Playlist #79: George Harrisongs

Over the weekend, I listened (and re-listened) to the new reissue of the Beatles’ Revolver, and damn if that isn’t a great album. That sent me down a little Beatles rabbit hole, leading me to re-listen to the reissue of Let It Be and even some other, random Beatles albums (like the Yellow Submarine soundtrack). And it got me thinking about my favorite Beatle, George Harrison, and how John Lennon (and Paul McCartney, to a lesser extent) used to shit all over his songs. And that annoys me, because George wrote some bangers. Here’s a list of some of them, minus all the really obvious songs.

  1. The Beatles, “It’s All Too Much”: The real impetus behind this playlist. This song is crazy in all the best ways. It’s got feedback and a bizarre keyboard/organ track, weird vocal chants, and those hand claps . . . it’s as weird and noisy as the Beatles ever got, honestly, and I don’t understand why more folks don’t talk about this song and how great it is.
  2. The Beatles, “For You Blue”: I do rather love Lennon’s lap steel in this one.
  3. The Beatles, “Long, Long, Long”: Such a melancholy, downbeat song. So beautiful, though.
  4. The Beatles, “Blue Jay Way”: “There’s a fog upon LA,” this song begins, and it just gets weirder from there. Everyone always talks about how experimental Lennon was, but let’s not forget that George did stuff like this and introducing the western pop music world to the sitar.
  5. The Beatles, “I Want To Tell You”: One of George’s Revolver offerings (the other being the obviously great “Taxman”); I feel this one gets overshadowed by its better-known brother.
  6. The Beatles, “Old Brown Shoe”: Only officially released as a single and on the Hey Jude album here in the US. I always loved this song; the old vinyl record my dad had of the album had a scratch in this particular track and so it always skipped at one point in the song.
  7. George Harrison, “Bangla Desh”: Okay, so without this song, we wouldn’t have stuff like “We Are the World” and “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?” and yeah, the world would be better off without those sanctimonious circle jerks, but this song is pretty great and spawned the equally awesome Concert for Bangladesh.
  8. George Harrison, “Not Guilty”: Low-key and mellow, and I love that keyboard part. The little between-line riff that he plays on the guitar is pretty great, too.
  9. George Harrison, “Sue Me, Sue You Blues”: Originally written for Jesse Ed Davis, George released his version in ’73 and it’s a sarcastic, sardonic “fuck you” to Paul McCartney in particular and the rest of the Beatles in general (except for Ringo. Everyone loved Ringo).
  10. George Harrison, “Crackerbox Palace”: Everyone always talks about how funny the Beatles were. John had the zany wit, McCartney had your dad’s sense of humor, and Ringo was a loveable goofball. But George? George was the dry, sarcastic, sardonic one, the one with the gallows humor, the guy who would have been great to watch a political debate with and spend the whole time slagging off on the candidates and their obviously hollow promises and posturing. And this song is a great example of all that.

Playlist #70: Death At A Funeral

We spent the weekend up in New York, attending a funeral for my wife’s grandfather who passed suddenly late last week. It got me thinking about things like when I die and, me being me, the music I’d like played at my own funeral. This list is by no means exhaustive; a true funerary playlist would have to be at least three times this long. But these are the top ten songs I’d like played when I die.

  1. Iron & Wine, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: Funerals are often somber affairs. They don’t have to be, but they often are. This song carries that tone well.
  2. The Beatles, “Let It Be”: Preferably one of the versions with a George Harrison guitar solo, because I like George Harrison guitar solos.
  3. Harry Nilsson, “Many Rivers To Cross”: Sure, Nick Hornby may prefer the Jimmy Cliff version, but this is the one for me.
  4. Van Morrison, “Caravan (Live)”: Again, much like Nick Hornby, I love the live version of this song from the Too Late To Stop Now double live album, even if it does have the unfortunate circumstances of including band introductions halfway through. But all those guys will probably be dead by the time I die, and I’m willing to share the spotlight a bit.
  5. Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Released”: I mean, it’s more about getting out of jail than getting out of this life, but I think it still works.
  6. Sean Watkins, “Let It Fall”: This song always felt like it belong over the closing credits to some heartfelt romantic drama. Or the end of one’s life.
  7. George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”: No one does the transitory nature of existence better than George Harrison.
  8. Gin Blossoms, “Pieces Of The Night”: Life could just be one long night at the bar, trying to find someone, anyone, to spend just a moment with, a moment that might mean something. Or maybe I’ve already had too much gin.
  9. The National, “Gospel”: “Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden.”
  10. Wilco, “What Light”: This song is very simple. Many Wilco songs are. But it’s also transcendent. And I think it’d be nice to have a choir of my friends sing it.

Playlist #55: Bob Dylan Cover Band

This week’s playlist is all Bob Dylan covers! Because I love me some Bob Dylan covers. Don’t forget to support me on Patreon.

  1. The Byrds, “My Back Pages”: Yeah, the Byrds make a bit of a career covering Dylan songs, and this is their best one.
  2. Faces, “Wicked Messenger”: Rod Stewart & Co. take an acoustic song from John Wesley Harding and make it rock.
  3. The Band, “This Wheel’s On Fire”: I mean, when you are Dylan’s backing band for several albums and use that as a jumping off point for your own separate career, you’re gonna borrow a couple of songs from the man. It only makes sense.
  4. George Harrison, “If Not For You”: I’ve always preferred Harrison’s version of this song to Dylan’s. That’s probably true of a lot of Dylan covers.
  5. The Gaslight Anthem, “Changing Of The Guard”: I have a soft spot for Street Legal, the album this song is off of, and the Gaslight Anthem provide a suitably raucous interpretation.
  6. Neko Case, “Buckets Of Rain”: You know how some folks seem to be made explicitly for certain songs? I think this is one of those cases.
  7. The Turtles, “It Ain’t Me, Babe”: The Turtles manage to pump quite a lot of energy into this song.
  8. My Chemical Romance, “Desolation Row”: It’s a tough song to cover, but they manage it in typical MCR style.
  9. The Hollies, “Mighty Quinn”: Did you know this song needed banjo? Because the Hollies did.
  10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “All Along The Watchtower”: I mean, you knew this one had to be on here, right? It’s the quintessential Dylan cover. Of course it’s on here.

Playlist #30: “Poor, Hard-Working Televangelist”

Happy Turkey Week, folks! Just two days of work for me this week, then it’s off to Ohio to visit some family and stuff myself with more food than is advisable because, hey, Thanksgiving. Before that, though, we have this week’s playlist, which features songs about religion!

  1. Jeremy Messersmith, “Jim Bakker”: The song that inspired this list all about the life of that “poor, hard-working televangelist.” If you don’t know, Jim Bakker was a snake-oil salesman of the worst sort and fleeced his lovely old congregants for every dime he could.
  2. Genesis, “Jesus He Knows Me”: Could also be about Jim Bakker, for all I know. I just remember how tongue-in-cheek this song sounded when I first heard it, and it still resonates with its strong anti-bullshit message even today.
  3. The Doobie Bros, “Jesus Is Just Alright”: I mean, he’s okay, I guess.
  4. Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit In the Sky”: How confident do you have to be in your soul’s eternal destination to write and record this song? Confident enough that Greenbaum, who is Jewish, said he had a friend in Jesus. That’s ballsy.
  5. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”: Admittedly, George was the most spiritual of the Beatles. While Paul was tossing out pop songs like most people breathe and John was pushing avant-garde art on anyone who came to close (and Ringo was…um…Ringo), George was the one who got into Transcendentalism and Eastern religions and the sitar and all that. “My Sweet Lord” isn’t the end result, it’s a symptom.
  6. The National, “Gospel”: What does this song actually have to do with anything related to the Gospel? Nothing, as far as I can tell. But it’s a beautiful song and lovely and I really like it, okay?
  7. Bob Dylan, “With God On Our Side”: Dylan’s a man who knows what’s up. This song was written in like ’64, which is damn-near peak Cold War (or near enough as it doesn’t matter), and he’s coming out so strongly anti-war that I’m surprised the FBI didn’t have a file on him a foot thick.
  8. Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Blood of the Lamb”: I love me some Mermaid Avenue, and this one – off the second collection – is a stompy, apocalyptic slice of what made the collaboration great.
  9. Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man”: Damn, if this don’t just send tingles down your spine, I think you might be dead.
  10. Blind Faith, “Presence of the Lord”: More for Steve Winwood than Eric Clapton, really, ’cause Clapton’s finally shown his true (rather hateful) colors and eff that guy.

Playlist #22

Happy Monday, folks. Have a list of songs.

  1. Jay Farrar, “Feel Free”: For years, I thought NPR stood for “Non-Profit Radio.” It made sense, right? That is not what it stands for, by the by.
  2. The Gaslight Anthem, “Mama’s Boys”: The most Rolling Stones-iest song they ever recorded. It’s fun to sing along at the top of your lungs as you drive way too fast down the road.
  3. Ra Ra Riot, “Ghost Under Rocks”: I don’t even remember how it is I came to know about this band, but I’ve always liked the promise of this song (even if I haven’t cared as much for the rest of their output).
  4. Lil Nas X, “THATS WHAT I WANT”: First off, can we discuss the lack of an apostrophe in the title? That always annoys me. Grammar aside, the song slaps.
  5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Featuring John Paul White), “Driver 8”: Did you know the REM song “Driver 8” had discernable lyrics hidden within it? And that they’re about a train driver? True story.
  6. ABBA, “Waterloo”: I’m a sucker for songs about historical subjects, and this is the second-best song about the Napoleonic Wars ever (the best is the 1812 Overture).
  7. The Mountain Goats, “Get Famous”: The continued prominence of the Mountain Goats gives me hope that even someone with a voice like mine could someday make it.
  8. George Harrison, “Cheer Down”: Not enough has been written about the wordplay and wry humor of George Harrison’s songwriting. This song is a great example of all that, and the guitar work is killer.
  9. Rhett Miller, “The El”: The way I found out about the Old 97s was by hearing this album by Rhett Miller first. Then I found Too Far To Care and it was all downhill from there for me.
  10. Gillian Welch, “Revelator”: So damn downbeat and depressing, melancholy and bittersweet and beautiful. So beautiful.