanatic—Mitchell Rose, who asked me a profound and life-altering question:  "What is your least favorite Beatles song?"  (We're talking original compositions here, not cover versions.)  Being a dutiful Beatloid, I combed through the band's library and here's what I came up with (keeping in mind that there's always something of value in a Beatles song.  "Least favorite" in this case means all—well, most—of these are still favorites, just not up to the rest of the catalogue):

If we can include tracks from The Beatles Anthology, then the hands-down winners are:
"What’s the New Mary Jane" (which I actually think is a fun song, it's just a somewhat annoying, self-indulgent recording)
"If You’ve Got Trouble" (critic Ian MacDonald called this an "unmitigated disaster."  I wouldn't go that far, but it's certainly a major stumble)

If we're sticking to canon, then the winners are:
"Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" (it's annoying and you can't stop humming it, which only makes it worse)
"For You Blue" (not bad, just empty calories.  That said, the slide guitar and piano are terrific)
"You Like Me Too Much" (more empty calories)
"Your Mother Should Know" (it's like McCartney came up with one fun verse and then didn't bother to write the rest)
"I Want to Tell You" (more empty calories, but a good arrangement and great playing)
"She’s Leaving Home" (might be #1 on this list because it's the only Beatles track that can be called pretentious)
"Lovely Rita" (production and playing are, again, terrific, but the song is a throwaway.  That can be said about many, perhaps most, of the Pepper tracks.  With the exception of "A Day in the Life" and a few others, it's the spirit of that album that made it great, not the individual songs)
"Only A Northern Song" (aural wallpaper)
"Hold Me Tight" (second weakest of the early Lennon-McCartney compositions)
"Baby's In Black" (weakest of the early L-M songs)

If I had to trim the list to just five, it would be:
"You Like Me Too Much"
"Your Mother Should Know"
"She’s Leaving Home"
"Only A Northern Song"
"Baby's In Black"

And let's add two more categories:

Most overrated Beatles songs
(doesn't mean they're bad songs—just that the praise they've received is far in excess of their worth)
"Michele" (the hands-down winner in this category)
"Yesterday" (tender and lovely, yes, but when I want to hear a McCartney ballad with a perfect blend of words and melody, I'll choose "Blackbird" over this every time)  
"Something" (a terrific song, but nowhere near as good as people have made it out to be.  "Here Comes The Sun," on the other hand, can never be praised enough)

Most underrated Beatles songs:
"Hey Bulldog"
"Cry Baby Cry"
"I've Got A Feeling"

Mitchell posted this question on his Facebook page and stirred up a hornet's nest of rock and roll controversy.  Let's see if we can do the same here.  Fellow Beatloids, your opinions are not just requested, but demanded.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. Heresy is a concept by which we measure our pain.

  2. Least favorite Beatles song? How about Revolution #9. I hardly ever listen to it all the way through anymore. Or maybe Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand. It just sounds forced.

  3. I actually think "Revolution 9" is pretty brilliant, Nicholas. Not something I listen to with any regularity -- it's too disturbing -- but it's a strong, challenging piece of work. When I heard the version on the remastered WHITE ALBUM it impressed me all over again.

    "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand" was recorded as a thank-you to German fans. I don't think the Beatles ever intended it for wide release (but I could be wrong). I can certainly see where it would seem unnecessary, and a little goofy, to those of us who'd already embraced the original version.

  4. I could live with never hearing "Come Together" ever again.

  5. See, Rob, that's why this subject is so fascinating: No one can agree on this stuff!

    I think "Come Together" is one of the truly great Beatles tracks. Maybe not the greatest song...but the vocals, arrangement and production make for a classic recording. And the Beatles as a band, four musicians working as one, are absolutely astonishing on this track.

  6. Given my limited knowledge of the Beatles, the song that immediately comes to mind is "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's a really innovative, effective, and downright creepy song-- and that's just it. Maybe a little TOO creepy. I admire the artistry, but I just don't like listening to it. And I feel like it has a kind of nihilistic vibe, which could be a misreading, but it's not something I like.

    Basically, I find myself more drawn to the song in theory than practice.


  7. Interesting, David! "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a considered a masterpiece by most Beatles afficionados (and I agree with them). Inspired by Timothy Leary and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it's a song that evokes other worlds, other dimensions. A journey of the spirit through, and beyond, life and death to something Deeper and Truer. "Lay down all thought surrender to the Void, it is shining..." is a line that has stayed with me, resonating deeper and deeper, for years.

    That said, I can totally understand why you might find it disturbing. The soundscape the Beatles created for the song IS a little creepy. But I think it's also majestic and memorable. And the intent was anything but nihilistic. (You'd be hard-pressed to find a nihilistic Beatles song.)

    I knew this topic was going to be fun.

  8. Yeah, it seemed uncharacteristic of what I know of the Beatles in that regard.

    And I LOVE the juxtaposition in theory. That's brilliant stuff.

    My reaction is primarily an emotional one, and at the end of the day, that's probably more a testament to the song than anything. A strong reaction is typically more to be desired than indifference.

    But I still find it MORE than a little creepy!


  9. If it seems creepy to you now, David, imagine what it sounded like back in 1966: there'd never been anything like it.

  10. That is an interesting take on Tomorrow Never Knows. I always felt it was a hopeful transcendent song.

    I never said I didn't respect Revolution #9 as an artistic achievement. I'm just saying it's my least favorite.

    Choosing you least favorite Beatles song is like choosing your least favorite child.

  11. My least favorite Beatles songs, including the cuts on ANTHOLOGY:

    1) Revolution 9 (John and Yoko in a wash of self-indulgence--I wish Paul had won the argument to keep it off the White Album)
    2) What's The New Mary Jane (John, slumming)
    3) Within You, Without You (I've warmed to it in recent years, but really, it's just not a Beatles track--it's a GEORGE track)
    4) Goodnight (too overlush in terms of orchestration)
    5) Lady Madonna

    Most Overrated:
    Requires too much thought on my part!

    Most Underrated:
    1) Mother Nature's Son (Paul performed this as a surprise when I saw him live in 2002 and it brought tears to my eyes)
    2) Hey Bulldog (GREAT rocker)
    3) And Your Bird Can Sing (I have no idea what it's about and I don't care--it sounds great!)
    4) Taxman (one of the best album openers of all time)
    5) I'm Looking Through You (one of the best breakup songs of all time)

  12. You're right about "choosing your least favorite child," Nicholas. The worst Beatles song is still filled with magic. There was some ineffable Something the four of them created that can never be explained...but can always be enjoyed. It just vibrates out, across the world, touching heart after heart.

  13. Okay, Glenn, let's take 'em one at a time:

    Least favorites: I've already had my say about "Revolution 9" and "Mary Jane." I've always loved the 40's Hollywood arrangement of "Goodnight." If I'm not mistaken, "Within You, Without You" was John Lennon's favorite Harrison track. (He loved the lyrics.) "Lady Madonna"? Really? Not top tier, but a great rocker, with a fantastic McCartney vocal.

    Underrated: "Mother Nature's Son" is sweet, but not a favorite of mine. "Hey Bulldog": agreed. "And Your Bird Can Sing:" I, too, have little clue what it's about, but the guitars and vocals are amazing. "Taxman": another good one, with a fantastic lead guitar part from McCartney. "I'm Looking Through You": RUBBER SOUL'S one of my four favorite Beatles albums, so no argument there.

    Thanks for adding more fuel to the fire!

  14. See, Rob, that's why this subject is so fascinating: No one can agree on this stuff!

    Yep. Truly the mark of a genius body of work.

    But, just to balance things, here are some Beatles songs I couldn't live without:

    Here Comes The Sun
    Let It Be
    I'll Follow The Sun
    All You Need is Love

  15. Thanks for the background on "Tomorrow Never Knows," JMD. I do appear to be in the minority here. I'll have to listen to it again today and rethink it. Just to clarify my thought process a bit (and frame it), I guess it felt almost like "the sweet call of oblivion" that some of your protagonists struggled with in your early Marvel issues (I'm thinking the Cap ones).

    I don't know if this song is underrated or not, but I'd never heard "I'm Only Sleeping" until recently, and I thought it was a really fun song.

    Just keep in mind that up until a few months ago, I was primarily familiar with the Beatles through the ways their music is used in pop culture more than the music itself!

    I think I might buy another CD this week.


  16. Five great picks, Rob. If you roll back to the very first post here at CREATION POINT, you'll find a list of my all-time favorite Beatles tracks. I think three, maybe four, of your choices are on that list.

  17. There's a very interesting alternate take of "Tomorrow Never Knows" on THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY, David: it might creep you out a little less.

    "I'm Only Sleeping" is a wonderful song. I always thought that there was a direct line linking "Sleeping," "I'm So Tired" (from THE WHITE ALBUM) and "Watching The Wheels" (from Lennon's DOUBLE FANTASY album). All of them focus on Lennon wandering through the realm of dreamy observation.

  18. I'll let you know what I think when I get around to the alternate "Tomorrow Never Knows" take, as well as "Watching the Wheels."


  19. Looking forward to hearing your opinion on both, David.

  20. This is one of those discussions that can never have any definitive conclusion, which is what makes it so much fun!

    JM, do you suppose Mike Leander's arrangement on "She's Leaving Home" has something to do with your feelings? I really like the song when I'm in the right mood, but there's something just a little too slick & featherweight about that arrangement -- wonder what it would have sounded like if George Martin had done it?

  21. That's an interesting point about the arrangement, Tim. It's a little...well, lugubrious is the word that comes to mind. (And that's not a word I use often!) But there's something else about the track, an underlying sense of "Aren't we saying something Highly Significant?" that doesn't exist on other Beatles tracks, even when -- especially when -- they WERE saying something highly significant.

    That said, I love the Lennon background least until the end, when the song climaxes with "Fun is the one thing that money can't buy" -- which I think is one of the weakest lines in any Beatles song. (At least in this...lugubrious context. It might have worked in a fun, upbeat rocker.)

    As I said in another reply to another post, I've always felt that SGT. PEPPER was a triumph of production, arrangement and spirit, NOT songwriting. I think "A Day in the Life," "Lucy in the Sky" and "A Little Help From My Friends" are the three strongest songs on the album. The rest are more scaffolds for building soundscapes.
    They're great scaffolds...but, even if the psychedelic Beatles era is your favorite, I think you'll find better songs ("Stawberry Fields," "Penny Lane," "I Am the Walrus," "Fool on the Hill," "All You Need is Love," etc.) on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. And that's not even an official album.

    Not that I have any opinions about this stuff!

  22. I don't know all their discography as much as other posters seem to. I grew up listening to the Beatles while my dad would drive, listening to mostly their pop hits, of which I like any song I can think of. It wasn't until college that I discovered their later material, with the White album. Therefore, the white album is the album I know the best (listening to it on my Ipod over and over again for a couple of years). I also know Magical Mystery Tour and Let it Be well, but I don't know the other albums that great.

    From the white album, the song I like the least is Piggies. I know that it has some political message, but the song itself is not great. I usually love George Harrison, "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" being perhaps my favorite Beatles song (and I love "Somewhere" and "Here Comes the Sun" too), but "Piggies didn't do it for me.

    I don't exactly know what would be overrated or underrated, since I don't know exactly how other people feel about Beatles songs, but I love "I Me Mine" (another George Harrison song) and I haven't heard anybody say they love it, so I guess this counts as underrated.

    There are so many great Beatles songs. I am trying to convince my wife to love them, she doesn't like them too much, but I hope the Beatles Rockband game will steer her in the right direction (she already loves some songs, such as "Let it Be", "I've got a feeling" and "While my guitar gently weeps").

    Nice post, JM, made me want to listen to the Beatles on my Ipod again.

  23. "Piggies" is about greed gone amuck (very timely, considering the current financial crisis). It's not a favorite of mine, Quique, but I think it works well on the album, floating between "Blackbird" and "Rocky Racoon." (Sometimes songs work better in context than taken individually.)

    "I Me Mine" isn't one of my favorites, either -- but the fun is that my least favorite might be the song that changed your life...and vice-versa. The other thing I love about Beatles music is that I find myself suddenly "discovering" songs I've been listening to for years and years. Some track I've heard a thousand times comes on and, suddenly, it goes from Just Another Beatles Song to an all-time favorite.

    Now go plug into your iPod and lose yourself in the White Album. (Which, I'm sure I've mentioned, is an album I'm crazy about.)

  24. "Lugubrious" -- yes, that's it! I think it's the harp that pushes it over the edge. :)

    I was intrigued by your description of a lot of "Sgt. Pepper" as soundscapes, and the more I think about it, the more I agree. Of all their albums, that's the one that benefits the most by being listened to as a complete entity, start to finish; the whole is greater than its parts. Although I adore some of those parts! In some ways it's not even so much an album as it is an evocative object.

    But as I think about tracks like "Mr. Kite," for instance, I see that they're halfway between actual songs & soundscapes. I'm an aficionado of sound collage, and I can envision a John Lennon who followed "Revolution 9" & his early solo work with Yoko into a whole new field of ... psychedelic ambience? Might have been interesting! But then we might not have gotten "Plastic Ono Band," which I count as one of the seminal albums of the late 20th Century.

    Agree with you re: "Magical Mystery Tour," which has been overly maligned as not a "real" album. I have a special affection for "Flying," as a matter of fact ... so dreamy & warmly mysterious. Wouldn't mind an extended remix of that one!

    (To hear a harp put to good use by a modern band, you might check out Komeda's first album, "Pop Pa Svenska." And for some lovely, haunting sound collage, Joe Frawley's work.)

  25. Seems we're in agreement about just about everything here, Tim...especially your opinion of "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band." "One of the seminal albums of the late twentieth century" indeed! And it just keeps getting better, deeper, every year.

    I'll investigate Komeda and Joe Frawley. Thanks for the recommendations. And great to hear from you, as always.

  26. JM,

    I'm willing to bet you're already familiar with the 1970 album "Dreamies." For those who aren't, I'll make it quick: Bill Holt, husband, father, Fortune 500 job, quits working & spends a year creating an album of sound collage sewn together with his own very Lennonesque songs. He calls it "Program 10," considering it a sequel of sorts to Lennon's "Revolution 9."

    He essentially sampled decades before it became popular (including bits of Beatles songs), and in the process created a sort of psychic soundtrack to the 1960s. I think any Beatles fan would find it interesting, at the very least. Quite melodic & mesmerizing, in fact!

  27. You've lost the bet, Tim, because I've never heard of DREAMIES. But I will absolutely check it out. Thanks for another great recommendation!