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The Beatles – I’m Down

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “I’m Down” is my pick for the worst of all the Beatles’ songs. Paul evidently set out to write a replacement for the Little Richard shouter “Long Tall Sally,” a frequent closer for the Beatles’ live performances. It has the same tempo and the same stops-and-starts approach, but unfortunately “I’m Down” does NOT have everything that Uncle John needs. The tune is lame — three chords and a melody totally lacking inspiration — and the lyrics are pathetic. Here’s a youtube video so you can read the words even after you’ve turned off the sound.

“I’m Down” reached our ears as the flip side of “Help!” and never sullied any of the canonical albums in either Britain or the States. Even when Capitol did the “Beatles Again”/”Hey Jude” collection of singles and flip sides as far back as A Hard Day’s Night, “I’m Down” didn’t make the cut.


The Beatles – Sexy Sadie

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Sexy Sadie,” stinking up side 3 of the white album since 1968, tells John’s story of his disillusionment with the Maharishi. This turns out to be even more boring than the story of all four Beatles’ sudden infatuation with the Maharishi. Spite is a poor substitute for wit. This is the dreariest, ploddingest chord progression ever heard from the Beatles. Bad lyrics, bad chords, what am I leaving out? Oh yes, bad melody. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

Nevertheless, I’d like to assure you that my list of 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS is strictly a representation of my tastes and my opinions, and that of course we all have different tastes and opinions — please don’t take it badly if we disagree. I have a note here saying that “Sexy Sadie” is one of Julian Lennon’s favorite songs by his dad. I’m not about to tell Julian he can’t have a fondness for this, and the same goes for you about this and all the other songs on my list.

To reprise, this is how we got here: 10 Bad Boy, 9 Mr. Moonlight, 8 Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, 7 Ask Me Why, 6 What Goes On, 5 Maggie Mae, 4 Dizzy Miss Lizzy, 3 Old Brown Shoe, 2 Sexy Sadie … and tomorrow I’ll put the cherry on top.

The Beatles – Old Brown Shoe

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Old Brown Shoe” claims the #3 spot and finally puts George Harrison into the spotlight. George was like a bystander in the never-ending competition between John and Paul to write the best songs, but his contributions were usually tasty. (“You Like Me Too Much,” “Taxman,” “Within You Without You,” etc.) This one I don’t care for. The jangly piano sound is trite, it’s stuck on one chord for too long, and the chromatic changes when he finally gets to them are at best false cheer. The lyrics, as epitomized by the title, are suitable for throwing away. I suspect John of urging this as the B-side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” so as to be sure his A-side would get all the attention.

The Beatles – Dizzy Miss Lizzie

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” comes in at #4. This must have been one of John’s favorite old rock and roll songs. The Beatles played it at such iconic venues as Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl. John even cranked it out again post Beatles at the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 gig. It’s an undistinguished three-chord boogie of a tune which gets boring by the second verse.

Larry Williams is one of the only two songwriters the Beatles covered three times (Carl Perkins is the other), and the only non-Beatle songwriter represented twice in this countdown. (His “Bad Boy” started us off as #10.) I actually like his “Slow Down” quite a bit, so I’m inclined to forgive him. In the UK, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” was the closing song on the HELP! album. In the USA, we heard it on BEATLES VI.

The Beatles – Maggie Mae

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Maggie Mae” is an old Liverpudlian sailors’ tune about a streetwalker and is just one of the many throw-aways churned out in the LET IT BE sessions of January 1969. While of some slight historic curiosity for its lyrics as a folk song, it is neither musically interesting nor particularly well performed. It is in fact emblematic of all that was wrong with the LET IT BE sessions, which started with a McCartney brainstorm that the Beatles had become too much mere studio sidemen for each other and needed to get back to playing as a band.

Paul figured they’d record the whole experience in the studio and get not only an album but a film out of it! And there was the rub. For Paul, the eternal camera hog, this must have sounded like bliss, but it was nobody else’s idea of a good time. The animosity among John, Paul and George was already bad and was only exacerbated by forcing them together in one room every day for a month with tape and camera rolling. What they got with the film LET IT BE was a painful document of four guys in dire need of a break from each other. The hours upon hours of tape became such a challenge to whip into shape as an album that it wasn’t even released until months after ABBEY ROAD (which was actually the last album they recorded). The critic Alan Smith nailed it as “a cheapskate epitaph, a cardboard tombstone, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop.” At least LET IT BE gave us that rooftop concert, a moment’s charming confirmation that the Beatles had never relinquished the chops and the showmanship to work as a live band. But it also gave us “Maggie Mae,” the worst 40 seconds of the worst Beatles album ever.

The Beatles – What Goes On

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “What Goes On,” recorded in November 1965, was the first time Ringo got a songwriting credit. John explained in an interview that it was a very early song he’d written to which Ringo and Paul added a middle 8 during the recording session. We’d been told in the fan mags at the height of Beatlemania that Ringo liked country music, and here at last was an example — but unfortunately not a very GOOD example. In the UK this song leads off side 2 of RUBBER SOUL, but in the US edition of RUBBER SOUL it doesn’t appear at all, being deferred along with “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” and “If I Needed Someone” to the YESTERDAY AND TODAY compilation. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t quite reach any kind of high point or solid hook, and it doesn’t have much of that Beatles magic we always like to hear.

In case you’re following the countdown, so far we’ve highlighted (or perhaps the word should be “lowlighted”) 10 Bad Boy, 9 Mr. Moonlight, 8 Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, 7 Ask Me Why, and 6 What Goes On.

The Beatles – Ask Me Why

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Ask Me Why” reveals the immaturity of John and Paul as songwriters from its opening line. Once you start with “I love you-woo-woo-woo-woo,” you’ve pretty much painted yourself into a corner. The song gets stuck there and never gets out. This is an extremely early work, actually first released in the UK as the flip side of “Please Please Me” in January 1963, and was not part of the legendary February 11 all-day recording session for (although included on) the album PLEASE PLEASE ME. In the U.S. it was originally the flip side of “Please Please Me” on Vee-Jay Records, which then changed its mind and replaced it on the re-release with the far superior “From Me to You.” The tune is competently constructed, cliché as it is, but the lyrics give it no help.