Listening to entire discographies of bands gave me the idea of putting down my favourite 20 songs of each. Bear in mind these are my personal favourites, they may not have:
1. What is generally a favourite (Eg: Iron Maiden by Iron Maiden. Staple at concerts, I think it's rubbish)
2. 'Essentials' of a band (Eg: Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Forms a part of any Beatles conversation but wouldn't figure musically in my top 30 - by a mile)
Anyway, embarking on this discography-crushing journey of mine, I started off with the guys who're generally considered the baap of everything from modern pop to heavy metal to phsychedelic to punk - The Beatles. Such is their influence and legacy that even today, 47 years after Ringo went 'One Two Three FOUR!' on their first released song, they are still considered essential listening.
Perhaps part of their appeal lies in the fact that they transformed from teeny boppers to well, something more experimental. You can feel it. As you listen to Help! you know one album down, you'll be hearing the sublime Norwegian Wood which is nothing like what the Beatles did before it. The same band that sang Love Me Do to screaming audiences, 6 years later recorded Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds as a studio-only band, reclusive from the outside world. Fooling around with Indian sounds. And all this while one of their members was apparently dead. It was a mind-boggling series of changes.
And, like I read somewhere, the band split up which just added to the appeal and didn't give a chance for their music to corrode. It was 13 albums, 7 years of pure brilliance that lasts to this day. My top score of the Beatles' scores of scores (ech):
20. Norwegian Wood: The first sign of things that were to come. From the sweet lovable pleading-boy music that was the fodder for much of their first five albums, Drive My Car was rather funny, even mildly sexist. But then, kicks in a sitar, of all things, and the greatest opening line ever on a song: "I Once Had a Girl / Or Should I Say / She Once Had Me." And from then, the New Beatles were born.
19. Day Tripper: More cheeky wordplay from the Beatles. And, oh, that riff.
18. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds: Okay, let's assume for a moment that LSD had nothing to do with this. Now consider: Marmalade skies. Plasticene porters. Newspaper taxis. Kaleidescope Eyes. Looking glass ties. And you still believe John wrote this sober? When the 'cellophane flowers' hits you with all sorts of effects - you know you've heard probably the first great psychedelic track. PS: The video I've put up is the Rock Band version. Fantastic.
17. A Day In The Life: Amazing song. The last real McCartney-Lennon collaboration. Ringo proves that he's one of the best drummers in the world, with those fills. The buildup. The final chord. 'Orgasmic' has been used to describe many things in music, but this segment defines it.
16. When I'm Sixty-Four: My favourite off Sgt Pepper's. It's so funny. So sing-along. And those clarinets! Plus, it's the only Beatles song to feature the word 'Chuck' in it :P
15. Please Please Me: Possibly the first ever song about, er, this. You can't help but sing along. Infectious. Beatlemania was not caused without reason.
14. A Hard Day's Night: The opening clang+chord is probably the most analysed ever in music, and was perhaps the first sign of the Pepperness to come. In any case, remains one of the happiest sing-alongs-to ever. And yet, they can never be called cheesy, even if they try.
13. Helter Skelter: A response to The Who claiming to have made the loudest, dirtiest song ever. That riff and those screeching vocals will stay in your head long after you've heard it.
12. The Long And Winding Road: Sadly, one of the most ephochal pieces of music McCartney ever created also played a part in the legal disbanding of the Beatles. But what a track. And as you know you're listening to the last Beatles album, bringing the curtain down on their careers, you find multiple interpretations. I can't figure out whether I like the original version or the ...Naked version better. I think I'll tilt towards the latter eventually.
11. Happiness Is A Warm Gun: The chillingly cute 'Bang Bang Shoot Shoot' against the backdrop of Lennon screaming in a song that is more complicated than it seems. Try to keep time. Aha. Gotcha there, din 'e? Ironically and sadly, the creator was subjected to a warm gun, while McCarney had enough to buy himself love and a lot more.
10. Flying: Surprise inclusion, perhaps? But I just love this instrumental. So peaceful, so calming. And trivia: It was one of only two songs co-written by all four members of the band. Give it a listen. Then again. And again. Soon, you won't be able to get it out of your head.
09. Eleanor Rigby: Norwegian Wood was to Rubber Soul what this track was to Revolver, and not just track listing-wise. The Beatles were serious about their new musical direction. Yes, McCartney did a 'solo' before, on Yesterday, but this was something else altogether. And hey, where are all the songs about girl-boy puppy love?
08. Strawberry Fields Forever: Lennon reminisces, Liverpool builds memorial. I wonder if there will ever immemorialize Salmaniya Hospital. Unlikely, no? In any case. I think this is one of Lennon's best vocal performances. He was a master of playing around with time signatures - deceptively appearing simple, the way only the Beatles can make it.
07. Yesterday: The most covered song of all time, don't you know? Fantastic solo performance by McCartney, lovely background sounds.
06. Here Comes The Sun: Like someone said on SongMeanings - When you have a band where George Harrisson is the third best composer, you know you've got something. Probably a sign of what was to come in their solo careers. Features on the Bee Movie, as an aside.
05. Twist And Shout: I believe this is the genesis of heavy metal, growling and all that shit the kids do these days. But Lennon had class. The best cover they ever did. He had a cold, but thank goodness he did. What a scorching performance! And the videos just add to the legend - the first song they performed at a screaming audience at the legendary Shea concert, and the 'rattle your jewelry' statement. Fantastic!
04. Ticket To Ride: Probably the first song from the first few Beatles albums that a 'metchul' dude would want to play. I'm not much of a chord analyser, but that E major before the F#m on 'She's Got a Ticket To Ride' sounds oh-so-perfect. It's one of those things that make you want to switch off that gawd-awful distortion and stick to an acoustic guitar for life.
03. While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Whoa, George! Who knew! I mean - he was scared to bring songs to the table pre-White Album. And then, he comes out with this, asks good friend Eric Clapton to do the solo (what, you didn't know that?) and creates a masterpiece. Well done, Georgie. You're placed higher than my favourite Lennon song. Twice. And like a commenter on that video says, probably the most beautifully named song ever.
02. Hey Jude: Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon to brave through their parents' impending divorce, while John thought it was for him. And some thought Paul wrote it for himself. Don't you just love it how people interpret Beatles songs? A classic, this. And if this is my #2 song, surely, which can be #1 but...
01. Let It Be: This had everything. That piano riff (by the way, the same chord pattern as Papa Kehte Hain. Just saying). Soulful lyrics. Again, multiple interpretations. The Beatles were just going to break up, they knew it and you knew it (and why? They were still so good, you were crying to yourself). Superb little solo by George. And as the last chord is played and lets off into the raucous 'Dirty Maggie Mae', you know the last epic by the Fab Four has been played.
There you go. I'm no music historian, so I may have got some of my facts mixed up. It's not easy leaving out songs like 'Blackbird', 'Hello Goodbye', 'Octopus' Garden', 'Michelle' and so, so many more. For the Beatles, there's only one thing to do. Start from Please Please Me and work your way down to Let It Be, with the Past Masters thrown in.
Lastly - this brilliant pic. Brought to my notice by my good friend Atchaya.
Oh, and also - the Beatles poster of my ceiling fame: