Be sure to stay tuned at the end for the bonus track. Trust me. This will blow your mind.
Even though you don’t see a lot of Beatles posts from me, know this – I am a stone-cold Beatles freak. I’ve written about them – as well as George Martin and All Things Must Pass – several times and if you got on the ME bus late, check this series out that I did over three years ago when I first started.
While I remain a fan of all four Beatles as solo artists, with rare exceptions I don’t think that individually they ever reached the heights, the creativity or the majesty of their work as a band. Maybe they were just too difficult an act to follow.
All that said, there are definitely solo songs (and albums) by them that I like. Please note – whenever I do these lists someone always interprets them as “these are the best.” Nope. These are just a handful that I like. I am listing two from each guy, featuring one each here and then the entire list on Spotify below.
Of all the solo Beatles, in retrospect I may have had the highest expectations for John Lennon and so am the most disappointed. Putting aside the travesty of albums like Two Virgins and Wedding Album, I never thought – “Imagine” aside – that his output was anywhere near the equal of what he did in the Beatles. Did he need McCartney or was he just fresh out of ideas? Maybe this is a controversial position but I think Lennon’s good post-Beatles work would make a nice single album.
All that said, the song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” is one of my very favorites by him. Lennon seems to have gotten most inspired when writing about people he loves (e.g., “Julia” for his mother) and so too with this song about young Sean, “Beautiful Boy” is from his final non-posthumous album, Double Fantasy. (Spotify list also has “Mother.”)
Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better
“Crackerbox Palace” from George Harrison’s 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3 is a fairly lightweight song but I’ve always dug it. Wikipedia: “The song was inspired by Harrison’s serendipitous meeting with manager George Greif. Greif remarked to Harrison that he resembled the late comedian Lord Buckley
Greif, who had been Buckley’s manager, invited Harrison to Buckley’s old Los Angeles home, “Crackerbox Palace.” Thinking that the phrase had the makings of a song, Harrison jotted the words “Crackerbox Palace” down on a cigarette pack and later wrote the song.
The song includes references to Greif (“I met a Mr. Greif”) and to Lord Buckley (“know that the Lord is well and inside of you”.)” Hmm. Knowing George’s propensity for spirituality I wonder about the veracity of that last statement. (Spotify list also has “Not Guilty.”)
After the Beatles broke up in 1970, I think everybody figured, well, that’s it for Ringo. He’ll probably wind up playing drums on sessions with some other cats and always be known as an ex-Beatle. Guess what? He has arguably had just about as successful a solo career as Paul McCartney. I don’t equate his musical abilities with McCartney but hell, who am I to argue with success. (Let’s put one thing to rest – Ringo is a terrific drummer.)
“Back Off Boogaloo” is a song released as a non-album single in 1972. These lyrics made it sound like Starr’s put-down of Paul McCartney:
Get yourself together now
And give me something tasty
Everything you try to do
You know it sure sounds wasted
“Commentators have regularly interpreted the song as an attack by Starr on McCartney. Starr denied any such interpretation, instead claiming that the song was inspired by Marc Bolan and nothing more.” (Bolan and Ringo were friends and apparently “boogaloo” was a word that Bolan frequently used.)
I dunno. Sounds like Ringo might have been doing a bit of backpedaling of his story on this one. (George Harrison plays on this as do Gary Wright and Klaus Voorman. Spotify list also has “We’re on the Road Again.”)
It’s kinda hard to decide which McCartney song to use because he’s got so many great ones. And in between jetting around the world playing for everybody and getting a bunch of new awards, he’s still putting out new material. (I insist that Ringo and Paul go on tour together.)
We all know that McCartney’s first real band venture outside of the Fab Four was Wings.* (The standard joke at the time was “Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”) I was never a fan of McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” type of stuff. Just goofy, sentimental pap that John Lennon would never have tolerated.
But I liked when Wings rocked out. (Band on the Run will get its day on this blog.) From 1975’s Venus and Mars comes “Rock Show.” (For whatever reason, the only YouTube versions I can find include the brief title track. Spotify list also has “My Brave Face.”)
And now for the mindfuck. Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if the 1964-era Beatles had performed “Stairway to Heaven?” Me neither. But fortunately, some band of impersonators named The Beatnix have wondered. I know nothing about these guys. But you will love this or my name isn’t Jim, the Sixth Beatle.
*There’s a good book about McCartney’s depressed, can’t-get-out-of-bed post-Beatles, early Wings years called Man On the Run. Linda saved his fucking ass.