In many ways, the Picky Bastards writers are on a never-ending quest to enforce their music tastes upon each other.
So welcome to Do Believe The Hype – a series where an writer introduces a beloved artist to another writer who has yet to be convinced by their legend.
Today it’s James Spearing’s turn to convince Fran Slater of the genius of The Beatles, with a carefully curated 10-track playlist (detailed below).
Before getting into the nitty gritty of this article, and my thoughts on the lovingly curated Beatles playlist put together by my good friend James Spearing, I feel I should clarify my true thoughts and feelings on the Fab Four up until this point. I often portray myself as a The Beatles ‘hater’. But in all honesty, that isn’t really the case at all – they do not muster up that high level of emotion in me. I’m also not ignorant enough to deny their importance, their influence, and the fact that so much of the music I love would never have come to be if it wasn’t for these four mop-haired Liverpudlians.
Music owes them a lot.
My main issue comes with a breed of music fan that seems to be particularly prevalent among followers of The Beatles. The music fan who is stuck in the past. Being a music writer and a music nerd in general, I have a hell of a lot of conversations about music with friends, strangers, and randoms on the internet. The conversations that leave me most frustrated of all are with those who insist that music isn’t what it used to be, that there’s no good bands or artists nowadays, that nobody has ever matched the magic of The Beatles.
That is patently not true. I don’t live under a rock so I have, of course, heard a hell of a lot of The Beatles’ music in my life time. I even like bits of it. The only song I would say I really, really love is ‘Come Together’, but there are others that I admire and respect. But when I have those conversations with people, when they turn red in the cheeks from insisting that there has never been anyone anywhere near as good as John, Paul, George, and Thomas The Tank Engine, I come away feeling that maybe I am just totally wrong. Maybe I’ve missed something. Maybe they aren’t just the first to do it on such a large scale, maybe they are also the best to ever do it at all…
So I turned to my fellow Picky Bastards in the hope that they would convince me, and James answered the call. He says that the ten songs in the playlist below are ‘the ten best Beatles songs’ so if I can’t be convinced by these then I guess I’ll just have to accept that I’m either totally wrong, or there is a slight possibility that some people have surpassed The Beatles in the decades since they hung up their microphones.
Here are his choices:
- ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’
- ‘I’m Only Sleeping.’
- ‘Within You Without You.’
- ‘Dear Prudence.’
- ‘Here Comes The Sun.’
- ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’
- ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun.’
- ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’
- ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.’
I have to admit from the outset that James did a good job of putting his playlist together. One of the things that most makes me doubt those people who insist on The Beatles pre-eminence is that I find a hell of a lot of their music pretty simplistic and, in the main part, James avoided the worst offenders in this capacity. There’s no ‘Love Me Do’, no ‘She Loves You’, no ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand.’
And when the playlist opened with ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, a song I haven’t heard since I was in my teens, I was initially pulled in by the funky bass and the vocal performance that opens the song. I started to believe. But after seven minutes and forty seven seconds of the same song the belief was wavering. I like this song, but it doesn’t do enough with its length for me to love it.
In my first two or three listens I was definitely on the lookout for a song that would speak to me in a way it never has before, or one that would shock me with something I hadn’t expected from The Beatles, something that would make me see them in a different light. I didn’t really get that. But I will admit that I enjoyed ‘Here Comes The Sun’ much more than I remember. I think it is a song I had lumped in with those I find a little too simplistic, but there’s a lovely guitar tone and this song is as summery and inviting as a song can be. ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is another that pulled me in a little bit while I was searching for a connection – as the almost direct opposite to ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, it does a hell of a lot with its short run time.
Musically, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is probably the most surprising and interesting song on offer here. At times, it makes me think of The Chemical Brothers. It is interesting to see this side of them a little more, and to see how their influence extends beyond guitar bands and into the wider culture. But despite me finding it interesting on my early listens, I can’t honestly say that I like this song on a personal level.
And that, in some ways, became my issue as I spent more time with this playlist. I was able to gain a little more understanding of The Beatles as a band and not just as a set of greatest hits, but there are no songs on this list that I totally fell for, even if there were also only a couple that I really can’t get on with at all.
Spending some time with them like this, though, I was able to evaluate where my feelings about them might lie. I am a lyrics man. So much of what I connect to in music comes from the lyrics first, and in almost all of the songs here it feels like lyrics are unimportant and mood is the main thing that matters. I know they are very much of their time, but I find many of their phrases and choruses so meaningless that I can’t muster any emotion. And the simplistic, childlike lyrics to songs like ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ and ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ do very little for me. They are songs that are written for a singalong and that’s fine – but it just isn’t for me.
Do I Believe The Hype?
Coming to the end of this exercise, I feel much the same as I did at the start. But that doesn’t make it futile. I think James did a very good job of putting together a playlist to show why The Beatles are so interesting and why they are so important – so of course I believe the hype. Without The Beatles the world of music would be a very different place and we all have to thank them for what they did.
That said, my core beliefs haven’t changed. I will still come away from arguments with adamant fans believing that, while The Beatles deserve our respect and love, they have been bettered time and time again in the years since they called it a day. Their place in musical history is deserved and was well earned – their place as the ‘number one band of all time’ is more than arguable, and it should be fine for anyone to argue it if they so desire.
Words by Fran Slater