Formatting buttons added to Comment input box

Now there are automatic formatting buttons for comments boxes on the site, so you can easily select whatever text you want and make it bold, italic, underlined, or quoted.

We are also working on making comments previewable and editable (for a certain time after posting); this should be done in the next few hours. (Just ask Supertramp.)

iTunes MP3s and Music Nerds

We’ve added more prominent (but discreet, we hope) links to iTunes Music Store MP3s on relevant album and song pages around the site. Obviously lots of people tend to prefer torrent sites and similar things to download new music for free, which we don’t condone but facts is facts.

Music Nerds is all about finding new music and trying new things though, and iTunes can actually be simpler and easier to get an MP3 you are curious to hear, and for $.99 each you can try a few here and there and not even miss the money.

So anyway, if it’s available in your area and something piques your curiousity, the links are there. Remember also that writers on the site get paid through such links, so it’s an especially apposite way to test out new sounds if it’s on a review page you like.

Honesty and music nerdiness compels us to add that even if you do use torrents and stuff at the complete exclusion of legal MP3s, we’re still glad you’re finding new music and we hope you’ll post a comment about the things you find and the ones you already know! There are comment sections on every song and album page. It’s all about the music, man…

NEW FEATURE: Sending Private Messages to other users

If you go to any registered user’s member page, you will see a link near the top to send that user a PM. These private messages are not public, and are only visible to the person you sent it to.

If you receive a PM, you will see a note about it at the top of any page (as long as you are logged in). You can read new PMs on your own member page, mark them as ‘read’, reply to the sender, and view old PMs.

If you have any issues with the PM system let us know at admin (at) music-nerds (.) com. Thanks.

NEW FEATURE: Add any artist/album to our database yourself

e know lots of people would like to write up an album review but can’t because we don’t have it in our database. It was always our intention to devote a certain percentage of time to adding albums but it turns out that other aspects of the site maintenance keep us busier than expected.

The new add album buttonSo finally, any user can now add albums to our database. It’s a pretty simple process:

1. Select the artist or type in a new artist name.
2. Type a list of albums to add along with their year of release. (NOTE you can do this automatically by copy and pasting a link to any allmusic.com discography URL instead; this is much easier if adding several albums by a single artist).
3. For each album, we automatically search for a cover image and a song list; you check these over and if ok, click OK.

That’s it. Basically, you tell us the artist and albums list, and we try to do as much of the rest of the work as possible. Albums added like this won’t be immediately visible, but an admin will look over it soon and if it’s all in order, add them to the listings. They can then be claimed, written up, picked apart, commented on, etc. Every step is explained better on the actual page where you add an album.

Thanks to ant who helped us test this tool out. He claims there was no major problem so we’re hoping that is true, and that his experience wasn’t flawless as a mere result of his technical genius. Either way send him a private message and thank him.

Any problems, questions, or suggestions go to the usual place, admin (at) music-nerds (dot) com.

Try the add-an-album link here.

What happened to Song Of The Day?

You may have noticed that you aren’t receiving Song Of The Day emails anymore, and that the SOTD box is missing from the site’s pages.

We’ve been reorganizing the site, planning to add some more features and alter the way it works so that more people can write more easily about the music they like. Song Of The Day was removed as part of that since it was of limited use and interest; we may bring back something similar eventually.

Any comments, please send us some feedback about it! Thanks. Now we’re off to listen to the Pixies, see ya.

About Music Nerds “Nerdlets”

A Nerdlet is a short, one-sentence blurb about a song. You can add one to any song on the Music Nerds site; just go to the album page and each song has an input box underneath it. (You have to be signed in to see it.)

You can put whatever you want in the space, but you only have 100 characters (the “[song title] is” part doesn’t count, don’t worry). You can try to describe the song as you hear it, write something impressionistic, or whatever.

Top Ten Songs About Trains

The train. One of the key components of pre-rock folk, country and blues music managed to carry over into the rock era as an inspiration and at turns cruel and sympathetic character.

The distance, and hence escape, offered by trains has piqued the creativity of songwriters ever since the first steam-powered beasts began rumbling across the American landscape.

There is also something crucial in the inevitability of the train’s journey — the locomotive snakes its way across mountains, through canyons, shaking off the snow and slicing through the rain. Masculine power meets the sleek feminine beauty of the cars — like the heavy guitar attack of rock and the playful, nimble melodies of the best pop music.

The car may be rock and roll’s preferred method of transport — it is, after all, the most efficient way to get your date to the movies, and then there’s that big handy back seat for after — but the train is rock music’s spiritual chariot.

1. “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” by Bob Dylan

In his foggy 1965 persona, Bob Dylan remembers the tradition of the rail through a spidery, post-LSD gaze.

Train imagery floats through this song, pulling us into the world of the narrator who leans on the window sill of his train car, watching the scenery pass and wondering if he will die on the next hill. A train follows a certain, pre-determined track… but that doesn’t mean they can’t go astray or get lost altogether, especially from the point of view of a fixed observer.

Great train-as-psychological-metaphor song.

2. “Nightrain” by Guns N’ Roses

This train is loaded to the gills, careening wildly out of control, and its riders are loving every minute of it.

Partially a tribute to cheap wine, and partially a tribute to any other substance that gets you out of your head, Guns ‘n’ Roses play and Axl sings as if their lives depend on it (as they do on all of Appetite For Destruction).

Loaded like a freight train
Flyin’ like an aeroplane
Feelin’ like a space brain
One. More. Time. Tonight!

The band’s life in L.A. around this time was as manic, unfollowable and insane as it could possibly have been, and this song is about the inebriation that had become a 24-hour reality for them. Fierce, unrelenting and genuinely scary. And, oddly, appealing…

3. “Little Black Train” by Woodie Guthrie

Woody’s version of this old folk song features his wavering baritone wrapping itself around a remarkable melody and a universal message (train as spiritual metaphor): death (the ‘little black train’) is coming for each of us, and you can not ‘beat the final ride’. Woody accompanies himself with a lightly picked acoustic guitar.

This song proves that the simpler the instrumentation and structure of a song, the better it can invoke an actual, simple emotion. Death will, of course, claim us all; remembering that helps one enjoy life to its fullest. That dynamic, the same one that makes life so much fun, is the same one that keeps this from being a sorrowful lament. It just is, that little black train. You know it and I know it, but let’s not forget it, the song says.

4. “Train In Vain” by The Clash

A spectacular song that was almost left off of London Calling but turned out to be a surprise hit.

An unexpected bouncy beat and neat three-note descending melody, repeated over and over, provide a funky (well, almost) foundation for some extremely loose, emotional vocals.

“Stand by me” the singer pleads, as the band jigs along behind him. This is one that just seemed to gel effortlessly for the band.

5. “Train Round The Bend” by The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed revels in the cacophony of this song, as it represents the diversity, noise and chaos of his beloved New York City.

The lyrics deal with a city boy who has spent some time in the country, “trying to be a farmer” without luck. He longs to be back in the city, and can’t stop fetishizing Gotham.

“Train Round The Bend” is equal parts humorous anecdote, impenetrable fable, and junkie babbling. “Nothing that I planted ever seemed to GROW” he recalls, frustrated at the whole exercise. The lesson? Stick with what you know!

6. “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne

One of the most famous ‘train’ songs in rock, as well as arguably Ozzy’s biggest 80s hit. This song is train-as-metaphor-for-insanity — not just riding this train but watching it gleefully (if helplessly) as it goes “off the rails”.

The album cut features Randy Rhodes on guitar, and it is a mass of creaking, heaving wallops of fleet-fingered electricity, all pinned on an excellent main riff. Ozzy’s inimitable voice reports on his state of mind at the time: he really was going crazy, it seemed; his lifestyle certainly was. (Ask Mötley Crüe for more information about their infamous tour with The Prince Of Fucking Darkness around this time.)

7. “Mrs. Train” by They Might Be Giants

Appearing only on an EP, this song is clever because its tempo slowly (very slowly) accelerates as the song progresses.

The change is linear, and the first time you hear it you may not realize it at first. But by the end, as the band struggles to keep up and the singer mashes his words together, you’ll be having as much fun as they are.

The lyrics are typical TMBG weirdness:

I don’t want to be the first in line to see Mrs. Train …
I’m not in any rush to head the line
And so the line has a missing head …
I don’t want to be the first in line to see the missing head

Only tangentially related to actual trains, this song is what happens when you try to write a pop song about trains without looking back to rock history to do so. Absolutely free, fun, and unique. Be annoyed by its catchiness, if you want, but try to have the same heart rate by the end that you did at the beginning. Especially if you’re singing along!

8. “Downbound Train” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce sounds here like he is trying to shake off something very heavy, something oppressive that he just can’t wriggle away from. As his life falls apart and his woman leaves him (with the fist-in-the-gut bluntness of her ‘Dear John’ explanation: “We had it once / We ain’t got it no more”) he likens his situation to that of a downbound train.

The difficulties and challenges of ‘regular’ (i.e., non-rock star) people has always been Bruce Springsteen’s bread and butter and raison d’être. Here he borrows the title of a Chuck Berry song to tell a harrowingly simple and direct tale of a man in crisis. This song is, again, train as dark inevitability.

9. “Subway To Venus” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

A subway counts as a train, right?

The Chili Peppers are as furious and funky as they ever were on this song from the first album they made after guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose and forever altered the chemistry of the band.

There is no introspection here, and no time or room to take a rest: the band is too fast and they are jumping around too much, so watch out! Listening to this may confuse your body — do you play air guitar while thrashing your head, or do you pogo around and make Anthony Keidis-style hand gestures with crazed, wide eyes?

How fitting that the only song on this list that rides the train to outer space should be… an underground subway. It’s all about fun on the “Subway To Venus”.

10. “Slow Train” by Bob Dylan

Having ridden an unbelievable wave of activity and notoriety in the 60s, then somehow matched it in the 70s (though the industry was bigger and the drugs were harder by then), Dylan burned himself out by 1978 and found himself seeking solace in Jesus.

Much has been written about this controversial period of his life, but from it came an undeniably great album. Its title song is a gentle warning; its insistency is like the click click click of a moving rain itself: Jesus is coming back, might as well get your things in order. Whoever you are.

This song has a dark air about it, reflecting not only the self-assurance of the lyrics and message but, inadvertently, the heavy atmosphere of psychic exhaustion that generally flowed from the album’s other tracks. Such was Bob’s state of mind after the excesses and length of the Rolling Thunder Revue.

Pristine production and impassioned performance add up to one of Bob’s best albums and one of his most envelopingly dark yet comforting songs.

The All-Time Worst Beatles Songs

They deserve their legendary status. They were as good as their strongest supporters will tell you — often better, in fact. Their existence seems so inevitable now, so many years later, with every note and every “Yeah!” of every song still coursing through the veins of millions around the world. The Beatles appealed to every type of person in every place, and their unbelievable music is as fresh now as it was when it was new.

How did they create music so accomplished, and unrestrictive, and so consistently dynamic amidst the absolutely unknowable (to us non-Beatles) hurricane that was Beatlemania and the massive, incessant scrutiny that went with it? They couldn’t even follow the example of any former huge pop group stars with that level of fame because there weren’t any. That they could tune all that out and focus on the task at hand in the studio deserves as much credit as the music itself.

But they didn’t always get it right, and they weren’t always flush with new ideas when it came time to hit the Record button at Abbey Road Studios. They were masterful editors, but not perfect. Lots of dross was jettisoned as album sequences were decided and song takes chosen from — there will be plenty of discarded ideas when experimenting as heavily as the Beatles did, after all — but some clunkers remain on those albums. Some half-realized ideas, or poor ideas to begin with, or faithful documents of situations that turned out to be unpleasant, remain.

These less-than-stellar tracks benefit from their placement beside the other 98% of the catalog; rather than being weakest links, the Beatles’ weakest links are strengthened by the coattails of the classics.

This is a list of Beatles tracks that don’t rise to the level one might expect. Only originally released tracks are included — studio run-throughs, live takes and stuff left on the cutting room floor don’t count, so for that reason (and the fact that I like “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”) the Anthologies are excluded, as are the BBC sessions. Also, the famous track “Revolution IX” isn’t on here because it is so unusual, and like the self-consciously ridiculous “Good Night” that follows it, it may not be the most pleasant to listen to but I wouldn’t have The White Album any other way.

1. “Revolution 1” by The Beatles

The fast, fuzzed-out single version of this John Lennon song is one of the greatest things the Beatles ever recorded, even if it was at the behest of the record company, who thought this take was too slow and boring.

Chalk one up for the corporation: they were right. The White Album take of “Revolution” that opened side 4 of the original vinyl was a real downer compared to the single. If it were another song, the tempo, instrumentation, and entire laid-back but solidly electric vibe of this song would be fine, maybe even great; but it will inevitably be compared to its other version, and will invariably lose.

John attempted a Meaningful Grandeur with this song, in its simple chord structure (whose twist, the descending “ain’t gonna make it with anyone a-ny-hoooow” part, gives goosebumps in the sped-up tempo of the ‘other’ version) and its overtly political lyrics. And there is a certain elegance to the White Album version. But being surrounded by such deathless classics as George’s “Long, Long, Long” and “Savoy Truffle”, and John’s own “Cry Baby Cry”, “Revolution I” is a pain in the ass.

2. “Here, There And Everywhere” by The Beatles

It would be easy, and unfair, to simply populate this list with Paul’s fluffier Beatles moments (though the temptation is strong). So I’ve tried to choose some carefully, the worst offenders.

Alongside the stunning, stinging LSD popcraft of the rest of the Beatles’ best album, “Here, There and Everywhere” stands as the greatest argument for peer pressure of all. At the time, Paul was the lone Beatle not to have taken LSD, and as he watched his friends coming up with “Love You To” and “She Said, She Said”, surely he must have felt left out.

Especially when one of his major contributions to Revolver was this schmaltzy, pointless cup of sugar. Paul’s reputation for such perfectly-crafted garbage is entirely deserved; it’s even stranger when one realizes that that same Beatle was responsible for Sgt. Pepper, the Abbey Road medley, “Helter Skelter” — and, from the same album as this track, the amazing “Eleanor Rigby” and “For No One”.

Paul indeed succumbed to the dark side, dosing himself soon after this album was released and embarking on a (small-scale, all things considered) drug-led trip around the Summer of Love and beyond. He never lost his tendency to revert to string-laden boredom, though. How odd that he took such legendary exception to Phil Spector’s adding strings and harp to Let It Be’s “The Long And Winding Road” (I never got that myself — Paul, of all people).

When I was a kid and listened to this song, I kept expecting the opening lines to be:

To lead a better life
I need a better wife!

An opportunity missed. This song is merely an unwanted breather between the gold nuggets on the rest of Revolver.

3. “This Boy (Ringo’s Theme)” by The Beatles

This is an exercise in three-part harmony, and in that it is good. But stupid lyrics (even for early Beatles) and a boring, predictable musical structure give this song a status of “pleasant but uninspiring”.

Like “Act Naturally”, this track ended up being a somewhat cynical ploy to hype Ringo Starr’s “lovable loser” persona, which apparently came in large part from his naturally (if misleadingly) “sad” facial expression. But this was in name only; the song was not written for nor sung by the drummer, only the parenthetical mention of his name on the album tied it to him.

The song’s best part, the soaring middle section sung convincingly by John, almost saves the track. But, alas, it too feels somehow too comfortable, too expected. Interesting, but ultimately Beatles-by-numbers.

4. “Within You Without You” by The Beatles

This song gives Sgt. Pepper a lot of its scope, no doubt. The album has rockers and lush ballads, sunny psych-pop and hard rock, and this track featuring a feast of Indian instruments adds an exotic, unusual dimension to the proceedings.

But it pales considerably next to the far more successful “Love You To” and “The Inner Light”, George’s other Beatles-era forays into real Indian music (“Norwegian Wood” was a sitar guest-starring with the Beatles, not an Indian song per se). Somehow, “Within You, Without You”‘s hippie musings (which actually have held up extremely well, even after the party) and gentle, oozing melodies belong on another band’s album. It’s excellent, in its way, but it’s not for the Beatles.

George would later say that his LSD intake was so great in the latter half of ’67 that he didn’t remember creating Magical Mystery Tour; this song marks the beginning of this disassociation. He quickly returned from the beyond, putting his experiences in perspective and finding his muse again, but here he is searching, striking out boldly but somehow not finding himself. Not yet, not here.

5. “Act Naturally” by The Beatles

I know Ringo had to have at least one song per LP. I even support the idea. His voice is warm, his humor is always evident, and he is impossible to dislike.

But this cover of a country song just falls flat. Ringo was (and is) a true blue country & western fan, and his choice of song for the Help! LP was almost certainly from the heart.

Ringo sings admirably here, and the band chugs along lamely but supportively. The lyrics, a navel-gazing set of self-recriminations that the singer is wallowing in, rather than lamenting, are typical country fare; here, they seem to be a crass exercise in furthering Ringo’s “lovable loser” persona, self-promotion that the Beatles never seemed at all interested in otherwise.

The Beatles wrote better stuff for Ringo; Ringo would write better stuff for himself before the breakup (the much more successful C&W; “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’s Garden”) but “Act Naturally” was a poor idea. The Beatles and their drummer learned their lesson, if not immediately (see “What Goes On”).

6. “Baby You’re A Rich Man” by The Beatles

This track is not unlistenable, and can sometimes be quite enjoyable. But it never escapes being monotonous and overly noisy. Headache-inducing, in the worst of times.

As the 1966-7 Year of Discovery wore on, everything got excessive. The drugs, the pursuit of newness at the expense of basic rationality, most of the music — even the Beatles started to lose their way, if only slightly.

Magical Mystery Tour was maybe not the best project the group could have embarked upon, but amid the success of Sgt. Pepper, the death of Brian Epstein, and the trips to India to find themselves™, even the Beatles appeared suddenly rudderless.

The album that accompanied the TV special of the same name had some of the Beatles’ best tracks — the pre-Pepper single “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane”, “I Am The Walrus” — as well as some pleasant psychedelic moments (the group-composed jam “Flying”, George’s swirling, dense “Blue Jay Way”).

But John Lennon’s “Baby You’re A Rich Man” was a monotony of shouting rather than singing; repetition rather than raga; promise rather than profundity. John’s lyrics, where they do diverge from the main themes of “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” and the song’s title, are actually excellent.

How often have you been there?
(Often enough to know)
What did you see when you were there?
(Nothing that doesn’t show)

But one can’t shake the heavy feeling that these lyrics don’t relate to anything, aren’t from the inspired part of the composer’s brain but rather the rote, experienced part. Sometimes, being one of the beautiful people means coasting on your laurels. “Baby You’re A Rich Man” is indulgent and annoying.

7. “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles

The sprawling, genre-hopping White Album is thrilling because of its array of musical styles, not in spite of it. Paul’s contributions were about the strongest here of any Beatles album.

But this irritating, faux-everything acoustic “Americana” ballad just reeks of insincerity. Any American kid could feel the real lure of cowboy life more deeply than Paul did on this unconvincing tale of a love triangle in the “Black Mountain Hills of Dakota”, a phrase that doesn’t even make any geographical sense and throws up red flags even before the song gets underway proper.

I’m all for letting artists slide in the name of poetic license, and I have no problem with genre exercises and musical exploration, but “Rocky Raccoon” is oddly offensive for its pursuit of style over substance, particularly as it fails in its style. Freddie Blassie’s 80s novelty song “Pencil-Necked Geek” achieved a more believable cowboy vibe, for God’s sake.

I used to not mind this song at all, and maybe even like it, but as time has gone on I’ve soured on it considerably. The alternate take on Anthology 3 made it even worse, exposing further facets of the inauthentic guise Paul struggled to adopt on this most aggravating of tracks.

8. “What Goes On” by The Beatles

Well, it’s quite a bit better than Ringo’s take on “Act Naturally”, but this tedious track from the otherwise untouchable Rubber Soul shows that the Beatles still didn’t have their heart in this style of music. The only Beatles track credited to Lennon/McCartney/Starkey, this Ringo vehicle is the very definition of unfinished.

Too-long phrases (“teeeeeeeearin’ me apart”, just get on with it!) sit uncomfortably beside very able but lifeless harmonizing from the more gifted singers in the group. The guitar licks are excellent, and their chirpy staccato twang is by far the best thing about “What Goes On”; other than that bright point, though, this is the embarrassed cousin of the album’s other tracks. Some Beatles songs failed because they dared to try for the sun, but this one didn’t accompany Icarus on his trip; it didn’t even get off the couch.

9. “Yes It Is” by The Beatles

Very similar to “This Boy”, both in musical style, tempo, and reason for being on this list, “Yes It Is” at least features better lyrics than poor Ringo’s boring ‘theme’. A despairing lament about the sadness the singer feels upon seeing a red sweater, which reminds him of what his ex-girlfriend was wearing when she left, “Yes It Is” features great volume-pedal guitar accents.

But the song appears to simply be an excuse for said six-string accents; without them, this would be exceedingly boring. Like the Beatles’ experience as a rock band in the clubs of Hamburg gave them a basic skill set that carried them effortlessly throughout their careers, their best songs were excellent even without gimmicky instrumentation — the Beatles’ versions were fantastic, but the songs themselves would be great sung by any ol’ person who could play an acoustic guitar. Not so “Yes It Is”.

The Beatles and George Martin usually knew full well when they were adding an interesting audio dimension to a good song, and when they were trying to polish a turd, and usually chose wisely. “Yes It Is” sort of sits on the threshold of those two approaches, and because its underlying structure is dull, the finished product remains similarly dull. Fun to revisit occasionally, but not likely to make the cut when I’m listening to the Beatles on shuffle in iTunes.

10. “Only A Northern Song” by The Beatles

More musical excess from George. Hilarious lyrics aside (even better on the Anthology outtake), “Only A Northern Song” drags on way too long, a crowded, clanging dirge without a hook or even any scenery to break up the trip. For a band and musician that helped usher in the British style of psychedelia, the Beatles and George Harrison sure weren’t very good at it anymore by 1968.

Having helped pioneer feedback, tape loops, backwards guitar, and a host of other studio innovations, here George takes all the best ideas of the preceeding two years and turns them inside-out, ruining nearly every one of them in the process, applying them haphazardly on a track that doesn’t pass the acoustic-guitar test.

Random tape loops can be a great thing, as they were on “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”; here they sound awful. Curious bridges and obtuse middle eights and jarring changes in structures and styles can work within a single track, as they did on “A Day In The Life” and “Penny Lane”; here you just want it all to end. If you’re going to be goofy, at least enjoy it, as on “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”.

And what about the lyrics? They defend the song’s right to be “out of key” with chords “going wrong” and the band’s right to be “not quite right”. Some kind of metaphysical description of proceedings that may be impressive from a philosophical point of view, but all those attributes are indeed applicable to this song, and not in a good, enjoyable way.

At first not so bad, halfway through “Only A Northern Song” you just want the damn thing to go away.

Counter-List: Ten more Beatles songs you love to hate

Or hate to love… Perhaps more intented to complement Mr Morrow’s list, to which I shall make reference in due course: the definition of naffness is, after all, a very personal matter.

No Beatle exempted, evaluating the length of their career, and limiting myself to just one cover version (not an easy task in itself), here you have them — the unfabbest of The Fabs. With the caveat, of course, that I still cherish them every bit as much as their more praiseworthy contemporaries.

1. “Revolution 9″ by The Beatles

Yestermorrow — and many others — may defend this on the grounds of its daring experimentalism, but that don’t alter the fact that it’s an irritating piece of pointless pretentiousness (unless the point was to see just how far John Lennon could wedge his head up his own back passage).” #1″ is counted ‘in’, however, precisely for being one of the most truesy bluesy things the band actually released -even if it did lack a little polish.

Paul was miffed that John didn’t involve him, when he’d been the first to get interested in the whole ‘avant-garde’ approach. God forbid, he’s currently threatening to unleash his own long-lost example, “Carnival Of Light”, on us! You’d’ve thought that George and Ringo could have at least objected, but they probably couldn’t be bothered — and it’s most likely what George Martin had at the front of his mind when he reflected that maybe the double LP should have been limited to being “possibly their very finest single album”.

Random snippets of radio programmes and conversations, snatches of music and the droning repetition of a studio engineer announcing Take “Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine” ain’t rock nor pop nor nothing else the Beatles were about. It’s not even really that clever, compared to their incorporation of such techniques into classics lke “Walrus”, “Fields” or “TNK”: even “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, come to that. Lennon could’ve had the good grace to save it for Two Virgins or something.

A hell of a bum trip to lay on your fans, especially having probably convinced them to turn on in the first place!

2. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles

What was it — 187 takes — and for what?!! Oh bloody hell, oh blah-di-blah, what a bloody waste of time and effort…

I quite liked the Marmalade version on the radio when I was five or six — what else can you expect of an innocent yong bairn? But to consider that this weightless waffle was put out by one of the greatest powers in popular music, at one of their peaks of power, is little short of scandalous. Everyone knows that Macca always wanted to appeal to everyone at the same time, but who he was hoping to appeal to with this is anybody’s guess. While “Rocky Raccoon” at least had something of a tale to tell, if Des and Mol had actually existed, I’m quite sure they’d’ve topped themselves over being celebrated in such trite manner.

Paul recalls that he thought it up meandering down a mountain track in Rikishesh. Shame he didn’t find a stone to leave it under. “An’ if you want some fun,” go look somewhere else.

3. “Till There Was You” by The Beatles

The cover. The beginning of Macca’s long and winding trail of mush. “Granny shit”, John called the genre. Rock ‘n’ roll was invented to alienate your parents, and the Pop which the Beatles were creating was equally incomprehensible to them.

And then there’s this: which even your maiden great aunt would coo over. It seems incredible that they got away with playing it in the Hamburg clubs, and its inclusion on the Decca demo could well explain its rejection. There were, of course, other early inklings of this disturbing tendency of Paul’s: though usually with something to redeem them. “A Taste of Honey”, for example, is saved by his double-tracked vocal, and “P.S. I Love You” can be pardonned as an apprenticeship piece.

This, on the other hand, simply stinks. How he ever persuaded to George to play that plinkety-twee solo remains a mystery as inexplicable as the dawn of the universe. Jeez, he even warbles through the “music and wonderful roses.”

Crooner fodder like this signalled a direct line to “Scrambled Eggs” and “Here, There and Everywhere” in McCartney’s quest to be the great all-round entertainer. The latter is reprieved from damnation, however, by Lennon’s repeated affirmation of it being his favourite Paul track. And I don’t think he was taking the piss…

4. “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” by The Beatles

“Come, give me your hand” — being as close you can get to ‘I wanna hold it’ in German. The band was forced to record this, along with the equally ludicrous “Sie Liebt Dicht” for release as a single in Deutschland in early ’64. It was thought that the mania growing around the group would not extend there if they didn’t sing in the vernacular (or at least an over-syllabled, phoetically-scripted approximation). Mein Gott!

It was the sole time in their career that they were prepared to screw ‘professionalism’, and simply didn’t show up at the studios in Paris. George Martin had to storm into the hotel suite like an angry truant officer and pack them into a taxi with a flea circus in their ears in order to get the job done.

Even he sheepishly confessed later that it really hadn’t been worth it.

5. “Blue Jay Way” by The Beatles

Other listers may use the word ‘dense’ as reason for this song’s exemption from ‘worst’ status: I use the same adjective to justify its inclusion. Like the fogbank recounted in thge tale, it’s inaccessible and nigh on impossible to get through.

‘Based on actual events’, this is a clear indication that most anecdotes do benefit from a little embellishment. “Within You, Without You” remains Pepper’s centrepiece, as a supreme symbol of the times which spawned it, but here without the prop of his Eastern philosophy, Harrison seems as lost as his friends in LA. He had the excuse of giving the finger to Northern Songs if he was just having a laugh with “Only a…”

As “Blue Jay Way” drones on and on, you find yourself applying the words of the refrain to the song as a whole:

“Please don’t be long, or I will be asleep…”

6. “Don’t Pass Me By” by The Beatles

Poor old Ringo had evidently been overindoctrinated by the country plod of “Honey Don’t”, “Act Naturally” and “What Goes On” when he finally (de)composed his first song; written, as John astutely observed, “in a fit of lethargy.”

“Banging about on the piano” after his early return from India, maybe the fact that he only stayed for half of the trip explains why he only managed to come up with half a song. Sorry man, “You were in a car crash and you lost your hair” doesn’t come over surreal: just daft. Pretty much like that wheedling fiddle behind it. Never the most ‘natural’ singer in the world, he didn’t even bother trying on this one.

It’s tempting to write the man off totally as even the Beatles’ fourth composer and also include “Octopus’s Garden” on the list. The latter is saved though by the undeniable avuncularity which would ultimately lead to “Thomas The Tank Engine” and the bubbly noises over the solo!

7. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by The Beatles

Maximising his controlling role in the group amidst the augmenting apathy, Paul had this locked in his sights as their next single. It is unique in The Beatles’ canon in being the only track which all three of the others have slagged off publicly. They all had a point, whether you’re repelled by its triteness (like John), its “fruity” negativity (George), or — as Ringo put it — just being another of those overindulgent wastes of time and tape which “went on fer fuckin’ weeks.” Don’t s’pose he was overly-chuffed at having to clonk the specially imported blacksmith’s anvil, either.

So busy was he trying to jolly it all along, Macca seemed to remain blissfully unaware of the urge everyone else must’ve been feeling to grab Silver Hammers of their own. They could have claimed ‘self defence’, I’m certain. Tacky Vaudeville backing, with an incongruous overdubbed Moog synth meandering in and out. A stupid story with one of the most predictible surprise endings ever contrived.

Any barrister would have to concur with Max’s cudgelled judge; there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for this type of cruelty and abuse. Guilty, guilty, GUILTY!

8. “What You’re Doing” by The Beatles

By the release of Beatles For Sale, the band were already firmly established as the most important act in history; with Lennon/McCartney being cited as the greatest songwriters in existence. Their relentless re-invention of what constituted Pop Music was always notable for their negation to do the same thing twice, even at the height of Beatlemania. Except, that is, this time.

“What Youre Doing” is a clear re-hash of the infinitely superior “Every Little Thing”. The timpani and/or kick-drum gimmick was a typically interesting and innovative piece of experimentation on the earlier track: here, it simply drags. And, as if hoping to dissimulate the auto-plagiarism, so many ‘dynamic’ twists are employed that the song just kinda loses itself. Much has been made of Paul’s rhyme-scheme but, like the overly-syncopated beat, it comes across awkward and self-conscious. And, though more up-tempo, the harmony tricks are as every bit as cloying as those employed on “This Boy” or “Yes It Is”.

As a giveaway to Billy J Kramer, or even Freddie and the Dreamers it may have been acceptable, but not on a Beatles album.

9. “Dig It” by The Beatles

Forty-nine seconds does not comprise a song: even if — or especially if — the writing credit reads Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey. It’s nothing more than a snippet from a series of impro sessions with Billy Preston, when it was becoming painfully evident that the band weren’t going to ‘Get Back’, but were [more than ready to ‘Let It Be’.

The ‘lyric’ in its entirity:

Like a rolling stone, like a rolling stone
Like the FBI and the CIA
And the BBC, B.B. King and Doris Day
Matt Busby — dig it, dig it dig it

Lennon manages to deliver it with a great raw passion and the backing’s pretty raunchy too. But it just ain’t a song: you’re never going to find yourself whistling this at the bus stop! Dig out “Dig It” as part of the jam(s) on the plethora of bootleg releases to put it into a more fitting context.

10. “Your Mother Should Know” by The Beatles

“Sing it again” and again and again… Same old ‘granny shit’ all over again. Of course, having the chance to direct an entire schmaltzy dance routine for it must have had Paul rubbing his hands with even more zeal than ever. Sounding more or less exactly like “a song that was a hit before your mother was born” even back then, now, a couple of generations on, any notion of ‘retro-charm’ has long-since expired. It really highlights just how haphazard the whole Mystery Tour project was.

Predictably, its very existence was the result of hoursworths of takes and retakes overdubs and remixes. Again, you’re left wondering if they truly had nothing else which they could’ve used the time and effort for. Brian Epstein made his final visit to the band during one of the sessions. No comment. Rather than “lift up your heart”, contemporary listeners must have been more inclined to lift up the turtable arm.

A Masterful ‘Mister’ List

Considering that “Mister [abbr Mr(.), pl Messrs(.)]” is rightly a title, it’s only right that the Misters on this list are also titles: so passing lyrical references to “some silicone sister with her manager’s mister” or bosses called “Mr McGee” — or even “Dylan’s Mr Jones” — are therefore inadmissible.

The title (like the co-derived “Master”) has etymological roots in Old English, Old French and Latin alike, originally coming from the word “most”; as in ‘most powerful’, ‘most influential’, ‘most skilful’, ‘most respected’, etc. These qualities are also essential criteria for a song’s selection.

A number of very worthy gentlemen are conspicuous by their absence. I could’ve happily run to a Top 15: it’ll be interesting to see if their illustrious names crop up in ‘comments’. Nevertheless, it’s been nice to write up a few artists who haven’t been touched on the site (yet), revisit some particular faves — and to poke a couple of reminders in Mr Admin’s general direction. Oh, and it’s a good opportunity to wish everyone a splendid 2009.

As much as an order of merit, I think it’s a great little playlist. Enjoy!

1. “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan

Mr Dylan’s dense, surrealistic story-song takes the top spot: not only for his majestic original (and those mesmerizing contemporary live takes), but on account of “Mr T’s” wide and enduring influence. Many are they who have fallen under his dancing spell and gone following him: to infinity and beyond.

It may be overstating the case to cite the dream-weaving percussionist as the sole reason for the “jingle-jangle morning” which was the dawning of The Byrds’ career — but not much! The acid-test for a truly great song is how it comes out covered in different styles. With this one, apart from unleashing McGuinn’s Rickenbacker on the world, you get Judy ‘Blue Eyes’ Collins and Melanie ‘Dippie Hippie’ Safka taking different slants on the definition of Folk; while William ‘Star Trek’ Shatner strove “to boldly go” where musical rationality had never gone before. There have been versions in Russian, Turkish and Japanese, all of which are infinitely more intelligible than the good Capt Kirk’s — though nowhere near as entertaining. It has to be heard to be believed and you probably still won’t believe it even when you’ve heard it:

I wouldn’t pay it any mind,
It’s just a shadow you’re seeing
That he’s chasing…

Mr Tambo has left more than just “vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme” in the annals of literature, also. Talking of “Acid Tests”, Tom Wolfe’s research notes for The Electric Kool-Aid investigation of The Merry Pranksters cite the character (and his creator) repeatedly, often blurring their edges. Hunter S Thompson, chronicler of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which was dedicated to Dylan), and another great blurrer of edges, had the song played at his funeral as his ashes were shot out of a cannon, “far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow”.

Beatles confidante Neil Aspinall also chose it for his send-off; a somewhat less extravagant affair — but played, nonetheless, by Pete Townshend.

2. “Mr Big” by Free, from the album Fire and Water, 1970

Not just ‘Big’, bloody enormous — and an enormous omission from the music-nerds archives, it must be commented.

(The) Free were amongst the best and most influential of the host of great British groups of their time. And though their full potential was never fully realized; folding, reforming and finally forced apart defiinitively in ’73, largely on account of guitarist Paul Kossoff’s heroin-induced unreliability, their legacy more than stands the test of time. Kossoff never lived to see it, though: he OD’d just two years later.

This track is a monumental example of their talent, as is the LP which spawned it (their third). With a ballsy assuredness forged by two years of almost incessant gigging, “Mr Big” is a perfectly poised package of pure cool power. Co-written by all four members of the band, their fusion of sounds also make it one of their most outstanding achievements. ‘Supergroups’ may take the title as their name, and even try the song — but some period pieces are better left unpolished.

Simon Kirke’s characteristically laidback timekeeping and flashing embellishments leave Koss to play in, out, off and around Andy Fraser’s chunky-funky basslines. Their fusion is impeccable throughout, but the shared solo is the icing on the cake. And last but not least, Paul Rodgers — ‘The Voice’ still in its prime. No pissing around, let’s get down to the grain:

So Mr. Big*
You’d better watch out*
When only you a-hang around me*

* Insert grunts/interjections of your choice

3. “Mr. Skin” by Spirit

On account of his celebrated shaved pate, “Mr Skin” is the alias of Spirit’s drummer — and Randy California’s stepfather — Ed Cassidy.
“Mr Skin, we know where you’ve bin” recounts his reputed weakness for the odd post-gig groupie or three. Offering a choice of “pain or sudden pleasure”, it can only be assumed that his marriage to Mrs Wolfe was of the ‘open’ kind.

David Blumberg’s saucy horn arrangements are outstanding, as elsewhere among the wonderful weirdness that makes up Sardonicus. David Briggs’ production is also spot-on. Actually written by singer/percussionist Jay Ferguson, who left the band soon after the album’s release (along with bassist Mark Andes), the song was released as a single in the States three years later. One of them weird rock ‘n’ roll things, I guess. Doesn’t really matter: Randy and Ed were always the true spirit of Spirit.

They played it when me and Stevie finally got to see ’em (Bristol ’88). We ended up chatting with Randy in the bar afterwards — a beautiful down-to-earth guy, for all his onstage extravagance — rest his soul. Yet, when Ed the Head came hunting for his errant stepson (having only had time for a quickie at most, it should be pointed out) neither of us had the nerve to approach him!

Great band — and a great song about a true lock legend: 85 years young, and still in touch with the world — and very probably still chasing the girlies!

4. “Mr Pitiful” by Otis Redding

Meticulously co-constructed with Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper in 1964, “Mr Pitiful” provided Otis with his first top-ten hit, en route to the megastar status which he would tragically enjoy for so short a time. The song appears on the cumbersomely entitled The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, but — as with most of his material — it’s even better checked out live (preferably with visuals). Everything always under control: just try not to be wowed by the skin-tight backing, those hermetic horns, that voice! The Commitments gave it a good shot, but there was only one Otis.

I wanna sing this song with you
An’ I wanna sing this song to everyone
‘Cos I want them to know what I’m talkin’ about…

As much as any of the old blues doods, or Chuck or Ray or Little Richard, Otis Redding was an essential part of the cross-fertilisation of ‘black’ and ‘white’ music(s) which helped to give rock, pop, soul — whatever — its full psychedelic spectrum. The Beatles and The Stones rated him alongside god (like just about anyone else you could care to name from the period), and he was one of the first to show that the “Respect” was mutual, putting his inimitable seal of endorsement onto tracks like “Satisfaction” and “Day Tripper”. Maybe I’ll never crit a whole album, but boy oh boy did the man sing some songs! Top Ten, anyone?

5. “Mr Soul” by Buffalo Springfield, from Buffalo Springfield Again, 1967

From ‘Mister Soul’ to “Mr Soul”. Neil Young’s lysergicized retake of “Satisfaction” was a pretty minor hit at the time, rather than “the event of the season”. It was, however, a surefire indication that all was not peace ‘n’ love in the Buffalo herd that celebrated summer, Steve Stills not even attending the sessions. “Down on a frown,” Neil didn’t play on any of the Stills stuff either, but I digress.

The track opened their second LP in any case. The glorious muddle of guitar sounds and breathlessly questioning lyrics are an early example of classic NY for years — decades — to come. (Ritchie Furay’s cracking backing also warrants a mention here). Mr Young also contrived to use it at the close the album: the first couple of lines, mixed out of the screams of a Beatles show crowd, introduce “Expecting To Fly”. The song is his most re-recorded composition, including the vocoder version on Trans and various live interpretations.

Is it strange I should change?
I don’t know, why don’t you ask her?

6. “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” by The Beatles

The most meritorious “Mister” from The Beatles’ selection. There’s not enough “Mustard”, “Postman” belongs more properly to The Marvelettes, “Moonlight” could be on someone’s ‘worst’ list…

Albeit unintentionally, “Mr Kite” fitted the original but quickly-dropped ‘acid-retro’ concept of Pepper to perfection, and is one of the most adventurous escapades on ‘the great experimental album’. Having lifted the lyric virtually word for word from a Victorian poster, Lennon challenged George Martin to give him “the smell of the sawdust” for the horse-waltz.

Five sessions later, having tried and rejected loops and splices of all shapes and sizes, Martin went for the ultimate experiment. He had engineer Geoff Emerick chop up all the tape segments with a big pair of scissors, toss ’em into the air and stick ’em back together at random.

Like Messrs K and H, their production was second to none. “A splendid time is guaranteed for all!”

7. “Mr. Brown” by Bob Marley

Who-oo-oo-oo is Mr Brown?
Mr Brown is a clown who rides through town in a coffin…

The reaper himself, voodoo hoodoo, or just some bad-news weirdo? No one seem to know: him come an’ him go, “controlled by remote”, causin’ “botheration.” And, by supernatural means or otherwise, him sneak his way onto pretty well all of the abundant early Marley compilations in circulation.

Recorded on the Wailers’ home island and produced by Scratch Perry, before moving to Chris Blackwell’s London Island, these primitive recordings have a character all their own. You can almost feel the Jamaican sunshine and smell the ganja filtering from your speakers.

Bob meanders the vocal (replete with spooky noises) through a wonderfully fat ‘n’ farty organ riff — and dig the tinkling piano which appears and disappears along with the protagonist. A great vibe, the whole band “skankin’ as if dey had never known the one dey call Mr Brown.”

8. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” by Traffic

Messrs Winwood, Capaldi, Wood and Mason were responsible for some of the most innovative music to come out of England at the end of the sixties, and never were they more experimental than on their debut album. With its mishmash of musical styles, from hippie pop to rock to blues (taking in a little jazz, folk and soul along the way) and an instrument list to challenge the Sergeant, it’s an oft-overlooked classic of the same vintage.

The almost-title track is perhaps one of its lesser-known treats, blending together pretty much all the elements, reputedly during a 1am session. Steve Winwood’s hauntingly spaced-out plea that “Dear Mr Fantasy, play us a toon” brings in a laidback rock ‘n’ roll blues, also referenced in the lyric. The multi-textured intensity builds with masterful restraint (god how I love that harmonica sound!).

Then it just goes completely, magnificently mental for the last minute and a half or so; every man for himself, but never losing anyone else. You can find some great live clips elsewhere in cyberspace: Stevie solo, as well as with Traffic. Self-professed devotees Stills and Nash have also recorded a blinding version.

9. “Dancing With Mr. D.” by The Rolling Stones

We’ll stay with the blues, albeit of a distinctly darker shade. What else could you expect for a graveyard heelkick with Old Nick in person? As if Their Satanic Majesties’ previously stated “Sympathy” hadn’t got the band into enough hot water, this one didn’t get ’em a lot of airplay in the Bible Belt either. But what would they’ve cared!

A Raunchy Richards Riff keeps it grindin’ along (well, it’s kinda hard to imagine ol’ Lucifer going for mambo, innit?) Jagger’s at his cheesiest, sleaziest best; Mick Taylor slides his soul away; there’s a mountain of percussion to back up Charlie: and there’s Hopkins and Preston on keyboards…

Slick and sexy, it’s a perfect bridge from the far rawer Exile sound to their increasingly sophisticated subsequent productions. Or simply the dawn of a new golden age of the band’s diabolic decadence.

Dare you not to dance!

10. “Mr. Cab Driver” by Lenny Kravitz

Written in response to a redneck taxi-man who refused to pick him up on account of his colour, “Mr Cab Driver” maybe also takes a potshot at the record execs who’d been giving Kravitz much the same treatment round the same time, insisting he was neither ‘white enough’ nor ‘black enough’ to be marketable. Having established himself, quite nicely thank-you, with the Let Love Rule LP, he was certainly justified in including his famous retort: “Fuck you, I’m a survivor!” This was the third single from the album, cleaned up for radio and the cool black+white promo vid with a ‘beep-beep’ taxi horn.

Lenny gets his point across with humour and panache — and more than a passing nod to fellow New-Yorker Lou Reed. It bounces along in a funky/rocky kinda way, and there’s a rap-like feistiness to the delivery: though he never resorts to the menace of Molotovs or machine guns. No point really: everyone knows that in the long run, “Mister Cab Driver” — like every other class of bigot — ain’t “never gonna win…”