A Couple of Solo Beatles Tunes (Plus bonus)

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 boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better

Spotify link

“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.”)

Spotify link

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.”)

Spotify link

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.”)

Spotify link

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.

 

31 thoughts on “A Couple of Solo Beatles Tunes (Plus bonus)

  1. I really like Lennon’s early singles – stuff like Instant Karma! and Cold Turkey. I agree that they rarely touched band heights though (but I also think their late stuff is weak by their superlative standards).

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      1. I don’t really enjoy the sentiment of Imagine – the main thing I like about it is Lennon’s vocal performance. I’ve never listened to the whole album – must be one of the most “canonical” albums that I’m not familiar with.

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        1. I’m ok with what he says in the tune. I just never much got into it as a song and all these years later I’m kinda sick of it. There is not one Lennon – apart from “Plastic Ono Band” – that I’ve heard all the way through.

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      1. It’s an unofficial comp that Ethan Hawke came up with – it was then merged into the film Boyhood too. The idea is that by putting their strongest solo material together it elevates the songs and, when heard together, you no longer hear solo work you hear the Beatles

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        1. Oh I see. It’s not a mashup it’s a listing of the best of solo. Well, I could argue with a good 25% of the list but it’s a good start. Thanks.

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  2. A lot of folks had high expectations for Lennon. “Plastic Ono Band” (album) is unique, though. I can’t think of many other artists (Lou Reed?) who shared their personal demons with the world so starkly. The best line in “Imagine” (song) is “imagine no religion, ” which is Lennon at his bravest and most unfiltered. But most of the song is just spoon-feeding peace and love to people who need spoon-fed, which is why it’s so popular.

    The other three, other than Harrison’s magnificent “All Things Must Pass” (album) and a handful of other songs, don’t do much for me. Yes, Jim, “maybe (the Beatles) were just too difficult an act to follow” kind of sums it up!

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    1. You probably recall this but for those who don’t – Lennon got himself involved in something called Primal Scream Therapy which involves all manner of dredging up demons, screaming, etc. So Lennon’s dealing largely with parental abandonment and loss, hence his anger and pissed-off attitude. You’re right – that album was pretty naked although “Two Virgins” even more so. (Bad joke.)

      Of “Imagine,” Lennon famously said it was “an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it’s sugar-coated, it’s accepted.” He got dinged by more than a few people on the anti-capitalist bullshit since he was raking in good dough AND playing the song on a magnificent white piano. Can’t have it both ways, Johnny Boy.

      As to the others’ output, I may be more charitable to it than you, but perhaps not as much as I want to be. I’ve already done “All Things” but there’s one more solo album I’ll get to one fine day.

      For the record, I checked out McCartney’s 40-song (!) setlist at the O2 in December. About 1/2 was Beatles, 1/2 mostly early Wings. He knows what people wanna hear. And please don’t tel me you don’t like the “No-no Song.” 🙂

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      1. I love Paulie (who doesn’t), I just don’t care for 98% of his solo work.

        “Can’t have it both ways, Johnny Boy”… exactly, Woody Guthrie he wasn’t. But he did at least come from modest roots, and worked his way up, single-mindedly, like most capitalism obsessives like to spout on about (including our fathead inherited-wealth president).

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        1. Agreed about his roots. Although that said, he was more middle-class than he let on. But I still love “Working Class Hero.” His gift was that he could speak to so many levels. One can even be rich (e.g. FDR) and speak and relate to the masses. Or just be an asshat like Schlump (now a fully Pelosi-owned organization.)

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  3. Stairway to Heaven Beatles style is just fucking brilliant!😆

    I guess I’m a bit more upbeat about Lennon’s solo work and find there are at least a couple of songs on each of his albums that are pretty good. Some that come to my mind in this context are “Jealous Guy”, “New York City”, “Mind Games”, “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” and “Watching The Wheels.” That being said, I agree these songs aren’t as good as say “I’m The Walrus” or “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. Perhaps it really is impossible to follow up such masterpieces.

    I pretty much agree with your sentiments about Paul, George and Ringo. “Band On The Run” is Paul’s masterpiece. I also like the “Tug Of War” album and also find “Egypt Station” an intriguing late career piece of work, including even his worn vocals! As for George, “All Things Must Pass” remains the standout to me. Similar to Lennon, I can find at least one tune on each of George’s solo album I enjoy, but nothing quite like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes The Sun” or “If I Needed Someone.”

    I feel Ringo is sometimes under-appreciated. Yes, he isn’t the greatest writer and vocalist, but in addition to just being a cool dude, he certainly is an intriguing drummer. Think about it: How many drummers can you name where when you listen to many of their isolated tracks, you can actually figure out the songs? Of course, it would be fair to add that’s primarily true for Beatles tunes.

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    1. Is that not just the greatest thing you ever heard in your life? I heard it on the radio and it totally blew me away. I didn’t get of the car till it was over!

      I definitely agree on those John songs and recall I mentioned that you could put together a pretty good Lennon album or album and a half. And those songs are good. But I think the directness of his lyrics took away some of the art.

      “Band on the Run” is great and that’s the album in my back pocket to review one fine day. I totally dismiss his sappy love songs and – for the record while we’re talking Beatles – “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Octopus’ Garden” should have been pulled from ‘Abbey Road’ and put on some kids’ album.

      I could definitely put together a Paul solo album or Spotify list and maybe I wasn’t clear enough – or didn’t say this – but Paul is clearly the best solo artist of them all IMHO. Despite the occasional dreck. George was hit-or-miss, “All Things” notwithstanding. And Ringo is ok but the few that I like I really like.

      I may yet sit down and put together a solo Beatles Spotify list. But it will never match the bands’ output. The jury’s in on that one. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts. But no shame. What those guys did collectively changed the world forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I listen to a lot of music (duh) and just didn’t get to this stuff. I listened to the early McCartney albums a long time ago. I liked them but just never put any time into the others (maybe a little George). ‘Band On the Run’ would probably get the old CB treatment. Always dug the cover. James Coburn, Christopher Lee? What’s that?

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    1. ‘Band on the Run’ is one of my faves and will get the ME treatment one fine day. Also, you know how you say you’re always learning things over here? Well, I had NO idea that Coburn or Lee were on that cover. I never really looked at the cover closely or did a count. If I had I guess I would have figured they were session guys or crew or something. I hope CB gets a chance to listen to the bonus song. Mindblower.

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        1. I’d like to see Trent Reznor do something with it. A guy I’m working for now has a big poster of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in his office and that theme is his ringtone. What’s up with that?

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        2. Wow. She must have a lot of great qualities to overcome that! Remember ‘Diner’ where the guy gives his girlfriend a test on football or something to make sure she’s worthy to marry. When my wife messes up on a rock n roll question I threaten her with an exam like that. 50% correct minimum.

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  5. Strangely, or maybe not so much, I’m not much of a fan of The Beatles. I like bits and pieces, but I just don’t dig them the way I probably should. When I was wee, I had access to the blue and red LPs and I loved them. They just never made the journey with me.

    I do like All Things Must Pass, though. And I try to avoid McCartney stuff when I can… I have an irrational disliking for that fella!

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    1. The Beatles have great output that I think will last forever. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone loves them, certainly not at the level that those of us who grew up with them do. My own 20-something kids like them to a certain degree, probably more than you. But if push comes to shove, that’s not where they spend their listening time.

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      1. I very much liked the stuff I had access to, but I wasn’t really drawn to albums (though I do like Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper’s…). I don’t chose to listen to them, which, I think has much to do with there being other stuff I’d rather listen to… not necessarily anything to do with disliking them.

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