Today marks the beginning of a new series in Gratuitous Beatles Blogging! The Beatles managed to transform their sound and further hone their skills every single year they were together. It’s as common to refer to various Beatles phases by year as it is to refer to them by album. In this series, I’ll be counting down the 5 best Beatles songs from each of those short 7 years they recorded as a group, one year at a time. This week, we start at 1963.
1963 saw the release of the Beatles’ first album (and their second!), their rise to superstardom, and many, many complaints from concerned parents about their freakishly long hair (see the horror for yourself in the photograph above). Could their popularity possibly last? Most thought no, that they were surely just another teen fad, but only time would tell.
The Beatles’ 1963 repertoire was mostly made up of covers and simple pop songs, designed not to break barriers, but to get people dancing and buying records. That it was quite arguably their least fruitful year based on creative merit just goes to show how astounding they really were, and would go on to be.
1. I Want to Hold Your Hand
As I believe I’ve written before, I Want to Hold Your Hand is, quite simply, one of the greatest pop songs written ever, let alone by the Beatles in 1963. There was no good reason for Capitol to reject the Beatles’ first singles, but there certainly was good reason for this to be the one they finally accepted. The dual lead is nothing short of divine, and from the hand claps to the guitar/bass hook, from Ringo’s perfect light touch on the drums to the infectious verses, there are few Beatles morsels that are more sublime than this little single.
2. She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand managed to bring the Fab Four to America, but before that, She Loves You took the Beatles from a very successful pop group to international superstars, and was largely responsible for sparking Beatlemania. And what a worthy song to hold that place in history! Raucous co-lead vocals from John and Paul, a guitar hook that is catchy as all get out, and stellar, simple, and perfect drumming from Ringo. Are there more insipid lyrics than “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah”? Likely not! But just try to not sing along. Oooooohhhh!
3. I Saw Her Standing There
There was no better song to open the Beatles’ first album than this. The count in sets the mood, the jangly guitar and frantic bass line (have fun with that one in Rock Band) makes you want to get up and dance, and the sly, suggestive vocals provide the icing on the cake. Oh, and the faces Paul makes while singing it are both adorable and hilarious. Macca wrote much better songs in later years, but this is still one of my favorites.
And yes, Paul, we do all know what you mean. You’re just lucky that you wrote the song at a young enough age to make it almost not creepy. (Almost.)
4. All My Loving
Paul’s classic song about missing your beloved is one of the Beatles’ best early efforts at an original song, and foreshadows the master songwriters that John and Paul would become. If this is Paul’s early work, what would he be capable of producing later on? George provides great backing harmonies, the tiny break between the verses and chorus hits you every time, and Paul’s closing vocals just soar. Presented here in mono, for your listening pleasure.
5. Please Please Me
The Beatles’ first number one in the UK, this song is lesser known in the U.S. And that’s a damn shame. Beginning life as a John-penned ballad inspired by Roy Orbison and going down in history as an up tempo pop rocker, is Please Please Me about oral sex, or more innocent relationship problems? I’ll let you argue that one amongst yourselves — noting that I’ve always leaned toward the latter, while admitting that John’s robust “come on”s may indeed suggest the former — but urge you to enjoy the glorious harmonies, brilliant drum fills, and master guitar hook as you do.
Bonus Track: This Boy
The too frequently forgotten B-side to I Want to Hold Your Hand contains one of my all-time favorite 3 part harmonies by the Beatles. And just try to wrap your head around the fact that this song, one that other groups would have killed to have the chance to release as a single, was relegated to a mere flip side. Even at this stage, it goes to show that the Beatles weren’t all shaking heads and upbeat guitars, and could write and perform a ballad like pros if they wanted to. I particularly love Paul’s part lilting harmony, and just check out John’s big moment in the middle. Thank god the original guitar solo didn’t work out.
Now it’s your turn! Are you particularly fond of Don’t Bother Me or There’s a Place? Is there someone out there who is not only not creeped out by Little Child, but actually enjoys it? Let’s get some friendly debate going in the comments. I’ll be back for the 1964 installment next week, and I imagine that the debates will only get progressively livelier as we count our way up to 1969!
Thanks to plitter for the idea for this Gratuitous Beatles Blogging series.