Abbey Road album track, September 1969
JEAN BENOIT DUNCKEL: The harmonies are so beautiful. They’re actually very complex and they fit the words perfectly. George emerged as a songwriter to rival John and Paul with this song.
DAVEY RAY MOOR: The most perfect ballad ever written. It’s such a treasure, cos it’s so well-balanced and concise, such a great description of a man astonished with this love for a woman and quite torn in his ecstasy. It’s so beautifully mastered.
TOMMY SCOTT: Other than it being a great song, I admire it cos of Frank Sinatra. He said it’s the only Beatles song he would have done at the time. It’s the best love song that doesn’t actually say “I love you”. It’s dead dreamy and I just love all the guitars and it was George Harrison. It’s just amazing that they all could write. I don’t know about Ringo, like…
ROD DAVIS: I enjoy deceptively simple lyrics and these are a great example of the art, perfectly matched to a melody which, by all accounts, was picked out on a piano. I especially like the first three lines of the tune, particularly the third line which echoes the theme of the first. Then a surprise when the last line – which you’re waiting for – turns out to have no words at all.
CLIFF JONES: Sometimes songs just fall out. They’re utterly complete. You haven’t thought about them, they bypass the conscious, “Something” is a song to a woman that Harrison loved, and it’s like it bypassed all ego and bravado. Just a man singing about something he really wanted and loved. That’s why it’s the greatest-ever Beatles record. It’s an utterly, utterly, universally, phenomenally beautiful record, it’s the greatest song of that generation.
PETER NOONE: The bass part is brilliant, the harmonies are brilliant…it’s a great little song. George was pushed into the corner a bit, but he did the best post-Beatles stuff, I think, and this was a good swansong from The Beatles.
6 ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Let It Be album track, May 1970
THOM YORKE: Because of Lennon’s voice on it. It just sounds so joyful, there’s no destruction or anything in there.
COLIN GREENWOOD: He was so uptight as a person, it’s just nice hearing John Lennon let go a bit, in a way that’s both celebratory and resigned at the same time. Beatific and pacific.
SHARLEEN SPITERI: Maybe Lennon’s most underrated song. I chose to sing this on Channel 4’s recent Lennon tribute night. Partly because there’s no one definitive version, so I didn’t feel quite so much like I was tampering with a sacred Beatle artefact. That said, the song’s had a really powerful pull on me since. It’s got under my skin.
EILEEN ROSE: Filled with imagery of ordinary things and the beauty of them. He sings, “like a restless wind inside a letter box”. The lyrics flow so smoothly with the melody: It feels like a truly inspired moment. It’s a really free song, it’s not confined to rhyming or symmetry. I’m sure it was to do with the drugs they were taking, and the social changes they were inspired by and the Eastern philosophy they were exploring. It’s about acceptance and undying love, and it shines all around him “like a million smiles”.
JOEY BURNS: It’s a great John tune with a cosmic soul feel, and I love the simplicity and the sentiment of it. He was breaking up with Cynthia, she was talking, the words were streaming, and his heart was breaking. I used to perform that song at high school during lunch break.
TJINDER SINGH: It was first done for the World Wildlife Fund album, which was arranged by Spike Milligan, and the backing’s supposed to have some female fans on it. It’s just a great song. It does have a great Asian sentiment in the lyrics as well, although that’s not particularly why I like it.
GENE SIMMONS: You rediscover the things you grew up with as children. It struck me how brilliant the structure of the song is. There isn’t a chorus as such and yet there are slight key changes that move up a half-step. It’s very bizarre cos half-step, snake-like melodies that go back and forth are usually associated with either Oriental or Arabic melodies, and yet it sounds perfectly Western. I still don’t know what that’s about.
5 IN MY LIFE
Rubber Soul album track, December 1965
ASTRID KIRCHHERR: It’s something which I think is quite autobiographical of John’s life. He wrote that after Stuart died. I think it’s abut the bad things he’s been through- his mummy, and the death of his best friend- and it’s a very, very sad song for such a young man. It’s very beautifully written. That song speaks to me in John’s voice with his heart, and it’s his inner sadness that I can feel. Of course, I knew about his inner sadness- he was my friend- but I’m always glad that shortly before he died, he found happiness and peace with the world.
IAN McCULLOCH: It was almost like his memoirs. It sounded like he’d already moved on somewhere. At that time, McCartney was known as the kind of gently “Here, There and Everywhere” of the two songwriters, and then Lennon came out with that. The lyrics are great, and his vocal’s one of the best voices of all time. It just rings true.
IAN HART: It’s dead simple- I love the melody. It’s a very sentimental song, not like Lennon’s big ideas about politics or whatever. It’s neither that total documentary style thing they sometimes did of “I got on a bus in Southampton” , nor is it the early innocence of “I love you, love you, tomorrow, tomorrow…” They’d sussed how to write a great song, but they hadn’t yet wondered what’d happen if they left a door open too long. Cos you never know who or what might come in when you leave a bleedin’ door open…
MARTIN ROSSITER: It’s one of those things that I’m loathe to try and analyse. It breaks my heart and makes me cry. It’s a very tender John Lennon. It seems to puncture a hole through his innate cynicism, which is always healthy in everybody, I think. It just is and somehow that’s all you need to know about a record.
SHAUN WILLIAMSON: All their early tunes are incredibly optimistic, about young love and all the rest of it. Then it changed…”In My Life” is a bit more thoughtful. It’s a poignant song. It can make you feel nostalgic, especially as you start getting older and having children.
GLENN TILBROOK: A lot of the hack songwriters are after this universal thing, something that everyone can relate to, and very often they write to the lowest common denominator. But this is a universal song that’s very personal.
JOHN SIMM: Poetry missed with heartbreaking melody.
FRANK ALLEN: It is as if the writer has tapped into the thoughts of almost every person. The tune is beautiful. The performance is sensitive. And the harmonies are perfect.
ROD DAVIS: It reveals a softer side of Lennon, which I never suspected when I knew him. Having shared so many of th4 places in John’s early life, the words always held a deep meaning for me. I understand that John one said that he had Pete Shotton and Stu Sutcliffe in mind when writing this. Pete- the link with the past who would try to hold John to Earth when the whole Beatle thing got out of hand.
MARK “LARD” RILEY: (referring to Paul’s contention that he co-authored it): Who wrote it? Who cared! The sound of a young man watching his life change radically, and accepting it. Pathos a go-go. Irresistible guitar hook, unforgettable George Martin keyboard solo. The perfect pop song was written in 1965, by John. Oh, no, it was Paul, wasn’t it? Oh, don’t start that again!