The Beatles, to be clear, were seminal, visionary, belief-buggeringly brilliant. But given their head-spinning output in those ten years – over 300 songs – they were bound to drop the odd bollock. Here, we’ve swept up ten of them, as a reminder that even gods can’t get it right all the time.
10. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Lennon reportedly dismissed McCartney’s White Album clanker as “granny music shit”, and he was being generous. From the opening teeth-on-edge piano flourish, it’s a nagging, plinky-plonk, cod-reggae monstrosity, like a rejected jingle for a shelved Lunn Poly ad. And the most infuriating thing is that your four-year-old keeps asking for it, instead of A Day In The Life.
9. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Side One of Abbey Road hits the skids with this pointless stinker, which alternates between a turgid descending riff that should never have made it past soundcheck, and the most coma-inducing of blues jams. When it finally wraps up, a full eight minutes later, you’ll snap back to consciousness to find you’ve drooled down your front.
8. Maggie Mae
The Let It Be sessions dripped with venom, but there’s a chink of misguided bonhomie on this mucky Scouse knees-up. The fruity jangle grinds to an abrupt halt after 39 seconds, as if the Fabs have suddenly realised how history will judge it.
7. Wild Honey Pie
With his bandmates away, a heel-kicking McCartney knocked out this screechy head-scratcher. By rights, it should have been buried deep in the vaults; blame the cloth-eared Pattie Boyd, who inexplicably convinced Macca it deserved a spot on the White Album tracklisting.
6. Blue Jay Way
The premise was hardly thrilling – a jet-lagged Harrison birthed the song while waiting for his publicist to arrive in LA – and the resulting psych swirl was like listening to paint dry. “Please don’t be long, please don’t you be very long,” moans the vocal, pretty much echoing the listener’s sentiments exactly.
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5. Within You Without You
Speaking of Harrison misfires, let’s not forget the nadir of Sgt Pepper’s slack mid-section (see also: Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! and When I’m Sixty Four). A drowsy, incense-wafting drone with lyrics apparently written by a third-rate life coach, it evokes the feeling of waiting for a takeaway in Hell.
4. Rocky Raccoon
I could happily take a chainsaw to the White Album, and this faux-redneck doodle would be amongst the first candidates for the chop. Neither funny or experimental, memorable or melodic, this lazy McCartney-penned strum should have stayed in Rishikesh, with even George Martin admitting it was “filler” to satisfy the release’s double-format.
3. Revolution 9
A piano tinkles. A cut-glass disembodied voice burbles a repeated ‘number nine’. Tape loops swim and swirl. An orchestra tunes up. A fire crackles. For years, I squinted for greatness in Revolution 9. What does it all mean? Now, I’m at peace with it. I don’t give a shit what it means. I just want it to stop.
It inspired a killing spree – Charles Manson’s followers notoriously daubing ‘Pig’ on the front door of actress Sharon Tate’s house in August 1969, having slaughtered all within – but amazingly, that’s not even the worst thing about Piggies. For penning this twee, harpsichord-driven, clangingly obvious discourse on consumerism, it’s Harrison who deserves the ‘damn good whacking’.
Yeah, I know the official line: Yesterday is a tender, stately, much-loved all-time classic that perfectly articulates the travails of passing time. But is it, really? Because after enduring the Help! original for over half a century – not to mention the 2000-plus cover versions – all I hear is a sickly, mawkish, ubiquitous, unflushable turd. And what really sticks in my craw is that back in 2012, the BBC calculated that Yesterday had generated some £19.5 million in royalty payments. Give me The Frog Chorus any day…
The Beatles (and the 20 Songs That Revolutionised Rock) are on the cover of the current issue of Classic Rock magazine. Full details of the issue.