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The Beatles Go To 11: Jeff Massey's Picks

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The Impound is asking our favorite musicians to pick their eleven favorite Beatles songs in an effort to offer Fab-u-lous insights in our shared love of the greatest rock band of all-time. The latest entry comes from Jeff Massey, guitarist-singer-songwriter with one of DI’s fave-o-rite working rock bands, Chicago’s The Steepwater Band, who just get ALL the fundamentals right and rock with such obvious sincerity and natural capacity for the genre it brings a tear to our eye. If you ain’t familiar with ‘em then it’s time you get on it!

The Steepwater Band’s Jeff Massey’s 11 Favorite Beatles Songs

[No Stated Order]

I, Me, Mine

Beatles_I_Me_Mine

This song is one of Harrison’s finest moments. What a perfect combination of a sorrowful waltz mixed up with straight bluesy rock n roll. The contrast between the mood of the verse and the chorus is such an amazing flow of effortless songwriting. Melancholy blended into an uplifting frenzy of a jam!

Lyrically it stands timeless as an ode to people who are completely unconscious from what life is about. Without love and sharing you really never see any light At least that’s what I hear in the message. Yet another wonderful aspect of the Beatles is the room they leave for interpretation of a lyric.

The killer guitar tones don’t hurt the song any either. I know there has always been question as to what George played and what Paul played. Unless I’m mistaken Paul played some of the key guitar parts including the solos on the early material, but I’m guessing by this point in time this is George laying it down. (LISTEN)

Dear Prudence

Beatles_DearPrudence

Lennon’s mournful vocal is almost too much to take in if I’m in a fragile listening mood. This song is the epitome of intensity. It cuts through an emotional bone like butter. Dark folk music which, like George’s “I, Me, Mine,” shifts between sorrow and joy both musically and lyrically.

I love the way the intro descends into a hypnotic drone that sucks the listener in for the remainder of the song. It’s that haunting pulse of repetition that makes this song so mesmerizing.

No other vocalist can be as haunting as Lennon at times. Lennon is a master of imagery who easily switches from yearning to commanding with the flick of a switch.

The chaotic crescendo rises perfectly into a drumming frenzy and melody overload!

The Beatles are such a powerful influence on everything musically that came after. I hear everything from Pink Floyd to Wilco in this song. Where would be without The Beatles! (LISTEN)

Michelle

Beatles_Michelle

Only McCartney can turn such a sappy lyric into a joyful journey of the heart. A wizard of bass melody, or perhaps a tone cut guitar, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference with Paul.

My struggle over which is my favorite Beatle will never cease, they are all four beyond a standard talent in their own right, but to me McCartney is the master of melody and range. The shift between French and English lyrics only adds to the mystique and feeling of sitting in a café somewhere in Southern France as young Paul serenades his love. The simple lyric compliments the music and the melody wrapping it all up in a beautiful piece of sophisticated ambient genius. One of my favorite Beatles songs. (LISTEN)

Octopus’s Garden

Beatles_Octopus

Just when you thought a particular Beatles record might be getting too serious, well, here comes Ringo!

Man, I love Ringo! I hate when Beatles fans rag on Ringo. The average music listener might not understand what a great talent someone like Ringo Starr really is. It’s that backbeat that makes all that great early material swing! No need for a bunch of pointless drum noodling – it’s that beat man!

Not to mention he played with three other guys who are just a bit more talented than the average bear, so grabbing attention from the others isn’t so easy. Again like George and the guitar, there are a few rumors floating around in the cosmos about Paul handling drums on certain songs, but ya still got to have some Ringo on board!

Anyway, “Octopus’s Garden” is such a creative little twist on country twang music. The nursery rhyme quality is hard not to sing along to. Once again another Beatles rumor that good ol’ Bob Dylan wrote these words for Mr. Starkey. Who knows? Rumors aside I had to give the man props on at least one Beatles cut. Go Ringo ! (LISTEN)

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Beatles_IWantYou

Geoff Emerick wrote an amazing book titled Here There and Everywhere about the many Beatles sessions he worked on as an engineer including Abbey Road. This is probably what I’m basing all the previously mentioned rumors on. I remember him discussing in the book how Lennon fought with the others about this particular ending. The short abrupt closed door really catches the listener off guard, and isn’t that part of the great collective genius that is the Beatles: The unexpected musical turns that keeps the listening journey exciting and unknown.

The Beatles are masters of the blues among many other musical styles, and this song is a radical interpretation of minor blues. You can hear this influence in things like Zep’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” as one example. The Beatles undeniably influence just about everyone who came after and this song in particular is beyond innovative.

Like many of the aforementioned songs it shifts between minor blues, jazz swing, and builds into yet another hypnotic powerhouse riff before that ever so surprising door slams shut. Lennon is a master of tension Songs of this nature stick with me when I pick up a guitar. I have a tendency to drift towards that minor key vibe a lot, and songs like “I Want You” are uncontrollably etched in my musical subconscious
As Nigel Tufnel says, ‘’D minor: the saddest of all keys.’’ (LISTEN)

Tomorrow Never Knows

Beatles_TomorrowNever

If any song is going to capture color with sounds it’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I can’t help but to ‘’see’’ the melody! A circle of swirling colors dance through my brain and drift into unknown consciousness even without any influence of chemical substance. Yes!

It’s rock’ ‘n roll hypnosis, which one might consider the birth of psychedelic music, the worldly influence of rhythm and beat unknown to rock music before this track emerged. I love music that sounds like it comes from another planet, music that stands timeless and mysterious even after it’s heard for so many years.

Also if I’m not mistaken this might be one of the earliest attempts at drum looping, which is such a standard and abused necessity in popular music of today.

I can’t help feeling so otherworldly and surreal when I’m listening to this song. It’s a complete escape from reality and that is why I love it so much. This song demands your attention. Nothing against “Twist and Shout” but it’s amazing that they developed into a songwriting machine that could manipulate music into something so new for the time and so everlasting against the test of time itself. (LISTEN)

Blackbird

Beatles_Blackbird

Paul’s tale of a slave gone free is to me one of the most heartfelt and powerful songs of all time. Not to mention it’s rewarding to play on the guitar with such a rich combination of chord and melody. It strikes me for some reason as a song Paul might have written very quickly and spontaneously. It has that shot of inspiration to the sound that cannot be forced.

This composition always stands out among the so many amazing Beatles compositions. I’m lucky enough to have witnessed Paul perform this in Chicago a few years back and it was really an incredible thing to see and hear. (LISTEN)

A Day In The Life

Beatles_Day

The same intensity that I spoke of with “Dear Prudence” but recorded a bit earlier in the Beatles career for the groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s record. Probably the most haunting Lennon melody ever.

I’m realizing as I make this list that I lean towards the darker, surreal aspect of the Beatles catalog when I speak of my favorites.

What a perfect blend of McCartney/Lennon with Paul’s lighthearted lyric about waking up and grabbing the day! I especially love the line, ‘’Dragged a comb across my head’’. The ending had to be another Lennon idea. Epic!

Lennon was the guy that frustrated George Martin the most because he would explain his musical ideas in such an abstract manner. He would say things in the studio like, ‘’I want the song to sound green with a touch of the moon!” (I made that up but I’m guessing he would say something to that effect). Paul on the other hand would say something like, ‘’ I need a clarinet to come in on the sixth measure and the tambourine should fade towards the end of the first bridge.’’ (again, I made this up but Paul seemed more practical). Obviously, the two genius minds could come together to create masterpieces such as “A Day In The Life.” (LISTEN)

Get Back

Beatles_GetBack

Ah yes, the bluesy record with Phil Spector’s over the top production. Unless of course you prefer the version that was released with Spector’s handy work basically removed.

It’s well documented that The Beatles were not in the best of relations during this period but this track would indicate otherwise. Having a special guest like Billy Preston come in for a session seemed to put The Beatles on their best behavior according to Paul.

Besides leaning towards the surreal aspect of their music, my favorite thing is when they hit the blues-based numbers. Preston’s now legendary workout with the Fender Rhodes piano on this song is enough to suck me in and get the ol’ foot tapping. And as with every Beatles song, the vocals are strong and infectious! (LISTEN)

Eight Days A Week

Beatles_Eight

It took me awhile to appreciate the earlier work as opposed to the latter but when I hear it these days it is really groundbreaking in its own way. What a masterful work of simple chord changes and melody and the always incredible vocal range that was so prevalent throughout the Beatles work. This is just rocking!

One thing that gets under my skin is when musicians of today call The Beatles a boy band comparing them to today’s bad thrown together corporate boy singing groups. The naïve ignorance of such a statement should be obvious when hearing compositions such as “Eight Days A Week.” The vocal performance alone is a testament to the talent involved in the work. As a vocalist if you ever try singing the early material you might find an even greater appreciation for the strength of Paul and John’s vocals. (LISTEN)

Something

Beatles_Something

This is one of my favorite George compositions – a heartfelt lyrical statement amidst that swirling Leslie speaker inspired guitar. I love the bridge in this song and the way it elevates to an even higher musical place only to land into one of my favorite George guitar solos ever! Simple and melodic guitar playing like George is known for.

I even like Elvis-esque borderline corny lounge version and, of course, McCartney still does this live on the ukulele as an ode to he and Georges love for that particular instrument. It’s common Beatles fan knowledge that George was all about busting out the ukulele around the house to entertain band mates and guests.
I don’t what else I can say accept when George sings a ‘’love’’ song it takes on a deeper meaning and feel than most other performers could ever achieve. (LISTEN)

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