The influence of the Beatles on the culture of the 20th century, and beyond, is second to none. Even 50 years after most Beatles songs were released, dozens continue to play daily in every United States radio market, on television, and in movies. Anyone who doubts the extent of the cultural impact of the Beatles should read this Daniel Levitin piece in the Guardian. He provides a haunting image of a world most of us will never see:
One hundred years from now Beatles songs may be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people will have forgotten who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in popular culture that it will seem as if they’ve always existed, like Oh Susannah, This Land Is Your Land, and Frère Jacques.
There will simply never be another Beatles. The Beatles arrived in that 40-year window when electronic media encircled the globe and allowed an act to penetrate every corner of world culture, but also arrived before the fragmentation of culture that the internet has caused.
“Hey Jude,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Love Me Do,” and “Let It Be” surely top the list of tunes universally recognized and with cultural longevity as extensive as anything ever produced. But what Beatles songs are underrated and rarely heard? People forget about how small the Beatles catalog is. Essentially thirteen stand-alone albums of original material exist, in addition to some single compilations, remasters and outtake anthologies. Of those thirteen albums, there are great underrated songs we rarely, if ever, hear. Scott Greenstein, are you listening?
Note, nothing appears below from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band because nothing about that album could be considered underrated.
10. “And Your Bird Can Sing” (Revolver, 1966)
The swirling guitar duel between McCartney and Harrison sounded like little else in 1966.
9. “One After 909” (Let It Be, 1970)
Let It Be was a McCartney-driven effort to get back to the way the Beatles used to be, used to record, used to sound. It was Neil Young’s Ragged Glory, raw, stark, explosive at times. “One After 909” was a song the Beatles used to play in their younger days so it fit the need. It works on any Garage blend in 2015.
8. “Flying” (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
“Flying” was one of only a couple of songs the Beatles recorded with songwriting credits to the whole band. Some websites have called it one of the worst Beatles songs. They’re wrong.
7. “Rain” (B-Side of Paperback Writer, 1966)
“Rain,” recorded and released before Revolver, gave a taste of what was coming.
6. “There’s a Place” (Please Please Me, 1963)
5. “Things We Said Today” (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
A nice minor to major key change makes it soar.
4. “I Will” (The Beatles, 1968)
Not a silly love song.
3. “I’m Looking Through You” (Rubber Soul, 1965)
Rubber Soul is probably their most underrated album, and one of their best. It’s full of underrated rarely heard songs. Here’s one.
2. “Hold Me Tight” (With the Beatles, 1963)
The 2007 musical Across the Universe had a scene which used “Hold Me Tight” to provide two contrasting pre-Beatlemania versions of popular music — the American high school dance contrasted with a gritty Liverpool Cavern Club. By the end of the decade, the entertainment world would look very very different. Turn up the bass.
1. “The End” (Abbey Road, 1969)
Recording Abbey Road, McCartney suggested that three of the Beatles do the guitar solo. As Beatles sound engineer Geoff Emerick recounted in Here, There and Everywhere, “Lennon loved the idea — for the first time in weeks I saw a real gleam in his eye. It didn’t take long for John’s enthusiasm to wear off on George, who finally got into the spirit of things.” During the solo, “all the bad blood, all the fighting, all the crap and gone on between the three former friends was forgotten. John, Paul and George looked like they had gone back in time, like they were kids again, playing together for the sheer enjoyment of it.” They seemed to know it would be the last time they played together like that. It also has the only Beatles drum solo that would appear on an album. Listen carefully, and you can hear the three distinct guitar solos — first McCartney, then Lennon and finally Harrison.