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...you keep making bizarro experiments with Yoko for a while, then get your groove back and start releasing raw, heartfelt music rooted in the early rock sounds of the fifties you grew up with. You engage in a very public war of lawsuits and songs against Paul McCartney over the tremendous sums of cash at stake in the final dissolution of the Beatles' songwriting and record royalties. Then you become a folk hero through a series of classics (God, Mother, Working Class Hero, Imagine and others) in the "confessional singer/songwriter" vein plus your political protest activities and well-publicized immigration battle with the Nixon administration.
Then you go way off the tracks during a two-year wicked drunk bender with buddies in L.A. and issue a couple records non-fans wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Finally, you pull yourself together again and put together a landmark album in 1980 just before your death that points toward the great music fans could have expected for years to come. Lennon never lost his gift for deep and challenging lyrics, although his solo output showed the occasional lack of pop tunefulness that McCartney's influence had provided.
Recorded May 26, 1969 in Montreal before the breakup of the Beatles, the song was part of Lennon's "bed-in" with Yoko protesting the Vietnam war. Its stream-of-consciousness verses of '60s references dates the song, but its message has remained timeless.
One of Lennon's most iconic songs, it was a treatise on his post-Beatles worldview. It was a message to his fans, urging the to follow him into a new era ("I was the Walrus / but now I'm John"). It's a manifesto, denying faith in numerous popular trends or beliefs (including God), and ending with the famous line "I don't belive in Beatles / I just belive in me / Yoko and me / the dream is over"). Irish rock band U2 wrote a song entitled "God Part II", referring to the original Lennon song. The lyrics, written by lead singer Bono, continue the pattern of stating things he doesn't believe in.
Produced by Phil Spector, the song ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded (at London's Abbey Road Studios) the same day it was written, and coming out only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he "wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we're putting it out for dinner." Featuring a version of the ever-changing "Plastic Ono Band" — Billy Preston on grand piano, Beatles friend (and Revolver album cover designer) Klaus Voorman on bass and electric piano, Alan White on drums, George Harrison on electric guitar, Yoko Ono on backing vocal, and Beatles assistant Mal Evans on chimes. The song was one of the seminal recordings of the Vietnam protest era.
Regarded as one of John Lennon's most overtly political songs, it became controversial due to the use of the "f-word." West Virginia Congressman Harley Orrin Staggers heard the song on the radio and lodged a complaint with the FCC. The manager of the radio station faced a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. In Australia, the album was released with the expletive removed from the song, with the lyrics censored on the inner sleeve. The song was later covered by Green Day, Cyndi Lauper, Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie's Tin Machine, Blind Melon, Elbow and Marilyn Manson. This version comes from the Lennon Acoustic album.
Probably Lennon's best-known post-Beatles song, it's an paean to hippie idealism, "imagining" a world without capitalism, religion and nationalism. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine voted "Imagine" the third greatest song of all time. Former US president Jimmy Carter said, "In many countries around the world — my wife and I have visited about 125 countries — you hear John Lennon's song 'Imagine' used almost equally with national anthems." A humorous telling of this song's origin appears in Forrest Gump. The main character, Forrest, is a guest on The Dick Cavett Show alongside John Lennon. Forrest recounts his experiences playing ping pong in China; he claims that the Chinese do not have much stuff ("no possessions") and, unlike him, do not go to church every Sunday (which Lennon interprets as "no religion too"), to which Dick Cavett responds, "It's hard to imagine", and Lennon says, "Well it's easy if you try."
John Lennon determined to make a Christmas record in 1971, combining the seasonal sentiments with his antiwar activism. In December 1969, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, had put up billboard advertisements in major cities around the world declaring, "War is over! (If you want it)," and they reiterated this statement two years later in their Christmas song "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Released as a single in December 1971, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" reached the Top 40 on regular record charts as well as placing high in the Christmas charts, to which it returned upon reissue in 1972, 1983, 1984, and 1985. Gradually, the song began to be accepted as a seasonal standard, a development hastened by covers recorded by the likes of such mainstream artists as Neil Diamond (who replaced "Xmas" in the title with "Christmas") in 1992 and Celine Dion in 1998.
Lennon was inspired to write the song by a period of using Primal Scream therapy, which works on the assumption that the patient has several defences which must be stripped down to reveal the "real person." Lennon's wife Yoko Ono worked on this with Dr. Arthur Janov, originally at their home at Tittenhurst Park for a period of three weeks and then at the Primal institute, California where they remained for four months. Lennon described the therapy as "something more important to me than The Beatles." This version is from Lennon's 1972 Live In New York City album.
This song was widely interpreted as an appeal to Yoko Ono during Lennon's mid-'70s "bender" period and their separation.
John Lennon recorded this as a demo in 1977. The other Beatles recorded around his tracks to complete song in 1994. The next year, it was released as a single. Yoko Ono agreed to release Lennon's demo to the other Beatles the day after he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Beatles producer George Martin was not involved in the production because of concerns about his hearing. The "reunited" Beatles version won the 1996 Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. McCartney told Observer Music Monthly that they put some backward recordings at the end of the single as a joke, "To give all those Beatles nuts something to do."
Lennon wrote this song as an ode to his wife Yoko Ono. He called it the '80s update of "Girl," a Beatles track on Rubber Soul. The song was released as a single in January 1981, about a month after Lennon was murdered. In the UK, this replaced Lennon's "Imagine" at #1, which had been reissued following Lennon's death. This was the first time an artist replaced himself at UK #1 since The Beatles did it in 1963 with "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."
This single was released posthumously after Lennon's 1980 assassination. It was the third and final single released from Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album. It concerns Lennon's dismissal of those who were confounded by his "househusband" years, 1975-1980, when he stayed away from the music industry and raised his son Sean with Yoko.
...you invent the indie/Do It Yourself genre by retreating to a home studio in Scotland and releasing a couple of pop gem albums on which he played all the instruments. You also demonstrate vast hypocrisy by complaining about Yoko, then insisting on involving your sweet but woefully untalented wife in most of your musical projects thereafter. Then you get the itch to be in a "band" again and form a new venture (Wings) with a rotating cast of session players and actually somehow become one of the most popular bands (in terms of records sold) in the 1970s. You peter out a bit with lyrically brain-dead pop pap in the late '70s and early '80s, do a duet with Michael Jackson, release a record in the Soviet Union that becomes one of the most-bootlegged albums ever, and get busted in Japan for smuggling Pot.
You revive your career in the late '80s, launch several worldwide mega-tours that make you even more astonishingly rich, then continue your critical (but not commercial) revival through the '90s and into the '00s with a series of classic pop albums and roots-rock cover albums. McCartney was by far the most commercially successful solo Beatle, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a lyric that wasn't the musical equivalent of cotton-candy - an unfortunate side effect of the lack of "harder" influences like Lennon.
Recorded in 1969, this Paul McCartney demo was for a song originally intended for Abbey Road. Instead, it was given to Apple labelmates Badfinger to record. A great early example still during the Beatles period of McCartney playing all the instruments on a simple pop gem.
McCartney wrote the song in 1969, just after The Beatles' breakup. He credited his wife Linda with helping him get through the difficult time. This is one of the four songs that he wrote for her, the other three being "I Will", "The Lovely Linda" and "My Love". Regarded as one of McCartney's finest love songs, it achieved the #338 position in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list compiled by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2004, and is the only solo McCartney song to make the list.
This song was a number one hit in the US in 1971. The melody and lyrics are more or less nonsensical (Albert was an uncle of McCartney's, while Admiral "Bull" Halsey was a World War II US Navy Admiral). The sophisticated arrangement, production, sound effects, and vocal treatments strongly recall The Beatles' Abbey Road "suite."
Part of the legendary series of Beatles taking post-breakup musical potshots at each other. The lines "you took your lucky break / and broke it in two" is aimed at John Lennon about Paul's conviction that Lennon (and Yoko) were the source of the band's split. Aside from the nasty digs, it's a great example of Paul's tuneful pop classics from the early seventies.
The title song from Wings' most successful album. It was the first of five number-one singles for the band on the Billboard Hot 100. George Harrison contributed the line in the middle section "If we ever get out of here."
The most famous track on the Wings album Red Rose Speedway, McCartney wrote it about his feelings for his wife Linda. The song was released as a single in March 1973, reaching number one on the US singles chart. By the end of June it was replaced in the #1 spot by "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" by George Harrison. An orchestral version of this song was played when Monica and Chandler got married on the hit US sitcom Friends.
The theme song to the 1973 James Bond Movie Live and Let Die gave McCartney his second Oscar nomination (neither this nor his first nominmation for "Let It Be" won). The song was one of Wings' most successful singles, and reunited McCartney with Beatles producer George Martin, who also arranged the orchestral break. In 1986, "Weird Al" Yankovic asked for permission to put his "Live and Let Die" parody "Chicken Pot Pie" on an album (as a courtesy though, legally he didn't need it). McCartney denied the use because he is a vegetarian and didn't want to promote the eating of animal flesh. Fellow vegetarian Yankovic said he respected the decision. On the ESPN program NFL Live anchor Chris Berman refers to Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai jokingly as "Joseph Live and Let Addai".
McCartney had been often teased by John Lennon for writing lightweight, "silly love songs," and McCartney wrote this number in response. In addition, "Silly Love Songs" was McCartney's first foray into the then-popular disco sound, with his bass guitar taking a lead role against a steady disco-style drumbeat. The song reached number one on the US singles chart and number two on the UK singles chart, ultimately becoming one of the best-selling singles of the 1970s.
This Wings song was penned by McCartney and bandmate Denny Laine in tribute to the picturesque Mull of Kintyre peninsula in Argyll, Scotland, where McCartney had owned a home and recording studio since the late 1960s. It was a relative flop in the US (number thirty-three on the singles chart) but became a number one single in the UK, spending 9 weeks at the top. It also became a massive international hit, going on to become the first single to sell over two million copies in the UK, earning McCartney the first ever "rhodium disc" and becoming the UK's best-selling single of all-time (eclipsing The Beatles' own "She Loves You") until overtaken by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" in 1984. The song remains the UK's best-selling completely non-charity single.
The theme song to a 1985 Chevy Chase/Dan Akroyd film (a tribute to the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road to..." films), the song was Paul McCartney's last top 10 US hit to date. It's really cheesy but pretty great nonetheless.
The lead single from McCartney's "comeback" album Flowers In the Dirt, this song peaked at number eighteen in the UK, and number twenty-five in the US. It was co-written by Elvis Costello, and Costello's "harder" edge improves McCartney's work just as Lennon's influence once did.
This song from McCartney's Flaming Pie album was released as a single, peaking at number twenty-five in the UK singles chart. Some fans have called it McCartney's solo "Hey Jude." The song features Ringo Starr on drums as well as an orchestration by Beatles producer George Martin (whose voice can be heard at the end of the track).
This song is about a character of the same name from Charles Dickens' novel Our Mutual Friend. It also refers to the wren species of bird, which is reported to be McCartney's favorite. Paul McCartney wrote the tune in the same sort of "fingerpicking" style found in his Beatles songs "Blackbird" and "Mother Nature's Son." The song earned a nomination for the 2007 Grammy Awards, in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category. The solo is played on an Armenian woodwind instrument called a duduk.
...you turn around and put out a triple album (All Things Must Pass) full of all the stuff the Beatles wouldn't use that was the best Beatles solo record of the early '70s. You enjoy the hip cachet of being the "underappreciated" Beatle, join with John on some anti-Paul songs, and release a string of albums with scattered hits (although with steadily diminishing returns from the first album). Unfortunately, that was apparently all your good stuff, since your late-'70s and early-'80s solo albums are listenable only by mutants and farm animals.
After reaching a critical nadir and being booted off your record label, you turn things around after a few years away from music and re-emerge in the late '80s with a career-revitalizing solo album (Cloud Nine) and membership in the super-duper supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. None of your following albums make the same critical or commercial impact, but you remain a beloved elder statesman of the music industry until your death in 2001. Harrison's solo work was wildly inconsistent in quality, but clearly showed examples of his brilliant songwriting and playing styles, which were very unlike those of Lennon or McCartney.
In 1965, George Harrison met Indian sitar players during the filming of the Help! movie and became entranced with Hindu philosophy. This set of beliefs guided his life and philosophy throughout the rest of his career, and is evidenced on his signature song "All Things Must Pass." This version was recorded solo during 1969 and was intended for the Beatles album Let It Be but was left out. The demo recording shows George at his solo best, with a single guitar track and simple lyrics showing the themes he would play out through the rest of his career. The release version is from the George Harrison album All Things Must Pass.
This was the most successful George Harrison solo song, holding down the number one spot for about a month after Christmas 1970. It was also the most controversial, sparking one of the most famous plagiarism suits in popular music history. The title hook, and much of the verse, is very close in melody to parts of the Chiffons' "He's So Fine," the classic 1963 number one girl group hit, a song that Harrison had undoubtedly been aware of since 1963. "My Sweet Lord" is, contrary to some reports, different in some respects, particularly at the points when the keys change at the end of the verse, in the devout execution of the vocals, and the nearly symphonic density of the arrangement. The publisher of "He's So Fine" sued Harrison for copyright infringement; in 1976, Harrison was found guilty of "unconscious plagiarism" and had to pay the publisher a substantial sum. By that time, "My Sweet Lord" had already become one of the most covered solo Beatles compositions.
"Wah Wah" is a glorious rocker built around a bluesy guitar riff. Harrison spends most of the song at the top of his singing range, almost drowned out by the Phil Spector trademark "Wall of Sound" production.
This live version of the Beatles classic comes from the album The Concert For Bangla Desh. That event, organized by George, was the first mega-concert organized for charity, serving as an inspiration for efforts like "Live Aid." After being made aware of the gravity of the situation in what was then known as East Pakistan by friend and musician Ravi Shankar, Harrison quickly organised two performances in their aid. Ringo played at the concert and both John and Paul were asked by Harrison to join. However, McCartney felt it was too soon for a Beatles reunion; Lennon was keen to take part, but recanted his acceptance after Harrison stated that he did not want Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono, to play in the concert. The two concerts on 1 August 1971 were highly successful, with a cheque for US$243,418.50 being sent to UNICEF for relief. As much as $15 million was made by the album and film, but the money was held in an IRS escrow account for years because the concert organisers hadn't applied for tax-exempt status. It's uncertain how much money actually went to relieve the initial refugee crisis and Harrison himself was said to have been "disgusted" over the matter.
This song was originally written by George (with different lyrics) for inclusion on a solo album of Ringo's, but it didn't make the cut. After John's murder, George rewrote the lyrics and it was released as a tribute to Lennon. In fact, some jukebox "timing strips" show the song as by "George, Paul, Ringo" instead of "George Harrison." While some people bemoaned the lyrics, the song jumped to #2 and remained George's definitive statement about what had happened in December of 1980.
A cover of a '60s song by Rudy Clark, this tune was the leadoff single for Harrison's combeback Cloud Nine album and was a major MTV video hit (something that none of his Beatles bandmates ever managed to achieve).
This song is a rare piano-based tune from Harrison. A great pop song in the "singer-songwriter" vein, it shows Harrison's reflective side and is one of his most beautiful solo works.
A song written by George Harrison about the days of Beatlemania, when The Beatles were sometimes referred to as the "Fab Four." The song appears on Harrison's 1987 album Cloud Nine and was later released as the second single from that album in January 1988. In the United Kingdom, it peaked at #23 in Billboard magazine's Hot 100 singles chart. The music video that accompanied the song also referenced the other three former Beatles. Ringo Starr appears prominently first as Harrison's assistant and then as the drummer. A man dressed up in a Walrus costume playing a left-handed bass guitar refers to Paul McCartney (who was asked to appear as well but was not available). John Lennon, who died in 1980, is represented by a passer-by carrying his Imagine album.
The Traveling Wilburys were a supergroup consisting of George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. "Wilburys" was a slang term coined by Harrison and Lynne during the recording of Cloud Nine as a reference to recorded "flubs" that could be eliminated during the mixing stage (i.e. "'We'll bury' them in the mix"). Although this single never reached higher than #45 in the US, the album was a double platinum hit, and the Wilburys helped reignite the careers of all its members.
...you trade on your position as the neutral "Switzerland" of the bitter Beatles fights to be the only person actually staying in contact with the other three. By collaborating with your fellow ex-Beatles and your many fellow alcoholic music industry buddies (especially Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and others), you actually become the most commercially successful solo Beatle from 1971-1974.
The you get constantly wasted for about 10 years and make some of the most embarrassing albums in human history (like your disco album, Ringo the Fourth). Despite this decade-long bender, you manage to avoid dying (unlike most of your drummer drinking buddies) and retreat into the musical shadows until the great popular "classic rock" revival at the end of the '80s. Although you never make any new hit records, you tour frequently with a band of old-school musical buddies, and guest-star frequently on records by George and Paul. Although nobody expected Ringo to be much of a solo star since he was never a songwriter of note on his own, he has carved out for himself a profitable and affable place in the music industry and has gotten his long-overdue critical appreciation for his drumming skills.
This song was released in April 1971 and hit number four on the US and UK singles charts. Starr was initally credited for the songwriting, but decades later he admitted that George Harrison "co-wrote" the song (as he did with other hits such as "Photograph"). Controversy still surrounds the assertion that Ringo really wrote the complex song, given that Harrison solo tapes exist of the song in near-final form. Whether Harrison really wrote it or not (and gave it to his friend to start him on his career), the released version included George Harrison on guitar, Klaus Voorman (Beatles Hamburg friend and designer of the Revolver album cover) on bass andStephen Stills (of Crosby Stills & Nash) on guitar.
The B-side of the "It Don't Come Easy" single from 1971, this song was the "peace treaty" between the Beatles. Listen carefully and you'll hear Ringo's relationship with all his former bandmates and his hopes that he'll eventually get to play with all of them again. George Harrison in on guitar and backing vocals.
This song, recorded by rockabilly singed Johnny Burnette, reached number eight in the United States in December, 1960. Thirteen years later, this cover version by Ringo Starr hit number one. This performance reunited Ringo with his former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney, who sang background on the track along with his wife, Linda McCartney. Paul McCartney also does an imitation of a saxophone for the solo on the track, which is often mistaken for a kazoo.
This song was written by Ringo Starr and George Harrison. It was released by Starr as a single in October 1973, reaching number eight in the UK and number one in the US. This live version comes from the 2003 album The Concert For George, a tribute event to Harrison that featured many of his musician friends and colleagues as well as his son.