They Say It’s Your Birthday

Today, 9 October, would have been John Lennon‘s 78th birthday. Sadly, along with my favorite Beatle, George Harrison, he is no longer with us.

But let’s talk of music, and not sad things.  I have been trying to decide which is my favorite Lennon song. He’s written some of the best music of my generation. From All You Need Is Love, Cry Baby Cry, Dear Prudence to Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey and of course, the iconic Imagine.  And those are just a few. Here’s the Wiki page for a list of Beatles songs, and solo songs.

I’m stuck between two songs for my “favorite” Lennon tune. It’s almost impossible to pick just one song out of all of his stuff. The first track I’ve selected is Rain. This song was before it’s time. Although it uses the “standard” I – IV- V chord structure (in this case G – C – D), it has unusual features such as backwards vocal tracks.  From the Wiki article;

Rain has a simple musical structure. Set in the key of G major (the final mix pitches it about a quarter of a semitone below this, while the backing track was taped in G sharp), it begins with what Alan W. Pollack calls, “a ra-ta-tat half-measure’s fanfare of solo snare drums”, followed by a guitar intro of the first chord. The verses are nine measures long, and the song is in 4/4 time. Each verse is based on the G, C, and D chords (I, IV, and V). The refrain contains only I and IV chords, and is twelve measures long (the repetition of a six-measure pattern). The first two measures are the G chord. The third and fourth measures are the C chord. The third measure has the C chord in the so-called 6/4 (second) inversion. The fifth and sixth measures return to the G chord. Pollack says the refrain seems slower than the verse, though it is at the same tempo, an illusion achieved by “the change of beat for the first four measures from its erstwhile bounce to something more plodding and regular”. After four verses and two refrains, a short solo for guitar and drums is played, with complete silence for one beat. Following this, the music returns accompanied by what Pollack terms “historically significant” reverse lyrics. Musicologist Walter Everett cites this closing section as an example of how the Beatles pioneered the “fade-out–fade-in coda”, a device used again by them on Strawberry Fields Forever and Helter Skelter, and by Led Zeppelin on Thank You.

Allan Kozinn describes McCartney’s bass as “an ingenious counterpoint that takes him all over the fretboard … while Lennon and McCartney harmonize in fourths on a melody with a slightly Middle Eastern tinge, McCartney first points up the song’s droning character by hammering on a high G (approached with a quick slide from the F natural just below it), playing it steadily on the beat for twenty successive beats.”

Ringo Starr called it his best drumming ever recorded.

The other track and I would probably place it above Rain in my list is Hey Bulldog. This is from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. It was cut from the USA release of the movie to shorten the time but was added back in for the 1999 re-release. When granddaughter-the-elder was an infant I would sing Yellow Submarine to her when she was fussy. Both granddaughters still love the song.

The biggest appeal for this song is that I can play the riff (along with the riff from Day Tripper). I know that’s not a good reason to call this a favorite, but it works for me. You can always make your own list!

So here on John’s birthday, I implore everyone to follow his advice, and “Give Peace A Chance”.

Have a different favorite of John’s? Tell me in a comment!

Peace,
B

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