I spent the whole day getting things done:
--paying bills (oy) (lots of bills)
--sorting through piles (if you’ve never seen the way I live, then you don’t truly know the meaning of piles) (Urp knows what I’m talking about) (she and I lived in the same room for three years, and she is intimately acquainted with my piles) (but I’m getting better, I swear) (the piles seriously aren’t as bad as they used to be) (Urp, you totally don’t believe me right now) (I can feel you not believing me, and you haven’t even read this yet) (But the piles are totally lesser than they used to be) (geez, “the piles”) (that sounds like a geographical destination, like Stonehenge) (like, “hey, honey, when we go to Europe next summer, lets take a daytrip to The Piles” “oh, honey, not The Piles”)
--throwing things away (papers I found in the piles) (papers that I once thought I’d need, but which I so clearly don’t need anymore)
--filing away other needed things found in the piles (how did my passport get into one of the piles, that’s what I want to know) (my sad, sad passport, which hasn’t been used in years) (my lonely, dusty passport) (craving Wagamama’s)
--doing laundry (okay, I didn’t actually do laundry, I just thought it would sound good on the list of things I got done today) (and I actually did, like, five loads last week, so I still have plenty of clean clothes, and I can get away with pretending that I did laundry today) (except I’m mysteriously low on underwear) (it’s weird) (I simply don’t understand) (what happened to all of my underwear?) (I used to have so much underwear) (I need to put that on my “to do” list: buy underwear) (it’s a serious concern)
--making lists (even if I don’t get anything on the list done, I consider the act of making a list an accomplishment in and of itself) (still, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as crossing things off a list) (so much so that I’ll kinda cheat on my lists, sometimes) (like, I didn’t make today’s “to do” list until after I’d already paid my bills, after I’d sorted through my piles, after I’d thrown things away, after I’d filed away what I was going to file away, etc., yet I still wrote all of those items on the list and then dutifully crossed them out) (oh, and I don’t just cross out, I like to obliterate the completed items with ink until you can’t even read what the completed items were) (which is why it’s doubly weird that I write things I’ve already completed on the list and then cross them out—because it’s not like I can look at the list later and be like “oh, yeah—I did that”) (because the completed items are totally illegible) (I also usually write “make a list” at the top of my “to do” lists, and then when I finish the list, “make a list” is the first thing I cross off) (so satisfying)
Last night, my step-dad’s side of the family got together (I’m part of so many different extended families, the holidays are slightly insane) for a late Christmas celebration. It was me, my step-dad, my step-sister, Urp, and a few friends. We ate a big meal (so many big meals lately, I’ve put on about 200 pounds in the last week, I swear) (give or take 190) and then we exchanged gifts. I gave Urp some green socks and Urp gave me a Beatles poster (we did our actual gift exchange last week—when Urp took me to the Dancing With the Stars show—which was one of the funnest—and gayest—nights I can remember having in, um, I don’t even know how long—thank you, Urp—but I’m still planning on writing a whole other post about that, so moving on), and today I put my new Beatles poster up in my bedroom and it makes me feel like a college student again, because I haven’t had posters up in my bedroom since college (that’s totally a lie—I had a Dude Where’s My Car poster on the back of my bedroom door at the Commonwealth apartment for three years—but the Beatles poster still makes me feel like a college student), and the poster on the wall inspired me to listen to The Beatles on my ipod all day while I was getting all of the above-mentioned things done. And, okay:
I have to admit something.
(a) I love The Beatles—
(b) —I totally freaking love them—
(c) But—and here’s the thing I have to admit—I’ve never really known which songs are Paul songs and which songs are John songs.
(d) Does that make me a bad Beatles fan??? Did you just read the above statement and scoff at me, gloating “I’m such a better Beatles fan than Erik”??? Are their voices and writing styles so obviously incredibly different that you find it impossible not to be able to tell the difference and you’re so totally appalled right now?
(e) It’s just that, I’ve always loved both John and Paul equally and maybe that’s why I never learned whose songs were whose—because I don’t have any interest in playing favorites.
(f) On the flip side, I can totally always tell which songs are George songs—but his songs seem obviously very different to me.
(g) So tell me, does not knowing which songs are John songs and which ones are Paul songs make me a bad Beatles fan?
Anyway, in the spirit of making lists, I’ve decided to try to make a list of My Ten Favorite Beatles Songs. It’s going to be hard to narrow them down to ten, but I’m gonna try. (Oh, and as I make the list, I’m going to look up who the songs were written by, just out of curiosity.) (And I’m not necessarily saying these are the “best” Beatles songs, I’m just saying they’re my favorite ones.)
Okay, so I tried to only pick ten, and I couldn’t do it. So here’s my Top Sixteen Favorite Beatles songs. (I realize that sixteen is a random number, but it was “Top Twenty-One” and that was ridiculous, but I can’t cut another song from the list, I just can’t.)
Picking my top sixteen songs was difficult enough, so I’m not going to rate them from #1 through #15. Instead, I’ve ordered them chronologically by their release dates.
1. I’m Looking Through You (Rubber Soul, 1965) (written by Paul McCartney)
This isn’t a perfect song. There are other Beatles songs that aren’t on this list that are better songs than this one. But I didn’t say this was a list of the “best” Beatles songs, I said it was a list of my favorites. And this song sends me back to a very specific moment, so it’s really a nostalgia thing. I was a freshman in college and I’d gotten cast as Hal in a mainstage production of Joe Orton’s Loot. I was the only freshman in the cast and I was so intimidated by the other actors—Carie, Marjie, and the two Mikes—that’s what we called them, “the Mikes”—I was in awe of them because they were all really really good, and I was also freaked out by them because they were all already friends and they already had their own in-jokes and secret handshakes and such. I just wanted to be as good and cool and hip and awesome as they were. Anyway, the Loot pre-show music was a mix of Beatles songs, and by the end of the rehearsal process I’d gotten in good with Carie, Marjie, and the Mikes—we were a little pack—and before every single performance we would all stand in the wings and just fucking dance our little hearts out. “I’m Looking Through You” was one of the songs we danced to. When I listened to the song just now, I had this vivid image of Carie dancing on a little staircase that was backstage—wearing a tight black mourner’s dress—and just getting jiggy with it. (Carie, remember how much fun we had dancing to that Beatles mix???)
2. Norwegian Wood (Rubber Soul, 1965) (written by John Lennon)
One of their sexiest songs, imho. Especially when you consider the rumor that the song was originally called “Knowing She Would.” There are several theories as to why it was changed to “Norwegian Wood,” one of them being that “knowing she would” was too suggestive, but I don’t buy that the Beatles caved to some sort of censorship thing because they were totally into suggestive lyrics. Another story is that John sang the song for the rest of the group and they misheard him—“are you saying Norwegian Wood?”—and John changed the lyrics because, hello, the obliqueness of the phrase “Norwegian Wood” makes the song so much more intriguing and strange. Anyway, listen to the song as if he was saying “knowing she would” and it totally makes sense. (“She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere, so I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair?” They so do it before he goes to sleep in the bathtub.) Of course, the idea of the lyric actually being “Norwegian Wood” works with the last line, about him building a fire, but the fab four were good with multiple meanings like that. Regardless, it’s a dirty, sexy song.
3. Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966) (written by Paul McCartney)
The string section—oh man, the strings throughout the song give me the chills. And the quiet, little story told through the song—the images—so many heartbreaking images. You get such a clear picture of both Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. Sure, the earlier, poppy Beatles songs—songs like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love”—those songs are great. But the later, bleaker, sadder Beatles songs—songs like “Eleanor Rigby”—songs like “Eleanor Rigby” kill me. In a good way. I love the lyric in the first verse about how she “[wears] the face that she keeps in a jar by the door—who is it for?” This woman who “lives in a dream,” alone, working at the church—who doesn’t show anyone who she really is, we only see what she shows us. I went for a ride on my bike tonight, just around the neighborhood, around 7pm. It was dark out. You know how bright living rooms look from the street at night—how you can see inside so clearly, but you can’t see outside—the way light works—anyway, I was riding my bike around the neighborhood and I saw several people, in their living rooms or kitchens, alone—I saw a few families, but I kept noticing people alone—it just struck me how vulnerable we all are, especially when we don’t think anyone’s watching. That’s what I think this song is about.
4. A Day in the Life (Sgt. Peppers, 1967) (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
I remember reading somewhere that Paul Thomas Anderson modeled his movie Magnolia after the crescendo shifts of “A Day in the Life.” It’s such a crazy song—the different pieces of it shouldn’t fit together, but they do. (You could say the same about Magnolia.) I can never just listen to this song once. (God, I’m making the song sound like the musical equivalent of Pringles—“once you pop, you can’t stop”—but it’s true, whenever I listen to this song, I always hit the “repeat” button at least once.)
5. She’s Leaving Home (Sgt. Peppers, 1967) (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
This song is sadder than “Eleanor Rigby,” but it’s more hopeful too. Because even though you feel for the parents in the song—you feel sorry for them, they’ve lost their kid—and oh those plaintive, long cries of “sheeeeee’s leeeeaving hooome” are a killer—even though you believe that they did, in fact, give their kid “everything money could buy”—you also get the feeling that their kid is seventeen-fucking-years-old and she’s so over her parents—they’ve never “gotten her” (in a way that only a seventeen-year-old can feel like they aren’t being “gotten”) and she just wants to have some “fun” for the first time in her life (so Cyndi Lauper of her). The chasm between these two generations, it’s so sharp and sad. On one side you have this little old British couple—this well-meaning man and woman who have tried so goddamned hard all these years. And maybe they don’t do something as simple as say “I love you” to their kid enough—because they asssume it’s implied in their actions, in how much they’ve sacrificed for her—but that’s all they’ve ever really done wrong. And then on the other side, you have this girl who doesn’t see their sacrifices as love, she sees them as a burden, and her parents “sacrifices” have been suffocating her for years until finally, on “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins,” she just has to get out of that house, now—just now. But the hopeful thing about the song is that she leaves a note for her parents, “a note that she hoped would say more,”—that note tells me that she’s going to go off and have an adventure, she’s going to go off and find herself, but she’s going to come back home. If she wasn’t planning on coming back, one of these days, then she wouldn’t care whether or not the note “said more.” And when she comes back in a couple of years, she’ll be a little more worldly, she’ll have made a few sacrifices of her own, and she’ll “get” her parents in a way that you can’t ever really “get” your parents until you’ve been out in the world a bit, until you start to see them not as “parents,” but as actual real people who are struggling with the same things you are—trying to be happy and find their place in the world. And then finally, she’ll understand the love they were giving her all of those years, the love she couldn’t see. Such a good song.
6. The Fool on the Hill (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967) (written by Paul McCartney)
This one’s pretty straight-forward. People see a guy with a foolish grin and they think he’s stupid so they don’t pay attention to him, but he’s actually really smart. Not much to analyze. I always want to sing along to this song when I hear it. Maybe it’s because I’m terrible when it comes to remembering lyrics and the lyrics to this song are so simple they’re impossible to forget. But whatever, it’s a sweet song and it makes me feel happy.
7. Blackbird (White Album, 1968) (written by Paul McCartney)
I think this is one of the most lovely songs ever written. I think “lovely” is the best adjective to describe it. I don’t know if they meant the song to be a lullaby or not, but that’s what it is. Perfect.
8. Happiness is a Warm Gun (White Album, 1968) (written by John Lennon)
In the last section of the song, when John speak-sings: “When I hold you in my arms and I feel my finger on your trigger, I know nobody can do me no harm,” and then he sings “because happiness is a warm gun” and the background singers croom “(bang bang shoot shoot),” don’t you just want to be there, right there, right then, in his arms?
9. I’m So Tired (White Album, 1968) (written by John Lennon)
This is such a great, sleepy song. The way it slowly builds and then falls and then builds again and then falls again, the rhythm of the song actually feels like when you’re trying to stay awake for whatever reason but you’re eyelids keep shutting, and you keep snapping them open, but then the curtains start to fall again, and then you jerk them wide open again, and then, slowly, they once again start their descent. You know? And I love the phrase “you were such a stupid git.” I want to start using the word “git” in daily conversation. I want to start using the word “jagoff,” too. (Ever since I read this post by Sheila yesterday, I’ve been wanting to use the word “jagoff,” but I haven’t found an appropriate moment to drop it into conversation yet.) Git and Jagoff—being incorporated into my daily conversation now.
10. Rocky Raccoon (White Album, 1968) (written by Paul McCartney)
I’ve never been a good singer. I’ll admit it. I don’t have the best ear for a tune. Fine. Whatever. There was a (very short) period of my life, however, when I decided I wanted to become a better singer. This was, like, a two-week period of my life. I think I was a freshman in high school. I took two private singing lessons to try to hone my craft. And this is the song I tried to learn at those two private singing lessons. Which is so absurd because the song is almost entirely spoken-sung. I mean, sure, there’s some melody. But not much. It’s mostly talking. Ridiculous song to learn, Erik. But great song to listen to. Would it be weird if I had a kid and I named him Rocky Raccoon Patterson? Probably. But I couldn’t name a kid Rocky without having Raccoon as a middle name because with the Raccoon there, people would assume my kid was named after the Sylvester Stallone Rocky and he’d have to go through his entire life explaining that, no, he wasn’t named after the boxer, he was named after the Beatles song. (Speaking of which, there was a kid named “Steely Dan” in one of the classes I subbed for last month.)
11. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (White Album, 1968) (written by George Harrison)
Apparently, George Harrison decided he would open up a book and write a song based on the first phrase his eyes stopped on, and that phrase happened to be “gently weeps.” That story sounds almost too perfect to be true, but I like it. I’m trying to finish my latest play by the end of the weekend—tomorrow I’m going to pick up a random book and write a scene for the play based on the first phrase my finger lands on in the book. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it or if I just feel like a jagoff after I’ve written the scene. (I don’t think that was a very good use of the word “jagoff,” but I’m trying and I’m sure I’ll get better at using it.)
12. Hey Jude (single, 1968) (written by Paul McCartney)
Singing along to Paul as he screams that quick succession of “Jude”’s at the end of the song is like a drug. It totally gives me an insta-high.
13. Because (Abbey Road, 1969) (written by John Lennon)
Go to a park, lay down on the grass, put some headphones on, and listen to this song. Some of the best lyrics ever. I like the cover version that Elliot Smith did, too.
14. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Abbey Road, 1969) (written by Paul McCartney)
If I’m remembering correctly, the Beatles were working with Joe Orton at the time of his death—Orton was writing a movie for them (with the working title “Prick Up Your Ears”)—but he never finished writing the script because his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned him to death with a hammer. And then Paul wrote this goofy, catchy song about someone named “Maxwell” bludgeoning people to death with a hammer. So in the spirit of Orton. Love it.
15. You Never Give Me Your Money (Abbey Road, 1969) (written by Paul McCartney)
When this song starts, it’s just another sad song—more wistful than the other sad songs on this list, but still just another sad song. In a weird way, it reminds me of the Carpenters. (And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I love the Carpenters.) And then the song shifts—the piano and drums kick in—and then it becomes this rousing little ditty about following your dreams. Yes, fucking yes—I think I will.
16. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) (the Anthology 2 version, 1969) (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
This is a crazy, wild, weird, fun, funny, b-side. It was one of the last songs the Beatles ever recorded and it astounds me that they weren’t really getting along anymore by the time they recorded this song because there is so much joy in this track. When my brothers were all young teenagers, I introduced them to the Beatles with this song and I remember we all danced around the living room to this song. Good times.
Any other Beatles fans in my blogosphere? Anyone wanna share their own list of favorite Beatles songs? Anyone hate my list? See any ridiculously glaring omissions?