The Beatles. Has there ever been a weirder band that got quite as big? Well no, ’cause no one’s ever been as big as the Fab four. But it’s amazing the world’s most popular group was able to record songs like the following eight – at the height of their fame nonetheless – without being locked away.
8. BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR. KITE
‘There will be a show tonight… on trampolines!’
Even the best songwriters get a bit lazy sometimes, and John was no exception – pulling the inspiration and most of the words for the oddest track on ‘Sgt Pepper’ from an old-timey circus poster. Still, when the music is this inspired, who needs words that mean anything?
Strangest bit: the carnival samples were assembled literally by cutting up bits of tape and reassembling them at random. So – just like the words – perhaps not much thought was put into the music either.
7. SIE LEIBT DICH
A rare, time-busting collaboration between the Fab Four and Rammstein? Not quite.
Ah no. It’s a German-language version of one of their biggest early hits, ‘She Loves You’. I don’t speak any German – and apparently the Beatles didn’t either, despite paying their dues in Hamburg.
Strangest bit: Aside from the fact it’s the Beatles singing in German? The band completely mispronounces ‘dich’, so they’re essentially singing something quite rude. Also, it’s no the only song they did in the Teutonic tongue – there’s also ‘Komm gib mir deine Hand’. You don’t need to speak German to figure out what that means.
6. REVOLUTION 9
I bet you expected to see this at number one. Number one. Number one.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever made it to the end of this ‘song’. For all I know it ends with harmonising that puts Because to shame and guitar riffs meatier than Metallica. Probably not, though.
John Lennon’s sound collage is believed to be the most widely-distributed piece of avant garde art of all-time.
Strangest bit: it sounds nothing at all like ‘Revolution’ or ‘Revolution 1’.
5. YELLOW SUBMARINE
This one’s a lot stranger than I think most people realise.
The only reason it doesn’t seem odd, when you think about it, is because we all grew up singing it at school. Well, we did when I was little anyway. But think about it – it’s a straightforward Ringo-sung children’s song, complete with novelty sound effects, smack bang in the middle of what some would call the greatest rock album ever made.
Strangest bit: the fact it’s on ‘Revolver’ and no one cares.
4. I AM THE WALRUS
Another one whose weirdness might be dulled by over-familiarity – listing its many quirks might be the best way to remind oneself just how odd I Am the Walrus really is.
There’s the nonsense lyrics, the callbacks to other Beatles songs, the chants over the song’s lengthy outro, a recording of a Shakespeare play, ‘ho ho ho, hee hee hee, ha ha ha!’… the list goes on.
Strangest bit: Goo-goo-g’joob, surely.
3. ONLY A NORTHERN SONG
‘You might think the chords are going wrong… but they’re not.’
A deliberately weird song recorded at the height of the band’s acid period, it’s kind of a messed-up sequel to ‘Taxman’, George again finding a way to whine about the incredible financial success the band was having – the millions he earned just weren’t up to scratch compared with the bazillions Paul and John were raking in.
Strangest bit: That the rest of the band were happy to indulge George in this piece of psychedelic misery.
2. YOU KNOW MY NAME (LOOK UP THE NUMBER)
A goofy collection of style pastiches, Paul once said it was his favourite Beatles song. Ironic then it appeared as the b-side to one of John’s least favourites, ‘Let it Be’.
John even wanted it as a Plastic Ono Band a-side, which would have been a stark contrast to ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘Mother’ and ‘Instant Karma’.
Strangest bit: Paul’s weird vocalisations about two-thirds of the way through.
1. WHAT’S THE NEW MARY JANE
‘Let’s hear it, before we get taken awa…’
The true lost classic of Beatles weirdness – at least, that we’ve heard so far. Imagine John Lennon writing a song with Syd Barrett, whose band Pink Floyd was making ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ just down the hall from the Beatles when they were recording ‘Sgt Pepper’.
‘What’s the New Mary Jane’ sat on the shelf for nearly 30 years, not being released until Anthology 3 in 1996. Recorded for ‘The White Album’, I can think of at least eight songs that it could have replaced… but that’s a list for another day.
Strangest bit: From 0:00 to 6:13. Yes, that’s the whole thing. That’s why it’s #1.
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