Ten Beatles songs that changed the world
I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND (1963) Weeks after JFK’s death, young America found healing by handing four Brits their first U.S. No. 1, extending palms across the Atlantic. Hearts, minds, and hysteria-stricken tear ducts would follow.
TIE: TWIST AND SHOUT (1963) and OH! DARLING (1969) The Lennon and McCartney vocals that influenced generations to shred their vocals too.
HELP! (1965) An unexpectedly mature cry of desperation from heretofore carefree moptop Lennon. Screaming fans discovered the angst beneath the bangs.
YESTERDAY (1965) Most covered song ever. McCartney’s groundbreaking use of string quartet prompted Mom and Dad to concede: Hey, this hippie crap isn’t so unlistenable!
NORWEGIAN WOOD (This Bird Has Flown) (1965) As much as anything Bob Dylan ever wrote, Lennon’s coolly observed brief encounter with a fleeting ”bird” helped usher in the singer-songwriter revolution. Plus, first use of sitar, which precipitated Harrison’s Indian explorations, leading directly to your great-aunt getting a mantra.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER (1967) As the single immediately preceding Sgt. Pepper, this was psychedelia’s primary shot across the mainstream bow.
A DAY IN THE LIFE (1967) They blew our minds out in a carpet-bombing five minutes, replete with traffic fatalities, inappropriate laughter, drugs, coffee, an incongruous middle-eight, and an orchestral crescendo as terrifying climax.
HEY JUDE (1968) The debut Apple release set the stage for untold vanity labels to come. More important, the whole world glued its ears to transistor radios to absorb all seven-plus slow-build minutes, a length still unmatched among No. 1’s.
REVOLUTION (1968) The real revolution: putting that much distortion on a record, deliberately. Arguably the greatest B side ever.
HELTER SKELTER (1968) Atoning for ”Ebony and Ivory” a decade and a half early, Paul invented metal.
…And Five That Didn’t
MY BONNIE (1961) The Fabs made their vinyl debut…as hired hands, backing local legend Tony Sheridan on a sea chantey.
ASK ME WHY (1963) There was hackwork that went out under the Lennon/McCartney byline – but this first-album filler was just about the last of it.
SIE LIEBT DICH (1964) The group was talked into doing a couple of deutsch remakes. Happily, even Germans preferred the English version of ”She Loves You,” forestalling any need for future rerecordings like ”Why Don’t We Do It in der Strasse?”
YOU KNOW MY NAME (Look Up the Number) (1970) McCartney once declared that this lounge-lizard-spoofing, half-growled goof of a B side was ”probably my favorite Beatles track.” That makes one of him.
FREE AS A BIRD (1995) This posthumous single was a lovely enough epilogue, but it was so anticlimactic, fans were left feeling that maybe the dueting-with-the-dead pastiches should have been left to Natalie Cole and Hank Williams Jr.