You could say that The Beatles’ solo work, as a whole, is underrated. So much media attention is directed towards The Beatles as a whole, and very deservedly so. But the music that each former member created after they split is somewhat overlooked by the general public.
But that’s not to say that The Beatles’ solo careers don’t get attention, too. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard the opening bars of piano of ‘Imagine’, or the slide guitar fills of ‘My Sweet Lord’, or the screaming vocals of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. But even with this, there are so many great songs from The Beatles’ solo careers that are very under-appreciated. So today, I thought I’d dedicate a list to a few gems in each Beatle’s solo career that I think don’t get enough attention. So in no particular order…
‘How?’ (John Lennon)
John’s pretty piano ballads make up a fair amount of his best-known songs: ‘Imagine’, ‘Love’, ‘Jealous Guy’, etc. But ‘How?’ never seems to quite get the same amount of accolades. Situated near the end of the Imagine album, the piano chords delicately land on the beats, and the violins add a beautifully shimmery extra layer. John’s vocals are also particularly delicate, suiting the overall dainty feel of the song. And like many of John’s songs from the time, the lyrics are quite personal and contemplative, as they were inspired by his Primal Scream Therapy. One of John’s prettiest songs!
‘Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)’ (George Harrison)
George wrote this song about his house, Friar Park, which he purchased early in 1970. The house was originally built in 1898 by a guy called Sir Frank Crisp, hence the title of the song. I think ‘Ballad’ has some of George’s best lyrics; within each verse, the listener is taken around Friar Park and surrounds. Spanning rooms, and gardens, and fountains of perpetual mirth, the words are witty and (like a lot of his songs) spiritual and just gorgeous! The song is wonderful from a musical aspect, too. Laden with reverb and slide guitar and jangly instruments, the song has a beautifully ethereal, dreamy sound to it. In fact, it’s dreamy, full stop!
‘Call Me Back Again’ (Paul McCartney & Wings)
Buried on the second side of Venus and Mars, I came to ‘Call Me Back Again’ after hearing it on iTunes’ free solo-Beatles EP last year. It has since become one of my favourite Paul solo song, and for good reason! Paul’s vocals scream out of the speakers, for one. The saxophones featured prominently in the song are pretty awesome, too. I’m particularly loving the lead guitar, too, which is wonderfully intricate and cool. A great song!
‘Well, Well, Well’ (John Lennon)
There are so many reasons why I think this song deserves way more attention. First of all, John’s guitar is amazing; laden with crunchy distortion and an almost-punk sensibility, it’s wonderful! Same goes for Klaus Voorman’s bass performance and Ringo’s drums. They, too, put on an amazingly rocking show! John’s lyrics talk of spending time with Yoko — of going to dinner with her, of their involvement in political activism. And John’s vocal performance is stunning; in the latter half of the song, he howls confrontationally over the grungy instrumentation. It’s not for everyone, but in my opinion, ‘Well Well Well’ is one of John’s best songs.
‘I’d Have You Anytime’ (George Harrison)
The opening track of George’s masterpiece, All Things Must Pass, George wrote this song with Bob Dylan in late 1968. (Harrison and Dylan wrote a number of songs together during this period.) Their lyrics muse on the friendship that had blossomed between the two, and George sings them in his typically sweet voice. I think that George’s slide guitar performance on the track is one of his very best; beautifully emotive and perfect. His choice of chords is very interesting, too. In my opinion, ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ is a beautiful song!
‘New York City’ (John Lennon)
‘New York City’ is the fifth song on Sometime In New York City, an album I would argue is completely underrated, full stop. And it’s a gloriously rockin’ song! I love the piano and John’s guitar and it has a wonderfully rough sound. John’s lyrics are what makes the song for me, though. A witty recount of him and Yoko’s move to New York, and all the people and troubles that they crossed along the way, I especially like the lyrics! An unfairly underrated rocker that’s pretty awesome, in my opinion.
‘Isn’t It A Pity (Version 2)’ (George Harrison)
Whilst Version 1 is also underrated, Version 2 of ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ is extremely under appreciated, probably because it’s “version two”. The song plays host to one of my favourite guitar performances from George ever, and the organ is also just dreamy! And of course ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ is a great song, anyway. George’s slightly sad lyrics are lifted up by the music, which — in typical Harrison style — is simply beautiful!
‘Dear Friend’ (Paul McCartney & Wings)
This song is heartbreakingly beautiful. Possibly Paul’s most beautiful song (in my opinion), his voice accompanies piano in such a sad yet gorgeous way. Paul’s lyrics are also atypically emotional and personal. He wrote them in response to the war-of-words that had surrounded his friendship with John since the late ’60s, and he sings them in such a vulnerably-gorgeous way. A wondrous song.
‘I’m The Greatest’ (Ringo Starr)
Not being super familiar with Ringo’s solo catalogue, I’m perhaps not the best person to select one of his more underrated songs. But I feel that this song never gets enough attention. Written by John, the song is a satirical take on the history of The Beatles and Ringo’s life, and it never fails to make me smile! Ringo, John and George played on the track, too, which makes it a Threetles song, which is a plus! An awesomely funny song!
What Beatles solo songs do you think are underrated? Be sure to send me a postcard, drop me a line…
Hope you’re having a great day, and good day sunshine ’till next post! 🙂