Roll up! The Fab Four's greatest songs chosen by famous fans
4 TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS
Revolver album track, August 1966
PHIL MANZANERA: I was brought up in South America, and I was the first person in Caracas to have a Beatle jacket and a Beatle wig- at 13. Can you imagine in a climate like that, wearing a wig? I can see in retrospect how the whole concept of the song informed my thinking. Embodied within it are a whole bunch of ideas about music and approachability in music using weirdness. It’s not saying, “I’m going to be avant-garde and never sell anything”, but bringing in all these elements and being popular, which was the premise with Roxy as well.
We did a version of this, me and Eno, with the band 801 in ’76. We did about six gigs and we recorded an album at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London- the most successful critical album I’ve ever done. He (Lennon) was quite an extraordinary artist. Some of his life skills were dubious, but, artistically, he was true to himself. The honesty is actually quite painful, just frightening at times.
DOUGIE PAYNE: There’s an incredible excitement about the whole recording, considering it’s all just one chord. The rhythm tracks are just extraordinary. They basically invented dance music. It was the birth of a lot of things. It’s an incredibly influential track.
JIM REID: It’s fantastic the way their music was changing so quickly. The way that record sounds, and the lyrics…I don’t know how the hell they managed to do that. I don’t think that music as an art form has really progressed. We’re still doing what The Beatles were doing then, in ’66. Revolutionary as Elvis was, they took it to a completely different dimension.
ARTHUR BAKER: I remember loving the groove of it but not appreciating it as much, until more recent years, for Ringo’s drumming, and a certain soulfulness and funkiness that The Beatles weren’t particularly known for. But they were able to do so many different types of things. Later on, The Chemical Brothers have used that song as a bit of their anthem. It’s incredible contemporary now, when you hear it.
GUY GARVEY: It’s a fucking juggernaut of a tune. George Martin is one of my heroes and the way he creates the sense of heady urgency is at a total tangent to the sentiment of words. If it wasn’t so well-known I’d sample the arse out of this beat. Ringo’s finest hour.
MARK COLWILL: You just literally lie there with your eyes shut and drift away. Looking back, their “drug” songs are all quite naïve… John had tried it (LSD) by then, I suppose. You get that sense of a perverse sort of fun.
GREG GRIFFIN: I like the intro, just kicking in. then that vocal of Lennon comes in really strong and knocks your head off. The message of the song is “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream”.
EUROS CHILD: It got to me when I was 13 or 14, in bed in hospital and heavily medicated, and I had the Walkman with me…Revolver under medication!
3 I AM THE WALRUS
Single B-side to ‘Hello Goodbye’, November 1967
COLIN GREENWOOD: When we made OKComputer, my favourite song was “I Am The Walrus”, because Eddie played it when we were at Jane Seymour’s house on the first night, bursting out of the speakers in Colonel William Strutt’s library…
ED O’BRIEN: It’s dense, and it’s got so much in it. It’s, like, 100 hours’ worth of work and it sounds amazing.
JEFF BRIDGES: I’m a huge fan of The Beatles, and it changes every day, but “Walrus” sticks in my mind. I just dug that tune when it came out.
DAVID BYRNE: The problem with a lot of Beatles songs is that they get so heard that you can’t hear them. I tend to go for the more psychedelic ones, I guess, like “I Am The Walrus” or “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
WILL SERGEANT: I watched Magical Mystery Tour on our black and white telly when it came out in 1968. I still love it now. It got slagged by the press who were after some sort of plot when The Beatles had given up on the plot a long way back.
BUDGIE: Magical Mystery Tour was a bit overlooked. When I went on my stag night, I had Magical Mystery Tour playing. We got on a coach and nobody knew where we were going, so nobody could get any strip-o-grams up there. “I Am The Walrus”…god! Lennon was digging out snippets of schoolboy limerick and verse and probably a lot of Milligan. And he always seemed to get in a line about his own emotions- “I’m crying”- a man who wasn’t scared to say he cried. I used to love listening to the final fade of “oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper”, waiting for Ringo to sing the last line.
GOLDIE: It was so far ahead of the game, and also, musically, it was a very heavy record, for me. The end of it- it’s operatic. It’s got that mixed-up feeling on it that I really, really like. It never had been done. The techniques were pretty outrageous.
IAN MacDONALD: “I Am The Walrus” is a fierce, surrealistic, protest song- musically astounding, unlike anything else of its kind.
TJINDER SINGH: It’s a totally different stab at a song, even by today’s standards, even by people who are ripping it off. It’s out there. It’s still linear, in Lennon’s style, but it changes quite a lot. It’s got about three choruses.
DAVID GEDGE: I like all that surrealness. As a kid, I was always very taken with that line, “You’ve been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down.” I thought it was really shocking, thrilling in a way. It’s obviously a successful partnership with Sir George Martin. He understood what they wanted.
BRETT SPARKS: It’s hard to top this one for sheer strangeness. Fucked up lyrics, production, etc, but it still works on a purely musical level. I first heard it when I was 13 on a road trip to Lubbock, Texas. In was in my dad’s white Chevrolet, parked outside the Sizzlin’ Steakhouse, listening to the eight-track we has just bought. My little brother, Darrell was with me. I remember the striking sound of the cellos and the Rhodes piano. It’s so fucking raw. The lyrics feature Lennon’s manipulation of language at its most compulsive. The chorus plays with the idea of a rock song chorus and with the identity of the band itself.
GARY NUMAN: Brilliant melody, bizarre lyric, quite different to anything I’d heard up to that point.
JOE ELLIOT: When I first heard that (hums intro), it blew my mind. All these cellos and all that “chunk chunk chunk” stuff going on. I didn’t know at the age of nine it was probably some hallucinogenic enhancement that did it, but the fact that he had the audacity to recreate children’s nursery rhymes and stick them in the lyrics. That sound and the way it metres is as important as the actual lyrical content. They kind of wrote almost an opera in three minutes and it’s got everything. It sounds heavy by having not many guitars on it- they used heaviness in its true form. It’s almost classical.
ARTHUR BAKER: In terms of just production, they were amazing. My first recordings were done on 16-track and now people are so spoilt by unlimited tracks and time…sometimes having to many choices is bad, not good. With The Beatles, they didn’t have unlimited choices and technology, but they made the best of what they had, and the production is still unmatched, even now.