The Beatles. Has there ever been a weirder band that got quite as big? Well no, ’cause no one’s ever been as big. But it’s amazing the world’s most popular group was able to record songs like the following eight without being locked away at the height of their fame.
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 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 sampless were assembled literally by cutting up bits of tape and reassembling them at random. So maybe not as much thought was put into the music after all.
7. KOMM GIB MIR DEINE HAND
A rare, time-busting collaboration between the Fab Four and Rammstein? Not quite.
It’s a German-language version of one of their biggest early hits, I Want to Hold Your Hand. I don’t speak any German – and apparently the Beatles didn’t either, despite paying their dues in Hamburg – but I’m guessing it translates to ‘Come, give me your hand.’
Strangest bit: Aside from the fact it’s the Beatles singing in German? The b-side, Sie Leibt Dich, features the band completely mispronouncing ‘Dich’, so they’re essentially singing ‘she loves dick’. Must be a reference to Ringo, real name Richard Starkey. Has to be.
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. You think that’d come up in every other list of this ilk.
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 most memorable being the chorus: ‘I am the Eggman, they are the Eggmen, I am the Walrus… goo-goo-b’joob!’; the callbacks to other Beatles songs, like the then-recent Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds; the hard-panned orchestral elements that through a quirk of the mixing process, coalesce into some kind of mono/fake stereo blend halfway through; the melded 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. Elsewhere. On this blog, it stops here.
Strangest bit: goo-goo-g’joob!
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 fucked-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 earning. There’s one in every band.
Strangest bit: that the rest of the band okayed its release.
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 – and perhaps killed that band’s momentum dead in its tracks.
Strangest bit: 4:00 in.
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.
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