6. “You Never Give Me Your Money“
If there is any singular moment on the Beatles’ magnificent “final” album that leaves a truly indelible mark, it’s the opening piano of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, the first of the impressive medleys that comprise most of the album’s second side. It’s the moment in which Paul McCartney begins painting a mesmerizing picture fit for a traveling minstrel show: an everyman (McCartney himself?) with nothing to lose, and all of the freedoms and anxieties that accompany “that magic feeling”.
From the somber opening chords, the tune blossoms with effects-laden guitar, and each successive piece enters as painstakingly gently. The bewitching vocals burst suddenly into Act II, introduced by McCartney’s jangly whorehouse piano and his exaggerated baritone to match. As our hero’s stress subsides, those captivating harmonies return, with a glimmer of guitar woven through, and seamlessly move into the third section. Here, the everyman makes his departure to a relentless groove that seems to have been building to this point. The guitar plays him off with some familiar arpeggios, a souvenir from earlier in the album, followed by Lennon’s oddly sinister nursery-rhyme chants.
The voices disappear into the distance, accompanied by the tranquil din of a clanging caravan trudging through a fairy tale swamp, to segue perfectly into the atmospheric “Sun King” and the medleys to come. And though those medleys have a tendency to overshadow their alluring introduction, it’s McCartney’s four-minute operetta that really sets the gold standard on an already outstanding album. — Carole Ann Wright
7. “She Said, She Said“
During an LSD trip, John Lennon had a disturbing conversation with Peter Fonda regarding a near-death experience the actor had gone through. Genuinely unnerved by the exchange, Lennon angrily told Fonda off for killing his buzz while in a vulnerable state. Indeed, the darkness of the account bothered Lennon to the point where it crept thematically into his songwriting. “She Said, She Said” emerged as a dark trip through Lennon’s increasingly frazzled psyche and represents the flip side of the more euphoric drug anthems in the Beatles oeuvre. Lennon’s usual defense mechanism is in place: his compulsion to use drugs either to hide from or to mine something out of, his childhood.
I’ll admit that before I knew the song I assumed it was to be another straight ahead pop number based on the name. I was imaging a series of “oohs” and repetitive “She Said, She Saids” rippling through the thing; instead I was enveloped in its muscular riff, its ominous melodic swirl and Ringo’s disembodied drum beat, all taking place in a different universe to everything else in the music but still slotting in perfectly. Everything is of a piece, which makes it surprising that it is one of the few songs in the Beatles output that McCartney did not play on.
While his excellent “Eleanor Rigby” remains the populist dark heart of Revolver, for me this is the true centrepiece of the record. “She Said, She Said” is a schizophrenic composition: a tense song built on two seemingly disparate pieces, fused together to make a deeply unsettling, yet addictive whole. — Emmet O’Brien
8. “Here, There, and Everywhere“
By the time Revolver arrived, Paul had already filled the world with love songs, but “Here, There, and Everywhere” was arguably his most arrestingly gorgeous ballad yet. For all of Revolver’s moody shape-shifting, “Here, There, and Everywhere” remains dedicated to delicate austerity as the record’s prettiest and most languid moment. Yet it’s not itself without experimentation: in fewer than two-and-a-half minutes, Paul delivers a double-tracked vocal over a crafty modulating scheme, including a devastating middle eight (six, really) that threatens to change keys but has second thoughts before bending amorphously back into the verse.
It’s an exercise in minimalism — George’s easy prang on the two and four, Ringo’s subtle timekeeping and gentle, economical tom fills (also listen for the others’ barely-there fingersnaps), and the silky Pet Sounds-style block-harmony “oohs” from John and George. Paul turns in one of his most intimate vocal performances, singing well up in his range in a pliant fusion of head-voice and falsetto, while mixing his trademark sanguinity with tenderness, sensuality, and a dash of paranoia, making us wait for the title until the final exquisite resolve.
But for all of these stylistic strokes of genius, the song’s lasting effect is simply to burrow deep into the pleasure centers of listeners here, there, everywhere, for all time, as a love song to swoon to. “HT&E” is perfect enough that John would later cop to loving it, and Paul himself, George Martin, and millions of wedding planners would all declare it a favorite. — Steve Leftridge
9. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun“
Leave it to John Lennon to construct a tune that could so easily enrage his already ruthless critics, while being complicated enough to require no less than 70 rhythm track recordings. But neither time signature changes nor bans on both sides of the Atlantic could eventually sabotage “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Lennon’s captivating “White Album” patchwork. What started as three unrelated and unfinished parts may very well have pulled themselves together — even the earliest recordings feature the song in its completed form — but it’s the performances on this musical behemoth that make it stand out among two albums’ worth of material.
Each section transitions seamlessly into the next, with alternating guitar parts distinguishing the separation: first, it weaves a languid web over a slow, primal beat, dangerous but seductive with a sensual, sinister vocal to match; without warning, George Harrison’s fuzzed-out lead bursts to the forefront, a gyrating force over Lennon’s bellowing demands: “I need a fix, ’cause I’m going down…” The imposing melody jumps suddenly into a frantic chant of “Mother Superior jumped the gun”, a chaotic maelstrom with a multi-octave overdub and startling tambourine.
Just when it reaches a near-fever pitch, the madness breaks down into classic soul, a climactic release narrated in effeminate Little Richard howl with doo-wop backing vocal to match (“bang bang, shoot shoot”). The deceptive bass line, just as easily passing for cellos or deep brass, hulks menacingly below, signaling the impending disaster that inevitably follows the momentary bliss of the shot, whatever it may be. Regardless of the tune’s origins or hidden implications, its sonic acrobatics have made it arguably the album’s most fascinating track. — Carole Ann Wright
Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Beatles at their most sarcastic. Everyone hates paying taxes. Yet, as the old saying goes, there is only one way to escape paying them. That is why this song, while not recognized as one of the Beatles’ biggest hits, will enjoy immortality unlike any other. Written by George Harrison in response to the United Kingdom’s oppressive tax system — especially for nouveau riches like himself — the song has become an anthem for all of us who dread the yearly tax filing deadline and giving our hard-earned money to a government without any real say in how it’s used. Since the only thing that will bring an end to taxes is death, this song should enjoy a long life. And if only for that fact alone it deserves a spot on the list of the Beatles greatest songs. Plus, there’s that unstoppable bass line. — William Gatevackes