OA: Rock Cesario Column October 24, 2008
'In My Life’ arguably the best song ever written or tied for first
My last word on the Beatles, for a while!
The Beatles were to rock ’n’ roll what Walt Disney was to animation and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club” album was their “Fantasia.”
There, I said it, and I feel a whole lot better.
Here is what Richie Umberger had to say about the Beatles on allmusic.com:
“What the Beatles had done was take the best elements of the rock and pop they loved and make them their own.
“Since the Quarrymen days, they had been steeped in the classic early rock of Elvis, Buddy Holly,
Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, and the Everly Brothers; they’d also kept an ear open to the early ’60s sounds of Motown, Phil Spector, and the girl groups.
“What they added was an unmatched songwriting savvy (inspired by Brill Building teams such as Gerry Goffin and Carole King), a brash guitar-oriented attack, wildly enthusiastic vocals, and the embodiment of the youthful flair of their generation, ready to dispense with postwar austerity and claim a culture of their own.”
This is another letter I received last week. It is from Arthur Houle.
“Kudos on the Beatles picks by Brett Argo in your column today (Oct. 17). Brett’s excellent picks are indeed arguably five of the most influential songs by the Beatles.
“However, for sheer song craftsmanship, beauty and successful Lennon/McCartney/George Martin collaboration, I think we would be remiss in failing to mention ‘In My Life’ from the ‘Rubber Soul’ album.
“Though John Lennon and Paul McCartney disagreed over the extent of each person’s contribution to the song, it is, by both accounts, indisputably one of their greatest team efforts. It is a poignant ballad recounting John’s childhood memories, with exquisite vocal harmonies and elegant drumming by Ringo.
“Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of the song, however, was the Neo-Baroque solo by George Martin, the Beatles’ classically trained record producer who often contributed to their recordings. With a bit of technological ingenuity, this improvisatory solo (which reminds one of J.S. Bach) was made to sound like a harpsichord, but it was actually played on piano. ‘In My Life’ has been rated by some as the best song ever written, though I would put it neck and neck with ‘Yesterday.’
“One small point of clarification, by the way. John Lennon did indeed have a fondness (as do I) for word play. However, the title ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was probably initially inspired by (don’t faint) Ringo, who, in a 1964 interview, said: ‘We went to do a job, and we’d worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, “It’s been a hard day…” and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, “...night!” So we came to ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’”
“Thanks for your focus on the Beatles. My training is in classical music, but perhaps for that very reason, I have always been an avid admirer of their music.
“Whenever I refer to ‘the three B’s,’ I’m tempted to say Bach, Beatles and Beethoven (except that I’d hate to slight poor ol’ Brahms). :-)”
Associate Professor of Music and Director of Keyboard Studies
Mesa State College
Thank you all so much for your responses to the Beatles column. I appreciate it immensely.