Before I start talking about this book, I want to make it clear that I thoroughly enjoyed reading
it, and I do recommend it to any Beatle fan with a sense of humor.
The book is writen by Stephen Spinesi and Michael Lewis, and their selection of songs is completely
subjective. They did take an informal poll in which they asked Beatle fans for their 10 favorite
Beatle songs, but they did not use that poll to choose their own ten. Spinesi and Lewis are kind enough to include a section for each song explaining why it made the top 100, and another section which explains what each of them like about the song. These are quite entertaining; I takes a lot of arrogance to proclaim that your favorite Beatle songs are THE best Beatles songs, after all, and these authors are very often quite funny, both intentionally and unintentionally.
The most ludicrous sections are the ones in which the authors attempt to explain "What the Song is About." Their interpretations are sometimes silly, often rediculous, and at times downright irritating. And when the song is "You're Going to Lose That Girl," or something equally obvious, the dark, melodramatic overtones that Stephen and Michael are able to hear are quite amazing.
The authors also sometimes come up with some really mindblowing "facts." My favorite was the assertion that The Beatles learned three-part harmony from The Everly Brothers.
Do you know how many Everly Brothers there are?
And there was no double-tracking or other studio trickery available when the Everly Brothers were recording, so how two guys, no matter how talented, sang three-part harmony is just..astounding.
That said, I want to look at the song selection.
Now, as I said, the choices were entirely subjective. I looked at the author's credentials, and Stephen Spinesi, it turns out, wrote The Beatles Book of Lists and She Came In Through the Kitchen Window: Recipes Inspired by The Beatles and Their Music. Michael Lewis has written a couple of books about film, including The Films of Harrison Ford, but nothing else about The Beatles. That said, I don't feel that they are any more qualified to choose the 100 greatest Beatles songs than I am. I have been reading about and listening to the Beatles for over 40 years. I've read hundreds of books and articles over those years, and listened to every Beatle song many,many times.
So, how would my list differ from the authors?
In the first place, I would do away with their rule that every song has to be a Lennon-McCartney tune. Nobody required Elvis or Frank Sinatra or The Ramones or Aerosmith to do only their own tunes in order to be considered great, and some of my favorite Beatles songs happen to be covers.
In the second place, I would not actually try to place 100 Beatle songs in order of excellence. That just gets silly after about the first ten or so.
Thirdly, I would not cheat by calling the entire 2nd side of Abbey Road a medly and counting it as one song! Yes, She Came In By the Bathroom Window, Carry That Weight, Golden Slumbers, Because, and all the other songs on side 2 of the album were all really just one song. Did you know that?
I won't name every song in the book. Some of the ones you would expect are there: A Day in the Life, Strawberry Fields Forever, Yesterday, Let It Be, Hey Jude, In My Life, Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby, etc.
But here are some songs they put in that, while not bad songs, would never, ever have made my list of the top 100:
The Long and Winding Road
Tomorrow Never Knows
For No one
She Said She Said
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
She's Leaving Home
I'm So Tired
I Want You (She's So Heavy)
It's All Too Much
Within You, Without You
Here are some of the songs they left out I would replace these with:
When I'm Sixty Four
Roll Over Beethoven
You've Really Got a Hold on Me
Because (not as part of a medley)
Things We Said Today
I've Just Seen a Face
The Fool on the Hill
I Call Your Name
Maxwell's Silver Hammer
One After 909
P.S. I Love You
Two of Us
Add to that the fact that my favorite Beatles songs: "Because," "Across The Universe," and "Julia," came in at #36(as part of the medley,) #40, and #51, respectively, and you can see that they and I did not agree a whole lot.
Still, the book was fun to reminesce with, storm at, and laugh at, and they do offer some very interesting facts in the Did You Know and The Recording sections.
By the way, how closely do you agree with my songs left in that should have been out and songs left out that should have been in?